Thursday, April 30, 2009
Thus, yesterday morning, I was thinking ahead when I packed a bag of running clothes to bring to work with me. The race was being held in the evening, which was unusual. I decided, oh, why not? and told my friend that I would do the race. I said I wanted to run close to 22:00; would he run with me? Push me a little? Of course; that's what running buddies are for.
After work I drove to Kensington Metropark to do four miles, which would double as a warm-up and an attempt to get in my scheduled 8 miles for the day. My "easy" warm-up started out with an 8:34 first mile. Whoops. I dialed it back after that but still finished with an 8:45/mile average. Then it was on to the race venue a short distance away.
I wore the shirt which I intend to wear for the Cleveland Marathon. I needed to identify any potential problems such as underarm chafage. I am happy to report I suffered no ill effects, so the top half of my race day outfit, at least, is settled. I will march through enemy territory with pride.
This was a small race, and my running buddy and I positioned ourselves close to the front of the crowd to ensure a good start. And then we were off. The course was a long out-and-back, and the first mile was a gentle downhill. When Garmy beeped at the one-mile mark, I peeked at him and saw to my surprise I had just run a 6:43 mile.
My fastest single mile ever. Even faster than my race-winning performance in the Run for the Rolls last summer.
Hmm. Well. OK. Change of plans. Now I wanted to break my 5K PR, both my "real one" and "the one with the asterisk." To do so I would have to run faster than 22:30. Could I do it?
Mile 2 passed in 7:13. I did a quick calculation and knew that with just under 14:00 for two miles, if I ran a solid sub-8:00 third mile and blazed to the finish, breaking my PR was a distinct possibility. I concentrated on putting forth a strong effort for the remainder of the race, though I was getting tired. The final quarter-mile was a gentle uphill, and I pushed as hard as I could. I saw the finish line clock just turning over to 22:00 as I approached and I thought, "Holy shit! I'm going to do it! Go, girl, go!" Garmy said "22:14" when I stopped him at the finish. I had done it: a new 5K PR by at least 16 seconds! When the results were posted a short time later, my official time was 22:13. Along with my shiny new PR I also placed first in my age group.
Not bad for a race I almost didn't run.
Afterward I joined another running buddy for dinner and gorged on chicken-broccoli pasta, two big glasses of Bell's Oberon, and a giant pile of ice cream. I earned it.
Oh, about the title of this post. I have a runner friend (he's awesome; he just ran Boston) who is always telling me to respect the taper. We all know how difficult tapering can be. The reduced exercise leads to irritation, twitchiness, general malaise, etc. We find ourselves aching to get out and run, a few extra miles won't hurt, it won't matter...but it does. Practicing an improper taper can be damaging. Since I am, technically, in my taper period for Cleveland, I should maybe have thought twice about running a hard 5K two and a half weeks before my marathon. When I told him this morning about my successful race, he congratulated me and then, as always, added, "Respect the taper!" I said, "I am respecting the taper...with occasional lapses where I slap it around a little."
Hence, I totally disrespected the taper last night.
And it felt great.
Final stats: 22:13; 7:08/mile average; 1/18 age group; 9th woman; 40/272 overall.
Thanks to LO for convincing me to run the race, getting me into the race, and letting me chase him down; also to FK for bringing my attention to the existence of the giant pile of ice cream; AT for being the inspiration for the post title; and JF for the "who says marathon training can't equal 5K speed?" comment. You guys rock.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Well. This was certainly not the way I had envisioned cresting the hill of my marathon training: 32 miles planned over two days, 21.5 delivered.
So what the hell happened? Saturday morning it started well enough. I took off for my 10-mile pace run with a spring in my step and super fab new shorts on my hips. I did mile 1 in 8:14, tried to back off for mile 2 (8:24) but by mile 3 I had crept back to 8:14. This pace is considerably faster than the pace I hope to maintain for the marathon, but it felt nearly effortless and I decided to just go with it. I was ascending a small hill when I felt it: a sharp pulling and then snapping sensation in the middle of my left hamstring. Immediately I stopped, crying out, "ow, ow, ow," and reached around to the back of my leg. I had gone exactly 3.7 miles. I stretched, walked, stretched some more, and then decided I would at least run to reach four miles. Grumbling, I ran the quarter-mile, sharp pain shooting through my leg with each stride. Clearly ten miles wasn't going to happen. At this stage of the game I knew that I should not ignore and run through pain like I usually do. The race is three weeks away. There is no room for error, or, in my case, boneheaded stubbornness. Thus, as soon as I hit four miles, I stopped Garmy and turned around for a long walk home. It took well over an hour. At least the weather was nice. I talked to myself while I was out there (it's OK; I was in the country and no one heard me). Things like "Why did this have to happen now?" "What the fuck is going on?" "God dammit!" and my go-to all-purpose phrase of exasperation, "Oh, for fuck's sake!"
After babying my leg for the rest of Saturday and the procurement of a great therapeutic massage, I was ready! ready! to hit the Lakelands Trail in Hamburg Sunday morning for my last long run. My über-striver distance goal was 22 miles, but I would be content with 20. After the previous day's FAIL I wanted to rock the run and go out with a bang.
I was doomed from the start, though I didn't know it. I started shortly before 9:00. I should have been on the trail at 7:00. The air was still agreeably cool at 9:00 (about 60 degrees) and the sun was obscured behind clouds. I motored along at a nice easy 8:44-8:59 pace, listened to my iPod, and kept a few neurons trained on my left hamstring (some twinges, but not enough to make me frown). I saw the yellow warbler around mile 3 of the run and was very excited. The miles wore on; I ate a Gu at mile 7, and was optimistic about achieving my goal of 22 miles.
And then. At 9.88 miles, I came to Lake Erie across the trail. At least that's what it looked like: a huge sprawling endless puddle with no opportunity to bypass it. I stopped and contemplated it. My insides shifted. Oh no, not now...I took a couple of experimental steps into the water. Instant shoe soakage. Abort! Abort! Reverse direction NOW! Guts lurch again. Spasms. Look around in desperation. No one on trail as far as I could see. Squish, squish, squish over to a grassy spot by the side of the trail. Humiliation. Why? Ugh. I need to start carrying a little Ziploc bag with some TP in it. Still no one on trail. Stand up, adjust clothes, sigh. Look longingly at dry trail beyond the water hazard. Accept defeat 1.62 miles from planned turnaround point at 11.5 miles. Turn around to face east. What's this, now? Sun? Oh noes...
Yes, the sun had burned away the cloud cover and was now beating down mercilessly. I soldiered on, hugging whichever part of the trail offered the most shade, though shade was in short supply considering the leafless state of the trees (spring hasn't quite made its full appearance up here). The temperature was rising, rising, rising (the thermometer in my car said 82 when I was done). I sucked on my CamelBak, ate another Gu. I sweated. My shorts bunched up and I started to feel the sharp bite of chafage. I reached 12 miles and thought, "There is no way I can do another 10 miles." Instant downgrade to 20-mile goal. I reached 14 miles and thought, "If I make it to 20 I will be lucky." I reached 16 and thought, "No fucking way am I even going to do 20. Once I get back to the road to the parking lot I am so done." And so it was: a little more than a mile further I swung away from the main trail and headed back to the parking lot, hitting Garmy's stop button as soon as I reached 17.5 miles. I was exhausted. My inner thigh burned from being rubbed raw. I felt like I had rolled in salt. What was left of the Ultima in my CamelBak was lukewarm. My shoulders were pink. I was pissed. I felt like I had completely failed once again. I couldn't even push myself another 2.5 miles? Across the road, another 1.25 miles down and back? What kind of fucking WEAK-ASS LOSER RUNNER AM I? I seethed at myself, muttering, "The marathon is nine miles farther, do you think you can handle it? DO YOU? Because right now I don't think so! What if it's this warm in three weeks? You can't flame out at 17.5 miles. You WILL finish the marathon."
Grumble, grumble, grumble. GRUMBLE.
Ironically, when I felt the worst and was the most displeased I was running my fastest splits of the day. Beginning with mile 11, my splits went thusly: 8:39, 8:39, 8:38, 8:53, 8:33, 8:34, 8:40, and 0.5 miles at 8:34. I wasn't even looking at Garmy because I didn't want to know how much longer the hot sweaty torture was going to continue. I just ran. Maybe I wanted it to be over with sooner. (Final stats: 17.5 miles/2:33:43/8:47 average.)
Afterward I drove to the Running Fit Trail Marathon & Half Marathon, which was taking place in the Pinckney Rec Area. I was expecting to see some of my running peeps. While I was there I took the opportunity to wade into Silver Lake's frigid waters for an impromptu "ice bath." It felt amazing. I snagged a blueberry muffin and headed home to clean up before my Michigan Lady Food Bloggers gathering (I made pork liver paté; the theme was French cooking).
And so it ended, this, my last big week of training. Except it really wasn't. I didn't run at all last Wednesday, so there went 10 miles. I managed 5 on Tuesday and 6 on Thursday. 4 on Saturday, 17.5 on Sunday, a total of 32.5 for a week I should have hit 52. This week, with 5-8-5-4-12 on the schedule, I will be running more than last week, and I'm entering my taper...
Shut up, quit whining, I'm doing great, right? Hang in there for two and a half more weeks, it's taper time, enjoy it, I've come so far, I'm going to kick ass in Cleveland, BQ in the bag, babies, it was just one lousy run, the whole program didn't fall apart, I did two 20-mile runs, the third was just the icing on the cake, STOP BITCHING. STOP!
Hey, did y'all know I'm running a marathon in less than three weeks? Well, let me TELL YOU ABOUT IT...IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL! EVEN WHEN THE EXISTING CONVERSATION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RUNNING! Don't worry, I'll find an opening somewhere!
So, yeah, I'm running the Cleveland Marathon on May 17...
Friday, April 24, 2009
This weather is perfect, however, for kicking back with a beer (or two) which is what I'm currently doing on the patio seating area of my favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor. I've had a Bell's Oberon and I'm now working on a Stoudt's Pale Ale. I'm off to my last classical music concert of the season after this, and I decided to treat myself to some al fresco dining. It's the first day where I didn't feel like I needed to have a jacket on hand when outside. Of course, I also don't want to look like a weird loser who's eating dinner on a Friday evening by herself, so that's what liveblogging via iPhone is for: so I look like a weird, albeit hip with the latest technology, loser who's dining alone.
This weekend marks the apogee of my training for Cleveland. With 10 miles tomorrow and 22 on Sunday I will close the door on the bulk of my training and begin my slow steady glide toward M-Day, a mere 3 weeks and 2 days hence.
I can't believe it's almost here. Sitting where I am at the moment (outside, in sandals, skirt, and short-sleeved shirt), I've almost lost sight of the fact that I started training the second week in January. All those weeks of pitch black predawn runs, snow and ice encrusted sidewalks and streets, frozen fingers, ears, and nose, the stillness of the mornings, shuffling through freshly fallen snow, feeling like I was the only one left on earth...did I really experience that? Yes. Over three months ago I started on this, my marathon journey, and now the end is almost here.
But first, dessert!
Mobile Blogging from here.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I feel good. This was a fantastic week of running, probably my best ever. I had three quality runs, fast runs, and I can't wait to get out for my 6- and 12-mile runs this weekend. The sudden improvement in the weather is undoubtedly helping, and I was able to wear both shorts and a tank top for the first time since last October. Divesting myself of irritating full-coverage winter gear has dramatically improved my mood.
I was tagged by Emma with an "Honest Scrap"award which goes something like this:
The Award and Rules:
This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.
The rules are as follows:
1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.
2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.
3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!
In the immortal words of Sally Field, "You like me! You really, really like me!" *blushes* I'm flattered that you think my content is brilliant, all of my posts about pooping in the woods notwithstanding.
I don't like tagging other people, but I like self-absorption (I have a blog, for cryin' out loud) so I'll list ten things about myself and anyone who reads this can choose for themselves whether or not they wish to participate.
1. For a very long time I believed that rivers could only flow south because they had to follow the curve of the earth. I will not say for how long I believed this. Suffice to say it's extremely ironic that I became a geologist1.
2. I have received nine speeding tickets. I never cried or whined or protested (or flashed any cleavage) when I got pulled over. I had no excuses. I always knew exactly how fast I was going. I like driving fast. To my credit, my last ticket was over three years ago. Once I got my Jetta I started driving like a granny.
3. I once worked at Victoria's Secret. It was the most mind-numbing, tedious job I've ever had. I lasted three weeks before I bolted for an office job.
4. I used to set ants on fire with an enormous magnifying glass2. My brother and I would put slugs and snails on top of the gas grill when it was on and watch them die shriveled, horrible deaths. It's a wonder I'm not a serial killer.
5. I almost quit cross-country my freshman year of high school because my legs were so sore after the first week of practice I could barely walk. I didn't; I stuck it out. And good thing, too, or I probably wouldn't be the runner I am today.
6. I thought when the Ramones sang "I wanna be sedated," they were really saying "I wanna piece of this."
7. My two least favorite songs in the entire pantheon of songs are "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "American Pie." I will break the fucking radio trying to change the station if I hear even one nanosecond of either of those. Luckily I have both SiriusXM and an iPod adapter in my car so my chances of inadvertent exposure are greatly diminished. I also cannot abide the entire AC/DC catalog. Hearing what's-his-name's earsplitting screechy voice makes me want to slam some Renée Fleming into the CD player and rock out with a Mozart aria or two.
8. Riffing off one of Emma's items, when I was very little, like 4 or 5 years old, I apparently saved my younger brother from drowning in a swimming pool. I have no memory of doing this. As far as I'm concerned, my brother owes me.
9. I collect antique geologic maps.
10. I am terrified of raccoons. I have dubbed this procyonophobia, from the Latin name for the common American raccoon, Procyon lotor.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
1: OK, fine, I was a freshman in college and this notion was only disabused during my introductory geology class.
2: One can achieve similar effects with a geologist's hand lens.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I wore it this morning for my five-miler.
Now, in some circles, this is considered a serious breach of running etiquette. Some people believe you should not wear race garb before a race you will be running nor should you wear race garb for a race you have never run (for example, I would never consider wearing a Boston Marathon jacket, cool and awesome as it may be, until I have actually run Boston1).
But I couldn't resist the lure of my free beanie (freebie? freanie?). As luck would have it, this morning's weather was ideal for such headgear: chilly and damp2. So I slipped it on (excellent 'fro containment properties!) and headed out, feeling very sprightly and stylish indeed, and loped my way to 5.23 miles at an 8:16 pace.
No one saw me committing this pre-race faux pas, I swear. My secret is safe with me (and you guys, so don't tell anyone, OK? OK).
1: Which I will be doing in 2010, or 2011 in the event of unforseen disaster. And then you bet your ass I'm getting a BAA jacket and I'm going to wear it everywhere, even to weddings. And funerals. And other inappropriate places.
2: Good thing I went out before dawn, because it's now POURING.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday was the second of my trio of 20-milers. For this one I chose to head into the Waterloo Recreation Area. Around mile 5.5 this out-and-back route becomes extremely hilly (blame the glaciers). Hilly yet scenic; its cruelty is disguised by its beauty. It was the same route I ran last fall for my first-ever 20-miler. This time, the hills just killed me. I felt drained, lifeless, exhausted. It took everything I had to stagger to the end. After hauling my aching body in and out of the shower, it was time for a nap. First, however, I ate (while lying in bed because I was too tired/lazy to go downstairs) the following confection:
That is a Vosges Flying Pig, which might just be the perfect treat: chocolate and bacon IN ONE SCRUMPTIOUS PACKAGE. I decided it contained everything I needed post-run: carbohydrates and protein at the same time! I know it sounds bizarre: chocolate and bacon? Seriously? Seriously! It was delicious. Pig consumed, I curled up for a well-earned three hours.
Five weeks until the Cleveland Marathon. Three weeks until taper time. One long run left. And miles upon miles yet to go.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Confident I could go the distance, I decided it was time for an actual race strategy. This was the first time I knew my racing could go beyond "just survive." I wanted to improve on my PR from last year's Marine Corps Historic Half (1:56:45), but my true, "A" Goal was to finish under 1:50. To do so I would need to average 8:23/mile. But how to do it?
I decided on a three-stage approach knowing what I was physically capable of and drawing on the advice of several running friends whose opinions I value. Part One: Don't Start Too Fast! I am frequently guilty of this cardinal running sin. This time I was determined to avoid it. I wanted to run the first 6 miles at an 8:20-8:25 pace, and I was going to stick with that no matter what. Garmy would be my guide. So: after a short warmup, I arrived at the starting line with only a few minutes to spare. Despite the hasty transition, I was not nervous at all. Nay, I was eager to put my plan into action. I bid my running buddy adieu; he would be running much faster than me and I would not see him until the finish. When the race started I set out at my planned pace, and did not yield to the temptation to go faster. I was bursting with stored energy from my mini-taper all week, but I didn't want to use it all in the first half of the race. I was going to need it later.
Miles 1-6: 8:19, 8:25, 8:17, 8:20, 8:21, 8:20. OK, so I slipped up a couple of times (mile 1, mile 3) but overall I stuck with the plan.
Part Two: Cruise Control. At mile 6, it was time to engage the second phase of my plan. I gradually started increasing my pace until I was running in the low 8:00s. I wanted to maintain this speed for the next four miles. Now was when I needed to stay the most relaxed. I concentrated on keeping my breathing low (using my belly breathing) and even. I let my elbows dangle and kept my shoulders loose. I was in my magical fifth gear where I feel like I could run forever.
Miles 7-10: 8:12, 8:07, 8:08, 8:06.
Part Three: The End. Once I passed mile 10, it was time to kick it. I downshifted and picked up my pace again. The last three miles would be the real test. How much did I have left, how strong was I going to be, how much hurt was in store? With a half mile to go I finally peeked at Garmy. I saw that a sub-1:50 finish was in the bag. Now it was all grit. I was tiring. Not dead-legs-can't-move tired, but getting there. There was a tiny incline that obscured my view of the final turn to the finish area and when I crested the hill and saw that turn I let myself fly down the slope. I turned the corner and saw the finish line about 200 meters ahead. Push it, PUSH IT, PUSH IT! My lungs and thighs were burning, my breath was frantic, but I charged to the finish with everything I had. I officially finished in 1:47:02, crushing my PR from last May by nine minutes and 45 seconds!
Miles 11-13: 7:58, 7:48, 7:34 <-- holy crap!
I successfully executed my plan and had one of the best races of my life. I felt so good during this run it was almost ridiculous. I am feeling more optimistic than ever about my goal of qualifying for Boston next month.
Final stats: 1:47:02 (NEW PR!)/8:10 average/15th out of 155 in age group/85th woman
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
1. Get up at 8:45.
2. Make bacon and scrambled eggs with caramelized shallots for breakfast.
3. Take shower, sing "Porgi, amor" and "Al desio di chi t'adora" (Mozart, Marriage of Figaro) much to Bouhaki's amusement.
4. Drive to Dearborn to pick up race packet for half marathon.
5. Unexpectedly run into good friend on street by race expo.
6. Buy 3 more Bondi Bands, bringing collection total to 21.
7. Shop for beer at Merchant's Fine Wine, coming away with: Dogfish Head Midas Touch and Festina Peche, Dark Horse "Tres" Anniversary Blueberry Stout, Goose Island Matilda, North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Lagunitas Cappucino Stout, Southern Tier Jah-Va Imperial Coffee Stout, and last but not least, New Holland Dragon's Milk.
8. In some massive lapse in judgment, decide to go to IKEA. On a Saturday afternoon.
9. Leave IKEA with blood pressure having risen several levels, but with the things I came for.
10. Not having learned lesson at the zoo (aka IKEA) decide to stop at Target in Ann Arbor for final item on list.
11. Leave Target contemplating homicide, either by blunt force trauma or vehicular.
12. Get home, unload car.
13. Remove new kitchen trash can from box. Find big dent. Decide returning can not worth it since dent is in rear and will face wall.
14. Remove new bathroom trash can from box. It refuses to open. Plastic bucket insert jammed into lid. Much swearing ensues. Wrestle with lid. Cut open finger on sharp stainless steel. Become totally enraged, wrench on lid with all my strength, it finally pops open, but I broke the plastic insert. Stupid cheap Swedish shit.
15. Do laundry.
16. Order sandwich from favorite deli.
17. Decide, "screw it, I need a goddamn beer," and have a Dark Horse Blueberry Stout. Mood improves dramatically.
18. COUCH. TV. FOOD. Finally.
19. Have Dogfish Head Midas Touch. Holy shit that's an amazing beer. Wow.
Still to come: dinner and very early bedtime, since I have to be up at about 5:00 in the morning.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I wonder if the world would be a nicer place if everyone exercised their biceps femoris muscles and experienced its euphoria. A sentence you never hear on the news is "He was a marathon runner and a serial killer."Who wants to be the first? Get going, people! (I'm looking at you.)
This week's Take It And Run Thursday theme at the Runners' Lounge is "Ode to Running Shoes." I shall now channel our favorite running poet and thrill you all with my own shoe haiku:
Big wide ugly feetMy good pal had this to say about my half marathon endeavor this weekend:
Run gazelle-like when with you,
So enjoy your "just because" 1/2 marathon. That's like saying "Yeah, I was going to really hurt myself anyway that day, so I thought I might as well do it in a public forum..."Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Turns out the race expo location is a mere 0.3 miles (as Google Maps flies) from the area's most majestic purveyor of beer, Merchant's Fine Wine. Seriously. Just take a look at their American beer list. It's 12 pages long. And let's not even get into their selection of imports.
I am giddy, giddy, I tell you, with excitement. I shop for beer at Merchant's the way I used to stand wide-eyed in the aisles of Toys-R-Us when I was a child. It's that awe-inducing. One can easily lose an hour or more just staring down a wall of Belgian ales.
Since I cannot buy beer until noon on Sunday (curse you, Michigan blue laws! Someone said to me yesterday that "beer should be available 24/7 as a constitutional right!" and I totally agree) I guess I will have to do so on Saturday...sigh. Such a hardship, I tell ya.
Edited to add: No, it's is not a drive-through. Fine. it's not the world's greatest beer store. But it's close.