Thursday, January 28, 2010

In The Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

That's how I felt when I went running this afternoon. It was about 15 degrees and there was an evil wind coming from the west which sliced through my thermal pants like a hot knife through warm butter. My chin turned into a chunk of rubber and drippy snot froze in my nose. Nonetheless, I chugged my way (into the wind) through six repeats of the hill near my office. When I run these hill repeats, I cannot help but wonder what people who drive by me are thinking, especially the ones who see me turn around and head back the way I came at the top or bottom of the hill. What on earth would drive a person to push her body up and down the same quarter-mile stretch of pavement over and over? Especially when it's so bitterly cold?

The Boston Marathon, people. Boston is looming in less than 12 weeks. It's late January and mid-April is only 11 weeks away. In 11 weeks I will actually be in Massachusetts, visiting my alma mater on a personal Nostalgia Tour before getting down to business. The business of running one of the world's premier marathons. Me, the fat chick who still weighed almost 200 pounds three years ago and could barely run 3 miles at once.

I've come a long way, baby.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Decagon of Happiness

The Redhead tagged me in the "10 Things that Make Me Happy" meme that's been going around lately, and since it's been a while since I followed the crowd, I thought I would give this one a chance. Here, then, in no particular order, are ten things which give me warm fuzzies.
  • My cats. My faithful feline companions, Darwin and Bouhaki. They give me unconditional love no matter what. If it wasn't for them I would be very lonely.
  • Girl Scout Cookies. It's that time of year again, when I can indulge my annual craving for Tagalongs (Peanut Butter Patties) and Samoas (Caramel DeLites). It should shock no one that I can eat an entire box of Tagalongs at once if I feel like it.
  • The owner of this foot.
  • Running. I am more enthralled with running that I ever have been, and good thing, too, because I will be running the Boston Marathon in 12 weeks. After a 15-year hiatus I began running again in 2006 and never looked back. I have now run 3 marathons and hope to run many more. I finally think of myself as "a runner" more than anything else. If someone asks me what I do, I say, "I run."
  • Beer. Sometimes I can't believe I only drank beer a handful of times in college. My, how things have changed! I feel so fortunate to live in a state which has a vibrant craft brewing industry. Within 90 minutes of my house I can visit Michigan Brewing, Original Gravity, Dark Horse, Bell's, Arcadia, Jolly Pumpkin, Copper Canyon, Atwater Block, Motor City, Kuhnhenn, Bastone, Rochester Mills, Arbor Brewing, Grizzly Peak, Dragonmead, CJ's, Fort Street, Royal Oak, Woodward Avenue, and Sherwood.
  • My family.
  • My farm share. I joined my CSA farm in 2008 and quickly drowned in a sea of vegatables. I learned how delicious braised collard greens are, what kohlrabi is, how to roast Brussels sprouts, and that beets make an amazing addition to chocolate cake. I love my farm share!
  • Singing. I love to sing. If I could be or do anything, I would be a professional singer. Taking voice lessons and learning how to sing classical repertoire has been one of the great achievements of my adult life. When I began taking lessons in 2003 I had no idea what was going to happen. I just knew that if I never took lessons, I would never know if I had a voice buried somewhere inside me. To my surprise and great pleasure, I discovered I did have a voice.
  • Rocks. My educational background is in geology and I still get excited about a really good outcrop. Michigan has a dearth of outcrops, so I take what I can get. Those who know me well know how I get when I see a really good boulder. (Picture taken at Guadelupe National Park, Texas.)
  • Live music. I am obsessed with music, and I go to concerts whenever possible. Last year I saw Andrew Bird (twice), Neko Case (twice), Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, Great Lake Swimmers, Over the Rhine, Blind Pilot, and Fleet Foxes. In the next couple of months I will be going to two live opera performances, Kings of Convenience, Horse Feathers, Spoon, Deerhunter, Bear in Heaven, and the XX. That takes me up to early April. Who knows what the rest of 2010 will bring? Of course, no mention of live music in 2009 can omit "The One That Got Away," the Depeche Mode concert I was supposed to attend during my vacation in August. That was the concert which got canceled the night before the performance, the concert I bought my ticket for in March, the concert I went all the way to California to see. I consoled myself by roasting in the sun and drinking beer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Thoughts: Running at Work

Two weeks ago I packed my duffel bag full of running clothes and brought it to work with me. It took me 3 years but I finally went for my first run at work. It has quickly become my new favorite thing to do. I ran 3 days the first week, 3 days last week, and 4 this week. I do tempo runs, hill work, and recovery runs. I run alone or with co-workers. The sun is up. It's not dark. It's not quite as cold. It's perfect. I have a locker room to change in and showers I may use if I feel especially gross. (Confession: I just put my work clothes back on and return to my cubicle. It's winter, I'm not that sweaty, so what. I may reassess come summer.)



Kind of like WHY THE HELL DID I START TAKING VOICE LESSONS WHEN I WAS ALMOST 30 AND NOT 10 YEARS EARLIER?! I could have been a professional singer...*sob*

Enough. Do not dwell on the past. I can't go back, I can only go forward. Boston is looming, and I am finally enjoying my training. I ran twice today, once at work and then in the evening with my Running Fit Thursday peeps. The final mile or so of tonight's run I was cranking on a 7:35/mile pace. It felt so good.

My running mojo, it is BACK!

Monday, January 11, 2010

2009: The Year in Pictures

Laid low with the flu on the last weekend of January, thereby blowing my chances at one race a month in 2009. At least I had kitty love. (January)

Winter training: so beautiful, yet so cruel. (February)

Training in the spring can be hazardous to one's new shoes. (March)

On my way to a then-PR of 1:47:02 at the Martian Half Marathon in Dearborn. (April)

During the Cleveland Marathon, the race at which I qualified for Boston. (May)

With my relay teammates at the finish of the Green Mountain Relay in Vermont. It was my first relay, and I had such a great time I am returning for another year. (June)Before the start of the Lyn Yarows Memorial 5K, my first cross-country race since my senior season in high school in 1991. (July)

At the 2800-foot summit of Black Mountain in Los Altos Hills, California, during my awesome vacation. It was the 16-mile trail run of torture, but every moment before, during and after was worth it. (August)

During the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Run. This was the event for which I was selected to be a Fitness Ambassador. (September)

Co-haring my first hash. Covered in flour and mud and totally happy. Hashing changed everything for me. (October)

The New York City Marathon. Enough said. (November)

At the start of the Run Like the Dickens 5K in 15-degree weather. (December)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Route for All Seasons

This post has been a year in the making. Almost one year ago I started taking pictures of the cemetery in each season. As longtime readers may know, the cemetery in my town is my favorite place to run. I love its quiet length whatever the season. These pictures are of the long tree-lined drive leading into the cemetery.





Then there's one of my favorite running pictures ever, the one of me in the cemetery which accompanied the article in the Ann Arbor News two years ago:

I love the cemetery.

Obligatory End Of Decade Post (One Week Late)

This is how I started the decade:

March 2000, on vacation in California, with my uncle's late beloved cat A.C. I was in my final semester of graduate school and I was 26 years old.

This is how I ended it:

At the Eve on the Ave 5K in Jackson, Michigan, December 31, 2009.

The "aughts" were the years I finally left the safe, nurturing, insular world of academia and entered the cold, cruel world of Real Life. The decade in a nutshell:
  • 2000: got my master's degree in geology from the University of Michigan; took my last cross-country drive from Michigan to California
  • 2001: started my first post-higher education job; met and moved in with my eventual husband
  • 2002: went to Ireland for a week; bought my house; quit my job
  • 2003: found my current job; started taking voice lessons
  • 2004: got married in Hawaii
  • 2005: performed with Michigan Opera Theater in Puccini's La Boheme
  • 2006: went to Hawaii again; joined Weight Watchers
  • 2007: had the surgery which changed my life for the better; started running in earnest; ran my first half marathon
  • 2008: performed with Arbor Opera Theater in Mozart's Don Giovanni; ran my first marathon
  • 2009: major domestic reorganization (aka divorce); qualified for Boston Marathon
A year ago I laid out my goals for 2009:
  • Qualify for the 2010 Boston Marathon at the Cleveland Marathon in May (success!)
  • Run a sub-1:50 half marathon (success! not once but twice!)
  • Run a sub-50:00 10K (success! again, not once but twice!)
  • Set another new 5K PR (success!)
  • OR break 22:00 in a 5K (fail!)
  • Run 1500 miles for the year (fail!)
  • Run at least one race each month (fail!)
I posted a 4/7 success rate (57.1%) which is worse than 2008's goal success rate (87.5%) but I achieved my biggest goal of the year, which was to BQ in Cleveland. I ran 1237 miles, which is 93 miles less than I ran in 2008. However, I decreased my average pace by 13 seconds to 8:58/mile. I also spent 183 hours and 9 minutes on the road and burned 136,864 calories.

My "one race a month" goal was toast in January when I came down with the flu the final weekend of the month, a weekend which I had planned to run a race. However, I did my best to make up for it the rest of the year. I missed September because I completely blanked and let the month slip past, although if I really wanted to I could categorize my run across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day as my race for the month because it was an organized group event even if it was not technically a "race."

Notable moments and races of 2009:
I don't really know what I would like to accomplish in 2010. The past year was one of great personal strife and triumph, and I do not know how I could better it. Yes, I will run the Boston Marathon in April. That race is my only goal at the moment. I would like to do well there. Ideally I would love to re-qualify, but I recognize that may be difficult. I have some modest goals in mind for 2010:
  • run 1500 miles
  • run a race every month!
  • reach my Weight Watchers goal weight and become a Lifetime member
And you know what? That's all. That's all I would like to accomplish. I realize that breaking 22:00 in a 5K or 45:00 in a 10K may not be within my reach anymore. I have to accept that I'm getting older and slower.

But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ten and Ten

Ten miles. Ten degrees. What does such a combination of parameters require?

Lots and lots and lots of layers.

The best part about this run was seeing a flock of bluebirds. Their bright feathers stood in stark contrast to the bare branches and snow-encrusted fields.

I have finally eased back into the routine of rising and running in the dark, cold mornings before work. Boston is 15 weeks from tomorrow. I'll be ready.