Friday, October 29, 2010

My Bad...I Guess...

Having lived in the Midwest for most of my life I know how quickly it gets dark at this time of year once the sun slips past the horizon. A run which begins in daylight at 6:00 pm will end in near-darkness an hour later. Said expedited twilight is enhanced when clouds blanket the sky.

I need to be aware of this when I do things like dress in all black and attempt to cross a busy road (in a crosswalk and with the green light right-of-way) near the end of a five-mile run.

A lady in an SUV driving into the crosswalk to make a right turn on red will screech to a halt as I pass in front of her, then pull around the corner where I am now waiting to make the next crossing, and will yell at me out her passenger-side window.

I was terribly embarrassed and didn't say anything. I thought about snapping back, "Give me a break, it wasn't dark when I left an hour ago."

She drove away in a huff, and as I crossed the next street I thought, "Note to self: from now on, BRING SAFETY VEST." It won't even be a point of contention in another couple of weeks because we will be switching back to standard time on November 7 and it will be dark at 6:00 (sob). My safety vest and headlamp will become default equipment in my winter running gear set.

My run was otherwise uneventful but for the fact that it was the first time I've run with the Thursday Night Gang since early June. The long, hot, horrible summer is over and I have no reason not to head to the Running Fit store on Thursday evenings to hang with my peeps. We even hit Banfield's afterward for beers (Bell's Two Hearted Ale).

On tap for tomorrow: 14 miles (hopefully) and then the Run Thru Hell 10K on Sunday morning!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grand Rapids Half Marathon

Six months ago, fresh off the emotional high of the Boston Marathon, I ambitiously set a goal of qualifying for another Boston at the Grand Rapids Marathon in October.

Life had other plans, as it often does.

From a dreadfully hot and humid summer that sapped me of willpower at every turn to the fateful hamstring injury in August, this was not a season to remember. I struggled, I fought, I complained, I bitched, moaned, and basically gave up.

It was the giving up that hung on my spirit more than anything. Once upon a time I went after my goals with fire in my heart and I flung myself headlong into any endeavor, gritting my teeth and powering through the long and lonely miles. That winter season of training for Cleveland, was anything as difficult as that, really? And here I was whining about running when it was insufferably hot. What about all those awful mornings when I slid out the door into a dark, frozen world and ran 6 or 7 miles? Where was that version of me when I needed her most?

Skulking around in the shadows, just beyond my field of close, yet so far away.

When I finally backed away from the full marathon, it was a huge relief. I knew that even with the spotty training I had cobbled together since mid-August I could run a half marathon. The conditioning and overall fitness I had spent the past three years building up would be enough to carry me the 13.1 miles I needed. It was going to be hard but I would survive.

So it was I found myself huddled in the crowd at the start of the Grand Rapids race on Sunday, October 17. My dad and the Engineer were by my side and somewhere in the crowd were Spike and the Redhead and three more of my running buddies (Lorenda, Larry, and Amanda). We were in this together. 13.1 miles, I had run that distance a score of times. What's 13 miles? I could do that in my sleep. sleep had lasted two months. It was time to wake up and run.

Temperature: about 45 degrees. The sun was rising and it was calm and clear. I was wearing my trusty running skirt and my special Chelsea Market shirt. I felt relaxed and ready. I was covered in Body Glide and I had a freshly charged Garmy. Bring it.

The race itself was rather uneventful. We weaved around the streets of Grand Rapids, crossing the river, winding through downtown, past riverfront and warehouses and grassy meadows. I maintained a nice, easy 9:00-9:15 pace. I stopped for a bathroom break around mile 8.5, without which I probably would have broken 2 hours, but that's okay. Around mile 10 fatigue settled in and I knew the last three miles were going to require some pushing. I hadn't run this far in a long time. Like, two months. I told you my training had gone off the rails. Gone off the rails? It was a trainwreck. A pileup.

Miles 11 and 12 slid by and before I knew it I made the last turn with about a half mile to go. I could see the finish line banner in the distance. I was almost done. So close. I was tired. I was ready for it to be over.

Onward, I told myself. You're almost done. This doesn't hurt as badly as the last half mile at Cleveland, and you're not trying to qualify for Boston, so just glide on down there nice and easy, no need to sprint (remember the hamstring debacle!), just keep it slow and steady...

I crossed the finish line and it was done. My sixth half marathon, and my second slowest at 2:05:28. I fought for that 2:05, however. I don't have anything to be ashamed of.

Late last week I met up with the Redhead for lunch as we are wont to do seeing as how we work half a mile from each other. We were unable to connect on race day to my great sadness, but that meant that last Friday we were able to get our run nerd on in fine form, including matching race shirts and medals!

Don't mind us, we're just a couple of weird runner chicks...

I can't fully relax, however, because come December 11 I will be running a marathon. A full one this time. I'm not letting this one slip away. Thunder Road is waiting. Charlotte, here I come. 

For the record, my hamstring didn't give me a single twinge for the entire race. Not a quiver, not a clench, nothing. That, my friends, is the biggest triumph of all. 


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Thoughts: Three, Two, One...


Days until the Grand Rapids Half Marathon, where I will be running with my Dad, the Redhead, and the Engineer while Spike runs the full marathon. Truthfully, if I was running the full on Sunday like I planned...I'd be crapping my pants right about now with fear. I'm so glad I only have to run 13 miles. 13 miles is nothing.


Years since I ran my first marathon, Detroit. At this time two years ago I was an excited, nervous wreck with an ice bag strapped to my ankle because I was desperately trying to get rid of a mysterious ankle ache that had been plaguing me for days.


(plus approximately seven) Hours until I get to see Sufjan Stevens LIVE IN CONCERT TONIGHT.

It's all good, folks.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Slow Runner

That would be me, not the band.

For the time being I've accepted my status as more of a tortoise than a hare. Not that I was ever super-fast to begin with, but there once was a time when I could run a 7:30 mile and not think too much of it. In fact, it felt casual and carefree. Why, just a year ago I ran a half marathon at an average pace of 7:51 per mile.

Not so much at the moment. Since the beginning of the hamstring debacle in the middle of August, my runs have been more about survival than speed. Too many days off have taken their toll.

The Grand Rapids Half Marathon is this coming Sunday. I was supposed to be staring down another Boston qualifying attempt in the marathon, and instead I will be lining up with my dad and the Redhead and hoping to maintain a 9:30 pace for 13.1 miles. Not that running with my dad, the Redhead (and possibly my sweetie, the Engineer) is that distasteful a prospect. I am sure I will enjoy myself no matter what. Any day running is better than a day without.

On October 3 I ran the Big House Big Heart 5K for the fourth time. This is a race I never miss. The thrill of running into Michigan Stadium has yet to lose its luster. Last year I ran the race in 23:46. This year I eked out a 27:24. After a crowd-clogged first mile (9:21) I was able to open up and run an 8:31 mile 2...and then my hamstring decided to revolt again. I was so mad. I had been running steadily and without pain for weeks, and now this. I limped my way through an 8:49 mile 3 to the finish.

It was not the outcome I had hoped for. Fine. Get over it and move on. The half marathon is waiting, and after that, the Thunder Road Marathon in December. Once that race is done with, I am going to back off goal-oriented training. I have been training for once major race or another for three years, and I'm tired of it. I just want to get up in the morning and run whatever distance I feel like, not something that's prescribed on a spreadsheet. I want to be able to run only three miles instead of a scheduled five and not feel guilty. I want to be able to blow off a run here and there because it's pouring rain when I wake up and not beat myself up about it. I need more cross-training and strength training.

The past two years were amazing in terms of my growth and improvement as a runner. I knew the upward trajectory could not last forever. Eventually I was going to crest the hill, reach the apex, the apogee, and begin to descend. I seem to be on a downside at the moment. I hope to pull myself out of this valley. I realize that the sub-22:00 5K, the 3:30 marathon may be beyond my ability. That's okay. I just want running to be fun again.

I may be slow, but I'm working on it.