Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Relaxation!

I am seven days into my 11-day vacation and I couldn't be happier. I am also seven days into my longest streak of running in I can't even remember how long. Yes, every day for the last 7 days I have gotten outside and run between 2 and 4 miles. I am reluctant to put a label on this or turn it into a loftier goal, long can I keep "the streak" going?

I was in my hometown near Cleveland for Christmas, spending quality time with family. Christmas morning we indulged in mimosas.

Champagne and OJ now, running later

I returned to Chelsea on Monday. The Engineer joined me on Tuesday, and Wednesday-- yesterday-- was my 38th birthday. I'm 2 years away from being a Masters runner! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! (shriek of horror)

The Engineer got me an amazing birthday gift: a watercolor painting of sandhill cranes. These impressive birds can be seen in this area (western Washtenaw and eastern Jackson counties) during their spring and fall migrations.
Darwin is not a very good art critic.

In other bird news, today on my run I saw a red-shouldered hawk in the cemetery. It was close enough so I was able to see its glassy black eyes. Awesome!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I was pondering how I was going to approach the traditional "end of the year" post. Considering that 2011 wasn't exactly a stellar year for me, I decided to let Jim Mora, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, do the talking for me.

I remember hearing this rant on the radio in 2001 and laughing my ass off. "Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs! You kidding me?"

Substitute the word "goals" for "playoffs" and that's how I feel about 2011. Actually...this whole rant describes my year.

"Disgraceful performance."

"In my opinion, that sucked."

"Holy crap, I don't know who the hell we think we are."


"Pitiful. Absolutely pitiful to perform like that."

Yep, that was my year. Pitiful. I didn't do one damn thing worth mentioning except blowing out my right calf in the middle of the Cleveland Half Marathon, after which I ran 7 more miles to finish the race. The best part about that debacle was seeing Red about 2 miles from the finish.

I'll say it again: I love, love, love this picture.

My injury in May set up the rest of the year: three months of physical therapy followed by a very careful return to running. I ran my first full mile at the end of August and I can now run about four miles at once. My formerly-shredded calf is holding up well. No twinges at all.

I got my act together after skipping last year and sent out a holiday card to my friends and family:

This, of course, is a picture from my AWESOME FANTASTIC AMAZING vacation to the Pacific Northwest with the Engineer back in September. This particular picture was taken a few miles from the ruins of Mt. St. Helens. For a geologist, this is one of those "must-visit" locations.

You can see logs lying flat on the ground behind me, indicating the direction of the blast which raked the landscape. The mountain itself, about three miles away, is missing its northern flank, because it blew off and slid into Spirit Lake. A blistering pyroclastic flow spread through the forest, flattening and burning everything in its path. Ash and pumice rained down everywhere. And yet, you can see that the landscape is green after 30 years of healing. Nature is attempting to right itself.

I picked up a few pieces of pumice as souvenirs; I kept several and gave one choice chunk to my nephew. I explained what it was and where it came from (in terms a 3-year-old could understand). Last weekend my brother informed me my nephew would not sleep without his pumice. I replied, "I rule." I think my brother has seen through my nefarious plan to turn my nephew into a geology nerd...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: So Long, Old Friends

Brooks Adrenaline 9: March 2010-December 2011
These are the shoes I wore when I ran the Boston Marathon in April 2010. I also wore them for the Thunder Road Marathon a year ago. In January of this year I got a new pair of Adrenaline 10s because these, my fourth pair of Adrenaline 9s, were completely wasted. Once my new shoes went into rotation, these became my hashing and yard work shoes. They served me well through the spring, summer and into the fall, getting nastier and dirtier all the while. One particular hash was especially brutal from a mud perspective; afterward, I knew the shoes' days were numbered as I didn't even want to put them on my feet anymore. I got my newest pair of shoes in mid-November, which pushed my Adrenaline 10s into the dirty work position...and pushed my cherished Boston shoes into obsolescence.

I should have thrown them away long ago, but I couldn't. These shoes crossed the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton and 26 miles later ran down Boylston Street to the finish. My Boston journey from qualification to finishing the race will likely be the pinnacle of my running career, as I don't see myself becoming fast enough to requalify for a long time. Maybe ever. My first Boston could be my only Boston. These shoes were there, man! I can't get rid of them!

Except...despite my propensity for allowing piles of paper to accumulate all over the place (I call it my "Pile Problem") I am not a hoarder. I don't have a problem throwing things away even when they have sentimental value. Worn-out dirty shoes, even if they trod the Boston Marathon course, are still just worn-out dirty shoes. Thus, this morning I carried them downstairs, flipped open the trash can lid, and dumped them inside. I admit I felt a tiny pang of sadness as they fell in with yesterday's coffee grounds and an empty tomato container. Farewell, faithful shoes.*sniffle*

Our shared moment of glory: the finish of the Boston Marathon.
My new pair of shoes are women's Brooks Adrenaline 12s. I wore men's shoes for years because they were roomier than the women's version, and the size I needed in a women's shoe wasn't readily available because I have giant freak feet. However! When I went to Running Fit last month for a new pair of shoes (having decided my old shoes were partly to blame for my aching ankles), they had the 2012 Adrenalines on hand AND THEY HAD A WOMEN'S SIZE 12! I snapped them up immediately and wore them a few days later for the Girls on the Run 5K in Ypsilanti on November 20. Running in them after using my crashed-out, washed-up Adrenaline 10s was like...puffy clouds! drifting raft! feather bed! A THOUSAND COMFY CHAIRS!

Side note: does anyone else think the evil chuckling of the Inquisitors in the video sounds exactly like the evil chuckling of the pigs from Angry Birds?

In other news, this morning when I got up it was 55 degrees. I took advantage of this by running to the gym (almost 1 mile), working out, and then running home. I was accompanied by light rain; it was not enough to dissuade me from running outdoors. 55 degrees in December in Michigan is rare indeed and must be celebrated, because it surely will not last long! Sure enough, temperatures are going to nosedive over the course of the day until we're back to 25 degrees overnight. Sigh.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Sigh, Ouch

1. Sigh

My backyard on Wednesday morning1
Do not be fooled by the deceptively attractive appearance of the above scene. This can mean only one thing: winter is here. Yes, I know that winter doesn't technically begin until December 22nd. This is Michigan! Winter prematurely ejaculates on us every year! You think it's still spend part of the Thanksgiving holiday walking outside in 55-degree temperatures...the sun is shining...and then...

WHAM! You get hit with a big wet mess when you weren't expecting it.

Yes, I am participating in the annual "woe is us" collective groan that arises from the Midwest at this time of year. Most of my Midwest run-blogger buddies have already posted a variation on this theme. WE CAN'T HELP IT! We forget what the weather was like eight or nine months ago. We are lulled into complacency by warm weather and green grass. The memories of those horrible long runs in 15 degrees and four inches of snow recede until we kind of remember that something unpleasant happened in February, but we're not sure what. Our gloves, hats, tights, long-sleeved shirts, and jackets get shuffled to the bottoms of piles and drawers or lost altogether. The long, lazy days of summer stretch on and on...

We know what's coming, but we pretend not to notice the days growing shorter, the temperatures falling. We wear shorts and T-shirts long after a "normal" person would have donned pants and a jacket. We refuse to try on that one jacket that was always a little snug to see if it still (sort of) fits. Maybe we can't find that jacket at all, and that's okay. It's still fall! It's still warm! It hasn't gone below freezing at night yet! I don't have to drive to work in the dark! IT'S NOT WINTER! IT'S NOT! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LA LA LA LA LAAAAA...


That was the big wet mess. HEL-LO! It's winter, remember her?

We sigh, square our shoulders, dig out the gloves, hats, tights, long-sleeved shirts, and jackets. We make sure the battery on the headlamp is fresh and there's a safety vest to wear on those dark, cold mornings. We're relieved to find the close-fitting jacket still fits after all, and that pair of thick tights mysteriously appears in a pile of sweaters. We acclimate to the temperature, embrace the darkness. We run in 30, 20, 10 or zero degrees (not without occasional consequences, however). We run in sleet, snow, wind, rain. We feel like badasses, we consider ourselves hardcore. We are the Michigan winter runners.

2. Ouch

The Redhead and I extended our streak of good luck at Lillie Park with a walk on Monday. However, Tuesday (pouring rain) and Wednesday (snow) were not as kind. In lieu of the park, we elected to climb stairs in the tall building next to my office. Thirteen flights of stairs at 22 steps per flight and four trips up equals 1,144 steps. We were both sweaty and breathless when we finished. My heart was thundering. As relaxing and bucolic as the path through Lillie Park is, it does not equal a true cardiovascular workout. Stair climbing, on the other hand...whew.

This morning when I arose to go to the gym, my calves were like "HEY! What did you do to us yesterday?" I was unable to meet up with Redhead at lunch today, so I climbed stairs by myself. I managed two sets before my calves were all "WHAT THE HELL CUT IT OUT ALREADY!" I spent the rest of the afternoon slowly walking around the building when I had to; my quads and calves were more sore every time I stood up. They were in full-on revolt by the time I left work, screaming "WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO US, ASSHOLE, JESUS IT FEELS LIKE WE JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON OR SOMETHING, YOU BETTER NOT FUCKING DO THIS AGAIN TOMORROW! ARRRRRGH!"

Little do they know.

1: In the picture you can see four of my five bird feeders. I am very serious about my bird feeders and bird seed. I have suet cakes, thistle seed, sunflower seed, and a mix. This is calculated to attract the maximum species diversity to my yard.