Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Double Down

Today I did two things I have not done for a very long time:

1. Ran twice in one day

2. Ran more than 7 miles

This morning I awoke with the intention of visiting my gym, my membership to which I renewed yesterday. My new access tag wold not permit me to enter, however, so I returned home a bit disgruntled. It was only 6:10 am and I was dressed in workout wear. What else to do but go for a run? How could I not, given that it was 43 degrees? It turned out to be a very enjoyable 3.37 miles, despite my frantic dash the final quarter-mile to get home before I had a poop-related catastrophe. I texted the Engineer a bit later: "Nothing like threat of imminent crapping of one's pants to put a little spring in the step."

If you reside in the Midwest, unless you've been living in a cave, you know we are having a ridiculously mild winter. I've been in Michigan since 1998 and, before that, the Cleveland area since 1987 and I don't recall anything like what we're experiencing now. This weather reminds me of winters in the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up. Today the temperature reached 54 degrees. 54 degrees! In Michigan! In JANUARY! This is craziness!

What it also meant was I had to run again this evening with the group from Running Fit. I couldn't let a 54-degree day pass by unused. Thus, I went out around 6:30 from the store on the west side of Ann Arbor. Even though the sun had gone down, it was still about 52 degrees. Shortly before the turnaround of the out-and-back route, I crossed paths with with a couple of speedy ladies (one of whom recently ran the Olympic Trials Marathon), and they were kind enough to slow down to my pace, which I described as"slow-ass." I could tell we were moving faster as we neared the store, and they ended up pulling me to a 9:19 pace, which these days is enough to lift my spirits. I ran an additional 3.67 miles tonight, bringing today's total to 7.04 miles. The last time I ran that far was the Cleveland Half in May 2011 (the day of the great calf-shredding debacle). My legs are now a little bit "what the hell just happened?"

They need to get used to it, because I plan on running the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon in early June. So get ready, legs; your lazy days of 2-3 miles at a time will soon be over.

The "11 Random Things/Questions" meme has been making the blog rounds, and I have been ensnared thanks to Raulgonemobile. (As usual, I'm not going to tag anyone. If you're in the running blogosphere, you've probably seen this recently, and you can play along if you want to. Right now I'm not motivated enough to come up with 11 new questions. It's late and I want to go to bed.)

1. Favorite obscure movie? (And why.)
 "Walking and Talking," a 1996 film with pre-stardom Catherine Keener and Anne Heche. I don't know why I love this movie; I just do. Plus the soundtrack includes Liz Phair, which is awesome.

2. Favorite kitchen appliance? (And why.)
My KitchenAid mixer. It's been a trusty workhorse for 13 years. (Close seconds: the coffee maker, because I love the sweet nectar of the bean, and my blender, which kicks ass.)

3. Favorite Olympic sport?
I confess: gymnastics. I love watching small people do crazy shit with their bodies.
4. What method(s) do you use to make time for yourself?
I live alone, so all of my time is my own once I leave work. I can do whatever I want and am beholden to no one. Sometimes that means watching four hours of TV. Sometimes I go see a movie. Sometimes I get into bed at 8:30 and spend 3 hours reading. Sometimes I attend a classical music concert. On the weekends, there's coffee and the New York Times and then the whole day is wide open. Whatever it is, I'm doing it because I want to, not because I have to, and the freedom to decide what I do with my time is wonderful.

5. Favorite alcoholic beverage (if beer, be specific. :) )
Beer: Bell's Two-Hearted Pale Ale or Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout.
6. Why do you blog?
It's the natural evolution of the journals I kept throughout high school, college, and graduate school. I've been scribbling down my thoughts since I was 13. The medium may have changed, but the intention is the same.
7. What is one place you've always wanted to travel to, but haven't made it there yet?
The Netherlands, to see if I can track down my great-grandfather's family history.
8. What's your take on reality TV?
UGH. I watch "The Soup" so I don't have to watch any actual reality TV, because most of the people on those shows and their antics make my skin crawl. The stupid...it burns...

9. Favorite band?
My favorite artist has been---for 25 years--- and will always be Depeche Mode. Yes, I am a child of the 80s.

10. Mac or PC?
Currently a ten-year-old PC, but I am looking to upgrade to a Mac in the next few months.

11. Favorite season to work out in?
Fall. Summer's heat and humidity has dissipated, winter's dark, frozen chill hasn't descended, and the leaves are gorgeous.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It Was Fun While it Lasted

The Streak came to an end today after 13 days. 13 days that rekindled my love of running, which had burned down to embers over the past six months.

Today was such a glorious day, too. We had temperatures in the 40s! I wanted nothing more than to come home, throw on my running clothes, and get out the door, but I didn't.

Why? Because of a strange little spot on the front of my shin, a little spot that began troubling me several days ago, a little spot whose arm-waving "here I am, pay attention to me!" quickly became more insistent. When I rubbed and pressed on the spot, located over my tibia, it hurt. Like, yank my fingers away kind of hurt. Like, what the hell is going on here? kind of hurt. Like, why is this hurting when I'm lying in bed? kind of hurt.

I knew better than to keep running on it, but I was caught up in The Streak and I was finally loving running, yearning to run, after so many months of not really wanting to, that I told myself, "it's just shin splints," and kept going.

Of course, I mentioned the tender spot on my bone to the Redhead and she was all "you need to take a few days off. STOP NOW."

Of course, that was not what I wanted to hear, but in all things bone-ache-related I defer to Red because she is an expert in that department.

I suppose I was being overly ambitious with The Streak. I don't think I've ever run for 13 days in a row without a rest day, not even when I was training for the Cleveland Marathon (when my only goal was to qualify for Boston). I just started...and couldn't stop. I didn't want to stop. I enjoyed every run I did, even the ones last week when it was like 25 degrees and the wind was blowing and a few times there was snow or sleet coming down and I wasn't going any faster than 10:30/mile. I was out there, I was hitting the pavement, I was pestering the Engineer to hurry up so we could go run!

Today: reluctant avoidance. Sigh.

I wanted SO SO SO SO SO! badly to run after work that when I left I texted Red and said, "Tell me again I'm NOT to take advantage of this nice day and run when I get home." She advised me to go for a walk or take Brownie out for a ride (poor Brownie, she's been stashed in my garage since September). After a stop at Lowe's and another at CVS, however, by the time I arrived home it was 5:30 and twilight had set in. I elected to label stairclimbing as my exercise for the day and call it good.

I'll stay off my legs for a couple of days, then run again and reassess the spot situation. If it persists, a visit to my sports doctor is in order. I want to err on the side of caution. I do not want to end up hurting myself grievously. I'd like to do some things to be proud of in 2012, not crash and burn like I did in 2011.

On my run after work yesterday, this was on the message rock in a local park:

I want the next one to say "School Of" or "And Roll." Further suggestions can be left in the comments.
Yesterday was also the evening of cats undercover:

Boo in bed with me

Darwin on the couch

Monday, January 2, 2012

Eve on the Ave 5K: Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

Saturday evening I gathered with the Redhead, Spike, and the Engineer for a decidedly nontraditional New Year's Eve celebration: a 5K road race. I am old and crotchety and running three miles at 10:00 PM is, to me, a much better way to ring in the new year than getting drunk in a loud bar far from home, staying out until who knows when, and waking up with a terrible hangover the next day. No, at the advanced age of 38 I have embraced my preference for low-key evenings close to home with people dear to me, concluding with fluffy pajamas, a warm blanket, cats, the Engineer next to me, and a sensible bedtime. Oh sure, I had sparkling wine on hand for the big moment when the clock ticked over to midnight...I'm not that much of a curmudgeon.

Anyway. The Eve on the Ave 5K was in downtown Jackson on New Year's Eve, and we congregated beforehand for some conversation and silly pictures with Christmas decorations.

Red and Spike demonstrate why reflective safety vests are so cool.
The conditions for Saturday's race were favorable: clear, dry, and 35 degrees, much better than two years ago when I ran this same race in an ice storm. Spike decided he was going to lead the race for the first 50 meters, so he took off sprinting and yelling while the rest of us hung back. I quickly settled into my cruising pace, which was boosted by the gentle downhill of the first half mile. The route was two loops around downtown Jackson and then a half-mile uphill climb (the start in reverse) to the finish. There were plenty of celebratory revelers on hand to watch the crazy people running in the dark. When late-night race spectators are drunk and bar crawling or standing around on porches with music blaring, the commentary directed at you will be less of the "woo! all right runners!" variety and more like "fucking losers, get off the street!"

All righty, then. I managed to "get off the street" in just over 29 minutes, averaging a 9:19/mile pace, which is as fast as I've run since April 2011. The nasty headwind and long uphill grades nibbled at my pace a little, and the pasta dinner I consumed 2.5 hours before the race was making its presence known in an unpleasant fashion, but I finished the race feeling strong and fresh, sausage-y burps and stomachache notwithstanding.

After Red and Spike finished together about 8 minutes later, we all fled indoors for warmth and to await the results. When they were posted, both Red and I placed second in our respective age groups.

We're number two! We're number two!

Lest ye think this was a fluff race devoid of competition, the top two overall finishers were both female and ran under 18:00 (17:58 and 17:59). The race winner, a local high school senior, recently finished 14th at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, thereby earning All-American honors. The second-place female won the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2010. Maybe the second-place lady was a bit off her game Saturday night because she won the Belle Isle New Year's Eve 5K earlier the same day in a time of 16:44?

Sadly, they only awarded homemade pies to the top finisher in each age group, which meant Red and I missed out on some seriously awesome AG swag. Nevertheless, we celebrated our second place-ness with gusto.

We parted ways soon afterward and the Engineer and I were back in Chelsea with time to spare to warm up, throw on the aforementioned fuzzy pajamas, and herald the arrival of 2012.

Saturday's race marked nine days in a row of running for me. Yesterday was 10, and today's run made it 11. Eleven days in a row of running. I don't know if that's ever happened. Tomorrow, however, reality returns in the form of work, and I will see how long The Streak lasts once I am back to getting up early. I hope that the momentum I built up over the past week and a half carries me forward.

In other news, I am a devoted player of Words with Friends, and today I conjured up my best (as in highest-scoring) word ever in a game against my good pal Mr. E. (whom I have decided to call the Birdmaster, which refers to his (and my) love of all things avian, and also because of a terrible movie called "The Beastmaster," which is a joke from our shared graduate school past. HAWK VISION!)

BOO YAH! Of course, my next batch of letters sucked. I also need to charge my battery.
Onward into 2012!