Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflecting on 2007...and Goals for 2008

It's the final day of 2007, a year of great change and upheaval for me. One year ago I was at the the midway point of a great downward spiral which would end only when I had surgery in February. I had lost about 20 pounds on Weight Watchers and was managing to run (when I had the energy) maybe twice a week, one or two miles at a time. More than that and the fatigue brought on by persistent anemia would lash out and strike me down. Most of those final gruesome weeks leading up to surgery it was all I could do to make it through the day, lured by the promise of sweet, sweet rest when I got home. Afternoon naps were my lifeblood, considering that my actual blood was leaking out of me faster than it could be replenished.

That is all behind me now, a horrible phase which has thankfully been relegated to memory only. 2007 was the year I was REBORN!

I ran (as best as I can guesstimate, considering my stats are spread out over three different record-keeping places) about 460 miles since May.

I ran one one-mile, six 5Ks, one four-mile, one 5.25-mile and one 13.1 mile race.

My best mile time was 7:48.

My best 5K time was 25:01.

My best (unofficial) 10K time was 54:45.

My half marathon time was 2:07.

I killed off two pairs of running shoes and am now working on my third.

I acquired the greatest piece of electronic wizardry known to man, the Garmin Forerunner 305. They can have my Garmin when they pry it from my cold dead hands (I say the same thing about TiVo).

I lost a further 40 pounds (slight setback over the past week of holiday feasting but I'm back on track now)

I made some excellent new friends who also love to run.

I have annoyed family and friends with endless blather about running.

I learned to love the quiet predawn hours. I also (sort of) learned to love the biting cold.

I learned how to love life again.

For 2008 I want to:
  • Run my next half marathon in under 2 hours
  • Run a 7:00 mile
  • Run a sub-25:00 5K
  • Get a new 5K PR (will have to be less than 23:21)
  • Run a 10K race
  • Run the Detroit Marathon!
  • Reach my Weight Watchers goal weight
  • Run as much as humanly possible without injury
As for this New Year's Eve, there's a 5K race in downtown Jackson that starts at midnight...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday Wrap-Up

Apparently this year I was "easy" in the gift department. I got a new iPod Nano and headphones (for running). I got a Velcro wristband for my Garmin (for running). I got a totally rocking three-piece Pearl Izumi outfit (for running). I was very happy.

I went for a couple of long runs while I was in Ohio, an 8-miler and a 10K. The 8-miler was a nice easy lope (9:44/mile) to the dead end of my grandmother's street and back to my parents'. The 10K I did in 54:45 (8:48/mile) including the final mile which was almost all downhill (8:23/mile) and the 0.2 at the very end for which I basically ran as fast as I could just to see how it felt and I ended up running at a 7:14 pace. I was tired but not totally overwhelmed. Breathing fast but not out of control panting.

That 10K was one of my nicest runs ever right up until I turned onto Sherman Rd. from Caves for my final 0.8 mile and in the ditch on the south side of the road was a headless, half-skinned dead deer. It had probably been hit by a car and had probably been a buck with a big rack hence the chopped-off head. It was horrible and disgusting. It was decaying there in the ditch and because the ditch was full of water the stink and contamination were being carried downhill and I was running alongside the ditch with my nose full of dead animal stench. I went faster and faster, trying to outrun the smell. I had to go about 200 meters before I moved out of the stink zone. Part of the reason I ran so fast was because I was so disgusted by the sight of that dead deer and pissed off that someone would just lop off the head and leave the rest to rot. That was probably some perfectly nice venison.

I also installed SportTracks so now I can keep track of everything that ever happens on a run and see my running routes in full color. Thanks to Fritz for the suggestion.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Few, The Proud, The....Totally Nuts?

Anyone who lives in the Midwest or Northeast and has a window knows what the weather has been like for the past day. Why, here in southeast Michigan we got over a foot of snow from this, the Blizzard of December 2007, which is unusual for this area.

When I got up this morning and peeked out the window, I saw a landscape not conducive to anything but donning flannel and sitting on the couch all day preferably with an endless mug of hot Irish whiskey. (See picture at left. That's John trying to clear the driveway.)

Snort. Yeah, if you're TOTALLY WIMPY!

However, if you're TOTALLY HARDCORE, you look at the snowy world and think, "It's a GREAT day for running!" Undeterred from plans made earlier in the week, myself and Tina agreed to give it a go, each of us armed with many layers of clothing and a set of Yaktrax. Never mind that I almost didn't even make it out of Chelsea after getting nearly stuck in the snow at one of the intersections downtown. (Sometimes I miss my Jeep with its four-wheel drive. But then I think, "47 mpg" and all is well.)

We met at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter, a little more than a month ago the site of the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. There were other people at the park, too, including one other runner, so we weren't as insane as I thought. Though, oddly enough, most of the other people I saw were on cross-country skis...hmmm...

We did two loops of the park path for a total of about 5.3 miles, which was probably enough given the conditions. Fortunately the path had been cleared recently so we weren't breaking a trail through over a foot of snow. The Yaktrax worked beautifully and I was warm and dry from head to toe though the occasional cold glob of snow blew into my ear. Sometimes the wind blew fiercely in our faces, other times it was at our backs. After our second circuit of the path we decided to stop because the path was becoming drifted over due to the incessant wind.

A few hours later, the snowstorm ended and this was the view from my front window:

Damn! If only we'd waited until the afternoon to go running! Now it's a beautiful day! Then again, there's something to be said for really braving the worst of the elements, for getting out there when normal people hide indoors, for being not normal enough to think that running during a blizzard is fun, and for finding someone to do it with.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just One of Those Days

Nothing special...just a nice six-mile run after work yesterday. The weather was an absolute joy, unlike Tuesday. When I set out I didn't really have an idea of how far or where I would go. I headed west on Cavanaugh Lake Rd. to Conway Rd. and turned north. Conway was a bit of a struggle. I ran my first two miles at a steady 9:15 pace and then when I began mile 3 about 100 meters into Conway Rd. my pace dropped to almost 10:00. Conway was an icy, mess not conducive to going very fast. I minced along, dodging potholes and puddles, muddy ruts and icy patches. My sparkling white brand-new shoes managed to avoid becoming dirt-splattered, much to my surprise. Once I turned east on Bush Rd., which is paved, I was able to pick up my pace again. The sun was starting to get very low in the sky and I had to decide whether I wanted to stretch my run to six miles or do a little less. I chose to lengthen it because really, the weather was too good to pass up (for December in Michigan, anyway) and I was feeling perky. Ivey Rd., paved though it was, was an ice-covered nightmare and I went even slower on it than I did on unpaved Conway Rd. When I finally reached the relative ice-free comfort of Werkner Rd., the sun was setting and the western horizon was ablaze with orange. I felt fortunate to be outside, generating my own heat to keep warm, breath billowing in great clouds, churning along, happy and strong. (6 miles, 58 minutes, 9:40 pace.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Stuff!

Friday evening John and I went into Ann Arbor to the downtown Running Fit store. They were having a one-day sale, and since I had been unable to get to the big sale the previous weekend, I knew this was my chance to get the new pair of shoes I had been thinking about since before Thanksgiving. And, while I'm at it (and how could I say no to 20% off everything?) how about a new really-bad-weather jacket, a new really-bad-weather pair of pants, some new socks, and new running bras...

One hour and several hundred dollars later I walked out with a big bag full of my new goodies. The next morning I suited up in almost everything I had purchased (forgoing the pants because the weather wasn't bad) and hit the road for a lovely 6-mile run. No hurry, no pressure, just out and about on a crisp, clear Saturday morning.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mackinac Bridge Run Lottery

Today I entered the lottery for the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Run. I was able to do so because I participated in three Governor's Council on Physical Fitness-endorsed events this year. I really hope I get picked. I think being able to run the bridge would be a fantastic experience. Only 300 people get selected. I won't know if I won the lottery for another six months.

I also filled out the section on being a Fitness Ambassador and leaned heavily on my 60-pound weight loss as well as the "overcoming adversity" angle in regards to my illness and subsequent surgery. It doesn't improve my chances of being randomly selected in the lottery but if I am chosen maybe it will help me stand out from the crowd.

In other news, I was recently made aware that a new group run is starting up on Wednesday evenings at my favorite place (aside from my couch), the Running Fit store by Jackson Rd. Only 10 minutes from my house! I'm there! Unfortunately I found this out this morning and the first run was yesterday. Oh well, maybe next week.

Note: yes, I did say that my favorite place is my couch. Even though I work out a lot, I still make room for quality couch-sitting time every evening. I watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV. And there's no place better to do so than bundled up in warm clothes and blankets with quality cat, dog, and husbandly companionship. They don't all sit on me at once, though. My lap only has room for two cats at the same time. Or one if he spreads out a lot.

Running is important, but so is loafing around!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Why do I run? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...wait, that's my high school A.P. English extra-credit assignment come back to haunt me (isn't it strange how something I memorized in 1991 can still be lurking in my mind but I can't even remember to bring in a check to pay my co-worker for the Weight Watchers cookbook she found for me at Sam's Club?).

No, the question is: why run when there are so many things that are so much easier to do?

Why do something that pushes my heart rate past 150 bpm when I can sit on the couch watching TV and expend no energy at all? Why be forced to don three or four layers of clothing, hat, and gloves, when I can be inside wearing jeans and a T-shirt? Why go outside on purpose in a frigid Michigan December when my house is warm and climate-controlled (though some might say that 63 degrees is a bit frosty...hey, natural gas is expensive and that's why God (or Malden Mills) invented synthetic fleece). Conversely, why go outside on purpose in a sweltering Michigan July when my house is cool and climate-controlled? Why sweat profusely when I hate being sweaty above all things and once again, sitting on the couch watching TV does not make me sweaty. Why pound away at my joints when I should be mindful of their aging status and how such pounding will affect me 20, 30 years in the future? Why spend oodles of money on attractive, tempting, soft, warm, fancy, 100% necessary-all-the-time running gear when my wallet can't handle the burden of an expensive passion?

Hold it right there, that's the key. Passion. This is my passion. At this point if I had to stop running it would be like asking me to stop breathing. It's that important, that vital. Running makes me feel alive. I can hear my heartbeats, feel cold air in my lungs, taste the sweat on my lips (damn, there's that sweat again...seriously, people, if you could have seen me after one of my summer runs you might have thought I had had a bucket of water dumped over my head). Oh, and then there's spitting, nose-blowing, phlegm-gargling, runner's trots, callouses, funky toenails, chafing, PVCs, tears pulled from my eyes by a biting headwind, chapped lips, side stitches, cold air-induced spastic coughing (does anyone else get that?), aches, pains, exhaustion. Yes, running certainly makes me feel alive!

But seriously.

I took the easy path through life for a long time. At the end of that road I weighed over 220 pounds and couldn't even go up the stairs in my house without getting winded. The couch was much more appealing than the outdoors. I considered the walk from my car to the front door of my workplace my daily exercise. I was alive, but I wasn't really living. I was just sort of...drifting along.

Running changed that. Running changed everything. Running has helped me shed almost 60 pounds of excess weight. Running has driven me to want to achieve things that were unthinkable a year ago, and, even better, actually do those things (half marathon, anyone? Sub-8:00 miles?). Running a half marathon successfully has made me want to do a full marathon. Running a sub-8:00 mile has made me want to run a sub-7:30 mile. Running has tempered my loathing of being outdoors in cold weather, unto itself a nearly unthinkable achievement. Running lets my mind wander freely onto any subject imaginable, for what else am I going to do for an hour when it's just me, the road, and the occasional bird in the bushes? Running begets running, too; the more I run, the more I find I want to run. I want to run farther, faster, stronger.

Yesterday as I neared the conclusion of my afternoon run, I crossed paths with my next-door neighbor who was out walking her dog. I paused to say hello and she commented that it certainly was cold to be out doing what I was doing. I replied that after nearly four miles, it didn't feel cold at all, I was as warm and toasty as could be and I was also wearing four layers of clothing (I really need to get one extremely warm outer layer, oh, would that be more expensive running gear, perhaps?). We parted ways and I continued onward, cold wind beating against my face. It was a beautiful day to be outside. It was a beautiful day to be alive.

Monday, December 3, 2007

How True...

This was Saturday's Frazz comic.


I was recently made aware that registration for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon was already closed. Boy, that was fast. I looked at the race's Web site and saw that registration was open for only two weeks! I'm glad I only waited until 12:20 (20 minutes after registration opened at noon on November 1) to register. I am so fantastically excited to be a part of the race.

You know, they sent me my race shirt already. I'm not really sure why. It's actually a pretty cool shirt: navy blue and white, short-sleeve, tech fabric, the word "DETERMINED" on the back. Kind of reminds me of high-school cross-country T-shirts that say things like "pain is temporary" and the like (I still have all of my high school cross-country team what? 1988 wasn't that long ago).

In other news, I had a very enjoyable 8.5-mile run on Saturday on the paved path at Kensington Metropark. At this time of year and with the weather particulars over the weekend in the area, the path was deserted but for a handful of runners and rollerbladers. Bird life was abundant and weirdest of all some kind of fighter jet made a very low banked pass over the lake. Freaky!