Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday Thoughts

  • It is officially Too Creepy to run through the cemetery in the mornings now. There isn't a single light anywhere in there and it is heavily wooded. I swear I'm not afraid of the dark! I'm not! It's just...OH MY GOD WHAT'S THAT? RUN FASTER!
  • Nothing like a disgusted snort from a deer (one of a herd of six that I passed on my run this morning) to make you think, "Sheesh. Everyone's gotta be a critic."
  • My BMI/body fat scale LIES. LIES, LIES, LIES. There's no way I have 31% body fat. 157 (pounds), on the other hand, is a number I can get behind (sort of)
  • Irritating, yappy, loud little dogs can all burn in hell for all I care. SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY!
  • According to recent research (master's thesis I saw at work), a 14-day training taper is more effective at improving or maintaining VO2max and running economy than a 7-day taper in trained marathon runners. This has now been Scientifically Proven. Long live the 14-day taper!
  • Cookies with M&Ms in them are yummy and way better than Granny Smith apples as a breakfast food.
  • The Runners Lounge Take It And Run Thursday prompt is "Run, Rest, Recover, Repeat." How do I recover? On weekdays, I have a glass of soy milk as soon as I finish. Then I stretch (most of the time). On weekends, when I don't have to go to work immediately afterward, that's easy: Soy milk, stretching, and beer.
  • People in cars who don't move over at all to give me a little more space when I'm forced to run on a road with no sidewalks are ASSHOLES. I'm SO SORRY I have to exist on the same spacetime plane as you, JERKWEED. I can't move over any farther or I'll be in the DITCH.
  • The little restaurant we went to for dinner last night now carries Magic Hat #9 Not-Quite-Pale-Ale which is one of my favorites. Hooray! I had two with my tuna melt.
  • It might rain today! Lawn, hang in there just a little longer.
  • A rerun of The Office (my favorite show) the other day showed the Jim-dressed-up-as-Dwight "Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica" bit which is my favorite piece of television OF ALL TIME. I was screaming with laughter (and speaking the lines right along with them). Good times.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Race Report: Run for the Rolls, or, The Longest Warmup Ever

Yesterday was quite the day of running for me. First, I was up at 6:25 am for my RF501 group training run; my scheduled distance this week was 18 miles, my longest run ever. When we set out it was already 67 degrees with over 95% humidity. I took it easy for the first 9 miles of the run, keeping my splits between 8:55-9:11 and averaging 9:01/mile for the half. After I reached the out-and-back route's turnaround point I decided to pick it up for the final 9 miles. Miles 10-15 I did in 8:53, 8:51, 8:34, 8:23, 8:29 and 8:32. I was feeling good. Then...mile 16. 8:57. Mile 17: 9:29. Mile 18, last mile: 9:39. I think I got my first taste of "The Wall." It happened so fast. One minute I was tooling along at a comfortable pace, the next I felt like someone had dropped a load of bricks on my shoulders and tied cannonballs to my ankles. I had taken my last Gu packet at mile 12 and took in water and Ultima at mile 14, so I thought I would have enough spring in my step and fuel in the tank to maintain a sub-9:00/mile pace for the remainder of the run, but it was not to be. I could feel myself slowing down with every step once I passed the 16 mile mark. I thought, Just put one foot in front of the other. Don't stop. Whatever you do, do not stop to walk because it will be impossible to get going again. I slogged onward, and at one point right around the 17 mile mark with only a mile left to go I almost stopped. I actually slowed to a walk for one stride and then spoke sharply out loud to myself: "NO!" I kept going, and ran all the way to the end. By the time I finished just after 10:00 the humidity had dropped to 70% but the temperature had risen to 78 degrees. It was very uncomfortable. Despite hitting the wall I successfully achieved my goal of a negative split, averaging 8:52/mile for the second 9 miles. Back at our meeting spot I downed some watermelon and chocolate-covered pretzel balls and then walked home.

My day was not yet finished, however, for at 12:30 pm I was toeing the line at the start of the second annual Run for the Rolls 1-mile road race. We did this race last year and had remarkable success as a family. This year I was determined to improve over my age group-winning time of 7:52. I knew that on a normal day I would have no trouble managing at least 7:00 flat if not a sub-7:00 time. This was not a normal day. I had already run 18 miles that morning. I did the best I could for recovery in the two and a half hours between runs, sitting in a cold water bath, popping an ibuprofen pill, drinking lots of water, downing an apple fritter from Pierce's Pastries, smearing pain relief gel all over my legs, stretching, lying down for a little while. Ready or not, the race was at 12:30 and there I was, trying to shake out the soreness as I lined up with my competitors.

When the horn sounded I took off as fast as I dared. The shirtless high school cross country runner trio sprinted off to the front and I gamely followed. We turned the corner and headed down the long straight stretch of Main St. Spectators were out in force because the Chelsea Community Fair parade was scheduled to start at 1:00, so crowd support was awesome (even if they were really there to watch the parade). I saw two adolescent girls in front of me but I could already tell they had gone out too fast and I would have no trouble reeling them in. Indeed, I passed the first one before we had gone a quarter of a mile and the second around the half mile mark. There were no other women in front of me. This was a novel experience. I knew if I could hang on I had a very good shot at winning the female race. If I hadn't been so exhausted yet focused I would have waved at the people shouting, "Hey, first girl! Go, go, go! You rock!" and other such stuff. The second and last corner came about 200 meters before the finish and I rounded that curve and poured everything I had into finishing strong. I didn't dare look over my shoulder. When I crossed the finish line I had nothing left.

I had done it, though: 6:48, my fastest mile split ever, and good enough for first place in the women's race! I got a certificate for a dozen rolls from the Common Grill--an improvement over last year's half-dozen-- and an awesome tile with a stand. James finished second in his age group (out of 19) with a 7:06 time and got a certificate for one of the ice cream stores in town.

Just before dinner James and I walked up to the Common Grill and I redeemed my certificate for 12 rolls fresh from the oven. Nothing like the spoils of victory!

The "posed" picture.

The "gazing into the distance" picture.

James and I with our awards.

At the takeout counter at the Common Grill.

A dozen rolls for our dinner!

On the way home

Summer vegetable gratin, slab of beef, and the best rolls on earth.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Tale of Two Summers

I've been a little down about my weight loss progress lately. I have plateaued in a big way and my low weight milestone was back in early June. Since I started training for the marathon it's all gone to hell in a handbasket and I've pretty much given up on trying to reach my goal weight until the marathon is over. I need to eat to fuel my training and eating is not synonymous with weight loss. If I cut back on the calories I feel like my body is devouring itself for fuel and my running suffers.

Recently we went to the NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway. This is something we do every year except last year the race was rained out. Thus I had not been to a race since August 2006, about one week before I joined Weight Watchers. Comparing pictures from each summer-- separated by exactly two years-- reminded me that despite my current stagnation, I have indeed come a long, long way. I have nothing to be upset about.

Before: August 2006

After: August 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Middle Of Somewhere

Today's post is intended to act as my contribution to the Runners' Lounge Take It And Run Thursday: Middle Miles.

I am now squarely in the middle of my training schedule for the Detroit Marathon. 9 weeks have elapsed since I took my first steps towards becoming a marathoner and I have 8 weeks to go until I can finally say that with certainty. (I refuse to say "I am a marathon runner" until I've completed the race. Because until I cross that finish line...I am not.)

I'll be honest: it's starting to wear on me. I haven't reached a point where I slip on my running shoes with a grinding feeling of dread like I'm about to set out on the Bataan Death March, but there are days when I would much rather just not run.

I felt like that this morning when the alarm went off in the pitch blackness of 5:30 and I slid out of bed with a groan. Multiple days of late-night Olympics watching plus a post-Demolition Derby trip with friends to a local watering hole and two pints of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale does not for an easy rise make. By the time I left the house at 5:50 the first glow of sunrise was visible on the horizon. I peeled off a couple of miles and hit the cemetery driveway going east, facing a sky colored a startling red. Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning, I thought. I wonder if it will rain later? The driveway, hemmed in by thick woods, is always darker than any surrounding road, and this morning was no exception. The faintest shimmer of silvery blue reflected off the drive, showing me the way, and the air creeping in from the swamp was exquisitely cool and moist. The stillness was palpable. I breathed deeply, savoring it. My fuzzy head cleared, my leaden legs awakened. Two more miles and I was at the head of a mile-long stretch of gravel road, the sunrise now well under way and the lurid red of 20 minutes earlier had yielded to a sweet, subdued yellow streaked with clouds. Rabbits grazed on the berm and blankets of mist lay low over the grasslands. Not another soul was stirring. I thought, clearly: Why do I complain about this? I love doing this. Look around. It's beautiful out here. I would never see these things otherwise. I never did see these things until I started running. And now look. I'm running eight miles before most people even get up. 2 years ago I couldn't even run a half mile without feeling like I was going to pass out. I've come so far. I'm going to run a marathon, for pete's sake...

I lifted my gaze from its customary spot about 15 feet in front of me and really looked into the distance. The next intersection was about a half mile away. I kept my eyes on the stop sign as it grew from a red dot into life-size.

My goal-- the marathon-- is in front of me, not yet full-sized, but I can at least see it. Each day, each mile brings me closer.

I reached the stop sign and turned left.

Stop? No.

I would rather keep going.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mixed Bag

I rarely cut scheduled runs short but this morning's 8-miler just. wasn't. happening. Not because I was lacking in energy; both the spirit and the muscles were willing. My insides...well, they had other ideas. Everything was on some kind of express train to hell whose rails were greased with the post-NASCAR pizza I ate Sunday night. I guess this is what I get for eating a low-fat, nongreasy diet almost all of the time. When I do fall off the wagon I pay the price. Today's casualty: one pair of underwear. I just couldn't sprint for the port-a-potty fast enough. Disaster, people. Disaster. After I made the best of that situation (ha) I decided I had had enough for one morning. I crashed through the weeds between the high school's athletic fields (site of one of my emergency port-a-potties) and the road I had been running on and when I burst out onto the road there was someone else there running. I was a little startled so I kind of yelled "Morning!" Imagine my extreme surprise when my fellow runner asked, "Are you Sarah?" I said, "Yes, how did you know that?" and then he said he reads this blog! I was just totally blown away. I was "recognized," ha ha. It must be my silly (but totally awesome) headbands. I have one on in every single picture I've posted since the beginning of the year. Anyway, we ran along for a while until I went one way to go home and he went another. I ended up doing a little over 6 miles so it wasn't a total loss (unlike my poor undies).

So I lost an item of clothing but met a fellow runner. Now, if only I could get my car back (it's in the shop) all would be right with the world.

In other news, this is a week filled with redneck activities (I'm a closet redneck...surprise!) as I attended the NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday and this week it's all about Demolition Derby and the truck pull at the Chelsea Community Fair. Tonight John's workplace is running their Derby entry so we're all going in matching T-shirts to sit in the bleachers and cheer on the driver. I'm sure an elephant ear will be involved.

Friday, August 15, 2008


During my Internet wanderings recently I came across this. First of all this guy ran the freaking Boston Marathon as a bandit. Secondly, he never ran more than 5 miles at one time while "training."

But as a Boston native, I know that even if you aren't invited you can still crash the party. You see, locals know it is a big race, and since amateur participants aren't allowed to be "officially in", they have formed a large group of "bandit" runners. Bandits start at the back and run the course. The estimated number of bandits is between 5,000-10,000. This is a large group. (But that doesn't make it right. And is this even true? Nitmos? You were there, what say you?)

I am no athlete and I hardly had time to complete an elaborate training regimen. I got as fit as possible within the boundaries of my life and schedule. I also bought a plane ticket to Boston and ate some pizza on the night before the race. That was my training...

Let's go back to the race. It is mile 13 and some change, the halfway point. I have never run more than 5 miles continuously in my life, but today I have made it 13...

Blah blah blah, and he finished in 5:52. OK. Bully for him that he ran a marathon. Or I should say "ran the marathon distance." But, seriously? Never having run more than 5 miles at once? I can't help but feel like that's a total slap in the face to me and my fellow runners who are all slaving away at our "elaborate training regimens" in order to prepare for our various races this fall. Shit, people, if I knew I could complete my upcoming marathon running no more than 5 miles at a time, and sporadically at that, why didn't y'all tell me? What the hell am I doing getting up at 5:30 am to run five days a week, putting in 40-plus miles per week at this point, while somehow also managing to work 40 hours a week? Well, shit, I guess I can just stop all this madness and throw my training schedule in the recycling bin!* I'll just run whenever and however far I feel like and call it good. I can't believe I've been wasting my time with this silly "training regimen" thing. Might as well bag my 14-miler tomorrow, eh? Why should I do that when I could arise at the luxurious time of 8:00 am (or even 8:30--gasp) and have a leisurely breakfast and coffee on the front porch while reading the paper in my pajamas, totally unsweaty and uncrustified for once?

I'm "no athlete" either, but I'm at least TRYING REALLY HARD TO BE ONE, hence my, you know, TRAINING SCHEDULE.

Can y'all tell I'm a little peeved?

*note my level of environmental consciousness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I Got me Some Good Genes

The coolest thing just happened. I was procuring my morning tank of coffee and a woman I didn't know said, "Are you a runner or a tennis player?"

"A runner," I replied.

"You have awesome legs...I would kill to have those calves. Even when I was running and playing tennis I never had calves like that."

Me, kind of embarrassed and flattered at the same time: "Well, thank you! Heh heh...I've always had big calf muscles."

"I think you just have to be in the right gene pool."

"I inherited my dad's muscles," I said. This is true. My legs are almost identical to my dad's (a little less hairy, though).

Oh, and the reason my awesome gams were on display for all to see...well, I'm wearing kind of a short skirt today. Heck, I figure I've worked so darn hard for these strong legs I deserve to show them off occasionally. Or pretty much all the time (I love summer).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Confidence: High(er)

After my 14-mile run on July 19 I was sure I would never be able to run an additional 12 miles to finish a marathon.

After my 14-mile run on August 2 I am sure I will be able to run those additional 12 miles and successfully complete my first marathon.

I never thought I would reach a point where I would classify running 14 miles at once as "fun" and "enjoyable" and "not that bad, really," but there it is.

We set out around 7:40 am Saturday; me on foot and John on bike as my Personal Support Crew. Water, Ultima, and Gu were on board along with a bag of toilet paper (just in case). It was a lovely morning, cool and dry with occasional cloud cover. Traffic was light as it usually is out in the country. I started off with a 9:17 first mile; it would be my slowest mile of the run but I did not know that. As the miles slipped past I felt better and better. They ticked off one by one: 9:09, 9:03, 9:03, 9:07, 9:03, 8:56, 8:56, 9:02, 8:49, 8:59, 8:55, 8:43, 9:02. See that? I ran the second seven miles faster than the first. And what is up with that 8:43 13th mile? I should have been totally dead! OK, it might have had something to do with my desperate dash for the Port-A-Potty in the cemetery. And look: my time for the "half marathon"-- 1:57:53-- is only slightly more than a minute slower than my time for the Historic Half from May. I ran another sub-2 hour half and I didn't even intend to. I did the distance at an average pace of exactly 9:00/mile.

We finished, I stretched, I ate protein, I rehydrated, I cleaned up, and then we went to B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale to participate in National Mead Day. We came home with four bottles of mead and then, finally, those 14 miles caught up with me and I just crashed like a ton of bricks. Somewhere in there I came to the realization that I will be able to finish this marathon. I felt great Saturday. Really, spectacularly great, better than a person should during and after a 14-mile run. My legs weren't even sore, not one tiny bit.

I will be able to do this.

My route on Saturday:

The big green oval blob at right center is Four Mile Lake. The line bisecting the loop is the Detroit-Chicago railroad which is parallelled by Dexter-Chelsea Rd. My "half marathon" was in the cemetery. Yes, it is mostly farmland. Yes, it is flat. It is wonderful.