Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Yesterday evening: bundled up and out on the sidewalks of Jackson Rd with my Thursday Night Gang (yes, I know yesterday was Tuesday, but we ran then because of the holiday tomorrow).

Temperature: hovering around 18 degrees. Calm. Jacket of Wonder doing its job. Feeling good. We ran east to Fellow Gang Member Larry's workplace, one of the auto dealerships near Wagner Rd. A local radio station was on site and was giving away vouchers to local businesses. The eight of us entered en masse, breathless and red-cheeked after two miles. We presented an incongruous sight standing in the showroom. As I removed my gloves, one of the salesmen approached me and my Fellow Gang Member Lorenda and said in that voice (the same voice in which that guy asked me if I'd been running "the whole time") I've come to know so well:

" do know it's only like 20 degrees outside, right?"

See: Title of this post.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

I woke up this morning intending to run the Second Annual Christmas Day 5K, which means I wanted to run 5K as fast as I could on the roads near my parents' house.

Instead, I'm sitting in this increasingly chilly house nursing a beer (Bell's Oracle Double IPA) and reading a succession of New Yorker magazines because at about 11:00 am the power went out. About half a mile away a transformer blew up, throwing a huge wrench into hundreds of folks' Christmas dinner plans, including ours.

The reason I didn't go running didn't have anything to do with the lack of electricity; instead, at 8:30 am I peered through the blinds at gale-force winds, sleet, and 33 degrees and thought, "Hell, no." Kona coffee and opening presents with the family sounded much more appealing.

All is not lost, however. My six-pound pork loin roast (from my hog) will end up on a dinner table because we are packing up and moving the festivities to my brother and sister-in-law's house about 15 minutes away. A hot shower and working stove await.

Meanwhile, I continue to engage in the only activities available to me: reading and drinking beer. It's not so bad after all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Mobile Blogging from here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What Running in 15 Degrees Looks Like

Pictures from last Saturday's Run Like The Dickens 5K:

Serious face, I has it.

I'm wearing my Jacket of Wonder, my preciousssssss Sugoi Firewall 220 Zip, my ultimate piece of winter outerwear, that which I do not dare to don until the temperature has fallen to 20 degrees or less, which it most definitely was that day. I would quantify the climate as "butt-ass freezing."

Bright red is the antithesis of my all-black Stealth Bomber outfit which is my other favorite winter getup; maybe I was feeling festively frisky?

I am still dragging my feet on setting my training schedule for Boston. I've had almost seven weeks of down time and I know what I have to do (GET MY LAZY BUTT OFF THE COUCH OF DOOM) but it's so...freaking...hard. I have utilized every lame excuse at my disposal to avoid running: it's too cold, I overslept, I went to bed too late, it's snowing, it's windy, I have to bake cookies, I have to catch up on my TiVo backlog, I'm doing something after work, my clothes are all dirty, my hamstring hurts, my knee hurts, I feel weird, it's rest day (who am I kidding, day has been rest day lately), etc, etc, etc.

I'm meeting my friend & running buddy after work (excuse to not run!) for dinner and we are going to complain about how flabby and out of shape we are and then we need to mutually kick each other's butts into gear, RIGHT? We will both be running Boston in FOUR MONTHS (omg omg omg omg!) and IT'S TIME TO PUT DOWN THE BACON AND POP TARTS AND START RUNNING AGAIN!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Run Like the Dickens 5K...and more

This morning I went up to Holly to run in what was most likely my last race of 2009: the Run Like The Dickens 5K. It was a fairly chilly 15 degrees when I arrived at the race venue, and I spent some time huddled in my car after getting my race number before doing a 15-minute warmup. I flaked out on both of my racing opportunities last weekend, a failure which was easier to swallow because I had not preregistered for either race. This one, however, I registered for earlier this week, so my primary motivation was not to let my entry fee go to waste. Oh and that silly goal I set for myself of running at least one race every month of 2009.

I wasn't anticipating a fast time; I just wanted to have an evenly-paced, smart race. Miles 1 and 2 were both 7:35. Excellent. My stupid hamstring injury flared up again out of nowhere , which forced me to alter my form, but I decided I wasn't going to let it slow me down and I barreled through the pain. Mile 3 was 7:39, and I finished with a chip time of 23:44. The post-race food spread was...unreal. Instead of bagels, bananas, and granola bars, this was a line of folding tables groaning under the weight of holiday goodies:

And this was after some containers had been cleared away, plus there was another table behind me!

I hung around to see if I had accomplished anything in my age group, and to my surprise, I placed first! I received a rather nice mug for my efforts:

Enjoying coffee out of my age group award.

After a quick shower and clothes change at home, I went to Ann Arbor for the annual Community Handel's Messiah Singalong. This was an informal gathering of musicians from the area, both orchestra and singers, who join together for the enjoyment of wonderful music. Three hours of singing and my voice was like warm butter. I came home, rested my voice by reading the newspaper, and then sang some opera. I produced my single best high E flat ever at the end of "Spargi d'amaro pianto," a note so ringing and gorgeous I burst out with a "holy shit!" when I was done. However, I could feel my voice getting fatigued and I knew I wanted to record myself before it went totally down the drain. Therefore, I give you: me. Never before heard on this site. Please be kind (of course all I hear are mistakes...)

"Eh parti..." recitative from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte

The great end cadenza of "Nei giardin del bello," from Verdi's Don Carlo, in which you can hear the truncated end of me saying "God dammit!" as I completely mess up the words, and then an exasperated sigh.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Three Thursday Thoughts

Normally I would title this "Thursday Thoughts" and roll with it, spewing out anything I felt like. However, today, I am going to limit myself to three big bullet points because that's what Redhead does. She's got my back (you know why) and a new man, yes she does, my friend and running buddy Spike, a longtime presence around here. Oh you crazy kids!
  • We got bitchslapped by Mother Nature here in the big mitten over the past couple of days. Tuesday night's storm went out with a whimper and a lot of mushy, melting snow Wednesday morning. Last night, however...different story entirely. I woke up this morning to 3 fresh inches of snow and 15 degrees. Despite the fearsome elements I packed a bag full of running clothes for my post-work perambulation with The Thursday Gang. I had every piece of my winter arsenal ready for deployment. I bundled up at the store and hit the sidewalk at 6:00 pm. By then it was about 12 degrees and the wind was blowing steadily. Nevertheless, our little band of crazies sallied forth with headlamps and reflective vests twinkling. My fingers and toes promptly went numb and I was terrified I was going to have a repeat performance of last February's frozen finger debacle. After about 3 miles they regained feeling, though my left ring finger still feels odd. While standing around jawing with everyone after our run, I remarked that I was warm everywhere except my rear end, which was still icy cold. I could feel its chill through two layers of pants. What's that they say...cold butt, warm heart? Ha ha ha.
  • After running (temperature according to car upon leaving: 10 degrees) I drove home and stopped at the market for a box of powdered sugar, which I need for the pecan snowball cookies that I am bringing to the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers holiday cookie exchange tomorrow. While at the market, I decided to spring for a bottle of big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon, something to warm me up from the inside out on this cold, cold night. I am happy to report that it is doing its job adequately. I decided I had enough of cold beer, I needed something warm! I got home, stripped off my cold, clammy running clothes and put on something warm and dry. I was about to grab my vintage 1996 Patagonia fleece which is normally my go-to item of warm clothing in my 60-degree (yes, I really do keep it that cold) house, but I said, "NO, not the polyester tonight, I'm going for fleece in its original form...WOOL. Straight from the source: a sheep." I got out my hand-knit Irish wool sweater, one of two enduring souvenirs from my geology field camp in Ireland in 1997 (three if you count my tattoo which replicated the pendant I bought in Galway). I am happy to report that my sweater, too, is doing a wonderful job of keeping me warm. Natural fleece...who knew?
  • I ran today not only because I haven't run in a week (no comments please) but because I have to toughen up for training for Boston all winter. I have to get used to it and be ready for the weeks of torture which await. This was only the tiniest taste of misery. Much worse is in store for me. I know it. That's why I'm dreading it. And you know what, wasn't that bad tonight. Yes, it was cold, but that's why I wore three layers of clothing. I know perfectly well by now that the heat generated by my motion will warm me (eventually). And so it did. I was okay. I survived. It wasn't the end of the world. Boston awaits.
Now, because it's after 11:00 and my furnace thinks I'm already in bed (programmable thermostats! yay!) the temperature in here is below 60 and my fingers and the tip of my nose are icy cold. Time to retire to the warm nest underneath my down comforter!

Monday, December 7, 2009





That's me, folks. Lazy. LAZY. What base mileage building? It's cold outside! It was 26 degrees the morning! No way I'm running in that (save it, Viper). I have barely put shoes to street since my spontaneous half marathon (a 13.1 mile long run around my parents' house in Ohio) of November 29.

I'm going to get my ass handed to me when I start training for Boston in approximately 3 weeks. I may whine about it being "too cold" right now, but winter hasn't even officially started and I know perfectly well what I'm in for when January and February roll around. Misery. Cold, horrible misery. Weeks and weeks of dragging myself out of my cozy bed in the frigid darkness, shuffling through snow and ice, freezing my fingers doesn't that just sound like so much fun!

Last winter when I endured the same thing while training for the Cleveland Marathon, my mantra was "Boston Boston Boston." It kept me motivated. Now that I'm actually going to be running Boston, it will be the same. "Boston Boston Boston." I don't want to simply run this marathon, I want to rock this marathon. I want to prove to myself that I deserve to be there, that my performance in Cleveland wasn't a fluke. My ultimate goal (of course I have one already) would be to re-qualify for 2011 by setting a new PR. In order to accomplish that I am going to have to train my ass off. Sitting on the couch of doom after work and watching TiVo-ed episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance" or setting the alarm for 7:00 am isn't going to get this important job done.

Boston Boston Boston!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Favorite NYC Marathon Picture

I had to give this one its own post, because this is my favorite picture from the race, and quite possibly my new favorite race picture ever. I love this picture. I have the same quasi-stunned expression I had right after I walked across the stage at Smith and received my college diploma: the perfect blend of "I can't believe this is happening" and "Oh my God, this is the most insane and exciting thing ever!" The whole race was like this. I enjoyed it so much.

New York City Marathon 2009

I'm truly embarrassed at how long it has taken me to sit down and write this. One would think that for a race which I deemed "the best ever" I would have been more prompt in producing my race report. I am sad to say that the details of the day are growing hazy, their clarity obscured by the passage of weeks. I am writing this more for me so I do not forget the events of the weekend than I am for you, my approximately 130 faithful subscribers. (I apologize for being so selfish.)

Nevertheless, here it is, my New York City Marathon experience. And what an experience it was.

The beginning: June 11, 2009. First day of group training in Dexter. (Yes, it was mid-June and I'm wearing one of my winter jackets. So?)

The end: November 2, 2009. In Central Park the day after the race.

In between these two dates were 20 weeks and three days of training. I ran 529 miles, burned 58,285 calories, ran in eight races (setting two new PRs), went to Vermont for a weekend relay, went to California for the best vacation ever, and made four new and excellent friends (hi ladies!)

The day before I left: Darwin and Boo helped me pack. "Helping" when cats are involved is entirely subjective.

As I stated shortly before heading to the city, my only goal for the race was to relax and enjoy myself. I embarked on this quest the night before I departed, sharing a send-off dinner with one of my favorite running buddies. Said dinner also included one of the best beers I've ever tasted.

Beervana: Bell's Oracle Double IPA. If you're a hophead and you ever see this available anywhere, you must get it. Do not argue. You. MUST. GET. IT. Then, get ready to swoon.

Once I arrived in New York on Friday, October 30th, I went out with my hostess and BFF Sara to her favorite after-work watering hole for my last (yes, I swear) beer before the race.

At the Gin Mill on the Upper West Side. Clearly I'm not taking this very seriously if I'm having pints two days before the marathon. Sara also made me flex my arm. Want tickets to the tiny gun show?

The next morning I was up bright and early to meet my Green Mountain Relay teammate Eric for breakfast and go to the race expo.

The promised land! The Javits Center was the most enormous building I've ever been inside. It was so vast and cavernous that looking up at the roof made me dizzy after a while. Of course my nerd brain said, "I wonder what kind of engineering went into keeping this structure aloft?"

My prize possession, my coveted golden ticket to the NYC Marathon.

Eric and I cruised around the expo for a long time. It was immense and there was so much to see (but no Bondi Band booth, what gives?). I was thrilled when I found a clothing booth, tucked into the farthest corner of the giant hall, which was selling everything for 50% off. Not just run-of-the-mill clothes, either...but official Asics marathon gear which was selling for full price near the expo entrance! Finding the official race jacket for $60 (regular price $120) was a triumph only slightly overshadowed by my running of the race the following day. Of course my efforts at frugality were eclipsed by my purchase of not only one official jacket for $60...but another for $43...and another piece of marathon gear for $30...

And then there was the special promotional Asics booth...which resulted in this:

Yes, that's me on the billboard in the background. In Times Square. I was on a billboard in Times Square. It says: "Hello New York. Goodbye Couch of Doom." This was extremely exciting, no matter what Sara thinks. ;P What can I say, I'm just a country bumpkin from the Midwest.

The marathon was everywhere. This was on my way back to the Upper West Side after having lunch with Eric and visiting my cousin.

Saturday afternoon I headed back to Sara's apartment to begin serious energy conservation in the form of sitting on the sofa watching TV and moving as little as possible. I made a dinner of pasta with sauteed vegetables (enough for everyone) and went to bed--or tried to go to bed--around 9:30. I was finally getting nervous and excited. In approximately 12 hours I was going to be a participant in one of the world's biggest marathons.

4:45 am arrived too quickly.

Looking a wee bit bleary-eyed but otherwise race ready. 5:20 am, Sunday, November 1.

I headed out into the cool early morning. There had been some rain overnight, and the air smelled sharp and clean. The streets were empty and quiet. Workers were unloading boxes of produce at the grocery store around the corner. I got on the subway at 72nd and Broadway. The only other people on the train at that hour were other runners...and a lot of dazed-looking late-night revelers in costumes staggering home from Halloween parties. They had been out all night partying...I had been in bed since 9:30. The dichotomy of the scene was remarkable.

Once at the South Ferry terminal, I entered the building with hordes of runners and sat down to wait for the ferry to Staten Island.

Waiting, waiting, and more waiting. It was about 6:10 am and I had almost four hours yet to wait until the race.

On the ferry, I was looking out the window at the nice view of the Statue of Liberty when all of a sudden my Green Mountain Relay teammate Thomas was in front of me! Of 43,000 people heading to Staten Island that morning, we crossed paths on the boat...what are the odds?

On the ferry. Love that fluorescent lighting!

However, that's not all. After disembarking from the ferry, we were herded like cattle to a line of waiting buses that would carry us to the final staging area at Fort Wadsworth. I got on a bus and had just seated myself when I heard someone squeal, "OhmygodSARAH!" I looked up and it was another one of my GMR teammates, Maria! I immediately jumped up and went to sit with her. We talked all the way to the fort and I only lost her in the crowd when I stopped to take advantage of a port-a-potty.

Speaking of that crowd, the sea of humanity inching towards the fort entrance was endless. It was one of the biggest crowds I've ever been in. FINALLY after shuffling along for what felt like forever, I reached the athletes' village area, found where my bib color (blue) comrades were, unfurled my plastic bag, and sat down. The ground was not yet a quagmire (remember the overnight rain) but I could tell by the disheveled grass that certain areas were going to get ugly. I chose a spot on an incline, well away from the heavily trafficked zones, and didn't move an inch for an hour and a half. I watched as people's shoes became covered in mud and the ground disintegrated. I had two plastic shopping bags which I tied around my feet to keep them dry and clean. My body was similarly warm and dry; I had on several layers of throwaway clothing and the ambient air temperature was only about 50 degrees.

In the athletes' village: More waiting.

I ate a Clif bar, drank some water, laid back on my plastic and stared up at the sky, watched my fellow runners, and simply relaxed and bided my time. Around 9:15 I decided it was time to mobilize to my starting corral. I attached my Gu packets to my running skirt, clipped my bib number belt and iFitness small item holder (on loan from a running buddy and truly fabulous) around my waist, made sure I had my RoadID and Garmy, packed up my gear bag and turned it in to one of the phalanx of UPS trucks lined up by the edge of the grass. I briefly talked to my parents, and when I hung up I realized I had left my RF501 team hat in the bag (bad) but also my royal blue Bondi Band which I had selected specifically because it matched my RF501 team singlet (DISASTER). People, do you know the last time I ran without a Bondi Band, or anything on my head? That just does not happen. Ever. Panic-stricken, I raced back to the UPS truck in a futile attempt to retrieve my bag, but it had disappeared into a heaving, endless mountain of other clear plastic bags. I sighed and told myself, "This is not the end of the world." I did a quick check to see if I had left anything else important in the bag. Gu, iPhone, camera, RoadID, Garmy, bib, D-Tag timing chip, heart rate monitor. All was well. Bare headed or not, it was time to go.

The corral entry area was, to put it mildly, a complete and total clusterfuck. Everyone was standing jammed shoulder to shoulder, bunched up at the single Corral C entry point, most of us with Blue Wave 2 bibs, and no one was being allowed into the corral. I heard the same bland female voice I'd been listening to on the PA system all morning announce, "Corrals for Wave 2 are now closed." I looked around in horror: Closed? What the fuck? What about the hundreds of people who were supposed to be in Wave 2 who were now shut out of their corrals? An uneasy murmur swept through the crowd. With another surge of panic welling inside me, I said to some random woman in front of me, "Wait a minute...what's going on? How can the corrals be closed already? No one ever went in after Wave 1 left!" People at the blocked Corral C entry point were beginning to get agitated. There was some yelling. People were awkwardly climbing the fence and dropping down into the corral. Another young woman next to me said, "What are we supposed to do now?" Someone else said, "Down there--next corral down--there's a guy who's still letting people in." I looked at the other woman and we both began shoving our way to Corral D. It was the same scene: mobs of people pressed against the fence, prevented from entering the corral. I whispered a plea to no one: "I hope this works." I showed the race worker my blue bib with the yellow background and he gave me the briefest of nods before lifting the mesh barrier, allowing me and the other woman to slip underneath. Once inside the corral, my breath exploded in a sigh of relief. I quickly disrobed, leaving my throwaway clothing in a heap at the side of the corral with the multitude of other discarded items. The cool morning air washed over my bare skin for the first time that morning. I don't know if I had goosebumps because of the sudden chill or because I was finally, utterly, outrageously excited. I fired up Garmy, adjusted my bib holder and iFitness belts, fussed with my hair (mourned my lack of Bondi Band for a moment), and then waited, calmly, for the next stage of the journey.

It didn't take long; a few minutes passed and suddenly everyone was moving. The tide of humanity streamed down a long, narrow chute formed by lines of buses parked nose to tail. Someone was hollering encouraging words over the PA system, a cannon was fired, and then Frank Sinatra came on the PA, singing "New York, New York."

The starting area. I was in the crowd in the foreground which ran on the upper right of the bridge.

Mere minutes before the start.

And we're off! "If I can make it there, I'll make's up to you, NEW YORK, NEW YORK!"

Isn't this a thrilling sight? The Verazzano Narrows Bridge in all its glory.

I felt so relaxed when I started running it was almost ridiculous. I wasn't nervous at all, just excited. I felt my left hamstring twinge around mile 1 and I immediately thought, "Not today, you son of a bitch," altered my stride slightly, and it never bothered me again. The trek across the bridge felt like a party. People were yelling back and forth across the divide in the middle of the bridge, waving to the helicopter hovering over the water (hence the great aerial pictures which I clearly did not take myself), and the overall mood of the crowd was one of sheer joy and exuberance. A big goofy smile spread across my face and it stayed there until mile 24.

At mile 2 I came off the bridge into Brooklyn, where I would be until mile 13. I was running smoothly and easily, totally unconcerned about how fast I was going, or, in this case, how slowly. I was drinking in every sound and sight which came my way.

Heading north on Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn.

Aerial view of Fourth Ave., looking south to the Verazzano Bridge.

Early in the race, somewhere in Brooklyn, and ridiculously happy.

Front and center (I used this one for my new blog banner).

Find me! (click to enlarge)

I stopped to use a port-a-potty around mile 5 and even though it took five minutes, I didn't care. I took the opportunity to quickly text Sara to find out where I would see her later in the race. Not long after my port-a-potty stop, I snapped this picture, which is one of my favorites from the entire day:

Yes, this is a bunch of dudes peeing on a fence. Not just any fence, a cemetery fence. Have some respect, for pete's sake!

The miles slipped away effortlessly. I was so entranced by everything I was seeing, the distance I was running barely registered. I hit the halfway point in 2:02 on the Pulaski Bridge as I crossed into Queens. Queens was a blur; a couple of miles and I was on the Queensboro Bridge heading into Manhattan.

On the Queensboro Bridge.

This is my GMR teammate TK's home turf. She runs this bridge all the time. I was honored to follow in her footsteps. Eric told me that coming off the bridge onto 1st Ave, you are confronted by a wall of sound. Any spectator noise and density you have experienced thus far would be blown away by the sonic force of the mobs lining 1st Ave in Manhattan.

That's when I hit "record" on my iPhone and made the audio clip I posted here. It really was just as he described. A canyon of noise, endless screaming, such a raucous exuberance shimmering in the air that my goofball grin got even bigger. It was mile 16 and I was in love with this race.

Heading north on 1st Ave. in Manhattan. A river of runners as far as the eye can see. It was the sight of a lifetime.

I have no idea where this was in the race but I still look stupidly excited, don't I?

I saw Sara in the crowd at 116th St., gave her a big happy sweaty hug, and continued chugging north towards the Bronx. I crossed the Willis Ave. Bridge into the Bronx at mile 19.5 still feeling relaxed and energetic. I crossed the Madison Ave. Bridge back into Manhattan at mile 21 feeling achy, tired, and disgruntled. It's amazing how quickly things can fall apart in a marathon. My feet were beginning to hurt. Someone yelled from the sidelines as I reached the bridge, "Only 5 miles to go!" Gee, thanks, buddy. I decided to slow down a little bit. There was no need to kill myself in these final miles as I had done in Cleveland, scraping up every last shred of will and stamina. I wasn't going for a BQ time. I wasn't going for any time at all. Even though I was at the stage where I was thinking, God, I just want this to be over with, I was still having fun.

5th Ave loomed and I began the long straight shot which would take me to the park entrance. I texted Sara on the fly to find out where she would be in the park, and there she was, just before mile 24. I ran over and gave her another sweaty hug, and when she asked how I was doing I rolled my eyes and yelled, "IT'S ALMOST OVER!" She screamed, "I'll see you at the finish!" and I launched myself back into the field for the final 2.2 mile slog.

We're in death march mode now: 2K to go. My smile finally disappeared.

On Central Park South less than a mile from the finish.


And done!

My official finish picture. I'm quite sweaty, but very happy.

My feet were crying in agony, I was exhausted, but I was overjoyed. I had finished my third marathon, the New York City Marathon! (Official finish time: 4:16:56, a 9:49/mile average). After a long, painful shuffle north through the park, I retrieved my gear bag(training team hat and Bondi Band safely stowed within) and slowly made my way out to Central Park West where I found Sara waiting for me.

My "Superwoman" pose, with mylar cape.

Right after taking this picture, Sara and I started to walk back to her place when I heard somone yell, "Sarah, oh my GOD!" It was my GMR teammate and fellow run-blogger TK! Just standing there on the sidewalk! I knew she was going to be spectating at the race, but I thought I was going to see her at the bar afterward. In one day I randomly bumped into three of my relay teammates in a city of millions of people and a race field of 43,000. What are the odds of that?!

Somehow I managed to walk/stagger back to Sara's apartment where I washed off the grime and put on clean clothes. I was ready to party! I met Eric at a place nearby and savored my post-marathon beer.

Ah, delicious reward for a job well done. And why yes, I am wearing my $43 half-price official marathon jacket!

My second-favorite picture of the day. Believe it or not, I saw a guy holding this sign in Brooklyn and it made me laugh. Imagine my delight when I saw the same sign again at the bar afterward! I had to get my picture taken with it.

Eric and I at the post-marathon party.

I made it all the way to 8:30 before I crashed like a ton of bricks. One minute I was sitting up watching the Yankees in the World Series and the next I had literally toppled over so my head was resting against the arm of the sofa and my eyelids had slammed shut. I was so tired my head was buzzing. When I finally laid down on the unfolded sofa bed it felt so good I groaned. I fell asleep almost instantly and didn't wake up for hours. The next morning every muscle fiber in my body was howling in pain. Everything hurt. Determined to make the best of it, I went for the slowest walk in history through Central Park and down to TK's midtown office building to meet her for coffee. The park was absolutely gorgeous, in full, bursting fall colors (I wish I had taken a picture). It took me almost an hour to walk the two-ish miles from the UWS to my destination. The motion loosened my legs and I felt better. On the way back north to Sara's place I walked the marathon route through the park. I wanted to see it again, slowly, to savor it as I had not the previous day. Work crews were busily and noisily dismantling the barricades, banners, bleachers, packing everything away for another year. People who had clearly run the race were milling around the finish line area. And so, I too posed for one last picture, the picture I placed at the very beginning of this post. I have come full circle, then, to the end of that epic race, that epic day, that once in a lifetime experience: my first New York City Marathon (but hopefully not my last!).

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Hi folks. Remember me?

I think this is the longest I have neglected the ol' blog since I started it almost 2.5 years ago: 18 days. I have just been extraordinarily unmotivated to write and there hasn't been much going on anyway. NYC was four weeks ago and it was only in the past week that I made any effort to run a substantial amount of miles (30).

Side note: considering I ran 5 miles the week of November 15-21, running 30 the week of the 22-28 violated the "10% Rule" by 590%. Oops.

I put on my game face Thursday morning for the third annual Thanksgiving Day Aurora Turkey Trot in Aurora, Ohio. Last year I raced to a sub-30:00 time, and this year I did not expect to come close to that. Not with the way my shoes had been languishing in my closet and the alarm had been going off at 7:00 am. Speed work? Tempo runs? What?

I pulled off a 7:29 mile 1 which shocked the heck out of me. Thereafter, acquiescing to the fact that it was unlikely I would able to sustain that pace, I concentrated on being more mindful of my breathing, footstrike, arm movement, and carriage than I usually am. In the end, I suprised myself by finishing the four miles in 30:28 (7:37/mile) and taking third in my age group again. Excellent. My fleet feet weren't completely buried under several weeks of laziness!

Yesterday I went out for a leisurely cruise around the old hometown in Ohio, taking my favorite out-and-back seven-mile route and listening to my iPod. I had every intention of running at least double that distance this morning but a late-night beer-drinking/Euchre-playing session at my brother's house squashed that ambition. I'm hoping to get in a final run tomorrow before I head back to Michigan.

My sole goal after I get home is to finally write my darn race report for the NYC Marathon. I can't believe I let such an important event slide for so long. It's really quite shameful.

Lastly, this morning I had a dream about running Boston. The race is five months away. In my opinion, it's much too soon to be dreaming about it. This dream was of the "unprepared/running late" variety. If I'm already having anxious dreams about Boston this far in advance, for what might I be in store four months from now when the race is mere weeks away?


I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's Try This Again


That should work.

I thought I was being so tech-savvy trying to embed the audio right into my blog...FAIL.

Edited: OK, WTF?! HELP. My tech-savviness has officially reached its limit (not that there was much to begin with).

How about THIS one?

Oh, and just in case anyone is thinking "it's just a sound bite, what's the big deal?" it's because it REALLY IS THRILLING (well, for me, anyway). I just want everyone to have a chance to experience a tiny bit of what running the New York City Marathon is like. Imagine all that noise and much more for 26.2 solid miles. It really was an endless party. It was wonderful.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sounds of the Marathon

While I take my sweet time composing a race report for the New York City Marathon, I flexed my (severely limited) computer-nerd muscle and uploaded a little sound bite of the marathon for y'all. I made this on-the-course recording (using my iPhone) around mile 16 (you can actually hear Garmy beep), coming off the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan and beginning the northward trek on 1st Avenue. When I listened to this for the first time after the race, it made my skin tingle and heart beat a little faster as I remembered what it was like at that moment: Thrilling.

On another note: My Google Reader suggested I add myself as a feed. (Never mind that clearly Google Reader has its head up its ass on that one.) I was curious to see what I look like in Google Reader so I clicked on me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that 129 people subscribe to my blog. I continue to be amazed that my silly little blog, which started almost 2.5 years ago as a place to set down my thoughts on running and weight loss, has metamorphosed into something people actually want to read. I guess my childhood dream of becoming a writer has come true in some small way. Thank you, everyone, all 129 of you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

New York City Marathon: The Really Short Version

Official time: 4:16:55

Pre-race goal: Have fun!

Goal met? YES, YES, YES, YESSSSS!!!!

It was the most fun I've ever had in any race EVER. I absolutely LOVED EVERY SINGLE MINUTE.

Longer post with pictures coming eventually!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

Good morning, folks!

I am having a bit of breakfast and coffee in my friend's apartment, enjoying these last few minutes of peace, solitude, and inactivity before the insanity of the next few hours overwhelms me. I'm dressed and ready to go both physically and mentally. I'm finally just a tiny bit nervous.

It's Sunday morning, and I'm going to run a marathon today!

See you at the finish line!
Mobile Blogging from here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Thoughts: Goals, Or Lack Thereof

This is it, folks. Three days until the 2009 New York City Marathon. I leave tomorrow morning (I'm leeeavin'...on a jet plane...dunno when I'll be back again...actually, that's not true, I'll be back in Michigan on Monday evening).

After 18 weeks of training and hundreds of miles of road under my feet, what are my goals for this, my third marathon?

1. Have fun
2. Have fun
3. Have fun!

That's it. Seriously. I put down "3:55" as my projected finish time when I registered. I'll aim for 4:00 or so, but if I miss it, I won't be upset. This time it's all about relaxing and enjoying the moment. I am thinking of this race as a really long run with 42,000 friends.

At Detroit in 2008 I was a ball of nerves, frightened, clueless, and anxious. It was my very first marathon and I had no idea what to expect. At Cleveland in May of this year I had set such a lofty goal for myself (BQ OR ELSE!) that I was focused to the point of obsession on reaching it and I couldn't let myself enjoy the race.

This time,'s totally different. I know what it feels like to run 26.2 miles, so I'm not scared of the distance. I know I will be able to run the entire way. I already qualified for (and was accepted into) the Boston Marathon, so I don't need to freak out about my splits. I'm excited, of course, but I'm primarily very...calm.

I'm taking my camera, my iPhone, and my sense of adventure. I'm going to walk through the water stops, visit the port-a-potty as many times as I need to, find my friends in the crowd, wear my name on my shirt so people yell at me. I want to high-five little kids, take pictures of everything, boogie to the music. I am going to have the BEST RUN EVER.

According to those In The Know, my spot in the Blue bib corrals means I will be on the upper deck of the bridge after the start, and therefore I will avoid being pissed on, unlike the unlucky bastards in the Green corrals who have to run on the lower level of the bridge. This is good. Being sprinkled with other people's whiz is not how I want to start my day.

If anyone is really, really interested in following my progress on race day, there are two ways you can do it. One is to sign up for Athlete Alert, which will deliver my 5K splits to an email address. Additionally, you can also use the Race Day Tracker, which allows you to look at splits on the NYC Marathon web site the day of the race. My bib number is 24783.

I would like to tell y'all a funny story about a long run I had last month. I went out for 18 miles one overcast Saturday morning. I decided to run 9 miles out and back from my house. It was a pleasantly cool day and the first blushes of fall color were beginning to appear on the trees. I was rolling along at about a 9:00/mile pace when I passed a couple of guys who were digging a post hole on the side of the road with an auger. I waved to them and the little kid who was with them for no reason other than I was feeling fine and frisky at mile 4.5 of my run.

I meandered through the countryside, reached the 9-mile point, and turned around. Around mile 13.5 I saw the post-hole-diggers again, who had managed to install a mailbox while I was gone. It had been nearly an hour and a half since I passed them the first time. When I went by they were staring at me with disbelief. I could tell one of them was saying something, so I yanked my iPod earbuds out of my ears and said, "Pardon me?"

"Were you running...THE WHOLE TIME...since we saw you before?"

I chuckled and said, "Yes, I was...well, I'm training for a marathon, and today is my long run day. I'm doing 18 today."

The two men exchanged looks and then one of them said, "I just...can't...I can't even begin to imagine. Well, training for a marathon, I guess that's what you gotta do..."

I laughed again and said, "Yes, it sure is. Fortunately, I love it. I'm at 13.5 and I've got 4.5 more to go!" I waved again, jammed my headphones back in, and moseyed off down the road.

I'll never forget the way that guy said "THE WHOLE TIME." It was priceless.

Edited to add: I still have to pack...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just Another Day in the Underbrush

Sunday I spent a portion of the afternoon knee deep in mud, wading through water, and crashing through the woods. Oh, and I was also liberally dusted with flour. You want to see people give you strange looks, run past someone raking their lawn and be covered in mud, a strange grayish hue because of all the flour on your black clothes, and you're running at about a 7:15/mile pace. "Weird" doesn't begin to describe the way people were looking at me as I bolted through the quiet suburban neighborhood...

What on earth was I doing? Hashing, of course. I volunteered to be a co-hare at only my third hash, and Sunday I found myself in one of the 'burbs northwest of Detroit in my old shoes and stealth bomber outfit (to be less conspicuous in the woods, of course). I had brought with me 24 bottles of Michigan's finest microbrews (Bell's Best Brown Ale, Arcadia Nut Brown Ale, Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA, and Founder's Pale Ale, all of which were intended to be an antidote to the cans of Bud, Coors, Miller High Life and Labatt Blue...seriously, folks, did you think I of all people would do anything less?) and six pounds of flour.

Once everyone seemed to have shown up at the starting point, my two co-hares and I took off, laying trail as we went. I did whatever I was told, tossing flour about liberally, sprinting to catch up, shoving past branches and vines, and eventually landing on my hands and knees in a swamp.

I was having the best time.

Eventually we were able to take a breather at the first beer check, having confused the pack enough that we had almost 10 minutes to chill in the middle of a field before they arrived. After merriment and mass consumption of cheap beer, we three hares left to lay the second half of the trail. Somewhere along the way I ended up wading through a mucky creek which wet me from the crotch down (but my iPhone stayed safe and dry in my jacket pocket). Eventually it was over and I had run/walked/waded/backtracked/staggered about 5.5 miles, but who's keeping track? The only things I cared about were 1) we didn't get caught on trail and 2) I didn't hurt myself, so NYC is still a go!

Then the real fun began as everyone dug into a huge pile of pizza and the rest of the beer. Every last one of the bottles I brought was consumed. I didn't have a single one to bring home with me, which is probably just as well, considering the marathon is in a mere five days.

I still have dirt under my toenails.

My shoes aren't fashionably black...that's just mud.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn Splendor

Saturday I hit the roads of the Waterloo Recreation Area for my 20-mile run. I left my house for this ten-mile out-and-back around 9:45 AM. The temperature was about 30 degrees F and the sun was shining in a cobalt sky. It was a perfect day for a run. I had my CamelBak full of water strapped to my waist, my iPhone, a bunch of packets of Gu for mid-run refueling, and my iPod cued to my "Obsessions of the Moment" playlist. (Yes, I carry a whole mess o' shit with me when I go for my long runs.)

Around mile 9 I paused for a moment, completely overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the scenery through which I was passing. I took a picture looking one way down the road and then the other.

This is why I run, folks. Look at this. Just look!

I absolutely love running on this road. It's so lightly traveled that most of the time it's like having my own private trail. The scenery, no matter the season, is beyond compare. One just does not truly appreciate one's surroundings until one takes the time to move slowly through them on foot. I experience so many things I would otherwise completely miss if I were in a vehicle. It's so rewarding.

I believe I would not be stretching the truth when I say my 20-miler Saturday was the most pleasant 20-miler I have ever done. I finished the run at an 8:55/mile pace, which is not the fastest I've ever done a 20-mile run, but I felt so energetic throughout the whole thing, maintained a constant pace, felt completely relaxed and happy, and just enjoyed the hell out of every mile.

NYC is 11 days away. I am SO READY.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh People. People, People, People...

114th Boston Marathon

Dear Sun Runner,

This is to notify you that your entry into the 114th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 19, 2010 has been accepted, provided that the information you submitted is accurate.

You can verify your acceptance into the field by searching the 114th Boston Marathon "Entrants" database on the B.A.A. web site, Additionally, an acceptance postcard will be mailed to you via US Postal Service mail.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wild Life Half Marathon: Trail Blazing

Freezing my little buns & boobies off in the parking lot before the race. It was 29 degrees this morning, people! You see the frost on the grass behind me?

This morning I ran a race which exceeded all of my expectations. At one point I felt as if I were having an out-of-body experience. It was that awesome.

First off, let's get the details out of the way: I set a new personal record by running a 1:43:01, which killed my previous PR, set in April at the Martian Half, by 4:01.

People. Never, ever, ever, EVER would I have thought I would be capable of running a sub-8:00 average pace for thirteen miles.

In early September I wrote this in an email to my running buddy TC:
"I registered to run a local half marathon on October 11. My goal is to at least improve on my PR from April (1:47:02) with a really improbable goal of 1:45:59 or better. An 8:05 pace for sub-1:46 vs. 8:09 to beat my PR...totally doable. Or even more wildly speculative, could I maintain an 8:00 avg and run a sub-1:45 (1:44:48 to be exact) half??? Will I be capable of that in six weeks? Who knows. I'm going to try, though. The course is flat as a pancake, a converted railroad to paved trail thing. One long straight shot, balls to the wall. Should be gorgeous, too, mid-October in Michigan with the leaves aflame in fall colors."
That goal was in serious jeopardy recently because my recurring hamstring injury flared up again a couple of weeks ago during track work with the RF501 gang. One minute I was pounding out a 1:35 400m interval...and the next I was hobbling dejectedly around the track trying to pretend this was. not. happening. again. Since then my hamstring has been much on my mind, dogging me every step of the way on every run I have undertaken. As recently as last Wednesday I was able to run only 2 miles in a row. I downgraded my goal for today's half marathon to "just run and have a good time." The weather forecast was decent, the race would be small, the scenery amenable...what's not to like? Just get out and run.

And run I did. Two days of inactivity did wonders for my hamstring. A pair of compression tights, wrapped snugly around my troublesome thigh, did the rest. I knew the potential for a great race was in me during the first mile. By mile 2 it was undeniable. I found that coveted groove, my fifth gear where I feel as if I could run forever and not shed a bead of sweat.

I was running east into the rising sun (ha) for the first half of the race, and several times, when the sunlight blinded me and I could barely see, I felt as if my legs were disconnected from the rest of my body. They turned over of their own accord, driving forward, pistonlike, and the rest of me was being carried along for the ride. I felt as if I were floating, literally skimming over the ground. It was a most peculiar yet exhilarating feeling. The miles flicked past so quickly, before I even knew it I had reached the turnaround point and was on my way back. I had kept up a blistering pace for so long, I knew at some point I was going to begin to feel fatigued, and around mile 9 it washed over me. My whole bearing changed: my torso angled forward, my chin raised up, my arms crept higher and barely moved, my breathing quickened. I was tiring and I knew it, but I also knew I had run a spectacular race thus far and I had it in me to finish strongly. At mile 10 I peeked at Garmy and saw I was at 1:19. I did a quick calculation and knew that with only 5K left, a PR was definitely in the bag. At the pace I was running, I would cruise through that 5K in under 24 minutes. 1:19 plus 24 minutes equals...1:43.

Holy crap. I was on pace to not only crush my PR, crush my "improbable goal" of sub-1:46, but crush my "wildly speculative" goal of sub-1:45. I just had to stay cool, stay relaxed, stay confident. I forced myself to concentrate on my posture and breathing as the final miles ticked off. Soon enough I passed mile 13, and with only one mile to go, I kicked it into an even higher gear. I passed the posts marking the end of the trail and knew I had only about a half mile to go. I reached deep inside, scraped up some final vestige of energy and let it flow through my muscles. When I pressed Garmy's stop button at the finish line and looked down, I only saw "1:42" on the display. I started laughing. 1:42 WHAT? I quickly found the screen which informed me I had run a 1:42:55, which I realized (sadly) would translate to something a few seconds slower for my official time in this non-chip-timed race. Indeed, my gun time ended up being 1:43:01.

This was the kind of race where one can walk up to the race director and ask "Hey, are there race results yet?" and then read them oneself from sheets which have been freshly printed and handed to one by said race director.

I love tiny races.

Anyway, my official time was 1:43:01, which I immediately zeroed in on as a complete FAILURE, because IF ONLY I had run TWO SECONDS FASTER somewhere on the course I could have gone sub-1:43...all I could think about was my highly annoying 50:00 10K PR from 2008 which twisted around in the back of my head for a year until I finally killed it in May. This is going to be that PR. I am going to obsess over it until I can kill it, and I have already decided where it will be: at next April's Martian Half Marathon. You're on notice, 1:43:01. You're going DOWN!

Never mind that 1:43:01 bested my previous PR by 4 minutes and 1 second and my hamstring didn't bother me at all and I ran one of the best races of my life and I finished third in my age group and 24th overall. No. 1:43:01, people. Two lousy stinking seconds away from 1:42:59. TWO LOUSY SECONDS!



The nitty gritty breakdown:

8:17, 8:04, 7:53, 7:50, 7:50, 7:46, 7:48, 7:48, 7:57, 7:55, 7:45, 7:44, 7:40 & 0.1 at a 6:57 pace.

Final stats: 1:43:01, 7:51/mile avg, 3/10 age group.

I ran today's race as part of the Worldwide Festival of Races global endeavor. I was proud to be part of this informal gathering of runners from all around the world.

I have to give totally mad props to FK, who ran with me every single step of the way in this half marathon. We were side by side, elbow to elbow, the whole way. If it weren't for him I doubt I would have done as well as I did. He pulled me along and kept me going. He's also way smarter than me because while I ripped open my Gu packets and choked their half-frozen contents down immediately, he warmed his up in his hand for a while before eating them.

Also, a huge HUGE HUUUGGEEE shout out to my peeps who ran the Chicago Marathon today: Spike, Morgan, Cowboy Hazel, and Coach Ted from the Chelsea/Dexter RF501 gang.

Final high note: Saturday when I drove out to Concord to pick up my race packet I went there directly from viewing the live broadcast of Tosca at the movie theater in Ann Arbor, and I sang opera the entire way to Concord and back to my house, a trip of approximately 90 miles, and I wasn't in danger of being pulled over for Speeding While Singing Opera Arias because...HELLO CRUISE CONTROL.

Even when I flung out the most perfect string of high Cs and Ds I've ever done (the final run from "Ach ich liebte") and I realized I was straining all of my legs muscles and gripping the steering wheel so hard my knuckles were white, I was motoring along at a sedate 72 MPH (in a 70 MPH zone).

Three weeks to NYC, people!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Running Coast to Coast

I'm bicoastal, yo. If one considers the Straits of Mackinac to be a coast, that is. And why not, I say! They don't call them the Great Lakes for nothing!

Representing the West Coast: I dug up these pictures of me running the Race Thru The Redwoods 10K in California on August 16. I can't believe that was over six weeks ago...sigh. I was hit by a wave of post-vacation melancholy today which completely and unexpectedly flattened me. I haven't wallowed in nostalgic funk for several weeks and for a brief period I allowed myself to do so this afternoon. It was painful.

Quit looking at the woman who's taking off her shirt OR the woman who's about to take off her shirt, you perverts! And NO, I'm not talking about myself. The sports bra-only look is one I have not yet attempted.

I saw the photographer and actually smiled for this one even though my arm felt as if it was on fire from the hornet sting.

And the finish. Don't forget to stop Garmy! Following this race I drove down the coast a ways and parked myself on the sand for five hours, hoping against hope that the sun would break through the fog and provide me with some much-needed beach-baking-in-a-bikini time. I got about 20 minutes of quality sun and that was all, unfortunately. (Side note: Doesn't my leg look awesome in this picture?!)

And for the East (Midwest?) Coast: more pictures from the Mackinac Bridge Run on Labor Day.

Right at the start. Checking Garmy.

On the bridge with one of my fellow Fitness Ambassadors. I have my "serious face" on.

I'm smiling! Running is fun! Note to EN and TK: can you tell what socks I'm wearing? :)

Side note: the latter two pictures came from RunMichigan's photo page, where they have high-quality digital images available for an extremely low price. My two photos were $4.00 each. I cannot stress enough how fabulous I think this is. We know all too well the exorbitant prices most photographers charge for digital pictures. I REFUSE to pay $50 or what-the-fuck-ever for one goddamn digital picture. Hello, people, you would make a lot more money if you offered digital pictures for a reasonable price like RUN MICHIGAN, because I'm going to give THEM my money and NOT YOU. YOU LOSE! LOSERS!

So there. Run Michigan, YOU ROCK MY WORLD. I will continue to pay for your lovely pictures as long as you offer them at the current totally awesome and wallet-and-runner-friendly price of $4.00.

On another note...this afternoon I came home, threw on some running clothes, and got myself out the door before my brain could organize a protest. Today was a day made for running and it would have been a crime not to embrace it. It was an absolutely beautiful fall day: about 58 degrees and sunny. I had 5 tempo miles on the schedule and I decided no excuses, I was going to do my best to reach that goal.

7:55, 7:48, 8:10, 7:49, 7:47, and a cool-down mile at 8:32. The 8:10 came on the hilly part of my chosen route and I just couldn't sustain a sub-8:00 pace. The whole thing came in at 8:00/mile, which met my goal for the run. I felt amazing throughout and it bolstered my confidence a great deal. I have a half marathon race on October 11 at which I would love to PR but I've been feeling rather sluggish lately and my hopes have dwindled. Today's run told me that, yeah, these old legs still have some life left in them after all...

After I got home I roasted a chicken, potatoes, and some Brussels sprouts for dinner and I found myself eating the crispy, salty skin off the steaming, carved-up bird before I even sat down with my plate; it was that good. And I was so thrilled about the Brussels sprouts, y'all have no idea. When I saw the giant bin full of them at my CSA farm at pick-up on Tuesday I literally yelled "OH MY GOD BRUSSELS SPROUTS!" Thank god there wasn't anyone else around. If anyone had ever told me a few years ago I would become this excited about Brussels sprouts...well. I think "laugh my ass off" would have been an understatement. Snort. I now believe that olive oil, salt, pepper, and the dry heat of an oven can turn anything into a gastronomic delight.