Friday, January 30, 2009

NOT According to Plan!

It was supposed to be a nice evening out on the town, starting off with dinner at the Blue Nile and followed by the Chanticleer concert. I drove to my friend P's house nearby after work to pick her up so she could accompany me to dinner; I was going to attend the concert by myself. (You may ask: Why didn't' your husband go with you? Well...the phrase "men's a cappella ensemble singing American folk and jazz songs" should be a tiny indication of why I was by myself.)

Things went awry almost immediately. I had to pause in my backward trajectory out of P's driveway because of a stream of oncoming traffic and when I began to move again...I didn't. My useless POS tires bumped up against that berm of accumulated ice and snow that is deposited at the foot of every driveway from passing snowplows (don't you just love how you can spend 2 hours clearing your driveway only to have a plow push a two-foot-high wall of snow across it in about two seconds?) and I could go no further.

Much swearing, shoveling, spinning of tires, spreading of cat litter, driving over floor mats, sliding, getting stuck perpendicular to the driveway, and having the ass end of my car hanging out into one of Ann Arbor's busier roads later, I called for a tow truck. That sucker wasn't going anywhere. Oh, and, have you ever tried to do something like this in a stick shift car? Yeah, that significantly increases the annoyance and difficulty factor. I'm surprised I didn't set my clutch on fire.

My poor little car, mired in snow; this position was an improvement over the wedged-crossways-between-snow-piles predicament in which I found myself earlier.

After tow truck-enabled extraction. Sometimes I miss my four-wheel-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee with the giant burly tires.

By the time P and I were back in the car and pointed in the right direction, it was almost 7:30. The concert started at 8:00. Neither one of us had eaten dinner; we were both starving. I was so mad I could hardly see straight, my left calf muscle was throbbing from working the clutch so hard, and my head was pounding due to a nasty cold that flared up over the course of the past two days (putting my plan to run the Frozen Blueberry race tomorrow in jepoardy). I said, "Let's just go eat. I don't care about going to the concert anymore." The tickets were good for 20% off our meal at the restaurant and I didn't want to pass up that bargain. We went and stuffed ourselves with delicious Ethiopian food and then retired to the Arbor Brewing Company across the street for a beer.

My consolation prize for the botched evening: a pint of ABC's Big Ben.

There are worse things than spending an evening with a good friend and having said evening involve good beer, I suppose.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Runner Has Two Faces

These are from the Holiday Hustle 5K that was in December. I found them on RunMichigan's photos page, where they have digital files available for the low price of $4.00. I think this is incredibly fantastic and awesome and runner-friendly, since as we all know most places charge astronomical prices for image files.

In the beginning: My "concentration" face as I contemplate the task at hand. I am wearing my "stealth" outfit: all sleek, all black. I am the SR-71 Blackbird! Or would that be the B-2 Stealth Bomber?

At the finish: ARRRRGH! Can you FEEL THE BURN? This was an uncomfortable race and I was glad it was almost over, stealth outfit or not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weirdest. Sensation. Ever.

This morning I bravely braved the snowy outdoors for my six-mile run. We're getting a light brush from that bitch of a storm's skirt here in Michigan and when I went out there were a couple inches of new snow on the ground (but nothing like the devastation by ice taking place to the south, nor the eight inches my parents in northeast Ohio's Snow Belt have received). Never fear, YakTrax to the rescue! The quasi-plowed streets were perfect for YakTrax-ing. Traffic was light and I was enjoying myself.

Halfway through mile 4 I swung into one of the cookie-cutter subdivisions from hell that have cropped up on the outskirts of town like a noxious cluster of mushrooms. Despite my scorn for the development and what it represents (destruction of farmland, bland yuppie sameness; every house with a hunk of plastic play structure in the backyard and an SUV in the driveway, 2.5 kids and a Golden retriever), I enjoy running on its perimeter because the road is flat and lightly traveled. So lightly traveled, in fact, that this morning I was breaking virgin snow with my feet. Not a soul, neither man nor beast nor automobile, had passed before me. I entered the area of the sub closest to the city water treatment plant where all of the building lots are empty save one (imagine that!) and the development company never even bothered to erect street lights (actually I think that particular developer, the one who took over the "less desirable" lots near the sewage treatment plant, went bankrupt).

The predawn darkness closed in and as I stared at the snow in front of me I was overcome by the most peculiar feeling. The uniform blanket of white in every direction, unbroken by shadow or footprint, made it impossible to tell where the ground actually was. I felt as if I was running on air, suspended above a bottomless void. Only the impact of my feet striking the ground reminded me that I was in fact present on the earth and gravity was my friend. The sensation intensified if I looked directly at the snow. I had to look away, at something concrete and three-dimensional, because it was starting to make me dizzy. My gaze was drawn back to the ground, however, because as brain-scrambling as the view was, it was still cool. I watched my feet move, appearing to be suspended above nothingness, and yet finding solid ground in the formless void. This lasted until I arrived at a place where someone had backed out of a driveway, and the tire tracks gave the snow some topography and the illusion was broken.

I arrived home snow-covered, a slick, salty mustache of clear snot plastered to my upper lip region, peeled off my YakTrax and wet clothes, and once upstairs in the bathroom I saw myself in the mirror and seriously, people, I looked like death warmed over. Zombielike, if you will; I could have been an undead extra in any recent zombie-themed movie. My eyes were red-rimmed, grayish smudges underneath them, hair all straggly and wet, lips pale purple, face smeared with snot and sweat and snow, ghostly white except for a couple of pinkish spots on my cheeks. The effect was gruesome. I even said, "oh my god, I look terrible" to my reflection and then leapt into the shower as fast as I could.

When I rolled in from my 11-miler on Sunday, freezing cold, staggering, and bleary-eyed, with snot frozen in two little wads in my nostrils , John was in the kitchen. As soon as he saw me he said, "What a glamorous sport."

Nope. Not glamorous at all, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm not a figure skater, I'm a distance runner.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Decisions, Decisions...

One of my goals for 2009 is to run at least one race each month. As you all are aware, January is almost over and Saturday is the last day I can squeeze in a race. I already have February's race on deck: the Super 5K, which will be on Sunday the 1st. I ran that race last year and scored an age group award.

Now, as for Saturday. I have two options.

One: the Frozen Blueberry 5K in Montrose. It starts at 10:00 am and is a regular old 5K road race. However, it's 85 miles away from my house. Which begs the question: how far is too far to drive to run a road race?

Two: the Winter Switchback Run, which also starts at 10:00 am, and is a mere 10 minutes away from my house. The downside is it's a trail run up some pretty brutal hills (which I am quite familiar with, having once upon a time lived in a small house not far from there) , it's not timed, there are no awards, and it sounds like it's not even measured accurately; therefore, can it even be called a "race"?

However, it's only 8 miles away from my house as opposed to 85.

On the other hand, Montrose is close to the Birch Run Outlet Mall-O-Plex, and there's a great kitchen gadetry and cookware store there which I have not visited in some time (for good reason; I have a weakness for shiny pots and pans). Additionally, it appears that age group competition is light and it is likely I would score some AG hardware.

Nasty trail run very close to home vs. road race far far away but with added bonus of shopping afterward...what to do...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day After Thursday Thoughts

What a week, people. What a week.
  • My standard operating system is up and running. Debugging complete. Virus eradicated.
  • You know you're a hardcore winter runner when you think heading out when it's 29 degrees is "warm" and "pleasant." Whatever it is, it's better than last Friday's minus-10.
  • Not only was Tuesday a Very Great Day for America (even if I had to miss the live and in person version), it was also the day Animal Collective's new album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, hit the streets, and I can finally post a link to a LEGAL audio stream/mp3 of what I think IS ONE OF THE MOST AWESOME SONGS I HAVE EVER HEARD: "My Girls." Confession: I snagged a totally illegal mp3 of this back in early December when it leaked on the Internet and immediately put it on practically infinite repeat. iTunes says I've listened to it 34 times, and that's 34 complete times, not counting the times when I jumped back to the start before the song had finished because I couldn't wait for it to begin again. That also doesn't count the times I've heard it on my iPod, because this is truly a fantastic song for running. Well, my running anyway. Standard disclaimer: noisy samples and synthesizers aren't for everyone.
  • Tomorrow is a double helping of my other two passions in life: opera and food. First, I am going to see another Met Live in HD broadcast (Orfeo ed Euridice with the stupendous Stephanie Blythe) and then shortly afterward the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers are descending on my house for a very much anticipated "Summer in January" foodie event where we are going to try and recapture some of summer's warmth and cheer. I'm making strawberry shortcake.
  • The ol' running schedule suffered somewhat this week, but I still managed 5 miles on Sunday and 3 miles last night. Even though today is Rest Day, I am debating taking advantage of the warm temperature (33 degrees in Ann Arbor as of last reckoning) and going out for my 5 mile run after work tonight instead of tomorrow morning, when it will be much colder. And speaking of cold, the low Saturday night is supposed to be minus 5! Sunday's 12-miler is going to be a chilly one...
I've seen this one going around teh Interwebs lately: the "Five Addictions" meme. I thought I'd be a sheep and jump on that bandwagon, too. Or if I'm going to be a sheep, wouldnt' that mean I join the flock? Onward...

1. Running. Duh.

2. My down comforter. I bought this king-sized, silk-clad waft of luxury for an incredibly low price (I think it was 80% off or something: originally over $1000 and I got it for $200) at a clearance sale at The Company Store Outlet in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, shortly before I moved to Michigan for graduate school. It has been my faithful companion in sleep for the past ten years. It has kept me warm and snug in the coldest of barely-heated lakeside cottage Michigan winters (and barely-heated 1920-era bungalows in small Michigan cities).

3. My town. Can I be addicted to a place? I have lived here in my house for almost 7 years, which is second only to the 8 years I spent in the same house in Los Altos, California. I love my town. I can leave my house on foot and in 30 minutes I can buy stamps, milk, cowboy boots, a refrigerator, dog food, a haircut, knick knacks (not always useful, but they have their place), a shot of espresso, a bag full of used paperbacks, drop off some dry cleaning, visit the library, and grab a sandwich for lunch on my way home. It's such a useful town. Additionally, after so long in one place, I'm a regular at several establishments around town (and no, they're not all bars), and as such

4. Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Hands down, my favorite ice cream flavor of all time. I used to eat it by the pint in college. I still eat it, but only in half-pint increments.

5. Reading. I learned to read when I was about three years old and I've never stopped. I read for a living. I read every night before I go to bed. If I don't I literally can't sleep. My bedtime reading ritual is ingrained into my very soul at this point. I am always reading at least one book at once. When I worked as a temp at Borders Books (the world HQ here in Ann Arbor, not one of the retail stores) I had the key to the mythical Book Room, where surplus and unwanted advance and complimentary copies sent to the buyers ended up. I treated the Book Room like my personal bookstore. In two months I accumulated about 250 new books. It was a bookworm's dream come true. As long as my eyes continue to function I will always read.

Toasting our new President Tuesday evening. This is how I spent Inauguration Day: in a recliner, wrapped in a blanket, with a cat. It wasn't what I had hoped for, but it was enough. Just watching it on TV made me all verklempt.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stomach Flu: 1, Me: 0

Today was supposed to be one of the most memorable days of my life. Instead I am stuck at my aunt's house six miles away from the epicenter of the action, still wearing the same underwear I put on two days ago.

I drove to Virginia on Sunday because today I was going to meet my best friend in Washington DC so we could experience first-hand the dawn of a new era. Ah, but even the best-laid plans are subject to change; in this case, a virus swiftly and surely brought me to new lows of misery. People, I have never been so sick in my whole life. I'll spare y'all the particulars. With heavy heart I spoke to my friend yesterday and decided it was not in my best interests (nor that of anyone around me) to try and attend the inauguration. Yesterday I felt like hot garbage that had been run over by a steamroller. I felt about 5% human. Today I feel like I've been only run over by a steamroller and about 50% human. I think I might even have enough strength to take a shower and change my clothes.

Then I'll sit and watch the inauguration on TV like everybody else.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hardcore or Crazy: Pop Quiz

Hardcore: Running during the winter.

Crazy: Running when the temperature is minus 5 degrees F.

Please select one.

In other news, the "Shape Up and Stay Fit" panel discussion at the library last night was a success. I saw some of my RF501 teammates whom I have not seen since the marathon in October or seen very infrequently. Despite the unwelcoming temperature, about 15 people showed up for the discussion. I decided on "running dork" for my wardrobe and wore my official Detroit jacket (OK, I wear it all the time).

My proudest moment was describing how I found myself weighing over 220 pounds two and a half years ago and through Weight Watchers and running I have lost ~60 pounds.

And finally, my Cleveland Marathon training plan has launched as of this week; of course it coincides with the worst cold snap of the winter (high temperature today will be less than 10 degrees; wind chill tomorrow will be minus 20). I treadmilled it yesterday at the gym (3 miles) but the prospect of staring down 5 miles on the treadmill this morning was unpalatable so I decided to see what it felt like to run outside in subzero temperatures. I doubled up on everything: warm tights under warm pants; base layer under warm top under warm jacket; ear band under hat. I fussed around with my outfit for so long before leaving the house that I could only do 4 miles. 4 very, very, very cold miles.

However, something I said last night at the discussion returned to me as I crunched along the snow-encrusted sidewalks. I said that I find "a certain kind of purity" to running outdoors in the winter: the silence, the stillness, the dark, the feeling of being the only person in the world. At 6:30 am in mid-January, it is easy to feel this way.

And lastly, a lesson in irony (real irony, not Alanis Morrissette-style "irony"): I parked my car in the underground area at work yesterday to avoid having it become covered in snow, which was in the forecast. When I returned to it at the end of the day, it was encased in ice from water that had seeped through a joint in the outdoor parking deck overhead. My car had been under the drip all day.

I parked outdoors today.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Celebrity Appearance

Guess who's going to be appearing in person at the local library next week?

There was also an article which appeared in the local paper yesterday but the online version is truncated and doesn't include all of the brilliant, inspirational quotes from yours truly.

Certain of my tiny readership (I'm looking in your direction, E.B.) who live in the area should attend!

In other news, we're about to get slammed with yet more snow; the winter storm warning from the local weather doom and gloom outpost includes the statement "ONLY TRAVEL IN AN EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT...FOOD...AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY."

Does "food" include an old Gu packet I have stashed in my glovebox?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bathroom Babble and More

You know you're a runner when you encounter a co-worker/fellow runner in the bathroom and end up having a ten-minute conversation about upcoming races, training plans, paces, group runs, gear, the weather, etc...I can only imagine what the unfortunate person trapped in the bathroom with us was thinking: "Who are these crazy people?"

In other news, I am ├╝ber-excited because this evening before my regular group run I am going to (carefully) break out some of the megabucks in gift certificate money (monies?) I received for my recent birthday. YakTrax are at the top of my list. After that...THE SKY IS THE LIMIT!

And finally, I am extremely jealous of fellow runner TK who is in Ireland, a place near and dear to my heart (I lived there for 5 weeks for my geology field camp experience). Not only am I jealous because she is in beautiful, verdant Ireland and I am not, but she will be able to run in Ireland while I am stuck on the same crappy snow-covered Michigan sidewalks I've been pounding for the past 2 years (in various states of snow-coveredness; right now, they are covered with a couple inches of fresh snow). I lamented some time ago about missing out on running in various exotic places because at the time of my visits I was not a runner. (Shocking!) One of the two places I regret not running in the most is western Ireland (the other being my beloved valley in Wyoming). Oh, some day I will return. As Arnold said, "I'll be bock."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I just turned 35...

Which is why I find this post so unbelievably hilarious. I was laughing out loud. I was wiping away tears, people.

My contribution:

I remember when the Internet came to my college (1994) and everyone said, "You gotta check out this 'Netscape' thing! It's amazing!"

When the new hot singles came out on 45s and everyone rushed down to the nearest Tower Records to snap them up.

The Commodore 64 with the tape deck on the side. Woah!

My first radio only received AM.

My first Walkman only had fast-forward capability, no rewind. To "rewind" a cassette, I had to flip it over and fast-forward. Oh, and the thing was about the size (and weight) of a brick.

Anyone remember Outback Red? Or Forenza?

I sold Girl Scout cookies for $1.25 per box.

I feel old.