Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No Thanks...I Have Enough Race Shirts

Well, folks, as of today, my little blog is two years old. Two years ago I wrote my first posts...and...well, the rest is history. According to various etiquette-savvy Web sites, the traditional gift for a second anniversary is cotton, but as we runners know, cotton is bad for running. So why are most race T-shirts cotton? Who knows. I have about 30 of them. I'm wearing one right now (Dexter-Ann Arbor Run 2009). However, the modern equivalent is china. Therefore, I will take one piece at a time of this. So get cracking, people.

Monday marked the official launch of my 18-week Summer-Fall '09 New York Marathon Training Plan. For this, my third tour of 26.2 miles, I have chosen a training plan which is completely different from any I have done before: a FIRST plan. After some consideration I decided to use the plan for first-time marathoners. I'm not a first-timer, but I don't think I'm ready for the intensity of the "FIRST to the Finish" plan (unlike certain crazy people who shall remain nameless. but still crazy. you know who you are). The FIRST Marathon plan has enough speed work to keep me happy, and only requires me to run three days a week. I slipped in a fourth day of running, which will be my Thursday workouts with the Running Fit 501 gang; this leaves me two days of cross-training (hel-LO weightlifting!) and one day of rest, which will be my traditional rest day of Friday. Yesterday my workout called for six intervals of one minute at a fast pace followed by three minutes at an easy pace. For these Monday workouts, my "Key Workout #1," my fast pace will always be my 10K race pace (7:30) minus 45 seconds = 6:45. I handled this workout without a huge amount of difficulty and it left me with a satisfied tired feeling. This training plan packs on a lot more speed work than any I have done before, and I am truly hoping that as a side effect I can bring down my 5K personal best a little further. I would love to crack 22:00 before the end of the year.

Tomorrow I have to run six miles, broken into two-mile chunks of easy-tempo-easy. For my Wednesday workouts, "Key Workout #2," my "tempo" pace will be my 10K race pace (7:30) plus 15-30 seconds. Therefore, I have to run my two tempo miles between 7:45 and 8:00. Yeesh. Well, I can't complain...I signed on for this madness. I am a crazy obsessed runner chick, after all. I have to live up to my reputation.

So what happened to "oh, I'm just going to take it easy this time, my hard work of the year is done." I qualified for Boston in May, so what's the big deal? Well...I love a challenge, and this is going to take my running in a totally different direction. I still think of myself as little more than an ongoing physiological experiment, and I treat my body as a laboratory of one. I guess I'm just curious to see what happens. Sort of like "hey guys, watch this!" but without the possibility of flames or explosions or people crashing into things. No blood will be spilled nor runners harmed in the making of this marathon experience. Maybe.

Speaking of races of all shapes and sizes, here are a few pictures of me racing which I dug up on the Internets:

At the Fit 5K in Novi, where I set my current PR of 22:13. Test-driving my Michigan Alumni shirt for chafing in preparation for the Cleveland Marathon.

Dexter-Ann Arbor 10K, where I set my current PR of 47:13. Test-driving my Summer Stealth Bomber outfit. It's fab.

Flirt with Dirt 5K trail race, just before the finish. I'm in the process of totally chicking that guy who held me up for half of the race. See ya later, dude.

And on that note, I'm off to bed...I'm trying to make myself go to sleep earlier. 5:45 am arrives awfully early. I've been staying up too late reading, a longstanding habit which stretches back into elementary school.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Green Mountain Relay Pictures!

Assorted pictures from my GMR experience. I took most of them but I "borrowed" a few from my relay teammates if I thought I looked halfway decent in them. Plus I wouldn't have any pictures of me actually running if it wasn't for you! Thanks, guys. :)

Bouhaki helping me pack for the trip. Kitty help is always appreciated...mostly. He was removed from my pajamas shortly thereafter, but immediately moved to some running clothes.

At the starting line in Jeffersonville, Vermont, on Saturday morning.

Receiving final instructions from our fearless leader.

The mighty warriors of Van One: Thomas, Eric, TK, me, Tamar, and Connor.

All dressed up and nowhere to go...except run 7.9 miles through the Green Mountains!

The covered bridge I ran through on my first leg, which was the whole reason I chose my place as Runner #3. It was lovely.

Midway through my first leg.

There I go, blazing off down the road...up yet another hill...

Passing over a small river on my first leg. What do you see here? ROCKS! OMG ROCKS!1

Scenery on the road during my first leg.

All done with my first leg and very tired and sweaty! The "sweat seat" in the van lived up to its name.

Flowers on the town commons at one of the exchanges.

Enjoying ice cream at the Ben & Jerry's factory after our van went "off duty."

Peonies outside the Old Hancock Hotel in Hancock, where we ate dinner Saturday evening.

At the evening van-van exchange, waiting for Runner #12 to finish so we could get back on the road!

Making hay in the fading summer twilight.

Ready to get it on with my third and last leg, about 5:45 Sunday morning.

I'm not sure what, exactly, I'm looking at here...probably a map.

I ran alongside this river for most of my third leg. Its musical gurgling was my accompaniment.

Morning mist over the forest.

Finishing my last leg! Go, Eric!

Me and TK posing in our Dump Runners Club headbands at the Winhall Highway Maintenance Facility. I am finally a full-fledged member of the DRC.

The Van One comrades, after we were completely done. When's breakfast?

1: I was in geology heaven for the entire trip; I hadn't seen so many rocks since I was in graduate school. On the way back to the city I completely freaked out when we passed this roadcut. I mean, I yelled and frantically fumbled for my iPhone to take a picture and then nearly cried when I missed my opportunity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Green Mountain Relay Finish

I'm home (finally), clean( finally), and my nasty dirty laundry is tumbling in the dryer as we speak. I took 171 pictures over the weekend, which is far more than I want to deal with right now, but for the moment, here's one of me and my amazing teammates at the finish line in Bennington.

Maria, James, Jeff, Robert, Tavia, Connor, Thomas, Michael, me, Eric, Tamar, and Robyn: YOU GUYS RULE!!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fireflies at Night

My weekend of adventure is drawing to a close. The 2009 Green Mountain Relay is over. My team finished in 26 hours and 29 minutes with an 8:03 average pace. All of us are incredibly dirty and tired. I'm on my way back to New York, looking forward to a hot shower, a beer (or two) and a good night's rest of more than 2 hours.

My second leg late last night was one of the most interesting runs I have ever done. I started around 9:40 pm after the sun was down and it was completely dark. We were required to wear a headlamp, and it was absolutely necessary, because I was out in the middle of nowhere and there were no lights anywhere. Dust (pollen?) and bugs swirled in the beam of light in front of my head. I started out quickly; my first mile was 7:59. I was feeling more energetic than I was for my first leg ten hours earlier.

I was out on a dark rural road, with nothing but the sound of my breathing, footsteps, and a softly rushing stream to keep me company. My world had narrowed to what was illuminated in the square of light 20 feet in front of me. I heard the occasional critter rustling in the underbrush, and the solo peep of a solitary frog. Then I noticed the fireflies. They twinkled and danced above the fields I knew were on my right (to my left was a sheer rock wall) and glittered in the trees on the hillsides. It was beautiful and extraordinary. I felt so fortunate to see it, to experience this on such a wonderful summer night, the longest night of the year.

I maintained a low-eight-minute mile pace for the rest of my 5.1-mile run, spurred on as much by my high energy level as by the sensation of the dark pressing in around me. I ran as if there was an unknown entity on my heels. I finished my leg in 42 minutes and slapped the hand of my teammate to send him on his way.

The rest of the night passed in a blur; around 12:30 am we met the other van at a major exchange and subsequently went off duty. We grabbed a couple of hours' worth of napping at a motel close to the exchange where we would commence our final morning legs. Two hours wasn't nearly enough. Disoriented and tired, we waited in the growing predawn light for the graveyard shift runners to finish. By the time I set off on my final leg at 5:53, the sun was up (albeit behind clouds) and the birds were singing. I finally got to see the gorgeous countryside which had been obscured on my night leg. My route followed a river for a long way, a gentle descent which turned away at mile 3.2 to ascend a mile-long hill all the way to the finish, reminiscent of my grueling first leg of the previous day. I churned my way to the finish at 4.4 miles, completing the leg in 36:52 (8:41 pace). I handed off to my teammate and my part in the relay was done.

After the other van went active, we got breakfast and then drove to the finish line in Bennington, where we waited for a couple of hours while the other van completed their legs. When the final runner on our team approached the finish line, we all joined him for the final 50 or so meters before the end. We all crossed together, a team until the very end.

This was my first experience with relay racing...and I don't want it to be the last. I'm so glad I did it. See you guys next year!
Mobile Blogging from here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bring on the Ben & Jerry's!

My first relay leg is complete. 7.9 miles, an hour and ten minutes and change. I was slowed considerably by the hills. Oh, those hills! There's nothing like them in Michigan. My legs felt like rubber. But it was such gorgeous countryside, I couldn't be upset. Plus, I ran through a covered bridge!

My van of six runners finished our legs, and now that we're "off duty," we're taking it easy. The big exchange took place next to the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters plant. It smelled amazing, and of course I got some coffee. And then...the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory! Really! Now, if I can have a pint of beer before my next leg, this will be the best race day ever.
Mobile Blogging from here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green Mountain Relay

Howdy everyone. I am currently in scenic Colchester, Vermont, because tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM the great Green Mountain Relay adventure begins. My team of five women and seven men, all fantastic running chicks and dudes, drove up from New York City today. I have been looking forward to this event for months.

And when we arrived this afternoon...I went and ran four miles.

I will be "liveblogging" via iPhone over the course of the weekend as the relay unfolds. Come back for updates!

Now, time for dinner...and a couple of beers!

Mobile Blogging from here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flirt with Dirt 5K: It's My First Time, Be Gentle

I popped my trail racing cherry Saturday at the Flirt with Dirt in Novi. This is not to say I had never beat feet in a forest before. Way back in the day I used to run on the Potowatomi Trail in Pinckney, which I was able to access by walking across the street from my house. Really. Feel free to be jealous, fellow southeast Michiganians. I am envious of my nine-years-ago self, having one of the region's premiere trails within walking distance of my house, but at the time I was a lackadasical runner, hardly serious at all, a brief spurt of action centered on a six-week span, and really did only flirt with the dirt before leaving it high and dry and forgotten when I moved to a different town.

I was ready to atone for past trail-teasing wrongs when I lined up with the field for this past Saturday's 5K. I knew I wanted to take it easy and be very careful because the LAST thing I needed to have happen was to twist my ankle on a tree root, because the Green Mountain Relay is fast approaching and I knew that my fearless leader (hi TK!) would kill me if I injured myself. So racing to beat the devil was right out. The race started on grass and the swish swish swish sound of shoes on grass brought me back to my cross country days. Then we ran through the gravel parking lot and into the woods. I hit mile 1 in 7:57, but most of that was on the grass/gravel. Once I entered the woods my pace dropped dramatically. I had to concentrate on not tripping and doing a faceplant into the dirt. The trail followed a crazy convoluted course and I was weaving from side to side, hardly ever getting a chance to run straight ahead. I never went on autopilot; I had to pay attention every second to where I was putting my feet. Then I got stuck behiind someone who was slower than me and I just could. not. pass. him. I should have shouted, "ON YOUR LEFT!" and maybe that would have made him move aside...but I'm too polite. Shocking, I know, what with all the swearing and bodily functions I talk about. When the trail exited the woods about 50 meters before the finish, I swung wide to the left, turned on the afterburners, and blew that guy away. I had so much fuel left in the tank it was ridiculous. I hit the finish in 28:54, which under normal road-based circumstances is a time which would make me wince and think "what the hell?" but this was trail running. As my friend put it later, "It's a different beast." Indeed. However, I still managed to place first in my age group. It was a fun day in the woods. There was a bit of mud (I got some smears on my legs...I guess that counts as my "flirt" with dirt, eh?), and it began to rain about a mile into the race, which seemed fitting, somehow.

The aspect of this race I was must stuck by was how quiet it was. It was so much more hushed than a road race. I heard the sound of raindrops pattering on the forest canopy above my head, I heard the occasional shout from a fellow runner deep in the woods, but other than that...most of the time I could barely hear the soft whisper of my own footsteps on the dirt. The event was sold out, totally at capacity...but one never could have guessed that from trail level.

Races, races, and more races...when will the madness end? I just...can't...stop...HELP!

Final stats: 28:54/9:17 per mile/1st out of 12 AG/10 out of 94 women/28 out of 155 overall

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Or would that be dogma bites?

After my improbable string of good luck, I began to get uneasy. Surely this was too good to last. A successful BQ effort, two 10K PRs in two weeks, getting picked for the Mackinac Bridge Run and the New York City Marathon, winning the Mega Millions lottery...

Okay, that last one was totally made up. (If only.) However, the rest was true. I knew it was too good to last. Something had to happen to bring my big head back down to earth. Like the proverbial balloon, my ego was popped via a set of very sharp dog teeth. Yes, of the infinite number of available vector paths in the space-time continuum, two of them intersected at a very unfortunate juncture.

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon when my running partner, FK, and I set out on the Lake Losee trail in the Pinckney Rec Area. What lay ahead was a three-mile loop of bicycle-free trail. Shortly after we started, the trail went up a steep, pebbly hill. Coming down the hill toward us was a man who was being dragged along by two dogs. The man was scrambling to stay on his feet as they came flying down the trail. Upon seeing us, the dogs lunged forward even harder. The trail was narrow, and the man tried to reel in his dogs and move to the side to allow us to pass. The dogs were lunging at FK as he went in front of me. The man said, "Oh, they're friendly." As I passed, the dogs were both standing on their hind legs straining and pulling toward me. I went by and the bigger of the two dogs leaped out as hard as it could and I felt a nasty sharp pain lance across my left arm. It happened so fast I was already ten feet beyond them before it really registered. I thought, "well, maybe that dog just scratched me with its claws." But having owned a dog, and having felt her claws on me as a matter of course over the years, I knew I hadn't been clawed. It just didn't feel right. I looked at my arm and there were teeth marks surrounded by a wet smear of saliva. I looked again. I stopped and said, "Jesus fucking Christ, that dog bit me! MOTHERFUCKER!" I was furious and upset. I looked helplessly back down the trail. As much as I wanted to sprint back down the trail and confront the guy, what good would that do? He wasn't even within sight any more. I spat out another furious "GOD DAMN MOTHERFUCKER!" glared at my arm, and then gestured at the trail: "Well, let's get on with it." I grumbled and muttered the rest of the way and by the time we finished and returned to the parking lot, the teeth indentations had turned an angry red and the faint shadow of a bruise was beginning to appear. Now, several days on, the scratches left by teeth have faded to faint red lines but the bruise remains, a ring of purple with a clot of yellow in the middle. And it still hurts.

What do y'all think? Should I have stopped the moment I felt the dog's teeth make contact with my skin and raised a huge fuss? Fortunately, my skin was not broken, but...a strange dog bit me. On the arm, for crying out loud. Four feet off the ground. What if there had been a small child on the trail instead? Its cheek might have looked awful tempting. What's more, the guy never made any attempt to verbally control his dogs. No "sit," "stay," "down," or even a simple "no!" Nothing. Just the lame (and completely inaccurate, IMO) "Oh, they're friendly." Yeah. What the fuck ever, asshole. In my experience it's the dogs who are announced as being "friendly" that are the ones you need to watch out for, like the black bear in dog's clothing which attacked our then-three-month-old puppy on the sidewalk. As this tank of a dog came lumbering toward me and Hannah, its owner called out, "Oh, don't worry, he's friendly," just before the beast, hunched and bristling, plowed into both of us, knocking Hannah over onto the concrete. I was completely horrified and had no idea what to do. Hannah was squealing and I was on the verge of screaming myself and then the wretched "friendly" dog's owner arrived and grabbed it by the flab at the back of its neck and hauled it back into its house. Another "friendly" dog that was anything but. Every single time I go by that house and that jerkoff dog barks at me and runs up and down the fence in its yard, I narrow my eyes and think, "Friendly my ASS!"

So anyway...despite my tendency to shrink from any hint of confrontation, I think I blew it by not making a scene (okay, maybe just a small scene) immediately after the unfortunate intersection of Vector A (dog teeth) and Vector B (my bicep). I'd like to say, "Next time I won't be such a WIMP!" except I really hope there is not a next time.

In other news, this evening was the first gathering of this summer's session of Running Fit 501, the group training program I did last year. We met at the RF warehouse for a two-mile time trial, which I did in 14:21 (6:58 and 7:22). Our little Chelsea/Dexter group has grown considerably and tomorrow we have our first group run in Dexter, an easy run, since we had what amounted to a mini-speed workout tonight. After this, our Thursday group runs will be speed work(maybe some hill intervals, too? I'm not sure) at the track in Dexter. This is good, because I want to work on my speed. I'm determined to break 22:00 in a 5K before the end of the year. Bring on the 800 meter repeats!

And now, some random pictures:

If only it were this easy!

Randy Step, the owner of Running Fit, decides to forgo a plate and just eat pizza right out of the box. This was during the Swamp Party (literally, a kegger in the middle of a swamp) after the Tooth, Fang & Claw 10K "fun run" last week. I ran it in something like 52:00, got a free pint glass (leftover swag from some long-ago race), was harrassed by mosquitoes, drank cheap beer, and had a great time.

Speaking of bad beer...this can of Busch Light sits in the middle of chalk marks in the parking lot of a defunct Service Merchandise in Westland, which was the starting point for my first-ever outing with the Motown-Ann Arbor Hash House Harriers last Sunday. Yes, I am no longer a hash virgin. There was mud, mosquitoes, poison ivy (I didn't get any on me because I wore pants) and lots of really, really cheap beer. I drank...Labatt Blue Light...out of a can...forgive me, O beer snobs!

Finishing up the two-mile time trial. I'll see all my RF501 peeps at Thursday's group run!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Oh My God!

Congratulations! On behalf of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, we are pleased to notify you that you have been selected in the lottery to participate in the sixth annual Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run! Winning entrants who will be asked to serve as ambassadors will receive a separate notification.
Oh, wow! Oh, holy shit! I guess I know what I'll be doing on Labor Day.

I entered the lottery for the Bridge Run last year but was not selected. Perseverance, people! Now, let's see if I can extend my lucky streak to the New York City Marathon lottery...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Race Reports: Two For Two

People. I need race rehab or something. Seriously. Since April 29 I have run five races: two 5Ks, two 10Ks, and the marathon. I set personal records at four of those races, including one which stood for all of eight days before falling like a house of cards. I already wrote up the two 5Ks and the marathon. I'm here today to discuss my latest racing addiction, the 10K.

It started with the Bayshore race on the 23rd. I was in Traverse City in order to support a couple of running friends (FK & JF) who were running the Bayshore Marathon. I decided that six days off were more than enough. I hadn't run a single step since the Cleveland Marathon the previous Sunday. I was itching to get back on the road. Thus, I signed up for the 10K at the race expo Friday evening. Of course I had come to Traverse City prepared to run; I had a whole separate bag packed only with running clothes (multiple outfits, if you must know).

I had my highly irritating year-old PR in the back of my mind and I really wanted to break it, to run under 50:00, but I didn't know what my body was ready for. I had been hobbling around like a cripple all week and my legs were just beginning to feel normal again. So, I thought, just run and enjoy yourself. It's supposed to be fun, after all. You're not training for anything. Just run and have a good time and remind yourself why you love this sport so much. I didn't get off to an auspicious start, trapped as I was way in the back of the pack behind people walking four abreast and such. I did the usual bob-and-weave until I was running in the clear and could open up my stride. The course was a straight-up out-and-back along the Traverse Bay shoreline, and was quite beautiful, as well as pancake-flat. My legs felt surprisingly loose and limber, and I let myself flow over the road like water. Shortly before the turnaround I passed a somewhat familiar face (that's what you get for posting pictures of yourself on your blog!) for which I had been keeping an eye out: it was Nitmos. I saw him coming toward me on the other side of the road and we gave each other a silent "hey, I know you" point. I reached the halfway point in the vicinity of 24:00, and, still feeling fresh, kicked it up a couple of notches. I started picking out people ahead of me to pass based on completely shallow, arbitrary reasons. That chick with the way, way too short shorts? Toast. The teenager who was fading fast? See ya. The douchebag who would zip by me only to fade and slow (lather, rinse, repeat on that one)? Gone. That guy with the ugly-ass outfit? Eat my dust. I sped up even more and before I knew it I was rounding the final turn onto the track where only 300 meters of all-weather surface separated me and the finish. I pounded down the homestretch and knew a PR was all wrapped up when I hit the line and Garmy said 48:13.

Splits: 8:02, 7:48, 7:44, 7:49, 7:40, 7:24. Final chip time: 48:11 (7:46/mile avg); 7/134 AG; 47/849 women; 207/1419 overall; NEW PR by 1:49.

Note the laserlike focus as I near the finish line! My Bondi Band matches my shorts. This was not an accident.

The classic "stop the watch!" finish line pose.

Nitmos pointed out that I missed out on age group hardware by a mere 11 seconds. If I'd finished in 48:00 I would have been in fifth place in my AG and therefore would have collected some bling. Next time!

After changing into clean clothes, I took a shuttle bus out to the mile 20 spectator spot on the marathon course and, armed with my Big Sign, waited for JF & FK to appear. In due time they both did, and I ran with each of them briefly. It was the very least I could do for FK, who ran with me for three miles during Cleveland.

Not content with this effort, I decided to run the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10K on Sunday the 31st. I wanted to erase all traces of my overly round numbered PR from the race last year, even though I had successfully killed it a week earlier. The morning of the race was unusually chilly for this time of year; when I got up it was 39 degrees. Nonetheless, I wore my sleek new running skirt and tank top outfit (let's call it Summer Stealth Bomber) which I had purchased at the race expo on Saturday. Once again I found myself stuck too far back in the huge field when the race began, although in retrospect this was most likely beneficial because it prevented me from tearing out too fast and blowing my wad too early in the race. Once I had delicately threaded my way up to my pace peers, I relaxed. I felt amazing, even better than I had the week before. I found the coveted "my body is a machine" groove and let myself glide over the road with next to no effort. Even during the final mile I felt superb, and powered up the nasty hill to the finish. I was working very hard at the end, and I started to feel a sick burning sensation which I can only assume was lactic acid buildup. I crossed the finish line knowing I had crushed my PR again; Garmy said 47:15.

Splits: 7:57; 7:32, 7:28, 7:26, 7:27, 7:23. Final chip time: 47:13 (7:36/mile avg). 9/170 AG; 34/876 women; 168/1624 overall. NEW PR by 58 seconds!

Here I come!

I think I look like a "real runner" in this picture. Why, I'm moving so fast I'm out of focus!

After an incredible month of running, I am taking it easy, at least until 1) the Flirt with Dirt 5K trail race on June 13 and 2) the Green Mountain Relay the weekend of the 20-21. I'm fully recovered (as far as I can tell) from the marathon and I'm enjoying running on my own terms again.