Thursday, December 30, 2010

Name Recognition

You know you're a runner when:

You see the name "Bill Rodgers" listed as a dissertation committee member and you think, "Hey! How cool that he has the same name as the running legend!"

In other news, I have paronychia. That is what has been plaguing my wee little piggy toe since Thunder Road. My brother took about two seconds to diagnose me when I thrust my bare foot at him on Christmas. A visit to the doctor earlier this week confirmed it. I am taking antibiotics and have inserted a foam wedge between my little toe and the one next to it (is it considered one's "ring toe"?) to allow it to have room to breathe, so to speak. I escaped the lance because I took a needle to it myself about two weeks ago, which opened it enough to allow fluid drainage, but it wasn't healing because it was pressed against its neighbor. Hence the wedge.

When I got up this morning and made my trip to the bathroom, I realized as I was sitting on the throne that I had walked down the hall without limping and without holding my right foot in the awkward, curled-toes-side-of-foot configuration I was forced to adopt in order to keep my little piggy toe from touching the ground. Holy shit, it's actually getting better! I can see the light at the end of the bacteria-infected tunnel.

Last week I went for my first run since the marathon: the third annual Christmas Day 5K. It's not a race, it's just me running in my parents' neighborhood. My toe hurt like hell but I managed the 3.1 miles in just over 31 minutes. Other than that, I have been wallowing in sloth and gluttony and have no plans to cease either until the new year has started.

Have a Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charlotte Nightlife

I said I wouldn't find anything to write about before the weekend. Apparently, I lied.

During my first night in Charlotte, I woke up abruptly because of a loud noise. Banging. Hammering. What the hell...? groggy thoughts as I pulled myself into consciousness. A thumping sound in the hallway. I tiptoed to the door and put my eye to the peephole. Some guy was slumped against the door of the room adjacent to mine (for reference, my room was at the end of a short hallway, and the entrance to the room next door was at 90 degrees to mine, so I could see everything). I watched, fascinated, as he swayed and bumped against the wall and doorframe. A limp hand pawed at the handle. Muffled incoherent mumbling. He pushed back and stood upright...or quasi-upright. I realized he was totally drunk and probably had no idea where he was. Another futile jiggle of the door to his room...then he turned and tried my door handle. My face was inches from his, but I wasn't frightened; in fact, I was having trouble suppressing laughter. He turned away and began stumbling down the hall, caroming off the walls. I heard a distinct "FUCK!" as he turned the corner and disappeared...only to reappear about five seconds later, whereupon he threw himself at his door, pounded on it a couple of times (did he expect it to open magically?), leaned against the frame, and then retraced his crooked steps down the hall, bouncing off the walls as he went. I waited at the peephole to see if he would come back, and when nothing happened I went back to bed. About five minutes later I heard noise in the hall: the tinny beeping of the electronic lock disengaging, then the chunk-crash of the door opening and closing. Drunk Guy had returned with a new keycard and was safe. All was well.

It's after noon and I am in my pajamas. Darwin is propped up on my arm on the computer desk, purring madly. I have some Christmas shopping to do, and we're still under a boil water advisory. Yesterday I saw "Black Swan," talk about a twisted (but awesome) movie. Later today I get to see two old friends and tomorrow I am heading to Ohio. Now, if only I could do something about this damn snow everywhere...

Off to shower. I'll try not to get any pathogen-infested water in my mouth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Want to See Other Races

Look, marathon, it's not you, it's me. I've just...well, maybe it is you. We've been together for a little over two years, and we had some really awesome times together (remember New York '09?) but lately I've been feeling like you don't really appreciate me. You haven't been very nice to me lately. I think...I want to take a break and see other distances. I'm sorry. I haven't been giving you the attention you deserve and that's not good for either of us. I'm not ruling out getting back together in the future, but right now I need some space to think about things and figure out what I really want from a relationship with you.

There's a hot little half marathon I want to date for a while, and some 10Ks hovering on the sidelines as well. Yeah, there are a lot of races competing for my attention, but you'll always have a special place in my heart, marathon.


So, yeah. I'm breaking up with the marathon for an indeterminate amount of time. I've completed five of them, and I've come to the realization that running that far...

...basically sucks. Even when I'm in peak physical condition (Cleveland '09) it still sucks. Since I'm not a fan of purposely inflicting pain on myself, I've decided not to do it again for a good long while. Yes, I want to run Chicago, and I'd like to run NYC again, and I dream about completing all of the "big five" marathons (I need Chicago, London, and Berlin, having already done Boston and NYC), but I believe 2011 is going to be a marathon-free year.

I'm going to concentrate on:

1. Losing weight
2. Getting a little bit of my speed back
3. Running and racing for fun with friends and family

I know I will be back in Cleveland for the half marathon in May, but that's the only race I am positive I will be doing. Other possibilities include the Martian Half (April) and a half marathon in Ft. Wayne in September. There is also the usual slew of local 5Ks and 10Ks that I have been doing every year (Shamrocks & Shenanigans, Dexter-Ann Arbor Run). I will have plenty to do, and the prospect of spending the year free of a rigid training schedule is enough to make me feel giddy. The thought of not having to get up early on a Saturday to run 14 or 16 miles in frigid weather...? DO YOU KNOW HOW HAPPY THAT MAKES ME?


My toe.

It is fucked up. I didn't say much else about it in my race report, but after peeling off my sock and peering at the digit, I realized something very bad had occurred. It's been 10 days since the race and it's not any better. I believe the nail is ingrown, it's infected, and still oozing a clear substance. It's extremely painful and makes walking difficult. I messed with it a little bit (poked it with a needle, peeled off some skin) which probably didn't help. I need medical assistance, but I will have to wait until next week after I return from Ohio.

Stupid toe.


Alarming things you do not want to have happen in the middle of the night: being woken up by a loud, strange noise coming from one's toilet. It sounded like my toilet was about to erupt. I was too scared to lift the tank lid to see what was happening so I just turned off the water valve. It wasn't until I got up for work at 7:00 that I learned Chelsea had experienced a major water main break around 1:00 am, which sent a half million gallons of water into the woods on the east side of town. The break was repaired, but my pipes are full of air (hence the bubbling toilet and spitting faucets). We're under a boil water advisory for at least the rest of today. I have to go home and run my faucets to get rid of the rest of the air and restore the water pressure. What a hassle.

In other news: today is my last day of work for six days! I won't be back in Cube World until Tuesday the 28th!

I probably won't find anything to write about before Christmas, so have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thunder Road Marathon: The South Rose Again

I knew I was in trouble when I saw the T-shirt that said "Flat is for sissies."

 I'm doomed
It was Friday morning in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was at the race expo picking up my packet and some goodies (more cute hair bands). I had arrived in the city the day before, taken a taxi from the airport, and settled into my sweet 14th floor hotel room in the heart of "uptown" Charlotte. From my window I could see the Time Warner Arena, where the Charlotte Bobcats play. If I pressed my face against the glass I could just barely see the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I had a king-size bed and FIVE pillows (I love pillows). All this for only $89 a night!? Yes. Note to interested parties: if you ever want to visit Charlotte, I highly recommend the Hilton Center City. It rocks.

I was due to have dinner with one of my oldest friends, Ellen, Thursday night, so to pass the time until she was done with work I ventured down to the hotel bar and sampled some local microbrews from Red Oak (Greensboro) and Old Mecklenburg (Charlotte). At the restaurant with Ellen a few hours later I ate cornbread and grits and had a beer from Asheville's Highland Brewing (Black Mocha Stout, oh yum). I was in the South, after all, an area of the country I had limited experience with, and I wanted to absorb as much local flavor as I could.

Friday after the expo I lazed around my room waiting for Carolina John to show up. After two-plus years of being blogger buddies, we were finally going to meet each other! He arrived, and after some discussion, it was decided we would head to South Carolina for barbeque. I said that I had never been to South Carolina, one of only six states on my "states I have NOT been to" list, and, considering SC is extremely close to Charlotte, it was an irresistable temptation. Off we went in the car, a trip during which I learned about kudzu, the world's largest fireworks store (according to CJ, that's because Southerners like to "blow shit up"), the word "you'uns," (I believe it's a variation of "y'all"), and the giant butt in the sky (actually a water tower painted like a peach). We ended up in Gaffney, where I made my prerace dinner out of South Carolina chopped BBQ, hush puppies, baked beans, and a First Snow pale ale from RJ Rockers (Spartanburg, SC). Of this momentous meeting of run-bloggers, I sadly did not get a single picture of us together. Major fail.

Thus it was that I moved South Carolina onto my "states I have visited" list. I'm coming for you next, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Washington, and Alaska!

Back at the hotel, I decided it was time to wind down and go to bed. I didn't have to get up ridiculously early, because my hotel was a short walk away from the starting area, and the race didn't start until 7:45. What a welcome change-- not having to get up at 4:30 am the morning of a marathon! I readied my gear, set the alarm for 6:30, and settled in with my five pillows. I can't say I had a particularly restful slumber. It took me a long time to fall asleep, and I repeatedly woke during the night. I awakened at 6:29 and savored a final minute of rest before abruptly sitting up and saying to no one in particular, "Well, let's get this over with."

I got a banana and a cup of coffee from the quick breakfast offerings at the hotel restaurant, strapped on my various accessories, and headed to the starting area. I left the hotel perhaps a wee bit too late, because I was still frantically untangling my iPod headphones as the crowd began shuffling toward the starting line after the gun. I managed to get the 'phones settled and iPod going before I had to start running (but just barely).

I felt good, but I knew it wouldn't last. I was in for a world of pain, it was just a question of when it would arrive. Within a quarter-mile I was running down the street directly in front of my hotel. I thought, "I could just step out and go back in the hotel and forget this whole thing...I could in bed, all warm and relaxed, in less than five minutes."

I seriously considered this option for two seconds. Then I thought, "No, I came here to do this. I have a job to do today, so let's get it done."

Charlotte skyline. Yes, I stepped off to the side to take this picture.

The first half of the course was the nicest, and not just because I still felt fresh. We passed through some lovely residential neighborhoods of big houses, big lawns, and big trees where a lot of people were watching the race still dressed in their pajamas, holding cups emitting lazy curls of steam in the cold morning air. Groups of kids wrapped in blankets huddled on front lawns. I smelled barbeque more than once. I rolled with the hills, taking it super slow and easy. I was in no hurry at all.

I told you: big trees.

 In the early miles, when life was still good

Miles 1-13: 9:40, 10:10, 9:43, 9:43, 9:57, 9:34, 9:52, 9:56, 9:47, 9:50, 9:57, 10:17, 12:35 (first bathroom break). Time at the half: 2:12:57.

If I could hold my pace, I would finish close to 4:30, a time far off my best but about what I was expecting.

When the half marathoners peeled off and headed to their finish, I felt a brief, intense wave of jealously and longing wash over me. I would have done anything to be almost done, but I had half the race yet to run, and I was starting to feel the effects of my lack of training.

I didn't know it, but I would not run another sub-10:00 mile again. My pace started sliding...10:03, 10:12, 10:22...

It was during mile 17 that the shit really hit the fan. My feet were killing me and my quads weren't happy, either. Faced with yet another hill, I walked. I hadn't walked in a race since the May 2007 Blossom Time five-miler in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. I had always taken a certain amount of pride in my ability to power through any amount of pain and exhaustion in order to keep moving, never stopping. However, this time, I was done. I was toast. I walked. This pattern would repeat itself many times over the remaining 9 miles of the race: slow, painful jog, walk up a hill...slow, painful jog, walk up a hill. The knowledge that I had what felt like an insurmountable number of miles yet to cover made me want to cry. My legs were on fire, my feet were screaming in pain, and there was something funky going on with the pinky toe on my right foot (more on that later).

I barely remember anything about the second half of the race. I sank into a fog of pain and barely looked up from the pavement in front of me. I can't remember anything I saw. It's all an indistinct blur of buildings and streets. I know I took another bathroom break, and my Garmin split for mile 19 (16:40) reflects this. Somewhere along the way I passed a group of people with a table set up in their yard; they were handing out shots of beer. Of course I stopped and had one! I'm a hasher through and through, I never turn down small amounts of cheap beer, even in the midst of agony. A few miles later I came across another, larger, more boisterous bunch of folks partying in their yard. Some guy was standing there with a red plastic cup and I immediately pulled over and said, "I'll take that!" He said, "Are you sure, it's beer." He said most people stopped thinking it was water and, once they learned it was beer, continued on without drinking it. I replied, "Fuck yeah, I don't care," and slammed it. Once again, I'm a hasher, I never turn down beer on trail. At that point I was looking for anything to take my mind off the disaster that was my race.

With maybe three miles left, I decided I wanted to put an end to the agony as quickly as possible. It hurt more to walk and resume running again, so I was going to run the rest of the race NO MATTER HOW SHITTY I FELT. I have never wanted something to end as badly as that race, and the more time I spent running, the sooner it would be OVER.

I was crawling through the pain cave, totally immersed in my own suffering. My quads were at terror alert level red and every footfall felt like I was stepping on knives. I cursed all those missed long runs, cursed my flippant attitude toward training over the previous few months, cursed the extra 25 pounds hanging on me that made my knees and ankles ache. I was in as black and foul a mood as I have ever been in my life.

 Not feeling the love

But I was slowly, painfully, closing in on the finish. I was getting it done, the job I had come to Charlotte to do.

Mile 25. One mile to go. One fucking mile. And then: something happened to my toe. It felt like it had been squeezed and popped like an overripe tomato. If I thought it felt weird and uncomfortable before, this was something else entirely. I immediately stopped and started walking (and my feet and legs sent up a fresh chorus of agonized wails), limping badly. Some guy next to me asked if I was all right and I said, "Something really weird just happened to my toe, I think a blister popped or something!" He asked me if I wanted some water and I declined; that was the only thing that had gone right in this race: I was well-hydrated. No, I said, "I just want this to be over! We're so close to being done!"

I ground my teeth and forced myself to start moving again. Oh, my god, the pain in my foot was incredible, unreal. I felt wetness and I knew I was either squishing blood or some other body fluid around in my shoe. I was so tired by now I was bending forward...perhaps gravity would assist me in my controlled fall toward the end.

The final turn of the course was at mile 26, leaving me with a straight shot of less than a quarter-mile to the finish. I saw the banner in the distance and I kept my eyes glued to it while I jog-limped as fast as I could toward it. The pain cave was brightening; I was rising up out of the dark. I was almost...done...almost...

And then I was. Done. Oh sweet baby Jesus, I crossed the finish, I stopped, it was over. OVER.


I have never been so glad in my ENTIRE LIFE to be done with something as I was to be done with that race. That includes: taking the GRE, writing both my undergraduate and graduate theses, driving 750 miles in one day, remodeling my dining room, all four of my previous marathons combined, and shoveling my driveway for two hours in a blizzard. I may even go so far as to say the relief I felt exceeded the selfsame feelings I had when I woke up in recovery after my hysterectomy, knowing my long nightmare was finally over.

  I have a really weird look on my face, but the photographer surprised me. That, or I was too tired to smile properly.

I got my medal, Mylar blanket, a banana, and a bottle of water. I clutched the wrap around me and slowly limped back to the hotel. Thank god it was less than a quarter-mile away. I got to my room, let the door wheeze shut behind me, let the blanket drift to the floor, set the water and banana on the desk, and bookended my comment to myself from six and a half hours earlier with:

"That was the most horrible fucking thing I have ever done."

You know what, though? I did it. I finished. I worked harder and suffered more for that finisher's medal than in any previous race. I shed blood for this marathon, as I discovered when I peeled off my socks.

 Debris of disaster

 Completely exhausted, but strangely triumphant: I DID IT.

After cleaning up (holy god that hot shower felt good), I put on my awesome black compression socks ($5.00 at Meijer), some fresh clothes, and slooooowly limped my way up the street for...


I also ordered the most outrageous burger on the menu, the ULTIMATE BACON CHEDDAR, with "twice the bacon, three times the cheese." I was leaning toward the black bean burger (it's HEALTHY!) and then I thought, "FUCK THAT. I just ran a goddamn MARATHON, I burned at LEAST 3,000 calories, I'm going to get the GIANT PILE of BEEF, BACON, and CHEESE. I EARNED it!"

So I did. And it was fucking delicious. (So was the beer.)

A few hours later Ellen picked me up again and took me to her and her husband's place for dinner, where I consumed more beer and ate homemade shepherd's pie. I also made the acquaintance of their wonderful cat, Mr. G:

I was cat-deprived so I gave this handsome boy a TON of love. He had the most majestic whiskers and was super friendly.

I felt myself spiraling toward oblivion around 8:30 and I knew I didn't have much longer before I crashed. I hadn't taken a nap after the race and I was seriously circling the drain. I had Ellen take me back to the hotel where I immediately changed into my pajamas and then...WHAM. I collapsed into bed with my five pillows and finally allowed my aching, exhausted body to rest.

The next day I was in the Charlotte airport nervously awaiting departure. I knew a bad snowstorm was at that moment blanketing a large portion of the Midwest; I had seen the flight status boards covered with "DELAYED" and "CANCELLED" and I didn't want my flight to be among them. We boarded on time, left on time, and landed in Detroit ahead of schedule. However, this is what greeted me upon returning to my home state:

Welcome to Michigan!

Driving the forty miles home-- the final leg in my four-day odyssey-- was about as bad as you might expect given the above picture. When I arrived at my home sweet home, I did as little as possible (hang up coat, turn up furnace, retrieve mail, drop suitcase on floor) before crawling into bed and pulling the comforter up to my nose. 

Except for going to work, that's where I stayed for the next five days. The irritating sore throat which had been bothering me before the marathon took advantage of my weakened physical state and dove in for the kill. It quickly erupted into a full-blown chest cold. Monday and Tuesday were...I really have no words. Gruesome. Horrible. Miserable. I could barely walk; what I was doing was more like hobbling. My throat burned and my nose ran like a leaky faucet. My voice was a harsh croak. I came home from work and went straight to bed, totally spent from being awake for nine hours. I could do nothing more than lie there and read while ingesting cough medicine, Nyquil, and various pills. I turned my light off between 8:30 and 9:00 every night. I had no appetite and I lost eight pounds in less than a week. I hung on by the skin of my teeth until Friday when I finally took a day off from work. I was absolutely wasted. The marathon and being truly sick for the first time in years smashed me flat.

Well, there was one bright spot, which was Tuesday afternoon. I met one of my hashing buddies at an Ann Arbor beer bar for their Stouts & Porters Celebration. I had three amazing rich, dark beers. After parting ways I was walking through Nickels Arcade and passed a barber shop. I jerked to a halt, pivoted on my heel, went inside, and fifteen minutes later I emerged with my first real haircut in two years. I say "real" because the last "haircut" I had was the one I gave to myself a year ago with my utility scissors while standing in my bathtub. I had the barber eliminate a couple inches of raggedy frazzled crap and give some shape to the rest, which as allowed my curls to come out and play:

The best part: it only cost $16 ($20 with tip).I am a firm believer in cheap haircuts.

Today, my legs feel okay and the cold has receded, though it has left a sizable amount of flotsam in the form of goopy snot in my lungs and sinuses which I am perpetually hacking up. I still have very little desire to eat and not much energy. That's fine, however, since...


That's the best feeling of all.

Final stats: 4:54:34 (11:15/M), 66/88 F35-39, 1087/1295 OA

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


You know you ran a marathon recently when you have to use a handicapped stall every time you go to the bathroom. Those safety bars are the only thing standing between me and an embarrassing toilet-related incident.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Twelve Hour Shift

Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 5:55. Instead of bounding out of bed to run 3 miles, I reset it for an hour later. The cost of this extra hour snuggled in bed with the kitties was that I would have to run after work. Remember how I mentioned Punishment Runs last week? This was one of them.

I had to take one of the kitties to the vet first, and when I finished around 5:30 it was becoming dark and cold. I allowed myself a small mental whine of "I don't wanna go running's too dark!" before thinking, "Hey, stupid, you run in the morning when it's even darker and colder, so shut up, put the clothes on, and get out there. Jeez, it's only three miles, quit being such a baby."

So I did. I left the house at 6:15 PM instead of 6:15 AM. Same amount of light, same temperature, wholly different atmosphere. The traffic was heavier; it was the tail end of rush hour. There were more people walking dogs. The cemetery seemed less creepy. The ambient noise level was higher. I didn't feel as if I were the only person on earth as I often do in the early morning.

While I enjoyed being lazy and getting out of bed at the last possible moment, I prefer running in the morning. I like completing my run before I go to work, meaning I can proceed directly to comfortable clothes and the sofa when I get home in the afternoon. I enjoy the calm and quiet of the predawn streets. And yes, there is a selfish element of "I'm hardcore!" when I get up at 5:45 and run five or six miles, especially now that the temperatures when I leave the house are in the low 20s and it's snowing.

That said...once again, this morning, I didn't get up until 7:00, which means I will be doing another Punishment Run after work. Is this a trend? Will the trend become a habit...and then the normal routine?


Things you do not wish to experience before running a marathon:

Waking up with a scratchy throat and sniffles.

Since I began running, my immune system has become more robust and I rarely get sick. I know from experience that a sore throat, which used to be a harbinger of doom, will rarely morph into a full-blown cold. I hope that with my ample daily water intake (3 liters) and nightly sleep (7-8 hours) this thing will not progress past the minor annoyance stage.This race is going to be difficult enough without throwing a viral infection on top of it.

Tonight I must begin packing for my trip. The forecast for Saturday in Charlotte has race morning temperatures in the low forties, which is perfect. I'll pack clothing for any possible weather event and then I'll probably just end up wearing my trusty running skirt and Chelsea Market short-sleeved shirt.

Returning to Detroit could get ugly. Another major storm is predicted to blow through the Great Lakes region Saturday. I hope it leaves Michigan behind by Sunday afternoon. Nevertheless, I will have plenty of reading material on hand in case I end up trapped in airport hell. 

Only three days left until the race!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday Thoughts: Things are Looking Up

Wednesday morning's run was a huge improvement over Tuesday's, meaning I managed to stay upright and did not trip and fall on my face!

My knuckle is a mess. When I fell on top of it, a piece of my flesh was gouged out. There is a divot in the back of my hand. Next to it is a pasty, wrinkly thing I think is a flap of skin, yet I don't really feel like peeling it off. Next to that is an abrasion that perpetually weeps clear fluid. Yummy! My chin is starting to darken. I see the epic bruise approaching.

When I left the house this morning, there were snowflakes lazily drifting through the glow of the streetlight. It looked like the inside of a snow globe that had been freshly agitated. I ran five miles through the falling snow, feeling it dampen my face. I swung through the subdivision on the east side of town, and when I rounded a curve that would start me on my homeward trek, a brisk and cutting west wind smacked me in the face. I had kept the wind at my side or back until then and the sudden pushback and burst of snow into my eyes was an unwelcome reminder that the real meat of winter is irrevocably approaching. In two months when the snow is deep and hard-packed and the wind slices through my warmest clothing, I will long for this kind of morning.

Punishment runs. Who else does this? Hit the snooze button one too many times, thereby missing one's opportunity for a morning run: "I will run after work as punishment." Eat one too many sushi rolls or brownies: "Well, I guess I have to run an extra mile as punishment." I do this a lot. Guilt is a powerful motivator.

Last night I armed myself with my drain snake, a bucket, and a pair of latex gloves and did battle with my ever-recalcitrant kitchen sink drain. I snaked the fuck out of that thing, I snaked it so hard I ran the entire 25-foot length of the cord into the pipe from the kitchen and did it again from the basement. And you know what...I FIXED IT. I FIXED that fucker. FIXED. I solved a problem that had been a constant annoyance for years by making a slight adjustment to something, and it's FIXED. People, you don't know how satisfying it is for me to tackle a home maintenance issue and obtain a positive outcome. I am not a handyman type. I get nervous around tools. Taking things apart-- and having to put them back together correctly-- is frightening. Therefore, to face down plumbing and have everything turn out well is a huge ego boost. Next thing you know I'll rebuild my engine. :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Concrete Punch

I trotted down my driveway around 6:15 intending to do my three-mile loop. At the last moment I swerved away from my usual course and decided to do three-mile loop Version B. "Something different, for once," I thought. I was motoring along the sidewalk when my left foot caught the edge of an upthrust slab of concrete. Instantly I was airborne, arms flailing. I desperately tried to get my right leg up and under me. If it hadn't rained overnight I might have succeeded, but instead my shoe failed to grip the wet pavement and I was going down. My left knee hit first, followed by my left palm which I had thrust out to catch myself. Scrape. Fail. My body turned and I fell onto my right arm, hand trapped under me and grinding on the ground. Then my chin hit, just under my jaw on the right side. Finally, the worst of all: forehead, meet concrete. My scrambling had done nothing to check my descent to the pavement. The pain as my head connected with the ground was stunning, instantaneous, overwhelming. The knob on the pain-o-meter was cranked past eleven so hard and fast it broke.


This all happened in about two seconds, but I saw the rain-darkened surface rushing toward my face and knew it was going to be bad. I turned my head slightly, which I think saved my teeth and nose from being broken (good for me, bad for my dentist).

My head ricocheted and I barrel rolled onto someone's lawn, fetching up on my knees and forearms. I cradled my head gently, hand against the spot above my eye, cool wet grass against my face, soaking through my pants and shirt. I could do little more than croak "Oh my God" a few times and then I started panting because I felt like I was going to barf right there on that nice tidy Chelsea lawn. I had two thoughts: one, I really hope I didn't sustain a concussion. Two, I really hope the owner of this house doesn't see me and come outside. I knelt there for a while until the immediate agony subsided and then I slowly got to my feet. All motivation for my run was gone. I had to get home and assess the damage. My hand was throbbing; I looked down and saw blood. My chin was starting to tingle; I had been so consumed by the awfulness of the pain in my head I barely realized my chin was a victim as well. My left hand was stinging like crazy. Even the toes on my left foot hurt where I had stubbed them against that cockeyed slab, that slab which started it all. I looked back and saw it and I GLARED.

I walked the quarter-mile home and went right up to the bathroom to take a look.

The red dot in the center of my forehead was a totally evil pimple I conquered the night before. The little red line above my eyebrow is the culprit. Do not be fooled by its innocent appearance.

Some chin music. If you look really carefully there's a fleck of gray concrete stuck to my face right by the corner of my mouth. 

I discovered a chunk of stone under my ring after I got in the shower. It must have been jammed through the open design when I landed on my hand.  While I was in the shower I started feeling odd, kind of unsteady and vaguely nauseated. I decided it would be best if I finished up quickly because I didn't want to pass out in the shower. I had hit my head one time too many that morning. I went and laid down for about 10 minutes (with Bouhaki, who was all snuggled up under the covers with his head on my pillow...CUTENESS), drank a cup of water, and I was fine. Well, not totally fine, since my face felt like it had been clobbered, but I was upright and functional.

I inspected the development of the scrapes throughout the day and I am happy (?) to report that my chin is swollen and is already blooming into a nice bruise, and my hand and head have darkened up as well.
My middle knuckle took the brunt of it. My poor ring is all gouged up.

 Forehead scrape. It looks like nothing but it felt like being hit with a hammer.
 Thank goodness for big chins, because without mine I probably would have busted my teeth.

I suspect that in the coming days both areas will become a spectrum of colorful bruising. I will take pictures, of course.

Two things to consider:

1. I have been running around town for four years and despite Chelsea's occasionally uneven sidewalks, I have never tripped.

2. Last night I was conversing with the owner of the New Chelsea Market and expressed my preference for running in the dark predawn hours when the streets are quiet and mostly deserted. I said I had never felt anything but comfortable because of the abundant street lights. Never had any problems because I couldn't see where I was going.

I suppose I was asking for it.

It has been zero days since our last accident.

Monday, November 22, 2010

20 on 20

Last weekend I was visiting my ancestral homeland in northeast Ohio and when I'm three weeks out from a marathon and I find myself in the Cleveland area, you know what that means:


Flat as a pancake, no traffic, and with an overabundance of scenery...what could be better?

I was up at 7:00 am Saturday the 20th (hence the title of this post) and on the way to the trail at 7:30. When I arrived shortly before 8:00, there was a scant smattering of cars in the parking lot at the Lock 39 trailhead, which all but assured I would see almost no one else on the path.

Solitude. That's how I roll.

I trotted off at an easy 9:30/mile and allowed my mind and legs to go on autopilot as I listened to my iPod. I kept an eye out for birds and was rewarded with sightings of a red-tailed hawk, a northern flicker, a downy woodpecker, cardinals, chickadees, juncos, blue jays, and mallards. The last time I ran here (March) I saw wood ducks, but no such luck this time.

I turned around ten miles in just after passing the Brandywine ski area in Sagamore Hills. I took a pit stop at mile 11, stripped off my jacket (it was now over 50 degrees) and convinced my weary legs to start moving again. I had nine more miles to cover.

A few weeks ago I trotted fifteen and a half miles and felt hardly a twinge from any body part for the duration of the run. I felt so good I even managed to pull off a couple of sub-9:00 miles at the very end. Not so this time. Everything was protesting loudly, from the balls of my feet to my little toes to my ankles to my calf muscles to my knees to my hips to my back. I forced myself to run four miles straight through to mile 15 whereupon my reward was to walk that entire mile, leaving me with only four miles to finish the run. I made another pit stop at the canal visitor's center with 1.75 miles to go (my GI issues were in rare form that day) and then gritted my teeth and plodded onward. I was so glad to see the information kiosk by the path up to the parking lot come into view. Three and a half hours after I started, it was over. It was the toughest, slowest 20-miler I have ever done, but I got it done.

In less than three weeks I will have to run that far and then 10K more. I am resigned to the fact that this race is going to hurt, and hurt a lot.  This haphazard training season was not to my benefit. However, my body is holding up (mostly) and I am determined to gut this one out. I may have to downshift into a walk/run pattern, which I have never done. So be it. This will be my fifth marathon, and I have nothing to be embarrassed about.

And now, some pictures:

 If you dismantle something historic, you had better make sure you put it back together correctly. There was a construction project taking place at one of the original canal structures, and blocks like this were stacked all over the place, each one marked with chalk.

Left Hand Brewing's Twin SIsters Double IPA. Lunch at the B Spot in Woodmere  before I departed for Michigan on Sunday. I love me some IPAs.

And because there aren't enough cat pictures on the Internet:

Bouhaki helps me fold the Mount Everest of laundry.

Darwin is the perfect lap cat, right down to the question mark tail.

I will be returning to the ancestral homeland with the Engineer for Thanksgiving. A visit to Thirsty Dog Brewing has been placed at the top of my list of Things To Do.
This morning it was unusually warm (58 degrees) and the temperature crept up to 64 by the afternoon. Needless to say, for November in Michigan, it was odd. I took advantage of the balmy conditions and walked to and from my yoga class after work (2 miles round trip). Now, however, I can hear rain pattering on the window next to me and the wind blowing up the driveway. The cold front is moving through. Tomorrow's high will barely reach the low 40s. 

That's the Midwest for you! Summer one day and winter the next.

Weight: holding steady at 181. No loss, but no gain, either, and that's a good thing, especially after a weekend with the family.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Baby Steps

Today's birthday suit weight: 181.4.

It's not much, but it's a start.

I visited my long-dormant Daily Plate account, which has now partnered with I installed the app on my iPhone. I've resumed tracking everything I eat. I know this is the best way to hold myself accountable for my caloric consumption.

One day at a time. One pound at a time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Backsliding into November

In hashing, "backsliding" is when you fail to show up to a hash for an extended period of time. In my hash one can expect to flirt with backsliderdom after four consecutive no-shows on Sunday afternoons. I am happy to say that in the year and a half I have been hashing I have never been slapped with a down-down1 for backsliding.

The same cannot be said of my weight loss. When it comes to that, I am backsliding. Badly.

This is difficult for me to admit, but laying it out here will make me accountable. I went to the doctor on Monday morning and SOP there is to hop on a scale before anything else happens. The resulting number was one I have not seen since early 2007. I knew it was going to be bad, but I was not prepared for just how bad.

Three and a half years. Three and a half years of weight loss essentially down the drain. I wanted to cry.

182. That's what it said. 182. One hundred and eighty two pounds. There. I said it. Do you know how fucking crushed I feel at writing that number? (On the bright side, this is still 40 pounds less than I was at my heaviest.)

Now I know why my pace has been falling into the basement. I'm carting around 25 pounds (that's one economy-sized box of cat litter) more than I was when I was training for Cleveland and New York in 2009.

I can point fingers every which way in an attempt to lay the blame for this debacle (injury! nasty weather! beer!) but in the end, all the fingers point directly at me. It's my fault. I became lenient with my diet and I wasn't exercising enough. I let things slide. Backslide.

A few rays of hope, though: one, I've been through this before and I know what I have to do to reverse this unfortunate trend. Two, the last time I weighed this much I was in the nascent stages of Phase II of my running career and thought that anything over four miles was impossibly far.

Last Saturday I ran 15.5 miles and felt fresh as a daisy throughout. Yeah, I went slo-o-o-o-w-ly (average pace was 11:06, but that includes a fair bit of walking), but I ran fifteen miles at once. And that's while weighing 180 pounds.

It's time to dust off my Weight Watchers cookbooks and start doing weekly meal plans again. That worked wonders the first time around. Having ingredients on hand for five or six preplanned meals does tend to thwart the temptation to eat poorly. The rest of it is willpower and determination.

Additionally, I have kicked what's left of my training for Thunder Road into high gear. Fifteen miles last weekend will segue into 20 this coming weekend (to be run on the Towpath Trail through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of my favorite places to do 20-milers) and I'm back to doing all of my midweek runs, including my Thursday runs with my peeps at the Running Fit store. The aggravation and frustration of August and September have receded and I am happy to report that my hamstring has ceased to be an issue. That is not to say I will be sprinting through the closing meters of any Beer Miles (or anything, for that matter) anytime soon.

One little bit at a time. I can't think "I have to lose 25 POUNDS?" or I will be defeated before I even begin. My first task is to just get below 180 again. Three pounds.

On a lighter note, the last weekend of October was an eventful one. Here are some pictures. Let me show you them.

 This was during my 12-mile saunter2 around Ft. Wayne, Indiana, with the Engineer on October 30. We found a bowling ball in the middle of a soccer field. This is the most incongruous object I've ever seen on a run. After we finally got back to the car we visited the Trion Tavern in New Haven for some well-earned brews.

The Redhead and I FINALLY run a race together! This was the Run Thru Hell on Halloween. We are rocking some awesome Salvation Army-supplied Scooby Doo-inspired costumes. For the record it was about 32 degrees and I was freezing, but not as freezing as poor Redhead who is used to Florida temperatures and was wearing a sleeveless dress.

Spike as a socially awkward parental-basement-dwelling World of Warcraft player. He stayed in character the whole morning. The persona was inspired by "the greatest shirt in the world." His mom told him he had to get out and do something physical with people IRL. So he did. He also met an awesome girl who doesn't care about the weird satiny yellow shorts and crazy T-shirt and glasses wrapped with tape3. Oh, he also set a new 10K personal best. Not bad for a guy who hasn't seen sunlight in about two weeks.

The sign kind of says it all, doesn't it? For more riffs on the "Pure Michigan" tourism ad campaign, go here. You might not get it if you don't live in Michigan, but they're still funny. I laughed the hardest at "Royal Oak," "Downriver," and "U of M Football."

After all the excitement, what better way to relax than with a four-pack of Dark Horse Brewing's Scotty Karate Scotch Ale while I dole out candy to 200+ ungrateful brats?

And there went October. I have a little more than four weeks before Thunder Road...onward!

1: A "down-down" is when one is made to chug a small amount of beer as punishment for an infraction real or imagined. I have done many, many down-downs.
2: It took three hours, but in my defense, there was awesome fossiliferous limestone used as a building material that I had to look at and get all carbonate sedimentologically nostalgic about.
3: By the way that chick went home with him. Daphne, what a ho. Velma would never do that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Bad...I Guess...

Having lived in the Midwest for most of my life I know how quickly it gets dark at this time of year once the sun slips past the horizon. A run which begins in daylight at 6:00 pm will end in near-darkness an hour later. Said expedited twilight is enhanced when clouds blanket the sky.

I need to be aware of this when I do things like dress in all black and attempt to cross a busy road (in a crosswalk and with the green light right-of-way) near the end of a five-mile run.

A lady in an SUV driving into the crosswalk to make a right turn on red will screech to a halt as I pass in front of her, then pull around the corner where I am now waiting to make the next crossing, and will yell at me out her passenger-side window.

I was terribly embarrassed and didn't say anything. I thought about snapping back, "Give me a break, it wasn't dark when I left an hour ago."

She drove away in a huff, and as I crossed the next street I thought, "Note to self: from now on, BRING SAFETY VEST." It won't even be a point of contention in another couple of weeks because we will be switching back to standard time on November 7 and it will be dark at 6:00 (sob). My safety vest and headlamp will become default equipment in my winter running gear set.

My run was otherwise uneventful but for the fact that it was the first time I've run with the Thursday Night Gang since early June. The long, hot, horrible summer is over and I have no reason not to head to the Running Fit store on Thursday evenings to hang with my peeps. We even hit Banfield's afterward for beers (Bell's Two Hearted Ale).

On tap for tomorrow: 14 miles (hopefully) and then the Run Thru Hell 10K on Sunday morning!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grand Rapids Half Marathon

Six months ago, fresh off the emotional high of the Boston Marathon, I ambitiously set a goal of qualifying for another Boston at the Grand Rapids Marathon in October.

Life had other plans, as it often does.

From a dreadfully hot and humid summer that sapped me of willpower at every turn to the fateful hamstring injury in August, this was not a season to remember. I struggled, I fought, I complained, I bitched, moaned, and basically gave up.

It was the giving up that hung on my spirit more than anything. Once upon a time I went after my goals with fire in my heart and I flung myself headlong into any endeavor, gritting my teeth and powering through the long and lonely miles. That winter season of training for Cleveland, was anything as difficult as that, really? And here I was whining about running when it was insufferably hot. What about all those awful mornings when I slid out the door into a dark, frozen world and ran 6 or 7 miles? Where was that version of me when I needed her most?

Skulking around in the shadows, just beyond my field of close, yet so far away.

When I finally backed away from the full marathon, it was a huge relief. I knew that even with the spotty training I had cobbled together since mid-August I could run a half marathon. The conditioning and overall fitness I had spent the past three years building up would be enough to carry me the 13.1 miles I needed. It was going to be hard but I would survive.

So it was I found myself huddled in the crowd at the start of the Grand Rapids race on Sunday, October 17. My dad and the Engineer were by my side and somewhere in the crowd were Spike and the Redhead and three more of my running buddies (Lorenda, Larry, and Amanda). We were in this together. 13.1 miles, I had run that distance a score of times. What's 13 miles? I could do that in my sleep. sleep had lasted two months. It was time to wake up and run.

Temperature: about 45 degrees. The sun was rising and it was calm and clear. I was wearing my trusty running skirt and my special Chelsea Market shirt. I felt relaxed and ready. I was covered in Body Glide and I had a freshly charged Garmy. Bring it.

The race itself was rather uneventful. We weaved around the streets of Grand Rapids, crossing the river, winding through downtown, past riverfront and warehouses and grassy meadows. I maintained a nice, easy 9:00-9:15 pace. I stopped for a bathroom break around mile 8.5, without which I probably would have broken 2 hours, but that's okay. Around mile 10 fatigue settled in and I knew the last three miles were going to require some pushing. I hadn't run this far in a long time. Like, two months. I told you my training had gone off the rails. Gone off the rails? It was a trainwreck. A pileup.

Miles 11 and 12 slid by and before I knew it I made the last turn with about a half mile to go. I could see the finish line banner in the distance. I was almost done. So close. I was tired. I was ready for it to be over.

Onward, I told myself. You're almost done. This doesn't hurt as badly as the last half mile at Cleveland, and you're not trying to qualify for Boston, so just glide on down there nice and easy, no need to sprint (remember the hamstring debacle!), just keep it slow and steady...

I crossed the finish line and it was done. My sixth half marathon, and my second slowest at 2:05:28. I fought for that 2:05, however. I don't have anything to be ashamed of.

Late last week I met up with the Redhead for lunch as we are wont to do seeing as how we work half a mile from each other. We were unable to connect on race day to my great sadness, but that meant that last Friday we were able to get our run nerd on in fine form, including matching race shirts and medals!

Don't mind us, we're just a couple of weird runner chicks...

I can't fully relax, however, because come December 11 I will be running a marathon. A full one this time. I'm not letting this one slip away. Thunder Road is waiting. Charlotte, here I come. 

For the record, my hamstring didn't give me a single twinge for the entire race. Not a quiver, not a clench, nothing. That, my friends, is the biggest triumph of all. 


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Thoughts: Three, Two, One...


Days until the Grand Rapids Half Marathon, where I will be running with my Dad, the Redhead, and the Engineer while Spike runs the full marathon. Truthfully, if I was running the full on Sunday like I planned...I'd be crapping my pants right about now with fear. I'm so glad I only have to run 13 miles. 13 miles is nothing.


Years since I ran my first marathon, Detroit. At this time two years ago I was an excited, nervous wreck with an ice bag strapped to my ankle because I was desperately trying to get rid of a mysterious ankle ache that had been plaguing me for days.


(plus approximately seven) Hours until I get to see Sufjan Stevens LIVE IN CONCERT TONIGHT.

It's all good, folks.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Slow Runner

That would be me, not the band.

For the time being I've accepted my status as more of a tortoise than a hare. Not that I was ever super-fast to begin with, but there once was a time when I could run a 7:30 mile and not think too much of it. In fact, it felt casual and carefree. Why, just a year ago I ran a half marathon at an average pace of 7:51 per mile.

Not so much at the moment. Since the beginning of the hamstring debacle in the middle of August, my runs have been more about survival than speed. Too many days off have taken their toll.

The Grand Rapids Half Marathon is this coming Sunday. I was supposed to be staring down another Boston qualifying attempt in the marathon, and instead I will be lining up with my dad and the Redhead and hoping to maintain a 9:30 pace for 13.1 miles. Not that running with my dad, the Redhead (and possibly my sweetie, the Engineer) is that distasteful a prospect. I am sure I will enjoy myself no matter what. Any day running is better than a day without.

On October 3 I ran the Big House Big Heart 5K for the fourth time. This is a race I never miss. The thrill of running into Michigan Stadium has yet to lose its luster. Last year I ran the race in 23:46. This year I eked out a 27:24. After a crowd-clogged first mile (9:21) I was able to open up and run an 8:31 mile 2...and then my hamstring decided to revolt again. I was so mad. I had been running steadily and without pain for weeks, and now this. I limped my way through an 8:49 mile 3 to the finish.

It was not the outcome I had hoped for. Fine. Get over it and move on. The half marathon is waiting, and after that, the Thunder Road Marathon in December. Once that race is done with, I am going to back off goal-oriented training. I have been training for once major race or another for three years, and I'm tired of it. I just want to get up in the morning and run whatever distance I feel like, not something that's prescribed on a spreadsheet. I want to be able to run only three miles instead of a scheduled five and not feel guilty. I want to be able to blow off a run here and there because it's pouring rain when I wake up and not beat myself up about it. I need more cross-training and strength training.

The past two years were amazing in terms of my growth and improvement as a runner. I knew the upward trajectory could not last forever. Eventually I was going to crest the hill, reach the apex, the apogee, and begin to descend. I seem to be on a downside at the moment. I hope to pull myself out of this valley. I realize that the sub-22:00 5K, the 3:30 marathon may be beyond my ability. That's okay. I just want running to be fun again.

I may be slow, but I'm working on it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rationalization Justification

It is a wet and gray late summer afternoon as I sit here at my desk drinking a Bell's Oracle Double IPA. I have Glasser's "Home" on infinite repeat and there is a dull and persistent ache behind my right knee.

I will not be running the Grand Rapids Marathon on October 17.

Just saying those words lifts a huge weight from my shoulders. I've grappled for weeks with the question of whether to shove onward and do this race, or accept that it wasn't meant to be this time.

I am nothing if not stubborn when it comes to running, and that trait has yielded unfortunate results. I suppose I could say I have finally learned from my past mistakes1. After three years of constant training I have learned to listen to my body, to know when it is telling me enough is enough.

Sharp pain in my hamstring after five miles of slow running does not bode well for a full marathon. I know this as sure as I know that it's raining outside at this very moment.

There's the part of me that cries out, "Quitter! You're giving up this easily? Remember how you lost almost a month of training to IT band syndrome and still bounced back to qualify for Boston?"

Shut up.

I hate that voice, the one that tells me I'm weak and soft for taking the easy way out. I could force myself through these final five weeks before the marathon and then gut out the race itself, but for what? Another Boston qualifying time is completely out of the question. I know that running the full in Grand Rapids would hurt like hell. I'd be wrecked. I don't need that. There is determination and there is stupidity. Forcing myself to run a marathon in my undertrained state is stupid. I don't have to prove anything to anyone. I've completed FOUR marathons. That's 400% more than most people will do in their entire lives.

I ran today, five slow miles, accompanied almost the entire time by my friend, hamstring pain. I thought about the amazing year I had in 2009: setting new personal bests one after the other, qualifying for Boston...2009 would be difficult to improve upon under any circumstances. I ran Boston in April and that was the experience of a lifetime. Perhaps that will have to suffice as my major accomplishment of the year.

Shifting from the full to the half in Grand Rapids means I have 12 weeks until the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte. That has become my focus. 12 weeks is enough time to rehab this irritating muscle injury and rebuild my fitness for the race in December. I have a modest goal in mind for Charlotte: do better than my last two marathons (4:16 and 4:11). Breaking four hours would be even better. Forget about requalifying for Boston. If that ever happens again...wonderful. If it doesn't, well, I did it once, and the memories of that experience will be mine for a lifetime.

Side note: in three years I get another 5 minutes' worth of cushion on my Boston qualifying time...

...which also means that in three years I will be turning 40...


That is so not the way I wish to end this post, all broody and thinking about getting older. No. I'm going to end by saying that I'm going to run the Grand Rapids Half Marathon with my Dad in five weeks, and Spike will be there, and the Redhead too, and I'm going to visit Founders Brewing, and there will be much merriment and good times.

Congratulations to Carolina John on completing a half Ironman today! And to all my buddies slogging through the mud at Dances with Dirt!

1: Add to list: Never sprint the final 30 meters of a Beer Mile.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Scuse Me While I Go Insane

Thanks to Sunset and the song "Late Night Dawning" for the inspiration for this post title.

Why am I going insane?

Let's back up to Sunday, August 15. I did my 12-mile long run that morning as scheduled. It was a step-down week, and good thing, too, because seriously, folks, those 12 miles were some of the most uncomfortable I have ever endured. The warm temperatures and accompanying oppressive humidity turned those 12 miles into a soggy chafing-riddled death march. Once I was home, I stood steaming in my kitchen as sweat trickled down my legs and into my socks. There wasn't a single square inch of fabric on me that wasn't soaked through. My sports bra and shirt dripped onto the floor when I hung them up in the closet to dry out. It was disgusting.

All that badness aside, I was feeling upbeat. I felt as if things were finally gaining momentum. I was looking forward to the next phase of training.

And then I had to go and run that beer mile...

It was later on that same day that I met my hashing friends for a classic endurance event: drink a beer, run a quarter mile. Repeat three more times. Try not to barf. I was being supremely lazy, and I was having a great time. I was one of only three people who hadn't finished as the clock slid past 30 minutes. Yes, I had wasted 30 minutes "running" a beer mile. I finished my last beer and set off at a nice leisurely pace to complete my final lap. With only 30 or so meters to go, I decided to starting moving a little faster. And then I moved faster yet. And then I was sprinting like I hadn't sprinted in forever.

Then it happened: it felt like I had been stabbed in the back of my right leg as my hamstring simply gave up. Pain shot up and down my leg as I screamed and tried not to fall down. I staggered across the finish and immediately thought:

"Oh shit...what have I done?"

What did I do, indeed. I derailed my training like a 100-car trainwreck. I couldn't even walk without limping. Running was absolutely out of the question. A few days later I broke into a jog to try and catch my office building door before it locked, took two steps and felt like I'd been shot in the back of the leg. Ibuprofen and ice bags on the couch in the evenings, wincing when I moved the wrong way or bent down to put my shoes on. I waited 9 days before I tried running again. I made it about a quarter mile before I felt the tickle behind my knee that indicates my hamstring is very unhappy. Unwilling to admit defeat I pressed onward as the tickle became a hot stabbing ball of pain.

I was forced to walk. Sweating and cursing under my breath in the cool dawn air, I walked. I tried to run again. I had to stop a few hundred feet later. I was seething. I walked a little farther, then slowly trotted home despite the ache in my leg.

I let it go for a few more days, then tried again last weekend with the same results. Walk...slow, painful jog...stop.

Frustration. Anger. Denial. Despair.

Then, a tiny ray of hope: Sunday afternoon, out in the woods hashing again. This time I walked. Walked trail with my friend on a hot August afternoon, simply enjoying being outside. We must have walked four miles before losing trail and bumping into some of the other hashers. I thought, "Screw it, I'm running."

I ran...and it didn't hurt. I wasn't running very fast, but I was running. I remained hyperaware of my right leg, poised to halt at the first tickle. Except there was no tickle. My hamstring was quiet. I rolled into the beer check in a good mood. Even Budweiser in a can tasted good at this point. I was sitting at the picnic table chatting when for no reason at all I reached around and felt for the back of my waistband where I had stashed my car key.

It wasn't there.

Folks, never in my life have I said the word "FUCK" more times in less than one minute. The gentle wave of happiness I had been riding collapsed as I thought about the four-plus miles of trail I had just traversed. My car key could be anywhere.

"Stupid fucking useless Nike so-called pocket! FUCK!"

I wanted to cry. The bleak prospect of backtracking on trail in what would most likely be a futile attempt to find my lost key, a three-hour (at least) journey of being driven home, somehow getting into my house to get my spare key, driving back to the park, then finally being able to drive my own car home...

I stood up from the table, resigned and defeated. Sitting there moping wasn't going to accomplish anything. I started trudging back toward the woods. I hadn't gotten more than 50 feet away when my friend K called out, "Come back here and chill out for a second."

"NO!" I yelled.

He insisted I return to the table, and I reluctantly did. He launched into a seemingly unrelated rambling anecdote about the "trail fairy," who finds lost items on trail. "Flip cameras...cell phones...wallets...and car keys." He pointed.

My car key was lying on the table. My mouth dropped open and I screamed, "Oh my GOD!" I grabbed it in disbelief. "Who found it?"

Two of my hashing buddies had found it on trail where the path had divided to go around a tree. I knew exactly what they were talking about. It was the very spot where I had decided to start running. The key had popped out of the pouch almost instantly. They came across it lying in the dirt not long afterward and picked it up not knowing it was mine. Another hasher recognized it as the key to my Volkswagen. By the time they reached the beer check, they all knew they had my car key. How long would it take before I realized it was missing? And how long would they let me curse and rail at the heavens before the big reveal?

Quite a while, apparently, and not without some behind-my-back mirth on their part.

I was so relieved to have my lost key returned to me I didn't care. It seemed almost miraculous that they had seen a small black piece of plastic lying on the ground, something that could easily have been overlooked.

Life was good again.

Life was even better a couple of days later when I cautiously ventured out for a run. I walked about a quarter-mile to loosen up, and then began running. I kept the pace nice and slow. I ran about 1.75 miles of my 2-mile loop and it was completely painfree. Nary a tickle nor twinge from my hamstring.

With only six weeks to go until the Grand Rapids Marathon, however, I don't know if I can get this train back on the tracks in time. I should have done my first 20-miler (of a scheduled three) last Sunday. My long runs stalled at 17 miles. I feel woefully unprepared and undertrained. I want to try a longer run this weekend to assess things, and the outcome of that run could well determine whether or not I downgrade to the half marathon in GR or forgo it altogether and concentrate on the Thunder Road Marathon in December instead.

What a nightmarish turn of events, and I have only myself to blame. If only I hadn't decided to showboat the last few meters of that damn beer mile...karma, it bites hard.

In other news:

I have seen the "cherry on top" meme popping up all over the running blogosphere. Normally I ignore memes, but two people (Pigtails Flying and the Redhead) have specifically tagged me, so I feel I should be a good sport for once and participate.

1. Answer this question: if you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be?

This one is an absolute no-brainer. I would have started taking voice lessons in college when I was 18-19. I would have gotten a ten-year head start, and maybe things would have turned out differently. Most of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time are aware that I am a singer with a modest talent and unfulfilled dreams of a career in opera. I have accepted, finally, that the window of opportunity has closed and I am never going to be a professional singer. However, I have had enough training that I am able to sing moderately well for my own and my family's and friends' entertainment. I sing every day, whether it's opera at home or indie rock in the car. There are few things more enjoyable for me than letting loose with a brilliant high C in "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" or raging full throttle throughout "Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata."

2. The second thing you have to do is, pick 6 people and give them this award. You then have to inform the person that they have gotten this award.

Well, I squirm when forced to put people on the spot, so I'm just going to list my favorite run-bloggers, some of whom are awesome friends in real life, and some of whom I've never met. (Participation past this point is totally optional.) Whenever I see a new post from any of these folks in my Google Reader, it makes my day.

The Redhead of Caution: Redhead Running. Oh, my dear Redhead, where do I even begin? I am so, SO glad I have gotten to know you in real life as a friend and running partner, as well as rescuing Spike from moping around on his plaid couch and being trapped under mountains of dirty running socks.

TK of Pigtails Flying. Best booty in the run-blogging business, in my opinion. Relay team captain extraordinaire, graceful under pressure in the extreme (such as finding oneself lost in a maze of New Jersey highways as well as backing up the wrong way on a freeway on-ramp), and always good for a surprise free book from time to time just when I need it most.

Viper of the Booze Hounds Inc Running Team. I started reading Viper's blog in early 2008 and immediately knew I had found a kindred spirit. Rarely have I seen someone combine running, drinking, and writing with such skill. And not just drinking beer, but quality beer. For, as I always say, "Life is too short to drink bad beer." The Viper and I share a common region of origin, and one of these days (ONE OF THESE DAYS!) I am going to convince him to meet up with me for a beer when I'm visiting my parents.

Carolina John of Smoke Training. What started out as a chance meeting two years ago in the comments section of GQH's blog (I believe we first traded barbs over The Event Which Shall Not Be Named) grew into run-blogger friendship after we discovered our mutual love of "When Harry Met Sally," one of the greatest movies ever ("WAGON WHEEL COFFEE TABLE!"), thereby negating the pain of the aforementioned Event. When I travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Thunder Road Marathon in December, I hope I will finally get to meet him.

Spike of Running Spike. How long have we known each other now? Three years? Two? You have been an awesome friend for many reasons, not the least of which is the ever-present candy bowl. Yes, that's right, I only like you for your dark chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups and mini-Twix bars. Seriously, though, being able to share my first Boston Marathon experience-- from the day I qualified to the race itself almost a year later-- with you was fantastic. And of course you know how I feel about you and the Redhead. I know it hurt to break up with your shower curtain, but it really was for the best.

A tie between Nitmos of Feet Meet Street and Glaven Q. Heisenberg of the Fourinone Blog, formerly known as Mostly Running...Some Bullshit (or was it All Bullshit...No Running?). I really can't pick my favorite of these two comedians. No matter what they write, it's going to be funny. I rarely laugh harder than I do when reading something they have written.

Finally, I have to list another blog whose thrice-weekly appearance in my Reader is eagerly anticipated: Sardonic Shock Syndrome. Not a running blog (shocking, I know!) but a well-written, witty, and frequently hilarious look at just about everything with an emphasis on current events and culture. If you're from the Detroit area you may find it especially entertaining. I know the author in real life as well, having contacted him after reading his thesis at work (see, cubicle jobs are good for something!).

3. The third and final thing is, thank the person who gave you the award.

TK and Redhead, you ladies rock my world. I am lucky to know you both. :)

The long weekend is almost upon steal a couple of phrases from two of the previously mentioned folks, run well and drink well, and catch y'all on the flip side!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Quicker Picker Upper

How many of us have done this before?

I frequently find myself picking up others' discarded trash in order to dispose of it properly. Lazy assholes can't be bothered to do it themselves, so I'll do it for them, and silently direct invectives in their general (unknown) direction as I place the object in the correct receptacle.

Aside from picking up blatant asshole-deposited trash, how many of us have returned from a run carrying something more useful which we found lying on the road? I have come home with a wool U of M hat and a colorful tote bag.

The smorgasbord of clothing left behind at the start of major cool-weather races is a serious temptation, as are the innumerable hats, gloves, arm warmers and the like scattered on the road in the early miles of a race, but I do my best to refrain from picking up anything because I probably won't want to carry it for the next 24 miles.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Number Crunching

Miles on schedule: 9

Alarm sounded: 5:15 am

Out the door: 5:29:00

Length of time spent staring at smudgy white patch of grass in my yard: 10 seconds

Back inside after realizing smudgy white patch of grass was actually a skunk: 5:29:10

Out the door a second time after turning on porch light to scare away skunk: 5:30

Temperature: 68 degrees

Humidity: 97%

Yuck factor due to excessive humidity: Infinite

Deer seen: 2

Rabbits: 6

Unknown critters rustling in underbrush: 7

Times I had to stop and poop: 2 (once back at the house, once at a port-a-potty)

Sprinklers I ran through: 4

Retied shoe: 1

Other runners spotted: 3

Minutes spent contemplating delicate pink hue of clouds at sunrise after using port-a-potty: 1

Negative thoughts about training: 57

Miles ran: 9.03

Post-run: Drenched from head to toe with sweat

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Yes, Chicago was the backdrop for my long run last weekend. I was there to attend the Wicker Park Fest with my man.

And here's my favorite song with "Chicago" in the title, from a band which I was able to see live two weeks ago.

17 miles on the schedule for Saturday on the Falling Waters Trail. That is, if the Redhead's leg gremlins allow her to run.

Monday, August 2, 2010

If You Brew It They Will Come

I have no idea if the title of this post has been used as an advertising slogan, somewhere, sometime, but three rounds into my stint at the bar at Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana, I was suddenly struck by inspiration and I felt the need to announce this brilliant phrase of my own devising to my companion. Loudly.

In addition to Three Floyds, I also visited Bell's Eccentric Cafe, Two Brothers Brewing, and Old Hat Brewery. We probably would have stopped at Dark Horse Brewing, too, but it was too late.

It was an incredible weekend of new brew discoveries. The Ice Grille from Three Floyds was a delicious find.

But that's not what my weekend was about. It was about THE MOST AWESOME LONG RUN EVER! MYSTERY GUEST LOCATION REVEALED! (sort of.)


I'm on a boat! OK, not really. I wish I was on that boat...with my nautical theme pashmina afghan.

Best picture of the set. If you can't figure it out by now...

Look closely: there is a dog on that custom trailer. He looked as if he were having the time of his life.

There was a major race (half marathon) going on. I inadvertently fell in with the racers around mile 2.5 of my run and hung with them for about 4 miles. Let me tell you all, that was a HUGE boost. Even though I wasn't racing, I had the benefit of the live entertainment and all the cheering. I did NOT take advantage of the multiple water/Gatorade stops and wet sponge handout. Hello, serious breach of runner etiquette! I refused to take what was not rightfully mine. I could wait for a water fountain (although the first two I tried to use didn't work, and that was a massive problem as I desperately needed water to wash down my Gu).

I ran 16 miles total in just over 2.5 hours. It was an incredible run. What a treat.

So, savvy readers, in which major U.S. city did I do my long run this past weekend? Facebook friends, keep out of this one! No fair spilling the beans!

I have another 8 miles on the schedule for tomorrow...must go to bed now...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Highs and Lows

After the pleasant eight-mile run I had on Tuesday, Wednesday morning I plodded through a four-mile slog that was anything but. I felt as if I were wading through a swamp. My legs were heavy as stone. As the torture ground on, I descended into one of those self-doubting black moods we all have at one time or another. Does any of this sound familiar?
  • I don't know why I even bother.
  • I'm dying and it's only been two miles, how the hell am I going to run a marathon?
  • I'm never going to requalify for Boston if I don't improve, and FAST.
  • This is fucking stupid.
  • Maybe I should just downgrade to the half.
  • Fuck that, maybe I should just quit racing altogether.
  • I am pathetic.
  • I'm so fat.
  • I've got to get out of this funk.
  • Maybe I should just accept that I'm getting older and slower. Maybe 2009 was my last hurrah.
  • It didn't used to be this hard. What happened?
And so on.

I was plodding along around 3.8 miles in, desperately wanting this horrible run to END, when I came to a four-way-stop. I proceeded across the intersection, vaguely aware that a car had pulled up at the stop sign. Then I heard someone call out to me:

"Good job. Keep it up, young lady. Good job."

I looked over and there was an older gentleman in the car. I said, "Thank you!"

No, I didn't start running a 7:30 mile all of a sudden. However, it did lift my spirits a bit. I stopped slouching so badly and finished the run feeling slightly better about myself.

I opted to do my pace run today instead of taking my traditional rest day, thereby freeing up one morning of the weekend for other things. I was determined to get this one right. "Pace" means my marathon pace, 8:35/mile or less. I owned that bitch.

8:24, 8:12 (wtf?), 8:23, 8:24.

Same route, same mileage as Wednesday...but a full minute per mile faster. What's more, I felt great. I was running instead of plodding. Maybe there is hope for me and my second BQ quest after all.

The next time I run will be my 16-miler in the super awesome guest location. I can't wait!