Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dr. E-Lamp's Guest Blog

Today Abby has a guest blogger: “Dr. E-Lamp.” I am Abby’s cousin, a 26-year old sports-crazed biologist who lives in Boulder, and also an avid runner. Just like my cousin, I will be running my first marathon late spring. The number of races I have entered is unknown; five half marathons, probably thirty 5ks, 8ks, 15ks, and one ghastly one-mile run when I first moved to Boulder.

Believe it or not, I took up distance running to become a better football player. I started high school as one of the fatter kids on the team and could not complete a single lap around the track in Wimbledon (see Feb 2 post). I hated this, and worked my way up to three miles in my first off-season. Sophomore year I was one of the fittest players on the team and won the first of three consecutive team awards for hardest worker. I kept up running about half an hour a day through high school and two years of college.

The big change came my second year of college when I decided to enter the 61 for 61 Home Run/Walk 10k in Fargo. This highlighted a 61-hour telethon to raise money for the Roger Maris Cancer Center, which cared for my aunt and grandmother (Abby’s grandma also) before they passed away. 61 for 61 is the premier road race in Fargo after the Fargo Marathon, and supports the best cause. Runners write the names of cancer victims and survivors on their bibs and leave messages on a large markerboard wall; these heart-wrenching messages along with Jim Valvano’s “Don’t Ever Give Up” speech unfailingly move me near tears. I had never run over 4 miles until signing up for that race. I ran it with my cousin Doug, whose mother of ovarian cancer at 49 years old. After that I was hooked.

Running is addicting. Sore legs and hips are addicting. Any of you who run will agree. The chemicals produced by our brains are too powerful for us to stop. I think about my long runs all week long. They are a good excuse to treat ourselves well during the week, and party like rockstars that night (except for vile Sunday races – WTF?!). At this point it’s like a contest; how far do I have to run to hurt the next day?

When I started running was a great way to organize my thoughts, de-stress after school or work, even run through conversations to clear the air with others in my head. Typically, I’m a lone wolf; Abby is the only person who I have run with. The best, and worst, thing to happen to me was the iPod. Now I listen to radio and TV shows nonstop. It’s a blessing for long runs and long races, because I think only of wanting to stop without iPod distraction.

Now I am training for a marathon. Long runs are Saturday mornings, and this week will be four hours! Boulder is at the foothills of the Front Range of the Rockies, so it is nearly impossible to take a long run with no hills. I run whatever city streets don’t have a lot of stop lights as well as the miles and miles and miles of spectacular hiking trails minutes from my house.

I own Abby in sports-related bets now. I started slow, but am now 2-0! [Sidebar: Evan actually lost THREE bets to me just before these last two. So I'm technically still winning.] For losing our Super Bowl bet (I had Giants covering), she has to visit me in Boulder. Oh yes, she will learn what a hill workout is. I’ve been over every inch of Chatauqua Park, and she’ll pray for Heartbreak Hill when we are done running there.

I really like talking about the research I do, but will not do so at this blog because it is the ultimate “game killer.” Let me know if you want to hear all about it!

Today's wicked fast 17

This weekend's long run on Saturday (to be 18-20 miles) ended up being cancelled due to Friday's inclement weather. But luckily, one of the DFMC'ers set up an informal group run of 17 out of Newton. I ended up running the 17 with a new group of people I hadn't met before, at a monster clip--at least for me. The 17 miles ended up at around 2:31 per Steve's apocalypse-stopping Bond watch--just over 81/2 minute miles, I think. (Don't quote me; math isn't really my strong suit.) That's a pretty aggressive pace for me, but it was great to get through such a challenging run, and to get to know some of the faces.

In more exciting news! Evan, my cousin, just sent me a guest blog. He was one of the people who inspired me to start running halves, and is now my go-to running buddy when back in North Dakota. He'll be running his first marathon in May, I think, and it's been awesome being able to discuss how our training is going.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

7 around the Charles with the orginal running buddy:)

Today reminded me that its been way too long since I have run with one Katherine Bouwkamp, with whom I shambled 7 miles around the Charles River tonight. Let me tell you a little more about Kate:

About a year and a half ago, a couple months post an ugly breakup, I found myself still trying to find my feet. Another friend (Kim Fader) emailed me to tell me about the Seacoast half marathon in Portsmouth, NH--13.1 miles in early to mid-November, on a relatively flat course. Something you may or may not already know about me is that up until this point, I had been That Girl at the Marathon. You know the one. She's relatively athletic and active, maybe even runs a little, as I did then, but is not A Runner. She's the girl who watches the marathon every year, and every year says "I should run a marathon...well, maybe not a marathon, but I should run a half..." while drinking a cold and tasty brew. This was me for several years, mind you. And obviously I had said some version of this statement to Kim, who emailed me about the aforementioned race.

The timing was right this time. The race would be about 3 days shy of my 26th birthday, there was plenty of time to train, and I had sort of lost myself for a while before--and was thinking that maybe doing something selfish, something that would only benefit me, would be just the fix I needed. (Incidentally, it also benefited the Portsmouth coastline cleanup efforts--allow me the literary license here, though.) Still, knowing myself as I do, I thought the best way to actually make this happen was to line up another poor fool--a local training buddy. Soon Kate, a good friend of mine from Emerson (the first, in fact) was also in.

In the end, there was a group of five of us that ran the Seacoast half that year. But it was for Kate and I that the event turned out to be some sort of cosmic starting point. Soon 8-miles in the woods on the weekends was normal, and gu a way a way of life. We did our second half, Big Lake, in NH, in May 2007--Kate's third, my second. Before long, she'd signed up for the Nike Women's Marathon, and was running distances that seemed as though they couldn't possibly be real. (Needless to say, last October, she rocked those 26.2 miles.) Kate was the one who forced me to rest my broken can last fall when the lack of running made me insane, irritable, and no picnic to be around. And she's the running buddy who knows when I need to stop versus when I'm just feeling whiny, who will tell me to speed up or slow down, who will always have a good story or two for the road, and who has been one of the most stalwart supporters in my goal to run Boston in two months.

So KATE! These miles were overdue. :) Can't wait until we get to do one of these ridiculous races together.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday's yog with Dan the Man (and the neighbor)

Monday! A holiday! No work! No school for teachers! Ah...Monday. :)

A nice, leisurely Presidents' Day for this cat...cozy sleep in, delicious hot coffee, late brunch...all just bits and pieces of my lovely day. The day was wet, but warm, and I shambled over to the neighbor's to see if there were any takers for a calm jog through Southie. Dan, who's about 25-26, and has run a few short ones with me before, was in. We angled down to Castle Island, looped the short way around Pleasure Bay, and headed back via East, then West, Broadway toward home, enjoying a nice chat along the way.

Or at least I thought so...until later, when Dan popped back over to say hello and meet my charming and attractive (and male) dinner guest, and blurted out several of the things I'd mentioned (about said charming, attractive, and male dinner guest). Ah, red. The color of my face, ears, and neck for the next 15 minutes. Thanks, Dan. (Next time you tell me you want to slow down, by the way, I'm not going to. So there.)

A nice run. And good company. And no harm, no foul, for all my teasing via the bliggity blog.

Saturday Taper...and now they are dropping like flies

Saturday an early morning jaunt from Wayland. A couple wrong turns and Caitlin and I were finally there and ready to rock. Caitlin's knee was still sore from the 15 from two weeks previous, and I admit to feeling a little stiff in the joints and a lot of lazy in the mind. Thankfully Saturday was supposed to be a taper run, rather than an up in distance--suggested mileage of 12-15. We decided on the minimum (I know, I know, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor!) at 12. Waterstops being were they were and the both of us opting to go maybe just a little bit further...we ended up turning around at a waterstop (equipped with Gatorade! And red Twizzlers!) that would bring us in at about 13 or 13.5. Caitlin had wrapped her knee, then discarded the Ace bandage a few miles in, and was starting to hurt by the way home. She ended up grabbing a lift home with 3 miles to go.

Sadly it appears that there are suddenly people dropping. Or maybe it's just the women I run with? Caitlin ended up asking training guru (and former Boston champ) Jack Fultz his advice, and it does look as though she'll be able to run this weekend's scheduled 18-20. Brenda, on the other hand, still has no prognosis, and looks to be out of running for an indefinite period of time--forced to crosstrain only. (Those of you who run will surely recognize the mental and psychological agony of the interminable hours ahead of her--you keep going and going, but never seem to get anywhere. Perplexing.) I find myself becoming...perhaps a little paranoid? Do my knees really ache a little? Are my shoes too tight? Is stiffness in joints X and Y going to fade in a few miles? Of course. I am lucky thus far to find that my assorted aches and pains are what I assume must be normal for the mileage I'm putting on my bones and muscles. My legs are strong, my lungs are with them, and everything else is holding up just fine. Now all I need to do is remind myself to keep my head rolling along with the rest of me. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday 5 along the dark, dark river...

While I do, in fact, love that dirty water, Thursday's run along the river was a little....well, let's start at the beginning.

My initial plan: Meet Caitlin at 5:30 to run a cool 7 miles. Of course I extended the invitation to Brenda, who in turn extended the invitation to Ben, who in turn suggested we meet at 6:00 p.m. at Crossroads (Irish bar in Kenmore Square area where there are weekly Thurs. night run out of--primarily because on Thursdays, if you buy a pitcher of beer, you also receive a cheese pizza).

Harbinger of Doom #1: Caitilin cancelled via email, citing a 5-miler that morning, and continuing knee pain.

Harbinger of Doom #2: Brenda cancelled via email, citing a weird pain in the front of one ankle.
*Side note: Brenda, limping down the street to meet Ben and I at Crossroads for a post-run beer, was stopped by a policeman, who said, "Are you alright?" to which Brenda replied, "Yeah...I'm training for the marathon." By the sounds of it the policeman seemed to think this response made perfect sense.

Harbinger of Doom #3: At 5:30, I realize I still am not going to make it to Crossroads to meet Ben at 6:00. I have Brenda contact him for me and let him know I'll shoot for 6:15.

Harbinger of Doom #4: 5:45 p.m. and I am lost in Roxbury after dropping off donated books from work (Go Pre-Press!) to a writing and tutoring charity. Oops. Not going to make it...

Harbinger of Doom #5: By 6:15, I am out of Roxbury and parked a few blocks from Crossroads. Late, and still in my work clothes, I realize I have limited options. I change in the front seat of my car, inadvertently giving a middle-aged man carrying roses a bit of a show, hook my car key into my shoelace and go bolting down the street towards the bar.

Harbinger of Doom #6: It is 6:25, and I've at last arrived, sweaty already, out of breath, and carrying my earrings in one hand...only to find that Ben has just left. DAMN.

The above is how I ended up running alone in the pitch black around the river for a cool 5 miles, thinking every so often, as I veered from particularly dark patches toward the lights along the road, that perhaps this run wasn't a good choice on my part. Still, all was well--safe and back into the light of Crossroads less than an hour later and enjoying a Blue Moon with a slice of hot cheesy pizza. Next time, though, I think maybe I either get there on time, or I stick to the busy downtown area rather than the dark river paths.

Received a photo from the aforementioned Ben this week--me looking miserable at Derry. See above!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

more important things than running

Today a dull and frigid (token) 5-ish miles in Southie. I wore my normal kicks, and my new tights--to which the only thing I can think to say is, "Women of above-average height unite! Fight! Fight against the strangely heighted crotch in stockings and running tights! Fight, I say!" Damn those tights. And they weren't even that warm. DAMN THEM, I SAY! Anyway. All of that aside. While running tonight, I did some reflecting. I was trying to think about the people in my family that died from cancer--my uncle Mike and my grandma Bev. I wanted to try to talk about them and who they were, but it's harder than I thought it would be--it's been such a long time already. So I will give you a snippet, my favorite stories of them both.

My uncle Mike was my Dad's older brother. My dad is the fourth of five, so Mike was soundly in the middle. My favorite story of Mike is about how he got his name. When my grandma Anne was expecting, the two oldest boys, Steve and Tony, decided they wanted a little brother named Mike. When my grandparents had the baby and brought him home, they introduced him as Dennis. Steve and Tony, and eventually everyone else (including my grandparents) ultimately ended up calling him Mike anyway--all the way until the day he died. This was very confusing to me as a child, needless to say.

A less favorite story is a more painful one to remember--the day he died. My dad, easily the epitome of strong and silent type (an utter marshmallow, of course) telling me that another family member had called to say that Mike was about to go, and asking if he wanted to come say goodbye. I remember my Dad's fear that Mike would see his family members standing around the bed and feel as though they were just waiting for him to die.

My Grandma Bev was my Mom's mother, and a tiny woman, married to a big, burly dutchman. When she found a lump in her breast, she didn't want to worry him, so she didn't mention it. She died of bone cancer in 1989 after a 10-year battle. I remember my mom saying, years later after my grandfather died, in a forlorn voice that she was an orphan now.

My favorite story about my grandmother was one that happened long before I was born. It involves when my Uncle Steve brought him his (I think!) new fiance, Ann. Ann met my grandparents--and the way I've heard the story was that she was very embarrassed the next morning because she'd gotten a little buzzed the night before. However, the family was all to go tubing on the Apple River that day, and my grandmother ended up getting so smashed she couldn't get out of her tube at the end of the river. Apparently in those days, there were periodic garbage cans with targets for tubers to throw the empties in as they continued on down the river. Ann, needless to say, felt considerably less embarrassed by the end of that day.

So those are the two people that I think of when I am running and fundraising for Dana-Farber.
Running IS hard. Fundraising is no picnic, either. But they are all real people. All of us doing this have them in our hearts. These, here, are mine.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

18 = Divine 9 x 2 (look, ma, I can do math)


Some days it just works, in a moving pounding hello world kind of way. Today, the longest I've ever run, at 18 miles, was a day that it just worked. Don't get me wrong, running still freakishly hard, but there are definitely harder things, and this one I can hack. At least for this distance and duration, a neat 2:45 (about a 9:15-ish mile).

Side note, much as I love my sweet new (now to be referred to as old) kicks, they are already upwards of 200 miles, so I popped over to the Marathon Sports on Boylston and grabbed a second pair, along with a pair of tights that might actually (probably will) outperform the legs to be put inside them. (So intimidating I think the two legs of the tights are plotting a type of coup--and may have already gotten to the shoes even.) My dilemma now is a truly tough one--how do I tell my sweet kicks apart? True, my old ones have red laces, but...I do love me some red laces. Will I be able to avoid the desire (need) to have red laces in every pair of running shoes I own? Only time will tell.

Shoes, tights, and tangents aside--today was a great run. Beautiful weather, until the last three, during which some cold rain came out of nowhere; good company as always; and my favorite running feelings--that miles are miles, and it's good to be alive.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Divine 9? Not really.

Some days I find myself needing to run. It is a physical need to escape all of the shrapnel that piles up in my messy messy life.

So today I RAN. Out the door, down the street and into the misty, damp dark, running and trying to leave the mess behind me. I lengthened my strides, leaned into my run, pushing myself forward faster and harder. By the Causeway, the cold rain mixed with sleet and drove like pinpricks into the side of my face and neck. I found something heavy and rock-like, music with guitar and heavy drum to suit my mood, and leaned harder into the wind and rain, driving myself forward against the elements. By the edge of the causeway, I was soaked, and ready to go again. The second loop found rain driving at me, water streaming down my cheeks and pooling in my collarbones before being whipped into my collar, water dripping off my nose and the bow of my upper lip.

Finishing the second loop, I met another runner, who noted the weather wasn't exactly ideal for running. What? Some days this is what I need. To run. To just RUN.

It doesn't leave me less grumpy; it doesn't put me in a better mood. Today it doesn't do a damned thing, other than make me feel resigned. I suppose we can't run from ourselves, and we can't run from the way that we feel. Or at the very least, I can't. But it helps sometimes to go out into the dark cold night, and just FIGHT it. Tonight's miles, which leave me typing here cold and numb, weren't mine, but the next ones....those belong to me. And I'm kind of planning to kick the shit out of them, messy me or no.


Monday was fine--6.75 or so through Southie.

Sorry for the short blog, but this one was pretty standard, and I am on my way out right now for a run.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Today's group run with DFMC

A week of stiff joints and a sore can had left me kind of dreading this morning...Caitlin phoned me to cheerily ask if we were going to do 15 miles (training schedule called for 12-15 miles)--to be met with my hemming and hawing. She picked me up promptly at 7:45 a.m., and we were off to Watertown to meet the team. Turns out Caitlin wasn't too sure about doing 15 either and we decided to make it a game-time decision--that is, to be decided at the turnaround point.

The day had dawned windy, but gloriously warm--the kind of windy 40-something-degree weather that reminded me of shambling long runs in early track season of high school. Keep in mind, please, that I grew up in a very small town--I was one of three girls from my school on the track team--we combined with another school for track and for football just to be able to field teams. When the spring came, we'd take turns bussing from one school to another at the end of the school day. North Central, the other school, had a football field, with wooden posts loosely marking a somewhat track-shaped path around it--directly through the grass, identical to what was on the field itself. (Kind of nice if you were tired though, as the coaches couldn't really tell if you trimmed a little off the corners.) So in the beginning of the season, the bus would take us to NC, where we'd pick up the NC kids, then take us back out and drop us at some distance. We'd clamber off the bus in our assorted windpants (too true) and sweatshirts (today's spandex-clad self revolts at the very idea) and then we'd run down gravel roads back to the school.

NOTE: Wimbledon, my home town, does have a track around the football field--a slightly larger than regulation gravel one. More often that not, we'd run "Telephone Poles," which were essentially when Coach Kvislen (also my math teacher) would tell us which pole to run to. (They were approximately 100 meters apart, so this wasn't nearly as irrational as it sounds. It was really a quite efficient way to mark off sprint ladders.)

That incredibly long tangent aside...what I am saying is this--the run today was nice. We took it easy, a casual and relaxing run, and I took a little side trip down memory line while we logged our miles.

Incidentally, we did do 15 miles, and after Heartbreak Hill, Caitlin noted that it didn't even seem that hard, especially after Derry last week. Though it's admittedly somewhat insane, I couldn't help but agree.

Special props to Caitlin and Brenda, for some of THE most entertaining running conversation yet. (Have I mentioned before that logging these kinds of miles with people pretty much causes you move straight from the casual acquaintance friendship directly to "OHMYGOD, you'll never believe what went down this week..." But it's good. The faces at the DFMC runs are becoming familiar, and I am happy to see them.

Good people, good run, great day overall. :)

Belated Thursday post...

Still stiff after Derry, this was how I described my Thursday (4 miles, sort of pitiful) to a friend via e-mail:

[Item number 2 under the heading of things I was thinking about that morning]

The sure recognition that today was the worst run I've had in an unutterably long time--overslept, decided to take my iPod (only to realize it was dead as a post), got lost, broke the zipper on my favorite fleece, and found out that cheetos the night before a morning run are a bad idea.

In summation: I've had better.