Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, another year is in the hatch, and with it, at least more than a full year of blogging--I started this blog last December, and what a year it's been...please help me to make a better blog of meanderings, deep thoughts, and occasional quirky humor by telling me what your favorite blog was. These are the ones that I think of fondly, for one reason or another:

#1: Last Run Before Monday...
#2: Derry Play-by-Play
#3: Divine 9? Not Really.
#4: 18 = Divine 9 x 2 (look ma, I can do math)
#5: Boston Strikes a Low Blow Against NYC
#6: Marathon Monday Recap
#7: Running to...the Altar?
#8: In One Fell(s) Swoop
#9: A Multitude of Runs, and Southie's Top 10
#10: Just When You Think the Worst Can't Happen...The Worst Happens.

What was your favorite blog post?
#10 free polls

So much can change in a year. Here's a thought--in 2007, I ran, as far as I can tell, 407.25 miles. In 2008, despite taking a rather ridiculous amount of summer days of, I ran, again, as far as I can tell, about 763 miles. Strangely, the highest mileage month was January, with 110.8; the lowest? July, where I'm pretty sure I barely ran 20 miles, and blogged only two of the runs.

Tell me also--what do you like, hate, enjoy, etc. about the blog? What can I do better?

Thanks, and Happy New Year to all--I leave you with this, a photo of two fellow runners--B, a fellow marathoner, and JRod, my beloved, on New Year's Eve.

11.7 Miles Saturday + 3 More on Sunday = An Excuse for A Big, Cheesy Pizza

Having sweet-talked my beloved into logging some more miles with me--at least until DFMC is back on after the group run holiday hiatus--I was looking forward to getting in a solid long run on Saturday. We mapped out a long run,* just shy of 12 that would take us from our apartment, over the river to Boston, around the Public Garden and Common, past the Garden (Yeahh...C's!), over another bridge, past the Museum of Science (Mythical Creatures Exhibit looks pretty great, and now on my list of things to do), back to the river until Mass Ave, from Mass Ave to our street, then an additional little bump from home to Davis Square--ending us at 12 miles at the local Starbucks. Ah, bliss.
So here's what really happened.

After commenting on what looked to be a threatening and potentially rainy sky, Jared ventured onto the front stoop to take a quick temperature read--relatively balmy. Clad in capri tights, a non-turtleneck Under Armour, sneaks, and fuel belt loaded with Gu, I scampered out behind him.

Within a block or two, a light sprinkling of cold rain began sluicing onto us. By the Mass Ave bridge, we were talking science, and barely noticed the increase of water streaming from a gray and ever more ominous-looking sky. At the Garden, we ventured a look up at what had become a steady downfall, and commented on the likeliness of it abating soon.

By the Museum of Science, we'd settled into a comfortable pace, running easy and smooth despite the still heavy rain. Despite teasingly commenting--multiple times--that he must love me a lot to be out there in those conditions--Jared seemed to be enjoying our gliding gait along the chilled, windy river.

As we reached Mass Ave for the last long leg of our run (about 3.5 miles to go), the rain picked up in intensity. Abandoning all pretense of avoiding puddles in our entirely too sodden state, we began racing for home, striding past MIT and Central Square, bolting around the few raincoat-clad pedestrians near Harvard, dashing across streets, and sloshing through the deepening puddles along sidewalks, street corners--with nary a single other runner spied.

With a mile to go, Jared pointed out what I'd been refusing to admit to myself--that if we ran to the Starbucks, we'd either end up walking home in the cold, heavy rain, or running with our coffees in hand, always a little awkward.** I agreed and suggested that we run to Rindge Ave, a couple blocks past our apartment, then back home, to get into the necessary distance.

As we neared the corner of our street, I realized that one more block wouldn't quite get us to 12. I mentioned this to Jared, who merely looked at me, water streaming down one side of his nose, unchecked by a drenched bandanna. We arrived home after our trip to Rindge and back (discretion did seem the better part of valor here--after all, the man did run more than eleven and a half miles with me in the rain, a week after running 9 in a blizzard on his own birthday). Despite our sodden shoes and clothing, we couldn't help but laugh out our own state, and at the elation of having had a good run in poor conditions.

An easy 3 today helped to ease out most lingering aches and pains, and we are both convinced that a pizza tonight should dispel the rest.

*Note: This was the route we'd attempted to do last week, in the midst of a blizzard, before ultimately crapping out at around 9 miles.
**But known to happen, with coffee, apple cider, ice cream, and once, two pizzas.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas 6, and a Holiday Tune

Christmas day dawned bright, sunny, and happily, warm. Despite a bit of grumbling, Jared slid into some shorts and joined me as I all but pranced out the door for an early Christmas Day run on the nearly empty streets of Cambridge. The loop was standard, but the day unique--in fact, I think this is the first time I've ever run on Christmas. In honor of that, Jared and I composed this little holiday ditty (the tune may be familiar):

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
Twelve cars a-driving
Eleven snowbanks melting
Ten people walking
Nine piles of dog poop
Eight Jared complaints
Seven dogs a-walking
Six miles running
Five chu-urch bells...
Four open coffeeshops
three Indian restaurants
Two Tom & Jerry's
And a lone marathoner in the street...

Post-run, we headed home to make brunch, coffee, and Tom & Jerry's, and opened presents and watched part of A Miracle on 34th Street, before heading to a friend's place, then off to see Marley & Me.

Surprisingly tough/fast 4 at the Gym

On Monday, knowing I need to run, but hesitant to do it in the still-cold outdoors, I headed for the gym for the Tuesday scheduled mileage of 4-6 miles--my early workday Tuesday prevents morning runs, and Jared had gotten us tickets to a local theater's performance of "A Christmas Carol" (which, by the way, was excellent!).

At the gym, I lifted, then headed for a treadmill upstairs while Jared taped another basketball playoff game. Settling in on an incline of 2, at a pace of 9-something, I chugged away, running and running, but never getting anywhere. This is the problem with treadmills--they're boring. There is nothing to distract you from the difficulty of running. No clean air to pull into your nostrils, no changing sites or smells to tinker into your subconscious, allowing your mind to stretch and lazily browse around in a multitude of topics. On a treadmill, you are only moving forward--while strangely never actually moving forward.

By the time I hit a mile, I'd realized that this was one of those days where there was nothing to do it but get it over with. I took very little enjoyment out of this run, and increased the pace a bit to be done. Ultimately, I'm happy to have slugged out four miles in a little over 37 minutes, respectable enough. Though it may not have been an enjoyable four, these are the kinds of runs that make me appreciate the other kind--the ones that are alive and fresh, and leave my spirit soaring with the realization of the limitless possibilities of the human body and spirit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Say NO! to Running on Sunday

I'm sorry, fellow runners, readers and supporters of my blog, but yesterday, after shoveling out my car while Jared did his and the sidewalk, I said "To hell with this," and headed out for a hot coffee instead.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just Shy of an EXTREME! 9 Miles

Though we'd hoped Saturday would break with a halt to the snowy, stormy weather of Friday, we awoke to a world cloaked in white...and only getting more so. Still, Jared and I had agreed to get in the allotted mileage (8-12), and had mapped a route from our apartment. The route ran down Mass Ave, across the bridge to the Boston side, left down Comm Ave, then the long way looping around the Public Garden and Common, sidled through Government Center and Downtown Crossing, before crossing back to the Cambridge side on the Museum of Science bridge. It then beelined along the river, back to Mass Ave, where we'd then meet up with a portion of the original route and head back home.

We bundled up, layered, and gloved ourselves, then headed down Mass Ave, planning to run a plethora of errands on the way--necessary, given the mountains of snow our cars were buried under. First a couple blocks to CVS to drop off a prescription. Next, a half mile to Marathon Sports for running gloves for me (I already lost the ones I bought last month at City Sports.)

Errands completed, we ducked our heads into the windy, snowy day, and aimed for the river, gasping when we at last hit the bridge. The turn onto Comm Ave was only worse, as what at first appeared a long, relatively sheltered straightaway morphed into a frigid wind tunnel, sucking the air out of our lungs. Pockets of slushy ice water added an element of adventure, as we leaped over them, tracked around them, and climbed snow banks to avoid them. By the time we reached the Garden, after 4+ miles of arduous obstacle-course running in frigid, wet weather, our faces burning and shoes dripping, we agreed we'd had enough...loop around the Garden be damned. We turned ourselves toward home, backtracking the way we'd came.

In a shocking twist, heading over the unplowed or shoveled Mass Ave bridge back to Cambridge was even worse than the first time, with the cold air forcing itself into our lungs, snatching at our very breath. With Jared charging ahead of me, I ducked my head, tucked my chin to one side and sucked at every breath of air the biting wind would let me. With every inch of exposed flesh stinging, we at last finished the bridge, to hear a runner ahead of us shout "I thought we were the only dumb ones today!" Nope, fellow runner.

By the time we'd slogged through the continuing snow into Harvard Square, we'd begun discussing whether we could justify stopping for a burger and warmup. Opting out, we continued toward home, wanting only to be done with the run I repeatedly referred to as "a HORRIBLE idea..."

We did however, cave, as by the time we reached the Starbucks down the street from our apartment, we'd both just had enough. Faces burning, noses running, gloves dripping, and limbs shaking, we ordered a couple of lattes and warmed up before walking to pick up the prescription and grab some groceries.

The rest of the day, Jared's birthday, was spent as it should have, with sweatpants, movies, baking (a pecan cheesecake for the birthday boy), and consumption of scotch (he) and Tom & Jerry's (she). Brenda swung by later, after her own cold 12 miles, and joined us for some much needed hot food and drink.

Today, after shoveling out my car in the continuing blizzard, I immediately rejected my earlier notion of getting in a couple miles. Now, drinking tea and sitting on the couch with my beloved, able to see the STILL-FALLING snow...I'm going to chalk this weekend up as a victory for getting any miles at all in, and be happy with the week's 21 total.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

6 Lonely Miles...and the Miseducation of Abigail

Thursday morning at 5:00 a.m., the alarm clock rang...and rang. I didn't even have the motivation to nudge Jared awake, after we'd both stayed up much too late the night before. So it rang...and rang. And finally, we decided to call a spade a spade, and reset it for 6:30.

Jared had a busy day planned, with school, then straight to volunteer at Children's Hospital, then from there to film a basketball game for the gym. With B out of town, and Kate having logged some morning miles, there was no one left to run Thursday night but me...

So, iPod in tow, and Jared's gloves on my less-than-femininely-sized paws, I head out, around, and along the 6.1-mile route that we'd planned to do that morning. With a few to go, I realized it was me against the dying iPod battery.

In hope of saving enough juice to get me home, I stopped shuffling, and just went with whatever came on--Jared' mix for me, what he called a melting pot of songs he knew I liked, and those he called "educational"--strange, educational seems to be a lot of Metallica and Trivium.

As I chugged in the last 1/2 mile at a sharp clip, the screaming guitars fading in my eardrums, I had to admit that it wasn't half bad...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

6 Miles On the River, and Responsible Abby

Monday, the day I'd allotted myself as a "day of rest" after running 14 miles in 24 hours, was unseasonably warm--near 60 degrees in fact! Tuesday, a running day, was cold. Damn the luck.

I scooted out of work right on time, and booked it to the CAC, the gym both Jared and are gainfully employed at in return for our membership, and, ironically, what ultimately caused us to meet. We bundled up at the gym, and headed out for SUPER!loop around the river.

"A SUPER!loop?" you say? Well, a SUPER!loop is when the original loop is just too short for the sheer boundless exuberance and athletic feat you've planned, and you're forced to add some extraneous running on at the end to hit your mileage.

Jared and I looped the river, up to the Mass Ave bridge, then back along the other side to cross again at the Museum of Science bridge. Back near the gym, we hadn't hit the targeted 6 miles yet, so we ambled back down to Mass Ave and back again. Happy to be done, we then entered the lovely warm gym, and, responsibly, stretched.

Yes, it's true. There was stretching.

Today we met at the gym after work again, this time with me bearing sandwiches. While Jared wrote out his next blog, I hoped on the stationary bike.

Yes, it's true. I cross-trained.

30 minutes later, we both got in a quick lift, before settling in to eat some Italian sandwiches on a thick crusty bread in the gym lobby. (Jared had to film the basketball league finals 30 minutes later, hence the brought dinner.) We followed up with a tasty trail mix, delicately sprinkled with the occasional delicious M&M.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2 Days, 14 Miles, and 'Tis the Season!

Saturday morning saw me lurking under the covers, listening to Jared bustle around in the bathroom as he got ready for a morning volunteering at the first Dana-Farber run of the 2009 training season. At long last, knowing full while that he was hardly going to go without his runner fiance, I dragged myself out of bed and into two layers of tights, Under Armour turtleneck, thermal fleece, hat, and the borrowed gloves of my beloved, having lost my new pair after only two chances to wear them...

Upon arriving at the Mount Auburn gym we were set to run from, I was thrilled to see several familiar faces--fellow Midwesterner Laura, on- and off-road buddy B, Larry, with almost 20 marathons under his belt, and one of the first DFMC'ers I met last year, and an assortment of other runners I hadn't seen in more than six months.

How different this first run of the season was this time around. Last year, I was filled with a mix of emotions--50% glee at starting the training for my first marathon, 50% trepidation at the prospect of running for the next 4 months with a group of strangers, and 50% total and utter terror--at the knowledge that I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

This year, I came back with a whole different set of emotions--happiness to be back at it, comfort at running a now-familiar course, and a smidgeon of practical fear--this time I KNOW how hard the months of training will be, and how the marathon itself will suck at the marrow of energy and strength. I also know, however, that my body and mind are far more capable than I'll ever realize, and that they can go on much longer and farther than I know.

B advised me immediately that she planned to set a bruising pace in the cold weather. I admit I'd hoped for some slow, casual miles, but I wasn't about to do them by myself, so I tucked in with her, figuring that at some point, I'd lag behind as she bolted ahead.

At just over three miles, we crested the first big hill, decelerating to the first water stop, where I was rewarded for my work with a cup of Gatorade and a smooch from my obviously excited beloved. The break over, we continued our run, loping down more hills along the late portion of the marathon course, turning around 1/2 mile after the second water stop at 5 miles. We logged our miles back, kicking on a couple of superbad hills, realizing halfway up Heartbreak Hill where we were, in the following conversation:

Abby: [gasp] Is...this...Heartbreak? [pant pant]
Brenda:, it can't be...[pant]...wait...It HAS to be.
Abby: Yup...[gasp]...definitely Heartbreak.
Brenda: Never gets easier...[pant pant]...does it?

Nope. It won't, either. But, as my grandfather would say about cottage cheese, it'll put hair on your chest.

Happily, I had another reward at three miles to go, as we came upon the last water stop. Jared jumped out into the middle of the road, hugged us both tightly, told us we looked great, and that he loved me.

We finished the 11-mile run strong and happy, if a little chilled from the headwind of the last half mile. Jared joined us a few minutes later, and we headed out as quickly as we'd arrived, on our way to brunch and a Santa-themed pub crawl.

After our early morning, though, coupled with my long run angry belly, we ended up dressed up at the first bar, and stayed there after everyone left for a relaxing brunch, before heading home for a three-hour nap.

Still stiff from Saturday's exertion (and my utter lack of stretching after it), I was in no mood to log any more miles today. We'd signed up for the annual Jingle Bell, a 5K fun run through Cambridge, in which runners were given monstrously ugly Christmas-themed t-shirts, and jingling bells to tie into their shoelaces.

The race start was only a few blocks from our apartment, a fortuitous circumstance when halfway there we realized we'd remembered to dress up festively and warmly, but had not remembered our chip timers or race numbers...back home we ran to get them, making it to Davis Square with time to spare as the start got moving late.

The next three miles were stiff, but hugely entertaining, as locals were out in their finest. Red and green abounded, with hats topped by antlers, ornaments, and white fringe on red. Runners wearing full Santa suits earned our pity, as the day turned surprisingly warm. Girls in shimmering gold and silver tights brought awe as we marveled over where one could even buy that sort of thing. Laughter was reserved for the top costume of the day, a tall gingerbread man running stiff armed and legged past us near 2.5 miles. And everywhere, bells.

All in all, a fun 5K, and just what was needed to start a day of Christmas shopping off right.

All this work, however, makes a couple of runners thirsty, and it must be time for Tom & Jerry's for two...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quotable Moments from my Other Half

Two quotable moments this week from my beloved...

1. While running last week, he suddenly demanded, "Where are we running? I mean, who's chasing us? After this, we just have to run more. We never get where we're going!"

2. Abby (referring to the stick muscle roller), "I want to get a roller today."
Jared's response: "Hellz yeah! Then I can make my scones, bitches!"

(To be fair, we'd also discussed buying a rolling pin earlier that day to do some baking.)

5 Miles of Turning Left, and Why Jeans May Be Good Workout Gear After All...

On Monday, fellow marathoner Caitlin invited me to join her at a local speed workout--to be done on an indoor track.

Rushing around my apartment, I found myself faced with a dilemma:
1. Put my favorite soft sweatpants over my running shorts, acknowledging that the recent snow might make the cuffs wet and dirty, thereby destroying any chance I had to wear them at home post-shower that night.
2. Put an old pair of baggy jeans on top of my running shorts, acknowledging that I'd show up to a speedster workout looking like an extra from Good Will Hunting.

I opted for the second, knowing that nearly any amount of embarrassment is worth having soft, warm sweatpants at the end of the night.

Upon arriving at the track, I faced anther dilemma, when I realized that the 1.5-mile warmup was to take place outside--in just over 20-degree night air. My choices?
1. Take off my jeans, and run in my little green running shorts, hoping and praying that the movement would be enough to keep my bare legs warm.
2. Leave on my jeans for the 1.5 mile warmup, acknowledging that I'd look like a later, baggier version of Rocky Balboa, and understanding that first impressions often stick--did I want to be the woman that jogged in jeans?

I opted for the first.

After the tingling in my frozen thighs had subsided, we arranged ourselves into groups (I jumped in the target marathon of 4:00 to 4:20--a bit ambitious of me, as I'll be happy with a 4:30) and completed the track workout portion--an interval workout. Each interval was 9 laps, the first lap at 10K pace (63 seconds per lap), the second at half marathon (67 seconds per lap), the third at marathon pace (70 seconds per lap), then repeated twice more for a total of 9 laps. Then three minutes rest, and repeat. Then three minutes left, and repeat, this time backwards, so that we ran 70-67-63 x3.

Overall, it was a great experience, and with the warmup and cooldown, I think we got about 5 miles in.

The next morning (yesterday) I awoke a bit sniffly, but ready to face the day. By 4:00 p.m. though, I was on the road home, snotty, stuffy, sneezing, and lamenting my shorts decision of Monday night. Today, I find myself at home from work, a box of Kleenex nearby, and some Theraflu just consumed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rock(y)ing a Weekend Workout

Yesterday, I hit the gym. Plagued by the gremlin gnawing on the inside of my left knee cap (albeit somewhat gently), I opted for...discretion. (They say it's the better part of valor, you know.) So, in the company of my beloved, I headed to the gym, via "THAT WAY." We started off our workout by pumping some iron, he lifting weights in his own manner, and I in my mine--a 2 x 12 circuit workout of lunges, squats, leg curls, push ups, and planks.

While Jared headed for some pickup hoops, I headed for the elliptical, dead set on getting my long run miles in (7-10) before physically running them at next week's first official group run. On the elliptical for 97 grueling minutes, I read the Glamour magazine kindly provided by the woman who cut my hair that morning, then last month's Runner's World. At this point, having been increasing both the incline and the level of difficultly with every 10 minutes, I ducked my head, gritted my teeth, cranked up the volume on the iPod, and dug in for another 35 minutes of rotating. With 2 minutes to go, Jared arrived fresh off the courts to check out my progress. Grimacing, panting, and dripping sweat from every pore, I grinned and told him my body felt like I'd gone for a long run--but with no joint pain. Success!

We stretched, showered, and headed off to Pemberton Market, a little local place down the street from our apartment, for gooey, cheesy, Sicilian-style sandwiches, thick with prosciutto, provolone, and lettuce.

Later, I thought about my workout at the gym, and how I could best describe it to readers of my blog. Unfortunately, there is only way to do so. Thus, I've hired Sylvestor Stallone of 1985 to do a semi-accurate representation of my cross-training efforts of Saturday. (Note: Though I asked Sly to wear performance gear, he insisted on tight black jeans and a leather jacket. But to each their own...)

Yeah, that's right. Boston (as represented here by Russian phenom "Drago"), you'll be my bitch come April.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Voter Results!

The past week has been a bit ho-hum in terms of running...I played some hoop on Tuesday, after a sluggish Monday run. (We lost, by the way, ending the HDR dreams of finishing in the middle of the pack.) I'm taking some time now to take care of a sore left knee, in hopes that some good sense now will leave me logging some happy long miles with the DFMC at next weekend's first group run. So it's some quality miles on an arc trainer for me...ick.

Luckily, I have the promise of more Tom & Jerry's to keep me smiling, coupled with the cookies the other half and I are planning to bake tonight. Even luckier--the voters have spoken, and I have received familial approval to share the Tom & Jerry recipe. So without further ado...


8 eggs
Lots of powder sugar
just a tich of baking soda
Rum (oh yum)
Brandy (oh, what a good wife she would be)
HOT water (Perrier is forbidden given the family history)
Nutmeg (occasionally she is)

(*Note: As there's only two of us, we've been making a 1/4-batch, which makes four Tom & Jerry's, or two each...just enough to get me slightly pickled.)

Separate the eggs (one in the living room, one in kitchen, one in garage, etc)

Beat the whites without being a racist. (Should look almost like meringue.)
Beat the yolks old country fogey style.
Make sure the beatings are thorough... like old school whuppin'.

Combine the beaten duo and add powder sugar to taste. Your goal here is a nice light and sweet batter. It is essential to poke a finger in and test a few times. I have always found one shot of rum sharpens the taste buds nicely.

At this time the tich of baking soda comes in. It is optional whether you whip it into the batter or toss it over your left shoulder. Whichever it is, you must say with gusto... "To preserve the batter!"

Fill the cup aboot 1/2 full with batter while remembering thy roooots.
Pour in one shot rum and one shot brandy (1/2 shot brandy if you prefer but it strikes me better to be balanced).
Add HOT water until 1.384567" below the rim.
Stir nicely with your favorite spoon.

Add more batter to fill the cup and you MUST drizzle a bit down the side (options A and B):
Option A. Drizzle... on the premise that many people spill anyway and just get it over with.
Option B. Drizzle... some people who are neat freaks need to walk on the wild side (help them).
A light nutmeg sprinkle to finish with that little special flourish (supposedly my grandmother used to call it happy dust).

Enjoy. Repeat. Repeat. Repeatfshjdhhbkvc.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Running builds character, and to share...or not to share?

Running while its raining only builds wet character.

I logged a surly 5 miles with Jared today, my stiff muscles (honestly, who works out all four days of Thanksgiving weekend?) protesting through mile 3, the gremlin in my kneecap gnawed through mile 4, and with the last mile, the Dizzle Squizzle Starbucks in sight (that's right, on a weeknight--lushes, the both of us), the universe decided to add insult to injury--with a previously balmy night suddenly overtaken by frigid rain.

Bolting home, our coffees in hand, I could only reflect on the rewards to come. I've found that sometimes, in order to get myself out the door, like tonight, I have to promise myself a reward--in this case, a hot, steaming dark roast, with just a dash of half & half.

This past weekend, the joy of a lusciously foamy Tom & Jerry was my sweet reward for logging some long, hilly miles. Last night, I shared the goodness with fellow runner, B, who of course asked for the recipe...necessitating some debate with my family regarding whether or not the recipe should be shared.

Please, family, friends, and utter and complete strangers in need of a hot, boozy winter pick-me-up--vote.
Should the secret family recipe for Tom and Jerry's be made public?
Yes! Please! I beg of you! Change my hot toddy of choice!
No, I prefer not to imbibe in the spririt of Christmas.
Maybe? I'm not sure if I'm ready to learn to fish.
(Unequivocal) YES! The fate of the free world rests on the cup rim of Tom and his good friend Jerry.
No, you barbarian traitor to your own family.
Don't Care--I'm a vegan. free polls