Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Laaaazy loosener today

Typical Mon/Tues running routine is to bang out my favorite Southie loop. Finding myself far too stiff and tired to do it yesterday, today dawned with still stiff knees but the need to get in some miles.

I shambled out around 7:00 p.m. into a balmy 37 degree evening, heavy with fog and cloud cover. No stars or moon to see on the causeway, but the air was wet and thick, with just the beginning of that spring/summer scent of salt and fish. There was no wind at all, and the dark water in Pleasure Bay was outright glassy looking--so smooth the city building lights were perfectly reflected down the red lights at the top of the Pru and Hancock. On the harbor side, even the waves hitting the rocks were soft and calm. The perfect night for a laaazy run, which was what tonight was. I forced myself to take it slow and easy, I wandered a bit in the middle to enjoy the evening, and I kept the overall run short and sweet--about 5.5 miles.

Exactly what my sore knees, back, and hamstrings needed after Derry.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Derry Play-by-Play (also longest blog written)

The day dawned snowy and wet. I picked up Caitlin and we headed to Derry, NH, all the while peeking out the windows at the heavy snowfall and ominous white sky--this would not be ending any time soon. When we pulled up near the elementary school's parking lot, we were waved away, and told the lot was full and we'd need to park in another lot, at a second school further down the street. Further down the street, through a rotary, and several stop lights to be exact. Combined with the ongoing snowfall, things had looked better. Caitlin noted that we were, in fact, crazy, to be out and running on a day like this--a fact that was further driven home when we saw the line to catch the shuttle (i.e., large yellow school bus) to the first school--the race's starting point. When faced with the option of waiting for at least one more bus to come and go, or to simply run to the start line--well. What IS a girl to do? We started running, only mildly (not at all) cheered by the parking lot guy's cheery shout of "It's only about a mile, straight down that way!" What? An extra MILE??

We arrived back at the first school, picked up our swag (which included a pullover running top in a truly toxic shade of lime green--needless to say, I kind of adore it), and commenced with The Stretching...only to be told the run would be delayed by 15 minutes. Well, ok, no big deal. Extra stretching. Caitilin and I used this time to track down (James Bond-style, including one nifty gadget, no less--a chip timer that appeared suspiciously akin to the ankle bracelets convicts wear) our fellow DFMC'ers--Larry and Judith, a pair I've already logged some serious miles with.

Soon the start was upon us, and off we went up rolling hills and into the snow, wading our way through the inch or two of snow that was alternately accumulating and turning into a marshy, dirty, WET mess--a mile or two in and I found myself with sopping shoes. Still, trudge along, good runners, trudge along, with the sound of feet hitting the ground like a pack of antelope (or some other herd animal--feel free to insert your own metaphor here. It's a cool noise though, the sound of hundreds of feet hitting the ground around you.). And truth be told, there IS something beautiful about the way a heavy white snow like that sticks to trees and houses. I can't say that I'd recommend running in it, but it is a pretty sight.

I stayed with Caitlin and Judith through the water stop at around 6.4 miles, then we each went our merry ways. (Frankly, on a day like today, it's all you can do to keep moving; talking is really a non-issue.) Between 7-10 miles, I feel in with a very nice fellow named Kevin, a member of the Mystic Runners, who was working up to the Mount Washington run in June. (For those of you non-New Englanders, this run is about 7 or 7.5 miles--straight up Mt. Washington. It's a VERY elite race--not in the sense that you need to be an elite to get it, but in the sense that is VERY difficult to get in at all--you have to run in six other races to be considered. Madness.) Around 9 miles, he I also broke apart, and I continued slogging on my own.

Miles 10-13 were a true test. "The Hill" (actually labeled that on the map) midway through mile 10 almost broke me. I've always been a firm believer in running up hills. Period. If you need to walk, you walk at the top. Today I made it about halfway up this monster and just...had...to....stop a minute. Ah well, I did finish running up that bastard eventually, plus several more, so I think I won't lose sleep over it. During these four miles, though, I did hit a point where I seriously considered throwing myself in front of one of the passing cars. (Luckily I didn't have the energy for sideways motion.)

By the time the 14-mile sign rolled around (Sweet blessed sign!), I had reconciled myself to the fact that the race wasn't going to be over until it was over. So I dug in, lengthened the stride a little, and wacked out the last two miles, today's mantra changing to "Well, now it's just running right? What's a little more running?" When at last the finish came into view, I found myself happily surprised. With weather, my own slowness, and the hilly course, I'd been hoping to be in under 2:40/2:45. My actual time was a neat 2:32.16--hoorah!

Highlights from today:
Miles traveled running: approximately 17
Hours of basketball played 2 hours later (bad choice, incidentally): 1
Gu's consumed: 3
Inches of snowfall accumulated in Derry, NH (as of now): too damned much
Number of bloody socks worn by one Caitlin Andrews: 2
Number of bloody shoes worn by one Caitlin Andrews (thereby even further affirming the fact that Schilling is, in fact, a bit of a pansy): 1
Route, including elevation map: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1572140

Actual post-race feelings: mixed, but overall good. This was a fantastic race, one that truly tested my limits. The weather left a bit to be desired, and I'm frankly exhausted at the moment. There is something about running in the elements like this that is exhilarating, and there is a camaraderie with the other poor fools running with you that would be absent on a nicer day. The water/fuel stations were plenty, the volunteers manning them encouraging, and all in all, I'd do it again.

Sorry, no photos. Wasn't really a day conducive to carrying a camera.

To all of you who ran--major props are in order. You are ANIMALS. Good run!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Last one before Derry

Hauled myself out of bed this morning at 10 minutes of 5:00 a.m. again...dashed off to downtown, knowing I had to bang this one out fast to get to work on time. Luckily the partners in crime were willing and I was done with an uber-fast 7 miles in about an hour. (Ok, that's really not that fast, but IT IS FOR ME! DAMMIT.)

I had considered another (short) run tomorrow, before Derry on Sunday, but I am TIRED. So instead I'm going to go to do something fun.

Wish me luck Sunday. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The fat yellow moon and me

Today...well, today was kind of a long day. Having now recognized my Tuesday work day for what it typically is (a madhouse) I am committed to leaving at a reasonable time. It will be there tomorrow. And if there's a LOT that will be there tomorrow, I can just go in early.

All babbling about work aside, I did arrive home at a decent time. However, I remembered in the car ride that I'd forgotten to charge my iPod (dead as a post), and REALLY wanted to take it with me. (It's strange, but I've gotten very set in my running habits. I always do approximately the same Southie loop over the Causeway on either Monday or Tuesday with my iPod. I've grumpily gotten into the habit of the 5:30 a.m. run with some other DFMC'ers, sans iPod. Long runs remain iPod-free.) Either way, this particular run is a music-filled run, and that's the way I like it. So I plugged it in, reloaded with some new goodies (Audioslave, Scott Stapp, a little Ben Harper), and with that newly juiced electronic goodness headed into the elements. (It was, in fact, a wet and cool night.)

Normal loop + a little modification. I found myself on the causeway, looking up at the fat yellow moon, a perfect full moon the color of duck down or light margarine, listening to the water like I always do. Though I tend to adore the orangey Harvest Moon for its heavy closeness (it always looks so big and so low that I almost wait for it to fall out of the sky and bounce like a basketball), this was some moon. So bright that the water under it and around me came alive. I was so entranced by this whole delicious scene, I randomly turned around at the end of the Causeway and ran back around the loop again--this time with my face up and looking to the moon.

By the end of my run, I'd banged out a relatively aggressive 8.94 (we'll round to a friendly 9)--I'm not quite sure how that happened. Here is my route, which will appear confusing, as a few places got hit twice: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1571287

Two more runs this week before Derry--Thurs. morning and a quickie on Friday, I think. Then it's a lazybones Saturday for this cat, and run my face off Sun, follow it up with a little bit o' hoops...though the latter I may be watching.

But today--the moon. Gorgeous. In fact, it's a gorgeous, gorgeous world.

I'll leave you with the second of my two favorite quotes on running (or at least applicable to running) and life as a whole, one of the ones that I think of when I am so exhausted in body, spirit, and soul that it takes nearly all of what's left to repeat this mantra inside my own head--and as Kate knows, to sometimes randomly shout it at fellow runners (love you Kate, for sticking with bizarro me anyway):

The human spirit is indomitable. --Sir Roger Bannister

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday's 10-mile taper

Took the polish off my toes this week to find two black toenails, and a third looking as though it's thinking of joining them. Oops. Maybe I'll just paint them. A dark color. :) But, though my feet are looking pretty gross, I am considering them a badge of honor.

Nothing much to say about this run--Caitlin and I ran an out-and-back 10 miles, starting near her apartment in Beacon Hill, heading down Comm Ave, and turning around 5 miles and some change down. A few moderate hills, but nothing like last week's run, and nothing like what I suspect next week's Derry race to hold...

The rest of my day holds a nap and a birthday party. I heart long weekends...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why I hate (but really love) Elizabeth Paul

Two runs for today's post--I know, I slack. Sorry!

This Monday I woke up to a monster snow storm (or, as it may be, what you New Englanders call a monster storm). All jokes aside though, crappy roads and snowy wind kept me home from work--though hardly a holiday when the babymac is with me. Still it's tough to get as much done as you'd like when you're working off-site, and Tuesday, usually a long day for me anyway, took on a life of its own. I arrived home at around 7:45, thinking it awfully late to be starting a trek through the snow. Here is the conversation that ensued that ensued with the lovely Liz Paul (see upper right for a taste of her style):

Abby [in a morose tone]: So...it's almost 8:00; one of you needs to tell me it's ok to not run tonight. [Who am I kidding with this, by the way?!]
Liz [chipper, and in star-spangled pajamas, mind you]: I think you should...I'm sorry; I think you need someone to make you do it now...
[Abby looking both morose and indignant, maybe a dash of irrational blackness creeping in]
Liz: You should run. Just don't do a long run. Do a short one!

After my admittedly terse reply of the fact that none of them are really "short" anymore, I huffed my way to my bedroom to change. As expected, a few miles in, I was much happier, and very glad she insisted. I did around 5.5, and enjoyed some QT on the Causeway looking at the stars--which makes it impossible to stay grumpy. Go Liz! I hate you, but I love you. :)

Today a Thursday 5:30 a.m. run with the ladies--cool, but nice. Though it's still HORRIBLE to get out of bed before 5:00 a.m., nothing beats being back home with 7 miles in the hatch and it not even 7:00 a.m. yet.

Rest of this week will be light, as it's a "taper" training week. Tapers are weeks in which I don't actually increase mileage--instead holding them steady, or even decreasing, which allows your joints a chance to rest and recover. Saturday I'll do a slow 10 miles or so with Caitlin (So weird! This is my taper week now! HA!), then a normal week next week, leading up to the Boston Prep on Sunday.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

May you run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. --Isaiah 40:31

This morning 15.25 miles on a beautiful, but extremely hilly course. I ran...but definitely grew weary. But I didn't walk. And I didn't faint. And that's victory enough for me. :)

I did attempt some proactive thinking, shouting "I LOVE HILLS!" while running up them, in hopes that it would come true. (It didn't.) In any event, it was a lovely and strong run, even relatively fast, at 2:35 (or so).

My plans for the rest of the day include the following: sweatpants, water, gatorade, and Mexican food. Ah, bliss...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yesterday was a day for long-term storage

This Thursday morning's 7-miler (ugh, 5:30 a.m., and out late at the Celtics game the night before) came out delicious--cool, but not cold, a beautiful morning, and six of us gluttons for punishment present. Same route--started on Arlington and Newbury, though this time we trekked our way further before turning back, to make the necessary mileage. I am happy to say that this week so far has been a strong running week for me.

That said, I am not a runner in the sense that many marathoners are. The truth is that running is hard. The first few miles of every single run are an agony of stiff joints, awkward pace, and jumbled thoughts. In fact, I doubt that it will ever be easy. But there comes a point in each run where the details stop mattering, and you get down to the meat of the thing. Your joints quiet, your stride smooths and lengthens, and the mental jumble shifts and eases, and occasionally settles itself out with no conscious effort. It's the last of these three that gets me at the core. This, again, is where I start to find the angles of myself, when there is nowhere I need to be but here, no phone or music to distract, no task to complete outside of the one--Keep. Moving. Forward. Physically, metaphorically, mentally. Everything in the beautiful, hideous, glorious, idiotic, and completely random and frustrating world comes down to one essential, conscious choice--keep going, or stop.

I can't get out of my head the knowledge that there's a lot of road out there my feet haven't seen yet. There'll be no long drawn out thought process, no heavy ponderings of whether the possible joy of mile 6 is going to be worth the annoying discomfort of mile 2. Fuck it. Get out and run. And if it still hurts at 6, or 14, or however far you go, well... remember that you're moving, breathing, feeling, and aware that you are alive. And all the world's an oyster.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Monday's Run in Southie (6.77 miles)

Tired legs, but BEEEEEEEEEE-OOOTIFUL weather. So nice, in fact, I took a time out on the causeway at Castle Island to stop, listen to music, and look at the stars.

Distance: 6.77 miles
Mood post run: sheer bliss

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Yesterday's 14 Miles--the longest run I've ever done

Yesterday was my first opportunity to hit a planned group run through Dana-Farber. I picked up Caitlin in Beacon Hill around 7:45 a.m., and we made our way to Watertown for the organized group run, which would take us through much of the marathon course...including Heartbreak Hill.

Around 75 people showed up, and off we jetted, clipping along at a nice, steady pace--one that pushed my endurance, but not to the point of an early burnout (thank god). The course was out and back, and took us up and down, and up and down....and up and down. Early in the run, I muttered to Caitlin that I hated hills, only to have one of the race directors behind me yell "You're in the wrong race!" Ultimately this lead us to a discussion on why I really don't hate hills, as evinced by the sheer enjoyment I took from last year's 1/2 marathon at Lake Winneppesaukee in NH--an incredibly hilly course, but also a positively gorgeous and motivational run. This conversation was to be one of many during the run, as each runner seemed open to chatting with new people. There was Chris and Brenda, who I met early in the course--Chris a 2nd-time Boston marathoner, and Brenda, training for her first, as am I.

Around 5 miles, Caitlin and I settled into a pack of four, which we would stay in for the majority of the course. Stephanie, a 28-year-old, is training for her third marathon. Her husband was running also, but far ahead of us. Larry, closer to middle-age, was training for his 18th marathon, and provided inspiration the entire route. Around Mile 10-11, as he and I were charging up Heartbreak Hill together, I thought to myself, "I can't stop...I'll never get moving again and be able to finish if I stop now!" Just behind me was Larry, and when I turned to make sure he was there yet and running ok, he pulled out one earphone, and gasped "Keep going! You look strong!" giving me, in his own tiredness, the push I needed to make it up the hill and ultimately, all the way home. This run, my longest ever, at 14 miles, felt like one of my strongest all the same.

The people I met yesterday were phenomenal. They are all running for different reasons, but are so much a community and team. It's fantastic to be included in something like this, where I am able to continue to challenge myself on an individual level, but can also support and encourage other runners, and know that I will receive the same from them in return.

Statistics of interest:
Total miles run since beginning this blog: 82.5
Total miles for 2007: 407.25 (at least that's what I've recorded)
Average per day in 2007: 1.2 miles
Total miles so far in 2008: 20.75
Average per day: 4.15

Funds raised to date: $1370.00

Three months, 14 days to go!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year! (6.77)

The only thing disappointing about last night's run was its distance--I was wholly convinced I'd run around 7.5 miles, but today mapped it out at 6.77. Damn. This was my route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1524455 (the best part is definitely the causeway--that brief moment in the dark when there is water on both sides of you, and inky black in front and back--the only noise the water, your feet...ok, and sometimes whatever's on the ipod, though this is a frequent shutoff point).

It was a cool night, but overall not too shabby--comfortable in a layer on top and layer on bottom. Today is outright frigid, and I am not sad to hear that tomorrow's 5:30 a.m. is a no-go, as I will happily log some treadmill miles in shorts instead.