Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nag, nag, is your blog;)

TWO runs for this blog...Sunday's delightful 5.5 miles, and last night's 3 miles--both with JRod. (Honestly, if that's not a carrot I want to chase, I don't know what is.)

Though we also ran a quick and ugly 3 miles last night, what I want to talk about here is Sunday.

The day was bright and sunny...and all I wanted was to SLEEP IN. Two weeks in California, working day in and day out, burning the midnight oil, NO ONE wanting to play zombie games with me...I JUST WANTED TO SLEEP IN. Which I did:) Then got up, full of pep and pizazz and ready to rock some miles in Southie.

My friend Kim was in town, and just down the street (and on the route) at The Playwright, about a half mile into my normal Southie route. We shambed our way down there, and made it just in time to catch a very hungover Kim and her husband Steve, as they were finishing a greasy and rejuvenating brunch. The four of us chatted a bit on the street--Jared and I hating them for not being out running, Kim and Steve hating us for not being as hungover as they looked.

Then, on our merry way to Castle Island where it seemed that hundreds of people were out--sitting, walking, and running. (Where were you fair weather runners in January, huh?! When I was running that route in a thermal base with tights on top, UnderArmour, fleece, hat, and mittens?! Wimps! All of you!)

We paused for a brief moment just before the causeway to take it all in--the green-gray waves gently lapping on the rocks, a blazing yellow sun, sailboats, cruise ships and fishing boats speckling the harbor, the sounds of people talking, laughing, or just moving past us while we stood. And looked.

While there, I couldn't help but to think about all the times I stopped at this exact spot over the many cold winter runs, the many rainy nights. And while I admit that of late I've frequently mentioned my beloved--here is the truth. I pined for him (dramatically, like a 17-year-old wondering about the prom) for ages, thinking it would never work--for a number of reasons and circumstances I'll not be getting into here. I stopped at this EXACT spot over and over in those months, looking up and looking out, listening to the more violent winter waves crashing into and rushing through the causeway, thinking about how to purge his presence from my thoughts and very system. I lapped the bowl of Pleasure Bay, circling around again in frigid, driving rain, attempting to tire myself, reminding myself of all the practical things that practical me should be thinking instead, and barring my ability to change my thinking, trying to tire myself from thinking of any kind.

But. Months later. Ah...:) Just look at us now (below). It all worked out for the weirdest, most wonderful best, and it seemed on this run, that all of those runs crystallized for the sole purpose of bringing me this one, shining, sunny day, and the person I most wanted to share it with.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pre-Earthfest 4

Saturday of this past Memorial Day weekend brought the annual "Earthfest" to Boston, and with it thousands of pot-smoking hippies.

Jared and his roommate Serge headed out early to save a spot near the stage--the main act this year was Cake. I admit fully to being crazy, wonderfully, googly-eyed, head over heals for one JRod--press play on the video below if you want to hear my new favorite (and applicable) Cake song.

While the men staked their turf, I met Brenda for a quick 4-miler around the river--for those in the area who run, this would be the Mass Ave bridge to Museum of Science bridge loop. Along the way, we ran into Jared, looking a bit fatigued with bags and a full cooler in tow, on his way to meet his roommate.

During the miles, we caught up on work, life, and dating (now HE can chase the carrot, B! And I of course rambled on about the wonderfulness of one JRod...). Post run, the two of us settled our sweaty selves on the steps of her apartment for a photo op.

Later, B came down to the Hatch Shell to join us for some Gatorade (with vodka) and Cake. Here's us again, her having showered, me having...changed. For a full run-down on the Earthfest events, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A new game for my blog readers?

Wednesday night brought the last of my chances for a run through Redwood City and Belmont, CA.

Usually, I've followed a philosophy of trying to use words to describe every detail of how my runs feel--the sunny or stormy weather, windy or dull and heavy with the deadness of humidity, the smell of the earth and trees of Ponkapoag, or Castle Island's faint stench of fish, coupled with it's wet, salty air, the feel of rain in my face, or the feel of a bead (torrent) of sweat traveling down my spine...I try to write these blogs so that whomever is reading them can physically feel as though they are also traveling the miles--can feel my tiredness and euphoria, the jubilation of finishing strong, and the disappointment of not doing so, can feel the lengthening of a stride, the pang of a footfall on pavement...

For the first time ever, this past Wednesday, I went on a run for the sole purpose of writing an interesting blog--given the uniqueness of the terrain and wildlife (plant, person, etc.), I wanted to share with local and Midwestern readers exactly what everything looked like. This time, despite my general aversion to carrying anything while I run (I can't run and chew gum at the same time, if you will), I headed out, camera in one hand, map in another, my ID and room key card tucked into the side of my sports bra.

The 5.5 mile loop took me through parts of Redwood City, CA, home of Silicon Valley, and Belmont, CA, past ludicrously fancy suburban areas, where driveways of perfectly proportioned houses held shimmering convertibles and sports cars of gleaming blacks, reds, silver or gunmetal gray.

Of all these things, what struck me the most was, quite simply, the vegetation. Shrubs were perfectly manicured shelves at strict 90-degree angles, or styled as twirling spires reaching for the sky as they tapered into tight ends. Houses boasted yards filled with the lush green grass of a polo field, and roses climbed walls and sprawled along drives with drowsy abandon.

Spring is also beginning to embrace New England, slowly and surely. But where our tulips are showing their colors and our trees beginning to green, California's plant life has already exploded into the profusion of summer. (This is not to say that Caifornia's plant life is better than that of New England--keep in mind that as California's plants and flowers begin to brown and curl in the oppressive summer heat, those of New England will be teeming with life, full of vibrant colors.)

Still, I was astounded, and delighted, with the full force of the natural beauty I unexpectedly found myself in. In honor of that, I propose a contest, with one of two prizes to the winner.

First, the prize(s)--If you're amenable, write a guest blog. Or, I'll do a blog about your wonderful (or nefarious) influence. (Second option, for ye shy, is dinner. Homecooked, with a tasty blender drink or three.)

Second, the contest:


There are 10 numbered plants here--each of which struck me as lovely for one reason or another. Name them. Each correct answer is worth 10 points.

There are two bonus items. Name them each for 50 points, or one of them for 20 points.

Gentlemen (and ladies)--start your googling.

And...the two bonus items:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another run in sunny Ca...and enough of it for this cat

Today another long day of work, and me still having trouble adjusting to the time change. Upon arriving back at the hotel around 6:00 p.m., I headed out for a run, this time armed with a route compliments of gmap (unfortunately I lost the link--sorry!). The approximately 5.5 mile route was to take me by a little slip of water, through suburban Redwood City and Belmont, before looping back to the hotel.

The run, much the same as many of the others lately, was tough, though certainly not impossible. While I slogged slowly through the miles, I came to two very important conclusions, which are as follows:

1. Running is a harsh--and humbling--mistress. Yes, I am aware that less than a month ago, I ran a marathon. I acknowledge that 5 or 6 miles should not be as hard as it really is. I understand on a bone-deep level that my heavy legs are in fact capable of doing more, going further. But I reiterate what I have said before--none of this makes it easy. Running is hard. Plain and simple. But I'm going back to the basics now--and acknowledging the hardness, recognizing that it should be hard, that it's always going to be hard, and reminding myself that it's ok to be tired--to remember that it's ok to just slow down when I'm tired. That's the key, what I need to go back to--don't stop; just slow down, and be ok with that.

2. Order, order, order. As a relatively organized and admittedly neurotic human being, order has it place in my life. But after a week and a half of meetings, looking for local restaurants, planning my days along the time change and the things I want and need to do, and running along the perfectly manicured lawns and gardens of Silicon Valley...I'm ready to go back to my messy, luscious life in Boston, my normal days, my regular running routes, my own washing machine and dryer, my friends, my Jared.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Running along the bay with the locals

Still in California, and what's a lonesome runner to do? Well, if she is proactive, she'll use the website recommended by Runner's World to find a local running club--a particularly good choice if said runner also happens to be horrible with directions and worried about getting I am.

After having gotten in touch with Ted from the Mid-Peninsula Running Club, my plans were set--meet the group at Ryder Park in San Mateo, only about a ten-minute drive from my hotel in Redwood City.

I got up early and trucked on over--finding myself about 30 minutes early. Luckily, this gave me time to check out the local scenery. The park, along the San Francisco Bay, offered a truly lovely vista--long sweeps of blue-gray water, tall and windswept grasses, dirt paths and sidewalks winding through the latter. I took the opportunity to snap a few quick photos before the running club members arrived at 9:00 a.m.

By the time the 7 or 8 members from the club arrived, the sun had inched higher into the sky and become glaringly hot. I settled in with Frances, a 50-something who'd run Boston this year also. Frances was tiny and tireless, trotting out the miles while spitting out recommendations of her favorite eateries in Chinatown. In an interesting quirk of coincidence, she also was familiar with a ESL series I'm just finishing up with at work. Not to mention, unfailingly patient with my obvious struggles in the heat. :) We churned out a slow 6 miles, and though I am sure Frances could have run much faster, she hung tight with me for a lovely chat.

I am always astonished when faced with the kindness of strangers--and runners have a unique camaraderie. There is something in the miles that makes a mockery of the concept of "strangers"--when you are with another runner, even one you've never run with before, you find yourself noticing the commonalities--Frances, like me, had turned to running post an ended relationship, after a failed attempt at jazzercise. (Well, not the jazzercise for me, but a failed relationship was part of the beginning of running for me as well.) Frances, like me, views her weekly runs as a de-stressor, as an enjoyable break from the rest of life.

As a whole, this running club and its members, were fantastic--both friendly and welcoming. Should I find myself back in the area, I plan to contact them again, and catch up on all the miles that will have passed. Until then--thank you for an enjoyable run, good company, and for showing me a beautiful place to enjoy both in.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Funny things;)

First, and quickly--my running is still a little blah...with another short, 3-4 mile run, along the lagoon near the hotel. Tomorrow I'll meet up with a group in SF, and hopefully that will be better!

Better: These New Balance commercials. :D Enjoy.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The "lay of the land" run

Today I arrived in sunny California for a long-ish work trip. After driving my rental to Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, I decided to take advantage of the sunny summer air, and beautiful vista with a quick run.

I looped around the hotel's scenic lagoon, and had just neared the curve of one edge, about 1/2 mile in, when I saw a family of ducks--four or five large ducks on and next to the path, accompanied by around 10 ducklings--not tiny, but not full grown, nearly the size of footballs, with the yellow fuzziness that marks a young duck. It was then I noticed the "Watch for ducks crossing" signs--not an advertisement for the local Chinese cuisine, it seems. The ducks placidly watched my running, standing stoically as I trampled less than a foot aware from them. (The route back, a bit different--one of the ducks hissed at me at soon as I came within 20 feet of the duck herd--causing a small detour on my part. Do ducks bite? I imagine so.)

Nearly swooning with delight over the sheer adorableness of the herd of ducks and ducklings, I continued on my run, blithely and happily, nary a care in the world.

Until I realized that I was running through a minefield of duck poop. The sideway was scattered, thickly, with mass amounts of multicolored duck feces for nearly a half mile. The way became perilous, as I dodged and weaved, taking care to protect my running kicks as best I was able. Soon, at last, I had passed safely through to clean sidewalk, and could again concentrate on the truly lovely scenery.

I shambled over a bridge across the lagoon and nearly lost my breath--the late afternoon sun shone over rippling water, and the city rose behind the lagoon, the mountains looming further behind. California, quicker to warm than cool New England, had exploded into lush vegetation--further exhibited as my legs carried me over the bridge and into suburbia. Neatly trimmed lawns were shadowed by arching trees with thick brown and gray veined trunks and heavy falls of green at their tops. But the best part--oh, the roses. The roses were everywhere, in every yard, some lining the entrance to a home, some hugging the edges of curving driveways. White, yellows, and a variety of pinks, the roses were like something out of a dream--something unexpected at this time of year, and all the lovelier because of it.

My mother loves roses. She is disdainful of the storebought rose, which she believes has been engineered too much for its perfect bud shape, at the sacrifice of its smell. Instead, she loves the bushes that grow blooms in wild abandon and fill the air with their heavy, sweet scent in the summer and fall months. I cannot begin to number the roses I helped her to plant in my parents' three-acre yard. But I know that when I see roses growing freely outside that I will always think of my mother, and of my youth.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lovely, lovely Ponkapoag...and an unexpected stop

This morning dawned bright and...wait. Overcast and dreary? Oh yes, that's more like the Boston I know and love! Still, I was undeterred! I had a haircut and highlights to get to! Errands to run! Toenails to paint! (I can't lie, a third toenail is starting to look downright sickly and needs some camouflage--stat.)

All these errands completed, and only one completely forgotten, I headed home to pack for tomorrow's week and a half trip to California. Instead, of course, I made an egg sandwich (whole wheat English muffin, two over easy eggs, a little mayo, and some pepperjack cheese), drank some milk, and commenced to clean my apartment.

An hour later, Jared showed up for the planned "10-mile" run. Given my lackluster performance of late, and his new love of my favorite Ponkapoag running trail, I convinced him to head down south for an 8.5 mile--we'd lap the trail twice to get the necessary mileage.

We ran fine through the first 3 miles, me with stiff knees, Jared with stiff knees (really, how old are we?)--and then...I announced...with due solemnity, to my charming and handsome companion, "Um, can I tell you something without you freaking out?" Head nod from Jared, questioning look in my direction. Eyes averted, I tried to laugh it off with a "ha, ha...I really need to crap." (Luckily not such a dire situation that it required a sprint to a pizzeria, but I didn't see myself lapping the trail another time in my current condition.)*

Luckily he took it all in stride...that is, until we saw the YMCA Camp along that way. Finding no one there, I did what any runner in the woods would do when faced with an empty building, with an unlocked door, through which the bathroom is easily visible.

In any event, Jared stood outside the building (on guard) while I used the facility, listening to the barking of what was surely a rabid St. Bernard (hopefully) chained up in another room, thinking to myself "This is how horror movies start..."

Eventually I bolted out of the abandoned YMCA Camp building, and we were off again, and shambling along the trail toward home. Within a half mile, we'd agreed that coffee and hot, cheesy pizza was a much better choice than running another 4 miles. (Good man.)

Addendum: Sometimes when I run, I wish I had my camera with me. The last run with Caitlin was one of those times, as the run drifted by the coastline of the harbor, and a lovely patch of multicolored tulips (which I personally view as the harbinger of spring).

*NOTE: Roommate Liz told me yesterday that her brother Chris, an NYC police officer, caught a female runner taking a crap in the park this week.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

5.5 in Southie with Caitlin

Ah hah!

Today marks the day that I finally hit 26.2 miles--total. In the 15 days since the marathon.

It's REALLY hard to believe that the marathon actually happened. On Wednesdays's run with Caitlin, though, I realize it wasn't just me. She told me she hadn't felt very strong running since the marathon. (Check.) She told me her legs felt tired and heavy. (Check. Check.)

We agreed that though we'd heard from so many people that recovering from a marathon took time, and we'd been surprised at how quickly we were both able to get back on the road. It was only on Tuesday, I think, that we both considered the term "recovery." Maybe it's not recovery in the sense of recovering to just run--maybe it's that even though we're able to run, we're not running as strong yet.

Which, frankly, is ok. Wednesday was a slow 5.5 miles in Southie, past water shining with the summer sun--something I missed on the dark winter nights of training. Monday was a bit faster, solo 4 miles around the Charles, where I marveled at the number of runners coming out of the woodwork. The previous Saturday a lovely 4-mile run at Ponkapoag, the Thursday before that, a blistering 4 miles on the river, sandwiched between a slow mile or so on either end.

For now, I am remembering the pleasure of running. The slow, languorous enjoyment of just running. I walk when I went I want to walk. I lengthen my stride and speed up when the mood strikes. No worries of distance, of being too tired or too energetic for the next run. Just running, by myself, with friends, with my beloved. On streets, sidewalks, dirt paths.

Soon, of course, I'll sign up for a short and blistering race, and get myself back into some semblance of training, but for now, ah... the bliss of easy, casual miles.

Because pretty soon, I'll have "recovered," and then--well. Then it's time to run again.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The "Maine" Event (Abby's Addendum)

While I adore JRod, there are some things he failed to mention about our Northern Outdoors adventure this past weekend....

Namely the top 10 quotable moments.

Captain Mike: Our erstwhile guide. Not only a redhead, and rafting expert, but also a marathoner (see Mike run!)
Liz: The blond banana roommate--and most "Extreme!" of the bunch
Chuck: Her equally blond and equally "Extreme!" boyfriend
Jared (alias JROD): My beloved--a strange and compelling sort
Nick: Jared's much put-upon roommate, and excellent Italian cook
Abby: Yours truly

Megan: A charming eclectic from Franconia, NH
Her companions--three males (while also charming and eclectic, also unfortunately possessing wholly unmemorable names)

AND...without further ado, the top quotable moments.

10. Captain Mike: That one [rapid we just went through] was "Humpty-Dumpty."
Abby: What are the other names?
Captain Mike: I don't know...[this would be when we decided to name the rapids ourselves]

Captain Mike: The next one is "Satan's Hole."
Megan: "Fuzzy Puppy Ears!"

9. Megan's Unknown Companion #1: This one is "Bambi's Mother!" [obviously not getting the spirit of the thing]
Anonymous: Uhh...things didn't end well for Bambi's mother.

8. Megan's Unknown Companion #2: What is this, the...T-bone...
Anonymous: ...T-Bar?
Abby: T-Bag? Oh come on, you were all thinking it.

7. Chuck: It's so's like...liquid snow...

6. Jared: What are your healthiest burgers?
Burger King Lady: Ah...number 8, the chicken sandwich.
Nick [to Jared]: This IS Burger King...

5. Nick: Look at this bed--it's like Craftmatic adjustable bed [referring to the 4-inch divet in the center]

4. Guy handing out thermal booties [to person ahead of us]: What size booties do you want?
Jared [to Abby]: When I get up there, I'm gonna say "I like 'em real, thick and juicy!" and you should break it down.
Abby: Ok.

3. Captain Mike: This last one is Big Poplar.
Liz: I love it when they call me Big Poplar...

2. Jared [to another raft]: Hey! You guys want to go for a swim? [Unfortunately, Jared did not realize someone on that raft had fallen off earlier--and had, in fact, already gone for a swim]

1. Captain Mike: Both sides forward! Keep going! Both sides! Harder! Now drift! Now wave at my family!

SO much fun. Frigid, frozen, but one hell of a trip--I've rafted in Montana in Glacier National Park (granted only once), and this was definitely better!

PS[and only because this is technically a running blog]: 4 easy miles on the Charles tonight--I love that dirty water, but it's no Dead.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The "Maine" Event (guest blog by JROD)

When 6:00 am rolled around this lazy Sunday morning the last thing we wanted to do was drive back into Maine. We love Maine, don't get me wrong....after all, we had just spent about 30 hours taking in the roads, the trees, the rocks, the antics of the crazy Burger King ladies, and the cold ass rivers of the Vacation Capital of the US of A, but it was early...and we were still cold. Let me explain...

On Friday evening, two days earlier, we had ventured from our beloved Beantown abodes into the land of the Kennebec, Dead, and Penobscot Rivers. We had Saturday morning reservations with Maine's oldest rafting company- Northern Outdoors. Nick, Abigail, and I decided to drive separately from Chuck and Liz (though we both ended up leaving the city at the same time). We arrived at The Forks at around 10:30 that night after a drive filled with Kid Rock, Gandalf, and The King (of non-healthy burgers...don't get me started on this one). After the other folks arrived, we discussed our representative drives, told ghost stories, and talked passionately about our crater sized divets on each of our beds. Despite the pre-slumber heatwave, the Logdominiums were pretty nice...little did we know that nearly 12 hours later each of us would have committed atrocious crimes against humanity in order to get some of that precious precious heat!

Saturday morning: Breakfast- check...Wet Suits- check...45 minute ride to the Dead River put-in, through the landfill- Check!
This day marked the first trip of the season for Northern Outdoors...and let me tell you...we had some really really excited trip leaders. If it wasn't for the talk of beavers and brewskies, I might have fallen asleep. When we got to the put-in we began our race to the port-a-potties... trying to put the thoughts of rotting Moose carcasses out of our minds.

Before I talk of our rafting trip, I have to mention a very important fact. Abby and I had rafting paddles and life jackets on. Those of you that know us will not be surprised about what comes next...we decided to do some kung fu fighting, some faux NBA chest bumping, and some pugilistic arena combat. Go us! Next comes the river...

The Dead River...I've heard many explanations about how the river actually got its name...such as: Benedict Arnold stacking the bodies of dead comrades along its banks only to have them washed away during the spring thaws, the fact that the river is merely a trickle during non dam release days...but NO...I have the REAL explanation of why its called the Dead River! Annually Northern Outdoors, and other sadistic rafting entities, coerce naive Massachusetts residents into thinking that its a good idea to float down the "liquid snow" (as Chuck calls it) before the ice mounds and icicles had melted into the river...Then, the afore-mentioned Mass-holes get chilled to what would be considered Ted Williams temperatures...i.e. the temperature of a corpse...Hence...The Dead River. We were ice cubes! The trip was a blast. The rafting was cold, but awesome! We returned to Boston thereafter cold, tired, and satisfied.

Then came Sunday morning...As I mentioned, we awoke to an early alarm. This alarm was the sign that we should have gotten up and driven back into Maine...this time for a 5K in Kennebunk. This race was to be in tribute of Abby's cousins first Marathon. We were going to run with him, in spirit, because as you runners know- "you are never running alone". Despite sleeping in another four hours, we were determined to run with we headed to Ponkapoag for a beautiful four mile stroll around Abby's favorite trail. I was so happy to see all of the sights that Abby had been talking about for months. It was amazing...and just reaffirmed how much I love my new hobby- "jogging" (the "J" is silent).

What a great weekend! We will upload some pictures from the weekend when we get the film developed. Stay tuned...I know I will...