Monday, June 30, 2008

Part I: The blog that will put me at the top of JRod's blog list

First, to explain the title--as most of you know, Jared's got a blog, over at hyperactivegadfly. His main page holds a feature box at the right, that lists other blogs he finds of interest--and the kind and benevolent blogger arranges them, top to bottom, from who has blogged most recently.

And besides having things to blog about, I want to be at the top of that list.

Two bloggerese parts to come: Saturday, and Sunday--in which I ran too much, and played a hellacious game of hoop.

Jared and I have decided to do a destination run every weekend for the rest of the summer--taking turns each week, we've planned a new and lovely place to run each and every weekend. To see the list, click here. This weekend was the first of those runs. Our plan? Loop around the reservoirs at Middlesex Fells, covering around 9 miles.

As luck would have it, it was as near to perfect a summer morning for running as we could have asked for--warm, and slightly damp, but not oppressively humid, as the day looked to become later. The paths were soft and leaf-covered from last year's fall, and cut up and down both gentle and sharp hills, arching around corners carved by mountain bikes, jumping over fallen trees, flattening along the edges of each reservoir, and shambling over a lone wooden bridge. A lovely, lovely run, and another in which we were able to spend the time running and rambling away about all of the things we've done, and the things we'll do yet, in a beautiful place.

The lone sore point? Jared's knee. With a couple miles to go, he mentioned it hurt--with a mile to go, was noticeably limping. He opted to tough it out, despite my gentle (and increasingly less so) nagging--and was looking pretty sore later on. Still, I think he felt good about finishing the run, and that's what matters...though now, a nice, easy diet of ibuprofen and ice can't hurt. (Hint, hint, beloved...) Luckily he is now in San Antonio, where its too ludicrously hot to even contemplate running (upper 90s). Personally, I find that weather ideal for the consumption of multiple Coronas. Jared, if you come back tomorrow (Tuesday), I will give you a smooch...and a cold Corona, too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Compilation of Runs, in Which This Erstwhile Runner Travels About 16-17 Miles in Assorted States

A much delayed blog--I started this June 21, a full week ago, as today as the 28th...but more on that later, and a full review of today's (Saturday's) much needed Fells run. There are three runs in here, and I admit that I've been slacking, something I'll address in a separate post.

But here, here is where I started, and then abandoned this blog (I've at last completed):

This week finds me again on the road, this time in Mason, Ohio, for a week. After an infertility-inducing 30-minute bike in the hotel's fitness center on Wednesday, I was ready for a run, and to try out my sweet new fuel belt. The problem with that? You really can't take a fuel belt on a short run without looking like a total dork. (Stop! I am aware that even on epic 50- to 100-mile runs, someone wearing a belt with gatorade strapped into still looks a bit...odd--leave me my pipe dreams.)

I headed out into the warm Thursday night air, the sounds of cars zipping along the freeway a tiny buzz in comparison to the near howl of cicadas. [Shudder.]

Let me just say simply the good, and the bad, about this run.

The Good: I logged about 8 miles, the furthest I've gone since the marathon, and though it was hard, I felt pretty good after. Also good: Fuel belt works. Tucked my hotel key, ID, and camera in the pocket, and sipped on water/Gatorade as needed--handy.

The Bad: Running in an industrial park. My run took me by strip malls, through parking lots, through the Proctor-Gamble campus, and at last--into Suburbia. Unfortunately, the suburbia in question was a warren of dead ends and cul-de-sacs, so I just looped in, out, around, and back again, shambling over the same blocks over and over. Also bad--the fuel belt was a little distracting.

All in all, though, still good, and I saw some humorous/interesting things along the way, including:

--One oddly placed stop sign
--A sneak attack mini-park (popped out of nowhere, behind a large power plant-like tower)
--an Irish pub (where I enjoyed a ridiculously good meatloaf and gravy dish, along with a cold IPA, on Friday)
--the Midwest, with all its big-skyed glory

All with the soundtrack of cicadas.

My next run in Mason was a sad, sad attempt at intervals. While I did, as noted in an earlier blog, decide that I wanted to shoot for a 7:00 min/mile pace for a 5K, I've since realized that that's a pretty big jump from a 7:51 pace! (I may need to amend the goal, temporarily, to 7:25/7:30, and chip down from there.)

The workout:
6 x 1200 meters (.75 mile), with 2 minutes recovery between each, at a pace about 10-15 seconds higher than goal pace--about 7:15, which would give me 5:38 for each .75 mile interval.

What I actually did:
Warmup of 2 miles
4 x 1200 meters--and nary a one at 5:38, even the downhill ones! Despite my desperate push over the distance, the closest I got was about 5:55. So sad.
With the recovery, between 5-6 miles

Ah well. Somedays, it's a victory to just get outside and do it. Chalk this one up as both character-building and humbling.

The JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge was on Thursday. My long-suffering friends Kate and Allison had agreed to keep me company on this 3-mile run--both as bandits. (The irony being that I, the only registered runner of the three of us, couldn't get into my second office to pick up said number, while Kate somehow managed to acquire one.)

Much should be said of these two remarkable women and their influence on me in running and outside of that. Despite my puppy-like exuberance and desire to bolt ahead, neither of them yelled at me, for one, though I could tell they were also not of a mind to humor me:) All of this despite the fact that I completed blanked on the fact that I'd agreed to run a 7.5 mile race this coming Sunday--and neglected to sign up. Cheer them on from the finish? Bandit? Perhaps? Though I admit it's a shitty thing to do, it may be a shittier thing to bail at this point, when I did say I would do it...

Two of my favorite running buddies, though, and we were able to catch up over a quick beer (delicious cold Corona, flirting with a zesty lime wedge, oh you are so coy) at Cottonwood.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

In One Fell(s) Swoop

My travels over, and happily back in Beantown, it was time to schedule a Saturday run with JRod. The destination I left to him. His choice? The Fells, north of Somerville, a lovely, wooded area, with windy paths climbing around reservoirs, trees, mountain bike trails, and one lonesome Blue Moon cardboard box.

There is very little to say about this location, other than that I may have found a new favorite place to run. The route was challenging, but lovely, close to the city (less than 2 miles from the Interstate), but mentally, we were in a completely hidden and solitary wood--no sounds of cars whizzing by, no sirens blaring, no pitter patter of the feet of other runners, the barks of tiny purse dogs, noise. Just the wind in the trees and the murmurs of conversation between my beloved and I, as we discussed potatoes and the Irish famine, running, hiking, exes, nature, and what we would do with the rest of our day together. (For those interested, coffee, laundry, a bookstore, a homecooked dinner of pork tenderloin, asparagus and potatoes, and the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween.)

We finished in around 50 minutes, which we estimated to be around 4.5 miles, 5 at the utmost, as the way was hilly, and we occasionally stopped to listen and admire the green lushness of the Fells, and marvel at what we knew in our minds to be the very close proximity of Boston. Happily tired, but not too much so, we meandered back to the car, Blue Moon box in hand, for a delicious apple (Granny Smith for me, Gala for he). And later, coffee.

Addendum: About a month ago, I found myself in Belmont, California, for an extended work trip. My last run there I viewed as an adventure, in running and blogging, as I opted to take my camera with me, and photograph the vegetation--mostly in order to create a new game for the 4 to 5 (total) people who actually read my blog. The test was to name 8 plants, with two additional bonus items shown--the prize? A blog feature/interview and/or dinner. I really engineered this for my mother, an erstwhile gardener. Unfortunately, she's also in the midst of getting her PhD (go Mom!), and didn't take my fabulous test. Fraught with disappointment, I whined to the one person who would actually do this--Jared (who did end up the only player, and thus the winner. :) So the next blog will be some sort of testament to his awesomeness. And maybe there will even be some running stuff in there. (P.S. Mom: Bonus #1 is a Redwood, Bonus #2 is "pot.")

BUT. The story doesn't end there. Before that, we'd agreed to see which of the two of us had the most embarrassing story. See his here. I knew that having never been on fire meant that I was most likely out of my league.

But that was before I fainted in the middle of my friend Kate's wedding at the beginning of this month. Not only was I a bridesmaid, I was at least 6 inches taller than the other bridesmaids--so tall in my heels that Jared tells me the minister, standing on the steps above me, was the same height. He also said that I didn't crumple gracefully, as though I were a willowy vixen a la a Regency Romance novel--no, his comments were more along the lines of " was like a tree crashing into the ground..."

Ugh. Luckily, the bride, also a runner, was graceful and charming about the whole affair, and all went on fine for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday, my second RW run...and at last heading home

Today is Thursday, and with it the second run (but third day) of the Runner's World Fast 5K plan...

In any event, Day 2 called for a light run, cross-training, or rest--I choose rest, with an ulterior motive. After a long and lovely dinner with Jared, I needed some miles (red meat, mashed potatoes, appetizers, an a cold beer--caloric glory) to regain some balance. (So worth it, even with no run.:))

Today, Day 3 for me, called for a 45-minute run, followed by 4 uphill repeats of .1 mile, with the downhill jog between each.

I shambled out toward my temporary office, iPod tucked in the waistband of my shorts, through suburban neighborhoods, past the smell of freshly mowed grass, up and down streets, hills, highway. It was nice. :)

I motored through the four little hill repeats at a quick pace, and noticed my SWEET NEW WATCH (Ok, it's no Garmin, but it was $15) was at about 52 minutes--in which case, a girl might as well cool down for another 8 or so.

I got back to the hotel hot, sweaty, happy--and ready for Game 4.

But the best part? Tomorrow I am back in Beantown. :)

Another "Destination Run" (against my will)

Tonight I found myself on the road again, this time working in Clifton Park, NY, a smaller town just past Albany.

Having decided that despite the 95-degree day (see sizzling pavement) and its oppressive humidity, the sure sign of the storm to come, I absolutely HAD to go for a run (all excuses aside—it had been 6 full days of no running, with my last run the Team Wicked hill workout of last week—frankly, an appalling length of time to go without running). Then again, I admit there is a part of me that hoped the thunderstorm would break in all of its wild nature glory on me mid-run. There is something elemental about running in the rain, which I have always loved to do.

My informal plan for this summer has been to take a break from long-distance running, instead focusing on a faster 5K. I ran my most recent one, the St. Paddy's in March, in 24.21, about a 7:50 min/mile pace. Though it's a drastic leap, I'd like to run a 7:00 min/mile pace, for an overall time of around 21:45. (Thank you, Cool Runnings pace calculator, for doing the math.)

I’ve decided that since I ran a marathon less than two months ago—albeit a slow one—I now qualify as a “runner with a solid endurance base.” Following a Runner's World schedule, supposedly I can be burning rubber in a couple months, or as little as 5 weeks. The first of these runs was today, a "tempo run."

What I did was this:
20 minute warm-up (though I did the warm-up in the heat, I smartened up and headed inside for the rest)
10 minutes at half marathon pace*
2:30 rest—walk/jog (ok, I should have jogged it, and instead walked a minute, then picked it up to a jog for the rest)
10 minutes at half marathon pace*
1/2 mile cooldown

*Note: My fastest half marathon (#2 of 2) was 2:02.27, about 9:20min/mile. In the interest of kicking some serious ass, I went for a pace that I think I could run for a half today, 8:57min/mile. You know what they say...if you want to run faster, you need to run faster. (And not that much of a stretch—I did one 17-mile training run at an 8:50 pace.)

All in all, a bit over 5 miles, I think; maybe 5.5.

Better than that, today was a "good" run. Though it wasn't easy (and I don't expect it to be), today I saw myself as a runner again—something that's been missing, or at lease sporadic in its attentions lately.

Today, covered in sweat, and fumbling for the skip ahead button on my shorts- incarcerated iPod, I happened to look up, into the mirrored wall of the Clifton Park Hampton Inn. There I saw a runner. The thighs I usually think of as a little squishy looked strong, the knobby knees bunched with the flex and rotation of motion, the panes of bony chest and upper body flatly muscular, the arms that were never dainty strong and wiry. Suddenly—suddenly, there I saw myself as more—as the runner I have become, the runner I want to remain, the runner I want to continue becoming—and am capable of being. Maybe not fast, but sure as hell committed enough to get out there and do it.

But not today. :) When instead I’ll drive halfway to meet my beloved for dinner. (Hey, there are multiple ways of feeding the heart.)

So I will leave my fellow runners with this, a quote that happened to fall in my lap this weekend, in a completely unrelated-to-running bookstore browsing:

"When all else fails, start running." —Dean Karnazes

PS This gem came from this book. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

THIEF! And Team Wicked's wicked hill workout tonight

Ok. I admit it. Sometimes I'm lazy. Right now I'm thinking longingly about the tasty dinner being made for me--white shells, baked beans, breaded pork chops, and leftover broccoli-grape salad--and here I am, blogging instead of helping.

Blogging commenced:

I was once accused of having a dichotomous self--you can click the link at left to read the first (and only, that I know of) use of this term. Basically, if you break it down, this an accusation (congratulation) of being a mixture of several personality traits--some you might not expect in one person. Example: I ran my first marathon last April. Over the next 24 hours, I consumed around 12 beers and burned a cigar in the parking lot with my dad. (It's a celebration!) In any event, my point is that no one's really the "good girl" or the "rebel"--we're all a melting pot of different traits--much more interesting than a swatch of just one color, if you ask me. ;)

But on to the "good" stuff...

Tonight I ran my first Team Wicked speed workout. After getting lost (unfortunately, this was a surprise to no one) on the way, I finally arrived at the Belmont High School track--not a bad track. It's no "fast track", but not too shabby. It didn't matter in any event, as the ladder workout I was expecting was not to be.

Instead, I got hill repeats. Ugh. The lap consisted of about an eighth of mile up a relatively steep hill, followed by around a quarter mile flat, followed by about a quarter mile of hill, at first look, steep and short, at the end, shallow and leg-mushifying. Then at last, we'd hit the top, take a break of a minute or two, then start a nearly straight shot downhill speed run, with a short flat somewhere in the middle.

The idea? Run hard on the uphills, recover on the flats. Run hard on the downhills, recover on the flat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. A total of 4.8 miles, with the 1/2 mile cooldown added in, a sleek 5+ run. Not too shabby. I would say a "good" run.

Now, the bad and the ugly: I stole Brenda's widget, thief that I am. ;) See right for the latest countdown.