Sunday, December 20, 2009

Treadmill Travels

The last week and a half have been filled with those runs indicative of cold weather--the ones that travel miles and miles, while actually traveling nowhere at all. I've spent these days running exclusively on what I'd previously referred to as the "dreadmill," but now I see more in the light of a benevolent and understanding compadre, a partner in arms, a willing companion to the hijinx of my running effervescence.

Well, maybe not effervescence, exactly...I fully admit to having been a bit lackluster in my running efforts lately, as the seasonal hubbub wears on, and contract work, the care of Copley, and the kickoff of RunBoston have eroded the small amounts of free time I've typically carved out for running into a thin sliver of a nub--leaving me no option but to squeeze in runs in the early morning hours before work, something I've never been great at actually achieving, despite my pre-slumber plans.

This weekend, however, I not only managed to get a long run in, I enjoyed an entire day free of guilty feelings, and of work. I slept in, lazed over coffee and cheerios, and knocked out a comfortable 8.5 miles at the gym (thank you iPod, for allowing me to resist the temptation to throw myself over the small balcony onto the free weights below), topped off with a few planks and pushups for dessert. I shambled sweatily through a packed Whole Foods, lingered over pasta, cleaned the apartment, and played with Copley, all before even contemplating a shower to rid myself of the workout stink. When my beloved arrived home from an Adventure Club ski trip, I regaled him with the joy of my slow-paced day, one he agreed was much needed.

Today, on his birthday (32, you handsome stud!), we enjoyed all the perks of being cozily snowed in together. We shared a leisurely breakfast of Christmas bagels, fresh grapefruit, and lattés, cuddled on the couch over a morning showing of Turner and Hooch, and meandered our way to the liquor store in boots, to pick up the necessary ingredients for Tom & Jerry's. And though we spent several hours on our laptops to finish up the last of our weekend work, we'll be able to leave for North Dakota on Wednesday, with clear consciences and empty inboxes.

And with nearly two weeks of blogging checked off my list, I'm on to the next to-do--cuddling up with a book on the couch.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Got Rice?

Another week, a few more miles, and too much in the way of eventful things.

Tuesday my beloved and I hauled our sorry selves to the gym, where we logged a couple easy miles on some brand-spankin' new treadmills at the CAC--one of many fabulous renovations/upgrades done recently. And I don't mean just new treadmills--I mean new treadmills that can calculate pace per mile, mile per hour, calories burned, and whip up a mean latté, all while also calculating the square root of pi and the fastest route to world peace.

There was a decided lack of miles for the entire rest of the week while both us ran back and forth from the vet's office (Jared even more so than I) with one very sick Great Dane. A stomach bug laid our normally rambunctious Copley low for a few days, and was followed immediately by the return of what we'd thought was a cured UTI. By Saturday, though, after two days of eating nothing but Pepcid AC, rice, and chicken, she was back to her vivacious self. After another trip to the vet, some last Christmas shopping, and several hours of RunBoston-related tasks, we were too zonked to even considering heading into the icy rain for any miles, let along long ones.

By Sunday, we were rested up and ready to rock. And rock we did, with 5.3 miles back to the CAC for a quick lift, then another almost 4 miles home. The icing of the cake was, as always, a hot steaming dark roast for me, and a latté for my better half.

Now for cookies and Tom & Jerry's...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh-Hi-OH!

Last week my beloved and I traveled hither and thither, afar and yon. That's right, we drove. To Ohio. With the dog. In a Toyota Yaris.

While many a stalwart soul will quiver and quail at the thought of a 12-hour drive, I am here to say...it was kind of nice. Twelve hours of chatting, laughing, and teasing with my beloved. Twelve hours of cooing over how well-behaved Copley was in the backseat of the car, marveling over the fact that she not only fit, she fit quite comfortably.

We spent the next 2.5 days in Marietta, Ohio, where we visited with family--Jared's parents, grandparents, brother, aunts and uncles. We ate, shopped, visited, ate, slept, went to a movie, ate, visited, and...yup, ate. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip, and a great chance for me to get to know the future in-laws that much better. (They're good people, so easy to like!)

Saturday night saw us back in Cambridge, after another 12 hours in the car, most of which Copley spent dozing,
with her head in my tote bag. After the days of eating too much with family, sitting inactive in the car, and countless stops for Starbucks...well, let's just say we were looking forward to Sunday's run.

Happily enough, the miles were easy and quick, and the weather divine--the sun shone and glittered on the river as we circled around from the Longfellow to the Harvard bridge. We took breaks when we wanted them, ran relaxed miles along the paths, and before we knew it, we were back at the gym for a quick lift before heading home. An excellent end to a lovely week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

For the Hill Of It

Saturday my beloved and I were at last back at it--and in style. We snoozed a few times, and shamelessly changed the time the alarm was to go off, but ultimately we still found ourselves shuttling along the green line en route to the Woodland T in brisk morning air.

Taking the T out to the Woodland stop leaves you with a hell of a 9-mile run--along the familiar twists and turns of the marathon course. It's wonderful to ease through the miles, remembering past training runs and marathons, and not-so-surprisingly entertaining to window-shop the ritzy houses that line the first few miles. It's also always easier to run towards the finish line, something every out-and-back or loop course lacks for at least the first half.

Since we'd planned to hit the gym afterwards (hey, it was only another mile, and if you only work out once or twice a week, you've got to overextend to keep to the law of averages), our run took a few interesting turns, including one mistaken one. But the miles flew by, and we found ourselves marveling at how enjoyable running can be when you're just running for the sake of running.

It's not that I don't like training for a specific race--I do. But there is something exceptionally wonderful about running just because you can--because your legs and lungs are strong enough, and because you simply want to. (Though I have to say, it certainly doesn't hurt when your running companion is an intelligent, charming, and exceptionally handsome man for. And if said handsome man and you have recently watched the movie 300, it's highly entertaining to yell pithy one-liners with every mile, such as "THIS...IS...HEARTBREAK..." Check out the clip below if you aren't sure what I mean.)



Of course, it wouldn't be a full blog if I didn't impart some recent, and exceptionally good news: the numbers are in for the 2009 Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team--that's right folks, together we 550+ runners raised

$4,025,688

For cancer research and care. Keep in mind, fellow runners, walkers, and human beings--the world is full of big and scary things. But together, with hard work, dedication, and enough hope to fill an ocean, we can achieve incredible, incredible things.

Happy Running this Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Early November Hodgepodge

What? Nearly two weeks after Seacoast and I haven't blogged yet? Sigh...

I admit it, I haven't felt that much like blogging lately. The fall is here, and with a crisp nip in the air, and an even busier than usual schedule, I've had little time to run, and even less to blog...

Still, Seacoast IS an annual event, and one I'd like to talk about at least a little. We were lucky as ever, and were met with a beautiful sunny day. As we ran our way through the first two miles, I commented to Jared how it was, strangely, the first time I hadn't been nervous for a half marathon.

Well, unfortunately, my lack of nervousness was a bad sign--it turned out it was one of those days where my brain had decided to interfere with my legs. I was tired. I was sore. I wanted a break. I wanted a drink. I was just plain grumpy. The beautiful day and the always wonderful company of my beloved kept me in relatively decent spirits, though, and we finished in an entirely respectable, if not quite blistering, shade over 2 hours, right around the same as last year.

I will, say, though, the post-race meal (clam chowder and cheese pizza) and the schwag (another nice wick-away and a bottle of jam) made the miles worthwhile.

This past week family visits and our own crazy schedules kept us from getting much in either...though we managed to squeeze in a short (4ish) birthday run on Sunday, and another 4 miles or so on Wednesday. Tonight we'll hit the gym for a quick lift, and then tomorrow we'll hit the road--and get back it, with a run along the last 9 of the Boston Marathon course. It's a long and chilly T ride out to Woodland stop, but the memory-filled streets (and hills!) leading back into Boston are worth it and more.

And did I mention there's a Starbucks near the finish line?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saturday's 1/2

At long last, with my beloved back in town, we were ready to head out for the last long run before Seacoast next weekend. Since we wanted to take another gander at some of the new proposed routes for RunBoston, we decided to map a meandering route through Cambridge, along the Charles, through Charlestown past Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution, back over the river (we do love that dirty water), past the Common, down Newbury and Boyleston, and then at last back past the Common and to the T.

Our original route included one last leg to Fenway, but a cranky Abby managed to whine her way out of that last mile. Overall, a good training run, and one that happily ended with Starbucks in Davis Square for the walk home.

Jared whipped up some breakfast while I changed into dry clothes--then it was a shower for him, and a car for me as I headed off for my second (and much shorter) run of the morning.

By 9:45, I was comfortably ensconced in an empty classroom with 7 FitGirls, B, and an expectant (literally) coach, Patty.

The miles flew by, as I was lucky to be passing miles with three charming, talkative, and energetic 5th-6th graders--Pamela, AnnaMaria, and Julia. The three of them kept me engaged and impressed, as they walked less than 3/4 mile of the 5K. They kept each other moving and motivated, and I was impressed to hear them openly discuss the importance of "running not winning" the race that morning. They reminded me of the openness that kids embrace the world with--one of the things that we often lose as we get older.

Tomorrow it's off to the Seacoast half marathon for us--and I am hoping we can channel some of that child-like joy, and enjoy the miles, and this late fall warm spell.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Solitary Runner

This weekend was one "for the ladies." With Jared out of town on a 5-day backpacking trip, the house was done to just me and Copley, our Danish lady. Copley's needs are relatively simple: food, water, exercise, and some attention/affection.

Mine are just as simple, but without the presence of my beloved, some changes had to be made for the long weekend. First, food--I shopped, and actually cooked for myself for 5 days. (That said, keeping in mind, when cooking for one, there's always leftovers.) Second, water--easy enough, and it turns out that you can actually make a Tom&Jerry for one. It's just a little difficult to whip that small an amount of egg.

Three, exercise--and here's where we get to the blogging points. Wednesday I played hoops with my fellow Bayside Tigers (Zack Morris, eat your heart out). Unfortunately we lost to a decent team--one that wasn't 50 points better than us decent, but hey, that's how the cards fall sometimes, when the shots don't.

Thursday, I tucked a tired Copley into her crate and headed out for a quick 4 miles or so up and down Mass Ave, before heading out for groceries.

Saturday, at long last, I was willing and ready to head out for a long run, despite the weatherman's threat of rain. Luckily B and Noah were willing to join me for the first half of the run, and the conversation made the miles fly by. I was happy to spy George along the water's edge, and surprised, having thought he'd have long gone south to warmer climes.

The second 4-mile lap brought me running solo, with B and Noah heading back to Charlestown, and a sudden fulfillment of the weatherman's promise. The rain opened up at the onset of Mile 5, and continued unabated for the duration of my run along the river. By the end of the 8th mile, I was soaked through, with water running off my cheekbones, and along my neck and collarbones.

I wish, of course, that my beloved had been there with me for those rainy miles. There is something elemental about running in the rain, something that makes the miles seem like something more. I truly enjoyed this run, too--the rain was soft, but heavy, and warm, despite it being October.

But at long last, Jared will be back this afternoon, and I'll have my favorite running buddy back. I'll tell him about running this weekend without him, about cooking, taking Copley to the park in the rain, making a single Tom&Jerry, shopping for work things, and trying on my wedding dress.

It's odd--for years, 90% of my life, in fact, I was certain I was a somewhat solitary creature by nature. But it turns out (happily, I might add) that everything, running included, is better with a loved one. My mother describes it as "when sorrows are halved, and joys are doubled." Jared is this for me, and I know my runs of this weekend will have been all the better when I can share their details with him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Runs, and Runs, and Runs

Well, last week's 10-miler turned it into an 8.6-miler, due to an unfortunate (or fortunate?) miscalculation of the turnaround point of the Loch Ness Loop. Poor Lochie, turns out we docked part of the poor beast's tail--at least I hope it was his tail...though I suspect that end of the run is actually the head of the monster...

The first few days of the week were a hodgepodge of good intentions, and one cancelled hoops game for me. By Thursday, I was jonesing for a run, as was my beloved, and we clocked a quick 4 miles or so. Friday, we planned to run the 4 miles or so to the gym to play some hoops, but a long workday and the promise of delicious dinner out cut us short, at about 2 miles--though with Copley along for the ride, and a quick stop at Marathon Sports to stock up on Gu, the miles were good ones. (Note: The delicious dinner after took place at Bertucci's--a seafood medley/pasta for me, Chicken Saltimboca for JRizzle. Later we saw Where the Wild Things Are, and enjoyed a shared dessert of Swedish Fish and Milk Duds. Ah, bliss...)

Saturday was a day of rest, or at least a day of errands. By the time I'd picked up Jared from his pre-backpacking trip meeting downtown, we were both ravenous, but set on finishing up our errands. When we finally headed home, complete with a new set of hiking boots and a raincoat for my beloved, we were pooped. Even the dog was exhausted, as after leaving the dog park, she groaned and galumphed in a token manner, before finally burrowing down onto the cushiony pile of backpacking supplied in the back.

Sunday broke, and with it...the heavens opened. We crawled out of a warm bed only to find that our outdoor long run was going to be a no-go. Still, not to be thwarted, we bundled up and headed for the CAC, where we dutifully got into side-by-side treadmills and started banging out miles.

Within a few, we'd realized the "Random" setting would better be named as "Cruel and So Senselessly Hilly That a Flat, Rainy Run Would Be a Blessing." By 4 or 5 miles, though, I'd settled into my stride enough to start suggesting to my better half that we continue on for the whole of the 11 miles (our original plan had been to run the maximum time on the treadmill, 6 or so miles, then switch to an elliptical so we could do the reading for our Tuesday marriage course). Jared did not seem keen.

But by the sixth mile, he too, was enjoying the effort of our newfound tough setting, and was amenable to getting in the miles in the best possible training manner--after all, you have to run to run. (Deep. I know.)

The last mile was hard, harder than either of us liked, as last week's shortened long run caught up with us. When we finished, however, I turned to my beloved, and feeling great (if tired and sore), knew that we had made the right choice and at last gotten in a solid training run. He felt the same, and after a long stretch, it was toward coffee, home, and some leftover broccoli-cheese soup for the both of us.

Next week we taper--Jared is off for five days of cold wilderness hiking next weekend, where he'll be getting plenty of exercise (20 miles with a heavy pack), meaning it'll be just Copley and I on the home front. Then it's one more long run with my beloved, and it's on us--the Seacoast half. Wish us luck:)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why Is That Bear on a Chain?

It's been two weeks since I last blogged--but never fear, unlike the lazy summer months, I HAVE actually been hauling my sorry carcass out for some miles. Last week saw a few short runs during the week, and a surprisingly less than deadly dull 9 on the elliptical, as I rested my sore right foot.

This week, in honor the rest/discretion plan (and to avoid another long "run" on the elliptical) I didn't log too many miles--about 5.5 to be exact (though to be fair, as soon as Jared wakes up, we'll be heading out for the long one today). The first one was a short 1.5, and since we weren't going far, Jared manage to finagle me into bringing along Copley.

The highlight of this little dash was when we passed a group of tweens near the T-stop, only to hear one of them question another, "Why is that bear on a chain?" I mean really, Copley may be large, but anyone can see she's a delicate flower.

But that got me thinking about the odd or interesting things I've seen or heard on a run...
  • "Nice weather we're having." Me, to a fellow runner, while running along the coast in a sleet storm.
  • "Cam is a pothead." In the bathroom stall of a the movie theater in Arlington.
  • "I thought we were the only ones out here!" Two runners waving hello to us on Jared's 31st birthday, when I made him run 9 miles in a blizzard.
  • George, the blue heron we've seen several times along the Charles River.
  • "Look at the Gingerbread man!" Jared or I, to the other, at last year's Somerville Turkey Trot.
  • A man crapping behind a tree in the first five miles of the Boston Marathon.
Anything can happen, I guess. I'm sure that any number of odd things will pop up, too, as Jared and I kick off RunBoston, but that's part of what makes it interesting.

But now I hear my slumbering beloved stirring, and that means its time to get dressed and ready for some miles--10 to be exact, 10 miles we'll be logging on the Loch Ness Loop before heading off to the Garden for a Celtics game, then back home for chilli and football. A great day in the making...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Oops--An Inadvertent Speedfest

Some days it just works. Some days I head out for a run, in this case, with my beloved, and the rhythm is found--feet pound the pavement in sync, and air comes to the lungs smoothly and easily.

Saturday morning, we slept in a bit, then headed out for an 8-mile jaunt. We hadn't planned a route terribly far in advance, instead deciding that morning to simply head for the Minuteman Trail, and continue along it until we'd hit four miles, easy to check when running with a handy, dandy Garmin.

Have I mentioned how much I love the Garmin? Granted, when I find out a run is slower, shorter, and all around poorer than I'd thought, I hate the Garmin. But days like Saturday, those harsh feelings melt away and something warm and fuzzy takes its place.

We ran along quickly and easily, chatting here and there, but mostly just running. There were enough people on the trail to make it interesting, but not enough to make it crowded. The sun broke through the trees in a smattering of sunlight, periodically breaking up the gorgeous cool shade. We were also pleasantly surprised to run through a street carnival in Arlington Center.

The miles slid by, faster and faster with each one. Soon we found ourselves gasping, panting, and at home--quicker than we'd expected. Our breakdown ended up as:

Mile 1: 8:38
Mile 2: 8:54
Mile 3: 8:40
Mile 4: 8:45
Mile 5: 8:19
Mile 6: 8:13
Mile 7: 8:11
Mile 8: 7:43

We'd averaged an 8:25/mile pace--Yikes!

Needless to say, I am tickled that we managed to wrap up a training run at such a great clip, and am hoping that we'll sneak by with PR at Seacoast. But at the same time, Jared and I are in agreement that sometimes booking it along like that takes the fun out of it. Because we were saving our breath for speed, we weren't able to have much of a conversation, which for us, is really part of what makes running together so enjoyable--as it is for most people who run with friends or loved ones.

So, what I think we'll do is what we've always done--just run, and not worry about how fast or hard we're going. We'll run, and enjoy each other, and the strength of our bodies.

And if we end up accidentally faster, as seems to have happened so far, well, I guess I won't mind TOO much.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

EXTREME(ly sore and increasingly aging) ATHLETES

Let's just say that the two-a-day plan has been taken out of rotation.

Abby: 2 cranking miles on the treadmill around 6:00 a.m.
Jared: 2.5 miles with his school's running club around 3:30 p.m.

Together: 2 miles through the Fells with Copley at around 6:00 p.m.

A whole ball of achy old folks later...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Survival of the fittest, bitches

Success!


The Hunter and the Prey

Runners around the world identify with the gazelle, the cheetah, and so on. Though our two weekly runs at the Fells were short and sweet, Saturday's longer run of 6.5-7 miles had us both at last feeling back in the saddle in terms of running.

The first mile left me bumbling around with the Garmin, which had somehow opted to add the day's mileage onto the most recent run. We got it reset, of course, but I wasn't able to figure out the pace for our first mile. I can, however, share our pace for the rest:

9:03
9:10
8:58
8:33
7:59
8:15

I like to think of that second-to-last mile as our tired cheetah pace. We then played a couple of less-than-predatory basketball games at the gym, before shamelessly hopping the train home...

Later that night, we found our hunter instincts put to the test though, as we both spotted a tiny gray mouse skittering across the stove...that's right, VERMIN, bold as brass, skirting merrily along our countertops as though it hadn't a care in the world.

After my midnight trip to the 24-hour grocery store to pick up two mousetraps (the spring-loaded kind--we don't mess around with slow-acting poisons or "humane" methods), and some minor efforts (including the application of a bit of peanut butter , stuffing the baseboard hole with steel wool, and Jared wielding an aerosol can of Mr. Clean Scrubbing Bubbles against the likely plague-infested critter hiding in the bathroom vent), we went to sleep secure in the knowledge that our superiority over the wee rats would yield results by morning. After all, even if the Mr. Clean didn't overwhelm the mouse's tiny nervous system, surely the lure of the peanut butter would prove too much.

And it did. This morning, we awoke to find two mousetraps still set to spring, sans the peanut butter--and no dead mouse. We re-loaded the traps, putting smaller amounts of peanut butter on, thinking the mouse would have to work harder to get it, thereby springing the trap. And work harder he did...when we arrived home this afternoon after picking some apples, we found both traps again licked clean of peanut butter--and still loaded to spring.

You can imagine my frustration. What began as a minor skirmish over household cleanliness and the crumbs surrounding the stove innards has taken on a new light--one of all-out war. I'm not sure what this has to with running, to be honest--really very little, I suppose. But I am pissed off at that little creature, and his effrontery in boldly sauntering along so visibly. So I am on the hunt, this time in a completely non-runnerly way.

I don't want to chase for the thrill of it, or anything else so highbrow--I don't want to be the cheetah sprinting across a savanna after a loping gazelle, in the timeless chase of nature's creatures and their need to eat. I want to be the tank, razing down a cricket with a fireball.

That mouse's days are numbered.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Best of Both Worlds

There is something in us that can't help but yearn for the familiar. I'm a happy woman--lucky in pet, lodging, and career--and most of all in love. Despite all of that, however, there are times that I just plain yearn for the home of my youth, with its open plains and empty streets, its unique cuisines and good souls. Every time I go back to North Dakota its tough to return to Boston. Both, however, make me appreciate the other.

I love that I was able to go for a Saturday morning run with my beloved, down empty streets. The roads were so empty that we were able to run on the ramp connecting to the interstate for more than a quarter mile. I loved that we were the only runners out, that we were such a novel site we earned no less than three nods--a honk, a whistle, and a yell of encouragement from a cheery construction worker.

But I love that in Boston I can run the full year round, even if clad in tights. (The -20+ January of ND prevents running even as a consideration.) I love that there are nearly always other runners out there--that the few of us still outside in the winter can salute another stalwart soul with a nod or a frosty-fingered wave. I love that I've come to recognize faces at road races, and that I will always meet someone new in the miles of a long race. I love the sheer number of race options--and let's face it, I love the schwag. (Where else can you get a medal for a Jingle Bell 5K?)

Jared once mentioned the term "dichotomous self" to me--meaning that there are always different pieces within one, I guess. Maybe it is the same with our concept of "home"--the place where I grew up, have countless youthful memories, and where my family is will always be my home--and yet it isn't, not quite. Home is a warm, cozy apartment with a too-large dog slobbering her excess drinking water on the leg of my jeans, where there is always a tree-lined hilly path to run, where I met my beloved...and yet it isn't home, quite.

It is hard for me to go back to the home of my youth, and harder still to leave. Though I know my life is undoubtedly here in New England, there are days, weeks, where the pangs of being so far from family become a tangible, painful thing. Unfortunately there is no easy fix--no clear solution to have my cake and eat it, too. I do the best I can, as we all do when loved ones are far away--and split my time as work, life, and finances allow. I play Scrabble in North Dakota, and have game nights with coworkers in Boston. I have steaks from the grill with my parents there, and fresh salmon here.

And I know, deep down, that I can count myself as lucky for being blessed with two homes--the home of my youth and of my past, with its golden fields, marathon Scrabble games, family slapping the table during card games, and homemade Tom&Jerry's at the holidays, and the home of my present and future, with Jared to cuddle on the couch and to laugh with, trails made for running, a dog to walk, and a wedding to plan.... and again, homemade Tom&Jerry's. (One shouldn't forget one's roots after all.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

On Seacoast and New Kicks

Today I worked out a training program for my beloved and I for the annual November race--the Seacoast 1/2 marathon in Portsmouth, NH. Seacoast 2006, the inaugural year for the event, was my first long-distance race. It was my first half marathon, and the beginning of what's starting to look like what could be a lifelong love affair--albeit an abusive one. Seacoast 2007 was a bummer--after signing up I had to sit out, but not on, my sore can. 2008 brought the chance to sweet-talk my better half into a 13.1-mile distance--and so it was also the course where Jared ran his first 1/2 marathon.

Saturday was our first chance to run together in well over a month. Jared had taken a break for a few weeks to recover from his tri, and I...well, I was simply enjoying summer, lazing about, and banging out a cursory few miles hither and thither.

Our 4-mile jaunt around the river flew by, with both of us happy to be running together again. Afterward, we ran a plethora of terribly exciting errands (The mall! Cheese! Haymarket! Movie Rentals! The dog park!), before swinging by Marathon Sports, where wonder upon wonders, there was a sidewalk sale. I may have gotten an older model, but all the same, I managed to walk away with a new pair of running kicks (Brooks, I'm branching out this year) for only $40.

All in all, a lovely day with my lovely man. Next weekend we're off to North Dakota for a friend's wedding. We'll be knocking out a few miles there, on flat and easy terrain.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Tao of Poo

According to the all-knowledgeable folks at runnersworld.com,
The jostling motion of running sometimes irritates the intestines. And when blood flow that's needed for digestion is diverted to the legs, stomach cramping can result....Caffeine can speed the movement of wastes through your system, and artificial sweeteners (such as mannitol and sorbitol), which are often found in energy bars, can cause GI distress.

I don't know that I necessarily suffer from "GI Distress," per se. I prefer to think of myself as an efficient waste-management machine. Others marvel at my seeming inability to get through the shortest runs without a desperate dash for the nearest toilet. When we first began seeing each other, during the '07 marathon season, Jared started off with a concerted effort to "fatten" me up. He was amazed at how much I could consume, yet with no additional weight coming with it (Ok, outside of a couple post-marathon pounds--but literally, only a couple). Now, after cohabiting for a year, I think he's come 'round to my way of thinking--

Runners aren't thinner because they run a lot. They're thin because they crap at least three times a day, and are thereby unable to hold onto even half of the thousands of calories consumed on a daily basis.

It sounds, unfortunately, as though not every runner is so (ahem) blessed as to be an efficient waste-management machine. I've managed to train my system pretty well when it comes to long runs. As Dr. Bjorkman, our illustrious pal at RW says, "You can get your system to operate like clockwork, so that you can reliably go before a run."

Well, a well-operated system it is. For the most part, I'm gravy on a long run. It's the short or weekday runs that I haven't truly planned for that get me jonesing for a john.

Last week I enjoyed a quick 3 miles around the river. Last night I met with B for a nice 6 miles through the city (5 with B), though we took a break around 2...silly system.

After reviewing a humorous set of photos from Jared's recent trip to a scenic park with Copley, I got to thinking--how great would it be (theoretically) if we could just go wherever we wanted? How terrible (in actuality) would it be if we could both hear and heed the call of nature on the spot?

One of running's great questions, I suppose. I'll probably ponder it over the next few runs, possibly, though hopefully not, while taking a...

brief respite.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Growing Pains

There are any number of ways that we grow--mentally, emotionally, and physically. I could blather on about an assortment of moments where I realized I've grown in one way or another, and provide a few anecdotes, some funny, some mind-numbingly dull. I could mention my 6th-grade perm, my navy blue glasses, my crooked teeth, ugly sweaters, and black acid-washed jeans (unfortunately in the picture I'm thinking of the fly is down), and the assorted eyecare, orthodontia, de-frizzing agents and zippers it took to recover from those days.

But what I really want to talk about is 85 lbs of gorgeousness--Copley. While her weight doesn't seem to have gone up much lately, something has changed. The once soft-eyed puppy face has lengthened, the snout becoming proud and elegant where once the loose jowls of a puppy hung over erupting adult teeth. The dainty legs have lengthened, and the hindquarters taken on a lean strength typically seen in the hindquarters of yearling or filly. The chest, round at 7 weeks, has deepened dramatically, tapering into the dainty, delicate hind end so indicative of the Great Dane.

She is quite simply, no longer our dainty flower, but a young, and beautiful example of her breed.

That's not to say that she isn't still really our dainty flower--she still buries her head in my nearby leg, still sleeps 18 hours a day, still tries to lean into me in the morning while she's bleary-eyed and shaking off sleep. She still huddles next to me when it starts to rain at the park, still runs to hide behind or next to me when she's scared or nervous.

We all have growing pains. We all grow up and outward, but are still comforted by the familiar--the foods our parents made us when we were sick, the comfortable sweatpants we curl into on a cold, rainy day, the movie that reminds us of when we were kids, and witches and warlocks were both terrifying and impossibly wonderful at the same time.

For me, the growing "pains" show up as seasonal ones, at least when it comes to running. I've always tended to slack off on my running in the summer months, preferring to sleep in, and ignore the hot, muggy days. My running totals for the summer, somewhat embarrassingly low amounts of mileage, are obvious indicators of that.

Towards the end of the summer, though, I start to get the "itch." The creeping, crawling itch that winds its way into my brain, reminding me that fall is a good time for racing...a good time for training...simply a good time for running. With that, I suddenly begin to feel sluggish, and to recognize that tangible need to get out and hit the road.

The itch is back. It's been back a week or two, and I've been trying to ignore it a bit, but suddenly, I just want to run more. With that increase, and yearn to run, however, I feel those growing (i.e., aging) pains anew, as though they are more than what they've always been--an old friend returned after a lengthy vacation in warmer climes.

Friday's early morning 4 miles left me with an aching foot and a sore knee, a sure sign that its not only time to get back to running, but maybe also time to get a new pair of kicks. But oh, it felt so good anyway. The road was there to meet me, as it always is, and my aches and twitches settled into the well-worn grooves of their usual seats. I meandered my way through the assorted squares and to the Charles, then turned and logged a quick mile to the gym as the sun rose over the city.

And at last, it felt like time to run again, growing or any other pain aside.

A 3.75-Mile Trek to...?

I've mentioned my problems with new routes before--and needless to say, most of those close to me know that I couldn't find my way out of a one-way straight on a cloudless day.

It all begin with what seemed like a good plan, as so many ultimately terrible ideas do. My beloved and I would head out to the Blue Hills, to one of my favored running routes, the 4+ mile Ponkapoag. Though Jared isn't running for another couple weeks while he rests and heals up from his recent triathlon, he would come along, with the dog, and the two of them would hike an alternate trail while I ran.

We split ways at the parking lot, in a haze of early mugginess--Jared heading out of the parking lot to the right for a "blue" trail, me heading out to left, toward the "closed" bridge that bridged the gap over the interstate to my much run trail.

Lugging my suddenly 12-pound Nalgene of water, I bolted off toward the bridge, switching my load from hand to hand, while using the other to mop away the heat-induced rivulets of sweat snaking down my facial angles. I hopped the concrete pile-on the construction fools had placed, jogging sedately past the "No pedestrians" sign that had been erected. At the second fence, however, the place where I had squeezed myself through only a couple weeks earlier, I met with a sinister surprise. Where earlier there had been construction equipment and tools laying scattered on the paved bridge under construction was...well, not exactly a bridge, but perhaps a bridge in the making--support beams crisscrossing and obvious work under way, though abandoned for the weekend. A pair of skinny two-by-fours snaked from my end of the bridge to the other, providing the only route across to Ponkapoag.

Though I considered tight-roping my way across for a millisecond, in the end, practicality won it. After all, I could run back the lot, figure out where this blue trail was, and catch up to my beloved and dog. Maybe not a lot of miles, but at least some company, right? Wrong. After making my sweat-soaked way back to the parking lot while juggling my 15-lb. Nalgene, I decided to ditch the water under the car. I tripped (literally, not figuratively--the trail was boulder-strewn and horrendously steep, so running was out) a tenth of a mile or so up a trail labeled as blue, before realizing that I was about to find myself in the middle of the woods, lost, and nowhere that Jared would have a clue to come looking for me. I was, quite simply, asking to be eaten by wild ferrets.

Did I mention this happened after a ran a quarter mile down the wrong "blue trail"? Twice? I next spotted a sweet little roadside trail, and thinking I could follow it out and back for a few miles, I attacked it with renewed vigor. When the trail ended less than a half mile later, I trudged back to the parking lot yet again, where I met with my frenemy, the repeat-offender park map.

Hot, sticky, and increasingly grumpy, I ultimately decided to just run the one-mile loop around Houghton's Pond, where we were parked.

This run by the numbers is wholly depressing:
Miles run whilst knowing where I was going: 1.75 (the pond, and the run to the non-existant bridge)
Miles run (or walked, trudged, etc, but overall generally lamented): 2
Pace: somewhere north 10:00/minute miles

Here's a map of my route, should any of you brave souls feel up to repeating it:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

3x the Carrion

I've decided recently to just blog about whatever the hell I feel like. To give up the ghost, and at least sometimes admit that running isn't always a metaphor for life (though most of the time, it is--not my fault, sorry folks). To sometimes just ramble.

I could blog about last week's sweaty 3 miles around the Charles in what seemed like excruciating morning heat. I could blog about yesterday's 3 miles around the Charles in what actually was excruciating morning heat (I think today topped out at 95 degrees). I could even throw in a pithy blog about actually hauling myself out of bed to lift with my beloved this morning.

Or, I could talk about vultures. Let me start with a couple of comments on vultures:
The turkey vulture has a V-shaped wingspan and a white head. Unlike eagles, vultures tend to glide for longer periods of time.

When they fly around in a cluster, it's called a kettle. If there's a whole colony of vultures, that's called a vulture venue
.

-Henry Harnish
There's a lot of interesting information available on these flesh-eating creatures of carrion--they are scavenging birds found on every continent outside of Antarctica and Oceania.

Though they typically eat the already dead, they're known to pick off the wounded, injured, or starving creatures for a meal.

According to Wikipedia, "[Vultures] gorge themselves when prey is abundant, till their crop bulges, and sit, sleepy or half torpid, to digest their food." To that end, vultures have been found in droves in battlefields.

Though many are unaware of it, vultures also possess a dangerously strategic mind. Indeed, they are some of nature's most brilliant tacticians, and are known for mental machinations, such as the most famous maneuver, in which the vulture or vultures appear to have consumed all the carrion they need and fly away, leaving only a wounded animal. What the poor creature does not know, though, is that the vulture is only biding its time. This strategy is meant to lure the wounded creature's herd out into the open, thereby providing a larger feast for the deadly scavenger. This is only one of several tricks up the vulture's sleeve.

It's enough to make a runner start speedwork.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Run (and Bike and Swim?! You've got to be crazy!)

For me this week, nothing but a hot and muggy three miles around the river.

For my beloved, however, nothing more than a 5+ mile run...one that followed a .6 mile swim and a 10-mile bike. To read my awesome stud's recap, click here.

To see the photos of the event, click here.

Great job!

Miles by the Hour

Sometimes it's good to get away. From it all--from our work lives, our financial and economic woes, our personal responsibilities--and from our fixation on the minutes it takes us to run our daily miles.

Last week Jared and I headed to Katahdin. I won't give you the details (you can get them on his recap), but the short and dirty of it is that we had to abort, to turn around and head back the way we'd come. Those of us that run know there's nothing worse than having to change your plans mid-way through. This blog, however, isn't about that--it's about not running. It's about changing your plans, re-mapping your course, and stopping to smell the greenery around you.

It took us about two hours to hike up Pamola Peak. Along the way we crashed the aptly named roaring brook, and spotted tiny red flowers popping out of the deep green of their plant base like miniature brilliant rubies. We reminisced about last year's hike, where we spotted a young moose less than than 25 feet from the path we were treading. We inhaled the clean, damp smell of earth and rain. We hopped over fallen trees, and clambered over boulders large and small, pointing out the perfectly shaped stepping stones we happened upon. We took beef jerky and water breaks.

At the top, or at least, very near the top (though granted we couldn't see it through the heavy mist), we ran into a driving rain with a sleety edge. The wind and frigid rain necessitated an about face, and a hurried scramble back to the shelter of tree line.

Drenched, but still in good spirits, we began the 2-hour trek back down the mountain. Along the way, we chatted and joked and laughed. We paused for a change into dry clothes, admired the view when we spotted it through the trees and mist. We used our hands and arms to gently ease ourselves down over bigger boulders and continued our hopping path down the trail. We laughed at each other tripping, and when I managed to get back at one of the rocks with a well-placed knee-ing. We rinsed our mud-soaked shoes in Roaring Brook, and admired the small teal-colored whirlpool near the opposite bank.

When my beloved and I got back to the car for our long drive home, we were sweaty and damp from rain, bedraggled and dirty, but in good spirits.

There is something about being out in nature, something that is primal but also soothing, something that just feels right somehow. I wonder sometimes if this is the reason that I favor running in the woods, too--this sense of quiet solitude but of fitting in at the same time. Is it something in our genetic makeup? Some kind of evolutionary survival skill that, even as we live and exist in our metal cities, causes us to lean and yearn for the great outdoors?

I'm not sure, to be honest. So I'll keep hiking Katahdin with my beloved, and I'll keep running my favorite paths in the Fells and Blue Hills. Maybe someday I'll find an answer--but if not, I'll have a lifetime of beautiful days to remember.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nature's Eightfold Spendour

Why is it everything seems more legitimate when spelled using the British variation? Ye Olde Taverne, Towne Hall...Nature's Spendour?

Well, all etymology talk aside, yesterday the Ponkapoag nature was, in fact, spendourous. (My literary résumé also allows me to make up words at my every whim.)

Early on, it seemed that nature would be difficult to reach. My beloved and his coworker and soon-to-be fellow triathlete had brought their mountain bikes to hit the trails in the Blue Hills. The plan? Drop me at Ponkapoag for some solitary miles, then bike a quick 6 miles, before coming back to meet me for some leftover hoof time.

A road block across the bridge to my happy little trail proved only a temporary stymie to my nature-ed plans. After analysing the situation, I found myself jaunting over concrete pile-ons and to the side of bobcats quietly resting along the curb, as I made my way to the wooded nature awaiting.

The miles that followed were langourous and peaceful. I sped my way along trails still soft and damp with the night's rainfall, brushing heavy green leaves away where needed, leaning my way past the rain-filled hollows in low spots. I brushed away bugs with barely a handful of curses, and loped past the golf course, before heading up my ancient nemesis, that last three-turn hill, which, it turns out, is only .15 mile. Seems further than that to me, every time I run it...

With a little over half a mile to go, and my mental wooing fully established (C'mon...just a little further; no big deal after 7 and a half, just another 4-5 minutes...watch the feet, now...), I ran into Jared and Sean, who'd jogged in to meet me. A few minutes later, I ran into the threesome walking 5 or 6 dogs--for the third time. Energetic dogs, I think!

Later at home (after going halfsies with my beloved on a ham croissant and a blueberry scone), I had Jared upload the statistics of the run (see below). Not too bad. A thoroughly respective 9:38/mile caper.

But now, all efforts are done. The work day is over, and I'm lounging on the couch, watching dog shows with Copley. Nothing left to do now but shut down, relax, and wait for the working girls to come out. Copley likes those the best, being a "working dog" herself--though I don't know that chowing down a rawhide hoof counts as much work.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

All in the Family

Another hodge-podge set of runs....

Last week's cranky Thursday morning 3 was around the river with my better half, who luckily didn't mind taking a pit stop at a local boathouse. (Seriously, how I've ever managed the hour-long commute without stopping to take a crap boggles the mind, as I certainly can't seem to make it through a run.)


DOWNLOAD IN HD


The past weekend, Jared and I headed to Ohio for some quality family time (see the new background that came out of it above!). First up, my cousin Pat's wedding in Columbus. After a rehearsal dinner with a ton of food, cold beer, and cornhole in the backyard, we were feeling pretty replete with a sense of right in the world. The wedding day brought more of the same, plus some 4-on-4 MarioKart with my mom and dad, cousin Kenzie, Uncle Cory, Dr. E-Lamp, and Jared and I taking turns at the controls. I think I got third once. That was my high point, unfortunately.

Sunday rolled along, and with it our plans to run while on mini-vacation slowly dwindled. Instead we picked up my parents and headed out to meet Jared's, along with a plethora of other family members on his side--his little brother Christian, Grandparents George and Helen, Aunt Penny, Sue, and Sheila. Happily, it couldn't have gone better, as everyone seemed to enjoy meeting everyone else, and conversation flowed.

After this meal, we headed back to Columbus to my Uncle Steve's house, having convinced Jared's folks, Jan and John, to join us for some more en-masse family time. While there, Jan was treated to a 20-minute soliloquy on milk, proving her capacity for patience and tolerance--important traits for tying in with my charmingly nutty family:) Again, all could not have gone better, and Jared and I were thrilled to see our parents and extended families getting along so wonderfully. (Not that we'd had any doubt they would!)

With all this happiness in the air, you'd think that Monday would have broken the dawn with two runners hungry for the road. Not these two, I say! Instead we headed out for Caribou coffee, and earthy-crunchy (and delicious) version of Starbucks, shoe-shopping (pale gold strappy sandals, fab-u-lous), and some Barnes & Noble browsing.

By Tuesday, a full five days from our last run, we were both feeling...well, a little bit gorged. We'd spent the last four days with family, talking, laughing, dancing--and eating and drinking nonstop. (What is it about traveling, anywhere really, that makes you consume half again, or twice, as many calories, while engaging in half, or less, the physical activity that's normal for you?!) We at last dragged ourselves out for a post-work run at the Fells with Copley.

With nighttime quickly approaching, and the sun sinking lower than seems possible for this time of night at this time of year, and our bodies still a little dazed from the long break, we kept it short--a jaunting, panting 2 or so miles through the sticky, sweaty air. Still, it was a victory, getting back at it.

Last night, Wednesday, I managed two basketball games in the heat (both of which we lost), giving me a legitimate excuse for the half-hearted way my dull and heavy legs carried me through another 3 miles with Jared this morning.

But at least I didn't have to stop at the boathouse this time.

For your enjoyment, a melting pot of photos from the weekend:

1. My parents, Vicki and Dave

2. The groom, Pat, with my cousin Cory's wife and daughters, Kenzie, Connie, Tylen:

3. My beloved, Jared, and my favorite cousin, Dr. E-Lamp himself:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

3x the Charm + a 7.5-Mile Fruitcake

Not much to report the past two weeks, but a quick recap:

3x the Charm: It was the perfect menage a trois, three times the fun--that is, three times the three-mile run. Two threes with Jared, and in between a lingering three miler along the river with just me, myself, and I--the three of us.

A 7.5-Mile Fruitcake: Yesterday, after managing to sweet talk Jared into an extra 32 minutes of ZZZ's, I crawled out of bed. A peanut-butter coated piece of toast later, I was wishing Jared well on his 12-mile bike at the Fells, while I locked up the house for 6+ miles 'round the 'hood.

A mile or so in, tripping past the projects, I was lucky enough to hear the sweet morning sounds of an early pianist tickling the ivories. My feet kept the beat by, as fingers flew over keys in melody that was bright and trickling. The sounds fading behind me, I turned onto the Alewife Brook Parkway, squeezing myself between the guard rail and verdant foliage. I emerged damp through on the right side, but happy for the quick cool off from the humid morning.

By time I reached Mass Ave to head along my winter route, I was panting, and wondering how I'd ever made it 5 miles, let alone 26. I promised myself a break at the halfway point, to force myself to keep running.

At Pleasant Street, my halfway point, I headed across the street, and at last, feeling loose, decided there was no reason to keep going--I could always stop for a quick stretch and breather later if I needed to. I slowed slightly as I passed the Starbucks, taking deep whiffs until I at last caught the delicious scent of roasting beans. Refreshed, I picked my pace back up (granted, only to the fairly relaxed trot it had been before).

Two German Shepherds and a russet Golden Retriever later, I found myself bounding down College Ave, only a few blocks from home. A quick jaunt through Davis, and I was soon at my door, ready to grab Copley and head to the Fells to meet my beloved.

We hit the Fells parking lot just in time to find a sweaty JRod just having finished his bike. Minutes later the three of us were heading down the trails in the usual loop, Copley gamboling through every puddle she could and herding her owners from side-to-side of the winding trails. Jared, having worked out a fairly ludicrous amount already, was unfortunately plagued with a stiff hip that necessitated us calling it quits after about a mile and a half--when both of us were happy to walk the rest of the trail, and cool off in the damp, drizzling air.

All in all, a nice little fruitcake of a run, and one that made me realize that I do miss those longer runs when I don't get them in!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vicki's Update #2: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

I know like me, you've been waiting impatiently for an update on my mom's 8 weeks to a 5K. Here is update #2--like many of us, she's found that sometimes the best thing to do is listen to your body--unfortunately by doing something else most of us do--neglecting to do so. 


Lessons learned the hard way: be realistic, listen to your body, and don’t forget your phone. 


I tried. The first week of my 8-week Walk to Run a 5K plan went perfectly. I did the Mon-Wed-Fri Run 1 minute/Walk 3 minutes intervals. I weight-trained, did Pilates, and rode a bicycle on three alternate days. It had been well over 20 years since I rode a bicycle and I had to out and BUY a bicycle in order to ride one, but it’s true, you don’t forget how.

 

Then Week 2 arrived; did I read the instructions correctly? I should suddenly run 3 minutes and walk only two? And I had to follow this sequence eight times? Was it even logical to triple the running but still reduce the walking part? But the plan said it was safe for non-running women over 40; I was determined to follow the plan. That will now be known as “Mistake #1.” (Following instructions exactly has gotten me into trouble before; sometime you should hear about my efforts to make wine in the basement – and the explosion.)

 

By the end of the third run cycle, my calves were starting to hurt. They hurt constantly, EVERY step of the 4th 3-minute run interval, which happened to be UPHILL (I’m sure it was on a scale with Everest) the whole way. I walked my allotted two minutes and then started to run my 5th 3-minute interval – very slowly. Thank goodness for level ground. But my calves were really sore now. I walked the same wretched hill, blissfully down this time, and started run interval #6, inabsolute agony. Surely I should be able to run through it? Don’t coaches always tell you to run through the pain? I made it less than two minutes when a sharp stabling pain in my right calf literally put me on the ground. I couldn’t even walk. After hobbling over to the fence down in the ditch, I tried stretching. No good. The pain didn’t let up at all and NOTHING was going to stretch. I started to limp home but the problem was that I was nearly two miles away. By the time I limped a mile, I was willing to accept a ride on the handlebars from some 10-year-old kid on a bike. But where are all the 10-year-olds when you need one? None to be found, I’d forgotten my phone, and I gritted my teeth and limped the last mile. Mistake #2: I should have stopped running after the 4thinterval which was so painful. Mistake #3: take my phone next time.


Today marks two weeks since my abortive effort and today for the first time I managed to walk two miles. My right calf is still “there,” and it was tight when I came in. But at least I’m moving again. I couldn’t walk at all the first week and no more than one mile at a time the second week. I’m not giving up. I’m walking this week on the advice of my coach (Abby) and should be able to re-start, back at Week 1, next week. And Week 2 will be more of a Week 1.5; I’ll try just 2 minutes of running instead. If that version goes well, THEN I’ll try 3 minutes. I’ve been told that all beginning runners have trials. At least it makes for an interesting story….

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What's Next?

All spring and summer, I've been telling people I want to do more trail races. Well, it's July, and the only race I've done all summer was the Covered Bridges Half, on paved roads through Vermont.

So I'm finally getting off my can and doing some research. Here are a few options--input appreciated!

August 23 Moose On The Loose 10M Trail Race and Relay
Pros: The word "moose" is in the title. Race registration is a steal at $16. Nashua is less than an hour's drive.
Cons: Haven't run 10 miles on trail in a few months (ever?). Unfamiliar terrain.

August 23 22nd Annual Mt. Toby Trail Run (14 miles)
Pros: Completing more than a half marathon on trails would definitely be a new challenge. $15 race fee (I love these cheap trail race fees!). Picnic lunch after race.
Cons: Lack of website makes it hard to see what others thought of this race (though I did find this blog). Two-mile ascension to kick off the race (essentially an out and back, or an up and down course, with 1900' elevation gain). Drive to Sunderland, MA is 2+ hours.

Even better, my search for a race led me to find a new blog of interest, Breakheart Trail Running, one I'm sure I'll be checking back on.

7 (or 8) Of the Most Circuitous Miles This Side of the Arc de Triomphe

I've never been great with directions. Put me on a straight 1-mile-long road--and yes, I will get lost. The first year I ran with Dana-Farber, I went to a first-timer's meeting that was 4 miles from my apartment. It took me nearly and hour and a half, and two different towns, plus a project, to get there.

My better half, on the other hand, seems to be a whiz with directions. Here is an approximate of our conversation on Friday afternoon:

Scene: The Fells
Props: Jared's sweet new mountain bike
Players: Jared, a handsome and brilliant directional tactician, mountain biker and trail runner; Abby, a trail runner whose sense of direction is best described as "challenged"

Jared (about to jump on mountain bike for a 6-mile jaunt o'er root and rock): So how far are you going to go?
Abby (about to embark on The Incredible Journey, sans talking domestic pets): I don't know, probably two loops.*
Jared: So you'll be back here in 45 minutes or so?
Abby: Better plan for an hour, in case I get lost.
Jared: No, no. You just need to not turn left where we usually turn left, then go left by the place we went right on Tuesday, and then make sure the water's on your left.**
Abby: Er, Ok...if I'm not back in two hours, come find me.

Well, you can imagine what happened. I didn't turn left where I was supposed to turn left, I missed the other turn completely, and was nearly run over by some mountain bikers (who turned out to be very polite, and not at all murderous in intent). Though I tried to keep the water on my left, I lost it for a couple miles in the middle. Despite recognizing that it was the worst thing I could possibly do, I followed my instincts, and turned onto the paths it told me to turn onto. Bad idea.

At a particularly confusing fork in the trails, I decided I had to face the facts--I had no idea where I was. So, in the middle of the woods, with no idea of direction but for up and down, I asked for directions. The biker, who seemed friendly at first, turned out to be a bit of a sadist, something I realized while gasping my way up the too-familiar Skyline Trail, albeit on a route I'd never seen before.

Upon arriving at the bottom of the other side of the trail, I realized that, despite my efforts (in both admitting my folly and in climbing that damned vertical monster), I was no better off. I had no idea where I was. With my hour of time dwindling, I knew I needed to hustle it back to the predetermined meeting point, or my beloved would a.) start worrying, and worse, b.) realize I'd gotten hopefully lost, and quite possibly tease me mercilessly.

Luckily I happened upon a woman with a stroller and a dog, who pointed me in what turned out to be the right direction. I arrived back at the car in around 57 minutes, to find Jared packing up the bike, and ready to run another 2 miles.

And this time I had my navigator with me.

*Note: About 5-6 miles
**Note: What Abby actually heard was, "Don't turn where we usually turn, turn the wrong way where we turned the other way that one time, then make a loop in the shape of an origami crane. Take two lefts by the tree that looks like a coffee mug handle, a right by the stump, the one after the 3.5 other stumps, make a cloverleaf by the trail that breaks five directions, then keep the water on your left."

Tuesday Trails, Thursday Speedfest

Tuesday after work, I met with my beloved at the Fells, to continue in our quest for the 8:00/trail mile. He'd brought Copley with, so as we careened around corners, puddles, and along the beaten trail, jumping over root and rock, we also evaded her attempts at herding us closer together. (Good dog:))

This time we took a bit of an oddball route--looping right at a usual left, which took us to Copley's favorite haunt--Sheepfold Dog Park. She trotted around merrily for a bit, but within a few minutes we realized there was one of those dogs there--the ones who play a little rough, play snarl a little too realistically, and in general, terrorize our 75-lb. flower. No matter to us, though, as we headed back into the Fells, and onto the trails.

A longer than expected break happened then, as our dainty lady decided to get her feet wet--figuratively and literally--by running headlong into the water next to the trail, in chase of a golden retriever and his ball. A big deal--as Copley's barely been willing to put a white-spotted toe in the water before! (They grow up so quickly....sigh.)

After a few minutes of gamboling in the cool water, Copley was lured away by Jared and I, eager to get back to our run. A handful of sweaty minutes later, we were back at our cars, and happy with an 8:18 pace. Now to just do it without stopping for one reason or another...

Thursday was our next planned outing. Jared texted me around the middle of the day, though, to let me know he'd been asked by a friend to fill in at a basketball game. Not about to go sprinting around the Fells by myself in the evening, I decided to head to the courts with him. I'd run while he played, and meet him back at the gym afterwards to head home together.

Garmin-clad, and just having watched the end of the first game of hoops, I was, frankly, raring to go. Added to that eagerness was a couple week's worth of missing a long run, and...well, you get the picture. I bolted out the gym door, thinking I'd run to wherever seemed convenient--and easy to find my way back from.

My legs stretched and my stride lengthened, and I soon found myself gasping a brisk pace down Cambridge Street, past bars, restaurants, gas stations, and C-stores. I sped past trees, leaping on and off curbs as needed to pass oblivious walkers (couldn't they see my need? My need for speed?). Within a half mile, I'd decided to RUN--to just run, to see how fast my legs and sadly out of shape lungs would carry me. At a little under a mile, I realized I'd have to run a creative route to even make it a mile straight out from the gym--as the road looped and curved in an assortment of directions. I curved around an oddly-shaped corner, doubling back on a side street until I hit the 1-mile mark--8:00 minutes. Ok, not bad, I thought to myself--this is how to learn the pace we need to hit on the trails.

A quick 30-60 seconds of stretch and shaking of already looser legs, and I was off again, back to the gym, tracking my candy-cane shaped loop in the opposite direction. By the time I arrived, sweaty and panting, I felt great. Looking at the Garmin made me feel even better, as the second mile had been a sleek 7:29/mile. I could barely stop myself from sprinting inside to tell my beloved.

Now to just duplicate it on terrain that's 3x more difficult, for a little over twice as long.

Easy, right?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Trails and More Trails

With Jared's tri coming up in less than 6 weeks, we've agreed its time to hunker down and start killing some trail runs. My beloved's figured out the ranges he needs to be in for each event of the tri to be competitive with the other participants. Here are the ranges for each:

Swim (0.6 mi): 19-32 minutes
Bike (12 mi): 1 hour to 1:50
Run (6 mi): 30-60 minutes

After a week of swimming, he's already going the distance in 22 minutes, so has no worries there. The mountain biking could be tough as his bike isn't really equipped for the kind of pounding it's taking on the trails. That leaves the run.

While we both enjoy trail running, the philosophy behind it has always been that we just run--ignore any attempts at speed, and travel the distance. Because trail terrain is so much more varied than streets, it's tough to map out what a comparable speed would be from one to the other. On top of that, trail running tends to require a lot more side-to-side, as rocks and roots necessitate occasional shifts and leaps--and frankly, a lot more effort per mile. In the past, I've tended to think anything around or below a 10:00/mile was a solid trail run. A 10:00/mile, however, would put Jared in the back of the pack at his tri.

Tuesday was our first attempt at increasing our speed on the trails. I met Jared at the Fells after work, and we were off like a shot, shooting for an 8:30/mile pace. Well, we ended up right around there for our approximately 2.25-mile loop, but we also stopped for three gasping breaks (all my doing, I admit it), where I (naturally) stopped the clock. Not bad for a first try (tri, har de har har).

Thursday was another planned running day, but a late offer to join a hoops game ultimately took precedence. Sorry, running, for the stand-up.

Saturday morning we headed back over to the Fells, this time planning to run strong, but not at a pace that would force breaks. Copley, recently cleared by the vet, and in dire need of some exercise, joined us on the 2.15-mile jaunt. We ran a crisp, cool pace through already muggy woods, with her gently herding us the first mile. I careened around her loping hindquarters at first, before figuring out how to watch her, and anticipate her capering turns along the path. At a mile, we paused for a minute for her to drink, and again at just past 2. The miles, at an 8:45/mile pace, were still a lot faster than what we typically run, but were comfortable. It felt like a pace we could hold for longer, and one we could improve on for that distance.

After arriving back at the car, Jared unloaded his bike and headed out for some more miles, while I loaded the dog and headed for the park. An hour later, a tired dog, a tired JRod, and a tired Abby headed home...full of plans for the next attempt.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Never Too Late to Start...

As many of you know, from time to time, I post a "Guest Blog"--a blog written by someone else on running, or on their thoughts on the same. So far my only guest bloggers have been my beloved, and Dr. E-Lamp...today, though, I managed to convince my mom (that's her at right, trying to learn Guitar Hero), who walked her first half marathon last month, to do some guest blogging. With the half under her belt, she's decided her next goal is to run a 5K. Look for an update every two weeks--and enjoy today's, the first!


WEEK 1: THE STARTING LINE

Hi, my name is Vicki and I’m Abby’s mother. After walking my first half-marathon in May in 3:28 and envying all those runners whizzing by me on the double-loop, out-and-back course, I ran across an “Walk-to-Run” plan in Prevention magazine a couple of weeks ago. Specifically designed to be safe for would-be runners over 40, the 8-week plan has one converting from a walker to running a 5K. Now, at 53, I estimate that it will take closer to 14-15 weeks to accomplish the 8-week plan; some of the increase increments seem a little steep to someone who hasn’t run regularly since 1973. I waited until today to start as I decided to take the ABATE motorcycle classes this last weekend. (Note to all those considering riding a motorcycle for the first time ever: they tip over really easily and you get LOTS of bruises and scrapes, even wearing heavy jeans, when you crash and fly over the handlebars. I was, of course, the only student rider who tipped the bike over not once, but three times during the two days. But I digress.)


Today marked Day 1 of Week 1. After walking 5 minutes to a nearby bike path, the plan required me to run one minute, walk three minutes, and repeat the run/walk cycle 13 times total. Unfortunately the Timex 100-lap Ironman watch I ordered from Amazon just last night has yet to arrive and I can’t see the numbers or second hand on my wrist watch without my reading glasses, so I had to guess at the time. I jogged 170 paces (85 per foot – that’s how I count) then walked 180 paces per foot for the 3-minute part, and just kept repeating the cycle. At one point, a nice elderly couple crossed my path and I’m sure they wondered about the under-the-breath counting, but I was sweating too much to worry about what they thinking on this humid morning. For those of you who can’t imagine anyone counting steps like that, I should say that I’m an accountant, so it sort of happens whether I mean it to or not. Finally finishing the 13th cycle, I was just 5 blocks from home and walked in for my cool down. The plan has me doing this 3 days this week, with weights and low-impact cardio another 3 days, and one day off. I can handle the weights; I’ve been doing that part for years. Week 2 looks to be quite a bit more difficult, with eight run 3/walk 2 intervals. If it takes a couple of weeks to master it, that’s what it will take. The college where I teach has a Homecoming 5K Fun Run on October 3, and that just happens to be my birthday. So it’s a good goal date.


So why start all of this at my age? I envy those of you that run; you look so strong and healthy to those of us who don’t. In addition, my physical this spring indicated an elevated cholesterol level and an extra 20 pounds that have crept on during the 2 ½ years I’ve been in my doctoral program. Yes, education is broadening, although I always thought it was meant figuratively rather than literally. Turns out it was both! My goal is to get the weight off and reduce my cholesterol before Abby and Jared’s wedding in April. Maybe NEXT May I can RUN the Fargo Half-Marathon with the rest of the gazelles. I’ll send Abby periodic updates. If anyone has advice, I’d love to hear it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday's Double Feature

This Saturday, I ran what seems to be becoming a weekend habit--a double feature.

The first run was with my buddy Aaron, one of the first friends I made in Boston after moving here in 2002. Not too long ago, Aaron, after some soul-searching, ditched cigarettes--and took up running and healthy living. Now, with his first half marathon under his belt, he appears to have caught the running bug.

Despite a hangover and the steamy, overcast sky, Aaron was game when I phoned him late Saturday morning to suggest a run. As we headed out from my place down to the Minuteman Trail, the sun decided to break free--and bring the heat. Sweating profusely and panting in the sultriness of the trail, we jogged along at a sedate pace. It was after two miles before I remembered that I hadn't actually confirmed whether Aaron was OK with the 5 side of the "3-5 miles" I'd suggested. When I let him know this was an out-and-back course, not exactly a loop, he quickly agreed to making it an even 5.

With the miles falling behind us, and the conversation quick and catching up in nature, the miles flew by. By the time we finished we were both drenched in sweat. A large glass of water and fruit smoothie later, I was able to treat Aaron to the real reward for his efforts--Copley puking in the backseat while I took him home. Sorry about that, buddy....

The next few hours were spent in miscellaneous errands and tasks. My beloved was off in Vermont, taking a spin on the trails he'd be biking for his upcoming trail triathlon. When he called from the road to suggest we hit Ponkapoag for another 4+ miles, I was happy to oblige. Far be it from me to say no to one of my favorite trails!

I met him there around 7:00 p.m., and the timing couldn't have been better. The forecasted rain held off long enough for us to run, but it's looming presence cooled the air to a soothing, speedy temperature. We chatted about our days and careened along the empty paths, stopping once--and then only to marvel at the total isolation we'd found ourselves in. The woods around us were thick with the noises of nature--birds, breeze, water lapping the shoreline. Gorgeous.

All in all, it was a beautiful day of running, with good company for both runs. Next up for me is a bit of speeding up--Jared's triathlon distance is about 6 miles, and since we can both do it, it seems the next thing to do is...well, do it faster.

Tuesday's Surly, Grumpy, Grumbling 3 with JRod

Thursday's commute from work came in at an earth-shattering 1 hour and 45 minutes--plus. By the time I got home (at 7:00 p.m.), I was less than thrilled with the state of the cruel and heartless universe, surely a fickle creature whose instincts were less than trustworthy.

Jared, sensing my grumpiness (and having received numerous texts along the lines of "Traffic. Boo." and "I can't even idle. I have to brake, I'm going so slow."), suggested a quick run. After some token whining, I agreed and we headed out the door.

A quick and easy 3 miles later, and I'd come around. The universe, while still fickle, is not against me. It does not hate me. It's actually been pretty good to me. Just not from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

She Who Won't Be Running Anytime Soon...

This past Thursday morning, my beloved and I dropped our dainty flower (66 lbs. of love) off at the vet for a duathlon of surgeries. The first, a fairly standard spay job. The second, something called a "gastropexy," in which a part of her stomach would be attached to something stationary--usually the abdominal wall.*

Two surgeries in one sitting mean a couple of things. Here they are, by the numbers:
1: Giant cone for Copley.
2: weeks she'll be wearing the cone.
9: inches, the length of her incision.
18: hours a day she is currently sleeping (possibly more).
17: times she howls, barks, and/or whimpers when forced into her crate with the giant cone on.
6: times a day she falls asleep snuggled up to her people, whether it be with a paw or head on the lap, or foot, of those who keep her safe and comfort her.



And lastly:
2: weeks she won't be doing any running, jumping, playing, or otherwise cavorting with her canine buddies down the street.

A bummer for such a long-legged sprinter.

*Note: the -pexy is not an aesthetic surgery--it's designed to prevent bloat, an ailment common in bigger dogs with a shape like Copley's--a shape that's indicative of a "free-floating"stomach. Since the stomach isn't attached to anything, if the dog is too active after eating or drinking, it can get twisted, and flip. It's a painful, painful, thing--and often kills the dog in the end, even if the dog can make it to the vet for emergency surgery. See Marley & Me for further reference.

10.1-Mile Victory Lap

This weekend, I spent 5.1 miles with one of the best local charities around--FitGirls, and another 5 supporting a friend.

I've run one race, last October, with FitGirls. The program is geared toward young girls (10-13 year-olds, by my estimation), with an eye toward teaching them necessary goal-building, and life, skills. The program does this by combining reading about strong female heroines with training for, and running, a road race. The girls can thus discover their inner heroine.

Saturday I logged a 5K with Nicole, a 10-year-old from Chelsea, MA, running her first ever road race. She soldiered through the first part of the race pretty well, before turning to walking. A couple of water stops, and one giant Gatorade later, though, her spirits returned and she finished the race, amidst the clapping and cheering of her fellow FitGirls.

Sunday was the Battle of Bunker Hill Run--2 miles through historic Charlestown. Katora, running her first ever race, and I bounded off from the Charlestown Navy Yard. Our first blocks began with me having to stretch my legs to keep up with her beginning sprint through heavy rain. Katora ran very well, with only periodic stops to walk and rest--before she would take off again. Over the course of the 2 miles, we discussed our mutual like of running in the rain, and the importance of having police officers along the course to protect the runners (there were many today, which is always great). I saw in Katora a future sprinter--one of those girls who will someday put her "need for speed" to the test around a track, and one who will come out of it smiling from the effort and reward of running against herself.

With both these races under my belt, there was one left to do--the second race in Charlestown was an 8K. Jared's good friend Mike (aka, the Mixtape) was planning to run this race--and in fact had run it the two previous years. His telling of last year's race seemed to improve on every telling--and by this point, we'd heard about his stopping for a beer at a friend's place along the route, and the point at which a grandmother passed him. His finishing time last year? Around an hour and a half. He was the dead-last finisher--and the race crew had already put everything away, including the water.

This year, Jared and I were committed to getting him through the race, happy and content with his pace, and definitely in time for some post-race refreshment. (I admit that I "bandit" ran this second race of the day...) We settled into a comfortable pace, with Mike setting the bar for speed and for any necessary drink or stretch breaks. And while we did see a bunch of Mike's friends, he took the Solo cup of beer for the road this year, and there were no grandmas in sight. The three of us turned the corner, with Mike holding strong, and slogging the last few blocks. I hopped out just before the finish (it seems shady to cross the finish line when running bandito-style), and was able to watch them finish in Mike's Bunker Hill PR--57 minutes. He was shocked and giddy with his time, and thanked us profusely, before heading back to let his wife know of his 30-minute improvement.

All in all, it was a great weekend of racing. I didn't go out to set any records for myself. What I did do, though, was help three people cross the finish line on the power of their own legs.

I'll call that my own 10.1-mile victory lap.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Covered Bridges Half (and the shorties leading up to it)

My better half and I spent the days leading up to the Covered Bridges 1/2 Marathon were spent much the same as any other weeks--a couple runs, but short ones, squeezed in where we could. A quick 2 or 3 before a hoops game Wednesday, and a 4-mile dash to the gym for Friday night pickup. Still, the short runs with basketball combined for a not too terribly inactive week, so it was with trepidatious hope that we headed to Vermont on Saturday afternoon. (Incidentally, this was the first time we'd left our dainty flower alone overnight--very taxing on new dog owners. We came home to find Copley happy to see us, but pooped--methinks she had a fabulous, playful 24 hours!)

Our digs? The charming Casa Bella Inn, a bed & breakfast near Killington. The owners, Susan and Franco, were as wonderful as ever--and dinner (by Franco) was absurdly delicious (we shared a chicken parmesan, and a sausage rigatoni with cream sauce, before moving on to chocolate mousse and vanilla gelato). 

The next morning, I dragged myself from bed at 6:00, after some gentle verbal nudging from my better half. We arrived at the drop point alarmingly early, and managed to squeak onto the back of the first shuttle--that's right, the FIRST shuttle. At the start of the race, we were met with glorious oldies blaring from a speaker set, no lines at the bib pickup, and even better--clean porta-potties. Ah, bliss. 

Later, B showed up, making our little party 3. (She unfortunately missed my wild, frenetic dancing to the golden oldies, but hey, you can't win 'em all.) The three of us seemed to have a similar race strategy, one necessitated by our mutually half-assed training for the race--go out strong, and stay strong as long as possible. When the steam ran out, Jared and I agreed not to sweat it--to slow down as needed, and enjoy the lush scenery surrounding Woodstock. 

We wished B luck at the start, and planned to meet up after. At the gun, my beloved and I settled into a fast, loping gate. We churned out mile after mile, recognizing by 7 that we were, despite our doubts, having a pretty good race! Though we knew if we could keep our current pace, we would PR, I had a sneaking suspicion that my "tank" wasn't quite full enough to do that. 

At mile 8, we met our beast--a sharp incline of 1/8-mile. The heat got to me less than halfway up, and I begged Jared for a quick breather, which he was happy to grant. We ran/trudged our way a few more miles, stopping here and there as needed. With a couple miles to go, we committed to digging in and at least finishing the damned thing in under 2 hours. 

At our last quick break, Jared was adamant that we finish the last mile+ with no stopping. I gritted my teeth, and despite my lagging strength and spirits, sucked it up and ran it out with my beloved, finishing in around 1:58. (We later agreed that both of us wanted to stop again during that last mile, but felt like we couldn't do that to the other.)

I think, given our relatively lackluster training and the heat, we actually ran this one pretty well. A PR would have been nice, as it always is, but overall, I'm still happy about the way the day turned out. (The free beer afterwards was a particularly nice touch.) 

Next year, though, we kill this one--those yawning uphills and careening downhills are a fast race just waiting to happen.

On a side note--Jared, despite being as pooped as I, had committed to a basketball game, and had to bolt out the door to his league within 15 minutes of arriving home. You'd think that most people (at least me!) would play terribly, dragging their sore and tired legs up and down the court. Jared, on the other hand, dropped 47 points.