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


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:


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,
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.