Wednesday, January 28, 2009


That's right, folks. I haven't run in three days. I haven't lifted, cross-trained, or done any other form of exercise.

Though I did stretch one day of the three.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2009 Derry Recap

This morning was the equal parts dreaded and beloved Derry 16-Miler, officially termed the "Boston Prep." Though I denied to myself, I hoped to run a best time--it didn't have to be by much--even a minute or two would do. That said, I've run this race before, and was fully aware of what it takes to complete it--survival instinct. The course is winding and hilly, and at 16 miles, no joke. Nor is the weather usually a treat, as last year's snowstorm and this year's cold proved. (Zero degrees before I hit the road for the drive to Derry, though it did warm up some.)

I ran into several fellow DFMC runners pre-race, and was happy to see some familiar faces. I'd packed Jared's iPod in one pocket, just in case I found myself both alone and tired somewhere on the course. Some good conversation, a lot of stretching, and a quick trip to the ladies, and we were off. Here's my recap, and thought process of today:

Mile 1: Settle in with fellow DFMC runner, chatting about last year's snowy miles, my muscles and joints protesting the early efforts, lined with early sloping hills. A little sadness set in as I checked the split on my watch: 10:20. Boo. Still, the lack of wind brought more warmth than expected--or should I say less cold?

Mile 2: As I ran by a fellow wheezing, I turned to ask him, "Hanging in there OK?" He responded that he was, that he'd had surgery two weeks prior to fix some hernias--as in multiple. He went on to say that this year would be his first attempt at the Boston Marathon, that it had been on his "Bucket List," and that he was committed to putting in the training to make it happen. Wishing him well, but reminding him to run smart, I continued on.

Mile 3: Fresh off a water stop, I ran along alone for this mile, looking about in wonder at the snowy tree-lined paths, the clean road, and generally being happy about life and running. Eavesdropped on three women chatting about the apparent abundance of single men in Colorado. Chipped in my two cents that I'd read Denver was the #1 singleton city, and that I personally knew an eligible bachelor in Boulder. (Evan--there are some ladies in Derry who'd really like to meet you...and guess what? They like to run.)

Mile 4: Astonished at the miles completed already, I merrily slugged through Mile 4, much like Mile 3, cruising up and down hills. A woman near me commented to her companions that the pace so far averaged 8:50. (What?! Where did I lose all that time from the 10:20 mile? Gift horse, gift horse...)

Mile 5: Fresh off Vanilla Gu, I somehow found myself chatting with Susan and George. Susan, the leader and coach of the GoKids marathon team, and a past competitive runner, told me about a bad experience with water poisoning, and how after a 20-year hiatus, she'd decided to get back at it, with the 2007 Boston Marathon.

Mile 6: I babbled away about my charming fiancé, our running endeavors, in a generally doe-eyed manner. (What can I say? I wished he was there--though to be fair, I always do.) They asked about the wedding plans; I filled them in on where we are.

Mile 7: George filled me in the his glory days (cross-country), the 20 years of inactivity, and his training so far this year, as he works toward completing his first marathon as part of the GoFit team. He told me about his daughter, a freshman in college, and a bit of a princess, but also Daddy's little girl, and his son, 15, and a "pretty good kid."

Mile 8: As we passed the mile marker, I couldn't believe how good my legs felt. Susan and George were committed to a 9:00 min/mile pace, and promised me they'd force me up the hill at 10.5. Little did they know that I was holding the pace with a bit of an ulterior motive--building up my "bank" of time, so that if I had, or just wanted, to walk the devastatingly steep Warner Hill, I could do so--without feeling guilty. Neither had ever run the race, keep in mind--and didn't know what awaited us.

Miles 9-10: I downed another Gu (chocolate, mmm) and continued to cruise with George and Susan, now with Susan yelling over what turned out to be her teenage son's iPod, letting us know what she thought of the curse words in some his musical choices. George and I tried to converse back, until we realized she couldn't hear us over the hip hop rhythms. As they sped up near 10, I wished them well, and kept to my own clipping pace, as they bolted ahead.

Mile 11: Halfway in, I hit it--my Everest--the long and steep Warner Hill. A quarter of the way up, my lungs, calves, glutes, and hamstrings screaming, I decided to take my option--and use some of the bank. I was surprised, though, to find that above and below me on the monstrous hill that more than 75% of runners were doing just as I was, ducking their bodies into a walk. The few runners scooting along kept pace with we walkers, or barely edged ahead.

Mile 12: As the fatigue of running 10 miles set in, I felt as though I had begun to move at half speed. I allowed myself one more hill of walking, and ran into a fellow DFMC'r, Jeff, whose wife volunteers, and had met Jared.

Mile 13: A water stop rejuvenated my flagging spirits, though I was bummed to find that my last race treat, Watermelon Luna, were frozen, rendering them inedible. Drat!

Mile 14: I realized, with surprise, that I was clipping along again, my legs feeling tight and tired, but retaining plenty of steam. Not so fresh though, that I didn't start to think about the water stop somewhere right after 14, and looking forward to a stretch. I forced myself to come to terms with the fact that my time would likely be approximately the same as last year's. Ah well.

Mile 15: Having come to the conclusion that I'd misread the map, I decided there must be water in mile 15, and pondered on the practicality of a water stop so close to the finish. Feeling tired, and a bit put out, I remember my beloved's perseverance at Falmouth, and decided to run on until I found it rather than stop.

Mile 16: Acknowledging at last that I'd misread the map and there would be more stopping until the finish (Wishful thinking? Maybe), I forced myself through last mile of flat and downhill running, letting my legs fly as they would down hills, taking no heed of the potential for later joint pain. As I took the last corner, I found myself with 20 yards to run, and the clock in sight--which ticked to 2:25 as I crossed the finish line, a full 7 minutes faster than last year, and a 9:04 min/mile pace. Hoorah!

The walk to the school, where Gatorade and chili awaited me, along with the ride to the car was filled with silly, happy grins, as was the exuberant phone call to my beloved to give him a play-by-play.

As before, a tough, tough race, but one I am happy to have run!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

9(ish) With My Better Half--To Run or Not To Run?

With Derry looming in the rapidly dwindling distance, and only one run left to do before it, I turned to my most attractive running buddy and fiancé--Jared. I told him the target distance for Thursday (7-10 miles), and he promised to take care of finding a route. With Jared yearning for the longer miles we used to enjoy together, it should have been no surprise that the route was on the high side--at 10 miles. (Though later, when we re-mapped at, after an early "detour" it came out to somewhere around 9.)
I headed home, and after patiently waiting the standard 15-minute decompression blather time, Jared led me out the door and down the street.

We turned left, running, stiffly at first, down Mass Ave. Upon reaching the MinuteMan Trail, one of the primary reasons we chose our apartment (location, location, location), we turned into it, striding along a tree and house lined path, every step bringing more ease in the now-familiar motion. A mile or so in, and we realized we'd somehow missed our turn--and ended up on the busy Alewife Brook Parkway. It wasn't until we met Chad, a sprightly runner dashing alone happily, that we were able to get back on track. (At our pleas for directions, he told us to follow him--the next 3-4 minutes were spent with both of us struggling to keep up with his blithely quick trot.)

At last we were back on the trail, and as we ran through shadowed paths along lines of trees and snowy open fields, we at last took some time to spend the miles talking over the topic of the day--whether or not Jared should run the 2009 Boston Marathon.

(Background: My beloved volunteers in multiple mediums--spending a night a week at the Children's Hospital, and spending time as a big brother in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program. This week he received an email from Big Brothers, asking him if he wanted to run the marathon as a charity runner for their team.)

We spent many miles discussing the pros and cons of his running. The cons being that he didn't want to steal my thunder (silly man), he would (potentially) have to give up this season of hoops league, it would be tough to raise the minimum charitable donation ($3000) in three months, and he'd always hoped to run for Children's Hospital if he did run.

(Background: As a once premature baby who spent time in his local Children's Hospital, Jared feels a particularly strongly about volunteering there.)

The pros: With the half marathon in November, and the recent group run cancellations for me, Jared's logged a lot of miles, and is physically in the shape needed to pick up a training program relatively easily. Waiting to do it another year would mean starting over from scratch. Another pro? We could both do our own group runs half the time, keeping touch with the charitable organizations we'd be running in honor of, and run with each other the other half.

Ultimately, Jared decided to see what Children's had to say, as though they typically field a team of runners, the application to run for them has long since come and gone. He emailed them, asking if they had any remaining openings.

With that settled, we continued our run, pausing only for a fast stretch and a slow embrace when a twinkling Orion suddenly showed himself in a snowy clearing. We eased the remaining few miles out of surprisingly fresh legs, discussing the merits of Tibetan vs. Chinese food. By the time we'd hit home, though, we'd agreed on pulled pork and ribs at RedBones.

It was Friday afternoon when Jared heard from Children's, to, I think, his disappointment--the team was full.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Tortoise vs. the Hare

Last night I had a running epiphany, just before setting out to run 6.5 miles with my beloved.

The day before, he had asked me if I was beginning to resent running--the time, the effort, the lack of delicious cold beer drinking. I responded that of course that wasn't the case...I don't drink much anyway, so there's no change there, and I enjoy discovering the potential of my own body, facing its running-related challenges. The time, though...this year, I've made a conscious effort to follow the training schedule--including cross-training and lifting, in hopes that I can prevent the left-knee gremlin from waking out of his slumber. The end result is, of course, that I am working out ALL THE TIME. I am running 3-4 days a week, and at the gym another two days (and sometimes one of the running days as well) for the alternate workouts. The lone rest day, Wednesday, is spent at a basketball court, keeping stats in return for my free gym membership.

When all I really want some nights is to have dinner, and canoodle with my sweetheart.

Despite my semi-glib response, the truth is that sometimes it IS hard not to resent the training schedule. I can only gripe so much, as I've made, and continue to make, the choice to train as I am. Add to the time constraints that I've been fretting over my pace (very out of character, but I blame that on this being the second go-round), and even the runs themselves have become a little less fun and de-stressful. Add to that--its hard to not feel guilty at these negative feelings, when the ultimate goals isn't really to train for or run the marathon--but to raise needed funds for a very worth cause.

With all of this in mind, and wanting to get back to what lures me to running in the first place, I slinked myself into my suddenly tighter-than-ever tights (how is that even possible, really?), my sweet Red Sox jacket, hat and mittens, and set out with Jared on a snowy river loop...where I proceeded to explain in great detail my epiphany regarding my of-late lackluster and less fun running.

Over casual, happy miles, he played the part of the attentive listener, as I questioned him about the inauguration, rambled about what was going on in my assorted friends' lives, waxed eloquent on why I think he's a 3-4 in basketball, and I'm a 4, rambled about running in general, complained about the way my tights were managing to bunch behind the knees while still managing to compress my thighs more and more with every step, babbled about our puppy, and soliloquized on the purity of the snow-covered Charles. Jared, seeming to know just what I needed, spoke back at length--on all of these topics, and more, reminding me of why I love to run in the first place, that it is an enjoyable endeavor, and one that doesn't have to be fraught with meaning and stress, or, in fact, be anything other than what it really is--just running.

There are runners that are happiest when they are constantly improving, running faster, better, stronger. I would be lying if I didn't say that I love a good PR, and I am fully aware that with my long stride and overall fitness level that were I to truly go for it, I could probably run a qualifying time--not this year, but maybe in 2-3. The truth is, though, that I don't want to be the hare. I want to be the tortoise-- plodding along perhaps, but but a happier and saner woman for it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Running and Running...But Not Actually Getting Anywhere

With a snowboarding trip planned for the long MLK weekend, I planned to skip the intermediate mileage on Thursday, in favor of a long run on Friday.

When takers were few (that is, zero) on my suggestions to run Friday in the frigid night air, I felt only a small bit of regret--after all, this was the perfect excuse to wimp out and run on the treadmill.

Clad in shorts and my favorite T, I hopped on the treadmill. Feeling a slight pang of guilt at what I knew might be an easy workout, I slightly setting the treadmill on Hills, and increasing my pace to a 9:00 min/mile--thinking, "Well, this will surely get me ready for Derry next week."

As the late-night gymgoers came and went from their 30-minute elliptical and treadmill workouts, the treadmill from hell continued its sadistic up and down, increasing the incline now, decreasing the incline next, increasing the incline again...

By 7 miles, I was gasping for air, and in dire need of a Gu. Hopping off the treadmill, I meandered out to the nearby balcony above the basketball court, stalking Jared playing hoops (hey, he looks good in shorts), stretching, and taking my sweet time with the Gu. Within a minute or two, though, Jared noticed me, and immediately asked how many I'd done...forcing me to admit to myself it was time to get back on the treadmill.

Back to the hills, running uphill and recovering downhill. I took a 30-second breather for water and a Clif Shot with 3.75 to go, but recognizing my own desire to quit, got right back to it--though admittedly feeling a bit surly.

At 2 miles to go, I realized I had to face the facts--sacrifice the hills, or sacrifice the pace, as my body was in the process of crapping out on both. Feeling justified, and managing to convince myself that the worst of the hills are usually early in a race, I turned off the horrible hill setting, and slugged through my last two miles, watching every hundredth tick by.

The next day, I was surprised to feel GREAT when snowboarding with Jared and a group of friends at Pico (see photo at right, Nick, me, and EJ--just a couple of tools). Sunday, however, the miles and the riding caught up to me at Jay Peak, as my legs felt it on the very first run. I made it to about mid-afternoon before calling it quits (and frankly only my pride kept me out that long). Thirty minutes later, my beloved joined me, and we toasted our weekend with a couple of Jay Peak Long Trail--a surprisingly tasty local brew.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Funny, funny bloggers...

Check this new find out, along with several other running blogs (left sidebar)...

Funny, funny only complaint is that Helen hasn't enabled commenting, making this the only place I can praise a post!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Early Bird Catches the Coffee

Last night I forced myself to force myself to get out of bed today. The resigned mental pep talk must have worked though, as I dragged myself, and my hubby-to-be out from under the warm, cozy, fluffy covers at 5:00 a.m.

I slunk to the bathroom and back, haphazardly putting on two pairs of tights in a haze of sleepiness. It was only as I prepared to pull the second pair the rest of the way up that I realized the first was on backwards...Jared shuffled drearily around the apartment, layering up. We at last forced ourselves out into the cold, windy air.

The run started as a slow, awkward gait, but within a mile or so, we found ourselves cruising along relatively well, considering the hour. The steep hill at around a mile and a half seemed easy, helped along by the strong, gusty wind.

At a mile to go, though, we paid the running gods back for that push, as we found ourselves running directly into the teeth of the beast, the wind having become a living, wild thing. We muttered the occasional complaint, the occasional coffee comment laced with yearning, and at last, we turned into Davis Square, ending with the aforementioned treat--a latte and a dark roast.

Though I hate the early morning hour, I love to be done with the run...and I think Jared would agree on this one.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

3 Miles of Refreshment

After yesterday's 14 with B and Jared, I anticipated waking up with some stiff muscles. But after around 10-11 hours of ZZZ's, I awoke from some bizarre, Smallville-themed dreams to a well-rested self. I shuffled into the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee, and started some bacon and eggs. Within 15 minutes, I had settled onto the couch in my PJs, and was happily cuddled up with a blanket, my breakfast, and Eragon.

When I finished the book, I headed to the gym, for what's become a weekly, semi-agonizing 3-4 miles the day after a long run. But as I started running on the treadmill, I realized what I hadn't all morning--I felt great! No aching muscles, no sore bones, just a full rested, ready-to-run body. I banged out a quick three miles, and got in a couple good sets of my pro-runner lifting routine, feeling strong and capable. I finished with some solid planks, while humming along to Brick House, as provided by the iPod shuffle, in its infinite workout wisdom. While this kind of enjoyable workout isn't exactly par for the course after a long run, I don't plan to look a gift horse in the mouth...

Now, at home, I'm ready to hop in the shower and clean my apartment, so when my tired man and favorite running buddy gets home from a day of skiing with his school's 5th and 6th graders, he can do what I've been able to do most of today--relax, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from a weekend of hard work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Says Running Isn't Rewarding?

With every mile Jared and I run together, we put a dollar, for each of us, into what has come to be known as the Cincinnati pig.*

That money has just paid off for us, as we removed from it the deposit for this darling, who'll be coming home February 21.
*The Cincinnati pig was a gift to Jared. Right before a series of work trips for me, Jared and I played the game "Pass the Pigs" with some friends. Later, the two of us went to get ice cream at a local Ben & Jerry's, where I loudly exclaimed, "Look! A pig!" at the large, pig-shaped tip jar at the cashier. It wasn't until Jared started laughing and clutching his sides that I realized there were two police offices directly in front of us, paying for their ice cream...later, on my last trip, flying home from the Cincinnati airport, I bought Jared the piggybank.

22.5 Miles, and Two Special Treats

I fully admit to sucking the big one this week on blogging. Quick summary of the two runs leading up to today's:

Sunday: 3 ugly, uncomfortable miles on the treadmill, then a lift. To be expected after Saturday's fast 13 with B and the Dana-Farber crew.

Monday: Cross-training and too dull to spend any time describing.

Tuesday: 5.5(ish) with Jared in our home haunting grounds. He chose a new route, one that was surprisingly hilly and difficult--and one I suspect would be good for both of us to repeat regularly, to my equal dread and delight.

This week's DFMC group run was scheduled for Sunday, so I had planned to take Wednesday and Thursday off--a hedonistic two full days of rest, with no running, no cross-training, no lifting. Just resting. Ahh...resting. Friday I planned to sneak in somewhere between 6 and 8, then 3-4 on Saturday, as a rest/preparation for Sunday's long run.

Well, Friday threw me into utter and complete turmoil, as around 4:00 p.m., I learned that the Sunday run had been cancelled due to projected inclement weather.

Change of plans. Fellow DFMC'er Shifter agreed to set up an informal, unofficial run for any who wanted to join Saturday morning, and B quickly RSVP'd yes. I, knowing my beloved was experiencing some serious running withdrawals, RSVP'd plus one.

Clad in tights, fleeces, hats, and gloves, we hopped on the T, loaded with a fuel belt full of goodies--$6, my debit card, our Starbucks giftcard, water, Gu, and a new (for me) Luna energy chew. This pomegranate treat, similar to a fruit snack and delicious as it was, served a far nobler purpose. The last two weeks of long runs have left me feeling ill for most of the day afterward--the kind of sickly stomach dullness that leaves you heading for the bathroom hour upon the hour, in hopes that the toxins inside will be released. Since my diet hasn't changed, and the short runs aren't a problem, I pinpointed my energy gel of choice as a potential factor--and decided to try omitting the mint chocolate Gu, in favor of one Gu of a blander flavor, coupled with an alternative energy source. (Side note: This worked pretty well for me.)

At the Hynes stop, Brenda popped onto the same train as Jared and I, and the three of us rode to Woodland, Mile 17 of the official course, where we hoped to meet other runners--all three of them.

Jared, B, and I headed off at a steady trot, heading straight for B's house downtown, about 9 miles, and also right on the course--in fact a short (.2 miles to be exact) trot from the finish line. A nice fellow runner, Matt, joined us for a while, but turned around at 5 miles, to head back to his car at the T.

The three of us carried on, settling happily into a solid, neither blistering nor sedate clip, banging out the miles with much chipper chattering, and the occasional grumbling at the hills.

Passing Brenda's house, we continued on down Comm Ave, to part ways at the Public Garden. Brenda continued her loop, and Jared and I happily turned around--and despite what we'd expected, found ourselves clipping along at approximately the same pace as we headed the 3 miles home.

With two miles ago, conversation dwindled to a minimum as my beloved and I fought through the cold and our rapidly fatiguing muscles. A dizzy spell by Jared at 13.5 brought up something I hadn't previously thought of--a heavier, bigger body needs more calorie replacement than a smaller, lighter one, and what was enough calories for me to keep me fueled to run wasn't likely to be enough for Jared, 35 pounds heavier and 5 inches taller.

Luckily, some leftover Luna saved the day, and we ran our way to our local Starbucks, where the reward of two lattes made it all worthwhile.

On a side note, though today was the longest run for me since last year's marathon, it was also the longest, and fastest run for Jared--ever. He remains not only a good sport, but also a supportive, and enjoyable running buddy.

Plus, if he ever gets too far in front of me, I can always just relax and enjoy the view.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Who Does #2 Work For?

The past week was a surprisingly difficult week to get any running in, as the universe seemed determine to halt me in my tracks. Following the schedule, I dutifully scraped out a stiff 3 miles on Sunday--the day after a long, wet 11.7 in the rain--my body protesting the entire way. Monday was a cross-training day, and I got in a "token" workout, logging some time on the elliptical while reading my lone Modern Bride magazine--a Women's Fitness at hand in case I needed to hide my illicit paraphernalia from the other gym-goers.

Tuesday, our neighbor's roof lit on fire, derailing my plans to run with Jared. No worries, we could log some miles Wednesday.

Wednesday brought a blizzard, and me leaving work early only to drive 2+ hours in the snow and traffic.

Thursday, we managed to squeeze in some miles on the treadmill before the early gym closing--6.8 miles, and I didn't have to spend a single extra moment in the frigid outdoors!

Friday, more cross-training, this time on a stationary bike. (Note: I only made it 20 minutes, as once I finished the Modern Bride, I had nothing with me but a dullsville book club book to entertain me.)

Saturday, #2 of the Dana-Farber group runs, a semi-blistering pace set by B...with me gamely (on the surface at least) trotting along with it. We cruised up and over hills, with me (mentally) grumbling all the way. We careened down the back of the same hills, feet flying and smiles wide by the time we hit Jared's water stop for a high-five, a gatorade, and a quick smooch for me. We charged up Heartbreak, cresting the top with many a gasp and wheeze, before settling in for a smooth run back to the Mt. Auburn Club in Watertown.

With nearly every mile, I thought to myself how unlikely it was that I'd be able to maintain the pace for much longer. But the miles slowly fell away, and our legs moved even faster, topping out around 10-11 miles with one wildly fast 8:11-minute mile. Near the end, B jokingly noted I should attempt to qualify time for Boston 2010 with her...and suddenly I realized we were still running fast--after 12.5 miles.

We finished our 13 at a staggering average of 8:39 min/mile, with me astonished, and elated, at the possibilities of my own body.