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.)


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?