Monday, December 31, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

And because everyone's doing it and without further ado:

Salty's Top Ten Whatevers for 2007

10. Running the 2007 Boston Marathon. No, it wasn't a hurricane and the Nor'Easter wasn't nearly as bad as everyone feared, it still sucked and I still cringe at how awful I felt stumbling on my incredibly ouchy feet and shivering so hard I couldn't see straight searching in vain for my warm clothes and my warm mrp after the finish line. I am particularly proud that it was my second marathon and I pr'd here in crap conditions. I also learned I am in the I-hate-Boston camp. I will gladly never run that marathon again!

9. Sub-19 minute 5k. Back in high school my 5k pr was a 22:04. 5k times were always the gold standard for guaging someone's worth as a runner. Last year I broke 20 minutes for the first time and afterwards I bounded into the house and announced to mrp that I could retire happily from running! I seriously would not have believed anyone who would have told me then that at the very same race the following year I'd run almost 1 minute faster! A fast 5k vindicates all of us mediocre high school cross-country runners, and I am no exception!

8. The sub-1:30 half-marathon. It took me 4 half marathons to do it. 1:38:48, 1:35:11, 1:31:57, and finally 1:28:38 just days after my 32nd birthday. This was perhaps my best race of the entire year. I relaxed, I was patient, I let the race happen and I exceeded my expectations by a lot. I was able to maintain a 6:50 pace and then even pick it up over the last 5k to pick up another minute or so. There was no weather interference, or big miles weighing me down. I just let go and this is what happened. I like that!

7. Megamiles. I am numbers obsessed to some degree, but not really when it comes to mileage. I don't typically try to run a certain amount of miles in a given period, although I admit occasionally I've run a little extra to get a nice round number in a week. Anyway, this year I upped the ante from the high of 65 mpw I ran last year to an all time high of 90.25 miles in a week in September. I never thought I could do that! It was pretty neat. And pretty exhausting too! For the year I ran 2884.96 miles, or about a 55.5 mpw average. I am not running today, so that's it. For comparison purposes, last year I ran 2,287.98, or about 44 mpw average. Interestingly, in December of 06 I ran 10 miles less than my marathon build-up peak in August. The year before I didn't track, but I'd guess about 1200-1300. So I ran a lot of miles this year!

6. Team Good River and Club Nationals. I am so happy I joined a team. It was great to have some accountability for my running as well as a sense of camaraderie. I think both these things helped me take my running up a notch this year. Also, I had a great time running on one of our team relays and running at Club Nationals. Of course I would not have had the opportunity to run something of the caliber of Club Nationals without TGR so I am so grateful for the team and the opportunities it brought me!

5. Learning to take the good with the bad. Like amost people I think, when I first started racing last year, I exceeded my own expectations in just about every race. Then, of course, I started to aim higher. And in so doing, I ended up disappointed after some of my races: a new concept for me this year! At first racing is like ego crack. Every race is AWESOME! But unless you keep the bar really low, you're not going to make your goal in some races. Sometimes there are external factors: sickness, Nor'Easters, soupy summer mugginess, etc. and sometimes maybe you aimed a little too high. It's hard to adjust to the disappointment but it is part of every competitive runners life. Just like with anything--if you want to reach the stars you have to expect to fall a few times on your way. Pick yourself up and keep on trucking and you'll get there and beyond! (And perhaps brood a little in the meantime).

4. Control. The most valuable lesson I learned this year was control. It almost seems ridiculously obvious now, but it really was a novel idea back in July. It's easier to run as hard as you can than 10 seconds slower than as hard as you can. Control is essential for not going out too fast in races and to run consciously: to hold back when you should hold back and take off when you should take off.

3. Tinman. On a whim, more or less, I contacted Tinman in the spring about coaching me for a fall marathon. I figured he had some magic voodoo tricks that would make me faster. Instead, he was like a drill instructor toughening me up for the fight. He was another source of accountability and a friend to vent to about my running frustrations and excitement! He taught me patience and control (see #4) and made me very disciplined and pushed me far the outer limits I thought I had. When I thought I couldn't do anymore he told me I could and sent me out for 22 miles the next day! When my marathon didn't go as planned, I was as disappointed for him as I was for me.

2. New Friends. I am so grateful to have met so many wonderful runners this year. I met such a wide variety of people: some faster, some slower, some older, some younger, some married, some single, some male, some female, some from the west side, some from the east side, and on and on. It was so nice to have my more experienced friends tell me what I was going through was normal or to inspire other friends to go for a big pr.

1. Marrying Mrp. Duh! Of course this is number 1! I got to marry my inspiration to get into competitive running, my original coach, my very occasional running partner, as well as my co-worker (we work at the same place!), my cookie taste-tester, my supplier of fresh produce, the president of my fan club, my own personal wood-chuck shooer, the coolest person in all the land and on and on.

Happy New Year everyone! Mrp and I are off to a Chinese restaurant with his folks and then home to play board games. I know, you're all sitting there stunned at how amazingly metropolitan and cool we are, right? Be safe and I'll see you back here in 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Maintenance Mode: My Running Doesn't Need Me Anymore

I'm getting bored and feeling like a big fat slob on my recreational running plan. I need to get disciplined and feel like I'm doing something. I like a nice neat orderly scheduled routine. Lucky for me Tinman gave me a little routine to use on my downtime to keep me in shape, but allow my body a break from hardcore training. I really like it because he knows my propensity to bug out about numbers so I can adapt it to run based on time or distance. So, I can do my workouts like fartleks by feel, or I can run an easy 6 miles and not worry about how long it takes me.

So, here's my new routine:

Mon: no running

Tu: 1 hour containing 30 minute fartlek (10 x 2:00 @ ~10k effort, 1:00 recoveries)

We: 4-6 easy

Th: 9-10 with 3 miles continuous tempo or run as a wave

Fr: no running

Sa: 4-6 easy

Su: easy "long" of 10-12

I already screwed it up though. I didn't run at all on Monday or Tuesday of this week. And I ate everything in sight. I feel so gross! I am going to run today and probably break the treadmill or make potholes on the roads if I venture outside.

It's kind of crazy. As I was decorating and cooking and wrapping and eating and cleaning and entertaining and being entertained these past few days, I felt myself missing the good old days of having to get to bed early so I could get up early and get my workout in or having to run home in the middle of some festivity to get my second run in of the day. I feel kind of like a parent of a teenager--running doesn't need me anymore! But it was nice to not have to worry about it too. I could stay out late without feeling antsy or "bad." I could sleep in and wake up and get things done and I didn't have to put everything off until I got my run in. I felt like a normal person, not that that's so great or anything, but for so many months I have been wondering what that felt like and now I know. And if you've been wondering, I can save you this step by telling you you're not missing much. Heh.

But Christmas over here was nice. Mrp and I had our parents and my sister over on Christmas morning hosting out first official holiday gathering--although some of our guests had to bring thier own chairs (we're working on furnishing our house. I've always lived in apartments and hand-me-down furniture so having a home and the ability to furnish and decorate is new territory for me and it's not something I am particularly good at. So even though we've lived here for over a year we only have a kitchen table, a couch--both mrp's parents' from 1978!--and my old futon bed which is about as flat as a pancake now. At 32 and 34 with professional jobs you'd think we could do better than that!) I made sweet potato hash and a quiche as well as way too many cookies and chocolates. Everyone ate lots and no one died, so we did well! And of course we saw lots of our extended families too at several other parties and it was nice. A little too hectic for my taste, but definitely nice. I hope yours were nice too!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Good Idea

First of all, I need to say how much I love Joseph's idea for an all blog team at next year's xc club nationals. Every team this year was a regional grouping as far as I can tell. But to group a team based on something else is kind of cool.

Also, it would be a great way for people who don't have a rich local running scene to have the opportunity to do something of that caliber. Cleveland doesn't have much, but at least we have Team Good River (the team I run with) and a myriad of other formally and loosley based running groups. It's certainly not a perfect competitive running environment (e.g. the weather, the relatively high placement on the list of fattest cities, the relatively newness of any organized competive running group) but it's something! An internet based team would be no less established than any of the regional teams formed for the sole purpose of the race. If anything it would be more of a real team than a collection of a state's fastest runners plucked off of other teams (a now former member of my team, who I have never met and could be the world's nicest person for all I know, ditched our team at the last minute to run for the team that ultimately won the women's open race--sure, that team was better than our team, but after sucking the resources out of TGR for a year or so just to ditch the team when it was counting on her at the last minute seems awfully selfish and pretty lame).

Plus, wouldn't it be great to have all these mystery people in one place mixin' and minglin' and it would even probably be in slightly frosty air since it's in December! It would be like a star trek convention only with gps watches, expensive trainers, and trim physiques rather than cheesy spandex onesies, klingon masks, and scary dorks! Or maybe we're all scary dorks too? Just me? Ok, then.

Moving on. I am experiencing the weird phenomenon of suddenly being able to run "fast" all the time. Sure, I'm only running 4-5 miles at a pop, but still. I trotted two miles at my old goal marathon pace in the middle of my last run. Sub 8's are like nothing the past few days. On Monday I ran 8:15's on the treadmill alternating .25 miles at level 0 and level 3 incline (whatever that means) and felt like it was a jog when just a couple of weeks ago that hurt! Oh, and stuff doesn't hurt anymore either which is a big bonus of my downtime. I had mild to moderate plantar's fasciitis in my left foot for an entire year so that aches a bit here and there, but it's a healing ache for once! My butt doesn't kill me sitting in the car for more than 10 minutes anymore, my lower back quit screaming at me, and my hamstrings are feeling much looser. And I can take days off and not feel the least bit guilty about it. I don't have to worry about the 5 lbs I gained making me slow. I don't feel compelled to run outside everyday in the dreary nasty gross stuff to acclimatize so I stay in on the treadmill with my ipod blaring tunes in my ears and answering jeopardy questions I read on closed captions on the gym tv's. Ahh. It's nice being a recreational runner!

I imagine once racing season starts back up I'll feel compelled to take it up a notch and get a little more structured and disciplined, but I'm digging this just running whatever I feel like running when I want to run stuff for a change!

Monday, December 17, 2007

My, How Far We've Come

I'm back running again. Isn't it thrilling?! I was going to take a full 7 days off but by Friday of last week I just felt like running. So I hopped on the tready and belted out 4 sub 8:00 miles for the first time in a long time for a non-workout type run. I would say it was an easy run, but sadly it was marginally difficult--probably too taxing for what I should be doing, but eh, what do I care?

On Friday night mrp and I headed out for my office xmas party. It was not on a boat like last year's (there's nothing like yachting on Lake Erie in December!) We had a cabaret dinner (complete with Cleveland's finast lounge singers. Nothing personal ladies, but lounge singers are bad enough. Add the geographic handicap and man, it's rough). I drank half a pineapple upsidedown cake "martini" with dinner (Since when are foofy chick drinks martinis? Just because you put high fructose corn syrup and a drop of alcohol in a martini glass does not make the "drink" a martini for pete's sake--oh, and while we're at it who is this pete guy, anyway? Sorry, I know that makes a bad "joke," but I really want to know!) It was gross. After dinner we moved on over to the comedy club portion of the party place to be entertained with some material our HR department would not find very workplace appropriate. I mean, I don't want to hear any reference to our 19 year old intern's sex life, thank you very much! Sure, some parts were painfully funny (e.g. one guy discussed what it must be like to work in the factory that makes bachelorette party penis props) but generally it was uncomfortable in the presence of my vice president.

I really thought this whole party would totally blow, especially sober. However, after the comedy a large group moved over to the hipster bowling alley down the block. Mrp was a child bowling prodigy. He did not get to show off those skills. Instead he demonstrated the benefits of growing up with a pool table in your basement. And I demonstrated the occasional good luck I have with a pool cue in my hands. We played pool with my vp and my boss until almost 2:00 AM! And I stayed up that late and I was sober! Insanity. But it sure was fun.

Did I mention I had half a drink the night before? Well, on Saturday morning we woke up late--maybe 10:00? I felt queasy and gross. I decided I just needed to eat. I made mrp and myself some toast. I ate it and felt grosser so I went back to bed. My cat joined me for some illicit on the bed snuggles (he's not allowed but I felt bad so I made an exception). Within 15 minutes I quickly wiggled the cat off me and ran to the bathroom and hurled up the toast along with the half a glass of water I drank. You know it's bad when you puke up toast. So, I proceeded to sleep until about 3:00 PM. And miraculously felt fine and inhaled two bowls of chicken soup and then a big bowl of peppermint stick ice cream. We even went out to another party that night and I was fine. Must have been the buffet?

Needless to say there was no running on Saturday. On Sunday I felt completely normal. Mrp had to stay at home to take care of something for his job. He couldn't leave the house until later in the afternoon so I said I'd wait to go to the park until he could leave too. Of course, the rain showers turned to snow and the wind started to blow. By the time we left the weather channel said it was snowing, 28 degrees with a 35 mph sustained wind, gusting to 55 mph! Awesome!! We drove the treacherous 1.5 miles to the park and were two of maybe 4 people there. We were going to run together but mrp wore shorts and couldn't bear to run slow enough for me to keep up. There was about 4 inches or so of snow on the ground and it was like running the club nationals course all over again. Plus the wind and the snow whipping me in the face. I just followed mrp's foot prints until I saw him turn around and then we headed back to the car for maybe 4 miles. We felt so hard core but then remembered we have actually done long runs in worse! Oh how wussy we have become!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Clumsy

I have not run at all since the race on Saturday, unless you count chasing my cat around or running down to the end of the driveway to get the mail for the hell of it. By Tuesday night I felt full of energy and bouncing off the walls. A strange phenomenon after months of feeling like a slug much of my nonrunning time.

So, I am resetting my program here. It's a good thing. I need this. But what happens when I restart? Where do we go from here?

Contrary to an overly anxious post from a few weeks ago, I doubt there is a marathon in my near future. Hmm. I suppose I should just be honest. It's time to turn the page here. I can't pull the trigger for another training cycle because I want to do other things with my life that I can't do if I'm running all the time. That doesn't mean I'm quitting by any stretch, but I need to refocus my life onto other stuff for a while. Running needs to be the accessory to the outfit of the rest of my life. (Geez, there are a lot of really bad metaphors [and similes!] in this post already.)

And as I've suggested before, putting it on the back burner (another one!) is going to pose a challenge for me. I'm not a good balancer typically, especially with something that I love and want to get better at doing. The upshot is that I think I still can improve on my shorter race times quite a bit even if I limit my mileage to 40 mpw or so. I know I could do better if I ran more, but I have to remember to be patient. If I take a cycle or two off from hardcore heavy mileage training now, why couldn't I can come back with a vengeance later on? And heck, even if I took a few years off I could still comeback from that and prep for my masters career. But yeah, life requires this whole give and take, push and pull kind of thing. If you want to do more than one thing and do them right you have to focus and refocus and shuffle priorties around from time to time. Hey, did I just hear you say duh out there? Shut up! This is a novel concept to me! Heh.

Anyway, I hope you stick with me as I switch things up. Maybe it will be a drastic change around here, but I'm guessing probably not.

PS I forgot to mention two things. One I love the song Myriad Harbor by the New Pornographers. So happy and hopeful and sweet and reminds me of my dear sister finding her way as a new resident of NYC. The other thing was as mrp and I were walking through the ailing downtown mall on our way to work I noticed that over the old godiva store doorway was a sign for a new store called ... drumroll ... "Philanthropy." Fine name for a retail business, no?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back of the Swarm

One of the things I now know: I am not a very good cross country runner. I have to say though that I wish I was to justify doing it all the time! Heh. What a blast that was!

Mrp was kind enough to sacrifice a vacation day to go down to Cincinnati with me. I personally think it was less about supporting me and more about checking out all the farms along the way, but that's beside the point. We headed down late in the afternoon on Friday after we dropped off a couple dozen cookies I baked for mrp's dad's 76th (yikes!) birthday. We made it down just in time to meet some of my teammates for dinner. It was nice to see some of my running friends in nonrunning attire and to finally put some faces to the names! I'm not sure what to make of my friend *T* not recognizing me at first--I decided it either meant I look beat when I'm running or I just look a lot different with my hair down.

I have to say I was not really nervous at all about the race. I knew I probably wasn't going to rip stuff up out there. I'm about 5 pounds heavy right now and I haven't trained at all for cross country save for the 5 mile xc race I ran a few weeks ago and have really not done much in the way of speed work in general. Plus, in the company of this race, to be honest I'm not really that fast relatively speaking. Yeah, it is funny how last week's 5k seems like worlds (and probably 2 pounds or so) ago.

Anyway, my race wasn't until 12:45 so mrp and I putzed around all morning. Of course that means we got to the race without enough time to comfortably pick up my packet, warm-up, undress, etc. We were rushing all over the place to find my packet. Once we got it I ended up opening up a cut on my finger (we got new knives for our wedding!) that would not stop bleeding. I took my fingers out of my mitten and it looked like I killed someone! Mrp had to fix my spikes and help me dress and change my shoes. It was pretty pathetic. Anyway, it was a good thing I had a napkin in my car. I wrapped it around my finger inside my mitten while I warmed up. By the time I rejoined my teammates to head to the starting line it had stopped bleeding. Phew!

We all lined up in our box. And before we knew it off we went. All I can say is that it was muddy as hell! Holy cow! Within the first 200 meters we descended into a freezing puddle that went up to my knees! I couldn't get a grip the entire race and was just sliding all over the place. Seriously, my legs were hardly sore after the race but my feet, back, ribs, abs, and shoulders are all sore!

My one goal was to try to come in 5th on my team. In roadracing land I am usually in between our fourth place finisher and the girls I ended up finishing really close to. I went out behind our fourth place finisher and could see her up ahead until the half point or so. Our eventual 7th place finisher pulled ahead of me early on and I stayed right with her and passed her around the 2 mile mark. At 5k I was around 20:20 or so and picked up the pace. I was really trying to push through the finish. The last few meters were up a slight incline and it was so slippery. I was slipping and tripping and as I was floundering one of my teammates eeked by for 5th place and I had to settle for 6th place 1.5 seconds behind her.

At first I was mad, but then I went to congratulate her and she was all geeked out about running a big pr so then I was happy that maybe I motivated her to run a lot faster than she otherwise would have. I mean, pretty much whatever I ran was going to be a pr so it's nice that she managed a very meaningful accomplishment. I suppose if I had a choice to make that sacrifice, I would have anyway. So, it's all good in the end.

But yeah, it was really fun. My teammates are fab and the mud was out of this world. Plus, it was so unbelievably cool to run with that many good female runners. Really! It puts things in perspective, but at the same time it really is an honor just to be able to hang in the big swarm (yes, even at the back of the swarm). So, in the end I am so glad I hung in there and did it and it's a great way to cap off a great year of running!

(By the way, I kept my eye out for Bridget, but I never saw her. Not that I'd necessarily recognize her, since I only know her by a little photo on her blog, but I did look for the record! Oh, and also for the record she kicked butt!)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

One Shoe and a Gatorade Toast

Look to your right. Yeah, I switched up the sidebar. Figured my Boston Marathon stuff was hardly that interesting anymore. Plus, most people want to see numbers to decide how serious to take this stuff I write. heh. But while I was jotting down my pr's I thought of something that I've been wondering about for some time. If I was a dude, what would my times be? Would I be decent? Why do I care? Not sure, but I was wondering so I figured I'd wonder out loud for the heck of it.

In other news I thought I better fess up. Last post I swore mrp and I aren't big dorks. Well, I kind of lied. Running plays a big part in our lives in that our families identify us with it and make fun of us for it. So, we thought we'd incorporate a little bit of our running lives to add a little fun to the wedding. The first thing we wanted to do was to have a bunch of our dead running shoes tied to the back of our get-away car in lieu of the tin cans. Our parents' get on our case mercilessly: "what are you going to do with all those shoes?!" So, we thought they'd get a huge kick out of it. The problem was that my bridesmaids had so many day-of responsibilities that they passed this one off to the groomsmen who of course left it to the last possible second and this is what they managed. One measly shoe. I can't help but giggle about the ridiculousness of it. At least the dinos are pretty cute (long story).

The other evidence of our supreme dorkitude is that instead of champagne we had the servers bring out gatorade in plastic champagne glasses (see picture above) for our toast. This was a huge hit and since it wasn't left to our groomsmen it went off without a hitch. (Guys, I kid!) Anyway, that concludes the dorkitude of the wedding! Well, at least the running related dorkitude, since I never did mention my air guitar obsession, did I?

PS Of course I won, Joseph!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Life's Little Surprises

I swear mrp and I aren't super runner dorks. The running photo started because I couldn't wear my heels on the soft ground so I took them off and went barefoot. The ground was SO cold on my tootsies so I said let's run! And off we went. Heh. It was definitely fun! Here's a more traditional photo so you can see we really are normal.

In other news, out of the blah came a 40 second pr in the 5k today! I showed up with a cold and ran an 18:49 on a sunny 25 degree morning. I am extra happy that not only did I run pretty fast but I felt amazing out there! I realy didn't hurt much at all. I went out what felt easy in 6:04, then the next mile was 6:14, and then I knew I could make sub 19 if I hauled ass, so I hauled some ass and ran a 5:50 something last mile!! What's even cooler is that I have a group of downtown running buddies and all of us ran pr's! I am especially proud of E who ran a workout with me on Wednesday. I knew during that workout that she could easily break 20 minutes in a 5k. I talked her into racing with me just 2 weeks after her 50 mile pr performance at JFK and she ended up running a 19:22! Also a 40 second pr. I was talking to my friend *T* after the race and all of a sudden we heard this squealing and I turned and it was E freaking out about her time. So cute!

Anyway, Saturday's supposed to be a mudfest. I am actually looking pretty forward to it. I hope to be one of the top 5 performers for my team and otherwise just go there and bask in the excitement of it all! If someone would have told me three years ago when I could barely run 3 miles in 30 minutes that I'd be sitting here now anticipating racing club nationals after running an 18:49 5k I would have laughed so hard I'd pee my pants! Hey, actually the same thing might have happened if you told me this last week. You gotta love this sport!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More than a Feeling

My running blah is not just a running blah, I've decided. Actually, it's more the effect of a seismic shift going on in my life. I am coming out of crazy hyper-focused marathon training automaton mode and into happy newlywed lady with a professional job and a running hobby mode. One of the things that I adore about running is that it provides me something to dive into and swim around in almost to the exclusion of everything else. I can fully immerse myself in it day after day after day. I can run a lot, and stretch a lot, and strengthen a lot, and read about running a lot, and think about running a lot, and talk about running a lot. That's not to say that an escape is what I was after with running, but rather what attracted me to it was that it was something I could do intensely. And with intensity comes that focus that excludes everything else.

While this is all great for a while, it is absolutely unsustainable over the long term for someone like me (i.e. a mediocre hobby runner with a full time job, a great husband to hang out with, and interests in other stuff too). But I struggle with balance. Truly I do. As much as I know this is where it's at in life, I have a hard time. My tendency toward intensity often causes me to get out of balance and throw all my eggs into one of my many baskets.

In the past when this has happened to me I knee-jerked and dumped all the eggs out of the heavy basket and quit whatever it was that was sucking up all my time and energy in a burned out fury (i.e.#2 "I will NEVER get another degree--I am DONE with school forever!!!!") But this time, my hope is to keep some eggs in the running basket as I replenish the other baskets too. I need to remember that I don't have to be an automoton to be a runner. I can be the happy newlywed lady with a professional job and a running hobby and I can even be a half-way decent hobby runner too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

RELAX*

Yes. This lady did not race on Thanksgiving. In fact, she didn't even run at all! My Wednesday run was horrible. I was huffing and puffing and achey running slower than 9:00 pace. After that I absolutely decided there would be no trot for me. This was a great decision because I got to stay in my fluffy warm bed and cuddle with mrp and my cat while we listened to the wind howl and watched the cold rain turn to sleety snow. I have never enjoyed not racing so much! Not an ounce of guilt, either!

Like mainers, though, I couldn't not do something knowing full well I'd be stuffing my belly with all kinds of good stuff later in the day. So before we headed to Grandma's house, I did a solid session of strengthening focusing on my quads, calves, abs, and arms. I am still sore 4 days later! But most of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the company of family. Oh and teaching a toddler how to do an ally-oop and a 4 year old what body language means. An added bonus of marriage, a new niece and nephew to call my own! Being an aunt is fun!

I did get out and run the rest of the extended weekend and in doing so I got a nice tour of my favorite parks. I did a hilly 12+ miler around my neighborhood, running up and up and up to Chapin Forest about 4 miles from our house and then around the trails taking in the beautiful view of Lake Erie (which is pretty from 18 miles away, I swear!) from the top of the glacial ridge. The beauty of this route is that after all that climbing up it's pretty much downhill for 5 miles all the way home.

On Saturday I did an easy hour in North Chagrin, which is wonderful in its own right, but admittedly I take it for granted a bit since it's the park that hosted just about every one of my midweek runs over the past two summers. Then yesterday I met two of my buddies at CVNP for another 12+ miler. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up, being as I've been so sluggish lately, but I managed to hang with them and chat away no problem. I think one of the best things that has come out of the past few months of training is finding good running buddies. It really makes a world of difference to not only have company on a run sometimes, but to have friends who can relate to your runner neuroses, ocd tendancies, type a-ness, and all that stuff.

It's kind of funny. Somehow, after taking an easy week, sleeping in, relaxing and enjoying myself, I manage to catch a cold. How I managed to get one now rather than two months ago when I was running so much and sleeping such an inadequate amount that I was regularly falling asleep at the dinner table is beyond me! Luckily it's just a touch of a sore throat and the mildest of sniffles, so it won't interfere with this week's relaxing too much, don't you worry!

*tm Mindi

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Not a Pilgrim, but Progress

Oh, it's Thanksgiving isn't it! I better be a little more positive around here and articulate some bit of thankfulness instead of all this whining, shouldn't I? Ok, then. I am thankful I have the leisure to run for fun. Heh. Back in the Pilgrims' time I doubt there was much running other than away from something mean!

But seriously, I am feeling much more at peace with my predicament. I know it probably does seem like I'm a huge whiner. Things, afterall, could be much worse than the mere blah faze I am experiencing. But I've accepted the blah and since then I've been feeling much better about running, mentally anyway.

But really, what else can I do but accept it? I can force my way through it and run myself into the ground as meghan warns. I can whine about it more. I can quit. Or I can just suck it up like a big girl. Fine, this does seem like the best alternative, doesn't it.

So yeah, I have accepted the fact that I am not going to be pulling any post-Chicago Bridgets anytime soon. And, while part of me is dying for a new pr to call my own, I'm cool with this state of things. I am supposed to run a 5 miler tomorrow, but honestly I am going to wait until the last minute to decide whether to enter and then whether to even bother racing it. I have almost been enjoying my easy runs this week and I don't want to rock the boat and risk hurting my body or worsening the blahs with a sub-par performance. At the same time, maybe it would be good for me to go race and have fun and just do the best my body and mind can do for me now. Afterall, I'm supposed to be accepting this down-time.

In any event, it's mrp's and my first holiday as a mr. and mrs. and it should be a nice cozy day spent with our families and lots of pie! I hope you all have a well-earned happy Thanksgiving too!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cover Crop

Something just isn't right. My mileage is way down and I've been virtually crawling on my easy runs yet I am feeling less recovered as the days go on, not more. I am not injured, but my legs just feel generally tight, especially in my hips, butt, and hamstrings. I am still struggling most days to run what should be recovery pace. Somehow I've managed to have a couple of semi-decent workouts. Not blazing fast, mind you, but 6 2:59-3:03 800's seemed pretty easy one day.

Yesterday, my team put on a time trial as prep for club nationals. I have been seriously considering backing out of the whole thing, but then I think it's less than three weeks away now. I can suck it up and make it three weeks. It is an opportunity I likely won't have again, after all. But I'll tell you, this mental state does not play out well when running a time trial. Heh. Basically, I maintained a pace just fast enough not to come in last. In fact, I was hoping my teammate behind me would surge and motivate me to do something out there. Instead, I cruised to finish with an overall pace of 6:50 or so. Normally, that would be a mediocre tempo effort or even goal marathon pace. What's up with me?!

Shall I answer that? I know. I know. As mrp says, running, like corn-growing, goes in cycles. I am the field and my running is the corn crop. After growing a pretty decent crop this past summer, my field is depleted. It's time to plant the cover crop and replenish my soil to grow an even better crop next season. Even though when I was running 90 miles a week I felt pretty good, running 90 miles a week broke me down. I had the excitement of the marathon to distract me for a while. Then after that, I had the excitement of the wedding to distract me for a while. Now, all of a sudden I am beat. Shocking, truly! I have never trained that way before or more generally beaten my body down like that before. The extent of recovery my body and mind are demanding is not something I'm used to and it makes me feel wussy, weak, and kind of depressed.

I feel like I should put an * here and say that this is isolated to running. I am still over the moon about the wedding and my job is actually intellectually stimulating right now. Woohoo! I suppose that's the point of all this and the reason I share. Running is just part of my greater life. It's an important part, but just a part. I can't give 100% to all parts all the time. It's just not possible. And even when other parts of my life are great running might not be all sunshine and rainbows. I am learning to cope with this down-cycle thing and learning to adjust to the idea that I don't have what I'd like to give to this part of my life right now. So, doing the best with what I have to give is just going to have to be good enough for a while.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Married Runner Needs a Break

So...

The wedding was amazing! Seriously, it was even better than we hoped and dreamed it would be. After everything was said and done we just stood there together in amazement of it all. *Sigh*

I will write more about it and I will post pictures when I have some. I promise! But for now, let's go back to the topic at hand. Running. I don't know if it's the weather, the change of focus in my life, or just plain malaise, but I am feeling so uninspired as a runner right now. I have no desire to run, really at all. It's cold and windy and wet and dark out there. The treadmill does nothing for me. My downtown running buds are tapering or recovering or just generally unavailable. My butt and hips hurt after hard runs so my easy days have really sucked.

Luckily, my hard days have all been pretty good actually, but I get none of the enjoyment I used to get on my easy days and I miss a nice liesurely jog during which I am not wincing every time the pace goes below 9:00/mile. The only thing that is keeping me going is club nationals. I know it's an opportunity I probably will not have again. So, I will push on and then I swear I am taking a break after that. I swear I will not run one step for at least 7 straight days after the race and then will only run when I feel like it for three straight weeks after that. A solid one month break from training is in the cards this winter.

I absolutely love running, don't get me wrong. But to really give it what I want to give it I need a break from it and to give more attention to the other things I love!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Race Among Sheep

I raced yesterday. I woke up with a bit of a hangover from my bachelorette party-lite and the clock radio said 8:05. I logged onto my computer to start working on the wedding playlists and the little clock in the right hand corner said 7:14. Hmm. What the heck!

One of the most fun races around is a 5 mile cross country race that takes place right up the road from our house. Last year I ran it and it was the first race I ever came in first place (runner of the female persuasion--still have yet to run a race and be first overall). It has to be the hardest course of any race ever. Seriously. The course is relentless in its messed up terrain and hill after hill after hill after hill... It just toasts the legs, but it's so challenging that it's insanely fun. It's also insanely fun because it's run on a giant farm. So we run past sheep and cows and crops and through horse barns. It's one of a kind!

Last year I went on and on about it and this year when I realized we still had time to sleep in and still make it, mrp and I went for it. I dug through my running clothes and found another team uniform top and some shorts that kind of matched (I still haven't washed the other uniform since the marathon--ew, I know!) We hopped in the car and sped off to the park to register and warm-up and stuff.

I saw two of my teammates right off the bat. One was absolutely certain to beat me. She's a machine. An animal. A frighteningly fast freak of nature. She seems very sweet when she's not running, but crap--watch out when she is! Yikes! It must be kind of annoying to be a really fast local runner because other runners must treat you very strangely, like you're some sort of untouchable when really you're just a person working hard and having fun. I can only speculate.

The other was the woman that always just beats me. Every time we run a race together we finish close, with her always a little ahead and me always a little behind. It annoys me. Not because I don't want her to succeed, but because sometimes I feel like I psyche myself out of running faster for fear of having to compete with someone else. Sure, I'd like to finish ahead of her, but that's more to break the cycle than anything else. Normally, I would have thought, "oh man, here we go again," but this time I didn't really mind. I was running this race for fun. Even I know that there's no way I was going to be at 100% two weeks after an even a subpar marathon, not mention slightly hung over to boot. So, I was just happy to have the competition and a benchmark to see where I am as far as recovery and post-marathon fitness.

After about 2.5 miles warm-up with mrp and countless trips to the bathroom to pee, we lined up. I got to chat with my running bud Daisy for a minute which helped me remember I was there to have fun. The downhill start also reminded me to have fun, although I probably shouldn't have had as much fun as I did since I think I took it out a little too hard again, oopsy! I went out ahead of the woman that always just beats me and even mrp. Mrp passed me at about the half mile point and I was second woman at the first mile in 6:28, which is blazing for the course, believe me.

The first mile has the most pavement and normal surface of any mile too. Shortly after the mile marker the woman that always just beats me passed me. I stayed right behind her for a while. I'd catch up, she'd pull away a bit. My second mile was 6:54. Mile 3 is a bitch. There's no other way to describe it. I think the whole thing is uphill on the most gnarly bumpy soft grass terrain and the most sharp turns you can imagine. To illustrate, my mile 3 split was 7:40--yikes! After mile 3 there are a couple of trail and pavement breaks from the rough grassy surface, but it's still insanely hilly and they are short little breaks before we get thrown back on the grass. It's hard to pick the pace back up and take advantage of these smooth sections because your legs just are so happy for the break! Somewhere in mile four the woman who always beats me pulled away a bit. My mile 4 split was 7:19.

The last mile has quite a few paved sections. It's probably about 1/2 and 1/2 paved and that crazy grass. I worked really hard and focused to push those paved sections. I knew a sub 7:00 pace was going to be close so I hauled ass. The finish of course is up a 1/4 mile long hill--thanks race director! I flew into the shoot with a final mile of 6:44 and an overall time of 35:06 and an overwhelming urge to puke--thanks bachelorette party! The woman who always beat me came in about 20 seconds ahead. I am actually happy that my worn-out legs and my dehydrated everything else was able to keep it that close. It's kind of cool though. My other teammate came in either 1st or 3rd overall with a sub 31! That's so insane on that course. So, my team came in 1,2,3. I was almost 3 minutes ahead of 4th place too! Oh, and mrp was third dude, so we have matching plastic trophies. Awww.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Screw Band Aids

There's something about myself that I don't really like to talk about a lot. Some of you who have scoured the outer-recesses of my blog may have noticed a different tone to some of the earlier posts, so this will explain it to some extent. Anyway, enough wind-up. My dad died when I was 11. He committed suicide and it's always been one of those things that I don't want to talk about, not because I can't handle it, but because it seems other people can't and I hate the looks they give me and the feeling like I dropped a 9billion pound bomb in the room. Yeah, that's mostly in my head, but it does make people uncomfortable and I generally like to avoid being around uncomfortableness.

The reason I am telling you this is because I see a therapist about once a month to discuss my dad. Seeing therapists was not on the radar screen of my blue collar family in the 80's. Basically, they didn't know what the hell to do with me and my sister, so they pretended it never happened. So, I never really knew how to grieve for my dad and I can tell you that not grieving is not good. (When you lose something or someone you love, let yourself feel and go with it! Don't fight it.) But now 20+ years later, I see a therapist to teach me how to do that. It's counterintuitive, but with the wedding the timing couldn't be better. There are so many father/daughter roles in the script for the average wedding that the absence is more or less thrust upon me every five minutes. So, it forces me to deal with it honestly and openly and really feel and accept the absence. I wanted to give you the background so when I told you about my therapist you wouldn't think I was all soft and unable to cope, not that I think people who see therapists are soft and unable to cope necessarily. Plus, it's just part of who I am as a person generally and even shapes who I am as a runner.

Anyway, last night mrp and I were driving home from work and we started discussing running. We actually haven't talked about it all that much in the last few days, if you can believe it. Sometimes he just humors me as I prattle on about this or that thought I have about running (kind of like you guys :) and sometimes we actually get into a great conversation that results in some or another new meaningful insight about running and life (again, similar to our little blogosphere). Last night I was telling him about this notion of cheating the marathon running learning curve and he generally agreed with the idea. He added to the fray, "the one thing marathoning experience can teach us is what our weaknesses are as runners. Weaknesses are so particular to each of us that no amount of advice can reveal them. We need to discover them in our own experiences and then learn to work with them, fix them, etc."

So, this naturally led me to ask the question, "what do you think my weaknesses as a marathoner?"

Mrp thought for a minute and he said, "well stitches, obviously." "But more importantly, I think you are afraid to experience pain," he said.

"Hmm. I am? I guess I am. Interesting."

Later that night I had my October therapist appointment. We were discussing how I was feeling about walking down the aisle alone. I feel very strongly that for our wedding ceremony that where the script calls for a dad, I must leave a hole because that is the truth and I accept that and it's me. At the same time, I am afraid of getting to the wedding and being sad. I explained this all to my therapist and she said, "you know, when I first met you last year you seemed like someone who was afraid to experience pain. It was as if you thought that if you experienced pain you would never come out of it, like it was some sort of abyss that you would get lost in." Ding!Ding!Ding! Holy crap. It all makes sense.

My fear of experiencing pain is a weakness as a person and not just as a runner. It keeps me from completely committing to a race sometimes. It keeps me from being completely honest with myself sometimes. As I work and face the loss of my dad it's hard and I feel sad for a while but then the funniest thing happens. I start to feel much happier the rest of the time. When I ran the marathon a couple of weeks ago my goal was to feel pain at the end and to keep pushing through and I was so upset when that didn't happen because of the stitch. I wanted to face the pain and overcome it in running just like I'm doing in life. I wasn't aware at the time of the significance that this was overcoming a weakness and improving myself, but now that I am aware I am even more determined to get out there and attempt that confrontation in every race.

Pain is part of running. It's part of life. Overcoming it is what makes both things great.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Curves Aren't Flat

I am beginning to understand this whole marathoning thing. I once naively thought that you get the marathon you have the fitness to run. This was my first marathon experience, so of course it had to be true! When Boston didn't go as planned, I knew I could blame some of that on the weather, but a lot of it, I thought was my training. So, I fixed my training to get myself some more fitness for the next one. I worked my little butt off all summer. I got the fitness to run very close to a 3:00 marathon. Too bad it takes more than fitness.

As chelle pointed out, luck certainly helps. I might have lacked that a little in Boston and Columbus, but more than anything I lack experience. I can read blogs and pick brains all day but whatever anyone else tells me about their experiences is no substitute for my own: there's no way to flatten the learning curve the way I want to.

This doesn't mean I can't run a marathon up to my fitness level, it just means it's a lot harder. More than any other race, the marathon requires skill and to execute that skill it requires incredible confidence. Without doing it over and over to develop skill and the resulting confidence in said skill, I believe it's very very difficult to race a marathon to the best of one's ability.

Looking back I didn't know what the hell I was doing! Ha! It sounds funny, but I mean it. I have drunk water from a cup while running a handful of times at best. I've eaten a gu while running sub-7:00 pace like three times in my life. There were a lot of firsts in Columbus: first time I took e-caps in a race; first time I ran a marathon in hottish weather; first time I ran a marathon with expectations of placing pretty high; first time doing a two week taper; first time running >65 miles per week, etc. And it's not like I have a whole heck of a lot of other racing experience to supplement my lack of marathoning experience.

My point isn't to explain why I didn't run what my fitness probably says I should have. My point is that marathons are very complex and there's no easy way to run a good one. Just like everything else in life, it takes patience, hard work and determination. Or a hell of a lot of luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Relatively Speaking

The period after a marathon is very strange. My legs are heavy most days I'm out there and 4 miles seems kind of long. My legs feel and have felt since the marathon relatively spectacular (focus on relatively) for having, well, just run a marathon. That's by no means to say they feel good, though. I have a particular tightness in my left hip and beyond that stuff all over the place just randomly gets sore or tight. It's kind of like taper when your legs first feel crappy before they feel better--although during my taper I never felt that crappy so they never felt all that better, but I digress. The point is, I'm not too worried about it because I think more than anything my legs are healing after all the miles I racked up this summer and this in turn causes tightness and soreness from time to time. No biggee.

My plan is to run comfortably this week. Since I have a wedding in 11 days, that means daily even if it's just a few miles to keep me relatively stress-free (again with the relatively). I even get to run 10 miles this weekend. Woohoo! Think of all that stress I'm gonna melt away in an hour and twenty minutes! Next week I get the club nationals training schedule. I'm guessing that means I'll probably get to do some sort of fartlek next week to reintroduce some speed (eh, might as well throw in a relative here too). Speaking of club nationals, today on my 5 mile tour of downtown Cleveland I ran on some grass near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because I'm a huge dork (no, no relativly belongs here, but I didn't need to tell you that, now did I?).

If you can't tell, I'm trying really hard not to talk about my feelings anymore. Fine I'll quit it. I do feel better. I think it has more to do with the fact that my brain is 95% occupied by wedding planning and now only has a tiny bit of space for brooding. And I might just be getting over it. Yeah, I think that's it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Loaded with Something

Uh oh. I've been drinking coffee all afternoon and I'm bored at work. This is a recipe for a blog disaster.

So last night, Mrp made an interesting observation: when we first started dating I ran for the hell of it while he was running 100+ miles a week preparing for the New York Marathon. Now, he runs for the hell of it while I'm (well, was) running sort of almost 100 miles a week preparing for the the Columbus Marathon. And this came up because I talk incessantly about it. He thinks it's funny, bless his little heart. I can't tell you how much I miss it as I haul my tight little stumpy legs around dreary downtown Cleveland during my lunch hour for 3 or 4 measly miles at a time. Joseph just posted about how his new coach told him he was going to overhaul his training to impose patience and self-control upon him. Hey, Tinman, are you listening? I need some of that! Oh yeah. You already know that, don't you.

But I am feeling better. I am still sad about the race, I'm not going to lie. I know everyone thinks I'm being one of those people who whines even when they got it good. But like I said, I can't help how I feel. Tinman suggested I post my race report over on therunzone, so I did. One of the frequent posters (who is a runner I am in awe of, by the way) there replied:

Well done Salty. I was aware before the race that you had hopes of a little faster finishing time, but when I saw the age group win and 11th overall I knew that you had run very well. What a bummer to get that stitch when you were going so strong. However, it just shows how far you’ve come—to still meet your original time goal and do exceptionally well from a competitive standpoint in spite of your troubles. You should be loaded with confidence now. Congratulations!

I should be loaded with confidence now? I should? Huh? And then I thought about it. Wow. That's such a different way to look at it. What I see as some sort of failure, others see as an accomplishment. I consider myself a realist. I am not one to pat myself on the back for something that is not worthy of patting myself on the back for the sake of making myself feel good. I am a lawyer, afterall. I know that there is always an argument for whatever point I want to make. If I want to argue I am so utterly awesome for this race, I could. I guess in trying to see the "truth" of the situation I kind of knee-jerked and got stuck on the negative aspect of the whole thing. In reality there is a little bit of failure mixed in with a lot of accomplishment. I guess I'm not a huge wuss if I focus more on the accomplishment part.

In other news on my way back to the office from my run, as I passed the throngs of sunken eyed sneaky smokers, I passed a van that said "Disability Records" and had a little handicap symbol with sweet rims on the wheelchair as it's logo. All afternoon I've been wondering what kind of music might be on a Disability Record. Food for thought.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Anatomy of a New Plan

I’m still in figure out what next mode. I know I want to run another marathon and the only thing for sure is that I want to run one before the summer. My current top 3 marathons in no particular order (unless you count chronological) are:

  • Tampa 2/10



  • Boston 4/21



  • Cleveland 5/18



  • Here are the factors I need to consider:

    Training Conditions: Winters here in Cleveland can be brutal for training. Trail running is all but impossible once the snow starts. That leaves treadmills and roads as my only options. I don’t mind running in the cold really, but running on roads all the time last winter seemed to wear me down. And then do I even need to explain why treadmills aren’t ideal? Besides the normal boring aspect, there’s the fact that my current gym is at work and the treadmills are not accessible on the weekends—lame. So, when we have a situation this winter when the roads are completely icy on both Saturday and Sunday (which we will), I either have to scrap the long run or run it very tentatively and risk injury. Also, it’s dark so much of the time too. How does this affect the decision?

  • Tampa: my big months will be December and January. There is little light, but the snow is not yet completely entrenched everywhere and I still could be able to do some trail running. I also have a lot of time off of work for the holidays in the middle of that, which helps. Finally, I feel like I’d more pick up where I left off and wouldn’t have to mentally ramp back up. On the negative side, there are very few good tune-up race possibilities, but I could run lots of nice shorter local Spring races.


  • Boston: my big months will be February and March. Yeah. It doesn’t get much worse around here than late February and early March. The snow is stuck everywhere. There is no chance for trail running. The winter has worn us all down and it’s just hard to stay motivated. Not that I can’t, of course, it’s just hard. Again, not many good tune-up races, but also I'd miss out on a couple of nice Spring races that fall too close to this marathon on the calendar.


  • Cleveland: my big months would be March and April. There would be more light and the weather would break early in this time span. There are a lot of good local tune-up possibilities.


  • Race Weather: Headwinds and me don’t mix as evidenced by my last two marathons. I need to reduce the possibility of that. Cold or hot is preferable to windy.

  • Tampa: The course has a long out and back along the ocean, which seems to me to invite the possibility for a nast headwind at some point during the race. The potential for heat and humidity scare me, too.


  • Boston: It can’t get worse than last year. Or can it? I feel likeBoston is due for some good weather!


  • Cleveland: The headwinds would most likely come at the beginning rather than the end, which is good. It could be hot, since it’s later in the season, but typically isn’t too bad.


  • Race Experience: I think this will be my last competitive marathon for a while. I want it to be a good one. How does this affect the decision?

  • Tampa: I have no idea. It would be nice to be in a more pleasant climate in February, but beyond that I can’t say the idea of going to a place I’ve never been before and have no ties to is very appealing. Also, it looks like the start is 6AM! Eek!


  • Boston: The crowd support would be great, but even with the significantly improved qualifying time, I am still running the risk of being stuck in a herd. I suspect I’d be in the 4th corral. At least this herd would be moving faster than the 9th corral herd! It would be nice to conquer the beast too and redeem myself after last year’s performance.


  • Cleveland: The crowd support would be thin for much of the race, particular the second half. Although I would have my own fans in my friends and family and this would more than make up for that. Also, to race well on my home turn would be incredible. Theoretically, I should place pretty high here—if I have a good race top 3? That would be pretty rad in my home court! And my Grandma’s could come watch, too!


  • Race Courses: I don’t necessarily need a fast course for this race. I don’t want an insanely challenging course, though either. I mainly just want a course that will allow me to race a marathon from beginning to end.

  • Tampa: Nice and flat. But, I still worry about wind.


  • Boston: Well, it’s Boston. I think I can handle the course, but it also would be somewhat intimidating just because I didn’t handle it that well last year.


  • Cleveland: It’s not a fabulous course by any stretch, but I am already very familiar with the first half since I’ve run the ½ marathon twice now. I am also very familiar with the last 5 miles or so. The only real potential course pitfall is a pretty significant hill at around mile 25. Although, I run that hill at least once or twice a week all year. It’s not that intimidating.


  • Mrp: Mrp is planning to run Boston. I want to be able to support him as much as he supported me leading up to Columbus.

  • Tampa: I’d get the marathon over with early and then be more available to mrp during his peak training weeks and during the race.


  • Boston: Well, I’d be a little wrapped up in my own race to be very supportive. I can still be supportive, but it’s not even remotely the same.


  • Cleveland: I would be in the middle of my hard training when mrp heads to Boston, but that’s fine. I would do my big workout on Friday or Saturday so I could not be preoccupied and could be a good spectator with him on Sunday for the OT and on Monday when he’s running. Plus, he’d inspire me for my race!


  • So, based on all this, doesn't it sound like Cleveland is the right choice?

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Diary of a Disappointed Runner

    6:30 AM

    November is too soon and too busy to run another marathon. I don't think December is good either because it would be to close too xc nats. January or February. Arizona or Texas. Hmmm.

    7:50 AM

    Right now I want to cry thinking about missing out on running those last few miles. I apologize for this melodrama, but I feel like I'm mourning the race that could have been (gag--I told you). But just like when your dog dies, going out and getting a new one the next day isn't probably a wise move. Part of me wants to pick it up and get right back to it and run another marathon as soon as I can, but part of me (yeah, probably the rational sane part) says no. no. no. I know I need time to sort it out. I need to jump back into the rest of my life and immerse myself in all the other things that make me happy. This is the down side for being a hyper-focused goal driven person. It's hard to ever feel satisfied.

    9:00 AM

    I really would like to run another marathon in the coming months if it made any sense. I can kind of wrap my head around a late February race. I would certainly have to travel (I'm not running a 26 one mile loop course in Ohio in February!) And January is typically pretty demanding at work, so I'm not sure heavy training is even possible. Mrp wants to run Boston again. So it would kind of make sense to do Boston again. I am really nervous about committing to another winter of training--the weather can just be brutal here. And the dark. Can I stomach 20 mile wave workouts on a treadmill? Also, I want to support mrp in his quest to do something with the marathon. For the past year we have focused on my marathoning. I'm not sure we have the ability to focus on both of us striving to run our best at the same time. I know I'm not supposed to be thinking about this, but I can't help it! Oh, and I'm still sorry for the earlier melodrama!

    10:14 AM

    Hey look! I might have actually smiled in a race photo!



    11:24 AM

    Running shmunning. Mrp and I are getting married in 18 days! My goodness. I can't believe how sometimes I can lose sight of how great things are just because one thing didn't go perfectly. At the same time, I know I feel very disappointed and that's ok too. I just need to vent my disappointment and then I'll be better able to move on. So, yeah I'm disappointed about the marathon, but you know? I am so happy about everything else right now. So there.

    2:30 PM

    I went down to the gym during lunch and hopped on the eliptical for 1/2 an hour. I got my heart rate all the way up to 130 and I even sweated! My legs feel great. The only thing that is sore still is my left hip and of course my side is still annoying too, although less so today. But it felt great to release some endorphins and just move around a bit. Maybe I'll do a short run tomorrow. I think I know I can't run another marathon until next year even if wanted to so I'm going to try not to think about it for a while and defer making any decisions for at least 2 weeks.

    3:48 PM

    Once in a while when I'm bored at work I'll just check letsrun for a good laugh or an occasional tip. Today I found this: http://www.theroadtobeijing.co.uk/roadtobeijing.htm Just check out the results. Wow! His Paris marathon report made me feel better. I better get some work done today!

    4:36 PM

    Holy crap! I smiled in TWO pictures!



    4:41 PM

    You know, I had fun and I did the best I could. It was a good race. I'll be fine. See, I even felt that way on Sunday.


    Thanks everyone for all your support and advice!

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Me and My Stitch

    Well, that didn't go quite as expected. The time is fine with me: 3:10:15. That is just 16 seconds shy of my original goal, so that's great with me. But, what isn't so great is how it came to be. I watched a certain sub 3:05 vanish before my very eyes, not at the hands of bad pacing strategy, tired legs or an overestimation of my cardiovascular fitness, but at the hands of a side stitch. Yes, a side stitch, the bane of beginning runners' existences. The one thing, the only thing, that has ever made me stop dead in my tracks in a race or even a hard workout.

    Marathons involve so many variables: weather; fitness; mood; biorhythms; courses; etc. And those are the big categories. Within each of those are infinite little things that can go right or go wrong. For example, weather alone can involve too much heat, too much cold, precipitation, wind (which I HATE) among other things. It's so rare that everything falls into place.

    In Boston last Spring, a few things were off for me. My legs beat up too early, I had problems pacing with the crowds, my body just felt off, and of course the Nor'easter. In that race, things started falling apart for me long before I got a stitch. Yesterday, everything was good and I was executing the race perfectly to come in 3:03-3:05 until we made a turn shortly after mile 19 into a blustery wind and I got a wicked stitch.

    My plan all along had been to start the race easy and then pick it up to a point where I naturally found a groove. I started with the 3:10 pace group and ran my first mile at 7:16. Then I picked it up a tiny bit and was just under 7:10 for two and then close to 7:00 for three. After that I hovered between 6:55 and 7:05 for a while. Around mile 8 we met back up with half-marathoners who were running about 8:30 pace. I knew this could throw me off and it did a little. That mile was my fastest at 6:44. I felt fine, really. At the half I was right where I wanted to be averaging just a tiny bit over 7:00 at 1:32:07. After the half point, it's pretty lonely, out in the open sun, and slightly up hil for about 4 miles. I found some guys that kept me company and we pushed along up up and up to the turn off around mile 17. The pace naturally was a little slower here--I think the last mile up high street was 7:12 or something, but just about what I expected. Right before 19 is one more hill and that mile was a little slow too--about 7:20. But I was feeling very strong. I felt fully capable of picking it up at 20. Right after that last hill we turn into a little neighborhood area that is pretty twisty and turny. I was fine until we made the first turn into the southerly wind. Wham. That was it.

    I stopped to stretch it out. From experience, I know that that is my best strategy for getting rid of it. Stretch it out. Get the diaphragm spasm to stop to get the breathing under control and try to relax and move on. I started running a few seconds after the stop and I held my side until we were out of the wind. I managed to run a pretty good 7:15 despite the stop. I was good for another mile and somewhere after 21 it got bad again. This is the beginning of the stopping and starting. I felt my 3:03-3:05 slip away. I was worried mrp would be up here to cheer me on and that if I saw him I would cry and fall apart. I was ok. If another woman passed me I would have been upset and if the 3:10 pace group passed me I'd be pretty mad too. No women passed me at all, which surprised me. But by mile 24, the 3:10 pace group went by. SHIT! I tried to stay with them but my breathing was all messed up and the pain in my side was horrendous. I tried so hard but I had to stop. I stretched it out and it wasn't going anywhere and I was so close so I tried to just run with it. I was running with my hand jammed up under my ribs and I finally came to the spot where mrp was waiting with my mom and my sister. I just looked at him and tears welled up and I just yelled, "Stupid stitch. I am so pissed!" But, somehow letting out my anger and frustration just gave me the gumption to push to the finish and make something of this race.

    With my hand still firmly entrenched in my side I winced and made myself breathe deeply and I managed to get it somewhat under control to the point where I could let go and just go. When I got to the 26 mile marker I looked at my watch and knew 3:10 was close--maybe just maybe I could eek in under 3:10. I sprinted down the brick road to the finish. I think I did the most damage to my legs right there! Heh. But I didn't care. I didn't care what hurt. I was going to at least push for a tiny portion of this race. I ultimately didn't quite break 3:10, but the 3:10:15 I made is fine. Hey, if I ever decide to get a sex change, I can still run Boston! And it's an 8 minute pr and I was 11th out of something like 1300 women and I was first in my woefully slow age group (just had to throw in a little eyeore there, sorry). Really, I would be so happy with the time if I ran my guts out to get it. My disappointment comes from not being able to run my guts out over the last 10k like I have tirelessly trained to do for months now. Ugh.

    Oh, and this is funny. I swear I saw white spandex guy from last year's Columbus Marathon around mile 2, but this year he was wearing silver and I wizzed by and never saw him again.

    So what's with me and stitches anyway? I'm finally comprehending that this is problem pretty isolated to me--at least to the extent I get them. When I started running I'd get them periodically, but that's nothing unusual. What is unusal is that in the spring of my first training cycle, I started getting them almost every time I'd run. Out of nowhere, too. Just one day it started and didn't let up for months. Actually, it didn't really stop until I got pleurisy, which mysteriously was painful in the exact spot of my stitches. From about March to August I constantly was in fear of a stitch making my run miserable. I tried everything. The opposite foot down as I exhale, the hand under the ribs, posture, belly breathing, etc etc etc. And since then I know the difference between my abs cramping from dehydration and this weird windy/breathing thing stitch. I can get a stitch sometimes when I'm dehydrated, but it is fundamentally different than the stitch I got yesterday or the stitches I got last year. As I sit here typing my diaphragm is very sore.

    But there is hope. I talked to Tinman yesterday after the race and besides being wonderfully supportive and generally encouraging, he suggested it might be something related to the alignment of my spine. It could be something so simple that a trip to the chiropracter is all I'd need to nip it in the bud. And this makes sense. My back was out of whack all that spring and summer and was only made to rights when I came down with pleurisy and change in my posture associated with that solved my problem. Two weeks before Boston and now two weeks before Columbus I had the first real stitch of those training cycles. As I'm tapering and tense (and at least during this cycle) I had a couple of days where I woke up with a spasm in a muscle in my back or my neck early within two to three weeks of the marathon. So my fingers are crossed that someday I can remove stitch from the list of things that stop me dead in my tracks and one of these days I'll run a marathon with no asterisk.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Like Sands Through the Hourglass

    Newsflash: Apparently there is runner tracking for Columbus. If you're so inclined go here and type in number 2386.

    So, we're just two days away from the big day, folks. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited. Of course, I'm nervous and a bit jittery, but it's way more a 5 year old's Christmas Eve jitters than the day before a root canal jitters. Something that helps me with nerves is to always have some sort of plan for after the race. What next?

    I really feel like all the work I did this summer, while it will certainly pay off on Sunday, will really pay off after the marathon--after I've had time to rest and recuperate from it and my legs are back to 100%. Just for fun I scoped out my recent past by looking at my log for the last 8 weeks and I am amazed at what I have done! Over those weeks I ran 75.75, 78, 78.5, 80, 90.25, 89, 66.5, with this week panning out to be 39 before the marathon. I never thought I could do that! My first week of taper was more miles than I ran during my peak weeks for my previous two marathons. Insanity! Theoretically, all those miles shouldn't just make me a good marathoner, but a good every distance runner. After the marathon I should easily be able to set some serious pr's at shorter distances. I am planning to race as much as I can throughout November and December. There won't be a ton of races to choose from up here in the tundra, so I couldn't overrace even if I wanted to, don't worry.

    The one race I am really really looking forward to is USATF Cross-Country Nationals in Cincinnati. I am so excited that I have an opportunity to run with my team among the country's best runners. Sure, I'll be bringing up the rear, but that's cool with me. Just having that opportunity just amazes me!! And to think, three years ago I could barely run 3 miles straight!!! And cross-country is tons of fun to boot!!!

    Anyway, back to the boring terrained present. This morning, I trotted along on the treadmill for a 3 miler and felt great--better than I have in a long time, actually. I ran my normal easy easy pace, 8:30 or so and played with the incline a bit just to engage as many muscles as I could. Nothing fancy. My shin felt fine. Maybe I ran too slow on Wednesday and my form was out of wack and that's why the shin acted up. But whatever the reason, the niggle appears to be transient. No worries there. Everything else felt pretty good. My butt and hammies weren't tight on the run, but I noticed my left hammie/butt was quite a bit tighter than the right one when I was stretching. I'll keep working on that, but I also don't think it's anything to worry about.


    Also, the weather appears like it's going to behave for the most part. It's supposed to be a perfect 53 or so at the start, but a pretty warm upper 60's by the time I finish. As no one needs reminding, it could be way worse! Actually, now that we're on the topic, if you're looking for some running inspiration check out Bridget's performance in this year's Chicago Marathon. All I can say is WOW! When I'm all hot and feeling crappy at mile 24, I'll think, "Bridget wouldn't back down!"


    Yikes! I can't believe I'll be finished in less than 48 hours! It's crazy how fast the time went by. As all my wonderful running buds have assured me, I am as ready as I'll ever be and I've worked so hard and I'm ready to roll. So, look out Columbus, here I come!

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Category of Being

    I just received this e-mail from the race director for the Columbus marathon and wanted to share.

    Welcome The Salty One to the Nationwide
    Columbus Marathon. Packet pickup begins on Friday. To speed up the process, print out this email with you bib number.

    You bib number is: 2386

    You have entered the Marathon and you are a Runner.

    For more race information, visit www.ColumbusMarathon.com

    Good Running!


    Better than a fortune cookie! Unfortunately there is no runner tracking, but if you want to play my number (or avoid it) in the lotto, feel free.

    Ghost in the Shin

    On a comments thread linked to Joseph's blog recently, there was some talk on running slowly. All of us egomaniac competitive types think, oh like 8:00's or MAYBE 9:00/mile, right? Wrong according to some. Mrp told me that one of his running pals who regularly runs marathons in the 2:30's runs recovery runs well over 10:00/mile. I thought he was exaggerating, but apparently 12:00 is a perfectly normal pace for some very accomplished runners. Who knew? While I can't quite run 12:00/mile I have run two runs really close to 10:00 recently. And it felt kind of good. One was on the treadmill and I vanely covered the monitor with a towel--I have a reputation to uphold! Not really, but with a marathon looming in three days, allow me to be a little big-headed. Thanks.

    Then the next morning, my legs felt tired and tight, and again with the marathon looming in three days (four days as of that particular run), I decided what the hey, just trot the 6 miles. So I did. I felt much looser at the end of the run and I just stretched my hammies and my piriformises (i?) which have been giving me the most problems and went on my merry way to the hair salon for my bridal hair and make-up trial. (I used to find this stuff nauseating and cheesy as hell, but I have since relented and am actually enjoying this most girly time of my life. It's a refreshing change.) While I was sitting in the weird spinny chair with the black cape over me and as the hairdresser prattled on about homecoming hairdos, I suddenly noticed an ache at the bottom of my shin. The hell? I blew it off and continued basking in my pre-bridal girly bliss. When I was finally done and rose from the chair, I realized the shin was quite sore.

    I iced it when I got home and felt pretty fine as mrp and I ran all over nearby country roads as our photographer shot engagement shots of us. I bought a cheap off the rack simple wedding gown, threw on a black belt to make it not so wedding gown and completed the look with running shoes. Since the dress was so long on me anyway, I figured my little niggle could use the extra cushioning. Plus, even if the sneaks did make it on camera, that might be kind of cute. After our photo session, it was pretty sore. So, I iced it again. I was now, of course, worried it was a career-ending stress fracture. I fretted and fretted as I ran my finger along my shin bone. But on further inspection, I realized it was just soft-tissue. As I massaged a little muscle anterior to the bone, it was tender--the bone itself was fine. I massaged it pretty good and iced it one more time before bed. When I woke up this morning it was still a little sore but as I've been up and about it's been feeling better and better. I actually have a scheduled day off today, my first since 7/1/07! So, I can rest it up and hopefully it will be fine for my short runs tomorrow.

    Since my weekly mileage has plunged into the not very high land of taperville, my butt's been tight, my hammies have bugged me, my adductors are tight (probably from being too old to piggy back ride), and of course now the shin niggle from heck. All of this while running about half my peak weakly mileage. It's just funny how the old bod hardly complains then and you give it a little break and suddenly it acts like a spoiled brat! It's also funny that now that my mind is ready my body needs a chance to freak out a little. Hopefully, both will behave for me in three days.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    The Foo and a Happy Feeling

    Did I ever tell you about my newfound love of the Foo Fighters? I don't know why, I swear I have better taste, but I just love them. Although I always appreciated Nirvana, I actually never even noticed the Foo Fighters until like two months ago (and yes, the Foo is definitely cheesecake compared to Nirvana). Before then, I couldn't tell one of their songs from another one. And now, of course, I'm obsessed. Apparently Everlong is really popular as a first dance song at weddings, so apparently I am very normal for liking the Foo Fighters in this wedding state of mind I'm in. (Thank goodness. I was beginning to wonder.) But over the past few months every time they come on the radio in the car mrp and I sing along and act fools. Usually we hear Monkey Wrench, Learning to Fly, or Everlong. But, get this--Times Like These and My Hero make me cry! I am such a sap--and not just any sap, but a sap with questionable taste. Yikes! The reason I am telling you this is that I just found this string quartet that did an album of all Foo Fighter songs and I can't stop listening to it. The string version of those songs makes me happy in that sappy kind of way, but so far I am tear free today in my office.

    Anyway, so if you couldn't tell, last post I was a bit nervous and that was my attempt to reassure myself. Repeated barrages of positive self-talk and plan corroboration with Tinman and mrp have helped me to be really confident and zen about the whole thing. Now I can say, without lingering scaredy feelings lurking in the back of my mind, that I am excited and ready to roll. Yes, of course I'm nervous! But, in a good way--in an I'm amped up and excited and hope it's a great day kind of way.

    The plan is to go out at 7:00 pace for the first three miles and then per Tinman's instructions, drop the pace at the three mile mark to 6:53. If I feel like it later in the race I can pick it up and go for it! If not, I'm running a great time as is. I am very happy with this plan and I feel confident in my ability to adjust as needed given circumstances beyond my control. It'll be neat to see how it actually pans out. I'd put my money on hitting those paces exactly for every mile. Heh. Actually, I will just be happy if I don't go out to fast and I'm somewhere in the ball park.

    Other than making plans and writing little OCD lists of things to pack, and wear, and eat, and buy, etc etc etc I am enjoying my short little runs, getting out in the gorgeous fall weather and trotting around the woods alone or through the city with my running buds. After all that hard work and weeks of zombieness I am feeling like a happy little runner again. I love when hard work pays off!

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Everything I Ever Needed to Learn About Running Marathons I Learned From Watching SNL Reruns

    I have something important on my mind: strategy, also known in some parts as strategery. Broadly, my strategy for the marathon is confidence. That is, I want to be confident that I will achieve my goal.

    Well, I guess this begs the question: what is my goal anyway?

    After much wracking of the brain, I've realized that the best outcome for the marathon is to finish strong. I want to run a race where I am still trying to beat the clock over the last miles. I want to chase down my best possible time whatever it is from the start to the finish. I have an idea of what my best possible time is and I am going to go after it, but whatever the end result is if I have fought for every last possible second and done the best with what I have to work with that day I will be happy.

    Ok, now it's time to explain why I can achieve this goal. Pardon me, as I Stewart Smalley my way to confidence.

    1. I have worked my tail off! The one thing I cannot say at the end of the race is that I have not trained hard enough. I gave this cycle everything I've got. I pushed myself way harder than I ever thought I could and I made it to the other side and I'm feeling good. As Tinman once told me, I have worked to give myself enormous strength and endurance and I can run close to my maximum for a longer period of time than I ever could before. I am ready for the marathon!

    2. I am not afraid of pain or discomfort or weird stuff happening. I know how to deal with all of that. I have run marathon pace on ouchy legs, when I want to stop and plop down under a tree and sleep for weeks, and even with a side stitch or when I was horribly dehydrated. I also know how to hang in there and get back on pace after a bad mile or two or to laugh off tripping over others or how to deal with a guy running near me wearing see-through bike shorts.

    3. I can check my ego and not go out too fast. I really can, despite what my last 10k tells us. Whatever it takes, I ain't doing that.

    4. I will stay positive and I will enjoy this marathon to the fullest. I will savor every moment of this race because it is my dessert for working so hard this summer. I deserve to bask in those one hundred and eightyish minutes of glory. I am not nervous, I am excited to get out there and give it what I got! It's going to be fun and one of the best experiences of my life. I can't wait!

    Sure, I have doubts and fears, too. But at this stage of the game, it doesn't do any good to entertain them. It's time to focus on the joy of running and racing and everything positive I have done to get to this point. This way, at the end of the day, when the going gets tough I'll be confident enough to give just a little more cowbell. Sorry. Yes, I know that was horrible! Heh.