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!