Friday, February 29, 2008

Virtue

I spent 5 hours driving yesterday. Not fun the day after a hard run. I had to stop several times just to relieve the pain in my hips and butt each way. I couldn't wait to get home and go for a really easy run just to get some blood to my tight little legs. Poor guys.

But their sacrifice was worth it. I had a great interview. I know that doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it was fun. I haven't interviewed in 4 years! I desperately needed to brush the dust off my skills if nothing else. They seemed very interested in me and threw the possibility of staying in Cleveland out there, although I can't tell you how many times they warned me about the pay. The best thing would be to get an offer that allows me to stay in Cleveland for a salary that is just enough to allow me to keep plugging away at my student loans and that provides me just enough extra to contribute to the household. I'm in the middle of Walter Isaacson's biography of Ben Franklin so I might be overestimating the value of frugality right now, but really I don't need tons of money. I rather have a job that I'm passionate about than one that bores me to tears most days and pays a lot (well, relative to a government job, I make considerably less than a lawyer in a top firm but I don't care because I don't have to bill hours and can run on my lunch hour and have a life outside of my job). But really, mrp and I need to crunch the numbers and flesh out our financial goals more concretely. Luckily this is a government job and we should have some time before we'd have to make a decision (of course only if we need to make one).

I arrived back home around 3:00, changed from my lawyer uniform (Ann Taylor black triacetate skirt suit) into my running clothes and climbed into bed. Fortunato joined me and before I knew it the alarm I set for 4:00 was blaring Enrique Ilgesias at us, but I managed to bend over to hit the snooze with the cat still attached to my shoulder twice before finally getting up. It was one of those naps that leaves you feeling like a boulder--cold, dry, and heavy. I drank about 5 glasses of water, took care of some crap for my current job and finally made it out the door to the park around 5:00. I didn't even bother to bring my watch. Between yesterday's workout, the general feeling of potential over-doing it I've been feeling since last week, and pretty much not moving for 7 hours I wasn't expecting much from the run. I hit the snow-covered bike path and it was one of those perfectly clear sunny, snowy, crispy winter afternooons. I didn't push the pace at all and just trotted along letting the run organically end a smidge after 5 miles.

I am supposed to be doing 1 hour easy runs, but to heck with that. I feel pretty beat and I agreed to help mrp's friend and one of my teammates to pace a 30k. I'm running the first 15k with her and mrp's running the second. She wants to start at 6:30 pace. Hopefully I can keep up! So, lopping a couple of miles off was a no brainer. But even still, today my legs are feeling pretty crappy. My plantar's has flared up in my left foot, my hamstrings, hips and butt are sore and both big toes are sore. I don't think I feel all that much worse now than at any point over the last year or so, but now that I don't have a one-track mind forcing me out there NO MATTER WHAT, I think I'm just noticing them now when I didn't before. I keep reminding myself that this is a regeneration period for me. If I can get faster during this time, great, but the point is to build back up, not break back down. So, I might have to modify the schedule I'm on. I'll give it a couple of days and let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And That's What It's All About

Man. I'm sick of snow. Actually, when mrp and I left the house this morning it was so unbelievably beautiful in our valley. The apple trees and everything were covered in snow and all the sounds were muffled by it except the bird songs. I wish I could have gone running right then and let the snow cover me and listened to it crunching under my feet as I wound my way along the river. But no. Off to work we went. And off to sleep I went since mrp was driving. My morning snooze is one of my guilty pleasures.


At least it's warmish out. Thirties feels balmy these days. I'll take it. I might randomly race a 15k on Sunday so I should do a harder run tomorrow. I was thinking about taking today off, but my schedule might not permit a run later in the week because [insert drumroll]

I have an interview to go to on Thursday! Woohoo! I guess the budget permitted a hire afterall. I got the call on Friday afternoon and now I'm headed south a hundred miles to speak to government officials about constitutional law and anything else they want to talk about. I suspect they'll want to discuss this whole tax thing I'm doing--like how the heck did I get into tax if I suck at it and really want to practice constitutional law. Valid question. And I'll be practicing my answer on the two hour drive to the interview, don't you worry.

Even though I have some practicality concerns about the job, I am excited to pursuit it. If nothing else it will reaffirm my decision to stay at my current job and make me a little happier about it. It might help resolve the war between practicality and ambition that's always waging in my head. Or maybe it will insight further violence. At a minimum it's switching things up and making life interesting.

****

In other news, Monica tagged me in a comment. I've never been tagged before. How exciting! It's like a chain comment. I remember when I was about 8 or so and getting into letter writing. I'd write letters to my friends down the street and jump on any chance for a pen pal and then one day someone sent me a chain letter and the whole concept of connectivity just thrilled me. So cool. Luckily, I didn't have the same feelings about Amway. Anyway, I'm supposed to tell you some random stuff about me. So here goes:


1. When I was 16 I had to get a job. I couldn't drive yet because I failed the maneuverability part of the driving test so I had to find something local. As luck would have it I lived a mile away from United Skates of America. Yes, my first job was dressing up as the Skateasaurus and performing the hokey-pokey on roller blades as little kids tried to rip the head off of my costume.


2. I have this weird impulse to lead people in endeavors that I really couldn't care less about. When I was really young I'd organize all my littler cousins into paraders and dress them up in paper hats and they'd march around my grandparents' yard. When I was in high school I decided that the current regime of student council couldn't plan a dance for sh*t so I told them so during a class meeting and proceeded to oust the cool kids from their reign of tyranny by winning the student council president seat during my senior year. I led my department at work in a fundraising campaign for Juvenile Diabetes research (not that I don't care about it, but I don't even know anyone who has it!)


3. I am a cryer. Once the gates open, here comes the flood. It can be really embarrassing. I've got a better handle on it than I did when I was younger, but I still cry really easily.


4. I have 2 cats. Fortunato, a 10 year old all black cuddly male and Astrid, the fattest hairiest 8 year old diluted calico you've ever seen. I've had 4 cats in my adult lifetime. Fonzarelli, Fort's black cat brother, died in a tragic car accident after prying the screen out of my apartment window and escaping down the fire escape. Annabelle, another all black kittie I rescued off the mean streets of Cleveland, died a year and a half later after battling a rare form of vein cancer.


5. Mrp and I briefly dated when we were in high school. We went to different schools but he was a friend of my cousin. I met him at an Indians game when I was 15. We hung out a couple of times and talked on the phone but he was painfully shy. I dumped him on my 16th birthday so I could date a more pushy guy who turned out to be a crazy stalker years later! I liked mrp though, so I fixed him up with 2 of my friends and he still hasn't forgiven me for one of them. And incidentally, after high school we totally forgot about each other until we met in the fitness center at our workplace when I was 29 and he was 31 and it took me three months before I realized who he was! But he knew all along!


6. I majored in philosophy and minored in math in college. But I went to 4 colleges and had previously majored in biology, elementary education, and Spanish before finally settling on something and graduating! I graduated from college when I was 26. I went to law school and got really into it. I was super nerd and graduated near the top of my class and published two articles. I took it one step further and received a graduate law degree from one of the best schools in the country. I went from a failed college drop-out to a lawyer with two degrees. When I was 21 I never would have guessed that would happen!


7. I used to be really cool (well, at least I thought so). I wore old school clothes I found in thrift stores (my favorite was a baby blue t-shirt with a unicorn air brushed on it with my pink pumas), had a collection of vinyl records (mostly indie and techno), dated artists and dj's (assholes), lived in NYC, etc. Now I live 5 miles from where I grew up and am married to a guy I knew in high school, not to mention I rarely stay up past 10:00 and can barely handle one glass of wine! Life is full of surprises and that's what I love about it!


So, Adeel, Tuscaloosarunner, Joe Postive, Miss Adventurous, GP, Uptown Girl, and Jim, it's your turn to tell us 7 secrets about yourselves.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Truth Doesn't Have to Hurt

I don't know about you, but I'm a little numbers obsessed. Well, obsessed may be a strong word. I mean, sometimes my sense of self-worth as a runner is wrapped up in things like average pace and split times. To combat this annoying habit I often leave my watch at home or do workouts like fartleks to ease the pressure on myself to run a certain pace. It definitely helps and I enjoy my runs much more especially during my downtime when the point is to just run by feel anyway.

My schedule for February should help ease my transition back to timed workouts. While I'm building my strength and fitness back up, I am to run 6 days a week including 3 easy 1 hour runs, 2 fartleks, and 1 longer run in the 90 minute neighborhood.

I already told you about fartlek #1 in my last post. I did fartlek #2 on Friday. It's more focused on leg speed than cardio vascular fitness building. After a 10:00 warm-up I ran 20 x :35 at 5k effort every 2:00. Just like in fartlek #1, I focused on running strong and smooth. This workout sounds a lot easier than it is. Maybe I run the reps too hard, but by 12 or 13 my legs started to feel toasted. By the end, my hamstrings are just dead! I suppose that's probably the point, huh? But I really like workouts like this because they're new and different for me. I like the idea of working on my weaknesses and speed and strength are definitely two of my weaker points!

I also had 2 of the shorter (1 hour) easy runs that were surprisingly quick for me this week. When I was running really low mileage I was consistently running sub-8:00 for my general runs. Sure, those runs were 4 or 5 miles long and I wasn't doing any workouts or even marginally long runs then. Once I started inching the mileage up and adding in harder runs my pace for my easy runs slowed a bit. They were still generally faster than the 8:30 or slower easy runs I was logging during marathon training--around 8:00-8:20 or so. But on Thursday, I was surprised to run 7.5 with my friend from work at 7:53 pace and gabbing the entire time the day after a workout and on Saturday I ran comfortably averaging 7:52 the day after another workout.

I was worried that 4 days with no recovery paced slogging meant I was doomed for a crappy "long" run on Sunday. I've been avoiding the Garmin for my long runs to avoid because I wanted to get the miles in and I didn't want my slow pace and deteriorated long run fitness to make me cry. But this Sunday I was intent on running a couple miles at "tempo" pace just to see where I'm at, as they say. I wasn't expecting anything blazing fast and I was a little worried about what I'd find out. But, since my last couple of races haven't been the best I have accepted I'm not at my peak fitness anyway. My expectations were not high. I just planned to pick up the pace and see what happened.

So, I strapped the Garmin on and hit the bike path for a hilly run. It usually takes me a mile or two to warm-up and the first mile already had a fat uphill and a turn-around so I was very happy with 8:12. The second and third miles were 7:57 and 8:01. Then I must have warmed-up because the pace just started dropping from miles 4through 6: 7:48, 7:35 (down a big hill), 7:36 (back to rolling). And then I had to face the consequences of my decision to go down the big hill. It was time to climb! Mile 7 was all uphill, with about half of that very steep and winding. I didn't look at the Garmin while I ran up it. I just wanted to make it to the top and not worry about how slow I was. I figured I'd be lucky to make it in 9:00! So, I was pretty happy with 8:19. The beginning of mile 8 was still part of the hill, although a pretty low grade at this point. It made recovering from the steeper part difficult. I think it took me about 1/2 a mile to recover from that darn thing. Mile 8 was 7:53 and mile 9 was 7:50 all the while my butt and hamstrings were definitely feeling it.

After all that I wasn't expecting much from my push. 7:10? That would be fine. So, off I went. I hit mile 9 right by the water fountain where I used to start my 2 mile tempo reps. It was like old times. Once I got going I felt great! I really wasn't trying hard and I hit mile 10 in 6:44. Mile 11 was the harder mile. The terrain starts to roll pretty intensely through this stretch. I definitely could feel that I hadn't done this in a while around the half mile point, but I still rolled in with a 6:36. I was so pleased with this. I would have been pleased with a 6:56, so this was extra nice. I happily jogged a mile back to my car in 7:42 to complete my 12 miles in 1:32:11. I am happy to know I'm not as bad off as I feared and I'll be alright to start timed workouts soon.

For those that like a nice neat summary:

Mon: Easy 7 miles (8:14)

Tue: Off

Wed: Fartlek #1: 6 x 2:00 @ 10k (1:00); 6 x 1:00 @ 5k (1:00); 4 x :20 @ 1 mile (:40) with 15:00 w/u and 12:00 c/d for 8 miles in 1 hour.

Thu: Easy 7.5 miles (7:53)

Fri: Fartlek #2: 20 x :35 @ 5k (1:25) with 10:00 w/u and 12:00 c/d for 8 miles in 1 hour.

Sat: Easy 7.75 miles (7:52)

Sun: 12 hilly miles (averaging 7:40)

Total: 50.25

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder (Duh)

So what do you think of days off from running? I am always conflicted about my days off. Part of me is relieved that I have extra time to take care of other stuff and that I don't have to worry about squeezing my run in or running in bad weather or whatever it is I might be worried about that day. The other part of me remembers the three month stretch of not one single day off of running and how good that felt. I loved feeling all hard core and dedicated.

I know for many runners, especially new runners, running every day is just not feasible and rest days can be essential to prevent injuries. I felt fine on 7 days a week. I know my body can take it, so it seems to me like a rest day is in the schedule just to keep me from running too much and getting burnt out during this downtime and maybe I'm crazy but that purpose alone doesn't help me feel better about taking a rest day. It reminds me that my hard core days are long behind me. Wa! Will they ever be back? Yeah, some day I'll be really hard core again. Just not now. Yeah yeah yeah. I know. Balance.

So yesterday was my day off and I spent my lunch hour doing exciting things like going to the bank and buying mascara and my favorite seasonal treat, Cadbury eggs at the drugstore. I had to walk clear across Downtown to the bank and it was freakin' freezing out there! No wonder all the sallow-eyed office stiffs surrepticiously smoking look at me like I'm insane when I'm out there running! Well, besides the fact that I'm running. I was a popsicle when I got back to my office! I guess maybe I'm still a tiny bit hard core.

So today, partly to avenge the day off, I did my first harder run since the race on Saturday. I went out for 1 hour run including Tinman's mixed pace fartlek: 6 x 2:00 @ 10k effort(1:00); 6 x 1:00 @ 5k effort(1:00); 4 x :20 @ 1 mile effort (:40). I was in a good running mood and really felt the workout. For the 2:00 reps I concentrated on maintaining a solid smooth and consistent effort. For the 1:00 reps I thought of Joe Positive's recent discovery of hamstrings. For each of these I concentrated on injecting some power into my running focusing on my hamstrings. I felt tough! For the :20 reps I wrangled a guy I work with to do them with me as I caught him just as he was finishing 800's on the Hustler loop. So, I concentrated on not letting him pass me for those. I know. I am really a child. But sometimes that childish competitiveness is what you need to tap into to have a good workout! And it was fun.

Monday, February 18, 2008

They Just Might Be Right

They say everything happens for a reason. Normally I am not an everything-happens-for-a-reason type person. However, at times like these I'm starting to believe they just might be right.

I ran a personal worst* 19:57 in the 5k and all I have to say is thank the road running gods for inventing timing chips so I can at least maintain the tiny shred of dignity that comes with those 4 seconds it took me to cross the starting line. You must be wondering, "what the hell did this chick do to lose 1:10 of 5k fitness in 2 months?!"

The answer is that well, my fitness isn't THAT deteriorated really. I woke up on Saturday and felt really crappy. I caught a stomach bug sometime last week that really amped up on Friday and Saturday. On Thursday I felt kind of bad, but not too bad. But on Friday I had to run into one of the few open bars in the Flats mid-run or else I seriously wouldn't have made it back to my office. This has never happened to me on a lunchtime run before! I've been feeling blah and tired generally too. I woke up on Saturday and my stomach was crampy and hurt. I could hardly stand up straight. But mrp and I had a fun day planned around the race and other than my stomach I didn't really feel too bad. I took some medicine and waited and felt better after about 20 minutes so I said let's go and off we went.

It was COLD, man. Woo! It was about 18 out when we got downtown, but there was virtually no wind and the sun was shining like it hasn't shone in some time. It was a glorious winter morning. Mrp and I registered and we headed out to the Flats for a warm-up. I got to run through more deserted industrial areas that I normally don't run through with the company of my body guard. We managed about three miles and did about 5 100-200 meter strides around my office building and ran up to the start. I lined up right next to Lloyd and Papa Louie and we were off.

Within a quarter of a mile I knew I was not right. I felt leaden and sluggish. I heard the woman that always just beats me coming to pass and I said, "Hey!" as she huffed passed me. I realized I was very relaxed and happy, but there was no other gear. I didn't downshift and I'm not sure I could to be honest. Mile 1 went by in 5:58 and that just didn't seem right at all. I marinated in that split, trying to make sense of it and by the time I got to two miles in 12:46, it finally did (the first mile was short and the second long). By then I knew any chance I had at running a non-embarrasing time went out the window so I just focused on holding steady over the last hilly 1.1 miles and I pretty much did. When I passed three miles at 19:12 or whatever it was I knew I had to book it up the hill to the finish to break 20. When I finished I felt shaky and exhausted and embarrassed.

I came in third, relinquishing the Chili Bowl crown to the woman who always just beats me, although this time she spanked me. She ran a 19:08 so I should have been able to fight for it. Oh well. I also got beat by a woman I have never lost to before, but she ran really well so good for her! Like I said, I didn't mind losing to people who worked hard as long as I didn't actively lose by being a wuss. So, was I a wuss?

No. I don't think so. I was happy running my lame pace and I never felt like I was red-lining or anything. But, at the same time my pedal wouldn't go down any farther. It just wasn't the time to push my body to the brink. And that's not wussy. It's smart! And the funny thing is that I can't believe I'm saying this, let alone actually believeing it. Although I am embarrassed to have that time recorded on my permanent record, I know what it means. I am not in pr shape right now probably, but I felt crappy and I was running the race for fun anyway. If I was on, cool. If not, ok. I wasn't on. So a nice tempo (among friends) it was.

Other than running a 5k at a pace close to what I should be able to run a half-marathon by now (I'll take this opportunity to thank Bridget for taking care of this for me! Woohoo, Bridget!), mrp ran his personal worst too and if I had a good day I could have come really close to finally beating him!! Although he did say if he sensed me close he would have run faster. So, I should think of it as my duty to pick it up to push mrp to run faster next time.

I headed out of the shoot and found mrp and we went out over the Carnegie bridge for a cool down. My legs felt shakey and I felt off so we turned around at just a mile and ran back before heading in to watch the awards ceremony. I ran into a bunch of friends and it was nice to catch up a little bit and then I grabbed my second place age group award (sigh) and then mrp and I had a good laugh at the fact he didn't get anything for the first time in ages! And then we drove over for our heavenly favorite brunch of huevos rancheros and whole grain waffles and then dropped lots of money on yummy stuff at the Westside Market. We bought andouille sausage, and sweet potato pierogies, and a variety of fresh enchiladas, and some beautiful and CHEAP bell peppers and limes. It was a great morning!

Anyway, this experience and the stitchy 4-miler at the beginning of the month have really put running into perspective for me. Although on those days my running sucked, the rest of the day was just about perfect. I know I've got a good thing going.

*Since running seriously.

Friday, February 15, 2008

This and That and Gross Bananas

I am really hungry right now. I finished my bagel and cream cheese, my everyday breakfast, and normally I would move on an hour or so later and eat a banana. I have a banana here but I cannot bring myself to crack it open. You see, I am weirdly picky about my fruit. For bananas I like them perfectly shaped and barely ripe--like still half green. The banana I have here before me looks bloated and has leopard spots and I keep imagining the mealy overly-sweet mush that awaits my mouth if I go for it. I just can't do it. That leaves the candy dish on the secretary's desk.

Speaking of work, I should tell you that I haven't heard a thing about that job. I confirmed with them that they received my materials about a week after I sent them and then a couple of days later the employer's 1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall hit the news. Hiring freeze. So, that's out for now. And that's fine. Although it really would be the coolest job, we just can't relocate now and I really can't take the dramatic pay cut. Sadly, like my sister, I am not one of those people who can pick and choose what job I take with no care about money. I wish. So for now, I will continue working for the man (and not working for the man apparently).

In other news I seem to have developed a low grade cold. It's very strange. It's not like a normal cold--it's like 1 part cold 10 parts water or something. It's not helping my quest to eat that banana. I will not bring myself to stop at the store midweek to buy fresh bananas so I have bananas that I will actually eat later in the week. Instead I bring the brown banana thinking that today is the day I'll quit being a picky wuss and will actually eat it. Hasn't happened yet.

And on Wednsday I had some early afternoon meetings so I figured it was a good day to take my day off from running this week. I did have about 45 minutes to spare so I thought what would make a better day for doing those strengthening exercises I have been neglecting for the past couple of months. So, I went on down and kicked my own butt with Tinman's* calisthenics. He gave me a routine a while back consisting of doing 80% of max each of abs, push-ups, stair calf-raises and single-legged squats. I felt super when I finished, like I had worked really hard in a really good way. Yeah! But yesterday came and OUCH! My triceps, my back, my butt, and my quads are so sore! They haven't been this sore since I first started the routine, which makes sense since I have been spotty at best about my strengthening since the marathon. I suppose I'd be wise to do the whole easing back in thing. Note taken. But at the same time, if I keep this up I will be one tough cookie! Mmmm. cookies.

*Speaking of Tinman, Meghan asked me a while back who Tinman is. Tinman is my sometimes coach. He's actually looking to coach a few more runners now so if anyone is looking for coaching let me know or you can find him here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wienie

Oh geez. I am such a wienie sometimes! I just don't get how I can get so bent out of shape worrying about such silly things. Worrying about little things like my potential performance in local 5k races is exactly what I was talking about here. I know better than to get all bent out of shape, yet it happens anyway. Frustrating!

But, you all helped me very much. I particularly like the "Salty, Salty...just go race" and the "f__k dude, go for it." Basically sums it all up, doesn't it?

As for the back, it's fine. It's just been a little nag here and there since my trip to New York. No big deal. It was just an extra thing I could throw into the con column. Otherwise it's not noteworthy.

And as for defending my title as Chili Bowl Champion of the Universe, I really don't mind losing the glorious title to someone else. If I lose it because I'm a wuss and don't race for it then I'll be annoyed, but otherwise I'll gladly watch someone else walk away with the biggest most absurd chili-bedecked trophy in the land. It's nice and rare for me to actually win, so I'll be happy if I do of course!

So yeah, I'm planning on racing it. I conned mrp into coming too with promises of brunch and Westside Market visits so it will be a fun date if nothing else. And I swear I am not going to be a wienie about it anymore.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To Race or Not to Race? That is the Question.

So busy today, which was not made better by accidentally flushing my employee badge and office key down the toilet. Long story. But, dear readers, I post because I need your help. There is a 5k I can run on Saturday but I'm really on the fence about it.

Cons

- It's supposed to be really cold (like 12 degrees)

- It's downtown and I'm sick of running downtown

- It's downtown and by the weekend I'm sick of driving downtown

- My lower back has been nagging me a bit the past couple of weeks and I'm worried racing on a possible slippery road might make it worse

- I am worried if I don't run well it will demotivate me to keep on chugging through the winter

- I'm just not sure I'm feeling 5k race ready--I haven't done any timed workouts in some time other than the little bit of the 4 mile race I raced.

Pros

- It's a race, so it's a fun way to get a good workout in

- It could be a good barometer for my current fitness level (although also a con, maybe)

- The course is decent

- It could improve my confidence in my fitness level

- It's an excuse to get brunch at our favorite downtown restaurant and then head to the Westside Market afterwards.

- I won this race last year so I could go and defend my title and win another ridiculous trophy

I don't know. I think it bugs me that I have no idea what kind of expectations to have about the race. I almost always have a sense about what I should be able to run and right now I don't. I guess it just boils down to being worried that I'll run it disappointingly slow.

Anyway, what would you guys do if you were me?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Slice of Winter

I'm sick of thinking about side stitches right now as I'm sure you are, so let's take a break from that, k? Since I returned to the land of Cleve running has been pretty good. I ran a whopping 48 miles last week, including 2 fartleks and a long run.

And if you're wondering (of course you are!), I haven't stepped on the treadmill in over two weeks. And I feel like this is quite an accomplishment. Since I am not above bragging, I'll explain to you that as others in the blogosphere are in the prime of their training season, in Cleveland this is the season in which you guage your progress by how few workouts you have to miss due to winter blizzards, icy roads, and well below zero windchills. Even so, I've managed to get outside for every run. I am so awesome! (Ok, I'll stop.) I even conned mrp into running with me outside yesterday in 6 degrees and 40 mph winds! Fun!

I like running in extreme weather. Well, I should be honest. It's usually really hard for me to get out the door as I watch the wind swirling the snow and the juncos huddled up on the bird feeder and knowing it's freakin' freezing out there. I hem and haw and ponder doing a bunch of crunches and calling it a cross-training day. But eventually I am persuaded by the idea that other people will think I'm crazy for being out there and just the thrilling fun of it. I always picture coming in the door and uncaking the snow off my shoes with pink cheeks and snow caked all over me all "WOO!" about having just run out in that nastiness and I manage to get my buns out the door.

The same thing got me out there during my lunch hour today in the balmy 9 degree air. I managed to wrangle one of mrp's friends and also the director of our fitness center to head out with me for my 7 mile flats loop. It was so cold as we headed north from the office building into the wind that it kind of hurt to talk and I probably sounded a little drunk. But once we turned out of the wind and had a few miles in the bank, my whole body felt warmed up and it really was quite enjoyable to be out there.

I can't say my pre-run worries ever make any sense. I have never come back from these frigid runs feeling like I was too cold or regretting it in any way. If nothing else I come in the door all "WOO!" as I said and most of the time I find I overdressed and am overheated by the time I'm finished.

So, that's a slice of winter running around here. Here are the ever-exciting specifics from last week:

Mo: no watch easy 7 miler along the Cleveland shoreway.

Tu: off. I had a lunch meeting. Sucks. It was 50 degrees!

We: 8 miles including 5 x 2:00 at 10k with 1:00 recovery, 5 x 1:00 at 5k with 1:00 recovery; 4 x 20 seconds at 1 mile pace with 40 recond recoveries. Run along the Hustler loop.

Th: 7.5 around the flats (8:03 pace)

Fr: 8 miles including 15 x 35 seconds at 5k every 2:00. Run along the Hustler loop.

Sa: 12 easy from home up to the big park and finally got some miles on the soft trails. Ahhh. Soft trails! Was really slow climbing out of the valley we live in but picked it up as I went along. (averaged 8:09 pace)

Su: 5.5 in a blizzard! Mrp agreed to run 4 but I squeezed another 1.5 miles out of the deal by keeping up with him (for the most part). (7:56 pace that felt MUCH faster with the occasional 40 mph headwind and complete lack of footing in spots)

Update: It's Tuesday morning and I just walked into my office. We're due for a blizzard which may force me on the mill, if the fact that I forgot to pack my jacket doesn't seal the deal. I might have spoke too soon, unless the blizzard holds off for a few hours and I can score another long sleeve shirt under a size XL from the lost and found in my gym. Stay tuned!

Update to the Update: The streak is alive! I braved the blizzard in a borrowed long sleeved t-shirt. I was a little soggier for the wear but I managed to get my fartlek in outside.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Let's Talk Stitches Part II

So we know my general stitch history and I really think it provides some clues to the source of the problem. This time I'd like to talk about how the stitches feel and maybe that will provide more clues. Basically, I experience three types of stitches: the minor stitch; the major stitch; and the dehydration stitch. I discuss them each below.

My Stitch Types

minor stitch for me feels like just a little heaviness on the right side just under my ribcage. It usually comes on while running easy. It either starts early on in the run or pops up later in the run. When a minor stitch comes on early in the run, I often I feel awkward on these runs, overly conscious of my breathing and posture. If it comes later in a run it's usually windy and often it's at the end of an interval workout. This is the kind of stitch I most often get.

Sometimes a minor stitch goes away fairly quickly, but usually it takes a couple of miles to stretch it out and then to forget about it for it to completely go away at some point mid-run. Othertimes, particularly during the Boston Marathon, a minor stitch seemed to go away only to come back as a major stitch towards the end of the race.

A major stitch is one that feels like a stabbing pain in the same spot. It prevents me from standing straight and it impairs my breathing. I tend to have soreness in the spot after I stop running and this soreness can last for several days. They have tend to be preceded by a very short minor stitch feeling before seizing up. Often the major stitch develops from the minor stitch after a sharp turn, a strong headwind, or a downhill during a hard run, like a tempo run or a race. I have to stop to get rid of it. It cannot be run through. I've tried and it just makes it worse and I end up very sore in the spot under my right ribs for days afterward.

Dehydration stitches are not isolated to the spot under my right ribs like the other ones are. It feels more like a typical muscle cramp and I usually feel it in multiple spots of my abdomen. They typically occur after a hard workout on my cool down and can occasionally pop up on a recovery. They seem to be triggered by pace changes and they typically do not leave me sore after I stop running.

So these are the three types of stitches I tend to get. Perhaps my abdominals are a weak point in my body and tend to be the first thing to go when I'm pushing my body? Some people get calf cramps, maybe I get ab cramps?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Let's Talk Stitches

You probably guessed what my next post was going to be about. That's right, bitches. Let's talk about stitches! (Sorry to use such language, especially directed right at you, but it rhymed and I couldn't resist. No more salty language in this post. Promise!)

So here's the deal. I've mentioned my stitchy problem periodically, most notably in the post about my last marathon. But I want to devote posts exclusively to my nemesis in the hopes of slaying the beast once and for all. And please, do comment any potentially relevant information from your own experiences or advice or insight that might help us get to the bottom of this incredibly annoying problem.

For starters, I think the problem is complex. It's not just a matter of breathing out on the left foot, which I do, or pushing in on my abdomen, which I've tried to no avail, or not eating or drinking x y minutes before running. I am really not sure what contributes to it, but I think it's multiple things and there are potentially multiple causes. So, I am going to start by describing my general history with the stitch. I think there's got to be some clues about why this happens to me in there.

My History with the Stitch

Every once in a while I go through a stitchy period. Back in 2004 when I started running I occasionally got a stitch. I remember a few months after starting up I was running on the treadmill and one came on. I tried to ignore it and keep going. I made it maybe another mile and quit. The next day my side still hurt. So, the next time I got one on the treadmill I immediately jumped off and headed for the elliptical to avoid having my side hurt for a couple of days. The problem at this point was to the level of a very occasional annoyance.

The status of the problem did not change much until I moved to New York in August of 2005. I suddenly had a lot of free time during day light hours as a student so I took the opportunity to start running longer than I ever had before. However, I soon realized that any time I went over 9 miles or so I'd develop a stitch. I thought maybe it was a dehydration problem or something and tried to drink more, but it really didn't help. I only managed about 4 or 5 longer runs like this before getting injured so I never really worked out the kinks of the problem.

I was rebuilding my base for most of the late fall of 2005 through the beginning of 2006. In late January 2006 I started training for my first half marathon. I did track workouts on a track along the East River or workouts on the resevoir path and long runs on the Central Park bridle path. I was stitchy quite often during this time. In my running log I often noted "no stitch!" When I remarked about a particularly bad stitch, I also read things like "exam stress is getting to me" or "feeling really homesick." The stitches tended to be during the ends of long runs or during workouts. Hmmm. Could it be life stress compounded by hard running stress? I moved back home at the beginning of May and ran the half marathon that same weekend. I got a stitch at mile 10 and managed to work it out and still finish a little over a minute under my goal of 1:40.

After moving back home and starting to train for a full marathon, the stitchiness seems to have improved. There's no mention of stitchiness in my running log other than the half marathon in May, June or July of 2006. I recall getting one a few times on an easy run in the evenings on the trails, but I also recall having stressful conversations with mrp about stuff at the park before running too. I know I was still stressed out that summer because I was living with my parents and mrp was living with his parents as we house hunted. It sucked. But, the problem was definitely better than it had been in New York, that is for sure.

Now here's where things get a little weird. In July mrp and I closed on our house. We would go over there on the weekends to work on getting it ready for our move in. One Sunday afternoon was particularly sunny and wonderful and I found myself cartwheeling in the back yard. Here's a tip: if you're over 30, think before doing gymnastics. OUCH! I stretched my side out good and it hurt. I was worried about it, but the pain subsided pretty quickly, so maybe it was no big deal. But then a few days later I caught a cold and a few days after that I started noticing that my side hurt. This is the same side where I get stitches and the same side I hurt doing the cartwheel. I chalked it up to the cartwheel. I didn't even realize it really but the pain kept getting worse and I could no longer sleep on my right side. After sitting for a while I would wince when I stood up. Hmm. One Saturday morning it felt like I was getting stabbed. But I would not be deterred. I suited up to go for a run, but came home after one mile sobbing it hurt so bad. I ended up being diagnosed with pleurisy. It lingered for about 3 months after the diagnosis until it finally went away.

Meanwhile, I hardly ever felt stitchy. There is no mention of stitches in my log from pleurisy diagnosis to my first marathon. And the marathon came and went with no stitches. In fact the next mention of a stitch in my training log is March 31, 2oo7. I got stitchy during miles 13 and 14 of my last long run before Boston. Four days later I got stitchy in the middle of a 3 x miles at marathon pace workout. The next week I again got a stitch in my marathon pace workout. And then shockingly, a week later I battled a stitch from mile 6 to the finish of the Boston marathon. Hmm. Me thinks someone got a little worked up about the marathon!

After Boston, during my Columbus 2007 build-up, stitchiness was almost exclusively relegated to the cool down after a hard run in very hot humid weather. Basically, my abs cramp up when I get dehydrated. The first log entry mentioning a stitch in any other circumstance is a workout on 10/10/07. I did a half-marathon paced wave workout and got stitchy over the second half. It was windy and so I chalked it up to that. I know I had at least one more before Columbus but I was afraid to ackowledge it for fear of making it into a big deal and worrying about it. And of course, I ended with a nasty one at mile 19.5 in Columbus.

Since Columbus, I felt stitchy towards the end of the five mile cross country race I ran in November and over the last 1200 meters of Club Nationals. However, I figured that was from running in muck and having to use my upper body much more than I'm used to. Since the New Year, I've been stitchy a couple of times on a couple of windy runs and of course over the past weekend in New York when I had very little sleep and was under stress from traveling. This past weekend I noticed my back felt stiff, my posture felt off, and my breathing felt weird. I had very little sleep too. Hmm.

So, from all of this I think the common thread is stress. I am wondering if maybe I'm one of those people who carries the tension in my back, which messes up my posture, which in turn messes up my diaphragm. Something to think about, anyway.

Monday, February 04, 2008

How I Came into the Picture

I should have taken a picture too. I have been bad with taking pictures lately, after years of being the obnoxious person taking pictures of everything. I think it has something to do with camera phones and digital cameras--I was happier with my manual Canon AE1 and then my antiquated advantix Canon Elph. I am totally going to be one of those old ladies who complains about new fangled stuff (if I'm not already).

I flew to New York on Friday afternoon to visit my sister for the first time since she moved there from New Orleans just after the wedding. It was also the first time I have been back since I moved back to Cleveland from New York almost two years ago now. I wanted to go check out her place and lend a little moral support. Specifically, I wanted to hook her up with a couple of my close friends in New York to expand her network and to get out and do some things together that she might not do on her own. And of course, I had a few things I wanted to squeeze in here or there for my own personal amusement.

I got in late on Friday and by the time we made it across Prospect Park to my auntie's for take-out, it was almost 10 PM. After eating and talking a while we didn't get back to my sister's cute little apartment until 1:15 AM and being a very light sleeper I was screwed by one of her neighbors who thought nothing of hanging blinds using a hammer on brick at 2:00 AM and then her upstairs neighbor thinking nothing of playing R&B music at 6:00AM. So, needless to say, I did not get much sleep! But, I decided to get up as soon as it was light out and I brewed up some coffee. I drank a little, woke up and headed up a few blocks to Prospect Park.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining there was a chilly breeze, but it was still warm enough, in the high 30's or so, for shorts. I was never a Brooklyn person. When I lived in NY the first time in my early 20's, I lived in Manhattan when I was in school and then in Astoria, Queens after I dropped out. I have never been to Prospect Park, let alone run in it. So, it was such a lovely surprise when I did two days ago. There is a 3+ mile road loop with rolling hills and lovely scenery: a lake, a meadow, a zoo, etc. As I crested the biggest hill and came around a bend I spotted my auntie walking her wippet. After a brief hug and chat I continued on. I started to feel stitchy as I headed down a hill, but I made every effort to forget about it. By the time I crested the big hill a second time, I had forgotten about it and honestly, I think it was one of the best runs I've had in a while. I felt really good and wished I could go for a third loop. But instead I called it a morning and headed back to my sister's apartment.

Then it was time for brunch with the only high school friend I've kept in touch with. We met at a place called Tom's Restaurant in Prospect Heights. If you're ever in the neighborhood, I highly recommend it. The banana walnut pancakes were divine! My high school friend and my sister actually have a lot in common so I think this might be a good connection for her. After brunch, my sister had to go to bellydancing class so I decided to wander around my old neighborhood in the Village. I walked by my old apartment and through Washington Square Park and then down to SOHO where I blew money on trendy clothes that I will probably hardly ever wear. Although I like a trip through memory lane every now and then, these little sojourns remind me how much I love my mrpy life in our house in the orchard.

It was early afternoon now, siesta time for me usually. You know, the part of the afternoon when if you don't have any coffee you catch yourself staring aimlessly into space and basically productivity is flushed down the toilet. Well, this was pretty much the case and I was dead tired and I'm sure my sister was too. Normally, I think we'd have bitten each others' heads off by now, but we weren't like that all. We headed uptown to get race packets for the 4 mile race we were planning to run on Sunday morning, grabbed a Jamba Juice and headed back to her Brooklyn nook.

We caught cat naps and recharged a bit and then headed out for a treck to Greenpoint to meet one of my bestest friends of all time. This is my fabulous friend. He's an interior designer and hangs out with other fabulous types. These days, I can fake it well enough from time to time to fit in but I am so not fabulous like that anymore. When we arrived two of his friends were there before heading off to pre-dinner cocktails at Bar 89 and then a fabulous dinner at the Mercer Kitchen. Needless to say I felt decidedly unfabulous, so sleep-deprived and wearing my normal everyday jeans and my dead Mizuno Elixers. I did have fabulous gold peep-toes in my purse, but honestly, unless someone put a gun to my head I was not putting them on. And my poor sister. My friend and his friends are super nice, but they care about things that I don't care about anymore and things my sister never really cared about. I'm not sure she'd be jumping on the fabulous bandwagon and calling them to hang out anytime soon. But that's ok. The fabulous friends of my friend left and the three of us went low key and headed for Enid's for a bite to eat. We had so much fun reminiscing about the good old days when he was a wanna-be fabulous person and I was too and we'd get dressed up in what we now know are ridiculous outfits and dance the night away. And he and my sister made plans to check out The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, so missions accomplished!

Then we schlepped through Brooklyn on the cross-town train and back again to the Brooklyn nook, where thankfully all neighbors behaved and I might have actually had a solid 6 hours of restful sleep. And this is what all you faithful bloggers are going to dig. We hit the subway and made our way to Central Park where I fumbled around looking for Chelle. I called her up and she told me she had just thrown a football in the football toss (I'll let her tell you how far) and to meet her over there. So we made it and there she was in her flourescent yellow red-headed glory. And as weird as I once thought meeting people on the internet was, it felt like we were old friends as we said goodbye to my sister and headed off for a warm-up around the park. It's funny. When you bond with someone over the internet there are a lot of holes in your notion of that person that are filled in when you meet.

We made our way to the start and I squeezed in with the other flourescent yellow people as an honorary member of the team. These New York races are insanely crowded. The gun went off and I felt like I was back in Boston walking to the starting line in a sea of people, even up in the 6:00 pace area! I couldn't get a good rhythm. I started to pick it up and then bam, behind some guy running 7:00 pace. Annoying! Finally, about a 1/2 mile into it just as we came to the one substantial uphill of the course things thinned out and I picked it up. My first mile was 6:26, which in retrospect was about as good as it was going to get. I felt compelled to pick up the pace. I felt really good actually. But the stitch started to form. I have never had one impact my performance in a short race.

Until yesterday. Within seconds it was a full on nasty stitch. The ouchiest of them all preventing me from keeping my back straight or from breathing properly and it killed! So, I stopped. What could I do? I pulled off to the side and Chelle passed me and I wasn't sad she passed me, I was sad I wasn't out there running with her. But at the same time. What could I do? I thought about just cutting through the park to the finish and then I thought about waiting for my sister but then I thought why not just get the miles in. So after some time pondering and kneading and stretching I jumped back in the race with the idea to just run it in, but the stitch started to ease up and I figured why not make it a tempo and I took back off passing mobs of people all the way (which was actually super fun!). I came to the three mile mark at 21:38 on the race clock and figured I would push myself to break 28:00, so I did running the last mile about 6:17.

The funniest thing is that although I was disappointed, I felt more like "eh, so what. On to the next one." That is weird for me, but it's actually so much nicer feeling than beating myself up about it. Imagine that! Sure, stitches are the most frustrating, even embarrassing problem I've had in my running life, but I have accepted them as such. I have a stitchiness problem! I can admit it! Now I can move on and deal with it. Yeah!

Anyway, I saw Chelle after the finish line. It would have been so nice to finish close together and high-five, but maybe it's good to have something to look forward to another day. But instead we got to exchange our different reports as we walked back to get our gear. We changed and headed off for a cool down and then met up with my sister and then the three of us headed for brunch. We talked and talked and annoyed our waiter who was more interested in table turn-over than our ex-boyfriend experiences. And finally we made our way back out to the winter sunshine, where my sister snapped the picture on Chelle's camera.