Friday, May 30, 2008

Peanut Odds and Ends

* Peanut is more than a third of the way through her (his?) stay in the peanut shell. We've reached the second trimester! And just like it was supposed to happen, a few days after we reached the 13 week mark I started to feel MUCH better. The constant nausea abated and I could go on 8 hours sleep for an entire day and not feel like dying by 8:00PM! It was glorious!

So, of course I milked it! I ran 36 miles last week. I ran a race (and came in 8th in my age group out of 82 despite the 8:14 average pace, which is crazy to me!) I did chores I haven't done in weeks. I did yard work, even! By Sunday night, though, I was pooped. Peanut let's me have it when I over do it, that's for sure. The nausea comes back. I get cranky and tired. It stinks. I am learning about happy mediums. I'll get there!

In other good news, I am not afraid to run any more (obviously?). I feel great out there most days now. I can easily go 6 miles at a time and even run under 9:00 pace very comfortably. I have a nice round pregnant belly, but it's not so big that it impacts my running really in any way. It's nice! And I haven't gotten any scolding or anything while I'm out there yet. I'm sure I'll hear from someone how I am ruining my child's life because I'm not sitting on my ass eating bon bons and watching soap operas all day. Although, on Monday mrp and I caught Days of Our Lives while were eating lunch and it was gloriously fun to watch. Oh to have a tivo. Maybe after Peanut's born I can get a dvr and watch Days of Our Lives while I run on the treadmill in the basement. I guess we need to get a treadmill too.

Oh, and about a week and a half ago mrp and I saw peanut on the ultrasound again. But this time peanut has a little face with a button nose and a cute little chin and the sweetest tiniest buddha belly we've ever seen. And the real kicker, is that peanut is one hell of a kicker! Peanut was doing dolphin kicks seemingly to scoot away from the ultrasound. And peanut was punching his/her little fists too. I don't think peanut digs the ultrasound. Feisty little guy (girl?)

* And Stefano says, "Cheers to feisty peanut!"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Wonder if I Won the Pregnant Woman's Division

I ran a race this morning. I have been missing racing something fierce (which is great considering I was becoming more and more anxious and stressed about my races before the pregnancy). I met my buddy Daisy in the quaint little town of Chagrin Falls for the 5.25 hilly mile Blossom Time Run. I wanted to run 8:00 pace. That's a bit faster than I've been running the past few months, but hopefully not pushing too hard.

I got to the starting line and there was a mob scene. This race is huge! I finally found Daisy with just a few minutes to spare and we headed toward the middle of the starting mob. When the gun went off we slowly made our way to the start and then proceeded to just hang in the slow mob for the first mile. I am more worried about tripping over someone right now than running a fast time, so that was fine by me! Our first mile was a blistering 9:30 give or take a few seconds. By the middle of the second mile the crowd seemed to thin out and we were able to pick it up and start passing loads of people. Our second mile was around 8:20.

By the third mile were holding a sub-8:00 pace pretty steady and still talking and feeling good. Near the end of this mile we had a lesson in why the USATF banned headphones in its races. Since the second mile Daisy and I had passed dozens of people. We were probably cruising about :30 faster than the speed of traffic generally. And like I said, I wasn't going to be taking any risks to pass anyone. So, we passed a guy on either side who I didn't even notice until he barked, "Way to cut me off, jerks!" We turned and looked at him confusedly about 8 feet behind us (hardly cutoff). As we turned around he said, "If you're going to pass me at least sprint!" We turned around again and this time I said, "Dude, it's a race." And then as I turned back and Daisy and I were shrugging he said, "Fatass!" That was it. I turned around and as all the people around him looked at him like he had three heads I said, "I'm three months pregnant!" But he didn't fail to yell back. "I can't hear you. I'm wearing headphones!" he screamed Haha. Daisy and I were shocked yet pretty entertained by that. It appears he thought he was muttering under his breath but with those headphones on he was actually screaming! And out of the three of us, there was only one real fat ass and it wasn't me or Daisy! Anyway, like I said we picked the pace up a bit after that and we could hear him coughing and wheezing in the background. It's sad that for some men there's nothing worse than being beat by a woman other than being beat by a pregnant woman (running at a conversational pace as he's sucking wind). Sad to say, I hope he's one of those men!

So we kept up about a 7:4x pace until the last .25 miles. I couldn't help myself. It's been more than 3 months since I ran anything faster than 9:00 miles! I said, "Come on Daisy, let's push it!" and I took off probably at 7:00 pace, but what felt like 5:30 pace! I passed dozens of people and it was really fun. I finally made it to the chute with Daisy right behind me and my first race with Peanut in the bag and a new 5.25 mile pr of 43:15 from the gun. And E came in 5th and won an overall award of $$! Yeah, E! I knew she could do it!

So, it was nice to run a race to enjoy it and have fun and for no other reason. I think post-peanut I am going to be a totally different runner than I was before.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Makes a Good Marathon? Part III

I just got off the phone with the race director of the Cleveland Marathon. We had a very nice chat and I look forward to more in the future. I can definitely say he is committed to making the Cleveland Marathon a great race and I hope to work with him to do so.

Because the future looks bright, I'd like to make this post about the sunny side of the Cleveland Marathon: the good things about the race as is and the things about Cleveland that lay the foundation for a world class event.

1. History. In 1991 I ran the 10k portion of the Revco as it was called back then. It was my first road race. I ran in fifty some minutes. I don't really even remember. But I still have the t-shirt and I treasure it in all it's threadbare glory. I ran it because one of my aunt's was running the full Revco Cleveland Marathon and my other was running the 10k. So I tagged along. And right then I always knew that was something I wanted to do. Sure, it would take me 13 years to get to a place in life where I could put in the consistent training to become a marathoner. But the Revco planted the seed way back when. And I know I'm not alone. So many people in this city have run this race at some point or know someone close who has. It's Cleveland's race. For those people that let their running shoes collect dust for a few years, it's the goal that gets them to dust them off and get back out there. It's Cleveland.

2. The Course. While I still maintain having miles 19-24 headed Westbound along the lake is not the best idea, the course is generally flat and has some wonderful scenery, particularly on the more desolate second half of the course. Once it hits University Circle, the course winds through the beautiful cultural gardens of Roosevelt Park along MLK Boulevard and then jogs along the lake front. The photo above is of my friend E last year. Put photos like that on the first page of the website! That would sell some entries! Looks so pleasant, doesn't it? It's just too bad about the headwinds.

3. Accessibility. Who doesn't love walking to the starting line from your hotel 5 minutes before the gun? And the price is much cheaper than the big city marathons. I believe the full was at most $65 to enter. That's $40 cheaper than Chicago! Also, it's small enough that friends and family can come to cheer you on virtually anywhere along the course. Many people, like roots, bring their bikes and check out many spots. You can even run someone in and it's not a big deal. I like that very much about the race.

4. Running Community. As I've said before, Cleveland has a thriving running community for a post-industrial city with a long winter. It always amazes me. There are several well-established running clubs in the area: Northeast Running Club, Southeast Running Club (who has a gorgeous president by the way!), Cleveland West Road Runners, and two Second Sole running groups. There are a variety of running stores and many of these have racing teams attached: Vertical Runner, Second Sole with a few locations, Achilles Running Shop, Fleet Feet. Our runners run the gambit. We have some of the country's top marathoners as well as the guy who just dusted his shoes off this morning. There's a huge group of people ready to run sitting right outside the race's front door!

5. Everybody Loves a Comeback. You've all heard it. Say it with me now, "Cleveland's the Mistake on the Lake." Or you've asked the question, "Wasn't that the place where the river caught on fire?" Yeah, we've got a bad reputation. And honestly, the people here kind of take it to heart letting pessimism wash over them. The rampant ho-hum fatalism is striking, truly. But with expectations so low, how can we not succeed?! People are curious about this place and whether it's possible for anything (especially sports related) to go right here. Let's show them it can happen! Let's make a great race on the lake. I, for one, am very hopeful.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Birthdays and Rainy Marathons

My birthday was on Sunday. To celebrate the occasion I picked up my mom at 7:00 AM and we drove 45 minutes to stand in the cool rain and cheer on marathoners and half-marathoners at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. I knew of just a few people running, but I still wanted to go check things out. I wanted to see who showed up as well as cheer on the few I knew would be there. I was disappointed that very few of our areas best runners showed up. I saw one former teammate running the half and that's about it. I did get to cheer on my running buddy Daisy, so at least that was nice. She looked good and was right where she should be at 11 miles. I had every intention of watching the runners go by at 11 miles and then heading over to around mile 24 to watch the end of the marathon, but since after standing in that cold rain for an hour my pregnant bladder had to pee and peanut started to get hungry. The only person I'd really miss seeing was Daisy and I knew she'd understand and it just wasn't worth waiting another hour or so. So my mom and I continued to cheer until the 5 hour pace group went by and then we headed off for brunch and the rest of our day.

And speaking of the marathon, someone e-mailed Jack Staph, the race director, my first post about the Cleveland Marathon and he was so kind to get in touch via e-mail. We're going to talk sometime this week. I really look forward to it and I hope to be able to join a committee or do something to help make the Cleveland Marathon into the race it could be. I can't wait!

In other news, I'm huge. I'm only 3 months pregnant, but look at me on Saturday night after mrp took me to a wonderful dinner. Craziness. I am seriously scared of what I'll look like in 5-6 months!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Makes a Good Marathon? Part II

I'm back with more on the Cleveland Marathon. In my last post I forgot to mention what happened last year. Along with a full marathon, Cleveland includes a half and a 10k. Way back when this 10k was one of the premier road 10ks in the US. In fact, the world road racing record was set here in 1996. Back then the 10k course was pancake flat. That course was changed sometime after 2000 (the last time I ran that course) around when the full marathon course changed to incorporate more of the city. Anyway, last year the fastest 10k runners were lead off course somehow. Kenyans and Ohio's best runners ran up to 2.5 extra miles through the desolate and deserted flats before finally making it back on track. What a mess! The race director offered the approximately 70 runners who were lead astray free entry into this years race and only about 20 accepted.

The Plain Dealer had another article about the marathon yesterday. Apparently, the course has been changed due to city demands as well as allegedly to prevent last year's 10k debacle from happening again. Besides that, the race director claims these changes will make all three races faster. I looked at the 10k course and it looks like they changed it back almost to the original course, except they kept the loop around Brown's Stadium which then adds a long hill between 3.5 and 4.5 miles. I don't know why every downtown race must include this in its route. The article mentions the world road 10k record was set on the former course but that is totally inaccurate. The world record was set on the original course started on Euclid outside Cleveland State, went West for a few blocks and then went out east to about E45th St and then turned around. It had many fewer turns and was virtually a pancake. THAT was a blazing fast course. The new course with the Brown's Stadium nonsense is not. Faster than the last few years, yes (particularly last year when the fastest people were lead off course for up to 2.5 miles!) But still not the lightning fast course that drew the top talent back in the day.

As for the half and the full, I highly doubt changing miles 7-12 from the old portion of the course that wasn't all that bad to begin with is going to make a huge difference in the full marathon. There used to be a slight climb between miles 9 and 10 that was a bit challenging, particularly in the half. Changing from the longer and less steep Carnegie Bridge to the shorter steeper Detroit Bridge probably is a wash. In the half there would be less distance to cover once you hit the downhill on the bridge, so picking up the pace for this year's half would come later in the race probably. Not a huge deal, but something to consider when half-marathoners are planning a race strategy.

Again, I don't think these changes will substantially effect the marathoners who really get it miles 19-24. Four miles very possibly straight into a Lake Erie headwind, followed by the same obnoxious hill after Brown's Stadium that the 10k runners have to deal with. That sucks. A marathon in Cleveland needs to finish heading West to East and preferably away from the lake to avoid that nasty wind. It would also help to not have the biggest hill between miles 23 and 24. There has to be a way to balance the demands of a scenic course with a runner-friendly course.

I also read the race director will be adding more bands. It sounds like the bulk of that is at the finish--who cares! It's really needed along the course, particularly along MLK Blvd and the shoreway and along the annoying twists through downtown over the final few miles when the marathoners are tired and there's virtually no one there to cheer them on.

Year after year I hear the current race director on the defensive. He makes changes to the course, tries to accomodate walkers, etc, adds a half-marathon, puts a guitar on the medals, adds a couple of bands at the start, basically minor changes in his attempts to fix fundamental problems. I don't know the history of his involvement in the marathon and frankly I have never heard of his involvement in the Cleveland running scene beyond this race. I don't know how things were handled in the past and whether past leadership was any better. However, I do know that this could be Ohio's best marathon by far and it's not. I also know that there are a lot of people like me who would love to be engaged in a conversation on how to get our marathon back on top. Jack Staph, if you read this, I'd love to talk.

As always, if you have any suggestions for making Cleveland's marathon, half-marathon, and 10k a better race or generally what makes a great marathon event please leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Makes a Good Marathon?

On Monday after running a whopping 3 miles at a blistering 9:30 pace on the treadmill I walked over to the water cooler and got a drink. I noticed the newspaper sitting on the counter because there was a photo of runners. I picked up the paper and proceeded to read this article while I stretched. I was excited. I have often thought long and hard why Cleveland's marathon pales in the shadow of Ohio's other bigger marathons: Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati's Flying Pig.

As I read the article I became disappointed. Did this reporter ask one single competitive runner in Northeast Ohio what they thought? It's not hard to find us. For a front page article, this thing stinks. It's completely uninformative and does nothing to illuminate why Cleveland's marathon relatively stinks. So, let me (and you!) pick up the slack.

What makes a good marathon to me, you ask? Well, first I look for a well-timed event that fits into my training schedule. There aren't very many good spring marathons, especially later in the spring so I think Cleveland has that well covered.

The second thing I look at is an elevation and course chart. I am not opposed to a challenging course, by any stretch, but the course is a large factor in my decision making process. What Cleveland has done with it's course is to place miles 20-24 directly into a lakefront headwind. This is a huge turn-off to me. I don't do well with late race headwinds. Otherwise, the course isn't too hilly, but just hilly enough.

The third thing I look for in a marathon is buzz. Are people excited about the event? Will there be people cheering? Is the event welcoming to me? Will I have fun? Here's where I think Cleveland really falls short. Take a look at the Cleveland Marathon website. Does that look like a fun time to you? Can you sort through all that junky clutter and find what you're looking for? Does it appear welcoming and exciting? It strikes me as some death metal band's homepage. It's cluttered, confusing, scary, and unwelcoming. I don't go there and think, "whoa! That looks like a well-organized, fun race." I think, "who the hell designed this?!"

Additionally, the race does nothing to promote Cleveland's best athletes. For the size of this city, we have some damn good runners. We want to be welcomed and have a place to show off what a great running town Cleveland is. Sure, the race offers decent prize money but there is no other effort to get the good runners there. In fact, much of the race director's efforts are spent trying to get more walkers and the like to the event. The walkers and slower runners come when the dedicated competitive runners are excited about the event. Look at Chicago. It appeals to the slowest sloggers and the elitest elites. Why? Great course, great buzz, and lots of fun.

Also, the race director does not engage the greater non-running population. There are virtually no spectators beyond the first half. Get the city excited! Contact churches and schools ask for volunteer support. Imagine 20 elementary school classes or church groups lining miles 16-20 cheering and screaming and high fiving. Imagine cheerleading squads cheering and church choirs singing at mile markers and high school bands playing classic rock tunes. It's great for the race and runners and it's great for the congregations and schools trying to promote fitness and health. Those little kids on the sidelines today are your paying entrants tomorrow. Encourage tail-gating in front lawns along the course. Publicize, for heaven's sake. Get the newspapers involved. Make it fun.

I could go on, but that's a good start. What do you think makes a good marathon? If you're familiar with Cleveland's what do you think it needs to do to improve?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Peanut Race

* I miss running! Between the accident, the cold, and the visit with my cousin I have run once so far in May! And of course I haven't raced in forever and all my friends are out there having fun and trying for prs. That's it! I am making running a higher priority in my life again. With the second trimester coming up fast and the nice summer weather, there's no reason I can't get out there 5 days a week. So, all my friends looking for a nice slow run with a pregnant chick, I'm you're woman! Call me, k? E-mail's fine too.

And you know what. I'm going to jump into some races. I don't care that I can't really race. I miss it and I miss my friends and even my running acquaintances. I am going to run the race that runs right by my grandparents' condo because it's fun to run by them in their lawn chairs, and I'm going to run my favorite race of all time too. I might even run other races. If you're planning to run a fun race 10k or shorter, let me know and I'll be there! I can't stand this running isolation anymore.

And as I write this I am experiencing a nasty recurrence of morning sickness. I even threw up yesterday! I just overdid it with my cousin. After the stress of the accident, then the nasty cold, I was already a little weak. Then add in the (relative for me) nonstop fun and excitement I was a mess all day yesterday and still feeling pretty bad today. Peanut definitely tells me when I push it too far.

Sorry, peanut. I promise I won't shortchange you of your time laying on the couch watching tv and early bedtimes this week. Hopefully you'll forgive my transgressions soon so I can do all that running I want to do. It's good for you too, you know.

*Too bad this one was so far away and last month!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Baby's Got Beat

We did hear Peanut's precious little heart beat! It was amazing! My cousin from Slovenia is here so I'm busy having fun with her. I'll be back and blogging next week!

Thanks again everyone for your kind words of support!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Ok God. I Get It.

Now I'm sick. Yuck. I have a horrid head cold. It started on Saturday afternoon. I laid down for a few minutes while I waited for my mom to drop something off. I figured I'd get up when she got here. Well, I knew something was up when I heard her talking to mrp in the kitchen but was unable to get up. When I finally woke up 2 hours later I had a wicked sore throat. But I still wanted to go to a party we were invited to at one of my favorite restaurants. So I went out and bought a present for the guest of honor, came home and got ready and then just sat on the couch defeated. Nope. All the denial in the world wasn't going to help me. I was sick. No party for me. Instead mrp and I went to the Wendy's drive thru for dinner. Although I really like baked potatoes they're no substitute for Brazilian food. Wa.

And now I'm sitting in my kitchen breathing out of my mouth and wearing my fuzzy pink bath robe. It's a beautiful day outside. My wonderful cousin from Slovenia is over at my grandparents' house probably bored to tears and here I am. A useless blob, again. Oh well. If I learned anything the last few days is to appreciate the little things like healthy peanuts and mrps and mes. As long as I have those the rest isn't so bad. And sometimes, life demands we slow down and take care of ourselves. I got that message loud and clear. I'm heading back to the couch now!

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully supportive comments about the accident. It really was petrifying and I needed them all, believe me!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Peanut Needs a Crash Helmet

Mrp and I commute to work together since we work at the same company. It's pretty nice especially now with the astronomical gas prices. We live about 25 miles east of downtown, so we really save a lot in doing this. Plus it's nice to have some extra time together. We often have great talks on our commutes or one of us can catch a nice little nap while the other drives. Even so, we've started to consider taking a commuter bus. Gas is just getting so expensive and combined with parking the $10/day it would cost us to take the bus seems more and more like a bargain. We decided to try it out on Monday.

So, yesterday during our last commute downtown before at least temporarily switching to the bus, mrp and I were having a nice time speculating about other drivers' lives and such. We passed a Chipotle billboard that made me feel nauseous and then there was a huge fluorescent green billboard advertising cheap and quick paternity tests. That provided a good laugh and then all of a sudden the traffic in front of us stopped. Mrp slammed on the brakes and I thought for sure we were going to hit the car in front of us, but when the abs engaged and we stopped short of her bumper we let out a collective phew and then WHAM! We got smacked from behind and then slammed into the woman in front of us. We were #2 in a 5 car pile-up.

Our necks lurched and I immediately thought, "Peanut!" But the lower belt at no time pulled on my belly, so there was no direct trauma to peanut. I was still very worried though. Could the mild trauma to my body be enough to hurt peanut? My instincts said that although it was scary and I should definitely talk to a paramedic, peanut would be ok cushioned in his/her little amniotic fluid bubble. Mrp said peanut probably was in there saying, "Weee! Do it again, mommy!" I hope.

As we sat there for a minute trying to make sense of everything and collect ourselves, the woman who hit us came over to our car. She was crying and shaking hysterically. "Are you guys ok?" she stammered? "I'm so sorry!" We tried to calm her down and then she looked and me and said, "Salty One?" And I said, "M.M.?" She's an old friend I haven't seen in years! So weird! It actually helped me to relax and I kicked into take charge mode and I came out of the car and hugged her and tried to make her feel better. "These things happen," I said. "It's all going to be ok."

Later after the cops moved us off the highway and onto an offramp, I hooked up with the paramedics. I went into the ambulance and they said all they could do was check my vitals. If my vitals were ok and there was no direct trauma to my belly then peanut was probably fine. They said I could go to the hospital to get an ultrasound. It was tempting to go see peanut again, to assuage my fears. But we have a prenatal appointment on Wednesday as it is and I might as well use this opportunity to trust my instincts and just wait until then to hear peanut's heartbeat. Oh, I cannot wait to hear that heartbeat!

I was ok most of the day. By some miracle our car was drivable, although very hoopty-ish. We decided to just stay at home for the day. I needed to relax and take it easy after that. I just did. I felt ok most of the day but by the evening I started to worry about peanut again. I talked to my aunt who is a doctor and she said peanut's most likely fine too and mrp reassured me, but it's still so hard. I really need to learn to deal with this worrying now or else I'm going to be a mess for 18+ years. On the brightside, running seems like nothing to worry about and that bus seems even cheaper now!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pregnant, Running, and Worried

My midwife says I can keep on running and that it will help me stay strong for labor and to get back into pre-pregnancy shape right quick. Paula Radcliffe, well we all know about her. So, after feeling all comfy with the idea that running is good for peanut, I keep stumbling across this study. And to make matters worse, accompanying the linked article are comments from people claiming that running made them miscarry! Gah! Just when I was beginning to feel more secure.

I know the scary study is about intense exercise. Running is always villianized in these situations. If a woman who runs is having trouble getting pregnant, running has to be the reason why. If a woman who runs miscarries, running has to be the reason why. If intense exericse is to blame, that exercise must be running. Sure, running can be intense but it is not necessarily intense. If I was running the same volume and intensity I was last summer and fall, yeah I can see where there'd be a problem.

But here's what I've been doing:

4 runs per week varying in distance from 4-7 miles at slower than 9:00 pace. I run with people often and when I do so I know I'm ok because I'm talking the whole time. When I run alone and I'm concerned I'm running too hard I force myself to take walk breaks for a minute or so every so often to check my heart rate.

This week I was thinking about running 5 or even 6 days considering I've already run 3 short runs this week. But now I'm worried. And this is annoying because I believe that what I'm doing is good for me and peanut, yet in the back of my mind that stupid study has me worried I could hurt, even kill peanut by the very thing that I feel I'm doing to make peanut healthy and strong. Deep down I know I can trust my instincts and that anything that happens to peanut is not running related, but it's hard to feel comfortable running with this nagging fear. And I know there is always going to be something to worry about with a peanut in our lives. So, even with the worry in the back of my mind I trust myself and I will keep on running, just slowly, not very far, and definitely not intensely.

I suppose this kinds of mental compromise is just one of those things I'll have to get used to now that I'm a parent.

It's about a month after I posted this and this post gets a lot of hits from google for people looking up "running and pregnancy." I want everyone to know that since this post (it's been almost 6 weeks) I have been running almost every day between 5 and 8 miles and feeling great. I have the blessing from my midwife and so far our little peanut is doing great. The benefits of running through pregnancy are great as long as you are in shape, low risk, and have the blessing of your doctor/midwife. Just be smart about it--be extra cautious about dehydration and overdoing it in general--relax and have fun! Click here to read about where I am now with pregnancy and running.