Friday, April 29, 2011

Oh my aching hip!

It’s a Friday night and I’m sitting in the recliner, icing my hip, reflecting on a (nearly) successful week.  After starting off the month with record mileage, I’ve been feeling pretty confident and looking forward to my next challenge.  I had eased up on my mileage a bit last week; my last “hoorah” before getting serious about training for my next half marathon on May 29.  But this week I wanted to be back in full force and accumulating a solid 25 miles this week.  The miserable weather from last weekend’s 5k was replaced with more seasonable temps, and it was nice to get out and enjoy the climate.  I was able to run five times this week, but sadly none of the runs had me feeling very energetic, and I’ve really started to doubt my level of fitness. 
Sunday was Easter.  I had every intention of doing my long-ish run of 8 miles, but I ran out of time and had to cut it short.  It was such a beautiful day and I enjoyed most of it with my horse, so by the time I headed out for my run I was already late for my Easter obligations.  So 8 miles turned into 4, but I was honestly quite tired from the previous day’s 5k race and my endless frolicking through the woods with my horse, so I was perfectly fine with shortening the run. 
Monday my legs were quite dead, and I certainly should have used it as a rest day.  But… all my pals were going running and I didn’t want to be left out (plus what else would I do with my lunch break…eat??) so I ran with Todd, Jaimee and Kerri out to the ice cream stand.  My legs were so heavy though and I told them from the start that I would be slow.  Sure enough, I spent the entire run trailing behind them and in some cases I was so far behind that they were out of sight.  In hindsight, I really should have taken Monday as a rest day.
Tuesday I forced myself to take a rest day.  So, naturally my legs felt totally fine and willing to run.  I settled for two 2 mile walks.
Wednesday we did Jaimee’s route.  This is the long route that we need to run at a quick pace in order to get back to work in time.  Kerri took control of that route, leading us from start to finish.  She seems to have cultivated this new surge of energy and she’s on fire, presumably due to her stellar 5k win over the weekend.  It was also unusually warm, with temperatures in the 80’s and a hot sun that just baked me over the hot pavement.  It probably wouldn’t have felt so severe if it hadn’t been 50 degrees cooler just a few days earlier when I was running.  Hopefully I’ll get accustomed to this warmer weather soon.
Thursday only Jaimee and I ran, and since Jaimee was tired from her 5k the night before, thankfully she was willing to run slow with me.  I’m really starting to feel like a slow poke, always running in the back of the pack and guiltily being thankful for my friend’s tired legs.  In any event, we decided to hit the trail again and did a long slow run along the Merrimack River.  This is the kind of run you have to do slow, at least on the river portion; otherwise a stray root might send you careening into the river.  This, as you will learn shortly, is not so farfetched in my world.  The route is fun, scenic, and easy.  It’s a great alternative and will probably be used frequently during the hot summer months because of its shade and breeze coming off the water. 
This brings me to today.  Working at home today, I was forced to run solo.  The good part about this, though, is that I can do a longer run since I don’t need such long shower time when working from home.  I had a route planned in my head that encompassed both trails and roads, and I expected it would be at least 5 miles.  This was important to me, because my total mileage for the month was 85-ish miles, and I really wanted to get to 90 miles for the month.  It’s really just an arbitrary number, but it’s the little things that motivate me.  So off I went, on my solo run, and two miles into it I ran into trouble.  On a downhill section of a trail, I tripped over a root and had to seriously scramble to avoid eating dirt.  I managed to recover, but it forced me to land extremely heavy on my right leg.  I had an immediate pain in my right hip socket area.  It didn’t seem too bad so I ran through it, although running uphill was a bit of a challenge.  By the end of my run I felt ok, but after three more hours of sitting at my desk, my hip stiffened up ferociously and by the end of the day I could barely walk.
So here I am: A Friday night, sitting in the recliner, soaked in Max Freeze, numb from 7 hours of ice on the hip, loaded up with Motrin and Microbrew.  I’m hoping that sleep works wonders tonight and that I wake up tomorrow pain free.  After all, tomorrow is the last day of the month and due to my shortened run today, I am at 89.78 miles for the month.  I don’t care if I’m on crutches tomorrow; I will run at least a quarter mile to make it to 90!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

SNETT race report - an unofficial/sort of/I think PR

I had tossed around the idea of jumping into a 5k today but wasn’t ready to fully commit due to the weather forecast.  (Freezing cold, buckets of rain ahead.  News anchor said: stay inside in your PJ's, it's gonna get ugly). Ultimately I talked myself into it for a few reasons:
1.       It’s been a while since I’ve done a 5k and I wanted to use it as a speed workout
2.       The race was to benefit the Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT), of which I am a huge fan and frequent user
3.       It was located on the former grounds of my company, where I worked for the first 13 years of my career before being relocated an hour north.
So, with those factors pushing me into the race, I texted Kerri and off we went to our old stomping grounds in Franklin, MA.  It was very hard to be cheery about this race, with the raw conditions and miserable forecast.  When we arrived at the race it was 38 degrees and raining, and it was downright uncomfortable.  We spotted an unusually long line at the registration booth, and that, unfortunately, was a sign of things to come.
Kerri and I stood in line shivering, teeth chattering, and jumping around in an effort to keep warm.  The line moved excruciatingly slowly and many of us started getting antsy, including a young man behind us who repeatedly expressed concern over his ability to properly warm up.  After an eternity we were registered, got a nifty t-shirt, and I unwillingly removed my winter coat to prepare for a warm up.  Kerri and I jogged around the parking lot to warm up anticipating a 9:00am start, but unfortunately the start was delayed by nearly 20 minutes, which made it very difficult to keep my muscles warm.  As we waited and hopped around in place, we checked out some of the other runners and spotted four “elite” men.  (Relatively speaking).  One of the four was the young man behind us in line, who seemed to be warming up just fine.  Another was a young man wearing a USA singlet, which caused me to repeatedly refer to him as “Team USA”, and also created this irresistible urge to chant, “USA! USA!”  Kerri was pretty sure the hypothermia reached my brain by this point. 
"There are so many other things I could be doing right now" (That's team USA in the Patriots hat)
Finally they said “Go!” and we went.  My plan was to start off at an 8:00 pace for the first two miles and then do the third mile in 7:30.  Of course, as usual, that plan got foiled because I started off too fast and logged the first mile in 7:20.  I backed off the pace a bit on the second mile, and then came back to finish strong in the third.  Overall I was pleased with my results and felt that I really put in a solid effort.
There's nothing wrong with your eyes.  It's just blurry cuz we're going sooo fast!
Back at the registration table, we viewed the awards and saw that the age group was 19-40 and they only placed the top two.  Knowing that there were four females ahead of me and pretty sure at least two of them were between 19 and 40, I knew I wasn’t in a position to place.  I was quite disappointed that there wasn’t a clock at the finish and no one told me my official time.  (It’s possible I just didn’t hear it over my panting).  My Garmin clocked me at 24:05 but I think I stopped it a couple seconds late, and my mother thought she overheard 23:something when I crossed.  After all the runners finished, I approached the registration table to see if I could get the results.  They said that they weren’t sophisticated enough to post the results online, and would only be announcing the winners at the race.  I was very irritated by this, since it’s a very reasonable expectation that all runners should be able to find out the basic details of their performance, including time, place, and pace.  The cold rain started to get heavier and we decided to head out before they announced the winners.  Mom was able to confirm that the winner was, in fact, the man behind me at the registration table.  (Thank God!)  Apparently his limited warm up was sufficient.  She believes Team USA came in third.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized one critical error we made: Kerri isn’t in my age group.  She probably actually won her age group, and we didn’t even realize it.  Unfortunately since they won’t be posting the results and since they didn’t bother recording the runners’ contact information, we may never know.  I truly hope that the race organizers learn from this year’s “1st Annual” event and listen to feedback so they can put on a better race next year.  The course itself was great, and in my opinion the race is for a very worthy cause.  My suggestions would be to start with a more efficient registration table, and hire someone to do the timing.  Tightening up some of these details could draw a bigger crowd of runners, and more runners means more money for the SNETT trail! 
Despite some of the organizational issues, I’m still quite glad I ran this race this morning.  It was the only part of the day that it wasn’t pouring, and if I hadn’t run this race I wouldn’t have run at all.  Plus, in reviewing my PR list it just occurred to me that I just beat my own PR by nearly 30 seconds!  So that’s a big win in my book.  After doing a very light week of running (only 14 miles this week before today), this was a great way to kick off my more intense training for the Great Hyannis half marathon on May 29.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Marathon race report - spectator edition

Today was the 115th running of the Boston Marathon, and marked the first time ever I went to a race just to watch.  The morning ritual was similar: set the alarm super early, hit snooze, hit snooze again, swear at the “Matty in the Morning” show that keeps waking me up, pack a backpack, etc.  That’s pretty much where the pre-race similarities end.  I didn’t have to think about what to eat (I didn’t eat anything), and I didn’t have the pre-race jitters.  Instead, like a tourist I had my bag full of goodies like a phone, camera, spending money, bottled water, apples, gloves, and other random incidentals. 
The starting line in Hopkinton is about 20 minutes tops from my house, but getting there on race day is a whole other animal.  Roads closed at 7:30am, but luckily I was able to park in a friend’s driveway within walking distance to the start.  With plenty of time to kill, Andrew and I leisurely walked around the town common scoping out prime viewing spots and perusing the vendor tents.  I felt a little foolish snapping pictures like a tourist since I drive through Hopkinton almost every single day, but I was caught up in the Boston fever. 
TVFR runner Gary Atlas and friends posing for a shot
We even split a fried dough.  (Now there’s something I would never do before a race!)  I put down the dough long enough to get a picture with the official race starter.  (This picture would have been way cooler if his hand, holding the gun, wasn't cut off in the shot). 
Moi with the race starter
There were news anchors broadcasting from the common, and a few runners lying in the sun trying to stay warm and limber.  Staying warm was a real challenge, with temperatures in the low 40’s and a strong gusty wind. 

WBZ-TV's David Wade conducting an interview on the common

It was an exciting day and there was plenty of hype leading up to the event, but it seemed weird to be on the other side of the fence.  I used it as an opportunity to scope out the runners and see what kind of gear they use.  To say the gear was varied would be a gross understatement.  We saw everything from a firefighter in full gear, to a gorilla, to a Neanderthal in nothing (and I mean nothing) but a loin cloth.  There was a Spiderman, a Sonic man, a man in a tutu, a Shaman, a girl dressed up like a hamburger, a man with bunny ears, a hula dancer, and a man juggling.  There were compression socks, Vibrams, arm sleeves (which I’m kind of in love with), and every form of fuel belt imaginable. 
One of the best parts of the day was seeing the elite runners so close.  Both the men and the women are so amazing, and they look more like machines than humans.  I took an opportunity to snap a few pictures as they warmed up right in front of us.

Ryan Hall warming up.  He went on to set a new American record!

Dick and Rick Hoyt - always the crowd favorite!

The other great moment was seeing Dick and Rick Hoyt pass by.  Dick is 70 years old, still recovering from a knee surgery, and is one of the most recognized figures of the Boston Marathon.

Elite Women

Elite Men

After the elites went through, the rest of the 27,000 runners filed through in three separate waves, and we were deep in our own little marathon of clapping. 
Endless sea of runners headed to Boston
I knew about a half dozen people that were running but it was nearly impossible to see anyone specific in such a thick sea of runners.  The only familiar face I saw was my pal Hiroshi, but he was on the other side of the road and out of earshot.  One thing was clear: the runners were thrilled to be a part of this race.  Thousands of runners passed by us with smiles and overwhelming excitement.  Many of them carried cameras and took pictures of their own as they ran down the course.  I could only hope for their sake that their excitement would carry them all the way through. 
A short time later, after all the runners had passed through the start line, I was back at home watching the first of the elites crossing the finish line.  It was a great experience seeing them on TV after I had just cheered them at the start of the race.  I have truly been bitten by the Boston bug, and I’m starting to seriously wonder if I should be adding this to an upcoming race calendar.  I think I’ll finish out this year’s races, wait for the Boston bug to die down, and see if the interest is still there.  Only time will tell.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A truly scenic adventure

After our fun run at work on Thursday, now suddenly I can’t get enough exploring different routes.  I had taken Friday and Saturday off of running, but this morning I was fully charged and ready to run.  When I go through a decision process as to which route to run, there are several factors to consider: How many miles do I want to run?  What are the weather and road conditions?  Is there a short cut if I want to head back early?  Is there an optional extra loop if I’m feeling frisky?  Do I feel like climbing that mammoth hill outside my driveway, or would I rather head downhill on the trails out back?  This morning I didn’t have time to run through the entire checklist because I rolled out of bed and laced right up.  I knew I had a busy day ahead with a long ride planned for my horse, so I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the run.  A couple critical things I knew: I wanted a decent 6-8 mile run, and I didn’t feel like climbing the mammoth hill. 
I dressed for a warm day since it was in the 50’s and it looked like the sun was trying to come out.  A nasty storm had blown through last night and the weather was still very unsettled with gusty winds.  At first I started to regret my choice of clothing because the wind really picked up and I got quite chilly.  Once I got to the dam, it was all I could do to keep my visor from blowing off.  Eventually I made my way across the dam and the wind subsided, and I started to warm up.  Although I still wasn’t convinced I wore the right clothes, I was very happy that I brought my camera.  Today ended up being a great scenic run!  For starters, I snapped a picture of the West Hill Dam, a frequent stop of mine for the famous “Damn Laps”.
West Hill Dam - home of the infamous Dam Laps

After crossing over the dam, I really didn’t have a plan.  I decided to just keep running and exploring some new roads.  The storm from last night had dumped several inches of rain, and there was evidence of it everywhere.  The trail that brought me to the dam was flooded and it was a challenge making my way through without getting wet.  The water roared through the dam’s spillway, and deep puddles and washouts lined the streets.  When I left for my run this morning I hadn’t even turned on the news, so I had no idea how much it had rained.  This was probably a good thing since, had I known, I probably would have talked myself out of such an adventurous run.
I continued down a street until I connected with another trail that runs along the Blackstone River.  The water was so strong and powerful, I couldn’t help but stop and take a couple more photos. 

Raging water!

This river trail was so scenic, I slowed to a jog to fully enjoy the view. 

I stopped to take a picture of River Bend Farm, a very picturesque part of town. 

River Bend Farm

This trail was so enjoyable to run on, I could have just run up and down it all day.  I had to take another picture of the trail and river, to give everyone just a glimpse of the amazing scenery I was lucky enough to see on my run. 

The river trail

Once I reached the end of the river trail I was back on roads, and ended up doing a big loop until I made my way back to the dam and eventually home.
This run was a real treat on so many levels.  I loved all of the new scenery, and the adventure of building a new route.  The combination of trails and roads was perfect, and it was surprisingly flat.  I know I won’t be able to use this route regularly for my long run because of its lack of hills, but it is a great way to accumulate decent miles (7.25) while mentally recharging.  It will also never be a fast route for me, since all my picture taking and leisurely jogging down the trail jacked my pace up to a 9:59 average.  But honestly, today… I wasn’t counting.

Friday, April 15, 2011

No Regrets!

They say you almost never regret going for a run that you really didn’t feel like doing, but you almost always regret skipping one.  Yesterday certainly challenged that philosophy for me.  A couple months ago in a post called Countdown to Hyannis, I described how I came to the conclusion that I should never drink Arrogant Bastard beers on a Wednesday night.  Apparently I need to re-read my blog on occasion to remind myself of the life lessons I’ve learned.  Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this little factoid until yesterday morning when once again I was feeling lousy after too good of a time the night before.  (Bastards!)
I spent the morning feeling dehydrated and overtired, and had a complete lack of energy because of an inadequate breakfast.  Todd, Jaimee and I headed out on the 3.5 mile loop and even though it’s probably my least favorite route, I was thankful for the short distance.  As soon as we headed out I knew I was going to have a tough run.  My legs felt like lead and my head throbbed with every stride.  To make matters even worse, the first mile of this run is straight downhill which means the last mile is straight uphill.  If I was struggling this much on the downhill, I knew it would only get worse on the way back.
About a mile and a half into the run, we came across a trail.  We had heard about the trail but couldn’t access it until the snow melted.  This was the first time we saw people on the trail so we decided to give it a try.  Part of me was skeptical because I just wasn’t in the mood to explore, but since I consider this to be a fairly boring loop, I welcomed the idea of new scenery.
We hopped onto the trail and immediately it was like we stepped into another world.  We left the boring industrial park behind us and trotted down a skinny, well packed trail alongside the Merrimack River.  It was so close to the river, in fact, that I worried one wrong step and I’d be plunging into some chilly water.  The trail was a blast as it winded further and further down the river, and any feeling I had of lead legs was long gone.  We had no idea where the trail would ultimately take us, and that was part of the fun.  We saw park benches and a wooden bridge, and occasionally passed some walkers.  Eventually the trail came to an end at a spillway, and we connected with a road that we suspected would bring us back to some familiar ground.  It did, but not without taking us up a rather steep hill!  Suddenly the hill didn’t bother me though because the adventure was worth it, and I enjoyed the new scenery.
Once we connected back with the main road we chattered about what a great run this was, and then speculated where the other end of the trail might lead.  Then we talked about another trail down another road that we might want to try out someday.  Suddenly the opportunities to explore seemed endless, and we felt like the Louis & Clarks of Andover, MA.  Last week Todd and I plotted to someday bring our mountain bikes to work and explore the trails around town.  I’m starting to think we might never come back!
When we got back to the parking lot at work, Jaimee insisted we sprint around the lot.  She recently joined a local running club and last week she participated in a track speed session (wearing her compression socks).  Suddenly Jaimee’s a track star and now we have to do sprints.  Sigh…  So off we went, running like hell through the parking lot, no doubt causing a scene and scaring the wits out of anyone looking out the windows or driving by.  We looked like maniacs, and I was a soggy mess with sweat dripping into my eyes.  We slowed to a finish and I have to admit it was pretty fun (although I repeatedly told them how much I hate them for making me work so hard).  We stopped to stretch before heading in, and I repeatedly wiped the sweat off my face and nonchalantly blew my nose mightily right into my shirt.  It only occurred to me as I was walking into the building that blowing one’s nose into one’s shirt at work may be considered inappropriate.  However, the only witnesses were smokers, so in a contest of who’s less gross, I still think I win. 
I didn’t regret this run for one second, despite my earlier complaints.  Instead, it ended up being one of the best and most entertaining runs we’ve ever had at lunch and I would have regretted it deeply if I had skipped it.  I’m very eager to try out more of the trails at lunch, and I’m almost disappointed that I’m on vacation next week and won’t get a chance to do more exploring.  Almost.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The G's of running

If you’ve been in the running world long enough, you’re bound to see a pattern.  It seems as though the whole sport revolves around the letter G.  From the time you hear: Ready, Set, GO!, the letter G is inserting itself in every aspect of the sport.  Today I’m focusing on the four main categories of G: Gear, Gadgets, Gels/GU’s, and GI.
Gear is a huge topic in the world of running, and everyone has an opinion on what not to wear.  Run long enough and you’ll see why investing in the right shoe is so critical.  Run even longer and you’ll never run in a cotton sock again.  Once you become a running sock connoisseur, you’ll be combing the internet for the best deals on running socks, searching with keywords such as synthetic, seamless, cushioning, breathable, and so forth.  Gear is trendy.  Gear is addictive.  To a runner, the promise or even mild implication that this “newest, most advanced, best version yet” might possibly shave a second or two off a race pace is impossible to resist. 
A few days ago at work, Jaimee exited the locker room wearing knee high compression socks.  After dropping dead from laughter, I asked what prompted her to start running in compression socks.  In a very factual tone she responded that in her recent half marathon (in which she kicked butt, by the way) she noticed that “everyone” that passed her was wearing compression socks, so the only logical conclusion was that compression socks make people run faster.  Of course, she probably didn’t notice if they were all wearing bright yellow B.A.A. singlets, or if possibly they were demonstrating a successful negative split technique, but once she latched onto the idea that compression socks were the magic bullet, there was no stopping her.  I have to admit, she looks kind of adorable.
Of course now that she’s wearing the compression socks, I had to do some research to see if there is any scientific correlation between compression socks and increased performance.  After combing through tons of articles, to summarize: it depends who you ask.  Everyone can seem to agree that there is scientific merit in terms of re-oxygenating blood throughout the legs more efficiently and preventing blood from pooling in the legs.  After all, these socks were originally designed for people with conditions such as poor circulation, diabetes, and deep vein thrombosis.  What’s not clear is if the socks offer any sort of benefit while running.  Wearing these socks while running seems to be a matter of personal choice, with factors like: Am I cool enough to pull this off?  Do I like the warm, enveloping, snuggly feeling of knee highs?  Will I get too warm?  Am I okay with everyone staring at me?  What does seem to be a little clearer is that there is a benefit to wearing them after a long run, particularly when traveling.  (For example, driving a long distance or flying home after a marathon).  As far as Jaimee’s personal critique, she is officially won over by her new gear and swears it makes her leg muscles feel great.
Another controversial gear topic involves the dichotomy of shoes vs. barefoot.  I’m a huge fan of running shoes.  I like them with squishy gel, ultra breathable, and with enough support to provide some stability without being clunky.  My dear friend Todd believes shoes are society’s way of confining our freedom of movement, with our poor soles imprisoned in a cell of rubber.  In Todd’s defense, he’s from New Hampshire.  He takes the whole “Live Free or Die” slogan very seriously.  (He won’t even put a leash on his dog because he doesn’t want her to feel that level of imprisonment).  Instead, Todd wears minimalist footwear like Vibram Five Fingers to provide some protection to the bottom of his feet while giving him optimal freedom.  When he made this switch to Vibrams he had to modify his gait, and he is still currently recovering from an IT band injury and continually trying to reform his posture.  In my opinion, the only difference between his barefoot running and everyone else is that we have cleaner feet after a run.  Again though, running with this gear is a personal choice: Am I cool enough to pull this off?  Do I like the feeling of individually wrapped toes?  Am I okay with everyone staring at me?

Gadgets, a sub-category of gear, are also impossible for runners to resist.  Whether it’s an iPod, a Nike+, or a Garmin (another G!) runners are always looking for the next piece of technology that’s going to push their performance into elite status.  I admit I have an iPod (although I don’t use it very often), and used to track my mileage with a Nike+ before I discovered the Garmin.  I’m currently sporting a Garmin Forerunner 305 watch, which is roughly the size of a laptop on my wrist.  I’m a little embarrassed to say I have very little working knowledge of this device, other than to track mileage, pace, elevation, and then see my route in Google (G!) Earth.  My pal Scott is a total gizmo geek and has a Garmin Forerunner 450.  His blog posts are full of all sorts of stats including laps, pace, cadence, and heart beats.  I’m kind of hoping I don’t evolve into that.  Although, just today Garmin announced their newest version, the Forerunner 610, which is Garmin’s first touch screen GPS for runners.  Sigh.  Now I want one.
Ever wonder why GU rhymes with “Ewww”?  I’ll tell you.  Because: It.  Is.  AWFUL!  I have yet to find an energy gel that I can slide past my esophagus, which is becoming a real problem as I log longer and longer distances.  I’m always on the lookout for some alternative, and the most recent Runner’s World had an article on this very subject.  There was a homemade recipe for Gatorade (G!) which I tried.  It was awful.  They also suggest using little jelly packets you get at the diner in place of energy gels.  Tastier, I’m sure, but not very practical.  It would require me carrying a knife, butter, a piece of toast, and a newspaper.  Jaimee let me try one of her special all natural GU’s, which was slightly better but still barely edible.  I’m going to keep searching in hopes of finding something I won’t gag (G!) on, but in the meantime I think I’ll start carrying Gatorade on my long runs.  Fortunately they just came out with a whole “G Series” for the various stages of performance.  (Clearly the makers of Gatorade understand the significance of the letter G).  
The irritated gastrointestinal tract has plagued many a long distance runner, and everyone knows that I am no exception there.  I’m in a constant worry about what I can eat hours or a day before I run, and often even with careful planning I still end up with miserable cramping.  I don’t have a great solution yet, but I’m continuously adding to my list of danger foods.  This list contains: popcorn, corn, brussel sprouts, red onions, Kashi cereal, tuna, goldfish crackers, anything spicy, and sardines.  I have also found that my best chance of avoiding a stomach catastrophe is to eat a small dinner the night before a run, and very little breakfast in the morning.  I know I need a certain amount of fuel in order to perform well, but my stomach prefers to be as empty as possible when running.  It’s a constant game I play of finding just the right balance.  It’s also a constant topic of conversation on our lunch run, as inevitably I am asked if I need to poop.  (This only happens when Todd runs with us).
This blog post was brought to you by the letter G.  (C’mon, how could I resist…)

Monday, April 11, 2011

We're all winners!

Today was an all-girls run at lunch, so Jaimee and I decided to introduce Kerri to Jaimee’s route.  This is definitely one of my favorite new routes and due to the distance requires a speedy pace both on the roads and in the showers to get back to work on time.  (Although we didn’t tell Kerri just how long the route was, we made sure she didn’t have a meeting at the top of the hour).  A warm front blew through just after we started running and when the sun came out it really heated things up, causing me to regret my choice of a long sleeve tech shirt.  I heated up so much, in fact, that I was still sweating long after I had showered and returned to my desk, leaving odd and unsightly sweat marks all over my shirt.  (This is a great way to ensure co-workers steer clear).  Kerri and Jaimee ran together while I, as usual, ran a few steps behind.  Since I don’t usually get to chat with the other runners, it gives me time to reflect.  Sometimes my thoughts turn negative when I think about how I’m slower than everyone else, or I don’t have the same enthusiasm for long distances or mortally dangerous obstacle courses as my pals.  Instead of going down that path again, today I thought about how good we all are for each other and how this support system we have pushes each of us to better ourselves.
                Todd didn’t run with us today because he was resting after his awesome 10k finish on a hilly course yesterday.  He clocked an impressive 7:29 pace (this is while still recovering from an IT band injury!).  Of course he’s still mildly disappointed in himself because he was hoping for a sub-7:00 pace.  Meanwhile, Jaimee finished her hilly half marathon last weekend in 1:52, which was a huge improvement off her last half in February.  Kerri was today’s running hero, taking 3rd place in her age group in a 5k yesterday.  Yay Kerri!  We of course had to razz her a little bit about it, now that she’s an award winning runner.  When I mentioned I was surprised she was running today after yesterday’s strong medal-earning performance, she said she was running on the race winner’s endorphin high.  (I think we ran those endorphins right out of her after the first few miles).  I had my own little victory last weekend in the 15k, improving from a 9:23 pace last year to 8:49 this year.  It may not have been an award winning performance, but it’s still impressive for me.  So, this summer when I’m cursing Todd for making me work so hard to keep up with him, I’ll try to remember the benefits of running with all these nags supportive friends.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fun runs and a newbie update

I’ve had a good start to the month, with 38 miles logged so far in 7 of 10 days.  I also decided that since I don’t have major race coming up for a while, I may as well mix up my running a little bit and have more fun with it.  On Tuesday for my fun run, I went down to the West Hill Dam and did “Dam Laps” (not Damn laps).  This “lap” consists of running across the top of the dam, then running down a steep hill to the bottom of it, then down alongside the bottom, and then back up a steep hill back onto the top.  One lap is just over a half mile, and it’s really the best of both worlds with some tough hills coupled with some nice breaks in between.  So I did a few of those laps and then continued on a nice easy trail run.  It was a great way to spend an hour.  Wednesday I ran with the lunch group down to the ice cream stand, but ran into some serious stomach issues and ended up leaving work early.  Wednesday was also the day I promised my son Andrew that I would take him on his first run.  (More on him later). 
My fun runs continued for the rest of the week, where I did 5.6 miles on Thursday and my favorite 8 mile loop on Saturday.  It seems ironic that now that the pressure’s off and there isn’t a significant race in my near future, I’m logging all kinds of extra miles.  It’s amazing what a difference a month makes!
Newbie Updates:
Pinky:  By far the most common question I get from blog followers is, “Did Pinky ever run with you again?”  If you aren’t familiar with Pinky, refer to the New Recruit.  Pinky has not yet run with us again, but according to Todd she’s running on her own and building up the strength to run with us again someday.  I'm very much looking forward to leaving her in my dust running with her again.
Sister:  It was one week ago today that I dragged my sister out on her first walk/jog.  She did well despite the initial complaining, and I had hoped I didn’t push her too hard or scare her off.  I talked to her on the phone today to see if she wanted to run again tonight, and she announced that today was the first day since last Sunday that she could walk without pain and that her knee has been giving her problems.  I’m hoping she will be willing to give it a try again soon, but we might have to do more walking and less running next time.
Son:  As I mentioned earlier, I made a deal with my son that I would help him get into better shape.  Wednesday was our first run together.  It was a 1 mile walk/run.  He held up well and I made sure we walked before he was exhausted so that he wouldn’t overdo it.  Tonight we pushed a little harder and did a 2.25 mile walk/run.  It’s funny watching a 15 year old running for the first time.  Whereas I’m usually concerned about my form, my Garmin, or logging miles, Andrew was more concerned with high-fiving the pine tree branches and hurdling the speed bumps in the park.  It was pretty funny seeing running through the eyes of a non-running teenager.  We continued the walk/run pattern for the whole loop, although there was a lot more walking towards the end.  He was pretty tired by the time we got back, and I’m crossing my fingers that I didn’t push him too hard.  I’m starting to develop this pattern of One-and-Done running partners, (not unlike my dating life) but at least with Andrew I have a little more power of persuasion!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sister's first (and only?) run

My sister has been threatening me since last summer that she was going to start running.  She even joined a gym and assured me that she was walk/jogging on the treadmill and doing some additional walk/jogging on a nearby track.  But the days got shorter, the track got covered in snow, she couldn't possibly make it to the gym, there's never enough time, she didn't have any clean socks, her daughter stole her sneakers... you get the picture.  Then a couple months ago she tells me about a 5k nearby that she wants to run with me.  I was excited about this and she swore she was going to start working out asap to get in shape for it.  But... the track was covered in snow, her dog ate her socks... you get the picture.

Last month for her birthday we went shoe shopping and she picked out a sweet new pair of Saucony running shoes.  I convinced her to get the running socks too.  I've asked her a few times how she's liking her new shoes but she still hasn't found just the right opportunity to use them.  Today she was coming over for a visit and I sent her a text saying "Don't forget your sneakers".  So today marked Julie's very first run.  Yay Julie!

She showed up wearing her fancy shiny Saucony's, and held in her hand a beat up old pair of clunky sneakers.  She said she didn't want to get her new shoes dirty so she was going to switch into the old ones to go running.  I vetoed that idea and forced her to break in the new ones.  I changed into some running clothes and felt a little ridiculous wearing a teal shirt and capris with a matching teal stripe down the side.  I looked like someone I would make fun of.  I returned a few minutes later and she exclaimed, "Oh come on, do you have to look so hot?!".  I asked her if she wanted me to change into something uglier, but finally she said we better leave before she changed her mind. 

I took her down the trails behind my house, and shortly after starting off she was worrying about me going too fast, losing her in the woods, and getting a tick infestation.  I said if she's worried about ticks she better run faster, and I just ran 15k yesterday so I was looking forward to a nice easy run.  We finally started running when the terrain evened out a bit.  I ran with her until she needed a walk break, then I'd run ahead for a while and double back.  This actually worked out really well for me because it let me change my pace up as much as I wanted, and built in more mileage from all the doubling back. 

She was a real trooper and had a great first run.  I'm hoping it wasn't too painful for her so that she'll stick with it and eventually maybe she'll get addicted like the rest of us.  Shortly after returning to the house, Julie found a tick on her.  I'm calling it a self fulfilling prophecy.  If I'm going to have any chance at getting her to run with me again, I might have to suggest sticking to the roads.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Boston Tune Up 15K race report

In all my two years of running this race, it never fails to impress and delight me. Today it seemed the weather gods were cooperating and the conditions were perfect for running this race.  Temperature was low 40's, sun was shining, with just a mild breeze.  Compared to yesterday's little snow storm, this was just ideal.  I'm sure at this point you are waiting for the "but...", but, there's no but.  I've been pumped up looking forward to this race and it didn't disappoint.

Best Parts:
The People!  I ran into so many familiar faces and it was great to meet more members of the running club.  Kerri ran this race with me and I was happy to see a familiar face on the course as we constantly leap-frogged eachother.  My mom volunteered at the 7.5 mile water stop with Hiroshi and Anthony, so I was really looking forward to hitting that mark.

The photographer - the unsung hero!

The Course!  I love this course, even though it's a little painful.  Most of the course is either uphill or downhill and it requires some serious strategy if you want to finish strong.  I didn't actually have a serious strategy, and I'll be working on that for next year, but at least this year I knew exactly what I was up against.  Almost.  I think of this course as like giving birth.  In other words, when you give birth you immediately say "I am never doing that again!".  But, over time you tend to forget about the pain and only remember the good parts, and then you get suckered into giving birth again and say, "OMG now I remember, I said I'd never do this again!".  This course is kind of like that.  In fact, I remember running it for the first time with my friend Heather who had said ahead of time "There's a few rolling hills", and then a few miles in she said "I forgot about all these hills!!".  Unlike giving birth however, the scenery is fantastic with beautiful houses and farms, and most people can walk immediately following the event without requiring hospitalization.

PR!  Well, I feel a little guilty calling this a PR because it's not hard to PR on a 15k course since they aren't exactly popping up all over the place, but heck... I'm taking it.  Last year was my first year running races at all, and this was my longest race last year at this time.  My finishing time then was 1:27, with a 9:23 pace.  This year I killed that, finishing around 1:22 and an 8:49 pace according to my Garmin.  Major improvement, and I'm considering that a huge win.

The bib!  I know this seems trivial, but having a bib with your name on it is a huge deal.  Not only does it make you feel like an elite runner, but everyone cheering you on is calling your name.  And, you don't have to screw up someone's name if you aren't quite sure you remember them.  Although, I saw a guy named "Cupcake" so that might not be 100% true. 

The food!  The club really outdid themselves this year with a ridiculous amount of goodies after the race.  There were about 8 different types of soups and chili's in crock pots, and a huge variety of cookies, cakes, breads, and such.  I was very much looking forward to the soup, but apparently you need to run faster than an 8:49 pace to be eligible for soup because most of it was gone by the time I got in the food line.  I settled for a mini cinnamon roll and a biscotti.  Kerri and I went outside and ate in the sun since the crowds were pretty thick inside.  It was a nice way to unwind and see some runners crossing the finish line.

Kerri (oh wait, you knew that already because of her personalized bib!)
 As always, there are certainly some things I could have done better. 

Wardrobe: This was a really tough call, because it was pretty cool this morning, and I kept going back and forth with the clothes.  Ultimately I settled on a thin blue long sleeve tech, my singlet, and running tights.  Honestly I was pretty warm after a couple miles and easily could have run in capri's or maybe even short sleeves. 

Mile 1 adrenaline rush: Although I said I wouldn't do this and told everyone in sight not to do this, I started out too fast.  I was feeling great, the first portion of the course is flat to downhill, and I wanted to take advantage of the terrain.  When the marker at Mile 1 shouted 8:10, I knew I was going to regret that.  I scaled back slightly for mile 2, and then the hills around mile 3 and beyond took care of any further concerns I might have had of going too fast.

Me at 1.5, going way too fast and loving every second of it
 Also happy to report there were no stomach issues whatsoever at the race.  (This was the first thing Hiroshi asked).  Pre-race breakfast included a bagel thin and almond butter 3 hours before the race, and a bottle of water.  From every perspective, today was a success.  It's been a full year that I've been racing and I'm feeling better and stronger than ever.  I'm almost (almost) jealous of all the guys running Boston 16 days from now.  Hmmmm.