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Breathe

It’s the evening before my marathon, I’m all alone in my hotel room, legs stretched out on my “Heavenly Bed” (and it is) at the Westin in downtown Minneapolis, and I’m pleasantly nervous.  What’s a girl to do?  Brian knows the answer to this one:  Write!  Warning:  lots of minutia ahead.

Paulette, Art and I arrived Thursday evening after a blissfully uneventful flight.  They dropped me off downtown and went out to her brother’s place in Minnetonka, a ritzy suburb.  I had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant of house-made papardelle, asparagus, fava beans and peas, all farmer’s market fresh.  The gracious staffperson at registration upgraded me to the best hotel room I’ve ever been in the night before a race:  waaaaay down the end of a hallway, where no late-night yahoos could wake me up.  At least, not inside-the-hotel-yahoos.  More on that in a minute.

I finally bought Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running, and it kept me absorbed until I grew sleepy.  I don’t sleep well in hotel rooms.  I have to create almost complete darkness, which means a ritual:  towels over the door crack and mini-bar fridge light, running shirt over the electronic thermostat, pillow over the clock.  Usually lamps and chairs pushed up against the blackout curtains to corral any stray light from the street, but this hotel has it covered.  OK, all set. Drowse, and finally, sleep.

Yelling woke me up at 2:30 a.m.  I tried to ignore it, to no avail.  Gang fight!  Nine floors below me, several thugs were beating the crap out of a guy.  Not knowing the street name, I called the front desk and they alerted the cops, who apparently arrived in seconds, because next time I had the courage to look, the street was empty. Heebie jeebies kept me up for a while.

Next morning I slept in a little and went for an easy run with strides down to the start area near the Metrodome.  My hammie has been bugging me lately, and I’m not happy to report it was barking a little on the first 2 miles.  After a stretch, I ran my strides, and the discomfort disappeared.  Cross fingers.

The expo and host hotel are in St. Paul.  I’m registered as an elite masters (note to others in my running group:  many of you are close to qualifying or already do; check out the times here), and this is a USATF National Masters Marathon Championship race.  Lots of nice perqs involved, not the least of which is a warmup area next to the start line, and a separate porta potty.  Most of the elites stay in St. Paul, and I was offered a rate discount (I’m not elite enough to get room and board covered, just my race entry fee), but nothing can beat a FREE room with Starpoints!  I like being close to the start, anyway.  Sleep is a good thing at my age.

Paulette, Art and I drove the uphill portion of the course at miles 21-24 just to refresh our muscle memory, and we convinced ourselves it wasn’t bad at all.  It’s actually very similar to the grade up Shoreline or Las Positas.  But because it comes late in the race, the mental battle starts here.

The fall leaves are turning, and Minnesota is spectacular.

The bridge we'll cross at mile 19

After touring the expo with Art and Paulette, I went to the elite hospitality suite to pick up my race number, and chatted with Carol Zazubek, the elite masters recruiter.  Very nice woman, gracious and supportive.  She helped me scope out my competition on the Championship entry lists, and it looks like I have some formidable challenges if I want to win or place in my age group.  A 50-year old from Amherst comes with a few recent 3:10 marathons in her repertoire.  Yikes, that’s fast. Our race numbers are assigned according to qualifying times, and she’s two ahead of me.  Another woman in her early 50’s, whose name I recognize, has won several age-group awards  in marathons around the country.   Here’s to motivation!

Massage is offered on a sign-up basis (another nice perq), was just what my poor hamstring and IT band needed.  The man on the table next to me has been runner-up twice in the mens’ masters division, and his mom told him to stop being a bridesmaid and go get it!  Thanks, mom.  I tried to talk him into running SBIM next year.

Art (retired former owner of White’s Pet Hospital) had a veterinary meeting to attend, so Paulette and I met up and took the city bus back into Minneapolis.  We had to run to catch it, and it was a fun adventure.  When was the last time you ran to catch a bus?

The massage, a nice pasta dinner with old friends, and a good night’s sleep refreshed me, and I woke up feeling optimistic.  My morning run—just a loosen-up 2.5 miles—felt good.  I attended a mandatory technical meeting for elites, where we were instructed on all manner of logistics concerning buses, start areas, water, drop stations (ssssss!!!) drug testing, finish area, etc.  Round two of the expo, I scored on a pair of Mizuno’s and some sharp sunglasses with interchangeable lenses.  I hitched a ride back to Minneapolis on a bus tour of the course, and they were kind enough to drop me at my hotel.

Tim Noakes and I had a quiet dinner together at the hotel restaurant, where he brought me up to speed on carb loading, eating before the race, and quieting the voice in your head that wants to quit when it gets tough.  Lore of Running is a fascinating book, and I recommend it to any runner as obsessive as I am.  I know you’re out there.  In fact, if you’ve read this far, chances are you qualify.

My training went well, I feel rested and ready, I didn’t catch a cold, and  the weather looks ideal.  Here goes!

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Taper Jitterbugs

“Jitterbug” originated as a term to describe alcoholics who suffered from the “jitter bug”–withdrawal symptoms, also known as the “DT’s.”  We runners have our own form of the jitter bug:  “The Taper.” We love it, and we hate it.  We love it because we can finally let down from the relentless grind of obsessive training.  We hate it for several complex and varied reasons, which I will dutifully explain, as I am experiencing them in actu.  Right now.

1. We’re Afraid We’re Not Doing Enough
Marathon training, for three or four months, pushes us beyond comfort.  We load it on, we increase, we work harder.  Some days, the intensity seems unbearable, yet we locate some hidden reservoir of grit within, and we soldier through.  We pat ourselves on the back, and think about how tough we are.

Suddenly, we are ordered to desist.  Back off.  Decrease.  Reign in.  Hold back.  These are not phrases we are accustomed to hearing in our monomaniacal marathon brains.  It feels weird.  We ‘re afraid we’ll lose our edge, worry that all our hard work will be lost if we don’t keep pilin’ it on.

Some of us (not to be named; you know who you are) sabotage our marathons by adding extra miles and sneaking in unplanned hard workouts during the taper.  *** Sssssst!  Poof! ***  Four months of great buildup, lost.  Result: a flat, unexciting performance on race day.

2. We’re Tired…REALLY Tired
The taper is when you’re supposed to feel great.  Strong, in peak shape, feelin’ like a million.  “Bring it on!”  I felt that way last week, the first week of my taper.  Every workout was like running on clouds.  Then…thunk.  Dead legs. Overwhelming fatigue.  Dark.  Flat.  Uninspired.  “What’s wrong?” I opined to Mike, and he told me something I should know by now:  during an intense buildup, muscles break down.  They need to rebuild, thus the taper. Which saps energy. Which makes you tired, cranky and anxious.  Everything is working—stealth—to heal you, but you feel like crap.

Qualifier:  Some people feel fantastic during the taper.  They feel immortal, god-like, smooth, super-human.  If that describes you, revel in it.  I salute you.

3. We’re Afraid of Getting Fat
I love Jill’s gleeful explanation of her training:  “I run so I can EAT!”  We indulge the guilt-free pleasure of a bowl of ice cream, extra serving of roasted potatoes, shavings of bleu cheese on our salad.  But, once the taper starts, mileage is cut drastically.  Your appetite may cooperate, so you naturally eat less. Or—like me—you may be inexplicably ravenous even though you’ve reduced mileage by as much as 40%.  “Muscle rebuilding” is again the explanation, although I’m suspicious.  Who wants to carry an extra two pounds for 26 miles?  Not me.  I negotiate between Spartan and nutritious. No cake for me on your birthday, Kmonkee!

4.  We’re Afraid We’re Injured
During the taper, things pop up that never bothered you during training.  Shin pain…knee soreness…calf tightness.  WTF??!!!  Nary a peep for 4 months; why NOW?  I’ve experienced all these bugaboos during tapers, phantom issues that mysteriously disappear on race day.  I’ve also had lingering injuries, real ones, that bit me hard during the race.  Right now, I’m “managing” a chronic hamstring tightness/soreness, hoping it will calm down in the coming days.  It was fine for most of the training, but has growled markedly in recent weeks…no doubt due to increased intensity and distance.

5.  We’re Afraid of Catching a Cold
If you’re anything like me, you wash your hands 10 x day, or curse yourself if you forget.  You resent people at meetings who cough and blow 20 minutes AFTER you’ve sat next to them.  Every tiny dry catch in the throat is a harbinger of terror.  Spouses are not above suspicion…”Scratchy throat?  Guest room for you!”  Zinc is your friend.  You long for a black market for the old Zicam, as a backup, just in case the worst materializes.

It is a miserable way to live.  You empathize with the hypochondriacs, and…well, you don’t want to. You want to be fit, strong, healthy.  Please just get through the week without that telltale niggle.

I ran my fastest track mile ever last week.  Today, I had an excellent last marathon pace run…6 miles @ 7:22 average pace, and it felt easy.  The weather in Minnesota looks good.  I have my outfit and shoes all picked out, and took them on my dress rehearsal today.  My buddies Paulette and Art are on the same flight to Minneapolis (she’s running, too), and I get to spend time with my Minnesotan friends Alan and Cathy.

I’m ready.  Jitterbug, begone!

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Boston Magic

Twin Cities, here I come!

That’s my solace for yet another failed attempt to hit my elusive goal of 3:15.  And I failed rather spectacularly, essentially “dropping out” (unofficially, because I finished the race) at the Half after a progression of increasingly frustrating miles, due partly to my lingering hamstring problems, and partly to missing the critical last 4 weeks of training.  Before hitting the pavement in Boston, I hadn’t done a 20-miler in six weeks.  And I paid for it, dearly.

I started with Susie in corral #7, and she quickly surged ahead (on her way to a PR 3:12!), while I was content to ease into the race.  My first mile was a little slow at 7:39, but to be expected, given the crowded narrow start.  I picked it up to 7:19 the second mile, and settled in to a steady 7:30 pace up until mile 8, when things started to go south.  My pre-race plan with Mike was to hold onto pace from the start, and if I started to struggle too much because of the hammie, to stop racing and either drop or start jogging, rather than face the inevitable death march to the finish.

Miles 8, 9 and 10 were 7:40, 7:45 and 7:49, and when I hit mile 11 in 8:38, my race was almost over.  My right leg was radiating pain all the way down to my ankle, and my range-of-motion was limited.  Strange things start to happen with an altered stride; muscles you didn’t know existed begin their sneaky sabotage.  I decided to give mile 12 one more try, just to see if picking up the pace might shake out some of the alien invaders, but my 7:25 at that point brought me dangerously close to the feeling I had right before my last meltdown, when I strained my lower hamstring tendon 5 weeks before the race.  A tightness that prefigures disaster; hard to explain, but everything is just poised for a breaking point, and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

Hell, if I were 29 or younger, I’d’ve pushed on, but at 53 I’m trying to be a little less reckless.  So I bailed at the half, and stood around for about 5 minutes trying to decide strategy, looking for Elda.  I recognized her smooth, steady stride immediately when she came into view, and I jumped in and ran next to her for almost a half mile before reluctantly letting her go.  She confided that her ankle (calf?) was angry, but it clearly didn’t stop her from an awesome finish, a PR at 3:23!

I thought I’d wait for Claire, Jana and Jamie to come by, but after 15 minutes of spectating, realized they’d started in the second wave (duh!).  What to do?  Jill and I had inspected possible escape routes in case of disaster, so I knew there was a T stop at mile 16.  I jumped back in.  Advice:  if you intend to finish a marathon after breaking down, don’t stand around for 20 minutes!  My legs were in agony; tight and sore.  Some of it worked out after running a bit, but most of it stayed with me until the bittersweet end.

At mile 16, I asked a police officer to direct me to the nearest T.  Up two stoplights and take a right.  Well, two New England stoplights turned out to be another mile, and by then I figured I run at least until I saw Rusty at mile 18.  I soldiered on, made it to 18, but didn’t see Rusty anywhere.  What to do?

Caution, incline ahead.  If I could just get up through the Newton Hills, I knew it was downhill to the finish.  Why drop now?  I was managing a respectable pace for an unofficial dropout, between 8 and 9-minute miles, so I hunkered down and galumphed in.  Ironically, a woman just behind me had “Maggie” written on her shirt, and she must have stayed near me for miles, because I was unofficially cheered on by name for my coda. It helped that I could still do math, and I knew I could break 4 hours if I kept a steady pace.

By mile 24, my left foot threatened serious rebellion, so I had to bind and gag it and drag it forcefully to the finish.  I limped in just under 4 hours, at 3:58:17, my slowest marathon since my first in 1998. As I stumbled towards the space blankets, Jana called to me, fresh in from running a 3:33 PR. Superb.

I had a great time in Boston, learned some good lessons, and got to see the course in a different way…really see the crowds, participants, banners, and environs.

Highlights:

— Viewing the impressive level of focus and strength during my 20 minutes of unplanned spectating.  Ironically, I’ve rarely watched a marathon, and it was powerful to see lots of human bodies performing with an amazing level of endurance.  It was beautiful, actually.

–Touring the Isabella Gardner Museum, with its stunning three-story subtropical greenhouse garden and eclectic collection of paintings, tapestries, furniture, sculpture and objets d’art.

–Hanging out with Jill in our Victorian row-house rooms in the South End.

–Walking around Boston.  Heaven for a brick lover.

–Eating pizza at Ernesto’s in the North End.  I have never eaten such decadent and delicious pizza.

–Having dinner with the coaching group at a friendly, super-efficient and tasty Italian restaurant on marathon eve.  Meeting Elda’s parents!

–Feeling the wonderful level of running passion among marathon participants.  It was palpable in the Expo, on the streets, and especially during the race.

–Hearing and seeing the exuberant crowds from start to finish, especially Wellesley, Heartbreak Hill, and the last 3 miles of the course.  Astounding.  I’d love to see a satellite photo of it.

–Finding out that Jill ran 3:09 despite her setbacks in training.  Such heart and commitment.

–Running with Elda, briefly, after deciding to call it a day.  I sneaked up on her and ran silently next to her for a few beats.  When she looked over, she gasped and actually hugged me while maintaining pace.  Wow.

–Sharing a post-marathon bottle of wine over dinner with Jill, at a great little local Italian eatery, then window-shopping on high-fashion Newbury Street.

–Appreciating the camaraderie, good-nature and dedication of our group.  Go, team.

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Today was D-Day.  Decision Day.  To race, or not to race, the Boston Marathon?

Here’s what the past week has looked like for me:

Saturday:  16 mile “run” on the elliptical, with 8 miles at marathon pace.  It goes well, but afterwards, panic.  My hamstring muscles and tendons behind the knee have a “crunchy” feeling when I massage them.  If I swing my leg back and forth, the area feels like a creaky screen door.

Sunday:   45 elliptical, 45 bike.  OK, but still feel like the tin man.  Also, am missing my girlfriend runs.  We meet every Wednesday and Sunday, and I haven’t run since my meltdown over a week ago.

Monday:  Off.  Things feel better.  I am staying optimistic.  No crunch or creak.

Tuesday:  First run.  It does not go well at all.  I can barely finish 5 miles.

Wednesday:  I try and fail to pool run.  It hurts.  I ellipt, then go to lunch.  My recovery drink is a beer.  Thank god it is spring break, and I have the luxury to wallow.  I begin to think about logistics of pulling out of Boston.  I feel sorry for myself.  After a few hours, I see the writing on the wall and go through the 5 stages of grief.  I forget what they are, but I know they include denial, self-pity, and acceptance.  Luckily, acceptance is the last stage for today.  “No run Boston? Big deal.  Always another marathon.”  I go to Terra Sol and La Sumida and spend $100 on plants and redwood mulch for my garden.

Thursday:  Second run.  I am fine for the first 4 miles, but the next 4 require an intensive stretch every mile.  I go to see Mike Swan, my coach and PT extraordinaire, and he diagnoses me with tenosynovitus of the semitendinosus.  That means the sheath of my hamstring tendon is inflamed, causing the creaky feel because the tendon cannot move freely. Mike applies ultrasound, ice, and electrical stimulation, which is really cool.  It feels like sparklers going off inside your muscle. We talk about options.  I say I can always just “run” Boston and not worry about time.  Mike says that would not only irritate my injury, it would irritate me.  He’s right.  If I can’t race, I’m out.  We decide to cancel remaining workouts until Saturday morning, and then try to run tempo.  If I blow up, we will pull the plug.  We will euthanize my Boston plans.

Friday:  I work in the garden, and it feels good to remember there are other things I love in the world besides running the Boston marathon.  With dirt-encrusted fingernails, I go in for a Rusty massage.  He really works me over.  He is encouraging.  He says he will meet me every mile or two during the tempo run and hand me my water bottle of Gu Brew. Drinking is key, he says.

I think I am stoical when I hit the pillow, but my subconscious knows otherwise.  All night, I dream about running: I have to fight traffic to get to the tempo run, so I abandon my car and walk.  When I arrive, hours late, everyone has finished and gone home.  I go to work, and they have already replaced me with another teacher because I’m late for my first class, too.  I awake from a night of unsettling dreams…

D-Day:  I’m up at 5, making my bottles for Rusty.  I’m not nervous.  In fact, I am already planning how to defer my qualifying time for next year, re-bank my United miles, and talk the B & B proprietor, a charming man, into refunding my money.  I will not blame him if he can’t do it…he has a living to make.  If he can’t re-book the room, I will go anyway and cheer all my teammates!  And unlike them, I will be able to eat anything I want in Boston.

The warmup is iffy.  Creak, crunch.  It hurts.  “This ain’t hap’nin,” I announce to Susie and Betsy.  Susie is bummed, because I am in her corral at Boston, #7.  I am already thinking ahead to Twin Cities in October.

The workout is two 4 mile loops, with a drink stop between.  Mike examines my leg, and says to run the first at marathon pace, and we will re-evaluate.  Whoa!  What?  I was pretty damned sure he would send me out for breakfast at that point.  Well, uh…OK.  Group 4 is up!  Betsy, Elda, Tony, Phil and Rob.  Where’s Brian?

It isn’t comfortable.  It isn’t effortless.  But it isn’t bad.  The lower hamstring issue disappears.  The high hamstring tugs and barks, but not enough to slow me down.  If I focus on my breathing or arm swing, it recedes a bit.  Rusty meets me at the mile mark, as promised, hands me my bottle, and runs with me ’til I hand it back.  The group gets a little ahead because I’m drinking, but I catch them on the little hill.  Phil reminds me to shorten my stride going up…thanks. We run through beautiful Lake Los Carneros with the sun streaming through the trees and lighting up the water.

Rusty meets me a few more times with my bottle, and I finish the first 4 miles on pace, but it didn’t feel anything like my prior penultimate marathon runs.  My leg was cranky and it was all I could do to hold pace.  Once again, I’m sure Mike will pull me.

Nope.  “Do the next one.”  You’re kidding, right?  Wrong.  Yikes!  While I am consulting, my group takes off, so I run the second loop alone.  At mile 6, I am sure it is all over.  I stop, stretch for 10 seconds, and…better!  I was slowing down a little, but nothing serious.  I pick it up, and suddenly I want to finish well.  My hammie is not happy, but it isn’t spitting and hissing, either. Rusty, Mike and Christee meet me at 2.5, offering drink and shouts of encouragement.   When they drive by me with half a mile left, hooting and hollering, it energizes me.  I finish with my fastest mile at 7:12.

D-Day.  D is for Decision. D is for Determined.  D is for “Do it!”

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Smote!

I’ve been consigned to hell. EllipticHELL.

During last week’s 10-mile tempo, I made it to the 6th mile feeling strong. We were running Pebble Hill, aka “Rusty’s Loop,” aka “Pebble Hell” (notice how the word “hell” seems to creep into training blogs on a regular basis? Hmm….), a 4-mile marked loop, in preparation, one assumes, for the ups ‘n’ downs of Boston. I had won round one with Mile Three, a gradual uphill that has chewed up and spat out my ego on many a tempo run. Mile Three’s evil cousin is Mile One on Mountain Drive, run in reverse. I take these courses personally, and every training run is “unfinished business.” My marathon pace is 7:25, and I hit Mile Three in 7:24 on the first loop. Yesssss!

On this second loop, though, Mile Three was edging me out. My hamstring “issue,” which has now become sort of (whisper) chronic, piped up at the very beginning to let me know it would be hitchhiking the whole ride. I was running well up to that point, though, averaging 7:22 on the course. But by mile 7, which is Mile Three the second time, my whole leg was torqued, and the inexorable slowdown began. Mile 7 in 7:30, mile 8 (mostly downhill) 7:30, mile 9 7:40, then WHAM. The running gods decided it was time for a smite.

(Disclaimer: I know the concept of the “running gods” is a favorite with another SBAA blogger. The first time I used the phrase in print was in my 2007 Twin Cities blog, the day after an 85 degree, 85% humidity crash course in marathon hell (there’s that word again): “Cruel irony: Monday, the next day, as we make our way to the airport, it is 57 degrees with a slight drizzle at 10 a.m. I hear the running gods snicker.”  I’m not saying Drea stole it from me.  I’m saying great minds think alike.)

And smite, they did.  With swift vengeance.  How dare I have the temerity to think I could run a PR marathon with a hammie problem?  Hubris is always a bad idea in training, because it inevitably brings on the wrath of those merciless immortals.  This time, they cut me off at the knees.  Literally.  After the turnaround at mile 9, my whole leg seized up.  I couldn’t run another step, I was in so much pain.

On my painstaking crawl back to the finish, Jill and George stopped by and walked me in.  I had a teensy little cry, then bucked up and hitched a ride back to my car with Rusty, who vowed to get me to the starting line in Hopkinton.

Diagnosis:  Popliteus spasm.  The popliteal muscle is a small, deep muscle that unlocks the knee.  When you run with weak or tight high hamstrings, you recruit too much of this little guy, and he can have a temper tantrum.  Which is what happened to me.  “You were basically running from mid-thigh, down,” said Rusty.

Prognosis:  Mike, who saw me in his wonderful rehab center, filled with soothing friendly people and cool animal photographs, said if I was going to injure a muscle, this was a good one, because it heals fast.  With a week or so off of running, the popliteus would have a chance to recover, and the hammie would be more likely to let go, too.

Treatment:  Crosstraining for a week plus, which means ridiculous workouts on the elliptical trainer.  Speedwork on this machine is cruelly comic.  I mean, how do you keep your dignity when you are rocking and hammering and gasping and flinging sweat in the midst of a bunch of calm people who read magazines while they work out?

So, I missed the monster 13-mile tempo with the rest of my peeps (although some of them were down in Agoura winning races, I hear), but if all goes well, I’ll make it up next Saturday with a two-week taper.

So, wish me luck.  But not too loudly, or you-know-who will have to add a reminder aftershock.

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Tempo Twitter Chatter

“Sorry.” “Bike up.” “A little slow.” “Last mile.” “Pervert.”

These are the scintillating bits of conversation I am capable of uttering during a ten-mile marathon pace run. If you like to pass your tempo time with witty repartee and fascinating tête-à-tête, I am not your gal. It’s all I can do to muster an apology for elbowing Elda, warn of an approaching missile on wheels, nudge us to pick up the pace, and prod us to a blisteringly fast finish (7:11 pace mile 10!).

Oh, and grace Ken with the admonishment he was hoping for after commenting on my shorts. Having spent the warmup and first several miles being entirely and uncharacteristically too appropriate, Ken needed assurance he hadn’t lost his touch. (No, not that kind of touch. Especially during a grueling tempo.)

I’m always in awe of people who can chat away during faster running. Tempo pace is always defined as “comfortably hard,” or as “a pace where you could carry on a conversation, but you don’t want to.” That last descriptor suits me: I can always listen really well, and grunt a two-or-three-word answer to a query, but when I’m running harder than easy pace, I can’t really focus on much more than my breathing, leg turnover, arm swing, and posture. I’m always amazed, and jealous, when our group (Group 4 Shout-Out!) passes another group, and folks are having a grand ol’ time laughing, teasing, discussing the business section of the WSJ, etc. I say to myself, “If you can do that during tempo, it’s time to move up into a faster group.”

Invariably, though, another thought always sneaks in: “If they can chat comfortably during a pace run, why can’t I?” Maybe I’m working too hard for my abilities. Maybe I should be able to formulate complete sentences and hold a soirée on the fly. Maybe everyone else is normal and I’m a freak.

So I’m throwing this question out there: where do you fit?

a. I can and do chat comfortably and easily on a marathon pace run. I like my peeps!
b. I chat, but only because everyone else does, and I don’t want to seem antisocial.
c. I can eke out short sentences.
d. I want to strangle people who chat during pace runs.

I’m a “C.” I like it when Ken/Steve/Brian/Lauren carries the group through a grinding workout with stories galore (“Did I tell you about my last 50K in Montana de Oro? No? Well…”); philosophy 101 (“Why are endurance runners so obsessive?”); shopping (“Where do you buy your shoes? How much did you pay for them?”); and geography (“there’s a steep short hill coming up, then it’s flat for a while, then a long-ass hard incline, so get ready…”). But I don’t like to come up with fodder myself, so I’m grateful for the “A’s” and “B’s.”

What are you?

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Six Weeks to Beantown

I’ve made up two jokes in my life.  One is so weird you probably wouldn’t get it.  The other one goes like this:

Q: “What do you call used coffee grounds?”

A: “Has-beans.”

It certainly is not an un-apt description of what I felt like after yesterday’s Peabody’s 10K.  And no, I’m not talking about having had my requisite cup of coffee before I left home, unlike another unfortunate blogger for SBAA (maybe that’s why you couldn’t catch me, Nichol!).  Yes, I had my Peet’s, and my Gu Brew, and my super-special asthma warmup that involves running a half mile in 3:20 ten minutes before the gun.  I also had a good night’s sleep, and was wearing my brand spankin’ new CW-X compression shorts…

But none of that kept me from feeling like “has-beans” yesterday.  I had planned to go out at a 7 minute pace, and pick it up after the turnaround if I felt good.  “Dream on!” my legs shouted to me as we hit the half mile mark in 3:35.  They harrumphed at the mile, which we hit in 7:12, and stopped talking to me altogether by mile two (7:15).  I thought I had sweet-talked them into behaving by mile three (7:04), but my 7:31 at mile four showed just who was in charge here.  Clearly, they were going to run their own race, my delusions of grandeur notwithstanding.  This, after I dropped $70 on the fancy pants, just for them!  I don’t get no respect.

I suppose they could turn around and demand just what the heck I was thinking after making them work three consecutive 70-mile weeks, and then asking them to pile on some overtime to boot.  I’ll probably be talking to their union rep soon.  Or the labor board, for what I did to them miles five (7:07) and six (7:06) trying to catch Liz Groom (not).  Or the police, for the lashing I gave them trying to outkick Ali during the last .2 miles (1:21, a 6:40 pace).


I stole these pics from Brian’s YouTube video in HIS blog.  Apparently, text alone isn’t cool enough anymore.  Hey, I’m tryin‘.

My finishing time, 44:39, was on a par with the 10K times I run when I’m using a race as a tempo. Which, as it turned out, was exactly what I was doing. My legs knew it.  My coaches knew it.  (“Mike and I looked at you and said, ‘She’s not racing,'” said Rusty post-mortem.) Even my husband Jeff knew it:  “What did you expect, after getting up at 0-dark-thirty every morning, and putting in those kinda miles?”

On the upside, I had a smooth, steady 10-mile cooldown for a total of 20 for the morning.  I even threw in a 7:30 mile at mile 19, just because I felt like it.  (I also knew the training group had run 8 tempo miles, and I felt a little guilty).  I really like the compression shorts; they feel snug and supportive, and I swear my legs felt less fatigued than usual.

Three more weeks, then the taper.  Then:  jumping beans!

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