December 30, 2010

Sense of Humor

The Cleveland Marathon's facebook page recently polled people for the best humorous running shirts they've seen.  I got a good laugh from a few of them.  My favorites?

I thought they said "Rum"

I like "I eat miles for breakfast" better, but this was the
only picture I could find.
And last but not least:
"If found on ground please drag across finish line"

Seen any good ones lately?

December 29, 2010


Since this is the time of year when a lot of people are traveling and/or getting sick, here's a little digression that ponders the shared experience:

December 28, 2010

No Place Like Home

This morning I checked the weather in New Orleans:

Yup.  26 degrees in Cleveland.  Cruel.  At least it's not snowing.

Since I have my car in Cleveland, I have some flexibility about when I head back South.  I think that's going to have to happen sooner rather than later.  My waistline & fitness level depend on it.

December 27, 2010

Holiday Intervals

I've been doing some hardcore intervals these days.  Really pushing myself to the limits.  The frigid cold outside has forced me to be a bit creative and non-traditional with my workouts.  Just to give you an idea, here's what I've accomplished today:

Party endurance challenge - arrived home at 6am
5 hour power nap
Nutritious & delicious breakfast (aka christmas cookies & fudge)
Stair repeats x4
5 meter intervals - alternating couch-to-fridge and couch-to-bathroom
30 minute recovery on lazy boy in between intervals

Phew.  Now that's the holiday spirit.  What've you been up to?

December 24, 2010

California International Marathon Race Report

Wow.  The past few weeks have been crazy.  I arrived back at my parents' house in Cleveland Sunday and have spent the last 5 days sleeping, watching tv, making Christmas cookies and partying.  What can I say?  I'm on vacation.  I did manage to get in two runs on the treadmill since I've been home, but haven't pushed it too much.  6000 miles of driving have my IT bands tighter than a fat guy in spandex.

Now for CIM.  Where to start?  It's been 2.5 weeks since the race so I think I can write a more objective review.  I have to admit that I was expecting a lot from this race.  It's the most expensive marathon I've run and the largest.  I'd really only heard good things months before the race, so my expectations were pretty high.  Maybe I would have been less disappointed with this race if I'd expected nothing, but as it is I found CIM to be a major letdown.

As you know already, I'd spent 3 days driving west before arriving in Sacramento for the race.  I had one day to recover and was able to loosen up a little by squeezing in a couple light 2 mile runs in the days preceeding the race. Having arrived in town Friday, I was able to hit the expo early and wander around the booths.  While the people there were very friendly, the expo was poorly marked and it wasn't immediately obvious where to go to pick up your bib, shirt, chip etc...  (While waiting at the information stand to ask about race day parking, all 5 people in front of me were asking where to go for packet pick-up.)  That was the first warning sign.

Piercings at Jack in the Box?  Um.  No, thanks.
At least you won't get hungry.
Saturday I checked out Sacramento and drove the course.  (That's where I snapped the lovely photo on the left.)  I'd been warned that despite being advertised as a downhill race there are plenty of hills.  Let's just say I discovered that this was the hilliest race I've ever run.  By far.  Sweet.

That night, I hit up a great Italian restaurant, Paesanos, for some carb loading and had their delicious Cappellini D'Angelo.  The place was crawling with people discussing CIM and I got to chat with a couple of them while I was there.  Always good to get some advice from veterans.

That night, I was kindly hosted by a resident at UC Davis who also happened to be running the race.  This is when the disaster began.  We went to bed around 10pm to get some sleep.  For some reason, I can sleep the night before other major events but the night before a marathon I toss and turn.  Always.  But tonight made all the other "Marathon Eves" look like hibernation.  The neighbors decided to throw a party so I awoke to "Barbie Girl" (with World of Warcraft or something playing in the background) at 11pm.  I'm pretty sure the last time I glanced at the clock is was 2am.  The combination of bad pop music and video games alone is enough to give you nightmares, but the cacophony of noise on the other side of the wall prevented any possibility of sleep.  I think I can safely say I didn't get more than 2 hours of sleep.

My alarm went off at 3:45.  I dragged myself out of bed.  The two of us drove downtown to catch the bus to the start.  I found an amazing parking spot pretty close to the finish line, which is probably the best thing that happened all day.  The morning was damp but not as cold as had been predicted.  The million buses shuttled us the 26 miles to the start where we had over an hour to mill around.  I'd decided to leave my sweatshirt in the car since it hadn't felt too cold with the tall buildings downtown blocking the wind, but now that we had an hour to kill outside I was regretting that decision.  Oh well.  The shivering & adrenaline kept me from getting too cold.  In fairness, I should say that I could have waited on one of the buses but I got in line for a port-a-potty and everyone in front of me seemed to be having problems so I was outside most of the time.

Before the start, I squeezed through the crowds to the 3:40 pace group and settled in.  I wasn't feeling great, but I wouldn't allow myself to think negatively so I kept repeating to myself that I had it in the bag.  The pace leader was really upbeat and encouraging so I focused on that.  When the gun went off I took a deep breath & we crowded through the start.

Miles 1-8:  Calm Before the Storm
For the first 8 miles, I was feeling ok.  The pace group had at least 100 people so I ran on my own for a bit to stay out of the crush.  The leader kept taking the downhills fast which had me a little worried but I tried to trust her experience.  The first half of the marathon is all rolling hills - something I have essentially no experience running - so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.  As the miles passed, I started having a pain in my right foot.  I discovered on the downhills that my right foot was sliding slightly forward in my shoe and slamming into the laces.  At first it was a mere irritation but by mile 8 my thought process went something like: "<pain> *step* <pain> *step*"  I kept waiting for when the pain would dull into something manageable and focused on the crowds and the runners around me.

At this point, I was rapidly realizing that the water stations were going to be a clusterf*ck the whole race.  Largely because there was a huge crush of people, but also because they were somewhat erratic.  They were sometimes on one side of the road, sometimes both, so you couldn't always tell until you were right alongside. Plus, the 3:40 pace leader was carrying her own water and therefore didn't stop or slow for water stops.  It meant that my pace was all over the map to stay on track.  (I realize now that I should have run my own race.)

Miles 9-14:  Unraveling
My mind wasn't in the game.  At mile 9 I hit "stop" rather than "lap" on my Garmin.  A small detail, perhaps, but it was indicative of a lot more.  I lost half a mile before realizing what I'd done and more doubt flooded into my sleep deprived brain.

On top of that, as the adrenaline from the starting line wore off my exhaustion also began to hit home.  Every time I saw patches of soft, green grass, my mind thought of how nice it would be to lie down for a while.  Each time I caught myself thinking that I'd refocus but I could feel the wheels slipping out from underneath.  My energy level was slipping and I began to feel that malaise associated with hitting the wall.  My legs were dead weight and I felt like I was moving through concrete.

On top of everything else, I started getting incredibly nauseous.  I never have stomach problems but choking down gels or water was an exercise in stubbornness and determination.  Knowing that I was actively bonking, I forced them down and kept moving.

Meanwhile, the pain in my foot was escalating.  The sensation became not only distracting but it was rapidly progressing such that any other thoughts were impossible.  Every time I put any weight on my right foot, a knife tore through my skin.  I tried to not let the pain alter my stride, worried I'd cause another injury, but it was severe enough that a stress fracture became an increasingly real concern.  Now I began to have a heated argument with myself:  keep running and risk serious injury or throw in the towel again and give up on my hopes of Boston this year.

Miles 15-26.2 Game Over
Near the mile 14.4 aid station, the pain won.  I was too tired to fight it anymore and I didn't want to spend the next few months sidelined with a stress fracture.  I moved to the side and tore off my shoe.  The foot didn't look great, but the pain improved significantly with the shoe off.  Luckily, I'd read a Runner's World article months ago about how to tie your shoes differently to minimize problems.  Once the laces were altered, the pain decreased but I'd lost 3 or 4 minutes for re-lacing and knew I couldn't regain that time.

It was over.  Any other race I struggled through, I could remind myself that I knew I could finish. This time it wasn't that I didn't think I could finish, it's that I didn't care.  Convincing myself to keep going was a huge challenge.  I stopped having fun as a marathoner.  The second half of the race was neverending.

CIM Review
Enough of me complaining about me.  Here come my complaints about CIM.

1.  The aid stations.  Wow.  I suck for saying that.  But the water stops were really poorly run.  The only reason I got gels was because I knew which station they were at and I shouted "Gels?!?!" the whole way through.  Even then, at 2 of them I had to grab a gel out of the hand of the only volunteer handing them out because they weren't paying any attention to the runners.  Nice.  To make things worse, Ultima is the beverage offered.  FYI:  Ultima has next to no carbs.  At a marathon.  How did that seem like a good idea to anyone?

2.  The crowds.  I know.  That's pretty douchy.  Sorry.  Normally I'm happy to have anyone cheering, but my expectations were high for a race like this.  And to be fair, there were some really awesome signs and people cheering.  But the vast majority of people weren't cheering.  Or smiling.  As hundreds of people passed in front of them, most of the crowd had their eyes focused on scanning the horizon for that one guy they know.  Once I finished the race I cheered people on around 25.7 and, though I was surrounded by people, I was almost the only one cheering.  When I started shouting & cheering, a couple people briefly joined in.  That's about it.  What's the point of doing these huge races if it's little better than an empty course?

3.  The post-marathon event.  Once I finished, I was famished.  I headed over for food only to realize there was a 30-some minute wait to get food.  Really?!?  Since I'd found such a great parking spot I went to my car first to get a Powerbar.  That way I would have something to eat while waiting for food.  That's a first.  Sad.

I'll leave it at that.  Would I run CIM again?  Probably not.  But now, it's time to think about plans for the coming year.  More on that later.  In the meantime, happy holidays!  I wish you all the best.

December 7, 2010

Things Fall Apart

The past few days have been a whirlwind, and today is forecasted to be more of the same.  I woke up early this morning, however, so I have a little time to give you a quick update.

Do you want the good news, or the good news?  (Neither is what you might expect.)  First of all, I didn't sh*t my pants or die.  Bonus.  So, yes.  That is to say that I didn't make my goal of Boston Qualifying.  Which comes to the second piece of good news:  I learned a lot.  Primarily:  Don't run a marathon after driving 2500 miles across the country.  Bad idea.  Despite this having been my 7th marathon, I've never been in as much pain as I have been after CIM.  During the race my hamstrings felt like rubber bands that were about to snap.  Where does it hurt now?

This has led to a lot of inner comic relief as I've been interviewing non-stop for residency positions over the past fews days.  Being in the medical field, the campus tours tend to always involve taking the stairs since we're "healthy people" and all.  Normally, I actually like that they do this.  Since CIM, however, I have merely been trying to not look like a crazy person when walking.  Taking the stairs is a constant struggle to not look like someone from the Ministry of Silly Walks.  Let's just say that at least I get a good laugh from myself.

December 4, 2010

Are We There Yet?

For those of you who are interested, the key to getting through long road trips quickly is to not stop driving.  (That includes not stopping by driving off the road & crashing into something... that's just poor form.)  This may seem obvious, but it's not always easy advice to follow - or to follow safely.  The biggest rest stop culprits are usually food & bathrooms, both of which ya kinda need.

The problem of food is easily resolved by packing healthy options in your car.  This feeds three birds with one stone:  You don't have to stop, you save money AND you can avoid eating the fast food junk that is often the only option.  Some of the items I packed were fruit, whole wheat bagels & peanut butter, hardboiled eggs, veggies, cereal and nuts.  (Keep in mind, I have well over 5000 miles of driving in total so that's not excessive.)  The best items are ones that you can safely eat while driving and that won't end up all over your shirt, pants, or car.  If you drop something, let it lie until you can pull over.

The problem of bathroom stops is trickier.  Some of your options include:  becoming a vengeful astronaut, soda bottles - easier for guys (I actually know someone who's done this while driving - you need good aim), dehydration, and stopping a lot.  With less than a week to go before CIM, I probably should have stayed hydrated but I didn't want to spend more time in the car.  So I went the dehydration route, supplementing my water restriction with the occasional diuretic Diet Dr. Pepper & Coke Zero to speed up the process and keep me alert.  It became clear just how dehydrated I became on day 1 when on day 2 I barely needed to go to the bathroom despite drinking significantly more.  Oops.  Yesterday & today, my water bottle hasn't left my side.

But don't rehydrate too quickly!  Too much water too quickly can cause hyponatremia & water intoxication, which can result in death in extreme cases.  This can even be a danger when you drink too much during marathons or other athletic events.  A great explanation can be found here.  The idea is that your body is a mix of water and a lot of other things, like electrolytes.  If you drink too much fluid that is hypotonic (has less "stuff" in it than in your body's normal mix) than you water everything down.  (Gatorade, for example, is isotonic so this should not occur if it's mixed properly.)  The first thing that dilutes is the fluid outside your cells, and in order to find an equilibrium, water then rushes into cells and causes swelling.  If enough water rushes into your cells (including brain cells!) your brain can herniate when the cells swell and no longer fit in your skull.  Hey... it's not that big a place.

What are the signs of water intoxication?  They include weight gain (over the course of a race or long run...), changes in mental status, vomiting, nausea, headaches and seizures.  You may also experience swelling of the hands and feet and a worsening headache.  Since these symptoms can be confused with heat stroke, it's important to note that with water intoxication your temperature should be within the normal range.

Wow.  Sorry.  My inner geek is showing.  I'll stop now so everyone will wake back up.

And speaking of bathrooms, it's sad how much I laughed when I saw this on my drive:
Yup.  That says BM.
Apparently I am still 5 years old.

Purple Mountains Majesty

Sometimes it's easy to forget about the beauty one can find in this country.  The past 3 days have had me in constant awe.  These pictures can't do justice, but they were my attempt to capture a glimpse of the incredible sights.  Sunrise to sunset, here's one day's worth of beauty:

December 2, 2010


1000 miles closer.  CIM is palpable at this point, only 2.5 days away.  I just arrived in Elko, NV after another long day of driving.  I checked the forecast for the weekend in Sacramento which predicts rain for most, if not all, of the race.  Bummer.  Still hoping to hit a PR, but 46 degree rain is not what I would have chosen.  Honestly, right now I'm too tired to think about it and I can't do anything about it anyway.  It'll be easier to stay positive tomorrow after a good night's sleep.

December 1, 2010

Dysfunction Junction

13 hours after heading out, I've arrive in Grand Island, NE.  Tomorrow... likely Salt Lake City.  (Unless I can find a cheap hotel a couple hours later in Nevada.)  Discovered when I got here that my memory card wasn't in my camera correctly.  Too bad I got a bunch of great pictures.  Fail.


3.5 Days until CIM

November 28, 2010

The Final Countdown

1 week left until the California International Marathon and I have over 2500 miles to drive between now and then.  For the month of December I planned a 3 week road trip during which I will:

2008 NYC Marathon
1.  Have 5 interviews (priority #1)
2.  Run CIM
3.  Need creativity to get in my runs & cross-training
4.  Spend way too much money (not a goal, but a reality)
5.  Meet & marry Ryan Reynolds

I recognize that #5 is *somewhat* less likely than the rest but not impossible.  What can I say?  He's the Green Lantern and rumor has it he ran shirtless in New Orleans every day during filming.  Let's just say that there were a couple months when I was very motivated to get in extra runs.

On one hand, I think the trip will be a blast.  I'm going to see a ton of friends & family I haven't seen in a while and hang out in some really cool cities.  On the other hand, racing CIM after driving 36 hours in 3 days is a recipe for disaster not ideal.  Some serious stretching is on the agenda for every night of the trip.

As for my goals, I normally don't like putting them in writing but that's exactly what I'm going to do next.  Keeping goals to yourself makes it easy to wimp out.  By making them public you can't back down without everyone knowing you wussed out didn't accomplish your goals.  So what are they?

-My "A" goal is 3:35.  A comfortable BQ.  I'll only start off at that pace if I'm feeling well rested and loose.
-My "B" goal (translate as my "I-will-be-pissed-if-I-don't-get-it" goal) is finishing under 3:40.  BQ by a hair but I think this is well within reach.
-My "C" goal is to not sh*t my pants or die.  The former would be worse than the latter, but I would prefer to avoid both.  As I mentioned, I have interviews this week and it is highly likely that some of the interviewers will be at CIM, either running or manning the Medical tents.  I don't want to show up on interview day and have everyone know me as that girl.
Here's one option.
Starting Wednesday, I'll be aiming for Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and some smaller places in between.  It's likely I will fall off the posting band wagon for at least some of the trip, but I'll do my best.  I hope all of you are steadily recovering from the National Binge Fest, otherwise known as Thanksgiving.  In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions for what I should see or do while out West?

November 27, 2010

Brain Damage

When I visit my parents over holidays or breaks I develop a rare condition called couchus potatous.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I arrive home sleep deprived and then go out every night into the wee hours of the morning.  I believe that this condition causes a type of temporary brain damage that resolves when I return to school.  What have I been doing today?

Yeah.  Didn't get a run in today and I'm not gonna.  It's cold and I'm exhausted.  The most exercise I plan on getting is lifting my beer to my mouth when I go out.  (Bicep curls.  They're tough.)  I can rationalize it as an impromptu rest day.

Do you struggle to get in all your workouts or do you have a harder time taking rest days?

November 25, 2010

Gobble, Gobble

Gobble, gobble!
Today I ran my first Turkey Trot and my little sister ran her first race.  Yay!  The bad news is that it was freezing, windy and raining.  Since she started running only a few weeks ago she asked that we run the 1 mile race (which was untimed), so at least we weren't in the cold rain all that long.

And since I wore my Garmin, I discovered that the course was only 0.89 miles.  Oops.  No matter.  I'm going to pretend I don't know that and eat generously today anyway.

We're great at choosing good backdrops.
At least it was dry.
 The verdict?  We had a blast.  She did great and we found ourselves running alongside a group of M&Ms with a "bag of M&Ms", a Hershey Kiss and 3 women dressed like turkeys.  (There was a costume contest associated with the race.)

3 things I'm thankful for today:
1.  Being able to run.  It keeps me sane, healthy and thus far has prevented multiple homicides.  (Angry or upset?  Go for a run.)

2.  My sister has found her own joy in running.

3.  As of right now, I can breathe.  This is a good thing.  (Once I've finished shoveling Thanksgiving dinner into my mouth, I may no longer be able to say that.  Hurt so good.)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 23, 2010

The Black Knight Army Virtual 10k

I broke down and did it.  Today, I ran my first virtual race.  Stefano at Run with the Black Knight is hosting a virtual 10k and, having seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail a million too many times, I couldn't resist.  ("Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left!")  Luckily, this race involved only having to wear black and covering the 10k distance.  No loss of limbs necessary.  That was on the agenda for today anyway.  (I try not to chop off any body parts on runs whenever possible.)

First things first, here's what I wore:

Of course, despite the recent unusually "warm" weather here in Cleveland, after today it's going to get colder and colder.  When I left it was in the high 40s and windy.  So despite my best attempt to dress all in black I had to throw on the outer layer of an old ski coat.  (You only have to wear one item for the virtual race, but what the heck... why not go overboard?)  I also wore my new Bondi Band (which says "Dig Deep") that I won from Julie at Hotlegs Runner.  Bonus.

So I ran out bravely into the tundra and discovered that I was running directly into the wind.  I also made a point to hit all of the hills in the small 'burb my parents live in... If you're running with the Black Knight, I figure it should be something of a challenge.

For the first mile, I felt like I was running in slow motion.  (You know those dreams where you can't move?  Kinda like that.)  It was SO windy, and the beginning of my run took me right along the lake where there's nothing to block the gusts.  Bring it on!

Then, I turned off the lake in order to tackle my biggest hill - down along a creek and back up.  It also happens to be beautiful.  It's a little hard to see, but you can watch the road drop down to the left and then veer back up in the distance.  Missed my hill repeats last week?  No problem.

No hurry?
Then I was back to facing my worst challenge:  the boredom of the 'burbs.  Not much distraction.  It's just me, the sidewalk and the well kept lawns.  At least in NOLA I get to keep myself occupied watching the local crazies flavor that makes the city great.  The best I can do for entertainment here is challenged myself to racing the recycling truck.  Clearly, that wasn't much of a challenge as you can see.  I'm guessing they get paid by the hour - that truck wasn't moving so fast.  Ah well.

I ran a simple out and back, hitting the hills a second time and headed home with the wind at my back.  Mission Accomplished.

But it doesn't stop there.  When I got home, I stole Barefoot Neil Z's idea of using my Garmin for something non-running.  He plowed... I raked the lawn.  Every time I watch my parents rake leaves images of heart attacks swim in my head.  Especially when the lawn looks like this:

But after racing the Black Knight?  No problem!  I was up for the challenge.  40 minutes later the leaves were in the compost pile, the lawn was immaculate and all my limbs were still attached:

Have you gotten in any "cross-training" this week?  What about a virtual race?  What are you doing to ward off the Thanksgiving pounds?

November 22, 2010

Burning River

"Some River! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface
gases, it oozes rather than flows. 'Anyone who falls into the
Cuyahoga does not drown,' Cleveland's citizens joke grimly.
'He decays.'" - Time Magazine, 8/1/69
We'll begin with a brief history lesson.  The Cuyahoga River is the major river that runs through the heart of Cleveland.  It's best known for being, at one point, one of the most polluted rivers in the country and catching fire in 1969.  (In fact, it is reported to have caught fire 9 other times before that.)  The outrage over the last fire was influential in sparking a slew of environmental regulations, including the Clean Water Act, and helping to instigate the Environmental Movement.

Today, the phrase "burning river" rarely refers directly to the Cuyahoga.  Most Clevelanders would think first of the delicious Great Lakes Brewery pale ale, Burning River.  As with all great breweries, they have a great sense of humor and the label on the bottle depicts the skyline of Cleveland with flames in the foreground.  [shrug]  We think it's funny.  If you haven't tried Great Lakes beer and you find yourself in the area, it's amazing.  They win awards every year.  As a bonus, they're environmentally friendly, use predominantly local produce & other foods in their restaurant and are dedicated to sustainability.  I plan on drinking my fill of their Christmas ale once the California International Marathon is behind me.  DE-licious!  Notably, the brewery also hosts a Burning River Fest every summer that promotes "eco-consciousness" and raises money for a local non-profit that works to preserve the Cuyahoga.

As runners, you may have also heard of the Burning River 100 held at the end of July.  The course runs through many of the national parks found in the Cleveland area.  I didn't start running seriously until long after moving away, so I've never seen the race.  I will say, however, that merely looking at the maps makes my legs hurt.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I was running along the Cuyahoga in the Cleveland Metroparks yesterday.  Despite it's filthy history, the river is much cleaner these days and the parks are beautiful.  There's a huge network of national parks in town, many of which were created in response to the pollution to preserve what wilderness remains.  I actually had to cut myself off from taking more pictures so I could get in a quality long run.  Enjoy!

As much as I don't love carrying a camera on runs, it certainly keeps me aware of the beauty around me.  Where do you run and what is it's history?  Run past anything beautiful, hideous, or hilarious recently?