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?

November 20, 2010

Is it just cold or are you happy to see me?

I hate cold weather.  Growing up in Cleveland, OH, winter used to be my favorite season.  Looking back I still can't see exactly why.

I think I can track the beginnings of my cold intolerance to when I moved to Washington, DC for undergrad.  It's uncommon to get more than a couple inches of snow and the temperatures don't get all that dramatic.  But if you watch people drive when the first couple flakes hit the air you would think the world was ending.  Everyone freaks out.  At the time I thought they were all ridiculous and scoffed at their shivering and slip-sliding.  But I think that over the years I slowly started to join their ranks without realizing it.

(The big one circled in yellow)
The nail in the coffin was when I served in the Peace Corps.  I was an HIV/AIDS Education Volunteer in Mali, which is located in West Africa.  In case you're not sure where I'm taking about, here's a map:

[Don't worry, the post office didn't know where Mali's located either.  I had mail routed through Maui, Malawi and Bali to get to me - and that's just a few of the more "obvious" examples.  Then I told people to add "West Africa" to my address, thinking that might help.  Once someone at the post office crossed out West so that it read:  West Africa.  I mean, I'm not arguing with you that Mali is in Africa.  I'm just not sure what was accomplished by the correction.]

Mali's pretty close to the equator, relatively speaking, and the top 2/3's of the country are made up of the Sahara.  Pretty much year round the temperature hits 100F at least during the afternoon, and in the hot season it can be 120 degrees even at night.  (And to put it in perspective, air conditioning was pretty impossible to find outside of major buildings in the capital - 12 hours away from me.)  For maybe a month in the winter time it would get "cold" at night... there were a handful of times I could see my breath!  Feel free to make fun, but when all of your clothes are appropriate for 120 degree weather, 40 or 50 degrees is horrifying!

Winter hat, jacket, pants
So cold intolerance is basically the cultural norm.  And it's kinda hilarious because donated clothing of all sorts makes it to West Africa from the industrial world.  Particularly during "cold" weather you'll find Malians wearing winter hats, puffy jackets and the like.  This isn't my picture, but it's not uncommon to see guys dressed like this year round in Mali.  (Worse in the "winter," of course, but people would wear those hats in the 120 degree summers!)  I made the picture a little larger so you can kinda appreciate the woman in the background wearing a thin skirt and a sleeveless shirt.  It's probably 80 degrees out and he was a little chilled.

So... 2 years in West Africa + almost 4 in New Orleans = wimpy in cold weather.  Once the thermostat drops below 75 I start wearing sweaters and break out the winter coat.  Strangely enough, some of my best races have been in "cold" weather - either the 40s or 50s.  I know that's "ideal" racing weather and I feel good once I get going.  It's that "getting out the door" part that's often unbelievably hard.  I love the concept of running sleeves, which are easy to remove as you keep moving.  And throwaways are a great idea, but perhaps not for the weekly long run.

So, what do I do to stay warm?  I go for the ridiculous look.  Living in NOLA, I can't convince myself that it's worth buying cold weather running clothes.  So I have some $2 gloves from walmart, one long-sleeve wicking shirt, two pairs of capri running pants (which don't wick) and a $5 hat from Old Navy (does a great job at keeping moisture around my head which means once it's on I can't take it off or I'll FREEZE).  If it's REALLY cold, I wear the outer layer of an old ski coat that chafes my chin.  Sweet!  And then I layer like a crazy person.  You know the kid in a Christmas Story?  ("I can't put my arms down!")  Yeah.  I go for that look.  Now that I'm back in Cleveland for the holidays, it's on!
Did you know that a Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland?

And in case you haven't discovered this little gem, hot chocolate is amazing after a run in cold weather!  What do you do to stay warm?

November 17, 2010

Cheapskates Unite!

I might have mentioned once or twice that I'm poor.  As a grad student in a program that leaves little possibility of employment during school, I've got to eke out a living from financial aid alone.  Many of my classmates get a lot of help from their families, and though my family would love to help me out that's not an option.  So, here's a tricks I've picked up for races to help pay for my long distance running & marathon habit:

Started with the top row
(plus a Roctane) and finished
with 3 bonus PowerBar gels.
Grab extras.  Grab extra Gu, water, and whatever else they're handing out.  My loot from Pensacola?  I ate 4 gels during the race (and an orange slice!  Mmmm!) and only one of the gels was mine from home - a Vanilla Orange Roctane.  I always start with 4 gels *just in case.*  It's better to have extras that you don't need than not have any and miss a gel station.  So of the 4 I ate, 3 were ones I picked up on the course.  Since I grabbed 2 at all three stations handing them out, that means I finished with 2 more than I started with.  Bonus!  Oh yeah.  And one of the Hammer gels I brought from home was loot from the Towpath Marathon.

Note:  If you, like me, are carrying 193 gels in your hands - offer them to people who look like they need them.  I've only ever had 1 person take me up on the offer but you never know.  I've missed a gel station before and I wasn't about to turn around and go back.  If you didn't have gels of your own you might end up really regretting that decision later.  Enter: the gel fairy.  Wouldn't you love a magic gel to appear when you're in need?  It's good karma and it's polite.

What else did I pick up in Pensacola?  A free massage (heaven!), 4 bottles of water (drank them ALL), trail mix, and 1348 orange slices.  I parked myself next to the boxes of orange slices at the finish to make up for losing out on a sandwich.  They were handing out 6-inch Subway sandwiches but they only had meat options. (I'm not eating tuna salad or deli meat that's been sitting in the sun for a couple hours even when it's free.  No, thank you, but I like my stomach!)

November 16, 2010

Unbreak my Heart

Nope.  Not that kind of broken heart.  But this may be something worse.  I may be flirting with overtraining syndrome.  (And my flirting, I mean, I may have leapt into OTS' open arms.)  I've ramped up the miles and cross-training over the past few weeks cuz I've been feeling pretty good.  And I even did accidental speedwork/pace run yesterday.  I know I just ran a marathon Sunday, but my legs feel good and my training plan called for a Monday run.  (Ok, ok.  My training plan also called for Sunday to be 20 miles, not 26, but I skipped the 10 mile pace run Saturday to accommodate.  Should be ok, right?)

Well, apparently I went wrong somewhere.  I was planning an easy 8 this morning before I head out on a road trip this afternoon.  I laced up my shoes and headed out the door full of optimism.  Jogging casually down the street I glanced at my Garmin to see... Holy heart rate, Batman!  My heart rate is WAY too high.  I doing almost 9:30 minute miles but my heart rate was almost 180.  That's not right.

I slowed it down and kept an eye on the Garmin.  I figured it must  be a mistake.  Sometimes my heart rate is a bit high for the first mile as I warm up.  But no.  I got to Audubon Park where I would have branched off for two 3-mile loops and I was still around 175.  Mission abort.  I really struggled internally, as I felt ok, but heart rates don't lie.  I guess I need a couple days off.  (To give some context, I ran 12 miles at 9:12 pace last week with an average heart rate of 145.  Today, I ran 2 miles at 9:31 pace with an average heart rate of 174.  Bummer.)

Luckily, today I'm driving to Birmingham and tomorrow I'll head to Cleveland.  I'm starting a month long road trip, hitting a bunch of interviews I have lined up for post-graduation all over the country.  So getting in work-outs is already going to be a challenge.  I just won't try that hard to squeeze them in the next couple days and pick up next week (1 week into taper.)

And just in case, to anyone who might consider breaking into my house... reconsider:
1.  I have 2 roommates who'll still be here.
2.  One of my roommates has 2 evil dogs.  (Ok.  Maybe not evil, but loud.  They'll bark your head off and lick you to death!)
3.  I'm a grad student.  There's nothing to steal anyway.

Have any of you run into overtraining syndrome?  How long did you have to back off?  Did I just throw away my chance of a BQ in 3 weeks or am I ok since I'm tapering anyway?  Ahhh!

Pensacola Marathon Race Recap

Shoot.  It's Tuesday.  I said I'd get you this on Monday.  This is way past my bedtime, but I won't have time tomorrow (today?) so here it is:

Luckily, not many people on the roads.

I was pretty psyched and drove out to Pensacola without any problems.  I even took a picture of me singing my head off on the drive but the picture turned out worse than my singing.  Coordinating self-portraits while driving is probably a bad idea anyway so you'll have to settle for a my picture of the road (easier to aim) and the beautiful blue sky.

The hotel wasn't super sketchy, although I did debate staying at a hotel down the street advertising $35/night.  The cheap place did look super sketchy so I passed.  (I did, however, spend 10 minutes parked in their parking lot debating how much I cared that it looked unsafe.  Not gonna lie.)  Right after I checked in at my hotel I drove over to the packet pick-up covering some of the course in the process.  I was a little bit surprised to see how hilly it was.  Not just little rolling hills but some significant climbs as well.  Hmm.  Nothing to do about it at this point.

The people at the packet pick-up were very helpful and organized. Piece of cake.  The only downside is that the shirts are that "see-through-white."   So see-through that you can hold them up and not only read the print on the front AND back of the shirt, but could talk to someone standing on the other side with a better field of vision than if you were wearing a burka.  Bummer.  I'm not really into the see-through shirts, but at least you can layer.

Race Day
3 gels pinned to my behind.
After sleeping fitfully, I woke up at 3:55.  The race started at 6:30 and I wanted plenty of time for "digestion" (if you know what I mean), getting ready, checking out of the hotel and driving the 20 minutes to the start.  I woke up right on time, downed my coffee & whole wheat bagel with peanut butter immediately and got everything together.  I did what you're always told not to do and toyed with a new way to carry gels:  I pinned 3 on the back of my shorts (I normally carry them in my armband).  I won't create too much suspense... they made it less than a mile before I took 2 of them off (stabbing myself with the pins in the process) because I could tell they were going to piss me off if I didn't.  Bummer.

Sunrise (long after I got to the race start)
Anyway, back to the story... "digestion" didn't work.  I could not go to the bathroom before I left the hotel.  This seems to be a problem for me when I'm A: away from home and B: have early starts for races.  Not sure which is most responsible, but Sunday was no exception.  I showed up at the starting line a little more than an hour early so I figured I'd warm-up, jump up and down to "warm-up" and therefore *get things moving* so I could hit a port-a-potty before the race.  Luckily, getting there so early meant that I got a killer parking space right near the finish and could jump around without making too many people think I was crazy.  After hitting the port-a-potties twice with no luck, I figured, "who cares?"  This ones just for fun anyway.  If (or rather, when) I have to stop for a potty break, I won't mind losing a minute or two.  So I lined up with everyone else and waited for the gun.

The Race
Miles 1-15 were mostly me trying to reign it in.  I was feeling good and my body kept picking up the pace.  I tend to want to keep everyone else's pace, but the marathon is a personal battle you have to fight on your own.  I also knew that there were way more half marathon runners than full so I didn't want to get carried away by their enthusiasm so early on.  I mostly kept my pace where I wanted it and enjoyed the sights.  This time around (the course was a double loop) the hills were mere speed bumps - they slowed me a little but were soon forgotten.  It was also during this portion of the race that 2 exciting things happened:
1.  They had free Gu/Powerbar gels around mile 6 and 13.5.  I grabbed 2 at each stop.  Sweet!
2.  Despite someone stealing using the public port-a-potty at mile 6, I wasn't experiencing an emergency so I patiently waited until mile 8 rather than stand & wait.  I don't know if it works the same for you, but successful "pit stops" are magical and significantly improve my quality of life.  Let's just say that mile 9 was beautiful.

There was also the bonus that from mile 9-13 I was flying by half-marathoners (and a couple marathoners...  Uh oh!) who went out too fast, didn't train well, or were simply having a bad day.  It's not that I enjoy your misery.  It's simply that we've all been there and it's nice to have a day when you're not that person.

Miles 16-20 were uneventful.  My adrenaline energy had worn off at this point, and we'd left the half marathoners behind.  This means that I was now spending a lot more time alone on the course but there were still 10-20 runners within sight in front of me at any given time.  (Yeah... a little lonely.)  I was no longer struggling to slow down, but I wasn't struggling to hold the pace either.  Everything was feeling pretty good.

Mile 19/20 - The clouds disappeared and the sun came out in full force.  Until now, the weather had been warm but cloudy with very little direct sunlight.  Once the sun peeked out, you could look around and immediately tell it was taking a toll on everyone.  It was around this point that my heart rate started to slowly creep up.  I still had gas left in the tank, but I began to debate the impact that pushing the last 6 miles would have on CIM.  Any time we hit hills my heart rate was jumping into the high 170s and I was getting worried about pushing it too hard.  A little disappointed, I decided to simply keep the pace I'd been running all along (rather than running MP for the last 6-8) and that I'd walk the uphills.  CIM is predominantly downhill, so I didn't want to "practice" on hills I won't be running.  I repeatedly had to remind myself this was a long, slow run for me... not a race.  Going full throttle wasn't going to get me anywhere (figuratively speaking, that is).

So I plodded my way to the finish line.  I felt ok, but started feeling that hot weather type of exhaustion where you just don't want to move unless it's toward an ice bath.  It wasn't dangerously hot out, just the mid-70s, but when you've already run over 20 miles the little temperature changes take a bigger toll.  Miles 21-24 were my slowest, primarily due to walking hills but I still kept my pace averaged around 9:28 for those miles.  Once I hit mile 25 I dropped back until 9:00 miles to coast in to the finish and I still came in under 4 hours.

And yes, I even did a goofy run through the finish line.  I became a maniac, afterall.  Figured I had a good excuse to act like one.  (We'll see when the pictures come back how ridiculous I look.)  Some guy yelled that if I had that much energy crossing the line I shoulda raced harder.  I didn't want to tell him I'm saving my energy for December.  Plus, at this point the extra energy I used to sprint the last 0.2 and high-step it across the finish had taken it's toll and I was gasping for air.  Whatevs.  The finisher pictures don't show what you look like on that side of the line.  That's something we can all be grateful for.

I'm a maniac... next up, massage!
Overall?  It was good for a supported long run, but I'm not sure I'd run it again.

The quick & dirty:
Pros:  Small, but very friendly marathon.  The route is made up of 2 loops - some people don't like that, but I don't mind.  You know what's coming and can settle into a groove.  The first few miles of the loop are pretty and along the Gulf.
Hurt so good.  He's really leaning into it!
Cons:  There are very few spectators, particularly on the second loop once all the half marathon runners have finished.  The course was just ok.  There isn't much to say about most of the scenery... a lot of it was industrial or small residential neighborhoods.  I don't know Pensacola at all, so maybe that's all it has to offer.  Once you finished, there was only one guy doing massages and one guy doing dynamic stretching.  The stretching tent started packing up almost immediately after I finished.  (I ran to my car to dump my gels and switch to flip-flops and by the time I arrived at the tent - maybe 4 hrs and 10 minutes after the start - they'd already stopped taking names for the list.  Really!?!  The bulk of the marathon runners are just crossing or haven't crossed yet.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they need your help the most, but whatever.  Not much you can do.)  The massage guy was great, but it would have been nice to have another person or two to help him out.

Once I get the official pictures, I'll post some of the ridiculous ones for you.  Nothing like running pictures to make you humble.  I hope everyone had a good weekend!

November 14, 2010

She's a Maniac!

First off, I want to thank everyone for the support.  This is a pretty low stress race for me, but support is always welcome.  Especially because I drove some of the course on the way to the packet pick-up and was horrified pleasantly surprised to see that it was all rolling hills.  (In Florida?!?  What?!  Isn't Florida supposed to be super flat?)

I'm actually writing this Saturday night and set it to post automatically... barring any major problems, I should have finished by now and may even be back in NOLA which means that:

(I suspect the only thing we have in common is how much we sweat.)

Yup, you guessed it:  At this point in time I should qualify as a marathon maniac.  I'll get you the race report as soon as I enjoy the post-race festivities, drive back to New Orleans, enter a food coma at the Po-Boy Fest, and sleep it all off.  So probably Monday.  (Appropriate to have a manic Monday, no?)  I hope you all had a great weekend as well!

November 12, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

First off, thanks for all the great ideas for reigning in the pace on runs.  I may try the HR monitor idea (very popular in the triathlon world, it seems).  I'll have to read up on it more before I dive in, but it sounds like it works.  And slowing down my music?  So obvious I didn't think about it.  May even try it this weekend if I need it.

Speaking of... Sunday is going to be amazing.  First off, I'll be running the Pensacola Marathon.  As I mentioned before, I'll be using it as a long run where I don't have to carry my own water (BONUS!) and I have a lot more company than usual.  It's actually supposed to be a pretty small race, just a couple hundred running the marathon, but even a handful of spectators is more than zero.  I'll take it.  I leave Saturday and will be staying in the cheapest motel within driving distance of the race.  Should be classy.  At least it has free wi-fi so I can hassle you people while I'm there.

Po-Boy Fest 2009
(2 beers taste better than 1)
Then, upon my return home I will be greeted by the New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival.  (Mighta mentioned this before, too.)  And by greeted, I mean that I'm a little worried I won't find parking when I get back since the festival is only a few blocks from my house.  Last year the whole neighborhood was gridlocked and it gets bigger every year.  Who can resist a festival celebrating food?  As long as I don't have to walk miles on my weary legs I'll be happily stuffing my face with po-boys and beer.  I'm one of those "I run so I can eat" people and marathons mean being extra indulgent.  I can eat even more delicious food and not feel guilty.  Now that's what I call "post-race nutrition."

And last, but certainly not least, running Pensacola will qualify me as a Marathon Maniac!  I'll be the "lowest" level (Bronze) having completed 3 marathons in 90 days.  You better believe I'll finish Pensacola, come hell or high water, but since I'm saving my legs for CIM I'm planning on taking it nice and easy.

Even if I'm slow, that still means po-boys.  And beer.  Priorities.  Seriously.

How do you treat yourself after a big race?

November 10, 2010


No, I don't mean this kind of restraint:

Nope.  Not this either:

What I'm talking about is restraint on runs.  I don't have it.  Well, to be more accurate... I lose it.  At the beginning I'm fine.  I ran out of steam on enough of my races early on that I learned to be more conservative heading out.  Sometimes overly so but we'll save that for another day.  Generally, once I get started I'm like a metronome.  As long as I hit a "golden pace," I'll stay rock steady for miles.  If I'm feeling good, I usually run negative splits.  (Which is mostly testament to the fact that I often start out slower than I should.)

Recently, I've been trying to integrate a little bit of speed into some of my longer runs to break up the monotony.  For example, yesterday I planned to run 10 miles.  The idea was to run the first 4 slow and comfortable.  From mile 4-7 I'd pick up the pace to sub-marathon pace (MP).  Then from mile 7-10 I'd slow back down.  It's that "slowing down" part that kills me.

Ok.  I realize that might sounds kinda cocky, but it's really not.  Proof?  It even happens when I bonk in races.  For the Mardi Gras marathon last year I was really sick.  I went out too fast (trying to stay with friends I'd trained with).  If I'd been healthy, I would have been ok.  But feeling like death incarnate, I was having so much trouble breathing that the muscles between my ribs hurt WAY more than my legs at the end of the race.  (I was using those "accessory muscles" in a futile attempt to get air into my lungs.)  The last 6 miles I was hurting a lot but I wouldn't let myself stop once I got that far.  I told myself I'd just keep moving slow and steady.  But everytime I'd start running again my legs would try to go back to the pace I'd been running... the pace that was too fast.  Which meant that I just kept burning out and having to walk over and over and over.  Good times!

So back to my more recent run, I could not seem to get my pace back down.  (The numbers are deceiving.)  I ran:

4.28 miles @ 8:59
3.28 miles @ 8:03
2.85 miles @ 8:38
for a grand total of 10.4 miles

When you look at the last 3 miles you might wonder what I'm talking about.  "You did slow down," but it was a major struggle.  I had to constantly check my Garmin, something I don't really like doing.  But when I left it to feel, every time I looked down I was back at 8:00/mile pace.  Ugh.  So much for restraint.

I'm kinda at a loss on this one.  Being able to reel it in is an important skill.  That skill helps you avoid injury (not running too fast on rest days), adjust to the inevitable surprises on runs or races and improve your ability to pace appropriately.  What's a runner to do?

If only I had those straps.
Or some self-control.

November 8, 2010


There are a lot of things I love about running.  More than I could count.  But there are some things that I hate...  You've probably got them, too.  Things that suck but we overlook them and run anyway.  Since it's Monday and my bright-and-shiny attitude walked out on me sometime in the middle of the night, I'm gonna linger in my misery by listing off what I like least.  Here are my top 5, in no particular order:

1.  The smell of my 5-6 year old armband.  My other things smell, too.  Like, for example, I don't allow my shoes near small children for fear of a lawsuit.  But they're only around for ~500 miles so it doesn't get that bad.  And we all smell after a run.  Whatevs.  No biggie.

But my God!  I've had an armband since I was in the Peace Corps so it's 5-6 years old at this point.  On more than one occasion I've had people ask "what the h*ll is that smell!?!" when stopping for water.  (You know, when you can't rely on movement to keep the smell behind you?)  Yeah.  Um.  Sorry.  Even I think it stinks.

2.  Carrying water on long runs.  Yeah, I do it.  But I don't like it.  I get a little spoiled because Audubon Park has water fountains every 0.5-1 mile.  So I may have to run loops (which aren't so bad with company) but at least I don't have to carry my own water.  Yet there's always times when I gotta log the miles alone at which point I usually do an out-and-back.  (Loops are too mentally exhausting alone.  Everytime I'm back at the start I think, "Do I really have to run that again?")  Out-and-backs mean I get to strap on a camelbak or carry a water bottle.  Ugh.

Even worse is when the water fountains aren't working.  New Orleans sometimes usually functions like a developing country, and when things break you can safely assume it'll be months or years until they're fixed.  When the good fountain at the park is down for the count (the one that's always cold), that's enough to ruin a day.

3.  Gels.  Pick your poison.  I've got my "favorites," and by favorites I mean the ones that make me gag the least.  My modus operandi is to down them as quickly as possible so I don't have to taste much.  (Is it just me or is Gu the consistency of vasoline?)  However, when they hand out free ones at races you don't usually have much choice and the race directors seem to provide only the worst flavors.  Maybe they get a bulk discount on gels that companies can't otherwise sell.  But I'm a grad student so I grab them anyway.  If I finish with fewer gels than I started out with:  FAIL.  Then I get home and have to I muster up some enthusiasm for my plunder.  "Mmmm.  Gels"  (read: sarcasm.)  I know there are other kinds of race nutrition (powerbars, jelly beans, shot bloks...) but chewing & running = not breathing.  I happen to like breathing.  And besides... back off!  This is my forum to b*tch.  You can talk about why you love gels on your own blog.

That's gonna leave a mark.
4.  Chafing.  Although potentially avoidable, a good chafe can still manage to sneak up on you.  Perhaps the weather became more humid than you expected.  Or, the weather was beautiful and you felt great so you decided to add on a couple miles you hadn't planned.  Maybe you simply forgot the body glide.  The worst is that you don't always notice the damage while you're running.  I like to refer to this phenomenon as the "stealth chafe."  It's the moment you get into the shower expecting only that wave of relaxation and then... "Holy Mother!  ¡%*#¿&!"

Sorry.  I hope you weren't eating.
5.  Snot.  It's not that snot is limited to running.  It's that somehow running seems to have a direct relationship to the production of snot.  This phenomenon occurs mostly in cold weather, but is not limited to cold weather.  In medicine, you're taught to always start with the ABCs:  Airway, Breathing & Circulation.  Snot = no airways, no breathing.  And, unfortunately, I'm not aware of any great solutions to resolve the problem.  Using your sleeve or snot rockets can result in collateral damage and/or funny looks at the finish line when someone notices the boogers on your shoulder.  "That banana looks delicious!  Why are you gagging?"

I made this myself.  It's way scientific.
And if you're not already disgusted, I googled snot just to see what solutions the internet can offer and discovered this gem:
Yeah.  I really want to put that in my mouth.  Maybe we should just teach our kids how to effectively snot rocket.  There'd probably be less casualties if we learned the technique from an early age.

November 7, 2010

No more fear of commitment

First of all, congratulations to all those who competed in Ironman Florida yesterday.  It's a truly amazing feat.  And "good luck!" to all those running the NYC Marathon today.  I wish I could be there to cheer you on!

All the competing this weekend has me thinking about my own goals and how I'm going to get there.  Here we go:

1.  Qualify for Boston at the California International Marathon

I know that Boston sold out in 0.5 seconds.  I am very aware of that fact because I let my pace slide at my last marathon thinking I could qualify at my next.  Sucks, but c'est la vie.

Unfortunately, I had to do the most grueling training for the Towpath Marathon while I was on my most demanding work rotation.  Generally, I was ecstatic to get a mere 6-7 hours of sleep and was happy just to be able to fit any runs into my schedule.  No speedwork.  No hills.  Just logging the miles.  I still hoped it would be enough, and there's a slim possibility that I could have still qualified if I did some serious pushing through the pain & burn.  But, as I mentioned in my race report, I wasn't having fun or enjoying myself.  Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I think it should be possible to qualify without being miserable and I'd much rather have it be a good experience.  So I won't be going this year but I want the qualification nonetheless.

So!  Goal number two:

2.  Pensacola Marathon ONLY as a training run.

I sometimes have a bad habit of pushing it on days when I feel good to the detriment of runs when I actually want to push the pace.  Since Pensacola is only a week away (and only 3 weeks before CIM), it's important that I commit myself to taking it easy.  My aim is to run no faster than MP+45 for 18-20 miles and then MP for the last 6-8.  We'll see how I feel.  If anything is sore or hurting, I'll back off.  This is not the time to get injured.  (Remind me I said that when someone passes me in the last mile and I'm not allowed to speed up.)

Looking at past results, I shouldn't have too much trouble keeping it slow.  This is a pretty small marathon and last year there were less than 80 women (only 221 marathon runners in total.) I won't have massive crowds egging me on.  It'll feel like a LSD run that starts & ends with a lot of people.  And I won't have to carry my own water.  I'm ok with that.

3.  Keep running though the winter.

It's not that I'm worried about "falling off the wagon."  By now, I'm a hard-core convert.  If I go too many days without running I start getting symptoms of withdrawal.  For me that mostly means I get super grouchy, b*tchy and can't sleep.  Trust me.  You don't want to see me like that.  I don't want to be around myself when that happens.

What I am worried about is the fact that December & January are going to be insanely busy for me.  I will more or less be away from home and on the road from mid-November until New Years.  While the trip should be a lot of fun (& work), fitting in runs could become a major challenge.  I'm gonna go ahead and use you guys as my peer pressure.  I'll squeeze my runs in whenever and wherever I can - pit stops, early mornings, late at night...  Hopefully I'll end up with some great stories and awesome pictures.  Maybe I'll even find a running partner or two.  But this blog will hold me responsible.

And while we're on the topic, I don't want to simply run though December & January.  I want to keep cross-training.  I'm still toying with the idea of competing my first triathlon at the New Orleans 70.3 Ironman this spring.  Right now, the major hurdle is a bike.  I only have a MTB and I'm broke.  There may be a way for me to use some loan money to buy a road bike, but that might cause a much tighter belt over the next year than I can afford.  So, we'll call it "cross-training" for now.

Now that's commitment
The hurdle will be that biking & swimming aren't quite as convenient as running.  I'll either have to bring my bike with me or pay for a gym every time I need to bike or swim.  Again, this whole "being poor" thing is really cramping my style.  So we'll see.  But now I'm committed.  I said it "outloud."  (Well.  I made it public, anyway.  You know what I mean.)  I am committed to running, biking & swimming through the winter, whatever it takes.  Hold me to it.

Any suggestions for training while on an extended road trip?