Monday, April 30, 2007

April in Review

After calibrating my iPod, I was back on track and running toward 5.07 miles around the neighborhood (where I know my distances). It was dead on today as I pass one mile after the other, and didn’t stress at all about why its accuracy was sleeping in on Saturday morning.

It also occurred to me how much lighter I was on my feet today and I began wondering how much weight stress adds to your stride. I finished one more project for school today (three more to go!) and know I had these many things weighing my shoulders for the past several weeks.

I leave for Portland on Wednesday and should be done with everything for school by next Wednesday. So, maybe I should get into a race the following Saturday and see how well I run when I’m relieved and free as a bird!

As April ticks away, it looks like I will win one of my Nike Plus challenges (fastest 3K in April, 13:48) and come in second for miles in April (92.01). I’m only a little bitter about the second place thing—the chick who won the challenge showed 4.06 miles every single day with inconsistent total stats. It was a little bit fishy… but it's only Nike Plus, you know?

Looking back on the past four months, however, I’m pleased with my progress: I started off the year with the astronomical goal of 30 miles in January. It was unthinkable back then! And this month I ran almost 100. I would be mad at myself for not reaching 100 miles, which was my goal, but I had that awful sick spell. Again: what can you do? I ran my first 10-mile race and finish my first unofficial half marathon. I’m not breaking any records but I’m making strides in the right direction.

Thanks to everyone for their guidance, support and inspirational stories, and high fives all around for all of the big races, hills and challenges you've conquered. I look forward to next week, when I’m done with classes, when I can get back the important stuff, like keeping up with everyone else. And on that note, I’m off to knock out one more thing before I leave town.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ten Miles Under My Belt

Well, the results are in: I did all right. I met my first goal (to finish with grace), but I was off on my second. My gun time was 1:29:19.80, chip time 1:28:13.45, and gun pace 8:49/mile, which landed me at 30 in my age group and just behind my goal.

If you made your way outside before noon on Saturday, you know that it wasn’t exactly a lovely morning for a run (not by my standards, at least). It was a little colder than expected and had lied, lied, lied about the rain thing. Again. So, when we started waddling toward the starting line after the gun went off, it was already raining. It wasn’t that bad until we headed down the Carnegie leg toward Ohio City and the rain was plunking down right in my eyes. I only took a few minutes to curse myself for not wearing a hat, but was a little more disturbed by some strange timing events.

I'm the one in green.This race I ran with my iPod. I’ve gotten used to running with music, and I’m not mature enough as a runner to run without a distraction. Maybe one of these days. And I had my Nike+ thing running to keep track of my miles and times (these were 10 great miles to add to my ‘most miles in April’ challenge!).

Because of my knee, I eased into the race. The 1-mile marker on my iPod and the race lined up almost perfectly. But the times were way off. I had started my timer when I crossed the start, and knew that I was a minute and a half behind the gun. When I passed mile one, however, my time was 8:45 but theirs was 10:59. And the synchronization between my time and theirs was off for the rest of the race.

The worst part (of the metal race) was that I dorked something up big time on my iPod the night before. All of my playlists were off, and after mile-two, all of the miles were off. So, by the time I hit mile eight, my iPod was congratulating me on finishing 10 miles. Right as I was heading up the hill on West 3rd with nearly two miles to go! It has never been so far off, so I’ll have to do some tinkering before my next techie run.

The best part of the race, on the other hand, was my personal cheering section: my Mom and Neil. We were headed down Fulton when I heard some yelling from a nearby street and saw the two of them jumping out of the car to take photos. And then a couple minutes later blocking a bus and about a mile of traffic. And then stopped on the Superior Bridge like some crazed paparazzi. They seemed to be everywhere!

One of the longer legs of the race was a down-and-back on the Marginal to Burke Lakefront Airport. At the top of the hill headed into the leg, my mom was helping a police officer block angered drivers who wanted to drive through the race, and Neil was cheering us on. Not only was it great to see them (again!) headed into that leg, but it meant the world coming out. That spot was one of the obligatory hills you must run when you are most tired, and I was pushed and motivated by their being there. How can you sputter out when you have fans yelling for you? And they were the little wings on my shoes that Papa Louie said would carry me up the hill!

I did, however, come close to sputtering out shortly after that spot. On the back end of the Marginal leg, I was running past, facing the people behind me in the race. This race had to be the most somber thing I’ve ever seen in an athletic competition. No one was smiling, and most of them looked like they were on the verge of pouting. So, I started cheering everyone on. I was whooping, clapping, yelling—anything to get these people’s spirits up. And, of course, after making it through every water/Gatorade stand without trouble, I gave myself a stitch from cheering.

After mile one, I had stayed on an 8:00/mile pace. But as soon as the stitch took on, the knees started crumbling, it started raining again... and then my iPod told me I was done! So, I slowed way down until my knees stopped aching and I could keep moving while breathing deeply and stretching my side. Miles eight and nine were around 10:30 each… but what are you going to do?

Heading into the last mile, I tried to pick up my pace and ignore the stitch. I was a little bummed about my time and the previous two miles, but I just kicked it into whatever gear was left, and came home in 7:35. And somehow my mom and Neil were there too! They were the cheeriest people in a pretty quiet crowd, and I’m sure they helped power plenty of other people to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line, received my completion medal, returned my chip and found my two big fans. We cheered on my step-father and whooped for a few more minutes for the people who followed. I couldn’t believe how blah the crowd was. If it weren’t for the police officers and security guards manning/wo-manning the race lines and random people along the side (like my mom and Neil), it would have been one depressing event! It almost makes me want to attend events just as a cheer-person. At least that way I wouldn’t get stitches!

So, I didn’t meet my time goal, but I did finish the race. I guess I can’t get too down on myself. This racing thing is addictive, and I’ll never get registered for the next one if I just keep moping!
More photos to follow.


The rest of the day wasn’t so hot. I woke up with a sour stomach in the morning, but I just put it down to nerves, which have a tendency to throw me all out of whack on race day. That late-race stitch took all my attention from the stomach discomfort, so I didn’t notice that I had some semblance of stomach flu or sickness until I made it out of the shower at my mom’s house. I spent the rest of the day writhing and watching the NFL draft with Neil (poor guy had to sit around all day waiting for me to stop whining; Phil Savage, however, really earned his paycheck today) and am cooking some brown rice as I type.

And I have to say that the one thing that’s more difficult than running the 10-miler is spending the remainder of the day unable to eat! I earned that food, man! Nevertheless, I made it out of the day with a medal to mark my achievement. That and a bowl of food will make me one happy girl.

Friday, April 27, 2007

One Day Until Race Day

What else can I say: the GU was… gooey. It didn’t taste bad (strawberry banana flavor), but I had a hard time with the gooey texture. What texture I was expecting from a product called GU? But it was such a relief to hear from Salty One that I needed to wash the stuff down with a swig of water because I wasn’t quite getting the sense of hydration and energy boost I had imagined. In fact, I felt a little phlegmy, which is something I try to alleviate when I hydrate…

What I wouldn’t do without guidance from my bloggy buddies!

It was a good test to try the GU during my 4.25-mile run during lunch yesterday, which was at the slow and relaxed pace I’ve been targeting in my workouts lately. My knee had to warm up again before it felt comfortable to run, but there were no ill effects this time—no soreness afterward, no next-morning stiffness, no need to elevate, heat and pray.

Cleveland 10-miler mapMy mind has been torn over how to rest before a race, and this week has been a good test. It’s not only inability to sit still sometimes that hampers the resting process, but it has more to do with my mind tricks than anything physical. Last month I read a Q&A bit from Runner’s World in which the expert said one’s body loses a bit of its running fitness after three days off. So, I panicked at the beginning of this week about how to spread out my workouts and how much rest was good for me. I’d like to consider myself a wholly rational person, but when it comes to expert advice I’m a blind follower (when I was in sixth grade a doctor told our class that eating certain kinds of lunch meat depleted your memory capacity, I cut out all lunch meat and haven’t touched the stuff ever since). After being sick earlier this month, however, I did discover that my body didn’t exactly wind down to its pre-running shape in the week or so I took off. Plus, it was reassuring to hear from Ryan that fitness comes with recovery.

See: all I need is to hear it from someone and I believe it. Please don’t take advantage of my running naïveté and try to sell me magic shoes. I’m not into easy solutions, but if you tell me they’re good for me, I just might bite.

Tonight, however, I will be familiar territory: the arena of good food. I’m spending the night at my mom’s house (it’s much closer to the race, plus she has Cream of Wheat) and getting some pasta from Beach Club Bistro. I’ve been looking over the course map for the 10-miler and, being just too familiar with the downtown area, I don’t think it looks that far. Sure, it’s 10 miles… but I guess that sense of familiarity puts things in a condensed perspective. Although it was nice in the St. Malachi race to wonder through the Flats’ back roads and find some good modern architecture.

Nevertheless, today will be a day to chill. Chill and hope that the ever-changing forecast for tomorrow will settle on something like “clouds and some sun later in the day” rather than the “rain possible precisely during your race time” that is showing right now. But, hey, people have conquered greater things than a few rain showers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Triumph Over Wednesday

My goal for this week: get past Wednesday. And I did it! Between work and school Wednesday was one of those days that pushes to see how much you can get done in a short period of time and maintain your sanity. I am proud to say that I prevailed. Woo hoo!

It has, nevertheless, held me back from properly blogging, but after next week, I’ll be free to blog way more than is really reasonable.

Despite all the work, Wednesday was in fact a rest day. I ran a really slow and easy 5.5K on Tuesday evening after work. My knee was still a little tweaky when I ran my normal pace at first, so I slowed down for about 2K. When I picked up again, my knee felt fine. So, for Saturday’s race, I might need to do a little more warming up than I’m usual. But that’s probably a good habit to acquire.

Aside from celebrating my making it past Wednesday, I will be running one last time before the race. Today I’m going to take an easy jog during lunch to test out the knee and give some GU a try. In light of my last race and my experience with drinking water (I had to run for 2.5 miles clutching my side and wincing in pain), I thought I would try something a little bit different.

So, as I run today, I’m going to test my GU-ability (opening it, gulping it, running with it). Plus, I’ve never had the stuff and thought it would be a good idea to give a try during training than in the race.

In other news, a friend from my media ethics class has begun bringing me pieces to the bike he’s passing my way. It was only a little strange to walk out of class with a set of wheels, but someday I will have all the pieces to the Nishiki racing bike I’ve been talking about since January. So far, my current bike—LeBron LeTrek—serves me very well. But I can’t say I quite know the difference between my hybrid and a good tri- or racing bike. I’m not quite ready to make the investment (I just made an investment in the Trek!) for a tri-bike, so I’ll have to make due with LeBron and my new bike, whose name is still TBD.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday was pretty much all rest—I kept my knee relaxed and raised during the day and let it chill for most of the evening. After dinner, however, Neil and I decided to go for a walk that turned into a little bit of a sprint once it started pouring outside. For the second time yesterday, the clouds opened up seconds after I walked outside. Sometimes I just feel a little bit like Eeyore.

Eeyore kind of day.But talk about improvement: yesterday simply moving my knee was horribly uncomfortable. Now, it just feels like a normal awkward knee (as they both have always been) and my fingers are crossed that it will stay that way! Plus, I was careful these past few days not to overcompensate with my right leg. I have always ended up hurting the other side immediately after my original injury has healed. And then the cycle persists.

So, what I would not like to talk about is race-day weather for Saturday. Forecasts from have been back-and-forth on whether we’ll be drenched in sunshine or rain. But I won’t try to campaign for one condition or another because no one in the weather control room ever listens.

My plan for today: rest my knee for the rest of the day (work on one of a billion things I have left for school during lunch) and take a jog after work if the weather permits. Maybe even if it doesn’t. I’m very excited that by this time next week I will be 5/7 done with my projects, presentations and paper for my classes, will have run my first 10-mile race and will be packing my bags for Portland!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Back at It

After briefly falling off the face of the earth (I was without technology for several days; it was pretty nice!), I’m happy to report that I’ve made some pretty good strides toward the big run on Saturday. And for my triathloning future as well.

It all started last Friday when I swam 2,200 yards that included some greater distances and intervals, and maybe just a few hundred yards racing Flipper. No matter what time I go swimming that man is always at the pool. I think he waits for me outside my office (but I never recognize him because he’s not wearing flippers) until I go swimming. It doesn’t hurt, however, to have a nemesis, does it?

Swimming Friday gave me a nice day o’leg rest, which segued nicely into my first “brick” workout on Saturday. Neil and I hit the bike path in the afternoon to warm up our legs for the season. We rode for about 30-40 minutes, when we came home and I ran 4.16 miles. It was a fast and comfortable run—my legs felt warmed up rather than tired out, which is totally not what I had expected. I have always feared that I would get off my bike with jell-o legs and need a nap before hit the next leg of the race. So, three cheers for me!

And then came Sunday. I made my usual Sunday-morning Trader Joe’s trek to buy a couple of things (including a really good flaxseed raisin bran that I mix with dried cranberries: dee-lish!) to fuel my week. It was all without incident until I came home and twisted my knee! Neil and I tried to think of a much better war-wound story I could tell people about my injured knee, but I cannot tell a lie: I twisted it getting out of the car. And it’s not the first time it has happened.

My knee was a little sore for most of the day, but loosened up and felt better by the time I went running. But it was a strange day for running. Yesterday was my first distance run in warmer weather (and it was such a relief to be able to run without wheezing and wishing I had an oxygen mask… I love improvement!), and I felt myself feeling dry-mouthed and way-thirsty about 30 seconds into my run. As I left my Gatorade in the car behind me, I figured I would warm up to my run and chill out. Not so.

My thirst became more of a distraction than anything else. I wasn’t feeling any other ill effects of being thirsty (so I don’t think I was dehydrated), so I continued to run. In my head, I had planned to run toward an ice cream shop in Stow where I would get something to drink. But as I wound through the ill-planned streets around here (parallel streets should never intersect!), I didn’t quite end up where I had planned.

Lucky for me I ended up across the street from a) a Walgreens and b) Eddy’s Bike Shop. I took a quick pit stop to buy and chug a medium-sized Gatorade—it was the Glacier Frost flavor, which does not contain any of the grossities that Joe once outlined—and then stopped at Eddy’s to buy some GU gel to carry with me on my next run. It ended up being about a 10-minute break, and I felt like a total cheater.

Total miles for Sunday’s run: 5.58 miles there and 5.34 miles back. Total of 10.92 miles for Sunday, 15.08 miles for the weekend, and 35.67 miles for the week.

All was well until 2-3 hours later when my knee got stiff again. It felt fine for the entire run and I hope a day of rest will help it heal today. I would really hate to be down and out because I don’t know how to get out of the car without injuring myself. But, like I said, it wouldn’t be the first time that happened. I think I need to get swivel-toed shoes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Now We Sit and Wait…

It seems that no matter which sport reaches playoff season, Cleveland is always made to “sit and wait” for this or that scenario to unfold. And it rarely does. At least this time, if the Bulls beat the Nets, the Cavaliers will still be in the playoffs. But for how long?

This is not to say that I don’t have confidence in the Cavaliers’ ability to play the Heat, I just wouldn’t prefer for them to start off that way. I’m getting my share of heart palpitations tonight.

It was nice to get out of class early tonight and arrive home in time to make a bowl of lentil soup and settle in for a Cavaliers victory. My afternoon was wrapped up with a 4.26-mile run around Kent State.

I was vastly overdressed as usual, and even wore the hokey, orange knit hat I keep in my office for cold emergencies—they happen more often than you think. It’s a great hat for running because it has fleece-lined ear flaps (and my ears get cold so fast), but the yarn ball that sits on top kept bouncing off my head and throwing me a little off beat. But I’m always a little off beat anyway, you know?

So, I headed into hilly Kent at a too-fast pace (as usual) and could feel my track-ridden legs catching up with me. It’s probably 50 percent mental, but I’m just getting over mentally induced side stitches and I’d like to get over my mental hurdles one at a time!

But I really started thinking about my pace (another mental hurdle!) and had the wise words of one particular running Yoda ringing through my head. So, I stuck to the less hilly parts of campus to just stretch my legs and find a more sensible rhythm.

And one of these days, the rhythm of beating this lesson into my head will pay off as I extend my distances. So, thank you to all of my wise running advisors!

It’s time, however, for a rest day on running tomorrow. My congestion is dying down and I’ve grown a little too proud of my newfound health. So, I’ll probably hit the pool around lunch and take a light stroll in the evening. No sense in wasting perfectly nice weather!

Time is winding down and it looks like the Cavaliers might pull a #2 seed in the playoffs. Bulls are down by ten with one minute remaining. And somehow it’s still early. Now we sit and wait, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Getting Better: Took a Swim, Took a Jog

Well, I knew it would happen eventually: I finally made my way back to the pool for a swim today. It’s been so long that I don’t quite remember the last time I actually swam, but I do remember the last time I had intended on swimming.

And, as usual, the most difficult part was getting into the pool. You would think after 27 years I would buck up and jump in one of these days. But I don’t seem to think that.

When I made it in, I swam 2,000 yards, which included:
  • 2 x 500 yards free
  • 5 x 200 yards alt. IM and free

A bit boring, but not bad for a return-from-the-sick swim. In fact, I’m still fighting some never-ending congestion, which didn’t exactly make for a comfortable swim. But running with a runny nose is just a little more dainty than swimming. Enough said.

By the time I came home, the sun was shining and the temperature wasn’t bad. And when I stepped out on my balcony to check the weather, I must have been standing on the unwindy side—when I took a quick 3.21-mile jog around my neighborhood, there was way more into-the-wind running than I had expected.

Neil and I took a walk after dinner and it had gotten far colder than when I had taken my run. At least 10-15 degrees. The wind, however, did not change. Pretty smooth sailing heading south; bitter cold misery heading north. Enough with the moody weather already!

It was a great feeling to be outside again—and there weren’t any immediately noticeable ill effects from the weeks of being track-ridden! The weather also looks like it will be holding up for the foreseeable future (knock on wood), so I might be able to stick to my anti-track stance. Wouldn’t it be swell to run that 13.1 miles from yesterday on some real roads? Ahh, the weekend beckons.

But the end of the semester beckons as well. I have about six projects, papers and presentations due next week for three classes (what’s with that poor timing?), so I will have to do some very precise planning to balance life over the next two weeks.

The best part: I’ll be done with school by April 27 and then I’ll run the Cleveland 10-miler on April 28. Now that’s the way to end a semester.

If only work took a summer break too. :-(

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Kent Half Marathon

Sunday was yet another down day for me and while I’m still congested and a little achey, I woke up pretty energetic this morning. And I’m certain that had nothing to do with taking a vacation day today!

Since I’m too wimpy to tough out the outdoor elements, I headed to the rec. center around 9 a.m. (I had a 12:30 p.m. class anyway), but ran with my Boston Marathon bloggy buddies in mind.

I’m still recovering, so I didn’t want to push myself beyond my capacity. It was meant to be a leisurely run; I just kept going and going and going. And by the time I hit ten miles, I looked outside (the wind was beding the trees over sideways), thought about the crazy weather in Boston and ran the additional three miles in honor of those tough people who did brave the elements today.

And that’s how I ran my first (unofficial) half marathon. Yeah!

But I was a good girl, running right around 8:00/mile for all 13 miles. My runner’s high ran fast through my veins for at least 1-2 hours afterward, carrying over right into my class where I had to do an impromptu magazine pitch and did it well. For anyone who knows about my speaking anxieties, you’ll know what a feat that was.

The real lowdown, however, is at the Boston Marathon: uber congrats to Salty One and Papa Louie for their inspirational races and brave performances in some crazy stuff! Way to go! I'm eager to hear the race reports from Boston.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spoiled and Impatient Nor’easter Ohioans We Are

After a downer of a Friday, I hit the track this afternoon for another easy 4.68 miles running, which felt even better than Wednesday’s run. I’m beginning to think—and may even believe—that I’m finally crawling out of this sick thing. Sure, I still can’t breathe out of my nose, but wellness is just around the corner.

And I’m assuming that spring should be around the corner as well.

Today was my second-last all-day Saturday class, and as I drove home all I noticed were dozens of people outside doing what they would normally do this time of year, just with a little extra padding.

There were groups of people huddled together in puffy winter coats outside the Handel’s Ice Cream on Fish Creek Road; cyclists layered with extra cycling clothes pedaling down Kent Road; and families promenading down Graham Road in spring clothes adorned with extra-puffy ear muffs, scarves and mittens. If it hadn’t been for the slush that fell from the sky around dinnertime, you wouldn’t have known it was still winter around here.

I think we were all so spoiled by that beautiful streak two weeks ago that it’s owed to us and we should have it back. Maybe that’s just the way I feel. I’m really missing my outdoor running, but really understand that running in the slush is probably not a top choice with my current health.

Two weeks until the Cleveland 10-Miler, but this weekend seems to be the big one for races: all the best to Landon (1/2 marathon), Jim (5K) and Papa Louie and Salty One (the Boston Marathon). And everyone else I’m leaving out (I’m still recovering... best wishes to everyone who is recovering as well!).

But we must really band together right now for good running weather in Boston on Monday and Santa Cruz next Saturday, in particular.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On the Road Again

Well, the track, at least.

Thanks to everyone’s well-wishing, I’ve made it from the depths of fluville and into my kitchen where I am making chamomile-vanilla and brown-rice pudding. What a difference a day makes. So, thank you to everyone!

Back to the track: it was raining and cold during lunch and I thought I could better endure the track than the nagging pneumonia and relentless scolding I would have received for running outside today.

I took out my run very casually to feel out my condition. To my surprise, I felt comfortable running my normal pace.

After about one mile, however, I noticed that my HR was too high for light running—around 180 bpm. While I haven’t nailed down my various HR levels, I’ve found that the upper 170s mark higher intensity for me. So, I slowed down. And nothing happened.

I slowed a little more, adjusted my stride, ran faster, ran slower. Nothing. It just stayed in the upper 180s. I felt physically fine and thought it might have something to do with recovering from being sick… and continued running.

Right around mile three, a really bad stitch crept up on my right side and nothing I did would make the thing go away. And it just kept getting worse and worse.

Finally, when I stopped to stretch my side, I noticed that I was pretty thirsty, salty and exhibiting all the classic signs of dehydration. It dawned on me that this being sick thing consumes plenty of salt and liquids in one’s body. I was so used to be chappy, dry and uncomfortable over the past five days that I didn’t even notice that I needed some serious hydrating.

Now, it may not have been bad enough to speed up my HR (I think it was just my body’s violent reaction to movement again; I think it was digging the rest-all-day vibe I had going), but the dehydration certainly didn’t help.

After a big drink, I walked for a bit and then finished (s-l-o-w-l-y) my 4.21 miles.

The greatest part was that I felt really energetic after my run—despite a few calf cramps I picked up while walking. I didn’t quite have a distance goal in mind, but simply wanted to get back into the swing. And I think I could have run farther if I a) wasn’t trying to take it e-a-s-y; b) didn’t lose my tissue; and c) didn’t run out of time and have to go back to work! (I did eventually find the tissue, in case you were concerned.) So, I'm feeling positive about my road to recovery.

Despite this good sign, I have decided not to run the Julie Zajac Memorial 5K Run this Sunday. I’m re-bummed out, but at least this time it’s for a good reason: my health.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

One Last Word (Before I Rest)

My apologies to all of the friends and family members I may have infected over the weekend! I swear I thought it was just allergies.

And had I known how I would be sniffling, sneezing, hacking and wheezing today, I would have... sprayed myself with some Lysol.

So, give me a call if I made you sick. I owe you some chicken soup.

Review Time: The Neck Test

I had my running bag in tow when I visited my mom this weekend with the hope that I could wake up early on Sunday and take a jog. But then there was that snow. I was too sick yesterday to do much more than complain, so I missed that day as well.

And here I am on Tuesday, longing for the swim and/or run I should have had today. Whenever I’m ill I weigh the benefits of exercising and consistently come back to the “neck test.” It’s the only thing that leads toward the right thing to do:

Doctors and people who know more about these things say that of your cold is above the neck (sneezy, runny nose and headache), you can exercise and could benefit from a short, easy workout. On the other hand, colds that affect your body below the neck (hacking chest cough, upset stomach, fever), resting is the right choice.

So it happens: I’ve been resting. I’m actually itching to get outside and run. It’s been three days!

This has been one crazy year: I have never been sick this many times. In fact, I’ve never been sick as much as I have been since I began working in my current office. They keep telling me that my biohazard suit will harm morale and that wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves on a regular basis would bum people out. So, I guess I should just build my tissue fortress and keep it their. Either that or I need to get one of those bubbles the Bubble Boy had on Seinfeld.

I have confidence that I will be able to get in the swing of things during the latter half of this week—we’re supposed to crawl out of freezing temperatures this week. And maybe then I can get back into the Nike race ;-)

For now, I suppose I’ll go take some rest with my fingers crossed for less hacking, sniffling, sneezing, aching and groaning. It would be nice if my legs would do more running than my nose.

Monday, April 9, 2007

My 100th Post, the Boston Marathon and a Sick Day

My top-five favorite sick-day activities:

5. Doing slight weight exercises that help me remember being healthy.
4. Kleenex hunting. Where did I put my last one?
3. Eating CoCo Wheats (well, that’s an everyday activity).
2. Doing homework.
1. Watching “You’ve Got Mail” with commentary by Nora Ephron and Laura Schuler.

And that’s what I have done today—aside from the inevitable and evil pull of checking work email. But I have managed to avoid doing too much work.

But what has boggled this stuffy head is that the Indians-Angel series has moved to Milwaukee because of the weather in Cleveland. I 've only visited Wisconsin once, but it just doesn't strike me as a less wintry alternative to NEOhio. You really do learn something new everyday.

So, I may not be able to actually run today, but I can take this downtime at least to think about running. And to think about my upcoming race: the Cleveland 10-Miler.

Once I get out of the sick clouds and back on the road, I think my confidence about the race will improve. At least this time around, I’m confident that I can, in fact, finish the race I’m targeting. Although you will have to remind my I said that before the race on April 28!

I don’t, however, think I quite understand how to race longer distances just yet… last time I really held up on speed and slowed myself down every time I felt the urge to kick it into the next gear. So, over the coming weeks, I would really like to practice the balance between my conflicting mindsets and get a sense for pacing a 10-mile race (without overdoing it).

My last race pace was about 9:00/mile, which was a really relaxed pace with some complications near the end of the race that had nothing to do, really, with any long-legged dogs. So, I don’t think it would be too much to ask myself to shave off 30-60 seconds each mile. My long training runs (now that I’ve been taming myself!) have been around 8:00/mile, so at least it’s possible.

Another thing I will have to consider is whether I will do the drink-and-run. First: I’m well aware and appreciative of good hydration. On my last two long runs—10 and 12 miles—I’ve felt great at the end and not dehydrated at all. Don’t get me wrong—I was grateful for some swigs of Gatorade, but I never felt desperate for water during the run. And I think I’m getting a better feel for when I do need it and don’t.

The reason for my concern: my anxiety dried me up so badly at St. Malachi that by two miles I was thinking some of the rainy-day puddles looked really appealing. But when I finally had water around 2.5-3 miles, I had the worst stitch ever. In fact, I ran holding my side for the last 2+ miles. None of my anti-stitch therapies before or during the race made it go away. It wasn’t pretty.

And after the race, I was torn over whether the stitch was purely from the water or at least partially manufactured by my easy-to-psych-myself-out mind. It’s something I should practice just in case.

But enough about me: in one week, fantastic runners from around the world will converge on the East Coast to run from Hopkinton, Mass. to Boston in the Boston Marathon. All the best to Salty One and Papa Louie who will be running hard, kicking butt and taking names in Boston next week!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Super Snowy Saturday

It’s madness. Total madness here in NEOhio. Blizzards are not welcomed in these here parts in springtime, ya here? Unbelievable.

What was more unbelievable was the scary, never-ending drive I took today to get from my home to my mom’s house. I finished class early and headed north before 5 p.m. Thirty-five miles and 2.5 hours later, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be done driving for a while. So, if anyone is heading south tomorrow, could I please hitch a ride?

Nuh-uh.The day appeared promising, despite the skin-burning wind chill, when I headed out for a run during my lunch break this afternoon. While last Saturday’s sweet potato-black bean burrito indulgence was well deserved and well remembered, I needed to get my legs moving again. But considering how difficult it had been to run to and from my car this morning, I had to break my vow of anti-trackness and just do it.

It was strange at first, running on the track again. I felt like I was suddenly running slower on that thing—whether it’s my general distaste or the track’s lack of interesting terrain—so I really had to push it for the first five minutes to get myself motivated. But once I was warmed up, I kept a pretty healthy pace and tried to squeeze in the greatest quality run I could within the limited time period. I ran 4.18 miles in about 32 minutes.

Not only did I keep it short because… I had to, but I had my sights set on taking a jog around my old neighborhood on Sunday morning. Oh the sidewalks and beautiful grid layout! As I type, however, I can still hear the wind blowing and snowballs falling from the sky.

One of the strangest things about my long, scary drive was that I left my house in clear, no-snow weather and arrived at my mom’s where it wasn’t quite snowing either. So, when I told everyone I was so late because of the bloody blizzard outside, they all thought I was completely crazy!

Every time I drive to Euclid, I note the spot that is 26.2 miles from my house. It has been fun gauging my view of the distance over the past couple of years. In fact, it was nearly two years ago that I decided to triathlon-train and target the Ironman. And I remember the first time I measured that distance and thought, “no flippin’ way!” But my response has truly grown and matured with my running—it now ranges from “so, that’s a little far” to “someday, maybe…” to “it’s not too far.”

Today I thought, “man, I wish I had just run this far…” The freeway seemed a bit more like a swimming pool than a thoroughfare by the time I hit it (conveniently before an plows had touched it), so I may have just been better off running!

Friday, April 6, 2007

I Love Cleveland in the Springtime

You’ve gotta love Cleveland: I made it home just in time to catch the home plate argument between Wedge, Hargrove and the umps over when the snow had gotten just a bit too bad for the Indians home opener.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the worst home opener weather record and the coldest World Series game records?

I have to admit that the fans and the players at today’s game are tougher than I am. It’s too miserable outside right now for me to run out to the car. In fact, as I drove past Target on my way home, I thought about stopping to pick up enough gall to actually go running in this stuff!

As promised and planned, I swam after work (we were released at 3:30 p.m., but I couldn’t get out until 4ish) for about an hour and 3,600 yards (~2 miles):
  • 1,000 yards free
  • 5 x 200 yards IM alt. free
  • 10 x 100 yards assorted flavors:
    • 4 x 100 yards IM order
    • 4 x 100 yards free
    • 2 x 100 yards IM
  • 500 yards free
  • 100 yards free warm down
It dawned on me that while I have had a pretty decent swimming week (10,700 yards ~6.1 miles), I’ve really only swum as much as I used to swim in a single practice! But that was years ago when I was a young whipper-snapper. On the plus side, it has collectively been about the same amount of time. Just spread across several days. That's not so bad.

Now, if I could just not get too removed from running. I’m really glad right now that I pushed myself to run Sunday through Wednesday. I’ve really lost the nerve I had back in January and February when I was running on those frost-warning nights. But that might not be such a bad thing!

The weather doesn't look promising for the weekend, and I may have to go back on my anti-track movement. More news as it happens.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Please Don't Let Them Take Me, Too

Portland coming up in MayMy office sounds like the triage area in a plague movie.

There’s the guy down the hall who hacks these full-body cough-and-snorts at least 1-2 times a minute (I was keeping a tally). No wonder my nerves are shot! And with the students back, a chorus of sickly coughs rings constantly throughout the building.

I think I may be the only person who has not yet been sick.

Now I’m wondering whether the hint of chest cold I feel is really something or just my typical dose of hypochondria.

Despite the threat, I went swimming late in the workday for a mere 2,100 yards:

  • 500 yards free
  • 5 x 200 yards alt. IM and free
  • 500 yards free
  • 100 yards free warm down

My energy was lagging (between the snowstorm and still-problematic sleep patterns), but my primary excuse for cutting the swim short was time. Of course. But for an excellent reason: I gave myself a good 40 minutes in the pool before I had to head home to take Neil out for his birthday dinner! And he was very grateful for all of the birthday wishes. Thanks to everyone!

It's Tin House!It was fairly easy to take a running rest today. Not only was it too cold to walk to and from my car in the nearby parking lot at work, the track at the rec. center was packed with ROTC folks again. And we all know what happens when ROTC and I coincide.

But I swore that place off last month anyway. I’m an outside runner now! (My goodness was it easier to say that earlier this week!)

Less than a month from today, I will be in Portland becoming a bigger Web nerd than I am at the be-a-bigger-Web-nerd-than-you-already-are conference. Rumor has it, however, that Portland is swell and has plentiful running terrain.

I’m actually looking forward very much to the running possibilities and to hunting down the home offices of Tin House, one of the best short fiction publishers of all time. Hey, we all have our vices.

And, finally, as an example of my mental running health, I have slipped into second place in my Nike challenge (someone new logged 21 miles this morning) and I didn't even think about running today.

OK, I did think about it. But I didn't have my shoes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Happy Birthday to Neil!

It broke my heart to realize a few weeks ago that Neil’s birthday was going to fall on the one night during the week on which I have a class until 9 p.m. But that’s why you must celebrate the week o’birthday. And weeklong-celebrate we shall.

I can’t divulge too much about the week’s presents and plans (you know, in case he’s out there reading too), but I picked up a month’s supply of burrito cards from Chipotle after work today. And it really made me realize another reason why I love this running thing: freedom.

Happy Birthday, Neil: smackin' that ass for 27 years.If you had told me a year ago to run the 3-mile roundtrip from the rec. center to Chipotle, my response would essentially have been, psshaw! No, I wouldn’t have preferred to drive, but I would have promised you I could never run that far and didn’t have time to walk it.

But today I booked it across campus after work, got in a brief run, picked up a gift that keeps giving for the man, and had enough time to wash up and get to class. No wasted gas, no wasted time. Just the freedom of having my workout and letting Neil eat his burritos too.

The trip took me about 10 minutes there, 10 minutes back (and almost as long waiting in line—what kind of idiot goes to a college-area Chipotle at 5 p.m.?), which is approximately the same time it would have taken to drive with all the traffic, bad drivers and poorly timed lights in the area. Not to mention the parking!

The only downside was that godforsaken weather: 30 degrees, seriously? For the first time ever I was underdressed. It wasn’t that bad with only a t-shirt and fleece, but my gloveless hands were really biting it. And I had just taken my gloves out of my bag and put them in the closet for the season. Gaffe after gaffe today, I’m telling you!

So, while today’s run put my April mileage at 18.57 miles (that’s 7.13 miles ahead of my nearest competitor—something tells me, however, that someone’s going to log all of their 300 miles on one day and give me the boot!), tomorrow and Friday will return my focus to swimming. It seems like forever since I last swam—although it was only last Sunday.

It will be a lunchtime swim, so I won’t expect a repeat of Sunday’s 5,000 yards. But a girl can aim high and dream. Who knows: perhaps Flipper will be there.

Increasing my frequency in running has really made me feel better while I’m running. It used to take me much more time to a) warm up to the idea of going for a run and b) warm up during the run. While I’ll do all this talk about kicking challengers’ butts, I assure you that I am my top competition.

Sometimes to trash talk with myself gets a little confusing, but it works out in the end.

I’m totally digging the process of becoming a better runner and seeing the fruits of my training, hard work and everyone’s great advice and even better support.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Getting My Vitamin D

Can you believe the beautiful day? It must have topped out close to 80 degrees in the NEOhio this afternoon, and, despite some uber-wind, was the nicest day this year.

So nice, in fact, that I ran 6.13 miles during lunch and maintained my lead in my Nike challenge.

Some people may think I have a problem with my competitiveness with respect to these challenges. And if I were a liar, I would say you were wrong. But, really: what’s so bad about a little teeth gnashing and hard work to outrun a bunch of strangers I’ll never ever meet? Not much, I say.

Counting today’s run, I am up to 15.57 miles for the month of April, which is more than half of my original January goal!

But I do understand the concept of resting. I wanted to take advantage of these past beautiful days before disasters like Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday set in (forecast: 20s and 30s with that snow stuff!). Perhaps I’ll have a chance to snowboard yet this season.

Worry not: I'm making up my swimming days on Thursday and Friday (maybe even Saturday?).

And hope is finally in sight: I have less than four weeks left in the semester. I’m really looking forward to being able to focus on my training with a full week’s worth of lunch hours… and then I’ll work on my thesis this summer at home.

Another Shining Moment

Sure, I lost my NCAA bracket this year, but I ran 6.31 miles this evening like it was nothing.

Sigh. Remember the days when I would book home to blog about running four miles outside? I think that was in February.

I set out this evening to just get in a couple miles: the anxiety of being in sixth place on my Nike+ challenge was making me itch. So, I thought I could add a few miles and inch my way toward the top. But the luxury of improvement is hitting three miles and not even noticing it. In fact, I only turned toward home when I noticed the amount of time I had run (I had to get back to start dinner, homework, and game-watching).

And as usual, I got lost on my run, but this time it was in a residential neighborhood where I felt less terrified of strange people and animals creeping out from the wetlands. Plus, I had the sun setting in the west to guide me home.

Georgetown may not have won the NCAA championship and Neil may have won my office’s bracket pool, but I am topping my Nike+ challenge right now with 9.43 miles in the month of April. And that’s really all that matters to me right now. That and watching this year’s “One Shining Moment.”

Sunday, April 1, 2007

4.6K by Water, 5K by Land

Sure, I felt great on Saturday after that 12-mile run. But between the eight-hour class and Georgetown busting my bracket, it made for a perfect day of rest. It wasn’t all downtime, however: I visited my mom in Euclid where we ate too much food and took the dogs for a walk. It always startles me now when I realize how much colder it is lakefront during early spring. Good thing I always over dress.

Nevertheless, I woke up this morning ready to swim. The energy was there but, no, I didn’t try to bike it this time. I did, however, swim to the tune of 5,000 yards, my longest post-competition swim yet:

  • 4 x 500 yards free
  • 500 yards kick (200 fly, 200 free, 100 breaststroke kick)
  • 10 x 200 yards alt. free and IM
  • 100 yards warm down
  • 400 yards yeah, right: as if I would stop at 4,600 yards free

That's right: I did a warm down and then swam another 400 yards. I took off my goggles after the last 100 yards and lifted myself half way out of the pool before I dropped back in, slapped my goggles back on and just swam the final 400. Maybe I'm too obsessive compulsive?

By the time I calculated that I was just another 400 yards from swimming 3 miles, I already had shampoo in my hair. I was (this) close to going back, but I didn’t think the rec. people would dig the suds in the pool. Maybe they would have. Who knows?

And just as Joe was talking about runner’s high, I came home with some serious swimmer’s high. So, I strapped on my shoes and went for a 5K run—I figured it only made sense with the nearly 5K swim. (Truth is that I always forget that I’m swimming yards—I’ve been used to swimming meters—and the match-up would have been fun. Maybe a little sad, but still fun.)

I’m taking part in two Nike+ challenges this month—one for the fastest 3K and another for most miles in April. I’m in fifth right now for miles and was cursing myself for having run my 12 miles two days before the start of April! But I have calmed down my far-too-competitive side and figured I’ll just have to do it again!

And those 12 miles will help for the Cleveland 10-miler, which is coming up in less than four weeks.