Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Breathing Through It

It’s about time: after months of trying to find a way to run anything but my in-a-hurry-to-get-anywhere pace, I found my limiting reagent. The midday heat.

I know, I know that’s not the kind of slowing down I’ve been targeting, but I was able to run 3.52 miles this afternoon at 8:51 pace around Kent. It was, more than anything else, an accomplishment just to complete the run for me.

I walked the 1.5 miles to the rec. center over lunch and could tell the mugginess wasn’t going to be friendly to my lungs. So, I tried to be reasonable. I set my sights on an EASY 30-minute run. And that’s just what I did.

The walk over made for a nice warm-up to the run. Unfortunately, I forgot my socks and had to run sockless with those stupid ballet-slipper blisters from last night. It was only mildly uncomfortable… and just a bit foot-sweaty. Lucky for me I didn’t pick up any additional impediments.

So, I struck out on the road and focused on running a very easy first mile, which came in around 8:42. It’s always fun running around campus after classes have let out, and it was even better to run up the uber hill (I call it the huffer-puffer hill) that heads out of campus without complications. I swear every time I ran that hill during the semester a PARTA bus would smog me as I heaved and hoed up that hill. Just as I would reach the crest and take a big breath a big plume of smoke would consume me.

Today I was just smogged by a garbage truck and cement truck. What can I say? I’m really fortunate in some areas.

But the nicest thing about an uber uphill is the lovely downhill that generally follows. I tried not to take too much advantage of the hill (because I was trying to maintain that slow, steady pace… and, you know, my ability to breathe) and actually ended up slowing my second mile to 9:02.

As I rounded the front of campus and longed for an iced green tea as I trotted past Starbucks, I felt fairly comfortable with my pace and was breathing at a very normal rate for me. There was no wheezing, gasping, wanting to die.

See, last year I spent most of the year running on a track and thought it would be a good idea to taking my skills to the hilly streets of late-July Kent. It must have been in the lower 90s with 1000% humidity. Every perceivable part of campus was under construction and tractors, bulldozers and workers were kicking up as much dust and dirt as possible. It was like an ozone action day on speed. And there I was. Running.

Suffice it to say that less than two miles into the run I was two seconds from either having an asthma attack and dying of shame (I was running with a friend) or just plopping on the ground and crying. The shame thing would have kicked in there too.

Until then, I had been under the impression that I was in great running shape. And I was… so long as that running was done on a climate-controlled track with a flat surface.

That was the last time I ran in really warm conditions (and it was after that occasion that I pretty much quit running until January 2007). As the weather began to pick up this year, I wanted to stay outside and ease myself into summer with the hope that my improved physical and mental conditions would lend themselves to an easier time breathing. So far so good. But we’ll see what the remainder of this summer has in store.

Having slowed a little more than I had preferred, I picked up my pace as I neared the end of my targeted 30-minute run. I headed back to the rec. center at an 8:44/mile pace for the last mile and a half. It wasn’t as far as I would have liked to have run, but this time of year is about building up for me.

And learning how different running in the early morning (my weekend routine), in the evening (my weekday tendency) and in the middle of the day. It’s no wonder I’ve avoided lunchtime running for the past three weeks!

But it’s back to the pool for me tomorrow. As I walked back the 1.5 miles to work this afternoon, I was burning for a swim. Today’s run will be a good lesson for tomorrow as well: I have a long way to go to get back to the 3,000-4,000 yards I was swimming a few weeks ago.

On one last positive note, I've run 29.7 miles toward my 100-miles-in-four-weeks goal (started last Tuesday, May 22). Not bad! I have about 70 miles to cover in 20 days...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Went for a Walkie-Walkie (as my mom would say)

After a hard-running and cycling weekend, I decided to take today off. Well, sort of.

I had all of my swimming and running gear in the car at work today, but I skipped lunch and left work early to get some thesis reading and nice-day-appreciating done. And after sharing a summery salad with Neil, I put in a fast-paced 3-mile walk around my neighborhood before the Cavaliers tipped off. I was really smart about it too: I anticipated a short walk, so I put on my little ballet slippers that gave me some swell blisters on the outside of both my feet. Yowsers!

Let’s just say I had a full cardiovascular workout watching the game with all of its ups and downs and missed free throws. Although I think I’ll need a sedative for the next couple of games.

One of these days, I will get back in the swim of things. I don’t know what’s stopping me: the warm weather, the sunny days, the desolate campus. Although right now I think the biggest obstacle will be getting over the dread of swimming through the start-up pain. Oh the pain!

But on the good side of pain, my knees have felt fantastic for the past week. I think swimming and some additional weight training (smart weight training, that is) should help me continue to build knee strength. While I have been trying to rest a little and take my runs easy, I think it was the threat of doctor’s attention and the fear of MRI that cured my knees.

Now, if only I could find a way to scare away stitched while I’m running...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Running, Cycling and Eating: What Else are Long Weekends For?

While the weekend started off with a soggy early-out Friday afternoon, I finally made my way to Eddy’s bike shop after work to get a tire patch kit and chat about tri-bikes.

Bike guy Josh and I toured the road bikes et al., and after a storewide discussion about how serious a triathlete I was and where I “hoped to finish” (How do you answer a question like that? Granted, I know I’ll never be a world-class athlete and that my competitive spirit can only push me so far… but I always hope to finish first. Where I know I’ll actually finish is a different story) ended up at a Trek 7.5 FX, which happens to be the 2007 version of my 2006 bike. So, if nothing else, I walked away feeling like I was on the right track.

But I also walked away with more GU and took down the Lemon Sublime variety on my Saturday-morning 12.4-mile run around Kent and Stow. It was a better flavor than my first spin with strawberry-banana (which wasn’t really bad) and I chased it with water from a trusty fountain I spotted on my run, so I think I benefited from its effects.

And I couldn’t have taken it at a better time. I was at the furthest point from my house, in an area with absolutely no cover and headed into the all-uphill portion of my run when the skies opened up on me. If you were in NEOhio on Saturday, you may have noticed some evil-looking clouds looming over certain parts of the region. And I was under them. Totally Eeyore style.

It was the first time I had run through torrential rain and super-high winds while training. Luckily it was only a thunderstorm with minimal lightning. Once I got past the ridiculousness of the situation (i.e., not being able to see, breathe or step without a flood of water getting in the way), I pushed through the hills and maintained an 8:46/mile pace over three and a half miles.

As you may have guessed, the rain stopped as soon as I hit flat land… but that was when the chafing began! I think I have full t-shirt and cropped pants-shaped chafing wherever possible. It almost looks like reverse sunburn. Perhaps next time I head out into a cloudy day, I’ll think about less abrasive-when-wet clothes, huh?

Saturday, however, was just the beginning. Not only did I stay on track with my 25-miles-a-week target (the subset of my 100-miles in four weeks goal) with 3.42 miles on Sunday and 2.02 miles on Monday (26.17 miles for the week), but Neil and I hit the trails on our wheels too!

On Sunday we cycled around our neighborhood after a messy time with getting my tire properly mounted on my bike. And then we rode about 10.25 miles through Stow and Hudson for our longest ride this year. Neil was awesome and has become quite the active man these days. I knew the weather would hook him!

My legs and I still have plenty of warming up to do with the cycling motion, but today’s longer ride gave me hope for the future of brick workouts. Although I waited a few hours between cycling and running today (more out of laziness than inability), I felt that I could have run a while after the ride. That’s good news!

Speaking of good news: the Cavaliers pulled one off in the series! For those who didn’t know me last season, I spent the second round of the playoffs writing smack mail to Dan Wetzel, who seems to hate the Cavs almost as much as Charles Barkley. I don’t talk sports smack (well, not until the results are in), but I’m happy with whatever we can get.

Although I’d like to think that my fixing the flat on my bike, LeBron, helped the real LBJ play like a king. Joe warned that it might happen, so I’m really doing my part to bring a championship to Cleveland.

(One quick confession: to reward myself, I picked up a bunch of Main Street Cupcakes on Sunday morning. Neil stuck to his favorite, chocolate lava, and I had some red velvet and a new treat: Half Baked. It's vanilla cupcake with chocolate chips filled with chocolate chip cookie dough and topped with buttercream frosting. Sigh. It was an experience. I also uploaded my latest photos to Flickr, if you would care to see Portland and New York.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Runs, Goals and Knees

It has been a beautiful couple of days in my neighborhood! In fact, last night (Wednesday) was almost too summery—it had to be in the mid-80s when I ran after work. But more than anything else, it was my anxiety about running in the muggy, warm air that hampered me at all.

I’m glad to report, however, that once I got over myself and warmed up my muscles, I had a nice 5.02-mile run around my neighborhood. And on Tuesday I took a slow 3.3-mile run after giving myself a touch of recovery time.

Neil, Salty and Natalie are right, though: I’m strongly considering getting my knee checked out. I’ve never really had a serious or nagging injury (knock on wood), so I don’t think I believe this thing won’t go away. But I may be persuaded in the next couple of days. I’ve found and have been given a number of resources/doctor-references to get a check-out, so perhaps I’ll see what’s up in the next couple of weeks.

On a brighter note: congratulations to everyone who ran some kick-butt races at the Cleveland Marathon (full, half and 10K…. or should we say 10-mile?) last weekend. I was so bummed to miss out on the fun, but it was for a good cause.

But now it’s goal time. It’s been a couple months since I’ve set a month mileage goal (remember when I set January’s goal for 30 miles and thought I would never make it?), and thought I might get back to that. Not only was it nice to have a goal, but I think it helped me with my focus, which tends to wane sometimes.

So, I thought it might be reasonable to target 100 miles for the next four weeks (starting this past Tuesday). I ran 92 miles in April and will run about as much in May, so I thought it was about time I aim for the century mark. But knowing my uncanny ability to overdo things, I will keep my limitations in mind ;-)

Good news in another arena is that my home computer is up and running again. So, I look forward to catching up on my blog-reading and writing (again). And while I’m at it, I just might get my bike tuned and patched up and start on my brick workouts again.

Speaking of which, I’m reigniting my swimming streak next Monday. It has to be at least a month since I last swam and I’m so looking forward to the feeling of starting all over again and swimming through that pain threshold about which I lecture everyone. Ahh, nothing like your own medicine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Back from a Good Run in NYC

After a lovely trip to New York, I’m back in NEOhio for the foreseeable future. Neil has a vacation freeze and I have a thesis to develop and write. We’ll be going back to New York in early August, but I’ll be hitting the roads for the rest of the summer in this neck of the country.

My computerless home life and the NYC trip have kept me blog-free for several days, but I’ve been itching to report on my New York running experience. We flew in on Friday, and walked about ten miles each day through Sunday. And we even set the land-speed record for making it from the Upper Eastside to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge (less than 1.5 hours) by subway and foot.

But that Sunday wasn’t all about running through crowds and angering Neil by jumping on the wrong trains. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always admired the people I saw jogging through Central Park. Until recently, however, I couldn’t have run more than a quarter mile, so I could never be one of them. And until this past weekend, I never realized how many people there actually were!

I started my run at Mariel’s apartment on E. 85th and ran to the park. I wound through the paths and roads until I jogged smack into the AIDS walk where thousands of people were waiting to begin. So, I ran along the south edge of the park and then meandered through You’ve-Got-Mail-ville on the Upper Westside and through Riverside Park.

And by the time I wound back across the Westside, through the park and around the Eastside, I had run 10.15 miles like it was nothing. It’s incredible what good scenery can do for a run!

Plus, it was a fairly even run—between 8:15 and 8:25/mile across all ten—that didn’t exactly start off too peachy. Alongside being tired from the two days of vacation-pace living (well, my vacation pace; poor Neil must love it!), I had been going to bed late and waiting up early, which is my forte, for at least a week. And then my knee started aching before I even hit two miles. So, as usual, I figured I would run a few miles and head back.

The worst that could happen, I reasoned, was that I’d have to start walking or stop to rest. In Central Park. But seeing all of the people (and wanting so badly to be one of them) helped me warm up my creakedy knee, get my legs going and skip gingerly through my run.

And that run was just being a warm-up for our race across the city to get a picture of a fish on the Brooklyn Bridge (Long story short: I won the ‘fish award’ again this month at work and thought it would be cute to take a photo with the fish in a distinctly NY place… but we didn’t really go anywhere distinctly NY the whole weekend. So as time ran out, we dashed across the city to take a photo of the most New Yorky thing there is: the Brooklyn Bridge. And let’s just say, it’s not empty on a Sunday afternoon. But boy did we run long and fast! I think Neil is ready to start his distance training…).

Once my home computer is kicking again, I’ll share photos from Portland and New York… including photos from my cupcake journey. So far, Hudson: 1, New York: 0. Out of all the NYC cupcakes I’ve eaten over the years, most have been fantastic and almost all have looked beautiful. But I cannot tell a lie: the frosting at Main Street Cupcakes has to be the best. Ever. We even hit up Magnolia Bakery, but their immaculate-looking lil’ cakes just didn’t quite beat the MSC.

Granted, I’ve only had one Main Street visit (and 3.5 cupcakes), but I’ll be returning this week to do some follow-up research. It’s the least I can do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If I Can Make it There, I'll Make it Anywhere

Good luck to everyone who will be running the Cleveland Marathon (half, full and 10K varieties) -- it looks like you might get a whiff of good weather. Won't that be the first time this season (knock on wood)?

I, on the other hand, will be in New York, where we will be reliving the last several days of rainy and cold weather. But it's still New York. And I'm really excited to celebrate Betsy and Dan's engagement and to see Mariel in her element.

It's almost midnight and while I haven't quite packed, I did get out for a 4-mile run this evening after work. I ran it a little faster than I had intended (~7:40/mile), but I swear I'm still coming down from my car rage! It was also colder than usual (it had to be in the 40s with the wind that ate at me for half my run), so I couldn't help but get kicking fast!

Starting next week, however, I would like to get back to midday runs and, perhaps, cycling in the evenings. And I suppose I should return to that little thing called swimming too. You know if has been too long since you've been swimming when you have to use the search function on your blog to find your last workout in the pool.

Despite the rain, I'm bringing my running shoes and crossing my fingers for a convenient break in the weather. Not only should I have more time to get in a jog this weekend (and enough cupcakes for incentive) than I did in Portland, I'm far more familiar with Manhattan than the great Northwest. But I won't expect the runner-driver relationship to be any better than it is here in little Stow, Ohio.

Speaking of this little part of Ohio, I visited a new cupcake shop in Hudson yesterday called Main Street Cupcakes. I was pessimistic (as always) about what caliber of cupcakes Hudson could possibly have to offer.

Well, let's just say that I'm a believer. There will be more details to follow, but when I'm in New York, I'm going to search long and hard for frosting that tops Main Street's. And it will be a tough task. But, you know, someone has to do it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Walkers vs. Runners; Plus: Too Much Chipotle

Yesterday’s little car incident has kept me thinking. I’m grateful for everyone’s comments and really wanted to share my scoop to make the thought of car awareness (and, when you’re driving, of pedestrian awareness) top of mind.

I laughed the hardest when I read Jen C’s comment:
My husband got into an argument when he was crossing in a crosswalk while running and a car got pissed about it. The next day, he made a sign with the driver-pedestrian rules to post on that corner […]
Which sounds precisely like something I would do (and, I’ll admit, it was something that crossed my mind yesterday!).

But doesn’t it seems that the car-pedestrian relationship is most strained with runners? After work today, I walked about 1.5 miles to meet Neil at Starbucks and then crossed the street to eat too much at Chipotle. On more than one occasion, I had to cross the street in front of cars (no, no one hit me today) that willingly yielded for me. It was a nice change of pace.

I initially thought it was a conditioned response—I was on a college campus where students run rampant, defying the laws of traffic and sense; people are used to yielding on a dime. And then I saw a runner.

The guy ran past me and seemed to encounter troublesome cars at every turn. Sure, he was moving faster than I was walking, but he wasn’t Michael Johnson! Lucky for him (and for my sanity), he didn’t get hit… within my eyeshot at least.

What is it about runners and drivers? On one hand, I think it’s just rude people who have lost touch with any trace of civility. Everyone seems to want to bull through everything in an SUV. On the other hand, I wonder if there isn’t a tinge of entitlement (over every piece of land) mixed with jealousy in the rude driver. How many times have you, as a runner, had someone like that say something nasty like, “I wish I had time to run” or “I would run if I didn’t have to [insert excuse here]”? They imply that somehow, by running, you have fewer things to do, an easier life or fewer responsibilities. But I think we all know the truth on that front.

I can admit it: I’m still angry (it’s not obvious, is it?) and as I went out for a loose and relaxing late-evening run (around 8:30 p.m.) for 2.52 miles I was hoping to see Mr. Cadillac and his dented hood. But it was pretty desolate on my neighborhood loop today and pretty difficult for me to get going. Perhaps everyone else ate too much at Chipotle (vegetarian tacos) like I did. It was that overeating (or thinking about it), however, that pushed me over the edge to just put on my shoes and hit the road. With that much food in me, I thought, how could I truly lack energy?

While I’ve enjoyed running in the evening, I’ve been skipping lunch runs lately for this or that reason. And, of course, the rec. center is closed for the week, so running during the day has a bit of a stink factor weighing against it. I had considered rigging up our water cooler (it has hot and cold water) to the office bathroom wall to shower after a midday run this week, but I thought my co-workers might find me less bizarre if I were stinky than destroying the bathroom and the water cooler.

More bright ideas to come…

So, today was supposed to be a resting day, but I took the brief run and did some weight training. I quipped for a while because it was the perfect night (mentally, physically and weather-wise) for a bike ride… but I still have a flat! One of these days I need to get to the bike shop to get a tune-up, a pump and a patch kit. In other words: I need to get on the ball and get cycling.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stop, look and listen before you drive into the street

So, it finally happened: I became a statistic. On my 4-mile run this evening after work, I was running on the sidewalk down my street when I was hit by a car. No one was injured, but I think the guy’s pride might have taken a hit.

If I haven’t stressed it before, I think it’s vitally important to be an attentive and aware runner. Even when I’m wearing headphones, I always have volume low enough and attention high enough to hear everything around me, see my surroundings and anticipate as much as possible. Even jerks.

I was nearing a private drive today when I saw a car approaching. So, I slowed down, made eye contact with the driver and continued to run. In most circumstances, the car would have stopped because a) it’s the law; b) there was a runner in his way; and c) a and b. But alas, he was above the law and didn’t have his “I don’t stop for pedestrians” bumper sticker on his new Cadillac.

Even as I crossed in front of the car, I noticed that he wasn’t stopping. I put my hand down on the hood of the car and hopped along to keep from getting run over. Of the billion thoughts running through my head, I was set on protecting my bum knee from becoming my &#$%!@* knee. And when he finally stopped, my other hand came down and palmed his hood with a nice shiny dent.

The guy hadn’t even come to a complete when he started yelling at me. And I was hardly done denting his car by the time he was out of the car swearing at me. But when he cursed and threatened about me denting his car, I said, “Did you want to call the police about me denting your hood or about you hitting me with your car?”

After other choice words, he finally slunk into his car and I ran off with so much anger and adrenaline (and regret about all the other things I wanted to say) that I blew away my focus on slowing down my pace. Grrr. I think I ran each mile after that around 7:10-7:20 with my fuming temper fueling me every step of the way. In fact, I stopped at four miles today because I knew I needed to chill out if I intended on running focused. Double grrr.

When I was initially hopping out of harm’s way I was just going to wave it off and leave a good impression of runners everywhere. But when he started slinging blame at me, I’d had it. Last I checked, not only were cars not allowed to hit pedestrians, but they really weren’t supposed to do it when blowing a stop at 10 mph. It would have bothered me less if I hadn’t seen him, if I hadn’t made eye contact with him, if every other car in my neighborhood abides by the standard rules of driver-pedestrian relations.

Today just served as a reminder that I live in a wholly pedestrian-unfriendly area and need to get back to a place where we’re allowed to be healthy and independent. Triple grrr. On the bright side, the Cavaliers won! I only through the paper I was reading toward the TV (it was only about 20 pages, so it didn’t travel far) twice. At least I was able to channel my anger and have only a bit left to vent in my blog. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Epiphany Weekend

My fear of losing running fitness from my Portland break persisted through each run last week. I started out each time tight and pessimistic, and finished pretty loose and only slightly reassured. Even though I was finally getting my pace down, it felt like a struggle to get through each time. That feeling was only offset by my newfound (albeit temporary) freedom from school. And we celebrated on Friday with a pleasant evening walk.

It was supposed to be a pleasant Friday-evening bicycle ride, but LeBron, my bike, has a flat back tire. Darn it! We tried pumping it up, but it looks like that tire patch kit I never purchased would be great right now.

On the upside, Neil and I finished our walk with a half-mile run to the end of our street and back. You knew I would rope him in at some point, didn’t you? He did a fantastic job and I’m very proud of him: high-five dude! We’ll start inching up little by little and be at a mile in no time!

By Saturday morning, I promised myself that I would take my run inch-by-inch as well. It was swell outside (it felt like mid 60s with plenty of sun) and I took off jogging down the trail in Stow. I felt so tight and unmotivated that my targeted one-hour run seemed out of my reach. So, I just took it slowly (it was all part of my plan… muahaha) until I found my stride.

Eventually it came to me. After warming up with three cool miles (8:36, 8:37, 8:39), I picked up an 8:26 pace for several miles. And by the time I reached my one-hour goal, I was about seven miles out. I could have taken a shortcut to make it back in a few miles, but I took the long way home instead!

Miles eight, nine and ten had to be the hilliest regions of Kent and Stow—it just kept going up and up and uphill—so I took them at 8:34, 8:42 and 8:35, respectively. I hit that point at which I said to myself “OK, one more hill and I’m walking” at least six times, but I just kept going. And then I got to the point where I was promising myself a walking break after three more hills. I bluffed on that front too.

I hit less hilly ground (nothing seems to be flat by foot around here) at mile eleven and felt energized. It was about time that Greens Plus energy bar kicked in! The problem, however, was that some major chafing kicked in as well. Not only did I have some serious sleeve rubbage, my HRM sensor left scabs around my torso and that didn’t feel fantastic on the sweaty day.

I haven’t had too much trouble with chafing, but I have a feeling it will be a greater concern this summer and something to add to my list of things to think about!

So, how far did I end up running? Well, I reached my car at 13.7 miles, so I turned around and ran .15 miles down the trail and came back for a personal distance record of 14 miles in 1:59:25 and an average pace of 8:31/mile.

It was remarkable not only for my distance, but for several other reasons too: 1) I felt great after my run—a little tired and slightly sore from impact, but great overall; 2) Not only did I run past my one-hour goal, I nearly doubled my one-hour goal, and that’s just cool to me; and 3) I woke up today feeling fine, feeling normal without any soreness—not even in my goofy knees. In fact, had it not been an action-packed Mother’s Day, I would have probably gone for a slight run today as well.

My plan for this week, other than going to New York on Friday: get a plan (thanks Salty) and look at races. I’d like to start plotting out my races and understanding how to race them. It has dawned on me that I can run really well when I don’t know what to expect, but I clam up and slow it down so much when I know what’s ahead. How backward is that? Unfortunately, it’s the same way I swam when I aged into longer races like 100-200 yards butterfly. I thought that I would only make it if I swam slowly in the beginning and brought it home strong. Goof. Sure, I realized after a while that I should train to go strong all the way, but it didn’t really click until I had solid confidence under my belt. I’ll have to see if I can find that on the trail someday too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Whistle while you work, sing while you run

What a bummer: I had just finished typing up my Wednesday blog when my computer went on break (maybe it just broke) and my blog went into the void. All my sentiments about taking a nap after a fairly good salmon dinner and a draining day went down the drain, but I’m still proud to report that I found the energy after that nap to run 4.16 miles at the increasingly better-paced time of 8:25/mile.

Lately I’ve really latched onto Salty’s sagely “singing” advice: once I establish my comfortable pace, I make sure that I can easily sing while I run and that I’m not overdoing it. Maybe it’s just an excuse to sing (my headphones are on; my reality is distorted), but it serves as a simple-but-great mechanism and reminder for maintaining a healthy pace.

Right before the 10-miler I was (this) close to having my left knee hang up an “out of order” sign and taking off for the border. I have had plenty of time to rest (after I actually ran the 10-miler, that is) and focus on building distance. And singing all the way.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Stick a Fork in Me

Because I’m done, baby! Rather than running at lunch today, I took a half hour to finish my last paper, which was due tomorrow, and hand in that paper and another project to call this semester a wrippity-wrap.

Ahh, the finish line!Deep breath. Yeah!

To celebrate, I've included my "finish line" photo from the Cleveland 10-miler... which looks strangely similar to my finish-line face after handing in my last assignments today.

With all that weight off my shoulders, I was free to take off into the sunset for a 6.54-mile run after work. It was hotter than early May out there (a little muggy and lower 80s) and turned out to be my longest warm-weather run to date. I’m a wheezer at weather like that, but my easing tension made way for far greater focus on my running than usual. In fact, you would have been so proud: my pace is finally up… or down…. well, getting better for distance building at 8:17/mile. It’s not perfect, but I’m slowing it down.

And I’m finally getting back to using my HRM, but need to get back to understanding my levels first. It’s not that I have a difficult time understanding; it’s more like me and euchre: you can teach me a million times… but if I don’t use that knowledge, I will never remember.

Something tells me, however, that I’m due for a swim. I had a dream last night that I was heading into my first triathlon and found out on race day morning that you had to swim all butterfly for the first leg. In open water. Oh, and did I mention that it was a half Ironman? It’s just wrong to think about that.

It’ll be so nice to get my life back. Until fall.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Back from Portland in One Piece

Portland's 'Alphabet District' was chock full of cute neighborhoods, shops and glorious Victorian homes.Wow: has it been nearly a week already?

I made it to and from Portland, Oregon, fairly without incident. If you have a chance or haven’t been, I strongly recommend visiting the city. Right now I’m pitching a great Northwest trip to Neil: perhaps starting in Portland, heading up to Seattle and then spending a few days in Vancouver. We’ll see how that works out—maybe after I finish my M.A. in December.

My return flight arrived at Akron-Canton Airport early Saturday morning, and there was something in the air that told me that my bag (which contained my computer) wouldn’t be making an appearance on the baggage carousel. In fact, I didn’t even take an active position around the baggage claim to catch my luggage as it went by. I knew it wouldn’t show. Lo and behold: when the carousel stopped and the remaining bags were unloaded, mine was nowhere to be found.

If only I could find more constructive uses of my clairvoyance sometimes!

As it turned out, my bag never made it onto the plane in Portland (even though I checked in 2 hours before my flight), and perhaps I should have taken its lead. Given a few more days, I would have been able to take advantage of the prime running real estate all over Portland.

It rained in Portland. And it hailed. And then it rained some more.Between my conference schedule and some hail/thunderstorms across the three days, I didn’t get a chance to run at all—although I did walk at least 8-12 miles every day.

Portland was such a fit city packed with so many runners that at any given location it felt like I was strolling through the less dense areas of a distance race. But I’ll have to admit that as runners passed by I felt so jealous and excluded. All I wanted was to take to the road myself (without lugging a big bag and umbrella) and I realized that I have now taken running on as an addiction. I suppose, however, that it works well to counteract my cupcake addiction.

Ahh, red velvet cupcakes from Saint Cupcake. Just one more reason to go back to Portland.Speaking of cupcakes, I went to one of my favorite cupcake stores in the world: Saint Cupcake. It may sound strange, but I stalk out good cupcake Web sites (because they tend to be so hip) and happen to have Saint Cupcake at the top of my list. And thankfully their baked treats were just as good as their Web site. They even had my favorite treat: red velvet. Sigh.

As such, I had plenty to run for on Sunday once I had recovered from Saturday’s super lag. It took much will power and promises of one last cupcake treat to get my running shoes on, but it was well worth the struggle. I have this deep-seeded fear that I will lose my running fitness far too quickly—that if I haven’t run in nearly a week, I will forget how to intuitively put one foot in front of the other. And let’s just say it was too far from the truth when I headed out yesterday.

The first half mile was pure struggle. My muscles were cold; my ankles were stiff; my knees wanted to know WTF was going on. The break served as nice rest for my knees, but they weren’t too keen on getting back in the swing. So, I thought I would run two miles and see how I felt. And after the first mile, I thought I would never make it to two!

But that magical thing of warming up and loosening up happened around 2-2.5 miles, so I took an easy jog past three, four and five miles… for a total of 5.07 miles. I woke feeling refreshed and energized this morning with an extra dose of confidence that I won’t lose my running abilities from this trip (like I did with Boston last year!).

I should have more on my Portland trip and 10-miler, including photos, on my other ill-used blog in a couple of days.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Westward Ho!

By this time tomorrow, I'll be spent from an awesome day wandering around Portland, Oregon. I'm very eager to check out the runnability of a city that appears to have much promise. My iPod is charging and my camera is ready.

Oh yeah: I guess I have to go to a conference too. But that's not until Thursday.