Monday, April 28, 2008

Quick! Before it Rains!

I don’t know about you, but I’m a total wimp when it comes to rain (unless, of course, I’m running through mud in the woods!). All that wet makes things go the wrong way—my shoes, my clothes, the cars on the road—and makes me go a little nervous.

So, it’s good news that I finished my first 30+ mile week (this year) on Sunday morning while it was still sunny and just a little bit chilled.

The week began, as you know, with a stitchy short run, which didn’t bode well for my future. But things picked up on Thursday, when I met Salty at North Chagrin for an hour-long run on the trails.

We ran by Squire's Castle on the North Chagrin trek.I headed to North Chagrin right after work (with a Trader Joe’s pit-stop) and showed up over 30 minutes early—it turns out that when you don’t live an hour away from everything, you don’t have to leave over an hour early to get everywhere! That’s a lesson I’m eager to learn after we move. But it did give me time to run a 10:00 warm-up and rub out a kinky right calf that had been bothering me for a few days.

I was worried that my calf-tweaking was a sign of another injury, but it warmed, faded and hasn’t returned (knock on wood). Disaster averted?

Before this year, I hadn’t done much running-buddy running. And I’ll admit that the first time I ran with Landon, I was a little wary of running with people, thinking that I’d be too slow, too quiet, too weak, too drifty, too blah. Perhaps I’ll never know what accommodations my recent buds have made for me (soon, you can all start a support group ;-), but it’s all gone pretty smoothly and helped me get my run and knowledge on.

That’s the best part: everyone with whom I’ve run knows far more about racing and running and training and hydration than I’ll ever know. It’s like running school and it’s awesome. While I feel bad that I have little to contribute to their knowledge banks, my all-occasion sarcasm should suffice, right? And I think my endless collection of “this is how I hurt myself this time” stories are true keepsakes!

Another bonus: these people always seem to know where we’re going! You don’t have to ask Neil about our trip to San Fran (I turned an afternoon stroll through Pacific Heights to Golden Gate Park and across the bridge into a 15-mile all-day/all-night death march that left Neil bleeding and my tendon serrated) to know I’m not a good measurer of distance and time. I also have zero orientation in the woods. And while I realize knowing the trails comes with practice, it’s nice to run with people who have a clue.

Salty did a masterful job winding us through the trails and getting back to the parking lot in exactly an hour. We kept a nice pace, scaled a killer hill (not much brilliant story-sharing on that one!) and ran on a really pleasant evening last week. Yet my stitches came back to haunt me.

Stitches are not greater than or equal to cool.Not that I wish pain on anyone, but it made me feel better knowing that Salty has had her share of run-stopping stitches too. Plenty of articles I’ve read seemed to say, “Problem with stitches? Well, you’re either a wuss or you’re just plain out of shape.”

Au contraire, mon ami! Stitches happen to the best of ‘em.

Part of my stitch problem was mental—I’d fear their onset and freak when I felt them start churning their wrath. I’d spend time reading about preventing the things, but all the approaches I hadn’t taken would cross my mind when I started obsessing over what may or may not be a cramp in my side when I ran.

I’m a head case. I know.

So, thank you, Salty, for my stitchy reassurance!

Whether or not it was that reassurance, a mental lapse or some extra core-strengthening, I went stitch-free for the whole weekend. All 20+ miles of it!

On Saturday, I hit the Towpath with Neil for about 7 miles. Stealing an idea from Kate, I invited Neil to ride his bike on the path while I ran—that way he could take a leisurely ride, the way he likes it, and I could run a decent pace without having to worry about him—and it turned into a peachy afternoon jaunt.

After a warm-up, I ran semi-tempo for about three miles (9:30, 9:00, 8:18) before cooling down 3.5 miles back around 9:30-10:00/mile. Not only was it swell to spend time with him and have Neil as a semi-running buddy, it was clutch for me to have someone to distract me from the sounds of the woods. For some reason, the animal sounds seemed louder on Saturday, and it would have freaked me out had I been by myself.

Plus, Neil was prepared to throw his banana nut bread Clif Bar at any bear that crossed our paths. Swoon: my hero!

Finally, on Sunday, I woke up a little early and ate a low-digestion breakfast of a Think Thin bar and orange blossom iced tea, before heading out for my long run. I skipped Saturday’s Hermes 10-miler to focus on getting my longer-distances runs in. And I finally broke my 10-mile barrier with a 13.3-mile run from Stow to Hudson.

Word to the wise: if you ever use or any other brilliant tool for plotting out your next trip, don’t check the elevation until after the run. If you don’t hate yourself, that is.

I knew the trek between Stow and Hudson (no, I didn’t stop for cupcakes—I have a couple more weeks on that—but I did chug a B+guarana Vitamin Water that gave me heart palpitations for the rest of the day) was bumpy by car, but I didn’t process the hills until I saw this:
Elevation is shown at the bottom in blue. Yick! Instead of letting the thought defeat me, I tried to stay proud of my hill-running as I huffed and puffed up one and down the other. It was like winning a prize, however, kicking through the final stretch: not only has recent construction in my area created an accident runner’s bridge on a highway bridge I cross to get home, but I could feel every degree of downhill as I cruised into my neighborhood. Ahh.

I finished in 2:10:00 (~9:45/mile) and sealed my confidence that I’ll finish the Cleveland Half all right. It was my longest run in both time and distance since, well, the Akron Half.

Cleveland is two weeks from this Sunday, so I have time for a couple more long runs in and out of the rain. I won’t be breaking any speed records. But I might get to run half the race with Landon, who will run the full marathon, if I can keep up with him.

Either way, I do get cupcakes at the finish!

Marathon Training Week 3: 30 miles

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Welcome to Stitchville! Population: Me.

And probably many other people too.

Have I ever told you that Neil hates the word "stitch"? Stitch, stitch, stitch. You know, that crampy pain you get in your side when you're running? The one that starts out as a minor twinge, but grows into a debilitating stab wound that just won't go away. You know the one. Whenever I return from a run and quip that my workout was ruined by a stitch, he cringes. Maybe it's the relation to needles and body-sewing. Who knows.

Unfortunately for Neil, he's had to hear it a lot lately. Because while I've been running at the Towpath, around Euclid, to Johnny Mango and at North Chagrin, my main locale has been Stitchville. And I'm not digging it!

Stitches, also known as side cramps, side stickers or, more officially, exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), are still a slight mystery to the sports medicine world. General knowledge says that it's caused by the organs, such as the liver or stomach, pulling down on the diaphragm. There's just no certain prevention or cure. And it doesn't help when you run on a semi-full stomach like I often find myself doing after work.

Yesterday was case in point. I've been pretty wishy-washy about my "speed" work this training plan (it's not that I don't want speed; it's that I'm a little gun-shy after last year's injury and want to build up to it slowly), but thought I would give semi-speed a try.

On the agenda: 3 sets of (1 x 1200m at 10K pace/ 90-second recovery jog/ 1 x 400m at 5K pace/ 3:00 recovery jog).

Here's how it went down... I ate multi-grain pilaf with milk right when I came home (it's made by Kashi, has a satisfying texture and can be made sweet or savory for anytime deliciousness) and gave myself an hour food recovery. I'm finding, however, that with piecey or grainy foods like pilaf, rice and chili, I need more time to digest. Ah, hindsight.

Following stretches and 10:00 warm-up, I headed into my first 1200m with 7:00 target (~9:20/mile pace) to start. My legs were moving well, my arms didn't go too goofy and my intensity level felt just right — breathing, heart rate, stress all felt worked but not too hard.

So, you can imagine my surprised when I hit 1200m at 5:38 (7:30/mile). Have you ever known someone with such a poor sense of pace? Geez!

But, again, I felt just peachy and focused on taking it down. Ninety seconds of recovery jog and I was headed it my first 400m when, well, my stomach started being a little unhappy. I could feel granules of multigrain pilaf angrily popping. Instead of taking the 400m at 2:00, I ran it around 2:20 to calm the beast.

Then came the stitch.

I'm running down my street at the speed of nothing, clutching my side and cursing the food, the gods of stitch-infliction and poor, innocent Kashi food producers. I tried all the stitch-tricks I knew: deepening my breathing, exhaling on my opposite-foot extension, pushing up my organs, yanking at my side. Nothing. It's as if the thing had been stitched to my side. Argh!!!!

All out of tricks, I slowed down and walked for 5:00 (how's that for speed work, eh?) to make the thing go away. Even walking it took 2-3 minutes to clear.

I tossed around the idea of throwing in the towel and heading home (that's a distinct disadvantage to my neighborhood, I run past my front door at least once every 1-2 miles!), but I'm still washing off the guilt from last week's slothy start. Yet with my stomach still threatening to boycott my body — last thing I need is a repeat of the solid-food boycott of January 2008 — speed work was out of the question.

Instead of running the sets, I covered a little over 3 plain miles around 8:30/mile, fighting off the occasional stitch and picking up the pace to 8:00/mile for small stretches. So, same mileage, similar pace... just not the same workout. Boo.

What can I do to prevent stitches? Well, according to the bible, a good way to stop stitches is to strengthen my core. "Strong abs," says Tips on Running from Runner's World, "can keep your organs more firmly in place so that they don't tug so hard on your diaphragm." Good to know. I can also:
  • limit eating to 2-3 hours before running;
  • take more time to stretch before running, paying special attention to side stretches and lengthening my spine;
  • use lower-lung breathing from the start of my run, diverting air into the lower lungs for what's commonly known as belly breathing; and
  • warm up more gradually and build up to speeds like 7:30/mile in my 1200s!
At least I covered my mileage at a decent pace and was driven to do research (again) on stitches... and given the opportunity to use the word stitch 16 times in one post just for Neil. Stitch, stitch! Make that 18.

Much of what I read said not to worry much about stitches (19) because they "go away" after a "couple miles." That's easier to write than do! But I'd really like to get back to not having to worry about them at all.

Perhaps I need to strengthen my core — see what happens when you let your commute preempt your cross-training? — or get back to yoga or stop eating so soon before running or picking up pace so fast.

Whatever I do, it should help come race day and training days and the day when Neil won't have to listen to me talk about stitches 20 times in one post. Maybe that's why he gets such a beef about my regiment... but some things, like stitches (21) remain mysteries.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Heart Mudpies!

Dunk everyday the LBJ wayYou probably know that I have a little bit of LeBron envy. He and I started our careers at the same time, and I’ve been trying to keep pace. (While I’m not the LBJ of Web design, I’m totally working on it.)

Imagine my shock, then, when DeShawn Stevenson called the King of Cleveland “overrated” last week—shortly before the Wizards fell to the Cavs in Game 1 of the playoffs. Sucker!

LBJ didn’t pout about it or come to the court with a bad attitude. LBJ brought his game with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists. So, let that be a lesson to you: when people try to bash your chi with insults, mudslinging or negativity, bring your LBJ game. And dunk on them. Whether you’re an accountant, network administrator, waiter or artist, live your day the LBJ way.

I didn’t have any negativity thrown my way, but I did feel totally LBJ today. A special thanks to JenC for inviting me out with her girls for a trail run at North Chagrin. Talk about Awesome (that’s with a capital A)!

There were trees and hills, roots and mud, bridges and creeks, sticks and ravines. Between the conversation, scenery and sloshing mud, the time flew and I had a super swell time. I talked Jen’s ear off, learned about different races and totally dug hanging out with some hip, athletic chicas!

GP and Jen CWe ran for my season-long time 1:56:00 and about ten miles. Woo hoo! Jen & co. had a major brick workout on Saturday, so I appreciated them accommodating my way-too-eager-to-trail-run energy at the outset. But I think we all know I have a problem with pacing and I eventually came to a reasonable pace.

Running with a group definitely gives me a better sense of how fast we’re moving, and someday (someday!) I’ll be able to pace my runs with purpose. At least a purpose that doesn’t consist of “run until your sputter out and then adjust accordingly.”

It was my first time running on trails and, to be honest, my first non-race run in mud and some drizzle. And I’ve learned that there’s no better thing to do in the rain than run in the mud! There’s something energizing about hopping over mud and dodging roots in the woods. It was a top-notch workout and I walked away feeling just swell.

Our post-run meal got me thinking: how does your appetite react to your workouts?

If I take a long run, I crave light foods like fruits and veggies for the first couple hours and then need, need, need my protein and carbs, carbs, carbs two to three hours later. Yet when I swim, I’m pretty famished right away. In fact, I’d probably eat a bowl of spaghetti poolside if I could. If I ever swam anymore, that is.

Holy cocoa mole!For lunch I had granola, yogurt and fresh fruit; for dinner I had half a big homemade pizza with half olive oil, half Little Italy marinara, garlic and cheese. I also scarfed a Larabar Cocoa Mole, which is an all natural food bar that combines dates, almonds, unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon and chili. Way different taste, plenty of vitamins, just enough carbs and protein.

My morning run, however, was fueled almost exclusively by three packs of GU (chocolate outrage, vanilla bean and orange burst) that I picked up when I was at Eddy’s Bike Shop looking at—you guessed it!—bicycles. I checked out a number of rides, including road bike models from Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Felt and Specialized, and fell for an orange Felt FW40.

Because I’m still a fledgling triathlete, I stuck with the more versatile and more cost-effective road bikes as opposed to tri-bikes this round. It was neat looking at the tri-bike frames; it was not neat looking at the price tags on those frames.

While I didn’t make the purchase (yet), the test ride and measurements (I'm way short but I have longer-for-a-short-girl legs, so I need a 47-inch frame with a low seat) helped me reclaim my desire to keep tri-training. Because of my hybrid-inflicted disenchantment with cycling, I had nearly convinced myself to nix triathlons this year and focus on the Akron Marathon. But when I pushed off on a couple of test rides, I felt the way bikes are supposed to move. I took hills and dales like it was nothing.

Felt FW40So much for all the hard-work pedaling on my hybrid!

I knew well that my bike was a disadvantage in my racing, but it didn’t make sense to me to invest even in a low-end road bike before I knew whether I’d stick with the sport. I’ve put out my feelers to learn more about the Felt FW40, and might make a decision this week. I’m also checking out the trainers—an accessory that should benefit a weather-wimp like me when it comes to cycle-training.

We’re not moving until the end of May, but I’m spending the night at our Euclid house again. It will be nice to get a full night’s sleep without the excessive commute. I’ve recently cut out my 5 a.m. cross-training in favor of more sleep (I was averaging 5-6 hours each night and it was catching up to me), and I’m looking forward to getting in all of my training—marathon, triathlon, cross and home-owning—some day soon.

UPDATE: Within hours of my post, a family put a deposit on Benjie at the Euclid Animal Shelter and he will likely go home, upon family approval, somewhere happy and healthy next week. He had been at the shelter for close to a month, but they don't off with the animals. I contacted the shelter to offer up a foster home if times got desperate (which we all know would mean I'd end up adopting him!). Thanks to the people who responded and sought more info on him. I hope your warm and happy home welcomes a pooch soon.

Marathon Training Week 2: 27.5 miles

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Twice the Towpath Action

Meet Benjie. He’s an energetic three-year-old cocker (he looks like a Sussex) spaniel currently hanging out at the Euclid Animal Shelter. Rumor has it that his parents split, so they ditched their baby and went their separate ways. Not only is he already housebroken, Benjie knows how to sit and play nice with kids.

So, if you’re looking for a lovable pooch (or know someone who is), head to the Euclid Animal Shelter. He looks so much like my ol’ Skippy that it melts my heart. And I can’t imagine what it’s like for the little guy to go from a warm, happy home to the pound. I’d like to bring him into my warm, happy home, but we won’t be in it for another 1.5 months (which probably means I should stop looking at pups for now), and he shouldn’t have to wait so long!

Surely someone is looking for a good running, sitting and fetching buddy, right?

Speaking of running buddies, the Towpath is my new running buddy. We’re thick as thieves now, and it has warmed my heart to learn from Landon and TriGuyJT that I won’t be Towpath-less in Cleveland. The thing stretches for miles and miles. Woo hoo! I’ll also have North Chagrin for running, and I’m hitting the muddy trails there very soon.

Even with the Towpath an exit away, I still had trouble early this week conquering my laziness. It was less that I lacked energy or that my legs were heavy, I just couldn’t get my shoes on and myself out the door. In fact, it wasn’t until Wednesday that I met up with Landon for our weekly run.

Landon was nice enough to travel all the way to Peninsula and to let me know about other access points. Wednesday weather was stellar for a trek down the path, but it was also my first bout with dehydration this season.

Generally I don’t bring water with me when I run; I just either plan a pass by the car for a sip, a route that hits water fountains or a distance that can go waterless (with upped hydration for 1-2 days prior). But the first run in 70+ degrees can run you dry.

Before Landon arrived, I ran a little over a mile to warm up and then we hit the trail for close to 10 miles. We probably ran around nine miles a touch under 9:50/mile and then walked the last mile or so because we were just bone dry. I had yet to become a salt shaker, but I could feel my sweat beginning to dry up and it was only a matter of time before my face got crusty and white.

With that in mind, I gulped some Gatorade before my Friday run on the path and kept my distance a little shorter this time. I totally blew my training plan this week—I was scheduled to run 6x800m at 10K pace on Tuesday, easy five miles on Wednesday, tempo 7.5 miles on Thursday and rest on Friday. But I did none of them.

Running the ten miles on Wednesday definitely made me feel better about blowing off the early week training, but I was still feeling guilty by Friday. And it got me to thinking about my “speed” work.

I haven’t taken the speed portion of this plan very seriously. As you know, I took last year’s half-marathon training plan very literally (even though it wasn’t written up specifically for me) and ended up with a stress fracture. So, after almost 1.5 years running, I’ve finally learned to listen to my body and its need to build up endurance, muscle and acid-buffering before I think about being speedracer.

That being said, I ditched the 6x800 this week, but didn’t want to totally nix the tempo run. I now realize that even if I’m doing “speed” work or tempos that I don’t have to sprint and that upping my pace doesn’t mean break-leg speeds. And I’ve said that before. I just don’t seem to remember it while I’m running.

When I hit the Towpath last night, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Friday was supposed to be a rest day, after all. So, I mixed it up.

Following a 15-minute warm-up, I ran four “comfortably hard” miles with 90-second recovery walks in between—a sort of tempo/reps run that actually felt all right. I didn’t feel energetic at all during my warm up, and I couldn’t fathom running 7.5 tempo miles. Not only am I lazy, but I just don’t think my body is there yet.

Nevertheless, I wanted to still push my lactic threshold and get some of the benefits of my would-be workouts. Here’s how it worked out:
  • Warm-up 1.5 miles at 10:00/mile
  • 4 x 1600 (8:40, 8:30, 8:12, 7:38)
  • Cool down 2 miles at 10:00/mile
I started out pretty sluggish, but my legs came back about half way through mile two. And as I pushed through miles three and four, I consciously reminded myself that the burning in my legs was a good, that my body was learning to deal with lactic acid and that the only way to feel OK in the future was to keeping pumping my arms, keeping breathing and keep running. So, I did.

The best part of running on the Towpath is the mile markers. When I run in familiar neighborhoods, I generally know distances if I take particular paths, but get me off course I don’t know the difference between three and twenty miles!

And was I ever happy to see my final milemarker! By the fourth mile, my legs had really relaxed and were feeling the burn, but not as intensely as the first two. In fact, I was really surprised at the time because that leg had gone so smoothly. It didn’t occur to me that I’m run my fastest-ever recorded mile when my pace felt that comfortable.

Overall, I covered close to 8.5 miles and ran 7.5 of them. I made it back to my car—salt free—and chugged some more Gatorade. The intensity of the workout didn’t really hit me until 9 p.m. when I was conked out in front of the Indians game, deliriously asking Neil questions that I probably won’t remember.

I had an awesome couscous, chicken sausage and pumpkin seed recovery dinner and a great night’s sleep, so I feel just swell this morning. Now, if only I had a dog to play with on this bright and sunny Saturday morning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ten Miles on the Towpath (Week One Wrap)

Yesterday, I almost did a crazy thing: I thought about putting my name into the NYC Marathon lottery. How cool would that be? Running my first (or second marathon) in my favorite city? I mean, if Katie Holmes can run 11:00/mile at NYC, I could do 8:00.

But then I thought better of it.

Not only was I wary of signing up for a marathon that—should I even get the lottery selection—I would run about one month after Akron, I wasn’t too hip to signing up for two marathons before I’ve even completed one. What if I can’t even finish the first one?

Sure, it’s a romantic idea. But the opportunity should be there for years to come. So, NYC: someday.

The thought entered my mind when I was reading my Galloway training book and followed a link to the NYC Marathon site. And then it was reinforced by an episode of How I Met Your Mother. What if…?

SMACK! Back to reality. And back to marathon training.

After my 5 x 1000 at 5K pace last Monday, I ran five easy miles on Tuesday, rested on Wednesday and ran about 6 tempo miles with Landon on Thursday. We ran up and down Lakeshore and almost exclusively into the wind, no matter which way we turned.

By Thursday my legs were pretty beat. Until last week, my training had been “run a little here, run a little there,” in preparation for the real plan. First weeks are always tough. Landon and I had intended on running the tempo at 8:30/mile for 6.5, which we deemed “comfortably hard” for us.

But as my [lack of] shape dictated, the pace of “comfortably hard” quickly went down as the miles went up. We probably started the run close to 8:45/mile and ended around 9:45-50/mile. Neither of us felt like we were going to barf by run’s end, but I certainly felt well worked. And well in need of conditioning. Whew!

You know by now that running with Landon (and some miles with Neil) has been pretty much the extent of my buddy running experience. Well, Monica was nice enough to invite this rookie to the Towpath last Saturday and we ran probably the most pleasant 10 miles I’ve ever logged.

Not only was I introduced to the concept of running groups (the idea has long intimidated me—I imagined a very strict group of champion running people who were going to push me to run 7:00/mile for 16 miles until I cried), I finally found my way to the Towpath. I’ve lived in the Akron area for over three years and never realized that a) this thing was right by my house; b) the extra parking by Winking Lizard Peninsula was for the Towpath and not the bar; and c) the Towpath is awesome.

I had come to the Towpath on Saturday morning hoping to run 14 miles (per my plan), but an overbooked Saturday limited me to about 90 minutes for running. More on that later.

So, Monica found me at the Towpath, where I also met other people in the running group, as well as a bunch from a Vertical Runner group that was meeting same time, same place. We kicked out onto the path and everyone pretty much ran at their own pace—some sped ahead, some stayed back, some stuck with our 9:40ish/mile pace. Most of the group fell off around 2-3 miles out, but Monica and I ran to five miles and then trekked back for a full ten.

Even for this non-nature person, the Towpath was pretty darn cool. The path itself had a good surface that was easy on my feet, joints and mind (no huge potholes to negotiate), and is surrounded by woods, some residential areas and no spaces that look particular thick with bear hiding places. But there was still plenty of wildlife to see, including a beaver, a big ol’ goose and a herring. Considering I get excited when I see a deer (I don’t get into the woods much), I had quite the sightseeing trip.

Aside from the healthy pace (isn’t about time I run at a healthy pace), I think the Towpath and good company made for one perfect 10-miler. We ran for about 1:36:00 on the path, and then I ran a bit past my car and around an extra block for a full 1:40:00 on Saturday.

I would have loved to have run the full 14 or longer—I felt fantastic!—but I had to move into step two for Saturday: signing for my new house. Neil and I met our transferring agent at no better place than the McDonald’s near our apartment. We skimmed through a stack of papers (some more diligently than others), signed, signed, signed and voila! Closed on Monday. Woo hoo!

We each toasted with a French fry and I was onto the next segment of my Saturday: Melissa’s baby shower.

Lucky for me, the shower was only a few miles away and raging with food. When we clinked our singular fries, I was taken back to the days I actually ate those things and I rejoiced momentarily in the incredible saltiness and joyous grease that makes them such a forbidden fruit (or, for that matter, starchy vegetable). Sigh.

One French fry would neither kill me nor tie over my hunger, so I jumped into grilled chicken breast, turkey wraps, broccoli salad and fresh salsa galore. Talk about picking up your protein! My biggest Saturday challenge, however, was neither running 10 miles nor buying a house nor stopping after a single French fry. It was avoiding dessert.

There were chocolate chip cookies and frosted cookies, cake, a trifle, more cookies, brownies and some other dish with cream, pretzels and jello. And I sat right next to it as I chomped on things that were neither sweet nor horrendously bad for me. I just kept my Cleveland Half in mind and stayed away.

Somehow, I made it out alive.

What this exercise in dessert-sacrifice reminded me why I’m doing it: to maintain my focus. And the discipline I develop by nixing sweets resonates in other parts of my training life. Forgoing baby shower dessert is like overcoming post-work slump and actually running the miles assigned for the day. Or waking up early on Saturday and getting in a quality 10-miler. Sure, you think the alternative is somehow sweeter, but in the end, it not only keeps me focused on my goals, but helps me achieve that end and feel swell doing it.

Marathon Training Week 1: 24 miles

Monday, April 7, 2008

Some Shining Moments

OK, the NPR note: a couple weeks ago, Anita DeFrantz from the IOC debated Canadian civil rights attorney David Kilgour over the Beijing Olympics. Anita was cool as a cucumber; Kilgour was explosively jerky. They both had valid points about human rights debates reaching the media and corporate sponsors making bank, but I couldn’t quite hear the human rights perspective over all Kilgour’s mudslinging.

And it offended me that people who spend their lives fighting for human rights and civil liberties were getting such poor representation. I just think there are better candidates for such speaking engagements. I just think Jessica Simpson would have served them better. Maybe even Britney Spears or George Bush.

So, I wrote a letter. I was angry, I wasn’t taking sides, and I won’t take one here. But in my letter I gave the debate trophy to Anita because she remained calm and civil (even if a little smug and quietly condescending) as diplomats are appointed to be. Whatever their cause. If only human rights organizations had such organized PR, eh?

As their representative, Kilgour made human rights supporters sound like “bitter, raving liberal kooks… just how their opponents like it.” Mine was a long, redundant letter that quipped about Kilgour’s ineffectual rhetorical cruelty that was a total disservice to all humans and their rights. Anita could have been arguing for ritual puppy executions and still sounded more credible and convincing than Poopy Von Slingsomemud.

But alas, the public reading of my letter ended with “..liberal kooks,” which made it sound a little more conservative, a little less compassionate, a lot more corporate than I, umm, tend to be. It’s NPR’s right to edit as necessary (it was a long note; it was filled with rage). I just never thought I’d be funneled into that opinion.

Sigh. And that was my one shining moment.

On the plus side, traffic to my Web site and blog(s) spiked for a few days, and I received a number of emails from long, lost friends and schoolmates who heard my letter during All Things Considered. Who doesn't love Google?

If you’re still curious, you can listen to the letters clip and the debate.

What’s been up other than defending my good, liberal name? Well, Neil and I will be closing on our first home purchase by the end of this week; my second-ever 5K runs this Sunday at John Carroll; I’m still abstaining from sweets until the Cleveland Half and obsessing over; I’m totally digging my job; and I started following a marathon training plan today.

I spent the past couple weeks building up mileage, winding down with an easy two-mile run with Neil around our neighborhood on Sunday. The boy can run fast, but I kept our first-mile pace around 13:00/mile as part of his endurance-building and then took mile two around 10:00 pace. We invoked the singing/talking pace suggested by Salty last year (if only I had listened the first time!) and felt all right. After walking a half-mile cool down, we did post-run stretches in front of Sunday’s Indians win vs. the Oakland A’s. Welcome back, Cliff Lee!

It’s high time Neil has hit the road: he turned 28 last Friday (happy birthday, man!) and knows that his godsend metabolism won’t stick around forever. If only I could eat an entire row of cookies to no ill effects – or having them show up on my butt two hours later.

Neil rested today while I completed 5 x 1000 yards (it was supposed to be meters, but I got lost in my Americanness) on 4:20, 4:20, 5:00, 4:20, 4:40 with 2:00 recovery walk/jogs. My plan prescribed 5K pace, but I think it’s probably a little early for me to do this tip of “speed” work. So, I took it around 5-mile pace.

My sciatic nerve almost started acting up during warm-up, but I was so distracted by the lovely evening (72 degrees and sunny at 7:30 p.m. in early April? I’ll take it!) that I don’t even know when it went away. I’m just glad it did.

Should it flare up again this year, I think I better understand my nerves, my body and my training this year, and I shouldn’t be out for two months with aches and pains. I have a busy schedule to keep!

Tomorrow: an easy 5 miles, 2.5 of them with Neil. If we can muster the energy after staying up for One Shining Moment, that is.