Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkeys Trottin’ All Over This Place!

Have I mentioned (a million times) I was cooking my first Thanksgiving this year?

Last year I cooked the junior varsity version—it was a big meal for an exclusive family group the day after turkey day—but had the big meal for 12 at my house on Thursday.

But the real challenge? Standing all day Wednesday as I prepped for the big day.

By Wednesday night I was whipped—lower back hurting, knees aching, brain throbbing from standing locked while I whipped, chopped, diced, stirred, grated, crumbled, cut, sliced, simmered, blended, folded, whisked and dipped anything in eyeshot—and asked my mom how she managed all this every year. With kids no less? Geez!

First wisdom had it that I shouldn’t, couldn’t race on Thursday morning. I collapsed into bed (visions of fig-and-proscuitto flatbread and sugar plums dancing in my head; check out the full menu), resigned to running a slow personal Turkey Trot near home. No way I could have the time or energy to do the real thing.

Then came Thursday morning. B-E-AUTIFUL! It was a little brisk, but so clear, bright and sunny. It was one of those mornings when you just couldn’t stay in bed or just couldn’t not run a turkey trot.

So, I rolled some dough, cut potatoes and threw on running tights before I flew out the door. I made it downtown pretty quickly, registered and hit Lakeside a minute before the race started.

But who would have thought a few thousand people show up to these things? The start was really crowded and the first mile was chock full of waddling and bottlenecks and the strategic weaving, skipping, squeezing and jumping more commonly associated with trail-running than urban turkey running. But all the strategy did make it seem like we were all running toward something, chasing something. Like a big, fat turkey. Or, in my case, a vat of pumpkin-gingersnap tiramisu.

Despite the slow going at the outset, I ran comfortably through mile 1 to hit the marker at 7:48. Not bad for little miss sore leg, eh? So, I settled into my pace, rode some downhills and easily hit mile two at 15:00 (7:12 split), which really surprised me because the effort didn’t feel that great.

Then I hit the heavenly water stop at 2.5. It may have been cold Thursday morning, but I was incredibly parched. Perhaps it was the dinner nerves or all the standing. I walked the stop to chug as much as possible, continued on my way and (you guessed it) ended up with the world’s worst stitch. I stopped to walk (What? Walk in a 5-miler?) it off and kind of lost my rhythm.

Yet not too bad: I crossed mile 3 around 24:00 (9:00 split) and just tried to run with stitch remnants at a healthy pace, passing the mile-four marker at 31:30 (8:30 split).

Why is it, though, that Cleveland 5-milers seem to end on never-ending uphills? There’s St. Malachi with the dreadful finish and now the trot with the West 3rd climb? Argh! I felt like I was cruising backward on a treadmill trekking up the last hill until I started hearing the race caller announcing the time, the finish, the end. Somewhere (in earshot) I was a quarter mile from the finish.

Now, I set out to just run this race. No real time goals, although I did just want to match my last 5-miler, which was a little under 43:00. And considering the way my back and knees already felt, I was aiming too high. Plus, with the season of pretty slow going, I just wanted to enjoy my turkey morning.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I barreled toward the finish with 40 minutes just crossing the clock. I used whatever I had left to hit a PR at 40:20 (8:04/mile). Sure, that I might have broken 40 had I not walked or chugged or stitched crossed my mind. But there’s always St. Malachi and there was a wonderful dinner to cook.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Hiatus until Thanksgiving

So, I managed to get my training back on track (short of a few skipped sick days this week) and still plan to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, but will be taking an intentional blogger break between now and that Turkey Day race report. Then I'll start marathon training again.

I'll be cooking my first full Thanksgiving-for-14 this year, primping my house and obsessing (in a totally healthy way) about work for the next couple weeks. And then I'm going to put my brain back in my head and start writing, catching up, making sense.

Best of luck to everyone on their late-autumn races (congrats E*Speed on your awesome marathon today, Greg on qualifying for Boston a couple weeks ago) and other big projects like waiting on babies to show, keeping them warm, trimming trees and singing carols.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Early and Often

Lucky for me, getting back on track with running hasn’t been as difficult as getting back into the blogospheric swing of things. Running the Turkey Trot and cooking my first major Thanksgiving dinner are also on my to-do.

Cast your ballot!Last week, though, I took off the day after my first run to let my body relax and respond to this new but very familiar activity. I wasn’t surprised on Thursday then when my lower back was achy as I kicked out to my first lunchtime run since starting my new job.

After a two-mile warm-up around University Circle, I headed to Cedar Hill, a 1/3 mile steady climb from Cleveland to Cleveland Heights, for hill repeats. And isn’t it just so me to do way more than scheduled? The plan called for 1x30-second hill repeat at relaxed sprint pace (it was my first week), which I read and remembered to be “30 hill repeats.” Duh.

I trucked up the hill 30 seconds and jogged back down. Then repeated 3-4 times. Talk about boring! So, I sprinted all the way up the hill and timed myself a little over 2:00. Instead of doing 30x30-second repeats, I figured I’d cheat a little and do 7x2:00 repeats. Obviously not the same effect as the short sprint… but when you’re mistakenly doing 30 times the reps assigned, there’s bound to be some adjusting.

Surprisingly, I made it through a total of 5 full repeats. Every time I hit mid-hill I’d feel some serious burn and fatigue, but pushed past it each time with mental strength and the empty promise that it would be the last. I was really just punishing myself for doing zero hill training to prep for Akron.

Cross-training—from pilates and cycling to yoga and resistance bands—have played a huge role in my “break” training. And I’ve been working to make room for the cross-training and running in my schedule. Soon, I’ll have to find an opening for swimming too.

In fact, I was still on my bike when the kids began trick-or-treating on Friday evening. Neil and I sat outside on our front porch to hand out candy to all kinds of cute kids from the neighborhood. The weather was incredible that evening, which made for perfect conditions for my Saturday morning run at North Chagrin.

My mileage is still relatively low—20 miles last week will become about 21-22 this week—but I haven’t felt the overtraining fatigue and breakdowns I couldn’t shake in September. Thank Hermes!

The lower back that plagued me for a couple days following the over-the-hill repeats, however, was no surprise. Even if it did curb my plan to run on Friday afternoon and almost stop me on Saturday. The slow two-mile warm-up on the trails shook away most of the ouch, and I was able to get 6x30-second relaxed sprints sprinkled into a 4-5 miler.

What really helped the work out was a legitimate cool down! I walked with Salty for 90 minutes around North Chagrin, and I actually took time to check out the natural scenes and animals I’m too afraid to spy when I’m by myself. The walk really relaxed my muscles, and I made it to breakfast with CJ, Daisy, E*Speed, JenC and Salty feeling like I hadn’t run at all. Talk about good therapy!

And even more so about good weather. My Sunday morning 5-miler was easy in the cool morning air. But not as awesome as my Election Day jaunt this morning.

I woke up a little before 5:30 a.m. this morning to don my Obama shirt and run around all the polling locations within a few miles of my house. I wanted to get pumped up with Election Day spirit, spread the Obama love and just see how the day might shape up.

What made my morning, however, was an elderly lady at one polling spot who stopped me as I ran by and said ‘good morning’ to a long line of voters. She said “I’ve been waiting for a sign about who to vote for; I think you’ve made up my mind.” See? Running is good for the world order.

So, one more vote, 70 degrees and a five-miler before 7 a.m.? Not bad for a Tuesday in November.