Thursday, December 31, 2009

The upside of lazywussyunmotivatedness

snowy cleveland
Technically, training for the Pittsburgh Marathon started a few weeks ago. In reality, I think it will start tomorrow: the ultimate day to start all things awesome.

I'm no resolutionist, but, man, have I been lazy.

I don't think I've properly trained or regularly run since September (and let's just say my eating—short of an invigorating cleanse—has followed suit), so I'm really uncertain what I'm starting with. Tomorrow will tell.

Yesterday hinted a little bit. I tied on my new trail shoes (props to E-Speed for giving me the idea last winter to try them on the snow—they work like a charm!) and hit the snowy streets with Neil. We ran 4.5 at medium effort (~9/mile). Between the snow and cold, which I still haven't accepted, I thought the pace and effort bode well for me.

But even better than that: my achilles didn't swell after the run for the first time in 7-8 months.

My left achilles (followed by my left shin, calf and knee) has ached with varying degrees of frustrating discomfort, stiffness and sharp pains since April 2009. That pain led to an even more frustrating round of shin splints for the Cleveland Marathon. It came and went all summer, and then finally flared a bunch after the Akron Half and Turkey Trot. So, I've tried to rest, rest, rest for the past three months. But I'm a little dumb when it comes to rest.

Unless, of course, it's super cold and snowy outside.

Since September, I've run 2-3 times each week, completing whatever mileage and pace worked for Neil. Probably not a great plan for either of us. But I've supplemented with aerobics, yoga and strength training 6-7 days/week.

What's more: I've gotten pretty good about icing my swollen pieces and should get a T-shirt soon that reads, "I heart R.I.C.E." I feel like my achilles has been mending and all this down-time isn't for naught.

None of this smart off-the-road treatment, however, has motivated me to run. In fact, I just took my mom's NordicTrack (xc skiier) to ride next to my bike trainer. When I'm not riding that.

Neil on the trotFollowing Cleveland, I think I wavered much on my training motivation and, for that matter, devotion. While I had a pretty decent year in 2009, I often wondered whether I cared enough about racing to keep it up. And it's kind of an important ingredient when you're training for time in a marathon. Sigh. New year, new me?

On a much brighter side, Neil's become quite the runner, even braving dark, cold and rainy nights to run miles alone. He had been bouncing around in heavy cotton sweatshirts and bulky pants before he scored some great winter running clothes (the photo is from the Turkey Trot, not awesome winter-running). It's only a matter of time before he passes me in a race.

Maybe that's where I can find my motivation.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

Here's wishing everyone merry holidays —Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, various new years, birthdays, anniversaries, new children and pie-eating contests— this year and plenty of happy miles, races and PRs in the new year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The art of healing

Even with the stress fracture a few years ago, I count myself lucky for not suffering any serious injuries my whole athletic life. Suddenly I feel like I’m tight-roping the border between the good life and something much more uncool.

It all started last April when I just finished a 10-mile tempo. My training for a 3:40 Cleveland Marathon was beautifully on schedule and on pace. But as I turned down my street at the end of a cool down, I felt an ache near my left ankle. It was my achilles tendon.

Knowing that my achilles was nothing to mess with, I took off I couple days. Then the shin splints struck. (You know the story: I felt paralyzed for the first 30-40 minutes of any run and could almost never stretch into my normal pace.) My limited motion probably protected my achilles from being overused, but once the splints cleared up, and I continued training this summer, the achilles ache came and went.

Well, it’s back with a vengeance now. So, I’ve taken off 2.5 weeks (since the Turkey Trot) and I’m not sure it’s done the trick. I cheated with an easy 3-miler on Saturday and I’ve felt achy today.

What a tricky thing this achilles is, however. It’s tight and painful when I wake up in the morning, and can get a little tweaky throughout the day, but the pain doesn’t hinder my stride when I’m running. In fact, after a warm-up I don’t notice the tendon at all.

Some side effects: I’ve been getting some pain in my shins when I run and some afterward too. My sciatic nerve knocks lightly sometimes to remind me that it’s still there. And only every once in a while, I feel what seems like a resultant tightness somewhere else in my leg, like my hamstring or around my knee.

Like everything else in running, though, healing takes time. Especially the achilles. That part of your heel gets lower blood flow than other reaches of your extremities, so healing often takes a long time. And let’s just say rupturing the thing is the scariest thing you can read about doing.

(Pause to shudder and cry.)

So, I sit here on the eve of training for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 2, wondering if I should give it another week… wondering whether another week should be a month… wondering whether a week or a month would do any good… wondering whether I should just run through it… wondering if I should just break on running all together until my achilles feels perfect.

After Saturday’s test run, I feel inclined to go both ways. Because my achilles aches today, I feel like I shouldn’t run at all. Because the three miles really stunk, I feel like I should get running fast—there’s no way this body’s running 26.2 any time soon!

When I visited Dr. T last spring regarding my shin splints, he checked out my achilles, but it wasn’t as achy at that time as it is now. I’m not sure, aside from shaming me into rest right now, what could be done for it. Is that, however, a reason to not get it checked out? Is the achiness I feel just something I must live with to train for endurance? Oh, these eternal questions.

1. Follow my training schedule, follow my feelings. I start with four miles on Monday morning with no assigned paces for the week. It’s worth a try. I just need to stay vigilant and honest.

2. Warm up like I mean it. Short and simple: I rarely do a proper warm-up and push myself to hit paces right out of the gate and wonder why I don’t hit my paces as often as I like and why I hurt. I think we all know the answers to my questions.

3. Rest when and where I can. My training schedule, for the most part, allows a day of non-impact cross-training between days of running. I’ll have to optimize rest and stretching for my achilles (and the rest of my body) on these days.

4. Return to yoga. Strange this about me is that I’m all about yoga (like seven days a week, 2-3 sessions a day) during some times of year. But oftentimes when I’m training for a race, I skip it altogether. I realize how much it helps me relax and heal. Now I just need to shed the lazy and hop to it… on the mat.

5. Get hot and then get icy. It’s time to get serious about warming up, using heat, seeking massage and icing my injuries. There’s more to healing and treatment than stretching and sitting. I will heart RICE.

I hadn’t intended to be dealing with an injury at the outset of a 19-week plan, but what marathon training doesn’t get interesting? May will be here before I know it. I hope my achilles will be on board for a marathon by then.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trotting like a big, fat turkey

running turkeyIt took about six seconds Thursday morning for me to realize it was not a good racing day for me. The 20 hours standing the day before (not to mention the restless four hours of sleep) left my body achy with an achilles that just wouldn’t quit.

Unfortunately, I just won’t quit either.

Except, of course, when it comes to following a training plan. Since the Akron Half, my training has been very unfocused and lackadaisical. I’ll have good weeks that stay on course/pace. But most have been like last week, when I ran 2.5 miles to BURGER NIGHT (and got a ride home from David and E-Speed) and that was it. For the week.

Sure, there’s been some cycling and a few 10+ runs, but nothing inspired. None of my training has been inspired for a while. I just lucked out on the Akron performance and need to kick myself back into by mid-December when I start focusing on Pittsburgh.

But first: the trot.

This year my dad and Neil both vowed to run the 5-mile race. In fact, Neil even requested a six-week training plan a couple months ago with a goal to meet a 42:00. While my dad wavered in the weeks leading to the race, he showed up on Thursday ready to run.

Registration and warm up were pretty quick, and the weather was a bit of a mystery until the gun (it was overcast but calm at home; dark, cold and raining on the way to the race; cool and windy warming up; sunny and breezy for the race). It was cool for us to hang with my dad at the start—not only was it nice to experience his first race with him, it was good for Neil to share his experience and tips with a first-timer—and I considered not racing and just running with one of the guys for fun. But to their credit, neither my dad nor Neil races at a “just run it” pace. So, I was on my own.

We wiggled closer to the front (last year’s bottlenecks were such a pain) for the start and took off separately into the race. I ran comfortably hard for the first mile, despite all my bad feeling parts, and crossed mile one at 7:05. To my surprise. I laid back for a 7:45 mile two and started to analyze how I felt that day. Was this a goal day or not?

Months earlier my goal had been set at 37:00. Not an aggressive target (just :42 off my St. Malachi PR), but decent considering the off-season race date. Little did I know how off-season I would feel.

So, as I turned into the third mile, I decided that I just didn’t feel like hurting a 37:00 amount. The big bummer: I knew this would be my first non-PR race ever.

Mile three was a leisurely 8:19. My dad passed me around 2.5, as I slowed for water, and I watched him run an admirably consistent pace through mile four (7:51). Then I overtook him back!

As we wound down the East 9th hill, I watched the shadows bouncing over my shoulder to see if my dad was catching up. I knew that if he caught me before the West 3rd hill there was no way I’d beat him.

Let’s just say Thursday was not a good day for hill-climbing.

Now, in most races, I don’t wimp it up the hills. I push it. Hard. In fact, when Neil booted his 5K PR to the curb (he cut 2:13 from his Holy Cross 5K to run a 23:07 Pigskin 5K) last weekend, I stood in the middle of the West 3rd hill, rooting people up the steep and scoffing quietly at anyone who wussed and walked.

I didn’t walk at all. But, geez, did I dream of it.

The course turned onto Lakeside, and I could see the red clock ticking at the finish. My final kick was still at home in bed, so I only picked it up a touch to finish in 39:10—2:00+ slower than my goal, 1:30 behind Malachi, my first ever non-PR race. Boo hoo. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Little did I know my dad was nipping at my heels! He hated the final hill just as much as I did, but ran an impressively even-paced race (I think he literally ran five 7:54 miles)! I turned around and watched as he crossed 22 seconds behind me in 39:22.

Before the race, the three of us agreed to meet at the finish. My dad and I pulled off to the side to watch for Neil. As 42 and then 43:00 came and went, I looked with hope for Neil. It was his first 5-miler, and I had my fingers hard-crossed that he’d meet his goal.

Forty-four minutes… 45… 46… 47. Where was he?

We walked to the water, bananas and granola to see if he was grabbing food: nothing. I watched the seconds tick by and told my dad at 50 I would run back through the course to make sure Neil was OK. He’d just run 7:36 pace in a 5K. I knew he could beat 10/mile in five miles. What was up?

Worried he was hurt, I started looking for an open spot toward the sidewalk to start running back through the course when I saw… Neil!

He had been standing about 20 feet from us the whole time! Neil finished his first 5-miler in an inspiring 40:24 (8:05 pace… I’m so jealous). I had no doubt he could run a fast one, but wow.

So, while I trotted like a stuffed turkey, this year’s Thanksgiving race was totally worthwhile just to see these awesome guys run great races. And commiserate about that damned hill… and all the extra Thanksgiving treats we deserved.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chasing guys in Central Park

Runners in Central Park
For weeks (and by weeks, I mean almost 30 years), I’ve been trying to get my sweet tooth under control and my training on track. I’ve thought about using my twitter feed (above) as a wall of shame, posting all the unnecessary sweets I eat and workouts I blow, to remind myself how bad I’ve been.

Then I spent a few days in New York.

The wall of shame would have taken twitter down, down, down…

As usual: totally worth it.

It was rainy and cold most of our days in Jersey City and NYC, but no weather holds us down! We visited Betsy and Dan, who were kind enough to give up much of their busy days and nights to eat Cuban food and seek out terrific cupcakes and cookie-dough lumps with their out-of-towner friends. (Jersey City, if you haven’t been, is really quite pleasant.)

One of my favorite things to do in New York, though, is running in Central Park. Last time we were in the city, I took the fastest fly-by 10-miler through the streets and park that I couldn’t wait to run it again.

Two years later, Neil suited up for Central Park jaunt too.

In fact, Neil and Dan both suited up! They ran Neil’s workout while I took off for 4+ miles that hopscotched between 6-8:00/mile. Despite all the recent loafing and all the walking, I felt like I was flying right away. How could I not? I was in one of my favorite places; NYC Marathon banners fluttered in the wet air; and… well, there was a dude who just couldn’t be outrun by a girl.

Funny thing you notice in Central Park: New Yorkers (N+D saw Anderson Cooper), it seems, run equipped to trek the Andes—gallons of water strapped to their waists, rain gear to the max, enough tech to guide a jumbo jet—and don’t move very fast.

Then a sleekly dressed dude whipped past me a few minutes into the run. Big deal, right? I didn’t think much of it until he flew by and slowed when he was 10 feet in front. Maintaining my pace, I would nip his heels, and he’d speed up. Other dudes would run past: nothing. I’d catch him again, and he’d take off.

Why not have some fun?

Nice part about the CP route was the general unflatness—it wasn’t hilly, by any means, but kept things interesting. On the uphills, I’d take off and make Runner Dude push the tempo to keep up, before I cruised the downhills, where he’d waste energy passing. That was a good 2-3 miles.

Then on one last hill, he just couldn’t keep up. He fell back, and I ran into the sunset of beating-the-runner-dude-in-Central-Park glory. I realize my sad entertainments are lame. But I no longer swim with Flipper Dude at Kent State, and I have to get my kicks somewhere.

Levain Bakery cookiesI ran my cooldown back through the path to find Neil and Dan, and then we found our way to a great café whose harvest porridge and nutty breads made for perfect recovery food after a energetic jaunt.

And while I’m trying to cut back, I felt wholly deserving, not long after breakfast, of the biggest warm cookie [made outside of my kitchen] from Levain Bakery. Not so much because I had run hard or because we had walked there or because I had demonstrated any kind of restraint on this trip.

I was on vacation, and this girl can make a wall of shame look pretty dee-licious.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A little off the sides

Cuppie on a scale by Jessie OlesonJust like most chicks, I've suffered from poor body image all my life. My worst fears about my arms or butt or thighs were always confirmed by people I was meant to respect or revere (last words my late swim coach ever spoke to me: "next year we'll have to work on those fat legs of yours"), and sometimes I wonder how I didn't end up with some serious disorders.

While I've dropped 10-15 pounds since high school (mostly trimmed baby fat and bulky butterflier's muscle to lean), I still feel plenty of chunk to junk when I'm running. Sure, now it's more about carrying less baggage on the run than looking like Filippa Hamilton, but how can not feel guilty for putting my adult self through the torture I survived as a teen?

Well, I can say I'm more healthy about it now. I have the mix of exercise (i.e., various forms of cardio, strength and flexibility training) that makes for healthy living, and, I'd say, at least 95% of the eating part down. But if you've known me for 5-10 minutes, you're aware of the mind-blowing indulgence that makes up that spare 5%, which gives me an extra 5-15 pounds I don't want to carry past my 30th birthday.

So, for the first time since I was a teenager, I'm actively trying to shed some weight... and admitting it out loud. Hey! Blogging about marathons and triathlons has kept me honest. It could work with butt-chopping too!

The timing couldn't be better: I'm in between big races right now and won't start training for the Pittsburgh Marathon until December. And some sustainable adjustments should get me on the right track before those miles start stacking up.

No, no, no... I'm not saying a permanent good-bye to cupcakes or bread pudding or crepes. I'll just be revisiting the concept of moderation and seeing what it means for my back fat.

It's hard to cut back overall calories when you're training—you need the extra energy and stored jolts to get through the next hard workout—but I know I scarf thousands of spare calories on bad days, birthdays, depressed days, I'll-eat-better-tomorrow days, Saturdays, wedding days that add up faster than the national debt.

Maybe I need some shock diversion therapy with buttercream or something. Just no gimmicks or fads, please: I have races to run! But I hope by February I'll make some progress to carry through spring. Something tells me running hills in Pittsburgh will feel better with less junk in my trunk. And that's all I want: to feel great.

(Cuppie on a scale by Jessie Oleson,

Monday, October 5, 2009

What the tweet?

twitter whale

One major change this summer: I followed my own training plan for the Akron Half. It's only been three years of running for me, but after two marathons, a couple halves and a bunch of other races, I felt I had a solid enough foundation to give self-training a try.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not training Olympians anytime soon. My plan gleaned bits from Runner's World workouts I've dug in the past, Galloway tips and brain-training's Matt Fitzgerald. I spent much more time cross-training (i.e., low-impact aerobics, high-volume cycling, swimming, pilates, yoga, tennis) and taking joy-runs... being happy and loving what I was doing.

Most importantly, my training plan flowed with (and sometimes pushed against) the way my body was feeling day to day and configured workouts based on what's worked for me in the past.

Sure, I probably didn't push myself to levels I could and, maybe, should have, but I provided myself with the new experience of running a major distance PR injury free! Will I always run the GP plan? Probably not. It pays to switch things up a bit.

Hence the new blog! Another major change this summer: I couldn't squeeze in blog time (it was a good-busy summer). In fact, I had a difficult enough time logging my workouts on a scrap sheet of paper! I like to keep myself and buds on the up and up, however, so I've blended micro-blogging (the daily tidbits at the top of the page) with more lengthy race reports and diatribes below. I'm working on ways to improve the site over the next few months and welcome your suggestions.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Akron Half and the Summer of Run

Akron Marathon 2009 start

Akron rocked something fierce this year. For the third year in a row, the weather was perfect, the streets were lined with cheerleaders and I crossed the finish with a PR.

Talk of the bad weather loomed like scary clouds all week. Cold temps, hard winds, driving rain. We were supposed to get something nasty on Saturday, and I showed up at the start prepared with shorts, a singlet and my trusty Red Sox hat. Unfortunately, I also showed up with a serious need for a bathroom stop.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I have a history with bathroom starts and Akron. But this year I had an excuse! Long story short: Neil joined the ranks of awesomites running at Akron this year, kicking off “Crazy for Swayze” in the marathon relay. When we saw bathroom lines were too long, he split to hang with Pacer E at the start… and I tried finding a line. Until I realized Neil hadn’t picked up his relay bracelet, that is. I ditched the line with five minutes to go, picked up a bracelet, spied E’s 3:40 sign, and found Neil with a bracelet already in hand. Nuts!

At least I found Landon at the start. Too bad for him, all I could talk about was needing a bathroom. Thankfully for the race and my blog post, the bladder saga didn’t last too long.

We took off into Akron at 7 a.m. sharp, and I had my Strategy A in place: stay within eyeshot of the 3:20 pacer (7:38/mile), aiming for 7:47 splits over 13.1 miles. Imagine my consternation when I hit mile 1 at 7:11 (not another speedster pacer at the start)!

Well, I learned from the Cleveland debacle and slowed down. Landon had taken off with the fast guys and my bladder was weighing my down. I fought my sinking spirits hard… until I heard the next pace group nipping at my heels! How frustrating to think the 3:30 group (8:01/mile) was catching up already.

I almost felt like taking the race easy until the pacer passed. With his 3:20 sign. I didn’t show up at the start with glasses or contacts, so I didn’t notice I was tracking the 3:10 pacer through the first mile. Switching off my negative thoughts, I found a bathroom (lost about 2:00 and the pace group) and then found my rhythm as I ran the most steady, metered and evenly paced race in my three years.

Well, steady for Akron, at least.

It was going to be rough hitting my A Goal (1:42:30) with the bathroom break, but I was going to give Akron and its hills a run for its money. I was surprised, though, by the magnitude of Akron’s hills—despite two previous appearances, I seemed to have deleted all memory of the race route and its complete absence of flats—as I embraced the challenge.

Rick VaughnFor all Akron’s elevation, it has plenty of supporters cheering you up those damned hills. I lucked out in my race position too: I kept pace with a guy running in full costume as good ol’ Rick Vaughn from Major League! Every crowd we passed erupted in cheers for the guy and he totally kept me on pace, and it was a major bummer when we parted ways at the marathon split.

The rest of the trek was delightfully uneventful. While I had a few momentary cramps and energy slumps, I just ran a very comfortable pace and absorbed the atmosphere. It was way rad to see Landon’s lady Laura race-side handing out high-fives. Her spirits came in quite handy after heart-attack hill… but that’s for mile 12.

We only had a few cool sprinkles throughout the race, so I was burning up under that baseball cap. I thanked my good graces, then, when I caught site of Kate, cheering on the U. Akron campus, and threw all my spare stuff her way. What a savior! (Thank you, Kate!) Rick Vaughn thanked me for ditching the Boston hat, and as I crossed mile 10 at a PR 1:19:30, I assured him it was from my Johnny Damon halloween costume from a few years ago. It was the least I could do.

Although I should have done much more in the way of long, drawn-out hill-training this summer. All was dandy through 11 as we sped downhill just outside downtown Akron. I met Rob from and picked up as many seconds the hill offered. But then the marathon split, and it was confirmed: what goes down, must go up.

The half turned onto a part of the towpath where, I’m almost certain, bad people are taken to be tortured. We all went silent, huffing and puffing up heart-attack hill. The route was marked with “5% Grade” signs the whole way up (as if I needed to be reminded I was running uphill), but felt like a much bigger pain. So, I was surprised when I clocked an 8:38 mile-12 split because it felt like 30!

Now, I don’t know Akron very well, but I could tell we were so close to the finish. I gave Laura one last sweaty, happy-to-be-almost-done high-five on my way into downtown and just tried to stay even… while totally emptying the tank!

No one passed me in the last mile, and I was happy to see Neil cheering at the stadium entrance as I barreled down the final street. Akron’s stadium finish can’t be beat, even when the final stretch (cloth-covered grass outfield this year) catches you by surprise the first few steps and makes that final sprint pokier than you’d hoped.

But even as my feet sunk and slipped, I watched the clock and knew that even if I somersaulted to the finish, I’d get a huge PR!

I finished in 1:44:32 (7:58/mile), a 9:06 PR!

Neil led off his relay with a 3.5-mile leg in 29:13. The awesome fivesome ran 26.2 in 4:02:49. Congrats to Neil, Glen, Steven, Melina and Christine! (Neil’s finisher medal is hanging on our fireplace just below his Fantasy Football trophy.) And high-fives all around to Landon, E, Salty, CJV, Janet and everyone who made it to the races, including cheerleaders Nino, Jessica, Laura and Kate.

Akron Half capped a pretty sweet summer for running. Not only did I finally make it to a major race injury-free, I had won my first race at the Holy Cross 5K with a 22:26 PR two weeks earlier. I’m so proud of Neil venturing into the world of running and being so fast… so fast!

And these races have me on pace to wear a Boston hat for good reason when I hit the Pittsburgh marathon this spring.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I've been blogabsent forever, but will be back with a renewed blog on Oct. 5. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Most Excellent 5K Race Report

Oh, yeah: I ran a 5K last Sunday. Not only did I win my age group, I crossed as first female. Well, technically.

In lieu of speedwork during a week with a crabby calf, I decided to give a local 5K a try. While I had been disappointed in my previous race, I wasn’t out for blood on this race. In fact, I played some pretty hard tennis pretty late the previous evening, didn’t get much sleep and had almost no rest for my legs by Sunday morning.

Sometimes that’s just the way things work.

I was running a little bit late to the race and feared I wouldn’t get any warm-up let alone a proper one before the race. Lucky for me, the gun went off half an hour late. Unlucky for me, I warmed up to more tightness than usual and then sat around for half an hour waiting for the race to start!

My goal: run an even race and use it as a tempo around 7:30/mile. While I wasn’t feeling quite able at the start, I warmed into the race about 2-3 minutes into the race. 5K races always leave my anxious: there’s little room for mess-up, no spare seconds for anything, and I don’t have a clue how to run them well.

Last race I went pretty balls out the first mile and then tanked around mile two. At this Most Excellent race, I crossed a perfectly marked mile one at 7:09 (my Garmin and the marker were dead on) and felt fine.

In fact, I felt A-OK the first two uneventful miles. It was just a tempo run on the Cleveland Heights streets I trot during lunch three days a week. I slowed for the water stop (and didn’t drink too much water this time) at 1.7 and then cross two at 7:27.

Then the course turned EVIL.

The last 1.3? All uphill.

I was explaining to Neil last night that running this 5K didn’t feel any shorter than running the marathon. Mentally. I’m in shape to run way more than 3.1 miles, but even though I was running a steady pace, albeit uphill, it still seemed to be taking forever to find the finish. Until I found out where I was, that is.

“You’re first female 5K,” one woman cheered. Hmm? I picked up pace a bit. “First female: finish is just up the road,” another lady shouted down the way. Wow. Me? No way. While I was sick of the incline and feeling tennis sore, I picked up pace with my spirits (I’d slowed down for about .5 mile, according to my Garmin) and pushed to the finish.

I crossed in a PR 23:11 (7:57 last mile…yick!) to the ring of “First Female 5K,” received a pat on the back and engaged in a fruitless search for the glazed donuts I saw before the race (I only found the empty boxes). After settling for a chocolate macaroon bar, I cooled down with a few track laps and plopped down to massage a cramped calf. A race official stopped by to tell me I wasn’t first female and that I should enjoy the post-race treats.


Total upside to sticking around: I finally had a chance to meet Charlie, who ran an awesome 10K, in person! We hung out for the awards, where I found that I lost on chip time by two seconds (gun time I won by :18), but still picked up the same prize for winning my age group.

Regrets? No. Sure, if I had seen a woman two seconds ahead of me, I would have chased her down. But I ran my best race pace yet on pretty tired legs and crossed the finish line first for the first time. And I ended up getting a glazed donut the next morning. That’s a most excellent race.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another Lesson Learned

For the first time in a very long time, I’ve learned something that I didn’t learn too late to put in play. Last time this moment hit I was in college and I found that if you did the readings and work all semester, you didn’t have to cram for finals. Cha-ching.

Here I am, years later, with another useful lesson: running yourself into the ground doesn’t make for good marathon training. Brilliant!

Lucky for me, I survived my last two poor training methods to try a third. Will it be the charm?
It didn’t take long for me to decide on the Akron Marathon – I didn’t meet my goal at Cleveland; I felt fantastic after two weeks off running; and I learned E-Speed was pacing my group at the race. Can we say stars aligning?

OK, maybe I’m just reaching. But we’ll see if stars align in a few months. While I haven’t been at this marathon game for long (and only running, period, since 2007), I’m giving my own plan a try this time around. I’ve collected tips and workouts from various sources I’ve used over the past two years (Runner’s World, Galloway, Fitzgerald) and created a 15-week plan for the summer.

Here in Week Four, I can honestly say so far, so good.

My typical week involves a base run with hill repeats on Monday, cross-training on Tuesday and Thursday, speed work on Wednesday, optional tempos on Friday, endurance on Saturday and restful Sunday. Yoga 3-4 times a week is blended with cycling and soon-to-be swimming for cross. I’ve also continued a pilates regimen and weight training for strength. And I’d like to integrate more races for kicks.

I was a little afraid of scaling back to 3-4 runs each week. Will it be enough? My previous plans ran me 6-7 days with high miles. But this time I’m focusing on the quality of my workouts and meeting my targeted paces. Instead of pace ranges, I’m being very particular about my goals. And I’m hoping that by late September I’ll finally be able to recognize a pace and run it in a stable fashion.

(A girl can dream.)

Only time (and the race) will tell if my approach to marathon training will work. With all the last-minute injuries and pains I’ve experienced these past three big races, I figure it can’t hurt to try. Cramming, it turns out, doesn’t work well for running either.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Flag Day and its 5K

So, I’ve had much better races than the Flag Day 5K I just ran, but it was all worthwhile because I did get to cheer on E-Speed and Salty to their incredible sub-19 races (typically I just hear about these ladies kicking butt; today I saw them kicking in action)!

Talk about a junky (and not at all smart) lead-up week, though: first five-days-straight running in at least a month left me more ragged and worn than expected, while other life/work stuff beat me up in the head. I guess it happens.

My guess is the extra cycling, aerobics and pilates might have added insult to preventing injury, but my mood weighed the most today. At least the weather cooperated.

Enough crabbing, here’s how it went down: I hitched a ride with E-Speed and made it to Deep Woods with enough time to register, stretch, warm-up and mosey around before the start. My warm-up felt plain poopy, so I trotted a half-mile out and back, prodded my calf to loosen and waited at the start, where I wish the chicas good racing, and used a pin to scratch off the misspelling of my last name on my racing bib.

Cue the anthem, runners set and go.

Obviously, I don’t start toeing the line. But these no-chip races make me anxious about the precious seconds added to my time—I realize I’m not breaking records, but I have my pride at stake! (What’s left of it on a day like today, anyway.)

Lucky for me that negative attitude subsided, even while feeling pretty sluggish, as I tried to take advantage of the first downhill. I rooted on E and Salty around the first hairpin turn, ran behind a slow-moving, exhaust-spewing truck, tried to flee a guy who grunted like he was dying a painful death every 15-20 seconds and was happy to cross mile 1at 6:45.

If only that feeling (and downhills) had lasted.

Well, I momentarily escaped the grunter, despite slowing way down in mile 2. My cardio still felt great—the cycling intervals, in particular, are working wonders—but my legs just weren’t with it. I slowly trotted the water stop (just before tripping over a sewer), downed too much water and picked up a stitch before crossing mile 2 at 14:57 (8:12 split).

Note: by the time I crossed mile 2, the winner was already finished.

Just before heading up some final hills (man, was I pokey up those hills!), I walked for 15-20 seconds to try working out the stitch. While I wasn’t cool with walking in a 3.1-mile race, I was even less cool with the cramp. It didn’t totally subside until after the race; I’ll have to learn to work stitches out on the run in the future.

Slugging up the “final” hill, Mr. Grunter came hurling his agony back in earshot. I knew I shouldn’t have wimped out and slowed down! I let him pass me in the woods, but never separated enough to stop hearing him yelp as if he’d been shot every 20 seconds.


Faked out by a subtle downhill and cheering from what turned out to be a softball game and not the finish line, I sped up a while before exiting the woods. It’s strange the way 3.1 miles feels like such a long haul when you’re running a bad day!

When we actually emerged from the woods, I could see two things: 1) big red numbers ticking down the straightaway at the finish line and 2) mad Mr. Grunter hoofing down the last hill.

As the clock ticked toward 24, I looked through my bag of tricks to see what I had left: Speed? No, I dropped that last week. Endurance? So seven weeks ago. Spite? Ha! An abundance!

I didn’t go into today’s race with a real goal, but I knew I’d regret not outrunning Sir Gruntsalot for giving agony such a bad name. My closing speed isn’t much to write home about right now, but I was able to hoof it down the final stretch, pass Gruntasaurus Rex and finish the last 1.1 miles in 9:01 (8:13 split for the mile, :48 for the 0.1).

My watch time, which accounts for the starting delay, was 23:58 (7:42/mile).

The official time, with added start gap, probably puts me over 24, so this is my time, and I’m sticking to it!

It wasn’t a good race for me (albeit a 5K PR—a perk of having run only one other 5K!), and it didn’t leave me feeling great about much, but the post-race spoils were super, as was the post-race pie with E and David and the opportunity to cheer for the girls.

Now I just have to get back to rest and recovery. I’ve felt pretty creakedy the past couple days, and it’s high time I get back to training like a good girl and trying to make it to Akron sans injury.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

That’s the Stuff

My doctor joked each week that we knew exactly what would make my shin splints and achilles better. I just wasn’t willing to do it. And had I known that two weeks of non-impact with plenty of stretching would have done the trick, I probably would have listened. For once.

But I didn’t.

I did, however, listen to his post-race prescription and tested my rested legs today. What a difference a fortnight makes!

Being the good girl I’m determined to become, I warmed up with yoga moves, dancer’s lunges and dynamic stretches before starting slowly into my first three-miler back. It’s a weird place: I haven’t run in two weeks, but it’s just two weeks removed from being injured yet in decent marathon shape. So, I could have run five, six, twelve miles if I wanted. But that’s not what good girls do.

I woke up my Garmin, which was ready to retire to Florida, and ran a short three-mile route up and down Lakeshore. And while I was wearing the Garmin, I tried not to pay attention to pace. This run was all about shaking off rust and feeling out what’s mended and what still needs to heal.

It was a relief to finally start a run without the crippling grip of dire shin splints and an achilles that just won’t quit. In fact, it was kind of strange to warm-up without excruciating pain: it was the first time since late March that it happened!

Aside from a little right achilles ache and some right calf knots (the original injury was left achilles), I felt fantastic. My legs weren’t fatigued at all and felt strong through each mile. As I stayed strong (but relaxed) the whole run, I could feel how my cardio has benefited from 15-25 miles cycling every day for the past two weeks.

And I must have looked strong doing it too: an older man stopped me on Lakeshore to ask if I was the superstar E-Speed! He and his wife were proud to see that a speedster from Euclid ran so well at the Cleveland Half. While I broke it to him that I wasn’t Ms. Speedy, I promised to pass on the praise. Next time I’ll have to run with E-Speed autographs on hand!

Running home along the lake, I stopped at 3 miles before trotting a cool-down home, where I plugged in my Garmin to check out the splints—mile 1 at 9:24, mile 2 at 8:20, mile 3 at 8:00. Oddly enough, the last two miles felt slower, easier, more relaxed than the first. Now we’ll just see how I feel in the morning!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Marathon #2: Check

After months of long runs, early mornings, doctor appointments, dessert hiatus and yammering about marathon strategy and not much else, I was hopping in place listening to my 3:40 pace group leader at the Cleveland Marathon. Finally! And as the announcer counted down to the start, I fixed my eyes on the pacer’s balloon-festooned pace sign, where I planned to train my eyes for the next three hours and forty minutes.

The best laid plans.

E, G and Landon at the top of the morningLet’s call the pacer Marlon. (Just because.) So, Marlon’s getting us pumped to start, explaining that he takes downhills fast so we can catch some “free” speed. We waddled to the starting line, and he shot out the gates.

Good for Marlon.

Not so good for the 50 people trying to weave through droves to find him. We sped down East Ninth Street toward the Rock Hall to swing a left on Erieside.

Hello Marlon and good bye.

Three-quarters of a mile into my 26.2 race, I had lost my pacer. What now?

Landon and I stop at the aid station before reaching E and SaltyThe day started out swell: I drove downtown with E-Speed and Landon, found bathrooms fast and didn’t feel crippled by shin splints and tight calves for the first time in weeks. E helped get me sufficiently warmed and somehow Salty found me at the start. It was my day. I could feel it! I just had to stick with my pace group.

Why the desperation? We all know I have no ability to pace myself. Even with my Garmin. I’m either all or nothing. No smart in between. I knew I could physically run 8:24/mile for 26.2. But I hadn’t arrived ready to do it on my own.

Imagine my panic when I crossed mile 1 at 8:40 with no Marlon balloons in sight. I was 1/26th of the way into the race and I was already 16 seconds behind! By mile 2, I couldn’t even spy him up the straightaways and fell 37 seconds back.

Logic would have weighed me down in a marathon, so I left that part of my brain at home on Sunday. Thirty-seven seconds isn’t an impossible thing to make up over 24.2 miles. Nor is it impossible over 2-3.

It just isn’t a smart thing.

I inched up my pace on the Lorain-Carnegie bridge and through the west side, pulling within striking distance by crossing mile 4 at 33:52 (8:28/pace). But where was Marlon?

Turns out I wasn’t the only one hunting for the 3:40 group. By mile 5, I had run with at least 20 people (4-5 at a time) who saw the 3:40 goal pinned to my back and latched on a few miles at a time. Even the appointment as pseudo-pacer, however, didn’t sharpen my pacing skills. Panic held me and picked up these first nine splits:

Mile 1: 8:40
Mile 2: 8:45
Mile 3: 8:20
Mile 4: 8:07 (33:52, 8:28/mile)
Mile 5: 8:13
Mile 6: 8:10
Mile 7: 8:18 (58:33, 8:21/mile)
Mile 8: 8:36
Mile 9: 8:50 (1:15:59, 8:26/mile)

Somehow after getting ahead of 8:24 pace, I still couldn’t catch even a good rumor about where Marlon might be waving his balloons. And as I turned onto the highway, into the sun, I felt totally deflated. I gave up. My hammy tweaked and super-tightened as we climbed the first highway hill and I crossed…

Mile 10: 10:16

Lucky for me: I have the world’s most incredible friends.

This is a dramatization: Salty and GAll but socking myself in the face, I was slumping hard when Salty (who rocked the 10K hard!) appeared on the bridge through downtown to help me through some hard miles. She talked me through my self-pity, blocked the wind off the lake and helped get me to the half mark with these splits:

Mile 11: 9:15
Mile 12: 8:52
Mile 13: 9:52

Not even the joy of halfway would make my hamstring quit. At first I slowed down, took a 30-second walk break and eventually paused to stretch. Then it was 5:00 on/:30 walk for three miles. Nothing. Until I heard the 3:50 stampede heading my way.

Landon and GPained but excited, I flipped around every few seconds to scan the group, and in the middle of it all, I found Landon!

(I’ve wanted to run a marathon with Landon since the day I started running. Somehow it all worked out!)

We knew by miles 17-18 we weren’t meeting our respective goals, and once I knew my hammy could hold pace with Landon, we decided to finish the race together. And what could have been a dreadful experience turned into one of my favorite days.

Over the river and through the Rockefeller Park woods in search of few and far between aid stations did we go!

Shade along East Boulevard and MLK served us well, but I would have taken aid stations over trees. Don’t get me wrong: the volunteers were top notch! But the aid stations every 2-2.5 left me parched and floopy as we flopped from one station to the next.

But where there wasn’t Powerade, there was power support. Like my mom and Neil hanging on some shady parts of St. Clair (I was so loopy when we passed that I didn’t recognize Neil until he was running next to Landon for several seconds), and then E and Salty waiting for us around mile 22 or 23!

For weeks I’d envisioned reaching E (the day’s half-marathon superstar) and taking off for an incredible 3:40 finish! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the race.

E and meE kept us alive those last miles. While I felt bad we couldn’t pick it up for her to really run us to the finish, I couldn’t be more grateful for her motivational spirit that stretch (her parents, from Mich., were even there cheering for everyone!).

With the last 0.2 to go, she hopped on the sidewalk and rooted us the whole way, and Landon told me to take off if I had it in me. Too tight to really pick up pace, I bid him to go… and go he did. Landon took off in an incredible sprint to the finish.

And what a finishing stretch: my mom and Neil cheered from one side, my dad shouted from the other and E rooted from the sidewalk. Then I waddled across the finish in 4:11:20 (9:35/mile) 4:12:19 (9:37/mile). Great race.

Even 4:12 gets a prizeNot only did I get to run a marathon with Landon, I had way-rad family out to cheer and outstanding friends run me through one heck of a race. Sure, I didn’t run a great time, but I had a great time running it. And how can I complain about a learning experience and a PR?

On my way out, I stopped by the medical tent to thank my doctor for getting me to the race (and thanked my massotherapist for her part of the magic online) and headed home ready to heal my aches, sprains and all the new ouches.

But it’s nothing a little pie can’t cure (click to replay):

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glimmers of Hope

Signs of hope aren’t just showing up in the economy these days. They’re all over my legs.

Neil and I visited our nation’s capital last week (All I wanted was to see the president while we were in DC; 30 minutes into our trip, Obama rode by, waving, in his motorcade!), which provided ample distraction from my non-running.

Even if every 1/3 people on the DC streets was jogging. All the time.

Ben'sIt wasn’t all rest, however: we walked 10-15 miles each day, which averages more mileage than I run in average marathon training week! Neil (you can imagine) was thrilled! I’m one helluva vacation partner. At least we totally deserved those dogs at Ben's Chili Bowl.

We did the occasional street-crossing sprint. And by “occasional” I mean every 3-5 streets. It was rough at first—my achilles and calves were suffering big time—but stopped feeling dangerous after the first day and a half.

I was (this) close to taking a run, but I resisted.

Until today.

I’ve been resting since last, last Thursday. It made me a little anxious to not run for a week and a half. Sure, I’ve been cycling, stretching, yogaing and doing other aerobics. But would it be the same?

Well, it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t too bad either. I loaded my ipod with laid-back songs and struck out for a slow, short run. The pain wasn’t all gone and the stiffness stuck around at the start. But it was just feint pain and stiffness—as if I couldn’t quite forget what it was like to run in pain. I wasn’t optimistic.

Then around mile two, it started to rain and my legs warmed up. I picked up pace slightly (from 10’s to 9’s) and fought the urge to figure out what I could do.

After the first five miles, I felt great—in my achilles, calves, legs, lungs—so I took an extra mile lap around the neighborhood to run an even 6 miles. It was a good run back. Phew!

What’s next? I’ll start slowly building up to my workouts and see what I can get out of this last month. Sure, I’ll modify my time goals. In a few weeks.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Running Skirts and Marathon Dreams

The marathon must be getting close. Not only do I have my regularly scheduled nagging injury, but I had my first absurd dream about the race last night.

In the dream: I ran way off course, missed the turnaround by six miles, had to swim part of the way, ran a stretch wearing my winter coat and carrying my computer bag, was forced to stop and have lunch with some visiting friends, ran all uphills backward and realized I hadn’t bought my finish-line Boston crème pie before the race. As you can imagine, I didn’t meet my goal—I looked down at my dream watch to see it ticking past 7:42:00 and then I woke up.

Good thing is the tight calves/shin split/achy achilles/slight runner’s knee thing I’ve had going on this week didn’t make an appearance. I hope that’s the only part of that dream that makes an appearance (although running the uphills backward sounds interesting).

I’d like to blame these aches and pains on that Sunday after my tempo, but I think it has more to do with a tight glute from weeks ago. Around mile 15-16 I felt the glute tightness creeping back for a few minutes. Either that tightness trickled down or all the compensating is paying off in all the wrong ways.

My mid-distance and long runs last week started out creakedy and stiff. Stretches and a couple miles of warm-ups smoothed it all away. Not so for last Saturday’s outing. I took a she-runs/he-bikes ride with Neil and never warmed up. For over an hour!

Typically I keep up a pace with which Neil can casually pedal along side. But last Saturday’s pace was akin to my post-marathon recovery. These legs just weren’t moving.

So, I rested.

It was all yoga and pilates for Sunday and Monday. More on Tuesday and Wednesday with an hour of cycling each. Then Thursday was the day of reckoning. It was also the day that I learned the truth about running skirts.

If you’ve ever seen me run, you’ll know I’m not a pretty lil’ runner (in form or fashion). I put little thought into my ensembles—just whether they’ll keep me warm or cool enough. Mix that with my lifelong shorts-wearing hesitation, and you just have one big damn mess: me.

I gave in a couple years ago and bought a bulk of running shorts. They work just fine, even with all the inevitable riding up of any pair on the planet. Then I noticed running skirts—basically a fitted tennis skirt with longer “bloomers”—and thought I could get on board with that. It seemed Puritan enough for modest me.

My new skirt came in the mail on Thursday. I bounced home from work, threw on my running clothes and hit the streets for my first run in a while. Would my legs work?

They did, I think. I was so damn distracted by how severely the skort was riding up and began to expect all the nasty catcalls from the extraordinary number of piggish dudes out that day. Not at all what I had envisioned for new line of modest running clothes.

So, I ran to the library to drop off the West Wing and fix the skirt parts one of many “last times.” I ran well over 10:00/mile the first 1-2 and wondered if I was doing more damage than good. Nothing felt like it was getting worse in that first 20 minutes; nothing felt like it was getting better. I decided to give myself a 30-40-minute window for warming up. After that I’d just turn around and waltz home.

What do you know? At 35:00 I started feeling almost human again. I comfortably picked up pace into the 9:00’s and then the mid-8:00’s. I finished my scheduled 9+miler at the end of my driveway, walked slowly inside, cooled down a bit on my bike and yogaed away.

Soreness was inevitable on Friday. But it wasn’t worse than any other day. I walked a bunch before and after work, rode my bike, massaged and stretched. And this morning, I feel like I could run without agony. We’ll see.

On one hand, it’s a major bummer that this hitch in my plan is happening just when I started hitting my paces and times. I’ll take it easy this week and most of next, and make a game-week decision about the Hermes 10-Miler. Argh.

On the other hand, this type of thing happens. To me, it typically happens the week or two before the race. This year, I have time to recover. I’m 17 weeks into a 24-week plan… that’s 11 more weeks than I’ve ever stuck to any plan! So, I’ll chalk it up to part of the learning curve and get back to stretching.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

30 Miles, 26 Hours

Sure, I made it through Sunday's run bucket-of-chickenless, but that wasn't the only downside to a good run. There's the whole my being an idiot that came into play.

Eager to write and talk about the run, I plopped on the couch (still pretty gross, too), tucking my leg beneath me and making my achilles squeal. It felt like something serious all of Sunday and the better part of Monday. I rode an easy hour on my bike on Tuesday and took the legs for a test run on Wednesday after work.

Fingers were crossed.

Creakedy start —achilles sketchy, calves reluctant and tight— those first two long miles, and it almost seemed like a bad idea until I pushed through Little Italy, passed a cyclist up the hill, eventually hit my "base" stride and cut all the apocryphal thoughts ('you were marathon-training and you injured yourself sitting?') these tweaks induce.

The short, slow test run turned into a pretty good hill exercise and 11-mile run a touch under 9:00/mile. Warm-up miles were tragically slow, but I tackled each incline and flew the downhills to pick up the pace. And the achilles scare? All just a bad rumor.

Not that it helped my super tight legs today! I took the buses (express into downtown, transfer to HealthLine) to work in the morning and tried to keep my legs stretched and warm all day. It didn't matter: I started running on a cold, rainy day, and my calves were stiff as stones.

Seven some miles later, I met E on the Marginal, where it was 15-20 degrees warmer and 100 percent sunnier than when I started. My calves? About 70 percent less stiff.

We took the scenic lakefront route home, and I dipped and peaked all over the place. At some points I suffered from post-work malaise; other times I was just pumped to be finishing my long run on a week day. The post-work thing, however, is pretty rough for me, so I finished that few miles feeling more ragged than usual. E, as usual, talked me through it. Whew!

We reached the end of my street (just past 19 miles), and I bid E on the rest of her Wednesday run. I ran the slowest cool-down in human history and smiled. Feeling tight, rough and a little slow, I still managed 19 around 8:50/mile. Now I need a massage...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Road to May 17

Next time I plan a run in the afternoon, I’ll have to consider the aromatic spots along the way. Talk about distracting! I took a 15-miler today – four warm-up, 10 miles at 8:29/mile and 1+ cool down – to wrap up a 48-mile training week, which almost ended with more than one bucket of fried chicken.

And I don’t generally meat! (Unless, of course, you give me $2 burger night, or even dollar dogs.)

By noonish it was 20 degrees warmer than my typical 8-9 a.m. start. I was also more than 20 times hungrier by that time. Tour de Lakeshore makes for a mostly think-free run, but wouldn’t you know that it’s blocked up with wafty food joints—a couple Italian restaurants, several grills and burger joints, Wendy’s, Burger King and more than a few KFCs. Torture. Pure torture.

The run marked another solid week of training for the Cleveland Marathon – 9 miles around 8:45/mile on Tuesday, 18 with E on Wednesday around 9+/mile, 6 trail miles with E and Salty, and 15 mile today – and the beginning of figuring out what I’d like to do in that race.

When I decided to run Cleveland, I had hoped to just break four hours. Seriously: 3:59:59.99 would have been OK for me. But then I started picking up pace in my runs and feeling more confident with distance. Then I had all these fast birdies chirping in my ear. All this made me start to wonder: what could I do?

After last week’s PR at St. Malachi, I started adjusting my training paces (i.e., my “base” pace inched from 9:18-10:14 to 8:47-9:43) and reminding myself during long runs not to relax into something more like recovery pace. I’d like to incorporate a few more tempo runs—I’ve been touch-and-go on any speed-work lately—over the next several weeks, work on my distance pace, get in more progression runs and take the Hermes 10-miler at a serious pace.

By early May, then, I should begin to understand what I can do on May 17. Do I join the 3:50 pace group or dare I so much as think about 3:45… 3:40, even? Obviously, it’s easy to say, sitting on the couch and feeling fine, that I’d like to push for 3:40. Only the coming weeks will tell, though.

So, let’s see what they’ll say.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Malachi 2009 PR

Good thing getting back in the swing of blogging isn't as arduous as kicking up running again. What's it been? A few months? Well, on the up- and downsides, it's just been a ball of work, fun and training for me. I've been running a bunch with E*Speed and Salty while picking up some speed and 40-50-mile weeks in prep for Cleveland on May 17.

And part of the training plan was last weekend's 5-miler at St. Malachi. Anyone who's been around the blog awhile knows St. Malachi stays close to my heart because it was my first race ever. Somehow that little detail keeps me coming back each year, even when they seem to add new hills to the darn thing!

It's a great event, however, and I enjoyed it even more this year. I rode in and had a great warm-up with E before hitting the starting line a couple minutes before the gun. While I typically like to start closer to the front of any race, I was still feeling a little sticky at the start and welcomed the opening waddles of middle pack. All the slowed, stumbled people-dodging I had to do for the first quarter-mile was totally worth it.

I went into St. Malachi with one goal: run a steady race around 8:00/mile and finish any cut under 40. Lucky for me, E reminded me to ignore mile 1 split (last year I hit it "too fast" for my taste and slowed way down, not appreciating that it was plenty downhill), which was 6:49, and stay even through the hills. So, I did.

Pace didn't fall off too much through mile two —14:17 or 7:28 split— and my stiff morning legs finally loosened up right around the mile-three hill. I snorted some water as we turned up mile three (I finally reached the water stop at St. Malachi not parched and just wanted a splash of water... but I kind of need some practice with splashing that doesn't go up my nose!) and took a moderate slowdown up the incline. Of course, I was too busy choking to see my split... but I think it was around 22 or 23.

My recent hill repeats definitely made the hill more bearable, even if it wasn't any more fun. At least this year I didn't get heckled by a homeless man on a bike. The downhill, however, did bring much joy. While I rode that thing pretty smooth and steady, I could have picked up a few seconds with a touch of effort... but that's for next year.

Mile four gave me a boost— I crossed at 29:58, knew it wouldn't take me more than 10:00 to finish the last mile (even with the big even hill at the end) and just had to kill my goal!

Unfortunately the energy boost only lasted 2-3 minutes before race fatigue kicked in, and I started totally wussing the last mile. My mind flip-flopped between "yeah! let's shoot through this last bit" and "yeah... let's take a nap." Wimp.

It helped, though, to see my favorite fans —mom, Neil, Nino and Jessica— waiting at the last uphill turn to cheer me up the way. I don't remember that darned thing being so steep (I guess the hill repeats weren't as helpful on that part as I had hoped), but I wheezed my way up and crossed on a personal best 37:42 (7:32/mile)!

As always, I had a few moments of doubt after the finish (couldadonethis, shouldadonethat), but how could I complain about this personal best? It's almost 3:00 better than the Turkey Trot in November and 7:18 faster than my first Malachi. Here's to improvement!

Congrats to all the awesome runners to hit the race this weekend! Photos to come.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! And Many, Many More...

We rang in 2009 with cupcakes and sparkling grape juice (who needs champagne when you have a run to take in the morning?) and this video about the unexpected health benefits researchers found in their 20-year study.