Monday, January 31, 2011

Pounding the Pavement

I am a big believer in logging my runs.  I've done it since I started training for my first marathon.  And I track on paper, so I can pull out my file and flip through past schedules and past seasons.  I love being able to look back and see how many miles I ran, and sometimes compare my times year to year on the same route/course.  It's also interesting to see my list of what my current nagging pain is (none right now, knock on wood!) and how it relates to mileage.  I used to log things like what I ate the day before, what I ate before the run, what I wore, etc., but now I've got that down to a science pretty much.  So my log mostly now is miles and time, with notes sometimes for temp, route and/or pains. 

My running week starts on Sundays with the long run.  And on Mondays, I usually total things up for the prior week. 

So I was shocked to see what the sum was for last week.  46.9.  With no extenuating circumstances.  Just 46.9 miles of running.  Plus there was some boot camp cardio and weights in there.  And a walk with my neighbor. 

I never hit that much in a week last year.   Last year, my biggest week was 46.1 miles, but it was the week before the Fourth of July, so there was a long run on Sunday and one the following Saturday, and the following week had no long run and was very low mileage.  So averaging out those 2 weeks, my mileage was in the mid-30s.  And it was still less than I did last week. 

In 2009, technically I logged 47.7 miles in one week (less than 1 more mile than this past week), but it doesn't really count.  It was marathon week and it was a Saturday marathon (St. George) (so 15k on Sunday, 1 on Mon, 7 on Tues, 4.2 on Wed, then off Thurs and Fri, then 26.2 on Sat).  And that week of 47.7 was followed by a major recovery week with very low miles (St. George is a beating on the recovery end). 

Back in 2008, I exceeded last week twice.  One week was 53.3 miles, but with extenuating circumstances (long run Sunday and then the following Saturday b/c of some conflicting plans on Sunday, and the following week was very low mileage) (the two weeks averaged out in the low 40s).  And one week was 47.1 miles (only .2 more than last week) and completely legit (long run of 21, rest day, 6.5 on Tues, rest day, 9.3 on Thurs, 1 on Fri, and 15k on Sat at an easy pace).  And that week was followed by a week in the low 30s. 

The big difference with last week is that I'm still more than 2 months away from race day.  In the past, when I've been around 45 miles in a week (w/o having 2 long runs in the same week), it's always been close to race day. 

This week, our schedule is I think about 48 miles.  I'm actually afraid to look and confirm exactly what the projected miles will be.  That means I'm going to have two weeks averaging out in the mid-40s. 

Oh my.  Hold on, this might be a wild ride...

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I was in a hurry to finish my 14 miler this morning because I had a big date with the laptop.  I was in a rush to track friends running the Houston marathon. 

The friend I was most interested in following was making his second serious sub-3 attempt.  Crazy fast!!  Though of course I know, all running speeds are relative.  Anyway, this guy tried in Chicago this year, with crappy weather, and slowed the second half, missing his goal by just a little.

Well, this morning we had unseasonably warm temps for our 14 miles here.  I was excited for the break that we've had for about a week now.  Today I actually just wore shorts and short sleeves.  Awesome fun for me running 14.  Not so awesome for people running 26.2 and even further south!

I was happy to see his finish -- 3:00:11.  I worry he'll be disappointed, but it was a PR for him and less than 15 seconds slower than he wanted...  Crazy impressive in the first place, but even more so given the warm temps, the humidity, and oh, the icing on the cake, rain.  Ugh!  I'm so proud of him for working so hard and digging so deep. 

So we got to step back this week, which was nice.  14 miles.  Smooth sailing all the way, though my "problem toe" is going back to its normal bad self.  This toe has bothered me for something like 7 years.  No idea why.  Middle toe on my right foot.  Seems to blister easily at the very top.  And after my 5k PR in the fall, the toenail turned black.  That shocked me, because I was running long runs at the time and had no problems with losing any toenails.  But running a 5k at a hard effort did it in.  Anyway, the blackish toenail has been hanging on.  It's just been discolored and mildly tender to the touch for about 4 months now. 

Well, after today's run was the first time it actually really hurt.  Oh well, just more of an inconvenience than anything.  I'll take a funky toe over any real pain any day!

Oh, meant to vent about one other irritating thing.

I mentioned before that I got plane tickets for Christmas from my husband.  He'd booked through Amerian Express travel.  This is for our spring trip -- Dallas to Pittsburgh to Boston to Dallas.  And we're still planning to purchase Boston to Italy and back to Pittsburgh, then Dallas.  Well, our Pittsburgh to Boston flight has been shifting in time since it was purchased.  5 mins later, 5 mins earlier, etc.

Well, yesterday AmEx travel called my husband to say the first leg of the Pittsburgh to Boston trip was being delayed so we'd miss our connection to Boston.  So they wanted to put us on a later flight, but that won't work since we're going to Boston the day before the marathon and I want plenty of time for expo and carbs and sleep.  AmEx was going to look at other choices for us and get back in touch with us.

So I've mentioned before too that my husband works on Sundays and has to get up very early (4:15).  It works well for me, since I get up at 5ish for my Sunday long runs.  It's actually easier for me to get up when I know he's up too. 

Last night one of my best running friends had a party for her husband's 40th.  We went out for dinner, which is rare for us on a Sat night -- I like eating the same stuff before a long run, and we both like to go to bed early.  But we went to the dinner and had an awesome time.  Hubby left early to get to bed, I stayed to enjoy dessert and socialize more, knowing I could nap today if necessary.  I got home around 10:30 and went straight to bed.

Hubby's cell phone rang at almost midnight, waking us both from a dead sleep, and at least putting my heart in my throat.  No good comes from a phone call in the middle of the night anymore (when I was younger there used to be amusing drunk dials, but now that I'm older, it only means bad news).

Surprise!  It was Am Ex travel with some other flight options.  I was incredulous!  I kept telling him to call them back tomorrow.  He was almost incoherent because he was so disoriented and sleepy.  He was trying to get off the phone.  He asked her if she knew what time it was.  He asked her where she was, and she said India.  He said, well, I'm in the middle of the US and it's midnight here and so I'm going to have to call you back.

WTF???  I mean, if our flight were in less than 24 hours, I would not only understand a midnight phone call, I'd appreciate it.  But our flight is more than 2 months away!!!  WTF??????? 

So I see a nap in my future, now that I'm almost done tracking my final friend in Houston. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Something's Gotta Give

Good run this morning.  We had 10 on the schedule, though the route ended up only being 9.7.  Score!  It was particularly nice since I had a hearing at 9. 

Anyway, the plan today was 3 miles easy, then 5 miles in heart rate zone 2, then 2 miles easy (back in zone 1).  Unfortunately, due to a minor math error and/or my forgetfulness, I had the wrong numbers in my head for zone 2.  I was consistently 2-3 beats above that, putting me in zone 3.  Oops. 

It's starting to feel easier as I start getting back into my training groove. 

But this morning, my coach asked all of us how many days per week we're running.  The schedule we have is 5 days with an optional 6th.  Double oops.  Pretty much everyone answered 5.  One person said 6.  Then he got to me.  3 good ones for sure, and 4 I think, but I'm trying to rearrange a bit to be at 5 and I do cross-train or do something else.  Uh, oops. 

What to do?

The schedule from our coach goes like this:
Sun - long
Mon - rest
Tues - group run, usually 8-10
Wed - solo 6-8 depending on week
Thurs - group run 10, often including some speed
Fri - rest or optional sixth run day, seems to be about 5 miles
Sat - solo 6-8 depending on week

My current schedule is this:
Sun - long
Mon - boot camp with hubby, usually I skip any running involved on Mondays
Tues - group run as scheduled
Wed - boot camp with hubby then run home (2.8 miles home, and I can add on some, plus running a varied amount at camp)
Thurs - group run as scheduled
Fri - boot camp with hubby (sometimes involves some running, never over 2 miles)
Sat - lazy, lazy rest usually

So here's the problem.  I love going to boot camp with my hubby.  It's something we have done together for so many years.  If I go to camp, there's usually time to run a few miles afterward, but it's tough to run more than about 4 because of the whole "work" thing. 

And I love taking Saturdays off since it's the only day of the week I can sleep in.  But it's cold enough now that I could run in the afternoon on Saturdays, but that means working out 7 days per week, and I'm paranoid about overdoing it (not to mention lazy). 

What to do, what to do? 

Realistically, maybe I need to skip camp on Mondays, I don't really get much out of it if I'm not doing any of the running and I also try to skip any leg-intensive exercises so that my legs can recover from the long run.  But I also need to get in those Wed miles, and that might mean skipping camp twice in a week, which means no workout time with hubby, and a big waste o' money. 

I'm okay with just having whatever running we do at camp on Fridays be my optional miles. 

I need to start getting the Saturday runs in 100% of the weeks.  Especially now because I can do them whenever I want given the weather.  In the summer, it's fairly critical to be done running by about 7 because it gets oppressively hot, but with our current temps, I could run at the hottest part of the day and it's still only in the mid-60s (and this is unusually warm, most Saturdays it probably won't even be that warm). 

I just have to figure out Mon and Wed.  I love being at camp with my husband.  And I'm paying for it. 

So switch to 7 days per week and just get to the office fairly late on Wednesdays and do the Wed run after camp? 

As I mentioned before, after my blender disaster, we are using a new blender.  For breakfast, I usually do an English muffin with pepper jack cheese, and a smoothie (usually spinach, frozen fruit (strawberries and cherries, sometimes adding things like peaches, pineapple or rhubarb)).  Our new blender has these cool travel cups, which I tried using for the first time this morning. 

I think I can speed along my morning routine by using the travel cup and taking the smoothie with me when I get in the shower.  It worked well this morning.  It reminded me a little bit of being in college or law school when I'd drink while getting ready to go out -- drinks were cheaper at home, it was fun to have a beer or something in the shower, and it was fun to get to the bar already buzzed. 

So maybe for the next few weeks I try that.  Saturday runs as scheduled.  Wednesdays camp and running and late for work.  Mondays camp with no running, or skipping camp entirely if I'm getting too sore or too tired.

If I can force myself to do Saturdays, that will get me to 4 days every single week.  And if I can pull the double on Wednesdays, that will be my 5th day.  And then the bonus day will be Fridays, whenever running is included at camp. 

One other possible solution is to start running at night on Wednesdays.  Our group has this cool social run that starts next week Wed. and lasts for 6 weeks to prepare for the St. Pat's 5k, which is my favorite race EVER.  I have a bunch of friends who go for the 6 weeks and I could pretty easily get in 6 miles with the group.

The big obstacle is that our toughest run of the week is Thurs mornings at 5:15 (maybe soon to be starting at 5:00, coach is having us vote).  So I'd have to go very, very easy on Wed nights in order to bring it on Thursdays. 

Might try that for a couple weeks and see how it works out.  Still very unsettled...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dessert for Dinner

I think over the years, with more and more bad marathon weather days under my belt, including of course Chicago 2007, I've come to realize that if I put my whole life into training for a PR for months leading up to the race and then I encounter bad racing conditions, I am overwhelmingly bummed.  Instead of looking at the fun I had while training or how much stronger I got or something, I'm disappointed not to have a new race PR to show for my efforts (plus I'm usually pissed to have spent vacation time and money traveling to the race).  So my solution is to avoid feeling like training is taking over my life as much as possible.  Sure, I'm not going to go out on a Saturday night when I have to run 18 or 20 miles at the crack o' dawn on Sunday.  But I still want to do fun things! 

So last night we went to the Dallas Wind Symphony with one of my best friends and her husband in their box.  The performance was Feste Romane, and with our love of all things Italian, it was particularly great!  Two downsides -- dinner and bedtime.

Dinner was my bad.  I got stuck at work and had to go straight to the concert and meet hubby and friends there.  I should have thought to heat up my emergency can of spaghettios before leaving work, but I didn't.  So I got to the concert and was famished by the first intermission.  I got in line for food and then realized my choices were limited to say the least.  Tons of alcohol and coffee choices.  For food, my choices were two kinds of cake (Italian cream, which probably had nuts, and chocolate, which I actually don't love in cake), brownies, cookies, or bread pudding.  Not exactly what I had in mind for dinner.

I chose bread pudding.  At least it was raisins and bread... So that was my dinner.  Not good fuel for an easy 6 miles this morning.  But I really don't want to complain about it.  I try to remember all those years when all I wanted for dinner was dessert.  Nights when I'd beg my folks to let me skip the meal and just have ice cream.  I was convinced that when I grew up, I'd eat dessert for all my meals and never have to eat anything else.  Oh, growing up isn't much fun.  Now that I actually want good food for dinner and not just sweets, when I'm stuck eating just sweets for dinner (which is thankfully rare), I try to look at it as a concession to younger me.  Just living the dream!

And then there was the timing issue.  Usually on M/W/F, we go to boot camp.  Class starts at 5:30, so I get up at 5 and move quickly.  On Tu/Th, I run and we start at 5:15 and it's further away, so I get up at 4:40.  And that's just me.  Hubby has to be up even earlier because he needs extra time to get ready.  So basically, on any weekday, the first alarm in our house goes off at 4:30 at the latest, sometimes earlier.  Because we like our sleep, and I suppose since we haven't been married that long, we go to bed early, early, early.  I'd say on any weeknight, I'm always asleep before 10, usually closer to 9.

Well, last night at 10:30, the symphony was just ending (and it took us a long time to get home b/c of a lost purse issue I had (don't ask, I have it now)).  It was after 11 before I got to sleep.  Not good for an alarm going off at 5, particularly since I'm used to solid sleep. 

So we decided to skip boot camp this morning.  I had 6 miles on the schedule anyway, so I think this is going to happen more and more frequently in the next few months.  It just seems like a lot to do boot camp for an hour and then run 6 miles.  I'd say 90 minutes is really the longest I like to exercise before work.  Sure, I can stretch it to an hour and 45 minutes sometimes, but that just feels like a lot before work. 

With this new schedule, on Wednesdays, there are lots of weeks where we're supposed to get in 5-8 miles, so I might have to skip camp those days. 

Anyway, I slept in until just after 6 and then ran from home.  I thought about grabbing my ipod and just running the trail, but thought it might be a little more interesting to run on the streets to downtown, and then run back on the trail.  So no music, since it doesn't seem safe to me to listen when there are cars around.  But in my mind, alarm bells are starting to go off when I think about my attitude this morning toward running on the trail.  It's way too early in the season to be getting bored with the trail by our house.  I guess that's the downside of going from fall marathon training straight into spring marathon training...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Backfat and the Wedding

The day before the Twin Cities Marathon, we went out to breakfast with my baby bro and his fiancee.  Just the four of us.  Over breakfast, they asked us to stand up in their wedding, which is this summer in the Other Big D (that being Detroit).  Sweet!  Of course we happily said yes (and my baby bro nixed my offer to sing a solo at the wedding, hahaha, and his fiancee promised to take me up on my offer to proof/draft/work out the invitations). 

As time has passed, the details have been getting firmed up.  First, the bride was leaning toward having the four of us wear this dress (Lazaro): 

I went to try it on when my cousin and his wife were here in town and showed my husband what I looked like in the sample.  The first words out of his mouth:  You can't wear that in a church! 

Haha.  Yeah, it was pretty low cut!  But they're not getting married in a church, and maybe we could make it work with double-sided tape or a simple extra stitch.  But wow, very, very low. 

But even worse, my dress was going to require fairly major alterations because my waist size was disproportionate to my bust and hip measurements on the dressmaker size chart. 

Well, last week we found out she'd decided that BM dress was too matchy-matchy with her dress.  I don't want to post her dress pic on the very slight chance that somehow my baby bro finds/reads this blog!  Oh, and last week we found out the guys are all going to wear suits.  And they're all going to buy them.  Weddings are expensive!  But it actually sounds like they found a good deal on the suits, and it's a really neat looking suit and it's grey (and hubby's most-frequently-worn suit is black, so at least it won't be another black one). 

So then she decided on this dress (Lynn Lugo):

That's not me in the picture, it's one of the other bridesmaids.

I went to a bridal salon today at lunch to see if they had it in stock (only one shop in Dallas carries it) and to get measured again (surprisingly enough, not only are my measurements identical to November at the other salon, but all 3 actually fit into the same size on their size chart!, so at least I won't need major alterations).  They didn't have it in stock, but they had something pretty similar, so I got to try that on.

All I can say is holy backfat! 

I called my husband and said that from now on, at boot camp, when we have to use weights to do any kind of rows, either upright rows or push-up rows, I'm going to use his weights.  He uses 10s and I wimp out with 8s, but wow, my back needs some major work. 

Their wedding isn't until July, so there should be plenty of time for me to work on getting rid of some of the rolls on the outer edges of my back.  I wish you really could do spot-toning.  Wouldn't it be cool if everything we ate that was not going to be burned off within 24 hours we could choose where to allocate?  Like you could paste little chunks of fat on your bust, or in your armpit, or between your toes, or where ever you wanted to stash it! 

Like I said before, I don't like making specific weight-loss resolutions because they don't usually work for me, but I'm hoping my goal of getting a PR at Boston will mean that I get into better shape and some pounds magically drop away.  And maybe some of those pounds can be my little upper back/armpit roll/muffin-top! 

I definitely try not to be overly critical of my body.  I know I'm not beautiful on the outside (at least not in an objective viewer's eyes), but I'm very happy with the things my body has been able to accomplish (and the things I hope it will accomplish in 2011).  But oh, my back needs work! 

Maybe I could just save $$ for lipo there...

But if you have any mid- to upper-back toning exercise suggestions, I'm all ears!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Close Call

Strange coincidence of events today. 

I went to boot camp this morning but hubby and I drove separately so he could go straight to work.  Left the house at about 5:15, as always, feeling rushed, as always. 

Aside:  About a year ago, one of the prongs on my engagement ring bent.  He took it in to his jeweler and got it fixed.  Either we didn't inspect it closely or it bent again in the exact same spot within a couple days (and this was after wearing it daily non-stop since Oct. 2007, so my instinct is that it wasn't fixed correctly, but I'm not placing blame).  Anyway, got it back the second time and it was fixed and the jeweler told him I shouldn't wear it for boot camp.  So now I usually leave it on my bathroom counter in the morning before I go exercise.  If I get to camp and realize I still have it on, I put it in a very particular spot in my gym bag.  A spot where technically, it could fall out, but it's unlikely unless I move the bag, which I never do. 

Another aside:  One of my new year's resolutions for this year (well, not so much resolution, as something on my list of projects to accomplish this year that I wrote out on the same page as my resolutions) was to schedule my ring on our homeowner's insurance.  Don't ask me why I haven't done that yet since I've had this ring for over two years.  I think it's because you have to provide our insurer with the purchase paperwork or get it appraised or something, and I am kind of weird about money and I really didn't want to find out how much my ring cost.  I don't even have a good guess.  So I haven't done it yet, but I am fully aware that it needs to be done and I'm living on the edge without it. 

I'm sure you can guess where this is going. 

So I got to boot camp this morning and realized I still was wearing my ring.  So I took it off and put it in my gym bag, but it didn't seem secure (the bag was kind of tipping over for some reason) and my car was nearby so I walked to my car to put it in there but then got distracted by our instructor starting class right when I was at my car.  Next thing I clearly remember, I was starting our 50 jumping jacks that we do at the beginning of class. 

After camp, I drove home and realized while I was getting ready for work that I wasn't wearing my ring.  I planned to look in the car when I went downstairs.

Aside:  bedroom is on third floor, garage is on first floor, and I'm lazy and wasn't overly concerned.

So I of course, forgot about it again, came to work and started working.

Then my husband called because he couldn't remember my social security number.  I gave it to him and then he told me he needed it because he was changing the amount of my supplemental life insurance.  By changing, I mean increasing.  We'd talked about this a while ago and agreed it was a good plan.  Another new year's insurance-related resolution/project (though it was really more of something I wanted him to do).  But I knew what he was going to raise it to and we'd both joked that it wasn't high enough to make it worth it for him to kill me.

So while we were on the phone, I was joking (and I have a loud voice so the insurance/HR person heard all of this) that he should clarify whether he still gets this money if he kills me. Hahaha, we're just yucking it up.  We get off the phone and I keep working.

He calls me back when he's alone and gives me the details.  Turns out, he couldn't raise it to the amount we wanted because there was a cap, so instead he just raised it to the cap.  We got off the phone.  I kept working.

Then, heart attack.  I realized my ring was missing.  Fock. 

Raced (speedwork!!!) out to my car and tore apart my gym bag, which I always keep in my trunk.

Niente (that's Italian for nothing!). 

With my heart beating out of my chest, I went to the passenger compartment to start searching and found it very quickly. 


I decided these events are something best not shared with my husband, at least not today!  Glad he hasn't really started reading this blog... 

When I got back to my desk, I kept thinking about how normally, maybe he'd have a good "heat of the moment" / "crime of passion" defense to murdering me if I'd lost the ring.  Especially after he realized I still hadn't scheduled it on our property insurance.  But wow, his conversation with the life insurance people this morning where he'd maxed out my life insurance and had originally wanted it even higher than they'd let him get it, ooooh, the prosecutors would have had a field day with that!! 

Either way, lesson learned:  this weekend I need to ask him to give me copies of the paperwork for the ring, I need to send it to our property insurance company and get it scheduled.  That resolution/project needs to be accomplished sooner, rather than later.  Completely lucky break for me.  I need to go do something nice for a stranger so I can put some good karma out there in the world having used up so much today. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And so it begins!

First long run to prepare for Boston this morning.  16 miles.  I haven't run that far since the White Rock Marathon at the beginning of December.  Crazy!

It wasn't technically the first long run, we've already had a week of 12, then a week of 14 (which I skipped b/c the group run was cancelled for ice/snow and I was sick), then another week of 12, so it was a big jump up for me to go to 16.  Technically, too big a jump.  Long runs should increase by 10% per week, but I think that applies more to beginners and higher mileage.  Otherwise, even going 12 to 14 would be too far, since 10% would be 1.2 miles.  I think lots of programs step up about 2 miles per week, which is reasonable. 

It's very different to run based on heart rate, when I've been pace-based for so many years.  It was definitely slower than I expected trying to keep my heart rate in zone 1.  But it was fun, it was a good group once we got settled in. 

I tried to paste the elevation chart, which might explain a second reason for a slower pace (because of climbing heart rate) on the second half, but it didn't work.  About 200 feet down over 8 miles, then back up the 200 feet.  Technically the garmin says it was 276 feet, but the chart looks really cool because it's like a huge slope down, then a huge slope up.  Until you look at the numbers and see it's only about 200 feet of difference total.  Big hills for those of us in flat Dallas! 

But the best part about today's run:  when we were about 3 minutes away from being down, I honestly felt like I could run another 10 miles.  Woot!

I know this feeling will fade.  As it gets closer to the race, there will be days that we run 20 miles and I feel like there is no way I could go another 6.  But today was all easy, the weather was good, I ate well last night, and I felt great.  10 more miles might have eventually gotten ugly, but it seemed like I had at least a few more steady miles in the tank, and that's nice.  I love it!! 

This has been a fun weekend.  A night on the town was in order on Fri night.  This running/drinking club I'm in had an outing, so I went along since hubby was still out of town and I didn't have other plans.  We went to this place called Pete's Dueling Piano Bar.  They have them in other cities now (Vegas I think), but I think it's originally an Austin bar.  I went for the first time a few years ago in Austin for a friend's bachelorette, and based on Fri night, I don't go to the Dallas location nearly enough!

It's a bar with 2 pianos and they get everyone to sing and play games.  I didn't drink very much.  Maybe one mixed drink (well, it was a double, but it was only one glass!), a couple shots, and a beer.  But that was all over the course of about 5 hours.  But by about 9:00, I was on my feet the entire time, belting out the tunes (and I do NOT sing well), and dancing.  It was such a fun night, though my husband did not appreciate the several semi-drunk dials. 

I really liked all the people who were there.  One couple I know fairly well but don't get to socialize with enough, and a few people I see every so often at races or at this group's events (and am regularly in touch with on fb), and several new people, but I mostly talked to those I already knew.  A vast majority of the group is unmarried, which I guess makes sense since I'm sure it could be quite a good hook-up pool if you were looking, and since they're all runners, everyone seems super-cool and nice. 

Saturday morning I slept in and decided to take an off day.  Volunteered at the running store to help with people picking up packets for the race today, then went to the airport to get my husband! 

We ran a few errands (including getting measured for the suit he has to buy for my baby bro's wedding that we're in this summer!), and went out for frozen yogurt with one of his former coworkers and his family. 

Then we had our neighbors over for dinner Sat night while I did my carb-loading for this morning's 16 miles.  There is one very exciting development on that front (related to our neighbors and our vacation) that I'll have to write about later this week when things get a little more certain.  And I'll post later this week about some more wedding stuff. 

One funny thing.  While we were out with hubby's former co-worker, we were saying we had to get going so we'd be home in time to make dinner.  Hubby mentioned our last meal debacle cooking for them -- he stalled in going to the grocery store, so by the time he got home, I had to throw squash straight into the oven and it was slightly undercooked when dinner was served.  Dude, I was irritated with my husband!  But he and I took the most undercooked ones and gave our neighbors the ones that seemed a bit better, and the rest of the meal was really good, so it was fine.  Hubby's friend and his wife laughed about that.  And then I mentioned the time we cooked for just her, pasta with red sauce.  But instead of using crushed tomatoes, I used tomato puree, oh it was bad.  Hubby's friend's wife was like, you made pasta for someone from Italy??!!  Haha!  Yes, the meal was no doubt doomed!

But they come over a lot for simple pasta dinners on Sat nights before my long runs.  Fun to have the company, though we need to be better about speaking Italian during the meal. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Born to Run: Vegetarian Runners

I already posted my thoughts about the barefoot running discussion of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, but the other subject in the book (discussed in much less detail) that really interested me was the vegetarian diet.  I think I commented before that I saw the entire book to be mostly about ultra and trail running, and much less about being barefoot or being vegetarian or anything like that.  I also was amused by how McDougall rips on the egos of some ultra runners who he sees as self-promoters.  Anyway, the vegetarian portion of the book was of special interest to me. 

As I've explained, I've been a vegetarian since 2001 but made the switch for moral reasons instead of any health reasons.

Things I remember from the book:  McDougall says that a vegetarian diet has "worked for history's greatest runners," and mentions how one great present-day ultrarunner decided to adopt it based on looking at results first, science later. 

There's discussion about how that guy cut down white flour and sugar, and cut out all animal products.  He was warned he'd be weaker, wouldn't recover between workouts, and would get stress fractures and anemia.  But he was eating more high-quality nutrients, getting maximum nutrition from a low number of calories.  In my mind, anyone eating more high-quality nutrients, whether it involves dead animals or not, is going to be stronger than someone eating garbage.  And another odd aspect of the book was the discussion about two of the ultra runners (Jenn and Billy) who tend to drink lots of beer and not worry about nutrition, but still post rockin' times. 

Anyway, McDougall talks about how these great runners (vegetarians) get maximum nutrition from a lower number of calories, meaning that their bodies don't have to process the extra bulk.  He also mentioned how a vegetarian diet has all the amino acids and can be digested faster.  Again, no cites or anything to support this, but seems logical and correct. 

One point McDougall made was that "one in seven cancer deaths is caused by excess body fat" and he makes the deduction that if you cut the fat, you cut your cancer risk.  Just reading that as a lawyer makes me wonder.  How is it logical to conclude that less fat equals less cancer RISK, when the stat on which it is based relates to cancer DEATH?  The same goes with McDougall's stat that heavier people are more likely to die from ten types of cancer.  Well, first, I'd rather just not get cancer in the first place.  And second, what about the other x hundred types of cancer?  It just doesn't seem like compelling reasoning to me.  Sure, there are plenty of reasons to aim for a healthy weight.  And sure, there's plenty of research suggesting that a vegan diet is healthier and reduces cancer risk, but at the same time, it's clearly not for everyone and of course there's also research indicating the opposite I'm sure. 

I think most of life is trade-offs.  If you want to qualify for Boston, you have to sacrifice some time to train, time during which you could do something else if you weren't training.  If you want to be happily married to the man of your dreams, you're going to have to live with his imperfections -- even if they're minor, having to put down the toilet seat is something you might have to do to have the awesome companionship.  If you want to eat something really unhealthy all the time, you might have to adjust the rest of what you eat, exercise more, or gain weight.  One of the most beneficial things I learned in baby lawyer training involved an exercise in time management.  The guy told us to make a grid showing things we have to do v. things we choose to do v. things we'd like to do.  After the grids were made, the bottom line came out that there is only one thing we have to do:  sleep.  If you don't choose to sleep, your body will sleep involuntarily.  Everything else, eating, paying bills, billing hours, watching your kids, making your bed, exercising, is a choice.  And much of what we choose to do, driving in cars, raising our heart rates with exercise, eating animal products, involves risk, but we're free to decide if it's worth the risk. 

Would I move from being a vegetarian to being a vegan if I could guarantee I wouldn't get cancer?  I don't know.  If I had a huge family history of cancer, it might make that choice more likely.  Or if I didn't love cheese.  But I think McDougall's discussion of vegetarianism should be recast as a discussion of veganism, or at least near-veganism. 

It's hard for me to have an opinion really on the book's vegetarian discussion.  Again, anecdotal data is never super-reliable, and the book doesn't seem to worry about that (with regard to barefoot running or a vegetarian diet, but that's not the book's purpose (it's not a journal article), so that's okay).  I would guess eating any healthy diet is going to be better than eating any unhealthy diet, regardless of whether there's meat in either diet. 

I would guess the best thing you can do for your running is to be a healthy eater.  Of course, I think the best thing you can do for your soul is to be a vegetarian!  But realistically, I doubt there's a huge difference in performance between vegetarians and omnivores.  If there was, I think we'd know it.  Runner's World wouldn't feature recipes including meat if all the people winning marathons were vegetarians.  And all the people competing to win marathons would probably also go vegetarian to get that extra edge (if it exists).  It's the same logic I have for the barefoot running discussion -- if it's so great and makes runners so much more successful, why isn't the elite group of runners comprised solely of barefoot vegetarians?  Bottom line is that different things work for different people, and some trade-offs are worth it and some aren't. 

I didn't start running until after I became a vegetarian, but I was a very unhealthy vegetarian when I first started running.  My running improved the most when three major things happened.  First, I started cross-training, which meant I built more muscle and lost some fat.  My weight didn't change very much but my body shape did.  My running times got substantially better.  Second, about a year later, I became a healthy vegetarian.  And third, right after becoming a healthy vegetarian (cause and effect!), I lost some weight.  My times have continued to improve, but I can't compare my running to when I ate meat, so it's impossible to say if I would further improve or get worse. 

So my point is that McDougall's vegetarian discussion is too anecdotal for my liking, but I think being vegetarian works best for me -- primarily mentally/emotionally, but likely also physically. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mental Strength

Today was a tough run for several reasons, but I want to document it in case I feel like an unprepared wuss in 2.5 months.  I can look back at today as evidence of my dedication to getting a new PR in Boston.

Hubby went home yesterday.  Wait, I have to do a quick aside.

In my efforts to be a good wife (and to get a few more kisses before he left), I drove him to the airport and went straight from the airport to my jeweler's, which is downtown, but not walking distance from my office.  I was getting my new dress watch that I got for Christmas resized and I was dropping off my smaller charm bracelet to have a bunch of charms added.  Right in the food court outside my jeweler is a Taco Bell. 

As a vegetarian, fast food has always been more challenging than it was when I was younger and ate meat.  About 8 years ago, I was with a co-worker in line at Taco Bell at 2:30 in the morning (the best time to be there) and the guy in front of us got a taco with beans instead of beef.  I'd never considered doing that, and it immediately became my new standard Taco Bell order. 

But in the last few years, my life has changed so that I rarely eat fast food.  Sure, I do it when we're on the road, but that's rare, and even then, we lean toward something like Subway.  In terms of fast food, for me personally, my usual fave options (if you'd asked me a few days ago), in order, would be Sonic, Subway, Taco Bell, Wendy's.  And they were all pretty close in ranking.  Basically I'd be fine with going to any of them.  I'd guess I eat at Subway about 4 times per year and at the other three combined about 6-8 times per year.  Average of one fast food meal per month, but even that might be higher than it really is. 

Well, since I don't eat fast food often, it sounds fine in my mind.  Like mmm, I'd be happy to eat Taco Bell right now.  But I don't.  It's just not very convenient for me since I usually have my lunch with me at work and since I usually eat dinner with my husband at home or at a regular restaurant. 

So I took hubby to the airport and then went to the jeweler and while I was waiting on my watch, I decided to pick up some bean tacos to bring back to work for lunch. 

Bleh.  I think I can officially say that I no longer like Taco Bell.  It was definitely not good and I'd either forgotten how not good it is or it's gotten much worse since I last ate it. 

So back to my point.  Why this morning's run is something I need to remember when I doubt myself.  Hubby is out of town so there was no one to get me to bed on time last night.  I went to bed a little late because I was putting away stuff we'd bought on Tuesday and watching some trash tv (I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant).  I got in bed and started reading.  And kept reading.  And kept reading.  And eventually fell asleep with the lights on.  Oops.

So barrier number 1 to running today:  overly tired.

I got up and saw it was in the low 50s.  Shorts and long sleeves.  Fine.  Drove to the start point in mist/rain.

Barrier number 2 to running today:  wet.

And then talked to a few friends and found out the cold front was arriving subito (that's Italian for right now).  We set off for our longest weekday run to date this season, 10 miles, which is going to be a distance we have to do one weekday per week pretty much every week.  So I need to get used to it, but I knew it wasn't going to be particularly fun today. 

Barrier number 3 to running today:  high miles.  10 before work could be too tiring.

We were supposed to run 3 miles easy, 5 miles at the next highest heart rate zone, then 2 miles easy.  First faster run of the season (aside from the lactate threshold 10k race).  That also made me nervous. 

Barrier number 4 to running today:  harder effort than before.

Fortunately the course wasn't long today because it was an out-and-back.  And I'd grabbed a cap and gloves, so I was completely comfortable running to the u-turn.  Then I turned and the cold front had arrived.

I ran the 5 miles back in rapidly dropping temperatures, major wind gusts, and cold rain that at times felt like it was driving right under my hat and into my face.

Barrier number 5 to running today:  weather sucked.

If there had been any possible way to have cut the run short, I think I would have.  But that just wasn't an option, so I kept on going. 

I logged a solid 10 miles before work today!  In the cold!  In the rain!  I'm proud of myself for doing it, despite having numerous ready-made excuses at my disposal. 

Ugh.  It was good my hubby was out of town b/c I cranked the heat in the house to 84 and just felt like I could not get warm.  Finally I got in a very hot shower and eventually warmed up, but I kept the heat set to over 80  until I left for work. 

I think next week is going to be colder again, so maybe I'll look back on today fondly because at least I didn't start off frozen...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Planning for our Spring Vacation is underway!  Oh, it can't get here soon enough. 

It looks like we're starting in Pittsburgh to spend a couple days with my in-laws.  My mother-in-law loves to play dominoes (and taught me the game), so it will involve many hours of sitting at the table playing with her and her sister, and sometimes my father-in-law, husband, brothers-in-law, whomever.  I'm going to have to be very careful with what I eat since it will be right before the marathon, but I'm sure we'll be able to figure it out.  Lots of times we go to the store ourselves and buy whatever we're going to want for groceries. 

Then Boston, getting there on Sunday and heading straight to the expo.  Then marathon on Monday.  Need to come up with an awesome plan for dinner Monday night -- somewhere appropriate for our second anniversary.  Send any great recommendations you may have, bearing in mind I'm a vegetarian (I especially hope for a rec or two from Becca, since you're moving back).  Also need to choose which hotel reservation we want to keep and cancel the others -- nothing downtown, our choices are by the airport or on Soldiers Field Road.  Just not sure which will be easier to get to after the marathon on Monday.  I've heard it's fairly chaotic, and I remember the metro being full after MCM in DC, so I'd rather not have to deal with that if possible.  Then we'll spend all day Tuesday walking (hobbling in my case) around Boston.  Hubby has never been there, and I've only been once and it was about 15 years ago I think.  Places I remember that he should see are Boston Common, Fanneuil (sp?) Hall, and the Freedom Trail. 

Then Calabria, Italy.  We're going to spend the first night in a new hotel, then we'll stay with family the rest of the time, including for Good Friday, Easter, and Easter Monday, all of which are very big holidays with his family.  I'm very excited about this new hotel.  Many years ago before we went to Italy together for the first time, my husband asked me if I'd rather stay in a hotel right on the beach, or one in the main town square.  I chose the latter, and he said that was his preference too.  But when we tried to make reservations, we found out the hotel on the square was closed for renovations.  So we decided to stay at the beach hotel and checked out the piazza hotel during our wandering.  Then we went back a year later -- still doing work inside, stayed at the beach hotel.  Then we went back a year later again and got engaged, stayed at the beach hotel that night, piazza hotel still under construction.  We figured surely it would be open in another 1.5 years when we got married.  And even though we were going to have our reception at the beach hotel, since the ceremony was at the castle right on the piazza, maybe guests would have both hotel options.  Nope.  Still under construction.  Well, believe it or not, after many years, piazza hotel is finally open!  Hubby emailed me this note:  "Let's go now."  And he sent this picture, a view from one of the rooms where we can see both the bench where we got engaged and the castle where we got married. 

We'll only stay at the piazza hotel one night, just the first night we're in the country. It usually feels so chaotic with all the travel and being tired, adding on translating and family makes one night on our own seem ideal. His family is always disappointed to learn that we didn't come straight there, but we've decided it's worth it to have a night to adjust. While we're with his family, we'll spend lots of time visiting people, eating, drinking, and hopefully taking some day trips to other parts of Calabria. This year we'd like to go to the forest there, La Sila, and maybe out to one of the islands, like Stromboli.

Then Paris. We'll only be there for I think 3 nights, but it should be long enough for hubby to see the basics since he's never been. My job is to pick a hotel since he thinks I'll have a better sense of where we should stay. So send me any recommendations you may have. I think we're going to do the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay, and then hopefully just wander the rest of the time. Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Arc de Triomphe of course, Champs Elysees, lots of people watching I hope.

Then back to Pittsburgh, just for one night before our flight home. I'm not thrilled about this since I've found the trip home is usually not much fun and once we start travelling, I'd rather just get home than stop anywhere. Last spring, we had an agonizingly long trip back. Moscow to Stockholm (overnight), to Copenhagen to Chicago (overnight b/c cancelled flight) to Dallas. While we crashed at my brothers' empty place in Chicago so we could do laundry and manage our own schedules, we were both pretty grouchy and just ready to be home. I hope Pittsburgh will be more fun, but knowing myself, I'm probably not going to love that final stop. But an extra day with family is an extra day with family, I like that, I'd just rather do it on the front end.

Then home!  All told, we'll be gone less than 3 weeks. Ooh I can't wait! A little intimidated by all the miles I'm going to run before then, but this trip is really something to look forward to, regardless of how the marathon goes. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As Expected

Our new coach sent out pace groups and as expected, my 10k race puts me at a much slower pace than I'd hoped.  The good news is I like the people I'm running with, though a couple of my fave people are in diff groups.  The pace feels insanely easy and slow.  The bad news is I'm really worried this is going to make a PR at Boston impossible.  

Part of me is trying to just repeat:  You have to run slower to run faster. 

I hope that's true.  It's so counter-intuitive, but I'll cross my fingers. 

My very first speed coach (who happens to be my absolute favorite running coach of all time) talked to me for a little while about this Boston training program and she emphasized to me that the coach was going to want to see a huge difference in our runs, which was also what best-coach-ever also wanted to see sometimes.  I remember her telling us at the track that she wanted to be able to look up and instantly tell if we were running hard or easy.  It's so easy to smooth those out and just run at a steady pace, but sometimes that's not best for your running.

When we talked about the Boston class, she said the new coach is going to want to see very slow and very easy "easy runs" and very fast and very hard other runs.  And right now I know full well that we're just in the easy stage.  Just because it feels really, really easy doesn't mean I can effortlessly bring it when it's time to go fast.  Saturday was proof of that! 

It's hard for me to trust other people.  I know this new coach is amazing.  Winner of at least one major marathon, eminently experienced, still insanely fast.  But he hasn't ever been me.  He doesn't know what has and has not worked for me in the past.  So it's hard for me to put faith in a program when my personal experience suggests otherwise.  There have been years I've trained slow -- and raced slow!  I've yet to successfully train slow and race fast.  I know this isn't really "training slow" but that's how it felt this morning. 

But I know I need to trust other people.  You can only improve in running so much on your own.  I had to qualify to be trained by this coach and I barely made it.  I am paying for his expertise.  It makes no sense to disregard it and instead train faster just because it feels okay to me right now.  And I should emphasize those last two words -- right now.  We're still relatively low mileage compared to where we're going in the next few months.  Just because this pace feels insanely easy and slow now doesn't mean it will when I am running over 50 miles in a week.  And even if it feels insanely easy and slow at 50 miles per week, that might still be a good thing because it will mean I have lots more I can bring to the table when we go faster. 

Our first mile today was almost uncomfortable, it felt like it took forever.  We ran just over 8 and it took a loooong time.  I just can't image running this pace now is going to pay off on race day.  By the way, Boston is three months away as of today!

Sorry for the stream of consciousness.  I know what to do -- trust the coach.  Try the program.  See how it turns out in Boston. 

The good news is, even if I don't PR at Boston, it's not the end of the world for me.  My real goal was getting to Boston.  I'd love to PR there, but even then, I don't want a huge PR at the expense of my legs (we're flying to Italy the next day!).  So what do I have to lose by following the program?  A few months of training?  I can spare it! 

Guess this post is making me feel a bit better.  I still wish I'd performed better during the 10k so I could train faster, but maybe the slower training will be for the best.  And if it's not, it's not the end of the world. 

As I learned at White Rock when pacing a friend, the up-side for me to running a slower marathon is that I'm a lot less sore after the fact.  So if I run Boston slower than I dream of running it, it will just mean it's that much easier to wander the hills of Italy two days later.  If I am as sore as I am after a normal PR-effort marathon, it will be a very uncomfortable flight and several days of walking around looking like I'm differently abled.  And Calabria is not handicapped-accessible!!! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

7 Random Things

For the first time in the history of my blog, I've been tagged.  Wendy at She Likes to Run tagged me to post seven random things you may or may not know bout me.  My first one is inspired by her first one. 
1.  I hate the sound of fingernails being clipped.  Perhaps the only thing I hate more than that is the sound of toenails being clipped.  I can handle it at a nail salon.  But no where else.  I ask that my husband avoid clipping his nails when I am home and that he be certain to remove all evidence that nails were clipped before I return.  This seems to never work though, he always realizes he needs to do it when I'm home, so he is forced to do it outside on a porch.  And even then, I prefer to be on a different floor with a tv on very loudly.

2.  You know that Edvard Munch painting, The Scream?  I love to make that face.  I probably do it at least once a month while looking in the mirror.  I have a very long face and I try to replicate the expression. 

3.  I am not a diamond person, and I am very glad my husband figured that out since I didn't know he was going to propose.  When I was in college, I did a bunch of research for a class on conflict diamonds and ever since, they've lost any allure they ever had for me.  The year we got engaged, shortly before we left on the trip to Italy, I was at book club and we'd just read a book (not my pick) that touched on the subject (Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver).  Somehow it came up in conversation that I really hoped if the AC proposed, it wouldn't be with a diamond.  All the women in my book club knew we hadn't looked at rings and were about to go back to Italy.  They tried to brace me for the possibility that if he proposed on the trip, it very well could be with a diamond.  I was trying to imagine what I'd say or do.  Of course I knew I wanted to marry him and that was the key, but at the same time, I wasn't enthused about wearing something that had had such a high human cost.  But I didn't think a proposal was imminent since we hadn't really talked about it or looked at rings, so I didn't really worry about it.  Then he proposed our first night in Italy on that trip (still in our clothes from the flight over and fighting desperately to stay awake).  We were sitting on a bench outside the castle where we would eventually get married, waiting for our fave restaurant in the area to open for dinner.  We'd just watched the sunset and it was dark and we were sitting there talking.  He proposed and I was thrilled.  I didn't even really notice the ring, I was teary and so happy.  Finally it started to sink in and I looked and couldn't really see too much.  I asked if we could move under a streetlight, and I looked and it seemed dark.  I asked if it was a diamond, and he said no, it was a sapphire, he'd thought I didn't want a diamond.  I had no idea how he knew (he'd bought me a diamond necklace years earlier and I think he said at some point since then we'd seen that Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Blood Diamond, and I'd mentioned something -- and unbeknownst to me, he'd been paying attention!).  So I don't have a diamond engagement ring. 

4.  I think I could recite Dirty Dancing by heart.  It's not my favorite movie, but I've probably watched it more times than any other movie.  I also own Balli Proibi, which is the movie dubbed into Italian.  When I watched it for the first time, I had not been allowed to see it, but my friend and I snuck into it from the movie we had been allowed to see.  During the scene in the kitchen with Penny, when Baby asks what's wrong with her and is told she's knocked up, I had no idea what that meant.  I whispered to my friend, what did he say.  She repeated it.  I asked again, and she repeated again.  I asked a third time and she repeated it loudly enough I couldn't ask again without revealing my ignorance.  I went through the entire movie not comprehending what was going on, but I thought it was great anyway.  It wasn't until much later that I found out what knocked up meant. 

5.  My first W2-type job was at a fast food restaurant where a bunch of my high school friends worked.  They eventually all quit or got fired, but I kept working there.  I worked junior and senior years of high school, and Christmas break during my freshman year of college.  My favorite job there was drive through and I met a really cute guy there who asked me out after coming through the drive through about 20 times.  We went on a single date, but it was one of the coolest dates of my life to that point -- we went sailing.  He never asked me out again, I think I was younger than he'd realized.  Or maybe it was something else. 

6.  I don't think I should be trusted with candles.  It's a miracle I haven't burned down a dwelling yet.  I love the way they smell, but I've finally learned not to light them because I never remember to blow them out.  There have been so many times, I've lit a candle and then forgotten and come back home (or woken up) to find it still burning.  Fortunately, on the rare occasion I now light one, I know not to trust myself and I put it in the middle of a huge and empty counter, just in case. 

7.  Every single time someone is around me when I get out of the shower and am combing my wet hair, I ask him or her if he or she can guess which side I used conditioner on.  Every friend I have traveled with, every family member, every in-law, my husband like three days per week, every houseguest we've had, every friend who has come to pick me up before I was ready.  I always comb the left side of hair first (I part my hair on the left, so that side is thinner and easier to comb (not that my hair is thick on the other side though)).  So the answer is always the left side.  But of course I use conditioner on both sides.  I think those commercials for conditioner made a huge impression on me when I was young, and I love seeing how ratty one side is when the other side is so smooth and nicely combed.  Anyway, the question used to drive my husband crazy, but he's accepted it as some weird thing I feel compelled to do and now always answers or points lovingly.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Well, it's over.

A somewhat disappointing morning for me, but I'm trying not to get too down on myself. 

Positive:  I got a PR!  And I beat Adam!  And someday when I race a 10k again and I'm not sick, I still have a completely beatable PR, so there's lots of room to improve. 

Negative:  I was crashing and burning.  I've written before about how important negative splits in races are mentally, and I missed that big time.  Arranged by fastest to slowest, for me it was miles 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 6. 

Lesson Learned:  Don't go out too fast!  Pace from step 1.  My mile 6 split was slower than my mile 1 split. 

Lesson Learned:  Wear a hat if it's raining or misting. 

Lesson Learned:  Capri pants are better for racing than long pants for me, but really, shorts are probably always okay in Texas.  I was overdressed for 40 and misting in capris, short sleeves, sleeveless, arm sleeves. 

Lesson Learned:  I need to get better at my new watch!  I tried to hit "lap" during the race, and I stopped the timer for almost a mile (haha, if only that had been my finish time, I would have been thrilled!).  Thank goodness I'm so paranoid that I also wore my old trusty watch -- it's gotten me through 100+ races and I see no reason to put all my faith in new technology until it's proven itself many times to me.

Race Review:  Hot Chocolate 10k in Addison.  Course was kind of sucky with a total of 4 fairly big hills (running up and down a bridge four separate times).  Chaos I feared at the mid-point (when 5kers stopped and we kept going) wasn't bad!  It was very well-managed.  After race was good, lots of hot chocolate in the finisher mugs, plus pizza and pancakes.  Took a long time to start age group awards.  Age group awards weren't anything too special (medal showing a mug of hot cocoa).  As a personal aside, I absolutely loved seeing my husband 4 times during the race (I was able to throw him my ear band once and my water bottle once).  And it was fun to see his coworkers as well who were a little spread out and were talking lots of trash to me (yelling that my husband could run faster than that, telling me to pick it up, telling me to move my butt), but it gave me some levity and made me smile and look forward to seeing him and them.  But hubby could see how badly things were going for me toward the end. 

So, a PR is a PR, right?  It was just so disappointing for me to realize I hadn't paced well.  It's disheartening to be slowing down so much toward the end, and getting passed...  No age group awards for this girlie! 

But I'm not experienced at racing 10ks (so pacing was bound to be difficult), it was my first race in a long time (2+ months), I'm sick, and I dressed poorly.  So it will be better next time. 

As I said above, if I'd done really great, it would be hard for me to do better at the next 10k, whenever that may be.  Instead, next time I race a 10k, another PR should be in the bag!  It'll be like back when I first started racing, where I could improve at any distance by many, many minutes! 

And the silver lining is really beating Adam.  I can't wait to tell him!!!  I need to figure out how.  I've been thinking of making this little book for him (I meant to do it for Xmas, but it was taking too long so I didn't include it with the other things I/we got him). 

As I said, we've been arguing about whether his 10k tri split counts for our running title competition.  I sent out a question we drafted together to a ton of runners and got their opinions.  I was thinking I'd write a legal opinion ruling on the controversy (likely concluding that a tri split does not count, which I think is the correct answer), and attach all the responses as exhibits.  I should work on it this weekend, because now I can include a footnote saying that the entire thing is moot because I hold the title either way!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pressure is ON. Racing tomorrow.

Oh my, nerves are kicking in.  Big time.  Saturday I am doing a 10k race.  Tomorrow.  It will be my first real race attempt since the Half in early November.  Yikes.  I've run races since then (including a marathon), but those have just been for fun.  This is a real race for me.  Lots of pressure, both external and internal.  And lots of reasons why I'm more nervous. 

External pressure:  Hubby.  He is going to be working on Saturday, but is planning to come to the race to cheer.  I know he wants me to kill it.  He is always so excited and proud of me when I get a PR.  My favorite story (which I've shared before) is of how much he bragged about my marathon to one of his coworkers.  He runs too but we don't run together very often.  He's faster than I am at short distances, but I win at long distances.  I'd love to someday be able to do a series of track races to determine at exactly what distance I can first beat him.  But I love it how excited he gets when he thinks I have a smoking fast time.  I can hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes and his smile.  And I can feel it in his hugs.  He is definitely my biggest supporter and I want to post a finish time that will make him extra proud of me. 

External pressure:  Hubby's Coworkers.  If you saw that link in the last paragraph, you'll know that my hubby also tends to share my race results with his coworkers (which must be so fun for them, haha!).  Actually, a lot of the guys he works with run (or used to run) or are otherwise into fitness.  So they generally understand exactly what the difference is between running a mile in 7 minutes or a mile in 9 minutes or a mile in 13 minutes, whereas that small distinction doesn't mean much to the vast majority of people.  His coworkers usually hear about the results of all my good races (I don't think he tells them when I crash and burn).  But since my hubby is going to be working on race day and is still planning to watch, I have a feeling that a whole bunch of his coworkers are going to be watching as well.  This race is really right there for them, and because the race sold out, it's fairly large, so I'm guessing almost all of his coworkers who are also working on Saturday will see the race.  Whether they recognize me is another question since I know I look different when I'm running hard (one time hubby didn't even recognize me in a 5k race!).  But I'll see them and wave, and I want them to be impressed with how hard I'm running, or where I am in the field. 

External pressure:  Adam.  I don't even think he knows I'm making another run at his title (and I'm not planning to tell him, but I still count this as external pressure since I'll tell him after the fact, regardless of the race results).  My main running-related goal in 2011 is to beat him at the 5k, but a lot of what's behind that goal, which I've tried to explain, also applies to the 10k, but to a lesser extent because the 10k just isn't as cool as the 5k and because it's not exactly clear which of us holds our 10k title.  He has never actually raced a 10k so he is claiming that his (certified and chip-timed) 10k split from an Olympic tri in Chicago should count.  It's something he and I have argued about for approximately a year now.  During that year, I've tried to beat his time twice.  Right now, I'm about 15 seconds behind him.  If I can bust it out tomorrow, the controversy about whether a tri split counts as a running record will be moot.  I'd love it. 

External pressure:  Running Coach.  This race matters for my entire Boston training plan.  A lot.  In fact, it's definitive.  This is an excerpt from my coach's email to us:   "The results from Saturday will determine your Heart Rate Zones & pace for all runs during this program & whose group you will be running in."  He also mentioned that we need to be well-rested and ready to run, and that the weather was going to be good.  And just to remind us that this isn't going to be fun:  "The test is 30 minutes of extremely hard running. You have to commit yourself to 30 minutes of well paced effort. If you start too fast you won’t be getting accurate results."  Well, I have news for him, I'm not even close to doing a 10k in 30 minutes (but that's not really news to him, there's no way anyone who knows me would think I'm that fast).  But the point is, this race needs to be at a very, very high heart rate and truly represent my maximum effort.  And if my heart rate's low, that means I'm going to have to use an even lower heart rate for my training easy runs, which means slower pace, and my marathon PR dreams may fade away.  So I need to kill this, and I need my heart rate to show that I'm killing it. 

External pressure:  Running Group.  This wouldn't ordinarily be a big deal, but I recently learned that someone I run with thinks I'm training too fast for my own good.  This (inexperienced!) person has no comprehension of what my heart rate is, nor really what my goal was at MTCM.  Instead, this person is looking at my MTCM finish time and deciding what pace is appropriate for me.  This person does not seem to comprehend that actually, my goal at MTCM was not to run as fast as I possibly could, my goal was to qualify, ideally with a couple minutes of cushion, and to be able to get back to running right away.  When I ran MTCM at the beginning of October, I already knew I was planning to race hard at a half almost exactly one month later.  Going all out in a marathon isn't conducive to that.  Which I know.  I've run a bunch!  So instead I looked carefully at what I wanted to accomplish at the marathon -- to qualify.  And to me, that was like a pass-fail test, like the bar exam.  I don't think it's efficient or desirable to get 100% in that case, instead, I like to allocate my time to make sure I can securely accomplish my goal (passing), but there's no point in doing more.  Obviously this isn't true of all areas of life, but the bar, and my marathon goal at MTCM, are actually good examples.  If I'd gotten one of the top five scores in the state on the bar exam, my life would not be any different or better (I might not have had as much fun the summer I studied though).  If I'd run a 3:20 marathon at MTCM, my life would not be any different or better (I might not have had a life outside running, and I might not have gotten my half PR a few weeks later).  Sorry, I'm venturing off topic now and just venting.  It was very frustrating though for me to hear this person's comments about my running.  Anyway, I am running with people now who are all much stronger runners than I am, and I want to do as well as possible to impress them, silly as that sounds. 

Internal pressure:  needs no explanation.  I like getting PRs.  It somehow makes me feel validated in my choices.  Sometimes running can make other parts of my life suck.  I don't drink very often (though I love getting drunk).  I don't stay out late (though I love staying out late).  I get up early to train and to race (though I love sleeping in).  I cross-train (though I love sitting on the couch watching tv). 

The thing is, I don't think I'd really be happier if I drank and went out at night (that would actually be bad for my marriage probably since hubby goes to bed early as well and wouldn't be out with me!) and slept in in the morning and just relaxed.  But sometimes there would be some momentary satisfaction.

I'm happy with my choices, but like I said, when I have a solid race, I feel like I'm validating the choices I made to myself.  Having my pants fit also validates my choices.  It was a scary and uncomfortable couple weeks there at the end of the year.  I gained several pounds between White Rock and this week.  Fortunately the button indentations on my belly seem to be subsiding and I'm starting to feel a little more room to breathe. 

But the bottom-line is that I want to do well for my own reasons too.  I want to do my best.  I want to know I gave it my all and didn't give up early.  I want to run hard and as fast as my legs will take me. 

But for a multitude of reasons, I'm worried it won't be a good race.  Trying to follow the advice I'd give me if I read this blog, I should try to identify exactly what my fears are. 

Basis for Fear:  I haven't raced since early November.  I'm out of practice.  I like it when I'm in some kind of racing routine.  I get used to what it feels like to be uncomfortable and make myself keep pushing (though I'm not even close to mastering this skill).  For over two months now, if I've felt like I'm running too hard, I've just slowed down and haven't thought twice about it.  Now, I know if I were reading this, I'd say to myself that this means my legs are ready to race!  But that's not true because of my next fear: 

Basis for Fear:  I haven't done any speed work since Nov. 18.  Don't think I'm exaggerating.  I looked it up.  And that day I ran 4 mile repeats roughly at the pace I'd like for the entire 10k tomorrow.  But tomorrow there won't be any chance to catch my breath after each mile!  So while maybe I'd be able to overcome my fear about tomorrow based on the fact that I haven't raced lately, that fear only subsides if I've done the groundwork.  If I've been at the track running repeats, it's maybe good that I haven't raced in a while.  But I haven't been doing that.  Instead, I've been doing long (it's all relative, I know 9 isn't long in marathon training, but at this stage, it still counts) and easy paced runs.  That's not the recipe for a 10k PR.  Nor is it a recipe for 30 minutes at a very high heart rate and maximum effort.  Ugh.  I wish I'd done some track work in the last few weeks at least. 

Basis for Fear:  I'm still sick and don't really seem to be feeling much better, though the number of pills in my little steroid dose-pack is rapidly dwindling.  I felt pretty awful yesterday, but somewhat better today.  My primary symptom (aside from the gallons of fluid coming out of my nose) is that I feel like I can't breathe.  My lung capacity just feels low.  I'm coughing a lot and coughing up all kinds of nastiness.  But even when I'm not coughing, I feel like I can't really catch my breath, like I can't inhale deeply.  Again, not a recipe for 10k success. 

Basis for Fear:  I'm worried it's going to be too cold.  The cold weather sometimes really bothers my asthma.  I definitely prefer a cool race to a hot race, but this is going to be cold, cold, cold I think.  For me, the ideal start temp at a race of almost any distance is about 45.  The ideal finish temp is also 45, which doesn't work well for long races like a marathon!  In terms of attire, I'm not sure what I'm going to wear.  I think the race temp is going to be mid-30s.  That usually means I wear capri length pants, but wow, I hate racing in them.  As awful as I look in shorts, that seems to work a lot better for me when I'm trying to run hard.  I also usually race in my team jersey, which is sleeveless.  I could wear that tomorrow with arm sleeves, but I don't think it will be warm enough.  But then again, since I haven't raced in so long, maybe I'm forgetting how fast I heat up during a race.  In reality, capri pants, my sleeveless shirt, arm sleeves, and ear warmers (and gloves) might be the best choice.  I need to get that all set up tonight. 

Basis for Fear:  Bonking history.  When I first started running, it felt like I could go forever.  Almost every race was a PR.  But that only lasted for a few years.  I got into better shape and my times evened out.  Now at most races, it takes major effort for me to be even a minute or two faster than my current PR, and at some distances, like the 5k, I can't even conceive of improving by a full minute.  At the 5k, I'd be happy with 20 seconds, and I think that might even be asking a lot.  But in my quest for good races, there have been several times where I've gone out hard and then crashed and burned.  The worst was during an evening 5k a couple years ago -- it's a story I'm reluctant to share, so I am glossing over the details.  In short, I overheated just past mile 2, fell down, got up and ran a little more, then went down again (briefly unconscious), fortunately right in front of some police officers.  They picked me up and actually ended up detaining me until they realized the ambulance wasn't able to find us and I convinced them I was going to refuse treatment anyway.  My bestie had also been racing that day, and she was on the scene shortly after I'd gotten up, and she stayed with me.  We walked to the finish line together, and she even stayed with me during all the puking that happened on the way there and then a few times at the finish.  What a disaster.  And trust me, it's not my only major crash and burn.  Sometimes when I want a PR too much, I put too much pressure on myself and I bonk.  I don't know how to stop this, aside from saying no pressure, but if there's no pressure, then I don't PR.  There has to be a balance, and I'm still working on finding it.  But with every race where I know I want to push hard, in the back of my mind, I can always remember other times when I've pushed hard and it hasn't ended well.  Fortunately though I also have lots of races where I've pushed hard and succeeded!  I just need to think about those.  Since this race is running my 5k PR course twice, hopefully I'll be able to draw on the 5k success to keep my mindset postitive but my effort strong. 

Basis for Fear:  Sucky Course.  I wrote about this a couple days ago.  It's not a PR course (even though it is technically my 5k PR course (in my heart, I think I'd have been faster if I'd raced that day on a better course)).  A double out-and-back for the 10k.  A big (for Texas!) bridge that I will need to run up on four separate occasions (up on the way out, up on the way back, up on the way out on loop two, and then up on the way back on loop two).  I don't like this course.  I like running in the suburb where it's being held a lot.  Just hate that stinkin' bridge.  I guess the upside of this though is that I know the course pretty well.  I haven't run it more than a few times ever, but I drive it a lot when I'm near my husband's work and it's very familiar. 

Bottom line:  All this pressure and fear is weighing on me right now.  I can feel it in my stomach.  And it's all that's filling my head.  Good thing I think I've got a busy day at work, that might distract my mind a little.  I hope.  Well, I'll post soon and let you know if it was a bust or if I have a new 10k PR that's all I dream it will be...  Until then, deep breaths...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Toys! (a/k/a My Sucky Morning)

I have vented here before about my recent frustration with getting a new garmin that I ordered on Amazon from Beach Camera.

It finally came yesterday!  Yes, more than two weeks after I ordered it.  I held my breath as I opened the box, expecting yet another misdirected order.  Whew, it was my garmin!  I'm so happy to finally have it that it's hard to stay as pissy and irritated as I was.  A few days ago, I was all ready to post some negative feedback on Amazon and tell any other potential customers what a mess they'd made of my order, but I didn't want to do that until I finally had the garmin in my hands.  And just like that, a lot of my ill will toward Beach Camera melted away. 

Unfortunately, there hasn't been time to play with it yet.  I had to leave work early to volunteer (I was helping out with this weekend's race at the running store, distributing numbers and packets when runners came in).  Then I got home and our neighbor came over to watch "Lo Scapolo" (The Bachelor) with me. 

I feel bad about even asking her to watch.  It's such BAD tv.  But it was fun anyway.  And since she speaks Italian as well, there was no need to break my resolution of speaking Italian in the evenings on weekdays on the second floor.

But that meant that when I headed out this morning to run, I was basically messing with the watch for the first time.  I got the heart rate monitor on, but it had never properly linked up with the watch.  And I hit the timer to start my run, but I must have hit something else because it stopped after a mere two seconds and didn't record any of the run.  I tried again for one lap around the block when I got home and it seemed to work, so it was no doubt operator error this morning.

Really looking forward to trying it tomorrow during boot camp.  This watch is supposed to take into account your sex, age and weight, plus elevation, etc. and calculate how many calories you burn during a workout.  It will be very interesting since I don't really have any idea.  I've always heard you burn about 100 calories per mile.  I tried some formula once that was supposed to be more personalized and I think I ended up around 90 calories per mile, but I have no idea if I did that correctly. 

Then I got home and had a disaster occur during breakfast.  We got a new blender for Xmas but I hadn't started using it yet.  This morning I was making my smoothie in our old blender and of course the frozen fruit was all stuck together and the blades were idly processing spinach.  Being the wise woman I am, I poked in a knife, which is usually sufficient to get the fruit to move a little and start getting chopped.

I have no idea what went wrong, but a moment later, the walls, counter, floor and my clothing was covered in green liquid, the glass blender jar was cracked, and the motor was making a shrieking noise.  Lovely.

So I decided to open the box with the new blender, which fortunately my folks had just FedExed and we'd gotten on Monday. 

But of course, I've used our old blender for years, so I made a few inaccurate assumptions.  I used the last of our frozen strawberries, my other normal ingredients, and the last of our soy milk.  I set it on the blender but didn't start it b/c I wanted to clean up the old blender mess a little more before it got too sticky.

A minute or two later, I heard a weird dripping noise from the new blender.  Turns out I needed to really screw the new top on (which I hadn't done).  So the last of our soy milk leaked straight through the motor onto the other counter.  Ugh!  Major frustration.  And of course when I walked over to deal with it, I got liquid all over my second outfit of the morning!  At least I hadn't showered and put on work clothes yet I guess. 

I finally added some juice and used the new blender.  I have to get used to it, but I'm sure it will be fine.  Just a little chunky this morning! 

So overall, this morning kind of sucked.  Neither of my new toys have worked exactly as planned, but at least I have them and I have faith that they'll work tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Interesting Real News

Two interesting things I saw yesterday in news reading and thought I'd share.  First, sad news.
Dick Winters, WWII hero of ‘Band of Brothers,’ dies

By Brett Michael Dykes – Mon Jan 10, 11:29 am ET

Dick Winters, a highly decorated World War II hero who became a household name when his heroics were chronicled in a Stephen Ambrose book that later became the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers," has died. He was 92.

A very private and modest man, he died last week but requested that the news be withheld until after the funeral, a family friend told the Associated Press.

After enlisting in the Army on Aug. 25, 1941, the Pennsylvania native enrolled in Officer Candidate School, eventually being commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1942. He was assigned to the 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division -- known as Easy Company -- and was deployed with his regiment to land by parachute in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

By leading the takeover of a German artillery bunker on Utah Beach, Winters and his company saved countless lives from relentless cannon fire -- an action that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest honor an American soldier can receive. Winters and Easy Company later fought near the Belgian town of Foy during the Battle of the Bulge, liberated the German concentration camp at Dachau, and occupied Hitler's mountainside retreat, Eagle's Nest.

In 1945, one of Winters' soldiers, Floyd Talbert, wrote a letter to Winters from his hospital bed to express appreciation for his leadership in battle.

"You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you," Talbert wrote. "I would follow you into hell."

Below is a brief video that opens with Winters talking about being a leader, and follows with some of the soldiers who were under his command talking about his exploits:  [VIDEO OMITTED B/C I'm not tech-savvy enough to know how to paste it]

Shaken by what he experienced in war, Winters reportedly vowed to live a simple life if he managed to survive, and that's just what he did. After returning home, he married his then-girlfriend, Ethel, bought a farm in Pennsylvania and raised a family. He reportedly never talked about his war experiences until Ambrose came calling in the hopes of documenting Easy Company's role in winning the war. Winters said he honored Ambrose's request because he felt it important for future generations to learn about the war, its consequences and the sacrifices made by soldiers. He later wrote his own memoir, "Beyond Band of Brothers."
Winters was leading a quiet life of farm retirement in Hershey, Pa., when "Band of Brothers" turned him into a minor celebrity. People who knew him say that he never really became comfortable with life in the spotlight. He had fielded countless requests for interviews and personal appearances over the past decade or so, most of which he turned down.

Winters was, by all accounts, exceedingly modest. When someone would ask him whether he considered himself a hero, he would usually respond by saying, "No. But I served in a company of heroes." Chroniclers of the World War II era, however, such as legendary NBC newsman Tom Brokaw -- who detailed the lives of Winters and others like him in his "Greatest Generation" series of books -- beg to differ.

"Dick Winters was the quintessential American infantry officer -- brave, canny and modest," Brokaw told The Lookout. "His heroic leadership of the Band of Brothers is a one-man course on how to become a warrior without losing your humanity."

It makes me teary.  I just figured I'd add it here to have my own documentation of the event and because it didn't seem to get much press (likely because he wanted the news withheld until after the funeral). 

I haven't actually watched Band of Brothers.  I have the DVD box set and of course I've read the book (I like Ambrose's WWII stuff a lot, haven't read his other periods, would have been so cool to have met him though, an inspiring author, would have been awesome as a WWII studies mentor), but I'm generally more interested in the War in the Pacific and I don't know how I feel about watching this big production with actors and angles and editing and storylines and stuff.  But I'm sure I'll watch it one of these days, mostly because so many people who know me well have told me they think I'll like it. 

As an aside, one of the only shirts I remember seeing during the White Rock marathon on another runner was this guy wearing a black Easy Company shirt that said 101st Airborne, Bastogne to Baghdad.  He passed us on the northeast side of the lake and then I remember passing him somewhere in the last mile.  Wish I'd asked him about his shirt, but we weren't at the same pace during either encounter. 

Second, not surprising but amusing news
Want to exercise more? Drink beer.

That’s the findings of two studies reported on in the New York Times.

This is expected and no surprise to Beer Runners, of course. But the Times reported that the answer to an American Journal of Health Promotion article asking “Do Alcohol Consumers Exercise More?” was “a resounding if counterintuitive yes.”

“In fact, the data show, the more people drink, the more they exercise,” the studies demonstrated.

Specifically, the findings show that heavy drinkers exercise about 10 minutes more per week than moderate drinkers and 20 more minutes per week than abstainers. Even binge drinking “increases the number of minutes of total and vigorous physical activity per week.”

Researchers are befuddled by these findings, and speculate that exercise and drinking stimulate the reward centers of the brain. Another theory suggets that running provides a “neuroprotection” against binge drinking killing brain cells.

But those are all just guesses. What do you think? What makes you a beer runner?


Very funny!  I don't consider myself a heavy drinker by any stretch of the imagination.  But December is always a month where I consume much more than usual, so it's awkward in January to say I'm not really a drinker.  Hubby drinks wine with dinner more often than not but I usually don't (unless we're on vacation overseas, in which case we both usually drink at lunch and dinner).  I'm likely to drink if we go out for dinner, but lately we don't do that too often.  And I don't go out for happy hour very often these days either, less than once a month probably lately.  But I'm about 1 bazillion times more likely to get completely plowed on a crazy night than my husband is.  That seems to happen less than 4 times per year on average, though this year might have some skewed numbers with two brothers getting married (and two future sister in law bachelorette parties!), plus other weddings, Oktoberfest, post-marathon celebrations, hopefully a post-5k-PR celebration, friends visiting, etc.  But when I'm out, sometimes it means I'm out hard-core, and I'm getting to the age where I don't recover quite so quickly, so I do it less and less often... 

I think I spend about 3 hours per week cross-training and about 5 hours per week running.  That's a rough estimate for now.  The numbers will no doubt be significantly higher in March or so, but they'll average back down after Boston.  But I'd still guess that's more than the average person?  Or more than the average alcohol abstainer? 

Anyway, thought I'd share both bits with you!