Monthly Archives: March 2011

On craving crap – or, the Subway story

Me and Subway, we go way back.  It’s been a long and complicated relationship.

My first couple years of high school, it was my hang-out.  After school and/or practice, my friends (and later, ZOMG MY BOYFRIEND) and I would wander up to the Subway a few blocks from school and camp out in a sticky yellow booth, munching on potato chips and sipping soda, until our respective parents arrived in minivans to claim us.

Every.  Single.  Day.

It was a little strange, but I guess it kept us (mostly) out of trouble!

The Subway obsession of my early teens culminated with a trip I took to San Francisco with my friend Greta and her family in tenth grade.  Instead of taking pictures of, like, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Full House House, we made a pact to visit every single Subway in the city – and decided that I would take a photo of her there.  Usually with the trash can.

We were weird kids.  From the same trip:

(We spent an entire evening painting our stomachs with make-up and taking pictures of it.  Weird, I tell ya.  Also, these two photos were apparently awesome and special enough that they needed to be cut in to neat shapes.  Also, I can’t believe I actually found them in my piles of old photos.  Also, Greta is probably going to kill me for posting this.)

Anyway, once we all turned sixteen and attained vehicular mobility, we stopped hanging out at Subway.  (In favor of hanging out at Denny’s, duh.)  And with that, my consumption of mediocre turkey sandwiches declined to that of a more casual consumer.

Until I was 25.

When I was 25, I started a new job in a new city.  In an office across the street from a Subway.  The other local options included a strip club, a filthy bar that had a “U Catch Em & We’ll Cook Em!” live-lobster claw-game machine in the corner, and a crappy deli that charged you ten bucks for a slice of cheese and some Wonderbread.  Guess what I ate for lunch nearly every single day for the four-plus years that I worked there?

EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I had personal relationships with all of the employees of that Subway.  We were like old friends.  Old, bitter friends who got upset with one another when the meat was placed flat on the bread instead of folded in half.  (It’s supposed to be folded!  It was a big day for me when I finally stood up to the offending “sandwich artist” about her sub-par technique.)

I miss many things about my old job: my co-workers, my cute little office…um, the paycheck.  But daily trips to “THE WAY?”  Those I do not miss one bit.

So it was really weird for me when, around 10 AM today, I suddenly felt an urge to smell that fake-bread-baking smell.  A desire for some flavorless meat and waxy cheese.  A veritable hankering for a bland roll which will always be bland and crumbly, no matter how much mustard you assault it with.

I was totally craving Subway.  So very strange.

Now, I’m not going to turn this in to a conversation about Subway and whether it’s really any healthier than McDonald’s.  Or about whether Jared’s insides might be rotting from continual exposure to nitrite-filled meat and HCFS-filled bread and whatever else is probably in those innocuous six-inch sandwiches.  Not because those aren’t valid topics of discussion, but because there is simply no need to go there.

Because, taste-wise, Subway sandwiches just suck.

Really, they’re an insult to sandwiches everywhere.  Three measly pieces of meat?  Iceberg lettuce?  That god-awful dry bread?  Ugh.  I could make a better sandwich in my sleep.

But anyway, I was craving it, and while the craving was strong, I was not about to up and leave my warm apartment just to go buy a mediocre sandwich.  So I made myself a nice bowl of peanut butter noodles for lunch, which is usually one of my favorite foods.

Today, however, they were just okay.

The afternoon wore on.  I digested, did some work, went out for a nice 10-mile run in the rain.  The whole time, I could not get that damn crappy sandwich off of my mind.

Finally, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of.  I went on twitter and complained until a bunch of people told me to shut the hell up and just go get some damn Subway already.

So that’s what I did.

And I ordered the “old standard” – turkey on wheat, lettuce, mustard, light mayo, vinegar, salt + pepper.  Fake-o-rama baked chips.  A Diet Coke with a splash each of Mr. Pibb and Orange Soda.

With a bag of free cookies on the side.  One of the perks of visiting your local Subway at closing time, I guess!

(Cookies that were probably fresh sometime around noon.  O HAI IRONIC BAG.)

So, was it good?

You know what?  It was.  I mean, it was crappy, but it tasted exactly like it was supposed to taste and that was comforting.  Or something.

So, what the hell is the moral of the story here?

There isn’t one.  Except that sometimes crappy food tastes good.

And that sometimes smells and tastes can take you back to a time in your life that was simpler and more fun.  A time when it was okay to laugh hysterically with your best friend after painting your stomach in a hotel bathroom.  A time when your days were ruled by bells and homework and your cross-country practice schedule.

(Or, I suppose, days when you actually had a paycheck and health insurance, even if it meant slaving away in an office for 60 hours a week and eating Subway every day.)

I guess that’s why they call it comfort food, eh?

Welcome to the assembly line

You know what?  I kind of miss cooking.

If it isn’t obvious, I’ve been spending a little less time in the kitchen these last couple of months.  Not sure why.  I mean, I’m mostly cooking for one these days, with the hubs spending most of his waking life at work, but that’s never stopped me in the past. Cooking for one is slightly more challenging, but it’s not impossible.

No, I think it’s just that one’s hobbies and interests tend to ebb and flow, right?

A few weeks ago, I came across a hell of a deal for a subscription to the paper version of Eating Well.  Seeing as EW is one of my favorite online recipe resources – and that I haven’t had a paper magazine subscription, to any publication, in years! – I jumped on it.

The first issue arrived:

And as I sat, flipping through it, I realized how rusty I’d gotten.  Orange cous-cous?  Chard dumplings?  Carrot soup?  This all sounds…hard.

Oh, seriously, Shelby.  This is pathetic.  WTF?  I used to dominate the hardest shit that Epicurious and Bon Appetit had to offer at least twice a week.  And now I’m cowering in the pages of Eating Well?  Pathetic.

But…let’s take baby steps.

So for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been just focusing on making my own food, rather than caving and ordering take-out or heating up a frozen box of crap.  Even if that means assembling my meals instead of cooking them.

Salads?  Nachos?  Pasta + topping?  These are mostly assembled dishes, in my mind.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Because: just because it’s assembled, rather than cooked from scratch, doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty and healthy.

Which brings me to…

Today’s EAT: Yet another version of round-cake-pan nachos!  I am calling this Caprese Nachos.  And it was delicious.

I used to hate raw tomatoes.  Well – I still hate raw tomatoes.  I definitely pick them off of salads and sandwiches.

But when seeded, diced, and mixed with a bunch of other bold flavors:

I actually kind of love them.  This classic mix of tomato, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar was first introduced to me by one of my college besties, and although I used to give her dirty looks for the liberal application of raw tomatoes on her dining hall tray (and she, to me, ironically, for my enthusiastic use of ketchup), over the years I’ve come to love this combination.

I loaded the tomato-basil mixture on a plate of whole-grain tortilla chips, roasted red peppers, chopped chicken and mozzarella cheese (pictured above).  Simple, easy, delicious.

Today’s DRINK: Pretty fitting that it’s a cold, dreary night tonight.  Because I had just one bottle of beer left in the fridge, and it was a winter-y one.

I feel like I’ve been hoarding this 2007 Brooklyn Brewery Monster Ale for ages!  Really it’s only been a couple of months, but that’s practically an eternity for a beer in this household’s fridge!

I’d seen this barleywine-style ale around the interwebs all winter and am glad I finally tried it!  As expected, it was heavy, juicy, and extremely boozy with scant carbonation.  Fruity flavors blended well with a slightly wheaty flavor: like eating sweet preserved peaches or figs roasted on a browned biscuit-y crust.  At 10.1% ABV, it packs a serious punch, but it’s a perfect thing to sip on a night when you’re parked in front of a roaring fire.

(Or a roaring TV playing Bones reruns.  Same thing, practically.)

Today’s RUN: 5 easy miles today.  And I have to say: today was sort of a relief. I think my legs are still reeling from that Shamrock Half.  It’s been ten days, and today was honestly the first day since the race that I have felt semi-normal – and was able to keep my normal easy-run pace without any extra effort.  I’d planned to do a little speedwork this week, but I think I’m gonna scrap it and wait until next week.  The old rule of thumb is a day of recovery for each mile run, and I guess by that standard, I’m still in recovery mode until the weekend.

Okay, then.  I’ll just pile on the easy miles until I feel ready.  I’m only 7.5 weeks out from my next goal-race half, though.  And I’m hoping to get several weeks of quality workouts in between now and then.  So get with the program, legs!

Today’s QUESTION: What’s your go-to “assembly-line” meal?”  Pizza, nachos, something else?  Do you have a favorite recipe when you’re cooking for one? Help me break out of my rut!

Ah-CHOO!

I think I’d prefer to have snow on my car, actually.

Spring is in the air.  And all over every horizontal outdoor surface.

Being new to North Carolina, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of allergy season.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where so many things are evergreen, I never had much in the way of spring allergies.  In arid Los Angeles, the smog messed with my lungs, but that was a year-round thing.  It wasn’t until I moved to Ohio in my mid-twenties that I discovered what people meant when they said that spring was in bloom.

Subsequent years in Boston and New York weren’t nearly as bad.  I don’t know if it was being surrounded by concrete or being close to the sea or what, but I began to believe that I’d just been allergic to Ohio.

Wrong.

Scratchy throat.  Itchy red eyes.  Constant sneezing and snuffling.  I’ve been walking around looking like a miserable stoner for the last week.

I’ve got me some Zyrtec now.  It’s helping a little, but I still look and sound like I just watched The Notebook.  Kind of embarrassing.

Please, flora of North Carolina, hurry up and finish your annual sex games.  I’m dying over here.

Today’s EAT: A classic Big Ass Salad.  It was exactly this sort of salad that originally got me interested in salads, actually.

Spinach, mixed greens, roasted chicken, strawberries, goat cheese and candied pecans.  Unbeatable, really.  I could eat this for dinner every night.

(Hmm, I guess technically I could eat this for dinner every night.  Perhaps I should.)

Today’s DRINK: I popped open a chilly bottle of Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc.  (Hey, it doesn’t say anything on that Zyrtec package about not mixing it with booze!)

I’m not sure from whence the name comes, because there is not anything particularly frenzied about this wine.  Perhaps these New Zealand winemakers just needed a word that contained an adjacent N and Z?  (Noting that one for scrabble.  Also, has an F.  Even better.)

Anyway.  It was a fun little wine – tons of fruit, green apples, pineapple, a hint of lemon.  For the price ($9), I’d certainly buy it again.  It would be a great wine for sipping at an afternoon barbecue on a hot summer day.

Today’s RUN: Monday ended up being one of those unintentional rest days.  Oops.  I totally listened to my body and failed to get off the couch.  Stupid lazy body.

Here’s how last week ended up.  Mellow as hell.  I’m blaming the allergies as well as post-half-marathon blahsies for this:

M – OFF (post-race)
Tu – OFF (post-race)
W – 5 easy (45:50, 9:10 pace)
Th – 6.4 easy (57:43, 9:01 pace)
F – 3.7 easy (31:22, 8:28 pace)
Sa – 4.5 easy (38:49, 8:37 pace) + weights
Su – 8.1 easy (w/hubs, 1:22, 10:07 pace)

Total: 27.7 miles.  Aaaaaaaaaand that was a fun rest week.  Time to get back out there!  Obviously I’m not exactly off to a great start.

Today’s QUESTION: Anyone else suffering from Revenge of the Pollen?  How do you deal with it?

A brief tangent

Well, the spring racing season is in full swing, eh?

Reading each weekend’s blog posts chock full of race recaps and PRs is one of the highlights of my week.  However, I keep seeing one little thing that consistently bugs me.

Typically it goes something like this:

“It was a great race, but I was so mad because the course was apparently too long!  My Garmin read 26.4 miles when I finished!  What the feck!”

Umm…long course?  That seems unlikely.

Race courses are generally measured as the shortest ground distance one could possibly travel from the start to the finish.  For many reasons, the path that most people take is slightly longer:

Attempting to run as efficiently as possible relative to the shape of the course is often referred to as running the tangents.  Note that depending on the nature of the course and its turns, this might require hugging a turn very tightly.  Or it might require running in a straight line, as would be the case if your course were shaped like a python:

I want to run a Python-themed race, in which we all completely gorge ourselves afterward.  Who’s with me?

Um…anyway.

So there are tangents.  But why does that mean that my course couldn’t possibly have been too long?

Well, because the organizers probably put a lot of time and effort in to making sure it was exactly the right distance  (along the tangents).  If it’s a USATF-certified course, it will have been measured (and re-measured) using a highly accurate calibration bicycle according to the organization’s very specific and strict procedures.

I’m not saying that every race course in the universe is 100% accurate.  I know I’ve run the occasional po-dunk 5K where the course was apparently designed by the town sheriff’s dog and the finish line was marked by a guy sitting on a cooler – and the distance was clearly not as advertised.

But for any semi-large or USATF-certified race?  The course length is almost certainly accurate.  In the case of major marathons and half marathons, it’s probably accurate.  (Another sanity check: is the course is Boston qualifier?  If so, it’s probably accurate.)

Ok, so say I ran circles around a bank of porta-potties in the middle of the race and logged some extra mileage.  Why doesn’t that count?

It just doesn’t.  Not when you’re running a race.  Sorry.  We all start in the same place and finish in the same place.  Being efficient about it is part of the competition.

But what about my Garmin?  Does it lie?  How can I ever trust it again?

GPS watches are great training tools, but they are not perfect.  Even if you somehow managed to run every centimeter of the course as efficiently as possible, your Garmin could still be “off.”  A few things to consider:

(1) Garmins hate tall buildings.  And tunnels, and underpasses, and clouds, and Ke$ha.  (Ok, maybe the last one is just me projecting.)  But really: all of those things can throw your Garmin off.  Such is life.

(2) Garmins hate turns.  I learned this one the hard way the first time I took my Garmin on a track workout.  I’d known that the unit wasn’t totally accurate and might overestimate my distance a bit, but I was shocked at the magnitude of the discrepancy (and at the time even questioned the accuracy of the track’s length).

But no, the track was fine, of course.  My Garmin just got its panties all in a bunch every time I’d go around a curve.  (Which, on a track, is approximately 50% of the time.)

Since people who are much smarter than me have already explained the geometry behind this this much better than I ever could, I’ll just send you to this link if you’re curious about it.  (Thanks, Kristin, for originally pointing that one out to me.)

(3) Garmins measure from high in the sky.  The course is measured on the ground.  And unless you’ve mastered the power of human flight (which would be, um, pretty rad), you are running on the ground.  The GPS’s readings are an simply an estimation of your path on the ground from a point (or, rather, multiple points) in the sky.  The ground measurement wins.

Okay, so how do I stop myself from running a gazillion extra miles when I race?

Here are a few things you can do to maximize your on-course efficiency:

(1) Run the tangents.  Or at least try to.  Duh.  Although this can be tricky sometimes and isn’t always straightforward.  For example, say the most direct path is to take a curve as close as possible – but often the inside of the turn is crowded, meaning you end up in a logjam if you try to take it tight.  So you can either run a little more distance and maintain your pace or mash through the traffic and slow down.  Depending on the circumstances, either one could be faster.  It’s a crap-shoot!  But hey, at least it gives you something to think about while you’re running!

(2) Run smaller races.  Smaller crowds = less of the dodge and weave game.  Plain and simple.

(3) Avoid races with lots of turns.  It’s far easier to stick to the tangents on a course made up mostly of long straightaways as opposed to frequent turns.  Although they’re still not perfect.  At the Shamrock Half, I managed to pick up 0.06 miles (according to my Garmin) even though it was basically an out-and-back course, and I was at the front of the pack where the crowds were thin.  In a 5K a few weeks ago, by comparison, I picked up almost 0.10 (obviously, over just three miles).  There were a lot of turns in the 5K.

(4) Minimize side trips.  Obviously you must balance your need for fluids with your desire for efficiency, but every time you dart across the road to hit a water stop (or say hi to your friends on the sideline, or poop, or barf, or do yoga, or whatever) you add distance.

(5) Plan for it.  If you’re racing with your Garmin, build that extra distance in to your expectations.  If the course has mile markers, you will probably notice how far “ahead” you’re getting throughout the course of the race, especially if it’s a longer race.  Don’t let it take you by surprise and it won’t disappoint you.

(6) Ignore it. You’re out running your first marathon and you just want to have fun?  Who cares if you tack on a few extra minutes!  If it makes you happy, by all means, go high-five your friends.  Efficiency isn’t always everything.  Just don’t complain about the “extra” distance afterward.

Thanks for tuning in to my little Sunday PSA. I know this topic has probably been beaten to death elsewhere, but it seemed like reminder might be in order.  If I’ve missed anything or you have any other thoughts/tips, please feel free to share!

And, of course, congrats to everyone who raced and/or PRd this weekend!  (And slightly lesser accolades to those of us who sat around and drank beer!)

The club can’t even handle me

That’s why I’m in pajamas on my couch on this fine Friday night.  Out of respect for the club.  I wouldn’t want to overwhelm it.

Instead, I spent most of my Friday night cleaning my apartment.

Really, I prefer to tidy my home after dark.  This allows me to remain happily in denial about its actual state of cleanliness.

For dinner, I ate cheese. Specifically, this super-simple, three-ingredient Caprese Dip from How Sweet It Is, as recommended by Rachel.

Holy moly, was it so easy and so good.

I started things off by plucking a few leaves from my scrappy little basil plants.

It’s true.  I haven’t killed them yet. I know; I’m shocked, too!  This is a first for me.  Eating something that I grew myself, that is.  It only took me thirty years of eating things grown by other people to master agriculture on its most basic level.

Mock me if you will, but it’s kind of thrilling.  Although I’m probably going to get a big head about it and try to plant rows of corn on my little balcony.  Or something.

Mixed together the cheese, chopped seeded tomato, and basil.  Tried to resist eating it by the spoonful.  (I used regular shredded mozz instead of fresh and it was just fine.)

Lacking a proper ramekin or small baking dish, I lined my trusty cupcake pan with silicone baking cups and baked away, shortening the bake time to ten minutes on account of the smaller diameter.

I ended up with lovely globs of browned cheese that slid easily out of the baking cups.

With an Italian chicken sausage and a hunk of baguette for a balanced meal.  (Balanced if carbs and cheese are considered food groups, anyway.)

Cleaning, cheese dinner, and the rest of last night’s marginal bottle of cheap Chardonnay?  If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m ridin’ solo tonight.

(But O HAI STALKERS AND ROBBERS: I haz protection.  You’ll have to get through two fierce felines to get to me.  And also the doorman downstairs.  Be sure to ask him about his Angry Birds score as you walk by.)

Alright, back to watching Pretty Woman on TNT.  In my cat-hair-covered pajama pants and oversized race tee.

Yeah…the club is really shedding a tear over the loss of me right now.

This feels rather familiar

Hey, guess what’s still totally worked over after last Sunday’s half?  Here’s a hint: it’s not my legs.

When will I ever learn to get better about core and upper body work?  Um, maybe never?  Because I know I complain frequently on this blog about how much I suck at strength training.  Sorry for sounding like a broken record.

On my easy run today, my legs felt jolly and ready to roll.  But my arms were ready to call it quits thirty minutes in.  Like: it was work to just keep them gently swinging along at a 90-degree angle.  And also, my whole torso felt like it got hit by a freighter.

I remember feeling like this after Chicago Marathon last fall.  And of course I made the requisite vows  to lift more weights and do more planks.

You can see how well that’s worked out.

Yeah, I know what I need to do.  It’s just a matter of doing it.  Grumble.

As much as I hate lifting weights, you know what I hate more?  Not being able to run very far because of the limitations of my arms.  That is sad.

Speaking of sad…

I swear, if I could put half as much effort in to running as I do in to looking completely miserable, I’d be a whole lot faster.

(Also, Brightroom, if perhaps you could position one of your photographers at mile four, where I look fresh and fabulous, then perhaps I’d consider purchasing one of your photos rather than snatching them for my blog.  Until then….)

Today’s EAT: Time for a Big Ass Salad!

Greens, shredded chicken, red onions, jack cheese, cashews and butter-fried bananas.  (OMG.)  With a chili-lime vinaigrette.

Today’s DRINK: A while back, I reviewed a $4 Cab from Three Wishes that was surprisingly decent.  So I was optimistic about the brand’s Chardonnay.

Eh.  It’s drinkable, but barely.  For $3, I guess it would make a good cooking wine or punch component.  But I think next time I’ll shell out a few extra bucks for something a little easier on the palate.

Today’s RUN: 6.5 miles easy, right around 9:00 pace.  Yawn.

Today’s QUESTION: It’s almost the freakin’ weekend!  Any exciting plans? I’d thought I might jump in a 5K race this Saturday, but as of now I’m passing on it.  Running fast just doesn’t feel possible right now.  Stupid dead-worm arms.

Drinking my calories

This post is not about what you probably think it’s about.

Because: nope, I’m not talking about booze.  I’m talking about smoothies.

This is probably the first time I’ve ever put a smoothie on to this blog.  I don’t generally drink them.  Too much work to haul the blender out.  Too many damn ingredients.  Less than satisfying, hunger-wise….

But this morning it was freakishly warm out.  And I was feeling more thirsty than hungry.  And since it’s probably unhealthy to pop open a bottle of chilled Chardonnay during Good Morning America, I decided to venture in to smoothie territory.

Just like those weird green concoctions, except I substituted Nutella for spinach!  Is there anything that Nutella can’t save?  This smoothie actually tasted kind of like my beloved DQ Chocolate Covered Cherry Blizzard.

And just to prove (to myself?) that this wasn’t totally unhealthy, I actually calculated the nutrition info:

1 C strawberries + 1 small banana + 1/4 C milk (2%) + 1/4 C plain Chobani (2%) + 1 TBSP Nutella + 1 C ice = 306 calories, 8g fat, 9g fiber, 12g protein.  [Via DailyPlate]

Sounds like a decent breakfast option to me!

(And this smoothie would totally be great with some vodka thrown in.  Or, maybe even some Malibu rum.  Beachy.  Yum.)

(Okay, maybe this is a post about booze after all.)

Today’s EAT: Someone (cough*hubs*cough) accidentally kidnapped the only set of keys to our lone vehicle this afternoon/evening.  Well, there goes the grocery run.  So I dug around and came up with some nacho components and tossed them in to my favorite nacho-making apparatus: the round cake pan.

A layer of chips, a layer of cheese, shredded chicken, chopped avocado and a little more cheese.  Put it in the oven for ten minutes, and then use a broad spatula to transfer the whole thing to a serving plate.  Like a big ol’ pancake.

With chopped tomato and plain Greek yogurt on top.  Super easy!  And using the cake pan eliminates any need for the microwave.  (Microwaved nachos are kind of nasty and are only acceptable in the early-morning,  post-bar hours.)

(Aaaaand one more thing – I thought about leaving the avocado out of the melted mix and adding it at the end, but this recent post from Brit made me stop and consider warm avocado. And I’m glad I did –  it was tasty!)

Today’s DRINK: I picked up a six pack of Lonerider Brewing Peacemaker Pale Ale last weekend.

Yet another local Raleigh brewery!  There are so many here.

Their APA is a pretty enjoyable beer!  It’s certainly nothing fancy, and perhaps a touch mellower than the average APA, but the flavors are pleasant and it’s hoppy enough to remind me that I’m drinking a real beer.  5.7% ABV, very drinkable.

Today’s RUN: After two post-race rest days, I headed out for an easy 5-mile recovery run tonight.  It felt pretty bleh.  My legs felt decent, but my back – especially my upper back, around my shoulders – is rather sore.  I don’t know if that’s from the race or the drive home or both.

In any case, I could totally go for a massage.  If only those were free.

Anyway, here are last week’s stats:

M – OFF
Tu – 7 easy (1:00:56, 8:42 pace)
W – 5.1 easy (3:49, 8:35 pace)
Th – 3.4 easy w/hubs (33:00, 9:42 pace)
F – 3.1 easy (27:03, 8:43 pace)
Sa – OFF
Su – 13.1 race (1:38:01, 7:28 pace) + warm up and cool down, total 15.3

Strength training and such: zero

Total miles: 33.9

I’m taking things pretty easy this week: just recovery miles, nothing too taxing.  I might try a longer run (10-11 miles) this weekend if I’m feeling up for it.

Today’s QUESTION: Are you a smoothie person?  What do you put in them?  Any suggestions for future blender play?

(Aside from the spinach.  Because I just refuse to go there, on principle.  As a salad addict, I eat more than my share of leafy greens anyway.)

Burning questions

Because I know these are the things that keep you up at night.

A few very important follow-ups on yesterday’s race recap:

Q: Did you eat or drink anything during the race?

A:  I had a Gu with me, but I never really felt like I wanted it, so I never ate it.  (ZOMG I listened to by body!)  I ran (quickly) through two water stops (one at mile 6 and one at mile 11) and took a few sips at each one.  It wasn’t particularly warm out and I never really felt thirsty.

After the race, I re-hydrated with a beer and a banana and a couple of bottles of water, followed by a giant platter of fish ‘n chips (yum) a couple of hours later.

Q: You really drank that beer?  Wasn’t it, like, 9 AM?

Free beer knows nothing of these arcane social conventions.  Free beer is free beer.  And it tasted damn good at 9 AM!

Besides, at that point I’d already been awake for four hours.  So really, it was the same as getting up at 8 AM and drinking a beer at noon.  Which would be totally socially acceptable.  Right?

Q: Did you really run a half marathon in high school?

Yes, two actually!

The first one was just after my senior year cross-country season.  It was the Seattle Half Marathon.  I don’t think I’d ever run more than 10 miles before and finished in the low 1:40s.

A couple of months later, I ran this po-dunk race with a runner guy friend.  We finished in 1:36, to the best of my recollection.  I remember thinking, at the time, “huh, is that good?”  I had no idea that I would be chasing that stupid PR fourteen years later.

Anyway, yeah.  I was faster in high school than I am now.  This is why I can never PR.  Der.

Q: So what’s next?

Aside from the usual smattering of local 5Ks, I’ve got Charlottesville Half next month.  However, I’ve already decided that I’m not going to “race” that one.  It’ll be the hubs’ first half, so I’m going to stick with him.  (With his blessing.  Because I realize how patronizing that may sound.)

I’d also like to race a 10K sometime soon.  I realized as I saw 6.2 tick by on my watch on Sunday that I’d just beaten any 10K I’d raced in recent years.  I avoid 10Ks like the plague because I hate them.  But it’s a distance where my grown-up-PR will collapse easily, so I should probably go ahead and do that.

After that, I’m looking at a little NYC surprise in May!  Park Slope hipsters, watch out…

Q: Can I see a picture of your cat?

A: Well, duh.

O HAI, ur backpack is now full of kitteh.

Q: This post sucked.  I’m leaving now.

A: I don’t blame you.  This post did suck.   Sorry about that.

Well, I’m off to catch up on a serious backlog of Words With Friends.  Also known as: staring at a meager collection of consonants until my eyes cross and I fall asleep.  Nighty night, y’all!

Race Report: Shamrock Half Marathon

Thanks for all of the advance congrats, blogpeople!  I am pretty happy with how I ran this race.  It wasn’t a PR.  Nothing ever is.  But I haven’t cracked 1:40 since…um, high school?  So there’s that.  Huzzah!

Here’s how it went down:

After exactly seven pee stops (that’s one every thirty minutes!), I rolled in to Virginia Beach on Saturday afternoon and made a quick stop at the expo to grab my schtuff.  I promptly got the hell out of there because I had to pee (again!) and the bathroom lines were outta control.

Headed out to my friend Jenni’s house (thanks for letting me camp in your guest room, Jenni!), a few miles away.  We gabbed and I drank more water.  We went out for pizza and I ate more than her and her son combined.  We were both yawning by 10 PM.  I peed one more time and then fell in to bed like a pizza-stuffed sack of…well, pizza, I guess.

Up and at ’em at 5:00 AM on race day.  Ugh, that is the worst part about races. I drove down to the beachfront, parked in an already-packed garage near the finish area, and started the 15-block trek north toward the start.  I quickly realized that it was windy and miserable, and that everyone was wearing sweats and hats and gloves, whereas I was a shivering mess in shorts and a long sleeved throwaway tee.

Ugh.  Why am I doing this again?

Although it was a mild 45*, the wind felt like ice.  Ice that blows sand in your eyes.  I ducked in to a 7-11 and purchased a cup of the worst coffee I’ve ever consumed, sipping it while considering my options.  I could:

(A) Go back to the car and get more clothes; or

(B) Suck it up and start moving to warm up a little.

Of course I opted for B.   I continued north at a slow jog and started to feel slightly less miserable.

As it turns out, that was a good decision because as it was, I barely had enough time to drop off my bag, defile a port-o-potty, and hop in to my corral.  Right on time at 7 AM, we were off.

Mile 1 – 7:38
Mile 2 – 7:37
Mile 3 – 7:31

Thankfully, we immediately headed  a couple of blocks inland.  The wind backed off considerably.  I focused on just getting in to a nice easy groove.  I still had my throwaway shirt on and didn’t even look at my Garmin until I saw the first mile marker.

I had gone in to this thing with a couple of goals:

  • Break 1:40.
  • Run a nice, even, smart race.
  • Don’t f*ck up.

I was rather pleasantly surprised when I saw my first mile split.  I had assumed, with how mellow the pace felt, that I was closer to 8:00.  Still, I held back.  Smart race.  Smart race.  Smart race.

After a couple of miles, we turned off of the residential road and headed thorough a park-like area and a pretty grove of windswept trees.  Easy peasy. Hey.  This is actually kind of pleasant.

Mile 4 – 7:26
Mile 5 – 7:21
Mile 6 – 7:29

I spent most of miles 4 and 5 attempting to lose this chick who was, like, sucking gas.  Loudly.  “Damn,” I thought to myself.  “If that’s how you feel at mile four, it’s going to be a long morning for you, sweetie.”  And then I remembered that I’ve gone out WAY too hard in my fair share of races and have probably totally been that girl before.  Huh.

Regardless, I finally shook her loose and fell into step with a friendly older guy from Ohio.  We chatted our way through mile marker six.  And then just like that, we were halfway there.

Mile 7 – 7:24
Mile 8 – 7:31
Mile 9 – 7:20

We were now running through some sort of military site thingy and making a slight turn back toward the water – right in to the wind.  Awesome.  I could see this lighthouse in the distance.  I figured it must be the lighthouse I had heard people talking excitedly about.  As in: “Yeah, as soon as we hit the lighthouse it’s a straight shot down Atlantic Ave!”

But I knew it was way too soon to be thinking I was on the homestretch.  I glanced periodically down at my wrist and saw that I was hanging on to my goal pace just fine.  Just hang out there, I told myself.

Somewhere around mile 8, we made the final turn around the bluff and hit a nasty patch of headwind, along with the only hill of the course.  It was a wee little thing, but suddenly it felt like I was running up Mt. Suck.*  I could feel my gait start to flatten – oh, hey, there’s the feeling I’ve been dreading for the last hour.

Mile 10 – 7:18
Mile 11 – 7:29
Mile 12 – 7:30

Well, at least we’re past that damn lighthouse.

Running was starting to feel a little bit…well, hard.  And as much as that sucked, physically, I was actually a little relieved because it hadn’t really felt like I’d been racing up to this point.  Thirty minutes, I told myself.  You can run hard for thirty minutes, I thought.  That’s one episode of House Hunters.

And at some point, it dawned on me that I was actually going to do this.  I was going to finish under 1:40.  I was not going to f*ck up.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt that way during a half before.  Whoa.

Halfway through mile 10, I felt a little surge of energy and started to work my way forward in the pack.  I pulled up alongside woman in a pink shirt.  We chatted for a bit and she started snarking on a woman who was running in front of us in a wool hat, who I’d been watching for the last several miles.  I immediately decided that I liked Pink Shirt.

“Let’s go get her,” I said.  Pink Shirt agreed.

I totally owe Pink Shirt and her sass for what would be my fastest mile of the race, that mile 10.

Unfortunately, I lost my nerve somewhere in the early part of mile 11.

We were averaging sub-7 pace.  I got…scared?  I don’t know.  I let Pink Shirt pull away and settled back in to my more-comfortable low-mid-7 pace.  This, I count as my only mistake of the race.  Because she was fun and distracting and really…why couldn’t I have tried to go with her?  Sigh.

And so I plodded along.  I focused on just staying sharp on my feet and avoiding the temptation to shuffle.  Pink Shirt and Wool Hat were still well within sight.

Mile 13 – 7:19
0.1 + change – 1:01

So this last mile was hard.  But I’m not sure the last mile of a long race is ever easy?  I tried to talk myself in to picking up the pace.  Myself snapped back that it was actually rather weary of this whole running thing.  We compromised and I focused on just maintaining.

With half a mile to go, we turned on to the boardwalk.  Finally, the ocean!  Yay! But…oh damn, is that the finish line?  Why does it look so small?  Ugh.

I wish I could say I had an awesome sprint finish for this one, but no.  I gave it my all, but I just didn’t have much of a kick left in me.  Still, coming down that last stretch of boardwalk, I managed to pass a bunch of people who were in worse shape than me.  Little victories.

Finish time: 1:38:01.  7:28 pace.

I found Pink Shirt in the baggage claim area.  She beat the annoying hat chick.  And finished about 30 seconds ahead of me.  Why didn’t I go with her again?

Oh well.  Next time.

Am I happy with my finish time?  Yes, absolutely.  Do I think I can run better?  Yes, definitely.  But the thing I’m most happy about, reflecting on this race, isn’t my time.  It’s that I finally (finally!) seem to be learning how to race a little smarter.  I went out conservatively (maybe even too conservatively) and finished strong.  I didn’t f*ck up.  Yay me.

And a beer for you if you made it though this entire post.

Well, I’m off to eat cheese straight off the block for dinner.  I really need to get my act together when it comes to preparing decently healthy food for myself.  (And maybe get my blogging act together, too.  Are y’all sick of cartoons about peeing and long-winded race reports yet?)

‘Til manana….

[*Side note: did you know there is actually something called Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach?  I can’t decide whether this is awesome or disgusting.]

The perils of proper hydration

You know what really chaps my bladder?

Dear Department of Transportation:

If that McDonald’s is in the next time zone over, please don’t attribute it to this upcoming exit.

Sincerely,

Over-hydrated road-tripping runners everywhere

**********

I’ll be back with a Shamrock Half race recap tonight, but here’s a sneak peek – I broke 1:40 with a couple of minutes to spare.  Whee!

Happy Monday, kids!