Monthly Archives: February 2012

Crack is whack

The other day, I was folding laundry when I noticed something bizarre.

That is my wall, and that is a crack that was not there previously.

Now, my building is fairly new. And it’s constructed on a hill. I realize that buildings settle and we’ve had all sorts of crazy hot-then-freezing-then-hot weather lately, so I understand that this is probably normal but –

Who knows when the crack happened? It’s possible it had been there for a couple of weeks. But all of a sudden I was jumping out of my skin at every little noise and admonishing the cats to “land more carefully, please,” convinced that the building was about to collapse.

Paranoia at its finest.

(On the upside, we don’t own this place and in two and a half weeks, that crack will be someone else’s problem. Renting for the win.)

Anyway, my irrational fear of dying a tragic structural-engineering-related death soon faded away. But another paranoia took its place. And this one is worse.

I apologize for the picture of my foot, but it hurts. Right where the arrow is pointing.

During my long run on Sunday, I started noticing a little pain in my right foot. Halfway back, along the outside, more toward the top than the bottom. It didn’t hurt particularly badly, but it was there. Long runs often bring aches and pains, so I shrugged it off and took the following day (Monday) as a rest day.

Last night I ran a very easy 4 miles and: it was still there. Still not terribly painful, and not any worse than it was, but definitely noticeable.

Aches and pains are one thing, but I know enough about feet to have a pretty good idea of what’s in there, right in that spot where it hurts. That’s not a big tough muscle in there. It’s a delicate metatarsal. A fragile philange. A collection of twiggy little bones and joints that has borne the brunt of every stride I’ve taken with my slightly paunchy marathon-training frame for the last six months and HOLY CRAP THAT CRACK IN THE WALL WAS AN OMEN.

Overreaction? Maybe. But I’ve never had a stress fracture and I’d prefer to keep it that way, so I’m going to take a few days off of running.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself, as I have no gym membership and no access to a pool or appropriate cross-training equipment. I guess I could lift some weights or something. Not my favorite activity, but better than nothing.

I suppose I’ll have plenty of spare time to dwell upon the crack in the wall and compose elaborate pleas to nonexistent deities, too.

Please, running gods, be merciful. I’ve heeded your omen. I’m doing the right thing and backing off. I’m not being stupid and pushing through this, even though I’m tempted to. I have a half marathon in three weeks and a marathon in seven. I beg you: don’t send this training cycle crashing down on me like a poorly-constructed condominium building.

Sigh. I really honestly cannot decide whether I’m being paranoid or not, because it doesn’t hurt THAT badly, and not at all when I’m just walking around or whatever. The only time I notice it is when I’m running or walking around barefoot. Could it be a stress reaction? Some sort of weird muscle tissue bruise thing? Who knows.

But my gut feeling is that any pain in a fragile bony area like that is probably something to approach cautiously. I’m hoping that this is just a random tweak that goes away with a few days of rest.

Because, unlike the crack in the wall of my rented apartment, this is my problem, long term. I own this body. (Although sometimes I wish I could refinance.)

In happier news, I have a shoe winner! The ASICS NEO-33s go to:

That’s Michaela! I’ll email you, Michaela. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Do not be alarmed

Alternate title: Why it sucks to be undermined by your own stupidity in spite of making every effort to be a responsible adult.

Do you ever have fitful dreams in which you are paranoid that you’ve forgotten to set your alarm correctly? And – in your dream – you wake up to find that the clock says 8:37 AM when you were supposed to be on/in a 7:15 AM flight/meeting? And then you wake up – for real – and see that it’s only 2:32 AM? And then you fall back asleep and repeat the process several times until it’s actually time to wake up?

I didn’t ever really have those. Not often, anyway. But I will now. It was not a good weekend for me and my alarm clock. The circle of trust has been broken.

Alarm clock near-miss #1: Silent but deadly

Saturday morning.

The plan: Go to bed at a responsible hour with a minimal amount of booze in my belly. Wake up at 6:30 AM. Leave the apartment at 7 AM, drive to work, park and drop off my stuff, eat breakfast and have coffee. Leave work at 7:30 and run 3 miles over to the 8:30 start of a local 5K race. Race. Run back, shower (at work) and start work at 9:30.

What actually happened: was that I woke up an hour late. Because, as I later understood, of this:

WHY IS THIS EVEN AN OPTION? Seriously…who sets a soundless ALARM?

Looking back, I’m sure it was user error and I somehow changed that setting, but still…WHY DOES THIS USELESS SETTING EXIST?

Anyway. Somehow, I managed to get dressed, find my way to the start line, pull a 20:48 5K out of my ass, and make it to work on time.

(I won’t even try to do a “race report” on this one because there isn’t much to report. I ran without a watch and ran fairly hard the whole time…although probably not as hard as I could have. And it was a hilly course. That time is pretty decent for me, but I can’t help feeling like I should be running faster, given how well my speed workouts have been going this year.)

So that brings us to the next morning, when I had an early (again, pre-work) 20-miler on the agenda.

Alarm clock near-miss #2: Why don’t we use military time, again?

Sunday morning.

The plan: Get my three-hour long run done, and be done by 11 AM, in order to get to work on time. With a 20-minute drive to the trailhead, that meant a 6:30 wake-up call.

What actually happened: Panic, followed by outraged confusion, followed by 180 minutes of slightly frenetic running.

As I nestled my responsibly sober self in to bed at a geriatric hour on Saturday night, I fussed extensively with my alarm – including setting a test alarm to make sure the sound worked. The thing chirped obediently, and so I set the time and went to bed feeling great about my prospects for the next morning.

Naturally, I woke up at…7:35.

Oh, the old OH-NOES, I-ACCIDENTALLY-SET-MY-ALARM-FOR-PM-INSTEAD OF-AM trick. Last seen: 2003. Except at that time, I was:

  • 23 years old;
  • in my first real job;
  • wandering in to my cubicle at 10 AM;
  • hella hungover from staying out until 3 AM the night before; and
  • in need of an explanation for my why I looked like a frazzled piece of crap.

But this time? I ACTUALLY DID IT. I finally did the completely stupid thing I’d relied on so many times as a scapegoat for my irresponsibility. (Um, I mean…only that one time…)

I can’t even describe how explosively pissed off I was about this situation. Until I realized that it was my own fault. K*^H%$SF*M&DF. How did I let this happen? Well, actually, it’s not all that hard to miss ONE LETTER…

Okay…I’m going to say something potentially unpopular here. I think that  24-hour military-style clock is a better system. Why have two identical values that need a disclaimer when you can have separate numbers for each one? WHY? We have an unlimited number of numbers. Let’s use them.

(Not on board with the metric system, though. Sorry. I think inefficiently in inches and feet. Maybe my children’s generation will be more open….)

Anyway. Somehow, I managed to pack up my work bag, brush my teeth, feed the cats, and get out of the house in under twenty minutes. I hit the trail at 8:10 and ran for exactly three hours and five minutes…and then booked it frantically to the store to shower and open things up for the day.

For the second time in a weekend, I ditched the fancy timing gear and just ran the old-fashioned way, by time and feel. Because I knew the route, I’m certain I covered at least 20 miles (which was the goal!) and probably picked up another mile or so doubling back to chat briefly with friends I ran in to who were running the other way. I’m calling it 21.

And 61 for the week.

I feel pretty good about this week’s training. I had a solid track workout, a decent race and a respectable long run. Overall mileage is right where it should be.

I’m thinking of taking things down a notch next week (maybe 50-55 MPW) and then trying to gun for 70+. I’ve only hit 70 MPW once before: last fall, a few weeks before CIM, and it felt awesome. I’d love to stretch it to 75 MPW if I can.

But we’ll see. That’s a lot of miles, and as I wrap up a super busy weekend of running and working the idea just sounds…exhausting. Tomorrow is a (planned) rest day, and I’m looking forward to it.

I love my job and I love our customers, but…holy hell, the last two days have been tiring. Work is definitely more fun when things are busy than when they’re slow, but after two days of nonstop shoe-fitting action on top of hard mileage, and an abundance of snacking in place of real eating…when I got home tonight I was ready for a decent meal. And one cooked by anyone but me.

So I hit the bar next door, where I found a beer on draft that I had to try, if only for the name: Lagunitas WTF Ale.

Honestly…this beer indeed left me saying WTF. Because…I couldn’t quite classify it. The bartender billed it as a Black IPA, but it wasn’t really all that hoppy. Some BeerAdvocate reviewers classify it as more of a Brown Ale and I can kind of see that: it’s a bit nutty and not heavily carbonated, but…eh, it’s not quite roasty enough. This beer sits in a weird place: it’s not really hoppy, and not really toasty, and a little watery, but…hell, it’s 7.5% ABV, unoffensive and highly drinkable, so maybe that’s the point here?

Bottom Line: In my opinion, this beer is relying on its catchy name. It was alright, but I wouldn’t call it a must-try. (Purchased, draught, at The Borough, $4.50/pint)

In other news, I got my hair cut on Friday. There are now lots of layers.

I tend to distrust the whole “OMG layers” thing because I don’t want to look like Jennifer Aniston circa 1996. But I actually like this cut. I have a lot of hair and my ponytail is much lighter now.

 Still NOT in the Circle of Trust? MY PHONE’S ALARM CLOCK.

I’m not sure what else there is to screw up with that thing, but I’m now totally paranoid about the whole situation with my phone and its alarm. I don’t even have to be up for anything tomorrow morning, but I’m setting an alarm anyway, just to prove to myself that I can use this feature competently. And I fear the next time I have to make an early flight. No trust.

 * * * * *

Wear a size 9 or 9.5 shoe? Still time to enter to win a pair of ASICS GEL-NEO33 shoes! I’ll pick a winner Monday night!

Free Shoe Friday

So. I’m moving in three weeks (holycrap!) and I have a #firstworldproblem: I have too many running shoes.

I get a lot of free shoes at work. Brand reps give running store employees their hot new shoes so that we’ll try them out and be able to sell them competently, with a personal slant – and hopefully wear them on the sales floor, too.

This is largely how I have, over the last couple of years, ended up in this situation:

How many of these can I take to Atlanta with me?

Although I’m pretty lucky in that I can usually run without issue in whatever shoe I want – neutral, stability, minimal, etc – sometimes I receive a pair that just doesn’t work for some reason.

Case in point: these Asics GEL-NEO33 lightweight trainers are sadly of no use to me.

Not because it’s a bad shoe! In fact, I was really excited to try it. But they’re too big. I wore them around the store for a few hours before realizing that the inch of extra space in the front was kind of a deal-breaker.

The ASICS 33 line, which debuted last December, is the company’s answer to the likes of the Saucony Kinvara/Mirage and the Brooks PureProject shoes. It’s a “natural motion” shoe, which isn’t to say that its minimalist, because there’s still a good amount of cushion in the NEO33. But the heel-toe offset is slightly lower (10mm, in this case – which is pretty conservative, compared to the 4mm found in  comparable “natural motion” shoes – but still lower than the typical running shoe’s 12mm). Billed as a lightweight shoe, it clocks in at 8.5 ounces: a bit lighter than its more traditional counterparts (ASICS’s mid-level stability trainer, the 2170, is 9.9 ounces) but heftier than, say, a Saucony Kinvara (which is around 7 ounces).

Anyway. I like the feel of this shoe, but I know that I’m not going to wear it because it doesn’t fit me. So I’m going to give it to one of you guys!

Shoe: ASICS GEL-NEO33 / Size: Women’s 9B (runs big!) / Type of shoe: I’d call it a mild-stability lightweight trainer. It does have some support, making it appropriate for someone who is a mild to moderate over-pronater. If you wear the ASICS 2160/2170, ASICS Kayano, Brooks Adrenaline, Brooks Ravenna, Saucony Guide, etc…it would be a great shoe for you!

If you want it, just say so in the comments; I’ll compile them and pick a random winner on Monday. (Shipping’s on me, as long as it’s US/Canada.)

Anyway. I have tomorrow off of work, so I’m kicking back with a beer tonight:

I’ve had this one in my fridge for a few weeks, so I’m not sure if it still qualifies as a “catch & release” seasonal, but this Sweet Water Happy Ending is delightful.

Bright hops flirt with semi-sweet chocolate in this Imperial Stout, and a strong dose of carbonation gives this beer a surprisingly quenching quality. This is not a stout that harkens your morning cup of coffee, coating your mouth in creamy richness. Rather, it reminds me of a fun chocolate truffle with something fresh and tart inside: rich, but refreshing. 9% ABV.

Bottom line: I’m rather smitten by the hoppy, bubbly quality of this beer! Definitely a fun stout to try. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $2/12 oz)

Off to catch up on about seven more episodes of How I Met Your Mother (which I’m watching serially on Netflix – and loving OMG) before I call it bedtime.

Happy (almost) Friday!

In (and out of) a funk

Last Friday morning, I tweeted some whiny crap about how I had failed to complete my long run.

Yeah. That didn’t happen.

To be honest, I’d been in a running funk all week. It all started with this workout I did last Wednesday night, which included barefoot strides around a grass field. They were supposed to be strides, not sprints. But my little group was having so much fun racing each other around the goal posts…it was like being a kid again!

Unfortunately, my legs aren’t kids anymore. Come Thursday morning, I totally felt that shit. That day’s planned 10-miler became 6 and change. I figured I’d rest up for Friday morning’s long run.

But Friday morning, I still felt like a slug. I set out with a Gu shoved in my pocket and 18 miles on the docket. I shuffled miserably for a little over two before turning around and heading home.

So I tossed the Gu into my suitcase, along with my swimsuit and platform heels, thinking I’d carve out some time to make up the miles during Meg’s South Beach Bachelorette Extravaganza. And, of course, I tweeted that dumb tweet…as if that would make it more likely to actually happen.

AHAHAHAHAHA. Do you want to know how far I ran Saturday morning? THREE MILES. Not eighteen. THREE. Sunday morning, I felt a little better and managed seven. And looking back, those combined ten miles were really quite a feat.

A “splash of cranberry and soda” in vodka is not an appropriate way to hydrate for a long run. WHO KNEW?

(Also: guess how much a Heineken Light costs in a South Beach club? FOURTEEN DOLLARS. I did not drink much beer last weekend. I am sure that contributed to my crankiness.)

Anyway. Moving along, Monday was a travel day and a running rest day. Tuesday? I have no excuse. I just didn’t really feel like running. I managed five, but that’s a drop in the bucket during these weeks of peak marathon training and mileage. Meh.

That brings us to today. Wednesday: track workout day.

The worst thing about running funks is that they tend to self-perpetuate. The longer you’re in a funk, the harder it becomes to pull yourself out of it. As I set out on my warm up this morning, I was pretty sure that this run was going to go down in a funk as well; that I’d end up bailing.

But when I got to the track, I actually felt okay. On the agenda? Classic 12 X 400M. I’d planned to hit them around 1:35. When I ran the first one in 90 seconds and it felt like a jog in the park, I knew the funk was gone.

I’m running a local 5K on Saturday, so I hung back a little from that 90-second mark. This workout was definitely in the discomfort zone, but totally manageable. (Of course, that’s not really my 5K pace. I’ll be happy to crack 21 on Saturday, which would be 6:40 pace.)

Anyway. That’s the story of how a solo track workout made me love running again after a week of hating it. Scintillating, I know. Someone should make a movie.

Last week’s mileage. Roughly 18 miles short.

Oh well. Does it really matter? Of course not. I’m not an elite athlete and cutting a few workouts short isn’t going to change the course of my life. And sometimes, it’s nice to kick marathon training to the curb and live it up for a weekend. That’s what bachelorette parties in Miami are for.

Or so says my alter ego. His name is Peter. (Or Pierre, depending on my mood.)

The Candy Cat story

Meg and I met in college, but it was after graduation when we became really good friends. Those were the “LA Years,” which are legendary for many reasons, but chief among them is the mischief made by me and my blonde counterpart.

We were both a little lonely. She, on the heels of a breakup; me, with a boyfriend who worked 100-hour weeks. We started making dinner together a couple of times a week – Hamburger Helper, mac and cheese, pasta with marinara – which eventually morphed in to hanging out pretty much every night.

She had a cat; I had a cat. She liked Bud Light; I liked Bud Light. It was one of those easy friendships where the question isn’t do-you-want-to-hang-out, but -where-and-when.

On a typical weeknight, we’d convene with our respective cats at one of our apartments. The cats would play, and we’d drink cheap wine or head over to the local bar, where we’d hang out for a while, shooting pool or playing darts, and then coyly tell whatever guys were hanging around us that we had to go home and bathe our kitties. (Which was totally true, and I mean that literally.)

Our favorite bar with a little dive called Del’s on Santa Monica Boulevard in West LA. We could walk there from Meg’s apartment. The beer was cheap and the jukebox was well-stocked with classic rock. It was the antithesis of the typical LA bar scene, and it was perfect.

Del’s was totally our bar. Our “Cheers.” Everybody knew our names. I can’t even tell you how many nights we spent at Del’s. Hundreds, probably.

Sadly, though, all eras must end. Meg started grad school and moved up to Northridge. The Valley. A long and treacherous journey from LA.

But I missed my friend, so fairly regularly, I packed up Emmy and make the trek up there. Kraft dinners were just as lovely in The Valley, but one thing was missing. Our bar.

One day, I got an excited call from Meg. (This was before texting, kids.)

“I FOUND IT! I found our bar,” she gushed. “Get this: it’s called the Candy Cat. A cat bar! I drove by it earlier today. We have to try it!”

I completely agreed and immediately planned a trip up to the Valley.

A few nights later, with bellies full of mac and cheese, we left the cats (shampooed and blow-dried, of course) to play and headed over to this promising new establishment.

Now, if you have half a brain, you can probably see where this story is going. But Meg and I don’t even have a quarter of a brain apiece, apparently, because we charged ahead cluelessly.

“There are cats on the front window!” I squealed as we pulled up.

“Oh good, there’s parking in the rear,” Meg noted, turning in to the driveway.

We parked and walked toward the back door.

“Dude, check out that girl’s shoes,” I whispered with a slight nod toward a young woman smoking by the curb, looking sullen in a trench coat and platform heels.

We smiled smugly and quietly congratulated ourselves for being the kind of chicks that go to the bar in flip flops. We were rocking ponytails and tee shirts. We didn’t need to try so hard.

Two bouncers loomed over the door, from which muted Def Leppard blared behind. One asked for ID and a $5 cover, and immediately the other cut him off, gave us a once-over, and waved us in. “They’re cool,” he said.

Hell yeah, we are, we thought.

We crossed into a brightly-lit room. A little too bright. There were a lot of lights. Colorful lights.

“It’s…a theme bar?” I said, genuinely confused. There were two bars and a pool table but why did it seem to be all guys…?

Then we saw the boobs.

The cartoon cats. The rear parking. The platform heels. The cover charge.

What happened next is the kind of moment you remember forever; when I think of Meg and our friendship, those next few seconds pretty much say it all.

A look passed between us. It said: Convey no emotion. We cannot leave now, we’ll look stupid. We have to act like we totally meant to come here.

“You get the cues, I’ll rack ’em?” I said.

“Sure. Bud Light?” she replied smoothly.

So we hung out for a couple of hours, shooting pool, chatting with random people, singing along to classic rock, trying our best to give off a casual, we-come-here-all-the-time vibe. And it was almost like being back at Del’s again…but with more sparkles. And more boobs.

In the car on the way home, we recapped.

“That was fun but I think we should, you know, keep looking,” Meg said.

“Yeah…I don’t think that’s our bar,” I agreed.

We never did find our new Del’s, and eventually Meg and I both moved out of Southern California and on with our lives. Although we haven’t lived in the same city for years, she’s still one of my very best friends. On the rare and happy occasions when we do get together, it’s like nothing has changed. We still share a brain – and yet somehow, even with our combined craniums, lack common sense. It always leads to good fun.

Meg’s getting married in a few weeks. This weekend, I’m in Miami for her bachelorette party.

I can’t promise that we won’t accidentally end up in a strip club – excuse me, I mean a theme bar.

That hot pink looks good on me

Today’s post brought to you in list format, because I’m kind of all over the place tonight. Lazy blogging. It happens sometimes. Oh well…at least it’s not a list of things I’m LOVING right now, right?

1) I found a decent MSPAINT-like app for my new Mac! It’s called InstaPaint and it cost four bucks. What a deal.

All the same features, but with more colors! Look at that hot pink! Also, there’s a little bomb icon, which I was pretty excited about, but it was kind of a letdown: instead of doing something fun, it just reverts the entire canvas to blank white. Racist bomb.

2) I ran thirteen miles today. In two sessions. And it didn’t even feel like that much. I know this is probably common sense – or rather, common arithmetic – but doing doubles is really the only way I can keep my mileage up in the 60+/week range. A four and a nine is far less daunting than a single thirteen.

3) With increased mileage, I’m trying so very hard to be good about keeping up my paltry core work and stretching routine. But it’s difficult when I have to fight for space on my own yoga mat.

 Get your own mat, cat.

4) My finger was on the “Order” button today, ready to summon a cheese pizza and garlic breadsticks to my apartment. But then I resisted, and thought of all of the food in the pantry, and of the fact that, generally speaking, I probably should eat less cheese.

So instead of eating cheese-laden goodness made by Hungry Howie’s Pizza, I ate cheese-laden goodness made by me.

Mac and Cheese Balls, a la Megan. Although of course I didn’t have time for any of the chilling/ball forming business, so I just plopped them into my mini muffin tin. Quick, easy, and delightfully cheesy.

(That eating less cheese thing starts, um, tomorrow…)

5) Tonight’s beer was excellent.

SweetWater is the major craft brewery in my soon-to-be-hometown, so I’m sure I’ll have no shortage of opportunities to drink their beers in the near future. But this 15 Years of Heady Beers is a one-shot deal, and I didn’t want to risk missing it by waiting until the Atlanta move, so I snagged one when I saw it.

An American Strong Ale, this boozy beer poured a dark copper color with, appropriately, a big fluffy head. The first sip reminded me a little of zucchini bread: sweet and doughy, chewy and satisfying. Lots of fruit in this beer – ripe peaches and plums, a bit of banana – but it’s well balanced by that yeasty bread flavor, and a touch of hops as well. Very enjoyable and easy to drink, especially considering its 10% ABV.

Bottom line: Great beer, definitely worth trying! (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $8/22oz)

6) Time for bed. I have a wild weekend ahead of me, so I’m trying to bank some sleep hours. Good night!

Apples are better than chocolates

I am floored.

My husband has just made a large deposit at the Bank of Marital Capital. We don’t usually make a huge deal out of Valentine’s Day or give each other big gifts, so I was shocked when I opened up the FedEx box.

Judging by how long it took me to upload and post these two pictures, I have a bit of a learning curve ahead of me. I have never had a Mac before. But…IT’S SO PRETTY. I’m sure we will be best friends in no time.

First item on the agenda? Rectify the MS PAINT situation. There’s gotta be an app for that…right?



You could definitely call it a love-hate relationship. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was flinging curses upon William B. Umstead State Park. Today, I fell in love all over again.

And when I skip town in a few weeks, I am truly going to miss the Reedy Creek Double Out ‘n Back, in all of its sinister glory.

Yes, it’s hilly as hades. I’ve hated on those hills so many times. But somehow, this morning, I ran a very respectable long run on this roller-coaster of a route.

With all of those hills, that’s a pretty good average pace for me! I’m usually closer to nine-minute pace on this route. I credit good company for the fact that the miles flew by. Thanks, Joe for distracting me with talk of craft beer, racing strategies, Crossfit, food, wine, travel, and everything in between. I think it was a pretty stellar run for both of us. Even though it was OMG COLD:

Ok, I know that this is not that cold. But I had a minor meltdown when I woke up this morning and checked my weather app. My Southern-living ass was unaccustomed to twenty-degree weather. Down here in the South, we haven’t seen a flake of  snow or a crystal of frost at all this winter. I’ve been wearing tights since it was 45* out. I know. I know. 

So of course I packed a bag full of all sorts of clothing and accessories. I was headed out for the 20-miler, and then straight on to work, where I’d shower and stuff before starting my day of retail shenanigans. I tried to pack a whole day of clothing suited for various activities and conditions on the “coldest” day of the year. It was completely ridiculous:

Although I’d packed an extra pair of tights, a thick fleecy jacket, and even a face mask (that I hadn’t touched since I lived in Ohio), I ended up being totally fine in a regular pair of tights and long sleeved top with a paper-thin jacket over the top.  A thin hat and gloves were nice to have, but I would have lived without them. (The gloves came off halfway through.)

Still, I have to unequivocally give credit to my running buddy for getting me out of bed and in to the cold. I wouldn’t have done it on my own.

This whole week was filled with a whole lotta social running, now that I look back on it:

Of those 63 miles, fewer than 10 were done alone. Three cheers for human interaction! And also, for logging 63 miles in just 5 days! I’m pretty happy with how this week’s training went.

An appropriate beer for today:

Most of the beers I’ve tried from Dogfish Head are quite good, but this Pearl Jam “Twenty” Faithfull Ale was just okay. To be honest…I was dying to try it more for the novelty factor than anything else. Because I had this giant crush on Eddie Vedder for much of my youth. But it wasn’t just a hot-guy crush; it was a music crush, which is clearly more meaningful. (Yes, it is.) Ten was one of the very first CDs I ever owned. And I still think it’s a damn fine album.

Anyway. The Twenty is a decent little Belgian, with a jammy berry backbone that’s perhaps a bit unique. It’s brewed with currants, which are tamely present. But at the end of the day this bottle didn’t knock my socks off. If it weren’t for the Pearl Jam association, it would be rather forgettable. 7% ABV.

Bottom line: Not a bad beer by any means…and certainly drinkable and smooth. It’s not disappointing – but its not a must-try, either. (Received in a beer swap; retails for around $13/22oz)

In other running news:

 – My friend and co-worker Bobby Mack is a beast! You can now call him the US National XC Champion. Come by our store and congratulate him if you’re a Raleigh dweller.

– For more racing news, check out Writing About Running. Author Pat Price, a self-described hobbyjogger, brings a fan’s  keen interest in the elite side of the sport to his blog.

– The Brooks Ravenna 3 is here! As a wearer of the Ravenna 2, I’ve been anxious to check them out.

(old Ravenna 2 on the left; new Ravenna 3 on the right)

I love the fit of the Ravenna 2, but my one complaint (through two pairs) has been that they don’t last as long as I’d like them to. Both of my Ravenna 2’s started to break down around 300 miles. And I’m not the only one who had this beef; I’ve fielded several complaints from customers about their Ravennas breaking down early.

So the new Ravenna 3? It’s…more shoe. Compared to a pair of brand-new pair of Ravenna 2 (above, left), the Ravenna 3 (above, right) seems to have much more cushioning, especially in the forefoot.

I haven’t actually run in them, so I’ll save further review until I do.

For now, though, I’m loving my PureFlows for pretty much everything:

The black ones have 250+ miles on them and are still going strong! And I did 20 in the white ones this morning, pretty much confirming to me that there’s no reason a lower-heel-drop show cannot be a long-run shoe, if you work in to it properly. (Which is something I’ve been working on since October…)

Hope y’all had a good weekend! What did you do?

To hell with hills

I’ve been keeping a list of things that have become noticeably more difficult for me – and specifically, the runner in me – since we hit the other side 30 a couple of years ago.

Warm-ups: need to be longer.

Recovery from a hard effort: seems to take forever.

Hills: have become steeper.

I used to be kind of okay at hills – at least on a comparative basis. It was the one place on a race course where I had a shot at chasing down my more willowy counterparts. Something about a low center of gravity, I guess.

Well, my center of gravity hasn’t changed, so I’m going to go with: the hills have become steeper. That’s clearly the only way to explain the pain and suffering of this week’s speed workout.

Eight times up a stretch of neighborhood blocks, amounting to a quarter mile and about 80 feet of elevation gain. My speedwork group from last fall is back in action (yay!), so I had a nice pack to work with. (For the first six, anyway. It’s fun being the only person working on full marathon this spring…)

Our coach told us to shoot for 15 seconds slower than we’d normally run 400 repeats on a track. If I were going to do 8X400 on a track, I’d like to think I’d be down in the low 80s, so I plugged 95 seconds in to my head for this hill workout.

But my splits were: 100, 100, 99, 99, 98, 97, 102, 99. (Obviously, I lost a little steam when I had to do the last couple on my own…)

Apparently I was optimistic. Still, I guess there’s nothing wrong with that workout. It just felt kinda crappy. Meh.

Anyway. On to the next one. I’m hoping to hit 60 miles this week and as I am sitting here sipping some Friday night wine, I’m at 34. I have some work to do this weekend.

Which means I should probably put down the wine glass. 

This South African outfit’s Rose has long been a favorite, but I’d never tried the simply-named Red 2010 from Goats Do Roam before. It’s mostly Syrah (72%) and Cinsault (13%) with a little Grenache and some other stuff mixed in. Very bright and berry-forward, it was sweeter and lighter-bodied than I expected it to be, and very smooth. A respectable choice if you’re looking for something on the grocery store shelf that will be widely enjoyed, with food or without. 14% ABV.

Bottom Line: I received this from a friend, but I’d buy it again! Retails for around $10.

Time for me to chug some water so I don’t wake up feeling like I slept with a cotton ball in my mouth. And give my teeth a good cleansing. Don’t want to show up to morning running group with a headache and purple lips.

Add that to the list of thirtysomething woes….

Red wine: kicks my ass if I’m not careful.

To hell with getting old.

Is “jogging” terrible?

Earlier today, via a running forum I sometimes hang around, I came across a post on the blog of some random Crossfit place in Virginia. Succinctly entitled Why Jogging Is Terrible, the author – a chiropractor by the name of Corey Duvall – argues that there is “NO benefit” to running “consecutive distances of 2 or miles at a pace slower than 8 minutes/mile.”

When I saw the link, of course, I rolled my eyes.  I’ve seen my share of ranty screeds about running written by Crossfit folk. They’re usually poorly composed, unnecessarily inflammatory, and designed to make the reader feel like every other activity in the universe is pointless – except for Crossfit! Join our box for only $200/month!

Marketing at its finest.

But I was bored so I clicked over and read through the post a couple of times. And you know what? It wasn’t all bullshit. If you could pick through the obviously biased writing and ridiculous superlatives, Dr. Duvall actually made a few points that I think most runners (and people interested in fitness generally) would be wise to consider.

[Necessary disclaimer here: I’m not a coach, trainer, or medical professional of any kind. I’m just a chick who’s been running for a long time. Also, I’ve never done Crossfit and have no plans to try it, but I have nothing against it. And I’m going to talk about pace here, and we all know that it’s hard to talk about pace without being an asshat, so…forgive me for being an asshat.]

Point #1: From an overall fitness standpoint, most runners would probably benefit from running less – and running faster.

Writes Duvall:

“Let me clarify Jogging.  This is the act of repeatedly running consecutive distances of 2 or more miles at a pace slower than 8 minutes/mile.  If you aren’t running that fast you should speed up and shorten your distance.”

Now, I’m not sure what’s so magical about the 8-minute-mile thing. Nothing, I expect. Perhaps that is the author’s personal threshold for discomfort, or the point at which, in his anecdotal observations, the average person starts to struggle to maintain pace.

But whatever the number is, if you can run 2+ miles and you’re not at least occasionally running in the discomfort zone, you’re shortchanging yourself, fitness-wise.

(This is why I always include short and fast intervals, down to 400 meters, in my training – even when I’m training for a marathon. As my former CPTC coach used to say: fall marathon PRs are built on summer 5Ks. Truth.)

In my own experience, as an active member of many teams, clubs, and training groups over the years, I’ve watched runner friends train for, and run, marathon after marathon in the 5-6 hour range. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m convinced they’d be better overall athletes if they focused on improving their 5K and 10K times.

Of course, everyone has their own reasons for running; some people just like running marathons, and that’s fine! But from a strictly physical fitness standpoint, I think that there’s a grain of truth in Duvall’s statement, even if it’s snippy and arbitrarily judgmental.

Point #2: Couch to marathon is a bad plan.

Writes Duvall:

“I have treated MANY people for issues that are the result of nothing more than bodily neglect followed by abuse.  They ignore their movement systems, create horrid imbalances by sitting around, then abuse these systems by putting it through an incredible load for little to no value; they wind up with shin splints, Achilles tendinosis, “runners knee”, IT band pain, or back problems.”

My initial reaction to this was: NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. You’re a sports doctor/chiropractor guy; of course you see injured runners. The healthy ones don’t need your services.

But then I read the paragraph again, and it actually kind of speaks to something that’s been a concern of mine in the running community for several years, especially as the popularity of 13.1 and 26.2 has skyrocketed: namely, the bucket list would-be marathoner who gets off the couch and decides to become a distance runner and – surprise! – gets injured.

Again: everyone has their goals and their reasons. But distance running is no joke. It requires a great deal of work to properly build up to, and a great deal of training and commitment to execute safely. And even then, experienced runners who do everything right get injured all the time.

I wouldn’t say there’s “little to no value” in distance running. But I would say that it’s generally overvalued.

Point #3: Form matters.

Writes Duvall:

“The problem with Jogging is that people often speed up their walk instead of slowing down their sprint to move greater distances.”

Okay, so I was pretty much a cross-country nerd in high school, and the highlight of my summers was attending cross-country camp. Where we did totally nerdy things like make up skits about running and have granola-bar-eating contests and rail against the injustice that was My So Called Life‘s cancellation.

But we also worked closely with accomplished coaches and trainers, and I can clearly recall that many of them repeated some variation of the above quote, mantra-like, when trying to get us to pay attention to our form.

Without hesitation, I credit these early lessons for the fact that, fifteen years later, I can coax my stumpy legs in to turning over at a decent pace. (Yep, that’s under eight minutes per mile, Dr. Duvall…for a marathon!)

My form is definitely not perfect, and occasionally it’s pretty terrible: the cross-body swinging arms and slumped shoulders are, of course, captured for posterity in those late-stage race photos. But it’s something that I think about regularly, and especially when I’m running hard or doing a speed workout.

Here’s a fact that I don’t think anyone will dispute: When you’re sprinting, you have to be as efficient as possible.

I don’t agree at all with a subsequent statement Duvall makes, claiming that there is no difference between the form of elite sprinters and elite distance runners. (Uh, ask Meb if he’d like to run a marathon in sprint spikes.) But I do believe that the average hobbyjogger would probably benefit from focusing more on form and thinking about posture, turnover, economy, etc in the course of their training.

Point #4: Train to your goal.

Concluding his piece, Duvall writes:

“Jogging is terrible because it does not help you reach your goal any faster than walking, it helps you reach it FAR SLOWER than occasional sprint intervals, and it ups your injury rate to keep you from your goal.”

Right. So what is my goal supposed to be, again?

This is never addressed in the post. But let’s assume that Duvall is assuming that “your goal” is general overall fitness, functional strength, SEXAY toned muscles, reduced weight/body fat, etc.

If those are your goals, then I agree: distance running is a shitty choice.

Distance running is good at training your body for…running long distances. For the average person doing a moderate amount of overall mileage, it’s not the most efficient way to lose weight, get tight abs, or look good in a bikini.

Even putting aside the diet/nutrition issues that come with doing two- and three-hour runs (OMG I WANT PANCAKES AND CHEESEBURGERS AND BEER!), it’s hard to get around the fact that distance training teaches your body to burn energy (i.e. fat) as efficiently as possible. This means it burns as little as it possibly can over the course of your workout. And this is absolutely what you need it to do, if you’re running a marathon.

But if you just want to look good in your animal-print pants? There are better ways to accomplish that.

Which brings me to…

Point #5: You have to do what you like, and like what you do.

The glaring omission in Duvall’s post is the simple fact that some people actually enjoy running.

Running is incredibly simple to do: you just walk out your door and do it. It can be social and fun and is a great way to make friends and meet new people. It can be easy or hard; it can be slow or fast. Many of my friends who do their long runs on Sunday mornings quite literally refer to their workouts as their own personal way of going to church. To many runners, this hobby is so much more than proper mechanics or energy burn rates or tight butt cheeks.

And I don’t think I need to point out that no one is going to charge you hundreds of dollars a month to join their “box” in order to be a runner.

Point #6: Here’s a beer if you made it through this entire post.

Or…um, this is awkward…do Crossfitters drink beer? That sounds so not Paleo.

Just another reason I’ll always be a runner.