Monthly Archives: March 2012

By the numbers

Alternate title: The sort of crap you come up with after staring at your computer for an hour and failing to produce any ideas for intelligent blog posts.

(It’s teetering dangerously above “WHAT I’M LOVING NOW!” or “THE ABCs OF ME!” on the scale of blog cop-outs. I know. Sorry.)

Anyway. In descending order….

65: Degrees and sunny this week. I’m officially under springtime’s spell.

And I’m having fun exploring Atlanta in my running shoes. Yesterday, I headed downtown and putted around the Olympic Centennial Park, which isn’t all that big (about 3/4 mile around) but is very pretty. I’m a sucker for parks surrounded by tall buildings.

51: Miles logged last week.

I guess this was my peak week. That mileage number really should be higher and I really have no good excuse as to why it wasn’t. Fail. I don’t think a PR is in the cards for me next month.

On the bright side, I did have a good tempo on Wednesday and my long run on Saturday was pleasant enough…well, it was pleasant until mile 17ish, when it became decidedly less so.

I’m trying not to take that as an omen. When I’m running a marathon, I usually hit the crash-and-burn stage around 18/19. At CIM last December, I didn’t hit it until 23/24 and that made a huge difference in my overall performance. I credit last fall’s higher mileage for that. Mileage that I have NOT been logging this spring. Ugh.

8π√3: Correct answer to this one stupid math problem that had almost made me hurl BARRON’S NEW GRE against the wall last night.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’d like to continue my education at some point in the near future, and to do so, I’ll need to subject myself to humiliation at the hands of Educational Testing Service. So I’ve started “studying” (I use the term loosely) in an attempt to minimize the damage.

Awesome bonus: apparently they made the GRE harder last year. That’s what I get for slacking.

But I can now find the area of a quarter of a circle superimposed on an isosceles triangle. Super useful life skill, right there.

33: Pounds of cat under which I found myself buried when I hit the couch for a study break.

They’re not big boned, they’re just fat. (I wrote that on a Post-It Note and stuck it on their litter box, but someone took a crap on it and then buried it. Huh.)

18: Days until the Gansett Marathon! Yikes.

9: Miles I’m planning to run tonight, including some mile repeats. This is about as appealing as it sounds.

3: Bottles remaining in the six-pack of Sweetwater 420 I picked up on Monday.

This is the best my local grocery store can do, beer-wise, but I can’t complain too much! This American “West-Coast Style” Pale Ale is everywhere around here and it’s a decent little beer. With the descriptor, you’d expect something like a Sierra Nevada, but it’s nowhere near as big as that. Instead, it’s mild and very drinkable with mellow hops, strong carbonation, and a little citrus. 5.6% ABV.

Bottom line: Not the most exciting beer in the world, but enjoyable enough! (Purchased at Publix, $9/6)

1: Minute until I gnaw my arm off if I don’t stop with this useless blog post and make myself some lunch. Happy Wednesday!

Big Decisions

Generally speaking, I’ve got it pretty good. When life flings annoying little scraps of crap at me, I can always say: well, at least I have a roof over my head.

Oddly, in a few weeks, we won’t.

A little back story. When we first started looking for a place to live here in Atlanta, we saw this house. Its list price was out of our range, but it had been on the market for eons, so we went to look anyway.

“Holy crap,” I remember saying upon taking in the gorgeous kitchen, gorgeous sunny living room, gorgeous…well, everything. “I can’t even imagine living in a place like this.”

A couple of months and one lowball offer later, we were under contract. It seemed too good to be true.

Holy crap indeed.

Last Friday, we met the home inspectors at the house. THE house. It wasn’t OUR house yet; there was still a lot that could go wrong. But in spite of my best efforts to remain unattached, I found myself envisioning furniture placement and such. The couch here, facing the window! Bar stools there, over by the built-in wine fridge! That painting we love up there, on that wall!

But as we tagged along after the inspector, those visions of buttery leather sofas and funky bar stools gave way to thoughts of buckets and towels.

“Systematic water issues,” the inspector said in to his voice recorder.

“Holy crap,” my husband and I said to one another.

Actually, it wasn’t totally surprising. On previous visits to the house, we’d seen some evidence of drainage issues, and going in to the inspection we knew there was a possibility that the structure needed an entirely new roof – which given the home’s unique style/shape, would be a little more complicated and expensive than just slapping on some new shingles.

But the inspector’s report basically confirmed our worst-case scenario.

So we spent the entire weekend going back and forth. Should we walk away, or move forward? We discussed and discussed…over glasses of wine, while buttering waffles, from either side of the sink while brushing our teeth. The entire weekend was basically one big circle of discussion, leading up to Sunday night, which was the deadline for backing out of our contract.

Our contract, on OUR house.

We are moving forward.

We, who are the type of people who will deal with a dark hallway for weeks because neither one of us is motivated enough to change a lightbulb. We are going to put a new roof on a house.

(Well, we aren’t going to actually do it, of course, but we’re going to oversee its construction. Still a stretch for us.)

Of course, the deal could still sink at this point. The bank’s appraisers still have to go in and do their thing. But we’re one step closer to having a permanent roof over our heads.

And then immediately ripping it off.

Exciting and scary.

Around and around the Oval

Discovered: it’s exactly one mile from my apartment to the southwestern corner of Piedmont Park. I expect to become very familiar with this route over the next few weeks.

Atlanta’s Piedmont Park seems to be a miniature version of NYC’s Central Park. There are winding roads upon which one can run or bike, a lake, playgrounds, and tennis courts. There’s a dog park and a boathouse and a botanical garden. You’re never far from a drinking fountain or a bathroom.

And there’s a flat crushed gravel loop restricted to runners/walkers moving in a counter-clockwise direction. Yep, the “Active Oval” is Piedmont Park’s version of the Reservoir.

I decided to take my planned tempo run to the Oval yesterday, mostly because of its flatness. With 10K on the agenda, that would mean nearly 12 times around the roughly half-mile loop.

Looking back at my training so far this year, clearly I’ve been slacking on the tempo front. I used to try to work in both a track and a tempo session each week, but lately I’ve only been doing the track work. Primarily because that’s what my group was doing, but also because I actually enjoy track workouts while I generally despise tempo runs.

But sometimes you’ve gotta do stuff you don’t really enjoy. And even though it wasn’t exactly fun, I needed a long, grinding tempo to make me feel like I’m even a little bit prepared for this marathon next month.

Since Piedmont Park is a mini version of Central Park, I decided to do a mini version of the classic CPTC marathon pace/half marathon pace tempo, or as Megan recently called it, the 2 X 4 Mile Beast.

Meet the 2 X 5K Mini Beast.

I was pretty happy with how this went. Nice even splits! The last couple of miles were definitely hard, both on account of the faster pace and the fact that I was starting to get bored of looping the Oval. Total workout was nine miles and change, including warm up and cool down.

My new ASICS DS Trainer 17‘s felt great during the workout:

Before leaving my old job, I had to take advantage of my employee discount one last time. I almost picked up a pair of the new Brooks Ravenna 3, but given that I wasn’t totally thrilled with the mileage I got out of the previous version of the Ravenna, I decided to mix it up and go with a comparable shoe from ASICS instead.

Like the Ravenna, the DS Trainer is a light stability shoe, designed to provide a touch of support for mild over-pronators, while weighing in a bit lighter than a traditional stability shoe. (The DS Trainer is 8.8 ounces, versus 9.3 ounces for ASICS’s traditional stability shoe, the GT-2170.) Previous versions of the DS Trainer had run very narrow and had a weird puffy collar thing around the ankle; the new version released this year seems to be a touch roomier in the toe box, and the collar thing is significantly less puffy. So I decided to give them a try.

I’ve been running in them for a couple of weeks, and no complaints so far! It’s a nice soft shoe that doesn’t feel too clunky or heavy.

I’m still alternating with my Brooks PureFlows, but I think having a traditional cushioned shoe for longer runs is a good thing for me. When I had that weird foot pain a couple of weeks ago, I’d been running almost exclusively in the PureFlows and had done a 20-miler in them day the pain started. No idea whether the foot issue was in any way related to my choice of shoes, but I’m going to be a little more cautious just in case.

Recovery run on the agenda tonight. You’ll find me in Piedmont Park again, but I think I’ll be avoiding the Active Oval.

Home…for now

Monday was a long day, but I can’t complain too much. Everything went smoothly and the cats and I rolled out of Raleigh at 4 PM. After six hours of practicing the art of calculated lawbreaking (read: driving exactly 9.9 MPH over the speed limit), we arrived in Atlanta.

I guess I haven’t really explained our living situation here. As you may recall, my husband moved down in January and took up in a small furnished apartment. The hope was that by the time I joined him in March, we’d have the keys to our permanent digs and move right in.

Well, that didn’t happen. We’re currently in the process of buying a home (exciting!) but that’s a long process. So here we are in the little apartment for a few more weeks, and our stuff is in storage (in a Pod) until we’re ready for it.

Not complaining, though! It’s so nice to have our “family” all together again, even if we’re still in transit.

The cats are adjusting extremely well! They were really good through the whole moving ordeal. They didn’t destroy anything when I locked them in the bathroom for four hours when the movers were there. They didn’t howl or claw or pee or poop during their six-plus hours in the car. They didn’t freak out when unloaded in the new place.

Naturally, I take full credit for this, as if I raised them up so well or something. I guess we’re just lucky to have such easygoing and adaptable cats!

Fearless as ever, Emmy walked confidently out of her carrier and proceeded to inspect every horizontal surface of the apartment within her jumping range. And Parker, usually more cautious, only spent about five minutes under the bed before he was out and about with her.

Within an hour of our arrival, it was business as usual: everyone had eaten dinner and both cats were curled up on the couch with us. So proud, I tell ya.

(One thing that made the pet move less of a hassle: Amazon. A week ago, I ordered a new litter box, litter, a case of food, a new scratcher, a couple of toys and a Feliway diffuser to be delivered to the new apartment. Shipping was free. It was so much easier to have all of that stuff ready to go, rather than having to dig it out of the packed car or make a trip to the pet store.)

Anyway. I’m so glad that the move is over (this stage of it, anyway) and I’m looking forward to getting settled in a new job (soon, I hope!) and routine here. Starting with: NO MORE TAKEOUT.

I’ve pretty much been living on pizza, fast food, take out, and other garbage for the last week. I can’t even look at a Chick-Fil-A waffle fry right now…and for me, that’s saying a lot.

Making a real dinner was the highlight of my day yesterday. This is my favorite quick and easy way to prepare salmon: sprinkle with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, smother with dijon mustard, pat down with brown sugar, and bake in a foil-lined pan at 400* for 10-15 minutes.

And finally, last week’s running recap:

It’s not the 60-70 miles I should be running to get in marathon shape, but with packing and moving physically taxing my body, I feel like it was the best I could do last week.

24 days until Gansett. Yikes…

Empty

A confidence booster. That’s what I’d hoped this morning’s Tobacco Road Half Marathon would be.

I tried to stay chill about it, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had a goal time in mind. Last year at this time, I ran a 1:38, and judging by workouts and performances at shorter distances, I’m in better shape now. I’d hoped to crank out a 1:35 if the stars aligned.

Unfortunately, the stars were all over the place. I finished at 1:48 and change.

Making excuses for bad race performances is pretty lame, but here are my reasons for sucking it up big time today:

Reason #1: It went soft. In the weeks leading up to this race, I said it a million times: if there was one thing that would sink this race, it would be a soggy trail.

The Tobacco Road half is mostly run on a section of the American Tobacco Trail that’s made of loosely-packed crushed gravel. For a long run, it’s fantastically forgiving. For a speed workout, it’s slightly challenging when dry. And when it’s wet, it’s miserable all around.

Well, guess what it did ALL NIGHT Saturday night. I almost stayed in bed when my alarm finally went off, after being awake all night listening to the pouring rain. 13.1 miles of racing on soft, soggy terrain? Ugh.

But obviously I heeded the alarm. I probably should have adjusted my expectations for this race before I even got out of bed, because….

Reason #2: The effing humidity. I know it could have been worse: it could have been warmer. But I hate being soaking wet before I even start running, no matter what the temperature is. Enough said.

Reason #3: My cranky womb. Sorry if this is TMI, but…standing in the start corral this morning, I felt a familiar throbbing in my lower belly and aching in my hips that I knew had nothing to do with running or digestion. Rather, it was my reproductive system letting me know that it was about to begin its monthly thing, and wouldn’t I rather be at home, under a blanket, with a warm cat sprawled across my lap? Why yes, I would.

In nearly two decades of racing, this was the first time I had ever encountered such unfortunate timing. It sucked.

Reason #4: My head wasn’t in it. Instead, my head was worrying about whether the movers would be on time on Monday and fretting about boxes that still needed to be packed.

Yeah….planning a half marathon the day before an interstate move is not a great plan.

Also, honestly? My heart wasn’t really in it today, either. My heart was in Atlanta, with my husband, who I miss dearly and cannot wait to see tomorrow night.

Reason #5: I’m exhausted. For the last week, I’ve spent nearly every waking moment moving shit around, putting shit in boxes, hauling shit to the trash chute, and shlepping shit to the car to bring to the Goodwill Donation Center. Even though we have movers coming to help with the actual moving, just preparing to move is exhausting.

So, those are my excuses. I started out today’s race with a downhill 7:20 mile that felt far too difficult; I knew it wasn’t going to be my day to run hard. I dropped back to marathon pace (7:45-7:50) for a couple of miles, but once I hit the soggy path, even that felt like too much. So I dropped back again and hung out at 8:15-8:30 (pretty close to my normal long run pace) for the rest of the race. And even that felt harder than it should have.

Sometimes, it just isn’t your day.

(Thanks to teammate Jenna for the photo)

Anyway. So this race didn’t exactly make me feel like a million bucks going into the last couple of weeks of Gansett Marathon training. In fact, it made me feel pretty discouraged and doubtful. My training volume hasn’t been what I’d hoped it would be this spring, and while I’m still running pretty well (for me) at shorter distances, it seems like I’m falling short in the stamina department.

Not sure if there’s much I can do about that at this point. Oh well.

After a lovely post-race nap, I cleaned myself up and headed in to work to drop off my key (sad!) and cajole a couple of my co-workers into enjoying one last post-shift beer with me. And it was a good one…

The famed 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish HeadIt was as amazing as I’d imagined it would be.

Around these parts, Dogfish 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA are pretty easy to find, but the 120 Minute is an elusive beast – probably because it’s actually illegal here in North Carolina. Amazingly smooth and sweet, it’s hard to believe that this beer packs an 18%-ABV punch. You get a quick hit of full-flavored hops at the beginning of each sip, but as it goes down it mellows in to a lovely honeysuckle finish with no pucker whatsoever. Utterly delicious.

Bottom line: This one definitely lives up to the hype. If you have a chance to get your hands on it, definitely buy it – and buy me one too, please!

Well…tomorrow is moving day. Every closet, cupboard, and drawer in the apartment is empty; the only thing left to be packed is the TV/cable/modem setup. By this time tomorrow night, if everything goes smoothly, I’ll be rolling in to Atlanta with two confused felines in tow.

Wish me luck!

It’s not a skirt, it’s a…

Oh, the running skirt debate. I am glad AngryRunner posted an update to her legendary post on the subject, as I was just thinking about the topic the other day as I sorted through my giant pile of running clothes, trying to decide what to keep and what to pitch.

Until recently, I was sort of casually anti-skirt. As in: I don’t really get ’em, but…eh, whatever.

Then I tried one. A super girly one, from Lululemon. With ruffles on the butt. Two layers of ruffles on the butt.

Don’t ask me why I bought it; I had a gift card, and I suppose I was a little curious. And…well, guess what. I really like that ridiculous thing.

Oh yes, it’s ridiculous. There is no reason why I need ruffles on my ass while I’m running. But the compression shorts underneath are fantastic. I’ve worn it in several races, including my last marathon, and have never had a chafing issue. I don’t think I can say that about any of the other ass-covering items in my arsenal.

Anyway, I guess I understand why people love them. I’m generally pretty okay with my body, even with a bit of extra weight on my frame…but I must admit that it’s kind of nice to get the benefits of booty shorts without having it all hanging out there.

But here’s the problem. You dip one toe into the dangerous waters of girly-running appareldom and you end up in a…

…DRESS. Yes, a running dress. I confess.

I bought this mostly intending to use it as a beach coverup, and it works great for that. But it’s actually pretty great for running, too. (With booty shorts underneath, of course.) It’s lightweight and breezy and the sort of garment where you kind of forget you’re wearing it after a few minutes. Way more comfortable than shorts. Yep.

So, fine: swipe my serious-runner card. I’ll be running all over Atlanta in this thing during the hot summer months.

At least it doesn’t have ruffles.

Nice rack, tough track

I forgot to tell you guys my favorite part of the flat tire story.

So I was sitting in the cab of the tow truck, waiting for the driver to finish hooking my car up, when the guy’s cell phone rang.

Now, this guy was about my age, super friendly, a little country…I don’t mean that in a bad way. So the phone, which was sitting face up on the center console, started to ring. I wasn’t trying to be nosy or anything but my gut reaction was to glance at it, and when I did, I saw a topless chick with a fantastic rack.

It was one of those moments where I wished someone had been there, because I was all like: OMG! Some hot naked chick is calling this tow truck guy! Check out her boobs! But alas, no one else was in the cab to share the moment with me.

A few seconds later, the driver hopped back in the cab and snatched up his phone, which was still ringing and flashing (literally). I buried my nose in my own phone, pretending I hadn’t even noticed it. As it turned out, I gathered from the ensuing conversation, it was his girlfriend.

Well played, tow truck guy.

Anyway.

I headed to the track tonight for my VERY LAST TIME working out with my Raleigh track group. On the menu were some spicy-fast 600s, which sounded like fun, if a little challenging in the 80-degree heat.

Oof. I don’t know if it was the heat, or the spring pollen, or just the fact that I hadn’t run that fast in a couple of weeks, but my lungs were burning as I did these! Everything else felt pretty good though, so I’ll take it.

I am going to miss you, track crew. I’m gonna need to find a track workout group in Atlanta ASAP!

Well, it’s bedtime…at 11 PM! I know – so early! This week, I’ve been trying to train myself to go to bed at a normal-person time. I’ve gotten hooked on this 1 AM bedtime thing since I’ve been living alone these last three months, but my husband is most definitely NOT on that schedule with his new job, and it would be nice to be on the same page, routine-wise, when we are reunited in a few days.

(In truth, I am probably going to lay in bed and play on my phone for at least another hour, but hey – I’m moving in the right direction!)

Good night!

Deflated

Yesterday, I failed myself. Allow me to explain.

Upon getting the keys to my very first car, my father insisted that Teenage Me spend an afternoon on parking lawn in front of our house, learning basic car things like checking the oil level, putting on chains, and putting on a spare tire.

The first two skills, I’ve actually used! Believe me, I can read a dipstick like no one’s business. And cable chains? Well…if you need ’em, you’ll be glad you know how to put ’em on.

But seventeen years later…I’ve still never changed a flat. But it’s not for lack of trying!

You see, I have always been paranoid about having flat tires. To the point where I imagine them. See, for example: this road trip. For weeks after that, every time I approached my car, I examined every tire with squinty eyes, trying to see if they looked a little low.

And I actually got new tires put on, following that trip. That was two weeks ago. Confident in the fact that I’d made a Responsible Adult Purchase and was therefore absolved of any worry about my wheels, I stopped looking for flats every time I went for a drive. So of course, that’s when it happened.

Overnight, my brand new tire somehow became fully deflated. It was the moment I’d been waiting for…and yet somehow, was least expecting.

My first phone call was to Costco’s tire center, which was the scene of the recent purchase and installation. I asked the guy whether my flat tire would be covered under their warranty. He said it absolutely would – I just needed to bring it in.

“UM,” I said. “How am I supposed to do that? It has a TOTALLY FLAT TIRE.”

“Well…you will need to put the spare on,” he replied calmly.

“Right,” I said, as I literally felt a cartoon light bulb coming on over my head. “It has a spare tire.”

I hung up with Costco and proceeded to spend about fifteen minutes prodding around the underside of my car before realizing that this was NOT a good use of my time. Sorry, Dad.

To truncate a rather long and drawn-out story: seven hours and two tow trucks later, I finally had a new (fully inflated) tire on my car. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend all day trying to change the tire myself, because as it turns out, it doesn’t come off of my car. (Apparently, some screw thingy on the spare is stripped. We bought the car used and it’s a decade old, so…whatever. Good to know, I guess.)

I don’t really see myself as a helpless female, but yesterday, I sure felt like one. Hell…I was one. There was no way I was getting that car out of that garage without someone else’s assistance. Pathetic.

But at the same time: I am almost 32 years old. Is learning a skill that I’ll utilize one every two decades really a good use of my time and energy? Especially when I can just pay my insurance company an extra six bucks a month to take care of that shit for me?

Anyway. After dealing with all of that, I needed a beer. And this week, Spring has sprung here in Raleigh! It’s been warm and beautiful the last couple of days…the perfect weather for sampling a new seasonal.

Bluepoint’s Spring Fling Ale is a coppery American Pale Ale. This is a straightforward, slightly hoppy, thoroughly enjoyable beer. The Long Island brewery pairs German barley and American hops to create a balanced brew that is fresh and inviting. 6% ABV.

Bottom line: It’s nothing groundbreaking, but a solid drinkable beer! (Received as a gift, retails for ~$2/12 oz)

The weird thing is…when they took off my wrinkly tire, they didn’t find anything wrong with it. Like: no maliciously thick nail or shard of scrap metal poking through it. According to them, my brand-new tire just spontaneously deflated. According to them, that sometimes just happens.

Aaaaaand, we’re back to being totally paranoid about tire pressure every time we approach our vehicle.

At least it’s a way of life that I’m accustomed to.

A thousand random last times

Folks, I am at the point in the moving process where I find myself pausing constantly to reflect on the fact that it’s the VERY LAST TIME I’ll do some random meaningless thing here in Raleigh. Ever.

The thing is, I don’t consider myself a particularly sentimental person. And, really…I’ve only lived here for a couple of years, it’s not like my roots are that deep. But I still find myself pulling out the VERY LAST TIME card with disturbing frequency.

Saturday morning was the VERY LAST TIME I would ever run a 5K in Raleigh. If you recall, I wasn’t planning to race it. I stuck to my word, and cruised at 7:15 pace to a 22:25 finish, which is exactly the speed I’m hoping to run for 13.1 next weekend. And in the process, I paced a teammate to a PR, while reminding him that this was the VERY LAST TIME we’d ever run a race together, so therefore he’d better sack up and run faster. (I should be a coach…really.)

This morning, I headed out to Umstead for my VERY LAST TIME running in the park. It was a gorgeous morning and I was delighted to be out there in the crisp sunshine, even with the abrupt and crude removal of daylight savings time. I met Joe and we covered 13 easy miles. Oh yeah, it was probably my VERY LAST TIME running with him, too. So many goodbyes.

I also said goodbye to Bottle Revolution this weekend. I had damn well better be able to find a place to buy interesting beers in Atlanta.

Anyway. Here are a couple of weeks of pretty boring training data. First, two weeks back, which was Foot Injury Week:

And second, this past week, which was Flu Week:

On the bright side, hey: it’s the VERY LAST TIME I’ll ever have a strange foot injury that may or may not have been from something as silly as tying my shoes too tight! And the VERY LAST TIME I’ll ever have the Flu in North Carolina!

Knock on wood.

Maybe being sentimental isn’t such a bad thing after all…

And on the tenth day…

…I ran.

Just three easy miles, and just to test out the condition of my formerly sore foot…and the rest of my flu-ravaged body as well. Thankfully, everything felt fine. I’m still quite stuffy, but I’m confident that the worst is over.

Oddly, I feel rather calm about the situation with my upcoming half and full marathons, which are 9 days and 36 days away, respectively. I definitely didn’t plan on taking a nine day break during what should have been serious mileage-building weeks, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes you get injured, sometimes you get sick…sometimes, at the same time.

Tomorrow morning, I’m running a local 5K. I’m not going to race it all out. Mark my words: NOT GOING TO RACE IT ALL OUT. Because that would be foolish. Instead, I’m going to try to hit goal half-marathon pace (7:15-7:20) and see how that feels.

(I’m serious: if I come in here tomorrow yapping about running some 20:XX 5K in the morning, I’d like all of you to smack me, please.)

Anyway, I know my blog has been a snoozefest this week. Much like my life: I think I’ve averaged 10-11 hours of sleep each night this week. And obviously, no beers to write about. So sad.

Thanks for all of your get well wishes, and I promise to get back to writing real posts on the regular very soon!