Monthly Archives: April 2012

Five and ten

I guess you could say it was a weekend of milestones in multiples of five.

It’s been five years since my husband and I married, and ten since we graduated (from the same) college. As bummed as I was to miss out on the second edition of Vodka Heist, these simultaneous anniversaries called for a trip out to California, where both began.

So on Friday afternoon, we jetted from ATL to LAX, rented a car, and headed inland to the good old 909, the home of our alma mater. Saturday, we spent bouncing between the open bar and the various corners of our tidy parklike campus, doling out hugs and handshakes to old friends and professors, and recalling four years of shenanigans: the time we jumped in that pool? when we had a hubcap throwing contest on that lawn? how study sessions under that tree would invariably become afternoon naps?

College. Life was good.

You’d think I might have taken a few photos that day, but somehow the only event that I managed to document was the Craft Beer Class I attended in the afternoon.

Although it’s a liberal arts college, Claremont McKenna’s curriculum focuses heavily on practical education: economics, finance, politics, leadership. So naturally our beer tasting was paired with a discussion of the economics of craft brewing.

We also tasted some “dorm brew,” courtesy of some enterprising CMC seniors:

Their IPA was actually pretty decent!

On Sunday morning, having honored the ten-year milestone, we headed up to Sonoma to celebrate the five-year one. Obligatory smattering of wedding photos here.

And with that, I’m off to relax with my betrothed, taste some good Russian River wine, and maybe even seek out a Pliny or two.

Summer (Running) Break

I don’t think anyone will ever accuse me of not loving running. It’s a hobby, a lifestyle, a habit, an ingrained part of my everyday routine without which life would be very different.

But I’ll be damned if I don’t want a little break every once in a while.

I think it’s natural to finish a big event like a marathon and feel such a rush that you want to keep go, go, going. I’ve felt that pull myself, in the past. But I can honestly say that during the week following Gansett, at no point did I feel the urge to go out and run.

On Sunday, a week out, I decided to test the waters with an easy 4-miler. It felt…okay. And by that I mean it felt like exercise. Exercise isn’t always fun. Sometimes, it’s something that you endure for 35 minutes so you can get on with your day.

When thinking about what comes next, fitness-wise, I’m certain about a few things:

  • I’m not going to run another marathon until Boston 2013 (I’m assuming I won’t have a problem with entry);
  •  I don’t want to spend the next few months hating the South because it’s a terrible place to run in the summertime, because other than the horrible summer running season, I really like it here;
  • I should try to lose 5-10 pounds (of excess body fat);
  • I need to build some strength in my core and back, as they tend to be the first things that tire during any type of endurance event.

So I’m not going to stop running, but I am going to take my mileage down considerably over the next four months and focus more on other activities. I tried to do something similar last summer with my stint of HEAT classes, but in retrospect, I never fully gave myself permission to et go of the weekly mileage chase and just engage in what was most enjoyable and beneficial at the time, given the hot/humid weather.

I’m not a huge planner, but in my head this looks something like 20 miles a week of running, with several other workouts mixed in. It’s the Summer (Running) Break:

  • 2 days of vinyasa yoga (god damn you, yoga racket)
  • 1-2 days of strength training
  • 1 track workout (5-6 miles total, 400s or 800s)
  • 1 “long” run (probably not more than 10 miles, maybe less, and done more for the social aspect than anything else)
  • 1-2 other easy efforts – base run or swim or whatever I feel like

That’s 5-6 days or exercise per week with only 2-4 days of running. It’s been quite a while since I ran that infrequently. But I’m looking forward to mixing it up a bit and sitting out the most unpleasant time of the year for outdoor running around these parts.

I am also looking forward to losing this marathon chub. Seriously…I know I’ve probably been doing it wrong (I think I spent my spring eating and drinking at 70 MPW rates while actually running 40 MPW) but it seems so unfair. I just ran a distance event at a respectable pace and somehow, according to my jeans, I am in the worst shape of my life.

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

But don’t worry. Even as I cut back, I’ll never give up on my beloved beer entirely. If it’s a choice, I’d rather have beer than dessert.

This Mugshot IPA from Georgia’s local Jailhouse Brewery exceeded anything a brownie sundae could bring to the table.

Lots of hops and a smooth, just slightly floral finish made this beer a delight to drink over a plate of caprese salad and thin-crust pizza. A subtle touch of citrus gave it a fresh-squeezed flavor that can sometimes be overpowered by the hoppy and/or perfumy element in IPAs.

Bottom Line: I’d never heard of Jailhouse before, but given my experience with this IPA, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for their other offerings!  If you’re in GA, give it a shot! (Restaurant pint $5, 6.7% ABV)

Alright, time for bed! Thanks for all of your well wishes on our new home; its a lot of work, but I’m not complaining one bit. And if you’re ever in Atlanta, we’d love to have you over for a rooftop drink!

Home

Home Depot opens at 6 AM.

I never thought I’d be the type of person for whom that is relevant information.

But there I was yesterday morning, before sunrise, walking through the orange-trimmed automatic doors. Sawdust, turpentine, fertilizer…it wasn’t exactly like the scent of freshly ground coffee beans, but this mix of smells was somehow energizing nonetheless. It smelled…productive.

These people, the ones that shop at Home Depot at 6:30 AM: they are project people. Trucks loaded up with sheetrock and plywood. Siding and trimming and big buckets of paint. Small machines intended for mysterious tasks about which I couldn’t even attempt to guess.

Me? I was there to buy an extension cord to expedite the process of steam mopping all of the floors in our new home. It needed to be done before the movers showed up later that morning. I’d spent several hours cleaning there the previous day, and had finally had become disgusted with the inefficiency of having to unplug the vacuum cleaner or steam mopper every ninety seconds to move it to a new outlet.

We closed on Friday afternoon, a week early. The deal of the century, the seller’s agent had remarked as we all gathered around an attorney’s conference table, and I’m not even blowin’ smoke up your asses.

No, yes, we knew it was a great deal, we said. My fingers were sore from being tightly crossed behind my back for the last month, waiting for something to go wrong. There were a few near-misses, like the time we almost backed out because we thought it needed a new roof. (Thankfully, it doesn’t!) But it did seem too good to be true. This magnificent house had sat vacant on the market for almost a year, despite a colorful history of bidders and would-be buyers. Why us? Why now?

Something about our ridiculously lowball offer spoke to the seller, perhaps? I guess it will always be a mystery.

Mapping out the logistics of moving in to the house, I’d always assumed we would pay people to go in and clean beforehand. The house, in spite of its magnificence, was….well, it was pretty disgusting. A year of neglect will do that to even the handsomest of structures.

But when we moved up the closing date (and subsequent moving date), there was no longer time to hire cleaners. Oddly, though, I relished the idea of doing it myself. I hate cleaning, but there was something almost romantic about getting to know the house square foot by square foot, going over each and every dusty floorboard, learning every scuff and squeak of the place that’s now home.

So all weekend I swept and scrubbed and sucked up bugs: belly-up beetles turned crispy from months in a sunny windowsill, surprised little spiders crouching in corners. I cursed at unexpected cascades of dust coming off of high shelves; I scowled at stains and spots of paint that refused to succumb to my scouring.

But mostly I smiled. It still seems too good to be true. I love our house.

And to all of you Home Depot early-dwellers, you project people with your 2X4s and mysterious little machines?

Perhaps one day I’ll join your club, if you’ll have me.

The yoga racket

Last night, I made my (in)glorious return to the yoga studio. It had been over a year. After class, I emailed my friend Gesina: “I need a beer. That f*cking yoga nearly killed me.”

Zen, I am not. But since I never stretch and weight lifting bores me, I’m hoping to work on both flexibility and strength by attending this 75-minute Hot Vinyasa class a couple of times a week.

As I was sliding around on my drenched mat last night, hands and feet grasping for purchase, I thought, here is the problem with me and yoga: I’m a major sweater. Add a heated room and it becomes downright dangerous. My down dog hovers precariously on the edge of a face plant; my triangle is moments away from a painful reintroduction to the forward splits, which I haven’t been able to do since the ballet lessons of my youth.

Maybe I need a better mat? Or to slather my hands and feet with glue beforehand?

Most frustrating about this is the fact that this doesn’t appear to be a problem for anyone else in the room.

Oh yes, I know, I’m not supposed to be comparing myself to others while practicing yoga. But I do. Like, before class, when everyone is setting up their mats and waiting for the teacher to arrive. Is it just me, or is that stretch of time super awkward? I never know what to do with myself. Some people are doing complicated vinyasas on their mats (which would make me feel stupid) and others are laying down (which would make me feel lazy). So I just sit there and watch other people and wonder if I’m the only one who is thinking, when is this damn thing going to start already?

But while it sucks that everyone else’s fingers lace neatly behind their backs while mine aren’t even close to touching, or that I have to build a mountain of blocks under my palm in order to coax myself into a proper side angle, what bugs me most is that I’m poring out enough sweat to swamp the room while everyone else looks bone dry.

At one point during yesterday’s class, I was so frustrated that I swore I wasn’t going to return, despite having just plunked down $35 for a new-student-special month of unlimited classes.

Ah, but yoga. It’s a racket, I swear! After an hour of sweaty suffering, you’re instructed to lay down. Close your eyes! Take a little catnap! Here, let me put a cool lavender towel over your eyes. Just listen to this soft music and empty your mind….

What was that about drowning in a pool of my own perspiration? I’ll be back tomorrow, yoga.

But first, I definitely need a beer.

Final Gansett reflections

Three rest days later, I’m going to discuss what I think went wrong at Gansett last Saturday. And then I’ll shut up about it and move on.

First, though, I have to say that I’m not crying a river of tears about this race. For all of my disappointment, it was my second-fastest marathon. And if it had been a half, I certainly could have gone under 1:40 and would have had a good shot at beating my best grown-up time, which was a 1:38 at Shamrock last year.

But of course, it wasn’t a half. And the fact remains that I failed to achieve what should have been an attainable time goal of 3:35. Why not?

Not enough training miles. Plain and simple. Frustrating…this should be such an easy fix (why didn’t I just run more?) but of course that’s easier said than done. But I’m a firm believer now in relatively high mileage training (for me, 60-70 MPW). That’s the only thing I did differently from every other marathon I’ve run when I was training for CIM last fall, and I got a much better result out of it.

It’s funny: I’ve been racing and running marathons for so many years and I still have a lot to learn about what works and doesn’t work for me. I seem to have decent leg speed regardless of my training, which allows me to knock out pretty good speed workouts and 5Ks, but endurance is something I really have to work for. And those fast workouts and shorter races give me a false sense of confidence about my own fitness; being able to crank out 400s on the track isn’t going to help me much at mile 20 of a marathon. More mileage, please.

Weight gain. God damn you, beer.

Seriously, though, while I know I’m not overweight, I have gained a couple of pounds this spring and I do think it makes a difference in my racing. Even though I just ran a (fairly respectable, by most people’s standards) marathon, I feel soft and round. Like a big, fluffy pancake. With butter and syrup. Mmmm…

FOCUS, SHELBY. Before my next marathon (which won’t be until 2013), I should definitely pay a little more attention to what’s going on with my diet.

Weather. I’m not going to complain too much about this because I heard some other people did this other marathon recently where it was, to put it mildly, MUCH hotter. But it was warm and sunny (I heard mid-70s at the finish) in Narragansett on Saturday morning, and most of the course ran along exposed roads with no shade. Obviously it wasn’t the inferno that Boston was, but nonetheless, it wasn’t ideal.

Poor race strategy/going out too fast/crashing and burning/etc. You know what? I’m not getting too upset with myself about this one. So I went out at 3:25 pace and couldn’t bring it home. You never know unless you try.

And on that note, let’s talk about the things that went right.

Small races are great. Gansett is an extremely well-organized, friendly, and fun race. There were no hassles whatsoever; I could see the start line from our hotel window when I got out of bed an hour before the (metaphorical, as it turns out, as there wasn’t one) gun went off. No dealing with parking issues or corrals or port-o-potty lines. Smooth as butter. (On pancakes…?)

No agony of da feet. I don’t think I even thought about my feet during this race, which is probably a first. My Brooks PureFlows were light and comfy and gave me zero issues.

I’m not sore. At all. Kind of weird. Maybe it was all of those walk breaks in the later miles…

I’m still taking this week completely off of running (I need the break mentally, more than anything) and then thinking about mixing up my workout routine a little for the summer. More on that later!

Final taper week details:

And OMG! I almost forgot about the OMG contest. I counted 20 correct entries. Random.org says lucky #13 is the winner, and that is Lori! Hooray for random giveaways that I write up while day-drinking. I’ll email you, Lori!

Name That Tune: A Gansett Marathon Recap (and contest!)

It was mile 18, and I could have sworn I saw buzzards circling.

Uh…do they have buzzards in Rhode Island? Maybe they were seagulls. In my mind, though, they were prescient scavenger-birds, just waiting for my poor body to collapse on the shoulder of the barren road so they could start picking me apart.

But that was mile 18.

This is a race recap, so let’s start form the beginning, because it wasn’t always so gruesome. [And to make this a little more fun, I’m going to throw in some fitting lyrics from songs that were on my iPod. Guess them correctly and you could win an OMG Prize*!]

Gathered around the whitewashed sandwich board with a big “S” painted on it, everyone was chatting. The starting line of yesterday’s Gansett Marathon felt like a bunch of runner-friends getting ready for a relaxed long run on a beautiful summer morning. Then suddenly someone shouted “GO” and we were off.

Name That Tune #1: I can go forever like an old-fashioned country mouse.

Miles 1-6: 7:47, 7:40, 7:39, 7:29, 7:44, 7:50

The first few miles of a marathon always feel easy, but damn…this felt EASY. Yes, I knew I was going out too fast. I kept telling myself to slow down, but I was tucked in to a nice little pack of women (which, incidentally, included at least three other bloggers – Karen, Celia, and Sarah). Behind the pack was…well, it looked like nothing. Pace be damned. I wasn’t quite ready to be running all alone, and hey – maybe I did have a 3:25 in me? You never know unless you try.

Name That Tune #2: Got a whole six pack on ice but I’m ridin’ on the hottest wheels.

Miles 7-12: 7:48, 7:40, 7:52, 7:59, 7:56, 7:57

I was running on borrowed time…both figuratively and literally.

The pack began to thin and eventually spread into a loose string of runners. Gansett is a two-loop course: the first 16-mile loop cuts wide around the far end with a couple of little lollipop turns, while the second 10-mile loop cuts across those, but otherwise follows the first loop step for step. This is relevant because when you’re at mile 9, you’re also seeing the mile marker for, say, mile 21.

And let me tell you: when you’re going up a long, gradual, exposed incline at mile 10-12 and you’re constantly being reminded that this is also going to be miles 22-24, well…that kind of sucks.

Anyway. I was still feeling good, but starting to wonder if the wheels were going to come off at some point. I hadn’t trained hard enough to be running this well. It seemed too good to be true.

Name That Tune #3: He summoned all of his strength in the climb. It suffered all of his strength in the fall.

Miles 13-18: 7:49, 7:58, 8:10, 8:15, 8:45, 8:56

I came through the half around 1:42. That’s a full six minutes faster than I ran the Tobacco Road Half a couple of weeks ago – and two minutes faster than I came through the half mark at CIM last December. On pace for a 3:24. I still sort of believed I might be able to make that happen.

And then I hit THE WALL. I know, it’s cliche. But I did. At mile 16. Which is way too early to find yourself slamming into an invisible net of pain and suffering. Hello, lack of mileage. I quickly went from feeling strong and upbeat to being totally pissed off.

Name That Tune #4: Your misery and hate will kill us all. So paint it black and take it back…

Miles 18-26: Pace unknown

I was running along the water, starting the second loop. Well…running, and some walking. My legs were toast; I’d burned them out on the first half, having taken a gamble on being in better shape than I thought I was. It was a bet that I’d lost. It was over.

So I decided to shut down my Garmin and just enjoy running along this picturesque  New England beach. I tried to bring it full circle. That calm feeling I’d had at the start, of just being out for a nice long run on a beautiful day…couldn’t I recapture that now?

I won’t pretend I didn’t spend much of the hour that followed wishing the whole thing were over, but at least I wasn’t berating myself with every step. I don’t know what kind of pace I was running (and, ahem, walking through the water stations) but it was definitely slow. I was just going for the finish at that point.

Official finish time: 3:42:47

Which isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things, but is certainly slow enough to make me think twice about my training this spring (and plans for the rest of the summer/fall…)

I’ll reflect more on that in a few days. Right now, I’m focused on cheering for Megan and AR and Pat and Lisa and John and Sarah and Tim and everyone else who has decided to brave tomorrow’s heat….

GOOD LUCK, Boston runners!

*OMG CONTEST: One entry per current answer, don’t google it unless you’re a cheater but the OMG PRIZE is awesome, trust me. You can even make up answers and I’ll accept them as long as they’re entertaining.

Good to go

Final score: me – 1, escolar – 0. Whew.

And I’m all packed up and ready to head north…

(I’ve never purchased a home decorating magazine before. I think this means I’m officially old and boring. Hoping for some inspiration, since we’re going to be facing a very empty house in a couple of weeks…which is a fun problem to have, but overwhelming nonetheless!)

It’s funny. I ran my very first marathon in Rhode Island: the Ocean State Marathon in 2000. I was a junior in college and studying for a semester in Washington DC, and never having set foot on the East Coast before, I was somehow under the illusion that Providence was a mere stone’s throw from our nation’s capital.

Needless to say, I was not a geography major.

In the twelve years since, I’ve run ten more marathons, but I’ve never repeated a state. Until now! How weird and random that it’s Rhode Island, a tiny state in which I’ve never lived and have rarely even visited.

Gansett will also be, by far, the smallest marathon I’ve ever done. I am seed 26 in a field of 56 female runners. That is a SMALL race. And although the qualification standards make for a fast and tight field, I expect I’ll be running alone quite a bit…so although I don’t usually race with music, I’ve packed my iPod.

Anyway. If you happen to be out in Narragansett on Saturday morning, I’ll be in a royal blue singlet and black shorts.

Off to the airport! Time to get this thing over with so I can relax in Boston for the rest of the weekend!

Don’t eat this three days before a marathon

Last night, I met my friend Gesina for dinner at a casual little sushi joint down the street. Over bottles of Kirin Light, we caught up on important matters such as her new haircut (totally hot), my lack of a job (starting to get annoying), and race week tapering (she’s running a half this weekend, and of course I have my full on Saturday).

And then we got down to the business of fish and roll selection. We are girls who like to eat.

Spicy Tuna Roll, Wasabi Dynamite Roll, Asparagus Tempura Roll. A few pieces of sushi – or sashimi? No, sushi…we need pre-race carbs! How about one more roll…

The list of rolls was long, and eventually I gave up on reading each and every description and started just scanning for money ingredients. Like eel sauce.

“How about the White Roll?” I suggested. It sounded downright decadent. “Salmon, cream cheese, tempura crunch, and eel sauce wrapped with escloar.”

I paused for a second and thought about that last one. “Wait, escolar…isn’t that, like, lettuce?”

“No, you’re thinking of something with a similar name,” said Gesina.

“Oh yeah. Escarole,” I agreed. “Escolar is…a fish?”

“I think so,” she said.

And being that we live in the world of smart phones, the mystery fish was immediately googled. G chuckled as her phone loaded the page.

ESCOLAR: THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS FISH,” she read.

Say what?

Escolar is the most controversial fish that you are likely to find in your fish market,” she continued. “This firm, white fleshed fish as an incredibly rich flavor, often described as succulent, or a fattier version of swordfish. Why so rich? It turns out that – CRAP!”

Apparently, the phone’s battery was on the fritz; its screen faded to black, leaving the big question unanswered: WHY SO RICH indeed?

I briefly considered digging my own phone out of my purse to continue the research, but it seemed like more fun to be left in suspense. “Dangerous” or not, it sounded tasty. We placed our order and went back to beer sipping and chatting.

As it turns out: escolar is indeed delicious.

The whole thing was pretty amazing, actually, but it was the melt-in-your-mouth buttery white fish on the outside that put it over the top. It looked and tasted like the generic “white tuna” I’ve had many times at sushi joints, but a little fattier.

Later that night, I was lying in bed when my phone chirped. I picked it up to see an email from Gesina with a link to an article and two words: “Haha! YUM!”

[source]

And there we had our answer. WHY SO RICH? Because apparently escolar gives you the shits. And not just any shits. ORANGE, OILY SHITS.

The article is equal parts horrifying and hilarious, and the comments are even better: definitely worth a click through. However, as a summary: the escolar’s diet is high in something called “wax esters,” which it cannot digest, and neither can most people. So they come out the other end intact, creating something called “keriorrhoea,” which is just like diarrhea but even more fun, as you discharge waxy orange grease instead of regular poop.

Fortunately, neither of us has experienced this yet.

I’ve got a couple of things working in my favor here. For one thing, now that I know what it is, I’m certain I’ve eaten this fish before (as “white tuna”) and never had any ill effects. And I’ve eaten all sorts of weird and sketchy food while traveling (as has G – in fact, a few years ago we spent a summer bumming around Cambodia and Vietnam together, feasting on fried crickets and street meat and all sorts of unrefrigerated, unpasteurized, bacteria-ridden delicacies) so hopefully this “wax ester” business ain’t no thing to my stomach.

Still. NOT the smartest thing to consume three days before a big race. Although I feel totally fine (and based on most of the comments in that article, I would have started feeling the symptoms by now if they were going to present themselves), I’d be lying if I said a little part of me wasn’t on Keriorrhoeawatch this morning.

That fish was delicious, though. It would almost be worth it, even with the alleged after effects. Assuming I didn’t have a marathon to run, of course.

I guess we’ll see how this comes out.

Pun intended.

 

Answers

I love you guys for indulging me on last week’s request for NAQs. Or I guess as they should be called: AOBIBYTQs. Asked Only Because I Begged You To Questions.

Here we go, in the order received….

From Jess:

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Somewhere with a combination of exquisite natural beauty and delicious food. I’m a city person (I loved living in NYC!) but ultimately, I’d be happy living somewhere more remote as long as the food scene was good.

Jackson, Wyoming comes to mind. Or the south of France. Or this little coastal town in Vietnam called Hoi An. Money and/or practicality are no object here, right?

If you could only eat 1 thing for a whole week, without feeling sick or getting fat, what would you eat?

Pad Thai.

Besides running, what is your favourite hobby?

Does drinking count as a hobby? I think it does.

Runners up: writing…and traveling, and hiking, and skiing. If I could figure out a way to get the writing to pay for the others, that would be delightful.

Are you planning on having children? Every blogger seems to be popping ‘em out at the moment!

Probably…although we’re not in any rush, and I worry that a child would be highly incompatible with my extremely self-centered lifestyle. Although being pregnant would provide great blog fodder, yes? THIS WEEK, BABY IS THE SIZE OF A QUARTER POUNDER WITH CHEESE!

From Caitlin:

How do you scale mileage when training for a marathon vs. half? Longest run, pace, variety of workouts, etc? Do you see value in cross training?

That is a tough question and obviously I’m not a coach or anything, but for me personally, proper training for a full marathon means a lot more miles than equivalent training for a half. I don’t know if it’s twice as much, but it’s up there. I think a lot of people train for marathons by simply adding in a progressively longer long run each week, and you can certainly do that (I’ve done it!) but it’s probably not going to get you in PR shape (it certainly never did for me).

Cross training, in my world, has its place. It doesn’t really have a place in a proper marathon training cycle…unless I’m injured or something, that time and effort is better spent running. But during the “off season” or for just general keeping in shape, sure.

How do you entertain yourself on long solo runs? (I ask this because once I get over 6-7 miles, I want to DIE of boredom.)

I get a lot of things during long runs – tired, cranky, thirsty, angry – but actually, bored isn’t generally one of them. I always have a little dialogue going with myself in my head and if I’m running in a place where there are lots of people around, I’ll make up little stories about them. (They’re often unflattering stories. Sorry, random people.)

I am, however, guilty of doing the “math in my head” thing, especially during track workouts. As in: “200 meters down, 2800 to go! Hey, that’s 1/15 of the workout done!” This is not a helpful way to think about things.

What is your favorite type of beer and why?

Overall, IPA. I rarely have an IPA that I don’t like! Other types of beer may be better  in certain situations (like it’s hard to beat a hazy wheat on a hot day, or a boozy winter warmer while cozying up to a fire), but IPA is delicious any time.

From Marie:

WRITE ABOUT YOUR VAGINA!

…and Melissa:

Write about other people’s vaginas!

Here is a photo of the plastic orchid that came with my generically furnished rental apartment.

Tee hee. I’m so clever.

From Brii:

Write more about how you started running in the first place.

Let’s see…I started running when I was 13. I was going in to high school that fall and I desperately wanted a letter jacket. So I looked at my options. Any sport involving balls was out; I was (and still am) afraid of the ball and have the reflexes of a tree sloth on Ambien.

That left swimming and cross country. The swimmers had practice in the morning before school which sounded pretty horrible so I went out for cross country instead.

I did okay my freshman year. I think I ran something around 24 minutes for our first 3-mile race. I wasn’t the fastest person on the team, or even good enough to make the varsity cut, but it seemed to come to me easily so I stuck with it.

Each year, I got a little faster. By senior year, I was pretty much living and breathing running and seeing times that started with 18. I set quite a few PRs that year…many of which still stand today.

I continued running competitively in college (DIII), but I never had the kind of focus that I did my last year of high school…and while I ran well, I probably didn’t live up to the potential that my coach saw when he recruited me. Oh well. I had fun in college. :)

And so…I’ve pretty much been running ever since. The longest I’ve gone without running has been a couple of months here and there for injury (of which I haven’t had many, knock on wood!) or because I was traveling. There hasn’t been a year that I haven’t raced at least a half marathon.

Sometimes I feel like I should have a better “story.” It seems like every other blogger has their OMG RUNNING JOURNEY, but I don’t really…it’s just something that I’ve been doing for almost two decades now. I can’t really imagine life without it!

From Megan:

Can you do another beer school series, or something like it? I loved those posts!

Booze School! I kinda stopped doing those because I was afraid they came off as know-it-all-y, but if people liked them, I can bring them back! I really enjoy learning about and researching types of beer/wine, especially ones that are unusual or new to me. (The hands-on part of the research is my favorite. Obviously.)

From Kimra:

Beers you love most/first beer you ever loved?

The first “real” beer I ever took a liking to was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In my first post-college apartment, there was always a pack in the fridge!

As for beers I love most, of course, that’s harder. Nowadays, Great Divide’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale is probably my favorite Pale Ale. In the IPA family, it’s hard to top the Pliny the Elder (which I enjoyed when I was out in CA last December) or Dogfish 120 Minute, but those are elusive beasts. For a more readily-available IPA, Bell’s Two-Hearted is excellent, as is Dogfish’s 60 (or 90) Minute.

Why run a marathon (vs speedy shorter distances that don’t require turning over your whole life to 20-milers)(can you guess what I’ve been thinking about lately)?

I honestly don’t have a good answer on that one. I cannot wait for my marathon to be over so I can spend the summer/fall focusing on shorter stuff.

I also think that the longer distances are a security blanket for a lot of people. The longer the race, the more credit you get for finishing as opposed to finishing well…and in some bizarre way that takes the pressure off. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that even if you finish last, you’ve done something that most people consider pretty hardcore. In that regard, training for and racing a fast 5K can be a lot more scary than running a marathon; you’re putting yourself out there and there’s no real value in “just finishing.” There’s a real chance of failure.

Favorite/least favorite track workouts (I like stealing other people’s track workouts).

Favorite: Classic 12 X 400. I like that I can break the workout in to thirds and think of it like each mile of a 5K.

Least favorite: mile repeats. Ugh.

Possible controversy: Do you OMG! stop your watch while on training runs, and if so, can you still count your overall pace? What if it’s a stoplight vs. stopping to buy a week’s worth of groceries?

I do. It’s not my fault I got stopped at a stoplight!

In general, of course, I try to minimize the number of stops I have to make, especially if I am trying to do a quality or a pace-focused workout. That’s why I always try to go to a greenway or a continuous park loop or something when I do a tempo run.

As for long runs…unless you have your own personal on-the-go aid station set up, it’s hard to avoid making a quick stop to drink/refill water, eat Gu, etc. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stopping your watch while you do that. As long as you get moving again as soon as you’ve done what you need to do, I don’t think it will matter on race day.

Grocery shopping, elaborate photography sessions, yoga breaks…all things I personally try to avoid while I’m running. But that’s just me.

And, since you’re thinking about maybe doing things other than running for a bit, what are some non-running/cross-training activities that you have previously tried and dropped like a hot potato?

Body Pump. You want to talk about boring? Give me a solo twenty-miler any day. I went a few times when I lived in NYC and the whole thing just seemed so contrived and predictable.

Cycling. It’s scary and it’s a pain in the ass – both figuratively and literally. I actually do own a good road bike and shoes and stuff and if I had a group to go with, I’d give it another shot, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s just not something I’m going to make the effort to do on my own.

Pilates. Meh. If I’m going to spend an hour writhing around on the floor, I’d rather be doing something more entertaining.

Heavy weight lifting. A few years ago, I worked with a trainer and for several months focused on strength training with lower reps and heavier weights. I actually didn’t hate it, but my running pace suffered, so I eventually backed off. And I don’t really enjoy lifting on my own, so I don’t do it as much as I probably should.

That’s it for this edition of AOBIBYTQs. Thanks for playing, guys!

The Gansett Goal Post

I’ve been avoiding thinking about this for the last few weeks.

Thirteen weeks ago, I laid out my Gansett training plan – to use the term loosely:

I don’t really have a training plan; I’m basically going to do what I did when I trained for CIM, just a little farther and a little faster. Because 3:29 is fantastic, but I think I might be able to do a little better.

Well, I ran neither further nor faster in the weeks that followed. And I do think that I might be able to do better someday, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this Saturday.

The thing is, I’ve just been rather disinterested in marathoning this spring. I wouldn’t say burned out, exactly – just ho-hum. Like, I don’t really feel like I’ve been tapering these last couple of weeks, although my mileage has definitely dropped…

…but I don’t feel antsy about it. No taper tantrums, no annoying Taperworm nagging at me. I’m just running less, and that suits me just fine because I feel like I have a million things I’d rather be doing.

That may sound like a good thing, but I also feel out of shape. And I never had that build-up where I felt like I was really putting the work in. The whole training cycle has just been…meh. Forgettable, mediocre, et cetera.

I remember last fall, when I hit 70 MPW for the first time…it felt awesome. I really did want to get back there this spring, because as backwards as it sounds, I think that I actually start feeling better when I hit a certain training volume. I’m not sure whether that number is 60 or 70 weekly miles, but I do know that I definitely did not get there this time around.

Like just about anything else, higher volume running can be broken down in to a series of small decisions. To get there, you have to get your butt out the door that many more times each week.

And I guess that’s what it comes down to, for me, this training cycle: I didn’t. I ran almost every day, I logged forty-mile weeks, and I put my requisite long runs in…but when it came time to sack up for a mid-week long run or a double, I shrugged and declined.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure I’ll get across the finish line. But I don’t think the 3:25 mark that I had in my head last January is a realistic possibility.

So about that goal. Let’s call it 3:35. Over the years, I’ve run many marathons in the 3:40s and 3:50s on worse training than what I’ve done here this spring, so I should at least be able to do a little better than that. Assuming I don’t f*&k up.

Sounds reasonable, right?