Monthly Archives: July 2012

My three minutes of fame

When I was in elementary school, I was a Camp Fire kid. Probably because I was not cool enough to be a Girl Scout.

I wore my royal blue vest (distinguished from something one would wear to greet customers at Wal-Mart only by the plethora of merit patches stitched on it) to camping trips and baseball games and nursing homes, ostensibly learning to be an Independent Young Woman and a Good Citizen and all of that.

Without a doubt, though, the most exciting thing my Camp Fire troop ever did was to appear on the Ranger Charlie and Roscoe Show.

Unless you grew up in the Seattle area in the late eighties, you are probably like: huh-the-what? It was a locally-produced children’s show featuring a perky, permed “ranger” (Charlie) and a scraggly raccoon puppet (Roscoe). Each episode included a different handful of local kids who would sit on a bench and nod and fake-laugh as Charlie and Roscoe bantered about fire safety or stranger danger or whatever.

(That’s not me, but it could have been. Except that my blue vest had way more merit patches. Photo credit: Seattle P.I.)

Anyway. It was pretty lame, but was I going to turn down a chance to have my smiling face broadcast all over western Washington? No, I most definitely was not.

In fact, I was going to take it one step further.

Before the taping started, the producer asked for volunteers to read the pre-commercial-break script. I nearly jumped out of my blue vest. The camera would be ON ME AND I WOULD BE TALKING. I would practically be a movie star. The producer must have been impressed by my extreme enthusiasm, as another girl and I were selected to do the reading together.

We were given our lines and asked to memorize them. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but it was something like:

Me: “What will Roscoe will do next?”

Other Girl: “We’ll find out after this break!”

Really stupid and simple. But we practiced at least fifty times. By the time the taping started, those lines were running in a continuous loop in my head. I could think of nothing else as Roscoe and the Ranger went through the first segment of the show.

When it was time, Other Girl and I were positioned for our close-up: they sat me right in front of the clubhouse, in the seat usually occupied by the good Ranger herself. My heart was pounding. On cue, I recited my line.

And I nailed it. But then…

I couldn’t stop myself. It just came out. I don’t know if it was nerves or the fact that I’d been internally screaming those two sentences at myself for the last forty-five minutes, but I totally jacked Other Girl’s line. And stupidly answered the stilted question I myself had posed just seconds before.

It was my moment of fame and I had totally fucked it up.

Lucky for me, life gives second chances.

That is the September 2012 issue of Runner’s World magazine, and THAT IS ME. Second one down in the column of screenshots on the left!

Apparently, keeping my cool in a print interview was easier than reciting lines in front of a camera. Many thanks to Jen for including me in her piece!

If you happen to be here from the article: welcome! I will assume you’ve already clicked on that Races tab to figure out where I fall on the speed scale.

A little more about me: I’ve been running more or less continuously since I was 14, which was 18 years ago (yikes) and competed in cross-country and track in both high school and college (DIII).  I did my first marathon when I was 20 and have done 10 more since, along with countless half marathons and other road races.

At the moment, I’m on a break between training cycles. I can’t handle big mileage in the southern summer heat, so I’ve been limiting running to 20-25 MPW and focusing on improving my strength and body composition (via boot camp, weightlifting, and changing my diet a little). As soon as September hits, I’ll be increasing mileage in preparation for the Atlanta Half Marathon (on Thanksgiving) and next spring’s Boston Marathon (assuming a six-minute cushion is good enough to get me in).

In addition to running, I like food and beer and wine and blog about those things regularly. (Well…a little less regularly now that I’m not running as much.) I also tell rambly illustrated stories (case in point, above). And sometimes I just write about whatever is going on in my life. Writing is what I do, and I hope to someday do with enough quantity and quality to call it a career. (Although, for me, blogging is just a fun outlet…I don’t make any money for this crap. Obviously.)

Here is an obligatory photo, since the one at the top of the page is kinda old:

The beer definitely wins this photo. Yum, Arctic Panzer Wolf.

I guess I’d better wrap this up before my three minutes of fame are over.

And to Other Girl, my former troop-mate, whoever you were and whatever you are doing now: I’m sorry for stealing your line. Truly, I am. I hope you’ve gotten a second chance at fame too. You deserve it way more than I do.

Two strong beers and a weak one

Lately, I’ve faced a daily choice of studying GRE math problems or pulling weeds in the (now thoroughly moqsuito-treated) yard. I’ve been opting for the latter…and actually enjoying it. Perhaps I have a future in manual labor. My college professors would be so proud.

Also:

Still boot-camping and running around 20-25 miles a week. That doesn’t make for very interesting workout posts, so you can just take my word for it.

Still eating lots of protein and (mostly) avoiding shitty carbs. I’ll do a post about that at some point…still deciding what I think about it.

Still not really dropping any weight and my body fat/muscle percentages have hit a standstill (at 22% and 40%, respectively), but that’s okay. I’m pretty happy with how I look and feel at this point. I’m going to continue the whole boot-camp-and protein-focused-diet thing through August, at which point it will be time to start thinking about doing some real running again.

Anyway. Let’s talk about beer? We’ll start with something easy:

(I was sure I must’ve reviewed Magic Hat’s Elder Betty in the past, but I can’t find anything in my horribly organized “archives.” Go figure.)

The fruity wheat. Not my favorite style of beer, yet somehow it keeps finding its way in to my fridge. And from there, it’s a short leap to a frosty glass on a sunny porch.

There are certainly worse ways to spend a summer afternoon.

The body’s a little thin and the berry thing is gimmicky, but overall the Elder Betty is an enjoyable beer. I prefer my wheat beers a bit more on the thick and hazy side, but I’d buy this to serve at a party. It would have broad appeal and be more interesting than Bud Light or whatever. At 5.5% ABV, it’s a great choice for day drinking.

Bottom Line: Nothing earth-shattering, but enjoyable. (Purchased at Mac’s Beer and Wine, $11/6)

From a sessiony wheat, let’s move on to a boozy Belgian:

I speak from experience: if you’ve had a horrible day, sipping a glass of the super strong and slightly sweet Trappistes Rochefort 10 will make it better.

The Trappist monks at the Abbey de Notre Dame de Saint-Remy in Rochefort, Belgium brew just three beers: Rochefort 6 (a Belgian Strong ale), Rochefort 8 (a Dubbel), and the Rochefort 10 (a Quad).

I haven’t tried the 6 or the 8, but I’ll say this about the 10: it is out-of-this-fucking-world good.

I picked up this bottle several months ago. I carefully packed it and moved it with me to Atlanta, and it’s been sitting in my fridge ever since. Just waiting for the kind of crappy day that would make me be all like, DAMN IT ALL TO HELL, I’M DRINKING THE EXPENSIVE ONE!

And it really did make my day 3000% better. It’s that good.

After pouring a rich brown, the first thing you notice about this beer is its smell: like earthy candy, with dried cherries and molasses and caramel and chocolate-covered raisins, but the kind from an expensive chocolate shop and not, like, Raisinettes or whatever. Before I even took a drink, I could tell there was a lot going on in this beer.

The flavor echoed the aroma, with a perfect punch of boozy heat (surprisingly gentle, considering the 11.3% ABV) at the end of each sip. Sweet, but not at all sticky. With a nice thick body and such wonderfully complex flavors, it was very much like drinking dessert. I savored every drop in that bottle.

Bottom line: YES X 1000. One of the best beers I’ve ever consumed. A bit tricky to find and definitely pricy, but worth buying if you see it. Ages well. (Purchased at Tasty Beverage, Raleigh NC, $9/11 oz)

And because I’m apparently trying to get the most bang for my buck these days, here’s another strong one:

A whole-cone Imperial IPA from Sierra Nevada: the Hoptimum.

Side note: I’m starting to have trouble keeping track of all of these hoppy wordplay beer names. Hopsecutioner. Hoptical Illusion. Hoptimus Prime. Hop NotchModus Hoperandi. ApriHop. And I’m sure there are many more that I can’t recall. Cute and clever, but also feeling rather overdone. Enough!

Anyway. I forgive Sierra for the cheeky name because the Hoptimum is a solid beer.

It is, of course, very hoppy and puckery. Its IBU rating clocks in at a hefty 100, beating the brewery’s other IPA offerings (Celebration Ale at 65 IBU; Torpedo at 70). But stick around past the first bite of bitterness and you’ll be rewarded with a nice balance of pine, citrus and caramel flavors which linger through a dry finish. The high alcohol content (10.2% ABV) is noticeable, but not unpleasant.

Bottom line: An excellent choice for hop lovers, and certainly a worthy contender in the arena of ever bigger, bolder, and boozier IPAs.  (Purchased at Greene’s, $10/4.)

Writing this post has made me very thirsty. That’s a dangerous thing to be, mid-afternoon, mid-week.

I’d better get back to that yard work.

Two things I don’t get

Forgive me for being cranky this week. Thunderstorms have been taking a daily crap on my outdoor workout plans…and also, apparently, pouring water into the walls of our house.

Oh hey kitty…I put that there to keep the floor dry, not to collect cat hair, but whatever floats your boat. Or should I say your freighter, Sir Fatty Pants.

So I’m dealing with the roofers again and throwing around terms like “reworked scuppers” and “proper flashing” and “commercial grade sealant that could hold back the Hoover dam” and “tell me where to send this painfully large check.”

Ugh.

Also, I was attempting to do some yard work yesterday (or rather: chop down enormous weeds with Home Depot Garden Center’s version of a machete, because the landscaping fund has now been swallowed by the roofers) and acquired no fewer than 50 mosquito bites. And I’m one of those lucky people who is super allergic, I guess. So basically, I’m an itchy and irritable mess.

Whine, bitch, moan…I know. Life could be worse. But that doesn’t mean it’s not taking every ounce of willpower I have not to rake my fingernails across my welt-pocked calves right now. Oh god, how good would that feel? No, no, nooooo….

Um, where were we?

Oh right, I was going to complain about a couple of (rather meaningless) things that I don’t get.

1) Color Runs. 

(sources: top, Color Me Rad; bottom, The Color Run)

So as I understand it, you pay a bunch of money to walk/jog an untimed 5K, get pelted with dyed cornstarch, and finish looking like a clown has sharted on you.

Am I the only one who is thinking: WTF?

The marketing of these events seems to be a feel-good, happy-dippy take on the hard-core, obstacle/mud run trend (“look how filthy we are! our clothes are ruined!”) but without, you know, the actual obstacles or running.

“The happiest 5K on the planet!” claims The Color Run. “When Zoloft and balloon animals can’t seem to raise your spirits, the best way to brighten your life is to run the Color Me Rad 5K!” counters its competitor.

I get that these things are perhaps aimed at non-runners. People who need a gimmick or a “wheeeeeee, togetherness!” experience in order to motivate themselves to complete 3.1. And I’m all for encouraging people to exercise. But I still just don’t understand how making a total pointless mess out of yourself, your clothing, and a public space accomplishes that.

And these things sell out. Color me baffled.

But if you’ve been shut out of your local color run, feel free to send your $40 to me. You can come to my house and walk around my yard and I’ll squirt food coloring-tinted vodka at you with my Super Soaker.

Actually, never mind the registration fee…I’ll do it for free.

2) Brooks Ambassadors.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you probably know that Brooks have been my shoe brand of choice for a while. I’ve run in and (and blogged about) their traditional trainers (Ghost, Ravenna, Adrenaline), trail shoes (AdrenalineGTX), racing flats (ST4 and ST5), and of course the PureProject, as the PureFlow (pictured above) is currently my preferred everyday running shoe.

While I’ll continue to sing praises about the people that make the shoes, I’m giving the side eye to Brooks’ marketing department on this whole Run Happy Ambassador thing that seems to be popping up all over blogs lately.

Bloggers getting in bed with brands is annoying to begin with, but it’s a thousand times worse when it’s obvious that the blogger (1) doesn’t know shit about what they’re trying to review and (2) is parroting (and misinterpreting) marketing materials that the company is feeding them.

Take just one example. Really, Brooks? This the sort of post you want as the face of your brand?

Never mind the misguided discussion of running mechanics (uh, “toe-striking?”). Unless Brooks has drastically changed their PureProject strategy in the last few months, it’s not a “minimalist” or “barefoot” shoe line. (In fact, when the line was launched, the literature Brooks provided to running store employees on the PureProject pointedly discouraged the use of those words when selling them.) But OMG! They come in bright neon colors, y’all!

Page views > relevant information and accuracy.

And yes, I know it sounds like I’m a FATTY JEALOUS HATER and I’ll freely admit that I am. In the past, I’ve approached Brooks’ PR people about doing a shoe giveaway for you guys (not even asking for a free pair for myself! just to give away!) and was turned down. It kind of stung; I know my blog is small, but I’ve given Brooks quite a bit of (free!) space on this blog over the last couple of years, simply because I genuinely love their product and I like writing about running shoes.

I’m sure there are Run Happy Ambassadors out there who know what they’re taking about and can competently represent the brand, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s kind of a joke.

Anyway. As expected, this post turned into a rambly rant. Who needs some calamine lotion and a cocktail? THIS GIRL.

Much more effective than dyed cornstarch.

Fire hydrant fury

I missed yesterday’s track workout.  About an hour before I was supposed to leave, I started feeling migraine-y and if there is one thing I don’t mess with, it’s migraines.

Instead of running, I snuggled on my bed and watched crazy storm clouds dance with the skyline. Maybe it was a good day to take a pass anyway.

This morning, I woke up with every intention of doing a nice little treadmill tempo to make up for the missed speed session. But when I got out of bed, it came to my attention that my ass was, in fact, on fire.

Okay, not really, but holy hell delayed-onset muscle soreness! At Tuesday’s boot camp, we did these slightly embarrassing fire hydrant things. You know what I’m talking about.

It’s awesome that we do these in the middle of a crowded public park. I’m sure the after-work picnicking-and-frisbee-tossing set appreciates it.

I’ve been doing this boot camp for six weeks now, and I have to say that (public humiliation factor aside) I’m rather enjoying it. I’ll write a complete review at some point (right now I’m at six weeks, and I think I’ll continue through twelve weeks) but I have no doubt that I’ve become stonger.

(Photo credit: Ramped Revolution Fitness.)

Those damn ropes are heavy and I know that the first time I tried this, I barely got them past my boobs. But now, I own the ropes around the tree. For whatever that matters. Which is probably doesn’t.

I’m a few days late, but here were last week’s workouts:

That average pace was a little surprising to me – at first. Generally speaking, as I’ve cut my mileage way down this summer, my pace has improved a bit. But this last week I didn’t do a track session (because of Peachtree), and aside from that race (which was pretty slow, for me) all I did was super easy mileage. Not hard to get to an 9+ minute average.

Looking at body comp, I continued to make small moves in the right direction:

It may not seem like much, but I’m pretty happy with my progress. I no longer have a flabby gut. And I think most of it is due to a higher protein diet and minimizing shitty carbs (which I’m officially terming “carbage”) but I’ll write more about that later.

And for the record? My ass is still on fire.

Salmon of death

I was rather pleased with myself last night. After a particularly hard boot camp, I came home and made this gorgeous, delicious, and (most importantly) healthy dinner.

Salmon (this salmon, to be exact), asparagus, sweet potatoes. I plopped down in front of the TV with my plate and a big glass of water and proceeded to happily (if a bit smugly) enjoy each bite, thinking about how a few months ago I probably would have gone for a frozen pizza and a pint of beer when eating late after a tough workout.

As I speared one of the last flakes of fish and dredged it through the remaining sauce, I felt a little prickle in the back of my throat. So I swallowed the sweet potato I’d been chewing and chased it with a big glug of water.

But that didn’t help. It felt like I’d taken an unlatched safety pin down the hatch.

My first instinct was to cough. Hard.

I turned around and stood (I’d been sitting on the floor) so that I could, you know, get my back in to it. Or something. My husband gaped in shock as I stood there hacking, hinged at the hip over our brand new white sofa.

By now it was clear that I had a rusty nail stuck in my tonsils and no amount of coughing was going to dislodge it. Without my really thinking about it, my body engaged its next line of defense and began to move stuff back up from the other direction.

I think my husband knew this was coming before I did, because he sprinted to the kitchen for a bowl and returned just in time for me to grab it and deposit my entire gorgeous, delicious, and healthy dinner.

But this fucking thing – which was now a giant prehistoric wooly-mammoth-slaying spear – was still stuck in my throat.

At this point, things got a little gross. I apologize if this makes you squeamish.

With the threat of upchucking out of the way, the gag reflex was far less threatening. So I reached down my throat and, using my thumb and index finger like a pair of clumsy tweezers, probed around the squishy maze of tonsil and trachea and uvula until I grasped the world’s smallest salmon bone and triumphantly pulled it out.

“Look at this!” I called to my husband, who was standing five feet away regarding me with a saucer-eyed mix of concern, horror, and awe.

We marveled at the fact that such a tiny piece of bone could cause such drama. I said something about how I had a newfound respect for bears, eating fish straight out of the river and all. My husband noted that Gollum must have been, in this respect, a total bad ass.

“Also, I’m really glad you didn’t puke on the couch,” he confessed.

I nodded. This was understandable. It is a brand new white couch.

“That was scary, but I’m really upset that I parted with all of that food,” I admitted. Wild salmon isn’t cheap.

So that’s my PSA for today: careful with them bones. I had never experienced anything like this, but it was sufficiently frightening and gross that I’ll definitely be more cautious when eating fish from now on.

Since I had to replace those lost dinner calories somehow, I ate a chocolate-dipped vanilla bar.

Junk food. It may kill you in the long run, but at least my ice cream has never tried to choke me.

RIP, my endurance

All of this strength training and boot camp-ing has been great for my strength and foot speed. Sub-90-second quarters ain’t no thing, and on Monday I did 30 (!) consecutive push-ups.

However, it has brutally murdered my endurance.

Okay, I know. I’m sure it’s the lack of mileage that’s the real culprit. But that’s not what I was thinking at mile four of yesterday’s Peachtree Road Race 10K when I was whining dramatically to myself about how this race was soooooo looooooong and if I’m in such good shape why am I toooooootally dying right now?

Damn that SAID principle.

I mean, I kind of expected to run a shitty time yesterday. But I didn’t expect it to hurt so much.

The morning started off uneventfully. Balance Bar, Gatorade, comically packed MARTA train car. Had a solid 45 minutes to kill before the 7:30 AM start, so I did a 15-minute warm-up and hit the plastic potties (for which there were shockingly no lines!) about six times.

In my start corral, I ended up chatting with a couple of guys and totally neglected to start my Garmin before we took off. Whoops. So I guess I’m running this one by feel, I thought.

The crowds weren’t too bad and there was plenty of excellent people watching, so I cruised along at what I imagined to be mid-7 pace.

Somewhere in the first couple of miles, a familiar face strode up! I don’t know how Ms. Blondie managed to find me, being that we have never actually met, but we’ve known each other online for a few years so it was great to finally connect. We chatted for a bit and she informed me that we were running around 7:10 pace.

At which point I regretfully stated that if that were indeed the case, I needed to slow the hell down. I wished her good luck and pulled back a bit.

A few minutes later, on the long stretch of downhill approaching the infamous Cardiac Hill, I pulled a potentially-creepy-internet-stalker move and said hello to a girl in a blue skirt, betting that it was Mackenzie from the comments on Tuesday’s post. Thankfully, it was, and we ran together until we hit the uphill, at which point she smoked me.

But I kind of knew that was going to happen, because I was three-something miles in to this race and I was totally out of gas.

I chugged and huffed and puffed and pushed, but I was just done. I could blame it on the hills or the humidity, but I know it was just lack of training that lead to the grotesque show of pain and misery that I put on for the latter half of that race.

The clock said 49-something when I crossed the finish line. (Official time: 48:52.) I collected my ugly finisher’s shirt and bemoaned the apparent lack of taste on the part of Atlanta’s running community. (The t-shirt design was selected by popular vote.)

Then, after making a circuit of the finish area to find my husband and congratulate various friends (including my former co-worker from Raleigh, Bobby Mack, who finished first American), I made a beeline for the designated beer-drinking location.

Where I proceeded to stand around for two hours in wet clothes. And then walk a mile and a half home in wet clothes.

My inner thighs look like they’ve been attacked by a meat grinder. You’re welcome for the sexy image. But there’s no other way to describe it. Wet Tempo shorts are not good party clothes.

The dumbest thing about this is that I had a change of clothes in my backpack. I was simply too lazy (or perhaps too preoccupied by the beer) to walk a hundred feet to the bathroom to change. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

So, the important takeaways from my first Peachtree:

1) I have no endurance right now. I’m good for 2-3 miles of hard running and then…splat.

2) Drinking while sweaty is a dangerous activity.

Chafing aside, I’m pretty okay with how things went. Going in to this race, I knew I wasn’t going to set any records. I’d hoped to finish closer to 45 minutes, but sub-50 is fine given my lack of training.

And it’s kind of nice to know where I stand. Building my endurance back up is going to be a major project this fall. But for now, I’m happy to work on quarter-mile repeats and push-ups.

The low-mileage identity crisis

As I’m sure you are aware, it is July, which means it’s now halfway through the calendar year. And that means it’s time to check in with my New Year’s Resolutions!

Just kidding. I don’t have any resolutions. But here’s how much running I (haven’t really been) doing this year:

(That isn’t a typo, I really did log the same exact mileage in June as I did in May. Purely coincidence.)

In 2011, I ran approximately 2,000 miles. Obviously, I’m a little (a lot…) behind the ball if I want to do the same this year. And with no fall marathon, it’s unlikely that I’ll make up the difference.

To which I say: eh. Does it actually matter? Nope. I don’t think I’ll look back on 2012 and mourn my average weekly mileage.

Hopefully, I will look back and remember a summer when I actually enjoyed (!) the hot weather because, guess what? I didn’t force myself to go out and run a zillion miles in it.

I’ll admit that I’ve had a few moments of blog-induced panic during this whole lower-mileage period. For someone who has been logging 150-200 miles a month for the last couple of years, recording a 75-mile month can feel, at best, like a regression.

At worst, it feels like a total failure and an unpleasant contradiction of the very person that I am. Because twenty miles a week! That’s not me. I’m a forty-mile-a-week person.

That probably sounds ridiculous, and it is. But running is something that I’ve devoted several hours a week to for my entire adult life, so I think it’s understandable to have mixed feelings about cutting way back.

However: at the moment, I’m happier this way, and that’s what’s important. I mean, I’m actually liking summer instead of hating it! Life is too short to hate an entire season simply because it’s incompatible with your hobbyjogging.

I’m sure I’ll increase my mileage again in a couple of months, when it comes time to think about fall/winter races (half marathons, probably). In the meantime, logging lower mileage doesn’t make me any less of a runner or a running blogger or a person.

So anyway. Guess what I’m doing tomorrow?

Oh hey! I submitted for the Peachtree lottery months ago, before I even moved down here. I got the acceptance email and put the race on my calendar. Then I kind of forgot about it (which, I don’t even know how…this thing is a huge deal here) until a couple of weeks ago.

Needless to say, I’m not exactly treating this as a goal race. But a good hard tempo effort would be nice. It will be warm and the course is hilly. I’m sure it will be a little crowded, even with most of the 60,000 participants seeded in later starting corrals. If I can hang at 7:30 pace, I’ll be happy.

Assuming I can manage to actually finish this one, I’ll see you tomorrow with a race recap!