Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gross and creepy

I came downstairs this morning – braless and barefoot and beelining toward the coffee cabinet – and promptly stepped in a watery puddle of cat puke, conveniently deposited right at the base of the stairs.

Gross.

Then, coffee and smoothie in hand, I sat down at the breakfast bar to finish the post I started yesterday about Saturday’s 5K. I looked up and saw this a few inches from my nose.

Creepy.

When I try to explain why spiders are so much worse than other bugs: THIS IS WHY. Other bugs hide in corners and skitter away when approached. Other bugs buzz obnoxiously and crash repeatedly into the window and land on your cheeseburger. Other bugs bite you and make you itch. But at least they don’t stalk you from the ceiling above your favorite chair and then silently lower themselves on to your face like this crafty asshole.

Where was I? So much for finishing that other post about the 5K. I’ll summarize instead: mediocre.  Right off the bat, there was an enormous hill. We are talking 100+ feet of elevation gain in a quarter mile. It’s the sort of hill that I’ll run extra miles to avoid during a training run. I thought they were joking when I saw the course map.

My first mile was 7:17. I don’t remember the last time I had a mile split that slow in a 5K.

The rest of the course was rolling and downhill, which you would think would make it fast, but apparently I suck at running the downgrades too. Going in to mile two, I was the fourth female and gaining on third, but every time we’d go down a hill she’d open the gap back up. Somewhere around the second mile marker, we were both passed by another girl, who was moving pretty quick. Fifth place.

Then, on the final (downhill) stretch, this other girl came up and blew by me. Oh hell no, I thought, and chased after her. She beat me by a second. Sixth place in 21:33.

I was mad, but comforted myself by deciding that she looked pretty young and maybe was a couple of years out of college running or something like that. Then I checked the results: she was 38. FML.

Given the hilly course, my time is okay, but I’m disappointed in how I raced this one. Third place would’ve been better than sixth.

Anyway. I didn’t have a ton of time to dwell on it because I had a (make-up for a rained out) boot camp session to attend. (Not ideal, but I’d already paid for the session so off I went.)

It’s been a while since I tracked weekly workouts on here, but now that I’ve got a goal race, I’m bringing ’em back:

Later this afternoon, I’m headed up to Boston to meet up with Meg (of Candy Cat Story fame). She’s moving to Chicago and I’m joining her for a little moving road trip! We have camping gear and no real plan; I have a flight out of Midway on Friday night. I can’t wait.

We’ll try to stay out of any feline-themed strip clubs we might encounter along the way. Because that, too, would be gross and creepy. But I can’t make any promises.

I’ll check in from the road when I can. Have a great week!

P.S. Happy Birthday to another college girlfriend, who happens to write a beautiful and hilarious blog herself. Miss you! (And I hope you get home okay!)

Accidental long run

It’s been six months since I moved to Atlanta. Having little else to do, I’ve spent a fair amount of time poking around. So I feel like I know the city – at least “inside the perimeter” – fairly well.

But then I try to direction-logic my way through a weird, curvy, new-to-me city neighborhood and I realize that I don’t know shit.

So far, I have a few good running routes from my house, but none longer than five miles. Now that I am actually training for something, I need to expand my routes a bit. I had a recovery run on tap today, and I wanted to do six miles.

My go-to five miler is basically a big square; logically, I tried to expand it by simply continuing a little farther along the furthest side to form a rectangle.

But it doesn’t work like that here.

Picture me coming from STEADY BLVD, trying to make my way to HOME RD. It was a spectacular failure. I ended up on YURFUCT RD and continued thereupon for around a mile before I realized I was heading in exactly the wrong direction.

(For you Atlantans, I had essentially run up to Buckhead, and I needed to be in Midtown. Not ideal for what is supposed to be a short recovery run.)

Anyway. I took a rest stop at a gas station and loaded up the map app on my phone – which I carry sometimes for music on short solo runs, but am always glad to have when things unexpectedly turn ugly, navigation-wise. I determined that the most foolproof way to get back home would be to head back down Piedmont, which is one of the main roads.

If I did that and headed straight home, I’d end up with almost 9 miles.

I’d have to run alongside Piedmont Park anyway. I couldn’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t simply add on a mile or two in the park and make it my long run for the week. I mean:

  • The weather was nice and cool.
  • I didn’t have anywhere to be that evening.
  • There are water fountains in the park from which I could take a quick swig if I needed to.

I easily tacked on a mile and brought my “recovery run” to ten miles. That’s my long run distance for the week. DONEZO.

And that frees me up to do something I haven’t done in a while: race a 5K on Saturday morning.

Based on my recent track workouts, I should be able to post a pretty good (for me) time, but we’ll see. Obviously, it’s Atlanta so it’s a hilly course. I’ll be thrilled if I can break 21.

Time to start running again…like, for real

Someone else is going to have to deal with getting the turkey in the oven this year. On Thanksgiving morning, I’ll be running the Atlanta Half Marathon.

Lots of hills, lots of turns, lots of Jelly Bellys (?). This definitely not a PR course, but it runs through my neighborhood and it looks like fun. I’m going to train hard and give it my best shot.

Last week was pretty light, running-wise: I bailed on both my track workout and my long run and ended up only running 20 miles. So let’s call that my last week of mellow summer training. Atlanta Half training starts this week.

I don’t do detailed training plans, but over the next three months I’m planning to:

  • Bring mileage up to the 40-50 MPW range
  • Continue cranking hard at the track on Tuesdays
  • Add a second hard workout each week in the form of hill repeats or a longer tempo run
  • Increase weekly long run from 9-10 miles to 14-15 miles
  • Continue to strength train or boot camp 2-3 times a week
  • Yoga once a week (or at least every other week)

Pretty standard stuff. I’m determined to keep the weekly mileage relatively moderate so that I’m not tempted to skip out on the strength training. I’m still making progress in that department and I’m not ready to back off yet!

Anyway. I am about to delve in to how fantastic last night’s track workout was, but first I’ll be honest and talk a little about how not fantastic last week’s track attempt was.

In fact, it was so awful that I quit.

We were assigned this weird 400-400-200-200 thing, four sets in total. I made it though the first set and was struggling to hit 90 on the quarters. My 200s were around 42-43 (when just a couple of weeks ago, I was doing 37s). I did the first 400 of the second set and came in at 95 and felt like I was doing to die. So I called it a day and jogged around the outer lane for the rest of the session.

I feel like there are always two sides to a DNF:

On one hand, if I’m miserable and struggling and not hitting anything close to my normal pace, what’s the point of continuing? I come to the track to do quality work, so if can’t do that, I’m better off saving my energy for another day.

But on the other hand, running is hard and sometimes workouts suck. Sometimes, for whatever reason, your pace is slower than it was last week. Sometimes you feel like shit. Is that really an excuse to just throw in the towel?

Eh. Still not sure I made the right call on that one last week, but oh well. It was just one workout.

And I made up for it with a good set last night: 3X800, 6X400. The weather was lovely and breezy and relatively cool. There was only one stroller on the track and it stayed in the outer lanes – thank you, people who understand track etiquette! (The guy walking his dog in lane one was another story, but I think he got the hint after our pack barreled by him a couple of times.)

Anyway. On my warm-up, I was definitely feeling the hundreds (literally) of double lunges we did at yesterday’s boot camp. With a sore butt and quads, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get a decent turnover going, but I finished the 800s in 3:05, 3:02, 3:02 and the 400s in 86, 88, 87, 87, 86, 85.

Compared to the last time we did this workout, back in June:

And apparently I was running really hard when we did this one the first time. I was super stoked about that 3:03! Getting faster, even by just a few seconds, is so satisfying.

I feel like running a workout like this at entirely sub-6 pace would not be out of the question. And it’s been a long time since I was in good enough shape to bust out sub-3 800s in a workout.

It is still kind of amazing to me that I’ve been able to increase my speed this summer while running such low mileage.

I hope it’s a trend that can continue while I build the miles back up!

An eventful night in my bedroom

It’s Friday night. I have the house to myself and plans to attend a 12-mile run with a slightly-faster-than-me group on Saturday morning.

7:30 PM: I eat a delicious yet responsible dinner involving a juicy beef burger patty and lots of sweet potato fries. And I haven’t had a beer all week, so hot damn it’s about time.

[Meh. Avery Brewing’s White Rascal is a Belgian-style white (think Blue Moon). It’s the perfect thing to sip on a hot August night, but I was underwhelmed. It tasted kind of like an Arnold Palmer. 5.6% ABV.]

9:00 PM: I’ve burned through four of my expensive (but worth it, because they actually work) mosquito cones.

Also, there are probably cats in the kitchen agitating for dinner. Time to head inside.

9:15 PM: Beer number two is a Brooklyn Lager rummaged from the depths of the fridge. I sip it slowly while working on a new writing project that’s been banging around in my skull all week. I write almost 2,000 words, which makes me happy.

10:30 PM: Big glass of water. Teeth brushed, face washed, lights out. I congratulate myself for being a paragon of maturity and responsibility: sober, well-fed, plenty hydrated, and about to get a solid 8 hours of sleep before my morning run alarm.

11:30 PM: I am still awake.

12:30 AM: I am…still fucking awake.

12:45 AM: Just drifting off when I hear a thump. I mean…a THUMP. Wide awake again, with irrational visions of robbers and serial killers dancing in my head. Probably, it was one of the fat cats jumping down from a nocturnal romp on a banned countertop or something like that, but…

…OMG SERIAL KILLERS.

Wide, wide awake.

1:00 AM: I consider turning on the TV but the remote is out of reach. I grab my phone instead and spend the next 45 minutes reading the entire internet.

1:45 AM: I pop a melatonin, turn on the Pandora sleep station, and set the my sleep timer app for 30 minutes. Roll over and finally….

2:45 AM: There’s a baby crying in the hallway and it wakes me up. WTF?

Wait, it’s just the cat and her Baby Wail.

A couple of years ago, Emmy started doing this super creepy thing where she meows and it sounds just like a human baby crying. We have no idea where she picked it up. Apparently it’s an actual thing and it’s called a “manipulative meow” (charming), but I avoid crying human babies at all costs so I don’t know how she learned it. Unless imitating a dying infant is, like, embedded in her genetic code or something. Which I would have to admit is pretty badass.

Emmy only does the Baby Wail in one specific circumstance: at night, outside our bedroom door, when it is closed. And come to think of it, I’ve never actually seen her do it. (She’s just…there when one of us inevitably open the door.) So it’s possible she’s a supernatural shape-shifter of some sort.

In either case: you win, cat. 

2:50 AM: I get up to open the bedroom door.

To my surprise and relief, Emmy immediately curls up beside me and goes to sleep instead of prancing on my bladder or kneading my face or drinking out of my water glass or finding a plastic bag to lick compulsively.

3:00 AM: Emmy’s supernatural powers apparently extend into the thermonuclear realm. In just a few minutes, she’s managed to raise the temperature in the bed by about seven hundred degrees. I get up and switch on the ceiling fan.

3:15 AM: Still awake.

I consider wine. Or vodka. Or NyQuil. This is miserable.

I’m still thinking that I might actually get up for that 7 AM run, though. I mutter a complaint to the snoring cat (bitch), reach for my phone, and punch the icon for this white noise app that I downloaded a long time ago but have rarely used.

3:45 AM: White noises are obnoxious. I turn the app off. I give up on running and deactivate my alarm. It ain’t gonna happen on fewer than three hours of sleep.

[insert long pause here]

10:05 AM: I wake up, fully rested and refreshed.

My running group has been done for 90 minutes now.

FML. Glad I got some sleep, though.

[insert dramatic pause before postscript here]

Yes, I know I’m being whiny. Yes, I know I could’ve sucked it up and gone to run anyway. Yes, I know that my anxiety about running farther and faster than I have in months is probably what kept me up in the first place. Yes, I know your small infant kept you up all night and you can just-wait-until-you-have-kids me all you want but I already have a fucking cat that meows like a baby which is way creepier so there.

Basically, what I’ve taken away from this is that being reasonable and responsible doesn’t pay.

Remind me of that next weekend when I’m attempting a Saturday morning run after an indulgent dinner and a bottle of wine.

At the very least, being in a drunken food coma is a good way to guarantee sleep.

Scoring a D

[Allow me to preface this post by saying that it has nothing (or very little) to do with food, beer, or running. Count it instead among the handful of introspective entries that make me glad I have a blog because I have somewhere to spew this  random shit.]

Okay. So I spent last weekend in rural Indiana, at a retreat weekend held every other year by my in-laws and their extended clan. The generational family members are all shareholders in a closely-held family business, so it’s not unusual for them to get together for events of this sort.

I attend as a spouse and interested party (assuming that we have children who will one day inherit this ownership) and although the meetings are occasionally stressful or uncomfortable, they are generally tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable.

Which is to say: there are plenty of periods of “family bonding time” which include, for instance, a pontoon boat ride, craft beer tasting, tasty dinners, and plenty of sessions where the alcohol flows freely and the game boards come out, all in the name of family togetherness.

I really would be hard pressed to imagine a worse in-law situation. I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to know my husband’s extended family so well, given that we are scattered all over the country.

Anyway. This summer, as part of our “let’s learn to work better together” efforts, we all took a DISC Behavioral Assessment. Everyone took the test (which was s twenty-minute, rank-the-following-words quiz) before the session, and then we reviewed our results together, with the intended purpose of learning how to better communicate with one another.

I took the test back in June and I’ll admit that I struggled with it. The test asks you to order four adjectives from most like you to least like you. Ugh…totally subjective and meaningless, right?

Or…totally right on.

It was hard for me to answer the questions because I haven’t had a traditional work environment in….a while. So I tried to answer in  way that was consistent with how I behaved when I worked in consulting, as well as retail, as well as now (which is basically working for myself trying to write something that someone would pay for).

It was confusing as hell to think about. But I tried to just go with my gut.

And when I first saw the graph of my traits, I balked.

That is a high D. The four quadrants of DISC stand for: Dominance, Influence, Compliance, and Steadiness. You can read more about them here,  but here is a brief summary:

D, Dominance: Ambitious, direct, forceful, independent, decisive, challenging

I, Influence: Expressive, friendly, talkative, enthusiastic, stimulating, demonstrative

S, Steadiness: Methodical, Steady, Systematic, Reliable, Relaxed, Modest

C, Compliant: Analytical, careful, contemplative, exacting, conservative, deliberative

I don’t think of myself as being a particularly dominant or overbearing person, but everyone has to fit somewhere on the grid.

Along with our graphical assessments, we received several pages of verbal feedback designed to describe how we functioned, how others would best communicate with us, and how we’d best communicate with others.

I have to say that pretty much everything listed in my results was spot on. In fact, I had a lesson in the above the next day when I attempted to retrieve a pair of reserved pontoon boats from the local marina and had to deal with a (very nice, but subbing-on-lunch-break) woman who was doing the charges + taxes longhand ON A PIECE OF SCRATCH PAPER. OMG get a damn calculator, I need to get out of here!

I tried to calm myself, but I could not.

With each superfluous longhand calculation, I grew more anxious. Anxious and agitated. Finally, I had to leave the counter and wander around the store just because I couldn’t stand the fact that this transaction was not straightforward and efficient. I wanted to yell at someone, but I didn’t know who to yell at.

What is wrong with me?  I thought.

But then I fell back on the fact that this might just be my personality.

I’m a D. Dominant. Supposedly.

But is that really an excuse for being a bitch? I don’t think so. I need to work on that.

That is probably true. I’m a hellish bitch at the post office.

I’m still thinking about this whole DISC thing and how right or wrong it might be.

Meanwhile, I ran a whole 27 miles last week, including a 10-miler around the lake we were staying on in Indiana. I think I’ll start actually tracking my miles on here next week: as August wanes, I’d like to work up to 30-something weeks and then hit 40-something and maybe 50-something in September. I have a half marathon at which to PR (I hope) in November.

But while I’m upping my running miles, I can’t help but think about the more psychological implications of my DISC assessment. That I need to lead in order to be happy. That I prefer to be challenged. That I need problems and challenges in order to be satisfied.

Um…that’s not exactly the description of someone who hopes to write novels for a living. Doesn’t bode well.

I’ll leave you with this photo from my husband’s cousin’s condo-room-thingy at our resort in Indiana:

 Shrek and…?

 The whole thing was just weird.

And this post probably scores a D in comprehension.

Triple crown

This is really stupid, but I spent most of the last two weeks freaking out about my dentist appointment.

It had been…a while. Two years maybe? Not nearly as bad as the time I let it go 5+ years, but bad enough.

I hate going to the dentist. It’s irrational, because obviously they are trained professionals, but having people all up in my grill with their bright lights and pointy sticks makes my palms sweat. A couple of years ago when I had to have a root canal, they had to Xanax me because I was shaking and sweating and squirming so much. I just can’t help it.

What is actually happening at the dentist is this:

But what I see is this:

It’s beyond dumb, but try as I may, I cannot view those dental tools  – the sharp poky things and whizzy spinning things – as anything other than devices that could potentially maim me.

And then the sweating starts.

But I knew I had something wonky going on with one of my old fillings, so I finally sucked it up and made the appointment.

Of course, both the hygienist and dentist were nothing but warm, friendly, and professional. During the OMG WHAT IS THAT HORRIBLE SCRAPING NOISE HOLY CRAP IT’S COMING FROM MY MOUTH portion of the cleaning, I asked for a towel to rub against my clammy palms. I kneaded the towel like a cat, closed my eyes, and tried to imagine that I wasn’t in the middle of a limestone quarry. It sort of worked.

It’s funny how I have no problem inflicting discomfort upon myself (for instance, last night’s track set – more about that in a minute) but I cannot tolerate other people inflicting it upon me.

That’s going to suck when I have to go back next week for a(nother) crown. My third. I guess I am collecting them. Like some sort of imperial conquistadora.

At least I don’t have to have a root canal this time. The nerve of the tooth is fine; it’s just that the manky old filling is too big to repair or replace.

Ugh. Who wants to slip me some Xanax?

Anyway. Yesterday’s track workout was a fun one. (A million time more fun than a dental cleaning.) In a rare departure from 800s and 400s, we were assigned a medley-ladder of sorts: 800, 2X400, 3X200, 2X100, repeat.

100M! That’s like a game.

This workout flew by. Even though we were on the track for almost 90 minutes (between warm up and cool down, all the recovery time that comes with lots of intervals, and post-run stretch), it never felt like a grind.

That doesn’t mean it was easy, though.

By the time I got my butt halfway down that backstretch, Bolt would’ve been almost finished. Crazy!

The sprints were fun, but the 800s and 400s were the meat of the workout and I was happy with how I ran them. Of course, pacing was a little tricky on the second set. Fresh off an all-out sprint, I felt totally weird on that second 800. I was sure I was going way too fast or way too slow, but it turned out that I was right on. I guess my legs knew what to do, even though my lungs were still burning from the shorter stuff.

Between the last pair of 400s, one of my friends told me I looked like I was running strong. I thanked him and said that I felt like I was going to puke.

I love track work outs.

Recovery run this morning, then back to boot camp tomorrow. I’ve been in the habit of tacking an easy 2-3 mile run on to the end of boot camp classes, but now that it’s getting (slightly) cooler in the evenings, I want to start to increase the distance of those runs a little. I’ve been hanging out at 25 MPW for most of the summer; I’m ready to start building back up a bit!

You make me wanna

…ba-doop, shoop ba-doop, shoop ba-doop-ba-doop-ba-doop….

That is all.

Pink and sparkly

Today, my husband and I drove two hours to eat at an Arby’s.

It wasn’t entirely intentional.  I mean, I love curly fries, but I don’t make a destination out of them. We were trying to explore our new Georgia geography and ended up in an area where nothing is open on Sunday.

This is something about the South that I am, to phrase it tactfully, still getting used to.

Anyway. We found this big lake on a map. We looked it up online, reading that it was one of the “most popular recreational lakes in the country.” We headed adventourously out from our Midtown Atlanta home, thinking we’d be game for some boating and floating and whatever else the local scene had to offer.

You would think that one of so-called  “most popular recreational lakes in the country” would have some…restaurants? Ice cream shops? Something? Besides fast food?

You would be wrong. At least on a Sunday. And as much as I am a fast food apologist, this situation was not approved by me. For whatever that matters.

We stopped at a state park beach and tiptoed across the red clay beach to dip our toes in the warm water. We watched pontoon boats cruise by, circled periodically by speedboats pulling gleeful skiers and hearty tubers on inflatable rafts.

After a longish drive home, we were ready to spend the rest of our day relaxing on the roof deck. We’ve had several events at the house lately so I had absolutely every kind of wine ready to go.

So even on a Sunday night: a bubbly rose. Which should be rather light and tasty. And pink…and sparkly. Like a…uh, shit. I hate pink shit and I hate sparkly shit.

But this wine isn’t half bad.

Not a bad pick at all, actually,

Good night!

Toe striking is dangerous

I am not talking about running form. Ha, fooled you!

No, I am talking about literally striking my toe. With a spiky shovel, while trying to uproot a weed like this one.

(That is a six-foot fence.)

I’m not sure exactly what happened. I was hacking desperately, I guess, when I somehow struck the edge of the spade directly on top of my foot. It didn’t really hurt, but as I showered off that evening, I made a grisly discovery: big toe, cracked across the bottom, half peeled off.

I will spare you a foot photo because that would be disgusting, but here is a picture of the shoe I was wearing at the time, which now has a permanent crease where the blow landed.

Proof that PureFlows are not made for toe striking. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Anyway, it’s certainly not the first time I’ve shed a toenail, but here is my dilemma. I have an appointment for a pedicure this afternoon (because it’s MAH BIRTHDAY!) and I’m not sure what I should have them do with it. It’s still hanging half on. Whenever I’ve lost a toenail from running, it has worked its way off slowly and there has always been a new baby nail grown in underneath by the time the old one fell off. I don’t think that’s the case here.

I’m not really worried about pain (it doesn’t hurt at all) or infection (I’ve been drenching it in sweat and dirt for the last two weeks) but more about the inevitable awkward interaction when I have to explain the situation to the nail tech. Such interactions are awkward for me anyway, even without a freaky cracked toenail to discuss.

So that’s my dilemma of the day. Suggestions?

Fortunately, the toenail situation hasn’t stopped me from running and working out.

Last Saturday morning, I did my first double-digit run since April. 10 miles at 8:30 pace, which is downright speedy for me at the moment. Full credit to my running group for that one…there is no way I would have run that pace on my own. Or awoken at 6 AM to do so.

Then, yesterday, I did my first track workout in a month. I didn’t really intend to take a break from the track, but random things kept conflicting with Tuesday night workouts. Last night, I finally made it back out there, and was rewarded with a mercifully cool (uh, sub-90-degree) and cloudy evening.

Faith and I celebrated with mile repeats.

As we rounded the first curve, we had a brief conference about goal pace. We both kind of simultaneously threw out 6:45, which sounded reasonable and challenging. The last time I did mile repeats was a solo effort back in February, when I did four of them in 6:51, 6:47, 6:42, and 6:39. Last night’s workout was only three, but with the summer heat and my lack of recent hard efforts, just getting under 7 seemed daunting.

That went out the window when we came through the first 400 in 91 seconds.

New goal: slow down a little and focus on running even splits.

Faith and I ran in lockstep, swapping the inside position every few laps, and finished the three repeats in 6:32, 6:33, and 6:34.

That’s faster than expected, obviously. And I was pretty happy about that. I’m sure it helped to have company.

Final tally for the month of July:

This time last summer, I was thinking about cracking 2000 miles for the year. Obviously that’s not going to happen this year. And I am totally okay with that. I know I sound like a broken record on this, but I am SO MUCH HAPPIER doing lower mileage in the summertime down here. I spent way too much of last summer hating life because I was trying to grind out 40+ mile weeks in the heat and humidity. Stupid. This is much better. And while my endurance has suffered, overall I’m in better shape than I’ve been in for a while.

Although I’m definitely looking forward to picking it up again this fall. Endurance can and will be rebuilt!

Assuming I can keep myself free of DIY-induced injuries.