Monthly Archives: December 2012

The sound of silence

If I hadn’t been buck naked, I would’ve run screaming when I saw it.

After peeling off my sweaty shorts and sports bra and flinging them into the corner, I’d lifted the bath mat to straighten it before stepping in to the shower. I’d seen something skitter in the mat’s shadow. A beetle, perhaps, upset that I’d shifted the roof of its clammy encampment.

I yanked up the mat and looked closer. It was a goddamn SCORPION.

Horrified. Or fascinated. I wasn’t sure which I was. My adrenaline-fueled bare legs hopped around the small bathroom as I looked for a cup or something with which to trap the thing (which, blessedly, was only about an inch-and-a-half long) on the tile.

I mean, I don’t typically see scorpions in my bathroom in midtown Atlanta.

Someone else needed to see this. It was kind of cool, and made me feel like I was truly in the Wild Wild West.

Unfortunately, as I scrambled for a makeshift trap, the tiny arthropod took refuge in the gap between the wall and the vanity, thereby haunting everyone who used that particular commode for the rest of our week in Texas.

Yep, Texas. Seven days, nine people, one log-framed cabin smack in the center of Texas. That is how I spent my Christmas vacation.

I know it seems random. I am from Washington. My husband is from Illinois. We live in Georgia. But my in-laws have a house in the Texas Hill Country now, so that’s where we spent our holidays this year.

It was an unbelievably relaxing week. We sprawled on sofas and paged through novels. We played lazy rounds of Gin Rummy. We snacked endlessly on popcorn and crackers and clementines. We sipped wine and watched through large paned windows as the wind turned the wiry desert oak trees into spastic ballerinas, swaying unpredictably and startling the squirrels that scampered on their branches.

Occasionally, someone would peer over the top of his or her magazine and say something that, in the course of our normal urban/suburban lives, would seem preposterous. Such as: “Anyone want to go out to the main road and look at that dead armadillo?”

(For the record, a dead armadillo looks exactly how you’d expect it to look.)

All week, I did exactly zero running. Zilch. Three weeks into this Pfitzinger plan and I’ve already blown it. Oh well. I guess this is why I don’t do training plans. I certainly hope you weren’t hoping for inspiration here. (Although maybe I’ll get back on track.) Running blogger fail.

Honestly, I would’ve been happy to spend an hour or two of my (very unscheduled) vacation days running, but there was nowhere to run. Literally. This was straight-up desert country. No regular streets. No gym within an hour’s drive. No treadmills. No running…not unless I wanted to do strides up and down the short, dusty, cactus-lined driveway. Or brave the main ranch road, which specialized in large pickups driving 80 MPH and featured no shoulder whatsoever, and, well…I didn’t want to end up like that armadillo.

It wasn’t a fitness fail, though. My sister-in-law brought her Insanity DVD set. Much to the amusement of the older generations who sipped coffee and watched from those big-paned windows, we spent an hour each morning under the dancing oak trees putting on our own show, directed (from a laptop perched on a rock) by Shaun T. (And that Insanity stuff is no joke. My calves and obliques are still cursing me.)

Until last week, I’d never been to Texas. Which is sort of strange. I’d traveled to (or lived in) just about every other state/region in this country. Texas was a glaring omission in my personal domestic travelogue.

Every place has unique sights and sounds and smells and memories, which I enjoy mentally cataloging and then recalling reflexively. Like:

You say ARIZONA and I smell chalk and sweat on dry granite, picking my way up a rock face with my hair in a matted bun.

You say OHIO and I see thunderheads rolling in from the western shores of Lake Erie, bearing (depending on the season) a deluge of mayflies or a refreshing summer storm or an unwelcome dose of lake-effect snow.

You say LOUISIANA and I feel a sweet mildewy basement-dampness seep into my flesh, mixing with the liquor from a Pat O’s hurricane which is still coursing through my bloodstream.

You say MAINE and I taste saltwater spray coming off the side of the speedboat that I am riding across Casco Bay in the dark, trying to make my way from a bar in Portland to a friend’s house on the islands in the middle of the night. (Have I ever told you guys that story? That’s a good story for another post.)

And so forth.

Well, now I have a TEXAS to add to that collection, and that makes me happy.

You say TEXAS and I hear…nothing. Near total silence. Wide, brilliantly blue skies that gape at the edges of the horizon and seem to somehow enhance the lack of sound. Almost imperceptibly, trees rustle and the pages of a paperback novel turn. The backs of my hands crackle, dry from the desert air. Someone discreetly crunches a handful of popcorn. From time to time, you can barely hear a beefy pickup barreling down the narrow ranch road, crushing the occasional unlucky armadillo.

It was so the opposite of what I’ve become used to here in Atlanta, with our front yard full of high-rises and foot traffic and an eight-lane interstate.

It was wonderful.

And in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t run screaming when I saw that tiny scorpion. That shit would’ve echoed for miles.

Seventeen to go

Week One of Boston training is finished and I got through it with no ill will toward Sir Pfitzinger. Although with weeks Two though Eighteen still in front of me, I’m sure that will change.

I stayed 100% faithful to the plan with the exception of swapping Saturday and Sunday (assigned recovery run and long run, respectively) to accommodate meeting my normal running group on their long run day.

This was probably the most disciplined week of training I’ve undertaken since college. Here’s how it went down.*

Monday: XT and weights. 15 min on the rowing machine and 45 min of upper-body-focused lifting.

Tuesday: 8 miles Lactate Threshold with 4 miles @ 15K/Half Marathon pace. Looped around Piedmont Park to avoid traffic lights; finished in 1:05:24 overall with 4M tempo portion in 29:40. Wasn’t sure what pace to target; this felt challenging but manageable.

Wednesday: Rest.

Thursday: 9 miles General Aerobic. Nice and chill, did this one at lunchtime and enjoyed the sunny 60-degree weather! Finished in 1:19 (8:47 pace).

Friday: Weights. An hour of of heavy lower-body lifting: weighted lunges (45 lbs), hack squat (50 lbs), leg press (180 lbs), dumbbell hamstring curl (30 lbs), prone hamstring curl (70 lbs). 12-15 reps.

Saturday: 12 miles Medium-Long. Met up with my group and did our usual 10-mile loop. Finished that in 1:25 exactly. Tacked on an extra two miles solo afterward and ended at 1:42. 8:30 pace for the run which I was pretty happy with considering that I accidentally consumed an entire bottle of Pinot Noir the night before (ahem.)

Sunday: 4 miles Recovery. Easy run around GA Tech campus in 37:00, 9:15 pace. Am trying to purposefully keep recovery runs very mellow because that’s what this book says to do.

Total for week: 33 miles.

In other happenings:

Saw the Hobbit movie today. For fucking real, I did not realize they were going to squeeze three movies out of this thing. Halfway through, I was sitting there wondering why on earth things were moving so slowly. I get that some of the content comes from Tolkein’s appendices or whatever, but seriously…I don’t think making nine hours of Hobbit film does any service to the literature. And generally, I really don’t like this trend of splitting books in to multi-part movies.

(Looking at you, Twilight Part Eleventy. Can’t wait for, like, Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 6, in which we extend battle scenes to such ridiculous lengths that we forget what the fight is about and burn minutes by watching various characters stare at each other balefully. Not that they’re planning on doing that – I have no idea – but I wouldn’t put it past them.)

My Christmas Shopping. It’s in a disastrous state. There are so many things that need to be shipped off, like, tomorrow. Things that I haven’t purchased (or even necessarily identified) yet. I have no excuse for this because it’s not like I haven’t had time to do it. Apparently I just enjoy procrastinating.

But the stockings have been hung with care! I have no idea what will be put in these (nothing, probably…see above) but they are darn cute.

(Yes, our walls scream: Colonel Mustard did in in the Living Room with a tacky can of poo-colored paint! This color came with the house. And custom window treatments to match it, so it’s not changing any time soon.)

And I’m almost done with cards! I can’t even remember the last time I sent out holiday cards. Many years ago, when the concept of being an adult was still an exciting novelty.

But there are a number of people (mostly, my entire family) that we won’t be seeing in person this year, so I ordered ridiculous custom cards (complete with photos of our cats in festive attire…do not judge me), collected addresses, and got to it.

Because I had a moment of panic at the VistaPrint checkout and ordered approximately four times as many cards as I needed to, I’ll have a number of these gems leftover, so if you want one, feel free to email me your address.

Finally, about that bottle of Pinot Noir. I’ve recently rekindled my relationship with red wine. Even though it’s not particularly chilly here, it just seems right these days.

I picked up this the path 2011 Pinot Noir last week on the afternoon of an impromptu dinner party. I was serving lamb and didn’t have time to do much in the way of wine selection beyond flagging down the guy in the Whole Foods wine section, gesturing at the contents of my cart, and begging for HELP PLZ.

It worked out well, especially since there was an extra bottle left over all for me.

With lots of ripe plum and a hint of black pepper, this bottle was nothing but enjoyable. The winemaker (Don Sebastiani and Sons) is probably most known as the operation behind supermarket labels Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove (both of which, if my memory serves me, are okay for the price point) but at just $12, this bottle seemed to be a cut above those in terms of value.

Bottom Line: Yes, I’d absolutely buy this again. Maybe not to drink the night before a long run, though. (Purchased at Whole Foods, $12.)

Time to address a few more cards before hitting the sack. Hope you all had a great weekend!

*Two things here:

1. I want to document my weekly Pfitz 55 adventures because (a) personally, it’s beneficial for me to sit down at the end of the week and reflect, and (b) it seems like some people are genuinely interested in reading about it. In the past I’ve done chart-like thingies but I’ll admit I’m a little turned off from formats like  that because so many people are using it to whore for Pinterest now. And I’m not really in to updating my RunningAhead log these days. So for this Boston training cycle, I might just write a weekly day-by-day narrative, unless y’all have other suggestions.

2. I realize it’s controversial to write out a training plan’s workouts on the internets, where someone could theoretically piece it together for free rather than buying the book. This particular plan is sooooo already out there online that I’m not going to worry about it. But if you’re thinking of following this plan, I’d definitely suggest you buy the book, as there’s a lot of background and other info that’s very helpful.

This started today. (Well, technically yesterday.)

Holy hell. How is it already time to start thinking about a spring race? Um, it’s 18 weeks until April 15? Are we sure about that?

[I should probably preface this post by saying that I have never followed a formal training plan for a marathon (or for any other distance, actually). At least, not since college when my coach wrote our workouts for the week on an 8″X11″ with a sharpie and photocopied them for us to hang in our dorm rooms. Oy…I am old and probably lack discipline!]

Anyway. Over the course of my dozen or so marathons, at my most organized, I’ve had ideas about how many 20+ milers I should fit in and rough weekly mileage goals. At my least organized, I’ve just been like, “oh I ran for two-something hours once, I should be fine.” (Which is a painful marathon training strategy on race day. Don’t do this.)

But I’ve never followed an actual plan penned by an actual person-who-presumably-knows-what-they’re-talking-about.

Enter Pfitzinger.

Honestly, I’ve heard nothing but tales of success from this dude and his plans. And also, tales of pain and suffering: he’s big on mingling pace work with endurance work, so you’ll get, like, a workout where not only do you have to complete a 22 mile run, but you must do 16 miles at race pace.

Good god. Awful. But the marathon is kind of an awful distance so I see where Pfitz is going with that. He’s going for awful. Which is how you’ll feel on race day. Can’t argue.

When I ran CIM last December and finally broke my decade-old PR, I did it on higher (for me – most weeks in the 50s and 60s, peaking in the low 70s) mileage. It was a personal breakthrough that I needed to run a lot in order to succeed at running a lot. (Hey, I never claimed to be smart.) But my training was very disorganized and I remember thinking, especially a few months later, on the heels of this spring’s highly mediocre Gansett Marathon, that I could probably do amazing things if I combined higher mileage with disciplined workouts.

So when I ordered Advanced Marathoning last summer, it was totally with the Pfitz 70 (peaking at 70 MPW) plan in mind for this spring’s Boston.

And then I spectacularly failed in my mission to build up enough base to safely do that. I’ve been running on a 25 MPW level (which is low for me) for the last few months. I can’t really explain it; it has just felt like enough. (I knew it wasn’t, objectively, but for some unknown reason I was disinclined to increase my mileage.)

The first week of Pftiz 70 calls for 54 miles. It wasn’t going to happen.

So I downgraded. Pfitz 55 it is, then.

The plan started yesterday with a rest/XT day. Oh hey, I like this plan. Since it was pouring anyway, I had no qualms about going to the gym and doing an easy 3K row followed by some weights. (I really do want to keep up the weights during this training cycle, and one of the nice things about the 55 MPW plan is that most of the weeks have two – sometimes even three – rest/XC days. I can keep up my strength routine and not turn in to a marathoning pool of Jell-O like I did last spring. Sweet.)

Today was the plan’s first real workout: an 8-mile “Lactate Threshold” run. Those are fancy words for “grinding tempo.” That’s a concept I am very familiar with but have had little direct exposure to in recent months.

The tempo portion was prescribed as four miles to be run at 15K/half marathon pace. At first, I rolled my eyes: what the hell is that supposed to mean? But this is apparently a benchmark workout that repeats itself several times throughout the plan so I figured it would be worthwhile to take my best guess and set a baseline.

Although…half-marathon pace? Oof, I don’t even know right now. The last half marathon I ran was on Thanksgiving Day and I did a hangover-shuffle-jog for 13.1 miles and finished (respectably, actually, considering the circumstances) in 1:48. Real HMP would probably be closer to 7:30. 15K? Haven’t run once in years, but maybe 7:15?

I set those as my bounds and went after it.

Workout One in the bag as prescribed. In the interest of avoiding traffic lights, I headed to Piedmont Park and looped its various roads and paths for the tempo portion. And I’m happy to say that it was fun. After several months’ break, I’ll say (prematurely) that it feels great to run with a purpose again.

The rest of the week calls for base mileage and a 12-mile long run, with a weekly total of 32 miles. I can absolutely handle this. (Am excited about it, even. Yes, I’m excited about running! This is fantastic!)

Obviously, two days in, I have no regrets about downgrading plans. As much as I think running higher mileage helped me last fall/winter as and much as I would love to magically be in a place to do that right now, I know that I am not. 55 MPW healthy and happy is better than 75 MPW stressed out and hurting from taking on too much too fast.

And, of course, lucky you, readers! (If I have any left after being so sporadic the last few weeks!) I’ll be back in the habit of posting lots of meaningless splits and detailed workout recaps and other such nonsense. I promise. You’re…um…welcome?

How about a beer review to seal the deal? Although this is kind of a weird one.

It was a year ago, when I was still living in Raleigh, that I purchased this bottle. I bought it from the impulse-buy rack on the way to the cash register at a wine store. Without really looking at it.

As it turned out, I’d bought a piece of Stone’s Vertical Epic Series, an annual release timed to the nifty-fun dates of our generation (10.10.10, 11.11.11, etc). Instructions on the label (which I read when I got home that night) are overt that the beer is meant to be consumed, at the earliest, on the date of the next vertical (i.e. a year and a month later). It was less clear whether collectors were supposed to have saved bottles from every year (awesome foresight, I guess) and host an ultimate vertical tasting with the release of the last beer in the series, this year on 12.12.12 (hey, that’t today!)

So I saved this Rogue Epic 11.11.11 bottle for a year. I wrapped it in bubble wrap and moved it from Raleigh to Atlanta. I gave it a precious cubby on our wine rack. And this last weekend, I drank it.

And it was just weird.

Sorry, but it was. Maybe I’ve gotten a little out of the beer game (which hasn’t stopped me from loving on my favorite Sierra Nevada Celebration one bit) but I thought this beer was…strange. Cayenne peppers. Weird semi-chocolate taste. Decent flavor, but disappointing body; there was little to no carbonation left in my bottle. Like drinking diluted Hershey’s syrup. Bleh.

Bottom line: doesn’t really matter because this beer is no longer for sale.  But if you happen to have a bottle that you’re breaking open, I’d love to hear your thoughts…part of me wonders if I just got a bad bottle?

Anyone else gearing up for spring training even though it barely seems like winter (at least here in Atlanta)? Like I said, I am not accustomed to following formal training plans so this definitely feels weird to me.   We’ll see how long I make it before I’m pushing Pfitz’s workouts all around the week to accommodate my OMGSOBUSY (or not) life.