Category Archives: General Running Chatter

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 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.

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!

What the hell I do in the weight room for an hour

Last week when posted my workout log, commenter Jess asked about my strength training routine.

Let’s all go ahead and thank her for providing some blog fodder. Otherwise I probably would have subjected you guys to a post about the fruit fly problem* in my kitchen.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t take her question as judgey. I did take it as implying that my workouts might not be as efficient as they could be, which is a totally fair point. So let’s talk about that.

As I’ve mentioned, strength training is not my favorite activity. But during my “summer vacation” from running, I’m trying to get stronger, and lifting weights is a good way to do that.

Typically, when I head to to weight room, I first decide whether I’m doing upper body or lower body. Then, I make myself do ten exercises, which I select as I go.

For example, that week’s upper body workout was: (1) Bench press, 75#, 3X10; (2) Lat pull down, 70#, 3X10; (3) Low row, 65#, 3X10; (4) Assisted dip, 80# assist, 3X8; (5) Assisted pull-up, 80# assist, 3X10; (6) Back extension w/ 25# plate, 2X15; (7) Bicep curls, 15# dumbbells, 3X12; (8) Overhead shoulder press, 15# dumbbells, 3X10; (9) Overhead tricep press, 20# dumbbell, 3X10; (10) Push up ladder, 10 down to 1.

Sometimes I’ll add core work in, too.

A few things to note:

– In spite of the fact that I dislike lifting, I know my way around a weight room pretty well. A few years ago, I worked with a trainer pretty extensively and learned a lot about proper form and such. I go for free weights instead of machines whenever I can.

– As I mentioned in my response to the comment on the other post, an hour of lifting doesn’t seem like that much to me. Ten exercises, five minutes on each, plus a few minutes of transition time or whatever.

– I try to lift relatively heavy. Generally, I shoot for barely being able to complete the tenth rep. If I can do 12+ reps, I go up in weight. If I can’t get through 6-8, I lighten it up. (Sometimes, there are exceptions: for instance, I’d like to go up in weight for back extensions, but the the weight of the plates jumps from 25# to 45#. So I just increase the reps and call it good.)

– My trainer used to say that if I didn’t doubt that I could finish the set, I wasn’t lifting heavy enough. I think that’s a pretty good guiding principle.

– I try to focus on more on the big muscles, less on the “beach muscles.”

– Because I’m lifting pretty hard (to failure/exhaustion), I take quite a bit of recovery between sets. (Maybe too much, and maybe that’s why I can’t get in and out of the gym in under an hour.)

– I dawdle quite a bit. My gym happens to have excellent people watching. But that’s a post for another day.

– This approach to strength training is definitely different from what I’d do if I were in training for a marathon. Lifting heavy makes me sore and exhausted.

– Although, interestingly, it doesn’t seem to have affected my running pace as much as I thought it would. Last time I went through a lifting-heavy phase, I eventually stopped because I was annoyed at how slow it made me. This time around, I’m still able to run decent workouts. At least so far.

– But it does make my body tweaky and cranky. I blame squats for my achy hip. And I blame my achy hip for my DNF at Saturday’s 5K.**

– Then, because I didn’t want to aggravate it by running, I went to the gym on Sunday. And lifted weights. Maybe I don’t hate strength training as much as I thought I did.

SO. That’s what I’m doing in the weight room for an hour.

I’m not sure that this was any more interesting than a diatribe on kitchen pests. But that’s what y’all get for asking questions.

And seriously: I’m sure a lot of you are better weight-lifters than I am, with your NROLFLOLs and WODDDDs and such. If there’s something I’m doing stupidly wrong here (i.e. taking a six-minute “water fountain” break***), I’d be happy to discuss it.

*Annoying little shits. THERE IS NO FOOD HERE. AND I JUST DOUSED YOU IN BLEACH. WHY WON’T YOU DIE?

**Yep, I DNF’d a freaking 5K. I suck. But my hip was hurting and I wasn’t exactly on PR pace. I don’t want to talk about it.

***Which is really just an excuse to eavesdrop on the two guys who are having a very serious conversation about whether they are more Charlotte or Samantha or Carrie or Miranda.

The impenetrable cereal box fortress

I care about my cats quite a bit. They are indoor cats, they eat overpriced grain-free cat food, they are theoretically calmed by an expensive electrical diffuser that imitates kitty pheromones, and yadda yadda yadda.

When we moved into our new house, with its multiple direct-outdoor-access doors, I dug out these collars that I’d frivolously bought them a couple of years ago when we lived in New York. Designer collars from this cute pet shop in the West Village, complete with custom tags engraved with their names and my phone number.  Collars that were completely unnecessary, at the time, for a pair of apartment-dwelling felines. Collars that ended up in a box under the sink, because the clink-clanking of the bells and tags was obnoxious in our tiny apartment.

But now? Even though I would never intentionally let them outside, it eases my mind to have them carry identification. Just in case, you know. Especially since we’ve had countless contractors in and out of the house lately.

This weekend, there was a weird and scary moment where my husband and I both realized that we hadn’t seen either of the cats all day.

“Did you feed them this morning?” I asked.

“No, I thought you did,” he replied.

And we both looked down at a pair of empty, crusty food bowls. A situation that would have, under normal circumstances, inspired a feline uprising.

“Shit,” I said, and we each headed to opposite ends of the house in search. As I bounded up the stairs, worst-case scenarios swam through my mind: a roofer had left a door open, a curious kitty had wandered outside and into the adjoining yard of our neighbor – the owner of an ill-trained Rottweiler who growls menacingly at me every time I leave the house….

I heard my husband’s laugh before I heard him call to me that he’d found them.

So: our bedroom is currently kind of a mess. Truthfully, we’re 31 years old and have never owned an actual bed; so I ordered a simple metal model from CB2 a couple of weeks ago. It was attractive and reasonably priced, but apparently the downside is that it’s a bitch to assemble. So this half-functional bed frame, along with the enormous box that it came in, currently presides over our bedroom.

On top of it, in it, on it, around it…it appears that this box is the best thing that has ever happened to our cats.

It’s kind of hilarious. Although our two kitties have always gotten along, they have never exhibited BFF behavior…until now. I’ll peel up the corner of the box top and see both of them sitting in there…almost conspiratorially. I immediately feel as if I’ve interrupted an important meeting, and leave them to their conferences, gently replacing the box’s lid so as not to scare either one in to thinking they’re in trouble.

So the inevitable question becomes: what am I going to do when we finally figure out how to put the bed together? And then it’s time to get rid of these boxes? It will break their furry little hearts.

Of course, there’s no reason to feel sorry for an animal living in this household. Our cats are as doted upon as a cat can be. But it still makes me shake my head when I think of the money I’ve spent on pheromone diffusers and catnip toys and all sorts of other implements to keep them calm and happy during this transition….

Really, all they needed was a big ass box.

In other news, I ran 8 miles this morning. That is as far as I’ve gone since the Gansett Marathon, which was over a month ago. It was slow for me (around 9:00 pace), but I felt okay. I think my legs are still recovering from last Thursday’s hard weight session. They felt heavy and sluggish. Meh.

Bed time for me…I’ll be back tomorrow with a weigh in and weekly workout recap, among other things. Hope y’all had a good weekend!

This starts today

The last carload of crap has been hauled. The boxes have been unpacked. The major furniture items and appliances have been selected and purchased.

It’s been 23 days since the marathon.

I’m running out of excuses to miss workouts. And the long, physically laborious days of moving and unpacking where I simply must put up my feet and sip on a glass (or three) of Sauv Blanc at sundown…well, those are pretty much over at this point too.

So: this starts today.

I’m not sure what this is, but as I mentioned last week, I do know that I need to take my running mileage down for a few months. Aside from a short break in December, I’ve been in marathon training mode since last August, gunning for high mileage (successfully last fall; not so much this spring) and not really doing much in the way of strength training or cross training.

And that was great. It worked just like it was supposed to. It got me the PR and BQ that had eluded me for a decade.

It also got me a beer gut.

There is a reason why miles make champions. It’s because running lots of miles makes your body really efficient at running lots of miles. And that’s exactly what you want if you’re trying to be a competitive distance runner.

The downside is that most of us who run what I’d call “ambitious hobbyjogger” mileage (say, 40 or 50 miles a week) on a consistent basis spend a lot of time exercising and probably burn relatively few calories for our efforts.

Probably. I’m just conjecturing based on my experience over the years. Factor in the inevitable metabolic slowdown that comes with getting older and I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that distance running may not be the best way for me to stay in shape.*

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing it, obviously. Because that’s not my primary motivation. But in the “off season,” I figure it can’t hurt to focus my efforts elsewhere for a few months and try to get a little leaner for the next training cycle.

So…this, whatever it is, starts today.

No more weeknight beers. (Most of the time.)

No more fried food. (Unless it’s something really good.)

Some running, obviously, but more like 20 MPW.

Track workouts.

Boot camp.

Weights.

F*cking yoga.

And regular check-ins with this thing:

As of today, it tells me that I weigh 133.6 pounds and am composed of 23.8% fat and 37.8% muscle. (The other 38% is probably Dos Equis and tortilla chips, based on my weekend activities.)

[Edited to add: I’m 5’3″, so while that’s a perfectly healthy weight for me, I do have room to lose a few pounds and still be at a healthy weight.]

I don’t really have a goal, I just want the numbers to move in a direction that indicates less of the squishy stuff and more of the firm stuff.

And I am definitely not going to turn this in to an OMG WEIGHT LOSS blog and then crow about how inspirational I am because I lost ten vanity pounds. (Although if it could get me a book deal? I totally would.)

But assuming it’s not horribly offensive to you guys, I’ll share my progress (or spectacular failure and lack thereof) as it happens.

Anyway. I have a yoga class to get to. So I’ll leave you with what may end up being the final tragic photo of Emmy, on the cusp of her demise:

I could not come up with a worse place to nap if I tried. Unless your goal is to get squished by someone coming down the stairs who doesn’t see you because you are snoozing cluelessly under the first step.

*I’m sure there’s an inflection point somewhere. If I were able to consistently log 80 MPW instead of 40 MPW, I’d probably lean out. And obviously, the vast majority of elite and accomplished distance runners don’t have spare tires…they probably also have more willpower than I do when it comes to their diets. And better genetics. I realize that I’m oversimplifying and there are a lot of factors that affect one’s body composition, but it’s my blog and I’ll make sweeping generalizations if I want to.

Greetings from the…

…land of no internets.

Since I’m still trying to figure out the best internet solution for the new house, I’ll be coming to you live from the Starbucks down the road for the time being. I think it’ll work out well, because I haven’t unearthed the coffee maker yet anyway.

Thanks so much for all of your congrats on our anniversary! It was a great little getaway. We stayed at the H2 Hotel in Healdsburg – the newer, more eco-focused sibling of the venerable Healdsburg Hotel down the street – and I can’t say enough good things about it. (And they’re not even paying me, imagine that!) A few of the highlights:

  • Free bikes for guest use. I had actually looked in to booking one of those wine tours/limo thingies because I knew we wanted to visit several wineries and not have to deal with driving – I’m so glad I didn’t! Doing our own thing on bikes was much more fun (and FREE).
  • Most ridiculously comfortable bed ever. My husband stayed at the Healdsburg Hotel several years ago on a business trip and always talked about how it was the most comfortable bed he’d ever encountered. I don’t know if H2 uses the same beds, but it certainly didn’t disappoint.
  • FREE COLD WATER. I’m sure this was part of their eco schtick, but instead of having bottles of water in the mini fridge, there was a glass jug filled with chilled water and a note that invited us to refill at our convenience from the ice-cold filtered tap in the hallway. I am sure I annoyed my husband by remarking several times a day that this was the BEST THING EVER. Seriously: why can’t every hotel do this?  I always get dehydrated when I travel because I’m too cheap to pay for the $6 bottle of Aquafina and I hate drinking lukewarm tap water from a skeevy coffee mug.
  • Amazing free breakfast. I wanted to fill my suitcase with Rosemary-Pine Nut Scones.
  • Location and price. Froufy little wine country towns like Healdsburg aren’t cheap, obviously, but compared to the other “upscale” options in the area, it was quite reasonable.

Anyway. Enough about that. On to the running…or lack thereof. This was last week:

And the month of April:

That’s officially my lowest monthly mileage number in two years. Even last June/July/August, as I was cursing my way through my first Southern summer, I managed 120+. Ouch.

But oh well. I think that’s just how it’s gonna be for the next few months. I don’t want to curse my way though this summer; I want to hit the fall feeling refreshed and strong and ready to tackle high mileage. In order to get there, I need to get my strength up and body fat down and that means working hard at other things for a little while.

Speaking of which…next week, Gesina and I are starting this monthlong bootcamp that she found on Livingsocial. Should be a good time for my glutes and pecs, which haven’t seen a squat or a pushup in months.

Well, my coffee cup is empty; time to get on with my day. Thanks for bearing with me and my sporadic posting during all of this transition and travel!

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!

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?