Avoidable mistakes

A couple of weeks ago, I rolled my lawnmower out of my garage for the first time since last November.

lawnmower1

Out of necessity. I recently hired a weed-control service to apply noxious pesticides to my yard because, while I would love for my lawn to be all organic and shit, there are some big nasty weeds that grow here in Georgia.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried. These weeds laughed at my applications of “natural” weed killer. They spat in my face when I attempted to gouge out their grippy roots. I’d slice them with my scythe, and they’d grow back knee-high overnight. At some point, it became clear that they were aiming to swallow whole the lot of expensive sod we laid down last fall. Something had to be done.

So the lawn service came, and they tucked an invoice rolled like scroll behind my front doorknob, along with a nastygram:

“Please mow your lawn before your next scheduled application. Our services will be less effective at the treatment of weeds this large.”

Ugh.

That afternoon, even though the grass was still brown and dormant, I dragged out my mower. The one I’d purchased less than a year ago. It was still fairly shiny and new. I yanked the ignition-string thingy. Several times. Finally, the beast rumbled and awoke…and started spewing stinky bluish smoke.

lawnmower2

I yelped and  jumped back, releasing the safety handle. The mower shuddered and stopped. I watched, horrified, as the smelly plume drifted across the street and dissipated over my neighbors’ yards and houses. For sure, someone was going to pop out of their front door and give me a what-the-hell-are-you-doing-over-there look.

But no one did. Feeling weirdly ashamed, I ducked my head and rolled the mower back in to the garage.

In the days the followed, the weeds continued to grow. I tried to run the mower again, and again I got a face full of blue smoke. And then it stopped starting altogether. So I loaded it into the back of my car and drove it to the local hardware store, which has an in-house repair shop.

The guy there took one look at my shiny-new mower, and then one look at me, and asked:

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But this guy was a master of the skeptically-arched eyebrow, and I knew what he was really asking.

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Because, no. I had not drained my lawnmower before storing it for the winter. In fact, I had not even considered that I was storing it for the winter. I simply stopped using it and assumed it would work again the next time I fired it up.

So, yes. I was probably a damn fool.

$75 later, I have a fully functioning machine with a clear fuel line and carborator.  From what I can gather, they gave my poor mower the equivalent of a colon cleanse. But it works now. It irks me that I could have avoided all of this if I’d been a little more attentive and responsible, but…oh well. At least I was able to mow over my massive weeds today, leaving their juicy roots exposed for the pesticide peoples’ next visit.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, of course, it’s an awkward metaphor for my marathon situation.

As you know if you read my last post, I’m not exactly well-prepared for Boston.

I could have been well-prepared if I’d done some simple things. Like actually running. Or planning race logistics more than a few days out.

Such as: yesterday, it occurred to me that my shoes were shot. I only get ~300 miles on my PureFlows and although I haven’t been tracking my mileage, my current pair was definitely over that. On a five-miler last Sunday, I felt the concrete on every footfall.

So I bought a new pair today.

pureflows

I will run in them twice, probably, before Monday’s race. Definitely not recommended. Although at least they are the same model I had before, just a different color (which I am kind of digging! ninja shoes! they are like the anti-neon).

So the shoes are an oversight…really, a symptom of a broader apathy. There is no reason I couldn’t have trained for this race. I just didn’t do it. I’m a damn fool. And at this point, no $75 repair is going to change that.

Hopefully I won’t be blowing smoke at mile three on Monday.

Boston expectations

So. This Boston Marathon thing is happening in ten days.

People keep asking me if I’m excited (only for it to be over) and whether I am enjoying my taper (well, you need a peak in order to have a taper, sooo…). This whole so-called “training cycle” has been a taper. I am comically underprepared for this race.

Nonetheless, I will be at the starting line in Hopkinton a week from Monday. Is this a good idea? No, probably not. I haven’t run more than 40 MPW in months. I did do a slow twenty-miler…in February. My heart just hasn’t been in it. If this were any race other than OMG Boston, I’d have bowed out weeks ago.

I’ve done this before (suffered through a marathon with inadequate prep) and I’ll be fine. But I am not endorsing this style of training. Do as I say, not as I do. (Well, probably don’t do as I say either most of the time. Occasionally I pop a kernel of brilliance like taking the Color Run concept and turning it into a Vodka Squirt Gun Extravaganza, but usually my judgement is, at best, clouded by the wine.)

Anyway. Here are the things that I am not expecting from this Boston Marathon experience:

NOT EXPECTING #1: A PR.

Obviously. At this point, I’d consider a sub-4 finish a victory.

This might be attainable.

Case in point: Back in 2009, I ran the NYC marathon on seven weeks of questionable training after spending an entire summer traveling in Asia. During that trip I spent lots of time scarfing noodles and drinking cheap beer and did not run a single step from July to September. Upon my return to the US, I was chubby and flabby and worked my way up to about 40 MPW with one twenty-miler before it was time to “taper” for the race. I finished in 3:58.

There are certain similarities between then and now. Mostly the chubby-and-flabby part; also, the low-mileage part and the single-twenty-miler part. (There are also certain differences, like the three year age difference between then-me and now-me. Three years may not sound like much, but tell that to my ever-slowing metabolism.)

So: sub-4 or bust. Or not. I don’t really care. Normally I’m not one to run races “just for the FUNSIES!” but in this case, it’s my best option. Since I have no chance of being anywhere near PR range, I may as well run easy and try to enjoy it, right?

(There will be no sparkle skirts involved though. Trust.)

NOT EXPECTING #2: Good race pictures. 

Okay, so no one ever expects good race pictures. Raise your hand if you’ve never gasped in horror at the way your mouth looks like a drooly amoeba, or cursed your thigh (which is all muscle! WTF!) for resembling a drumstick made of Jell-O. Generally speaking, running is not a flattering activity.

Race pics make me cringe when I’m in good shape. And right now? I am not in good shape.

I’ll be honest here. I have gained some weight. About 10-15 pounds from my low point last summer. I’m not going to go in to the reasons for this, and I’m not going to complain about it, but I will say that while I am at peace with my clothed self in the mirror, I do not need to see this shit half naked and in motion.

I have considered making a diva-esque sign to hang around on my neck: “NO PHOTOS PLEASE.”

no photos please

But really…I am not a celebrity ducking the paparazzi. These MarathonFoto people mean me no harm. I just wish they would stick to pictures of, like…my ankles. Or my nose. Yes, ankles and nose photos only, please, MarathonFoto. If we could just avoid the thighs and the midsection and the double-chin danger zone, that would be great.

NOT EXPECTING #3: To ever return.

Mark my words: I am not doing this again. This as in Boston or this as in marathons generally. I’ve marathoned every year for the last 13 years. I am done.

I’ve always enjoyed running but I have not enjoyed it recently. There is nothing fun about feeling daily guilt over not running enough because you have an upcoming race that you’re dreading.

Lately, it’s been hard for me to read running blogs where people are all like, “OMG! I love running so much!” I wonder why I don’t feel that way. But then I remind myself that I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years. Seriously. The travel break that I mentioned earlier? That was the only significant break I’ve taken from running since I was 13. I’m burned out. And it’s okay to feel burned out.

I cannot wait until after this race when I can just, like, go to yoga or whatever. Yes, I am excited about going to goddamn yoga. The times, they change.

I promise, I’m not all negative about Boston, though. There are a few things that I am happily expecting from this experience.

EXPECTING #1: Friends food beer friends food beer!

Our good friends Chris and Annie live on the finish line of the marathon. Literally. I took this picture last year, while spectating Boston Inferno 2012 from their rooftop.

boston finish line

(That white tent is the finish line.)

Being the best hosts ever, they have offered to house us again this year, and after finishing this damn thing, I will be heading straight back down Boylston Street for a shower, a cold beer, and shenanigans.

EXPECTING #2: Decent weather.

Probably jumping the gun, but unless there’s a dramatic change, it looks like highs in the 50s right now. Fucking rad.

boston weather

(I’m sure I’m jinxing it by writing this. Sorry, everyone.)

EXPECTING #3: To go out on a high note.

Over the last sixteen weeks, as I’ve beat myself up for ditching my training plan, wallowed in self-loathing over my lack of motivation, and bemoaned my body-fat percentage, I’ve also entertained kind of a nice thought: after thirteen years of running marathons, Boston could be my last, and that would be kind of nice. I could just do it for the high-fives. A twenty-six mile victory lap.

I won’t lie and say that Boston was never on my mind during the decade that I marathoned annually and failed to qualify. On my very first try, at age 20, I came within three minutes of the standard. That 3:42:XX was my PR until age 31. During the ten races between, while I was never obsessed with Boston…it was there, in the back of my mind. I guess I assumed that I’d qualify eventually. Fortunately, I was right.

In some ways, my current situation reminds me of track season my senior year of high school. I’d worked all season to qualify for a spot in the 3200M at the state championships. Which I did. But I was seeded tenth in a field of sixteen, and the top three girls were, like, a full minute (or more) ahead of me. I had zero shot at a podium. Did it really matter whether I finished sixth or sixteenth? Was it worth sacrificing the end of my senior year (missing parties and, uh, other important stuff) for this race?

(It didn’t end up mattering, as I got mono and finished second to last. Yay.)

But the point remains: I made it to the big dance. The making it was what mattered. Everything else was icing on the cake.

If Boston is my icing, then I intend to just enjoy it for what it is: that last bite of sugar when the plate is empty. As I said earlier, I really think I’m done with marathons after this. It would be lovely to end the era by floating happily over the finish line with a smile on my face.

I know. Good luck, right? It’s still a marathon. Even at an easy pace, it’s hard. I know this. I’ll get through it, and I’m looking forward to closing this chapter and moving in to other things.

End note to an already long post: I know I should be happy to be running Boston. I know there are lots of people who would gladly take my place. I feel like an ungrateful shithead for being so negative. I do think that qualifying for and running Boston is an achievement, and I wish I were as stoked about it as I should be! But I won’t fake it…and honestly, this is one of many reasons that I haven’t posted much recently. (So if you’re still here reading…well, thank you.)

Big news!

I know some of you have been wondering what the hell happened to me.

Although I may be a shitty blogger who goes weeks without posting, I’m here to tell you that I’m alive and well and that I HAVE BANGS:

bangs

This is either the best decision or the worst decision of my life. TBD.

Octogenarian Sunday

I present: the four ways in which my day resembled the lazy Sunday of someone who was alive during the last World War, rather than that of your average 32-year-old.

1) Early Bird Eating. We are talking about brunch so early that it really should be called “breakfast.”

There is this great brunch spot in our neighborhood that we never go to because the wait it always, like, an hour. (This drives me batty. Why can you not make reservations for brunch? Another post….)

Anyway, the food is tasty and inexpensive but we never go because I am totally not down with standing on the sidewalk for an hour for the privilege of eating perfectly-cooked over-easy eggs. But this morning, my husband and I were both up at 7 AM. ON A SUNDAY? Why, I do not know.

Our little brunch spot opened at 8 AM and we were there when they unlocked the doors. We enjoyed our runny eggs and extra-crispy bacon over conversation about how weird it was to be up so early and how old it made us feel. But upon leaving an hour later, we exchanged smug looks as we passed the swelling crowd in the lobby, people doomed to wait for a table because they obviously didn’t have their shit together. Suckers.

That’s irony as pure as the maple syrup that I poured on my pancakes. I am the last person to lay claim to early-bird smugness.  Typically, I’m happy to sleep well in to double digits. (See, for example, this post which was less than a year ago!)

I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I seem to have lost my ability to sleep in. It’s weird, but also kind of nice.

2) Vehicular recreation? After brunch, we were waiting for a light to change and my husband asked if I knew what was down “that road” to our right.

I didn’t. And because (being done with the day’s first meal at such an unusually early hour) we had some time to kill, we decided to explore.

As it turned out, there was nothing down that road but typical semi-urban neighborhoods. Still, we tooled around for a while, eyeing houses for sale and speculating on their value (for no reason other than curiosity). We were stopped at a stop sign when my husband’s eyes widened in alarm.

“This. We’re doing it again,” he whispered.

I turned and gave him a quizzical look.

“THIS. This is what old people do,” he said. “You know: ‘going for a drive.’ Making useless comments about the things they see. That’s what old people do and we’re doing it right now.”

Of course, he was totally right.

I plugged our address into the GPS and we headed straight home.

3) Inappropriate use of ice. Fast forward to 4PM. It’s time to open some wine! How about a glass of white? What…there’s none in the fridge? Well, um…

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HEYYYY! ICE IN THE CHARDONNAYYYYY!

I know. NO. But it was a cheap bottle of Cupcake and I really wanted a glass so…I did what your great-grandmother did with her white zin and plopped in a couple of ice cubes. It wasn’t half bad, actually.

And it was an appropriate prelude to…

4) Early Bird Eating Part II: our 5:30 dinner reservations. This wasn’t my first choice, but that’s was what was available. We’ve been dying to eat at The Optimist since it opened a couple of months ago and it’s not easy to get a table.

(And justifiably. It was great. If you’re an Atlantan, it’s definitely worth a visit.)

Then the check came…

optimist

 …and the evening took a childish turn:

optimist2

Maybe it was the watered-down Chardonnay (or the bottle of Viognier we had with dinner), but this was really funny. To me, anyway. I’m not sure what Megan N thought about it but we left her a decent tip and also totally left her that receipt with the Optimus Prime on it even though it was the customer copy, so….

It’s now 9:30 PM and I am more than ready for bed. And I expect to sleep soundly when I get there.  Maybe there is something to this whole getting-old thing.

Up the (fake) creek

So the rowing machine at my gym is a piece of shit.

That’s not a commentary on the facility’s condition generally. I go to an L.A. Fitness that is pristine by big-box gym standards: it’s bright and clean with new equipment that is always in working order. The clientele consists of midtown professionals and polished residents of the surrounding gayborhood. The drinking fountains dispense ice-cold water. Really, who needs more than that from their gym?

I rarely find reason to complain, but today…well, there’s only one rowing machine in the building. And today, when I strapped my toes in and gave a tentative tug on the wooden handlebar, the screen spit out a mess of random pixels. Cue me trying to explain this to a front-desk gym person who was probably hungover from last night too, and didn’t really care about my cardio issues.

Anyway. In general, I’ve been digging the rowing machine as a quick-and-dirty cross-training device during this training cycle. Honestly, I’ve never been big on XT. Usually, it either:

(a) Takes too long. As in: cycling. I’m sure there are varying opinions on how cycling miles translate to running miles for comparative purposes, but going with what my college coach used (4 cycling = 1 running), I’d need to pedal for at least an hour in order to have a meaningful workout. Plus, I might hit a patch of gravel and fall over or get a flat tire or get hit by a car and die. Too much risk for not enough reward. I’d rather just run.

(b) Requires a whole mess of logistical effort. As in: swimming.  I don’t hate the act of swimming itself, but good lord, I have to practically pack an overnight bag in order to make it happen: goggles, cap, shampoo, conditioner, hefty moisturizing lotion to placate my dry skin, makeup bag with under eye concealer to patch up the mess left by the goggles. Ugh. I prefer a workout where I can take a 30-second rinse and blow-dry the sweat out of my roots, thanks. I’d rather just run.

(c) Is similar enough to running that I feel like I’m not really giving my legs a break from running. I’m looking at you, Elliptical. You’re just contrived, lower-impact running. Unless I am injured and looking for a gentler running substitute, I see no point. Assuming I’m healthy and just looking to give my legs a break, I’d rather do something that gets my heart rate up in a totally different way. If not…I’d rather just run.

So that’s how my butt landed on the padded saddle of my gym’s (busted, as of today) rower. Oh okay, I’ll admit: I was nudged by the devotion of Crossfit and similar style workouts to this machine. Obviously I’m not a Crossfitter (although I remain simultaneously humbled and skeptical, a la this post) but I’ll admit that CF workouts seem to be, if nothing else, highly efficient. And that is what I value in my cross-training.

Anyway. When I use the rower, I typically crank the resistance almost all the way up, and pull hard on that thing for like 20-25 minutes, which is usually about 3K. At that, I feel like I’ve gotten a great little burst of cardio and am all-over warmed up for my strength workout.

Of course, I could have just dealt with a wonky screen today. I could have set my phone’s timer for 20 minutes and pulled hard for that time, in spite of the lack of feedback on my strokes per minute (heh) and average stroke length (double heh) and all of that garbage that is just computer generated anyway because it’s not like this machine is on an actual river, right? It would be like running on a treadmill without knowing MPH. Or pushing up on a random loaded bar without knowing how much you were benching.

Um yeah, not appealing. One thing I like about gym workouts is having that feedback and information. If I wanted to exercise without parameters, I’d go for an easy run sans watch. Which I do fairly often. Because it’s fun.

So I headed to the treadmill (which I hated doing, because if I’d planned on running, I could have run outside) and knocked out two fast miles: the first at 7:45 and the second at 7:10. Efficiency on the brain, I guess.

Then I did an upper body weight circuit:

  • Bench press: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Low row: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Bicep curls: 2 X 15 @ 15 lbs, 1 X 10 @ 20 lb.
  • Shoulder press: 3 X 15 @ 15 lbs
  • Head bangers: 3 X 15 @ 30 lbs
  • Lat raises: 3 X 32 (4-position circuit) @ 5 lbs
  • Lat pull down: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Push-up ladder, 10 down to 1, all on toes (yay!)

It was a good session overall, but I was most excited about the last one. This push-up ladder has been an on-and-off part of my routine for years, and being able to easily complete the whole thing without dropping to my knees at the end of a workout has always been something of a personal benchmark…for me, it’s like running a 6:00 mile. It means that I might not be in the best shape ever, but I’ve got something going.

(And believe me: I am not in the best shape ever at the moment. I’ve definitely put on a layer of fat since my boot-camp shape-up this summer. It comes and it goes, I guess. I’m okay with it.)

On that note, since this post lacks pictures, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of our first day of 2013.

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This is appropriate attire for making a stay-the-hell-in-your-car beeline to the McDonald’s Drive-Thru. (Chicken McNuggets. With Sweet Chili Sauce. McAwesome. McAlways.)

Is the fast-food drive-thru attendant judging you? Yes, of course. Have they seen worse in the last twelve hours? Absolutely.

As for 2013 goals, I don’t really have any that I’m ready to share, but I’ll say this: I am absolutely looking forward to the first new year in several years where moving to a different state isn’t on the table. Staying put is a huge relief.

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.

Our new holiday tradition

I know I shouldn’t, but I cannot help myself. The pumpkin shirt was so perfect.

If cats are in charge of hell (seems likely, when you think about it) I’m sure they have a special place for me there.

For the record, this ugly Christmas sweater is the same “Medium Dog” size from Target and, unlike the pumpkin shirt which was just a little too snug, it fits him much better. All 20 pounds of blubbery kitty are well-contained; no swaybelly oozing out here!

On that note: get excited about Valentine’s Day.

On adjusting expectations

Um. One week from tomorrow, I am running a half marathon.

If it hasn’t been obvious from my (sporadic) posts – which have been either vaguely mopey or awkwardly lacking on the topic – the “plan” has not transpired. I have not been running 40-50 MPW (more like 20-30). I have not been consistent with my Tuesday track sessions and I certainly have not added a weekly tempo run. With respect to strength training and yoga, I have done okay, but progress on my hack squat and warrior three only go so far when it comes to racing 13.1 miles.

Honestly? I’ve considered giving away my bib. Waking up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day (a day which happens to involve hosting my husband’s entire family, all of whom are flying in from out of state) to half-ass a half marathon seems stupid.

But I think there is still something I can get out of this race, even if I’m not anywhere close to PR shape.

Namely: that I can use it as a tough-it-out marathon-pace run, giving me a baseline to determine what sort of shape I’m in as I go in to Boston training. I mean…Atlanta is hilly. Boston is hilly. If I can manage an 8:00 (or, if I’m having a good day, 7:45) pace for 13.1 on questionable training, that at least gives me something to go on when planning my Boston workouts.

So, that’s the goal: 1:45.

But truthfully, I won’t even be upset with 1:50. I really haven’t been putting the miles in these last few months, so why would I expect to be in shape? I am not in shape. I may be able to pull a decent 400/800 track workout out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean much when you’re talking about racing for over an hour.

And speaking of track workouts….I have decided to chill out a little bit lately. If I take on Boston training the way that I would like to (a la Pfitzinger), I’ll be doing lots of tough runs over the next few months. Right now should be base building and fun running. There is no reason to kill myself at the track.

So this week, I aimed for 80% performance.

We did 2 X [2X800, 2X400]

Instead of going balls out, I decided to try these at true 5K pace, which would mean 3:20 for the 800s and 1:35 for the 400s. That was tough; I’m used to chasing the 3:00 barrier on 800s and I haven’t run a 400 over 90 in a track workout in months.

800: 3:11, 3:14
400: 1:34, 1:33
800: 3:13, 315
400: 1:34, 1:32
 

That still exhausted me, even if I backed off of my usual pace targets. Also: it was dark and cold (by Atlanta standards) and there was a psycho bird that kept darting across the backstretch of the track as we ran by. (Seriously…I thought it was a rat until it took a brief flight during one lap-crossing.)

I have plenty of time to figuratively kill myself in the future with training and racing. This fall just hasn’t been my time for that. I haven’t put in the miles, and I have no one to blame for that but myself. I can’t expect race results that don’t reflect my training effort.

So: 1:45 (or 1:50) or bust. And a decadent Thanksgiving dinner afterward.

And thank jeebus that all discord has been solved in our house.

My husband recently switched computer/office bags and made the mistake of leaving his old one on the floor. This immediately became the Best Place To Sleep Ever and resulted in a knock-down drag-out fight between our two cats over who would roost there. I took the bag away and they’re fine now. Apparently, as they’re back to their yin-and-yang formation.

And if we are talking about political discord? I realize that my last post may have ruffled some feathers. I’d intended, in that brief post, to communicate my conviction that candidates (especially major party candidates) rarely represent the actual wishes of the voter, but that this isn’t a reason to abstain from the voting process.

Obviously you all know which angle I chose to approach that from when it came to the most recent election’s candidates.

I said this in the comments to that post and will say it again: if there is any political cohort about which it’s fallacious to assume stances or opinions, it’s the libertarians. I didn’t state any specific political/policy opinions in that post and I don’t plan to make that a focus of this blog, but I am happy to answer any questions or discuss via email [eatdrinkrun @ gmail].  Honestly, I expect that we are not as far apart as you think we are, assuming that you are coming at this from the “modern liberal”/Democrat point of view, which I assume most of you are…but I’m happy to chat with anyone of any political stripe.

[Insert analogy about third party candidates giving their all even though they know they will not win, and compare to my earlier statements about being able to gain something out of this half marathon even though I won’t come close to PRing, much less winning. Yes, I’m sure there is a parallel here.]

And with that, it’s bedtime for me.  I promise more beer reviews soon. We’re just about into my favorite beer season, with lots of Winter Warmers. I’m toasted just thinking about it.