Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hills are just speedwork in disguise

That's the .sig line for someone on the Runner's World forums. I'm beginning to believe it may true after this morning's run.

Today was a 2 mile Heartbreak Hill run and my goal is to do that run in 25 minutes (remember the mantra? It's 13 up, 12 down). Today I did it in 25:04 - just 4 seconds off my goal. Last time I did that specific run I was almost a full minute off (25:58). Part of me wonders: is it the hill or is it the music?

Given the difference is funk vs. driving rock, I think it's the hillwork.

I have to admit I was a bit frustrated that, because of back-to-school shopping and everything else, I didn't get a chance to run yesterday... not even with the scary, crazy military guy. So I decided I'm going to run tomorrow as well. I'll be so happy when school starts and I'll have my regular groove back. Of course, if I want to keep running on the hill, I still have to get up early to do that route. I'm also going to have to look into doing some treadmill running when the temperature starts dipping below freezing.

Yes, I know running outside no matter what the weather is supposed to be a million, billion, trillion, zillion times better than inside on a treadmill - but I know me well enough to know that I'm probably not going to run outside if it's below freezing. Since I know that truth about me, then I'm going to have to find a nearby gym with a treadmill and weights so, come the spring, I'll be able to pick up where the fall leaves off.

Did I just say that? I'm looking forward to doing this in the spring. At some point, the idea that I am a runner edged it's way in from the outer reaches of my psyche. How strange....

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tear the roof off the sucker!

I did it. I ran 4 miles today: two up Heartbreak Hill and two back down!

For those of you in the cheap seats that didn't hear me:


Sundays on Heartbreak Hill are busy. A lot of running clubs do their long runs from some point in Boston to the firehouse at the corner of Rte 16 and back. It was interesting for me to see people driving along, hiding their water bottles along the route and then hopping in to drive to the next spot. Today there was at least one big-ass blue cooler concealed by the Johnny Kelley statue.

There were all sorts of runners out today - solo, small groups and big groups. Sort of like someone yelled, "Running party on the Commonwealth Ave carriage road," and everyone poured out of their homes and started running - like in those teen/college movies when someone yells "Party at..."

I'm not sure why I can break mental barriers on Heartbreak, but I can. I did think about the hill itself today. Where I start, behind City Hall, you have a couple of blocks that are pretty level and then you start climbing as you pass Bullough's pond. It continues like that for a while more and then it levels off for another block. So you've gone from, "Oh fuck!" to "that's not too bad." The climb after that is a bit more gradual for a little and it continues in that sort of pattern. So when you "conquer" it, you feel like you've accomplished something.

When I couldn't seem to do 2 miles without walking, I started running to Centre Street and I found I could do it. The other day when I broke past Centre Street to the Kosher strip mall, I felt like I could do anything and it made up for the scary, crazy military guy run a couple nights earlier. Today when I made it past Centre Street it was no biggie. I made it past the Kosher strip mall with the thought, "That's 2.5 miles," because I knew turning around there meant 2.5 miles.

When I got to Hobart Street, I knew that was the 3 mile point on the turn around and I figured anything at this point was gravy - so I kept going.

It was funny, I got to Ward Street - marking 2 miles out and I yelled, "Woo Hoo! I did it!" and turned around to see a real runner guy grinning. "Congrats," he said, "how far?"

"Two miles out, now two back."

"Good job, keep it up," he said as he went back to his LSD.

On my way back down I began passing people I passed on the way up. Many of them were really encouraging, "Keep going..." "Looking good..." "Stay strong..." and other sorts of greetings.

Today when I passed Johnny on the way down I yelled, "I'm going for four today Johnny - got that four!" and I held up 4 fingers. I could hear him in my mind saying, "Good job - you'll be doing six before you know it. Keep up the good work."

Wow... four miles at a 13:14 pace. Who'd have thought I'd be able to do that? Up until this morning, not me. But now I that I have, I'm a happy pika and I can hardly wait to do it again!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Bikes are fun

I'll be the first to admit this new bike isn't perfect, but it was fun.

I wanted to play with my new toy so I went for a 2.5 mile ride with the youngest. Of course we had to stop and get ice cream on the way - but I was good, I didn't put jimmies on there.

Normally I do my LSD on Saturdays but I figure I'll do that tomorrow instead.

Right now we're getting ready for Gazelle Boy's birthday. Instead of cake, I'll probably get him an ice cream pizza (brownie crust, vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate, m&ms, cherries and other good stuff). Once he asked for a birthday pie and he also asked for a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting and strawberries on top - so I'm sure anything would work for him.

School's a week and a half away. Woo Hoo! I can't wait because maybe then I can get back to something resembling normal.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I want to ride my bicycle

I had the bestest, purpliest purple bike in the world. It was beautiful and I used to hang my black wire market basket on the front and ride it around like the geek I am. I loved it because it was purple. I didn't care that it was a $70 Target bike, I just cared it was purple and got me to where I wanted to go.

Then Gazelle Boy borrowed it one day beause his tire was flat. And so did the other kids until they were complaining it didn't shift right, the tires were flat, blah, blah, blah. I made them fix the tires and told them to take care of it. After a year of it being tossed around and smashed about and dropped and everything else, I finally reclaimed my bike the other day.

I pumped up the tires and started down the block only to hear that sick clackity clacky ca chunka chunk chunk noise of the chain falling off.

"Shit," was the first word out of my mouth and quickly followed by more than a few other stronger expletives. I took it to the bike store and they were very nice.

"It's really not worth fixing," the mechanic said. "By the time I get done, it would cost less to replace it. Honestly, you should seriously think about a new bike."

There must have been something in my eyes - some look on my face because he then said, "Look, my basic tune up alone is $60 and then when you factoring in new parts - look, this wire's frayed and needs to be replaced. Your chain, the derailleur..." he said as he punched numbers into the calculator and then showed me the display. "Really, for that you could go upstairs and buy a new bike."

He could tell I was sad. Hell - he was sad because he I was sad. With a sigh I asked, "Can you do something with her? I mean, if I leave her with you is there anything you can scavenge from her?"

He said if I left it out front, someone would be sure to take it and try to give it a new life. One guy who was there getting his bike checked out said, "Hey, this is why I carry tools with me - I could use some parts from this. It's a good seat and the brake pads are in good shape... if it's OK with you."

The bike mechanic said the guy could even scavenge parts and leave the rest outside, "Trust me," he said, "someone will take it and make use of the frame."

With a sigh, I said goodbye to my bike and went upstairs. The sales girl was sweet when she listened to what I wanted and showed me some bikes she had ("And I can order this in purple for you if I don't have it in stock...").

So off I went in search for a new bike. I stopped at the police station to find out about auctions (nothing any time soon) and several bike stores where they tried to sell me things that made no sense.

In one store I said, "I don't want a single speed bike. There are too many hills and it's too much work - in fact, I just left my landshark on the curb because it was just too hard to ride." What do you think she showed me? A $450 single speed cruiser because, "This is the hottest selling bike right now for people who just want to ride around town doing errands."

Another guy tried to sell me a $600 bike because, "You'll never need another bike as long as you live." Of course this came after I told him I really didn't want to go over $200.

Then there was the guy who tried to sell me a $250 Trek mountain bike that wasn't designed for a front basket or rear rack.

Finally I went into a store where guy showed me a $250 bike because it was purple. He then said, "Look, I don't mean to screw myself out of a sale or anything but maybe you're better off with a Walmart or a Target special. It's not like you're riding in the PanMassChallenge or training for a tri. You just want something to ride on alternate running days and to do errands. You might be better off spending $70 on something there instead of something here."

He was right. I wasn't sure what I'd need in a few months if I get more serious about this stuff and I could make an expensive mistake if I rushed into things now. I really needed a Target special - but Target was out of my size bikes. Damn the high cost of gas. This meant I had to step foot in Wally world.

I loathe Walmart. I hate to think that I could financially support a company such as Walmart in any way, shape or form - but when you need a bike and Target's out, what's a girl to do?

There, on the very tip, top rack was the bike in the picture. It was my purpliest purply shade of purple. I could hang a basket on the front and put a rack on the back if I wanted. It had five speeds and cost just over $50. It wasn't a great bike, but it was what I needed for now.

Tomorrow I will take out my new bike and get to know it better. I will hang my basket on the front and take it to the library. I'm sure we'll become great friends.

In the meantime, I've decided next spring I'll buy a good bike at the first store I went to - where the mechanic and the saleswoman really listened to me. I'm going to save for my new bike by simply stashing any one dollar bills I get where the serial number ends in 7 or 11. If I do that for a few months, I suspect that it won't be long before I have a couple of hundred dollars put aside for a new bike and I'll have a better idea of what I really need in a bike.

I still mourn for my old bike, but I'm looking forward to getting to know my new one.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Break out

Today I ran past Centre Street.

I broke past that psychological barrier and ran as far as the Kosher strip mall on my Heartbreak Hill run. I broke past that corner of Centre and Commonwealth, past the mental barrier of "I can make it one mile..."

Last night I looked at the map site to figure out where to turn around if I wanted to do a 3 mile run. This morning, just before I got started, the inner loser spoke up.

"Excuse me, but THREE miles. Are you sure that's a good idea?"

Freakin' inner loser. If I didn't think it was a good idea I wouldn't be planning it now would I? On the other hand, given my knee and now my ankle - which is bugging me because I was favoring my knee - was it a good idea?

So I decided I would decide when I got to Centre Street.

At Centre Street, it felt good and when I realized I was at the Kosher strip mall, I figured I had gone far enough for this morning. In the end my Heartbreak Hill run was 2.5 miles this morning on a day when I almost turned around and went home more than a few times.

First I almost didn't make it out the door because I overslept. Normally I get there at 7 am, I didn't leave the house until almost 8. Most of the parking spaces at City Hall were taken, then I noticed an empty stretch. I forgot my watch and key pocket and I hadn't eaten.

Finally I said, "I'm here, I'm going to do this." I decided I'd relax and take my time and when I got home I'd figure out what song I was on when I finished, went to put my key in the mp3 player case (and discovered it has a key pocket inside) and shoved my inhaler in my cleavage.

The difference between running at 7 am and 8 am is the commuter traffic. At 7 am there's traffic on Comm Ave, but the carriage road is pretty much empty. Around 8 am or so, you get little back ups in traffic and people trying to avoid the traffic will cut down the carriage road to get to the lights. So every so often you'd get some moron in an SUV barrelling down the hill and you have jump onto the median or the sidewalk to avoid them. (As a side note, it's even worse in the evening commute.)

I was glad I did remember to bring my shades this time through, the sun was pretty bright. The problem with them is that people tend to avoid saying "hi" or trying to make eye contact because your eyes are hidden behind a pair of polarized lenses. I missed being able to smile, nod and greet my fellow runners and walkers this morning. But I was equally glad not to be squinting.

Coming back down the hill, I kept an mind's eye out for my virtual trainers - Cap'n Tek and Johnny Kelley. I guess Tek's on west coast time right now because I didn't see him out there. At the bottom of the hill, I did let Johnny know I made it past Centre Street. "Just 24 to go now Johnny, not 24.2," I called out as I passed the statue.

He was applaudig as I crossed the finish line but had faded by the time I was able to walk it off and stretch. The important thing was that he was there today.

By not having a watch to pace myself, I had to be more aware of the back beat in the music. I also wasn't pushing myself to go faster. I couldn't use my mantra of "13 up/12 down" - not even in a modified manner - because I had no way of checking times. By adding up the music times and plugging that into the pace calculator - I ran about a 14 minute pace today. I'd need to get that time down next time, but I'll take it for today.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Running Club: Week 2

Tonight was the second week of the running club at BSC to get ready for the Tufts 10K.

The clinic is run by a personal trainer from the club and he's a military guy. That can be a good thing when you're warming up in Copley Square and the drunks are hanging out on the benches hassling you. One guy got a little too close and he used that military voice to chase him off. Nothing mean or nasty, just that authoritive, "Hey buddy, I need you to step away now," with the tone and we're golden.

Basically he spends about a half hour doing stretching and warm up exercises. I can understand some of them like the squats and such - but the freaking down on all fours to stretch your hip flexers... not gonna happen. Especially with the spectators looking on.

Also, this girl ain't jumping. When you're blessed with a big chest, jumping jack, bounders and a few other bouncy, bouncy type things are just a hair too much. I'm not only one of the oldest women in the group, but I'm the only one who looks like she's got her own personal set of airbags in case I go down face first.

Because Mr. Bear made me wear a knee brace (he's a good bear), the first mile of the tonight's two miler (it was really 2.1 miles... but close enough) was fine. It was slow - a 13 minute pace - but fine. At the one mile mark, I knew my knee didn't want to run back, so my "buddy" and I walked with this other woman in the group. I couldn't keep pace with her - she was fast! I would walk for five, jog for one going back so it only took about 16 minutes to get back (a total of 29 minutes tonight). Again, not one of my greatest paces, but I did manage to comfortably make the distance.

Next week is a 3 mile run and I'm determined to run the whole three miles. So I may make all my runs this week 3 milers and add an extra one in. I also realize I need to give Carol a call so we can get a couple of runs in before the next time she's able to go back to the clinic.

Now if only I could talk Chaya into this, it would be too cool for words.

Just another Manic Monday

I will be so glad when the kids are back in school.

Yesterday I was all set to go to the pool, but then the clouds started rolling in. I was worried that the weather would shift to predicted sudden thunderstorms (which, by the way, never arrived) and changed my focus to the walking a mile here and walking a mile there. I ended up covering over four miles by doing that.

I wanted to make sure my knee was OK - and it seems to be. So that's good. I'll go to the running clinic tonight and get myself back on track.

My goals this week are simple:

- running clinic tonight
- xt tomorrow - perhaps I'll pull out my bike and chart a course.
- heartbreak hill run on Thursday, let's see if I can make the 13 up/12 down this week
- xt Friday
- LSD of 4 miles Saturday

Oh yeah - that 5k I ran the other day in Brockton was actually 3.3 miles, not 3.1 which means I ran a 13:35 pace in spite of mostly walking that last mile with my knee. At least now I don't feel like a total loser.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

One race, two race, good race, bad race

The first thing I heard this morning was rain dropping on the AC unit. In it's steady drumming I was thrilled - I like running in the rain and if it was raining, it would be a good race day. Unfortunately, it stopped but left a wet, heavy blanket of humidity that wrapped around me and dragged me down.

Gazelle boy and I joked a lot at the start - how he had to beat the tough tattooed boys of the Brockton x-country team and if he got beaten by someone pushing a stroller there would be no end to the taunting. He started at the front, I started in the back and we were off.

The course had 9 turns in it and were pretty well marked. It wound through the neighborhood behind Brockton High School, through the parking lot, around the soccer field and back through the other parking lot to enter the stadium with a finish by running along the warning track and crossing at home plate. Even though it was a road race, it was really an all terrain race: asphalt, concrete, mud, grass, gravel and clay. As I said, this was done under a gray sky with a blanke of humidity wrapped around us all.

I started well. Again I went out a bit too fast, finishing the first mile in 11 and change. I knew if I didn't slow down, I'd be burned out too quickly so I did the one minute recovery walk so I could start again at my pace. It's a good way to reset my pace and I was doing fine until I hit the soccer field.

Because it had been a soaking rain, running over the uneven edge around a soccer field was not a happy thing. About 1/3 of the way through there I lost my footing and righted myself before falling - but not before I felt my knee do something odd. I started walking with little checks to myself: is it swollen? No. Is it red? No. Does it hurt? Well, it's a bit tender and sore. Should I run? Let's give it a try... probably not.

I passed the two mile marker at 24:24 (double Jack Bauers) thinking, "Damn, I'm on pace for a PR." So I tried running again - nope, not gonna happen. I tried to walk quickly - not quite race walk, but briskly almost marching. That was OK, so I was going to finish and not let the inner loser drag or a sore knee drag me down. I tried running for a couple of minutes ("Just to that cone..." "You can make it past the women with the stroller...") but the knee was unhappy and now the ankles were also unhappy because I realize I'm not distributing my weight properly.

I slow it down a little and keep moving. Some guy from the running club putting this on thinks I need encouragement - but it grated on me this time. "Just jog and walk, you're near the end and you can do it."

"I hurt my knee."

"You can make it."

"Listen, I twisted my knee on the soccer field. Is there first aid at the finish line?"

"Oh... can you make it?"

"I'll make it - just I should ice it when I finish."

He scampered off - I assumed to let someone know.

Again I start thinking, "This is almost over - can I run to the giant baseballs?" Then I walked to the 3 mile sign and decided, "Dammit, I'm going to run to home plate." I ran the last .1 mile around the puddles on the warning track and finished in 44 and change. Not my worst time but it certainly isn't the PR I wanted and was on track for.

Crossing the finish line I asked for ice for my knee. (Remember the guy who scampered off...I never saw him again.) It took a little bit but finally someone brought me a bag of ice. DH got me some food and I sat with my leg up, icing it down for about 20 minutes.

Gazelle Boy won his age group and came in 10th overall. He got a cool trophy with a spinny thing on it. Unfortunately, the spinny broke and DH is going to figure out how to fix it so it's spinny again. DH and the youngest did the walk. The youngest said they would have done much better if DH didn't stop to ask to look at the race volunteers' maps three or four times.

In the end, it wasn't a good race for me (obviously), but it was for Gazelle Boy. DH and the youngest had fun - so overall it was a good thing. We didn't stay for the ball game, it's not until 5 pm and we were worn out.

As I was sitting there during the award ceremony, I got hit with an odd thought. If Tek is my virtual coach and he's out with a knee injury - does that mean I should hire a new virtual coach since I now seem to have one? But then I realized I could never fire Cap'n Tek - he's the best. But I suspect I'll be seeing him leaning on his crutches with a stop watch in his hand and a whistle around his neck on future runs. No more namby, pamby, whining inner losers. Cap'n Tek is going to banish them as surely as he keeps A-Rod in control after showing him who A-Rod's daddy truly was (two words: glove wash). Tek will whip me back into shape and get me going again, of that I'm sure.

So I'm home and I'll keep the knee up, eat some ibuprofen and read the Sunday papers. Tomorrow I'll swim and see how I feel. Hopefully I'll be back to normal by Tuesday and take it from there.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rolling on the river

I didn't do anything yesterday.

Well, it's not that I didn't do anything - it's just that I didn't run or cross train at all yesterday. So I'll call it a rest day.

That left me with a little dilemma today. Since I'm running a race tomorrow, what (if anything) should I do today? I thought about maybe going for a short run - like a mile or so but then I got a bright idea. With the younges and DH in the car, I said, "Hey, let's go kayaking!"

Keep in mind I haven't been kayaking in like 30 years and the last time I was out in any small craft was a canoe about 6 or 7 years ago. So why I thought of this, I really have no clue. But off we went to Charles River Canoe and Kayak to paddle away.

Because I had on my cargo shorts, everything was in my pockets - including my camera.

I know what you're thinking and no, I didn't dump them overboard or swamp them by accident. In fact, I took some lovely pictures... as you can see. It's hard to believe that this spot is under an major highway interchange of 128 and the Mass Pike - and yet here is this calm beauty in the middle of modern life.

We kayaked for about an hour - a little over a half hour upstream and then taking our time back downstream to the rental place.

For a workout it was a mild, pleasant upper body workout. I don't think I'll wait 30 years for the next time I go kayaking but I will remember to bring a ziploc bag to put the camera in... just in case.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I began beating back my inner loser again. First yesterday I managed to get into the pool and do my half mile. I have to admit that one of the ways I was able to do that was to make Mr. Pi go with me.

He swam a quarter mile and my last few laps he was practicing his "encouragement." I'd say "two more to go" and he'd reply, "keep going Mom, you can do it." It was really funny.

This morning I beat back my inner loser again running up Heartbreak Hill. First I actually hauled my sorry butt out of bed at 6:30 - something I haven't done in some time. (I don't call getting up at 6/6:30 last week as counting because it was really 9/9:30 as far as my body was concerned.) I got dressed and headed over to Newton City Hall to run Heartbreak Hill for my 2 miler.

For those of you who know Commonwealth Avenue, there is a carriage road that runs beside it - a residual from the days when the people in the big houses along the main drag needed such a thing. At some point things got paved over and the road structure remained the narrower lane separated from the main drag by a median strip.

The carriage road that runs along Commonwealth Ave. belongs to the walkers, runners and cyclists in the early morning hours. We take it up in singles and groups. Some people, usually the cyclists, are going somewhere while others are just out for a morning constitutional.

I start at the corner of Lowell Ave, a block beyond the Johnny Kelley statue. I take a warm up walk, stretch while Freddy Mercury croons "nothing's gonna stop me now" in my ear. Just as David Bowie yells out, "Wham bam thank you ma'am," I begin my 1 mile run up the hill.

The first block is easy - it's fairly level and when I get to the corner to wait for the light I usually call out, "Good morning Johnny," as I pass by the statue - then the climb begins. As I start up the next block I pass a couple of knots of walkers. They are older people and it's always a source of amusement to see which member is pushing the other to do this.

This is where I see my first runner as the Hives blast out see the idiot walk. I don't know why it seems appropriate for this particular person - perhaps it's the way their iPod shuffle bounces all over his chest because he's wearing the neck lanyard instead of the arm band. I do nod and mumble good morning as I run past. I'm heading up the hill while he is running down. I'm going where he's been and there's something to be said for that.

I travel along to Bono and B B King singing trying to repeat my mantra: 13 up, 12 down. This is the goal I've set for this run - 13 minutes up to Centre Street and 12 minutes back down to Lowell. One of the super runners passes me. She is the type of person I imagine as a runner - long and thin with a tan and a stride. I suddenly remember I'm short and fat as I wonder if I'll make it while the Foo Fighters sing "Everlong" (breathe out so I can breathe you in), I reach the top of my hill - 13:21. Not bad, just a hair off my goal of 13 up.

I turn around at Centre Street since this is the 1 mile mark for me. Lenny Kravitz asks me, "Are you gonna go my way?" as I run down, glancing at my watch every so often. I'm hoping to make my 12 minutes down - negative splits and all that. On the way down I start passing the older couples. I notice that one woman has given up on her husband, determined to show she can do this even if he can't. She has that look on her face - the one you see in the faces of couples, particularly older ones, who are in that "I told you so" mode. As I pass them I need to see where I'm at and out loud I count out with Bono, "Uno, dos, tres, catorce - turn it up loud Captain!" I can do this with out panting, but the level of sweat tells me I'm working hard so I'm in a good zone.

There is a group of three overweight adults - all of them maybe in their 60's - struggling up the hill. It really is steep at this point so I give them a thumbs up and yell, "good job." One of them smiles and thanks me before saying, "looking good."

I have to stop my watch as I wait for the light at the final block. The carriage road crosses Walnut St. here - a major intersection. I bop around to the Ramone's "She's the One" as Johnny Kelley looks on from across the intersection. Just as they finish up, I start my watch again because the light changes and I wonder if I should walk the last block, but the infectious drumming of "American Idiot" keeps my feet moving at pace.

I decide I really like this mix as I trot down the last block - OK, it's really two blocks but it feels like one because I'm keeping the length of City Hall in my peripheral vision as I go past the doggie water fountain to the finish line marked by two octagonal stop signs. I run across the crosswalk with my arms raised up as if I just broke the tape. I've done it, I ran Heartbreak again and I did it in25:58 - not quite my 13 up/12 down, but close. Maybe next week.

Now it's time to cool down and stretch a little. I walk towards the car as Dave Grohl tells me he doesn't want to be my Monkey Wrench. I lean against a tree to stretch my calves, my soleus, quads and hams in my right leg and then do the same for my left leg. Just as I finish, it starts again. Freddy Mercury reminds me - nothing's gonna stop me now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Training for a 10K

I signed up for the Tufts 10k.

I took the plunge, filled out the app gave them the financial info and I'm good to go.

When I told Mr. Pi (to the right with Red Sox ambassador and part time ball girl Meg - another in the stable of "hot women" he is "crushin' on"), he told me he was proud of me for sticking with this after he quit.

He also said he can't wait to hold up a sign that says "Go Mom!" along the route.

He did take my 30 day challenge and said that, towards the end, he ran farther than he ever thought he could, but he's not sure if he's going to keep it up. I'm making him go to the pool with me today while I do my laps and hoping he joins in.

Part of why I signed up was I got a call from a friend of mine who wanted to start running again and told me about the Running Clinic at the Boston Sports Club (BSC) on Tuesday nights. She wanted to know if I'd join her for the clinics. I figured it would be a good thing for me to do something like that, so I agreed.

Yesterday was supposed to be a 3 mile run, but since the weekly running clinic started last night, I figured I'd put it off to see what we'd be doing.

The clinic is being run by a military guy who works as a personal trainer at the club. (He a N'tl Guard Lt. - so he's part time military.) There were like 2 dozen women and two men there and my friend and I are the only ones over 40 in the group. First he had us doing all sorts of funky stretches, leg hops, agility drills and such and then we went for a 1 mile evaluation run.

Because this is Boston and we got rain for the first time in a long time yesterday, I didn't factor in things for myself like the humidity and allergens. About half way through the run, my asthma decided to pop up and say, "Hey there - how you doing?" I'm glad I had my inhaler with me, but I haven't needed it on a run in over a month so I forgot how much that takes out of me and we ended up walking the last half mile of the run.

I know I'm still a bit out of whack from the trip - so today is all about starting to resume normal schedules. After I swim, I'll drop stuff off at the library and go food shopping. I'll spend some time before swimming working out a game plan food-wise for the week and start getting back into my groove. I suspect that will make a big difference in terms of getting past this heavy, plodding feeling that's been trying to creep over me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Home Again

We're home. Last night I crashed for about 11 hours. I'm not surprised given that we took a red-eye home and the time changes and such. So today I woke up and realized that I still had an LSD to do this week of 4 miles.

All morning long I struggled about this. First I needed to eat and then it was laundry and then it was... well, no more excuses so I changed up and headed out. Immediately I knew it was not going to be an easy run and at the end of one mile I realized I wasn't running any further.

What to do? Should I go home and call it a day or what?

I decided I was doing the 4 miles - even if it meant walking the last 3, so I did exactly that. It took 1:16:45 to do the whole route, but I did it. I also intend to run that route before this week is over.

It was as if the inner loser took a new approach - instead of whining and shouting and tantruming, it just kept getting heavier and heavier. As if I were carrying a huge weight that was wearing me out. By walking the last 3 miles, I managed to make it clear that no matter how tired I may feel - I'm going to do this.

So let me lay out my schedule for the week:

Monday: XT day
Tuesday: 3 mile run
Wednesday: XT day
Thursday 2 mile run
Friday: XT day
Saturday: (at least) 4 mile run
Sunday: off

Friday, August 11, 2006

Road Trip: Days Four & Five


I walked 10 miles. I can forgive myself for not swimming.


I'm trying to convince myself to do a few miles on the dead mill.

Trip report:

Wednesday I went up to La Jolla to see the seals and experienced a local political battle. Basically there was a children's pool built in the 30's. It's basically a sea wall that protects a little cove in La Jolla to let kids swim at the beach. At some point the beach was discovered by some seals and they pretty much took it over. It has become a place they go to for giving birth and things like that. They don't like people and if someone is on the beach, they won't rest there.

Some folks in San Diego say that it's a public beach and the seals need to cope. Others say there's 70 miles of beach in La Jolla - the seals can have this one corner. Right now the compromise is the beach is closed during pup season.

So there were no seals on the beach Wednesday when I got there. One of the no seal people was sitting in a lawn chair under his umbrella to keep the seals away. So the seals were out on a big rock in the ocean sunning themselves. I saw some playing in the water - including a highly amusing dance between a seal and a snorkler. The snorkler kept trying to follow the seal, the seal kept following the snorkler. To me, it looked like the seal was having a lot more fun than the snorkler.

I did go down the 145 steps through a claustrophobic tunnel to the Sunny Jim cave. That was pretty cool... figuratively and literally. I still can't believe I did that. Apparently a painter who had the tunnel dug over 100 years ago hired two Chinese laborers away from an opium den to dig it out. It took them two years and the thing is still standing. I'm impressed.

I did take pictures and I will scan them in when I get home. I'll also do a full trip report on a second blog.

Thursday I picked up a cheap digital camera (hurray! I can now just upload photos) and went to the Midway... which is why I logged so many miles yesterday. The thing is (was?) a floating city on its own. This was a "Rosie the Riveter" ship - built entirely by women at the end of WWII. It took 18 months for them to build it. Very cool.

I guess they keep opening up more and more of it each year, so I got to see the officers' area like the dirty shirt and clean shirt mess as well as sleeping quarters and such. There were all sorts of cool planes and choppers up on the flight deck.

Now let me plug my favorite pedicab guy since coming here. Pedicabs are a bicycle taxi that hold a couple of people. (Yes I will have a photo at some point) Some of the guys charge by the block, some by the mile - it varies. Yesterday I was at Horton Plaza ... which was a pretty cool display of architecture when it comes to setting up a mall, there'll be more in the trip blog ... and grabbed a pedicab to the Midway. The guy starts by introducing himself. His name is Dennis and he figured he was a "concierge on wheels." He only works for tips, not fares and he gave me all sorts of cool tips, pointers and such on the ride to the Midway.

His philosophy is that if you give people good ideas, information and a pleasant ride, they tip you better. I paid him $10 to take me a few blocks.... so I guess it works.

But if you're in San Diego and you see a Ball Park Pedicab guy named Dennis - he's worth it.

Well... off to go run on the deadmill downstairs before I pack up. We're hoping to go to the wild animal park and Scripps Aquarium today before we leave.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Road Trip: Day Three

First my daily/race report:

This morning was the ESRI/UC 5K at 6:45 am. Yeah, it was early but there's a conference to get going and people need to shower and get back to listen to speakers and things. The race was along the Embarcadero in San Diego around the two arms of park that hug the marina behind the hotel and there were about 250 people there.

I started way too fast. I could tell a minute in that I was going too fast in trying to keep up with the people around me, so I fell back a little to try and find my pace. I think this is the hardest part of a race... finding your own pace. Even then, I think I made it harder on myself by listening to a new playlist - so I'm not used to the music or how to pace myself to it. I passed the 1 mile marker just after the 11 minute mark. I figured I needed to catch my breath a little and walked for a minute and then began running again.

This time it was a little easier to find my pace. I was between packs of runners, so I could just run the way I do. As I passed the start/finish line (which is in the middle of the course as the course was a giant loop), Mr. Bear was there with his coffee yelling "Woo Hoo!" That made me feel a lot better and I kept going. At the two mile mark, I was still going fast (23 minutes) and let myself walk a recovery minute before running once more.

I almost missed the final loop after the turn around. Fortunately someone called out to me to let me know about it (I guess a few people missed the loop), so I didn't lose any time as a result. As I was coming up on the finish line, I realized I was the "there is no way I'm letting that chick beat me" person for three people who sprinted past me - which was fine with me. I knew I set a PR (38:26) and Mr. Bear was there cheering for me.

I felt good - sweaty, but good.

Trip Report:

Yesterday I went to the zoo where I can honestly say that the baby panda gives the west coast pandas the edge over the east coast pandas BUT, to be fair, I should go to DC and check out the east coast pandas in the near future to be sure.

The zoo is HUGE! I spent close to 8 hours there and I know I missed the reptile house and one of the trails.

OK - here's the funny part. Monday there were these Japanese sailors who had rented a bike pram and were riding around the convention center. One of them kept yelling out, "Hello" to people and I said "Hello" back - it was funny. Monday night we went to a little fish shack for dinner and the sailors were in front of us in line.

So here I am at the zoo sitting down to eat after seeing the pandas and who sits down at the next table? You guessed it, the Japanese sailors. I said, "Are you following me?" He clearly didn't speak English and I said, "Yesterday, bicycle."

He got excited, "Yes, yes. Yesterday bike" while pantomiming riding the bike.

I said, "Last night fish?"

"Yes, yes. Fish and water."

"Today Zoo?"

"Yes, yes. Today Zoo."

I don't know, it was just funny.

I would see them every so often while I wandered through the zoo. There was a whole bunch of them, not just the three I saw on Monday.

The bears were fun, but then I like bears. The Koalas are adorable (yes, I know that Koalas aren't bears, they're marsupials but I still count them as bears) - just hanging in the tree getting stoned on eucalyptus. The tiger and I had a staring contest (he looked away first, so I win) and the hippo cracked me up when he kept farting under water. Mr. Bear and I are going to go to the Wild Animal Park on Friday

Right now I'm debating between Sea World and swimming with sharks. I think I might go to Sea World today - I'm not up for another all day adventure and I'd like to rest before I'm kayaking around La Jolla and snorkeling with the leopard sharks.

Off to find food - damn all that running made me hungry!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Road Trip: Day Two

First my daily:

This morning I swam the breast stroke for half an hour in the hotel pool. Because the pool is short (what a surprise, the hotel pool is a non-standard length), I ended up doing circumferences. I figured I'd have no idea about mileage (or fractions there of), so I'd just go for time.

I was the only person in the pool... for like 2 minutes. Then came the guy I began to think of as my swimming buddy. Like me, he was only doing breast stroke and he did it the same way I did. A few minutes later, athletic woman joined in.

Athletic woman was around my age with the "dig me, I work out" body and attitude. She (literally) swam circles around us, got frustrated after 10 minutes or so and went off to the spa.

Then came swimmer guy. Swimmer guy was the guy in the guy bathing suit (tight fitting ... more like boxer briefs than trunks) who made a point of stretching and walking around before diving in. He jumped in before Athletic Woman got out, lasted like 5 minutes before he got out, stretched some more and went off to the other spa. In the mean time, swimmer buddy and I are still swimming in circles doing our slow, steady breast stroke.

Then came tri-girl in her Tyr 2-piece athletic suit. She took one look at swimming buddy and me, rolled her eyes and then hopped in. Again, she was either bored, frustrated or done in less than 10 minutes with another eye roll.

After 20 minutes or so, swimming buddy got out and shook himself off before toweling down and heading back to his room. I relaxed a little, still doing my circles cursing the PR people who listed "view of San Diego bay from the pool." (Yeah, if you're standing up looking over the freakin' cement portico railing.) Then came fit guy. Fit guy looked tight in a great bathing suit, did a couple of stretches, smiled and jumped in.

Too bad my half hour was up. :)

I spent five minutes in the spa - after I saw Athletic Woman leave - before heading back to the room to shower and get ready. I'm off to go see the pandas today. I'm hoping to see the baby panda this morning (how fun is that?) Tomorrow morning is the 5K race here.

San Diego - day two:

Yesterday I spent the day wandering around the Gas Lamp District. I can't believe how much I walked yesterday. Because I couldn't find my steppy doodle on the way out the door the other day, I grabbed Mr. Pi's - which I think has some issues. (I know, I know - what do I expect from a cheap piece of plastic?) I started walking over to the conference with Mr. Bear (he's so cute) and stopping at the Kinkos/Fed Ex store front in the center to get some business cards. The guy was like, "Oh... I'm going to copy it onto card stock and you cut it yourself... I don't know if I can line up a 2-sided card."

Dude - you work in a freaking copy shop where everything is digitized. Learn to use the equipment.

At any rate, I ended up with about 10 cards in case I needed to pass any out. (I did actually pass a couple of them out.) I went to the City Club of San Diego luncheon where John Hickenlooper, the Mayor of Denver, was speaking. Considering all of my knowledge of Denver comes from four sources (South Park, Hunter S. Thompson, the Masonic conspiracies about Stapleton airport and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), it was nice to get a different ... shall we say, more realistic view of the city. If half of what he says is true about his approach to running Denver - then we need more successful small businessmen to become politicians.

On my way back to the hotel, I walked through the convention center (two words: air conditioning) and bumped into Mr. Bear and his boss. We chatted a little before going our separate ways again and making plans to meet in the map display room at 4.

Here's the thing with GIS conferences - there are a lot of maps and they are freakin' cool. Like the most precise map of British Columbia ever created. (OK, it was a scale model of the most precise map of BC - and that was cool. I can only imagine what the real one is like.) Then there are the maps that show all sorts of things like hurricane tracking for the past 5 years off the coast of North Carolina. One of the things that was even cooler about that is, because they can precisely measure terrain and overlay the roadway system - they could figure out how to direct people to high ground and then rescue them by chopper if need be.

I thought about it myself after leaving the map room. Let's get real, I figured out the length of my run yesterday using GIS mapping at the USTFA site. This is truly cool stuff.

After the reception, we drove up to La Jolla to watch the sunset over the ocean. Sorry - that's something I don't know if I could ever get used to - watching the sunset over the ocean. The sun is supposed to rise over the ocean and the water is supposed to be on the right hand side of the road when you're driving north, not the left. It was pretty and stuff, but it was just wrong.

In fact, all I could think of was that line from Hitchhiker's Guide when they first encounter the infinite improbability drive and Arthur remarks how it looks like the seaside in Brighton but the water is perfectly still and the buildings keep washing up and down on the shore.

So... I'm off to go check out baby pandas. I want to get there early enough to see them. Hurray Pandas!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Port of call

I ran along the Seaport Village/Embarcadero area in San Diego this morning. Turns out I ran 2.7 miles in 24:04! Woo Hoo!

Running by the ocean just made me realize how much I miss living someplace where I can smell the sea when I step out the door. Don't get me wrong, running by the river is a lovely thing but the smell is different. To me a river doesn't smell alive the way the ocean does. The Canada geese are lovely creatures - and I certainly admire the beauty of them playing and landing on the water the way seagulls could never do, but it's just not the same.

I know I'm doing a lot of walking this week and tomorrow I plan on doing my laps in the hotel pool before I soak in the hot tub....

Saturday, August 05, 2006

If this is Saturday, it must be time for an LSD

No... not that kind of LSD - a Long Slow Distance run kind of LSD.

I'm starting to build up mileage for a long run - so today I ran a 3.5 mile "long" run. Yes, it was only a half mile more than something I'm getting used to, the 3 mile run, but it makes a difference. It didn't help that I spent about 2 minutes giving instructions on how to get to the other part of the running path and estimating the distance to a landmark to a stranger with a smooth British accent instead of doing my recovery walk, but I made the whole distance with only two recovery walks.

The first one (which I ended up giving directions) was just after I crossed the street at the scary traffic corner. The second was at the 3 mile mark and it was more of a "see, you can do this," sort of reinforcement... a sort of, "I'm doing this to show I don't need to do this," sort of gesture to myself. I literally had to force myself to walk the full minute instead of running early - again, I was trying to prove to myself that I didn't need this, so I needed to push it.

One other thing that changed this morning - I forgot Mr. Pi took the body glide with him to LAX camp. Oops! Good thing I still have half a tube of A&D ointment in the drawer (what I was using before I bought the glidy stick) so I'm not all chafed. Of course that stuff is a bitch to get off - which is supposed to be the point of it. So add "glidy stick" to the list of stuff I have to pick up today.

I ran a 14 minute pace - not great but not bad. I'm pretty steady and I made the distance, so I'm good with it. I want to see it start to get faster, but first things first. First I have to be able to run the distance before I can make the time decrease.

I also downloaded a new playlist for myself. iTunes has a new section to compliment the Nike+ chip that works with the nano, so I downloaded the 10k list from there. It was different than what I'd normally pick for myself but still a lot of stuff I like. Of course I didn't download it from there, I went over to Napster and did it there so I wouldn't have to pay for the songs. (I have Napster to go - so I pay a monthly fee and can download anything. Once I stop the subscription, my access to the music stops... sort of like Netflix for your mp3 player.)

It was interesting to run to new music - I couldn't do the "here's the marker, I should be on this song..." evaluation, which kept me on my toes. Sometimes I had to rely on the beat to keep me going - which is a good thing - and it did help me keep pace pretty well. I'm might give Lance Armstrong's playlist a try at some point. If nothing else, I'll keep my eye on that section of iTunes and see if anything interesting comes up in the near future.

Yesterday I actually got a swim in! It was Friday and there wasn't a thunderstorm - what a concept! Unfortunately, by the time I got there, I estimated I had enough time before the swim team took over the pool to get my laps in. Unfortunately they have a big meet today and the pool closed 10 minutes early when I had 3/4's of my laps done.


Stupid swimteam. ::mutter mutter snarl::

I only needed another 5 minutes - if that - to finish too. Feh!

Tomorrow's a rest day and I'm glad I'm on a plane most of the day or I know I'd be itching to get out and do something. I'm excited about going to a Padres game, of course it will be the 3rd time I'm seeing the Nats play this year... which is weird in itself. But I'm going to a Padres game, so I'm excited.

By the way, I just got through watching this week's "Who Wants to be a Superhero" and I can't say I'm surprised at the twist Iron Enforcer just got. In fact, I said that was going to happen after seeing the first elimination round last week. I also called Tyveculus' slap on the wrist as well.

I think if I were on that show, I'd be Super LAX mom... able to drive the kids to practice, do the household chores, meet my deadline, pick the kids up and still make a nutritious dinner without breaking a sweat. I'd carry a lacrosse defense stick (one of the long ones) and my battle cry would be: It takes balls to be a mom.

That show is growing on me more and more.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Heartbreak Hill

Even though my virtual trainer, Jason Varitek, is on the DL for 4-6 weeks, (Tek Stays With Team) I am still out there running. Today's 2 mile challenge: Heartbreak Hill.

I drove over to City Hall and parked. Since I didn't have the warm up walk I normally do, I walked to the Johnny Kelley statue and then back down the block to the the corner of Lowell Ave. to start my run. About a two minutes into the run I was thinking, "What the hell am I doing? This is hill is fucking steep..." I began thinking about all the people who hit this hill after running 19 miles knowing they still have 7.2 more to go and thought maybe I was picking up a bit of that energy.

Plugging on I had other thoughts:

  • Why did I forget my sunglasses?
  • I hope no one I know drives past now
  • Is this weather ever going to break?
  • I can't believe they make the track kids run this hill all the time
  • Maybe this isn't so bad - I mean I'm already half way up
and other such things. When I made it to the top, I just felt really happy and proud as I circled around and headed back down for what, I assumed, would be an easy run. I was wrong. It wasn't hard, but it wasn't easy either. There were a couple of "serious" runners that smoked me both directions, but it was OK. The majority of the people out there looked sort of like me - mostly middle aged who left their best bodies back in their 20's struggling up and down the hill with no water in sight to even think about fetching.

When I passed the statue on the way down, I called out, "24.2 more to go Johnny."

He just smiled that enigmatic grin through the decades. There were no memorials or tributes to him today - DPW must have cleaned up around there recently since the trees are trimmed back
and the grass is mowed. I know they'll start popping up again - the blown sneakers, empty gatorade bottles and such always seem to find their way there. Oftentimes with messages of thanks and running stories.

But I'm still glowing from this run. I did it, I ran Heartbreak Hill in 27:57 - a great time for me. In the background, as I crossed the crosswalk marking the 2 mile mark, I could hear Tek clapping while he leaned on his crutches next to Johnny who yelled "you go girl."

It was a good run.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's like one billion degrees

Well... maybe not a billion - more like 96 and climbing. It makes me glad today's an xt day so off to the pool before they let the kids in for a 1/2 mile of breaststroke. There was still a huge wake today from the water aerobic class and I still managed to swim faster today than I ever had before.

I was thinking about that a bit. I'm running faster, I'm swimming faster - could it be my body is working more efficiently? Perhaps it's saying, "Man, the faster I get this done, the faster I can go back to reading chick magazines in the A/C." Maybe it's a combination of both things and then some. There's probably some exercise physiologist out there that can explain things like increased aerobic base, maximum VO2 levels and such. All I know is that I'm getting faster.

Now if only I'd get a little thinner...

I did not want to get out of the water - which is probably why the kids run out of the locker rooms promptly at 1pm - to make the adults think twice about staying.

It would have been so easy to stay in the pool instead of having to get out to deal with my cell phone that died, a Costco run and everything else. Not only that, I have to do a bunch of laundry before I bring Mr. Pi to over night lacrosse camp tomorrow. Here's hoping the thunderstorms roll through early to break this mess.

The weather is one of those funny things where I don't want to eat because it's so hot and then I get hungry and nibble a little and it feels like there's a rock in my stomach. Right now I'm hungry - so I'll have a yogurt and a pria bar. I suspect that will be enough to keep from turning to cement in my stomach.

Oh well... off to deal with cell phones. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On track

I think I figured out how to use the loser-be-gone properly this morning. As you may recall, last week my inner loser kept throwing tantrums and I was trying to figure out how to get it under control. Yesterday, after finding out I was actually running further than I realized, I decided to try a slightly different approach.

I mapped out my 3 mile run using that nifty GPS tool at the USTFA site and then, since I knew my route, I then took a different approach. Up until now I've been groovin' on these 14/1's, today I changed it to a 28/2 - run for 28 minutes, walk for 2 minute recovery and then finish the course in whatever.

It worked nicely. Even better was the 28 brought me to the traffic light and the 2 gave me the chance to cross the road and get back to the path. I was then able to finish out the course without worrying about distance, time, etc and I did it in 34 minutes!!!!

Holy crap! That's an 11:46 pace!

The other part of the loser-be-gone application was out on the path. Today there were mostly women out there - singles, pairs, old, young - you name it. Most of us greeted each other, but there were a couple out there that were walking with strollers that went beyond that to say, "looking great" when they passed going the other way on the back half of the loop.

Last night I asked Gazelle boy to wait until the sun came up before he did his mileage. He grumbled and told me about how safe his route was, etc., etc., etc. until I finally said, "if anything ever happened to you, I don't know if I could bear it."

When I left at 6:15, the door was unlocked and his shoes weren't on the rack. I know the door was locked and they were on the rack at 3 am when I woke up and had to pee. Since he usually goes out for a long run in the wee hours - I think he heeded my request. Oh wait, I know as he just walked in the door.

But I feel good. I'm also going to map out a 1 mile route up Heartbreak Hill for my 2 miler on Thursday (1 mile up, 1 mile down). I figure that it's harder to bail when you have to run to your car in order to get home.