Tuesday, October 31, 2006

No Tricks, Just a Treat

Halloween - one of my favorite holidays.

Today I dressed up like a runner and ran for 3 miles in 39 minutes and it just felt good to be running again after a week off.

The only reason I took a week off, to misquote John Lennon, was due to the fact that life happened while I was busy making plans. One of the things that did happen last week was I stopped by the New Balance factory store to pick up some running tights for Gazelle Boy. While there, they were having a pre-inventory sale along with the Breast Cancer Awareness month sale. As a result I picked up a pair of 816's for a song.

The 816 has motion control - the thing I've been loving in the Brooks addiction. A couple of months back I asked someone at the NB store what they had for an equivalent and the shoe she had me try on was nothing like it. Last week I noticed this on sale and tried it on. It's not the same as the addiction, but running in it today felt good. It's a good shoe and I'm glad I found it.

At dinner the other night, my nieces and I began talking about maybe doing the Hyannis half marathon in February. On further reflection, I don't know if I'd be ready for a half, but there is a 10K race that day as part of the slate of events. I figure that's probably about my speed... let them run the half and I'll do the 10K.

Gazelle Boy would like to join us. He's run that distance just when he's out running. I'd like to see him do it rather than sit on his butt all winter. He can probably train with the winter track team (he hates winter track because "it smells bad") for his runs as well as on his own. It will be good for the two of us.

In the past, I've always treated dressing on Halloween as something about me that I want to reflect on for the year. So today I dressed as a runner and don't it feel good.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bittersweet Symphony

Sunday's race was a joy, but it's the last bit of anything I did this week as I fought off this damn cold. I've done OK in terms of holding it back for the most part, but all week I had hot and cold flashes while I did what I needed to do in terms of normal life.

Then I woke up this morning with packed sinuses and a splitting headache. It feels like a bunch of tap dancing squirrels had a party in my mouth and forgot to tell me - at least they must have had a good time considering how dry and nasty it feels.

Right now the remnants of Hurricane Paul are attacking New England, so waking up to a cold rain doesn't help. Nor does the reality that this is Gazelle Boy's last cross country meet ever as a high school student. At his last home meet the other day he ran a 19:19 5K. Today the conference converges in the Blue Hills and he is running the varsity leg today for his final race. By the time he runs, there are wind advisories in place and, in the Blue Hills, this means it will be that much worse.

I'm such a mom at times, I went out and got him running tights and made him pack those, his compression shirt and running gloves for the race. I'm bringing towels and blankets with me so that he'll be comfortable after the race.

Today is bittersweet and it feels like the world is in tune with the turmoil parents feel that year we're given to let go of our babies before they go off on their own life's mission. This is the year filled with "lasts" - last xcountry meets, last dances, last classes, you name it. It is highly emotional and it is a part of life. I would never try to hold my son's to me long beyond their time, but I also find myself looking at the baby pictures wondering where time went.

There he is as a toddler with blonde curls and dimples; in first grade where the smile is now a grin; as a cub scout joyously jumping after winning the pine wood derby and so on. Then I look at this picture of a handsome young man with an enigmatic smile and deep dimples that is his senior picture.

Who knew 17 years could pass in the blink of an eye?

Perhaps that's why I wasn't running this week - sorting through years of memories and steeling myself for the new role I will play in his life is what I've been feeling. It started earlier this week when I made the travel plans to visit the one school he's wanted to go to since he first got to high school.

Next week will be better. Perhaps I'll do the Travis Roy race tomorrow to get myself jumpstarted, perhaps I'll just try an LSD depending on the weather. (High wind warnings are now being posted for tomorrow as well.)

Perhaps I'll just snuggle deep under the covers and hibernate, knowing the world is changed but it will all be OK in the end.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Brisk Sunday Run

Yesterday I was in a Syosset, NY hotel using the deadmill. I say that because the thing was well used and just a horrible experience on many levels. The worst part was the exercise room is right next to the breakfast room, so while I was running a creepy guy was watching me run.

Or should I say, he was watching my chest run. EWWWW!

After a mile on the mill with creepy guy watching through the window, I decided to drop down to a walk - but I wanted to run so badly that I gave up after logging 2 miles.

Today, I'm home again it was time for the local elementary school 5K fun run/walk. Because I wrote about in the paper, I felt I had an obligation to run in spite of the temperatures in the mid-40's. Because I'm an idiot, I wore my running skirt instead of pants - so when I wasn't running, I was cold. I also gratefully took the long-sleeved t shirt they offered and wore it over my long sleeve tech shirt... a move I regretted about half way through.

There were around 100 of us - which is the biggest group they've ever had. We started off running past the playground and soccer fields, making a u-turn to run up the other side of the road before heading off into a winding path through residential side streets. At the first mile, someone was calling out splits - which was nice. I once again found myself going out a little fast - 11:36 - and knew if I didn't slow down, I'd pay later. I had my chance a few hundred yards later when I got to the first water stop and walked through.

I kept winding along through the streets, wondering where the second mile was. At the second water stop it turned out we were well over 2 miles in. The girl didn't understand the question of "How far are we." She was telling me to keep going because I was almost done. The boy with the trash got it, he was a runner, and said I was just shy of three miles!!

At the end of the stree, by the school were a crowd of folks I knew who had run or volunteered for the day cheering for me. It was nice to come into that encouragement. I know it was a slow race - 40 and change - but that's fine. I ran it on a day I didn't want to run. I also ran it after a half hour of doing yoga with the Baptiste DVD before walking a mile home from the school.

It was a good run. A good run on a brisk Sunday morning on a sunny day... and sometimes it just doesn't get too much better than that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In the Middle

Today's song: "In the Middle" by Jimmy Eat World

I started off the day waiting for the house to clear up so I could pop in the yoga DVD. There's just something about working out to a DVD where you just don't want people to walk in on you and start laughing - so I got a bit of a late jump on it.

The funny thing about yoga, I'm always surprised at where I'm flexible and where I'm not. For example, when I reach overhead for a simple back bend, I'm pretty tight but I can fold one leg over the other, lie flat on top of them and reach out pretty far forward.

While it's clear it's going to take a few times before I know what comes next and be able to flow right into it, I have to say I could honestly feel the difference today when I went out for my run.

First of all, my knee didn't makes itself known until the second mile. This is good as it's usually nagging me early on. So I ran farther and I actually ran faster than I have been - about a 12:20 mile.

When the knee started to act up I was a bit frustrated. The inner loser quickly made itself known, reveling in a moment of weakness. All those feelings of "I'm such a poser" popped up again. When the Jimmy Eat World song popped up on the playlist.

"Hey, don't write yourself off yet
It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best, try everything you can.
And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away."

It was enough to carry me through the self-doubt that sometimes hits me. Even though I say to people, "I'm a runner..." or "I started running last May..." there's still that piece of me that holds back. Which is why I was interviewing Dean Karnazes instead of running the Shillelagh Shuffle. I was scared I'd be too slow and just didn't want to come in last. I need to get over the whole last place thing, I know it - but it's always a toughie.

Even then, I did 2.5 miles in 32 minutes. Not bad considering a chunk of that was walking. I'm definately doing the yoga thing again, if for no other reason than to see if it helps the knee even more.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hotdog Running

There's an old joke about how the Buddhist monk approaches a hotdog vendor and says, "Make me one with everything..."

This weekend I thought a lot about my running. I obviously have some goals - such as a 10 minute mile (which is written on a star stickie and hangs over my computer as a constant reminder) and, once the 10K distance becomes as comfortable as the 5K distance, to train for a half.

So how does that happen? Obviously part of it is running more, training smarter and working on basics. Another part is cross training and, now that the indoor pool is open at the high school, I'll probably start swimming again a couple of nights a week.

But I also want to be more flexible, more able to stretch my body as I push my limits and it seems the best way to do that is to try yoga. Since I'm not going to make time to go to a regular class, I figured I'd pick up a DVD or something I can do in the privacy of my living room... literally. I was in the neighborhood of Newbury Comics and decided to swing by and see what they had in the used DVD bin and hit paydirt.

In there was a series of Baron Baptiste Power Yoga DVDs - including Yoga for Athletes - for $4 each. I immediately called Nini to see if she wanted any and ended up buying the five on the shelf. Most of them will be living with Nini, but I figure on keeping the one for Athletes and maybe one other beginner one so I can mix them up a little.

So I'll give this a try and see if it helps.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dean Karnazes

I started this morning by doing a 2 mile Heartbreak Hill run - the mile up to Centre Street and back. Because of the stiffness from the other day, yesterday I found a 15 minute yoga routine in the "On Demand" section our cable system has and gave it a whirl. Nothing too demanding - some breathing and simple stretching into a downward facing dog and then pulling back into child's pose.

This morning I could feel the difference and realized I need to do more of this. I know there are some yoga for runners DVDs out there - so maybe I'll give it try to see if that addresses some of the issues currently dogging me.

It was a good 2 miles today. I stretched before and after my run today and by the end I was a little sorry I hadn't gone out for more but I was a little nervous about time.

Today was the day for Dean Karnazes to run the Boston marathon route as part of his 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. I was at Newton City Hall to watch them pass at the 19 mile mark and then at the end to see the group finish. He did his best to keep everyone together and cross the finish en masse as part of his philosophy that this shouldn't be about him but rather about the power of teamwork.

Since I wanted to write about this in comparision to a 3 miler across town to benefit Special Athletes, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to get home, change and make it back to catch the people who paid to run with him.

My other regret on the day - I could have done my interview while running alongside Karnazes. Fortunately I'm smart enough to know that I'm really too slow to do something like that and it wouldn't have been fair to everyone else who was excited about the opportunity to be part of something bigger than they probably imagined when they started running.

I'm glad I chose to cover this instead of the smaller race - not because it was more important but because it was something unique... sort of like turning down a gig with the White House press corp to go cover live events half way around the world. Both are a good gig, but sometimes you just have to run with the more unusual over the expected.

Tomorrow will be about yoga and balance ball and stretching, but today was about watching history.

Runners cross the finish line together

Dean Karnazes after the race

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Indian Summer

Today is an Indian Summer day.

New England has this sort of median time between summer and winter that weaves through the autumn called Indian Summer. These are descriptions of days that smell like fall but are warm enough to be like summer. The nights are clearly autumn in nature when radiational cooling causing temperatures to quickly drop, but the days are delightful.

After last night's rain, the river is high, the streets still have spots where the water is puddled, the asphalt dark with moisture as the water evaporates. The leaves are bright on the ground and on the trees - looking like a world afire - and the air is crisp. Unlike the cloyingly humid days of summer, Indian Summer is literally a breath of fresh air.

On such days, running is a joyous activity.

But I've been a bad Pika. I haven't been stretching after my runs lately and today I felt it, tempering the joy with little twinges of pain reminding me I'm not as young as I used to be. What was going to be a three mile push turned into a mile and a half easy tempo run as my shins cried out, "Remember us? You've been ignoring us and we will not be ignored!"

My calves echoed the sentiment as well, but let the shins do the bulk of the talking.

I know these aren't shin splints. Believe me, as someone who lived with them for an extended time both as an aerobics instructor in the mid 80's and a member of a dance troupe, these aren't shin splints but the muscles around everything reminding me I'm not as young as I used to be.

Still, today's run was truly enjoyable. If for no other reason than to stride through the fallen leaves and breathe the clean air that comes after a rainfall.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Tufts 10K

It finally arrived - the big race I've been anticipating for months, the Tufts 10K.

This race is a huge milestone for me on many levels. It was my first real 10K and the longest I've ever run. It's a women's race so it's supposed to be "empowering." It's supposed to be high energy and so many other thing.

It is, by far, the largest race I have ever run. There were around 7,000 runners and walkers lining up on Beacon Hill at the start. So many that it took close to six minutes to cross the finish line. While I am glad that it was big enough so that someone like me could feel like they accomplished something, but it wasn't what I thought it would be.

For one thing, my running it came into question when I woke up. Sunday I was stiff and sore from assembling my new desk/hutch over the weekend and felt like I might have pulled something. When I woke up, the muscle I thought I might have pulled a little was a deep, sharp, scary pain. I told myself that if I still hurt at 9 am, I'd call the race and took a couple of ibuprofen.

You may be thinking, "Wait a minute, if you took ibuprofen why would you hurt at 9 am?" For most people you would be right, but when I'm in pain not even 800mg (prescription stenght) of ibuprofen is going to mask that sucker. I took the recommended OTC dose to dull the edge a bit and give myself a good sense of what's what. By 8:30 all the pain was gone - this told me that I either slept on it wrong or I needed to talk myself into racing. I suspect the later as the pain has not returned at all.

The knee felt good, but I also was aware enough after the wake up call to wear the knee brace. Something I was glad of after the 3 mile mark.

I met up with Nini, her friend Kate and my sister and headed over to the starting line with them. Because Nini and Kate are fast - they moved up to where they should be and my sister and I started towards the back but in front of the jogging strollers. (Do not start me on the mom groups who block pathways and the roadway at races by running side-by-side to chat. You may normally run faster than I do, but if I'm having a hard time passing you because you're blocking the roadway, then you're running too slow and are a hazard.)

The race starts by going through Charles Circle up and over the Longfellow Bridge onto Memorial Drive and past MIT to the BU Bridge. The first mile was pretty much about getting through the folks who didn't care about seeding and just were doing it how they wanted. I have now decided my one big suggestion to race organizers is to start the walkers 10 minutes after the runners go off to avoid a lot of the jamming up at the start and along the course. I did a 12:30 first mile, which is about right for me and I was settling in nicely. I walked through the first water stop and picked up again, still weaving through folks to the second mile split - where I was holding my pace. Then the heat began to get to me and my knee got a little wonky, so I figured it was a good time to do run/walks for a little.

About this point I found myself near two women - one was clearly coaching the other through run/walks and had one of those watches with a timer on it. When they would walk, I'd walk, when they'd run, I'd run. It was incredibly helpful. I compared them to two other women doing something similar but different. The other pair of women it was clear the "coach" wanted to run while the other woman was struggling. The fast woman would run ahead and then yell back, "C'mon, you can catch up to me," and then run on.

Her friend had a pained look on her face and was clearly struggling and finally was beginning to give up around mile 3. I passed her and said, "You know you're going to end up beating me don't you?" She just smiled and said, "Thanks."

If she finished, she did finish ahead of me because my knee made it clear it wanted to walk for a while and when I reached mile 3 in 40 minutes, this was the "walking" mile. This part of the race you're going back the other side of Memorial Drive, under Mass Ave to a turn around point around the Killian Court area and make a hairpin turn to go cover the other lane of Mem Drive to the Mass Ave bridge (aka the Harvard Bridge). Every so often I would jog a little and then walk a little. Because I did not wear the mp3 player (rules said you weren't supposed to... trust me, that's a rule I'm breaking next time because I really missed my pace music) for some reason I got a variant of a Broadway tune stuck in my head. I started hearing, "Walk a little, run a little, walk a little, run a little - walk, walk, walk, walk a lot run a little more..."

It got me through that mile in 15 minutes - which was good. I'm now at 55 minutes so even if I walk the rest of the route, I'll be close to my guess of 1:30-1:45 for the race.

For people not familar with the Mass Ave bridge, like 40 or so years ago one of the MIT frats rolled a pledge over the bridge and measured it in "Smoots" - the pledge's last name. Every year they go out and make sure the measurements are still clearly marked and recently rolled his grandson - who was pledging to the same frat - over the bridge to see if measurements still held.

They did.

I measured my run/walks by the Smoots at this point. Run 150 Smoots, walk 100 Smoots, run 150 more ... there are the race photographers, so it's time to keep smiling and running ... oh what the hell, I'm almost to the end so when I get to the end I'll walk to Comm Ave.

I ended up doing something slightly different for Mass and Comm Ave. I'd run a block and walk a block until I got to the Public Garden. Oh damn, more race photographers - smile and run, smile and run - look like this is effortless right?

I turned the corner near the finish and realized I was running the last quarter mile and wanted to see my family badly. I don't know why, but I really wanted to see them. There they were at the end with Mr. Pi holding up a sign that read "Run for the Cookie" holding a 3 pack of Milanos. I couldn't stop laughing. I know I always have a cookie for Gazelle Boy when he runs his xcountry meets and stand at the end yelling "run for the cookie," so that Mr. Pi did that to me was too funny for words.

At this point, I'm laughing and I hear the race announcer shout out my name and "in the red shirt, throw your hands in the air." So here I am laughing as I throw my hands in the air crossing the finish line. I stop my watch at 1:27:33 where my sister is in the chute waiting for me with a smart water. That I really needed because I stopped taking water after the third water stop because it was tasting funny to me - which said I had enough water. The smart water tasted good.

It's was a good race even if it wasn't one of my strongest or most comfortable ones. But this is like the Ryka Irongirl race - finishing it proved a point to me, that I can do this. I'll probably do another 5K in a couple of weeks and plan on running longer distances now that I can.

Today is about reassessing things - figure out what I want to do next in terms of setting goals and such. For example, I know I would like to be able to run a 10 minute mile at some point. I'd like to fully run a 10K at some point and maybe do the Disney half with Gazelle boy in Jan '08. But for today, I'm all about regrouping and pulling my office back together.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Meeting a legend

Tonight I went to a dinner where Joan Benoit Samuelson was the guest speaker as part of the race weekend festivities.

Because the event was sponsored by a financial company, the first part of the talk was more along the lines of what the company was pushing in terms of dreams, goals, etc. Once she began taking questions and talking about things, it really took off.

It was a small crowd, only a couple of dozen people or so, but there were some good questions. She talked about how nutrition, like everything else, is something you keep in balance and you really don't need to obsess about things. While she tends to eat organic and whole foods, she also eats red meat and sweets.

She talked about how winning the gold medal was a highlight but not the high point of her life and how she is planning on running the 2008 Olympic trials for the marathon because it's going to be in Boston. The next big goal is running that trial at the age of 50 (which will be in 2008... so the timing works) within a time she set for herself.

The parts that were really helpful to me was talking about strategy. How you don't think of a marathon as 26 miles but rather in separate races - like a 10 mile and then a 10K and another 10 miler; running negative splits and why it's important to go out a little bit slower to start and then pass people at the end. Another tip was when a race is tough, rather than looking at the road or the mileage markers, look at the person ahead of you and focus on catching up/overtaking them. I think we all do that to a certain degree, but it makes sense to focus there rather than on times or miles when having a tough race.

I have to say that I'm truly excited about the race - it's only a day and a half away. Because I just spent the past couple of days assembling my new desk, I haven't been running ... which is probably a blessing in disguise. Tomorrow I'll probably go for a walk and take it easy while I get ready for Monday.

But this was one more reason to really like this event. A chance to meet someone who inspired me and so many others is really a nice treat.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Six Miles

My sister came by and we went out to do a 6 mile run/walk to get ready for Monday's 10K. I've never gone more than 5 miles, so it was nice to have someone to push me along. In spite of walking a mile or so of it when my knee was a little wobbly, we managed to do it in 1:26 - much faster than I anticipated running that distance.

I'm now confident that I can run, and finish, this race - something I wasn't so sure about a couple of weeks ago. I'm feeling more confident than I have in a long time about all this as we come up on the date. It's exciting and I'm sure the expo this weekend will be crazy fun.

I'm excited about the pasta dinner on Saturday night where Joan Benoit Samuelson is the guest speaker, Mr. Bear said he'd go with me, so that will be even more fun.

But today was good - it was another "hurray running" day. Even though it's only in the low 60's it was just right for running. I mapped out the distance ahead of time at the USTFA site and we took off from there. I'm thinking that Saturday I may go for four miles on Heartbreak Hill and then just give it a rest until Monday. Until then, I'm feeling good.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Down by the banks of the River Charles

Today is a gorgeous day out - one of those days where New England weather rules because it's unwilling to give up summer just yet. It's October and 73 degrees with the sun shining and I have some time before I have to pick up kids - so what better way to fill it than with a run along the banks of the Charles?

I went out for 2.5 miles - I had time but not tons of it - and I'm feeling a lot better now. My knee didn't bother me in spite of not wearing the brace, so I guess the ankle weights are helping. My time is moving back to where it should be (down to 13 and change today from 14 and change the other day) and, if I had the time, I would have gladly have gone further.

As it is, I'll take the day, the mileage and the time and put them squarely in the Hooray running! column.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday morning

I don't know why, but I just can't walk when I'm listening to Green Day's song "Holiday." That drum beat starts and next thing I know, it's carrying me along with it's rhythm. Sometimes I think I should put it on an endless loop to see what happens.

Today was the first run I've done this week. I've been taking walks and relaxing because I've been scared of hurting myself. The stitches from them removing the mole and surrounding skin are right on my bra line - which is irritating in its own right - and I have been really panicked about the chafing of my running bra over the dressed wound.

I even bought a pair of 5 lb ankle weights to start building my quads and calves to better support my knee when I run and have been working with those a little this week. So it isn't a question of being a schlub - even though it felt that way - it was more of a question of fear. What am I really afraid of?

This morning I woke up to the reality of October and thought - dammit, I just need to get out there. I don't know how much of the last couple of weeks have been the reality that my confidence was shaken at that 10k and how much of it was that i'm overwhelmed with everything, but the reality is doing one 3 mile run a week just isn't enough - not when I was doing so well until a couple of weeks ago.

So I got out there and ran 3 miles in 43 minutes. Funny, there's a time when I would have been all "woo hoo!" about that, but now I'm feeling like it was slow. Yes, it was slow in a good way - easing back into things and all that - but there's that piece of me that wanted to go longer and faster. Especially with my recent motto of faster, leaner, stronger. Bottom line is not only did I do it, but my knee and the stitches were fine while I was out there - I guess compression can be a good thing.

I'm sure that after I have the stitches out on Friday I'll feel more confident. In the meantime, I need to set some goals for the week:

Today - 3 miles
Monday - 3 mile walk
Tuesday - 3 miles
Wednesday - 3 mile walk
Thursday - 5 miles
Friday - 5 walk
Saturday - 2 or 3 miles
Sunday - rest

It's a little ambitious but I really think I need to prove to myself I can do it, so I've set the bar a little high for this week. It's OK, I wouldn't set it there if I didn't know I could do it.

Time to put together a new playlist, probably with more Green Day and Weezer on there... that would be good.