Thursday, May 31, 2007

Getting Ready to Run

With thunder storms and rain expected, I wanted to get my run in before the sun went away. Apparently I did so at just the right time because I'm sitting at my desk, mid-day, with the overhead light and desklights on as the sky darkens like no one's business.

Saturday is the Harpoon 5 miler and I promised myself that I'd be closer to ready than I was for the Doyles 5 miler. (What is it with 5 mile races and drinking? Hmmm...) So I went for a 3 mile run to get a sense of where I am. It was a good run today through the neighborhood, up and down hills and down the bike path along the river. Hills that were taking a lot out of me last March are actually pretty comfy right now. They still aren't easy, but they aren't the "I'm going to die" feeling any more either.

Because this is a 21+ race, I'm not running it with kids. No Gazelle Boy to burn through the course and no Mr. Pi to coach, just me (and maybe Stevie Wonder crooning softly in my ear).

Basically, any race ending with good beer at the end for free is OK in my book. :D

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kep Kep Jikwan

Today was the Johnny Kelley Memorial Race in Hyannis. I ran the 5k with Mr. Pi while Gazelle Boy ran the 10k (where he won his age bracket... again).

I was worried about doing this with Pi, he hadn't really trained and the last time I did a race with him was exactly one year ago where he spent the whole 2 miles whining. So needless to say, I was a little hesitant entering this one with him, but I really wanted to encourage him as well. We had agreed to walk at my pace for 5 minutes and run at his for 3 - so I wore my watch with the interval timer and the goal was a 15 minute mile.

We lined up toward the back and took off - him listening to Green Day on his iPod and me listening to Stevie Wonder on mine. At first he was disappointed we were so far back when I told him, "We'll pass most of these people as we start running."

I don't think he believed me at first - but he did keep pace and there was no whining this time. As we were coming up on the 5 minute mark to our first run, he said, "Count it down like Nina and then say, 'Kep, kep, jikwan.'" (Which is Klingon for "run, run, fat man.") So I said OK and counted "Three, two, one - kep, kep, jikwan."

Sure enough we passed the first group of folks and he held up well for the 3 minutes (which were more at my pace than his). As we started the next walk break, I pointed out that we had past the half mile point... much to his surprise.

He was excited to see the 1 mile mark a little while later and I pointed out to him that we were actually at a 13:45 pace - over a minute faster that our goal. As we turned the corner and had an open view of the ocean, he said, "This is beautiful, I wish I had brought my camera with me." Each time he'd start to fall a little behind, I'd encourage him to keep up. When we passed the 2nd mile marker, I thought he was going to leap with joy.

"I feel so good - I really do," he said as we passed it. As we passed the water stop where the half marathoners turn off the course, we walked through and I told him we were still on a 13:45 pace. The only thing that slowed him down was just after my Nike+ announced there were 400 meters left and his shoe untied. We approached the finish line and he grabbed my hand so we could cross together doing "the Johnny Kelley" - our joined hands upraised as we finished.

Unofficially, we ran it in about 43 minutes and I think he's now hooked. Even though I didn't really push myself, it was a good feeling coaching him through the race. Ironically, if he does use this to amp himself up to run, he'll be smoking me in no time - a day I look forward to with happiness.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Injuries We Don't Hear About

It isn't uncommon for someone to talk about injuries they receive as a runner. Sprains, bruises, stress factures, pulls, tears... you name it, there is a long, long laundry list of injuries to which runners are prone. Often they are accompanied by a sense of anger because the body betrayed you while you were doing something right and healthy.

The ones people don't talk about are even worse and are, in all honesty, far more common: bruised egos, damaged psyches, broken spirits, battered sense of worth, blown self images ... you name it, there is a far longer laundry list of those injuries than the physical ones. Worst of all, these injuries are far more debilitating because you are betraying yourself rather than your body betraying you.

I was thinking about this because I decided to use the treadmill today where it was still raw and rainy out. Surrounded by mirrors everywhere, I started my workout by catching a glimpse of my round body in the mirrors and it was a devestating blow. I almost dressed and slunk home but figured I was there, I was dressed - I needed to just bite the bullet and hop on the treadmill. The woman on the treadmill next to me was running at a faster pace and had that smooth runner's stride rather than my slow shuffle, but I pushed through trying to not look at the reflected image upon reflected image of me bouncing off 360* of mirrors.

The voice on the iPod caught me off guard when it said, ".5 miles completed." It didn't feel like I had been running for six minutes. It felt like I had just started. A couple of songs later, I was again surprised when it said, "1 mile completed." Then I noticed something odd.

Before the reflected image was that of a somewhat dumpy looking middle aged woman but after the slightly robotic distance pronouncement, I started looking good. My shoulders were in a good position - nice and relaxed instead of up around my ears. My stride didn't look so short and shuffly, my back was straight and head held high. Suddenly I began to feel good again. I was glad I had pushed through.

I ran an easy 2.5 miles before taking a "walk break." Now mind you my treadmill walk breaks consist on setting the incline to "15" and the speed at 3.5 - 4 mph and climbing through the break. I lowered back to 1 after 10 minutes and when the voice told me "400 meters to go," I pushed the speed up to a half mile an hour faster than I was running before. I ran that distance just that much faster to show myself I could.

After cooling down (and silly me, I forgot to reset the iPod so my cooldown is mixed in with the run), I headed back to the locker room for a shower and to change up. The reflection didn't look half bad after working out. In the end it was a good run with some interesting thoughts.

So Much for the Blues Run

Here I am all excited about the run when the following notice came in the mail for Gazelle Boy:

"You will be given special recognition by the World Language Department at our annual awards ceremony on the evening of Thursday, May 31. I would like to invite you and your parents to join us when we present this award..."

So no Blues Run, but that's OK. I'm kind of glad that I forgot to sign him up for the run and the night gets to be all about him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Tiki Bar is Open

At some point, all three boys have come to me to say they wanted to learn how to play drums. I told all three of them that they had to learn another instrument first because drummers can make or break a band in how they hold things together (or not).

Today's random selections on my iPod reminded me of why I told them that years ago. When I started the first song that popped up was "The Tiki Bar is Open" from Buffett's "Live in Mansfield, MA" (which is a show I happened to be at as well). As I started through the neighborhood, I noticed how my feet were easily falling in time with Ralph MacDonald's drumming as I ran up a hill that normally is bothersome. A mile and a half later, when I was starting to struggle a bit, the B-52's "Private Idaho" literally drove my feet through until I forgot that I was struggling.

In the end it was a good three miles and today I have good drummers to thank for it. But now I'm home and as they say - the tiki bar is open. Time to go make myself a smoothie and read the papers after a quick shower.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Mixed Five

Yesterday I went out for five on Heartbreak Hill. I needed to give myself a push mentally and really assess where I'm at with things. Let's just say that with a hectic race week looming, I need to get my shit together which means I've got some work to do.

Basically here's what's happening, I am running the Johnny Kelley race on 5/27 in Hyannis - something I was looking forward to as a "benchmark" race ... you know, take your time from last year and compare it to this year and get a good measure of where you're at. Then Mr. Pi decides he wants to run it too, so instead of being a benchmark for me, it will be a babysitting race to encourage him to do what he needs to in order to make the lacrosse team next year.

Then, a few nights later, is the Blues Run in Cambridge... which is part of a race series that I'm signed up for since I volunteered to help before the Ras na hEireann... which is followed a couple of days later by the Harpoon 5 miler.

So - I think an easy 3 miles on Sunday with my son would actually be a good thing.

But to do all that I have to rebuild my base and my confidence levels. So yesterday I took to Heartbreak for a 5 miler. I ended up doing it as a run/walk and it was the first time on a run I stopped someplace to use the facilities near BC. But I did it and in about the same amount of time it took me to do the Doyle's race. So it's time to do some self evaluation.

First on the list is getting back to a regular schedule. It's one thing to train for a race and have a regular schedule - you know, following one of Hal Higdon's or John Bingham's or the Runner's World Smart Coach or whatever. Essentially I haven't been doing this in months and it shows. So it's time to pick a plan.

Second on the list is having some goals. The Blues run will actually help a lot with that as it's the first of 5 races. I can use that as my starting point - you know, see where I'm at in May, June, July, August and (finally) September and continue to whittle that time down race by race. There will also be other races through out the summer and picking a half marathon to train for.. which, right now, is down to the BAA Emerald Necklace half and the Lowell half this fall.

Third is cross training. I've been riding my bike recently - a half hour through the neighborhood and on the river trails Saturday, to run errands today and such. I decided to check out the parcourse at a nearby park and I'm trying to figure out the best way to use that to my advantage for some strength work. Once the lake opens for the summer, I'll probably throw in some dual training. I know it's exactly 5k from house to the lake, so to run to the lake, swim a half mile and then run home would be a pretty major accomplishment. Of course the pool is just down the street and I look forward to the adult swim time when I don't have to share the lane with 5 people of varying speeds while idiot tweens play "harass the swimmers...." if the life guards "forget" to put up a third lane again.

So I've got a grip and an overall plan, time to put it into motion.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wake Up Your Soul

Even though I've been running, I haven't been writing about it for a variety of reasons. The past couple of days I've actually been able to return to "my" running paths - the ones alongside the river where I started last year.

It has been refreshing and somewhat cathartic as it felt good.

First of all, it was a joy being able to run 2 miles straight without a break. A year ago that was a distant dream, last December I could run it without thinking twice and a month ago I was disappointed that I just didn't have it in me to run that distance. But after a couple of weeks of rebuilding a base, it was a good feeling.

I'm glad I planned on walking the last mile because it's baby geese season. This is an exciting time of year for me as this is when the baby geese and baby ducks begin to hatch and are running around on the shores of the Charles under the watchful eyes of mama goose and mama duck. There's something about it that just makes me want to squeal like a little girl and say, "Baby geese!!!!"

I know it's kind of pathetic, but it's one of those things that just wakes up my soul in the spring. The other thing is that the lilacs are starting to blossom. There is nothing I love more this time of year than burying my nose in lilacs and taking a deep sniff.

If you were to ask why those things excite me I would have to guess it's because they both last for such a short time. A month from now you won't be able to tell the baby geese from the adult geese and the lilacs will all be faded. So it's nice to note and enjoy them while you can.