Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot

Tonight was the Reggae Ramble in Cambridge. Normally I would have done the race and hung out eating jerk chicken and listening to good music - but it was hot, humid and really nasty out.

The start was slow and the reason I say that is because when I start a race at my usual pace rather than too fast, you know it's a slow start. When I got to the water stop at the halfway point, I was ready to bail but another woman - who was also ready to bail - and I decided to walk the last 2 or so miles together. It was really nice.

Turns out her first 5k and mine was the Ryka Iron Girl last year and we're both signed up for the Brie Burger in Paradise in August. So we figure by August we'll be used to the weather and be able to run the whole thing.

I told her about RWOL, my Nike+ and DJ Steveboy. She told me about Chi Running and how she recently discovered things like map my run.

We finished together and I met up with Gazelle Boy who said he did OK and the last mile or so was pretty tough.

The people from Brooks running shoes there were givin out "More Cow Bell" t-shirts if you won the mogo ball race. A mogo ball is basically an adult hippity hop and even though I lost the race, she had some left at the end of the night so she gave me one anyway.

So I did 4.2 miles in 57 minutes and change - not bad for a 2.1 mile run and a 2.1 mile walk in the heat and humidity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What am I?

Someone recently asked: what's the difference between a runner and a jogger? I was reading the current Runners World and the following quote is on the Warmups page:

"The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank." Dr. George Sheehan, cardiologist, author and longtime RW columnist whose writings helped fuel the running boom of the 1970s.

While I don't fully agree with the quote itself, I do agree with the idea that the difference between running and jogging is how seriously you perceive your committment.

I consider myself a runner because I have specific goals, train, race and otherwise see myself progressing. There are people who finished before me that may be joggers - you know they entered to keep someone company, because there was bbq at the end or whatever. It isn't how they choose to define a piece of who they are. Me, I see myself as a runner because I feel like I have a level of committment and... if there happens to be free beer or bbq at the end of a race, so much the better.

For example, Sunday I ran a 5k that I finished in 39:45. Normally this would be a huge disappointment for me considering how far I've come in the past year - but the first 2 miles I was on track with a 12 minute pace when I got a bout of stomach cramps. The last mile was a combination of slow, gentle jogging when I could and speed walking when I couldn't while telling myself "the faster I finish, the faster I can get to the port-o-potty."

So I was actually quite happy with my time because it means that I'm walking faster and my "slow, gentle jog" is where my running pace was a year ago.

It's one of those questions - like did you get your chocolate in my peanutbutter or did I get peanutbutter in your chocolate debates that have no real answer beyond individual perspective.

Right now I'm content to call myself a runner. I like looking up and seeing my medals hanging on my corkboard or flip through the book where I dutifully paste in my bib numbers and record the race, distance, location, time and pace. Perhaps it's a bit vain, but it what it is (as they say).

In short: Even if I can't float and glide like a Kenyan or run for 24 hours on treadmill in Times Square, I'm a runner baby and damn proud of it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Half Fast

The same guy who does the Summer Run Series out of the Marsh Post also does a series of Thursday night fun runs the other 3 Thursdays. Tonight was "The Good Vibrations" run of either 2.6 miles or 5.2 miles. Gazelle Boy ran the 5.2 with the goal of beating me as I ran the 2.6 miles. My goal was a 12:15 pace and to cross before he did.

As Nini says, "Done and done."

I knew I had gone out too fast when 3 minutes in I was straining a little to breathe. I slowed my pace and just let people pass me. About a half mile in, I was still breathing a bit hard and slowed again and found a rhythm that felt good. With the iPod on shuffle mode and no one else in sight and I kept pushing myself along the banks of the Charles feeling strong now that my breathing was good.

At the 2 mile mark, the first 5.2 mile runner passed me just as I started getting a side stitch. I slowed to a walk for about a couple of minutes... maybe a full quarter mile... and then did an easy jog to the finish where Mr. Bear and the Youngest were waiting near the finish. As I turned the corner at the finish, there was Mr. Pi and Paulie yelling for me. Mr. Pi also enlisted a few other folks nearby to cheer me on - which was nice.

I crossed at the 29:45 mark (according to my watch), which is an 11:27 pace!!! Holy shit! I ran an 11:27 pace! Not only that, I crossed 6 minutes before Gazelle Boy.

I run the same course on Sunday for the New Charles River 5k - we just start a half mile further down the road. I'm not sure what to set as a goal. I was originally thinking a 12:15 pace, but I don't know now. I'll probably keep it at that - there's an extra half mile involved and there are about 1500 people running between the 5k and the 7.5 miler. A 36 minute 5k is a bit ambitious... or is it?

I guess I'll see on Sunday.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Run For the Arts 5k

Every year my brother from Ohio rents a place on the Cape for a couple of weeks and we all get together one day to relax by the pond, cook out and just hang out together. In recent years, the day has started with running a 5k in Yarmouth called "Run for the Arts."

Last year I was going to do the walk with Mr. Pi - but about a half mile in, his stomach cramped up with some sort of bug and we bailed so he could find a blue can of death someplace. I was going to jump in with the 5k runners - but then my stomach cramped up and I bailed to look for one myself.

This year was a different story, this year I was looking forward to running a fairly flat course that winds through sleepy treelined roads and past the ocean on a beautiful day on the Cape. Buoyed by his success at the Johnny Kelley Race a couple of weeks earlier, Mr. Pi decided he wanted me to coach him through this as well. I was hesitant in signing him up as he hadn't done anything since the Johnny Kelley race, but he said he was ready and I said "OK."

We started off pretty strongly with a 3 minute run, keeping pace with a good portion of the pack before our first walk break. During the walk break, we ended up with the police car on our back sides and it was clear the pattern would be us, a group of two women - one coaching the other through - and a larger woman running while she could and walking when she couldn't. As we in our second run, he began to get a stitch in his side. I was trying to get him to breathe properly (from the belly, not the chest - slow and steady... c'mon). At our next walk break, he was starting to slack a little and that's when I finally began to understand personal trainers.

Now as an aside here, personal trainers are supposed to push you past what you think your limits are. Sometimes it hurts like anything and other times it feels great knowing you're growing stronger. I know there are people who probably thought "what a bitch" if they saw us out there or heard me, but part of this is knowing Pi, his penchant for drama and that he has little self-confidence. This wasn't as easy as the Johnny Kelley for him and that started the cycle of "I can't."

Fortunately for him, I wasn't going to let him bail. So for 2 miles I used everything I could to get him through - reminding him that the youngest was going to be at the end ... did he want to be last for him to rub it in Pi's face later? Stop saying "I can't..." and just do it. When there would be a minute left and he'd say he couldn't do it, I'd say, "40 more seconds" and then keep running past the 40 seconds. If he started counting, I told him he was counting too fast.

At one point he said, "I'm a lacrosse player, not a runner" and I replied, "You're an athlete and athletes run." He complained about parts that hurt and I asked him if he ever heard someone from the Cannons complain about pain. He said, "They're crazy men."

"I thought you said you wanted to play for them."

"I do, but I'm not insane crazy like they are."

"Well, what are you going to do to be that insane crazy or else you won't be playing with them now will you?"

The last mile became "run 2 phone poles. Ready, let's go." If he said, "I can't run 2," I'd reply, "You're running 3, now go..." He would get a little defiant but do it. He apologized for holding me back and I said, "Well, I'm not bailing on you - so you need to move." He quickly realized we were running half a many phone poles as walking, so when I'd give a number, it was easier for him to do run it.

The last quarter mile, people along the road either doing cool downs or milling around the end began to really encourage him with "you're almost there" and "looking good." Nini ran him in the last couple of hundred yards and we crossed together at the 42:53 mark. They asked us who crossed first and I said Pi did - so I'm on record as finishing last.

Later I reminded him that, as tough as it was, he did well and, more importantly, he didn't bail. He finished and that was an accomplishment. I thought it might have even been a PR for him - but he did the Johnny Kelley like 5 seconds faster. When school gets out this week, we talked about a training schedule for him. He knows he needs to run a two mile course in 16 minutes to make the JV and Varsity team next year - so he's committed, he just needs to believe he can do it and after this race he's starting to see he can.

One of my truths came full circle yesterday. I started running last year to help him prepare for lacrosse and I stayed with it long after he bailed after the season started. Now here I am helping him through it again with the realization that next year, if all goes well, he'll smoke me at this race. I have to admit, I look forward to that happening.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

I went out for a 3 mile run today - and it was a good one. But it struck me as I was out there what a beautiful day it was. Here I am in a semi-urban environment (I live in a City, but it's really a suburb) at 8:30 on a Sunday morning running through the streets with practically no traffic. The sun was shining, I could smell all sorts of different flowers coming into season and the temperature was just right.

It showed in my running as well, I finished my first mile in 11:14. I slowed it down a little at that point, it wasn't a race - just a base building run after the successful 2 mile run I had the other day. I finished the 2nd mile in 12:24 and the third mile in 12:17. It was all good too - even the 3 minutes I walked after I finished the 2nd mile. My legs felt strong, my breathing was pretty good and the ankle didn't make itself known in the least the whole time.

Later I had to go to all the little league fields to check on games and rode my bike from field to field throughout my part of the city. Again, it just felt good to be out and about. The hills just didn't feel like anything running or cycling.

I like days like this when they roll around. It makes the bad days when everything feel like a labored chore that much more bearable.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Two Good Miles

Two miles is not a lot these days. After a year of running, finishing a couple of 10k's and a couple of 5 milers - what's 2 miles?

It's a sign of a rebuilt base and renewed hope.

After rolling my ankle Saturday, I've been taking it easy and keeping it rested. I decided I'd only go for a couple of miles and take it slow. So I took off for a run through the neighborhood and running trail while Stevie Wonder crooned in my ear.

The first test was the uphill in the neighborhood and things felt good, so I kept going. The downhill felt good too. Never once did the ankle make itself known... again all good signs. By the time I got to the trail, I was feeling like I could keep going for a while, but I didn't want to over do it.

In the end, I did 2 miles at a 12:04 pace - again, pretty good and overall was happy with my run (in case the excessive use of the word "good" didn't tip you off).

Last night was Gazelle Boy's graduation. I never thought I'd get weepy over something like that but there were a couple of moments where I thought I was going to cry. In true Gazelle Boy form, as they called the kids up for their diplomas, he removed the mortar board and replace it with his pirate hat. When he approached the line of officials, he saluted each one of them - saying to the principal with his best Sean Connery accent, "It was a pleasure serving under your command M...." Even from where we were, you could see her laughing.

So he's officially a college boy now and, for now, I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Harpoon 5 Miler

This is one of these races that sells out in nothing flat. Over 1400 runners took to the streets of South Boston to run 5 miles and (if they want) drink beer.

The Harpoon brewery is just down from the Boston Fish Pier, so when I pulled up this morning I was happy to smell the ocean. I know a lot of people don't like the smell of the ocean at low tide, but I always have. Since the race was out of the brewery, it was a 21+ race and I needed to show ID - an interesting dilemma as I had to figure out a way to carry my ID, keys and inhaler. I dug out my old mp3 player pouch which filled the bill. On my other arm was my Nike+ with the sensor on one shoe and the timing chip on the other. Not ideal, but at least I was balanced.

I found my sister in the corral as we waited to start and we lasted maybe a block before I told her to go on and run ahead. Since I hadn't worn my watch, I decided I would run the first mile, walk for up to 6 minutes and then run to the next mile marker where I would then repeat the walk/run cycled. Unfortunately I went out way too fast at the start, finishing the first mile in 11:06. I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain that and, given the humidity, I was grateful for the walk. The first mile was through an industrial area - which was eerily empty on a Saturday morning.

After the first water stop, you start to run along the beach before being diverted over the pedestrian causeway towards Castle Island. What a beautiful part of the run - to be running over the ocean with a welcome breeze and beautiful views. This was my favorite part of the run and was probably half the race distance. I was doing pretty well - keeping around 12:15 or so pace until I hit mile 4.

Mile 4 was back through the industrial areas we had run toward the beach and I was starting to feel the heat. Once we were away from the ocean, there was no more breeze. I could see the bulk of the pack ahead of me and was feeling good. I knew I'd PR when, about a half mile from the finish I stepped in a pot hole and rolled my right ankle.

Yeah, I dropped a few f-bombs and hopped a little. My ankle was sore, but it felt strong and I figured I'd just walk in - kissing the PR goodbye. Just as the Nike+ voice said, "400 meters to go," I noticed my niece was waiting for me. She didn't run the race, she was there as support crew and walked me in. I did jog the last 100 yards or so for a finish of 67:01. Turns out that I PR'd anyway since I did 67:29 at the Doyle's 5 miler 6 weeks ago.

When I got home, I barely had time to shower before running out the door to a meeting and some errands. By the time I got home, I was starting to feel it in my ankle - which was now starting to swell a little, so I grabbed the icepack from the freezer, took some ibuprofen and watched the Sox game. I'll treat it a little gingerly over the next couple of days, but the swelling is pretty much gone and there is only a slight bruise. I decided to give myself Sunday & Monday off and I'll go for a short run on Tuesday to see how it does.

I definately want to do this run again. Maybe I'll do the Sugar Bowl in July out of the L Street Running Club which covers a chunk of that route as well. I do know this much, there is a note in my Palm to keep my eye open at the Harpoon site for when registration opens next year so I don't miss out again.