Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Two Down, Eight to Go

I was supposed to go out for four miles today - then life happened, again.

So I figured I had to squeeze a run in where ever I could and, knowing the evil hill awaits me on Sunday, I decided to squeeze in another evil hill. Because New England is full of such things, I found an evil hill not far from Heartbreak Hill. This discovery has the same sort of roll up and down and then WHAM there it is - an almost vertical wall daring you to just try and make it all the way up without stopping just like the hill in Cohasset. (See the elevation profile I added.)

For my training run, the hill was shortly after the 1 mile mark rather than the three mile mark, but I was more interested in the idea of the intensity. I made it over the initial up/down roll before hitting that wall and ran a quarter of a mile up the hill when my body said, "That will do Donkey, that will do."

It was encouraging actually quite encouraging - I made it a quarter of a mile up a huge hill after running over some interesting rolling hill-like bumps (compared to that puppy).

One thing I hadn't factored in for this run was the amount of auto exhaust when you run on main roads in the middle of the day. I'm used to running paths, less traveled roads and roads shut down on race day. While this wasn't entirely new, it did catch me off guard a little. Even in a liberal community filled with fuel efficient vehicles and hybrids, I think I sucked more exhaust for the mile I was on main roads than I have in months.

But the good news is, I got a quarter of a mile up a hill I didn't know I could walk up until today. Tomorrow I'll do a neighborhood 4 miler - the one I would have done today had I the time/chance to do so. Even with it's hills, it's not even enough to be more than an annoyance and I'll get another 4 miler (minimum) in this week as well before Sunday's 10k.

At the end of the day, all that really matters is do I feel I did it? Today is one of those days where I say, "yeah, I nailed it."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

In Training

I am sad. I can't run the Cherry Blossom 10 miler next week because there's no way I can leave Mr. Bear alone for a weekend when he's only able to start putting weight on his foot the day I was planning on heading to DC. So I'm signing up for the Cohasset Race by the Sea 10k with the evil hill and dragging him to Cohasset with me. If I can't go to DC and run among the cherry blossoms, he's going to hang out in Cohasset while go for a run along the ocean.

Now comes the next question - I'm on track to run the half marathon at the Johnny Kelley memorial this year; however, I promised someone I'd do the Lowell Spinners run the day before that. So the question then becomes, can I run a 2 mile race on Saturday and a half on Sunday. Then there is that piece of me that wants to run the 5k of the Kelley race so I can compare it to where I was last year when I ran that race. I could also use the 10k race to compare myself to the Hyannis race a few weeks ago, as it's the same course.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

In the meantime, yesterday I ran a beautiful 5 miles from Newton City Hall to BC to train for the evil hill. I also saw something incredibly sweet while running. The hill was lousy with runners - many training for Boston. I expected to see that on a Saturday afternoon... no biggie. There was this one guy who jetted past me on the up hill. You know the type - he eats hills for breakfast - runner's body with his singlet and shorts, camelback, gloves and hat. He passed me coming down the hill and jetted past me again just before I turned around.

On my way down the hill, there was a woman running slightly faster than me and then Mr. Hills jetted past me again and when he reached the woman, he stopped, gave her a kiss and then slowed down to run down the hill with her. That's when it hit me, while she was doing her training run, he was doing his hill repeats until she was ready to finish up. There was something really wonderful about watching that scene - watching two people find a way to work out together even though they were really in different places. It was such a warm moment and it was just sweet witnessing it.

That one moment turned a satisfying 5 miles into something better. When I ran past the Johnny Kelley statue, I told him to put 5 in the book for me today and I'll see him again this week. I could imagine him telling me I better.

I'll probably go out for a little run through the neighborhood this afternoon after it clears up a bit. After all this is Boston. Yesterday I ran in 50* weather, went to bed after a line of snow/rain/mush hit and woke up to the sun shining and the snow melting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Running of the Irish

Today was the Ras Na Heireann USA - a 5k race that is run in Somerville, MA as well as in Ireland. (Literally - according to the internet dictionary I found - the running of the Irish, idiomatically - the race of the Irish.) I like calling it the running of the Irish... it makes the race sound, I don't know - cooler I guess.

Now a week ago it was beautiful out. Spring was certainly in the air as the temperatures got as high a 70* and I was loving it. Then Friday a Nor'easter blew threw and dumped about 6-8" of snow. I was NOT loving that. Not only that the predicted near 50* temps for today began to decline until this morning the prediction was for the low 40's. It's 2:18 and just hit 30* - which means it was below freezing when the race started at 11 am. Since Nini is in England right now, her mom was there at the starting line with me and Gazelle Boy was way ahead in the front of the pack... no surprises there.

Because Gazelle Boy left his inhaler in the car, I gave him mine and borrowed a cell phone to call Mr. Bear and ask him to be waiting with Gazelle Boy's for when I ran by.

Within a quarter mile or so, I told my sister I'd see her at the finish line and let her run ahead. I was feeling a little slow today - maybe it was the weather, maybe it was just all the stress and such of the week catching up with me. But the idea of relaxing and taking my time was fine with me. After all, there 3200 registered runners, there's no way I'd be last so no worries on my end.

As we ran up the hill on Holland Street out of Davis Square, there was a pipe band playing, which made me happy. I'm not sure why, but it did. As we ran past the fire station, the firefighters would sound the siren and beep the horn. As we turned and came down College Hill (Powderhouse Blvd), there were people on their porches cheering for us, again, one of those things that just felt great. We came down through Powderhouse Circle and started up Broadway, where my brother in law waited with my inhaler since maneuvering around the road on crutches was a bit too tricky for Mr. Bear.

About that point there was a guy who reminded me of Scotty Dog from the Runner's World forums. For that last mile, I stuck with him while we did run/walks until the end of the race. It really was a pleasant way to finish up the race and I earned that sweaty hug at the end. According to my Nike+ I averaged a 12:37 mile. I do know my final time was 40:30 - but that was gun time. I have no idea what my chip time is yet as the only race up is the Southie St. Patrick's day race.

I should add they gave us a way cool medal with the race logo and it doubles as a bottle opener. More medals should be this cool!

I linked up with my sister. We couldn't find Gazelle Boy, so we figured he must have gone back to Ball Square to find us.

Once there, we couldn't find our husbands. So we ducked into one of the race party locations - The Powderhouse Pub - and didn't see them. I borrowed a cellphone (again) and called Mr. Bear to find out they were in a coffee house across the street. My sister and I grabbed a beer and then headed over to find the men folk. While debating what to do, since no one had seen Gazelle Boy, someone looked up and said, "There he is." He was across the street looking for us.

My sister took off, and Mr. Bear managed to hobble out of the coffee shop when I told him we were picking up some Zeppolis for St. Joseph's day (which is tomorrow... and it's my dad's birthday). I ran into my sister at the bakery, who was picking up a Zeppoli to ship down to my dad, so I ended up only getting enough for desert tomorrow night.

I have to admit, I liked this race but I was glad to get home to a warm house. I haven't decided if I want to soak in a hot bubble bath or take a hot shower... I'll figure that out in a few minutes when I amble into the bathroom and decide there.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Traffic Jam

Well, since the 25th hour was recalled early this year, I didn't get out to Heartbreak Hill until a little on the later end of things this morning. When I parked at City Hall, I was surprised that there weren't that many cars there - usually there are about a half dozen or so when I get there. I guess people are adjusting to the time change.

I set the Nike+ to a 5k distance and was off.

Out on the road, there they all were - runners on their own, dog walkers, fitness walkers, running clubs - you name it. The carriage road along Commonwealth Avenue was just packed with runners everywhere in ones, pairs, groups and otherwise. There were parents with strollers, dogs being walked and dogs running with their humans. In fact, I saw one beautiful Golden out there pulling his human along at a fairly good clip, it was kind of amusing to see the struggle of the runner who wasn't quite up to their dog's speed.

Of course the dog was faster than me, but that's OK.

After spending a season on a treadmill, I am beginning to recognize profound differences that, while subtle, really are noticable. For example, if I start to drag a little on the treadmill, the belt will pull me along. If I need to speed up or slow down on the street, it doesn't involve pushing any buttons - just adjusting my stride. But the main difference was the breeze.

See when you sweat on a treadmill, there's no breeze to help blow it off your face or dry you off a bit. Outside, between the wind resistance and any breeze or wind blowing, the change is huge. The good thing about the treadmill though was working on my speed. I ran a consistent pace today around the 12:30 mark without straining, fatigue or breathing issues. If I hadn't gone ankle deep in a puddle passing the Johnny Kelley statue on my way down the hill, I might have gone on for another mile or so towards the fire station and back.

Next Sunday is the Ras Na Heireann and I'm psyched because I'm going to spend a couple of days running outside this week just getting ready. If the rain comes through as planned, then I'll spend some time on the treadmill looking forward to running in the fresh air once again before having a run, a pint and some potato leek soup. Then I'll be in a real congestion of 2700 runners taking a scenic tour of Somerville.

But today was all about the company and joy of a good run up Heartbreak Hill.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Breath of Fresh Air

It is 50* outside, so I tied up my shoes and went outside for a run through the neighborhood. Not a long one - just down a few streets I normally don't run along - to be outside again. I ran up and down a few hills and around in a circle to log just over 1.5 miles over 20 minutes.

It was glorious. I averaged a 12:24 pace - not bad for not being on a motorized belt rolling over a flat surface.

I saw kids playing a games of street hockey in their driveway, shooting hoops, playing catch and riding bikes. It was as if something knocked on the door and said, "Can you come out and play?"

It was a good run and every so often, you just need a short one through the neighborhood to remind you that every time you back out of the driveway, you're just taking a scenic route home.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Recommended Speed

Today I remembered my towel and hit the treadmill again for a pleasant run. I did start nudging up the speek and incline - which had me a little tired after a couple of miles, so I guess I should do one or the other and not both. Of course, if the warming trend is a reality, I'll be able to run outside and the speed of the treadmill will be a moot point.

At one point I was running along and realized I was running faster than the treadmill because I was running in time with the music.

I began to think of all the times people told me treadmills were inaccurate, but I wonder if what was really happening was they were running at a different pace than the belt was moving. It's more like the speed of the belt is a recommended rather than an actual speed, which makes sense to me. It also makes sense why the Nike+ is always slightly ahead or behind the treadmill even though I tend to use the same treadmill whenever I can.

In the end, it was a good run. I'm psyched to run outdoors and, since I bought a new bike today:

I'm even more excited. All in all, it was a happy day and we all need a happy day every so often - especially when it's so cold outside.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Always Know Where Your Towel Is

This is rule number two if you're hitchhiking through the galaxy on 20 Altarian dollars a day. (Rule number one: don't panic.)

I thought about rule number two a lot today because I left the towel I usually drape over the blinking numbers on the treadmill behind today. I hadn't realized how much those numbers get to me until they weren't covered up. I would look up at the TV and run for a while, thinking I must have gone almost a mile only to realize it had been 3 minutes... no such luck.

Not to mention the fun layer of sweat pouring down my face at one point that I couldn't really wipe off because I didn't have my stupid towel.

I did manage to get 2.5 miles or so in today, so I'm not complaining so much as noting how hard it was knowing instead of being pleasantly surprised when I pulled the towel off to see where I was at.

I'm hoping to get a run in tomorrow. One thing we do know for sure: in the future I will remember rule number two and ALWAYS know where my towel is.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Up the Hill

I wanted to run outside today. It's March and I want to reclaim outdoors after last Sunday - so I figured I'd go for a couple of miles on Heartbreak Hill to celebrate that spring is around the corner.

Unfortunately I no longer have the mental checklist I did last December - primarily my inhaler. Running outdoors around or slightly below the freezing mark isn't a problem if I have it with me, but when I don't you get runs like today where I was did fine for the first 3/4's of a mile and then my chest began to tighten... which is when I realized I forgot something.

Not wanting to end up in trouble later, instead of pushing myself I just turned around, walked back to the car and headed home. It wasn't a failed run, more of a reminder that I have a checklist and I need to run through it before walking out the door. Now that I've remembered that piece of information it won't be long before I'm up early, out the door and going for long stretches up the hill and back again to start the day.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Take that Lumpy...

... or why running for Jenny is working.

Jenny is someone I know through the beginners forum at Runners World online. A lawyer, Civil War buff and incredible runner, Jenny noticed a large lump on the left side of her abdomen one day. Turns out her lymph nodes went a little kerflewey and Lumpy - as she named her mass - and his offspring Lumpy, Jr. needs 16 rounds of chemo to KO their asses and evict them for (hopefully) good.

A bunch of us began running for Jenny, especially when it was hard for her because she felt betrayed by her body as well as the physical complication from Lumpy and Lumpy, Jr. In fact, another forumite began a "Take that Lumpy" challenge for those of us with Nike+ units and Candi posts regular updates at to the total mileage a group of us have run for Jenny.

The other day at the finish line in Hyannis, I was talking to a woman while I waited for Gazelle Boy and told her about running for Jenny. She asked, "So how does it help a woman in Ohio because you ran a 10k today?" I said the moral support, the psychological support of knowing there are people pulling for you and, I truly believe, that it changes things in ways we don't often perceive. I know that if I had just undergone my first round of chemo and knew someone was out there running for me, it would be easier to close my eyes and picture some of my favorite runs while undergoing treatment.

She gave a sort of "whatever" reaction. I know that when my legs began to quiver after 4 miles, one of the things that went through my head was, "If Jenny can withstand chemo, I can finish this race and finish it strong."

Yesterday Jenny posted the following:


Lumpy measured 12 cm by 14 cm. He took up my ENTIRE left side, from my hip bone up to right under my rib cage, all the way across to my navel. He compressed my kidney, displaced my stomach, pancreas, guts, and liver. He never hurt, but you could feel him because he was very hard.

Today, I poked and prodded, and ..... no Lumpy. The left side of my stomach is nice and soft like the right side.

I am sure all of Lumpy isn't gone yet, but the "visible" part is. And that is definitely a good thing."

Is Lumpy gone because of us running or the first round of treatment? I can't say, but I truly and honestly believe when you have that much positive energy being sent your way, your spirit can't help but smile and say, "thanks, I needed that."