Friday, April 29, 2011

And now for something completely different...

I'm watching the Royal Wedding and the Bishop of London quoted one of my heroes: St. Catherine of Siena: "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!"

She was an amazing woman, but I always remember Sr. Johnette (of Blessed Memory) telling us stories about Catherine when she subbed in our 7th grade room and, later, when she was my teacher in high school.

Catherine was middle class, the daughter of a dyer and poet. She had visions early on her life and chose to commit herself to Jesus. My two favorite stories of what an amazing woman she was were as follows:

- When there was a problem with church and the Pope took up residence in Avignon, France, she appeared and put him on a boat back to Rome. Every time the Pope would try to get off the boat, Catherine was there to put him right back and bring him "home" and restored the Papacy to Italy rather than allowing the French monarchy steal the church.

- She was given to visions and once, when cloistered in the Dominican convent where she was a member, she was tortured for 3 days by visions of the Devil. She stood fast and never wavered in her faith and, as a result, was "rewarded" with a vision of the sacred heart of Jesus. Her reaction was to ask him where he was for the three days previous when she needed him.

I figured any woman in the 1300's with a set like that was one of my heroes. She stood up to the Pope (and French authorities I'm sure) and to Jesus... that's one amazing woman. But Catherine's words are ones to live by. As you go forward, keep those words in your heart and set the world ablaze.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thundering through Thursday

This morning's run started with another gift from Ms. Kitten. Yes, I had to wrap another mouse in a paper towel shroud and dump it back into what's quickly becoming a mass grave of mice behind the shed.

Ah nature!

I'm glad I got out when I did as I could feel the thunderheads building as I was out. Unlike the other day when it felt like running through a cloud, today felt like trying to outrun the storm you can see coming. I think about all my friends in areas where tornado klaxons and severe weather has been their reality for the past couple of weeks and pray they're OK out there.

I'm grateful Boston doesn't get tornados (although, occasionally a freak happens and touches down in the Worcester area). We get microbursts which are scary enough, but those are usually in July.

But I did run, or outrun (as the case may be) the building weather. In my last w5+(r3/w3*4)+r3+w5 segment, I made it through with no stops. At first my lungs were pretty tight between the pollen and heavy air, but I pushed through and it wasn't long until my breathing was able to find a rhythm that matched my feet and the music. My music was in shuffle mode and seems to have felt pretty Indy today - stuff from Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Thick as Thieves and Passion Pit... even Feist popped up in there among others. A nice change from my usual running stuff.

Ms. Kitten is now curled up in my office, content that she is doing her job and I'm content to head out the door after breakfast and a shower to do mine. My next run on Sunday will be switching off from r3/w3 to r4/w2 - building a better aerobic base. I can live with that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Misty Moisty Morning

Sometimes runners are surprised by what they find when they go out for a run. Today was one of those days.

It was supposed to be a r3/w3 morning running through a cloud, but then Johnny Kelley stopped me. I love running past this tribute to a Boston and running legend. In the spring as things begin to flower around it, it's even more of a tribute to the man and all he represents.

It's not unusual for people to use the statue as a place to stash necessities for long runs: bottles of sports drinks, snacks and such; but also people leave tributes behind as well. Silent, personal testimonies laying bare their soul to perfect strangers that may or may not notice.

This morning was such a morning where there were three testaments of Johnny's meaning in this world. The first was someone hung their BAA medals from the 114th running of the Boston Marathon (last year's 2o1o marathon) on Johnny.

The second was a tribute to a fallen loved one. His picture posted to the tree by the statue with flowers that had faded with the photo simply labeled with a name and his dates.

The third was an empty pair of running shoes next to the base of the statue:

So today I ran 2.5 miles in a fog with 3 minute intervals - 3 minutes running, 3 minutes walking - with one pause in the middle to be surprised, and touched, with a clear vision of why I do this.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easy Peasy Track Assessment - Easter Edition

2.9 miles w5+r3+(w 1/4 mile+r 1/4 mile *3)+w3+r3+w5

Long formula for a short workout: I ran to the local HS track and ran 1/4 mile then walked 1/4 mile to get a sense of my current pacing. The surprise, I'm running an 11:30 mile. The not so surprising, I was walking closer to a 20 minute mile. Usually I walk faster but this morning the energy wasn't there to push the walking and the running, so I pushed the running.

Overall I'm doing a 13 minute mile - not bad considering it wasn't that long ago I ran a 13 minute mile.

The plan this week is to start increasing the running and backing off the running. I need to push my lungs a little and get past the usual sharp, pointy asthma stick my inner loser pokes me with when I let my guard down. I think I'll still run time instead of miles for another week until May 1. Then I need to train for races. In fact I signed up for the "Lets Run, Have Fun and Be Fit Series" this summer.

Yep, this year I'm running it and not working the timing chutes. I'll do t-shirts, registration, whatever... but this year I'm going to run the races. :) :) :)

But for now it's time to get out and enjoy the spring day. What are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Familiar Ground

I had a chance to run on my old running trails along the river.

I started running there because I didn't want people to see me running. I would struggle along, inhaler in hand, counting the seconds until I could walk again. Then I began running along there because it was pretty. Finally it was just home.

When we moved four years ago, it was just far enough away that it takes effort to get there, so I found a new running route and pined for my old trails.

As it's school vacation week and I have a few days to breathe, I thought "why not?" As I pounded over the path, I marveled at how nature changes everything it touches. Branches and small trees damaged by the rough winter, benches that are normally far from the river's edge swallowed up by the spring overflow, wooden pathways that feel a little more weather beaten... it was beautiful. While it's too early for the baby chicks, I did encounter a Canada Goose. The thing was almost 4 feet tall and stood in the middle of the path looking at me. He sauntered over to the edge to let me pass, never taking his eyes off me. I nodded and he dipped his head a little and I kept going.

When I turned around and passed back that way, he was gone.

So a raw, drizzly 2 miles for me today down memory lane at w5+(r2/w2*5)+r2+w3

Photos from Boston

I started going to the Boston Marathon to watch back in the mid-70's when my oldest brother decided he wanted to do something big before he turned 30. He was a bandit runner and we waited near my uncle's house just past Wellesley College. Over the years, my brother continues to run Boston. The years he couldn't, usually due to injury, my sister-in-law would have to book a vacation and get him to leave town so he wouldn't jump in at the last minute. We continue to watch. After my uncle moved, we waited at Newton City Hall, Cleveland Circle and up near the top of Heartbreak Hill just before BC.

Some years he finished, some he didn't. This year would mark the 30th time he ran Boston.

For the past three years, my youngest son and I work at the Mile 18 water stop, giving aid and encouragement to runners while waiting to cheer on my brother and others we know who run the course. Some of them qualify, some of them get numbers through running clubs, like L Street, some are charity racers and some political. We cheer for people with names on shirts, we cheer for things written on shirts, chests, hats or anything else distinctive. I always consider my "job" an honor, it's our way of giving back to the people who worked hard and trained to be there.

Before things get really hopping, you can get photos of leaders. By the time some of the favorites come through: Joan Benoit Samuelson, the Hoyts, etc.; we're too busy to snap away.

But I always take a minute to get one of my brother. :)

Setting up the water stop at Mile 18 with Gatorade in the front and six water tables behind, the other side of the road is about 100 yards before our stop to keep things moving. This is after we got the initial set up done:

Our first soldier in full gear came through at 10:08 am:

The Yankee Division wasn't too far behind him:

The first male wheelchair racer went flying through:

The first Women's wheelchair racer was also amazingly fast:

Kim Smith, when she still had a comfortable lead:

and the rest of the elite women's pack:

Usually the women are on the opposite side of the road, we were surprised and shocked they passed so closely this year.

The elite men with Ryan Hall in the lead:

My son (left) and my big brother (right) :)

Now that my brother is retired, he is working for a group called "Back on my feet," an organization that promotes self-sufficiency to the homeless by building confidence and self-esteem through running. He also coaches kids locally with Dreamfar, which does the same thing with high school kids who tend to fall between the cracks and are struggling. He'll run a bunch of marathons with those folks, coaching people through. He'll run some others for himself.

One thing this son and I have in common, we dream of running like our big brothers who have a natural gait and talent for this. All of us love getting out there for a little while where it's us and the pavement and nothing else.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Marathon

This is my third year working the Mile 18 water stop at the Boston Marathon. It's hard work but a rewarding job.

We got there shortly before 8:30 am to start preparations. First order of business is lining plastic trash cans with plastic liners, dumping in a few pounds of ice and adding a second liner which we then fill with large jugs of water. With the tables set up and water ready to go (the people at the other end were mixing gatorade, but I prefer the water tables), we were called in by our fearless leader who gave final instructions, passes out our jackets and set us to task.

Our stop had 4 Gatorade tables and 6 water tables. We worked in pairs and trios to fill cups and build it three or four layers high. When we were done, it was hurry up and wait.

First sign of life - a lone soldier in full gear just after 10 am. Shortly behind him came a company of folks from the Yankee Division. Then the excitement really started as the wheelchairs came flying through. those babies can move and it never ceases to amaze me how fast these folks really are. Finally it was time for the runners. Kim Smith passed so closely that I could have touched her, followed by the knot of elite women.

The elites don't normally take water from us, they power past towards the big incline of Heartbreak Hill. We cheered them on. It wasn't long before the men's timing and press trucks passed. The tightly knotted pack with Ryan Hall in the lead blew right past.

Now it was time for the runners. The waves started and we screamed encouragement and "water, we have water here..." to let runners know. (They need to know if they are going for water or gatorade). For the next few hours it was shoulder to shoulder folks. I was one of the folks running back and froth from the table to the "I have water here!" folks.

Right around noontime, I could see the carpet of cups starting to build up. I jumped from my runner position to clean up duty. A rake in hand, I began raking up the cups to inside the white breakdown lane line so runners had a clearer road to run down. For close to two hours I raked until someone gave me a break and I held the trash bag while she raked.

Just after the 2 o'clock mark, my brother came through. He looked tired but good and he stopped for a moment to chat before heading off on his way.

At 3 o'clock the police came through telling us they were going to reopen the course shortly. By then we had cleaned up much of the mess. Once more people broke down their tables and jumped on raking duty, we had both sides of the road looking better than we found them. By 3:30 we had finished the final walk looking fore empty gu containers, cups and other trash.

We all headed out for some beer and lunch Another year in the books . There were plenty of costumed characters - lots of easter bunnies (the small children near us did count the and called one toward the end "bunny number seven" so I guess there were at least seven or eight bunnies; a gorilla, french fry, several ballerinas (male and female), Elvis and a few others showed up to give us a laugh between our yelling "water, water.....) and a moment to breathe.

All in all a good day for a race. One year I'll run Boston, but for now I'll be content to run Comm Ave in the wither and pretend to feel a victory.

Good job Boston runners, you're all winners today.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spirit of the Great Heart

Today's run: w5+(r2/w2)+r1+w5 for 2.3 miles

I woke up to Miss Kitten wanting me to come downstairs (at 5 am >.<) to show me something. I could hear the rain coming down and realized I wasn't going back to sleep, so downstairs it was.

She danced around at the bottom of the stairs to give me "Here, does this cheer you up?" present - a little mouse on it's back in front of the front door with its little paws up in the air. My cat loves me. sigh

By 6 the rain had let up to a drizzle/light rain, so I suited up and out the door I went. I found an old play list called "Running Inspired" and listening to it was like reconnecting with an old friend. The opening strains of Jimmy Buffett's "Spirit of the Great Heart" really were enough to get me over the hump.

The road was surprisingly empty for a Sunday morning. Often I see other runners out and about this time of day, but I only passed one other person. Even when I got to the running lanes there was no one out - not even dog or fitness walkers. I suspect the roads will be busy later as the sun starts to come out as the storms have passed.

I am feeling stronger and continuing doing the ankle exercises. I haven't needed the inhaler while running since restarting and I'm starting to feel the aerobic ability starting to extend in my lungs. While I wish I could run like I used to, today was one of those days where I caught a glimpse of where I can be and now it's just reminding myself to have the patience to get there. I have the spirit of a great heart, and I will get there.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I need to get this off my chest

Yesterday I went to the Boston Marathon expo and it amazes me how clueless some companies are to women runners, and larger women runners particularly.

I go to Weight Watchers because I need a level of accountability, not because I need a therapy group or for fun. I also have the double whammy of a minor autoimmune issue that interferes with my thyroid so, even though I'm this side of "normal" and don't need meds, it does mess with my ability to lose weight. I'm trying to go from being a big girl who has every bit of food in my life scrutinized to unique like everyone else. I run because I love having that time that is solely mine and the sense of accomplishment that goes with it.

So why is it the running magazines try to tell me that they use "real people" and open to a section to prove it. When I ask them to find one person that looks like me (as they still look like those gazelle like creatures that bound weightlessly from the earth), the people hem and haw and then say, "Well, you could write a letter to the editor...."

At the clothing manufacturer booths, they hold up a woman's XL and it looks like it would fit.... if I didn't have chest that gives me two black eyes when I run if I don't double bag (which I do) and doesn't cover up my gut. Who do they think I am? Britney Spears at the height of "look at me! I have skin and it's E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E! My epidermis is showing along with other body parts!" phase.

I look a lot... um, rounder than Brit Brit ever has. This leads me to the other side of the booth to get the men's large, which fits over my chest. When I mention this to the shirt folks, they shrug and say, "Hey, if it doesn't fit, don't buy it."

The only people who got it were the Running Skirts people. One of the women looked at me and said, "I have your size." She handed me a skirt to try on. The shorties fit, the length was perfect and the waist band sat on my waist the way it was supposed to instead exposing my butt crack. The woman helping me said, "I was your size last year, trust me I know this will work for you." ♥ ♥ ♥ She is the first person since the iRun Like a Girl folks to acknowledge that I want to look as nice as the people I aspire to look like one day.

We talked about how the women in my WW meeting and I often talk about how unfair it is we don't get to wear "cute" clothes when we work out, how frustrating it is. Finally I have something that sits properly so I don't have to wear 2 tops running because if my shirt does the inevitable crawl, there is fabric covering my belly and I don't feel obscene running down the street.

So to the running gear and information folks out there: I'm a big market. Not just because I'm big but because I'm the majority of Americans who find themselves curled up in a funk rather than be relegated to oversized sweats and t-shirts hiding so you can't see me while I try to battle my way back to my normal weight. It's a double blow to be fat and be reminded of it at every turn as a result of the lack of work out clothing for us. You actually could make a lot of money off our desire to step back towards normal.

Until then, all of you can kiss my rather large posterior after you take an airborne act of fornication at a round breakfast pastry in motion. I'm about to get vocal and become an advocate because you delivered the straw that broke the camel's back yesterday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life is a dance

Last day of w5+(r1/w1*10)+w5 and I spent it with the fabulous Miss Chaka Khan!

I love running to funk and soul, like the angry Irish punk I also love, it has a steady beat to drive through even the weakest, "Why am I out here?" moments. Chaka Khan, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, the Parliament/Funkadelics... I love it, I love it all.

A good run on a clear, chilly morning was just what I needed to clear my head of petty dramas that play out around me (and all of us) everyday. It's just me, the road, my watch and my music. All in all, a good way to start off the day no matter what else rolls downhill at me today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good morning, good run

w5 +(r1/w1) +w5

A good run is a good way to start your day. In the quiet of the morning before the rest of the world is waking up is a special time of the day. This is the time of year when the air is fresh and clear and the temps are just right for running. It's the sort of morning that makes you smile, knowing you're on top of things... even if it's just for the length of the run.

I chose to keep it light today after going long on Sunday. Right now it's about rebuilding the habit of running after a winter on the couch. I also made it out early enough that I suspected the local high school track would be open, I was right.

Jogging and walking on a level, forgiving surface is a nice change of pace over running on asphalt and concrete. It felt good out there and I had to hold myself back from going outside the (r1/w1) parameter. The logical side of me knows that if I push too hard now, I end up back on the couch nursing another injury, so I have to pull up on the emotional reins no matter how free and happy I feel in that moment.

What a way to start renewing my body and soul after a long, dormant state.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011 Doyle's 5 Mile

I love this race.

In case you didn't realize it, let me say it again: I LOVE THIS RACE.

On New Year's Eve, I went to dinner at Doyle's and the applications were out and I signed up. April seemed so far away that night, plenty of time to train. Then I ended up in a boot on Valentine's day and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do this. The reality is, I didn't really train. It's only been 2 weeks since I ended PT for the Valentine's Day injury and the closest I've come to running is last week when I went out for w5 (r1/w1)*10+w5 which was just under 2.5 miles. So would I be able to do this?

Add getting over an upper respiratory infection and I had to be nuts thinking it would be a good idea. So I made a deal with myself. I would check myself at the one mile and two mile mark and see how I was feeling. If I was hurting or slowing down, I would turn around. My oldest decided to run too. He loves this race was going to "take it slow" instead of running his race pace. For him, this means running a 7 min mile instead of a 6 minute mile.

Me, I was hoping for a 15 minute mile.

The race is through Franklin Park, one of the gems in Olmstead's Emerald Necklace park system. There are little treasures like the park entrance on the JP side of the park.
Behind me is densely packed neighborhood of triple deckers. In fact, all around this section of the park is densely pack triple deckers and a lot of lower income families, immigrants, old hippies and anarchists.

Going into the park, it's easy to forget all that when all you see is open space, trees, ducks and water ways. I would run the other way through this arch at the end, but for now, I was heading to the start line to warm up. My son had disappeared at some point, I figured he was doing his pre-race warm ups and rituals as well. Turning the corner, I saw him.
He was sitting in the spring sun meditating. As one of my friends said, "He looked as if he was solving all the problems in the world."

I lined up towards the back of the 2200 or so runners and walked my first five minutes. About a quarter mile in, just before I was going to run, was the Boston Police Gaelic Column. Every year, no matter what the weather, there they are to send us off.

It's a great feeling to hear the pipes calling you forward. I broke into my first run at this point and passed a number of people walking. I had a feeling that, in spite of the lack of training and prep, it was going to be a good race.

I followed the plan: run 1 minute, walk 1 minute and see how well I could pace myself. I crossed the one mile mark just before the 14 minute mark and everything felt strong. My ankle was solid, my breathing was good and I didn't need my inhaler. The course is an out and back and shortly after the 1 mile mark, the leaders were passing in the other direction. I saw my son and did my traditional yell to him.

"You're getting beat by a girl!"

"You disappoint me," he returned and we both laughed as we continued on our way.

I passed the entrance to the Zoo just before mile 2, where I checked myself again. I was still keeping a strong pace - down to under 13 minutes - and still feeling strong. That meant no turning around.

At the halfway mark my body began to ask if we were done yet? Given that my furthest distance in months was 2.5 miles, I can't say as I was surprised. I kept up the r1/w1 pacing to see how I'd do. I passed the 5k mark just after the 40 minute mark and that's when my body told me, "Enough." Just under a 13 minute mile was more than respectable.

I knew I'd be walking the last two miles. It was OK, I had already exceeded my expectations. Now came the next goal: finishing in 1:15.

I always love the 4 mile stretch when you cross over a bridge and through some woods. Every year I look for the ducks on one side of the bridge and the golfers on the other side.

From here, it's wrap around the pond, past the Shattuck (where we started) and under the arch back into the neighborhood before ending at Doyle's.

I always look forward to the drummers as you come out of the park and head up the street.

I crossed at the 1:15 and change mark, thus hitting my other goal on the day. My son, not a shock he ran the race in 36 minutes finishing in the top 250 runners. It was a wonderful day and a wonderful race and already I'm wishing for next year's race.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Litmus Test

I felt like I have been stalled. I know I've been injured and sick but I'm sick of being... well, sick. So today I decided to go for a litmus test and see what I could do. It was a simple plan: walk for 5, (run 1/walk 1) x10, walk 5. If things went south, I could turn around and walk home.

Something wonderful happened: I felt good and made it the whole way through. In fact, I ended up doing an extra run/walk set because I miscounted about halfway through so I was out for 32 minutes instead of 30.

Now it's a case of how my lungs react through the day, but I didn't need my inhaler while I ran (although I did have it with me) or when I got home. I feel good, I feel happy and I feel like I'm home.

Friday, April 01, 2011

So... what's going on?

Why is it that kids are really good at sharing colds and other viruses?

That is the question I ponder from my couch while watching the Sox kick off the march to summer down in Texas. This cold hit me hard, derailing all plans for week two with the exception of spending 5 minutes daily just listening.

I figure I'm good though. Sunday morning I can start week 2 yet again and move forward from there.

I must acknowledge a piece of sad news that came today: the passing of Lou Gorman, former General Manager of the Boston Red Sox. Gorman was, as many describe, "a class act." A gentleman and a scholar, he was an integral part of the club even when he wasn't part of the club. He was on the faculty at Stonehill College in the English department and wrote some wonderful books on baseball. I loved speaking with him the few times I ran into him at Famous Fenway Writers Series luncheons. I imagine he's watching the Splendid Splinter open his heavenly season today. So if you're a Sox fan and catch a game this year, take a second to pause and look heavenward and remember Lou. Red Sox Nation won't be the same without him.