Monday, December 31, 2007

About a Race the Next Day

When tomorrow's race is not until 10:30 a.m., there's really no need to lay out one's clothes in advance the night before, do you think? It's not like I have to get up at dawn to get there. No, I think I can just go to bed and make a final decision on what to wear tomorrow. Depending on the weather.

It is, however, necessary to carb-load by having a few more pepperkaker (Norwegian gingerbread cookies) as a bedtime snack. Considering that I completely gave up cookies and candy between December 26 and today--only slacking off today in the interest of building up glycogen stores. That's important.

And then (after tomorrow's race recovery period), it will be off the sugar again. As well as the beginning of my short-term vegan experiment (more on that later). (And having the pepperkaker now will help get them out of temptation's way. Very helpful, really.)

2007 In Review

Today, tonight, and this week all the news shows and talk shows and magazines are doing their various end of year reviews, about news events and fashion and celebrities mishaps and so forth. I thought I would take this opportunity to review and reflect on the highlights of my own year (with an emphasis on running-related topics, since that is what this blog is all about, plus whatever else strikes my fancy).

So here goes.

Races by Distance

  • 5K - 5
  • 5 mile - 2
  • 10 mile - 1
  • 10K - 6
  • 15K - 2
  • Half Marathon - 2

Races by Month and Name

  • Valentine's Love 'em or Leave 'em 5K
  • La Conner Smelt Run 10K


  • YMCA Invest in Youth Fund Run (2 laps - 10.3 miles)
  • Portland Shamrock Run 15K

  • Skagit Valley Tulip Run 5 mile
  • Whidbey Island Half Marathon

  • Wells Fun Run 5K (Wells, Somerset, England)

  • Race for the Cure 5K
  • Run with the Cops, Not from Them 5K


  • Yankee Doodle Dash 10K
  • Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon


  • Mukilteo Run-a-Muk 10K

  • Arlington River to Rails 10K
  • Fairhaven Waterfront 15K

  • Olympia Halloween 10K
  • YMCA Trick or Treat Fun Run 5 mile


  • FootwoRx Fowl Fun Run (Mount Vernon) 10K

  • Jingle Bell Run 5K
Fastest Pace

  • Between 8:30 and 8:35 per mile, in the Tulip Run 5-mile, the River to Rails 10K, and the Trick or Treat 5 mile
Slowest Pace

  • More than 9:30 per mile, in the Anacortes Half Marathon
Most Typical Pace

  • About 8:45 per mile, in most 10K's and the Whidbey Island Half Marathon (1:54:30, to be exact!)
Most Prepared Race

  • Whidbey Island Half Marathon, for which I signed up about five months in advance, and faithfully completed a full three-month training program.

Least Prepared Race

  • Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, for which I signed up only a month in advance, allowing only four pre-race long runs (7.5, 9, 10, and 12 miles) beyond my typical 5-6 mile runs a few days a week... and only a couple months after returning from a three week vacation in England, where I freely indulged in scones and other treats.
Most Unexpected Race

  • Wells Fun Run 5K, in England... I saw a banner in town the morning of the race, and signed up spontaneously after a hearty English breakfast. (My time was nothing to email home about, but I still came in first for my age category!)

    Favorite Post-Race Tradition

    • Sharing a cinnamon roll with my supporters (e.g. mom)--it started after the half marathons, and has trickled down to a couple of 10K's and, er, my last 5K.

    Hilliest Courses

    • Portland Shamrock Run 15K - The first four miles were all uphill, followed by two miles of up and downhill, finally finishing with a wonderful 3.3 mile downhill glide to the finish line.

    • Whidbey Island - Hilly all the way!

    Nicest Courses

    • Whidbey Island - beautiful run along the water, but it is road almost the whole way.

    • Anacortes - also a nice view course, including crossing the trestle over Fidalgo Bay, but most of the race is on roads.

    • Fairhaven Waterfront 15K (Fairhaven, Bellingham) - the nicest course, with the first few miles on the road and the remaining along the beautiful waterside trails, including a long dock over Bellingham Bay. Also conveniently begins and ends near the Village Inn, allowing non-running companions to enjoy their breakfast while waiting for the runners to finish.

    Biggest Race Crowds

    • Race for the Cure - huge crowd, but very well organized by pace times, little delay for runners (I managed a 5K PR this year, despite a late night beforehand).

    • Jingle Bell Run - A mob scene!

    And so you have it, some of the highlights of 2007. I'd put in more pictures, but I'd miss the beginning of 2008 waiting for them to download! Here's to the runs of 2008! (Beginning in 11 hours with the Resolution Run at Magnuson Park....) (Because it is actually 11:30 p.m., even though this says posted at 7:03 p.m.) (I will be spending the last half hour of the year with Frasier on TV. Yes, I am that boring.)

  • Friday, December 28, 2007

    Over the Top

    This morning I met my 1200-mile goal (plus one) when I did a 5.5 mile run. So I'm done! Thank you, and good night.

    Just kidding. Time to start on next year's goal! I don't know what it will be. Just to keep running, really, and the mileage will take care of itself. I didn't even know that I was close to 1200 miles this year until mid-November.

    And I still have at least one running day left in 2007.

    Which does create a dilemma. I've signed up for a 5K run on New Year's Day, which is a Tuesday, and my running days are usually Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and either Saturday or Sunday. So do I keep to that schedule, which would have me running four consecutive days next week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)? Or do I take one of the days off for rest?

    The sensible thing would be to take off Monday (and I might do that). The only thing is, Monday is the last day of the year, and I wonder if I would regret not running that day? Or I could take off Sunday, but Sunday is usually such a good day for running, what with not having to get to work and all.

    Oh, the dilemma of it all!

    But the great thing is, now that I got my 1200 miles in, I can do either of those things with impunity. It could snow and leave me housebound for the next three days, and it wouldn't matter. (But it's not going to snow—in fact the weather might even improve on Sunday or Monday, further complicating my decision.)

    Happy New Year in advance—I'm ready for 2008.

    In Defense of Limping

    I have a bum achilles tendon—achilles tendonosis and Haglund's heel deformity, according to my podiatrist. Achilles tendonosis differs from tendonitis in that it is a more permanent condition that can't just be cured with rest and so forth. It is a degeneration and thickening of the achilles tendon that results in the same kind pain and inflammation as tendonitis. Haglund's heel is a protrusion of the heel bone that tends to aggravate the achilles tendon as it stretches over the bone. That is my very non-scientific, uneducated description of these conditions.

    What this results in is varying levels of pain and discomfort in my heel and ankle when I walk, and sometimes when I run. It's only risen to severe pain on a few occasions (which is when I ended up at the podiatrist). Mostly it is a low level of pain that often recedes once I warm up walking or running. I manage it by using orthotics in the heels of my running shoes (making my shoes the most expensive running shoes ever), Advil when needed, sometimes icing, and not running every single day (big sacrifice there!).

    And sometimes I limp. I believe that limping is my body's way of accommodating the pain in my ankle when I walk. Walking with a normal gait would cause more stress and pain than allowing that little bit of a lurch. Luckily, if I walk for a few minutes the pain (and limp) usually goes away (and I never limp when I'm running). Of course, the limp is more noticeable in day to day activities, where I am just walking short distances at work and home without an opportunity to warm up, rather than on a longer, extended walk.

    What completely amazes me is accusatory way people point out that I am limping! I mean, people who can probably barely walk a block without getting winded point out that I am limping, as if it is some kind of character flaw. (Okay, a more charitable person would think that perhaps they are just concerned about my well-being, but harrumph! that is not me.) So then I have to explain that yes, I may be limping a little, I have this achilles tendon problem that sometimes acts up and I can't help but limp. What I think they are implying is that if I didn't run so much, I would not be limping around in my off times.

    Maybe so, but as I said, I don't limp when I run.

    (Sometimes I also limp or walk stiffly because I am just sore from exercising a lot, or climbing hills, or using some muscles that are less accustomed to strenuous activity. Eventually that wears away too.)

    I would love it if my achilles tendon were miraculously cured so that I can run and walk as much as I wanted without an ache or a pain. As it is, I try to be mindful and allow rest periods, as well as avoiding explosive activities that could put too much stress on the achilles tendon and really cause more injury. (I paid for the jumping jacks I did in a Thanksgiving Day workout. So jumping, and high impact aerobics, are really off the table for me.)

    I'm not interested in surgery, unless it is really a last ditch option. And I'm not planning on stopping running anytime soon. So you'll see me in the next 5K (or 10K, or half marathon), and you may see me limping a little the next day. Pass the Advil!

    Thursday, December 27, 2007

    The End (of the Year) Is Coming

    In about five days, 2007 will be over, and I will have run more than 1200 miles during the year. When I passed 1000 miles a few weeks back, I realized that with little more effort than keeping up what I was already doing, I could make 1200 miles (an average of 100 miles per month). At that time I needed to average 24 miles a week to make the goal. With that incentive, I kicked up my mileage a bit and each week I got a little bit closer. As of this morning's run, I am within four miles of completion, with three scheduled running days left in the year. (However, I am planning on bumping December 31 into next year, as it is a Monday, the first day of the week in my running calendar.)

    I ordered a new running calendar for 2008, and over Christmas I unpacked it and had a quick look. It is similar in format to this year's Runner's World calendar, except that this time I ordered one especially designed for women. I am having mixed reactions to that. First of all, there's a lot of pink (luckily I like pink). Second (and more disturbingly to me), it is full of pictures of running women, all of whom seem extremely fit and wearing spandex. I don't know--it may give me a bit of an inferiority complex! The pictures in my old calendar were much less flashy.

    But, I'll have to deal with it. I have absolutely no need for two calendars, and this is the one I picked!

    Wednesday, December 26, 2007

    This Year's Jingle Bell Run - December 9, 2007

    So it took more than two weeks before I "recovered" from the Jingle Bell Run enough to write about it. No, it's not the run I had to recover from, but my reaction to running in a 5K clogged with 15,000 participants (note I did not say runners), most of which chose to believe they should participate in the 8-9:40 minute category.

    There was a faster category, which started 10 minutes earlier (so as not to be bogged down by us slowpokes), and also a walking category, which started 10 minutes later. Since there was a walking category, I don't quite understand why there were so many participants walking in the "run (jog)" portion of the race. Read the directions, people! If you don't intend to even try running, sign up for the walk, okay?

    This year I did manage to successfully use my watch to measure my time from the actual starting line to the finish line. That way I could at least eliminate the time lost in the shuffle to the start line. Even so, the first half mile (or more) was really slow (due to the walkers and just the mass volume). Even though I ran really hard (once I was able to), my start to finish time was 29 minutes. My official time was about 30 minutes, which means that it "only" took one minute to get across the start line.

    Even so, I was among the faster of the slow runners. The greatest mobs began coming in five to ten minutes after me, causing a bottleneck in the finish gates. I was happy to be on the sidelines watching (and congratulating myself for being faster).

    I was happy to leave the mobs after the race, although I felt like I should somehow take advantage of being in downtown Seattle during the Christmas season. But instead, we made a short visit to University Village (partaking of samples at Williams Sonoma while doing a bit of shopping), and then headed to breakfast at Sunflour Bakery--the usual reward after a race!

    (I'm the one in red near the center.)

    Tuesday, December 4, 2007

    Jingle Bell Run—December 10, 2006

    I came across the Jingle Bell Run last year like I did the Race for the Cure—by chance. I think I was listening to the car radio (WARM 106.9, all Christmas music, all the time, from Thanksgiving through December 25), and I heard the DJ mention it. So I looked it up on the internet, and there it was—5K, fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation, in the heart of downtown Seattle. Seemed like a festive thing to do!

    Because the charity was the Arthritis Foundation, which I felt an affinity for since my grandmother had suffered terribly from arthritis, I made a bit of an effort at fundraising, sending an email to a rather long mailing list of friends far and near. But I think only my mother and I actually contributed—my sister probably meant to, but I don’t think she got around to it. No one else even responded. And I was the one feeling guilty for bothering them! I hate fundraising.

    Still, despite my paltry success at raising money, I was inspired to make this a fun event, so I decided I needed a Christmassy running outfit. So off to Target I went. I got lucky, finding a red and white Adidas-style track suit (red jacket and pants with white stripes down the arms and legs), which I felt would give a Santa-like vibe but yet still be appropriate for running. Hat and gloves should have been easy, but in fact I spent quite a bit of time (and an excess of money) on potential red and white/cream possibilities from Target and later Macy’s, before settling on a red polar fleece cap and fluffy cream-colored gloves and scarf. Lorraine from my office was kind enough to make me a pompom to top off the hat in style! (Hopefully I will be able to find everything back for the 2007 run!)

    The morning of the race mother and I were in downtown Seattle good and early. Long before any stores were open, and seemingly a bit before many of the runners had arrived, we found a spot in the parking garage and wandered our way into Westlake Center. Once I located the registration and check-in areas, the quiet and solitude dissipated, as I found myself surrounded by runners and walkers, many dressed in red and even a lot of Santa caps, antlers, and elf costumes! I passed the extra time by standing in a very long line for the women’s restroom, and standing in not quite as long a line at Starbucks for a pre-race latte.

    The upper levels at Westlake Center offered a nice view of the holiday decorations below, and the cheerful mob of Santa-garbed runners. As race time neared, I made my way into the crowd and toward the start line. I say toward the start line, because I was certainly nowhere near it. I think the top runners got to go to the front, but among the rest of us there was no attempt to separate the runners from the walkers, or divide up the pace categories as in the Race for the Cure. When the starting gun went off, there was a large shuffle in the direction of the start line—I am quite sure that it took five or even ten minutes before I actually crossed the starting line. And even then there was no running—the shuffle turned into a jogging walk, until eventually I was able to develop some kind of a pace.

    That is undoubtedly why, even though I felt like I was running quite hard and fairly fast through most of the race, I saw that the time clock was well over 30 minutes before I approached. I knew that this was true, so I disregarded the clock and don’t even know my time anymore.

    There were more important things to worry about, anyway. I had decided that this run would be a good opportunity for a fun Christmas photo to make Christmas cards to send to the few people that I send cards to. So I had my mother stationed at the finish line for a photo opportunity. But this was our first real try at race photography (except for the Dog Day Dash, which was a much smaller event), and we completely underestimated the mobs of people that would interfere with the finish line. Not to mention the trickiness of a digital camera which takes several seconds to record a picture—seconds in which a runner can enter and leave the picture frame before the photo is captured! I don’t think my mother even manage to see me at the finish line, let alone photograph me. Then, after crossing the finish line, there was an extremely frustrating period of trying to find her in the mobs, as we had not adequately designated a meeting point.

    After meeting up and exchanging angry words and recriminations, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) decided that there was nothing to do but re-stage the finish and take the pictures we had missed. I determined then—which has served us well in future races—that the best place to take pictures is prior to the finish gates, where there are less bystanders to interfere with the shots. So I stationed my mother on the side of the street, walked another block back into the course, and ran it again. And again. And again…. Until we had several possible shots, at least one of which I deemed acceptable for a Christmas card photo. (The caption for my Christmas card was “I hear there’s a One-Day Sale at Macy’s!”)

    By that time the race finishers had dwindled—even the walkers were finishing—and it was time to leave. The nice thing about most races is that they start fairly early in the morning, and so it’s still early when you are done. Still early enough for—breakfast! We escaped downtown and headed back to Wedgwood to the Sunflour CafĂ©, calling Gretchen along the way and inviting her to meet us there.

    Another nice thing about races is that you feel like you have earned yourself a good breakfast. So I tucked into a smoked salmon omelet and a side of delicious thick-cut bacon with gusto and only a little guilt.

    Later, before I took off my Santa suit, I posed with Nissa on the deck… we tried to get her to wear a set of reindeer antlers, but she didn’t want to!

    Sunday, December 2, 2007

    I survived the snow (just barely)

    I peeked out the window around 8:00 this morning and there was still snow—in fact it was snowing—but it looked like pretty wet snow because it wasn't accumulating. In fact there was less on the ground than there had been late last night. So I figured the snow wouldn't disrupt my run, and there was no real need to rush out.

    In retrospect, of course, I wish that I had gone out a little earlier than I did, before the snow started to melt quite so much. Instead, I headed out at about 10 a.m.

    Even though I figured it wasn't really too cold out—I'm sure last Sunday morning was colder—I decided to wear long pants instead of my usual knee length or cropped running pants. (It's amazing how many shorter pairs of pants I have. I really need some long running pants for winter.) Later, as I couldn't avoid splashing through slush puddles, I was very glad not to have bare legs!

    I debated at length with myself what route I should take. My usual weekday town route? Or the longer weekend waterfront route? I finally decided on the town route, so I could cut off easily if conditions got too unbearable. Besides, the snow was much prettier in the yards and on houses. Very Christmassy. I could just add a couple of miles to keep my mileage up.

    I started out slow to warm up, as I usually do. Only I never really did warm up. I mean that my muscles never got warmed up—my legs felt stiff and slow for most of the run. (And my ankle/achilles tendon was a little sore throughout.) The rest of me didn't feel too cold, not until later at least. I was running a little carefully, not wanting to slip on the snow or melting snow, and trying to avoid stepping into too much slush or water. I liked the stretches of packed snow the best, because they were dry, and a very nice running surface, more forgiving than bare sidewalks.

    By the time I got downtown (where I would normally turn around and head home, but today planned to add another mile out and back), the falling snow seemed a little bit more like rain and the slush on the ground seemed deeper and, if this is possible, colder and wetter. By now my shoes were pretty much soaked. And it seemed like I couldn't cross a street without stepping into two inches of slush. And my left shoe would not stay tied!

    My last mile before turning around was uphill southbound on Colby to 41st Street. Today I was also going into the wind. Although it wasn't an especially strong wind, it was cold and wet!

    The payoff, of course, is turning around and heading back downhill. Normally this is my favorite part. Today it was a little bit less wonderful, especially when a big truck drove past me in the street and splashed up a big wave of slush onto my legs. Lovely.

    I stopped at the downtown Starbucks to use the bathroom. Again, this is usually a nice breather before heading into the final stretch home. But today, during the few minutes at Starbucks, all the body heat from running that had been keeping me warm despite wet feet (and increasingly, wet clothes and gloves) dissipated, and when I went back outside the damp cold really hit me.

    It was, however, snowing again in big flakes! (Big, wet flakes.)

    I slogged down Everett Avenue to QFC and Starbucks. I grabbed a few items in the store (making sure I didn't give myself too heavy a load to carry home) and, thank goodness, found some gloves for sale so I didn't have to put my wet gloves back on for the walk home. An extra hot latte at Starbucks kept me going long enough to get home, where I peeled off my wet clothes and headed for a nice hot bath!

    But I did get 7.8 miles in, enough to keep me on track for the end of the year.

    Now that the snow is melting, I just hope it drains away so that tomorrow morning is not so wet!

    Saturday, December 1, 2007


    My mother called me around 8:00 this morning and asked me if I had snow. I peered out the window and said no, there was no snow on the ground here! Apparently they had gotten an inch or so at my parent's house.

    Shortly thereafter I dragged myself out of bed and on the way to the Y. I realized, once I got outside, that I had been wrong—there was a little bit of snow on the ground. A powdered sugar dusting, so light that I could only see the flakes between the blades of grass from a very close proximity. There was a little bit more on my car, just enough to sweep aside with one swipe of the windshield wipers.

    But I did think it was very possible there could be snow on the way. It felt cold, cold enough that I found myself making a point of thinking it was cold, and the air was heavy and moist. You could almost taste the snow in the air.

    But a couple hours later, when I left the Y, the grey clouds had faded and the sun was partially out. Perhaps there would be no snow.

    By the time I finished some errands, stopped at Starbucks and two grocery stores (one for groceries and one for brown rice sushi) and headed home, it was close to 1 p.m. Still partly sunny, still no snow. I popped myself into the bath for a long soak.

    Long enough, apparently, for the snow clouds to roll in and start dumping big snowflakes! When I looked out the window again, cottonballs were falling from the sky and the ground was beginning to whiten.

    The snow continued on and off, light and heavy, for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Around 4:00 I ventured out again to the grocery stores to get a few more things. I was not the only one stocking up for the blizzard—the parking lots were crowded and the checkout counters had lines.

    I came home to make Squash Soup. I am crazy for this Squash Soup—I have now made it four times in the last two months. The recipe is from Greg Atkinson and can be found, in its official version, on his website. Here is my slightly modified variation.

    1. Make turkey or chicken broth. Homemade broth is essential and is what makes this soup sublime! I eat a lot of roasted turkey breasts and an easy way to make broth is to simmer the remains of an eaten turkey breast in hot water to cover (4-6 cups) for a couple of hours, then cool and strain. Freeze if you're not using right away. You can also use the carcass of a roasted chicken, or just simmer some chicken breasts or thighs (or assorted pieces), use the chicken for other meals and save the broth. If I am using the bone from cooked turkey or chicken I will throw the skin in too, but if it was raw chicken I would take off the skin to get rid of all the fat. Or you could refrigerate the broth overnight (if you have time) and then just take off the fat once it is solidified.
    2. Use a medium-sized Kabocha squash if you can get one, or another yellow/orange winter squash of your choice (buttercup and sweet mama are also recommended). I couldn't get a Kabocha squash today (I think they're out of season now), but I had a small buttercup squash at home and I bought a couple of delicatas to add to it. Cut the squash into pieces and scrape out the seed. Then peel carefully with a large knife and cut into cubes. You should have five or more cups of squash.
    3. Slice up a medium or large onion (depending on how much squash you have), and saute it in a large deep cookpot in about two tablespoons of butter until the onions soften and turn golden. You can use more butter if you have a lot of squash.
    4. Add the squash and 4-6 cups of broth (depending on how much squash you are using and whether you prefer your soup very thick or thinner). Throw in at least a couple teaspoons of kosher salt to taste. You may need a little more if your broth was unsalted (which it should be if it's homemade!). If you must use prepared broth then be careful with the salt.
    5. Simmer for about 15 minutes or as long as is needed until squash is very tender. You can then puree it using an immersion blender right in the pot. If you don't (and I do not, although my mother does), then you have to puree small batches in a blender. Be very careful doing this, as the hot soup tends to explode in the blender! You might want to let the soup cool some before even messing with it. Cover the blender with a towel for extra protection.
    6. You may want to season the finished soup with a little white pepper. My mother doesn't like white pepper so I now leave it out and just add a tiny bit to my bowl when I think of it. It's delicious with or without the pepper. Don't use black pepper, though, because you don't want little black specks in your soup!
    7. For serving, top each bowl with a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds. You can follow Greg Atkinson's directions to toast your pumpkin seeds, or just buy the tamari seasoned seed in the natural foods section of your supermarket.
    8. This refrigerates and reheats well—I plan to be eating it all week!

    So, while I was making my broth and soup, the snow continued to fall and by late evening there were a few inches on the ground outside.

    As much as I love the snow, I am worried—how will this affect my running plans for tomorrow morning? Sunday is the day for my long-ish run of the week. I was planning on at least seven miles tomorrow to keep me on track.

    Well, for now, the running plans are still on. Unless I fall on my behind, or the snow turns to rivers of slush flooding the sidewalks, or sheets of ice, I plan to be out there tomorrow morning. Well, late morning. No need to be up at the crack of dawn. So we shall see how it goes!