Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Robie Creek and Whidbey photos are up!

I have now included pictures in my Robie Creek and Whidbey Half Marathon posts. Just click on the race name to view the new and improved versions!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sun Mountain Lodge to Winthrop

I spent the weekend at a conference at the Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop. It's a good thing that the lodge is wonderful and Winthrop is very nice, because getting there was driving torture! The North Cascades Highway is still closed, so we had to drive over Steven's Pass, then north on the other side of the mountains, and the whole drive on Friday night took more than six hours, including a fairly quick dinner stop in Leavenworth. We finally arrived after 11 p.m., stiff and sore after all those hours in the car.

Most of Saturday was going to be occupied by my conference, but I got up early on Saturday morning and took an hour's walk/hike on the trails just outside my room. It was pretty brisk out, but still sunny and beautiful. It was clear that we were in mountain country, when I found the upper part of the trail still covered with snow!

I'm a food nazi, so after I returned from my walk I stirred up a packet of oatmeal and fruit that I'd brought from home. Cinnamon, dried cherries, sliced almonds and a whole banana diced up—delicious. And a cup of hot chocolate with espresso to really get the day going!

After many hours of presentations on juvenile law, we adjourned for the day and it was all free time until the drive home on Sunday. I had a nice dinner in Winthrop with one of the other attorneys from the firm, then retreated to my lovely suite to try out the jetted tub (cool) and read my book (restful). (Yes, I am the most boring person who ever lived.)

Before sending my roommate off to party with other young lawyers who are more fun than me, I gave her the plan for Sunday. Before the long drive home, I wanted to take a long run. I had taken advantage of the wireless internet service at Sun Mountain Lodge to measure out the distance from the lodge into Winthrop, and if I measured from the far end of the lodge (where our room was) to the far end of Winthrop, it came to just 10 miles. So my intent was to load my stuff in the car, then run into Winthrop, leaving Jasmine to drive the car into town to meet me around lunchtime.

The road from Sun Mountain Lodge into Winthrop is mostly downhill, so I got the perks of logging a long run that was easier than a typical run (particularly the very uphilly runs I have been experiencing lately!) Even better, there are periodic signs showing the distance to the lodge, so I could easily measure my progress and even gauge how fast I was going (which I don't usually bother with on a long run).

When I ventured outside on Sunday morning (around 10 or so, I guess), it was sunny and unusually balmy. I immediately decided to leave my gloves behind (not typical for me). On my way out of the lodge I stopped at the front desk to pay the bill, then headed down the road.

Ah, the joys of a downhill run! Well, mostly downhill. Let me assure you, and myself, that there were a number of uphill stretches also, and some flats. Still, I calculated that I was maintaining about a 10-minute mile, without pushing myself too much. I got into Winthrop, and to the end of town, in about 99 minutes overall.

I had about 15 minutes until I was due to meet Jasmine, and I suspected perhaps a little bit more, as I had told her not to feel rushed and she seemed to be sleeping quite soundly when I left, despite my moving about and coming and going.

I walked back down through the main street of Winthrop, stopping to look in at the River's Edge cabins, and spying a deli that might be a good place to pick up a sandwich for lunch. Then I stopped at the sweet shop and espresso stand for a latte to drink while I waited. As luck would have it, the espresso stand also sold big cinnamon roll--and how could a I resist? I ordered a cinnamon roll and greedily accepted when offered frosting on top.

I settled myself at a table in the sun to enjoy my treat while I waited for Jasmine.

(That is the end of the running story. The whole story ends some six hours later, after the long, long drive home. Curses on the North Cascades Highway for staying closed this late!)

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Everyone has been writing about Boston this week. And why not? It was the running event of the week. So I thought I should get my two cents in before the week was over and Boston was old news.

Last Monday, April 21, was of course the Boston Marathon, one of the most celebrated running events in the U.S. And, for non-elite runners, one of the most difficult to get into! Under most circumstance, you have to qualify for Boston by running a good enough time in a prior marathon. (Got that? In order to even try to run the Boston Marathon you have to run another marathon first.)

And the qualifying times are nothing to sneeze at! For women, the qualifying time is 3:40 in a prior marathon. (For men, 3:10!) Then for both men and women, you get an extra five minute time for every five years of age starting at 35. However, at 45 you actually get ten minutes more than 40-44, resuming the five-minute increments thereafter. Plus, in each category you actually get an extra 59 seconds over the top. Meaning, a 45-year-old woman could qualify by running a 4:00:59 qualifying marathon. You can get in by running a qualifying marathon up to 18 months in advance, and you qualify at the age level you will be at the time of the marathon.

So if I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon at 45 (2011), I could start qualifying in the fall of 2009... but no. Not gonna go there.

Back to this year's Boston Marathon. I happened to still be home from work between 8:30 and 9:00, so I got to watch both the male and female winners come in. I tuned in when the women's race had about five or six miles left to go. Alevtina Biktimirova of the Russian Federation was just slightly in the lead, with Ethiopian Dire Tune right on her shoulder. (I only know their names because I've looked them up today. Up until now I thought of them as the Russian woman and the Ethiopian woman!) Their race to the finish was truly nail biting. Alevtina remained ahead by a hair for the longest time, but in the last couple of miles Dire pulled past her—finally winning by just two seconds, with an amazing time of 2:25:25. (Plodders like me cannot even fathom running so fast!)

What's more, 53 women finished under three hours! Number 54, one Kristin West, had a time of exactly three hours, no minutes or seconds. I wonder if she was thrilled to have such a memorable round number, or disappointed that it wasn't one second faster and under three hours? From my own experience with the two hour half marathon, I'm pretty sure that it's the second. But for goodness sakes, three hours is amazing! A Northwest girl, Kelly Jaske of Portland (age 31!) was one of the fastest Americans, with a time of 2:48:49.

And here's another impressive statistic for you. Of the sub-three hour women, sixteen were in their thirties (several late thirties), and eight were in their forties, including one, #13 Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova of the Russian Federation, who is 46, and one, #27 Sue Pierson of Neenah, Wisconson, who is 44! If I went on to look at all the finishers, I'll bet that an impressive number of women would be in their forties, and older as well.

For the men, 29-year old Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya won handily at 2:07:46, beating his closest competitor by almost a minute and a half, and winning his fourth Boston Marathon (though not breaking his own record time). Since the men started about half an hour after the women, Robert finished his race shortly after the first and second placing women, and I believe before the third place woman. (His average pace, by the way, was about 4:52.)

These runners are so incredible and amazing. But I have to say I am just as interested in the non-elite runners, the "ordinary" people who ran from fast to slow, but finished one way or another. This is why I so loved the Spirit of the Marathon movie (I'm thinking of going to the special reshowing on Thursday), and NOVA's Marathon Challenge.

In other Boston news, of course both Armstrongs were running, Lance and Kristin. I'll admit I feel a little bit resentful on Kristin's behalf (not that she necessarily does) that Lance has jumped in when running is her thing. Doesn't he have enough success already? But it sounds like Kristin had a great experience running with her friends, finishing happily at 3:59. (She had no need to prove anything, she already ran the qualifying time!) Lance got a time of about 2:50. And, I must admit, he is pretty hot.

The Boston Marathon is held every year on Patriot's Day, which is a state holiday in Massachusetts. Patriot's Day commemorates April 19, 1775, which was the day the American Revolution began with the battles of Lexington and Concord. Patriot's Day has been a legal holiday in Massachusetts and Maine (formerly part of Massachusetts) since 1894, and celebrated on a Monday (third Monday in April) since 1969. The Boston Marathon has been run on Patriot's Day since the race began in 1897 (except for 1918, which was cancelled due to World War II). In 2010, Patriot's Day will fall on its original date, April 19.

The next time

"The next time" refers to next year's Robie Creek. Would I do it again? Even a week ago (before the race), I would have said no. Primarily because signing up was such a pain in the you-know-where.

But having run it, I can truthfully say I wouldn't mind doing it again. (If I were able to get signed up.) At the very least, I have a lot of room for improvement in my time!

I've already come up with a plan of how to run the race more successfully.

I would run the first seven or so miles like a 12K. Meaning faster than I did, obviously.

Then, when I got to the point where I had no choice but to walk, I would have an opportunity to rest a bit as well.

Finally, I would run the final downhill miles just as I did last week—as fast as I could.

I would also eliminate picture taking during the race this time around.

I should be able to shave at least a few minutes off my time this way.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Race to Robie Creek—April 19, 2008

I did it. I finished my "marathon in a week" by running the Robie Creek Half Marathon today. Total time for the entire "marathon"—about 4 hours 15 minutes. Or, if you're being really picky, 148 hours and 35 minutes. Whatever. (That does, by the way, take into account the one hour time difference between Washington and Idaho!)

Robie Creek bills itself as the "toughest half marathon in the Northwest." And yeah, it's tough. A lot of uphill, and kinda steep in places (you're running up a mountain, for goodness sake!).

But I have to say, this was probably the easiest half marathon I've done. I'm not bragging, because my time was also my slowest half marathon time ever. But the running experience—not so bad.

This is why.

First, I knew it was going to be a tough course, and I just ran another half last weekend, so I had no expectations of breaking two hours. No way. I wasn't even going to try. So I ran a lot easier than I have in races with time goals.

Second, the last mile or so to the summit (8½ miles into the race) was very steep. So steep that I made the decision to walk that part of it (along with virtually every other runner in front and behind me). I'm quite certain that I was walking faster than I could have run, anyway (more on that later). But still, the walking allowed a bit of rest, which left me rejuvenated to start running again at the summit.

Third, after the summit the entire rest of the race was downhill! At least three miles of that was very steep downhill, which I guess bothers some people, but not me. I ran that whole thing at pretty much top speed. Talk about a negative split! Best of all, I totally avoided the 10-mile slump/crash/wall/bonk. Usually the last 5K is the hardest part of a half marathon—this time it was the easiest. Hurrah.

My hard/easy half marathon ended with a not-so-bad/not-so-good time of about 2 hours 15 minutes. (There's a bit of discrepancy in the timing results at this point, but I think 2:15 is a pretty fair call.)

So that's the short, fast, story of my Robie Creek experience. Since I can't possibly write anything short or fast, here's the rest of the story.

I went for my first post-Whidbey run on Wednesday morning before heading to the airport to fly to Boise. My quads were still stiff and sore from Whidbey, but I did get up earlier than usual (miraculously), so I still got in a decent 6.2 mile run (including the walk home from Starbucks with latte). I had a noon flight, so I was on pretty much the same schedule as a workday, needing to be ready to go by 9 a.m.

Luckily I had forced myself to pack the night before. As usual, I packed far more than I needed for a four day trip! I put my essential running clothes and a pair of running shoes in my carry-on bag. In my checked bag I had a complete alternate set of running clothes, plus my trail running shoes which I threw in at the last minute (good call), plus clothes to wear running on Thursday, plus some other things in case I wanted to work out at the Y (which I did not do), plus clothes to wear when not running! Far too many of those as well, it turns out. (How many shirts did I really think I would need?) Not to mention assorted toiletries and over-the-counter meds (Tylenol, Advil, Immodium in case of emergency), snack bars and sports beans, instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, tea, instant espresso (I kid you not), and some satsumas. Plus my laptop computer, a stack of magazines, and three books. (Yes, four days.) Also gifts for my friends, a duffel bag to bring to the race, a warm jacket, and a raincoat. That's about it, in a nutshell. I like to be prepared!

The nice thing about flying to a smallish airport like Boise is that everything is close together. So it was an easy walk to pick up my rental car, even laden with my various bags. It was a nice shiny new small car, amazingly called "mid-size" when I would describe it as compact (but I didn't need anything more), and even more amazingly, fitted with manual door locks and windows. I didn't think they made those any more!

I had a couple of hours before the Robie Creek packet pickup began at 5:00, so I headed downtown anyway to scope out the location. On the way I stopped at an Albertson's (ubiquitous in Boise) and picked up a few more groceries for my stay. (My friends have food, of course, but I feel insecure without my foods around!)

I was able to park right outside the Basque Center (location for the pickup), and walked a few blocks to Starbucks to while away the time. I spent the next hour or so sitting in a sunny spot drinking a latte and reading my book (Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer). (I now must pause to recover for a moment after seeing that Amazon is selling this book as a bargain book for $6.97, while I paid full price less the member's advantage discount at Barnes & Noble! Oh well, I hope she gets a royalty.)

After a bit I pushed my chair out of the sunny spot into a shadier spot and requested a large ice water to counteract the effects of the sun and my extra hot latte!

As the time neared 5:00 I left Starbucks and walked back to the Basque Center. I was shocked to see a line already forming down and around the block! And I had thought I was going to be the first one there. Again, oh well. I got in line.

And actually the line moved pretty quickly. In about half an hour I had my packet in hand and was on my way out the door. Then I just headed to my friends' house where I would be staying until Sunday.

Thursday morning. Even though I had gone for a run on Wednesday I felt like I needed to do another run before resting on Friday before the race. Partly for training purposes, and partly because I would never get any mileage for the week if I didn't get an extra run in (having "rested" on Monday after Whidbey). Plus, I had plenty of time on my hands, not needing to go to work or anything tiresome like that!

I waited until the morning noise subsided, indicating that my friends had headed off to work, school, and daycare. Then I got up and made myself breakfast, a nice bowl of my travel oatmeal, Quaker Weight Control (which has extra fiber and protein, like having an egg with your oatmeal), plus some fruit and extra Fiber One. (Yes, I would be cutting back on fiber prior to the race!) I dawdled around, watched some of the Today show (necessitating a phone call to my friend at work to find out how to use the satellite TV), and then got dressed to go out for a run around 10:30.

The sky was blue, the weather was sunny, and, at least in running terms, it seemed balmy already. After a few minutes I was ready to take off my gloves. I ran down the hill into town (just a little more than a mile) and wandered through the side streets, eventually looping back around to the Capitol. (This looping and wandering is why I was not able to precisely measure the distance of my route later on MapMyRun—I couldn't remember exactly what streets I was on.) Once back by the Capitol building I headed out South Capitol Drive until I got to the river and Boise State University. Then I turned onto the riverside trail and followed it about a mile, crossed the river on Broadway, returned back to my starting point, then went another half mile in the other direction. (I knew this because the path was marked every tenth of a mile. A tenth of a mile has never seemed so long!) So I knew, pretty precisely, that my riverside stretch was three miles. I retraced my route back to the Capitol, then cut over to State and ran on to the Starbucks at 17th and State. I did a little shopping at a running store in the Albertson's shopping center (buying myself a very useful waist pack, which I used on the run, and a cute jacket on sale—which I thought cost $17.99 and was shocked to find cost $77.99—but I bought it anyway).

Finally, I headed back on State to meet Jenifer for lunch at a cafe near the Boise Co-op. Unfortunately (in terms of meeting her promptly) or fortunately (in terms of lengthening the distance of my run), I heard her say "State and Fort" when she was really saying "8th and Fort," so I ran several blocks out of my way and then back again. In Pythagorean terms, I ran a-squared plus b-squared, when I should have run c-squared. (Later, when I attempted to measure my entire running route, I figured it was between 8½ and 9 miles, plus an extra 1.14 miles walking back to the house after lunch.)

Life is good when you don't have to be at work. After a nice lunch, I walked back to the house, took a shower and got dressed, and still had a bit of free time on my hands for the rest of the afternoon. So I hopped into my rental car and took myself down to Starbucks for a latte, then parked in the library lot for a little free wireless work on my laptop.

Around 5:30 Mike picked me up at the house and we drove out to meet Jenifer and Lucas to watch Ellie's soccer game. The good thing about 10-year-olds' soccer games is that they are short! And since we didn't get there until almost half time, we only had about 40 minutes of game to watch. Highlights of the game: Ellie's team scored a last minute goal to finish with a tie instead of a loss! And earlier in the game, the ref chewed out the parents for some reason nobody could ever pin down. There was a lot of post-game discussion about that!

Afterward the whole group—parents, kids, and me—headed to a cafe in Hyde Park for pizza (and wine and beer for the grownups). Being in my pre-race training mode, I had a very large green salad. Plus (she said in a mutter) four pieces of pizza. (But I didn't eat the crusts!) Ah cheese, I do love you ! Eventually the dads took all the kids down the street for ice cream, and the women were left to chat and gossip. I had a nice time listening (and drinking my wine), even though I didn't know any of the people they were talking about!

Friday was not a running day, of course. I was happy to notice by Friday morning that the remaining soreness in my quads (leftover from Whidbey) had completely disappeared. So I decided to keep my legs active by taking Gracie (the golden retriever) on a walk/hike in the neighboring hill trails.

We ended up being out for more than two hours, going up one side, all the way down the length of Camelback, around the other side, along another trail... and still left many trails unexplored. Gracie was great, sticking close to me the whole time (except for short forays into the water and mud). As lovely and enjoyable as trail walking is, it is a little bit frustrating to me because I have such a hard time deciding which trail to take, and leaving some trails unexplored. I really do much better in cities where I have a destination and a specific route to follow. Or, I guess, anywhere I have a map and a planned path (like walking the footpaths in England).

I got back at noon and while I was downstairs I heard the chatter of giggling girls. Hannah had come home for lunch with some friends. (How many? It seemed like lots of girls but was probably only two or at the most three. Jenifer quizzed me later because Hannah was only supposed to bring one friend home...but I really could not recall how many there were! I just said hi then grabbed my things to head out to get lunch.) I hit the salad bar at Albertsons. It took one container for my pile of lettuce and another to fill with veggies and a little bit of "stuff" for my salad. It was a hearty salad!

Later I headed out again for the afternoon. One of the things I wanted to accomplish was locating a place to go for my post-race cinnamon roll tomorrow (if there was time). I detoured into the Hyde Park area to see if there was a cute bakery or something like that there. I didn't see anywhere on my drive through, but I parked and hit the street for a quick survey.

It wasn't a bakery, but I still dropped in to a little shop that sold sport clothes. I was tempted by the sale racks, but didn't really see anything I particularly had to have. I was about to escape without spending any money, when I got chatted up by the store owner who found out I was about to run Robie Creek. She convinced me that because the weather forecast was to be cold and wet, I really needed some wool socks and a packable windbreaker/rain shell. So I succumbed (luckily neither item was very expensive). Spontaneously I asked her if she knew of a place in Boise I could go for a cinnamon roll. After consulting with the shop assistant, they recommended Big City Coffee on 15th & Grove. They assured me that the pastries are scrumptious (and they were right).

It was about mid-afternoon now, so I made my usual pilgrimage to Starbucks and then headed back to the library. First I strolled in to scope out the situation. There were some nice tables where I could sit with my computer. And there were absolutely no signs prohibiting beverages. Still, I was a little nervous about bringing in my latte! I hovered on a bench outside until I saw someone else go in with a drink in her hand. Then I slipped in, keeping as far away from help desks as possible as I slithered through the stalls to an empty table. During my two hours there, I was not reprimanded at all for my beverage, so maybe it is okay after all.

Eventually I felt I should leave and get back to the house. When I got back Jenifer was doing yard work (she's a very hard worker), so I played tennis ball catch with Gracie and sat in a lawn chair reading while she worked. (Hey, I was resting for my run on Saturday!)

At my request, we had pasta for dinner and shortly afterward (it was a late dinner) I went to bed.

And then it was Saturday. Race day. Go time. Well, go time in a few hours.

Unlike the Whidbey Half Marathon, when I had to get up at 4 a.m. and leave home at 5 a.m., for a race start of 8:30 a.m. (and finish at 10:30, hurrah), Robie Creek did not start until 12:00. Noon! And since it started in Boise, only a few miles from where I was staying, I did not need to allow a lot of travel time.

In a way it was nice to not have to set an alarm or worry about leaving super early, but on the other hand the long morning delay meant I would not be done until mid-afternoon, and probably not home until evening. It really made it an all day endeavor. (Unlike Jenifer, who would probably clean the house and put in a new garden in the extra morning hours, I was not capable of taking on any pre-race projects more substantive than eating a leisurely breakfast.)

So that is what I did. I made a pot of oatmeal (regular steel-cut oats, no extra fiber for me today!) and ate a good-sized bowl with dried cherries, a whole sliced banana, cinnamon and nuts. Then I laid in my bunk and read for a while before getting dressed. I had already laid out and packed my race supplies and change of clothes for after the race.

This is what I wore to begin the race: my favorite Nike running pants, a long-sleeved white shirt, and a red running jacket from Lucy's, topped off with the new blue shell and the new waist pack with a disposable camera and some sports beans (which I never ate); my new wool socks and my Asics trail running shoes. (I was ambivalent about wearing the trail shoes because I feel faster in my regular Asics, but I was glad of the sturdier shoes when we hit the dirt and gravel a few miles into the run.) I had brought along an SAS duffel bag (that Gretchen had given me) to pack my change of clothes and other odds and ends (snacks, magazines) to have after the race.

Jenifer went with me and we dropped my car off at a parking area at Idaho Parks and Rec, and she took me to Starbucks before dropping me at Fort Boise where the run was to begin. It was about 10:45 when she dropped me. I had about an hour until it would be time to line up for the start.

Like any big race, there were masses of runners milling about. Unlike a typical big race, there was a mobile fish and chips stand near the starting point! And they were offering samples! I do love fish and chips, but perhaps not right before a half marathon.

I didn't feel as focused as I sometimes do before a run. I doubted that I would manage as thorough a warmup run as I usually like. I had also forgotten to properly stash my ipod, so as to have it available to me if it seemed like a lot of people were using them, or if I was in an extreme state of ipod deprivation emergency! I headed over to an out of the way bandstand, and clumsily positioned the ipod and earphones in my clothes. I don't know why I didn't just wait till I was in the porta-potty—perhaps because of the fear of dropping it right into the potty! I listened to a few seconds of the first song to make sure it was working okay, then turned it off. As it turned out, those few seconds were all the music I listened to throughout the race. In fact, those opening notes played in my head again and again and again throughout the first five miles or so.

I took a short warmup around the park, and popped into another porta-potty in a far corner, undiscovered by other runners (perhaps because it was the baseball field porta-potty). I jogged back to the starting area, and as it was about 11:45, went to the starting area to stand around and wait. There were various announcements, and rousing cries and so forth, and as usual, I wished I could take another last minute potty trip. But the lines were still long, and I knew it was just nerves anyway (I had just squeezed out a few drops, what more could I have left?).

At just about exactly noon, the starting signal went off (for the life of me I can't remember what it was), and we took off!

The race started by looping around the outside of Fort Boise before turning onto a road heading up into the hills. I had stationed myself in mid-pack, I think, and I started out at an easy pace. As we started up the first hill, I heard a woman ask her running companion/husband, "Do you want to walk a little?" He said, "Whatever you want, dear." It was going to be a long run for them!

Since I'd been training for hills for months, the incline didn't bother me that much, but I'll admit I wasn't pushing myself either. (In retrospect I think I could have taken the first seven miles faster than I did. Oh well. Hindsight, and all that.) Within a mile I realized that my windbreaker/rain shell was totally unnecessary, and in fact was a detriment! I slipped it off and tied it around my waist. The inside was already wet with sweat and condensation.

The first four miles or so were on roads, mostly ascending uphill, with occasional flats. After four miles we went onto dirt and gravel for the rest of the run. In contrast to my usual practice, I had already taken water at the first water station, and did so about every other stop (a total of three or four times). That, of course, slowed me down a bit.

The other thing which slowed me down, or at least did not help with speed, was my picture taking. I had bought a disposable camera and periodically slowed or paused to take pictures of the route and other runners. I haven't yet developed the film, so I have no idea if any of my "on the run" photos came out, but I stopped entirely several times so at least those pictures should be in focus.

I did, however, have a slight problem with my gloves flapping in front of the camera! Several of my pictures are marred by an unwanted finger in the frame. Despite the fingers, I had to include this picture because it so perfectly illustrates the agony that some runners were experiencing!

At the five-mile marker I calculated I was running about a ten-minute mile pace. Obviously that's a lot slower than my typical race pace, even going uphill, but it should be noted that this was a steady uphill climb, not just hilly! But I admit, I was running pretty easy (as opposed to "running hard").

(I feel like the gal on the right could be me—but it's not.) (Those are my gloves in the corner, though!)

And I was running without my ipod. I'm sure that affected my ability to set a good pace! One of the things I noticed about not having the ipod on is that I could hear myself breathing. Believe it or not, I did not realize that I breathe heavily while running. I never feel out of breath, except perhaps at the end of a long race when I'm pushing for a big finish. I assume that the fact that I am breathing deeply, but not noticing it, is a good thing.

As we continued to run upward, people all around me were dropping to a walk. I didn't feel any need to walk until we had gone seven or so miles. At that point, in about the last mile before the summit, the climb became significantly steeper. I was still "running," with short, choppy steps, and passing walkers, but I got to the point where I became quite certain I could walk faster than I was running. I broke into a fast walk which was, indeed, faster than the gravity-hindered jog I had been doing. Even at a walk I continued to pass people. During this last mile virtually everyone was walking—I did not see one person still running.

Well, actually that's not true. I did see one person running. As we were almost at the summit I came up beside a young woman who was still plugging away at a run/jog. She looked red and raggedy, but by george, she was running. We proceeded side by side to the summit point, her in a labored jog and me at a brisk walk. The only difference was that she was exhausting herself further and I was getting rested and refreshed by this bit of walking!

Shortly before reaching the summit we passed through another aid station, one which they called McToad's Pub, because the refreshments offered were a bit more than the usual water and fruit. Dramatically dressed volunteers (think Braveheart), offered shots of tequila and cups of beer to those who dared. Others offered pieces of DingDongs and HoHos to less adventurous runners. I passed on the booze, but took a DingDong. After all, this was no place for a diet, and I really did enjoy the bit of chocolate cake!

After the summit the road switched to a steep descent full of hairpin turns. I paused for a moment at the top for a picture—the last one I took before the end of the race—and then threw myself into a hard downward run.

I guess some people find running downhill hard on the knees and joints, but I love it. I ran my legs off. Later I calculated my average paces and while the uphill pace was about 11 minutes per mile (taking into consideration a mile of walking at the top), my downhill pace was about 8:30. Quite a discrepancy!

Of course the distance downhill was not enough to make up for all of the uphill, so in the end my average pace was a bit over 10 minutes per mile.
I pounded across the finish line, then a few seconds later turned around to look at the clock. It said 2:15:45. I figured with my chip difference the time would be around 2:15. (For some reason my published time turned out to be 2:15:59, which makes no sense whatsoever! I'm still calling it 2:15.)

After throwing myself across the finish line and turning in my chip, I set out to collect my race shirt and find my bag. This is where I congratulated myself for bringing a light colored bag, as I looked at the sea of black bags on the ground!

The end of the race is supposed to be something of a party, but I quickly decided I wanted to head back to Boise. After standing in line for the potty (where I changed my sweaty shirt and running jacket for my race shirt and a warm jacket out of my bag), I got in the bus line and made my way onto a bus.

I saw, as the bus headed down the road, that we were 20 miles from Boise. The bus took us to Spring Shores, one of the parking areas for the race. From there, those of us who were going to the next parking area, at Parks & Rec, had to walk to the other end of the big parking lot to catch another bus. It was still 15 miles out of Boise, and so, I guess, about 10 miles to the Parks & Rec lot.

From Parks & Rec I provided a ride to two other runners whose rides were down at Fort Boise, where the race had begun. By the time I dropped them off it was about 4:00, almost two hours after I had finished the race!

My primary objective was to get my cinnamon roll, but first I stopped in to the shop where I bought my socks and jacket the day before. They asked if I was glad to have my layers, and I said (shocking them) "no!" I told them how it had been sunny all the way (without actually accusing them of getting me to buy something I didn't need). I don't mind my purchases, but honestly I should have listened to my own judgment about how many clothes to wear. I have run in all kinds of weather and climates with just the shirt and light jacket. I shouldn't have used more than that this time either.

I arrived at Big City Coffee, my cinnamon roll destination, at about 4:30. The restaurant was open until 6:00, leaving me plenty of time, but was nice and quiet late on a Saturday afternoon. I was charmed from the moment I walked in. The decor, the ambience, and the scrumptious looking pastries and other menu items had me at hello! I ordered my cinnamon roll—a gigantic flat oblong of flaky pastry, with an oozingly gooey center and drizzles of icing—and a giant cup of tea—and settled myself into a cozy sofa seat at the front of the store. I was one of only a handful of customers at this time of day. I flipped through Real Simple magazine and sipped my tea as I savored every delicious bite. I hated to leave, but at 5:40 or so I decided to be on my way before they had to throw me out at 6:00.

I did discover before I left that they have free wireless internet... so while I was sitting in the library on Friday I could have instead been hanging at Big City Coffee like a real writer! I vowed to return to Boise to spend many future hours there.

My last stop before returning to Jenifer's house was Albertson's to get groceries for my dinner. I bought tenderloin steak and salad fixings to make a steak salad. I sometimes like to eat red meat after a long run.

I still wasn't hungry when I got back, though (the cinnamon roll was still hanging around in my stomach), so after taking a shower and changing clothes, I wrote a little then chatted with Hannah (almost 16-year-old daughter of my friends) when she got home. The others were still at the 100-year birthday party for Jenifer's grandma.

Eventually I did repair to the kitchen and made myself dinner while Hannah demonstrated the amazing whirling capacities of their blender by making us fruit smoothies.

Much later that evening Jenifer returned home bearing leftover cake and bottles of wine. I gladly accepted a big piece of carrot cake (with plenty of frosting) and a glass of wine to finish off the evening.

The next day, Sunday, was my return home. My flight didn't leave until 3:00, so Jenifer and I took Gracie out for an hours walk in the hills. Then after eating breakfast, we headed downtown for another visit to Big City Coffee and a little shopping. My oh my, there was a difference in customer volume on Sunday morning compared to Saturday afternoon! The place was buzzing. Still, we managed to find a table to perch at while we sipped our lattes and nibbled on a day-old muffin Jenifer had bought. (I had also bought several scones and a peanut butter bar to bring home. My mother assures me that they were all delicious. I ate part of one of the scones, which I had given to a friend, and I certainly agree.)

After leaving Big City Coffee we headed back downtown for a stop at a sports shop, where I cashed in a coupon from the race for free cookies (oatmeal chocolate butterscotch, currently residing in the back of my freezer). Then we stopped in at Anthropologie. I left Jenifer there in a dressing room (me carrying a bag with a couple of items from the sale room) to head to the airport.

My flight out of Boise was the official end of my Robie Creek weekend. But as it turns out, it was not the complete end. When my parents picked me up at the airport, we headed north to Duke's on Greenlake for an early supper. I had planned on ordering one of my typical salads. I would have done, except I looked at the specials sheets and saw fish and chips. Not just any fish and chips—English style fish and chips made with Kilt Lifter Ale batter. (Remember, I had just run a race with a Scottish theme!) It seemed meant to be. And after all, I had resisted the fish and chips offered before the race!

So I threw caution to the winds and ordered myself fish and chips. They were delicious. And that was the end of my Robie Creek weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Whidbey Island Half Marathon—April 13, 2008

The day before Whidbey, Saturday, was a beautiful day—sunny, warm, everything you could want in a spring day. I mention that because the next day, Sunday, was everything but sunny and warm!

But on Saturday I took advantage of the nice weather to walk downtown for a pre-race massage (about a mile), and then after lunch, met up with my mother to drive up to Oak Harbor to pick up my race packet and check out the course.

Apparently everyone else in Snohomish and Skagit counties thought it was a lovely day too, because the freeway exiting to Highway 20 and the whole stretch of Highway 20 from Burlington to Deception Pass was jammed with cars. I'm sure it didn't help that the tulip festival was in full fling. What a lovely day to come out and see the tulip fields! (Although, not too many tulip fields were in bloom yet. The cold weather has slowed them down.)

It took well over two hours, I'm not even sure how long any more, to get to Oak Harbor. Deception Pass was bumper to bumper cars and swarms of walkers on the bridge. Once we got onto the island near Oak Harbor, things quieted down.

The race expo at Oak Harbor High School was buzzing with runners, but luckily not crowded. I was able to quickly grab my race number and bag of goodies (basically cereal and a toaster pastry from Nature's Path, and Horizon organic chocolate milk), and browse around the expo booths. My first stop was the Super Jock and Jill booth, as I needed socks once again! The socks I had bought in Portland seem to have become lost in the laundry. Yet again.

Other than the sock purchase, I found little to tempt me at the Race Expo. My mother thought there seemed to be fewer exhibitors than last year. Perhaps because last year we were buying wildly from the sale racks of one of the running stores.

We left to go scope out the race route. Even in a car, going 35 miles per hour, 13.1 miles seems like a long ways. I did notice we were driving up (and down) a lot of long hills!

The trip home was quicker, thankfully. Apparently a lot of the afternoon revelers had gone home for dinner. We zipped back to my mother's house, then I headed home for dinner and bed.

It was already getting late, around 8:00, by the time I got home. Before having dinner, I put out my running clothes and gathered my other paraphernalia (gloves, sports beans, snacks, a change of clothes, etc.), so I wouldn't have to bother in the morning. The very early morning.

Finally I settled down to eat a big bowl of leftover pasta (I had made it for my book club dinner the night before). I got the recipe from Runner's WorldFettucine Paolo, with bell peppers, sundried tomatoes, chicken and artichokes. Very tasty, although I think fresh pasta tends to get overcooked very easily. At least that makes it easy to digest, I guess! The creator of the recipe is the owner of a restaurant in Kent, I believe. And a runner, of course. I think the article says he has run the Boston Marathon numerous times! (The recipe link doesn't include the article, so I am relying on my memory.)

I barely remember now, but on the Saturday before Whidbey, I was still getting over a cold that had sprung on me a few days beforehand. When I finally went to bed Saturday night, I dosed myself with Tylenol p.m. to make sure I got to sleep quickly. Even though I would only have a few hourse of sleep before the alarm went off at 4 a.m., I knew (from past experience) that the Tylenol p.m. would wear off fast and not leave me groggy in the morning.

4 a.m. came very quickly. I allowed myself two hits of the snooze alarm, then hopped out of bed around 4:15. Clothes on, hair (quick brushing and a ponytail), and breakfast. I cooked an egg with some extra white in the microwave, then ate it while toasting a light english muffin that I spread with almond butter. I put the muffin and a banana in my bag to eat in the car on the way north. Since the run started at 8:30, I figured I could eat around 6:00 and still be fine.

I always struggle about what to eat before a race. Obviously a half marathon is a bigger deal than a short race. I know I need to be well-fueled for the run, but on the other hand I don't want food in my stomach weighing me down. I always have a latte too, though I wonder if the milk is a bad idea. So far I haven't suffered any dire consequences. I do limit myself to a tall latte. Anything more and the milk seems to curdle in my stomach.

I left home promptly at 5:00 (right on schedule) and arrived at my parents' around 5:20. Next stop was the Starbucks up by Hagen's on 88th. Unlike my neighborhood Starbuck's, this one opens at 5:30 on Sunday mornings! Perfect.

The drive to Oak Harbor was much quicker than the day before, and we arrived early enough to get a parking spot without trouble (not the case for late arrivals) and sit in the car reading a magazine before venturing out to warm up.

At around 7:15 or 7:30 I crawled out of the car to go do my warmup (and begin hitting the porta-potties). I headed out at a slow jog around the parking lot and high school. After a couple of loops I made my first visit to the porta-potty—no line. I resumed running. As always, my warmup goal was to get past that rough part at the beginning of a run, when your body wants to be home in bed instead of on the road. I like to do a couple of miles in warmup (longer if it's a 5K). At about 8:00 I got in line for another potty visit. Since there were a lot of porta-potties, it didn't take too long.

I headed toward the starting line (which was adjacent to the lot where we were parked) around 8:15. There was a single porta-potty there, and I decided to stand in that line too for a final attempt before the race started. Of course, this line was much slower since we were all waiting for one potty! You would think I wouldn't need to go again, but the closer we got to race time, and the chance that I would have to abandon the line, the more I felt I needed it. At almost 8:30 there was an announcement. Due to parking problems—no, not due to potty lines—the start would be delayed by ten minutes. An audible cheer went up in our line. Even so, it seemed like the people in front of me were awfully slow. I got in, however, and did my thing and was out again very quickly for the next person in line.

Then I merged myself into the crowd for the starting line. Even though we were chip-timed, I didn't want to start to far in the back, and have to pass lots of people, so I worked my way forward into about the middle of the pack. I kept to the right hand side, though, so my parents would have a chance of getting a picture when I passed them a little way up the road.

Finally, it was time. The starting gun went off—I think it was a gun, I don't quite recall—and we began running. Well, actually, we began shuffling forward. By the time we crossed the starting mats, I had managed to break into a jog, although the crowd was still thick around me. (Later I would hope that the delay to the starting mats had been long, in order to improve my chip time!)

We started out going uphill on Heller Street. I was frustrated to see people walking already. As always, I wished that the walkers would keep to the back and not force the rest of us to maneuver around them. I pushed my way up Heller Street and then back down the other side. We veered off onto Swantown Road and then took a sharp right onto Fort Nugent. I believe our first long uphill was on Fort Nugent. (Like anyone who's experienced a traumatic event, I can no longer remember the specifics of the ups and downs, just that there were a lot of them. The course map shows the roads, but not the hills!) We took a left onto Zylstra, then onto Hastie Lake Road. Our longest stretch on one road was West Beach Road. This road runs along the water, although you can't really see water in the first section.

While on the second half of West Beach Road, we began encountering the first marathoners running opposite of us. When I first saw them coming towards us on the road, I thought they were half marathon runners doubling back (perhaps the course was different than I believed). Oddly, many of them had half marathon numbers on. I wonder when they decided to run the full marathon instead of the half? I finally figured out what was going on when I saw marathon numbers and thought back to the map I had studied the day before.

Although we were running uphill at the time, I knew we were approaching a long, steep downhill and I pitied the marathoners who had just run up it. This was, however, to be the most scenic part of the run also. West Beach turned into a narrow strip which, in my recollection, had water on both sides (although the map does not show this). The road is lined with beachy cottages.

And the hill. I decided to go for broke and let myself run as hard as I could down the hill. Let gravity give back a little of what it took away on the uphills! The bottom of this hill is also a great photo spot but we had decided there was no way my parents could get there for a picture and still get back and find parking for the race finish. So I just hoped that perhaps the official photographers were taking pictures somewhere out on the course. I smiled at anyone I saw with a camera, just in case.

Off of West Beach we turned onto the other long stretch, Swantown Road. We were more than halfway by now, and plugging toward the finish. I recall looking at my watch at the 10 mile point and thinking (even though I had not been timing the run precisely), that I could finish under two hours if I did at least a 10-minute mile average for the rest of the race.

When we were only a mile or two from the finish we took a sharp left back onto Heller Street. There I was shocked to see another hill ahead! I had completely forgotten running down this hill at the beginning. I plugged up the hill, taking it perhaps too easy (I thought in retrospect).

On that final hill, as on one of the uphills on West Beach, I came upon and passed a few runners wearing shirts that said "Marines do more" (as in U.S. Marines). Each time I saw them they were walking up the hill! I had the urge to shout, "Do Marines walk up hills?" But I did not.

Unlike some other races, where I regularly passed (or was passed by) runners en route to the finish, in this run I was recognizing people who had run in my group throughout the race. There was one young couple that had been variously ahead and behind me for many miles. I would recognize them as I passed them, or was passed by them. I did not see them as we headed into the final descent down Heller, though.

As we pounded down the hill, we were directed into the stadium for the finish in the stadium. I had already heard, but was still bemused that we had to run a lap around the track to finish! I saw my mother with the camera as I passed the grandstand onto the track.

And then it was time for the final push. From behind, my companion competitors pulled up beside me and yelled (the guy did), "We were together the whole way, let's finish this!" So I put on a final burst toward the finish line, as they did. My burst of energy lasted a few seconds, then I flagged and slowed down as they pulled ahead of me and crossed the finish line hand in hand. I crossed about three seconds later, at 2:02:22 on the clock.

After that things deteriorated slightly. It started to rain, and I was soon chilled in my sweaty clothes, after the running heat wore off. I wanted to stick around to see Dean Karnazes speak at the awards ceremony, but after going to get a bottle of water and a few little cookies (the post race spread was not nearly as lavish as last year), I sat in the stands for a while until I was too cold to take anymore. So we headed back to the car to leave.

We had to wind our way out of Oak Harbor to avoid interfering with runners who were still en route. Mostly marathoners, I would hope, though I suppose there were still slow half marathoners or walkers out. I felt so sorry for the marathon runners who were passing the stadium at the time we left. They were more than 3½ hours into their run yet only a little more than halfway along. There was a long, miserable road ahead for them!

We stopped at Starbucks so I could slip into their bathroom and change into dry and warm clothes. Whew! That was much better. (I noticed many of the other runners in Starbucks as well, still in their running clothes and medal. I, of course am too modest and humble to flaunt my medal. Really, I am.) Then we went on to Mitzel's for a cinnamon roll and breakfast.

I later wished that we had just left Oak Harbor and gone to the Calico Cupboard in Anacortes. Or anywhere else. Mitzel's was apparently just overwhelmed with customers. We had to wait an incredibly long time to ever get our food. Luckily, our cinnamon rolls came a bit sooner. But they were not nearly the giant, scrumptious confection I had been promised. (It is possible that my standards for cinnamon rolls have become impossibly high.) The food, once we got it, was pretty good, but the delay was ridiculous.

On our way home (finally) we detoured off the highway to drive through the tulip fields... who knew if we would have another chance this season. I had noted the week before that the tulips seemed late. Most of the fields were still not fully out. There was one location that was quite vibrant though, and it looked like the tulip seekers had managed to find it. All things considered, though, the traffic getting through Skagit County was not too bad.

For the next few days I scoured the Whidbey website religiously to find out my final time. Finally I spotted a link on Tuesday night as I was packing to go to Boise. I was a little disappointed to learn that even with the chip time, I still did not get under two hours. My actual time was 2:00:52. However, by scouring one of the photos my mother took, I found the number of one of the runners who overtook me at the finish, and looked up the times for her and her husband. I was delighted to learn that their final time was 2:01:02. I actually beat them by a full 10 seconds! Hah! Victory is mine! Of course, they'll probably never know this. For years to come they will gaze at their finish line photo and remember how they passed me at the last moment (ostensibly beating me by three seconds on the clock), little knowing that in fact it was all a charade, and I am the true winner.

So in the end, my Whidbey time this year was more than six minutes slower than last year. Was it the harder course and head cold? Or was last year simply an aberration? Who knows. I'm not suffering over it. (No really, I'm not.) (Not at all.) (Maybe next year!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Halfway there

Just a quick check-in before I get to work packing for Boise. The Whidbey Half Marathon came and went successfully, and my cold abated enough that it was not a major factor. The course was, however, considerably harder (more and steeper hills) than last year! My time reflected that. I am waiting for the chip times to be posted in hopes that I might squeak under two hours... but as of now my finish time on the clock was 2:02:22. No point in complaining, "it is what it is," as they say.

I do want to spend a lot more time writing about the Whidbey experience, but I'll wait until I get my pictures up and have a little more free time on my hands. That will probably be in Boise, because what am I going to do for almost three days waiting for the race on Saturday? I plan to go for a run tomorrow morning before I leave (assuming I get up early enough), and maybe another light run in Boise on Thursday, but obviously I can't be wearing myself out. And I don't want to spend a lot of money shopping... so that leaves reading and writing for me!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Marathon week begins

Tomorrow is part one of my "Run a Marathon in a Week" plan. That is, I will run a half marathon tomorrow and the "other half"—another half marathon—within the week, next Saturday to be precise. It's Whidbey Island tomorrow and Robie Creek (Boise) on Saturday.

I'm certainly as trained up as I'm going to be. I did my last pre-race run yesterday, an easy 5½ miles before work. I've run intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats, hilly races (10 miles in Anacortes, anyone?), a 5K, 10K, 15K and a 5 mile race (last week).

I picked up my race packet in Oak Harbor this afternoon and drove the route to preview it. (Hilly.) I've packed my bags, laid out my clothes, and am about to have pasta for dinner and maybe a nice bath before getting to bed. (I have to leave home at 5 a.m. tomorrow!)

I'm all set.

With one teeny tiny little fly in the ointment. I have a cold. I have not had a cold for probably two years but I have one now. I've been using Zicam and eating oranges and drinking tea with lemon and honey. I don't feel awful but I feel a little less than robust. Darn it!

But tomorrow's a new day! Let's hope adrenaline will overcome whatever ails me. Onward to Whidbey!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Big runs coming up

There are a lot of big runs scheduled over the next ten days or so—the London Marathon (4/13), the Whidbey Island Marathon and Half Marathon (4/13), Robie Creek Half Marathon (4/19), the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials (4/20), and the Boston Marathon (4/21).

I am participating in two of these events. Guess which ones?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Running and weight

I am on a perpetual diet. I suppose I should say "healthy eating plan intended to assist with weight loss"—because that's quite true, I do try to eat very healthily and I would like to lose a little weight—but the truth is, you might as well call it a diet anyway.

"Diet" seems to be a bit of a dirty word these days. Undoubtedly it conjurs up visions of crash diets and liquid diets and Atkins (which is not all bad), and the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet and the Scarsdale Diet (1970's, anyone?) and Weight Watchers (which of course is a good plan, and by the way they now eschew the word "diet"), and any other more or less radical plan by which one hopes to lose weight before returning to one's old ways of eating which caused one to gain the weight in the first place. (Which, in fact, could be described as a "diet" itself, in the true sense of the word.)

"Diet," of course, simply means what you eat. Webster's Dictionary gives it three definitions before even getting to weight loss. Check it out:

1 a: food and drink regularly provided or consumed b: habitual nourishment c: the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason d: a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight .

I like the etymology of "diet" (that is, the derivation of the word): Middle English diete, from Anglo-French, from Latin diaeta, from Greek diaita, literally, manner of living, from diaitasthai to lead one's life.

But let's not kid anyone, we all think of "diet" or "dieting" as eating in a way to lose weight. Using the word diet is a handy shorthand, not to mention a reminder of what one is trying to do. It's so much simpler, when faced with cookies, candy, pizza, nachos, etc., to say simply "No thanks, I'm on a diet," than to explain, "No thank you, I am on a healthy eating plan in which I avoid sugar, empty carbs, bad fats, and excessive consumption of anything but non-starchy vegetables." (Then further explaining, "I eat primarily lean protein, vegetables and greens, low glycemic fruits, whole grains in moderation, and good fats such as olive oil and avocado.) (Then perhaps qualifying, "I do like to indulge in small amounts of dark chocolate, and the occasional cookie or piece of cake on special occasions.") At this point your friend might be thinking: "All she had to say was no thanks!"

Okay, so I'm on a diet. Luckily, this diet, this manner of living, is one which I can largely follow all of the time, for the rest of my life, as opposed to some of the more radical schemes which seem designed only for the short term.

And I have in fact lost lots and lots of weight by eating this way, over about a two-year period a few years ago. I have also kept it off, not just by the way I eat but by running a lot and walking and working out. Kind of a lot.

Still, for various reasons I would like to lose about 10 pounds. I've actually wanted to lose those ten pounds for about a year and a half, which probably makes me seem pretty pathetic. I really don't want to give up anything that I eat regularly, which means I'm relying on cutting out the extras (the odd cookies and treats). That is a reasonable plan, it just seems that special occasions come up just often enough to thwart me.

One of my reasons for wanting to lose just a little more weight is that I think it might help me run a little faster. After all, Lance Armstrong lost weight to improve his marathon time; so did lots of other less known runners. There was a very interesting piece in Runner's World last summer (I think it was the July issue), with a chart showing how a few pounds can affect your time in various length races. (I can't find a link to that article, though.)

At the beginning of the year I set a loose goal of losing ten pounds by April, since that's when my first two half marathons are this year. By late February it seemed clear that wasn't going to happen. I revised it to five pounds.

It's now April 5, and... no go. (Or more precisely, "not gone.")

For now I am just sticking to an interim goal of not gaining any weight while still nourishing myself appropriately for Whidbey and Robie Creek.

For me that means eating like I always do, but emphasizing the healthy carbs a bit more. I'm thinking of cooking up some sweet potatoes to eat with my dinners. And I do indulge in pasta the night before a race. It seems to make the race go faster. Whether I really am building up my glycogen stores or whether it is just psychological, I'm a firm believer in the pre-race pasta dinner. (And I eat some bread too.)

The post-race cinnamon roll is not really necessary, it's just a treat. (Which might explain how too many races could lead to weight gain!)

I don't use Gu or Gatorade. I might bring a couple honey packets in my pocket for a mid-race energy boost (in a half marathon, not a shorter race). I do think I might have run low on energy stores near the end of Whidbey last year. I'm sure I have enough fat to fuel my body for a while, but probably there isn't time in a half marathon for the fat stores to be accessed. So perhaps a squeeze of honey will help out. (I did order some JellyBelly sport beans and Luna moons to try out, but they're not going to get here in time.)

I've just started reading The Runner's World Runner's Diet by Madelyn Fernstrom. I'm reading it for the information, not so much because I want to follow it. I'm often reading diet and nutrition books, looking for ideas and concepts that will work for me. This book may be geared to people who run a little less intensely than I do, but I think it's a good reminder that most of us do not need to eat like elite runners do (so lay off the Clif bars, buddy!).

I know I am never going to be waif-like or skinny, or have that slightly skeletal look that some (possibly undernourished) runners do. I'm more muscular. And yes, there's a layer of fat over some of that muscle (particularly in my arms and legs) (although my scale says my body fat is about 15-16%). I sometimes think that being "on a diet," always wanting to lose a few pounds, is the best way to keep myself on my toes and not falling down the slippery slope of weight gain (surely a downhill slope is not the best metaphor here!). On the other hand, that could be the road to madness, if I ever lost those ten pounds I am fighting with, and still was not satisfied!

Perhaps it is a reassuring sign that, in spite of those ten pounds I'd like to ditch, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I look good, I feel great, and I can run hard and fast (enough).

Although I have to admit that all of this writing about food and diet is making me a little hungry....!

Tulip Run 2008

This morning was the Tulip Run up in Mount Vernon, a five-miler that I like to use as a warm-up for the Whidbey Half Marathon (coming up in eight days). I ended up there alone, as my mother was committed to attending the next level of the Democratic party caucuses, and my dad was housebound with a cold. Still, the run went well—42:50—and afterwards I celebrated by going to the Calico Cupboard in Mount Vernon and having my very own cinnamon roll.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Watch this!

A little bit of fun for all of us who are going to be running marathons and half marathons in the weeks to come!

Shamrock Run pictures (I really was there)

Despite the lack of official photographic proof of my participation in the Shamrock Run 15K, I have now downloaded the few, sad pictures my mother managed to take. So here goes. Memories.....

I am not in this nice picture of the runners on Broadway passing the Benson Hotel near the start of the race.

There I am, a blur in black pants, green jacket, and orange cap. By the time my mother spotted me (thanks to my yelling at her), apparently there was no time to hold the camera steady. My legs look impossibly skinny in this picture! The one benefit to a bad picture, I guess.

I'm barely visible in this picture—you can just see my green jacket and orange cap to the left of the guy in the lime green shirt hear the front of the photo.

At the finish line! About half an hour after I actually finished, unfortunately. The characters next to me really have the St. Patrick's day spirit!

Relaxing the lovely lobby of the Benson Hotel. My mother and I spent many hours by the fireplace here drinking tea.

My Grace Kelly moment.

My mother's Grace Kelly moment.

Perusing the menu at the London Grill.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Run Fatboy Run!

As planned, I took myself (and my mom) to see Run Fatboy Run on Sunday afternoon. I suspect that this will be a movie that runners will love. I enjoyed it immensely.

Since I'm not a reviewer, I have to force myself not to just recite the plot under the guise of writing about the movie. A little plot summary is appropriate, however. Our protagonist, Dennis, is a slacker English bloke who, five years ago, climbed out a bedroom window just before his wedding, leaving his pretty pregnant girlfriend Libby at the altar.

Cut to five years later (now), and Dennis is still a slacker, employed as a shop security officer who is too unfit to catch a running shoplifter. He also has an adorable son called Jake, who loves him even though he perennially lets him down in little ways. Libby, on the other hand, has moved on, and is now seeing a handsome American who runs marathons and is a rich and successful businessman. Libby herself has made good and owns a bakery which sells all sorts of scrumptious confections.

Dennis becomes jealous of Libby's new boyfriend, and rashly announces that he too is going to run a marathon, a London charity marathon (not "the" London marathon) which is to occur in—get this—three weeks.

Now that little point is the one place where suspension of disbelief becomes a little difficult. Anyone who runs at all knows that training for a marathon in three weeks is just about impossible, even if you are a runner already, let alone a guy who is admittedly "unfit" (to say the least). And I would point out that even after he decides to run, it takes a while before he actually starts doing any substantial training!

But I guess it might have made the movie drag a bit if it had to cover a six-month-plus pre-marathon period! Plus, there is a bit of a point to having Dennis shape up just enough to be able to put on a fa├žade of running well, even if he can't really keep it up for too long. (Still, he really should have had at least two months!)

So approximately the first half of the movie is pre-race and the rest is during the race itself. Runners will nod knowingly as the racers gather, elite runners at the front with ordinary mortals lagging behind. Anglophiles (like me) will also appreciate the glimpses we get of London sights and attractions. Everyone will feel the pain (while laughing as well) as Dennis struggles through the marathon.

The ending? Well, he doesn't win the marathon. For the rest, you'll have to go see it yourself.

(A bonus—the preview of the Sex and the City movie beforehand! I can hardly wait!)