Friday, May 30, 2008

Forest Park

I finally made my trip to Forest Park this morning (Friday). I set the alarm a little later than usual, at 6:45, with a plan of leaving around 7:00 or so. I think I ended up leaving around 7:30, after having a breakfast cookie and banana, along with my big Starbucks mug of instant espresso & hot chocolate.

I planned this later departure because I didn’t want to go out too early, for safety reasons. In the end I got there a little after 8, and I’m quite sure that I would have been perfectly fine at 7 as well. But at least I got a little extra sleep!

I took the Metrolink to get to Forest Park. With all my trips to London I'm an old pro at public transit trains, so I felt a little discombobulated at the lack of signage in this one. There was nothing to indicate which side of the tracks I needed to be on! So I asked another person waiting for the train which side I should be on for Forest Park, and luckily I was already on the right one. (Because if I hadn't been, apparently I would have to go out of the station, cross the street, and reenter on the other side. Yes. A little primitive, perhaps. But at least St. Louis has a public transit train, as compared to, say, Seattle!)

I keep referring to Metrolink as a public transit train, rather than "underground" or "subway," because it is partly above ground and partly underground. But from now on I'll just call it the Metro.

The Metro trip to Forest Park was amazingly quick. It was about seven* stops along, I would say, and took 15, maybe 20 minutes. The stop was conveniently titled "Forest Park - DeBaliviere.**

The actual park was just across the street. Luckily, for purposes of finding my way back, I began right at the History Museum, in the imposing Jeffersion Memorial Building (built in 1913). This would be a good landmark to signify when I had completed my six mile loop, plus a landmark to find my way back to the Metro.

The running and biking trail(s) follow the circumference of the park for six miles. (There are also additional trails into the park.) In places there are separate trails for running/walking and biking, but for a large portion there only appeared to be the one paved road-like trail which I considered the "bike" trail.

I started out in front of the History Museum on the gravel "foot" trail, plodding along at an easy pace. I was amazed, after a mile or two, when I touched my face and found it wet with sweat. I wasn't running hard, and did not feel at all tired, but the heat and humidity was making me sweat profusely. (So much for the sunscreen I put on—should have used waterproof!)

Passing a picnic area, I saw a small building that looked like a restroom. I figured if I used it, then I wouldn't have to worry about any "emergencies" later on! So I jogged off the path. It was a typical park restroom, cold metal toilet and (for excitement) the door wouldn't close enough to lock. So this was perhaps my quickest squat and pee ever! I made it in and out of there with no embarrassing interruptions.

One of the things I was carrying in my overburdened jacket pockets was my digital camera. I had debated about bringing it on the run. Although it is a very small camera, it is still bulky to carry while running. On the other hand, I was also a tourist and thought I should have the opportunity to take pictures with a better camera than my cell phone! So I brought it, and running with it banging against my stomach was not too horribly irritating. But I reminded myself frequently, I had better take some pictures to make this worth my while!

Eventually I made it around to the St. Louis Zoo. This is where I thought I lost the running trail for a while. But I asked a park official (who was directing traffic), and he pointed me back to the bike trail which went around the outside of the parking area (I was on the inside). So from that point on I was sharing the road with bikes.

Periodically I stepped off the trail to take a picture of something (see above, re carrying camera on run). Part of the time I could see the busy streets and buildings of St. Louis, and part of the time my surroundings were more quiet and peaceful.

About three quarters of the way around I veered off the path to look at and walk on a Victorian Bridge. It was built more than a hundred years ago and led to the transit system at that time. I also passed by a public fishing area where I saw a man sitting on a chair and fishing. I was going to take a picture of him, from a distance of course, but he saw me with the camera and I felt awkward. I pretended to take a picture of a building across the river and never did take the fishing picture.

About the time I was beginnning to wonder whether I would ever get back to my starting point, I saw the History Museum ahead. Hurrah! No longer tired, I continued running for a few minutes past the museum—until the end of the song I was listening to—then turned around and ran back.

I took a few pictures of the building, the trolley you can take around the park if you're not into running or walking, and the fountain in front of the museum. Then I asked a couple of girls (possibly students from nearby Washington University) to take my picture (much nicer than a cell phone self-portrait). (Then I took a cell phone self-portrait to send to Lorraine and my mother.)

I considered going into the museum. I kind of wanted to, but it didn't open until 10:00—about fifteen minutes away. I perched myself on the side of the fountain to sit and wait awhile.

Then two ladies came walking by carrying big cups of Starbucks coffee. I hopped up to ask them if there was a nearby Starbucks! They started giving me elaborate directions, but it was pretty clear it was not nearby. However, they said, Kayak's Coffee is not far—directing me to walk up the street a couple of blocks to Washington University and then turn right.

That seemed like a good plan. I could always go into the museum (if I wanted to) when I came back to get the Metro.

I started walking up the street. It soon became clear that "a couple of blocks" was a bit of a misnomer. That is, unless a block was a quarter to half mile long! But I didn't mind walking. It took me past lots of nice houses, and I could look across the street to Forest Park and see it in a way I hadn't while running (sometimes running blinds me to my surroundings, as I am focused on putting one foot in front of the other rather than looking around).

At the second cross street I came to, I was in fact at Washington University, so I turned right. A few blocks ahead (real blocks) I saw the sign for Kayak's Coffee. And right outside it was a Metro stop (Skinker)! I wouldn't have to walk back to Forest Park to get on the Metro. (So, no trip to the History Museum.)

Kayak's Coffee is a funky coffee shop with an outdoorsy, lodgy decor and theme (it's named after the owner's Siberian Husky, Kayak). I ordered a latte and a piece of crumb cake and settled myself at a table.

When the crumb cake was gone, I took the remains of my drink and headed back to the Metro.

I had one more stop on the schedule. I got off at Union Station to have a look at the shops there. In the food court I was a little excited to see a barbecue restaurant! I ended up ordering a pulled pork "platter" to take back to the hotel for lunch. I suppose it would have been pleasant to sit and eat (there's even an outdoor patio), but I felt compelled to get back. So I gathered up my styrofoam "platter" and hopped back on the Metro.

(I ended up not eating my lunch until much later in the afternoon, after I went to hear another speaker at the conference. But I did enjoy my pork and barbecue sauce! It may not have been the best of St. Louis' barbecue, but I like food, and—although some may disagree—I'm not that picky. I'm picky about what I have and how it's prepared, but I'm easy about quality. Makes no sense, I know.)

I'll add some Forest Park pictures later on.

*Okay, I cheated here. I had originally guessed six stops, but then looked at the map and determined it was seven!

**Again, taking a little help from the map. DeBaliviere is the name of the street you come out onto.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bloomsday - May 4, 2008

I'm just about to the point where the Bloomsday Run is long enough ago that I am having trouble remembering it. Such are the consequences of delay!

Luckily I already wrote about the trip to Spokane and all the events leading up to race day. So all I have to remember is the race itself!

I remember it was a Sunday....

Okay, seriously now. ('Cause this is such dead serious stuff. Writing a blog about my running experiences that nobody really reads but me.)

Okay. I woke up early, as planned, around 6 a.m. (so much easier in a hotel room, for some reason). The weather was supposed to be rather warm, so for the first time this year, I was going to be running without a jacket (or gloves, for that matter).

I probably ate some breakfast, a breakfast cookie and a banana, I think (this is fascinating stuff, isn't it?). Then I zipped down to the lobby for my pre-race latte, using the free drink card that came with the room.

Bloomsday is such a huge event—some 40,000 runners and walkers—that all the participants are assigned a color group based on their projected pace. If you've run Bloomsday in the past, your color can be based on that time, but if not, you have to prove your abilities by submitting a recent race time in your pace category. I was "yellow," and I worked to earn my place! Since I didn't have a past Bloomsday time, I sent in my times from three races—the Smelt Run 10K, the Tulip Run 5 mile, and the Shamrock 15K. (In each of those my pace was under 9 minutes per mile.) (I only needed one qualifying race, but I sent three in case they didn't like one of them. Or maybe just to impress them.)

The yellow group was estimated to cross the starting line about ten minutes after the official start. The only groups ahead of me would be white (elite) and brown (better than me). Behind me were green, orange, blue, lilac and red.

Around 8, 8:15 or so I headed out for my warmup run. I ran west on Main, parallel to Riverside where the color groups were gathering and the race would eventually start. Then I ran back and in the other direction past the starting point on Lincoln. I didn't see whether the elite runners were gathering yet.

The timing of a warmup run is always such a challenge. Ideally you want to finish it shortly before the race starts, before you actually cool down again, y'know? But you also have to factor in last minute bathroom stops and getting in line for the start. The bigger the race, the less last-minute you can be.

So around 8:30 I ducked into the hotel for my last bathroom stop. (This was probably about stop #4.) By 8:45 I was standing in a mob of yellow bibs, waiting. Around us the trees lining Riverside were strewn with clothing. (This is apparently some kind of Bloomsday tradition. The unclaimed clothes are later donated to charity.)

By 9:00 I was wishing I had time for another bathroom trip. (This is typical.) I had no choice but to hold it, and by the time I was a few miles into the run, the urge had gone away. (The question is, was the need to go purely psychological? Or did the liquid just evaporate into sweat as I ran? This is probably not biologically possible, but it really seems to happen!)

Then we were moving forward (slowly). At about 9:08 (I determined the time later), I crossed the starting line and the official race had begun.

I quickly found a reasonable pace, even though the crowd was still thick around me. It was probably a couple of miles before I could run my own pace without hindrance from other runners. Although, I must say, being surround by runners going roughly the same pace as me did prevent much of the passing and swerving that takes place in many races.

At almost every milepost there was someone calling out splits. The first was meaningless to me, since it was the time from the start and I still didn't know exactly when I had actually begun. But on each subsequent mile I did some quick math and was able to roughly gauge my pace for that last mile. It seemed like most of them were under nine minutes.

Now, a word about hills.

I have been running a lot of hills. I have been training for hills, and almost every race I've done recently has been hilly. (Whidbey Island? Robie Creek?) For some reason, I thought Spokane would be pretty flat. But turns out it has hills! We actually started out with a downhill pretty early in the course. That was pretty cool. But every downhill leads to an uphill (usually), and from mile 2 through 4.5 we climbed, with dips. Then another downhill, which was just a half mile reprieve, because just before mile 5 we arrived at Doomsday Hill. The name says it all! Up, up we climbed (a 6.5% grade), until we finally topped out at mile 6. The rest of the course was flat to the finish.

As I pounded across the finish line, the time on the clock was meaningless to me because I had no idea how delayed my start was. I think the clock said 10:15. So the amount of delay would determine whether I was under or over a 9 minute pace! A woman who was walking beside me as we filed through the extended finishing shoots said she thought we started (at least she started) about 9:08. And it turns out she was right. My final chip time was 1:06:56, for a pace of 8:58. I wasn't displeased with that. I was quite relieved to be under nine minutes!

After collecting my shirt and getting my picture taken in the park, I walked back to the hotel to meet my mother. I changed out of my sweaty running clothes (into jeans and the race shirt) and we left to find our cinnamon roll! The day before I had come across the most delightful French-style patisserie, called Madeleine's, that had large cinnamon rolls on display along with other baked goodies. Thinking that it would be overrun with runners, I made a reservation, but we got there early and easily got a table.

Ooh lala! The cinnamon roll was scrumptious. The scramble (of some sort, can't remember exactly what I got), was delicious. And my (presumably) nonfat, (supposedly) sugarfree toffee latte was the most delectable coffee beverage I've ever consumed. Either the barrista has magical talents, or the contents were not as guilt-free as I believed!

After filling our tummies we crossed the street for a shopping spree at Macy's. Many, many good deals were found! Sales galore, I promise.

Then rest time at the hotel. I needed it, and my mother is always up for a rest.

Our only other scheduled activity was dinner with my sister's mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who live in Spokane) that evening. Lani had walked in the race and the sister was supposed to, but got out of it--I mean, had to cancel--when she had a couple of injuries. We were meeting at the hotel then going to a restaurant called Europa.

I got ready a little early and took my extra time to walk over to the old Davenport Hotel and take some pictures. The first thing I saw when I walked in a side door was the candy shop (closed) where they sold the famous soft peanut butter brittle and other enticing treats.

What, have I not mentioned the soft peanut butter brittle? A serious omission. We were introduced to the soft peanut butter brittle our first night, when a maid came to turn down the beds while I was out. My mother sent her away, but she left behind two little envelopes of the candy. This candy is nothing like traditional hard peanut brittle. This is more like a delicate version of the filling in a butterfingers bar, coated with chocolate and broken into rough pieces. We intended to buy boxes to bring home as gifts, but since the candy shop was closed this evening I planned to come back in the morning before we left for the airport.

After a moment of drooling into the window, I walked into the lobby and my heart stopped. I have said, and I meant it, that it was so beautiful I wanted to cry. Our contemporary Davenport Tower is very nice and attractively decorated, but this is the hotel I was born to stay in. Or maybe I grew up to stay in, because my tastes are definitely formed by my experiences over the years. (Not that I've stayed in a lot of fine hotels, but I have walked through many, many lobbies.) This was a true grand hotel in the best European style, exquisitely renovated a few years ago. I strolled through, took a few pictures, and looked enviously at people who appeared to be guests there. I wanted to be a part of this too.

And I could be, for a few minutes this evening. I had some extra time still, so I sat myself down in the fireside lobby section of the Palm Court Grill (every European hotel has a Palm Court), and hoped a server would approach me quickly before I had to go. I caught the eye of a waitress, and asked for a glass of sherry. But... they didn't have any sherry. (Okay, not completely a European hotel.) I settled for a glass of white wine. And for the next few minutes, as I sipped my wine and looked at the fire, I was a guest at the Davenport Hotel.

Next year, perhaps, I will be able to stay in this part of the hotel. (Although I am still cheap. We'll have to see what the rates are. I got something of a deal on the Tower, so that is how I ended up there.)

The Europa Restaurant is basically Italian style, and also has a nice European ambience, although in a cozy way rather than grand. We had a nice dinner, a nice visit, then everyone was on their way. Back at the hotel, I stopped in the business center to see if the race times were posted yet. They were, and I was relieved to see that I squeaked in under a nine minute pace. My official time was 1:06:56 (8:58 pace).

The next day our flight didn't leave until midday. So I had enough time to get up early and go for a run. I ran down to Riverside Park and along the Centennial trail, then, after a bit of a misdirection, across the river and back the other side. It was a slow run, with a lot of stops to peruse my map! When I crossed the pedestrian bridge back, I had a spectacular view of the river and the Washington Water Company power plant. I borrowed this picture from someone else's travel website.

I did take my own pictures of a fun running sculpture in Riverside Park. We must have walked right by it after the run on Sunday, but with all the people I didn't even notice it at all!
After that it was all about packing, running over to the candy shop for boxes of soft peanut butter brittle (and a few other goodies) and getting a taxi to the airport. When our ordered ordinary taxi didn't arrive in time, the bellman put is into a luxury taxi which had happened to pull up to the hotel. Very nice, and the fare was just the same.

A quick flight home, shuttle to the parking lot to get our car, and the drive home took the rest of the afternoon. We finally got back to Everett just late enough for me to miss Pilates. Too bad, so sad....

The only thing remaining was looking for my pictures on the Bloomsday site. It's quite an elaborate system of searching the vast numbers of race photos. I managed finally find myself in the pre- and post-finish line mob photos, and actually picked out one where I was unobscured by other runners and actually looked pretty good. I also had a posed picture from the park afterward. Eventually I plunked over the money (credit card number) to order the digital versions, and here they are. The first is my cropped version of the finish line shot, to bring me out of the crowd a bit.

Stop! St. Louis

Get it? The St. Louis Marathon/Half Marathon back in April was called Go! St. Louis. I'm in St. Louis but not here to run a marathon. So I'm calling it Stop! St. Louis.

I'm actually here for the National Drug Court Annual Training Conference. The Stop! came in to play early when we tried to check in to the conference and they didn't have our registrations. After much confusion, that was all worked out and I'm checked in now, but it was too late to go to a morning session (I decided), so I am doing other "work" instead.

When I'm traveling I like to run locally, so I set out this morning for a St. Louis run. I had gotten a map from the concierge, and I started out by running about a half mile to the Arch Park and looping around the outside of the park (with a detour up one of the many flights of stairs to the actual Arch).

Then I followed the river until I got to the beginning of the Riverside Trail. That seemed like a good place for running, and I'm sure it is in theory, but at 7:00 in the morning it was just too isolated and scary for me. It starts out in a deserted-seeming industrial-seeming area, and follows the river with a big concrete wall between you and the street. Although it is a nice paved path, the phrase "body found in river" kept echoing through my mind. I had planned (given the amount of time I had left) to run out for 15 minutes and back, but I changed it to 10 minutes, then 5 minutes before I turned around and headed back toward the park.

I spent the rest of my time running around the paths in Arch Park. I don't know if I'll be able to go back to the Riverside Trail. I would love to run a distance on it, but since I'm the only runner in my group I would be reluctant to set out alone again. It might be more populated later in the day, but that doesn't seem like a good time for running! (Heat, humidity, and, oh yeah, I'm supposed to be at a training.)

N.b. Starbucks is much more expensive in St. Louis than the Seattle area.

This is, believe it or not, the best picture I could manage to take of myself in front of the Arch. Yes, the others were actually worse. There is something about cell phone self-portraits that makes you look incredibly homely. Vanity, thy name is Kristin!

(So let me make it perfectly clear, I do not look like this picture!)

Just a clarification

When I say that none of this is ever going to happen, I mean this, and obviously this; not this! Because this is definitely going to happen. (I won't completely rule this out, it just seems unlikely.)

I hope that's perfectly clear.

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's only happening in my head

By the way, in case I haven't been perfectly clear, the likelihood of any of this happening is only slightly higher than me marrying Hugh Grant.

(But if I do, we are definitely spending our honeymoon at Brown's Hotel. Good thing he can afford it. Even if he hasn't been working much lately.)

Now I am really procrastinating.

If I ever....

If I ever run in the London Marathon, I am staying at Brown's Hotel for Marathon weekend. The marathon finishes in St. James/Green Park, and Brown's is just a few blocks away. Very convenient to return to for a shower, then a lovely tea.

Now, none of this is ever going to happen, but I'm just saying, if it did.

(I must have London on the brain today. Either that, or I'm procrastinating like crazy... hmmm....)

London 2012

I am so going to London in 2012 to watch the Olympics (at least, the marathon; that's really the only event I'm particularly interested in).

I don't know why I never thought about this before... but a few weeks ago, when I was in Spokane for Bloomsday (where I talked to Kathrine Switzer about the London Marathon), it came to me out of the blue—I could go to London for the Olympics. I should go to London for the Olympics. I will go to London for the Olympics!

Hopefully the exchange rate will stabilize (I mean improve—it's quite stable, just high!) by then.

I wonder when I could start bugging my favorite London Hotel about reservations? Obviously, I have to wait until I have enough extra money to make a deposit (if that is something they would want). (See, also, hoping the exchange rate will improve.)

Perhaps if I am able to go to England for the Bath Half Marathon next spring, I can look into it then. (I am going for the Bath Half, if I can get a spot.)

It's good to have dreams. Some runners dream of running in the Olympic marathon, or at least the London Marathon—I just want a hotel room!

Just step away from the cake...

What I didn't mention last night, as I was about to ease my achy body into a hot bath, was that I also ached with a full stomach, thanks to a delicious dinner of Copper River salmon (with oyster stuffing, how decadent) and too, too much cake for dessert.

Thank goodness cake isn't a regular staple in my life. I'm sure I couldn't run enough to make up for it if I had cake available every day. Cake (with frosting) is my crack. One delicious bite is never enough to satisfy me—in fact, each bite makes me crave more. (As I finish up the rest of the leftover cake I brought home with me—better to get it out of the way now!)

I would like to think that all my running and working out helps atone for the occasional cake extravaganza (believe me, with me and cake it's an extravaganza or nothing). My rational mind knows that it does, pretty much, as long as I keep the cake situations few and far between. But my paranoid self kind of thinks that my body is so efficient at running that it burns off virtually no calories doing so. Because it does seem that my body wants to hang onto every ounce of weight it can, regardless of how many miles I run or hours spent on the elliptical machine.

I'm trying to begin packing for my trip to St. Louis and in doing so have to finish unpacking from my last trip (Bloomsday). I pulled out the Marathon Woman tee shirt I bought from Kathrine Switzer (which I was afraid would be too tight around the tummy) and put it on. It fit beautifully and, because of the fitted cut, made me look quite slim (hiding the rolls of fat). So that made me feel good. Hopefully it's enough to keep me away from the cake!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

—and apparently I—go out in the midday sun.

Now, I don't want to exaggerate the intensity of the midday sun here in the Northwest. Today, at least, it is still quite mild. But still, with an entire morning to get out and run, after waking up before 7 a.m., was it really necessary to wait until 11 a.m. to go out for a long run?

Apparently it was. (Breakfast, post-breakfast recovery period, Bobby Flay on the Food Network; all these things contributed to my lag-a-bed morning.)

I left home at about 11 a.m. with the plan of running about 11 miles. I'd mapped out a couple of variations of my route, and I was going to play it by ear exactly which way to go. I wore a very light breathable jacket (so I would have pockets), intending to take it off if I got too warm. But in fact I had enough of a breeze most of the time that I didn't have to take the jacket off.

I ran south on Colby as far as 37th, where I turned west to cut over to Rucker. Doubling back to 35th, I ran up—and up—Rucker Hill as far as I could go. Then I made my way down the other side, behind Providence Hospital on Kromer, and finally met up with Marine View Drive at Hewitt. Then I just followed Marine View Drive all the way around the north end of town, till it turned into East Marine View Drive and eventually Everett Avenue, ending up at QFC (as usual), where I bought an iced latte at Starbucks and walked the rest of the way home.

It was not a fast run. I put a little zip in my step running up the hills on 35th, but most of the time I just plodded along. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the Nutella waffles I had for breakfast (but hours earlier!). On my last downhill to QFC, I did pick up the pace a little bit—I like to finish well. But it was definitely an "easy" run, as far as speed goes!

After I got home, I mapped out my final route and determined that I had gone about 11.75 miles.

I am finishing this up late on Sunday night, before running myself a bath to soak my achy hips and back. I am as sore tonight as I have been since I threw out my back last Saturday. Hopefully my epsom salt/arnica bath oil/hot water treatment (supplemented by Advil) will ease the pain. I've had enough of this!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Puppy Bowl

I know this is totally off topic, but I can't help myself.

Last night I found myself watching "Puppy Bowl" on the Animal Planet channel. It was either that or OCD camp on Oprah! Maybe it's a little too close to home, but I couldn't handle the OCD camp. (No, I'm not technically OCD, but I have some obsessive compulsive tendencies. Who doesn't? Although I must admit that excessive cleanliness is not one of my problems. More like obsessive magazine buying, compulsive nibbling, etc.)

Anyhow, this Puppy Bowl was apparently a replay of the show which aired on Super Bowl Sunday. It features a whole bunch of adorable puppies (of various breeds) frolicking on a puppy-sized football field, with play-by-play voiceover, penalties, and a vote for MVP (most valuable puppy). Also, a Kitty Half-time show!

I actually watched this for a full hour and a half (I came in late). I mean, who doesn't love puppies?

Here's a video preview (it can be ordered on DVD, for the truly puppy-crazed).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book event

Last night I went to a book reading/author event at Third Place Books, Jen Lancaster reading from and talking about her new book, Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest To Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, Or Why Pie is Not The Answer.

So what does this have to do with running, you may ask? ***

Well, I did skip yoga to go to this. (I have also been known to skip yoga to go out to dinner, walk on the beach, or watch The Biggest Loser. I am an equal opportunity yoga skipper. Though I do love it! It's just easy to skip something that doesn't even start until 7:15 p.m.)

But really, here is where my fine runner's training and conditioning came into play. After the reading, speaking, and question & answer period (all of which were very entertaining and funny, as would be expected), we moved into the book signing portion of the evening.

Having past experience of waiting in line for an hour (while desperately needing the bathroom) to have a book signed by a very funny, popular and chatty author, I had no intention of letting that happen again. The minute the words "book signing" came out of Jen's mouth, I leaped to my feet for a mad dash to the other side of the store (leaving my empty latte cup and jacket in my mother's care). "I can beat these people, I run marathons," I thought as I sprinted through the store, leaping over the giant chess pieces on the floor game along the way. (Yes, I said "marathons," although I only actually do half marathons. Marathons has a better ring to it. Even in my head.)

I probably would have been at the front of the line if I hadn't drawn the line at actually elbowing people aside to get past them. So there were probably a dozen people ahead of me. But I only had to wait about 20 minutes, and I didn't need to go to the bathroom. So it all worked out fine.
(I haven't started reading the book yet, because I'm saving it for my trip to St. Louis next week. But I'm sure it will be as funny and enjoyable as her last two books. So I have no problem giving it a plug right here... to my non-existent audience. Buy the book!) (I, by the way, bought two copies at full price last night, thus supporting both the bookstore and the author. Kudos to me!)

***On a slightly more serious note, the book is in fact about Jen's efforts to lose some weight and get into better shape to improve her health. I believe (from her comments, though not having yet read the book, but having in fact met her, as evidenced in the picture above), that although she did not lose all that much weight on her parade of diets, she did improve her fitness and health a whole lot. So kudos to her too!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Beat the Bridge 8K

What, I still haven't written about Bloomsday and I'm already writing about today's run? Well, I'm trying that new method, writing about the race shortly thereafter before I forget everything.
So, today was the Beat the Bridge race in Seattle. I finally signed up a week or two ago, just before the online deadline. I had been vascillating over whether or not to do it. I had some things going on at work that would have interfered, but that all got postponed and freed me up, schedule-wise. Then there was the question of whether I was burned out on races, after doing four in a one month period (April 5 - May 4). I guess I wasn't, because I finally bit the bullet and clicked in my registration. (There was also my weariness of fundraising expectations, which seems really shallow, but there's only so many times you want to go to the well of friends and family, or your own pocket. I compromised by making my own donation, and calling it good.)

Bad omens, or at least questionable omens, continued to arise. This weekend spring arrived with a vengeance. Our 50 degree days of weeks past skyrocketed to a hellish 90 degrees on Saturday. Luckily, the weather forecast promised cooler 70-ish temps on Sunday. I prayed they were right.

Finally, my own bad luck peaked on Saturday afternoon when, for no good reason, I threw my back out. I was at my parents' house and innocently bending over the freezer drawer to scoop out a spoonful of ice cream when, like a lightning bolt or electric shock, my entire lower back spasmed painfully. I ate the ice cream (of course), then slowly straightened myself out and attempted to stretch out the soreness. After a period of recovery (which was not on my afternoon schedule), I was able to walk comfortably enough to head down to the beach for my planned long walk. Thank goodness I had already decided not to run on Saturday!

Saturday night I went to the Norwegian Independence Day dinner in Ballard and, instead of carb loading, filled up on salmon, meatballs, cucumber salad, and Norwegian hot dogs (pølse wrapped in lefse). Heavy stomach!

Throughout the night whenever I woke up to go to the bathroom I felt the stiffness in my lower back. I dosed myself with Advil every four hours, hoping to stave off some pain. At least I wasn't suffering from the heat (and believe me it was warm), because I brought up a window fan from the basement and my bedroom was delightfully cool!

I set the alarm for 5:30 Sunday morning and got up a little before 6:00. My mom was supposed to arrive at 6:15 but it doesn't take long to get ready for a race. Just throw on my clothes and shoes and make sure I have my race number, chip, and other accessories packed in a bag (as well as a breakfast cookie and banana for breakfast on the road). We actually left my house at 6:20 or so, which is a timeliness record I believe! Of course we could not leave town without my stop at Starbucks. It's just down the road and even though we got there a few minutes before their Sunday opening time of 6:30, they were already opened. (As opposed to some Starbucks I remember in England, where I stood outside the door until they were good and ready to open!)

We headed down to Husky Stadium knowing very little about how this event would progress. I knew that the start time was 8:30, and it started on Montlake in front of Husky Stadium. Not much else. Particularly since the brochure I printed had very very small type, I had not bothered to try to read the details! Oh, of course I knew that you had to try to run across the University Bridge by 9 a.m.

We parked in a very very big parking lot north of Husky Stadium, and walked toward the starting area. It was about 7:30 (and would have been 7:15 if we hadn't spent too much time going roundabout trying to find a "better" situated parking area). It was still quite cool, even breezy, which bode well for the race but not so good for my mother who would be hanging out waiting for me to finish (and was dressed for warm weather, a la yesterday).

I felt a little unsettled by the big crowd, and was still concerned about my choice of the dark orange (slowest) race bib. To recap: I signed myself up for the "more than 8 minute mile" group, which was accurate. However that would give me only 20 minutes to get to the bridge. Should be no problem (2 miles!) but who knew whether the crowd would hold me back?

On the good side, there were indoor restrooms in the stadium and no lines to speak of!

I really didn't feel like a warm-up run, but knew I needed it. So I parked my mother on a bench and took off around the stadium. Slowly. Painfully. Oh my goodness, my back was still sore. Hopefully the warm-up run would work the kinks out! I ran for 20 or 25 minutes, then quickly hit the restroom once more before make my way toward the starting line.

The procedure was that the (fastest) blue bibs started at 8:30, the light orange bibs at 8:35, and the dark orange bibs at 8:40. But as I worked my way through the crowd (wanting to be at the front of the dark oranges), I found that dark and light oranges were mixing quite freely. As the airhorn sounded at 8:35, I asked a (dark orange) person beside me whether she was waiting at the start line or just going. "Going!" she said, so I did too. I crossed the start line at about 8:37, giving me at least a three minute cushion and putting me ahead of lots of slower runners.

Even so, even though I was theoretically in a group of runners who were faster than me, I was quickly passing lots of people in the beginning. Because of the bridge deadline, I felt compelled to push the pace right away. As I passed the one-mile mark, then approached the two-mile point before the bridge, I checked my watch and calculated that I was doing pretty well, probably under a nine-minute pace. There was a water station before the two-mile mark, which is a good thing given the heat, but I couldn't imagine stopping for water at this point! Only two miles in? Maybe if it had been hot like Saturday.

A word about bridges. The first bridge we crossed was the Montlake Bridge, near the beginning of the run. As I ran over the metal grating (which I could feel through my shoes), I vowed "never again"—the next time I ran over a bridge I would stay off the grates. So. There I was at University Bridge. Did I run to the side where there were no grates? No. It was right down the middle over the grating once again. Oh well. I don't think it slowed me down particularly, it was just awkward.

I noticed, after I crossed the bridge, a number of people walking. Perhaps they put all their energy into getting across the bridge? I focused myself on keeping up my pace over the remaining three miles. Compared to my recent races, this one was practically flat. In fact, I didn't really notice any discernable uphills, but appreciated several downhills! (There must have been an uphill somewhere....)

Somewhere around three to three and a half miles in, we turned back onto Montlake. This time we were running northward, back past the stadium. I looked for my mother on the bench where I'd left her—in fact, I crossed the street to her side—but she wasn't there. I wondered if she had given up and gone back to the car already.

North, north, north on Montlake—never has a half mile or so seemed so long. Finally, just after passing a four mile balloon, we turned to head toward the finish. My goal, based on when I thought I had started, was to finish at 9:20 on my watch. It was 9:09 when I passed what appeared to be four miles. (It's a little confusing, because although we had the four mile balloon out in the street with us, there was also a four mile marker on the roadside as we were heading back. So I don't know which was the actual four mile spot.) (Although, n.b., having finally obtained my time on Tuesday—writing in the future again—I'm inclined to think the later mark was the one.)

Because I hadn't read the brochure closely (and because I'm clueless), I didn't realize the race ended inside Husky Stadium. So the route veered off of Montlake into a road leading behind the stadium complex. Then—to my best recollection—we ran around the end of the stadium and finally into the stadium.

As I attempted to put on my final speed push, I could see the clock ahead of me. Of course, the clock reflected the time since the actual start, not since my start. Still. It was at 48 minutes plus, and my immediate goal was to cross the finish before 49 minutes. I ran as hard as I could (within reason), and threw myself across the finish line—just past 49 minutes.

Of course that wouldn't really matter in the end, since my starting delay would eventually be subtracted to give me my net chip time. I hoped, since my watch had read 8:37 when I started, that my time would be under 42 minutes, which would definitely be a record for me (for a five mile race). (I don't want to raise false expectations, so I will say now that my actual time turned out to be 42:37—quite respectable if not quite as fast as I'd hoped!)

After I crossed the finish line and stopped running I immediately had the urge to throw up. I did manage to avoid it! That's not as bad as it sounds. Usually when I feel like throwing up at the end of a race it means that I've run hard and can expect a pretty good time.

After relinquishing my race chip to one of the collectors, I paused to look around. A giant screen above the finish area displayed the runners as they were finishing, big enough to be viewed even from the stands. I felt quite regretful that I hadn't known to expect this, so that my mother could have watched from inside the stadium. Of course she could have found out about the finish line herself, had she done any enquiring while she was waiting during the race.

Before leaving I strolled through the exhibitors stalls, picking up a few giveaways and signing up for a couple of drawings. Maybe I'll win a ticket on JetBlue, or a gift certificate for hair removal!

As I headed back to find my mother, I walked around the end of the stadium where finishers were still coming in. Obviously this lot looked slower and more ragged than the faster runners. In the midst of orange bibs (both dark and light), I saw one man with a blue bib. So tell me, what is a guy who signed up to run faster than seven minutes per mile doing in a group of people averaging 11 or 12 minute miles? (My mother did tell me that she saw several people, including a blue bib, arrive late and start after most everyone else had left, but I would think that Mr. Fast Blue Bib should have been able to make up the time, if he really is that fast. But I can tell you, he was not running that fast at the finish!)

I found my mother back on her bench where I had left her. She had moved to another spot during the race but returned to meet me. By this time the sun had warmed things up and the bench wasn't quite so cool and shady (but not yet too hot either).

We strolled back to the car, then spent the next half hour or so in the car inching toward the exit. Apparently all the cars parked in the lot were funneling toward the same exit—which meant a lot of pauses. In between we tried to prevent line-cutters from squeezing in front of us (without causing any parking lot violence).

At least, once we got out we were at the north end of Montlake, heading right onto 25th and an easy trip up to 65th and the Sunflour Cafe (for the traditional post race breakfast). It was still only about 10:30, and for once there wasn't a huge crowd in front of us at the cafe. We had a short wait then got a nice wall table.

Of course I ordered a cinnamon roll—what would a race be without one? Then we couldn't resist the crab cake breakfast, which was a yummy crab cake with pesto scrambled eggs, crispy red potatoes (I only ate the crispy bits, in an effort to show some self control), and thick slices of wheat toast (which I ate, despite already having half a cinnamon roll).

(This lavish breakfast, combined with the Norwegian smorgasbord on Saturday night, may be the reason my pants are tight this week. Okay, that and all the other bits and pieces—like the ice cream out of the carton—I was picking at all weekend. Something about free time and grazing...bad news!)

I had really good intentions for the rest of the afternoon. I just needed to have a little bit of rest (especially with my sore back, you know). So I headed over to my parents to lay on the lawn swing for a while.... and there went the afternoon.

Early that evening I started looking at the Beat the Bridge website for race results. They were supposed to be posted by 10 p.m., but I thought they might be early. Well, by 10 p.m.... nothing. I even dragged myself out of bed at 11 p.m. to check (in vain). I was obsessed by my hopes of a sub-42 minute time! (As it turned out, in vain.)

Finally on Monday morning, the link to the results came up. I put in my name and... nothing. I put in my race number (and I had to go look at the photo my mother took with her cell phone), and it came up with somebody else's name, a male who was 10 years younger than me and had a time 10 minutes slower than mine!

I sent off an email to the timing folks to see what the problem was. Then I started obsessing about what the problem could be. Did it have something to do with me starting in the wrong group? But I thought the chip timing was supposed to take care of that. Would I be disqualified for "jumping the gun"?

On Tuesday I got an answer to my email, simply explaining that the listings were being updated, giving me my time, and congratulating me on the race. I went back to the website, put in my name, and was happy to see that I did exist after all! With a time of 42:37 (pace 8:35), I finished 48 in my age group (out of 196) and 404 of all women (out of 2000+). Okay, so I'm not winning any prizes here, but 75th percentile for gender/age and 80th percentile for gender overall is not bad! (Yes, I did look up "percentile" to make sure I was using it correctly. But I remember from the SAT's in high school that a higher percentile is good!)

So in the end I got away with starting in the wrong group. But next year for sure, if I do this race again I am signing up for the faster (not fastest) group from the beginning! Maybe it will even help me get a time under 40 minutes. (Hey, I can dream, can't I?)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Runner's envy

In the last few days I've been struck with a mild bout of runner's envy. I find myself envious of other runners' speed and ability, leading inevitably to dissatisfaction with my own.

Now, I'm not talking about envying Deena Kastor or any of the elite runners, whose running talents are so extreme that envy is pointless. I wouldn't even want to be that fast. Think of the pressure!

Nor do I particularly envy the "very very good" runners, who are not elite but are the fastest in the local sorts of races. Their skills surpass mine in a way that is quite unattainable. I'm okay with that.

No, the ones I envy are the ones who are like me—but better. The ones who post times and paces that sound similar to my own, but in closer scrutiny turn out to be better. The ones who surprise themselves by achieving race times that I could just about dream of, but not quite achieve.

For example. A fellow attorney who I know slightly turns out to run marathons. (If I knew her better I would have already known that.) As a matter of curiosity, I looked up her times in the last two marathons I'm aware she's run. One was last fall's Chicago Marathon, a race which many people did not finish before it was cancelled. She finished under 3:53, with an average pace of 8:52. Her most recent marathon time was under 3:55, with a pace of exactly nine minutes per mile.

So on the face of things, her pace is one that I'm familiar with. 8:52? Exactly my pace in the Shamrock 15K. Nine minutes? About my pace in the Whidbey Half Marathon and the Bloomsday Run.

But wait—she is maintaining this pace for 26.2 miles! At least double—or more—any of my runs! While I'm throwing myself across the finish line she is heading out for more of the same!

Another person I've picked to admire and envy is Sarah at Running into the Sun. On the one hand she's rocking the nine minute mile (like me); then the next thing you know she's doing a 10K under 52 minutes and looking at a similar pace for an upcoming half marathon! I should have guessed something's up if she's doing nine minute miles in training runs. Great work, Sarah.

I suppose it's not surprising that these feelings of envy and dissatisfaction have come up after all the races I've done this spring. Most of them were hard and hilly, and I haven't seen a PR for a long time (unless you count Bloomsday, which was my first and only 12K, thus a PR in that distance).

Furthermore, I'm a little nervous about the Beat the Bridge Run this Sunday. It's only five miles (usually a good distance for me) but you never know what will happen in a crowded field. I virtuously signed up for the "slower than 8 minute pace" group, which will include all the really slow people and walkers, which may hold me back and keep me from getting across the bridge in less that 20 minutes (it's two miles in and goes up 20 minutes after the third group starts). My friend Ann said that when she ran it a few years ago, she put herself in a faster group so she could start nearer the front. It was too late for me, though—I'd already signed up. And anyway, I don't know if I would have had the nerve to claim I was running a sub-8 mile. Plus, what if I was, like, last?

On Wednesday I had kind of a rough morning run, at least the first few miles. These were the thoughts going through my mind....

I wish I could have a massage.
My legs ache.
I'll bet a massage would make them feel better.
I wish I could have a massage every day.
Then I bet my legs wouldn't ache.
(I repeated this train of thought for several minutes.)

I actually had a lot more thoughts but now only the aching legs and massage yearning sticks with me.

On Friday (the day after this post was written, how can that be?) I started out with achy legs (still/again), but managed to get past that and even do some speed work along with a couple of extra miles. As my legs loosened up and lightened up (you know that nice feeling when your legs feel light and fast, as opposed to slow and leaden), I coaxed myself into bursts of speed, setting time goals for various landmarks. Mainly this was an effort to get myself home in a timely fashion so that I wasn't late for work! I had meant to get an early start to allow for a longer run, but as usual lingered in bed longer than I planned too. In the end I left home only 10 minutes early, added two miles to my usual distance, and finished up only five minutes later than usual. I may not be a math whiz (oh, who am I kidding, I am pure genius at calculating average pace and distance, just no good at simple arithmatic), but I am pretty sure that shows a faster pace than a typical run day.

This hasn't really changed my feelings of envy (and really, it's admiration as much as envy), but it does make me feel a whole lot better about myself. Sunday will be just fine.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Run

Didja notice? I tied in Sunday's long run with Mother's Day, to create the impression that it had something to do with Mother's Day. Like honoring my mother, or something.

Here's the primary connection—I had to get my run in early enough in the day to allow to get home and shower and dressed in time to go out for a 4:00 Mother's Day dinner. So no lolling in bed till noon then taking a leisurely afternoon run, followed by the rest of the afternoon lolling in bed (again) to "recover."

And I wanted to do a longish run, at least 10 miles, so that meant starting out sometime in the morning.

Actually, I came up with a good plan that allowed me to lounge in bed a bit, have a nice long run, finish at Starbucks, and meet my parents to go pick out new glasses for my dad (in hopes of getting him into some mildly fashionable frames instead of his usual goggle-eyed geek frames). On Friday (during, ahem, work) I sketched out a couple of possible routes on MapMyRun. On Saturday I decided on the variation that would take me around Everett and into Marysville, ending up at the 88th Street Starbucks with a total of about 11 miles. Not too short, not too long (one version had me at 13 miles but I didn't want to go that far this weekend).

So on Sunday morning I woke up at about 6:30 (that's sleeping in?) and made myself a good breakfast which I took back to bed. (Here's where the lounging comes in.) I watched the Food Network for a while, thinking I would get up around 9:00 and leave at 9:30. But Boy Meets Grill was on at 9! (I love Bobby Flay.) So I watched that and then got up.

I ended up leaving around 10:00. Still enough time for an easy run (with bathroom stops) and a destination time of noon.

The weather Sunday morning was misty, threatening rain (and in fact did rain lightly for a bit), so I wore the new Nike water resistant jacket I'd bought at the Bloomsday expo. I'm a little paranoid about water resistant fabrics—what's the point of keeping off the outside water if you're sweating inside the jacket—but this one had breathable panels and it worked pretty well, I think. I never got a downpour and I didn't get real hot, so I didn't fully test it either way.

I headed out west toward Grand, then over to 25th to cross the pedestrian overpass onto Marine View Drive. Then I just headed north on MVD, taking the Marina Village loop past Anthony's and so forth. Marina Village also has a number of good public restrooms, and I took advantage of one of them before leaving the area. Then I just continued on MVD northward.

I wasn't sure about following the on ramp onto the old highway (also know as Highway 529), so I cut up to Broadway and dashed across it to get onto 529 that way. The first section of the highway is bridges, and I like running across them because there are separate pedestrian walkways. But once you're off the bridges it's just shoulder almost all the way into Marysville.

It's just a couple of miles, but I call that stretch of highway the wasteland. (I have now spent several minutes scanning over T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland, hoping to find an appropriate phrase to throw out, but alas—it is too deep to yield a casual running metaphor.) It's just a long flat ribbon of highway, luckily with a wide shoulder, and I have never felt so slow as I did plodding along at about 6 mph (if I'm lucky) with cars zooming by me at 60.

When I finally got into Marysville, my attitude improved immensely, as I returned to civilized streets and blocks and sidewalks. Distance passes so much more happily when it's divided into blocks.

Instead of running directly northward on State Street, I extended my distance a little bit by turning eastward on 4th Street, then following 47th and eventually Armar Road to where Armar meets Grove. Then I returned to State Street for the final couple of miles to Starbucks. As I crossed State and headed west on 88th for the final piece, I picked up the pace a little bit—I like to finish well!

Then it was time for a latte and coffee cake at Starbucks while I waited for my ride. Eleven miles for the runner's journal—not a bad Sunday morning.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More about weight and running

I never did lose the 10 pounds I wanted to before the Whidbey half marathon. Now, ironically, I have an additional 3-5 pounds to shed, thanks to the carb loading and so forth that accompanied my month of races (Tulip, Whidbey, Robie Creek, Bloomsday).

But at least I can congratulate myself that I am not a gaunt-faced runner! One of my favorite running bloggers, Nitmos, has written a great piece about runners who are too skinny. I totally know what he means. I call these guys (although there are plenty of women too) "Skeletor." This look is especially popular in runners in their forties and up, I think because your face becomes more angular as you age, and if you are excessively thin, it really shows in your face. (I have really appreciated growing cheekbones in my mature years, but still have plenty of fat padding as well.)

Of course you especially notice this extreme thinness amongst elite runners, if you are ever in a position to see them. I think I have only seen true elites on TV and film. Deena Kastor in The Spirit of the Marathon is a fascinating example of this. In her narrative bits, which were presumable filmed when she wasn't training for a major race, her face is attractively normal, even a bit round, perhaps. In contrast, during the Chicago marathon segments, she is much thinner and hollower, appearing, by the end of the marathon, to be but a shadow of her former self. (And she claims to eat about 5000 calories a day when training for a marathon!)

Obviously the top runners are different from you and me. Well, me, anyway. Even if I ran a marathon, technically that would burn off 2600-3000 calories, not even a pound's worth of fat. I could make that up in cinnamon rolls, easy!

You won't be calling me Skeletor any time soon.

Looking back again

I still haven't gotten around to my Bloomsday tale. I really should get to it, because I find that I forget details when I wait too long. That's what happened when I finally finished my Winthrop story, which is now posted in its correct chronological spot (click here to read). At least that prevents me from rambling on too long! I have some nice scenic pictures from Winthrop too, but haven't managed to post them yet.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

This just in

I beat Kathrine Switzer in the Bloomsday Run!

Okay, so she's 20 years older than me. Still, she was once a very good runner who ran numerous marathons and won the New York City Marathon in 1974.

My official time was 1:06:56 (8:58 pace).

Hers was 1:07:36 (9:03 pace).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Meeting Kathrine Switzer

I'm sitting here in the afternoon after Spokane's Bloomsday Run, but I'm not primed to write about that yet. Instead I'm going to write about yesterday's arrival in Spokane and meeting Kathrine Switzer.

I first learned that Kathrine Switzer (the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a number, and author of Marathon Woman) was going to be in Spokane for Bloomsday when I got my email with final race information. She was signing her book at the race expo and also speaking at the Doubletree Hotel at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Since I was on a noon flight to Spokane I figured I could probably get to my hotel and over to the Doubletree by 2, but it would be a close call. So we went early to the airport in hopes of getting an earlier flight, and in fact easily got on the 11:00 flight instead.

By 12:30 p.m. we were checked into the Davenport Tower Hotel and looking for something to eat before I headed over to the expo activities. We decided to have lunch in the hotel restaurant, since it was easy and the menu looked good anyway. I had a delicious steak salad on arugula and more than my share of a flatbread topped with roquefort, pears, and arugula (I'm very fond of arugula).

Around 1:30 I headed toward the Doubletree. It's not too far from the Davenport, about half a mile or a bit more. I had no idea whether to expect huge crowds (considering how many people were participating in the race) or what.

She was speaking in the Grand Ballroom, and I found my way back there by about quarter of two. Happily for me (although I was concerned for her), there weren't many people there yet and I easily staked myself a seat at a table front and center near the podium.

Kathrine was already there, selling and signing her books and talking to people. Now, I already have the book (and I've read it). I didn't bring it along, in large part because I just loaned it to someone else to read. After a few moments of mental deliberation, I decided to fork over more money to get another copy for her to sign. I could always give away the first one as a gift. (Or use it as a loaner.) I got into the line, which wasn't very long but it was slow moving since everyone wanted to talk to her a bit, or take pictures. I hadn't brought my camera because I didn't want to take the time to run back up to the room, but I did have a camera on my cell phone. (Handy!)

While we were waiting I chatted with the woman in front of me in line. She was from Colorado but had been working in Tacoma so decided to drive over for the run. She was a relatively new runner, and this was her first Bloomsday. (Well, it's my first too, even though I'm not a new runner!)

Two o'clock rolled around just as we got to the front of the line. Kathrine counted off those of us who were left—I was #2—and we got to be first after the talk. So we all took our seats.

She talked for about an hour, telling the story of her Boston Marathon experience and her involvement in running and athletics (including race organization and promotion) throughout her life. Since I'd already read the book, I knew most of the stories already, but still it was interesting listening to her.

And since the book ends at the first women's Olympic Marathon in 1984, we also got a little taste of her life since then. As the book says, she stopped running marathons in the seventies, but has continued to run for fun and exercise. Lately she's been back up to half marathons and is thinking about doing a marathon in the next year (in New Zealand, where she lives half the year with her husband Roger Robinson).

After the talk and questions, she resumed book signing and those of us with numbers rushed up to take our places. In addition to the book, I had decided to buy her "Marathon Woman" t-shirt, but wasn't sure what size to buy. They looked really tiny. I had the large in my hands, and wondered aloud whether I should get the extra-large instead. One of the most gratifying moments of my life occurred when Kathrine Switzer said, in a tone of shocked disbelief, "You?" The women in line behind me said "Show off that toned runner's body." .... I bought the large. Even if I never wear it, it was worth it for that reaction.

And I got a picture of me and Kathrine Switzer on my cell phone.

After that, I headed over to the expo to pick up my packet, number and chip. This was at the Spokane Convention Center, and it was huge! Masses of people were coming and going as I arrived. But they had the pickup lines so broken down by age and name that I didn't have to wait in line at all. After I scanned my chip, I decided to wander quickly through the booths before heading back to the hotel.

One Bloomsday shirt and hat, two runner girl logo shirts, one lightweight Nike running jacket, and a cookbook for my mom later, I left the expo and returned to the hotel.

The last item on Saturday's agenda was the traditional pasta dinner. My sister had recommended Luigi's, (also) about half a mile from the hotel, so after touching base with my mom I dropped my purchases and headed back out to check out the restaurant.

When I found Luigi's, I liked what I saw on the menu. So, apparently, did lots of other people, because they had absolutely no reservations available. I left in a bit of a huff (I can't help it, I get miffed when things don't go my way), and walked back to the hotel. There were a couple other Italian restaurants I saw along the way, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to make the trek for a second choice. There were several pasta items on the hotel menu, and maybe it would be easier to just eat there.

Which is what we did. Our dinner didn't go exactly smoothly, because after we ordered they forgot about us. About 45 minutes in (don't ask me why I didn't ask before that—it's hard to judge how long is too long), the waitress brought us our check and said "you can pay me when you're ready." We gasped, "But we haven't got our food yet!" She was a bit shocked. She returned with our plates a few minutes later, and luckily if they had been sitting around, they seemed none the worse for it. I had a very rich pasta dish, Scottish Smoked Salmon Penne with a Vodka Cream Sauce, and although I usually avoid creamy sauces (for good reason), I savored this one. Despite having to wait so long, and perhaps against my better judgment, I was determined to order dessert, because their desserts were little miniature portions, and I could try more than one without having too much. (So I told myself.)

I got Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Pie, and German Chocolate Cake, all served in shot glasses (that's how little they were). (Just getting one would have been more prudent, of course.) We took them up to the room, along with mugs to make tea, and enjoyed dessert in bed, atop the absolutely heavenly luxurious pillowtop mattresses.

So that was the end of pre-race Saturday. I set the alarm for 6:00 (to wake up early enough for breakfast two hours before the race), and tried to read but eventually gave up and went to sleep. Morning would come all too soon!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Spirit of the Marathon redux

What does "redux" mean, really? It's one of those cool sounding words that turns up in trendy writing. Well, I checked to make sure I wasn't misusing it, and it in fact does mean "brought back, resurgent."

Which is the appropriate term for last night's reshowing of the Spirit of the Marathon movie. It first premiered in January, with an encore presentation a few weeks later. Now it is airing in various cities throughout the spring and summer, apparently in conjunction with big races in the area. This week's show was the Seattle/Spokane presentation for the Bloomsday Run in Spokane. Luckily the Spirit of the Marathon distributors don't seem to know that Seattle is far, far away from Spokane! Of course perhaps they figure that some of us on this side will be heading east for the run this Sunday. (As I am.)

I am afraid, though, that "resurgent" is not the term to describe the Marysville showing of the movie last night. When I arrived just before it began at 7:30 p.m. (I went to Marysville instead of Everett because I had been at my parents' house and it was closer), there was only one other woman seated in the theatre. And not to make assumptions, but she didn't look like a runner. (Not that you have to be a runner to enjoy and appreciate this movie! That's why it's so sad that it hasn't attracted a bigger following.)

Perhaps she had come into the theatre by mistake, because not too long after the movie began she got up and left. By then two other people had come in, so all in all there were three of us for the entire movie. Unfortunately the other two got up at the end of the movie and didn't wait for the extras, which were great. They probably didn't know about it. I almost felt like I should tell them, but I felt too awkward to shout at them in the big empty theatre! (They were quite a bit ahead of me in the rows.)

I wrote in January how much I loved and was moved by Spirit of the Marathon. This did not change in my second viewing. The second time around was maybe even better (except that I did not get quite as choked up at the ending, just a little bit), because I was able to pick up on things that got past me the first time around. And it's especially timely now that Deena Kastor has just won the women's Olympic trials. I can hardly wait for the DVD to be available. It's one for the library.

I wish that there had been more of an effort to get people into this movie. I had recommended it to several people prior to the encore showing in February, although I don't know if anyone took me up on it. I was kind of too discouraged by that to try to promote it again. I did recommend it to one attorney I know who is running the Vancouver marathon this weekend (and even found out it is showing in Vancouver on Saturday), but although interested, she had other plans on Thursday and expected to be busy at the marathon expo on Saturday.

If I were a teacher at a local high school, I would have tried to arrange a student trip to this movie. It's perfect for track and cross country runners, but even more I think it would be great for ordinary kids to see, since most of the runners were very ordinary people, not elite athletes at all. Of course all the runners were adults, but most of the actors in the movies they watch are adults also, so that shouldn't be too off-putting.

I figured that trying to get any of my friends to go would be an exercise in futility, considering the (lack of) luck I've had trying to get them to go to 5K's. Of course this would involve sitting rather than running/walking, and optional popcorn, but still, people are very stingy with their free time, and might just prefer Grey's Anatomy to a running movie. (I myself was a bit disgruntled at missing The Office—why didn't I think to tape it?—but I can watch it in reruns, or perhaps online if I can ever get that to work for me.)

Before I went to the movie last night I went by my parents' house to pick up some soup (Good Greens Soup, which is a favorite staple for me), and I was planning to head to the Y afterward. But the sun was out, and according to the tide calendar so was the tide, so I decided to take a quick walk on the beach instead. I could easily allow an hour's walk, maybe a bit more.

My one mistake was heading to the beach still wearing the slip-on New Balance shoes I'd been wearing. I had somehow forgotten how sand flips into the open heel of the shoe, especially when walking briskly! I took off at a smart clip and by the time I'd gone a mile or so I had any number of grains of sand inside my shoes irritating me. You'd think a little sand would not be so much of a problem! But it was truly like a grain of sand inside an oyster making it grow a pearl. Except that the results were not so lovely. I ended up with a small but painful blister on the tip of my right big toe. Quite a pearl! (Later at home I drained it with a sharp needle and it no longer bothers me.)

I took more time on my beach walk than I had planned, even though I jogged part of the way back to save time (another thing that is not so good to do in slip-on shoes), and that is how I ended up going to the Marysville movie theatre rather than Everett.

Perhaps the movie inspired me in doing my semi-long run this morning. Knowing that the race in Spokane will prevent my typical long run on Sunday, I felt I needed to pick up some extra mileage today. I ended up running 9½ miles (including my walk home from Starbucks at the end). That gives me 21½ for the week so far. I'll only need to do 8½ on Sunday (12K plus at least a mile warmup) to get me to 30 miles for the week. If I do a longer warmup I'll even go over, which wouldn't hurt.

I was able to squeeze in a massage at lunchtime today, which was great because I haven't had one since before the Whidbey run. She did a great job on my calves, quads, and hips. Painful, but in a good way!