Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anacortes & Orcas Island — Race & Weekend Report

This is a twofer—the story of my Anacortes Half-Marathon plus my adventures on Orcas Island afterward. Granted, my adventures were not very adventuresome. They were, if you include the race, downright salubrious (pretty much) (with a few bibulous exceptions).

But enough loquaciousness.


Perhaps for the first time ever, I got my act together enough to pretty much pack my weekend bag(s) on Thursday night. On Friday night, after a leisurely exercise-free day (with only work obligations to drag me down), on my way to eat pasta at Lombardi's, I dropped my stuff off at my friend's house, who would be meeting me at the Anacortes ferry after the race on Saturday.

Then on Saturday morning, slightly after the crack of dawn (around 6:15) I headed towards Anacortes with my parents. My plan was to get there around 7:30 or so, allowing plenty of time to pick up my race number, park in a location that was advantageous for getting to the ferry, go to the porta-potties three times, and do a warmup run before the race started at 9 a.m.

All of those things happened like a charm. The main parking objective was to park near the finish line, on the west side of Commercial so as not to interfere with any runners. (As it turned out, the runners were only on the last block of Commercial before the finish line anyway. But still, it was good to be parked a little bit closer rather than further away from the road to the ferry terminal.)

I was a little concerned about the weather. Really, it was perfect running weather. A little clouded over but not raining; not unbearably hot but not cold either. My dilemma, though, was whether to wear my light jacket or just go with the sleeveless top. A normal person would obviously know that the top was sufficient. But I had worn the sleeveless shirt in anticipation of real heat, so the jacket didn't seem unreasonable (it's very light).

Luckily for my sanity, the sun broke out after I finished my warmup run and I realized that I would be far better off without a jacket. So I switched my emergency supplies* from my pocket to my amphipod waist pack, wired up my iPod, put the Garmin on my left wrist and my Timex iControl on the right, and was set to go.

Amazingly, at 8:45 there was nobody in line for the porta-potty and I was able to make one last stop!

The Anacortes Art Dash has three runs—a 5K, a 10K, and the half-marathon. They all start at the same spot, at the same time, on the same route; then the shorter races break off along the way to double back to the finish line. Leaving, finally, the half-marathon runners to finish on our own. (As usual.)

The run starts out by the City Hall in downtown Anacortes and heads southward through town until it joins up with the Tommy Thompson Parkway. This is a nifty running/walking/biking trail that was built along the path of the old Burlington Northern railway (the path was temporarily closed to bikers during the race). The parkway runs parallel to downtown for a bit, then hugs the shoreline until it crosses Fidalgo Bay with a .75 mile long raised walkway dubbed the "trestle" after the railroad trestle it replaced. The trail itself is only about three miles long, so after crossing the bay the half-marathon course continued on roads. The 5K and 10K runners turned back prior to crossing the trestle (their loss!).

There were no timing chips in this run, but it hardly mattered because the crowd was not large and I could actually see the starting line from where I was standing.

That's me in the turquoise hat, #662. Which of these people surrounding me would be my nemesis in the race? I think that the blonde woman behind me, in the sleeveless white shirt and black shorts, may be the person who I chased for the entire second half of the race. (Although there were a lot of blonde women with sleeveless shirts in the run.)

I pushed start on the Garmin as I crossed the starting line. Now, I did not want to be watching the Garmin the whole race. What I really wanted to do was ignore it until the race was over. But I couldn't do that. So I reluctantly allowed myself to keep track of my time per mile, but tried to minimize glances in between. I got into a rhythm where I'd check the distance after a few minute and see that it was, say, at a half-mile point. Then I would pick a landmark in the distance that I had to run to before I looked at the watch again. The landmarks got closer to each other whenever I approached the end of a mile (e.g., .9, .95, etc.). You would think that at some point I would miss a mile, but no—I caught every one.

The first mile went great. 8:45. I have never been worried about running "too fast"—my body is not going to let that happen. I would like to run negative splits, and I often do, but (I'll spoil the surprise) this time I did not. I don't think that running the first couple miles slower would have made any difference, though. In fact those quicker miles helped make up for a couple slower ones later on. Mile two was about 8:50, and after that I was not under nine minute miles again. I didn't feel like I was slowing down, but in fact mile three was about 9:02, as I recall.

These first three miles took me through town and across the "trestle" portion of the run. I had run this race last year, and I remembered the course well. Specifically, I remembered the big hill that was coming up in mile four! On the other side of the trestle we turned briefly onto March Point Road, then took a right onto North Texas Road, home of the infamous hill. That whole road was a little less than a mile long, and the worst of the hill was only about half of it, I would guess. Last year I walked up the steepest part, along with pretty much everyone else I saw. This year I didn't need to walk, although I could feel my pace slowed considerably. When the Garmin displayed the time for mile four, it was 9:54—almost a minute slower than my typical pace for this run. But still, I was pleased to be under ten minutes for such a difficult hill.

There was a water stop as we turned back onto March Point Road. I stopped for just a couple of second to drink some water. I had bypassed the first two water stations and I'm not good at drinking while running. I felt that just a moment's pause was worth it to get some water in me.

At that same moment, while I was swigging my water, two runners passed me who would become my main "competition" throughout the rest of the race. Since it was a pretty small field, by that point we had all fanned out and there wasn't a lot of passing, at least in my section of the run. The two who passed me were a woman in a white shirt and a man in a blue shirt. They passed me at pretty much the same time but whether or not they were together, the woman soon pulled ahead of the man and we ran in that order for pretty much the rest of the race.

For the next four miles the run, and us runners, followed March Point Road as it circled the perimeter of March Point, following the shoreline and passing by a couple of oil refineries that are a familiar part of the Anacortes landscape. Even though we had run up a big hill, I don't recall ever going down any downhill portions to match it. Maybe the road sloped slightly downward, but I certainly didn't take note of it. My mile times remained consistently hovering around nine minutes (a few seconds over).

One thing I was noticing as I ran was that my Garmin measurements were not exactly consistent with the mile markers on the road. I hit each milepoint shortly before the mile marker, and the discrepancy accumulated. By the time we got to mile nine I was almost a quarter of a mile ahead. I feared grimly that this meant the entire route would be overly long. (Though it turns out it was not.)

My main recollection of the run along March Point Road is my fartlek-like game of Garmin checking. Maybe picking landmarks to run to made the race pass more easily. Although I can't say I felt wonderful, I didn't feel bad at all as I ran along at my nine-or-so-minute pace. I certainly didn't feel like I was breathing overly hard, although I know that if I didn't have the earbuds playing music into my head I would be able to hear myself breathing. I didn't feel like I was going to die at all (which is good, considering that I still had several miles to go).

At mile nine we turned back onto the trestle to retrace our steps into town. Now, you would think that this would be an incentive to run faster, knowing that the end was near. But for some inexplicable reason, my time for mile nine was about 20 seconds slower than any other typical mile. (This may have been the place where I took another drink at a water station—that would partly explain it. I didn't stop this time but I'm sure I slowed a bit to take my swig. But 20 seconds worth?) I was, however, able to pick up the pace again as I moved into mile ten. I recall thinking, as I remembered Deena Kastor pumping her way through the last stretch of the Chicago Marathon in Spirit of the Marathon, "I'm not Deena Kastor." Then I immediately told myself, "No, I am Deena Kastor!" And I pushed on.

Maybe there was something about mile nine, though. Because that was the stretch where I passed the guy in the blue shirt. For four miles I had been tagging along behind him, maybe half a block's length between us. As we approached the trestle our gap narrowed, and somewhere along the narrow boardwalk I pulled ahead.** I spent the rest of the race waiting for him to overtake me again, or pass me in a sprint at the end, but it never did happen.

Now the only person ahead of me within any visible distance was the woman in the white shirt and shorts. I think I did close the gap on her a bit, but never close enough to overtake her.

As we passed the starting point at 6th & Q Streets, we were within about half a mile of the finish. At 2nd Street we turned left to jog (referring to the turn, not the running pace) over to Commercial. From there it was a short straight stretch to the finish line, located by the Port of Anacortes warehouse.

Note the absence of surrounding runners in this picture of me approaching the finish! Ms. White Shirt has left me in her dust, but Mr. Blue Shirt is nowhere to be seen behind me either.

My mother was stationed about a block from the finish to take pictures. We've learned from past races that actual finish line pictures only work for official race photographers, and we're better off away from the finish line mess. When I spotted her I tried to smile for the camera, resulting in this lunatic grimace. (I've decided that in future perhaps a true grimace would better convey a sense of finishing line drama.)
My mother did get a good shot of me just before I crossed the finish line (even though it was a backside view). If you look closely at the time on the clock, it looks like 1:56 but I have to be truthful, it said 1:58.
I really should have cropped these pictures to take out some pavement. Oh well.

As I crossed the finish line and stopped abruptly I felt, for the first time, a little bit like I was going to die. Actually I started feeling kind of bad in the last block or so. But considering that it didn't come on until the end of the race, instead of, say, in mile ten (which seems to be "the wall" in a half-marathon), I felt that I had made some progress. My whole goal in my long run training has been to make the half-marathon feel like nothing special. I'm think I'm coming along well with that.

I didn't have a lot of time to dawdle, since our next destination was the ferry terminal. But since I had finished by 11:00, and the ferry was only about four miles away, I felt like I had a couple of minutes to breathe and recover. I hovered over the time board until they marked my tag—44 overall in the half-marathon and a time of 1:58:51.*** Then I grabbed a couple of bottles of water and some fruit, and headed to the car.

PART II will be about the trip to Orcas Island. But now I must go write paychecks for the office or there will be some very unhappy people at work tomorrow.

But first, I am going to attempt to post the race route. I mapped it on Map My Run because I am having temporary (hopefully temporary) downloading problems with my Garmin. If it doesn't embed properly, I will omit it but I am still leaving in this paragraph because I must say, mapping the route was almost as hard as the run itself! Psychologically, at least. I did it in satellite view and with each little line I added, I could not believe how much further I had to go. 13.1 miles is a long way, no matter how you look at it!

Here is the route (I am trying a link because embedding did not work) (try switching to satellite view):
View Interactive Map on

*Kleenex, honey packets & Sports Beans (none of which I used).

**Some people would say I chicked him.

***Although I was personally pleased with my finish time, my overall ranking was shockingly poor in comparison to other races I've run. I was 44 out of 65 total, and 18 out of 31 women. I don't know where I was in my age division—it hardly even matters. I think that the running times were extraordinarily good compared to all the other half-marathons I've run. Out of 65 total runners, 46 of them finished under two hours—unheard of in a typical half-marathon, I believe! For example, in the Whidbey Island Half, where my time was two hours, I was 460 out of 1483 overall, 203 out of 953 amongst women, and 30 out of 120 in my age division. Big difference in standings.

Don't miss it!

This Thursday, July 31, is the nationwide showing of Dean Karnazes' 50 Marathons movie. If you don't already know, it chronicles his experience a few years ago running a marathon in each of the fifty states in 50 days. The website gives the locations of all the showings and links to buy advance tickets. It looks like most states have at least one site and some may have two.

I'm really excited about this movie, even though nobody's giving me a free copy of the book or anything to promote it. I loved Dean's first book, Ultramarathon Man, and will actually buy a copy when this one comes out (that is if no free copy is forthcoming—and why would it be?) But of course the movie should be even better, being live action and all.

I hope the movie gets a good turnout. I was so disappointed when I went to the second showing of Spirit of the Marathon and the movie theatre was empty. Although there was a decent turnout for the first showing. People just don't know what they are missing! (I must admit, though, that I am not too good about documentaries in general either—I have yet to watch An Inconvenient Truth, even though I have the DVD.)

So tomorrow I am taking myself all the way to Seattle to the only viewing site in western Washington. I kinda don't think it's going to inspire me to run a bunch of marathons consecutively, but it should be a lot of fun. And educational, too, geographically speaking!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

As George Costanza would say....

"I'm back, baby!"

(I really, really wanted a video clip for that but there is no such two-second clip available.)

After my achy, difficult Monday morning run I had no idea what to expect on Wednesday... but it was a great run. Most of the achiness had dissipated by Monday night anyway, and on Tuesday I did my usual cross-trainer/elliptical and yoga at the Y, and walked to and from work and the Y, allowing my legs to recover in time for my final pre-half-marathon run Wednesday morning.

My plan was to run two miles slow (I take a lot of warm-up), one mile fast, one mile slow, one more mile fast, then the rest of the way home slowly. Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 11:01 (typical first mile out of the house)
Mile 2 - 9:50 (wow! that's fast for a warm-up mile, for me)
Mile 3 - 9:06 (right on track)
Mile 4 - 10:03 (satisfactory)
Mile 5 - 8:28 (woo-hoo! that's blistering for me when there's no race involved)
Mile 5.68 (the rest of the way home) - 6:56 (10:15 pace)

So maybe Anacortes won't be a disaster after all. Wait! I must stop this negative thinking. Let me change that to—"Maybe Anacortes will go even better than I'm expecting." I think it will.

Tapering this week has allowed me a little easiness in my usual routine. On Wednesday, since I had the run in the morning, I skipped out on Pilates after work (again) to go buy plants at Molbak's instead. It's a combination tapering/summer schedule/slacker thing. I have been missing Pilates for a couple of weeks for various reasons and as soon as I get back next week I'm back on track, okay?

Today (Thursday) I would normally get up super early and be at the Y to work out at 5:30, followed by yoga at 6:00. But they've recently changed the yoga time to 6:30 (as I found out Tuesday morning when I presented myself at the locked, dark gym), and that's not going to work for me if I'm walking to work. So (again starting next week) I'm going to switch that early morning yoga slot to lifting weights (which I haven't had time to do for about two years). And since I'm not going to spend a full hour lifting weights, I can probably get to the Y at 6 instead of 5:30 from now on. Hurrah for that!

So anyhow, since I wasn't going to yoga anyway, I skipped the Y this morning altogether. I walked to work though, and I'm still undecided whether to go to yoga tonight. I really want to... but the class is at 7:15 and I really could also use some time to do laundry and pack for the weekend. Decisions, decisions.

But tomorrow is a true rest day prior to Saturday's race. I am not going to lift a finger, or a leg, in physical exercise. And I'm eating carbs! Which should pretty much put back the four pounds I've lost in water weight this week. Oh well, I can diet next week. After the race. And the post-race cinnamon roll. And the wedding Saturday evening. And the cake and wine that goes with that. And the rest of the weekend on Orcas Island (for which I'm not packing any of my own food—no packets of oatmeal!) And so forth—you can see where this is going! (Right to my belly and thighs, most likely.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Aches & pains and the whole darn thing

I would have been writing from a much more heartfelt perspective if I'd had time to write early this morning (before, during, and after I went running). Now I'm just writing from memory, as my body has almost returned to normal, and I am not sore in every muscle, joint, and pore of my skin.

What was the cause of this minor agony, you might ask? Just a simple, easy 15-mile run yesterday morning. Oh, it was easy enough then (as much as a 15-miler can be). It got a little harder last night, as I fed myself Tylenol before bed; and then this morning, at 6 a.m., I felt every hilly mile. In retrospect.

Yesterday was my last long run before the Anacortes Half-Marathon on Saturday. Ideally I would not have planned a really long run a week before the race, but thanks to the 5K last Saturday, my longest run last week was under ten miles, and I really wanted to hit the distance one more time.

Originally I was going to do twelve miles, but I was having trouble coming up with an uncomplicated 12-mile route. So I decided just to run to and from Mukilteo, using the most direct route possible, which would make the total about 14-15 miles.

I knew the road was hilly—I went about halfway there on a previous run and have done their 10K a couple of times. But what I'd sort of blocked out was the generally downhill nature of the road into Mukilteo, and thus, the generally uphill nature of the return!

I didn't leave home until about 10 a.m., lazily lounging in bed watching the Food Network for far too long. Luckily, even though it was a sunny day, it wasn't outrageously hot, and with a sleeveless shirt I never really got overheated.

The first few miles had some pretty decent hills (up), until I got about three or four miles along. At that point, while the road dipped both up and down, I was generally heading down towards sea level. I made myself a deal that if I got to 7.5 miles, I was turning around whether or not I was in Mukilteo. But I hit Lincoln Avenue at somewhere past seven miles, and that was my designated turnaround point.

And yes, the road out of Mukilteo was an uphill climb. Still, I was maintaining a pretty steady pace and felt okay. I knew I had passed pretty much the worst of it when I got to the 76 station by Our Savior's Lutheran Church. Only about four miles left to go. I stopped at the gas station to use the bathroom and get a new bottle of water.

Then, standing by the freezer chest, I remembered how much Laura had enjoyed a popsicle during the Boilermaker 15K, so I bought one of those too. Well, I sort of bought it (no I didn't steal it). The water and the popsicle came to two dollars and change, and I only had two dollar bills and a credit card. The store clerk didn't want to take the credit card, so I told him to take the popsicle back (I needed the water more). But he took my two dollars and let me keep the popsicle anyway!

And that was a delicious popsicle. Although I wouldn't want to try it in a real race. Eating the popsicle slowed me down by at least 30 seconds, maybe more, during the mile I had it. (Although really, would I be able to say no to a popsicle if handed one?) But by the time the popsicle was gone, I was past Forest Park and on my way into Everett proper.

At that point, less than three miles from home, I realized that the rest of the way was either downhill or flat. For a moment I relished the thought of just cruising home. Then I decided that I should take advantage of the down slope and pick up the pace. So for miles 13 and 14 I pushed myself into a quasi-half-marathon pace (meaning faster than I'd been running before that, but not quite as fast as I hope to be able to run on Saturday).

I would have kept it up for the final mile as well, but I had less than half a mile left before stopping at QFC and Starbucks. (Actually, when I got to the QFC parking lot I ran around the lot a couple of times to make 14.5 miles before stopping at the store.) Then I went into Starbucks and got a latte to take home with me. (I walked home, of course. Running with a latte is not recommended.)

I was in the house fiddling with my iPod when I realized I'd never stopped the Garmin. It said 14.99 miles. I walked around for a moment till it clicked to 15, then stopped it. The last mile, with the first half running, the second half walking, and at least a couple of minutes just standing around, took 16:44 minutes total.

I didn't feel half bad considering the long run. I soaked in the bath for a while before heading over to my parents' house for the afternoon and dinner.

Then came this morning. I didn't feel terrible or anything. I was tired—not unusual on a Monday morning. I was achy—also not unusual for a Monday, especially after a long run. I don't think I would have taken much note of how less than stellar this morning's run was, had it not been for the Garmin.

Pre-Garmin, I have taken a lot of runs on the day after a long run or race and felt incredibly slow and sluggish. Pre-Garmin, I had no idea exactly how slow and sluggish I was! This morning, I am shocked to say, I ran 5.25 miles and not one of them was under eleven minutes. I am sure this is not unusual. I've just never had visible proof of it before!

Well, I did have visible proof of it. However, there was a glitch in the Garmin and I could not upload today's run data (and now it's been erased). In many ways I should just be happy that the evidence is gone. But of course I fear that there is some problem with the Garmin that will prevent me from using it for future runs. I'm going to test it tomorrow by using it when I walk to work and then trying to upload that data. If it doesn't work... well, let's hope it does.

On top of the Garmin fear, of course, is the fear that I will be just as slow and sluggish in the half-marathon. There's no reason why I shouldn't do as well as any other half-marathon, even last year's Anacortes run, when I was not nearly as well-trained as this time. But yet I worry. (I have an extra incentive, because I have a ferry to catch shortly after the end of the race. If I'm too slow, I might miss the ferry and the wedding I am heading to!)

I am actually intentionally tapering this week. This morning I cut my run to 5.25 miles (and honestly, there was no time for anything longer), and Wednesday I won't do any further than that. Then Thursday and Friday off from running.

My mother thinks I may be overtraining (she said something about me being very edgy and snappish yesterday; I don't know what she's talking about) and encouraged me not to go to the Y tonight. It didn't take too much encouraging, because I'm really tired today. In fact, I'm going to bed early-ish tonight in hopes of getting some extra rest before tomorrow's early morning (at the Y).

Achiness and exhaustion—two things I want to avoid on Saturday. So I'm working on not overdoing it during the week, and trying to get plenty of rest. (I am eating pretty carefully Monday through Wednesday, and then will carb up a little on Thursday and Friday.) I guess rest means not sitting around staring at a computer screen trying to think of clever things to say... so I'll stop now. Good night.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Swimsuit season

You will never see a picture of me in a swimsuit here (or anywhere else for that matter). I respect the blog-reading world too much to subject anyone to that, plus I don't want to scare anyone away.

But this being summer, swimsuits tend to be on one's mind. I am always looking for the "perfect" suit. Now, my perfect swimsuit would make an Amish person happy. I basically prefer to be clothed from neck to knee (by way of the elbow, if possible). I look very closely at ads for board shorts, wetsuits, and sarongs.

Technically I have no need for any new swimsuits, as I have a large collection of Nautica pieces I bought a couple of years ago (in a typical display of excess; I couldn't decide which top I liked best) (so I bought them all) (most of them) (then the rest when they went on sale at the end of summer). (And I misplaced some of them for a year, so many are still unworn.) The tops are all tankinis in various colors and styles (at least I think they're tankinis—they're certainly tanks, although there's nothing eeny about them) (but maybe the bottoms are supposed to be the "inis"?). The bottoms include (yes, I'll admit it) a skirt and a couple pairs of shorts, and a normal pair of bottoms, which I hardly use.

But even with my vast supply, I still dream that the perfect suit is out there for me. The perfect suit would combine the spandex sleekness of my favorite running pants with the modesty of a turn-of-the-century bathing costume. This navy number, at left, is a good start. Or for a more formal approach, the nice bathing dresses worn by the ladies in the postcard on the right could be worn both to church and the beach! And ideally, throw in the glamour of this 1940's bathing suit and Grace Kelly's elegant poolside suit from High Society. Preferably with Grace Kelly's lovely face and figure as well. (This clip from High Society* shows the suit and also the charming True Love duet by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.)

For that last requirement, Oprah pointed me toward her favorite suit, the Norma Kamali "Bill" suit (why it's called Bill, I don't know). I have to agree with Oprah, this is one of the most beautiful, glamorous suits I've seen in modern times. Notice how the gathered skirt can be pulled down over the thighs? Oprah likes that too. Understandably.

While I was browsing the Norma Kamali website, I ran across this outfit which claims to be a swimdress. It appears to be a dream come true—a knee-length dress for swimming! Would I look like a lunatic prancing around in it at the pool (or worse yet, the beach)? Very possibly. But I would be a lunatic with fully covered-up thighs!

If I really, really needed a swimsuit, I might consider one of these. If I could, I'd get them both and be both glamorous and covered up. But at $350 each the two suits would cost as much as a laptop computer, or this bike that I've been coveting!**

My reluctance to wear a swimsuit in public, by the way, is one reason I haven't dabbled in the world of triathlons*** (which seem so popular amongst runners lately—it seems like everyone I know is doing one). I have, however, scouted triathlon-wear websites in search of my dream full-coverage suit. I've also taken an interest in the new swimsuits developed for the Olympic swimmers—not for their speed-enhancing properties, but rather for their compression and coverage abilities.

See how the diagonal lines narrow the waist? And the full-length legs? I'm sure just putting one on would give me a body like Natalie Coughlin (ha!). But I'm also sure that the price tag on one of these babies would make the Norma Kamali suit look like a Walmart bargain.

So what brought on this swimsuit-analyzing frenzy? Probably my upcoming weekend at Rosario, for which I'll want to dig out a swimsuit in case I want to try out one of the two pools. And what do you want to bet, despite my vast collection, I'll still have a hard time finding both a top and and a bottom! Since I won't be dressed as a glamour queen or Olympic athlete, I guess I'll just have to avoid the paparazzi cameras and keep a low profile. Guess I can manage that!

*High Society was a musical remake of the film classic Philadelphia Story, starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, with a score by Cole Porter. It's very delightful and I just put the new DVD version in my Amazon shopping cart! This duet by Bing and Frank is a kick.
**Which could very easily lead to the shopaholics rationalization—I'm not getting the suits, so I've saved $700—I can afford the bike!
***That and the fear of drowning.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Running for the T-shirt

Most people (who have any interest in running news) have probably already seen the article about Paula Radcliffe being allowed until the day before the Olympic marathon to decide whether she is fit to run. Radcliffe has a stress fracture which has prevented her from training properly for the last ten weeks. But since she is England's top female marathoner, the powers that be in UK athletics are giving her as much time as she needs to decide if she is able to run.

The guy in charge in England said this:

When you have an athlete of that quality, you let them take all the options possible. . . . She is taking it very seriously, we are taking it very seriously. Paula will say yes or no. Paula is in the middle of a slow rehab process. It's a case of how well that rehab process goes. I don't think she will go there just for the T-shirt, but it would take something miraculous for her to win.


I don't think I've ever entered a race "just for the T-shirt," but I've also never entered a race where I had the faintest hope of winning a gold medal, or any kind of top prize (other than an age-group prize in a small field of runners). The concept of being the kind of caliber runner that an entire country's Olympic team will wait until 24 hours before the race for you to decide whether to run is really beyond my comprehension. The implication is, of course, that Paula will not and should not run unless she has a reasonable expectation of running well enough to win. Fair enough. The Olympic marathon is the most elite of the elites, and with only a few spots allotted to each country, obviously they must be hoarded.

But can you imagine if that type of standard were applied to all races, or all runners? If we only entered races where we thought we would win? A lot of us, me most of all, would be lying in bed on Saturday or Sunday mornings instead of driving at the crack of dawn to some remote spot, just to stand in line at porta-potties for a couple of hours before spending an hour*, or two** or four***, pounding our feet against pavement, gasping for air, and sweating buckets. And our reward for this endeavor? Pieces of bananas and bagels and a t-shirt to wear to the Y or around town, proclaiming our participation in the race.

So, maybe I do run for the t-shirt. The t-shirt is the physical reminder (other than aches and pains) that you've accomplished something pretty cool. (Hopefully the t-shirt is also pretty cool. I've had a few dogs....)

But I rarely think about the shirt when I'm picking a race to run. My number one consideration is location. Either convenience of location (near home) or interesting location (far from home). I also like to think about the route. Will it be city? Will it be scenic? Will it be along a highway or long boring country road? (Obviously, city or scenic, good; highway or boring road, bad.) Will it be a fun and interesting place to run?

If I were going to choose an Olympics to run in (ha!), it would not be Beijing but rather London in four years. Beijing does not particularly appeal to me, but England does. The races and runs I do are not just a running experience for me, but a life experience. I may not get a prize (though I will get a t-shirt!), but I will walk away with memories that will last a lot longer than bananas, bagels and even t-shirts.****

*10K plus warm-up.
**Half-marathon on a pretty good day.
***Half-marathon on a really, really bad day. (Just kidding. That would be a marathon on a good day. For someone other than me.)
****Unless I get amnesia.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Run of the Mill 5K - Saturday, July 12

I guess I already let the cat out of the bag on this one, by writing about my finish time in my last post. Yes, my chip time was 26:39, but my Garmin time was 26:16. No idea why the two times are so divergent.

I got some inkling that this 5K was not going to be just another little local race (where there are 12 women in my division and I therefore win an age group award) when I got an "urgent" email on Friday that 1200 people had signed up for the race, they would cap admission at 1500, and if you arrived after 7:45 you might not find parking. For a 9:00 race. That starts in a major shopping center.

So, a quick change to my departure plans was in order and I planned to leave home at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday. I added a little extra lead time just in case we were late getting going (as we were). But even with a stop at Starbucks on the way, we got to Mill Creek Town Center before 7:30. After a rather long delay getting into the parking lot due to all the vendors arriving, we parked behind Pier One Imports with plenty of room to spare. The lot did fill up eventually, though.

It was really quiet and dead back where we were parked, and since check-in didn't even start until 7:30, I sat in the car drinking my latte and reading Oprah while I waited. Finally at about 7:45 I got out of the car and ambled into the Main Street area... where I was overwhelmed by the mobs of people! So that's where all those 1200 registrants got to!

And there were lines. I bypassed the shirt pickup line to go directly to the pre-registered line. Which was long. Ironically, the day of race registration line was very short, no wait at all. And as far as I can tell they never went over capacity.

I managed to drink most of my latte while waiting to pick up my race packet. Often I only drink part of my pre-race latte and save the rest for after; but this time I filled my stomach with milk. (Always a good pre-race strategy, right?)

Despite the ridiculous lines (get more volunteers, people!), I only had to stand in line about 15 minutes or so before I finally got to the front. There I learned that the race was chip timed! Thank goodness for that; in such a large crowd the times would be totally skewed if they went by gun time only. (Take that, Jingle Bell Run! Get a chip!)

Next I stood in the shirt pickup line. By this time I was accustomed to waiting and it didn't seem long at all before I was walking away with my black and lime shirt in hand.

That's when I ran into Rachel and Erin from work, who had told me about this race and inspired me to sign up. (Okay, it doesn't take a whole lot of convincing to get me to sign up for a short race.) Thanks girls! We chit-chatted for a bit before I decided I'd better get to my warmup run quickly before it was too late.

Newish runners like Erin and Rachel probably have a hard time fathoming running a mile or two or more before the actual race. There's the concept that "I have 5K in me and if I do any of it in advance, I'll get worn out," or something like that. I didn't start doing warmup runs until I was training for my first half marathon. Hal Higdon told me to do a warmup run before the race, and I took his advice and have never looked back.

The length of my warmup run varies, partly based on the length of the race and partly on just how much extra time I have. I would say that a couple miles would be great for any race. If I have the opportunity to do more for a 5K, I like to do three miles or more, because I generally believe it takes me the first three miles to get into the groove. In a 5K you don't have time to get in the groove while you're doing the race, you need to get there beforehand!

I generally do my warmup at a slow jog. It really is meant to warm me up and work out the kinks in my legs. Better runners than me like to do sprints to fire up the fast twitch muscles... I would if I actually had any fast twitch muscles!

But on this Saturday I really didn't have enough time left to do an extended warmup run. I figure I did about a mile and a half, around one end of the shopping center and back up and around the other end, finishing off in the starting area.

For a race with so many participants, there were no porta-potty issues. I was able to stop three times pre-race (almost more than I needed to), and I never had to wait for more than one or two people ahead of me. What a luxury!

In the starting area signs divided runners into four general groups: Elite; Runners; Joggers; Walkers. I'm pretty sure than anyone who was either an "Elite" or a "Walker" would know it. The designation between Runners and Joggers was less clear, and thankfully so, I think. It allowed each of us to make our own decision whether we were a runner or a jogger. If there was a arbitrary designation of time to qualify as a runner, the cut-off would probably be below an eight-minute mile, and I refuse to accept that my eight to nine-minute pace (depending on conditions) would classify me as a jogger.

From the crowds around me, I assume there were a lot of people in the same position as me. We are runners, darnit! And don't try to tell us any different.

(This segregation did help, actually. I don't recall any great problem with trying to pass people, once we got out of the starting crush, and I don't remember people weaving around me in any way that would suggest I was out of my element.)

One of the groups of "runners" near me in the pre-race crowd consisted of a group of teenage boys, either young high school or even junior high, who I presume were on the swim team, if the rubber caps they kept pulling on and off their heads were any indication. Not only were they young and loud, they were extremely verbose. In fact, they did not shut up for one minute until the race started. I really wanted to get away from them, but there were too many people around me to move. As I edged away (creating a gap), they would morph in my direction (filling the gap). Mostly they yapped about what good runners they were, how fast they would be, and how to wear the swim caps on their heads. One young man, who seemed to be the most vocal (loudest), proclaimed that in school he had run a mile and a half in nine minutes.

As starting time approached, somebody with a microphone gave us last minute instructions. (Same guy who had warned us not to get into the elite group unless we planned to run sub-16 minutes for males and sub-20 for females.) He was right in the middle of a sentence when the gun went off and the crowd surged forward. He shouted "No, wait!" but it was too late. There was no stopping us now. I said "are we stopping?" to the air around me, but no one did, and so I ran too.

Luckily I was far enough behind the start line that I was able to get myself together from the fast start before I got to the blue mats. I hit "start" on my Garmin the second I touched a blue mat.

I think the first quarter mile or so was sluggish from the crowdedness, and I didn't feel like I hit a reasonable pace until after that. In the beginning we were running north on Main Street through Mill Creek Town Center. We veered onto North Creek Drive, which took us through a residential neighborhood. Then about halfway through we turned onto a very nice paved running/walking trail, which went through the woods and was pleasantly shady. In the last mile or so, though, we turned back onto a street (153rd), which took us up and back a moderately killer hill. The race ended back in the center of Mill Creek Town Center. (We went nowhere near the mill.)

I will be the first to admit that I, and probably most of the people around here, am a weather wimp. We might say we want warm sunny weather (and we do want it), but when it does get hot we are the first to complain about the heat! I am used to running in the coldness of winter and spring, or at least the cool early morning summer days (when I usually wear a light jacket anyway), and generally try to avoid the heat of the day for running.

And Saturday was a gorgeous day. Sunny, blue sky, and... hot. Compared to what I've been used to, it was hot. Okay, maybe it wasn't much over 70 at 9:00 in the morning, but in the unshaded parts of the course, with the sun beating on the roadway, it felt very hot.

As I pounded along, I found myself thinking, "Okay, a 27 minute 5K wouldn't really be that bad." While I still had hopes of beating 25 minutes, I didn't think it was too likely. (And it wasn't.)

After I had punched the start button on the Garmin, I told myself I would not look at it until the end of the race. Ha! Good luck with that. I started glancing before the first mile was up. All I could manage to see was how far I'd gone. I didn't know how to view the time, and the pace it displays never seems to be related in any way to my actual pace at the end of the run.

There was a woman running near me at about my pace—sometimes I was ahead and sometimes she was—and I took it upon myself to shout updates to her. At 1.5 miles I yelled "halfway there" and at 2 miles "only one mile left" (conveniently disregarding the final .1 mile). As we started up the hill in the last mile she asked me what the time was, but I had no idea how to display it.

My body was suffering through my efforts. I could hear myself breathing heavily, and at one point I wondered, "what if I throw up?" (I didn't.)

The reward for the uphill was coming back down. Knowing that this was almost my last opportunity to improve my time, I picked up the pace a bit (at least I believe that I did). I threw out my last scrap of energy as I entered the .1 mile stretch at the end and pounded across the finish line (and punched stop on the Garmin). I thought the clock said 26:30-something as I crossed. When I checked my Garmin it said 26:18 (later adjusted to 26:16 on the computer).

After grabbing some water I saw the woman I had been "competing" with during the run. I'm pretty sure she had pulled ahead and finished before me, although she thought she hadn't. We chatted a bit about races and half-marathons (she's doing her first, in San Diego, in the fall). I don't know why I didn't take note of her number so I could look her up (I like to know how much I'm beaten by, so I can dwell on it morosely). Then I saw Rachel and Erin and visited with them until my mother came and took our picture.

That was pretty much the end of it. They went on their way, my mother went to the car to get out of the sun, and I walked down to Jamba Juice to get us smoothies. (Berry Delicious with whey protein, excellent post-race fuel!) No cinnamon roll today. Not after a 5K, and especially not with a wedding shower and cake on the schedule for Sunday!

Oh yeah, I said I was going to theorize why I didn't break 25 minutes. Well... I guess I didn't run fast enough (duh). Since I haven't yet gone under 25, there's no guarantee that I ever will, but still, this run was 45+ seconds slower than my last 5K. Why? It could have been the heat; that definitely played a part. It is possible that my 9½ mile run on Friday left me a little less fresh than I might have been. And in the end it always comes down to the same thing—the luck of the day. And that you can't control.

Oh yeah part 2—those boys from the beginning of the race? At the one-mile mark they were still traveling in my vicinity. Wonder when the six-minute pace kicked in??

Next race—the Anacortes Half-Marathon on July 26.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Coulda shoulda woulda

I am suffering from a strange sense of dissatisfaction, an irritable worm boring through the apple of my life (how's that for a metaphor?). I am provoked by a general sense of peevishness unrelated to things I should be annoyed by; a misdirected malaise, if you will.

Now that I have exhausted the resources of my thesaurus, what exactly is it that has me so mildly yet persistently irked?

You would think that it might be that I once again failed to break the 25 minute 5K on Saturday, and in fact failed to break a 26 minute 5K! But no. I'm disappointed by that, but I can accept it. I can think of any number of reasons why this happened/didn't happen, and I'm sure I will write about them in a future post.

But what really, really yanks my chain about this race result is that my Garmin time showed 3.1 miles in 26:16, but my official chip time was 26:39. What's that all about?? I carefully hit start the moment I got to the blue mat and hit stop right after I crossed the finish line. I could allow for a variation of a few seconds, but 23 seconds? Unexplainable. Inexplicable! (Yeah, I'm rockin' the thesaurus now!)

Next fly in my ointment—the Fourth of July 10K. Generally speaking, I'm totally cool with my finish time of 53:29. I accept, and actually am a little intrigued that my last three 10K's have all been pretty much the same 53½ minute times. I am a little perturbed at being beat by the person I know from work (as I mentioned before)—particularly as he really doesn't run that much.* But I've dealt with that (pretty much) and accepted it (sort of). So what has totally sent me over the edge into minor disgruntlement?**

That would be the final time results which show that his time was under 53 minutes, 52:57 to be exact. Now I can handle not breaking 53 minutes; I can deal with being beaten. But having the person who beat me break 53 minutes—now that's harsh! To borrow a phrase from the young folks. The young folks of the '90's, probably.

(One of the unfortunate side effects of this airing of grievances is that it is sending me repeatedly into the kitchen at work to grab handfuls of candy. Hard, crunchy, candy-coated almonds, to be exact. Apparently I am drawn not only to sugar, but to the inherent risk of breaking a tooth.)

Let me see, anything else on my mind? You might think I'd be annoyed by my inability to lose 10 pounds, and I am, but I'm actually at peace with that for the moment. Instead of tearing my hair out over a dress that's just a little too clingy to wear to a wedding in two weeks, I bought a different dress, which I really love and doesn't cling.

What really sends me into orbits of aggravation is that when I do indulge on something I shouldn't (say, like several pieces of cake at a shower or handfuls of M&M's, pillow mints, and chocolate almonds), I immediately gain not just one but several pounds (the equivalent of like 10,000 calories) and then it takes me several days before I can return to the pre-cake weight. It's so not fair!

Well, I think that's about all of my complaints for now. I'm generally a pretty cheery person, so I don't think this is going to send me into the doldrums or create an ulcer. I've aired my grievances, and now I shall let them go. Pretty much. But I still want the answer to that 5K thing.

(By the way, I didn't really intend to include a 9-minute version of Satisfaction. Unless you are a very slow reader you will be closing this window long before the song is over. Feel free to shut Mick down anytime! I just don't feel like going back to YouTube for a different version.)

*I did beat him in the Whidbey Island Half-Marathon though. Let that not be forgotten.

**Yes, it's a real word. Look it up.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'll take a miracle

Once upon a time when I was a little girl, (and a teen-age girl, and an older, bigger girl) I used to wish on stars, and birthday cake candles, and dandelion clocks. I don't remember what I would wish for, but I do remember that I was superstitious, and would not wish for things that I felt were "important." That was because I believed that some things would only be truly worthwhile if I worked for them. If they came by "magic," then they would not be so valuable.

And what was so important that I could not accept it from a wish? Well, even as a young child I wanted to lose weight (I know that creates a whole new topic for discussion, but at least I was savvy enough to realize that it would be odd to go from chubby to skinny in a moment). I felt that unless I had work and sweat and struggle for it, it would not be real.

Then, when I was a little older, I wished that Mr. Right (in the person of certain teenage boys) would look my way... but again, I didn't want my wish granted by the genie in a bottle; I wanted it to be "real."

One thing I never needed to wish for was to do well in school and get good grades. I was able to do that on my own. (Although I was was known to say a quick prayer before math tests—I was completely open to a little divine intervention there!)

Nowadays I am a little more skeptical about wishing on stars and birthday cakes. But I also realize that no matter how much hard work and effort you put into something, luck and fate and chance are always going to play a part. And these days, I am more than willing to take a little help from the gods.

I often say a little prayer for the kids I work with, because I know that their fates are sometimes beyond my ability to control. All I ask is "make it right." And over the past 10 years, I can only think of two or three cases where I truly felt the outcome was not the right one.

On the less serious side, I also know that my race results are as much dependent on the winds of fortune as they are on my own efforts. Yes, I can run 30+ miles a week and do some speed work and long runs, and yoga and Pilates to strengthen my core; and while this will undoubtedly help with my speed and endurance, my performance on any given day is subject to any number of flukes. Will I break 25 minutes in a 5K? Will I get under two hours in my next half-marathon? I'm training for these things, but I wouldn't say no to a bit of fairy dust on my shoes to help me along.

Maybe it's time to break that wishbone I've been saving from a past roasted chicken... or not. There's plenty of things to wish for in future. And if the stars, or the candles on my next birthday cake, or any other divine granters of desire want to step in, I've got a long list of dreams to fulfill. And if they want to knock off 10 pounds, or send Mr. Right my way? You won't hear any complaints from me!

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'd like another miracle, please

I just wrote a long, eloquent post on wishes. Then in an editorial moment, trying to improve it slightly, I somehow deleted the whole thing. I am tearing my hair out because it was out there for a few minutes and now it is gone! And I am too tired to recreate it now. It's late and I have a 5K tomorrow. So perhaps I'll be able to rewrite it tomorrow... maybe not. All I can say is, it was really really good. Deep sigh.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On inspiration

I think up so many great topics to write about that I can hardly keep up with myself.

Problem is, I forget most of them by the time I get to the computer.

I think of writing ideas at all sorts of times. In the shower, sitting around in court, while running (of course), and most of all, while walking.

Walking is the greatest forum for thinking because the physical requirements of walking don't consume much attention. Unlike running, where your brain might occasionally be distracted by such thoughts legs heel/ankle/achilles tendon is bothering knees/hips/back are sore...Am I breathing hard? I am gasping for breath. Is that a hill? How far have I gone? How much further am I going? Is there a bathroom nearby? Dear God, get me to a bathroom! Etc.

Usually (though not always) such physical discomforts are not present when walking, leaving your mind free to compose and create while your body takes care of the rest of it. And oh, such brilliant ideas I have had! Whole paragraphs, nay pages mentally written as I stroll along. I am convinced that later, when I go to the computer, my posting will be eloquent.

And then, like a dream in the night, the thoughts fade away by the time I'm home.

What I need, I believe, is a portable dictaphone that I can wear when I walk (and run) so that I can record my ideas as I have them.

Now it occurs to me that I might look somewhat ridiculous (if not crazed) walking along talking to myself. But then I think of all the people I see now with a bluetooth in their ear, talking away on the phone, presumably (although one never really knows if there's someone on the other end).

Of course, adding yet another device to my body might just put me into electronic overload. There's the Timex iControl watch (operating my iPod) on one wrist, and of course the iPod itself with the earbuds wired to my head (as I have not yet discovered a suitable type of wireless earphones). There's a Garmin on the other wrist. There's a cell phone in my pocket, and as soon as I figure out how to use it, possibly a bluetooth in my ear. Although that would interfere with the earbuds. Add a microphone in front of my mouth like old-fashioned headgear, throw in a quad latte, and I'm more wired than this dude!

Of course, putting my thoughts on tape would require me to listen to and transcribe them... and we know that's not going to happen. I don't even listen to books on tape. That why I learned how to read! Much faster and more effective than actually listening to something and trying to retain it.

So these recorded thoughts need to go directly to the computer. Better yet, why not a device that transfers my thoughts directly from my brain to a computer? I'm much more eloquent in my head than speaking aloud. (All kidding aside, it's true. Isn't that what writing is all about? Putting your thoughts on paper without saying them.)

Of course, it's possible, just possible mind you, that this sort of direct compilation of ideas from brain to computer screen could result in the sort of absurd ramblings that you would get if you recorded your dreams on a notepad in the middle of the night. Much like the chicken scratchings you might find on your notepad in the morning, before you know it I would be writing about things like wearing Deena Kastor's running pants. Oh wait....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One more Garmin post

Okay, I swear I am not going to write about every time I use my Garmin. But I am going through a learning process, and I really want to share my experiences with other Garmin newbies who might be out there. Or, well, vent.

The plan today was to do a typical 6+ mile Wednesday run with speedwork (my own kind of speedwork). To best use the Garmin, at my level of understanding, I felt one-mile increments would be best. So I would run two miles to warm up, then alternate a mile at a faster pace, a mile at a slower pace, and repeat, until I was home.

First two miles went as planned. Mile 1—11+ minutes (something about getting out the door). Mile 2—10+ minutes (as expected).

Now, this is the point where I am supposed to kick myself into a higher gear, right?

Uh, yeah.

Just as Mile 3 began ticking away, my jacket sleeve brushed against the Garmin bezel and sent it into searching for satellite mode. As I am trying to fix this (standing still, of course), I manage to turn off GPS. So back in to turn it back on. Finally good to go again, I turn on the timer (thinking it had been paused before) and took off.

I felt good, I really did. I thought I could be approaching a race-type pace. I expected a pretty low number when Mile 3 ended.

And it was 11:30. WTF???? (Honestly, that was my reaction. Without the initials.)

Obviously (it quickly became clear to me) I had not actually paused the timer while I was "fixing" it. The clock continued to run while I was standing on the sidewalk. Completely screwing up my time for the mile.

Nothing to be done. I launched into the planned subsequent "easy mile." (Which took less than ten and a half minutes, clearly proving that something had gone wrong in the last mile.) While I was jogging, though, I decided that I would do the next two miles at an accelerated pace, instead of just one, thereby closer emulating race conditions. Also that would take me to six miles, and then I could just slow down the rest of the way home.

As Mile 4 ended and I launched Mile 5, I picked up the pace again. I didn't feel quite as flowing as I did in the eleven and a half minute mile, but I was doing okay. As I approached 23rd Street on Colby, I saw that the light was green in my direction which would allow me to cross without delay. I'm booking along when suddenly I tripped on the sidewalk and flew into the air (perhaps flew is a slight exaggeration—lunged?). I feared another knee scraping fall (and a disruption of my pace), but "luckily" I managed to run into a sidewalk sign advertising cigarettes, and grabbed it to catch my balance. Meanwhile the light changed to red. So I turned down the side street rather than stop at the light, then doubled back to cross.

The rest of that mile actually passed without further incident—I had to do another diversion while I waited for the light at Everett Avenue, but that worked okay—and I finished at 9:30 (minutes, not a.m.).

Then I went right into Mile 6, my final "fast" mile. Here I had a bit of an advantage, because most of the route is slightly downhill (the perfect degree for speed without danger). My only concern was that the lights along the way would hold me back. I also wanted to finish Mile 6 before I got to the big light on Broadway, because there's no avoiding a wait there, except under the most fortuitous of circumstances. So several times along Everett Avenue I turned down a side street and ran a block down and back, adding the extra mileage to my tally. I thought I might hit six miles just at Broadway, but I over-added and ended up finishing shortly before the intersection. Good enough.

My time? 8:57.

So what do I think of that? Well, it's a lot faster than I normally go in the mornings. But it's quite a bit slower than race pace, and in fact, is about the pace I would like to do in the Anacortes Half-Marathon. So multiply that last mile by 13.1... and I wonder how I do it. But I do. Somehow in the races I am able to run faster, and sustain the pace for longer, than I ever can on my own. (I know this is not unique to me.)

So in a way I just have to have faith that I can do it, and believe that sub-10 minute miles are speedwork, even if they are rather less speedy than I want to be.

As for the rest of the run... I paused the timer for the light, and continued running the rest of the way home at what turned out to be a 10:30 pace. For another .68 mile. Meaning the total run was about half a mile longer than a typical weekday run. Meaning I got home about five minutes later than usual. And got to work at about...five minutes past nine.

Oh well, what's more important, a good morning run or a prompt arrival for court? (Luckily, I didn't have any hearings at 9:00 so that question need not be

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes*

I was at Safeway earlier today and the chatty checker was yapping about his daughter dressing like a hippy.** (I admit I was thinking, "you're not even old enough to have kids.") He said he told her "Daddy wasn't even born in the '60's. Grandma and Grandpa were born in the '60's."

Oh. My. God.

*I could have called this "you know you're getting old when...." But I chose to go the other way with it.

**If you don't even know what a hippy is, please just go away.

What I did on my summer vacation

Nothing! There will be no summer vacation. I'm saving my travel for the fall. But I am really excited about the half marathons I am registered for this summer and fall, all of which will involve some traveling.

Starting with...

July 26 Anacortes Art Dash (Anacortes, WA)

Normally I would not "travel" for this one, except for the trip up and back to Anacortes, but this year I have a friend getting married on Orcas Island the day of the race. So my plan is to run the race, then catch the Anacortes-San Juan Ferry to Orcas, and spend the rest of the weekend at Rosario. Very luxurious!

I did this half marathon last year, and I'm hoping to better my time by a few minutes if possible. The quicker the better, really, because the race is at 9 a.m. and my ferry is at 11:50 a.m. (The terminal is about five miles from the race finish.) If I don't make that ferry I'll have to take a later one, and will miss the ceremony but not the dinner and festivities afterward....

September 21 Maine Coast 1/2 Marathon (York, Maine).

This is my "big trip" for the year, and I am very, very excited. In addition to running the half marathon, I'll be staying in Ogunquit (a few miles from York), Stonington (up north), and Newcastle (also mid-coast, a little more northward). I'm sure I'll be writing a lot about this trip before, during, and after!

October 12 Royal Victoria Half Marathon (Victoria, BC).

And marathon for those who choose (not me). Another exciting long weekend trip involving a ferry ride and a stay at the Empress Hotel!

And a couple of 5 and 10K's in between.

Garmin—up and running

Earlier today I successfully downloaded my two Garmin runs to the computer. I think I'm well on my way to actually using this thing! I was fascinated by all the data provided—not just time and distance, but a map of my route, a chart of my average paces, and of course, the calories burned for each mile. (I wonder why it wasn't the same amount per mile? I didn't think that pace was a factor.)

I think I'll use it again for my run tomorrow morning. I figure I need to keep practicing until I am adept at it. ("Adept" may be a lofty goal!)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Garmin attempt #2—successful!

On Sunday morning I went out for a long run with the Garmin. As you will recall, on Friday I used the Garmin in the Yankee Doodle Dash 10K and successfully measured... time and distance. I had hopes of getting a little more detailed information next time around!

1. I successfully programmed it to measure 1-mile laps. That will be useful.

2. I learned how to stop and start the timer. I started it when I left the house. I stopped it when I went back into the house to get my forgotten water bottle. I started it when I left the house again. I stopped it while I waited for the light to change on Broadway. Okay, I think I've got start and stop down.

3. I ran. I noticed that the only screens I was showing were (alternately) the "virtual running partner" and calories burned. This was a problem. I did not want to constantly monitor calories while I was running. That would be the first step on the road to crazy.

Actually I'm wrong about that. Constant calorie monitoring is the second step on the road to crazy.

The first step is the "virtual running partner." Who, I must wonder, thinks this is a good idea? I know you can change the pace of the virtual running partner, but at the preset pace I was quickly falling behind. Pretty soon the virtual running partner was entirely out of the screen. Do I need yet another tool to tell me I am slow? Is not my actual time and pace enough for that?

4. I liked the way my time would pop up at the end of every lap (mile).

5. When I stopped at McDonald's to use the bathroom (timer stopped), I tinkered with the settings (and I didn't even have the instruction manual) and manage to change the display to show my total distance run, my distance in the current lap, and apparently my pace. (I say "apparently" my pace because every time I looked at the pace it bore no resemblance to the actual time it took me to complete the mile.) I even managed to switch away from the virtual running partner screen.

My plan for Sunday was to run about twelve miles. I had mapped out a course that was about ten and a half miles, and I figured I could make up the difference by doing loops at the waterfront. The great thing about the Garmin is that I would know when I had gone far enough (instead of guessing and then going home to try to measure it out).

It's kind of hard in Everett to do a unique twelve mile run, especially when I planned to stop before returning to my house (I was going to the Farmer's Market). It always surprises me how short the distances really are.

From my house I ran west and south through downtown, then over and up Rucker Hill. Then I cut over to Mukilteo Boulevard by Forest Park. My plan was to follow Mukilteo Boulevard as far as Harborview Park, then turn back.

On thing I'd kind of forgotten is how hilly Mukilteo Boulevard is. From Forest Park I climbed up, up, up... until it switched and I ran down, down, down. I was quite aware that I would have to come right back up this long downhill on my return trip!

I turned around at about 5.5 miles and amazingly, the return uphill didn't seem too bad. I seemed to go back downhill again pretty quickly. I felt like I was doing a pretty respectable pace.

Then I ruined it by turning to run through Forest Park. I thought a short loop would be a good way to add a little extra distance. But the uphill road into the park was so steep that it completely destroyed my pace for that mile. Then when I came back out the downhill was so steep that I could barely stagger down that as well. I was just happy to be on the main road again.

I wandered back towards downtown and then down to the marina, where the Farmer's Market is held on Sundays. I was meeting my parents there.

One of my plans for the Garmin was to measure the distance around the waterfront marina loop, so I would know once and for all how far it was. With some clever back and forth jogging, I managed to hit exactly eleven miles as I turned onto the waterfront path, and around I went. As I saw the watch reading .5 mile about halfway through, by Anthony's, I suspected that my past estimates of one mile would, in fact, be substantiated.

And that proved to be the case. Once around the loop—exactly one mile. I was so excited about my discovery that I reported it to a little old lady who was walking her dog. I thought she might like to know the distance of her walk! I was quite flattered that she commented on how fast I had made it around.*

That put me at twelve miles. According to my plan, I could stop now. But I decided to go halfway around again to the marina bathrooms. Then, when I was there, I thought I might as well finish the second loop, which would put me at... thirteen miles.

Thirteen miles? I couldn't just stop there. So I kept on for a few more feet and finished my half marathon at 13.1 miles. I stopped the timer, but didn't try to look at my overall results until I had the instruction manual in hand, just in case I accidentally deleted them!

I had passed my parents on the first loop around; they were taking a walk while waiting for me to arrive. I found them again and made them walk back to the bathrooms with me. Oh, the complaints when they learned that the only ones that were open were almost half a mile away!

After all that (the running, the complaining by my parents), spending much time at the market did not seem too appealing. And it was approaching noon and some of us were getting hungry. We took a quick turn through the market, bought some little beets (very tasty roasted in a hot oven) and apricots (low in calories, good for Vitamin A and potassium), then headed to Lombardi's for lunch. (They have food at the market—duh—but all the tables were being used by other people.)

Later on I successfully viewed the results on my Garmin and carefully noted them on a piece of paper. (I haven't downloaded the software onto my computer yet.)

I'm pleased and excited by Sunday's successful Garmin experience. I don't know that I need to use it for every training run (I didn't use it this morning), but I can tell it's going to be fascinating for races. However, my virtual running partner is going into retirement!

*It wasn't fast. My one-mile loop took a few seconds more than ten minutes. But I guess it seemed fast to a lady walking a little dog.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another Fourth of July tradition

For me, nothing says Fourth of July like.... Wimbledon. It's rather ironic that this very non-American event always falls around the Fourth of July (even though I guess the finals may be a day or two later, as they were this year). I have youthful memories of popping on the TV on the 4th and seeing tennis players. I spent one fabulous 4th of July in college visiting a friend in Sacramento, and amongst the memories of river rafting, swimming in their fabulous pool, and delicious frozen daiquiris is also a memory of Wimbledon on the TV (my hosts were rather avid tennis players). And when we were in England in June and July of 2001, I remember my father reading from the newspaper that Princess Anne bought a ₤400 hat for Wimbledon, and my mother saying, "A 400 pound hat? Wouldn't that be heavy?"

I'm not a tennis player; I'm no good at it at all. Something about that tiny ball flying at you with great speed just makes me want to cover my face and duck. I don't follow professional tennis except to the extent that certain players get coverage in People magazine. (I do have a great respect for the historical champions like Martina and Chris Evert.)

But when it comes to the beginning of July, something about Wimbledon draws my fancy. I probably just want to be in England eating strawberries and cream. Perhaps wearing a hat. (But not a ₤400 hat, not at this exchange rate!) (And I did love the movie!)

Saturday morning I turned on the TV at 7:00 as I contemplated getting up to go to the Y (eventually), and there were Venus and Serena Williams in the ladies' finals. Really, how amazing is that—two sisters who are both talented enough tennis players to make the Wimbledon finals! When you watch them, they are pure power.

By now, everyone knows that Venus won—I'm not breaking any news here. Then later in the same day she and Serena together won the doubles. Are these women stars or what?

The nice thing is that they seem to have their heads screwed on straight. (Okay, maybe Serena was a little pouty about losing to her big sister, but on the other hand who wouldn't be disappointed to make it to the finals and lose? Regardless of who you lose to.) Here is a nice article on Venus' thoughts about Wimbledon and the Olympics to come.

I also thought Venus' outfit was really cute. That's one thing you can say about tennis, it's very stylish!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hair, beautiful hair!

Just call me Samson.

Okay, maybe that's not quite accurate. That makes me sound like one of those girls who go on What Not to Wear and have three feet of long hair and freak out when Nick wants to cut it off. My hair has never been that long, and hasn't really been long at all for more than ten years.

Still, I love my hair and changing it at all has been a big decision for me. But I've been toying with the idea for months now, and a few weeks ago I was at my hairdresser's when I saw someone leave with an inverted bob. After consulting with my stylist, my secretary, several people at work, and analyzing pictures of Jenny McCarthy* on the internet, I decided to take the plunge.

And today was the day. Here I am, courtesy of Mindy the stylist.... (but what's with the nose?)

My only qualm about my sleek new hair is the loss of my ponytail. Can I really run without the tail flowing out my cap behind me? Tomorrow will be the test.** I just tried on a hat and I think my solution will be to push the hair behind my ears and put the hat over it. Perky!

*I don't know what the world has come to, when Jenny McCarthy becomes my icon of style and class.

**The test after that will be whether I am able to dry and style my hair in any reasonable facsimile of the intended style.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth on the Fourth

Beginning with the ending, I finished fourth in my age group in the Yankee Doodle Dash 10K this morning. That is, I was the fourth 40-something-year-old woman to come in. But I still won the third place medal!

How can that be, you may ask. It happened because the first place 40-year-old woman was also the 10K female winner (and second overall), so I guess they didn't count her in the age group awards. Whatever—I decided not to argue over whether I deserved the medal. They want to give it to me? Fine.

I was #41 overall. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all began when my alarm went off at 6:00 this morning. That was a little galling—a Friday off work and I still need to wake up almost as early as a workday. I wanted to leave at 7, so I suppose I didn't need such an early alarm, but I'm hooked on the snooze button. Sure enough, before I knew it, it was quarter of 7 and I leaped out of bed.

Despite speedily throwing my clothes on I didn't get out the door until 7:15. No biggy. I planned to take a short (2-3 mile) jog on the way to the Y, as a warmup for the race. I had plenty of time, since the run didn't start until 8:30.

I just followed a very abbreviated version of my typical run route, turning back at 18th Street and heading downtown to the Y. I actually went directly to Starbucks (still plenty early) and got a double short latte for a caffeine boost prior to the race. I was almost at the Y when my phone rang—my mother, parking the car a few blocks away. I turned back to meet her and we walked down the the Y together. I wondered if I could count my extra walking distance toward my weekly mileage.*

The weather was great for a run. Now, only runners would describe this kind of weather as "great" on the 4th of July. At 8:00 or so it was mildly balmy—neither cold nor warm—and cloudy with a chance of mist (in fact there was a short spray of mistiness during the run, which never turned into anything more). All throughout the area people were probably moaning about the lack of sun for their July 4th barbecues, but everyone on the race course was happy. (And eventually, in the later part of the afternoon, the sun came out too. The best of both worlds for everyone.)

I picked up my race packet and went into the Y bathroom to stand in line and pin on my race number. I put on the race shirt because it's the 4th of July! Gotta wear the festive shirt. I also had my red running jacket (before and after the run only) and a white cap. I really, really wanted a flag-themed cap. Unfortunately, I only decided that a couple of days ago and it was too late to get my hands on one. I tried! I went to a couple of sports stores and Target, but with no luck. I did order one online—just a nice white running cap with an American flag logo—but obviously there was not enough time for delivery before the 4th (thank goodness they didn't offer an overnight option, I might have succumbed) and I'll just have to save it for next year.

Yes, I like to dress for the occasion.

When I went back outside my mother had run into one of her friends, who was there because her (50-year-old) son and (14-year-old) grandson were running the 10K. The son planned to run at the back of the pack. The grandson had been reported to say that it was impossible for him to run as slowly as his dad does.

Regarding the pack, I decided to put myself somewhere near the front; behind the superfast runners but hopefully ahead of the slowest ones. While we waited to start, I fiddled with the Garmin, adorning my right wrist for its inaugural outing.** I had studied the directions but I was still shaky on operation. By pure luck (and some random punching and touching), I did manage to get into training mode so that I was ready to time. What I did not know was that you had to do something else to measure speed and so forth by the mile, instead of by the entire run. So my whole race turned out to be one "lap."

But I didn't know that as I took off, poking at my wrist to start the timer. I wasn't sure if I had, but I knew that I would lose time if I started fiddling with the Garmin while I was running. So I decided not to look at it again until the end of the race.

I had other things to worry about, anyway. Like the competition. The competition in general—all the runners ahead and behind me. And the competition specifically—a person I knew from work who was running with his wife and daughter, and who I had beat (meaning finished ahead of) in the Whidbey Half Marathon. I felt compelled to try to beat (finish ahead of) him in this one as well. This is what I was thinking when I passed him a couple blocks into the race.

Then, unfortunately, I saw him pass me about a mile into the race. This was bad, very bad. Although, in some ways, it was kind of good, because it gave me a goal for the entire race. "Must beat M.I. Must beat M.I." was my mantra throughout the run. I could see him ahead of me (and eventually picked out his wife as well), and unlike most people who pass me in a race, they did not disappear into the distance. That leads me to believe we must have been running about the same pace except for that window of time when they initially caught up and passed me. And pulled ahead of me.

I gained a little at the water station where he stopped to drink and walked through. (I did not stop for water—I didn't need it because it wasn't hot out.) Still, they stayed about a half block ahead of me and I could not close the gap.

My last shot was in the final mile, where I am often able to pick up the pace when other runners are flagging. I may have picked up the pace, but not enough. By the time we rounded the corner into the final .2 mile stretch, I knew the competition was over, and I was not the winner.

As I approached the finish, I could see the clock had just turned to 53 minutes. Obviously I was not going to finish under 53, but unless I fell to the ground and crawled, I would definitely finish under 54 minutes. I think that not having that desperate surge to get in under the wire kept me from putting on as hard a push as I have in some races. I suspect that I could have taken at least a few seconds off my time if I'd had a little more desperation in me.

So, I crossed the finish line at 53:29—almost exactly the same as my last two 10K's (53:35 in Lynnwood and 53:31—or 53:52—on Guemes). I went back to the corner by the Y to find my mother, and she showed me the pictures she had taken. She and her friends had stood on the corner of Colby where we turned down California toward the finish line. That's where they waited after going to Starbucks for drinks and sitting at one of the sidewalk tables for a while (plenty of time to sip lattes while we labored on the course). After I passed she left her friends still waiting for their son and grandson to come by. At this point, neither had been spotted yet.

Turning toward the finish line. I was dismayed to hear pounding feet behind me, as the guy right behind me passed me and finished just ahead of me!

The final stretch! (And the last view of my ponytail before my hair is cut on the 5th.)

I went back down to the finish line area to scour the results boards. The Y still uses primitive methods, with the bib tags and a tape and a big board where they staple up the tags in order and calculate the times. There is usually some kind of mistake. (There has been one with my time every year.) But this time they seemed to have my place and time right (after they changed the person finishing right in front of me from 40-year-old female to 40-year-old male, which he was). This is where I figured out that I was the 4th female in the 40-49 age division, and thought that I would not get a medal. But I decided to stick around for the awards anyway, to see they other people I knew get medals and, I guess, just in case.

The person who bumped me out of the top three was an amazing woman named Jennifer Moe. I will amend this to add her finishing time when the results are posted online, because she deserves the kudos. Not only was she the first 40-49 woman, and the first woman of any age to finish the race, she was also second overall! She is just 40, so obviously she has just jumped into this age group and will now shame the rest of us who thought we were doing pretty well. (I should also add, the other two women in my age division who beat me were in their late 40's, but still beat me by several minutes. Talk about intimidating!)

I've already told the rest of the story at the top. They did give me the third place medal, and I accepted it without question. Here I am modeling my award!I have one other story, which I can tell because there are no names. After the race was over my mother reported the fates of her friends' son and grandson. At the time I finished, they had not yet been spotted. Later we learned that the son had finished in about an hour, the grandson somewhat faster than that. But the grandson had an unfortunate tale of youthful arrogance. He runs track, but hasn't really done long distances. In the beginning, he said, he started off fast, with the front of the pack. After a mile and a half, he had to stop and throw up on the side of the road. Then he went on to finish the race, at a slower pace. He is not a completely foolish young man, however, for he commented that he's learned you need to do more than go out and run a few times to do a race like this! (I still don't understand why they signed up for the 10K rather than the 5K, though.) When the age group prizes were being announced, he won second place for males 14 and under. They had left, so I took his medal and we dropped it off later. We didn't, however, tell him that there were only two males in his age division.

That was the end of the running portion of the day. After I changed my clothes at home, we zipped over to Molbak's for their 2-for-1 sale on annuals and perennials. Fired up with post-race adrenaline, I filled the car with boxes of annuals to fill my patio pots later in the weekend.***

Now my potting shed looks like a mini-nursery!

Oh yes, what about the Garmin? Well, it worked, as well as it could considering I was the one using it. I started it just a little bit after the start, and it measured the distance as 6.18 miles, and my time as 53:24 (so far, giving me the information I already had from the race). My average pace was, I believe, 8:38 per mile, and calories burned 769 (quickly re-consumed after the race in scones). I was quite disappointed not to have my per-mile pace. I'm going to try to do that for my run on Sunday.

*This is my theory on walking mileage. I generally don't count "walks," as such, in my weekly running mileage. However, if I do walk at all during a run (which is very rare), or at the end of the run (like home from Starbucks), I do count that because I consider it part of the run. At a very slow pace. So this walking portion, after running but before the race, is a grey area. Yes, I actually do spend time mentally debating these kinds of things. I am a lawyer. Argument and rationalization is my life. You should hear my theories on why it is okay to use an iPod in a race even when the race rules say not to. Maybe someday I'll write about it. I'm just kind of nervous that some race official somewhere would run across it and I would be flagged as a suspicious character forever. (Yeah, I'm also paranoid.)

**Because my iControl watch was on my left hand. I do know how to use that (to operate my iPod), so I figured it should have priority.

***I know, most people have planted their containers by now. Although, by the number of people shopping at Molbak's, I'm not so sure about that. After all, procrastination saves you money!