Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The world looks brighter from behind a smile

Cheesy, I know. But as I have been looking at my thoroughly narcissistic collection of pictures from Maine, I have noticed one common denominator in the all-too-numerous pictures of me—I am smiling in every one. And I look really happy (not even pained, which sometimes happens).

Now I am back. Back home, back at work, back in the usual routine. Which is fine, because without some routine life would be chaos. Routine is good because it allows me to glide through some aspects of my life and job without spending a lot of time worrying what to do next. That way I can focus on things that need more energy and back off a bit at other times.

But with routine and predictability comes a little loss of energy, a little less excitement about what the world has to offer. And in my going through the motions of my day, I don't think I smile enough. In fact, there are times when I can feel myself not smiling. Sure, a stern expression is appropriate in some circumstances,* but really, at the grocery store on the way home at night? No wonder the clerks sometimes** tell me I look tired!

So I am going to try to smile more. Not just at the Starbucks clerks who make me my life-saving quad lattes, but at more people who come across my path during the day. My clients, their parents (as difficult as they may be), probation counselors, other attorneys, even my friends and family. I will smile like there's a camera pointed at me, or like I'm looking at a 2-pound lobster, or a big hunk of fresh-baked bread, or a whoopie pie*** (well, you can see where I'm going with this)—or like I've finished a really great run and am about to go see the Sex and the City movie.

I'm testing this right now by smiling at a picture of one of our attorneys that is on the calendar beside me (baby steps—first photographs, then real people). And you know what? Not only does smiling make me look happy (presumably), it makes me feel happy too. Like a quick shot of seratonin, but cheaper than a shopping spree, easier than a 10K, and less calories than a whoopie pie.

I realize this new "smiling policy" creates a risk that I will look like a grinning idiot at times,**** but I suspect that I will have no problem switching to to a thoughtful scowl as needed. I'm just going to try to keep those scowls to a minimum.

*And isn't that why I have the dark-rimmed glasses?


***Or big piece of cake with frosting, which is really just about the same thing, but inside out. Or, for that matter, a scoop of Ben & Jerry's cinnamon buns ice cream, which I tried in Kennebunkport, and is pretty much heaven in a dish. I think it may be the post-race treat that both Laura and I could agree on!

****See various race pictures in which I try to smile for the photographer while running. On second thought, please don't!

Big TV night

TV scheduling alert! Tonight is a huge night for weight-loss TV. First at 8:00 NBC has two hours of The Biggest Loser. Then at 10:00 ABC has a one-hour special, People Magazine's Half Their Size, which follows eight people from Mississippi losing weight over a nine-month period.

Along with millions of others I will be voyeuristically watching (that is after I get home from yoga at 8:30 or s0). Sure, it's easy enough to lose weight (and I'm not being completely facetious here), but to expose yourself to the world (both figuratively and literally) while doing it? That takes a lot of guts.

I recently came across a picture of myself from about five years ago on my computer, and I just about fainted. That picture was not me, and I don't think anyone who saw now it would believe it was ever me. (And no one ever will see it, not unless they are searching my computer over my cold, dead body. And I expect to outlive that computer.) I could have just deleted it, I guess, but I didn't. I think I want to keep it around (though buried far out of sight) just in case the whoopie pies ever get too tempting.

And maybe that's why I watch TV shows like the Biggest Loser and read weight loss memoirs and diet books. Just to remind me that I was once one of those people too (except that they get a chance to win $250,000, and I just got a huge Macy's bill for all the new clothes I had to buy).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Home again, and long run on Sunday

Goal: 12 miles on Sunday morning

Actual: 11.6 miles run, plus .5 mile walk home, beginning Sunday morning and finishing in the afternoon.

I thought with the time change from Maine that I would easily wake up at 5 or 6 this morning and feel like it was 8 or 9 a.m. On the contrary, I woke up at 6, felt like I didn't want to get up at all, and went back to sleep until the phone rang at 8:30. Even then I felt no desire to get up, and lolled in bed until late morning when I finally dragged myself into running clothes.

I suspect that I never really adjusted to the Eastern time zone. While I got up very early every day while I was there, I think that was more travel adrenaline than anything. Even with the early mornings, I was awake every night till well after midnight. I really got very little sleep (par for the course with me in general).

But I guess I made up for a lot of those lost hours this morning.

I heard from my mother, who called from Maine at 8:30 (a comfortable 11:30 for her) that it was raining heavily in Maine. Probably related to the hurricane further south. I, on the other hand, woke up to bright blue skies and warm sunshine (particularly by the time I got out at 11 or so).

My plan was a 12 mile run. I had a general idea that my planned route would cover the distance, but I was counting on the Garmin to confirm the mileage. Until it started saying "low battery" after about three miles or so. After that my goal—which was really more of a wish, as I had no real control over it—was to get as much of the run done as I could before the watch conked out altogether.

I ran through north Everett and then down to the marina by Anthony's. I was startled to see the farmer's market, as I thought it ended last Sunday. I decided not to stop, however, as that would effectively end my run, particularly if I bought anything to carry home, and I was only at five miles by that point.

As I ran along the marina and then the waterfront—the tide was out, exposing the mudflats—I noticed that the view was not that different from some of the waterside views I had run past in Maine. Of course there were no white churches, houses, or inns to enhance the scene! Also, I could not look forward to picking up a lobster roll for lunch after my run. (I did, however, have my last whoopie pie waiting for me at home. I couldn't think of a better time to indulge in 750 wicked calories—I do cringe at that number—after a long run that would turn out to consume twice as many calories, at least according to Garmin's calculations.)

The Garmin was holding up quite well. Although it continued to read "battery low"—obscuring the lap times—it kept recording the time and distance as I passed 6 miles, 7 miles, 8 miles. By the time I got to eight miles I was wondering whether I had enough distance left in the planned route to cover the whole 12 miles. I was torn between just wishing to be done, regardless of total mileage, and hoping that the remaining distance was long enough to get me to 12. I wasn't sure if I had the gumption to keep going if I wasn't "done" by the time I got to QFC.

But things were looking good as I turned onto Everett Avenue, the final stretch. I was over 10.5 miles and if I had another mile left, I would be satisfied, as there is another half mile between QFC (Starbucks) and my house.

And sure enough, I hit 11.6 miles at Starbucks. Conveniently, the Garmin lost its final bit of battery power and went dark while I was in Starbucks ordering my drink. Not a problem, I knew the way home.

Although it was later in the day than I had planned it to be, I still had plenty of time when I got home to take a long shower and enjoy my whoopie pie before heading out to my massage appointment. Ahhh, my legs and feet and back needed that. My only disappointment was that the time ran out before the massage therapist had time to work on my arms and hands. Not a part of the body that is too affected by running or sitting on an airplane, of course. But believe it or not, thanks to all my incessant computer typing, my hands could really use a good massage too!

So, my first day back, and my first run back, went well. Tomorrow morning will be my first run of the fall in the dark morning. I am not really thrilled about that concept. But it's only the beginning—I can look forward to as much as six months of this to come! I've already put out the florescent reflective jacket....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Notes from the Manchester Airport

I am here in the boarding lounge waiting for my flight to Chicago (and on to Seattle), and since MHT has free wireless in the terminal (unlike Seattle where you have to pay AT&T $9.95), I feel compelled to take advantage of it. Since it's Saturday nobody's around at work to email with (because only people who are supposed to be working would want to fritter away time emailing with a bored air traveler), so here I am! Talking to myself.

I'm a couple days behind on the travelogue version of my posts, and although I could just skip it and move on, I love travel-memoir writing, so even if no one is out there reading, I'll have it in case I want to go back in future and read about my trip.

I think I've been fairly successful over this 10-day trip at maintaining a moderately active workout routine. I'm sure it doesn't nearly make up for the indulgent food consumption (I guess I'll find out about that soon enough) but at least it should help a little.

Here's an overview.

Wednesday 9/17 - travel day. No exercise whatsoever except for a nominal amount of walking in airports.

Thursday 9/18 - walked a couple of miles in the Hamptons, plus a couple miles later in Ogunquit.

Friday 9/19 - ran about 6½ miles in Ogunquit, walked another mile back to cottage. A bit of walking in Kennebunkport.

Saturday 9/20 - Yoga class, walked to and from yoga, lunch (about two miles each way).

Sunday 9/21 - Half marathon (with 1-2 mile warmup run).

Monday 9/22 - Intensive yoga class, walked to and from (about half a mile each way).

Tuesday 9/23 - Ran 7¼ miles in Stonington, walked around Bar Harbor (including shore path, one mile each way).

Wednesday 9/24 - Ran 7 miles in Stonington, climbed Blue Hill (one mile up, one mile down, plus some extra back & forth).

Thursday 9/25 - Ran 6.5 miles in Stonington.

Friday 9/26 - Ran 4 miles in Newcastle, ME (all that I had time for before breakfast), and that's it except for walking around LL Bean.

Saturday 9/27 - Rest and travel! The drive from Newcastle to the Manchester airport takes almost three hours. We left at 11 a.m. and I checked in at 3 p.m, which included a stop at Starbucks on the way and lunch at the Cracker Barrel a few miles south of Manchester. Now I will be sitting on my behind until almost midnight Pacific time (except for the change of planes in Chicago), and eating a whoopie pie somewhere along the way. Kind of the opposite of working out!

But really, I need this rest day from running. Despite being on vacation I have put in almost 40 miles of running this week, which is well over my weekly target of at least 30 miles. Of course, I haven't done any cross training except a little walking, and no yoga or Pilates since Monday, so I certainly don't begrudge the extra miles. I am quite thankful for them!

Tomorrow, Sunday, I intend to do a long run, maybe 12 miles. I figure I can sleep in and rest up as much as I want from today's travel and late night, and with the time zone change I will still probably be able to get up at a decent hour. Even if I get up at an indecent hour, I don't have anything much else to do tomorrow anyway. (Oh, unpacking, laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping? Pshaw—a trifle.)

I did call to book a massage for late tomorrow afternoon. I figure my body is due one, with all the running over the week plus hours of sitting in a car and, soon, a plane. My back is already muttering things at the prospect of the long flights. My legs, surprisingly, feel pretty loose, considering all the hills I have been doing (including the climb up Blue Hill).

I've already decided that if there is any kind of encouragement to sign up early for next year's Maine Coast Half (last year apparently they offered a free hat to anyone who signed up right after last year's race), I'm going to sign up. I'd like to get a low number (although my number this year, 175, was relatively low out of 601). I figure if I can't make it out here after all I'll only be out the cost of registration, but most likely I could at least come for a few days, for the race, even if I can't do an entire New England vacation. So we shall see if the event organizers solicit early registration. And whether there's any perks attached!

I am actually feeling drowsy sitting here in the airport. Hopefully I can recapture that on the plane (I'll probably snap out of it by then; we board in about 20 minutes). I was up pretty late last night, after watching the debate, fooling around on the computer, and, finally, packing my very full, heavy bags.

My checked suitcase weighed 49.5 pounds. How's that for cutting it close?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

For love of bread

It's no secret that I don't eat much bread. It's not that I don't enjoy bread—I find it very pleasurable. But I have found that abstaining from bread makes my life simpler, purer, less ridden with cravings and wanton desire (for carbs).

It's not like I haven't had the occasional bread dalliance over the years. A furtive dip into the warm sourdough at Anthony's, a passing fling with with the hearty grain at the Calico Cupboard, a dissolute evening with the bread basket at Piatti's at University Village (and when it's hot, that bread is worth renouncing any vows for).

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't eat around, that I try to save myself for the right bread, so that my bread eating is special, not just casual and meaningless. And most of the bread you meet is so ordinary, so dry and tasteless, with a high glycemic load that sure, gives you a rush of temporary pleasure, but in the end just leaves you empty and wanting something more.

It's been a long time since I've had a really great bread. But I knew that sometime soon this week I would be coming to Wiscasset for a rendezvous with the bread of my dreams. Sure, it would probably be just a one night stand—I'm flying home on Saturday and I have so little time left here—but that doesn't mean I cannot savor every warm, chewy bite.

My hot bread date was at Sarah's Cafe in Wiscasset. The last time we were together was just about two years ago, and I remember thinking, “This is the only bread I ever want to have.” I've been anticipating this for days, planning when I would be able to go there, what I would order, how it would taste. The question was, would it be as good as I remembered? Would it still make my heart flutter and my toes curl?

Tonight was the night (Thursday). I'd prepared myself as well as I could, foregoing lunch (except for a scone and jam at Nervous Nellie's Jams and Jellies), so that I was hungry by 6:30 and ready for my bread encounter without the baggage of a full stomach. My appetite was piqued.

And yet I was nervous. After such anticipation, such vivid memories of the last time, could any bread really live up to my expectations? Perhaps I was asking too much. Perhaps I would have to be satisfied with a pleasant, if not earth-shattering, bread encounter.

And then I was there, walking into the restaurant, sitting at a table by the window, picking up a menu to peruse the options. Sarah's has a big variety of menu items, but I was really only torn between two choices, the lobster roll or the lobster sandwich, each served on a homemade roll or bun. I finally decided on the lobster roll, primarily because it came with a cup of soup. I didn't care so much about the soup, but it would give me access to the homemade bread bar that accompanied the soup. (Actually I didn't know whether my “on-the-side” soup included bread, but I wanted it, so I discretely tucked a couple of pieces—a wheat roll and spinach foccacia—into a napkin and snuck it back to my table.)

The illicit nature of my liaison with the first bread did not make it sweeter. I scarfed it down hastily—worried that a waitress might reprimand me—and I was not really fulfilled by it. Still, that didn't stop me from sneaking back to the bread bar in a quiet moment and sampling a cinnamon coated wheat breadstick.

But perhaps these earlier samplings were just a prelude, warming me up for the main course to come, that is, the lobster salad encased in a warmed, slightly toasted, homebaked roll. I had actually ordered the wheat roll, but when the sandwich arrived on a white roll I hardly even noticed. When I did realize the error, I had already taken a delicious bite, and could hardly reject the sandwich at this point.

And yes, at that moment, the bread was everything I had hoped for and anticipated. Warm, slightly chewy, crunchy on the toasted outside but soft and pliable within—a mouthful of pleasure. So fulfilling that even when most of the lobster salad was gone, leaving just a lettuce leaf and tomato slice on the remaining piece of roll, I enjoyed those final bites just as much as the first ones. For once, the lobster roll was not about the lobster.

When it was finished, I was quite sated. I didn't need, or even want, any more. (In fact, thanks to the bread prelude, I was a little too full.) If I don't come back to Sarah's again before I leave (and I don't see how there will be time), I can live with that. I will miss the bread, I will wish I had more of it, but at least I will have my memories of this one evening together.

And will I be able to resume my chaste, breadless life again, knowing that there is no substitute for Sarah's bread and accepting a cloistered, monastic life, free of bread and other starchy foods?

I think so. Maybe deep down inside I will be hoping to find another bread that gratifies my appetite as well as my very demanding standards. I'm sure I will sample a few, here and there. Someday, maybe next year, I'll be back and spend another evening at Sarah's with the bread. Until then I guess I'll just say....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Raising the Bar

I can't resist a play on words.* This is merely a hint about our trip to Bar Harbor on Tuesday. (What hint? I just said that's where we went.) Better than “crossing the bar,” which refers to death! Although that might be a better metaphor, considering how many times we wanted to kill each other today. Just a little bit of bickering. Probably the seven-day itch—the togetherness is getting to us.

Before attempting to engage in any social interaction, I rose early to go for a run before breakfast. I meant to get out by 6:30 or so, but in the end it was about 7:00 before I made it down the stairs and out the door. (I'll do better on Wednesday.)

There's a pretty good loop route from the Inn that I used the last time I was here. It's about 6½ miles, a little longer with the extra distance to Shipps House. From the center of Stonington you run north on 15 (trying to keep out of the way of oncoming cars!), a little over two miles (actually 2.67 from the Shipps House) to Lily's Cafe; turn left on what I believe is called Airport Road and follow that road another two miles; then take another left by a mini-mart at Burnt Cove and follow that road back into Stonington. An extra repeat up and down Main Street and then back to the Shipps House netted me 7.25 miles for this morning.

The hilly road brought back a few memories of the half marathon. Is coastal Maine made up of all hills? Still, despite my rather stiff legs and sluggish feel (and the hills), I did a few 11-minute and a few 10:30-minute miles, which would be typical for a morning run at home. I was a little nervous about lack of a bathroom on the route until the mini-mart, but luckily the upset in time zones and the lack of fiber in my travel diet (replacing wheat bran and Fiber One with whoopie pies and blueberry pie, and masses of vegetables with, well, nothing) saved me from any traumatic moments on the road. (There were lots of trees along the way, but I had no desire to use one! Unlike my sister, who will go on the beach or the side of the road before using a porta-potty or questionable public restroom. She has an obsession about germs; I have an obsession about not exposing myself in public!)**

Of course since I had left later than planned, that meant I got back later too, leaving little time to shower and dress before getting to breakfast. This led to quarrel #1, with my mother (who by the way, was not ready to go herself) “We'll never get there on time! It's almost 9:00!” “Yes we will, breakfast goes to 9:30!” “We still have to get down there! I'm not going!” “You are not skipping breakfast! We'll take the car!” My dad came back in as words were exchanged, which should have demonstrated to him that we don't just fight with him. (I'm not going to relate every tiff that occurred all day. But this sets the tone.)

Anyhow, we drove down to breakfast and got there at 9:15, in plenty of time. I brought my own packet of Quaker Weight Control Oatmeal (which I highly recommend for travel, as it has added protein and fiber, and not a lot of sugar) (along with some dried cherries and cinnamon) because I couldn't justify eating the muffins and bread that are the staple of this kind of breakfast. (I did partake of their fruit, yoghurt and tea.)

By the time we ate and I spent a few minutes on the computer (okay half an hour or so, maybe a little more), it was mid to late morning. The plan was a trip to Bar Harbor, which was my dad's choice of destination. I mention this because there has been some implication on his part that we only do what I want to do, not what he wants (which is total B.S., although I would admit that there was some time devoted to my half marathon, and otherwise I am just a good activity planner). Actually at this point our plans for the Stonington stay are equally divided amongst everyone's desires. Bar Harbor for my dad today; a climb up Blue Hill for me tomorrow morning; and a boat trip for my mom tomorrow afternoon. I do admit that the Blue Hill excursion could affect the boat trip, but that's all dependent on how slowly we get up and down the Hill.

Bar Harbor is a very pretty seaport town, near Acadia National Park, which is quite popular with travelers and tourists. Tons of shops. Strangely enough for a tightwad, my dad loves looking in shops. That's the main appeal of Bar Harbor to him, I think (as well as the scenery, of course). I, on the other hand, a well known shopper and spendthrift (although also a tightwad in some ways), did not have a strong desire to browse through shops again today. However, I was happy to enjoy the scenery.

It's a pretty long drive from Stonington to Bar Harbor (made longer by my stop to take pictures near the bridge leaving Deer Isle), and by the time we arrived it was nearly 2:00. The delay had also included a bathroom stop at McDonald's, where I decided to address my caffeine deficiency by trying a McDonald's latte. Big mistake. The latte was horrible. It just tasted like not-very-good coffee to me, and I couldn't even taste the sugar-free vanilla that was supposed to be in it. Maybe they forgot it. The old guy who took my order seemed a little clueless, maybe he forgot to push the right button on the cash register. Anyhow, Starbucks has nothing to fear, in my opinion!
When we did get to Bar Harbor I was hungry, my mother was hungry, and I don't know whether my dad was hungry or not. But to avoid further argument (like whether or not lunch was appropriate), I just told him that we were going to eat and he could go walk around if he liked. He chose to come along for lunch.

Instead of the more expensive, touristy restaurants on the main street, I took us back to a takeaway on West Street called the Lobster Claw. It's owned by an older guy named Barry, the food is fresh and homemade, and it's extremely casual and low key. Instead of taking our lunch to go, we chose to sit at their tiny tables. My dad, Mr. Delicate, had a bowl of clam chowder, my mother had the fish and chips which was grilled haddock with fabulous fries (they bill them as fabulous and they really are), and I had a lobster roll without mayonnaise and a wonderfully huge salad. My parents decided to sit outside facing the street, which was fun for them, but I thought it was a little chilly in the shade and huddled inside instead.

Then we did break up and my dad headed out for his shop browsing, while my mother and I strolled down to the harbor. After sitting on a sunny bench for a bit (warm in the sun, chilly in the shade!), we headed along the Shore Path that runs along the waterfront for about a mile, in front of a number of multi-million dollar waterfront homes. (There was a sign advertising the last available waterfront lot for sale at a mere $1.495 million—for the undeveloped lot.) Needless to say, many pictures were taken along the way!

I love this lobster red boat! (Not, however, a red lobster boat.)

My mom and I on the dock. This is practically the first time I've put jeans on all summer (and now summer's over, isn't it?) After a summer wearing nothing but dresses, shorts, and running clothes, jeans take a little getting used to again!

The shore path along the waterfront in Bar Harbor.

A picture perfect harbor scene.

One of the lavish mansions we passed. They call this style “Tudor” because it has two doors, one in front and one in back! (A little Tudor humor; my sister and her husband lived in a Seattle Tudor for quite a few years before they moved to the country last year.)

My mother walking along the shore path.

A side path to the village. We didn't have time to take it, but rather just retraced our steps. The sign reminds me of the footpaths in England, particularly the ones that pass through villages between the houses!

One of the cruise boats that frequent Bar Harbor.

A different view of my mother and me along the path.

We watched this schooner come into the harbor.

Back at the center of town, I left my mother to find my father and set out to find myself a better latte for the trip home. I started at an ice cream shop that also advertised coffee drinks. The server was a young girl*** with a European or Russian accent who, when I started to describe what I wanted, looked puzzled and helpless. Clearly she did not have the ability to make a somewhat complex latte.**** I asked her if there was anywhere else that had espresso drinks, and she directed me to an internet cafe down the street. I promised I'd be back for ice cream.

The internet cafe espresso guy agreed he could make my order (16-ounce nonfat latte, four shots espresso, sugar-free caramel, which they happened to have, otherwise I would have taken anything sugar-free, I'm not particular, really), and he did, although its quality was just so-so. I'm a little spoiled by my peeps at the QFC Starbucks in Everett, where they know exactly what I want and how I want it!

As promised, I returned to the ice cream shop because I wanted to bring my parents a sample of lobster ice cream, just so we could say we had it. She insisted that I try it before ordering, so I did. Lobster ice cream tastes like a very vanilla-y ice cream with chunks of frozen lobster in it. Not something I would want in great quantity, but not unpalatable, and it was the experience I was seeking, anyway. I ordered a small, which was two scoops, with just half a scoop of lobster ice cream and the rest maple frozen yoghurt (which was yummy).

When I got to the car my dad wasn't back yet, so mother and I ate the ice cream while we waited.

Then we headed back to Stonington, with me driving so we had some hope of getting back to use the wireless internet a bit before the inn closed at 7:00. Thanks to my efficient use of the gas pedal, we got back to town at 6:35, I grabbed my laptop, and had enough time to write a couple of e-mails and read a couple of blogs.***** When the inn closed at 7, I spent a few more minutes on the bench outside before joining my parents across the street at the Harbor Inn.***** I haven't tackled a whole lobster since Sunday—tonight I had lobster meat on a plate of salad—but maybe I'll take the plunge again tomorrow.

*Nor can the residents of Maine. Catchy business names using variations of “maine” and “mainely” are very popular!

**I felt like it had been too long since I'd written about toilet topics. Consider this a drought ended.

***Does it show my age when I call a person who's probably in her twenties, a “young girl”?

****I had a similar problem with another accented girl at an espresso counter in Ogunquit. I had to repeat my specs several times, and even though she claimed to have it, it tasted weak on espresso and strong on sugar-free vanilla, to me. (She better not have shorted me on shots, considering how much they charge for extra shots here, compared to Starbucks.) Yes, despite being a good traveler, I am a bit parochial about my lattes.

*****Between the running, travel activities, trying to write a bit, and so forth, I am way behind on my blog reading. I hate to think what I'm missing! It's so much easier to keep up when I'm at work every day...which sounds a little bad, doesn't it?

******The signal doesn't hold up across the street, but I was able to finish looking at the pages I had open, which included the results of the half marathon. I knew my time already, but here's my other stats: 242 out of 601 participants; 36 out of 95 in my age group (40-44).

It's a long, long road to Stonington

A long road indeed. This morning (this was written Monday, though posted later), we said our farewells to Ogunquit and prepared to head northward. As usual, however, departure was neither early nor quick.

That was largely my doing, of course. I was determined to go to one more yoga class at Sacred Movement Studio, and while I managed to do a lot of my packing before I went, I still had wide-open suitcases and bags and whatnot strewn about my room when I zipped out of there at 8:45.

The yoga class was meant to be Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Now, I need to look up exactly what Vinyasa yoga is, but in my mind “flow” yoga means lots of series of sun salutations and the like. This class was more of a power yoga, in my opinion.* Not a Warrior pose to be seen (although we did do some triangle variations). Instead we endured intense and extended repetitions of strength poses involving variations on plank and downward dog, and a solid ten minutes of abs (which is a long time to do ab work without a respite, believe me). (Trudy—my boot camp Pilates instructor—would be proud.**) We finished with some deep glute stretches and twists (all of which are very welcome the day after a long run, even if the pushups and ab work are less so!).

And, if I haven't mentioned it, the temperature in the studio is cranked up to 75° for the class. Certainly not Bikram yoga level, but warm enough to raise a good sweat. I was rather afraid of the heat, but surprisingly it wasn't that bad—although I know I would never want to do Bikram! When I left my hair was wet (so much for my curling iron work earlier) and my shirt was damp enough that I decided to change before we left the cottage (certainly not typical after a yoga class).

Despite the Pilates self-torture I put myself through twice weekly and my various yoga classes, this was difficult enough that I let myself rest occasionally during the workout. It helped that the woman next to me, who did not look like a wimp, had to rest as well! I thought to myself (and wanted to say aloud, even though no one seemed to care about my breaks, they were more concerned with their own agony), “I just ran 13.1—actually 13.19—miles yesterday, no wonder my legs are tired!)*** (How that would explain my abs or upper body, I don't know.)

Christina, the yoga instructor, seems like an interesting character. She's very upbeat and positive (though not perky), calls everyone “beautiful lady” (which seems flattering until you hear her say it to everyone else), and is quite feminocentric. (Both class I've been to she talks about the Spanish Inquisition, where they apparently killed thousands of women because they were thought to be intuitive. Killing women—bad. Intuitiveness—good.) During some of the stretches she talked about how the poses affect the “feminine” and “masculine” side of the body—although on Saturday I'm sure she said the left side was feminine and today I thought she said the left side was masculine! (She also said, which I find very interesting, that we hold a lot of our stresses in our hips—family, work, etc., and stretching and releasing the hips helps let some of that go. I guess I need to keep working on hip openers every time I get into a snarky fight with my dad....)

From some of her comments this morning—I think many of the class members are regulars and know much more about her, so she says things in passing, without explanation—I gathered that she was quite a wild child in her youth, and now as a mature woman she has gotten sober, gotten into yoga, and changed her life immensely. She is still obviously a free spirit (who talks openly about things that might embarrass many of us) but in a more positive, life affirming way. (Not all positive—one of her throwaway comments involved how much she detests George Bush!)

So all in all it has been quite the pro-female weekend for me. An all-women's half-marathon on Sunday, sandwiched by consciousness-raising yoga classes on Saturday and Monday. Talk about girl power! My friend Marie, who is a flag-waving feminist (while I'm more of a quiet, light under a barrel feminist) and sends e-mails suggesting things like making a donation to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name, would be proud. Although I'm not sure—since I wasn't demonstrating or protesting anything; it was really all self-centered (in a good way), wasn't it? (And actually, there's plenty of girl power in my world; up until last fall my law firm was all female, then we hired our first male attorney and now we have two.****)

Anyhow, I seem to have digressed. As we were finishing up the active portion of the yoga class, I heard my phone ring. Luckily with the music and the clamor of voices it wasn't very audible, so I quickly silenced it and turned off the ringer so it wouldn't ring again during Shavasana. I figured it was my mother, as I had said the class was an hour but it was now after 10:00. But there was no way I was abandoning Shavasana after the workout I had just gone through!

When I called back after I left the yoga studio, of course my mother had been the caller, wondering where I was, because it turned out check-out time was 10:00. She's a little uptight about this kind of thing. I doubted that they would be too upset if we left a few minutes late on a Monday in late September. It's not like there were crowds of people waiting to check in! But if I had known the checkout time was early (instead of 11:00 like we thought), I would have made more of an effort to finish packing early.

My parents had already brought their bags to the car when I whirled in and resumed packing my things. (I rushed back so quickly that when I ran across the lawn and burst into the cottage, I was startled to see a bed in the middle of the living room! Turns out I had actually gone into the wrong cottage. Oops! It seemed to be deserted though. Apparently those tenants managed to check out on time.) My belongings had been expanded by a number of purchases, but I saw no reason to try to pack everything into my luggage at this point. I just condensed down to a minimum of extra bags so there would still be room for passengers in the car. We also had some extra bags with the food we were still carrying, bottles of water and diet coke, as well as lobster salad and rolls for lunch on the road.

By then it was 11:30, and we decided to travel on the turnpike as far as we could, since further north the roads would get more rural. But even on I-95, we progressed in fits and starts. First a stop for gas in Wells. (The price of gas would be an ongoing topic. Once we committed to a fill-up in Wells, my dad agonized over every station we saw along the way with a lower price.) Then twenty minutes later I saw a service plaza with a Starbucks and demanded a stop (hey, that would probably be our last Starbucks for a long time!). Some thirty minutes after that, I needed to stop for a bathroom and we pulled into an information center rest area outside of Freeport. That also seemed like a good time to eat lunch, so we stayed long enough to eat our lobster rolls.

Even after we were on the road for good, the pace (as driven by my mother) seemed glacial.
At Thomastown we stopped so my dad could visit the prison store—a gift shop selling things made by inmates in Maine prisons. Sounds creepy but the goods are fine—woodwork, souvenirs, etc. I think, though, that the store is also staffed by prisoners, and that is a little weird! Either that or the staff just happens to be rather burly middle-aged men wearing outfits that look like scrubs.

I also took over the driving at this point. We'd been on the road for almost 3½ hours and weren't nearly halfway—maybe even closer to a third! This would not do. I didn't know if it would be any faster with me driving (though I certainly suspected), but at least it would feel more like progress to me.

I took the approach that we should go fast where we could (regardless of speed limit, within reason) and slow down where we had to (trafficky areas, towns). The speed limits are so variable on Route 1 that they can only be taken as a suggestion.

As we passed through Camden, a lovely harbor town that is fun to stop in when there is time, I started noticing all the inns and B&B's with quaint, enticing names. For example... Victorian by the Sea, Blue Harbor House, Wildflower Inn, Berry Manor Inn, and more. Wouldn't it be lovely to stay in such whimsical places? Most of those were on the water side of the road. On the opposite side of the road were the motels, with curious names of their own, (Birchwood Motel, very summer camp in the woods), quirkier than the elegant white inns but yet rather appealing as well.

After Camden the traffic died back and we were able to make some good time on a wide, straight section of highway. As we got further north, however, the road became more narrow, windy and hilly, and in some spots quite rough. You might think that would slow us down, but on the contrary—barreling along narrow, windy roads is my specialty. (I can even do it on the wrong side of the road, in a foreign country.) I flew up and down hills, whipped around the curves like a race car driver, slowed prudently in towns where there might be pedestrians or fine-seeking police, and got us to Stonington at about 5:30 p.m., 2½ hours after I took the wheel. (And yes, the entire journey took six hours... I was never so glad to get out of a car!)

Stonington is on Deer Island, so our trip took us across a large bridge and a low-lying causeway across the water (which reminds me a lot of the Tommy Thompson Parkway in Anacortes). Sometime before we leave for good—probably on the day of departure, if history is any indication—I will take some pictures.

We were staying in the Shipps House annex to Stonington's Inn on the Harbor. The two bedroom suite we had wanted in the main inn was booked, so we went with the Shipps House instead, about 4/10 of a mile away from the main inn. It's the upstairs of the owner's private house, probably late 19th century era, a little older than my own house. Actually it reminds me a little of my house, with slanted ceilings in the upper level and, of course, patched up wall cracks and peeling ceilings. You enter through a private entryway and climb a very steep flight of stairs that leads directly to one bedroom, which then connects to the second bedroom and a large bathroom in between. On the other side of the second bedroom there is another little hallway (with another steep flight of stairs that goes to the main house, apparently) and a small study with comfy chairs and a TV. The network of doors and rooms means there is not a whole lot of privacy, but aside from some debate over the best way to know if someone is in the bathroom, we seem to have managed so far. I have the room that leads directly to the exit stairs, which is actually quite convenient for me, as it allows me to go out early to run without bothering anyone else.

The one thing that did disturb me (although it hasn't been a problem) is that there is no kitchenette (not that we need to cook), or hot water pot for tea and so forth. To think that I decided not to haul along a hot water heater because everywhere I go seems to have at least a coffee maker! But after the initial dismay, it turns out that we've been out of the house enough to not miss the hot water. Breakfast is provided in the Inn's dining room (along with wireless internet), and they have hot water and coffee during the day, if we were around to want it. One thing I would say is that the Shipps House would not be a good option for anyone who might have trouble climbing steep stairs! Just a little travel tip.

Before crashing for the day (driving all day really takes it out of you), we had dinner at the Harbor Cafe. This is my dad's favorite place to eat, probably because it is pretty cheap (as much as any place that sells lobster can be) and homestyle in food and attitude. This will undoubtedly be where we eat dinner every day here.

On Tuesday morning my plan is to go out running early, before breakfast. (I can say that safely, considering that it is now Tuesday night by the time I have finally finished writing this.) This will be my first time out running since Sunday's race. Time to get my legs moving again!

Pictures will be posted later.

*Not that there's anything wrong with that.

**In fact, as I am writing this at 9:55 Eastern time on Monday, the Pilates class back home is just coming to an end. Do I miss it? Hmmmm.... ***Although I really think my mini-quasi-ice bath helped. I have very little soreness today, not even in my ankle and achilles tendon. My quads are a little achy—no wonder considering the hills, up and down both—but of course I did not immerse them in the water at all.

****We also have a new, no inter-office dating policy which we didn't need when it was all girls. We say that it's to keep Lorraine, my secretary, away from Mike the computer guy, and then laugh hysterically. As would anyone who knew Lorraine, or Mike. But doesn't everyone know “the computer guy”? Who mutters grimly about having things on your computer that could compromise the security of the system? Who suggests you should have policies to limit the staff from non-work-related internet use? (Yeah, like that would fly. Like a lead balloon.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You go girls! More pics from the Maine Coast Half

Here is the song that starts my half marathon playlist.

Now that we've established that it's not all about ME,* here are some more pictures of the fabulous women running the Maine Coast Half Marathon, as the race begins.

(I am actually in the picture above, very very small in the center. If I were clever I could find a tool to circle my head but I have no idea how to do that!)

And this is the song that is supposed to be just past the two-hour mark on the playlist, although with various adjustments to the list, and repeating songs, I have never actually gotten to it in a race!

*Which is sort of hard in a state whose abbreviation is ME!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

All women and one lucky guy

That was, of course, today's Maine Coast Half Marathon (get your minds out of the gutter, people).

The guy was luckier than me, that's for sure, because he passed me at the 10-mile mark and although I hung in there for a few minutes, he finally pulled ahead and I never saw him again (along with all the others who finished under two hours). (That's a bit of foreshadowing there.) I can see how he passed me, since mile 9 was my second slowest mile (second only to mile 12) and those last few miles were abysmal altogether, except for mile 13 when I finally made a comeback (too late though).

Okay, here it is. My final chip (and Garmin) time was 2:01:19. That's a 9:15 average pace for 13.1 miles. (Garmin, which measured my total distance as 13.19 miles, gave me a 9:12 average for that distance.) As you can imagine, I have spent much time agonizing over this, wondering what happened, especially after I ran the 15K last weekend at well under a 9 minute per mile pace.

(Repeat after me: It doesn't matter, it's okay, that's still a good time!)

Perhaps ironically, I wouldn't be so disturbed about the total time and the 9:15 or 9:12 average if it weren't for the Garmin showing me the shocking progression. Here it is....

Mile 1 — 8:58 (good)
Mile 2 — 8:49 (good)
Mile 3 — 8:42 (good)
Mile 4 — 9:05 (good)
Mile 5 — 9:08 (fine)
Mile 6 — 9:10 (still fine)
Mile 7 — 9:21 (a little concerning perhaps, but this mile included what may have been the steepest hill in the face)
Mile 8 — 9:16 (seemed to be getting back on track)
Mile 9 — 9:37 (hmmm... now that's disturbing)
Mile 10 — 9:21 (not so pleasing)
Mile 11 — 9:24 (less pleasing)
Mile 12 — 9:44 (WTFFFF?)
Mile 13 — 9:09 (clearly have been shocked into a comeback, although too little, too late)
Mile 14 — .19 mile at 1:36 (8:30 pace)

So there you have it. Sheer deterioration on the race course. I honestly can't understand what happened in Mile 12, because that is so out of character from the other splits, even the slowest ones! The course was, I must say, quite hilly, although primarily in a moderate incline and decline fashion. Normally that type of road is okay for me, as I maintain on the uphills and pick up the pace on the downhills. There were a few uphills that were steep enough to feel myself noticeably slowing, and I guess it's possible that I didn't let myself go enough on the downhills, except for the first three miles, which did have some nice downhill stretches as I recall.

Let me say that I do not believe that I went out too fast in the beginning, or that going slower then would have affected my later pace. I felt really good and really comfortable in those first three miles. In the next three miles I thought I was settling into a good pace of just over 9 minutes (which is how things went in Anacortes in July).

A couple of things may have influenced my pace. First, the big hill in Mile 7. Even though I did relatively okay in that lap, I suppose it might have taken enough out of me that I had a hard time recovering.

The second possible factor is more nebulous and that is the Garmin factor. I am not referring to the mile splits, but rather the pace calculator. I try to avoid looking at that because it is notoriously inaccurate. However, in the first few miles it was showing 8:30 to 9 minute paces, which seemed accurate, so I got into glancing at it too much. In the second half of the run it kept showing 10 minutes, 11 minutes, 13 minute paces, and although I didn't really believe it, it was a bit demoralizing. Obviously none of my splits, even the slowest, was over 10 minutes, so it was wrong wrong wrong! But I wonder if seeing those slow times so consistently took a little of the spring out of my step.

I've said before that my speed seems to be mostly regulated by my breathing. Heavy breathing I'm going fast, easy breathing I'm running easy. Well, today it was all about the legs. I definitely felt that my legs were in charge of my mind and body, and pretty much nothing I could think or do was going to control them!

There's one other possible factor that teases at my mind, and that is the Alfredo factor. Yes, I am referring to the triple threat of cream, butter, and parmesan cheese that I consumed last night in the name of carb loading (and the opportunity to eat another delicious lobster dish). Now I think that's probably unlikely (it's not like I was channeling Michael from The Office,* and surely it must have been digested by this morning), but still, the thought is there! I have not touched the leftovers.
Before the race I was praying quietly, "Let it be okay, let it be okay." And it was okay. Maybe I should have prayed "Let it be great!"

I won't try give a mile by mile description of the race, because as usual, much of it is a blur. Other than the noxious hills, the course was quite lovely, especially the parts that paralleled the water. The website has a great course video which shows all the ins and outs. I'm not sure, however, whether the video was from last year or if it is this year's course, which apparently changed somewhat (less elevation gain, so they said!).

As usual, there were a few runners I ended up running near for most of the race, taking turns passing and falling behind each other. I remember specifically, the tall girl in purple—I think she may have pulled forward to finish ahead of me at the end. Also nearby for many miles were "pink shirt" and "green shirt." I'm pretty sure, though, that I passed them at the last water stop and finished a bit ahead.

I did my best to push it in the last mile, improving my pace to closer to 9 minutes. Then in the final bit I put on as much speed as I could (which wasn't too much, apparently just an 8:30 pace), but I saw the clock at 2:00 and knew I hadn't made it under the wire. I was really torn between disappointment and the feeling that I did okay anyway, but I think I felt so drained physically that disappointment won out for a while, at least until I got myself back together again.

(This picture could obviously use some croppping, but I don't have that capability with this computer. I'm the one in the center above all that grey pavement.)

Who knows how long I would have wallowed in mild disappointment, had I not been startled by a young woman coming towards me and asking if I was Kristin. It was Terri, Middle of the Pack Girl, and she had looked up my number and been looking for me so we could meet! I was so excited and pleased to meet her. This was really a highlight of the race, and completely wiped out my doldrums. It was a little bit like being a celebrity, being recognized from my blog—and of course, I read her blog too, so we were both celebrities together! (At least to one another.) Here's a picture of us!
I stuck around to listen to the awards, even though I obviously didn't have a prayer of winning anything.** In addition to all the age group awards (in five-year increments), there was a special award for the oldest participant (didn't hear age, probably in 70's) and the youngest (12) (both of which also won their age group by default). I am please to say that I beat both of them!

Then we left, deciding to drive north on 1A along the scenic waterfront route (which was also part of our race course). From the road you can see the Cape Neddick lighthouse (which I believe decorates our race shirts and medals) in the distance.

I would have been happy to go back to the cottage and take a nap, but we had lobsters to pick up at 3:00. So really there was only enough time to take a leisurely shower and get changed. But before than, there was still one important race ritual—the post-race cinnamon roll. But cinnamon rolls seemed a little elusive... and after my second stop at a bakery without cinnamon rolls, I made a geographically appropriate substitution—whoopie pies! The pure of heart will shudder because these are essentially cakey cookies filled sandwich style with a huge glob of frosting-like goo. About 650 calories each, I understand (through research), and I ate 3/4 of one, so... it's a lucky thing that I ran a half-marathon today! (Although I'm sure a cinnamon roll would be just as bad anyway.)

After picking up a huge bag 0f four large freshly-boiled lobsters (the extra was for lobster rolls) and some groceries to complete a dinner, we were a little too tired and weak and full of whoopie pies to eat right away. It was still just late afternoon, anyway. So we took a walk around the Dunes, down to the water, where there is a dock.

I decided to take the opportunity to try out a spontaneous quasi-ice bath.

And it felt really good! I didn't really have the time or desire to sit there for 15 minutes, though I almost wish I could have; and for that matter, perhaps I should have just submerged my legs entirely! I am getting closer and closer to actually trying a real ice bath. Maybe just starting with cold water, sans ice.

Here's the cottage that has been our home for the last several days.

And here's our fabulous lobster feast! (I am too tired, I have run out of words. Just pictures.)

*I didn't include a link because I couldn't find a good clip or picture. But this is the one where Michael arranges an office fun run, and his race prep (which ultimately lead to him finishing last, or did he DNF?) included scarfing down vast quantities of fettucine just before the run in an attempt at carbo-loading.

**The day before my mother commented, after looking at the list of entrants, that there were a lot of entrants in my age category, "and they all seem to be women!" "That's because it's an all-women's race, Mother."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

12 hours and counting!

That's the amount of time left between now and the start of the Maine Coast Half Marathon. By the time I finish this post, it will be much less.

Today was all about me. Okay, some may think (especially if they know me personally) that every day is all about me—no comment to that. I won't even try defend myself (by pointing out the dozens of juvenile offenders I devote myself to every day, in between blogging and reading other people's blogs).

So, to rephrase. Today was all about pre-race preparation (for me). Beginning with a lovely restorative hip-opener/quad/hamstring stretch yoga class at the Sacred Movement yoga studio. Since I do most of my yoga in a gym at the Y, I am always fascinated by the "real" yoga studios, with their props and incense (actually I am not too crazy about incense) and instructors who are all serene and mystical. (Not that the Y instructors aren't, it's just a different ambience.)

There were only six people in this class, including the instructor, so there was a lot of personal attention. In fact, several of the other students took part in selecting and setting up the poses. They would walk around and help push you (me) into position, propping me up on bolsters and blankets, draping a sand bag across my back to help push me into a deeper stretch.

After an enhanced pigeon pose (hips draped over a bolster instead of flat on the mat), the instructor stated that now we would do some partners yoga. She paired us up (so luckily we didn't have to go through an awkward "who wants to work with the new girl with the really tight hamstrings" situation), and demonstrated, with her partner, the first position. It was pretty simple, sitting back to back and alternating leaning forward and back, taking turns pushing your partner into a seated forward bend. Then we moved onto a double wide leg stretch (although we did not get anywhere as near the ground as this video), leaning not just back and forth but also rotating in a circular position. I must admit that working with another person did help intensify the stretches. The instructor, who apparently has far fewer boundaries than the rest of us (e.g. me), had us take turns massaging each other's quads and calves. As she said, "it's just your quads"! Still, my partner and I felt much more comfortable concentrating on the knee area and calves (after all, we just met!). That leg massage did feel good though...it made me yearn to go get a real massage.* I can certainly understand why Deena Kastor married a physiotherapist!**

We finished with some legs up the wall poses; a tree pose, a twist, then traditional legs up the wall for shavasana. I told the instructor I might come back Monday morning for Vinyasa yoga, thanked my partner for stretching me, and left with wishes of good luck for the run tomorrow.

From there I headed on into Ogunquit to walk back to Perkins Cove to meet my parents for lunch. They were going to try to catch the local trolley so that we didn't have to try to park (which is difficult and expensive). It turned out that my walk was much quicker than their ride, but eventually we met up (after a nice long sit on a bench by me), and went into Oarweed for lunch.

Oarweed is one of those restaurants I've wanted to go to for a long time but never managed to get to. Two or three years ago it was one of the restaurants that Rachael Ray featured on an episode of Tasty Travels about Maine's Route 1. I liked the idea of walking from Ogunquit on Marginal Way then ending up at the restaurant. Which is what I did today, then afterwards my parents walked back with me. Keeping it simple, I had "Roby's Downeast'r"—a lobster roll with salad and a beverage. When they first brought my lobster roll, I kind of stared at it, thinking "I can't possibly be satisfied with just this"—but then I remembered the missing salad, and when that was located, all was well.

As we walked back toward Ogunquit on the Marginal Way shore path, I was amazed at the crowds of people on the path. At times they were lined up like traffic, marching along. While I normally dislike crowded places, this was kind of fascinating, with all these unrelated people out for a walk together.

It reminded me of the way the people in Victorian England used to promenade in spa towns like Bath and Cheltenham, strolling in unison along a popular walkway in order to see and be seen.

I left my parents on a bench in Ogunquit to wait while I walked back to the cottage to get the car and pick them up. This was both quicker and cheaper than taking the trolley back!

The next part was supposed to be quick and easy—a trip to York High School to pick up my race number and information. York is about seven miles from Ogunquit. No problem, right?

Well... wrong. Not so easy-peasy. The problem was a combination of confusing directions in the race materials and idiocy on my part. First we took the wrong turn off of Route 1, heading to York Beach instead of York. Mind you, it took a long time to figure out we had been wrong. We did have a very scenic drive along 1A on the water before we finally got to the vicinity of York.

Even then, it was a slapstick farce of wrong turns, repeats up and down the same road, misdirections (or misunderstood directions) from helpful locals, and probably an hour of extra driving that was not necessary, before we finally found the sign and road to York High School. This story could be much longer, but I need to get some sleep sometime!

Once in the high school gym I collected my race number (175) and chip. Then my dad called me over to Kathrine Switzer's table to "meet her." Of course, I had already met her (and bought her book and shirt) in Spokane. I told her about that, and she asked me how I did in Spokane. I told her I couldn't remember my time, but it was an 8:58 pace. She said, "You beat me!"

I also met her husband, Roger Robinson, and bought two of their books that I didn't have yet.

Then I picked up my race shirt and bought a hat to wear as well. I've decided to wear the race shirt tomorrow. That solves the "what to wear" dilemma, at least! I couldn't decide between sleeveless (may be a little chilly, and I'm not crazy about showing my arms) and long-sleeved (may be a little warm and sunny for that), so the short sleeved purple (yes, purple!) and white shirt should do. Also, the purple and white panels should be slimming, and that's always good for pictures!

Since we didn't get to the expo until 4:00 (an hour later than planned) and spent some time there chatting and shopping, no one had much energy for further outings afterward. We drove into Kittery, but instead of tackling the outlet shops, just went to Starbucks for some energizing beverages (and a latte to keep in the fridge to reheat tomorrow morning). Then we headed back to the cottage to drop off our stuff and head over to the Lobster Pound for dinner.

I had decided to skip the pasta dinner because, really, the idea of pasta in an elementary school did not thrill me (even with Kathrine Switzer giving the keynote speech). But I did need to have my pasta! After much deliberation, I decided it would be okay for me to have Lobster Alfredo, even though I would never, ever normally eat Alfredo.*** But I wanted to give myself permission in advance, because the last time I ordered a creamy pasta dish and it came swimming in sauce, I had a minor freakout. I could not do that with an outrageously expensive lobster dish.

So I ordered the Alfredo, and was able to ask for light sauce without sacrificing any lobster (they put the sauce and lobster on separately). Actually they still gave me far more sauce than I needed. However, it was deeee-licious.

(Unfortunately my dad, who ordered the lobster ravioli, probably because it was cheaper, was not so happy with his food. He ate it all, and then complained—to us—how terrible it was. Needless to say that led to some sharp words being exchanged—just between us, not the restaurant staff—and everyone stalking out in a huff. I did, however, stop to tell our server from last night that she was right about how good the Alfredo was!) (Table 13—an omen perhaps?)
I hate to end this day on a negative note, and actually soon the fight pretty much blew over (pie and ice cream helped) (although there was another little storm when my dad turned the TV on to some loud true crime show and my mother complained). Everything is all quiet now, and I am ready to get some sleep for tomorrrow's early morning. I still have almost seven hours before I have to get up—way more sleep than I usually get! (Addendum—make that six after getting my gear together,)

And tomorrow I run like the wind! Well, a breeze, anyway. (On a kind of balmy day.) (But not completely still.) (Enough to make the leaves rustle and your hair blow in your face.)

(By the way, the publication time is Pacific time.)

*By a professional massage therapist, who you pqy money to touch you and get to keep your eyes closed.

**Just to clarify, I don't know that Andrew Kastor was Deena's therapist, but she did say in Spirit of the Marathon that he stretches and gives her massages every day. Lucky girl!

**Yet I have no problem with popping into Ben & Jerry's or buying blueberry pie for dessert. Apparently my mental block does not extend to sweets. But we knew that already, didn't we?

Friday, September 19, 2008

On my feet again

I'm a runner again.

Apparently my three day hiatus from running did not completely eliminate my ability and desire to run. Okay, I know that sounds silly but I am paranoid that way. I have this secret fear that someday I will stop running, and never start again. Farfetched? Perhaps. But that's pretty much what happened 20-some years ago. I had been running pretty regularly in college and then had to stop when I had my wisdom teeth removed. The wisdom teeth healed, but I didn't run again for almost twenty years.

The difference between then and now is that I was never as committed to running in high school and college as I am now. I did it, because I felt like I should, but I never particularly enjoyed it and I never considered running more than three miles at a time. Very, very different from now.

I was up so late last night that I had no intention of trying to get up at 6 or 7 a.m. Besides, I'm on vacation! I didn't set an alarm, trusting that I would wake up at some reasonable time. I did wake up around 8:00 (still the equivalent of 5 a.m. at home). That was after a very cold night. (More on that later.) I didn't really feel warm until almost 6 a.m. So those last two hours of sleep were definitely the most rewarding!

My plan was for a 5-6 mile easy run—into Ogunquit, along the Marginal Way beachside path to Perkins Cove and back, then return to the cottage for breakfast. Or something along those lines.
Despite the nighttime chill, by morning the sun was shining brightly and although not hot, the outdoor temperature was pleasant for running (and I suspect warmer than it had been inside the cottage). I headed out to the road and then south along Route 1 toward Ogunquit.

I think the distance to town is about three quarters of a mile, and another quarter or so to the start of Marginal Way. Except that I missed the path and continued on into town, until I realized I'd gone too far and turned back.

Marginal Way is a winding blacktopped path along the rocky shoreline between Ogunquit and Perkins Cove. I think the one-way distance is about 1.3 miles. The curvy, sometimes hilly path is a scenic route for walkers and runners. When I first started out this morning there were only a few others I met along the way, but by the time I finished I was weaving around crowds of walkers.*

When I reached Perkins Cove (the first time), I didn't just turn around and head back. Instead I followed the sidewalk and road to the end of the little development, noting several restaurants and shops along the way. But what I really was looking for, and was overjoyed to find, was a sign pointing ahead to public restrooms. I followed the sign to the doors marked “Gulls” and “Buoys” (how cute). I do appreciate a town that has nice public accommodations!

Then I turned around and followed the coastal trail back into Ogunquit. I wasn't ready to quit yet, though. Instead of turning back toward the cottage I turned inward and followed the main road back to Perkins Cove again, then back onto the path for my second return to Ogunquit.

By the time I made my way to the intersection with Route 1 again, I had gone about 6½ miles, which seemed far enough to stop for a latte and walk the remaining distance back to the cottage. I finished with 7½ miles, including the walking.

Morning was for running, and afternoon was for being a tourist. Which meant, today, our traditional trip to Kennebunkport.

We are quite fond of Kennebunkport. Maybe it's the white Colonial houses and inns; maybe it's cluster of touristy shops. Maybe it's the Clam Shack, maybe it's the Ben & Jerry's. (And yes, I know there are Ben & Jerry's shops everywhere, but the one in Kennebunkport is the only one I ever go to. Which means about once every couple of years.)

One thing I don't love about Kennebunkport is the traffic and parking. But amazingly I found a spot on a side street quite easily.

One of the first things I saw, not too far from Ben & Jerry's—and why I'd never seen it before I don't know—was the headquarters for the Democratic Party of Ogunquit. What a kick! I popped in and got an Obama-Biden bumper sticker. The guy who was manning the office was the unopposed Democratic candidate for Congress from Kennebunk (not Port). My dad spent quite some time chatting his ear off.

Meanwhile, we arranged to meet up outside Ben & Jerry's at 3:00.

I had one goal for my shopping tour of Kennebunkport—buy warm pajamas. I figured that should be relatively easy to accomplish in a shop-filled place like this.

I needed warmer pajamas because the night had been so cold. This is not new for Ogunquit. I remember lots of chilly nights and cold mornings. But that had been in October. For some reason, I thought it would be warmer in mid-September. In fact, I had been concerned about being too warm!

I had been so wrong. This was just like summers at my family's beach cabin when I was young. No matter how warm the weather was, by morning the cabin was always so cold that we needed a fire in the woodstove. I don't know what it is about thin-walled, underinsulated vacation shacks!

So last night I bundled up in my thin cotton PJ's, a fleece vest, socks and an extra blanket, and still huddled slightly chilled throughout the night. I would have sold my soul for a hot water bottle! It was only in the early morning hours that my body had finally managed to warm itself, allowing me to sleep soundly for a few more hours.

But I didn't want another night like that. I was determined to find myself some flannel pajamas, preferably cute ones of course. Luckily the shopping gods came through for me, and I eventually came away with a pair of “I Love Lucy” print flannel pajamas, which I am wearing now. (However, we also turned the heater on for a while tonight, so that took off some of the ambient chill, and I am not starting out nearly as cold as last night. Makes a big difference.

The main thing on my mother's agenda was a visit to the Clam Shack. So in the middle of the great PJ search, we detoured across the bridge and shared a small order of deep-fried clam strips. Tasty!

After scouting out most of the shops, making my pajama selection, and buying a fleece top in another shop (even in the sun today there was a cold wind), we returned to Ben & Jerry's for the meet-up. And the only other thing I have to say about that is... Cinnamon Buns Ice Cream. A very yummy invention.

Before we left the area, my dad wanted to drive out to see the Bush Senior compound. We are, I must admit, non-partisan stalkers. So along with all the other gawkers, we parked, looked, and photographed. And let me tell you, the others were not necessarily Bush (Jr., Sr., whatever) fans either. My dad said to one guy, “If you see Bush (unclear which one), wave to him.” And the guy said “I'll wave like this.” (What, you thought I meant this?) (Here I am with the Bush compound in the background.)

That was pretty much the end of our Kennebunkport excursion, except that, as usual, I went the wrong way leaving, thereby adding several miles to our trip. But it did give us the chance to drive through Kennebunk, which looks quite interesting in itself, if we ever had time to stop there (as usual, driving through).

Later this evening I finally made it to the Lobster Pound and had a sweet rendezvous with a 2½ pound lobster. Ain't love grand?

*And people here are not that friendly. At home I always give a little nod to people I encounter while running, and they always respond. Here my nods went pretty much unnoticed, although if I practically shouted "good morning," they would usually answer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let's just call it tapering, shall we?

It's Thursday night and I haven't actually run since Monday. I did work out at the Y on Tuesday, it's not like I'm a total sloth. But I didn't run on Wednesday morning (due to being up till all hours packing Tuesday night) and then of course I spent all day Wednesday traveling.

This morning I had originally intended to check out the workout room at the Highlander Inn before we left here, but when morning rolled around I chose sleep instead. I “slept in” until 9:00—which would still be 6 a.m. in the time zone I'm accustomed to, and by that time it was too late to go run on a treadmill. So I decided.

It's amazing (and scary) how easy it is to slip into the lifestyle of a non-running person. At a little past 9 my dad came and said there was breakfast in the dining room. What? I hadn't realized breakfast came with the room.* I was out of bed like a shot, dressed in a minute, and sitting at a table with a cup of coffee and a muffin before you could say “high-glycemic carbs.”

Our departure from Manchester was glacial. After checking out of the hotel and going back to the airport to pick up my bag (which was there waiting for me, thank God), I wanted to make a stop at Starbucks before heading north. I wasn't sure how many Starbucks I would find up in Maine. (Although I realize, it retrospect, that at least the outlet towns have Starbucks.)

I had obtained directions to a nearby Starbucks at a Barnes & Noble,** which was luckily on our route anyway. So, apparently I had traveled across the country to go to Starbucks and Barnes & Noble. (I got no problem with that, actually.)

Walking into a Barnes & Noble is, however, like walking into a drug den for me. All those brightly covered books, so shiny, so tempting. How can I leave without buying one? Or two? To my addled brain, even the most unlikely of books looked appealing. I stopped at the restroom and came out into the religion section and found myself thinking, “Bibles? How interesting. History of Judaism? Fascinating!”***

I lured myself away from the enticing tomes of theology and back to the cafe to grab my latte. On the way out of the store I only picked up two books, one fiction (“Ooh, I read her last book”) and one memoir (“this looks rather entertaining”). But then my dad had to have a chance to go in and look around, and after he came out I just zipped back in to get a book my mother had wanted (and ended up with two coffee mugs I had resisted the first time). (I am just sick, I know.)

But finally we were on the road, heading eastward on 101 toward the Hamptons. These are the New Hampshire Hamptons, not to be confused with the New York Hamptons.

The little town of Hampton Beach is a classic summer beach resort town, with a boardwalk equivalent (made of cement in this case), a long sandy beach, and a street lined with food stalls and arcades. Most of which, on this sunny Thursday in mid-September, were closed.

Still, this is the kind of beach resort town I like best. Semi-deserted. The introvert in me (and let's face it, that's pretty much all of me), recoils from crowds and mobs, and I have no real liking for beaches covered with masses of bodies. But wide open stretches of sandy beach, speckled with the occasional intrepid beachgoer, deserted shops and empty arcades, the nostalgic aura of days gone by—that sparks my solitary soul.

I don't demand grey skies and foul weather, however (though I've been there too), and today's bright sunshine was perfect. I walked down to the sand and, when I took my sandals off, was stunned by its silkiness. I am used to beach sand that is much coarser, and often damp from an outgoing tide. I walked a stretch down the beach, mildly regretting that there would not be enough time (in all eternity) to walk off the callouses on my feet.

Although the scene was much different, the beach made me think of St. Ives in Cornwall. Maybe next spring after the Bath Half Marathon I should finish with a few days in Cornwall. I could walk on the cliff paths and potter around for a few days before going home to the U.S. The last time I was in St. Ives, about four years ago, I brought back some sand for my friend Jennifer who has vials of sand from all over the world. Remembering that, I scooped some Hampton sand into a ziploc bag to bring home to her.

North of the tourist town area, the oceanview roadway is lined with grand old mansions (as well as grand new mansions). I noticed (to my dismay but not surprise) a few McCain signs in front of some of the opulent homes. I had my mother drop me off at the beginning of the houses, so I could walk north along the roadside path, taking pictures of my favorite houses (and some that were just intriguing), as well as enjoy the rocky scenery.

As I walked northward I had a sense of how Dean Karnazes likes to hop out of a car and just run endlessly. I wasn't running, of course, and in my sandals I had no real desire to break into a jog or anything, but I did want to just keep walking. I knew I had to be picked up at some point, but as long as the path continued, I wanted to as well. At one point, when it turned to gravel, I thought perhaps I would be done, but after an ankle-testing stretch, I was back on pavement.

Luckily for our timeline, the path and sidewalk did seem to end when I reached a beach club south of Rye. Instead of exploring onward, I prudently called my mother and told her to come pick me up so we could move forward at a more speedy pace. It was mid-afternoon already, and we still had some distance to go. In fact, we were still in New Hampshire, though moving toward the northern border.

It was also a long time since breakfast, or even the late morning latte. We weren't sure if we would find anything open, if the deserted restaurants of Hampton Beach were any sign, but in Rye we soon came across a place called Ray's. It's like many a seafood restaurant in New England, cheap (relatively) lobsters and a menu-full of lobster dishes, fried seafood, takeaway menus, lobster buoy décor, and souvenirs and t-shirts for sale.

Exactly what we were looking for.

It took me only a moment to make my selection—a lobster roll, of course. (With a salad on the side to satisfy my green tooth.) My parents ventured into the exotic with a lobster quesadilla for my mother and a small lobster pie for my dad. The quesadilla was surprisingly tasty, lobster meat and mozzarella cheese sandwiched between two tortillas, and the lobster pie was laced with a sherry-scented sauce and a pastry top. My lobster roll was exactly what it was supposed to be, a toasted split roll stuffed with about four ounces of lobster salad. (I've never met a lobster roll I didn't like.)

Then, finally, we headed with purpose toward Ogunquit. Virtually every time I've come to Ogunquit it has been dark by the time we arrived. Today we were early enough in the afternoon—and it was early enough in the fall, in fact it is still late summer—that we did arrive during daylight hours. We even managed to get through Portsmouth without incident (that is getting lost).

We're staying at The Dunes, in a two bedroom cottage with a small kitchen, a screened porch, and a homey décor. Our cottage is a little toward the back, but a view of the water is only a few steps away. And, despite its old-timey ambience, The Dunes now has wireless internet, a big step forward from the days (like two years ago) when I could barely get a cell phone signal here!

I decided to use the remaining afternoon light and extra time to take a walk into town. I also wanted to work up an appetite for dinner later on in the evening. Plus, I'm planning to go running tomorrow morning, and I thought it would be helpful to scout out the route and measure some distances with the Garmin.

I set out towards Ogunquit and had just reached the turn into town when I was distracted by a store window. A sign in the window, to be precise, advertising summer clothes 40% off (and shoes 50% off). A quick look wouldn't hurt, would it? I stopped the Garmin and strolled in.

I almost escaped unscathed as the racks of shorts and sleeveless tops held little appeal for me. But then I turned to another rack that was loaded with Nomadic Traders, Habitat, Tribal, and other lines that I frequently wear. Long story short (and it's long thanks to the layers of clothes I had to remove to try on things), I walked away with two shirts, a skirt, a pair of pants, a jacket, and (ahem) two pairs of shoes (which, it should be noted, cost together the same as one pair would have pre-sale).

By that time it had grown dark, so I only walked a little ways into town before turning around and heading back to The Dunes. In the main street I saw a placard advertising Les Miserables at the Ogunquit Playhouse (which must explain all the cars I saw there as we drove into town early—matinee). As I walked along in the still balmy evening, remembered fondly the first time I saw Les Miz (and wished I had it on my iPod). Back in the fall of 1985 I was preparing to head to London in January, first with a PLU group for three weeks and then staying on to study for the rest of the semester. I read an article in Time magazine about a new show in the West End, a musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel (which I had loved reading). I told our leaders (Dennis and Gloria Martin, delightful English professors who we all adored) about it, and although they were a little doubtful about the idea of a musical (okay, English profs can be a little snobby), they did get us tickets and they were wonderful seats in the center of the stalls. (They found them somehow even though it was selling out regularly.)

This was Les Miz at its prime, with the original London cast—Colm Wilkinson, Patti LuPone, Frances Ruffelle. And it was a glorious experience for me (and everyone else as well). As usual with performances that move me greatly, I sobbed throughout. (Beginning with Fantine's death and continuing on... well, you know the story. And if you don't, where have you been? But by the time all the characters who had died came back onstage near the end as Valjean is dying—well, I feel myself choking up even now. Good times.)

As I made my way back toward The Dunes, I popped into the Lobster Pound to check when they closed . It was about 7:30 at that time, and they told me to be there by 8:30. I took that to mean they closed at 8:30.

So we got ready for dinner, not rushing too much because 8:00 doesn't seem late when it still feels a little like 5:00 at home, and arrived at the Lobster Pound at 8:20. Which is when the smug, supercilious, obnoxious tank boys told me they were closed. What? I argued. They told me 8:30! But it was to no avail. The tanks were shut. No lobster for you!

I was in quite a snit, wanting just to go back to the cottage in a huff, but also knowing that I would only be more miserable if I skipped dinner entirely. We drove up and down the highway a bit, not seeing a restaurant that appealed (to me). Finally I suggested that we go to the fancy deli in town where I had bought diet Coke earlier and noted their vast menu of takeaway foods, including lobster rolls. I had planned on boiled lobster, but... you make do.

So we ordered up the lobster rolls and puttered around the store loading up on other things. Bananas for breakfast. Salad to go with the lobster rolls. And finally... a blueberry pie for dessert.

In the end, a takeaway dinner at the cottage was not such a bad plan. I hadn't planned on eating bread for a second time today, but you do what you gotta do. (When a sandwich costs $12.95, you eat every bite.) And my dad, who usually monopolizes the TV, offered me When Harry Met Sally (instead of finding something more to his preference, like Cops).

And now, once again, it is very late in Maine. Time to get some sleep.

And tomorrow I will be a runner again.

*For the first night I was sharing a hotel room with my parents since this was only a stopover. Still, even those few hours reminded me why I never like to share a room! There's the trying to be quiet when I got in late. There's the not being able to turn on a light to read for a while. There's the snoring (and it wasn't me!). Yes, I'm definitely a solo room kind of person.

**Actually it was the Barnes & Noble Cafe. But they assured me it's all the same as a regular Starbucks store. But they do use different cups, and that was a little troubling too me. Still, no time to go anywhere else.

***Not that those topics aren't in fact interesting and fascinating.