Monday, October 27, 2008

Another 40-something woman kicks ass

Remember Zola Budd? She of the unfortunate collision with Mary Decker in the 1984 Olympic 3000 meter final? (History shows that Mary clipped Zola's heel before falling, but Zola got the boos and the bad press.) She's now Zola Budd Pieterse, lives in North Carolina, and is 42 years old.

Zola faded out of the running world a few years after the '84 Olympics, but I'm not here to write about her early running career. According to a Runner's World article, Zola reemerged in the running world in her new home, shortly after arriving in the U.S. in August of this year. She won a 5K in Florida in 17:43 in August, then won the Asheville, NC Half Marathon with a time of 1:25:12. She had begun training for and running marathons in the last few years, and finished one in South Africa last year in about 3:10.

She's now training to run in Sunday's New York Marathon, hoping to finish around 2:50, and perhaps faster next year.

Obviously Zola has her genetics, her innate skills, and her past (as well as present) training to help her achieve running times, even past the age of 40, that most of us could never dream of. In some ways she'll never be like you and me. But in other ways, she is just like me, or at least you. She's married, has three kids (a 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old twins). If you saw her in the grocery store, you would probably never guess that she's still an amazingly fast runner. In a race, she would probably look like any one of us—if this picture from the Blue Ridge Cross Country meet on October 17 is any indication*—until the starting gun went off and she took flight.

Zola, as an elite Masters athlete (and an all-around competitor in many ways), probably cannot hope to outdo her youthful performances. But for the rest of us, her non-elite peers who were never track stars in our youths, there is every opportunity and every possibility to set our own records, even as we pass 40 and even if we have a little roll around our middles (see Zola's picture, too!).

For me personally, all my PR's have been set this year (5K, 10K, 15K) except for the half marathon (which is still a delicate subject). But I still have an opportunity to do that this year, and if I don't, I'll do it next year. Even though I'll be a year older. Let's call it a year better.

*Runner's World picture.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Virgin London Marathon?

Beginning in 2010, Richard Branson's Virgin Money group will take over sponsorship of the London Marathon, now known as the Flora London Marathon thanks to its current sponsor, Flora margarine. I know this isn't new news, it was officially released in May of this year, but I just heard about it a few weeks ago and it's been floating around the edges of my mind since then.

I gather that this deal may have raised a few eyebrows in England, given Branson's flamboyant persona and take-over-the-world business empire. But as someone who has ridden in the mega-wonderful first class carriages of his Virgin train line, I have a bit of a soft spot for Sir Richard and his enterprises. I assume that the Virgin London Marathon will be an equally first class event.

It makes me wonder... it makes me just wonder if maybe, possibly, this is some kind of a sign, and whether the 2010 Virgin London Marathon should be... my first marathon?

Of course, I am not planning to ever run a full marathon.

But just in case, I filled out this.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tagged - Five Questions

Lisa tagged me to answer these “5 things about me” questions. Thanks, Lisa, I feel special!

Here are the rules, as copied and pasted from Lisa:

Each player answers the question themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blog and leaves them a comment letting them know that they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve answered the questions on your blog.

Ten Years Ago (1998)

  1. I had just started a new job as a juvenile defense attorney, after several years as a judge's law clerk. Shortly thereafter our “new” Juvenile Justice Center (court and detention facility) opened in September 1998.
  2. In the early spring I traveled to Norway with my father and sister. We cut our trip short by a couple days because of fears that an airline strike would make our standby flights difficult. Still, we were stuck in Copenhagen, overnight for my sister and me, and two nights for my dad, due to full flights. We had to travel in crew seats, which meant we had a nice crew rest cabin for part of the flight, but had to sit on jump seats and a milk crate while the crew took their rest breaks. Not fun. (Although the rest of the trip was great.)
  3. In the spring and early summer I planned and arranged my sister's July wedding, which was in my parents' garden. My mother and I chose the food, flowers (picked and arranged by our “crew”—my mom's friends), cake (tasting was fun), and I designed and made the invitations. My sister chose her dress (though advised by me) and the groom (her own decision). I figured this was probably the only wedding I would ever plan, so I really threw myself into my vicarious planning. My sister might not have selected a “pink” color scheme on her own! It was a lovely wedding, if I do say so myself.
  4. My clothes were several sizes larger than they are now.
  5. I did not run. At all.
5 Things on my To Do List Today

  1. Run 8 miles (done at 6 a.m.)
  2. Attend Public Defense Continuing Legal Education seminar (I'm at it now).
  3. Get out keys that are locked in my car at the conference center where I'm attending the CLE. (I'm working on it, but as of 1:30 p.m. I'm still locked out.)
  4. Clean kitty litter, wash dishes, run vacuum over floor, in order to maintain the pristine housecleaning accomplished last weekend.
  5. Watch Sex and the City DVD with a friend.
5 Things that I Would Do If I were a Millionaire
I'm assuming this means I have a spare million dollars, not multi-millions. Not enough to allow me to quit my job, live a life of luxury, or have Sarah Palin's wardrobe. So with my million dollar windfall, here is what I'd do. Pretty much in order of priority. (I didn't include buying a new fuel-efficient, eco-friendly car. Though probably I should.)

  1. Pay off all credit cards and other debt, except primary mortgage (as I have a good rate, it's a tax deduction, and it will be paid off in ten years anyway).
  2. Take a chunk and set up an investment portfolio separate from my IRA's. (I know that it seems like a questionable time to do this, but at least I—or my advisor—could buy cheap.)
  3. Pick a few charities to donate to, probably benefiting children or youth in some way.
  4. Rent a cottage in England for a month or so and invite friends and family to come visit/stay (maybe not all at once, for the whole time). Walk the footpaths. Read. Write.
  5. Hire a professional cleaner/organizer to help me straighten up my house. Then get a weekly house cleaner and an every-other-weekly gardener to help with maintenance.
  6. And an extra—if I've done all these things, and I still have plenty of money left over, and I've been able to sock away some cash savings in addition to the investments—then... Arm lift/tuck. Tummy tuck. Boob lift.
Five Places I've Lived
(I'm adding two extra because that will include everywhere I've lived.)

  1. Marysville, WA (for the first 18 years of my life, plus a couple years after law school).
  2. Tacoma, WA (college, Pacific Lutheran University).
  3. Palo Alto, CA (summer internship).
  4. London, England (study abroad, second semester of junior year in college).
  5. Washington DC (internship with a senator, second semester of senior year).
  6. Seattle, WA (law school).
  7. Everett, WA (since 1994).
Five Jobs I've Had

  1. Summer cleaning crew for local school district (several summers in high school and college).
  2. Math department grader (in college).
  3. Temp—secretary/receptionist at various businesses in Seattle.
  4. Judge's law clerk.
  5. Attorney—juvenile offender defense attorney.

Now I am supposed to tag (approximately) five people. If you don't want to do it (or already have), just ignore me! I am tagging Michelle, Running Knitter, Andrea, Mel (a friend from high school), Marie (a friend from college) and Jennifer, who doesn't have a blog but likes to do lists and quizzes. Yes, I know that is six. As you have probably gathered, I have a problem staying within limits.

And by the way, it's almost 3:00 now and I still haven't gotten into my car. Wish me luck....

Postscript: At 3:30 AAA came and let me in to my car. Watching the tow truck guy with his tools break into my car was amazing. I have clients who would kill (er, bad word) for those tools!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Take it and run Thursday: Running and Weight

Today's topice for the Runner's Lounge "Take it and run Thursday" is Running and Weight. I actually inadvertantly wrote about that a bit yesterday, in my post on the Banana Diet, but what the heck. I never tire of writing about weight issues. So let me weigh in on this a little more (tee hee). (Okay, sorry about that.)

I've noticed in the numerous blogs that I read, regularly and irregularly, that there is a common trend of people training for marathons or other long distances, who are complaining that they have put on weight despite their increased running. In my totally non-scientific, non-statistical method of evaluation, I have also gathered that a lot of these are people who, like me, have lost weight in the past, with the assistance of running for exercise. Now we are in maintenance, pretty much anyway, and are running more than ever before, but a few pounds have crept on.

I suspect that other people have already commented on the problem of thinking that running a lot means you can eat whatever you want, and maybe the weight gain is due to an excess of pizza and beer.

That's not my problem. I don't eat pizza, I don't drink beer, and except for rare exceptions I really don't eat or drink anything that is not full of protein, good carbs, antioxidants, or Omega 3 oils. Yet I am one of those people who has gained weight while simultaneously running an average of 30+ miles per week.

I do believe that running or other cardio exercise is necessary for not only losing weight, but keeping the weight off. But I'm also skeptical about the whole calorie thing. Either I am eating a lot more than I think I am (and I recognize that I am eating more than, say, 1500-1600 calories per day), or I am just not burning off calories at the rate you would expect for the amount that I exercise.

Running frequent races does create situations which tend to negate weight loss. There's the pre-race pasta dinner. Even if your intake is modest, as I like to think mine is, eating pasta a couple of times a month doesn't help. And then there's the post-race treat. I would hope that the calories in the post-race treat do not exceed the calories burned in the run, but if that run is burning a lot fewer calories than I believe... well, you see the problem.

Bottom line is, my weight goes hand in hand with my running. If the running has led me to pick up a few pounds of muscle, water weight and, I'll admit it, flab, I also know that the running is responsible for keeping me moderately thin, strong, and muscular (and being strong and muscular makes me look thinner than I really am). I believe that if I weighed a little less I might be faster, so I'm working on that. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

That silly Banana Diet

Have you heard about the Morning Banana Diet? It's a fad diet that's taken Japan by storm, to the extent that stores are having banana shortages. The rules of the diet are simple. You just eat one or more bananas with room temperature water, then a normal lunch and dinner,* before 8 p.m. You can have a 3:00 snack, but no desserts, and you need to go to bed before midnight.

Just by looking at this, it seems clear why people might lose weight, if they are normally eating a big breakfast or lots of sweets, or both. Cutting out desserts and substituting a 100-calorie banana for a higher calorie breakfast would obviously promote weight loss simply due to calorie reduction. Of course, that doesn't explain why it works (if it does) for people who choose to eat more than one banana, or who didn't previously eat breakfast and then add the bananas to their diets.

I'm sure there's some quasi-scientific explanation for why this works (if it really does). It's not really that bad of a diet, as fads go. It allows you to eat normal, sensible meals, cuts out sweets, and certainly bananas have good things in them, nutrients and fiber and such. It's a lot like the Special K diet, which you've probably seen on TV (you substitute Special K with skim milk and fruit for two meals a day), or even Slimfast, which substitutes shakes for a couple meals and then eat a "sensible dinner."

I would love to find a magical quick-fix diet which could help me lose ten pounds quickly with little effort. I would do almost anything** to drop those ten pounds right now. I really resent that despite all my running and very healthy eating I have manage to gain ten pounds since early spring.

But I am very reluctant to adopt a diet that requires me to give up breakfast and just eat a banana in the morning. After four years I have become attached to having a regular breakfast every morning. And since I run or work out early almost every day, I really believe I need my solid breakfast of oatmeal, berries or fruit, and an egg (plus egg whites) every day. It fuels me through the morning and keeps me from diving into a scone at Starbucks.

When I had a lot of weight to lose, and did lose it, I was able to commit to a long term weight loss plan without expecting to be finished in short time. Of course it helped that I was able to lose two or more pounds a week for a long time. Nowadays I can barely manage to net one pound of loss per week. But the idea that it could take ten weeks—till the end of the year!—to lose those pesky ten pounds, is practically unbearable. I want it to be done now.***

I don't know how to finish this post. I am not going to do the Banana Diet, for the reasons mentioned above. I am sticking to my usual plan of cutting out most sweets and high-glycemic carbs**** and seeing how it goes. If that doesn't work, I will be forced to look seriously at eating less (say it ain't so), and perhaps increasing my cardio, although that would be difficult since I devote so much time already to running and the Y.

So. This post started out being a criticism of fad diets and ended up being all about me. But what else can you expect? It is my blog, after all!

*Since this diet comes from Japan, I assume they mean a "normal" Japanese lunch and dinner.

**Except, apparently, eat less and stop being tempted by the odd cookie or Hershey's miniature.

***I cling to the idea that a few pounds of it is water weight due to the carbs I have consumed in training, and/or treating myself on sweets, and if I cut back on them I will, indeed, drop some of the ten pounds quickly, even if the remainder take longer.

****How many times have I written that, for heavens sake?

Monday, October 20, 2008

No wonder I am tired!

I have run 23 races this year so far. Five half marathons, two 15K's, one 12K, six 10K's, one 5-mile and one 8K, and six 5K's, all of which were competitive races; plus an 8-mile (Nancy's 8 on the 8th) and a 10-mile relay which I ran solo as a training run.

I have run over 1,263 miles through yesterday (including the races), plus 6.2 miles this morning. That's sixty more miles than I ran in all of 2007. I'm looking to meet, and probably beat, my goal of 1,500 miles in 2008.

I still have one half marathon on the docket for December, plus probably a 10K in November and another 5K before the end of the year.

I'm a little bit tired.

Maybe it's a little understandable how I just missed breaking the two-hour half marathon in Maine, but then came nowhere near it in Victoria last weekend.

I don't want to get tired of running. I don't want to not want to run more races and half marathons. I don't think that's going to happen.

But I do think it's a good thing that I'm taking a breather from races for a few weeks before Las Vegas. Okay, maybe that one Thanksgiving 10K on November 8. Which I'm going to run for fun, not to beat my 10K PR.

In November I'm going to work on some serious training to try to get my best result in Las Vegas. But I'm also cutting myself a little bit of slack. I'm running for health* and happiness, not records, right? And for the joy of running, and everything it has brought me, and will hopefully continue to bring me for years to come, regardless of the numbers on the clock when I cross the finish line. Because crossing it is really all that matters.

*And a cheering thought—you burn as many calories running slow as fast. It just takes longer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slow and easy

I thought I was going to get an early start this morning (Sunday). I woke up at 6 a.m. to watch Meet the Press. After that was over I switched to the Food Network, thinking I'd go out running at 8, 8:30, 9 at the latest. Instead I fell back to sleep... I remember having a dream that Emeril was cooking for me! (And I was being rather rude, I kept wandering off for some reason.)

So what with the random dozing, eating a bit of breakfast, not wanting to get up while Tyler or Bobby were on, and general laziness,* I wasn't ready to head out until after 10:00. Then, when I unplugged the Garmin from the charger—where I'd left it since Friday morning after learning it had completely discharged between Wednesday and Friday—it had somehow completely reset back to the "beginning," erasing my history (which didn't matter, as it's all been downloaded), and walking me through the initial tutorial again. (I also learned, a bit later, that my one-mile lap settings had been erased, so I was measuring time and distance, but that's all.)

My initial plan was to run 12 miles, following a loop through north Everett and around the marina that would net me 12 miles by the time I got home.

But as I headed north on Colby, sore in my touchy ankle and sullen in my mind, I just wasn't feeling it. I was anxious over how late I would get home (my day's housecleaning plans were meant to start at 10 a.m., about the time I hit the road), and I was sure my body didn't have an endorphin to spare. Twelve miles were looking awfully long, as I ticked past one mile and then, finally, a second mile.

That's when I decided to give myself a break. I would knock the twelve miles down to ten, which would save a little bit of time overall, and I would change my route. Instead of the marina route, which is really nice but once you're on it you have to go the whole way, I would stick to my familiar town course, just adding a couple miles on the north and south ends, to bring it up to the ten miles. Since I would be right in town, I could head home at any time if I really wanted to throw in the towel.

And just that little bit of leeway, that freedom to quit if I wanted, took away my desire to quit. I kept going north until I reached the Arboretum at Legion Park, a tiny little public garden that has a little bit of everything—a native plant trail, a pillared entrance, a English-style perennial border which includes a scent garden and a white garden, a Northwest demonstration garden, a woodland garden, a conifer garden, and a Japanese maple garden, which is turning all sorts of beautiful colors this time of year. The path around the gardens is only about a quarter mile, although I did a couple of extra turns which made it about a third of a mile and put me at three miles when I left and headed south again.

The further I ran, the better I felt. I even started adding extra block loops, just to ensure I could make my ten-mile total easily. I crossed Everett Avenue at six miles. And that was the point where the deeply buried endorphins unearthed themselves and the hard run became an easy run. My legs lightened up and the earlier aches and pains floated away; my anxiety about the time dissipated and although I wasn't really running any faster than before, I was running just to run and not satisfy some arbitrary weekly goal that I had set for myself.

I figured I didn't dare turn around and head home until I had at least eight miles in—it would be horrible to end up short just by a fluke. So at 41st, where I would normally turn back, I kept going south, and didn't turn around until my watch read 8.25 miles. That was safe and would, I suspected, even take me over the desired ten miles.

The route home was slightly downhill all the way, which was a nice way to run what turned out to be another 2.75 miles. I landed at Starbucks at 11.1 miles, which took exactly two hours. That is about a 10:50 pace. Certainly not stellar, but fine for a slow and easy distance run. With the half mile walk home from Starbucks, I finished with 11.6 miles total. After I had decided that twelve miles would be too much!

The barrista at Starbucks who made my latte asked me how my run was. I told him, "The first six miles were hard, but the last five were great!"

*Keeping in mind that I was up until at least midnight watching Notting Hill and then the beginning of Saturday Night Live! And yes, I am pathetically lazy. If I'm not actually running or walking or working out in some fashion (or shopping), I prefer to be lying around reading a book or watching TV instead of doing something useful like housework!

Training, medium rare

As the first step in training for the Las Vegas Half Marathon, my book club adopted a Las Vegas theme for our gathering this last Friday night!

Actually, it was just a coincidence. The book selection (not chosen by me) was Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, the true story of a group of MIT students who managed to beat the system by counting cards playing blackjack in Vegas (and other gambling venues). It's also the movie 21, which of course is a key requirement for our book selections—that a movie has been made of the book.

Since we like to have a relevant food theme for our book club dinners, "Vegas Buffet" seemed like an obvious choice. I've never been to Vegas, so I googled "Las Vegas Buffet" to see what I'd come up with. Basically, it turned out, anything and everything!

But prime rib seemed like a popular item on most of the buffet menus. Also all-you-can-eat shrimp and, rather surprisingly, sushi. Sushi actually played a role in our book as well. The MIT students were always eating sushi, going out to buy sushi, and at one point, said that they play blackjack for sushi money! I mentioned this to my friend Jennifer, who hadn't yet read the book, and she asked, are any of them Asian? Duh-oh. Actually, I admitted, most of them were! And perhaps that is the reason for the popularity of sushi in Vegas as well.

So it was settled. Ann would bring sushi.* Jennifer and Linda brought shrimp (a little miscommunication over who would bring what, but who cares, you can never have enough shrimp, right?). The other Jennifer (who is pregnant, and thus entitled to eat all kinds of goodies—and those of us who were not knocked up were only too happy to join her) brought little pickles and olives, pate´and cheese,** including a french brie that was so rich and creamy it was almost liquid. Plus dessert, chocolate cake*** and ice cream. (Four of our members couldn't make it, so it was just five of us.)

Ann and Jennifer (the preggers one) rip into a baguette.

Linda contemplates the cheese and pate´. Jennifer (the other one) feeds the baby.

Every Vegas party needs poker chips and a really big box of goldfish crackers!

I offered to bring prime rib, baked potatoes,**** and a green salad. Control freak that I am, I often like to bring the main course to our gatherings to make sure it is something I like and want to eat. I did have to enlist my mother to actually cook the prime rib and potatoes, which she did while I was at work. I made my famous balsamic vinaigrette***** and brought tomatoes from my garden for the salad.

I wanted to wear my Las Vegas Half Marathon training shirt, but I had (shockingly) put it away somewhere and couldn't find it in the few moments I had to change my clothes after work.

I considered the prime rib an important part of my training regimen. Yes, really! You know, protein, muscle building, etc. In Victoria I missed out on my semi-usual tradition of eating steak for dinner on the day of a long run (after the run), thanks to the power outage. So we'll call this make-up meat.

How to carve a prime rib
First you need to remove the strings (see above and below).

Then you need to cut off the ribs. Hopefully your butcher will have already cut the ribs from the rest of the roast, and all you will need to do is separate it.

Save the meaty rib section for another meal when you want to make like Fred Flintstone.

Then you just slice....

And serve!

*Which we actually forgot to eat! I took leftovers home for lunch.

**The pate´was delicious, but as it was so rich and we had so much other food, we only ate about half of it. The remains were left behind, and Jennifer asked me if I wanted to take it home. Considering that it was pretty much all goose fat (maybe with some butter), I figured that I didn't need it, nor did my parents. So we fed a little bit of it to Jennifer's dog, who lapped it right up! (I guess I'll hear on Monday whether there were any ill effects!) We contemplated telling the other Jennifer, "the dog loved your pate´de foie gras!"

***She had originally promised to bake a chocolate cake, with buttercream frosting, which I had gluttonously been looking forward to, but I managed to restrain myself when she turned up with a purchased cake. After all, talk is cheap, but actually finding time to bake is very challenging! And yes, I recognize the irony in me getting all holier-than-thou over buttery pate´and yet drooling at the concept of buttercream frosting... priorities, people! You've got to have priorities.)

****With all the fixin's. Butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, chopped onion, fire-roasted salsa (because I like it). I did get light sour cream and 2% cheddar cheese—I couldn't quite bring myself to go all-fat! You can't tell the difference, anyway.

*****Balsamic Vinaigrette
Traditional version
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Whisk together the mustard and vinegar, then drizzle in the olive oil slowly while whisking to emulsify.

Light version (which I prefer)
1-2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Prepare as directed above. You can add more balsamic vinegar for an even lighter, thinner dressing. I like to put the dressing in a squeeze bottle, which makes it easy to dispense lightly onto the salad before tossing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Royal Results

So, it's over. And I promised to announce my time with pride, so here it is. 2:06:05. Okay, okay, 2:06:05. That is what my Garmin said right after the race, and my official chip time later confirmed it.* My gun time was several minutes slower.

Race morning started at 5 a.m. when my alarm went off. I got up about ten or fifteen minutes later. Last night I had carefully put out all my clothes, shoes, gear, and the race bib and chip, so that I wouldn't be searching and digging this morning. So getting dressed was really fast. I was able to sit down with my book and read a little while I ate my breakfast of a banana and a mini-breakfast cookie.

Then I headed out to Starbucks. Having now done a bit of walking around the area on Sunday afternoon, I am aware of any number of Starbucks in the relatively near vicinity. But this morning the only one I knew was the one from Saturday, up on Blanshard and Fort, about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. I got there at 6:15 and met two women who were standing outside... waiting for it to open at 6:30 (although the clerk had told them they might open a little early). I stood there for a few minutes, until someone told us there was another one two blocks up and one over. So I decided to make the trip. That store was supposed to open at 5:30 a.m. on Sundays, but the door was locked and the people inside were clearly still setting up. They weren't letting me in! So it was back to the first Starbucks and by the time I got there it was open.

Of course, now it was so late (6:30 a.m., and somewhere out there the "early start" marathon runners were beginning!) that I only had time to drink a little of the latte on the way back to the hotel. After that I had to head out for a warm-up run and get lined up for the race.

I have a pre-race potty ritual that I swear by, which is to go three times before the run to squeeze out every drop possible. The first time is when I first arrive at the race (this would be in the hotel room before leaving for Starbucks); the second is before my warm-up run (back at the hotel room before going out again); and the third is after the warm-up and as close to the start of the race as possible, taking into consideration the number of porta-potties available and the length of the lines.

The start of the race was in Menzies Street, over on the far side of the Houses of Parliament. I jogged over that way, then looped around the large starting area. I noticed in Menzies Street that there were pace signs in the starting areas for both the half marathon and marathon. Conveniently for me, there was a small block of porta-potties not too far from the two-hour (half) sign.

The line was already long when I joined it at about 7:10. I knew that my chance of getting through it by 7:30 was questionable. I wanted to try, but I have started other races feeling (possibly psychologically) that I had to go and that abated after I was in the race for a while. Either it was all nerves or perhaps there was some evaporation going on due to sweating!

There were still quite a few people ahead of me when the announcer declared the wheelchair start at 7:25. Everyone in the line around me looked nervous. One older lady decided to give up and head for the start.** A teen-aged boy behind me was jumping around and looked very upset, as his mom told him to calm down. I felt sorry for him, but I had no intention of giving up my place in line as an act of charity.

The girl in front of me and I agreed that thanks to chip timing, it would be better to even miss the start (as unsettling as that would be) rather than lose time using one of the potties on the course. A moment after that she got to the front, ran to the next opening door, and then it was my turn. I simulated the race to the finish line when I saw an open door, hopped in, and was a little bit surprised when it appeared that the half a latte and a few sips of water I had drank really did make a difference. I was quite relieved that I'd made it to the front of the line in time! That would take quite a strain off the first part of the race.

I flew out of the stall and into the group of runners by the two-hour sign. Even though it had been clearly a close call, I still stood and waited several minutes before the starting gun. (And then I stood and waited longer before the crowd actually started moving forward.) I would have thought that my porta-potty victory would be a good omen for the rest of the race, but in some ways it was my most triumphant moment! (Not that finishing the race wasn't great too.)

I was wearing the hot pink shirt and light jacket that I had bought at the Expo. (The vest in the picture above was for pre-race warmth in the early morning hours.) I had been so concerned about being cold—as it turned out, that wasn't an issue. Sunday morning was just slightly cloudy (and the sun came out later), and it was balmier than the previous mornings had been. I started out wearing gloves, and soon realized I would not need them. I peeled them off and tossed them to my mother as I passed her in front of the Empress, about a mile into the race. I soon became rather warm and sweaty in my two layers. In retrospect, I could have been perfectly happy in just the long-sleeved shirt. But I didn't even attempt to take off the jacket. I had pinned my number to it, and except in cases of greater emergency, I don't like to take the time to change clothes, even just take off a jacket, in a race where every second counts.

Once the crowd around me started moving, we had several false attempts to break into a jog, before having to resume a walking pace again. There were more than 4,000 runners in the half marathon and that made for a slow march to the starting mats!

Even after I crossed the starting line and was able to start running, the pace was definitely constricted by the mass of runners surrounding me. I was able to weave around some people, but at other times just went with the flow. Which, as it turned out, was about a 10-minute pace for those two miles. 10:11 in the first mile and 9:50 in the second.

The front of the pack passes the Empress Hotel.

Which was bad news for me on so many levels. After those two miles I knew it would be almost impossible to finish under two hours. I already had two minutes to make up for, in addition to getting my pace up to a two-hour speed. I didn't have to do complicated math to know it was a highly unlikely proposition. The question was, how bad would it be? Oops, I mean (keeping positive), how well could I still manage to do?

Mile 3 was somewhat encouraging, an improvement at 9:15, but firmly cementing my realization that there would be no two-hour half today. And for the next ten miles I fluctuated between about 9:15 and 9:45, my mood fluctuating accordingly. Oh heck, here are my splits, just to show the crazy rollercoaster.... 10:11, 9:50, 9:14, 9:26, 9:15, 9:22, 9:48, 9:50, 9:26, 9:37, 9:45, 9:06, 9:14 (I did attempt, and succeed, at putting on a kick in the last two miles), and the final .22 mile (which is how far it was to the finish line) at 8:37 (7 mph) pace. (Not a single mile under nine unfortunate record for me.)

On a different day I would have loved this course. There were no steep hills, only a number of gradual inclines both up and down. Usually I would do pretty well on the uphill in this type of route, and pick it up in the downhill. I did pick it up, I think (hence the faster miles) but just not enough.

One rather unusual thing about the course was the recurring out and back portions, two major sections of the run where the runners going the other direction were running opposite you. It was definitely better to be among the runners in the “back” portions! In the second of the outs and backs, we began to meet up with marathon runners early into their race. We had about four miles to go at that point, and they were pretty near their beginnings, relatively speaking. While it was exciting to see the first marathoners—they were going so fast!—I think from the perspective of the marathon runners it would be hard to see people finishing up just as you were starting.

Despite the huge number of runners in the race, or perhaps because of it, there were only a few people that I saw frequently enough to “compete” with them. One was a girl wearing a white shirt with a “14” on it. I saw 14 off and on throughout the first several miles, usually just a bit ahead of me. I lost track of her after a while, and you know what that probably means.

My next running companion (unbeknownst to her) was a tallish middle-aged woman with very thin legs wearing long black tights. We did a little bit of that back and forth, ahead and behind thing for the middle miles. While she was ahead of me, I was fixated on her backside. (Not in a pervy way.) Despite her thinness, she was unfortunately wearing tight bikini pants under the tights, which were alarmingly visible to the, um, naked eye. I think there was even a small hole in the seam of the tights, displaying a flash of pink panties. I ask you, where was her mirror this morning? The last I saw of her was her VPL's pulling ahead of me again and disappearing into the crowd ahead.

Finally, the last person I remember noticing was in about mile 10, a trim, spry woman with a face like crumpled tissue paper. She might very well have been the oldest woman in the race. Well, maybe not (since according to the results, there were two women over 80, neither with times fast enough to be in my vicinity at mile 10). She was running about my pace, just a few steps ahead of me. I lost track of her too, I like to think because I passed her and left her behind. I hope that is the case. I hate to think that I was beat by someone who must have been at least 30 years older than me! (Okay, 20 years, with too much sun time under her belt. Or under her hat, whatever.) Although I admit, it's very possible.***

It's not like I didn't pass anybody. Of course I did, thoughout the race, not just in the first few miles. I was passed a lot too. With the vast number of people running, we were passing and being passed constantly. Most of the time there was enough room in the road to pass easily. But occasionally it was crowded enough that I had to slow, or veer around someone to get past. This happened more in the first few miles, less as the crowd spread out along the way. I was always a little irritated when I had to work hard to get around someone who was much slower than me. Unfair, I know, because there were surely people who felt the same way about me. But I started by the two-hour sign, which should have meant that the people around me were planning to run about the same pace as me. So in theory, the people ahead of me should have been faster, not slower.****

And especially, there should not have been walkers ahead of me in the first two miles. That really ticked me off, when I had to veer around intentional walkers a mile or more into the race. Clearly, these were not people who were just taking a walk break—much too early for that. In order for them to be that far ahead, they would have had to start in the seven or eight minute mile blocks. What's up with that? Why weren't they back behind the twelve-minute miles? Chip timing does not make up for the delay in being held back by slow people ahead of you! This is a pet peeve that I have had in many different races, and if I do the Jingle Bell Run this year, you'll hear it again, because that run is the absolute worst for walkers infiltrating the running groups.

On the other hand, I had no problem with passing people walking in the last few miles. That made me feel quite strong, as I continued running while they chose to take a walk break. Even though I was running slower than I typically would, I never really had a desire to walk.

On one or two occasions I did, however, have the thought cross my mind—"I could just stop." I mean stop, not walk. It was just a momentary flash of a thought, and it startled me. To fight it off I drew on Dick Beardsley's talk from the pasta dinner, and on Dean Karnazes' directive, "If you can't run, walk; if you can't walk, crawl." I had no desire to crawl, or walk, so my only choice was to keep running. (The picture at left may look as though I am about one step away from crawling. The only reason I have included it—because it is surely the worst race photo ever—is because the people around me look just as bad as me, if not worse!)

And I thought about Deena Kastor and Paula Radcliffe. Did Deena stop in the 2005 Chicago Marathon, where she seemed to get thinner every mile and by the end was just nerve and pumping arms? No she did not; she won it! Did Paula stop in the Athens Olympics when she had crippling stomach problems?***** Well, yes she did, but not because of that, it was because of injury. And in Beijing she kept running to the finish despite her troubling stress fracture, even when she had no chance of winning a medal. Of course Deena had to drop out of the Beijing Olympics, due to her stress fracture.

But those exceptions really prove my theory. Paula and Deena are elite athletes forced to drop out of races they could not win, due to serious injury. I am not elite; there is no way I could win under any circumstance, and I was not injured. Hence, stopping was not an option.

I don't mean to suggest by this detailed discussion of stopping that I ever really considered that possiblity. It was simply a fleeting thought that crossed my mind, after which I spent several minutes reviewing the reasons I absolutely would not stop.

I worked really hard at not looking at the Garmin too much. I didn't look at the pace measurement at all, at least not until the last couple of miles. I probably glanced at the timer every half mile or so, not too bad. Of course seeing the split times didn't do to much for me. I realized as I was getting into the last few mile, the last 5K, that it would be a real challenge to even finish with a 9:30 (or so) pace. I vowed that after I hit eleven miles I would really work at putting some speed on for the last two miles. After all, what's two miles? And I did, picking it up to 9:06 and 9:15. Then as I got to what should be the last tenth of a mile—but turned out to be almost a quarter—I pushed harder and threw myself across the finish line just at 2:09 on the clock (2:06 on my watch).

I tried to throw my arms up triumpantly as I crossed the finish line, but I could only hold them up for a second. Who knows what the finish line photographer got. Probably my arms flailing in front of my face.

Speaking of arms, here's a strange phenomenon. My shoulders were achy during the first few miles of the race. I have never experienced that before in a race. It's like I was doing pushups yesterday...instead of just a few sun salutations with downward dog, plank, and chataranga in the hotel workout room yesterday morning. Hmmmm.

Regarding the hotel workout room, I do rather regret my time on the treadmill yesterday. Well, I don't regret the calorie burn, so that's something, but I really wouldn't recommend a difficult, tiring run on the day before a half marathon. I'm just saying. My quads were giving me a bit of a reminder today.

However, I must say that my other mildly disabling condition, my sore achilles tendon/heel/ankle, did not give me any trouble in the run. I warmed it up gently with the long walk to and from Starbucks, and did a ten or fifteen minute warmup run before getting in the pre-race porta-potty line. I hardly felt a twinge during the race. (So I guess I can't lay any blame there....)

And as long as I'm throwing out excuses, let's not forget my cold. Thankfully, I was much, much better by Sunday, but maybe, possibly I was still a little debilitated? My mom, who's been sharing a hotel room with me for the last two night, says she could hear me wheezing at night. Normally I am as quiet as the dead.

And I can't ignore that niggling thought, "two seconds per pound per mile," which could potentially make a big difference in a half marathon distance. Of course, when you consider my time in Victoria compared to the time I would like to achieve in Las Vegas, I would have to lose about 20 pounds to make it by this method alone. Rather unlikely. (Let me rephrase that. Not. Gonna. Happen. Nice as it would be!) So maybe ten pounds, and the rest of the time will have to be dropped the old fashioned way—training!

So after my return home I will work on those ten pounds, and I will work on my comeback training.

But on the day of the half marathon, I still had the rest of my Victoria weekend to enjoy, and Garmin said I had burned up 1600 calories in the run. So, bring on the post-race... recovery!

I had hoped that my mother would be able to find me at the end of the race, but it was far too crowded for me to spot her. I learned later that she had seen me after the finish line, but the fencing surrounding us prevented any good pictures or even making contact. But we had agreed on a back-up meeting place in the hotel at 10 a.m.

I shuffled through the channel of runners as we exited the race area. We passed into a tented area where food tables were lined up. I grabbed a couple pieces of banana, a couple orange sections, a chocolate chip cookie and, after some deliberation, a doughnut. I hesitated over the doughnut not because I was making a wise food choice—I was not—but because although there were several varieties of doughnut, none was a favorite of mine. Had they had maple bars, or old-fashioned doughnuts, or even apple fritters, I would have been all over the doughnuts. In the absence of something better, I grabbed a jelly donut. But after eating half—okay, two thirds—I threw the rest away. It wasn't worth it if I didn't love it.

When I finally got out of the race compound, I was in an area I didn't recognize. But I just walked down Douglas Street and soon made my way into the convention center and on to the Empress, where I found my mother in the upper lobby. Since she hadn't managed any race photos, we went outside for a few post-race pictures.

After the photo op, I headed up to the room for a partial change of clothes. I had signed up for a post-race massage, and I wanted to get out of the sweaty shirt and jacket, but not take the time for a shower and full change of clothes yet. So I swapped out my dripping tops for the official race shirt, brushed my hair (also wet) and gave it a quick fluff with the blow dryer, and then put my medal back on just to make it clear to everyone that I had finished the race!

When I checked for the massage, the registration gal said I had about half an hour before my name was called. So I took a quick jaunt into the expo to check out the final sales. I ended up with a very cool shawl neck running shirt in bright blue, as well as a wind-blocker jacket in the same shade. Then I went back and settled myself in the waiting room with a magazine to await my massage.

I didn't have to wait too long before my name came up. The massage therapist led me into the big room where massage tables were lined up like a Civil War hospital ward. I laid down on a table, fully clothed of course, and proceeded to experience one of my best massages ever. The therapist dug deep into my inexplicably sore neck and shoulders, my back, glutes, legs—every abused and achy part of me. The massage therapist I see here at home is good, but this was so intense and amazing. After the massage was done I thanked the therapist for the great massage. She said that I receive it well... and I most certainly do. Unfortunately Vancouver Island is a little far to travel for a regular massage... I wish I could import the therapist home to Everett! Maybe I need to look for someone at home who will beat me up a little more.... (I mean a massage therapist, of course!)

(However, I must say that even a great massage could not prevent me from being sore and achy later on and during the night.... Advil was called for.)

After hanging out in the lobby for a while taking advantage of the wireless internet (complimentary as I'm in the Fairmont's President's Club—the only freebie I came by this weekend), I returned to the room to shower and dress for tea.

Afternoon tea at the Empress is an elegant affair that almost compares to tea at Brown's Hotel in London.

As I settled into our corner table, where I could gaze out into the tea lobby but also out a window, I had the sensation of being back in London, back at Brown's Hotel before they redecorated the tea room from its classic country house style to a more contemporary—though very elegant—decor. The view here, however, was pure Victoria.
The afternoon tea is a traditional set menu. We began with a small dish of strawberries and cream and a large pot of Empress afternoon blend tea. Then the waiter brought the silver cake stand layered with tiny sandwiches (all my favorites—smoked salmon pinwheel, curried chicken, cucumber—and a couple of new kinds—mushroom pate and cream cheese mixed with grated carrot and pickled ginger, very tasty); scones with jam and cream; and assorted petite pastries (shortbread cookie, marzipan cake—like battenburg cake but in chocolate and white instead of pink and white—miniature lemon tart garnished with a strawberry and a swirl of meringue, chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, and chocolate cake with a vanilla cream filling and chocolate ganache—like a high class hoho. Pun intended. Except that I really mean a dingdong, and that's just not as funny.) Note that I am making a point of saying "tiny," "petite," "miniature," so as not to seem too piggish!
The sandwiches, traditionally our favorite part since we always work up a good appetite by tea time, were on the bottom of the three-tiered cake stand. In the middle were the two scones, two little pots of strawberry jam, and a small cup of whipped cream. Finally, the sweets were at the top, a generous selection of rich treats. I will say, without shame, that I had no problem eating my way through all the courses!

After tea we took a walk outside the hotel. It was the first time that we had wandered out into downtown Victoria without being on the way to somewhere. Up until now I had been involved in race prep and a casual stroll about did not fit into that. Also, I had no compulsion to go shopping (beyond my splurges at the race expo) and, let's face it, that's usually the main objective of going out! As we walked, I saw across the street Munro Books and Murphy's Tea, two places that would normally appeal to me. But realistically, I certainly didn't need any books and I had plenty of tea, including the souvenir tins that came with the Empress afternoon tea. Along the way I saw at least two Starbucks (and one or two more when I was out later), making my desperate search for Starbucks this morning seem a little silly!

Our only real stop was at a small store where I replenished our supply of diet coke. At the cash register, I impulsively added two candy bars. One was a maple cream chocolate bar for my father. The other was this.

Back at the hotel I stayed in the upper lobby while my mother went up to the room to rest. I was typing away busily on my laptop when my mother reappeared at around 5:00. "Did you know the power is out?" she asked.

I did not. The table lamp beside me had gone out, but I thought it was a burned out bulb. I was using the computer on battery power and the overhead lights, apparently on generator, were still on. Additionally, it was still light outside so reduced lighting was not really noticeable.

Concerned about our dinner prospects, I hurried outside to see if the deli where we had planned to get sandwiches was still open. They were closing the doors even as I approached. All the other restaurants, delis and convenience stores, were either closed or closing as well.

On my way up the street I was aggressively panhandled by an older woman with grey hair. She asked me if I had any change. I said no automatically, not wanting to open my purse to dig for the change in the bottom. Unlike most panhandlers, she didn't just give up and walk away, but said (insistently), "you don't even have a dollar?" I said I didn't have any Canadian money. She said she could take American money. So I broke down, opened my purse, and pulled out a dollar. When she saw me separate the dollar bill from another dollar or two, she actually said I should give her two dollars, because she wanted to get some coffee and a sandwich. I wanted to say "So do I, but I don't think anyone's getting anything with the power out"—but instead I just said "no" firmly and walked away. I half expected her to follow me and rob me, but I figured she was skinny, I could probably take her, even if I couldn't outrun her (which seemed likely, given the outcome of the half marathon).

As I walked the darkened streets, I felt quite gloomy about the potential lack of dinner. After all, I had run 13.1 miles and I would like to have something more substantial than just the tea goodies from several hours earlier. I wished I had at least taken more banana pieces from the food tent! All we really had left was Fiber One bars and breakfast cookies. Although—and this thought cheered me a bit—there was probably still hot water in the pipes, so I could also make some oatmeal with tap water.

I phoned my mother to say I was coming back, and she told me that the power had just returned! I looked around and sure enough, there were lights on in some of the stores. None of the closed shops were reopening, though. However, with power back in the hotel, that meant that room service would be available!

And that's what we did for dinner. Instead of the very very expensive dinner entrees, we opted for pizza—not too expensive, and a rare treat for me. Since we were forced to turn to the room service menu, and after all I had run the 13.1 miles today, a calorie splurge seemed not unreasonable (how's that for a passive double negative).

Not only did we have the cheesy pizza, Sleepless in Seattle was on TV! Pizza and Tom Hanks, what more could I ask for?

My final venture of the day was a trip outside to take a picture of the Parliament Houses by night. Actually I did it twice. The first time I had forgotten that I had removed the picture card from the camera!

We were lucky to have had such nice weather for the run, because even when I went outside late in the evening I could feel moisture in the air. By Monday morning it was quite grey outside. I don't know what the weather was like for the rest of the day on Monday in Victoria, but by the time we returned home to Washington, it was raining and stormy. The wind was whipping leaves across the freeway in gusts reminiscent of the beginning of the Wizard of Oz!****** Since Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada, I'm sure that the race organizers were thankful that the marathon had been on sunny Sunday rather than murky Monday!

And that is the end of the Victoria Half Marathon story.

*Although I didn't check the chip time until the next day, Terri knew abouit the same afternoon! And check out her beautiful New England foliage pics as well!

**I had earlier heard this woman telling someone about a race where she didn't have a bathroom and she ended up "running wet." Lovely. I guess we know what her back-up plan was.

***Looking at the age group results, I can cling to the likelihood that I was probably not beaten by an old lady. Of the eleven women age 70 and up, none finished faster than my time. Of the 25 in the 65-59 group, only two were faster than me. But if she was 60-64, I was probably beat, as 14 of the 57 in that group were ahead of me by the finish.

****In retrospect, I think I should have started in the eight-minute pace group. While that is faster than I would ever be running in a half marathon, I think it might have let me start out at closer to the nine-minute pace I wanted.

*****Fans of the grotesque can read in detail in Paula's autobiography how Paula chose to, um, relieve herself of the stomach cramp problem. All I can say is that the skimpy underwear-like running costumes that elite runners favor cannot have been helpful in this situation!

******And who would be riding a bicycle across the sky? I'll just leave that to the imagination.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Aren't they sweet? (A puppy love story)

Forget Romeo and Juliet (too morbid). Forget Ebony and Ivory. Here is an example of pure romance, star-crossed lovers (well, pals) kept apart by miles and fenced yards, reunited again for a puppy playdate.

Nissa (white samoyed) and Chester (black poodle) exchange greetings in the yard.

They share a little kiss. Okay, Nissa plants one on Chester.

Frolic on the patio.


A stern finger.

Catching their breath.

Heading up on the deck for a snack.

A moment alone for Chester (Nissa can be a little clingy). Pretty soon he'll be heading home, leaving her to gaze longingly into his distant yard....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A few more pictures from the Maine Coast Half Marathon

I just got the CD of pictures from the Maine Coast Half Marathon in the mail. Since I paid the big bucks to get the whole collection, obviously I am going to post them wherever I can and share them far and wide!

So, while I finish kvetching—I mean writing—about the Royal Victoria Half Marathon, here are some more pictures from the Maine Coast Half (minus the unflattering ones, of course), which I will unabashedly say, really do make me look—and feel—like a runner.

Starting strong!

This is my favorite picture from the race. I look strong and fast! (And thin, which is nothing to sneeze at!)

Still leaving those sorry runners behind me in the dust.

Powering through a water station!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Butchart Gardens (now with pictures!)

Race day minus one. (I was supposed to be downplaying this run, wasn't I?) In a fit of questionable judgment, I took myself down to the Fitness Center for a little treadmill time this morning. I thought just a short stint would fire up my legs for tomorrow (hopefully not wear them out too much) and combat the good food a little bit as well.

I have not been on a treadmill for a very long time. The last I remember was some kind of really bad weather day in January or February, and I don't remember whether it was 2008 or 2007. It might have been 2008, probably was when I think about it. But it was an isolated visit.

The nice thing about the treadmill is that you can control your pace, and these particularly treadmills also had built-in TV screens (nice). The bad thing is... it's horrible!

Okay. maybe I'm exaggerating a little. But really, it did make me question my ability to run for long distances at a decent pace. I did five miles this morning, about a mile walking (a little warmup then about 2/3 mile cooldown), and the remaining four miles running at a pace which I constantly varied between 6 mph and 7.5 mph (mostly in the 6.5 to 7 mph range). I also elevated the incline to 2.5 except for the last bit of cooldown. When I was done I was red-faced and sweating like a racehorse (a very slow racehorse).*

I hope those fast-twitch muscles (whatever few I have) remember the faster bit and I hope the rest of my muscles don't punish me for working them the day before the half marathon!**

Enough about that.

After I was dressed and fed (oatmeal in the room, brought with me), we headed out for a jaunt to Butchart Gardens. First I made a quick stop at the expo and bought a copy of Dick Beardsley's book, Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race. I didn't want to wait around until he was going to be there signing (not for a couple hours), so I left the book to be signed and picked it up later. A little impersonal, but the gardens were calling! He wrote a nice inscription anyway.

On the way out of Victoria we made a very important stop at Starbucks. I'm just a little bit dependent on my mid-morning caffeine infusion! I made the mistake of paying with cash, American dollars. There was something screwy about the exchange rate at that particular store. The bill for two drinks originally came to $8-something Canadian. With the U.S. dollar being worth a little more than the Canadian right now, it should have converted to a little bit less in American dollars, right? Instead it went up to $9.74 and I got 26 cents change from my ten-dollar bill. I asked them about it and the first guy said, “I just pushed the foreign exchange button, I don't know how it works.” The woman I asked, who seemed to be more managerial, said that Seattle sends them the exchange rates weekly, and the Canadian dollar is worth a little more than the American. Well, I'm pretty sure that's exactly backwards! But whatever. Expensive lattes. I'm using a credit card from now on, and not leaving the exchange rate to the doofuses who work at Starbucks.

Well, at least the latte tasted good. I was a little worried about that too, as there seemed to be a problem with the pump on the sugar-free caramel, but it came out fine.

Half an hour or so later we were at Butchart Gardens. The last time I was there, just over three years ago, it was springtime. This time autumn. I can't seem to get there during the summer when the roses are in bloom (except when I was five or six years old, eons ago). But I suppose the crowds would be horrendous in the summer. I much prefer fewer crowds, fewer people, really. I would like my pictures to be completely free of human life, if possible (unless I choose to put someone in the picture, of course). (I know, they have those kind of pictures available in the gift shop, they're called post cards!)

Still, even with people in them, the gardens were beautiful. The rose gardens, though past their prime of course, still had a lot of roses hanging on, and a few varieties that were in full flush even now. Some of the sections seemed to feature roses from specific national origins—I spotted Canadian, of course, American, Australian, and my favorite (one guess), English. Most of the English roses seemed to be David Austin roses, which are of course the most well-known of the lot. They are modern roses, crossed with old roses to have the appearance and heady scents of antique roses, but with the disease resistance (generally) and repeat flowering habit (usually) of modern roses. My entire rose garden is David Austin English roses. I was able to pick out the classics (even with only a few blooms left on the bushes)—Gertrude Jekyll (deep pink) and my favorites, Graham Stuart Thomas (golden yellow) and Abraham Darby (pink with yellow), who are the best of friends and must always be planted side by side—from several feet away.

Entering the rose garden.

I can't resist a rose garden, even out of season! And, put me in an archway and I'm in heaven.

My mother amongst the still colorful roses.

"Honey Perfume" rose, still in vibrant coppery golden flush, even in mid-October, with not a hint of blackspot or mildew. Gardeners in similar climates (like the Pacific Northwest) should take note! (And it is gorgeous, not just apparently hardy and disease resistant.)

The Sunken Garden, undoubtedly the centerpiece of Butchart Gardens, was magnificent and breathtaking. I'll admit that we did our viewing from above, and forewent the opportunity to walk all the way down, this time around.

The amazing sunken garden (even better in real life.)

Most of the bedding plants were annuals, and I cannot imagine the time, effort, and expense of putting them in seasonally! Still, they created beguiling carpets of color and even the summer plants, like begonias, were still hanging on well. I particularly liked a combination of purple heliotrope and apple blossom pink geraniums (pelargonum). While I would not dream of planting vast flowerbeds of annuals, it is a mix that I might use in a container next year.

The Fish Fountain.
In the Japanese Garden.

The Harbor....

And the harbor view from the gardens.

The Italian Garden.

Hydrangeas and chrysanthemums, apparently planted to match my clothes!

One of many lavish window boxes, still blooming profusely though summer is long gone.

After wandering through the Japanese Garden and down to look at the water in Butchart Cove, we ended up in the gardens by the main house, including a star-shaped pool and the Italian Garden. Wanting a little something to hold us over until dinner, we went into the Dining Room restaurant to see if they had a light tea available. Although the menu showed only a full Afternoon Tea, at my inquiry the host pulled out a menu for the 1928 tea, a lighter version of the afternoon tea and almost half the price, but still featuring all the important components—sandwiches, a scone, and sweets.

This was actually an ideal afternoon tea menu. For the tea connoisseurs (and Anglophiles) out there, here is what we got. (It sounds like a lot, but everything is quite tiny.) Five tea sandwiches, including a curried chicken pinwheel, egg salad, cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon, and a warm cheese biscuit with a chopped ham filling. A warm ginger scone, with strawberry jam and whipped cream. A small slice of lemon poppyseed tea bread. Three sweets—a chocolate coconut cookie, a petit four-like pastry, which was thin layers of sponge cake filled with raspberry cream, and a tiny pastry boat filled with chocolate mouse and garnished with fruit. And, of course, a large pot of Earl Grey tea.

The Dining Room reminded me a bit of the Orangery at Kensington Gardens in London. Although of course, the Orangery is, well, an orangery, and this was more of a garden room, or conservatory off the main house. Still, they shared the characteristic of multi-paned windows and a garden atmosphere.
Mrs. Butchart's private garden, just outside the Dining Room

A charming autumn display.

At around 4:00 we headed back to Victoria for some rest prior to the pasta dinner. Unlike so many pre-race pasta feeds, this one was not being held in a school gymnasium, but instead, in a banquet room at the Empress. That is one reason I signed up for it. I've never done the group pasta dinner before, but I thought since it was right at the Empress I should do it... I would probably feel like I had missed out if I skipped it! Plus I wanted to hear Dick Beardsley speak.

When we went down to the dinner at about 6:15 the hall was already quite full. But we found a table that was still completely empty, so we could take the seats facing the speaker's podium. Shortly after we sat, two other women joined us, one running the half, and her friend who was just along for support. Then another pair of women sat down, both of them running their first half marathons. The rest of our table stayed unoccupied

Everyone was pretty hungry and anxious to eat (largely so they could go to bed early, given the early morning race start). Our table was #21 in the numbered order of joining the buffet line, but it went pretty fast considering, and by 7:15 or so I was back at the table with my plate. The buffet had a pretty large variety of cold and hot pastas, plus some potato dishes and salad. I tried to limit my selections to ones that really appealed to me, and that wouldn't make me feel I was loading myself down with heavy dishes that I would later regret. I also took a big pile of salad greens, which did make my plate look pretty full, like I was the only one at our table who wasn't afraid to eat. (I also took two of the desserts, a sliver of chocolate torte and a sliver of berry pie. No regrets. They were served in slivers so people could have more than one!)

But despite all the food and sweets, the highlight of the dinner was clearly Dick Beardsley's speech. His theme was "never give up"—a message for all the runners of the races the next day, of course. But he also told a little bit of his own story. When he was in his early 20's he decided to become a competitive runner. He was pretty fast, but not "winning fast" yet. While he was in his early training money was quite scarce, so he had the brilliant (though naive) idea of trying to get a shoe sponsor. He went to a shoe expo for vendors, and after some funny adventures trying to get in, was able to hand around his resumes. Most went directly to the trash, of course. But the New Balance rep was nice. He let Dick try on a pair of their best running shoes, and then gave him the shoes. Later he sent him a big box of gear. As time passed and Dick became more successful, they started paying him a stipend, and eventually he did get a contract with New Balance. Even later when he was not working with them, they continued to give him shoes and gear, and stood by him when he went through an addiction to painkillers. Now he's with them again, as a motivational speaker rather than a competitive runner (although he still does great in his age group!).

New Balance is also the corporate sponsor of this event, and I felt a little bit better about all the money I put down on clothes for the race yesterday!***

Anyhow, that was the end of the day. I didn't win one of the numerous door prizes they distributed throughout the dinner. There was one table near us where practically everyone—literally half the table—won something. That seemed a bit odd. Anyhow, I held my breath for the final drawing, two nights at the Empress!—but no luck there. Oh well. C'est la vie.

The alarm is set for 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Half marathon begins at 7:30 a.m.

*And I have to say, running while looking at myself in a mirror is not a pretty sight. There is a certain amount of...bouncing...that occurs, which I can't believe happens out on the road.

**In retrospect, as of Sunday, yeah, I probably shouldn't have done that.

**Another Sunday note—I went back to the expo after the race and threw down a little more green (in the form of a credit card) on additional New Balance stuff, now on sale and as such a "bargain"!