Sunday, February 28, 2010

February finish

Wow, another month of 2010 gone by. It was a good month, though, and even though it was only four weeks long it does seem like plenty of time has passed by. I guess March can come on in—though hopefully not like a lion.

I finished up the first month of Spring Training 2010 with 51.26 miles this week (thanks to five running days), and 168.90 for the month (no, I don't regret not hitting 170). I feel quite pleased as I successfully completed all my planned speedwork, long runs, and tempo/pace runs.

"Sugar-free February" was not a complete success, but I don't believe it was a failure either. I did not remain completely sugar or treat free, but I could probably list out every single aberration, as they were quite few. (I'm not going to list them.) I succeeded in my major objective, which was weaning myself from the need/desire to have a treat every single day, eat goodies in the office, and over-indulge in general. I think that I truly enjoyed and savored the treats that I did have, so I'm not kicking myself.

I think for March I'm going to stick with the same plan, keeping mostly sugar-free with a few exceptions for special occasions. We'll see how it goes.

Yesterday I did a 10K in LaConner, the Smelt Run. I'll write a post about it when I download the pictures my mom took. For now I'll just say that I was happy with the result, 50:36, which was not a PR but was more than two minutes faster than any 10K I've ever run except for my PR race last fall.

Since I proved to myself that I can still run fast, I felt less pressure during my long run today, although there was a different kind of pressure to get done early enough to watch the gold medal hockey game (or most of it). I didn't go out until almost 10 a.m., and I was doing 13 miles (ended up 13.25), so obviously I didn't quite make it. But I watched/listened to most of the first period while I was showering and changing, then went over to Rod's for the rest. Obviously it didn't really get good until the last few minutes. :) So we lost in overtime—I secretly feel happy for the Canadians, winning the gold in hockey in their home games.

I lounged around reading and watching the 50K cross country race for the rest of the afternoon. That was another one that didn't get exciting until the last few minutes! Man, that was something—the German had what seemed a commanding lead and the Norwegian surged ahead in the last few metres. Just like a "real" race (meaning a marathon or other running race)! I'm a Norwegian, so I was happy.

Time to go to bed—up early to run in the morning! (And go to work, of course.)

Friday, February 26, 2010


Just a quick end-of-week update, since I haven't posted since my bad day on Monday. (Where has the time gone?)

Things definitely improved after Monday (though not without ups and downs!). Tuesday was a non-running day, with elliptical and yoga at the Y.

Wedneday morning I was back out on the road. Unfortunately I had horrible GI issues and had to cut my run a little short and stop after five miles, without doing my scheduled hill work. Believe me, there was no way I could stay out and try to run hard uphill. I needed to be inside, FAST.

I considered calling it good with five miles for the day (which is not a terribly short run). But the weather Wednesday was quite nice, even sunny, so I hustled home after work to squeeze in a few more miles and my planned hills.

It was dusk before I left, of course, and dark when I finished, but still pleasant enough. After four miles at an easy pace I started my four quarter-mile hill sprints. This involved running up a quarter-mile hill at a hard pace, and jogging down for recovery. Of course "hard pace" uphill is slower than on a track. Additionally, I was a little more cautious in the dark (only a few streetlights), and I think the glare of headlights and fear of tripping held me back a little.

That is a long way of saying that the first three laps were around 8:45 pace, give or take. The last one, though, I managed to give it an extra kick and did that one at 8:12 pace! With the remaining distance home, I totalled just over 6.5 miles for the evening.

After that, I was understandably apprehensive about my early morning run just 12 hours later Thursday morning! I don't typically run on Thursdays, but I switched Thursday and Friday to rest up today for a 10K tomorrow.

After the first three miles (10-minute pace), I met up with Arjin for the next four and a half. He must have been restless from the slow pace on Monday, because he was pushing it from the beginning. I didn't mind too much because I still felt the need for redemption. We were pushing an 8:30 pace, but had enough uphill sections to average about 8:45 in the first three miles.

I didn't mind the faster pace, but what I did mind was when Arjin sprinted effortlessly ahead in the uphill sections. What the heck was this? I am the experienced runner here! He has no business being faster than me!

As we moved into mile four I decided to make this worthwhile and picked up the pace to sub-8. Thanks to the hill at the very end, mile four was exactly 8:00.

We sailed through the finals blocks and finished 4.69 miles at an 8:33 average pace. I left Arjin at the office and ran the final 1.5 miles (to Starbucks) at a blessedly slower pace.

I took today as an "active rest" day, with just 50 minutes easy on the elliptical, a not-so-easy yoga class, and a massage.

Smelt Run tomorrow! Have a great weekend!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Burnout or just a bad day?

Yesterday (Monday) was not a great day for me. It actually took me most of the day to realize I was having a bad day; I started out kind of low physically which eventually took me low mentally.

I set the alarm for extra early in order to get out running at 5:30. I was supposed to be in Monroe (about half an hour's drive away) at 8:30, which meant that I needed about an hour extra time to get my usual run in.

First problem—waking up before 5 a.m. on a Monday after staying awake till who-knows-when on Sunday night. Actually waking up wasn't that hard, even getting up wasn't too bad, but I know that I was operating on very little rest.

Maybe that's why I couldn't run (figuratively speaking). I'm used to being slow on Mondays, I can deal with that, but I didn't feel horribly slow, I didn't have heavy legs or anything. That's why it was so frustrating to average slower than 10:30 for the first three miles, when I felt like I was running about a ten-minute pace. My legs and brain were not on the same page at all!

The same thing happened in the next 4.5 miles with Arjin. Typically I run a little faster than I intend to with him. An easy run means 9:30-9:45 pace, max (often quicker). Well, this time I succeeded at dragging him down, and our average pace (including the two miles I ran after leaving him), was about 10 minutes per mile. Again, I felt like I was running 9:30 or 9:45 pace, but in reality, not so.

Despite having plenty of time afterwards to get ready, I dawdled and managed to arrive late to my destination (a work retreat). Didn't matter that much, they were still eating breakfast. I got some food and joined in.

Unlike some work events, this was a low stress meeting. Just this side of dull, really. And we got to spend the whole day lounging at someone's house instead of running around court. Should have been a great break. Unfortunately, I think I was experiencing a little piriformis strain (i.e. a pain in the butt), because my backside and leg were twinging all day. I finally ended up standing around quite a bit because that was more comfortable than shifting around on a couch.

We got done early so I headed home and paid some bills and contemplated heading to the Y. By this time I was feeling very tired and dragged out. My legs ached (not hurt, just ached) all down the backs. I really didn't want to to to the Y, and I especially didn't want to go to Pilates at 6:00.

However. I was unhappily aware that the breakfast casserole and banana bread, plus potluck lunch that I had eaten earlier in the day had really taken a hit on my calorie allotment for the day. Even with the nine miles I had run in the morning. I felt quite distressed about this (another sign that my head was not working well). I decided to go ahead and spend some time on the elliptical and decide about Pilates later.

I kept the elliptical on a moderate resistance and pedaled away for about 70 minutes (the time I had to spare before Pilates). At about ten minutes before 6:00 I reluctantly decided, since I was there anyway, to face up to Pilates.

And Pilates kicked my butt. Literally. Not only did it strain my untoned core/abs, most of the positions also seemed to aggravate my tender piriformis and tired hamstrings. At one point I was so stressed that I felt emotional, which is not usually a reaction I have to exercise! Only the humiliation of leaving kept me from walking away.

Luckily I managed to hold my own in the pushups, which kept me from feeling like a total loser.

At 7:00 I staggered away and headed home to make a sandwich for dinner. I didn't feel up to cooking. I went up to bed pretty early and spent the rest of the evening switching from the Olympics to other TV shows. I unintentionally fell asleep for an hour or so and woke up during the ice dancing... I enjoyed several of the performances but just couldn't stay awake to finish and find out who won!

Earlier in the evening, while I was on the elliptical, I wondered whether my weakness signified a little bit of overtraining (or whether I was just weak). I find it hard to believe that my 40 miles a week (or so) running, plus cross-training, could be the cause of burnout when so many others do way more than me!

I think that sleep deprivation between Sunday night and early Monday morning played a big part in my difficulties. And everyone has a bad day sometimes, right?

I have decided this week to change my Friday morning run to Thursday instead, in order to rest a little on Friday and help have fresher legs for a 10K I am doing Saturday. I haven't yet decided whether to go cross-train on Friday morning or make it a real rest day. On the one hand, the elliptical is generally pretty easy on me, particularly if I don't make the resistance too high. On the other hand, I suspect that my two hours of elliptical work on Sunday afternoon may have played a part in my tired Monday! My decision will partly take into consideration whether we decide to go skiing on Friday night or not...for now, that is open.

I am feeling a little tired this afternoon but that seems more like typical midafternoon-at-work tiredness. I am still on board for a trip to the Y and yoga this evening. Then I will see, tomorrow morning, how the running legs are doing. I know that it is not possible to completely fall apart between my tempo work on Friday and Saturday, and yesterday morning's run. Not possible, right?

It seems kind of crazy but amid all these thoughts of burnout and overtraining, I have also spent some time this morning thinking about other races I want to sign up for this spring and summer. I am almost certain I want to do the Langley Half Marathon on July 11. It should be fun and scenic, and really not that hard to get to, even though it's on Whidbey Island, as the ferry leaves from Mukilteo which is just down the road from me. It's a more than a full month after the Newport Marathon and almost three weeks before the Anacortes Half. Of course I also have the Yankee Doodle Dash 10K on July 4, and possibly a 5K or two somewhere in between.

My big question (for myself) is whether I want to run the Seattle Rock & Roll Half Marathon on June 26. I have never been particularly attracted to this one, but it seems like everyone I know who runs, and some people who don't, is doing it, and I kind of hate to be left out! Someone I know is a pacer and she was really positive about the route for the half, and says it's better than the Seattle Half...which I actually enjoyed. So those are the reasons to do it. Reasons not to? Three weeks after the marathon. Expensive entry fee, even if I register before the price goes up on March 1 ($85 before, $100 after). And I would have to stay in a hotel the night before; after the Seattle Marathon traffic debacle I cannot see trying to drive down there for a run that starts at 7 a.m.! (Another pro—I'd probably be done by 9 a.m.)

So I might take the decision route that I did with CIM, which was to make a hotel reservation first, then after I got a room at a reasonable rate, I went ahead and registered. We shall see....

(Does that sound like someone who is burned out?)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Last week's running and virtual race report

It won't take too long to write about last week's running, because I only ran on three days (as opposed to my usual four). That's based on the running week beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday, as seems to be the norm for running calendars.

My running days got cut back this week mostly because I ran five times the previous week, which threw off my schedule a little bit. Previous week: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday (5K+) and Sunday (long run). I thought about going out this last Tuesday, but opted not to, and just went to the Y like I usually do on Tuesday mornings. My training schedule had this week as a cut-back week, so I didn't feel too concerned about low mileage or anything like that.

I was back on track Wednesday with 8.51 miles including speedwork. Despite my two days off from running, my legs were not feeling especially speedy when I went out! I didn't fuss about it though, I just let them do what they wanted for my first five miles since that was my warm-up. My pace varied from a glacial 10:45 (first mile) to 9:58, and everywhere in between.

Then I hit the track for some speedwork, four 800 (actually half-mile) repeats with about a quarter mile recovery between. The first one was a little bit discouraging, as it was the first time I had done a half mile (in speedwork) that wasn't under four minutes. This one was 4:01, which Garmin translated into an 8:04 pace. Really, that's not horrible, it's a very respectable 10K pace, or so I told myself!

The remaining three were much more satisfying though, and got progressively faster as well. 3:56 (7:56 pace); 3:53 (7:48 pace); and 3:47 (7:32 pace). Now we're talking! My training schedule has 800's every three weeks; next time it will be 5 x 800. This week I get to do 4 x hills! Hurrah! (Ha.)

I finished with a recovery lap around the track and ran home. My average pace for the run reflects the slowness of the non-speed miles: 9:41 average per mile.

My next running day was Friday, and the schedule called for six miles at marathon pace (I call that nine minutes or below, though technically anything under 9:09 could qualify). This was going to be a little tricky to accomplish, I thought, because I was supposed to meet Ann and Arjin at the office to run with them (five miles), and I wasn't sure whether I could work the pace miles into our run. But I also had a dentist appointment at 9:30 a.m., which meant I couldn't fool around too long.

What I decided to do was leave home early enough (ideally at 6 a.m.) to run five miles on my own before meeting the others at 7:00. At least three of those could be at MP. Then, after we warmed up on the group portion of the run, I figured that at least the last two miles could be pushed to 9 minutes or below, possibly leaving one more mile for me after I left them and headed home.

My plan actually worked out a lot better than I even expected. After my first mile I felt like I could pick up the pace and possibly begin my marathon pace miles earlier than I had planned. Mile 1 ended at Starbucks on Colby and (after a quick bathroom visit), I pushed myself pretty hard into speeding up. That mile included the uphill portion of Colby, and when it finished at 9:02 I decided that was close enough to count. My next three miles were much quicker, 8:32, 8:30, and 8:34 (plus .13 at 8:28 pace). That definitely gave me four miles at marathon pace and, actually, my average pace for the whole 5.13 miles was 9:02!

When I got to the office Arjin was there but Ann was not. We weren't sure if she was coming, but by 7:15 decided she wasn't and took off. It was probably going to be easier this way for me to get my pace miles in, since Arjin is obnoxiously fast when he wants to be (which is probably more often than I allow when he's running with me). Mile 1 - 9:28. Mile 2 - 9:10 (not quite MP-qualifying). Mile 3 - 8:53. Mile 4 - 8:51. Mile 5 - 8:37. Plus .10 at 8:19 pace. Done! With the pace work. The average pace for those 5.1 miles was 8:59. So, really, all 10.23 miles were in MP average range. I was quite pleased.

Despite my time crunch to get to the dentist, I ran back to Starbucks (instead of just home) and then around the block enough to add on two miles to my total (12.23 miles). I got a mocha, walked home, and hustled to get showered and dressed (and brush my teeth well before the dentist appointment).

So that brings me to Saturday. Also the day for the Run for Haiti in New York City. The virtual run part of it can be done any time between February 19 and 24 (in fact I could have used part of Friday's run, if I wanted to), but I thought it would be nice to do it on the actual day.

But not at the actual time. 9 a.m. in New York would be 6 a.m. here--no thanks. 9 a.m. here, not that much better. I decided to let myself sleep in a bit and just run whenever I got out there later in the morning. Plus, I had book club Friday night which involved a fair amount of heavy food* that needed to get digested!

By the time I did go out the early morning frost had melted away and the sun was shining brightly from a blue sky. I put on sunglasses and it was sunny enough that I couldn't even tell I was wearing them for the duration of the run. I don't know how warm it was, maybe upper 40's or even into the 50's when I left home. I was comfortable in my Lucy half zip without an extra layer, and even though I wore gloves to start out, after a couple miles I took them off and stuffed them into my waist pack.

I decided to partially emulate my successful run on Friday by starting out in the same direction, south on Colby to 41st. I hit two miles just prior to 41st, and so when I turned around to go south again I restarted the Garmin to begin my four mile "race." My plan was to keep going north on Colby as far as I could, and if that didn't make quite four miles, figure it out from there.

I will admit that northbound on Colby does include a fair amount of downhill grade. I figured that this was okay because, after all, this was my own race and who cares if I select a favorable route? Plus, it's good practice for my legs to run fast, even if it is a little easier to do so than it might be under other conditions.

Mile 1 - 8:16. Mile 2 - 8:13. Mile 3 - 8:26 (this one did have an uphill!). At about 3.75 miles I was approaching the end of my road and I had two choices. One, I could turn around and retrace my steps. Or two, I could continue onto Marine View Drive and finish the last quarter mile on a substantial downhill. What do you think I picked? Mile 4 - 7:52. Total: 32:47 (8:12 average pace).

Okay, so that left me on Marine View Drive heading toward the waterfront marina, which isn't exactly what I had planned for the day. But it didn't matter, I would just keep going and do a loop back to downtown. My training schedule only called for eight miles, and I had already finished six; I suspected that I would not get back in two miles! But I kind of wanted to do extra anyway.

So I took a loop around Marina Village (that adds almost a mile), and then plugged up the hills back to downtown Everett (oh, I paid for my gentle downhills earlier). By the time I got to Starbucks I had done a little more than ten miles total. Perfect. My "non-race" miles were in the around ten-minute average range, varying from 10:22 at the beginning to the 9:40's, plus some other 10+ segments as I was struggling back uphill. I'm actually quite satisfied with the combination of "long, slow distance" with the pick-up in the middle.

Since I did the pretty hard runs on both Friday and Saturday, I opted not to run on Sunday (and actually I had to quite strictly forbid myself not to consider a run today, so that my legs could have a rest before Monday morning's run). Instead I took advantage of the lovely afternoon to walk to the Y, where I did spend a couple hours pedalling away like a hamster on the ellipticals. I watched some of the ski cross and biathlon (cross country skiing) while I was on the machine, so I had a bit of vicarious skiing to distract myself. (I also read a ton of blogs on my BlackBerry! Keep writing, people! I'll be back at the Y on Tuesday!)

I finished off with some push-ups and a few minutes of yoga-style stretching (downward dog, sphinx, pigeon, various bends and twists). I am so happy that I returned to yoga; I can rely feel its effects on my hips and glutes (two areas that seem to take a hit from running).

Although I had a pretty big restaurant breakfast with Rod this morning (veggie scramble, potatoes, a piece of toast), by the time I got home from the Y I felt sort of under-fueled. I wasn't horribly hungry but felt almost light-headed! I made myself a great sandwich with eggplant hummus, spinach, sweet onion, portabella mushroom that I cooked in a grill pan (creating a great deal of smoke and setting off my smoke alarm in the process), roasted red peppers from a jar, and goat cheese. Also a side of pop chips and a few strawberries. I felt much better!

Tomorrow begins the last week of February and the fourth week of Spring Training 2010!

*Deep dish pizza made by Ann; Italian beef salad by me; and Ezell's fried chicken, which Beth brought because it's Oprah's favorite chicken (we had a Chicago food theme).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New York City: Virtual Run/Walk for Haiti on Feb. 20

I'm going to be running this on Saturday (or some day between February 19 and 24). The "race fee" is a $30 donation to Haiti relief efforts. And I think that's better than a tee-shirt, don't you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day

I decided to run myself a virtual Valentine's Day half marathon on Sunday, because (luckily) I could not find a real one. I say luckily because I really don't need the time pressure to get up early for yet another race; much easier to do my long run in my own time.*

It's kind of unfortunate in general that no one thought to organize a formal race that's actually on Valentine's Day, since the day happened to fall on a traditional race day (Sunday) this year. I think people would attend, don't you? It's not like Valentine's Day morning is sacrosanct (like Christmas, for example) or anything.** And people show up for races on Thanksgiving Day!

Of course, there may well be Valentine's Day (on the day) races in other places. February races are few and far between here in the damp and chilly Northwest. My lackluster googling located some Valentine's races on Saturday the 13th (like our own 5K in Seattle), and oddly (well, I think it's odd), a handful on February 27 and 28.

Anyhow, despite my 5K on Saturday (or perhaps because the 6.48 mile total on that day did not qualify for a weekend "long run"), I decided to devote a couple hours (or so) of Valentine's Day time to running. Since Sunday was the only day of the weekend when I didn't have to get up early (skiing on Friday and Monday, the 5K on Saturday), I turned off the alarm and didn't wake up till 8:00. Which is still early, in my estimation.

I made myself a hearty bowl of oatmeal and ate it in bed (because that's what I do, yes there are blueberry stains on my sheets) while reading my Book Club book and watching the Food Channel. (To digress for a moment...The Time Traveler's Wife—loved it! I read the whole thing over the weekend...most of it on Sunday, as you'll see below.)

Then I had to digest the breakfast so I spent the next couple of hours reading. Finally around 10:00 or so I jumped up, threw on my running clothes, and gathered up my gear (ipod, Garmin and such). I put a chocolate mint Gu in my pocket in case I needed or wanted it. The weather seemed pretty dry, though cloudy, so I didn't bother with my contacts, just wore my glasses, which somehow always seems like a faster way to get ready than fiddling around with the contacts (especially as when I put the contacts in, my vision is blurry for at least 10-15 minutes until they adjust!).

Today's route was another stab at the Port of Everett Waterfront trail and Pigeon Creek Beach. I had made previous failed attempts to follow (or even fully find) it, and on another occasion had to shorten my run due to time considerations, but I was pretty sure I knew what to do now. The secret was to access it from the north (heading south) rather than coming from the the south end.

So I started by going east to Marine View Drive, and following it north, and around, and south again until I was running along the waterfront. In order to follow the "trail" and also maximize my distance, I didn't just stay on the road but instead followed the edge of the water into the marinas, and the 10th Street boat launch, and wandered through there. It really is a pretty little park area, and I can understand why some of the folks from my office like to bring their lunches down there in the summertime! Then I took a loop around Marina Village, which I know from past experience is about a mile around (convenient), so I added another loop just in case my mileage might fall short.

The rest of the route followed the sidewalk south on Marine View Drive and into Terminal Avenue, until I reached the beginning of the Pigeon Creek public access route just south of Pacific Avenue. The Pigeon Creek public access trail is a paved walking/running/biking path that runs between the Port of Everett terminals on one side and the railroad tracks on the other. It is enclosed with secure chain link fencing on either side, which prevents trespassing on port property and dangerous wanderings onto the railroad tracks, but also means that walkers (and runners) are essentially enclosed in an open-air tunnel for the .78 mile distance. It wasn't too disturbing to me (because I am not especially paranoid), but it did cross my mind that there was very little option for escape if accosted by a bad person. The only choice would be to run one way or the other, and hope that the bad person was slower.*** (And incidentally, the only way to run would be north, because if you ran south you would end up at Pigeon Creek Beach, which is a dead end surrounded by water. And I am not a swimmer!)

Yes, clearly for a non-paranoid person I did spend a lot of time thinking about bad things that could happen.**** What can I say, I am still my mother's daughter!

When I arrived at the endpoint, Pigeon Creek Beach, there was a sinister-looking bald man sitting at a picnic table. Probably he was eating lunch, but I didn't look at him. Since my mileage was at 10.25 by then, I pulled out my packet of Gu and ripped it open, eating it on my way back out. I had loosely decided, earlier on, that I would eat the Gu after ten miles.

The outbound trip actually seemed quicker (that's always the way, isn't it), and soon I was tracing my way back to Terminal Avenue and then Marine View Drive.

This is where the hilly part of my run began! Oh, I had a few hills in the first ten miles, but they were nothingness compared to the uphill I was now going to encounter getting out of the waterfront valley back into the center of town.

Everett Avenue to Pacific Avenue—four blocks uphill (that's about .4 miles). Then instead of turning left on Pacific I kept going south till I got to 35th (another four blocks), still uphill. Steeply. Finally at 35th I got to run back downhill a couple of blocks to Rucker, then slightly downhill back to Pacific Avenue...where I was confronted with two more uphill blocks to get back to Colby.

After that, though, the rest of my trip was flat or downhill, until I got to QFC on Broadway. That was my intended destination, and in fact I had passed the 13.1 mile point a few blocks earlier. So there I was, done at 13.5 miles, such an awkward number. Do I stop as planned, or add on the extra half mile to make 14? I decided to go for the 14, even though it took two big loops around the block to get there.

It wasn't till later that I realized the significance of 14 miles, on February 14! And my time for that distance was... 2:15:37. Sheesh! Less than a minute faster and I could have had 2:14 on my watch. If I'd figured out what I was doing in the last couple miles I could easily have sped up enough to shave off the extra time. I know my time at 13.1 miles was around 2:07 and change, so it would have been a stretch to finish the .9 in less than eight minutes (since I had the extra block circling to cope with), but I'm sure I could have shaved off 38 seconds or more over the two mile stretch. Oh well.

After my Starbucks visit and walk home I took a shower and spent the next several hours lying bed reading (and finishing) The Time Traveler's Wife. All set for Book Club on Friday!

Just so you don't think I am a total loser, I then went over to Rod's house for a lovely Valentine's dinner, rib steak and wild rice pilaf. Love me some red meat on long run days!

We ended the long holiday weekend with skiing on Monday. It was one of my best skiing days ever. The weather was very good, cold but not too cold, sunny at times, and when it was a little foggy it was never enough to affect visibility. The snow was nice, a teeny bit of new and not icy at all, but not enough new snow to be deep or heavy (I don't like skiing in very deep snow). And I was skiing very, very well, which made me feel good about my skiing, which made me ski better! We did 20 runs (on different chairs) in a row, then I did two more on Chief (Rod stopped because he had aggravated his hip in a fall on Friday, and didn't want to push it), then we headed home.

Later that afternoon I just happened to peruse the movie listings in the newspaper, and noticed that there was a showing of Valentine's Day at 3:30 (it was shortly before 3 at the time). Knowing that I would never ever get Rod to go to such a chick flick (and it is a very chicky flick), I took myself to it, thinking that I might even be done in time to get to Pilates at 6:00.

I thought it was a really fun movie, kind of like an American version of Love Actually (except for Valentine's Day instead of Christmas, and no Hugh Grant, of course, and therefore not nearly as wonderful, but I digress). It was full of every charming and beautiful movie star you could imagine, with lots of different story lines going at the same time, all separate but loosely connected. And yes, as the critics say, it is almost all completely predictable (I should take my mother, she only likes movies that she can easily follow!), but still fun to watch. And there is one thing (well, actually two) that is a surprise, at least it was to me. And the lady next to me!*****

Unfortunately (or was it really unfortunate?) the movie didn't finish until almost 6:00, so I had to miss Pilates. So sad. Haha.

And Tuesday—back to work, long weekend is over and a short week has begun!

*Which means mid-morning on a Sunday.
**Or perhaps everyone else is lolling about enjoying Valentine's Day breakfast in bed? (Actually that's what I did, but it was oatmeal and I was by myself....)
***And I am not a sprinter. I do okay in 5K races, but doubt if I could outrun anyone in a 100-yard dash! Or even a 1,372.8 yard dash (the equivalent of .78 miles).
****And seriously, even though the trail and beach are open from dawn to dusk, I would not dream of going there during any but the most daylight of hours.
*****The theatre was so full that I had to sit in the second row and next to a stranger! That's what I get for not arriving early for a matinee of a crowd-pleasing movie on a federal holiday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Eve

I'm not a huge Valentine's Day fan. Not in a Liz Lemon kind of way,* but I just don't get all worked up over Valentine's Day celebrations. Maybe because we just got over Christmas, and the stress of finding the "perfect" gift, I can't get enthusiastic over another holiday with such high expectations. My favorite part of Valentine's is the heart-shaped cookies, which doesn't do much for me this year as it is (almost) sugar-free February!

Don't get me wrong, I like things that are heart-shaped (cookies, as above, and heart shaped jewelry), and I love the colors pink and red, and I love flowers (though preferably in gardens, or cut from gardens, and not over-priced for over-commercialized holidays).

This is not a rant, though. I am probably a little over-defensive because I have not bought (or made, haha) any Valentine's Day cards** or gifts.

Anyhow, Rod and I had plans to go to Oregon for a long weekend, and I kind of thought that a weekend trip would suffice for a Valentine's celebration, if one is needed. But we had to cancel the trip, so here we are at home and I have nothing.

Although cancelling our weekend plans was a bit disappointing, it did open things up a lot here. I had already made arrangements to take Friday off, and Monday is a holiday, so it is still a long weekend off from work. We jumped on the opportunity to do some weekday skiing yesterday, and will probably go up again on Monday.

With the change in schedule, I decided at the last minute (a couple days ago) to go ahead and do the Valentine's Day Love 'em or Leave 'em 5K in Seattle, at Green Lake. I've run it for at least the last three years, and it's a good opportunity to squeeze in a winter 5K when there aren't that many opportunities around.

I didn't ask anyone to go with me (although my mom has always gone) because my plan was just to run it and hustle home. So I drove down to Seattle alone this morning and was lucky to find a parking place only about a quarter mile from the start. That made it possible to go pick up my packet and come back to the car to get ready.

The race started at 9:30, and at 8:30 I left the car and started my warm-up by running back over to the starting area. I like to do a lap around the lake (2.8 miles) to warm up for Green Lake races. With the extra distance from the car, I ended up with a total warm-up distance of 3.33 miles.

This is a pretty big race, about 3,000 participants, and I stationed myself pretty close to the front of the pack for starting. Even though we had chips, I didn't want to mess with being held back by walkers and slower runners.

I didn't have any huge goals for this run. I was pretty sure there would be no PR, it was too early in the year (and two early in my return to speedwork) for that. I hoped to be under 25 minutes, but I wasn't even sure if I could do that.

In the first few minutes after the start, my watch was showing 8-something for pace, and I pretty much thought that was it, there was no way I could break 25. I felt like I was running as fast as I could under the circumstances.

But somehow, as my legs got accustomed to the pace, I did speed up, and then my watch was showing sub-8 minutes, almost constantly throughout the run. It. Was. Hard, though. I don't know how many times I thought how I hated 5K's, and would rather be running a marathon instead! (Or at least a half.) I was gulping air and I was definitely pushing my lactic threshhold. In the last mile I resorted my old trick of running from landmark to landmark, in this case signs which were probably only about .05 miles apart!

I managed to speed up just a little bit for the final tenth of a mile (dubbed the "tunnel of love," in keeping with the Valentine's theme), and crossed the finish line with the clock showing 24-something. My Garmin gives me a time of 24:29 for 3.15 miles, and I am waiting on the chip time. Should be pretty close to the watch, I assume. (Splits 7:39, 7:49, 7:51, and .15 mile at 7:24 pace. Average 7:46 pace. Which is very close to the pace I was doing in my 400's a couple weeks back. It really was 5K pace, I guess! At least 5K pace at the present time.)

It's a good thing that I did the long warm-up, because after I stopped running any thoughts I may have had about doing an extra mile or two afterwards dissipated entirely. I was going to watch some of the other finishers come in, but the free massage booth had NO line, so instead I got a great neck and shoulder massage.

Then I headed toward the car. I hadn't planned on picking up a bunch of stuff from the booths, because I end up with a bunch of granola bars I never eat (remains of the SoyJoy debacle still clutter up my pantry, I should throw that stuff away). But my-oh-my. Top Pot doughnuts was giving away full-sized old-fashioned doughnuts in individual packages! Everyone was walking away with handfuls, so I did not feel TOO piggish when I took three, one for me*** and two to give away, probably to my parents to make up for not inviting them to the race.

Then I grabbed two Cascadian Farms granola bars (which I do like, and do eat), and Pop Chips! I have only read about these on the internet. So of course I had to grab a couple of each flavor that they had. These individual bags have 50 calories each, perfect to go with lunches.

My hands were so full that I could barely make it to the car without dropping stuff. That ended any thoughts I might still have had about running more. Instead, I dumped my goodies in the car, drove over to Starbucks for a coffee, and enjoyed my delicious doughnut.

I did, however, stop at the Y for 70 minutes on the elliptical when I got back to Everett. Take that, doughnut!

I have been sneezing and blowing my nose all the rest of the afternoon. It is SO annoying. I took a Benadryl, and finally I seem to have dried up and calmed down a little. I know I don't have a cold, it's like I irritated my nasal passages in the run. Hopefully it will go away by tomorrow.

Valentine's Day plans? Long run... then we shall see. Have a good one! XOX to all (in honor of Valentine's Day).

*On last Thursday's 30 Rock episode, Liz referred to Valentine's Day as Anna Howard Shaw Day, the birthday of a famous suffragist. She also scheduled a root canal on Valentine's Day. Just to show she doesn't care about it.
**Haven't mailed my after-Christmas cards either. Even though they have been done for a long time.
***An unavoidable aberration from Sugar-free February.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

10 Things I Think Are Great

Last weekend I was listening to a radio show on NPR about lists. There was a piece about a woman who had accumulated the world record for most birds on her birdwatching "life list." I have very little interest in birds, and no interest in birdwatching, but it was still pretty interesting to hear about the exploits of this housewife who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, traveled to the far corners of the earth to spot and record exotic birds.

Then there was a guy just listing things. Cheese. Unicorns. The designated hitter. (I'm not sure if that was on the list, I know that cheese and unicorns were and I needed a third example.) It was totally random and seemingly pointless until a commentator explained the nature of this list--"100* things that I think are great, as they occur to me." So yes, it was totally random.

Apparently he had published an essay somewhere with the whole list. Unfortunately I was unable to track that down online.

But I thought it would be a kick to make a list of a few things I think are great, just as they occurred to me. I kept it to ten, so as not to get too longwinded. They are not listed in any particular order, just as they came to mind. They are not my favorite things of all time, just ten that came to mind. I did establish one** guideline for my list, and that is that all the items are things that are made in some way, not things that just happen or exist. Thus "cats" and "stars" are not on the list, even though both are, indeed, great.

Here goes.

1. Chocolate Mint Gu. Yum-oh-yum oh yum. (I don't actually use gu much, but when I do, I like this flavor!)

2. Pre-lit Christmas trees. For people who choose artificial trees, pre-lit is a Godsend! (I prefer real trees, but then I didn't even have one this year, so....)

3. Jeans with lycra. Really, how did we ever live with jeans that didn't bend and move?

4. Clumping kitty litter. Obviously.

5. DVR. I love it! No longer bound by restrictive TV schedules!

6. Tracy & Hepburn movies. Perfection.

7. London. My favorite city in the world!

8. Sweet potato fries. If you're going to deep fry a vegetable...this is the one!

9. Books. I'm not saying I'll never get a Kindle, though. Or an iPad....

10. Slow churned ice cream. A boon for calorie conscious ice cream lovers!

*It might have been 50, I can't remember. They only broadcasted excerpts, not the whole list.

**Okay, two guidelines. The second was not to have every item be food. So I restricted myself to two food items (three if you call Gu "food").

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


On Saturday night Rod and I played board game called Stratego, which he brought from his parents' "old stuff" stash. It is the type of game that I absolutely do not like,* involving planning (how you set up your gamepieces), strategy (where you make your moves), and memory (about the value and location of opposing pieces as they are occasionally revealed). Needless to say, my performance sucked and I lost badly. My game playing was very random. Seriously, I do not have the strategical skills, memory, or concentration needed for this type of game!**

That's how I feel writing this post today, very scattered and A.D.D. I have lots of things I'd like to write about, but nothing I feel like hanging my hat on long enough to write a whole post. Somewhat like my Stratego experience, I guess I'll just throw things out there and then move on.

Week one of spring training 2010 went well. I followed through on all my planned runs and workouts, and did pretty much okay with my ban on sweets (with one or two tiny exceptions).

I am quite pleased with my return to yoga. My legs and hips have been feeling achy these days, and the yoga poses and stretches on Thursday night were quite a panacea. I am lucky that the instructor I like most seems to do a lot of hip openers and twists...maybe that is why I like her! I even did a small routine of stretches (plus some pushups) on my own after working out at the Y on Saturday. I think I got back to yoga just in time!

Friday was a "pace" run on my training schedule: 5 miles at marathon pace tucked into a medium long run. I started with three miles to warm up and then met Arjin at the office to do five miles with him. Obviously I needed to start those pace miles during those next five miles because I'm not crazy enough to run eight miles and then start a five-mile speed workout! So I told Arjin that our plan was to do one mile at 10:00, then next at 9:30, and the remaining three at 9:00 or below; then I would drop him as we passed by office and finish my final two sub-nine miles. I hoped.

Our warm-up miles were actually a lot quicker than I planned, 9:16 and 9:13, but that was okay because it meant that we didn't have to pick it up too much to get on pace for the next three. We did those in 8:52, 8:59, and 8:52. Then I left Arjin at 12th and Broadway and continued onward.

I was quite lucky that I completed the additional two miles just as I reached a long hill up Everett Avenue. Coincidentally, those miles were each 8:56! For the entire seven miles, including the two warm-up miles with Arjin, my average pace was exactly 9:00 (63 minutes total). I restarted my watch so as not to mess with that number, and jogged in the remaining mile to Starbucks and QFC (I actually had to go around the block a couple of times to bring it up to a mile). That gave me a total of 11 miles for my Friday morning run.

Earlier in the week, my aching legs had inspired me to call for a massage appointment on Friday morning. So I rushed home to shower and change and make my way to the massage. Aaaah...I need to do this more often.

After the massage I completely forgot that I wasn't eating sweets (it was not in my head at all!), and grabbed a tootsie pop from a jar. I figured that I could indulge a teeny bit after the run, and it did not even occur to me that this was "candy"! I was "punished," though, when the red candy crumbled a little bit and left teeny tiny stains on my white shirt. (Luckily they were teeny tiny enough that they didn't really show when I went on to work.) After court I flew home to change into ski clothes and we headed up to Stevens for some night skiing.

Saturday was a running rest day, so I went to the Y for a long stint on the elliptical and some stretching. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day (nice for people who did get out to run). I just did my time at the Y and then went home and did some laundry and housecleaning and dinner prep work.

(Confession: I also FAILED again on my no-sweets-pledge, when I was about to throw away two old mini-brownies and decided to take just a bite—turns out stale brownies are quite good, chewy on the edges and soft in the middle. I hang my head in shame again!)

Sunday was my long run day, and as fate would have it, I woke up to rain, drizzle, mist, and fog. I wasn't particularly thrilled to go run, but I knew I had to go at a reasonable hour (though not too early) in order to finish making my Hoppin' John Salad*** and get over to my parents' house for the Super Bowl (which was earlier in the afternoon on the West Coast).

In order to kick myself out the door, I thought of Lisa running the Surf City marathon and all the other runners doing the marathon and half marathon. If they were working that hard, surely I could force myself into an easy run! My (self-imposed) schedule called for 10-12 miles, but I really wanted to do twelve because of all the food consumption ahead (and the type of food).

I had originally intended to take another stab at the waterfront running trail, now that I think I've located it, but the weather was dreary enough that I didn't think there was any point in going down there. It's not like I could see far enough to appreciate the view! Instead I just stuck with my usual stomping grounds, where I know all the bathroom locations. :)

Despite my qualms over the weather, by the time I got out the door the rain had changed to drizzle, which soon changed to mist, and it wasn't long before it was just foggy but otherwise dry. So not as bad as I'd feared. What I really didn't want was enough rain that my jacket would get drenched from the outside as well as the inside!

I was pretty sloggish**** but after the first couple miles (10:26 and 10:00) I bounced around in the mid to high nines (average for twelve miles 9:47), until my final full mile at 8:55. (It took a bit of concentrated effort to pick up the pace by almost a minute per mile!) But after all, this was "long run" pace, not race pace or anything. I was feeling a little short on time, so I cut my route a little bit to limit myself to the planned twelve miles, and not go over by too much (my total distance was 12.21 miles).

Lucky thing I went the full twelve, though. Here's our Super Bowl menu (a New Orleans-inspired menu):

Shrimp and Oyster Po' Boys
Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Hoppin' John Salad (as above)
Pecan Pie******

Plus Frank's Hot Sauce! I went to bed feeling quite full, and still wasn't hungry when I woke up this morning. (I managed to work up an appetite running, though.)

I ran this morning with Arjin again, and today Luke (a very tall, young attorney with long legs) joined us. I warned them before we started that I do not have long legs (Arjin is young and tall also), but apparently they did not understand my message of "Don't run too fast!" I did my usual three miles before meeting up, so at least my legs were warmed up when we started. This was also a Monday, and the day after a long run; in other words, a historically slow day of the week for me.

Clearly my legs were a little tired, because the first few miles, which I felt were about a 9:30 pace (meaning quick but not trying too hard) turned out to be 9:48, 9:42, and 9:38. Then the boys started showing off and picking up the pace. I followed along, though dropped to about half a block behind them. I saw a few 8:15's on my Garmin, off and on, but I guess we weren't going all that fast overall, as mile 4 turned out to be 8:46 and the final half mile was at 8:41 pace (which included a semi-sprint downhill, but also a fairly significant uphill as well). I will say that this pace felt like less work than on Friday when we were trying for the sub-9's. A lot of this running stuff is a mind game!

I left Arjin and Luke by the office and continued running home. Another mile and a half gave me nine miles total for the morning. The average pace for 4.49 miles with the boys was 9:23, and my average for the last 1.53 was 9:31. (The first 3.01 miles were, I admit, 10:15 average—I had a slow start!)

And that's about it for the random report. Pilates again on Monday night. Oh, hurrah. My abs just stopped being sore from last week.... :)

*Do well at.

**I much prefer games that are verbal, like Scrabble (though I've lost at that plenty), Pictionary (yes it is all about the words and communication, not your drawing skills), and Taboo, for example. And Trivial Pursuit! Strangely, even though I can't remember anything past one move in a game like Stratego, I have a great memory for historical facts and trivia.

***I made it pretty much according to the recipe, except that I used apple cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and I soaked the onions in a vinegar solution for a while to pickle them a little. Also I didn't bother to put in the parsley...I had it, I just didn't put it in. Oh, and I used Frank's Hot Sauce instead of the Boars Head sauce.

****Obviously, a combination of "sluggish" and "slog."

*****I, of course, did not eat pecan pie. I had strawberries with Oikos vanilla Greek yogurt (they were out of the plain yogurt, which is really my favorite).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Good luck Surf City Runners

It seems like almost every blogger I ever heard of who lives in California* is running Surf City Half or Full, so good luck everyone! Have a great race! I'm excited to read a bunch of race reports over the next few days!

*Extra good luck to Lisa at achieving her race goals, and Alice in getting through her 3-day sojourn and making it to the starting line!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Goodbye January, hello February!

So. The first month of 2010 is now over. That went fast, didn't it? It seems like it was just Christmas, and now we're pushing up on Valentine's Day and President's Day.

I ran more than 176 miles in January. Really? I had to go back and add up my numbers a couple of times to make sure I wasn't lying. I think the exact total is 176.6. Not bad for base building. Although, I don't expect to run significantly more miles in the coming months, even with marathon training now in full swing. Maybe a few weeks will be higher (most weeks I seem to be hitting around 40 miles), but there's a limit to what I can do, running four days a week. Actually, there is a limit to what I am willing to do!

Last week I was (voluntarily) down to about 33 miles. I ran on Monday (9 miles), Wednesday (11 miles) and Friday (13.1+ a bit), then took the weekend off to go east (Eastern Washington, that is) and ski.

I kicked off February with nine miles again on Monday! Three miles on my own, 4.5 with my secretary's son, and then another 1.5 back to Starbucks to finish.

I also bit the bullet and showed up to Pilates class on Monday night. I am sad to say that I have completely lost core strength in the months that I have been slacking. Things that used to be (sort of) easy for me were difficult, and the hard stuff was downright horrible. I had to rest several times, and I did the "easier" rather than "more challenging" versions of the exercises. (Hangs head in shame....)

I wasn't even sure if I would be sore, because of my resting every time things got extra hard. Yesterday (Tuesday), I just felt a little bit sore, but as the day went on, and into today, I am feeling it more and more! (Pilates soreness always seems to show up more on the second day after. Don't know why.) I am sore in my sides (obliques) and, for some reason, along my ribs under my arms! And my central abdomen, of course. Just about everywhere! It's sore in a kind of good way, though. I just feel like my muscles are tightening up!

Tuesday night was supposed to be my triumphant (ha!) return to yoga...but the class was cancelled. So that will have to wait till Thursday. I wasn't too disappointed! The hardest part about going back to yoga is going to the Y so late in the evening (class is at 7:15), when I would really rather be home fixing dinner, eating, watching TV, etc. But I have DVR, and a huge pot of vegetable curry to eat on all week, so I really have no excuses.

And today was my return to speedwork! I haven't done designated speedwork since CIM. That means about two months! My training schedule had hills x 3 on it for today, so I decided to do the hills (after a warm-up run), then do a few 400's at the track. Just to break the ice.

I ran about four miles at a very easy pace before I arrived at my designated hill. This is actually a hill I run up every day near the beginning of my run. It's about a quarter of a mile uphill from Broadway to Wetmore, where it flattens out.

So from Wetmore I jogged down to Broadway, then started the Garmin and ran up at a hard pace, maybe not the very fastest I can run, but a lot faster than I usually run up this hill! This took 2:05 minutes, which I later determined was a 8:36 pace. I jogged down, up again (2:05, 8:25 pace), down, and up the final time (2:02, 8:17 pace). I decided to take the final downhill fast and did it in 1:54 (7:41 pace).

A word about hill work and pace. I run a lot of hills in my various running paths. Everett and Marysville are naturally hilly, and sometimes I take an extra hilly route (Everett to Mukilteo). Normally though, I take the hills at a comfortable pace relative to the pace I am running. If I am doing about 10-minute miles, the uphills will probably be 10:30. If I manage 9-minute miles, I'll slow to 9:30 on the hills. And so forth. This evens out because I usually take the downhills about 30 seconds faster than my average pace.

"Hill work," though, requires a bit more effort. Hal Higdon tells us to: "Select a hill about a quarter-mile long. . . . Run up hard, as hard as you might during a 400 track repeat. Then turn and jog back down, repeating the uphill sprints until finished." Uphill sprints! I think I did use as much effort on the uphill repeats as I did on the track intervals, but the pace was just naturally slower.

After my "downhill sprint" I headed on over to the middle school track. It was about a third of a mile to the track from Broadway, and when I arrived I stood and looked at it for a moment or two. Old friend (or enemy), we meet again. I had originally planned on four quarter-mile repeats, but thought I might have to cut out one or two if I ran short on time. Once I got past the halfway point, though (two laps), I did one more, then another, and then my four quarter-mile intervals were done. The pace for each was a little slower than my better 400's last fall, but still okay, about 5K pace, I would say. The pace for each was 7:46, 7:36, 7:45, and 7:46, with one to two minutes rest between.

Finally I jogged around the track one more time and then continued onward to Starbucks and home. My total distance this morning was 8.3 miles at an average pace of 9:33.

Although it is only the beginning of February I am happy with the beginning to my Spring Training. Of course, right now the spring training running schedule is not that different than my winter schedule! (Except for the addition of speed work.) Still, psychologically I am in training mode. I also feel good about my ban on sweets and treats. It is actually way easier to just eschew cookies and so forth than to try to moderate my indulgence. I have a kind of "all or nothing" personality, I'm afraid. (This could be how I went from running six miles a day on the treadmill to running half-marathons, and then on to marathon training! At least I'm putting my obsessive tendencies to a positive end.)

I am, though, rather achey right now. In addition to the sore core from Pilates, my hamstrings and glutes are giving me some grief (probably from the hills). Makes me think I need to go get a massage!