Two things: a reminder to be safe, and where did the time go?

First thing:

I did not know this woman, or the man who hit her. It’s a sad convergence of lives in this case: the runner, wife, and mother who was out doing what she loved, and the doctor with two teenage children who lost his wife to a drunk driver nearly a decade ago. You can read the details yourself, but this gives me pause for a few reasons: one, I run on roads like this every time I visit my family in North Carolina, and more than a few times when I’m visiting Saint, his family members in South Carolina, and maybe a handful of times a month here at home. Two, this happened at 8:15 in the morning (which is to say, not in the dark and well after sunrise). Three, from the police description it seems like Meg was doing the safest thing: running against traffic so that she could see oncoming cars.

Concerning one: Doing this makes me nervous every time I do it, whether it’s in broad daylight or in the dark. I do wear a headlamp every time I run when the sun’s not up, but I don’t always wear the most reflective clothing. Regardless of the terrain – sidewalk, road shoulder, road without a shoulder – I do my best to jump well out of the way of traffic, but sometimes that’s not always possible, or it’s a blind curve and a car comes up suddenly. I also don’t always run against traffic, either; if I know I’m only going to be on the road for a few hundred feet, I’ll stay to whichever side is closest to my next turn. Concerning two: not that accidents don’t happen at 8:15 am, but being hit by a drunk driver at that time of day is about the LAST thing I would expect to have to watch out for. I run very early in the morning (usually at 4:30 am on the weekdays, 6-7am on the weekends) partially because there’s so much less traffic, but I confess I haven’t given much thought to the possibility of drunk drivers being out at that time. I’m more worried about getting jumped or robbed, to be honest, though I do my best to avoid areas where that’s most likely to happen. Concerning three: like I said, I don’t always run facing traffic if it’s easier to stay with my back to it. Tiny disclaimer: I never run with headphones in, because I need to be able to hear what’s going on around me. That doesn’t mean that I can always tell if there’s a car behind me, though.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I – and, I suspect, a lot of runners – do these little things thinking “it won’t happen to me because I’m careful”, and that may not be enough. It may not matter how careful you are if someone else is being grossly negligent and you happen to cross their path. I’m not blaming Meg at all here, mind you; I think she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I don’t know if anything she did could have prevented her death. There are simply too many variables to say one way or another.

So, here’s my reminder: please double-check your safety measures, and consider adding a couple more. I know there’s only so much we can do, but every bit helps.

I think the worst thing about this, though, is that she was apparently within a mile of home. Feh. :/

ANYWAY! Second thing: Moving on – where did this marathon training schedule go?! Somehow I’m already in week 7, with only another 10 to go – I’m cutting out week 17 because a three-week taper will probably drive me to maul someone – and I feel like I blinked and suddenly was almost at the halfway point. I’m doing Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 program, which has a peak mileage of 50, for three separate weeks, which made me nervous but is now not a big deal at all, I think, and I’ll tell you why: I’m in the middle of doing something stupid! (What else is new?)

Saint and I are taking advantage of the long weekend to go skiing, which means that I have to have all of my running done before we go, because a) while there is now a fitness center at the ski resort, it doesn’t have treadmills (WTF?); b) yeah, so that thing about not running on two-lane roads I just talked about? That’s what I’d be doing up there, and no thank you – the speed limits on those roads at lower elevations are not less than 35MPH. So, I tweaked my schedule to cut out my cross-training and rest days for this week, like so:

Normal schedule: Mon: cross-train Tue: 4 mile run Wed: 8 mile run Thurs: 4 mile run Fri: rest Sat: 8 mile pace Sun: 16 mile run
Tweaked schedule: Mon: 4 mile run Tue: 8 mile run Wed: 4 mile run Thurs: 8 mile pace Fri: 16 mile run Sat: ski Sun: ski

Now, before this week, I’d run 10 and 7 miles last Saturday and Sunday (I switched the days because I went skiing on Sunday, and figured that less miles on that day would be slightly less stupid) – so, I hit Monday with 17 miles under my belt already. Once I do tomorrow’s 16-miler, that will put me at 57 miles for the week. Fifty-seven! That’s by far (by 14 miles, actually) the most I’ll have ever run in a week! Those 50-mile weeks don’t look so bad now, do they?

Except… yeah. It’s a pretty huge jump in weekly mileage from week 6, which was (gulp) about 31, and in most circles a jump like that is seen as A Bad Thing because ramping up mileage like that is a great way to hurt yourself. Add to that the lack of cross-training or rest, and the very real possibility of injuring myself while skiing, and you have a potential recipe for disaster, or at least marathon-training-ending injury and even possibly running-“career”-ending injury. As I’ve said here before, I don’t always do the smart thing, but… BUT GUYS, I FEEL FINE. Yeah, my legs have been a bit tired this week, but I don’t feel any new aches or pains and I don’t feel like I’m overtraining (I have done that before, and I do know the signs of it in me!). I’m being VERY good about getting more than enough sleep, and I’ve been eating extra protein for recovery and have been nigh religious about warming up and stretching. I’ve been taking my runs slowly as best I can, though I let a little loose on today’s pace run – it was pouring down buckets of snow for 20 minutes so I couldn’t help ramping it up a little bit 🙂 Also, this is a singular event, I hope – I don’t know how many more weekend ski trips I’ll be making, since I prefer to do day trips that let me get my run in before we leave – so I won’t be doing this EVERY weekend until ski season is over.

Says me, now. 😛

Anyway, I’ll have more conclusive results from this little experiment next week, so keep your fingers crossed that I am not penalized for my idiocy but know that I will be the FIRST IN LINE! to say “I told you so!” when things go awry.

What about you? Have you ever tweaked some weeks of a training program? Did those tweaks work, or not? Do you believe in sticking to a plan 100%, or are you more flexible?

Stay safe out there, everyone.

Safety first: Lessons from a tragedy

Good advice indeed, if you do anything outdoors at all. Thanks, Jon!

My Journey: 1,000 Miles in 2014

I mentioned earlier about a homicide that took place in the park where I run, train and take my son to play. It was a very scary and eye opening experience.

I know that I can’t let this unfortunate incident jade me or make me cynical about using the great park and trail system we have here in San Antonio. I am too optimistic for that. However, this is a great opportunity for all of us to take a step back and evaluate our safety and routines. If we learn something from this, the death of a beautiful young runner will not be for nothing.

I reached out to the readers of this blog and other runners around me to find out what their running safety tips were. There are a bunch of lists online about running safety, however I wanted to hear from you guys. I wanted to hear…

View original post 482 more words

Winter running: isn’t it fun?

Apparently I should have added to my Christmas list “a Sunday long run that is not shot through with cold air and colder water falling from the sky”. Mind you, I’ve only had two of these runs since the 25th, but after this last one I’m starting to wonder if there’s not some Mother-Nature-fueled conspiracy to give me hypothermia. If the third time’s a charm this weekend, I’ll know there’s definitely something suspicious afoot!

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely LOVE winter running. I do, I really, really do. I love the shock of cold air to the face and lungs, I love not feeling like I’m sweating half to death on a 5-mile run, I love being able to actually push myself on pace runs because it doesn’t feel like I’m going to die if I go any faster. I love the crunch of frozen grass under my feet and seeing the stars before dawn and, usually, feeling like I have the world to myself because I usually run before sunrise when very few people are out doing much of anything, much less running. I also don’t mind running in the rain, to an extent- it has to be warm enough (say, above 50F), and I’d prefer if it didn’t come at me sideways because even a ballcap doesn’t keep it off my glasses then, but more often than not, rain won’t keep me from running outside.

However, 20F-degree temperatures plus steady rain (sometimes sleet), driving at times, with a nasty headwind? Bleargh. For 13-14 miles, no, it’s not the most fun that I’ve ever had, though it’s still not enough to make me consider taking it indoors for a day. [There is a point at which I will do that, and I’ll get to that in a moment.] Even when I come back completely soaked and with red, splotchy skin from head to toe, when I’m shivering as I cool down and start peeling my wet gear off, when Saint shakes his head and says “Sometimes I question why you do what you do”, I still wouldn’t trade it for a c0uple of hours indoors. Why is that? (I do hate treadmills with a fiery passion, but still…) What am I trying to prove? (Nothing, but it doesn’t help that I hear comments from people like the two young men I passed while running in a veritable monsoon last weekend who shook their heads at me and said, as I passed, “damn, you are a serious trooper”…) Am I sure I’m trying to prove nothing? I don’t know.  I just know that I really, really hate running indoors, now that I’m so used to running in pretty much any conditions, no matter how crappy. After all, I read somewhere once that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people”, and with the right amount of layering and preparation, I feel like that’s generally true.

However. While I do not live in the northern part of the United States, you may have heard that it’s supposed to be a bit… frigid for most everyone not in Miami or Hawaii or Death Valley later today and tomorrow. In my neck of the woods, they’re talking about wind chills overnight of -10 to -20. This, I think, is finally the point where I say “enough!” and take it inside: I’m only supposed to run 3 miles tomorrow, and that’s barely enough time for me to begin to feel warm in normal winter temperatures, so I will be hitting ye olde treadmille for the first time in ages.

Do me a favor, please, and think good thoughts for the pipes in my house so that they do not freeze and burst. We have perpetual plumbing issues, and it would really NOT be the nicest beginning to 2014 to have to deal with that this week. Thank you. 🙂

Other assorted running things: I ran with a group for the first time in (again) ages on Saturday, when it was 10F at 8am and we all decided we were nuts for being outside at that time and temperature, but it was a gorgeous sunny morning and our spirits were high and we were more amused than annoyed by the completely frozen water at the water stops. (This is a group that meets for training runs for the local 10-miler held at the end of March, and they posted on Facebook Friday evening: “Looking for some company? Come join us tomorrow morning!”) I’m more of a lone wolf when I run, but I’ve enjoyed running with friends and, a couple of times before, with groups, so I thought it would be nice to get out of my comfort zone for once and maybe meet some new people. I went with the long-run group that was doing a 10k, and tacked on a couple of track laps to get to my 7 miles, and while we went out too fast, we slowed it down a bit in the last half and finished in what was a very good time for me, in high spirits still all around. It was a lot of fun, with good camaraderie, and I learned that I need to improve my hill running, because I was constantly getting left behind on the uphill stretches and having to do too much work to catch up on the downhill stretches. So, I need to do better at maintaining my effort up hills, to balance out my effort when going down them. I may sneak in a couple more runs with the group throughout the winter if I’m in town, since I enjoyed it quite a bit – and I say “if” because ski season is nigh upon us and it is time to start thinking good powdery thoughts. This also brings up the question of how in the hell I am going to maintain my marathon training if I plan to go away for a ski weekend, because there isn’t much in the way of safe places to run for 10-16 miles where we ski (think narrow 2-lane roads in the woods that aren’t usually well-maintained), and I can’t just not do my weekend runs, so I think my solution has to be that I just run 5 days straight in the week and ski on the weekends and hope to God I don’t get injured or overtrain myself.

I don’t always do the smart thing, dear reader. It’s okay: I won’t complain about the consequences, since I know what I’m getting myself into. Mostly. 🙂

Speaking of safety, and another situation in which I don’t always do the smart thing, I read this post and was pretty well shocked into silence, but it didn’t even occur to me to think about it again while planning my long Sunday run that would take me on a trail that goes through a local, wooded, frequently-used public park that I’ve run countless times, usually early in the morning but never while it’s still dark. No, I didn’t think of that girl until I was turning off the main road to get to the trail, which was the point at which I realized that due to the crappy weather, I was likely to be completely alone on that trail. Usually I’m fine with this, but – even though it was 9:30 in the morning – I felt uneasy suddenly, which was definitely not helped by the silhouette I immediately encountered under the overpass I came to within 10 seconds of stepping onto the trail who looked like was holding a rifle. As I got closer I realized the silhouette just happened to be standing in front of a discarded tree trunk that had a branch sticking up that was approximately the same size and shape as a rifle, and I also realized that it was likely just someone walking and taking refuge from the rain for a little, but I didn’t want to get close enough to look or ask, so I went on my way, albeit keeping an ear open to my rear, just in case.

I did in fact encounter only one other person on the trail, who was walking alone and talking on her phone, but I felt oddly uneasy throughout, mostly because of the lack of people, I think, but also because – despite my great caution – I slipped and fell on some ice, and while I didn’t hurt myself, it did occur to me that if I’d fallen and really hurt myself, how on earth would I get out, or get in touch with someone to come get me? I don’t always do the smart thing: I never take my phone with me, I almost never tell anyone where I’m going, I don’t carry any methods of self-defense except sometimes a car/house key wedged between my fingers on a key ring. To my credit, I never use earphones, I wear bright/reflective clothing, and I use a headlamp if it’s dark. If I’m with Saint, I’ll tell him when I leave that I expect to be back at X time, and that Y time is the time he should start to worry if I’m still gone, and I always leave a map of my route up on my computer if he gets concerned or curious. But, still: there are times I wonder, running as a woman alone, whether I’m setting myself up for something bad, or if I’m being overly paranoid and should just continue on as I have been. (And then I read this and I think, hmmm, that’s exactly along the trail I was on yesterday, isn’t that fun?)

Anyway, well, for now, that’s it. I’m thinking warm thoughts for everyone north of here, and safe thoughts for everyone everywhere.

Just dropping in to say hi… and what happened to my 2013 goal(s)?

I got swallowed by Thanksgiving, the end of the semester, and Christmas, so I’m just dropping in to say HI!… and Happy New Year, while I’m briefly here. I’ve not been in my house in ten days; that’s where I am now, but I’m leaving again in a little while to hit the road again until the 1st, at which point I am going to finally enjoy sleeping in my own bed for the first time in what will seem like forever.

Non-running-wise, life is good; there’s not much new to report, though I did get some neat running-related things for Christmas, the most awesome of which is a pair of Wigwam Ironman socks that got me through 13.6 miles of completely rain-soaked running yesterday with nary a blister, even after I splashed through giant puddles by accident at mile 0.5. I love me my Balegas, but these may be my new go-to socks once those crap out. I got some nice beer, too, most of which is gone but was so deliciously worth drinking – I’m looking at you, Scaldis Noel.

Running-wise, life is also good; I’m still enjoying cold-weather, pre-dawn runs (and I got to watch the sun rise on Christmas morning when I had the clear sky with stars and Venus and the moon all to myself, which was lovely), and I’ve made it to the end of 2013 injury-free and generally pleased with my running at the moment. Of course, I say this with one short 3-miler left for tomorrow, which is when I’m sure I’ll finally manage to get hit by a car during a run, but barring that, I’ll finish this year with-

Well, wait. Let me hold you in competely gimmicky and fabricated suspense for a second: What were my 2013 running goals, anyway?

From my only January post: “Sub-25:00 5k, Sub-2 hour half-marathon, Sub-5 hour marathon.(Oh, and, um, not get hurt. Hmmm….)”

I’m happy to say that I accomplished all three of those goals, with a 23:58 5k PR, a 1:59 half-marathon PR, and a 4:40 marathon PR. I didn’t set a 10k goal because I wasn’t sure if I’d race one in 2013; I didn’t, so that’s one of my 2014 goals. I also took time off when I felt hurt, and have not had any issues since June when I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon. So, yay me!

While I’m at it, why not set those goals off the top of my head? Hmmm. I think this year, after my March marathon, I’d like to take some time off and just run for fun, instead of always being so focused on training for something. I’d also like to get better at the 5k and 10k distances, so I’m going to say that I’d like a sub-22:00 5k, a sub-55:00 10k, and only doing a half or another full if it’s an offer I can’t refuse.

So! Now that you’ve read this far, why was I holding you in suspense a little while ago? Well, at some point earlier this year, possibly during the Super Bowl or some other such football-watching event where I may have been drinking beer and running my mouth off, I told Saint that I could totally run more miles in 2013 than the NFL’s regular-season leading rusher would run yards. The regular season concluded yesterday, and the leader was LeSean McCoy, with (according to ESPN.com) 1,607 yards. In 2013, counting tomorrow’s run, I (will) have run… 1,511 miles. Dang! So close! Way closer than last year, anyway, when Adrian Peterson outran me by a lot more. So, here’s another goal: I will try again to outrun the leading NFL rusher during the regular season, and I will try to break 1,750 miles for the year.

I leave you with that; what are your goals for 2014? However you choose to usher it in, I hope it’s safe and happy for you. Cheers to the New Year!

Running in Boston

First of all, iamarunnerandsocanyou is going to call me out on this for not getting in touch with him, but my public apology goes like this: my schedule was such that I only had time to run before the sun was up while I was in Boston, which I figured no sane individual would want to join me for. So, my apologies, and I hope that my next visit to Boston is more leisure and less business so I can enjoy more of the city.

I was there for a field-related conference, giving a paper, which went swimmingly well and was by and large a great event. The conference hotel was in Copley Square, which is in the lovely Back  Bay area of Boston (and yes, is about two blocks away from where the bombings occurred in April). While my primary purpose for visiting was this conference, I do not think that blogging about it is going to keep anyone awake, so I’m going to bore you with other details about running and sightseeing.

I arrived late Wednesday evening and had enough time to quickly get the lay of the land before going to bed. The conference wasn’t to begin until noon on Thursday, so I woke up just before sunrise and went for a run along the Charles River Esplanade as it was rising, per Andy’s suggestion. It was chilly, but absolutely breathtaking – Thursday dawned a clear and bright day, and it was such a joy and privilege to be able to greet the day from that riverside location. I explored some of the Back Bay neighborhoods as well, and marveled at the architecture thereof (I’m a sucker for brownstones with gorgeous windows). It’s no secret that I fell in love with Boston at first sight when I first visited in 2006, and I vowed one day to move there, which is still a threat I think is valid. Every time I leave, a little piece of me stays behind.  (I know I’ve said this about New York City, too, but Boston has a spirit that New York just can’t catch, not that I can put that into words but if you’ve ever visited both places I think you know what I mean.)

After that, I got ready for the day and went over to Harvard to check out an exhibit sponsored by their Russian center. It’s called the Blokadnitsy Project, and it’s a collection of twelve photobooks compiled of pictures and interviews of and with a group of women who survived the German siege of Leningrad during World War II. It’s absolutely astonishing, and I think anyone in the Boston area should go see it. I don’t get moved to tears that much, but I had to choke back a sob when I saw a picture of one woman’s hands and her description of the way she used them to move and stack dead bodies of her fellow citizens into mass graves. It was incredibly moving, and I was glad that I had made the trip out there to see the exhibit. Plus, okay, walking through Harvard Yard is pretty neat, too.

After THAT, conference stuff began.

When I arrived from the T at Copley from the airport on Wednesday night, I did a triple-take at one building that I walked past on my way to the hotel. It wasn’t the Trinity Church, which I had been told to check out if I could (and as it turns out, I didn’t have time, alas! – but check out the building slideshow), but, as I later realized, the Boston Public Library’s Central branch, which I also later found out did “Art & Architecture Tours” on Thursdays at 6pm. Wouldn’t you know it – my conference stuff ended at 5:45pm on Thursday! So, when that happened, I booked it over to the library and got a wonderful treat. Seriously, click on that link and then click on the links and look at some of the pictures of those halls and murals – just gorgeous. I was in heaven. My favorite part – as hard as it is to choose just one! –  was the statue in the courtyard, which is lit up at night and looks simply amazing.

After the tour was over, I wandered around for a bit and chatted with the security guard about working in a place of such absurd beauty, and when my stomach gave an angry, empty growl, he smiled and we agreed that I should probably go fix that. On a completely unrelated note, I had no idea that Sam Adams makes a small-batch Gingerbread Stout – it’s no Hardywood Park gingerbread stout, true, but then again, what is? – that I discovered is rather quite good, to my surprise. Sam Adams has been doing a lot of seasonal small batches over the past couple of years, and this is one I’d drink again with pleasure.

On Friday I did not run, which was a wise decision since it rained all day. I conferenced instead.

On Saturday, I ran 7ish miles before sunrise that took me far down Commonwealth Avenue and past Boston University through Allston/Brighton and ontothe wrong side of Memorial Drive such that I was running in the grass next to a guardrail next to 40-mph-traffic, separated from the sandy ground of a train yard by a chain-link fence to my right. This was not the wisest idea, but I was not about to go playing Frogger in the dark with those cars, so I decided to just run as fast as I could to get the bridge I needed to cross back over to Brookline. When I got to that bridge, I had to go up a very dark and very tall staircase, which was a bit unnerving, but hey, stairs-speedwork! Next time, I will listen to the guy driving the truck who is motioning to me to tell me that no, Memorial Drive isn’t actually on that side of the road.

I conferenced the rest of Saturday, which was when I gave my paper and celebrated with a lunch beer and then had a fantastically amazing and satisfying dinner at The Salty Pig with some old friends. (Vegetarians, beware that clicky-thing.) Beers were had, laughter flowed in abundance. It was good.

It was also VERY sharply cold and windy outside. This did not change Sunday when I went for a run at 5am.

I can now say that I have gone on a run and not encountered a single other runner on my route, which, no matter where or when or in what weather I’ve run before, has never  been the case. So that felt kind of badass, but at the same time I had a few moments in which I seriously questioned my judgement. This isn’t because of the route I chose, but rather because of the wind, which was blowing at a steady 15MPH and gusting to a hearty 30MPH, when it was already only about 20F outside. (I later learned that this was a wind chill of about 9 degrees…!) I was dressed fine – long pants, gloves, and two base-layer shirts, one of which had a collar – but it was the sort of wind that no matter what you were wearing, it just cut right through you and hit you in the bones. I accepted that this would be true for my entire run (7ish miles again) pretty much when I stepped out of the hotel door and nearly got blown sideways, which I think helped a lot in my decision to not quit. It also helped that I kept telling myself that I’ve skied entire days in such conditions, albeit with more layers on and much more snow, and it helped even more that I loathe running on the treadmill and had first-hand evidence that the hot water in our shower was indeed capable of getting very hot.

So, on I went, past the gorgeous-when-lit Museum of Fine Arts  (another place I wish I’d had time to visit!), to the Longwood area of medical colleges, to the Riverway and the fens behind Fenway (though I missed Fenway Park by a couple of blocks, oh well – I consoled myself by saying it was too dark to appreciate anyway), over the Charlesgate and back to Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, past the Boston Common and up that goddamned hill that I always forget exists to Park Street and then over to Stuart Street until reaching my hotel. Again, beautiful buildings, even in the dark and pre-dawn light, and the few pedestrians who were out waiting for buses or on their own way to work or the airport gave me “lady, you must be nuts” look that made it worth it. So what if I almost tripped over a crack in the sidewalk because my eyes were full of tears from the wind? You run faster when it’s cold, and this run was no exception: it was the fastest pace I’ve held above 5 miles in a very long time, and it felt amazing, even given the conditions.

God, I love Boston. 🙂

After getting ready and packing up, I did last-day-conferencing, got myself to the airport early enough to have a gateside beer while watching football, and was able to continue watching football thanks to the magic of JetBlue and their free DirecTV. I also got to watch the sun set from the sky, which was a brilliant shade of red I’m not sure I would have gotten on the ground, so that was pretty neat, too.

I arrived in good stead, was fed a lovely hot dinner by Saint’s parents, and got myself back home late last night to breathe for two days before taking off for Thanksgiving madness with my own family – provided the weather cooperates – after which I think I will take a small break from traveling because as much as I love Boston, and running in Boston, and being and feeling such joy in Boston, my own bed is a wonderful place all its own.

My paper, by the way, was on the concept of “home”, which I think is somewhat apropos for this post. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, a bit early, y’all. Thanks for reading.

Race Report: Richmond Half Marathon

When I’m 95 and still running, I hope I can still experience “firsts”. I still have many to go, and I crossed off two more (one intentionally, one not) with this race, which was in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday.

Those firsts were: 1) pace a friend through her first half-marathon; 2) run a race in driving rain without a hat on. I wear glasses, if that seems like no big deal.

I’ll start with 2): I had no idea it was even supposed to be cloudy until I packed for the weekend on Thursday night, and when Friday progressed to show a Saturday morning forecast of 45 degrees and 60% chance of rain at 6am, I got nervous and irritated. Elite racers will tell you that these are ideal conditions because they mean you won’t overheat and won’t have the sun beating down on you, but they are not to be taken seriously because they a) don’t wear glasses and b) run fast enough that any rain that might fall on them either runs right off or dries with the wind as they fly on through the air. Non-elite racers like me suddenly have to wonder if we’ll be able to see, much less think about comfort. Yes, wearing a hat can mitigate the rain somewhat, but rain falls at an angle when you’re moving through it faster than a walk, and it tends to find its way onto your lenses anyway. I’ve come to terms with most of the things associated with running in the rain for long distances, but this is the one I can’t get past; if I can’t see, I have problems.

So.

When it started raining – no, pouring – no, gullywashering and flooding – at 6:30am Saturday, with a race start time of 7:30am, I started to get even more nervous and irritated. I checked the radar to see that it would clear by the start time, but I still had to get to the start line to meet Friend, and everyone else in Saint’s house was fast asleep (I told them all I’d walk the 1.75 miles to the start line to meet Friend, and they took me seriously). At 6:55 I hit the panic button and woke up Saint, and had him drive me there, and of course, by the time we arrived and I met Friend, the deluge had slowed to a misty nothing. I kept my hat with me just in case, but told Saint I was likely to hand it off to him when he saw me just past mile 2.

And that’s exactly what I did. As we started the race, I warmed up as I always do, and my head got quite warm, and my glasses – heretofore clear of all rain drops – started fogging up. When we passed Saint and his parents, I tore off my hat and handed it to him, and he looked at me with a slightly confused expression, but shrugged and took it anyway; saying he’d see me at the finish. Ten steps later, I understood the look on his face: it began cats-and-dogs pouring again, and within a minute I was more or less completely unable to see where I was going. Friend wears glasses too, and didn’t have a hat, so she was already visually impaired…

What can you do but laugh? So we did, and relaxed, and settled into the realization that we were going to spend some time simply following the people in front of us.

And that’s exactly what we did. My goals for this race going in had been twofold: slow Friend down so she didn’t burn out in the first few miles, and finish strong and uninjured. Friend wanted to finish between 2:10-2:15, so I forced us to hold to what I thought was about an 11:00/mile pace for the first 10k. We managed a 10:42/mile pace for that first 10k, so perhaps we got caught up in passing people to get clear of bottlenecks, or maybe we were feeling the pre-race euphoria a little. I actually thought we’d gone out too slow, and that we were really going to have to bust ass to make 2:10, so I started edging us towards a faster pace around mile 8. Friend was still with me but lagging behind a tiny bit (maybe a half step), but she said she felt fine, so I pushed us a bit faster through miles 9-11. At mile 11 she started dropping back a little – maybe two steps – and I realized that we could have, maybe should have gone out even slower, because she wasn’t going to have the finishing kick left in her that I do – but, this is her first half, for crying out loud, whereas this is number 5 for me and I’ve had plenty of experience to teach me how to conserve. She’ll get there, too, in a matter of time. Anyway, she waved me on when we made our final turn because I think she could sense that I wanted to finish strong, so I went ahead, finishing ahead of her by about 10 seconds. I felt a leeeetle  bit bad that we hadn’t crossed the finish line together, though she did thank me profusely for holding her back in the first half of the race and for pushing her gradually in the second half. Physically, she came out fine (says she), and as far as I can tell she had the “holy crap I just ran a half-marathon” experience instead of the “I am never doing one of these again” experience.  had a great time, so I hope that she catches the bug as much as I did after my first half.

We finished in 2:14, so just inside her time goal, and that’s actually my second-fastest half time ever, so that’s cool. If I’d been on my own and actually racing it, I’d have pushed myself a bit more in the last half of the race, though coming off a marathon I’m still wary of attempting any PRs just yet. As it was, we covered the last 6.9 miles in 1:08, which is a 9:59/mile pace, so I’m getting better at this whole running-negative-splits-by-feel thing. I felt like I could have run another half when I finished, which means I’m recovering properly and doing well to maintain a 30-mile/week base – or, that I have delusions of grandeur induced by endorphins. Your call. 🙂

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT YOU, you say. What about the COURSE??

I loved the course, not just because it’s flat (yay Richmond!) and familiar (there was only one 1.5-mile segment I’d never run before, that went through a park, but I’ve been in other parts of the park before so I knew what to expect) and part of one of my favorite days in Richmond (this was the third year in a row I’ve run a race associated with this day, and the crowds never cease to amaze me with their support). There were a couple of long stretches down streets for a couple of miles, and a couple of bottlenecks in the park and on more narrow streets, but that will happen with any race. The crowd support is unparalleled, and there’s enough uphill and downhill to make it an interesting run. I’m still not a huge fan of the steep downhill finish, but I sort of let gravity do its thing this time and just let it carry me down as fast as my legs would let me go, and my quads were a leeeetle bit sore yesterday but fine today. (My knees, too, were fine.) Double bonus: we finished in time to get free pizza at the finish festival AND get free coffee from the McDonald’s truck that was there – both were things that had run out by the time I finished the marathon last year, which I hold against no one because I took my sweet time finishing that. ALSO, we got fleecy blankets at the finish line, which were perfectly wonderful in the cool rain after we were done. Saint took it since I already had one from my March half (they’re sponsored by the same company), and I was fine with that, since he’d earned it by standing outside in the rain for multiple hours dressed in an orange sweatshirt that he decorated to be Tony the Tiger and holding up a sign that said “YOU’RE GRRRREAT!”. (He was a hit with the marathoners, apparently, and as we were walking back to his parents’ house after I finished he got a lot of thumbs-ups and picture requests!)

So, would I run this race again? Abso-freaking-lutely, though maybe not next year (I’m thinking right now of taking the fall off from a long-distance race and sharpening my volunteer skills). Would I recommend this race for other runners? Abso-freaking-lutely, for anyone running their first or fifteenth. Have I bored you to death? Abso-freaking-

– wait, no, never mind. 🙂 I’ll end there; Boston is this weekend so I’m looking forward to trying to squeeze in some runs there. Have a good week!

Liminality

(n). the state of being in between two worlds; considered dangerous because one can belong to either one world or the other, but not fully, and not both.

This word is almost certainly going to be one of the keywords associated with my dissertation, and I’ve been using it a lot recently, so it’s no wonder it’s been on my mind. But, it also applies to my current running regimen, or lack thereof: I’m in that odd month where I don’t really have anything scheduled until training for the next race begins. I did have a moment earlier this week where it occurred to me: oh, you should probably think about looking at A Plan soon. I did, but more on that in a minute.

It was nice to have a break. After a week off it was good to get back into the swing of things, getting back into the gym and running just because I can, and it’s been nice to be able to get up and run 12 glorious miles on a Saturday morning just because I felt like it.  I’m glad to have not lost much fitness, since I’m moving up to a higher-mileage training plan for Marathon #3, and I’ll be starting out with a long run of 10 miles. I’ll be doing Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan, which starts with 26 miles in a week (which is just below where I am now) and peaks at, um, 50 miles as you can see from those three (3) (2+1) weeks with 20-milers in them. It’s a little intimidating, but it’s really just a nudge up from the Intermediate 1; I’m not changing much here, since I’m already accustomed to running 5 days a week and doing 2 Saturday pace runs followed by a third Saturday easy run. However, one thing I AM changing is the length of this plan: I’m taking out week 17 and only tapering two weeks, because I’m certain I will go insane if I have to taper for three weeks again. 🙂

It’s funny, though, how habits die hard even when you’re not training: even as it’s gotten darker earlier, with the later sunrise, and much colder – so I really have no need to run at 4:30 am to escape any heat – I still find myself waking up at 3am to get ready to run and go to the gym. I’ve found that if I run/work out before I go to work at 7am, I get much more done during the rest of my day, and I sleep better at night, though there are tradeoffs to all of this. I have no social life any more, except on the weekends, and while I absolutely exult in being one of the 2 or 3 people* out on the road in the pitch black with a canvas of stars and cold morning air around me, I kind of miss being able to see the fall colors in daylight, and being able to see the sun rise from a location that’s not my bathroom window while I’m showering.  Eh…. I don’t know. I really, really like running before the sun’s up now, and it’s working for me, so we’ll see how this shakes out when I have to run 10 miles on a Wednesday in the middle of February. 🙂

*There’s this one guy – known in the entire town only as “Running Man” – who deserves his own post, so I hope I remember to write about him later.

Aaaaanyway. Future plans: here’s the marathon I’m running in March: Virginia Creeper Marathon

It’s probably the most no-frills race I’ll ever run, and (sigh) Saint asked me if I thought I could knock another 20 minutes off my MCM time, and winter is good for faster running (because I always want to get home faster and jump in the shower), so I’m going to give it a go here. I feel like this will be the most mental of the marathons I’ve done simply because it’s so small and non-crowded, but perhaps a non-urban setting will give me some peace of mind.

It will be an experience, in any case.

More immediate future plans: This weekend I am running the Richmond half-marathon, where I’ll be pacing a friend through her first half. I’m excited for it, because I love this entire day and how the city really comes out to support all of the runners in all of the races. Also, it means I get to complete the trifecta of having run all three of the races associated with this day; in 2011 I did the 8k, and last year (as you may have heard) I did the marathon. Since I’m moving to Richmond in May it is entirely possible I will decide to run one of these races again in 2014, or, perhaps I’ll take a year off from it and volunteer. In any event, if I can, I plan to stick around and cheer on the marathon folks when I’m done, and with any luck, we’ll finish in time to see the winners come through.

Next weekend – well, starting Wednesday night, really – I’ll be in Boston (land of Dunkin’ Donuts, oh yes, they shall be mine) (and no, I’m not eating a Boston kreme right now, why do you ask?) for a conference, and I am SUPER-excited about that because I haven’t been there in 4 years and it will be good to see friends in the area and at other graduate schools. I’m hoping to be able to get out and see some of the city, though I don’t know how possible that will be given that there are a ton of talks I want to go to. My own is at 8am on Saturday, which somewhat thwarts my plans for a nice long Saturday run at a reasonable hour; in general, I hope to get some running done while I’m there but I don’t quite know how that’s going to work time-wise. I’m staying in the Back Bay area, so if anyone has any ideas on places to go or not go (as in, don’t go there at 5am because it’s unsafe), I’m all ears. (I’m looking at you, Iamarunnerandoscanyou!)

All right, I’ve gotta go finish up this talk and then move on with my day. What are your future plans? Whatever they may be, have a great weekend!

Oh! P.S. Shout-out to jonfitzsimon who is running the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon on Sunday. Good luck – you’ll do great!