34 and it feels so good!

Today is my birthday. Hooray!

I’m four weeks from the marathon. I was scheduled to run 20 this morning, but decided to run 23, because I wanted to see if I could do it on tired, sore legs. Finishing marathons strong is not something I’ve been particularly good at in my first two attempts, so I wanted to experiment with mileage on these last couple of 20-milers (what an absurd set of words that is) to see what I’m capable of.

My route was challenging, but fun, with the last 3 miles mostly uphill because that’s another weak area of mine that I need to improve. The weather was perfect- low 40s (F), partly sunny, no wind; I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. I finished in 4 hours and 7 minutes, which bodes very well for me finishing my third marathon with a PR – I’m gunning for below 4:30, possibly 4:20, and if my slow-long-run pace can get me 23 miles at about 4:10, then I think my chances of success on the 30th are high indeed.

So, that was fun, and a nice 34th-birthday present to myself. The older my body gets, the more I’m astounded at what it can do and how it just handles whatever I throw at it with a “bitch, PLEASE”. 🙂 Saint made pancakes, bacon, and coffee for my post-run brunch, and I enjoyed a delicious shower beer after that. So long as the rain holds off, we’ll be heading to a college baseball game shortly, and then he’s taking me out for a nice dinner because he’s awesome. I’m a lucky woman, indeed. 🙂

Happy March, y’all!

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Random things!

1) The Olympics have ended without incident (which is great), not without controversy (because otherwise what fun would they be?), and with plenty of lovely moments that totally, utterly sucked me in (I think I scared someone with my gasp when I was in the library, watching Mikaela Shiffrin go up on one leg in her last slalom run and then somehow manage to plunk it back down and finish her run for the gold). Sure, there were plenty of un-lovely moments as well, but that’s part and parcel of any large international event. I think I come away from these Games proud of the people of Russia but not entirely enthralled with their leaders, which is about the same as I felt before, so I guess all’s well that ends well.

2) We had fantastically gorgeous weather over the weekend that made a sizable dent in melting the foot-plus of snow we got during the Valentine’s Day storm. Some of the ten-foot-tall piles are still not melted in shopping center parking lots, but it’s no longer hazardous to drive on 99.99% of the road surfaces here in town (or at least any more so than it would normally be). I spent a shameful amount of time inside doing school work, but I did get my runs in (yay recovery week) and managed to go see a college baseball game yesterday that was a pure delight (we’re #1 in the country right now, and we sure are playing like it :)). After all of that damn snow I miiiiight be looking forward to spring a little, but I do plan to do some skiing still, so I don’t want the snow to go away entirely.

3) I bought new shoes on Valentine’s Day, because my (now-old) pair had racked up a record 646.66 miles on them and it was time for them to be done. I’ve been running in Sauconys since the Guide 5, and have now graduated to the Guide 7 – and, apparently, bought enough pairs of shoes at this particular shop to get 30% off my next pair. Woohoo! Anyway, they’re this color: 10227-1_1_1200x735
which I didn’t even realize I’d subconsciously chosen because THEY MATCH NEARLY EVERY TOP I HAVE AND THEY’RE SOMEHOW SUPER-BRIGHT IN THE DARK. And oh good LORD do I LOVE THEM. I’m usually not able to tell what Saucony’s changed about a shoe from one version to the next, but they did something with the toebox that makes my bunions feel nonexistent and also replaced the ProGrid sole with the PowerGrid sole, which makes my joints sing. I need a life if I’m this excited about shoes, but these babies are going to carry me through my next marathon. Which is…

4) A little less than 5 weeks away! I’m at the point now where a given week is either a stupid-high-mileage (50+) or recovery (about 35), and it’s exhausting, but you know, I’m enjoying the process in terms of the bigger picture, even if the thought of running 22 miles on my birthday (that’s this Sunday, the 2nd, if you want to send me chocolate or beer :)) makes me want to puke right now. I gotta say, as much as I love running, I am so, so, SO much looking forward to taking a break from scheduled training once this marathon is over. I dream of a day when I can just decide that I want to go run wherever my feet want to take me for a couple of hours. April… or maybe even May, since I want to give myself a full and proper recovery time for once.

5) ….hmmmm. I guess I ran out of things, though I feel like there’s something else. Oh well. Happy end-of-February, y’all!

Cue the Bon Jovi – a week late!

If I ever organize my own race, it will, regardless of distance, have the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” blaring from a stereo at the halfway point. It might be funnier if this was a one-mile fun run, but still: every time I run a race, this song pops into my head at the median point. Feel free to steal this idea and pass it on. 🙂

I’m on week 10 of my 17-week plan, which is why the Bon Jovi is a week late; technically I reached the median of my schedule last week, but didn’t get around to this until now. I wanted to see how many miles I’d end with for January, in any event. (It’s 156.05, in case you were curious, which is the most I’ve ever run in a month. Woohoo!)

I’m happy to report that my experiments with crunching all of my runs into the weekdays and skiing on the weekends have produced good and non-injured results, though I was so very glad last week to be able to back off and run a normal week/weekend per usual. It was a lower-mileage week anyway, which was well-timed. I even got the elusive, far-too-rare, extremely and guiltily pleasurable luxury of sleeping in this past Saturday, since I was scheduled to run a half-marathon on Sunday and rest for both the Friday and Saturday prior (and boy, was it great fun to do that run on fresh legs – there wasn’t a race I could enter, so I just ran a course around town that I thought would make a fun half). Saint had to work, and I confess that I giggled a little mischievously to myself when I rolled my eyes open around 9am and thought, “hmm, he’s already been at work an hour”. Glorious, wonderful, magical, and I *so* enjoyed having a leisurely morning of coffee and laundry to myself. I could see a bit forward into the future, in, say, April or May, when this happens again after this marathon is done, and the thought makes me quite happy indeed.

Week 10 is when the runs start getting longer and harder (oh baby!), and the familiar feeling of somewhat-permanent exhaustion is already starting to settle in. I’m doing okay in taking care of myself, though I could probably use a bit more sleep, but the tiredness is a good kind of tiredness, like it always is. I’m still looking forward to the rest of the process, and the end result, though I feel like if it rains one god-damned more time on my Sunday long run I am going to throttle Mother Nature somewhere unspecified, unless this is some master plan to prepare me for a gullywashed marathon experience at the end of March, in which case, carry on, you fickle mistress, you. It’s been… interesting running through all of this cold and snow, but it has certainly toughened me up (not to mention made me immensely grateful for a working heater and hot water).

In other non-news, baseball starts very, very soon (pitchers & catchers report in ten days, and my college team’s first game is two weeks from today), which is good.

DIPAs are coming out in droves now, which is also good. It’s still cold enough for stouts and the like, but I do also love me a good DIPA on a chilly winter evening.

The Olympics start this week, which is… I wish it was good, I really do, because I love the pageantry and the incredible feats of athleticism and the usual proclivity of the world to ignore politics and get along for a couple of weeks, but it feels different this time, and it makes me uneasy. There’s some element of corruption and wasted money and exploitation in every Olympic games, sure, but I’m much more attuned to the effects of these Olympics on Russia and Sochi because Russia is “my” area of the world – it’s what I study, it’s what I read about over my lunch break. This also means I’m more aware and fearful of terrorist attacks there, and while I hope to God that nothing happens, it wouldn’t surprise me too much if something did. It also makes me a bit sick (for lack of a better word) that NBC – who has said they’ll not ignore the political and social conflicts surrounding these Games – seems to be carrying on like nothing is wrong. Their tone strikes me as insincere, a bit head-in-the-sand, a bit “ignorance is bliss, viewers!”, and I hope they do find a way to address the “real-world” goings-on outside the Olympic village. I’ll still watch, mind you, but with bated breath, and I hope (and as close to praying without actually doing so) that everything proceeds safely and soundly. Who knows, maybe this will end up being something spectacular, but I can’t shake the feeling that this will amount to little more than what NPR’s David Greene referred to as “Putin’s Potemkin Village” (read the story in which he uses the phrase here).

Sorry about that; I got a bit away from myself there. 🙂 To bring it back to running, this all makes me think of the Munich massacre in 1972, and how they ran the marathon anyway (Runner’s World had a great article about it a couple of years ago). The spirit tends to find a way to prevail, I suppose.

OK, what about you? Do you watch the winter Olympics? Which sports are your favorites? (Mine are figure skating, speed skating, downhill skiing – for obvious reasons 🙂 – curling, and the bobsled. Oh, and ski jumping, which women are finally allowed to compete in for the first time!) How is your winter running going? Are you ready for spring yet?

Happy running!

So, how’s it going?

This is more a self-directed question than anything else, mostly to set me up to answer it. But, if you feel like telling me, I’d like to know how you’re doing, too.

Since my last post, I’ve:

– watched the Nationals beat the Phillies, 8-5, in a comeback win fueled by Jayson Werth’s 1,000th career hit;

– ran a good chunk of the Mount Vernon Trail near D.C., which was awesome because I got to watch planes take off from National Airport for a decent part of the run [Warning: gross thing coming up];

– tied my shoe too tight on that run and gave myself a zombie toe (wherein blood collects under the toenail; Google it if you really want to see what one looks like); I let it go for a week, couldn’t take the pressure any more, drained it, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and was pretty irritated when it flooded with fluid all over again the next day – so now, I just have a zombie toe full of dried blood that does not hurt but looks nasty;

– ran 15 miles in the rain one cool Sunday and – much to my surprise – really enjoyed it;

– went to the Central Virginia Craft Brewers’ Festival and tried several delicious beers, not that I can remember any of their names now (oops), but let me tell you, this part of the state makes some damn fine libations;

– in that vein, happily welcomed a new brewpub to town that I hope will continue to make delicious offerings, if their first go-round is any indication;

– began YET ANOTHER school year, in which I apparently will not have time to blog, but that’s okay – being busy with dissertation stuff is good;

– played a couple of rounds of golf / had some practice at the driving range, in which my shots were not terribly awful and in some cases even traveling straight and/or in the air;

– visited my family for Labor Day weekend, which was hot but full of beer and dancing and grilled meats and boat-time;

– aaaaaand last but not least [screech] [thump] caught a really nasty cold that has temporarily thwarted my MCM training.

I’m in that meaty part of marathon training composed of heavy-mile weeks, and this past weekend I peaked at 44 – which is the largest amount of miles I’ve ever run in one week in my entire life – and it’s interesting this go-round, because I remember how hard it was last year, when I was writing about this more often as I went through it for the first time. I don’t really feel the need to document all of that this time, because not much about it has changed. It’s still hard; there are still mornings when I want to give up and fling myself down on the concrete and take a nap [but I don’t because it’s 4am and I will probably get hit by a car], and there are nights when I wish I could go hang out with friends [but I can’t because I have to be in bed by 9pm], and there are aches and pains and sorenesses that won’t go away unless I just flat-out stop [which I won’t because, deep down, I love doing this]. But, it’s much easier to manage this time, because I’ve been through it before and I have a better idea of what to expect, and a better idea of how to recover and protect myself properly.

I also feel more confident about being able to finish this marathon faster. My pace runs have all been hovering right around the 10:00/mile mark, which is right where I want to be, though I’m not sure I can hold that pace over 22 or so miles. (My m.o. for any race longer than a 5k is to start out slow, excruciatingly slow, and then ramp up to race-pace and, with any luck, have enough left to hit negative splits in the second half.) It’s easy to hold for 8 miles, but 22? I don’t know. I feel like a better and stronger runner this time through, and I feel more mentally prepared and much less freaked out about the whole process, which I know will help me on race morning.

But this cold. This cold! I missed a workout for the first time ever in any of my training this morning, and I had to actively tell myself that it was and is okay for me to miss one stupid 5-mile run and gym session because missing one day is not going to completely derail my entire 18 weeks of training. It’s funny, given how much I tweaked last year’s marathon plan I was not nearly as freaked out about all of that messing around with the schedule as I was about missing this one stupid run. I think it’s because I’m a better and smarter runner now that I think, well, if I stick to the plan that’s been working for me, I’ll have a great race! Thing is, precisely because I’m better and smarter, I also am more willing to listen to my body when it tells me no no no please don’t today. And this morning was the first time that it said that, and I said, I will listen to you, because I know that it is you and not my trickstery brain trying to tell me I’m lazy or unwilling to do this. [Trust me,  I know the difference; that moment when the alarm goes off at 2:45am and my legs try to tell my hands hit snooze! We’re tired!, my hands, being closer to my brain, know that my legs are trying to usurp my brainpower and make me be lazy, so the hands win – the alarm goes OFF, out of bed I go.] What did it for me – and I’d suspected last night that this was going to be the case – was that this cold has moved down into my chest, and I now have the lovely death-rattle of crap skeeballing around in my lungs before it gets expectorated. I had nose- and sinuses-only symptoms starting Friday morning and going through Sunday evening, so I did my 8- and 18-mile runs on the weekend as normal, and I felt fine, even a little better because the running cleared a good deal of the congestion out. But when I finished Sunday’s run, I felt a tightness in my chest that I knew spelled trouble, and sure enough, Monday morning I woke up and knew what was coming. I did a shortened and very not-intense cross-training session Monday morning, and was prepared to back off and run just an easy, slow 5-miler this morning, but when I crawled into bed at 8:30 last night and set my alarm for 3am, I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to say nope! and turn back over for 2 more hours of sleep before work.

That’s exactly what I did, and it feels weird to have done so, but I plan to just pick up where I left off anyway, and do an easy 5-miler tomorrow morning, provided I feel better. This is a ramp-down week anyway, where I was only scheduled for 36 miles, so minus today’s run, I’ll still make 31 for the week, which is not bad. [Next week I get my first 20-miler of the schedule, which will be wheeee so much fun!]

But I just want this crap out of me and gone already. Not least because I’m going to a bacon and beer festival on Saturday and I REALLY want to be able to enjoy myself as much as possible. 😛

So, that’s how things are going here. How about on your end?

Things I’ve learned / Running in London

I’ve been running, but not blogging, lately. Here, let me fix that:

Things I’ve Learned Since My Last Post

1. Pie is a fantastic motivator when you do not want to run up a hill towards a finish line.

2. I can still run a race with a sinus infection and manage a sub-25:00 5k. Probably entirely because of #1.

3. Having other people to push you during a race is a really cool thing. Also, finding out that you performed the same function for them is cool, too.

4. Flying Dog Double Dog IPA is one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

4a. Beer festivals are dangerous, but I will not stop going to them because I enjoy talking to the reps in case they’re also the brewers. Usually they’re not, but they at least know something about what they’re pouring, and I like chatting about beer.

4b. People can be friends if they are ardent fans of opposing baseball teams if they are willing to agree to disagree and simply drink beer together. (I recently discovered that a good friend is a Braves fan, which will not do. But we both love beer, so… yeah.)

4c. Pub crawl 5ks are hilarious.

4d. Pub crawl 5ks in which most of the participants are Marines wearing absurd costumes and singing their cadence songs between bars are possibly the most hilarious.

4e. Pub crawl 5ks are probably the only kind of 5k in which I’ll actually finish first. I’m okay with this.

5. Running in the rain can be fun. (I normally don’t like it because I wear glasses, and even with a cap or a visor, it still gets hard to see after a couple of miles. And no, I don’t own contacts, nor am I going to purchase them for this purpose.) I qualify this by saying that the rain has to be a light one – enough that it still cools you, but not so much that you get soaked to the socks within a mile. Within three miles, fine, and at that point you can do nothing but laugh because you’re making that squish-squish-squish sound as you go, which never ceases to be amusing.

6. Running in the rain in the dark before dawn, after a couple of days of steady rain that pools on surfaces, means that you will accidentally step in a lot of puddles. If you’re like me, your inner 5-year-old will be absolutely delighted by this, even if your 33-year-old toes are not.

7. The thought of running in another country while on vacation is exciting (Epping Forest calls my name!), but also terrifying (I am going to get lost finding my way around, I guarantee you).

So, yes: tomorrow Saint and I are heading to London for a well-deserved vacation, and I’m not sure if my running streak – going since November 20, 2012 – will survive, but I’m okay with that. There will be beer, food, sights, and FOOFERAW, and it will be awesome.

As they say there – cheers!

Assorted things: the blizzard run, tapering, and baseball.

We got some snow last week, as I’d indicated would happen in my last post. We got anywhere from 6-10 inches, depending on where in town you were and who was measuring, and most of the town shut down. This included my school (hooray! classes are cancelled!) but also its libraries (booo, I wanted to use Internet there!) and gyms (uh-oh), mostly because none of these places had any power. My house lost power early in the morning, so after making some phone calls to ascertain all of the above, I went out for my scheduled 6-mile run in driving snow. Wet, heavy, sideways-falling-with-whipping-wind snow.

Yes, I am nuts, but it was one of the most fun runs I’ve ever had. I couldn’t move faster than a shuffle, really, so I just took time to enjoy the scenery. It was beautiful, although destructive – there are still several trees and their parts down even five days later – and in parts dangerous, but all in all, I loved every second of it, even while I was getting splashed with slush from passing cars (sidewalks were totally impassable because no one had started shoveling yet). It was probably the coldest and wettest 6 miles I’ll ever run; every part of me was soaked, even my hair, and my legs were bright red with wet and cold when I peeled everything off to shower. But, whatever: it was awesome. Nearly slipping several times on latent ice three days later was not as awesome, but what can you do? Spring is around the corner (urgh? – I really really love cold-weather running!).

Also around the corner is my next half-marathon. Sunday, in fact, and I’m tapering for it and I forgot how much I frigging hate tapering. My stomach still thinks we’re doing another high-mileage week, and my body is like a stupid kid who’s had too much sugar and has just found out he’s going to Disney World over spring break and is jumping up and down shrieking canwegonowcanwegonowcanwegonow?!?! Arrrrrrgh. I know that this too shall pass, but I’m already antsy, and it’s still six days away. Despite my nagging soreness in certain parts, I do suspect that I will be able to set a PR in this race (unless I literally get hit by a truck before then); I feel superbly ready, and I ran far more miles in training for this one than for any other half I’ve trained (or even for the marathon, really). The course is also flatter than a pancake, with an elevation gain of approximately 25 feet over 13.1 miles. Sweeeet.

Also sweet was the return of somewhat more temperate weather over the weekend – high-50s and low-60s – that allowed me to eschew my studying without guilt (it’s actually spring break around here, though I’m not going to Disney World) and catch a couple of college baseball games. It’s a totally different vibe from the major-league games, obviously, since it’s absent alcohol and plus many, many more families, I think, because the ticket prices are oodles more affordable, but it was still great fun. We opened our conference schedule with a doubleheader on Saturday and an afternoon game on Sunday, which turned out to be a rubber match that we lost, alas. But, the first game on Saturday was quite thrilling, and did plenty to get me excited not just for more games down the road of our season but also for the tickers abounding telling me when Opening Day is for my beloved Nats. (April 1, in case you were curious.) We have a good team this year, and I hope they go far; one of my favorite sports memories is being in the outfield bleachers two years ago when they were down to their last out and hit a walk-off single to come back for the win, clinch the series, and go to the College World Series. I probably won’t see anything like that again in my lifetime, but a girl can dream, right?

(I’m actually watching the replay of this right now and getting chills; in case you’re interested and have 10 minutes to spare, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SENxY_3hpxg )

Aaaaaand that’s it. More after my half, wherein I hope to report with a virtual shit-eating grin that I smashed my PR – unless I go stir-crazy enough with the taper that I pop back in for an AAAAAHHHHHHH of excitement. Wheee!