A new challenge!

Wow, I haven’t written in months – yeah, apparently I don’t write when I’m not training for a marathon or something. Oops. But I have been reading everything voraciously.

Life has been busy these past four months: I’ve finished another dissertation chapter and am due to finish the entire shebang and the PhD by next May; I taught a summer course in Soviet science fiction to gifted & talented high-schoolers and loved it; I moved to a new city (still in Virginia and within commuting distance of school) and in with Saint and so far it’s been pretty awesome. I’ve watched a ton of baseball, drank probably a few kegs of beer, eaten a lot of good food, and watched a lot of bad TV. I’ve been running, too, but not training for anything, maintaining the base so to speak, and biking a crap-ton as I explore my new environs. I’m also leaving in 2 days to go to London for the wedding of one of my dearest and best friends, after which Saint and I are off to Paris (and yes, I will be running in both places, because I can’t not).

But there is a really new thing on the horizon for me: I’m pacing my first race in November! (Woohoo!)

I’ve volunteered to pace the 2:30 group in a half-marathon in about 13 weeks. I’m not at all worried about being able to do this successfully, since I can knock out a 2:15 half in my sleep, but presumably the race organizers will want me to be awake and functional while the race is actually happening.

So, my question to you is: what advice do you have for a first-time pacer? No advice is too simple or stupid – I’m completely new to this, so any and all ideas are useful!

Thanks in advance! Hope your summer running hasn’t been as horribly humid as mine πŸ™‚


Five days until marathon number three. (wait, what?)

Somehow I blinked and the last month of training went by. – well, no, that’s not entirely true; there were the usual moments where I thought the slog would never end, punctuated by another gust of wind, another half-foot of snow, another exhausted step followed by another exhausted step. It’s funny, now that I’m in the final week, I look back on all those times I wished training would be over, and now I think: as sick as this is, I’m going to miss this. I’m going to miss running on empty streets under a clear, starry, cold sky, I’m going to miss the delightful ache in my legs as I waddle to catch the bus, I’m going to miss that feeling of oh yeah! when I totally own a run.

And yet here I am, in the taper week, not quite able to believe that a) I have arrived at the end of this journey and b) in a few days, it will be over. It didn’t seem real the first two times I did it, and it feels even less so this time, possibly because this is a much smaller race than my first two, and it’s very much no-frills, you-just-kinda-show-up-and-run-a-marathon sort of vibe. No cool videos or flashy emails to pump you up or give you last-minute info (the race website is almost literally text-only); no maps for negotiating packet pickup (you’re told to go to X hotel and ask for the race director’s room); no tech tees or finisher’s medals (you get an apparently awesome paperweight instead).

Having run two big, flashy marathons, I’m totally OK with this scaled-down, hands-off approach, because I think it’s done me the favor of forcing me to turn inwards for my motivation when the going gets tough. I’ve had a lot more “why the hell am I doing this?” moments during this cycle than the previous two training cycles, and the introspection has done my mental state a world of good. Not to mention that running through this ridiculous winter – full of relentless snow, ice, sleet, and more sub-zero-temperature runs than I care to recall – has toughened me up nicely, to the point where I laugh at myself from a mere 2 years ago who would dive inside for the treadmill at the first hint of rain. I’ll run through just about anything, at any time of day, and not complain too much about it. πŸ™‚ I also know that I’ve had good runs, and bad runs, and everything balances out, and that when it’s bad, I have the mental fortitude to push through it instead of giving up. Part of me wonders if I haven’t subconsciously gotten tougher because I know it’s going to be a fairly isolated race experience; there will be volunteers and spectators, sure, but for the most part it’s going to be me, the course, and whoever of the 100 runners happens to be in my vicinity at a given time (and Saint, at intervals, of course).

So, yeah. I feel more than prepared, and even though I haven’t gotten into the rest-day part of the taper so I haven’t yet experienced the taper crazies, I’m glad I decided on a two-week taper this time instead of a three-week taper like I did for my first two marathons. I was going a little nuts running only 4 miles this morning and last Saturday, and 12 miles went by in the freaking blink of an eye on Sunday (not literally, but I swear I just lost two hours and was suddenly done), so I know I’ll be good and rested and ready come Sunday morning. And then, Monday morning…. sleep. Bliss. I plan to take two weeks off from any sort of hard running; I’ll commit to a week for sure, and then see how I feel the weekend after the race. I get to give blood again, about two weeks after the race, so I’m happy about that as well.

There is the tiny voice in the back of my head that says “you don’t have another race scheduled for the rest of this year; now what are you going to do?” – and I am doing my best to tell that voice to stuff it already and just enjoy the rest of this week and, more importantly, the race itself. And then, after that, enjoy sleeping in and take things one day at a time: reconnect with the world that isn’t running every weekend day at 8am, meet friends for coffee, go hiking, go on a bike ride, zone out on the elliptical for an hour if that’s what I want to do. Another tiny voice tells me I’m going to miss running and possibly even get a bit sad or upset because I’ll no longer have it as an organizing force in my life, but I have to tell that voice to give it time to work itself out, and that in any event, the next few months will be rather quite busy as it is anyway.

One thing I DO want to do, regardless of how I fit running back into my life eventually, is volunteer a whole heck of a lot more so I can still participate without necessarily pushing myself. Because the forces of the universe conspire against me, our local 10-miler is ONCE AGAIN the day before a goal race for me this year; it’s being run on Saturday, so I’m volunteering at packet pickup on Friday and early Saturday morning before I leave town for the marathon. I want to do more of that, especially when I move in the summer and join a running group in my new hometown (exciting things, but stuff I’ll save for a later post).

By the way, I think I said at some point late in 2013 that I’d like to run 2000+ miles this year. Given that this training cycle will push me over 1000 miles for the year thus far – I ran nearly 600 miles training for this race. Six hundred! All for a measly 26.2 at one time! πŸ™‚ – and I’ve now realized that I’d probably have to keep up the 35- to 40-mile weeks to achieve that goal, I think I might go out on a limb and say: probably isn’t going to happen, especially if I don’t train for another distance race for the rest of the year. I’m pretty OK with that, actually, and I’d be OK with just beating the leading NFL rusher this year. My more important goals are threefold: 1) set a marathon PR on Sunday (but no pressure, self!); 2) volunteer in more races than I run; 3) rest and recover like it’s my job after this marathon, and rediscover the joys of other activities and make running not such the center of my life for at least a little while.

So, this is likely my last post until after the marathon. Wish me luck; I’ll be sure to check back in with the tale of how I destroyed my Marine Corps time. πŸ™‚ Cheers!

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ – 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!

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 πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜›

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.

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.Β  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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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’sΒ 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!