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!

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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.

Of course I have thoughts on Boston.

I was going to write on Monday about how I’ve really, finally fallen in love with running in the last couple of weeks: about how every time I finish a run, no matter how much it hurts or I’m covered in sweat or out of breath, I always smile and think, “sweet! I get to do that again tomorrow”; about the simple joy I’ve found in breathing the spring air and losing myself in my complete lack of thought for about an hour a day; about how running more has helped me get faster and in better shape, which has helped me enjoy running even more because I can go slow or fast as I need to and play around with speed and hills and not want to die; about the great time I had in Charleston over the weekend at Saint’s other cousin’s wedding and that one of the highlights of that was running the Cooper River Bridge in 20+ MPH winds which sounds awful but was totally, life-affirmingly awesome.

And then Boston happened, and I got completely derailed.

I’ve never run in Boston; I will, when I go there for a conference in November. I’ll probably never run fast enough to qualify for the marathon; it will, I think, be a minor miracle if I can ever run a marathon in less than 4 hours. But as a runner, and one who’s run a marathon before, I found myself far more affected by Monday’s events than any tragedy pretty much since 9/11.

While I’ve used “I” and “me” a lot already, what happened in Boston isn’t about me; I wasn’t there, I have no firsthand account, no claim to any loss or grief because everyone I know there is safe and okay. It’s about the violation of a sacred space for thousands, millions of people who run every day – and I’m mostly repeating words I’ve read from others far more quickly eloquent than I on the topic. Running is an egalitarian sport; while many of us can and do spend hundreds of dollars on shoes and gear and race entry fees per year, the point of running is that anyone can do it – all you need is a pair of shoes and a surface. So many people run because it’s their “happy place”, the time they can sort out difficult thoughts or soak up scenery or escape from stress for a while. To have that sacred space violated hurts, because it literally could have been anyone who’s ever run, or supported a runner, who was in the line of fire. Many are asking “why the Boston marathon?”, and I, like many, have no answer because it is completely senseless and despicable.

None of this changes the fact that I still love running. Reading stories of those who ran (some literally) to help the injured and the stranded has affirmed my belief that running does just as much for the mind and the spirit as it does for the body. I’m not going to stop running, not in little towns or big cities or anywhere in between. I will run because I love it, and because I can. The people in Boston, I’m sure, never thought they’d have that taken away from them like it was. I’m not taking that ability for granted from now on.

[deep breath] On a lighter note, I am running a small 5k in town this weekend which will end with pies – it’s run by my university’s engineering school, so they’re calling it the Pi(e) Miler and having us run 3.14 miles. Oh, nerds. πŸ™‚ I probably will go for a PR again because it’s fun and because I can, and also because there’s pie, but until then I plan to take it easy on my runs and just enjoy the feeling of the ground disappearing underneath me.

One grateful step at a time.

Public service announcement #2

IMPORTANT: I saved the first draft of this post after the first day of jury duty, which lasted three days. This is it:

Things you can take away from being a juror with UC, part one (in a series of one, I hope):

1) It is absolutely impossible to fart in a courtroom – even silently – without anyone else knowing that you are the source;

2) Pursuant to this, holding it for the hours-at-a-time stretch means that you are going to make a very joyful noise indeed when you are finally let out of the courtroom, but you should first remember that the jury room into which you are first dismissed is a small room indeed and that everyone can hear everything you do in the bathroom in there, so you should probably wait until you get outside of the entire building and far enough away that no one can trace the noises back to you;

3) This is what you get for loading up on red meat and actively plotting to stinkbomb your way out of serving on a jury. For the most ironic outcome, not only will the fates decree that you serve on that jury, but they will also decree that you very, very quickly realize item 1) and much more slowly and agonizingly realize item 2), and wonder why you set about to be so devious in the first place.

One awesome thing about this jury service is that I have found my new favorite lunch spot on the Downtown Mall. Since links still don’t work here, copy and paste this to read an article in a local weekly newspaper about Song Song’s Zhou & Bing (and yes, that is me who made the ninth comment):

http://www.readthehook.com/102600/healthy-chinese-song-songs-zhou-bing

If you’re where I am, go there and say hi to her, and enjoy the excellent food and super-friendly service. And if you’re not where I am, come visit me and I’ll take you there. πŸ™‚

IMPORTANT AGAIN: I’m now writing this within an hour of having arrived at home from the final day of the trial, about which I can now talk. What I wrote above now seems so flip, but it pretty accurately sums up my state of mind for the first day, day and a half of this trial – it was still sort of novel, not too much of a pain in the rear, and a nice excuse to eat lunch downtown (I’ve now had every menu item at Song Song’s and they’re all excellent).

This last day was so, so much harder than I was expecting. Right now I have a beer in front of me that is more needed than any I’ve had in a good long time, and I can say no more about the trial at this moment except this: It is my sincere hope that none of you reading this ever in your life will have to be responsible for convicting a man of second-degree murder and then sentencing him to 15 years in prison. It is a gross understatement to say that it is not an easy thing.

What I need right now is sleep, and lots of it, and a good run tomorrow and some quality girl time with some of my favorite ladies. Jeebus willing, I’ll get all of those things. But I can’t shake the thought that there’s at least one person in this world who won’t.