Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Lights

I should be sleeping. But I'm not. I am shoving some Pirate Booty in my face...but it's oh so good. If you've ever tasted the crack that is Pirate Booty, you know what I mean.

Tomorrow brings the last chance for a run at altitude before Imogene Pass, so I am hitting Land's End Road with my friend Jen who lives an hour south from me. Prepare to hear about how I sucked wind for 20-22 miles in some future blog entry-this is one area where I just cede all competitiveness and just enjoy the view. Although..I must admit that a little part of me wants to improve upon last year's Imogene. I'll see how it goes. Jen's the runner who is totally money and doesn't even know it so I know it's good that I'm running with her tomorrow on the Grand Mesa and not lollygagging around the riverfront trail for the umpteenth time.

In other exciting news, my maid-of-honor from my wedding will be here to visit for a few days starting late Sunday. She was my buddy when we were both students at K-State who would essentially shame me into meeting her at the rec center for a workout if I was on the verge of flaking...and of course, I'd do the same for her. It was one of those mutually beneficial friendships. I'm stoked to see her....she's a PT in the Kansas City area, and has also recently taken up a little running, so I think we'll be doing some hiking, and other fun outdoor stuff when she arrives. We just realized that we haven't seen one another since a mutual friend's wedding in 2001, so it's truly been a LONG time. It will be awesome to catch up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just because...

.....the look on her face was THE best, this was our youngest daughter's birthday dinner a week ago. We've had giggles, red faces, shyness, smiles, even a few nervous tears from my middle daughter one year at our requisite birthday dinners when the sombrero, dessert and singing waiters appear. The "WHAT is wrong with you people-WHY are you putting that gigantic sombrero on my head-and WHY must I do this dog and pony show for you?" facial expression perfectly sums my baby girl's personality. Very independent, but just as willing to dive right in to any craziness we're doing as a family.

Don't mind the clicking and blurriness you're randomly subjected to during the clip. This was the first night with our new camera after the old one decided to die on us, so my better half was experimenting with the bells and buzzers that the old camera did not have.

In other running news is good news. I had sort of an abysmal running week as the older kids started school, but finished with a decent weekend attack, and think that things will settle down just a bit this week. It's hurry-up-and-wait time right now with nothing on the racing schedule until Imogene Pass.

I'm also in a taper madness of sorts, counting down the days until September 9, when the BAA will officially begin accepting applications to the 114th Boston Marathon. I'm totally geeked out about finally getting to register, and look forward to the giant sucking sound of the entry fee leaving my bank account. There was a time not too long ago when being able to finish a long distance race seemed like a pipe dream, so I am going to enjoy every minute detail of the road to Boston!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Little Vintage Back-to-School Fun

My two oldest just headed off this morning for their first day of school, so I thought it would be fun to re-visit this old TV spot. I never quite understood this commercial when it first aired around the time I was finishing high school and entering college. It's been a fun summer but it's funny to watch it now and understand the Dad now (though, my kids seem to like school most of the time so they haven't been shuffling the feet and pouting about it).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Movin' to the Country, Gonna Eat A Lot Of Peaches

When I last raced, it was my fifth race in six weeks. I wasn't burned out on racing, BUT I was sure glad to get a good three week break before last Saturday, and the 5-miler at the annual peach festival here, which was also scheduled to have a companion 3-mile race that went out and back on part of the 5-mile course. I purposely reshuffled my week so that my last day running would be Wednesday, giving me two full days of rest before the race. This wound up being a good thing as my achilles started bugging me on my Wednesday run out of nowhere and I just wanted to nip any trouble there in the bud.

It was a cool morning and I made it out to the other side of town quickly. I was having one of those "I don't care" days and wasn't feeling race-y as I said hello to all the usual suspects, and also finally got to meet Blue Earth (Kevin) from the RWOL forums for the first time after crossing paths at a handful of regional races, but never actually getting to meet. He's a really nice guy, and it was fun to finally chat. After speaking with him about his first-time Boston experience last year (he's a 50-something guy who also took up running for the first time just a few years ago), I'm now even MORE excited about Boston if that is at all possible. I got chills hearing talk about getting chills making that last turn onto Bolyston Street.

We got off to a somewhat late start and as we lined up, I saw that my my husband and kids had indeed made it out to the race. I always repeat that no-pressure mantra to them that I don't expect them to be there and never want to push them in to coming to my races, but that if they do come, I really do love seeing them there, especially at the finish. I found out later that it was one of those mornings when they got up asking if they were going to Mommy's race so that made me all warm and fuzzy. :)

I positioned myself a couple of rows back and just wasn't really gung-ho on being near the front. The countdown (or count-UP, since he went "one, two, three") started and off we went.

I immediately realized I shouldn't have sat even a few rows back-I was fairly well boxed in and couldn't seem to move one way or the other at first. Who knows, maybe it was a subconscious thing to fire myself up for racing but I finally broke out of the box and started moving along, passing a lot of people in the first mile and finally settling in right behind a petite woman or teenager. I wasn't sure if she was running the 3- or 5-miler but I couldn't get anything else on her for the time being. I could see another woman up in the distance.

Mile 1: 7:09

The course was changed a bit this year, and it seemed like we were utilizing more paved path and dirt roads...and that tree that we used to leap over? I realized after the fact that I never leaped over it in the second mile. Haha. Can't believe I didn't notice this.

Halfway through that second mile, the girl in front of me takes the turn back-oh good! She was a three-miler. I can see a tall woman with a red shirt and ponytail well ahead of me. I mean way up there. Beyond that I could not see any other ladies.

Mile 2: 7:14

Now we're making our way to what was the turnaround point for the out-and-back the past two years. I see the leading woman as I approach. I think she's a cross country runner at the local college, very speedy, looking good. As I get closer to the turnaround the only other woman is the tall red shirt lady. Instead of a single-track dirt trail through grass as we ran last year, we're now heading up a two-way dirt and gravel thing to another turnaround. The leader is really adding to her lead at this point but I was pretty sure that I'd made up a bit of time on number two. This is kind of a tough mile out in the sun that seems to go on forever. Another obstacle course element in the third mile of last year's course where we slid down a muddy slope is noticeably absent this year.

Mile 3: 7:27

Okay, now I know I'm coming up a little on that tall woman. We're not close yet but my gut said "you can catch her if you want it bad enough." I know I'm fading a little but she's fading more rapidly than me, so I stick to trying to stay relaxed and running the mile I'm in.

Mile 4: 7:37

I think I passed one or two guys now in the beginning of the fifth mile as I start to pick up steam and kick it into high gear. I inched in very small increments closer to that woman and keep thinking she's going to see/sense me and just put me away. It doesn't happen, though. I am finally almost upon her, and just think okay-here goes nothing. I pass her and am headed straight to the only uphill on the course.

We're about 4.5 miles in now. I had no plans to turn around and look but was sure she was going to pick it up and reclaim second but I couldn't hear her coming. I pounded up the hill and really went into high gear, accelerating up the road to the school, turning into the parking lot and then sprinting across the grass, holding on and not losing my position.

Mile 5: 7:15

Last .03 mile (pretty much on the nose as far as Garmin measurements go): :06, final Garmin time of 36:48, a new 5 mile PR of about a minute, good for second overall female. My youngest two rushed over and were jumping up on me and I was just spent so I flopped down on the ground in the shade to catch my breath. I was really stoked because I played it a little more risky early on with pace and again when I decided to go after someone who seemed to be too far ahead by the halfway point to catch for someone like me who normal is not successful in passing late in a race. This was also my very worst race of 2007, but I'd improved last year and didn't think I was really going to take off any more time this time around.

Now, here's where things get funky. Upon checking out the results that were being posted on a wall by the finish area , I was confused. I could very clearly see the only two women ahead of me in the five mile at the turnaround, and then, as I previously mentioned, I eventually passed that second woman. When I looked at the results, I was listed as third overall, and when they did awards I was officially third overall, and the person they named as second place in the five mile was not there. My DH said that person came in at an easy jogging pace (not that there's anything wrong with that-just that it was clearly about a 12 minute mile, give or take), and coupled with the fact that I had not seen her anywhere at the 5-miler turnaround, it seemed pretty clear that whoever the person was ran with a five-mile bib but probably changed their mind, ran the three-mile, did not report this to any race officials, and took off.

I got a great goodie bag with some fancy sodas, peaches, and a $25 gift certificate to the running store. I really hesitated, and almost didn't want to say anything about the person who they named second overall, and how they didn't run five miles because it was no biggie to me, and didn't want to sound like some ingrate who thought the snafu was their fault since they can't do much when the runner didn't tell them they didn't really run five miles. I finally did mention it to the timer, just because I could clearly see which woman/women were ahead of me at the two twists/turnaround on the course, NEVER saw this woman my husband saw finish, and felt bad for the woman who really finished third and left empty-handed. They did not do any age groups this time so I figured I'd say my peace even though it wouldn't change things since the runner in question had left. Maybe next year they can at least make an announcement to inform them ahead of time of any race changes, or after the fact if they didn't race the distance they'd planned.

Oh well-just one of those things that happens sometimes at a local race! Not the end of the world by any means. I'm still super-stoked to take some time off of last year's PR, and think I'm continuing to make progress at really going for it and racing all-out.

Our old camera died on us about two weeks ago, and we have a brand new camera now, so my husband got a couple of photos of my finish. My race photos are usually somewhere between terrible and looking like someone who is being stabbed or thumped with a blunt object, and I have to say that these might be some of the best race photos I've ever seen of myself. Like I said, though-that's not saying much since I my face and body are usually contorted, looking like I'm having some kind of seizure or in extreme pain. Anything's an improvement from my usual race photos.

Just around the corner

Don't look back!

Here's a view of Mount Garfield, with the kids and I posed in front of it following the race. Would you believe that we actually have a "race" up and over it here through the running club? I'm too scared to try that one. I'll readily admit that's probably stupid on my part, since my next race is that little climb over the hill from Ouray to Telluride.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So, yeah, I'm running Imogene Pass in a month?

Whoops. I must have been experiencing such a strong combination of shock and surprise at that realization that I accidentally smacked "publish" before even typing a word.

Several of the other girls running IPR made mention of this fact over the past few days, and one of them posted some photos of her accidental trip to the summit of Imogene Pass (long story) that caused me to realize with a bit of surprise that we are less than a month away from a trip on foot from Ouray, known as the Switzerland of America, to the town of Telluride, Colorado. The Imogene Pass Run is my first big race for the fall season. Somehow, it was very sneaky and went from being an event well off in the future to a run that's almost here.

I'm equally excited and nervous about IPR. It's one of those unique events where you really are not running for much of the way up. Everything about it feels and looks different from any other road or trail race I've done.

It starts out looking like one of those old Eco-Challenge globetrotting team adventure competitions, with some people sticking to the switchback trails and others scrambling straight up over whatever rocks, dirt and vegetation are in their way. There is a gradual slowdown for most runners as the route becomes more steep, and runners get closer to that summit at 13,114 feet. By that time, I was tiptoeing, breathing harder than I ever have, and thinking to myself "I promise to never do this again if I get through this," following the joyful voice of the cowbell lady hollering "woo hoo! Almost there!" Almost There seems SO far away, and time seems to come to a standstill.

Upon finally reaching the summit with the full-service aid station, complete with chicken noodle soup, most runners have that experience that brings them back year after year. You turn around and look back to the Ouray side of the summit, and are overcome with that feeling that can't be put into words that comes from knowing you got up there not by jeep or car or other touring vehicle, but by your own two feet. After spending several minutes up there for photos and enjoying the accomplishment of reaching the summit, the journey down to Telluride begins, where the mind alternately wanders between how you're going to do this better and faster next year, and realizing the mind CAN'T wander yet because there are more slips, falls, and other bumps on the way down when the legs are tired and were in uphill form for several hours already.

Yeah-I can't wait for it again. Yeah, there's something seriously wrong with me. And I AM going to do it better and faster than last year. I won't be cursing my way to the summit. The girls from Nebraska I helped talk in to going won't be cursing my name either. We're all going to rock it. Okay-so maybe I am not thoroughly convinced that I'm going to rock it-but I'm going to pretend and go off in to a little world where I do rock it. Just four more weeks to go, and then the summer 5K/10K season will be a distant memory. Just four more weeks left to get in as much experience on trails as possible, because as race originator Rick Trujillo said at the pre-race orientation last year, "the mountains don't care." Time to crack the final whip on myself, and make sure I've put in enough to work capably traverse those beautiful, uncaring, and always changing mountains.

(Oh, and if this kind of agony and ecstasy sounds like it might be right up your alley-it's not too late. Legal transfers are available at the IPR Message Board where you find many offers for transfer, as well as a forum for those on the number hunting side of the deal.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shorter of Breath And One Day Closer To Death

I'm really not going anywhere morbid here, since we're all one day closer to death every day anyway--no moping in a corner being dreary today. Shorter of breath is a good thing too. It means I'm trying to push myself and get better out there on those runs. It's my birthday, and we're also a week off from my youngest girl's birthday and the start of the school year, so it's kind of a good time to stop and think about where I'm going, and where I want to head in the next year. It's not exactly a "stop and smell the roses. " moment. It's more about the advice on the birthday card from my Dad this year stating to "Never Kick A Fresh Turd On a Hot Day. "

I'm not entirely convinced that Harry Truman really said that, but whoever said it had it right in many ways. I want to focus on finding the most effective ways to deal with challenges and setbacks-whether it's in running, work, family, or any other area. I'm not good at doing anything halfway, so every once in awhile I need to remind myself that turd-kicking out of frustration just makes a bigger mess of things-and I've honestly caught myself in a few of those moments lately. So, here we go with making a hard turn back to thinking about what is important, and choosing those battles over things that really don't matter.

First and foremost, I want this to be a year of being more patient with my kids. I feel like I'm doing that a lot of the time, but you know-I'm human and not a Stepford Wife. I'm in awe of the people who say they never raise their voice at their children and never choose their words poorly. I'm sure they exist-I just know that at times I do take the easy way out and tell them to cut out some behavior without redirecting or guiding them. When it happens, it's always that day when nothing's going right-something in the house has just unexpectedly broken, the dog threw up on the floor, I'm tired from a bad night of sleep, or any number of other little things that can become big if I allow myself to get pissed off.

Even if it takes me half the morning to get some necessary other task finished, I've seen how calm and cooperative the environment can be between me, the kids, and each other if I give MYSELF a time out before approaching a squabble between the kids, or some negative behavior from one child in particular. Things continue to stay calm (or, calmer than they were) when I just let that time with them take precedent, even if I really and truly have a deadline on some paperwork, or need to get something cleaned up or put together in time for some specific activity. There just needs to be more of me doing that, and while it's easier said than done, I know it's worth it and everyone benefits. So, I'm really going to work at being That Zen Mama who takes the big deep breath before "working the problem." It's liberating to write out that I know I'm not her all the time, and exciting to say that I'm going to work on being her as much as possible.

Now, this next part will sound nuts, but I've been sort of down on my running lately. Despite a string this summer of overall and age group podium finishes locally and some respectable runs at regional races , I haven't converted any of those in to wins. I know they say winning isn't everything-and believe me, I appreciate that I've been able to run relatively injury-free and am learning to read my body's warning signs to take it easy a day or two. I'm also fully aware that for your average Josephine Schmo runner girl, I've made good progress in two years' time. I'll fully admit that it's petty and selfish to say "I want to win something!" but there you go. I said it.

Yes, this is just a little thing that doesn't have any impact on the big stuff that truly matters but that little thing would just feel good after being close but just not giving enough to be best. It would be sweet to have that brief moment, doing something I love along with others who love what they are doing as well, and know that on that day in that little group, I was the winner. I want to get there and am more than willing to do the work. I guess I am confounded by trying to figure out what works best for me, and worrying about where my breaking point might be, with Boston on the far horizon. It's a little frustrating and I need to just stop being frustrated and get to the work of branching away from following a plan to the letter, cookie-cutter style.

To that end, "don't be afraid to experiment" is my new motto. I've been trying to mix things up a bit with the running, and really experiment with totally different schedules to see if I can improve my running. I am finding myself shorter on time lately in the evenings, when I used to do most of my weekday running. I know, I know-most people say a trip to the dentist for a root canal sounds more appealing than running in the late afternoon and early evening, but it really fit with the flow of my day. It still fits well some of the time, but I've finally faced the fact that I need to run in the morning some of the time if I want to increase my mileage a bit. Rolling out of bed at that hour is always a suckfest, and isn't easy now, but I'm pleased to say that this is a change I want to stick with as we roll into fall, and even (gasp) switch one or two more days over to early days.

The early trail run is just leaving me more alert from the get-go. I'm less reliant on my second true love, coffee, and it's leaving room for these crazy little things called doubles if I get a day with enough evening time for a short run. Pete Pfitzinger puts doubles on his 18/70 plan, and while I am still kind of making up my own thing for now and not doing them because Pete says so, the two doubles I've been able to do in the past week seem to have the opposite effect from what I expected. I'm feeling fresher the day after a two-easy-runs combo or a tough/easy combo, less rusty and ready to rock and roll. It's like there's zero pressure to do that second one, so therefore I get motivated to do it, thinking "this is just extra! Loosen up and quit when you're loosened up."

Other little changes have been made which I hope will pay big dividends later and get my body more accustomed to picking things up a bit. My general aerobic paces used to be a bit slower, and while they worked well and were appropriate for a long time, I'm thinking that now is the time to shift those paces, and make them a bit more brisk. Think halfway between "la la la la la" and "this sucks!" on the run-on-feel-o-meter. Sometimes I want to dial it back, but am focusing on the Jedi mind trick that really worked for me in both marathons-run the mile you're in. I'm going to jump back into a Pfitz-like plan at about the 12-week mark, and I'm really thinking I'll be as prepared as I've ever been at this point.

While I don't want to keep bringing up my birthday, I do have to add the funny story of that head lamp I had my eye on. Today was Monday-trail day. It was DARK last week. We were starting ten minutes earlier today. The husband had said that he did not believe our small local REI stocked the head lamp, so unbeknownst to him, I dropped in there this weekend so I could at least say I checked, and then scour around for one on the internets. Lo and behold, they had that nifty little head lamp in stock and just feet from the entrance! I came home and showed my husband what I'd gotten, proclaiming "I'm officially a morning runner now!"

He took one look at what was in my hand, and exclaimed "DUDE!" in an exasperated way, before taking me out to the car, opening the hatch on the vehicle I'd just been in to show me a bag in the back, that head lamp that was supposed to be a birthday present for me. Whoops. I guess I messed that one up. I was just trying to do the old "be prepared" thing, and have something for Monday, although I guess his big plan that I goofed up was to give it to me last night so I would have it today. Still, the sentiment was awesome. He knew I'd been viewing the head lamp as an investment for the committed early morning runner, and had sort of been kicking the idea of one around for awhile.

So I guess I'm committed now-hopefully not in the insane way-and ready to resist the urge to kick a turd whenever the going gets a little tough. (Oh, and for those who were wondering, the head lamp does indeed light the way well without feeling like a gigantic paperweight or making you look like a miner.)