On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's resolutions?

I've realized, as I've been thinking about it, that I have a rather ambitious year ahead of me if I carry out my race schedule as planned (or daydreamt, or fantasized, more appropriately). Time to put it into writing.

I'm doing this on my cell while lying in bed. I have to be at the airport in 4 hours for an early flight, so I may not have all the dates right.

24 January: Manhattan half

14 February: Fight for Air stair climb

28 February: Hyannis half

21 March: NYC half? (have entered lottery; not counting on it)

9 May: Bear Mountain half

20 June: Mt. Washington road race

August: Pikes Peak? (depends if I qualify in Jan/Feb or not*)

17 October: Mt. Lemmon marathon

8 November: NYC marathon

15 November: Richmond half... or full?

*to qualify, you must have run a 2:30 half or a 5:30 marathon. Both I've easily done in the past (in fact, I'm not sure I've ever run a half slower than 2:30! But, you must have done this in the past 5 years. Thus the uncertainty.

22 November: Flying Monkey Marathon

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Running clubs, and their role in my life

When registration opens in three weeks, I'm going to register to run the North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain half marathon. This will be my third trail run - a challenging (but not too technical) 15k and a half-marathon (also not too technical, and my first ever half!) being my two preceding trail races. I'd like to get more into trail running, despite the fact that I have limited access to trails for training. Anyway, point being, this will be my first attempt at a trail race for which I've actively prepared.

The North Face offers two levels of preparatory classes: one seems to be essentially a weekly running club, and the other (significantly more expensive) includes tailored training plans, nutrition, trail scouting races, and two runs per week. I'm tempted. I've never felt like I should pay to go running, and I'm an experienced enough runner at this point to know that it's just laziness - and not lack of training, partners, gear, etc. - that keeps me from reaching my goals.

Still, there is something to be said for accountability, and putting one's money where one's mouth is certainly gives accountability.

I'm contemplating it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I got the Garmin.

Sorry for the silence lately... like the rest of America, I'm on vacation gearing up for a month's worth of holiday eating.

But, yeah, I got the Garmin, and I've had the chance to take it out a few times. There's a lot about it that I love. The amount of data is impressive and useful. The integration with software I use (RunningAhead) and the heart rate monitor is also great. But...

My problem with the Garmin is that it's like a treadmill. I hate running on the treadmill because it's terrifically boring. I spend the entire 30 minutes - and I rarely, rarely go more than 30 minutes on that tedium machine. I spend the entire time staring at the control panel on the machine, counting my footsteps as I try to pretend like it's not as boring as it really is. And having the Garmin, well, it's a lot like having the worst part of the treadmill (the control panel) strapped to your wrist.

This morning, I wanted to do 6m. I went out 3.13 and turned around, forgetting that my route started downhill and ended with an uphill. By the last mile as the hills picked up, it was getting tough. And there was the Garmin, mocking me with its GPS indicators: 5.23m... 5.29m... 5.44m... etc.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to reckon PRs?

All runners are naturally obsessed with setting and breaking their own personal records. It just comes with the sport - we're competing with ourselves, so we want to beat ourselves. I will never win an Olympic medal in running. I will never even win a local race!

When I was younger and had just begun running, I was faster. Such is life, I guess. I hope to one day be that fast again, where anything slower than an hour for a 10k sucked and my goal of breaking 25 minutes in the 5k was not that far out of my grasp (25:40 PR, thank you very much).

Then I got sick. And old.

So, what do I do? Do I start my PRs all over again? Someday I want to be back where I was before, and I most certainly am not so old that it's out of my reach. But I'm not there yet, and in the meantime I'm taking any improvements I can as affirmation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Music, la la la la

What do YOU listen to as you run? Do you... think about your day, plan out what you're going to do? Do you... problem solve, teasing out work or personal problems in your head until resolution? Do you... zone out, either by listening to music or through the zen cadence of the run?

Me, none of the above. Without fail, about a quarter of the way into the run, I'll get a song in my head and it will stay there for miles. Often only the chorus. Common offenders: Eye of the Tiger (cliche, but effective), Single Ladies (Beyonce), Piano Man (Billy Joel), almost anything by Jim Croce. Recently it was She-Wolf, by Shakira. Over and over again, for probably half of my run. And I only know the chorus of the song.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To GPS, or not to GPS

I'm contemplating getting a Garmin.

Everyone I know who has them absolutely raves about them. I've held off because I've never thought of myself as someone who runs far enough or, frankly, fast enough to be able to use the data. I have this vision of myself as a lone runner, wind in my hair, running for the joy and the thrill of it with no regard for petty aspects of running like speed, distance, heart rate, etc. I run as far as I want, as fast as I want, when I want.

Trouble is, that's not how you get better, and I really really would like to get better. And, regarding my thoughts that I don't run far enough, I have done 5 marathons. Just because I'm much closer to 10-20 mpw right now than I am to long runs of 10-20m doesn't mean I haven't put in the lifetime miles, nor does it mean that I won't in the future. So the Garmin is a seductive little beast.

I had one of the first incarnations, the version where you strapped what felt like a deck of cards to your arm, waited several minutes for it to find a signal, and then got back a choppy read on your speed and distance. It wasn't the best, and once google maps and walkjogrun.net came along, it really didn't do anything for me that I myself couldn't do with a stopwatch and a preplanned route from the computer. Those days, I did my speedwork on a track and was happy about it.

Yes, speedwork! I'd love to do it again. I'm trying to follow a training program for my Jan/Feb half marathons that calls for me to run several runs at my 10k pace and my planned half pace. Running 10 minutes at my 10k time on a track is a) boring and b) too much math for me to do on the fly to make sure that my laps are all at tempo.

I do have an iphone, and runkeeper/mapmyrun are sort of useful. I hate carrying around the iphone - there's that deck of cards strapped to your arm feeling again, not to mention that it's awkward and bulky to check the iphone midrun. I've had bad luck with both programs when the phone is anywhere but strapped to my arm. I also have a nike+, and while I swear on it for the price factor ($30? hell yeah!), I hate listening to music while I run and it, too, isn't quite accurate enough for checking midrun. I've found its distance calculator to be nearly spot-on for me, and the overall pace is good, but the two together mid-run... It seems to always record me either doing a 17 minute mile or a 6 minute mile. Neither of which is where I'm at right now!

The Garmin 405 is tempting, with its beautiful fashion-forward watch look. The 305 still sort of looks like a deck of cards, but the Amazon reviews suggest that its design is much better (evidently the 405 is a deadloss when you're sweaty). Better yet, the 305 - with HRM - is only $170.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I lost another toenail.
Or should I say, I lost the same toenail, again. It's come and gone for a few years now and never did grow back right that last time.

Time for a trip to the podiatrist to have this bad boy removed, I think. Sadly it's the big nail on my left foot. Glad it's not sandal season.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Last 10k of the year... and a rant

As I've said before, I'm going to be running the New York City Marathon next November. Ordinarily, registration is by highly competitive lottery, but they make an exception for local runners: if you join their club (literally, the New York Road Runners) and run 9 local races in one year (plus volunteering at one), you can be guaranteed entry.

My boyfriend thinks this is racketeering. The rock bottom minimum you'll pay for this is over $300. And that's assuming you register for each of your 9 races in advance, don't miss a single one, and don't count transportation costs, time costs (both in running and in picking up your number two days before) or in shoes.

The thing is, I hate these races. Hate them. So much. It was fun to run in Central Park... the first time. Then I realized that it's really hilly and frankly kind of boring. There's no scenery, the terrain is straight-up pavement with no variation, and there are always, always the same boring amenities (ugly t-shirt at registration, water and a bagel and an apple at the finish). During the summer they excited everyone by briefly offering plums! Wow!

And frankly, the New York running scene kind of depresses me. There are many, many, many type A corporate peeps who decide on a lark to run a marathon or a race and - you know what? They're better than me. Almost all of them. I've been running for a decade and I'm not good and I'm okay with that, but I do kind of hate getting beaten by novices in brand new shoes and perfectly matchy-matchy running outfits. It gets depressing.

But worst of all, the NYRR has an inherent bias against slower runners. They organize their corrals based on predicted or actual time - actual for those who register in advance and have a race history with them, predicted otherwise. My current "best pace" they have on record is 10:12 per mile... certainly not fast by any objective standards, but hard-earned for me and I'd like to think somewhat respectable. I am always the back of the pack. Always. If I registered race day, I could say I expected my 10k time to be 36:00 and I'd be at the front. If I'd never run before, I could say, "Oh, I run a 6:30 mile" and I'd be at the front. Many people do exactly this, so I spend the first mile of these races dodging walkers. And the last corral, where I'm sent to, is typically .25-.5m away from the start. The races are capped at 6,000 runners, yet I can't always see the start from my place in the corral - worse conditions than the Chicago Marathon, which had 40,000+ runners!

Anyway, I ran a 10k today. My 10th race of the year, making me more than qualified for guaranteed entry next year. It went well - only walked once for less than a minute, and that was on Cat Hill.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Novice mistake, or an insult?

Today I ran with a local running store's running group for the first time. I saw them advertising a "fun run," and something about the ad suggested it would work for me (I've tried other running groups, and found them frequently way too fast for me).

The weather was predicted to be cold and rainy, so I dressed for cold and rainy. It was actually brisk and sunny. As we headed out, I said, "Oh, I'm overdressed!" aloud and proceeded to take my running sleeves off (I'd planned ahead). The pace leader said, "Yes, being overdressed is a common mistake people make when they first start running!"

I know she didn't mean anything by it, but I've been running for over a decade.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Featuring: Yours Truly

So, this is kind of a funny story.

In a few months, I'm supporting my brother's insane (and recent, and healthy) weight loss by "competing" in a stair climb race. (I put it in quotes as he anticipates finishing in a time roughly 3x that of the expected winner - I'll probably be ahead of him, but not by that much.) The sponsor of the event is the American Lung Association, which is great and all, but we chose the event mostly based on the fact that the building we'll be climbing (twice! 31 stories times two climbs, for 62 stories) is immediately adjacent to our hometown.

But I do have a connection with the ALA, which is that I nearly died of a pulmonary embolism 18 months ago. It still kind of freaks me out to say that. It doesn't feel like I "nearly died," it felt like I had some chest pain and then was home a few days later, on blood thinners with some swank hospital-issue slipper/socks.

The ALA sent out an email blast yesterday, promoting the event and offering training tips. In small print at the bottom, the email asked for personal stories. Sure! I emailed them my tale, and less than an hour later they called back to say they were interested in my story and would love to use it in an upcoming issue of a local sports magazine. Sure!

The next step is that I'm to send them photos. I need to take a few new ones, I think - I have some from earlier this summer, and I'm pleased to say that I've trimmed down since then. I also have some from... before... and I'll send them at least one of those, but it feels a tad deceptive to know that I'm like 40 pounds heavier now than I was before.