Friday, December 30, 2011

Almost next year

I just realized my poor blog is in serious need of updating, but that's not happening right now. This is just catching up. I realized I never posted since I had my foot sliced.

When I went to have the stitches removed the doc told me it turns out that I didn't have a ganglion cyst; I didn't have a cyst at all. I had what the lab called "fibromatosis." Which led to my delight in saying I had fibromatosis on my toesis. It's the little things in life. Anyway, a fibroma is a little benign tumor. Although they are common on feet, they're common on the bottom of the foot, not the top. Usually they're in/on the plantar fascia, not the big toe tendon. My doc told me the chances for it reoccurring are low. Ish.

Since the incision wasn't totally healed he told me I could run when there was no stinging when I swiped the wound with an alcohol wipe. And no cheating or toughing it out, stinging is stinging. As of today, 4 days later than expected, there was no stinging. So I'm good to start running again, yay!

My toeitis on the other foot isn't gone, but it never hurt horribly until I was at about 8 miles so I won't know for a while how healed it is.

I'll have 2 whole weeks to run and then will need to take another short interruption. I had a couple of moles sliced off the same day as the foot surgery (along with freezing a shitload of other moles and freckle-type-things, ouchy). One mole had benign atypical cells, so more has to be removed. It's located high on my thigh, right over the hip flexor. That's going to be a tough one to work around because it's one of the hardest workers in my body.

But when that's healed, I'm back to running. No matter what. I can feel my mood souring from lack of endurance endorphins and lack of sun. Since I can't control the weather I need to get back on the trails, or at least the treadmill.

Have you been running? Can you control the weather? Do you have any good toe jokes?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tis the (Off) Season: Holey Monday

I did TOO spell that correctly. No religiousness or faith involved here, just a scalpel and 5 stitches.

Back in the fall I developed, almost overnight, a big cyst on the top of my right foot. The doc thought it was probably a ganglion cyst and since he's the doc, I figured that was a good enough diagnosis for me. We tried draining it twice and that didn't make any difference. Since excision would involve a few weeks of no running I decided to wait until December to do anything about it. I haven't another paid race on the schedule until the end of January so technically this is my off season.

By this morning the cyst was greatly reduced in size but hadn't disappeared. After considering all the options (one of which was totally ignoring it for the rest of my life) the doc and I decided to go ahead and remove it. The worst part was him sticking a big ass needle in the top of my foot to give me the local anesthesia; he kept saying I was used to more pain than that from running marathons. He had a point (heh heh), but it still hurt oodles.

I'm a big medical weenie. I can have medical things done to me with no problem at all, I just can't watch any of it. From my allergy shots (which I've been getting on and off for 40 years) to major surgery, I'm fine as long as I don't see it. But today I decided what the hell, I'd watch until I felt like puking or fainting. And just to amuse myself, I'd take pictures.

The picture taking amused my doc too. And no, I'm not posting a single one here. Ew. Yuckyuckyucky. I was able to watch most of it although several times I averted my eyes. But I saw him cut open my foot and snippety snip the cyst, saw him squeeze out anything else, saw him sew it up. And it was completely gross, lemme tell ya. And I have pictures to prove it.

So now my foot is all wrapped up in bandages and it's supposed to stay that way for 2 weeks. Yeah, no washing or changing the bandages or anything. I asked him what happens when my feet sweat and get gross and he said they've done this lots of times and don't worry about it. Most importantly, no running or weight bearing exercises for at least 2 weeks. The doc said I could get some good upper body workouts in, even ride an exercycle if it feels ok, but no walking or running. It will even impact some of my TRX workouts because of foot positioning. I have the cutest little orthopedic shoe to wear for 2 weeks.

I asked the doc if I could run a half marathon at the new year and he said no, the skin would be too new and could possibly split. I didn't even bother asking if I could run back-to-back half marathons on 12/31 and 1/1. Sigh. Sounded like a fun way to ring out the old, ring in the new.

The best thing about this is it'll give my toeitis on the left foot another 2 weeks to heal. It's improved but not gone, and I don't particularly want to schedule marathons without knowing how much pain will be involved (the best amount, of course, is "none"). I feel odd not having a marathon to plan for, to train for, to obsess over. I know which ones I'd like to run in 2012 but I'm holding myself back right now.

After work today I'm having some moles removed. Although my skin doc thinks they're all fine and dandy and benign, they look iffy to me and so I asked her to cut them off today. Hell, I can't run anyway so I may as well get everything done, right? It's been 2 years since my diagnosis and treatment and these will be the biggest batch of moles being removed since then.

Something tells me this will be an advil and alcohol evening.

Have you had anything removed from your feet? Do you have any suggestions for marathons in 2012? Is this your off season or are you in deep training?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mount Desert Island Marathon Race Report

I loved the Mount Desert Island Marathon. I also disliked the Mount Desert Island Marathon, but simply because I wasn't in prime shape to run a race that had a vertical gain of 17 billion feet (that may be a slight exaggeration). I wasn't even in prime shape to run a race that was dead flat and there was little enough of that.

I don't often go into marathons thinking that this will be my very first DNF. For 4 weeks following the Fox Cities Marathon I had no confidence that I could finish this one. My plantar plate didn't magically heal itself, my cyst didn't magically disappear. Also, between the races I gained a few pounds and my asthma acted up. Almost as if my brain was trying to give my body a reason to sit down in the middle of the race and quit. Well, I ignored that and soldiered on.

Saturday morning there was an optional free fun run (with a $10 breakfast afterward, should you chose to stay). We decided Friday night that we'd all walk this, just to get our legs freshened up from the traveling the day before. Sis, Tracy and I met Sandy downtown at the start. The race club handed out special bib numbers for all the runners and after a few words, we were off! Or rather, they were off and we started walking. Everyone else was running and out of sight within minutes. The route was less than 2 miles, to the Atlantic Oceanside (where the expo was being held). It was a lovely morning for a walk and it was very nice to spend time with Sandy.

We hung around at the hotel so we could go to the expo when it opened. There was more than we were expecting. Packet pick-up went very quickly. The race shirt was a green quarter-zip wind shirt with the race logo on the front. This was a nice change from a typical tech or cotton tee. The expo also had a few booths selling merchandise, including one that had everything -- and I do mean everything -- that you could need to pick up for last minute race prep.

MDI offers an early start option for walkers and slow runners who think they'll take over 6 hours. Since all of my marathons this year have been 6+, I opted for that one extra hour. So did oodles of other people. There were well over 100 of us out there waiting for the sunrise and the gun. Being back-of-the-packers we all kept moving -- well, back. Nobody wanted to stand on the line. We're used to letting the quicker people go ahead of us. Yes, most of us would rather not have people jostling us aside because we're in their way. The race director finally said "This is YOUR START" before any of us moved forward. Since this seemed like my only chance, I stood right at that start line.

You go first. No, you go first. No, I insist. You go first.

The gun went off, and so did we. Relatively slowly, but still. I'm proud to say I led that race. For at least 3 minutes I was the leader on the road. Then someone running about an 11:30 mile passed me. My time in the sun was over (figuratively; it was overcast). Also, that's when the first hill started and I slowed down.

My plan, such as it was, was to run as much as I could since running hurt my foot less than walking. But I also knew that my asthma wasn't going to let me run many of the uphills. I intended to run the flats (I don't think there were any flats), the downhills (there were a couple throughout the day) and the slight inclines, then walk the steeper hills. That actually worked well for a while.

In the early miles there was a lot of fighting for a good position. Yup, I made that up. We were a friendly crew out there, most of us doing some form of run/walk. We had a lot of space, even though we really were just on the wide shoulder of the road. I started running with a woman who was doing her first marathon and we stayed together for over an hour. Then I started dragging while she was obviously holding back for me so I sent her on. (I did see her much later in the race, walking, completely over the whole idea of running a marathon. I saw her again at the end and was so glad I had a little teensy part in helping her finish her first marathon.)

The weather was great, except for the very strong head-wind. It was cool-ish, overcast with short periods of sun. But that cold wind off the water, smack in the face, made running up all those bazillion hills even harder. Luckily the spectacular scenery more than made up for any wind and hills. Otherwise I do think I would have just sat down and pouted for a few hours until someone came to get me.

Seriously, the sheer beauty of the Bar Harbor to Southwest Harbor route cannot be understated. To me, Big Sur International Marathon had all other races beat for scenery, but now I can say it has a rival. Despite my west coast bias I think the 2 races tie for utter beauty. I've seen the BSIM route several times, both during the races and in a car, and spent a lot of time on the MDI route (and drove it both before and after the race) and I think everyone who can should run both of these and make their own decision. I couldn't; I loved them both.

But back to the race. My foot started getting a hot spot very early on and I had seen in previous races that the hot spot turned into pain quickly. I made it to about mile 8 before it hurt and by the halfway point it really hurt. Running hurt, walking hurt more. With the wind in my face I couldn't run as much as I'd like so I just slogged on.

There were aid stations about every 2 or 2-1/2 miles. They were well staffed with very cheerful friendly volunteers, even during our early start. There was water and some sort of -ade and I'm pretty sure that later stations had fruit also. One station at about mile 17 had gu.

Because of the narrow roads and lack of alternative routes around the race, there weren't many spectators except at official spectator spots (there were about 8 of those). There wasn't much traffic until we got to mile 20-ish and then the road got very busy. We were really confined to the road shoulder then and the condition of those shoulders was poor. This was where the 5 hour runners were passing the 6 hour runners so it got crowded. Still, everyone remained polite. I love small races!

Miles 20-25 were uphill, some of it just a middling grade and some of it real hill. It was one road, going in one direction, and I tried to studiously stare at the scenery and ignore how craptastic I was feeling. I was walking as much as running at that point. Mile 25 is the "Top of the Hill" and supposedly it's all downhill from there. Uh, not quite. I'd say it was more downhill-ish, with a couple of uphill grades along the way. Also, the road got very narrow and crowded with all the earlier finishers driving away. For about a half mile we were confined to a sidewalk-path-thing; very narrow with broken asphalt and curbs. Since my agility had departed some 4 hours earlier I wasn't sure I'd make the last half mile without breaking something.

But make it I did, even beating 6:30. Barely. My dear sister and brother-in-law, along with Sandy and her husband, cheered for me as I attempted a finish line sprint. This was my slowest of all marathons but at least I wasn't sitting somewhere on the road by Somes Sound crying my eyes out. I got my medal and my space blanket and waited for my cheerleaders to find me. I was pooped and not about to go looking for them. I had given my all, what little "my all" entailed, and was glad it was behind me.

There was a tent with food for the finishers. Ice cream! Pumpkin and blueberry! Without spoons. I grabbed some of that and told my sis that if she could find a spoon I'd share with her. My very resourceful, ice cream loving sis did indeed find a spoon and I realized that ice cream wasn't what I wanted so I passed her the entire cup. I went back in the tent and saw there were bagels, some with cream cheese and some with peanut butter. I wanted a combination that wasn't pre-spread so the nice volunteer cut a fresh bagel and smeared it for me. There were also lots of little bags of chips (cheese doodles!), baskets of candy, an energy drink and I think other drinks. Somewhere I think there was a beer tent but I never went looking.

I had worn my Marathon Maniac short-sleeve shirt for the race and received many comments both during and after. Every Maniac who passed me (which was most of them) gave me a "good job, Maniac" or "looking good, Maniac." Many people asked about criteria for joining and I think this race probably added to our numbers. It was fun wearing a conversation starter. The weather was perfect for wearing a black shirt, shorts, calf sleeves and my buffs. I pulled the buff over my face a couple of times when the wind got high. I also had gloves which I took off after a couple of hours and tucked into my belt in case it got windy later. I was wearing a MM cap and was initially afraid that it would blow off in the wind. I managed to keep my head tucked during any gusts and it stayed on. Probably because for most of the race my sunglasses were up on my head too.

I'm glad I did this race. I wish I could say I ran this marathon but that's inaccurate; I ran part of this marathon and just pushed forward for the rest. It was a great experience and a wonderful vacation. Maybe I'll write about that next.

Have you ever been to Maine? Do you prefer the East Coast over the West Coast (or are you just happy to see any coast at all)? Have you ever run a race with 17 billion feet of vertical gain? Let me know!

It's a bear in a lobster suit! How cute is this??

Friday, October 7, 2011

If you run a race and don't write about it, does it count?

I did indeed run the Fox Cities Marathon in Wisconsin, followed by the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in San Jose. I will be writing about FCM where the race was wonderful and my performance was mediocre. I probably won't write about RnR-SJ again since it was almost the same as the previous years.

Right now I'm dealing with a couple of aggravations. In addition to the ganglion cyst which doesn't seem to want to disappear by itself, I have an injury to the plantar plate on the other foot. I can run for about 2 miles without anything hurting, then it gradually gets worse and worse. The cyst will be removed in December, between races. I'm waiting for ice baths and taping (and lots of wishing) to help heal the other problem. I won't be running until my next race while trying to keep my conditioning at the top.

Have any of you experienced plantar plate injuries? How about bible cysts? Tell me your stories!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Zombie Runner Vasona Lake Run Half Marathon

My 20 mile training run went well. For a long run it was -- long. The weather ended up being great; it never got too hot and the sun didn't even come out until my final hour. I ran the last 12 miles alone, greeting all the other runners, walkers and cyclist as they passed by. I ended up tired, with a sore foot but no other problems. I'm pretty certain that's why I asked Bree whether she'd be interested in running a half marathon on Labor Day Monday (... that, and the fact I thought she'd say no).

I thought that Bree would decide that 13 was more than her aggravated ankle wanted to run. If not that, she'd see the profile of this run and decide I was crazy. Imagine my surprise and delight when she wanted to run this! So early this morning I drove down to the South Bay and met up with Bree at her new apartment. We drove, along with another friend of hers, to Los Gatos Creek Park.

We picked up our bibs and shirts and goody bags. The women's shirts were a light purple tech shirt, sized properly (men's shirts were in green). The goody bags had a bunch of ginger chews, a gel and a Zombie Runner pen. We pinned on our numbers and waited for the start.

This is a small race, about 150 people for each of the 5 mile and half marathon races. Both started together down the Los Gatos Trail for the first out-and-back, where the 5 miles finished. We continued on for the hard part.

Somehow when I looked at the website I read that the surface was all asphalt. Notsomuch. When we got to the fire road I wasn't too surprised. I supposed that we'd be on the same fire road part that was run during the Jungle Run. Again, notsomuch. I apparently forgot the hilly part of the run too.

After a very short stretch of fire road we started climbing single track. Knowing that I'm (1) a klutz, (2) afraid of cliff-type edges, and (3) not used to dirt, we slowed down. Since this was an out-and-back route, the mountain goats other runners were coming back down the trail we were creeping up. We stepped aside as much as we could, knowing they were going way faster than we were. The trail continued on in an upward direction. Running had become walking was becoming mincing our way along the rocks and roots.

If we hadn't been out of water I think we would have just turned around and called it a day and a DNF. I knew there'd be water at the turnaround so we kept going. Then it became a downhill. A very, very steep downhill. We didn't run there either, since it was too incredibly rocky and steep. It was absolutely the worst part of the route, even though the route widened. The very scenic view of the Lexington Reservoir made it a little better.

We got to the bottom, refilled and started back up the hill. We had to stop and rest a couple of times - total dead stop while we caught our breaths. After that it was mostly downhill, back the way we came. Funny how in this direction we were running much more than the other direction. I was determined not to spend another 22 minutes on one mile. When we hit the single track we walked, the fire roads we ran/walked. After what seemed like forever we returned to the asphalt trail.

The whole time we were struggling up and down those hills, we saw families with small kids, cyclists, moms pushing strollers, going the same way. Maybe it was that they hadn't already run the first 7 miles, but they were making us look like slugs. Dirty, sweaty slugs.

The route was perfectly marked with some chalk arrows on the ground and pink or polka dotted ribbons hanging from everything that needed to be marked. I think I could have still gotten lost (I'm talented that way) but Bree set me right each time.

We finished the race, and both ended up NQL (not quite last, remember?). We were 152 and 153 of 158 and well within the cut-off time. We were cheered in, given our medals and directed to the fluids and food (pretty decimated by that time, but there were still watermelon slices, candy, chips and pretzels, other fruit and a couple of cookies).

Water stops were about every 2-1/2 miles and well stocked with water, some electrolyte drink, defizzed coke, candy, salty snacks and fruit. Since I had prepared for a 2:50-ish race and ended up with a 3:20 race, I ran out of gu and drink powder before I ran out of race. I grabbed a few gummy bears at the last couple of stops and sucked on them as we ran. The sugar gave me enough boost to keep going.

Taking another glance at the website it turns out the run was 68% asphalt, 20% fire road and 12% single track. It also says the gain was 945 feet. It doesn't say that all the elevation was in the 32% not asphalt.

I'm glad I ran this race. I don't think I was really properly prepared for that much not-road, nor were my legs really happy with 13 miles after last week's 20. My foot was again sore starting at about 2 miles. I probably won't become a trail runner any time soon, I enjoy asphalt too much. This race was very well done, especially considering how small it is. I don't think it would work as well if the single track got more crowded so this was the perfect size.

Oh, and the weather again was close to perfect. It was forecast earlier in the week to be hot by 10 am, but it never got close to 70 degrees while we were out there. Even when the sun came out we were running through at least intermittent shade so it didn't get too hot. So we had great scenery, I had good company on the run (thanks, Bree!), the shirt and medals were nice, the course support was great. I recommend this run.

Now I recommend going to bed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

And then he stuck a big needle in it

I've ramped up my mileage in training for my upcoming marathons. This cycle I've run quite a few 15-16 milers and a couple of 18 milers hoping not to hit a wall at 20. We'll see tomorrow, when I run said 20. Since this could be my first hot run of the summer (and how did that happen??) I'll have a good measure of where my fitness is for Fox Cities Marathon.

I'm gratified and confused that an August 27th run is the first hot run of the year. Normally that happens in March or April. While we've had a couple of spells of a few days of heat, none have been on long-run scheduled weekends (or indeed, on weekends at all). I'm not particularly looking forward to sweltering but since September in Wisconsin could be hot (and hey, these days October in Maine could be hot) I'd like to get a long hot run under my belt.

Not under my shoes though. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a lump on top of my foot after a run. I figured my shoes must have been too tight and didn't worry about it. Then I noticed that it got worse for a while, then better, then worse. Then I realized that it wasn't really changing at all, it was just big. Wiser minds than I determined that I should go see our friendly neighborhood sports podiatrist so I made an appointment. Imagine my disappointment when the lump didn't go away, even after making an appointment. Since the only time the lump causes pain is when I wear shoes, and because I'm wearing sandals unless I'm running or at the gym, it was mostly a curiosity rather than an impairment. Unless, of course, I was running.

So I went to see the doc today. After poking, prodding and an ultrasound he said it was probably a ganglion cyst and we could drain it and hope it would go away. Okey dokey, draining sounded good to me. In theory. In practice he took a needle the size of the Space Needle with a syringe the size of a large silo and started poking around inside the cyst, guided by ultrasound. He dragged the tip of that needle up and down inside the cyst and urgh, TMI at this point. Anydoodle, there wasn't any fluid being extracted so he pulled out the needle and just started to squeeeeeeze the cyst. That sounds much more painful that it actually was, the squeezing didn't hurt at all (probably because my foot was so relieved to not have the needle in it). Not much came out then either.

The hope is that it'll drain and flatten over the next 5-7 days, go away, and never bother me again. That's unlikely to happen. He said he wouldn't want to drain it more than a couple of times, and if it reoccurs would recommend removing it just to see what it is. That would involve a little incision, a couple of stitches. No big deal, right? Wrong, it would involve no running for 3 weeks. Yikes! I have too many races to take 3 weeks off! I'm going to believe in fairy tales and believe that the cyst will go away. Quickly and without any worry from me. Right?

For my long run tomorrow I'll just use some felt to cushion the cyst area from my shoe and everything should be fine. I'm very much looking forward to this run, sore foot and high heat notwithstanding. Every long run is a challenge, every long run proves once again that although I might not look like it, I am in fact a runner.

Have any of you had ganglion cysts? Anyone had it flattened by the family bible? Anyone grossed out by hearing about this?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hey, look behind you! It's July!

I've misplaced a month, have any of you seen it? Two months, or even three. One minute I'm enjoying April and the next I realize I'm dating things "August." Zip zip zip and summer is gone without even starting.

Yes, I'm going to first whine about the lack of summer weather around these here parts. While the rest of the country is baking, sweltering, melting under the heat of a hundred hot boiling flames, we've been dressing in jeans and sweatshirts. We don' need no steenkin' sandals here! Nobody has to worry about their summer wardrobe fitting because they have to cover it up under a couple of warmer layers. Yoohoo, summer? Over here! I'm waiting for you!

I'll probably pay for that plea later in the month when I go to run 18-20 miles and it's 97 polluted sunny degrees instead of the 57 we've been running in. Fine! Bring it!

During the past month I upped my trainer workouts to thrice weekly. Probably just so I'd have a chance to say "thrice." Mondays at 7am, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6am. We're still doing a lot of TRX which I'm still enjoying. Today I set the goal of a set of real, non-girly pushups by summer's end. I can almost, sorta do 1 sloppy real push-up now. I can do 3 sets of nice looking, good form girly pushups. Katie reminded me that it's August and summer is almost over. Nuh uh, can't prove it by me. Pushups by summer's end. And apparently I'll decide by then whether or not to hyphenate "push-up."

For the most part Bree and I have continued running, or run-walking, once a week around Lake Chabot. A little over-doing it impacted a knee on each of us and we decided that bombing hills wasn't the smartest idea when our training schedules have us running long on the weekend. We're taking it easier there but finding that hill work definitely has it's benefits (strength and endurance) to go with it's negatives (swollen painful knees). The Lake has been lovely to run around in the early evening and it's almost lost all of it's negative connotations from my first run there way back in 2001.

Knitting continues apace. I've been working on several separate projects. My attention span could be better. I'll knit for a few days on a scarf, then on a shawl, then on another shawl, then another scarf. Nothing seems to be getting toward completion. The lace class we were scheduled to take was canceled, of course after we had bought the yarn for it (yes, I bought yarn for it even though I had 2 other perfect yarns in the stash I could have used. What's your point?). So Ann and I intend to get together weekly and figure it out ourselves. In the fall, when it's quieter. Meanwhile I'm hoping to finish a scarf or two.

I ran one of my favorite local races a couple of days ago, the second half of the San Francisco Marathon. I may even get around to doing a race report one of these days. Like past years I enjoyed the race, not so much the finish area mess. They change that part every year and so far, last year was best (in my opinion of course, yours may vary).

I've been reading a lot, which is one reason my knitting is suffering. Still haven't figured out a way to get quality reading and quality knitting done at the same time. I'm not much for audio-books since I like seeing the written word. I'm having enough trouble adjusting to a Kindle instead of paper. And adjusting to being able to buy all the books in a series at a single button push. Or several other books by the same author. Ooopsie, now I have even more to read!

What have you been up to? How's your summer going? What are you knitting? What are you reading? Hot enough for ya?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oz Marathon Race Report

Since I began running marathons in 2001 it's been my fond desire to run one on my birthday. Unfortunately marathons on my birthday weekend, assuming my birthday even fell on a weekend, were few and far between. I had the poor fortune to be born right around Patriot's Day. As any rabid marathoner could tell you, there's only one marathon that matters on Patriot's Day: Boston Marathon. As I have as much chance of qualifying for Boston as I have of flying to Boston under my own power, I had to scrounge up a second choice.

This year my birthday was finally on a Saturday; next year it'll be Monday because of Leap Year. This was my chance to find a race. Good thing I'm trying for all the states so I had a few choices. I wanted an interesting and relatively "easy" race and ended up picking the newly rebranded Oz Marathon, formerly the plain old Olathe Marathon. I talked Sandy into joining me in collecting Kansas and we made plans for the great birthday marathon of 2011.

Getting there was easy enough. Southwest Airlines flies to Kansas City, MO which is a short drive from Olathe (oh-lay-thuh with the emphasis on 'lay;' Olathe is an Indian word for "beautiful"), KS. We met at the airport, gathered our rental car and headed out on the freeway. In less time than we'd expected we arrived in Olathe and found our hotel, the Fairfield Inn and Suites, and checked in.

We started Friday the best way possible: in a yarn shop! Knit Wit is in a little strip mall (as is everything in Olathe that isn't in a large mall). They had a very large selection of yarns and knitting implements. I managed to walk away with just a couple of skeins of a local yarn. I took pictures but they're so bad I don't want to reflect poorly on the shop which was charming and well stocked. The woman working and the one other customer were very friendly and helpful.

Packet pickup (not an expo) was on Friday only, at the Big Bass Pro Shop. Big shop. Big big big. Selling everything from sun hats to boats. There was a short line of incredibly friendly people from all over. We picked up our bibs and our white cotton tee-shirts, passed by the various tables of local vendors trying to sell assorted services and merchandise and went our merry way.

There was a storm brewing, cold air blowing and rain intermittently dripping down. Very cold, very windy. I had brought all sorts of choices for running attire and it looked like I would need all of it, in layers.

The start was at Garmin World Headquarters (which seemed the total extent of Garmin's involvement in the race). We arrived for the planned 7:00 am start and it was freezing. Literally. Wind chill was 28 degrees; the wind was blowing with 40 mph gusts. All of the signage and postings were blowing around and people walked back and forth, shivering. This was a small race, about 500 marathoners and 500 half marathoners. Possibly there would have been more if the arctic front wasn't present. People seemed to stay in their cars until the last possible moment which overwhelmed the dozen or so porta potties. Many people were still in line when the race started.

I kept moving back through the crowd. The time limit for the course was 6 hours so I knew I'd be one of the back-of-packers. Despite my two long training runs (Napa Marathon and Oakland Marathon) I knew my time wouldn't set any records because of asthma; my two biggest triggers are cold and wind and there was plenty of both. At the back of the pack was the 5:30 pacer (the last pacer) so I decided to stick with that group for a bit, depending on how fast they started. I thought they'd actually keep me from going out too fast and I was correct.

A note about my clothing choice: As I said, I wore everything. I had on running tights with my calf sleeves underneath. I wore a long sleeved tech shirt, a light weight windbreaker jacket and a sweatshirt over that. Gloves, hat, ear warmer and a buff completed my winter-in-April apparel. It was still cold and my toes were numb by the start, despite my Injinji toe socks. I was nicely coordinated in red and black.

There were about a half dozen people running with the 5:30 pace group. I'd never actually run with a pacer before (really, even after all those marathons and half marathons) and it was kinda fun. She told us her philosophy was to walk 1 minute at every mile, start slowly, go slower uphill and faster downhill, and she guaranteed we'd finish within 59 seconds of 5:30. All of that sounded pretty good to me! We picked up Sandy and assimilated her into the group at about mile 2 or 3.

I had my buff over my face to keep the air warmer for breathing, but like always I managed to lower it and smile for the pictures. The funniest part of this picture is my ponytail blowing in the wind; we have a joke that mine is the only pony that never moves when I run. Well, it did on this day.

The first part of the route was very boring. We ran down one of the main streets, looped around a commercial area, then circled the parking lot of the Great Mall of the Great Plains. Apparently back in the '80s this was a hot shopping spot. Now it's a mostly deserted group of buildings that play host to special functions. The almost 2 miles around the parking lot was windy and cold and boring. The street control was very good, the cops and volunteers all friendly and helpful.

The pace group was going along at a slow, then comfortable pace, but at about mile 5 the pacer stopped the walk breaks and picked up the pace to way faster than I was comfortable with. Since I could feel my breath tightening up I let them run ahead and continued at my own pace and started my regular 9:1 run:walk. I managed to amuse myself as I normally do during long runs.

It didn't really warm up but after about 2 hours my sweatshirt was bothering me so I tossed it aside. I still had my long sleeved shirt and windbreaker, and still had my buff covering my face. It would be like this for most of the rest of the race. I finally took off the gloves and the ear coverings at about mile 23. Then I put the gloves back on a little while later. I zipped and unzipped my jacket according to whether we had a head or tail wind.

At about mile 12 we moved onto a multi-use trail that we'd be on for the next 13 miles (6.5 out and back). It was pretty, winding and rolling. In theory the outbound direction was downhill; in fact it was the rollingest downhill I've run. The website map doesn't do all the little ups and downs credit. There was very little that was good old fashioned flat. But it was pretty, scenic and there wasn't any traffic. It was fun for me seeing all the other runners on their way back.

My asthma was very bad and I wasn't even trying to push the pace. I would have liked to run faster, finish faster, but that wasn't going to happen so I just ran and walked when I felt like it. At one low point of the trail, a man and his son were putting hay down to soak up the huge puddle that covered the trail and the surrounding area. Seeing me coming, he threw out pieces of hay as stepping stones. I came to a dead halt, knowing my balance wasn't anywhere near good enough to make it through without going ankle deep in water. The man, wearing high boots, took my hand and walked me across the riverpuddle, his son cheering the entire way. Thank you mister nice man! By the time I returned the hay covered the entire area so I didn't need an escort.

Blah blah running, blah blah asthma, blah blah cold, blah blah relentless wind. The only bright spot of the return journey, and a bright spot indeed, was a Cardinal flying along side of me. I think he was flirting with me, believing my bright red jacket was some lady-bird running along the trail. I saw him on and off for a few miles, tweeting happily from tree to tree.

I walked a lot of those last couple of miles. The sun was starting to come out, the temperature was probably all the way up to the upper 30's, I was tired and I'd already used my inhaler 3 times during the race. Despite how late it was the street control was still there with officers keeping traffic from killing the last runners.

Finally the end was in hearing, then in sight. I ran toward the end, hearing my name over the loud speaker. Sandy was waiting for me, having finished quite a bit before I had. I got my medal and a bottle of water, but she thought the food was all gone. Then we noticed the really big grill with something cookin'. I crossed my fingers that it was something I could eat and yep, it was. We each grabbed a chicken sandwich. The beer table was shutting down and unfortunately they were out of beer. Nope, they were out of the light bottled beer, but still had some of the keg beer, a local brew. We scored!

We sat down at one of the empty tables (they were almost all empty by then, nobody was hanging around in that weather) and consumed our goodies while elevating our legs and watching the final few people finish the race. Once again I was NQL. That's "not quite last" and yes, I did make that up. Three marathons in 6 weeks and NQL at all of them. Nothing like consistency.

There were finishers tech shirts but by the time we got there the women's shirts remaining were small sizes so we took the men's shirts. Bright yellow and a little ugly, but a finisher shirt nonetheless.

Final thoughts: if the weather had been better I would have had a great race and a fun time. For a small local race they did a very good job. The branding of the race wasn't apparent except in the name itself; there weren't any special touches to make it Oz-like. Several runners were in costume but I'm seeing that in lots of marathons, even those without themes. The course support was excellent, the course itself half-nice. The 2 shirts were (ugly, and) the same for all the races. I'd rather have one nicer race-specific shirt but as we know I'm pretty opinionated about my race shirts. The Olathians were almost all friendly and helpful. Olathe has every chain store and restaurant that I've ever seen, plus a few that were new to me. I would recommend this race for any 50-stater or Maniac out there!

Scarecrow Bear

Friday, June 17, 2011

Random Friday

The sun is out! The sun is out! The sun is out!

I'm amazed at how much my life improves when the weather improves. I've always said I was a child of the sun (hello skin cancer!) and this just proves it. My energy level has increased, my appetite has decreased, and my mood is (sorry) sunny.

Speaking of skin cancer, I don't have any now! My latest skin check was normal and I'm now able to push the check-up appointments to 4 months apart instead of 3. My paranoia still knows no bounds and I check my skin daily for new spots and I wear sunscreen under jeans and long sleeves.

Speaking of sunscreen, I'm thrilled that our government has finally set some standards for the multitudinous purveyors of the stuff. It's interesting that they're saying that those 15 SPF moisturizers aren't doing much of anything, and that SPF greater than 50 doesn't increase your protection (and may even increase a risk since the chemical load is higher). I have a feeling that next year some of my favorites will disappear but hopefully better products will arrive on the scene.

Request to sunscreen developers and packagers: please please please start putting sport sunscreens in little disposable packages so I can easily carry it with me to reapply during a long run or race. I don't have room in my gu-filled pack to carry the big bulky non-compressing tubes and bottles. Now that we know the sunscreen isn't waterproof, and we know that some runners sweat heavily, please provide something easy to use and carry. Thank you in advance.

So last night Bree and I decided not to do our weekly run at Lake Chabot. There were various reasons including our planned run for Saturday at hilly Inspiration Point. I decided that since I'd worked with my trainer in the morning I didn't need to run anyway. Then I remembered that I ate a big lunch and didn't have any calories left for dinner. So I grudgingly dressed for a run and headed out my front door. I ran some, I walked some, I ran some more and when I got home I felt wonderful.

Startitis is my problem. I should get a big banner in my house that tells me to just get moving. Once I'm in motion I love it. I really love to run. I just don't like the whole changing clothes/sunscreening/water filling/getting out of the house part.

I've been wearing my Fitbit for the past week or so and I'm having lots of fun with it. It's really just a fun toy another tool in the healthy life style arsenal that aids in tracking. It's interesting to look at my sleep records (or lack of sleep records), to see how many steps I'm taking during the say, to see how much activity I'm getting during my desk sitting workday. When I add it to my food tracking on Lost It! I'm getting a better picture of why I gained weight over our 9 month winter. It's helping me lose that weight and restart good habits in a rational, reasonable and easy-to-use manner.

I decided to add another morning workout with the trainer, Mondays. This will give me a reason to get out of bed (see startitis, above) and we'll be able to work more of my body than we can do in 2 days. I'm not sure how long I'll keep this up but I've found I'm more likely to run or walk in the evening if I've done a trainer workout in the morning. Since the sun has already risen when I leave the house it's easier to go be active. I'm not sure how well it will work when I've run a Sunday race but I don't have another one until the end of July.

Did I mention the sun is out?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Race review backlog

I'm behind, way behind, on my race reviews. I'm blaming it on the weather. Yup, our Junuary cold and rain when it should be bright, sunny and hot, is driving me buggy. I don't think I've ever experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder in June before. Normally by February (or March at the latest) I'm over the depression, sleepiness, lethargy and irritability that I experience every winter. All I feel like doing now is hibernating, or curling up with a good book. Not much gets written that way. In fact, not much of anything gets done.

I do intend to write about my third marathon and first two half marathons of the year. Just as soon as we have a few consecutive days of sunlight and warmth. That should stimulate my brain enough to be excited about those runs and glad to relive the freezing/short course/too much champagne races (in order, Oz Marathon/Mermaid Half Marathon/See Jane Run Half Marathon).

Meanwhile I'm still working out with my trainer twice weekly. Some time in the past weeks I hit my one year anniversary of training which is both gratifying for my sticktoitness and scary for the money I've spent there. I enjoy those workouts (not so much the getting up at 5 am) and can see the difference in my strength and stamina. I'll continue these trainings as long as I think they're beneficial.

I also started running once a week after work at Lake Chabot. I have a love/hate relationship with that place but have to admit that even a few weeks there have improved my hill running ability. I'm hoping that Bree and I continue those runs throughout the (hopefully warmer or hot) summer and into fall.

Meanwhile I'll go back to scouring my weather reports in hope of good news!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, Monday

I had a lovely non-Judgmental weekend. Saturday morning I met my running buddies at what's become our go-to trail, the Lafayette-Moraga Trail. Sometimes running there feels like cheating since the return direction is down-grade and we always fly back. I know most races don't mimic those conditions but it sure is great to feel good when you finish.

We ran a little more than 11 miles, talking non-stop. Weather was perfect for running, including the outbound headwind -- which resulted in a return tailwind. Sweet: downgrade and tailwind. See, perfect! Like usual we had negative splits for the run.

I'm trying new shoes since I finally exhausted my hoarded Saucony's. I'm incredibly fussy about my running shoes since I don't want another stress fracture and I don't want to re-injure my knee. I'd rather have blisters or black toenails than hurt bone, muscle or tendon. I don't just need support, I need the right support. I got the new version of the Grid Stabil and it isn't quite right. The Asics I got don't seem to give me the right support for a long run, although I could do 4-6 milers in them. I have hope that the Brooks will be good, and that I'll be able to rotate them with the Saucony. As always I wear my stripy Injinji toe socks which have really cut down (in fact, mostly eliminated) my blisters. (Note: if I was trying to promote any of those brands I would have included links.)

After spending several hours with mom, doing our usual momday stuff, I celebrated my birthday with Bree and Anita. What's that you say? My birthday was 5 weeks ago? Yeah, but we hadn't done anything yet. We went to Walnut Creek Yacht Club, one of the best seafood restaurants in the area (if not the best). Oh, yummy. From the cocktails to the dessert, we were well treated and well fed. Ever had lobster mac and cheese? You have to try it. The softshell crabs were exquisite. The Remember the Maine (kind of a fancy schmancy Manhattan) was so tasty I wish I had a much higher alcohol tolerance so that I could have had several (Bree was designated driver, I was designated drinker). The sundae with the candle was the topper and we powered our way through it.

Being so stuffed we decided to walk around downtown Walnut Creek for a bit. And wouldn't you know it, we walked right past the cupcake shop! What a coincidence! Ok, maybe not so much a coincidence since there are several in the area. But this is the best one and of course we had to get a little cupcake each. That was it, we were full, stuffed and sated. Somehow I think we way outdid the burned calories from our little morning run. Good thing birthdays aren't daily affairs.

Sunday was a nice, peaceful day. I picked a bushel of lemons from my overbearing tree (not really an exaggeration) and picked weeds from around the peonies (which are starting a glorious bloom). I did the minimal house cleaning necessary to keep me from sneezing my head off or being grossed out, and several tubs of laundry. When I ramp up my exercise/running the dirty clothes seem to multiply way beyond what I thought I'd been wearing. I ran my errands, went shopping, took a short nap, paid bills, made a huge fruit salad to enjoy all week, read my book, knit my shawl. Typical Sunday and what I like best.

Hope you had a good weekend too! What did you do? Do you like runs that finish easy or finish hard?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Oakland Marathon Race Report

A few weeks ago I ran the full Oakland Marathon, a part of the Oakland Running Festival. Well, I ran most of the Oakland Marathon. I hobbled most of the last 6 miles. It was hard and painful and I finished with a smile on my face. It was a major difference from my last marathon where there wasn't a smile to be seen.

I expected much different results from when I ran the half marathon last spring. I went through that season with serious breathing difficulties that affected every run. My breathing this year has been easy and most effortless. That was just one of the differences in the race this year.

It started with the expo. This year there was an actual expo at packet pickup. There were many vendors selling all kinds of stuff, anything you'd need for a race. I dropped a nice piece of change, mostly on boxes of very fairly priced Gu. Damn, I go through a lot of that stuff! The goody bag had a bunch of samples of foods and stuff, and lots of pamphlets for races.

The only disappointment was the shirt. Since the sizing was sex differentiated I had ordered the biggest women's shirt available, the XL. The full marathon shirt was a long sleeved, quarter zip white shirt with black trim. The front was plain, the logo on the back. I got my shirt and saw that Greenlight Apparel sizes their shirts the way Nike does: very small. There was a place for shirt exchanges. A woman who had ordered a small shirt tried on my XL and it fit her. I ended up with a men's shirt. It fits, but a zip on the shirt tends to chafe whatever it touches. Yup, on a woman that can lead to odd markings on cleavage. And, ouch!

Sunday morning I showed up early, the way I usually do. I was willing to pay $5 so I got an excellent parking spot in a close-by lot. The start area wasn't marked well but it was compact enough that I could find everything. I chatted with a few people I knew, hit the porta potties a couple of times (and there wasn't any line any time I went), checked my sweatshirt and went to the corrals.

The full marathon started well before the half so only marathoners were gathering. I was wearing my running skirt, a long sleeve shirt, leg compression sleeves and gloves. I was chilled but not terribly so; the weather promised good running conditions. I walked to the back where the 12+ minute milers were supposed to be and imagine my surprise when I saw nobody was there. Usually, even in a very small race, there will be people contesting to be last. Since this was a 7 hour race that welcomed walkers I had thought there would be, y'know, walkers! There were very few.

The anthem was sung, the confetti flew and we were off. I was hanging with a group of TnT newbies who were about my speed, possibly a little faster. I tried to keep to my plan of starting slowly but even the back-of-the-packers were faster than I wanted to be. I sped along with them, feeling pretty good, keeping to my 9:1 run:walk.

The first5 miles were flattish, a couple of inclines here and there. That changed once we started running along Highway 24. I knew it was hilly. Hell, I drive that way all the time and I can see the hills. I ran on, walking the very steepest parts. I was still feeling good, pushing but not killing myself. I peeped over my shoulder and saw one of my favorite views in the world: right down the center of the bay with Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge in the middle. Gorgeous. Miles 7 and 8 were through Montclair and were hillier than I had expected but it was pretty so I didn't care.

About mile 8.5 I saw my bro and sis-in-law standing on the corner, cheering me on. This was a great boost for me. It's the first race where they've ever come to cheer (and that's through about 30 full and 50 half marathons). On that chill, overcast morning they stayed on the corner for about 45 minutes waiting for me. It gave me energy to finish up the hills.

I had thought that the worst of the hills were gone. Hell no. We ran alongside Highway 13 on Traflagar and Monterey and it went up and up. I walked lots of that. Just before Lincoln we took a little detour through a parking lot and it was even steeper. I felt insulted until I saw the fabulous view of the entire bay area. Gorgeous and worth the struggle.

Going into this race I knew that although there was a lot of uphill running, the elevation was all lost in a 2 mile stretch. I really felt on that street that I would go ass over tea kettle if I tripped so I was very careful of each step. Ok, now I'm wondering where that ancient expression came from; where would you have an ass over a tea kettle? Anyhoo.

The downhill was just as hard on my body as the uphill had been but my lungs were very happy for the break. I finished the hills and ended up in the Fruitvale, running on International Bldv. (or, East 14th Street as my brain keeps insisting). Know that this isn't the best part of the city. Know also that Oakland Police and marathon volunteers kept the street open for me. That's how it felt since the runners were so stretched out by then. My street. All by myself. I could just see the next runner ahead of me. It was pretty cool having this entire boulevard to myself.

By mile 16-17 I was having my normal slump. I was tired and a bit nauseous and my legs were starting to cramp. I made sure I was taking my gels every 40 minutes, confirmed that I was drinking enough of my Ultima and I took a salt tablet just in case. As I ran by Laney College and by Jack London Square I saw more runners and they seemed to be struggling just as I was. We'd chat, then run on.

Closing in on mile 19 I ran through the fire; the Crucible had set up a flaming arch for the runners and I powered through it. It was just about the last powering I could do. Bree was meeting me near the West Oakland BART station and right after I filled my bottle at the water stop I saw her. She joined me and we started running.

Then we stopped running. My legs were cramping horribly. I'd toe-off on the run, my toes would curl under and the cramp would follow straight up my leg. Owie owie ouch ouch. If I walked in a shuffle I didn't cramp. Run=cramp, walk=not cramp.

When I registered for this race I was torn between wanting a good 20 mile training run for my next full marathon and wanting a good full marathon to make up for my crappy Napa run. It looked like I would end up with the former. I wanted to run and I wanted to get it over with but even when I could run it was so slow that Bree just sauntered alongside of me. I snarled at her that she had to pretend to run if I was running. Heh. I'm not always nice after 4 hours of running.

It took me a good (er, a bad) 2 hours to go those last 6 miles. Oy, they went on forever. Except for miles 23-25 around Lake Merritt we were having a good time and just accepting that I couldn't go any faster. I got decidedly cranky when I had to wade through the mud around the Lake; the entire batch of halfers and almost all of the fullers had already churned the sodden path into a puddle, from the water to the wet muddy grass. Tiptoeing hurt!

We finally got back on the paved road and I sent Bree ahead to cheer me on. Actually I was just exceedingly grumpy and wanted to be by myself. Knowing me well she laughed and went up the road before me.

Even as late as it was, there were still people cheering, there were still some crowds, there were still cops keeping the streets clear. My name was called and I crossed the finish smiling. My medal was draped around my neck, a heat sheet was draped around my shoulders, I was handed a bottle of water and I walked on. There wasn't much food left but there was fruit. I crammed a banana in my mouth, hoping the potassium would help the cramping.

Each runner received 2 booze tickets attached to the bib. There was a choice of Barefoot wine or bubbly or that light beer. I went with a beer, feeling I'd get plenty loopy with wine and I could also use the fluids to rehydrate (that's my story and I'm stickin' with it!). I gave Bree the other ticket. She retrieved my checked bag so I could have my sweatshirt and we found a bench near the finish line that wasn't already occupied by a street person.

We drank our beer, we chatted and cheered the few remaining runners and watched the volunteers dismantling the finish line. I reflected on the race and I was happy. I could have (maybe should have) quit when I started cramping but I stumbled on to the end. I like to finish what I start!

Final thoughts. I thought the organizers did a wonderful job here. The only things I didn't appreciate were the poor signage at the start, the mud at the Lake and the tiny shirt. I fully appreciated the efficient packet pickup, I liked the expo and the easy parking, I enjoyed the incredible course volunteers and the Oakland Police who not only kept the roads clear and safe but cheered when I passed. I loved the 2 beautiful views from the tops of the hills. The people of Oakland supported the race and the runners for hours while the stragglers finished. The weather was almost perfect for running, cool and overcast with some wind. I was in pain and still enjoyed myself. The first half was one of, if not the, hardest half marathons I've ever run, but it was so scenic and well supported that it was a good challenge instead of a pain in the neck. The second half was grittier and showed the best side of Oakland. I highly recommend this race!

this little bear needs a name

p.s. Thank you to Bree for running and walking and staggering with me and for putting up with my foul humor at the end. You're the best!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Napa Valley Marathon Race Review

Full disclosure first. The Napa Valley Marathon has a firm 6 hour cutoff. When I registered for the race I was on track for a 5:45 full marathon, easily. It didn't happen. I finished the race in 6:04 as they were pulling down the finish line so I'm not an official finisher. I'm not listed in the results. But I ran the course, got the shirt/pack/medal so I'm an unofficial finisher.

I got to Napa on Saturday morning and went straight to the expo. Pickup of my bib, shirt and most excellent backpack was quick and easy. They use the D-Tag for timing instead of a chip. There was a choice of a black or dark gray bag or a dark gray backpack. Since I have very nice bags from Flying Pig and TnT I got the backpack. A friendly volunteers wrote my race number on a plastic tag so I could use the pack as a sweat check bag.

The race shirt was a lightweight, long sleeve white tech fabric. We all know how little I like white shirts but I'm apparently a minority. The logo, on the front of the shirt, was very cool.

The expo had a few booths selling various things and promoting other races. The only things I wanted was a race-branded running cap (which they didn't have) and Gu Chomps (didn't have those either). The whole thing took me about 10 minutes.

For the past 10 days I had been obsessively checking the weather forecast and it kept telling me it would rain during the race. I very much hoped that the meteorologists were confused but for once they were entirely correct. It started raining early Saturday evening.

I had dithered about what to wear during the race and had brought every possible choice with me to Napa. I decided that since it was going to be warm-ish (low-50s), rainy and windy that I'd go with my running skirt, calf compression sleeves, a cap sleeve running shirt and my lightweight running jacket. I had buffs and my hat, throw away gloves and a throw away poncho. I wore my heavier weight rain jacket and decided I could throw it in my sweat bag before the start.

My alarm went off at 4:05 am and it was raining heavily outside. I did the morning stuff and checked out of the hotel at 4:55 - it was pouring. I drove to the school, the finish area, parked my car and walked to the bus line. The race uses school buses to take runners to the start in Calistoga. The drive was in the dark and I stared out the window at the rain.

My bus arrived and the day got lighter. The rain didn't. Although we were allowed to remain on the bus until about 15 minutes prior to the start I decided to try to get to the porta potty lines before they were too long. There weren't many porta potties and the lines were already long. I waited almost 15 minutes and I know the lines got even longer behind me. When I was done I decided it was warm enough to leave my light weight jacket in my pack and to go with my poncho and gloves.

I checked my bag and walked to the back of the start area. There weren't any pace indicators so I just kept backing up as more people joined the crowd. I didn't have long to wait before the anthem and the start. I moved forward and I was off! It was raining enough that it was annoying. Not just our usual California mistordrizzle, this was rain. I tied up my poncho so it didn't get in my way and ran on. There were lots of people running my pace or run:walking my pace and I would see the same people over and over for the next several hours.

The first 23 miles of the race were directly down the Silverado Trail. No chance of getting lost on this race! I always try to run tangents but wasn't able to here. The road was very curvy and each turn was heavily banked. Running a tangent would have cut the distance at the cost of running up and down each slant, including running on the canted portion for quite a bit. The flattest part of the road was the outside turn, the longest distance on each corner. I ended up picking each individual route based upon what looked easiest to me. The road wasn't crowded so it was easy to run anywhere I wanted.

I felt well enough, if a bit weather-grumpy, for the first 6 miles. That was the last time I felt well. In the immortal words of Randy, I just wasn't feelin' it, dawg. I was hoping I wouldn't see anyone I knew at the infrequent road crossings where the few soggy cheering people gathered; I was ready to hop in the car of the first acquaintance. Luckily, my friends were all smart enough to stay away.

It got worse as I kept running. The rain continued, varying from heavy rain to mist. The entire time I was out there it never completely cleared up. That wasn't the worst though. There was also a very steady headwind the entire morning. The good news was that I wasn't freezing, just cool, wet and miserable.

I got through the half in good time, not breaking any records but still on track for a decent finish. I had my upper teen slump and I didn't think I'd get out of it. I wasn't having fun, wasn't enjoying myself. I kept trying to jolly myself out of the grumps but didn't have much luck. Soggy wildflowers and mustard, dormant grapevines and a never-ending road got incredibly boring. Race policy is no headphones so I didn't have any music. Of course, it probably would have shorted out in the rain even if I had brought my iPod. There was nothing to do except circle through my thoughts over and over and most of those thoughts weren't pleasant.

Once I got to the 20s I was done, toast, baked, finished. I honestly didn't care if I finished but I didn't know any way to get back to my car except to keep moving forward. I had stopped a few times to refill my bottle but otherwise never stopped moving. Not even to remove the little stone that got in my shoe during mile 7. My feet were so wet that a little rock didn't make much difference to my comfort.

that's a dime - with the stone that accompanied me for 19 miles

I knew if I could just keep my pace during the 20s I would finish well within the allowed 6 hours. I tried, I really did, but my legs and brains had a big disconnect. I tossed my gloves, wrung out my skirt for about the 12th time and moved on. I kept up my nutrition, sucking down a gel every 40 minutes. I made sure I was hydrated even though I wasn't thirsty. I moved onward.

At that point I was still within the race's timeline but the road was opened to 2-way traffic while I was still on Silverado. I didn't mind the cars speeding past (too much) but I didn't need the buses and RVs spewing diesel in my face. My breathing got bad enough that I slowed to use my inhaler but that didn't help much.

Finally turning off Silverado gave my brain a boost but my legs got even slower. I knew, KNEW, that if I didn't maintain my speed I wouldn't finish in time but I just couldn't move faster. There were still quite a few other stragglers with and behind me. I finally got to where Mr. Garmin was telling me the end was close. I knew I was at least .2 ahead of course markings since I hadn't run tangents. I had to figure my math to include at least 2 minutes more than planned. It turned out that wouldn't have helped.

There were only a few corners left but I knew I was too slow by that point. I heard a crowd coming up behind me, some TnT people running in their friend. One broke off from the group and told me she was running me in since they were in the process of tearing down the finish and we only had 2 minutes. I blearily looked at her and realized I could still finish and possibly even be counted. I picked it up. She told me to go faster and I did. I was huffing and puffing and she was encouraging and cheering, the first really friendly person I'd seen for hours. She left me at the fences and told me to get going. So I did. I could see that the first timing mat was still there but the second was being removed. I crossed, had my picture taken and a volunteer draped the pretty medal around my neck. I turned off Mr. Garmin, took a peek and knew my 26.4 miles would be unofficial.

look - it spins!

The volunteer wouldn't let me stop (since I was gasping for air and shaking) but handed me a bottle of water and kept me walking. I got a heat sheet and was pointed onward. Another volunteer pointed out the building with hot soup but I couldn't stand the thought of food, I just wanted to lie down for a few hours. I retrieved my pack (very easy since there were only a couple dozen left) and went to the locker room.

Hot showers were available but I was too pooped to take advantage. I finally got the energy to strip off my soaking clothing and put on dry clothes, stretched a bit, and went to my car to start the long drive home.

My final thoughts: yuck. The route was pretty but unchanging. Even had it been sunny and clear it would have been 26 miles of the same stuff over and over. Even paradise gets boring after running through it for 6 hours and this was not paradise. I'm perfectly happy running by myself for long periods (time and space) but that was too much. It was monotonous. The race was well organized, premiums good, but I don't need to do this again. Without the relentless rain I think I would have felt better about the entire thing but I still would have been bored.

Thanks to the rain I'm blistered and chafed in places I don't normally chafe. I'm much more sore than I've been after my last few marathons and that's probably from the canted roads. I'm not happy with my performance so I'm hoping to redeem that in 3 weeks (and again 3 weeks after that). I can do better.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Damn the weather, full speed ahead

I keep telling myself that I'm resigned to the fact that my first running of the Napa Valley Marathon will involve rain, wind, cold and plenty of obscenities. I repeat to myself that I've run freezing marathons (several of them in fact), rainy marathons (Erie), windy marathons (Shamrock), hilly marathons (lots of those too). I remind myself that I'm well trained and perfectly capable of running fast enough to make the 6 hour cut-off. Then I finally decide that it doesn't matter, I paid my money and I'm running this thing unless the earth opens up and swallows me first.

Whatever happens, it's sure to be interesting.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I won't be running Boston

For those marathoners who have been hiding in a closet this week and missed the news, the Boston Athletic Association just announced new qualifying standards for their glorious marathon. The Boston Marathon, or "Boston" for those who are close friends, is one of the few marathons left in the US that require the runners to meet certain standards of speed for entrance. Standards which used to define "runner" but now just define "faster runner." Mind you, non-elite athletes can meet these standards. The times are graduated for sex and age (the older and femaler you are, the slower you can run).

It was JUST BARELY POSSIBLE that if I maintained my current PR of 5:30 until I reached 80 years old I could qualify. Now that dream has been taken away from me. The new qualifying standard for an 80 year old woman has been dropped to 5:25. While that's a 12:24 minutes/mile pace, I can't even hold that for a half marathon, let alone a full. Thanks a lot, BAA, for changing my future.

Fine, I'm joking. As a confirmed back-of-the-packer who has dreams of being a middle-of-the-packer, I have no problems with the change of standards. Lots of people are running marathons and why shouldn't the fastest runners have some way of showing off their speed. If too many people apply then raise the standards. If it's still too crowded then raise them again. I always thought that even though I might be running the same route and day as a 9 minute miler or a 7 minute miler (not even counting the elite 5 minute miler), the race experience is entirely different for each of us. This just confirms and gives them their own race. Most of the Rock 'n' Roll/Competitor races are for my people, the poky ones. Let Boston skim the top tier and RnR skim the bottom.

I'll keep running whatever race allows for 6 hours, keep trying to beat my best time and hope that there is a medal and a bagel left for me at the finish.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First taper of the year

My 18 mile training run hurt. My 20 mile training run hurt worse. When it came time for my 22 mile training run I was worried. My breathing hasn't been great; better than last winter/early spring but I've had a cold and allergy things and a never-ending cough. We planned the run for Sunday and the forecast was cool and overcast. The Sunday part worked out but the forecasters were wrong.

Anita and I showed up at the parking lot of the Lafayette-Moraga Trail at 7:00 am and it was freezing. Literally. Although the temp was rising it showed on my car thermometer as 32 degrees. The sun was rising and not a cloud was in in the sky. In the 5 hours it took us to finish the run the temp rose by 30 degrees. Seriously, how are you supposed to dress for a run when there's a 30 degree differential?

The run went well. Miles 1 through 7-1/2, the outward direction, went beautifully. It was cold but finally around mile 5 we could feel our toes again. After the hill at 7 miles we were sweaty and drippy. We headed back the other direction and the run still was going better than the previous 2 long runs. We chatted, finally starting to run out of conversation (and steam) when we got back to the parking lot.

At that point Bree met us, a breath of fresh air and a new source of stories to keep us aware and amused. These were the hardest 3-1/2 miles; upgrade and endless and away from the cars. There were too many walk breaks and too much grumbling (by me, of course). The turn-around was wonderful and we were able to walk less and run more. Slowly, but running nonetheless. Our 9:1 run:walk had changed to a 4:1. And it was warm. But downgrade so yippee and hurray. We "sprinted" to the finish with Anita actually sprinting and Bree and I trying to catch up. 22 miles in the book and within the cut-off time for the race.

After cramping up so badly after one of our runs I was determined to work on my fluid, electrolytes and nutrition. I confirmed once more that I have a drinking problem. No no no, I mean a problem drinking. Twice I managed to choke on my Ultima, once spewing a large mouthful in all directions. I drank a lot of Ultima. I also focused on my Gu's, sucking down a gel every 40 minutes. Espresso Love to the rescue, with a taste of Mandarin Orange and Vanilla Bean for variety. When I got good and sick and tired of the gel I ate a couple of Sport Beans. I can always eat candy, even when it comes loaded with performance/energy benefits. It worked, no cramping at all.

In fact, although I was exhausted and tired and sore, there was no pain. No pain on Sunday, no pain on Monday, no pain on Tuesday (until after Katie was done with guiding me through my workout). Sore, sure. Tired muscles and weary legs. Sore back, sore arms. No pain. No blisters and no black toenails. Very nice.

Sunday night we went out and celebrated Anita's birthday. It's only fair if you burn 2700 calories that you can eat and drink without counting nutrition. After 2 Orange Peel Manhattans I was feeling great. I was less hungry than expected but managed to consume more than I normally do in one sitting.

I'm excited (and still a little scared) about the upcoming race. I've wanted to run Napa since my first year of running marathons, 10 years ago. If I have a bad day it'll be a slog. I don't think I will though. I think it's going to be a good day, a good race, a good time. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Single track

Somewhere in the past couple of months I've lost my ability to successfully multi-task. I used to be able to knit and watch television, now I end up frogging more than I'd started with. I used to knit while listening to music or while in company and the end result now is tangles. I could read while watching television and enjoy both the book or newspaper and the program in front of me. Now I have to re-read or re-wind. I run on the treadmill while watching television but again, re-wind. I can no longer even edit pictures on my computer while the television is on. All that is to say that I need quiet and a lot of time or I'm not writing at all. Which means I haven't updated in ages. Here's what's been going on this January:

- I had a cold. It went away. Then a few weeks later it came back in the form of rampant allergies. Doesn't matter what caused it, it all involves sniffling, sneezing and coughing.

- I ran some long distances. The big problem is I haven't run the short distances. See above sinus problems for that reason. Without the weekday runs, the weekend runs are nowhere as enjoyable as they should be. Yes, 20 miles is hard no matter what but I enjoyed my fall 20 miler much more than then one last week. Ditto the 18 miler. I have my fingers crossed for the 22 miles.

- I registered for one marathon (Napa) and made travel plans for another (Oz) and daydreamed about many many others. I'm trying not to plan too far ahead or put too many races on the calendar because I don't want to pay for something I can't complete.

- I spent a lot of time in Summitt Hospital's emergency room with my mom (she's ok now). Then I spent time with her while she was an in-patient there. Then back in the emergency room. Just when you think the worst is behind, it isn't. But I repeat, she's ok now.

- I knit a lot. I also ripped out a lot of what I had knit. I decided to keep one mistake in a shawl and called it "planned." I finally cast on for the second sock of a pair of socks since I'd love to wear them some day. Preferably while it's still cold out. I've dreamed of other projects I'd like to start but the shawl, sock, other shawl and scarf sitting on my counter keep me from doing that.

- I've started planning the end of my life. No, seriously. I was told that my view of "fuck-em, I'm dead" toward my heirs having to go through probate, etc. was a little rude. Since I'm single and childfree, without a will or any planning my sis and bro would have a major pain in the ass if I dropped dead in the middle of a marathon (I'd be pretty pissed off too). Not that I have Walton-type money, but I do have a house and some retirement accounts. Not to mention all that yarn, those bears and those books. So I've started talking with an attorney and planner about the documents and other stuff. Also, for those friends of mine who care, I've instructed my sis to hold a big yarn party for my friends and give it all away (but if you hate red or black or gray, stay home).

- I pulled out the huge box of historical family pictures my mom dumped on me gave me when she moved and started trying to find wall space for everything. I've hung a few of them and the rest are scattered on my dining room floor, like jigsaw pieces awaiting some final form.

- Each Tuesday and Thursday morning I continued going to the gym and meeting with my trainer for a killer workout. From weight bars to mountain climbers to kettle bells to TRX to push-up after push-up, we're doing it all. Dark, cold, fog don't matter. At 6:00 am I'm at the gym ready to go.

- I fixed my screen door that's been broken since last summer. I removed the square wheels and replaced them with spanky new round ones. Remarkable how much better the door rolls when you do that. Even if the door frame is old and warped, round wheels make a door move better. Then I replaced the door handle which has been broken for years. Now I can open/close the door no matter which side I'm standing on. I can even lock it. For added measure I cleaned up all the leaves that came off the trees this year.

- While I was on a roll I cleaned out all the dead leaves from under my jasmine hedge by the back door. As usual the jasmine fought back and I was cut and scraped all over. I managed to do it on one of the very few beautiful warm days we've had this year. Unfortunately the leaves were all rotting and dusty and see about about allergy problems.

- I changed out a couple of the broken landscaping lights around my house. I need to get to a hardware store so I can replace a couple of others too. A light bulb change worked for a couple, but others are just dead as doornails.

- Haven't lost any more weight but haven't gained any either.

- I've played way the hell too much Bejeweled 3. I warn you, do not even think about following that link. If you do, don't download the free trial. If you absolutely have to try the game, at least don't buy it! If you end up playing for hours and hours and hours while your health (and your blog) deteriorate to nothing, don't blame me!

That's about it. How has your month been?