Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Christmas Run

I think this was one of my best runs ever. It wasn't particularly fast. I didn't worry about my heart rate. I didn't even stick to my training plan, but it was absolutely wonderful. I never want to forget it and what it meant to me. I got to spend time with all three of my best best friends - two in the flesh and one in spirit.

I spent Christmas weekend with my dear, dear college friend j00j in Evanston, north of Chicago, and her family. It was absolutely wonderful: we baked cookies, watched Doctor Who, went for walks, attended late night services at the church where her family has been going for generations, and generally enjoyed just having time together. I took a big chunk of smoked salmon from Pike's Place Market and it was absolutely delicious. And there was duck! QUACKQUACKQUACK. Yes, I did walk around quacking. I think it's a sign when every single member of the family bought everyone else dark chocolate for their stockings. It was the perfect Christmas.

But, of course, marathon training does not take time off for Christmas and I had a couple of short runs and a long run to get in. I set off after brunch & present-opening on Christmas under beautiful, sunny blue skies for six miles. I know it was Chicago, but the weather was perfect: it was warm enough to wear long sleeves and a vest and it was completely dry. I set off from my friend's house toward Lake Michigan, which was almost exactly a mile away. I loved that my route took me along the water front, where there were loads of families out on walks and kids trying out new bikes. There are beautiful views of the downtown skyline. And, I was listening to the new Christmas Wittertainment podcast, which was hilarious.

My first stop was supposed to be 3 miles away, but with some meandering (read: getting lost), I got there in 4. My other best college friend Jules is a very, very devout Baha'i and her grandmother is in the hospital, dealing with high fevers that have stopped her from having a procedure that she really, really needs. She's had a lot of ups and downs over the last few years and it's been very hard on Jules' entire family, especially her mom. I knew it would mean a lot to her if stopped by the Baha'i House of Worship (the only one in the United States) and read a prayer for her. I've always been an agnostic, but one who I believe understands how important religion is in the lives of others, particularly Jules'.

The House of Worship is an absolutely beautiful building (see above), covered in amazing, intricate carvings. I've been several times and it always takes my breath away. I left my Garmin with the volunteer at the door, because I knew it would beep when it lost satellite reception and took a seat. I read the prayer that Jules had texted to me several times, trying to concentrate on her grandmother and on the things that I wanted for every member of her family. It made me cry, but eventually it was just so peaceful. Earlham might have given my a Bachelor's degree, but I also learned how to center myself and open my heart. I was so glad to be there and to do what I could do to help Jules and her family go through a very hard time. (Even better, j00j & I skyped with Jules later that evening!)

My last stop was another mile away at the childhood home of the husband of my third (although, first) best friend, Duchie. It was so awesome to essentially give her a big, sweaty drive-by Christmas hug! We live on opposite coasts (FOR THE MOMENT), but it seems like we're never very far apart, really. It was pure luck that her husband grew up so close to j00j and it made me so happy that I could see her on Christmas.

After all the detours, my 6 mile scheduled run turned into 6.2 for the Home for the Holidays virtual 10k into 7 miles because I didn't feel like walking back so far.

This was a run where I got to spend time with the three most important women in my life, who are so different from each other, but who always inspire me (and who are so patient and supportive, even though I'm sure all three of them are ready to muzzle me when I start talking about the marathon and training). That was the best Christmas gift I could have gotten. (Second best: the Christmas running mix j00j made me with a techno remix of C is for Cookie!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Marathon Training Week 2

Monday: 3 miles easy

Tuesday: Strength training
This kicked my rear AGAIN, although I didn't realize it full-force until Thursday. My legs, my legs! Had to miss the local bar association's Christmas party to go to training, which was a bit sad, but I knew marathon training was going to involve sacrifice, right? And there's always next year.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy
Did an outside run. w00t! Had to knock these out in order to meet up with a friend to go to the local running store's Christmas party. So, 25% discount and four pairs of shoes later.... What?!? I'm trying to figure out which shoes are going to get me through marathon training and they have free returns!

Thursday: 3 miles easy

Friday: Strength training
This was a bit of a cop out. I couldn't muster the energy to go to the gym, even though my legs felt less tired after sleeping in my compression tights (all hail the compression tights). So, instead, I used my 5lb. weights and my own body weight and did what I could here at home. I still worked up a sweat, but definitely didn't do everything that I'd done on Tuesday. Still, I did something and I think that's what counts.

Saturday: Rest day/trip to Mt. Rainier
This was a change from the "official" schedule and one that I'm so grateful that I made. Saturday was stunningly beautiful and I think it was 100% the right decision to move my long run to Sunday and take today to go to Mt. Rainier with my roommate (see previous post). We didn't do enough walking to really call it cross-training, so I'd say my legs got a good rest in!

Sunday: 9 mile long run
More fun on the Burke-Gilman trail for me...trying not to die laughing over Mark Kermode's review of the new Chipmunk's movie on my Wittertainment podcast. I thought my peanut butter Gu was really tasty and my new Camelbak worked pretty well. I still need to do some adjustments, I think, because my left shoulder got pretty sore and needed to be stretched out and I got a bit of chafing under my left arm. Met my roommate for tea/light lunch afterwards, which was lovely.

Mount Rainier!

The summit view from Paradise (that's where one of the big visitor's centers is and an inn, although it was closed for the season):

My mentor at work has been very concerned that I don't get out enough around the region and has taken to telling me about new places to visit every time we talk. As a result, I talked my roommate into a trip to Mt. Rainier. We were so lucky to have absolutely beautiful weather - it was sunny and warm and just absolutely stunning. There was a bit of light hiking, an amazing waterfall, and I tried out my yaktrax for the first time (they're coils you slip on the bottom of your shoes for traction). And us Indiana girls spent the whole day going OMG, MOUNTAIN!!! LOOK THERE'S A MOUNTAIN!!! It was great!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Week One

Week One is in the books and the first row of stars is on my marathon plan at work (blue for easy runs, yellow for strength days, red for pace runs, green for long). The week went really well. I thought Wednesday's 5 miles at marathon pace were pretty boring on the treadmill, but I was very proud of getting through them and nailing the pace right where I wanted it to be. It seems that treadmill running is just a bit less boring when you have hills to think about going up and down. Just a bit.

I felt famous during that run, too, because my "Rate Your Run" entry to Marathon Talk got read out in Episode 98, which I happened to be listening to at the time. I had a feeling they wouldn't be able to resist a race report complete with a mashed potato munch-off.

So, I've seen lots of other bloggers do a weekly recap this way, so that's what I'm going to try and do once a week during my training. Hopefully I'll have something else to say once in awhile, but it's a good minimum goal:

Monday: 3 miles easy
These were a little fast, because I was running purely on feel, but that's ok.

Tuesday: Trainer day
I really like my trainer, even though I still feel kind of guilty about having one. She's coached cross-country and run a marathon in the past, which I definitely like. I feel like her workouts are a good balance between complete-in-the-moment butt kickings and still being too sore the next day (because my hardest training runs, at marathon pace, will be every other Wednesday). Plus, she's from Indiana!

Wednesday: 5 miles at marathon pace
My ongoing concern here is that I don't actually know what my marathon pace is. I figure that I'm going to train at the paces the Macmillan pace calculator suggests for a 4:30 marathon (which I think is kind of a long shot) and then just enjoy myself on the day itself. I don't want to miss the experience of running London because I'm so focused on a time goal. If my half marathon experience is anything to go by, the first one is about the experience and then you worry about the times later (that is, of course, if I ever do this to myself again). Oh & the run was good, too.

Thursday: 3 miles easy
There's not much to say. It was cold and dark and I ran.

Friday: Strength
On Fridays, I repeat the workout that I did with the trainer on Tuesday. But, it never feels quite as hard as it does when someone's pushing me, even if I do the same number of reps. Or, in theory, I could be getting stronger. Got up early to do this one before making green bean casserole for the office Xmas party (yes, on my day off). Caught the end of the Harlequins game against Toulouse (*sad face*) and went to Ikea with roommate before picking roommate's sister up at the airport for our weekend of shopping, food and awesome.

Saturday: 8 miles long
Not a terrible day for a run. Ran from home, down through Volunteer Park, over University Bridge, on the Burke-Gilman train for a bit, then heading back. I timed the turnaround completely I didn't have to do ALL of the hills on the way back (so, depends on your definition of "wrong") before stopping to pry a bagel and mocha out of some hipster hands. When asked for opinions on whether I should get a hot chocolate or a mocha (it's hot chocolate milk, right?) I was given the "WTF, it's MORNING, drink COFFEE, you FREAK" look. I wanted to comment that "DUDE, I just ran 8 miles. I THINK I'm awake now," but I didn't. The run was nice & disc one of Justice Steven's book kept me company for the first hour. Nerd heaven.

The rest of the day involved haircuts, MOAR sushi, shopping, pizza, Bridesmaids, and Toddlers & Tiaras. It was glorious.

Sunday: Rest day.
I rested the heck out of this day with dim sum (omnomnomnom), visiting the Humane Society (we're thinking about fostering!), Theo chocolates, Sunday markets, a trip to the REI mothership (cannot WAIT to try out my new camelbak on a run), and yummy dinner at home. I was sad that roommate's sister had to go home today, because it was an awesome weekend.

Next week
Monday: 3 miles easy (done)
Tuesday: Trainer
Wednesday: 5 miles easy
Thursday: 3 miles easy
Friday: Strength
Saturday: 9 miles long
Sunday: REST

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tomorrow, tomorrow...

Marathon. Training. Starts. Tomorrow!

I still think I'm in good shape. I did my 7 mile long run yesterday at world-record slow pace, but I did it. And it wouldn't have been QUITE so slow, if I hadn't chosen some really challenging hills to tackle. Was it my best run? No. Was it the worst? No. Would have I have done anything differently? Probably yes - I would have run today when it was beautiful and sunny, instead of yesterday when it was grey and horrible and I probably could have found a better pre-run fuel than chocolate covered Trader Joe's brand knock-off oreos.

I'm excited. I cannot wait to start sticking stars on my training plan to show which runs I've finished and I'm really excited that I have a running buddy who's training for Boston while I'm training for London. Right now, that start line feels really far away (albeit, not as far away as the finish line feels), but I'm ready for the challenge. I've just got to stick to my plan and run smart for the next five months. And I think I can do that.

In other news, I had a lovely day that started with My Week With Marilyn, which was totally fluffy, but very fun. I think Michelle Williams will be getting award nominations, that I didn't love Kenneth Branagh's performance (although I LOVE Kenneth Branagh, but this felt a little too much like an impression), Dominic Cooper is just WEIRD with an American accent, Judy Dench is awesome (as ever...and Quaker!), Simon Russell Beale's part was way too small (couldn't HE have been Marilyn?), and the actor playing Colin was kind of adorable. Did I mention that my local multiplex only charges $6 for screenings before noon? (Yes, I would have chosen not to go to the multiplex, but there were very limited options for this particular film and this was the one that was accessible by bus.)

Later, I wandered down to Pike's Place, via Westlake, doing Christmas shopping. I had several thoughts: 1) Seattle amuses me in so many ways and 2) thank goodness my employer decided to send me to a city that is as serious about it's clam chowder as I have always been. I capped the day off with a bus to Green Lake to return a pair of shoes and pick up a new pair. Didn't love the Brooks Pure Connect - felt too narrow and overdesigned, in general, but am hoping for better results with the Brooks Green Silence, which should be showing up at my door on Tuesday (my size was out of stock, so I get free rush shipping instead).