6.30.2009

Is it fate?

I have been pretty disenchanted with every danged shoe I have tried since my beloved NB 902s were discontinued over a year ago. My very last pair only has about 20 miles of life left in them, so they are no longer used for anything more than 4-5 milers.

I wore their replacement (903) for the Bayshore Marathon back in May, but do not love this shoe. The fit is not bad, per se, but it's...weird. It's kind of tall in the toebox and feels floppy, even though it is neither too long or too wide. But I know a shoe is not perfect when it is noticeable on my foot. 26.2 miles of noticing one's footwear is a long time to be mildly annoyed. My feet didn't cramp during the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in my 902s (even when everything else was), but they did in my 903s. I always feel a little like my feet are working to stabilize the shoe on my foot...like my toes are curling. I know others found this shoe to not fit as well as its predecessor, too.

And the replacement of the 903, the 904 (yeah, needless to say...NB cannot leave well enough alone, it seems) is just plan a bad bad bad shoe for me. Poor fit and feet screaming by 9 miles into a long run. Not good. Can't even think about that shoe for a half marathon, much less the full.

My Mizuno Elixirs are an OK shoe, but a bit firmer than I like, a hair too narrow (I get blisters between my toes on longer runs, even with BlisterShield powder in my socks), and the damned forefoot dots that make up the outersole are nearly worn away to the white midsole in a couple of spots--cripes, the shoes only have 80 miles on them. Even if I loved the shoe I'm not sure I could justify dropping $90 on them every 150 miles (when I am guessing the dots will be gone enough to hamper wet traction). I would be buying a new pair every month at that rate (just ran that mileage this past month, and this was not a high mileage month for me).

So I pre-ordered a pair of the upcoming Nike Lunarglide+ based upon descriptions that have it sounding like exactly the shoe I need (of course, the ultimate factors will be fit and function, but it sounds like it might actually work well for duck feet from what people who have tried them on are saying, heh). The shoe is not due to ship from US stores until early Aug., but the men's version is already shipping directly from Nike.

The color Nike was showing for women (when it becomes available) had been the white + orange midsole. Kinda cool...for a white shoe. This is the color I had pre-ordered from Road Runner Sports, but if they become available from Nike before that I may order a pair sooner, then decide whether or not to cancel the RRS order.

Anyhow...tonite I was checking Nike.com to see if the shoe is yet available for women and I saw this...

The resemblance between that shoe and my pretty 902s is striking, wouldn't you agree? Like they could be bright blue siblings. Oh, I really hope this is the case. Perhaps I am just destined to always be happy in blue shoes.

I'll probably order the white/orange as my trial pair, then if I like them go for the blue. My first marathon was run in blue shoes...perhaps that should be my signature race shoe color. Some people have lucky socks or a specific shirt they always wear for races. Maybe I should just stick to a lucky shoe color. It makes it easier for my fans to find me on the course, too. How many (slow) people wear bright blue shoes?

Cool, glorious cool!

Wow, what a difference 30º makes! A week ago I was slogging my way through runs in near 90º heat, but today it was a maximum of 60 cool, damp, breezy, overcast degrees...ahhh...running Nirvana! 8 miles felt nearly effortless...had to rein it in a bit, since today was a scheduled easy run. I will do a 6 mile tempo on Saturday before heading over to my MIL's for 4th of July festivities.

Today's run was otherwise quite ordinary. Though I did encounter a skinny, young, fast runner who I have seen a few times in the past couple of weeks while running and driving through the adjacent town. She is one of those runners who LOOKS like a runner (as opposed to me...I look more like a busty couch potato, regardless of what my running log displays. In my dreams I am built like that). Her build and gait remind me a lot of my HS classmate who has run in the last 2 Olympic marathon trials -- smallish, leggy, lean, efficient. *sigh* What I wouldn't give to look and run like that. I could lose 30#s and still not run that well (damned short legs and oversized hooters). My ancestors (Vikings) swung clubs and axes, raped, pillaged, burned villages...didn't need to run fast, since we had superior weapons and trans-water transportation skills.

This gal came up onto the paved rail trail off of a little side path from out of the woods. After that I only saw her back. Maybe a mile-and-a-half later she was returning. As we met I waved and said hi. She was quite obviously going out of her way to avoid making eye-contact or a return of my pleasantries...OK...one of those runners. She looked to be all of 20. I guess it's not cool to acknowledge a fellow runner who is nearly old enough to be one's mother and carrying at least 30#s more, huh? I make up for runners (and cyclists) like that, as I am always happy to exchange waves and hellos to runners (and cyclists) of all ages, including those who are in their 50s and 60s and old enough to be my parents. Different strokes.

6.29.2009

Back to it...

So it's probably been a good 6 weeks since I last did ANY ab/core work. I could feel it over the past 3-4 weeks...toward the end of longer runs and races my lower back started feeling sore and weak...then my posture/form would suffer. The sort of thing that is just begging for an injury. Today marked day 2 of my 3rd round of marathon training (woot!), so I'm back to more consistently getting in my strength work. I think I want to start working on my floppy chicken arms, too. Hopefully it won't be too hot for the remainder of the Summer, since working out in an un-air-conditioned house isn't real pleasant and I'm likely to skip these cross-training workouts if it means being miserably overheated--our big, new TV puts out a surprising amount of heat, too (I thought LCDs were supposed to be so much cooler than old CRT tube sets...huh). But without my Cathe DVDs I'm likely to skip reps and sets...um.

Yesterday I ran an easy 4 for recovery after my 15k the prior day. It felt really good. But today I definitely had the doldrums that seem to come 2 days after a hard workout or race. I have really just wanted to curl-up in bed with a cat or two. Probably doesn't help that it's markedly cooler and less humid today, so my body feels just generally relaxed and craving curling-up under a quilt for a cat-nap.

6.27.2009

Race Report: 2009 Muskegon Chronicle Seaway Run 15k

One of my favorite races is almost always one of my worst...and I'm OK with that

Today marked the 3 year anniversary of my first road race ever--the Chronicle Seaway Run. The first year I ran the 5k in a blistering 31:13...and was bitten HARD by the race bug.

Ever since then I have done the 15k. First year the miles were not well-marked (they still aren't--rather than signs they have someone at each mile-marker with a stopwatch calling out times. I would much prefer a visible reference, since I am usually too spaced-out to notice random people yelling along the sides, regardless of WHAT they are yelling), so I sandbagged a lot, not knowing where I was on the course and how much further I had to go.

That race was a big factor in my Garmin purchase a few months later.

Last year it was SUPER humid AND hot, plus I was in the middle of knee crap. I was just happy to finish alive and still able to walk.

This year I bettered my time from last year by over 2 minutes for a course PR (1:29:47), but not a true PR. My 15k PR is over a minute faster...and on a MUCH more difficult course. But it's also in March, which means perfect humidity and temps and minimal allergy/asthma issues.

Every year I slowly chip-away at my time from the previous year. And this year I was not last in my age group...I was still 11th, but 11/12. Did I mention this race attracts a lot of speedy people? Usually I finish races right in the middle of the pack or at the back of the big pack, but I am always pokin' along at the rear of this event. One of these days I'd be happy to finish in the top half of my AG...think it's gonna take droppin' 20#s for that to happen.

6.25.2009

RIP Michael Jackson & Farrah Fawcett

Icons of my youth...

Michael was such a mess for the past 20 years or so...but he still created a lot of music that I really enjoyed and was a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood. I just could not bring myself to buy any of it--I could not support his potentially pedophiliac behavior. Today I downloaded a sort of "greatest hits" album spanning his entire career off of iTunes. At least now I feel sort of like my hands are clean, since there are kids who may benefit from purchases of his work.

My favorite MJ video...in large part due to the Herb Ritts direction. It's like many of his still photos put into a motion picture:


Just beautiful.

To pick a favorite song would be more difficult. I love some of the early Jackson 5 stuff, as well as some fairly recent solo work. I think I like some of the stuff off of "Dangerous" best. That was the album he released during my first year of college. I have a lot of fond memories of watching MTV (back when they still played videos) in our dorm room.

The first 2-3 miles almost invariably stink

Yeah, no one ever told me this about running....

How many times did I start and stop regular running before it finally "took" 3 years ago? At least twice that I can recall. Looking back it's so painfully obvious why running was, uh, painful. I was going about it all wrong.

First of all I was under the impression that I should be able to go out and hammer away at 2-3 miles from nothing. Looking back I see how ridiculous this assumption was, but my earlier running attempts were all done prior to the Internet and the venerable Couch-to-5k program. I never thought to pick up a book for beginner runners, either, and never considered the fact that as a runner in high school and jr. high I still had the benefit of regular PE classes, so I wasn't starting track seasons on no base.

I really have that Couch-to-5k program to thank for the 2 marathons and countless shorter distances that are now under my belt. In 2 days I will be celebrating 3 years since my very first road race just a few weeks after completing the C25k program--the Muskegon Chronicle Seaway Run. 3 years ago I ran the 5k, but ever since it's been the 15k for me. I don't really care for 5ks.

And here is why...and the crux of what I (and so many others) have learned after completing a beginner's running plan and continuing on: the first 2-3 miles are absolute crap. This is true for me at least 90% of the time. Occasionally I will have a run where I feel unbelievable badass and light on my feet from the first step. But this is definitely NOT the norm. Most of my runs start with 2 miles that are little more than plodding misery. Sometimes they are somewhat painful, but mostly they just feel stiff, slow, and clumsy.

Nowadays the only way I will sign-up for a 5k is if I can get in a mile or two of warm-up BEFORE the gun goes off (and if there isn't a longer distance available). Otherwise I don't waste the entry fee. 3.1 miles is miserable if I spend the first 2/3 of the race just working out the staleness in my legs.

Luckily it's not often more than 2 miles, but there have been the occasional run where it takes me 3-4 miles to feel "warmed-up." Rarely I will have runs where I never find my groove. Those really stink...especially when it's a run of 10 miles or more. Those runs are LONG and usually invoke some 4-letter words spewed-forth in grunts and moans.

Over the last 3 years I have been finding myself telling each and every person I know who is considering taking up running not to lose hope when running feels very hard at first. I wish someone would have told me this. I always assumed that if it stunk at 1 or 2 miles in that it would only get worse, which is the opposite of how running works for me...and for nearly every runner I know.

Pseudo-Sauna

That's what it still feels like in my world. I "woke" at 2:30am (after not really sleeping soundly for a couple of hours) miserable...hot, sweaty, short of breath, and queasy. It was 80º in the house according to our wall thermostat and our weather station. To make matters worse, the humidity was 90%.

We have a window A/C unit for our bedroom, but hubby talked me into leaving it in the garage for another night. He swore up-and-down that he'd seen a forecast that predicted a cooling storm to come through around midnight. Weather.com did not predict this. They are showing a brief storm passing through this afternoon, but what is behind it is not greatly cooler or less humid. Weather.com was right.

I took a couple of hits off my inhaler and was still feeling a bit like I was suffocating (which is not particularly conducive to relaxing so sleep can come). So I popped an Ambien to at least knock me out so that I could sleep. It worked. I was out until 10:30.

Today I feel like I've been run-over. I'm really glad that I have no runs on the agenda. I should get a short core workout in, but I'm having a tough time just moving. The inhaler isn't helping much. And I'm dealing with the lovely gastric issues that always seem to accompany heatwaves. Once the thermometer gets much above 80 I start to wilt. My predominantly Nordic heritage is not evolved for heat tolerance. Though I am not particularly fond of extreme cold, either. I'd probably do best someplace like Seattle or Nova Scotia--where extremes in temperature are mostly non-existent.

Plus super dry (Winter) or super humid (Summer) weather are pretty contraindicated for ideal asthma control. Yet we live in a place where we get several months of the year of one or the other. Yucko. Next house will at least have central air (and more than one closet, and space for a decent home workout area and treadmill...). Our large humidifier does a good job in the Winter to keep our indoor air reasonably moist, but keeping our air from being soupy in the Summer is an issue.

I finally registered for the Seaway Run 15k on Saturday. Looks like it will be reasonably decent weather. A little humid, but not too hot and looks like any storms will be later in the day (that was my primary reason for procrastinating on the registration. It's >$30 and non-refundable should the race be cancelled for lightning). Shouldn't be more than 75 or so by the time I finish. I think it was at least 80 last year, with high humidity. My legs feel pretty strong and recovered from the Bayshore Marathon a month ago and the trail relay almost 2 weeks ago, so all that training and recovery could = a pretty sweet PR. Woot!

6.24.2009

Welcome to the Jungle!

Ack, it's so steamy...it's hot, too, but the stickiness is the worst. We don't have central air and our toilet is sweatin' like a whore in church.

Yesterday I managed a 4 mile run at high noon at pretty typical easy pace. It actually felt pretty good, but I definitely was glad to be done. Today I have 6 on the agenda, but it will have to wait until evening. I had originally planned to get out this AM with the rugrat on his bike, but I didn't sleep well (DH will get the window A/C unit put in our bedroom if he knows what's good for him) and laid-around in bed until about 9:30. I just felt like a puddle of warm cat puke.

I don't think the heat is actually the worst of it. It's the super saturated air that is doing me in. My lungs just can't tolerate it. I feel like I'm in the midst of a constant asthma attack. And I still haven't registered for the 15k on Saturday. The weather is still too up-in-the-air and with my lungs being kinda wimpy I'm stalling a bit. But I really love that race and will probably bite the bullet and register online later today.

Speaking of...yesterday in the late afternoon I took DS to the nearest med center. He has been coughing non-stop since the heatwave hit. Yesterday he got to hacking so hard that he almost puked. I was concerned that he was having an asthma attack. He has never been diagnosed, but I am asthmatic, as is my mom and my nephew (and my brother has never been diagnosed, but has more than a few symptoms)...so it definitely runs in the family.

The doctor who saw him was wonderful...checked his pulse ox and listened to his lungs. He doesn't believe he has asthma, but admitted that the most conclusive diagnosis would have to come from a pulminologist. I know that it's possible to have asthma without the obvious wheezing and gasping symptoms, as my mom and I both have more of the coughing and shortness of breath symptoms that are not the more stereotypical signs.

We decided that he's likely having bad allergic response to all of the trees and grass that are in high bloom. As well as the fact that he has had his daily dose of Claritin only sporadically since school ended. In the meantime the doc prescribed a tussin + codeine med to help the cough and 6 days of Prednisone, as he does have signs of respiratory swelling.

He's MUCH better today. Coughing is at a minimum and when he does cough, it's more productive (that would be thanks to the tussin).

6.22.2009

I resemble that!

Pokey bebeh turtle AND snail...awww.... I almost stepped on the tiniest turtle ever on the bike path this AM. Little guy sucked his head and legs back into his shell just as I adjusted my path to avoid squishing him under my left foot.

Today I got in a pretty steamy 8 miler. By 10am it was already pushing 80, but the heat was not the worst part, it was the sticky humidity. Felt a bit like breathing Jell-O. I don't know how people down South run in weather hotter than this...probably like they can't comprehend running in sub-zero temps and 6"+ of snow on the roads.

I handled it alright, thanks largely to a light breeze (had it been still that would not have been the case) and full shade for much of the route I chose. My pace was about normal. I seem to acclimate to heat better the older I get. Conversely, I also don't do as well in cold as I did when I was younger. Perhaps this is why older folks like to retire to warmer climates. I know my mom does better in heat and worse in cold than she did when she was younger, too.

I still sweat like a friggin' horse when I run, though. When I arrived home it looked like I had wet myself...though only if my urethra ended at the small of my back. My wicking Bondi Band was so saturated that sweat was starting to run into my eyes. I may have to switch back to hats or Headsweats for really hot runs in the future.

My right knee felt pretty pissy early and late in my run and for a brief time after I finished, but is mostly fine a few hours later. I'm chalking it up to residual symptoms from my miserable 13 miler 2 days ago in shoes that just don't agree with me.

Saturday is my favorite 15k race. I still have not officially registered...the forecast is kinda iffy. One of those "intermittent thunderstorms" deals. I may wait and register the night before at packet pick-up, when I have a better idea of the likelihood of cancellation due to lightning. Race cancellations are non-refundable, so I'm not eager to waste fees without the pleasure of actually racing.

6.21.2009

Interesting...very interesting

In my eternal quest for the perfect shoe (I mean, to replace my perfect shoe that was discontinued over a year ago--NB 902) I have been met with ample frustration. The issue I have run into most is that wide shoes that are also flexible and stable are pretty much non-existent. So I can choose between blisters or knee issues or peroneal tendon pain. All things that are not real conducive to running.

My current primary shoe is the Mizuno Wave Elixir 4. I like it...but I don't love it. It's a bit firmer than I like and a hair too snug in the forefoot. I have yet to wear it for anything longer than 11 miles and experienced some blistering between toes that were too squished together. I found that a pair of Superfeet blue insoles take up less space and allow my toes more room to spread...but they are also not at all cushioned, so the bottoms of my feet start feeling pretty beat-up after only 8 miles or so. No big deal for races of 10 miles or less, but could potentially be a very big "pain" for a half-marathon or longer.

So I happened to catch some commentary on the Runner's World Online board regarding the upcoming Nike Lunarglide+. Now, in the past I have not been a fan of Nike. I find their shoes to just fit sorta...weird. Their wide Air Structure Triax+ 11 (or was it 12?) actually felt almost too wide. But the Lunarglide sounds like it might be a really good "fit" for my feet and needs--at least on paper. This bit from a Nike press-release, in particular, is intriguing:
The Women’s Nike LunarGlide+
• Includes more soft foam under the heel than the men’s model and is more flexible under the forefoot because, on average, a woman weighs 10 to 15 percent less than a man of the same stature, and therefore has less mass with which to compress and flex a shoe’s midsole.
• The women’s Nike LunarGlide+ has a two-part, gender-specific external heel counter engineered to accommodate a woman’s distinct needs for comfort, fit and support around the heel.
• Nike has applied its Dynamic Fit Technology, a stretchy material, adjacent to the big toe, which expands to accommodate varying widths. Women tend to have broader forefeet which can lead to fit issues and abrasions.
The stability system of the shoe sounds interesting, too. Apparently the design lends itself to runners in a gamut from mild supinators to moderate overpronators. I will likely still want my Superfeet insoles, but it would be excellent to find a shoe that would control my overpronation AND be flexible in the forefoot. If such a beast existed I could toss the Superfeet altogether.

A Nike employee on RWOL who was involved in the design of the shoe said that the last is fairly straight, so that should work well with my duck feet, too. Semi-curved shoes always end up beating up on my last 2 toes and contribute to blister issues.

And it's not a bad looking shoe, either. Apparently these are 2 of the colorways that will be available to women:
Release date for the shoe appears to be up-in-the-air. Looks like Europe and Asia may be getting it in early July, but the US market won't see it until Aug. (what is up with US companies releasing shoes to the US AFTER the rest of the world gets their hands on them?). This will give me plenty of time to give the shoe a try and determine whether it's a viable long-distance trainer for me before the Grand Rapids Marathon in mid-Oct.

In actual running news, I had a completely craptacular run yesterday. 13 miles of meh. The first 7 or so were actually not so bad, but then I started overheating and remembered that I didn't like the shoes I was wearing (NB 904), not just overall fit (which was better with that thin pair of Superfeet blue insoles thrown in--no blisters or tight spots), but they make my feet sore...starting with my outer arches, then spreading. The blue Superfeet insoles decrease the cushion and after a while I felt like I was running in flats. I could feel every little pebble under my foot and my forefoot and heel areas felt as if someone were taking a mallet to them with every step. It's hard to comprehend what a very different shoe the 904 is from it's prior 2 predecessors. I have run marathons in those shoes with minimal discomfort on the bottoms of my feet. So the 904s are officially relegated to runs of no more than 5-6 miles. They are fine for those distances.

This week will be an easier running week. Part of yesterday's misery was almost certainly due to 38 miles in 6 days without a rest day--this after beating my body up in last weekend's trail relay. This week I only plan to run ~30 miles, including the Muskegon Chronicle Seaway Run 15k on Sat. This is one of my favorite races. I just hope it's less hot and humid this year. Last year was ROUGH!

6.20.2009

I don't feel so good...

(yeah, that should be well, not good...grammar snobs)

Last night I had the nagging sensation of something caught in my throat. A quick inspection with the flashlight confirmed my suspicions--I have oral thrush, again. Gah!

So this AM I was up at 5:30 to get my mom and nephew back to the Badger ferry for their trip across Lake MI back to WI. On my way back through town I stopped by the medi center. I have used that place several times over the years when I have been under the weather on the weekend. Unfortunately they are no longer open on Saturdays. Crap.

I returned home and considered waiting until tomorrow to run to the medi center connected to the hospital 20+ minutes away, but decided that I didn't want to extend this crap any longer than possible. I caught the symptoms before they become too painful, but I expect things to get worse rapidly. Plus I have a dentist appt. on Monday and I'd like to have this cleared before then. My guess is that they wouldn't do my cleaning with raw sores in my mouth and throat (nor would I want them to--ow).

The doc at the medi center confirmed my diagnosis and sent me on my way with a script for 3 150mg Diflucan, each taken 4 days apart. Thankfully I will not be battling this for a month, like I did last time. That was godawful...though I did lose weight. I already have the queasiness that seems to come with this, as well as the sort of raw and numb feeling and bitter taste in my mouth. Gross.

The primary cause of this thing is the Advair inhaled steroid I take for my asthma. I am on the 250/50 dose, which I can hopefully have reduced to the 100/50 version (the first # is the dose of the steroid, the second # is the bronchodilator). The Zyrtec antihistamine I take for my allergies works so well that my asthma has seemed to be less of an issue. Cutting the dose of the steroid should hopefully decrease my propensity for thrush in the future.

I also plan to do a trial of discontinuing the nasal steroid (Flonase) I use for my sinus allergies. That stuff also drains down my throat and encourages yeast overgrowth. It's the same steroid in my inhaler and it doesn't seem to do as much for my allergies as the Zyrtec does. Would be nice not to have so many prescriptions to keep track of, too. "Better living through chemistry" can be a real pain in the rear.

So here I sit as it's going on 2pm and the hottest part of the day. And I need to run at least 13 miles. I had wanted to do that as soon as I got home from dropping my mom and nephew off to the ferry, but life always seems to want to get in the way of running. So now I'm waiting for the shadows to get a bit longer so that my 2.5 hours of running are not so much in the sun. I can handle running in heat better when I'm in the shade.

6.18.2009

Still grinning from ear-to-ear

Nevermind how crabby I look in this photo (I like to believe that I was thinking to myself "That's MS. Captain!"), I was having such a blast from the time I woke at 3:30am (a bit before my alarm was set to go off) until I finally crashed back in bed around midnight.

I am STILL on a happy high ever since Saturday's trail relay up-north. I'd do one every weekend if I could. Perhaps next year I would consider doing the Dances With Dirt relay in Hell, MI, though it would likely mean not doing the Old Boys' Brewhouse Oktoberfest Marathon, as they are only a week apart. That's probably biting-off a bit too much.

This is my only "action" shot...uh...yeah, I have a massive spare tire going on. Ugh. So need to get that under control. It looks like all 6 members of our team want in again for '10, so it will be interesting to see how much we can improve in a year.

My #1 goal is to drop my nagging extra 20#s that have been dogging me ever since I started running. That could spell as much as a minute/mile pace increase. Being able to run faster will also allow me to run more miles in the time I have...more miles = more speed, too. And less wear-and-tear on my joints.

But, perhaps most importantly, race photos that don't make me cringe. There was not a single "official" photo from Bayshore that didn't embarrass me. I'd love to have the dilemma of so many flattering photos of a skinny, toned bod that I can't pick just one...

Plus I'd like a new running skirt or two in the next year, but I refuse to buy my current size. 20#s should net me at least one size smaller.

Here's the good-looking group of people who shared the ~78 miles with me on Saturday. I wish I could run with this group every week...especially with beer and a cookout at the end of the run!

More photos from the day can be found HERE. Eventually I hope to have some video to share, too. Heather brought a nifty little videocamera, so there are several video clips from the race. Team HTFU! needs its own YouTube page.

6.14.2009

North Country Trail Relay 2009 -- the team that almost wasn't

(copied from RunningAHEAD.com)

What a saga getting to race day...of the 6 of us who ran, only 3 of us had originally registered (Eryn, Heather, moi). Rick, Jen (Rick's fiancée), and Don were our saviors. Don joined the team in the final hour when just a couple of days prior to the race we lost our 6th runner.

We were a motley, mis-matched crew of speedy 20-somethings, pokey 30-something moms, and a 62 year old who could still kick a helluvalot of ass without meniscus in either knee. But for our first team effort we did amazingly well and didn't come in last (I believe there were still at least 2 teams with actual times slower than ours out of 53. With handicap we move up further in the ranking--helps to have 4 women and a senior dude on the team).

Our final adjusted time was ~12:40 (we had one runner start early when the previous runner was reported lost with 3 other runners on the leg. Since we weren't sure how far back they were we let the next runner go, then reported the time difference to the RD at the finish). We were elated, as we had mentally prepared ourselves to take closer to 14 hours...or more. Last year a team finished in 16 hours and this was the first trail race of this level of difficultly for most of us on the team and we've had some recent health, training, and marathon recovery issues to contend with.

But no one ended up seriously injured or slowed. On leg 4 I came upon a runner who was riding piggy-back on a teammate to a road to be transported to the nearest hospital. She had broken her ankle badly on only her first leg. We came to be very fond of the team that lost her for the rest of the race. They really rallied and absorbed her miles. Their wonderful guy on the team (Paul) was the gentleman who carried their injured runner for miles to help, then finished her leg (he was a machine...he got her to the road, then passed my ass. Poor Paul ended up doing 2 legs with our Rick...and having to face being brutally passed both times). We finished ahead of the their team, but not without some guilt. Next time we hope to beat them fair and square.

The various legs on the race site are described in terms of difficulty and quality of scenery. The descriptions were spot-on. My first 7.5 mile leg was described as "gut-buster" and "visually orgasmic," which were perfectly accurate. It was stunning...and stunningly difficult. One section of switchbacks up a hill about killed-me, though earlier sections on lumpy grass with a narrow rut down the middle were pretty brutal on my ankles. Somehow I managed to go the entire race without falling or even having a single "oh shit" moment, which astounds me. The first leg also had a couple of narrow ridge areas that kind of freaked me out....one wrong step in either direction and they probably wouldn't have found my body for weeks. The old Garmin definitely lost signal in spots on this leg--likely on the steep switchback area under dense tree cover. It recorded about a third of a mile less than this leg has been measured.

My second leg (#8, 2.5 miles) was pretty and easy. Not particularly memorable, but a nice change-of-pace from my hairy and scary first leg. Leg #11 (3.5) was also mine and I was originally not sure if I would do this leg or hand it off, but I recovered well from my second leg and did it. I didn't push myself as hard as I could have on this one, though. From the course description I was expecting a few big hills. In reality there was just one big climb that I ran/walked a little conservatively, as I was waiting for more. By this time I was starting to feel really shot and like a dumbass forgot to use my inhaler prior to the leg, so by the time I came upon the incline I was starting to get the tight coughing and inability to catch my breath, even with walking. Won't make that mistake again...

Today I am exhausted...not so much sore (thank you marathon training for the physical preparation!), but wiped-out. I think as much from not sleeping well in several nights as from the race itself. We're already planning to put together a team next year...hopefully finalizing the group MONTHS before the race, instead of days in advance. This time around we won't allow any lawyers who can't read on the team. I'm also going to make hill training a priority, even if it means driving an hour each way to find some hills to run on. The hills kicked my butt pretty badly.

After the race we enjoyed a BBQ and beer in the middle of the Manistee National Forest (the entire race was on MNF land). Once our stomachs were full we loaded back in the team vehicle (Ruby the Honda Pilot) to return to the hotel where most of us stayed...wow, what a stench! I don't think I have ever been so filthy and glad to hit the shower. Peeeuw!

We took quick showers to get the loose stuff off and then soaked in the hotel pool and hot tub...aaaahhh... We'd had plans to drink our mini keg of Bell's Oberon, but we each had about a glass (instead of medals this race has traditionally given out heavy pint glasses--woot!) and that was it...everyone was ready for bed (we'd all been up since at least 4am). Next time around we'll bring individual bottles, that way runners can have beer after they're finished with their legs. There's ample time at most exchange spots to have a beer...and we couldn't crack the mini-keg earlier due to open container laws.

It was a long day, but it went fast...and I can't wait for 2010 to do it again!

6.10.2009

Phew...part II

Overnight we found a replacement 6th runner for our relay team... *deep sigh of relief* That was hairy.

New guy is a 62 year old fast guy. So now we have 2 fast guys, 1 moderately fast gal, and us 3 pokey gals (I'll be faster if my legs miraculously are fully healed from my marathon effort less than 3 weeks ago).

Yep, legs still feel a little like they have lead in them, as do the lungs. I think all of the crap coming out of the trees is to blame for that. It already looks like that is coming to an end, thankfully.

Today I did a bunch of shopping for grub to have in the vehicle during the race (which I'm guessing will take 12-14 hours). I picked-up crackers, cheese, granola bars, dried fruit, and some pop. I will also be getting some fabulous beef jerky from a local smokehouse tomorrow. Other runners are bringing water, sports drink, Rice Krispy treats, and fruit. So fairly balanced, salty, carby, proteiny fare. I also grabbed more sunscreen, more bug repellant (found some OFF that is sweat-resistant), and baby wipes for removing any loose dirt and sand and mini clean-ups between relay legs.

Speaking of, this will likely be our schedule for the race:

We start at 6am and will be at packet pick-up probably just after 5. Oh, man...that is going to be one LONG day. Thank goodness we will be finishing the day with some freshly tapped Bell's Oberon--my favorite summer drink (with or without orange slice...I'm not picky).

We are staying both the night before and night of the race, too. First night will be DH and I in a room, then to save costs we're going to share a room with my best friend and my other local teammate...we figure we'll probably be too intoxicated to sleep well, anyhow, might as well be stupid in one room and not annoy more of the other hotel guests than is necessary.

6.09.2009

And then there were 5 *sigh*

Once again our trail relay team for THIS Saturday is incomplete (our 6th member had a death in the family and won't be returning from the out-of-state funeral until late the night before the race). Were the majority of us superfast and strong it would be no biggie, but at least 2 of the 5 are undertrained and I am still recovering from my recent marathon and dealing with a somewhat sore left ankle after rolling it a couple of times during a trail run a few days ago. Right now 3 of us will have to do ~13-14.5, and our sole speed-demon gets close to 21...he's essentially doing the work of 2 runners by himself.

At this point if even one of us falls ill or injured before or during the race we will be unable to complete it.

So, if anyone reading this could take the spot or knows someone who could...please give me a shout!

The replacement runner would have free race entry, free food during race, free beer after, and most likely FREE LODGING, too, as the guy being replaced would transfer his 2 night hotel reservation to his replacement.

6.07.2009

Got that out of the way...

I love it when I do my long run on the first day of the week. It kind of makes the rest of the week feel like a cakewalk. But how is it that 11 miles feels "long," again. It was only 2 weeks ago yesterday that I ran 26.2. Yeah, running does apparently warp one's brain.

Today was kind of rough, though. My body mostly felt strong (at least compared to my long run last week), but my lungs were really not on-board. I waited until the rain and thunderstorm passed to get out there, but the humidity was VERY high. I could see the air and breathing felt like trying to inhale Jell-O. I hit the inhaler several times, but it made no difference. I do love that smell after a rain, though. It smells almost sweet.

I dealt with some minor right knee issues, too. I thought I could get away without Superfeet in my newest pair of shoes, but apparently this is not the case. I mostly really like the shoes (Mizuno Wave Elixir 4, at right...recognize the color scheme? Navy, aqua and soft gray just look so appealing together...), but I wouldn't say that I LOVE them. Of course, I have never actually loved a shoe like I did my garish blue NB 902s...I'm wondering if a shoe will ever come along that works so well for me.

I tried to do a couple of runs with my Superfeet "berry" insoles (which solved my knee issues the first time around and have been a mainstay in all of my running shoes), but the Mizunos have a naturally high arch and it was just too much--felt like a golf ball under my foot. Superfeet makes a blue insole that has a lower arch and a slimmer, less cushioned forefoot, so they might help the Elixirs fit my foot better through the toes (they are just a hair too snug and curved). I returned from today's run with a bit of blistering on my right baby toe where it rubs the next toe.

Things I do like about the shoe--fabulous heel fit. I have almost as difficult a time finding heels that fit my foot well as I do shoes that are wide enough through the toes. They are super lightweight, too. They are firmer than any of my NB 90_ series shoes were, but they still cushion well on a longer run...perhaps better, since I'm not compressing a firmer midsole as much with each step. I also like how breathable they are...that mesh is actually see-through. Those holes are really open. No hot feet on Summer runs. And those forefoot tread dots offer really nice traction on wet roads--very grippy.

Assuming I can get the fit and medial support figured-out I'd probably buy another pair when these wear out. They have a nicely flexible forefoot, which is a must in a shoe (keeps the peroneal tendonitis beast at bay)...can't wear moderate stability shoes because of their stiff forefoot area, even though my knees need that level of stability. I'm a running freak of nature.

Blame it on the rain...

Did I give you an earworm? Sorry about that.

I'm procrastinating a bit. I have an 11 miler planned for today, but it's raining. That's not the issue. The random thunder is. From the radar it looks like an isolated cell that is moving through, though. So I should be able to get out within the hour.

We finally have our final relay team assembled. We're back to 4 chicks and 2 dudes. The two guys who were interested in the remaining spot said they would take it, but only if there were not someone even more interested in the spot. Turns out the fiancée of our fast guy wanted in, so we are happy to have her. Phew! We're going to have a very good time, I think.

I think hubby and I are planning to stay the night after the race. We will have our own room the night before, but the night of the race we're likely going to cram into the room with my 2 girlfriends. Chances are there will be enough beer involved that it won't feel too crowded. Otherwise we'd be driving 2+ hours home...in the dark...after having been up at like 4am. Yuck. And we'd miss the post-race revelry. Several of my Bayshore and/or RunningAHEAD friends will be there, which I'm really looking forward to.

In other not-so-happy news, the little Montessori day school in our community is shutting down for the Summer. We had planned to have Dane there 3 days/week for daycamp, which would give him time to play with friends and me time to run while hubby is at work. They are victims of the economy. Enrollment is way down, so over the Summer the director will be looking for a smaller building for the school. It's really sad. A couple of years ago they were turning people away for lack of space...now they have a lack of available students.

We will likely be able to enroll Dane in a community daycare program that one of my friends has her kids at. The advantages of this place are that it's cheaper than the Montessori program and there are more kids Dane's age there (the Montessori school was mostly younger kids). But he loves the school where he attended for Kindergarten. And the teachers there keep the kids working on various academic projects and independent study things. So when Fall rolls around he's ready to get back to school and hasn't lost much classroom learning.

And Dane is still looking forward to his 2 weeks of daycamp at Camp Pendalouan, a nearby YMCA camp. He'd go every week if he could. He comes home from those days just filthy...bug spray, sunscreen, dirt, and sweat.

6.03.2009

777.7

That's my mileage for the year. No wonder I'm tired. But that has to be lucky, right?

Today I didn't plan to run...but it was the 1st ever National Running Day...and it was gorgeous outside, so how could I not? And I'm glad I did. I only went 4 miles, but they were mostly good. The first 2 were kinda rough, but after that I started feeling better and really felt re-energized by the time I finished.

I needed to blow off some steam, too. The whole fiasco with those 2 runners who have pulled-out of our 6 man relay team for the race in 9 days really has caused me a lot of stress over the past day-and-a-half. Luckily, I think we have found at least 2 replacements...possibly including one guy who just ran a 7:07 mile pace in the Bayshore marathon...yeah, almost 4 full minutes/mile faster than me. Wow. I couldn't run that fast for ONE mile!

So I think the relay is a go. And it will probably be more fun than it would have originally been (and faster--perhaps we will finish before sunset, ha!). My "friend" (in quotes, since I'm really not sure I care to remain friends with a person who so casually blew off a team event without so much as trying to help find replacements) can be a bit of a wet blanket. Her hubby is pretty laid-back. Part of me wonders if he would still have wanted to do the race without her, but felt pressured to support her. In the same situation I am certain that my husband would have followed-through on his responsibility to a team, and I wouldn't have let him leave a group of people in the lurch like that--especially not when so much money is involved. The same could be said if he were injured...I wouldn't back out on a commitment to others.

6.02.2009

FREE Trail Relay!

ISO 2 runners for 6/13 trail relay in MI (FREE registration, tech shirt, beer) -- husband & wife (2/6 of our team) just backed-out...less than 11 days before the race!

Gah! 2 weeks ago team member was making noises that she wouldn't be up to the challenge (minimum 10 miles/runner) and was having back issues. At the time I told her that if she didn't feel ready, to let me know THEN, so I could find replacements. She said she would be OK.

A few days ago one runner who expressed extreme interest at being a back-up decided to register for a HM taking place the same day. He registered only a few days ago, since he was assured that this woman and her husband were for sure in. TODAY team member tells me she AND her husband are both out. Fuck.

The entire North Country Trail Relay distance is ~78 miles. More than the remaining 4 of us are able to do (well, at least 3 of us).

Race starts at 6AM in Mesick, MI and ends in Baldwin. Any female runners would already have free lodging with my best friend (I can vouch for her...she's not too much of a nutjob...I mean, aside from being my friend, heh) the night before the race. So your only expenses would be your transportation and eating (we're already well-covered for food and beverages during the race, too).

Team is not super fast/competitive, but looking forward to dodging ticks and mosquitos and getting dirty.

Post here or e-mail me (harumph at gmail.com) if you are interested in taking an available spot on the team.

6.01.2009

20#s

Yep...that is how far above my goal weight I sit. Time to rein it in and get back on track (hence the blog redesign...any little thing to help keep me accountable). I can no longer use the excuse of "calorie deficit eating will make my runs crappy." Right now lugging an extra 20#s is almost certainly affecting my runs more negatively than being moderately hungry does. And it is definitely making for race photos that cause me a great deal of shame (I saw the official photos from Bayshore...there are many of me with stunning backdrops. I will not be ordering any...they are worse than the photos from Milwaukee), not to mention race times and general running paces that would be greatly improved by having to expend less energy to move myself along.

20#s -- that's 2-3 seconds/mile according to several running calculators that tabulate the effect of gaining and losing weight on running performance. 4#s could net me an increase of 6:28 over the course of a marathon according to one calculator...5x that could mean a half hour or more! And it's not just an increase in pace on race day...it's an increase in pace EVERY day. Which means in the same amount of time I can squeeze-in more miles. And more miles means faster race times. Assuming I can get the cramping thing under control, I think a sub-4 marathon time is not at all out of the question.

Right now my BMI is 24.9. 25 is considered overweight. Erm. My goal weight would have me at 21.4, which is well within the healthy range (18.5-24.9). 4 years or so ago I was 1# over my goal weight (for all of a week before I fell off the wagon...and then ate the wagon) and looked fabulous. Toned and still curvy. Had I lost 5#s I would have still been within the healthy range, but would likely have started looking a little bony on me. I think my boobs account for 5#s.

Instead of setting a somewhat insurmountable goal to lose 20 right off the bat, I am setting a mini-goal of 10. I would like to lose this 10 by my half-marathon in September. This is about 16 weeks away. So I only need to lose a measly .62#s/week. I am already dreading the holidays, though. If I can lose my first 10#s that will leave me with that last 10...but Oct.-through-Dec. are BAD months to do more than maintain...and I know that the closer I get to my goal, the more the fight becomes tooth-and-nail for every ounce of fat loss.

At least I'm not alone. There are a LOT of us struggling in the Ladies Locker Room group on RunningAHEAD.com. We are starting a series of challenges. Sort of mini races for 5#s lost. As one girl "wins" we will start a new challenge. These mini goals are so much less daunting and help to keep the progress milestones coming at shorter intervals.