Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kitchen Complete

Well, it's been 3 months.  The kitchen renovation is officially complete.  This is not to say that there isn't still more that we would like to do (window coverings, range hood cover, hanging some artwork, running a gas line to the house and getting a gas stove for example), but we have completed what we had originally scoped, way back in June.

Without further ado, here are the before (~March) and afters (this morning).

Looking toward living room, kitchen to the right

Looking toward kitchen, door to porch on right

View of kitchen from the dining room, door to porch on right
From hall, looking through kitchen into dining

From end of kitchen (we took out the hall),  looking through to dining

Old fridge, on wall between kitchen and dining, now peninsula

Dining room from the kitchen, living room to the right (please ignore the trash in the corner).  Peninsula on left is where the old fridge used to be
Kitchen sink and window
Kitchen sink (same window) and new slider door to the porch on right, more peninsula

Old stove on wall between kitchen and powder room

Stove rotated to exterior wall, interior wall to hall removed

Wall between kitchen and living

Wall between the kitchen and living today

We've learned a lot through this renovation.  I think just about every contractor had to come back at some point to fix something or because we changed our minds about what we wanted.  I think that mostly comes with us wanting things done right, but this being our first kitchen, we weren't quite sure what right was.  When we are ready for phase 2 (the upstairs bathroom), we'll have all of the design decisions made (and purchased and delivered) before we start tearing things out.  A lot of our time was hurry up to wait time, for cabinets, for tile, for light fixtures.  I know there will still be surprises cause there always will be, but I'd like to have fewer non-workdays in the process.  

The other thing I would do is have the GC manage all of the subs.  We ended up hiring painters for the trim and the living room and hallway after we did the painting upstairs and learned that we just weren't very good at it.  But having us managing painters and countertops guy while the GC managed electricians and plumbers just led to headaches, and I don't think saved us any money in the end.  One maestro is what is needed.  

Finally, if we had the kitchen to design again, I think I'd choose more cabinets with pull out drawers.  We opted for drawers in general, because everything we read talked about how they're easier to use, since you can pull them out and actually see what's inside and because cabinet doors can knock into interior drawers when they're open.  But you lose a lot of volume for the framing for the drawers (i.e., the height of an object that can fit in a drawer is about an inch shorter than the actual face of the drawer).  We actually don't have a ton of under counter storage with stove, dishwasher, and trash all taking up a bunch, losing volume, particularly where we chose 4 drawer stacks has made it harder to find space for big pots.

Those lessons aside, I'm so in love with our kitchen and our little Walter (the house).  It's a pretty drastic transformation and the house really feels like ours.   

Monday, August 19, 2013

An Off-Season

Friday was supposed to be the post about my race plan for the Timberman sprint.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.  The combination of some health problems and the new house has been too much for this triathlon season.

The house is really coming along, but it still seems to take up every spare moment of time and attention. It feels a bit like planning a wedding:  there are so many tiny detailed decisions to pore over and each one feels incredibly important.  Is that drawer pull a bit too dainty in it's curvature?  But with the wedding, I could sorta write it off and try to take the pressure off by thinking "I probably won't remember this tiny detail a year from now."  But with the house, that detail will be staring me in the face for many years to come.  Then again, I almost never am bothered by imperfections in my rental kitchen, but of course, I didn't make the decisions there.  Yes, these are first world problems, but you know what, I live in the first world.

What all have we done?  Paul and a friend demoed the kitchen and dining room, found old wall paper, a little mold, and plenty of ants.  They also took out a few non-load bearing walls, making our kitchen and dining room one large open space.  Then the pros came in.  They've upgraded the electrical services, took out a whole house trap, rewired the kitchen with lights and grounded outlets, refinished the walls where we took them down.  We've painted some upstairs and some down, with more to come.

The kitchen when we bought the house, seen from the hallway, looking through into the dining room

Roughly the same view after Paul completed demo

Framing removed, new blue board in place, new sliding doors

Basically where we are now: cabinetry in, new flooring, awaiting counter tops, appliances and backsplash

We've been moving things over to the new house a bit at a time with a truck borrowed from a friend and a couple of friends who were packing power-houses two weekends ago.  Last weekend we moved the heavy stuff, and as soon as the floors are done being refinished, we'll actually move in!

So, no more triathlons this season.  I still have the Philly Marathon that I'm already signed up for in November.  That's my next goal, you know, after choosing drawer pulls

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Couldn't have happened in a better race

It was bound to happen some time, but Sunday was the first race I've ever flatted in, in eight years of racing.  Not bad odds, really.

I went into this race with no expectations.  It's my first tri of a season that just isn't as tri-focused as years past.  With new home ownership taking up a significant portion of our attention and finances, it's fun to get out there to race, but it's not the priority it has been in years past.  I could race on auto-pilot.  No excessive list making to ensure that I have all my gear.  No pre-race visualization.  I've done this race for the last 4 years.  I know it pretty well.  And I wasn't going to red line it.  I was a little worried going into the race that it would affect my enjoyment, that without indulging my instinct to inspect every calf for an AG on the run, that it would feel more like training than a race.  Fear not, racing is fun regardless of your goals.

I was a little late for the start.  I'd filed into the water with my AG, but I expected a warning from the race officials, instead I just got the start horn.  Oh, crap, time to put on my goggles. I hadn't jockeyed for position on the line, so I had a few people to swim through to get to a good spot.  I found some feet about a third of the way through that I hung onto for a bit, til it seemed she wasn't spotting well, then I just made my way home.  I swam about a minute and a half slower than last year.  But then again, I hadn't even checked my results from last year before the race, so I was happy with just feeling good.  And 6th place out of 35 ain't bad.

Time: 26:09 (1:44 pace)
AG: 6 / 35

Confession:  I did not do any transition practice before this race.  In fact, I even considered wearing my bike shoes to the mount line.  I know!  Setting up my transition, I figured there's no point in going backwards, and I clipped my shoes in.  Despite the lack of practice, I mounted the bike just fine, and I got a good 30 or so feet when I knew something was not right with my bike. Something was rubbing.  I pulled off.  Yep, flat back tire. It must have exploded in the hot sun during the swim. I could see transition from where I'd stopped. I knew I could take the bike back to the mechanic there and get him or her to change the tire for me, but I also had what I needed to change  it myself.  The only real trouble was that I couldn't turn my bike upside down because all of the water would drain out of my speedfil. Definitely not desirable on a hot day. So bike balanced precariously on my hip, while I pulled out the old tube, replaced it, tucked the tire back into the wheel. Then, moment of truth, I took out my CO2 cartridge and screwed it into the valve. Confession 2: I don't think I've ever used this valve before. I've used other CO2 valves, but this one was untested. And it failed. As soon as I screwed it in, CO2 was spewing through it. I tried to adjust the lever, but it just broke off. Hmmf. That was my only canister and my only valve. So I made the walk back to transition, wheel in one hand, saddle in other, still barefoot.

The first volunteer I encountered gave me a dumbfounded stare when I asked if she could help me find a pump. The second pointed me to the mechanic's tent, which was vacant, including all gear. I asked some people in the coaching tent next to me, but no love. Then I saw a guy pumping up mountain bike tires in the main tent. I dropped my bike (chain in the dirt, eek!) and ran in to get some air. Ok:  gear on bike, wheel on frame, Laura on bike, time to ride. My garmin indicated that the whole thing had only taken 4 minutes. This seemed incredibly fast, but who am I to question garmin?  Not until after the race did I realize that garmin was set to auto-pause on the ride, so when it detected that I wasn't moving, it stopped keeping track of the time. I had actually spent almost 15 minutes changing that tire. I will not be seeking employment at le Tour.

By the time I got back on the bike, all of my advantage from the swim was spent. I was in 35th place in my age group, out of 35. And that was awesome! I got to let my competitive juices flow, catching girls in my age group, but I could stay out of the red zone while doing it. Best unintentional result of a flat, EVER! I passed 19 girls in my age group, which meant I started the run in 16th place.

Time: 1:23:03 (or 1:08:23 without the pitstop - 19.3 mph)
AG Rank: 24 / 35 (or 6 / 35 without the pitstop)

Goal here was to start moderately hard, then stay moderately hard through the middle and in the final kick, put in a moderately hard effort. That's exactly what I did. I focused on cadence, I walked through water stops, and I slowly picked people off as they burnt out through the back half of the run. Nice and steady, and I picked up two more girls in my age group.

Time: 53:33 (8:38 pace)
AG Rank: 11 / 35

Overall, I came in 14th in my AG with a total time of 2:45:18. Had I not had the flat, I would have come in 9th. A little slower than last year in all regards, but still an excellent race.

Odds and ends:

  • There were a TON of flat tires out on the course.  I was very lucky that I didn't get a second one out there since I was riding without a spare
  • This race nearly doubled in size this year (perhaps because of its designation as the regional qualifier).  My age group went from 16 last year to 35 this year, and there were some very fast ladies in that addition.  Last year's time would have only been good enough for 7th this year, not 3rd.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

We bought a house!

It's finally official.  We signed and initialled hundreds of papers this morning and after a few hiccups (like the bank leaving a 1 off our form and asking us for a MUCH larger deposit than we'd agreed to), everything seems to be in order.

We are home owners of a small 3 bed/1.5 bath in Belmont.  The property is near the elementary school, and is a 20-minute bus to Harvard Square or a 10-minute walk to the commuter rail in the town center.

First order of business: new kitchen.  We ordered the cabinets today, and we start demoing this weekend.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It's not about the run

Here's the thing.  On paper, last weekend sounds like it would have been hell:  driving to and from West Virginia, running 21 muddy miles in the fog, camping in the wet with probably 3 dry sleeping bags between the 8 of us, losing the 3 toenails I had loosened at the Marathon in DC, one of our runners spraining a toe and the organizers running out of everything from coffee and hot chocolate to toilet paper.  But the reality was a truly fabulous weekend

Last weekend, I did my first Ragnar Relay.  This was no ordinary Ragnar though, this was a trail ragnar in rural WV.  Unlike the road Ragnars which are point to point, this race centered at the campground, with 3 loops (3.6, 6.2, 6.0), and we each took turns running different legs.

Months ago when we signed up this sounded fantastic, but the weather had other ideas.  It was wet when we got in on Thursday night (after 10 hours of driving), and then it rained more, and then it rained again.  And then the fog rolled in.

Our first runner P, before it started to really rain , note the ground

Our second runner L, before the fog rolled in

By the time I made it out on the run (as the 5th runner), the trails were a mess.  Two different kinds of mud:  sticky and slippery.  Usually the slippery was darker than the sticky, but sometimes, the sticky was hiding under the slippery.  6.2 miles and I averaged 11:40 per mile.  It was tough going.  A little more Any trail running may have been good.  But it was also gorgeous.  When I got back, it was starting to get dark, my shoes were soaked, and I was ready for dinner.

The darker it got, the foggier.  Headlamps only made it worse:  they just lit up the fog in front of your eyes.  Runners started carrying their headlamps in their hands.  Our team opted to have two runners on the trail together and to slow down, like many other teams.  After the first rotation through all 8 runners, we were hours behind where we had estimated (we had estimated about a minute slower per mile than our road 10K times, so maybe we were a little overzealous).

Pretty much captures the whole event, so many muddy sneakers steaming dry by the fire

In the morning the organizers announced that we could get credit for multiple team members running legs together.  We did some quick math and figured we could finish up a little early and get on the road back to New England that day.  It also meant, I would run the 6.0 leg twice with two different teammates.  This was the highlight of the trip for me.  After the first loop, the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me, I napped for about 45 minutes, then went back out again.  On the second loop, we caught 22 people, and the fog had finally cleared, so the breathtaking view of the area which had been obscured throughout the rest of the race was finally visible.  It was spectacular.

And that's what made the weekend so great:  just fun people.  Singing at the tops of our lungs along to 80s karaoke in the car, and It'smaking friendship bracelets.

I'd love to do another one of these (though maybe without the drive to WV).  I think the best thing I did in packing was to individually ziplock bag clothes for each of my runs.  I could stash the bag for the next run in the transition area and put on dry clothes on as soon as I returned from the first run.  Also while everything else in my bag got damp, my run clothes were dry when I put them on at least.  Things I wish I had brought:  galoshes.

All done!!!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

As expected

Not quite a PR, but geez it was hot.  The first mile felt good, I even held my pace and HR.  Then the second mile happened.  No point in looking at my pace, the rest of the race was guided by HR.

Most because it's been several years since I did a stand-alone 10K, I did actually set a PR.  Still a few more minutes to trim to be a true PR.

This weekend though, instead of PR-ing, I'll be running a trail relay, in the rain, in West Virginia.  Bring on the mud!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Reflecting the Conditions

It's race season again.

Sunday morning, I'll run my first stand alone 10K since April 2012.  And really the first one I've raced since 2008.  My current PR for a 10K was set at Age Group Nationals last year, where I ran a 46:46.  I've been thinking I should improve upon that this weekend, but doubts are creeping in.

I was putting away laundry last night and paired a set of running gloves.  That means some time in the last week and half, I ran in temps under 50.  Today the max was 93.  Sunday at 8am, it's supposed to be 72 degrees and 81% humidity.  Acclimatization will be an issue.

Then there's the course.  This is by no means a flat course, or even AGN with its steep but short hill, then slow decline for 5 miles.  This is a steady 4 mile climb.

Finally, there's a feeling that having spent most of my off season working on distance, that my speed may have suffered.

Then there's just the general level of distraction going into this race season.  For the last two years, I've had Age Group Nationals as the cornerstone of my season.  All races, every mile trained, led to Nationals.  At the end of the 2010 season, I knew I was going to Nationals 2011, and I knew I would want to go back to improve upon them in 2012.  I also knew that in 2013 Nationals would leave New England.  I could go back this year, but my desire to travel by plane for a race is negative.  Without this season anchor, tri season feels a little adrift.

I had planned the Newfound Lake Triathlon for this weekend, but it was cancelled.  I had planned the New Englad Trifest for the end of June, but had to cancel because of our honeymoon, which we in turn postponed because of work and buying a house.  A yes, there's also that.  In July, we'll become home owners.  After just over a year of searching and seven (yes, 7) offers, we are closing on a house in Belmont, just 4 days before my first tri of the season.  I have just 3 triathlons planned for this season.  I've tried to offset that with races like this 10K and a Trail Ragnar in West Virginia, the types of races I usually can't allow myself to do because of my triathlon goals.  And I am excited, especially for Ragnar, but it's just not the same as that goal that you build to for a year.

Where does that leave me on Sunday morning?  Newton. Running a 10K.  Trying my darndest to hold 7:20s.  And remembering that my performance is reflecting the conditions of the race and of my life, not of my effort or preparation.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Finishing the Race

It wasn't the sunny, clear day we had back in April, but it was lovely nonetheless.  For my long run today, I ran into Boston, to the finish line of the Marathon to watch thousands of runners complete their race.  

Crowds starting to gather
It was tear-filled, cathartic and soggy.  And it was wonderful to cheer on the runners.  It was also awe-inspiring to see our police out there supporting the runners, clearing the roads, watching the crowds, just like they do every year.
Here they come
Copley Square Memorial
I love this running community, and I want to keep this communal feeling.  Running can be an isolated experience, so from now on, I'm waving when I see people running.  6 minute miles or 12, if we cross paths, I'm gonna wave and smile.  We're a part of a secret club, and this is our handshake.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Damp tissues

This is really hard.

We heard the news at around 3pm.  Driving home from Natick, where we'd been at a BBQ with Paul's coworkers.  Because this is how it is on Marathon Monday, you go to watch the race, you drink beers and watch the kids play in the sunshine, you talk about your own training with other runners.  I stopped Paul mid-sentence to turn the radio up - I thought they'd said something about explosions at the finish.  They switched the story back to the race winners.  I started crying.  Paul tried to calm me, reminding me that we didn't know any details yet.  I tried to find details online, but was timing out, nothing had hit FB yet, then the first reports started coming through on twitter.  The radio stopped trying to cover the race, and instead covered the blasts.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to soak up any detail, but also not trusting what the media was reporting (when they can't google Patriots' Day, I had little hope they were getting the rest of the information right), tracking down friends, alerting my family that I was physically safe.  But mostly I just felt devastated, and bad for feeling so upset and stupid for thinking this could never happen here.  And I cried.

I felt like didn't have the right to be so sad.  Boston is my home town now, but I've never actually run the Boston Marathon.  I didn't know any one injured, dismembered or killed.  How can I show up to work having tossed and turned all night, eyes swollen?

This is my community.  The Boston Marathon is the holiest of our holidays.  It is one of the very best things the city does.  It's a shining example of human triumph - not just the runners, but certainly them too.  The hours trained, the records broken, the hundreds of thousands of dollars earned for charity, the precision of measuring and timing the course, of checking and double-checking every elite water bottle to insure that it is placed and spaced correctly on the table.  Boston has thousands of volunteers.  This year they turned away volunteers.  They have a volunteer loyalty program (and I assure you most people are not in it for the jacket).     The Marathon is just pure joy.  It is uncompromisingly good.

Of course, it would be a target.  How could I have been so naive as to think that evil would never try to mar the goodness that is the marathon?  Why can't we have nice things?  I have no doubt the Marathon will go on, but it will never be the same.  The specter of this year will hang over it for decades to come.

I wish that I could feel defiant or angry toward the perpetrators, or awed and amazed at the people who raced to the scene, but for now I just feel hollowed out.

I am so thankful to my friends for reaching out from places and phases of life, near and far.  It means a lot to feel less alone in this tragedy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Plan C

R and me, pre race

Paul and I stayed the night after the marathon with friends A and C in Virginia.  The day before A asked me if there were going to be tears if I didn't hit my goal.  I told him that I thought there would be tears regardless, but that if I didn't hit Plan A then so be it.

I didn't hit Plan A.  I didn't hit Plan B.  I mostly hit Plan C, with a little bit of D in there too.  You know what the best moment of the race was:  deciding to give up on Plan B, and not just because I allowed myself to hide behind a car for a quick pee.

Corral 6 at the start

I ran Plan A solidly through mile 6.  Then we hit The Hill.

Let's just pause a moment to discuss the courses elevation.  I studied it of course.  But most of these profiles tend to make mountains out of molehills.  All of the profiles below are from  The first one makes it look like you'll need poles to summit that hill, so I consulted the second which shows a max grade of 2% on that hill, not so bad.  Except that the second graph is basically not using a high enough sample rate.  If I zoom in on just the hill, it reveals the 3rd graph AND 7-9% grades!  That hill was a little beast.  My coach had mentioned this hill, but I had brushed it off as only 2%, imagine my surprise when I saw this thing towering ahead of me.  My face was roughly 8% grade purple.


Back to the plan.  Alan had warned me to not get worried if I fell behind pace on the hill, that I'd make it back up on the downhill.  I ran an 8:45 up the hill, so slower than desired, but I'm not worrying.  I just keep cruising, trying to remain loose.  I clocked my half marathon at 1:45:51, about a minute behind Plan A, and right on Plan B.

The half marathoners pealed off, and it was clear how few marathoners there actually were.  The race was advertised as a 30K person race, but it was actually 20K half marathoners and 3.5K marathoners.  It felt lonely and quiet from there on.  It felt more like a half ironman run.  You've just finished this long athletic endeavor, and now you've got to run 13.1 miles.  It felt like this is where the race really began

My heart rate hadn't recovered from the hill.  I would try to concentrate on running smooth and taking advantage of any slight decline, but it didn't seem to matter.  My heart rate was 180 bpm, and it was going to take drastic action to get it back down to 170 bpm.

I pondered this for a few more miles.  What makes 170 the magic number.  Maybe I could hold onto my pace and my 180 heart rate for 13 more miles.  At mile 15, I tried to focus on seeing Paul at the 20 mile mark.  At mile 17, it was clear:  I was not going to make it at that pace.  I was going to need to return to Plan C:  drop the pace til the HR is back under 170, then maintain that pace.  I thought a bit about whether switching to Plan C was just fulfilling the doubts I had going into the race.  But the numbers didn't lie- I wasn't running Plan A any way you looked at it.  Switching plans didn't feel like giving up.  It was a relief to stop having to decide to not slow down.

At mile 20, I saw Paul.  He had ventured out to give me a light jacket in case it rained (it only just sprinkled, and by the time I saw him, it was sunny and low 50s).  It was so good to see him.  I gave him the "thumbs sidways" sign, panted "Plan C" and kept on trucking.  Heart rate down to 170, pace well into the 9:00s.

Heading to the finish

The last six miles were grueling and boring.  Without a good sense of the area it was hard to know what to anticipate.  Having the race broken into miles (I usually train by time, long runs broken mentally in ~30 minute chunks) only reinforced how plodding it felt.  The course itself had five different out and backs.  The worst one is below.  You run down from the top, over a bridge, and you see runners making the turn off to your left (at the bottom), only to realize there are more runners on the bridge parallel to yours, so you have to go over that bridge, turn around, cross the highway a 3rd time before finally going the way you anticipated.

When I finally approached the finish line, I mostly I just felt tired.  I didn't really feel this overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  It wasn't like the posters.  I was the same person who started the race.  I don't know what I expected exactly, but I guess I expected more than strong desires to 1) find Paul, 2) sit down 3) drink more water, and 4) inspect my toes to figure out why they felt so wiggly (answer below).  Other than feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating the finishing chute maze of food, burrito wrappers, volunteers, water, medals, and runners to find my husband, there was no risk of tears.  In fact I was much more emotional at the start of the race, waiting for my corral to be called, shedding a few nervous, excited tears.  In the end I was just happy to be done.  I felt satisfied, but not changed.

Odds and ends:
  • Having dinner with my coach the night before the race was such a treat.  It was fabulous to meet his wife and share a meal with them before my first marathon.
  • I've definitely been spoiled by Boston.  This race was sorely under-resourced.  Sure having bands on the course is a unique experience, but you don't really hear much of them.  And the water stops were just chaos.  Some stops had no volunteers, just cups of water set out in advance.  For the mid-to-back-of-the-packers, there weren't even any of those left.  Not cool, Rock 'n' Roll.  Not cool.
  • I wore my BTT top and got 3 or 4 "Boston!" cheers.  Those were awesome.
  • I relied on my virtual partner for pacing, which didn't work quite the way I had planned.  I ran a slightly longer course (26.5), as you do with other runners and many, many turns.  But even the smallest variation say 1.01 miles instead of 1.00 resulted in a time that was off by a few seconds.  I'd think I was running an 7:55, only to clock in at 8:02 on the mile markers.  Furthermore, I thought that on laps the virtual partner would reset my distance, but it did not.  So I continued to get further ahead of my virtual partner, while in reality getting further behind.  After a few miles, I switched to using average lap pace, which at least reset at each mile.
All done

Well, if you're still with me, I'm assuming this means you want to hear about the wiggly toenails.  If not, then read no further.  When I finished, I had at least one toe on each foot that just felt weird.  Once I found Paul, I removed my shoes to find that I had one toenail on the left foot and two on the right where blisters had formed up under the nail.  I've heard about people losing toenails to long runs, but I've run long and I've never had an issue.  Plus, I always thought that your toenails would turn black or something first, and that the nail was separating from the nail bed.  Well, not in this case at least.  It seems the blister is not between the nail bed and the nail, but between the nail bed and the tissue below.  This means that the nail looks almost totally normal, just a tad bit paler than the other nails, but that it's basically floating on a detached nail bed.  It feels like a loose tooth.  It is bizarre.  It has made putting on socks the most dramatic part of my day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Plan A

Four days to go.

I swear my heart skipped a beat when I saw the "Final Instructions and Important Race Information" email in my inbox this morning.

Here's what I know as far as spectator information goes:

  • My race number is 6028 (out of ~30K) runners
  • I'll be in Corral 6.  The race starts at 7:30, with corrals departing at 1-2 minutes apart, meaning my start time should be somewhere between 7:36 and 7:42
  • You can get text alerts for my progress, here.  That link says 7 updates, but the race packet says they're only taking splits at 5 locations (start, 10K, halfway, 20-mile, finish), so your guess is as good as mine where the other two splits come from.
  • If you happen to be in DC and want to see the race, the course with nearest metro stops overlayed is here.
The starting chute: That's two blocks of corrals!

 I got my race plan from my coach a few days ago, and it's pretty straight forward:  Start at 8:00 miles, hold that pace for 26 miles, kick it for 0.2 miles.  But that's just Plan A.

There's a Plan B, a Plan C, a Plan D and a Plan E.  Plan E is to alternate walking 100 steps and running 100 steps.  So, there's quite a big divide between A and E.  I hope I never see E.  But it's also comforting to know that there is a plan should everything go to shit, and it's a good reminder to respect this distance.

With those details taken care of, I'm getting a little wrapped up in all the non-essentials.  How will I get 10oz of gel to DC on a plane? [I'll check a bag, but Paul, rightly points out I should bring my running shoes in a carry on.]  Where to get dinner the night before?  [I was seriously considering bringing my own dinner, until my friend, marathoner, and former DC-er, R came through with a solid recommendation.]

Then there's what to wear.  Until last week, I really hadn't thought about it, just figured I would dress to the temperatures, and I hoped it would be warm enough for shorts.  Last week, R (different R from above), asked me if I'd have my name on my gear, so people could cheer for me by name.  In watching the Boston Marathon, I've always enjoyed calling people out by their names.  But damnit, this sounded crafty.  R even suggested outlining iron-on letters in glitter paint.  The craftiest thing I've done recently is to make curtains, out of curtains.  And then you've got a shirt with your name on the front of it, can one train in that shirt after the race?

Here's my Plan A: if the weather cooperates (i.e., temps ~45), I'll wear a black long sleeved shirt with my tri team jersey on top (yay, BTT).  But if it's cooler (most sources tend to agree on upper-30s degree starting temperature) or wetter (also, 40% chance of rain), then I'll add my pink windbreaker.  It doesn't have my team or my name on it, but it's seen many, many miles with me, so I know it will perform well.  Here's to Plan A, and being ready for anything else that gets thrown at me.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Skydiving at 15ft

Yesterday, in recognition of meeting a major milestone at work, my team went indoor skydiving.  This was awesome.  Basically it's a giant tube of wind.  You enter it from the second floor onto a net surface, and then the tube soars up another 2-ish stories.  The ride is only 2 minutes or so, but it is amazing.  There's very little sense of falling, you're just floating.  Floating and having an obscene amount of air blown up your nose.

It didn't feel very physically challenging.  It's such a short period of time, and they have you really focus on just relaxing.  Very little movements can have a big impact on the position of your body.  Just angling your hands in one direction or the other makes you spin.  This morning, however, I'm feeling it: sore abs and pecs and neck.  Totally worth it.

If I were to do it again, I'd take a few lessons from this time:
  • Bring lip balm.  The tunnel is very dry.
  • Braid my hair.  Maybe it had to do with the fact that my hair was still wet from my morning shower, but even pulled back in a ponytail, it was a matted, knotted mess.  It took almost 20 minutes to comb it out when I got home.
  • Bring a comb.
  • Keep my mouth closed.  Spit crawling up your cheeks is just not a desirable sensation.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

One Last Long Run

Three weeks from yesterday, I'll be toeing the line at my first marathon.

Mid-point of my longest run ever: end of the bike path in Bedford.

Yesterday morning, I ran my longest run ever and my longest run before the marathon: 20.8 miles, which should also mark the start of my taper.  Despite having trained for this 23 weeks, I don't feel quite ready.  My biggest concern is that my long run pace has been significantly slower than the 8:12 pace I'll need to maintain to hit a 3:35 goal.  The last hour of yesterday's run I ran on 8:12s, but that was downhill, my net-graded pace (estimation of the pace on the flat) was 8:20.

But whether I run the marathon in 3:35 or 4:35, I'm gonna finish.  That's all about guts, and I feel confident that I've got the guts to finish.  Training for this marathon has led to a lot of firsts:  many new longest runs ever (20.8 the latest record), many new most miles ever run in a week (40 miles this week is the latest), running the whole river loop, running to the end of the bike path in Bedford.  I've run over 525 miles in marathon training, that's one pair of running shoes sacrificed to training for the marathon.  I've run in 12 degree weather with my water bottles freezing shut.  I've run in a headlamp.  I've worn compression gear under my work clothes.

I had always considered a marathon outside of the realm of possibility for me.  With so many shin splints throughout the years, I just didn't think my body could handle that volume of running.  Sure, there have been aches and pains, and trouble getting out of chairs, but no injuries (knock on wood).  This is uncharted territory for me, and it's reinforced that there will always be new frontiers to explore.

In the next three weeks, I'll focus on the minutiae of the race: the weather, what to wear, how to tote my ~800 calories of gels, to bring my own water or rely on the course, what to eat the night before, buying plane tickets to DC (yeah, I know), and of course where to find our celebratory brunch afterward.

Here's to the taper!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Running distractions

I was talking to another runner over Christmas break.  He mentioned that he was trying to minimize all of the trappings that come with running that are not running.  He wanted a running experience that was pure:  no mental energy spent on the sport outside of the run itself.  This “naked running” ideal, where all you need are your feet and a desire to run, sounds so zen.  To run for the sake of running, without pace, without plan, without distraction is this almost holy pursuit.

And when I compare that ideal to my running, my watch, my hydration belt, my mapmyrun routes, my trainingpeaks evaluations, it feels like my training is missing the point.  Shouldn’t I just run for the love of running?

At the time, I said I didn’t think my goals could be met with that sort of training.  But what I felt was that my running was inferior to the naked run.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that, for me, part of the joy of running is the accoutrement.  It’s the planning.  It’s the evaluation.  It’s executing the details perfectly for the optimal training.  

If you don’t read Mother Running Rampant, you must.  I LOVE her blog.  She is a far better runner and writer than I am.  Last week, she posted about being less ambitious in her running and how that’s counter to her experience:

My intrinsic love of this sport is shrink-wrapped in minutes, seconds, and that lovely little colon in between them. I’ve tried taking off the wrapping, but as when removing food packaging, that just makes my insides start to turn.

I read that, and I thought “EXACTLY.”

For me a run includes:

  • Reviewing the plan from my coach.  
  • Selecting out a route.  I have some standard routes (10 mile loop around the Mystic lakes, 2.5 miles to the river then loops, out and back on the bike path), but regardless some thought and sometimes some online mapping goes into route selection.  This step often includes reviewing similar workouts in the last month to get the most accurate expected pace.
  • Planning a time (sometimes with a buddy).
  • Checking the weather and making apparel choices: heavy gloves, thin gloves, no gloves; earband, thin hat, thick hat; pants, capris, shorts; tank top, shirt, long sleeved shirt, windbreaker, insulated jacket.
  • Programming watch with workout (optional).  Depending on the type of workout, I may program my watch so it alerts me when my HR exceeds or falls behind the desired window
  • Preparing nutrition.  Water, sports drink, gel and how to carry all of these
  • Selecting safety gear.  Road ID, reflective vest, blinkies, headlamp, if it’s dark, T pass and money if it’s a long run.
  • Entertainment:  I used to listen to music on my ipod.  For a while I was trying to select music with the right beat to keep my cadence up.  But, as tri season got underway and many of my runs were part of a brick, adding headphones just got in the way.  I spent the summer running mostly without audio input.  With marathon training demanding longer and longer runs, I’ve started listening to podcasts.  It gives me some distraction when the going gets tough but is also easy to tune out if need be.
  • Reporting and analysis of the workout.  I upload my workout to trainingpeaks and provide feedback to my coach on how it went.

The funny thing is all that prep is what allows me to focus on my run when I’m out there.  I’m not distracted by the weather or deterred by having to make route planning decisions.  Once I’m out there, the running is pure and and the preparation makes it perfect.

  © Blogger template 'Solitude' by 2008 | Photo by Jaredflo

Back to TOP