Monday, 29 September 2008

Home again...sort of

Yesterday I boarded a plane for England. Once in my seat, I actually dropped off to sleep pretty quickly, even missing out on the take off. I woke up about an hour or so later and looked out the window to see the snow covered Alps. I was just about to reach for my bag to get out my camera when I remembered that I’d left the camera behind in my room in Rome. Bugger. Maybe next time.

Because I’d had no time this weekend, I was determined to get my long run in this morning. I set the alarm for 7 am, but didn’t get out of the house until 9. Hey, I was tired.

I returned to my old stomping ground, Port Meadow. Stashing a bottle each of water and Powerade in my usual spot, I headed out along the canal to run three loops around the meadow and a little bit inside to reach my 14 mile goal.

For a while I was reunited with my bovine and equine friends as I ran amongst them for about a mile. They greeted me with enthusiasm. And by enthusiasm I mean total indifference. Eh, at least it wasn’t rage.

The run itself was fine until about two thirds of the way through when my left knee twinged and my quads started to feel heavy. It slowed my pace considerably during the last loop, but at least I didn’t give in to the urge to walk.

Once I got home, I finally remembered to try Legs Up. It actually seemed to work, taking away my knee pain. I think this makes me indebted to Viper now. I don’t like that.

Sad news
As I’m sure you all know, Paul Newman passed away on Friday. He was a fabulous actor and great philanthropist and he will be greatly missed. I’ve had a crush on Paul Newman for ages. As Ellen can attest, I had a poster of Newman from the film Cool Hand Luke hanging above my bed at college. His presence ensured I had the sweetest of dreams.

Rest in peace, Mr. Newman.

I hope you all have a great week ahead. I’ll catch up with you later.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Tower of Babel

The knees felt all right early Thursday morning so I went out for a short 4 miles. Everything went fine. No pain and there was a lot less traffic about since I headed out at 6:30 am when the sun was rising. Everything was quite serene in fact. Maybe I should wake my lazy butt up earlier for my runs. Eh, we'll see.

Speaking of running, my schedule is getting thrown off a bit right now. The conference has pretty much fried my brain for the week (trying to listen to papers given in five different languages is not good for the mind), but I still have to visit two sites tomorrow and then I have a last minute trip back to England on Sunday for three days to tie up loose ends. Depending on how things go, I may have some news to impart to you all next week. Or not. I have no idea anymore.

Before I sign off, I want to wish Viper and Laura good luck as they're running the Akron marathon tomorrow. Also, I want to throw my support behind all those who are still suffering from taper madness. Although I haven't experienced it myself, I understand craziness fairly well so I hope some sanity and serenity find their way into your lives very soon.

Take care all.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Running? What's that again?

Granted it's only been two days, but I've put off running temporarily because of my left knee. Turns out running on basalt paving isn't good for my joints. Who knew? The tricky thing is that even when I think I'm running on asphalt, there's a high probability I'm running on asphalt covered basalt paving and that shit has absolutely no give. My hips and both my knees have twinged a bit over the last week or so, but my left knee is definitely the most disgruntled. I've iced and elevated it when possible, but that hasn't been often enough as I've been walking around the city a lot lately because of the conference and meeting people for dinners out. Everything is fine while walking, it's just when I walk up or down stairs that I end up looking like an octogenarian with a severe case of arthritis.

Thems be the breaks, I guess.

With that, I'll leave you with a bulleted (of course) list of random stuff I've seen/experienced over the past couple days:
  • People having sex in a car parked along the river.
  • Being hit on by a very drunk Italian man while trying to check my email at an internet cafe. He then proceeded to follow me for a bit after I left the cafe, but I eventually lost him. I clutched the Keys of Death in my hand the entire time just in case.
  • A dessert calzone filled with Nutella goodness. (yum!)
  • Wine that I thought didn't taste like complete ass.
  • Some damn fine pizza.
I had the one in the front with eggplant, mushrooms and sausage and my friend is holding up her gorgonzola pizza in the back.

Ciao tutti!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Therapy, thy name is running

Saturday I finally got in my much delayed speedwork. On the docket was 2 x 1600m at 9:51 pace. Here were my times:

1 – 9:25 (whoa nelly!)
2 – 10:03 (uhuh, that’s what I thought)

Yeah. As you can see, I continue to pace myself as poorly as Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The running gods are still thwarting me. In my frustration, I shook my fist at them and screamed, “KHAAAAAAAN!

It appeared to have no discernible effect.

The rest of Saturday was spent walking all over creation and attending a dinner party which lasted into the wee morning hours of Sunday. My roommate and I ended up catching the last bus of the night home. Turns out last buses are pretty notorious in Rome. The drivers want their shifts to end as soon as possible so they drive like complete maniacs, running red lights and likely pedestrians in their efforts to punch out for the night. Apparently, one such driver ended up cutting the usual 40 - 45 minute commute time down to 11 minutes in his haste.


Knowing this, I clung to my seat for dear life and was thankful when the driver bothered to slow down to let us off at our stop. A harrowing but rather thrilling experience. Next time I’ll bring a helmet.

With the combination of sore feet and lack of sleep, I said to hell with running on Sunday and pushed back my long run till this morning. However, Sunday wasn’t spent entirely resting in the flat. We visited the Pantheon (another building I research) and a few other ruins. While we were out and about, I took some fun pics I thought you guys might enjoy.

The Pantheon. Innit perty?

Location from which Pantheon photo was taken – a McDonalds. A total abomination, but sadly, I have eaten there a time or two in my life which is odd since I never eat McDonalds in the US.

Classy souvenir #1: The David apron. Also available: The David boxer shorts, now with less shrinkage!

Classy souvenir #2: Hot Priests of Rome calendar. Hubba hubba! (Crap, am I going to hell now for thinking that?)

Another blogger sighting! Look everyone, it’s Viper! All he did was try to bum money off people and get shitfaced. Somehow I get the impression this is standard practice for him.

This morning I slept later than I should have, but I set out for my 12-miler a little after 7 am. I ran two 6ish mile loops beginning at the flat and following a similar course as my ten miler last weekend – north along the river, south along the Via del Corso and the Via dei Fori Imperiali, then west-ish past the Colosseum and Circus Maximus. After the first loop I had to run up the three flights of stairs to the flat to use the toilet and grab a cereal bar, which my roommate found quite amusing and then I was off again.

The only problems with city running are the number of times I have to stop because of traffic and all the smog, exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke I inhale along the way. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need my lungs scraped out soon and this is coming from a person who grew up with a smoker in the family. Any tips from those of you who run in cities?

All in all, my weekend, but especially my runs, was quite therapeutic. I had plenty of time to think and remember which was exactly what I needed. When I visit my mom in December, I’ll probably get a bit sad again, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes. Thank you all for your kind comments on Friday’s post. The support and condolences were much appreciated by both me and my family.

This week, there’s a big conference, so I’ll be busy schmoozing and somehow trying to get some more research done. Thankfully the conference venue has free wi-fi so I won’t have to pay for internet access for the time being (woo hoo!!) and will still have the opportunity to post some throughout the week.

With that said, I hope you all have a great week. Catch up with you later.

Friday, 19 September 2008


If you look at the sidebar on the right, you’ll see I’ve only gotten in one run this week. It should be two. Now I have to run both days this weekend to get in my miles. Poop.

My workload is rather onerous as of late and will continue to be so throughout my stay in Rome. This has caused me to put off my runs recently and is the reason why I haven’t been keeping up with the push ups challenge for several weeks. The 45 minute bus commute in the mornings and afternoons to reach the main library hasn’t helped either. I realize many of you have to endure far worse commutes and the like, but this whole thing is new to me and rather detrimental to my regular schedule.

Lurkers de-lurked
I finally had a long phone call with my mom and sister yesterday. Amongst the serious subjects under discussion (more on that below), my mom said this: “I’ve read your blog.”

Me: “What?!”
Mom: “So, you peed in the sink?”
Me, slightly embarrassed: “I had to, Mom. It was an emergency.”
Mom: “With your advisor in the next room!” This is where she had to stop talking because she was laughing so much.

It’s good to know my mother loves us regardless. Even when she finds out one of her daughters is a sink peer.

I love you too, Mom.

At this point, with my mother still wheezing in the background, my sister got on the phone.

Z: “Ha, you peed in the sink!”
Me: “So I take it you read my Wednesday post.”
Z: “I read all your posts.”
Me: “Really?”

There you have it, folks. My family stalks my blog. Scary thought, huh? They seem to find all the banter in the comments rather entertaining too. [Editor’s note: Btw, Marcy, my sister thinks you’re hilarious and loves your blogger profile photo. Thought you’d like to know. :)] Go ahead and address them in the comments too if you want. The only thing I ask is that you show them due respect. They have to put up with me in real life which is sadly a lot worse than what you all deal with...voluntarily, I might add.

Sad news
My furball, Athena, has gotten worse. Her health declined rather rapidly this week. She’s in obvious pain now and can no longer climb up any of the stairs. My family and I have spent the last couple of days making preparations. Today is the final vet appointment. I wish more than anything that I could be there with her as she passes, but I know that’s not possible. Thankfully, my sister flew out yesterday to be with my mom so she didn’t have to go through it alone. I know to non-pet owners we sound like crazy people, but Athena and her brother, Sneezer, have been a huge part of our lives for 14 years and that’s really hard to try to let go of.

I’ll be leaving the library early today, so that I can make it back to the flat to call them before and after the appointment. I’d rather not have an audience while my heart breaks.

Rest in peace, my baby girl. I miss you already.

It appears the weather has decided to match my mood for the day. The skies are overcast and the temperature has dipped. Friends have invited me out tonight to help me drink my pain away. Depending on how blotchy my face is and if I feel up to company, I may join them. Thankfully Italians are quite accustomed to extreme emotions, so I know I won’t seem strange should I shed a few tears in public.

I’m really hoping my 12 miler this weekend is the catharsis I need it to be. Otherwise I may not post next week for fear of depressing you all even further.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Dignity? What's that?

Running Knitter left some distressing news in the comments of the last post. It appears Asics is discontinuing their GT 2130 line. While I was in the states recently, I purchased a second pair of these Asics, this time with a beautiful blue accent color as opposed to pink. (Thank you, America, for having a variety from which to choose. Suck on that, England.)

I broke in the blue Asics here in Rome and they have felt like a dream. Now the company is stabbing me straight in the heart and ending my perfect relationship with the perfect shoe.


So, what do I do? Do I prolong my dying relationship by purchasing a few more pairs of shoes online so I don’t have to deal with the shoe dating scene again until well into the New Year? Or do I just suck it up and admit it’s the end of a (rather brief) golden era?

Because it wouldn’t be a normal week if I didn’t do something incredibly stupid
I debated for almost an entire week about whether or not I was going to tell this story to you all. It’s rather embarrassing. But as that hasn’t stopped me before, here goes.

One morning last week, I woke up around 6ish and realized I needed to pee. But I was super comfortable in bed and I still had an hour before the alarm was set to go off, so I stayed where I was and fell back asleep.

When the alarm went off at 7, I swatted at it groggily. The need to pee was rather urgent now but I still didn’t want to leave the confines of the comfy bed. That all changed when I heard the sound of the bathroom door closing and the lock being turned.

My roommate had entered the bathroom to attend to her morning ablutions. When I heard the shower turn on, I knew I was done for. She would be in there for at least another 15 minutes minimum and I didn’t have that kind of time.

Sweet baby jesus, what was I going to do?!

That’s when it dawned on me. There’s another room in the flat with a drainage system. It was either that or wet myself. And I really hate to mop.

That’s right, folks. I peed in the kitchen sink.

Dropping trow, I hiked myself up onto the sink, positioned myself accordingly and let ‘er flow. Since my bladder had been over-full, I was there for a while. It was a bit like that scene in A League of Their Own.

Only I’m a girl. And I was peeing in a kitchen sink.

I began to freak out because it was taking so long. Crap, what if D finishes her shower before I’m done? Why didn’t I close the kitchen door? She’s going to open the bathroom door, turn the corner and get an eyeful. How am I still peeing?! There isn’t even this much liquid in the Tiber for christ's sake!

Thankfully there were no witnesses to my stupidity. Eventually my bladder was emptied and I was able to re-group.

I also scrubbed the hell out of that sink.

Now if I could just stop cringing every time D washes vegetables in the sink, everything would be perfect.

Random things I’ve seen in Rome that have made me laugh out loud
  • The smallest public transport bus known to man. If I can get a photo of one next to a regular-sized bus you’ll be able to appreciate how absurd it looks.
  • For two days in a row I’ve spotted women sporting Hammer pants. Is this just an Italian fashion trend or are these horrendous things popping back up in America too?
  • During this morning’s run, I came across an American tourist having his picture taken with one of the men dressed up as a centurion outside the Colosseum. He was shaking the centurion’s hand while the centurion had his sword jabbed into the man’s crotch. Tourists, they be crazy mofos. (I’m one of them so I can say that.)
Ci vediamo dopo. (See you later)

Monday, 15 September 2008

A river runs through it

Sunday I ran a 10 miler. The weather conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. Light breeze, partly cloudy skies (a godsend considering I forgot to wear my sunglasses) and cool temps in the 70s. There was a hint of rain in the air but thankfully it held off until later that morning.

Keys of Death in hand, I set off.

The first third or so of the run was along the Tiber river. The water was a rather toxic-looking green, but the numerous bridges and great views of some historic sites certainly made up for it. After that I made my way into the monument-filled city center ending with a double loop inside the Circus Maximus. If you’re interested in the exact details of the run, you can check it out here.

I’m taking advantage of my current location and running in the city center as much as possible before October when I’ll be changing residence. The new digs are on the northeast side of the city, so with the exception of my LSDs, my weekday runs will be located in and around the more conveniently located Villa Borghese.

All in all, another solid and enjoyable run in the books. Rome has countless public drinking fountains, so I don’t have to worry about hydration while running. However, electrolyte depletion is still a concern. For lack of a better option, I carried a small bag of gummy bears in my pocket. They seemed to do the trick, but I’m open to other suggestions if you all have any.

Getting on my nerves
For almost a week now, the outside of my left hand, including my pinky finger and the left side of my ring finger, have felt numb. I think I may have pinched a nerve dragging my suitcases up and down subway stairs and over the cobblestone sidewalks when I first arrived here. Does anyone know what I can do to speed up the healing process or am I stuck with it until it fixes itself? It doesn’t hurt, but it’s a constant annoyance, especially as my left hand is my dominant hand. I’m having to do a lot of typing right now, so this is definitely not helping matters.

The famous (and tasty?) Mr. Ed
Wandering around a market a few days ago, I came across this stall.

Horse, it’s what’s for dinner.

I think I now know what being Barbaroed means. Crickey.

Hope you all have a good week.

Ci vediamo dopo. (See you later)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Running with the Romans

After a 10-day streak of not running, I finally got off my lazy butt early this morning and went for a run. On the books was the long delayed 6-miler. Since I am currently without easy access to the internet (so no and I’m not a follower of the Church of Garmin, I aimed for a 72 minute run to ensure I ran the entire distance.

Overall, it was a fantastic run. Only two things marred its perfection, so I’ll get those out of the way first. First, the paving in Rome. A lot of this city is paved in cobblestones, both the sidewalks and the roads, so I had to be extra careful where I placed my feet or I was going to snap an ankle. God knows the wear and tear on my knees isn’t good, but with a little time and internet access, I can plan more forgiving routes to take on future runs.

The second issue was the keys. I’m staying in an apartment for the rest of September with my advisor. Awkward? Potentially since she is my boss, but so far everything has been great and having the opportunity to walk around the city with one of the foremost experts in ancient architecture is definitely not a hardship. Anyway, the keys to the flat are ginormous. Check them out.

I used my reading glasses for scale.

My running shorts only have a tiny little pocket and those honking keys didn’t have a chance of fitting in it, so I wore the key ring over my finger and just held them in my hand the whole time. Not bad, except the most comfortable position to carry them had the end of the keys sticking upwards which meant that if I fell, I was probably going to take a key to the head. Not a pleasant thought.

You might be asking yourselves why I bothered to take the key at all if there was someone in the flat anyway. Well, I woke up rather early so my advisor wasn’t awake yet and I didn’t feel right about leaving her snoozing away in an unlocked apartment. Also, she’s a wee bit deaf and kind of blind without her glasses, so it would have been like leaving Mr. Magoo in a very vulnerable position. That’s just not right, so I sucked it up and took the keys.

Anyway, back to the run. We’re staying in the southwest corner of the city, so I headed east past the Aventine hill and came upon the Circus Maximus. There were a half dozen people in the now grass covered venue either walking or running, so I joined them. I did a double loop around the arena and although there was some ten plus feet of earth separating my feet from the ancient ground level, I was still amazed that I was running there. The circus is one of the buildings I study so the whole experience was rather surreal.

Circus Maximus (this picture was taken 2 years ago in December)

Next I made my way further east past the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum and then took a left onto the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the wide street constructed by Mussolini which links the atrociously hideous building, the Vittorio Emanuele monument (nicknamed the Wedding Cake), with the remains of the Roman fora, the political heart of the ancient city. Turning around in the Piazza Venezia, I ran back down the street, around the other side of the Colosseum and back onto the road I was originally on.

Coming upon the Circus Maximus again, I remained on the opposite side of the street and took a left to run around a park which is just to the east of the Baths of Caracalla. This area had the highest concentration of runners, all of whom appeared extremely fit. The male runners were wearing the tightest running gear I’ve ever seen on anyone. This was odd since all the women I saw, though sporting technical running gear, were wearing rather loose clothing. This is the total reverse of the Italian norm for couture so I was completely confused. To spare my poor brain I gave up thinking all together at that point and just kept running.

I did a double loop around the park then made my way back to the flat. In total, I ran for 75 minutes. It was some of the best 75 minutes of my life, even though I arrived home a sopping, sweaty mess. It wasn’t even 9 am yet and the temperature was already in the 80s. I’m melting, but I’m loving my time here all the same.

One more thing before I stop my yacking. Early yesterday evening, we were walking around on the Aventine sightseeing when a runner passed us. Without thinking about it, I took a picture (admittedly not a good one) of him. Later I realized why. He reminded me of Ted.

Roman Ted

Ted, have you come to Rome without telling me or did I just see your Roman twin? ;)

Hope you all are having a great week.

Ci vediamo dopo. (See you later)

Monday, 8 September 2008

It's Monday already?

So, how was everybody’s Friday night? Was it kickin’? Mine was amazing! I did something I didn’t know my body was capable of. I enjoyed it immensely and all while in the comfort of my own bed.

Get your minds out of the gutter, pervs. I’m not talking about that. Like another rock star in Blogland, I went to bed super early but instead of waking up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. (seriously, Marcy, you deserve a medal for that) I proceeded to sleep well into the next day for a total of 14 hours. Can we say ‘jetlag’? My body doesn’t often let me sleep for more than ten hours, so this is a new record for me. Not an overly exciting record to have, but it’s pleasing to me and that’s all that matters.

Running? What running?
I’ve got sod all to talk about on the running front. Well, except for the fact that I haven’t been running. This morning was supposed to be a 6-miler, but I turned off the alarm and just kept on snoozing. Hopefully I can squeeze a run in later today or very early tomorrow morning before my flight.

When sexy photo shoots go wrong...
It’s been a while since I posted some yummy manly goodness for the viewing pleasure of my female readers. There’s a bit of a twist to today’s photo though.

They handle their balls well, don't they?

Here’s a pic of some naked English rugby players. Now, I love me some rugby, especially when the players are naked and not playing rugby, but this photo doesn’t quite achieve its intended sexiness. Here’s why:
  • There’s an albino in the photo.
  • The albino is farting on his compadres.
  • The tall guy, though attractive, looks like he’s taken one too many hits to the face. I’ll give him some slack on that however. He is after all a rugby player.
  • The second guy from the right is pouting which pretty much says he’s a total diva.
  • The guy on the far right looks like he’s pinching a loaf.
To sum up, naked men = hot. Weird facial expressions and lack of skin pigmentation = not hot.

All right, folks, I need to get back to work. Lots of laundry and packing left to do. Before I go though, I want to give a special shout-out to my friend Theresa. She ran her first 10k yesterday in Glasgow and did wonderfully. There were bagpipers along the race course too. How cool is that! Hopefully in the spring, Theresa, I’ll make my way up north and we’ll run another race together. Fingers crossed that it’s a little better organized and more scenic than our last one. :)

Have a great week, everyone. Next time I post, it’ll be from Rome! As you can see, I’ve already modified the masthead. That’s a photo of the Pantheon. Do you like it or should I choose a different monument?

You know, I still can’t believe my life sometimes. It’s just freaking insane.

Ciao tutti!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Right back where we started from

After a long and sleepless flight last night, I am now back in England. Exiting the airport I was greeted with 41 degree Fahrenheit temps and a persistent rain with the promise of some severe storms this weekend. Ah, England, how I’ve missed you.

But this is yet another quick trip. On Tuesday I leave on my sojourn to Rome. I’ll be in the eternal city for just over three months to conduct research for my dissertation. Only one thing mars my excitement – I can only take one suitcase which can’t weigh more than 20 kg (about 44 lbs). In that one bag, I need to pack regular clothes, conference clothes, running clothes, shoes and my research materials. Unless I learn some Houdini-like tricks within the next four days, I foresee me forking over a large sum of money to take another bag onto the plane. I really don’t want to do that. Keep your fingers crossed I can find a solution that doesn't cost me more money.

I no longer need cheese because I ran out of whine
The pity party is now officially over. Sorry about that. Being overly hard on myself is a reoccurring theme in my life and it seems running cannot escape it either. Well, at least that makes me consistent.

As for the Florence marathon, I’m still undecided but teetering towards a ‘yes’. This being the case, I will begin a training program on Monday. I’ll need to make a final decision within the next couple of weeks though to facilitate travel plans for others, so at least I won’t be dragging my feet for too long ... like some people. :)

So, which program am I going to use? Good question. Not surprisingly, they’re all fairly similar, but I’m leaning towards Lam’s suggestion of the SmartCoach plan from Runner's World. Imputing all my info, it created a schedule for me with three runs per week and three 20-milers. The latter is definitely a bonus since I’ll have the opportunity, should I deem it necessary, to change one of them into a 22-miler and probably forgo one altogether since it is scheduled on the weekend I am presenting at a conference. It’s a small conference, but they’ve pretty much planned every second of the weekend, so I’ll be lucky to get in a short distance that weekend let alone 20 miles.

Furball Update
Athena sunning herself on the deck and blinding the rest of us

My beautiful furbaby has been diagnosed with lymphoma. The prognosis is obviously not good. Thankfully right now she seems to be feeling fine, but we know that when she does begin to decline it will be sudden and swift. I have cried on and off over the past few days and especially when I had to say good-bye yesterday. It breaks my heart to know that I will most likely not see her again with my own eyes, but at least I know she is happy, pain-free and well-loved. She has lived a long and spoiled life in my family for fourteen years and she will continue to do so until it is her time.

All right, time to end on a happy note. I want to wish good luck to Lisa, POM, Theresa, Vanilla, Viper and anyone else who is racing this weekend. You are going to kick some serious ass, my friends. Can’t wait to read about your triumphs next week.

Till then, take care everyone and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Fear and loathing in New Hampshire

I lied on Monday. I said I had no complaints about my performance in Sunday’s half marathon, but I do. Even though I finished under 2:30 which was my goal, I’m disappointed in my overall pace. I’d wanted to average a sub-11 pace, but instead ended up with 11:10. In the World of Slow in which I reside I know that isn’t a huge difference, but apparently it’s a big deal to me, because I’m still kicking myself for it. Well, not literally kicking myself. At least not until my quads have fully healed.

This has caused me to have reservations about attempting the Florence marathon in November. I remember being two thirds of the way through the half marathon and thinking I was deranged for even contemplating a marathon this year. Mentally I had a difficult time during the half and now I’m worried I’m not ready to attempt a full marathon, especially since it will take me over 5 hours to complete. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to endure that.

After Sunday’s race, I was almost sure I wouldn’t run in Florence, but now I’m undecided again. If I forgo the Florence marathon, I could focus on speed and hill work while I’m in Rome for the fall. There is no shortage of hills there as opposed to my town in England, so there would be no way for me to shirk hill work like I have over the past few months. Following in Nitmos’ footsteps, I could have a season of speed of my own, only it would be called the Autumn of Acceleration, the Fall of Fartleks, or the Winter of ...erm... I’m not sure really. I’ll leave that name up to you all.

So, yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m capable of. Pretty par for the course for me, but things are really out of whack right now because of other things too. The vet appointment today was pretty heart-wrenching for us as we found out one of my furballs (not the alarm clock, but his sister) has a lump which may be the big ‘C’. Because of her age, the prognosis is not good, which means she’ll probably pass away before I come back again for Christmas. And I’m leaving tomorrow for England. Total suckage.

If you all have any advice about the marathon or how I can stop obsessing about how slow I am, fire away in the comments. So far I’ve got nothing.

Later gators.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Race Report: Swanzey Covered Bridges Half Marathon

Saturday night, I double-checked the alarm clock, but I needn’t have bothered. The digital clock didn’t wake me up, the furry one did.

Furry alarm clock

At 5:30 am. By swatting my face. The Swanzey Covered Bridges Half Marathon wasn't set to start until 9 am and we only had a thirty minute drive to get there, but I was awake at 5:30. I paid the furball back by putting him in a headlock and smothering his head in kisses. Cats, they’re so easy to torture.

Though lacking some sleep, I woke up on race day to the pleasant absence of knee pain. I guess it was a mental thing. However, I was experiencing full on female crampage. Although I know it was a no-no, I popped some pain relievers, but I made sure the dosage was small, hoping it would run its course by start time.

On the drive to the race, we encountered a lot of fog. It would have been great to run in it. My imagination would have been in overdrive from all the horror movies I’ve watched probably resulting in a pretty good pace for the race. Sadly, it cleared by race time and in its place was a bright blue sky with virtually no clouds. I could have done with some more clouds, but at least most of the course was lined with trees which cast some decent shade.

The course was advertised as flat. The New Hampshirite concept of flat ground is similar to the Venetian concept of a straight road*: both are skewed. And by skewed, I mean really, really wrong. Most of the race course was along country roads with rolling hills. I should have known a flat course was too good to be true. This is my home state after all.

The race began a short distance down the road from the local high school. The field of runners was small, probably 300 tops, so no timing corrals or anything. As in London, I was on my own for pacing, which pretty much meant I was doomed from the start since I can’t pace myself worth a damn.

I ran the first mile in 10:08. Basically, way too fast for a slow-poke like me. The pace band I’d made showed the splits for two separate finishing times, 2:15 and 2:30. The first was the proposed finish time for the training program I used, the second was the latest time at which I wanted to finish. As I passed each mile marker, I checked to see which time I was closer to. For the first part of the race, I was much closer to the 2:15 pace times, but that changed around mile 9.

Around mile 6 I realized I hadn’t experienced any female cramps so far in the race. Well, that went to pot at mile 9 when they returned in force. Accompanying them was a heavy feeling in my legs and a desperate need to empty my bladder. The promised port-a-potties at the halfway point never materialized, unless by port-a-potty they meant the woods lining the highway. Between miles 10 and 11, I had reached decision time – pee my pants or take a detour into the woods. I smartly chose the latter, though it ended up adding about a minute to my time. Suckage.

Miles 10 to 13 basically just kicked my butt. I was super tired and my pace had slowed considerably. For forty awful minutes, I had to battle with my weaker self to not give in and walk. It sucked. I tried to distract myself from the constant hills by noticing how many men I was chicking or focusing on the songs playing on my ipod. I succeeded and kept on running, but it was rough going. I hate to admit it, but Viper was right - it is one thing to be able to run the distance, but another to race it.

I crossed the finish at 2:26:13, which equates to an 11:10 pace. Not bad with all those hills and I still made it in under 2:30, so I have no real complaints. My mom was waiting near the end, waving madly and taking photos. She was pleased as punch and so was I, especially since I knew I had definitely earned a slice of the lemon cake with vanilla frosting (my favorite kind of cake) that was waiting for us at home. We also got to enjoy the post-race bbq of burgers and roasted corn. Yum.

Midway through eating I took the picture, hence the burger’s state. And yes, I know I’m weird for eating around the burger first.

While we were munching away on our lunches, the race organizers held the awards ceremony. The first two finishers in the under 19 men’s category were obviously high school cross country runners, as the announcer mentioned their coach was making them run an additional 7 miles later that day. Poor bastards. The winner of the women’s 50 to 59 category (incidentally, my mom’s age group, but she’s not a runner) looked barely older than myself and she finished in about 1:45. Talk about a blow to the ego. Both my mother’s and mine.

Though my knees didn’t hurt at all before, during or right after the race, they did need to be iced that evening, but I think that was more the result of my nap on the couch that afternoon. And by couch, I mean dinky little loveseat. I’m not tall by any means, but I still woke up to find myself in a contorted and very uncomfortable position. I need to not do that again.

This morning I awoke to sore quads. It’s been interesting walking down stairs, but otherwise it hasn’t been too bad. I should be able to get in a short run before I leave for England on Thursday. That makes me happy.

Oh, and guess what else I’m happy about? My dry spell has ended! No not that one. This one.

You complete me.

It’s not a work of art, but I love it anyway. Just like a mother who’s given birth to an ugly child, but only sees its beauty. [Editor’s note: Is it just me or do all newborn babies look like Winston Churchill?] I foresee the shirt being rotated into my cold-weather pajama wardrobe. It’ll be so nice to fall asleep wrapped in a shirt reminding me of such an amazing personal accomplishment. Ten months ago I couldn’t run for more than 30 seconds without getting winded and now I can run 13 consecutive miles. It still boggles the mind. I wonder if the day will ever come when I’m no longer surprised by it all. Maybe, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

One more thing before I end this already long post... I know this may sound overly sentimental, but I just wanted to thank you all for your advice, support and understanding. There aren’t many people in my real life who are really interested in running, so I don’t get to talk about it much except for here on the blog. My family and friends are all very proud of me for running and tell me so, but it is also quite obvious that they don’t understand my dedication to it. Having already picked a career path which most of them never fathomed or don’t even understand (for the hundredth time, no, I don’t dig up dinosaur bones!), I’ve done it again with my running habit. I’m a total freak to them, but they continue to love me anyway. So thank you for being my running outlet. You make the lives of the people in my real life a lot easier.

Blah! Okay, enough sappy crap. Hope you all had a great holiday weekend.

* There are no straight roads in Venice and most streets weren’t signed when I was there so being told to ‘go straight on this street’ was pointless when I encountered a fork in the road every three seconds.