Friday, 28 May 2010

Is this seat taken?

The latest in Scottish summer fashions

The morning after the Edinburgh marathon, I climbed Arthur's Seat with Theresa. My legs and feet were mildly sore from the day before but I knew that a little exertion post-marathon would help work out the rest of the aches and pains. And I was right. The last vestiges of soreness left my person on Wednesday. Guess that means I should start running again, huh? Eh, we'll see.

Anyway, here are some photos I took along the walk up to the top and then from the summit itself.


The yellow vegetation is gorse. It smells like coconuts. For real. 'Do you like pina coladas...'


Edinburgh Castle to the left and the tall black spire is the Scott monument.


Tweet tweet



Have a great weekend, everyone.

Later gators.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Race Report: Edinburgh Marathon

Alternate title: Sun is shining. Mr. Marley, can you please turn the damn thing off? I’m dying here.

Sorry this race report is so long. I actually cut it down a lot. Hard to believe, huh?

About to enter the baggage and corral area

On race day I woke up to a solid gray sky and the evidence of a brief rain shower. The weather report had said the day would be cloudy with temps in the upper 60s. And I actually believed it.

The elite group started at 9:50 am. The rest of us schmucks had to wait until 10 am. While we waited, the sun started to peek through the clouds. And then we were off, the music of the kilted bagpipers receding as we headed east out of Edinburgh running by Holyrood Palace and then passing by Arthur’s Seat.

After the first mile, we entered a park area next to Arthur’s Seat. There were trees and tallish grass so lots of runners took advantage of it for a quick wee. The excitement of the start and having to wait in the corral for so long left me needing to pee again too. There wasn’t a whole lot of coverage but it didn’t matter. I ran up the incline, positioned myself behind a tree while still facing the road and did my business. I’m pretty sure I exposed my cooch to half the runners in the purple wave. God knows who was behind me, but since I didn’t hear any loud thumps from people passing out or screams of horror from people being blinded by the sight of my pasty white ass, I assume there was no one.

Just under a minute and I was back on the course. The clouds were completely gone by this point and the sun began to beat down on us. I started to get concerned.

At this point I was keeping pace with two runners—Scottish Devil girl (she wore a plaid skirt, knee-high socks, tank top and hat with devil horns) and Pink Shirt. We got passed by a soldier in full military get-up. Humbling, that.

The first water stop was just after mile 3. I grabbed a 250 ml water bottle and kept it with me until I had drunk the whole thing. It was obviously turning into a hot day so I wanted to stay as hydrated as possible.

Miles 5 to 7 were on the promenade along the Firth of Forth. I passed the solider just after mile 5. At the water stop at mile 5.5 I grabbed a bottle each of Lucozade and water. I finished them both before I hit mile 6. Scottish Devil girl and Pink shirt pulled ahead at this point and I let them. I was running slightly faster than my planned pace so it was all good.

This is the majority of the marathon course.

We were back on the streets after mile 7. A little ways on I passed a scene on the sidewalk. A runner was down and medics were performing CPR on him. I am not a religious person but I immediately made the sign of the cross and sent up a fervent prayer that he would make it. I later learned that he did not.

I hit mile 8 at my planned time, but it was here that things began to decline. The sun was oppressive. Even with the light breeze coming off the Firth of Forth, it could do nothing to stop the sun. There was no shade along the course. We were sitting running ducks.

I did what I could—I drank everything I grabbed at the water stops, ate my gummy candy every 40 minutes and kept plugging along. By this time I was keeping pace with a woman in a yellow shirt so I stuck near her and tried to take my mind off the time. I enjoyed the amazing crowds along the course—the bagpipers and blaring music, the school cheering squad, the kilted men, people giving out orange slices and gummy candy. I high fived little kids and ran through every sprinkler and hose I could to cool down. During the lulls in between towns, I would play the alphabet game with roads signs and people’s shirts. I got stuck on the letter Z for the longest time until I realized all I had to do was look for one of the Alzheimer’s charity runners.

I hit mile 12 at 1:40 over time. I knew that there was no way I could make that up, so I gave up on the sub-5 and just hoped to match my time from Florence. But that hope soon slipped away too. Yellow shirt woman pulled ahead at mile 16 which was when I had the strong urge to curl up on the side of the road and just fall sleep. It was a total slog-fest because of the unrelenting sun. The temperature was in the high 70s.

At some point my weak inner self was trying to convince me to just quit. It was too hard, too uncomfortable and my goal was shot anyway, so why bother. I almost cried I was so miserable. But then I’d see the runners laid low on the sidelines with heat exhaustion being tended to by medics and volunteers. No way was I going to wimp out and use up valuable course resources when there were people in actual need. Also I couldn’t stomach the idea of having gone through four months of training for absolutely nothing. So I kept going.

After we passed the golf course and ended up near some fields, I took advantage of one of the port-a-loos which thankfully did not have a queue. It heartened me that I was drinking enough to still need to go pee in this weather, though my mouth still felt like salty cotton.

At mile 18 we passed Gosford House, the turning point for the out and back portion of the race. I walked large portions from here on out, but I was just really glad that I wasn’t alone. Florence had had a field of some 7000 runners, but there were few around me in the last third of the race. There were at least 15,000 full marathon runners at Edinburgh, all greatly affected by the weather conditions, so I was surrounded by people at all times. I gained determination from the presence of my fellow runners and the unbelievably awesome spectators still lining the course, cheering us on.

At mile 23 I was surprised to see Scottish Devil girl and Pink Shirt again. They were walking. I passed them at my slow trot and kept going. I spotted another empty port-a-loo and made use of it. Man, my bladder was getting a workout today.

At mile 24, sign in hand, was Theresa. I was 30+ minutes over the estimated time I had given her. But there she was and I was so happy to see a familiar face. She went to hand me the food I’d given her to hold for me, but I just couldn’t handle anything solid at that point and instead asked for water. I quickly chugged it, made plans to meet her at the finish and off I went.

Mile 24 to 25 was interminable, but there was still so much encouragement from the spectators and plenty of sprinklers to make it bearable. I perked up after mile marker 25. We descended a bit of a slope and out in the distance was Musselburgh racecourse—the finish line. I ran from there on out, not stopping and not slowing down. I was just so desperate to get to the end. I passed people left and right. My lungs burned and I was hotter than hell, but the end was so close.

And then we were on the race course, in the final stretch with tons of people cheering and I crossed the finish. So exhausted, but finally done.

The Edinburgh marathon was amazing—the organization, volunteers, spectators, the course, everything. The only glitch was the unexpected weather. That and the baggage reclaim area was HELLA FAR away from the finish line. But seriously, that’s my only complaint. If any of you are looking for a destination marathon to run, Edinburgh should be high on your list. I highly recommend it. Weather permitting, of course.

As I hadn’t expected sunshine on race day, I didn’t wear sunscreen. I’m still dealing with the resulting sunburn and the lovely reactions I get from people who see it. There’s a bottle of aloe vera on my desk and, as I’ve typed this, I’ve had to stop and re-apply it about a dozen times. There’s no stopping the peeling though. Hot mess doesn’t even cover it.

I celebrated my survival of the Edinburgh marathon by climbing Arthur’s Seat the following day. But as I’ve prattled on enough now, I’ll leave that story for next time.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Happy hump day to you.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bad karma

Warm temps + oppressive sunshine - any kind of shade = BRUTAL EFFING MARATHON.

I dragged my carcass over the finish line at 5:42 and change. I honestly thought I might not make it or that the race itself would have to be canceled before I reached the finish. Thankfully neither happened.

There's tons to say but I'm tired and dealing with the other major side effect of prolonged sun exposure--a horrific sunburn. I've got light pink calves, purple arms, a red neck (heh) and the worst raccoon eyes ever. I've used up nearly an entire bottle of aloe vera in two hours and my skin is still soaking it up almost instantly.

I'll write up a proper report later this week. Right now I'm just happy to be sitting down and thankful that my feet haven't fallen off yet.

Thanks for all of your support, guys. It really helped me out.

Later gators.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Here I go again

Yesterday as I was walking to the store, I saw a girl wearing a Frankie Says Relax shirt and then later another girl sporting legit Hammer pants. WTF decade are we in again?!

I’ve been working from home the last three days. Today I’m back at the department because I could no longer stand the construction worker next door who thought he was on Britain’s Got Talent. The last straw was when he butchered Phil Collin’s In the Air Tonight. Bitch was worse than Mike Tyson.

Today I’m finishing up some work before I head north on the train tomorrow morning. The marathon has been forefront in my thoughts the last few days, especially yesterday when I realized my race plan was no longer viable. Why is it no longer viable?

Edinburgh doesn’t have pacers.

I must have confused Edinburgh with one of the other marathons I was considering and thought it had them. It does not. It’s gonna be me and a pace bracelet. Again. I suck at pacing myself.

My training has not gone to plan. I completed very little speedwork, gained a bit of weight and had a screwy taper. When I first signed up for Edinburgh my goal was 4:45. Now I should just be praying for a one second PR. However, I really, really, really want a sub-five hour time. I want that four in front of my time so badly I can taste it. And when I say sub-five I mean 4:59:59.

I’m just not sure if it’s in the cards this time. Yes, Edinburgh is a downhill course, but a good chunk of it is run along the Firth of Forth which has the potential for some strong winds. If said winds are blowing up man-kilts, I’m all for it, but not if it’s going to slow my pace.

It’s all gonna come down to the mental game. Thankfully I have been preparing for this during my long runs—sometimes even with some success. Basically, I’ve focused on staying positive and using the landmark-to-landmark technique to keep me moving.

There are bonuses to running in Edinburgh as well—I’ll have the companionship of nearly 20,000 other runners, a great friend who is making my first ever marathon sign, the support of friends and family from afar, the chance to run on what I’m told is a beautiful course and, last but not least, the presence of Scottish men in kilts.

Oh yes, there will be kilts.

I won’t know unless I try, so try I will.

Just to let you know, because of travel and the like, I may not post until Tuesday. It all depends on whether I choose to sleep on the train or type up my race report. I have a feeling sleep might win. In that case, I ask that no one (and you know who you are, stalkers) spoils the fun by revealing my results before I’ve posted. Cuz I’ll find a way to virtually kick you in the nuts if you do. Even if you’re nutless, blunt force trauma to the cooch (not like that, pervs) is still painful so I don’t want to hear it.

And because it’s appropriate and the title of this post, I leave you once again with Whitesnake.



Have a great weekend, everyone, and good luck to all those racing.

Later gators.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. As a gesture of solidarity for my friend Canadia who’s submitting her dissertation at the end of the month, I’ve been working like a bitch this week. During breaks we text or email each other—she her frustrations and mounting stress, me encouragement and lame jokes to keep her motivated. I’m hoping this will bank me some good karma when I’m in her situation in November/December. I’m working from a pretty significant deficit at the moment though, so we’ll see.

2. Speaking of karma, I’ve decided that Instant Karma will be the first song on my marathon playlist. Thanks, G.

3. Been thinking about how unattainable my pared down goal is for the Edinburgh marathon. Balls. Won’t know unless I try though.

My last post for the week will be tomorrow. Happy Thursday, everyone.

Later gators.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Heading into the home stretch

After logging some hours at the library on Saturday, I headed out on a four miler in Port Meadow. I greeted my bovine friends with the usual nod and wide berth as I witnessed their skill at multitasking (pooping while eating—amazing). The rabbits were out in droves and scurried into the shrubbery as I passed. My constant companions during the short run were the bugs. Seeing as it was dusk and I was running next to the canal, there were a lot of the little suckers. In total I inhaled three—accidentally swallowed two and spit out one (commence spit-swallow jokes)—and took one in the eye (I’m making this way too easy for you guys today). After I got home and was stripping down pre-shower, I discovered three bug carcasses on my chest. They either weren’t ready for my jelly or I have the Bosom of Doom.

It’s a toss-up really.

Saturday was also the day I checked my pidge at college. In it I found the envelope with my Edinburgh marathon bib, timing chip and race day info. There’s still an expo of sorts, but it’s only mandatory for overseas participants to pick up their race stuff. There will be some merchandise stalls, but I’m not going to be arsed to go since I’ll be arriving at about 2 pm-ish on Saturday after a five and a half hour train ride. I’d rather just relax and hang with my friend and host, Theresa.

Having the race paraphernalia in hand finally booted me out of Total Ambivalence and into Tepid Excitement for the big day. I’m assigned to the gold group, the second to last in the starting queue. Yay for slow people! My race number is one digit away from being one of the most awesome numbers ever...and a great luggage or air shield combination. It will now be my job to hunt down the bastard who actually got that number and slap him silly for stealing my potentially epic life moment. It’s only right.

This also got me thinking seriously about my marathon playlist. Last week I was over at a friend’s and we happened to catch an episode of Top of the Pops (a now defunct program which was the British equivalent of shows like American Bandstand) which featured performances from the 80s and 90s. It was fun seeing what did and did not make it across the pond.

One of the performances was by Black Box, the 90s group which became embroiled in an escandalo when it was found out that the lead vocals were actually performed by rubenesque Martha Wash and not skinny-minny frontwoman Catherine Quinol. Anyway, Black Box was performing ‘Ride on Time’, a song featured in a funny training montage in the awesome 1992 film, The Cutting Edge.



My sister and I loved this movie growing up and it marked the start of my crush on actor D.B. Sweeney which subsequently waned after witnessing him being molested by aliens in Fire in the Sky. Eh, it was glorious while it lasted.

Long story short (too late!) this song has now been added to my race day playlist. It makes me happy so it’s a keeper. I’m pretty tired of most of the junk on my ipod though so I’m searching for new additions. If you have any race day song suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Okay, that’s more than enough from me, especially on a Monday. Have a great week, everyone. Catch up with you when I can.

Later gators.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Shake, rattle and roll

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a runner in taper must be in want of stuffing their face with copious amounts of food.

Well, at least in my case.

I’ve been eating a lot of very bad things lately—muffins, cupcakes, cookies, key lime pie. Although part of it can be blamed on tapering, most of it is actually the result of stress eating. Thanks a lot, stupid dissertation.

In an effort to rectify the situation, I have declared today to be No-Added Sugar Day. No candy or sweet baked good will pass my lips this day. In fact, I won’t even be adding sugar to my tea. This morning I ate a healthy breakfast of oatmeal with skim milk. I have fruit for my morning and afternoon snacks (natural sugars are exempt) and all-natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks and baked crisps for lunch. Dinner will be this.

Since I’m a processed sugar junkie, I expect to have the shakes by 3 pm at the latest. The roaring, fire-breathing and total decimation of the poor sods in my vicinity will follow soon after.

Aren’t you glad you don’t know me in real life?

Royally screwed
During my family’s visit a couple of weeks ago and the souvenir shopping that ensued, I went in search of a bottle opener with the image of the Queen on it. Since Italy has the Popener, I assumed England would have a Queenener. I was proven wrong.

It wasn’t for lack of trying either. We visited Windsor for god’s sake and even amongst all the tacky royal tourist crap in the shops there not a single Queenener was not to be found. You might think it was because of some sense of propriety, but there were shot glasses with the Queen’s face on them. How can a bottle opener be worse than that?

The only bottle opener that was even slightly amusing enough for me to purchase was one with Big Ben on it, because it was kind of phallic.
Yes, I do have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old. Why do you ask?

I’m hoping there will be more amusing bottle openers in Scotland when I’m there next weekend. They pretty much hate England and the Queen so it’s a good bet.

Before I sign off, I want to wish good luck to Jamie and MCM Mama who are running marathons this weekend and Anna from Adios, Fat Pants! who's running her first half marathon. Kick some ass, ladies!

Happy weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wednesday is like whoa

That 20 miler left me with a bit of discomfort. First, I had two good sized blisters, one on each foot. Thankfully I had some Compeed blister patches so all is now well on that front.

However further discomfort was endured yesterday. I woke up to my body feeling like a troupe of tap-dancing midgets had stomped all over it. Whoever says running isn’t a full body exercise is a bleeding idiot. Thankfully today I feel much better.

If I can finish up work in a timely fashion, I have a planned three miler to tackle this evening. Hopefully the predicted rain will hold off. What am I saying? This is England. Of course it will rain.

O child
I was recently reminded of the nursery rhyme, Monday’s Child. If you don’t know it, here it is:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day,
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

I realized I had no idea which day of the week I was born on, so I looked it up. Yup, I was born on a Thursday. Why does this not surprise me? I’ve taken up distance running and I’ve been in school FOR-EV-ER. [Editor’s note: Bonus points to the person who can name the movie I just referenced.] My only consolation is that I wasn’t born on a Wednesday. My apologies to those of you who were. That bites.

Before I leave you on this very cloudy Wednesday, here’s the song that got stuck in my head yesterday.



I do so love to share with you all.

Later gators.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Taperville


Weekend to-do list:
(1) 20 mile run – CHECK
(2) Edit dissertation chapter – CHECK
(3) Run 7k race – FAIL

It has finally happened—my first DNS. I didn’t want to miss the race but it wasn’t in town and the time needed to travel there would have been completely wasted seeing as I get carsick when I try to read in a moving vehicle. I had to prioritize and the 20 miler and this god-forsaken chapter had to come first. I really hate losing out on money, but at least it only cost me a tenner.

The 20 miler went ok. And by ok I’m mean everything except my pace which was god awful. Eh, what do I expect after two weeks of patchy running.

The highlights of the run included:
  • playing Frogger with the cows in Port Meadow. I won. Barely.
  • nearly having my shins attacked by an irate goose. She was protecting her babies though so it’s ok.
  • seeing the rowing teams practice on the river at butt-early in the morning.
  • smiling at and passing the same fisherman on the canal four times. He probably thought I was a nutter.
  • fuzzy baby ducklings everywhere!
  • horses. Yes, just horses. I like them.
  • a little dog deciding it would be more fun to run with me than walk with his owner. Sadly, the owner won.
With the 20-miler completed, I have officially entered the city limits of Taperville. Thank jebus! One more long-ass run (i.e. the marathon) and then I can go back to my regular all-short runs schedule. Ah, bliss.

Holla at my homies
A new reader has delurked and left me a comment. Scarlett from Port to Port is an American runner in Barcelona and she recently ran her first half-marathon, the start of which was located next to Roman ruins. How cool is that!

Also, Shut Up and Run ran her second marathon this past weekend and biotch BQ’d! Woohoo!

Now be nice little minions and go congratulate these fine ladies. They deserve it.

Have a great week, everyone.

Later gators.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Staggering

I woke up this morning to a hung parliament (that’s what she said they wish) and cloudy depressing weather. Oh, England, how I love thee.

This weekend I have my last 20 miler and a 7k race on Sunday. Ha! My taper was supposed to start on Monday of this week, but I’ve had to stagger it since the week before I did virtually no running and missed my long run. So this weekend is my last 20 and then Monday I begin a two week taper.

I no longer really give a shit as my training has been sub-par anyway. My goal for the race has dwindled the more my schedule gets cocked up and the closer I get to race day. Eh, I’m not too fussed about it anymore.

By the way, what’s the opposite of taper tantrums?

STFU
There is a disturbing trend of late—people using chat acronyms in everyday speech and not in an ironic or taking the piss kind of manner. Two friends in the last two days have each said ‘OMG’ when talking to me.

This TOTALLY irritates the hell out of me, especially when it spews forth from the mouths of members of my generation. We should know better. Saying ‘OMG’ takes just as long to say as ‘oh my god’ so I don’t see the point. Also every time I hear it, it makes me think of OMD the 80s group which then leads me to this.



OMG!

Happy weekend, everyone.

Later gators.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Where's Waldo?

So, is this creepy or cute? Considering this is the view from my bedroom window, I'm a bit on the fence about it. The neighbor's critter is adorable and very affectionate in person, but a little less so when giving me the death stare from my kitchen roof.

Happy hump day, everyone.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Get thee to a nunnery

Tower Bridge

Nuns are a whole lotta fun. Well, running nuns anyway.

Sunday I made my way to London and ran the Sister Act Nun Run with my friend M and his friend J. The rain did not dampen our spirits as we suited up in our race-issued costumes.


Sea o' nuns

The race course started at City Hall and ran along the banks of the Thames river. We crossed two bridges, including Tower Bridge, and passed several iconic London sites. The whole thing was on sidewalks and pedestrian-only paths so that vehicular traffic did not have to be shut down.

All sorts of religious figures were defamed.

M and I are gluttonous morons, so pre-race we hit McD’s for a calorie and fat-filled breakfast. This and the fact that I hadn’t run in over a week due to tour guide duties and work pretty much sealed the deal that ‘racing’ this race wasn’t gonna happen for me.

The race began and all however-many hundreds of us took off. We ran under and then up onto Tower Bridge and then back along the banks of the Thames.

video

I feared for my little camera because of the rain and the fact that I was already soaked so I stopped taking in-race photos shortly after the second mile. But I did stop long enough to get a steady-handed photo of the Tower of London.

Off with their heads!

M and J are faster runners so they eventually surged ahead, though M, being the fastest of the three of us, would run back and forth between J and me to take amusing pictures. Seeing as we were all dressed up in black nun outfits, he had a difficult time finding the two of us amongst the other runners. However, it became easier for him to find me as I was running at a similar pace to a male nun-runner who had balloon boobs. A group of Asian tourists we passed really got a kick out of him.

Despite the rain, huge-ass puddles and frequent bottlenecks, it was a fantastic race. The volunteers were super cheerful and my fellow runners were all out for a good time. I ran near runners who were determined to get responses from passersby—including the boats on the Thames. One of the large tourist boats sounded its horn at us as its passengers cheered us on. It was awesome.

Near the end, a lanky German tourist jogged up alongside me and asked about the race. He seemed quite taken with it all. I have a feeling he might show up for next year’s race.

He asked one question for which I didn’t have an answer though—how long was the race? It’s billed as a 4-mile course. However, the maps they provided us clearly show that the race is well over that. J’s Nike Plus said 5.7 miles, but I think it was closer to 5 miles. The problem with the race organizer’s map is that it didn’t take into account the non-straight paths we had to run along the river, including the many stairs. Eh, it’s cool.

M and J cheered me at the finish and then we took some goofy pictures together before calling it a day. There may or may not be a photo of me potentially violating an elephant. What can I say, it was a fun day.

Have a great week, everyone.

Later gators.