Saturday, September 30, 2006

"22 Miles Is the Same as 26"

So said our coach today before we took off, before the crack of dawn. Speaking of crack, is she on it???? I may not know much, I mean, I'm no math whiz, but I'm really pretty totally like absolutely completely sure that 22 is a whole 'nother number than 26. Make that 26.2.

But, I digress.

Oh, except that there was also this direction:
If you are a stickler and you want to get the whole 22 miles in, then run up the hill to Connecticut Ave. But it's up to you. No big difference.
22 miles. Hill, no hill. Whatever! (God, I love our coaches!)

Here's today's course:

I ran again with the Other Jen, who started having knee issues, and, like the true, good, and loyal friend that I am, I left her at the base of the Capital building. Sigh. I'm sorry Jen! (In my defense, I did ask if she wanted me to hang with her; and being the good, loyal, and true friend that she is, she said no, go on. Take a lesson, Jeanne.)

There was a lot of confusion on the course. I mean a lot. But I met up with some people who had printouts of the course so I followed them. I feel bad for the poor suckers who didn't have a printout of the course. A lot of people did get lost. I met some folks who said yeah, go this way, it's shorter.


Is it me? Or do people not get that there isn't gonna be a shortcut on Oct. 29??


Anywho, enough bitching. The day was perfect: cool, clear, sunny at the start. Perfect fall day. We could see our breath as we watched the sun come up over the Potomac, where the mist was rising.

I felt good and strong. I ran every hill. Around mile 18 I started tiring (shocker) but I kept going. I managed to turn off that little voice in my head and tried to focus on putting one foot in front of another.

Final time: 4:42. Final miles: 22.29. A 12:39 minute mile.

Which is pretty darn good, because? Three weeks ago I ran 20 miles in 4:40!

So, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I can actually run this marathon. Don't want to jinx the thing, but it just might be possible.

Now, I have to leave you to go to a wedding. I gotta go get all gussied up. Right down to the flip-flops I'll be wearing on my poor sore feet.

It's a look, people.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Montgomery County Parks Half Marathon

I was feeling good. My runs leading up to this race were going well. I was confident. Well-rested. Happy. Things were looking up!

Plus, I had the most amazing house guests: Susie of Finally Running and her s.o. David came to spend the night (paaarttty like it's 1975!!) because they were also running the half on Sunday. We fell into conversation like we'd known each other our whole lives. Rock on RBF!

(If you just want the result, without all the contextual references I'm about to bestow, best skip to the end.)

In their honor, I threw a "dinner party." Which means I twisted off the tops of several very high-quality jars of tomato sauce, sought out the finest of linguini, and ripped the zip-lock tops from two kinds of frozen meatballs (meat and not meat). I know how to knock myself out at my candlelight suppers. My other guests, the Other Jen, and my highly unpaid coach Bex and her s.o., the highly entertaining E., brought other foodstuffs.
Dinner: Moi, David, Susie, Bex, The Other Jen

We were all running the next day. Susie, David, Jen, and I in the half. Bex in the National Capital 20 Miler. So no spirits of any sort were served or imbibed. Likewise, no dessert. (I cover all the bases at my soirées.) Everyone left early; I was in bed by 9 p.m. and had a great night's sleep.

Sidebar: You know what always amazes me? No one really cares what you make or don't make for dinner. No one really cares whether you have the latest from Crate and Barrel. I mean, it's nice to sit down to a homemade this or that, or a gourmet whatever, but all you really need is a bunch of fun people. Not one person commented on the fact that I do not own a complete set of dishes or that I have six mismatched glasses. So, listen up people: You do not have to have a perfect house, or matching china for 12, or even six chairs that match (one of my chairs at the table was an office chair) in order to throw a highly successful and entertaining Washington, D.C., official gala.

Take that, Martha.

Meanwhile, you are here to read about the half marathon! So let's get to it!

Woke up at 4:30, got to race start at 6, met Jen and Deanna (Naomi's friend). Two of us moaned and worried about bathroom issues. One of us was limping. One of us had never run a race before. One of us fiddled incessantly with her shuffle. One of us was champing at the bit like a race horse. One of us did not worry one bit about what he was wearing and how his hair looked.

After several days of crisp, cold fall-like weather, summer had returned. It was humid and slightly overcast at 6 a.m. And dark. We got to watch the sun rise. It was a beautiful morning. The field was small, about 2,000 people.

Jen and I started together. Deanna, Susie and David ran together, far far ahead of us.

This was a point-to-point race and ended near where I work, on trails that I run on every day. Familiar territory! Like falling off a log!

(Geeze, this is like a Hitchcock movie. I can barely stand the suspense and I know how it ends.)

Here is the course elevation:

The accompanying text:
While the course offers a net downhill finish it also offers a mix of flat and fast area and rolling hills. The height of the hills comes roughly at four miles where runners will be greeted with steep and turning 200 meter incline.
Now, does that description look like it goes with that elevation map? I think not! The height at four miles? Check out 11-13!

There were a lot of rolling hills and a lot of flats. I managed to pass a few people on some uphills. That felt good. Mostly we ran on a paved trail through beautiful woods that I'd never seen before. Jen flew ahead of me around mile 3. A light mist fell on and off. It was warm. The sun poked through occasionally. I kept up a fairly steady pace, until mile 11, where halfway up a hill, I started walking. And then continued to walk on and off til the 12.5 mark, my familiar home ground.

I had two goals in this race: a time goal of 2:30, and a second goal to not walk unless I was dying.

Final time, you ask? 2:38:15; 12:05 min./mile. With Jen about 45 seconds behind me. Woo hoo!

For the one of you still reading, here are my splits:
1&2: 23:26
3: 12:07
4: 11:19
5: 11:20
6: 11:40
7: 11:35
8: 11:54
9: 11:34
10: 11:37 (1:56--my fastest 10 miles yet!)
11: 14:30 (and here's where the wheels fell off)
12: 12:26
13: 13:38
.1: 1:04

So, what did I learn from this race? 1) Get up earlier and eat more fiber; 2) I can totally hit my goal in the marathon; 3) I can run up hills in races; 4) I can't wait to run another half; 5) I'm not sure why I started walking; 6) I really need a better running outfit.

You know how some races leave you feeling on top of the world? And in others, well you just know you could have done better. I felt like I could have done better. I was spent at the end, so it's not like I was cruising (despite pace evidence to the contrary). Overall, it was a great day and a great weekend and a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning.

So you're not gonna catch me complaining. Not this time.

'Tis all good.

And that, my friends, finally, is all she wrote.
The Other Jen, Yours Truly, David, Deanna

Susie and David

Thursday, September 21, 2006

And It's Jeanne in the Lead!

I. Am. Feeling. Good.

It takes very little to make me do the happy dance (good run? good bellringing? I'm good!); and very little to make me want to jump off a cliff (looked at me the wrong way? Kill me now!).

So yesterday was one of those days where the cliff looked alluring. But! I had a speed workout to do. And as you all know, nothing, but nothing, gets in the way of a speed workout. Not my moods. Not being tired. Nothing.

My highly unpaid coach Bex prescribed this:
1 mile warm-up
2 minutes hard/1 minute easy x 5
5 minute recovery
2 minutes hard/1 minute easy x 5
Slow recovery jog back.

So 10 repeats altogether. I told her, "Bex, that sounds easy!" She said, "No, it won't be."

Off I trotted. With on his podcast, talking specifically to me about mental training.

The good news: The minute I started this workout, work receeded into oblivion. In fact, work ceased to exist. What job?

More good news: I did the whole thing! I have no stats, except to say I ran my little heart out during those intervals.

Even (can you stand it?) more good news: I ran a total of five miles.

The numbers: I calculated my total running time, for five miles, as 43:30. Which equals 8:42 min/miles.

Now (you knew it was coming) the bad news: Five miles at 8:42 min/miles? My ass! (Jeanne, did you throw into your total mileage your warm-up mile? But forget to add in the time for it? Yes? Magic eightball says: try try again.)

Numbers redux: Ah. Warm-up mile. Remove. That would be four miles at 43:30, average 10:53 min/mile. Now that looks like a familiar number.

My Mood

I haven't written about it here, because I didn't want to give it traction, but for the past two to three weeks I have not been into this marathon. I have had major doubts about even wanting to continue. I've been going through the motions, but wondering why. I've told everyone: "This is my last marathon." Truly, it requires more of my life than I'm willing to give. Most of you can go out, drink, be social, and still find time to train. I can't. Wah wah wah. Poor me. But I'm sick of always singing the same song: "I can't go [fill in the blank]. I have to get to bed early."

Add to that my sinking conviction that the training plan I am following (which calls for long runs of 18, 20, 22, and nothing but 10 miles in between) is, I'm pretty sure, after many conversations with other runners, not so smart, and you can color me blue.

But, and I hate to be hasty, for some reason, last night's workout seemed to lift me outta my funk like a trailer-dweller who has just won the lottery (no offense to trailer dwellers). I am now eagerly anticipating Sunday's half. I am visualizing. I am relaxed. I am confident! I am woman!! I will finish in two 1/2 hours!!!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Since Last We Met

I've heard nothing from creepy insurance people. Which is good because nothing is what they are going to get outta me.


I ran a crappy 10.5 miles on Saturday with Naomi, who is back from Dakar for a while, so the crappy run was offset by the awesome stories I was privy to. I ran six miles before Naomi and crew got there, and was ready to run another six, until I pooped out at 10 1/2. They meanwhile, went on to do six. I'm so bitter.

We all then went for to meet up with Susan and her S.O., David, and the inimitable Bex (photos to follow!) who came for brunch, but ended up with a bagel instead; on Sunday I went to brunch with folks from church despite a raging desire to sleep sleep sleep and despite the fact that I was in no mood (I know you are all riveted now); then ran a decent five miles before work on Monday (I can run! I can run!), completely forgetting that I was supposed to be downtown by 9 a.m. (I made it, barely); went to a bell-ringing class Monday night where I totally redeemed myself by ringing like I was a founding member of the Sex Pistols (in my head); Tuesday (today) was a rest day and did you know that Trader Joe's frozen Vegan Pad Thai has 600 calories????

Six hundred?? That is so wrong!;

and now here I sit writing.

Tomorrow is a not-nice track workout. Thursday is six miles. Saturday is a nice pasta dinner with Susie, David, Bex, and the Other Jen, because Sunday is ... this!

It's all good people!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Training Notes

My heart rate started slowly climbing, adrenaline pumping through my veins. My hands clenched involuntarily, arms swinging back and forth, pulling me. My feet were moving. I was breathing hard. The sweat poured off me as my heart continued its deafening pound pound pounding ... dear God, would this never end???

The end came, mercifully, finally, one hour and 15 minutes after it started. Not a minute too soon.

Yes. It's that time again:

Time for bell-ringing class!

And class number one was, yet again, not pretty for this novice.

In addition to forgetting every single note I ever learned, I also forgot how to count. Luckily, a lovely older woman (what??? I'm the same age!) spent the entire class counting for me and pointing to the notes that I was supposed to be ringing.

It's not enough being humiliated on the running fields ... oh no, I have to put myself through this weekly humilation, too. Luckily, our director not only puts up with my endless whining about my suckitudiness, but also continues to tell me that one day, I'll get it.

Well, that makes one true believer.

Plus, I hear that learning bell ringing—and other new things—can stave off dementia.

Now, where was I?

Ah, insurance companies.

I got an interesting call from my health insurance company this morning. Shall I tell you the name of this company??? I SHALL. Destiny Health.

Last May, Number One Daughter went for a routine ob/gyn visit. Last May I went to the exact same doctor. Destiny paid NOD's entire bill. Her $90 Pap smear? Paid. My $90 Pap? Reimbursement: $1.40 (I wish I were making this up).

After ten thousand phone calls to South Africa (customer service) they let me know that they paid NOD's entire bill "because she saw an out-of-state" doctor. I tried to let them know that Washington, D.C., is not exactly "out-of-state." Virginia, Maryland, D.C.—they're all part of a metro area. I believe I even used the word "contiguous." (Maybe that's where I lost them.) They continued to insist that since NOD went out-of-state, she got the full rate. Great! Then I asked why didn't I get it? That's where things went haywire.

Finally, it dawned on me that they thought Washington, D.C., was the STATE of Washington. Only that doesn't really explain why I was reimbursed differently for the exact same doctor.

About a month ago, they said they had "made a mistake" on my claim and it should be coded as out-of-state, too.

Sigh. Whatever.

They would have to "escalate" the claim, send it up the flag pole, see who salutes, blah blah.

So, today, September 12 (appointment was in May), DESTINY figured it out. They figured out that they "made a mistake." And as a result? I needed to reimburse them $350.

Here's what I'm going to do about it:

First, I'm going to escalate this. Then, I'm going to consult with my superior. Then, I'll send it to the committee to review appeals and payments (CRAP). After that, the oversight department of refunds (ODOR), located in Tapei, will take a long, hard look at the particulars of this request.

And then?

Request denied!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Give Me 20, Then Drop!

Sir yes sir!

But before I regale you with scenes from this morning's death march, err, run, let me share the words of wisdom our coach shared with us before we set out:

No one should be running more than two times per week. You'll just hurt yourself.
I don't want to hear about anyone running 16 miles in one week. There's just no need.
Man, I've been going about this marathon training all wrong.

Pair that with another coach's instructions on the group discussion board:
... Remember it is team work that will help you be successful in [this group]. There is no team in I.
I am glad to see that there is no team in I. Because that would make a really strange word.

Anyhoo, back in Rock Creek Park, our heroines, Jeanne and the Other Jen, ran a sllllooooow first 10 miles.

The moon was just setting over the Potomac. The temp was perfect. Birds were chirping. There were signs up warning about rabid racoons (no, really, there were). Soon after we hit the National Zoo at mile five, Rock Creek Parkway turns into Beach Road which is closed to cars on Saturday. Suhweet!

We hit mile 10 in two hours and 15-ish minutes. My stomach was unhappy, but I forced down gu and water. I got up close and personal with a lovely park bathroom.

It is now confirmed that the Other Jen likes speed. She took off on the way back, damn her. Of course, I had to keep up. There was no talking, cuz now we were running, people. No fooling around.

Miles 10-15: 53 minutes. At the 15-mile water stop we hung out for a few minutes while I tried (successfully) not to barf. I told the Other Jen that I'd be slowing down and she should go on without me. I was afraid of her.

But she let me set the pace, and we pulled off the last five miles in 1:08.

Total time: 4:40. Which according to that jackass McMillan, puts me right on track for a nice 6 hour and 12 minute marathon!!

But, we're not gonna worry about that. Because if you play with the numbers long enough, you get this:
10 miles out: 2:15
10 miles back: 2:01 (Don't ask me where the other minutes went.)

See? 'Tis all good.

What's not so good is the extensive chafing on my bod. In the most delicate of places.

So now, I think I'll go drop.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm Famous!

Over at the Complete Running Network, some not-so-sharp editor has chosen to publish a rumination of mine on one of my favorite subjects: "Running Is Mental."

Whoo hooo!

In other news, last night's pace workout was another bomb. Maybe one day, probably long after this marathon, I'll get the hang of this. Last night I decided to run seven miles, 1 1/2 warm up, then 2 at pace, and then the rest as slow as I liked—just to take the pressure off—but trying for a consistent pace. Cuz, people, I have been off my game since mi hija absconded to Espana. That's my story anyway. That, or maybe running really is mental.

So, last night (Wednesday) I did this:
mile 1: 10:59
mile 1.5: 5:26
mile 2.5: 9:42 (pace!)
mile 3.5: 9:55 (pace!)
mile 4.5: 12:30
mile 5.5: 11:59
mile 6: 7:07 (that's a 14-min mile, people)
mile 7: 12:54

Tuesday I had 3 miles on the treadmill; after 30 minutes I was at 2.5 and I called it quits. $#!&^! Hardcore, my ass.

Saturday: 20-that's TWENTY-miles is on the sked. I'm feeling ... insecure.

I'll tell you one thing: My week off from work last week? Practically killed me. Once again, I've lost me mojo. :(


Monday, September 04, 2006

Exercise Is Fun!

I awoke Saturday morning at 4 a.m., with a nice fat headache, after a fitful night's sleep due to excess worry about a certain relative of mine.

D.C. got the tail end of Ernesto. At 4 a.m. Saturday morning it was Dark. It was Cold. It was Raining. And I had 10 miles on the schedule, which I had upped to 12 because I have a marathon coming up people!! And this crazy schedule I'm on has two stepback weeks between long runs—only the stepback weeks are always 10 miles. That does not sound smart to me. Does it sound smart to you? So I thought I'd make one of those stepback weeks a 12 miler.

Except ... it was Dark. Cold. Raining.

On Friday, I had cleverly bought a rain jacket, cuz it was, you know, raining. It was on sale, marked down from $90 to $28. Score! So I wore that on Saturday, along with my running tights, cuz you know, it was cold.

Except ... it was 65 F. You know what they say: If you're comfy at the start of your run you will soon be too hot.

Bah! What do they know?

Off I drove to the Pentagon, wearing my snazzy new running rain jacket and long tights. Out of about 300 participants, maybe 30 showed up. I was very very cranky. The Other Jen, inexplicably chirpy, inexplicably wanted to run with me, and ended up dragging my sorry ass through the next nine miles. Did I mention I had a headache? I'm pretty sure I spent the entire two plus hours—soaked, and overheated—moaning and bitching. (It's fun running with me!) As usual, one of my fav topics was the weekly e-mail we get from our group leader. This week's e-mail contained a list of "11 mega-marathon mistakes," one of which was this:
Some marathoners actually think that walking during the race will improve their times. ... No one needs to walk during the marathon; we can all learn to run the entire distance—our times will not improve if we train to amble slowly during specific portions of the race.
Which I found to be a very strange thing for a group that encourages the run/walk method to put in its weekly e-mail. Do they actually read the stuff they send out? I dunno, but apparently no one else reads it either, since no one believed me when I was busy pointing out the total inconsistency of that message.

Not that I'm planning on run/walking. Or have anything against it. It got me through my first marathon. I'm just saying: If that's what you advocate, then stand up for it. Already.

Back to the hellish hot wet miserable run. Poor Jen. I feel for her. I didn't even want to run with me.

By mile nine I knew there was no way I was tacking on another two miles. What was I thinking? Ten miles was quite sufficient.

So on Sunday, to punish myself for being so cranky and miserable, I ran four miles. With the same headache. I told myself if running made my head hurt more, I'd stop. It didn't, so I kept going. Slowly.

Which brings us to today. Labor Day. A holiday. But I have my 6:30 a.m. spinning class on Monday morning. So, I woke up at 5:30, checked the center's Web site to make sure they were open. No mention of being CLOSED on Labor Day. I waited 'til 6 a.m., when I called to make triple-diple sure they were open. No one answered, but the message on the answering machine didn't mention that they were CLOSED, either.

Which, of course, they were. Which I found out after I got there.


I thought of running, but hadn't brought anything with me, like a watch or my shuffle or water, or anything.

So I got back in the car, drove to Starbucks, bought a decaf and the paper, and here I am.

The end.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shameless Plug

Read all about Number One Daughter's first days in Spain, over here at SevillaNova (a take-off on her school name. if your confused about what school, let's just say they have a good basketball team).

I think she could use some comment love, if you are so inclined.

Next Up: This blog returns to documenting my running trials and travails!