TAT CN Header

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 4 recap and long run field trip

This was supposed to be a rest week, but since last week ended up being much more rest than run, I decided to redo last week's plan in lieu of re-resting.

Goal: 3 miles @11:22
Actual: Asleep in bed. Pretty much all day.

Over my weekend of being sick, I'm pretty sure I logged as many hours asleep as awake. Clearly I needed it. Happily, I'm feeling back to normal.

Goal: 1 mi w/u, 3 mi @9:45, 1 mi c/d
Actual: w/u (10:23), 3 mi @9:46, c/d (14:26)

This tempo run felt like redemption for me after failing miserably at it last week on the treadmill. Last week I was nowhere near the goal pace; this time I was really close. The biggest hitch came during the cooldown mile, when my knee started hurting enough that I had to walk for a while. After a minute or two, the combination of sweaty clothes and 29 degree evening convinced me that running was the slightly less painful option, so I jog/hobbled the rest of the way home. By the next day, my knee was feeling ok.

Goal: 10 miles @11:22
Actual: 10 miles @13:38

Like I mentioned in my brief blog post on Saturday, I ran this one on snowy trails.  I was awfully slow throughout. 

Mile 1.1-18:53 (but I took lots of pictures)

Mile 2 - 11:26
Mile 3 - 13:54
Mile 4 - 15:14
Mile 5 - 10:33 (whoo hoo!)
Mile 6 - 13:30
Mile 7 - 14:01
Mile 8 - 10:14 (feeling strong)
Mile 9 - 14:32 (strong feeling's gone)
Mile 10 - (will this EVER end??) 14:03

Between taking pictures and feeling some knee strain in the first half of the run, I took quite a few walk breaks.  I ran miles 5-9 with no stops, and then I walked again for part of mile 10.  Miles 5 and 8 were both on the same stretch of trail...must've been a gentle downhill or something.  If you can't tell from the splits, this run was hard for me. 

Since it's a multi-use trail and pedestrians are asked to stay off the ski tracks, that meant running in the choppy snow in the center. For the first few miles, I really enjoyed the quiet beauty of the park and stopped to take lots of pictures. By about mile four, though, I was over the snow and longing for a nice, flattened path through the snow.  I didn't have any problems with traction, though my ankles got a real workout in some areas with horse prints.


I've been trying to GU about 45 minutes to an hour into my long runs, so for this one I just figured I'd GU at the halfway point.  I don't really think I need it for this length of run, but I'm figuring I'm going to on the longer ones.  Plus, it gives me something to look forward to besides being finished. This particular GU had been tossed into my bag along with all my shampoo and lotion.  So, after scraping it all into my mouth with my teeth, I noticed a weird aftertaste.  And suddenly my mouth smelled kind of perfumey.  And then I remembered that the GU packet had had a lotion booger (you know, the little dried up piece of lotion you need to get out of the way before you get the fresh lotion?) on it when I threw it into my jacket pocket.  Yummy.  On the plus side, my lips weren't dried out anymore and the time it took to figure out the mystery was a nice distraction from the run (dissociative runner).

Another plus was that, despite running for over 2 hours on snow-covered trails and standing in about 5 inches of snow while I tried (and failed) to take a halfway decent picture of myself, when I got back to the hotel and took off my shoes, my socks were bone dry.  Nice job, Asics!

Speaking of getting back to the hotel, as I left the park, Jeff sent me a text saying that N's match (you know, the whole reason we were in Chicago) was just starting. He wasn't in the first game.  I managed to get to the gas station to pick up a soda, to the hotel, shower, change clothes, and back to the tournament venue in time to make it to the next game of the match.  That may have been the fastest time of my day!

All in all, though it was hard, slow, cold, and snowy, I'm happy with my run.  It feels good to get in double-digit miles again for the first time since November, and I'm glad to be back on track with my training.

Long run field trip

Since we were heading up to Chicago for a volleyball tournament, I had done a little research to find a nice trail area where I could do my long run. I was excited to find two great-sounding alternatives: Ryerson Woods and Half Day/Wright Woods Forest Preserves. I had pretty much decided on Ryerson Woods, but as I drove to drop everybody off at the tournament site, we passed the entrance to Half Day forest preserve.  It was almost right across the street.


Half Day and Wright Woods are adjoining forest preserves.  There are a number of trails ranging in length from .2 miles to a 2.7 mile loop, and the Des Plaines River Trail passes through the park as well.  I saw several playgrounds and some nice sized pavilions.  The bathrooms I saw had pit toilets, which aren't that great in the summer, but I sure like them in the winter if it means that bathrooms aren't closed for the season!Despite being right in town, the preserves weren't too busy.  I saw one guy walking his dog, two hikers, and several cross-country skiiers, but the majority of the time I was completely alone on the trails.

The trails are very well marked.  It would be really difficult to get lost here.  They're nice and wide--in most areas, you could probably drive a small car along the trail.  As far as I could tell, they seemed to be pretty level.  There were some very slight hills, but nothing major.  It definitely wasn't technical trail, but a nice place to get out in the woods and off of the roads.
I parked on the Half Day side but ran mostly on the Wright Woods side of the river.  To get to Wright Woods, you cross a bridge over the Des Plaines River.

Very pretty setting

Some Capt. Dan Wright history

If you look at the trail link above, you can see a trail map for the preserves.  I ran the red trail until it dead-ended at the yellow trail and then ran three loops of the yellow trail.  Well, most of three loops.  Enough to get me to ten miles and not much more.  The trails were marked in .25 mile increments, which was nice...and believe me, I was looking for those little signs a lot the second half!

Cross country skier
One of the several skiers sharing the trails
As I mentioned, the trails were multi-use.  I saw signs of skis, snowshoes, bikes, and runners.  I would have loved to have my bike out there, too.  Like I said, it was nothing technical, but it would've been great to have a change to practice my snow handling some more (of course, from the sound of the weather report, I have another good chance coming up!).

Des Plaines River
Des Plaines River

There's a pond somewhere under that snow.  Fishing is allowed at the park, too.

Nice, wide trail
I started out taking a ton of pictures, but before long I realized that they all looked pretty much the same.  Then I needed a new excuse for being slow.  Oh, well. 

I wish I'd managed to get to Ryerson Woods, too, but these parks were a nice spot for my wintery run.  They seem like a good place to get out among the trees, and a nice place to feel like you're away from it all while still being close to everything.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sneak preview

While in the Chicago area for my son's volleyball tournament, the beautiful little (800 acres) nature preserve was about two minutes from the tournament site. Great spot for my long run...and while the distance was only 10 miles, the snow helped make it a long run, indeed!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book review: The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

I picked up The Zookeeper's Wife at Target as an impulse buy since I needed something to kill the time between matches at N's volleyball tournament a couple weeks ago. The blurb on the back bills it as the amazing story of how two Gentile Polish zookeepers "managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages".

While the title centers on Jan and Antonina Zabinski, the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, the book is really the story of how many Polish citizens risked their lives to save their Jewish friends and neighbors. While in the past I've read a lot about WWII and the Nazis, I don't remember ever reading much about the occupation of Poland or the Polish resistance. It's really an incredible story, and the people described are so much whom I would want to be if I was ever in such a situation. It's hard to imagine the courage necessary the courage it must have taken to defy the Nazis, at risk of not only their own lives but their children's. One scene, in particular, where Jan and Antonina's son is threatened by Nazi soldiers, is absolutely chilling.

This is a book that inspires you and renews your faith in humanity. It's a great story...but it isn't a great story. That is, it's a non-fiction work. Because it's written as history, the narration leads to a certain distance from the events of the book. That probably made it easier to read, but it also kept me from feeling the kind of connection I would have had with the characters if it had been written from a closer point of view. I bought the book under the impression that it was based on history; that is, I expected it to read more like a work of fiction. I found the style (for example, reporting what Antonina wrote about something in her diary rather than having the character Antonina tell something) very distracting until, towards the end off the book, I happened to finally notice the back of the book where it said, plain as day, "HISTORY/WWII". D'oh.

Pick this one up. You'll be amazed, inspired, and probably want to dig deeper into her sources to read more about these incredible people. I know I do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Books and challenge and distance, oh my

I've been reading The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime for about two years now.  It's not such a long book, and it's not uninteresting; it just keeps getting set aside for other things.  Just as Born to Run was a story about running that ranged across real-life characters and countries, The Island of Lost Maps tells not just the story of one, very prolific, map thief, but of maps and history and people across the world.  So, yes, it's a good book, but that's not why I bring it up.

Last night, some quotes from the book struck me.

Harvey discusses the impact and importance of maps throughout history and the way that they helped lead to the discovery of the New World.  During the Age of Discovery, the world seemed such a big place.  There were so many unknowns...so many blank spots on the map.  And then, Harvey writes,

The world started getting smaller again.  In The Human Condition, Arendt described "the shrinkage of space and the abolition of distance through railroads, steamships, and airplanes." (129)
And isn't that true? Sometimes I am amazed now at the thought that my drive to work, 35 minutes or so every day, would have been a journey during earlier days.  My class talked about that as we read Little House in the Big Wood; the Ingalls girls rarely saw anyone else, a trip to town was a once a year treat, while we think little of taking a plane across the country.

In addition to transportation, technology has managed to shrink the distances between us as well.  Harvey quotes The Death of Distance:

Geography, borders, time zones--all are rapidly becoming irrelevant...courtesy of the communications revolution.
How many friends do you have outside of your town? If you're like me, more than the number in your town. My kids barely even know what long-distance telephone rates are. We can video chat on our cell phones (well, we can't, but people do). This has been such a huge change just in my lifetime. A cousin of my husband served in the first Gulf War and had very limited communication with his family back home. My brother has been to Iraq twice, and we regularly heard from him.

He goes on to say

As I was reading [this], it occurred to me that there are now two types of adventurers.  The old breed--the kind who once slogged forth into the great unknown, back when there was enough unknown left to accurately describe it as "great"--is an endangered species, and not a happy one, either.  The old breed does not want to be part of the main.  It years for islands.  It feels grounded in the global village.  As the mountain climber Gaston Rebuffat once put it, "In this modern age, very little remains that is real: night has been banished, so have the cold, the wind, and the stars." And so the old breed finds itself jammed into the last fragments of true man versus nature wilderness, adventure ghettos like Mount Everest.
The new breed talks much the same game as the old, appropriating Age of Discovery language to describe Age of Information concepts (Netscape Navigator [clearly this edition is from 2001 since there's not much talk of Netscape Navigator these days], Microsoft Explorer). But the similarities end there.  The new breed has no need for physical wilderness.  It celebrates the fact that, as Rebuffat puts it, very little remains that is real.  The new breed dances on the grave of poor old Distance, believing that in cyberspace all vistas are endless.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt, one of the last great icons of the old breed, argued that the adventurer's heart "must thrill for the saddle and not the hearthstone." At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the new breed of adventurer must thrill only for the placid glow of a computer screen.

I thought the whole passage was interesting, but I think endurance athletes are reclaiming Distance from the grave.  The world may feel smaller until you run that mile instead of driving it.  One hundred miles isn't a big deal in a car, but it's a pretty significant number on a bike...and it's really something when you're running it.  Referencing the Rebuffet quote above, night and cold and wind can be banished, but many of us choose to go out and experience them.  There are many places I'd love to visit, but I can certainly find adventure and challenge right around where I live.  And as I realize once again that the world is bigger and more impressive than it might seem from the seat of a car, I'm learning that I am, too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marathon training, week 3: The one where I hit reset

I meant to post about this earlier and forgot.  If you aren't a follower of Georgia Snail, check out his recent blog about his sister.  She and her fiance are entered in a contest to win their dream wedding, and they sound like a phenomenally deserving couple.  You can find a link from his blog to the site where you can vote for them.  Take a minute to do so, and then do it again tomorrow, too.  Good luck, Mike and Marriah!

And things were going so well up til now.  You know...all 14 days of my training up to this week.  :)

This week's plan called for the following:

Monday: 3 miles @ 11:22
Wednesday: 5 mile tempo workout; 1 mile each w/u, c/d, and 3 miles @9:45
Saturday: 10 miles @ 11:22

In no way are this week's workouts out of my league.  Normally. 

Here's what this week's training looked like in actuality:

Monday: off work for MLK day, so I made up the previous Saturday's long run.  Hoped to maybe fit in Monday's three later in the week, but I wasn't too worried about just missing an isolated 3 miles.

Wednesday: With snow on the ground, I wasn't interested in trying to do any kind of speed (or as it turned out later, "speed") on icy roads before work, so I headed to the treadmill at our Y after dinner.  I really wasn't worried about this workout at all, but it didn't go well.  I was on one of the older treadmills, but I don't think that made any difference.  I managed my warmup mile on pace, and then I sped up for the first tempo mile. I was struggling to stay at/below 9:45, and it only got worse.  After that first faster mile, I had to keep adjusting the speed slower and slower.  I ended up managing a total of 4.6 miles at an 11:40 average pace, and I'm surprised it was that fast.  I'm not sure what went wrong, but the whole run felt awful and was a real confidence killer.

Thursday: If you read either of my previous two posts, you know that we had a foot of snow dropped on us Wednesday night/Thursday morning.  My cross-training consisted of snow shoveling and fort-building, and then I got in maybe only a mile of running snowy trails with some friends before I had to get home to go to a movie.  Thursday's run was a blast, and a real tonic after my disappointing Wednesday run.

I didn't intend to run with anybody else on Thursday, just accidentally showed up at the same time/place as some people I know who let me tag along with their regular run.  The beginning of the run was everything that holds me back from joining up with a group or running with other people.  They were all super nice, it was all my internal stuff: What if I can't keep up? I don't want to be that person who has to drop off because they can't run anymore.  I should have just gone off on my own so I could walk.  Ugh...we've only gone 30 feet and I'm exhausted already.  Once we got going, I was fine.  Yes, I was the slowest member of the group, but I wasn't dragging way behind, and when I had to turn back I was disappointed rather than relieved.

Photo credit: Robin Rongey
Saturday: I started wondering if Saturday's run was going to happen on Friday night.  I sent one kid home sick from my class and came home feeling lousy myself.  I went to bed at 7:30, slept for 13 hours, and still felt cruddy when I got up.  I did some back and forth about running anyway, but I ended up messaging the friend I was supposed to run with to say I wouldn't make it.  Back to bed for a few hours.  Thanks to the wonders of DayQuil, I was able to play in a volleyball tournament Saturday evening with my husband, son, and some friends, but I could definitely tell when the medicine was wearing off.

So, with two missed runs and one terrible one, I think I'm just going to pretend this past week never happened.  This week is supposed to be a rest week, so I'm going to redo the past week's scheduled workouts and see how it goes.  Hopefully I can rejoin my plan on schedule, though right now I'm seeing a sick day Monday in my future.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow day = fun day

All week the forecasters predicted snows of 2-6" for Wednesday/Thursday.  I had steeled myself for a measley 2 inches and going to school today while my kids stayed home in a television-induced snow day coma.  Instead, I woke to 10.5" of snow with an eventual total of about a foot.  This is easily the best snow we've had in the seven years we've lived in this house, and we made the most of it.

We started the day off with blueberry pancakes, because occasionally I'm a good mommy and make my children breakfast.  Then, it was off to shovel our driveway.

That's the sound of the men...workin on the chain...ga-a-ang...

You can fit about 6-8 cars in our driveway, which is lovely for parties and no fun when it comes time to shovel off a foot of snow.  Just sayin'.

My fancy snow clothes.  Middle layer was fleece pajama pants.  :)  And note the (literally) 30-year old moon boots.

Next, it was off to scare up some work shoveling driveways in our neighborhood.  I work with the kids, and you can bet I'm taking my share of the money, which is being saved towards a pair of waterproof pants for my adventure race.  J., well-trained through Boy Scout popcorn sales, was all about being the one to knock on the door.  We only managed to get two customers, though, which was both good and bad.  I'd have liked to make more money, but I was beat by the time we finished the last house.  And very glad to have two strong teenage boys to share the work.

We took a break for hot chocolate and chili, then it was time to play in the snow.  N. and J. teamed up against me and built a pretty cool snow fort.  It had a tunnel...

That's a 6'4" boy in that tunnel...it was actually pretty good-sized.
A bunker...

J-sized hole behind the flag
And a long wall...

Great wall of snow-a
One might even call it a "Great" wall...if one was a dork.  :)

Even the dog got in on the act!

Berkeley after an hour or so outside

Does his beard not remind you of this guy?

So, anyway, the boys' snow fort was pretty cool, but I think I did a nice job on mine, too.

Snow fort
It may be hard to see the awesomeness of it from the picture.  Trust me.  Even J said it was "pretty good" (thought I think the unspoken rest of that sentence was "...for a girl")

And that wasn't the end of the snow day fun.  After Jeff got home, I headed out the the trails at our local university for a short run.  I didn't plan to run long at all, but it was so snowy that I hated to pass up the opportunity to get out there.  I figured I'd jog around a little, take a few pictures, and head back home.

When I got there, though, I was suprised to run into Patrick (who'd already been out running in the snow once) and some of his friends from Metro Tri Club (which I've been hovering back and forth about joining and think I'm ready now to actually sent that $15 check) out for a trail run.  They were kind enough to let me tag along for a half hour or so before I needed to head back home.  It was a blast! And my new trail shoes, while slipping around a little in the snow, did just fine too.

Snow + trail
Heading to the trailhead-note that I'm in the back, as always. :)
And some random snow pictures from the way back from the run.  I was mostly playing around with the Hipstamatic app on my phone and enjoying the scenery.




Fresh snow
Took a wrong turn coming back and ended up breaking my own trail through fresh snow.  Sooo pretty out.

All in all, it was a Very Good Day.  Hope yours was, too!

Snow day!

10 inches of snow greeted our wondering eyes this morning...and it's still falling. I'm hoping to get out and run or ride just bc it's so ridiculous, but my morning workout has consisted of shoveling three driveways with a hit chocolate transition before capture the flag and snow forts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marathon training, week 2

Goal: 3 miles @11:22
Actual: 3 miles @10:35

I set my alarm to get up early on Monday morning so I could run before work, but I wasn't committed to getting up bc we didn't have plans for the evening and I knew I could run after work, if necessary. Sure enough, when my alarm went off, I thought Screw it, hit snooze, and rolled over. And then laid there, wide awake. After a couple minutes of that stupidity, I checked the weather on my phone. The temp was a bearable 28 degrees/20 wind chill, so I ended up running after all. Nothing too exciting to report about the run itself.

Cross train
I had the tv to myself, so I stuck in a DVD (P.S. I Love You. Incidentally, I'd kill to have the body Hilary Swank is sporting in that movie) and pedalled away on the stationary bike for an hour. 16.8 miles.

Goal: 1 mi w/u, 2x1600 @ 9:12 with 800 jogs, 1 mi C/d
Actual: 1 mi w/u (11:32), speedwork intervals of 8:18 and 8:52, and recovery jogs + .46 of the c/d mile. Total time was 45 min.

We got a few inches of snow Monday night,and by Wednesday the roads were a bit icy, so I took my run to the treadmill at the Y. Now that I've semi figured out how to dress in the cold, I dress all wrong for the gym. In pants and a short-sleeved tech top, I was boiling. The only thing that kept me from pulling off my clothes was concern that my fellow gym-goers would hurt themselves in the mad dash to get away from the sight. Well, that and the fact that I like our Y and would be sad to be banned for life. But I digress.

This run kicked my butt. :)

Goal: 9 mi @ 11:22.
Actual: Dirty Girls bike ride 

On Saturday's ride

Monday: (long run, take 2)
Goal: 9 mi @ 11:22
Actual: 8 miles @ 12:00

I missed my long run on Saturday because of the bike ride and my son's tournament.  I missed making it up on Sunday because of my son's tournament and getting together with friends.  That left today.  I had planned to run 11 miles and then just have two of today's three miles to make up later, but that wasn't happening. 

Snowy trail
We still have some of last week's snow on the ground.  Not enough that to have to trudge through snow, just enough that it made me a little nervous about my footing.  I had planned to run five laps.  My first two laps weren't bad.  I always start off feeling rough and then the good feeling I get from running on the trails and just appreciating the scenery kicks in after a few minutes.  That's how this one went.  The third lap, though, I was really dragging.  I felt worn out, and I was all sweaty, which was uncomfortable when the wind kicked up.  In fact, I decided after the third lap that I was finished, but the thought of making up two additional miles on the treadmill convinced me to go around one more time.  On that lap, I tried pushing myself a little harder.  If I caught myself dragging on the flats, I made myself speed up.  Honestly, the different in time for the whole lap wasn't that impressive, but I think that's a sign of how much I was dragging overall.

It's a little frustrating to not see more progress on my trail runs, but I'm just going to chalk it up to an off day.  There were a couple of positives: I made it up my nemesis hill all three times I ran that direction, and I'm feeling more confident going downhill.  When I first started running out on these trails, I walked down every hill; now, I'm not very fast, but I'm at least jogging downhill.  Sometimes, I even enjoy it. :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dirty Snowy Girls Bike Ride: A saga in 7 chapters

Warning: This is a long post that, like Seinfeld except not funny, is about very little.  If you want to know the Cliff Notes (am I dating myself with that reference? My kids use Spark Notes now.  See, even my disclaimer about how long my post is is long.) version of the ride, it's like this: I went biking today.  We were out for two hours.  It was snowy and hard and fun.  I didn't fall or get hurt, and I even maybe got a little better.  P.S. I also watched volleyball and bought new running shoes.

I've been excited about today's ride ever since I saw the information about it online. So excited that I even got a small group of girls together to go along, and I never organize anything! I stayed excited, even when my friends looked at the snow on the ground and decided that, in this instance, discretion was the better part of valor. I was excited, even though I was also dreading it a little; as much as my youngest child's reluctance to do new things/meet new people annoys me, he must've gotten some of it from me. I was excited, even if it meant getting up early on a Saturday.

Chapter 1: I am an average awesome wife
I got up around 5:10 to help Jeff get J ready for their trip to the Cardinals Winter Warmup.  OK, to be honest, that's not proof I'm an awesome wife; it's proof I was really hoping he'd put my bike in the van for me (I was going to take it on my bike rack, but my sister-in-law, who was going to take it home for me so I didn't have to leave it out in the open while I went to N's tournament, had to go to Mexico this week for work...let's all take a moment to feel sorry for her...or jealous.) I managed ed about 20 minutes more sleep and then got myself ready to head out (and Jeff didn't load up my bike, so my plan failed...that said, I'll probably get up and help him out again tomorrow.  Maybe I'm not so bad.)

Chapter 2: Breakfast

A lifetime abstainer from oatmeal, I've recently taken a liking to it.  Healthy, filling, and super cheap if you make it from the big ol' tub o' oats.  I've been throwing in frozen cranberries before microwaving it.  Once it's finished cooking, I add cinnamon, brown sugar, and almonds.  Soooo good.

Chapter 3: I dress right

Dressing for the cold is still a challenge for me, but today I got it right.  Upper body: compression top, fleece top, long-sleeved bike jersey, gloves. Lower body: running tights over bike shorts. Feet: two pairs of socks, the inner pair running socks and the outer pair thick hiking socks, and my old running shoes.  My toes were a tiny bit chilly by the end, but overall I felt good.  Today's weather was beautiful for a ride: overcast, but in the upper 30's.  It felt like heat wave!

Chapter 4: Where is everybody?

Participants in the ride were to meet at The Alpine Shop, but when I got there a few minutes early there was only one car in the lot with a bike on it.  I parked next to it and waited, hoping there wasn't some secret parking lot on the other side of the building where all the cool kids were congregating.  A couple minutes after 8, Tracy (the bike shop manager/ride leader) came out looking for riders.  We waited in the store (My budget sense was tingling...I could spend a lot of money in there!) for about 5 more minutes before leaving for the Lost Valley Trail.

Chapter 5: The ride

We got a few inches of snow Monday night/Tuesday morning (keeping my kids out of school Tues./Wed. while I resentfully drove to my teaching job in a less wimpy district), and since the temperatures have been low all week, it was still there.

Just as we were about to take off, Tracy's friend Jackie showed up, so I pedalled around while we waited for her to get her things together.  I've never ridden in the snow before, and even tooling around the mostly packed (snow packed, although there were a LOT of cars, too) parking lot showed me that it was a very different experience.  I never really felt like I could trust the ground.

From the parking lot, the trail is wide doubletrack that leads into a gradual, though long, hill.  Riding in even that minimal amount of snow, plus uphill, was challenging for me and I was already feeling like a big wimp as I was breathing heavy pretty quickly.  Eventually the trail levelled out, and then it was easier going, though the snow still made you pay attention.

As we were talking, it turned out I'd already met Jackie.  She had competed with some other ladies from Team Revolution in the Castlewood 8 Hour and had been none too happy when we told her they had to carry their canoe up to the parking lot.  I believe her exact words were, "You've got to be kidding me!"  She was telling me about other adventure races in the area and suggested doing some smaller ones in order to have some experience by the time Jim and I do Berryman.

Chapter 6: I have three brothers, and they got all the balls in the family.

After riding on the doubletrack for a while, we came to a turnoff for some singletrack.  Tracy and Jackie asked if I wanted to try that out.  Now, riding singletrack scares me, and the idea of riding singletrack in the snow really scared me, but what else was I out there for?  We went for it, and Tracy told me that when I got too far out of my comfort zone to let her know and we'd turn around.

Almost immediately after we turned onto that section of trail, there was a steep little down-and-up section on the trail.  A few feet down and up, maybe? Not huge, but it looked like the Grand Canyon to me.
bike scream
But they said go for it, so I went.  I made it down and up just fine...except I was so scared about what I was doing that I didn't pedal, so I made it juuusssst to the top of the hill and then stopped.  Think Wile E. Coyote, just before he realizes he's standing on air.  I started to slide back but managed to stop myself, but even after climbing off my bike, I couldn't get it or myself up the snowy (steep) (OK, and not very long) hill.  Tracy had to grab my bike and give me a hand up. 

I never would've tried that hill if someone hadn't been there saying, go ahead, you can do it. I can't say enough about how nice and patient these ladies were.  They had helpful advice and encouragement, but they also just let me ride.  I was so slow and just focusing on staying on the trail and trying to remember to look where I wanted to go rather than where I was worried about going.


I remember in driver's ed when I finally got to drive a car, how ridiculously hard it was to keep the car in my lane, how much steering I had to do while trying to keep steady? (Maybe that was just me?) I remember being nervous in the beginning whenever I had to turn, back up, merge.  And now I don't even have to think about what I'm doing.  I get in the car and go. 

That's kind of how steering was for me.  There was normally a pretty nice swath of packed snow on which to ride, but somehow my wheel kept finding the edges of that or going off into fresh snow.  I mentioned it to Tracy, who reminded me about looking ahead, just following my front wheel, and not clenching my hands so much and oversteering.  It was like being back in driver's ed again.  I realized that I'd basically been staring down right in front of me and trying way to hard instead of just riding.  After that, it got a little better.  Whenever I got nervous (OK, that was most of the time), I tried to concentrate on clenching my abs rather than my hands (so I fully expect to have a flatter stomach tomorrow!).

Flashback 2:

Long, long ago, when the earth was still flat, light bulbs hadn't been invented, and Jeff and I had been dating for such a short time that he didn't yet realize we were dating, we went camping together.  That weekend, despite the fact that there had been a lot of rain and it was (in retrospect) a pretty bad idea, we went exploring in a cave he and our friend Gary had previously been through.  With all the rain, it was pretty wet inside.  We started off walking in water.  As the pathway became smaller, we began crawling in water and eventually were on our bellies doing an army crawl.  We were wearing hard hats, and towards the end, my hat was touching the cave roof and my chin was in the water.

Gary and Jeff had made it clear that they were fine with turning around whenever, I just had to say when.  Except, I didn't want to be that girl who's scared and makes everyone turn around.  "Do you want to go back?" Gary asked. 

"No, I'm ok," I answered, and we went on a little longer. 

"Would you like to turn around--" Jeff asked.

"No, we can keep going," I squeaked out.

"...because I'd kind of like to turn around," he finished.

"Ok, sure!" (Whew)

I started feeling slightly more comfortable, though still moving at the speed of a lame turtle. And then the hill below the side of the trail became steeper and the trail started heading gradually downhill.  Going downhill scares me.  Going downhill in the snow scares me.  Going downhill in the snow with a dropoff to the side of me (and, to be clear, it wasn't some cliff...it was just a steeper section of hill, and I'm a wimp) scared me.  And whether it's that I'm older and wiser, or older and wimpier, or older and not trying to impress my new boyfriend who doesn't yet realize he's dating me, I was ok with saying, "I think I'm ready to turn around now." 

Feeling good

Chapter 7: We return from whence we came

Heading back, I was feeling more comfortable.  I still took it slow, but it was maybe a faster slow than before.  I tried to remember everything Tracy had told me, and I did fine.  When I came to some dips in the trail, I had the confidence to go for it.  After tackling a bigger dip, I wondered (hoped!) if that was "the" dip that had almost tossed me back at the beginning, but then Tracy told me it was coming up.  Gulp.

Pedal.  Weight back going down.  Pedal.  Look where you want to go.  Pedal.  Weight the wheel.  You can do it...you can do it...

And I made it down and up, though I lost a little confidence at the top and put my foot down.  Oh, well.  I definitely improved over the course of the ride.  We headed back down the doubletrack to the parking lot, and I'm happy to report that I had a blast today.  All in all, we were out for about 2 hours.  Riding in the snow was definitely a challenge for me, and while I'd do it again, I'm looking forward to tackling some trails without the snow.  I was really happy with how my bike did.  And, my friend Kristen and her OCD will be happy to hear that riding in the snow cleaned all the dirt off my bike and it looks practically brand new....for now.

Epilogue: (OR, Why I should buy stock in a gas company)

After the ride, I had to hightail it to my son's volleyball tournament (and thanks to my ex-husband for agreeing to take N today so that I could go to the ride first).  Naturally, today's ride was the one of the furthest Dirty Girls locations from the high school where he was playing, but I made it in time to watch their last two matches (they took first in their initial pool and lost the first match in the secondary pool, remaining matches and tournament play to conclude tomorrow, in case you care).

Because I was only about 10 miles from a Fleet Feet store, I decided to go look for trail shoes.  With the Castlewood Cup and its water crossings coming up in a little over a month, I'd decided that the trail shoes got the top spot on my needs list.  I lucked out, because two of the three pairs they had were $10 off, AND the cheapest pair felt great.  AND I had a $15 voucher.  AND $50 from Christmas.  So my new shoes cost me $16. 

Aren't they great? Wendy, the socks are for you!

Oh, and why the stock in a gas company?  Check out my driving today.

I believe I was on every major interstate in the St. Louis metro area.

Friday, January 14, 2011


What do you suppose is the best way to spend the evening before you go to watch a two-day volleyball tournament?

Nathan (103) looking short
N, #103, looked short next to these guys.  He's about 6'3".
If you said "Go to a 3-hour volleyball tryout", you pretty much called my evening.  My son tried out this evening for the USA Volleyball National Team. Now, it sounds impressive, but anyone can try out.  Making the team, any of the teams...that would be impressive.  And expensive.  We'll see what happens.

As if that wasn't enough volleyball, tonight my school had its annual students vs. faculty volleyball and basketball games.  Since the tryout was about 10 minutes from our middle school, I dropped N. off early and scooted over.  I managed to change clothes in my car during stoplights (I'm pretty impressed with myself, I have to say) and ran into the gym just as they were announcing the team. 

Teachers won in two games. :)

I'm headed to bed and excited for tomorrow's Dirty Girls mountain bike clinic.  My friends who were supposed to go bailed to avoid the snow and cold.  Now, I'm not all that tough, but I am stubborn, and I had to make all kinds of arrangements so I could go...so I'm going.  And after that, I'm going to watch some volleyball.  Two days' worth.  Wish me luck, and the boys luck, and hopefully I'll have lots of good pictures to share.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I feel stylish...oh, so stylish...

I am pleased to announce that I am the recipient of a Major Award.

Oh, no...not the leg lamp.  Anyone could win a leg lamp.  But Kovas and Amanda and Craig have deemed me (cue fanfare) a stylish blogger.  Blush.  Thank you, Kovas. And Amanda. And Craig

Now, others may tell you differently (about Kovas anyway), but clearly Kovas and Amanda and Craig are people of taste and distinction.  Because I was tagged by three (count 'em, three) people, I'll offer three photographs as evidence of my stylishness.

Fashion Disaster Day
Adventurous use of color and texture

Able to accessorize with flair

Granted, I don't dress up as much as my brother for a race...

...but black is pretty formal.
Of course, certain duties accompany my new role as fashion icon.  In order to accept this award, one must:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded this to you.  Now, I already thanked Kovas and Amanda and Craig but I'm not yet too big to show some love to the "little people" who've helped me get where I am today.  So, thank you, Kovas and Amanda and Craig for showing such faith in me.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.  This is difficult because I just did a 30 things about me post, and I feel like I need to share something different...and while I may be (according to Kovas and Amanda and Craig) fabulous, I'm just not that interesting.  Hmmm.

  • I've lived in Illinois my entire life, mostly in the St. Louis region.  I did live in Rockford (second biggest city in IL) for a few years, but not long enough to consider everywhere south of Chicago "Downstate" (not that Kovas would do that).
  • I think it's pretty ironic that my students believe I know everything and my children (even the one who's the same age as my students) believe I don't know anything.
  • My husband is currently mad at me for dream cheating on him (his dream, not mine).  Hardly fair.
  • I spend my fall/winter/spring watching my son's volleyball tournaments but skip (arguably) the biggest one in California to go on a week-long bike trip.
  • I have three brothers and three sons and that pretty much guarantees that I'm comfortable with loud and obnoxious.  And, um...I'm not much of a lady.
  • My driver's side window doesn't work anymore, but I'd rather save the money for a pair of trail running shoes than fix it.
  • I have a new set of clipless pedals (thanks, Craig!), so now all I need is a pair of bike shoes and some courage and I'll be all set.  If you look at the item above, you'll note that I've got a little bit of time to develop the courage.
3.  Pay it forward to 15 great blogs - consider yourselves tagged!
4. Contact those bloggers and let them know about their award. If you follow me already (further proof of your stylish nature), consider yourself notified.  If not (I forgive you), I'll post to them.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Mind Games

    For much of my 8-month running stint I haven't enjoyed the running much. I'm not good at pushing myself, I don't like hurting, and running does not come easy for me. I've spent so many runs practically counting down the miles (or half miles) from the first step.  I'm motivated not by a love of running but by a love of challenge:  can I do this? 

    It's definitely gotten better since I started.  I have runs that have gone better than others, and I've had portions of runs where it actually felt good.  Those are the best: when I enjoy running and feel strong and smooth.  For all the other times, I have a short repertoire of strategies to keep me from obsessing over every remain inch:
    • Trail running-too busy watching my footing and the scenery to think about how long I've been running
    • Making my laps "bigger", i.e. (3) 2-mile laps instead of (6) 1-mile laps on my 1-mile route
    • Mentally composing my blog as I run
    • Running with my iPod
    • Letting my mind wander
    Yesterday I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer (my husband had picked it up for me at a thrift store...my vice is the internet, his is thrift stores).  I am just crossing over from considering myself a non-runner; in fact, I think I stepped over the line when he handed me the book and I thought, "Hey, I AM a runner!" But I know he picked it not for the "non-runner" part but the "marathon" part.  The book, which I reviewed on my other blog, is basically designed to take someone who can jog for 30 minutes to a point where they are able to complete a marathon. 

    I'm pretty comfortable with the plan I have (and, as already established, I'm not a non-runner, lol), but I was interested to see how the book stacked up against what I know/have heard.  The most interesting parts for me were the mental techniques discussed.  The book is strong on positive visualizations ("see yourself as a marathoner...imagine yourself crossing the finish line...", but it also covered two different types of techniques used during long runs: associative and dissociative.  Dissociative is what I do, tune out; associative is the opposite, really focusing on what you're doing as you run. 

    The authors write "...if your objective is to make the runs go by quickly [bingo!] dissociating is probably the way to do that.  However, if you enjoy running or even succeed in achieving flow while running, then [your runs] may be one of the highlights of your day and you do not want to "miss" them by dissociating."  They add that using dissociation results in only training your body, not your mind.  I can definitely see that.  My "mental game" is definitely weak.  Turns out maybe I'm just doing the wrong kind of thinking (I guess "10 miles to go...9.8 miles to go...9.7 miles to go....9.5 mile to go...." isn't productive? Who knew?)  Some of their recommendations:
    • "focus on the running itself"
    • focus on form
    • "develop the feeling that you are an inexhaustible machine" (that makes me snicker a little)
    • focus on the movements of your body and the sensations you're feeling (unfortunately, for me this would sound like, "I'm going to die. I can't breathe. My knee hurts.  Now my shin hurts.  Knee again.")
    • try to think of 25 reasons for running as you run
    • go through the alphabet naming adjectives for yourself for each letter (Amazing...Bold...Cheerful...)
    • concentrate on your breathing
    I tend to think that my runs will be more pleasant as I get "better" at running, more in shape, but that's probably not true because there's always some new level to try to reach.  I may try some of the book's suggestions and see how they work out.  I'd love to feel that flow in my running more often; maybe some of these will help.  And if not, there's always the iPod, the trails, and a new blog post!

    My question: what do you do to pass the time while you're on those long runs?  Do you tune in or tune out?  Is there something specific that you do?

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Marathon Training for Slackers

    I have a few new followers this week...welcome!  I hope you find something here to keep you reading after Neil's giveaway ends.  And if you're a follower who has never stopped by Neil's blog, you might check him out (and I'm not just saying that because I shamelessly self-promoted myself on his blog).  Speaking of shameless self-promotion, I'm hoping to have an announcement in the next couple weeks (no, I'm not pregnant), so stay tuned.

    My marathon training plan only has me running three days a week. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

    I take that back; I know exactly how I feel about it: it both thrills me (bc I still don't love running all that much, especially when I'm doing it) and worries me (is it enough?). I'm using the Runner's World Smart Coach plan, and I'm choosing to trust in it.

    My goal paces are based on my last 10k time, which wasn't a stellar performance, possibly due to running half marathons (well, one half marathon and one 20k) in each of the previous two weeks. I have definitely run faster than the paces the speedwork intervals call for...but that was when I was training for the half; I haven't trained consistently since October. I seem to do better if I set realistic (if not downright cautious) goals and work to exceed them than if I set ambitious goals...and then fail to meet them.

    This was my first week of official marathon training, and here's the scoop so far:

    Goal: Easy run 3 miles at 11:22
    Actual: 3 miles @ 10:12 pace

    Every time I run, I'm reminded to respect the distance. "Ah...'only' 3 miles..." and then I get out there and remember that no matter how short the run is and how easy the pace is, running does NOT come easy to me! The other thing I'm always reminded is to keep going. After the first two miles it felt much better. Note: took the hillier route in our neighborhood and concentrated on "float up the hill". I'm not sure what that means, but it helped.

    Goal: Tempo run: 1 mi w/u, 3 miles @ 9:45, 1 mi c/d
    Actual: w/u (10:05), mi 1 (9:24), mi 2 (9:24), mi 3 (9:27), c/d (10:48)

    This was another one that started off rough. If I quit running as soon as it felt unpleasant, I'd never make it past my driveway. Halfway through the warmup mile, I was telling myself it's ok...just run the 5 miles...it's ok if you're too slow... Once I finished the second mile it was much better, and mile 2-2.5 actually felt good. I need to remember at the beginning that it'll get better. Mentally I'm always stronger on the back half of a run. Hopefully that'll hold true for the marathon, where I'll really need it! This ended up being a really good run.

    Goal: easy 8 miles at 11:22
    Actual: 8.8 trail miles @11:03 pace

    This was my longest run since the River Road Race. I ran it on a trail loop. I'm triple dipping...getting in my marthon miles, taking it easier on my knees, training for the Castlewood Cup 15K and Quivering Quads half marathon (both trail events). I've been woefully unprepared for my last two trail races, and that isn't going to happen again. This way I got to add in some hills, and my hill running definitely has room for improvement.

    photo.JPGIt was cold this morning. Weather.com said 12 degrees with a -3 wind chill the first time I woke up, so I said forget that (or maybe some other f word...I'm not sure...) and went back to sleep. I dragged out the waiting process all morning and finally took off around 1. By then, the temps had warmed to a balmy 20 degrees/5 degree windchill. I wore running tights under another pair of pants, a long-sleeved compression top, a short-sleeved technical t, a fleece sweatshirt, and my jacket. Last time I wore the jacket, my fleece was soaked when I took it off. This time I used the pit zips and actually had the jacket unzipped most of the way for a lot of the run, but after the first 2.2 mile lap I ended up being too warm and taking the fleece off.

    Once again, the fleece was wet on the outside.  I ran the remainder of the run with the other shirts under the jacket, and it was much better except for the sweat from the jacket.  So. I think I've pretty much figured out the way to go for cold weather runs.  No fleece with the jacket.  I'll say, though, that the REI website says the jacket is breathable, and it sure doesn't seem to be.  They may get an email from me.  Is it possible that I'm doing something wrong?  If I can't wear a jacket right, that's just sad.

    It was pretty quiet out today. I saw a total of two bicyclists on my way to the trails and two lonely cars at the (normally packet) parking area for the paved trails. There was one older couple out on "my" trails with me as well as three or four deer. Because it was so cold, the majority of the trail was nice and frozen.  Most of it was clear, but there were a few spots that still had a light cover of snow.

    I loved doing my long run on the trail.  Granted, it was physically harder and slower than I would have been on the road or paved trail, but it's so much more interesting.  The loop I run is around 2.2 miles.  To break it up, I ran two loops counterclockwise (my normal direction) and two clockwise.  The big news of the day is that I conquered* the hill! Ever since I started running out here in the fall, there's been a hill that I haven't been able to run the entire way up.  Today, for the first time, I did--twice!  (On the other hand, I have a slower time on the loop when I "run" the hill than when I walk it, but that'll get better.)

    Not actually "the" hill

    The hill above is steep enough that you can actually see its steepness in the picture, which is rare, but it's not "the hill" (though I did run this one twice as well).  "The" hill is a lot longer and I've always worn down.  Not today! :)  Part of the loop passes along a ravine of sorts.  It's interesting; on the counterclockwise loop I was able to run the whole way along the ravine.  When I ran it clockwise, there was one spot where I had to stop and step across; it was too scary going in that direction.

    Narrow spot in the trail

    It's hard to tell from the picture above, but the trail is about as wide as my foot in this one spot with a fairly steep (though not overly long) drop to the right.  I stopped to take this picture, put away my phone, and almost lost my balance.  Nice.  Then, about 4 feet further along (thankfully on a wider spot in the trail), I slipped and fell.  My first fall of 2011...and not the last, I'm sure.  Landed on my butt, so plenty of padding. :)

    None of my 2.2 mile splits were particularly impressive.  Lap 1 was 23:54, Lap 2 was 23:49, Lap 3 was 24:46, and lap 4 was 24:50.  I did stop a couple of times to take a quick picture, but the time lost was negligible.  I'm interested to see if I pick up some speed if I run my long runs out here regularly.  I did take a GU (Vanilla Bean...mmmm) halfway through.  I would have been fine without it (never did any fueling during any of my HM training long runs), but I figure I'll be needing some sort of fueling strategy when I run the marathon and had better start figuring out what works for me.

    Still smiling, no body parts lost to frostbite. :)
    Anyway, I'll call my first official marathon training long run a success.  And week one is in the bag.