Sunday, February 27, 2011

February Recap

Since tomorrow is a cross-training day and I will be spinning instead of running (no miles to add to my total), I thought I'd do a recap of the short month of February. Happily, things calmed down after the rough start.

1) I ran 94.5 miles. Not as many as in January, but February is a shorter month. For the year, I am up to 195.5 miles.

2) I attended six 1-hour spin classes (one more tomorrow, the 28th, will make it seven) and four 45-minute bootcamp classes. I also swam/kickboarded three times for about 20-25 minutes each.

3) I ran long three times on the Boulder Half course, including the two longest runs in this program, the 14- and 15-milers. These runs were both reminders to stay humble.

4) I ran the Snowman Stampede 10-miler for one of my long runs--and (something I hadn't realized before) set a big PR! Not that I've run that many 10-mile races, but it's significant to me that the last one I ran, the Rudolph's Revenge 10-Miler in December 2005, was not only pre-pregnancy/kids but also just a month-and-a-half after I ran the NYC Marathon. My time in that 10-miler was 1:45:52. My time in last week's was 1:27:22. Yay for the *late* 30s!

Here's a link to a photo of me in the Snowman Stampede. I won't buy it because they want a ridiculous amount of money for it, but I kind of like it a) because I'm actually smiling b) because the woman next to me is so tall she makes me look petite even though she's actually leaner than I am c) because I'm wearing my favorite shirt, the one with the snail on it, and d) despite the fact that my headphones give me a mild case of the Princess Leias.

5) I missed no scheduled runs and only one cross-training workout (I did miss several bootcamp classes, but only aerobic cross-training counts in my program).

6) I got my foot pain diagnosed and have a plan for treating it.

Here's hoping that I have another good month in March. With my half-marathon coming up on the 27th, may it come in and go out like a lamb (no more wind!).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

They Call the Wind.....

Away out here they have a name for rain and wind and fire. The rain is Tess, the fire's Joe, and they call the wind Maria.
Maria blows the stars around and sets the clouds a-flyin'. Maria makes the mountains sound like folks was out there dyin'.

There was someone out there dyin' today--it was me!

Actually it wasn't that bad. Yes, my old friends the chinook winds (along with mud and melting snow) accompanied me on every step of this morning's torturous 15-mile run. Yes, they had a markedly adverse effect on my pace: in the end, it averaged out to 9:26/mile, molasses-slow considering my goal. But you can't argue with Mother Nature. At least I finished it, and had to make no pit-stops--the ditches of Boulder County are safe from me for another week.

Since this was the longest run I have to do in this training cycle, I thought I'd recap some lessons, things I did right and wrong on it. I'll start with the bad news:

Things I Did Wrong

1. I ran too fast at first. The second mile came in at 8:57. Given the wind, I should have slowed them all down, knowing I'd need the energy later.

2. I didn't even attempt to fuel. I brought some Hammer gels and some Starburst candies with me, but I ate none of them. I was frightened of the possibility of having a repeat of what happened to my gut on the 14-miler. So all I did was drink water. I think I paid for it in low blood sugar at the end, when the winds hit really hard.

3. I didn't have enough water with me. Time to go buy a couple of those hand-held water bottles. I do own a fuel belt, but as a woman with hips, I hate it. It always rides up to my waist, causing my shirt to bunch and (on long ones) chafing to happen. I think hand-held will be the way to go for me.

Things I Did Right (Because Hey, I Have to Stay Optimistic)

1. I finished the damn thing. I thereby will benefit from the psychological advantage that having done 15 miles will confer on race day (now a mere four weeks away!).

2. I was reminded that race day may very well not shine down on me with ideal weather (40 degrees, come and go sun, no wind). If it's windy or hot, my time will be slower. This will not be my fault. Good to have that reminder in advance.

3. I did all of my longest runs, including this one, on the actual race course. This was one of my goals at the beginning, and now I can truly say I know every twist of those dusty/muddy roads like the back of my hand. I know where the Golden Grizzly ranch is (and how far I've gone by the time I get there--a little over 6 miles). I know where the little downhills on the big uphill part of the course are, so I can look forward to breaks. I know where the shade is (there ain't much of it), and how the air turns cooler when I cross Left Hand Creek or when the road gets close to a culvert. I know that I can kick at the end, even on a day like today.

Not counting the race itself, there is one more long one two weeks from now. But it's "only" 12 miles. Other than that, and a couple of tough speed workouts this Tuesday and next Tuesday, I'm over the hump. I plan to spend the next four weeks "getting it done," eating and sleeping well and trying to avoid the viruses pinging around right now like video game enemies.

A side note: while I was out running this morning, Denver Mattress dropped off our brand new bed. It's stretched behind me as I type, promising glorious nights of rest. Clean sheets are in the dryer now, and we have new pillows, too.

Something tells me the sleep will be good tonight.

Here's the ugly news from today's run:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: The Grace to Race

My book club recently read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a media sensation of a memoir by a woman who sought to raise her two daughters "the Chinese way" (which as far as I could tell consisted mostly of spending lots of money on forced music lessons, practice, instruments and music-related travel, and no tolerance for much in the way of social activities). While I was in the bookstore buying it, I saw another book that I couldn't resist purchasing as well: The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete Known as the Iron Nun.

Put the Tiger Mother and the Iron Nun head to head and I know who would come out on top! Sister Madonna Buder started running at age 48, qualified for Boston very quickly with a time of 3 hours 29 minutes and change (the standard for women over 40 at the time was 3 hours 30 minutes) and began competing in triathlons soon after that. She set several records for older age-group women in the Ironman distance and is still racing today, at 80, though it sounds like she has stomach issues.

Her book also details a penchant for close calls, travel scares and accidents. I could have done with fewer details about these, as well as fewer accounts of races. I say, when you've been through as much as Sister has, pick a few key races and harrowing incidents and really flesh them out. Whether they ended well or badly, we will learn more from a few well told than too many told in tedious chronological order.

I did enjoy the expected but still uncanny role that God has played in her decision to compete and persevere. Many athletes chant mantras when the going gets tough. Sister Madonna's have to do with praising God and praying for other people. Her list of reflections is a good tip list for anyone undertaking a tough goal. And I also liked how, even though she is a nun, it's clear that she can be prickly, opinionated and in the heat of competition even irritable--just like any other high-strung athlete (and make no mistake, this late bloomer is talented).

I'm looking forward to reading many other running books this year. My favorite of all time is Born to Run. Here's a link to my review of it on GoodReads (a social networking site for readers).

What are your favorite reads for runners? Or to be more general--what are your favorite books when inspiration is needed?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Food: Chapter 2

The scale in the weight room at the North Boulder Recreation Center is my old enemy. I began tracking my weight on it 3.5 years ago, beginning when I first signed up for a women's weight training class, and have been discouraged by it ever since.

But last Thursday and again this morning, discouragement morphed into something like hope. That's because on both days, this stern taskmaster of a scale registered my weight at below 136 pounds. That's a point that I have tried and failed since pregnancy to breach--despite the weight training class (which I've continued in some form without interruption since 2008) and training for two (now three) half-marathons and several shorter races over the same period of time.

To be exact, on Tuesday it read 134.6. Today it read 135. Since even I am not one to fret over a difference of .4, I'm going to call it a trend.

This backs up a highly subjective observation I've made recently that my jeans are starting to feel a tad bit loose. Thing is, I've felt that before and been dead wrong about the direction my weight is going. This is the first time both the scale and my pants have been saying the same happy thing.

What have I been doing differently? Not very much, but there are two things that may be contributing. One is that I have kept up with the gum chewing when I crave sweets, especially at work where sweets abound, a trick recommended by several sources including Martha, the nutritionist I was working with earlier this year. The second is that I have been emphasizing fruit consumption.

And by emphasizing fruit consumption, I mean that I've been downing a lot of fruit. I put it on my morning oatmeal. I eat it for snacks. If I get the munchies after dinner, I reach for a bag of frozen mango or frozen cherries and throw worries about serving size and calories to the wind. Because it's fruit, and it's so much better than the other junk I could be eating at that time that I figure extra is OK.

Hopefully all this fruit consumption makes up for the fact that I really don't eat as many vegetables as recommended. It's not that I don't like vegetables. Prepared well, they are delicious. But I'm lazy, so preparation isn't going to happen a lot of the time. Also, when it comes to food I'm easily bored, and I'm sorry to say there is little in the food world that I find more boring than, say, baby carrots, steamed broccoli or celery sticks. I *know* these things are good for me. But they do nothing to satisfy me either when I'm genuinely hungry or having a craving.

Fruit, however, is another story. I'm actually starting to crave that frozen mango now. My cereal is starting to seem naked without bananas and blueberries on it. I can actually now imagine a world where I might order fruit for dessert. And somehow it makes total sense that the way for a proven sweet addict to lose weight just might be to not try to eliminate all sweets but to find a healthier way to binge on them: by binging on fruit!

This also has given me a tiny glimmer of hope that perhaps I might learn to feel as happy about eating vegetables someday. But baby steps, one thing at a time, etc. If I can get the rest of the weight off without dieting, keeping a food diary or counting calories, I will be so happy.

Let's hope my body has decided that after nearly three years of warfare with the rec center scale, it's time to make friends.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another Embarrassing Boulder Moment, and My Million $$$ Reality Show Idea

A funny thing happened while I was obsessing over the race results from yesterday's Snowman Stampede. Not content with being stupefied by how fast the top finishers in my own race were, I also looked at the winners of the 5-mile race, which had occurred before the start of the 10-mile one I ran.

And there it was. My doctor's name. Yes--the same doctor who just last Monday probed my calloused right foot, diagnosed it with a neuroma and injected it with cortisone. There was his name: the runner-up in the 5-mile Snowman Stampede. Over the course of his five miles, he averaged 5:37/mile. The guy he lost to was 20 years his junior.

Immediately I flashed back to that exam room with the photo of the Soviet women's cycling team glaring down at me as I sat on the table. I had foolishly worn a skirt and tights to the appointment because I had to go to work right after, and had donned a giant pair of men's basketball shorts so he could see my foot properly. I'm sure I looked like some woman on the doorstop of middle age who had once tried and failed to play basketball in seventh grade--because that's what I am.

But since I was playing it cool and trying to feel like one real runner talking to another, after he asked me about my running and my goals, I asked him (as though I hadn't read his little bio online) if he ran too. He answered that he does run, but, he said (and I remember he was still messing with my foot as he said this and not looking at me), "Not marathons. I stick to shorter things. Half-marathons sometimes."

Aack. Cringe. Five-milers, too, apparently. I can only imagine how he must have been laughing inside. It's the same kind laughter I suppress when, after I've come back from a run, my daughter Ruth informs me that she too ran, and indeed ran 40 miles. "Really?" I say with a half-smile. "Wow, that's far!" The other analogy I draw would be me telling Colin Firth that, "yes, I'm an actor too" because I once played a bit part in a children's production of Robin Hood.

One fellow blogger recently expressed confidence in my ability to qualify for Boston because "everybody in Boulder is bada**." A very kind thing to say, but, alas, NOT COMPLETELY TRUE! :^)

It's a good thing I do live here, though. It keeps my small accomplishments in perspective. Which brings me to something else I've been wanting to share: how about a reality TV show where a bunch of celebrity coaches, people who are used to working with real talent, are given a bunch of average runners and a certain amount of time to get them qualified for Boston? I'd watch it!

I thought of this on the treadmill the other night when the (thankfully silent) TV was tuned to The Biggest Loser. The premise of the show is a good one, I think, even if the execution suffers from the usual afflictions of all reality TV (forced tension, immoral treatment of contestants, stupid take-out interviews). It *is* inspiring to see the success stories.

If anyone in Hollywood is reading this and likes the idea, sign me up! I'll be your first contestant, especially if it means I get to live at a spa-like ranch for several months.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Race Report: Snowman Stampede

Today I took a break from the Boulder Reservoir and did my off-week long run of 10 miles by participating in the Snowman Stampede in Littleton, CO, a Denver suburb that's about 45 minutes from Boulder. The day dawned sparkling and still, and I had slept wonderfully at my friend Kathy's house the night before. Though the race start was later than I like (10:15 a.m.), I felt relaxed and ready to run by the time Kathy and I arrived at the course.

My program dictated 9:03 miles for this run. I had a feeling I could do better than that even though the program's authors discourage running faster than the specified paces. I figure at this point, as long as all three of my weekly runs are coming in at or below the specified paces, I can stretch a little on the long ones without harm. And after last week's difficult run, I wanted some fun.

The course, which stretched north from Hudson Gardens along the paved Platte River Trail, was basically flat--slightly downward on the way out, slightly upward on the way back--but much more even than I've been doing. It was a good exercise, as it's hard to do a truly flat course in Boulder if you're aiming for any sort of distance.

I knew I would need to pace myself going out, and when I looked at my Garmin results later (see below), I was pleased to see I largely accomplished this. The first mile was my slowest and the last mile was my fastest, as it should be. The middle was a bit more uneven than I'd like (the slight cool breeze that had helped me the first half was gone for the second, and the sun was hot), but not so much as to truly alarm me.

In the end, the Garmin pegged my pace at 8:39 for 10:08 miles. My official result put me at an 8:43 pace for the 10 miles, good for 12th out of 59 people in the 35-39 year-old female age group, 71st out of 276 women and 212th out of the whole field of 484.

I'm also very happy that my gut was quiet and happy throughout the whole race and afterward, which let me eat, drink and enjoy the sunshine with Kathy (who also met her goal for the race).

I have five more weeks of training, with next weekend's long run of 15 miles the longest of the program. Hopefully this race indicates what I think it indicates, which is that I'm right where I should be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

They Made It MUCH Harder

The Boston Athletic Association finally came out with it: getting into the Boston Marathon is now much harder. You can read a full explanation of how they did it here. In this post, I'll just stick with how it will affect me.

The time standard for getting into the Boston Marathon in 2012 (the first year I'd theoretically have a shot) won't change. It remains 3 hours 45 minutes for a 35-39 year-old woman. BUT they have introduced a rolling entry process that gives first dibs to people who beat their standard by 20 minutes. So to be allowed to sign up on the first and second day of registration for this race (Sept. 12 and 13 of this year), I would have to run (hold your breath) a marathon in 3 hours 25 minutes, which amounts to 7:49 per mile. To be allowed to register on the third and fourth day (starting Sept. 14), I would have to beat my standard by 10 minutes, or run the race at 8:12/mile. If the Boston Marathon still hasn't filled at that point, on Sept. 16, I would be allowed to register IF I ran a 3:40, or 8:23/mile (five minutes faster than my standard). And only if the race hadn't filled in one of those earlier stages would I be allowed to try to register with any time between 3:40 and 3:45.

For the 2013 running of Boston, the plot thickens further. In addition to keeping the rolling registration process, all the time standards for both sexes and all age groups will get 5 minutes harder. Which means that even as a 40-year-old I will still be shooting for 3:45 or better.

When I first read this, sitting at the quiet reference desk with the spring-like morning sun shining through the skylights, it took my breath away. But ever since hearing that they were going to be doing *something* with the standards, I've known that it certainly wasn't going to get easier. And now that I know exactly *how* it's gotten harder, I can adjust my game plan.

Here's what I've come up with so far--and there are some questions in here so if anyone out there has an opinion please voice it!

1) I think it's safe to say that the 2012 Boston Marathon is out of reach. It was probably never in reach anyway--my original goal for this year's marathon was merely to beat four hours--but even if a miracle occurred and I ran a qualifying time in October, the new registration window will have closed by the time I hit the starting line.

Still, I'm tempted to ramp up my timetable and try to get a marathon in before Sept. 12. Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors only the prepared mind." It probably favors the prepared body as well. What do you think? Should I try to find an early September marathon? At worst I'd be beginning a new training cycle in the fall--which is a great time to train anyway.

2) In the likely event that it's 2013 I'm shooting for, I'd choose a winter marathon with a reputation for speed (perhaps a return to Houston, where I ran my first one). And after that, I'd just keep entering marathons as needed until registration for the 2013 race opens on Sept. 10 of next year.

3) I need to remember that even if I don't actually get into the race, the title of this blog is BQby40, not BostonMarathonby40. This is a key distinction given the new registration process. It means that if I run a 3:45 or better, I will have met my goal, regardless of whether there were enough faster people to trump me in the queue to sign up. Semantics? Yes. But correct semantics!

4) Whether or not I hit 3:45 by my 40th birthday, I will move on at that point. Perhaps in that event I will be doing a blog again in twenty years with the title BQby60. But once I turn forty, I know I'll want to put Boston to rest for a while and accomplish some other things with my running.

One thing I will never do is run the Boston Marathon without qualifying. It seems to me there should be some things that are sacred. Even if this training proves only that I don't have it in me to run that fast, hopefully it will give me a deeper appreciation of those who do.

I would love to hear from everyone about this new wrinkle, whether you have advice for me or are sharing your own stories and impressions. Those of you who recently qualified, for instance, but didn't get into the 2011 race...I can only imagine how you must be affected.

Tomorrow I have the first run in my program in weeks where I have permission to run slow and easy. It seems appropriate somehow!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Happy Diagnosis

My sore right foot is offically a case of Morton's neuroma! I do not have a stress fracture (X-rays confirm the bones and joints in my foot and ankle are super healthy!). I do not have to quit running or bag my plans for a marathon. All I had to do was submit to a steroid shot in the top of my foot.

How was it diagnosed? The doctor, a whippet-like person who runs himself, manipulated the sore area, asking me if various movements hurt and testing the soundness of the bones. Then he ordered up the X-rays, and once it was clear the bones are good, he injected the foot with a numbing agent, then did some of the squeezing and prodding again to see where the pain that I could no longer feel had been centered. Once that was evident (the pain originates between the big toe and the second toe), he gave me the steroid shot right above that spot. I got excited, saying it would be great to do tomorrow's speed workout pain-free, but he brought me down a bit, saying it would probably take 24 to 48 hours to take effect.

For longer term management, I must keep wearing the neuroma pad I got at Boulder Running Company on Saturday (bless their knowledgeable salespeople, especially the one I had--I think his name was Greg).

The doc also recommends that I do some foot strengthening exercises, including using my toes to move marbles from the floor to a bowl, towel grabs and running barefoot on grass for 10 or 15 minutes a week when the weather improves (he recommended against any abrupt transition to all barefoot or minimalist running, but he said incorporating it gradually is very good for foot strength). I'm also supposed to avoid high heels (not hard since I hate 'em anyway) and tight shoes (another hate). I may also take an aspirin after my long runs to reduce any swelling. I don't want to rely on painkillers, but since I know what this is, and aspirin in moderate doses is good for most adults anyway, I don't think it will hurt.

I'm *very* happy about how the visit went. Obviously the relatively mild diagnosis is the biggest part of that, but I was also thrilled with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in general. All the nurses I saw were wearing workout clothes and running shoes. There was a big gym just off the hallway from the examining rooms. Posters of past Bolder Boulder races and cycling events decorated the walls, along with signed photos of athletes.

Seeing this doctor was mildly intimidating. The photo above the examining table was of a women's cycling team whose red jerseys featured the Soviet hammer and sickle. But the other folks in the waiting room looked blessedly average like me. And the doc didn't flinch or (worse) look amused when I told him about my Boston goal.

This is the place I will be going for most of my medical needs going forward, so it will be easy to slip running questions in when needed, even if the ostensible reason for the visit is a general check-up or a cough. Another reason to love living in Boulder....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

(Almost) Everything That Can Go Wrong Does Go Wrong...and I Survive!

OK, atheist friends, I've proven it. There is a God!!

Now, I'm a believer anyway, but I weren't, today's run would have converted me. Not because it was great, but because it was about the most horrible run I've had since starting this half-marathon training.

Why would a horrible run convince me of the existence of a benevolent Creator and Guardian? Here's my list of reasons:

1) (and this is a big number one) No cars or runners went by when I was squatting in a ditch by a bare and spiney bush at mile 11.6 of today's 14-mile run. I had toilet paper with me, I got my urgent business done, I got my pants pulled back into place...and though the cramping continued until the bitter end, I finished the run in time to make it to an actual toilet for round two (and even waved and smiled at two other runners and a couple walking their dog on the way; I don't think they suspected a thing).

2) I survived the chinook winds. Yes, the winds returned, just in time for today's afternoon jaunt. On the drive out, I watched numerous flags stretched like compass needles in the western blast buffeting us from the mountains. I ran into this headwind/sidewind for a good portion of this run. I was sorely tempted to skip the backroads and use the pass to Flatiron Athletic Club that Christine gave me for my birthday. But I didn't. I stuck it out. It was divinely-inspired determination that prevented 14 wind-free but excruciatingly dull miles on the treadmill.

3) I had purchased new shoes this week, trading in my Asics for a shiny new pair of New Balance 940s. In all the years I've been running I've never gotten wed to a particular brand of shoe. The salesguy at Boulder Running Company told me this is actually a good thing. I also told him about my foot issue, and he fitted me with a neuroma pad. I thought it was going to drive me crazy, but it helped--my right foot feels much better after this run than it has for a long time after a long run. I'm hoping the doc on Monday agrees that what I have is a neuroma, which would be much easier to deal with than something like a stress fracture.

4) In addition to surviving the wind, the foot and the intestinal problems, I also survived the muddy road, the puddles left by melting snow and the sun, which for the first time since the fall felt hot. I hate heat. But I made it.

5) I didn't run sub-9s in these conditions, but my inconsistent pace in the end averaged out to 9:04/mile. That's still good enough for a sub-2-hour half marathon (and according to the program all I had to do was hit 9:13). Which makes me happy, because it's quite possible today's conditions will be race-day springtime-in-Boulder conditions.

6) The nausea I felt after this run left me about 2 hours later (and after consuming lots of water and one difficult cup of hot chocolate). I had enough energy to bathe my monkey children, read them two Curious George stories and get them into bed. In a way, just getting this run done with Dan out of town was an accomplishment.

So in sum: it wasn't pretty, but I've been pretty lucky that most of them to this point have been pretty. I was probably due for a real challenge. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. After today's run, and a good night's sleep, I will definitely feel badass. And ready for a Sunday's rest.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Home Alone

Well, not really alone! My two kids are here too, of course. But Dan has gone to visit our newborn nephew in Florida for the weekend. So I am doing my usual when on my own with the kids: planning almost every minute of every day so that the time will pass quickly until he returns.

As with Fridays, which I wrote about a few posts ago, the rare times when Dan is traveling have gotten much easier than they used to be. When Will and Ruth were babies and their dad was gone, I'd rise at 5 a.m. to guarantee a shower and a peaceful breakfast for myself. I'd prepare a day's worth of bottles of the tasty breast milk/formula combo they ate and have them lined up like soldiers on the bottom shelf of the fridge. At night I would fall into bed exhausted by 8:30 p.m. but then lie awake listening for any crying I might need to squelch so it wouldn't wake brother/sister.

Now, with the food and sleep situations stable and four-year-old so much more entertainable, I just have to make sure there are plenty of activities lined up to keep them engaged--hopefully some (like this afternoon's planned excursion to a bouncy castle place called Jumpin' Jordy's) that will let me have some time with a girlfriend who also needs activities for her kids (who are 3-YO triplets!).

There is also the matter of that 14-mile run scheduled for tomorrow (and my job on Sunday...but you can probably guess which of the two I was more worried about). When I emailed and called our two regular sitters, I asked for help both tomorrow (for the run) and Sunday (for work). In the end, one sitter is coming for the run, and the other for work. So I got lucky on both days: no missed miles, no used vacation time.

I'm very happy that Dan gets to make this trip. If he can make time for another later this year to help out his sister and her husband, I hope he will. But it does make me do those of you whose husbands travel more often than mine get your runs (and other priorities) taken care of when the other kid expert in your house can't help?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Which Marathon??

I got an email over the weekend from my friend Kathy. She has signed up for her first marathon, the Portland Marathon on Oct. 9. Amid being excited for her (the first one is such an event!), I started getting itchy to get my own fall itinerary more settled.

The St. George Marathon, on Oct. 1, has been my plan for a while now. It sounds wonderful--but honestly I don't know if I can stand waiting to hear back from the lottery, which won't happen until May at the earliest. If I were to choose a race like Portland or the Chicago Marathon (also on Oct. 9), I could sign up now.

Aside from just assuaging my impatience, the two bigger races have other advantages. Number one is the travel situation. There are direct flights from Denver to both Portland and Chicago, simplifying things greatly and probably making things cheaper. Getting to Southern Utah would mean a drive to and from Salt Lake City on top of a flight (or it would mean one long drive from Boulder).

The number two advantage is that Portland and Chicago are at sea level. While the St. George course is lower than here, it's not going to feature the oxygen-rich air that I enjoyed so much in NYC five years ago. Chicago is also noted for being a fast and flat course.

Finally, I know people in both Portland and Chicago. I'd still plan to stay in a hotel, but it would so great to have even a small cheering section on the course and good friends to dine with after the race (whether the outcome is happy or sad). Kathy will also be running Portland, so I'd have a start line buddy there. And both cities are the kind of place that might entice Dan to come with me, even it means taking the kids, too (they've gotten a lot easier to travel with). If I ran in Chicago, I bet my family in Missouri would come watch and hang out with me.

Hmm, all this makes it sound like I should forgo St. George this year and pick one of the two bigger-city races (pending a happy diagnosis of my foot issue from my doc this coming Monday). It would certainly make me happy to solidify my plan through October.

What would you do if you were me? Hold out for the possibility of a beautiful downhill mountain run at St. George? Or opt for the comforts of one of the two big city options (and which one would you choose)?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Boulder Benefits, or Massage Part I

I mentioned in an earlier post that there is far too little sushi in my life. Another luxury I experience far too infrequently is every runner's good friend: The Massage.

Well, it turns out the month of February will be good to me on the massage front because many of my family members gave me gift cards for a good rub-down for my birthday last month. Today--a rare and precious comp day off work--I had the first of three (count 'em, three!) massages that were bestowed on me, this one by my ingenious husband.

It was massage that only Boulder (and probably a few other places like California and Santa Fe) could provide. I entered the "treatment room" via a sliding bamboo door. A salt crystal lamp (see photo above; my son is apparently obsessed with these, having seen them in Whole Foods) glowed orange in one little nook. Candles burned in several others. An array of non-glowing crystals decked one low table, presumably sending healing vibes throughout the room. Sitar and chant music whispered from discreet speakers. After I disrobed, crawled under the sheets and comforter and lowered my feet into a bath of hot scented water, my therapist entered.

She began by offering me--I kid you not--a fairy card. I think it was supposed to set the theme for the massage, or something along those lines. I drew the "Romantic Partner" card. I attempted a joke about how appropriate that is, given that my romantic partner purchased this massage for me. She laughed wanly, and read the explanation of the card from a little book. It seems my romance will soon be invigorated (or that I will have a new and exciting romance, not really an option for me given that I'm not in the market for that, regardless of what the fairies think). Once we were done with the card, she placed it in the arms of a small black teddy bear (again, I am not kidding) who sat on the counter and watched us during the massage.

Then she offered me a shot of kombucha, which I drank. Though I don't believe all the hype about its health benefits, it tastes good. And at last the massage itself began.

Of that, I have nothing funny to say because it felt awesome. She used hot stones, which I've never had done before, and I also got a special mini-facial and foot rub. The product smells were heavenly. By the time she sounded a gong to mark the end of my experience and left me lying supine with a mask on my face and two stones under me on either side of my spine, I was in a state similar to what I imagine sleep would feel like if you could be awake to enjoy it. Even my bum foot felt better. And when I stumbled out they gave me pieces of dark chocolate laced with cherries.

Hokey bits aside, I'll definitely be returning to that particular spa the next time I get a good chunk of discretionary cash. Or the next time I have a birthday, which is more likely. I say that even though I noticed they also offer a session with a "clairvoyant" for (get this) $66. Do you think anyone actually pays for that??

Post-Script: Speaking of my bum foot, I finally made an appointment to see a sports medicine specialist about it. I have to say thank you here to my co-worker, Donna, who suggested I visit the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. The appointment isn't until next Monday, but I already like them, and here's why:

The woman on the phone asked me if I had a referral from my primary care doctor. I told her that my insurance had just changed, and at the moment I have no primary care doctor. She told me that was actually a good thing because the sports medicine M.D. I will be seeing can therefore *be* my primary care doctor. One look at his bio and I was sold. Check this out:

"....Board Certified in both Sports Medicine and Internal Medicine. He is also a former USA Triathlon All American and currently coaches other high-level triathletes, which gives him a unique perspective as he treats injuries, illnesses, and helps his patients achieve their personal fitness and performance goals...(His) background in the world of sports includes serving as a team physician for the University of Colorado Football, Cross Country, Track & Field, and Women’s Soccer teams. He also serves as a team physician for Garmin-Transitions U23 Cycling Team. He brings with him expertise in physiology testing and gait analysis, as well. As an athlete, (he) has been a successful triathlete, cyclist, and runner."

Of course now I'm afraid that his office will be intimidating in the manner of the Flatiron Athletic Club and the trails around here, that I will be least impressive specimen he's ever examined. But I am *very* happy to have found someone who will understand why I like to run and (I'm guessing) will do his best to help get me to Boston.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Runner's Envy

I love following the people who are really good at this sport. Today the Cross-Country Nationals took place. You can see the results (and the blisteringly fast times) here. There were a lot of people from Boulder among the winners and Top 10-ers. Makes me proud to be passed here (and makes me wonder who was doing the passing)!

This seems like a good segue into one of my little issues: Runner's Envy. I am pretty much jealous--and I know it's totally fruitless and irrational, but it is what it is--of everyone who is better at this than I am. My jealousy is particularly focused on people who are in a similar situation to mine (i.e. a mom of small kids, a latecomer to the sport, an on-again-off-again dabbler, or some combo of those features) but have had more success than I have.

I'd venture to say that jealousy in some form is my greatest fault. Perhaps it's a consequence of mediocrity in many areas where I once had hope for myself, or where others once had hope for me. (I'm a bit nervous about my high school reunion this summer. I'm sure my "accomplishments" are nothing of the kind compared to those of others.)

Running is different. I've never been under any illusions that I have any great talent at it. And it's certainly not something that haunted my dreams as a young person. Yet I wouldn't be trying to get to Boston if I didn't have some late-blooming ambitions for my running.

Why is running so captivating for someone like me?

Some of it has to do with how running affects my outlook for the rest of the day. Weariness of the daily grind makes way for sunniness and gratitude. But much of the appeal is in the act itself, the way I feel during the last half of a run. Even when certain things are hurting--my bum foot (still need to call someone about that), or my calves--my head feels so good, so full of fresh oxygen and warm blood, and my skin feels so alive. I love the powerful feeling I get when I can pick up speed at the end. I love the fact that my new "I can finish this" distance has increased to two miles--meaning that when I'm within two miles of the end of a difficult effort, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will finish. At the end of the run I'm not worried about anything but moving my body forward some more.

Maybe that's where the jealousy comes in. Because when I'm feeling so strong and happy and alive, it's a bummer to be rendered second-class by labels like "mid-packer." It's tough to accept that no matter how hard I work, I'll never be as fast as so-and-so whom I see around, and who is no more of a pro than I am--but gets noticed by others because they have talent the talent to run 7 minute miles when I can run only 8 minuters. It makes me think I should leave it behind, and find a hobby where I have some chance of success that others will recognize and take vicarious pleasure in. Is success without recognition really success?

Then I have another of those magical runs (and most of them have been magical these days). They put the jealousy in its proper place, at least until I read a blog by or a news account of someone with real talent. Then the cycle begins again.

Until I mature past the point of jealousy (it can happen, right?), I'm trying to take each run as it comes: joy in the moment, a solitary surrender to something that will probably never reward me in ways the world measures but that some better part of me finds rewarding all the same. Hopefully that, and hard work, will be enough to help me make my anonymous way to Boston.

Here's today's 10 miler:

Friday, February 4, 2011


Ever since I went back to work when my twins were four months old, Fridays have been my "day off," the day I'm home all day with them. I dreaded Fridays in the early days once I realized that time at work was liberation from the endless cycle of bottles and pumping and naps and diapers. And I dreaded them, too, when the kids were toddlers, and the day was an unbroken battle against potty accidents, nap rebellion and my own disinclination to cook anything.

Since they hit three and four years old, however, Fridays have been fun more often than not. When the weather is good--that is, most days in Colorado--we take walks, play in the park, maybe hit the rec center pool for a half-hour swim lesson. Ruth and I still nap. Will doesn't usually nap, but he's gotten very good at leaving us alone when we do. So mostly these days I look forward to Fridays.

The exception is when I had a bad night's sleep the night before.

Like last night. Ruth has come down with Will's cold. The croupy cough she always gets with these kinds of viruses woke her up three times. Will also woke up three times, no longer due to his cough, but due his perennial problem of bed-wetting.

Friday is also my day off from exercise. While it's usually nice to be able to sleep in a bit, on the days when we're up six times with the kids (like last night) "a bit" of sleeping in serves only to make me more grouchy, and I don't have my endorphin fix to counter that. And it always seems to follow that these Fridays are the ones where Will decides he does want to interfere with my nap.

People wonder sometimes why I like to run. I can tell you one big answer to that is that after a long day like today, where I felt like a sullen high schooler forced into a babysitting epic, a 10-mile run in air fresh with melting snow sounds like heaven.

No matter what tonight is like, tomorrow I'm headed for heaven.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January Recap, February Stumble

Inspired by my fellow running blogger, Erin of See Mom Run Far, I decided to do a quick recap of January. Here's what I got done:

1) I ran 101 miles. This surprised me a bit, because a glance at the FIRST program schedule for half-marathon training doesn't look like it will be that much. But thanks to the rest intervals on the speed workouts, which count toward mileage, it adds up.

2) I attended seven 1-hour spin classes and four 45-minute bootcamp classes.

3) I ran long on the Boulder Half course three times. All of my long runs but that entertaining 11-miler at Flatiron Athletic Club on New Year's Day were done outdoors.

4) I did one outdoor tempo run (last week's) and was pleased to find I don't need the treadmill to keep me on pace for these faster efforts. I was hoping to do this week's outside too, but the thermometer at NIST today said -1 degree F when I picked Ruth up from school, so I think it's safe to say that I'll be indoors running at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow.

5) I didn't miss a single scheduled run and missed only one scheduled cross-training workout.

I'm very pleased with how January went!

February is off to a rockier start. Will has been sick this week, and Dan and I have found our sleep interrupted every night since Saturday. Missing sleep is really hard. I don't like to "push through it" because I will get sick if I do. I haven't missed a run (not yet anyway), but I had to do yesterday's speed workout at 7:45 p.m., not my favorite time of day for any activity; I had to miss bootcamp yesterday to stay home with Will; and I skipped this morning's spin class to catch up on shut-eye. My fingers are crossed that tonight I can sleep decently and rise early for the tempo run as usual.

This is one of the things people don't tell you about having kids. You hear about how you will be sleep-deprived the first six months with a new baby, but you don't hear about how frequent illness, bed-wetting, bad dreams, active imaginations and sometimes plain old boredom on the part of your kids will interfere with needed snoozing for years to come (four years and counting in our case).

Overall, my kids are good sleepers, but even so I can count on one hand the number of nights I've gotten eight uninterrupted hours of sleep since they were born. The most worrying thing about it for me is that their night wakings have caused a sort of low-grade insomnia in me. I rarely sleep all night any more, even when we're on a good trend and the kids aren't waking up. I'll wake at least twice, sometimes for quite a while, listening for them, my mind hard at work. And when we go through a rough patch like right now, I'll often find myself unable to return to sleep after a forced arousal, especially if it happens at 3 a.m. or later. I try and try, but sleep won't come. Not optimal for running.

Still, I'm trying to remind myself that "It does get better." I know and read about many parents with kids smaller than mine who successfully meet their running goals. I do wonder, I admit, if I am particularly physically needy when it comes to sleep.

I prefer thinking that to thinking I'm just a big old wimp.