Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Main Street Treadmill

Last night I wanted to test out my calf.  I had been diligently icing, elevating, compressing, using The Stick, and sort of resting it (Mandy style), and it was feeling OK.  I really, really think I am on the upside of this thing.  Anyway, I wanted to run about 5 miles, but darkness was setting in.  I realized I had one option: The Main Street Treadmill.

Here in Caratunk, we don't have a lot of options for places to run once the sun sets.  In the winter I often find myself either up and out the door before daylight, or home after dark.  Our Main Street is 1.2 miles long, each end connecting with Route 201.  This is the only residential street for about 20 miles that is lighted.  Actually, I think it might be the only residential street for 20 miles.

The Main Street Treadmill works like this: run to 201 north entrance, turn, run to 201 south entrance.  Repeat until bored to tears or you get your mileage in.  Generally, I get bored to tears, but I figure some running is better than no running.

For the record, I am not scared of the dark, I am scared of getting run over by a log truck on 201 in the dark.  Half the time I am afraid those bozos are going to hit me in the middle of the day. 

To any of you shouting "GET A TREADMILL."  You obviously don't know my history.  Treadmills and me, we just don't get along.  I am allergic to them, I get hurt on them, I cannot stay on them.   I would rather bundle up and go outside at night when it is -20 in a blazing blizzard then to go flying off the back of a treadmill. Again.

So out the door I went, first to the north entrance of Caratunk, waving to a neighbor just getting home from work.  At first, the calf hurt like hell, but by the time I got to the turn around (that would be .2 miles from my house), the pain started to recede to more of a dull throb.  I waved to the same neighbor as I passed again, he just waved, smiled, and shook his head. 

As the light began to fade, snow started coming down, landing on my eyelashes and falling into my mouth.  The stress of the day and the week started to fall away, and I fell into an easy, but steady pace.  I climbed the small hill in town, looking for signs of life in the houses I passed. My calf became a mild nuisance instead of an attention-getter as I hit the north end turn around (1.4 miles down).  I churned out the 4.8 miles feeling like I could have run a lot further and faster - just not back and forth anymore.  I almost forgot that my calf was an issue.

I dropped 3 running workouts over the past 2 weeks - a 10 miler, an interval session, and a 12 miler.  I hate missing long runs, especially with a marathon coming up in just 11 weeks (10 weeks!), but I think I needed to give the calf some time to make sure I could step up to the starting line.  Last night, I wasn't feeling quite 100 percent, but I was feeling like I was back and ready to move forward with training.  After I ice my calf.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stay Positive, Stay Focused

I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best. - Marilyn Monroe

My training is out of control and hard to handle right now.

I am feeling neurotic and insecure about the fact that there are only 11 weeks until my next marathon and my calf is limiting my running.  Limiting my running at a time when I was seeing and feeling significant increases in my speed (-30 sec/mile) over medium distances.  I really think I could translate some of that speed into longer distances if I can keep up the training, resulting in a smashing PR.

But to heal my calf, I need to back off on the intervals that made me faster, cut back on some distance that were making me stronger.  For me that is sheer torture.   I am usually the furthest thing from tentative, diving into new projects, adventures, training, and challenges head first, full steam, making tons of mistakes, enjoying some successes, and flailing in the process.  I usually come out dirty, bruised, and already planning how I would do it different next time.  This calf thing has me a little confused, a little unsure of myself for the first time. 

But Marilyn made me straighten up a little - if I can't handle training when it is at its most challenging, then I don't deserve training when it is at its best.   Really, I have been spoiled by very few injuries (knocking on wood) and my biggest limitation in training has always been myself.  So I had a curve ball thrown my way, big deal.  I need to HTFU, as Jon (another Timberman entrant) over at SwiCycloRun did on his last bike/run in the freezing rain brick - thanks for that post Jon, loved it!

I am going to switch gears a little, still busting my buns to get stronger and faster, staying positive, staying focused.  On tap for this week - 1 run (just take it easy, see how it feels), 4 rides, renewed focus on strength training, yoga, and a 3 day Baxter Park trip.  

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vampires, Ear Beads, and New Friends

I have been having a little problem with my left calf lately.  I wouldn't go all crazy-like and call it an injury, just more like a bit of an attention-getter.  Yes I have been icing, compressing, and elevating it.  Yes, I have been stretching, strengthening, and taking ibuprofen.  No, I have not been resting it (la la la la la la fingers plugging ears..I can't hear you).

Rubbing my calf on my foam roller, I thought, man, I just need someone to work on this for a while.  I rarely go to a massage therapist because the ones I have been to haven't really been all that good.  Regardless of past experiences, I thought, well, I will try someone else, this calf really needs work, it shouldn't be too hard for someone to work on it.  Appointment made, I headed south.

At the office, my name was called, and I walked into the designated room.
"Hi.  How are you?" I smiled at her.
"Problem areas?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.
"Yeah, my left-"
"Take off your shoes." She looked me up and down.
I did.
"Your left arch has fallen.  Stick some gauze in your shoe.  Under the arch."
"Uh, OK...I-"
"Turn around."
I did.
"You are out of balance.  You a runner?"
Holy crap.
"Yes, actually, I -"
She sniffs in my direction, "You must not have type A blood then.  Type A blood people just don't run. Especially A+.  Just not in them.  That's why I don't run." Points at herself, "A+ - What is your blood type?"
What? Is this lady a vampire?
"Um, well, A+," I answered.
"Weird." Sniffs again (do I smell?), "You shouldn't run." She answered.  She told me to get undressed and under the sheet, turned on her heel, and left.

Blood type? Is she serious?

The massage was OK, face down and drooling, I was itching for her to get to that calf. She finally gets there, and yelps, "OH! That is just ugly!" She pokes it with her finger, grabs my other calf. "Oh my, this could really used some work.  I have an idea.  I just took a class from this man from Peru, I want to try something new on you."  I hear her shuffling around.

I must digress here to state that if anyone, ever says something along the lines of "I learned this new thing and I want to try it on you" be scared. Be very scared.  If I wasn't mostly naked on a massage table with a vampire masseuse I would have been out the door in a flash.

I managed a few mumbles of protest before a purple fitness ball and two small New Balance sneakers came into view.
"This is going to be awesome."  She grabs my ear.  Paper rustling. Book pages turning.
"Do you feel that?"
"I feel you pinching my ear."
"Oh yes, good.  Now, how does this feel?"
"Like you are pinching harder."
"Yes, very good! Do you feel pressure?"
"I guess.  Hey, can you work on my calf?"
"Oh I am! This is wonderful, does this feel different?"
"OW! It hurts."
"GOOD.  That is great.  Let that pressure out."
This goes on for the last 10 minutes of my allocated hour before she stops and goes back to my calf.
"OH MY GOD!" she exclaims, poking my calf with her finger, "this looks so much better!  You must be so excited!"
"Uh, well, actually, I was hoping you would work on that a bit."
"I did work on it, for 10 minutes! I used ear beads and even left some taped to your ears so you could massage your calf yourself!"
"By rubbing my ears?"
"YES! Isn't it wonderful?"

As I write this, I am rolling my calf on my foam roller, for a little self massage.  I found 2XU compression really seems to help, and my run today, although slow, was less painful than the last one, so I think I am on the mend.

And one last, but very awesome thing. I want to give a shout out to Laura, a mom, marathoner, and triathlete who basically has the same race schedule as me for 2010, including Timberman HIM!  This is one speedy lady who just PR'd in the Miami marathon on 1/31/10.  We are talking about meeting up for a bike ride this summer, so that would be awesome.  She may change her mind after reading my blogs, given how I attract strange things.  Like vampire massage therapists who stick beads in your ears.  So happy to be connected Laura!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stop It! I am Embarassing Me!

I was logging my miles today on Daily Mile and saw a post one of my virtual Daily Mile "friends" wrote about his most embarrassing moment being when he fell in front of some people while running. It was a pretty funny story, and he ended it by asking for other stories.  A stream of stories of other people falling in various situations followed.

I think I might have them beat.  Not that I am really looking to win the crown or anything, but really, all you guys have were a couple of falls in front of a few people?  Geez.

Embarrassing Moment #1 

Mile 16 in the Mount Desert Island Marathon.  My second time running it.  As always, in the middle of the pack, and as always, looking to make new friends, I was running in a group of gregarious people.  We just all got done talking about past races, and I just mentioned that I ran this race, just last year.

We come to a Y in the road, and I take the right Y, with authority.  The group (along with a few others) follows.  One guy even said emphatically, "Hey, I am following her, she ran this last year, so she knows where she is going." 

The fool.

A half mile down this road, I hear yelling from behind us "HEY! HEY RUNNERS! YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY!"

We all stop.  I turn to face the surprisingly large group that had followed me with a nervous laugh.  They were not smiling.  I ran back the way we came, through the crowd of well-meaning (and smirking) onlookers who chased us down for half a mile, up a little hill (it was really nice running down), and back onto the course.

Embarrassing Moment #2 

I was stuck up in a hotel northern Maine at night (well, 5pm, but it was dark and very snowy), in a town I didn't know all that well.  I noticed my hotel had a gym, so I thought I would do a quick 3 miles on the treadmill.

I was surprised to find the very small gym crowded with people.  Every machine, weight bench, and mat was full.  The cardio machines were set up in the middle of the room, with all of the weights and other machines surrounding.  I spied an open treadmill, picked a playlist from my Ipod, and headed over.

The first few minutes were not bad, I struggled to find my stride and fiddled with the intensity.  After one song finished, I checked my mileage: .4.  Crap.  This is going to take freaking forever.  My mind tends to focus on boredom when it happens - so if I am doing something that is utterly dull, like, say, running on a treadmill, all I think about is how much I hate running on treadmills.  Not very productive, I know.

I have a pretty short attention span (see Dory on Finding Nemo).  So once bored, I forget the task at hand and start to look around.  First I looked up at a crack in the ceiling.  I looked down at my feet.  Then I started looking around at the people, noticing the weights they were pushing.  Then it happened.

"WHAM!" My Ipod was ripped off as I went flying off the back of the treadmill, crashing into a pile of foam rollers, big crunch balls, weighted balls, and who knows what else.  Good thing I didn't take the treadmill in front of the free-weights.

The gym was utterly quiet as they all stared at me fighting with the foam rollers, some moving to help, most not believing the height of clumsiness they just witnessed.  I smiled sheepishly, waved as I tried to get up.  A nice man asked if I was OK.  As soon as I said I was fine, the small gym erupted in laughter (I have to admit, it had to be pretty funny).  I rubbed my skinned knee and tried to ease out of the gym with what little dignity I had left.  Then I had to go back to the blasted treadmill to get my Ipod.  As I did, some people tried to coax me back onto the treadmill (they must really need entertainment in The County), but at that point, I just wanted to go up to my room and eat a pint of Ben and Jerrys. 

Sorry guys, I am stopping the entertainment right there.  The sad part is, I could keep going.  Have a great night all!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Character Building

Remember my post about a month ago about the most fabulous run I had that day?  How my body and mind just felt so fluid and strong? 

Yeah, today wasn't one of those days.  Today's 12 miler was tough.

Maybe it was the lack of proper fueling the night before (I ate taco soup and about 20 Oreos).  It could have been that I ran hard the day before (6 miles in 51 minutes - for me, that is flying).  Or that I was a bit distracted by a full on flame-out-the-flue chimney fire and a house full of company (fire burned out, all is well).  I guess I could use any one of those excuses.

Really, I think it was just one of those days.

I like to call runs like I had today character building runs. You never really find that groove, your legs just don't feel quite right, your stride is off, you are running way slower than you planned, and all you want is to get through the run.

I am sure any non-runner reading this will probably be convinced that I am a masochist when they hear me say that this is a good thing.  As runners and triathletes, we need runs like I had today to remind us that running doesn't always feel awesome and effortless. 

I believe you have to struggle a little to make gains.  When things get tough, you have to search somewhere inside yourself to go that one more mile, to pick up your pace a little more, to stretch that stride out.  That struggle teaches you something that prepares you for whatever race day (and life) has to throw your way.

Do I call this run a bad run? No way.  It was a good run.  I ran 12 miles before 9am, getting more done before the average US citizen has put down their second cup of coffee.  I like those bragging rights.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pool Time

You know what I love? Open water swimming.  I like to look across a lake and say, I am going to swim over... there!  Then after donning a wetsuit and jumping in, I get look around for cool stuff in the water, practice siting, get hit by waves (and boat wakes), make adjustments, look into the green dark water, and actually get to a location.  Sign me up!

Ofcourse, right now that isn't an option.  The lakes are frozen, and if I want to say in swimming shape, I need to drive the 75 minutes to the closest pool.  To be honest, the long drive is less of a problem for me than swimming in a pool is.  I find swimming in a pool is kind of...well...boring.  And chloriney.  I am an explorer by nature, an outside girl.  So a pool puts limits on me, keeps me all boxed in.  And really, who wants to explore around a pool to find out what those mystery floaties are anyway?

All that said, I actually found myself really enjoying my swim in the pool today.  Since I don't get to swim too often in the winter, I try to focus the sessions I have on technique.  I had read a couple of pretty good articles before I went, and thought I would share them here.

The first was from The Starting Block, I have found it to be a pretty good resource on all things pool swimming, although a lot of it is about competition.  The article, Two Killer Secrets to a Smoother Freestyle suggested using two power words when you swim: LONG and RELAXED.  This works for me, I often have some kind of mantra going on in my little pea brain when I am running or biking.  If you can make yourself as long as possible, you will have much less resistance, and when you are relaxed, you are not fighting the water, you are working with it.  Try it on your next lap swim for a few laps, repeat in your head, LONG and RELAXED.  I think you might be surprised at the results, I know I was.

The other blog I read was Twenty Three Seconds which I stumbled on this morning before my swim.  It talked about the importance of doing the fist drill to help take the emphasis in your swimming off of your hands and onto your arms.  If you think about it, your arm is a bigger paddle than your hand anyway.  Being more aware of your forearms also gives you more feel for the water, or at least that is what I felt.  Once changed back to normal swimming to get some regular freestyle laps in, I think my catch improved.

It was nice to come away from the pool happily tired, and not bored. Until I can jump into Pleasant Pond or Wyman Lake for my first open water swim of the season (I am eagerly anticipating it!), I think I will keep trying to find ways to make my pool time more interesting and maybe improve my stroke at the same time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Buck Up, Buttercup

When the alarm clock went off at 4:30 am this Sunday morning, I wasn't really happy.  I had this terrible cold that made it impossible to breath through my nose, plus, I couldn't stop coughing.  Great day for a 10 mile road race that is 3 hours away.  Sigh.  I ripped myself out of bed, headed downstairs, warmed my truck up, and got ready to go. 

I threw an Odwalla bar in my pocket as I headed out the door.  "Well," I thought to myself, "I signed up to volunteer, and they are probably expecting me to show up for that at least."  Tissues, DayQuil, and cough syrup in hand, I walked out to my truck and headed south for the 29th annual Mid-Winter 10 Mile Classic.

Why would I drive 3 hours to go to a 10 mile road race?  Well, for a few reasons.  One, I live in Caratunk, and I have to drive at least 2 hours to get anywhere, especially somewhere there is a race.  Two, this race is one of my favorite races, the Maine Track Club knows how to run a race, and this is one of their best.  Three, if I stayed home I probably would lay in bed all day wining about my cold and never get my butt outside.

I arrived at Cape Elizabeth High School around 8am, ready to volunteer before the race.  After I fully drugged myself up, of course.  Volunteering before a race is always a blast for me - it fits many of my basic neurotic needs - I get to arrive early, be helpful, meet new people, and talk about running and triathlon.  Really, it doesn't get much better than that for me before a race.  Besides, I am always there early (see basic neurotic need #1), and what is the fun of sitting there for two hours with nothing to do?  Here is a picture of me at registration.  Happy Happy.

The time to race was fast approaching, and I headed out to the starting line.  The temperature wasn't bad, mid 20's, with very little wind.  For this race, that is really warm weather.  Looking around me, there were people in everything from shorts and a t-shirt to full on winter parkas with big gloves.  I always like to start in the back - mostly because it is the only way I get a chance to pass people, so basically, it is really good for my ego.   The cow bell rang, and we were all off and running.

This is where I get really bad at talking about road races.  I don't remember much between the start and the finish, unless something interesting happens.  I can tell you the course is has some rolling hills.  Some would call it kind of hilly, but I don't get freaked out on hills.  I just grind them out without thinking much about it unless there is some kind of landmark.  Basically, I zone out for the time of the run, and have these random conversations with myself that basically consist of this:

Oh, girl in a baby blue shirt I think I will follow you. Oh wait, I think I can pass you. Sweet.  Who else can I follow? Ahhh. Red jacket girl, I like your pace.  I wonder if I should make some muffins when I go home?  Oh Mile 5, cool, there is a time clock. 40 min?  Crap, I am running way too fast. Maybe DayQuil is a performance enhancing drug?  Should be some good commercials on tonight. Just keep running, just keep running.  Bye red jacket girl. Oh.Wow.  That guy in the dark blue jacket that just passed me is hot...Maybe I can follow him? Nope, too fast. Darn.  I am hungry.  Chocolate would be good now.  Oh yes, overdressed grey sweatshirt man, I think I can reel you in.

Yeah, I know, I am nuts. I get into this stream of consciousness thinking and I focus on people's backs and try to pass them.  For me the best part of this race is the last mile, where you are greeted by the moose holding the sign that says something different every year.

This race has a nice little trick at the end, when you reach Cape Elizabeth High School.  It winds around for more than 1/4 mile (I didn't measure it, but I am sure that it is that far) and people who haven't run the race open their stride up and sprint as soon as they get to the school, and then run out of steam well ahead of the finish line.  Three or four people flew by me as I turned into the school.  I waited until about halfway around the loop before I increased my speed.  I caught and passed all but one who passed me, which felt really good.  Also, I got a new PR for 10 miles - 1:25:37 - a 8:34/minute mile pace. Not bad for a sicko.  I couldn't find any pictures of me running on the Maine Running Photos website (thank you guys for what you do by the way), but if I do come across one, I will post it here.

I know, I am no speed demon, I am a true mid-packer.  But I am thrilled with my time, it is a big improvement over my old time of 1:30.  I am also super happy I didn't ignore the alarm in the morning like I really wanted to.  And despite what all of you logical people might think - that running 10 miles on a cold day in February with a bad cold is stupid - I don't feel worse today than yesterday, I actually feel a little better.  Must be that PR.

Friday, February 5, 2010

They Like Me! They Really Really Like Me!

Yup, I am psyched.  I finally sort through my bundle of emails to find that I am now a proud Brooks ID Member.  That's right, little ole' me, a Brooks ID Team member.  My tail is wagging.  Woof.

I am honored and a little surprised to be selected.  I think this blog helped in my selection, because I am no speed demon.  But I do like to inspire people, and the I.D part of Brooks I.D. stands for Inspire Daily, which are the words that inspire the program, and are also words I try to live by to get me and others out the door and stay active, every day.

Here is a link to the Brooks ID Video to learn more about the Brooks ID program.  Go ahead, apply - you just might get selected!

I only hope I get my Brooks uniform and gear in time for my first race of 2010, which is this weekend (I have lots of Brooks summer gear, but I am not wearing shorts this Sunday!) 

Thank you Brooks!

Oh, yeah.  So you know how I was all talking smack about how great my Newton's are?  Scratch that.  I am an official Brooks girl now.   Yup, my loyalties sway with whoever wants to support my running habit.  Plus, they do have really, really great gear.

Up next:  10 Mile Classic Race Report!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ski Baby, Ski!

Hey! I am back from my traverse of Baxter Park.  It was awesome, I couldn't have asked for a better crew to go with or for better weather.  We ate like kings, laughed so much I think I might be getting 6-pack abs, and skied our butts off.  It was cold, but that just made the trips to the outhouse that much quicker.

Day 1 - Gear Explosion


Yeah that is just one car, I don't know where we put the people.

We started the 10ish mile ski into South Branch Pond from just outside of the Matagamon Gate.  It was cold, -4 when we left with a good strong wind.  As long as you kept moving, you were warm.  The packs were heavy with 5 days worth of food and gear.  We were all happy to get to camp.

Day 2 - South Branch Pond to Russell Pond

Ahh, South Branch Pond.  We were up and out of camp by 9am, it was cold and clear.  Thankfully, there was no wind on the pond, but the ice began to groan as we got out to the middle which was slightly unsettling.  The rest of the trail was a meandering and climbing (emphasis on climbing) 9.6 mile ski through the middle of the park.  It was a beautiful ski, but we were all ready for a layover day.

Day 3 - Layover at Russell Pond

Ahh, a nice easy layover day.  Yeah right!  I am built to move, and luckily, so was everyone else on the trip.  The good thing was we could ski without packs, which was pure heaven.  We skied two miles to the tricky Wassataquoik Stream crossing that we had to do the next day to continue on to Roaring Brook.  We drew straws and sent the one with the shortest across to see if he could break through.  We tied a rope to the probe to make sure we didn't lose him.

Now sure that we could make the ski across the next day, we headed back to camp for some soup before heading out for a 3 mile ski to Wassataquoik Lake.  I didn't get much for pictures there because although it was beautiful, the wind was howling.  Rest day total mileage - 10 miles.

Day 4 - Russell Pond to Roaring Brook

Our shortest mileage day, 7.6 miles, took us the longest.  After crossing Wassataquoik Stream, the trail dipped through drainages and seeps and climbed up the side of hills.  It was my favorite day, but also the hardest day.


Near the end of the ski, almost at the Roaring Brook Bunkhouse, we were treated to our best view of Katahdin yet.

The last night of a trip is always bittersweet.  You are still in the moment, enjoying the trip, but for the first time in a few days it actually occurs to you that you have to go back to the real world in a day or so.  Re-entry is always tough, no matter what anyone tells you.  Also, we ran out of booze, which kind of was a bummer.

Day 5 - The Ski Out

The ski out to our cars from Roaring Brook was our longest day in mileage, but our shortest time-wise.  This was kind of a slog along the park access road.  The good news was that there was a lot of downhill on a dirt road that is occasionally snowmobiled by park rangers, so the 14 miles went by fairly quickly.   We were treated to a few final views of Katahdin on our way out.  Here I am, all smiles after 8 miles, 6 more to go.

The next 6 miles were a little tougher than the first 8, but we got them done.  At the cars, we agreed to meet at the local bar for a beer and some pizza.  OK, I had 2 beers.  Nothing like beer after a trip.

So there you have it, 5 days, about 51 miles.  This weekend: Mid-Winter 10 Mile Classic!  I better get a run in tomorrow to get my legs ready for the pounding!

H2O Audio - Beat The Boredom