Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day run! (RWB)

So if I'd checked my email earlier in the day, I would've known that my stalker watch is supposed to get here today and then I could have used that to take a 2.9-mile run. That didn't happen, though, so I did it the old-fashioned way. Today was supposed to be 12 1/4-mile repeats, so I asked Google how far .2 miles was. 10*.25 + 2*.2 = 2.9. Not very exciting, but easy to keep track of and I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to doing repeats, so I was perfectly happy to cheat a little on the last two.

The Starting Line. I always wonder if people actually
walk up and buy newspapers out of this box. I guess
they must or else the News wouldn't bother putting
papers in it every morning?

Yeah, it's kind of up a hill. I assume I'd have slightly
faster times if I was doing my repeats on flat ground, but
this is less of a hill than the other 3 directions I could
go from home.

Finish Line! Now that I think about it, that seems
like kind of a weird place for a fire hydrant.
Is the asphalt going to catch fire?

According to Google, .2 miles from the newspaper box
is by the tree in front of the brown house next to the kind
of Spanish-y house. I wasn't sure about taking a picture of
someone's house specifically so I could put it on the internet,
so I took a picture of the park across the street instead.

Total distance: 2.9 miles
Total time: 24:06.35
Average pace: 8:19 (Kinda slow for short sprints even for me; this may be related to the fact that I biked to yoga at 6am.)
Average pace in the uphill direction: 9:17
Average pace in the downhill direction: 7:20

Sunday, February 12, 2012

12athon: Month 2 (AA)


Okay, so today it was supposed to be cold. Unlike practically everyone else on the planet, I was expecting it. So I looked around for indoor options. There are two that are available to me thanks to being a student (grad/professional), and I picked the more heated one (i.e., not the Recreational Sports Dome): the 200-meter indoor track in the University Field House. Which is open 12n-10p on Sundays, yay!

Except I was running late--things to do afterward--so I didn't take any pictures. But if you really want to know what it looks like, there's a picture in the header of the University Field House link above. Otherwise, I can point you to this picture:

(which I borrowed from this guy, who is 200% more badass than I could ever be. Go give him hits on his blog to make up for me borrowing the picture. It's not the same track, I don't think, but the one at the U looks rather similar, in that 'red indoor track' sort of way.)

ANYWAY. I was running late. Sort of. Not at the beginning. The sign said that 6.9 laps on the outside equaled one mile, so I did some fast-and-dirty math (yes, math can be fast and dirty) and came up with 83 laps. Which, I suppose, is better than the 96 I was thinking I had to do. (I would have definitely cried ninety-six tears.) So I divided that into 21, 21, 21, and 20 laps. In each break, I drank water and ate some of the Cherry Blossom Honey Stinger organic chew things I happened to have (thanks, K!). Surprisingly tasty, considering that I'm iffy on cherry-flavored things.

Four hundred and ninety-eight million laps later (about 70 laps, honestly), my feet felt like lead--sooooo difficult to lift 'em. So, inspired by the two honest-to-crap barefoot runners I saw earlier and the two people in VFFs, I said eff it and kicked my shoes off and ran the rest barefoot. It didn't hurt less, but it hurt differently. I did end up with a blister on one toe but I'm unclear as to whether it happened before, while my feet were swelling in the shoes, or while I was barefoot.

Honestly, that's the only interesting thing that happened during the entire run. 200-meter tracks are tiny. I forgot my headphones, so no music--I mostly listened to people playing soccer on the other side of the curtain.

So, numbers (as someone who is not Steve Chiotakis says now):

Distance: 12.03 mi
Time: 2.35 (so no, I didn't knock 15 minutes off my time, but 10 was good!)
Laps: 83
Laps barefoot: 13
Other women on the track: 1
Other people on the track: 9
People wearing minimalist shoes/no shoes: 5 (not counting me)
People who pretty much tried to knock me over every time they passed me: 1 (wtf, guy)
Water bottles (20 oz) consumed: 3
Challenges done this month: just 1--Sisyphus

Oh, and if anyone else is from Minnesota and reading this, the DSW in Maple Grove has a pretty good selection of Merrell True Gloves (men's) for $80 (instead of $110). *shrugs*

February 12athon: It's Too Freaking Cold (RWB)

This is my rest week before my first half marathon and I'm out of town and I have a performance later today, so I decided it was a good month to do the Rosie Ruiz challenge. I checked the weather forecast for the weekend before packing to leave on Wednesday - sunny with highs of 55-60 every day and lows of about 40. I brought a long-sleeve shirt (an REI Lightweight Polartec top, which is actually pretty awesome, if you were wondering) and some running capri pants, but that sounded warm enough not to bother with gloves and a knit hat if I did all my running in the afternoons. I remembered after I was in the car that I'd have to do the 12athon run in the morning because of the ballet, but I figured I could always go buy a pair of cheap gloves at Target.

The end of the closest bus route to my friend K.'s house where I'm staying is at a mall, so I figured that would be a good place to leave my car while I ran and hitched a ride on a bus. Only the first mile and a half of the bus route is walkable and I didn't want to wait for a bus in both directions, so I was going to walk that far, take the bus back to where I started, and then run the remaining 9 miles in the other direction since they actually have sidewalks there.

Then I checked the weather forecast again last night. Somewhere around 20 degrees with a wind chill making it feel about 10 degrees colder. There aren't a huge number of extremely compelling reasons to live in the South, but not having to deal with temperatures that cold is on the list. I suppose if I was at home I could have thrown on three pairs of pants, a couple of shirts, a hoodie, a fleece, a hat, a scarf, and (let's face it - I'm a bit of a wimp) two pairs of gloves, but I didn't really want to buy quite *that* much stuff at Target.

I thought it would be funny to wear this shirt
as one of my layers since it was so cold. Well,
okay, and it was the only t-shirt I had with me.

Clearly my original plan did not involve nearly enough time inside a nice, toasty bus. I also decided that maybe the subway was a better way to go than the bus - the bus I was planning to use only runs every 30 minutes on Sundays, there's a crappy-but-better-than-nothing heater in the train stations, and I could just walk to the other side of the platform instead of paying for the bus twice. The Dunwoody station is at Perimeter Mall and it's a mile if you park at the far corner of the mall parking lot and then run along the main road to the station. Perfect.

Fare gates. I know, super exciting.
I was going to take a picture while running around
the mall to the station, but a) you guys have all
seen a mall before and b) I didn't get around to
buying gloves so I didn't want to take my hands out
of my pockets.

One time when I was waiting at a MARTA station,
a community college photography class was there
taking pictures. At least none of them was the
only weirdo standing around snapping pictures
of a subway train.

Obviously this post needed at least one blurry
photo taken through the window. At least it was warm.

It's just over 5 miles to the Buckhead station, so I got off there. I had 15 minutes until the train going in the other direction was supposed to come, so I walked up and down the platform trying to stay warm. The station was basically empty, so it was easier to take pictures without getting funny looks from fellow travelers.

I was hoping maybe there would be a nice panoramic
view of the city or something, but an exit sign for
the freeway was about it.

I'm pretty sure this particular piece of subway wall art is made from scraps of flooring material which are painted bright colors.

Then I rode back to the mall and ran back to my car. The temperature had gotten all the way up to 23, but I still didn't want to take my hands out of my pockets to take a picture of a mall. Total time: 50 minutes for 12 miles! Man, I'm fast.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Glass = Ow and Mercedes Precap

[It’s probably only fair for me to warn you that the first third of this entry consists of me talking about getting a splinter out of my foot. If you’re squeamish about that sort of thing, you might want to just scroll down a page or two to the Mercedes part.]

Sometimes I get it in my head that I’d like to start running actually barefoot. Then I have weeks like last week. I walked all of about 50 yards barefoot outside to take the trash out Monday afternoon and ended up with a little splinter of glass in my foot. It went deep enough that I couldn’t see anything to grab with tweezers, and poking at it with a needle didn’t yield any results. Since it had gone straight in and wasn’t at all visible, I wasn’t sure if there was still something in my foot or if it just hurt a bit because there was a small hole in my foot and so I opted not to try cutting it out with a razor blade.

It still hurt on Tuesday morning, so I asked the internet what to do about it. It wasn’t red and nothing much happened when I put peroxide on it, so it wasn’t infected, at least. But walking on the edge of my right foot was a little annoying. One website said that putting baking soda paste on it for a day might help push the splinter out. Again, I wasn’t certain if there was actually something in there since I couldn’t see anything, but it did hurt if I stepped on it. I covered it in baking soda paste and put a band-aid over it and spent the rest of Tuesday sitting around on the couch.

Wednesday morning I washed off the baking soda paste and inspected it again. (If you haven’t tried it, I don’t really recommend spending an hour with your foot upended on a desk while you hunch over it with a lamp. Not the most comfortable position in the world.) The baking soda dried out the skin a bit, so it was a bit easier to see farther down into the little hole. I still couldn’t actually see anything, but I figured I’d poke a bit with a needle again since I was sure the splinter was still in there. I gave up eventually since I still couldn’t see anything and my neck was cramping.

Another day of mostly sitting around on the couch. I tried again with the needle later in the day. Still nothing visible, but standing on my right foot involved only a bit of discomfort instead of stabby sensations. I hoped maybe this meant it was a microscopic little bit of something in there and I’d gotten it out without actually seeing it. I put on more baking soda paste since it seemed like it wouldn’t hurt anything, at least.

It was still slightly uncomfortable to step on my foot on Thursday morning. At this point I’d already missed two runs and I was just getting kind of annoyed and tired of walking around on the side edge of my foot. I got out a razor blade and picked at the hole with a corner of it. I thought I saw a tiny bit of something shiny somewhere down in there, but it was far enough in that I still couldn’t grab it and I didn’t want to just sit there purposely cutting a hole in my foot. I peroxided it again in the hopes that this would bubble out the bit of glass if the shiny thing was indeed that and not just some deeper layer of my foot which happened to be shiny. I dried it off and didn’t see anything shiny anymore. It was still a little uncomfortable to step on, but that seemed fairly reasonable since I’d just gone at it with a razor blade. I put a band-aid on it to keep any additional bits of stuff out and drove to Atlanta and back for rehearsal.

Friday morning I thought it was fine but just as I was about to declare myself fit to go out for a run, I got a little stab of pain again when I stepped on it. I resigned myself to the fact that there was clearly still a bit of something in my foot and sat down at the desk again, determined not to get up again until I had either found and removed the splinter or gnawed off my own foot in frustration. It took about two hours of alternately picking at it with the corner of a razor blade, poking it with a needle, peroxiding it, and squeezing to try to push anything out which might be in there, but I finally found a tiny little bit of glass – about 2mm long and a fair bit smaller in diameter than a grain of sand. I tried to take a picture of it for posterity, but either the camera on my phone isn’t really designed for close-ups of tiny things (very possible) or else I suck at taking pictures of tiny things (also very possible).

I still didn’t go running on Friday because I was paranoid that there might be another little bit of glass still in there since it was such a small piece that it probably could have broken pretty easily after four days in my foot. I took out the trash again, but I sucked it up and wore flip-flops.

Saturday was a wash since I had to go to Atlanta again and this involved getting up at 3:30 in the morning and not getting to sleep until about 2:30 in the morning. I’d been planning on doing my long run on Sunday, but I decided that maybe running 13 miles for the first time ever after not running at all for a week on the day after I’d been up for 23 hours was probably a terrible idea.

Monday I finally got around to the long run – 13 miles and the last properly long run (next week is a rest week) before my first half marathon on the 19th. I live on the course for the Mercedes Half, so I decided I’d run that since I won’t be in town to actually do the race this year. I also really wanted to do the whole 13 miles of my run in one go since the last long run I’d done without a break was 8 miles three weeks prior, and doing a big loop that didn’t pass by home again until the end seemed like the best way to make sure I’d make myself do it.

(10 miles was the cupcake run so I stopped for a couple of minutes to get out my phone, unwrap a cupcake, and take a picture every mile. 11 miles was on a warm, humid day and I’d done 4 warm, humid miles the day before instead of having a day off in between like usual, so I ended up stopping after 9 miles when my foot started threatening to blister in a couple of places and then doing 2 more miles first thing the next day. 12 was also a rather warm day and I’d downed my entire water bottle and was still feeling pretty dehydrated by the time my route passed back by home after 6.5 miles, so I took a break for several hours to rest and rehydrate before I did the remaining 5.5.)

The sense of anticipation from running the course a week before the race was really fun even if I’m not actually going to be there. There’s road closure notices posted everywhere, there’s banners on all the stoplights downtown, and there were a bunch of “Oh, she must be running the marathon this weekend”s as I ran past groups of people out walking on their lunch breaks. There aren’t very many big, exciting annual events in Birmingham, but Mercedes is one of them.

I do plan on doing the race the next time I’m in town on the appropriate weekend, but I may opt for the half rather than the full even though I will have run a full or two before then. The full course is just two loops of the half course, and while there’s some parks and such along the route, it’s just not the prettiest or most exciting thing out there on the whole.

Okay, Rhodes Park is pretty.

Avondale Park is really quite nice if you’re in the front
where the duck pond is or if the rose garden is in bloom,
but the route only goes by the side of the park and even
in Alabama there aren’t exactly a lot of flowers in February.

The newly-completed Railroad Park is great in general
and has several little ponds and fountains and walking trails,
but the course just goes down the street next to the park,
so the view mostly consists of a line of parallel-parked cars.

Saint George probably has lovely artwork inside,
but it’s difficult to tell when you’re running a race
through their side parking lot.

There’s nothing wrong with the BJCC, but the route
only goes around the back of the building. I don’t know
who decided that the course should include a block
which has loading docks on one side of the street and a
Salvation Army shelter on the other, but it’s there.

If you always get a sudden craving for barbeque 7 (or 20)
miles into a race, Mercedes is definitely for you.

There’s also a couple of places where the course goes underneath a freeway overpass and there’s a mile or two of warehouses and auto body shops – presumably those parts of the course were chosen for their relative flatness rather than for their picturesque qualities. On the whole it’s a decent enough run since I already live here, but I don’t know that it’s worth traveling any great distance for Mercedes.

Anyway, my coffee-bean-laced homemade Larabars and I successfully completed the run, although the two and a quarter miles of continuous uphill definitely killed my pace. (The half has a total gain of 488 feet, with most of it in the aforementioned two and change miles. It’s not steep by any means, but it goes on for forever.) Since I started and finished at home rather than at the starting line, I didn’t hit the big uphill until I’d already been running for almost 10 miles. Probably should have taken that into consideration when planning the run. Really, though, I’m pretty excited just to have completed my first half (albeit unofficially), even averaging 11:43/mile. And hey, the Locomotive Half next weekend only has a total gain of 184 feet…