running in the dark

I hope all you Clear Lake hookers appreciate the number of spider webs I’ve been clearing for you in the mornings.  You’re welcome.  I finally looked down between the bridge railings to see if I could identify the critters that were leaving the hang lines.  I’m not sure of the scale, but my gut tells me that if you can see the damn spider in the dark, you probably don’t want to know.  Just don’t touch the bridge railings on Middlebrook.

The most important encounter happened about a week ago.  On the downhill from the Middlebrook bridge, I saw s sphere by the sidewalk.  “This can’t be good.  There’s no reason a 20 cm sphere should be resting on a hill in the grass by this sidewalk,” I thought, all in an instant.  “This is it – this is what it looks like when a clown respawns!”  I prepared to shoulder roll into the ditch away from it.  Greg warned me this would happen.  As I got to about 1 meter away from it, it suddenly uncurled into an armadillo and ran away.  Clown, dodged.  Whew.

The other final question I pose to you, readers, if a bat flies in to your face, do you get to be Batman?

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New Level

Today was the day.  I’ve been doing the run to spin class routine for Mondays and Wednesday now for awhile, but I hadn’t run the return trip home.  Until today.

Will is injured, and unable to drive (should be OK by tomorrow), but he was feeling ambitious and thought he might attempt spin class today.  So I went ahead and set my alarm for an hour so unholy we dare not even speak of it so I could run to class.  As I was consuming my caffeine and pre-workout snack, he broke the news of nonattendance to me.  But I was already up!  And snacking!  I got progressively more cranky about it.  (Not at him, the situation.)  I was feeling kind of tired.  I wasn’t ready to do the whole return trip.  And I’d have to carry all my spin class shit in or on my pack.  I quickly realized that the only way I wasn’t going to be pissed was to sack up and do it anyway.

And that is how it came to pass.  I had to stop a few times to figure out the best way to attach my cycling shoes to my running pack as they kept falling off.  And I was tired on the run back so it took me about a minute and a half longer.  I also cut down my route so it was only 3.6 miles each way instead of the full 4.  I’ll work up to that.  I passed some guys on bikes doing some early morning speed work, they looked tired, and I wondered if they would like to try my workout.  Suckers.  But I have a new appreciation for triathletes.  That first quarter mile after the bike was rough.  Run then bike is much easier!

I feel like a badass again.

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now, with even more running

This past week I ran to spin class from my house on Wednesday and Friday.  It’s 3.7-4 miles, depending on whether or not I cut through the UHCL buildings.  Just thought I’d try something new.  Holy crap was that fun!  That is the way to do spin class.  I’m already warmed up so I can attack from the beginning.  Usually I’m sluggish on the bike for the first 25 minutes.

The first time, I was at the end of the block before I realized I didn’t bring a headlamp.  This turned out later to be the best oversight ever.  Running in the pre-dawn dark is part of the magic of running.  It’s quiet, and a little cooler.  There’s no one around, except the occasional car.  It’s just you and the star light, and the darkness enfolding you.  You have to run light on your feet, surrender to the forward motion, so you don’t trip.  If you can relax into this, it’s almost transformative.  I’ll never run with a headlamp again if I don’t have to.

The only detractor is our insect friends.  I get brushed by interesting moths under every street light.  And the spider hang wires.  That bridge on Middlebrook, by the gods.  Every single step I’m running through a piece of spider silk.  Freaked me out the first time.  I don’t think I get all the webbing off until my shower.

I haven’t run home yet, because of the time, and I didn’t want to overdo it on the first week.  Maybe next Wednesday.  Also I haven’t figured out my nutritional changes for this.  Just adding in the run means I’m burning 800 calories or so in a shot.  I can’t casually get away with this amount (up to about 500 I can).  If I run home again I’m up to about 1100, which is now into 2 meal territory.

It did become apparent on yesterday’s long run that I had seriously pushed myself this week.  I ran Friday morning to spin class, knowing I would do my long run the next day.  I can’t remember the last time I ran 2 consecutive days in a row.  But I wanted to see if I could.  I can, but I was kind of a mess yesterday.  Blisters, both knees, left shoulder, on top of my usual post-treatment crap I have to manage, all piled in to a giant bag of suck.  I had to stop running at mile 19 because it became apparent that if I tried to run anymore, shit was going to go seriously wrong.

As a side effect of this new madness, and getting up deliberately early yesterday for my long run, I am now waking up on my own at a time so obscene, I dare not even mention it here for fear of breaking the interwebs.

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updated map with aid stations

I put aid station markers on the map.  I tried to get one in about every 2 miles or so.  You’ll note that the Red Bluff trails have long sections of no stopping, so beware. There are a variety of running surfaces for everyone.

I’ve also figured out what to do about human powered conveyances, re: donations.  For runners, I’m still donating 10$/mile, but for all other participants (bike, rollerblades, skateboard, elliptigo……) I’ll donate 1$/mile. There is no amount of mileage too small or large.  Just come on out and participate!

Sign up for aid stations and sections of the trail in the comments, or e-mail me.

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mourn the shimmy

(There is some sharing about the boob in this post, so don’t read it if you don’t want to know.)

I’m still working on the sports injury from April 26th when I ran those 2, 6 minute miles.  I got sent to physical therapy, which is kind of a joke, as I do not fit into the patient box of old, fat, inactive half-dead ladies that typically come in with lymphedema.  They told me to stop doing everything I was doing, to which I can only respond, fuck off.  Greg called it “my new sit and fit lifestyle,” and then proceeded to laugh heartily about it, and this is why he is my friend.  There’s been minimal improvement, but I can’t tell yet if that’s really anything to do with physical therapy or if it’s just that I keep losing body fat.  Either way is good.

I tried dance again for the first time last Friday – it was Footloose dance night at the Gilruth.  It was fun at first, until the shimmy.  Everything went downhill after that.  Oh, the hurting.  I stuck it out, but I wanted to cry by the end.  I used to have an excellent shimmy.  Alas.

The main thing is that running 22 miles doesn’t hurt.  One of my doctors suggested I take a break from running, but as I inventory my exercises, I’m not sure that spin is working the tissue less than running.  I’ve taught myself how to glide.  I will consider this for the winter.

Right now it’s kind of nice to have an actual runner’s problem!  I mysteriously have 4 blisters on the inside of my left big toe.  They suck, but it’s better than what I thought was happening, which was that my toenail had come off.  Should make for an interesting run this Saturday.

When I think about that April 26th run, I still don’t regret it.  After all the misery I’ve endured as a result, I don’t regret it, and not just because I don’t do regret these days.  Because I remember what it felt like to run 2, 6 minute miles.  It felt like flying, it felt like invincibility, it felt like jumping off the edge of the universe.  I get to keep that too.


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20 miler

As we learned in the last installment, the plan for the day was to run from my house to the start of the Lunar Rendezvous 5K, run that race, than continue on to finish a total of 20 miles.  Done.  I feel like a megabadass.

The day began with the most confusing alarm.  The thing went off and I immediately wondered why the hell the alarm was going off, and why so damn early?!?  Didn’t it know there was a weekend?  Oh right, I have to get up and run 20 miles.  Alrighty then.  The morning somehow got away from me, and I ended up leaving at least 5 minutes later than I anticipated, probably closer to 10.  Oops.  I finally got moving, and struggled to keep my pace under control.  Between the excitement of the day, the perceived need to hurry to the race, and grooving to some new music, I wanted to fly again.  (Josh gave me a CD of Massive Attack to listen to, and I was really into it.  I listened to it twice on the run.  It gave the predawn route an added sense of the mysterious.)  I decided to cut some of the original route down so I could make in on time without pushing too hard, so I only ran 4.6 miles before the race, as opposed to the planned 5.2.  It was at this moment that I realized I forgot to plot out the remaining post-race miles.  Oh.  Fortunately I’ve been running my immediate surroundings so much I have a pretty good idea of mileages for certain routes.  I started chewing on this problem.

As I turned down Saturn Ln., groups of runners appeared.  I think that was Bay Area Fitness group training.  They were running in the road on Saturn, which I couldn’t figure out because Saturn is a large, fast road, not a place you want to run.  I took the sidewalk.  Shortly after I committed to this, I saw the issue – the grass on either side of the sidewalk had grown long and was spilling over the path.  It was either bushwhack through the grass, mud and water to the street, or run Saturn through the long grasses.  I stuck with the sidewalk.  It was covered in cold dew and kind of tickled as I kicked through it.  At the end, I was covered in grass seed.  Cool.

I got to the race setup, picked up my chip, and looked around for Will.  I was hoping to drop my backpack for the race.  I didn’t see him so I headed for a curb to tie on my chip.  I passed a group of people talking, and the lead douchebag of the group said loud enough for me to hear, “I don’t know what’s with all these people who have all the gear just for a 5K.”  Really, motherfucker?  I leaned in to his group, “it’s because I ran here from my house, that’s why.”  I didn’t get in to the fact that I would be running a half marathon distance after completing this race, which meant I needed to pack a substantial amount of snacks as well.  Just as well, because king o’ the douche turned his head away from me and looked slightly down.  And that is how you know you’ve made your crushing point.  It’s OK, by the looks of him, he was only a few short years away from bald and fat.

I ran in to Josh shortly thereafter, and he just shook his head at me.  I wasn’t sure if it was general I-can’t-believe-you-ran-here, or what-happened-to-you.  I chose the latter, “you know me, if there’s an opportunity to get dirty, I’m going to take it.”  Josh went to join his other friends racing that day, and I kept a look out for Will.  There was still no sign of him at the start.  I was starting to wonder if he was going to make it, and I gave up the dream of getting a break from carrying the pack.  Sigh.

I was also on the lookout for Scott and Keiko.  I knew Keiko would be pushing a stroller and I’d promised to take over it for her if she wanted to go hunt down her nemesis on the course (it’s a long story).  Will came up just before the gun went off, chipless!  He was delayed by cats, the Fatcat, in fact, who produced so horrible a shit that he felt compelled to remove it for fear it would contaminate the entire house!  Way to go, Fatty.  Still no Scott and Keiko at the gun.

Will took off immediately.  Again I struggled to keep my pace under control.  I love racing!  But I needed to save something for the road ahead.  Scott passed me some time before the half mile mark – he said they were the last ones across the mat before they rolled it up!

The course loops inside The Johnson, and we pass right by my office, which made me wonder if I could get away with charging this to my timecard.  As I passed building 31, I was in turn passed by a woman who had crapped her pants.  It wasn’t a full-on diaper load, but there was definite pants crappery.  While I’m sympathetic, if you are not feeling confident about your sphincter, light pink running shorts are not the best move.

Around the bend at the finish, I saw Josh and Will cheering me on.  I felt really strange because I wasn’t working at all, so I got all uppity and shouted mileage at them as I passed.  7.7 down. 12.3 to go.  Finish line chatting and fruit consumption went on.  We waited for Keiko to cross the line pushing Juliette.  Keiko looked strong but you could tell the large stroller was some work for her.  Josh found out he finished 5th in his age group and he was pleased with how it went.  Outstanding!  He’d probably hit that 20minute goal if it weren’t so hot.

I refilled my water and said goodbyes to people.  While running the 5 K I figured out my route.  I went down to Nassau Bay.  It’s kind of a funky neighborhood, so I like running there.  I took the opportunity to test out some options for my birthday run.  I did a loop on the park gravel path, and then I ran the length of the boardwalk.  That was a surprise.  Uneven board mean you better pay attention, and if you run close to the water edge, the thing bobs up and down and you feel like you might pitch into the lake.  There was a ramp down to the water and I gave serious consideration to running off the end of it into the water.  The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t see below the surface, so I don’t know how deep it was there and there was so much debris from Ike that people are still regularly getting hurt by it.  As I exited the boardwalk there was a posted sign “Caution: uneven boards.  Scheduled for repair October 2012.”  No shit.

I ran the peninsula out of the park, managed not to get stuck in the mud, but it was harder running.  I saw some of those mud digging crawfish indigenous to the area!  I passed this wooden sign that indicates a “trail” off in the brush.  I thought of Josh as it’s just the kind of thing we would dare each other to try. Then it was back out again to refill water at the park.  At which point I noticed my Garmin had shut itself off.  Fail.  Sometimes I think I pushed the start time button, but it doesn’t engage.  I think I only lost about a half mile though.

I worked my way back out of Nassau Bay, and hit that tough place just before I got to NASA Parkway.  Around 12 miles I have this massive hate-on.  I want to stop running because everything is pointless.  I’m not sure what this is all about.  It’s not the transition to fat burning, I know what that feels like and it’s different.  I had one of Jenny’s 10 Mile Cookies and felt better.  Because I had cookies.  Cookies rock.

As I crossed NASA Parkway, I knew I needed to get my head back in it, so I pulled up the playlist I created inspired by the pothole prairie marsh run to get me through the last hour.  That was it!  I was able to run nearly all the rest of it.  I did part of the golf course and then back home, in less time than it took me to do my 18 mile run.

I was still running at mile 19 and feeling pretty good until 19.5.  Then, wow, that was a surprising amount of pain!  I see why 20 miles is a big deal for marathoners. But if I had wanted to, I could’ve pushed through it and kept going.  I know that.  But no need now – save it for later.

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All the new adventures

(I started this post earlier last week, so the time frame may seem off.)

Training is going really well so far.  It’s hard, sure, mostly from the heat, not the actual running part.  On my last 18 miles, I was still running at mile 17, so that’s a pretty good sign.  Tomorrow I will be running 20 miles for the first time.  I’m pretty excited about this milestone – if you can run 20 miles, you can run a marathon.  My training plan peaks at 28 miles, so in October I will officially cross over and become an ultramarathonner. My power move tomorrow is to run from my house to the start of the Lunar Rendezvous 5K, run the race, and then continue on for 12 miles to finish out my 20.  Everyone seems to think this is nuts.  They are incorrect!

For my short mid-week run, I’ve been running with my friend Josh.  There’s nothing more humbling to your perception of your speed than going out with a younger runner.  And a dude.  Even when he’s hauling ass he looks relaxed and in the groove.  Most of the time my running plan is to go as fast as I can while still holding a conversation, which is rarely above an 11min/mi pace.  But yesterday was one of those magic runs.  I was ready to play, a nearly unexploded ordnance of pent up energy.  Running at a 10 min/mi pace was effortless.

First stop, street tadpoles.  “You have to see this.  It’s a disturbing amount of tadpoles. They’re in the street.  Street tadpoles!  I imagine they have tiny knives, living the hard life.”  There’s a persistent pool of water at the street corner and it has filled with tadpoles.  So many tadpoles.  Josh was not horrified at first.  But then, when they started to swarm away from us, he understood the creep factor I was talking about.  We then went on to discuss the important matters such as the size of giraffe livers, ooky neighbors, and a fundamental unit of lameness (we are still developing that one). We did not trample old people, even when they were in our way.

We arrived at the main playground sooner than I expected, and paused for a drink.  “Are you ready?  I’m not sure what it’ll be like in there.”  We turn to look at the trail opening into the depths of the dense wetlands growth that is our natural habitat.  “We have to be spider buddies – if a spider lands on you, I promise to brush it off.”  “Oh, yeah, of course,” Josh promises.  “Good, then you go first.”  I neglected to mention that I thought of this safety agreement because of the orb weaver the size of my hand I saw on my 18 mile run.  Heh.

Josh plunged through the mouth of the trail, and we immediately came to a twisting crossroads.  He stopped, “which way?”  “Doesn’t matter!  Keep running!”  And that was it, the moment I let the world go to fall into the boundless joy, running as fast as we could through the trees and brush, trading the lead, Josh getting turned around and maybe a little lost, finally declaring “fuck it” as a valid cardinal direction.

I led Josh to the observation platform, which gives a nice overview of the small natural area.  “This is a pothole prairie marsh.”  I got to relive the wonder of first discovery as we chatted about it, and I watched him take in the surroundings.  Then it was back to crashing through the marsh, with me involuntarily laughing with delight every few steps.  We paused at a plank over the water, a makeshift bridge to a small rise in the marsh.  It seemed to lead somewhere.  “I’ll follow you if this goes somewhere,”  Josh suggests so that I get to test this sketchy contraption first.  I decided to skim the surface of it on the way to the other side, but I only got 2 steps across before the plank sheared sideways, and my right foot went into the water.  Josh was concerned, but I wasn’t, I was laughing even harder.  After more running, I tried to get Josh to splash through a giant puddle, but he was afraid he’d get stuck.  Poo on him.  If we go back there, I’m going to do it anyway.

We finally ran through the trail network, and headed back towards home.  Jokes and a rant about meringue were had.  Then we stopped along my neighborhood’s fitness trail.  Josh rocked the hand-over-hand bars.  I, however, went for bar #3, and swung out into the dirt.  I managed to catch myself and land in a low crouch but still upright, which made me feel pretty good about how hard I’ve worked my core, and prompted Josh to call me Catwoman.  Next, pull-up bars.  Josh, of course, went to town on those.  Me, I’m working on it every week at Valeo, but much hilarity was had at my attempts.  We were tempted by the monkey bars, but decided to save something for the next run.

Finally, back at the house, popsicles, as it was crazy hot out there.  Mmmmm, icy cold goodness.

Sometimes, you get a gift of a run like this. It reminds you why you fought so hard to stay alive.

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map 2

I gave it a go with another map tool I like.  I think this is going to be pretty close to the final route.  I know it’s not exactly 41 miles, but I bet it will work out with rounding errors.  Soon I’ll make another version with potential aid stations marked!

preliminary map

I worked really hard on producing a Google map of the birthday run.  I have now concluded the Google maps interface for making one’s own map is a shitpiece.  Why are so many lines missing!!!?!?!?!?!  There are other options.  I will try again with another map tool!

Upping the mileage

You know what the hardest part about running 18 miles in the middle of July is? RUNNING 18 GODDAM MILES IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY.  That is all.