a harvest tradition

Monday, November 29, 2010

Let us take a short break from the pre-CIM freakout (six days and counting!) to turn our attention to harvest.

Yes, this post is, oh, about four weeks late. But that is not important.

All that matters is the Tale of the Harvest Beard.

Every year when harvest starts, Todd stops shaving and the beard takes root. As the grapes come in, the beard grows. More grapes, more beard. The beard keeps on going until the grapes stop.

And then Todd shaves it into some kind of weird mustache.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A weekend for which to be thankful:

There was the gathering with family in a cabin blanketed with snow. Everyone brought a bottle or two or three of wine, and a parade of pies graced the table. We sat with full bellies next to the fireplace. We played cards and unpuzzled puzzles and read. We went back for seconds and thirds and then took naps in the recliner.

There was also time spent catching up with friends: A birthday party at the bowling alley with pitchers of beer and bowls of popcorn and plenty of happy dances whenever anyone bowled a strike. An afternoon of warm potato-and-parsnip soup, followed by trying on '60s frocks at the vintage store and locket bracelets at the craft fair. I came home with a handful of antique cat-shaped buttons and holiday presents for my friends' children; she found a lamp and a cocktail apron.

And of course, there was this morning's run: Nine miles on the Kortum Trail just north of Bodega Bay. We ran along the bluffs overlooking the ocean, sloshed through mud, climbed steep hills and galloped down the beach. We saw hawks making circles in the air and jellyfish washed up on the sand. And I thought: This is how you run with joy.

san francisco morning

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meet training group friends at Golden Gate Park to cheer for your coach -- and the rest of Sonoma County's Empire Runners team -- at the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships. Realize you actually know quite a few people at the race -- both your physical therapist and your chiropractor are running, as well as another running buddy from your Tuesday morning track group.

Make friends with a runner named Steve. Ask Steve how long he has been running. Discover he has been running for as long as you have been alive. Wow!

Watch the women's race in awe. Marvel at their barely-there booty shorts and sports bras in the misty, 40-degree weather. Marvel at their six-packs. Marvel at how so many of them run so hard that by the time they finish, they are drooling and look like they might vomit. Pray that if they do vomit, it will not be of the projectile variety. Pray that if it is of the projectile variety, it will not be aimed at you.

Wonder if maybe the reason you are not fast is because you don't like vomit or being pushed to the brink of vomit. Also, you do not have a six-pack.

Watch the master's men's race. Hold up signs for your coach and cheer. Try not to be embarrassed by the fact that you and your friends are the only people at the entire race with signs. Ask yourself: Are signs not cool for cross country?

High-five your coach at the end of the race. Take pictures. Hug your running buddies. Depart.

And promptly go to Japantown. Aim for -- what else? -- ramen.

for a good cause

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Did my final 18-miler of this training cycle, and I'm happy to report this run was not the GI nightmare that my last 18-miler was. Thank goodness!

In fact, this run was pretty fun because I threw in a 5K Turkey Trot as part of the mileage. My co-worker Lisa had signed up, only to realize she couldn't make it, so I took her entry. (I kind of feel guilty about this because I have never run as anyone else but myself before -- for some reason, I consider it "breaking the rules." Also, I ran that 5K at marathon pace, so Lisa now has a personal worst on her race record.)

The race itself was inspiring since it marked the end of the season for Girls on the Run, a non-profit group that works with third- through sixth-grade girls to help them build a positive self-image through running and exercise. (I can't tell you how much I wish I had been part of something like GOTR at that age. I remember feeling so weak and ridiculous when it came to sports. And don't even get me started about self-image. Let's just say junior high was a painful time.) The vast majority of the runners this morning were young girls and their "running buddies" -- the women mentoring and encouraging them throughout the race.

It was amazing to see so many kids so excited about running! As we waited at the starting line, a lot of them kept saying: "Is it time? When can we go? I just want to run!"

Also, their teeny-tiny Nikes and Asics were pretty damn cute.

Anyway, my total mileage for today consisted of running across town to the race start, running the race, running a few more miles around the race, running back across town and then finishing the workout with strides at the track.

I am so ready to taper!

no boogers

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I wonder if cats get as self-conscious as people do when it comes to really close-up photos.

I hope not.

thoughts on training plans

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Snapped this photo yesterday when I was driving the route for this morning's run: Almost 13 crazy-hilly miles with my friend Russ, whom I met through the training group.

We did an out-and-back, running up and over Helen Putnam and then out into rural Chickenland -- very similar to the insane 22-miler I did with Neveia almost exactly a year ago. We saw wild turkeys, deer, Scottish cows and tourists pulled over on the side of road taking pictures with the Scottish cows. It was pretty damn beautiful out there -- and totally worth the fact that my calves and my butt are now burning.

During our run, Russ and I talked a lot about training. Like me, he's CIM-bound (three weeks left until race day!) while simultaneously recovering from an Oct. 10 marathon. (He ran the Wine Country 26.2, and temperatures that day soared to 90-plus degrees. He said he actually passed out at one point -- literally lying on the side of the road. But he still went on to finish -- although not at the time he was hoping for at all, which is why he is trying again at CIM.)

Our training plans for CIM are very similar -- since we know we can do 26.2, we've been focusing a lot more on quality vs. quantity (similar to what Hal Higdon talks about in his multiple marathon training plans). We want to maintain our fitness level, but we don't want to overdo it and get injured. So instead of thinking only about mileage, we've been trying to give each of our runs a purpose: Speed, hills or endurance. In fact, I don't think either of us is even going to do a 20-miler before race day. Eighteen will be the max for us.

We also won't start our taper until after next Sunday's run. I know this week was peak week mileage-wise for quite a few people training for CIM, but we just wanted to get a really strong hill run done. (I guess we defined "peak" another way -- as in a running a route that had 436 feet of elevation change!) Next week, when we do our last 18-miler, we'll focus on the mental toughness (and perhaps in my case, GI strength) needed for going long.

All of this sounds good when I discuss it with Russ or review it on my own, but sometimes it's a little tough not to let everyone else's training plans become a distraction. Am I going to fail because I'm not running five days a week and didn't run 22 miles this morning? If I start to compare myself, I can easily feel inadequate.

But the truth is, everyone's bodies and schedules are different. Not all of us have the time to devote five days to running. And not all of us can physically handle that. (I know I can't -- when I tried several months ago, I got injured.) So much of running is a process of self-discovery, learning what works for you and what doesn't. The trick is finding the exact formula that puts you at your best when you set foot at the starting line.

Here's hoping I've got it down. This is, after all, a big experiment: The first time I'm attempting two marathons so close together!

big bowl of guilt?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spent the day in San Francisco.

Of course, this meant I ate a bowl of ramen. Today's order was the green onion ramen in soy sauce broth from Katana-Ya. And it was lovely. A big bowl of comfort.

(Side note: Did you know that Samuel Wanjiru, the Kenyan elite who won gold in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, was first in the Chicago Marathon in both 2009 and 2010 -- the most recent while recovering from stomach flu -- and was highlighted in one of my favorite running movies ever ate there too? His autograph is on the wall. But I digress.)

However, as you can see from this photo, there is a piece of pork in this ramen. And while I didn't eat the pork, this whole dish represents a dilemma. If I am not eating meat mainly because I don't want to contribute to the demand that results in inhumane treatment of animals, then I really shouldn't have ordered the ramen in the first place because the act of ordering it was demand itself. (In fact, for the most part, ramen broth is made with meat-based stock -- typically chicken or pork, sometimes beef or fish. There is no escaping the meat/demand issue here.)

So by not eating the meat today, did I actually commit a worse act because I am wasting food and/or not respecting the animal that was killed for this meal?

I really shouldn't have ordered it, but I just love it so much.

viva las vegas

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I am in Vegas for work.

I think maybe I am this city's worst nightmare: I go to bed early, I don't like to gamble and I hate strange men grinding on me. In other words, I'm not exactly a Sin City sinner.

Except when it comes to food. Oh, man. Food. My "big night out on the town" consisted of dinner at Wynn's newly-opened Lakeside Grill. (And when I say new, I mean new -- this baby opened its doors Nov. 4!)

All I have to say is this: Pace yourself throughout the meal so you have room for the dessert cart, which is chock-full of creative little bite-sized treats, like these mini caramel apple lollipops. There is also an incredible tropical fruit tart (a must if you are like me and love coconut) and a trio of truffles, one of which has actual Pop Rocks on it and literally explodes in your mouth. And perhaps the most exciting thing: A housemade bacon chocolate bar. (I didn't eat this because I am trying really hard to be good and vegetarian, but the restaurant gave me a sample to take home, and I'm saving it for Todd.)

And now I am so full and so exhausted (I honestly can't remember the last time I stayed up this late). Pardon me while I lapse into a food coma.

afraid of the dark

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The headlamp signals the end of one season, the beginning of the next.

I thought this -- coupled with my fashionable reflective vest -- would be all I needed to tackle the dark.

But apparently other things lurk out there that high-visibility gear can't protect you from.

Last week, a woman running on I Street at 5:45 in the morning was attacked. Her attacker clearly wasn't trying to rob her -- runners don't carry much cash, if any at all -- which could only mean he meant to take something worse than money. Luckily, she was able to fight him off and escape.

The incident has affected the Chickenland running community profoundly. It was all we could talk about at the track workout this morning. Our coaches are being extra-careful about making sure everyone is escorted to and from the track and that no one is left alone.

I can't explain how much this scares me. I Street is a fairly regular route for me. Granted, I've never run it in the dark and never that early in the morning, but I've been up and down that street numerous times. The Heart & Sole training group even included it on one of our training runs. It's a staple for runners -- and cyclists too.

I keep thinking: What if it was me? Would I have been able to fight the way she did? Would I have been able to escape? It's downright frightening. Until the police catch this guy, I don't want to run alone. My plan now is to meet running buddies for after-work runs, use my lunch break to get workouts in or join the fun runs held during the week by local running stores.

Anyway, tomorrow a number of Petaluma runners are meeting at 5:30 in the morning for a run/walk to show support for the woman who was attacked. I plan to be there.

I want in

Monday, November 08, 2010

Yesterday I woke up at 6 a.m. to watch the New York Marathon.

And I was blown away. The elites were absolutely amazing -- they made it look effortless. And I loved the drama of the race, watching it all unfold: How the elite men all seemed to be holding back, waiting for Haile Gebrselassie -- who holds the world record for the marathon in 2:03:59 (do you realize this is faster than my average half marathon time?) -- to make his move, only to have him drop out after injuring his knee. (And then he announced he is retiring -- super sad.) How Shalane Flanagan -- who had never, ever run a marathon before -- finished in second place for the women, between two Kenyans. (Nice -- I wish I could be so gifted!) How Emmanuel Mutai, second for the men, totally barfed at the finish line while wrapped in his country's flag. Apparently, he has a reputation for vomiting and pukes in races all the time.

And of course, there was the Chilean miner who ran, too -- he said he had trained while stuck underground. He had a rough time -- had to stop in the medical tent halfway through. But he finished -- 5:40:51.

And then there were the thousands of other runners -- the normal runners, the ones like me, who will never run 5-minute miles or be sponsored by Nike or have people in the crowd rush out to grab their discarded glove or hat. (Yup, I believe this is what happened to men's winner Gebre Gebremariam's discarded clothing.) They run because they never in their life thought they could, because the very act of running is joyful and painful at the same time, because they can't help but love it. It was amazing to watch these people wave their arms in front of the cameras, cheer and whoop and holler, and run on.

So this morning I signed up for the New York lottery. (Did the Marathon Monday Mania early entry scavenger hunt on Facebook and posed with my little blue box.)

Entry No. 647856. Choose me.

learning the hard way

Saturday, November 06, 2010

You know how your running buddies, coach and pretty much every article ever written about running advises you never to try anything new, different or experimental the day before a race or an important training run?

There's a reason for it.

I stupidly chose yesterday -- the day before my planned 18-20 miler -- to check out Santa Rosa's only Ethiopian restaurant. It made sense at the time: The restaurant is a few doors down from the running store, and I needed to pick up Honey Stingers for my run. Why not have lunch in the neighborhood? After all, I love Ethiopian food, and it would be nice to get my injera fix without having to drive all the way to San Francisco.

The food was good. (And so pretty! Doesn't it look like an artist's palette?) It wasn't too spicy (which I was actually really happy about), but it still had a lot of flavor. I was glad I went. The rest of the afternoon and evening passed without incident.

And then I woke up this morning.

Apparently, it really is possible to spend an hour in the bathroom doing something other than blow-drying your hair and putting on makeup. Every time I thought I was done, nope, there was more yet to come. Let me tell you, it was not fun.

After that experience, I thought about postponing the run, but the forecast said rain all day tomorrow. I was left with no choice: Do it now, or risk failing to get out the door later because of pouring rain. I had to get it done.

I was worried I was already dehydrated, so I tried to eat salt tabs and drink lots of water. This worked at first. I was tired, but everything seemed to be functioning OK -- maybe moving a little slower than normal, but otherwise OK. I ran across town to Shollenberger (I have such a soft spot for this place since it was where I first started running seriously), did a few loops out there, watched the bird people ogle the ducks through their tripod telescopes and started running back.

Just before Mile 14, the stomach cramps began. At this point, I wasn't far from home, so I just kept going. I figured if worse came to worse, at least I was near a bathroom. The cramps eventually went away, so I refilled my water bottle, ate a Honey Stinger waffle (now I'm wondering if this was a mistake too -- again with the trying new things) and went on.

At this point, I only had 3.5 miles left before I hit 18. I kept telling myself, That's nothing. You run more than that all the time. You can do 3.5 miles in your sleep.

I barely managed those last few miles. I crawled along -- yup, survival shuffle in full effect, folks -- until Mile 16.5 or so, and then I had to take a walk break because my stomach hurt so badly, like I had a sideache on both sides of my body at the same time. Desperate just to finish the workout, I tried to run around the track -- which I usually find comforting because the distances are measured and I know exactly how much I have left to go -- but the pain got worse. I felt like I could barely breathe -- like someone hit me in the stomach with a crowbar. For awhile, I actually thought I was going to vomit.

I ended up walking most of the last mile. It was pathetic. I felt like a loser. And I really should've known better. I mean, come on -- I know this. What was I thinking?

So lesson learned. From now on, I'm sticking to to my pre-run pasta. Nothing but pasta.

peas in a pod

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The perfect cupcake for a baby shower: Double chocolate chip with a dollop of vanilla buttercream frosting and a pea-in-a-pod edible topper. Wish I could say I'm the genius behind these beauties, but the credit goes to Allyson, the office cupcake maven. She made these for Keely's mom-to-be celebration this afternoon, and they were almost -- almost -- too cute to eat.

I miss baking cupcakes. Haven't made any in about a year. The oven here at the new(ish) place is temperamental -- it burns the bottoms of everything I try to bake. (And I've even put a thermometer in there to make sure the temperature is correct. Doesn't help. Bottoms still burn.)

I hope to resolve this problem soon. I just volunteered to make a dessert for Todd's family's Thanksgiving gathering, and I don't want to serve up a blackened mess!

avert your eyes

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

There is no such thing as TMI when it comes to running. We share it all: Poo stories, group pees behind trees, snot rockets, the occasional escaped fart. I never thought I could be this disgusting and still be socially accepted.

Therefore, I give you The Blister.

This baby has plagued me since Portland. I pop it, and it comes back. I pop it again, and surprise -- it suddenly reappears! It's like the Jesus of blisters -- rise and keep on rising.

(Cue angry comments from very religious people in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... )


Monday, November 01, 2010

Two things I have never done until recently:

Cheered out loud at my TV. By myself. In pajamas. While eating Chinese takeout. But this is exactly what I did tonight while watching the Giants game. Renteria -- power! And the Beard. Seriously, how can you not love the Beard? He's just so wonderfully weird!

Trained for two marathons this close together. I still can't believe I'm going to attempt CIM in December -- less than two months after Portland. Even crazier: I want to try to PR. And not a teeny-tiny 22-second PR like last time -- I want to shave off minutes. Balancing post-race recovery while training for another race has been tough, though. Yesterday's 16-miler pretty much worked me. Those previously mentioned pajamas? Let's just say there's a reason I'm ready for bed before 8 p.m.
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