Friday, July 30, 2010

Hey, has anyone seen my quadriceps?

I think they fell off on the Hill of Death last night. If you find them, can you return them to me? Don't laugh. Yours would fall off too if you had to run the entire Hill of Death four times. Oh yes, I can see by that wide-eyed look of shock on your face that you now understand the intensity of the situation. And as if that wasn't bad enough, we also had some 800m repeats thrown into the mix... you know, for fun. So yeah, my quads weren't too happy with me and decided to take a vacation. I'm sure gonna miss them...

So here was last night's FAST workout... 2 mile warmup, 2 x (2 x full Hill Of Death loop, + 1 x 800m). So, we ran the entire Hill of Death loop twice, then ran an 800m repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Got that?

I knew I was in trouble when my quads started burning on the first hill. It did not bode well for the remaining hills. I was thankful that Coach Maggie ran with me up the second hill. Otherwise I might have been tempted to walk. Or puke. In the end, I did neither. I ran all four of those hills, and refrained from vomiting. The 800m repeats were... tricky. Running with any sort of speed after doing the Hill Of Death twice is a feat unto itself. But the 800m distance was on an undulating trail, covered with sticks and leaves and rocks. So it was basically an obstacle course. Fabulous.

After I finished my fourth and final Hill Of Death loop, Coach Brad caught up with me and insisted that he was going to run the final 800m with me and fellow FASTie, Melody.

As a quick aside, Melody is new to FAST this season and it turns out she and I are very well-matched for pace. I think we'll be running together a lot, and that's a good thing for me because she's a very fascinating person. She's getting ready to run the Pikes Peak Marathon next month. That race is not for the faint of heart. I got winded just reading the website. And yet, there's that teeny tiny voice in my head going "Ooooo, that sounds so cool - you should do that someday!" That teeny tiny voice really needs to shut up.

But I digress (I do that a lot, don't I?)... Coach Brad ran the final 800m with me and Melody and I knew I should have been concerned when he ran ahead of us and basically set the pace. But when we got near the turnaround point, he said "Okay, after the turnaround, we're going to pick up the pace." WHAT? Haven't we been doing that already? Melody leaned over and whispered to me "Maybe we should stop to walk now..." I like the way she thinks. Nevertheless, we kept running, trying to hang onto Brad. When we turned around, sure enough, the pace quickened. Our fatigued legs burned, and our breathing became very labored. Before we knew it, though, it was over and we were done! It wasn't so bad after all.

I'm sure it's not so hard to pick out the four Hills of Death on that graph. My quads are on one of those hills, crying in agony.

Tuesday's FAST workout was another goodie. And by "goodie", of course I mean "death trap". The intensity was compounded by the fact that it was 2.4 billion degrees outside and 435% humidity. *note: weather figures have been slightly inflated for dramatic effect

So here's the rundown for that workout: 1 mile warmup, 1 mile @ half-marathon pace, 2 x 800m @ 10k pace, 1 mile @ half-marathon pace, 1 mile cooldown. After the first couple of repeats, it became pretty obvious that Melody and I should be running together. And so after that, we did. It was a win-win situation, because chatting with her kept my mind off of the torture of running in 4 trillion degree weather, and my pacing helped keep her from running too fast. There's something about sharing pain with someone that makes it... well... less painful. Even with all the chatting during the final mile repeat, we still ran it faster than the first mile repeat (10:06 vs 10:24). Score one for teamwork!

My hubby and I are doing a little traveling this weekend to visit our cutie-patootie nephew, who has grown so much since the last time I saw him (in March) that he's probably getting ready to head off to college soon. So I'll be doing my weekend running in a different place, which is good and bad. Good because there's a change of scenery, which is always welcome. And bad because I'll be missing all my Stashies. But the long run this weekend is "only" 10 miles, so I'm not too worried about it. Although it will probably be a bit more difficult to run with my quads gone AWOL.

Peace. Love. Train.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

...And here's the cemetery where we did our engagement photos...

This morning, I had the very distinct privilege of running my entire 14-miler with fellow FASTie and Stashie, Kristi. Kristi is a faster runner than I am, so I don't usually get to run with her, but she told me she wanted to slow down a bit for her long runs because she had been running them too fast. After this morning though, she may have decided that running faster isn't such a bad idea after all.

You see, I may have rambled on a bit too much about this and that and the other. The route we ran took us past my old apartment, my orthodontist, and even the beautiful park where my husband and I had our engagement photos taken many years ago... never mind that the park also happened to be a cemetery. There is, of course, a long story behind why we had our photos done in a cemetery, and I assure you, Kristi heard the entire story. Just know that you can't see headstones in our pictures, I swear! But I digress... and I may have digressed quite a bit during our run this morning. It will be very interesting to see if Kristi runs with me again. Let's hope, for her sake, that the next route doesn't take us past all those places where I did all those things....

Senseless rambling aside, we actually had a really great run. I can't speak for Kristi, but the 14 miles was over before I knew it and I felt good for the whole run. For the most part we got progressively faster as the run went on, which is really saying something when you look at the elevation profile. The out-and-back course was largely downhill going out, and uphill coming back. Our last mile was our strongest, at a blazing (for me) 9:24 pace.

(click to see larger image)

As always, it was a pleasure to be part of the Stash group - their camaraderie, encouragement, and helpful advice break up the monotony of the long miles. Our fearless leader, Frank, has run over 100 marathons in his life and we are so fortunate to have access to his wisdom and experience. And today he was wearing these really cool funky purple shorts and you just know that in logging however many thousands of miles he's logged (no doubt, tens of thousands), he has enjoyed every step and maintained a sense of humor. I want to be like Frank when I grow up!


Now, before I forget, I do have a race report to write this weekend. Yesterday I ran the Limestone Rocket Run 5k in Bartonville, IL. I have told you all many times that I simply cannot run a race without racing. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong. I managed to not race yesterday, and you know what? It was liberating! That's not to say that I jogged it at a super-easy pace. I found a sort of middle ground - a pace that was not 5k race effort, but not easy-peasy either. In the end, I finished in 28:13 (a 9:05 pace) and felt pretty good. But let's talk about the actual race details...

This was the 11th running of this particular race, and it showed. It was well-organized from start to finish, and the swag was excellent. Our race packets included a nice non-white t-shirt (cotton, yes, but still, at least it's not white), and lots of samples of things like cereal, BioFreeze, and bandaids. Pretty decent for a small-town race (there were about 230 participants). The race was not chip-timed, but in an event this small, chip timing is probably not worth the expense.

When we arrived to the start location, we noticed the sky was looking rather ominous. And by ominous, I mean terrifying:

And yes, it rained. I got decently soaked for the first mile or so, and then I looked up at the sky and saw a beautiful full-arc rainbow. I think if I had been racing hard, I might not have even noticed the rainbow.

The crowd support was surprisingly strong - the local high school had their cheerleaders, sports teams, and marching band in various spots along the course to keep us pumped up. I got running high-fives from the entire girls' volleyball team - they were particularly enthusiastic.

The course consisted of a lot of rolling hills. Nothing terribly long or steep, although the finish line was essentially at the top of a hill. This made a finishing kick rather difficult.

The post-race refreshments were very impressive. The spread was larger than you might find in some buffet restaurants. There were pizza, bagels, cookies, bananas, watermelon, oranges, Twinkies, smoothies, and more. It was a veritable smorgasbord of post-run treats.

I did not partake of the pizza, nor did I taste a Twinkie, but I did welcome the watermelon (it was even seedless!) and chew on a chocolate chip cookie. (Do ya like my creative use of alliteration there?)

There were dozens of door prizes, which were given away randomly to race participants by bib number. And the race trophies were impressive too. Several of my friends earned age group trophies - and to them I say "Congrats!"

All in all, a very nice race - well-organized, fun to run, with lots of great goodies. I will definitely be back next year. I placed 5th in my age group this year - maybe if I really try to race it next year, I can take home one of those awesome trophies.

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Save the Flying Pigs!!!

Yesterday, I was driving merrily to FAST, whistling to myself and thinking happy little running thoughts, when I drove by a sign that made me do a double-take. I was so alarmed by what I saw, in fact, that I drove back around the block so that I could get a really good look at the sign and make sure I saw what I thought I saw. My more sensitive readers may need to look away now, as what you are about to see is not for the faint of heart:

I don't know about you, but I am shocked and outraged. Flying pigs are obviously an endangered species (when's the last time you saw one in the wild???) and they need to be protected! I hope that you'll join me in the fight to save the flying pigs. Together, we can make a difference and stop the senseless slaughter of the beautiful and majestic winged pig (latin name, porkus aviaris).

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, we can return to running-related topics. *whistles happily again*

With Coach Brad on vacation this week, us FASTies are under the complete control of Coach Maggie. After the workout she had us do last night, I have come to realize that this is a very scary thing. *shudders at the memory*

It was another hot and humid evening in central Illinois, and instead of running in the relatively comfortable shade of the cemetery, that crazy woman had us doing ladder repeats on the track! Where there's no shade! NONE!

Here's the workout in a nutshell: 2 mile warmup (at least that was shady), then repeats as follows - 2000m, 1600m, 1200m, 1000m, 800m, and 400m, each one increasing in speed, with about 3 minutes rest between each.

As you can see from the graph, I did a most excellent job of increasing my speed with each interval. It helped that Coach Maggie told me (and all the other marathoners) to run the first two repeats at about marathon pace. Well, for me, marathon pace is really not much faster than warmup pace, so those repeats were no big deal. Except for the scorching sun and stifling humidity. But I digress. Once I got into the shorter repeats and started picking up my pace, things got harder. The 2-3 minute rests between each interval definitely helped, but still... it was a brutal workout. After I finished my 400m interval, I came startlingly close to inheriting the Puke Crown. Actually, several of us had near-ralphing experiences last night. The combination of the sun beating down on us, the heat and the humidity, and our skyrocketing heart rates made our stomachs feel like they were full of lead. But since nobody actually threw up, Niki is still the proud owner of the not-so-highly-coveted Puke Crown.

But maybe if she brought a bucket of pig wings to pass around before the next FAST run, she could easily get rid of the crown. Just sayin'...

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ooo, a peanut butter cup!

That would be the name of my team if I were running the inaugural Hershey Half-Marathon in lovely, chocolate-scented Hershey, PA. I just found out about this sweet race earlier this morning thanks to friend, fellow Flying Pig runner, fellow chocolate-lover and Pennsylvania resident, Gayle. And now I almost wish I didn't know about it, because the very thought of it is inducing uncontrollable bouts of drooling.

The course runs past the world's largest chocolate factory, and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup factory, and there's even a chocolate aid station. That's right folks, AN AID STATION THAT SERVES CHOCOLATE!!! I realize this really isn't a new concept, as the Nike Women's Marathon includes a Chocolate Mile (and arguably serves better chocolate - Ghirardelli). But an entire half-marathon dedicated to chocolate sure beats a chocolate mile any day of the week, as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, I don't think I'll actually be running this race, at least not this year. For one thing, it's one week before the Chicago Marathon. And for another thing, it's all the way in Pennsylvania. But I will definitely be putting this on my dream race list for the future. In the mean time, I will just have to bring some Hershey's Miniatures on my long runs with me.

In other news...

Summer/Fall FAST has gotten off to a great start. I think our new co-coach is starting to feel like a part of the team. I know this because she dropped an f-bomb at practice on Thursday. Yep, she's definitely one of us now. And this is a good thing because Coach Brad is on vacation this week, which means Coach Maggie will be completely in charge. I'm not sure whether or not to be afraid. She seems laid back and easygoing, but you just never really know what will happen to someone when they become drunk with power. She could unleash hell on us and have us begging for mercy. I will report back after tomorrow's workout. If I survive, that is...

Our workout last Thursday was a really good one and I just had to share it with y'all. It turns out there is a fun way to run hill repeats. That way is short and fast. The coaches had us do 10 x 20 second sprints up the Hill Of Death with lots of recovery between (enough time to get the heart rate back down). The goal was to engage those fast-twitch muscle fibers, which despite all evidence to the contrary, I do actually have. I may not have very many and most of the time they're asleep, but they're in there.

As you can see from the graph (where the sprints are highlighted in purple), I had to run up the Hill Of Death twice to get 10 sprints in. The faster members of our group had to run it more than that in order to get their 10 sprints in. Ha ha - sucks to be them! After the hill sprints, we did a 2 mile tempo run, and that was that. All in all, a pretty good workout. The Hill Of Death is not nearly so deadly when it's broken up into small chunks. Oh, don't get me wrong, it still hurts. It just hurts in short bursts instead of one long, continuous pain.

On Sunday morning, I had a lovely 10-mile run with the Stashies. Well, that is if you think stifling humidity is lovely. I don't, really. So actually, it was sort of a miserable run, although it was made better by two things (1) the fact that the Stashies are such a great group to run with and (2) the fact that eventually, it was over. I actually ran pretty well despite the oppressive humidity, and was able to run my characteristic negative splits (which for me, is always a sign of a good run).

Next Sunday's run with the Stashies will be 14 miles, which is starting to get into serious marathon-training territory. At this distance, I need to be concerned with fueling on the run, and getting enough carbs the day before. I better start stockpiling pasta, and making sure I have big enough supply of Sharkies. Oh, and Hershey's Miniatures! *commence drooling*

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ooo, A Shiny Medal!

That's the name of my team for the Niagara Falls International Marathon 1812 Peace And Friendship Two-Person Marathon Relay. (Wow, that's a mouthful! Dare ya to say it three times fast!) This marathon, which is on October 24 this year, is the only marathon in the world that starts in one country and ends in another. Runners begin in Buffalo, NY and actually run across the international border... without having to wait in line for two hours at Customs and answer ridiculous questions like "What brings you to Canada?" (ummm, *pant pant pant* my running shoes?) and "Do you have anything to declare?" (ummm, well, I did just get this fancy race bib and timing chip...). The race, a point-to-point route, finishes at beautiful Niagara Falls in Ontario.

Team "Ooo, A Shiny Medal!" is comprised of me (duh) and my BFF, Shelley, who is Canadian. Now, I know what you're all thinking: "I bet she has a funny accent, eh!" She does, but that is really beside the point. Actually, I think her accent is cute, rather than funny... but again, it's beside the point. The point is that we are running as a team and it will be very symbolic because I, the American, will run the first leg, starting in the US and crossing over into Canada and then Shelley, the Canadian, will run the second leg entirely in Canada. It is symbolic of the friendly, peaceful, non-competitive relationship between the US and Canada. Although, I think each of us is secretly hoping to run faster than the other so we can claim bragging rights for our country.

Although, if you look at the elevation plot below, you'll see why I will have a pretty tough time running a faster half.

I get to run over that elevation spike known as the Peace Bridge, which is essentially a really big man-made hill. Although it is not nearly as steep as that graph would make it appear, it's still a fairly long climb. Here's the Peace Bridge in daylight, which is how it will look when I run across it:

What many people don't realize is that by day, it's The Peace Bridge, but by night, it's...

...Disco Bridge! (Yes, this is really what the bridge looks like at night - it's lit by colorful LEDs.) I really think they should have a race across it at night - how fun would that be?

Shelley, however, gets to run almost entirely downhill for her leg of the race and cross the finish line at Niagara Falls. I could insert some comment here about how Canadians have it so easy with their uber-polite citizens, plentiful moose meat, low crime rates and flat race routes, but in the spirit of peaceful international relations, I'll refrain. Besides, they also have Celine Dion, so it's not like everything in Canada is milk and honey.

The truth is, I really get the best part of the race, because there is a duty-free shop at the base of the Peace Bridge and you can bet I am going to stop in and get myself some tax-free wine, liquor and perfume. I rarely wear perfume or consume liquor, but I sure can't pass up a good deal when I'm running right past it! I'll have to make sure to wear running gear with lots of big pockets, because I sure can't run with armfuls of glass bottles - that would be completely impractical. But if I can stuff them into, say, the kangaroo pocket of a hoodie, and those nifty iPod pockets some running shorts and tops have, then I should be good to go. Yes, there will be a bit of banging and clanging as the glass bottles bounce around in my pockets while I run... but I'll be listening to my iPod, so the noise won't bother me. Besides, I'm sure lots of other runners will have the same idea and it will be one big parade of runners with shorts full of duty-free goods. And yes, I realize what I just wrote. I did it on purpose. You may proceed with your "haha, you said duty!" and "*snort* shorts full of duty!" comments - we are never too old for toilet humor. Or, as they say in Canada, humour de toilette.

When I finally pass the proverbial baton to Shelley at Mile 13.1, I imagine I will be transported to the finish line so I can actually see her finish. She wants to run a PR, and I am acting as her running coach to help her get that PR. I have no doubt she can do it, especially if she follows my custom training plan which involves being chased uphill by a faster runner carrying a boom box blasting Shania Twain music. (Hey, I didn't say I was a nice coach!)

Once Shelley and I finally get our shiny medals (oooo!), we will pop open a bottle of duty-free wine from my shorts (there I go with the humour de toilette again!) and celebrate our international victory.

Peace. Love. Train.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Passing of the Puke Crown

It was a momentous day at the first FAST team run of the summer/fall season.

First of all, we welcomed a new co-coach, Maggie, who despite being a University of Illinois grad (boooo! hisssssss! Go Purdue!), is actually pretty cool. I guess all of those things they say about U of I grads aren't true after all.

I'm kidding!



*begs* Coach Maggie, please don't punish me with extra core work next week. Do you like cookies? I can bake you some cookies!

Anyway, Coach Maggie will most certainly make us work hard. She nearly had us crying during the core work today. I am pretty sure we will all have ripped abs by the time this season of FAST is over. I think Coach Bekah (who has left us to move to New Hampshire - so rude!) would be pleased to know that her legacy of really tough core work is being continued. We are even carrying on Bekah's crazy form drills and dynamic warmups, and Coach Maggie has thrown some new moves into the mix. So the torture is the same... yet different.

Today was also momentous because the FAST Puke Crown was passed on from Becky to Niki, in a very formal ceremony which involved Becky giving the crown to Niki in a paper bag and Niki placing the crown on her head to wear during the core workout.

That says "Royal Puker", in case you can't see it. Niki earned the crown through her awesome display of reverse peristalsis at the Steamboat Classic 4 Mile race back in June. I think the crown looks stunning on her, but she seems pretty eager to give it up. Who will be the next puking FASTie? Only time will tell. I just hope it's not me.

As for tonight's run... it was a toughie. The heat and humidity made the warmup feel like a sprint. I am sure we have run in hotter weather, but today the humidity was particularly high and there was very little breeze. The coaches had us do 3 x 1 mile repeats in the cemetery (which is, thankfully, mostly shady) with a couple minutes rest between. The goal was to run them consistently, so that the last mile would be as fast as the first one.

Yeah, I totally failed. Epic fail.

My mile times were 8:48, 9:00 and 9:18. To be fair, the coaches did say it was an effort-based workout, not a pace-based one. And I can assure you that the 9:18 pace of the 3rd mile sure seemed like the same effort as the 8:48 of the first mile. But I don't think this is quite what Coach Brad had in mind. Nevertheless, it was a very good workout despite my poor attempt at consistent pacing.

I fear what Thursday's workout will bring. I am sure it will be something involving hills. My old friend, The Hill Of Death, is calling my name. "Emilyyyyyy... come run up my steep slope.... I miss youuuuu..." I am pretty sure it just wants me to earn the Puke Crown, though.

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Runner Formerly Known As Emily

In an attempt to be more like Prince (because who doesn't want to be like this? *rolling eyes*), I have decided to give up my real name and take on the more mysterious moniker, Unknown Runner. I'm not doing it for the attention. I'm actually just trying to get out of my Nike sponsorship contract through a loophole. True story.

Okay, okay. You figured me out. I don't have a Nike sponsorship. I realize that comes as a bit of a shock to many of you.

The truth is, I became Unknown Runner not by choice, but because of a mistake. Let me take you back in time to Wednesday... *Begin dreamy music and dramatic fade out*

It was just like any other ordinary Wednesday, except that after lunch, I made a quick side trip to pick up my race packet for the Main Street Mile. When I arrived at the packet pickup, I noted that the person handling packet pickup was a teenage boy. That, in itself, is not a warning sign. There are plenty of teenage boys who could handle the task of coordinating a packet pickup for a small race. Unfortunately, this boy was not one of them. Here's how the conversation went. I swear on Prefontaine's grave, I am NOT embellishing.

Me: I need to pick up my race packet. Last name *****.
Boy: Okay. *shuffles through a box and pulls out a bag with my name on it*
Now, let me get your bib and chip here. Let's see... you have number 208.... *flips through bibs which are perfectly in sequence: 205, 206, 207, 209, 210... there's no 208*
Well that's weird. 208 isn't here. Let me check the chips. *flips through the chips and there is no 208* Huh. We don't have your number here. *shrugs*
Me: Okay, so what happens now? Can you give me a new number?
Boy: Ummmmmmm....
*blink blink blink*
Boy: Yes! Here's a bib in the 300's. *hands me bib 307*
Me: Okay, so I need a chip too.
Oh. Well, we don't have any chips over 300.
Me: Well, I'm not going to run the race and not get a time.
Boy: Right. Ummmm...
Me: If someone came in right now to register, what would you do? Don't you have bibs and chips set aside for last-minute registrants? Can I just have one of those?
Boy: Ummmmmm.....
Me: *taking deep, calming breaths and counting slowly to 10*
Boy: Oh, hey! Wait! I have some bibs and chips in the 100's that we can use!
Me: Oh, thank God!
Here, number 107. You'll be special because everyone else will be in the 200's.
Me: Well, I do like to be different. So, don't you need to change the number you have for me in your computer there?
Boy: Ummmmm.... Oh. Yeah. Sure. *hits a few keys on the keyboard*
Okay then. So we're all set?
Boy: Uhhh, yeah.

As you can imagine, I left packet pickup not feeling very confident about getting an official result for this race.

Fast-forward to race time (Thursday evening). I was excited, anxious, and nervous - I had never run a one-mile race before, and I wondered if I could break 7:30. It was awfully hot and humid, so I was doubting myself a bit. This race is run in two waves. The "slow wave" goes first, and when all of those people finish, the "elite wave" starts. This seems backwards, but it's actually a nice setup because all the slower-pace runners and walkers get to watch the super-fast runners finish, which is really cool. I was assigned to the slow wave, which was a-ok by me. I had no desire to run with [get trampled by] the big dogs. Instead, I got to run with some of my most favorite FASTies, Louisa, Cathy and Marge. And hey, look - there they are toeing the line!

When the race finally started, I reined in my pace as several people rushed out ahead. A mile may sound short, but when you're running hard, it feels like an eternity. Better to save some energy for later. By the time I reached the top of the big downhill, I had already passed several people, and I wasn't even halfway.

I had feared the big downhill, repeatedly picturing myself tripping, rolling into a ball, and tumbling all the way down (which may have actually been faster than running, but almost certainly more painful). In actuality, the big downhill was not the scary monster I had imagined. I flew down it as if my feet had grown wings. I felt light, easy, and most importantly, fast. At the bottom of the hill was the 800m mark. They had a race clock set up there and I glanced at it quickly and saw 3:07. Interesting. I was on pace to run a 6:14 mile. Of course, I knew that wasn't actually going to happen, as the course flattened out a bit and I lost some of my speed.

People sometimes think I'm crazy (okay, people often think I'm crazy, but let's stick to the subject at hand, shall we?) because I would rather run a half-marathon or marathon than a 5k or shorter race. But the fact is, short distances hurt. They hurt a lot. People say that running a marathon is largely mental, but I think the same is true of the shorter distances. Every fiber of my body wanted to slow down, walk, or stop, and my lungs burned. But I had to keep going. I kept telling myself "It only hurts for a few minutes." And also "Don't let anyone pass you!"

As the finish line came into view, I pushed harder. I think people were cheering on the sides of the road, but I really didn't hear them. I could see four or five runners ahead of me. Only one of them was female. Unless something catastrophic happened, I would be one of the top three women. Fifty yards to go and I could make out the finish line clock. 6:53... 6:54... I gave it all I had and just before I crossed the finish, I saw that the clock read 7:02. That was much faster than I had anticipated, so I was pretty darn pleased. I celebrated my victory with my friends, many of whom also set PR's.

Fast forward to later the same evening. The results had been posted online, and fellow FASTie, Niki, texted me to let me know. She warned, "You're not going to be happy about it." I pulled up the results and here is what I saw:
See Number 6? Unknown Runner. That's me. The Runner Formerly Known As Emily. I can't say I was really surprised, after what happened at packet pickup. But when I pulled up the awards listing and saw that I did not get the 2nd place status I deserved, I was pretty unhappy. You see, Unknown Runner is sexless (no smart-ass comments from you all!), and therefore can't get credit for being the 2nd place female.

So I did what anyone in my running shoes would have done: I complained. I've been told that the appropriate powers have been notified of the error and asked to change the results and the awards listing. I'm still waiting for that to happen.

Meanwhile, I'm basking in the glory of my one mile PR. Yes, it was downhill, which really really helped. But other people don't have to know that! So shhhhhhhh! It'll be our little secret. The run graph is below, and you can see the wonderful elevation plot (the green line).

My pace, interestingly enough, didn't seem to get any faster on the big downhill. I suspect that since I started out a wee bit too fast, I held back my pace on the big downhill in order to recover a little bit. This was completely subconscious, and for that I give a huge kudos to my runner's brain. It left me with enough energy for a final kick.

With a finish time in the low 7:00's, naturally I'm now wondering if I can run a sub-7:00 mile. Well, I don't know if I can, but I bet Unknown Runner can...

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You all know and love the FASTies...

Now, allow me to introduce... The Stashies. That's what I'm going to call them, at least. They call themselves Stash's Summer Marathon Training Group. This is much too long of a name for my taste - I could run a mile and a half in the time it takes to say all that. Okay, okay, so that's a slight exaggeration. Nevertheless, it's a pretty lengthy name. So I am renaming them The Stashies. I hope they don't mind.

Let me tell you a bit about the Stashies, and why I joined them.

First of all, I need to make it perfectly clear that this group does not replace FAST. Nothing could ever replace FAST. (And I'm hoping that by saying that, the coaches will go easy on me in our first group run of the new season on Tuesday. *bats eyelashes at the coaches*)

But when one is training for a marathon, one really would like a bit of company on those long runs. One would also like water and Gatorade placed at regular intervals along the route so one does not have to wear one's annoying water bottle holder belt. One would also like the security and peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is out there making sure one gets through one's run okay. And in case it wasn't immediately obvious, one would be me.

Enter the Stashies.

Led by Frank and Kris Stash for many, many years, this group has long run logistics down to a science. All of the running routes are planned out before training starts, and every route is different, so there's quite a bit of variety. There are water stops along each route, and there's even a sag wagon that drives around and picks up runners who are injured, exhausted, etc. The faster runners stick around to high five the slower runners (like me) as they finish. Just like FAST, they are truly a team.

Several of my fellow FASTies are also Stashies (and I actually learned about the Stashies from fellow FASTies, Louisa and Cathy), which has made being a Stashie newbie a lot easier. It's nice to see familiar faces there. Although I'm enjoying getting to know the other Stashies as well. There are some really incredible athletes in this group. Lots of marathoners, yes, but also triathletes. I asked one woman if she was also training for Chicago, and she replied that she's actually training for an Ironman event. *clears throat and acts casual* Oh yeah, me too. *sucks in gut and flexes biceps* I'm going to start training for my 26th Ironman after I finish the Tour de France. True story.

Okay, okay, I've never done an Ironman. And it's possible I've embellished slightly about the Tour de France. Slightly. *quickly changes subject*

So, after I finished my long run with the Stashies on Sunday, we were all standing around and chatting for a bit while getting rehydrated and doing some stretching. The discussion turned to my blog. Some of the Stashies have already discovered it, apparently. Well, I guess I'll have to stop writing mean things about them now.

Just kidding!

I'm not going to stop writing mean things about the Stashies just because they're reading it now.

Kidding again! Really!

I never speak ill of my fellow runners. I may tell funny or mildly embarrassing stories about them, but never anything mean. So relax, Stashies. And please don't kick me out of your group. *begs*

Now, let's talk about the actual run. I really enjoyed this route, and not just because I didn't trip and fall this time. It was a nice loop, with lots of varied scenery and some rolling hills. I felt strong during this run. It was warm, and a little humid, but not as bad as last weekend. Consequently, I ran faster this run, even though the route was hillier. I probably was running a bit too fast in the last 4 miles, but a lot of really good songs were coming up on my iPod and I was in the groove. One thing I have learned over the years is that you should never mess with the groove.

Run graph - click to see it larger.

I'm very much looking forward to next weekend's run with the Stashies. We've got 12 miles planned, which gives me over 2 hours to ponder my next Stashie-related blog post. *rubs hands together evilly*

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


What Would Coach Brad/Bekah Do? This past week, I had to ask myself that very question when I was presented with the opportunity to be pseudo-coach to some of my fellow FASTies.

You see, spring FAST ended last week, and the next season doesn't start until next week... which meant this week was FAST-free. Naturally, several of us were exhibiting symptoms of severe FAST withdrawal: strong urges to run 400m repeats around our office buildings, feelings of despair when faced with the prospect of running alone, nightmarathons, and wearing running shoes everywhere (including to work, to bed, and in the shower). Going through the detox process would have been too difficult, so we opted to feed our addiction by running together on the usual FAST nights.

Since we didn't have any leadership, we felt a bit lost at first. That's when I asked myself WWCBD? And then the answer was clear:

I had to make them suffer.

After an easy 2 miles, I stopped my fellow FASTies and told them it was time to step it up. Our real coaches wouldn't want us to be out here doing easy-breezy stuff on days we would normally be pushing our limits. No sir. We needed to work.

"Here's what we're gonna do," I said. "We're gonna run from here, to the end of this straight section of road, fast. Then we'll rest a minute or two, turn around and come back fast." The straight section of road was about 1/4-mile long. I realized that I was going kind of easy on them, only making them run two 1/4-mile repeats, but I would make up for it later. Heh heh heh...

So, as we were running back to our starting point, I noticed there were a few hills coming up. Ahhh, a perfect opportunity to insert some more suffering. I sprinted up the first hill. My friends followed suit. I didn't even have to tell them to. As Louisa crested the hill, she said to me "Monkey see, monkey do!" Oh, this was much too easy! I did the same thing for the next hill, and they once again followed suit.

Now I understand why our coaches enjoy coaching so much! Having other people do what you tell them is pretty cool. And of course there are the long-term rewards of watching your proteges succeed and prosper. I'm sure my two days of pretending to be coach didn't make any difference in my friends' running performances, but perhaps they at least got a decent workout from it. And, more importantly, of course, they fed their FAST addiction. Because, honestly, those withdrawal symptoms were really getting annoying. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go mow my lawn in the shape of a 400m track so I can do some repeats...