Sunday, July 26, 2015

Running Boston

This week I took it relatively easy, considering I did no speed work, no tempo run, and only ran 18 miles total.  That doesn't mean it felt easy, though, because I spent the week walking an average of 8 miles a day in Boston.  Yep, it was family vacation week.

I had not been to Boston since I was ten, and frankly, I remember next-to-nothing about the city at that time because our family mainly visited cousins while we were there.  I did some research, and I came up with a great list of activities: Plimoth Plantation, whale watching, Salem, the Freedom Trail, lots of clam chowdah, Italian food, and walking.

This is one of the many reasons for lots of walking: Mike's Pastry in the North End.  Holy Cannoli!
We always finished our evening stroll with coffee from Caffe Vittoria

Most of my plans involved activities I knew my family would enjoy, but there was one thing I did purely for myself: I ran through Boston Commons to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

 The Swan Boats in Boston Commons

 It was my pilgrimage, and even though fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador Andrew (@Andrewrunsalot) told me not to step on the finish line until I run it, I did it anyway.

This is EXACTLY how I look after running across the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Of course, this was after running two miles, not 26.2.

I reminded that young punk Andrew that I am a 45-year-old realist, and I know that my chances of qualifying for Boston are pretty slim, considering I haven't yet run my first marathon.  He told me if I keep running regardless, I'll be able to age into the qualifying time by the time I'm eighty. On one hand, that's a pretty smart strategy; on the other hand, Andrew is still a punk.

I got two morning runs in this week, and I walked my butt off for the rest of the week.  I had to, not just because I wanted to see the sights but because I ate ALL THE FOOD.  We stayed in the North End, and I definitely took advantage of the delicious Italian cuisine there.  One night we stood in line for Giacomo's, which takes no reservations, accepts cash-only, and has a line down the street every night from opening (at 4:30) to closing.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm standing in line at Giacomo's.

Burrata with fresh tomatoes

Lobster and shrimp with housemade fusilli in Giacomo sauce

Lobster, clams, mussels with linguini in pesto sauce

It was soooo worth it, Peeps.

We ended our week in Boston by finishing the Freedom Trail.  We walked all over Charlestown, seeing the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument.  My son decided that it would be "fun" to climb the monument.
294 freaking steps up.  294 freaking steps down
 Now, I have run the steps at the McKinley Monument in Canton, OH, a few times, and I've never been as sore as I feel from those damned steps at Bunker Hill.  Even two days later I'm having trouble descending the basement stairs to do laundry.  Luckily, I have two kids, so I've decided that THEY are going to do the laundry, and I am going to do "legs-up-the-wall" pose in the bedroom while reading a book.  Here is an instructional video if you'd like to try this yourself:

All of those steps made us hungry, so we finished our week in Boston by eating pizza at Quattro.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I need more wine because my legs ache.

Today I ignored the pain and I ran my traditional "old-blue-line" route of 10 miles and some change.  This is a loop that starts in Sand Run Park and continues through West Akron along the former route of the Akron Marathon.  I like it because of the change of scenery: Metroparks, beautiful residential neighborhoods, two country clubs, Stan Hywet Hall.  I also like the fact that my last mile is completely downhill.  This is possibly the only route I can run where I can guarantee negative splits.  

Well, Peeps, it is good to be back.  I'm going to get my head back in the game with my speed work and my race preparations.  Meanwhile, there is laundry and grocery shopping to do and children to nag.

Run happy this week, Peeps!

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

I Overanalyze Everything

Ever since I wrote last week's post, I've been obsessing about speedwork and more specifically, my attempts at a tempo run.

I've had three different people offer me advice, and I think it all comes down to the same thing: I've got to get my head straight.

We all know that running is mental, and there is no greater proof of that than watching me drive myself and everyone around me crazy by talking about running.  

On Wednesday, I did 3 x 800 at the track (plus a warm up and cool down), and I was able to keep my 800s between 4:00 and 4:20.  I was happy with that.  I think next time at the track I will shoot for 4 x 800, and I will try to decrease my recovery time.

Thursday was a gorgeous day, a day made to go running.  Despite the pretty day, I was feeling upset because my daughter wanted to cut off her beautiful, curly hair.  Now, I know, it's her hair--if this is my biggest problem with her, I'm lucky--hair grows back--yadda yadda yadda.  I know these things. 
Still think I shouldn't be upset?

 As we were making an appointment for the salon for that afternoon, I got a lump in my throat, and I felt tears coming.  This isn't like me at all, so I figured out that my need for a breakdown after my father's death was manifesting AT THAT MOMENT.  The perfect solution would have been to go on a run/cry, especially on a day made for runs, but I didn't do it because I'm an idiot.  Or I'm afraid to let my guard down.  Or because I told the kids we were going hiking.  Whatever.  I didn't do it.

I sucked it up and hiked the Mingo Trail (3+ miles of glorious, primitive trail) in Sand Run Park with the kids.  It was a great experience for all of us as the kids didn't complain ONCE about how far we had to walk.  I did have one interesting exchange with the eight-year-old, though:

8YO:  Will there be donuts at the end?
Me:  No.
8YO:  No.  There will only be water and sadness.
No donuts for you.
Water and Sadness
On Friday, I decided, to hell with it, I'd run how I felt: no patterns, no plans.  Looking at my splits, I think it's interesting how consistent they are, and how the run is divided in half.  There is a reason for the discrepancy between the two halves: Miles 1-3 were downhill, and Miles 4-6 were uphill.  If consistency of pace is what I'm shooting for, I will take this run as a win.
Mile 1 (half mile warmup): 9:36 
Mile 2: 8:53 
Mile 3: 9:02 
Mile 4: 10:36 
Mile 5: 10:35 
Mile 6: 10:37 
Mile 7: Cooldown: 11:35 

It rained all over me, but I felt great when I was done.

Today I ran with Shelby, and it was HOT and HUMID.  Shelby is training for a marathon, and she needed 14 miles.  I foolishly thought, "Huh. I can do 14 miles," but luckily I only told Shelby that I would run what I could with her. 
This is EXACTLY how I look when I foolishly think, "Huh.  I can do 14 miles in incredible heat and humidity."
I lasted just over 10 miles at a turtle-like pace before I called it quits.  Poor Shelby had to finish up by herself, but she was kind enough to give me a bottle of ice-cold chocolate milk before she left.  I love that woman.

This week I intend to focus on myself.  My near-crying-jag in a hair salon this week tells me that I need to take care of myself.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that, but if I figure it out, you will be the first to know.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, July 12, 2015


Here is the deal:

I have 53 seconds to cut off my Akron Half Marathon PR, and it's time to do the hard stuff.

ARGH!! Those 53 seconds have to go!

You may or may not know that Akron is my big PR race of the year.  It was the reason why I started running in the first place.  I wrote all last summer about my desire to run a sub-2 hour half marathon, and I came SO CLOSE.  This year I will nail that sucker.

Time to get serious, Peeps.

On Wednesday I started up my track workouts.  I wasn't looking forward to this, but I know that a concerted effort at speed work really pays off during the race.  Unfortunately, my coach isn't offering a training program this year, so I have to figure out something that works.  Right now I'm just winging it.  I started with ladder drills: 400, 800, 1200, 800, 400.  I warmed up for about 1.5 miles, gossiping with my peeps, and then I got to work.  

One of my biggest problems is going out too fast in a race, and it shows in my speed work.  I was shooting for an 8:20 pace, but I started at 8:00 or less.  Not good.  I made sure to slow down, and that helped.  I am extremely proud that my last 400 was faster than my first 400, with a pace of 8:08.  

What makes me happiest, though, is that my daughter came with me to the track, and she did her own workout.  For a few years now I have been asking her to run with me, and she has turned me down almost every time.  At one point she told me, "You are going to have to deal with the fact that I will not be your runner.  Work on Ben."  

When I casually asked her if she wanted to come to the track with me, I expected a withering, "No, Mom," but she actually said, "Sure.  That sounds like fun."  And it was.

This is EXACTLY how we look when we are finished with speed work.

Then Friday was my first attempt at a tempo run.  First, I got all pinked up:

On Fridays we wear pink.

Then I set out for my run on Sand Run at 2:00 pm, which was stupid on so many levels.

Mile 1:  Warmup 10:11 Mile 2: 9:03 
Mile 3: 9:11 
Mile 4: 9:57--This is where I fell apart. It was all uphill, though.  
Mile 5: Cooldown 11:18

Lessons learned: 1. Tempo runs need to be on flat paths.  Sand Run is a a three mile path full of hills.  As you can see from my times, Miles 2 and 3 were downhill.  2. Miles 2 and 3 were too fast and they were not steady (Did I mention they were downhill?).  I tried to control my pace, but there were some points that I was running at 8:15 or less.  Not cool.   3. Tempo runs should never be at 2:00 in the afternoon in the summer.  I was so. freaking. hot.

Can I call this a win in speed work since it was extremely hilly?

I did call it a win, and I rewarded my daughter and myself with a trip to Stan Hywet Hall to see the Ohio Shakespeare Festival's production of Much Ado about Nothing.  

This is EXACTLY how I look when I am watching Shakespeare.  My friend Shelly is on the  left.

It was fabulous, Peeps; I highly recommend you see this comedy or Henry V, which starts July 30.

Today I ran three loops of the Boston Run Trail in Peninsula for a total of 9-something miles.  I thought I did pretty well.  I got through the third loop by telling myself I could walk any hill I liked, and I walked most of them.  Don't judge; I didn't walk any of them in the first two loops.

Anyway, this is my new committment to speed work.  I'm going to go to the track every Wednesday, and I'm going to fit in a tempo run each week.  

Akron won't know what hit it when I cross that finish line.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Running with Grief

For the first time since I started this blog, I have skipped a post.  There is a very good reason for this.

My last post was a recap of the Ragnar Trail Event in West Virginia.  I had written about the challenges of that race.  What I didn't tell you was that the night I arrived (during the storm), I received several voice messages and texts from my family regarding my father, and I was worried about his health the whole time.

My father had two heart attacks and a quadruple bypass six years ago.  He was in the Cleveland Clinic for months, and if it had not been for the wonderful staff there, he would have died.  Last year my father's health started failing again, and I rushed to Florida just in time to get him psyched up to get an LVAD, which is a machine that regulates blood flow for the heart.  Again, he almost died because his organs had already started shutting down, but the surgical staff at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston performed a miracle and brought him back.

My father with my son

The LVAD is a temporary fix, and only patients who are on the list for a heart transplant get one.  My family was thrilled that my father would qualify for a transplant, but we knew the risks such a surgery would entail.

My father on his wedding day

When the storm started in West Virginia, I saw that my father had called me, but I couldn't access his voice mail because of poor reception.  When I finally found a "pocket of reception," I learned that my father had gone to the hospital because a heart had become available.  My last message from my father was him telling me that he was excited and that I should not fly to Florida for the surgery.

Fly to Florida?  I was surrounded by mountains and forests in Appalachia.

I kept my phone on all weekend, and anytime I could get reception (sometimes in the middle of a trail), I would look at my messages or listen to voice mails.  I was frantic.

Imagine running the Red Loop at 3:00 AM when you are frantic.

Anyway, I finally got the call from my brother the following Thursday, telling me to come to my father.  I got on the first plane I could book, and my brother rushed me to my father at one in the morning so he would know that I was there.

The next day we unhooked my father from all the machines that were keeping him alive.  Before we did, I told him that I loved him, and that he was a great father.  I hope he heard me.

I spent the next few days helping my father's wife make all the arrangements for his funeral.  I organized, I phoned, I wrote his obituary and the eulogy for the minister. . .and I did run.  I wanted so badly to run and cry, but the weather was so hot and humid that I felt more annoyed and irritated than anything, and I couldn't express my grief and sadness.

Running is so cathartic, and yet I have not felt any relief.

I returned to Ohio at 3:00 AM yesterday, and I am still organizing, cleaning, taking care of others.  At some point I will have to take care of myself. I will have to FEEL.

Tomorrow I will run, and I hope some sort of healing can begin.