August 2010


I realized the other day I’ve not posted in a few weeks. We are starting to get into the busy season at work, and for once, I’m glad for this time to come. It’ll keep my mind active, and in a good way.

I’m also starting to take a Spanish language course in the evening, two nights per week. It’s not for a grade or anything, but the hope is that eventually I can use the language at work because my library collects a lot of foreign-language materials, from many countries that don’t translate their legal materials into English.

I have to admit – at first, I was not totally thrilled at the idea of taking a class again. I feared that many of the students would be much younger than me, as was the case when I last sat through French (“refresher for me”) classes at the university affiliated with my former employer.  However, yesterday I realized that part of the reason I like my job is because every day you can be asked a different question, and every day you can feel like a sponge all over again. I like learning about a lot of different things – I hate getting bored and doing the same thing over and over again (although there is something to be said that a routine can also be comforting sometimes, especially in times of stress.)  Also, age is what you make of it. It can only make you feel uncomfortable around others if you let it. If you’re confident in and happy with yourself, it will come through. People will want to be around you.

And, speaking of self-esteem, when I made some major changes to my life about a month ago, a good friend’s husband gave me some good advice – he had gone through a similar experience and said “be sure to lean on your friends.”  That is some of the best advice I’ve received.  In addition to my longstanding friends, I’ve also made some new ones.  Over the past few weeks, some individuals that were formerly just coworkers of mine have become good friends.  And guess what? They’re also runners! 🙂

Speaking of which, this is (usually) a running blog, so…

I am probably going to run a few 5K races over the next few weeks.  One of my coworkers/new friend and i are thinking of trying out different running groups in the area together. I remember how nervous I was the first time I went to a track workout with MVS, and how I felt intimidated by other runners who were clearly faster than me. We both feel like we’ll feel more comfortable meeting other runners if we go together.

Another coworker/new friend is thinking of doing his first race ever.  Needless to say, I am so excited about the prospect of running a race again with someone on their very first time out, as I did about year ago with my friend Amy.  Being a guy, and younger than me, he is gifted with speed I can only work on achieving, but I think at the 5K distance, I can keep up with him, and possibly set a PR at the 5K distance.   How awesome would that be?! (Needless to say, I’m also enjoying teaching him about all the running products/fuels, etc., that only a running nerd like me could enjoy, LOL.)  I am really hoping that it can be a positive experience for him, and that we can pass tons of people in that last half-mile (oh yeah…that’s the competitive spirit in me coming out, LOL.) 

 I guess you could say that by teaching someone new(er) to the sport (my friend has been running for a while now, he’s just never raced), this is my way of giving back to a community that has done so much for me, and for which, I am so extremely grateful. I’ve learned so much about how to properly fuel, how to work on mental toughess, racing, apparel, etc., from reading so many of your blogs, twitter feeds, etc.   While I could have done it on my own, I’ve realized how much better it’s been to learn from others. I know  could not have gotten through my marathon back in 2008 without the help of my brother who ran alongside me, at such a ridiculously slow pace for him. So, I hope I can repay at least a little of that kindness out into the ether, so to speak.

Anyway, stay tuned for some upcoming race reports, and hopefully some new PRs.  Until then, I leave you with a very cute picture of Ruthie. She’s looking out at the “city version” of Dog TV. 🙂  (She’s coming back again this weekend, I can’t wait!!)

Ruthie watching trains and cars go by, on Dog TV (so exciting!)

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Reservoir at night, loved the colors and way the clouds looked on Saturday

My friend Sarah came over on Saturday to hang out, and help me put things together. (Seriously, I have a problem with reading directions and putting things together. It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to make sense of the pictures unless someone reads them out loud to, or with, me.) THANK YOU SARAH! We went for a walk that night to check out the neighborhood and walk around the reservoir, which is when I took the picture to the left.

My younger brother, the crazy long-distance runner, and running coach, was in town this weekend for a very quick overnight visit. With everything that’s been going on, he’s wanted to come up and visit so we could have a good talk, and we definitely did have several while he was here.  He’s 15 months younger than me, and growing up we fought like “cats and dogs.”  Mom always said that we’d fight each other to the death, but let someone else pick on one of us, and we’d turn on that other person with an equal vengeance to protect each other. So if your kids are like that now, take heart, they can grow up to be pretty close, as we are.

Whenever my brother comes for a visit, it’s always short. Sometimes he arrives on a Wednesday night, and then we run the Feaster Five on Thanksgiving morning, getting into a car a few hours later to drive to my mom in upstate NY.  Sometimes it’s at Christmas, again, a short visit.  Sometimes I’m able to go to NYC for work and I stay with him for a weekend.

View of large pond in Blue Hills. Someone said today it was Houghton's Pond, but I don't think that's the right shape. Think it might be Ponkapog (sp?) Pond.

He’s never been able to really see Boston on his visits, so this morning, I took him down to the Blue Hills area which is located south of the city. It’s where they hold the 13.1 Marathon Boston (yes, it was a running joke that the Boston race was not really  in Boston but a decent drive south of the city.) Definitely not a race whose course had you running around downtown’s skyscrapers, like my first half marathon of the year, which was the Run to Remember on Memorial Day. 

Tiny buildings way off in the distance is skyline of Boston, from the Blue Hills observation tower (looks like a "castle.")

While I was training down there this summer, I found out that there are some pretty easy trails that lead to the top of the largest blue hill, and you can look out over Boston from an observation tower. My friend Lis calls it Great Blue Hill. So, that’s where I took my brother today. I apologize for the quality of this photo and how small the city looks in the distance (everyone, get out your magnifying glasses) but just take it from me, the view is amazing.

By the way, this photo is of Great Bue Hill  but I took the photo at 5 a.m. on the morning of the half-marathon. You can’t see the “castle” from where we took the other pictures posted here, but it gives you an idea of its size anyway. It only took us about 15 minutes to hike to the top. Lots of kids were doing it too, albeit at a slower pace.

the large hill that we climbed today, which I learned while training was called Big Blue, by hikers

 I then drove my brother over most of the course that I had run in June. He said that a few of the folks he coaches in NYC also ran it, and complained a lot about the lack of cups, as well as the mile+ long hill that basically killed everyone. I said now he could go back home and tell them he really understood. He couldn’t believe we had run such a hill and then still had about 1-2 miles to go!   We also hiked up the first “summit” hill that we ran in the race.

Well, maybe walked is a better word than “hiked” since our walk was up a road, not a trail (they close it off on Sundays during the summer.) He thought that hill was pretty steep, about a 10% grade. I said “yeah, that wasn’t the hard one for me, once I did it once in training.” Felt damn good to say that! I believe the road is called Chicktawbut, but I always pronounced it as chick-too-a-butt. I know, I’m an idiot. Once it got into my brain that way, it got stuck.

Last but not least, I just had to show my brother the hill in Newton that I’ve been running up and down to confirm that it really is Heartbreak Hill. I’d say the involuntarily twitching of his fingers confirmed it.  He was like “OH NO, OH NO” when we drove down it. “This hill comes at the absolute worst spot in a marathon,” I believe were his exact words.

Lucky for him, I didn’t make him run it….:-)

Anyway, I’ve mapped out a new route that has me running down and up it, and I can’t wait to make that a part of my normal training.  “Oh yeah, Heartbreak Hill? I run that all the time…” LOL

Footnote (ah, forget subtlety)/Headline to Mom: Stop Reading Now. It Ain’t  Gonna Get Any Better. And “yes, you did raise me to say these things.”  LOL

I swear, people, this post goes downhill from here. Read on, if you will.

When I was training for the half marathon at the end of June, I was definitely experiencing some pain in my quads. One of my coaches thought it was because I have powerful quads, and therefore I rely on them a lot when running. Well, for whatever reason, I found the foam roller with ridges that I bought from Marathon Sports to be quite helpful. That is, once I learned how to use it and it didn’t hurt my wrists so much.  (I know, foam roller, wrist pain, doesn’t make so much sense, now, does it?)

In case you are wondering why I’m bringing this up now, it’s because I’ve been running a lot more since my move, oftentimes doing 6 miles before work rather than just 4, and yesterday I began to feel like using the foam roller more often might be a good thing again.

Image from opentip.com

I realize some folks coming across this blog may have no idea what a foam roller is. It’s a hard piece of foam that allows athletes to provide their bodies with self-massage.  Here’s a picture I found that shows you how weird it can look (and seriously, what’s up with this lady’s hair? They couldn’t update the pic just a bit?!)

The first time I brought it home, I set myself up in the kitchen in my former home, which was kind of in an L-shape. I figured, lineoleum floor, this baby should roll quite easily on here. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t come with a video like the roller Lis has, so I was left to my own devices. Or, should I say, imagination?

Ruthie, just hanging, outside after our walk

Anyway, I was in the one side of the kitchen, and Bill was on the other side.  He couldn’t see the bottom half of my body.  As I rolled back and forth on the torture device, I’m sure I must have made a few groans.  (We all know the sweet pain those things bring.) I also had my hands placed as if I was doing push-ups, so I think you’re all getting the mental image, am I right?! Add to that Miss Ruthie, who, of course, thinks that if you are down on the floor, there can only be one reason, and that’s to play with her, so she kept running back and forth trying to get attention from me, while I rolled and groaned away, over and over and over.  Bill just looked at my upper half and said “Are you sure that’s what you’re supposed to be doing? It looks like you’re dry humping something!!” And there we have the title of my post, lol.  (And yes, the next few times I used it, he decided to add in a soundtrack of grunts in the background.  Um, yeah, that was fun, and not at all a bit distracting….)

(In case you all forget what  Ruthie looks like, I saw her last week, so that’s why there are some pictures scattered here.)

Ruthie in the living room, looking adorable "don't you want to pet me?"

I can only imagine now the types of searches that people will do that will bring them to my blog. Do you have any idea how many people do searches on “topless running?”

Speaking of topless running, since my earlier post on that topic, my friend Meg, @mak506 on Twitter, and Lis, have both tried it. Both found it to be quite freeing, and Meg even commented to me, “why hadn’t I done this before?” So there you have it ladies, take off your shirts, and get out there and run topless. You just might find you like it. 🙂  (Added bonus: that much less laundry to do.)

So, I jinxed myself with my last post – it happened. As soon as I said I expected to have a crap run, it reared its ugly head.

It started out with a warning sign – my tummy.  Luckily that cleared itself up by my delaying my run for about 10-15 minutes. Then, there was the “yes, we really are dying on you” signals from my headphones.

Pink Sony overear headphones, photo courtesy of amazon.com

You know the type – the music is only coming out of one earpiece, unless you hold the wire just so. Luckily, my bouncing all around seemed to help them today.  (I bought a new pair tonight, in pink. Yes, they are totally girly. Get over it.)

Then, there was the first big hill which I encounter within about a half mile or less from my front door. It’s not bothered me much lately, but today I could feel myself laboring up it. I think I may just use that hill as my baseline from now on to see how I’m feeling.  (The terrain here is much different from where I moved from, as I might have had one hill like it, on my “hilly” route, which is to say I ran it when I felt like it, not on a daily basis.)

I decided to run down a hill that seemed to scare me until today, because it looked really steep, and I was afraid that once at the bottom, I’d never be able to climb backup it again. Boy, am I glad that I faced that fear today. I ended up finding a road called Hammond Pond Parkway. Other than the two lanes of traffic in both directions, I kind of felt like I was in the woods. Trees and trails on both sides of the road. If you ran on the grass and soft terrain rather than playing chicken with the cars, and kept your head cocked a bit to the left, you could almost mentally put yourself somewhere else.

(I have to admit, when Opticon by Orgy came onto my headphones, it was a bit jarring, considering my surroundings.) (Warning: my link goes to a video on YouTube where Opticon appeared on Charmed, one of my favorite TV shows. Mock if you will.)

Hammond Pond Parkway reminds me of the Blue Hills where I ran the 13.1 Marathon just south of Boston. Truth be told, it’d be hard to beat that area for scenery (and really difficult hills, Good Lord), but since this road is within running distance from where I am living, and offers its own sense of serenity, I will take it. I love running by the huge homes nearby (which are constantly being tended to by landscapers), but this area was just different. Those of you in the southwest would likely be jealous of how green it is. I’ll have to take a pic and post it.

Speaking of, below is another photo of the reservoir near me – the sun is beautiful when it reflects off of the water. For those of you familiar with, or who have run the Boston Marathon, you can usually see the Prudential and Hancock Towers off in the distance.  Right after I took this, I ran into someone who retired from my work a few years ago, and who always has a big smile on her face. She gave me a big hug even though I was a sweaty mess (it was hot and humid – news flash – what else is new?!) and I cut my run short to walk back toward my building with her and catch up.

So, the run was short (4 miles), hot, involved walking, and had minor music troubles.  A few years ago, that would have put me into a major funk.  Today, my attitude was this:  at least it wasn’t a race, and no one died. Tomorrow’s another day. 🙂

Reservoir reflections

If I sound incredulous, it’s because  I am.  I would not advocate or even try to suggest to anyone that they should go through the stress I have over the past few weeks as a way of quickening their paces on their daily runs, by any means. However, for some  reason, I appear to be running faster lately, even given the heat and humidity.   My suspicion is that it’s a combination of adrenaline and stress.

By the way, I just wanted to say thank you for all those who have left supportive comments to me, or emailed or called me recently. You have no idea how much it helps. A very good friend of mine told me he thought I’d have more support than what I thought existed, and as usual, he was right.

Unlike where I used to run, if i choose to, now, I can run many many hills. Including Heartbreak Hill. Last week I came across another runner in Newton and asked her if our current location at that time was the famous hill. She said that we were on the tail end of it, and that it starts at the firehouse.  So, a few days later, on my run, I ran further through Newton. I gave up after a little while though because the terrain seemed to be flattening out, with no other hills in sight. So, this weekend, when my younger brother, the running coach and 3-time BQer comes to town, I’m going to drive/run with him along the marathon route and find out exactly where it does start, so I can start training on it. I imagine that could make me much stronger of a runner. (I am REALLY looking forward to seeing him this weekend!)

To return to the title of this post, lately my “easy” runs have been run at mile paces in the low 9s,or even mid-8s, for runs of 5-6 miles, over the course of the past two weeks or so. Might not sound like a lot to some out there, but it’s been really humid lately, and even 70 degrees seems miserable with a high humidity percentage and dew point.  Also, I’ve not felt the need to use my inhaler.  On top of that, these have usually been runs where I’ve set out with no particular plan in mind, other than to explore the area. This morning’s run was 6.02 miles in 55:03!!

So, I’m hoping for some very fast races this fall, when I’ll have the usual fall semester stress and craziness on top of everything. Fortunately, we’ll also have the good cool temps and drier air. I started out this year hoping to be a solid 9 minute miler. This morning, I started thinking that if I could just throw the hammer down a bit more on my runs, or come race-time,  hopefully I could do the Tufts 10K race on Columbus Day in 54 minutes or so. It’d mean running solid miles in the high 8 minute range. Placement at the start line would also be key, as it’s such a crowded race – 7200 women over a 6.2 mile course?!

But we’ll see – time will tell. I need to take it easy, or at least keep it fun, in at least one area of my life right now.  Also,  I could have a “crap run” very soon that’d make me doubt my abilities. However, whenever there’s a bad run, a good one is usually lurking just around the corner, or at least there should be. 🙂

Anyway, tomorrow is another day, with another early morning run facing me, so I’m calling it a night.

The last few days have been quite hectic, to say the least. I moved on Sunday, and have been busy unpacking and trying to organize things over the last few days. At times I have felt like if anything can go wrong, it will.  My TV broke during the move (or maybe it broke before, who knows?) The recliner chair was never put back together by the movers, and they left behind a moving blanket whichI did NOT want to be charged for.  The painters didn’t get into the apartment until AFTER all of my stuff had been moved in. I came home Tuesday afternoon to find the painter hard at work, but all of my stuff which had finally gained a sense of normalcy, placement-wise, had been shoved into the middle of the room. I know the guy had to do it, and the place does look better painted, but I couldn’t find anything all over again!!

 The worst thing to happen, which I couldn’t do much about, was that none of my wall unit air conditioners fit in the windows of my building. It’s quite old, and they are just really weird to describe. When it hit 90 today with disgusting dew points, it felt pretty miserable in the apartment. I’ve since bought a portable AC to cool the place off, but again with the windows being so weird, it’s a whole ordeal to get it to exhaust to the outside, so right now, it’s sitting in my bedroom. I had turned it on earlier, and while it felt cool in the front of the unit, guess what was happening on the back end?  You guessed it, a ton of hot air was coming out, as is expected.  So it was like a vicious circle of energy, it would exhaust hot air just to cool it back down again.

At times over the past few days I’ve felt panicked.  Stuff I used to have help with, I don’t anymore. The “feeling helpless” side of me would start swearing out loud and get more pissed off by the minute. The rationale, independent side of me would say that I could do it and just needed to take a deep breath (as @ridgeley on Twitter so kindly reminded me to do. By the way, if you are not following her, you should. She always posts interesting photos, reads a lot about current events, and she is a real sweetheart of a person.)

Tonight, I realized all this negativity and insecurity is just feeding into itself and making things even worse.  I remember when I first changed my tagline on my blog to “moving forward with optimism.”  It was kind of a play on words, but now I think it has to become more of my motto for life again.  Training for the marathon in 2008, they drilled it into our heads that you had to have a positive attitude, and it needed to extend beyond just the race, otherwise the head games would do you in, and you’d never make it through.   Over the last few months, for various reasons, I’ve let that slip.

So, from now on, when I hit these hurdles, I’ll remind myself that I made this choice to go it all alone, knowing things would be difficult at times.  All the things that stressed me out over the past few days either worked themself out, or will over the next few days. I just need more patience, a whole lot more sleep, start writing again, and to get back into a routine. Oh, and remember that it’s ok for me to ask for help (which is something I don’t like doing).  The only thing I’ve been able to keep some semblance of a routine with is running. I’ve tried to not miss too many days over the past few weeks. It’s kept me (somewhat) sane.

I think this is a time when I’m going to learn a lot about myself – my friend and sister-in-law keeps reminding me that I’m not the same person I used to be when I first moved to this city. (Thankfully, she means it in a good way…)

So, these are the good things I can point to over the last few days:

  • Fresh coat of paint in the living room/hallway really does make the place look better.
  • I had some really good, generous friends give up their entire Sunday to help me move.
  • I’ve got some very good family close by with whom I was able to spend a lot of time recently, and I think that strengthened our relationship.
  • I’ve got my cats back, and one of them seems to be really flourishing, running all over  the place, rather than confining herself to just the bedroom. (They were even both on the couch with me for a few seconds! I should mention, they don’t get along.)
  • The older cat has stopped hissing and growling at me, finally. (She was not happy with being boarded at the vet temporarily.)
  • Work has been really understanding about my taking so many days off over the past week and a half.
  • Have been able to run the past few mornings at a relatively decent pace, even given the humidity. Runs have only been 4 miles or so, but I’ve not slept well either. 
  • Noticed this morning that if I want to run hills to get stronger, there is no shortage of them around me. Even scoped out a long  hill to do some hill workouts on with my friend, Meg.
  • I got to see this view below the last few mornings while out on a run (photo taken with zoom by Gorillacam app so it’s not as clear as otherwise would be.)   I will try to take more over the next few weeks. Should be really pretty in the fall when the leaves change.

 

View of Prudential and John Hancock Towers from the reservoir near Boston College

I know that thing are not perfect, and money will be tight for the foreseeable future, but I will make it through. My mom taught me how to make do.  And if worse comes to worse, I get a second job. I’m no stranger to working long hours or working hard.  (I’m actually glad to be going back tomorrow as we are starting to get into the busy time. I’m already talking in front of the new Law Review kids next week – they come back 2 weeks early. Talk about “August Tsunami.”)

If nothing else, I’ve got my running hobby to help me keep things in check. I’ve got plenty of running clothes and my sneakers are in good shape, so I should be set for a while where that’s concerned. If  do a few less races, it won’t kill me.  There are a lot of new places to run around here to keep things fresh and interesting.

Anyway, that’s it for now.