Monday, January 31, 2011

I Will Try Almost Anything Once. But Not This.

In searching for a few races to add to this year's calendar, I stumbled across Three Days at the Fair.

The .8579-mile course around the New Jersey State Fairgrounds makes me bored just thinking about it. Racers run this loop as many times as possible -- over 72 hours. Three days. Almost half a week. Almost 3 percent of a year. Around and around, and then around and around. And around. And after you go around for two days, you get to go around and around for another 24 hours.

For the love of God, who thinks up a race like this?

I could never do it. I'd last two laps max and then my brain would slide out of my ears, put on some racing flats and run away from the rest of me as quickly as possible. I have the attention span of a pea and would thus be the first to drop out.

To those with the mental endurance to attempt 72 hours on a .85-mile loop, I salute you. I think.

That is all.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Still Like Snow

Since snow dumped on Philly earlier this week the temperature has barely climbed above freezing for more than a few hours, more snow is on the way and it's not exactly going to be hot here any time soon -- the snow is here for an extended stay. Fortunately, I am not even remotely sick of it yet (although it would be nice to be able to go outside without wearing 7,858 layers of clothing).

Today I hoped to get in at least two or three hours on foot with a pack. This stretched into a bit more than four hours (mostly) on snowshoes in Wissahickon Park, a chunk with fellow non-snow hater Abby. Over the four or five miles we covered together we didn't see anything out of the ordinary (I've seen dudes on mountain unicycles, a man who plays a mean air violin while hiking, people humping --the park is filled with surprises) aside from three grumpy looking horses who looked like they'd rather be on the next plane to Bermuda than slipping through the snow with riders on their backs.

Eventually Abby and I headed in opposite directions and I did a few more miles before heading home. The park seemed to be empty and was so quiet it almost seemed loud. I felt like I had the whole place to myself. The Walnut Street bridge, however, reminded me that I was still very much in the city.

I don't mind good graffiti. This graffiti, however,
looks like a three-year-old did it.

And then I headed down a hill and came upon this right in the middle of the trail, reminding me that all was right with the world:

Cutest and most random snowperson ever. I wanted to hug it.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Commute Ever

Last night the sky exploded snow all over Philadelphia. I got up early to find more than 14 inches on the ground. I expected to avoid digging out my tiny Nissan and to avoid braving unplowed roads by taking the bus to work. Thank you SEPTA, for cancelling all busses (in fact the main route I take to work is still not operating more than 15 hours after the snow stopped).

Where I work the rule is this: Regardless of how much junk falls out of the sky you must roll up. If not, you have to use a day of vacation time and face the risk of all sorts of disciplinary stuff. To me, it's worth it to go in. I hate being in trouble and I love hoarding my vacation time.

This morning driving was clearly not an option. I hopped on my bike trainer for an hour while I contemplated the best way to get to work (fortunately we are, unofficially, allowed to be late).  I dismissed running to work as an actual option and was prepared to ditch work and face the consequences. Then, I remembered that a friend and co-worker has all of the following qualities: She's nice. I like to hang out with her. She drives sort of close to my house on her way to work. She has a car that is sort of SUV-ish. I called her and we agreed that I would walk to the nearest highway, she'd duck out at the closest exit and we wold be on our way.
I packed a pack, bundled up, and headed out for the few-mile walk.

It was gorgeous out. The upside of the city sort of being terrible at digging out the roads is the fact that everything still looks beautiful. Clean snow everywhere, kids rolling snowmen and stacking snow forts. Bill joined me as I hustled to meet my friend (Josicar, you are my hero!) and she safely wove us through nasty city streets to get to work... not quite on time, but we made it.

Here's something I learned today: It is weird to walk into work in a windbreaker when it is 20 degrees and thermal running tights while soaking wet.

The plan for the trip home was similar to the plan for the trip to work -- my buddy dropped me off not too far from the exit and I shuffled home in the fading daylight. I wish I lived farther away. I wasn't cold, it was quiet and the snow was still mostly untouched, aside from the fact that I had some actual shoveled sidewalk to walk on.

I wish every commute home from work was this sweet.
It sounds like I am eating SunChips in this vid but really
it's just my screw shoes on packed snow and ice.

Sometimes I wished I had my snowshoes.

If every commute into work was this scenic and relaxing I'd go in on the weekends. I am lying, but I totally do not mind the disruption and change of pace that comes with a massive snowstorm. The city quiets down, neighbors meet for shoveling and beer (I skipped the morning beer -- didn't think it would jive well with working in a NICU) and everyone is forced to slow down a bit. Although I freely admit I miss the magic of snow days -- this is the first job where I am not mandated to stay home (with pay) when we get buried in snow.

That's my only complaint though. There's something rewarding about sitting here right now on the couch with a gin and NUUN in hand (my new favorite drink) after a few hours outside in the snow, a few challenging hours at work and knowing that more snow is (hopefully) on the way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Lady On the Treadmill Next To Me at the Gym Ate Chicken While on Said Treadmill

See post title.

Seriously, she was eating chicken out of a bag while on the treadmill.

Eww, gross.

This is yucky to me for many reasons. First, chicken fat residue on the treadmill controls. Second, the smell of chicken while trying to run a hard 5k sort of made me want to barf. Third, why even go to the gym if you are going to eat fried meat while exercising? At least she was multitasking?

The upside was that the chicken smell made me want to get away so I ran the 5k almost at race pace.

I apologize if this post seems mean, but the surprise at seeing someone eat fried food while exercising is just too bizarre not to share.

Has anyone else encountered anything this strange (or this counterproductive) while at the gym?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shoes and Screws

I can't wait to go to work tomorrow and have people ask me what I did this weekend. I imagine it will go something like this:

Co-worker: What did you do this weekend?
Me: I spent an hour drilling sheet metal screws into the bottom of a pair of trail runners. Actually, Bill did most of it. I mostly just held the shoe.
Co-worker: You are weird.
Me: Thank you. Goodbye.

After my Yaktrax sort of fell apart at Chilly Cheeks I contemplated buying another pair or a pair if Microspikes. But I am cheap, so I decided to spike a pair of older trial runners with screws. I'd heard of people doing this and there are a few how-to guides on the Internet, but I really didn't know what I was doing.

We made a trip to Lowe's just to buy a pack of $4.98 screws (and an extension cord, does the excitement ever end?). Next home, dinner, pjs and then it was time to screw.

Am I wearing footie pajamas with skulls on them? Yes I am!


There's still a bit of snow and ice on the ground and we are suppoesd to get more on Tuesday and Wednesday so hopefully I will be able to take them for a spin soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Race Schedule Goddess is not Cooperating

January 22, 2011

Dear Race Schedule Goddess Up There In the Sky Somewhere,

I understand that it is not realistic for the universe to plan around my world when it comes to scheduling races, but so far 2011 is sucking in terms of getting races on my calendar.

First, you move the location and change the date of a race I was looking forward to. Terrible. Then, you plan a half-dozen other races that I would like to do when things like mandatory weddings, family fun time and other minor life events are already set in stone.

Second, you try to tempt my husband by placing a race that is probably beyond my abilities three feet from where he lives in the summer. He, the non-planner between us, is trying to get me to register immediately for a race that is six months away.

In an attempt to make me hate you less, you schedule a duathlon close to where one of my awesome cousins lives. Family fun, plus a race! Sweet. But you jack up the price for 19 miles of on-road racing to $97.33. Seriously? The Boston Marathon costs only $40 more and it is the freakin' Boston Marathon.

You are leading me to consider options that I am not so sure I want to do -- the New York Marathon, for example. I know that I might not have the chance to do it again so maybe I should get it while it's hot, but 2011 was supposed to be the year of off-road fun. The 26.2 miles through NYC are awesome, but that race is the most on-road thing I have ever encountered.

In conclusion, please be more considerate when scheduling 2012 races. In return I promise to be good and to train hard for (just about) everything that I enter.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Laurie C. Stewart

Thursday, January 20, 2011


For the past few weeks I’ve been staying off the roads for running. The snowy trails have proven to be much more entertaining than boring asphalt and sidewalk. Today though, I hit the road for a few sloppy miles through Germantown and Mt. Airy.

Apparently I’d forgotten about yesterday’s ice storm. Instead of proper footwear for slush and ice I tied on a pair of marathon flats. Brilliant. Within a few feet of my front door the slipping commenced, my feet were soaked and my toes started freezing.

I worked my way down to a main road, dodging dirty snow and small sheets of ice, occasionally thinking that skis would have been more appropriate footwear. As I plugged along, the sidewalk went from regular boring cement to slate. Broken, chipped slabs for a few hundred yards.

I hadn’t run on this section of road for months, maybe even a year. I thought back to the last time I could remember running there -- last winter after the feet of snow stacked for months in Philadelphia began to melt.

The 2009-2010 winter in Philly was epic. Storm after storm pounded the area and I got most of my exercise shoveling snow. Finally, enough snow was gone that getting in an actual run became possible. I remember running along the broken sidewalk at a good clip, happy to not have to worry about leaping over snow piles, vaguely aware that I was zipping past cars stopped in rush hour traffic.

And then, suddenly, I was on the ground. Not even a flash of “(Fill in your favorite expletive here)!! I am falling!” went through my head. I banged my knee and skidded to a stop on my side. I knew right away that I had bloodied my knee. Fortunately I was freezing and couldn’t feel much and I was otherwise okay. I got up, took a moment to feel embarrassed that I had bit it in front of a line of cars and then had no other choice than to continue on my way home. Fortunately, it was only about a mile so I sucked it up and ran as fast as I could, eager to get home to survey the damage.

I stepped into the front door and rolled up the left leg of my running tights. Sure enough, a bloody knee, but it didn’t look too bad at all. Limped over to the medicine cabinet, smooshed some gauze onto the booboo and the bleeding easily stopped.

As I began to thaw I noticed that my left buttoxical region felt weird. A bit naked.

“Uh, I think I hurt my butt,” I thought and decided I’d figure it all out in the shower.

And then I walked past a mirror in our bedroom … got a glimpse of what I apparently put on display for a large chunk of Germantown for the last mile of my run.

My entire left butt was hanging out. Like, half of my entire ass, complete with a nasty cut with a few small pebbles in it.

When I fell I managed to tear my running tights but, because I was already so cold and freezing, I didn’t notice.

I thought I was pretty embarrassed when I fell. Realizing I ran home unintentionally and unknowingly nekkid wasn’t too fun, either.

As an added bonus, I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. I cleaned it, put pressure on it, laid on it, called my doctor friends who suggested a trip to the adult ER, was amazingly late for work and finally wrapped my lower half in enough gauze to make a cozy quilt for the entire Duggar family before deciding what to do next. I didn’t want to spend the day sitting in an ER while some 25-year-old resident decided whether they needed to stitch my badonkadonk (sp?). Instead I called a friend who is married to one of the attendings in the pediatric hospital where I work.

“Think your husband would mind looking at a cut I got out on a run today to see if I need stitches?”
“Nope. Just go to his clinic when you get here. Where’s the cut?”
“My butt.”
“Ok. He’s in clinic until noon.”

The definition of a good friend is someone who doesn’t hate you when you ask their spouse to check out your butt.

The doc said I could get stitches if I wanted less of a scar but that it would soon stop bleeding on its own and would heal mostly okay. A few of the nurses I work with gave me some sort of magic tape and, sure enough, the bleeding stopped. Still have a scar that is pretty gross but knowing I ran around the ‘hood with my ass hanging out is even nastier.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Magic Mittens Saved My First Race of 2011

Sunday marked my first race of the year --the Chilly Cheeks 7.2-mile trail run in random Reading, Pennsylvania, also known as the land of sloppy, messy trail runs that occur rain, sleet, snow, shine, hail, plague or locusts.

We woke up to 20 degrees and sun and bundled in too many layers before making the hour drive to the Reading Liederkranz. The first time we came to a race here, we thought they were kidding. On the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere is a 125-year-old members-only club that celebrates all things German through singing, beer, dancing and bratwurst. And, logically, through all things trail running.

A giant German Apline mustachioed beer stein for
your viewing pleasure. A two-year-old could take
a bath in this thing.
In addition to an established schedule of four annual trail runs, the Liederkranz became home to a 12-hour ultra in 2010. Finish a lap? Get a German beer. A mix of serious runners (I think the winner last year did 75 miles, although I could be making that up) and people who ran for an hour and then dropped. I am considering adding this to my 2011 race calendar.

Anyway, as for Chilly Cheeks, I had zero goals (what can I say, I am ambitious) other than to finish without booboos and to get in a solid training run to start to prep for a spring season of a longer race or two (hopefully).

It was cold, but not bitter, so I shed a few layers just before heading to the start line. Bungeed my old Yacktrax to my trail runners (I think I've officially run the trax into the ground … might be time for something different) and kept on a pair of thick mittens. This turned out to be one of the smarter race decisions I’ve made.

Does he look ready to go, or what?

Squinty in the sunshine, pre-race.
We stood around freezing at the start for a while and then, eventually, we were off. The first 100 yards were downhill on road. Clacking and tapping of Yacktrax and Microspikes cut through the quiet and then took a sharp right and began bushwacking up a steep hill. Chaos! Fun! This race was billed as being both manageable because it’s not too long and tough in terms of terrain. The bushwack certainly proved the later as several hundred runners picked and pulled their way up the 50 yards of unblazed course.

Two seconds in I realized that the line I was on was filled with sticks covered in thorns. All around me people were dropping F bombs and worse as they grabbed onto the nasty pricks in hopes of pulling their way to the top. I, however, had mittens of magic and was thus able to yank myself up the hill without uttering even an “Oh, gee whiz” as my fingers remained thorn-free.

At the top there was a quick sprint through a field and then we were dumped onto some narrow singletrack. Fortunately I was in the right group of people pace-wise – I don’t think I could have passed anyone and it didn’t seem like anyone was breathing down my neck to pass me. We wound around for a bit before hitting what felt like a monster climb. Managed to run the whole way but my lungs started to burn a bit from the biting cold. We had been warned before the race that the downhills would be harder than the uphills. As we hit the first real decent I, unlike some of the people around me who tried to bomb down and soon found themselves faceplanting and sliding into trees, decided to play it conservatively and slowly picked my way down the snow-covered rocks and roots.

On and on we went. I passed a few, got passed by a few and I knew that my pace sucked (I still haven’t accepted the fact that a trail running pace isn’t the same as a road-running pace) but I couldn’t go any faster and everything was starting to hurt.

There were a lot of sharp turns, tight, tight singletrack (hardly wide enough for one person between some of the trees) and tons of slipping and sliding. People would topple over, laugh, get up and keep on going.

Eventually we hit a steep downhill. In good conditions I think it would have been tough to pick my way down while remaining upright. In snow and ice, I thought it would be nearly impossible. So, I sat on the top of the hill, pushed off and, with my magic mittens steering me along, glissaded Laurie-style to the bottom. It worked, mostly – hit a rock or several and now have a bruise or two in places inappropriate to photograph and post on a blog.

I was in a group of entertaining people taking the race seriously enough to push each other but normal enough to have fun. We encouraged each other along and helped each other up as we slipped along.

Suddenly a conch shell horn blew through the Reading hills, letting us know that we were close to the finish. We sprinted across a field, ducked under a guardrail (well, I ducked, everyone else around me was tall so they went over it) and then scrambled up some rocks and junk before a flat sprint to the finish.

I got passed by a woman 15 yards from the finish. Grr. My time was slower than my personal worst 10-mile time on a course 2.8 miles shorter. But the whole thing was so damn entertaining, silly, challenging and worth it that I couldn’t care (much) less.

They gave us pancakes, eggs and coffee at the finish and then we headed inside for beers and banjos.

Rocks and junk. And magic mittens. And a lady who looks like she wants
to punch me.

Instead of punching, she passed me.

The top says "Where 'Coldplay' isn't just a lame band."
Plus nekkid cartoon man running. I will wear it to church.

A post-race beer tastes better than a post-race medal.
Banjo! Guitars!
How random. How fun. A perfect way to start to 2011 racing.

I don’t have anything else officially on the schedule for this year yet. Two longer events penciled in (I hope to put them down in pen soon) for March and April but I am still looking for something that fits into February. We are now going to be away for the race I had my eye on the last weekend of the month and I haven’t found anything else yet that looks fun enough to pay for.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Less of a Lump This Week

Today ends a week of a decent amount of training. I am not yet training for anything specific but am trying to get some endurance back into my legs. About 15 miles of running, three hours on the trainer and two lifting sessions at the gym are helping me to feel less lumpy. Plus special guests snowshoeing and climbing.

I tested out the snowshoes on Wednesday morning. The trails I was on had already been well-traveled from the previous night’s snowfall. Exposed rocks, roots and dirt didn’t seem like a good way to break in my snowshoes so I headed off trail, up and over a few hills. It was fun! The shoes worked well and I was neither freezing nor soaking wet by the end. Plus the bindings were easy to get in and out of and to adjust when I needed to.

The next morning my alarm went off crazy early (for me). Fortunately, it was so early that it was a shock to my system, jolting me out of bed. I met up with Abby for a snowshoe through a mix of blazed trails, creek crossings, and off-trail exploring (mostly by accident – we’d be on the trail and then, 8 steps later, realize we lost it).

Somewhere along the way Abby convinced me to go, along with her husband and Bill, rock climbing at the local gym after work. In a time long, long ago where I went to the rock gym three or four days a week, I had arm muscles, core strength and my hands were callused and capable of dragging along the climbing wall without drawing blood.

I was sort of nervous as we walked into the gym, worrying if I remembered how to belay, if I’d be able to make my way up even a 5.4. Fortunately, I didn’t send anyone plummeting to the ground and, while I didn’t climb well, I wasn’t as amazingly terrible as I thought I would be. And now I want to go back.

Best two-a-day ever.

On Friday, a minor miracle occurred. I got up early again! I rode my trainer for a bit and even managed to get to work almost on time. Over two days I proved to myself that I can get up in the morning and get in a substantial workout if I want to (the problem is that I generally don’t want to).

Today I stared at Bill for a few hours while he worked on a paper and then went to the gym. Aside from the dude who watches you swipe your id card to make sure you aren’t trying to exercise for free, there was no one there. Weird, but nice. I lifted some things that were mildly heavy and then called it a day. My excuse? The Chilly Cheeks trail run is in the morning and I didn’t want to wear myself out.

That, and lifting is boring.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Julie at Adventure Is Out There tagged me! I am it! And apparently also stylish!  So, now I get to share seven things about me … hmm. I think I am going to make none of them about running/biking/snow/being outside. This could be difficult.

7) I like to stay up late. Very late. Regardless of what time I have to wake up I never climb under the covers until at least 12. As a result I have an excessive hatred of mornings. Apparently I was like this from the moment I shot out of the womb. The night before a race or even before a training run (on the days I manage to drag myself out of bed before work to get in some miles) I usually sleep in my running clothes just to stay in bed for a few more minutes. I am not making this up.

6) The first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a nun.  I watched Sound of Music over and over again (I still watch it more than most 33-year-olds I know). My favorite book for years was Bernie Becomes a Nun. From the age of five until about seven this was one of my favorite books to read and to have my parents read to me. I wonder if it is still in their house somewhere because Amazon is selling this thing for 90 bucks! I am not making this up either.

5) The first country I visited was Portugal in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I went with some friends from my Spanish class and my Spanish teacher. I don’t remember a lot about Portugal, other than it must have made a good impression because I want to go back. That, and that, along a river there, there is a statue of Jesus that has a three-meter nose. Our tour guide didn’t know a ton of English and just said over and over again, “That is a statue of Jesus. Jesus has a three-meter nose.” Don’t believe me? Go to Portugal and see Jesus’s three-meter nose for yourself.

4) Three cats live in our house. They are called Vivian, Bob and Kevin. Before we had Kevin we had Barbara. Bill took her to a farm last summer where he says she is now living happily ever after. My mom worries that if we ever have kids we will name them Fluffy, Mittens and Cupcake. She is probably right to be worried.

Philadelphia Folk Fest, circa 2006. Freakin' dirty hippies.

3) Depending on how beer snobby I am feeling my favorite beer is either Golden Monkey or Miller Light. The family we camp with at the Philadelphia Folk Festival (we go just about every year) even named our camp site The Golden Monkeys in honor of the beer. Depsite having a zillion folk fest pictures this is the only family photo I could find that also sort of shows our Golden Monkey flag. The Golden Monkey beer, unfortunately, didn't make the picture.

2) In high school I was voted class clown. All of my other friends got “most likely to succeed” or “smartest person ever” or “most likely to do something with their lives that will actually improve humanity.” Oh well. At least I could make people giggle.

1) I think oranges (or any fruit even slightly similar to an orange) are disgusting as is yogurt with fruit on the bottom.

I am too lazy to tag anyone else, so that is all. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I Did Last Night

After a day at work that sort of made me want to bang my head against the wall 4,562 times I fled and met up with  a friend for a beer, food and Scrabble. I knew we were at the right place when the bartender clapped when we busted out the game and then would stop by periodically to comment on our words (he was only impressed with "pithy" and "ova.")

At first it wasn't snowing at all. Then, a little bit. Then, a lot. And suddenly the roads were covered. Ran out the bar door, brushed off the car and slowly headed home.

As I walked in the door I said to Bill that I wanted to go for a run. We did some chores, sat around and then Bill asked me when I wanted to leave for a run. It was 9:45. We were out the door five minutes later for a 3-mile happy run through the snow. Cold, quiet and beautiful. Scrabble followed by running therapy is awesome for eliminating work brain.

Bill is in adventure race training mode. 

Snow + night + run = happy.

Can you see me?
Unfortunately we didn't get piles of snow dumped on us. Hopefully just enough to take the snowshoes out for a spin in a little bit, though. Also my goal for 2011 is to post 8,412 pictures of me in the snow. Hopefully more of it will fall from the sky soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Dirty Little Secret

Please study these pictures closely. You will be quizzed on this.
Climbing! But really just laying on some rocks.
Running in a duathlon.

Sitting near  (but not in) the ocean.

Changing out of bike shoes while looking ridiculous.

Vivian, the grumpy-looking cat.
  What do all of these pictures have in common? Please circle only one.

A) All of the pictures do not involve me swimming.
B) All of the above.

If you picked choice A or B you are correct.

I am going to tell you a secret. I can’t swim. If you threw me into a pool I wouldn’t drown (at least not immediately) and I can competently splash around in ocean waves, but ask me to do a lap and I sink like a big fat brick. During elementary school summers my friends would get up at 7 and head to the local pool for a few hours of swim team training. I’d stay in bed and join them in the afternoon for games of Marco Polo or Sharks and Minnows.

One summer I signed up to do a lap-a-thon to raise money for cystic fibrosis. I raised $4. I sucked. A year later lifeguards in Ocean City, Maryland, had to rescue me after I got sucked a bit too far out and decided I couldn’t manage to swim back to shore.

I can’t remember the last time I actually went for a swim – likely it’s been close to 20 years. My gym doesn’t have a pool, there’s no body of water to swim in within a reasonable distance of my house and, quite honestly, I don’t feel like being mediocre at anything else athletic – that list is long enough.

“So how many Ironmans have you done?” I’ve been asked more than once.

“Zero. Plus, it’s not really something that you can sign up for and then just sort of show up,” I answer.

“Is it because it’s so far?”

“No, it is because I can’t swim. And I don’t want to take the time to learn how.”

I’ve never done even a sprint tri, and likely never will. I am cool with avoiding the water and, despite the increasing number of local triathlons, I am not even tempted to join in the fun.

That is all.

A New Toy

Bill must work at REI forever and ever as my life of playing outside depends on his discount. Tonight's purchase? Snowshoes.

I finally decided on a pair after testing just about every model in the store. Uh, it is hard to test show shoes when not on snow. I almost tipped over 21 times. Well, either it is difficult or I just fail at snowshoeing . Through process of elimination, including nixing a pair that apparently need to be used only by people who wear a size 22 shoe and some with pink flowers on them, I made my pick (Atlas 923s, in case you randomly care).

Do you think they will work if I wear pj socks?
And if I leave on the tag?
I almost snagged a pair of cross-country skis and boots too but the size skis I needed were out (well, I could get shorter ones and then lose 10 pounds in order to have them work... alas, I like cheese and beer, so I will wait until some roll in in my size).

Supposedly Philadelphia is going to get a few inches, maybe more, of snow over the next two days. I hope we do so I can test out these clompers. Of course, making this purchase guarantees Philly won't see a single snowflake for the rest of the year. Oh well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More Running in the Snow. And a Race.

After putzing around the house for most of the morning I headed out for some hill repeats followed by a few trail miles. The hill repeats turned into just a hill repeat -- I'd forgotten what a monster this hill was. Hadn't been on it for repeats in probably 6 or 7 years. When I first started running my roommate at the time would drag me to the bottom of the hill and make me run up it five times. It was terrible. I hated every second of it. But, it got me in decent shape fast.

I've been pretty lumpy since the New York Marathon and am now getting back into training mode so to the hill it was. I lasted through two repeats. My legs felt great, my heart rate felt fine (what do I know, though, I don't use a monitor) but my lungs felt like they were turning to ice. It sort of hurt and I gave up after two before ducking into the trails for a few miles.

I wasn't expecting to see snow! Apparently Philly got a few inches on Friday or Saturday. I was away so I missed it actually falling and by the time I got back to the city the streets and sidewalks were clear so I didn't realize it had snowed.

Snow? Yay!

Snow makes me smile.

I had fun slipping up the uphills, sliding down the downhills and crunching along the flats. One tiny drainage stream that is usually nothing more than a glorified puddle actually had a little something to it so I found myself completing the last two miles with sopping wet, chilly feet. I am not sold on Goretex trail runners so I guess this is what I get.

Supposedly more snow is coming mid-week. I think I might suck it up and head to REI tomorrow night for snowshoes and/or cross-country skis.

Also, I just registered for my first race of the year, a 7.2 mile slog through the trails of Reading, Pa. I've never done this specific race before but the race company usually puts on runs that are challenging, silly and fun. I am glad to have something officially on the calendar. Actually, I think this run will be the earliest in the year I have ever raced. I am not remotely in race shape but hopefully this will help me start to get there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Am Lazy

In sorting through some older digital pictures I found this gem. Instead of helping to portage a canoe during an adventure race I decided it would be easier to carry all of my gear, my teammate's gear and our paddles. I've managed to prove that it is possible to be active while being amazingly lazy all at the same time.

I am ridiculous. I also look like I am trying to steal 88 loaves of bread under my race
jersey. As an added bonus I look completely miserable.
That is all.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Books! And a Tiny Bit of Running! And a Link to a Sweet Giveaway!

I like the mail woman this week!

First, she brought me A Year of Adventure: A Guide to the World's Most Exciting Experiences. Thanks to a giveaway from Abby** I now have a year-long guide to all the fun stuff I'd rather be doing this year.

The book is organized month by month, each month featuring outside funness in season throughout the world. At first I thought the book would make me sad as I clearly won't be able to do the more than 250 trips, adventures and outdoor endeavors in my lifetime, let alone in 2011.

Until I read adentures for the first week of January -- suggestion number two was bobsledding in Lake Placid. We've actually done this! Ok, just Bill, but I was there so it counts! He rolled in 2010 with a ride around the old Olympic bobsled and louge track. I was going to try skeleton (somehow they let you do this on your own with basically no training) but got a tiny bit nervous and didn't do it.

And then, yesterday, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geography. After realizing I know even less about geography than I thought I hit up Amazon and decided to brush up on my world geography skills. So far I haven't even opened it but my one and only New Year's resolution is to learn all of the countries on Africa and Europe and their major landforms. What do I plan to do with this knowledge? Nothing, other than to hopefully feel a bit less dumb.

Unrelated: I finally managed to get in my first few runs of 2011. First up was 4 miles on the beautiful treadmill at the gym. I decided to go hard and felt like I was running at the speed of sound. Unfortunately my average pace was terrible for me. My marathon endurance is gone but unfortunately I have retained my sluggish marathon pace. Awesome.

Today I did 5 or so miles on the trails. I felt okay and was having fun until I got home. The clock said it was 11:54. On Wednesdays I work from noon until 8. Six minutes to stop being a sweaty mess, shower, get out the door and to work? Didn't happen. Not even close.

**Also unrelated, but way more fun than me rambling about running: Abby at Have Dental Floss, Will Travel is having a sweet giveaway, guaranteed to get you outside even on the snowiest and iciest of days. If you hate being outside in the cold, you can use the spikes to defend your home in case an intruder gets in.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Touch the Sky

In Pennsylvania, skiing means one of a few things:
  • Packing up the car and driving for 6 hours or more to Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York or Maine
  • Spending your life savings (well, at least it would be my life savings) to fly your person and all your gear out west
  • Packing next to nothing, tossing your skis in the trunk, plopping down a whopping $30 to crash in a hotel and heading to the Poconos.

The Poconos seem like a collection of Mt. Everests when biking up them but like glorified driveways when skiing down them. We only had 36 hours, we hadn't skiied/snowboarded yet this year and we will take what we can get so Blue Mountain it was.

When I first moved to Philly the mountain's slogan was "Touch the Sky!" Unless the heavens are rapidly descending to ground level there's no truth in this advertising but we had fun in the sunshine and the nearly-empty slopes. No spills, no disasters, so, yay!

Bill snowboards. I ski. Can this marriage survive?

Touch the sky. Or, actually, just touch its undercarraige if you are tall enough.

This is me, I swear. Bill just forgot about the zoom button.
We are dorks!

Unrelated: I am watching a documentary on the 1994 winter Olympics. It is awesome. Bonnie Blair's and Dan Jensen's stories are fantastic. That is all.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't Ask Me What a Mummer Is

Bill and I welcomed 2010 by waking as the sun rose, having a cozy breakfast at our motel and heading to the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid. Essentially the only people there, Bill went for a bobsled ride. We followed up his slide with a “group” cross-country lesson (our group included Bill, me, our teacher and no one) for $10 and then 20k of skiing through the trails where we saw about six other people the entire time.

We eventually made our way back to the cross-country lodge where a few dozen skis sat outside waiting for their owners to finish their muesli before padding back outside for a few more laps. We ran into our teacher, sipping a cup of tea.

“God, this is the most crowded I’ve ever seen it here,” she said.

We loved it.
Can you pick me out of the crowd?
But, we also love Philly (most of the time) so we welcomed 2011 in opposite fashion of 2010. This morning we hopped on the train for a 15-minute ride downtown. A backpack packed not with Powerbars and Gu this time, but with a few beers. Why?

The Mummers parade.

What’s a Mummer? There’s quite the history (read about it here if you wish) as to how they came to their current state.

I came to Philadelphia in 1996 for college and basically never left. Here I sit, 14 years later, and I still can’t quite figure out what a Mummer is. On parade day, first the clubs of drunk people walk by. And then the string bands come, each with a different theme and the groups are judged at different points along the parade route.
The part of the parade where Mummers walk down
the street smoking, drinking and being merry.
People pack onto Broad Street hours ahead of the parade start, kids and beers in tow, and love every minute of it.

I’ve been to the parade about 4 times in my 14 years here. I never know what to make of it and sometimes want to run away from the whole thing... some of the Mummers groups are occasoinally a bit, well, stuck in 1952. Some of the groups don’t allow women (seriously) and some of them sometimes have themes that make me cringe.

In college a friend and I wrote a column for the school paper. New to Philadelphia, we questioned the Mummer tradition. Hate mail poured in (well, as much as mail can pour into the paper of a college with 2,200 students). Philadelphia loves its sports teams (try being a Redskins fan in this town … another reason I should wear a helmet at all times), Philadelphia loves its cheesesteaks and Philadelphia loves it some Mummers.

But, I will admit, I do think the whole thing is intriguing and mostly entertaining. I find myself asking a good friend who is a Mummer months before New Year’s Day what his group’s theme is and how rehearsals are going. Impressive people-watching. Impressive spectacle.

I stood atop of a giant planter. Bill looked short.

I looked scared.

Except when I didn't.

Is this scary to anyone else?

Larry, our Mummer friend.