Monday, February 28, 2011

We Didn't Get Shot at the Gun Club, Nor Eaten by Bears, and Also Happy Birthday to My Mother-In-Law

Here's a song for my mother-in-law who turned 60 today: Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to our guest! Happy birthday, happy birthday, ChiChi's wishes you the best! Ole!

To celebrate my mother-in-law turning 40 shy of a century we surprised her with a weekend in the Poconos. My father-in-law convinced her that it would just be the two of them hanging out in a rented house for the weekend. Except on Friday night all four of her sons and her two daughter-in-laws showed up at the front door. SURPRISE! In the six of us traipsed with our cases of beer, tequila, Scrabble and Guess Who? for a weekend of hanging out.

I was happy to learn that Hickory Run State Park (we'd been there a few times before) was only a few miles away -- a weekend that could have been spent eating cheese by the block and drinking beer by the dozen instead turned into a weekend of eating cheese by the block and drinking beer by the dozen with intermittent running and hiking thrown in.

After planning a route by looking at an old map haniging on the wall that basically looked like this we thought our run on Saturday would be simple -- two or so miles on the road followed by a brief duck into a neighborhood to a trail head that would lead us to Hickory Run.

Except that none of the roads had street signs. At all. We wandered around for a bit before venturing into the woods, hoping that a brief, snowy bushwack would lead us to the trail. After about 40 minutes of bickering about where to go and how to get there we stepped out of the thick cover of bushes, trees and snow onto a trail. Success! We could see the trail head about 50 yards away and Bill suggested that we take a look just to make sure we were where we thought we were.

We weren't where we thought we were:

We are not members of the Silver Bullet Gun Club. Just to clarify.
Actually, we were where we thought we were, but our bobo map did not indicate that our desired trail was, in fact, the main route through the Silver Bullet Gun Club. Lesson learned. We headed back on the roads, deciding to save Hickory Run for the next day.

As we began our hike on Sunday we discussed our last trip to Hickory Run.

It was 2005 and we were on bikes. Weeks' worth of food was hitched to the back of my bike in a simple canvas bag. Getting hit by cars, sweating our asses off, not finding a diner with apple pie for lunch had been pressing concerns, but not bears. Until we got to Hickory Run.

Lady Working at the Campground Check-In: (looks at us, looks at our bikes, looks behind us for our car) We are telling people to keep their food in their car but you don't have one, so be on the lookout for bears. We have had some issues with them the past few weeks.
Me: Uh, ok. This should be a great night's sleep.
LWATCC: You are really going to sleep here with your food not locked away? Really? What about the bears?

Lady, what did you want us to do? We'd ridden 100 miles in two days in the sweltering heat, lugging tents, water, food, extra bike crap, clothes and travel Scrabble every inch of the way. Where were we going to go? Plus, the scary motels we passed along the way were more terrifying to us than the possibility of being eaten by bears. So we snagged some rope from the camp store and slung our food bag over a tree a bit away from our tent and hoped for the best. To make a short story long we didn't get eaten by bears.

Fast-forward to Sunday. "I am sure there aren't actually bears that would eat us," I speculated as we bushwacked along a deer-carved path.

"I am sure that they are," Bill countered.





Then, before our argument got juvenile, Bill won -- I looked down and, stamped in the snow, was a bear track. Yay. We quickly worked our way back to the trail most traveled, not wanting to encounter a damn bear.

Looking out for bears. I spied none, fortunately.
Unfortunately I forgot my gloves and had to borrow
a gigantic pair from Bill.

Me and my best "I don't wanna see a bear" face.
The rest of the hike was similarly bear-free, void of other people and, surprisingly, perfectly flat. A fun change of scenery before heading back to Philly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Approximately 78.2 percent of the blogs I read currently have the ABCs posted so I thought I would join in the fun. So here’s a ton of unimportant stuff about me. Twenty-six things in alphabetical order:

Age: 33 years old

Bed size: Double. It is cozy.

Chore you hate: Emptying the dishwasher. Terrible.

Dogs: They are sort of like people to me in that I generally don’t like them until I get to know them a bit. And then they are usually ok.

Essential start to your day: Hitting the snooze button at least three times.

Favorite color: Black.

Gold or Silver: White gold.

Height: Seven-foot-three. That is a lie. I am five-foot-two on a good day.

Instruments you play: None, really. I played violin for about five years and was just as bad on the day I stopped as the day I started. I have a mandolin that I sometimes bust out when Bill is away – don’t want to make his ears bleed.

Job title: NICU social worker.

Kids: None the last time I checked.

Live: Philadelphia, PA.

Mom’s name: Joann but no one calls her that. My MomMom wanted to name her Joy but back in the day the Catholic church required that you name your kid after a saint. So on paper she is Joann but in reality she is Joy.

Nicknames: Buckwheat. Pony. Answered to Scrappy more than Laurie for about 8 years.

Overnight hospital stays: Never as a patient and only once otherwise – last year when I got snowed in at work.

Pet peeve: Snoring. I will put a pillow over your head if you do it.

Quote from a movie: "Play as well as you can." -- Harold and Maude

Right- or left-handed: Right-handed.

Siblings: One brother, Josh. He is five years younger than I am and runs five times faster than I do. He runs 80 miles a week just for something to do and never races.

Time you wake up: Too late to be on time and too early to feel like I got a good sleep.

Underwear: Um, yes. And when it is cold out I wear running tights under actual pants to work because my office is amazingly freezing.

Vegetables you dislike: Beets. They taste like dirt.

What makes you run late: Mornings.

X-Rays you’ve had: Several when I broke my arm when I was four and then a ton a few years later when I fell off my bike and knocked out a bunch of teeth.

Yummy food you make: Home-made pasta.

Zoo favorite animal: Rhinos.

That is all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Have I Done?

I am now completely convinced that the reason the North Face race registration Web site was down for four days was the universe trying to tell me not to register for the 50k portion of a race festival the weekend of June 4.

But the site started working again. And so I registered. Seventy-five bucks seems like a bargain for 31 miles , right? Plus registration includes a t-shirt! Sweet! I need more of those. The three bins of race shirts that live underneath our guest bed need more company.

As soon as I hit the "confirm" button I'd wondered what I had done. 2011 was supposed to be the year of backing off a bit but now I find myself registered for sort of a lot of races.

How does one train for a trail 50k? I am not really sure, but I am going to guess that it includes a lot of running.

Unrelated: Here's a link to a guest post on Have Dental Floss, Will Travel a few weeks ago. Just in case you were wondering why I like to adventure race. Really, it is all about the peanut M&Ms.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Hate Technology and Shopping for Running Shoes

I've been trying to register for the Washington, DC edition (it's actually about 45 minutes west of the city, but close enough, I guess) of the North Face Endurance Challenge trail race since Saturday. I checked the site that morning to make sure that registration was open, called a friend to make sure she was in for the race, went back to register and apparently the North Face hates me becaues the site has been down ever since.

I miss paper race registrations. I sort of hate technology sometimes. Unlike Kip.

Here's something else that I hate: Trying to buy trail running shoes. Seriously, all I want out of life right now is new trail runners. I've called six (6) locan running stores -- none have the ones I want in my size. I sort of gave up on the ones I wanted and headed tonight to REI thinking that I could at least utalize Bill's employee discount. Except this season someone made the brilliant decision to carry a total of four women's trail running shoes. Mostly Gore-Tex, which I didn't want, and mostly a brand that I have an awkward past with -- they've added a nice collection of blister scars to my already nasty feet. The one remaining pair was apparently designed to be worn by someone with feet the width of a pencil.

So instead of running shoes I stocked up on enough Gus and Lunabars to carry me through the 2012 season and a fleece. Because my secret goal in life is to own 5,678 fleeces. Fleeci. Fleece?

My rant is now over.

That is all.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend News

In second grade Mondays started with a required documentation of everything we did that weekend. Most kids wrote a page or so. I would write, like, 14 pages, documenting everything I ate, what I wore, what I did, what I saw and what I felt. After we were done writing we had to stand up and read it to the class. Our teacher called it Weekend News, "news" obviously being a subjective term. Regardless, second-grade habits die hard so I bring you Weekend News, the February 20th edition.

With no commitments this weekend Bill and I found ourselves with plenty of time to train, and no good excuse not to.

And now I am sort of hurting. At least the leg part of me. I think my legs are pissed at me and are trying to vacate the rest of my person. Ouch. I used them a lot this weekend, starting bright and early Friday morning for an hour spin on the trainer. Most Fridays that counts as enough for the day. Because who wants to start the weekend with exercise?

A weekend of training births mad amounts of laundry. Fun.
Apparently I do, at least this weekend. And I wasn't even entirely anti-social about it. Abby organized a night-time hike through Wissahickon Park and couldn't have picked a better night for it. The night was clear, the night was calm, and most importantly the night was warm. I even contemplated heading out in just a tank top and arm warmers (but changed my mind). About 10 of us trekked through the trails for about two hours, looking much like The Seven (or Ten) Dwarfs heading out to work for the day as we lit the park with our headlamps and trudged along with our packs.

I wish that Philly was safe enough that I felt comfortable heading out on my own in the dark -- I am a night person (not in a vampire way, just in an "I like to stay up late" way) and felt like I could have gone on for a few more hours. I was a tiny bit sad when we reached our endpoint after about 5 miles on the trails.

My late-night hike must have worn me out -- by the time I peeled my eyelids open on Saturday it was 10:30. Uh, when left to my own devices I have the sleep habits of a 14-year-old. Way to sleep the day away, Laur.

Our big exciting plan for Saturday was to run to the gym, lift and run home, about a 6.5-mile round-trip. The way there is basically entirely downhill except for a few flat sections so we got to the gym quickly. It was at the gym, however, that I got stupid. Doing 100 lunges on each leg with weights in each hand seemed like a reasonable idea at the time, but as soon as I was done I realized I was dumb. If pain is weakness leaving the body, than what the hell is weakness entering the legs? I knew the run home was going to be miserable and I was right.

While I was lunging at the gym Bill was apparently consuming mass quantities of speed. When we set out for what I was hoping was going to be more of a trek than a run home, Bill took off and I struggled to keep up as we climbed back to our front door.

About half-way home he yelled at me to keep up, pissing me off. I did what any normal wife would do -- turned around and, invigorated by my pissed-offedness, sprinted in the opposite direction and took the long way home, adding about 3/4ths of a mile onto my trip.

Our plan for today? A 40-mile round trip ride to Valley Forge with a run wedged in between. I woke up to tired legs and the idea of suggesting to Bill that we spend the day sitting on the couch eating chips and drinking beer instead of doing something silly like training. But with races looming ahead I knew this was no time to be lazy. Although I secretly hoped that the trail to Valley Forge was still snowy like it was last week.

We headed out at around noon. The ride to Valley Forge is downhill for 6 miles followed by about 14 miles of perfectly flat paved trail. About 10 miles into the ride Bill asked me how I felt. "Tired," I answered honestly. "We aren't even half-way there," he reminded me.


We made it there uneventfully and I chowed down on Rice Krispie treats and Wheat Thins (endurance food of champions) before we locked our bikes Pee-Wee Herman-style and headed out on foot for an hour on the trails.

Two U-locks, two cords and a combination lock equals
don't steal our bikes, please.
Our time on foot was fine. Bill ate a PB&J along the way and I took a nap.

Just joshing you! I wasn't really asleep!
Then, the moment I had not been waiting for -- the ride home. I think I was just anxious to get back to the house because I took off, Bill right behind. He eventually took the lead and I drafted off of him, but we were making good time. And we sort of had to move -- we'd left later than we should have but didn't have lights with us and were racing the sunset.

All was going perfectly fine. I was tired and seemingly felt every muscle in my legs working hard with each pedal stroke, but I wasn't splayed out on the side of the trail having a temper tantrum so I was happy with the way things were going. We hit the main climb on the way home and while I was slowing I felt ok and reminded myself that the training would hopefully pay off next month in the duathlon and in April for the Rev3.

We were about two miles from home when I heard a loud ping followed by a hiss.

"Uh, maybe someone is celebrating  Sunday with a bottle of champagne and, simultaneously, there is a snake next to me hissing?," I hoped.

Alas, this was not the case and I yanked my bike onto the sidewalk as my back tire slowly leaked out air. In my 11 or so years of riding bikes semi-regularly, I've had two flats -- one the first time I tried to jump a curb (I thought you could just hit it full-force and the bike would do the rest) and the second at about mile 1,185 of a 1,200-mile bike trip we took one summer.

And then today, 2 miles from our house with darkness creeping up on us. I said bad words loudly a bunch of times and then got to work. By the time I'd yanked off the wheel, took off the tire and removed the punctured tube, Bill was ready to go with the new tube and we had everything back together in about five minutes. The culprit? A giant nail.

Hooray for teamwork.

We made it home just as the last bit of sunshine disappeared. I think that tomorrow I will be hurting a bit. I'm contemplating just staying home from work and then trying to convince my boss that I thought I had the day off for President's Day. Think it will work?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fair is Fair

As most of us geeks who pay attention to the Boston Marathon, this year's race sold out in 8 hours and change. In response to the mad rush to register (and to the fact that fast runners with slow computers or, uh, had jobs to go to on registration day) got shut out the Boston Athletic Association announced that the qualifying process would undergo changes.

The changes were announced today, and while I am essentially guaranteed of never running Boston again unless I magically run faster and faster as I get older, I think the changes are fair.

Basically, runners who best the qualifying time for their age groups by 20 minutes or more get to register first in a few-day window. This group is followed by runners who qualified with 10 minutes to spare, followed by those with 5 extra minutes and then, if the race isn't sold out, for runners who met the qualifying standard by 4:59 or less. The qualifying times were also slashed by 5 minutes and 59 seconds for all age groups, meaning, for example, that a woman my age (33) would now need to run a 3:35 instead of a 3:40:59. A 3:35 would be the slowest possible qualifying time to get in. It wouldn't guarantee entry by any stretch -- just the chance to register if those who qualify by greater margins don't fill up the race first.

So, the fastest runners get in, those who are a little faster probably get in, those who are a little slower might get in and those who meet the maximum qualifying time probably won't.

My only issue with this is that it takes away the fun of crossing the finish line in a qualifying race and knowing that Beantown is in your future. That, and the fact that I would likely need to run a 3:25 to be sure of getting in, which is something I don't see myself doing at any point (I think I would have to put forth way too much effort at expense of just about everything else-- I struggled to get my qualifying time under the old standards to begin with).

It does seem fair. Why should slower runners get in just because they managed to get through to the BAA server first on registration day? It should be a race to the finish line, not a race to see who has the faster computer.

So what's my plan for Boston in the future? My plan is to not worry about it. There's more to life than Boston (although it is pretty damn fun) -- for now I'll focus on the other fun races out there -- adventure races, one day meeting my goal of a sub-20 5k (yeah, right), hopefully a 50k or a few in the next two years if I could just buck up and register for one and focusing on my half-marathon times to land myself in the NYC Marathon. And also duathlons and maybe a 50-miler. Or a 100k. Ok, not a 50-miler or 100k, ever. But more trail runs. And, you know, everything else out there that is fun.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

From Demoralized to Moralized in Four Sloppy Miles

Today was supposed to be a long day of training. Bill and I had nowhere to be except outside so we decided not to set an alarm, sleep in and then hop on our mountain bikes for a fast and flat ride to Valley Forge. Our plan was to lock up the bikes once we got there, run for an hour and then ride home for a total of four hours or so of training.

Except last night I started getting sneezey. I was hanging out with some co-workers and I sneezed. Twice. They looked at me with alarm. "Um, you just sneezed and you never sneeze," one said. "You look confused. Are you sick?"

"NO! I AM NOT!," I yelled, deciding if I was defiant enough I would, in fact, not be sick.

"Shit," I thought. I suck at being sick and really did not feel like being relegated to the couch for a day, let alone several.

I've been fortunate to avoid even a single sneeze, sniffle or barf for at least four years (bachelorette party not included). I work in a children's hospital and thus spend the majority of my course of employment scrubbing my hands, getting jacked up with vaccines a few times a year and otherwise subsiding on a diet of hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial soap and surgical gloves. The germs have gotten the point and have stayed away.

So when I started sneezing, hacking and otherwise feeling not so great I didn't know what to think. When I got home I ate a few Benadryls and fell into bed.

Eleven (11) hours later I woke up. It was almost 11:30. Way to sleep the day away. I felt better. Not great, but not bad enough to bail on our ride and run.

We headed out and I was grumpy. I wanted to stay home. I wanted to sit on the couch, drink coffee and watch snowboarding on TV in my pajamas.

We rode to the beginning section of the trail, a two-mile stretch along a narrow canal. Or, The Land That Sun Forgot. There was snow, slush, ice, mud, muddy ice, snowy mud and slushy snow everywhere. Riding on it was misearable. My rear wheel kept drifting, regardless of my gearing, cadence or speed. Bill was fairing better but at the rate we were going it was going to take hours to get to Valley Forge.

I was entirely demoralized.

Riding with one foot unclipped in case I started to tip over, I felt like I was better suited for training wheels and the Strawberry Shortcake bike I had when I was four than an actual big-girl bike. I could have walked faster than I was going. I was a sneezing, dirty, muddy, slushy pissed off mess and still had hours to go.

We figured that once we got to the actual path, flat and paved, we'd be good to go. Except when we got there the conditions were even worse. It looked like six inches of fresh powder had just fallen. We stared at the trail in front of us. We stared at the trail off in the distance. No clean ground to be seen.

There was no way we'd make it to our destination in any sort of appropriate timeframe. Based on how slow we went along the first two miles of the trail we estimated three hours just to get there. I. Was. Not. Going. Fully prepared to have a temper tantrum if Bill insisted, I fell in love with him all over again when he suggested a change in plans.

"Lets hit a few hills and then dump the bikes in the Wissahickon and run for a while before heading home," he offered.

Man of my dreams.

We turned around and hit our first climb. Less than two miles after I'd considered jumping off the bike and having a full-fledged Veruca Salt tantrum I suddenly felt like I was flying. I was able to match Bill's pace and was no longer gasping for breath. We eventually wound our way to Wissahickon Park, locked the bikes and headed off for a fun 45-minute run. My legs were tired but I felt infinately better than I had at the start of the ride.

We got home only about three hours after we'd left. Not exactly the long training day we'd been hoping for but better than I expected.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

5ks Aren't as Scary as I Remember

Philadelphia’s recent freezing, snowy winters have apparently made me a bit hard. When today’s forecast called for a high of 40 degrees I immediately decided that capri tights, a tank top and arm warmers would be perfect attire for today’s Cupid’s Chase 5k. Fortunately, I decided to bike to the start line as it was only a handful of miles from my house and mostly downhill so I had a few extra layers on. The race was actually freezing and I wore just about everything I brought (minus the thermal tights, bike shoes and helmet, although wearing all that could have been awesome).

Note to Laurie: The possibility of a 40-degree high does not mean that there won’t be wind, that the temp will reach that along the river that runs along the race course, or that the high will be reached at 9 a.m. It also does not mean that 40 degrees is warm.

Bill decided to sit this one out and served not only as cheerleader, but as the mule for my scrapped stuff while I ran. Best early Valentine’s Day gift ever!

I was sort of nervous -- I hadn’t run a 5k in forever, since the summer of 2009 (I think). There’s a reason for the 18-month lapse and for why the memories I have of the distance have faded – they aren’t remotely pretty. Lungs and legs on fire every step of the way, dry-heaving at the finish line and then coughing up lung junk for hours afterward don’t exactly make me want to run one every weekend.

It was quite unwarm as we waited around for the race to start (this was its first year, and there were a huge number of walk-up registrations that they hadn’t expected). I couldn’t feel my feet that well and my eyes watered from the cold wind.

Finally it was time to go. After almost running down a racer in a giant fanny pack pushing her uneager 5-year-old son in front of her (sorry!) a few feet after the start line, the field spread out quickly. I was surprised, because there were about 600 runners crammed onto an out-and-back along a 12-foot wide paved, flat trail. I found myself running alone after the first half-mile. Took a quick glimpse behind me and didn’t see anyone too close to race, and the closest runner in front of me was too far to simply chase. I felt like I was in a race of one.

My brief warm-up had been fairly terrible. Everything felt slow and heavy, so I was surprised to see the first mile tick by at a solid pace for me. A few minutes later the leaders passed on their way back and I surprised myself by coming to the turnaround without feeling like a hot mess.

And then, a collision. I stare at my feet when I run unless I am on technical trails. A bad habit and terrible form, I know, but it’s what I do. As I was on my way back, there were occasional packs of people running on their way out, four or five across. I didn’t see him coming directly for me, he didn’t see me either and I managed to bounce off of a 78-foot tall, inexplicably sweaty, dude (sorry to you too, sir). I stayed on my feet and decided to look up to avoid future head-ons. That’s when I realized that I was starting to catch up to a small pack of runners about 10 yards in front of me and I was slowly able to reel all but one of them in (Vibram 5 Fingers Man, I salute you and your ability to take off like a gazelle when you realized you were about to be passed) and I managed to pass a couple more people before nearing the finish line.

In college I rowed for a few years  and when we were bad or slow, our “punishment” was to run basically the exact race route. I always ran with my pair and we’d always fall into a dead sprint about 300 meters from the end. That was 12 years ago but it sounded like a good plan to me today, so off I went at the exact street sign that used to trigger our sprint.

I crossed the finish line and realized I probably could have gone a bit faster. No real dry heaving (although I’d like to borrow someone else’s lungs for the rest of the weekend), no feeling like complete death. Not necessarily a good thing. I was happy enough with my time though, especially since my main focus in training right now is slow but steady adventure racing, not anything remotely fast. I think it was my third or fourth or maybe fifth or 67th fastest 5k (I am bad of keeping track of my times except for a few PRs that I hold near and dear) but I know it wasn’t a PR (I’d love to know my 5k PR… I have a rough idea and know what race it was, but can’t find the results).

My co-worker Meredith ran today too. She is starting to get sucked into racing, slowly but surely and was hoping to beat her previous 5k time. I am glad I was paying attention to the people finishing as opposed to the clock because she scooted across the finish line about two minutes ahead of schedule. A two-minute PR in a 5k = impressive to me.

Here’s a picture to commemorate Meredith’s big day:

No medals (but we did get coconut water, that stuff is delicious!) but I happily added the race shirt to my many layers for the bike ride home. That hurt more than the run, actually. I’d taken the pack of stuff from Bill (I swear it weighed 789 pounds) and got to ride into a headwind most of the way. I happily tumbled inside the house and haven’t moved off the couch since, except for a brief nap I took on the dining room floor.

Windburnt! Home! Thank God for heat!

I had fun today – much more fun than I thought I would. Now I am peeking around for a 5k to do in the next few weeks. Not to train for specifically, but there’s something nice in a 5k about knowing that the finish line is never too far away.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Wissahickon Fail

Today I woke up and threw on winter running gear filled with good intentions -- run to the park, five hill repeats, run home, with a pack -- for me, a solid workout for the middle of the week.

The plan was to make the repeats way less boring by meeting Abby in the park. I shuffled around the house searching for my cell phone to make sure our playdate was still on. Twenty minutes later I was behind schedule and still hadn't found my phone. I headed out and stopped by my car -- there the cell sat, riding shotgun.

I decided to drive to the park, which was mistake number one. I soon hit traffic, something I don't usually see in the streets immediately surrounding mine. As I sat in the complete standstill I peeked at my phone. Texts from Abby -- the sweltering, cozy 17 degrees wasn't thrilling her so she was smart enough to move her hill workout to the gym.

I briefly contemplated joining her, but realized that by the time I worked my way out of traffic it would be next Tuesday before I'd make it to her gym (and, uh, the idea of hill repeates on a treadmill made me a little bit scared and sad). So on I went. Or on I didn't go -- going the mile from my house to the park took 20 minutes. I rarely, rarely drive to the park -- it's downhill, it's close, there's no need to, and today's misadventure solidified that I will never drive there again.

Finally, I pulled into the lot -- time to move. I reached to pull on my mittens. And, no gloves. I'd left them on the coffee table at home. Should I run without them and just deal with freezing hands? I decided that would be a dangerous idea and so I pulled back into traffic, wove my way home, grabbed the mittens and headed back to the park (a different, traffic-fee way this time).

Time to run. For real this time. The obvious route to the hill was covered in ice. Even with screws in my shoes it sucked. I eventually headed off trail onto softer snow and found myself bushwacking my way to the repeat hill. I was ready to be done by the time I got there but faked my way through a measly three repeats before taking the long way back to the car.

I rolled my ankles a dozen times on the rutted ice, lurching along, but managed to stay upright the whole way.  Success?

On my way back, I passed the spot of the cute little snowperson I saw last week. He sadly lost his head and most of his torso as well. And, where his neck used to be there was an empty pack of Newports. Not my finest outing in Wissahickon Park!

So sad.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NomNomNom and Random

For me, adventure race training is more about time on my feet and bike -- just keep moving-- than speed. I've wrapped up each of the past two weeks with about 12 hours of training time complete. For me, this is a lot.

This might sound decent on paper, but my body is well aware that I am trying to get it into shape for a long, slow (hopefully not THAT slow) 26-hour slog through northern Virginia in April for the Rev3 -- it makes me hungry all of the time. Normally I am not a breakfast eater -- now I am . Oatmeal? Yum! Bananas? Fantastic! All before I make it out the door for work (meaning that I am even later than usual).

Throughout the day I have my usual four or five moderately healthy snacks, do some sort of exercise and then it is time for dinner. I talk myself out of having a 78-course meal topped off with a box of Girl Scout cookies and throw together something that has at least an ant-sized amount of healthiness to it and then call it a day. I am not a calorie counter, but I try not to eat too much crap, even when I feel like scarfing a block of cheddar cheese, a large onion and green pepper pizza and a pound of pasta. Terrible.

Unrelated: The screw shoes work pretty well. Between schlepping around on snowy mornings and some longer runs on the trails I am happy with the way they are helping me not crash onto the icy, junky ground. As an added bonus the total bucks spent on this arrangement was $2.50. Sold.

Still unrelated: I need a new pair of trial running shoes. Five years ago I bought a pair of Nike trail runners that I loved and that were then promptly discontinued. They are past the point of no return and the pairs I have had since then have ranged from terrible to passable. Right now I have a pair of Asics (that were turned into the screw shoes) that I don't hate, and a pair of Brooks Cascadias that I don't hate either (but they just don't fit right... the laces come untied if I look at them funny and my feet slip around them all while feeling too small). I am looking for something I love, and I want to find them soon so they can be cozy and broken in in time for the Rev3.

That is all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What Is Set in Stone (Barring Some Sort of Hot Mess)

The credit card and checkbook have been working overtime the past few days – I’ve finally managed to register for a few races – enough to get me through the spring, at least.

Something painful is first on the list -- a 5k February 12. Nothing makes my lungs feel like bleeding more than a 5k. Knowing it will be balls to the wall from stride one, I am already dreading the pain, the copious amount of snot I know I will produce and whatever the crazy Philadelphia weather god/desses are likely to throw my way on race day. I haven’t done a 5k in over a year, mostly because I am terrible at the distance and hate the fact that, from the second I cross the start line, I feel like my lungs and legs are being stabbed.

But, it’s for a good cause and a co-worker who is just starting to get into running is doing it too, so I have no excuse. As an added bonus the race approximately three feet from my front door (give or take 3 or 4 miles), is cheap and gun time is 10 a.m. so I don’t have to wake up at the crack.

Second? A road duathlon (so much for 2011 being the year of off-road fun) in Maryland. I have been doing basically zero road running aside from treadmills and have also been scoring a fat zero for road biking aside from trainer rides, but this race looks challenging for me. Each leg ends on a hill and I’ve done a long run or two in the area -- rolling hills are an understatement and the weather does whatever the hell it feels like. Bill is doing it too and the final selling point is that we get to hang with my cousin, her husband and their two freakin’ adorable kids – 2-year-old Joe and his lil’ sis Katherine.

The parents are apparently going to bring the babies out to cheer, incentive enough to do this overpriced race (although I did email the race director to whine and we got a bit of a break on the entry fee). I’ve gotten angry in races, bored, tired, elated, but the only time I’ve ever welled up with tears was at about mile 10 of the Columbus Marathon. There stood a little kid, all bundled up with a cowbell she was ringing with her whole heart and soul, next to a giant, nearly illegible hand-made sign for her mom. “GO MOM! WIN YOUR RACE!” it said, hearts, smiley faces and stars surrounding the words. Cutest, sweetest thing ever. Now, kids I am related to will be cheering for me, and I didn’t even have to be pregnant or squeeze them out! Nice!

Third, but so not least, is the Rev3 Endurance Adventure Extreme Elimination Ultimate Epic Expedition Celebration Challenge Adventure Race in the Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia the third weekend of April.

The last time I was in this area was nearly three decades ago -- I was four years old. In 1982 my parents took me to Luray Caverns. For the first bit of the tour I was impressed, amazed and enthralled by the fact that Mother Nature could carve out such mysterious caves. I remember holding my breath while I tried to take it all in, imagining an underground world of magic.

Then, suddenly, my mom punched the back of my skull. Or so I thought – I’d been toddling backward and cracked my head on a stalactite directly behind me. My mom also happened to be standing right behind me too. I turned around, saw the mom, and my first thought, inexplicably, was that my mom punched my skull.

“My mom punched me in my head!,” I yelled. My words echoed throughout the cave, grabbing everyone’s attention. Including my dad, who began snapping pictures (probably on a Kodak Disk camera), capturing me yelling, my mom pointing at the stalactite, and everyone laughing as I rubbed my knotted head. Pigtails, jeans, hoodie and Chucks – I can perfectly envision my four-year-old self in the snapshots (probably because I am currently sitting here 29 years later in pigtails, jeans and a hoodie).
From left to right: My cousin with the adorable kids, my mom who didn't
actually punch my four-year-old self in the back of my head and my dad who
did actually take pictures of my mom not punching me in the head.
Hopefully, none of my teammates will punch me in the back of my head over the 26 hours and approximately 130 miles of the course. I am excited about the people I am racing with:
  • Bill -- If I wasn’t exited about racing with him I should probably be contacting a divorce attorney. 
  • B.J. – He has known Bill longer than I have and is one of the main reasons I am not a Cheeto-eating, couch-surfing slob. B.J. is Bill’s BFF from college and together the two plunged into the world of marathons and adventure racing about 10 years ago. He trains like a BAMF and knows his way around a map and compass. 
  •  Val – Thanks to adventure race yenta Abby who hooked up our sorry team of three with Val, I now get to race with a local, experienced, normal adventure racer willing to meet up in the sleet and rain for miles of running and hiking, all while saying, “Wow! It’s really not bad at all!” If that kind of slop isn’t bad to her, I am leaving it up to Val to drag me out of grumpiness at hour 22 of the race when I am basically pissing myself, mopping up blister pus with leaves, dehydrated and hallucinating.
This is the first time I will be racing with a team of four (I’ve only raced on teams of two or three) and the first time I will be racing with a girl (which is a good thing – I tend to whine less around women for some reason) and the first 24+ hour race I have done in a while. Training is well underway and so far so good.

Ironically, the race is the same weekend as the Boston Marathon which I didn’t register for this year because I didn’t want to spend my winter training again. Apparently, what I meant was that I didn’t feel like spending my winter training for a marathon again but that two-hour runs with an 18-pound pack in melting snow, sleet, rain, hills and mud would be perfectly acceptable.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who Hates Adventure Racing?

I don't hate it. Not at all.

And I think you won't hate it either.

When else in life can otherwise (mostly) responsible adults run and ride around in the woods, paddle in a boat and challenge their brains in the process by navigating from point to point old-school style? When was the last time you had to bust out a map and compass at a road race?

There's food at the finish line, the people are pretty cool, and, mile for mile and hour for hour, registering for an adventure race is way less expensive than just about every road race out there.

Especially when the adventure race is free. Adventure racing Abby is giving away a free race entry for either of two G.O.A.L.S. 2011 sprint adventure races. Grab a friend or two, your bikes and your trail running shoes and get ready for four to six (depending on how fast you feel like going) hours of playing in the dirt!

How cool are we? Gaiters, orange race jerseys, bike gloves
and climbing harnesses.