Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Us

Three years ago today, give or take a few hours, I married this guy:

Yikes. I think this is from right after we got married -- I went to visit a friend
for a few days and Bill, apparently, went a bit crazy without me around
to keep him sane.

I was the last to know that we would end up getting married, apparently. After our second or third date I mentioned to a good friend who would end up being or maid of honor that I'd gone out with someone a few times. "You are going to marry him, I know it!," she said. "You sound like you might actually like him."

Yeah, whatever.

Almost seven years later we got married. Why the lack of rush? If it's the right person after year one they will still be the right person after year seven. We had grad schools to go to, new jobs to get,  houses to buy. It all worked out in the end. Our mutual love of books (except some of the absolutely boring things Bill is reading for his PhD program), playing outside, running, Halloween, beer and not sitting still helped get us here.

We like Halloween. Can you guess what we are? No. Ok.
I will tell you. We are a tree hugger.

He gets up early with me for  my races. I don't like getting up early for
my own races so the fact that he does is sorta nice.

And sometimes we even manage to reach the finish line together.

Bill puts up with my shit without being a pushover. Plus he makes me coffee in the morning and only gets me lost in the woods during adventure races some of the time. What's not to love? 

We tried to not make it to three years, first by playing in traffic the day we got married and then by getting stuck in a riot the night the Phillies won the World Series. Fortunately we survived.

About 10 minutes after this picture was taken people started flipping over cars, breaking into stores, lighting stuff on fire. Very romantic. Almost as romantic as the time our cat got stuck in our chimney and the time we were in an adventure race, stuck in a swamp with dead birds floating around. 

Don't hate on the size of our wedding party. You know you are just
jealous that we didn't ask you to be in it.

Remember the time we grew mustaches so we could
be classy at a wedding?

So far, so good. Happy anniversary, Chief!

Monday, May 30, 2011


In what seems to me like a never ending quest to get a PhD, Bill lives in a sprawling metropolis during summers. You can see how the crowds of people rush to cross the street when George Bailey tells them.

First person to guess what town he goes to school in gets a virtual high-five from me. Here's a hint: Take the Pennsylvania turnpike untily you are in the middle of nowhere. Then go north for about 90 minutes.

I am out here until Wednesday morning when I have to wake up at the crack and make a mad dash back to Philadelphia to get to work before noon. Fun times.

Fortunately there's a small but fun trail network within running distance of his apartment and a state park about 20 minutes away where we are going to run later today so all is not lost. Plus there's a small running store across the street from his place called The Gingerbread Man. The store's motto? "You can't catch me." How adorable is that?

Unlike the rest of his cohort (why, when you you get to the PhD level,
must you call your class a cohort?) Bill shows up for school ready to paddle.
When I saw him yank a carbon paddle out of his trunk I became concerned that he truly has his heart set of us crossing the start line (and, I guess, he hopes that we will also cross the finish line) of this. I think he might be trying to kill me with exercise. It will be, by far, the longest race I've ever tried. Two nights in the woods -- I am more worried about the fact that I love sleep immensely than I am about the fact that I am not sure if I can keep moving for 48 hours.

P.S. Yes, Bill does live above the county's GOP headquarters. But he also lives above a bakery so it all evens out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Bad Idea for a Good Cause

In 2001 I ran my first 26.2  -- the Philadelphia Marathon. I lived a few miles from the start, my cute new boyfriend said he'd pace me for part of the way so I was sold.

Since then I've done four more marathons. For me, road marathons are the hardest thing to train for and are the hardest to finish. Give me a 24-hour adventure race any day -- a marathon is what nearly kills me.

I didn't run Boston this year mostly because I didn't feel like training. Instead I did the Rev3 that day, proving to myself that sometimes it is easier to go long and slow than hard and fast (that's what she said). I also passed up the New York City Marathon after a lot of thought -- I didn't feel like training for a late fall marathon or dealing with the hassle of getting to the start line. Fun to do once, but after thinking it through I am not sure I need to do it again any time soon.

For the past few years I've spectated at Philly like a true champion, getting up before the sun and biking around the course to cheer like a mofo and be silly (one of my favorite things to do). I've had a standing date with my friend April who meets me at the 4-mile mark for a bit before heading over to the dreaded 20-mile mark.

Today I sent her this e-mail:
"I can't spectate at the marathon this year because I just signed up to do it -- something I swore I'd never do. I signed up to do it as part of the Ronald McDonald House team so I have to fundraise -- something else I swore I'd never do."

So, yeah. I've committed to running the Philadelphia Marathon and raising $900 for the North Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. I will go into why the North Philly Ronald McDonald House in a bit but for now I am sitting here thinking about how terrible I am at fundraising. I quit Girl Scouts because I hated selling the cookies. I alwasy sold, like, two candy bars when mandated to for my middle school.

And I raised all of $4 in a swim-a-thon for CF when I was in elementary school. Thus, $900 should be interesting (it's actually $1,000 but you had to pay the marathon registration fee in order to be part of the team and the marathon then donates that money back to the Ronald McDonald House).

Anyone want to send me $900? I will take it in quarters. Pennies, even. Non-expired cupons? Chuck-e-Cheese tokens? Q-tips? $900 in postage stamps?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Thanks to a wedding of a good family friend in Georgia over the weekend I got to spend four days away from the real world and, more importantly, the Interwebs. Just like the olden days.

For better or for worse the wedding was at a winery -- my head still hurts as a result. I swear, I need to drink more in order to be able to drink more.

Fortunately the brilliant plan of pouring wine directly into my belly didn't impair my running -- I got in my miles as planned (granted, I planned to cut down on my miles for last week quite a bit). The runner dork in me is apparently stronger than the drinker dork in me. I guess that is a good thing, right?

A few hours after our plane landed I found myself running through a small vineyard and around some soft trails woven through the winery grounds. I sweated off the plane funk (does anyone else feel like the most dirty person in the world after a plane ride?) and got in about 5 miles.

The next up day we were up bright-ish and early-ish for golf. A par three, actually. I've never touched a golf club in my life aside from putt-putt at the beach when I was wee. At first I wasn't sure why we weren't going for one of the 18-hole, par 72 courses. About two strokes in I knew why -- it would have taken me about 89 days to finish. I was so amazingly terrible at it that I spent a good deal of time laughing until I was crying.

"Dad! Dad! I hit the ball off the ground and it didn't even go int the water!," I'd exclaim whenever I managed to not only hit the ball farther than I am tall but not lose it in a pond in the process.

"You look like you are trying to chop the head of a snake with an ax," encouraged my dad.
Bill looks like he knows what he is doing. Don't let
his looks deceive you.
I got all my golf skillz from my dad.

Time to kill a snake.

In case you thought I was kidding about being terrible at golf the above video will convince you that I am not.

The golf didn't quite get my heart rate up so after our 3-hour long game of par 3 I hit the hotel gym for my first treadmill run in months and months. Five miles just about as fast as I could -- GET ME OFF OF THIS THING was the thought going through my brain the entire time. I. Hate. Treadmills.

Fortunately the winery was only a few miles from a state park. It was easy to convince my dad and Bill to head to the park with me on Saturday morning. My dad hiked around for a bit while Bill and I hit a mountain bike trial for an hour run on some lovely trails. I should have packed my mountain bike.

We managed to get scrubbed up enough in time for the wedding. And all the wine that came with it. Ouch.

Aren't my parents cute?

Monday, May 16, 2011

What We Spent Our Tax Return On. Or, Apparently Our Cat Likes Being Outside As Much As I Do

Want to know how to be four hours late for work and blow a chunk of your tax return all at the same time? Then keep reading.

I went for a short run before work on Thursday and came home to a bit of chaos.

"Kevin is stuck in a tree," Bill said as I walked in the door. "I opened the back door to go outside and read and he just bolted and ran up the tree."

Kevin is one of our three cats. Just so you don't keep reading and think that we recently acquired a child that decided to flee and run up a tree.

Anyway, we only have one tree in our back yard. And it is a big one with branches that extend over our roof and the roof of both of our neighbors.

I ran through the house and out the back door and, sure enough, there sat Kevin about 20 feet up, sprawled across a branch. He looked down at me and meowed and meowed while looking pissed that I didn't magically reach up with Go Go Gadget Arms and rescue him.

And then he stood up and jumped from the branch and onto the roof of our house. Bill and I stared at each other, then at Kevin who stared back at us.

He plopped in the gutter looking pathetic.

Our biggest ladder is a step stool that my mother-in-law gave me as a housewarming gift when it became apparent to her that I am too short to reach most of the shelves in our kitchen. Bill went on a hunt for a ladder that could reach the roof while I called work and tried to explain that I would be an hour or so late because Kevin was stuck on the roof. I also walked across the street to the popo station and asked who I could call in the city for help. The cops laughed and laughed. Thanks, cops.

He is a bit hard to spy but if you have hawkeyes
you can see his silly self standing tall and looking around.

Two hours later Bill came back with a ladder. None of our neighbors or local friends had one that would reach the roof so he drove to his parents, getting stuck in crazy traffc along the way.

We set up the ladder and I held it as Bill slowly climbed his way to the roof. Because if the whole thing came crashing down all five feet of me would have been able to save the day. Fortunately he made it up without incident and we thought the ordeal was almost over.

And then something the opposite of magical happened. Bill peered off the roof at me and said something unfun:

"Kevin just ran down an old chimney that is up here and I can't reach him. He's already down about 10 feet."

"What old chimney that is up there? Why is there a random old chimney on our roof? Just reach in and grab him," I said, confident that my spectacular plan would work.

Bill didn't even try to reach him and climbed back down, contemplating what to do next. We called animal control. "Is the animal being abused or neglected?," the woman on the other end of the line asked. "Well, not  yet. He will eventually starve to death in there though. Can someone help us?"


Thank you City of Philadelphia.

My next call was to work telling them that I would be even later. My cat is stuck in a chimney = worst excuse for lateness ever.

Finally we found a Web site for a company specializing in getting wild animals out of houses. Specifically squirrels, raccoons, birds, bats, opossums, skunks, rats and snakes (if there was a snake in our house I think I would just move away and let it keep the house).

"Maybe we can just tell them it is an opossum in our chimney," I offered as Bill dialed the number.

Fortunately they agreed to come out and I thought that Kevin would soon be unstuck so I went to work.

Hours passed and I kept peeking at my cell phone to see if Bill called to tell me that they got the cat out. Finally, I called him. Apparently the wild animal guy (his name was Dan, Dan the Raccoon Man) thought that he'd just come over, open the flue and out the cat would plop.

Except our house is special and the chimney is no longer in use, leading to nowhere in between the walls of our house. Specifically, it ends inside he top of our basement steps. Dan, Dan the Raccoon Man chiseled out a Kevin-sized hole in the wall. The hole was too small to peer into so Bill reached in with a camera and took a few shots to see if they could determine exactly where Kevin was.

I am glad I wasn't home for this part because these
pictures would have made me sad.

 Kevin apparently wasn't completely stuck -- when they'd try to reach in and grab him he'd scoot up the chimney a bit and then scoot back down where they couldn't reach him. They finally jammed a towel above the exit hole so he couldn't get up too high and then squirted him with water until he squeezed out of the hole. Tadaaa! He was out! And pissed! And dirty! And wet! And he was running around the house, leaving muddy cat prints and dirt everywhere.

Four days later Kevin seems mostly ok aside from a scrape on his head. I've been putting topical antibiotics on it and trying to keep it covered. If you need something to laugh at come over and look at Kevin because now he looks like this:


Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Need a Calendar

I am going to ask Santa to bring me a calendar for Christmas this year. Not only am I still dating checks and documentation for work with 2010 (yeah, I know 2011 is almost half-way over) but I screwed my timing up a bit for my long runs in preparation for the North Face Challenge 50k on June 4.

I thought the race was two weeks away. I generally start to taper about two weeks before a road marathon and, since I don't really know anything about training for a 50k trail run, I figured I'd do the same thing.

Thus, yesterday I woke up at the crack (6:30 on a Saturday) for a five-hour run. I jogged over to my friend Dave's house and we (and his Vibram Five Fingers that he loves so) did a two-hour loop that included me running through a patch of poison ivy. After dropping him off and taking a quick break to use his magic poison ivy soap in hopes of avoiding days of itching and scratching I headed back out for three more hours. I actually enjoyed myself, never felt entirely terrible and only had to rely on the iPod for the last 45 minutes or so.

"Only two weeks until the race," I thought as I flopped into the front door, dirty, hungry and running late for a wedding. I contemplated not showering and then decided that would be the rudest thing of all time. As I rushed to get ready I was glad that the long runs had come to an end in prep for this race. We are headed to Atlanta for a few days at the end of this week for another wedding and the idea of a few days of easy runs on new ground made me smile.

Except I then realized that the 50k is, in fact, three weeks away instead of two.

Whoops. I do sometimes show up to races early but a week for an out-of-town race would have been extra absurd.

Anyone know of a nice 20-mile running route in Atlanta? The place where we are staying advertises "miles of hiking and running trails" but in actuality the trail is only 1.25 miles long. The idea of running that 17 times makes me want to weep.

Coming soon: What happened last week when my cat decided to love the great outdoors by fleeing out the door.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How To Train for a 50k

Actually, the title of this post should be "How to Train for a 50k?"

With 3 1/2 weeks to go until my first 50k I just now, as in, uh, five seconds ago, realized I have no idea how I am supposed to be training. For road marathons I spend hours coming up with an exact training schedule with tempo runs, track workouts with explicit rules and spits and long runs that I refuse to deviate from.

A 50k trail race, though? I've basically just been running. A lot. Before work, after work. Both. I am either getting ready to run, running, showering after a run or doing laundry thanks to the piles of nasty running clothing I seem to be producing by the ton. I am hoping to hit between 55 and 60 miles this week and then gradually work my way back down until it's time to race.

So far I've been liking the training. I generally run alone in the park but thanks to a recent attack on a woman I've had company for all of my trail runs. Having people to chat with and/or to push the effort is doing wonders for my mental health and my pace. Go figure.

I've been doing one or two road runs a week at what feels like a 10k pace in attempt to keep a bit of speed in my legs but otherwise I have no plan other than to get up early and run. And if the real world doesn't get in the way run again after work. And to avoid booboos and over-use injuries along the way.

Anyone else have any 50k experience or have any ideas of what I should be doing for my last few weeks of training? 

Unrelated: I am addicted to this game. Best worst timesuck ever.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mom Got Me Into This

On Mother's Day, I would just like to remind my Mom that it is all her fault.

She signed me up for soccer when I wanted to take ice skating lessons instead. She taught me how to ride a two-wheeler. She came to my first ever longer race and still comes out to cheer me on a lot. She buys me running socks and pretends to understand why I think adventure racing is fun.

She's (along with my Dad) getting up at 4:30 in the morning in a few weeks to come to my first 50k (I think she might be learning how early of a day it will be as she reads this). My mom hates mornings at least as much as I do.

Without my Mom I'd probably be a slimy blob sitting on the couch eating Cheetos. So thanks, Mom! Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I Am Falling In Love

Our house is in running distance of one of the greatest places on Earth (or at least the greatest place in Philadelphia) -- Wissahickon Park. It's why we bought it, in fact.

But I recently started an affair with a different park. Only three miles from 95, Susquehanna State Park is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to run. It's on the way to my parents' house in Maryland, it's quiet, hardly crowded and is just big enough for long runs. Plus it is sort of beautiful.

So beautiful that I voluntarily got up at 6:30 this morning, a Saturday, just so I could do my long run there on my way to my Mom and Dad's for some Mother's Day fun. Aside from another runner I kept crossing paths with and two mountain bikers carrying their buddy out of some twisting single track after he crashed into a barn (he was mostly ok) I seemingly had the whole place to myself for the entire 2.5-hour run.

The park hosts The HAT Run, a 50k that I wanted to be my first except it sold out in about 88 seconds for 2011. It's on my to-do list -- maybe next year. The trails are challenging (I feel like I am always going uphill and always stumbling over rocks and roots), well-maintained and lead to climbs that overlook the river. Happiness!

Apparently the park doesn't love me back though. I acquired some
grody sort of burning rash that I hope goes away before my 82nd

Even more hideous. How ugly is this place?

The first time I ever ran Susquehanna State Park I saw a giant dead swordfish in the middle of the trail. Thus started my love affair. How can I not adore something so mysterious that made me laugh so hard I cried?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yurt Sweet Yurt

Sometimes finding the right place to stay for adventure races can be a bit of a challenge. You need to be able to at least attempt a good night's sleep before a race and you need a cozy place to crash afterward that you and your muddy, wet gear won't completely trash.

We've camped, we've stayed in expensive hotels, we've stayed in cheap motels, we've stayed in cabins. We've showed up for the start in the morning, raced through the night and hopped in the car for home from the finish line.

But our sweetest arrangement so far, I think, was the yurt we stayed in for last weekend's Yough Extreme. A hundred bucks for the weekend. Room for a camp fire. A fridge. A stove. Five beds. A heater. No running water but it was just a few yards from showers.

And we didn't feel like jerks dragging in our nasty stuff post-race.

I wish my actual home was circular.

Yurts make Bill happy.

We made ourselves at home by throwing
our gear all around.
A yurt is also a good place to draw on maps with highlighters.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bill Is Burnt

When Bill read my account of the Yough Extreme he took offense to the part where I said we both made it out of the race without booboos. He hiked up his pants and this is what I saw:

Someone remembered his bike shorts but forgot his sunscreen. Plus the thorns we managed to find every time we went off trail apparently had their way with Bill.

Post-race Bill is in charge of bringing in all the gear and cleaning the bikes and I am in charge of all the laundry. One of his bike gloves apparently didn't like the fact that I neglected to mention Bill's sunburn and greeted me out of the dryer like this:

Geeze, glove, sorry I offended you. No need to get nasty.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Good, the Bad, the Yough Extreme

Good news: We made it to the start line of our race this weekend with all of our gear and all of our sanity.
Bad news: About half-way into the 5-hour drive to the race site we realized we were in for a long weekend.

Good news:  We like to run so we did well with the opening 3-mile trail run.
Bad news: We like to run and most of the race was biking and paddling.

Good news: The next leg was a 11-mile sprint on a flat gravel path on our mountain bikes.
Bad news: An 11-mile sprint on mountain bikes on a flat gravel path is sort of boring.

Good news: The river was raging. We would have been washed away forever had the race directors had us paddle the original course. Fortunately they recognized that this would have been unsafe.
Bad news: The paddle was changed to a lake. It felt like 20 miles, was probably more like five and took us hours. Plus it was freezing. Plus we were in duckies. If you don't know what a duckie is, imagine trying to paddle a moonbounce. Pretty much the same thing.
Paddle this. Not so fun.

Or paddle this.

Good news: The paddle eventually ended.
Bad news: When I stood up to get out of the duckie my freezing, cramped legs immediately tipped me over. I couldn't get up. We had to carry the stupid thing, along with all of our gear and paddles, up a short but steep hill. Bill: Just stand up and carry it. Me: Yeah, I understand what I am supposed to be doing right now but my legs won't let me. Bill: You just have to carry the front half. Me: Yes, I get the concept, I just can't do it. He eventually just carried everything while I staggered up the hill behind him. Badass.

Bad news: I was shivering uncontrollably by the time we made it back to transition to hop back on our bikes. And I had a swarm of bugs hovering over my head. And I smelled like the dirty life jacket that I had on for the paddle. I was a little bit sad at that point.
Good news: I ate a Snickers and started to feel less sad. And after just a mile or two on the bikes we hit a monster climb on a fire road. I got warm quickly. Hoorah.

Good news: The climb wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was able to ride most of it and even passed some boys pushing their bikes. They complimented me for staying on the bike and also on my sweet Cat In The Hat bike jersey. I sort of rule a little bit. 
Bad news: I am kidding about sort of ruling a little bit. At one point I was riding so slowly that I actually tipped over.

Good news: The last little bit of that ride was so fun. Single-track, a field and then, at the very end, a sharp drop down a wide grassy hill. Wheee.
Bad news: There doesn't always have to be bad news.

Good news: Bill was spot on for navigation the whole day. Including a nasty, thorny bushwack to the first foot checkpoint.
Bad news: We were running out of time and decided we wouldn't be able to make it back to the finish line by the 10-hour cutoff so we didn't clear the course.

Good news: All the foot checkpoints were optional so it wasn't the end of the world that we skipped two points .
Bad news: We skipped two points. 

Good news: Bill made me carry a map and pay attention to navigation throughout the day. I learned a little bit, including what a re-entrant is!
Bad  news: But I still don't know what a saddle is.

Good news: The last bike was mostly fun, mostly downhill, mostly ridable and mostly muddy.
Bad news: I walked at a few points where I should  have ridden. And I didn't even attempt to ride the last downhill -- a crazy steep, crazy tight, crazy technical piece of junk that Bill bombed down.

Good news: Neither Bill nor I got any real booboos.
Bad news: In the last mile of the race I took a thorn branch to the lip while riding around a corner. Thorns are out to kill me.

Good news: We won our division.
Bad news: Our division had a whopping three teams in it. And I think that one of the teams dropped out early on. Not exactly a fierce competition. I think we finished about half-way back in the field of about 40 teams.

Good news: I won a new helmet-mounted bike light. Fantastic, considering that mine crapped out at the Rev3. And Bill snagged a fleece, also fantastic because he forgot warm things to wear and we were half-camping for the weekend (we stayed in a yurt).
More good news: A shoutout to Team Goals who finished third in the elite category.

What I am doing right this second: Bill and I got up bright and early to head home from the race. His college's graduation was today and he had his cap and gown packed in with his gear. We ended up not having enough time to drop me off at home so I am hanging out in his office. I've been in here for three hours and so far they are only up to the grads whose last names start with "P."