rain dog rain

Much of the week preceding a long run is a preparation. This Sunday is the first of three planned 20 milers. Right now I’d making sure I’m drinking a lot of water spiked with vitamin C, and trying to tease my immune system into action. I don’t really have a cold but I might possibly be verging on one, or I might be imagining that I could be on the verge of one. I was up at 5:30 on Wednesday, with the hope of getting in a 10 mile run and making it home to help Don with the morning routine and see Henry off to school but…

…stop the presses. As I was writing this, putting off for a few minutes several projects with deadlines today, Delila starting whimpering at the top of the stairs. I steeped outside, saw that the rain had let up and dashed back up stairs to change into my running clothes. Priorities. The reports could wait a half hour. D. has suddenly shifted from a somewhat reserved but very alert dog to a very frisky and energetic pup. We did a very fast two miles in the sometimes-drizzle and now I back in front of my keyboard, stretched, cleaned and relaxed.

… about Wednesday. As soon as I stepped at 6, I stopped to chat with a neighbor (because friends are important), then after a quick mile with the dog I ran into another neighbor who wanted to check in about a music project this weekend at the market. It was 6:30 by the time I dropped the dog back off and set up on my own pace. The plan was to circle back home after 5 miles, drink something and check in with the family, then go back out for another 5 but by the time I got to Byrd park I had hit a great stride and I just wanted to keep my pace, so I did the full 10 and missed seeing the family. Later I asked don about it and he honestly was fine with whatever I did. Maybe I try to over-plan around my family. Don is almost always much more flexible and accommodating than I expect. I hope I never expect him to accommodate me, but I am grateful for how much he does.

As for that impending cold, I’m pretty sure it’s more idea than manifest.
I’m wondering if I’ll be running 3 hours in the rain on Sunday. But right now I really have to get back to work.


Chilly Hands

Who else was out at 6 am this morning? Wasn’t it perfectly gorgeous? It was dark and chilly. This weather brought me back to New England with the sudden cool, crisp air.

It wasn’t so long ago the warm, very humid air from the tropics made for a very damp run. Last Saturday we were in Maryland for a wedding and the three of us (Don, Henry and I) drove out to the Annapolis and Baltimore bike path. They rode; I ran. I felt a little like a dog on a leash but Henry (my 8 year old, for those who don’t know him) would call out to me every couple miles, “Mom, do you want water?” and then hand me his water bottle as I ran up beside him. We did a swift and very hot 9 miles.

This morning felt great from the start. Normally the first few blocks uphill from my house are a hard wake up, but this morning I felt like a happy pup. (Did I mention we got a dog? Last Sunday. I’ll post a photo of her.) At 6 am it was still dark and as I crossed over the Nickel Bridge the sun was rising over the city and the river glowed indigo and orange. An hour later when I ran back across, the sky had turned soft blue with salmon colored wispy clouds in the east. It’s impossible to describe color. A friend once said that she felt like she was in a movie when she ran across the bridge.

My neighbor described to me a few days ago how she woke up at 5:30 and texted her running partner that she just couldn’t do it. I’ve been going a little easy on myself as well. Today I did the 9 (with some extra) scheduled for Wednesday. But I’ve had deadlines this week and I felt for days like I was on the verge of coming down with something. I chose, instead of following the schedule, to follow my better judgment and take extra care of my body. The next month and a half is the most demanding part of the training and I want to do what I can to be prepared for it. As always, I am weighing what needs to happen at work and with my students, with my family and what needs to happen next with this project. I have papers to grade, e-mail to answer, contacts to make, grants to apply for, a design project to get off to the fabricator, and a new dog to walk.
And dinner. It’s a triumph of nurturing if I can put together something more creative than burgers on the grill.

9.5.11: catching up

Made it through the hurricane (and the earthquake) with no property damage, completed my first week of classes and an 18-mile run on Saturday. It’s Labor Day and a time to catch my breath. Trying to pick up where I left off is a little like doing the piles of laundry after returning from a trip. Blogging as documenting is a tool for mental/special organization. Some of us need that more than others.

The Hurricane
For those of you following The Green Book (the Marathon Training Team Log) the Patrick Henry Half Marathon was highlighted for Saturday, August 27. After a great 16 mi. long run the previous Sunday and some strong speed work during the week I was feeling very comfortable (with no injuries or complaints) and thinking that this would be more of a fun training run than a race. And I was pretty confident I could easily break 2 hours for my first half marathon and I was looking forward to this milestone. My mind was more focused on work with a flurry of activity not only for the start of classes, but also the exhibition design work in progress for the upcoming Richmond Folk Festival. Friends called Friday afternoon inviting us to join them for dinner at a neighborhood pub and knowing it wasn’t the best place to get pre-race meal, I decided that seeing friends with my family was a higher priority.

Earlier in the day, the news was filled with stories of evacuations and disaster preparation in light of the progress of Hurricane Irene. The weather report called for a dew point at 6 am of 77. Runners World’s chart rates anything above 70 as “Extremely oppressive” and “Skip it or dramatically alter goal”. That news alone left me, at best, ambivalent. At dinner we checked the storm track on our smart phones. Before bed, I set out some gels and recovery food and drinks and went off to bed without setting the alarm. I’d been waking up at 5 am for my runs and figured if I wanted to do the race, I’d wake up. I was more anxious about just getting to the starting line: finding my way to Ashland and a place to park (with all the talk about how HARD it would be to find parking); standing around in the rain, in the dark; getting my race packet, pinning my bib, and being at the starting line at 7.

If I’d been excited about the race, I could have easily planned ahead. I woke shortly after 5 and stepped out on the porch to a very warm, tropically humid pre-dawn morning and my first thought was how gross it would be to run for two hours in that. Back upstairs, Don was awake with his laptop open on the bed surveying the enormous swirling band of yellow and green just miles south of Richmond. As best as I could compute, based on distance and the rate of the storm it would be hitting Ashland about half way through the run. The choice was torture now or misery later. Miss the race, or risk getting caught in a miserable storm with 30 mph headwinds, and that was after an hour of slogging through “extremely oppressive” conditions.

“It might be okay,” I thought out loud without any conviction. “You never know. It’s hard to predict,” Don replied. After agonizing over a decision with the window for leaving and getting to the race on time quickly approaching, I decided to just stay home and go back to sleep. Fifteen minutes later, at 6 am I was awake and half rising thinking, “I could still make it.” But there wasn’t much energy behind that. As the morning wore on and the high winds and rain held off until close to noon, I was sulked miserably feeling like I might have had a great race. It wasn’t until days after that I spoke with folks who kindly said, “You mad the right decision. It was pretty miserable.”

The next day I set out with Garmin holding very little charge after we lost power, and planned to make up the 13 mile run. I was able to see much of the damage from the storm and ended up straddling and climbing over a few downed trees in my path. Right now my legs behind the knees are covered with a pretty severe case of poison ivy. But otherwise I feel great.

Back to the Green Book.
So the schedule called for a 10 mile this weekend and an 18 mile next weekend but I’ll be at my nieces wedding party next weekend and couldn’t imagine disappearing for three hours on Sunday morning.
But something switched with me after the 16 mile run two weeks ago. As much as I didn’t think I was prepared for it, I ended with a great run and a fast final few miles. A long run no longer felt so formidable and by getting the long run behind me first thing in the long weekend, I’d have the next two days to spend with my family. Henry drove around with me on Friday after school to set out Gatorade bottles at several locations around the city, allowing a few options for a run in case my IT bands started acting up, or some other new injury should flare up. I ended up criss-crossing the Saturday running groups, passing a few coaches, and circling around a few Fan blocks and around Oregon Hill so that I would be close to the end by the time I made it over the long span of the Lee Bridge and over to 28th Street. I was shy a mile and half and had to make that up in my neighborhood and my recollection is that it was a long mile and a half. I walked through the front door with nothing hurting. Ate what I could, drank as much as I could manage, soaked in an ice bath, and after a shower the Don, Henry and I headed out for a nice sedentary drive out to Farmville to look at boats. Eating a lot after a long run is never appealing and it takes effort to replenish my body with a lot of calories (and good nutrition).

Family Kayaks
The two things we do together as a family are biking and paddling. We live just a few blocks from a river which hosts a range of paddling from flat water, to a long stretch of class II, and up to class V or VI depending on the river level; and adjacent to one of the best urban mountain biking systems in the country. I knew the time would come to buy Henry (my 8 year old) his own boat so that we could more comfortably run the rapids of the upper James River as a family. Up until this time, I paddled the kayak while Don and Henry paddled the canoe but it’s rough on Don’s back, and the canoe isn’t meant for white water. And after Henry earned the camper of the week award at the local paddling/climbing camp for his ease in white water, it seemed like it was time to break down and get us all in our own boats. We bought for Henry the used boat he’d been paddling at camp and Don chose a kayak meant more for white water than my basic recreational kayak. We launched our first paddle with our friend Tom and had a five-hour trip down river stopping to explore catfish holes, walk out on the Z-dam and lounge on the rocks.


One of my primary concerns about an injury when I was training in the spring for my first marathon was that I’d be too tired or injured to maintain a high level of activity with my family. Almost every decision I make in terms of when and how long to run takes into consideration both my family and my work. If I can get up early enough for my early runs, I can be back home just as they’re waking up and I can be there to help Henry get ready for school. If I know I’ll need some time for recovery after a long weekend run, I can plan something like a movie or road trip rather than a crawl upstairs for a nap. With two days of driving rain in the morning, I’ll need to make time during the day to get to the gym, either before classes or during a break. It might mean shifting a 9-mile run to Thursday rather than Wednesday. Some things just don’t get the attention needed. Dinner. I’m loosing my creativity for dinner. The houseplants are barely holding on, and our dinnerware is cracked.