Monday, September 28, 2009

Today A Biker Was Nice To Me (!!!!)

Okay, so maybe it's just the NYC bikers with their stupid corporate teams and their annoying sense of entitlement . . . but I always assumed that bikers (I'm talking straight-up bikers here; not triathletes who bike as well as swim and run) were assholes. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the dudes in Central Park and/or Prospect Park always seem to try their darnedest to plow my ass over and scream rude obscenities at me every chance they get. BUT. My opinion on bikers changed today. You see, at some point around 5:45 p.m., I set out on the Seminole Wekiva Trail to see what it had to offer a running gal like myself (other than 90-something temps--HATE). I took things nice and easy, enjoying the scenery, and trying not to die of heatstroke (my mantra was "Adapt, yankee! Adapt!"--hey, I had to do SOMETHING to entertain myself . . . I was running sans i-pod).

I set out with the goal of covering the 12-miles I had missed this past weekend while moving (oops . . . sad face), but started to get a little nervous when I realized the heat was already taking its toll on me by around the 3-mile mark. I continued on, trying to figure out what to do. Well, wouldn't you know, I saw a tunnel coming up that REALLY looked exciting to run through. It ran under a major highway in a kind attempt to protect us athlete trail people from the crazy-ass traffic. I got closer and closer to the tunnel entrance . . . and then out came a spiffy looking biker dude clad in blue and yellow. He slowed down like he wanted to tell me something, and I assumed he was going to yell at me for being on the "bike" path. But no. "Just want to warn you, there's a really drunk guy in the tunnel. He seems pretty belligerent. He just threw a beer bottle at me." I was shocked. That? Was the kindest thing ever!

I thanked the man profusely for the warning, and decided it was a sign from above that it was time to turn around. I wasn't about to take on a belligerently drunk man all by my lonesome!! And so I turned back around just after the 3-mile point. I toyed with the idea of just running the out-and-back segment TWICE in order to get the full 12 in, but BOY was I dragging by the time I got back to the trail head. I also started to worry that it was going to be dark by the time I got back to the car after the second out-and-back, which of course, made me nervous. In the end, I decided to call it a day. I had completed 6.11 miles in 1:02. I'm bummed that I didn't get the full 12 in, but I'm calling the run a success anyway, since I am one step closer to acclimating to the shitty weather down here.

In other news, the first day of class was great (other than the fact that I was almost late because I couldn't find the building--ugh--luckily, I at least remembered to wear pants). I've already learned a LOT about the current state of the fitness industry and its problems/issues/trends. VERY interesting stuff. We have to begin training other students tomorrow, which terrifies the crap out of me . . . but as I told Wilson, it's better to be terrified now, when I'm working with other students and have instructors around to answer any questions, than it would be to be terrified of working with my first PAYING clients. I honestly don't know how people who do just a weekend certification program do it! So anyway, I'm facing my fears and getting 'er done. Hooray for me :)

Well, I'm off to pack my lunch and get ready for school tomorrow! Gosh, I love saying that!

Hope all is well out there!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome to Whorelando

Well, folks . . . I made it! My journey started when the alarm went off at 6:45 Friday morning. We snoozed a couple times, finally rising a little after 7. I proceeded to run around the apartment in a complete state of panic, trying to figure out what I might have forgotten to pack. Finally, at 8:15 a.m., I called my usual car service company to get a car to the airport. "We don't have any cars available right now," the woman told me. "What?! Well, how long is the wait?" I asked. "We don't have anything 'til this afternoon, honey." SHIT ON A STICK. Trying not to hyperventilate, I unpacked my laptop, booted it up and searched the yellow pages for another car service company (does anyone ever use a phonebook anymore?). FINALLY, I found a company who had a car for me. THANK THE BABY JESUS. As I waited for my car to arrive, I tried to say goodbye to my cat. I swear, she rolled her eyes at me and yawned (just FYI, cat . . . I will really NOT miss having your fur all over me all the time). Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the car arrived and I dragged my suitcase, over-sized duffel bag and backpack outside (I chose to forgo the over-sized purse). I was on my way.

On the way to the airport, the driver asked me in broken English which airline I was flying. I replied with "Spirit Airlines" and, I kid you not, the dude LAUGHED at me. I didn't understand why, having never flown Spirit Airlines before. But soon enough, I would find out. First, I had to wait on the sloooooow check-in line (despite the fact that I was, in fact, already checked in) in order to get the tags to check my bags. Then, I basically had to carry my bags down to the aircraft and load them on myself. Okay, so I'm exaggerating a bit, but still, their "self-drop" system was a little odd. When I got onto the plane, I came to realize that Spirit Airlines' strategy for offering discounted fares involves stuffing 3X the amount of people any other airline would ever attempt to fit onto a typical plane. I kid you not, things were so tight in there that my backpack hardly fit under the seat in front of me. A BACKPACK. With a whole lot of jiggling, kicking and shoving, I finally got it under. Of course, there was always the chance that it might not ever come out again . . . but apparently I was willing to take the risk.

The flight itself was uneventful, as I slept through most of it. But the next fun part of my journey was the layover in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami. Please note that this stop was made "on the way" to my ultimate destination, Atlanta. I loved this . . . especially when I learned that the only options for food in my terminal were Dunkin Donuts or Nathan's Hot Dogs. Luckily, I noticed that Nathan's had a grilled chicken sandwich on the menu, which I ordered, requesting that all mayonnaise or sauce be omitted. The girl at the counter looked at me in a state of confusion and asked, "is that all you want?!" Indeed it was. I scarfed the sandwich down and waited patiently for my flight to arrive. We boarded about 30 minutes late, which I didn't think was so bad . . . but along the way, Atlanta decided it had too many flights coming in around the same time, and forced us to slow down. This was delightful, considering I was sandwiched between an obese man and a 6'8 giant of a man, whose gangly limbs had nowhere to go but in my lap. Yay, Spirit Airlines!

Anyway, I finally arrived in Atlanta 9+ hours after I'd left my apartment . . . and I met up with my parents, who had so kindly agreed to lend me a car for the next four months (thanks, Mom and Dad!). We spent the night at a Renaissance Hotel, and let me tell you, the bed was HEAVENLY. Unfortunately, I was so terrified of driving by myself for 7 hours the next day (it was my first time driving in about 3 years) that I couldn't sleep. I think I fell asleep for maybe 20 minutes at one point, but during that time, I suffered a nightmare that ruined my chances of sleep for the rest of the night. Things that went down during this nightmare included: me losing all of my top teeth, me missing the alarm and waking up at 10 a.m., and me somehow running over a small bunny with the car. Yowsers.

Finally, it was 5:00 a.m., and time for me to get up. Did I mention that I had to be in Orlando by 1 p.m. for NPTI Orientation? Yeah, I did. The plan was to leave by 5:45 a.m., but my parents and I were chatting about directions and insurance and various items, and I didn't end up leaving until almost 6:15. In a panic (so what else is new?), I prayed I wouldn't get lost or hit any bunny rabbits. I managed to find my way to 75-S despite a general lack of street signs and a pitch black sky. NICE. I CAN DO THIS! I continued on 75-S for about 15 billion miles, and somewhere in the middle of Georgia, I started to feel REALLY proud of myself. Because, usually? I refuse to do anything scary without Wilson's help. It's pathetic, I know. But I was doing it. And I was proud. And also, I missed Wilson . . . but still, I was proud of myself.

I made it to Orlando with about 15 minutes to spare (yes!) and walked into my hotel to find a bunch of kids, also known as my classmates. Yep, I'm basically the only person above the age of 21 . . . which, now that I think about it, makes sense. On the one hand, it's really cute to see these kids experiencing their own version of "college". On the other hand, the fact that they keep sending me text messages, asking me if I want to "smoke a bowl" and calling me at 12 a.m. is not so cool. I AM OLD, KIDS. DEAL WITH IT. But anyway, the staff of the program who we've met thus far seem really cool, and I am confident that this is going to be a great experience through which I will learn a lot. And isn't that what this is all about? We start class tomorrow morning, so I'll be sure to update you as we go; especially since this program seems like something a lot of you would be interested in doing at some point.

I made a trip to the Super Wal-Mart last night which was, admittedly, a bit overwhelming. I'm used to smaller grocery stores with not the best selection. That's kind of just how it is in NYC--we don't have space for something like a Super Wal-Mart. But, Super Wal-Mart? It's out of control with the selection. It's also kind of scary--you have to watch out for the electric scooters, man. But I survived it, and I am super excited to experiment with cooking for one in a mini-kitchen with one pot, one pan, a steak knife and a can opener that requires a LOT of muscle :) I was going to post a picture of my new digs . . . but when I turned my camera on, I realized that my memory card is missing. Oops. Other random items I forgot to bring include:

-my electronic toothbrush charger (oops; I don't think that sucker can last for 4 months)
-regular, non-running socks (probably don't need 'em, considering it's hot as balls here; but still)
-my glasses (whatever; I never wear them anyway--who needs to see?)
-my checkbook (again, not a HUGE issue in this, the day of the credit/debit card, but still something you want to have)


-my i-pod. Yep. How the hell did I forget my i-pod?! That is just inexcusable! Oh well, I'm just going to make Wilson bring this stuff (and all of the forgotten items that will continue to pop up over the next couple weeks) to Chicago. I think I can survive until then.

In running news, the fitness center in my hotel is DEFINITELY not an option for running. It would seem that there is NO A/C in the 12 x 8 room they call the "fitness center". I went in there earlier today to check it out and (hopefully) get my 12-mile long run in. Considering it was 90 degrees today with a "real feel" of 103, I knew running outside wasn't going to work . . . especially since I'm still trying to figure out WHERE to run around here. Anyway, I entered the fitness center to find a treadmill from about 1985, a decrepit stationary bike and a dusty stair stepper. I hopped on the 'mill and started running, and was SOAKED within about 10 minutes. It was basically just as hot and humid in there as it was outside, which was a huge disappointment. I was so uncomfortable that I bailed after just 2 miles. I'm figuring our school facility will be a much better environment in which to 'mill . . . thus, I'm postponing the run until tomorrow afternoon (we get done with class at 3, so I'll have plenty of time to run afterwards). Desperate times call for desperate measures, yo!

Also, I don't want to jinx anything, but I checked the 15-day forecast today, and the Chicago weather for race-day looks like this:

Sunday, Oct 11
High: 54 RealFeel: 52
Clouds and Sunshine


Finally, I promised Beka over at Fair Weather Runner that I would write her a haiku on my blog in order to earn an extra entry into her AMAAAAZING race training kit giveaway going on right now (check it out here! You have until Friday to enter!). So without further adieu . . .

The Leaves of Autumn
Calling You To Chicago
Beef Will Be Consumed

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Checking In

OMG, so much going on right now! I leave for Orlando on Friday morning, so I have been desperately attempting to pack my life up into 2 checked bags (at $19 a pop . . . ugh!), a back-pack and my over-sized "purse" (haha, tricky tricky!). I keep thinking to myself, "if only I didn't have so much running crap!" Man oh man . . . there's a lot of it. Well, then there's the separation anxiety I'm having over leaving much of my everyday clothing, accessories and shoes behind. I KNOW it's just four months, but I'm seriously attached to some of this stuff! Sadness . . .

Anyway, I just wanted to update y'all and let you know that I smashed my half-marathon PR last weekend without having to try very hard! Woohoo! Somehow, I had a SERIOUS half-marathon bad luck streak going on there for a while: twice I had run while seriously ill, and twice I'd run in serious heat with little to no aid station support. So yeah. Needless to say, my previous half-marathon PR (2:19:49) wasn't anything to write home about. In fact, that PR was earned in my VERY FIRST attempt at the distance (sinus infection and all). Basically, the goal for Sunday's Queens Half-Marathon was to run the entire race without walking (minus aid stations), and I did that successfully. Wilson and I took things nice and easy, and I managed to earn a new PR in the process. It's still not a very good time (2:15:34)--I know I am capable of so much more--but the important thing is that the bad luck streak has been broken! Race report to come . . . eventually :)

Hope you're all having a great week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Great Giveaways!

Hey y'all. Just a quick note to let you know that there are some great giveaways going on right now!

Ana-Maria over at Running and Living is giving away Chocolate #9 energy gels. Says Ana-Maria, "It tasted great . . . like melted chocolate, much better than the Chocolate Gu." Um, yummy? Go HERE to enter the giveaway.

Mel over at Mel Tries To Run has a great giveaway going on as well! She's giving away two prize packs that include the book "Running Hot" by Lisa Tamati (an incredible Ultrarunner), as well as Dean Karnazes "50 Marathons 50 Days." Go HERE to enter Mel's giveaway.

Other than the giveaways, these are two FABULOUS blogs . . . so even if you aren't interested in the giveaways, you should totally check them out!

Happy Hump Day! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hiya! And Also, Fitness Mind, Body, Spirit Games 4-miler

Okay, I think I'm going to have to blame this on what I like to call "unemployment brain" . . . but seriously? How on earth did over 2 weeks pass without me blogging once? Sheeesh! I had no clue it had been that long! I swear, I have absolutely no concept of time these days . . . I need to get down to Orlando and get into some kind of a routine STAT!

Anyway, despite the mini-blogging hiatus, I HAVE been getting my training runs in for the most part. The only thing that has been kind of difficult is that I have been nothing short of a racing FOOL as of late. And let me tell you, it gets kind of tricky trying to manipulate a marathon training schedule in order to accommodate all kinds of random distance races at all kinds of random times. I'm not going to complain about this, as I have nobody to blame but myself. I mean, no one is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to run all of these races; rather, these races are the result of my stubborn insistence that I MUST get as many of my NYRR qualifying races in as possible before I leave for Orlando in a week-and-a-half . . . because, damn it, I WILL be running the NYC Marathon in 2010, thank you very much! :)

You see, New York Road Runners members can earn automatic entry into the following year's NYC Marathon by running NINE qualifying road races during the preceding year and volunteering for at least one other event. Well, in the past month or so (since quitting my job), I have run in 4--soon to be 5--races: 2 4-mile races, a 5K, a half-marathon, and I will be running yet another half-marathon this weekend. Sigh. That's just . . . a lot. To say that I'm slightly burnt out on racing would be the understatement of the century. In fact, that right there explains why I haven't been posting race reports for these races (sorry, folks). The truth of the matter is that my performances have been mediocre at best, and I simply haven't felt like reliving the races by writing up race reports. Part of my bad performance stems from the fact that I've been forced to do things like run TO the races from Brooklyn (the volunteer at packet pick-up laughed at Wilson and I and asked, "Is this your second race of the day or something?" as we stood in front of him, dripping with sweat. His jaw dropped when we told him we'd run 8+ miles from Brooklyn to get there). But mostly, I've just not cared all that much. I've been treating the races as nothing but a means to qualify for NYC in 2010, and frankly, it has shown in my times.

The good news is that I'll have accumulated EIGHT qualifying races (and my volunteer requirement) by the time that I leave on September 25 . . . so I'll just have to come back to NYC one weekend before the end of the year to race (and visit Wilson too, of course). Another piece of good news is that, after weeks and weeks of racing, I FINALLY earned a PR last week at the Fitness Mind, Body, Spirit Games 4-mile race.

Highlights from the race included an appearance by Bob Harper of Biggest Loser fame . . . AND? An unexpected pep talk from none other than KARA GOUCHER before the start of the women's race (the men ran first at 9 a.m.; then the women competed afterwards at 10 a.m.)! EEEEK! HOLY GIRL CRUSH, BATMAN! Mary Wittenberg (the prez and CEO of NYRR) was giving some last minute instructions, when all of a sudden she stopped, and told us that there would be a special appearance from an unexpected guess who happened to be passing by. When she announced Kara's name, there was an audible GASP! from the crowd. I have never been so star-struck in all my life (and this is coming from the girl who used to drive around celebs like Robert Downey, Jr., Shia Labeouf, Channing Tatum, etc.)! My jaw dropped to about 6 inches from the ground. I guess Kara just happened to be out for a run in Central Park, noticed us all lined up to start the race, and she wanted to come over to see Mary Wittenberg and give us a nice pep talk. Um, wow . . . how is THAT for an added dose of inspiration?! My 'tude quickly shifted from, "UGH.COM; another stupid race!" . . . to "OMIGOD, I LOVE RUNNING! AND KARA! AND ALSO RUNNING! WEEEEEEE!"

We took our marks, got set . . . and we were off! I decided to start out conservatively. I was hoping to PR (previous PR was 35:34), but JUST BARELY, as I was hoping I could do so, but save enough of my legs to still get in a 20-mile run the next morning. The first mile passed in 8:28, which honestly, was a bit faster than necessary . . . but it felt pretty easy, so I just went with it. I continued on, feeling pretty decent, focusing on staying with this girl with a lime green claw clip in her hair. Unbeknownst to me, I picked it up during mile-2 and ended up with an 8:20 split.

Mile-3 is where the NYRR 4-milers in Central Park ALWAYS get a bit hairy for me. The stretch is just REALLY hilly and rough. My legs felt good as I started up hill, but after a while, I began to feel my breathing going. It was pretty humid out, and the thick air combined with the struggle of climbing up hill eventually got me to the point where I was very nearly on the verge of having a full-blown asthma attack. I tried slowing down the pace, but it wasn't enough. As shameful as I felt, I knew I had to slow to a walk to get my breathing under control. I ended up having to walk for a good quarter-mile or so before I finally felt like things were under control. The walking led to a heinous mile-3 split of 10:01.

As I resumed running, I did so at a pretty half-assed pace. I knew a PR was still in my power, but that I was going to have to push myself really hard and suffer pretty badly to earn it. I thought about just phoning it in, and giving up on the PR. I felt myself returning to the same mentality of "Really, who cares if I PR? I just need to finish for this to count as a qualifier." But then, I thought of Kara. I thought, "What if she was watching you right now, cheering on the sidelines or something? Is this the display you would want her to see?! Is this effort representative of who you are as a person and as a runner?! HELL NO, it's not. Pick it up NOW!" And I did. I embraced the pain and suffering I was going to have to endure to end up with a PR. And I went for it with all I had left in me.

I pushed myself so hard during that last mile, that I crossed the finish line, hit stop on Gertie, and immediately collapsed onto the fence that marked the finishers chute. Wilson was right there, congratulating me, but I was on the verge of passing out, and couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally, I recovered enough to look down at my Gertie. 35:32. I'd done it! I'd finished that last mile in 8:28! This meant, I'd PR'd by 2 seconds despite my stupid walk-break during mile-3. Hallelujah! I know that this run was nowhere near what I am capable of, but still . . . it felt good to have overcome an obstacle and still ended up with a PR.

In retrospect, I'm realizing more and more that, rather than complain about having asthma (ask Wilson how many times he's heard this one on a humid day), I have to be smarter about how I deal with it. Rather than continuing to really push myself when the breathing starts to go, I have to slow my pace down earlier. I've been waiting WAY too long to slow down my pace recently. Inevitably, it leads me to a point where I have no choice but to walk in a situation like Saturday's. If I was a bit more attentive and slowed my pace down earlier on, I could likely avoid walking altogether. In the long run, this practice clearly would give me MUCH better race times (after all; slowing to, say, a 9 minute mile for all of mile-3--rather than continuing to push and getting myself to the point of no return--would have saved me over a minute!).

Ah well, another race . . . another lesson learned.

Ha, I'd forgotten how good those PRs feel! I want another one SO badly! I'll be SHOCKED if I don't come away from Sunday's half with a PR. Yes, I'm planning to run 20 miles on Friday, two days beforehand . . . but still, watch out for me Queens Half. I'm coming for you! No excuses ;)