Sunday, August 19, 2012

Taking the Training Plan on the Road

Breathtaking view from my Bershire Hotel

What my training these last three months have lacked in consistency have made up for in variety!  It wasn't all heat, humidity and bonking. I had some amazing experiences. It took being at home to realize and appreciate them.  As Paul Theroux said, “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”

 Here’s a little photographic scrapbook highlighting some of my most memorable exercise experiences while on my east coast work-cation.

Running along the St. Charles Esplanade from Cambridge into Boston.   
Sights and sounds of the orchestra rehearsing for the July 4th Boston Pops.

 Swimming laps under a  blue sky in a hotel pool 
and then lounging with a good book.

 Encountering swan, deer and fawn on trail runs.

Ending a long run as the sunset transformed East Rock an exquisite shade of gold. 

 Getting caught running in a East Coast storm-- Warm air, huge raindrops falling from overflowing clouds, thunder and lightening.  

 Swimming in a the beautiful, warm Laurel Lake.

The view of New Haven from atop East Rock after a long grueling hill climb. 

Early morning hill repeats on streets lined with beautiful homes and buildings on the Yale Campus

Swimming a mile in the Long Island Sound.

 Diving into Yale’s freezing 50-meter pool on a particularly hot, humid day.

Running the longest I’ve run since an injury . 

Soaking in the New England views from the top of the Stone Tower of Sleeping Giant State Park.

Speedwork on a mini-track suspended from the seventh floor of the gym.

Reflections in the Mill River

Hiking a tiny piece of the Apalacian Trail with my family

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Run From You-Know-Where

I have been surrounded by amazingly smart, dedicated young people on the other side of this country for the last seven weeks.  I was the crone of the crowd.   In an effort to not appear as old as dirt, I wore extra make-up and attempted to pick up the youthful vernacular which includes the overuse of certain words, phases and bizarre, grammatically incorrect punctuation.  My sincere apologies to my middle aged- English major friends.  I hope by writing this blog that I have gotten it out of my system and can return to my old (as in previous) self again.

I had the longest training run I've had in long time.  I’m seriously out of practice.  Once upon a time, I used to plan these twenty-plus mile suckers with NASA-like precision.  No more.  I reserve Type A fussing for triathlon.  So theoretically, I’m training for a 50K.  Only thing is, I’m 3,000 miles away from home on a work-cation with my family in Connecticut.  Have you ever been to CT in the summer?  It’s HOT.  It’s humid.  Imagine a full weight sleeping bag, soaked in water and put in a sauna.  Now put that over your head.  That’s what it feels like.

I'm living in a dorm room and eating all my meals at a dining hall.  I used to be gluten free.  That was too hard.  I lowered my standards and am now settling for glutton-free.  Whoa! I was talking about running, not food, right?  That’s what happens. Every. Single. Time.  I fill up on the good eats, develop a gut paunch (aka food baby). Then I can’t run.  I have to take naps instead.  I haven’t dared step on the scale.  I did go shopping for shorts at JCrew though.  Started off thinking my ass might squeeze into a size four.  Maybe two on a lucky day.  Nearly blew a head gasket out when I discovered that I was not only a zero, but a double zero!  Really, JCrew?  Your size deflation will not make up for your price inflation.  Who pays $48 for a pair of shorts?  Not, me!  I'll leave those super cute 00 shorts on the rack along with that overpriced skinny turquoise belt that made me all warm and fuzzy inside and goes with 70% of my wardrobe.  

Okay, so back to my running story.  Several months ago, when I was feeling all high and mighty, I registered for a 50K.  Do you know something?  A 50K is 31 (freakin') miles!  That’s a long way!  I’ve never run that far in. my. entire. life.  I know! Right?  I'm like “what “WUZ” she thinking?!”  Registering for a 50K, training all by herself, in a strange place, on the other side of the country, under a hot wet sleeping bag?  

Only time to get in a decent run without getting heat exhaustion is to run super early.  That brings me to my next challenge.  Coffee.  We don’t have a coffee pot in our dorm room!  I know, right?!  So guess what I have to do?  I have to wake up and walk to the Starbucks.  To make matters worse, SBux doesn’t open until 5:30!!! That’s not the worst part, either!  Apparently this SBux reserves the right to open anytime ten to thirty minutes after their posted time.  To make matters more complicated, they change those hours on a daily basis to keep you guessing.

But actually today, SBux's opening hours don't impact me.  I have already had my coffee, eaten my breakfast and taken my kids to summer camp.  By then, it was good and hot and humid for my run.  My plan:  I would run down a super long safe street from one town into another, hang a right and arrive at a tourist-worthy state park.  It would take me two hours to get there.  Then another two hours to get back.  Remember, I'm training for a 50K?  Ironically, this street is lined with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR cemeteries!  Wow!  Two of the said cemeteries lack sidewalks.  I had to run on. the. grass.  So here I am in Connecticut’s most haunted of cities, running alongside cemeteries trying not to turn an ankle because they don’t have SIDEWALKS, then... (Wait for it)...  I pass a FUNERAL PROCESSION!  Swear. To. God.  There were little black flags on the cars and everything.  So I’m like, what is the theme of my twenty-mile run today? 

I’m running by myself.  Well, me and my friend, iPhone.  (When I get lonely, I can check the Shuttle schedule, update my facebook status, snap pictures of “what an awesome time I’m having in CT”, or find out how far I’ve gone on my RunKeeper app (LIARS!).It doesn't take long for my fuel-belt water to reach boiling point and for me to realize that yes, I'll be needing a Gu after all.  I dodge into a Walgreens.  Folks in CT don’t seem to see red-faced, sweaty runners in skirts and clashing fuel belts wandering the air-conditioned aisles looking for Gu.  They gawk.  One mother actually pulled her child away from me when I walked down the aisle.  Just in case you were wondering, Walgreens does not carry Gu.  The next best thing was a squeezy foil package of mango/banana baby food.  Thanks to one of my favorite blogs, Everymom To Ironmom, I learned that this is a great substitute for a gel.  Woefully, I left the super air conditioned with my ice cold water, baby food and Cliff Bar and headed out for the remaining 17 miles of my run. 

I'm back out in the elements trying to suck up the fact that it's going to be a very hot, humid, slow, lonely run when I realize there's more to complain about.   I don't know how to put this delicately, but the east coast STINKS!  I don't mean that figuratively either.  It's a very cool place to work, experience and travel, but it smells.  Sure, it's full of historically significant places, yadda, yadda, yadda, but unless I'm walking by an ice cream store making waffle cones or a coffee house, it never smells good here.  I don’t know how to say this without offending all those charming, ever-so-friendly, hospitable, smart, worldly east coasters, but it smells like garbage and urine here.  It's a good thing that I mostly breathe through my mouth while shuffling under a wet sleeping bag.  

 I’m running in the smelly heat and humidity along a cemetery-and-gas station-lined safe road with my friend iPhone when I realize that I still have 5-1/2 miles before I get to my half-way point!  Then I get to run ten miles back “home”.  I rally the troops.  I zip into an air-conditioned convenience store and buy a bottle of Poweraid.  This place is the best.   It has a sink right up front for me to rinse out my fuel belt bottles and make my diluted water/PowerAde concoction.  I get curious glances from fellow customers.  Most of them are there to buy lotto tickets and are too absorbed with their scratch-its to gawk at me.  I.  Will. Not. Stop. Again.  Well, at least not until I reach my destination “Sleeping Giant State Park”.

This would be my second trip to this park.   I would actually get to do some trail running since I was running further today.  I was really looking forward to it.  Last time, I never actually saw the “Sleeping Giant”.  While I was there, I thought about asking the park rangers where he was, but was too shy.  Today I’m thankful for my socially awkward ways.  It turns out I was standing ON the Sleeping Giant’s hip when I almost asked where he was.  From three miles away, I can clearly see the Sleeping Giant. He’s this big guy lying on his back with chin and feet jutting out of the sky.  He looks like this (O----0-----o).  He’s really a sight to behold, especially after you’ve seen nothing but gas stations, cemeteries and your iPhone for the last 8-1/2 miles.

With Sleeping Giant in my sight, my resolve is renewed.  I will run. Well, I’ll at least jog.  Okay, I’ll wog, until I get to him.  Then I’ll go further!  I will climb 1.6 miles up the Tower Path until I reach the tower which will (on a clear day) reward me with good views and photographic opportunities and most importantly, a worthy Facebook check-in.  As I run, I keep hearing Robin William’s voice yelling “Gooooooooood moooooooooorning Vietnam!  How’s the weather?  It’s hot.  It’s hot and wet.  Good when you’re with a lady but bad in the jungle.”  WORD!  I run straight to the water pump, turn it on and proceed to douse myself in it and gulp it down.  It. Was. AWESOME!  Water never tasted, nor felt so good before.  I grabbed a map, munched on a Cliff Bar, checked my e-mail, distance/time covered and the weather report (82 degrees and 86% humidity?!).

I decided that in this insane weather, I would just hoof it up to the Tower rather than kill myself trying to run the blasted thing.  Running in CT is like running at high elevation.  It sucks.  Heart rate spikes, huffing and puffing ensue, you run hella slow and feel dead tired.  I am OVERJOYED when I can get my pace to sub-11 minute miles and not totally disheartened when I can break 13-minute miles.  “Every day I’m Shufflin" is my mantra and theme song.  I’m not too proud to walk.  I have nothing to prove.  

It was a real pretty hike, I mean, run.  Still, if the view from the top was anything short of spectacular, I was going to feel ripped off.  I might have to call a taxi to take me home.  I needed a good view, photo ops, some baby food and maybe another frolic under the water pump to get me through the ten miles back home.  Suddenly I am at the base of an amazing stone tower jutting from the middle of the Sleeping Giant! Up the four flights of ramps I went to the tippy top where I had the most amazing 360-degree panoramic view.  There’s no way to describe what I saw so I’ll just show you a video clip and some pictures that I took. 

My mini movie. WATCH IT to experience the amazing panorama!

In a nutshell, Sleeping Giant is one of the area’s most recognizable and eye catching landmarks.  Native American artifacts indicate that original inhabitants of this area hunted on the Sleeping Giant for thousands of years before the English colonists came.  Natives considered it a place where spirits dwell.  Legend has it that the Great Spirit cast a spell on the giant which forced him to sleep for eternity.  In the 1920s, folks started quarrying Sleeping Giant’s head and almost woke him up!  Fortunately, SGPA stopped the destruction, prevented the Sleeping Giant from being awoken and thereby prevented local inhabitants from being cursed with bad luck and forever haunted by bad spirits.

Gorgeous east coast trails

 Stone Tower, an observation tower was built on the giant’s left hip in the 1930s.

My photo op. I look so hot, tired and grumpy.
All downhill from here! 

Revived, rejuvenated and more smarter about the area’s history, geography and culture, I descended the Tower Path, doused myself in water and proceeded to run ten miles “home”.  It was hot(ter).  Determination.  I would finish this run but it would not be pretty.  I stopped at a park and sucked down my baby food.  It turned me into a baby.  I wanted to cry and stamp my foot in frustration at this hot, humid, smelly, solo-running business.  WHY did I sign up for this race?  I used every trick in the book to get myself home.   I took walk breaks.  I nibbled my Cliff Bar.  I drank water.  I imagined licking the salt rims off margarita glasses.  I ran mile by mile.  When that was too much, I ran stop light to stop light.  When that was too much, I ran shady spot to shady spot.  Then my stomach started heading south.  Next thing I know, I've gone from feeling hot and sweaty to feeling cold and clammy.  I. Was. Bonking.  
Tasty! Think I've found a Gu alternative
Four miles away from “home”, I stopped at my gas station to buy cold water and wash and refill my sticky bottles.  I am not a sweater.  I don’t mean a cardigan or cable knit either.  My pores do not leak precious fluid on the west coast.  Here on the east coast, it’s another story.  I sweat.  We’re not just talking beads on my forehead and under the pits;  I sweat everywhere.  Today that sweat was salty.  What I really needed was an S-Cap or some Lays Potato Chips.  I knew what I needed but since I was only four miles away from being done I would just "suck it up, buttercup!"  Then I started to cramp.  I had been running in the heat for almost four hours.  Stubborn, determined, hard-headed and eager to make good on my facebook claim,  I somehow managed to run 20 miles that morning/afternoon. *the crowd roars!*

Once I got "home", I ate a rootbeer cupcake, banana and can of nuts.  CALORIES!  Then guzzled down water.  PARCHED!  Then I took my ice-shower.  Huh?  When one doesn’t have the luxury of sitting in a tub of ice water because one lives in a dorm room with a detached tubless restroom, one must take ice showers.  They look something like this: Get naked. Turn shower on cold.  Step in.  Stand under cold stream.  Collapse onto tiled floor in stall.  Prop legs on wall.  Let cold water "ice" legs.  Rotate as needed.  While you're at it, wash hair and salty encrusted face and bod.  Stand up, bend over and let the cold water have it's way with your backside.  There you have it, a proper ice shower!

After my ice shower, I fall into a fitful sleep.  When I awake, I wander over to the dining hall for my "recovery meal".  BEHOLD! 

 Fried chicken, mac 'n cheese, french fries, caprese salad,collard greens, Coke, apple-pie and cookie dough ice cream.
This meal was the best part of my run!  No, wait a minute, the Tower Trail summit was the best part of this run.  NO!  The fact that I stuck out a ridiculously hard, hot, lonely run on sheer grit and willpower was the best part of this run.  By golly, I believed I could and I did!  Let this be a lesson to others.  It doesn't have to be pretty.  It doesn't have to be fast.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  Just get out there and do it!  You will be stronger mentally and physically as result. 

I love this picture and quote.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The “D” Word

Has been chasing me, trying to grasp hold of me and pull me down.

I resist.
I run.
I hide.

Not me.
You can’t catch me.

I’ve seen what you drive others to do.
Thief of childhood,
invisible force.

Sudden burst of flame
leaving behind wreckage.
Slow smolder
stealing pieces
til nothing remains.

I resist.
I run.
I hide.

Not me.
You can’t catch me.

plugging ears,
summoning police,

Awkward visits,
uncomfortable silences
prison cells,
treatment facilities,
mental hospitals.

I resist.
I run.
I hide.

Not me.
You can’t catch me.

Bottles of pills,
strewn beer cans,
overflowing ashtrays.
12 steps,
Serenity Prayer

Erratic behaviors
dilated eyes,
red eyes,
wild eyes,
vacant eyes
unrecognizable eyes.

I resist.
I run.
I hide.

Not me.
You can’t catch me.

Good girl.
smart choices,
working hard
keeping busy,
bearing witness.

Hoping to be spared.