Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The perfect man

I ran 6.7 miles today. And it hurt. In the knee. And this made me very, very sad. It kind of makes me want to cry (out of sadness, not pain). I have big plans for 2011 that may not come to fruition if this keeps up. And that's all I'm going to say about that. It's just too depressing to discuss further.

On a happier note, I signed up for the Run for the BLING of it Challenge 2011. That means 12 races in 12 months. (So unless you want to read 12 5K recaps you better start praying for my friggin' knee and praying hard!) I'm excited to race, and even more excited to meet a few (more) great running bloggers!

On an unrelated topic, how about one more Christmas picture? Truth be told, I'm mostly posting this to remind you that I don't always look like this.

On an even further and completely unrelated to running topic...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas: the running

Introducing Big Green.

The world's largest watch in the entire world. Holy crap. I've never seen a bigger watch in the whole wide world.

All the more for me to love.

Christmas: the presents...er...family

Christmas: the ornaments

Alternatively titled: Take another guess as to what's filling our wall of shelves.

And while we're on the topic of ornaments...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dreaming of a pink Christmas

Super Happy Merry Christmas to me!! My new Newton running shoes arrived in the mail the other day.

After much deliberation, I finally bit the bullet and shelled out the dough for the shoes I really wanted. Shoes that were made for me. As I write this I feel a bit like I'm confessing to my support group, "Hello. My name is Laura. And I'm a forefoot runner."

And I always have been. It just hasn't always been cool. Beginning in junior high when my dad would tease me about the funny way I ran down the basketball court. (Which is pretty remarkable considering the amount of time I spent on the bench. My dad was very considerate in never teasing me about that.) I used to try and make myself run heel-toe because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. But as soon as I got tired I would always revert back to my forefoot.

I remember discussing the topic with other runner friends and saying things like, "I don't know why I run this why." And, "It just feels a lot easier." They would always reply by suggesting I build up strength in particular muscle groups or buy different shoes. (Looks like I listened to their advice in the end!)

It wasn't until this year when a co-worker suggested I read Born to Run that the stars aligned and all became right with the world. I ran around for the next month proclaiming, "This book validated my life!" Literally. That's what I said.

Now I know I could just trot along on my forefoot in regular, old running shoes. But I'm excited to try a shoe made for forefoot running. And I was a sucker for a few of their other selling points:
  • They're light and (let's hope) fast!
  • The mesh top felt great when I gave them a test drive at the Malibu Half Marathon expo!
  • I'll know I need to replace them when the lugs wear to the shoe. (Usually I just wait until I get bored with my old shoes and feel like a change.)
  • In the product description there's a bullet under Midfoot that says, "ETC anti-friction, anti-bacterial sockliner." I'm not getting my hopes up yet, but I'm hoping (Wups! Looks like hope has been spent.) that this will help prevent blisters.

And let's not forget. THEY'RE PINK!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The limiting factor

Once upon a time I was a weight lifter. Nothing hardcore, just a few curls here and a few presses there. When I found a weight especially heavy I also found it especially difficult NOT to make this face. (Note that I'm lifting the left side of my upper lip in the picture below. My involuntary lips curls were always on the right side of my upper lip. This will be important later...)

But then I stopped lifting weights and Elvis Presley left my lips. Until now. For the last week or so he's crept back in every time I try and pull my leg much higher than my head in this pose. (Picture featuring random internet lady.)

The curious thing about this phenomena is that I can't actually raise the right side of my upper lip on my own accord. If I make an attempt it ends up looking like this.

I'm not sure which is more embarassing. Making an Elvis face in yoga class or posting these pictures on the internet. Seriously. I look really bad.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From the archives

I ran my very first race (well, my first race longer than 200 meters anyway) at age 23. It was a 10K and I won. I should clarify...I placed first in my age/sex group.

Okay, there's one more little bitty detail. There were a grand total of four people in that group. And the other three girls finished within seconds of each other and right around an hour and a half. If my 68 year old mother had been a part of our group she probably could have walked herself to a second place finish.

They sent me a ribbon in the mail but I threw it out because I didn't feel like it counted. That's not the best part of the story though.

I ran the race with my roommate at the time. He proudly hung his 3rd place ribbon on our balcony door handle for months. There were three people in his group.

In current events...

For those of you who correctly identified Yoda atop our tree, care to take a crack at what's filling the shelves?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The eye of the storm

I've been a little remiss in posting this week. But only because I didn't want to bore you. You need only to look to my blog title to know what I've been up to.

I did also make it to yoga once. Superwoman (That's what Kelsea and I call her.) was teaching and I barely made it out alive. The room is always unquestionably hotter when she teaches. And I laced up my tired, old pair of Adidas' once. The plan was to run one mile, but I was feeling so good I decided to go crazy and run two. How about that?

I did leave one unfortunate detail out of my Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas race report. My extreme knee pain. I started to feel it during the race but pushed through it. Which probably wasn't the best thing to do, because it only grew increasingly worse throughout the rest of the day. I was kind of bummed out about this because I've never really had knee problems before and wasn't really interested in starting.

The good news is it was completely gone by Tuesday and held up just fine during my run. And I only felt the very slightest twinge of irritation during one yoga pose. Still, I'm going to take it easy through the rest of the month. You might catch me cuddled on the couch, eating bags of Christmas cookies, watching Home Alone and enjoying this guy! (Don't worry. I have big off-the-couch plans for 2011...)

Points go to anyone who names our tree topper.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paparazzi on the run

Good morning! The most amazing weekend started off with the most earliest Saturday morning flight to Las Vegas. Don't let those tired eyes fool you. I was giddy with excitement and anxious anticipation. And by the time we had landed and met up with my Team Challenge teammates, my non-alcoholic buzz had turned to full-fledged drunk. Maybe it was knowing I planned to put my all into this race. Maybe it was the energy wafting from my teammates running their first half. Or maybe I had finally woken up. Regardless of the reason, I was feeling good.

From there we shuttled to the hotel, checked in, peed, snacked and headed towards the expo. It was as we stood in line for shuttle #2 of the day that Jason started in with some teenage hysterics. If you're like me you'll take a look at the thuggie boys standing next to one of the buses and wonder what the big fuss was all about. If you're like Jason you'll know that one of those gentlemen is Method Man. (That's right. That there's a link to his Wikipedia page. You know, for the occasional blogging runner unfamiliar with '90s rap.)

The expo itself was an experience. There were a ton of vendors, a few great products and even more people. I walked away feeling confident in my Christmas wishlist and with a Halo headband. There's a rubber-like strip on the bottom of the headband that's supposed to redirect sweat away from your face. I was sold after one look at their snazzy demonstration model. While I don't drip sweat while I'm running, I definitely pour buckets in the yoga studio, and I'm hoping this will do the trick.

I don't really have anything to say about this other than I thought it was funny.

Unfortunately no amount of runners high or retail therapy kept me from getting grumpy and claustrophobic. There were too many people to maintain a healthy bubble of personal space. At one point some guy turned and walked straight into me. I stormed forward, eager to find some breathing room. He put his hands on my shoulders from behind and told me he was sorry, but I wasn't having it! I mumbled a sorry under my breathe in a tone that said something more like, "Watch where you're going dickwad!" and continued to charge ahead.

Jason was a few feet behind me and managed to get a picture of the back of his head.

As well as the front of his head.

Excuse me, WHAT?!?! My turn for some teenage hysterics!!! Uh, turns out random body check came from...oh...you know...Mark McGrath!!! Only the lead singer of Sugar Ray and subject of my high school celebrity crush! (I've decided not to link to his Wikipedia page because I want you to do your own Google image search on this guy.) Don't worry. I learned my lesson. Be patient. At least until you know who you're dealing with.

After the expo we grabbed some lunch and snuck in a nap. Dinner was magnificent, but I'm going to save it for my Team Challenge recap. Let's just get to the point already.

The expo was good practice for the race. There were so many people! I started in corral #13 and learned a valuable lesson. Under predict your finish time by A LOT. I was weaving in and out of people for the first four miles! (And I'm going to pretend like that had nothing to do with starting off too fast.)

I checked my watch after the first mile, and it read 8:26. I knew this was faster than I wanted to go, but didn't worry too much about it. I always let the race atmosphere get the best of me and run my first mile fast. No problem. "Just back off," I told myself. My goal was to run between a 9:00 and a 9:10 pace for the first 8 miles and then reassess.

But then I went and ran the second mile at around an 8:45 pace. "Whoa, Laura. Relax." Said my head. My legs had a different plan. Miles three and four were pretty much a repeat of mile two. That's when I got greedy. I was feeling good. I started thinking I might be able to sustain that pace for the whole race. I didn't bother doing the math because I didn't want to jinx it, but the idea of super-sub-2 was seductive.

And I did hold onto that pace until about mile 6.5 when I caught up to the 2 hour pace group. I didn't know what corral they started in but knew they must have started a few minutes before I did. I don't remember feeling especially tired, but it must have been slowly sneaking in because I told myself to pull back and run with the pace group until mile 10.

That plan lasted all of maybe a half mile. There were too many people crowded around the pace leader, and the longer I hung around the more frustrated I got. By mile seven I had had enough and sprinted ahead of the group like I was running from Mark McGrath.

It wasn't too long after that that the reality of my body's limitations started to kick in. I could feel my pace slipping. I figured as long as I stayed ahead of the pace group I was okay. And even though they stayed out of sight, I continued to slow down. By mile nine I was ready to be done.

I went into "just keep moving" mode. I tried to give myself little pep talks:

  • "Just remember that no matter what pain you're feeling right now, it's nothing compared to what Stacey's had to endure with Crohn's. This one's for Stacey. Don't let her down."
  • "Just pretend like these are Kelsea's legs, and she's stepping in to finish the race for you."
  • "This is a choice. Your body can do this. You just have to make the choice to run in a place that's uncomfortable."

Except for my body couldn't do it. As it turns out, these races aren't completely mental. There is also a physical element and mine was breaking down. The only self-coaching I was able to respond to was, "Just don't stop running. Put one foot in front of the other, and don't stop."

Around mile 12 an angel came and saved me. It was my 6 foot 60 inch teammate (Can you pick him out in a line up?). There was his head, bobbing up and down above the sea of heads way off in the distance. It was just what I needed. I vowed to catch up to him. And even though it took me the better part of that last mile, I did. I couldn't have dreamt of a better finish.

The rest of the day followed suit. We ate the most amazing brunch - veggie omelette, potatoes, bacon, ice cream and bottomless mimosas! (Why is it that food tastes so incredibly good after burning 1300 calories?) And slept pretty much all afternoon. Once rested we celebrated our victories with margaritas and guacomole at the Northern California Team Challenge after party!

After some pizza in bed we called it a night. Pizza in bed. Does it get any better than that?

Monday, December 6, 2010

One habit I picked up in Sin City

I travelled to Las Vegas this July to celebrate a friend's bachelorette party. In August I signed up for the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon with Team Challenge. And right now, as I write this post, I feel at a loss for words. Or rather, there are so many words I pretty much don't know where to start. This weekend I realized how truly life changing the whole process of training has been.

I attribute most of my emotional surplus to Team Challenge. I've been somewhat hesitant to write too much about Team Challenge throughout training because I didn't want my 2 - 3 readers to think the purpose of my blog was to solicit donations. Now that fundraising is behind me I feel like I'm on safe ground. So be on the lookout for a Team Challenge recap.

This weekend also served as one big, colossal milestone for me personally. Last week Kelsea described me as a "yo-yo runner," and I think she pretty much hit the nail on the head. Since a mere pre-teen I have picked up and put down running about a millon and a half dozen times. And I've never held onto it long enough to make any significant progress. This is probably the reason I never have and still can't seem to call myself a runner.

But as I look back on the last six months, I can't help but feel proud of how far I've come. I was running one mile a day in July when I last visited Las Vegas. I remember saying to one of my marathoner girlfriends, "I wonder if they have any marathons or half marathons on the strip. That'd be pretty cool." And now here I am having finished one.

I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment when I started running under an 11:00 min/mile pace and under a 10:00 min/mile pace. I was thrilled to beat my 5K PR, and floored when I ran a 10K with an average pace under 9:00 min/mile. I couldn't believe how good I felt after cutting 10 minutes off my half marathon time in Malibu, and started to believe I might not be an athletic retard when I beat my 5K PR again. By more than 4 minutes.

And then there was Las Vegas. I called my mom this morning to tell her how the half marathon went. I'm going to go ahead and spoil the end of my (will be posted soon) race recap by summarizing our conversation.

Mom: And how long did it take you?
Me: 1:56:48
Mom: Oh good! I know you wanted to finish in less than 2 minutes.
Me (chuckling): I'm not quite that fast.
Mom: Well, what does 1:56 mean then? Does that mean 1 hour and 56...?
Me: Mom. Do you really think it's possible to run 13 miles in 2 minutes?

We both had a good laugh over that. My mom and her orders of magnitude...

But all of that falls in the shadow of the death grip I have on running. This race marked a turning point. I don't plan on quitting this time around.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pick on someone your own size

I'm thinking about changing the name of my blog to, "I'd (probably) rather be Kelsea." I've already painted blog-character-Kelsea like Superwoman (here and here), and she's about to get even more kudos in this post.

You see, we've had this on-going debate about whether it's acceptable to tell someone it looks like they've lost weight. Kelsea always maintained that it's rude because it's really saying, "I recognized that you were fatter before." I always considered it a compliment on the accomplishment of losing the weight. Today I joined Kelsea's team.

Before I tell you about how I was recruited, let me start with some background info. My calves and my quads are feeling a little sore after my (maybe too?) speedy 5 mile run Wednesday. I went to yoga yesterday thinking it would help, but I think it just made it worse. And I'm kind of freaking out about it. I have this half marathon thing on Sunday, and I want my legs to be fresh.

So at 9:00 pm last night I ate an entire Chipotle burrito. I woke up this morning, shovelled my usual oatmeal into my mouth and washed it down with a donut. Before I knew it I was sitting across the lunch table from Jason. Four tacos in and I was swirling rice and beans around my American proportioned plate.

Me: "I'm stuffed."
Jason (sarcastically): "Well, you should probably keep eating then."
Me: "I have this weird and surely inaccurate notion that if I eat more my muscles will heal faster."
Jason: "I think it's probably just going to make you poop more."

Despite my better judgement and unsettled stomach, I finished my plate and went back to work. Funny that this afternoon, of all afternoons, would be the afternoon that one of my co-workers would decide to tell me that I'm losing too much weight.

What followed was a pretty awkward and unpleasant conversation, during which I tried to explain that while I have lost some weight I'm neither currently losing or trying to lose weight. He came back with a nice, little lecture on how, "losing weight can be good, but there comes a point..." blah blah blah. Argghhh!!!

I wanted to scream at him, "Look buddy! I know! That's why I'm not on a diet! That's why I always eat when I'm hungry! I just happen to run a lot, and I happen to not have fat genes. Go mind your own scale!"

I've had a number of people comment on my weight over the last several months. Today was just the last straw. Some comments have been complimentary, but some have been subtly insulting. And a couple, like this one, have been directly offensive and condescending. So now I agree with Kelsea. Please do not comment on my weight, unless you want to tell me the things I know are true. I am healthy. I am strong. My body is capable and smokin' hot.

Anyway, he must have sensed my frustration because he tried to recover by saying, "Maybe it's your hair that's different." What a ridiculous thing to say. We all know it's been ages since I did anything to my hair.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A few highlights

1) After I kicked the turkey's ass in the Walnut Creek 5K, I got to thinking that I might be underestimating myself. Really what I'm saying here is that I'm afraid to set goals there's a chance I can't reach. And that's stupid. Life's about taking risks, right?

This is what I was thinking when our Team Challenge coach gave his schpeal on how, "It's okay to run in a place that's uncomfortable." Right. It's not a question of what I can do and what I can't do. It's a question of comfort. The 5K showed me how much more I'm capable of if I let myself become "uncomfortable."

And this is what I was thinking when I opened up my Google Reader and saw this post on the Oh Healthy Day blog. I stopped thinking, and I decided. I'm shooting for a sub 2 hour half marathon in Las Vegas. I'm going for it. THIS SUNDAY.

2) Our Team Challenge coach also gave us a stern lecture on not wearing anything new on race day. I listened quietly, knowing full well that I plan on wearing a new shirt and two new pairs of socks. Yes, two. These socks are my next anti-blister plan of attack. I feel so rebellious.

3) My calves hurt for 4 days after the Walnut Creek Turkey Trot.

4) I did some speed work on the track on Saturday anyway. I was pretty excited to get out there during the daylight. Unfortunately all that meant was I was able to see all the puddles, mud, goose poop and random benches and tables really well. I had to jump back and forth between the track and football field. And, not surprisingly, managed to slide in the mud and fall down halfway through my first 800m. Beautiful.

5) I love 105 degree yoga in the winter. This is exactly where I wanted to be last night.

6) I went for a cold, dark 5 mile run tonight. I took a handheld flashlight. Pretty sure I looked like a strobe light running down the street. An elementary-school-aged boy out collecting the mail sprinted back into his house when he saw me coming. Intimidated by my beauty probably. Oh puberty.

7) My calves are sore again.

8) I'm pretty excited for the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon this weekend.

9) It's been ages since I got a haircut. My color is looking a little dull too. What do you think? Brown or light red?

Dark red?
Bright red?
Or blonde highlights?