Two Moments of Hmph (plus One Moment of Victory)

Yesterday, when I got home, I saw another car pulling into the space across from mine (and between me and my apartment). In the passenger seat was a big teenager; I don’t just mean tall, I don’t just mean heavy, I mean big. You know, with that ruddy expression and sullen look and a sense of mass about him. As the other car was pulling in, he was licking a Minute Maid Limeaid Pop—and we are talking huge, exaggerated licks of which you normally only see in a cartoon. I mention all of this because it explains why this guy instantly registered on my radar.

Anyway, they got out of their car, and I got out of mine and fiddled around for a moment with my work bag and such. As I walked by theirs, I noticed that the teenager had dropped the wrapper of his pop on the sidewalk, apparently unable to bring it another 45 seconds towards a trash can. Charming. I knew I had trash to empty, so I figured I’d just pick it up on my way back out in about 20 minutes.

When I headed back out, though, I’d been running late and decided to delay the trash emptying until today. So as I walked by the car with the wrapper on the sidewalk, I scooped up the wrapper—and tucked it under the windshield wiper of the car. Hopefully they got the message.

 

On a non-victorious moment, I hit the morning spinning class today because I already had plans for this evening with my family. And sadly, instead of Barb (who’s been filling in for about two months while they tried to find a new instructor for Wednesday mornings) it was a new woman, Barbara, who’d taken over the slot. And it seems that Barbara’s idea of a good time was playing Jimmy Buffett. As in, probably 35 of the 45 minutes of the class was Jimmy Buffett.

As I loathe Jimmy Buffett’s music with a passion, I have made a mental note that from now on if I know I can’t make the Wednesday night class, I’m re-arranging everything else to hit Monday morning instead. The instructor at that time slot and I have a much closer musical taste. Because, quite frankly, had we been on moving cycles I would’ve contemplated throwing myself in front of another one this morning, in an effort to stop the horrible music from lodging into my head.

Good Morning

Ever had one of those mornings where everything seemed to just click?

This one unfolded perfectly. Got up and went to the gym early, snagging the last rowing machine. The woman next to me, Kathy, was chatty but in a good way. She said she didn’t recognize me and I’d mentioned that I was coming earlier these days, and a little more often while I took a week or so off of running. So we chatted about marathons (she agreed that Marine Corps is too crowded these days) and how she used to run them until her doctor made her stop, but how her husband runs ultra-marathons. She also laughed that I was “rowing too fast” her her to keep up and that she was competitive.

Now, I was thinking she was in her mid-to-late 50s. Turns out I was off by about, oh, 15 years. I want to be as in-shape and generally cool as Kathy in my 70s. And rowing next to her did wonders for my performance; a 30-minute set for me normally racks up the calorie counter in the 360-375 range, and around 6500 meters. Today’s set ended with it being at 404 calories and somewhere around 6750m. Clearly I will need to schedule my exercise around her schedule.

Bento Lunch -- 2008-04-11After a set on the elliptical and a nice chat over there with Roger (who had come in to hit the Friday morning spinning class, much to my surprise; turns out he had the morning off) it was back home, where after a shower (using a free sample from LUSH of their Buffy soap, which is great stuff) I took the brown rice out of the steamer, cooked some sausage and added it in, then seasoned the whole thing with coriander, chipotle pepper powder, cayenne pepper, and a few other spices and turned it into part of a bento lunch.

From there, it was off to work and the GW Parkway was just beautiful. I rolled the windows down, put the B-52s song “Hot Corner” on auto-repeat (and for those wondering how long the commute is, it was almost done with its fifth play when I got to work) and sang along while the warm breeze blew into the car and flowering trees gently dropped their petals. It’s just the right temperature out; no jacket needed, just a short-sleeve shirt and jeans and off we go.

There’s no big event in all of this. No “and then I found a million dollars” moment, no sudden turning point. Just a really good morning where you feel awake, and alert, and aware of everything around you, and alive. It was just about perfect, really. I wish all mornings were like this, but I’ll take them when they appear.

I hope everyone else is having their own version of a good morning.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

As the pollen explosion began to hit the DC area about two weeks ago, my allergies—like every year—went berserk. Normally I take 60mg of Allegra in the morning and am all right, but during this time of year by early evening it starts wearing off. There’s only so much one little pill can do.

So, as a stop-gap measure, my original plan was to up my dosage to the recommended twice-a-day level. (My feeling has always been that if I can get away with half a dose that I should do so. My physician thankfully not only agrees with me but still gives me the twice-a-day prescription for whenever things do get bad so that I don’t run out mid-month with no refill in sight.) But then I decided to try a little experiment. So in the evening, about an hour before bed, I’m now taking a Benadryl.

Early Morning Self-PortraitThe result has been nothing short of astounding. On the whole I fall asleep a little faster (except for last Friday night), and I do still wake up at least once or twice (drink some water and pass back out) but when I wake up in the morning—I actually wake up. For those who haven’t seen me in the morning, trust me when I say that it is not a pretty sight, to put it mildly. I am tired, I am groggy, I am slightly incoherent. I had to buy an alarm clock with an adjustable snooze alarm because 9 minutes would be too long and I would fall completely back asleep. (It’s currently set at 6 minutes.)

Now? When the alarm goes off I’m out of bed within 15 minutes instead of in the 45-to-75 minute range. This has been especially good for starting to go to the gym in the mornings again. I can get such an earlier start that it means I have time for a longer, more fulfilling workout; hitting half an hour on the rowing machine now means I still have time for a second half hour of something else. Or this morning, knowing I couldn’t hit my evening spinning class, I actually hit my first 6:30am class ever. Hopefully this will let me shed those five pounds of “winter weight” a little faster than normal. Maybe even finally help shrink and tighten my tummy a bit, that would be nice.

Once allergy insanity is over I do plan on some experiments to figure out what the key element is in the Benadryl solution. Do I need the allergy relief in the evenings more than I thought I did, and should go onto two-a-day for Allegra from now on? Or is it that I’m just needing that extra little nudge into sleepland and should perhaps look into something like valerian root or melatonin for my evenings? (I’m really curious to see what the end result will be.)

Either way, the end result has been just, well, great and exciting. I’ve really missed being able to wake up quickly in the mornings.

Spinning My Wheels

Spin Spin SpinI can always tell when I haven’t been to spinning class in a couple of weeks—it seriously kicks my ass afterwards. I can feel it in my quads in particular, they’re feeling like someone just hit them with a lead pipe. It’s good for me, though; in 2005 and 2006, my quads were killing me starting around mile 18 of my marathon, and in 2007? No quad problems at all. Between that and Fred’s stretching routines, I’m much better off.

I think the last spinning class I actually made it to was in late December; since then, the Wednesday classes have been booked solid to the point that I showed up half an hour early a week ago and still didn’t make it in. I’d heard that the Tuesday night classes aren’t quite so full, though, so I made it over today. Sure enough, half an hour early and instead of the class already being booked, no one else had even come to get a pass yet.

The funny thing, it’s technically an “Introduction to Spinning” class but I think all but two people were regulars from Wednesday nights. I’ll miss going to Theresa’s classes (although she’ll be out for a little while, she’s having knee surgery very soon) but for now, this will be a nice substitute.

And as an added bonus, this means soon I can also go back to my “Spinning Class Dinner Reward” of a quarter chicken and some rice from Pio Pio. Mmmm, Peruvian rotisserie chicken. So, so, so tasty.

Sleepy Season

If there’s one thing that somehow takes me by surprise every year around this time, it’s my lack of willpower to exercise once it gets dark out. My plan for this evening was to run a quick 4-miler on the lit portion of the W&OD Trail (or if I was feeling really ambitious, finally go run with Pacers in Old Town Alexandria again) as soon as I got off from work. And until about an hour ago, I was firmly on board with this decision.

But as it’s started to get dim outside, my energy level has been dropping rapidly. With it, my excitement level abot going running. And this is hardly the first time this has happened this month. There’s just something about gearing up to go running after dark that saps my motivation, big time. If it was dark but warm, that’s somehow doable. But dark and cold? Forget it. So plans to knock out 4-to-6 miles tonight are rapidly falling by the wayside. (I would’ve run this morning but schedule-wise, it just wasn’t in the cards for a variety of reasons.) It doesn’t help that my gym has an indoor track instead of a treadmill; as much as I am not a fan of a treadmill, an eighth-of-a-mile track means anything more than five miles or so runs the risk of me getting dizzy and throwing up all over the place. (Not that this has happened yet. And I have knocked out six miles on it just last week. But that doesn’t mean I will like it.)

I’m not going to say it’s some sort of seasonal mood disorder, but I can’t help but note that come spring this little motivation problem will be mostly gone. Of course, by that point three months of eating with minimal exercise may have also taken their toll. *sigh* We’ll see if I can rev up a bit of energy in the next hour or so to get myself moving or not.

(Maybe I’ll just hang pictures of fat that’s been liposuctioned off of people all over my office with a note, “Do you want this all over your belly?” written underneath it. Fear as a motivator is a strong one.)

If I don’t go running tonight, though, I will make myself get up early tomorrow to hit the gym then. Honest.

Should We Talk About the Weather?

Well, we sure aren’t going to talk about the government. (Sorry, iTunes randomly kicked up Pop Song ’89 from R.E.M. a minute ago and its lyrics are jumping through my head.)

Anyway, this has been a nice weekend. It was off to a bad start—really bad stomach cramps kept me up most of Thursday night/Friday morning, which was unpleasant and exhausting. I ended up staying home from work, although I did polish off some revisions to a course for Julie before going back to sleep for a couple of hours. Had a nice night on the town out with a bunch of the guys; saw some old friends I haven’t run into for ages, made some new ones as well. My pretty bad alcohol tolerance (which has been getting worse and worse since mid-2001 when marathon training started and I stopped drinking on Friday nights, and then even moreso after dropping all that weight in 2004) wasn’t helped by having almost no food in my stomach thanks to the earlier-mentioned cramps, and I can only imagine that I made a blithering fool of myself. Still, if you’re going to do so, being in a bar with friends who are also drinking is absolutely the way to do it.

(When the dust settled, I walked over to Charlie’s to see how painting an accent wall in his condo was coming along; he drove me home although by that point it’d been long enough I was stone-cold sober, but why risk an accident?)

Saturday was primarily a couple of errands in the morning (the Home Depot paint counter at 11am can best be described as chaos, hold the theory) and Chip’s tree-decorating party in the evening, which was fun. It also reminds me that I need to get my own Christmas tree, now that everything is re-arranged so I have room once more. Hopefully later this week.

Then today was the start of my winter running program, which is using “explosive running” (sounds like a different kind of stomach ailment if you ask me) and focuses on shorter distances. It was a low-key but good start to the program; I’m really excited about future weekend installments. (And in the future I will make sure to remember that it starts at 8:30am and not 8:00am. Oops.) Add in a brunch, and finally carting the old bookcases out of my place, and life is pretty good.

It is, however, clearly winter in the DC area. This morning for my running program I had on long running pants (which I bought at the OBX Marathon expo and are fantastic; they’re tapered so they stay much closer to the legs and keep you warmer, while not ever turning into tights), a short-sleeved shirt, a long-sleeved shirt over it, and then a jacket over that. (Plus gloves and a hat.) The jacket came off once we got warmed up, but towards the end of our cool-down stretching it had to come back on. It’s just the right kind of winter weather, too; cold but not frigid, just that sort of snap on your face that lets you know you’re alive and the seasons have shifted again.

(If I need an extra barometer of the weather changing, it would be my calves itching this morning. If I have to start applying the lotion to the arms and legs, it is definitely winter.)

Oh, last but not least? Apparently, you better all lock up your Christmas tree stands if you have them, because otherwise I will come in and steal them out of your houses. Even if the stand is in fact mine and has my name on it. I learn something new every day, myself. Christmas tree stands, here I come!

Two Hours, Two Races (or, Things I’ll Never Do Again)

Before you run a race, there will at some point come that moment where (despite the amount of nervousness before and after), you believe you can do anything. Climb Mount Everest? No problem. Bench press 3000 pounds? Piece of cake. Fortunately, said moment passes pretty quickly. The problem, I’ve discovered, is when you are given something much more sane but still slightly nuts, because then later on you might still want to do it. Like, oh, run two Thanksgiving Trot races the morning of Thanksgiving, two hours apart, a mere 11 days after your marathon.

8:00am brought the first race, the Arlington Turkey Trot 5K. This is a new race, in its second year, that runs through the neighborhood streets of Clarendon. The combination of it being Arlington (we love our running) and a gorgeous, 70-degree day meant a huge turn-out, probably over 800 people (last year was around 400) and general chaos. I got to walk to the start from my apartment, and the area was festive and exciting. Of course, what I was forgetting was that since this race is in Clarendon, that means it is a race full of hills.

I’d set out to beat my 5K PR from two years ago (a 26:23), which was on a nice flat course and where I was much more rested. Still, anything was possible. I actually ran into my cousin Ann about a mile into the race; she’d caught up with me, but then quickly dropped back. When two miles in I was at 16:15 total, I knew that barring disaster it wouldn’t be a problem to PR. About half a mile later, I also knew that I was suddenly and without warning out of energy. This was a problem. Gasping and dying on those hills, I did the only thing I could; much to my shame, I walked for about 30 seconds until I got to the top of another colossal hill before I carried on. I finished in a 25:40 (meaning the last 1.1 miles were at an 8:34 average), which while not the finishing time I was hoping for (heck, I ran my 3-mile training run in May at a 23:46) was still good enough.

Afterwards I hung out with Ann, ran into no less than two different acquaintances through running (Ted and then Deborah), and decided that running the other Turkey Trot was crazy. Completely ludicrous. I was still a little sore from the marathon, it seemed, I should just stay home. But one more race meant an extra helping of Thanksgiving dinner.

And so…

Continue reading Two Hours, Two Races (or, Things I’ll Never Do Again)

Outer Banks Marathon — The Photologue

Giving credit where credit is due, the photographers at TriDuo.com did a fantastic job with photographing the OBX Marathon. I liked my pictures enough that I actually ordered a CD-ROM with high-res images, but in the meantime, here’s some amusement for everyone. (Sadly nothing quite hits the, “Help me I am lost and have amnesia” photo’s level of hilarity from the Firenze Marathon last year, but still, good stuff.)

This is my absolute favorite picture from the marathon; we’re exiting Nags Head Preserve Woods and I just love how you can see the varied terrain of the marathon here as well as the big grin on my face. Don’t get me wrong, the last mile of the woods was true trail-running, straight up and down, and it was hard as hell and I was thrilled to escape it, but at the same time? I really enjoyed it.
The secret to getting your picture taken? When you see the photographer, do something to pay up to the camera. This year my strategy was “pump the fist in the air.” A nice sort of victory stance. And it worked well.

Continue reading Outer Banks Marathon — The Photologue

Greg vs. the Outer Banks Marathon

Well, this morning I went up against the Outer Banks Marathon… and emerged mostly triumphant!

My plan was to break the race down into three segments; a slower 10 miles, a faster 10 miles, and then an even faster final 10k (aka 6.2 miles). And up through mile 14, things went great.

Then, two things happened in rapid succession. First, someone decided they were going to drive across the course without checking for runners first, and stopped about a foot and a half from me (and only because I screamed, “Whatareyoudoing?” really loudly and with a real edge of panic in my voice). Then, about 45 seconds later, my right calf muscle tightened up and never really let go. I stretched it out as best I could and kept going.

I finally briefly crashed and burned in the 25th mile; my knees were starting to kill me (they’d begun to ache around mile 20) and I ended up walking the majority of that mile. Once I only had 1.2 miles left to go, though, I forced myself to keep running again and finished in 4:29:06 — a new personal record. (My previous best in November 2006 was a 4:46:48.)

It was a beautiful course (or at least the first half was, the second half was primarily highways) and I’m delighted with my finishing time considering the physical pains I was going through.

Phew! It was a tough, but good day.

Finish Line Predictions: OBX 2007 Edition

Ok everyone, it’s time for the fourth iteration of the fabulous game show that gives out prizes1: Guess Greg’s Finishing Time!

Here are the details/rules:

Guesses must be made no later than 11:59pm (Eastern Time) on Saturday night. No waiting until it’s over to guess! It doesn’t matter if you are “over” or “under” the time, but in the impossible case of a tiebreaker, the more flattering option is the winner.

You don’t have to include seconds in your guess, but that can very well make the difference between winning and losing. I’ll also reveal that this year I’ve been training at a 9:00min/mile pace, while last year was a 9:30min/mile pace. You can even look at all my past race times if you think that will help.

Guessing that I won’t finish the marathon is not only an immediate disqualification, but will also earn you a punch in the stomach the next time I see you. Hard. You have been warned that I find such predictions intensely unfunny.

Good luck on your predictions! You too many soon join the ranks of Neil, Krista, and Rick (winners for MCM 2005, National Half 2006, and Firenze 2006)…

1 And by prizes, I mean none. But you get to bask in the glory of winning, that’s exciting, right?