Archive for November, 2007


November 30, 2007

Jim has categorized us. Maggie and Melissa are fit. Maggie is also sexy. And I — am thoughtful.

The implication being, I suppose, that I am neither fit nor sexy.


Perhaps if I borrowed Maggie’s skirt?


Accident — they will fall

November 28, 2007

The latin word accident means “they will fall”.

My friends seem to have had far too many this year. First Annie got planar fasciitis which eventually pulled her out of St. George. Then Melissa G. had hip problems which meant she couldn’t even try St. George. I had — well, whatever it was I had — and couldn’t do Twin Cities. Rusty had hip problems too and had to run too slowly. Dianna, Maggie & Melissa M. had too much heat at Twin Cities.

Resurgent — they will recover.

Maggie, Melissa G. and I all decided to join Lauren in Sacramento.

And what happens? Lauren gets injured with less than a week before the race.


Family Places

November 28, 2007
Sunset in the valley

Georgia was supposed to be having a drought.

Travis will help you go out too fast

November 27, 2007

Rusty does not often ask me to run too fast. But last Tuesday he wanted me to do so — and then try to keep going after it became impossible. This is to get me used to fatigue poisons, or something.

Rusty had me run two miles, starting at a 5:30~5:40 mile pace. A rather frightening prospect. Luckily Travis was willing to help me run the first mile (Travis is faster than I).

84 second quarters. The first one is easy, of course.

I forced myself to stick close behind Travis (5:39), my breath turned into the horrible rasping gasps, after a mile Travis pealed off and I slowed down a bit. I needed a rest. 90 seconds. Not generally what I think of as a resting pace.

Rusty joined me for the next two. And told me to calm my breath.

Then with about 500m to go, Rusty pulled off to the side and told me to speed up. I whimpered. Rusty told me stop whining (I wasn’t whining, I was whimpering, but decided not to correct him).

So I did speed up and ran an 82 second final quarter.


November 19, 2007

The marathon starts downtown in my home time, and quickly moves inside a house. It twists and turns inside that house, doubling back on itself. There are chalked lines drawn on the floor with numbers indicating which route you should follow this time through the room. I don’t notice them at first and have to retrace my steps. The numbers differ from room to room and they do not start at 1. This room contains routes labeled “2,8,9”; route 2 continued as route 2 in the next room, but route 8 turned into something else when it got outside. Route 9 just twists around in the room and causes confusion. There are also kilometer marks. One room has a tile floor and the chalk has gotten skuffed up so as to be invisible.

It is impossible to go fast. I’m never sure if I’ve gone the right way. The guy who is running beside me keeps persuading me to stop and rest. I realize I’m running terribly slowly — just jogging really, but somehow I don’t care. It’s impossible to do well, it doesn’t matter, nobody cares, so why try?

At the first rest stop they are serving iced-tea because it is a nicely dehydrating drink. They also have tiny cups of sugar water for “serious” runners. The sugar water tastes vile.

Now we’re out on the streets again. We run around the block and then back inside the house…

And then slowly I wake up — oh, marathons aren’t really like that. How odd.


November 18, 2007

The long workout this week called for 10 miles easy then 8 at a 6:50 pace. I still think of a 6:50 pace as easy — even though it no longer is.

When training for Catalina I did a 20 mile workout with 10 at a 6:30 pace. So 8 at a 6:50 pace should be trivial.

I thought the same last week. We had 10 miles at 6:50, then 5 easy, then 2 at 6:30. Lauren had no problems with it, while I struggled to keep up with him, and then totally failed to speed up for the two miles at the end.

I decided to make up for it this week. I’d do the last mile at a 6:30, just to prove to myself I could speed up at the end.

Well, I couldn’t. When I started the hard part I passed Maggie, who blithely told me she was a little ahead of pace after 8 miles. I was a little behind pace after 1. It only got worse. I ended with a 7:05 mile. I could even hold the pace.

Again, I could not speed up. This does not bode well for my long distance endurance. And I realized…

I’m no longer getting better. In fact the last two long runs I seem to be getting worse. Have I fallen into overtraining yet again?

Will I run the first mile of the marathon at 7:20, the next at 8:05 and then realize it is hopeless, give up, and walk back to the start?

Not as bad as it was before, I hope. And with luck two weeks of taper will pull me out.

Or is this normal exhaustion at the end of a long training period (except I haven’t really been training that hard or that long. This should be easy; damn it). Maggie and Lauren don’t seem to be having this problem; it’s just me.

Rusty told me I should get a pair of light weight trainers for the marathon. My racing flats wouldn’t do for this long a race (I suspected that), but my normal shoes wouldn’t either.

So I went in to Joe’s for light weight shoes. I was given only two choices. Neither felt good. I chose the pair I thought was the least abusive to my feet. After running 23 miles in them I had a large, painful blister on my right least toe.

Rusty told me I needed shoes that felt good (shoes rarely feel “good”, my feet are weird, I’m almost always forced to compromise and chose the least bad). He suggested I try another brand, (the new store seems to have a third choice).

These don’t rub my toe, but they seem to push my knee out of alignment, after today’s 18 mile run the left knee felt odd and was clicking on every step. Then when I finished my arches felt completely abused, as though I were heading for planar fasciitis. I think I’m better off with a bad blister.

Or maybe with the normal trainers that I know I can tolerate.

Rusty wants me to start out the race slowly, then speed up to 6:50, and then half-way through speed up further. I don’t think I can. I have not managed a single workout where I could speed up at the end.

Perhaps my body doesn’t work that way? My natural inclination is to start out a little fast and try to hang on as I tire. I can’t imagine doing the reverse. Certainly my training indicates that speeding up will be difficult.

On the other hand, I have no hopes for doing well on this race, so why not experiment? Rusty says this (slowly speeding up) is the way to race. So do the books I’ve read. I’ll try it on this race I’ve given up on. If it works, great, I’ll have faith in the technique in the future.

But if it doesn’t work, well I won’t have lost much.

Annie dreamed too; but her dreams were interesting. I wish I could dream of giant teratorns to pull me from the waters, much preferable to my rather dull worries.

Not Yassos but Snows!

November 13, 2007

Most of us are aware of the Yasso 800 workout for marathon training — where you run 10×800 (or 10 half miles). You run your 800s at a weird variant of marathon pace: if you plan to run a 3 hour marathon then you run 3 minute 800s, if you want to run a 2:47:00 marathon then you run 0:02:47 800s. And so on. In between each interval you have the same amount of rest (easy jog) as for the interval itself (so 3 minutes, or 2:47, or whatever).

Rusty Snow has his own variant on this workout. Not 10×800, but 8×1k. Same pace, 3 minute rest between, same total distance, a little less total rest.

I’ve never managed to complete this workout before. I seem to fade after about 4k.

But today I did it!

(And then the nasty little voice in the back of my head says “Well, of course. You aren’t trying to run as fast as you usually do, in fact you’re only running at your 10k race pace — and if you can’t do 8k, with rests at 10k pace you are in sad shape.”)

No… actually the little voice is wrong. It was a little (but a significant amount) faster than any 10k I have raced.

Anyway, I did it. And what better way to prepare for a winter marathon than to do a Snow workout?

Two and a half weeks to Sacramento…

A walk on the Beach

November 12, 2007

Today my schedule called for a half hour walk.
I set out just before sunset.
Birds in the fading glow.
The clouds were lit from underneath after the sun set.
And finally the moon became visible.

It was a good walk.

Stir-up Sunday

November 11, 2007

In the English (but not the Episcopalian) Church the collect for the sunday before Advent begins “Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” Traditionally this has been taken as a commandment to begin cooking, stirring, the Christmas Pudding.

The puddings need to be started early because they spend the next month being fed brandy — a little bit every day, until, when the day arrives, they can be flambéed.

Being an atheist, I have a somewhat more secular approach, and start my puddings when I choose, and for whatever feast I wish.

Today I stirred up 4 puddings, the first event being the end of pottery class, and the next being Thanksgiving.

As is my wont, I sat down with a dictionary one year. The word “plum” actually means “raisin” (which, of course, means “grape”), while the word “pudding” means “sausage” (As in blood pudding). So a plum pudding is a sausage made of grapes — a wine?

A pudding for the festival of sun-return

2lb dried fruit (figs, apricots, prunes, cherries, raisons, dates, etc — my favorite is a mixture of figs and tart dried cherries)
Chop the fruit into large chunks (not too small or the tastes all merge together)

½ lb butter (2 sticks) — a traditionalist would insist on suet. I often use half butter half oil.
1 cup brown sugar
cream together
3 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk
4+∞Tblspns brandy (or rum)
zest of one orange
1 grated nutmeg

Add to butter/sugar and stir together
1 ½cups flour
Stir in
Stir in the fruit

3 egg whites
fold into the butter/fruit mixture

Pour into a buttered sugared mould, cover with parchment and steam for 2 hours.

Feed it some brandy from time to time, and steam again before serving

How does one steam a pudding? I realize this is no longer common knowledge. I put my pudding mixture into a bowl, or a specially designed pudding crock (I sometimes make these) and cover it with a sheet of cooking parchment. My mother always used aluminum foil, but I found that if the foil touched the mixture it would eventually dissolve and that seemed bad. The mixture must be covered or condensed drops of water will fall into it and turn it to mush.

If you have a double boiler or vegetable steamer that will hold your pudding pot, great, use that. If not I find that taking a dutch oven or large covered saucepan, filling it with an inch or less of water, and then placing the pudding pot in the water will work almost as well. If you can build a structure that keeps the bottom of the pot from touching the bottom of the saucepan, so much the better.

Hard sauce

1 stick butter
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbls Honey
2 Tbls Rum
¼ Teaspn cinnamon
¼ Teaspn nutmeg

cream everything together

add a dollop to each serving of pudding

Yes — I intend to go to Sacramento.

November 3, 2007

I wasn’t sure how well I could run. I had done only one long run at faster than 6:50 pace, and on that I couldn’t keep up with Lauren.

I had decided a while ago that if I could do the half at faster than 86, I would run Sacramento. If I were slower than 90 min. then I wouldn’t. And if I were in between then I’d decide depending on how I felt.

If I’m not in good enough shape to break 3 hours on a marathon I’d rather wait, get better, and train — and if I can’t break an hour and a half on a half-marathon there’s no way I could break 3 on a full.

At first I was sure I’d never break 90 minutes. But I slowly got better until I could run with Lauren at about a 90 minute pace (6:50/mile).

Then I was sure I’d be just under 90. And that wasn’t really appealing either.

A week and a half before the race Rusty said he thought I would be under 87. That sounded a lot better. I wasn’t sure I could, but it was encouraging to think so.

Then a week before he told me to try for between 84:30 and 85:30. That seemed unlikely to me — I’d had a hard time keeping the faster pace for just 4 miles — I checked with him to make sure and that was what he meant. In fact Rusty seemed a little annoyed with me for doubting both myself and him. He then told me to run what felt good.

(I’m afraid I’ve been rather a depressed wet blanket recently — to all those who have put up with listening to me, my sincere apologies).

The weather predicted Santa Ana winds. Hot. Dry. Windy. Perhaps (worst of all) more fires and smoke. Instead the day started — I hesitate to use the word, “dawned” — with a dense layer of fog. Chilly. Wet. Still. (foghorns in the harbor, but no smoke).

In the past, the half has been the week-end after the end of daylight saving time, but because of the new law it’s now the Saturday before the change, so it’s much darker than I’m used to. Especially with the heavy fog. Even though we started at 8:30 instead of 8 this year, it’s still dark.

I got to the start too early, and chatted with people while trying to stay warm. Then it was time to do a warm up run (2 miles — down to the State St bathrooms and back — the local bathrooms having a ferocious line in front of them), change into my magic shoes (would they help today?), eat a GU, and head to the start.

Half marathon course

Everyone else was very humble this year, and I was the only one near the front for a while. Then Travis and Jeff and Lauren and Melissa M. and Melissa G. showed up. More chat while we wait for the latecomers to register.


Off up hill. Last year I went out at a 6:11 pace. Not a good way to begin a race where I averaged 6:30s. I was determined not to do that again. Rusty suggested 6:45 for the first two (up hill) miles.

After half a mile or so, the guy beside me joked to his friend that they’d do the first mile at a seven minute pace, and then pick it up to 5:20s later. That was a little dismaying — if we were doing a 7 minute pace now, then I was doomed. I thought I was going faster.

At the mile mark I saw: 6:22. Well, better than last year, not quite what I had planned. I slowed and a crowd of people passed me. I’ll catch some of you later, I thought.

I hoped.

On, and up. We pass the first walkers — they start half an hour early. They are being pretty good about not spreading out all over the lane. That’s nice. We also pass the first speed-walker, on his way back down.

As we turn on to Elise Way, I hear Maggie cheering me. Poor Maggie, she injured her calf Thursday and had to give up her plans to run with us today. It’s really good of her to be out here cheering… I’m not usually willing to do that when I can’t run myself.

And then there’s the 2 mile mark. Hmm. 6:51. I slowed down a little too much. Still that’s pretty close to 6:45, and this last mile is always surprisingly hard. Not too concerned yet, but I pick up the pace a bit.

We wiggle around on the mesa. It’s very wet under the Eucalypts on Mesa Lane. Eucalyptus leaves condense the fog and the droplets roll off them and onto me. It’s chilly.

6:31 on the three mile mark. Perfect. And there’s Jeff. We run together. Then into the road of Oliver ran we two, slower runners to the right of us, walkers to the left us, walkers in front of us (volleyed and thundered) with little room for us. We get to the 4 mile mark (6:22, but that’s ok, it was a downhill mile). Jeff wants to run a little faster so he moves ahead. I remind him that I told him last year he’d beat me in this time. He laughs and says “It’s a long race yet.”

And, indeed I pass him shortly after the 5 mile mark (6:23). Now we’re down on the flat again, and I’m worried about slowing too much. But the next mile (6:26) is still on the fast side. I begin to speculate: Could I actually get a PR this year? That would be rather amazing.

Me, about half way
Photo Dennis Mihora

But the next mile, mile 7, is slower (6:35) — still — my average pace is probably under 6:30… And mile 8 seems to bear that out (6:27). Maybe a PR?

Then the long slog up around the cemetery. Mile 9 is 6:40. Ug. But I’m passing some people, so I’m not doing too badly.

I see Travis, and then Melissa and Martin. All looking good.

And here’s the turn-around — I’ve just passed Ricki, but he passes me back (what nerve:-), but not for long, I catch him again.

I see Lauren just as I loop back to the other side of the 9 mile marker. I’m 1:47 ahead of him, not much. Wow, he’s doing really well. (Ricki’s doing well too, he’s gotten quite fast this last year).

I see various other people I know, cheering them on when I have breath for it. And I slowly realize — I haven’t seen Jeff — where is he? Hmm was he right behind me at the turn, or am I blind?

Mile 10 proves little better than 9: 6:36. Now I’m running against the oncoming hordes and they are pushing me out into the street as they try to pass each other. I can’t really blame them, but it is annoying.

I see a break in the hordes, and zip across to the sidewalk, just before mile 11 (6:33) and then on to the bike path. I’m feeling pretty tired; I’d really like to stop now. As mile 12 approaches I tell myself I should not look at my watch.

But I do. 6:39. Damn. I thought I was going faster than that.

Something in me gives up. I’m going forward doggedly now. I’m not racing. I’ve passed my last person (it turns out). I watch the woman in front creep slowly further off and I know I can’t catch her.

I’m in the final parking lot — AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE!!!? THERE ARE CARS DRIVING THOUGH HERE!!! THERE’S NO ROOM FOR THAT. NOT WITH RUNNERS. And then just at the narrowest point, where there really is no room, there is a car motionless, completely blocking my route forward. I muster what breath I’ve got left and roar at it to MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!!!

But it doesn’t.

And then I can see the finish line, and I’m in the shoot and — what? Jeff just passed me! Good for him:-) I told him he’d beat me this year.

I finish. 1:25:50. Just under my 86 minute cut off. I didn’t think I was going to do it. Yay!

Having done it, I start to complain to myself “Why couldn’t I have beaten last year’s time?” There’s just no pleasing some people.

However… I’ve gotten older. My age graded percentage, is exactly, exactly the same: 76.71% both years. So, in a sense, I’m no worse…


Queen Elizabeth, I, in Rochester

But I’m not done yet. Not a perfect race, but, as the queen said, good enough. If I’m running Sacramento (and I am now) this isn’t a race day, it’s a marathon training day, and I’ve got another 5 miles to run. I drink my recovery drink, then head over to the food tent. They won’t let me in. How unfriendly. I decide it isn’t worth asking them for? What? one muffin and a cup of soup? Pathetic. I’d like a banana, but I don’t see any. Don’t see much of anything really. I walk off. Someone hails me. It turns out to be Garrett’s mom — she wants to tell me she enjoys reading this blog. (It always amazes me the other people actually want to read this). Says I look just like Garrett. Poor Garrett, to be compared to a balding man twenty years his senior. She wants to know — Will I run Sacramento?Yes.I check with Lauren, who has also finished now; does he want to cooldown with me? Assuming he has the same schedule (he does). Nope. He’s got to tend his family. So I head out on my own.

At first I think I’ll run back to the cemetery, but then I’d be running upstream against many runners. I do the Mesa Loop instead. I’m moving v e r y   s l o w l y. But I’m feeling surprisingly good. It’s very calm here now. There’s no one else around. The fog gets denser again as I climb up to the Mesa.

I’m pretty tired when I get back. As I head for my bike I see a guy with a tee-shirt on which reads
My girl-friend can run a marathon.
Can yours?

This amuses me. Then I notice he has no racing bib on. Perhaps the real question is Can he?