Sunday, February 24, 2013

The current status of my running "game"

After plenty of weeks of gloom and doom in which I didn't run or as I returned to running I found the process painful and slow, I've finally reconnected with running (let me cross my fingers as I write that).  Recent weeks have marked a few good milestones:  with caution, extending my runs, little by little from 3 to 4 to 5 miles.  In recent weeks, I've actually hit double digits in terms of total mileage with a whopping 11-12 miles run in a week!  It doesn't seem like much to some people, but it boosted my confidence a bit.  Also, I've enjoyed pretty much every run and have prayed to the running gods before and after, happy to be back on the trails and pavement.  In addition to lengthier runs, it's also been nice to see my legs get some faster miles under them, and I've enjoyed pushing myself a bit more.  Yesterday was huge as I hit seven miles right at a 60 minutes.  That seventh mile was all downhill, so it was fun to see a really faster-than-usual time pop up!

As I've been running more and without aches and pains during and after my runs, obviously my mind has turned to the 2013 "race calendar", and I've started to fantasize about new PRs and tons of awesome experiences.  At the same time, I've also balanced out the fantasy with the reality of my life this spring - busy and pretty full with other plans and obligations.  I did finally satisfy my racing lust by signing up for a 10k in March - it looks like a fun, beautiful and hilly course, so a fast time is doubtful, but I'm excited for it!  I realized that my last stand-alone 10K was in November 2011, so why not push myself at that distance this year. 

The big question for the spring is the Mt. Wilson Trail Race in May.  I mean, 8.6 miles, 2,100 elevation gain - it's such a FUN experience!  Okay, it is major suffering and a terrifying experience that turns into fun when your brain can no longer process the pain or fear.  And only really terrifying on the ascent - the descent is a piece of cake! I am feeling somewhat uninspired to start to train, and if I haven't trained at all, I could still manage the race, but I would suck, and it's too hard a race to just do "for fun" in my opinion.  So, I've started to consider not running it, an idea has a certain appeal...

And that has prompted me to think that I'm losing my desire to have a "hard-core" runner's identity (I'm not saying that I actually am a hard-core runner, but I think that I used to really want to be).  Mt. Wilson will still be there next year, and if it means that I can  can enjoy a weekend elsewhere, maybe along the Central Coast, maybe biking with friends and looking at elephant seals and drinking lots of wine, well I think that I can forgo my attempt to be a bad-ass runner!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cause for celebration

I'm not much of a valentine's day fan, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise since we've even started to not celebrate birthdays around here - at least not with gifts.  But this week did bring me/us several reasons to celebrate, so we obliged rather happily!

First of all, I had a knee appointment on Thursday morning - a very romantic way to start the day, I know.  The good and pretty damn good-looking doctor prodded, poked and groped my knee, commenting that it felt "great!"(I love that a knee can become a point of admiration).  I exhaled a sigh of relief that I have yet to ruin his handicraft!  My last cortisone shot was back in June, so making it 8 months between shots is pretty significant, and the shots seem to continue to work - fingers crossed!  Not that I'm dealing with great pain, but it starts to build up and do more than just "nag".  If the doctor approves the shots as a course of action, who am I to protest, especially if it keeps me on my feet and moving.

While we swore off any 'romantic' celebrations on Thursday, we actually did have dinner plans for Friday due to a Groupon that was about to expire.  As it turned out, we ended up with more than just a three-day weekend and a belated fake holiday to toast.  After work yesterday, we drove to the Valley (amazing when I go to a part of LA and I ask myself or whoever I'm with "Where the hell are we?"; that was definitely my experience yesterday afternoon - not that I haven't been to the Valley, but not to that part of it) and signed what seemed to be our life away in the form of loans and deeds and titles and so much other paperwork.  We also got a date to close on the house that we almost own - a real date and a real house: March 7.  HOLY CRAP!  We are now officially entering adulthood in the form of "Home Ownership"!  Like all major ventures, this is both exciting and terrifying, and we can't quite believe that it's happening.

I've kept mum about the house search - even in real life, as much as possible - because it seemed like such a fragile possibility and because it has been a somewhat emotional process.  After years of vacillating between our dream of moving to another city or state and the idea of buying a house in the LA area, we  finally decided back in October to get serious with the house business. became not a fun little escape but an important source of information that we scoured weekly and even daily at times.  In October and November, house hunting took over our weekends as we spent hours on Saturday and Sundays at open houses, often feeling deflated because we didn't like the places or equally deflated because we did like them but knew that we would probably be outbid (which did happen - someone put down an all-cash offer on one of the houses we bid on, so how could we compete with that?).  In this process, we learned quite a bit about ourselves and what we wanted/needed in a house and some of our expectations were different from what we thought they would be.  First of all, because of our two larger dogs, we really couldn't be in a tiny place (under 1,000 square foot - believe me, we saw plenty of those!).  Also, a yard was key.  Ditto for a two-car garage.  And decent closet space.  And a logical floor plan.  And a decent neighborhood where I could go for a run.  And not too much work to make it liveable.  And we didn't want to be house poor.  This all seems fairly basic, but we couldn't believe some of the places that we saw (too small, weird neighbors, a nice big pitbull next door, zero closet space, no yard...).  We initially locked into the house back in December, but it did not seem real until the past few weeks when we had the inspection, the appraisal and all sorts of documents come through that indicated that it was ours if we wanted it and if we signed on all the dotted lines!

And now, after all the waiting and looking, we have a closing date and we know when we'll be moving, give or take a day.  Excited and kind of overwhelmed, we definitely celebrated last night at Bashan, indulging in one of the best meals that we've had lately.  We hadn't planned the timing, but it worked out well to eat some amazing food and drink excellent wine after signing away our lives and before the giddy excitement could wear away.  Soon we'll have to face the hard work that comes along with home buying, but for now, I'm content to just enjoy the moment!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A fair weather rider

We've enjoyed some rather chilly days and weeks in the LA area this year.  Obviously I'm not comparing the temperatures here to those far-flung northern locales, but compared to last year, it's been damn cold!  Currently, I'm wearing a wool sweater, wool socks and we have a fire crackling away for the evening.  Michael refused to take the dogs out for a walk this morning because there was frost on the ground, and at one point a few weeks ago, Gus, our ever-so-agile labrador-beagle mix slipped on some ice in the back patio.  I keep wondering if this is the "hell-freezes-over" moment in humanity's history, but other apocalyptic signs seem wanting (unless you count the pope's resignation - holy smokes! This is the first time since the Middle Ages that a pope has willingly - I suppose - stepped down).

As much as I like that the cold weather affords me the opportunity to wear wool sweaters to school and to bundle up in the mornings, as I begin to think about different races and the training involved, I curse the colder temperatures.  Yes, this is yet another example of my total lack of hard-core badassness.  I admit it - I am a fair weather rider.  A wimp, in other words.  There are, after all, several reasons I live in Southern CA, and the weather does make the list.  While we have our seasons here (May Grey, June Gloom, Santa Ana winds...) and there are extremes that come with them, most of the time, I can find a way to train outside, even if it means I drive to the coast, usually in search of cooler temperatures, for a ride or a run.  There are some hot days in the summer, and, apparently, some cold days in the winter!

Running in the cold, while it isn't much fun, is not unbearable nor unfamiliar.  Last year, I ran in Boulder and Taos when the temperatures were in the 20's.  Cold, yes, but not intolerable.  Riding in the cold, however, is another matter altogether. As yesterday proved, I am NOT prepared for even slightly cold weather riding.  Honestly, if I weren't starting to think about upcoming events (months away, but still there), I wouldn't have plopped my thin-skinned butt on the saddle yesterday.  However, I've committed myself to at least one ride per week in February and then upping the number when March and April roll around.  So far, I've enjoyed these rides - last weekend's was awesome and made me happy to be back on the bike.  Yesterday's ride, however, made me realize that I seriously lack any cold-weather riding gear.  Okay, not "any" since I have leg warmers and bike gloves, and really I have enough winter gear to layer up for a ride, but it feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable to be so cold on the bike.  Not that I started out cold - I began the ride climbing several miles as I headed part of the way up the Angeles Crest Highway.  It was an AMAZING day (always is after a rain) - lots of dramatic clouds and sunlight peeping through and freshly green mountains that went on and on as I looked towards the eastern range.  I wasn't hot on the climb, but not cold.  However, once I turned around and started the descent, I knew that I was in for some suffering.  At first I couldn't decide if the excitement of the decent would cancel out the wind chill factor, and initially it did.  Once I finished the decent and continued the ride, I started to curse my serious lack of circulation - cold hands and really f-ing cold feet!  I cut the ride short because, by that point, my feet were totally numb and I just couldn't get warm.

In my defense, I do think that it was about 52 degrees when I started the ride and, when I returned, the temperature had dropped to about 48 degrees.  Not freezing temperatures, I admit, but when you're zooming downhill and there's a biting wind, it's cold!  Fortunately, looking at the temperatures this next weekend, we should be back to normal LA digits - ah, the 70's, how I will welcome you!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Three - the magic number

Yes, I'm totally stealing from Schoolhouse Rock which just celebrated its fortieth anniversary - impressive!  We heard an interview with the composer and sometimes singer of the songs, Bob Dorough, on NPR last month.  Apparently, "Three is a magic number" was the first Schoolhouse Rock song, and I would say that it's one of my favorites (although maybe NOT quite up there with "Conjunction conjunction what's your function" in my mind).

Recently, in my own small world, I've seen the number three appear in different configurations, some positive, others not so much.  For instance, I'm on my third cold of the academic year which seems to be a ridiculous number!  I should appreciate that I haven't been knocked completely on my ass, unlike some of my colleagues, but I still can't believe that I've been sick this often.  Maybe this is what the 40's look like?  Along with this third cold, I took three 'rest' days this past week. Gasp!  Just more evidence that I will never be one of those hard-core people who hate taking a day or two off, even when they feel like complete shit.  I didn't feel that bad, just like poop (yes, I'm have the vocab of a three-year-old), but sleeping 10 hours Friday night plus taking a 2 hour nap yesterday seemed to do the trick.  But, still, there are some twinges of guilt about the 3 days of rest.

On a more positive note, I've found that the notion of "third time's charm" is apt for new running shoes!  After a lengthy search, it seems that I've finally found something of the holy grail.  Since the initial flare-up of plantar fasciitis, I blamed my shoes, whether that was a fair assessment or not, I'm not sure.  Since last spring, I've been running with Brooks Trance, which I settled on but never felt that they were a great fit.  So, with PF, I started grasping at straws, reading about neutral shoes, barefoot running and stability shoes.  I decided that I needed extra stability and went for an Addidas shoe that offered such.  To my dismay, that was just about the worst running shoe decision I've made in recent years, and I suppose that I should have known that I needed something a bit more neutral since I've been in Brooks Cascadia for the past 2 years without any issues.  So, if anyone wants a pair of extra stability running shoes, size 7.5, please let me know.  I also invested in a pair of Mizuno's Wave, and they've worked out pretty well - I didn't just *love* them, but they certainly felt better than the Addidas.  However, I recently found my perfect fit in the form of Brooks Ravenna:

The guy at In-Step, the insole place in Boulder, recommended these to me.  I tried them on in his shop, and they seemed to fit just right.  So far, I've taken them out twice for a run, and both times, my stride, gait, all that running jargony-stuff felt great.  YES!  I'm so excited to find a shoe that definitely works for me.  In fact, I might go buy two more pairs so that I'll have three! Ha ha (sort of).

As I've wrestled with the fact that I've spent a pretty penny while trying to find the right pair of shoes, it's also a relief to find shoes that really work! Through this search, I've channeled my inner Goldilocks - too hot, too cold, just right.  On a final note, I hope that the three bears don't come after me now!