Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Running along the C&O Canal Towpath in Georgetown.
Our vacation last week reminded me of how many things we have to be thankful for.  We have great friends and family and I'm so happy that we get a chance to go and see them and this beautiful country.  After the quick trip to South Carolina we made our way to Washington DC and visited with lots of different friends some of whom we've not seen in years and years.  

Korean War Memorial
In shirt sleeve weather, we spent one morning walking along the tidal basin and taking in all the monuments. We'd been up to the top of the Washington Monument last year which was good because it is closed this year because of earthquake damage.  And last year we saw the reflection pool at sunset from the Lincoln memorial.  this year, the reflection pool is a big construction dirt field as they begin renovations.  The Korean War Memorial was quite a surprise.  A small intimate setting with a contemplative yet strong impact.  Beautiful and touching.

And FDR's memorial which I'd never even heard of was so relevant today too. 

"No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.
Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order." FDR

We'd been to DC last year during high tourist season in a heat wave.  It was relaxed and mellow visiting the sites this year and I'm glad we got another chance. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Whole New World

We raced the perfect distance to still be able to explore Charleston.  We were only there for 2 full days and most of one other and managed to see a lot.  There turned out to be a lot more to do in the Charleston area than either of us expected and part of that was the great location we were staying in Folly Beach at our friends' house.  Run 1.3 miles and we were on the beach.  So of course, each day after the race, I HAD to do this and it was wonderful.  there were lots of locals walking their dogs and lots of shells to examine.  And this blue crab was on the beach and no, we did not take this shell home.  Every morning we'd wake up to perfect weather and go sit on their outside screened porch with beautiful marsh view to have our coffee.  It was a little bit of perfection each day to start. 

My main draws to Charleston were seeing a plantation, seeing charleston and Fort Sumter.  the plantation we chose was much more spectacular than I expected.  Honestly, it was stunningly beautiful with a well thought out self-guided tour of the grounds with some extra features as in a demo farm (tanning, black smithing, basket weaving etc).  The marsh and the old trees draped in southern moss never ceased to draw exclamations of beauty. The forest was so different looking than what we've seen of forests of washington, California and New Mexico.  However the fact that this was a plantation and ran on slave labor really hit home for us.

We got a chance to walk around Charleston and took a harbor cruise out to Fort Sumter.  Charleston runs on tourism and it shows yet it is a beautiful city with much to offer.  We ran out of time to see some other sites because of limited off-season hours so we hope to be back.  It was great to visit with our hosts who we've not seen in some time. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

South Carolina Sun or the Folly Beach 10 Mile Race

Seattle is very far away from Charleston.  The multiple flights are long.  We left early Friday and arrived late Friday in Charleston to visit long time friends.  Neither of us have been to Charleston nor even to the south.  K did some research and found that there was a 10 mile race just a mile away from where we were staying.  Perfect!

the locals were all complaining of the cold.  That would include the friends we were visiting.  They have acclimated to the weather for certain.  We woke the next morning (race day) and were pleasantly surprised to find perfect conditions for racing.  40 degrees, sunny and no wind.  the sun alone feels so much warmer that I was glad it was colder than expected.  By the time the race started, the sun was well up and it felt a lot warmer (probably mid-50s).

the Folly Beach 10 mile race is a very low key and local event. It starts just a block off the beach and is run in the streets of Folly Beach.  No need to close the course to traffic, at this time of year and day there isn't that much. There were volunteers at every turn and the local emergency services (PO-leese, fire) helping hold traffic at the main street. Everyone was very friendly and soon enough we were started on the 5 mile loop we'd run twice.  The race director even led the runners on bike.  Yeah, low key and local.

Honestly I had no idea what pace to expect to run a 10 mile race.  I've done 1 other some years ago.  What would slightly faster than half marathon pace be for me now?  This race wasn't a goal race either.  I've not really started any serious tempo running yet.  I've been keeping my mileage up and getting trails in plus some easy quicker stuff just to keep things fresh.  based on the 5k a couple weeks ago and long run pace, I thought 8:00-8:05 would be possible. If I was able to come under 1:20 I was going to be delighted but I thought that would be a reach.

Immediately once we started I was running comfortably 7:50 pace.  EEKS!  what have I done?  I felt great though even after the all day flight.  My heart rate was low for the pace and I just decided to stay with it.  Worst that would happen is that I'd slow quite a bit the last half.  I knew I was racing in the south when within the first half mile I heard someone say "baby jesus sure did give us good weather."  Yeah, this is a bit different.

I ticked of 5 miles right about 7:48-7:50 pace.  Solid and I felt good.  I'd not been passed after the first mile, and gradually passed people as I was running.  I'd run with a guy from Germany (but originally from Charleston) and chatted with him and an older local gentleman.  the Germany guy was dressed in full tights and long sleeved zip for almost 60 degrees.  After about 4 miles, he stopped at a house.  Really?  Sure enough, i saw him at the finish and he'd obviously stopped to drop off his clothes.

By mile 5 after the first loop, I was running by myself.  I figured it would start to get much harder here but I kept the same pace and still pulled closer to someone I could see far ahead.  I took water at mile 7 which I needed but then started to get a side stitch.  that threatened to get a lot worse and here is where I slowed.  Still I feared I'd really slow but kept to about 8:05 pace.  One more mile at that where I needed to start concentrating on my form.  The course was sooooo flat that my tendency to lean back and look ahead was starting to tighten my lower back (that and all the airplane travel).  I kept my gaze down and that helped.  one more mile (in 7:50) and as I approached the finish i could see the clock was well under 1:19!

1:18:46 by my watch!  I jogged back just over a quarter of a mile to the last turn of the course to wait for K.  There was a couple volunteering here who'd we'd seen parking right by us before the start.  We thought they were running but nope they were just volunteering for this race.  We chatted while waiting for K while I gushed about what a nice event this was and how wonderful the weather was coming from Seattle at this time of year.  Friendly folk.  That's what I'd heard about SC and it seems to be true. K came through and I tried to keep up as he howled about how hard this was (you are racing K!) and we were both done. 
Most people had finished when they started age group awards.  Yep this was a small race and I placed first in mine.  As they were doing the awards, the second in my AG came through.  Everyone cheered for her.  Our friend came out and we went to a local cafe for some more southern experience.  Yes, i had pancakes as usual but also had some biscuits and gravy and a taste of K's grits.  That is some tasty stuff especially after a huge PR and such a great day to be out running.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Random, but not really.

I did it!  I finished the final exterior painting on the house this year!  Woohoo!  We put up the last bit of siding too on the back of the house and that officially makes this approximately 10 year project done. It started with getting a new roof which meant we needed new fascia and soffit boards. Then the old siding (two layers) came off the house in sections and we put up new sheathing and then painted clear cedar siding. We ended up getting windows replaced (best thing ever!) and built a new back deck and finally had the sagging, broken and rotting porch footing rebuilt.  We payed to have the roof done, windows redone and paid to have the porch rebuilt otherwise all other labor was done by us and K's father.  Phew!  I'm very proud of the work we've done.  it's our house and it shows.  We do good work.

And I do good knitting.  I got my first commissioned knit piece this past week.  A friend at work who is a knitter (beginning and slow) really wants a knit piece for a friend's b-day. She loved an easy knit cowl I did and would like me to knit one for her.  She paid for the yarn and she'll give a bit of spending money for me just as a bonus. I get to knit and get paid!  No the amount of time I'll spend knitting doesn't end up paying me for my time really but since I just enjoy knitting, this is a bonus.  I'm casting on that project today.  And it will be a well knit lovely piece of knitwear which I'll be proud of.

My mom and I had tickets to watch studio rehearsal of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Love Stories" the other day. This is always a real treat! We usually see the pieces where they are still working out staging and details and where they are still getting into performance fit (or at least that's how I think of it).  Why do I say that?  Well we are sitting very close to the athletes (dancers) and you can see the effort and fatigue start to play out towards the end of the sections they are rehearsing.  The guys' legs shake and sweat pours off.  The women's legs and arms shake with the effort.  The most amazing part of this process is seeing the absolute control they have over their expression and finishing what they are doing.  Towards the end of pieces, both men and women are breathing like they are at the end of a 5k yet they are holding a precise pose with a smile on their face.

After watching them rehearse, I feel like a wimp! I took this thought into the 5k last week and it helped.  It doesn't matter that I'm feeling the fatigue, my lungs are on fire and my legs feel like lead.  Keep at it! Move and take pride in being able to run at all. This is what I've worked for and gotten up at 5 am to run in the dark and rain.  Push through and enjoy it.  And I did and I do.

And tomorrow a good friend is racing her first marathon in New York.  I've seen her at the beginning of her running career when she was able to have a huge breakthrough race.  She's trained and pushed through for this event.  She's had the lows and the highs and she is ready and is proud about how far she's come.  I'm really proud to have played a small role in this and I'm so excited for her. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Busy Running Weekend

A busy running weekend is always a good one.

The Pumpkin Push 5k is a favorite of mine. The challenge every year is to find a good (read clever and cheap) costume  that I can race in and not overheat. K was game this year so we went as The Wonder Twins. Instantly recognizable to a certain generation (ours).  This ended up being a great costume to run in.  What made the costume work was K wearing a hilarious black wig. I raced and finished the run and then immediately jogged back to K and we came through the finish line together doing the "wonder twin powers activate" pose.   it got a good laugh. k was recovering from a cold and running easily.  This would not have worked if he was racing as he's gotten much faster.  I would not have been able to get back to him in time!

The race itself was fantastic. After a longer warm up, I made it back to the start with just a minute or two to spare.  This race always starts a bit late though so that works.  Coach Lesley was lined up ahead of me but I thought it would be better to go back a bit and that was smart. We started and immediately I was at a good pace, not too fast or slow. First mile in 7:10 and that's what I'd hoped for.

I can never remember where that dang hill comes in and soon enough we were there.  My goal was just to stay with it and concentrate on form.  And it worked!  I stayed right with people around me and didn't get passed.  And I could recover once over the top.  I stayed steady in the rollers and didn't go too crazy on the downhill section. Truthfully I was a bit nervous about that last flat bit into the wind.

However, I held it and finished well.  I think that is the best I've ever run this course. 23:14 and I was second in my age group. "That was a good run" as Lesley said as I came in after her.  yes it was! Typically it takes me a bit to get in the 5k racing mentality so this was excellent. Strangely not all the fast people showed up so I was second in my age group.  I'll take it! 

The next day I was mildly sore in my quads for my efforts but ready for the next challenge.  Northwest Trail Runs was hosting a first time 50k on Cougar Mountain.  Now I wasn't up to the 50k on such crazy trails but they'd asked for volunteers to "sweep" a section of the course and I was happy to do it.  It turns out I'd be sweeping a section on Squak Mountain that I'd never been on before. Perfect!

I got there around 11:00 am and waited until I could go.  Since I could not leave until the last runner had been through the aid station, I wasn't sure when this would be.  turns out no one else did either. They had the count of runners at the start but no one had good enough cell phone coverage to relay this information.  Eventually a race director showed up and after a bit of a think about timing for when the entire course would close, he sent me on my way.

I had a rope loop over my shoulder to pick up clothes pin confidence streamers (easily visible by runners as a check that yes they are on the right trail) and a pvc tube used to carry the pin flags and turn signs. Evidently you can get the tube to fit into your running backpack and just stick out the top. This makes for easy access and carrying. Well that didn't work for me so I tucked it under my arm and through my backpack strap. Not the easiest way to carry things but it worked. And I ran.

It was wet and drippy but not too cold.  The trails are just starting to soften up with rain so it was muddy and slippery with newly downed fall leaves.  I wanted to stay moving but I really wasn't in any hurry. The run starts with a mile climb and eventually turns onto the East trail which I've been on before.  Then onto some different trails I'd never been on before.  I never saw anyone and just enjoyed the trails.  Steeper and narrower than on cougar and obviously less traveled.

After a long and easily runnable access road, I came to the next aid station and let them know they were done! That was welcome news for them as it was just starting to rain more. And then I started back up the mountain. I felt like I was just hiking so much that I had to figure out a way to do more running.

And then I got it! count steps.  this works when I'm road running and flagging with focus and wanting to stop.  I started counting steps for 100 and then would hike for 50.  I think that interval is a little too long and will try more like 50 run/25 walk or 75 run/25 walk next time. If footing didn't feel comfortable or was too steep, I'd walk and run again when I could. Of course, I'd not been on some of these trails and they were stupid steep.  Straight up and I am not kidding! My calves were burning and I was just slowly hiking.

It took forever to get down off the mountain as they'd put up a lot more tags and tied them to branches. Sorry about all the twig trimming but i could not get them off any other way. I was told it would probably be around 9 miles and it turned out to be more like 11 but that was just fine. I'd do this again especially given the chance to explore some new trails.  And I learned a new running trick.  Yep, it was an excellent running weekend!