Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seattle Marathon Pre-Race Musings

Cut This!
We can get to the pre-marathon stuff in a minute. But how can I pass up commenting on the fecal matter that is hitting the spinning blades at The Learning Factory? First, some logic:
  1. Enrollments are at an all-time high and were projected to climb again next year as a large senior class graduates local high schools.
  2. With jobless claims at their highest levels in years, more people are going back to college to get trained how to analyze the poetry of T.S. Eliot (A valuable job skill. Shut up. What I do matters.)
  3. Answer: cut funding by 20%, reduce enrollments, and fire teachers. Seems about right.
I get that we are in for a lot of changes and cuts in the next few years. But I have no faith that our "leadership" will be able to guide any of this with an ounce of creativity or thoughtfulness. Nope. This is going to be Lord of the Flies, fiscal edition. The latest rumor is my favorite because I know exactly where it started and who propagated it (and for what purpose):

Did you know that our dean is planning to fire all of us and only rehire a few tenured instructors as part timers so she has complete hiring and firing authority without recourse? Did you know that? It's true. Mrs. Saved Seat heard it from Eastern Bloc Guy and Pear Shaped Woman told Horrifying Former Instructor. That makes it true. Good times ahead.

Where's that RIF list now?

If I don't hear about at least a 10% salary cut of Mr. President's salary pretty soon, I'll be a little upset. Sure, I'll overload my classes and volunteer my previously paid extra work. But not if I don't see some salary cuts in administration. Seriously. The cost of living in Kansas is not that high.

Oh and also? Thanks for trying to cut the funding for our trip to Kenya, you pricks. Too bad those tickets were non-refundable.

Ok. Now Back to the Running Content.
The Seattle Marathon is this Sunday. Yes it is. Which means this week is pretty much taken up by me sitting around wishing I could lace 'em up and go for a nice 12 miler to clear my head. Instead, I'm pretty much sitting at home with a head clogged full of race thoughts, questions, anxieties, and fears. Good times for everyone.

  1. The Pace. I am terrible at setting a reasonable pace and keeping it. I can't slow down for my long training runs and I'm worse in races. I need to come up with something that will keep me from trying to prove ANYTHING during this race. I did no speed work and I don't really have the mileage behind me to be pressing during this race. So I'm thinking I'll try to go out at an 8:00/mile pace and see what happens from there. That's the goal. But I have no idea how I'll hold myself to it. Chances are pretty good that I'll feel good enough to push and will end up with a few 7:30's in there, for which I will sheepishly apologize in my post-race report.
  2. The Course. I've been looking at the course maps to try to visualize different parts of the race. I've done the Seattle Half Marathon a couple of times, so I know the first 4 and last 4 miles of the course pretty well. The start heads south down 5th Avenue toward Pioneer Square. Two very fast miles here, mostly downhill. The goal here is to stay even and keep from pushing early. Then there is a big climb up onto I-90 in front of that stadium where the Mariners lose all the time. Once this climb is over, it's flat and downhill on I-90 itself, through the tunnel and out onto the bridge for the first of two out-and-back sections. Aside from a short, steep climb on the east side of the bridge before the turnaround, the course is flat and fast from mile 3 through 19. Out and back across the bridge, south to Seward Park, then north along Lake Washington before the killer climb. Galer Street. Galer Street. This hill haunts me. 200' in less than a mile before the course dumps into the Arboretum. If I can keep from blowing up in mile 20, everything will be fine. There is enough downhill and flat running left in miles 21-26 that I can suck it up and push for the finish. I think. I guess we'll find out if living on this damn hill has helped my climbing ability any! Oh, and for anyone who hasn't done this race before, the finish inside Memorial Stadium, despite its obvious appeal for race organizers, sucks. After 26 miles of pounding mostly concrete roads (yes, you can tell the difference between concrete and asphalt) the last stretch is on the field turf of the football field. Read: soft and spongy. With already tired legs this surface might as well be sand or mud. Sucks. I can't believe more people don't take massive face plants here.
  3. The (lack of) Support. Unlike Portland and Vancouver, which are both known for their fantastic support from locals, most of the Seattle course is a lonely, lonely place. Anyone care to volunteer to camp out on the hill at Galer Street and push me up? Shit. I will definitely be plugged into the Shuffle for this race.
  4. Weather. The forecast is good. Which is good and bad for me. The evil streak in me was sort of hoping it would be dumping rain and blowing 40 knots from the south so I could change my mind at the last minute and just run the half. Sunny and 50 degrees? Shit. Now I don't have that excuse anymore.
  5. I really don't know why I do this. I really don't. Running is stupid and no one should ever do it.
  6. Also? This race is doomed. Ultimately there is not enough local support for it and no one comes into town for a race that is usually wet, cold, and windy (and dark). It is just a little to close to the Portland Marathon for anyone to really do a turnaround from that race to this one, it has very little local financial or personal support (every year there are letters to the editor bitching about how the marathon closes roads in Seattle. Oh the inconvenience!), and it is very poorly organized and managed. I love the idea of a home-town race. Traveling and staying in hotels before marathons sucks. But I just don't think this one will last much longer, especially with the Rock-n-Roll Marathon moving into town in June.
It's 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday. By this time Sunday I should be somewhere around Galer Street cursing those damned Greek cities for being so far apart.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ten Things I (Think I) Know...

  1. Many of the brave patrons/clients/customers/students of the Learning Factory are really not cut out for the study of the liberal arts. Case in point: the student who asked me, through tobacco-stained teeth and from underneath the bill of his super-cool straight-billed baseball cap, if there was a way to get his English credits done without having to take English. Ummm. Here is a picture of said student and his study partners:
  2. My resolve for suffering through the Seattle Marathon if the weather turns ugly is pretty low. In fact, my resolve for leaving the house if they weather turns ugly is low. Hell, my resolve for suffering through the Seattle Marathon if it's 60 degrees and sunny is low. Maybe I'll just stay home and eat Ruffles.
  3. Ruffles are awesome.
  4. I could totally go for some Ruffles right now.
  5. The Colleague and I are officially headed to Kenya in June. Ticketed and ready. I'll start packing soon.
  6. Ending the training and tapering in anticipation of a race sucks. I am forcing myself to stick to short, easy runs this week to rest up for the Marathon next Sunday. But, as Cap'n Ron has pointed out a number of times, short runs suck. Here's why. My body has gotten used to runs that are almost all 7+ miles and the more I run the longer it takes to get warmed up and start feeling good during a run. Way back when my longest runs were 5 miles, it took a mile to warm up. Now it isn't until mile 3 or so that I really know how a run is going to go. So when I do little 4 milers like today, I am never get to settle in. I am headed back to the Shack before it really even feels like I'm running. Sucks. Also, getting dressed, and geared up and talking myself into running takes longer than the run itself. Lame. Yes, I am complaining.
  7. There's something wrong with the economy in this country. Has anyone else noticed this?
  8. A few of the potential cuts at The Learning Factory might be a good thing. Does anyone know what the woman in the office across the hall from The Colleague actually does aside from chatting all day with Death Bed Chain Smoker? Remember all those "high demand" stipends and hiring bonuses that the computer crowd got back in 2000? Anyone else notice that they don't actually have students anymore? Just sayin'. Also, it seems like Mr. President could give up a little for the cause. The cost of living in Kansas is pretty low. Also charge for parking.
  9. The girls know every word to every pop song on every radio station at every second of every day but they can't remember to put their shoes away.
  10. It's cold and dark outside and I want to go to Mexico.
  11. BONUS FACT: The Huskies are absolutely the worst football team I have ever watched. I think they might actually be more talented than the Cougar team that beat them this weekend in double overtime, but the Huskies' ability to find new ways to live down to their reputation is stunning. When they were leading by 10 points at halftime I knew they would lose. I just knew it. And I knew they would lose because of a ridiculously inept play at a crucial moment. It feels so good to be right! After they lose to Cal in two weeks I will have lived through 2 perfect seasons!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going Small, Going Long, and Going Abroad

Slowly Falling for a New Girl
I was already in love with the idea of her. Now I've seen her and it might be hopeless. The Colleague and I visited a 1977 Pacific SeaCraft 25 this week in Port Townsend. She is up on stands in the boatyard, dirty, neglected, and in need of a makeover and some new rags, but damn she's cute. Painfully cute. Wouldn't she look even better with us in the cockpit? I think so.

This is the sort of boat you can truly love.

A 25 foot boat that can cross oceans? A cutter rigged, full-keeled, stoutly built cruiser? A fun day-sailer that we can take up the Inside Passage? Hard not to fall for her.

The Dreams are Starting Early
I have pre-marathon dreams that don't quite count as nightmares but are certainly not what a therapist would call "positive visualization." Usually they involve either arriving at the race late or losing my way on the course, or both. Last night the "course" was weaving in and out of buildings and was riddled with obstacles and puzzles to solve. In the dream, every time I got up to pace I had to stop or turn around. I was always on my Boston Qualifying pace too, until something popped up and slowed me down.

So today I tried to scare off some of that anxiety by studying the route and elevation profiles for the Seattle Marathon. That didn't help. A mile long 300 foot climb at mile 20? WTF?

Do I Really Have to Eat Meat Again?
It's official. The Colleague and I are headed for Kenya in June to research and organize a short term study abroad program for The Factory. Seems that in addition to learning a handful of Swahili phrases, I might have to learn to choke down meat again. I don't want to offend The Colleague's ex-boyfriend's wife when she serves up some sort of dead animal. You know?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Things That are Long

Fresh off the first of three long runs in preparation for the Seattle Marathon at the end of the month, I thought I would offer up a little run report and some thoughts on things loosely related to such pursuits.

RUNNING IS HARD (Especially When You Do it Wrong)
It's true. Sorry. While most of the running we do isn't hard (it's just tiring) there is a point in long runs where the very act of running three more steps is the hardest thing your body can imagine doing. I made the mistake of choosing a route that would give me a chance to climb some hills in the late miles of my planned 20-miler. The "logic" of the choice? Well, the Seattle Marathon has a hill late in the race, I should see what I can do with that. Moron. Am I the worst in the world at training the way I know I should train? Why didn't I stick with my original plan of running a one-way flat route along the Burke Gilman? The ONLY thing a long run is supposed to do is built endurance. That's it. Run slow and run long. Pace doesn't matter and neither does elevation. Run the track for speed, hills for hills, and long for long. Moron.

Here, for your entertainment, is the elevation profile of the run. Note what happens at mile 10. Then note miles 16-18. That's called "Simonds Road," where marathon dreams go to die...

It's cold out. Right? Not really. It's in the mid 50s, windy, with a chance of rain. So why do I dress like I'm going to be standing on the sidelines of a youth soccer game instead of dressing like I'm going to be exerting myself for 3 hours? Because, in addition to being a moron (see above) I'm also a dumbass. I came very, very close to tossing my brand new Nike running shell around mile 8, hoping maybe it would still be there later when I came back for it. One plus: if a test of your hydration level is how much you are sweating, I can tell you with confidence that I was indeed hydrated.

To do any endurance sport (or, I imagine, to survive any sort of imprisonment) you have to be able to hold some pretty interesting conversations with yourself. Here are some things I've tried. None of them work.
  1. Counting steps. I read about some famous marathoner counting the number of steps she took in a single mile and then trying to do the next mile in fewer steps. According to her, the "miles just fly by!" Bullshit. I lost interest and count at about 200.
  2. Memorizing split times. When I first started running this was one of my standard mind tricks. But then I was only running 5 miles now, wasn't I? On this last run I started memorizing splits after mile 3, but I kept missing my miles and forgetting where I was, so it just pissed me off.
  3. Mantras. At the Vancouver Marathon I was focused on conserving energy as much as I could in the early miles. Don't dodge too many people, don't get off track, don't overuse your arms, etc. I also had to remind myself not to pound my feet. It actually worked for a while to say "glide, glide, glide" as I ran, but let's face it, that sort of thing isn't sustainable for more than a mile or so.
  4. Thinking About Baseball. Wait, that's a different blog...
  5. Money. Not real money or real money issues. Sure, I could spend my running time thinking about the Shack budget, but I just don't think that would have much of a motivating or distracting effect. Long runs are the only time I play the "what would you do with x million dollars" game. It's a really complex one to figure out, especially if you happen to be running along the lake, past the waterfront homes and private moorings. I usually go with "that house, new boat" or something like that.
  6. Delusions of Grandeur. I'll be honest, this one works, but only for a short term. Sorta like an energy drink or shot of espresso. Imagining the emotion and energy of finishing a race can be a nice 2 mile distraction. You can picture the clock, feel the elation of finishing, imagine the relief of crossing the timing mats, and puking on the volunteer removing your chip. Ahhh bliss.
I'm officially torn on the music thing. I like listening to my iPod when I run, but invariably a few different things happen. One, an inane pop song sneaks its way on there and bores itself into my brain never to be extracted. Two, I forget to charge it completely and lose power halfway through a run. Three, I get annoyed by the earphones or the cord or the little clip on my waistband and (often due to the cumulative effect of all three) want to pitch the damn thing into the river/lake/drainage ditch/garbage dumpster.

I do have a theory that I need to keep testing with this. Music seems to be the most memorable or apparent in the first 8 miles or so. Beyond that your brain is starting its slow descent into the fog of high mileage and even if the music is playing, you aren't going to really hear it.

All that said, it was a little moment of bliss when my Shuffle dialed up back-to-back Pearl Jam songs. "Alive" from back in the day, followed by their cover of The Who's "Love, Reign Over Me." The Who cover is fantastic, and I have a new appreciation for the percussion on that song after a recent night out with The Colleague. Seriously. Listen to the percussion. Go on. Do it.

Premise: Recently divorced liberal 30-Something keeps his house but spends all of his time down the street at his conservative friend's house because conservative friend is blindly loyal and supportive. Divorced liberal 30-Something only uses his own house as a place to store his kids' stuff and to host his trailer park girlfriend on the "down low." Conservative friend is a giant macho asshole who drives an impossibly big truck and treats women like shit. Still, liberal friend overlooks these character flaws in exchange for above-mentioned blind loyalty and access to dude culture.

Wait. That's not funny. Never mind.

I tried. I really did. I don't know how people do this. How are you really supposed to immerse yourself in an ice bath for anything more than a few seconds? This CAN'T be good for you. No way. Or maybe I'm missing something.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again here: Sushi is the premier post-run food. A lot of easily digested protein wrapped in a little carbohydrate bomb, washed down with a Japanese beer? Heaven.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Last week I set out for a nice little 5 miler in the wind and rain. Here are the splits:

1. 8:02
2. 8:02
3. 8:03
4. 8:02
5. 8:00

On my 5 miler today I put my watch in my pocket and turned off my iPod after deciding to run "unplugged." Here are the splits:

1. 8:03
2. 8:02
3. 8:02
4: 7:59
5: 8:20

Have I found my Seattle Marathon pace? This has to be fate, right?

Monday, November 03, 2008