Monday, August 31, 2009

Some of the Important Stuff is in the Parentheses

After a summer full of travel and mayhem, we are back at The Shack, getting settled in and ready for another season of knowledge at The Learning Factory. Several things are happening at once:

-Training for the Seattle Marathon has started (I have a workout calendar and everything!)
-The Colleague's birthday is fast approaching (Remember when she didn't have a website?)
-The kids are clothed and fed and basically prepped for school (The eldest offspring of The Colleague officially starts high school course work this year. Yikes.)
-The new seasons of Project Runway and Top Chef are on (I have nothing parenthetically witty to say about that.)
-The Old New Boat is under renovations (and the task of finding and installing the new engine is haunting my nights and days.)
-RPD is logging hellish miles in strange places (and making me wonder if I should take this running thing a little more seriously than I do? Ah well.)
-Wildfires are burning out of control near Pasadena (just when Pasadena and I were really starting to get along!)

Both of my readers are aware that I am not great at sticking to a workout plan. I do the miles just fine, but I have a hard time reigning myself in. If I'm slated for a 10 miler, I run 12. If I'm supposed to run at 30 seconds over race pace, I run at race pace. I'm horrible. Which, of course, is why I get hurt all the time. Doy.

So I'm trying really hard to keep it together this time. I even retired my favorite shoes because I know they're shot and I know if I keep running in them I'm going to break or tear something. RIP, Favorite Shoes That Aren't Made Anymore. (So what if I have 3 other pair of the same shoes? Shut up. It's not the same.)

So far the training is going pretty well, thank you. Last week I did almost 35 miles total, and this week will be the same (though broken up differently). My longest outing so far topped 12 miles and I did it at the pace I was supposed to (I'm still planning on 7:30 to 7:40 per mile in the 'Thon, so I'm running my long runs at 8:00-8:10) and felt great at the end. I even stopped and walked a half mile at the finish to cool down and stretch, which proves unconditionally that I can use my brain when necessary*. (It doesn't hurt that the last half mile is a 400 foot climb back up the hill to The Shack.)

*Note: Of course, the one time I choose to walk the hill is also when the Kenlake Posse is out in full force. Hi fellas. I'm walking because I'm supposed to. Honest. Not because I'm weak. Oh, and I'm NOT listening to Norah Jones on these headphones. Nope. It's heavy metal or something manly. Honest.

On that same long run I detoured a bit and ran a couple of miles of the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon course (the hilly miles) to get my brain ready for next weekend's race. After my disastrous showing at the Tacoma Half, I'm determined to have a good race. (No PR attempt here, I am still coming off surgery after all). Anything under 1:40:00 will be just fine with me...

Birthday Wishes

Dear Colleague,
I hope you like your present. And thank you for not being one of those women who frets about birthdays, tries to hide her age, and says she doesn't want anything as a gift when really she knows exactly what she wants and if she doesn't get the right thing punishes the boyfriend silently for it for weeks. Thanks for that.

Also, this note in my lame blog is your birthday gift. Surprise!


Reality Television

I do love DVR technology. Without it I would miss such gems as Top Chef, Ace of Cakes, Project Runway, and The Real House Wives of Orange County. These are so bad they're good. And when I'm not burying my head in the pillow and weeping over the demise of what little culture this country had left, I thoroughly enjoy watching these nobody wannabe actors and D-Listers fight it out for my pleasure. I'm a sick, sick man.

Also, I do seriously worry about the direction television is going (seriously, I do...I can indulge the crap and still be wary of its effect on society, right?). With the push toward more reality-based programming and away from high production value, we are getting an endless slate of competitions and dating shows. They are so cheap to produce that the studios can just crank them out and see what sticks. No need to hire writers. No need to create. Just can, package, and send. And these "actors" aren't covered by any of the labor laws that SAG actors are, and you just know they are being exploited for every inch of entertainment they have in them.

Maybe I'll feel better when the new seasons of Family Guy and American Dad start up in October. (Either that or I will have to go back and start re-watching my DVDs of Northern Exposure. How great was that show?)

Boat Repair 102: How to Employ the Skills of Others

Since I know both of my readers also follow our boat blog, I don't need to say much here. How cool is the work Dear Old Dad is doing on the boat? I just wish he was also a diesel mechanic in his past. The drafting and carpentry skills will do. I guess.

California is on Fire
This is what the scene looks like in Pasadena at the moment. The photo at the head of my last post is what it looked like 4 weeks ago. Take care SoCal folks. Try not to breathe too deeply.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Distant Future

As we gear up and get ready to take Supervan on yet another epic adventure (Park City, Utah via Pasadena, California) I'm busily trying to get my body to accept running again, and reluctantly committing to a couple of races.

Reluctantly? Well, yeah, because every time I commit to a big race ($$$) I break something or tear something, or do something to something.

But the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon was supposed to be the kick-off for my Seattle Marathon training, so I am officially in training mode now. I think. The next two weeks are important base mile weeks (I have to get my weekly mileage up to 30 or so pretty quickly) and we will be on the road.

Pasadena is no problem. 5 days there is five days in what I consider Running Paradise. Neighborhood jaunts under huge shady oak trees, on wide well maintained sidewalks, misting sprinklers keeping all of those manicured lawns blazingly green...It really is hard to take.

From there we will Supervan it to St George, Utah. I don't know how many of both of my readers have ever spent any time in St. George, but a running paradise it is not. My memory may be tainted, however, by the fact that I have only ever been there at the tail end of climbing trips in which I starved, froze, and almost died high up on a rock wall, tethered to a manic depressive formerly homeless poet. So, you know, maybe I wasn't thinking clearly.

Anyway, after a long day of driving through the desert, I will have to force myself to get some miles in to keep up with the plan.

From there to Park City, Utah. Lovely, amazing Park City. 6,900 feet of pure elevation. Ouch. Plus, it might be obvious to both of you that once you are in a mountain town like Park City, there aren't a lot of flat roads and trails to be found.

Travel, elevation, and hills? Recipe for training success.

Still, I'm determined. We'll see if the miles stack up.

Anyhoooo, the current plan is to run a few smaller races (including the Super Jock n Jill Half Marathon on Labor Day) leading up to the November 29th Seattle Marathon. Then we are looking for a late winter, early spring race to travel to. It seems like Pasadena or LA are the likely candidates at this point. Stay tuned.

In other news, work on the New Old Boat is starting to happen. We're at the stage where we are doing more damage than good, but there is a distinct possibility that someday this boat will sail, with us aboard...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Whose Destiny Are We Talking About Here?

Tacoma calls itself the City of Destiny. I don't know what that means, exactly. Since I can remember, Tacoma has been the joke of the Puget Sound. Dirty, crime-infested, ugly, and decidedly a "drive through" sort of place. You drive through Tacoma on your way to Anywhere Else, USA. I can count the number of times I've actually spent any real minutes or hours in Tacoma on one hand. A couple of concerts at the Tacoma Dome back in the 90s (anyone remember when the pyrotechnics at the AC/DC show set the wooden ceiling on fire?), a conference for work, and most recently a surprise trip to see Billy Collins. So signing up for the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon had very little to do with the city itself. Truth is, I saw that Cap'n Ron had signed up and figured, what the hell? I'm out of shape and recovering from surgery. I've been on the road for most of the summer. I haven't trained over 6 miles since May. Sounds like a recipe for success to me! So I signed up and started rationalizing. Like I do.

"I can just take it easy and use it as a long run."

"I can run-walk it."

"If I crash and have to walk in, no big woop."

And with that cycle running through my head, I started my intense training regimen, which included not running at all in the days leading up to the race, drinking PBR in the sun at The Boat Yard, and drinking wine with The Colleague at the Lyle Lovett concert the night before the race. Oh, and let's not forget a nice big helping of Pad Thai at midnight before the race. This is some good training and preparation.

Let me also say that if given the choice, I'd rather wake up in my own bed on race day. But when this means an alarm going off in my ear at 4:30 a.m., the benefits of sleeping at home are questionable. At best. I think The Colleague summed it up pretty well when the alarm went off to Midnight Oil's "Beds are Burning":

"What the hell?!"


Keeping to my rigorous preparation plans, I had half a glass of water and part of a NutriGrain bar (mixed berry, for those of you keeping score), and when Cap'n Ron pulled up at 5:00, I was "ready" to roll.

After the drive and a parking fiasco, we met up with First Time Half Marathoner Friend and shuttled a car to the starting line across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Of course, they have rebuilt the bridge a couple of times since it crashed down in 1940. But still, when you think Tacoma Narrows, you think "bridge collapse in wind storm" don't you? Maybe it's just me. Anyway, after the requisite milling about and waiting in impossibly long Honey Bucket lines, we got onto the course (10 minutes races EVER start on time?)

The race started at the Narrows Airport in a chilly sea fog, which once we started running was perfect, but standing around waiting for the start was miserable.

With only 1000 participants, the start was easy and there was no jockeying for position or running room.

Kudos #1: Starting on the runway at the airport is a good choice. Wide open running for everyone.

At mile 2.5 the course hit the bridge, and the wide pedestrian path on the new span. Very nice! Though in the heavy fog the crossing was very eerie. I couldn't help think of the poor souls who have jumped to their deaths from the bridge as I ran over the top. Yikes. Don't look down, there be vertigo there.

Kudos #2: Much of the run is on pedestrian and bike paths, with nice surfaces and no traffic. They had to close very few roads, which is always a nice way to run a race.

After the bridge is the first real hill of the course, and it's a killer. Mile 4 goes up almost 300 feet from the end of the bridge through Veterans Park. I was holding a little under an 8:00 pace at this point, but that wasn't going to last long. The hill about killed me, and my meticulous planning and preparation forced me to stop at the Honey Bucket in the park. I lost almost 2 minutes there. Oh well. I wasn't looking for a PR here anyway, right?

From there the course crosses Highway 16 on an overpass and enters a little middle class neighborhood for a 2 mile loop. An old couple sitting on their lawn drinking coffee were the only people awake and outside in the whole place. Hi folks. Why is it so quiet around here?

Criticism #1: Granted this isn't the race organizers' fault, but the course is lonely. There was almost no one out supporting the runners and once the field spread out, I was literally running alone most of the time. I don't know how to fix this.

The course then picks up the very nice trail system through the west part of Tacoma. We did a little loop on the baseball diamond at Cheney Stadium, which was pretty cool, and then headed up the hill. And up the hill. And up the hill...

At the starting line I listened to people talk about the course (in my intense preparation I neglected to look at the course map, naturally). I heard several people, including First Time Half Marathoner Friend say something like "After mile 10 it's all downhill to the finish."

Bullshit. From mile 11.5 it's all downhill to the finish. Mile 10 is uphill.

I was pushing by this point to keep a solid pace, counting on the downhill to save me from an epic bonk. But the trail we were on near the golf course kept going up.

And then when it did go down, it went STRAIGHT down.

Criticism #2: Steep downhills are worse than steep uphills. There has to be a way to keep the two steep descents out of this course. They're actually a little dangerous because they come late in the race when legs are fatigued. I know how to fix this.

If one looks at my GPS track really closely, he or she will see at mile 11.5 a little hitch, where your hero made a dash behind some poor industrial building to approximate the second Honey Bucket stop, sans Honey Bucket. I hear you can get a ticket for "Depositing Human Waste in Public" but given the loneliness of the course (see above) I was in no danger of my transgression being discovered.

After that I did my best to kick to the finish, and actually had a great time doing it. I caught up with a runner I had been sort of near since the start and we agreed to race to the finish. Last I checked, Tony and I were running a 5:40 pace to the finish line, and according to the official results I got him by 1 second.

I finished, took off my chip (minor complaint: I hate ankle chips. They chafe and bother me throughout the run. Can we please stick to the shoelace chips, folks?), and got my finishing prize: a nice pint glass with the race logo on it. All around me I heard the sound of smashing glass on the pavement. Maybe handing out glassware to sweaty, dehydrated, fatigued finishers of a half marathon isn't the best plan? Still, it's a cool glass and is far more useful than a finisher's medal.

By my watch I came in at 1:46: 51. By the chip I came in at 1:48:36. I don't know how the hell that happened, but I'm not going to protest. That's a little over an 8:00 pace, which is a full minute faster than I had any business running.

Cap'n Ron came in a minute behind me at 1:49:41 and didn't break his pint glass either.

First Time Half Marathoner Friend finished his first race at 2:22:32. A solid effort on a pretty hard course.

We sleep-drove our way back north and refueled at The Ram in Northgate. They have both food AND beer there. What a concept. Putting back 1600 calories always feels good!

Next up is the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon on September 7th. I ran 1:33 there last year and like the course a lot, so we'll see.

Then it's the Seattle Marathon on November 29th. Why do I do this?