Tuesday, September 26, 2006


So Saturday morning was the Pi Mile Run. I rarely ever get to run 5ks anymore since Saturdays are for long runs and most 5ks are on Saturdays. But I have been unable to do this run the last two years because of injuries, so I signed up this year. Mainly because I just wanted the t-shirt...

Before the recap, a short story. Friday night I went to a movie with some friends. After the movie, I hopped on my bike to ride home. About a mile from home, I am tooling along (on the sidewalk - I know, I know, but I refuse to ride on this particular street, especially at night). Then, all of a sudden, without turning on a blinker or anything, this car turns right in front of me. I slammed on my breaks, probably a little too hard, and I went flying. So I am on the ground, bruised up, but okay. The driver of the car was like an 18 year old kid and he was totally freaked out about what happened, so at least I didn't have someone blaming me while I was on the ground. My laptop was on my back (not in it's little padded sleeve!) but thank goodness I went flying forward. Afterwards, I decided to walk my bike a little because I was pretty shook up. I was walking along and to top the evening off, some guy yells out the window "Why don't you get a car!?!" Sigh. Ames sucks sometimes. Really, do people have nothing better to do than taunt bike riders?

Okay back to the run. So the morning after the incident, I go down to the park for the 5k. This race was sooooo small. That's what happens when there are 3 5ks in a town of 50,000 people (including students) on the same morning. Chrissy happened to be there too, making her racing debut after her bike incident. Oh yeah, she is totally out for the Twin Cities Marathon. The driver's insurance company is reimbursing her registration fee... Yeah, I am sure that $70 will cover all the hours of training she put in for what was supposed to be her first marathon...

Chrissy hadn't run more than 2 miles since she got hit. We went and warmed up together a bit. Every step I could feel the big matching bruises I had on my legs from the night before. It sucked.

The course was one that is used quite often in 5ks in Ames. In fact, the last 5k I ran was on almost the same exact course. The race in April I finished in 30:10, but I was hungover on tequila and I stopped to eat four Krispy Kremes. With the donut time deductions, I actually ended up with a 27:40, but I don't consider that an official PR :-) Anyways, after having a good race weekend last weekend, I really wanted to PR on this. My fastest 5k was in February, 28:17.

So the 20 or so of us line up (I told you it was small!) and we were off! I have never felt more ridiculous than I did during this race. There was a pack of people who took off ahead of me and people behind me, but there was no one running around my pace. I barely saw anyone after the first half mile. I felt minorly ridiculous running through the park with a race number on. I wanted to to tell every non-racer I passed "I'm not last! Really! There are others behind me!"

They didn't have mile markers which bummed me out. My Garmin said I did the first mile in 8 minutes, and I didn't buy that. Plus there are lots of trees in the park - I wouldn't count on it to be accurate. So I really had no clue how fast I was going. So I pushed it the entire way. And then, before I knew it, I was done! 27:49, baby! Almost 30 seconds off my last PR. I was psyched. And the pace was 8:58 min/mi. There was an 8 as the first digit! That never happens! I don't care if that is only 2 seconds off 9. It's still an 8.

And then! To top it off, they had weird age groups (19-25, 26-35, etc). I was the only person at all in the 26-35 age group, so I won prizes! I can't wait to get that Love It Creation at Coldstone Creamery, yum yum yum! It was such a gorgeous perfect day for a race. In fact, I was excited about going and running the 7 extra miles I needed to run, it was that nice out.

And Chrissy? 20 minutes. She came in first. The boys couldn't even catch her. She won a pie. And still had enough left to kick my ass yesterday in the spinning class she teaches.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Capital Pursuit Race Report (a week late)

First off, I found this on a friend's blog... I laughed until I cried... For me personally, it was even more funny to do it to myself.

I just loved seeing my masters research described as:

Danielle is compar'n measizzles of dissipizzle of turbulent kinetic energy wit an acoustic Brotha hustla n a temperature microstructure instrument. She measured temperature microstructure in a field experiment ta estimate blingin' in a bubble plume.

Word, yo.

Sheesh, this week has been crazy. This 10-miler was a week ago and I still haven't written a recap. Which, considering it went awesome, I am surprised I haven't been driven to write about it sooner. In fact, I had another race yesterday to write about, but I will put that off until tomorrow.

Well, first off I want to give mad props to Shaun for coming in second in his age group in this 500 person race. And he wasn't even trying. I hate him. He won some gloves. Ya, the bling was most definitely lacking at this race...

Anyways, I went in going "Okay, I only need to do this at my half-marry pace, which to PR is only 10:30." But in my head I knew I would be annoyed if I only paced 10:30 on this race since I did it at 10:15 last year, and I limped the second half of the race. In fact last year I did the first half at 10 min pace and the second half at 10:30. So today I went in to this race saying, "Do the first half at 10:30. If I finish at 10:30, that is fine. But if I am feeling okay, I am going for the negative split to match my pace from last year, so a 10 min pace for the second half." That was my game plan. Because miles 7-10 are downhill, this is actually not a hard race to negative split in. This is also good practice for me since I always go out too fast. So my primary goal for today was to negative split, no matter what the pace.

So I started and I whenever I would start breathing heavy I would let up. I tried really really hard to be between 10:15 and 10:30 for the first five miles. If I got caught up running with someone and my GPS said I was going too fast, I would drop back. But I was having a good day and I hit mile 5 at 50:40 and I wasn't tired. But then I was like "Oh shit, now I have set a pretty high bar for the negative split," considering that this pace was faster than I wanted to do the whole thing at.

So, I just picked someone ahead of me, ran to catch up with them, ran with them for a bit, picked another person to catch, etc etc... I came in at 1:38:25, so below a ten minute pace, four minutes faster than last year, and with a second half split of 47:45. And my last mile was 9:15.

Total rockstar finish. I need to adopt this strategy a hell of a lot more often. I felt good the entire race. My breathing was also a lot slower and more even the entire time. I might even say that I had fun! I never have fun while racing. I have fun while running, but I am usually killing myself during an entire race, so fun isn't a good descriptor.

So there is now a half-marathon attack strategy. Beware Toronto, beware... I shall have my revenge... The best part is that this race also is more downhill in the second half:

Okay, there does appear to be an uphill at the end. That's not cool. Big mean Canadians.

Next up: Two girls who lost battles with cars on their bikes rock the Pi Mile run...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Eye of the tiger, yo.

So yesterday I did the Pilot Knob Trail Race 5 miler, the first of my two races for the weekend. This was the same place as the 15k in May. It was a really small race, probably due to the horrendous weather forecast for the day. But it turned out to be gorgeous and sunny and about 70 degrees with a nice breeze that hit us even through the trees on the trail.

At the beginning of the race when the director was briefing us on the course I surveyed the crowd to see if there was anyone else in my age group. At first it appeared that there was only one other chick in the 20-29 age group (she shall be dubbed Skinny Chick). But as he was finishing his schpiel, another girl came up late (she shall be dubbed Late Girl). She looked like she was in my age group but since she was registering late I didn't get a chance to slyly check her out. So I started the race assuming there were three of us. They only gave out two places and it didn't look good, as both of them looked like they were good runners.

So I started out too fast as normal, but the pace seemed to be okay. I passed Skinny Chick within the first quarter mile and I was more or less keeping up with Late Girl for the first mile. Then the fun began. It rained about an inch the night before the race. There were mud pits on the trail where I was slogging through mud up to my ankles. The course is actually really hilly with a lot of short steep hills, and a couple of long steep hills. I apparently suck at running up muddy hills. I should say "climbing up muddy hills trying to grab onto anything that might help me get up" rather than "running." Running down them wasn't much fun either until I figured out that I should accept the sliding downhill as forward propulsion without energy input and go with it...

The first big muddy hill, I totally got dropped by Late Girl. I am not quite sure how one improves in their muddy hill climbing skillz, but that killed me. In fact, this is what led to my downfall. Skinny Chick caught up with me again at about the halfway point. Well rather I started hearing her and her friend talking behind me. Argh! That drove me crazy, hearing them catch me. Finally on a particularly big muddy hill, they overtook me.

I spent the next mile trying to catch them to no avail and with every muddy hill I fell farther behind. Then came my chance. There was one water stop that you passed twice. At about mile 3 she stopped. I managed to catch her there. It was a five mile race an the weather wasn't too hot, so I wasn't going to stop for water, not when a trophy was at stake! So we had to do this little loop and she passed me on the uphill, I caught her on the downhill and then... she stopped for water again! That was her mistake...

We were a mile and a half from the finish and I booked it. I was charging down the path praying not to twist and ankle. I spent the whole time with this extreme paranoia that she would catch me again. I was already giving it 100%, so I wouldn't be able to give anymore to catch her again if she passed me. But somewhat anti-climactically, I had totally dropped her like a fly (what does that expression even mean?) at that water stop. Didn't even hear her behind me the rest of the way. I kept checking over my shoulder and I couldn't even see her.

The funny thing was that she was totally casual about the whole race. She was obviously not racing me, I was just racing her. Sort of like when you are at the gym and you are slyly racing the person on the treadmill next to you, but they are totally oblivious to your existence.

So I cruised in to the finish at 59:40. My splits were something like 10 (me trying to keep up with Late Girl)/13/13/13/10 (me trying to outrun Skinny Chick). I like trail races because I don't do them enough to know what my pace should be on the trails, so I don't ever feel bad after them if I don't do as well as I would have liked. Anyways, it turns out Late Girl wasn't in my age group! So I got a first place rock (or "hippie trophy" as the race director's daughter called them). Now I have one to match my rock from May.

One race down, one to go! Next up, the Capital Pursuit, where Shaun continues to kick some a$$ and Danielle learns the joy of the negative split.

One more thing:

Why wigs are more protective than bike helmets.

My favorite line from the article:

"In future research, Dr Walker hopes to discover whether this was because female riders are seen as less predictable than male riders, or because women are not seen riding bicycles as often as men on the UK’s roads."

Oh, we females are so unpredictable on our bikes!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Just wanted to let everyone know, the Official Back Off Man, I'm a Scientist Wild West Relay Photo Album is available online. The pictures or organized and sorted, funny anecdotes, comments, commentary, people's names, and all other sorts of random information have been added. Check it out!

I heart packages!

First, I am going to mention that by the looks of Joe's album, it appears as if Van 2 didn't even exist. That was my van. I warned everyone that I never take pictures...

So this is peripherally related to running, because my daily commute on my bike is cross-training, right? Anyways, I am so excited about this I had to share. I have a beast of a laptop, 17" screen and all, that I got in January when I seemed to think that having that big of a laptop would be a great idea because I don't have a desktop. I also had these fantasies about how when I move to Switzerland and sell all my belongings, I will be able to watch movies on it as if it were a TV.

Anyways, I had to stop using my old messenger bag for the ride to school because the laptop was so big. For a while I was using my backpack that is appropriate for weekend camping trips because it was the only bag I had that was long/tall enough for the new laptop but backpacks lead to a very sweaty back, which is most definitely not hot. The biggest problem I have had is finding a messenger bag that is actually good for transporting a heavy laptop in comfort. I bought a Timbuk2 bag (but not the laptop specific one since it was like $120 for the one for my computer size). I don't like it at all. I was at the bike store one day and the bike store guy told me I should check out R.E.Load Bags.

These people are awesome. They hand make all the bags exactly to your specifications. So I gave them dimensions, picked out colors, and for a little extra, they will do a custom design on the bag. Since this is the only item in my life that I use every single day, I splurged. I sent them this photo:
This picture is of lab experiments on Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities, which are my favoritest fluid dynamics phenomena ever because it looks awesome and it actually happens in nature. From that, they produced this (which I just got in the mail today):I have never been so excited to ride my bike to school!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Game on!

So it is official. I am now registered for the Toronto Half-Marathon on October 15th. I am giving Toronto a chance to redeem itself. If I get out of there still in possession of my passport and able to walk, I will consider it a much more successful trip than last time.

Mr. Passport, I promise I will guard you with my life this time and not let some sketchy dude in Chinatown steal you again. Although you really aren't nearly as cool as my stolen passport with that full page Ugandan visa and Haiti stamps.

I guess I need to start boning up on my miles/km conversions. Or I could just be like Al and calculate my pace in knots. That will be some new fun math to do in my head while I run. It might look something like this:
We all know Bessel functions are an integral (haha, get it?) part of converting paces. I think the Garmin does this though :-)

My hammy is still sore and I doubt it will feel better until I take a break from running. I would like to PR on this half though... My last half marathon in April was 2:19, and that was in the pouring rain AND we ran three miles before the start, since it was supposed to be an 18 mile training run (we never got around to those last two miles after the race). Granted I feel slower now than I was then. My friend says I should not push the hamstring and run it for fun and to hang out with Lisa. Although I fear that if I don't push it, Lisa will leave me in the dust :-)

So hamstring be damned! I will let you rest after October 15th! The aformentioned friend can't even make me feel guilty about this, because he is stuck on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean and can no longer read this blog :-) I am sure I will get a huge "told you so" when I am hobbling around from not listening to the hammy.

So my first step in not taking it easy is to run not one, but two races this coming weekend. The first is a 5 mile trail race up at Pilot Knob State Park. This is the sister race to the 15k I ran in May where I won a rock. There are so few trail races in the area, you gotta do 'em as they come, even if they fall on a weekend with another race you have already signed up for... So that is Saturday.

Sunday is the Capital Pursuit 10-miler. I was wary of signing up for this one because I may not beat my time from last year (I am very competetive with myself). But if I could finish that sucker limping the entire second half of the race and still finish with a 10:15 overall pace, perhaps there is hope.

Today I was supposed to do 8, but I woke up at 6am ready to roll and it did not stop raining all day. Finally I thought the rain had broken at about 6pm, so I put on the running shoes and headed out the door. About a quarter mile from my house, it started pouring again. I could barely see at some points (forgot my hat). The leader of my old running group (which morphed into my current running group) is doing Ironman Wisconsin today, so I figure, if she can do all that in the rain, I can at least suck it up and run 3 miles...

So I turned it into a 3 miler, which means I'll have to make up that 8 miler some time this week... It actually wasn't such a bad rain to run in - the temps were around 60 and since I was only doing 3, I didn't have enough time to get cold. I ran a 9:18 pace too (I think I was just eager to get home).

Argh! The rain just wants to make me curl up in my pajamas and stay home. But there is homework to do for tomorrow. And I left it at school. So instead I must leave the cozy house and brave the elements to go face a pile of math.

Friday, September 08, 2006

More posts about running and science

Yes, that's right: my post's title is yet another spoof of the title of the Talking Heads' second album (it is a very commonly spoofed album title because it's one of the best album titles ever) and there's nothing you can do about it.

But what I really have to say is this: lately I've been doing my speedwork at the Lincoln High School track in San José. This track seems to be something of a hangout for young neighborhood kids, and a venue for their pick-up soccer games. It's thus a hangout for their parents also, who mostly walk very slow laps around the track in lane 1, talking on cell phones and pushing baby carriages.

Last time I ran there I was proudly wearing my bright yellow team shirt from the race. As I was about to start one of my intervals a young girl in the bleachers shouted to me, "Hey, are you really a scientist?" Even though I'm an engineer I answered in the affirmative. Based on the reaction of the other kids it sounded like she'd just lost a bet. Then she asked me if I was running for a science experiment. I should have said yes to that, too. It would have been more fun. But my legs weren't having any fun, so they didn't want my brain having any either.

The end.