Monday, October 30, 2006


I was reading November's Runner's World the other day and I saw a funny (sad) thing. In one of the Q&A columns, people were asking questions about marathons. Someone asked about the hardest hills in the Marine Corps Marathon here in DC. The columnist's answer was that the hardest hill was the climb to the finish by the Iwo Jima Memorial. You climb about 35 vertical feet over the course of about a third of a mile. That's the hardest climb in the entire race? Oy.

The "Middle Half" Race

Some people like to start slow and finish fast, yielding impressive-looking negative splits. These are second-half runners. Other people like to start fast and finish if they're lucky. These are first-half runners. Then there are runners like me that run nearly even splits for just about any race or run, whether we are trying to or not. We are middle-half runners, because we're running average pace when most people are running their slowest. I like to draw people in gradually over the race's long middle, or break away on a downhill when they try to use it to take a break. I like to nudge the pace faster as the halfway point approaches and the guys around me are hanging on for life.

What I don't like is hitting the 11-mile mark in a half-marathon and realizing, "If someone tries to pass me I couldn't even put up a challenge." Inconsistent tense and all. It's not a pretty realization.

My morning started at 5:08AM for the Big Sur Half. I had set my watch alarm for 5:00, but forgotten that my watch frequently resets itself to 12:00AM, Jan. 1 instead of sounding the alarm. I should probably get a new watch. Fortunately I got to bed early enough to only oversleep by eight minutes. I'd already laid out my stuff, so I ate half an energy bar, threw my sweats and water bottle in my sweats bag, and drove down to the starting area (parking garage entry was barred after 6). Hung out around the starting line for a while. Wanted a drink of water. Fished in my bag for the water bottle. Oh crap. I'd left the water bottle open and all its contents were now in my extra shirt. Fortunately it was a cool morning so I was wearing the rest of the sweats.

I ran the race pretty evenly; at the split-calling points they called elapsed time, pace and projected finish time. The fastest my overall pace got was 6:12 and the slowest 6:17 (I didn't keep individual mile splits because my watch has no wristband, and because it had been shunned). There were a few dudes that repeatedly passed me and then dropped behind me early, but I buried them over the middle. I know I buried them because of the two guys that passed me with about 4 miles to go (they were both definitely second-half runners) and the one guy that got me in the last mile, none of them were these guys. And I really must have put a lot of distance between myself and the next pack if only one guy caught me in the last two miles. I was really a dead duck at that point. Oh yeah, and I ran the last 20 meters or so backwards, and a photographer got a picture of that and asked for my name, but I didn't get in the slideshow on the Monterey newspaper's website.

Oh. man, were those last two miles painful. I have a bit of a "training wall", where I do lots of 10-11 mile runs but very few longer than that. That's something I should work on, because I really felt it in those last two miles. Also, do any of you know how do drink water/Gatorade while running? I grabbed a cup at a couple of the later stations and mostly just managed to get water/Gatorade all over my face and hat. They also had a Gu station and I tried that, thinking it wouldn't splash as much, and failed even more miserably. Any solution involving slowing down is completely unacceptable. I know that it probably would help my overall time to slow down for a couple steps and get some fuel at strategic points, but adrenaline won't let me do it.

So in the end, 1:22:25 and 41st place. A month ago I wanted to run 1:20, but my training fell apart a bit and I knew that was out of the question, so I'm happy with the result for now. And also, I don't know who it was that first had the idea of free beer at the end of distance races, but it is a good one.

Beautiful course, too. Gentle rolling hills, especially in the middle of the race, which was right along the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean. Except that the Pacific Ocean and its rocky shore don't exist.

Lou Diamond Phillips? WTF!

This has absolutely nothing to do with running. But since I like to keep up with those internet fads, I went to, where you can upload a photo and they will tell you which celebrities you theoretically resemble (based on facial structure I guess). I have no clue who these first two ladies are and I really wish Carmen Electra's ass came with her bone structure, but Lou Diamond Phillips? C'mon! I feel sorta insulted.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's here!

My new bike arrived. I went and picked it up today. I haven't had an opportunity to take a real ride yet, though maybe I will get a chance tomorrow.

I can't wait until the first time I forget to unclip from the pedals and bail. I suspect it will be soon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

This one's for you, D!

In honor of Danielle's previous post, this one's for her.

Because I'm a shameless self-promoter...

It's my birthday! w00t! Presents are appreciated :-)

I now enter the last year of my 20s. The scary part? When I finally do a triathlon next summer, I will be considered 30 because of the age group rules. I consider that getting old before my time!

When I was a wee 22 year old, I thought up a list of things I wanted to do before I turn 30. It consisted of:

1. Get my PhD
2. Run a marathon
3. Pass that stupid Jeopardy test

Number 1? Well, I was oh so very naive back then. We are looking at 31 now.

Number 2? Done.

Number 3? Well, honestly, I don't care that much about that goal.

But that was the 22 year old list. One of my best college friends, who turned 29 a month before me, started talking about her list and asked me what was on mine and I wrote a new list on the fly:

"I want to do a triathlon. I want to get 8000 more miles on Northwest Airlines so that I can get a free ticket to Argentina/Chile and actually go there. I want to pass the test to get on Jeopardy (although I don't actually want to go on the show). I want to do my preliminary exam. I want to publish at least one more paper."

I guess I want to pass that stupid test more than I care to admit :-)

So I gotta get cracking!

Oh, and in very running related news, fellow teammates Jessica and Melissa ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday. It was Jessica's first, so yay for her! Melissa does things like the Quadruple Dipsea, so I am sure Chicago was a breeze for her :-)

In other Chicago related news, my friend Kecia who ran Grandma's with me in June finished just under the four hour mark. She dropped an HOUR off her marathon time in four months. An hour! I can't even comprehend this! She totally deserves the Rock Star medal, just because.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hooray New Bike!

With Danielle posting about biking a bunch lately, I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon, and tell my bike story.

I finally bought a new bike the other day. I went back and forth on whether to get a street bike or a touring bike, but in the end, my desire to try to start taking some weekend-long tours won out, and I got the Trek 520.

I test rode the 2006 model about a month ago, but when I went back last weekend, they had sold out of my size, and Trek had no more 2006s in stock. They were pretty cheap, as they were having the end of season sale. So I figured I'd have to pay full price for the 2007, but when I went back to order it, they charged me the same price as the 2006. So hooray for me!

I should get it in about a week and a half, as they didn't have any in stock. I'm so excited. Yay new toys!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A shrimp! On a treadmill!

He looks about miserable as I do while on the treadmill.

In other news, I am now famous. I got to sit on stage during the taping of Hardball with Chris Matthews yesterday. I was behind John McCain, but unfortunately like in the fourth row, so I got cut off most of the time. Oh well. At least I didn't have to worry about being caught picking my nose on national TV.

This only barely tops the time I got on the local news in Champaign-Urbana during a grown-up Easter egg hunt.

I have to note that only a nerdy grad student like myself would learn her school's fight song at the taping of a political news show.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I return from Canadia unscathed.

So I have returned from Toronto still in possession of my passport, MP3 player, camera, and credit cards (unlike last time). I consider it a success.

Oh yeah. And I ran a half marathon. Lisa, my running sidekick for this endeavour, has already given her recap on her blog. There, I just saved her the hassle of cross-posting here, unless she wants to.

Note to others: the Toronto Half Marathon course rocks the ass off the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon course. The course was nice, the weather pretty, nice Ottawans saved the day... Too bad my hamstring hurt most of the way and my back was all spasming up on me in the last two miles. But I pressed on and finished without walking, coming in at 2:15 (10:21 pace), so a 4 minute PR, w00t! At least I am not setting the bar too high to PR on my next half.
With the silver cape, tights, and all the silver on my Nikes (which you can't see here), I felt mildly superheroish. Even though I was massively shaking as I tried to stand on one leg for this photo and my foot is like 2 inches off the ground.

The weekend was topped off be being upgraded to first class for my entire trip back to Iowa. After going to Africa on Northwest/KLM, I got a shitload of miles and I got bumped into Silver Elite status so these upgrades happen every so often, but usually on 6 am flights where I just fall asleep before the flight attendant can even give me orange juice.

But this time, it was evening so I was free to partake in the free booze without feeling like a lush. Except that the stewardess (are they stewards if they are male?) just kept fillin' that wine glass. I think he was trying to get me drunk. Anyways, I figured I had two hours in Minneapolis and then the next flight to let it wear off before I got to Des Moines (which the freakin' lady in Minneapolis kept pronouncing "Des Moin-es" - those "s"s are silent people!).

I was one pathetic cookie at the Minneapolis airport. I believe I tried to call Kori to ask her if she was still running Chicago this weekend, and I think I spoke to her husband, but I actually fell off the chair at the airport while on the phone - it's all a blur. See! People like me have "classy" as their middle name. That's why I belong in first class.

Oh yeah, Teresa accompanied me on this little trip. She was supposed to run the half as well, but pulled her hip flexor and can't run at all. This fact was established early on as we sprinted to the airport because we checked in 25 minutes before our flight left. To all the people who let us cut them in line, there is good airport karma coming your way!

Anyways, she walked the 5k in jeans and mocassins from Target, then she and Mark cheered Lisa and I on at about the 12 mile marker. Then they did fun exciting Toronto things while Lisa and I crashed.

I found out today that Kori is not running Chicago, so I am no longer bound to my promise of running the second half with her, so the healing of the hamstring can begin. Some other day, I will ramble about what plans await, including something so scary to me that I hope it will scare me into training. Maybe I will save that for a Halloween post :-)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another bike down!

So on Saturday I went out for a 27 mile ride on my bike. Hey, that's far for me... But I still don't have any clue how I am going to do RAGBRAI next year...

I should note that even though RAGBRAI is 500 miles, apparently Iowa is full of non-cyclists who dip their back tire into the Missouri and manage to dip their front one in the Mississippi at the end of it all... I think it involves the copious amounts of pie that one is supposed to eat while riding across the great state of Iowa.
Anyways, Sunday was a gorgeous fall day, although I could have done without the 20 mph head wind the entire way back. The problem with fall in Iowa is that all the corn has been harvested and that natural windbreak goes away. But still it was a nice ride, even if I did come back with my hands, feet, and naughty bits all numb, some problems that will hopefully be rectified with the carefully selected birthday list I sent to my mom (October 23rd! Don't you forget it!)

Anyways, I go to ride my bike to school today and I hear the weirdest clanking noise.

I look down and two of my spokes are out and all bent out of shape! WTF?!

Then I realized the culprit. Yesterday my rooommate said to me:

"I hit your bike backing my car out of the garage today, but your bike's fine. Although it scratched my car up to hell."

The bike is most definitely not fine, but Bike Store Guy said it would be easy to fix up.

But since my other bike still has a flat tire (which I whined about over a month ago), this leaves me... *gasp* bikeless! If I didn't have to give a lecture on water harvesting methods in developing countries tomorrow I would make myself change that damn tire. I am sure I can figure out how to take off the back tire all on my own, right?

This is sad. Hopefully my bike will be fixed soon so that I don't have to take the bus for too long.

Although, truth be told, there are often cute boys on the bus.

The one problem will be Thursday, when we have our monthly Green Drinks meeting. See, I believe I am the one who established the "If you drive here alone, we have full license to mock you the entire evening because this is a meeting of tree huggers" rule. I think Thursday shall be dubbed "Hypocrite Thursday" for me :-)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cleve suggested it

More science instead of running...

So I was happily doing some work (really!) on MATLAB. I was debugging some code so I decided to block off part of the code so I could look at a small part of it. I go to run my program (which is not supposed to plot anything) and this shows up:
How creepy is that?

After I did a little research (wanting to make sure my computer wasn't possessed), I found out that this is some MATLAB programmer's idea of fun and that it comes up if you type the command image without any arguments. I did this unintentionally as I called a matrix "image."

Here's some running:

One week until Teresa and I storm our neighbors to the north to run the Toronto Half Marathon with Lisa! Since I haven't heard from Mark about it, I'm assuming he isn't going to run, just cheer us on.

I say he needs pompoms.

In other news, I have a command from the nurse to ice my ass all weekend to see if my tailbone will stop hurting...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stephen Colbert on Scientists

A brief scientific interlude from running... check out the website for the group he is talking about

Monday, October 02, 2006

11.38 nautical miles of something

I am going to run the Big Sur Half Marathon on the 29th of this fine month, whatever year it is this year, you know...

My goal was originally to run 1:20. Not going to happen. Not even close. So instead, in honor of the best holiday in the great month of whatever month this is (Oktoberfest started in whatever month was before this one so it doesn't count), I think I should run it in costume.

What I know is that I want to have a costume that gives me an excuse to get a mohawk. I really love working in Silicon Valley and knowing that even if I had a mohawk like the one sported by the rock star in that picture I wouldn't look as crazy as my boss. If you're reading this, Eike... um... I'm not the Al Dimond that works for you at Nvidia, I'm a different Al Dimond... mmm-hmm.

So far my best costume idea that incorporates a mohawk is the English flag. Big ol' red stripe vertically including big red mohawk, big ol' red stripe horizontally across my torso and arms. And if I wanted to really complete the picture I could even one-up Danielle's Krispy Kreme race by chugging a bottle of Red Stripe every three miles or so (hypothesis: carbonation plus alcohol plus running equals pain and loss of consciousness). But I think this is a pretty lame idea, so I'm open to any other suggestions, even non-mohawk suggestions.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I think I bruised my butt bootay...

That's better - I like Laurie's words better than mine :-)

So this is getting ridiculous. Last week after my run-in with the car while on my bike, I started to notice that it sorta hurt to sit down. Not too much, just a little... you know right on my tailbone.

Now, I am not really happy unless I am sitting on a big squishy surface. This sorta sucks... I don't even know what happened. Was there some weird seat action resulting in tailbone bruising when I fell? It seems like that sort of injury might have been more memorable. Ouch. But what else could it be?!

This sucks. And you get some pretty weird images when you google image "tailbone." This is a tame one:
(I wish my butt looked as good as the cartoon butt :-) The mystery of this incident is that I thought I had sufficient "junk in the trunk" to protect my poor tailbone from such things :-))