Saturday, August 23, 2008

I got drunk texted by Barack Obama

Okay, not really.

But you guys? When I sign up for text alerts about who you are choosing for your VP, do you really text me at 2:30 in the morning?

Do you know who texts at 2:30 in the morning? Drunk people.

After having gone to bed at 10 so that I could arise at 5am for the Leapfrog run this morning, imagine my surprise when my phone went off in the middle of the night. After realizing that if there had been some family emergency, my parents would call, not text, I rolled over to go back to bed without looking at my phone.

But then my curiosity got the better of me. What if some boy was drunkenly texting me in the middle of the night?

But no.

It was just Barack.

Anyway, a mere 2.5 hours later I rolled out of bed to get ready to go. As I was finishing my breakfast of strawberry shortcake (breakfast of champions!), Kori came and picked me up and we headed down to Dallas Center.

When we got to the race, we scoped out the competition. There were people warming up. Who warms up? Overachievers! That's who! And we noticed a distressing number of teenage girls who looked like cross-country runners, who unfortunately would be in our age group for this race (combined age under 80). And there were huge ass trophies that we drooled over wistfully but which we didn't have any chance at.

We decided that Kori would run first and I would bike, so I got myself lined up near the front and quite suddenly they started the race. Our plan was to do 1.1 mile intervals. That seems random, but that way we each had six intervals.

The race was loads of fun. My lack of endurance right now totally showed though - look at these splits:

1: 9:36 min/mi
2: 9:45 min/mi
3: 8:38 min/mi
4: 9:39 min/mi
5: 10:24 min/mi
6: 10:39 min/mi

Rather than gradual decline, it is like I ran smack into a wall after the fourth interval. Which considering I have done one run over 4 miles since mid-July and that was a 6 mile "long" run, which was done in a low heart rate zone, is not all that surprising.

We came in at 1:25, which was 12 minutes slower than the winner in our group - Kori and I each would have to cut a minute off our intervals to catch up to that (so not gonna happen!). The overall winners came in at 1:06 - those are some speedy peeps! The woman in the winning coed team (who came in about that time as well) has won the Des Moines Marathon and was in the Olympic trials for the marathon, so I'm glad we didn't have to compete with them.

It was totally good times though! We might have to experiment with the half-mile interval next year though - that was what the winners in our category did. Just still not sure the extra bike exchange time is worth it though...

Tomorrow, a seven mile long run. Oh yeah, I am totally going to be ready for a half-marathon in four weeks.

One I seriously almost bailed on when I went to buy plane tickets and they were $500 from DSM to Philly. $500!!! But then I clicked the "Show nearby airports" on Kayak and I got a ticket for $240 flying into Allentown. Phew. Allentown is a little over an hour from Philly, but I got a rental car for $70 for the whole weekend, so total airplane score!

And all still on Northwest - I'm on track for upgrade to elite status there this year, which means I get to check luggage for free and free upgrades to first class when available. Best part about first class? (Well besides the free food and drinks and the bigger seats and more leg room) No kids! I seriously better not have kids or the karma that will be visited upon me after the evil stares I have given many families on planes will not be pretty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm pretty sure my OCD a$$ is not going to like this...

So I got my new orthotics yesterday. As instructed, I wore them for a couple of hours yesterday. Today I am wearing them to work, but I am mostly sitting down all day.

So yeah, this is what arch support feels like I guess. Okay so here is the thing that is going to drive me crazy. My right orthotic feels like it is pushing into my foot more than my left one. I could deal if they both pushed hard, but the fact they are different is irking me. Of course my feet are different, which is probably why the orthotics feel different on each foot, but I also can't bear to be in a room with a stack of DVDs that aren't lined up neatly (I have problems, I know).

Oh yeah also? My knees aren't loving this yet. I guess I roll in a lot so the orthotics are supposed to keep me from doing that but they are screaming "Hey! I go that way!" I guess that is why I have to slowly start wearing them.

But in my head, I keep thinking these orthotics are magical and that not only will they cure my PF, my achy hamstring, and my weak left hip, that they might also get rid of the big zit I have right now and possibly balance my check book while they are at it.

Leapfrog Half-Marathon this Saturday! This is going to hurt.

Then the Great Ames Adventure Race the Sunday after that! Kori and I are actually switching to a relay team, so my job is just going to be to ride Aqua Velva into glory. I'm actually pretty excited because I have never raced my bike without a run looming on the horizon. And I know this course well. Can I average the elusive 20 mph? We'll see! It's a little shorter than Chisago (where I posted a 19 mph avg) but hillier.

In other news, I indeed was seated at my friend's wedding with my parents and two other older couples. My dad and I spent the night seeing who could outdrink the other. Who knew that the source of my teenage angst and I would find such common ground?

In other other news, there is nothing like writing a proposal (upon which all your fantasies depend) to make you realize how little you know. It's quite humbling. The folks in Mississippi keep e-mailing me though, so at least there is a backup plan. But can Mississippi compare to the land of this? I think not.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Best Speedwork Evar!

I just added this because it made me laugh so hard I cried. This is our local weatherman at the Iowa State Fair:

So on Sunday, Kori and I decided to practice for the Leapfrog Half Marathon in two weeks. At first the original idea was to do two practice sessions with 1.1 and 2.2 mile intervals and see which was fastest. But considering I am really only up to three mile runs, a two mile interval? So not going to happen. So we went up to the lake and we did loops.

And it was a superfun way to do speedwork! Seriously! I mean, I have never had so much fun running mile intervals. We both ran fast not to compete with each other, but because we didn't want to be the one holding the team up. In complete serendipity, Kori runs faster than me, but I bike faster than her, so we were right on in terms of finishing every other interval together (you need to finish the race together).

We did four intervals and I was pretty beat at the end - doing two more is not going to be easy. And I sorta have nightmares of the free for all that this is going to be at the race - people can stop wherever they want and I have visions of bikers pulling over unannounced. Helmets aren't required (!) but I sorta think we should wear it anyway, despite the time savings we would get without it. And really, Audrey's incident should be evidence enough as to why we need bike helmets.

We decided that after the race we might still do this workout since neither of us are lovers of the track. Even though I am sure we might raise a few eyebrows on the bike path around the lake with our random dismounting and leaving the bike.

In other news, tomorrow I head home for a whirlwind trip to New England. 5am flight, parents pick me up to the airport at 11am in Boston, and then we head directly up to VT for the wedding of perhaps my oldest friend in the world who I sadly haven't seen in almost ten years. I seriously hope that she didn't seat me with my parents. There is nothing like a wedding and a few glasses of wine to bring out the love life questions from the parents. I think they seriously think I hide things from them when the sad reality is that there is nothing to hide :-) On the plus side, I have discovered that it all goes much smoother if I match my parents on the wine intake at a 2:1 ratio (why it took me this long to figure that out is beyond me!)

In other other news, I talked with the dude in NZ yesterday and we are plotting and scheming to make this proposal the awesomest so that I can go live in Middle Earth New Zealand for two years on the US taxpayer's dime:
Aren't you all glad to know that you might be funding my life of being surrounded by cute boys with accents science? Don't worry, with my extravagant salary, I plan on getting a two bedroom apartment (with an ocean view, naturally) to house anyone who feels like visiting!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Joe bitching about DC Fit

Ok, so after going back and forth on the group for the last 4 months, it's pretty much decided that DC Fit didn't quite do it for me. I know that I've got about 2 months left until my race, but there's not really much left that the group is going to offer me, so I figured I'd offer some of my thoughts about it up.

First off, let me say, esp to those who spoke well of the group, I can see how this organization could offer a good service. The idea that a group is dedicated to helping first timers make it through their first marathon is admirable, and in my (perhaps limited) searching for a group like this in the DC area, I didn't see too many alternatives in this niche market. Some of the local running groups had marathon training programs, but were more aimed at intermediate or higher runners (i.e. for a program starting in June, training for MCM, they recommend a strong 10 mile base run). I also liked that DC Fit would let me just run for myself, and not have to worry about raising money for a charity, which, while also admirable, isn't something I felt like doing. So please, if you did the program previously, enjoyed it, and recommended it when I asked about it back in April, don't feel bad. I believe that it has the potential to be a good program. Unfortunately, it can only be as good as its leadership. And that's where I think we ran into trouble this year.

The director just doesn''t seem to care very much about the runners in the group. He doesn't show up to all the runs (I don't expect anyone to commit every single weekend for 6 straight months to the program, but when he wasn't there, it seems like he didn't tell any of the other coaches, so he was just MIA). When he did show up, he didn't run with us with any regularity. While all the other coaches ran with the group on our Saturday morning long runs, he would do whatever he felt like. Let me tell you, it's more than a little discouraging to have to run 12 miles, get back to the start line to see that the director showed up late, is just chilling, and when someone asks him if he ran the 12, he says, "Oh, of course not." Yeah, great leadership.

As we're training in DC in the summer, there has been ample concern on the part of the runners for the weather. At, say, 8 a.m. (approximately half way through a long run for the 7 a.m. start group), it's not a stretch for it to be 85 degrees and high humidity. So running on a trail that goes east-west, with absolutely no shade, sucks. It sucks a lot. Runners start to voice their concern to the coaches, the coaches bring it to the director. It just doesn't seem very motivational when word leaks back down that his response was, "We're not here to coddle them. They need to toughen up. We can talk about changing it up once we get to long runs, 17 miles and up." (for those keeping track, there are exactly 3 runs of distance 17 miles or longer in the DC Fit schedule) For this group of runners, a large percentage of whom have probably never run more than 13 miles, with a decent number never even doing that, before starting with the program, that just sounds so condescending and insulting. There are more than a handful of people who have taken to skipping the group runs to run in small groups or by themselves at other times or at other locations, so as to not suffer the route they force us to do week after week (in a 6 month training program, there are going to be 3 weeks that we don't run the same stretch of the W&OD trail).

I've yet to figure out what my $115 went to, because the trails we run on are free to use for everyone and there are no water or snack stations during long runs (we do run past multiple Team in Training water and snack stations on the trails, as well as those of other training groups, such as the Triathlon group who was training down where we were this past weekend). We're supposed to get shirts, but it's been 4 months since we've started and there's no word on if/when they're arriving. There's a picnic this weekend. So I guess maybe $20 for the shirt and the other $95 in hamburgers and hot dogs (the only food the group is providing, as they're asking people coming to bring everything else from plates/utensils to drinks, sides, desserts, etc). I'll make sure I'm extra hungry.

Now, there have been some good things I've gotten from the program. It was nice to have a schedule laid out that we could take, talk over with the coaches, change if necessary, etc. It was also nice to meet other runners in the area who had similar goals than you, and most people I know seemed to find at least 1 or 2 people who run at a similar pace to them. Also, I've been dating someone from the group for about the last month, which has been a very nice surprise. But those things notwithstanding, I've been pretty disappointed.

All things being equal, with the information I had at the time, I'd sign up for a group like this again. As I said, I see the value this type of program can offer, specifically trying to help first timers achieve this lofty goal. But, leadership is everything, and when that's lacking, the program isn't going to be very good. The rumor mill has it that many, if not all, of the coaches will not be returning, as they're frustrated with the situation as well. That, I think, speaks volumes.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I drove to South Dakota yesterday for kicks.

And I didn't even drive on a single interstate!

Were you even aware that South Dakota was a neighbor state to Iowa?

Yeah, me neither, until I moved here.

I had to go to Sioux City yesterday (which is not on the map but which is pretty much right where Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota meet) and since I hadn't been to SD since 1998 when I drove cross-country with my friend Karin, I decided I would pop across the border. That night in Badlands was the first night we had camped on our trip and that was when the discovery was made of my complete inability to put up a tent. I'm pretty sure all Karin was thinking was "I can't believe we have another month of this." On a sidenote, our last night in a tent on that trip was on a beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When the signs say "You need long tent stakes" they aren't messing around. That evening ended with us sleeping in the car and being so grumpy the next day that we pretty much drove from NC back to Boston in one straight shot.

Okay total tangent.

Anyway, I went to Sioux City to see Kori's podiatrist, who she said very good things about. I actually drove three hours to go see a foot doctor. Back when I lived in the northeast, I might make a three hour drive for a weekend trip. Here in the midwest? Totally a day trip.

He spent about an hour with me and then made me stick my feet in this brown mushy stuff to make a mold for orthotics. He is pretty confident that orthotics will get this PF to heal as apparently I have narrow heels and high arches and I over-pronate so my foot rolls in and stresses the fascia with each step I take. Apparently all the inserts I have bought in the past don't have arches high enough to support mine.

He also told me that I shouldn't wear sandals. This is advice I am not sure I can follow. It's summer! I spend a lot of time on a boat or on the side of a lake for work! So I may have to ignore him on that one, even though I am sure my foot would get better faster if I didn't.

Of course, maybe he was just doing a public service in telling me not to wear sandals. Have you seen my feet? The second I start wearing sandals in the summer, they start getting gross and callousy. Pedicurists always tell me I need to come in like every other week (if only I could afford that!)

Anyway, after the appointment I thought "I'm going to go grab a bite to eat in South Dakota." So after winding through some shady parts of Sioux City (airport code SUX, I kid you not), I crossed the bridge into South Dakota.

You know what is in South Dakota? Apparently only casinos. Seriously. I crossed the bridge and I couldn't even find a gas station. I walked into a liquor store, bought a pop and some buffalo jerky (surely there are buffalo in SD, right?) and drove back over the bridge into Iowa. (You can see the children of the corn have fully indoctrinated me as I just said I bought "pop")

Since the interstate is the long way around to get from Sioux City to Ames, on both the way and the way back, I played my favorite "Take a random ass country route" game. The glory of the midwest is that everything is on a grid. If you played this game in New England, your ass would be so lost. But as long as you have faith (and remember what direction you are heading), in the midwest you almost always end up where you want to go. And you can go 75 on the country roads, so it isn't even that much slower.

Except of course when your paved road ends abruptly and you find yourself on a gravel road in BFE, you just hope eventually it will hit a paved road of some sort (and it always does!). Of course, sometimes this backfires and adds an hour on to your trip, like the time I was driving from Fort Collins CO back to Urbana and I ended up at the highest point in Nebraska, which is seriously ridiculously in the middle of nowhere (look at the little triangle near where CO, WY, and NE intersect):
It looks like this:
Seriously, I think it takes some serious talent to end up on a road like this and actually eventually find your way back to the interstate.

Which I had to go to Wyoming to do - note that the path from Nebraska to Illinois does not include Wyoming.

And instead of some cute libertarian cowboy giving me directions to I-80, all I got were some skeptical looks when my bestickered liberal hippie mobile popped out of a gravel road into some small pseudo-suburban neighborhood (suburban would imply an urban area).

Wow, that was a long story to say "Hey! I'm getting orthotics!"

Almost Urbana

Not a race or anything, but I thought I should mention here that a few days ago I did my first century ride, and almost rode from Chicago to Urbana. Almost because it was really hot, I was running out of water, and my route was too far from towns to get any without going way off course, so I decided to skip over to Paxton (where I have lots of family, and where I knew I could get water even if I couldn't find anyone at home); from there my aunt and grandma offered me a ride to Urbana, so I rode with them. Total distance was probably around 130 miles, plus whatever distance I wasted trying to avoid gravel roads in Will County (ILDOT has bike maps for every county in Illinois on the Internet; unfortunately the one for Will drastically overestimated how ridable its roads were, especially in thick fog after a night of rain).

The plan was something like this, the reality was pretty similar, changed only near the beginning to avoid the gravel roads.

- Did I say thick fog? I was riding through soup through the early morning, but I wanted to press through pretty hard to get clear of the suburbs before rush hour. Even so the fog was so bad I stopped for probably 45 minutes to let it clear before getting on US-45 (which gets plenty of truck traffic).
- Werner Bridge Road carried me a nice long way south, and was pretty scenic.
- Giant piles of... something... in Lehigh. Maybe salt or sand or something.
- When you're riding through nothing but huge fields for a hundred straight miles you notice every little thing. You wave at every person and even every car that passes. You notice the little plaque where a church used to sit. You notice that some farmers keep really nice groves of trees near their houses. You notice every tiny hill that you cross, and savor the chance to change up your cadence.
- When the miles really started to grow long, and the landscape particularly monotonous toward the end (Ford County did not offer much variation) I started singing to keep me going. An average song could carry me through a mile; sometimes it might be a whole album between turns. Route 9 into Paxton was a superhighway, and Paxton itself a great metropolis.
- Right, and then today I got a flat on the way home from work. And not on my front wheel, where I'm riding on an Armadillo tire that I got back in California probably 18 months ago that looks barely roadworthy (a couple of tears and cracks in the rubber, lots of wear), but on the back, which held a nine-month old tire that came highly recommended by some biking newsgroup. As far as I can tell the Armadillos really live up to their reputation (the only way I ruined one was by having poorly-aligned brakes rubbing against it). The bad side is they feel slippery and stiff on roads, and get almost no grip on steel-grated bridges. But, anyway, I'm pretty glad I blew it today and not on the ride. And that I almost got the tube patched before the next bus passed.

One of these days I'll do this thing right and make it all the way into town with enough water (this will probably mean refilling my bottles somewhere between Kankakee and Buckley, though I don't know quite where). Until then, at least I can check a century ride off my list of stuff to do before I get old.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Training is getting serious now.

I just registered.

For the Leapfrog Half-Marathon in two weeks.

Those girls? That's totally going to be Kori and me.

See you do a half-marathon leapfrogging over each the whole time.

Okay, not really, but kinda.

It's a half marathon where at the start one person starts off biking and the other running and then the biker leaves the bike on the course and starts running and the runner picks it up and bikes ahead of the now runner and you keep doing this for 13.1 miles.

Here is the crazy part for obsessive planners like Kori and me - you can leave the bike any darn well place you please along the course. It's like doing a relay without set exchange zones. This pretty much has overloaded our brains with strategery. Is it better to do short intervals so you can run faster or to do longer intervals so that you don't lose so much time transitioning and so that you can get in a groove?

I almost made a spreadsheet to figure out the optimal strategy.

But instead we are just going to practice doing 1.1 mile intervals and 2.2 mile intervals (the weird distances are so that it breaks down into 12 and 6 intervals for the race) and see which ends up faster. 1.1 mile intervals would be hard. It would be like doing 6 mile repeats where your only break in between is riding a bike for like three minutes.

This training will do us well the weekend after at the Great Ames Adventure Race. Here Kori and I have a bone to pick with a DNF from last year (due to mechanical issues on the bike).

So how much do I love only signing up for fun races like these and not training for anything big? Yeah, I have that half-marathon in September, but that will be fun no matter what and I am not training for it at the moment. I am really just letting my body dictate how long I am going to run and not forcing distance on it (right now it likes 2-3 miles). Running these short distances also means that I have been way more consistent and getting in four runs a week. I am also just getting it done in the morning when I wake up so there are no excuses later in the day. And I look forward to it every day too!

Tomorrow I am off to the podiatrist to see about some orthotics... The PF is still rearing its ugly head!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Chamois Butter

Seriously,  someone tell me what that stuff does.

I've been told it's for chaffing.  What on earth chaffs in a bike short?

I've been told it's to make your "parts" go numb.  Seriously?  But that person told me you have to put it on before you are uncomfortable.

Someone out there tell me the skinny, the low down, the wacked out truth about this potentially miraculous product.