Posts Tagged ‘running’


Week 9. Day 1.

April 20, 2010

I was heading north along Gestelsestraat when the man next to me on the sidewalk dropped a toilet seat.

I hadn’t even realized he was carrying components of a toilet until the one piece tumbled down the front of his body and landed on the uneven brick sidewalk.

Various thoughts flashmobbed my brain as I tried to consider if common courtesy dictated that I help him retrieve the dropped seat, as he was balancing the other pieces rather precariously in his attempt to lean over and reach it.

After all, just yesterday did I read about Dutch-American Friendship Day.

Luckily, he managed to grab the seat in a timely fashion, relieving me of any Good Samaritan duties.

Because I’m not sure if friendship demands aid in toilet-related activities. As new and unused as those toilets might be.

Besides, I had other things on my mind.

Like the fact that a mere five weeks ago, five miles was my “long run” of the week. But today, I was embarking on the first of two five mile “easy runs” for this week. Just because a training program calls a run easy doesn’t make it so.

Also on my mind: the knowledge that my ponytail so haphazardly whipping around my head could only mean that today would be one of those logic-defying runs, in which the wind blows from all 360 degrees, giving you no respite in any direction.

And finally, there was the full-fledged hyperawareness of an invisible pebble in my shoe, that I had already attempted twice to remove but hadn’t been able to find. My fourth toe on my left foot knew right where it was, but apparently, that wasn’t enough for me to masterfully get rid of it. The pebble, I mean, not my toe.

But Toilet Man and wind and pebble aside, I got my five miles in. 5.15, to be exact.

Only six more weeks before I decide if this is the year of the marathon.


Shorts Stories.

April 5, 2010

I recently realized that every single pair of running shorts I own is at least 10 years old.

I have many, many pairs of those same Soffe shorts that every girl in the 90s owned, whether she was athletic or not. Although most of those are now in storage in Colorado. Only a green pair and a black pair made it across the Atlantic with me. Wait! And a purple pair, but those got lost in the move across the English Channel. I’ve got to stop moving across bodies of water, lest I lose all of my clothing.

I have a pair of navy blue Adidas shorts that I think I may have lifted from (or rather, simply did not return to) my high school soccer team. Innocent oversight on my part, I’m sure. I remember when I first joined the soccer team, we were so low-rent that our uniform shirts were t-shirts. When we finally graduated to proper jerseys, the coach lets us keep the tees. I loved my navy blue one. It fit perfectly. But we parted ways at the cross-country state championships. I wore it as my warm-up shirt, and when I stripped down to my singlet at the start, I handed the soccer tee off to our team manager to hold while I raced. And somehow it was the only shirt that didn’t make it to greet us at the finish line! Someone scored a free tee that day. At least I still have the shorts.

I also have a pair of proper running shorts that I purchased from the Wake Forest bookstore while on a tour of colleges in the Southeastern United States. Summer, ’97. You know what else I purchased from that bookstore? Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And read it during downtime on that campus. Our tour guide at Wake Forest was named Jones. He was dreamy.

I remember I listened to Sublime’s eponymous album most of that trip. As did a girl named April. We’d get a kick out of starting tracks at the exact same time and knowing that the other person was hearing the same thing we were hearing through our respective headphones.

And finally, I have a pair of Umbro Newcastle United shorts that Jonathan Malespin played PeeWee soccer in. Same shorts I ran last year’s half marathon in, if you want to check them out. It was sometime around 1997 again that I got my hands on these, though the shorts were at least 10 years old by that point. I remember Kate scored a pair of white shorts.

And it is those shorts that has had me thinking about the age of everything I run in. I do believe it’s finally time to retire Jonathan’s shorts.

As Mark Remy reminds us, “When elastic’s gone, man, it is gone.”

And while he’s specifically talking to men about the lining of their shorts, keeping everything snugly in place, take it from someone who just spent the 45 minutes of her last run gripping her shorts to ensure they did not succomb to the sweet call of gravity: the rule applies to waistbands, too.


Running Roundup and Meal Plan Monday.

March 29, 2010

Woot woot. I’ve decided I need to get back into meal planning. I do it periodically, and sometimes I even stick with it for a month or so before falling back off the wagon.

But I’ve started a recipe database in Filemaker Pro because that’s how I roll (it’s got a rating system and everything), so I want to capitalize on that and start thinking ahead.

Most of my recipes, even the ones stored in my database, come from around the web, so I’ll be able to link to most of them easily enough.

And here is what I’m thinking for this week!

Monday: Pasta Della California with Lemon Asparagus
Tuesday: Spicy Sweet and Sour Chicken Tofu with brown rice and vegetables TBD by Tuesday’s trip to the Farmer’s Market
Wednesday: Cuban Black Bean Soup with Spicy Kale and Corn
Thursday: International Quinoa Salad
Friday: Indonesian Curried Bean Stew
Saturday: Chickpea Gumbo (that I discovered while writing my last entry!)
Sunday: Spicy Quinoa, Black Bean, and Corn Burritos

Clearly, I’m a fan of pairing black beans and corn.

Also, jsyk, I’ve only made one of those recipes before. The burritos. Everything else is brand spanking new to me.

Can you tell I’m excited about my return to meal planning? Just look at the number of exclamation points in this post.


Wait, that was only the second. For some reason, it felt like I was typing more exclamation points than I really was.

But here’s something exclamation point worthy: the fact that I’m still running 3 months after my return to the sport. !!! My ankle is definitely still wonky, even as we approach the one year anniversary of the fall down the stairs, but as long as I wear an ankle brace every run, the pain mostly stays away. I’ve just become one of Those People.

You know, the people whose aches and pains can predict the weather. Although, really, I don’t know what’ll happen when the pain comes. I just know that the weather’s changing in some way. Then when it starts raining, I can be like, “Oh, yeah. It’s raining. Guess that’s why my ankle hurts.”

But I ran 17 miles last week, which is more than I’ve run in a week since my half last May. And if I make it through to to the end of THIS May with all going well, I am signing up for the Amsterdam Marathon in October.

Which will, at the very least, be interesting. And terrifying. Oh, and miserably painful.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. I want to get up to at least 25 miles a week before I commit.

I’ll keep you posted!


I could have run north through the trees forever.

February 3, 2010

Have you ever played soccer in the rain?

There’s a period of about 5 to 10 minutes when you first arrive at the field during which you convince yourself there’s a way to come out the other side of this ninety minute practice unscathed. All you have to do is run daintily on your toes and keep your arms out to the side for balance. Avoid all puddles, and if there’s bound to be a battle for the ball, instead of fighting for it, you jump out the way. You know that squinting your eyes and wrinkling your nose probably won’t help, but you can’t stop yourself from doing it anyway.

And then you trap the ball with your body, and there’s crud all over your shirt. And you realize that the mud drops flying up in the air with every step you take have to land somewhere, and the most popular spot seems to be your kneehigh socks.

You might as well give up. Give in. Take off after the ball, and even if you don’t really need to do so, slide the last few feet to try to get there first.

Just let go.

And the rest of the practice turns into some of the greatest fun on the soccer field that you’ve ever had with the coach’s permission.

You may not be able to stop the elements, but you can make sure the elements don’t stop you.

Yesterday’s run brought me back to high school soccer practice. From my living room window before I set out, I could see the thick snowflakes swirling their way to the ground. The forecast predicted that there wouldn’t be a break in the snow all day, so there was nothing to do but suck it up and get out there.

I left my hat behind because I hadn’t needed it on several previous runs. My ears, to no one’s surprise, froze within three minutes. What I didn’t expect, though, was my forehead following suit. I felt like I had an icepack wrapped around my entire skull.

As I started my Garmin, I started calculating how short I could cut my run without regretting it later. I told mysef I’d wait until ten minutes in to decide. By that point, maybe I’d actually be warm and thinking straight.

The snowflakes landed in my eye one after the other, so I blinked my way through the first mile and felt the precipitation mingle with wind-induced tears from my frozen eyeballs down the entirety of my cheek. I saw drivers take a moment from their intense concentration on the road to stare at me with amazement at the hell I was voluntarily putting myself through. I saw zero other runners.

At the ring road separating us from Eindhoven, I took a left onto a bike lane that navigated through the woods outside of town. Once inside the woods, the trees helped block the wet snow so that my face was clear and my eyes could fully open. I thought that was relief.

And then I turned north.

With the wind now at my back, the feeling of ice cutting into my body lifted, and I was suddenly on a different run that I had been up until that point.

I was warm. I was amidst the natural beauty of woods in wintertime. I was free.

The north-facing path through the woods didn’t even last a full mile before it deposited me back in the wind and the snow, but it was enough. To remind me why I run, to convince me I wasn’t ready to head home, to make me feel like a little kid on a muddy soccer field.

Now. With all that said, I cannot wait for spring.


Running High.

May 11, 2009


I was only 702 places behind the winner, but I still did it!

And then I fell down the stairs. But we’ll get to that.

I had contemplated signing up for half-marathons for a couple of years now, but I didn’t actually bite the bullet and register for one until this past February. May 10 sure did seem like a far way off back then. But you know what? It came!

I woke up Monday and Tuesday mornings with some pretty annoying pain in my right hip, so I was concerned this week. Not really that I’d have issues during the race, but that by completing the race, I was guaranteeing issues to pop up the next morning.

But the morning after can always wait. Until the morning after. I wasn’t going to sit out of this race.

I had other agonizing decisions to make though. One of my favorite bands, Bishop Allen, decided to give a free show in my town the night before my race. I’ve lived here since October, and it was the first time a band I truly cared about came all the way to Reading. And 2009 has 365 days in a year. What made them pick May 9 as the date to show up and play for us?

I went to their show in London on Thursday night (alone) so that I could skip the Saturday night show and not feel bad. But of course, seeing a band you like a lot live only makes you want to see them MORE.

So I decided to see them play. Goal: to be in bed by midnight. I called the venue to see what time they’d take the stage, and the guy who answered the phone was clueless. Even at 8 pm. I was really hoping he’d at least have answers by then. So Michael and I showed up at 9, figuring we’d catch the opening act and then BA. The opening act had been really good Thursday night, so I was hoping for more of the same.

Um, no. About 15 people took the stage, all crammed up on there, and they proceeded to assault my ears with nonsensical noise for OVER AN HOUR. Longest opening band set in my life. And they were so bad. Four violinists. Three horn players. TWO bass players. Come on, now. You don’t need two bass players. Two keyboardists. A drummer on a full set and then a guy on the other percussion style instruments. And just about everybody had a mic. Didn’t really understand a word they sang, except for the 5-6 minute song during which they repeated, “Don’t deny your heart,” throughout.

Nathan showed up in their second song, and poor guy really got the brunt of my complaints about the fools wasting my time on stage. I did apologize, and he said that he understood. He knew I wanted to get in bed at a reasonable hour, and he knew that my nerves were not really helping my mood. He also recognized that the band sounded like two separate bands competing for attention. Nothing meshed.

Michael asked Bishop Allen’s drummer what time they’d take the stage and he guessed 10:15. Openers didn’t quit till 10:30. THEN because it was such a small venue and the opening act had so many people, BA’s gear still had to be set up. And it took the (smelly) sound guy FOR.EV.ER. Oh, my, I was dying.

All this to say: they started. Their sound wasn’t mixed well. I loved them anyway. Darby waved to me during the set, then came up to me after the show to wish me luck on my race and apologize for a lackluster performance. Well, their performance was fine. The problem was all in the sound. And the fact that they had to cut the show short thanks to the openers hogging the stage. I did tell her that they didn’t sound as good Saturday night as they did on Thursday night, and I kind of feel bad about that. Because that can’t feel good to hear!

But I still left the show pretty excited to have had her seek me out and chat me up. And I made it in bed by 12:15. So pretty close to my goal.

Set my alarm for 6. Woke up at 5 and couldn’t really get back to sleep after that. My feet were killing me. I hadn’t planned on that when I made the decision to go to the show. I had only been concerned about sleeping. But standing on your feet for several hours the night before you’re going to run 13.1 miles is apparently not a good idea. TAKE NOTE.

But tired feet aren’t going to make it impossible to run. And the rest of me felt fine. Wired, but fine. Had my breakfast of porridge and banana, called a cab, and off we went.

Item forgotten: camera.
Items remembered: everything else.

So I can’t complain. Of all things I needed to remember, the camera was the least important. And we still had our phones. So we got pics. Just not very good ones. And there were several official photographers on the course. I waved and smiled for the one at mile 3. Didn’t acknowledge the one at mile 7. Kind of resented the one at mile 11.

We arrived at 7:30. For a 9 am start. But still, I’d rather sit there and stare at my watch not move AT the race site than at home, where there is the stress of having to get there still hanging over your heard.

I peed three times between arrival and the start. Michael thought it was out of control. I knew it was because I was downing water! It’s got to go someplace.

I had my banana chips, too. During training runs, I had been able to put them in the pocket of my water bottle, but I was just planning on drinking water at the stations along the course, so I was simply carrying a baggie of banana chips. Less annoying than a water bottle, actually. Sure, it made my hands sweat, but most of the time, I didn’t really notice the bag. Except to think about the next time I’d allow myself to eat. I planned on every three miles. And it’s nice to have something to focus on. Instead of thinking, “I can’t wait till mile 13.1 when this race is OVER,” I was able to think, “Ooh, I can’t wait till mile 6 when I get to eat again.” And really, anyone can make it till mile 6.

Okay, maybe not anyone. But I sure as hell can.

But back to the start. See how well I fake not being nervous?

I’m wearing a shirt that used to belong to Mallory. And shorts that belonged to Jonathan Malespin. No high tech running gear for me!

And aww, look at me go.

You can see a few of my race buddies in the pic. Well, you can see one person’s legs. Pink pants? Left side of the pic? Her name is Sarah. It was her first half-marathon, too. She talked about as much as I do. In FACT, she struck up our original conversation. Which is usually my job. I ran with her the first…3 miles, but then had to leave her behind.

The girl in the orange top to my left is named Sarah, too! She ran the Reading half back in March and finished in 2:09. I thought I might try to stick with her, but she took off early on, and I wasn’t able to catch her.

Till mile 9. We ran some of that mile together, but then I had to leave her behind as well.

The dude behind HER in the pic was right in front of me until the last mile. But then he apparently had kick that I didn’t! I have no idea where he finished, but it was in front of me.

The main person I chilled with during the race was actually an older woman who runs almost every half at about 2:10. I first noticed her when she passed me on a hill and was duly impressed. Most people are thinking about maintaining on uphills, and she’s blowing past people.

k, nothing at our slow speed should really be called “blowing past,” but it’s all relative.

Regardless, around the time I left the first Sarah, I noticed the older woman wasn’t that far ahead. So we started running together and she told me her life history of running, which sounds like a boring topic to anyone who doesn’t run, but I loved hearing about the different races she’s run. This was actually her first race back after three years off, and she really didn’t seem to be hurting for it.

Speaking of, I was absolutely shocked by how easy those first 5 miles were. On the way to the race, I had been asking Michael what exactly had made me sign up for two hours of misery (he didn’t have the answer, said he had been wondering that all along), but then I realized during the race that it wasn’t two hours of misery at all! The first 50 or so minutes just felt like I was out for a jog, a casual and pleasant one at that.

(I once heard a runner say that if you aren’t in pain during a race, you’re doing it wrong. I readily admit that I’m doing it wrong. I mean, yes, I’m in some pain, but I’m not very good at pushing myself to a speed that hurts. Only distances that hurt.)

But nothing really hurt in the first 5 miles. Except for my poor feet. That never really went away.

Starting around mile six though, the ease of it all started to…disappear. Evaporate. Completely fall apart.

Nothing (besides my feet) really hurt yet, but I could tell it was coming. And I still had so far to go!

I guess I wasn’t doing too horribly because it was around there that I finally left that older running buddy behind. But I did notice that one of those miles was run in 10:30. It was my only mile run in over 10 minutes. Scared me though because I had been so on course to beat 2:10, and if I started running 10:30s from that point forward, I was going to lose it. Ran the next mile in 9:30, then settled back down to somewhere between 9:45 and 9:50 for the rest of the race.

Quite possibly the lowest moment of the race: middle of mile 9, had been running on a gradual uphill for several hundred yards, took a right turn onto LONG HILL DRIVE. That was the name of the road! And it wasn’t a lie! We ran up a long hill! The grade went from gradual to steep and it wasn’t pretty. I was all alone at this point, so I couldn’t even try to crack jokes to distract myself. All I could think was, “Long Hill Drive, Long Hill Drive, Long Hill Drive, longhilldrivelonghilldrive.”

My race buddy had told me that miles 7-10 are pretty bad, but once you hit double digits, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well…I didn’t see the light till mile 11. I mean, it’s not like I thought I’d die or collapse or not finish, but my mood didn’t lighten till then. And don’t ask me how my legs were functioning. My brain wasn’t really connected to them anymore.

I don’t think any part of my upper body was actually connected to them. Multiple spectators commented that I looked quite comfortable and not in pain at all. (I’m pretty sure at least one guy was implying that I needed to be running a whole hell of a lot faster. But the others said it in an encouraging manner.) So clearly, my face was in one world, and my legs another. Because nothing about them was comfortable.

Spectators are great though. Volunteers, too. Grabbing water from an outstretched hand is infinitely easier than picking it up off a table. (Does that sentence sound sarcastic? Because it very much isn’t. I would have been much more tempted to skip water each time if it hadn’t been so easy to accept.)

They do lie though. Spectators, I mean. I’m pretty sure they started saying, “Just around the corner,” about a half mile too soon. I didn’t actually buy into their lies because I knew my pace hadn’t magically skyrocketed, so it was easy to know where I was, but still, how I wanted to believe them.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t really have much kick, so it was nice that there was no one too close at the final stretch, otherwise they all would have passed me. (But let me just say that once the race got underway enough for us to spread out – so within the first couple of miles – I would say that the ratio of people I passed to people who passed me was like 9:1. If not higher.)

But here’s my finish:

PAY NO MIND to that clock! I started quite near the back. So let’s take a look at my chip time, shall we?

See? 2:08:44. I don’t lie.

And here’s the after shot:

I wanted to redo my hair before the picture, but Michael said it had to be authentic. I needed to look like I just ran a race.

Because I did!

Oh? And the falling down the stairs? I did that, too. Apparently, my legs were done for the day a little bit earlier than I expected them to be. So it may be a few weeks before planning my next race. But it’ll happen! The real question though: should that next race be an attempt at beating 2 hours or should it be an attempt at a full marathon?

Don’t they both sound perfectly miserable? I can’t wait!


Elvis Perkins in Dearland on NPR’s World Cafe.

April 17, 2009

Just a taste of what my mom and I were able to hear live two weeks ago, when we saw Elvis and co. at ICA. They played four songs on yesterday’s program, including my current favorite, “Shampoo.”

And for your viewing pleasure, a (cell phone) pic from the show on the 6th. This was during “Doomsday,” with which they closed the show.


If I had been thinking clearly, I would have adjusted the shot slightly so as to include the fan in front of me (but a little to the right) who was wearing a lemon-yellow faux angora sweater. That fashion decision needed to live forever in infamy.

IN OTHER NEWS, I ran 12.5 miles yesterday! I may be able to run that half-marathon next month after all. I experimented with eating mid-run for the first time ever, and it was a success. Dried banana chips FTW. I felt like I was flying once the sugar kicked in. Flyyyyyying.


Lists Compiled in My Head to Pass the Time While Running

March 1, 2009

Body Parts in Pain:
1. knee (right)
2. knee (left)
3. hip (left)
4. ankle (right)
5. ball of foot (left)
6. big toe (right)

Items of Clothing I Wish I Had Brought With Me Instead of Leaving in Storage:
1. navy blue J. Crew pea coat
2. white H&M sweater
3. black Columbia zip-up fleece
4. orange Anthropologie pants
5. the rest of my sports bras – what was I thinking to only bring 5?!

Cute Girl Names:
1. Sutton Blue
2. Harper Belle
3. Rebel Scarlett

Favorite Celebrities:
1. Michelle Williams (of Dawson’s Creek fame, not the one from Destiny’s Child)
2. Zooey Deschanel
3. Jason Bateman
BONUS! – Celebrity I am Embarrassed to Like: Ashlee Simpson

People I Hated Most on Today’s Run:
1. The man who propped up his bike to block 100% of the path and then walked away
2. The woman who allowed her muddy border collie (cute as he was) to jump on me

Ways in Which I was Worried My Body Might Fail Me at Any Given Moment on the Run, But Which, Thankfully, It Did Not:
1. I could have pissed myself.
2. I could have vomited.
3. My legs could have simply fallen off at the hips.