Monday, December 31

Line 'em up (12th cross training challenge)

Readers, I present you the twelfth and final entry into Kim's 2012 New 2 U Cross Training Challenge. This project has gotten me skipping, kickboxing, and playing tennis. (See my 2012 goal roundup for all of the year's cross training challenges.)

Earlier this month I went ice skating, but that's an activity I love (even if I am wobbly on the ice). So skating hardly counts as stretching outside my comfort zone.
I really was skating.
I just stopped long enough for a photo op.
Complicating the challenge this month, I spent twelve and a half days away from home. To complete the challenge, I had to get creative. (There are only so many activities a person can do in a hotel gym or a hotel room.)

Since I'm ending the year in Texas, I figured a little country line dancing was in order...

I love to dance. Hubby and I will sometimes spontaneously tango down the sidewalk.

However, I do not love dances that require a complicated sequence of steps. If I have to follow more than a few choreographed moves, I lose the joy of just dancing, start trying to figure out whether I should be on my right foot or my left, and wind up tripping over my shoelaces (or worse, tripping over my neighbor's shoes).

Line dancing is definitely out of my comfort zone...

But I gave it a whirl, using "Learn How to Line Dance - Tush Push."

Biggest lie in the video:
"Be patient with yourself. These turns are a little challenging at first, but you'll get it."
Three times through the video, I got the first 10 or 12 steps down, but the turns? Not happening.

I run because it's simple. Left foot. Right foot. Repeat.

Line dancing is... step tap step tap tap hop step tap step tap tap quarter turn bump bump sway sway sway quarter turn front hop hop hop hop hop hop three quarter turn left right left right rock turn tap tap tap hop half turn step tap step tap tap hop step tap step tap tap turn bump bump single hip rock rock rock quarter turn back to the front left right left right rock right left right left rock turn (or was that a three quarter turn?)

Oh bloody hell.

I give up.

I might keep trying, but either way, I lived up to the spirit of the challenge and tried something new.

Are you a dancer or do you have two left feet?

Morning motivation: Making resolutions

Perhaps this cartoon from Calvin and Hobbes is not the most motivating message about New Years resolutions, but we'll get back to serious motivation next week...

(Y'all know I'm a bigger fan of goals than resolutions anyway.)

In the meantime:
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30

Success? (2012 goals)

Back in January I set a few key goals for the year. Unfortunately, at the end of the 3rd quarter, my goal score was not looking so good...
Goals: 3, Injury: 2
That left me with a long list of competing goals for the final months of 2012. In a delicate balancing act in the final month of the year, I made some substantial progress... but was it enough to accomplish every goal?

Goal - Run Faster:
5k in less than 24 minutes

Progress: While I consistently placed in the top 10 percent of the field, high temperatures and humidity meant that my summer 5k didn't even crack the 25 minute barrier. (Boo!)

My Turkey Trot was closer, at 24:48.

I had one last attempt at breaking the 24 minute barrier during the Ho Ho Hustle 5k on December 15th, but my legs were still tired from the prior weekend's half marathon. Despite earning an AG award (2nd of 35 women 30-34), I wasn't fast enough to PR.

This goal lives on in 2013...

Goal - Run Longer:
Complete 5 half marathons

Progress: (1) Gulf Shores, (2) New Orleans, (3) Pensacola Beach, (4) Holiday Half in Point Clear, (5) _____ Umm... 80% is a passing grade, even if I was aiming for an A+. Just don't tell my students I said that...

Goal - Learn New Things:
Read 15 non-fiction books

Progress: Here's my non-fiction reading list for the year...
  1. Two Old Fools, Ole
  2. Delinquent Daughters
  3. Complaints and Disorders
  4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the PCT
  5. Ratio
  6. Delusions of Gender
  7. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail
  8. Memoirs of a Gas Station
  9. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  10. Longitude
  11. Bossypants
  12. Galileo's Daughter
  13. Predictably Irrational
  14. The Art of War
  15. it's complicated
As for #15, I'm not sure where to begin...

I've been reading the The Complete Memoirs of Casanova for several months, but Casanova lived to be more than 70 years old at a time when most people lived to a ripe old age of 30, and he chronicled nearly every day of his adult life. That's works out to more than 20,000 days of biography!

Casanova led a remarkably adventurous life of travel, gambling, career-hopping, and yes bed-hopping. (This is no 50 Shades, though. Despite Casanova's sexual adventures, he wrote his diary in the 1700s. Most of the smutty stuff is written in a fade-to-black style because back then even a rake didn't tell all of his secrets.)
Even without lurid details, the "book" contains 30 volumes and more than 2,200 pages (yes, that's a four-digit number). So I'm happy to have gotten through the first few volumes (about 400 pages). We'll count that as "book 15."

On the fiction side of the fence...
I read Things Fall Apart, Cold Comfort Farm, My Antonia, Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes), Sense of an Ending, Slaughterhouse Five, Still Life With Woodpecker, War Brides, NW, and some fluffy beach-reads not worth mentioning.

I just started Bonfire of the Vanities. This classic weighs in at 700+ pages. While unintended, 2012 is, apparently, the year in which I read really long books...

(If you want to know more about what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads.)

Goal - Travel/Explore:
Visit one new-to-me place every month

Progress: Still exploring like a tourist!

Goal - New 2 U Cross Training Challenge:
Just ask Kim...

Progress: Is there a medal for this multi-sport event?

Goal - Go streaking!
Run at least 1 mile per day from Halloween through the New Year

Progress: I've been streaking for more than 60 days, and covered more than 170 miles!

Did you set any goals for the year?
If so, how did you do and what are your goals for 2013?

Friday, December 28

Year end roundup!

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

This week's theme: The funniest, weirdest, grossest, and most inspiring stories of 2012.

Damn You AutoCorrect!

The "25 Funniest AutoCorrects of 2012" is, by far, the funniest thing I read all year. Enjoy.
Image source

Not McLovin that McRib...

Quite possibly the most disgusting thing I read all year was the Yahoo Finance story 11 Amazing Facts about the McDonald's McRib.

Scary quote:
The entire McRib sandwich contains about 70 ingredients — including a flour-bleaching agent used in yoga mats.
It's enough to make you go vegan...

Recipe on Repeat

The recipe I cooked most often in 2012 (aside from oatmeal and scrambled eggs) is this quick zucchini saute from Smitten Kitchen. It's an older recipe, but I found it this year.

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

The Blog Posts That Influenced Me Most:

Miss Zippy's "It's never the right time" struck a chord. Among other things, I've been putting off quitting my day job to pursue teaching/consulting. Sometimes today IS the right time... MCM Mama's "You don't own busy" was similarly inspiring.

Kim's New 2 U Cross Training Challenge has been a monthly adventure throughout 2012.

The Wannabe Athlete's Twitter tips also came in handy as I made the plunge into the Twitterverse.

Random Acts of Kindness

I'm a sucker for random acts of kindness stories. The news is filled with stories of crime and victimization, but every day people do nice things for one another...

My favorite acts-of-kindness stories this year were (in no particular order):

Seasons Greetings!
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Quote of the Week:
"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."
Bill Vaughan

Happy 2012, friends!

Thursday, December 27

Thursday thanks retrospective

2012 has been an excellent vintage. I ran. I traveled. And the world didn't end last week. (Who'd have guessed that Mayan calendar thing was all wrong... I mean, if you look at the typical American wall calendar, the end of the world should occur on December 31 every year!)

My year started out in Barcelona...
Parc Guell

...and I returned to the states to discover that I'd been quoted in Runner's World! (Maybe I should do tequila shots before run-streak runs more often?)

I enjoyed another glorious magnolia season in Florida.
Magnolia blossom

I had to decline attending a conference in Sweden because the travel costs were sky-high, but that opened up my schedule to accept an expenses-paid invitation to speak at a conference in Washington, DC.

I survived the second-worst flooding Pensacola has had ever.

Speaking of water... I found a $10 bill while snorkeling.

I went to a bunch of outdoor concerts, and the best photo was this one...
Dragonfly decided to rest on my finger

I met dozens of kind and considerate people.

And as always, I'm thankful for the things I get to do (even when they sometimes seem like things I "have to do.")

What was the highlight of your year?

Wednesday, December 26

How I spent my Christmas...

When I re-named this blog run + travel I had no idea the travel part would take over my life.
I spent Christmas in an airport...
Stretching out on the floor at Gate 33 of SAN
Yes, folks, I took a redeye out of San Diego on Christmas Eve.
Flew all night.
Didn't spot Santa or reindeer, though I did look! (I figured the jolly big guy and I would both be over Texas at around midnight, but I must've got my timing wrong...)
Landed in CLT.
Slept on the floor in the airport from 6am - 8am.
Toasted the day with a glass of champagne at 8:30am. (It was a holiday. Don't judge.)
Flew to Pensacola.
Drove home.
Showered off 14 hours of travel grime. (I don't even want to think about that airport floor...)
Changed into pajamas. (Again... don't judge.)
Read and napped on the couch* all day.

On my life list of ridiculous travel decisions... this one ranks waaaaay up at the top.

The Christmas Redeye wasn't as bad as taking a train out of Buffalo at 4am headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan (or taking a train back from Ann Arbor Michigan to Providence a few days later)... but it's close. Veeeery close.

*Note: I got off the couch long enough for a 15-minute run-streak run through the neighborhood to ooh and aah over Christmas lights. But that night of travel nearly broke my streak. After 14 hours in transit, the allure of the couch was nearly irresistible...

What's the most ridiculous travel arrangement you've made or trip you've taken?

Summing up 2012 (because Miss Zippy asked)

Because Miss Zippy asked six questions summing up 2012 and MCM Mama's answers inspired me to reply... 

Best race experience?

The Gulf Shores Half Marathon might be the best half I've run. Ever.
I mean, really, how many races have parrots and Parrotheads at the water stops?

Best run?

The Blackwater Trail 10k ranks high on my "most memorable runs" list. I was nervous about racing in thick, swampy woods where it's easy to get lost, but once I got going, I had a great time.

My marker-spotting skills were sharp enough that I became the de-facto lead runner in our pack, and I was the only person in the first 2 waves of runners who didn't get stung by a swarm of bees.

Winning a $10 age group award didn't hurt, either.

Best new piece of gear?

Um... do new shoes count? I don't think I've purchased a single bit of running gear this year... Oh wait! My t-shirt from the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans half marathon is my favorite new piece of gear because when I wear it, I can tell the story about how I ran behind the sag wagon!

Best piece of running advice you received?

This year I gave more advice than I received, but a reader did stump me with a question about treadmill running... Her dilemma: feeling unstable and not running in a straight line on the 'mill.

I sent the question out into Facebookland and the Twitterverse, and readers responded with some excellent advice:

  • Post a quote (or image) about six inches above eye level in front of the treadmill and focus on that. This works like using a visual focus point in yoga to keep you centered and balanced.
  • Set the incline to a higher level and set the 'mill to a slow speed. It will feel more stable.

Most inspirational runner?

Meb Keflezighi's grace (both in physical form and in attitude) are an inspiration, and Alysia Montaño's Olympic quote is one that will stick with me for a long time...
Image source

The flower is.. to me, means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like 'you run like a girl.' That doesn't mean that you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you're strong. We are the givers of life."
Alysia Montaño (after winning the women's 800 meter race to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic team)

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

This was the year of "MORE."

I raced more, traveled more, and spent more time recovering from injury* than any other year since I started keeping records back in 2003...

I'm beginning to think 2013 should be the year of "more rest."
Then again, maybe not. There are races to run and places to see!

*Important note: "More" running did not cause "more" injury. I pulled my calf muscle while weight lifting.

How would you answer these questions?
(Answer in the comments section below, or write your own post and share the link in the comments section.)

Tuesday, December 25

Happy holidays

I hope you get some time to relax and enjoy the last few days of the year...
Image source

Monday, December 24

Keeping the streak alive

My holiday season has been hectic, but not for the normal holiday reasons (Read: Major career change! More on that later...)

Fortunately the holiday run-streak has been a stable foundation in an otherwise frenetic month. For the past week, my streak runs have been 10-15 minutes crammed in between work meetings, flights, holiday shopping, family dinners, and social calls.
But on day 59 of the streak, I can say that for all of the rush-to-run-a-mile-the-treadmill-before-work and running-circles-around-the-block for 10 minutes at my mother in law's house (in the dark, dressed in denim, while she was putting the finishing touches on dinner...) the streak has been my sanity. Even if maintaining it has sometimes seemed a little insane.

Friday, December 21

Weekly roundup: celebrating the season

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck! This week we're toasting the holidays, because, after all, isn't this potluck season?

Whether you're celebrating Christmas, the solstice, Hanukkah, the end of the semester, or just the completion of a successful year, I wish you Happy Holidays.

O Tannenbaum

Oh, how I love a creative Christmas tree...
... and these three look like they were decorated just for me!

Runner's Christmas tree...
Image source
 Wine-drinker's Christmas tree...
Image source
 And a book-lover's Christmas tree...
Image source
Holiday humor

If you haven't seen You might be a runner if... (2012 holiday edition), you should...

And if you haven't read XLMIC's Jingle Bell Hell race recap, you should read that, too.

Kyria's Twelve (running) Days of Christmas reprise is pretty funny, too. She's right. Nobody wants a partridge in a pear tree.

Quote of the week:
"The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles. Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see, and this holiday story features any number of miracles, depending on your point of view."
Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Happy Holidays, friends!

Thursday, December 20

Thursday thanks

Dear readers,

I'm in San Diego... wrapping up loose ends at work, stuffing myself with Mexican food, keeping up my run-streak, listening to my favorite radio station, catching up with some of my friends, visiting family for the holidays, and looking forward to attending a very happy wedding.

If those things aren't enough to make a girl smile, I'm not sure what is.

I hope you're all having as good a week as I am.


Tuesday, December 18

You might be a runner if... (2012 holiday edition)

You might be a runner if...
(holiday edition)
  • All you want for Christmas is... a pair of zero-drop shoes.
  • When you pack for holiday travel, running clothes take up more space than all your other clothes combined.
  • Santa confuses your wish list with a Runner's World gear guide.
  • Some people spend December wrapping presents. You're wrapping up your racing season.
  • Candy canes = Carbs.
  • When you hear the Hanukkah story about the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days, you wonder what training plan it used to build up that kind of endurance.
  • You wish someone would invent eggnog-flavored Gu.
  • When someone asks if you'd like hot chocolate, you think they're asking for a 15k race report.
  • The stocking you hang by the chimney is a compression sock.
  • You decorate your Christmas tree with race medals.
  • Source: Uploaded by user via Meredith on Pinterest

  • You avoid gaining weight over the holidays by run-streaking between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
  • You don't fit in most winter knee-high boots because your calves are too big.
  • On Festivus you know you've got "feats of strength" covered, but your "airing of grievances" issues all relate to plantar fasciitis and IT band problems.
  • You can eat your weight in Christmas cookies after a long run.
  • Your yes or no RSVP to a holiday party depends on whether or not you have a race the following morning.
  • At holiday parties, your idea of "small talk" involves fartleks. (And you wonder why people shy away...)
  • You prefer cowbells to jingle bells.
  • Santa tried to recruit you for this year's sleigh team because he saw you running at night... wearing a blinking red light.
  • You don't need New Year's Resolutions. You have a 2013 race schedule and training plan.

What would you add to this list?

See the running jokes page for more "You might be a runner" jokes.

Monday, December 17

Morning motivation

A series of life events recently reminded me of words of wisdom a co-worker spoke many years ago:
"If something scared me, I knew I should probably do it."
The speaker is a successful professional who traveled the world and later in life adopted two children. Heck, she's a busy lady. She might not even remember saying those words. But they stuck with me.

Each of the major steps we take in life is scary... moving out of a family home, starting a career, buying a house, moving to a new city, entering a relationship, ending a relationship, having kids, adopting kids, running a first 5k/half/marathon/triathlon, changing a career, traveling abroad, taking a leave of absence to pursue a lifelong dream...

All of those things are scary.
Yet all are richly rewarding experiences.

Likewise, we should not make decisions just because we are scared of what might happen otherwise. We shouldn't stay still just because the devil we know is better than the devil we don't.

So, it's with that in mind that today's morning motivation is to get out and do one productive thing that scares you... just one little thing out of your comfort zone.
Source: via Beth on Pinterest

... and when you do, post a comment and let us know what you conquered today!

Sunday, December 16

Doing the Ho Ho Hustle

Yesterday I put on my best Grinch-green shirt and my holly-bedecked knee socks, and I hustled my way through the Ho Ho Hustle 5k.
Pre-race lineup
The course was crowded with elves (um... I mean elementary school children) who just completed a "my first 5k" training program. (I think this is the time I've ever been taller than at least 25% of the 5k field!)

The starting line and first quarter mile of the race were a complete mess on account of new runners, non-runner parents trying to pace their elves, and a too-narrow course around the first bend. I knew that with such a slow start, my pace goals were going right out the window...

That said, it was heartwarming to see the glee on the faces of pint-sized participants as they raced through the neighborhood (sometimes right across people's lawns... but we'll let that go. They're still learning.)

One kid spit on my shoe.
(Yep... they've definitely got some things to learn... His coach needs to teach him that you need to check to your side before you spit on the run! Eww.)

Even Santa got his run on...
(I wonder if Santa saw the spitting kid and will bring coal now? Santa sees everything, right?)
Even Santa hustled!
While I wasn't running my fastest, photos from the final mile make it look like I'm on fire!
(Maybe I just look speedy now that I'm not carrying around 2 extra pounds of hair?)
Running soooo fast you can't see my right foot! (Don't I wish?)
Unfortunately I still wasn't fast enough to break the 24 minute barrier.
In fact, after running a half marathon last weekend, I ran slower at the Ho Ho Hustle than I did at the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. (Totally expected, but still a disappointment. More on that in a minute...)
After I finished, I grabbed a bottle of water and did my second favorite thing at a race: I stood at the final turn and cheered for other runners. I'm hoarse today, but a lost voice is small price to pay...
Doing my 2nd favorite thing at a race: cheering on other runners!
There's something about watching people of all ages, shapes, and sizes rounding the bend to finish their first (or their fiftieth) 5k that makes me glad to be alive.

Definitely not closer to 24 minutes...
25:26 official (25:18 by my watch... The starting line was an un-chip-timed madhouse)
2 (of 35) in my age group
13 (of 239) females
79 (of 547) overall

I suppose I shouldn't complain. I placed well. But dammit all, I wanted 23:XX in my time this year!!!

While grumbling, Grinch-like about my pace on the way home, Hubby turned to me and said:
"You had a good run! You placed. You knew today wasn't going to be a PR because you raced last weekend..."
And as he was giving me The Speech, we both realized, simultaneously, that I've given him this speech many, many times over the years. Oh, how it hurts when the shoe is on the other foot!

He blurted out:
"You sound like you're turning into ME."
I doubled over with laughter.
I laughed 'til it hurt.
I laughed 'til I couldn't breathe.

He's probably right. But as a runner, there are worse fates than turning into someone who's got a bit of a competitive streak...

Jingle Bell Hell

A few weeks ago, XLMIC invited readers to participate in Jingle Bell Hell, a virtual race with a few simple rules:
First rule... You do not talk about Fight Club.
(er... wrong movie... let me try that again...)

Jingle Bell Hell Rules of the Road:
Image source
  • Must be at least 5K in total maximum.
  • Must be done on a challenging course (and if you hate treadmills, that means it could be on a treadmill) because the idea is "Hell" ... that is the important part.
  • Must be done between Dec. 8-16, 2011... any time of day or night. This gives you two entire weekends to choose from.
  • You must laugh at least once... can be an evil laugh, a laugh of futility, any kind of laugh but laughter is a MUST.
  • Email me a link to your Jingle Bell Hell recap so I can post it and we may all share in the fun... please include something about when, where, why regarding the laughing part and what made the run your special brand of Hell 

So I went into the humid Holiday Half Marathon last weekend, thinking it would be my Jingle Bell Hell. I hate running in the heat and humidity. A humid half is my personal version of running hell. (Yes... I know... I live in Florida. It's a sore subject.)

But, aside from a small chuckle over something amusing Hubby said as he paced me for the last two miles, I didn't laugh. I was too tired to laugh. I was too tired to even remember what it was he said that made me chuckle... Jingle Bell Hell fail.

Then yesterday, I had a second shot at Jingle Bell Hell (aka the Ho Ho Hustle). The course itself wasn't particularly challenging, so I didn't think it would count as hell.


An elf kid spat on me.

(Gross as it was, I sort of chuckled over that. So the spitter earned points for hell and for humor.)

And then... knowing my first mile was on pace to break my 24 minute 5k goal, I ran my hardest. But my legs were losing steam. With about a quarter of a mile left to go, I looked at my watch and saw 23:00 flash past.

No matter how much speedwork and strength training I've done this year... No matter how fast I sprinted... I could not cover the remaining quarter mile at a 4 minute per mile pace.

My goal was lost.

My heart sank.

I gave it all I had, and it still wasn't enough.

That is my hell.

After the race, as I explained in the race report, I bitched and moaned about how disappointed I was in my performance.

This 5k failure turned into a Jingle Bell Hell winner!

(I was dressed in Grinch Green, too. Very appropriate...)

Saturday, December 15

Hair goes!

Yesterday I woke up with anxiety. After two years of growing my hair out, I had a 5pm appointment to chop it all off.

I haven't had short hair since a very unfortunate haircut in fourth grade. (That's 25 years ago, for those of you who are working through the math.) My hair hasn't been shorter than shoulder-length in more than two decades and I haven't had so much as a trim in two years.
So why chop it?

The answer is simple: Some people need the hair more than I do.

Still, it would be hard parting with a piece of myself. I'd grown attached to that hair! (Pardon my puns. I didn't get much sleep last night, and I've had 2 mimosas and 2 cups of coffee... Moving on...)

My mid-morning thoughts were a loop of:
It will be hard to watch all that hair go.
I'll look funny for months until it grows out.
I'm going to have triangle-hair that looks like Marge Simpson's sisters, or worse, I'll look like Kojak.*

Maybe I should postpone?
Image source
*If you're too young to understand this reference, see note (above) about being in 4th grade 25 years ago.

Then, during my lunch break, I logged in to Facebook in hopes of seeing a baby announcement from a good friend of mine.

Instead I saw tragedy.
Unspeakable horror in Connecticut.
I cried, as so many people did.

By comparison, my fears of looking like Telly Savalas were utterly trivial. Families were grieving.

By going through with the chop, a child somewhere, suffering the side effects of chemo, would be two snips and one step closer to getting a wig.

I made the cut (with the help of a lovely stylist, Camy, at London W1 in Pensacola).
... and after.
And today, after a run and with all the special styling products washed away, I do feel a bit Simpson-character like... but somehow that no longer seems significant.

Friday, December 14

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck! This week truly is a hodgepodge of weird and wonderful links from around the web... Bon appetite!

Fresh brewed

If you've ever wondered how much caffeine is in your beverage of choice, or how to get the biggest bang for your brewed buck, look no further than the caffeine database.
Seattle baristas take their foam seriously

The carrot and the stick

The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, realizes that you can't get people fit by telling them what not to do. You have to show them what they can do. “We have to make being healthy joyful,” she said in a quote published on DCstreetsblog, the article continues...
“One person’s joy might be to run a marathon,” she said. “Another person’s is just fit into an old pair of jeans. And another’s is just to sit up all day with their grandkids. We have to stop telling people what they can’t do or what they can’t eat. We have to tell them what they can do. They can go out for walks. They can go out with their friends.”

They can, indeed!

Stupid people tricks

It's been awhile since I've included Stupid People Tricks in a potluck post, and this one had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. Enjoy!

Lace up

I'm pretty sure most of the 17 ways to lace your shoes are useless to runners, but the schematic diagrams did remind me that some lacing patterns can relieve hot-spot pressure and make a pair of shoes more comfortable.

Pay it forward

Charlotte from Wild Things Run Free reminds us to pay it forward during the holiday season (and, really, any time of year).

Quote of the week:
"Instead of thinking or saying, I have to finish this project or I have to pick up my kids, I stopped myself and tweaked my language: I get to work on this... I get to do speedwork... I get to go on a long run..."
Kristin Armstrong

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, December 13

Thursday thanks (end of semester edition)

This week I'm thankful for the end of the semester. While the ending of each academic term is bittersweet, the wrap-up week of classes always feels like a huge accomplishment. I practically float through the week after the last exam is graded.
Old Schoolhouse, Fort Walton Beach, FL

In many ways, each semester is like training for a long race:

  • 16 weeks of preparation.
  • A detailed plan that serves as a guide for each week's work.
  • Goals! Both teaching and race-training have a clear goal at the end of the cycle.
  • A mix of really great days and not-so-great days.
  • Doubt. (Can I really get all this work done in 16 weeks? Am I doing this right?)
  • Successes.
  • Setbacks.
  • The flurry of activity right before the finale.
  • Carbs! (On the final day of class I usually host an in-class meal of some sort.)
  • A feeling of accomplishment (and exhaustion) when it's over.
  • A good, long rest when it's all done.
  • A week or two later, I'm planning the next one...
Yep. Teaching is just like marathon training.
And during the winter break, I fully intend to enjoy a well-deserved rest...

Are there parallels between your work life and fitness life?
What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, December 12

Race report: Holiday Half Marathon in Point Clear, AL

Disclaimer: Any lack of enthusiasm in this post is entirely the fault of yours truly. This race was as well-organized as any I've ever run.

The Holiday Half Marathon in Point Clear, Alabama was a back-to-basics runner's dream. Simple. Well-organized. INEXPENSIVE ($25!!!). T-shirts were optional both as part of race-swag (an extra $5 savings) and among the runners. (Hey, y'all, it was hot out there!)

Organized by the Port City Pacers, the Holiday Half Marathon felt like a long and well-supported group run with a formal finish line. As I said when I registered, more races should be like this race.

The start:
Because the race was small (fewer than 250 people by my best estimate) the event felt very laid-back. Organizers provided a light breakfast (coffee, juice, cookies, bananas) for those who like to eat and run.
Smiling at the finish line... before the race.
Parking was plentiful, as long as you don't mind parallel parking your car so the passenger side covers half of a sidewalk. (It felt wrong to park on the sidewalk, but police were directing people to park this way.)

And the most important pre-race detail: Lines for the port-o-lets were longish but fast-moving.
The starting line
The small-town-est touch about this race was the starting ceremony.

Runners lined up to a chalk line on the road. A shirtless runner waved a dime-store flag above his head while another man held a cassette player and megaphone aloft to broadcast the national anthem to the small crowd. Unorthodox, sure. But effective.

The bad:
Oh, the humidity!
Pre-race: fog over Mobile Bay
But hot-and-humid weather is not the Port City Pacers' fault. In fact, I overheard other runners mention that last year's Holiday Half was freezing cold. (Why couldn't I have run last year???)

My only minor quibble with course support is that the gatorade at aid stations was awful. Either some volunteer mixed the drink so it was horribly watered-down, or organizers bought the zero-calorie junk. (Um... I'm running 13 miles here. Give me a little sugar!)

But there were plenty of aid stations and the race cost me a mere $20 (I skipped the t-shirt), so that's the closest I'm getting to a complaint.

The good:
Despite my complaining about the weather, the simple T-shaped course pancake flat. It was also beautiful. Once the morning fog lifted, the sky was brilliant blue (which also meant that half of the course was baking in the sun, but I digress...)
View over Mobile Bay from the race-course at about mile 12
Skirting the edge of Mobile Bay, the route offered occasional sweeping views over the water, and plenty of scenery from swampy saltwater marshes. (I think swampy marshes are beautiful, but then again, I choose to live here...) On a non-race day I'm sure there would have been plenty of egrets, armadillos, and ospreys to watch. Unfortunately 200 sweaty, smelly, stomping runners probably scared away most of the local wildlife.
Mullet Point Park in Point Clear, AL
Mullet Point Park (named for the fish, not the hairstyle) was the starting line, finish line, and post race party venue. Big enough to fit runners, family, and friends, the park was shady, uncrowded, and offered spectacular views over Mobile Bay.
Post-race view over Mobile Bay as seen from Mullet Point Park

The finish:
Race times were clock time, not chip timed. But in a race this small does it really matter? My stopwatch and the race clock were virtually identical.
Finish line
The post race feast featured pizza, soda, chips, cookies, bananas, beer, and gatorade. While my stomach does not take kindly to heavy food immediately after a run, the pizza seemed to be a hit with everyone else.
Post-race pizza party
(I filled up, instead, on a huge omelette, biscuit, french toast, coffee, and orange juice at a cafe down the road in Fairhope. What can I say? Breakfast is better than pizza.)

Proof that I had a bad run:
I completely ignored the keg of post-race beer. Instead I downed sugary soft drinks - my first soda in... 5 years? 10? Then I took off my shoes, and walked/hobbled sock-shod back to the car.