Wednesday, November 30

Thursday thanks

Yesterday I went out for a late lunchtime run. While my neighborhood has plenty of runners, bikers, and dog-walkers out in the morning and evening, my weird-ass work-in-a-different-time-zone schedule means that the roads are pretty lonely during my mid-afternoon "lunchtime" runs. So it was extra special that not only did I cross paths with another runner, he flashed a peace sign at me, and I gave a thumbs-up in return.

So this thanks is for the little things, like greetings and "good mornings" from strangers, that make each day a little sunnier...

...especially when those greetings are from fellow runners. Those make me feel a little bit like we're on the same team. No matter what our political or philosophical differences are, we speak a similar language. The exact form of greeting may be different from person to person, but the "hey, we've got something in common" part of the greeting is the same. I've seen the:
  • runner's nod
  • thumbs up
  • peace sign
  • quick wave
Plenty of runners just keep their head down and pass by without a glance. But we all have days when it's a struggle to just keep the feet moving, so I don't take those non-greetings personally. (Except in London a few years ago, where no one made eye contact at all. That was creepy... but that's another story for another time.)

So...What's your favorite runner's greeting?

How to (almost) pass out at the doctor's office

This morning I went to the doctor's office for routine blood-work and other tests, and I nearly passed out!

Right now you're probably thinking:
"What a wuss! A little needle and she faints!"

But seriously, that wasn't what happened at all. Let me explain...

I decided to run a marathon in 2012, and -- as all people should before beginning a strenuous new training program -- I made an appointment to talk to my doctor. (No, I did not take this precaution before my 2006 marathon, but I was young(er) and dumb(er) then... Do as I say, not as I do.) To make sure everything is A-OK before I start logging 20 mile weekend runs, Doc ordered a series of tests, including bloodwork, an EKG, and a pulmonary function test.
Pulmonary function test being administered in 1974.

MedlinePlus describes the pulmonary function test as:
...a group of tests that measure how well the lungs take in and release air and how well they move gases such as oxygen from the atmosphere into the body's circulation.
How the Test is Performed:
In a spirometry test, you breathe into a mouthpiece that is connected to an instrument called a spirometer. The spirometer records the amount and the rate of air that you breathe in and out over a period of time. For some of the test measurements, you can breathe normally and quietly. Other tests require forced inhalation or exhalation after a deep breath.
How the Test Will Feel:
Since the test involves some forced breathing and rapid breathing, you may have some temporary shortness of breath or lightheadedness. You breathe through a tight-fitting mouthpiece, and you'll have nose clips.
I was told not to have any caffeine before the test. I've mentioned before that I have a long-standing love affair with my morning coffee... I am still a bit amazed that I managed to stumble out of the house and find my way to the hospital without a cup o' joe.

In the pulmonary lab, the testing technician was what I would call "chipper" -- friendly, happy, and welcoming. (Maybe a little too happy for my un-caffeinated state, but I'll take "too happy" over grumpy or surly any day.) During the test I did wonder if the woman ever gets bored with her job, gently saying "breathe normally" and then barking "breathe out hard! push! push! push! push!" over and over again, day after day.

Important note: Signs in my testing room were posted to remind the clinician of proper protocol if a patient faints. Those signs should have given me a clue to take the "lightheadedness" warning seriously.

One segment of the test involved hyperventilating into the machine. I started feeling woozy right away, and my vision started to blur right before the technician said: "Ok. You can take a rest now." Two more seconds and I'm pretty sure I would have fainted right there in the testing room! But, fortunately, I did not, and the feeling passed quickly.

Compared to the lung test, the blood-work portion of this morning's doctor's visit was a piece of cake.

Do you go to the doc for a checkup before you start training for an endurance event?

Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Archives

Monday, November 28

New shoes and shopping weirdness

Modeling my new Nikes
Today is a good news / bad news day in the retail world.

Good news: My new shoes arrived in the mail today!

(There were two pairs of Black Friday deals I just couldn't resist... because I buy new running shoes every 3-5 months anyway, and unlike industrial-sized jars of mayonaise from Costco, shoes don't go rancid if you buy in bulk.)

The first box I opened was the Nike Air Pegasus+ 28s.

These Nikes might win the award for the most horribly ugly running shoes I've ever worn. (Sorry, Nike. But seriously -- what were you thinking? These shoes look like something Punky Brewster would have worn...)

But, as I've said before, running is a race, not a fashion show.

I took my new Nikes out for a test run at lunch. The shoes felt good, but I'm going to hold off on a "review." 1.5 miles isn't quite far enough to get a good feel for the shoes, plus the weather was crisp and dry today (unlike yesterday) -- so any run would have felt good. I don't want to rave about the fit until I've got some miles on these shoes. But my initial reaction is that they give my toes plenty of room, and nothing felt "off," so I suspect these shoes and I will get along just fine.

Bad news: A funny thing happened at the market today...

This morning, before work, I went to the grocery store to replenish the household stock of non-Thanksgiving fruits and vegetables. I purchased a cart-load of fresh veggies. (For some reason, the Monday after Thanksgiving makes me drool over salad greens. Maybe the chunk of pumpkin cheesecake I had for "dinner" last night has something to do with that, but I digress...)

My produce bonanza included some of my favorites: beets, asparagus, bananas, endive, and an English cucumber (among other things).

At checkout, the clerk picked up my cucumber to scan it, and said:
"Wow. Why do you buy this? These things are expensive!"
(Maybe we have found the real reason I don't like shopping around the holidays...)
I was too dumbfounded to even reply.
(Though, trust me, I've thought of plenty of zingers since then!)

What is the proper etiquette for dealing with an uppity cashier?
Why is it that I think of the best comebacks only after it's way too late to use them?

Sunday, November 27

Wet weather

Wringing the water out
of my rain-soaked shirt
I spent most of the last decade running in San Diego where, according to NOAA records, it only rains about 40 days/year and there's a good stretch of 3-4 months with no measurable precipitation at all.

Needless to say, I didn't add many rainy day runs to my life list when I lived there.

Florida, not surprisingly, has changed that situation right quick.

Today, with an 8-miler on the calendar, Hubby and I drove home from a blissful, sunny, 24-hour mini-vacation in Panama City Beach and drove right into a rainstorm. (Maybe I should have run before we checked out of the hotel? But the storm was heading toward us... Earlier departure = more dry driving time, and I hate driving in the rain.)

We got home, unpacked the car, and I surfed the weather radar for an hour. When I finally saw my opportunity -- no rain outside at that moment, and a clear spot on the weather map -- I laced up my running shoes and headed out.

Lesson learned: I was not cut out to be a meteorologist.

Within 2 blocks of home, the sky opened up. (So much for that clearing on the weather radar!)

I considered turning around and picking the run up again later, but really, the rain didn't hurt. And I don't melt. Plus, I have a streak to maintain, so I had to get in at least a mile.

Once I got used to the squishing, I realized that running in the rain is kind of fun. The roads were nearly empty. All the off-leash dogs were inside staying dry. The world was quiet. And I got to splash in puddles like a little kid.

I sloshed past a house where a woman was sitting on the porch, in a bathrobe, smoking a cigarette. I thought to myself:
I'll bet she thinks I'm crazy.
And I know I think she is.
To each their own...
I also wondered:
If I hadn't started out on this odd little holiday run-every-day streak, would I have braved the rain?
The answer is... I probably would have rescheduled. (San Diego turned me into a bit of a weather wuss.) So I'm glad I had an incentive to get out and run today, despite the rain. It was much more relaxing than I thought it would be.

Do you brave the elements, or do you head for the gym at the first sign of bad weather?

Long weekend recap

4 days. 4 photos. 4 R-words.
(I tried to come up with 4 four-letter F-words, but Hubby told me some might be inappropriate. I don't see how "food" is an inappropriate word, but I'll switch to Rs anyway.)

Thanksgiving feast... 'nuff said.

Even with a 20 mph headwind, 5 Black Friday miles at the beach
sure beat battling through the mall parking lot!
(Please ignore my jaywalking in this photo.)

Resort (and Reunion)
Hubby and I drove to Panama City Beach, FL
to catch up with friends I haven't seen in five years.
(Yes. I cheated and used 2 R-words.)

It's raining. It's pouring!
But I'm going to run anyway... 

How was your weekend?

Saturday, November 26

Streak week 1

Thanks to a little nudge from Runner's World, and some encouragement from Caitlyn over at Adventures of a Latin Geek, I decided to start a holiday running streak.
Source: via Trudy on Pinterest

I have run consistently (3-5 days/week) for more than a decade, but have never before run more than four days in a row. (Yes, I went back through my training logs just to be sure.) And those four-day "streaks" are few and far between.

Today I broke that streak of non-streaking, and finished seven consecutive days of running at least a mile.
  1. Sunday - 4.5 miles (Hash run!)
  2. Monday - 1.1 miles
  3. Tuesday - 3.5 miles (accidentally overslept, but still ran)
  4. Wednesday - 1.2 miles
  5. Thursday - 3 miles
  6. Friday - 5 miles (gorgeous day at the beach, but I could have done without the 20mph headwind!)
  7. Saturday - 1 mile
This adds up to about 18 and a half total -- not my highest mileage week ever, but the goal here is running every day from now until Christmas, not breaking weekly mileage records.

Seven down, twenty-nine left to go!
(I wonder if I'll be glad, by 12/25, that I can take a real rest day, or if I'll be motivated to keep going so I can join the US Running Streak Association?)

What's your longest running streak?
Have you ever been the other kind of streaker?

Friday, November 25

I don't do Black Friday unless...

Normally I don't do Black Friday.
I get creeped out by the stories of customers trampling or pepper-spraying each other in a rush to save $20.
Seriously, isn't health and safety worth more than twenty dollars?

But this year Hubby and I had a minor break from our tradition of staying home, eating leftovers, and running a few miles to burn off that extra slice of pumpkin cheesecake.

Before you roll your eyes at me, let me explain!

The Exchange (military department store) has a 25% off sale on all shoes. Which means ALL RUNNING SHOES. And Exchange prices are rock bottom to begin with. Add in a promo that includes free shipping (read: no fighting in store lines!) and you've got two runners who were ready to break their Black Friday No Shopping tradition.

I tried to fight the lure of Black Friday deals, but Mama needs a new pair of shoes!

(Seriously, Hubby and I buy 3 pairs of running shoes each, per year. How could we not buy our 2012 pairs at half the normal retail price? That would have been like turning down the $55 discount at Rock 'n' Roll NOLA.)

So I broke down and bought a pair of Brooks Ghost 4s and a pair of Nike Air Pegasus+ 28s (which are ugly, I'll admit, but running is a race not a fashion show...).

My Mizuno Wave Rider 14s shredded my feet like a cheese grater earlier this month, so it's time to switch styles. And lest you think I'm crazy enough to buy shoes completely untested just because they're on sale, I have run in both the Brooks and the Nikes before. I'll post reviews when they arrive...

Are you a Black Friday shopper?
I avoid the mall like the plague from Thanksgiving until the second week of January... but I'm willing to take advantage of an online deal as long as it's for something that was on the household shopping list before it went on sale.

Thursday, November 24

Thursday thanks -- Thanksgiving

I write a "Thursday thanks" each week, no matter what week it is... It's just a happy coincidence that this week's "thanks" falls on Thanksgiving. (I should note that this was composed in advance... just like the pies we're baking.)

I'm thankful for...
Hubby - who runs crazy errands on his way home from work, like picking up flowers for our Thanksgiving centerpiece (and sending me cell phone photos so I get the colors I want).

My parents and brother - who have been keeping an eye out for me since before I can remember... (Well, all except for Bro. I remember the day he showed up!) Bro even ran 26.2 miles with me. If that's not love, I don't know what is.

Friends, near and far - who stay in touch even though no matter where I live, I'm always 2,000 miles away from at least half of them.

My job - makes me crazy sometimes, but it pays the bills (and, hello, I get to telecommute). Plus, I work with some incredibly bright people. Not a bad deal.

My legs - which seem to work better the older I get... Maybe that's a good thing about picking up running post-college? Even in my mid-30s, my glory days still lie ahead!

Peanut butter - makes the world go 'round. No more perfect food was ever invented. I can polish off a jar in a week. (Hey, it could be worse. I could be addicted to drugs. Peanut butter seems like the safer choice.)

...and lots of other things, but if I list them all here, I'll have nothing to write about next week!


Wednesday, November 23

Best of the web

This week, I came across a handful of web gems, and just had to share.

Have you ever wondered how many pounds of turkey the average American eats? Well wonder no more... Data Insights let's you know that we eat 13.3 pounds of turkey per capita, and we grow more than a billion pounds of pumpkins! This blog is filled with other fun (and sometimes disturbing) facts, like: more than half of working adults expect to check work email on major holidays.

Maybe if you keep your family talking about these stats, you can divert them from other fun Thanksgiving dinner questions like "Why aren't you married yet?" and "When are you going to have kids?"

Speaking of inappropriate questions... Meg, at Watch MeGoRun, shares her personal pet peeves about people who can't mind their own business.

On the other side of the sharing-personal-information spectrum... In his 1,000th post, Adam, at The Boring Runner, reflects on more than four years of blogging, what he's learned, and who takes his photos (including the overly personal ones). PS - He's giving away shoes to celebrate his 1000th post!

Speaking of running shoes... I think I'm mad at XLMIC for making me want a new, ruby-red pair of Mizunos. I don't normally covet shoes. But they're my brand/model. And they're not boring white!
Must... resist... urge... to shop!

And... It's shopping season! (Or not...)
Tired of the Black Friday media blitz already?
Take a year off and have a White Friday instead.

Last, but certainly not least, if you need a reminder that there are amazing random acts of kindness that happen all around us every day... Read Tricia's "Go Buy Your Family Dinner" story. If your eyes don't well up with tears of joy, I'll be surprised...

Happy reading!

If you're going to be in San Diego... (and guest post)

Hammer Fest (n): An event of serious endurance activity. Example: "Bob, are you ready for today's workout? It's going to be a hammer fest!"
HAMMER FESTival 2010
Alternative example: The HAMMER FEST(ival) is my favorite party of the year, but this year I'm not going to be able to make it!

So... instead I'm going to tell you why, if you're in San Diego on December 9th, you should go!

Seriously San Diego readers, you know I don't "plug" things just for the sake of PR. Last year's party/gala/charity-fundraiser was incredible. (Yes, that is me front and center in the photo. It's my best side!) We stayed out dancing 'til midnight on a Tuesday night and raised thousands of dollars for the American Liver Foundation. This year the party moves to a Friday night, and a bigger location...

Hmm...I wonder if I can convince Hubby that we should fly back to San Diego for a weekend so we can go play with our friends? Maybe I can talk him into an early Christmas present...

In the meantime, I am going to let my good friend MZ explain the event:

Endurance athletes in San Diego spend a lot of time together and often in strange places. We meet at locations like "The Runners' Bathroom" (the WHAT?!) in Mission Bay, the vaguely menacing "The Cove" in La Jolla, the parking lot of a local coffee shop or park, sometimes in very remote areas of the city.

At 5am.

Then, we spend countless hours suffering together, be it a 2.4 mile swim in rough ocean waters, a 50+ mile bike ride up and down the steep local mountains or a long, long, looooong run on the trails or the pavement.

Or all three. On the same day. Not always in that order.

And then, there is food. Lots and lots of food to restore any kind of energy that one can get. "I only have two states: when I am eating and when I am hungry" - says local triathlete, Peter Blomgren.

Going through these self-imposed ordeals with the same people sure creates a new sense of camaraderie and support. Endurance athletes are a tight-knit group of people, united in the misery of training, the pleasure of overcoming their personal obstacles, achieving athletic results and, sometimes, simply reaching the finish line.

But let's be honest: majority of the time we are together, we dress in a very peculiar way. Visors, helmets or swimcaps, wetsuits or high-tech shirts and shorts, sunglasses, and running shoes. All are great and comfortable clothes, assisting us in our training. Think moisture-wicking clothing, for example... it is fantastic for staying dry and transferring the moisture off skin and into the air.

In other words, most of the time we see each other, we STINK!

Then there are the awkward situations when we see our training partners for the first time wearing jeans and t-shirts and don't recognize them. "Hi, nice to meet you! I am... wait" is not an uncommon greeting at all.

Meet The HAMMER FESTival.
The event is a holiday gala conceived by Dennis Caco who also produces and organizes it along with a group of volunteers from San Diego Running (SDR) - the city's largest premier free running group.

The HAMMER FESTival is unique in many ways: it is the city's only endurance athlete event organized by volunteers from the athletic community.

It is a rare chance to dress up, enjoy exquisite food, drinks, award presentations, video production, live music and dancing together.
It is also an important fundraising event supporting The American Liver Foundation, complete with local and national sponsors, silent auctions, raffles, thousands in prizes and donations.

It is a fantastic opportunity for San Diego's endurance athletes to get to know each other outside of their typical meeting places: on the run, on the bike, or in the water.

Last year 200 tickets sold out in 3 weeks. This year demand is so strong that we anticipate 300 guests, and the tickets are selling fast!

What better way to further existing friendships and meet new people, united by similar goals, interests and activities?
It is a chance to put the strength of our solid athletic community to support a great charity.

And finally, it is an opportunity to relax and have fun.

As hard as we train...
...let's face it, we deserve it!

The 2nd installment of The FESTival takes place on December the 9th at 6p at the San Diego Hall Of Champions. The event is open to everyone and tickets are on sale now at
For more information, please contact

Have you ever not recognized a running buddy when you saw the person all dressed up? (This totally happened to me at least year's party. Sorry, Peter!)
Have you ever been to a charity gala? If so, what was it like?

Tuesday, November 22

Sleeping in and smelly internet

Let me just start out by saying that I didn't sleep very well last night. When my alarm clock went off at 6am, I dutifully reset ignored it, thinking that I'd wake up at 7.
I'm sure you can see where this is going...
I accidentally slept in until 9am.
I had such big plans for the morning! Having used up 3 hours with sleep, rather than errands, clearly none of my pre-work chores were going to get done. But I planned a 4-mile run. My dilemma: Could I pull on my gym clothes, get out the door, run, shower, change, grab coffee/breakfast, and log in at work by 10?

The answer, of course, was (mostly) yes.

My second unintended surprise of the morning was walking out the front door. I felt like I got slapped in the face with a warm, wet dishtowel. But there was no dishtowel. It's just Florida in November. (C'mon Florida. It's Thanksgiving for crying out loud! Can we cool it with the summer weather already? Unlike Jamoosh, I do not love humidity.)

I did a sweaty 3.5 mile loop through the neighborhood, and at several points I had to ask myself: "Am I running this morning, or swimming?" I wish I were kidding. Last night the local news weatherman described the weather as "soupy."
Don't be jealous.
I'll trade 80 degrees and 97 percent humidity for snow ANY DAY.

So 3.5 miles < 4.0 miles, but I was cutting it close to begin with. I ran into the house, brewed a pot of coffee, and dove into my desk chair at 9:55 still wearing my soaked gym clothes.

Thank goodness my coworkers haven't installed Olly, the smell-your-internet robot for our web conferences. They'd fire me, for sure!

Ok - in reality, Olly doesn't work by transferring scents over the interwebs... It's much less sophisticated, but also much less panic-inducing. The end user loads a specific scent to pair with a specific event. So my coworkers could make my emails smell like sunshine and roses! They'd never know I didn't have time for a shower until my lunch break! (Unless they read this... Doh!)

How often do you oversleep?
What do you think of the scented internet phenomenon?

Monday, November 21

I almost caught the hare!

True trail! (This means you're going the right way.)
When I moved to Florida, I joined a Hares and Hounds running club for the first time.

For those of you who are wondering what the heck a Hares and Hounds run is, here's a brief explanation:
  • A group of runners meet at a pre-determined location.
  • One or two runners take off with a head start (usually 15 minutes) to mark a trail. We will call these runners the Hares.
  • The remaining runners (aka Hounds) follow the trail left by the Hares.
  • The trail - often marked with flour or chalk - may take twists, turns, or lead to dead-ends. These trail "tricks" serve two purposes -- to keep the group together (faster runners are more likely to hit dead-ends and have to back track) and to keep the Hounds from catching the Hares! (This is foreshadowing...)
  • The Hounds yell to one another. Loudly. (So please don't call the police if you see a pack of adults running through your neighborhood yelling things like "Are you?" and "On-on!" They don't bite. Usually.)
  • Generally there is at least one stop for refreshments somewhere along the trail. This gives slower runners and wrong-turners a chance to catch up. Hashing is a team sport with the goal that everyone finishes at roughly the same time.
  • At the end of the trail, there is a celebration, complete with libations. (Because, after all, hashers belong to "a drinking club with a running problem.")
  • The level of bawdiness and difficulty of the trail varies widely from group to group. (The group I run with is PG-13, which suits me just fine.)
There are several more thorough explanations of Hare and Hound runs on the interwebs. With each Hash, I learn a bit more about the traditions (because there are no "rules" only traditions), but I'm still new at this.

Yesterday's Hash was particularly excellent.

The trail wound through a playground. Two very observant girls on swings were happy to tell us which way the Hares had gone! (Thanks, ladies!)

Hubby and I ran to the meeting location, rather than driving, so we could partake in the libations. Mid-run beer disadvantage: beer burps while sprinting. Mid-run beer advantage: Forgetting that your feet are still blistered from last weekend and running all-out... Which leads to the most exciting news of all:

I very nearly caught one of the Hares!!!
This is huge.
Catching a Hare is rare.
Unfortunately for me, the Hare slipped through my fingers by sprinting into oncoming traffic on a busy road to escape capture! (Don't try this at home, kids!)
But ohhh... I was so close!
It gives me incentive to run even faster next time!


Have you ever done a Hares and Hounds run?

Sunday, November 20

Decisions. Decisions.

I bounced back from the half marathon in less than 5 days.
Clearly my return to longer distances (after a 2 year leave of absence) didn't kill me.

So now I'm thinking...
Marathon(s) in 2012!
I know I made that potentially plural.

Maybe I've lost my mind?
I've definitely got marathons on the brain right now.

But here's the dilemma -- the Gulf Coast isn't exactly known for distance-running events, so any marathon will require travel, and my spring 2012 schedule is a MESS. I'm teaching a Monday morning class (read: this makes Sunday marathon travel difficult, to say the least), I have already signed up for one half marathon, and I have two other pre-planned trips (in addition to the half). There's also a professional conference I should attend in May... but at this point, that's completely negotiable.

What's a girl to do?

Should I...
A - Quit my teaching job and pursue my dreams of becoming the next Kara Goucher? (Please stop laughing if you have seen my race PRs...It's not nice to laugh at people's dreams!)
B - Buy a personal jet so I can get to races whenever and wherever I want? (I never realized what a difference living in a big city makes when it comes to travel schedules! The last scheduled flight to leave Pensacola on any given day is at 6pm -- like the pilots around here go to sleep at sunset? Get with the program, people! Planes can fly at night, too!)
C - Call in *cough cough* sick to make my travel plans work? (Doh! If I'm going to go with option C, I maybe shouldn't have blogged about it first...)
D - ________ (The write-in answer. What brilliant solution am I missing?)

What would you do?

Saturday, November 19


I've always wanted to be a streaker!

No! Not the kind of streaker that runs naked across a football field.
(Well, ok, that might a cool item to check off the Life List, too.)

What I mean is the more traditional definition of streak: "to move swiftly," or "to have a streak (as of winning or outstanding performances)" as defined in Merriam-Webster. (MW seems to also be ok with "streak" meaning "to run naked through a public place." Dirty dictionary! But I digress...)

I've read stories of people who have run every single day for 1, 2, 10 years. According to the United States Running Streak Association, there are at least 6 people in the US who have run every single day for more than 40 years.

And I wonder: How do they do it?

I run regularly, but I'm more of a 4 days/week runner. I rarely run back to back days. But then again, my running routine has been fairly constant for several years now... Maybe it's time for a shakeup? Which brings my back to my original point...

Runner's world is hosting a virtual holiday running streak. Runners are encouraged to log at least one mile each day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. I'm down with all of this except for the New Year's Day run... The New Year is a special holiday for me, and I fully intend to be nursing a hangover on 1/1/12. I can't justify breaking my New Year's celebration streak (12 years and counting!) just to start another.

But streaking from Thanksgiving to Christmas day... That's mighty tempting!

So what do you think...
Is it time for a little streaking?
If you want to get in on the streaking action, leave a note in the comments section so we can keep each other motivated for the daily mile minimum!

Friday, November 18

Another helping hand story

Yesterday I posted about runners lending a helping hand to one another during a race.

Today's story takes that helping hand to a whole new level!
Runners training in Jacksonville, FL witnessed a car wreck. The accident sent a vehicle spinning out of control and into a pond.

Not only did the runners stop to call 911...
The runners jumped in and rescued the driver.
Now that's one marathon training run they'll never forget! (And the driver, thankfully, will live to remember it, too.)

For the full story, with video, please visit First Coast News.

And now for something completely different...

Ok, my day wasn't THAT different.
But who doesn't love a good dose of John Cleese? And yes, that's a fish in the video! And no, it's not the only fish in this post. Keep reading...

Normally on a Friday morning I'd bound out of bed, pull on some running clothes, and get in a few miles before work. In fact, Fridays are usually speedwork days, so those miles are my toughest of the week.

But last week was a half marathon, and next week is Thanksgiving.
So interval training is not on the schedule this week, but housecleaning and yardwork are.
I've got company coming over for turkey on Thursday, and my mother instilled in me a strong sense that one must scrub behind the refrigerator before guests arrive for the holidays. Ok. Maybe I'm not interested in that level of clean, but leaves will be raked and floors will be washed.

I decided to push my run back to a lunchtime 3-miler and spend the morning working playing in the garden.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I went a little hog-wild at the store and bought a lovely new kumquat tree. Many varieties of citrus, for those of you from cold climates, are actually winter-ripening crops. So with any luck, I'll have kumquats for Christmas!

Hello fresh citrus!

I also intended to get some pretty autumn flowers for the doorstep and dining room to make it look festive for Thanksgiving.

This is what I had in mind:

But then I saw these lovely poinsettias.
And my Thanksgiving-themed plans went right out the window...

...along with my deep aversion to anything Christmas-oriented before the turkey is served.

Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving make me crazy. (Maybe too many years working retail?)

But I broke down and bent my own rule.

After all...
Thanksgiving flowers will look out-of-date six days from now.
Whereas these babies will look great for the next six weeks!

So I bought an armload of poinsettias. Then I planted, and re-potted, and watered, and raked leaves.

I wrapped up the yardwork in time for a 10am conference call, and worked my "day job" until 2. I took a late lunch and went out for an afternoon run. (I can't remember my last lunchtime run!)


This afternoon's run was one of those runs that remind me why I love this sport. The sun was shining. A cool breeze was blowing. My feet felt light -- I didn't need to tell them where to go, they just flew all on their own.

And speaking of flying... My timing this afternoon was just about perfect. As I was rounding the bend for home, a neighbor waved me over. (I really didn't want to stop. I felt that good! Plus, my workday doesn't end at 2... I had to get back to my desk!) But the neighbor insisted, and for good reason: there was an osprey eating its lunch - a very fresh fish - in a treetop overhead!

Apparently the osprey didn't like her growing audience, so she flew away to finish her sushi elsewhere. Seeing the bird and chatting with my neighbor were highlights of an already awesome lunchtime run. (I didn't run with my camera, but she looked just like this...)
Source: via Gina on Pinterest

When I got home a few minutes later, my doorstep was like a little slice of the holidays.

To hell with rules about no Christmas decorations mid-November.
My new flowers look great!
(But Santa at the mall the day after Halloween? I'm still not ok with that!)

Do you have strong feelings about the "right" time to start decorating for the holidays?
Any wild animal sightings this week?

Thursday, November 17

Thursday thanks

I want to use this Thursday Thanks to express my gratitude to several runners at the Pensacola Half Marathon for their kindness and encouragement to other runners.

In particular, there was one runner who stood out for his helpfulness. I never got his name, but he was wearing an orange t-shirt, so we'll call him Mr. Orange.

At mile 4, I pulled off the course to stop and stretch my legs (a preventative measure to ensure the hip wouldn't freak out on me). I only paused for 20 seconds or so. Then I jumped back into the pack right next to Mr. Orange.

He asked: "Are you OK?"

I have to admit, I was more than a little surprised that anyone would notice or care. I replied: "Oh! Yes. I'm fine. Thanks for asking!" And I continued on my way, pleased that someone showed concern, but still not thinking much of it.

At the next bend in the road, Mr. Orange shouted to other runners "Car on the right!" every time a car passed on the not-closed course.

A few miles later, another runner stopped, clutching his side in obvious pain. Mr. Orange paused to ensure that runner was ok.

Over the course of the run, Mr. Orange repeated this sort of behavior every time someone needed it. Because we ran such similar paces, we chatted for awhile. When I mentioned that I thought it was great that he looked out for other runners, he chalked it up to his police officer instinct. Hmm... maybe. But regardless of the reason, he made my day.

And the best part of this story, for me, is that Mr. Orange was not alone.

Over the miles, I noticed plenty of runners lending helping hands to other runners. Going up one of the steep little hills, a gentleman was patting strangers on the back encouraging them to "keep going" and "you can do this!"

In the last two miles of the race, as people were hitting their own personal walls, one guy would wave his hand in a c'mon-let's-get-going gesture, and encourage people not to stop. I'm sure he was hurting, too, but he took the time and energy to help others along.

Maybe it has been too long since I've run a longer-distance race, but I don't recall ever witnessing so much runner-to-runner support before. Seeing all those helping hands was a wonderful experience.

Whoever said running is an individual sport? Sometimes it is... but sometimes it's a group effort.

Have you ever gotten a helping hand from another runner at a race?
Have you ever lent a helping hand? Don't be bashful: Please tell your story!

Tuesday, November 15


I'm still hobbling around the house like an 80-year-old with bunions (or a 30-something runner with some angry blisters!), but every achy step reminds me that I ran hard on Sunday.

I've been recovering with walking, yoga, and lots and lots of sleep, so I don't have much exciting news to share. But I do want to send a blog THANK YOU to Kristin at Everyday is Run Day for this little gem:
This is my new desktop wallpaper.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not giving up track workouts.
In fact, after my race on Sunday I am more determined than ever to be faster on my next 13.1.
But I knew Sunday wasn't going to be a PR.
And it was totally bumming me out (I put a happy face on. After all, fake it 'til you make it, right? But I was not a happy camper last week...)
This simple little slogan gave me the inspiration to put my all into the race.
And I'm really glad I did.

... now off to plan the next one!

Do you have a slogan/mantra/poster that inspires you?

Picture courtesy of S. King

Sunday, November 13

Race Report: Pensacola Half

The start: Gorgeous sunrise. Insane port-o-potty lines. 5 minutes late on the start...

The course - bad: The course was not "closed" which I disliked heartily. At every intersection there were police officers and Marines directing traffic (good!) and often letting cars go between clusters of runners (bad!). I saw one car nearly hit a runner as the driver pulled into a parking lot. In addition to being unsafe, it was totally gross (think lots and lots of truck exhaust).

Also, I don't think I've ever seen a race with less crowd support. (Note to spectators - You're already there. It doesn't cost you anything to cheer for everyone. Seriously.)

The course - good: The course was flat. Not pancake flat (there were a few steep little hills here and there) but the lowest elevation was about 10' and the highest was about 85'. Flat. There were also aid stations every 2 miles or so. I always run with my own hydration, but it's nice to know course support is there if I need it.

Also, for those who did cheer, I saw some absolutely fantastic signs, including:
"Stop reading this sign and keep running!"
The finish: Plenty of goodies and space for finishers to stretch out and recover. The race organizers provided water, fruit, and sandwiches. Local businesses handed out free pastries, pulled pork, red beans and rice, beer, and a bunch of other stuff that I'm forgetting. I mostly remember the beer.
Does anyone make race photos look good?
There were a couple of massage therapists giving post-race massages, but addict though I am, I cannot bring myself to subject a massage therapist to my post-race sweat. It just seems unkind.

The DJ at the start/finish area was also pretty awesome, playing a good mix of pop and oldies. Hubby and I even danced to a couple of songs (that was while the adrenaline was still working, I fell sound asleep once it wore off).

My race: I did exactly what I set out to do -- 10 minute miles through the entire race. It was not my best half ever. I finished squarely in the middle of the pack. However, after struggling with weeks of hip pain and deciding at the last minute to wear brand new shoes on race-day, I was pretty sure I'd have a bad race. So finishing strong felt great.

I filled my iPod with a couple of hours worth of songs, and focused on each little stretch of road in front of me. The Dog Days Are Over got me through more than a couple of miles... Run fast for your mother fast for your father...

I only really struggled though the last couple of miles (but if it's not hard at some point, you aren't trying hard enough).

I do wonder, though, if there was something in my coffee this morning, because I felt absolutely no pain. Tight lungs, fatigued muscles, but no pain.

And then... I took my new shoes off...

Hello bloody blisters!

My feet look like they went through a meat grinder! (I will spare you the pictures.)

What I wonder is: How the F*** did I not feel those during the race?!? I knew wearing new shoes was a risk. But I didn't feel the blisters at all during the run.

My feet hurt like hell now and I'll be walking around in flip-flops for at least a couple of days. But during the race - not so much as a tickle.

Maybe the new shoes weren't such a bad idea after all?

How many of you think that as long as your race went well, the pain afterward is just a temporary annoyance?
C'mon. Be honest.

Saturday, November 12

Ruling overturned!

Breaking news!
Paula Radcliffe gets to keep her 2003 world record!

Runners worldwide expressed their disgust at the IAAF ruling that women's marathon records would only count in women-only races. That raised a few eyebrows, to say the least. (Ok. It elicited a string of cuss words from this blogger much like those generated when I dislocated my finger playing football with Hubby...)

But the IAAF really put their foot in it when they made the ruling retroactive, stripping Paula Radcliffe of her 2003 world record for a 2:15:25 finish at the London Marathon. There was outrage in the running community. Nike even got in on the protest.

For those of you new to this story, the backlash centers around the fact that the ruling didn't outlaw pace-setters overall, just a particular woman-running-with-man combination. For example, Patrick Makau's blistering 2:03:28 new world record, set in Berlin earlier this year, involved not one but SIX pace-setters to help him to his goal. From the NY Times story:
In the Berlin men’s race, six pacemakers formed a V-shaped formation, leading a pack of five elite runners as if they were migrating geese. They stayed on record pace the entire race, with the lead group going through halfway in 1:01:43.
But in Makau's case, the pacers were men running with men, so according to the IAAF, that still counts toward world record status. When it was a male pacer running with Radcliffe, that violated some girls and boys can't play together rule.

Hence: outrage.

But, to give (some) credit...

The IAAF listened.

According to news from the Associated Press, Paula Radcliffe gets to keep her 2003 world record.

The IAAF is now trying to figure out exactly how to set the standard for future world records.

What do you think about the initial rule and the changes?

Photo courtesy of Nationaal Archief (with edits made by yours truly)

Friday, November 11

Race plan: do everything wrong

T-minus 2 days and counting to my first half marathon in nearly two years. (My goodness. Has it really been that long?)

This is not to say that I haven't been racing. I have! But my races have been shorter distances - half a dozen 5ks (placing in 2) plus 10k and relay races. I spent two years focusing on speedwork. Then I got smacked with a Florida summer and barely kept my running head above water. I only really started building my distance back up two months ago.

All of this means: There is no way Sunday will be a PR. I wasn't training to make it a personal record kind of day. I signed up to get my butt motivated for Sunday morning long runs. That goal has been thoroughly accomplished.

This also means that I have no real race goals or ego issues for Sunday's run. But... Perhaps I've taken my lackadaisical attitude a bit too far, because I plan to race in brand new shoes.

I know. I know. Every running rule book starts with: "No new shoes or new clothes for your race!"
Hell, my own rule book starts with that rule!
But look at that broke-a$$ pair of shoes on the right. They have almost 700 miles on them. I should have started breaking in the new Mizunos sooner. I admit my error there. But for my feets' sake (and for my hip!) I refuse to race 13 miles in the old pair. So instead, I'll be racing in a pair of shoes I've worn for... wait for it... 6 whole miles!

At this point, the brand new shoes issue is so ridiculous that I've started plotting what other race-day "no no's" rules I can break and use this as a sort-of science experiment... I mean: how many races will I have in my life when I don't care what my pace is as long as I finish?

So... Should I:

  • Get a last-minute massage from a therapist I've never been to before? Oh wait... I've got that appointment in a couple of hours!
  • Leave my watch at home? This is mighty tempting...
  • Buy new shorts at the expo and run in those? Also tempting!
  • Run without Body Glide? Because that worked so well last time...
  • Celebrate the night before the race with a bottle of champagne, a pack of cigarettes, and some spicy Thai food? Because, you know, I'll wake up Sunday morning feeling GREAT for the race with a hangover, hacking cough, and port-o-potty "issues."
  • Do a track workout right before I go to the race expo? I can test myself to see how much of a beating my quads can really take!
  • Run my 5k pace for the first couple of miles to build up some "banked time?" Ha! That never works! All the more reason to try it...

What race-day rules have you always wanted to break?
Have you ever raced in brand new shoes?

Thursday, November 10

Thursday thanks

Every once in awhile, I re-read Kristen Armstrong's article "Feeling Lucky" from Runner's World (May 2010).

An extended quote from her article fills the top spot on my Quotes (on the run) page. Here's a brief version:
"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... "
I return to this article when I need to see the silver linings in the clouds.
This week, I needed a fresh perspective several times. Here are some examples:

I complained stridently about the administrative annoyances at my teaching gig. (After all, colleges are bastions of frustrating bureaucracy.)
But then I remembered: I have a job at a time when so many people do not...

I whined about my aching hip. (This injury has threatened to take me to a very black place... there's something about not being able to run that just eats at a runner...)
But then I reminded myself: I am still able-bodied and healthy, I just need some rest.

Peanut looking as tired as I felt this morning!
I got frustrated with my cat because the full moon fools her into thinking 2am is "dawn." She wants to wake Hubby and I up to play! This is night 3 of interrupted sleep... Grumble. YAWN
But then I realized: Peanut is just trying to be affectionate. (But don't think for a second that I'm going to feel bad when I wake her up from her mid-day nap! Payback, kitty! Payback!)

These reminders aren't intended to make people complacent. Some problems really are worth getting mad about. Some problems really do need fixing. But some just aren't worth the energy, and some really aren't "problems" at all. Sometimes it's just better to look for those silver linings.

What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, November 8

When I can't run

First things first, despite the title of this post, I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as "can't." There is only "won't" or "don't want to."

So let's call today an "I won't run" day, because I need to rest. That said, when I hopped out of bed this morning, of course, the first thing I wanted to do was GET OUT AND RUN. It's like the "pink elephant" dilemma. Tell someone "don't think about a pink elephant" and the first thing that pops into that person's mind is...
It never fails: my motivation to run is never so strong as on a necessary rest day.

Clearly I needed to channel that energy into something productive.
Otherwise I'd wind up obsessing all day about pink elephants. Or running. Take your pick.
I did yoga.
Karen Voight's YogaSculpt is the first yoga "class" I ever completed. I purchased and practiced with the DVD before I ever set foot in a studio, because, you know, I didn't want to show up to a class completely clueless. While the series is a little basic for me now, I still resort to that DVD when I need a restful day.
I baked pumpkin oatmeal bread (which is a riff off of this banana-oatmeal bread recipe).
 And I had a delicious breakfast before work.

What do you do when you "can't" (or shouldn't) run?

Pink elephant courtesy of jcarwash31

Monday, November 7

Extra time

I have all the time in the world!
This weekend I slept an extra hour thanks to the ol' turn-the-clocks-back trick. I saved another hour thanks to a super-short Sunday run (pre-race taper), and I gave my students a quiz last week, rather than a paper, so my grading took much less time than usual.

I should be thrilled with all this extra time, right?
Oddly, I woke up feeling blue and bored.
(Maybe I've got taper brain? Is that even possible for a half marathon? I've never noticed it before...)
My recalcitrant hip is still not on board with the idea of running a half marathon next weekend, so I'm sure that has an influence on my state of mind...
But, as much as I wanted to, I wouldn't let myself sit and sulk.
I grabbed my To Do list and started checking items off.
  • Vacuum house: check
  • Nail loose boards on fence: check
  • Pull old tomato plants out of garden: check
  • Rake leaves out of driveway: check
  • Grade papers: check
  • Update blog format: check

I didn't feel any better by dinnertime, but I did complete several tasks I've been neglecting for weeks. And this morning... seeing the yard in better shape, the house clean, and a stack of quizzes graded... I think I'm starting to feel better.

I also spent some time researching January half marathons. I will do my best on Sunday, but I can stop being anxious about my hip if I know I have another chance to "prove myself" in a couple of months.

And now... I'm also going to take myself for a walk on the beach. After all, it's 7am and the sun is shining! I have three hours before I need to be at work!

What did you do with your extra hour this weekend?
What do you think of the new blog format?
Any suggestions for further changes?

Photos courtesy of healingdream / and someecards