Thursday, April 16, 2009

Worst Run of the Season


Wednesday night was not fun. At all. Wednesday night, in fact, was the kind of night that makes me wonder why in the heck we are training for a marathon....and who is to blame for our madness???

Nick and I met up with the Team in Training running group for a 40 minute run on the Coastal Trail. Perky was the coach last night. She is hard not to like; she is energetic and bubbly and nice and runs REALLY REALLY fast. Mentor was also there. He is one of the people to be named later in my Finger Pointing series because of a very inspirational speech we heard him give detailing his transformation from one of us (beer drinking, smoking, everyday guy) to one of them (athlete, runner, marathoner, Boston marathoner). He also runs REALLY REALLY fast.

The two team members that showed up for the run (besides Nick and I) were DTM and Prison Guard. Prison Guard is not actually a prison guard. He is a first time 26.2 marathoner but has run Mt. Marathon a couple times. I fantasize about running Mt. Marathon, scrabbling up the mountain on all four as fast as I can, descending in a cloud of dust and rock, running bloody and scraped to the finish line. I know, it is a weird fantasy. I can't help it.

DTM is one of my favorites. DanTheMan if you must know. DTM is like me, he is a chubby-bubby and he sweats. DTM also doesn't stop. He runs and runs and runs - it is quite inspirational. Did I mention I like DTM?

Anyhoodle. We started running and I immediately regretted my shoe choice. Nick and I had both optimistically worn our summer shoes after the previous day's run. On Tuesday, we had worn our studded winter shoes on roads that were in fact, bone dry. So now, on Wednesday, we made the opposite error. We both wore lightweight, unstudded shoes on soft snowy trail.

Alaska has three seasons: a nine month winter, a two month summer and one month of breakup. Breakup is the long, ugly, depressing period after winter and before summer that we are in right now. The 70+ inches of snow that fell over the course of the winter have morphed into layers of hard-pack, dirt, and ice. As the layers start to melt, they expose a winter's worth of our sins: litter and an extraordinary amount of dog poop. The gravel we relied upon for chemical-free traction on the ice all winter leaves the town dusty and many of our cars with spider cracks on our windshields. During this time period, the ground is still frozen enough under the blanket of old snow and ice that not all of the run-off is absorbed, and so our sewer drains back up quickly, creating lakes of ice water on the roads and along the trails. Ohhhhhh and how lovely it smells. Mmmmmm, melted dog poop and trash. Yum.

Nick and I were running through this wet, mucky, gravely snow in our lightweight, breathable summer shoes. Almost immediately, Perky, Prison Guard and Mentor pulled away and took the lead. My inner competitive self attempted to keep up, but honestly, I just couldn't do it. Running in that wet, sloggy, gravely snow mixed with puddles felt like a bad dream, the one where you run and run as hard and fast as you can, but you just don't get anywhere. With each step, my feet were slipping, my ankles were twisting, my feet were getting wet up to the ankles and, really, I wanted to cry. But that would have made me a wuss. And lord knows I couldn't let the boys see me cry. So I sucked it up and started saying the alphabet over and over in my head in an attempt to distract myself.

DTM started to pull away from Nick and I, leaving us in last place. Yes, I know it is not a race, but last place is last place, period. Dan-the-Man had left us in the dust and we were now officially the back of the pack for our first time in the season.

Then Nick started walking. His achilles was flaring up from the stress of the terrain. Normally I would have walked with him, but Nick told me to keep going, to try to catch up with the others. I realized that Nick was going to keep trying to run unless I agreed to leave him behind, so I set off in a futile attempt to get closer to the other runners. The coastal trail is a hilly, winding trail and fairly quickly I lost sight of both Nick behind me and DTM in front of me. I have the least amount of motivation when I run alone and I was summoning every fiber of my being to just keep running.

Mind you, this whole time my agony was compounded because the coastal trail was busy, and other, better, faster runners were passing me like they were running on dry pavement. One especially jovial, must-be-an-alien-or-a-superhero-in-disguise runner felt the need to shout to me, "Great pace! Keep up the good work!" I was so exhausted and out of breath that I couldn't even muster a "thanks", instead, I mumbled, "tthhhkkyyy". Huh?

Then I saw the most delightful sight. I saw a vision that lifted my soul and gave me the energy to to keep going, a vision so fantastic that the theme to Rocky started playing in my brain.

It was DTM running towards me. We had reached the time for turn-around.

I am weak minded. I am Pavlov's dog. As soon as we turned around, my legs found strength, my lungs expanded, and suddenly I was able to pick up pace because my body knows this is the second half of the run, and the faster I run, the sooner it will be over. Even DTM noticed my increase in pace! When we reached Nick, he started to jog with us and within a few minutes, Perky, Prison Guard and Mentor caught up with us, too.

And then we caught up with Mama Moose. And her calf. On the trail. We were stuck on the South side of the trail with three walkers and the moose would not take her eyes off of us. We tried waiving our arms, clapping, moving as a group, but she would have none of it. She kept taking steps towards us, posturing and bluffing. Finally, we climbed down off the trail and passed her in the lower section of the woods, using the trees to keep her from having a clear charging path. We trudged through the piles of snow with our wet shoes, laughing and chatting and agreeing that only Alaskan runners understand our trail hazards. My body started to cool and I shivered from my sweat and thought:

Oh how I love Alaska.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finger Pointing, Part III

This morning we woke up later than we had planned but decided to run anyway. We didn't head out the door until after 6:30, so we were cutting our timing close.

Our morning activity list included: 4.91 mile run, 1 hopefully-not-serious calf injury (Nick), breakfast for 5, showers for 2, lunches for 4, hairstyling for 3 including 1 set of french braids for school pictures, 6 reminders to brush teeth (2x per kid), 1 trip downstairs to ensure our eldest was awake, 1 dog to feed, 2 fish to feed, 3 sets of boots to find, 2 Thursday folders to take to school, 1 tie to tie (Big C wanted to wear a tie for school pictures), 1 changing of outfits after Dinky T discovered her dress was WAY too small, 1 realization that the snow was enough to need shoveling, 1 pot of coffee made, 2 glasses of nuun, 1 phone call from a distressed boss, 1 hurried kiss, 2 cars to drive 3 kids to 2 different schools, 1 trip back into the house for 1 forgotten lunch box, popping the trunk latch 5 times to add/remove items for school, 1 reconfiguration of kids in cars, and 17 reminders to "hurry".

I'm tired.

And I don't think it was the run. Our morning schedule does beg a few questions: Where do things like boots and Thursday folders go overnight? Why don't we have an "Alice"? Why do we run for 50 minutes in the morning? Why do I love my life so much?

Time for more finger pointing.

Guilty Party #4: Nick (Yes, honey, I am blaming you.)

The essential problem with Nick is that he is perfect for me. I am not sure I have ever met anyone as crazy as I am. I feel like making lists today, so here are the top 10 reasons why Nick is to blame for my running addiction.

1. He agreed to do body for life with me.
2. He tells me frequently that he loves me exactly as I am but will help with any goal I have to be healthy. This prevents me from resenting him because he is not supportive enough, "but I like chubby bubbies", or too supportive, "put down that donut fatso".
3. He is very handsome.
4. He likes to have bragging rights as much as I do, so the marathon is appealing.
5. He makes an excellent workout partner. He makes positive comments, talks the perfect amount of time, and tolerates my crankiness.
6. He taught me how to use free weights.
7. He is willing to wake me up in the morning, which is a REALLY unpleasant task. Trust me.
8. He is in better shape than I am and he runs faster than me. I am competitive so I push myself to improve my performance because secretly I want to beat him.
9. He carries the water.
10. He will run at -20.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Minus 20

During January, we had an exceptionally cold spell. It was negative 20 with additional wind chill. Here we are pre-run:

and post:

It wasn't so bad, other than our eyes freezing. I would love to hear how others get around this. We tried goggles, but they froze. Nick does not show as much post run frost because he melted while taking my picture. Runners in Fairbanks run at do they do it?