“To Build a Fire”

You may have read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” in high school; oddly enough, I didn’t encounter it until I took an Aesthetics course in college. It’s worth a read I’d you’re not familiar with it, and you can easily find the full text online. The story details the ill-fated voyage if a man and his dog during the man’s first winter in the Yukon. After falling through ice into water and watching his first attempt at a fire be extinguished by falling snow, the overconfident man is finally betrayed by his fingers, which were too numb to build a fire, so he succumbs to the extreme cold.

My Thursday morning run kind of felt like that.

The temperature was in the 20s and the running gloves I donned are not lined. I wasn’t fatigued and the rest of me wasn’t cold, but I seriously considered turning around at the three-mile point in order to save my frigid digits. Through sheer force of will I managed to postpone my turnaround to just after the four-mile point so my whole run totaled over eight miles. When I got back to Jenny’s I was thrilled to see her car still in the driveway. Although I’d brought keys, I didn’t trust myself to manipulate them, so I banged on the glass to get her attention.

Once inside, my first instinct was to run my hands under warm water. That elicited nothing but pain: a deep, aching soreness unlike anything I’d ever felt. The kind of cold I’ve felt in my fingers after packing and slinging snowballs with bare hands pales in comparison to what I felt this morning.

Always one to take thoughtful care of me, Jenny put a towel and a sheet in the dryer to get warm, and gave them to me after a few minutes when they were nice and toasty. The gentle heat restored my fingers to life and I was able to get ready for work.

I hate running on a treadmill (I get so bored!), but I’m seriously considering it for short runs when it’s as bitterly cold as it was yesterday morning. Running on a treadmill seems like a chore rather than a privilege, so we’ll see how desperate I get to avoid the winter weather.

Running in the Snow and Other Musings

Since my office follows the lead of the federal government’s OPM, today is a snow day for me. Woohoo!

I checked the OPM guidance before heading out on my run. When I stepped outside, I laughed inwardly a little about the government’s temerity: it wasn’t that cold and the wet patches on the roads and sidewalks weren’t icy. My run was going great for the first 7.5 miles, until the sky opened up and started pelting me with sharp needles of snow. I squinted through bombarded eyelids and managed to run the 1.5 miles back to my house as the sidewalks and streets quickly acquired a crusty layer of snow. My hoped for 14-mile run was curtailed into a 9-mile run. Oh what might have been!

In the same “oh what might have been!” vein, I realize that I missed out on a chance to do some interesting reviews based on the OG versions of two popular models and updated versions. I had the OG New Balance 890 and the OG Brooks PureFlow. It’s been too long since I last ran in either pair for me to make any meaningful comparisons to the 890v4 or the PureFlow 2, both of which I recently picked up.

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OG New Balance 890

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OG Brooks PureFlow

And it’s not just a matter of dusting off my old shoes and taking them out for a few runs. It’s been so long since I wore those shoes that my feet have changed shape. They went from a women’s 9.5 to a women’s 8.5 and back to a women’s 9.5/men’s 8 (if the men’s colors are better; read: not pink) and these shoes were from my size 8.5 days. Consequently, I donated them to a shoe drive for Soles4Souls held by Jenny’s Crossfit gym so someone who needs them can enjoy them since they’re still in good condition. So really, this musing about a missed opportunity has a happy ending! And besides, there’s plenty of shoe review goodness coming down the pipe for your reading pleasure: New Balance 890v4, Saucony Kinvara 4, New Balance 870v3, New Balance 1400v2, Brooks PureFlow 2, Brooks PureCadence 2, the resurrected Brooks Launch, and maybe a few others.

Staving Off Runner’s Cabin Fever by Remembering to Appreciate Other Things

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I turned 24 this week. My friends and family have always done a great job of making sure that my birthday doesn’t get forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and this year was no exception. I enjoyed a tremendous dinner at Brian Voltaggio’s restaurant Range on my actual birthday: lamb so tender I could cut it with my fork, savory roasted carrots, chewy chocolate and peanut butter cookies sandwiched around peanut butter and salted caramel ice cream, and a smoky mezcal drink to wash it all down. This past weekend Jenny and I traveled to New York City for an even more sumptuous meal at the Gotham Bar and Grill. I started off with a vibrant beet salad and a beet-enhanced margarita made with jalapeno-infused tequila, which was followed by a hearty duck confit rissoto. I would’ve been perfectly satisfied had the meal stopped after the rissoto, but I managed to stretch my stomach still further for a piece of delicate red snapper paired with a tomato confit. Dessert was a rich, smooth flourless chocolate cake that texturally had more in common with custard than with traditional layer cake.20131209-230614.jpg20131209-230251.jpg

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I love to eat, so these special dinners were beyond awesome.

I’m not so serious in my training that I can’t have fun or eat food that isn’t strictly healthy. I also acknowledge that I won’t sacrifice other things for my running, for instance, I don’t want to be rail thin and have no upper body strength. I can do 19 full lock-out reverse grip chin-ups and 12 full lock-out forward grip pull-ups — I like having that skill, and if having the upper body mass to do it holds me back, so be it.

I was feeling a little cabin feverish today since the DC area got a bit of snow and ice yesterday. (All it takes is about three inches of snow for the city to lose its freaking mind.) The poor weather nearly doubled my bus ride back from New York, so I wasn’t able to do my long run.

Friday is usually my rest day, but knowing I’d be in New York for such a short time, I didn’t want to waste any of the trip doing long runs, so I planned to fit my 14 miles in before work. Life has a way of intervening with the best laid plans, and I ended up sleeping horribly on Thursday night: couldn’t fall asleep until after 11:00 pm, woke up around 2:00 am sweaty and burning up. My sleepy self thought it’d be a good idea to apply a sample packet of Icy Hot Naturals to my back in order to cool off, so I went from too hot to FREEZING in no time flat. Rough night. I wasn’t able to haul myself out of bed in time for 14 miles, but I did get in 10, which was more than enough to cover the 8 miles my training plan required of me for Sunday, so I figured I could accomplish 14 on Sunday after getting back from New York, or at least 12, for the same mileage total.

That obviously didn’t happen.

And this morning the sidewalks were treacherous with a layer of sleet, so I couldn’t reasonably skip my Monday rest day and turn it into a 14-mile day. Early morning dark plus ice doesn’t add up to any good outcomes. So I’m looking at swapping the run in later this week, in place of either my Friday rest day or one of my short mileage days. We’re expecting 2-4 inches of snow tomorrow and I’m headed out of town this weekend, so getting even one long run in may prove to be a challenge.

*rapid breathing* *accelerated heart rate*

I had to remind myself to not get panicky about missing scheduled workouts. Missing a run isn’t going to destroy my fitness. Enjoying a couple of celebratory dinners isn’t going to pack the 37 pounds back onto my frame. A single day inside shouldn’t give me cabin fever. I have a life outside of running, replete with other things I love to do, and sometimes, something has to give. This time, my long run got axed from the schedule and it’s not the end of the world. I lifted my nose up from the proverbial grindstone to enjoy some other things, and like that heavenly chocolate cake, it was sweet.

Saucony Trail Run

Today is easily the coldest day so far this fall. I’d signed up for a fun run hosted by Saucony (the regional Saucony rep brought shoes to take for a test run) and Potomac River Running held at Lake Fairfax Park. I started the run with the 90-minute group, but I lost them at the turnaround. Everybody else turned around where they were and instead I decided to run the 50-ish uphill yards to the point where the front of the group turned around. Big mistake, as I went from the front half of the pack to second-to-last in the group. I quickly lost sight of the people in front of me and when I got to a road crossing near the parking lot which was a 4-6-way intersection, I had no idea which way they’d gone. So I made my own way. I chose a path that took me back to where my group started. After a few minutes I linked up with the 60-minute group and ran back to the parking lot with them. My legs felt pretty tired, but I tacked on a few more minutes to push my total mileage for the outing above six — the mileage I’d prescribed myself in my training plan.

I’m glad that I didn’t go for the full 90-minutes. Targeting that group was really a matter of pride. When I’m running a shorter event at a race that offers multiple distances, I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough, not trying as hard as I can. Part of the discipline of training is sticking with the mileage/workout that’s right for me at the right time, not just hacking through something because I’m physically capable of surviving it.

My trail running club has a casual 25+ mile run on its calendar for Black Friday. It seems like all of the club runs are for ultrarunners. Since I’m just a wannabe right now, it’s a little intimidating and is keeping me from being as involved as I’d like to be. I’ve been thinking about doing the Black Friday run in order to meet some other members, but a 25-mile trek doesn’t fit with my training schedule for next week. The smartest thing for my training would probably be to not participate in the run. I suffer from a pretty debilitating case of runner’s FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) — witness my eight race weekends in a row from earlier this fall — so saying no to something that interests me is a big step in the direction of running discipline.

Saturday Long Run

After a less than stellar experience in my second run in my new Kinvara 4s (more on them later when I’ve put enough miles in them to write an informed review), I worried that I’d worn myself out with my crazy fall race schedule, so I skipped the four miles I’d assigned myself for Wednesday in my training plan and truncated my assigned Thursday miles from six to under five. Not a great start to the training plan.

Unsure of whether taking the rest was a good thing or simply a sign of my inability to stick to a training plan, I was staring down my appointed 10 miles for today with some trepidation. I didn’t want to overdo it and hurt myself and I also didn’t want to cheat myself by not working hard enough.

The first four-ish miles were pretty miserable, but I gutted through them and was rewarded with a glorious final four miles in what turned out to be an 11.04 mile run. Success! I’m still enjoying the endorphin high.

The Beginning

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I’m the kind of person who relishes new notebooks and months that start on Mondays — I like fresh starts and beginning at the beginning. So although this blog is coming into my running life in medias res after 64 races, its arrival does coincide with a beginning: the beginning of the off-season.

After a 2013 which saw me run upwards of 30 races including eight weekends in a row with a race of at least 10 miles, this fall and three marathons in four weeks (also part of that eight week streak), I’m taking some time off from racing. My wallet is ready for the break, I’m ready to not have to fight a logistical battle every week to get myself to packet pickup and the start line, and my body is ready to recover. Also, I’ve never really trained specifically for a race; I just run when I feel like running and I run however much I feel like running. The focus of this offseason will be on actually training and preparing adequately for races. I’m physically strong and gritty so I’ve experienced a lot of success recently in races, including a PR by about 12 minutes in my final marathon of the three marathons in four weekends sequence I ran this fall and a PR in the half marathon I ran in the middle of that sequence! But I want to do even better. That means racing less (even though I love it) and training intelligently.

I’m targeting a 50k in February, so this is week one of a 12-week training plan I’ve developed for myself, yet another beginning.

Looking ahead at what I hope to write in this blog, I’d like to cover the following:

-Gear I Use (teaser: I have two new pairs of shoes I’ve never had before)
-Stuff I Like (distinct from Gear I Use)
-Race Recaps (later on…)
-Stories from My Life
-My Routine
-Gear Reviews

Sound good? I think it’s a start.