Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Race Report

So, even though we signed up and paid the fee and all, I have decided not to try to do the ORRRC Turkey Trot this year on our Thanksgiving trip to Ohio. It's just too much with both of us being or recovering from being sick, and then not at home to boot. Getting into town just the night before, having to get up early, figuring out who's taking care of Buddy while at the same time dinner preparations (and early imbibing) are going on... you get the picture. If I could drive myself to the race site I would still do it, because then it would just be me away for a while out of a whole household of adults, and The Dude could take care of Buddy, even while still under the weather. But I can't drive his stick shift. I've been looking forward to this for a couple of months - I so enjoyed running it with The Dude on our first Thanksgiving together - but it's not worth the physical or emotional effort this year.

So this Thanksgiving I will pack up Buddy in the back carrier and go for a hike with The Dude on the trails by Nana's house. And then come back and eat too much pie and watch football and try to keep Buddy from breaking anything valuable.

May you all have safe travels and happy homes this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Scary Movie Month - Who Knew?

My darling husband, who apparently has more free time on his hands than I do, put together a list of the scary movies we've seen during SMM since we met. I don't even remember most of these, but defer to his frightening ability to remember all things media-related. I've marked the ones I do remember watching (plus the ones I remembered once I IMDb'd them).

*Young Frankenstein
*The Thing (1982 version)
*American Werewolf in London
--- All winners this year, I think that's how he suckered me into this tradition.

*Corpse Bride
*The Howling
*Evil Dead 2
*Fright Night
*Van Helsing
--- Not quite the all-star lineup of 2005, but with the exception of "Van Helsing," all worth watching.

Nightmare on Elm Street
Teen Wolf
*Bride of Frankenstein
Mystery Science Theater 3K: Touch of Satan
Jeepers Creepers
--- Since I've worked hard to forget that I saw these (aside from Bride), I'm not going to comment. This wasn't a good year for either of us, so I'm not surprised that our SMM suffered as well.

*They Live
The Monster Squad
Friday the 13th: Part 4
*Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
*Army of Darkness
*Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
--- I remember "Phantasm" but wish I didn't. Same for "MS's Frankenstein" - this was the one with Kenneth Branagh. "Army of Darkness" was a lot of fun, and the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was really interesting, and, of course, great preparation for this year's viewing of the 1978 version. I have a fondness for both John Carpenter and Stephen King, so even though I'm not crazy about either "They Live" or "Creepshow," I don't regret seeing them. (I'm not crazy about them because they creeped me out too well, not because I didn't think they were good.)

And that's it until next year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scary Movie Month - The End

Well, we've finally come to the (much-delayed) end of Scary Movie Month. After my last SMM post our movie watching got derailed by illness and changing schedules, making both of us determined to go to bed as early as possible, as often as possible. But we were equally determined to finish off at least a couple more movies (and the last of the candy). So here goes.

On Halloween, with a poor pitiful Buddy having made our going-out plans impossible, we settled in to watch Night of the Comet. I feel it is my duty to tell you to spare yourself the same misery. Horrible 80's music - they didn't have the budget to get the hits. (They used a cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun".) Horrible, horrible 80's clothes. Boring for the first half, with miserable dialogue, and then, once it got interesting, a ludicrous ending. It was meant to be a "Valley" horror movie - well, gag me with a spoon.

It was at this point that we got derailed by the aforementioned travails, and for a while I was seriously considering giving up and returning the rest of the movies. Good thing I didn't! We (unwittingly) saved the scariest for last: Drag Me To Hell by Sam Raimi. Bad dialogue? Yes. Campy? Yes. Made me shriek, jump from my seat, turn my face to the wall, clutch at The Dude - over and over again? Yes. Would I see this movie again, especially now I know where the (really) scary bits are? In a heartbeat.

So with that, we close out Scary Movie Month 2009. Definitely a memorable month for movies. My top five for this year? "Coraline," "Let the Right One In," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Gojira," and, of course, "Drag Me to Hell."

Let the Christmas movies begin!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Hate Daylight Savings

Big surprise there, I'm sure, I haven't ever met anyone who actually thought it was a good idea. But now I hate it for a whole new reason...

Buddy's 5:30 a.m. wake up time has now become 4:30 a.m..


Nothing we have done this past week seems to help shift his internal clock, so I have now given up and accepted the new time.

And you know, it's not the 4:30 waking that I mind so much, 'cause we've had some really nice mornings together - it's wonderful to have that extra time with him before daycare/work.

But oh, it's so hard to get myself to bed early enough...

Blessings to babies and mamas (and papas, and grandmas) waking up early all over the world.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Sweet Smell of Success - Hot Chocolate 15K Race Report

Okay, so I'll just come out and say it - I kicked ass. Final time of 1:39:26, for an average pace of 10:41. Just want to point out that at the beginning of this season I ran a 5K at a 12:08 pace. Despite the ups-and-downs of this season, clearly my training is paying off.

Now for the report.

It was a beautiful day, clear, sunny, not too breezy. I was running late as usual but had no problem finding Allison at the entrance to the park which was good since she had my race packet. And then it turned out that the start for the 15K wouldn't be until 8:30 anyway so we had plenty of time. After gear check and porta-pottie visits there wasn't really anything to do but go line up, so we bounced up and down to stay warm and I talked her ear off about running and Buster's current illness. She is very patient with me. The 5K folks started, we moved forward into our pace sections and waited some more - at that point it was too loud to talk.

At exactly 8:30 we were off, though it took about eight minutes before we actually crossed the start line. LOTS of people on this course which was actually pretty narrow, so I ended up going at a faster pace than I meant to, just to make sure I didn't get boxed in. To be honest, I loved it. I loved the way the course changed constantly, with curves, rises, dips, bumps, curbs, grass, sand, dirt, even tree roots. I loved how I had to constantly pass people, not for the sake of passing them but to make sure I always had room to move, looking for gaps and moving into them, seeing where spaces were closing and moving to avoid them. And there were hills! - little ones to be sure but I loved the feel of them, trucking up the rise and then letting myself fly on the way down. I knew I wasn't going to be able to maintain the pace I was at, but oh gosh, it was fun.

This went on for about three miles, and then things started to spread out a little bit (though I was surprised at how crowded the course was at every point - I really am used to being "back of the pack" in all my races and there's a bit more room back there). I had been waiting for a good moment to drop my speed down and just could never find it, until I got a wicked side stitch which decided the matter for me. Luckily I'm pretty used to side stitches so I knew I could keep running, I would just need to slow down a bit and breathe into the stitch to recover, though this one was strong enough that I actually did stop for a moment to stretch.

And then I kept going, and let myself just run. I had worried a bit about how I would keep myself going without my iPod, since I almost always listen to music on my runs (not during races). An hour and a half with just your thoughts can be a long time. But there was so much to pay attention to it was never an issue. Mostly my feet, to make sure I wasn't going to trip on the curb or another runner, but I tried to remember to look up and around from time to time since the course was so pretty - through the lakefront park, back along the lake, back onto the path with all the trees in full fall color, through the playing fields and golf course. From time to time I would catch up with Allison, chat for a bit, then slip back again. I thought about when I would want to pick up the pace again - not too soon, so I could be sure to sustain it for the rest of the way - but not so late that I missed the opportunity to shave off some time.

At 5 miles I stopped, had my GU*, and drank some water. Then after that I must have spaced out for a bit, since I missed the time clock at 6 miles. I remember thinking that it had to have been 6 miles already, and then as we came up to another time clock praying that it would be the 7 mile one, please God, not 6 miles. I was feeling okay but didn't really want to have another 3+ miles to go, especially if I wanted to finish strong.

At that point I decided to seriously think about picking up my speed, at least for 100 meter increments if I didn't feel like I could stay at the quicker pace for the rest of the race. I saw Allison in front of me and caught up to her, planning on dropping back after a while, but we were talking and then suddenly the harbor was in front of us and there was only another mile and a half to go. I stayed with her as we swept around the curve of the harbor arm, out into the lake with the Chicago skyline spread before us, let her slip ahead as we made the tight turn back around the other side of the harbor arm into the park, and then we were at half a mile left and I started going even faster in 100m bursts, and then we hit the 9 mile clock and the finish line was just visible in the distance through the trees and around the curves and then we were at 200 meters, then 100, then 50 and I sprinted ahead to finish just before her. Because I am a competitive little weasel, after all, and Allison, bless her heart, is not.

And then we were done. Almost immediately volunteers popped up with bags full of Halloween candy for the taking, waves and waves of them. (It is called the Hot Chocolate 15K, after all.) We walked around to get our bearings, then went to gear check, meaning to meet up again on the other side to get our hot chocolate and post-race food (fruit, pretzels, graham cracks in, oh yes, chocolate fondue). But we both got held up at gear check which was the only thing about the whole race that seemed poorly organized, and by the time I got through I assumed she was already done and lost somewhere in the crowd. I texted her to let her know I was leaving and headed home.

So how is it that I did so much better than I was expecting? Well, all season long I've been working with the McMillan Running Calculator, plugging in my best times and then using it to determine my training paces. It had given me the estimate of 10:38 pace for a 15K, but honestly, I just didn't believe it. I think I don't yet have enough experience with racing - really racing, as opposed to running races for fun - to have a good sense of how the race itself changes things.

My watch doesn't allow me to record splits but this is what my approximate ones were:
  • miles 1-3 @ 10:30
  • miles 4-7 @ 10:55
  • mile 8 @ 10:45
  • mile 9 @ 10:30
  • last 0.3 miles @ 10:03
In my age group, I placed 387th out of 546, so about 2/3 of the way back. Not Speedy Gonzalez by any means, but certainly no longer "back of the pack." This is new, and exciting, and a little bit scary. What might I do next? What could I have done in that race if I had really believed I was capable of running it faster? These are exciting, and scary, things to think about.

At the same time, it's clear to me that I could not have done it without support. Support all season long from The Dude, who listened to my obsessing and encouraged my heading out every Sunday, even if sometimes I came home to "I thought you would never get back!" and a crying child. And support from Allison around the actual race, from being willing to do it with me in the first place, to picking up my race packet when it was clear I couldn't negotiate taking Buster way up north for his shots and then back south to the race expo (all on public transportation), to being an unsuspecting pacer through most of the race and then not giving me grief about my urge to "win" at the end. (For the sake of complete honesty, in the official time-keeping she actually placed before me - I must have crossed the start line before her as well).

So I am grateful to The Dude and to Allison, and grateful to the McMillan race calculator (I will heed its counsel more closely in the future), and grateful for my health and opportunities and this funny odd desire to run fast - at least as fast I may be able.

*For my non-runner readers, GU is a sports gel for easy digestion on long runs. It's the only brand I've been able to tolerate - the stuff is as nasty as it sounds.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ready to Race!

Race day. 6:02 a.m. Sick child, sick mama, not enough sleep. Par for the course this season - par for the course of having a young child. I am revising my race goals upward, back to my original one of an 11:20 pace.

But it looks to be sunny and clear with only mild breezes. The trees have not yet lost all their leaves and we are beginning and ending at Montrose Harbor with their gorgeous fields of wildflowers - a beautiful day and a beautiful course for a race. This All Saints' Day I will run in memory of all our mothers and all the women who have come before us and made our world a beautiful place, using their strength and determination and endurance to move forward and to make things better for their children and for all children - that is to say, for all of us. I am privileged to be able to spend my energy and focus on running, and I hope in some way, through this sport I love, to be able to make the world better too.