Monday, January 26, 2009

It's Official!

I was nowhere even near my predicted time for the race and am even more pleased with what I did.

Yep!  I ran a 15:36.1 for 2 miles or a 7:48 pace. 1:03.9 minutes faster than my prediction.

Took 9th in my division (out of 11 but the winner ran a 9:54 or a 4:57 pace), 107th place out of 145 runners, and I now have 5 series points (what can I spend these on?). 

I am over the moon about this. :-)

Congrats to PT too who had a fantastic race. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Race Report: Race 4-Winter Grand Prix 2-mile Road Run (Prediction Event)

The What:
Prediction Time Event!
Predict your time on our flat, double-loop course! There will be special prizes for the people who come closest to their predicted time without receiving any assistance – no watches, no sundials (lots of luck there anyway in a January race!), no calendars, no covert signals or more-than-encouraging remarks from the sidelines! The clock will be at the accurate half-mile point, and will be shut off for lap two (and will not be at the finish).

The prediction sheet will be at registration -- just stop by and put your race number, name, and predicted time in the appropriate places! You do not have to predict a time to run, but you do have to predict a time to win this special contest! And, yes, you have to make that prediction before we start the event!
To which we need to add:
Unfair advantage warning: we will be on the lookout for hand signals, hidden watches, or other assistance! We heard last year that someone timed their music on their iPod and predicted that for their time, so no MP3 players will be allowed, either!

How did I do?

A sundial might have just been a good idea as today is one of those brilliantly sunny and optimistic Seattle winter days—the kind that fools you into thinking that we've turned the corner but will eventually disappoint you all the way into June (with some brief brilliance in May). But, OH MY, was it cold, 29 degrees when PT picked me up. It felt strange to leave without my Garmin but quite liberating too. It is funny, the more you know from of all the data you can collect the less you may actually know about your body as a functioning whole (at least this often the case for me). 

We got there early and PT went off to begin her warm-up and I entered my prediction (16:40, a little faster than my first time for this race) and then began my warm-up trot along the course. I was looking for ice and was not disappointed just a little north of Kite Hill. The puddles had frozen and were quite slippery. I ended up with about a 1.25 miles of warm-up, stretched a bit, and then trotted up and down Kite Hill out on the course for another .25-.35 miles. As I was stretching again a kid came running up, jumped up on the concrete pylon I was using, and said "Look at me Dad!" I looked up when he said this. The boy looked down at me and as he did a look of embarrassment clouded his face. "Uh! Sorry!" he said and then ran off to find his father. I don't look like anyone's dad and, at that moment, I felt very old. Thanks kid! :-P

Something like 130 runners showed up and I overheard the announcer plaintively asking "Where is everybody?" PT and I surmised that it was just too cold but more and more people turned up the closer it got to start time. Even so, the start line seemed uncrowded and it the start horn was kind of a surprise. 

The first .15 to .25 miles felt a bit rough to me as if I had some trouble gaining my rhythm. My left knee felt strange even a bit sore and I was worried that it was going to become problematic but that went away fairly quickly and I put it down to the new shoes I was wearing. There were a lot of high school (and younger) runners out there and it seemed that everyone was blasting past me. A woman wearing a Marine Corps Marathon jacket threaded her way through another runner and I and went out in front. She became my rabbit for a short time as I caught and passed her by the time we got to .30 miles. A young kid also went past me very fast, with such a wonderfully natural and effortless kick that I felt a momentary pang of jealousy. But his/her wheels came off and I passed by the ice puddles at .4. After that I was running pretty much alone, occasionally passing people and only periodically being passed. I could hear people behind me but I just didn't look back. Instead I used their breathing and footfalls and the desire not to get passed as a motivator. It worked and I ran fast and smoothly feeling and enjoying the effort. 

Perhaps you can imagine my surprise at hitting the first mile in 7:45? 

I was stunned and new that there was no way that I was going to be anywhere near my prediction (I should have been running an 8:20 instead). At that moment the race changed for me and I decided that I would try to maintain as fast a pace as I could for the next mile. 

During the second mile I became very conscious of just how cold my hands and legs actually were. The sun felt good  and the air was still but there was plenty of apparent wind. For a time I regretted my decision not to wear gloves but this had all disappeared by the 1.6 mark. The last .40 was a blur as I debated when I should start my surge towards the finish. I waited until 1.9 miles to sprint and found that I didn't have that much more acceleration in my. I was alone, and could not hear anyone behind me until a kid, legs and arms flailing,  zoomed past me in the last moments before the chutes. Couldn't hear him coming that is how light he was on his feet (impressive). I came in 108th but haven't a clue what my finish time was. Still, I felt wonderful. 

Made absolutely sure that my writing was legible on my finish card and went out for a cool down trot up Kite Hill and down again and some stretching. Then some warm coffee. PT came up to me with a big grin and hands full of coffee, cookies, and rice crispy treats courtesy of SJ'NJ. I got mine too, slammed some coffee, got back into my sweats and warmed up during the car ride home. 

What did I learn?
  • Relying on HRM's and GPS devices has made it more difficult for me to judge what I am doing at any given moment. Today's run was a reminder that I need to be more holistic in sensing rather than particularistic. Learning what each pace feels like to me has been a real challenge and one that I'll need to continue to chip away at
  • Racing Nookachamps last weekend certainly helped get me closer towards the ability to push the pace. I haven't run a sub-8 pace for quite some time, since Ragnar actually, and the fact that I did so today has me quite optimistic
  • OK, OK, I admit it. I am sandbagger. But I am not going to feel badly about it. During my warm-up I overheard some people talking about one of their friends who also is a sandbagger. One suggested that it is one way that people motivate themselves to do better. Spot on I think
  • The new shoes are nice —Mizuno Wave Elixir 4's. These are the lightest road shoes I've ever owned and are a joy to run in (yesterday's test run felt really wonderful). They have little studs in the forefoot area that can be a bit grabby depending upon the surface. Mostly they are air-conditioned and light. BUT I think they are not going to be a very good long-run training shoe and I'll need to find something for that

I cannot wait for the posting of the official times!

Next up: Two Mile Track Race on 2/7/09 at Nathan Hale High School
Run hard and keep turning left!

The two-mile track event at Nathan Hale High School will be run in heats according to your pace, so remember to sign the heat sheet when you arrive. The “fast” heat will be the only one with a set time, and is usually first. The other heats will be scheduled based on pace and/or the number of people running. Please check in and sign a heat sheet when you arrive. A preliminary heat schedule will be presented at the second road race and posted on and We reserve the right to change start times and consolidate heats! Just run hard and keep making left turns.

This will be another first for me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Library Challenge

Under the Needle: Runner tried to reach every Seattle library in a single day
Ultrarunners (from left) Sam Thompson, Jonathan Bernard and Devon Crosby-Helms arrive at the Northgate Branch of the Seattle Library on Thursday. The trio is running to all the city's library branches in one day. Seattle PI, 1/22/09
See Sam Run was at it again! 

Go Sam Go!

Glad the weather was better this time and that you had some company. 

60+ miles in 10 hours or so? 

When is your next go?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Speech

and, of course, the sniping has begun

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pearl Fishers

I must admit to some trepidation before going to see The Pearl Fishers as I had been underwhelmed by it during my preview listening over the past couple of weeks. Bizet's music has a lush but, to me, a rather inconsequential feel to it aside from the obvious hit arias and duets: "Au fond du temple saint" (Nadir and Zurga, Act 1), "Je crois entendre encore" (Nadir, Act 1)"Comme autrefois" (Leila), and "L'orage, s'est calmé" (Zurga, Act 3). It seemed to me that there was so much starting and stopping with the scene endings actually sounding like finales. For me this opera, like Elektra before, needed to be seen in order to be understood. Good thing I got to see it twice this weekend.

Last night (Sat) I walked out of the performance thinking that I really didn't need to see this opera again and dreading the prospect of a Sunday afternoon, a sunny one as it turned out, spent inside watching something that I just didn't care for. I am glad to say that my opinion has been reformed by the energy of Seattle Opera's Sunday cast. 

The Saturday cast were the older and more accomplished singers but this was both a strength and weakness. Where the voices were strong in some cases the acting left something to be desired and this really detracted from the power of the piece. Mary Dunleavy's Leïla was sung crisply and, yes, she can do all the kinds of slinky moves that the direction required (in this case lots of posting like various status of Hindu Goddesses) but there was really something missing for me. Perhaps it was simply that the precision of her voice couldn't capture the pathos of the character—I had difficulty believing that she was so in love so as to risk death and spent quite a bit of time wondering if she had gotten her jewelry at Govindjis (probably not the reaction she was going for). William Burden's Nadir was the clear stand out in this cast because of his expressiveness and power. Christopher Feigum's Zurga was a disappointment, primarily because his stage presence did not evoke the kind of sympathetic response his character probably demands. Torn between loyalty to his best friend, his responsibilities as "chief" or "headman", and his own jealous love for Leïla, Zurga's is the most complex and interesting role in the opera and the one upon which much depends. 

The dancing was wonderful—the ten dancers were a joy to watch as they leapt and bounced around an already crowded stage to thrilling effect. 

The Sunday principles, by comparison, breathed some fresh air and energy into the production and, this time, it was easy to relate to the pain of each character.  Larissa Yudina brought a powerful but subtle voice to Leïla. Her transitions between the loud and soft sections in her music conveyed the emotional turmoil of a young woman torn between duty and love. Hers is not a clinical voice, but one that is vibrant, warm, and alive. She can move too, but not with Dunleavy's agility (this is a nice way of saying that Yudina has some size on Dunleavy). "Barihunk" David Adam Moore's Zurga made the opera for me.  His voice, while probably lacking Feigum's polish, was clear, deep, and powerful enough to climb out over the audience. I did not tire of it. A nuanced actor with an excellent stage presence, Moore made me care about Zurga's torment in ways that Feigum did not.  Little things—turning on a lamp, tossing with nightmares, facial expressions as he interacted with the other singers and the audience—made it clear that he was inhabiting the role he was singing rather than simply singing the role and acting melodramatically. If there was a minor disappointment in this cast it would be Brian Stucki's Nadir. Disappointing not because his voice is not pleasant to hear but because it was hard to hear. During one of the intermissions I overheard some people saying that his voice was a bit small and I think they were spot on. But some of this was not his fault as there were some issues with the staging to contend with (more on this in a bit). 

There were two fight scenes as well and here, again, the Sunday cast evoked the action more effectively. Stucki and Moore looked like they were fighting, grappling, throwing, and wrestling in a way that Burden and Feigum did not seem to match. At dinner afterwards DW observed that perhaps this had to do with the issue of age. B and F looked as if they were fighting without getting hurt. S and M were fighting without getting hurt but looked like they were trying to kill each other. Aside from whatever issues of age and physical ability that might be at play I am wondering if there really is a difference in how singers are being trained about acting these days. 

The staging and sets were pretty interesting and, though static, became an organic part of the action (the head of a statue becomes a platform and a giant hand the execution platform). Especially magical was the underwater opening with a diver swimming down to the sea floor to recover a pearl (SO has swimming/flying down to a science). There were a couple of things that did bother me and which detracted from the performance. The outcropping of rock during the first act upon which much action takes place seemed so far back that it sucked the life out of the singer's voices. This was especially a problem during Nadir's initial entrance and during the scene in which Zurga explains why the mysterious woman is coming to the village. The second problem had to do with the use of the various scrims that were used to separate out action. Sitting on the main floor we could hear their mechanisms as they were deployed or retracted, loudly enough to be distracting. But this is a minor complaint. 

All-in-all, I am glad that I saw this AND had a second experience that made me want to see the opera again should I get the chance. It is not Bizet's best, Carmen's raw power and passion wins that hands down, but The Pearl Fishers has a refreshing subtlety that I enjoy partaking in. 

I talked with a couple of people who were either new to opera (one woman had just moved here from Boston) or, like us, had not seen this opera before. These people were quite impressed at the emotional power of the opera and of the singing in general. And what did my students think about this? Early returns indicate that they enjoyed it very much. One student has already said that she liked this one much better than Elektra. Nice to see this person forming her taste. 

The Pearl Fishers closes on the 24th. Go see it if you can! Take someone you love. 

Now it is time to get ready for the interioriality of Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung in this coming February. Very different stuff indeed . . . 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Race Report: Nookachamps Half-Marathon


The official results are out at

Me? 188 out of 262 runners with an official time of 2:05:23. 

Initial Report (11:14 PM, 1/17/08): 
I've been up for 19 hours now, awoke at 3:00 AM and could not sleep, ran the Half in 2:05:17 (not my best time but, hey, I haven't really been doing speed work either), ate lunch at the Skagit River Brewery (a moo and brew + some turf and taters), took a nap, walked the dog, and went to the 7:30 performance of Pearl Fishers at Seattle Opera. 

More on all of this later, including the purchase of a new hoodie, after I have slept the sleep of the very tired person. 
The Real Deal (Short Version):
Unofficial Time: 2:05:17
Amount of Sleep Before the Race? 3 to 4 hours
How many times I shared my inhaler? One (Eww!)
Number of horses I saw? One
Number of turkeys? A lot?

The Real Deal (The Longer View from the midpack):

I do not recommend getting only three hours of sleep before a race. Not sure why that happened but I awoke at 3:00 AM and could not get back to sleep. Nothing helped. Not playing Solitaire on my phone or listening to the calming sounds of the BBC (is the news of the world actually calming these days or is it simply that measured BBC tone?). I think I was thinking about actually racing for 13.1 miles, something I have not done since the Cougar Mountain Half this past August, a run that kicked my A** and resulted in some time on the sidelines watching other runners going by whilst hobbling up and down a Tofino beach. This went on for 3.5 hours before I got out of bed and took the dog for a walk before getting packed for the race. It was going to be cold and foggy and I just wasn't sure what to wear so I planned for contingencies. Even found my last two gels. 

PT and KK picked me up a little after 8 and we hit the road up to Mount Vernon. After chatting for a bit I went out cold in the back seat and dozed until just before we got to the race start at Skagit Valley College (saw a performance of Carmen at McIntyre Hall a couple of years ago, amazing space). We parked and followed the stream of runners going into the gym to register. Lots of runners out there in various stages of cold weather dress or sprint wear (i.e., split shorts, t-shirt, and gloves). I decided on my cold weather gear—soft thermal top and shorts with silk gloves and a beanie. 

Registering was easy, I bought a commemorative hoodie too (I am really liking hoodies these days and I am not sure why), and headed outside towards the start. Boy was it cold but, as with the Resolution Run, the body heat of the crowd became quite pleasant. PT and I ran into a couple of Coach Leslie's clients who were running the 10K. We were all chatting when the pack started to move and it was time to start running (such a low key start). 

Everyone (5K, 10K, and Half) started at the same time but it didn't seem at all crowded. Off we went. 

The first casualty of the race happened just after the start. There were traffic cones in the middle of the road and we were to stay to the right of them. Of course we were all over the road. Over my left shoulder I heard "Watch out for the cone!" followed by the sounds of someone hitting a cone. I turned to see a runner falling face first, arms stretched out, and then hit the ground pretty hard to the sound of a generalized "Oh!" from the crowd. One of her friends stopped and I don't know what happened next. Given my own track record of falling and generally running into things I can imagine how that felt. 

At this point, about .21 miles in, I realized that I had neglected to set my Garmin into running instead of biking mode and that my run was not going to auto record. I started mucking with it and managed really just to turn it off for a while before I realized that it was not recording at all at .76 miles. D'oh! Once I got all that squared away I just decided to take manual splits. 

I don't think I was running all that well. My plan was to try and run between a 9:30 and 9:45 pace. Faster than I have running of late but I could feel the lack of sleep, my left knee was bothering me a bit (there is what I am hoping is a rather stubborn muscle imbalance), and the cold fog and occasional wood smoke was bothering my lungs a bit. Two women were running next to me talking about the Air Stagnation Advisory in Seattle and speculating as to why something like that would happen.  I settled in to my own little world surrounded by fog and a rapidly thinning rank of runners as the 5K and 10K runners peeled off. An occasional conversation would spring up around me too (how many times had they run this race, what were they training for, PR's, the Obama Inauguration, the fog, etc..). Passing a paddock one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen comes out of the fog. It is silver-grey, tall, and running effortlessly. Wow!

It is a pretty eerie thing to be running along the side of the road in dense fog through which you can see the people in front of you but barely make out landmarks more than 100 yards away. We ran along Francis Road, through field areas that showed evidence of recent flooding—standing water and a fair amount for flood debris on the side of the road. I was just running along in a dream zone, passing and getting passed with the miles ticking by as they do. I noticed that I was actually running between a 9:30 and 9:40 pace and started feeling more optimistic. 

I also have NO IDEA where I am! 

Around 5.5 miles (by my watch) a town emerges from the fog and I think "This looks like La Conner. What are we doing way over here?"  Before you give me any grief about this, I had studied the map beforehand and knew that I was not West of I-5. Soon, a sign welcomed us to Clear Lake and the view improved too as the fog was beginning to lift. 

The race really turned for me around 6 miles when the Pringle Street hill hoved into view. "A HILL! Yay!" I remember thinking. Running on the flats is pretty monotonous for me, my feet actually get bored, and I am accustomed to running hills in general. I charged the hill and started flying up, catching and passing some of the people who had recently passed me on the flats. One woman, Lime Green Woman, was walking but started chasing me as I passed (she didn't want to be passed maybe). I kept going and then started coasting the downhill (charge the uphills, recover on the downhills right Coach?) when LGW went flying past me again. But we had entered a "hilly" section of the course and I caught her at the next hill and dropped her again. 

We were going past some barns when we caught up with a man running along, the eventual winner of the 70 year old age group (70yoAGW) I think. We exchanged pleasantries and he admonished me to "Save some for the end!" I said "Too Right!" and kept going on the rolling hills, taking the opportunity to eat a gel before I started feeling hungry.  I took some water somewhere around 7 or so, I think, and pressed on. 

The water stops were pretty fun. Kids out there handing out water, sports drinks, and encouragement with obvious joy. In fact all the volunteers seemed happy to be out there helping and offered cheery sentiments to the runners. I thanked every one as well as all the drivers who took the care to move to the center of the road instead of forcing the runners off. This was nice to see.

The strangest part of the course was the out-and-back section from 8 to 10. As PT has observed, it seemed endless. Visibility was pretty limited because of the fog and after 100 yards or so I could only see the vaguest of outlines of the other runners. I did get to see many of the people who were out ahead of me though and that was neat. PT came flying by at about 8.2 with a smile on her face and we got to say "Hi!" and wish each other Bon Chance. 
I could hear 70yoAGW behind me and also LGW and also some new voices, two Boston Marathoners running the race as a nice training run, chatting about how nice the half distance was for a workout. Off in the distance I heard some horses whinnying through the heavy breathing and footfalls of those runners around me. After what seemed an eternity I could see the turn-around spot. I said thank you to the volunteer who bade me to "enjoy the run" and headed back the way I had come. 70yoAGW and LGW had dropped back but Boston Couple were right behind me along with a friend of theirs. They eventually passed me just before the water stop at 10 miles.

Then the race started getting a little hard. 


Three miles to go and most of that generally uphill along Swan Road (speaking of which I saw some turkeys which were gobbling but no swans or geese). I missed taking a split at the 10 and so the miles between 9 and 11 seemed to take forever. Going up a hill I passed someone who was plainly done in. He asked me what mile were at and I told him that I thought we were approaching the 11 but that I hadn't seen a 10 marker yet. He looked done in and I could see the spirit seeping out of him. Climbing the hill was slow going but I tried to keep my pace steady and again started reeling in runners including Boston Couple whom I stayed behind for a bit. I also started seeing a fair amount of what I presumed were 10K walkers. Either that or they were half-marathoners who had gone out way too hard. 
Mile 12 had a wonderful surprise, a nice coast downhill. The sun was beginning to come out too. I took advantage of the downhill and poured it on, passing Boston Couple and their friend, catching one of the Air Stagnation Advisory women, coming up behind a couple of other guys. Ran past a woman wearing a purple top who was walking. She was wheezing very badly. But then, moments later she has caught up with me, wheezing even worse. The following conversation took place:

Me: Are you alright?
Purple Wheezing Woman (PWW): Not really.
Me: Do you need an inhaler?
PWW: I have one in the car.
Me: I am carrying one if you need to use it.
PWW: Really, you are carrying one? Maybe I should do that too.
Me (pulling out my inhaler): Here
PWW (taking a hit): Thanks
Me: Good luck

PWW took off. We had less  than a half-mile to go at this point. She had stopped at the 13 and I am not sure when she finished. 

Me, I blasted around the corner as fast as I could go on tired legs with two guys behind me and crossed the finish at 2:05:17 (at least this is the number I saw when I crossed the line). 

Slowly into the gym where I find PT and KK way up in the bleachers. Stretch a bit, shower, and then out for a well-deserved meal at the Skagit River Brewery wearing my "brand-new, guaranteed to annoy my DW" Nookachamps Winter Series maroon hoodie. "What is wrong with hoodies?" I ask. :-P

Overall I am so pleased with this run. Yes I am sore and tired but not devastated and I managed to run much faster and with more strength and consistency than I have in a long time. That I re-realized that I have power to spare is a nice thing too. 

Great run!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Next Up . . .

Looking forward to the Half!

When: 1/17/09
Post Run Luncheon? Skagit River Brewery (there will be beer and, given my generally weakened electrolytic condition, much silliness (so much that it is a good thing I am not driving)).

Race Report: Race 3-Winter Grand Prix 3000 Meter XC

What a blast! 

The Data:

Second run at the Winter Grand Prix 3000 Meter Cross Country race and  I achieved my goal, to beat my first time on this race. I did it, by 16 seconds, but I did it!

Yes, it is high time I start trying to meet goals again. 

I didn't feel very racy when I woke up this morning and it took me a bit to get going, and even a bit longer to get excited. 

PT picked me up at about 8 so we could get down there and have a nice warm-up. It was cold and a bit windy when we pulled in. Well over 200 people came out for this race and the organizers decided to split the race into a men's and women's events—the men's at 9:00 and the women's at 9:30. Went off on my warm-up mile-ish, hit the head, and then went back to the car to stay warm. I ran on the course and noted a lot of slippery mud and twigs down. Going up Kite Hill I paused mid-way to kick two condom enshrouded cucumbers out of the path (strange things happen in this park and I wonder what stories those cukes could tell). 

Went down to the start to begin the line up and it was interesting. There seemed to be generally more younger runners than the first XC—the Northwest School had quite a few runners out and there were more junior and high school runners out as well. There were about 140 men in the field. The gun went off at 9:03 and off we went. 

DW had admonished me to "run my heart out" today because it was good for me (and, frankly, I have not been doing that of late) so when the gun went off I went off as fast as I could. The field in front of me was a mucky mess already and by the time I was going over it the footing was quite treacherous and my feet were sliding out from underneath me. But I had a cheering section! PT was there shouting welcome encouragement. 

The first mile was a blur, I was kicking as hard as I could and almost had a sub-8:00 time but managed an 8:02. The second .9 miles was a lot harder and I could feel that I was slowing down as the second lap went on. Even so, everything that happened around me was so vivid and even intimate at the time. The sound of everyone's breathing, the thud of feet, groans of exertion. I can't remember much of who I was passing and who was passing me. Many of the younger runners went out too fast, as did I, and blew up. Asthma Attack Man was also out there wheezing but running cheerfully along. Skritchy pants kid and I traded places before he went off ahead. I think I passed people going up Kite Hill (the first time was easy, the second, not so much). There were some HS XC guys who where not going very fast but who were running 4 abreast on the course. I passed them on the downhill, kept going, and didn't see them anymore. I do wonder what they were doing. I was done by the time I turned towards the finish line from the beach, a mere .14 miles . The track there was really slippery and uphill (of course) and it was just a slog to the finish (got snaked by some guy) but I hit the line in 15:27 something and then had a finish card handed to me with a 99 on it. So, I think, I am 99 out of 140 men. PT met me at the end of the chute with a big smile and hearty congratulations, told me that watching the race was really neat, where my stuff was, and then went off to do her own warm-up. I grabbed some water and submitted my finish card and then got my jacket and hat before trotting out to the start so I could get PT's stuff. 

Pretty giddy but also cold. :-)

After getting PT's warm-up clothes I went down to a position by the Fins so I could see the runners go by and do some cheering (I am not so good at this but I try). I heard the announcer making an announcement, all of the women cheering, and then silence. Finally, the gun went off and then, silence. Pretty soon I saw this line of young girls hauling pell-mell towards where I was standing. Behind them were older more experienced and determined women, including the eventual winner. Individual runners were going so fast but it seemed like it took forever for them to run past my position because they didn't seem to be moving that fast. I cannot explain this illusion. PT came by wearing a very determined look and headed out on the wood chip path between the fins (I hate running on that as it is too soft). Some of the younger kids with their parents were coming through. One kid went by with this huge infectious smile that got everyone cheering (although it was gone by the second loop). Then some Moms came through with their daughters. As they went past I heard one remark to her daughter that they had better hurry as they were going to be passed by the "Love Handles Division" (220 lbs for men, 150 lbs for women)—hearing this unkindness made me pretty sad for a moment. And then there was the little girl who, covered in mud, had had enough and sobbed "I don't want to run anymore!" as her mom tried to coax her onward. What are the lessons being taught here? 

I moved my position to just before the finish line and saw the leaders coming through. 

Wow! They were hauling, lapping the field actually, and I got an exciting look at race strategy and tactics. The initial leaders were now in the mid-pack and the more experienced runners were beginning to open up a gap and duke it out. Finally, the leader poured it on as she went past towards the finish. She looked so calm as she crossed alone. 

Others came in and I could see how much effort was being put into those last few meters. And battles too, runners switching back and forth, others holding off challenge all the way to the line with legs straining and sweat flying. Some talking to themselves in the last moments of the race, "You can do this!" one breathed as she went past. 

PT came through heading down towards the beach with about .42 to go and I shouted "Go! Almost there! Almost done!" She had the presence of mind to say "No it isn't!" But she actually was almost there and in a couple of minutes, that stretched into an eternity, she crossed the line with a big smile breaking through the grimace of effort. 

What a blast! Can't wait until the next one. 

  • Pace better! None of this go out fast and let the wheels come off half-way. Newbie mistake and I should know better
  • Get better shoes. These trail shoes are horrible in mud. The BEST mud shoes I tried were Inov-8 RocLite 320's BUT they were not supportive enough and I had to return them, much muddied
  • More consistent speed work

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why I HATE my glasses!

I really do. I hate my glasses.

But first, a little background.

What an adventure!

Here are the pics:

Puddle Thumper and I ran on Cougar Mountain this morning.

Incredible sunrise and driving out to Cougar we could see the Cascades and the Olympics looking so sharp that it seemed as if they could cut, a result from what Cliff Mass calls "diabatic effects". The closer we got to the Sky Country Trail head the more and more snow we saw and the road became a series of slippery icy ruts. There were four cars in the parking lot when we got there, three Subarus (why is it always Suburus?).

It was BEYOUTEEFULL up there with quite a bit of snow and ice Pretty dang cold too with a little wind coming through the trees. I decided to wear my tights.

The plan was to run about 5 miles: Sky Country trail head, Old Man to By Pass, Right on Fred's Railroad, Left on East Fork Trail, Left on Mine Shaft Trail to Clay Pit Road, Crossing Clay Pit to Cougar Pass Trail, Left on Protector Trail up to Lost Beagle Trail, Left on Klondike Swamp Trail back to By Pass and Old Man to Sky Country.

Pretty slow going from the Sky Country trail head out on Old Man and By Pass Trail. Many trail users had worn tracks into the snow and so we had a well-marked track. It was pretty uneven and slippery. The sun was trying to come out making for a very pretty scene.

We saw just 6 other runners out there, one of whom jokingly (perhaps seriously) asked if we thought that all this snow and ice made us wish for mud, and one very large and happy Golden Retriever.

This was just one of those mornings where you have to stop, take it all in, and goof around a bit (PT was wearing her genuine 100% "Permasmile"). The snow made everything familiar look strangely and beautifully different: example, I have no idea how long this tree trunk has been around but in all the hours and miles running on Cougar this is the very first time I saw it. So many trees were snapped in half or simply bent down to the ground with the weight of snow and ice that we had many more interesting obstacles to negotiate and herein lies my downfall. 

I've had some rather recreation-related injuries (stress fractures, real fractures, concussions, stings, scrapes, bumps, sprains, twists, run into barbed wire on a mountain bike, you know, the normal stuff.) but this is a new one on me and here is why I hate my glasses. 

My glasses fog. I like them quite a bit under normal circumstances but unless they constantly have air moving over them they fog over, badly. The problem is especially acute when running on snow and, before you ask/suggest, I do apply anti-fogging wipes AND I cannot run effectively without them. 

My glasses were fogging as we were going up toward Lost Beagle trail (the intersection of N7 and N9 for those of you with maps). I was running ahead when I felt something go into my mouth and something else impact my nose from the upper left (I could see to my right). I stopped and yelped. Backed up slowly and felt and saw a long branch coming out of my mouth just as the salty iron-taste of blood started filling my mouth. Not sure what PT had to say, "Oh My!" maybe, but there was a pretty interesting look on her face. 

I stood there spitting blood and trying to figure out what had happened while my mouth and nose started throbbing. Spat some more, ran my tongue along the inside of my mouth to assess the damage—it is pretty scraped up in there but no major holes (Whew! Nothing like the scene in Pan's Labyrinth where Captain Vidal sews his cheek shut)

What are the odds of this happening? I am really lucky! :-)

PT made the sensible suggestion of packing some snow in there to try to keep the swelling down. Great idea! The snow was so cold and tasted wonderful, infused with nice woodsy pine essence. Made for a nice treat during the remainder of the run. 

My nose is another story. I have a fairly largish gouge at the tip that is going to leave a nice scar and looks, for all the world like a cat scratch. Is this character development? Will I have to get a new passport picture taken?

ANYWAY! This could have been so much worse and I wouldn't be writing about it except that almost getting impaled on a tree branch is such an odd thing to have happen. Besides, it isn't really a trail run if there is no blood, right?

How was the rest of the run?

Spectacular. Lots of incredible views and challenging footing. 

On the way back home PT remarked "We have certainly started 2009 off right!" Yep! We have!

AND, I have a new New Year's Resolution–get contacts and use running glasses that defog on their own. 

One more thing. Disinfecting was just a joy. Ouch! Thanks Listerine. 

Friday, January 2, 2009


It is official!

DW and I are headed to Maui for some much needed sun and warmth in February. 

Now, where should I run?

Of course, this does mean that the weather in Seattle will look something like this . . . :-P

I cannot wait.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolved to Get Wet(ter)


Oh what fun!

Yup, that's me, #1187, fighting off my little experience with a massive shunt of blood from my periphery to core (aka. Cold Water Shock) during my first race of 2009!

Wherein I learned the difference between a 2 mile road race and a 5K (I know, I know, 1.2K). :-P

How did I do?

Here are my official stats:

Overall Place: 205
Division Place: 47th out of 97
Gender Place: 154th out of 364
Time: 27:44
Pace 8:57
Ear Worm: "Love and Loneliness" by The Motors (don't watch, just listen . . . please)

Here is what happened:

It was pretty cold when PT picked me up, mid to upper thirties, overcast with some drizzle, and a bit of a wind. The race was supposed to start at 10:30 AM and we wanted to get down there early to warm-up a bit and bask in the pre-race ambience. After we checked out the race set-up (the changing tents, etc.) we headed out for a warm-up. I trotted around for 1.86 miles on the course and then hit some muddy trails on the Northwest side of Kite Hill and then found a port-a-john without a huge line ("Don't tell anybody about these" one of the other runners said as he exited the john (you getting the idea that going potty is important? It is, don't laugh). With the way the course was set up we were going to be starting and finishing into the wind which, as if my magic, had picked up (You were expecting "dropped" weren't you? Ha! This is Seattle and we were right alongside a big lake with little to stop the wind from howling in.). Once warmed up I headed over to the 9 minute pace area as the 5-minute announcement had been made, PT came up through the crowd as well and headed more towards the front, and then we waited. And waited. 

This is the second time that I have run this race and the same thing happened the first time. There we were, all keyed up to go, standing in the wind, and rapidly losing heat while the day of race registration and port-a-john lines were cleared. As you can see, I was not heavily dressed, at least not compared to a lot of the people around me (like the runner in front of me coming out of the water and even her ensemble was sparse by comparison). But, while there may or may not be wisdom in crowds, there IS warmth in crowds and I was able to keep the shivering and teeth chattering down. There were a fair number of interesting costumes, a group of young girls wearing full body footed pajama thingys, a few interesting hats, and, of course, the diehard folks who must only wear a pair of shorts and their shoes. A great many interesting conversations going on around me—how many people turned up for this, excitement at the new year, that GWB only had 20 days left in office, who was having an affair with who, "Oh look at that cute dog," how scary the prospect of jumping into the lake after the run was, how cold it was out there, why is it that this race never starts on time, how lovely the new course was, how "I cannot believe I am doing this because I am SO hungover," and, well, you get the picture. Next to me was a mother and her son who could not have been more than 3 feet high. 

At 10:40 the air horn blew and off we went. Over the start mats and south into the wind. I figured that I would be running 8:30 to 9:00 but immediately got stuck behind people who were going much more slowly than that. South onto the course and into the first bottleneck of the race, a series of concrete barriers narrowing the transition from a road to a walking path. Didn't stop moving but I certainly got slowed down but once past picked up the pace again only to run into yet another course hazard, puddles. Well, not the puddles per se but the people who did not want to get in the puddles. Now folks, these are not deep puddles and not even especially muddy puddles and as you are going to jumping into the lake in a few minutes, it is raining, AND you are likely sweating already WHY are you slowing down and colliding with each other to go around the puddles? So, I just blasted through the puddles, got very happily muddier in the process, and settled into a nice pace, not too hard not too soft.

About .40 into the race I passed a mom and a kid. The little boy had just stopped and was not going further. He had his arms crossed, mouth in a pout, and belly sticking petulantly out. His mom was about 10 feet in front of him trying to coax him to keep going. It was pretty amusing. 

On we went. Passing, being passed, and pretty soon I was running all by myself along one of the cross-park walking paths past the tennis courts and out to the sports meadow all the while picking my way through people avoiding puddles and the great number of roots coming up through the pavement. Around the playing fields and alongside the dog park with all the dogs out enjoying their New Year's romp and then up Kite Hill and down towards the water. I felt strong and happy. I was vaguely aware of passing someone that I knew from AR and breathed, rather heavily, "Hi, how are you going?" Getting around guys running with strollers also took some doing as they were slowing down and blocking the way. 

At about 2.28 miles I began to realize the difference between a 2 mile race and a 5K, I was getting a bit tired but I was also running anywhere between a 7-minute and 8:30 pace (the GPS seems to jump around a lot). Suffice it to say that I was going hard and into a 10 mph wind to boot. And then the course organizers played a nasty trick. Instead of sending us straight through the promenade to the boat launch for the dip, they turned us West at the observation tower and then had us going towards the boat launch parking lot. I know why, of course. They needed the distance AND it makes sense to head people straight into the water rather than have a turn. But I saw this, said something like "Aw Nuts!" and simply pressed on. 

People seemed to be slowing down as we approached the water. An announcer was telling us what to do and also to offer the possibility of hitting the water to those who did not sign up for that ("Why not, you are all wet already!"). I ran smack into a traffic jam as people hit the water, gasped (it was 42 degrees), and froze for a moment while the shock set in. I bulled my way through a couple of people standing side-by-side and headed deeper in remembering to take off my glasses as I put my head under (not doing so is supposed to mean disqualification but I saw lots of people keeping their heads up and have not noticed DQ's in the stats). The cold took my breath away and it took all my effort to remain upright and moving up the incline and out towards the finish. My shoes felt so very hard, as if all the softness and cushion had been flash frozen out of them. 

Heading across the finish mats I stop my watch and head over to have my timing chip removed, no way my fingers would have worked, and kept moving through the chutes. Mighty Mouse was standing there with PN waiting for some of the friends. I said a quick "Hi". PT was there looking very wet, cold, and with a very happy grin (I guess I had one too). We shared a wet hug and a Happy New Year and I kept going to try to cool down (Heh!) or was it simply to keep warm for .4 miles back to the car where the hard task of peeling wet clothes off reluctant skin began. I was simply dumping heat as I changed. 

Warm and dry both PT and I went off to check out the finish scene. Didn't feel like the chili feed (why chili? It is warm, cheap, both, what?) and didn't feel like standing in line for hot chocolate. Got a bottle of water, a banana, and a bag of "healthy" potato chips. Chatted briefly with Mighty Mouse, PN, and others that I knew (it is nice to know people at these things isn't it) and headed home to a nice lunch, hot chocolate, and a very happy nap. 

What a wonderful way to start the new year! 

Can't wait for the next XC Race.