Category Archives: Humor

For whom the cowbell tolls

Because the weather has been seven levels of crap here in Boston, I thought I’d cast my mind back to a happier time—one that didn’t involve wearing winter socks at the end of May and shivering my butt off. (UPDATE: So, Memorial Day turned out to be a stunner, but it was a cold, cold road to get there.) My sunny time-machine moment comes courtesy of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Va., which was a month ago, but I had to post about my awesome adventures in Pittsburgh first, so I’m a little out of chronological order.

Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K 2013

Waiting for the elites to start the Ukrop’s 10K. Look at that sky!

I’ve done a lot of races, but the Ukrop’s 10K is officially my favorite. It’s the happiest run around. You should all put it on your calendars for next year. Ukrop’s is a huge event (40,000 participants) but run so smoothly you’d think it was tiny. It has a superior expo (having also been to a number of expos, I know that for sure. Is it possible to get expo fatigue?). And it has a fantastic course: flat as a pancake, which, as you all know, speaks to me. As do pancakes, but that’s another story. The route, which travels out and back along Monument Avenue (wide road, gorgeous houses) is lined with great bands and crazy spectators. There are so many bands, in fact, that you don’t need headphones. I love that, because my new headphones suck.

It’s such a big race that Hubby’s 10K is over before mine even starts, which I find more amusing than it probably is.

Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K 2013

Walking to the start of my run. Hubby has already finished running. Or has he …

It’s become a cliché to say that I wasn’t prepared for a race, but this time I had a legitimate excuse: a horrible, no-good, weeks-long cold, which on the flight down from Boston had developed into horrible ear pain. At the risk of sounding like a whiner, it was really, really, really bad.

But I wasn’t going to spend yet another runcation stuck in the hotel (hello, North Carolina Half), so I decided to suck it up. I was meant to be in a slightly faster corral, but I hung back a bit, assuming I’d just walk the whole way. Hubby, who had finished his 10K in fine form, as is tradition, decided he’d run/walk along with me for moral support. He also brought along a cowbell.

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Two days in Pittsburgh (with a half-marathon in there somewhere)

At the end of last year, Jill from Jogging Jeans had the genius idea that Hubby and I should come to her hometown of Pittsburgh to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. The promise of a new city plus meeting Jill was too good to pass up (also, I wanted to be able to call myself a Runner of Steel). To add to the excitement, Charla from Running Haiku decided she would join us, stopping over on the way from Seattle to D.C. I had a feeling this was going to be momentous (all it was lacking was Tiffany, from Cute Dogs and Hugs, but she was there in spirit).

Here’s what transpired …

The city

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Apparently Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, and, according to the very reliable Wikipedia, “is the world record holder for brides with piers and stands contained entirely within city limits.” So there you go.

Apart from the mandatory run up the Rocky steps in Philly eons ago and, oddly enough, a recent half in Allentown, we hadn’t spent much time in the Keystone State. Who knew there would be so much awesomeness in Pittsburgh? (In addition to Jill.) We weren’t really sure what to expect from the city but we loved it. It’s small but has a big personality, a gazillion bridges, and a great ballpark (more on that later). There’s an inclinator thingy, with great views, that looks like a house riding up and down the side of a hill. And there’s a sandwich chain where the coleslaw and fries come ON the sandwich. OK, that last one sounded kind of nuts, but Jill said it was an institution. (We didn’t get to try it, um, unfortunately.)

There’s a long-running joke between Hubby and me that every time we visit a new (small) city, he will ultimately want to move there. It’s happened with Cleveland (no thanks), Little Rock (no way), and Salt Lake City (maybe). Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is a place I could actually see myself in.

the company

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The four of us mentally preparing to be Runners of Steel by standing under a banner.

I can’t say enough good things about Jill and Charla. They are as fabulous in the flesh as they are on their blogs. Meeting them was such fun, and we had one of those weekends that’s like a seven-course meal—rich and memorable. Everyone got on so well, and we were in hysterics much of the time, especially about …

The port-a-loos

One of the first things Hubby and I noticed when we went to pick up his race packet for the 5K (yes, he did both races; and yes, he did the 5K in jorts) was the presence of flushing port-a-loos by a company called Mr. John. Did I mention that they were port-a-loos that flush? This was nothing short of a revelation and I immediately snapped a photo. We don’t have such luxuries here in New England.

Apparently they don’t in Seattle either. Charla was equally as excited, which led to this shot …

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Flushing units!!

Jill clearly thought we were all nuts. Apparently, outdoor toilets that flush are a dime a dozen in her world. She needs to come and rough it with us in Boston for a while. In the summer.

Charla had us all write haikus and she posted a hilarious (if I do say so myself) mash-up on her blog that you must read. You wouldn’t think we could keep the port-a-loo theme going the entire weekend, but we somehow managed to—ably assisted by …

The ballpark

PNC Park

PNC Park.

What do running, port-a-loos, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common? Nothing, really, unless you are three bloggers and one hubby who happen to wind up at PNC Park sitting next to an old guy who happens to be wearing the shirt from the Pittsburgh 5K that morning, who also happens to be someone Jill met a year before, who also happens to be … wait for it … the owner of a (flushing!) port-a-loo business just outside of Allentown (he and Mr. John have somewhat different business models though). I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

His name was Kenneth, and for any Aussies reading this who have seen the movie Kenny, you will know why this is extra funny. If you haven’t seen Kenny, download it now.

Kenneth was sweet on Jill, and he spent the whole game chatting with her and Charla while his clearly long-suffering wife rolled her eyes. We were in hysterics, pretty oblivious to the fact that there was a baseball game going on. Great ballpark though.

The run

Oh, right, there was a run …

It’s disturbing how little prepared I was to run a half-marathon (I think I should trademark that phrase). I was ill-prepared even for me, whose training strategy recently has basically consisted of “watching others run.” Last year, I ran many, many races, so when my two half-marathons came around, I at least had something to work with. This year, not so much. Also, I’d been sick. Also, as the arm warmers Charla got at the expo so perfectly put it: “I like running, just not while I’m doing it.”

asfafdfds

Right at the 5K mark. Are we done yet?

I had no illusions about this half. I just wanted to finish in less than three hours (my half PR is 2:30; how the not-so-mighty have fallen). I can walk a half in 3:00, so it would be shameful if I overshot that.

Here’s how it went:

dasdasdasda

The half-marathon crossed five bridges. I like bridges.

Mile 1: Start alongside Charla and Jill and watch them immediately disappear into the crowd (this was Jill’s first half and she did amazingly well. So, that’s what training gets you …). Realize I hadn’t cued up my playlist and spend five minutes fiddling with my iPhone. (You’d think I’d never done this before.) Run slowly.

Mile 2: Realize that the new Apple EarPod headphones are useless for running. They keep popping out of my ears. Spend five minutes fiddling with them and cursing Apple for getting rid of the old style (mine broke). Spend another five minutes cursing myself for not trying these new ones out before the race. Run slowly.

Mile 3: Realize my watch isn’t showing the distance, only the pace. Spend five minutes stopped on the side of the road fiddling with it. Run slowly. Nice bridge!

Mile 4: Run really slowly. Start sticking fingers in my ears to try to keep the headphones in. Nice bridge!

Mile 5: Run really, really slowly. I think it’s called walking. Nice bridge!

Mile 6: Run really, really, really slowly. Reset watch again.

Mile 7: Give up on headphones completely and shove them into my pocket. Now all I can hear is the sound of my breathing. (I have an ear infection so I’m hearing every noise inside my head.) Nice bridge!

Mile 8-10: Out for a stroll. Lovely day for it. Give up on watch completely.

Mile 11: Major mile marker confusion with the marathon. Think I’ve gone farther than I have. Crap. Nice bridge!

Mile 11.5: Massive hill. Not unexpected, but still massive.

Mile 12: Holy crap, it’s still going.

Mile 13: Nice downhill. Think I’m going to breeze into the finish like I’ve been running the whole time. Crowd starts to roar. Realize there are early marathoners coming in. It’s not the first time this has happened to me. Stupid little bonus hill takes the wind out of my sails and I have to walk for a few seconds in front of the crowd. Sadly, no more bridges.

Mile 13.1: Can’t see the cameraman. It’s probably a good thing as I may have punched him out.

Told you, momentous …

The event: Pittsburgh Half-Marathon
The location: Pittsburgh
The date: May 5, 2013
My time: 2.43.18
Hubby’s time
: 1.38.22
The T-shirt:
Bright yellow long-sleeved Asics
The aftermath: Smile cookies from Eat’n Park, potato chips, bagels, fruit cups. There was also a huge finishers’ expo but we didn’t partake as it was so crowded, which meant, sniff, no beer.

I think I may have forgotten how

About three weeks ago, I caught a cold that turned into a keep-me-up-all-night-hubby-sleeping-in-the-guest-bed cough from heck. So I haven’t been doing much at all besides working and sleeping—and sometimes sleep working.

During this hacking-up-a-lung period. I went to one of my regular Tuesday night Strength & Stride classes at the Y, just for kicks. I couldn’t walk for four days. No kidding. I honestly believe my muscles have forgotten how to exercise. They have a pretty short bloody memory. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that they were helping me reach new heights of activity and red-facery in my 52 Weeks, 52 Runs challenge?

This past week, I got something in my inbox that put the fear into me.

Ukrop's 10K number

Eek!

This race, in Richmond, Va., which I ran triumphantly (relatively speaking) last year, is on again this weekend. In 2012, I was freaked out about it because it was my first 10K. In 2013, I am freaked out about it because I think I may have forgotten how to run. Something about bibs and heel striking and IT bands …

Two weeks ago Hubby and I traveled to Charlotte, NC, where I proceeded not to run the North Carolina Half-Marathon. While I am determined to go one step further and actually start the Ukrop’s 10K, I imagine there will be very little running involved. Maybe a little jogging …

Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K

Last year’s Ukrop’s 10K.

It’s a good thing my entire identity is not wrapped up in running (and thank goodness it’s not), as I’d be having a major existential crisis right about now.

Wish me luck!

Gone soft

Savvy readers will note that I was scheduled to run a half-marathon this weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the end of last year, with 52 runs of varying lengths (including two half-marathons) under my belt, this seemed like a fine, if not genius, plan.

Almost four months later, my plan has gone slightly awry. I know it’s customary for running bloggers to post their training schedules for big races such as this one, so here’s mine.

Week 1
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: rest day
Friday: rest day
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: rest day

Week 2
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: rest day
Friday: rest day
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: rest day

Week 3
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: rest day
Friday: rest day
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: rest day

You get the idea ….

I am sitting on a plane as I type this, on the way from Boston to Charlotte. Needless to say, I will not be running the half-marathon (although Hubby is). I was planning to switch over to the twilight 5K for tonight, but I got slammed with a nasty cold, so that didn’t happen either.

I have every intention of making this the last time I flake out. If I have to start from scratch and ease myself back into 5Ks again like, gasp, a novice, then that’s what I’ll do. Er, next week.

In the meantime, I have something to remind me of past glories. We finally, finally got around to having a T-shirt blanket made. Huzzah! It represents only about a third of the T-shirts that we own, but it is a good chunk of the cotton ones. We got it made through Project Repat, which creates fair-wage jobs in the U.S. by upcycling T-shirts, and I love it.

blanket

Gives a new meaning to bed shirts.

I am determined to shake off this new-found slothiness before the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in May. I can’t let Jogging Jeans and Running Haiku think I’ve gone completely soft, despite the fact that my new blanket is exactly that.

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

I guess I wasn’t kidding when I wrote at the beginning of 2012 that I needed something to keep running interesting (hence last year’s 52 Weeks, 52 Runs). Two months into 2013 and in the absence of a bona fide wallet-busting, sleep-depriving challenge, I have not only slowed down on the blogging front (wrist slap), but also on the thing I am supposed to be blogging about.

I’m thinking I should rename this blog Stride and Tumbleweeds.

Tumbling tumbleweeds

It’s probably faster than me over 5K.

In keeping with the modern tendency to blame our failings on anyone/anything but ourselves, I have come up with the five causes of my recent lack of Stridery.

1. Winter

I ran in some truly biting New England conditions last year, but there was nary a snowflake let alone two feet of accumulation necessitating six hours of shoveling. We were supposed to run the Frozen Pilgrim 10K in Plymouth, MA, the weekend after Nemo turned my front yard into this:

Snowstorm Nemo

Nemo comes to town.

The Sunday of the Pilgrim we were hit with another storm, and conditions were perilous. We had optimistically picked up our packets the day before, but when we looked outside the morning of, we realized it wasn’t going to happen. Amazingly, the run went ahead, but everything about the conditions screamed “danger!” so we decided not to go. It takes a lot for Hubby to turn down a run.

A week later, the Half at the Hamptons was also canceled days in advance due to forecasts of another weekend storm (third in a row). Hubby dutifully went and picked up his T-shirt at the event the race directors held to make up for the disappointment. Sadly, the weather turned out to be OK (if still slightly miserable) on the day, but the organizers made the right call.

We’re beginning to amass quite the collection of shirts for which we didn’t do the run (there are also a few from last year). I’m not sure what to do with them. If I wear them, even in the house, I feel like a fraud.

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The inside story: 1st Veterans Inc. Indoor Half-Marathon and 5K

I guess it was a bit too much to expect that we’d get two nice, mild Northeast winters in a row. Granted, I’m not running races outdoors every weekend these days now that I’m done with the 2012 challenge, so I’ve been spared some of the horrible coldness of winter ’13. But not all of it. So when Hubby signed us up for the 1st Veterans Inc. Indoor Half-Marathon, Marathon Relay and 5K in Hartford, Ct., I was excited by the idea of a winter run that didn’t involve numb feet and 50,000 layers of clothing.

Apart from being my first-ever indoor race, this also checked off another box: It was my first event in Connecticut, bringing my U.S. running states total to nine. Yay! (My U.S. states travel total is 41, but that’s another story.) It was also for an amazing cause. Veterans Inc. is the largest provider of services to military veterans and their families in New England, helping out with housing, reintegration, employment, etc. There are very few other causes that would entice me to run a race with only six other people …

Veterans Inc Indoor Half-Marathon

My competitors in the 5K.

That’s right, I said six. The organizers of this half-marathon/marathon relay added a “no-frills” 5K at the last minute, and it didn’t attract much of a crowd. I initially wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being so, er, on display, or by the prospect of coming last. But like I said … good cause.

The run was on the concourse level of the XL Center in Hartford. So for the 5K, that meant 15 laps. That’s 15 times running past concession stands that normally sell beer and pricey hot dogs. And 15 swings by the small crowd of half-marathon spectators who had gathered. They were very polite and applauded every time I ran by. I wasn’t sure what to do. Smile? Wave? Smile and wave?

About five laps in, my face was on fire. I’m talking full-on inferno. It was crazy hot on the concourse track, and despite wishing there were beer stops each of the 15 times I ran by one of the closed concessions, it was not to be. There were 15 water stops though. I kept sneaking in a walk at the other side of the loop, away from the audience, but there was a lone medic there to witness my shame. About seven times. Oh well.

I was dying of heat exhaustion by the time I got to the final lap, having realized about 25 minutes earlier that I was overdressed for the occasion (note to self: no tights indoors), but I somehow managed to squeak under 30. Again.

And I didn’t come last! OK, so I was five of seven. But I’ll take it…

Veterans Inc Indoor Half-Marathon

Crowd gathers for the start of the half-marathon and marathon relay.

Oh, and Hubby, who decided to do both the 5K and the half that day (the only person to do that) won his first 5K ever. The half had considerably more participants, and it was dizzying fun to watch them do their 64 laps.

This indoor-racing business in the middle of winter is genius. For those in the area, Veterans Inc. is having another one of these, Dec. 28 at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. You should all go.

The event: 1st Veterans Inc. Indoor Half-Marathon and 5K
The location: Hartford. Ct.
The date: January 26, 2013
My time: 29.55
Hubby’s time
: 20.22 (5K) / 1.32 (half—a PR too!)
The T-shirt:
None for me; army green tech tee for the halfers
The cause: Veterans Inc.

Down with it: Second Quincy Frozen 5K

There wasn’t any doubt that Hubby and I were going to do the second Frozen 5K in Quincy, MA. For one thing, it’s right in our ‘hood, meaning we only had to drive for 10 minutes in order to be there 90 minutes before the start. For another, it is hosted by our YMCA, where we go every Tuesday night to be lovingly tortured by our trainer, Mary, in a class called Strength and Stride. Mary and most of our classmates were also doing this run.

And then there’s the fact that I couldn’t pass up a second stab at one of the most glorious downhills ever. Here’s what I said about it last year …

“… Which brings us back to the delicious descent that helped me feel so (briefly) speedy. Momentously, I had to stop for a couple of seconds at the bottom because I was going too fast, and was perilously close to falling down. But I stayed upright and posted a significantly improved personal record. In a shocking twist, I even felt as though I could go a little farther.

Hills, I think perhaps I have been too hard on you.”

OK, so I was obviously experiencing some kind of delirium when I wrote that final bit. But there’s no doubt that it was an epic descent.

2nd Frozen 5K Quincy start

Chilly, but the clouds burned off just before the start.

Seeing as I’d done this run before, I had a pretty good idea of how it was going to go down. Although, this time I had an audience so I wanted to put in a shame-free showing. But I was feeling crabby beforehand, and my IT band was still giving me gyp, so I didn’t have high hopes. (When do I ever have high hopes?)

The first mile was slow. I want to say it was because I was saving my reserves for the other side of that glorious descent, but, no, I was just slow. I started running with one of my Y classmates, but she was worried she’d hold me back and was keen to run her own race, so I slowly inched ahead. (I know how she felt; I’ve only run a handful of races with a buddy. I like to work alone.)

The second mile was better. Not in-the-zone better, but better.

The final mile contained the aforementioned hill, which looked like this:

ghgjhgjhg

Trust me, it’s steeper than it looks.

I would have snapped a picture as I was hurtling down the other side, but I was, er, too busy hurtling down the other side. The nice thing about a race you’ve run before is that you know exactly where it’s going to finish. (Better than a GPS any day.) It meant I could go like a bat out of hell over the final quarter of a mile. So bat-like was I that I somehow managed to squeak in under 30 minutes again for only the second time ever. I was very excited. My triumph was extremely hill-assisted, but I’ll take it.

The event: Frozen 5K
The location: Quincy, MA
The date: January 6, 2013
My time: 29.56
Hubby’s time
: 19.37
The cause: South Shore YMCA
The T-shirt: No T-shirt for me (I registered too late)
The aftermath: Bananas, oranges, chowder, Subway