Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Workout

AM: 20 min. w/u (2.5 miles)
2x200m strides
Target: 8x400 @78 w/60 sec. rest
Actual: 76, 79, 80, 80, 77, 79, 78, 78
~20 min. c/d (2.5 miles)
Total: ~7.5 miles
PM: Wii

I woke up this morning with my entire lower legs sore to the touch, no doubt due to the new drills Jordan and I tried out yesterday. We both hobbled around the house for a while and debated postponing the workout, but ended up deciding it would be best to get things over with before heading to Jilane's house.

Our jog over to the high school track was slow and easy, and it was an absolutely beautiful morning. The track was bustling with a high school soccer team, a high school track coach who was working out a few of his athletes, and a few other random walkers and joggers. After much debate about what would be the best way to coordinate the workout, it was decided that Jordan would basically run continuously while I would jump in on every other lap. During my minute "rest" I would walk back 100 meters and then wait for him to arrive. Overall this plan worked well, except that I never felt fully recovered on the first half of the workout because my "rest" was so hurried. I had to walk/trot at a fairly brisk pace to beat Jordan to our meeting spot, which meant I started my next interval still fairly out of breath. This definitely took its toll on the latter half of the workout, so on the last two I rested while Jordan ran an entire lap (~75-80 seconds). I think this helped me finish strong and controlled, and overall I was pleased with how my legs responded. Having Jordan there to help made things go by quickly and was a nice diversion from my throbbing calves.

Jordan and I face off in Wii boxing

We had halfhearted intentions of doubling in the afternoon--to be fair, Jordan was more interested in the idea than I was--but that was before Wii intervened. We arrived at Jilane's parents' house in Brea and were greeted with the new Christmas present, which apparently has been consuming Jilane's every waking moment since she came home for the break. We had a great time playing boxing, tennis, skiing, balance games and even a running game (which I beat Jordan at twice, two times, count it). I was legitimately out of breath after this and deemed it an effective form of cross-training.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Palm Springs Double

AM: 2 miles, drills, in-and-out 800m, 2 miles
Total: ~4.5-5 miles
PM: 47 mins.
6 miles

This morning Jordan and I suited up and headed over to the Palm Springs High School track to do some drills. I showed him some of the ones Jeff taught me in Charlotte, and in turn he added a few more to the mix. One of these involved jumping from foot to foot while tapping a bench with the other foot, a move that was fun but exhausting. Within a minute we were both breathing fairly hard and decided to take a break to run some strides in the form of in-and-out 100s. It felt good to
get up on the toes and turn the legs over even though I was quite sore from the "please don't talk to me right now" run Sunday.

The rest of the day was mostly spent relaxing. Well, at least for me. Jordan had gotten a wild hare that he was going to concoct his self-proclaimed "world's best potato salad," so he spent much of the afternoon in the kitchen. I opted to lounge by the pool in an attempt to reclaim some of my summer glow.

My view from the lounge chair at the pool

In the evening we headed out for some more easy miles on the streets. About two miles in I needed to find a bathroom, so we ducked into a condo development to see if they had one in their main office. They didn't, but when we exited through the back door we stumbled upon a lush, well-manicured golf course. We quickly made the call to put in the remainder of the run on this soft surface until we got kicked off. Fortunately that never happened, so we were able to put in three or four loops before heading home. It was another beautiful night in the desert and I thoroughly enjoyed this outing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Two Runs in the Dark

AM: 3 miles
PM: 58-59 mins.
7.5-8 miles

Jordan and I rose before the crack of dawn this morning to prepare for our 9-hour road trip from Santa Rosa to Palm Springs. In order to get from Jordan's mom's house to the house where Jordan's dad was staying, we decided to run. Genius idea. This actually involved a good deal of strategizing the night before, as we had to drop off our bags in advance so the car could be loaded, so we spent the night with only the clothes we were running in and a few essential toiletries.

We were on a strict 7am departure deadline from Santa Rosa, which meant we needed to be on location and showered well in advance. We set out from Jordan's mom's house just after 6am into a light mist. After a quick detour (Jordan forgot his money clip and had
to flip a U at the first intersection) we were off into the dark, quiet morning. Jordan carried the backpack containing our meager belongings and wore his geeky headlamp, so I'm sure we were quite a sight for the few vehicles we encountered on the dark roads. Fortunately we arrived without incident and were in the car by go time.

As for the road trip, it had its highs and lows. For example, I got to experience my first meal at the legendary In and Out Burger. I also read an entire book, "Songs Without Words" by Ann Packer, which was a pleasant diversion. On the flip side, I also spent the entire trip sharing half a backseat with Jordan because the other half was overflowing with some of our bags. It was...cozy.

By the time we finally reached our destination, we were paradoxically eager to get out for a run yet feeling a bit tired and lethargic. Since the sun sets just after 5pm here, we were running in the dark almost the entire time. Geeky headlamp, check. The air was cold and dry and absolutely still, and it was a gorgeous night out in the desert. Jordan and I traversed some familiar streets and then he took me by a house that was festooned in an explosion of Christmas lights. There's really no way to describe it, and this picture doesn't remotely do it justice, but Jordan's dad said he read that their electric bill runs about $16,000 per
month. Maybe that puts things in perspective for you. After stopping briefly to gawk at the display, we headed back toward home.

Entrance to the Christmas explosion

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Week in Review

67 miles
1 bloody nose
3 doubles with Dad
4 AFDs

I'm disappointed that I didn't get to 70 miles this week, but I would've easily surpassed that mark had I not taken Friday off. I suppose Jordan and I could've run when I arrived in San Francisco, but I enjoyed doing some sightseeing and walking around in Union Square instead. This was definitely a solid week in terms of doubles, effort, and taking the time to do strides and drills and the like. I'm hoping to keep that up next week while in California, perhaps even throwing in a workout if time and scheduling permits. I'm also stoked to try out the new shoes Jordan brought me (even though it feels weird, after three years of wearing nothing but Miz and Brooks, to be "cheating" with Nike). Oh, and rumor has it there's a Team MJ reunion on the horizon as well...looks like the last week of 2008 is shaping up to be one of the best.

Annadel State Park Revisited, or "Please Don't Talk to Me Right Now"

90 mins.
~12 miles

After yesterday morning's hilly run, my legs were fairly banged up today. I wanted to get in a longer effort, but I also requested that we take an easier route. Apparently Jordan was engaging his selective hearing during this conversation, because he proceeded to take me on an even hillier route than yesterday. I was NOT a happy camper. So much so, in fact, that as we were grinding our way up a particularly steep hill and Jordan offered encouragement in the form of, "We're almost to the top," I responded with, "Please don't talk to me right now." And I wasn't kidding.

Once we did finally crest the hill, we had a steep downhill segment for the next few miles. Normally I would appreciate this, but my legs were fairly shot at that point and I was just trying to hang on for the rest of the run. We stopped for a bathroom break at one of the main parking lots, then took a flat road and bike path back for the remainder of the run.

Oh, and I did get over my rage at Jordan later in the run. He could tell I was having a hard time breathing and thought it was because my nose was stuffy (it was, in fact, because I am out of shape and he was killing me out there). We stopped for a few minutes to stretch (read: allow me to catch my breath) and he offered me his gloved hand as a receptacle in which to blow my nose. I decided right then and there that nothing says true love like letting someone blow their nose into your hand. For the record, I didn't do it. But it's the thought that counts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Annadel State Park

~82-83 mins.
10.68 miles (says Mr. Garmin)

For my first run in Santa Rosa, Jordan wanted to take me to Annadel State Park. This is where he put it almost all of his runs throughout high school and when he was home from college, and he was excited to show me his old stomping grounds.

When we pulled up to the main parking lot, we were greeted by cool temperatures and a light mist. Apparently this is pretty typical Northern California winter weather (as I would learn over the next few days) and we were both dressed in long sleeves with a jacket or vest on top. We immediately headed out into the trails for what Jordan thought was a ten-mile loop. While it was muddy in some places, overall the ground was in pretty decent shape. What was more challenging for me was a) the rocks and 2) the hills. Both were in abundance, both slowed the pace, and both kept me focused on the ground in front of me at all times. Once we crested a particularly steep hill, we turned back and then had a downhill reprieve for most of the way back. While our overall pace was unremarkable, the effort (at least for me) was constant throughout.

Oh, and one more item of note: apparently at some point in the run my left nostril decided to go ahead and start bleeding. No idea why. It took me almost twenty minutes to realize that it wasn't just the usual outpouring of snot, and when I finally looked down at my hands and saw they were covered in blood I knew something was amiss. I also knew that I was really, really hardcore.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sightseeing in San Fran

Day off

I pretty much knew I wasn't going to get a chance to run today due to travel. Unlike in Atlanta, where I can leave my house exactly 65 minutes before my flight and still make it in plenty of time, today my parents and I left Mt. Pleasant at 8:30 to make the two and a half hour drive to DFW. I spent the rest of the afternoon gradually making my way westward, and finally touched down in San Francisco just past 4pm Pacific time. Jordan and his mom picked me up and we headed into the city for a bit of sightseeing before making the drive up to Santa Rosa.

Kitty cat for adoption in the window

Maybe it's because today is the day after Christmas or maybe it was just a standard Friday night in Union Square, but the place was packed. We walked around for an hour or so and took in some sights, including the new ice skating rink, the adorable kittens and puppies up for adoption in the window and Macy's and the world's largest sugar castle (whatever that means) at the Westin St. Francis hotel. The weather was perfect, cool but not uncomfortably so, and it was a great night to be out and about in the city.

Christmas tree in Union Square

Oh, and I did go for a run...for about 70 meters. Jordan brought me a pair of Luna Trainers and I took them for a spin in the driveway. Pretty sweet.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

AM: 68 mins.
8 miles
PM: 3 miles

I woke up bright and early on Christmas morning to go running with my dad and some of his friends. We kept a pace that was considerably slower than I'm used to--probably between 8:30 and 8:45--and it took my body a while to relax and feel comfortable instead of trying to fight it. Once I did, I actually kind of enjoyed the leisurely tempo. I'm probably guilty of running a bit too fast on many of my "easy" days, and this morning's run was really more about the company than anything else. Plus, I've got ten days of hammering with Jordan coming up, so I need all the easy days I can get.

At one point I was chatting with my dad's friend Tom (whose wife, incidentally, was my ninth grade biology teacher) and he mentioned a story I found later in today's Dallas Morning News about a local charity that helped brighten the Christmas of many of the city's homeless. Soup Mobile, a nonprofit that operates similar to a "Meals on Wheels" program, partnered with the Hyatt Regency in Dallas to put up over 400 homeless people for the night. In addition to providing each person with their own room, they were treated to gifts, clothing and a banquet and were even greeted by volunteers while walking down a red carpet. On a day that so many of us spend opening gifts at home with our families, stories like this serve as a reminder of how important it is to help those less fortunate. Feel free to visit the Soup Mobile web site if you're interested in donating to their cause.

Anyhow, I was fortunate to get in another run this afternoon after a day relaxing and eating some good food with my parents. Mom wanted us to go pick up a movie and Dad wanted to try out his sweet new Garmin 405 (shout out to Jordan and OK Runner for helping play Santa), so Dad and I volunteered to run to Blockbuster and back. I feel pretty confident that we're the only two people who have ever done so in Mt. Pleasant. This was another easy run and another chance to spend some time with my dad, which is always fun. All in all this was a wonderful Christmas and the perfect end to a relaxing visit in Mt. Pleasant.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Riff Ram Bah Zoo!

49 mins.
Strides, Drills
7-7.5 miles

First and foremost, I must give a shout out to the TCU Horned Frogs, who pulled out an amazing fourth-quarter upset to beat the previously undefeated Boise State Broncos in last night's Poinsettia Bowl. Go Frogs!

Now on to the important stuff. I'd fully planned on going to the Mt. Pleasant High School track this morning, but it wasn't meant to be--not for lack of motivation, but moreso for the innate hectic-ness that is Christmas Eve. I'm pretty sure I just made that word up. Anyhow, since I still wanted to get in a harder effort I decided to do a progression run of sorts along the familiar country roads. I was aiming for about 7 miles and I took the pace out pretty easy, so I waited until just after 26 minutes to turn around. When I did, I was greeted by the wind, which apparently changed directions last night with the change in weather (whereas I was bundled up as heavily as possible on Monday, today I was warm in shorts in and a short sleeve top). Naturally the stiff breeze made the going a bit more difficult, so I just focused my efforts on continuing to press at a gradually increasing rate. The last mile back to my parents' neighborhood is a steady downhill and I used it to help me relax while tightening down the pace. I finished up at just under 49 minutes, which means I went out in 26:0x and came back in 22:2x. Not a bad effort. I concluded the run with some strides and a set of drills.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Country Roads, Part Deux

AM: 73 mins.
10 miles
PM: 4 miles
30 mins. walking around the driveway

This morning was a solid ten degrees warmer than yesterday, which put temperatures in the mid-30s at go time. Unfortunately the sky was spitting a misty drizzle throughout my entire run, which kept my face and hands sufficiently chilly when I was going into the wind. Unlike yesterday, when there were quite a few cars on the road, today it was pretty much just me and the cows. The peaceful solitude is quite refreshing considering I do 90% of my runs in the city.

One thing I was consciously working on during this run was my arm motion. When I worked out with Jeff last week, he noticed that I have a lot of across-the-body arm movement, which is pretty inefficient. Easy distance runs like today's give me plenty of time to focus on keeping the arms lower and minimizing lateral movement. Meredith said she used to have this problem when she was younger, to the point where her coach made her run with a stick in each hand so she could concentrate on not allowing them to touch. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

In the afternoon, my pops and I ventured into town for lunch and a matinee. We took in the new Will Smith flick "Seven Pounds," a romance/mystery/drama that walks the line between being depressing and majorly depressing. There's a scene in the movie where Rosario Dawson's character, who has congenital heart failure and has only a few months to live without a transplant, tells Will Smith's character that there's so many things she dreams of accomplishing and doing with her life. She lists the obvious things like traveling, having a family, etc., and then says, "I would love to go running. I dream all the time about what it must feel like to just be able to go for a run." Given that I spend half my time grumbling and complaining about pounding the pavement, situations like that (be they real or dramatized) certainly put things in a different perspective. And so, when we got home, Dad and I laced up the shoes and headed out for a double. And then ate some cake. It was a pretty solid day overall.

Oh, and I spent 30 minutes walking up and down the driveway talking to Jordan on the phone. It's not mileage per se, but it has to count for something.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Feels Like Christmas

AM: 60 mins., Drills
8-8.5 miles
PM: 4 miles

When I awoke at my parents' house in East Texas this morning I was greeted with temps in the low 20s that promised not to rise much during the day. I waited until 9am in hopes of things warming up a bit, but it was still 25 or so with overcast skies and a stiff breeze. At that point I was expecting the worst, and was actually quite surprised at how good I felt out there. My face was quite chilly during a few sections into the wind, but otherwise I enjoyed meandering around the country roads behind my parents' neighborhood for a bit. I returned home and did some drills in their driveway, which is sure to have puzzled any neighbors who may've been watching.

I was looking for some company on my afternoon run and luckily my dad was happy to oblige. By then it was a tropical 31 degrees and still breezy, but like the morning we both warmed up fairly quickly. There's been a mention of sleet tomorrow, which none of us are looking forward to, but I'm hopeful that the conditions will improve. I know it's warmer here than many other places in the country and therefore I shouldn't complain, but come on, people! This is Texas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week in Review

65-66 miles
1 trip to Charlotte
1 tasty sushi dinner with G-Unit
2 days at 2 different airports
2 days left until I'm officially unemployed

Overall I'd call this week a success on all fronts. In addition to completing my first supervised track workout, I also got in some house hunting in Charlotte and several solid runs/outings with friends. I'm thoroughly looking forward to the next few weeks with my family and with Jordan and his family and I'm hoping to put in some quality mileage amidst all my crazy traveling. The foot is feeling much better and I'm confident the legs will come around soon as well.

To those of you traveling over the next few days: may your bags weigh less than 50 pounds, may your seatmates be courteous, and may your delays be minimal. Now that would be a true Christmas miracle.

Leaving On a Jet Plane

60 mins.
8 miles

I got started just after 7am on this cold and windy run. It wasn't quite as windy as last Sunday at White Rock but it wasn't much better either. My legs felt decent and I would've liked to put in more than an hour, but instead I had to hurry back and get ready to leave for my 11am flight.

When I arrived at the Atlanta airport--which is widely known as being the world's busiest--I was greeted with more chaos and bedlam than I have ever seen in one place. I've flown in or out of here on Thanksgiving morning, on the morning before Thanksgiving, on Christmas Eve and on Easter, and I can honestly say things were crazier today than I've ever seen. In fact, I would use "frantic" as the word that most succinctly sums up the mood. Many of the people on my flight were flying standby after having been stranded or delayed at various other destinations and were none too happy with Delta this morning (and on that topic, neither was I, given that I had to pay a princely $40 to check both of my bags). When all is said and done, I arrived safely in Dallas just a few minutes later than my scheduled time, so I suppose I don't have much to complain about.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday at the River

81 mins. + drills
11 miles

I was supposed to do 14 today but it just didn't happen. I woke up early to meet Meredith at the river before she went to work, and the time we spent in the hilly trails totally wiped me out. I dropped her off at ~57 minutes and another dirt loop was all I could manage. My hamstrings and quads were just trashed. In an attempt to gain something from the run, I did a few of the new drills Coach G-Unit showed me at the end. They didn't help my legs feel any better, but at least the run wasn't a total wash.

The rest of the day was spent doing laundry, packing and running errands. It's difficult to pack for two weeks' worth of travel that comprises three different climates, especially when someone is threatening to limit you to only one suitcase, but so far things are shaping up nicely. Fingers crossed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

No Creative Title, I Just Doubled

AM: 53 mins.
7 miles
PM: 4 miles

I woke up feeling pretty stiff and sore after my track workout yesterday. My foot was a bit tender as well, so I opted to jog down to the AO to put in some time on the softer surface. There was some serious commotion going on nearby, and I counted at least a dozen fire/ambulance/emergency vehicles that sped by with their sirens blaring. I sort of forgot about it until later tonight when I stumbled upon this NY Times article that explained the situation. Sounds pretty intense.

Not much else to report about today's runs so I'll leave it there. I've got some serious laundry and packing and errands to accomplish before leaving for my two-week Christmas vacation so I better get on that.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Charlotte Track Workout

20:15 w/u (3 miles)
Strides, Drills
Target: 3x1200 @5k pace; each lap cut down 87, 85, 83
Actual: (84, 86, 85); (84, 85, 87); (86, 86, 83); (87, 85, 84?)
10 min. c/d (1+ miles)
Total: 7.5 miles

Today was the first of what will undoubtedly be many track workouts with Coach G-Unit. I made a relatively last-minute decision to drive up to Charlotte yesterday so I could spend today checking out apartments and taking a spin around the campus. It also fit my schedule nicely to incorporate this week's track workout, so we decided to get it out of the way this morning before tackling the real tasks of the day. One of the team's 800 guys was also in town and needed to do his own workout (8x200, I think) so we all headed over to the track together. Also, it bears mentioning at this point that we didn't work out at the actual Queens University track. Instead we drove a few miles across town to another college track. Why, you ask? Well apparently when Queens was building their super-duper new athletic complex recently, someone--and I'm not kidding with this--decided to PAVE the track with asphalt. Yes, asphalt. As in, "I'll take 'surfaces you pave a road with' for $300, Alex." I mean, can you imagine the levels of incompetent decision making that had to take place in order for this to actually happen?

But I digress. Anyhow, since I had no idea where I was, I tagged along for the three-mile warmup with Devon. And ran my 5k PR. Okay not really, but 20:15 is considerably faster than I would normally run a 3-mile warmup on my own. After we made it back to the track, I did a few strides and Coach G-Unit showed me some form drills to start incorporating into my daily routine. I dilly-dallied around and stalled for as long as I could before actually beginning the workout.

Overall, I thought this was a positive first effort. I couldn't really get the hang of the pacing and my splits went from faster to slower more often than they did the opposite, but I was pleased that the cumulative time for each interval was basically where it should be. Having someone there to watch me and call out my splits felt a bit odd, as I've been removed from this atmosphere since high school, but I'm excited that after just one session I've come away with some specific things to work on and areas to improve. I came away from this workout more eager than ever to start the track season next month.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Breakfast Run With the Girls

70 mins.
9-10 miles

This morning I had a run planned with Ashley and Jennie. We really just wanted to hit up the Flying Biscuit and figured we better burn a few calories first. Because I knew I wouldn't be doubling, I opted to jog over to Ashley's from my place so I could get in a few extra miles. I arrived just as the watch hit 15 minutes and then stretched on the curb until Jennie arrived.

A word about the weather today: it's disgusting. Like warm, muggy, drizzly, gross. It doesn't feel remotely like Christmas and I'm not happy about it at all. That said, the run was still enjoyable thanks to the company. Ashley and Jennie are pretty excited about me going back to school and running track this spring (although sad to see me leave). Both of them ran collegiately--Ashley was a 5k/10k girl at Georgia State and Jennie ran the 1500 at the University of Akron--and they're already making plans to come to one of my meets and paint my name on their stomachs or something.

Anyhow, the run passed quickly. I parted ways with them in the middle of Little Five Points and finished at my house just at 70 minutes. After that it was time to meet the girls at Flying Biscuit and really get the morning started.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

AM: 6 miles
PM: 4 miles

Running by myself is boring.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Katy Trail Recovery Run

~61 mins.
8-8.5 miles

By Monday morning, the contingent of Team JJJSM+A and our fans had dwindled to myself, Jordan and Scotty. We indulged in sleeping as late as we wanted and then lounged around the room drinking coffee for a few hours before heading out the door. We were in for a shock when we finally got around to checking the weather, as temperatures had dropped over 50 degrees since the previous day. After a Sunday that was warm, muggy and windy, we faced a Monday that was 20 degrees, damp and equally windy. Basically it's the kind of cold that chills you to the bone. Needless to say, we bundled up pretty extensively before heading outside. We passed a guy who was walking to the hotel, presumably from the parking lot across the street, who gave us a look that was one part sympathy, one part disbelief and one part sc
orn and said, "I'm taking the day off."

But we forged ahead. Since we were just a few blocks away from American Airlines Center and one endpoint of the Katy Trail, we opted for a basic out and back route from there. To our pleasant surprise, the trail was la
rgely protected from the wind, and we never really battled it in either direction. None of us were feeling quite as banged up as we expected (although this will probably set in later), and the easy pace was quite enjoyable. We rounded out the morning with a leisurely brunch at Cafe Brazil and prepared to go our separate ways.

View of the AA Center from the terminus of the Katy Trail, presumably
on a warmer day

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Week in Review

62-63 miles
5 awesome relay team members
1 bottle of Jordan wine
8 people crammed into a 4-seater
1 giant bag of peanut butter M&Ms

This was undoubtedly the most enjoyable week of running that I've had in quite some time. I'm sure part of it has to do with my legs and feet (and body in general) finally feeling better and back to normal, but mostly it's because I got to spend so much time with friends. Even though the weather at WRM absolutely sucked and even though I was in the hurt tank for much of my race portion, I had an absolute blast out there.

Also, I feel like it's appropriate at this juncture to formally announce my plans for the spring. Many of you who read my blog are already aware, but I wanted to let everyone know that I am quitting my job and going back to school full time in January. Specifically, I'm going to be spending quite a bit of quality time with Coach G-Unit, as I will be running track and cross-country for him at Queens University in Charlotte. Since I didn't run in undergrad, I have plenty of eligibility left to use while studying to earn an MA in Strategic Communication. I am excited, nervous and overwhelmed right now but can't wait to get started. My last official day with Brooks is December 23rd, and at that point I will officially be unemployed and a starving college student. Feel free to send any donations my way in the meantime.

Dallas White Rock Marathon

Team OK Runner Elite and Aja, aka Team JJJSM+A

~1.5 mile w/u
~5 miles @ 30:33 (approximate)
~1 mile running to/from car to pick up Scotty D and Jordan
~7 miles pacing Ms. Aja De
Total: 14-15 miles

Wow. What a day. I could probably write my longest blog entry to date on today's relay and all the surrounding events, but instead I will be somewhat lazy and link you to Jordan and Jilane's comprehensive descriptions. I suggest you check them out for photos, videos and some stellar race commentary from their perspectives.

As for my part, I will share a bit about my leg of the race. First of all, as the other blogs have indicated, the weather conditions were quite less than ideal for a marathon today. Or for my hair. Or really for anything. 60-70 degree temps, winds gusting upwards of 35 mph, and disgusti
ng humidity do not make for optimal race times. (In the end, the winning marathon times were ~8-10 minutes slower than they have been in previous years, which gives you an idea of what we were dealing with). For myself and Scotty D in particular the conditions were rough, as both of us ran on the exposed sections around the lake for our race legs. I had hoped to run close to six minute pace for my leg, but all thoughts of time flew out the window (no pun intended) with the wind. Instead I just wanted to maintain our position and put forth a solid effort.

So, at mile 10 Jilane handed off the baton (read: slap bracelet) to me and I tossed her the car keys. She would later bring the car, which I parked at my exchange zone, to pick me up after I finished. Jordan and I ran together for the majority of my leg, as he was in the midst of his 20-mile effort at this point. I felt pretty strong on the first three miles, but when we turned into the wind it was all
over. Jordan did his best to block the gusts for me, but in the immortal words of Doug Starr, "he's a little dude and that's why I feel comfortable around him." His 140-pound frame could only do so much, and I still felt like I was running through quicksand. That said, I was in control enough to ask him to pick up the pace a few times in the last mile, and I tried to finish strong with the handoff to Scotty at mile 15. While I didn't pass anyone, no one passed me, so I suppose I consider my effort a small victory.

After Jilane and I met the boys at mile 20 (again, read Jordan's blog for more commentary about this leg of the race), we started on our second mission for the morning: helping pace our beloved Aja on the remainder of her marathon debut. Her goal was to run 3:40 and qualify for Boston, but it was clear when we all met up at 19 that she would be able to run much faster if she kept her
composure. We gradually tightened the pace down from 7:50 to 7:20s and then clocked off the final two miles sub-7. I have never seen someone so happy, confident and comfortable in the latter stages of a marathon--much less a debut marathon--as Aja was, and Jilane and I were pumped to help her shatter her previous race expectations. At 3:23 and change, Aja easily slid under the Boston qualifying time and looked strong doing it.

Aja looking fresh as a daisy at mile 25

When the dust settled (again, no pun intended but geez these are softballs), Team OK Runner Elite ended up in first place in the co-ed open division and third place in the overall relay, behind two all-male teams. Our time of 2:30 wasn't quite as quick as we'd hoped, but given the weather it would've been unrealistic to expect better. Overall I couldn't be prouder of our team and of Aja, and can't wait to come back in 2009 to defend our title AND lower our race time.

This entry is already longer than I'd planned, but I would be remiss if I didn't close without a few highlights of the day:

1. Scotty D. answering a knock on our hotel room door at 2:30am to find two assumed call girls who had mistakenly come to the wrong room.
2. Jilane, Aja and I rolling up on some guy wearing a Texas Longhorns jersey at mile 25 of the marathon. Aja was wearing an OU jersey. All three of us gave him the upside down horns and a hearty "Boomer Sooner!" as we left him in the dust.
3. The homeless man with the five-year-old Greyhound bus ticket approaching us in the parking lot asking for "money for food." Jordan made me give him one of my Clif bars, which he apparently did not recognize or trust. We went back to the car a few hours later and found the uneaten, unopened bar resting on our windshield.
4. Dropping Jilane off for her 5pm flight at DFW, only to discover moments after we left that she was actually flying out of Love Field. Subsequently taking a tour of Dallas airports.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Norman Wog

~52 mins.
7 miles

McNellie's Pub Run champs and our benefactors for the evening

After a fun and festive night at the McNellie's Pub Run celebration, Jordan and I slept a little later than usual before heading out for a short jaunt. We didn't have a particular route in mind so just kind of wandered the streets, past campus and across Main before turning back toward Campus Lodge. We stumbled across what looked to be the staging of a Christmas parade at Norman High School, which reminded me of the time I was an elf in the Christmas parade when I was five and they glued felt ears on me and the glue wouldn't come off and I cried for hours afterward. But I'm totally over it.

Otherwise not much to report. We're rounding up the gang and heading down to Dallas today to pick up our packets at the White Rock Marathon expo. Team OK Runner Elite has some work to do tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The "Meagan" Loop

~63 mins.
~9 miles

Jordan and I got up this morning to put in a few miles around the familiar streets of Norman. We ran the loop that I opt for pretty much every time I'm in town, although to be honest I'm not really sure why. There's nothing remarkable about the loop, but for some reason I prefer it over most others that we do. Anyhow, Jordan mentioned that the route doesn't have a name, so I suggested calling it the "Meagan" loop. He said you can only name a run based on something significant that happens along the way or a significant landmark you pass and therefore my suggestion was unacceptable. However, since he has yet to name a better option, I am hereby appropriating "Meagan" as the official name for this loop. Deal with it, JSK.

Oh yeah, and the run itself was fine. Quite chilly but with little wind, and I always enjoy the company.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Norman Night Run

32-33 mins.
4+ miles

After a long day of travel, which included a slightly weather-delayed flight from Atlanta to Dallas and a now-familiar drive in a rental car to Norman (no minivan this time, so save the jokes), I was less than enthused about running. I had fully intended to run in Atlanta in the morning--honestly, half of why I scheduled my flight as late as 11am was so I could get in a jog beforehand--but the rain that started on yesterday's run with Meredith never really abated. It was absolutely pouring when I woke up this morning, so I decided I'd just wait and get in a jog with Jordan. But by the time we left OK Runner and made our way to Campus Lodge, it was dark and chilly outside and I was quite tired and hungry. Jordan ignored my whining and insisted we get out for a short spin around campus, so I finally gave in and changed into my costume.

As it turns out, the run was quite pleasant. Though dark outside, Jordan sported his stylish and functional headlamp, and there were plenty of people out and about near campus and Campus Corner. Though the temperature was cool, there was zero wind to speak of, and it ended up being a beautiful night to be out. We did a quick four-mile loop and then cleaned up at home before heading out for sweet potato fries and fine wine at Blu.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When it Rain, It Pours

59 mins.
~8 miles

My rainy view of downtown on the drive home

The title of this post could very well be the title for my life at this moment. But for blogging purposes, it also serves as the title for my morning run. When I awoke at 6:15 the rain seemed to be taking a break after having fallen on and off all night, and a quick look at the weather forecast on my phone showed that the rain was slated to continue all day. Meredith and I decided to meet at the river for a run in hopes of catching the eye of the storm.

Our hopes held out for about 30 minutes, at which point the skies opened up and the deluge began. We were still in the forested trails for the next ~15 minutes, but as soon as we reemerged on the flat loop we were instantly drenched. As much as I hate starting a run in the rain (and we all know I have an aversion to melting), it was actually kind of fun to tromp around in the puddles for the remainder of the run. Yesterday's warm front has held steady and it was well over 60 degrees, which no doubt helped keep things comfortable. I'm also not nearly as sore as I anticipated from yesterday's track workout, so that kept things pleasant as well. Overall, despite being thoroughly soaked at the end, Meredith and I had a great time out there this morning.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Back on (Grady) Track

AM: 4 miles
PM: 15 min. w/u (2 miles)
Target: 8-12x400 in low 80s w/1 min. rest
Actual: 82, 80, 80, 80, 80, 80, 80, 80, 79, 79
16 min. c/d (2 miles)
Total: 6.5 miles

Today was super busy from a real life perspective, and the daylight almost got away from me before I headed out the door for my afternoon workout. I guess the Atlanta weather is trying to prove a point or something, because temperatures were in the mid 60s this afternoon and I was comfortable--warm, even--in short sleeves and shorts. An alternate title for this post could've been "Outrunning the Storm," as the wind was picking up and the sky looked pretty dangerous when I was jogging my warmup. As everyone knows, I tend to melt in the rain, so I was really hoping to get this in before the downpour started.

Oh, and I can't believe it took me until the second paragraph to mention the most exciting news of all: I ran at Grady High School track AND didn't get kicked off! Up top. I seem to have a knack for being unceremoniously evicted from high school tracks--both on the east coast and the west coast--so today's uneventful experience was a refreshing departure from the usual.

As for the actual workout, it went pretty well. Unlike last Tuesday's intervals where I felt frantic and out of control the entire time, I felt pretty smooth and restrained throughout. Jeff had advised I do 8 to 12 repeats, and after I finished #8 I told myself if I ran the following two under 80 seconds that I'd call it a day. If not, I'd make myself do the final two. Whether laziness or determination was the real motivator, at any rate I clocked just under 80 for #9 and #10 and was happy to peace out. My foot is a bit tender after spending the entire workout on my toes, but I'm not too worried about it. I'm still wearing trainers despite wanting to get back into the T5s and I'm hopeful that will pay off in the long run. All in all, a solid workout and confidence builder for this weekend's relay.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Double

AM: 45 mins.
6 miles
PM: 4 miles

Despite my legs being pretty fatigued from my ambitious week last week, I had a couple of enjoyable runs today. The weather was absolutely beautiful this morning; even though the temperature was hovering at 30 degrees, the sun was shining and the air was still. Simply a great day to be outside. Actually, both of these runs passed pretty quickly, as I had plenty to think about. Things are about to get pretty real around here...but more on that later.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Week in Review

60 miles
7 (!!!) days of running
2 (!!!) doubles
1 botched election

Without a doubt, this was my most solid week of running since before MCM. I got in a few quasi-workouts, a quasi-long run and even some quasi-doubles. It feels good to be back on the right track, and I'm hoping to build on this for the rest of December. My foot is much better, although still not 100%. The lima beans and ibuprofen will continue indefinitely, I suppose.

Lucky for me, running isn't all I have to look forward to this week. I'm off to Norman in a few days to visit Jordan, see some familiar faces and enjoy a fruity beer or two at the McNellie's Pub Run celebration. Then it's down to Dallas with Team OK Runner Elite (also known as Team JJJSM) to change a few lives at the White Rock Marathon Relay. Should be a fabulous weekend all around and I'm pretty stoked.

Group Run at the River

90 mins.
12 miles

I had a lovely group run this morning with Jim, Meredith, Jennie and her husband Leo. This was the first time these two pairs had met each other, so I brokered the introductions and then let comradery take its course. Actually all parties got along swimmingly and it was a fun time.

Jennie and Leo only wanted to go an hour or so, so we did a pretty basic loop up in the trails and then dropped them off back at the parking lot. Jim and Meredith and I did another flat 5k loop and then they also called it a day. I decided to run another 12 minutes or so to bring it to an even 90. Jeff had 13 on my schedule for the morning, but my legs are feeling rather fatigued from yesterday's effort and I didn't want to push things too much. Besides, it looks like I could crack 60 miles on the week, which is pretty stupendous. 61 would just be showing off.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don't Call It a Comeback

56 mins.
8-8.5 miles

Before I detail this run, let me just say that I'm marking this date on the calendar as the first time I have felt good running hard since before MCM. Seriously. I finally felt like my old self today, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

But back to the beginning. The day started with a drive out to Braselton, Ga where I Brooks-ed up a local road race. If you think mid-20 degree weather feels cold while running, let me assure you it feels even worse when you're just standing around watching other people run. However, it was all worth it for the quote of the morning, spoken by a middle-aged man who was chatting me up before the race.

Dude: Hey, isn't that guy on your car the one who died?
Me: (Pausing while I realize he is thinking of Ryan Shay) Um, no.
Dude: Because if so you guys should really do something about that.
Me: Yeah, no, he's very much alive. Thanks for the heads up though.

Were he actually dead, as Jilane said, the flames would be viewed as most inappropriate. Anyway, so after standing around at this race for a few hours and gradually losing all feeling in my extremities, I went over to the sponsoring store, Runners Fit, to work the floor for a few hours. By the time I got home it was nearly 4pm and I wasn't feeling motivated to drive out to the river to run. I decided it might actually be better to run on the bike path in Candler Park and Inman Park. For starters, there's no mile markers (or at least not consistent ones), so compulsively checking the pace wouldn't be an option. Also this route is gently rolling throughout, aggressively so on the second half, so I knew I would constantly be working even if the pace dropped off.

My setup at the race, including the very much alive Brian Sell

Basically I just felt great on this run. I started dropping the pace almost immediately and kept up the intensity throughout. I would estimate I ran ~43-45 minutes at "tempo" effort, which I would put somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5 miles. No way to know for sure, really, but that's not even the point. This run was reminiscent of a few months ago when I did a similar effort on almost the exact same route; I felt like I was continuously pressing yet remained fluid throughout. Definitely a confidence booster given how I've been feeling lately. I'm still going to fight Jilane for the short leg of the relay next weekend, but at least I know I'll be able to run respectably.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Almost a Workout

AM: 4 miles
PM: 3 miles

So this afternoon I had a tempo on tap. Originally Jeff wanted me to do 5 miles at 6:20 pace, but after realizing that I am slow and out of shape he amended this to "6 miles, if you think you can handle it, at whatever pace you can run, don't look at your watch." With the sad state of affairs my running is currently in, I was more than happy to accept the latter instructions.

However, it turned out things were not to be. I opted to drive to the river for the run to stay on the softer surfaces, but by the time I got out there it was cold and almost dark. After one time around the flat loop I was freezing and my stomach was all screwed up and I just wasn't in the mood. I didn't take any mile splits but I did glance at my watch at the finish, and it looks like I did 5k in ~21 minutes, with the first mile being a warm up. That's definitely not fast, but the two miles I ran uptempo actually felt pretty decent. I'm going to give it another go tomorrow, hopefully with better results.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Massage for My Legs, Lima Beans for My Foot

58 mins. + strides
8 miles

I met Meredith at the river this morning for one of our standard trail runs. She was coming off a few days' break (having run a 5k on Thanksgiving AND a half-marathon on Sunday while visiting her family in Florida) and only wanted to go ~45 minutes, so we turned back a few minutes earlier than usual. After dropping her off I had about 10 minutes to kill, so I jogged out for five and then did some strides on the way back. Overall I'm still feeling a bit sluggish and my foot is sore, but things could be worse. At least I didn't maim myself playing video games like my teammate. Between her ankle, Scotty's foot and my general lack of fitness, Team OK Runner Elite (also known as Team JJJSM) needs to achieve some monumental improvements before next weekend. Who would've thought Jordan would be the healthy one?? The irony abounds.

Also of note, I got a massage tonight. Hopefully this will help my hamstrings loosen up and change my life. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Afternoon Jog

46 mins.
6 miles

Not much to say about this afternoon's run except that it was slow and I was sore. My foot was pretty tender today as well, no doubt aggravated by yesterday's blazing workout. I was supposed to finish off this jog with some strides but I opted in favor of nursing my foot instead.

Oh, and Georgia let me down. Looks like the Republicans will preserve the ability to filibuster after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

So You're Saying There's a Chance

AM: 4 miles
PM: 20 min. w/u (2.5 miles)
Target: 4x800m @ 2:40 w/2 min. rest
Actual: 2:43, 2:44, 2:44, 2:44
20 min. c/d (2.5 miles)
Total: ~7 miles

For my first day back in the ATL after an extended Thanksgiving break, Jeff decided to treat me to a nice 800m workout. While 4x800 is a considerably shorter workout than any of the ones in my marathon buildup, it was also slated to be run at pace I hadn't hit since, oh, somewhere around 2001. Not to mention I'm pretty sure I haven't cracked seven minute pace since MCM. Nonetheless, around 4pm I headed down to the AO to get this party started. In hindsight, I could've probably used Grady High School track since it was after school hours, but I don't even consider that an option anymore after getting kicked off the last time I attempted a workout.

Anyhow, after a 20 minute warmup I pretty much just jumped right into things with a near-suicidal 36-second opening 200m. Geez. I settled down after that (read: felt like I was going to pass out) and finished off the first interval in 2:43. Normally I would wear flats for this type of workout, but with the foot in mind I opted to stay with the trainers, and I'm pretty sure the T5s would've enabled me to run at least five seconds faster per interval. Or something like that. Anyway, basically after the second go I was in a world of hurt. My legs are not accustomed to this. About 100 meters into the fourth and final interval I came to a dead stop. As in, I was pretty sure I couldn't run any farther. Not wanting to end things on such a sour note, I walked around for a few seconds, took a few deep breaths, then sloooowly jogged back to the starting line for another attempt. I was able to complete that one, which I guess is a victory in itself.

So yeah, while I'm definitely not anywhere close to being in shape, I find this effort to be somewhat encouraging. I legitimately didn't know if I could run faster than six minute pace with the way my legs have been feeling lately, so knowing that I can do so (at least for two miles' worth) gives me some hope and peace of mind (side note: I used to think that phrase was "piece of mind" until like two years ago. Same with "for all intents and purposes," which I used to hear as "all intensive purposes." But I digress).

On a totally unrelated non-running note, today I also had the privilege of voting in Georgia's Senate runoff election. We are currently one of two states still undecided in its national Senate races. If Democratic challenger Jim Martin defeats incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss, and if Al Franken someone pulls out a miracle in the Minnesota recount, the Dems could be up to 60 seats in the Senate! Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rivercrest Country Club Loop

60-61 mins.
8 miles

Yesterday Jordan and I bid my parents farewell and then drove to Ft. Worth to spend our last night in Texas. On Monday morning I wanted to take him on one of my familiar running routes from when I lived there, mainly focusing on the river trail and also Rivercrest Country Club, which is closed to golfers on Monday and therefore free reign for runners like us. While we could've run to the river from our hotel in downtown, I preferred to start and finish from Rivercrest so we drove there.

The facade of Bass Hall, an architectural and cultural
landmark near our hotel in downtown Ft. Worth

The most notable factor on this run was the wind. I'd almost forgotten how gusty it can get on the exposed river trail, and Jordan was no doubt feeling a preview of things to come upon his return to Norman. He decided to be very un-chivalrous (which is shocking) and refused to allow me to draft, so I had to pull my weight and keep the pace respectable on the windy sections. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable run. We started with a few miles on the golf course, then ran through Crestwood and the Greenwood Cemetery before hopping onto the river trail for the remainder of the run. We finished up Hidden Road, which is about a 600-700 meter hill that I used to have the pleasure of climbing almost every day, then jogged a few small loops on the golf course to bring it to an even hour.