A Few Random Things That Weren’t Individually Worth Their Own Post

  • It turns out Tupac the Cat is a boy, not a girl. Obviously, this has changed everything and he is very confused.
  • I started training at KQED this morning for an on-call job. This is very exciting, fyi. But, I do not know how people workout and make it to offices by hours like 8 a.m. I especially don’t know how they do this if they went to a comedy show last night and Dana Carvey made a surprise appearance and it went super late. I got about six hours of sleep and didn’t do anything this morning except get up, shower, and get in the car.
  • At that comedy show, the woman taking tickets recognized me from hosting the local weekly news show, Seriously Now, on public access. I’m pretty much a celebrity.
  • My sister is visiting through Saturday. We’re trying to come up with super awesome exciting things to do tomorrow.
  • Yesterday, before Maggie got here, I did a track workout at the high school by my house — which, incidentally, is not the high school I coach at, it’s our rivals — and there was a PE class going on. Since it’s the last days of school, they were just goofing off and the teacher didn’t mind that I was running in the middle of their class. So, I talked to him a bit and then he started giving one of the kids a hard time, saying ‘When I was your age, I could run a 10-flat 100m. Can you do that?’ And the kid said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I could totally do that if I wanted to.’ Which, obviously, he couldn’t, because you know 10″ is quite fast for 100m. But, the teacher challenged him to do it then instead of just being all talk. So, we all watched the two kids, who were convinced they were super awesome, make it about 50m before completely losing steam. Ah well.

Two Weeks Until Boston?

Today — after the weekend of accidental vomiting, many hours of Law and Order, and a futile trip to Target, which was apparently closed for some holiday — I did my first run outside.

I actually ran three miles on a treadmill last weekend and it went ok, but there was lots of soreness afterwards. So, when I ran three miles on the treadmill yesterday with no pain, the plan for today was: 30′ of running outside + 1:30 of running on the Alter-G with 2 x 30′ efforts. Very smart, very exciting, very last hard workout before Boston.

I even had a new super-cute tanktop from Old Navy, which I bought at their SALE when Target was closed. That’s what you get Target. This was the last picture of me being cute and optimistic today:

Yes, I am wearing skinny jeans. Don't worry. It doesn't happen often.
Yes, I am wearing skinny jeans. Don’t worry. It doesn’t happen often.

I thought running outside after two-and-a-half weeks of not moving anywhere during my workouts (besides my bike ride Saturday) would be so exciting that it would just sweep me along in a wave of sea breeze and lilacs. It didn’t. It turns out running at 100% body weight is heavier than running at 85% or 90%. I felt fat and slow and wheezy. Every minor uphill I became convinced I was the heaviest person to ever take up running.

I also became mildly convinced that, since I was running on a heavily trafficked path, someone would see me gasping and shuffling and it would ruin their image of me. How could I do that to them. It would shatter their world view. Of course, no one saw me or they did and they didn’t care, and I had to get over my bad self.

Then, I got back to Body Image after 45′ to run on the Alter-G and it went even farther and faster downhill.

My foot started hurting each footfall on the Alter-G, which doesn’t even make any sense. How can it not hurt at 100% body weight outside, but hurt at 75% body weight on the Alter-G? How??

It’ll go away, I told myself. Lately, it’s taken 10′-15′ to warm-up and then my foot stops hurting. But, it never did. I started the 30′ at 7:05 pace and moved the body weight slowly up to 85% and it hurt. I dropped it back down to 80% body weight and it hurt. I ran faster and it hurt. When I started the 30′ at 6:45 pace, I made it 10′ before I declared defeat. Really I probably should have before, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to get my one last hard workout in. I wanted the pain to go away. I wanted to feel confident with Boston two weeks from today.

But, none of those things happened. So, instead I cried a little and I pity-ate half an order of hotdog and garlic fries. I’ve been pity eating a lot. This does not help, in case you were wondering.

At this point, the only thing to do is continue to rest my foot and ice it and take anti-inflammatories and hope really hard. I really wish I hadn’t used up our Flector patches, because I’m pretty sure those things would zap the fucking inflammation right out of my foot. And, I’ll get through Boston, I’m pretty sure — with a little wishful thinking and mental toughness (at least that’s been getting some good training lately). And, the last ten miles will probably be painful as hell. And, I’ll probably deal with it. Probably.

Can Being Sad Make You Slower?

For the last week or so, I’ve been sad. There’s not really a better or more elegant way to say it. There’s a whole range of reasons that I’m particularly sad about Floyd the Cat dying, but the end result is really very simple and probably not shocking. I screwed up nearly every assignment I had last week and barely kept it together for an interview — hopefully enough though. I’m back on track for work now, but I’m still sad.

(I’m also well aware that there are a number of you who think I shouldn’t be that sad about a cat we had for five months or who are surprised I am. But, you know, the probability is I liked Floyd the Cat more than you, so who cares what you think.)

I also may have gotten scammed by an 11-year-old yesterday. Or, I may have bought an absurd number of cookies. Partially, I felt bad because I used to have to hock all kinds of things door-to-door in school — wreaths, cheesecakes, lap-a-thons — and I bet you’d like to think that oh, I lived in a simpler time, but no, I’m pretty sure my parents just figured I could take care of myself. Partially, though, I had also heard a UPS truck pull up and Floyd’s ashes should be delivered by UPS any day (don’t ask), so when it was some kid with a cookie order sheet instead, I just started handing him cash.

The result was this conversation when Steve got home:

Steve: Did he leave you any paperwork or anything?
Me: No
Steve: Did you get his name?
Me: No
Steve: A receipt?
Me: No. *pause* I gave him $15 and he said he’d bring me cookies in a month.
Steve: What kind of cookies? Like boxes, or dough, or frozen dough?
Me: Um, I don’t know. But, I picked the mint chocolate chip ones.

Besides not being mentally sharp, though, there’s no good reason I shouldn’t be physically ok. I didn’t sleep much the beginning of last week, when we were trying to figure out what to do about Floyd, and then I didn’t sleep at all one night. And, obviously, all that laying on the couch and crying didn’t happen on its own. That was some hard work. But, since then, I’ve had plenty of sleep. Physically, there’s nothing wrong (except one niggling hamstring). And yet.

And, yet. I ran a 40:48 10K on Saturday. Apparently, everyone expected me to run that slowly except me.

Then, I spent a few days dragging my legs around at 9:00 pace. Actually literally dragging the leg with the screwed up hamstring. But, we’re not going to talk about that, because it’ll go away. Monday, I screwed up my back doing push-ups, which sounds like something a pathetic person would say. Tuesday, I killed myself to swim slower at Masters than I have since I started going back to Masters. Wednesday, I did some more dragging.

All of this meant I was not super optimistic about the hard workout today. But, why? There’s nothing physically wrong. Why am I sucking so much?

It turns out there’s not a ton of research on emotion’s impact on athletic performance. Most of the studies have been done on the optimal levels of stress and anxiety. Breaking news: too much is bad, too little is bad. Obviously, there is a lot of research about depression and the crippling physical effects of that, but that’s not really applicable. Depression is a little more than just being sad your cat is gone.

So, I headed out for my hard workout today with a sense of unease, but no real reason for it.

The run was 4 x 2 miles, starting at 7:05 (more-or-less marathon pace) and then each 2-mile effort descended at 10″/mi, down to 6:35 pace. That sounds hard. But, it also sounds like the first two shouldn’t be that hard. If I plan to run 7:00 miles for 26.2 miles, then two miles shouldn’t be bad.

It was and it wasn’t. Every step of the workout was shockingly harder than I thought it would be. 7:04 did not feel easy, but it happened. 6:50s were so bad that I figured there was no way I’d be able to run 6:35s The 6:42 nearly killed me. I was one giant flailing mess hurtling down the side of the road gasping and squinting. Before one of the efforts, I don’t remember which one, I let out an actual moan out-loud, “God, I don’t want to do this.” I’m not sure who I was telling, but it needed to be said.

And, then I did the last one. The first mile of it was easy. Maybe because I thought it would be impossible. But, the second mile wasn’t. And, the last half mile of the last mile was the most painful thing I’ve done since the last most painful thing. Kidding. Today was way worse. I thought, it’ll be ok if I don’t finish, it’ll be ok if I don’t hit the time, it’ll be ok. Then, I thought, stop being such a fucking loser. I had to do this to prove that I can, that I won’t let all the terribleness decide things for me, or to pass out and definitively know that I can’t.

When the watch beeped for the end of the second mile, I stopped and wobbled. I saw stars. It felt like everything was going to come up, but I didn’t even have the energy to dry heave. I grabbed my knees. I walked in circles and decided it was too soon to walk and grabbed my knees again. Eventually, I started walking, then shuffling, then jogging. I dragged myself home. And, you know what, I’m still sad. That didn’t change, because epiphanies only happen in shitty novels.

But, does it have to make me slower? Maybe, probably some definitely. It certainly makes it harder.

And, on we go.

Yesterday was the first day – other than when we were in the mountains and didn’t have internet – that I didn’t post anything on here. It’s probably obvious why. And, I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to say today either.

Although I pretty much just want to sit on the couch and watch TV, I’ve more or less been getting some work done and most of my workouts. I even managed a pretty hard workout on Sunday. Well, sorta managed. I did five of the six efforts, which is like a B+. I suppose there just isn’t really anything else to do. So, on we go.

Sunday, it was actually really sad, though. I headed out for a ride and when I got back and was changing to go back out for my run, Floyd was following me around. But, he’s not doing great. He was sort of stumbling and I had to hold his water bowl up for him to drink out of. And, he so wanted to go outside with me.

After I got home, then, and while he was still feeling pretty active and able to do stuff, we brought him up to the open space ridge above our house and took him for a walk on his leash. He loved it. And, then we took him down the street to the ice cream shop, so he could have as much vanilla ice cream as he wanted, which was like two spoonfuls –but that’s a lot for a 4 lb. cat. Now, he pretty much just eats ice cream, turkey, and steak, and spends all day sitting on his heating pad. I may let him have some beer too, since he’s always wanted to try one.

When he was like 3 months old. Always about the beer.
When he was like 3 months old. Always about the beer.

And, in the next week, maybe two, it seems like that’ll probably be that. And, he’ll be done.

I don’t know what else to day about it, so, instead, here is a video of a horse that ran amok in a bike shop.

Shit You Say When You’re Tired

For the most part, I’m not actually as mean as my reputation would suggest. I convince people to talk to me for a living, so obviously I’m perfectly nice most of the time. Usually, I start by assuming someone is OK and that there’s no reason for me to not be nice. Then, after that, I have learned to self-censor.

The exception to this is when I am tired. When I am tired it’s too hard to construct a wall between what I say and what I think. And it’s not really like I say crazy or terrible things. It’s simply that what we’re all thinking pops right out of my mouth before I even realize it had left my brain.

Today, I got killed on the track. You know how I said I keep thinking I can’t do workouts but I keep being able to do them anyway. Yeah, today I couldn’t. I mean I was really close until the last lap of the second 1.5 miles descending every half-mile, and then I just wanted to cry or shit my pants or anything that would stop me from having to run anymore. And, after that, I had 200s on the schedule. (Yay.) All of which means I was Tired, capital fucking T.

And, then this old guy starts sidling up to me in between the 200s and making small talk and asks: How fast are you running?

I shrug and mumble, I dunno. *Me giving social cues that I’d rather not be talking.*

Him: Yes, you do. You’re timing yourself.

Me: I know. I just don’t like it when people ask me that.

Which is true. And, not that mean. And, something I know we’re all thinking. And, I had no idea I was going to say it before I did. Since I didn’t know I was going to say that, I couldn’t think of anything else to say after it, so I just started my next 200.

Do you say weird/mean things when you’re exhausted?

It Really Depends on Your Perspective

This year, so far, I’ve had a lot of workouts I thought I simply couldn’t do. Lots of 2 x 20′ at 6:40 pace or 7 x 5′ at 6:30 or 30′ in-and-out (7:10, 6:45, etc). And I was just like straight up: nope, Coach Mario is wrong, I’m not this fast. Guess I’ll just try and fail, so he’ll believe me that I can’t do it.

Positive thinking and shit.

But, instead, I have nailed pretty much every workout. I haven’t had a single one (I can think of) that I was unable to complete or hit the times. They’ve sucked, but none have been as bad as I expected them to be, since I expected them to be un-doable. I have been killing it in workouts. [Obviously, me being me, this has also created a situation where I’m now convinced the next one is going to be the un-doable workout. That the magic is going to fall apart at any moment. Don’t look directly at it.]

Yesterday, I had a workout that didn’t sound that bad. It was a long run, 13.5-14 miles, with the last 6-7 miles at slightly up-tempo pace (like 7:30s). Totally do-able. I was not worried.

It sucked. Just blew. I was huffing and puffing and pumping my arms and squinting my eyes and dragging my legs and trying not to dry heave. The homeless people who live under the bridge were very concerned about me. All of that just to run a 7:34 mile. That’s not ok.

There are plenty of reasons this likely sucked more than it needed to:

Absinthe. Apparently not illegal since 2007. And, no longer hallucinogenic. I think.
Absinthe. Apparently not illegal since 2007. And, no longer hallucinogenic. I think.

But, I think it really sucked simply because I didn’t expect it to. In reality, my expectations should have been tempered. I had a long week last Monday-Friday. I then was up Saturday at 6 a.m. and in bed at 3 a.m. — and by bed I mean on someone’s couch. I chased down a ferry Sunday (full speed mile sprint) and missed. With my phone dead and the next ferry not for three hours, I had to improvise. I should have expected the run on Monday to suck and then I might have been pleasantly surprised if it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.

The thing about thinking things are going to be the worst possible is that they’re rarely as bad as you imagine and if they are, well, then, at least you’re prepared. When I swam Trans-Tahoe last summer with no wetsuit, I fundamentally believed I was going to go into shock and drown from the cold as soon as I jumped in. When I didn’t die, everything else didn’t seem that bad.

That’s some perspective.

Making Workouts a Priority: The Best Run Route in Marin

Yesterday, I had a long easy, hilly run on my schedule. Pretty much as soon as I saw that I got inexplicably excited and started daydreaming about what big trail loop I was going to do. Big easy loops on the watershed trails are my favorite and I haven’t got to do any this year.

Wouldn't you be excited if this was where you got to run?
Wouldn’t you be excited if this was where you got to run? From Fishing in Bon Tempe Lake.

That excitement was somewhat tempered after the race directing on Sunday was followed up by the fact that I have seven assignments due in the next few days, two other writing projects I need to finish, three other things due next week and various meetings/appointments/calls. There was no way to fit it all in.

It would be really easy, given the absurd number of things I have to do right now (and should be doing right now), to cut the workouts short or skip them. And, I may end up cutting short the hour easy bike ride later today. I despise hour easy bike rides unless they get me somewhere at the end.

But, there’s always a pretty good reason to skip workouts — family is in town, you have a lot of work, it’s a friend’s birthday, you don’t feel great, the cat needed to go to the vet. All of that would be totally understandable. No one would blame you. But, I decided, making your workout a priority, including it in the list of things that has to get done instead of just something you hope will get done, is what separates training from exercising. I suppose the degree of prioritization is what separates athletes from normal people who happen to like working out.

(That’s why when I said I couldn’t make a meeting and you saw me running instead, I wasn’t blowing you off. I was busy. I was busy running.)

So, instead, I just did the two-hour run yesterday even though I didn’t really have the time to. Actually, I was supposed to only run 1:40, but I added wrong when I was trying to decide on my route and only realized after I was an hour into it. Oops. And, you know what? I got everything done that I needed to get done yesterday anyway, even though there was no way that was possible.

Edit: Right after I wrote this I read that NYT article about how relaxing more and taking time off actually makes you more productive. Prioritizing my run might have actually made me able to get everything else done. So there.

This trail is actually called Shady Side. The other side of the lake is called Sunny Side. Clever.
This trail is actually called Shady Side. The other side of the lake is called Sunny Side. Clever. From Western Wildflower.

I ended up running one of my all-time favorite loops at the watershed, which if you’re ever in Marin you should definitely run. (Since I never take a camera with me, I’ve stolen some of these photos from other people, but that’s pretty much what it looks like. All the time.)

To do the best locals-only run in Marin, follow these instructions:

  • Park in Ross by the elementary school and run down the road to Natalie Coffin Green Park and Phoenix Lake.
  • Take the fire road along the north side of Phoenix to Eldridge Grade.
  • Run up Eldridge. Turn right at the fork, go past the water tower along the cement road for a half mile or so, it’ll spit you out on the paved road above Lake Lagunitas. Turn left and you’ll be in the picnic area soon.
  • Get water/go to the bathroom if you need to.
  • Run around Lake Lagunitas. This is fairly self-explanatory, though you have to turn right off the main trail at one point. If you don’t turn right, you will keep going all the way to the top of Mt. Tam.
  • Get water/go to the bathroom if you need to.
  • At the far west (?) end of the picnic area, across a little bridge, is the trail to Shady Side of Bon Tempe Lake. Run Shady Side, run across the dam, turn left at the bottom of the dam in the gravel parking lot and it connects to a fire road.
  • Run the fire road behind the golf course until you get to the Marin Municipal Water District watershed entrance.
  • Just past the kiosk/entrance on the right is a stable. There’s a water fountain there too. Behind the water fountain is a sketchy-looking, single-track, downhill trail. Take it. It’ll spit you out on the Flat Road, which is actually a trail.
  • Turn right on the Flat Road and run to Five Corners.
  • At Five Corners, take Shaver Grade down to Phoenix Lake.
  • Run back to your car in Ross.
  • Thank me.

The GPS says it’s 12.9 miles, but the GPS lies to you on the winding, wooded trails. It’s closer to 14 miles than 13. There’s also about 1,135 ft of elevation gain. Oddly, there was only 1,125 ft of elevation loss, though. So, I am evidently still 10 feet higher than I started.

And, I don’t regret having made that run a priority.

The Track

Numbers never lie.
Numbers never lie.

Today was my first track workout in probably a year. I was prepared to come back and tell you all how much I hate the track. But, the fact is, I sort of love it. Hate/love.

After running all my hard efforts on the road, I’m always so amazed how easy it is to hit those same paces on the track, even if you have to dodge kids and benches. It’s almost like the track is flat. Even if the track I run on, at the high school near us, emits a faint taste of rubber that clings to the inside of your mouth as you suck down air and when no one is there I can feel the humming of power lines in my teeth – though there are no power lines visible, it’s still always fast.

Today, there was a select youth soccer tryout going on too. Only the tryout didn’t start until I was actually completely finished. So, the entire time I was running, about a hundred kids and all their siblings were warming up and running around, throwing balls across the track, darting in front of me, and talking to parents who were standing in the middle of the lane. I dodged and wove. At one point in the middle of a tempo mile, I caught a ball about to hit me and threw it back to the kid without slowing down. Because the workout wasn’t challenging enough?

The workout was plenty challenging. It was mile, 6 x 800s, mile. And, the track never lies. The miles were just supposed to be tempo and the 800s descending. I suck at pacing, though. I kept telling myself don’t go too hard, because it’ll just hurt later. But, without fail, I pretty much always go too hard the first lap and then have to pull it back or hang on, depending. And, if you have to get faster throughout the 800s, starting too fast can end badly.

But, I got it done and did the last 800 in 2:59. Phew.