Category Archives: Go for it

To my dream reader

So I’m still about a week behind with the assignments! Go me. Later today I will be stepping further into the pond and commenting on blogs that I’ve never commented on. If you’re also (still) doing this one, drop me a comment here and I will return the favor, then it will be like we just got introduced at a party and got to know each other a bit.

I’ve been thinking about who this mythical dream reader is and I’m not sure that I have one. I hope that people with different experiences and backgrounds would find me a bit interesting. I am always excited when fellow runners and triathletes are here to read my race reports and training struggles. Occasionally, I post recipes so there are also some foodies who are my dream readers. I often try to be funny, so the dream reader also appreciates humor, bad puns, and pop culture reference. Obviously, the dream reader is a cat lover as well.

Actually, I do know exactly who my dream reader is. Because this blog is me, unfiltered (for the most part), my dream reader is the person who loves and accepts me as I am, without trying to change me or mock my sometimes dubious life choices, who offers support without expectations, comfort without guilt and compassion without end.

Wow, this inadvertently turned into a love letter to my wife. Sorry for getting schmoop and glitter all over your internet today. But if you’re reading (and you’re not the Wife) here’s the short version of how that all played out:

Girl meets girl online in a regular old geeky internet forum.
Conversations are had, email are exchanged. For years. Life continues as usual.
A face to face meeting occurs at an airport en route to a science fiction convention.
Girl begins to believe in love at first sight.
More years pass.
Girl realizes that someone’s got to take a chance.
She leaves home, family, friends, profession, job behind.
There are parties (4) and wedding ceremonies (2).
There are cats to be mailed to a new country.
Girl manages to convince other girl that triathlons are fun and of course she also needs a fancy road bike. Twice. (That is two fancy road bikes. Lots more triathlons, a few marathons, that sort of thing, because it’s like fun but different.)
Girl (attempts to) learn a new language.
And never regrets any of it for a minute.

So that is that story (abridged).

Here we are on the beach right after getting married, American style. Photo taken by one of my very lovely friends (Hi, Joeschlabotnik!) who could attend our middle of the workday gathering

Here we are on the beach right after getting married, American style. Photo taken by one of my very lovely friends (Hi, Joeschlabotnik!) who could attend our middle of the workday gathering

Lauf für Mehr Zeit: Race Report. PR and a terrible race all in one.

Oh look, A Race Report. The day after the actual race. For once. Dear blog readers (all 3 of you) I promise to be a bit more active here in the future and actually write up some of the races that I run and other interesting things that come my way. I have so much I want to write here that I either haven’t finished or haven’t yet started. Bur first, a report on yesterday’s 10k charity run.

Little me at the finish, in my dorky, oversize team shirt managing to give the rest of the team a smile, despite pretty much wanting to puke.

Little me at the finish, in my dorky, oversize team shirt managing to give the rest of the team a smile, despite pretty much wanting to puke.

First, a bit of set-up: I’m supposed to be deep in the heart of training for the next marathon on October 26, where I’d hoped to qualify for Boston. In the last three weeks I’ve missed one long run and about 50 miles worth of other runs, putting me hopelessly in the hole and making me readjust my BQ race to next spring. I’ve been working full time, doing aikido a minimum of three days a week and still trying to get 50 miles a week of running in. Something had to give and it was the running. After we got back from our excellent Netherlands-by-Bike (yet another post I haven’t managed to make – at this point, I have a travel back-log rather than travelogues), I could feel that I’d done some minor damage to my right knee, likely the result of me not being careful enough when I switched seats out on my touring bike. My knees are important to me, so I cancelled all the longer runs until the legs felt better and this was probably the right decision even though it hurt (not the knees, the pride) to do so. I suppose a step-down from marathon training with a bit of enforced rest is probably an OK 10 km training plan.

And a bit of background: This run is the Lauf für Mehr Zeit (Run for more time) that the local AIDS charity puts on every year. It started in 1995 as a 5 km fun run whose main purpose was to raise awareness and money. It didn’t even have timing chips or a 10 km option until 2012, and in 2012 and 2013, the 10 km course was short by about 2/3 of a km, so my 2013 time of 47:39 is utterly meaningless in the annals of my actual abilities and 10 km PR. My actual 10 km PR of 51:07 is from 2013’s Höchster Kreisstadt Lauf (which is a net downhill course run in early May). I had high hopes that this year’s course would be actually 10 kilometers instead of that random distance they seem to like so much.

Race day prep: The 5km race starts at 4 pm and the 10 km an hour after at 5 pm. I was racing as part of the team for the company that the Wife works for and where I’ve also been working as temp help all summer. That meant that I had some function as holder of things, giver-outer of numbers, and person-who-stays-at-the-meeting-point-for-all-the-late-comer-10-km-runners. So I got some very nice time stretching out in the sun before the race, but absolutely no warm-up outside of biking downtown on the city bike to get to the race. I did make us some relatively healthy oatmeal for breakfast, so we had that going for us. I didn’t even get to watch our 5 km racers (including the Wife who was 10th in a very big age group and in the top 10% of all the women running the 5 km. Only one person running on our work team was faster than she was in the 5km!) finish. I missed watching our 5 km walkers finish as they took their sweet time and only crossed the finish minutes before the 10k started. I also failed to see or document in pictures the inflatable starting arch deflate and flutter down to land directly on the Wife and everyone in her vicinity as the 5k started.

Race: I ducked into the one big giant corral for the 10k. There were 864 starters this year and as usual, about half of the people way up at the front had absolutely no idea what they were doing there. I thought I was pretty near the front, but still had to do the start-line shuffle well past where I wanted to. I also apparently started my GPS too early. The actual timing mat was about 10 meters past the starting arch where I hit start on the GPS. Then after I got out of the traffic jam, I went out much too ridiculously fast for the first 2 km or so. It’s a bad sign when at km 3 you already want the race to be over. It was really hot, the sun was beating down for the first time in what felt like weeks, my team shirt was both too big, (yes, it’s a small. No, I didn’t realize until the day of how ridiculous it would look on me.) and I really wasn’t trained or quite fit enough to attempt to break 50 minutes. Which is what I got into my head to do yesterday. All I had to do was run 5 minute kilometers. Ten of them. In a row. That doesn’t sound too bad. Does it?

Here’s the breakdown from my possibly not-so-trusty FR 305:

Lap Time Dist (mi) Pace
1 05:15.8 0.62 8:28
2 04:56.5 0.62 7:57
3 04:50.6 0.62 7:48
4 04:59.4 0.62 8:02
5 05:11.2 0.62 8:21
6 05:11.0 0.62 8:20
7 05:04.0 0.62 8:09
8 04:54.4 0.62 7:54
9 05:09.7 0.62 8:18
10 04:40.4 0.58 8:05

You can see here that right in the middle of things I had kind of a disaster after blowing myself up going out way too fast. Then after repeating every mantra I could think of about pain, pain-caves, not giving up, and the fact that I’ve done much harder things, I managed to pull it together slightly until I started feeling too sorry for myself and discovered that my legs didn’t really want to stay with the whole running-as-fast-as-you-can program right near the end. I haven’t raced in this much sustained pain in a long time. Well, that’s a complete lie. I think the last 10k of the marathon in May felt exactly like this, I just put it out of my mind. Here’s the problem. I seem to be at the place where in order to get faster, I have to hurt a lot more. Every race now involves a decision point to be faster and feel it or be content and slow. The problem with this race is that due to my inability to correctly pace a 10k, that decision felt like it came anew every 20 meters or so for about 7 kilometers.

My GPS or the Race Organizers: You’ve probably noted that the last lap appears to be about 4/100 of a mile too short. That’s about 65 meters, or at the pace of the last half km where I did miraculously have a bit of a finishing kick, about 23 seconds. I checked the race FB page and no one’s commented on the course being short. I also checked some other folks’ GPS uploads of the course on the Garmin site and they all seem to have run a full 10k or a bit more. This race is run downtown and it’s a winding two-lap course amongst very tall buildings and the 305 has a somewhat dated algorithm that did, in fact, occasionally spout gibberish at me in the middle of the race, so it is possible that my GPS actually was a bit wonky and that’s why things look so uneven pacing-wise.

Regardless: According to the official race time, I completed 10k in 49:51, which would be a huge PR and OMG under 50 minutes for a 10k. I never thought I could do something like that when I started running again 5 years ago. If the course really was a bit short, the extrapolated time still puts me somewhere less than 50:30, still a PR, but I’ll wonder forever if I’ve actually run an actual PR or not. And maybe I’ll manage to pace the next one a bit better. One can always hope. Huh. After writing it out, I don’t feel nearly as bad about what a disaster of a race this was. Whatever it was, it really was a fast effort for me. Sixth in my age group and 36th overall of 307 women. Also, we raised a lot of money for a good cause.

And have a bonus .gif of the cats made by google's Auto-Awesome feature.

And have a bonus .gif of the cats made by Google’s Auto-Awesome feature.

Gutenberg Mainz Marathon Race Report

My fourth marathon, a race report in three graphs and eight images.

Settle in, this one got long (4000 words long). I wrote it in the format of a scientific paper as that is what I am also working on at the moment and it seemed a useful exercise. Hopefully, it’s a bot more interesting though. And it’s not written in the passive voice like so many science papers (incorrectly) are. (Had it been, there would be statements in it like, “A marathon was run by the experimenters. The results of this marathon can be interpreted in a number of ways, but that the successful running of this marathon (hereafter referred to as GMM) can be reasonably concluded…lucky for you, it’s written in a slightly more enjoyable fashion.)

Abstract

I ran my fourth marathon on Sunday, bested my previous PR by over 7 minutes, was rained on, got sunburn, had the wind in my face, stayed ahead of the 4:00 pacers and their red balloon the entire time, was cheered on twice by a guy in a motorized wheelchair blasting ’80’s pop music, saw running beer bottles, a red indian that I didn’t understand, several dwarves, and lots of really excited spectators despite the crap weather. I had an icy shower, saw the Wife finish smiling and with a new PR of her own, and had one of the best post-race massages I’ve ever gotten. Then I spent the next three days climbing stairs like an old lady and explaining to well-meaning friends that I didn’t win and this marathon is 42 kilometers long. I’ve also been making lots of graphs from the GPS and heart rate data I have from my Garmin. I usually don’t race with so much tech so it’s a bit overwhelming. The majority of those plots do not make their way into this report.

(and with scientific papers, here is where things would be behind a paywall, but again, lucky for you, all you have to do is click the button.)

Continue reading

TBT – running edition

Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of me running track in high school. Which is probably a good thing, come to think of it.

I was the slowest runner on the track team. I felt that I didn’t deserve to consider myself a member of the track team or a runner.

But, really, you know what the slowest runner on the track team is? A runner.

And I still am.

Here’s me at the end of my very first half marathon in 2009, 20 years after being that slowest runner and 5 years ago.

Image

I’ll post my marathon report from Sunday’s marathon a little later today. How did it get to be Thursday already?

Go for it!

How the heck is it already Thursday again? Time, stop moving so fast, please.

Several things happened recently that seem connected and that require discussion.

Over the weekend, A(short for his real name), a person fairly close to me died. He was a boss, a mentor, and a friend. He died of an awful complication to a horrible disease and he wasn’t even fifty. His fire, his spirit, his zest for life, and his attention to detail in all aspects of his work and life marked him as special. He could make people cry easily with his brutal honesty, but rarely did so. He could use his force of personality to command the attention of a room full of people, and then use his sometimes surprising humor to set them all at ease before laying out whatever impossible, time-critical task we had to somehow finish this time. He worked hard, played hard, and found joy in life. It was much too soon to lose such a bright star. I miss him.

I have also joined an informal German class last week. Most of the members of this group are women and mothers (it meets at 10 am, what do you expect?). One of them is a 61 year old grandmother from Morocco. I had no idea she was that old until we did an exercise yesterday where we all said our ages out loud. We also learned that she married at 14, had her first child at 15, raised 7 children and now has 20 grandchildren. By most accounts, a successful life. She, however, due to the culture she was raised in, never learned to read and write. So she is now. At 61. In a second language. With joy and anticipation.

The message I am taking from these things is that:

1) It is NEVER too late to start.

2) But you have to start TODAY because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

So go out and do it now. That thing that you always meant to do. It’s time. Don’t wait.

 

And of course, an image for TBT. This one is remotely connected to A.

The stalwart researchers on a month-long bio-physical interactions cruise off the coast of Barbados, 1996. This is where I learned the salp joke.

The stalwart researchers on a month-long bio-physical interactions cruise off the coast of Barbados, 1996. This is where I learned the salp joke. That’s me, 4th from the left.

It’s sort of a funny story. So, I’m not particularly good at telling jokes. I tend to drag them out too long, I don’t judge my audience well, etc. One of my favorite jokes is about hyperiid amphipods. It goes like this:
“How many hyperiid amphipods does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”

“None! They screw in salps!”

…and that’s the joke. Which only a very small subset of marine biologists even gets. So telling it to a room full of systems engineers is fairly high on the futility meter. A thought the room’s reaction (blank stares, dead silence) was so hilarious that whenever he was feeling down, he’d ask me to tell him the salp joke again, usually in front of an unsuspecting engineer, just so he could watch the reaction again. The telling got better every time. A, this one’s for you. I hope it makes you smile even now.