Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day!

I love April Fool's Day. Always have. It was a silly day as a kid, a time for creative pranks when I was a high schooler and, three years ago, the day marking a monumental change in my life. I moved to California on April Fool's Day.

And yes, at the time I did wonder if restarting my life in Santa Cruz -- a place I'd visited once three weeks prior and knew no one -- was the biggest April Fool's joke yet. I won't lie. Sometimes it's felt that way, but when I look back on my three years here, I see mostly goodness.

(The intent of this blog is to write about RUNNING related items, so I'm going to twist this back around to be about muddy shoes and sweaty workouts instead of waxing on about my love of pranks.)

When I moved to Santa Cruz, I hadn't run consistently in about two years. Frankly, I was a little chubby, drank too much, didn't eat enough vegetables and wasn't terribly happy with who I was. It makes sense. I had run several times a week pretty much every week since I was a second-grader, so to give that up for long hours worked at the newspaper in Ashland and late nights at Omars was tough on me. Of course, back then I was pretty stoked about my lifestyle. It took time to see that living that was neither healthy nor sustainable.

So I moved to Santa Cruz. This wasn't to revive my running habits or reintroduce fresh fruit to my diet, but to write for at a bigger newspaper and, presumably, work harder. Still, along the way a I met a marathon runner/Ironman finisher who was friends with a college professor of mine. He invited me out for a morning run along the coast with his group, the "Thursday Morning Irregulars."

the path on West Cliff Drive

My memory is fuzzy, but it's possible I didn't finish our six-mile run that first morning. For months a struggled to keep up with the group out to the turnaround point at Natural Bridges State Beach, where we would pause to stretch and I could catch my breath. Then I would try to hold out on the run back, learning exactly how many minutes I had to force my feet to turn over before I could collapse in my car. I relied heavily on those unpredictable stops -- to say hello to another runner or watch a pod of dolphins frolic in the surf.

Quickly, the group convinced me I should enter a race. A 10K became a marathon, then another. The morning runs would grow some days depending on what race we were preparing for, but with time I could keep up. A few times, I've even sprinted the last quarter mile fast enough to win the silent race to the finish.

Three years later, the Thursday Morning Irregulars exist more in spirit than practice, but every so often we get a crew out to run West Cliff at sunrise. When we do, the fact I can keep up without feeling like I'll vomit is a pleasant reminder of how far I've come in three years: not just hundreds of miles from my Oregon home, but thousands of miles ... run. When I look at it that way, I see there's no punchline to my April Fool's Day anymore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My next big thing?

The Big Sur marathon is still more than a month off, but I'm trying to plan my next big things ...

The Sentinel Triathlon is likely one of them. But I'm also looking for another 50K and kind of like the Siskiyou Out Back, largely because it gives me an excuse to visit Ashland in the summer and the T-shirts say "SOB" on them. Funny, right? But do I really want to run a 31-mile trail race at 6,000 feet? For a sea level-dweller like myself, this may be miserable. Or who cares, the scenery will be amazing and it's a great challenge.

I can't decide.

But I know I need more races to stay motivated. Races are key to this running thing. Accountability. So now I just need to suck up and sign up ... and find someone who will let me and my dog crash with them that weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will run for food

Let's be honest, we run to eat. Well, at least Sonja and I do. And why not? Food seems to taste better, coffee has more of a kick and we've earned it. So I've been collecting recipes during the past year with plans to make a little book of deliciousness and share it with y'all.

I'm not sure if anyone would actually use it, but it makes a decent gift, right?

Most of them aren't recipes I came up with on my own. Maybe I tweaked them a bit (usually adding extra cheese, except for the cookie recipes) but they belong to someone else. They're from my mom, magazines, CSA newsletters and there's one for carrot cake written by Camilla's aunt. Bottom line, though: they're tasty, and even better if you chow down on them after a nice run or bike ride.

Since I have all of this free time (errr... no) and need more projects, maybe I'll get the recipe book together in the next month or so, at least an online version I can e-mail out. Some of the good stuff? Goat cheese-stuffed red peppers, fava bean pasta and sauteed new red potatoes and green beans with basil and garlic.

My latest favorite (which I had for breakfast after my six-mile run this morning) was homemade bread toasted, then spread on goat cheese and avocado, and sprinkle with some sliced red onions and a little salt'n'pepper. It would prolly be good with regular bread too :)

So that's the heads-up -- recipes to come. Work up an appetite!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Let's hope it's not foreshadowing

Maybe I haven't been running enough or perhaps I'm just too tired lately, but I've had a few really odd dreams the past couple of nights. In one, Callie bit someone in the face and we had to run away so she wouldn't have to be put down ... but that's not running-related.

The running nightmare was Big Sur. Yup, the marathon. The race that I consider MY marathon, that I'm set to run in oh, eight weeks.

There were lots of discrepancies in the dream, which give me hope that it wasn't some strange foreshadowing and actually just stress-induced. For example, I took long bathroom breaks in areas that looked a whole lot like Nisene Marks (a state park around here), not Big Sur. My sister was running the marathon with me, but in reality she's registered for the 10.6 mile race.

However, the end picture was still hard to shake off: me, sobbing. I was devastated because I'd run my slowest marathon time ever. It was something like 4:26, which isn't a time to sneer at, especially over the challenging hills of Big Sur. However, it's not the time I want to see when I trip across the finish line and awkwardly hug one of the greeters. Low-balling it, 4 hours would be cool.

(Sonja and I after last year's Big Sur Marathon)

I'm pretty sure I can chalk the dream (nightmare) up to fretting about not running enough in the past few days. I took three rest days this week and the blank spots in my running log (laying open on my nightstand) are looming large as a result. But the reality was life - namely work - got busy and I was tired. I ran this morning, will bike and run tomorrow, then swim and get in my first really long run Sunday. (Let's hope the iPod holds out for 2 1/2 hours!)

As a 7th grader, my favorite shirt was a purple T emblazoned with "Life is Running" and a big blue and white running shoe. Maybe that was true then, when the biggest drains on my time were English homework and staying up all night to watch MTV at a slumber party. Now I'm an adult (yipes!) with a 9-5 ... errr ... 8:30-7 job, a house to maintain, dog to take care of, among other things. I wish my life could be all training, but workouts have to fit around my grown-up responsibilities.

I think the eight weeks between now and the marathon are an eternity for training. I have a strong base, am biking and swimming also and will start logging those big miles this weekend. Although I haven't had a bad marathon in my four outings thus far, I'm crossing my fingers - and lacing up my shoes - so hopefully this won't be my time to tank. Maybe dreams don't come true?

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."