Training, Week Seven I Think: The Heart Mini Marathon

On Friday, I text-messaged Chele: "Have you signed up for the run yet? I still haven't - should we just do race-day registration?"

I was kind of hoping that she'd say no, she hadn't signed up; then I could suggest that maybe we shouldn't do the run after all, that if we really wanted we could just get together and run nine miles with no pressure or cost or early rising involved.

But no. She'd signed up. So I was in. Never mind that I'd barely run at all in two weeks - almost nothing besides a five-mile run the previous Sunday - and that that five miles was the most I'd ever run at once in my life. I was terrified. I was sure I wouldn't be able to keep up, that the entire race would shut down before I made it to the finish line. But I was in.

Early Sunday, Chele and her friend Josh picked me up and we headed downtown for the race. (What does one eat for breakfast before a nine-mile run, by the way? I was all in a dither - should it be a Balance Bar? Well, that might not be substantial enough, so maybe oatmeal? I should probably have protein, right? I settled on turkey bacon and bran flakes.)

After we navigated the hellish maze that is the Tower Place parking garage, we picked up our packets - and then when we went back to the car to stash our Mercy first-aid kits and coupons for Fruze juice, we had to battle a strange cascade of water that was dripping down the stairs, causing little showers on every landing. As we ascended, the water started to smell oddly of gasoline.

Let's fast-forward - past my panicked run back to the car to retrieve my iPod ten minutes before the starting time - to when the starting gun goes off. So we headed out, and Josh (a former cross-country runner) pulled away from us pretty quickly. Chele and I stuck together a bit longer, but she was pretty much gone by the time we hit Kemper Road. So I was by myself for most of the race.

Which was OK, actually, because there were so many other runners around me, talking to each other and giving encouragement, that I didn't get bored for a long time. Eventually, I put on my headphones and started an episode of This American Life, but I kept pausing it at the mile markers to listen to the peppy music. It really did give me a boost. So did the Flying Pig lady.

All right, let's rewind again - to the point on Sunday morning at home where I was checking the course map for Porta-Potty locations and realized that the race was even longer than I had assumed. I thought the course turned at Torrence and went up the hill, then turned around and headed back to the city. Turns out, you run past Torrence first, keeping on Columbia Parkway almost all the way to Delta, then run up and down the hill on the way back.

Guys, 9.3 miles is effing far.

Coming soon: the thrilling conclusion!


25 free shots

The Jack Daniel's ladies were busy this evening.



As I bend down to search for red-tag clearance Angus beef, the guy behind the meat counter asks, "Can I help you?"

"Nah, I'm just looking," I reply dismissively. This normally causes store people to stop talking to you and walk away. Not this time.

Instead, the meat guy laughs. "Yeah, I know you - you're always looking!"

I stare at him. Is he hitting on me or something? But he quickly elaborates: "I see you wandering around here all the time."

Yikes! I've been identified!

It's true - I spend a lot of time in the meat department: digging through the whole chickens to find one for under $3.50, then $3.40, then $3.20; comparing the price per ounce of chuck roast vs. round roast; taking four packages of imitation crab meat, then returning three; staring at the buy-one-get-two-free smoked sausages, trying to decide if I'd ever actually eat them. Meat is expensive, and there's a lot of variation in price out there, even within a single store. I'm looking for the best deal I can possibly get.

What I'm not looking for is anyone to notice my mad rambles through the supermarket.

I laugh nervously and explain to the meat guy that I'm just looking for deals. "You know, grab the sale stuff, pop it into the freezer before it expires," I explain.

"Oh, well, you know this is the Angus beef section," he replies. "All the stuff in black trays is Angus. The USDA Choice beef over there is gonna be cheaper."

And at this, I feel a mix of irritation and - I think - shame. I shouldn't really blame Meat Guy; I know he was just trying to help. But I feel like I have effectively led him to dismiss me from the Angus section. I feel like if I want to browse there for 40-percent-off top sirloin again, I have to go late at night, when the employees are gone from the service counters.

Later on, I will think: If store employees I've never spoken to before are pointing me toward the cheap cuts of meat, am I taking this budget thing too far? Perhaps I've passed frugality and am heading toward tightwaddery.

But I don't say any of this to Meat Guy, of course. Instead, I smile, say, "Thanks, I've already looked there," and walk away.


Spring run

A few miles around the neighborhood in a light drizzle.


Hmm, that's kind of a dull way to display a quiz score ...

Arrested Development

Score: 80% (16 out of 20)

But it was a good quiz. Try it!



Training, Week Three: The Strides of March

This week's big running story took place on Saturday, when I ran in my third Strides of March Carrot Run for the Nutrition Council of Greater Cincinnati. The Carrot Run has a special place in my heart as the first 5K I ever ran, and it continues to be a fun (and mercifully flat) little run to kick off the race season. But there were a few changes this year:

  • The race T-shirt was printed with two colors this year, not just one. Fancy!
  • More costumed food characters at the 5K turnaround. I love those cheering fruits and veggies; wish I had thought to get out my camera before they appeared, but I forgot and didn't want to stop to struggle with pockets and power buttons.
  • A sad change to the post-race soup tradition: instead of the Nutrition Council's own recipes for hearty meatless soups featuring carrots, the post-race food included vats and vats of Trader Joe's Carrot Ginger Soup. It was OK and all, but it just wasn't the same as the homemade stuff.
  • Probably the biggest change was the separation of the 5K and 10K starting guns. In previous years, the two groups lined up in slightly different places, and at the gun, the 10K runners took off down the road while the 5Kers took a loop around the parking lot to let the other guys get ahead. This year, the 5Kers lined up five minutes after the 10Kers, and you could really see what a tiny group we were - the racing results page lists 89 runners and walkers combined.

Which brings me to my results.

I had been hoping (like last year) to finish in under 35 minutes, but I would have been happy with 36 because it would mean I was keeping (barely) under a 12-minute-mile pace. So when a girl with a stopwatch near the end of the race said "Thirty-seven seventeen!" as I passed, I was disappointed and confused - when did we get so far off pace?

Then my dad, running a few paces ahead of me and keeping track on his own stopwatch, said, "That's for the 10K race, Kel! I've got us at 32 minutes!"

Our times, say the official results, were 34:41 (Jim) and 34:42 (Kelly) - a pace of 11:12.

Only three of the 66 5K runners were slower than us, and my dad and I each came in dead last in our age groups. I don't care. 34:42 is a personal best for me, and I will take it.