Friday, August 31, 2012

My eighth check-in on the Rock River 1000 Mile Challenge

First order of business: Happy 26th birthday to me!

If you'd asked me four or more years ago what I'd be doing on my 26th birthday, I never would've said: "Sitting in Des Moines, Iowa, and adding up how many miles I've run and walked — but mostly run — this year while my bike grew dusty and cobwebby."

Second order of business: That total is 612 through yesterday. Over Labor Day weekend, I might add some walking miles, but I'd rather post now and overdeliver instead of post later and underdeliver.

Apparently I've been averaging about 17 miles per week, which is below the 19ish that would've put me on pace for 1,000.

Though at 35 weeks into the year, falling two short a week puts me well off course, I'm pleasantly surprised at my weekly average — at this rate, I'll still break 900 miles for 2012.

It's a good thing I didn't give in to the moderate pessimism I felt the other day, after not running and checking Thursday's forecast (why so hot again?), and then assuming I was so far off course that it no longer mattered.

Checking my stats after putting in 6.2 miles was a much better call, creaky neck and tight hamstrings and sluggish muscles aside.

And no doubt the runner's high — I love that it still hits you, even during a crappy run and even only with tenths of a mile to go — was speaking ... but it did occur to me that fall and early winter will bring me my preferred running conditions.

Who knows what'll happen then. Yeah, there are out-of-town trips and holidays galore, but maybe I'll have more giddyup then. Or maybe I'll persuade myself to run the Des Moines Half, which doesn't much appeal to me now during the sluggish days of summer but might seem more doable when it's cooler.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Confession: I break rec path traffic rules

During a generally unremarkable six-miler along the Clive Greenbelt Trail, I heard the following warning from a rider: "On your right."

Nope, this biker wasn't offroading, or perfecting her precision by sharing a lane with me. I had once again broken a cardinal rule of rec path use and failed to stay in the right lane.

I'm a drifter. I can't help it.

Often, I can correct myself, if it's oncoming traffic, and swerve out of the left lane. But when the passer is behind me, I'm figuratively caught with my pants down.

(Figuratively is a key word here, because outdoor runners sometimes must do things that require their pants to be literally down.)

During one of my first Des Moines runs, I had a rather breathless conversation with a friendly older gentleman about this issue. Congenital foot problems, and why I still run despite those problems, aren't something one can generally explain in passing with an elevated heart rate, but I tried.

First of all, my bevy of foot problems are for once not to blame. In this case, my podiatrist in Rockford told me, it's that one of my legs is shorter than the other.

Not at a level where it's visible to laypeople or where it needs surgical/orthotic correction. Just enough to create the wobbly stool effect — which would mean my left leg is the extra-short one, if that's how I'm leaning.

Soon after my latest noob-in-appearance-but-not-mind moment, Mark Remy posted his ticket for running violations. I clicked on the link with much joy, because I love Mark Remy, but with much trepidation, because part of me didn't want to find out what else the veteran runners were hating me for doing.

Good news: Lane violations didn't appear in Remy's post or the comments section. The folks passing me on the right don't seem nearly as irate as drivers who have to pass on the right on the highway (not, um, that I would have ever caused that to happen).

Maybe this infraction isn't as severe as I thought. Or maybe everything else about me just screams rookie and my comrades feel sorry for me.

Regardless, if you're ever the passer in this situation, spare a little sympathy for that person who might be an experienced, but slightly physically deformed, runner.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Triathlon before age 30? Technically and maybe ...

I don't remember exactly when or why the idea "do a triathlon before you're 30!" popped into my head. (I'm sure Runner's World deserves some of the credit/blame.)

It's been at least a year, though, since it crossed my mind, and even with ample warning, I still didn't manage to do my hometown's annual duathlon in the spring. Weird work schedule blah blah blah, I told those who called me out on it.

The true barriers to achieving this goal, though, are my poor swimming skills and refusal to pay for access to a pool.

Enter some college besties with a brilliant solution: "Let's do the Hy-Vee Triathlon next year as a relay team," they said as they showered me and my cat with housewarming gifts.

A shortcut to a bucket list item? Even better than catnip/shiny items/fleece blankies/fluffy new towels!

Chelsea can swim the 1.5K, because Zach sinks like a stone and I dislike getting my face wet and struggling to breathe (completely different from having my face merely damp from sweat and struggling to breathe).

I can run the 10K, because Chelsea and Zach, despite having completed the Warrior Dash with me in 2011 and pounding the pavement like champs during heat waves, hate running.

Zach can bike the 25K, by process of elimination.

And I can ironically call myself a triathlete before age 30 — with three years to spare, even.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fan mail call

By the time I left my old job — and old blog — I had established a fan base that wasn't entirely made of relatives or family friends (though there were plenty of those, and I'm still glad they read my posts!).

Many of those nonrelative readers were active with the Rockford Road Runners, whose ranks I joined in 2011 but left the following year, knowing a move was on the horizon. Once a Road Runner, always a Road Runner: I received an email from a member named Ed recently, saying our mutual friend Coach Mike had suggested that he invite me to join a Road Runner committee.

After I emailed Ed back saying thanks for the thought, but I'm 300 miles away in Iowa now, he surprised me with his response:
"Good luck in your new endeavor. I am the old guy that passed you in one of the races you wrote about. Guess I can relax in my future races now and not need to push myself to beat the young girls."
The race to which he's referring? My very first one, in September 2009: the On the Waterfront 5K.

My then-co-worker Mike DeDoncker, knowing I was training for a half marathon, recommended doing a local race to get all the newbie jitters/mishaps out of the way before the real deal.

So we signed up for the Labor Day weekend 5K, and as DeDoncker also had suggested, I ran with him until I grew tired of his pace and stepped it up. (I'm not being mean. He had told me that he was easing back into running after a hiatus and would be going slower than me, so I should pass him whenever I wanted.)

I was actually picking off runners during the final stretch — and that's when Ed blew through. To be honest, I believe my first thought was "are you freakin' kidding me, dude?" but my second thought was "props to you, sir; you're older than my parents and you left this spring chicken in the dust."

Nothing like having your pompous balloon burst. It was funny (and self-deprecating) enough to me to include it in my race report, which later ran in the health section. Ed recognized it, probably patted himself on the back, and told DeDoncker about it — earning himself another mention in the Rockford media folk blogosphere.

Ed, you've earned your claim to Rockford health blogger fame, and I'm assuming that you remember your time in the spotlight fondly. Thanks for finding such amusement in it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Seen while running: Week of Aug. 19

First, a glimpse of home, and by home I mean the two houses out in the country that I've lived in.

Seeing deer was nothing out of the ordinary at both places, so my sister and I each had some serious eye-rolling when city folks would squeal at a deer sighting — it takes a bold deer who'll let me get within iPhone camera range to impress me.
The brown blob in the middle of the photo is the second of two deer that scooted across the Clive Greenbelt Trail in front of me.
From the route I inaugurated last Monday. Water, whether a natural body, a fountain or a chlorinated manmade structure, draws quite the longing glances from this always-too-warm runner.
What my friends Ken and Annah would call a "shee-shee neighborhood." I don't know how to spell "shee-shee," so please correct me if you do.
Just off 60th Street west of my complex is this house I pass on probably a third of my runs. The first time I went this way and spotted an ambulance in a driveway, I thought there was a medical emergency at the home.

I kept seeing the ambulance in the same driveway, and the theory that an EMT parks his/her work vehicle at home seems only slightly less ludicrous than the same person having medical issues every single time I run — particularly when that person isn't me.
This probably kept any nosy neighbors busy speculating for a few days in a row, the first time the ambulance came home ...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Web wrap-up: Aug. 13 to 26

I slacked last week (and am a little ahead of myself for this week), but don't worry, this post won't become bloated as a result.

Running Is Funny: The Ultimate Marathon ... Literally. The Pisa Marathon takes place Dec. 16, a few days before the most recent end-of-the-world prediction. Organizers decided to incorporate this into their marketing strategy, making a creepy video urging you to pay to run 26.2 miles during what could be the final week of all of our lives. Watch it, but not too close to bedtime.

CBS: Dog treadmill sales brisk as pets shape up. OK, before anyone gets on a high horse about pampered pets, the article points out that animal shelters can make great use out of these, instead of forcing the poor doggies to go stir-crazy. Also, dogs (and cats) are cute. The end.

Well: How to Make the Dog Days Your Training Partner. Scientists have decided there is indeed some benefit to gritting your teeth and exercising in hot weather: When fall comes around, you'll be mentally tougher for having done so. Physically tougher? Well, at least you'll get used to the heat while you're in it ...

Remy's World: Why Are Runners So ... Inspired by the blogger who checked to see how each state was viewed, Mark Remy used the Google autocomplete search function to see what the Internet thought of runners/joggers/running/jogging.

The results, surprisingly, include many positive questions ("why are runners so ripped?") and, not surprisingly at all, refer to bodily functions that are generally not considered polite. Read and laugh.

Another Mother Runner: Winner of There She Goes Charm Necklace. Bloggers Dimity and SBS asked for what their readers would put on the front of a running pendant, and the winner's idea resonated with me:
"An exclamation point. I did not grow up athletic. I am still amazed and surprised at my ability to run long distances."
Yep, me too. I'd wear it with pride!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The aroma of an athlete

You know sometimes iPods/iTunes' shuffle setting/radios (for those of us who still use them, i.e., not the Class of 2016) can sense your mood and play the right song for you?

A few days ago, I discovered that my Google Reader, or the bloggers who populate it, is the same way.

During my return run in Des Moines, I was looking forward not just to running in my new home, but also to wearing clean workout gear while doing so — I'd washed up two full sets of gears during my "vacation" in my hometown.

TANGENT ALERT: I'm not sure whether this is a personal quirk or a commonality to athletes, but washing workout clothes makes me so conflicted.

Mine definitely demand to be washed, don't get me wrong. During this summer especially. I've noticed the scent (to be delicate) of prior workouts when I pull my shirts on, and, frighteningly, I've also smelled the current workout as I'm standing still, such as at a stoplight.

I don't take any weird pleasure in noticing how stinky my running clothes are, so I wash them, but always with the gloomy, Eeyore-like thought that soon enough, they'll be nasty again. Or, that I might grow irrationally protective of their cleanliness and not work out in them, because they're clean.

In conclusion, I overanalyze laundry.

END TANGENT, RETURN TO POINT: On Monday, I pulled on one of those fresh-and-clean T-shirts ... and my smile faded to a grimace. I could still smell sweat on the shirt!

My devoted runner friend Shayne had mentioned this happening. And apparently, so had the women at Another Mother Runner. Their Tell Me Tuesday question from last week had been about how to get the stink out of running clothes, and the responses were posted the same day I noticed my clothing issue.

I may try the soaking recommendation. I also might try the line-dry-outdoors one. But I know I'll try the quit-caring-about-it suggestion. Hey, if other runners are proudly sporting the evidence of their effort, why should I worry? It's a workout, not a beauty pageant.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The runner's tolerance

Most running comedy can be lumped into a few categories:

* Boy, you and your body sure do gross things when you run!

* Boy, I sure hear "You run? Why would you do such a thing?" an awful lot from nonrunners.

* Boy, I sure make my friends and family jump through a lot of hoops to accommodate my gross/weird hobby! (see the previous two bullet points)

I experience the first point, sadly, very often (and very publicly ... sorry if I've overshared with you). And I've inflicted the second and third – the former, in the past; the latter, more recently — on others.

In the past week, one of those roles got to be reversed, twice. Is it karma repaying me, or is it an opportunity to show off how tolerant I am of other runners? You be the judge. Probably depending on whether my running has inconvenienced you.
Dusty, my little buddy, has almost nothing to do with running, but he's such a handsome guy that I wanted to show him off!
Two Mondays ago, co-worker and cat-sitter Emily stopped by to meet her feline charge. I told her that anytime after 7:30 p.m. was fine, and that she could just text when she was en route — there was no need to have our secretaries book appointments.

Around 7 that night, I received a text, which I'm paraphrasing because this morning's six-miler is sinking in, causing me to sink into the couch far from my phone: "I'm heading out for a run around Gray's Lake, and then I'll be over. Sorry if I'm stinky."

Even though I pride myself on my keen sense of smell, I was unconcerned about the idea of a sweaty guest. It's not like I haven't pulled a similar stunt, and without warning.

And come to think of it, if I didn't notice anything amiss during Emily's post-run visit, does that mean I'm not smellable from miles away after a run? Let us hope.

Then came yesterday, when blog guest star extraordinaire Ashlee flexed her new running muscles (figuratively and literally, though I wasn't witness to any literal flexing).

We were planning our Restaurant Week excursion, and Ashlee asked that we make reservations for 8 p.m. to allow for her gym visit. Because I suspected — correctly — that it was Color Run training and not swimming or ballroom dancing, I agreed (kidding! I support cross training!).

But at 7 p.m., the phone rang: Ashlee had worked out and cleaned up and was ready to enjoy Splash Seafood Bar & Grill a little earlier than anticipated. Delay dinner to allow for running? No problem. Move dinner back up? Even less of a problem.

I'd like to think I would've been just as tolerant even before I was running ... after all, my nonrunning friends seem to have been. But at least now I know I'm no hypocrite in this area of life!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A cool welcome back to Des Moines

It seems strange to describe a trip to the hometown you left only three months ago as a "vacation."

But my recent four-day visit to Illinois, plus the day I spent driving back to Des Moines in time to work an eight-hour shift, definitely represented a deviation from the norm in terms of what/when/how much I ate, when/where I slept and what/how much I drank (sometimes that meant coffee, guys).

Sounds just like most of the previous vacations I've taken. And just like after those more-exotic trips, I came back from this one raring for moderation and what had become my routine after three months.

Once I unpacked from my trip, I fell back into my usual lineup of activities, and it did me good. After breakfast was digested, I mapped a slightly new route and did not while away precious time aimlessly browsing websites — I got dressed and got going.

The title of this post isn't about coolness as in lack of friendliness. In fact, as annoying/condescending as I find coast-dwellers' generalizations about the Midwest, I have to say: If it weren't friendly, it wouldn't be Iowa.

It means refreshing and not hot (as in the weather) and sufficiently interesting — a low-intensity but energizing way to spend 38:11 of my morning.

It's also cool as in not trying too hard. My run wasn't overly ambitious in speed, distance or terrain. Yeah, I stopped quite a few times during the totally new and surprisingly hilly third mile. So what? Apparently I still averaged 9:32 per mile.

I know my cat missed me. I think Iowa might have, too, if my return run is any indication.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Home(town), sweet home(town)

It was like I'd stepped back in time.

In the midafternoon, I popped up from a nap, threw on my running clothes before I had the coherence to overthink my decision, and headed out for two laps around my neighborhood —

— or, I should say, my parents' neighborhood. The site of my preadulthood home, the one where I lived from age 20 to almost-26, with the exception of two semesters of college and six months' worth of an ill-advised apartment in a nearby little city.

Anyway, I headed out too briskly, carried away by the first tenths of a mile that slope down gently. But when you run loops, of course, you pay for those glorious downhills with the uphills, which are plentiful around this 'hood. So many walk breaks!

It's OK, though, because this 3.36-miler wasn't meant to be anything more than a nostalgia run that also worked out the kinks/rust/dust/mold from a day off and a 4.5-hour drive. In fact, the early rush followed by the quick fade is par for this particular course.

Also par for the course: stops for dogs. It was nice to visit with the belligerent Yorkie and his cheerful master early on; we'd always say hello and maybe comment on the weather when we bumped into each other, maybe weekly, maybe every other week.

The two dogs in a fenced-in yard who liked to run parallel to me while barking at me didn't disappoint. (My human fan, who once asked what I was training for because he always saw me running, at that house was apparently otherwise engaged, however.)

Meanwhile, their neighbors down the street — shih tzus, perhaps? — overachieved, with two dogs barking at me from behind their glass door and a third trotting down his driveway to ferociously lick my sweaty legs and try to follow me home. "Stay!" and "go home!" didn't dissuade him, so I had to walk him into his owner's safe grip.

Bargaining my way over the hills ("you can walk at the top," "if you walk to the bottom you have to run all the way up"). Dodging the handful of pavement trouble spots (one was partially patched!). Talking to dogs. Occasionally smelling roadkill. And not bothering to time myself.

Yep, that's my classic rural Rockton run.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When la dolce vita catches up to you, it's not so sweet

It dawned on me recently, after reading yet another runner's status update/Daily Mile post/tweet, that I hadn't gone on a long run in a while. Nearly a month, in fact.

So yesterday — Sunday's rain enabled me to procrastinate — I set out on an eight-miler, bright and early. I finished in about 1:17, averaging a 9:36 pace. The key word here is average, in two senses.

One, in how those miles ranged from 8:50 to 10:27, depending on the terrain and whether the wind was canceling out the humidity or canceling out my strength.

And two, in how unremarkable the run felt. With the exception of a few highs and lows, I mostly just moved OK. 

That was 24 hours ago, and my body is definitely still demanding what the heck I did to it. There's no pain, which I appreciate, and it seems that I was able to cure the insatiable hunger and lower-back stiffness last night ... but the sleepiness and slow-moving, sore legs have stuck around.

The last long run I took, a 7.5-miler in July, didn't seem to affect me quite this much. I doubt the extra half-mile is to blame. Though the routes and weather conditions were different, it's not their fault, either.

What to blame? More like whom to blame. Me.

While it's true I've been running fairly consistently over the past month, I've also been rather self-indulgent recently. Dinner out, with appetizers and/or dessert? Yes, please. A glass of wine and/or cup of ice cream after work? You got it.

Don't worry: My alcohol tolerance hasn't shot up, nor have the buttons on my pants popped; I'm indulging in moderation, but on what's becoming a routine basis.

Fellow young athletes have shared wisdom about treats and training with me in the past.

One, my roller-derby-playing friend Jeniece, cited a blog post comparing bodies to machines — the quality of the fuel, for each, affects performance, i.e., when you're pouring junk in, don't expect stellar results.

The other, Scheels bike group leader Jordan, mentioned that he abstains from alcohol, not because he doesn't like it, but because it cancels out the gains from working out. (He has some ambitious biking goals, which I've forgotten.)

I'm not going to turn into an ascetic — even despite that New York Times blog post that destroyed my "I run for pizza" philosophy — but now that the ice cream and wine are gone from my freezer and fridge, respectively, I don't think I'll restock.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Web wrap-up: Aug. 6 to 12

Fit Bottomed Girls: 18 Things Nobody Told Me About Running. Maybe I've just read too many light-hearted pieces about discoveries made during the transition from noob to junkie, or maybe I've (gasp!) been running for long enough that I can't remember when these phenomena became surprising.

I found myself nodding in agreement with "You’ll wince at a pair of high heels with a $100 price tag, but declare it a bargain if that same tag is on your favorite running shoes" and " 'Runger' is real, and it is marvelous. Only pregnant women and runners can truly understand strange cravings at strange times." (How can I live an almost pop-free life, yet yearn for a Sprite during a long run?)

It turned out not to be the author but a commenter who prompted an "OMG you're right!" moment:
"Running isn’t really enjoyable until after you’ve gone 3 miles … maybe even 5. That is why you hated running the mile back in school — you only did the hard part!"
Leaving aside the incredible lack of fitness I had back in school — YES. I long ago noticed that the middle and end of a run typically felt better than the beginning, but until now I didn't connect this with the misery of the middle school mile.

Running Is Funny: Rupp Rolled. I learned about two new memes from Mike's post. (They're possibly not all that new, and I'm possibly way behind most of the Internet.)

One is Typical Runner, and the other one — which is far funnier and yet not related to running — is McKayla Is Not Impressed.

Some of my favorites, which went from near the top on Saturday morning to farther down than you'll click in less than 24 hours: not impressed by volunteering for the Hunger Games, by King Kong (they're making similar faces!), by taking out Osama bin Laden and by Facebook's IPO.

New York Times Well blog: Dieting vs. Exercise for Weight Loss. Studies prove Michael Pollan is right about the Western diet — in general, you can't eat like the typical American and expect to exercise off the extra calories.

I guess this is good news for folks who prefer to maintain their shape by focusing on what they eat  but not exercising, but it bummed out yours truly, who likes to declare that she runs for pizza and to tell people surprised at her sweet tooth that it's why she runs.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Seen while running: Week of Aug. 5

All three sights — only one of which was documented by camera — were scary in their own way last week.

First, on Monday night, was what I assumed was an act of violence. I'm pretty lukewarm toward watermelon, though it did hit the spot perfectly after my first 40-mile bike ride, but it couldn't have done anything to warrant this treatment!
The scene of the crime: a sidewalk along 50th Street.
I will say this, though: When I first spotted this, in the dark and without the benefit of contacts, I assumed it was a watermelon wedge. Then as I doubled back, it occurred to me that perhaps rubbernecking was a bad idea — what if the red flesh wasn't fruit, but actual flesh?

Gone are the days when roadkill was an everyday obstacle on my runs. Someone's gross-out instinct is weakening each day she lives in a city ...

Second, on Tuesday night, came another stealth biker. I nearly walked into him as I set foot on the sidewalk for my run. More like "not seen while running."

It wasn't completely his fault that I didn't see him until the hum of his rapidly spinning gears and the breeze created by his speed startled me — I was about to embark on a nighttime run.

And third, on Saturday morning, was Jordan Creek Trail, on foot, east of 50th Street. Unfortunately, I wasn't supposed to see that. I was supposed to turn north on 50th Street during my 4.5-mile route, which I'd started an hour before I needed to be in the shower so that I could arrive, clean and punctual, at work.

All of those things still happened, because I realized my error just late enough to nudge the run toward five miles ... and because I'd packed my lunch the night before.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the dark side of the street

This Q&A about takes place between me and an imaginary amalgam of all the people who would likely express worries about my safety.

We begin with concerned person asking whether I'm still running and my affirmative response. Then:

Q: How do you survive this heat? (This fake conversation begins in early July and stretches out over the past month-plus.)

A: I've been running after work, when it's cooler.

Q: Isn't it dark out then?

A: Well, yeah, but that's why it's tolerable for running. Turns out my summer-run suffering was mostly caused by the relentless sun bouncing back off the asphalt, because the temperature and humidity become somewhat tolerable at night. And it also turns out that my inability to wake up/get moving is a moot point: There is no "early enough" to beat the heat, only "late enough."

Q: But you can still see?

A: Yeah, well enough. It doesn't get fully dark until about 9:30 p.m., you know. (Note: This was true when I first began running at night. It's not anymore.) Plus, there are streetlights. The ones in the more residential areas are kind of hit-and-miss, as are the sidewalks sometimes, but so far, so good.

Having said that, my next night run probably will result in a face-plant.

Q: Aren't you scared?

A: I was at first, but I stay along the main streets where there's traffic and businesses, like Walgreens and Kum and Go. Definitely not the rec trails through the forests. I also tend to keep these runs a little shorter, saving the longer ones for earlier start times. And I always bring my cellphone.

Q: What about creepers?

A: I haven't seen any yet. I see a lot of walkers, runners and bikers who apparently have the same idea I do. It startles me when they call out "on your left," but that's about as scared of other people as I've had to be, so far. In fact, I got to scare one of them the other night, when I passed him wide on his left — he was wearing earbuds. Now that seems like a dumb idea.

Q: What about cars?

A: Sometimes their doors slam, their horns honk, their rap music blares or their lights go out/come on abruptly. That startles me. To be honest, quite a few things startle me at night. I'm not sure how much of that is fear-conditioning and how much of that is a natural skittishness when it comes to loud noises.

Q: I mean, can they see you?

A: My running gear is bright, so yes. Also, I stay on sidewalks and look both ways before I cross the street.

Here, the questioner purses his or her lips, shakes his or her head regretfully and indicates through other body language that s/he does NOT endorse my decision. That's fair. I would've disapproved until fairly recently.

I don't have any data-driven rebuttals; the reasons I choose to run at night are that I like running, and that right now it's more practical for me to do so at night. Once we stop doing cartwheels over highs in the upper 80s, I'll head out before work rather than after it. In fact, between the heat wave's break and a shift in my schedule toward earlier start/quit times, the dark runs' reign may be nearing an end.

But the bottom line is, I control everything that I can about my own safety, just as we all do in the rest of our lives. And when all else fails, I think of a French professor at Truman who — I believe I'm remembering this right — went jogging around Moscow during the Soviet days while she was pregnant. On the danger scale, that beats Iowa during democracy and nonpregnancy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Web wrap-up: July 30 to Aug. 5

The Onion: I'm Truly Sorry For This, But You're About To Hear All About The Last Marathon I Ran. Yeah, runners mistake polite conversation for a request for in-depth self-analysis. Oops.

Sarah Finding Fit: Day 211. Blogger Sarah shares a random fact about herself (and a fuzzy photo) — her knees sweat a lot. And here I was afraid it was just me!

Other Voices: Running With — And Chasing Down — HIV. OK, so this mostly caught my interest because it was published the day after I saw a local production of "Rent." Still, David Ernesto Munar's essay about coping with his diagnosis, treating his disease and his resurgence in running is a surprisingly uplifting post about AIDS.

BBC News: Your Olympic athlete body match. Enter your height and weight and find out which Olympic athlete you're most built like — how could this not be fun? I got Savannah Vinsant, a 19-year-old trampolinist on the U.S. gymnastics team.

Side note, the people who have been pointing out that the athletes' official photos look like mug shots are 100 percent correct. Savannah looks downright depressed in her picture.

Run and Eat Simply: Annoying things that runners say and what they mean. To come full-circle with my post, here's more mockery of running culture (from someone I believe is a runner).

I'm totally guilty of Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Sorry, friends and family. I'd like to counter that by pointing out that I refrain from saying "speed work," "tempo run" and "PR" (Nos. 8, 9 and 1, respectively) to nonrunners.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Seen while running: Week of July 29

I guess I'm really growing used to my turf, because only two sights popped out at me last week.

When my parents came to visit and I pointed out the Des Moines metro area's excellent sidewalk system to them, they noted that local officials must've had a clear vision for the future and a refusal to kowtow to developers — hence the wide, smooth, continuous surfaces.

However, I'm starting to wonder whether they were built this wide to accommodate autos. Why do cars, vans and trucks need to use the sidewalks, when they  have roads? I don't know, but it seems a week doesn't go by without me needing to dodge an oversized vehicle hogging the entire sidewalk.
At least there was plenty of room on both sides for me to pass, unlike the time I was riding my bike on 60th Street's sidewalks and had to squeeze through on foot-wide strips while dodging low branches — or worrying about being sideswiped by oncoming traffic. This is Westown Parkway.
On a lighter note, I appreciated this apartment dweller's space-saving storage solution.
The bikes block the view from/of the street — it's like a privacy screen at the same time!
And a lovely observation I made but couldn't exactly capture on camera: the smell of french fries. After exploring some of the roads west of my apartment, I discovered fast food paradise — Arby's and Taco John's within a mile of home, Culver's within a mile and a quarter. (Burger King is also there, for those of you who eat there more often than "not since spring 2005, and only for a milkshake because McDonald's was inexplicably closed.")

Three of my favorites right on my new running route. I could develop my own Devour Des Moines! Roast beef at Arby's, potato ol├ęs at Taco John's and a concrete at Culver's ... bet that would lead to a memorable seen while running post.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Who has to correct errors in their own blog? This girl.

Our family dog, Jenny, is famously full of personality, and she has quite a few fans. So I figured that my most recent seen while running post, in which I referenced a tussle she had with a wild animal, would elicit a reaction from the family.
Meet Jenny! This photo does not adequately show her droopy face and human-sized head, but it does show her impressive camera-mugging skills and rippling muscles.
I was right, but for the wrong reasons. Jenny did not literally face off with a possum, leaving with bloody jowls, but rather a woodchuck, I was reminded.

In my defense, the incident took place in 2008, and I'm not getting any younger. Out in the country, we've had run-ins with so many creatures that I should be forgiven any confusions: the raccoon that committed suicide under my car, the deer who dash across the road at night, the possums who come too close to the house, the coyotes who howl audibly and possibly bite our tortie cat, the bat that crept into our attic, the birds we find (dead and alive) in the yard, the rabbits/squirrels/chipmunks that feast on our yard when neighborhood cats aren't feasting on them, and the turtles who cross the road.

Those are just the wild ones — I'm not counting the livestock — and the nonroadkill ones.

Also in my defense, or to my credit, I'm phasing out of country-runner mode and into city-runner mode.

I'm growing used to running on sidewalks at any hour of the day I please, with all sorts of people around me: bikers, walkers, other runners, skaters and stroller-pushers ... everyone but drivers, who are kept at a safe distance from me. This is a marked contrast to my days of meandering down the middle of country roads, swerving to the shoulder for the occasional car.

And with the more urban setting comes the change in animal sightings.

Country folks like their dogs; their leashes, not so much — I can't think of the last time I saw a free-roaming dog. (I hear what are presumably unleashed but penned-up dogs a lot, however.)

Deer continue to show up along the wooded rec paths, and I'm used to that from forest preserves, but the boldness of rabbits scurrying across the trails is a novelty. The ones back home had more to fear (our cats) and more room to hide in the dense woods.

And that's about it, with the occasional chipmunk/squirrel. Certainly the terrain I cross these days isn't peppered with possums and raccoons who fell victim to cars, nor is it populated with fierce woodchucks.

Sorry, Jenny. As my mom pointed out, you're more than prepared to handle a stupid possum; this citified girl, however, is obviously not. The Scooby Snacks are on me.