Sunday, December 5, 2010

End of the season

I had two races right at the end of my season, and since they were only a week apart, I didn't manage to write about the first one before the 2nd one happened.

The first one was a 6-mile race on Thanksgiving weekend; it's billed as a "cross country" race, but it's on flat dirt roads, so I think that's a slight exaggeration.  It's a great race, though--huge, beautiful scenery, and tons of runners.  I had a somewhat conservative HR plan that I followed, and I felt great.  I ran hard without utterly killing myself, although as is always the case, it's hard to run a race and not be pretty close to vomiting during the last mile.  My time for 6 miles was 42:38, which if you're keeping track (which I am) is faster than the 10K equivalent I ran at Tufts earlier in the season.  The HR plan was pretty much exactly the same, so I'm no scientist (oh no, wait--actually I am), but I think that means I'm in better shape.  It was ridiculously windy, which was noticeable during the parts of this run that are across narrow causeways on the reservoir.  Somehow all the larger men who were impeding my progress during the first mile (my fault--I started too far back) were nowhere to be seen when I needed them to block the wind for me.

Between now and then, many things happened.  My son woke up from a post-hockey practice nap and built this "sculpture garden" in our den.

Not surprisingly, this used up all the Scotch tape in our house.

I went for a bike ride the day after the race, and I believe this is officially the latest I've ever ridden outside.  Here is a picture from the ride:

Talk about some stark November beauty.  This is one of my favorite roads to run or ride on (January Hills, for you locals).

This past week I went to Boston for less than 24 hours to be on a panel at the yearly meeting of the organization that accredits colleges and schools in New England.  What is interesting about this is that they hold the meeting at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, which is one of the more chichi hotels I've ever stayed at.  There is a hotel dog in the lobby--you can sign her out for walks, or just scratch her ears, like I did.

The room our panel was in is, like the rest of the hotel, seriously Rococo.  I am only busting out the "Rococo" label to show that it was, in fact, a wise decision on my part to take a year of art history in college instead of a year of physics.   Otherwise I might not have properly appreciated this:

That's my colleague, erstwhile panel chair, posing on the stage that we unfortunately did NOT get to use for our presentations.  I am Facebookphobic (too many of my students there), but rumor has it this is his current Facebook photo, with the caption, "Does this shell make my a** look big?"

After our panel I got in a nice easy run along the Charles before heading back out west.  I ran on one of my favorite parts, between the Mass Ave and the Longfellow bridges.  I don't so much like the part next to Storrow Drive--nothing personal, Storrow Drive, but you are way too exhaust-y and loud.  (Actually, I guess it is personal.)  But you can veer off on the river side of the little pond thingies and run in near solitude in the middle of a weekday, modulo a few aggressive Canada geese and their ever-present goose poop.

Back home I tapered and tried not to get sick.  I woke up a few days with a slight sore throat and dosed myself heavily with Emergen-C.  And I slept a lot, or at least spent a lot of time in bed, where our older cat did his best to keep me awake by trying to sleep with his whiskers in my mouth.

Yesterday Charlotte and I drove into Boston (OK, actually Somerville) for a baby shower.  Here is Charlotte in Davis Square beforehand.

A few years ago someone somewhere (I am too lazy to Google this) wrote about Davis Square as the Paris of Boston.  I guess that fits, if Paris has a Dollar Store and Dunkin Donuts.  In other words, if you haven't actually been to Paris.  Here I have to confess that I have never really succumbed to the so-called charms of Davis Square--I'm more a fan of Union Square (where I used to live) and Inman Square.  In general, while I get all nostalgic for my Somerville days when I visit there, I am also driven completely insane by how freaking long it takes to drive anywhere with all the traffic.  The solution is obviously not to drive, but we had no choice, coming in from the boonies as we did.  The shower was fun--got to see some old friends (how long had it been?  long enough that one of them is a completely different gender than when I last saw him), and Charlotte and I crushed everyone in the shower game, which was matching celebrity baby names to their parents.  When someone I'd actually just met tried to enter at the last minute to beat us, I told him, "Second place is the first loser."

Which came back to bite me in the a** today at my 5K, where Charlotte apparently trotted out this line to our friend Tracy while they were watching the race.  I think Tracy shut her up before anyone heard her.  I tried to explain later that trash talking is OK at a baby shower but not at a race, although a different friend I relayed this to later wondered if maybe I had that backwards.

The race: it is huge (a couple thousand runners) and full of fast people, so I was probably like the 200th loser.  I will not kid you: I really wanted to break 21 minutes.  And I didn't.  Official times are not out yet, but by my watch I was 21:06ish.  My race went pretty much exactly as planned.  I went out in 6:48 and then dropped the pace a bit to 6:42 for the 2nd mile.  After the 2-mile mark there is a long uphill, and I think this is where I lost the key ground.  The last half mile is flat and downhill, and I ran as hard as I could.  Or so I thought at the time, but you know how when you miss a goal by under 10 seconds, you think, "Really?  Could I not have pushed just a little harder at the end?"  Of course at the time I thought I was going to hurl up a lung, so maybe not.

I have big 5K dreams, but they are proving hard to make a reality.  The 5K and I have a long and not-so-loving history.  I ran a 20:04 in my 20's, the year of my breakout races that was followed quickly by my worst injury ever.  I ran a 20:29 in one cross country race in college.  And probably other than those two races, this race today was my fastest 5K.  I suspect part of the issue is that, even in the late fall when I switch to a run focus, my volume is not huge--when I ran 20:04, I was running 40-50 miles per week. Don't get me wrong--I think this is what has kept me uninjured, even with a left knee that sounds like it has Rice Krispies in it and has a documented hole in the cartilage under the kneecap.  But my workouts suggest going under 21 shouldn't be that unreachable for me, so I suspect part of it is just getting better at racing.  But now I have a whole winter to think about that. . .

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