Saturday, November 26, 2011

Talking Turkey

The title is a little misleading, because no Thanksgiving recipes will be posted here. Although I do strongly recommend you find yourselves one of these next year:

Yes, that's a turkey made of butter. I also highly recommend doing some of this after you've eaten your fill of turkey-shaped butter.

It only took about 3.5 hours of this

to get there from Western MA on Wednesday, which wasn't really so bad.

Onto the Talking Turkey: today I did the 6-mile local Talking Turkey race, which is billed as a "cross country" race but is in fact a very tame (and beautiful) jaunt on gravel/dirt roads around a local reservoir. Last year I ran 7:07's on average. This year I ran 7:17's. Both years I ran conservatively and then picked it up for the last 2 miles, only this year what felt like a big pickup was sort of not, apparently. I did pass a lot of people in those last 2 miles, but in hindsight perhaps that had more to do with them all dying than it did with me being all fleet of foot.

The race was a lot of fun, though. I reduced my carbon footprint by carpooling down with my friend Greg, who unbeknownst to me was ahead of me the entire race until the last 400 yards or so, when I passed him during what I thought at the time was a blistering finishing kick. I felt a little bad about that, because last year when I had a really crappy 5K, he could have passed me in the last 400 yards but didn't, because he thought it would be my emotional undoing at that point. But today he was just collateral damage as I tried to pass back some 16-year old girl with whom I'd gone back and forth about 5 times over the last mile. (Yes, I beat her in the end. But her hair looked way better than mine.)

After the race Greg and I chased down some food and found another faculty colleague who'd done the race:

If I may say so myself, we are a very sporty faculty. Then I made the mistake of leaving my camera in Greg's hands while I finished eating, and later I found these:

I am going to think of these photos the next time I hear him on NPR, explaining current events in Northern Africa.

I haven't really done any local racing this fall, so it was a lot of fun to catch up with many of my running/triathlon friends. Here I am with: Lisa, who kicked my a** in her first race longer than a 5K; Laurie, who claimed she went out too hard but did just fine anyway; and Joellen, who was the first masters woman in the race.

I really miss seeing Joellen more often, so as I was leaving, I suggested we go biking sometime, and I think she literally snorted at me. I take it she's not a big fan of the cold weather.

Here I am with Dena, while we both eat clam chowder.

I understand that, rationally, clam chowder sounds really disgusting as a post-race food choice, but even after I came as close as I have in a long time to hurling in the chute, 15 minutes later this was heaven. I just wish I'd found oyster crackers.

Also, what is up with that rogue curl in the middle of my forehead? (When she was good, she was very very good, and when she was bad, she was unable to break 7's to save her freaking life.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Zombie fodder

More than a month ago now I did another race, the Tufts 10K. I think (it's a little hard to count, because some races were pre-internet) that this was my 8th one.  The course was changed this year to accommodate construction on the Longfellow bridge, so if anything an already flat and fast course became flatter and faster. Except that there was a surprise heat wave that day, and the race started at noon, so times in fact looked slower than usual. Especially my time, which was only a few seconds faster than my last 10K, which was at the ridiculously hilly (but more temperate) Josh Billings relay.

It's been long enough since the race that the self-flagellation over my time has ebbed away. I wore a heart rate monitor mostly for the postmortem, and what I saw in the data afterwards was a steady climb as I turned up the effort over the last 3.2 miles, so that for the last mile my average was closer to my max than I've ever seen in a race since I started wearing a HRM. And that was consistent with perceived effort, because I was in a world of hurt over that last mile, but still able to turn the legs over. But I do feel a little like this race has become some kind of Bermuda Triangle for me--I go, execute well, push myself hard. . . and end up with a time about 2 minutes slower than what I would have guessed it was. More on that in a moment. Here's the one race photo I have:

This was free, because the un-free pictures a) were ugly and b) weren't free. This is somewhere around mile 2, and I already look like I'm suffering. Because I was, and not just because the sweat was already pouring into my eyes (ouch!) by this point. I also look very pale, but that was true for the whole race (and in fact is true all the time). I am living proof that sunscreen works.

So the slow time thing: I have come to the conclusion that I am doing everything right except for sleeping enough. I have no trouble sleeping when I get to bed--I just have trouble getting to bed. The details are utterly boring, but it's work--I often find myself staying up until midnight or so, not even to get everything done, but just to be slightly less behind on immediate deadlines than if I didn't, and then I have to get up around 6 (or earlier if I'm working out in the morning), and the end result is that I average around 6 hours per sleep of night. This might have sort of worked when I was 25, but it's not serving me so well at the ripe old age of almost-42.

I talked about this with my coach, and I decided on my own that I would start to work on this by beginning to record how much sleep I was getting. The first night of my new sleep plan I recorded "7" on my training log. Not quite the 8 I was looking for, but better than 6. The second night I simply had to finish a batch of grading for my class, so I got to bed around 1, at which point I already had a scratchy throat. I woke up the next morning and was full-blown sick, recorded a feeble "5.5" on my log, and proceeded to skip a week of training while I recovered. So I still have work to do on this.

No more races since then--when I haven't been sick, I've been doing mostly running with a day of swimming and a day of biking thrown in. I did do my yearly alumni meet. Here I am trying to keep up with a fellow alum from the class of '90.

I still felt like crap from being sick here--I was totally short of breath and hacking up an alarming amount of mucus--but I really did try to reel him in at the end. I was totally unsuccessful, and he finished 30 seconds ahead of me. As if dumping me the week before Valentine's Day my freshman year weren't insult enough from him. Here are the alums from the 90's afterwards, all cleaned up and all the better for a beer or two:

I was able to leave Williamstown in time to attend my coach's Jersey Shore party. First I stopped off at the Berkshire Mall, walked into the Deb store, and said, "I need to be at a party in an hour, and I need to look like Snooki." For a grand total of $27 (I already owned the boots, although something tells me Snooki doesn't wear Dansko), the 20-yr-olds who work there totally set me up. They were able to offer sage advice like, "She's wearing a lot of big rings this season." I was the only Snooki who didn't wear a wig, but my fellow Snookis were very supportive of this choice and suggested I deserved extra props for getting my own hair to pouf.

And then we had this little snowstorm and lost power for several days. The title of this post refers to the fact that said snowstorm revealed that my family and I are utterly unprepared for any kind of serious disaster-related adversity. I have read World War Z, The Road, The Passage and all manner of other apocalyptic fiction (they make me feel like my actual life is less apocalyptic than it otherwise seems at times), and I now know for sure: when the zombies come, we are zombie fodder. We didn't even have a heat source outside our non-functioning furnace. Flashlights? We had a couple lying around. Somewhere. But maybe without working batteries. While other residents of New England were out in the early hours of the storm, chopping firewood and buying non-perishables, I went out for an 8-mile run with the second half at tempo pace. (It was a really good run, by the way. So it's possible I will be able to outrun the zombies if I don't starve first.)

Luckily I am also raising children who might outrun the zombies. Earlier that day Charlotte did her 2nd 1-mile cross country race, which was very muddy and cold. She was not so fond of the conditions, as she is illustrating in her post-race photo.

The thing is, what we have done well in preparation for the apocalypse is to acquire awesome friends. The morning after the storm our neighbor helped us coax the tree that was lounging on our garage roof back into a semi-standing posture while Patrick played with his son in front of their cozy woodstove. I shoveled, roof-raked, then retired to bed with a blinding headache while John scoured the surrounding towns for somewhere to buy a cup of coffee for me. He eventually found it about a mile from home at UMass, which never lost power. Later in the day the kids and I left John with the cats in the cold house and decamped to eastern Mass with Nancy and her kids. Nancy's family lives there, and they took us in without a second thought. It was like a fun camping trip, without the actual camping. Here is Patrick, getting ready to go to sleep at Nancy's parents' house.

Funny, in this picture he doesn't LOOK like he would take up 90% of the double bed. Deceiving, says the person who shared it with him for two nights.

While trick or treating was postponed back home, the kids enjoyed Halloween in exile.

They got to trick or treat again the next weekend back at home, at which point I think we were all a little trick or treated out, frankly. Before that we had to endure a week of no school, doled out in the fashion of death-by-a-thousand-cuts with a phone call late each day, telling us there was no school the next day. At the end of the week I had no option other than bringing the kids to work with me. Here they are settling in before the start of general chemistry:

They were actually splendidly behaved--Charlotte read a book the whole time, and Patrick diligently tried to copy down everything I put on the board.

My students were very impressed by these, and I have to say, he got them almost all right. Although this doesn't show the next page, where he tried to stick seven fluorines on his structure for sulfur hexafluoride. Yeah, I know.