31 May 2011


I made a concerted effort to try some actual speedwork. I figured out how to set my Garmin for an interval workout, and I did it.

Eight super fast quarter mile intervals.

My favorite part is my final 400 was the fastest 400.

I am so proud of myself. I feel like I did when I started Couch to 5K almost four years ago.

30 May 2011

End of Weekend Wrap Up

Thanks to the three-day weekend and the fact that I have mere hours left on my contract for this year, I had a lot of free time this weekend to read.

I finally finished Game of Thrones (oddest conclusion to a novel eva!). Before moving on to Clash of Kings (which I have. See pic below), I needed a little escape from Martin's gritty fantasy realm. I needed a dose of reality. I turned to non-fiction and picked up Marshall Ulrich's Running on Empty. This was probably one of the best running books that I've read. And since I am in a listing mood:

  1. It was truly a love letter to his wife and his crew. It was a testament to the fact that independence isn't wise; that wisdom is in a team.
  2. It shed light on why the documentary Running America featured such a lame narrative. I'm looking at you, Charlie Engle.
  3. It revealed a powerful narrative of his journey running across America.
I actually went to his Facebook page, "liked" him and wrote his a comment of appreciation along the lines that his narrative would have greatly improved the documentary. He wrote back with a thanks. Then he sent me a message. Marshall Ulrich sent me a message! He sent me a message about my profile pic teasing me for calling the guy behind me old.

79 is old! That guy is 79. I ran the marathon faster than him, but not by much. I told Marshall that I hope that I am still out there at 79. And I do.

After that jaunt into reality, I am back to George R.R. Martin and Book 2 of Song and Ice Saga/Series Whatever it is. Good grief. Dragons are involved.

When I wasn't reading, I was running. I ran every single day this weekend. This delights me. This also impresses me.

Equally if not more impressive is that fact that I seem to be devoted to core work as evidenced by the fact that I did the whole INFERNAL Ab Buster routine from Nike Training Club. And for some odd reason, I looked up the 100 push up training plan, printed it out and completed Week 1, Day 1 (doing girl push ups--I am so weak).

What is happening to me?

I also kicked around in these all day. I love feeling barefoot. I ran .4 mile in my other pair. My calves said "Thanks. Thanks. A lot."

It felt like the beginning of summer today. This summer will mean a lot of reading, writing, running, and eating.

I can't wait for the end of my contract!

29 May 2011


Lululemon Athletica used an Emily Dickinson quote as a status update today.

Dwell in possibility.

Upon reading that I dwelled on the word dwell. I do this often. I enjoy the fact that the word pedantic sounds pedantic. I love the fact that the word hoi polloi sounds foreign and, therefore. out of reach of the hoi polloi. A dwelling is a home; to dwell can mean to inhabit or live in a place. But we most often use it in that sense. We used it to mean to think upon a subject at length--usually something negative. The thinking is so exhaustive that it is akin to living in that thought pattern. Taking residence. In negativity.

I like the idea of taking residence in possibility.

I'm trying to dwell in the possibility that I can train better.

I may be on my way.

This week I logged over 24 miles. My long run was only 7.3 miles. I ran six out of seven days. I also did the INFERNAL ab workout from the Nike Training Club app. (I need a pre-beginner level!)

I realize that 24 miles a week isn't that spectacular, but when I look back over my marathon training, I can only count four weeks in which I logged more miles. One of those weeks was the marathon.

I deserved the time I earned with that training.

Why did I only run (on average) four days a week to train for my marathon? Because I dwelled in fear.

My half-marathon training plan that I am following for the SF 1st Half Marathon calls for six days of running with strength training following short easy runs.

I ran the six days this week and it wasn't what I feared it would be. For nearly four years, I've followed a pattern of resting (or light cross-training) the day before and after a long run. I didn't think that you were allowed to run the day after a long run. Hal Higdon says I can and I should. Even though my long run was only 7.3 miles today, I am looking forward to an easy run tomorrow. I won't have a rest day until Thursday.

I hope that this round of training will amp my mileage up to where it needs to be. I'd like 30 mpw to be my new normal. I love the fact that I have the power to change my normal. I like dwelling in that possibility.

I also like dwelling in a good nap. The sort of nap where you curl around your body's exhaustion satiated with the knowledge that you are repairing the fatigue and the ache. Six days of running after a week of total rest meant a superb nap.

I just now need to dwell on the possibility that I can run in the heat once it arrives. That's a challenge.

19 May 2011

In for an inch, in for a mile: Not Running Related (Honestly)

I feel as if I am fighting a battle with my son. And the battle is trying to get him to NOT hate school. This is a heart-breaking battle to have to wage. Sometimes I shudder to think of all the times that my son is told no throughout the school day. He wanted to try out for the talent show. He was told that his talent was inappropriate (Musical Arm Farting!). I disagree with both that assessment and the fact that my son was told this information in the first place. His talent is completely age appropriate. He isn’t a Wall Street Broker; he is a seven year old boy.

Today he threw the cosmic balance out of whack for wearing colored hair gel to school.

Before my son started his instructional day, he was told to go to the office by another teacher for the offensive hair. I then received a phone call in the middle of my first period class from the school. My first thought is that my son broke a limb--why else interrupt my instruction of my students. But then I hear that my son had a "misunderstanding" about crazy hair day.


There was no misunderstanding other than the school's misunderstanding about what is actually something to worry about and what is NOT actually something to worry about.

Then he is on the phone with me crying. I try to console him. I asked the secretary if it wasn't allowed. She tells me it isn't. She says, "It's in the handbook." (A handbook that I've since discovered isn't anywhere online.)

Who checks the damned handbook? I check my common sense. Huge mistake when a school doesn't operate under any.

Let me break this down.

1. Does a little color in a student’s hair really “materially and substantially” disrupt the educational process? I can understand that green hair may have been quite scandalous back in the 1950s, but in 2011 it seems like a stretch to argue that green hair gel “materially and substantially” disrupts the educational process OR that it is somehow a danger to others. Or a health concern. I would argue that my son's "altered" hair is no more distracting than a new Justin Bieber shirt or a new pair of shoes.

And if a teacher cannot get kids on track with learning with a little colored hair gel in the classroom, there are much larger issues to address.

2. I work in a school where if I sent a kid out of class because of this, I would be asked some serious questions by my administration. I would have to justify the child being out of the class. Being pulled out of the class is akin to a suspension since the child is missing out on instructional time. My concern is that my son was taken out of class to deal with this when he should have been learning.

3. And if "no artificial hair coloring is allowed" most of the faculty wouldn't be blonde!

Mad props to the principal for calling me and hearing my perspective and the idiocy of their hair code when it is 2011. At the Mother's Day activity, I'm pretty sure that the non-tattooed mothers were the minority. Times they have a-changed. Green hair isn't scandalous.

But it only got worse when I learned from my husband that other children were allowed to have temporarily dyed hair today. My son wasn't on the chosen list. Dearest readers, you will LOVE the reason why.

The Chosen were those who were performing at the Talent Show.

18 May 2011

That Mom: Not Running Related

My son's school sent home a parent survey. They wanted suggestions. Here were mine.

1. Consider more recognition for students beyond the Student of the Month award.

I happened to be at an assembly where my son was earning a medal for reading. It also happened to be the student of the month assembly. Without fail, it seemed that all of the students of the month were described as if they were part of the brainwashed hoi polloi in a dystopian novel. Don't get me wrong. I understand the need for compliance in an educational setting, but I also understand perhaps the greater need to celebrate and reward innovation and creativity and IDEAS that may leap unexpectedly from the mouths of seven and eight year old children.

2. Consider a shift in the school's use of praise to motivate CST scores. Shift praise from intelligence to effort.

Praise is one of those tricky things. It doesn't always have positives outcomes. As an undergrad, I was first introduced to the concept of locus of control in a psych class. Around CST time, the faculty spent a lot of time at my son's school praising the students for being such "smart Tigers"! This is possibly one of the WORST things that you can do to a student. I realize the hyperbole, but follow me. If students believe that their intelligence is what is responsible for their successes and failures, they have NO control over it. Once faced with something difficult, the child will believe that he/she is simply not intelligent enough to complete the task. These students often shut down when faced with something difficult or (even worse) won't challenge themselves in the future. On the other hand, we can all control the amount of effort that we put forth. Praise effort! I've read or heard of studies in which students who had their effort praised were more likely to take on challenging tasks. This is what we want. We want our children to not shrink from the difficult; we want our children to feel empowered to take on anything.

3. Consider a year focused on learning more about boys as learners.

I wrote something on the survey about ensuring that boys not be seen as deficient girls, blah, blah, blah. Our current educational climate is not the most nurturing for our male learners. There aren't enough books that appeal to boys when compared with books that appeal to girls. Things that boys are interested in (farts, fights, gore) are often frowned upon by overly motherly female faculty. Science, history, and PE are often regulated to the bottom of the priority list.

It is my hope that my concerns are not summarily dismissed, but that they are actually considered. I believe that the school has simply misstepped in the desire to help more students. I think that they have the best of intentions, but need to sort of take a step back and consider the unintended consequences of their decisions.

I just have to figure out a way to turn in the survey so that it isn't connected back to my son. I'm don't want my son to be labeled as the kid with "that mom."

14 May 2011

I can't believe I do this for fun.

Pre-2007: I was large. Technically I was extra-large. After the birth of my son in 2003, I had to venture into Lane Bryant to purchase an outfit. This was only once. I somehow skinnied down to be able to fit into the largest size in regular clothes (most likely vanity sized clothes).

Then one day in the summer of 2007 I had lunch with my Soul Sister from middle school and high school. She is the girl who understands when I reference Pink Lemonade Snapple and purple sunglasses. She understands and can analyze any alarming dream that I have. She gets it. The people who truly knew you when you were fourteen are powerful and wise. You can't lie to them; they can't lie to you. The relationship is too old to deal with those sorts of shenanigans. She and I need to have lunch soon. Adulthood often interferes with plans like those.

That day at lunch upon parting I told her that I had parked a couple blocks away. I made an off-hand remark that I needed to start walking to lose weight. She reminded me that I said that last year. I had said it. And I never acted on it.

But that summer I did. I struggled through 60 second intervals of running sandwiched between 90 second or two minutes of walking. I can't remember exactly, but I remember thinking how hard it was. I proceeded through the very popular Couch to 5K program. I can remember my dread at imagining running a five minute interval; I can remember my delight when I accomplished five minutes of running.

Repeat that pattern of dread and delight for the next four years as I progress to 20 minute runs, 30 minutes runs, a 10K, a 10 miler, my first half marathon, my first 14, 16, 18, 20 mile training run, my first 21 miler, and my first marathon. And I took delight in every new shopping trip as I slimmed down size after size after size.

Now that I've shown to the doubting me that I can cover the distance, I need to refine my training in so many areas.

Area #1: Speedwork and Tempo Runs. I'm actually going to run the tempo runs at true tempo speed this time around. I've promised myself that I would. No more cheating myself. I'm not sure I am ready for track workouts though. Ugh.

Area #2: Hills. My "hill" isn't long enough. I plan on taking advantage of my four-week fellowship at the University and run the hill from the parking lot up to the library multiple times in the 3 pm summer heat. It will be awesomely painful.

Area #3: Long Runs. I need to run them slower. This is actually hard.

Area #4: Cross-Training. I'm weak when it coming to doing anything other than running. I'll use the elliptical, but if I were being honest with myself I would realize that I am essentially running. I have a rowing machine, but I am just continuing to strengthen my legs. I need to work on my core and arms.

My gams are smokin'.

Nike helped me with the initial foray into running. I used that Nike+ system for two and half years religiously to record my mileage. Somehow that data was motivating to me. It still it. I know that I have logged over 2,800 miles since starting running in 2007. I like knowing those numbers. I am looking forward to hitting 3,000 miles because that is essentially the distance between San Francisco and New York City Halls. I like imagining that. I dumped Nike for Garmin; Garmin is a better training partner. I just have to use it more wisely.

But Nike just might be my savior yet again. They have this free iPhone app called Nike Training Club. I just tried it out today. I did the 15 minute Ab Buster workout.




That was bloody hard.

Clearly, I have no strength. I am a wobbly mess. Running for three hours straight seems easier than those fifteen minutes.

Clearly, this failure and weakness is extremely motivating for me because I will conquer these damned workouts. I will.

Clearly, I have a twisted version of what to do for fun.

09 May 2011

Misc: Fuel, Women Carrying Hoes, and Surprising and Patriotic Poms Poms

My husband enjoys cooking and baking; I enjoy running.

He's lucky I run enough to enjoy his creations.

Case in point: Yesterday's Mother's Day Brunch Item To Die For Eggs Benedict.

I had two. I can't even begin to guesstimate how many miles are in Eggs Benedict. That sentence reveals quite a bit about how I see food. I see miles in the food. I wish that Nutrition Facts featured this information. I know that caloric content is featured, but to most people a calorie is an abstract concept. If people knew that the frosty treat that they are enjoying from Sonic was worth ten miles, I think they might think twice about grabbing that spoon. That's much more concrete.

Women Carrying Hoes
It was one of those days at work; I am tempted to qualify it through metaphor, but I've decided to leave work at work and out of this blog.

I was looking forward to a quick little run tonight. First run of SF half training! I wanted time to process all the absurdities of the day. About two and half miles into my run, I see the absurd. A woman walking down a major thoroughfare carrying a garden hoe and a black garbage bag of who knows what.

I've never seen a woman walking carrying a garden hoe. It just seemed so out of place! It delighted me!

Surprising and Patriotic Pom Poms
This is what greeted me when I arrived home from my run. It was just louder and with more movement!

08 May 2011

To Do: Write Running To Do List

I'm a huge fan of making to do lists. Items in my to do lists often have sub-to do lists. When I discovered the iProcrastinate application for my MacBook Pro, it was one of those rare moments when the universe delivered EXACTLY what I needed EXACTLY when I needed it.

This translates well to running. I love "writing" training plans. Writing isn't the correct term. The process inevitably goes like this: google various training plans, email friend in Jersey for his advice, select a plan, modify, modify, modify, and map out each day in a calendar. Often the information in handwritten calendar gets inputted into my iProcrastinate application (when did software become apps?) under the RUNNING Category.* My favorite part is after each workout I log the workout in my training log and then cross it off the calendar. Somehow I got in the habit of using emoticons when I cross off workouts. :) for a good workout or one that I am glad to get over with and :( for ones that just irritated me. Somehow emoticons have accomplished complete infiltration; I even need them to remind myself that this was positive or this was not positive. (Steve Martin used emoticons in one of his short pieces for The New Yorker called "Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods." It is a must read.)

Unfortunately, I never consulted a calendar and counted the weeks until July 31, 2011. July 31 seemed like a lifetime in the future. I was confident if I registered for the San Francisco Marathon's First Half Marathon on July 31 that I would have PLENTY of time to train properly in the hopes of shaving 5 minutes off my half-marathon personal best. And normally 12 weeks would be plenty of time to train, but I didn't factor in the marathon recovery period.


I took six rest days post marathon but went out for a run this morning. I kept it short at only four miles. The first two miles were significantly tougher than I would have anticipated, but I soldiered on and the final two miles were significantly better and faster. Last night I read in one of the various running books strewn about my house that I should follow a reverse taper post-marathon before diving back in.

Ugh. This complicates the half-marathon plan that I painstakingly modified yesterday morning.

I'm sure that the book is probably right. I should take it easy this week and the next. I should do a lot of things that I don't. I'll just try listening to my body. I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to unscheduled rest days anyway.

But with my goal of increasing my miles per week, I could find myself in trouble.


*Categories in my iProcrastinate app include no less than three separate categories just for my job, one for my kid, one for me, and one for running because running is bigger than just me.

05 May 2011

The Difficult Stretch

Today was the first day post-marathon that I didn't experience too much muscle soreness. I probably could have gone out for a very slow three miles to start to ease my body back into running mode.

But today was quite hot. I believe it hit the high 90s.

We are hitting the difficult stretch of the year: May through August. My mileage drops to abysmal levels during these months.

Consider what I am up against: the conclusion of the school year, vacations, heat, triple digit heat, stay at home motherhood, and the beginning of the school year. None of these are particularly conducive to running.

I'm toying with the idea of registering for the San Francisco Half Marathon at the end of July just to get me forced into a training mode to keep me running through those summer obstacles. But dropping the money on the race and the hotel room seems like a waste. Why does money need to be on the line for me to buckle down and train?

The summer struggle is reason #237 why I have a hard time identifying as a runner.

04 May 2011

Big Sur Race Report

A few years ago I was talking to a doctor about a pain I was experiencing in my left foot. He had made a comments along the lines of "An athletic girl like you..." I stopped him to assure him that I was not an athletic girl. He quickly tried to prove to my that I am an athletic girl. I didn't believe him.

Some days, I still struggle to identify with that label.

And even though I run (a lot), I struggle to identify as a runner because I am never fast enough. I have issues.

Because of these issues, I procrastinate when it comes to making decisions and plans. When it came to a training plan, I remember sitting down in January a week before having to start training realizing that I had to actually commit to a training plan. I had run the Big Sur 21 Miler in 2010 by modifying a plan that I found in a book called Marathoning for Mortals. I decided to go with what was familiar. Two big mistakes there.
1.) Using a plan for a book called Marathoning for Mortals and
2.) not pushing myself to something more rigorous.

In short, I was afraid.

I was afraid that I wouldn't survive the long runs.
I was afraid that I would exhaust myself with more mileage.
I was afraid that I would alienate my family with too much running.

During the course of my training, I ran one 20 miler, one 18 miler, one 16 miler. All other "long runs" were shorter than that. I now know that I needed more long runs of this caliber.

I know. I fail.

I don't want to even calculate my mile per week average, but I'm guestimating that it is maybe around 24 mpw. Too few miles.

I know. I fail.

I am proud of the hillwork that I attempted. I live in this thing called a Valley. Flat. Flat. Flat. I would run the overpass near my house which is nearly .2 miles from end to end. I would run this repeatedly. I was actually proud of how many reps I could do.

Yet I failed when it came to the hills of Big Sur.

Essentially I got the time that I deserved. This is what happens when you are meek. And this is what happens when you get your plan from a book co-authored by a man who willingly calls himself "The Penguin.

Don't be like me. Don't be meek.

Woke up at 4 am on Saturday morning to get ready so that we could get in the car by 4:30. We had to be in Pacific Grove by sevenish for our son's 3K. I was going to run it with him.

That little race deserved in own little race report in which I skewer some tacky adults who led a contingent from an elementary school to the front of the start line after there were tons of little kids already there pushing everyone roughly back. So tacky. This is the only time that I have experience utter self-centeredness and rudeness like this at a race start line.* Way to be a role model.

My son paced himself well through the 3K (which I am pretty sure wasn't measured very accurately --Garmin says 1.58 miles) and kicked at the end. This was our second 3K together.

Then it was Expo time. I failed to purchase anything. This may have been my lone victory of the weekend. I made up for it when I went to REI, which really shouldn't be legal. It's that good.

My family and I then drove Highway 1 looking at the sites, like this one:

After sightseeing, I transition to worrying. I started worrying about food and what I was and was not eating. Was the pizza enough? What should I have for dinner? I then grew exceedingly peevish and knew that I needed a nap.

Since it was too late for a nap, I needed to go to sleep. A few minutes of reading A Game of Thrones did the trick.**

I easily woke up at 3:45 am. Made myself coffee and some cereal and when through the ritual of getting ready for a run. The ritual involves a dance of worry. Did I remember to grab every thing that I require*** to run?

My saint of a husband drops me off at the bus stop at 4:30 am. I immediately board a bus and fifteen minutes later arrive at Marathon Village, where I wait in the cold for two hours for race time. While uncomfortable, it was still easier than the marathon. (Safeway was open, but as it was out of my sight, I didn't even know that I could have been hanging out in the cereal aisle of a supermarket staying warm. Boo!)

I did happen to see former Biggest Loser contestant Ada Wong exit a port-a-potty and proceed to wash her hands. No one seemed to notice her or go up to her. Does she even count as a celebrity?

Ten minutes later, I had a moment of panic when a mass of runners all attempting to check their sweats seem to conspire against me and my need to make it to my corral on time. Others are in a similar situation. Panic ensues. People start to toss their sweat bags at the truck. I handed mine over, turned around and WHACK! I am hit by an errant flying sweat bag. This was BAD OMEN #1.

I didn't make it to my corral until AFTER the National Anthem was played. Yep. BAD OMEN #2.

After excessive banter and use of alliteration by Bart Yasso and the race announcer, my corral is off. Yay! Finally it begins. The beginning implies an end. Let's do this.

And then. A mere third of a mile or so into the race, runners were running around or leaping over a dead skunk, belly up, entrails out. Let's call this BAD OMEN #3. It stunk.

And so would my race.

I've run a half-marathon and half-marathon distance training runs with no walk breaks. I can do that. I knew that I would have to take walk breaks for this marathon. I was prepared for that inevitability. I just am upset about how many walk breaks I was seduced into. (That's right. I used the passive voice. Some nameless entity--perhaps the camber of the road, the relentless hills, or the heat seduced me into walking. It wasn't me. I abdicate all responsibility.)

Observe how I was seduced into walking:

It looks like a bloody seismograph towards the end. So utterly disappointing.

I don't remember much around the mile markers, but I do recall feel too tired for just having run ten miles. Ten miles normally doesn't tire me out at all. This little seed of worry grew and I believe it aided in the whole seduction into walking.

At one point I needed to go to the bathroom. I want to say that this was around the mile 18 mark. This was the most difficult experience (and another clue that I was not being helped by the running gods.) I felt fine until I stopped moving. Then the world began to spin. Since I was in the port-a-potty, I held my 12 oz handheld water bottle by my teeth. Mind you, the world is spinning. I somehow have to get a seat protector down, my shorts down, and land successfully on said sheet protector, all while the world spins. I somehow got out of their alive, relieved, and clean thanking my lucky stars that I never dropped my water or my iPod or my sunglasses.

The spinning subsides with forward motion, but I was definitely woozy. I don't think that you can fight your way out of woozy. Nevertheless, I soldiered on.

At mile 20, I attempted to take Gu to alleviate wooziness, and the Gu attempted to fight its way out of my esophagus and out of my mouth. I mentally willed myself to a.) not vomit and b.) get the darn energy gel down! Mind over gut! I walked about 6/10th of mile 20.

I guess that is what they mean by the wall.

Around mile 22, the marathoners were directed to run through Point Lobos State Park while the 21 miler went ahead to the finish. I hated making that left into the park, but I was sort of glad that I did because this kind elderly man read my bib and grabbed my attention and made full eye contact with me and said, "Tara, you are a winner!" It was so sweet. I sort didn't want to make the old man a liar. So I kept trying to "win." (I've lost both of my grandfathers, so I like to think that any elderly guy out there who purposely talks to me while running is simply some version of my grandfathers. This is corny, I realize. But I am human, and sometimes we are this way.)

After exiting Point Lobos, I felt as if I could at least walk the final 2.2 miles and finish. It sunk in that I was going to finish. That felt good. Fleetingly. I pushed onward. I ran all the downhill and flat until hitting the final brutal hill. I had nothing for the hill but the knowledge that I could walk it fast. And I did. EVERYONE was walking this hill, so I wasn't alone in my misery. (Note: I know hyperbole and exaggeration. I'm not employing here. Quite literally all were walking that hill.)

After cresting the hill, you can see the flags of the finish line ahead in the distance. I ran. I have a rule that I have to always run the finish because it is filled with spectators and I have to save face. I didn't see my husband and son, but they saw me and got the pictures. Garmin says I ran pretty damn fast. I must have really wanted it to be over.

Finish line. Clock time: 5:32:24 (Tag time 5:24:35). High fives. Medal awarded. Sought food. Cried with disappointment. No initial joy for having completed a marathon other than the joy of no more running that day.

On the drive home my husband surprised me with jewelry:

I count the fact that I did not experience a migraine as a victory. I experienced migraine after my first half-marathon and my 21 miler last year. No migraine means I did something right.

I was pouty for a few days. Then I put the date for the 2012 Big Sur International Marathon on my calendar, and I researched running CIM.

I'm guess I'm coming back for more.


*Note: I do not believe that these adults were runners in any way shape of form. I based 90% of this on their behavior and 10% of this on their stature. Yes. I went there. I'm mean.

**This is not a criticism of this book. At all. I enjoy the book.

***Loose interpretation of the word. Of course.