Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's about freaking time.

And ... it is!

I'd like to introduce the newest member of my family. Family? Meet Garmin:

Oooooh ... helloooooooo Garmin.

I have officially reached a new stage in my running. Today, I own a Big Girl Watch. Not that I had been putting it off. But really? My Nike Sportband worked juuuuuust fine. For the past year or so, I've been perfectly content with my bare-bones, no-nonsense Nike band. Behold:

Yes, he works fine. Light on the wrist and to see calories, time, pace ... I just hit a switch at the bottom. I also just plug that baby into my computer when I get home and it keeps a running total of my miles on the Nike website. But basic nonetheless. I call him ... Nestor.

But when Nestor tried to do Yasso 800s with me? He got a little flustered.

I was never good in math. It's been long enough since high school that I can now admit that I had to repeat calculus. All of my girlfriends were honor society who were like nine grades ahead of everyone else - but not me. I struggled through everything but my English and writing classes, all the time reminding myself that "once I become an adult, I will never have to use math again."

And then? I became a runner. Runners have complicated formulas for everything. They're obsessed with things like pace per mile and what their 5K PR is. They calculate what it takes to run a negative split race - the second half being faster than the first - using a complex breakdown of what their goal pace is at certain times. I'll admit that while I enjoy this kind of math, I also know my limitations. I know that when I stagger over the finish, barely able to breathe, I have way overestimated what my pace should have been. And it wasn't because I was feeling confident; it was all fuzzy math.

My lack of wicked math skills has also been accompanied by a natural shift in the calibration of the Nike Sportband (ahem, Nestor) as I've worn it more and more. So much so that as I would complete a full loop of CP - knowing that it is exactly 6.03 miles - Nestor would look up at me innocently, stating: "6.33." Nestor, perhaps wanting too badly to please me, would begin to grant me an extra 3/10ths of a mile every time I ran.

I was then thrown into a tizzy after the Napa to Sonoma Half when at a glance down at my wrist after the finish, Nestor told me I had just run 12.7 miles. Reminder: a half is 13.1 miles. What the what? What had I done? Was Nestor mad at me for something? Where did those other 3/10ths disappear to? I actually even asked an official if maybe the race organizers had quietly just shaved off a little. "Come on," I urged. "It'll be our secret."

Wait. I meant 4/10ths. See? I still suck at the most basic of math.

Alas, it seemed that Nestor was just a little off. Again. Recalibration did nothing but piss him off even more.

But I love him, so I put up with his erratic behavior. And when it was time on the schedule to get to Yasso 800s, I gave him a pep talk, telling him that he could absolutely do this.

For those of you not familiar with the Yasso 800s, behold from a fine running blog:


What are the Yasso 800's?

The concept is simple. One day per week for several weeks leading up to a marathon you mix interval training into your weekly run schedule. The intervals should consist of 800 meter runs. If you’re aiming for a 4 hour marathon finish time, then run your 800 meter interval in 4 minutes. Jog for another 4 minutes and then repeat by running another 800 meters in 4 minutes. And if you’re trying to run a 3 hour marathon then do 3 minute 800 meter intervals followed by 3 minutes of jogging, and repeat. Do this until you can do 10 total repetitions in a given workout at your marathon goal pace. After 2 or 3 months of Yasso 800′s along with your typical marathon training schedule you should be prepared to charge the marathon and complete it at your target pace based on the Yasso intervals. Easy and effective!


"Easy and effective!" Who wrote that? Obviously someone who never sat next to me in trigonometry. It took me nearly an hour, scribbling notes all the way, to figure out how to do this workout. I don't think it even required "carrying the 1" ... but my math did. Oh, and don't get me started on meters versus miles. I still struggle with military time (Add 12. I think.), so conversions are not my thing. In the end, this is what I gleaned from the Yasso 800s: I needed to watch my pace, my time and my mileage all at once. Nestor was dejected, knowing he would fall short. Pressing that little button on his underbelly to toggle between those fields was the only way to do it. And I am just not coordinated enough to do this as I am hauling ass.

We tried. We gave it our best shot. I still got in a good run, but to this day I have no effing idea if I did them correctly.

And Nestor knew.

So Mike surprised me last week with the sleek Garmin 405, which does everything but go to the bathroom for me - provided I can find satellites. You see, Garmin runs on GPS, which means I am - for once in my life - exact and correct when I am running. He beeps at me when I hit mile markers or if I fall off pace, and he provides me with a virtual running partner I can try to beat. (That option is way creepy so I doubt I'll use it.) Best of all, I have all of my numbers right there in front of me. No need to press buttons anymore.

And I think I shall call him ... Gavin.

Nestor is okay with the arrangement. He knows I may still strap him on my right hand for long runs, since I love seeing my Nike level increase and I am ohsoclose to the next one.

Ironically, this all happened the same week I bid adieu to my Nike wrap-arounds. Oh, you know them well:

Hmmm. It appears I only wear black tanks when I run.

More on point, I have the wrap-arounds everywhere I go. Even when I'm on the road, I pack them right alongside Nestor. (Oh, tragic Nestor!)

This? Not so effective:

I'm afraid the next Happy Running Cindy picture you see will star a different pair of shades. For now, I'll keep the broken ones sitting on my dresser, right alongside Nestor. Maybe they can reminisce about being important parts of my training, helping me to become the mature runner I am finally growing into. They can take pride knowing they were my training wheels, proudly watching as I roll down the street with Gavin at my side, a little wobbly yet unaided and steadfast in achieving my goal ... all on my own.

Or maybe because they're a watch and a pair of sunglasses, I'll just donate them to charity. Come on people, this isn't a Pixar film.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The tequila made me do it.

Or, in this case, not do it.

I'm so sorry, dear readers (okay, so it's just Tina), but I was kidnapped by banditos in the Mexican countryside and made to drink tequila for hours at a time, ripped so cruelly away from my marathon training ... and my blog.

All right, only partly true. The part about the tequila. And the training and the blog.

But really, tequila? Can be blamed for so many things that go horribly off-course, probably even historically. The Titanic? Tequila. The 2000 presidential election? Tequila. The pitch meeting when "Jersey Shore" got green-lighted? Definitely tequila.

And they made me wear a sombrero!

As my Chicago training progressed, I knew one large obstacle loomed on the schedule. A trip to Mexico with our close friends who we travel with every year. Remember New Orleans last year?

Ah yes ... those friends.

So as you can imagine, I was a bit concerned about throwing off my training schedule for the five days we'd be at ... wait for it ... an all-inclusive resort. Yep, top-shelf liquor with the flash of a woven bracelet bestowed upon you when you arrive. As Val so aptly pointed out, our group was going to become the luxury resorts' loss leader. They'd quickly be rethinking this foolish all-inclusive gibberish upon our checkout.

We were to arrive on Thursday night and my running schedule was supposed to go something like this: Friday - 5 miles; Saturday - 16 miles; Monday - 5 miles; Tuesday - 8 miles of hills.

I rearranged the schedule before we left, figuring there was no way I was doing a long run of 16 miles on Saturday. I'd get up super-duper early on Thursday before we took off, run my 16 miles. Then I'd see how the rest of the days played out. With that schedule, only Tuesday would be a toss-up. I figured the 5 milers would be easy enough to do on the hotel treadmill.

Thursday morning.

I slept through my alarm. Several times. Don't blame me, though. I was feeling a little sniffly and cold-ish. So I took my snotty butt to the gym where I successfully pounded out ... a mile and a quarter. Omg so pathetic. Thursday? A total loss on the training schedule. But it didn't matter once we got to Nueva Vallarta because we were with our best friends who are always totally refined and conservative.

So Friday morning was a bit touch-and-go.

But I managed to bang out 5 slow miles on the treadmill and figured I'd do what I could on Saturday morning. I knew there was no long run in my future. Our drunken exploits and hangover potential aside, there is just no way I can do 16 on the dreadmill. Could I take it outside? Sure, if I didn't mind the stifling humidity and +90 temps not to mention that pesky U.S. State Department advisory for tourists traveling to Mexico, warning that you best not step foot out of your resort for risk of being kidnapped and beheaded by drug lords. (Not that dramatic, but the gringo from New York wasn't taking any chances.)

Up until this point in my training, I looked at the schedule so prominently posted on my fridge as gospel. I didn't waver from a hill repeat or tempo run. I hadn't cut anything short. I was, if I do say so myself, a model trainee.

Enter the margarita.

Saturday morning started out with our amazing breakfast buffet. (It took me several mornings after we returned home to stop plodding into the kitchen in flip-flops and shouting incredulously at Mike: "Donde esta el berry bar?!") But come on, people. It's a freaking all-inclusive. And being that time really doesn't matter when you're on vacation, I can give you about 127 justifications for having a margarita at 10:30am. Even more if it's with reposada.

(Speaking of time. We found out a day into our trip that our resort - located just 15 minutes away from the airport - was in a different time zone from Puerto Vallarta. It made for much confusion with dinner reservations and no one ever seemed to be able to tell us what the correct time was. After a few days of guesstimating by looking at the sun, an exasperated Kerry finally asked the concierge: "What time do you think it is?" We never received a proper answer.)

So Saturday, we had an excursion. Ziplining. (Which I was really excited about, since the only other time I had done this was in Costa Rica with Mike, Mike and Claudette. But since we're really more of the "sit around the pool bar and put away pina coladas" people, our CR ziplining adventure was over the resort pool. Mike actually waved to me from the hot tub as I passed overhead. Claudette and I have since used "ziplined" as a verb to describe anyone half-assing something, i.e., "She totally ziplined that job interview.")

So a couple of margies in and several (many) Tecates on the long, winding drive up the mountain ...

... the long run became a distant and hazy memory. And this? Was our zipline adventure:

Followed by a "tequila tour" by our guides. Which was really just them getting us wasted on really good tequila in an effort to garner more tips. Totally worked.

I had thought that by the end of the day I'd have a sense of regret or anxiety for blowing off a crucial training run. Frankly, all I felt was warm and buzzed. And I dug it. Besides, I still had Sunday to get back on track. I'd try to fit in something in the morning.

This was Saturday night:

So day two of the Great Marathon Training Blow Off started with a wicked hangover. That was quickly repaired by bloody marys in the pool.

Followed by a concoction whipped up by our pool boy Wenceslaus (Kerry dubbed the drink a "Wencie").

Followed by little milky, caramel-y shots of heaven. We are all class.

This picture has not been Photoshopped:

By Monday, I was back on the treadmill for 5 miles and I'm fairly certain I was sweating Sauza. But I still had Tuesday. I was supposed to do 8 miles of hills - which is difficult to do on a treadmill anyway - but I would have settled for anything at that point.

And then this really big dude named Montezuma banged on the front door of our hotel suite. What an a-hole this guy is.

Spent the entire trip home Tuesday sweating, swearing and darting for el bano. Worse still, when I got home and tried to get back on my schedule, I'd find that about a quarter mile was my limit. A stomach cramp would shoot through me and I'd be forced to walk, muttering to myself all the way home about the damned ceviche bar.

This was the first week that I was able to get myself back on track. Logged my highest mileage yet - 42 miles for the week - and had a pretty successful 18-mile run, half of that with Barb at my side. Of course, the Cipro prescribed by my doctor didn't hurt, either.

But the trip was awesome. We've found the perfect mix of personalities to travel together and it just works so well. I've never laughed so hard for so many consecutive hours. We joked (but were kind of serious) about making t-shirts up for all of us proudly proclaiming: "Those People." Since we were the group everyone else stared at - and were subsequently horrified by. Like last year in New Orleans, we can't wait to travel again together next year.

Maybe I've been taking myself too seriously with all this training stuff. Maybe I needed a fun-filled five days with friends to realize that that's what's most important in life. Maybe it's okay to blow off the schedule in exchange for memories that are only made when you're good and marinated in Mexican beer. Maybe every now and again you need to live life like a Jimmy Buffet song.

Maybe everything is just better when it's accompanied by salt and lime.