Monday, January 26, 2015

Long Run, January 23rd: The Blizzard is Coming!

Last year's winter was a true test of heart with such bitter cold, and the year before that packed a glorious amount of snow. I kind of knew that this winter hadn't yet shown its true capabilities, so I wasn't particularly shocked when when I looked at the weather for Saturday and saw that there was an onslaught of wet snow predicted to start around 6am, just in time to mess up the sidewalks for our Riverside Run. I don't mind running in the snow so much, but it's exhausting over long distances to loose so much traction on each step, and the treads on my running shoes are currently so worn down that the outer edge is almost completely gone. My work schedule doesn't include Fridays, so I decided that it was probably in my best interests to do my longer run on my own on Friday afternoon, despite the fact that I felt too lazy to even make myself food. I considered looping downtown and back until Daniel somewhat jokingly mentioned running out to Brandeis. So I asked when he was off work (around 4:00), mapped out my route, and left the house around 2:45 to make my way west.

The direct route to Brandeis from my house is actually only about 8 miles, so I extended the distance by first going through Harvard Square. I elected to do the run in my more lightweight Mizuno WaveInspires that I bought last year and have only used intermittently since then. They used to make my tendonitis flare up with their slightly less supportive structure, but thankfully I've been PTT-free this season and decided to risk it. I couldn't bear to put on my chewed up Brooks again. They look like someone took a belt sander to them. I did manage to find a replacement pair of the obsolete GTS-13 model online in my size, but they were yet to arrive in the mail.

The route out to Brandeis was actually very unsightly. I recognized the first part of the way from when I joined my dad for one of the final legs of his walk up to Boston, a stretch of roads from McLean Hospital to the CambridgeSide Galleria mall right by the downtown. When Nathaniel had been staying at McLean to try out a therapy program, he elected to leave and subsequently ran the only direction that he was familiar with--8 miles to the Galleria, where they had gone once as a group. I remember him saying to me how they made him walk around the mall without touching his face or looking in a mirror first, and such an easy-seeming process was made torturous by his BDD. Now I was doing part of that path in reverse, and as hard as I tried, I couldn't even remotely imagine what he may have been thinking about as he ran towards Boston. I was, however, impressed that Nathaniel found his way with basically zero knowledge of the surrounding area, whereas I kept having to fumble around with the directions I'd scribbled onto a piece of paper to remember which roads to turn on.

Ten miles two weeks ago seemed easy, but as it so often goes with running, it was less of a good day. The sun was beginning to set when I arrived in Waltham, and I cut through the Waltham Common before arriving at the university soon after. My ankles and right hamstring were slightly sore from the lighter shoes, but no major damage sustained. Which is a huge leap from last year, when I was KT taping my right ankle for every run.

Anyways, it is now Monday and we've had some snow and now everyone is going gaga crazy over the imminent blizzard that is creeping up the coast. CFS called tomorrow off in advance, so us part-time hourly employees can now stay at home to watch the falling snow and marvel at the inverse relationship between the amount of accumulation and the size of our next paycheck. I did get home just as the wind was beginning to pick up and the gentle snow that began a few hours ago had a bit more sting to it. With the knowledge that tomorrow's hill run is (obviously) canceled, I convinced Daniel to throw on the running clothes and do a quick turn around Somerville and Arlington in the falling darkness before we're holed in for multiple days. I have to say, despite the crazy looks we got from the frantic commuters, I had a very enjoyable time greeting this new weather system head on. We took the unlit bike path on the far side of the Alewife Brook on our way back, and running through the tree-lined path with the white snow lighting our way, I kind of felt like Paul Revere charging through the darkness. Or really more like his horse, honestly. The blizzard is coming, the blizzard is coming!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Long Run, January 17th: The Road to Brunch

It has been a while since I attempted a run as long as 14 miles without the support of teammates and water stops and swedish fish along the way. I may have topped 14 once during my pre-marathon days up in Boston, but I have since been spoiled by all the comforts that a training program offers. The situation arose because I decided to go home for the long weekend, mainly because I wanted to see the kitten and because I have a boyfriend who is somehow willing to trek down the East Coast with me just to play with a cat. Because of all this, I was challenged with two things: running 14 miles on my own down in Cheyney, and figuring out a route that wouldn't murder me with hills. Turns out that the latter is not possible, but the first issue was partially resolved by Daniel's willingness to run the final 6.5 miles with me. I figured out a route that would bring me back by the house halfway through to pick him up, and hoped that only one water break would be enough. I do have a little hydration belt that my teammate Michelle gave me last year, but I was hesitant to try it for the first time during such a long run. Maybe it chafes, who knows.

The intention was to get an early start so that the post-run breakfast wouldn't end up being mid-afternoon, but I was waylaid by cute kitties needing attention. The first part of my route took through the Squire Cheyney farm, which has been sprouting McMansions for the past several years. The upside of this decimation of historic Chester County is the new bike path that runs through the farm, so I took that up to Pete's fields at Westtown and ran the farm loop which I found less icy than it had been earlier in the week. From there I hopped into the Robin Drive cluster of developments. There is a deceitful nature to the hills in this older neighborhood, as they all sort of swoop and curve up out of sight so that you often think you're at the top when you really aren't, and then you'll have a brief downhill only to be followed by a bigger hill up. I found myself feeling quite tired by the time I finished the slow 2-mile climb to the top.

I had included a somewhat mundane loop through another development as I made my way home (just to add distance), and I slowly ate a gross chocolate-raspberry flavored GU as I ran it. These tend to take a mile or two to kick in, and I desperately hoped it would work by the time I made it home. I had saved the hillier part for the second half (unfortunately for Daniel), and I needed a boost. When I did get home, I took a few minutes to drink water and then finally ate a Cliff Mocha gel that I had actually bought to eat during the marathon last year. It has extra caffeine, and it was just the kick I needed as the two of us headed down into the Creek Bed for the final 6.5 miles. I have to admit, it was with slightly sadistic intentions that I included two of my worst hills to include, mostly just to throw in some extra Cheyney flavor for Daniel to remember the trip by. With by body practically shaking from sugar and caffeine, I actually didn't suffer as much as I had 8 miles ago. If anything, the downhills were more of a pain; I haven't replaced my running shoes since September, and the outer edges of the soles are almost completely worn away. I could get into the many issues I have with how running shoe brands keep changing up their designs for the same shoe, forcing me to search ebay for former models that wont destroy my feet (anybody else abandon Asics forever after the awful GT-2000?). On the final stretch home we ran into two of my donors, our neighbors Phil and Marilee, so that was a pleasant surprise. After that, off to West Chester once more for brunch at the Classic Diner. I have to admit that eating a ginormous brunch after big runs has started to become just about my favorite thing. I honestly feel like one of those dogs that you can get to do just about anything because it's so food-motivated.

I realize that I didn't include any updates on the 10 mile Riverside Run that I did with the Furey program the previous weekend, but there isn't much to say. What is far more exciting is that my fundraising has shot up to $7,200, thanks to many generous supporters and an amazing donation from the Shipley School. I can't say if I will make $13,402, but I will certainly try! Snow is on its way to Boston and should make tomorrow a mess, so on this Friday afternoon I will leave in about an hour to do my 10 miler out to Brandeis to meet Daniel. A big thank you to everyone who has helped me out thus far!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Long Run, January 3rd: The Hop, Skip, and Jump

It felt nearly impossible that a full two weeks had gone by when I set off at 8:05am on a 12-mile run to wrap up my stay in Cheyney. I was sad, partly because I had to get up early and could clearly see out my bedroom window that it was beginning to freezing rain, and also because in general I was not ready to leave home. A large part of this was due to the fact that, after several months of persuasive hinting, we went to the Delaware County SPCA a few hours after my morning long run on December 20th (just to "look") and came home with perfection in the form of a gray, striped kitten. We have been down to one cat since Cosette died in June, and No-Tail's obvious grieving and loneliness had to be addressed at some point. Needless to say, I was instantly attached to our newcomer, Noelle. I could go on for many paragraphs describing her adorable face and booming purrbox that goes off on a hair trigger, but that is not the point of this blog, so I will move on. Still though...feast your eyes on that....

So anyway, I went running. I had a touch of a cough since New Years Day, along with a suspicious number of itchy bumps that prompted a massive Bed Bug Search and Destroy Operation that turned up nothing but about 20 years of disgustingness that we scraped up from the spaces in between the pine floor boards. So I was feeling rather sluggish, and still mysteriously itchy. I decided to not get too creative with my route and just re-do the one I did last year on December 21st, a hilly 12-miler. I almost felt sort of in a daze for most of it, maybe because the world seemed so muted and quiet with the thick layer of clouds bearing down seemingly inches above the tree line. I took my usual route down Creek Road, continuing past but wincing a bit at the winding steepness of Locksley Road that disappeared into the woods to my left about a mile in. At mile 6 I would be slogging up that hill, but I instead tried to focus on the immediate landmarks ahead--first the frozen pond, and then the intersection with Old Gradyville Road, followed by the crossing at Glen Mills. When I did finally arrive at the "town" of Glen Mills (it's just an intersection with a post office and an old train station), I could see that the Pig Out BBQ Pit had unfortunately gone out of business. Nathaniel and I had always talked about going to this odd restaurant in the middle of nowhere, but it seems that opportunity has disappeared in more ways than one now. The road leading out of the town slowly gains steepness up out of the creek bed and into the highlands, past a point where Nathaniel and I once had to slowly cruise through in the car to search for a glove he'd dropped at some point on his run.

At the crest of the hill, to my left was a sprawling field with a rather striking lone tree in the middle, and to my right was the Glen Mills School for naughty boys. I've been on the campus just once, when I had to be fingerprinted upon being hired at Westtown much for my one free crime before my prints are in the system. From the outside, the brick grandeur actually exudes quite a bit of New England prep school prestige and anal-retentiveness, but who actually knows what the deal is inside. Nathaniel was once actually stopped by the police while running in this area, on the assumption that he was one of the delinquent students on the run. A pretty laughable thought, as Nathaniel almost never broke rules, although of course the one time he did it occurred in the form of trespassing on the golf course that abuts the back of this very school, as it is easily accessed from the train tracks. He and his friend were caught by guards and hauled onto campus. Apparently they were told off, but I don't think anything major resulted since I am fairly sure my parents never found out.

From the highlands I passed through one of the cookie cutter developments (this particular one is called "Cobblestones"), freely judging the blandness of all the identical mansions. I passed an ornate sign for "The Carriages at Cobblestones," a separate section of even larger identical houses that are set apart from the rest, probably so that the super mega rich people don't have to mingle too heavily with the regular mega rich people.  Turning out of the development onto the upper portion of Locksley is a definite shift in the real estate scene. My friend Gordon and I spent some time slowly cruising these parts in his pickup right before Christmas, observing the multitude of Christmas decorations while categorizing and separating the "classy" decorations from the far more prevalent "not classy" ones. There is a house on Locksley that always impresses me with their display, mainly because of the sheer magnitude of light-up reindeer and plastic candy canes and creepy elves that scatter the lawn. The apex of the collection is a life-sized, highly detailed Santa doll in a rather authentic-looking costume that stands in the center of the lawn. Lest this prize item get wet, he is surrounded by a box made from plexiglass nailed to a wooden frame the size of a shower stall, like a life-sized version of those display cases that you could buy to protect your rare retired beanie babies in back in 1997. I have run by this house many times in the summer, and know for a fact that these decorations stay up all 12 months of the year, although they do throw a tarp over the imprisoned Santa and bungee cord it so that there is just a giant blue rectangle standing in the front lawn. "Not classy."

Right at mile 6, I came down the hellishly steep Blossom Hill Road (every road here has hills, so if it actually has the word "hill" in the name, you know its a doozie), which is a relief to go down and not up for once. Crossing Creek Road, I hopped back on to Locksley to go up the slow 3/4 mile climb. I was definitely pretty pooped at this point, mostly just in the legs. The last push up the hill goes by a fenced in field, and I was surprised to see four cows standing in it--I often come this way, and can never remember actually seeing any livestock on this property. They were miniature breeds, although the only one I could properly name was the Jersey with its beautiful fawn coloring. I had to stop, and spent some minutes coaxing them over to me. They did come, and I fed them grass and petted their heads and let them lick my gloves. They were very cute, and I felt a noticeable rise in my energy level as I finally continued over the last portion of the hill.

The freezing rain was picking up and kept pinging painfully off my face, and I kept thinking about eating breakfast. But I had a few neighborhoods to go, and I passed the miles by breaking the remaining route into 3 chunks, as we used to do for the final leg of our drive to the Nicholson family cabin in Jersey. As kids, the one and a quarter hour long trip felt impossibly long, so my mom would do as her parents did and pacify our incessant inquiries of "are we there yet?" during the final half hour by saying we were either on the Hop, the Skip, or the Jump. The Jump was the final segment after turning right at the water tower (or the "stack"), and during my run I decided that the three housing developments left to run through would be my Hop, Skip, and Jump. The Hop took me through the older homes East of Westtown, and after crossing 926 again I entered the Skip, a oval-shaped loop through clusters of townhouses. And finally the Jump, the development at the bottom of my street that we fought tooth and nail against the approval of back in the 1990s at a series of township meetings, hoping for preservation of the beautiful wooded tract (we lost, and ironically they named the development "Tall Trees" despite the fact that Toll Brothers cut all the trees down). Out of Tall Trees and up our drive and I was soon home, cleaned up, and off into West Chester for an appropriately huge breakfast to celebrate my last day home.