Still getting back into the habit of posting.

Okay, so my last post was on the 19th, and today is the 24th. What have I been doing in that time, with respect to running? Well, let's see. . .

The 19th (as I noted) was a hill workout, so the next day was 5 miles of light and easy running. Thursday was speedwork, alternating between 3:20 half-miles and 2-3 minutes of recovery running. Friday was an easy day - I biked for 45 minutes, and covered something like 16 miles.

That paved the way for Saturday's long slow run. Ostensibly an 18-miler, the original plan was to go to a nearby trail and run there. Low turnout in the running group and rain the night before led us to reschedule it for next week - more for the low turnout than the rain. I had brought towels and plastic bags, though I am not all that worried about mud in the new minivan. (After all, I have a toddler who loves to splash in rain puddles - mud is going to be in that van within another week, if not sooner.)

I ran the first half with one of the other runners. With only 5 of us, we had still managed to split into 3 groups (2, 2 and 1), and I covered the first half of the run at a slow and easy pace of roughly 10:00 miles, or 1:30:30. (If it was 9 miles - see below) We walked while we took a Gu and water break, and she told me that she was going to be slowing down. I sped up, and manage to go through the second half (it was a "there and back" run) in 1:08:59 - which leads me to believe that each leg is actually closer to about 7.5-7.75 miles. Still, I had a good finish, and ran half of that time on my own - I saw some bikers, a couple of walkers, and a few dogs, but basically it was me, the mist, and some quiet tunes through the back half of the run. Next week is my last long run before Chicago - I'm not as worried as I was at this point back in early April. I know I can do it, barring injury, the question is how quickly.

Update - waay back in June, I mentioned that I got a big honkin' load of rock delivered to our house. That rock is finally gone - it may have taken me 3 months, but that still translates to 1 cubic yard per week. Or, more accurately, about 300 pounds of rock per day, on average. It sounds a lot more impressive that way, doesn't it?


The bonk heard round the world

OKay, not quite. I haven't posted in a while, but I have been running. I'm not going to even try and update all the ORNs since my last post - it includes a 22 mile run (where I not only crashed into the wall, I pulled it down on top of me), some piddly little 4-5 mile runs, a 3 mile run that hurt like heck, a 12 mile run with some fun intestinal distress, and today's 5.45 miles of hills. Suffice it to say that I have beek largely keeping on track for marathon training, although I am a little unsure that I will make my stated goal of 3:30.

Lifewise, I am now the proud owner of a minivan. Yes, since the death of the Intrepid, we found ourselves car-shopping a bit earlier than we planned, and with a second munchkin on the way, a minivan is a much more practical vehicle than several sedans and wagons that I had been considering. I don't hate the minivan, which is a huge step up from active dislike. It just makes me feel much older, I suspect - I don't think of myself as being over 30, or that my 20th high school reunion is coming up in a few years. Nothing says "adulthood" like a minivan though.

Hopefully, now that things are settling down again, I can get back into posting on a regular basis.


Change in comments

If my recent experience is any indication, then the new Google-Blogspot deal is creating all sorts of problems with comments. I have allowed for anonymous comments - though if you leave one, it might be a good idea if you tell me who you are. I won't delete any comments, unless they are obvious spam.

Ding-dong the car is dead

ORN: 4 miles, 1.4 degrees, 29:21.

Man, I suffered through today's run. Sure, I raised the incline a bit, and yeah, I actually did a "fast" long slow run on Monday, but still - I should not have been struggling as much as I was. Oh well - I still have time for more speed work, more miles at a slightly elevated marathon pace, and some more hill work.

I also added weights again today. I feel like such a wuss, using those right after the guys who are bench pressing small import automobiles. They're moving weights that are better expressed in multiples of my weight, and not breaking a sweat. They say things like "Yeah, I'm only benching 400 today, but I plan on doing 8 or 10 cycles with 10 reps per cycle, so it's just an easy day." I want to challenge them to a run. Then all that extra penalty weight that they have been adding will be a detriment.

Bah. I'm just in a slightly down mood, since, as of earlier today, it's official: the car is dead. Now, the hunt for a new car begins, and I fear that I am only days away from becomming that sad soul, once parodied in a Navy ad: a dad buying a minivan.

I want to buy a wagon - I really like the look of a couple of them, and my first car was a station wagon. But almost all of the wagons out there now are dinky little things, or worse, they look like they should be able to carry some cargo, but have a max load of 800 pounds. We could buy an SUV, but the only way to get an SUV that has any size (again, me, wife, 2 kids in February, so lots of luggage on long trips) is to spend lots of money. Not just an extra $5k, but and extra $20k, or more if you want lots of options. And most sedans might have the same problem that the Intrepid did - it only held one car seat.

Blerg. I hate driving minivans. I don't like the way they handle, the way that they accelerate, the way I feel sitting in one. Maybe I'll find one I like, but it's more likely that I will find one that I hate least, or (if I am really lucky), one that I can tolerate.


Half-marathon report (part III - the journey home)

This will be the briefest of the trilogy, I hope. Thanks for reading this much. . . .

OKay, so Monday night, after the post-race party (at Flatlanders, which has a couple decent house brews), we finally get on the road. The rain has continued all day, and it's going to be trailing us, on us, or ahead of us for the whole ride home.

We get twenty miles from my in-laws, almost down to the O'Hare Oasis, and the "Check Engine" light comes on. We pull off at the oasis, and I pop the hood. It's dark, it's raining, and I'm trying to hold the hood up with one hand and check fluids, belts, etc with the other. (The car has never, in the time that I have had it, had anything to hold the hood up. It's missing. And boy, you really get bugged by it when trying to open a hot radiator cap - cause you can't see the levels in the dark and rain, and you need to check. I'm glad that diapers are pretty thick, however.)

I'm out there for 5-10 minutes, and can't find anything wrong. Wife is checking the owner's manual, which is full of dire warnings like "Your transmission may fail at approximately 105,000 miles" (we're at 101,700 or so), and "If the 'Check Engine' light begins to flash, STOP IMMEDIATELY, because CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE to the catalytic converter may occur."

So, rather than make the 210+ mile journey, in the rain, with the "Check Engine" light on, with a pregnant wife and a 2 1/2 year-old, we decide to head back to her parents.

This turns out to be a wise choice. I take the car in to their favorite mechanic as early as possible on Tuesday morning, and several hours later, I get the bad news: "Check Engine" in this case meant "The transmission is going to die. Soon. Possibly already. Hope you enjoyed having one, cause you won't have it much longer."

The good news is that it could be a fairly "inexpensive" repair (in this case, $500 or so) - change a couple fairly minor parts, or it could be expensive, and mean that a new (or rebuilt) transmission is required.

Bear in mind that the car is at best worth only $1000 or so at this point (due to age, mileage, a big honkin' dent in the bumper, etc), and you can see the dilemma. We had been planning on replacing my car next year, since it won't fit two car seats well (space-wise, it's okay, but it predates the latch system, and seats by the door feel loose and wobbly - so I don't trust them anywhere but in the middle of the back seat). So, it looks like we're going to be looking for a new car, but the jury is still out on that one.

Fortunately, we manage to miss most of the construction traffic when we get on the road last night, and we finally get home at about midnight - in a borrowed car (well, minivan), and dead tired. Fun fun fun - but at least we got home safe, and I set a major PR.

Half-marathon report (part II- the race)

Saturday, I went out and did a quick 4 miles, at a little faster than my planned pace in order to shake the kinks out. So, 4 miles in about 30 minutes.

Monday - race day.

The night before, I kept checking the weather, and it kept switching from "partly cloudy" to "scattered thundershowers." Rain is fine - thunder means that they cancel the race, and don't reschedule. So, it was with some mild aprehension that I went to bed Sunday night, with rain coming down in a steady drizzle.

And it rained all night long. It was sprinkling the next morning, as I got dressed. I looked at the weather report, and crossed my fingers. Fortunately, they didn't cancel the race, though it would continue to rain for most of the race (stopping only for about 15-20 minutes, somtime in the second hour.)

The course was muddy. And I mean, muddy, in the way that only water, sand, crushed gravel, dirt and horse manure can be muddy. That mix got almost everywhere - though I was not as dirty as some folks, who had mud up their backs almost to their necks.

Here are my splits:

Mile 1: 8:23 (I started near the back third - I have to weave more, but I get trampled less)
Mile 2: 7:48
Mile 3: 7:53
Mile 4: 7:37
Mile 5: 7:54
Mile 6: 8:00
Mile 7: 3:49 (Quick, call Guiness. Or SI. Or someone. This marker was waay off.)
Mile 8-9: 19:50 (Missed the mile 8 marker - but miles 7-9 still come out at less than 24 minutes, or under 8:00 per mile)
Mile 10: 7:43
Mile 11: 7:50
Mile 12: 8:13
Mile 13.1: 8:46 (As I was on the final half-mile, another runner caught up to me, and we both sped up in tandem. Well, until a hundred yards or so from the finish - I thought I heard him say "Let's pick it up" and I did - sprinting the remainder of the distance, and passing 2-3 more people.)

My watch time was 1:43:51, which is actually pretty close to my official clock time of 1:43:49. Or, put another way: NEW PR! And, not by a minute or two - my previous PR for a half-marathon (officially) was 1:56:21, so I cut 12:30 off my best time, and almost 15 minutes of my time from last year on that course.

And, what I like even more - it was a training race. I could have pushed harder, and possibly broken 1:40, but I just wanted to ensure that I could hold a 7.5 mph pace for a half-marathon. I'm fairly certain now that a 3:30 at Chicago might be possible, if the crowd in front of me isn't too bad and the weather is favorable.

Concluded in part III - the journey home

Half-marathon report (part I - the journey)

This is going to be quite long, so I thought I would break it up into three parts - getting there, running it, and getting back. Trust me, once you start reading them, you'll understand why I broke the story up like that.

Okay, so, my last post concerned a tune-up pace run on Thursday, and a rant at UPS. I'm happy to report that the whole UPS thing has been resolved - the company had pre-printed some shipping labels, and it was one of those tracking numbers that the company had given me. My order is actually moving, and should be here today.

But, back to the story. . .

Thursday night - I have the car packed up (almost - my wife still had a bag or two of stuff to pack, but everything important, like my running clothes, is in the car) and ready to go. I am making dinner, while Kevin is playing with several pots lids. You know, the standard toddler routine, where you bang them together like cymbals, and produce an ear-splitting cacophany of noise. Suddenly, he starts screaming, and runs from the room. Then he comes running back in, and starts standing on one leg, holding up his other foot for me to kiss. He's bawling at the top of his lungs, and he doesn't want me to touch his foot at all. He breaks away, and runs for it, but only gets into the next room before he drops to the floor, and increases the volume of his cries.

After a few minutes, I manage to get him calmed down enough to determine that he had dropped a pot lid on his toe, and its a "big owie". He won't let me take the sock off to look at it, however, which does not bode well. Still, my wife will be home in a few minutes, and if he has managed to break his toe, it's not life-threatening, and we'll just head over to the ER when she gets here. In the meantime, Kevin is distracted with a Caillou DVD. I go back to check on dinner, which is on the (electric) stovetop.

You did note that the stove is electric, right? And that Kevin is watching a DVD, which is helping to distract him from the "big owie"? I mention these only because, at that moment, we lost power. Poof. Dinner no longer cooking, and more importantly, Kevin now screaming because (1) his toe still hurts; and (2) Caillou is now gone, and he doesn't understand why.

So, we go out to sit on the porch - I am hoping that there are enough cars going by to distract him. This works, and I manage to get his sock off (with no small amount of screaming), and see that one toenail is completely blood-red, and his whole foot is swelling. That's not a good sign. I put the sock back on, at his demand, and we wait for my wife to come home.

A few minutes later, she arrives, and I explain that (1) our son might have a broken toe; and (2) we have no power. So, we head off to the hospital, pausing only long enough to ensure that the stove is off and that some lights are on (so we'll know as soon as we get home if we have power or not).

The hospital turns out to be a small nightmare. Fortunately, the toe is not broken, but it took me, an orderly and a nurse to restrain him while the doctor used a laser to bore through the toenail. If I thought he had hit maximum volume before, he proved me wrong right there. Fortunately, once that was over, we got him settled back down, and he was almost jovial as we headed home, with a slight detour to pick up dinner on the way. Fortunately, power was restored, and I was able to toss the ruined dinner from earlier into the trash, clean the dishes, and finish loading the car. A mere 2 hours after we wanted to leave, we were actually on the road.

This brings us to me huge rant: WHO IS IN CHARGE OF CONSTRUCTION ON THE TRI-STATE TOLLWAY?!? Okay, I understand that they need to do resurfacing, and I understand that doing so at night is best. What I do not understand is who thought that this would be a good idea:

3 lanes into 1 lane - 1 lane lasts for 3 miles
1 lane into 3 lanes - 3 lanes last for 2 miles
3 lanes into 1 lane - 1 lane lasts for 2 miles
1 lane into 3 lanes - 3 lanes last for 3 miles

Just leave it all at one lane! C'mon - otherwise, the traffic comes to a grinding halt everytime it drops back down to 1 lane. People were merging fine into the 1 lane sections. The road work wasn't finished on the 3 lane sections. What the heck were they thinking?

(Oh yeah - I forgot about the part where they closed off the bridge on the border between Michigan and Indiana. One car per time, on the far shoulder, while they did something on the bridge.)

I swear - 4 hour drive stretched almost into 6. To say that one mile in three was under construction would be an understatement.

continued in Part II - the race report