Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fun new Holiday gifts and the treadmill fiasco

Hey all! Thanks for the input in the comments of my last post. Good stuff, and I was excited to discover that I have more that one reader. :-)
Feel free to add your comments on what my weekly Boston Training recap topics should be here.

Moving on,
The Holiday season is upon us. This means it is time for FUN NEW THINGS!!!
(and the magic of the season. and togetherness. and stuff.)
But who are we kidding? It's the season for fun new shit.

First off, my fabulous Christmas gift!
Eric came through (again) as the best Husband ever (he has a great record if we are being honest here!)
I noticed on Instagram that some of our East Coast friends were signing up for the California International Marathon. I was definitely envious and hinted, with no actual expectations, that an trip to this race would be an amazing gift.
Much to my surprise, it happened.

Well isn't this nice!
I was. Literally. Speechless.
This has been a race that I've been interested in for a long time. As much as I'd love to run Big Sur, the timing is very poor and it is hard to get into (but someday, it will happen.)
A December marathon is excellent. The course sounds like it will play to my strengths. While I have been to the West coast it was long ago, and it was not California!

The list of things that I want to do while there is long... My excitement level is VERY high! In addition to this it will be wonderful to have an "east coasters on the west coast" runners party while we are all there.

Stop reading now if you don't want to hear more about our never ending treadmill fiasco.

Eric and I have been mourning the swift demise of our treadmill. Since this winter has come on with vengeance, reducing us to either road running in deadly conditions or staying on the bike, we have been especially sad. (I have, anyway.)
On cyber Monday, we found a good Holiday deal on a treadmill that is a significant upgrade. Good Holiday deal or not, it was still more than we wanted to pay out.
The good news is, this is the Holiday season. My parents wanted to give us a nice Christmas gift so they chipped in for the new beast and BOOM, done.
Sort of.

Quality pic. But it's the best I can do since we are NEVER EVER gonna get this thing.

There has been a pretty significant fiasco in its delivery.
 I can not say enough bad things about MDX Group shipping... The treadmill was out for delivery on the 22nd of December, the truck had issues (which can happen) and the driver said he would see us first thing the next day.
That day came, and almost went. I called up MDX and was told that the treadmill was back in the warehouse (where it had been since the FIFTH of December) and would not be delivered for three more weeks.


Long, long story short. On the 23rd I spent over 2 hours on the phone with MDX (whose business motto is "fuck off") and then with Nordictrack directly to get the issue resolved. I felt that a promise of delivery prior to the New Year was a reasonable request.
If it had been my business I also would have offered me a shipping upgrade beyond curbside delivery... Well, that did not happen.
Honestly, at this point we are still playing the wait and see game.
The Nordictrack people were exceptionally helpful.
MDX shipping, for the most part a complete failure in the customer service department.

Days later, with no news I called back.
"Hi Ethan" I said "I'm SURE you aren't happy to hear from ME again!!"
He probably wasn't. But he tried. 
Nordictrack went as far as to upgrade the treadmill to a better model (great!) And to upgrade my shipping to get the treadmill where I want it (super!) But we don't have it and have no idea when we will. (BAD.) 

(and the fiasco continues....)
Right after I hung up with Nordictrack, MDX called me to tell me that Treadmill #1 would not be delivered until between the 16th-20th "most likely the 20th" due to issues that are not of any interest to me. I was like "NOPE, there is a change of plans, kid." And then I listed off my many, many complaints. Which were met with radio silence because they are clearly accustomed to having very disappointed customers. Good work guys. Quality. So impressed. NOT.
(and they have NO IDEA what is going on. Like, zero clues. HEAD DESK)

I am THIS CLOSE to saying, screw it. And cancelling the whole damn order.

FIRST WORLD ISSUE. I know this. Regardless, I'm annoyed.
Let's assume that I'll have the beast in the basement next week and the story will be over.

Want to take bets? Will it? Or will I be live tweeting another 2 hour phone conversation with Nordictrack/MDX group next week? Will I ever actually get this treadmill? (I'm not sure at this point.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

T-minus 7 days, winter, and an important question.

Last year at this time, Eric and I were just over a week away from running the Dopey Challenge. The weather had been fantastic and I had maintained a really solid base after my Fall marathon.
Later in January, I began Boston training in good, even great shape. I had a kickass base and was ready to work.

This December, the weather has been much worse and I have been dealing with a lack of treadmill. (This will be remedied shortly, more on this in the next couple days.) With training scheduled to start in one week I'm thankful for this!
Today last year on the left. Today this year on the right.
Honestly, I can't remember a time when I have embarked on my Boston Training mission in worse running shape.
Well. Whatever, right? I have 15 weeks, which is basically an eternity for me so even if I need 3-4 weeks of really slow and careful building, I will be ok. Hopefully.

Yeah. For the most part the weather has been crap. Too cold.

I have been using my bike and my noisy new/used bike trainer more than I ever have. I am TERRIBLE!! Honestly kids, I am a god awful cyclist. I have been running as best as I can, to the inspirational tune of 15 miles per week. Better than the 10 from last week. #seriousrunner

Anyway. It's the Holiday season which is always nice. (or, like a normal Sunday but that's cool too.)
Eric and I had a nice Christmas and did a little running in the slush and slop.

Slush run, many dark layers. Where is my neon??
Then we went on a magical walk to hunt pokemon and look at the angry ducks who live in the river.
The angriest ducks in the world live under that bridge. I love them.
So here is my important question. In this day and age of Instagram, I know people don't really read blogs anymore (well, I do but that's beside the point.)

BUT!! If you read my blog and plan to follow me (and my weekly updates) for the next 15 weeks, what would you be interested in hearing about?
I like to talk about some pretty random things and have enjoyed writing my weekly updates of running, beer drinking, the weather and terrible TV viewing. Clearly, these are thigs I enjoy yammering on about.

I'd love some feedback from my *three* readers. What do you guys want me to tell you? What would YOU like me to document each week? (I'm going to optimistically guess that exactly one person leaves a comment, haha... maybe two. but most likely one!!)
Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook and I'll be sure to cover your requests. :-)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The "Hey, Winter is here" week of *training*

I miss last winter and the mild temps and lack of snow. WHY is it SO COLD????

This winter has rolled in with some major attitude and I, for one, am not supportive of this polar shit vortex. It's garbage. GARBAGE.

It's cold. So cold.
We had a pretty decent little storm last Monday. Because one must get out for a snowy run of *magic* once a season, Eric and I headed out for a few careful miles.

It's darker than it looks. And Colder. But I'm in like, a parka so it's clearly cold.
As far as outdoor activities go, that was it for the week. I work late mid week, and without a treadmill to run on I was stuck on my bike. I did some Sufferfest, known to bikers the world over as "torture", and to me, a non biker, as "death."

By Friday the temps had become absurdly cold and, despite having daylight hours in which to run, I CERTAINLY DID NOT. I'm crazy but I am not stupid, and running when it is -6 degrees out is just ridiculous.

I paid up my $10 on Friday and had a nice indoor run at my sister's gym. As a general rule I don't have time to drive to the gym to run (40 minute round trip) but, due to the frigid temps I was finished working early. Plenty of time for a sweaty indoor run.
It was actually a really pleasant workout, and I did a few 800's at mid 7 pace. I have done no speedwork lately, so this was fun! Also, I didn't die or suffer too horribly so that made me feel better about my recent 10 mile weeks (weeks.... lord.)

The weekend was a craptastic blend of freezing weather, a snow storm, and to top it all off some rain, ice and a hurricane.
Snowing like crazy

I'm heading into Boston Training in two weeks. I am really looking forward to getting back onto a good, regular schedule. This fall/winter has been a lengthy recovery and rebuilding cycle. As important as this is for me, and my frail and rapidly aging body, I am ready to get back to work.

I must admit to some concerns though (which all Maine running residents may also be having.) Thus far, winter has been aggressive. I'm internally cringing at the thought of long runs in arctic temps, or (worse) every workout in the basement. Last year was pretty pleasant for winter training and I am now a spoiled princess.
I need to form a small town winter warriors training group so that we can all suffer together. I think there is strength in numbers, and it is true that misery loves company!
(and this is where I have a moment of the sads, because I am the only distance runner in my town...) 

Sigh. I'll figure it out. Maybe winter is over. Maybe I won't be stuck in the basement for good. Maybe there will be a miracle and with zero training I will be able to run a 3:19. (NO)  (HAHA even with training, no!)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Portland Brewers Dash Holiday 5k

It has been a few years since Eric and I have participated in the Portland Brewers Dash Holiday 5K.

While the weather can be a little uppity, it is a fun and super flat race. The other perks are a late (11:00) start plus a free beer PLUS a legit big post race brunch.

Required pre race selfie!
As a general rule we usually see 12,867 of our closest running/triathlon friends there. This year was a huge miss in that department, as we saw ZERO people we knew. This is almost unheard of!
(there was a lot going on this weekend to explain the absence of most of our friends. however, we literally saw nobody that we even "sort of" knew. we wondered if there had been an apocalypse?)

The weather first thing may have been enough to keep most logical people indoors.

OK wow. Hi winter, what's up.
By the time we arrived in Portland, and were more or less ready to run, there was decent weather. It was about 22 degrees with very little wind and abundant sun. (which really isn't ALL that decent, if I really think about it....) It was a pretty day though, especially if you were indoors......

A pretty day, a pretty scene
Neither of us are in shape to run a "fast" 5k, nor did we think that redlining it the whole time was worth it. We made our way to the start, and then, as I am apt to do, I ran off to look at things while everyone else lined up at the start. *focus, Sara....*

I'm over here looking at things..... While everyone else lines up...
I think *most* of us occasionally find it hard to not try to be competitive, even in a race that really doesn't matter. I know I have found myself pushing a pace I am not fit for before, and while I occasionally find this doable, it wasn't in my plans for Sunday.

We started in the middle of the pack and ran steadily throughout the race, maintaining a consistent pace. We had a nice chat, watched planes coming in to land at the jetport, and we made sure to beat the gingerbread man!

Since both Eric and I are in the midst of the "off season" it was easier than normal to hold back a bit, and we held a pace about a minute slower than our normal 5k pace.
There is no doubt that a 7:50 pace is still a great workout, but it certainly wasn't the agonistic level of suffering and pain that one attributes to a normal 5k. THANK THE LORD.

While it has not become worse, I continue to have some tightness in my right hamstring. Nothing seems to make it more uncomfortable so I wasn't worried about a little workout. I will be seeing my chiro soon to fix this problem, as it has been lingering around for over a week. Stupid! 

We both finished in 24:19 which is a completely respectable time and a good workout!
Sometimes a nice Holiday 5k is just what you need. Both of us had a really pleasant time and enjoyed the rapidity in which we were done! (sometimes being done is awesome!)
5k races are amazing because they are so short. Profound words! But, when one becomes accustomed to the challenge of a marathon, a nice little 5k is inspiring. (especially when run at a reasonable, not near heart attack, pace.)

Then, we went and drank a beer and talked about running and Pokemon and Christmas and a bunch of other weird things as one would expect.

Port race beer, post race hair
 So is that it for 2016? In the race department, I believe so! It's been quite the year and hopefully I will find the time for a big year end blog recap!

Monday, December 5, 2016

How I rock the Off Season

Ahhh, the off season.
While some might view these words as profanity, I have grown to appreciate this quality time.

Of course, the weather has turned messy and we are still a treadmill free family, so perhaps this makes limiting my pavement pounding more pleasant.

UGH. Winter.
So yes, it did snow today. And yes... Our treadmill has gone back to Jesus. This is a sad story but as upsetting as it is, it happened at a relatively good time. I would be quite upset to have this kind of calamity befall us in the midst of marathon training. At this juncture, we have had time to mourn the loss and make plans... RIP.

RIP Treadmill... 4 Boston Marathons later....
I had a pretty solid month long "break" in June, which I never expounded upon. Since I am essentially in the same place now, I decided that the internet deserved details.

My rest season got off to an odd start. Hartford left me pretty tired. Getting "rest" post marathon is tough because of my active job so I felt a bit slow to recover fully. A non-running related ankle issue sidelined me just enough to allow myself the time to properly heal.

A side note, since I don't always share every detail! After any marathon I spend the next day or two making sure my muscles get some VERY light work, an easy spin, a nice walk to get blood flowing. And THEN: I take a full 10-14 days OFF. Then, I *might* throw in a few little runs. I rarely get back to much of any structured work until 3-4 weeks post marathon. 

After a couple Disney races in early November, that were slightly outside of my fitness comfort zone (but were meant to be for fun, and were!) I got back to the business of rebuilding.

Step one. Invest a little cash money in myself. I get a few Chiro/ART treatments to deal with any imbalances or muscle issues that may have developed. Done and done.

Step two: evaluate how I am feeling, and get ready to do some general strength work! (and no, this is not a four letter word in my life!) 

I know I'm not the only distance runner who feels like this. You finish a marathon training cycle, and once the taper, race and recovery are done, you certain that you the most out of shape human on the face of the earth.
Maybe the legs are still good for something. Maybe not. But, if you are anything like me you feel that you have zero core strength, weak puny little arms, hips that are one bad step away from needing a replacement and the flexibility of a block of concrete.

So, I embark upon The Great Rebuild.
Which I quite enjoy.

Since November 14th I have been plugging away, in an attempt to turn the abs of jelly into the abs of steel. (and the hips of near replacement into the hips of thunder. or something...?)

I imagine that if you follow me on Strava you are like "wow, Sara has totally quit running!" This isn't entirely true as I have been enjoying several pleasant runs per week. Just enough!

On my other days I have been riding away on my OWN bike trainer! I have had a bike for years but am a wimp about riding it on the road. There are many logging trucks around here and I have a major fear of getting flattened! Basement riding is a whole different story though. Safe. Cozy. And all kinds of fancy on Eric's trainer, until it became winter and he needed it again. Thank heavens for facebook bike groups where we can find inexpensive used trainers! I am so pleased at how this small addition to my collection of gear has improved my off season life.

My own bike on my own trainer
The moral of the story is, I am up on that thing a few days a week merrily sweating along.

I also do a lot (for me) of strength work. I make use of what I have here and try to do a balanced blend of core and legs. I don't do a ton of upper body work, I basically spend half my day shoveling and such. Anymore seems like overkill. (Well. I do lift plenty of 16 oz beers and 1/2 pound steaks to my face... but that's the only other lifting that I do.)

My kind of lifting ;-)
I think simple is key. I don't want to have to buy tons of equipment, or a gym membership. I tend to rely on tried and trusted exercises (squats, lunges, and the like) as well as the Oiselle Dozen. Basically, a combo of well known strength exercises put in order to kick your butt and buff up your running muscles. (or, any muscles..)
I also like this combo of exercises AKA the "standard core routine".

I have never been strong in the stretching and rolling department. During this time, even THAT gets to make an appearance! Again, just basic and functional crap. A little yoga, a few dynamic exercises, certainly nothing groundbreaking. Eric helped me with my hamstrings with some partner stretching which was glorious. ("oh "partner stretching"  is that what they call it these days...?... knock it off....)

When I am marathon training, I enjoy it. It is structured, and I thrive on that structure.
In the off season, I have FUN. If I wish to try something, I do. I toss all expectations, I never look at my watch, I am completely flexible (although, not flexible like a gymnast. at all.)
If working out starts to suck, what is the point? I like to enjoy the majority of my workouts, and after a long training cycle it's extra important to spend time having adventures.

I'm currently starting week 4 of rebuild, Winter Edition. And it is going well.
Boston training begins on January 1st (yay!!!) Hopefully by then I will be a bulletproof, terminator like mega athlete.
Or. More likely. A person who has a little more core strength and, possibly, flexibility.