Monday, January 31, 2011


Happy belated birthday to me?

A chance of light snow in the evening...then light snow after midnight. Snow accumulation 1 to 2 inches. Lows 10 to 15. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 80 percent.

Light snow likely. Areas of blowing snow in the afternoon. Snow may be heavy at times in the afternoon. Snow accumulation an inch or less. Highs in the lower 20s. Northeast winds 15 to 20 mph with gusts to around 30 mph. Chance of snow 60 percent.

Tuesday Night
Blustery...snow. Areas of blowing snow. Snow may be heavy at times. Snow accumulation 7 to 11 inches. Lows 15 to 20. Northeast winds 20 to 30 mph. Gusts up to 35 mph increasing to 40 mph toward daybreak. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

Snow. Areas of blowing snow. Windy. Accumulations possible. Highs in the lower 20s. North winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts to around 40 mph. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blog or Dissertate?

Blog, of course! Just a quick break to try to get back in the habit of my weekly updates (at the very least).

It was a reasonably good week, exercise-wise. I did ride my high from last weekend's race a little too long but I figure it's alright. Running races hardly ever leave me feeling that way anymore so it was a nice change.

The three-day weekend was greatly appreciated around here. I spent the majority of the weekend with a friend - having girl-time, watching TV, reading, napping, and generally ignoring schoolwork. Monday I got back into my groove by spending 7 evening hours in the office while Doug worked at the athletic club.

Before getting back to work I took my friend K out to the trails at Burchfield to teach her how to ski. Ski rentals were free for the day and the Place Was Packed. K had never been on any kind of skis before so she had to learn it all from the very beginning. We started with getting up from a fall (which I learned to teach right away after forgetting to teach another friend last winter), moved on to "french fry, pizza pie," and then eventually made it to going forward. Kicking and gliding took some time but she was getting it by the end. We managed about 2 miles with only a few falls - almost all of them at the bottom of hills. She'd make it down looking great and get excited or something at the bottom. Rumor has it she wants to try again, so I'm calling it a successful day.

Tuesdays are not going to be good exercise days for me this semester and this week was no different. The rains that came Monday night left the whole town a sheet of ice Tuesday and it wasn't much better Wednesday, so it didn't take much to talk myself out of trying to run outside. I flirted with the idea of hitting the treadmill but bailed after visiting a friend in the hospital and staying longer than planned. That night I resolved to make it out running every remaining day of the week.

Thursday and Friday both brought good runs, if a bit cold. Saturday morning was F-R-I-G-I-D with wind chills around -10* when I headed out for my morning long run with the training group. About 80 people made it out that morning and I caved to peer-pressure, running 7 miles when the plan only technically called for 4. It was week 1 of half marathon training but 4 would have been a big cut back, since I've been doing 6-8 on weekends lately.

Today, since I ran more than planned on Saturday, I decided to be happy with 14 running miles for the week and try skiing instead. We weren't sure how the trails would be but decided to give them a shot since we did get about 1" of new snow in the past couple days. Burchfield hasn't been renting skis since the weekend and as a result, the trails were great! We parked at the Riverbend trailhead instead of the park, like we usually do, and it was a great decision. The hills between Burchfield and Riverbend were likely to be an icy, root-y, rocky mess and I'm perfectly happy that we skipped them. The few skiers who did get out this weekend left great tracks for us to follow and I was ON today. Got in some good practice with pole-less kicking, double-poling, and running up hills. Three times around a 1-mile loop left us with 3 miles for the day.

Week totals:

Mon: Skied 2 miles nice and easy and worked on technique. Felt good on sore legs.
Tues: Nada
Wed: Does sliding around on ice count?
Thurs: Ran 3.4 miles with dogger.
Fri: Ran 4 miles outside with friend B while the wussy boys ran on the indoor track.
Sat: Ran 7 miles with the training group, different people than usual.
Sun: Skied 3 miles with Doug, lots of technique work.

Total: 14.4 miles run, 5 miles skied. Not bad for high-riding laziness.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Frosty Freestyle - My First Ski Race

As we all know by now, I'm never one to write a short race report. Always have to start with the back-story, yada yada. Today's no different - there's even a moral to this story.

But for those who don't want to read, short version: 5k cross-country ski race, classic technique. Final time 36:18, first in age group, 4th woman, 10th overall. Pint glass trophy. Beaten by someone in a snowman costume.

Long version:

When we moved to Michigan, I was determined to love winter. I had a new set of downhill skis that I'd won in a raffle and I was set to just be on them all the time. Well - downhill skiing is expensive, even when you have all the gear. Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, is pretty cheap (once you have the gear). Doug had done a lot of Nordic skiing in the past (both skate and classic styles) and owned a pair of skate skis. He was always talking it up and finally I really wanted to try. As a bonus, he can get really great deals on equipment through work. I wound up buying a closeout pair of skis online for $60 and getting bindings, boots, and poles all for less than $100 through his work. He wound up getting a pair of classic skis with Christmas money, so we were both all set.

That first year we skied when we had the opportunity and I thought it was great fun, but never looked at it as more than just fun cross training. Last year, a combination of things happened. First, I started getting better and we started making a better effort to get out and ski. Second, the Winter Olympics started. I watched So Much Skiing. I got all wrapped up in the performances of Kikkan Randall and Chandra Crawford, started looking into other stuff they do (hello Fast and Female!) and really excited about the whole culture in general. Also - this is silly - we got a Wii and a super fun biathlon game called Ski and Shoot. This somehow convinced me that I could race. :laugh:

Last winter I started talking about getting serious and trying my hand (or legs, as it may be) at racing this winter. Through his total awesomeness, Doug was able to get me a pair of racing skis at the end of the season. He got them after our snow had melted, so I never got to try them out. By the time he did that, I was committed. The moral is - watch what you commit yourself too - someone's always listening! This fall he also managed to convince me that I had outgrown my $60 closeout skis (Karhu Piqtu - "little snow") and should sell them to a friend. I did, and hiss mom got me the waxless version of my waxable racing skis for Christmas. So now I have two sets of skis, nearly identical to each other, and they're both fast. Fast fast fast. However, there was a learning curve. I still haven't been out on the waxable skis because a) I have to learn to wax, and b) we haven't had much snow.

There's a park about halfway between here and Detroit that is groomed for both skate and classic skiing whenever there's enough snow to do so. They do a great job and a lot of local skiers essentially live there in the winter. There's also a race, the Frosty Freestyle, held in the middle of January. This year they were holding both a 5k and 15k, with classic and skate divisions in each. It's by far the closest race to us and while I was worried about it being so early in the year (and thus not getting much practice), this is the one I set my sights on.

Because those Southern states have been stealing our snow, I wasn't even sure the race would happen. The website said that if there wasn't snow on race day they would postpone the race. If there still wasn't snow, they would hold a running race instead. That struck me as a reasonably good idea (and I felt much more confident about the potential running race!). A week and a half before the race, we didn't have any snow. Then, the groomers at the park had a brilliant idea. They took a golf course aerator to the ice on the lake at the park. The aerator was used to "pulverize" the top 2.5 inches of ice and make snow on a 24ft. wide, 1km long path loop on the lake. They then groomed that path and called it an alternate racecourse. Gulp. We went down to ski it the weekend before the race. At that point I wasn't sure I wanted to race. I had been nervous and felt unprepared to begin with - adding the potential of falling into the lake on top of it was almost too much for me. But we tried it and it wasn't so bad. I was still hesitant for two reasons, though. First, prior to that day I really had no idea how long it would take me to ski 5k. Funnily, I had even been considering doing the 15k. Well...that day it took me 8 minutes to ski 1km and I wasn't sure I'd even be able to keep it up for 5 laps. I was worried. Second, it was windy down there...and that was a relatively still day. If we had our usual Michigan wind on race day that course was going to be damn cold and even slower (for me - everyone else I heard talking seemed to think it was very fast). So, I considered not doing the race at all.

Doug thought I was being silly and should just get out and get it over with. I knew he was right but I'm really so good at worrying. I knew that I'd feel better about it if it would just snow and they could have the race on the course. Finally, Tuesday and Wednesday, it did...and I registered for the 5k. Wednesday afternoon we headed out to a local park to ski and I felt much better about it than I had on Saturday. Once I knew we would be on trails and I wasn't likely to be lapped a billion times, the worry melted away to excitement. We also got out to ski on Friday night and by then I was pumped (and still nervous, of course).

The race started at 10:30 so we didn't have to stress too much about getting up early and all that on race day. It had snowed a couple inches over night, though, so the drive was a little hairy at times. We got to the park around 9:30 with plenty of time to get checked in, figure out exactly what I wanted to wear (of course I had taken many options!) and be intimidated by the very serious looking racers. It seemed like nearly everyone was wearing a race suit representing some Michigan Cup team. Where were all the beginners the site had advertised? Finally I started seeing some who didn't look quite as serious. I skied about a mile to warm-up and fretted over my outfit. I had chosen fleece-lined (but not very heavy or wind-resistant) tights, a light long-sleeved baselayer top, mid-weight fleece layer, and windproof jacket. It was windy, cloudy, and still snowing. I had to wear sunglasses to keep the snow out of my eyes - fortunately the brown lenses were ok for the low light.

Just before we all went to line up, the "international guest star" advertised on the race website was announced - a skier dressed as Frosty the Snowman. Great - not only could I come in dead last, I could lose to a snowman. Oh well, there's a first time for everything.

They did a wave start and the women's 5k was the last to start, so I got to stand there in the wind getting more and more nervous. Frosty also started in my wave, so I made it my main goal to get away from "him" as quickly as possible. The race started up a little hill - not steep enough to need to switch to a herringbone motion but enough to trip people up a little. A few people fell there so I was focused on how I was going to get around them when I heard D yell "Frosty's right behind you!!" I picked it up to get away and once we were off the hill, started to get into a groove. I passed a trailing man - who had started 3 min ahead of me - within the first 1/4-1/2 mile and was steadily passing women who had gotten out ahead of me on that hill. My skis are super fast on downhills and I was able to take advantage of that within the first mile. After that it seemed like we did a whole lot of climbing without any compensatory downhill - it all must have been on that first steep descent. Most of the race I felt like I was moving right along. I've spent some time the past week or so practicing skiing without my poles, forcing myself to find my kick zone and actually get power from my legs more than my arms - it's helping a ton. The thing I struggled with during the whole race was having no idea how far we'd gone. I'm not familiar with the trail, everything was blindingly white (even with glasses on), and the course wound around so much I didn't even know which direction I was facing. Eventually I could hear cheers and cowbells so I knew we had to be getting close. Right about then, Frosty passed me. I kept that white suit in my sight the rest of the race, but never caught back up. I think I could have, once we got out of the woods, but by then I really just wanted to finish and didn't care about beating the mascot. I finished probably less than 25yds behind Frosty.

D came over when I finished and said he thought I'd probably won my age group. We tracked Frosty down for a picture and went back to the car to deposit my skis and get my dry clothes. Lunch was served after the race so we hung around for that and then the awards.

Sure enough, I DID win my age group! My final time was 36:18 (almost 5 min ahead of 2nd), good for first in the women's 5k classic 20-29 division, 4th woman, and 10th overall (men and women). Not bad for the first time out!

So that's it! I had a ton of fun and am really excited to do this again. I do need to work on my technique though...might see if I can take some lessons if I can find a coach around here.

Thanks for reading!

Pictures to follow when I have a little more time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Time to Revive

It's about time I updated this old thing, yes?

That might be code for "I'll do anything other than write my dissertation proposal."

Regardless, here I am with an update and the intention of keeping this up for a while.

Looks like I left off in July after DWD-Devil's Lake. Since then:

July: As I said in my last post, I was really pleased with the way the race went and thought it had been great to have that goal in the middle of the summer to keep me going. After the race, my longest run for the rest of the month was 6 miles. My running buddies were in training mode for an October half and just getting started, so I dropped my long run distance back down and ran with them. I swear, every long race I run I say I'm not going to lose that base...and then I do. Anyway - I also continued the speedwork I had been doing all summer. Outside of running, July was when I really got serious about studying for comprehensive exams...and daily runs got shorter as I started feeling that time crunch. Total: 62 miles

August: With studying in full swing and the semester approaching quickly, I basically head steady in terms of running. Our long runs were increasing in distance and I kept on going with the speedwork I'd been doing. It was HOT. Total: 70 miles

September: School started with a bang. I took comps in the last 2 week of August and orals the second week of September. The semester started on 9/1 and I was slammed, teaching 2 classes, taking one, and trying to keep up with research. My schedule blew - in class (statistics, no less) until 10 PM on Monday evenings, and then teaching until 7 on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Running on Monday was out, I often didn't make it on Wednesday either...and eventually Tuesday. I was tired and grumpy most of the month. Total: 56 miles

October: At this point, I was just trying to hang onto at least a little of the fitness I had over the summer. My tired grumpiness continued (you could even say it got worse...). There were a couple weeks in there when I only ran on the weekend. My fall goal race - the Great Turtle Half Marathon, was at the end of the month. I'll post the report later, but basically I only met my last-ditch goal - to run under a 10 min pace. That's a tough race, even hillier than I expected, and I'm really quite happy with my effort. I managed a 9:51 pace for a final tme of 2:08:58. Total: 55 miles

November: Ha. At this point there's nothing left to do but laugh. Without a goal my motivation just flew the coop entirely. Total: 42 miles

December: The first couple weeks were rough, tying up loose ends on the semester, writing and grading finals, and dealing with disappointed students. I was started to get my motivation back, though, and by the end of the month was back to actually enjoying running and wanting to get out there. A little snow probably helped - I do love snowy running. Total: 64 miles

So, I finished out the year with 753 miles. The goal I set at the beginning of the year was to run 750 and I'm pleased to have met that. It was a big year and I can't overlook the one year anniversary of my diagnosis (April), surgery (May), and last treatment (October 23rd - same day as the Great Turtle). I'm still trying to work through what this all means for me now and to balance my personal life with my professional (school) life in a way that is fulfilling to me. I didn't do a good job with that this fall, so my goal for 2011 is to figure out where everything fits and do what I have to do to keep myself happy. Exactly what that is, I'm not sure...but I know that running will be a big part of it.

Still to come in 2011:

Greater Lansing Race for the Cure (April) - I have a title to defend, after all...
Bayshore Half Marathon (May) - with my girls. It'll be my first trip to that area and hopefully, I'll finally get under 2 hours.
Dances with Dirt Devil's Lake (Wisconsin, July) - this is just a fun race and I hope to get to do it again!
Chicago Marathon - my first. Heaven help me.
And let's not dissertation

Thanks for reading! I'll leave you with pictures...