Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Stella* Got Her Groove Back

Earlier this week, I got in my first adult-aged bike wipe-out. It was incredible.

I ride a fixed gear. I've had a hard time explaining what a fixed gear is to non-bikers, and this is as close as I can get: Picture a unicycle. A unicycle doesn't need a break because the peddles/chain ring/chain is fixed to the wheel. It also only has one built-in "gear." A unicyclist with good balance can peddle the bike both forward and backward because of the free wheel. If she wants to go fast, she peddles harder. If she wants to slow down or stop, she uses her leg muscles to halt the peddles and, thus, slow the momentum of the wheels. Now, imagine adding a front tire to a unicycle. That would essentially be a fixie. If you want to see some beautiful fixed-gear riding (and not to mention, some beautiful fixed-gear bikes), watch this.

On Wednesday I was returning from a late-night bike ride from downtown to Uptown. I crossed a pedestrian bridge and hit a sunken manhole cover that I couldn't see because it was dark. I barely caught my balance as my front wheel wobbled out of control. As soon as I got near a lit intersection, I saw my chain rattling around: I had jarred my wheels enough to loosen the bolts on the chain ring.

A chain rattling around on a "regular" bike is an issue, but it's not as big of an issue as it is on a fixed gear. If a chain falls off on a regular bike, the rider will simply lose the ability to peddle but the wheels will still move. If a chain falls off on a fixed gear, the chain, peddles, and back wheel lock into place.

I only had a few blocks to go so I decided to chance it but was not so lucky. The chain fell off and I felt myself skidding downhill with no control of my bike. All I could concentrate on was not skidding into the side of any parked cars. I skidded close to 2 city blocks until a hole burned through my tire from the friction. Once my inner tube scratched the pavement, my tire popped and threw me onto my side.

Skid marks.
Close up of tire. That was a pretty good skid!
Some scuff marks on the seat from the fall.
The chain was pulled so tightly while I was skidding that it chewed away the paint on my bike.

After I picked myself and my bike off the ground, I had to do a decent-length walk of shame back home. Because it was late, not too many people saw me wipe out (thankfully), nor did they see me trying to walk a broken bike with a non-moving back wheel.

Last night I ventured out to get a new tire and inner tube so I can get back to doing my thing around town without my car. I ended up doing something even stupider than crashing at the very bottom of a hill: I opted to not replace my white tire with another white tire. I have learned that bright colors on a bike, much like wearing bright colors while running, make the ride so much more fun.

Stella's makeover.

*I have a habit of naming inanimate things. My video iPod is Buster. My older iPod Shuffle is Cupcake. My newer iPod Shuffle is Emcee (or M.C., for Mini Cupcake). My Garmin is Mr. Anastos. My car is Felicity. My bike is Stella.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Best Days of Summer

I've still been taking it easy on the running thanks to some pained joints, a hectic schedule, and some minor burnout. I've been fitting in longer bike rides, some time at the gym, and of course strengthening up my twiggy arms in preparation for the 100 push up challenge. Sidenote: I'm proud to announce that I did 31 push ups on Saturday while taking an assessment for a training plan, so 100 definitely doesn't seem out of the realm of, oh, more than completely possible. From 4 push ups to 31 in one week? Pshaw.

After two powerful thunderstorms ripped through Minneapolis last night -- and after listening to tornado sirens go off for a good portion of yesterday evening -- I laced up my trusty Glycerin 7s this morning to fit in a relaxing run and scope out the neighborhood damage.

Amazingly, I only saw two downed trees on our street. I was on a friend's patio last night when we heard the trees splitting and falling near us, but it was too dark to see which trees actually fell. Other than that, everything had either already been cleaned up or my part of town got spared again.
As I made my way around the northeastern side of Lake Calhoun to spy on any damage in Uptown, I saw a deluge of people on Thomas Beach. I forgot that today was the Beach Bash, one of the many activities in the 10-day Minneapolis Aquatennial's Best Days of Summer. Not even wicked storms can stop people from going out and enjoying this city!

I stopped mid-run not only because there were a trillion people in my way, but also because I wanted to see the sandcastle competition and the milk carton races. While I was watching the competitions, my coworker's son (the one who ran a few miles with me at the Minneapolis Marathon) spotted me in the masses! I finally got to met the rest of my coworker's beautiful family.

Sweetest coworker ever and me
Sandcastle contestSweet ass Shrek milk carton boat -- check out those half-gallon teeth!
The weather might have been humid and overcast, but it was a great morning to be on the water.

As the day wore on, the clouds burned off and the sun came out in full force. I met up with my bookclub for some fun in the sun.

My bookclub no longer discusses books we collectively read; instead we get together to opine about movies, talk about what we have been reading, catch up on what we've been doing, and discuss how school/our jobs are going. This evening we headed to the Centennial Lakes Park Golf Course for 18 holes of miniature golf (not to be confused with the astroturf putt-putt kind of mini golf), an evening concert, and some delicious eats at one of my favorite restaurants.

My studious bookclub
I actually did better when the ladies all teed off at once.
With a little practice, I think I could dominate this sport next.
These truly are the best days of summer.

4.8 mile splits: 9:30, 9:22, 9:25, 9:45, 8:00
Air Temp: 75F

Friday, July 16, 2010

The 100 Push-Up Challenge

One of my newbie coworkers, we call him Pab, has a fun idea for lightening up an office job ... and getting some exercise while on the clock.

At Pab's previous job, he had a buddy who would push him to do push ups. At any point of time during the day, they would demand, "Drop and give me 20!" of each other. They used to do handstand push ups against the wall, rear incline push ups, one-armed push ups, uneven push ups, and push ups with their thumbs and forefingers making the shape of a diamond on the ground. They were pretty serious about their push ups.

Well, Pab has recently recruited me to be his new push-up buddy. As we all know (and laugh), my arms came straight from my t-rex ancestors. I can barely pick up my 13-pound cat without feeling the burn. I have a hard time stirring cupcake batter without being in pain. I struggle with typing; my muscles are that weak.

Okay, that is a lie. But it is true that I couldn't even dream of doing 5 push ups.

Until yesterday ... when I did 10! (Applaud! That's a big deal for my wimp sticks!)

I started off by doing 4 push ups last week. Yesterday I made it up to 10. Today, I did 10 pushups with my feet up on a chair. By the end of July, he's pushed me to do 20. By Christmas, we're going to do 100.

I can think of two of you beautiful readers who have done 100 push-up challenges. In my true I-Overdo-Everything manner, I would like to be able to do 100 push ups, but also do something ridiculous like clap in between the last 5 to prove I've still got more in me.

With that, I need some major, major advice. Help for these little t-rex arms, anyone? (P/s: I don't -- and probably won't -- lift arm weights, so any training tips will have to be au-naturel.)

Ready, set, go!

This could be Pab & me. But our office isn't that kinky.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tour de Fat

I took this week off of running. Completely. I didn't even run the measily .6 of a mile to the gym. Instead, I hopped on my bike and vowed to see as much of Minneapolis possible in one week's time.

After peddling my way through a gajillion miles on my tiny fixed gear, I figured there was no better way to end my weeklong bike tour than by attending the Minneapolis leg of Tour de Fat, the traveling bike festival sponsored by New Belgium Brewing.
I first stumbled upon Tour de Fat when I was living in San Francisco a couple of summers ago. I had vaguely heard of it, but didn't realize the grandeur of the festival until I ran into thousands of bikes stacked alongside each other in Golden Gate Park. Every bike imaginable was there: Mountain bikes, road bikes, colorful bikes, hipster bikes, children's bikes, unicycles, everything. It was an amazing site to see, and I had to head into the carnival to see what all the bike excitement was about.

Where I was first introduced to the Tour. From the San Francisco leg, circa summer of 2008.
The Tour acts as one massive fundraiser to promote the awesomeness of biking and the funness of human-powered transportation. It's free to get in and to ride your bike in the parade, but everything else comes at a feel-good-for-donating cost. Even the beer tokens go toward bicycle and environmental charities. How sweet is that?

If you're near one of the 13 cities lucky enough to be visited by the too-brief Tour (really, only 6 hours?), definitely stop by the cavalcade of craziness and costumes, bikes and beer. Just do your best not to breathe in the overwhelming stench of dirty, smelly hipsters. They are everywhere.

This morning's gathering in Loring Park.
Waiting in line at Le Tigre......Where we watched dudes play music only using bike parts.
The larger of two stages where some punk accordion/strings players performed. Their music sounded identical to Gogol Bordello, which I ... luckily ... happen to love.
Try your hand at some of their crazy bikes.
Go get 'em!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Race Recap: Red, White & Boom Half Marathon

I received the latest issue of Runner's World on Friday, and one statistic stuck out to me when leafing through the pages:

Running the Numbers: 60 -- The temperature (Fahrenheit) above which every five-degree increase can slow your pace 20 to 30 seconds per mile. In short, trying to set a 5k PR on an 85-degree day isn't such a hot idea. (p. 27)

So when I woke up to see we were going to be starting the Red, White & Boom half marathon at 84 degrees (and at 6:30a.m., no ness), I chucked my plans for a half marathon PR out the window. Okay, so I actually chucked those plans weeks ago (and then stomped on them a few times) when I saw my metronomic abilities deteriorate during my back-to-back marathons. Regardless, it was going to be a painful, slow half marathon in hot, sticky heat. And to top the heat off, the forecast was calling for thunderstorms all morning. What's more, I was not feeling up for running in general, even despite the weather. Luckily, I had a few friends who were feeling the same way. I don't think I've ever talked so much in two hours at any other point in my life than I did with my friends during this morning's race.

The Inaugural Red, White & Boom Half Marathon

My Team Ortho training buddy, Pablo, asked me to join one of his two 5-person teams for the first-ever Red, White & Boom half marathon. Being on a team ended up being so worth it! All of the runners who teamed up for the race had special access to a VIP tent: we had private Biffys, costume contests, slowest/fastest team contests, our own bag check, before/after race pictures, and plenty of fun drinks and treats waiting for us at the finish.

I really wish my team had worn these sweet pink costumes.
I haven't been sleeping lately, so after logging a restless 3 hours last night, I woke up 2 hours before my alarm and decided to stay up. I left for the race much too early to be sure I had a place to park, and ran into Julie (who was also running on a team) at the VIP tent. We exchanged a few words about our recent personal/health/running/whathaveyou issues, branched off into our respective teams for photos, and vowed to meet up with the 10:00 min/mile pacers in the starting corral. Sadly, I never saw Julie in the corral, but luckily we did catch each other during the race.

The First 5 Miles (9:16, 9:09, 9:42, 9:37, 11:30)

I ran with Pablo and a few of our team members, all of whom I recognized from the Team Ortho marathon training group runs but had never officially met, and we decided to take it slow and easy from the start. We exchanged race stories, kept each other company, and melted away in the heat. I can't tell you how much we sweated during the first two miles -- it was miserable. We were already pouring bottles of water on our heads when the gods answered our tears and dumped buckets of rain on us from above ... for the next two hours.

It's amazing how much a little suffering allows you to open up to strangers. I learned a lot about Pablo's life in Columbia, his family, his job, his travels, and I'm sure I shared far too many details for him as well. By mile 5 Pablo wanted to take his first walk break so I joined him. Once we started back up again, along came Julie!
The Second 5 Miles (10:55, 11:09, 13:59, 10:57, 13:26)

According to running messiah Mark Remy, one of the cardinal rules of running in a group is to never leave a member stranded. Unfortunately for Pablo, his wheels fell off early during the race and he needed to take a number of walk breaks, almost per mile. Pablo was definitely not feeling this race and was struggling with overheating and nausea. I wanted to stay with him in hopes it would make him feel less ill, and Julie was also open to walking with us as well.
While normally I run and train alone, I was actually having a good time talking with both Julie and Pablo. Julie also has had her share of amazing jobs. I'm envious of everything she's done! And both Julie and Pablo, who had never met before today, even managed to find some common connections between each another. I really liked running leisurely and having people to talk with, which I never thought would happen to me while running. Pablo didn't bring his Garmin today, so he asked me to time him for 2 minutes every time he needed to walk. I figured walking with him was actually doing him a service, and Julie and I were giving our bodies some much-needed rest as well. :)

By mile 9, Pablo felt terrible for holding us back, as even when we were walking he started trailing behind. He sincerely urged Julie and me to continue on without him, so I broke His Highness Mark Remy's rule and let Pablo go. I made my way to a Biffy for the longest 4-minute wait known to any runner, and Julie went ahead. While waiting in line, I managed to watch Pablo pass me by, still smiling through his pain. He gave this race a good fight.
The Final 3.33 Miles (8:14, 9:05, 9:33, 2:48)
I was bound and determined to find Julie and I zoomed through the runners (including Pablo as I slapped him a high-five) as I kept my eyes peeled for her. I never did find her until we met back up in the VIP tent for watermelon slices, when I learned she finished about 1 minute ahead of me. I tried! I swear I tried! :)

Julie: I'm SO GLAD we got to spend so much time together! Thanks for taking this course easy with me. :)

So ... Inaugural Red, White & Boom half marathon. Pros: fun course, a few good hills, great post-race concessions (Popsicles, watermelon, and hot dogs?! What is this? The 4th of July?!), and the team perks were definitely worth the extra $10 on our registration fees. Running with my friends made this race extra fun. Cons: running a race in the middle of a Midwestern summer sucks, no matter who is suffering with you.

And now I really mean it when I say I'm going to rest.
Average Pace: 10:39 min/mile
Overall Place: 1582 of 2375
Gender Place: 745 of 1321
Age Group Place: 161 of 299

Happy Independence Day!

13.33-mile splits (2:19:22)
1: 9:16
2: 9:09
3: 9:42
4: 9:37
5: 11:30
6: 10:55
7: 11:09
8: 13:59
9: 10:57
10: 13:26
11: 8:14
12: 9:05
13: 9:33
.33: 2:48
Air Temp: 84F, humid, rainy

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Average A = Bad Blogger

I've been a bad blogger recently due to a number of things going on in my running life and my personal life. I haven't been in my "happy-place" with running lately, and while I did fit in a number of miles this past week, they've mostly been junk miles.

This past weekend my side of the city had a bunch of fun thunderstorms, tornado warnings, and flash flooding. When it wasn't hailing, it was crazy humid and I could barely suffer through a few miles before having to walk. I couldn't figure out if it was the humidity or my body rebelling from doing a couple too many marathons. Methinks it's both.

These images from Uptown last weekend are courtesy of Facebook.
The slight twinge in my right knee has prevented me from doing any long or quality runs, but I've found time to hop on my lovely pink bike and even do a step machine. Did you know that step machines are crazy hard? On Tuesday I climbed the equivalent of the Empire State Building in about 16 minutes (and a few more monuments after that that I don't remember), so suddenly I have a new goal to work toward: How fast can I run up the Empire State Building -- aka How much longer until I really blow out my knee?

The Red, White & Boom Half Marathon is on Sunday and I definitely don't feel prepared. I'm sure I'll finish, but I still feel physically exhausted and really worn down based on a number of Life's Wonderful Twists and Turns. I'm just hoping to go out, have a fun race, and enjoy looking at all the awesome costumes that'll be on the course!

Another thing I'm excited about seeing during this race?....

Course Information
The City of Minneapolis is allowing vehicle traffic including buses on parts of the course so please be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Also of special note: the course crosses over several sets of railroad tracks. Due to Homeland Security rules, we do not know the train schedule and it is highly likely that trains will be crossing the course. For your safety, PLEASE do not attempt to outrun a train!

This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen!

Happy early Independence Day -- stayed tuned for my slowest half marathon results to date. ;)
*Hoping to blame my slow run on a train...*