Archive for November, 2006

A Sort of Homecoming

Monday, November 20th, 2006

After Sunday’s funk, I wake up Monday knowing its time to get back to business, and get the long walk done. 30k, about 18 and a half miles. I hear the rain before I even sit up in bed. Blurgh. Its going to be wet. I drink my coffee, gathering my energy and my walking gear. I need to be ready for rain, blisters, and cold. Going through my bag, I find a shell I picked up at the beach on Saturday. A visual image comes into focus in my head, the bright sun and endless blue water of the Gulf. Seems like forever ago. I sit down at my computer and check the weather. If the forecast is right, we’re due for an extended break from the rain today. Here’s hoping…

By the time I get out of my car at the bike path, the rain has stopped; in spite of yesterday’s rude thoughts, Portland is once again my friend. I set out for loop one of four. The weekday crowd is a bit different from what I’ve seen on Sundays: fewer people, fewer groups, more of the bikers look like commuters (this path goes downtown). Also, a few trucks along the path with workers, including one that scares me, marked “Mosquito Control.” I’m feeling really lucky that its dry, although otherwise a bit sluggish. By the end of my second loop, just as I start to feel a bit less energized, I am passed by a man on an unusually shaped unicycle. It only has one wheel and a seat, but the wheel is close in size to a regular bicycle wheel, and the seat isn’t as high as the ones you see in the circus. A bicyclist coming in the opposite direction has stopped to stare, and as I go by, I say, “Great bike path, isn’t it?” He agrees, smiling. Tampa can have its Shoreline Drive anyday. My smile over the unicycle lasts me back to the car, and after chugging down some sports drink and a gel, I’m re-energized for my third loop. I get a bit draggy one more time in lap four. Realizing I’ve been thinking of skimping on the miles, I decide to finish with a push, so I speed up for the last half mile. Somehow it always works to exorcise my inner whiner on the spot, by challenging myself a bit faster or longer. I’ll never make the starting line if I think of myself as a wimp. Incredibly, the rain starts back up about 5 minutes after I finish. Four and a half hours of dry weather, and I walked through four and a quarter of them. What an incredible gift.

Back at home, I check my email and find another Welcome Home: someone at Gleukos has read my blog and wants to give me sports drink for my training! Well, actually its even better, they want to give t-shirts, bottles, and sports drink to the whole team. I’m really pleased about this; its actually what I use, one of the few commercial sports drinks my digestive system seems to tolerate well. For my first four Portland Marathons, I carried my own homemade sports drink in a hydration pack, because I didn’t think I’d tolerate the course drink. This past October, though, they had Gleukos on the course, and it was so amazingly better without the hydration pack. I stumbled across it almost by accident; one or the other of my local coaches had gotten a bunch to try back in the spring. I appreciate the freebie financially too; visiting the doctor three times a week for my foot has certainly added up, and I don’t even want to think about how fast I’m going through shoes.

After a bit of a false start, it feels like a homecoming.

Training in Tampa

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

My 20k race marks the start of a week in Tampa for work. I’m attending a major conference, with a huge spectrum of meetings and sessions that cover the week from 8am to 10pm. Staying on schedule with my training is going to take a bit of ingenuity.

Driving to an unfamiliar city right after the race, I can tell I’m not quite as focused as usual. At one point, I decide I’ve been going way too long on a stretch of highway, pull over, decide I’ve passed my exit, go back, and finally realize I hadn’t gone too far after all. My usual driving style does, I admit, include a certain number of u-turns, but its the altered sense of time and distance passing that strikes me. I take a large drink of my diet coke and a deep breath, and decide I’m still okay to drive. I miss my exit downtown, but this one is kind of my usual, mentally waving to my exit as I fly by it. Its an easy u-turn to fix this one, though, and in just a minute I’m pulling into the hotel driveway. Getting out of the car is a sharp reminder that I’ve been driving for over an hour as my recovery from a two and a half hour race — ouch! I’m stiff and ready for a nap. I just need to get to my room. The clerk asks me what my medals mean. “Means I’m the third fastest racewalker in my age group.” I say with a smile. Oh I need to hang in there and reach a horizontal surface. “Okay, here we go” the clerk says. “That’s a corner king suite for 6 nights.” “Huh??” I reply, somewhat taken aback. Definitely not the standard conference-discounted room I’d reserved. But its mine, and oh, is it ever the place to do race recovery! I’m getting a little spacy, and I tell the clerk that I’ve just finished the race and am more or less okay, but I really really need to lay down and rest a bit. He’s just great — checks me in early, helps me up to my room and everything. I get some ice for my foot, take some more ibuprofen, and stretch out for a rest. After a bit I’m recovered enough to unpack and start getting ready for Monday’s early start. I’m still pretty draggy, although I don’t know if its from the race itself or the stop at Steak n Shake afterwards, so I order up room service for dinner and call it a day.

Monday’s easy — its a zero day, so I stretch a bit and get through a long day at a hectic pace. Tuesday, though, my schedule has me doing 400m repeats. Just one small problem — no track! A couple of folks at the race had told me to walk on Shoreline Drive, and I decide to just do the intervals by time, along this trail. I run out of the conference as soon as I can, but its still fairly late by the time I change and head out. The worst part of the route is that I have to start by crossing the length of the convention center terrace. I hope that my athlete clothing will serve as some sort of camouflage to my professional peers, and it seems to work. After this there’s a somewhat unpleasant stretch, right alongside a crowded noisy 6 lane street, complete with a few homeless folks. I’m instantly homesick for Portland, where nobody would ever rave about this piece of sidewalk. A little further, though, and it gets a lot nicer, more distance to the traffic, more grass, lots more joggers, no more homeless. I do get a few looks, because I’m doing the repeats fast, but I am forced to change my assessment of Shoreline as a place to walk. I’m looking out over a sunset sky over water, and its pretty. By the time I’m heading back, its getting dark, and I have to take off my sunglasses. I’m pretty alert in the final stretch, which is almost empty at this point, but I make it back without incident. (Someday, somebody somewhere will publish an actually useful travel guide that addresses safety. Until then, its just always a crap shoot.) I’ve more or less accomplished the workout, but I’ve entirely missed an early evening session I’d hoped to attend. I gulp down some sports drink, do a quick cleanup and re-dress, and head out for a dinner reception.

I do two more workouts on the Shoreline Drive, because its faster to retrace my steps than to figure out anyplace else to go. By the end of the week, I go in the morning. The knowledge that I’ve only got one chance to get in the workout, and its right after the #$#&^@ alarm goes off, actually helps me get out of bed. Well, okay, I admit, the morning sun reflecting off the buildings of the downtown skyline through my wide living room window helps some. :) I cannot afford to lose an entire week’s training because of this conference, and I can’t afford to miss many parts of this conference for training, so I need to push. No time to be a whiner. Friday morning, there’s a wonderful moment, when I step onto the scale and see a new number. I’ve reached my goal weight for the Seattle half marathon, with a week to spare! I’m so happy I barely eat at lunch. At dinner, though, I can’ t resist some strawberries in warm chocolate sauce. All week I’ve been dining at buffets of roast beef, free drinks, and huge dessert tables, trying to skip over things and eat halves of things as best I can.

Saturday I have a few hours before my flight home, but I’m tired and determined not to repeat the mistake I made my last trip, when I boarded a plane right after a three hour workout, ended up in the middle seat of the non-reclining back row, and had to be treated by a chiropractor for a back sprain the next day. I decide to just take a stroll along the beach and skip the schedule. I don’t have much time to research a destination, and although I think I’m headed to Caledesi Island State Park, I somehow end up in a place called Honeymoon Island State Park. This is pretty ironic, considering the emotional roller coaster of a week I’ve just had. Some days, the universe just really loves f*cking with my soul. Its just too pretty for me to stay cynical, though, I love walking barefoot along a shore, in and out of the water. There are lots of shells and rocks, so I have to pay some attention to where I step, but its sunny and not very crowded. I reach the end of one strip of sand, and have to go over some rocks and around a bend to the next stretch, only I encounter a not-too-small obstacle — my path is blocked by a stork, hanging out quietly, checking me out. I don’t know if bothering a stork is illegal, the way bothering a harbor seal is at home, but this bird is upright and taller than many children, so shooing him out of my way like a seagull doesn’t seem appropriate. On the other hand, this is the only walk on the beach I’m getting this trip, and I really do want to continue on. I decide on a patient approach: I take a step forward, then wait, and the bird takes a step or two away from me, then I take another step, and so on. Neither of us takes our eye off the other for the entire incredible dance. Finally, several minutes later, the path is clear enough for me to walk by and still leave five or six feet between us, so I continue on. Eventually, I’ve used up my allotted time and my extra buffer, and really need to get to the airport.

Flying is pretty uncomfortable when I’m training alot. I don’t get a back row seat this time, but still, after some amount of time things start to tighten up and complain, and I’m flying diagonally across the country, which takes awhile. I stretch as I can, and always comment to the flight attendants that I’m in training, because I’m convinced that my odd postures of stretching my feet and legs in the aisle will alarm them in some bad misguided way. My second flight is full of young children, crying and yelling and kicking the back of my seat; I realize Thanksgiving week has started. I get through with a couple of glasses of wine and my noise reducing headphones and shuffle. My row companions get through with four cocktails each, so I figure I’m not doing so badly, even though they don’t actually get their hair pulled by the monster behind us, as I do. Riding home from the airport, I greet the Portland skyline happily. I’ve been gone awhile, and it’s good to be home. I’m tired.

The next morning, I wake up in the dark, thinking, great time to finally make it onto East Coast time, figuring I’ve woken before dawn. Turns out, though, that its just one of our dark Portland days. Welcome home. Its raining away, and there’s so little light that opening the blinds at all is a complete waste of time. My schedule says “long walk” but my brain says “19 miles in this?? No way.” No more room service, sigh, and I end up eating pasta from the freezer for breakfast, but by the end of the day I’ve at least restocked and unpacked and stretched and reluctantly accepted that my time in Florida is over.

My First National Championship

Monday, November 13th, 2006

It just turned out that I’d be in Tampa for work at the same time as the National Championship 20k in Clermont. I’d never been to Clermont, but once I looked it up on a map, I realized it was not much more than an hours drive from Tampa. It didn’t even feel like a decision — I was on board. Not only would my coach, Dave McGovern, be there, he’d be racing as well, right in the very same race. Also one of my WWGTD teammates would be racing as well. How could I possibly skip it??

I flew to Florida on Thursday, and arrived hungry and sleep deprived, at about 8:30 pm local time. Now that food isn’t allowed through security, flying is a frustratingly food-deprived experience for me. My digestive system doesn’t do well with wheat, so the pretzels and airport fare that are now my only options aren’t a very good idea, especially before a race or important job trip. It’s a lot better if I can keep my blood sugar happy, but I haven’t figured out a solution. Since I was still trying to lose some weight to make my goal for the Seattle Marathon, I figured I’d just be a little hungry and try to drink alot of water. I also brought along some peppermint tea bags. 13 hours after setting out from home, I arrived at my aunt’s trailer home in Lakeland. She realized I was starving, and fed me a baked potato with cheese and roast beef. I don’t think I can find a training plan that includes that as a meal at 10 o’clock at night, but in that moment I just didn’t care.

I’d known up front that one of the tricky parts of the race would be the timezone change, from pacific to eastern. By Sunday I’d have a few days to acclimate, but still, I’m not a morning person even in my own timezone, and the race was scheduled for 7:15 am! A friend convinced me to spring for a motel room in Clermont, so I’d get an extra hour of sleep in the morning instead of driving. Saturday night, I drove to the motel. Going through and setting out all of my race day items, I realized that all I knew about the course location was the name of a state park. I’d passed the entrance on my way to the motel, but still, where in the park was the race?? No amount of googling yielded any more specific information about the course. The fact that I was googling the race course just hours before the start was just a fact of life given how insanely busy I’d been with work in the days leading up to the trip. I finally drifted off around midnight.

Sunday morning, the timezone difference showed itself when the alarm went off at 5am. Usually before a race, some amount of adrenaline helps me jump out of bed, but not this time. I fought through a fog to sit up and finally turn on a light. As I moved around the room, I felt sluggish, as if I was wading through a thick liquid, or my brain was. No amount of training helps with trying to find your toothpaste in an unfamiliar motel room, when your body’s clock time is 2:30 a.m.! (At least I actually found the toothpaste this time — on a recent work trip I’d unfortunately put a toothbrush full of hair conditioner into my mouth after mistaking the tubes. ) Finally, I was dressed and ready to go, and I set out for Lake Louisa State Park. Either I’d see where the race start was, or I’d miss the race. I turned off at the state park entrance, and — nothing. No cars, no signs, seemingly not a soul awake besides myself. This didn’t look good. I continued through the park, along the most likely seeming road. Finally, I spotted a small sign on the right — “racewalk”! I breathed a nice deep relaxed breath, and continued on. I’d found the race! It was a bit tricky, since I had to drive along the course to reach the parking area, and athletes were warming up. I was about to reach the empty spots when I came up on Dave. As always, he had a big smile and happy words for me that made me feel welcome. Once I’d parked, I didn’t have much time. I registered, got my event t-shirt and numbers, and headed back to my car. I got some help pinning on my numbers, then did a very short warmup, interrupted by a wait on the porta potty line (there was some snafu so the regular bathrooms weren’t unlocked, so we all had to use the course porta potty). I double checked the sheet of paper I’d brought along, listing my goal pace times for the first and second thirds of the race. I didn’t know until that moment that it was a 2.5k loop, so we’d be racing 8 laps for the 20k. I’d precomputed times for both a 2k and a 2.5k loop, just to be sure. As we gathered near the starting line, I noticed someone I didn’t recognize wearing a shirt with our local club logo on it, so I went over and said hi. Right next to her was someone I *did* recognize, also from our club, who excitedly exclaimed, “Oh, if there’s three of us we can enter as a team!” The officials were nice enough to note us down as a team before the race started — I’m sure they were pretty busy at that point, but they understood I’d just arrived. Lining up at the same starting line as Dave McGovern seemed pretty surreal!

As the race started, I felt unsure of my pace. I thought I was going at a pretty good clip, but when I got to what I thought was the halfway point of the loop, I was slower than the time I had in my mind. How could that be?? Well, I was pretty tired and in a different climate, feeling a bit warm, so I figured I just wasn’t feeling it the same way, and tried to push ahead. As I approached the start/finish line, and checked the clock, I knew something was really wrong — how could I be so far behind my goal pace?? I’d chosen a pretty safe pace for the first third. Its a pretty disconcerting feeling to be racing along, suddenly feeling like your body is lying to you, and not much to be done about it. After a couple of minutes, though, it hit me in a flash — I’d memorized the 2k times!! I wasn’t going slower than goal pace at all, I was going too fast! No wonder Dave had commented “you’re really cooking!” as he’d flown past. I ratcheted back a bit, hoping my next time check would be a bit more reasonable. Just then I passed the board and saw a red card for my number. I’d only gotten a red card once before in a race, so this was somewhat unusual for me. By the next lap around, I had two. Bent Knee. This really threw me, because in the past I’d been cautioned by the judges before getting a red card, but here I was, with only one caution but two reds. Just one more red card and I’d be tossed out of the race. Bad as that was, it seemed even more awful that my team would lose as well — since we only had the minimum of three competitors, every one of us needed to finish to qualify for a team award. I felt really discouraged, trying to think of what to change, to feel what my feet and legs were doing wrong. I’d made radical changes to my shoes, adjusted my plantar fasciitis treatments, and had some problem with my posterior tib, all in the two weeks prior to the race. Plus, I hadn’t warmed up very well. Was I just screwed? Just then a teammate went by. “Stay legal, Karen!” she shouted. “Slow down and just stay in for the team!” Another friend said “Just be perfect, forget speed, just be perfect!” At that moment it seemed likely that I was about to be tossed from the race, right in front of my coach, causing my team to lose. Did it get any worse?? I still had no clear notion of what I was doing wrong. Although my pace was faster than planned, I’d legally completed 5k’s at faster paces earlier in the year, so that really shouldn’t be causing me to be DQ’d in the first 5k of this race. I forced myself to take a breath and square my shoulders. I was going to be DQ’d and there was nothing for it but to get ready to be polite and smile and suck it up. Right about then another walker came by and said “c’mon, walk with me, we’ll keep each other going.” And so I kept at it, slowing way way down, even chatting with this woman, whom I’d never met before. Each time I approached the head judge (the only judge who can DQ a walker) I steeled myself for that red paddle. I focused my thoughts on my legs and feet: plant the foot, swing the other leg, are my arms even, where are my feet? For a bit there was nothing else, just the mental checklist and the chat with the other racewalker. I imagined I was on the bike path where I often train, looking over at the geese, smiling at the passing joggers, feeling free and fast. I completed one more lap without a DQ, then another. And right then, all of a sudden, something in my right hip loosened up, and everything felt right again, simple, well-rehearsed, of *course* I’m legal. I pulled away from my companion, telling myself just to stick. No big push for me, just one foot after another. What an amazing feeling it was, crossing that finish line!! In spite of everything, I’d gotten the job done.

My time was a new PR (personal record) — I’d beaten my previous 20k time by over four minutes. I received a bronze medal, third place in my age group. Everyone in the club team finished, and we were the only women’s team, so we got a gold medal for that. The medals are big and decorated with eagles, with “national championship” engraved along the bottom. I wore them all day, as I drove down to Tampa, found my hotel, and got ready for a hard week’s work.

Western Women Go the Distance.

What, no locusts??

Monday, November 6th, 2006

Once the long walk’s done for the week, its usually a gradual slide into Zero Day. Zero Day is a rest day, but also usually a low energy day, since after all that walking, things are kind of stiff and grumpy, and I don’t walk at all. Today, the whole world seems to have zero’d along with me.

It started last night with huge winds, and loads more rain. I was sitting in the living room, just hearing all of these unfamiliar noises from outside, and wondering what was blowing where. The wind howled around the house. Then — an earthquake. Pretty small, I’ve certainly experienced bigger ones, but I always get a little rattled by them. A little reminder not to get too attached to Things. I went online to check and see if it was something big far away, or something small nearby, and was relieved to see the latter. I logged my entry in the database, then settled back in with my book.

The slide continued. My right ankle started to hurt, in an unfortunately familiar way that reminded me of my experience last year with Posterior Tib Tendinitis. I got pretty tense about it, because I’m racing a 20k in just a week, and don’t want any major problems in my way. I filled a basin with ice water and soaked both my feet till they were numb. From that point on, I was in a pretty bad mood.

In the morning, the radio news was describing the mess that is rush hour with flooding and high winds. Thankfully, I could avoid most of the really bad delays by working at home for awhile and going in later. Tonight, the news is full of photos and stories about all this water. There’s a photo of Highway 101 (on the West coast), a group of cars parked on each side of what looks like a pond in the middle, only, THAT’S THE HIGHWAY! A trailerpark flooded, and now there’s a hazard of trailer homes floating down the nearby river. Falling trees, flooding rivers, and the Amtrak train hit a mudslide.

This evening, my ankle’s feeling better. Still not 100%, but alot better. I wore my Earth shoes all day, which usually helps stretch stuff out a bit. I have no idea if the track will be above water for tomorrow’s workout, but I guess if that’s the worst this weather has in store for me, I can’t complain.


Sunday, November 5th, 2006

This morning I delay the start of my long walk to check out a race in my hometown — the New York City Marathon. I get homesick watching the tv coverage. At one point, one of the announcers says something really idiotic about one of our U.S. female elite marathoners — something along the lines of, given that she’s already achieved this and that, and she’s trained for months, what could possibly explain how poorly she’s doing? I regale my television set with a nice blast of New York style “get a clue, ya moron!” I don’t get to do that kind of thing nearly often enough now that I’ve moved away, and its curiously refreshing. They show Lance Armstrong, who is aiming to complete his first marathon in under 3 hours. He makes it by less than 60 seconds, raising over half a million dollars for cancer research and treatment in the process.

During the commercials, I go through my pre-long-walk ritual. Some light stretching, water, gather my clothes. First the underwear, then the Body Glide (lubricant to prevent chafing), then the tights and shirt. Check the feet and toenails for any problem spots, then the socks. Hair back in a ponytail, sunscreen, lip balm, moisturizer, hat. By the time I put on my shoes, I’m an athlete. I mix up a couple bottles of sports drink, and I’m out the door.

Unlike my recent training on the bike trail in the dark, its a Sunday afternoon, and although its not what anyone would call bright, and its raining, there are a good number of other folks out getting some exercise. At one point I look just ahead of me: on the left coming towards me, is a woman maybe in her 50s roller blading with ski poles; on the right, just after passing me, there’s a guy who looks around 40 on some curious mix of bicycle and scooter. The front half is like a bicycle, with a regular sized tire; but there’s no seat, just a little scooter style platform, and the rear wheel is really tiny. He’s standing on the platform, pushing himself along with one leg. I see lots of other bikers, and also joggers and walkers. Down the path a bit more, I see what look like racewalkers in the distance. Once they get a little closer, I realize its two of my Western Women Go the Distance teammates, with coach Judy Heller. I turn and walk some with them, just to say hi and exchange a few words. We haven’t seen much of each other since the Portland Marathon last month, and its exciting to me to see them working towards our goal. I tell Judy I’ve been to Dr. Ray, since she is one of the folks who recommended him to me. “So,” she replies, “are you a convert?” “Oh, Yeah!” She notices that he hasn’t cut holes in my shoes. This is one way you can tell if someone is a Dr. Ray patient, he’ll just slice holes in their training shoes to alleviate any points of tightness. Not random holes, but little slices in just the right spots. He hasn’t had to do this to my shoes, because my feet are pretty narrow, and my toes slant down alot from the big toe, so shoes aren’t quite as awfully squishy for me as for the average person. The shoe industry does seem to have a strong belief that most people’s feet are shaped like V’s, with the middle toe the longest and the big toe — um, not so big. I’ve never actually met anyone with feet like that, only people with more or less a straight line along the inside of the foot from heel to toe, but they must be out there, because otherwise would all those shoes exist? Well, this solid logic is why I’m a “Dr. Ray convert.”

Back at home its time for my post-long-walk ritual. As soon as I step out of the car I feel chilled in my wet clothes, so right away I get into a hot shower. Back when I was a backpacker, I’d get into a shower and check for ticks. Now that I’m a walker, I also check myself, but not for bugs — for chafing and blisters. I can walk quite a ways without noticing part of me is irritated or hurting. I don’t know if everyone is that way, or if its one of the ways I’m built for endurance, but its happened enough times that I know its true. Last week, I chafed so badly from my heart rate monitor strap, that not only was my skin badly scraped (chafing leaves something between a scrape and a burn), part of it was actually raised like a welt. I only noticed it when I caught a view of my back in the mirror later that evening. Much more dramatic was the day I was bleeding at the ankle from a popped blister, working out at the track. I only noticed it back in the locker room, when I sat down to take off my shoe and there was a giant impressive red splotch on the back of my sock. (“Great,” I remember thinking. “How the heck do I launder *this*??”) That one did really hurt for a few days, but I hadn’t noticed it on the track at all. (After further consideration of my level of laundry skill, I threw the sock out. )

After the shower, its time for the best ritual of all — waffles. The post-long walk waffle ritual started a few years ago, training for the Portland marathon. It took a few tries to optimize it, there was an early comical attempt to whip the egg whites by hand quickly followed by the purchase of an electric mixer, but now I can make waffles pretty much no matter how awful I’m feeling, in no time at all. Since I’m trying to lose some weight for racing, the bacon, alas, has been ejected from the ritual, but the waffles are still just as good and drenched in maple syrup. Today I’m out of butter, so I add a cup of blueberries on top with the syrup as an alternative treat. *Definitely* worth 15 miles in the rain!

Intervals After Dark

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

This morning it was just one of those days. Draggy, no energy, with tons to do. A phase of the moon. I get involved in some work right out of bed, lose track of time, then need to leave RIGHT AWAY to make a meeting. Most of my coffee’s still in the pot, I’ve forgotten to drink while I work at my computer. Then I realize my gym bag’s not packed and there’s just nothing I can do about it. Shoot.

In the background, at work, excuses for not doing my workout keep running through my head. Its raining, don’t want to get sick. Think of all of the work I could get done instead. That laundry pile’s pretty high. I could go in the morning. Some years back I had a roommate who was an opera singer; she told me that opera divas are not required to sing when they have their period. Its right there in their contract. If opera singers get the day off, shouldn’t athletes??

I get home and lookup the workout my coach has assigned. 4 x 2k repeats. The idea of this is to push more than you could for a continuous 8k, with short recovery breaks in between the repeats. I look at the clock. I’m supposed to be at a science museum in two hours to hang out with a couple hundred girl scouts. No time to drive to the track and back. It’ll have to be the bike path near my house. This adds a complication, because the bike path is only marked with half miles, and 2k is about a mile and a quarter. I decide to go with 1.5 mile repeats, and recalculate the time goals into 1.5 mile times, noting the 1 mile times as well so I can see how I’m doing along the way. I write it all onto an index card and stick it into my waist pack, but mostly I stare at the card and try to memorize it, so I can at least do the first one without checking. 17:30. Its really raining out, and part of my brain is still trying to convince me to skip the workout. Go in the morning. Take a nap instead. The thing is, I just do not want to have to tell my coach I blew off the workout. In a way, its more complicated than just getting the damn thing done. Its about 50 degrees out, so I put on long tights and a long sleeve shirt — my finishers shirt from the 2002 Portland Marathon.

I follow a route I do often, but its very different in the rain. I’m walking along a park with a playground, but there aren’t any kids today. No soccer teams, only a couple of joggers. I skimp on my flexibility drills a bit, because stopping and standing in the rain is less comfortable than walking in it. Just before the bike path, I step into a deep puddle, soaking one of my feet. “Oh, great,” I think. “Is this going to be one of those hellish workouts with blisters?” I head out onto the path, and its already pretty dark. This time I’ve remembered to clip a blinky light onto my waist pack, so at least bikes won’t run me over from behind. There aren’t very many bikes, though. One mile into my first repeat, I check my watch to see how I’m doing and… I can’t see my watch! I tell myself to wing it. At the end I get a couple of minutes rest, so I pull my pack around and check the time by the blinky light, but I’m already in the next interval, and I don’t know how to go back and see my time for the repeat without screwing it up. Urgh. I go on and luck out — there’s a portion further on with some nearby streetlights helping out. This is enough for me to check my interval points, and I do the next two out on that section.

From the start of the second repeat, I’m totally into it. The theme from Rocky comes up on my shuffle, and I laugh out loud. I’m wet, but not cold, I mostly have the path to myself, and its just me, in the dark, feeling smooth and strong. I am passed by only a few slightly startled bikers, and eventually, a couple of joggers. My times are okay, but its time to push — my goal pace for the final repeat is 16:54, 41 seconds faster than I’ve just done. I set out towards home, and pour it on. Its windy, in my face now, and after a short lull, the rain picks up again. Its like the wind and rain are taunting me, one more obstacle to me meeting the goal. Even alone in the dark, I have an opponent. “F*ck you,” I think. “There is no way I’m falling short of the goal after all this.” I push harder, and before I know it, I’m at the last mile post. 16:47. I win.

There’s a half mile more to the street, another half from there to home, and its still dark and raining, but I don’t really care anymore. I set out at a cooldown pace. At home I do a few stretches, peel off my soaked clothes, eat a piece of chicken, and throw on some jeans. I’m almost an hour late for the girl scout event, but that works out okay. Finally home for the night, I realize I’m starving, and heat up a bowl of soup. Then I check off the day’s workout from the list.