Thursday, August 28, 2008

On the Mend

My bike accident injuries have been healing, and every day my shoulder feels a little bit better. It will be a while before I can do a push up or a good butterfly stroke, but I'm hopeful that a bit of a running swing will be just fine. I plan on trying a mid distance run this evening and seeing how things feel.

One of the worst parts of being involved in an accident is the sensation of disappearing freedom, the mental aspect of recovery, and the intimate knowledge of what can go wrong. I pride myself on being a tough cookie, a tenacious character -- with a healthy dose of caution and respect for the dangers that are out there. Truth is though, there is always a risk when you go out into the world, and we can't control every circumstance, those around us. You can do everything right and still end up at the wrong end of someone's front hood. It's scary.

So this sapphic runner is taking it easy, and hoping with some time and distance I will regain a sense of confidence peppered with caution and get back on the bike. I was knocked down but not out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hitting the Road (Literally)

I have had a little unexpected hiatus from this blog, and some days off from my regularly scheduled training. Tuesday night I was in a bike accident, which landed me on the road and with a sprained shoulder and some bumps and bruises. Luckily my injuries were fairly minor and I'm on the mend. The bike has some bent rim issues which I need to get repaired, I'm not in any rush to get back to riding so I'm not stressing about it.

I managed to run the Run Around the Square this weekend, and performed decently despite my relatively immobilized shoulder. Last year I was recovering from a bad cold and a fever and decided to go ahead and run it -- I am hoping this curse does not continue! I was accompanied by some good friends and ran unscathed, I was more worried about being bumped into than the running itself.

So, I've been focusing on recuperation and taking it easy which has made a little stir crazy. Regular exercise centers me and after a few days off I begin to feel untethered. I am hopeful that I'll at least be able to run comfortably by the weeks end and hopefully still participate in the Ikea half.

All in all though, I am grateful for my friends / family and all the support I received post accident, and grateful that my injuries are minor. Accidents shake things up, and remind us of how fragile we really are, how much is beyond our control, how we really don't know what will happen from minute to minute, hour to hour. In the week since, I've become much more aware of my surroundings, the trauma has heightened my senses. I hope to return to riding, once I'm healed and my bike is repaired, because more than anything I do not want to be ruled by fear. It may take me a while to get my confidence back, but I hope to do it, one day at a time.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Watching the Olympic women's marathon on Sunday got me pumped, there is something so amazing and awe inspiring in watching athletes compete at the top of their game. The race presents a culmination of speed, endurance, fortitude, and will. Years of training coming together in one moment, demonstrating the pinnacle of human capacity. The Olympics stirs something elemental in us, gives us a sense of pride, of country, of being human. A ritual that reminds us that we as a species have what it takes to survive, to adapt, to compete on a physical level.

A clear front runner emerged in the women's marathon, Constantina Tomescu-Ditantina of Romania, and she went on to win the event. When she took off and separated from the pack I though she would crash and burn, how could she maintain a pace so much faster than the other competitors? She took a risk. She had employed this method before and fallen out. But she held on and emerged victorious.

I am not a big risk taker when it comes to running -- I like to get to my comfort zone and maintain my pace. I worry about falling out, coming up short, or even risking injury. I am not so much concerned with 'winning' as with improving on my times and becoming a stronger runner overall. I think it would serve me well to push those limits every once in while, to expand my idea of what I'm capable of -- to remind myself of just how adaptable we humans are.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Smooth Sailing

I finally got around to taking my new wheels for a more substantial ride last night, and I was greatly pleased. There is definitely something to having a bike that fits perfectly, it may not have made tackling Pittsburgh's hills and grades any easier, but it made for a smooth and satisfying ride.

Barbara and I rode up to the reservoir in Highland park, riding once around and heading back through some uncharted territory. One of my favorite long runs during marathon training was up Stanton Ave, around the reservoir once or twice, then down to another city park and back. I enjoy biking, and its benefits to my overall fitness, but I found myself craving a run, the grounding of two feet on the pavement.

These past few weeks I've settled into a more rigorous routine and am enjoying both running more and feeling of gaining strength. I plan to focus even more when I start training for the Pittsburgh Marathon, no longer a novice I hope to shave some time off, aiming for a sub 4:00. Until then, I am enjoying the winding down days of summer and my new bike.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bike Baby

I finally took the plunge and bought a new bike, a Trek hybrid. I took my first ride yesterday morning and discovered that my front brake has a squeak problem, so after I get that tuned up I plan on breaking her in well. This bike is a lot lighter than the one I have been riding, and the shifting and quick, I can't wait to get out on the trails.

Speaking of trails, I spent quite a bit of time on them this weekend sans two wheels. Pittsburgh's weather has formed a sort of summer / fall hybrid which is ideal for running. Friday I was full of energy and decided to hit North Park for a quick five mile loop and managed around an 8 minute mile the whole way. Speed work of a sort.

Sunday I planned for a long run, originally setting my sights on the Montour Trail. One of the main highlights of said trail is it's proximity to Ikea, and a post-run cinnamon roll from the Ikea cafe (one of my favorite treats). Unfortunately, construction season in Pittsburgh made it likely that I would spend a good bit of time sitting in traffic and I decided to scale back and run local. I settled on a Lawrenceville loop, running along the North Shore trail out to the 62nd Street bridge then back into town on the city streets. I ran at a leisurely pace, stopping once to fuel up on chocolate gu left over from last year (note to self: buy more gu). The loop took me a little under two hours, and I capped it off with the remnants of a pint of Chunky Monkey and an episode of the Wire. Good times. This week I plan on some more speed work to prepare for the Run Around the Square and some shorter runs around town.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Running Olympic Style

The Olympics begin today and I'm excited at the prospect of watching weeks of the world's top athletes competing. This time around I am especially thrilled to take in the women's marathon. As a relatively new spectator to the sport I have decided to familiarize myself with the athletes, and in doing so have found out that one of the top contenders, Japan's Mizuki Noguchi, is a petite lady like myself, check her out:

She is expected to take home the gold again this year, and I'm pulling for her. Often I feel like my size is a disadvantage, that I just can't go as far with my shorter strides. Seeing Noguchi out there, top in her field, makes me realize that these 'disadvantages' are not determinative. I may never be, or strive to be an Olympic class athlete -- but it helps motivate me to see that someone with a similar build to myself excelling at that level.

The women's marathon takes place in Beijing on Sunday morning, August 17th, airing on the East Coast on Saturday night. This Sapphic Runner will be watching, perhaps accompanied by some marathon themed treats (grape leaves?)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Need for Speed

Speedwork is my least favorite part of training. Last summer I would drive over to the track with a sense of dread, do a few warm up laps, then do speed intervals until I was fatigued (which often was more of a mental than a physical condition). Getting in the zone and running for hours appeals to me, fast stops and starts not so much. I often joked that I needed a coach to get me through any workout involving the track.

Last night I sidled up to the treadmill for my first speed workout in a long while. Beyond my natural resistance to speeding up, I did not want to aggravate or worsen my knee issues. Feeling strong this week and with a 5k in two weeks I knew it was time.

I ran an easy mile before jumping in and started my first interval at about a 8 minute pace. After getting more comfortable, I lowered my pace gradually and managed to maintain a 7 minute pace towards the end. It was challenging but it felt good to run hard and expend all my extra nervous energy. Sweating in the AC felt wonderful in this instance.

Sprinting may never be my first love but I do love the feeling of growing stronger and faster. With each success, the coach in my head gets me to go further and faster and embrace that need for speed. After all, it's fast and steady that wins the race.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back in the Shoes

I laced up my old New Balance and hit the trail and the road this weekend, getting on with my training in earnest. My knee gave me no trouble at all, through some pretty intense conditions so I am feeling more and more confident (and ready to kick it up a notch!).

Thursday night I went out with my running buddy on what I deem the, 'Golden Triangle Loop', starting in the Northside, into downtown at the Point, along the Allegheny to the Strip and back along the North Shore trail. We set off on a path I travel often and over the Fort Duquesne bridge sun glinting off the rivers, the Point's fountain on the horizon. Turning towards the Strip, we ran along the river, as close as you can get to the bank on the city trails and continued on passing the site of the now quasi-famous goose attack of 2008. Luckily, the geese were no where near this spot and we ran by unscathed. We turned up across one of the vast Strip parking lots and headed over the 16th Street bridge at which point the humidity caught up with us and we both were wishing for water. The lack of water fountains on the trail always gets me, especially in the thick of the summer heat. We soldiered on and made it back sweaty and pseudo triumphant.

Saturday I went for a long run, completing 10 miles at the North Park loop, 8 of which with my best friend who is heading across the pond for a few weeks. Sunday I did a recovery run, four easy miles with my pal Leslie, which we actually did at a pretty fast pace. Despite a bit of after burn in my quad muscles, all the running this weekend felt great, and I was even able to enjoy a bike ride out towards Hartwood acres. I find myself wishing I could bottle this part of summer, long, sunny, warm days, sans oppressive heat and humidity and filled with activity. Barring the stoppage of time I plan on getting the most out of this August and training up for some Fall racing. This Sapphic runner is back and ready for what's next.