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Posts Tagged ‘pocono lake PA’

Even though I knew I’d pay the price for my lollygagging, I couldn’t have gotten out of bed any earlier than 9 AM, and I had no inclination to leave the house any earlier than 10:30 AM. I’m on vacation, people, and that means maximizing the good sleep that the cool, quiet Pocono air affords me, and exercising my right to sit on my deck drinking coffee, zoning out as my trees wave their leaves at me in the breeze, trying to capture my attention. I knew I’d be running my 14 miles through the noonday heat, but I didn’t give a shit. I wasn’t out to set any land speed records; I just wanted to complete my 14 miles and then go shop for bathroom tiles. It’s about the simple pleasures here in the Poconos (translation: there’s nothing else to do).

It was 10:41 AM when I set off on my long run, tracing the same route as my two 10-milers from last week through the Timber Trails and Lake Naomi communities, except today I would add on a second loop through Timber Trails at the end to convert the 10-mile route to a fourteener. Each time I run this route, I want to share it because it is so lovely. It’s half-shaded, and lined with mountain cabins, lakeside lodges, and cute vacation bungalows. By now I have run these routes enough times that I have favorite houses which I look forward to passing. Sometimes I stop and stare, taking in the harmonious lines of an Arts & Crafts style house, or the look-at-me angles of the one Modern structure in the whole development. The swaths of forest, the winking glimmer of Lake Naomi, the voluptuous growth of rhododendrons: they add up to a curated wildness that keeps me coming back to trace its curves time and again.

Tell me: are you plagued by the If Onlys? Do you spend time evaluating your life thinking, If Only I had x dollars for y project; If Only I had bought three years earlier, If Only I had said no/yes? I spend an awful lot of time during my long runs with my mind whirling through hypothetical situations. If Only I was braver. If Only I was stronger, faster, smarter, prettier. If Only I was younger, If Only I could go back ten years, If Only I could fit into my lucky pants, If Only I could get through this week without throttling my boss/colleague/mother/Husband/self. Sometimes I feel like “if” is called upon more than any other word as my thoughts stream during my long runs. My compulsion for planning comes out, and I dream about bathroom renovations, finished basements, new kitchens and a dinner party held at my grandma’s vintage art deco maple dining room table (which I have in storage). If only I had five grand and four free weekends in a row, I could totally transform the master bath in the Poconos house from cheesy 80’s to something out of Mountain Living magazine. Or how about: If Only I had a few months to freshen up my Italian, and then I quit my job, and took all my safety savings? Then I could go live in Italy for a few heavenly months and spend the time cooking, reading and running. That’s a recurring If Only, one I return to time and again because it brings together some of the best moments of my past with my sweetest hopes for my future into one perfect escape. I even know the region where I’d rent a house. Sometimes I talk about this dream and my heart clutches closed with sadness (I’ll never be able to do this); and other times it pounds with excitement (Yes! Fuck it all, I’m going!).

My If Only’s can be debilitating. Sometimes they seem entirely unattainable, the whimsy of a dreamer who’s too inept to start the slow march towards actualization. They articulate regrets, they define the ways I’ve changed and outgrown parts of my life, even as the shape of my life has remained the same and has become ill-fitting.

Other times my If Only’s spur me to action, and the If Only’s morph into What If’s. What if I actually had a better apartment in Sunnyside, what if I moved, and had a dining room for my grandmother’s dining room furniture? So I call a realtor. At work, some If Only’s are out of my control (If Only I never had to work with that person ever again), but most I can turn into What If’s by merely applying myself, by digging in and breaking down a campaign or a brainstorm into project steps. What If I launched a branded & integrated social media campaign to raise consumer awareness about this category of books we publish? Well now, that I know I can do, and I can persuade talented people to help me do it. If Only I could BQ. What If I took a year off, dedicated myself to speedwork and whole body fitness, and then raced a smaller Fall marathon? Oh, I can so do that, people! And I am doing it.

With my If Only’s doing their highly effective job of distracting me from the 14 hot miles in front of me, the two hours of my run passed quicker and cooler than anticipated. Sure, I sweat like a faucet and my  hamstrings and lower back reminded me who was the boss. Sure, my pace fell off the last 5 miles. But like I said, I just had to get them done, not PR. I felt my breathing even (it only got ragged on that one steep hill I had to clamber up before heading along Miller Road), I felt my arms pull me along, I felt the soothing breeze as I ran through the dappled shade of the roadside. I imagined a better life, yet I still recognized the vine of happiness that creeps through my present. At the end of it, this run was as sensual an experience as it was intellectual, including the side cramp that kept me company the last two miles.

14 miles run in 12:11:13. Fastest mile 8:45; slowest mile 10:03; average pace 9:23.

If ever you wanted a navel-gazing playlist, definitely sort your music by the Letter I–literally every one of these songs start with the first-person pronoun. Songs I ran to: “I’d Come for You” by Nickelback, “I’d Love to Knock the Hell Out of You” by Hank Williams Jr., “I’ll Be Around” by The Damnwells, “I’ll Be Around” by Joan Osborne, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” by The Little Willies, “I’m A Cuckoo” by Belle & Sebastian, “I’m Bringing Home the Good News” by Merle Haggard (‘You can tell all your back door daddies that your Big Daddy done blown a fuse’), “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, “I’m Not Afraid” by Fleming & John, “I’m Not Angry” by Elvis Costello, “I’m Not Down” by The Clash, “I’m Not Gonna Call You” by The Films, “I’m Not Running Anymore” by John Mellencamp (well John actually I was still running at this point in the playlist but it’s so rude to point out when celebrities are just plain wrong), “I’m Ready” by Jack’s Mannequin, “I’m Still a Guy” by Brad Paisley, “I’m Wondering” by Stevie Wonder, “I’ve Been Waiting” by Matthew Sweet, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” by Billie Holiday, “I’ve Got to See You Again” by Norah Jones (is this song about a prostitute?), “I’ve Seen All Good People” by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, “I Am a Leaver” by the Damnwells, “I Can’t Be with You” by the Cranberries, “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops, “I Can’t Say” by The Killers, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” by Prince, “I Could Say” by Lily Allen

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Days 3, 4, 5 and 6 of my 30 Days of Running went by without a hitch. Even though half of my workouts have been less than 3 miles, it’s exhausting running every day. My body’s used to her two rest days a week, and has been reminding me of it every morning when I wake up and make her plod out a few miles, most of them at around a forgiving 10-minute per mile pace. I was encouraged by Thursday’s run, over my Queensboro Bridge and back, which I ran at a nice 9:26 pace. Today, Day 6, was special. It was the first time I’ve run in Pennsylvania since Valentine’s Day! Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t been here since February. If I do the math (cost to maintain my Poconos house divided by number of days spent enjoying the place) I’ll go batty at the expense of it, so I’m just not going to do the math! Needless to say, it’s about time I’m back, enjoying this peaceful, leafy haven. There’s nothing like waking up at this house on a Saturday morning, percolating a pot of strong coffee, and going to sit in a rocking chair on my deck. I put my feet up on the railing, contemplate the trees and the sky, with Matilda resting her chin on my knee. I rock a little in my chair, warm my hands on the mug, pull my flannel shirt around me and let the weak morning sun hit my face.  I am a city girl, comfortable with fast talking and faster walking, happy in high heels and full make-up. There’s no getting around that. But I love my three wooded acres, I love the way I can wear the same clothes for two days straight, I love how the biggest expectation on me is that dinner hits the table sometime between 5 and 9 PM.

I took the rare opportunity today to procrastinate, another one of the simple pleasures of the Poconos house. I was forced out of bed by an achy back around 9 AM, brewed my coffee and sat in the rocker tweeting up a storm. Unfettered tweeting is another rare pleasure, and I milked it until Husband woke at 9:45.  Then I went grocery shopping, listening to country music on the way there. I love driving the curvy, hilly tree-lined roads between my house and Ahart’s. I put the windows down, blast the heat on my toes, and let pop country music flow over me. After shopping, I bullied Husband out of the kitchen as I unpacked the groceries, then sat in an armchair and read 100 pages of a novel for work. Whooeeeboy, that really wiped me out so I took a nap after that. The bed was unmade–Husband was spectacularly doing laundry, plunging every washable piece of fabric into the machine–so I laid down right on the bare mattress, rested my head upon an uncased pillow, pulled the down comforter over my head and slipped into one of those naps that weighs 1000 pounds. I was dead to the world, there was no moving me. You must understand, people: for me, this sort of day is like laying on a Caribbean beach, or having a passel of barefoot manservants circling me. It. Never. Happens. I awoke from my nap, which effectively erased three hours of my life (nuclear holocaust? really? sucks for you.), and prepared my cute 8 lb chicken with stuffing. I am not averse to bragging, when I know I am good at something, so I will say: my roast chicken, in that homespun way, ROCKS. Once il mio piccolo pollo was tucked safely into il forno at 350 degrees, it was time for me to get reacquainted with my neighborhood’s hills.

With my iPod in, I danced my way up the path from our house to the street. I knew Husband was watching me for his own amusement so I gave some extra twists and shakes. The Jackson 5 were getting me warmed up. Aren’t the cymbals in “ABC” so great? Every time I hear that song I just want to be the person hitting the cymbals. They are sharp, but also splashy, all at the right moments. I never did understand this lyric, though. Why can’t Michael make up his mind? Siddown girl, I think I love you! No! Get up girl! Show me what you can do! Shake it shake it baby!

Hello Pocono Lake! Hello hills, why don’t you feel hillier to me? I am happy that I am able to run and feel so strong this soon after my marathon, that’s a first for me. I am paying close attention, though, as arrogance and ambition could lead to injury if I’m not careful.

It’s all behind you now, shoulda quit but you didn’t know how. — Galactic

I believe it’s better to inflict than to attempt relief. — The Delgados

I ran, tracing the maple-leaf pattern of my course through the neighborhood. It felt good to be back, staking my claim on the streets of Riverside Estates. Our neighbor’s dog barked and chased me down the block when I hit Wappinger Way. This is the same dog that terrorizes Matilda, so I gave it the finger. That was fun.

Is the weight of your own life too much for you? If all is a game, you forgot to play, you did. — Nada Surf

A wind blew, just strong enough to dry my perspiration as it hit my skin. It kept me refreshed, it huffed me to alertness. I noticed that the sky, pushing into the space between the trees and the horizon which rolled with our baby mountains, was undecided. It seemed at first like a tarnished sliver platter, reflecting light but ready to storm. Then, perhaps coerced by a better suggestion from the wind, it turned blue, giving entrance to meek but good-matured puffy white clouds. It was 7 PM and the sun was shining in cooperation with the rest of her celestial team. I’d run over 4 miles, my little chicken was roasting, and I had another 24 hours of unscheduled bliss ahead of me. Now, there’s a streak I’d like to keep going.

Songs I ran to: “ABC” by The Jackson 5, “Advice for the Young at Heart” by Tears for Fears, “Ages of You” by R.E.M., “Ain’t Got You” by Paul Westerberg and then nicely continuing with the same vocalist, “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements, “All Behind You Now” by Galactic, “All in the Groove” by Blues Traveler, “All Is a Game” by Nada Surf, “All Lifestyles” by The Beastie Boys, “All Over My Head” by Matthew Sweet, “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley, “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers, “All You Need Is Hate” by The Delgados (also on my Happy Songs about Terrible Things playlist) and “Alphabet Street” by Prince

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Norunday

Saturday is Longrunday. Even if I’m not training for a marathon, I like to log my biggest mileage on Saturday. Today, however, after going through all the prep for my long run (and we all know the fussing that’s necessary for those) and driving around Pocono Lake, PA for an hour, I had to abandon my plan of running eleven miles. It had snowed all throughout the night and there simply were no roads that had been clearled adequately for me to run safely. Honestly, after suffering through poor footing for two months last winter, I basically refuse to do it again. I suspect that the instability of poor footing is partly to blame for my adductor brevis inujury last year, and I do NOT want to bring that on again, especially so early into my training. So, I have been a toddler throwing a temper tantrum all day long, petulant and pouting, replete with shouting and unreasonable demands. It ain’t pretty, folks. And while it’s always lovely to be here in the Poconos, I’d much rather be in New York City where it is ten degrees warmer and I could have run my eleven miles in Central Park without too much worry. Fuckin A.

Anyway, I did stop pouting long enough to notice how beautiful my development is when it snows. And oh, I enjoyed a brunch of creme brulee French toast, home fried potatoes, and ham with the neighbors. And I finally found that pedicure I’ve been searching for since mid-December. But mostly, I’d rather be running. Will someone open me another beer, please?

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At Vacation Pace

Yesterday, Husband and I arrived at our getaway place in Pocono Lake, PA in the middle of the day. I’d napped–the car was so toasty and dry as Husband drove through the rain–and arrived rested from my 10-miler, and relaxed. I had slipped into Vacation Pace just as we’d crossed the Delaware Water Gap. We unpacked the car, cranked the heat, and I immediately set out to buy the few groceries we’d need for the next few days. Grocery shopping in the city is as close to hell without tourists as I can get–lots of pushy people oblivious to everyone else, cramped aisles, waiting in lines to pay, clerks who don’t know how to pack a bag without squashing my tomatoes and loaf of bread–but in the suburbs it’s nearly a pleasure. Plus, there’s a great country music station on the radio up here, which is my guilty pleasure whenever I get to motor around the Poconos. I got  home, and made an early dinner for us, then spent the rest of the evening baking a pecan pie, poking around online and reading a manuscript for work. I sat by the fire so warm and snuggly in my fleece, and napped for about two hours. I hit the sack around 10:30, and slept until 10:30 AM this morning. Woke up, got the coffee going, fed the dog, marvelled at the shining sun, and whipped up some ham, Hvarti, green olive and parmesan omelets for me and Husband. (People, those omelets were so tasty.) Then, I set about procrastinating with determination and concentration. I had a 5-mile pace run, my least favorite workout, on the schedule and I would do anything in the hopes that it would somehow magically disappear from my training calendar.

Well, it didn’t (shocker!), so around 1:30 PM I got in the car and drove to the least-hilly stretch of road I know around here, the loop in the Timber Trails community. The last & only time I’d run this course I was with BG, my local running buddy. It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit under sunny skies, with a strong wind in the parking lot, but I knew I’d be more sheltered once I got into the wooded development. I popped in the iPod, locked the car up, and started at a trot for my mile warm-up. I was aiming for an 8:53 pace, which is what the McMillan calculator said my marathon race pace could be based upon my recent performance in the Ted Corbitt 15k. I figured I’d start there to see what’s what. I haven’t clearly formulated my goals for the London Marathon much beyond breaking 4 hours again, primarily because I feel like simply not getting injured is goal Number 1, and anything after that is gravy. I don’t know when I will feel strong enough to begin speed training, which will affect my time goals, too. I also remembered how I kept adjusting my goals when I trained for the New York City Marathon based on the results of my training, and I am getting the sense that this cycle will be a similar situation. So, 8:53’s it was.

I restated Little G when I began the at-pace part of the workout, because I wanted pure data; I didn’t want my mile warm-up and cool down to mess with the average pace. Despite my procrastination, and dread of this pace run, it wasn’t painful as I’d anticipated. The mile warm up helped me relax my neck and shoulders, which get really tense with worry at being able to run even splits. Well, I still didn’t run even splits, but I did run about 25 seconds faster on average than I’d set out to.

1st Mile 8:43
2nd Mile: 8:45
3rd Mile: 8:21
4th Mile: 8:18
5th Mile 8:13
Average pace: 8:28

During the run, I passed a lot of the neighborhood residents who were out for afternoon constutionals, all bundled up and mostly walking in groups or pairs, some with well-trained dogs. I passed just one other runner. Everyone was friendly and gave a wave. I especially loved the older guys, the ones in their 60’s and 70’s, who were out walking by themselves. One of them had in white iPod earbuds, how cool is he? Another I passed twice. On the second time around he gave me a big smile and said, “You’ve set a nice pace!”  Awe what a cutie.

But the fact of the matter was, I had set a good pace, even though it wasn’t consistent. At no point during the run did I feel like I was just slogging through, or that I could not maintain the effort and speed. I suppose this means I need to set a more aggressive pace for these bi-weekly workouts. It also means that I need to make better use o the Virtual Partner feature on Little G, which so far I have tried to use but haven’t quite adapted to yet. It would be an accomplishment to run splits that were closer together, even if they were slower than an 8:28 average pace. Any advice from my readers? I’d love to know what you all suggest my pace should be on these pace runs, as well as how to keep the splits more even.

And now, I am back to Vacation Pace–I’ve tweeted and blogged, and will soon turn my attention to making dinner and then kicking back by the fire with a bottle of beer and my Sony eReader to read my second manuscript of the weekend. I’m not running again until a tweet-up run (followed by adult beverages) on Tuesday evening. Vacation Pace–the most natural pace of all!

Matilda. She's always on Vacation Pace.

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Weekend? What Weekend?

The dreaded Monday morning question. “How was your weekend?” Today I simply answered, Yes! As in, Yes, I acknowledge that Saturday and Sunday have recently occurred, but I would rather not comment beyond that.

Not that I had a terrible weekend; there have been much worse ones on the books this year. I did, however, pull two 10-hour days of work this weekend. Okay okay, admittedly I was at my kitchen table at the Pennsylvania house, gazing out the sliding glass doors and vaulted windows at our woods as I worked–but I was still ceaselessly answering emails, chasing down details and pulling together a big marketing document for two days straight.  It’s unarguably eleven times more desirable to be doing this at my house in Pennsylvania than in my office at 53rd Street and Madison Avenue, so I suppose I won’t complain too much. Plus, my friends on Twitter reminded me that I wasn’t the only hump this weekend; I had the virtual company of other such workaholic suckers.

Shoehorned in among the emailing and annotating were two quality runs. Saturday’s was an afternoon delight, a single 2.45 mile lap of my neighborhood in 21:50. I felt strong, but also like I stopped before I’d tuckered myself out at that “speed.” I remembered how consistently rolling the landscape is in Pocono Lake, PA. There’s no such thing as flat when I run here. Congestion still lingered from my Vermont cold, and it affected both of this weekend’s workouts.  Sunday’s run was especially disheartening as I ran nearly the same distance I did for my first leg of the Green Mountain Relay (4.58  versus 4.61 miles), but ran four minutes slower (42:10 versus 46:07). I blame it on the damn mucus in my lungs, since all the other conditions–heat, humidity, terrain–were pretty similar. I did notice that after about 3.5 miles, my form deteriorates; and also that I now prefer running uphill to downhill. The downhills feel so jarring, I am not entirely sure I’m doing it right anymore.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with Danielle my fabulous PT, during which I plan on begging her for a new core & strength routine, getting her assessment of my training schedule now through October, and having her evaluate my form again (and ask for some downhill pointers).

While I’m at it, do you all have any downhill pointers? And what weekly mileage base do you think I should have right now (I ran 19.6 miles the week of June 15th, but just 12.7 miles last week), seeing as I’m so newly-recovered?

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So, what can I expect over the next month? I asked DN, my PT lady, as she rubbed down my left leg after my session on Thursday. DN had been bandying around the notion of 1-day-a-week PT, and slowly building up to pavement running, and I wanted to know how it was all going to play out. I was excited, but I was also nervous. I am concerned about re-injury, and about being dismayed at how much fitness I may have lost. No candy-coating, I told her.

DN confirmed that we’ll be taking it slowly.  First, she’s going to analyze my stride and make corrections for me to work on. Then, I’ll have to build up to 20 minutes or so of continuous running on the treadmill, then I’ll start with 10 minutes running on the pavement–flat pavement, no hills. Hills will come later. At the same time, I’ll be continuing with my strength, balance and core exercises, adding more difficult moves & heavier weights. Sounds like a second job, but hey–if it means I’ll have running back in my life, I will do it. And she said yes, I would most likely be frustrated by not having the cardio & aerobic fitness to back up my newfound muscle strength. So, even though I’m technically running again, I’m not in the clear–if I ramp things up too quickly I could aggravate my adductor brevis; and I’m certainly not past the emotional bummer of feeling physically weak and less-than.

I am glad, though, that she answered my question straight. Lately, I feel like the few times I’ve asked a serious question of others, the responses that come back are either wisecracks, evasive, or just plain nonexistent. Few things irk me more than having my big questions ignored, or dismissed–especially if I’ve repeated them, and explained how helpful and meaningful a thoughtful answer would be. It’s as if I’m being ignored, or dismissed. It’s good DN didn’t dick around, I’d have gotten mad.

This holiday weekend I am at the Poconos house with Husband and Matilda. Friday I laid on the deck in my bikini reading, yesterday I laid on the couch reading, and today it looks like I’ll be able to lay on the deck again. I’ve been taking 2-mile walks every day (that’s about as long as I can stand it without going crazy with boredom. It takes forever to complete a mile) to get my body acclimated to the pavement, and I do my strength/balance and core exercises on alternate days. Last night I had a non-drink with BG, my Pennsylvania running buddy, at the Pub in the Pines. I’d been drinking white wine all day (oops!) so by the time 9:30 PM rolled around, I had moved on to Diet Pepsi and water (not in the same glass). BG had a Guinness, and we talked about our injuries–he had shattered his collarbone just four days before I pulled my muscle–and our recoveries. He’s planning on a Fall marathon; meanwhile, just the thought scares the shit out of me. If I didn’t know any better, I would have said say I’m a little gun shy about the training for the epic 26.2.

Which reminds me–just want to make sure I’ve been clear, because it came up as a point of confusion with someone two weeks ago–I am not running New York (even though the plan back in January had been to run it with Brother); I am not running a Fall marathon. I’ll barely be healed up in time to begin training. Also, I am more interested in running London in 2010, and if I run NYC on November 1, I won’t be fully recovered before it’s time to start training again. No way am I putting myself back in that risky situation again; I learned the hard way that my body simply isn’t up for two marathons within six months of each other.

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Four in a Flash

After months of Pocono Lake local BG helping me (with detailed emails and links to MapMyRun) find running routes off Route 940, we were finally able to meet in person for a companionable run this morning. I was planning on just four easy miles for recovery, though BG would continue on to get a total of 14 under him. 

Very rarely do I meet a runner who I find annoying, repellant, stupid or boring (I do, however, frquently encounter those kinds of people when I’m not running). Usually, if they’ve got on sneakers they love what I love, so there’s always at least one thing to talk about (regardless of age, gender, profession or native language), with a good chance of sorting out broader common ground as the miles scroll by. Today was no exception. The four miles I ran with BG went by in a snap as we kept up an easy and light get-to-know-you chatter, with some sanguine philosophizing about our difficult training seasons. 

Before I knew it, 38:19 minutes and 3.96 miles had passed and I was done. The Timber Trails loop is pretty (mountain cabins and plenty of trees) but unvaried; I totally would have run right by our start point if BG hadn’t pulled up to where he’d stashed his water bottle. Finally, as he ran off for 10 more, we shook on it: nice to meetcha, let’s do this again!

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16 Miles of Music

Yesterday was Long Run Sunday in the Poconos, which meant Route 940, the Lake Naomi loop, and all the hills and headwind that go along with them. IPod to the rescue

About a year ago I started rating all the songs in my iTunes library with the star system, because anything rated 4 or 5 automatically drops into the My Top Rated playlist (now 858 songs long). I rate about 200 songs a month, which keeps the mix relatively unpredictable. Re-sorting by varying criteria (alpha by song, descending alpha by album, etc) is an easy way to tease out coincidental meaning between songs and to bring some forgotten tracks into more frequent rotation. I recently re-sorted My Top Rated to ascend by track length, so this is the first time I’ve run to this playlist in this order. I randomly scrolled ahead a bit in the playlist to start, since I had a hunch that running the first half-hour to ditties under 2 minutes long (the first song, “Passive Manipulation” by the White Stripes, is a mere 35 seconds) would drive me batty. Without further ado, the soundtrack to Sunday’s 16-miler, grouped by rough mile markers. 

Mile 1:  “Attitude” by The Replacements, “Tired of Being Alone” by Al Green, “Triple Trouble” by The Beastie Boys, “Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty Mile 2: “Cinco de Mayo” by Liz Phair, “Both Sides of the Gun” by Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, “Cinnamon Girl” by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (remember her, The Bangles? Yum) Mile 3: “Thick N’ Thin” by The Black Crowes, “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, “Brain Damage” by The Waifs, “Into Your Arms” by The Lemonheads (“…safe and warm from the crowds….”) Mile 4: “Right Right Now Now” by The Beastie Boys, “Home” by Nothing, “Be My Yoko Ono” by Barenaked Ladies followed by, in a lyrical dialectic, “You’re the Reason I’m Leaving” by Franz Ferdinand… Mile 5: …with “Now She’s Gone” by Steve Earle ending the conversation. “I Should Never Have Let You Know” by Matthew Sweet (a nearly perfect argument for why everyone’s lovelier when you hardly know them), “For the Girl” by The Fratellis (Fast! Run fast!) Mile 6: “Don’t Believe a Word” by Ivy, “Supernova” by Liz Phair, “Tell Me ‘Bout It” by Joss Stone Mile 7: “White Riot” by Cracker (cover of The Clash’s song), “Supernova” by Liz Phair (yes, this is in here twice and I didn’t even notice until now), “Hash Pipe” by Weezer Mile 8: “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States (for ED), “The Maestro” by The Beastie Boys, “Keep Fishin'” by Weezer Mile 9: “Arms of My Baby” by Joss Stone, “Getchoo” by Weezer, “Something So Strong” by Crowded House Mile 10: “I Remember You” by Steve Earle (the man has a knack for duets) ,”Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel (my single gal theme song), “The Way You Found Me” by Ben Harper, “First Date” by Blink 182 (oops this one’s a little embarrassing) Mile 11: “Rubber Biscuit” by The Blues Brothers, “Rendezvous” by Bruce Springsteen, “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede (any song which requires harmonic repetition of the word ‘ooga’ is tops in my book) Mile 12: “Blue” by The Thorns (this song makes me cry), “All You Need Is Hate” by The Delgados, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend” (live) by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals Mile 13: “The Girl from Ipanema” by Getz & Gilberto, “Grade 9” by Barenaked Ladies, “Poor Boy” by Steve Earle Mile 14: “Engraved Invitation” by Ben Harper (“I wish I was a thought, I’d run up through your mind.”), “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” by John Mellencamp (yes, I really did see him in concert), “Knock ‘Em Out” by Lily Allen (“Are you stupid or just kind of slow?”) Mile 15: “Way Down in the Hole” by Steve Earle, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles, “Woman” by Wolfmother (I am a tough rocker chick!! Rrr!!) Mile 16.17: “Thorns” by The Thorns, “Another Nail in My Heart” by Squeeze, “Black Rain” by Ben Harper, “Roy Walker” by Belle & Sebastian

The numbers: 16.17 miles in 2:28:32. Average pace 9:11 (actual number of miles run at that  pace = 0); fastest mile 8:53; slowest mile 9:46. Shortest song 2:43; longest song 2:57.

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What should have been the second-quietest week of the year at work (after the week between Christmas and New Years) ended up giving me four intense days of presentations and emergencies. Now, in favorable contrast, I’m in Pennsylvania, in the middle of four peaceful days of sanctuary at my house in the woods, plus running. Being here–where the phone never rings, and the only sounds are the hum of the birds and insects and the regular crack of Husband chopping wood–is good for me. Pity I won’t be back until after the marathon.

I did manage to get in most of my scheduled miles, although not necessarily the way I’d planned for. Tuesday’s run was by far the best of the week, the kind you never want to end. 8 soothing miles through Central Park (jammed with other runners all training for the same race as I), a fantastic breeze, and the surprise of a late-summer sunset that arrives before 8 PM. Wednesday I had to scrap my plans to join the Nike Speed Workout and just got in 3 miles. Thursday morning I ran over the bridge and back for 5 miles, which I hadn’t done in ages and enjoyed despite a lingering Ambien fog.

My Pennsylvania running shook out like this: 9-mile tempo run on Saturday, and a 12-mile long run on Sunday (this being a step-down week as I move into my six toughest weeks of training). Friday night I whipped up the custard for a batch of Tea & Sympathy ice cream (Earl Grey tea leaves steeped in milk and cream, with crumbled scones folded in at the last moment of the churning process), and a scoop of this frozen delight was to be my reward for nailing the tempo run. My goal: 9 miles in 81 minutes. I hit the road strong, and held my effort level all the way to the turn-around point, where for some inexplicable reason I slowed way down and that middle half-mile took me seven minutes to run. Yikes. Refocus, still trying to get to my green road sign (Blakesleee 4M; Thornhurst 8M) in under 1 hour hour and 21 minutes.

Somewhere along the way I was passed on the right (so, on the other side of the street completely) by a man who was unbelievably fit. I know because he was running without his shirt, and he was moving at quite a clip. He reminded me of the runners I saw all around me when I went to Boston earlier this year to spectate at both marathons. His form was amazing, so fluid and relaxed. In about five minutes he was completely out of sight. I see plenty of folks on bicycles when I run 940, but this was only the second time I’d ever seen another runner, and that it would be someone so well-trained, so clearly an endurance athlete, was both totally cool and totally surprising.

Scenic views notwithstanding, I still had to run up the hills of the last two miles to complete my tempo run. I started complicated mathematical equations in my head to see if I still had a chance at coming in under 81 minutes. For example, 81 minus two 10-minute miles equals how many minutes?  (For some reason, when I’m running, even simple math becomes a nearly impossible task.) I decided to give myself the tiniest of breaks on the inclines, but cook it on the declines. This worked, and I pulled up at my finish line in 1:20:58. That evening, after dinner and after clean-up, I sat down with my scoop of homemade ice cream and focused as intently on each creamy bite as I had on each mile of my run.

This morning I couldn’t wait to run my 12, since they’d be done at long-run pace, which means no faster than 10-miute miles. These are my favorite kinds of long runs–leisurely, relaxing time spent with myself, free to let my thoughts wander. I listened to Steve on Phedippidations, thought about Ryan Hall and his 10th place finish in the Olympic Marathon, wondered what he’s doing now (does he eat ice cream?). I did some race visualizations for NYC. On my way out, I encountered two women in their early 40’s who were both sporting TNT shirts. I pulled up, crossed the street, and we all chatted for a while. They’re run-walkers, tapering for the Philly Distance Run in a couple of weeks, are basically done with their fundraising, and are also going to train for the full marathon on Philly in late November. Clearly, a different type of athlete than the guy I saw yesterday, but equally gratifying to see them out there. We said good-bye with a mutual “Go Team.” I finished my approximately 12 miles (never 100% sure of the distances out here) in 1:56:35, never having to breathe too hard or cajole myself up a hill. As I clicked off my watch, once again at my green road sign, I thought, Piece of cake. I know they all won’t be this easy, so I’m savoring this “cake” the same way I savored my ice cream.

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