Sunday, January 31, 2010

Studio 54

In our former lives (that is, mine and the club's), Studio 54 might well have been a place I'd want to spend a Saturday night. But last night, and indeed all weekend, my studio was a series of Minnesota Winter Wonderlands, finishing up with 54 miles.

Friday, after a pretty stressful week at work (13 hours at the office Thursday was the reason for no extra curricular activities Steve :) - the day I get to live my preferred lifestyle by working just 1 day a week will indeed be a great day!)... I headed straight for the gym to meet Susan for a treadmill run. She was going to be late so upon realizing how beautiful it was outside I cobbled together some outdoor running gear (it's a good thing I like to carry around 'stuff' in my car) and headed off for the 6 mile loop around Parker's Lake. Finished up with another 5 on the treadmill. Then Saturday morning I met Lisa who was down from Duluth for a fun run along the MN River Bottoms trail... we headed east from the Lyndale parking lot for several miles until the footing got too rough and then spotted a trail off to the right as we were heading back - ended up down by a branch of the river with the Old Cedar Ave Bridge to the east... so we got on the ice and headed towards it! It was beautiful - wide open space with trees on either side, downtown St. Paul off in the distance and planes taking off overhead. A nice layer of snow for the most part but some sketchy expanses of ice to navigate around or tread penguin-like across. Got to the bridge and headed back a bit further west than we'd started out. Got back on the trail and back to the cars and then continued west for a few more miles ending up with about 13. It was pretty chilly but little wind and a great start to what I knew would be a fun (long) day...

Joel had posted a few times about running on the St. Croix and I told him a few weeks back that I'd love to join him sometime. So with the full moon last night he organized a run. We all met at Joel & Marty's house just north of Stillwater around 9PM. 10 of us in total I think - most of the guys I didn't know but Chris I at least knew from blogger land! It is always so fun to meet people you 'know' from reading their blog. After signing the waiver Joel (Button at Law) wrote up - anything involving a waiver has got to be worth doing, right? - we headed off to Marine-on-St.Croix. Quiet spot at 10PM as we made our way down the trail and onto the river. Joel had mapped out a route that took us north for about a mile and a half, around an island and then south all the way to Stillwater - approx 16 miles. For the first hour or so the moon was moving in and out of the clouds. It was so beautiful. We all shut off the headlamps pretty much as soon as we got on the river. Each time the moon moved out from the clouds it was as if a giant lamp in the sky was switched on. The snow reflecting the light. The river is very wide along here for the most part, with small ice falls off to the right along the bluffs. We ran mostly in little groups spread out across the river, the footing was excellent with very few patches of uncovered ice. There were snowmobile tracks most of the way also though I didn't see anyone (I guess the bars in Stillwater are open to 2AM... probably a good thing on this occasion). At half way, just before the high bridge, Marty met us and joined us for the rest of the run, while a few of the guys finished up here. After a can of sf red bull and a few mini snickers it was time to get moving again. Slipped a few hand warmers into my mitts and ran for a while with Joel and Marty, and then by myself for the rest of the run. Going under the high rail bridge was definitely the 'high' point of the run. The clouds were completely gone at this stage. Clear skies above with a few stars and the full bright bright moon. Silence all around. Running water passing quietly far below. Or at least a few feet below. Heaven on earth.

With a few miles to go the lights of Stillwater were visible. Around a few twists and turns in the river and the lift bridge came into view. Jeff and Matt had finished a little before me and were waiting at the gazebo. We walked up to Matt's car just to keep warm and then back down and saw Joel & Marty nearing land. Back to their place to get into dry clothes and a delightful cup of hot chocolate - thanks Marty! Home around 3AM and straight to bed...

I'd planned to attempt to run with Sonya and Kim around noon today, legs willing, so I'd set my alarm for late morning thinking I would surely sleep that long. No chance, wide awake by 7:30AM. Decided I may as well be doing something so off I went to hot yoga - except that class was cancelled and the only other one at the same time was a sculpt class. Even on my most energetic days I avoid yoga sculpt classes - there are weights involved! But I'd driven to the studio and wanted to be in a nice warm room for an hour... It was actually quite fun. The instructor was a little less energetic than others I've had though I expect my arms will remind me of it tomorrow.

Back home, oatmeal, large coffee, and back into the almost dry runners. Met Sonya and Kim at Lake Calhoun and we set off for a few hours in the bright sunshine. Great company and entertaining conversation - I soon forget how tired my legs were. A little chilly in the wind but perfect out of it. Finished up with 14. Feeling my hip flexors for the last few. Yoga will be on the menu for tomorrow...

A great weekend after a not so great week. I'll take it!

Somewhere in between all that I made what I think is rather tasty carrot & corriander (or cilantro as they say in America) soup which I am now heading off to share with friends at Patty's 'soup night'! yum yum

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Line of Scrimmage

I have no idea what it means. And really, no desire to learn. But it's my favourite thing about American Football. It sounds... kind of rough and thoughtful all at the same time. I won't claim to know anything about the game and after watching tonight (well, the 4th quarter and now OT), I won't know anything more. But I've come to have a little more respect for the game over the past few years. Well, most of the time I think it's just a lot of overpaid and overweight guys jumping on top of each other (except Peyton Manning - babe!), but I know there is an immense amount of strategy to the game. Or so I'm told. Then again, these are people who don't get why soccer is such a great game.

Ohhhh... it's all over. OK - so I thought 15 minutes of overtime meant 15 minutes of overtime but I guess it's like the golden goal rule. Oh well, that's too bad. Just as I was beginning to get into it.

Back to what I know best...

Had a great run around the lakes this evening. I had meant to leave the house by 3pm but had some work to do that ended up taking longer than planned so it was after 4pm which meant I had exactly an hour if I was to get done in time for a Hot Yoga class which I wanted to take as it's the perfect way to finish off the weekend. That sentence was way too long. So instead of a leisurely 10-12 miles I decided I'd try for a bit of speed and get in 7 miles in the hour to make it a 70 mile week... 8:30 min miles not exactly speedy but after a 20 miler yesterday and a 90 minute spin class this morning I wasn't sure how the legs would feel. Well, about a minute after starting out a guy passes me on a hill and what does Helen do... of course, I try to keep up. With much success. After a while I realize we're running sub-6:30 pace. A few minutes later I pass the guy. So then of course I have to keep up the pace (and cannot possibly look back to see if he's still behind me!) - 5K in 21:30 - over to Lake Calhoun, ease off a bit after crossing at the lights when I realize speedster is not chasing me (obviously, seeing as I'm the only one "racing")... then step on it again and decide I'll see how fast I can make it to the 10K mark. Somewhere along the way I realize the 10K I was meant to do over Christmas at home that had to be postponed due to the weather was actually being run this morning - ah, the sub-conscious mind! 10K in 43:35. Not bad for tired legs. Eased off and finished up the 7 miles in 50 minutes flat. 7:08 pace. That'll do nicely. And plenty of time to make yoga... felt so good to stretch out after that!

A 70 mile week and it's still January. Feeling good about that. My calves were super tight during the long run yesterday which is unusual as I rarely have calf issues. But for the most part the running is going just fine. Aiming to keep it around 60-70 miles the next 2 weeks and then ease off a little before the 50K. Though I won't really taper as it's more of a fun race to kick off the season. Though I am hoping for sub-6hrs and therefore a cash prize!!

Still having blog issues - seems that I can only post on certain blogs and sometimes only when using the iPhone (further proof that my life would be totally miserable without it).

Chris S - I think the biggest hassle for all the runners yesterday was getting out of their driveway! The race conditions were actually perfect - or at least much more favourable than any other year I've ran it. I didn't look up race results yet but I'm assuming some pretty fast times. I love the out and back course and seeing how fast the leaders are going.

Steve - we only ran 3.5 miles before so my excuse is simply that it was intended to be a long easy run... except it didn't feel all that easy!!

Chris - Are you psychic or tracking your blog visitors?! I found your blog the other day and was trying to post regarding running routes in the city... so here's what I was trying to post:

I'm guessing if you know the lakes you've taken the Minnehaha parkway down to Nokomis? That is a nice out and back route and a change from circling the lakes. Or head over to Cedar Lake and up to Theodore Wirth parkway. Probably a bit icy now but in general the paths are pretty good in the winter. Most of the rail trails around the cities are not cleared in winter but if there's a lot of traffic they are quite runnable - maybe check the websites - the new Dakota trail heads west from Wayzata; the new section of Luce Line from Theodore Wirth parkway links up with Medicine Lake and miles and miles west - if the trail is not cleared there is still a nice 8 miles loop around Medicine Lake that is usually ok in winter.

Excited for next weekend - if the weather freezes up nicely... check out Joel's blog! He posted on fb recently about running on the river so I was asking him about where he runs. Others were asking to join sometime also - and then I saw it was going to be a full moon next weekend... perfect! Just need many many inches of thick ice.

Who dat? All day? Is he going to cry? Aw...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Time to get Screwed

My shoes, that is.

Had a nice run at Lebanon Hills late this afternoon - had hoped to finish up work earlier but ended up starting out around 4pm so ran the last few miles in the dark but it wasn't so bad as the trails there are well packed. Not as good condition as last week but that's to be expected with the weather... and the ice showers due tonight won't help much! But hopefully we get some fresh snow soon. Thanks to Maria for the screw advice - picked up 3/8in screws this morning - there were 14 per pack so I put them all in - probably overkill but no point in keeping spares as they'd be lost in some box in the basement... I don't have anything resembling a toolbox. Though Pam is working on me.

I have a few random things to talk about...

First off, these blog issues are a pain in the ass - now I can't post a comment on anyone's blog! Thomas - it was great to read your blog - I had planned to run Connemara as my sister is getting married the following weekend but then my brother decided to get baby christened the weekend after that and don't think I can stretch the trip to 2 full weeks. Though it probably wouldn't surprise anyone if I ditched the christening in favour of a 39.3 mile run! But anyway, I was beginning to wonder the wisdom of that far on the roads a month out from a 100K trail race in California that I've sort of set as my "goal race" for the spring. I'm moving away from roads as much as possible. So I'm on the lookout for a 50 mile trail race in the US that weekend instead - much more sensible! Also, Thomas - in case you are reading this... our paths have crossed... Dublin 2004 was my first marathon and then I did Connemara in 06! Good luck with the training - sounds like you have some nice hilly training routes. One of my fav training runs ever was in the summer of 2007 around Slea Head. A beautiful part of the country.

A black bear giving birth is pretty damn cool - check out Kel's blog for the link and some more info on black bears - the sound of the baby cub is just amazing!

Days off? Some say they are necessary for recovery etc. I don't know. As you can tell from my side bar activities I tend to work out every day and usually twice a day. Call me an addict but I just can't stand doing nothing and if I wasn't working out I'd be working - and there's no thanks for that! Anyway, yesterday I ended up not doing anything as I felt like sleeping in and then in the evening I was late for my Acupuncture apt so didn't get out of that on time and missed yoga. And this morning I felt soooo tight at yoga. Went to the chiro then for my weekly adjustment and he was asking how much I'd been running as I was tight all over. I told him not enough clearly. I'd say he doesn't know what to make of me but he's good at what he does and I think this preventative measure is good for me. Then, mid-shoulder adjustment he asks when I'm going to find the time to get married and have kids. I said I didn't know, that maybe it wasn't part of my plan - not meaning I was doing any life planning (hardly) but rather meaning God's grand plan for me except I wasn't really feeling all that philosophical as I was really thinking f**k off and mind your own business. But anyway, the adjustment felt good. And running this afternoon felt great - and then I went to yoga again (I know, I know) and felt so loose compared to this morning. So there you go, scientific evidence that days off are completely detrimental to one's training. Or at least to my training.

Acupuncture - I've had chronic shoulder pain for a few years now - the sort of pain that goes from nagging background aches to preventing you from sleeping - mostly the former until recently. So I've never really done much about it. Well, I saw a chiro for a few months back in 07 but when she asked me after about 3 months how I was doing and I said my shoulder was still pretty bad at times and she said oh I didn't know you had shoulder issues... yeah, you know how that one ended. Put me off the profession for a wee bit but then a friend recommended Dr. Pete and I think he knows his stuff and is helping me stay out of trouble. Even since doing my lower back in during TCM 2005 I've had right sciatic issues where my right leg pulls up and "gets shorter" and if I don't get adjustments to correct it or better still prevent it happening I end up feeling pretty rough and very off kilter. I know I should probably be doing all sorts of strengthening exercises that would ultimately negate the need for regular adjustments but that just sounds like too much work altogether. Anyway, back to acupuncture - the first apt on Monday was pretty non-eventful, the needles are so tiny I hardly felt them, then the half hour chilling out with them all over my shoulder, neck, and back was very relaxing. But last night when he put one in somewhere on the left side of my back serious pain radiated out from my right shoulder (the dodgy one)... I guess we'll see if that was a sign of a good release! I'll go for a few weeks and see if there's any improvement. I know the recent surge in pain and discomfort is mostly from work, pretty busy lately... being right-handed and constantly on my laptop or phone, using the mouse, texting etc - it all adds up.

Speaking of things all adding up... it must be pure misery in Haiti these days. I can't imagine. I was reading Stones Into Schools recently (excellent book) and Greg Mortenson describes the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan - the impact is just devastating for places that are so under resourced to begin with. He focused a lot of the "places at the end of the road" as that is where they build their schools and are of course the last places where help reaches. I expect it's the same in Haiti. All the talk is about Port au Prince which was certainly hit hard but I'm sure there are so many other areas that are still without proper aid. Anyway, hopefully my lack of interest in biking helps someone there - I have an indoor bike trainer for years that I have used about 3 times so when a friend of Shelley's was interested I thought that was a good way to provide a donation - not to mention that asking for $200 and saying it was going to the Red Cross helped avoid any bargaining :) It was a bargain anyway as they are almost $400 new and mine wasn't far off new. There's been a lot of talk about what charities to support etc but I figured they as good as any when it comes to the larger organizations and I already support Médecins Sans Frontières (who I think do some of the best work in sub-Saharan Africa) - though I think if I took the time to research there are probably some smaller local organizations who may do a better job in putting more of the money directly to use on the ground. Another way to help for anyone interested: Feed My Starving Children has 4 local centers where you can pack food - they have a neat sign up schedule on the website.

Now, it's bedtime. Frozen Half in the morning. Kami and I and hopefully a few others are meeting at 7:30AM so we can get in 7 before the race which starts at 9AM for a nice 20 miler... just hope those ice showers decide to miss St. Paul!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Life in 2010 has been pretty busy which is the main reason for lack of posts recently. But I am also having weird blog issues whereby I cannot sign into my own blog directly - I have to comment on someone elses and then "I'm in" and can go to my own - but still have to open everything in a new window vs being able to just click on "new post" at the top on my page. Odd...

I have thrown together (aka spent way too much time planning) my list of 2010 races on the sidebar but am doing a little refining so will come back to that soon and add some more detail. Running is going well - I think the Christmas break did me good. I am not feeling terribly fit and all of my running clothes are tighter than I would like. But 3 longs runs in a row over the long weekend reassured me that I have not lost much endurance/fitness so that made me very happy. The additional inches will take care of themselves over the coming months (assuming I can stay away from the candy jar at work and the coffee shop muffins/scones... ahh sugar is evil!).

Finally ran at Lebanon Hills last weekend - what an awesome park! And only 30 mins from my house. Thanks for the tour Zach. I will be back again soon. The Friday morning run has moved to T Wirth so I'm discovering a few new trails there also. Well, I mostly haven't a clue where I am at so that just means I need to keep up with the guys. And if that doesn't get me fit, nothing will!

Looking forward to the first trail race of the year in a few weeks time in KC - I expect it'll be a snow/ice turn into mud-fest by the last of the 3 loops - fun, right?

My new nephew in Perth is doing well. Skype is the business! The little guy is unbelieveably strong for a new baby - he was looking around non stop and thrashing his skinny little arms about like crazy. I can't wait to see them in April (the whole family will be in Ireland for the first time in a few years). Meanwhile, I'll be over there for work at the end of next month. I think it'll be a busy year for work travel given the projects I have going on. I like travel, love airports, but will be trying to keep it to a minimum during the summer so I can be here as much as possible.

Planning to do the frozen half in St. Paul Saturday. I have run it every year since 2005 except for last year - which wasn't a bad one to miss seeing as it was cut short. It's a nice low key race and we usually fit it into a longer run by running for an hour beforehand.

Doing tons of hot yoga - loving it - and think it will remain part of the plan through the year. Lots of running, lots of yoga, spin classes at least through the winter. That is the grand training plan!


Helen's comments:

So now I can sign in to my account by just opening "sign in" in a new window - but I cannot comment on my own posts!

And I just have to let Matt know that hot yoga is a 90 minute sweat fest that include many precarious positions, little periods of rest in between, following the instructor, and feeling completely wiped out at the end. So yes, it's exactly what you think it is...

Olga - it's funny, as much as I enjoyed my one 100 miler when I started to plan the year I found there were so many 50M (& 100K) races that I really want to do... but a 100 is still in the back of my mind! Grindstone would be the most likely choice if I do decide to go for it.

Steve - yes, I am still going to beat you at Superior.

Chris - I loved your treehouse pic - what a treat that would be for a vacation!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2009 - The Year in Review

Before 2009 has disappeared from view I thought I'd post a few random thoughts from the year...

  • Best race performance (according to me!): Voyageur 50M

  • Best "race shape": Leanhorse 50M

  • Most fun racing: Leanhorse 50M - correleted to above I am sure!

  • Most memorable training run: Eagle Mountain - a 10K return trip to Minnesota's highest point complete with a swim in pristine Whale Lake - try it sometime!

  • Toughest race: Hellgate 100K

  • Best organized race: Afton 50K

  • Best course finish: TFH at Chippewa 50K – I will miss it!

  • Smartest race: Hellgate 100K; Leanhorse also - both were negative splits which I guess says it all

  • Best fueling experience: That can of red bull at Oberg (Thanks Eric!)

  • Best supporters: Superior Trail Races (being among them all day Friday and going by them Saturday morning – it’s an amazingly well supported event considering the location)

  • Most awful race experience: Grandma’s Marathon; the race itself is still my fav marathon, it was just a very very rough one for me this year!

  • Smartest training decision: Going back to Hot Yoga after the most awful race - with the result that 2 months later at Leanhorse 90F felt like 70

  • Best race shirt: Afton 50K

  • Best pre race: Hellgate 100K. No doubt the midnight start helps. The pre-race dinner, briefing etc in the hours before the start make for a pretty intense build up.

  • Best post race: A tie - Hellgate for the cosy, warm surroundings, and getting to know new people; Afton for the fab sunshine, great food and good times catching up with training and racing buddies.

  • Best winner’s schwag: This is a tough one – I’ve amassed a rather wonderful collection of art courtesy of Wynn, John and Larry – but on a purely materialistic basis, the $225 Patagonia jacket from Hellgate is hard to beat.

  • Most fun event: Surf the Murph – as much as I love to race (and I do love to race), doing an AS at this race was so much fun. I suspect I will be making it an annual gig. Wild Duluth and FANS were other great volunteering opportunities – I will def be back to volunteer at FANS next year – but I may just have to run Wild Duluth!! Among your many New Year’s running resolutions make sure one of them is to volunteer at an event in 2010. It’s not just a way to give back; it truly is a very enjoyable experience.

  • Worst racing decision: Moose Mountain Marathon - racing with an injury is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Do I regret it? Nah...

  • Best finish line feeling: Moose Mountain Marathon (‘Best’ as in “I’m done”, but definitely worst as in “What have I done?”)

  • Wisest RD words: A toss up between David Horton's "Keep your nose out of the dirt Helen" and John Storkamp's "Run as fast as you can for as long as you can"

  • Best volunteers: ALL of them!

No question it was an amazing year for me. Great results certainly, but what I cherish most are the hours and hours of training, both alone and with friends, the opportunities to take part in some of the best races the mid-west has to offer, running and racing with friends (sometimes involving a little friendly competition), meeting a ton of new people and generally having the time of my life. And on top of that I got to travel to a few races including two trips to Virginia where I just love to run for reasons that are hard to define.

Next up... 2010 plans & goals - which are changing by the minute and it's only January 3rd!

New year, new baby!

No, not me. Though with the extra lbs one would be perfectly within their rights to wonder...

I have a new nephew! A year ago I had 2 nieces and now I also have 2 nephews - a busy time for the Lavin clan!! Baby Patrick Brian was born to Sandi & Patrick (my little brother, well - I guess he's not so little anymore...) - in Perth, Western Australia, yesterday January 2, 2010. Welcome Patrick Jnr!! I just got to see him 'live' on Skype. A very healthy pair of lungs he has. I guess he was just excited to hear his favourite Auntie's voice.

P.S. Written in the US date format that DOB is 0102 2010 - I'm sure that is auspicious in some way...

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day

My favourite day of the year. And New Year's Day 2010 was a good one! I have never cared much for New Year's Eve (I was in bed by 11pm last night) but I do love the first day of the new year. Bit of a cliche I suppose but I love the idea of starting over, new beginnings, new hopes and dreams. Not so much new expectations as new possibilities.

Despite no running for over a week it felt great to start the day/year with a run around the lakes - thanks Paula for the invite! 9 miles in 1 degree weather. Little wind thankfully and even some warm-ish sunshine. Body felt like it had not run in a while. And it certainly felt like it had taken in waay too much crap food recently. But good all the same...

Then it was off to yoga at noon for 108 Sun Salutations. Why 108? The number 108 is considered sacred in many near and far eastern religions. From

The Hindu prayer necklaces contain 108 beads, each one representing an individual mantra or prayer. Chinese Buddhists and Taoists also use a 108 bead mala. In yoga, it is believed that our heart center is where the soul resides. From the heart center 108 channels, called Nadis, radiate out to all parts of the subtle body. By changing a mantra 108 times, the energy of the mantra enters each of those channels so that it reaches all parts of the body.

It was fun, if a little tough going by the ninetieth chaturanga... my arms will be s o r e tomorrow! The instructor closed with a quote within a quote that I thought was pretty neat. The 14th century poet Hafiz: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’” Expanded upon by one Dr. Wayne Dyer*... “Just think of what a love like that can do. It lights up the whole world.”

To finish off the day I spent some time at my favourite place. A hike on the snow covered trails as the sun was setting. Perfect.


What would a New Year's Day post be without a few resolutions...

1. Run more
2. Run faster
3. Eat healthier
4. Volunteer more
5. Rediscover job satisfaction

Here's to a wonderful 2010! Happy New Year everyone.

* I haven't read anything further but I expect plenty more inspiration can be found at Dyer's website.

What Year is it again?

I happened to spot this magazine while waiting in line at the store today. I had to share. People actually buy this shit?