3.1, 6.2, 12.4, 13.1, 26.2
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Hills in WDM

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

I had my first run in West Des Moines last Thursday. First and fore most, I had no idea WDM was so hilly! As I always do before heading out, I mapped out my run on the USA Track & Field web site (http://www.usatf.org/routes/map/); nothing major, just a little 5 mile loop. It didn’t take me long to realize I was in for quite the hill work out.

The route: the weather was perfect for this time of year: light winds, sunny and temps around freezing. I started at 42nd & Westown Prkwy and headed south on 42nd. Not too bad down 42nd, just the slightest downhill for a half mile or so. Then I turned right (west) on Ashworth. This is where it went downhill quickly. Literally. Right after the turn from 42nd, there was a long, slow, gradual down-and-up hill covering the better part of half a mile. Like every runner will tell you, the going down part wasn’t bad, but the going up part was a challenge. Especially on snowy, icy sidewalks. Not wanting to fall flat on my ass for the whole world to see, I shuffle/ran the down slope portion of Ashworth and then had to run half in the snow and half on the sidewalk for traction for the up slope (more on slippery sidewalks in my rant below). Once up the hill, I turned left (south) on 50th St. I don’t know why I never realized this when driving on 50th St, but that thing is all down hill from Ashworth to EP True. Normally, this would be great for a run; I’d be able to rest while coasting down it and I don’t normally expend much energy going down long hills. That was definitely not the case this time thanks again to the snow-filled and ice-covered sidewalks. The entire mile down 50th was a game of Try Not to Fall on Your Ass. All the way down was a combination of “old man shuffle running” mixed with “trail run high-stepping” with a bit of “slide sideways like your on an ice rink” and a lot of “clearing hurdles of piled snow at every corner”. I don’t think I hit any type of stride cadence the whole way down. Good news is I didn’t fall; bad news is all that “combo running” made my knees ache. At this point, I turned left (east) on Stonebridge Rd. Stonebridge is a subtly winding road cutting through a quiet, modest home neighborhood. I was in the street on Stonebridge because apparently no one on that street owns a shovel. The first part of Stonebridge is flat, which offered my knees a bit of a break, but after a couple blocks it was back up-hill again. This hill was steeper than the one I had just come down on Ashworth. It was right about this time that I realized how little about the topography of West Des Moines I knew. Here I was thinking I would run a quick 5 on a flat route in WDM as an easy tempo run. That was hardly the case. It was also at this time that I realized that in all the stories Shannon has told about her childhood, growing up on this side of town, going to Fairmedows and such, she failed to mention how freaking hilly this part of town was. Or if she did mention it, I glossed right over those parts of her stories. OK, so it’s probably the latter, but still, there are way more big hills to contend with in WDM as there is around downtown. Back to the route, I stayed on Stonebridge for a mile until arriving at Valley West Drive. Turned left (north) on Valley West Dr and continued - you guessed it - up another flippin’ hill. “How long can this one hill be?” I though. If I go up any higher I’m going to be having afternoon coffee with St. Peter. OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. Valley West Dr eventually levels out and even dips down a bit at the corner of Ashworth. I turned left (west) on Ashworth, traversed more ice-covered sidewalks up a short hill and eventually got back to 42nd St. Turned right (north) on 42nd and ran all the way back to Westown Parkway. Total length of run, 5.14 miles. Number of sore knees and back from slip-sliding my way through the route, 2 and 1. Number of times I almost fell on ass, countless.

All and all, not a bad way to pop my WDM running cherry, but believe me, I’ll be looking for something I little less hilly for my next route.

Training update: I mentioned to LL during my last training session that I mention her a lot in this blog. So, LL, I hope you’ve found your way to my little running blog world you see before you. Again, she’s found yet another way to kick my ass with a workout. I know I “complain” a lot about the workouts she has me do, but I can really tell a difference in my running from them (for the record, you should hear me complain during the training sessions with LL; I’m ten times worse. I know, can you believe it, me whine and complain? Shocking isn’t it?  ). To qualify for Boston, I have to run 7:28s (3:15:59 for an overall time). Thanks to LL’s butt-kicking workouts and me keeping with my long runs during the off-season, my last few 10 mile runs have all been around 7:30 pace. This is significant because I technically haven’t started the running portion of my training for my qualifying quest. I’ll officially start that in late winter/early spring. The long runs I do now are “maintenance” runs to keep my long-run base up so I don’t have as much ground to cover (pun intended) once I get serious about my running training. So by knocking out 7:30s now, that’ll help the tone and hopefully expedite my speed training in the spring.

Running rant of the week: To the people of West Des Moines, Iowa - first of all, let me say that this side of Des Moines is filled with cozy neighborhoods, trendy coffee shops, beautiful houses and eye-popping landscaping. For that, I say thank you for being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But, people, seriously, c’mon. What’s with the uncleared piles of snow and skating rinks you have for sidewalks??? You’d think that by living in nice neighborhoods and on busy streets, you’d make more of an effort to keep your sidewalks cleaned off. My “run” was more of a shuffle-and-slide-a-thon as I made my way through your “upper-income” neighborhoods. I guess I was expecting more what with the big houses and fancy landscaping and all. I figured everyone on this side of town would actually had a shovel or snow thrower. Let me be the first to tell you that shuffling down your sidewalks only to have to leap over the 3-foot high piles of snow and ice steeplechase style at every corner really sucks for us runners. Do us and every other WDM sidewalk-bound mountaineer a favor and clear off your sidewalks. I hate to be a whiny bitch about his, but there’s really no excuse, other than laziness, for not keeping your sidewalks passable. Especially at the corners. Take the extra few minutes and clear a path for everyone to get though. I couldn’t help but think as I was traversing the snow-piled corners, how would an elderly person make it through the piles? Answer – they wouldn’t.

OK, ranting done. Sorry about that. Just frustrates me. Especially since I’m not in training for a trail run.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with their families. Enjoy this time together and I’ll be back in a couple weeks with another post.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Up to Speed


OK, OK, so I’ve been getting a ton of grief for announcing in my last update (October) that “I’m back” when, in fact, I haven’t posted since then. What can I say, things have been hectic over the past couple months. Allow me to bring you up to speed…

[insert weak excuses for not blogging here]

Injured – Some of you may know this, as I’m sure you heard me whine and complain about it, but for those who don’t, I was injured for all of September and October and most of November. Well as injured as a runner can be and still function normally day-to-day. So I finally broke down and went to the doctor after experiencing knee pain for two months. What started as a small irritation in my left knee in September, turned into major knee pain by late-October. I was having trouble running, going up and down stairs and working out. I had cut-back my running mileage steadily over that two month period to try and give my knee a rest, but it just wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it was getting worse. So, I go to the doctor and sure enough, I have Runner’s Knee (tendinitis). By that point I was barely running 10 miles a week and had quit most leg workouts, so gearing-down for another couple weeks wasn’t too hard to do. It was harder on me mentally more than anything else, just ask Shannon, she’ll vouch for how whinny and bitchy I was from not being able to run. Nonetheless, I took it easy for a few more weeks and was able to resume my normal 20 – 30 miles a week running schedule in late November. Been gimping along ever since. J

Job – some of you may know this already, but for those who don’t, I chose to leave my current client, Aviva, and opted to pursue another consulting opportunity at Sammons Annuity Group. It’s a much smaller company than what I’ve ever worked at (400 employees), but the chance to work in a pure Agile project environment was something I couldn’t pass up. So I left* Aviva and started here last Monday. Ramping down at one client to go to another was like the sprint at the end of a marathon; you’re cruising along and all of a sudden, there’s a ton to do, and limited time to do it in. So, that chewed up a lot of my free time over the past few weeks.

* I’ve agreed to stay on at Aviva, working 5 – 10 hours a week (evenings/weekends) until the end of the year. So technically, I haven’t officially left there yet.

Home Life – what can I say, things are hectic for everyone around the holidays and our Halloween and Thanksgiving was no different. Though we didn’t travel far to be with families, the hustle and bustle was still present. That combined with an overwhelming amount of work to get done before “leaving” Aviva kept me pretty busy.

So there, those are my “excuses” for not keeping up with the bloggage. I dare not vow to keep up the blogging multiple times a week, but I have made it a goal to update this thing a few times a month. After all, my one, two, three….six steady followers are probably on pins and needles wondering how my training is going. You know you are!

Segway to a training update – Like I said a few paragraphs ago, I’m just coming back from a setback, so my miles aren’t quite where I’d like them, but I’ve still been able to crank out 20 miles/week (two “easy” runs and a long run of 10 miles) for the past few weeks. All and all, I’m not too far off my maintenance schedule for the “off-season”.

LL (my trainer, Lisa Leon) and I have been meeting one a week for the past few months and I’m happy to report that that is going well. LL continues to kick my butt with new and different exercises week-in and week-out. Things like Bounding, Reach Thrus, Superman-to-Banana Rolls, Side Plank Repeaters and my personal favorite; Bird Dogs. The goal here is for her to put together workout routines that help strengthen my muscle weaknesses (hips, gluts, lower back) and improve the imbalances I have (hammy vs. quad, low back vs. abs, inner thigh vs. outer thigh, etc). And to this point, she’s been doing a great job. I can prove it by the amount of sweat I leave on the gym floor by the end of a one-hour workout session. Apparently I have a lot of imbalances, but according to LL, most die-hard runners do. So we’ve been spending the first part of the off-season working diligently on lunges, core work, hip-flexors and glut firing (not that kind of firing, Chad).

As for logging miles, I’d like to stay on the 20 – 30 mile/week regiment for the next couple months, but with a winter that’s started off with one helluva bang (14 freakin’ inches and a blizzard for the first snowfall of the season – don’t get me started on why I didn’t replace my snow blower when it died last year); I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to run. I’m holding out hope that I can stay on that pace, otherwise getting to Boston might take longer than expected.

Next steps – continuing having LL whip me into shape and picking a spring marathon to qualify with.

For my non-running blog thought of the week – I recently joined a poker league as a winter activity to keep me out of trouble and hopefully sharpen my poker skills (or lack thereof). I think Shannon is secretly happy I did it so I’m not interrupting her Thursday Night TV with my constant puttering around the house and roughhousing with the boys during her shows. I’m sure she’ll enjoy the extra piece and quiet around the house a couple times a month. Anyway, the league meets twice a month (every other Thursday) and we had the first league tournament last week. It’s a points league where you accumulate points for how you place in each tournament (along with any money earnings for that night’s tourney finish – top 3 get paid), with the top point-getters finishing in the money at the end of the league. What a blast! It was like playing at Prairie Meadows; I didn’t know anyone (except for Big Sexy) and, more importantly, I didn’t know anyone else’s style of play. I was both nervous and anxious to play with a new group. In the end, I finished 3rd out of 11 taking home $30 in prize money. Not bad for my first showing. We’ll see if I can validate my showing next week for Week 2 of the league. I’m sure it won’t be easy, I have a feeling I’ll have at least one person gunning for me.

Ideally, I’d say, see you in a couple days with another post, but with me, you just never know…