>A Special Bond(age)

>The other day I was doing my usual Sugar Factory/Harbor loop in the morning, and as I entered the harbor I fell into stride next to a man who was on his morning run as well. Now, we all know that old men flock to me like my roommates flock to boxed wine, but this was diff.

We ran together for about 50 feet before he said “nice morning for a run!” This simple statement spawned a conversation between us that lasted for another mile or so until I turned around at the fountain. I learned that he has two children – his daughter just graduated from Skidmore and his son is now getting his MBA after graduating from Carnegie Mellon (sorry ladies, he’s not single…). I learned that he was in town on business, and there was about 6 inches of snow from where he’s from in Northeastern PA. He likes traveling to Baltimore and running here because it’s so different from running the dark and lonely country roads he runs at home. He found out that I went to Navy and UVA, moved to Baltimore about a year ago, and that working in the real world is slowly sucking the life out of me.

Our lives couldn’t be more different. In any other situation I would have been pretty creeped out by a man just outwardly asking me about my life and such. But it made me realize that runners, no matter your pace or what your training for, have a common bond. It’s weird and you can’t really explain it, but it’s there, and there’s some sort of comfort in that.

Pretty baller slash deep for a Friday morning, huh.

>This is why I’m hot

>When I am able to improve 17 minutes on my 50K time in less than a year, I’d be amiss to not sit down and think about the things I am doing that have been a part of that improvment. So far, this is what I’ve come up with:

1. Nutrition – It’s been about 10 weeks since I met with Mel about my diet. I’m the first to admit, there have been several nights of Snickers Ice Cream bars from 7-11. If I had to grade myself on how well I’ve stuck to the nutrition plan, I would give myself a 75. That’s actually pretty horrible, when I think about it. However, I’m still making the effort to improve every day, and having seen it’s benefits already is keeping me motivated to stick with it. Also note: this doesn’t mean I’ve lost weight. In fact I have stayed exactly the same weight, but I can tell my body composition has changed and I’m simply getting stronger and able to put in more quality workouts with the proper diet. Dropping those LBs may “make you faster” but when push comes to shove I really don’t think that’s what it’s about.

2. Sleep – I love sleep. I get a lot of it. Early to bed, pretty early to rise, and I wouldn’t do it any other way. If I have a workout planned for 6am, I wake up and I’m simply too tired…I go back to bed. It’s that simple.

3. Quality mid-distance runs – Part of the reason I run the distances I do is because I truly enjoy being alone by myself in the woods, be it in a race or in training. I doubt that I will ever get to the point where I welcome company for 20-30 mile runs and long rides. Every now and then it can be helpful – and I think if I trained with people for those longer workouts I’d get faster – but it’s just not worth it to me to give up that Alyssa time. However, I have begun seeking people to go with me for the mid-distance and shorter runs under 15 miles. I think that this has made a world of difference. What can serve as a 10-12 mile recovery run for Arjun, can offer me a difficult workout. Making the 15 mile distance something that I can do quickly and easily is def one of the reasons I can now knock out 30 miles with a huge PR and still recover for a run the next day.

4. Two-a-days – I’m a huge advocate of this (AND of the MTV show about Hoover High which I have in fact visited and ran on their track), as I do a morning and afternoon workout at least 4 out of 7 days of my week. They aren’t always running – most of the time one is, and the other is spinning or swimming. It gets in the work I need but also isn’t too mentally or physically taxing because it is cross-training. If you can fit in an hour workout before work in the morning you are giving yourself a lot more money in the bank. Or hay in the barn. Or buns in the oven?

>Holiday Lake 50K+

>It was a good day. I’ll save you the effort of reading the entire post in case you just want to know how I did: 3rd female, 42nd overall (out of 257 starters), and a time of 4:56:53. Results are here.

The whole story:
I went down to Charlottesville yesterday afternoon, had dinner and some much needed QT with Francesca and Gill, and headed to bed at 9:30. In theory, that would have given me 6 hours of sleep seeing as my alarm was set for 3:30. However, by the time I fell asleep it was actually around 10:30 and so I wasn’t quite ready for that early of a wakeup. Whatevs, I hit the road at 4 am for the 1.5 hour drive down to Holiday Lake in Appomattox, Virginia. I got there and picked up my packet, shedded my layers, and found myself at the starting line with about 250 others. VA Tech and liberty both sent a pretty solid group, and it was nice to see some people under 30 at a race for once. Tech did their silly little cheer, someone said a prayer, we sang the national anthem (note to self: yelling out the O is only cool in Baltimore…), and finally we were off.

My game plan at this point was to hang back, take it slow and steady and try to consistantly hit 9’s-9:20’s throughout the run. The first mile was marked, I look at my watch: 7:30. Oops. There goes my plan. I held back a little bit and waited for the next group to catch me on the trail, and hung with them for the first 4 miles or so. I got to that aide station at 33 minutes, was passed by Justine “the machine” Morrison, and was feeling pretty good in 2nd place. The trails were beautiful, a few hills here and there but mostly very runnable. The only problem with this is that a course with few climbs provides little time for resting where I can eat and drink. Still, I was able to stick to my nutritional plan with about a bottle and hour, a GU on the 30, and 2 endurolytes at the start and midpoint.

This course is 2 loops of 16.63 miles, with the 2nd loop being run in the opposite direction as the first. I was in third place after 12 miles, but I could see a couple women close behind me on the trails. I kept telling myself not to get competitive, but we all know how that goes. Anyway, I hit the turnaround at 2:22. Justine was about 15 minutes ahead of me, and the girl in 2nd place was about 5 minutes ahead of me. The girl in 4th was about 1 minute behind me. Shoot. She picked up a pacer at the midway point, and was able to pass me soon after. I had my doubts she’d get too far ahead though. Races like these are known for having wildcards, especially in the women’s field. Oftentime you’ll get a random marathoner who wants to try their hand at an ultra. They are pretty easy to pick out – no trail shoes, not carrying water or food, and slow on the climbs. This chick fit that to a T. I was able to keep her in my sight, and then she disappeared….into the woods. When she saw me come around the corner, I guess I startled her as she stood right up from her bathroom break and took off in front of me. The smell was not so nice, she probably should have taken her time. Either way, that was reason enough for me to put some more pressure on her, and was able to pass her with 8 miles to go.

My second lap split was 2:34. Not quite as even as I hoped, but I’m okay with that. I felt strong coming into the finish, and that’s all that matters. Finishing in 4:56 was a huge accomplishment for me, especially because this was by no means a peak race. It is a 17 minute PR, on a course that is about 2 miles longer than my previous fastest 50K. Breaking that 5 hour barrier is great for me this early in the season, and has set a great tone for the rest of my training. Plus I got some sweet valentines-themed race stuff.

My focus for the next 8 weeks leading up to Bull Run will be hill workouts. My speed is there, I just need to maintain it on the hills. This means I need to find more time to get out into the mountains and onto the trails…no complaining about that!

>Do what you do

> My sister: What are you doing for Valentines Day?
Me: Running a 34 mile race in Virginia.
My sister: (Sighs)…Of course you are.

Yeah, F you sis, because I am. And it’s going to be awesome. Hopefully all the dumb runners will bring a significant other out who will try to makeout with them at the aide stations and give me time to fly by them. haha. Anyway in reality, I am pretty unprepared to go into this race, and thus will not be expecting much. My goal is to finish in a solid time, split it pretty even, and just give a good effort. As Francesca said: “remember what you’re training for.” I translated this into Alyssa-speak: “do what you do.” This is not my race to expend all my effort and energy…nor is it a race to worry about times and places. In fact, it’s a weird distance of a race so I don’t even have a previous time to compare to, nor have I ever run those trails before. It’s just a stepping stone to get me to June.

That being said, I have collected a sweet quasi Valentine’s playlist to pump me up on the 1.5 hour drive to the start at 430 in the morning on Saturday:

1. 99 Problems, Jay-Z
2. Gives you hell, All American Rejects
3. Sex on Fire, Kings of Leon
4. Miss Independent, Ne-Yo
5. Total Eclipse of the Heart, Airsupply
6. Heartless, Kanye
7. Girlfriend, Avril
8. Honest Mistake, The Bravery
9. Troublemaker, Akon
10. Right Round – Flo Rida
11. Damn, I wish I was your lover, Sophie B Hawkins
12. The Party’s Just Begun, The Cheetah Girls
13. Money Honey, Lady Gaga
14. White Horse, Taylor Swift
15. Great DJ, the Ting Tings
16. Lace and Leather, Britney
17. Can’t escape my love, Enrique
18. Chariot, Gavin Degraw
19.I think I’m in love with you, Jessica Simpson

>Everybody Poops

>Today on my run, I was back by the Domino factory, rounding tidepoint, when it hit me – I had to poo. Badly. I stopped, walked. Stopped, walked a little more. Intense concentration was required for the next 10 minutes as I made my way slowly, but surely, to the BP carwash slash Quiznos where I was blessed with a bathroom. I was so impressed by this facility – a rarity when it comes to random bathrooms along a run – that I have decided to review some of the most convienent bathroom options for runners in the city, and I invite you guys to add your own fav stops.

-Key Highway: Quiznos/Carwash. Four stars. So clean it was probably cleaner than my home bathroom. In fact, it was def cleaner. The staff doesn’t even give you dirty looks for only coming in to use the bathroom either.

-Patterson Park: Porta Potties. One Star. Maybe one half of a star. I don’t even get grossed out by germs, but I am pretty sure I saw some syphillis in these. Not only that, but they trick you, and are frequently locked and you can find yourself running like a crazy person from porta potty to porta potty, and the open one prob has no TP.

-Outside of Du Burns arena: Porta Potty. Two Stars. Not bad, not great, but a step up from Patterson Park if you can stand to run the extra

-Merritt Athletic Clubs. Four stars, unless you don’t have a membership in which case it’s probably negative stars. But these are strategically located throughout the city where you can usually get to one pretty easily. As with any gym bathroom, they arent exactly private but beggars cant be choosers.

-Church stoops in Federal Hill. I’ll let the one and only Melissa Bosslett review this one for me.

-The Middle Branch Park on the Shady Seven: Woods. One point five stars. It’s woods, but they are pretty private minus the occasional homeless man. And you probably have to sacrifice a sock as it’s the woods.

Please feel free to share your own reviews of places to poo while on a run in the city.

>Dating a Banker

>First, I would like to thank the NY Times for (as always) keeping me wildly entertained on my Saturday mornings when I work. I stumbled across this article – most def a diamond in a haystack.
Apparently a support group has formed for women who are dating bankers in these troubled economic times, a group appropriately named, Dating a Banker Anonymous. They have meetings and a blog, giving the members a chance to vent about their “troubles.”

“Once it was seen as a blessing in certain circles to have a wealthy, powerful partner who would leave you alone with the credit card while he was busy brokering deals. Now, many Wall Street wives, girlfriends and, increasingly, exes, are living the curse of cutbacks in nanny hours and reservations at Masa or Megu. And that credit card? Canceled.”

Haha, I LOVE this. The blog can entertain for hours (okay, mayb just an hour, but still). According to the blog, not living the dating a banker anonymous dream includes:
1) living in the suburbs 2) wearing Ann Taylor 3) eating at non-Zagat reviewed restaurants 4) single at 40 or married to mediocrity 5) having to wear sensible shoes 6) living in a home with wall-to-wall carpeting 7) having to do laundry 8 ) missing out 9) forced to live sans access to Sally Hershberger 10) taking life too seriously.

Whether this is a joke or not, it’s still awes. Case in point: Tyra Banks was the DABA girl of the day on Friday. If you read just one thing on that blog though, pleeeeease make it the story “Bottle Poppin’ Girls” dated February 3rd. For whatev reason I can’t link directly to that story, but I assure you it’s worth the scrolling.

>Heat Wave

> If you haven’t seen the forecast for the weekend yet, get ready because things are looking up. It’s going to be a great weekend for running, riding and sundress shopping. Woop Woop.

>Pot of Gold

>Nice work, MP.
In other news:

1. They posted the list of people who are waiting for entry into the Bull Run Run in April. I am on it, obvi, with a sweet lottery number of 168. I don’t know what that means, but it feels lucky so keep your fingers crossed as the list is posted tomorrow. ALSO in that race they have a sub competition of the North vs. the South. Again, I don’t really know what that means but it presented me with quite a dilemma as I had to pick one side when I registered. Needless to say, I picked the North.

2. This item still has to do with BRR50 but it’s awesome enough to get it’s own number. Another one of the entrants for said race is Sean McNamara. Pictures and autographs will ensue.

3. My fav song of the week: “Greenlight” by John Legend.

4. Boo you, groundhog. I want summer.

>Hey Jealousy

>As I was suffering through my 4th day of treadmill-only running (38 miles in 4 days on a treadmill will make anyone crazy) I couldn’t help but think about all the places I would rather be at that moment in time. Those thoughts led to other insanely jealous thoughts about lives I want to have, and people I want to be. I shall compile a short list for you:

-Anyone living where it is not snowing. There have been many inches of snow since I arrived in Buffalo. Apparently it’s okay to just make the people walk through huge snowdrifts on the sidewalk on their way to work.
-People who can work from home.
-People who have patience. I have none, and I want some.
-Sprinters. I would not have gone insane if I only had to do 400’s on the treadmill.
-The Obama girls. My life would be so much more awes if I lived in the White House between the ages of 10-14.
-Demi More: she gets to bang Ashton Kutcher everyday if she wants to. No fair.
-Jennifer Pharr Davis: Many of you may not know who this woman even is, but this past summer she set the new women’s speed record for women (and only 4 men have gone faster). She completed the 2,175-mile trail in 57 days, 8 hours and 35 minutes — 30 days faster than any other woman. Not only that, but she actually has a husband who willingly crewed for her the entire way (except for 5 days when he had to go back to teach, but he came right back). Dudes like that don’t actually exist….but if he has a brother, holler?