Monday, January 26, 2009

3M half-marathon: Race report

Also known as "Is she going to bitch about her foot for thirteen miles? Yes, she is."

It was a dark and chilly morning...

Actually, scratch that. It was cold as hell. Granted, this is Texas, and we are all kind of pussies about the cold. Just come and see us power through a hill workout in 100+ degree weather in August before you hold it too much against us. The human body can acclimate like a mother, can't it?

I met up with my team mates at 5:45 am at Rogue headquarters.

Huevos, pre-race
[I apparently have the biggest head on the team. No comment.]

The race is a one-way downhill slalom from the beginnings of "way up North Austin" down to Waterloo Park in downtown. The route sort of looks like a lightening bolt, and it's billed as the fastest half-marathon in town. We met at headquarters so we could carpool up to the start.

Our wise coaches recommended that we get there by 6 am so that we could find parking, and as with just about everything else, they were right on the money. We parked with no problem and headed over to the support tents. Did I mention it was cold? The rumor had it just under 40 degrees. The good news was that it wasn't supposed to warm up too much (so we wouldn't be over-dressed while running) the bad news... was that it wasn't supposed to warm up too much.

I dropped off a bag with an extra sweatshirt at one of the drop off vans and we made several trips to the porta-johns (and the bushes once the line got too long) before we headed over to the Rogue coaches for our pre-race warm up. They were recommending a one mile warm up. Before the HALF MARATHON. Ugh. We begrudgingly started to jog, and we all had to admit, we were stiff and probably in need of a warm up, though we cut it short at maybe three-quarters round trip. Our little group was in high spirits and there were many attempts to take group shots with cell phones... Some more successful than others.

from Kate's phone... take 1
[This is about the time we named our group "los huevos rancheros"]

huevos rancheros
[Back row: Joe, Kate, Winnie; Front row: me, Laura, Jen]

from Kate's phone... take 2
[We are crazy from brain freeze!]

It has come up in every report, but having some team mates makes all the difference. Because of the fasciitis, I was pretty nervous in the back of my mind. But with all the carrying on and people peeing in bushes, it was just too good of a time to be too worried.

Most races have signs with paces on them, and you "seed" yourself in with the rest of your pace group. We couldn't see any such signs except for one dude carrying what looked like a homemade sign that said "2:00". It was going to take us a bit longer than that, so we bunched in a bit behind him. We were pretty far back.

Once the horn sounded, there was enough of a bend in the road that we could see the front of the pack take off... They were FAST! Suddenly, it felt good to be a bit toward the back. As the moving column of people crept toward us, the pace got a bit more manageable, and by the time we were moving, it was downright acceptable.

It is hard not to get carried away by the flow of people and start off too fast. The coaches told us over and over to start slow, but the excitement, the loudspeakers playing Eye of the Tiger, the spectators cheering and it is almost impossible to not leap into high gear. Luckily the Huevos kept each other in check (except for Joe, who all the time is trying to set a new land speed).

With the first few steps, my foot started to hurt a little. Just a bit, on the outside edge, where one's footprint makes a sort of land bridge between the meaty ball-sprouting toes and the comma-shaped heel. It just felt.. tight. I practiced stretching my toes out inside my shoe. I sent relaxing waves of thought down my leg to try and smooth out any knots in the muscle. I willed it to stop hurting. But mostly, I kept running.

The last time we did a long run my little iPod shuffle died about 3 miles from the end. My tactic this morning was to not turn it on until after we passed mile three. This was pretty easy because several of the Huevos kept up a good chatter. We first split up after the first aid station. A couple of the team got in line for the bathroom, a couple more just went behind a short wall and I (the slowest by about a half minute per mile) kept going after a quick drink of water and some vigorous calf stretches.

I caught up with Joe and Kate about a quarter mile later and we chatted for a bit. I confessed to them that my foot was sort of hurting you know, just a little, but that the stretches helped. Kate recommended not thinking about it, which seemed wise, if impossible. I cranked on the 'Pod just after they sped off. I wouldn't see Winnie and Laura and Jen again until just before mile seven.

It was a cold morning, thankfully not a windy one. It was kind of cool to enjoy the sensation of being able to run. A year ago, running took every ounce of effort I had: within minutes I would be gasping raggedly for breath and my heartrate would be skimming 200 bpm. Here I was able to breathe normally, and still move, my HR was hovering around 174 (for me this is a sustainable level of hard effort). When I passed the mile 5 marker, I did some quick math and realized I was running well under a 12 minute mile.

My training has been sort of up and down. I had missed the last two time trials where we were supposed to be shocked and amazed at our awesome improvement. Because of the trip to Phoenix and the dumb foot, I had missed several quality workouts, and because of general laziness or unemployment-induced depression I hadn't been running as often on my own as our coaches recommended. My first time trial pace had me running just under a 13 minute mile for the race, and in my long runs I rarely seemed able to do better than 13:15/mile. And yet, here I was 5 miles in and my watch showed my mile to be around 11:45. I was a bit worried that I would bonk before the end, so I slowed the pace a bit after the mile 6 water stop.

Mile seven was a long one. My foot was really starting to complain. The last stretch stop had only eased the cramping for about 3 minutes. The only good thing was that the pain was in my arch this time and not my heel. The heel pain had been excruciating with each step. In my arch, it just felt like an impending charlie horse that never quite fully seized. As I ran, I thought of different metaphors to describe the sensation in my foot. Then I focused my attention on my calf, where the problem starts like glacial headwaters, and tried to warm the cold muscles with my mind.

I had to slow down a bit more. I ate most of a Gu around mile seven point something and that helped my spirits a bit (it was a chocolate-honey flavored one, note to self). But the mile 8 marker was taking forever to show up. I was doing math trying to calculate how much time my slower pace was taking, but the marker wasn't anywhere to be found. Finally I could see the white sign up the block, I glanced at my watch and did some math... I was back to my 13 point something pace, not great but not horrible... until I got close enough to read the sign.

MILE 9! That was the second to the best moment the whole race. I hadn't lost as much time as I had thought, AND I had managed to lose a whole mile. There were only 4 miles left! I could do 4 miles no problem! I have run four miles a couple times a week for the past month!

Somewhere around this point is when the other Huevos caught up with me. My foot was so bad that I didn't stick with them for long. Winnie had taken off her pink ear warmer and it was looped around some of her gear, knotted at her back. I kept sight of it for a while, using her as a pink-tailed rabbit up ahead, but I just wasn't able to run quite as fast as I felt like I could. It was frustrating.

By the mile ten water stop, I was pretty beat. I stretched out my calves as much as I could. I paused long enough for two cups of water. I stretched some more. At about this point I passed a woman who was walking with an exaggerated limp, lifting one leg and swinging it out and around to the front to take each step. She still had 3 miles to go, but she was going to finish. I did some more math and figured out that if I kept a decent pace, I could finish just at 2:45.

The last three miles were almost entirely downhill. While that was easier on my hips and back, it was murder on my foot. But we were running through residential neighborhoods and more and more people were out in their yards cheering us on, high fiving runners, telling us how great we looked and how close we were to the finish. It carried me down the hill to the UT campus.

The last mile and a half through campus was quiet. No spectators, and there at the back of the pack, many of us were laboring. My mind was alternating between sending relax-or-else brainwaves to my foot and making deals about how much would it hurt to sprint the finish, and how many yards of sprint did I have in me anyway? When we rounded the corner onto Trinity street, I thought I could see some barricades a few blocks up ahead. About 30 seconds later, I realized it was the finish line.

OHHHH! I actually said it out loud. A woman behind me said, "I heard that, its the finish, isn't it? Girl, there are only FOUR BLOCKS LEFT."

I knew I couldn't sprint four blocks, but I did pick up the pace. I looked at my watch, 2:38. About a block away, I saw one of my coaches. She has been so caring and generous and just amazing that I screamed out her name as I raised up my arms. She came running into the road and hugged me and jumped up and down as we spun a bit. As I let go, I started to sprint. I heard her yell "FINISH STRONG!" And that is exactly what I did.

13.1 bitches!!
[Official time: 2:42:28 -- average pace: 12:24/mi]

The immediate seconds after a finish are a little disappointing (much like any other major rush). A friend was going to meet me at the finish line but (we later realized) he got there one minute too late because I was sure my foot would slow me down so much that my finish time would be close to 3 hours if not over. I wandered over to claim my gear from the truck and started heading toward the pre-determined meeting spot with the other Huevos.

We walked back to Rogue slowly, comparing our many aches and pains. I wobbled on my foot a few times, not able to find a step that didn't increase the cramping sensation. It felt like my foot wanted to curl together at the ends like one of those red plastic fortune-telling fish. I called my friend and we realized how close the miss was (but that's become something of a tradition, so I am glad he was able to uphold it). He met us back at HQ and snapped a quick post race team shot.

Huevos Rancheros post race
[Rogue Running: We run the Eastside]

Later, I had some traditional chicken-fried chicken (at Hoover's, Stalker-Michael, where you and I ate after the Dilloman triathlon, remember?). It was damn good. And then I went home and slept for what felt like a week.

Thirteen-point-one, done and done.

Let this be a lesson to me and anyone else who needs it: Nothing is too hard if you really want it. Nothing at all.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Countdown begins...

First things first, YES WE CAN! I am trying not to be TOO swoony and hopeful and crushy on the new Pres, but sheesh. How good does it feel to finally have the reign of error over?

Also, the garage sale was a smash hit. I made quite a bit more than expected.

On Sunday, I will be trying to finish this. For you kids at home keeping score, that is 13.1 miles.

My chiropractor and sports injury doctor seems to think that I can do it... Though he doesn't guarantee a pain-free finish. I have been able to do a couple of short runs pain free, so think good thoughts Sunday morning at 7 a.m. CST.

In other news, I got a haircut. It is so much crazy different that I am still trying to decide if I love or hate it. But I wanted a change, and that is definitely what I got!

so sad BEFORE


That's all I can deal with today. I have a race to prep for, a trip to NYC to plot, and an essay to finish and submit to round out my 3 for the month.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, January 16, 2009

in progress

so many things are in progress... i have submitted one (of my three) essays to a running website, and have another to submit ready and waiting.

tomorrow i am having a garage sale.

i am 5 lbs closer to march's goal (woo!)

the first half marathon is next (not this) sunday. i am pretty jittery.

at the end of the month, i hope to convince my former employer to hire me back (in NYC)... and have at least one nice date with a cute boy while i am up there.

knitting-wise, i am working on a vest from fitted knits
U neck in progress

and a lil scarf and hat set for the trip later this month:
instant gratification

New hat

everyone cross your fingers that at least a few of these life WIPs turn out ok!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

May I present... CORALINE

How I love this sweater. I would sleep in it, were it at all feasible.


Yarn: Elann's Quecha Alpaca / Tencel blend
Pattern: Ysolde Teague's Coraline
Ravelry link: Carmine Coraline

Coraline yoke detail

For once I didn't change anything. I was too nervous about all the little details: i-cord, knit-on-hem, that smocking! After talking it over with a friend of mine, all I did change my preconceptions...

First, because I (cough cough) didn't wash my swatch, I relied on her experience to know that the Quecha doesn't grow as much as 100% Alpaca. So I lengthened the sleeves and body a bit from my original plan. And I am so glad I did! For once, I think I got both lengths just right for me.

She had also warned me about the neck being too tight after the short-row shaping. This is likely an issue in the smaller sizes only. I completed all of the short-rows and don't feel like I am being choked when I button all the buttons.

What I loved most about this project
Pretty much the finished product! I mean, size 4s was No Fun, and that smocking stitch? Forget it! I could not speed that thing up for anything! Luckily the real fiddly row is only every 6 rows in the yoke.

I love how the alpaca drapes, I love the clean look of the hem and the way the I-cord finished off all of the edges so neatly. I love the cute lil sewn on button loops. And even though I am going to have to rethink my love of yoked sweaters, because I have decent shoulders and I think they get lost in this shape, I love that cool-ass honeycombed yoke texture.


What I would do differently next time
Oh man. Such a conundrum! How boring is endless stockinette on size 4 needles? Did I mention, they were size four? But I love the finished sweater to pieces. TO PIECES. I am working on a chunkier knit right now, to see if I like bulky still. Fingers crossed that I do, cause it is going So. Much. Faster.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fascism and why I am glad I have a ridiculously large stash of yarn.

OK, not really FASCISM. More like, fasciitism.

Specifically, plantar fasciitis in my left foot. It flared up, or came on, or whatever you call it right after my 14 mile run last weekend. Yeah, I ran 14 miles last weekend... all at once. And then my foot revolted and placed a dictator in charge. This new little foot czar is apparently opposed to my health and well-being, because he puts an immediate stop to even walking for much more than a block. Supposedly, with stretching and proper care, I may still be able to run the half marathon at the end of the month. My fingers are crossed, as are my (elevated) toes.


Sneak peek:

Coraline buttons
[the finished Coraline, reclining on the blocking towel... she is gorgeous!]


In other, less depressing news, I have fallen back in love with my stash.

Remember how everyone was so embarrassed to flash their stashes, way back when? All the talk of, what am I hoarding all this yarn for? This is a sickness, who needs all this yarn? Am I stashing for the zombie Armageddon or what? Well, if you still don't know why you are hoarding yarn in unbelievable quantities, I will tell you.


That's right, I am covered. No need to freak out, here! I have so much fantastic yarn stashed up that my knitting will not suffer through these trying economic times. I may have to cut out cable and netflix and brand name soup and even [gasp] my Interweave subscription... but yarn, I have got! Good yarn, beautiful yarn, abundant, wonderful yarn.


In fact, while my newest sweater (I love her sooooo much, and can't wait to put together an official photo shoot) was blocking, I started a quicker knit with yarn from the stash.

Back to school

It's the Back-to-School U-neck sweater vest (ravelry link) from Stephanie Japel's Fitted Knits: 25 Projects for the Fashionable Knitter. I am using this fantastic angora/wool/polymide blend that I found somewhere online while I still lived in Maryland. I have enough for this vest, and possibly a cardigan in the brown, and also have enough in a denim-y blue tweed for a pullover. It is creating a soft, firm fabric so far, which should work well with the corset-like style of the vest. And after working on Coraline with size 4 needles, this lil number on 7s is flying right along.

While digging through those plastic bins, looking for the perfect yarn for a sweater vest, I came across so many awesome potential projects. Socks, hats, scarves, shawls, mittens, and so many sweaters... And even fiber! I have a whole bin of lovely hand-dyed merino blends to spin up and make even more socks and hats and scarves and maybe even a sweater. It felt so great to know that I had managed to save something in quantities appropriate for surviving the recession (lord knows I didn't stash money away like I did fiber).

So be proud of your stash... Unlike a 401k or your stock portfolio, it will not lose value based on the price per barrel of oil. If your bank fails, your knitting will not need a federal bailout. Even though I barely have two nickels available for rubbing together, I can make beautiful new luxurious sweaters and socks. And that, my friends, is a very good feeling.

And once I am on the other side of this thing, this... restructuring of my life, I am going to try to remember this feeling. I could have saved more money than I did; we all could have. It would be nice to feel the same sense of relief when I look at my finances as I did when digging through the abundance of those bins.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

My syndrome

Back when the blog ring used to *work* this blog was right after Stephanie's and I used to get a TON of incidental traffic of hers. Since we were neighbors, I was only a little nervous about introducing myself to her at my first Rhinebeck, back in 2004.

I think I walked up to her and stuttered out something dorky like "Hi, Stephanie... My name is Chelsea, and we're next-door neighbors in the blog ring." The first thing she did was take hold of one of my hands and say, "They look perfectly normal sized to me. In fact, mine might even be smaller." (My non-blogging friend didn't get how cool that was at all.)

Steph was totally right, though. Hers are smaller.

She's not the only one wondering, though. Two phrases turn up quite often in my keyword search results.

"I have small hands"
"small hands syndrome"

And then today, one of my favorites: "Most successful people have small hands."

A quick search of my own on the first two phrases revealed a surprising number of forum posts pleading for help finding everything from guitars and video consoles to gloves and cutlery that will comfortably accommodate the very tiny handed. And more syndromes than I would have guessed with "small hands" as an indicator.

It is true that my blog title doesn't come from the actual size of my hands, per se. Though I would challenge anyone who knows me to call them large.


For a long time, my hands and my eyes were the only parts of my body at which I didn't take overt offense. Everything else seemed constructed specifically to not work as designed.

In high school, when I formed the majority of my opinions about my body, I had way too much in the way of eyebrows, but not enough bangs. I had too much cleavage and no waist whatsoever. My feet were stubborn malcontents, stumbling and tripping me through gym class without a thought for my feelings. While my mouth... First off, my mouth held what I had always considered my absolute worst feature (crooked hillbilly teeth that yellowed at the mention of coffee or cigarettes) and secondly... let's just say that my mouth got me in to way more trouble than it ever got me out of.

But my hands were always graceful and soft and if I dared say so, somewhat creamy. My nails were bitten down to the quick until sometime in college, but even that couldn't take away from a certain poise that I found in my hands. Mornings at the Heathman Bakery and Pub in Portland I would draw my left hand with my right while waiting for my first class at art school.

hand drawing 01 - from Nov 1991 hand drawing 02 - from Nov 1991

It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned to touch-type and was able to add one more useful skill to my hands' repertoire. They can draw, crochet, sew, knit, massage, scratch, knead, apply some deadly eye-makeup, and unknot or retie many things. I have always admired that about them.

Since I have been varying degrees of overweight (from curvy to fat and back again more than once) for a lot of my life, liking my hands was safe. While I mentioned my eyes earlier, they were a double edged feature. When you are a fat girl you don't usually want to hear how pretty your eyes are or what a nice smile you have. You are only too aware of the implied "if only" that lies like a rattlesnake behind those sorts of compliments. Secretly, I could rely on my fingers to always be long and thin, even if I never would be.

It sometimes felt like a small thing, to like my hands, when held up against all that I didn't like about myself. But it was still important, even though I never considered them pretty, exactly. What they were--and are--is graceful, and skilled, and subtle. All things I have always wished to embody.


Some time around high school age, I started going through my mom's few books of poetry. One stood out: 100 Poems by E. E. Cummings (he prefered it capitalized, you doubters can Google it).

I have read and reread my mother's copy so many times that the binding is cracked and several of the dog-ears that mark my favorites have come unhinged and fallen completely from their original pages.

His poem, Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond was the inspiration for my blog title. It isn't my favorite among his poems, but the last stanza is one of my all-time favorite sentiments of love.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

And there it is.


Now it seems really appropriate to go all maudlin, and end this thing choking up a little, with a bit about how now I finally love all of me. Or some promise to like the rest of me as unconditionally. Yeah, right. That will always be a process, one that I sometimes feel ahead of and sometimes feel behind.

Anyway this post wasn't about that. That isn't what I meant at all. It was just about my hands. And my blog title.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Day 2, how's everyone doing?

Well... My life hasn't completely turned around yet. But I really am trying to have a better attitude. That has to count for something, right?

I am just so sick and tired of being too depressed to get up at a reasonable hour or accomplish anything productive in a day. Being offered a job would be nice (happened today) if it was even equal to what unemployment is paying. Damn economy.

Today I ran 4 miles, had two job interviews, and got a bit re-invigorated about ferreting out some freelance work. And now I am even writing a little. These are things I should be proud of and happy about, so I am going to go with that.

In other news, New Year's Eve was as drunk and debaucherous as one may have expected:

And of course it is the cigar smoking hour at Sidebar
[It is never a good sign when the cigar smoking starts]

And last night, a few folks ventured over to Rachel's place to have a little Arts n Drafts field trip. We got to hear some lovely music, eat some tasty snacks, and get our craft on:

Ellen's dad plays a traditional Finnish instrument he made himself
[Ellen's dad plays us some tunes on an instrument he made himself]

Rachel and Alisha watch Ellen's dad
[Rachel and Alysha watch the impromptu concert]

Mimi needlepointing
[Mimi's saucy needlepoint]

Ellen is making a book
[Ellen making a book]

Smock stitch in progress
[I have started the smock stitches on my Coraline... the end is near]

Thank you for your positive feedback on my goals. I am about to go get a lil office supply action to help track and reach them... If you are writing your own 12 goals for 2009, I would love to see them.