Friday, December 26, 2008

Dec. 26: Boxing Day

So I have spent the last week at Leeds Castle, in the south of England with my family for Christmas. It was everything I look for in a vacation - secluded, quiet, in lovely countryside, and with family and the ones that you love. It was really nice because we had a cottage rented on the Leed's castle grounds and had private access to the grounds when it was closed to the public. What did this mean in terms of running?

It meant that on Christmas day, I woke up early (7:30 - early by european standards) with my brother and joined him for his longest long run in preparation for the Houston marathon (His first marathon). It was a beautiful crisp morning, running around the castle and the grounds - it was definitely the nicest, most scenic, and most enjoyable longest long run I have ever done. The 2 hours and 54 minutes felt only like 10 minutes and before we knew it we had finished 20 miles - all of it either going up or down through the rolling countryside. Near the end my family came out to cheer us on for the final 5 miles, which was greatly appreciated! It was a good confidence builder for both of us - it is the longest he has ever ran and it is the longest I have gone since the Berlin marathon.

I also managed another two 6 mile runs 2 days prior. So, for a Christmas week I have managed 32 miles so far, which is better than I expected! I hope to include some pictures when I have time as the running and scenery was spectacular. I am sitting in my hotel in London for the weeked getting ready to get some pub grub and enjoy Boxing Day! Tomorrow we will see Spam-a-lot and hopefully get some miles along the river Thames.

Merry (belated) Christmas! And to all those Canadians out there - Happy Shopping Today!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dec.17: Beers vs. Running

Although the weather was absolutely fantastic tonight for a run I opted to trade sweaty ballz for a few pints with the boys after work. After leaving to head home I snapped the following picture up at La Defense of the Grande Arche and the lights around it.

Tomorrow is my last day of work for before Christmas break. I am quite sure that it will be a wasted day already!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dec.16: Garmin Slave

Yesterday I did not go running...I decided to do something unusual and take the first day of the running week off. Normally I hate doing this because I feel that it just puts you in a big hole right off the bat and it does not allow for flexibility of schedule later in the week. Since I am only running 5 days a week these days I am sure it will not be a problem!

What I did do yesterday was go to the dentist for the first time in France..yep, I'll chalk that up as another, "What the hell just happened?!" experience. With a lot of my experiences here in France I often ask myself the following 3 questions:
1. Is this typically French?
2. Is this typically European?
3. Is this typically non-North American?

Because, quite honestly, the French are as unique to Europe as Texans are to the United States. The North American culture, and predominatly the American culture, is as unique to the rest of the world as the Mona Lisa hanging at the Louvre. So I am often really confused if whether or not what I experience here in France is "normal"...most things are definitely not normal with my North American glasses on. The more I live here the more I learn that things are just typically French and, infact, the rest of Europe behaves differently (either better or worse depending on who I ask!).

Anyhow, Jennie and I arrive at the dentist and we both get called in together. The dentist takes you into her office, fitted with a desk and computer and everything that you would expect a normal excutive office to have. There in the corner is the dentist chair and a little rinse bin.

"So, who wants to go first?" she asks? "Ok, I guess I will." So, on the chair I get with Jennie just sitting in the office chair to spectate. (Weird, don't you think?) Anyhow, moving on to an x-ray she took of my teeth she goes, "Here, hold this," as she proceeds to walk out of the room, taking Jennie at the hygenist (I think) with her. Suddenly I hear the familar beep of the xray machine and everyone returns. Hmmm...I am thinking somewhere in that procedure I should have been wearing a lead vest or some kind of protection?! Seeing that it was harmful enough to take everyone out of the room, I am starting to feel that perhaps that I may not be capable of reproducing after yesterday!

Moving on to the cleaning...or should I say the carwash for your teeth. The cleaning is done completely by high-pressure water. First she goes through with just straight water where it feels like your gums will be blasted off your bone (or, what I refer to as the "rinse cycle"). When I left I checked for any residual flesh splattered on her wall, but did not see any. Then you get the toothpaste water for the final cleaning, still at very high pressure (or the "scrub and soap cycle"). The water was spraying off my teeth and raining down on my face so much that I actually had to wash my face afterwards to get rid of the grit. Before you even realize what happened you hear, "All done!" and you are off the chair. I have got to hand it to them was the most efficient visit to the dentist I have ever had!

With super clean, pressure-washed, teeth I hit the trail tonight for 7.25 miles. I forgot the Garmin upstairs in our apartment and did not realize that until I got down to street level. I was soooooooo close to turning around to get it but not wanting to be accused of being a Garmin slave I decided to head out on a 7.25 loop that I knew. I figure my average pace was 7:20 min/mile +- 5 seconds. It felt great out...definitely the best run in a very long time.

In other news, I sat down and figured out how much vacation time I have for 2009 today. All I can say is that I love being in Europe! I love ALL 55 days of vacation + 9 days holiday for a whooping total of 64 days off!! Yep I could take a long weekend EVERY weekend and still be able to squeeze in a 2 week holiday somewhere! Ok, I am done gloating...!!! :)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec.14: A cold 'n rainy weekend

This weekend has just been one of those weekends where you just want to curl up infront of a warm fire, have a never-ending cup of hot chocolate, and cat nap all day long. Yesterday I was able to get out for a 8.25 mile run before the heavy, freezing rain starting falling in the afternoon. That run went as follows:

7:16, 7:11, 7:11, 7:03, 6:58, 6:54, 6:52, 6:30 min/mile

In the freezing rain we decided to do a little window shopping, then we went and watched a terrible movie (Burn After Reading), but were able to salvage the evening by going to the Champs Alysee to look at the beautiful light display that is set up all along the boulevard.

Me on the Champs Alysee...enjoying the lights.

Jennie on the Champs Alysee and infront of the L'arc Triomphe.

Me infront of red lights (in case you did not notice!)

This morning I slept in but managed another 8 mile run, again just before the freezing rain started to fall, as follows:

7:25, 7:24, 7:24, 7:21, 7:22, 7:20, 7:19, 7:02 min/mile

I really, really did not want to do this run. But now that I am inside, warm and out of the elements, and enjoying the Christmas tree I can proudly say that I ran 35.5 miles this week which surpasses (but just barely) my weekly goal of 30-34 miles. This week the goal is 33-37 miles.

I feel as though a am just a mere shadow of what my fitness once was just 2 months ago. I feel as though I still have the basic shape of a really fit and aggressive runner, but that the substance is lacking. I feel as though I can still 'talk the talk' but 'walking the walk' is a little more challenging these days. I just have to remain patient as I continue to build myself back up to where I want to be. It is good to be hungry - it gets me out the door when it is freezing rain and miserable out.

Oh yeah, as a complete aside, I read Edgar Allan Poe's "Mystification" yesterday. I am not really sure what I am supposed to take-away from that particular short story. It definitely did not move me like "The Pit and the Pendelum". If anybody could shed some light, that would be useful.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Dec.12: 1 week until Christmas Va-cay

It is pretty sweet that I only have 1 week of work left before 2 weeks off for Christmas va-cay! Boy how time flies! I was also thinking today out on my run how we are almost at the shortest day of the year already! It seemed just like yesterday that I was enjoying running at 9pm with the sun still up, and now I am already enjoying the sunset every "night" at work at 4:45pm!

Right now we are watching the Grinch. What kind of product to you think the Who's use to keep their hair styled? Their hair is always perfect and some of the styles need some serious glue to keep them intact. Anyhow, we are at the point where the Who's realize that all of their gifts are gone but continue to celebrate Christmas anyhow much to the Grinch's bewilderment.

"And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
Maybe Christmas he thought, doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Tonight I managed to run 7 1/4 miles as follows:
7:25, 7:25, 7:19, 7:18, 7:17, 7:11, 6:25 min/mile

Right now my absolute favorite song to run to is John Mayer's "Say" . Actually, it is just one of my favorite songs - but when you are just running, reflecting, and in your own solitude, it is just the perfect song to propel one leg infront of the other.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dec.11: Big Day!

Today was a big day for me! No, I did not run, or even exercise for that matter. I woke up early, caught a plane to Pau, worked all day, then caught a plane back to Paris. The good thing about both of these plane rides is that it allowed me to, finally, finish a little project I started about 3 weeks ago. My goal was to read George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' before meeting my family for Christmas. I have been reading nearly every spare moment during the day (on the metro, after dinner, during breakfast, and even smuggled it once into the bathroom at work...I know, even I am disgusted by that) in order to accomplish this task.

Now, for those of you who know this book you must be thinking that I am illiterate right now as the book itself is quite small and could be read in one intense session (or just a few trips to the bathroom). You are probably wondering how I could possibly have the ability to blog if it took me that long to read the book. The reason being is that the book is bilingual - the odd number pages are written in French and their translations are on the opposite, or even numbered, pages. So I read the French, trying to figure it out, then I read the english. I did this line by line for the entire book!

The cool thing about this whole exercise is that it has helped rekindle the enjoyment I used to always have for reading. Plus I think I may have learned a new french word or two! I tried reading French books before but I spent so much time looking up words and it was inconvenient to carry 3 books around with me at all times - the book itself, a dictionary, and a beschrelle (or verb conjucator book). I scanned a random page so you can see what it looks like.

The other cool thing is that the story is excellent - so it helps that I am interested, or I am sure that it would just feel like another boring french class ('cause we all know that conjucating verbs is so very sweet). As I was focusing more on the language aspect of the book, and not so much on the fact that it is a clever allegory of Stalinism, I would like to re-read again sometime and brush up on some of my Grade 11 social studies so I can focus more on those aspects.

No running yesterday (but 1 hour of pilates) or today (because I was trying put a baguette on the table), but will be back at it tomorrow night!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dec. 9: A Tale of Two Runs

It was the underdressed of times,
It was the overdressed of times,
It was the run of foolishness,
It was the run of smartness,

During the last two days I have run the exact same 6 mile loop twice. The first time I had a layer or two of clothing too little and the second time, I was a layer or two of clothing too heavy. The first time I forgot to factor in the blustery, cold wind and found that my short shorts and my long-sleeve technical shirt did little to prevent it from whipping through my body like a Gulf Coast Hurricane.

"Being smarter" for the second run, I donned a windbreaker and wind pants...this would be a good strategy if there was a repeat of the same arctic wind that had moved through a day previous. Instead, the extra clothing acted as my own personal sauna, as though I was just running in normal conditions in Houston. It was not like I was running in August, but perhaps early spring!

Nor was I overdressed like the person who finishes a 5km with 4 GUs, a fanny pack loaded with pain killers, and 2 sweaters and a jacket tied around their waist at the finish line because they had no idea of what they were getting themselves signed up for, but you would think that they would learn from their 1 fun-run that they do every 5 years (Ok, I digress...but you know who I am talking about...oh yeah, I almost trampelled their kid too because they were lining up at the start line for a "photo op").

So anyways, here are the splits from the two runs. The first one it is clear that I had a purpose the entire time - I just wanted to get home. On the second one I just took it easy and ran as Jack Daniels would prescribe.

Hell Just Froze Over Run:
7:15, 7:03, 7:04, 6:56, 6:46, 6:56 min/mile

Detox Run with home-made sauna:
7:33, 7:22, 7:27, 7:21, 7:24, 7:26 min/mile

Gotta run...Jammin' out to Trans Siberian Orchestra and this blogging is really interfering with my sweet, sweet air guitar.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dec. 7: Trente Miles cette semaine

After beaucoup amounts of wine last night, sleeping in past 10am, and after writing Christmas cards, I went our for a very uninspiring 6 miles. The only reason why I peeled my lazy butt off of the couch and into the cold, foggy elements was because my goal was to run 30 miles this week and as of this morning I was 6 short. If I am going to run another marathon I better start thinking seriously about building a base again! Actually, "thinking" about it is not this right word to use, I better just friggin' do it!

So, I am back our warm place, enjoying our massively large, Texas-sized 3 foot tall Christmas tree (heavy sarcasm)...but I am truely enjoying it! I could look at a Christmas tree all day...I find it very mesmorising and peaceful...kinda like a sweet, sweet rock garden!

I am a little bummed that we had to go back to using our first artificial tree from our earlier years...I much prefer the big, live ones that you can smell from a block away. With our travel schedule this year it just is not practical. But it really is not about the tree itself, it is about who you enjoy the tree with, isn't it?

My 6 uninspired miles were as follows:
7:30, 7:16, 7:18, 7:10, 7:09, 7:06 min/mile

TOTAL WEEKLY MILEAGE: 30 miles (goal: 30-32)

I am looking forward to doing it all again this week (goal: 30-34).


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dec.6: Oh Christmas Tree

We are just in the process of putting up our Christmas tree, drinking red wine, and acting important so I will keep this short. I ran again tonight...another 6 miles in crisp, cool, and near perfect conditions as follows:

7:21, 7:17, 7:02, 6:51, 6:26, 6:36 min/mile

I started throwing in a few strides in the last 2 miles. The time and duration of each stride was dependent on when I could see that traffic light ahead of me and how confident I felt that I would be able to beat it!

This week has felt really great so far for running. I hate the fact that I have to build up to 40+ mile weeks again when just 2 months ago 60 mile weeks were something that just seemed to happen naturally. Patience is not one of my strong suites, which explains my splits this week being faster than intended, but I am trying desperately to reign the horses in until it is time to open the any rate, I am enjoying having consistent running back into my routine.

Time to go, I think that this whine is starting two get too mee...ef im not care full I mite start makeing sum tairible spilling mestakes.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Dec. 5: Perfect Running Weather

You know that it is perfect running weather when you leave the house wearing shorts, a long sleeve technical shirt, and light gloves and are mildly cold for the first mile...when you return you have a just a little bit of sweat percolating from your hair and you can still see your breath. These phenomenal conditions were enjoyed for 6 miles as follows:

7:17, 7:19, 7:12, 7:13, 6:57, 6:25 min/mile

The last mile is a bit of false advertising - I started the mile with ~400m of 'strides' then I recovered the rest of the way home.

Today while I was running I suddenly realized that in 2 weeks from today I will be leaving Paris to meet my family in England for Christmas. I started getting really excited about all the things that we would do! I found that the thing that I am looking most forward to is joining my brother on his longest long run before his first marathon in Houston! I am really looking forward to having someone else in the family who will fully understand the struggle, the pain, and the accomplishment of the marathon!

That is all for tonight...I am totally hooked on Prison Break!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dec. 4: Go Elf Yourself

Does this really need a comment?!! Enjoy!
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dec. 3: Christmas Post 3

Today I did a sweet, sweet hour of Pilates. Then I came home and got hooked into another killer episode(s) of Prison Break. I have just began to watch Season#1 on DVD and I am kicking myself for waiting this long to jump on the bandwagon...what a great show! The only thing that I do not like about the show is that my body is really tense by the time that it finishes...I, generally, have to stretch afterwards to keep from tightening up!

Just a friendly reminder not to forget to set your TiVo to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer! I do not know when it will be on, but 'tis the season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dec. 2: Christmas Post #2

During Christmas time I have to admit that I always look forward to when my Christmas Shuffle Playlist selects a Trans Siberian Orchestra tune. I think that they do such a awesome version of traditional Christmas songs. As it turns out, they also provide great music to coordinate your Christmas lights too! (I know this has been around for several years, but I just love it!)

Dec. 2: Dave be nimble, Dave be quick...

...Dave jump over a 10m long dog leash stretched across a dark section of the running path at the last second to save himself from falling flat on his ass...

hmmmm...I may have got that last little bit of the riddle wrong?! I was running along, feeling the rain drizzle against my face, the gusty cold air blasting my legs, and running through my own cloud of breath with each exhale when I noticed a dog off to the side of the pathway. I looked for his owner and saw none...I made the "save" assumption that the dog was off-leash, so I continued my stride without delay. I continued upon the dog when suddenly, deep in the depths of my peripheral I saw what looked like a human form, moving in panic towards me. An instant evaluation of what I was about to do led me to jump, without even looking down to confirm my suspicion that there was, indeed, a dog leash 1 1/2 feet above the ground acting as the perfect trap for any unsuspecting runner. I felt the leash just brush the front of my shin as an unplanned shot of adrenalin shot me to safety...narrowly preserving my run just as it was beginning to get good!

I ran another 6 miles today in the rain, cold, and wind as follows:
7:25, 7:10, 7:13, 7:03, 6:59, 7:13 min/mile

Well, I am a whole 12 miles into a new training program and I still feel good!! Woohooo! (Please note heavy sarcasm).


Monday, December 1, 2008

Dec.1: Christmas Blog

So my sister has started this initiative in my family that we have to 'scrapbook' one page per day from Dec.1 - Dec.25 and create a little Christmas 2008 Book. The idea is that over the years we can see the themes of Christmas, our celebrations, what moved us, etc (I think that this is the point of this exercise...when she starts talking all 'artsy' with me, my eyes kind of glaze over like a nice honey-baked ham and I drift into a walking coma of sorts).

In Paris there are two major department stores (Galleries LaFayette and Printemps) that have extremely elaborate window displays (like Macy's in New York). The displays are timed to music, have moving components, and are generally themed. Below was one of my favorites of a bunch of 'men' flying too and landing on the moon. What made this display so cool for me was that there was one little guy that would stop what he was doing every 5 seconds or so and just flex his bi-ceps...I thought it was hilarious!

What is also pretty cool is that each window had a little walkway specially built for the little kids so they could climb up, press their little runny noses against the windows, and watch open-jawed as the little store window tickled their imaginations and fantasies! When the little kids were around I think I enjoyed watching them more than the windows!


Dec.1: Blog Motivation?

When I first started out writing this little electronic running journal, referred to as a "blog", I thought that it would be something that I would look back upon when I needed motivation and go, 'Oh yeah, I totally rocked that workout!' or something like, "Man, I grinded through that run - what an accomplishment!". But instead I find myself going, "Daaaammmmnnnnn...that workout sucked! I cannot believe I actually did that?!" and then saying, "Who would ever WILLINGLY do something like that?!!"

Well, I guess I did! And here I find myself again staring down the barrel of another training season looking for a little motivation to do it all over again! Thank you to my main man Andrew (aka JD, aka White Gebrselassie) for reminding me that Phase I of my Prague training officially started 1 week ago! Phase 1 of training is nothing complex - just run, run easy, and start building up to 35-40 miles/week after 6 weeks. Last week was week 1 and I did 0 miles! But I am not too worried because that is exactly how I started my Berlin training! I think I am like a locomotive...I am a very slow starter, but once I start generating a little steam, you better get off the tracks! Chuga-chuga, chuga-chuga, chooo-choo!

Week 2 has started a little better - I ran 6 miles today as follows:
7:31, 7:31, 7:15, 7:13, 7:14, 7:09 min/mile

I have also decided that since this is a new training season that I will discontinue my tranny count. The decision is based on the fact that some people are starting to find my blog based on 'tranny google' queries. I find that we runner's are a wierd enough batch as it is that we do not need to complicate the issue by adding the tranny lover's clique!

I am still undecided as to what my goals will be for Prague. I had stated earlier that I would like to qualify for New York using my marathon time, but I have some other plans of what I want to do while here in Paris. They are not at all running related, but they do require me to be in shape. They would not allow me to train as I would require. I am not going to get stressed about making any decision now - I have 5 weeks of easy running to figure out what my commitment level will be for Prague.