Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The head-bob battle

Every day at around 3 or 4 o'clock, it happens. A wave of fatigue rushes over me, my eyelids start to droop, and my head begins to drop. As much as I try and resist it, I can't fight it. I strain to keep my eyes open and my head upright. I blink and shake my head, adjust my posture, hell sometimes even refresh the browser on my computer thinking that I too will be in renewed in the process. This head-bob battle may continue for ten minutes before my head takes an even deeper dive, almost hitting my desk. A few hovering, shallow bobs later, my head is buried face-down in my arms - or on a bad day, lies exposed on the naked, hard, wood. In the past, I have conquered the head-bob battle more than it has conquered me: lately, however, I have succumbed to a pitiful defeat, ending in a deep, peaceful desktop slumber.

The head-bob battle is not new to me, nor I am sure is it new to anyone out there reading this. I wouldn't be surprised if my blog has even induced many a head-bob. If you've been in school as long as I have, however, it may be a little more familiar. I would rarely get through a class without feeling the need for a few minutes of 'blind learning'. In grad school, however, I spend most of my time at the lab bench - that is, on my feet and walking around. It's not often that I find myself closing my eyes and head-bobbing walking to the centrifuge, or pipetting into tubes. But lately, it has been happening pretty much anywhere. All rules thrown out the window. I think I could fall asleep using the ear-shattering sonicator for all I know. This could prove a serious hazard considering where I work, though thankfully mostly to myself, so I won't be sued for negligent induction of cancer on another human being. So it's really OK.

Once, I was beaten by the head-bob and was passed out on a pile of papers on my desk. I guess I had been there for a while, since I was eventually discovered by my supervisor, who came up from behind yelling "Are you DROOLING on that Chris Marshall paper?!" I jolted up, startled and discom-bob-ulated (no pun intended) only to see a large puddle of saliva over my now translucent papers. " was just so...salivatingly interesting.." I attempted to joke. He stared at me curiously. A pretty awkward silence ensued, at the end of which he asked if I had been drinking the night before. Just in case I wasn't humiliated enough, he - my BOSS - had to point out my napping AND vodka-bingeing tendencies in one go. How wonderful. I felt truly special at this moment (and worthy of a PhD).

At least that time my supervisor already knew me (or should I say 'accepted my uniqueness'). When I first arrived in the lab I had an unfortunate head-bob defeat at one of my first lab meetings. To make matters worse, the post-doc who was presenting was the one I was working under. I knew nothing about her research, making it that much more important that I be paying close attention. I was sick at the time and had taken some VERY drowsy cold medication the night before and so was extremely tired (I am convinced it was still coarsing through my veins the next morning...though it may have also been *slightly* compounded by a 5:30AM workout and a complete lack of understanding of a word the post-doc was saying). Nevertheless, my eyelids soon felt like 5lb bricks crashing down on my face. I had no choice but to surrender to the ensueing head-dive. I hoped that since I was sitting near the back and that the lights were dim no one would notice. Oh, how wrong I was! Afterwards, not only did my supervisor ask me what the hell was wrong with me, but I heard the post-doc ranting in the next room about my insulting behaviour. What a great way to make a good first impression (I seem to be good with these in academic settings...).

So here we are, years later, and my desktop napping has reached its peak (or at least, I HOPE it's at its peak!). Luckily my supervisor is away this week, since I have been beaten by the head-bob at least once a day. However, it doesn't help that I sit in an open-concept office and right next to another professor in my department. I am pretty sure he thinks I am either the laziest person to set foot on the earth or that I am severely anemic. But when the wave comes on, there's nothing I can do. I suppose I deserve this for running 115 mile weeks and waking up at 5:30 every morning, and perhaps this is just a bad week. I have never been one to take real naps (I think I can count on one hand the number of midday naps I've had since highschool). so these intermittent 'time-outs' are quite frustrating. Not just because they interrupt my day, but because I become useless and unmotivated afterwards. The only thing I want to do when I come-to is crawl home and into bed. Instead, I usually have to go run 12 miles. I have yet to bail on an afternoon workout, but I fear that day will come soon. And that day will be an ugly, sad, guilt-laden day my friends.

Luckily, once I get out the door everything seems to feel fine. My workouts over the past two weeks have continued to progress. Last week was a solid 115 miles coming off the 10-miler that included two quality workouts. Thursday was my strongest workout as it included 10km of volume with three hard intervals (two 1k repeats and one 2k repeat) where I finally dipped under 7:00 for the 2k loop (6:58). I have wanted to do that for the past year! On Saturday I got in about 23k of marathon-pace tempo within a 34k run - it felt pretty tough, but I was satisfied with how it went considering how tired my legs felt going into it. This weekend I will be in Halifax visiting my brother for his 30th birthday (wooot!) and I will be attempting a milestone of my own - a long run PB of 45km! Oh dearie. There could be a lot of head-bobbing next week.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Acura 10-meh-ler

I was stoked to race this weekend at the Acura 10-miler; the CRS put on a great event and recruited a great field to foster some good competition. As far as my performance goes, however, the day turned out to be rather underwhelming. It wasn't an awful race by any means, but it also wasn't a great race. In short: Meh.

A few days before the race my IT began to act up and was sore and throbbing until Saturday night. I decided to race on it anyway, vowing to back off and take 3-4 non-running days afterwards if the race made it any worse. Miraculously, not only did it feel fine in the warm-up, but throughout the race and afterwards. I have clearly found the answer to IT band pain -just go out and HAMMER a 10 mile run. Obviously, not sure why I didn't think of that one before! Nicole has a bit of a different theory - that perhaps it was pre-race nerves. Interpretation: I am actually crazy and made up the throbbing pain in my head. Huh? Good to know she thinks I am a stable person. She admitted to having these sorts of pre-race pains when she was in her prime, but SHE is obviously a whacko! Sheesh, I am completely normal.

So anyway, on the morning of the race, my IT may have felt fine but the rest of my legs most certainly did NOT (and no, I did not make this up in my head either!). They felt heavy and lethargic and completely empty of any pizzazz. How was I supposed to race without any pizzazz? Naturally, I sought it elsewhere. I decked myself out in hot pink and painted my nails malibu barbie, convinced that it was all I needed to feel fresh. I headed out the door on my warm-up, only to be crushed by the heaviness of my glittering legs (ya, I pizzazzed them too). I slogged down to the Distillery and finished my warmup with some slow-mo strides that I'm pretty sure matched my race pace. My head was not in this! 'Oh well,' is all I thought 'I'm just going to run my own race and that's that.'

The gun went off and about a hundred people blew by me as I ran at what I thought was a full-out sprint but what was more like a turkey trot. I fell into stride with a tall lanky guy who proceeded to pepper me with questions and state that he was going to stick with me and aim to run around 60min. I was jealous of his energy and bouncy stride, but am sure that he thought I was a complete bitch as I gave him curt, one-worded answers and then just completely ignored him for the rest of the race (I apologize if he is out there reading this!). If only he knew that a 3:50 first km was me working at maximum capacity! Surprisingly, he did stay with me until about 13k and was actually good company during the long, lonely kilometers along the Leslie Spit.

Starting out slow. Good times.

Though I secretly wanted to dip under 60:00, I quickly threw any time goals out the window when I realized that I was working very hard for a relatively slow pace. I stopped looking at my watch and just ran by feel, trying to push a little harder with every passing kilometer. I began to feel better as the race went on and at halfway (30:35) I peeked at my watch and was convinced I would be able to negative-split by a minute and snag a sub-60 performance. Of course, when you think you can negative-split, you usually run even, and when you think you can run even, you usually slow down (and when you feel like death, you will usually die...HARD). So even though I pushed the intensity in the last 6k, I only marginally increased my pace and ran a mere 10s faster over the second half. I was happy to get under the minute mark (1:00:59.5!) but overall not thrilled with my time. After all, I split 58-something en route to a HM this past spring. It was a fast course, but I had also run 3:45-7s for almost the same distance within a 21k workout two weeks ago, on a more challenging course - so how did this make any sense?!) I do understand, however, that things can change a lot on a given day and under certain conditions, so I'm certainly not going to question my fitness based on this result. And despite my time I was pleased that I was passing peeps in the second half and ended up 5th overall behind Pidhoresky, Asefa, Njeri and Sexton. Going into the race I knew I could run well and be as far back as 7th, so I couldn't really complain about my final placing and a $200 cheque!

Heading into the finish!

Award Ceremony

A bunch of the Angels raced and we all sported our new spunky singlets courtesy of Zensah compression apparel. They were very comfortable and generally awesome because they are pink. I know. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. We had a number of great performances in the group, including our newbie Gusto placing 8th female in 1:05, and Val in a big PB of 1:09. Good work ladies!

Congrats Gusto, Val and Kap 'N K!

Of course we went out afterwards to celebrate race performances and Mihira's birthday and were all drunk before noon. I'm not sure Mihira was all too thrilled with the vodka shot we made him take minutes after finishing his first beer, but a few minutes later he seemed pretty happy.

Happy Birthday Mihira!

We were also happy to bring along our honorary Angel, Ms. Sexton, who finally admitted to us how much she wanted a pink Angel's racing singlet. I am pretty sure she has been desperate for one for quite some time. Unfortunately, Sexton, eating and drinking with us does not qualify as training, so although you are an honorary Angel, you are not a real one. Brutal, I know, but in order to wear angelic pink you must come to out our practices! Um, ya, so just let us know when you're coming out! ;)

Yeah, we're cool.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dat's some MAINE MILEAGE girlllll

Apparently I am a cursed traveller. Perhaps *some* of the events of my Montreal trip were partially my fault, but my latest adventure leaves everyone to blame but myself. I SWEAR.

I was set to go to the exciting town of Lewiston, Maine for a research conference from Sunday to Friday. I arrived at the airport an entire 1hr45min early - PLENTY of time in Coolis land. Apparently, however, in anal airport land it's equivalent to arriving at Porter 20min before your scheduled flight. I ended up waiting in a never-ending customs line for over an hour (at the end of which, the official asked if I was old enough to attend a conference. With my passport in hand. WTF?!). I was left with a mere 30 minutes to get through security and onto my plane. Another lineup later, security demanded I take my shoes off - my 'shoes' being flimsy flip-flops, the only footwear that fails to encumber my painful conglomerate of plantar warts, blisters and missing toenails. I'm not sure exactly what happened to whoever was in line in front of me (and I don't think I really want to know), since the end result was a trail of blooding on the floor leading through the scanner and onto the other side. ' want me to walk through this? Barefoot?' I asked timidly. 'YES.' He looked down. 'One second,' He signalled to someone with a tissue to come and wipe up the small pools of blood, as if THAT would properly sanitize the area and eliminate any risk of contracting some contagious disease! (As someone later astutely pointed out, it was far worse for the person behind me, who would undoubtedly emerge from security with bloodstained feet AND a fresh set of plantar warts. Duly noted.) Since I was too scared of the big burly man and too anxious about missing my flight, I hopped around the blood-ridden areas and through the scanner and grabbed my sandals, just as I heard an announcement 'paging passenger COOLIS to flight 3792 with service to Washington, DC, this the final boarding call. Your luggage is subject to removal from the aircraft if you do not show up at the gate in two minutes.' I flew down the escalators, suddenly realizing I had to pee more than I've ever had to in my life. I debated stopping at the washroom, convincing myself that I could be in and out in 45s and still make my flight. Fortunately I decided against it and instead strained to run as fast as I could down the corridor without compromising my bladder control. I got to the gate with seconds to spare, legs crossed like an un-potty-trained puppy, and was ushered down the chute to the aircraft. At this point I continued sprinting down the aisle toward the washroom, carry-on bag in hand. I am sure all the passengers feared I was some crazy terrorist fleeing to the back of the plane to set off a bomb - why else would I continue on with my frantic sprint?! Alas, to everyone's relief (but mostly mine) I soon exited the washroom and settled into my seat, avoiding the curious stares around me. The man sitting beside me turned to me and asked simply 'are you a runner?'. I nodded, and we were off.

Ironically, it didn't really matter that I made this flight, since my next flight was delayed for SIX HOURS in Washington. First, the plane was 30min late. Then, the crew disappeared. How does an airline crew DISAPPEAR? I wondered if it was possible they could get lost in the airport. I pictured them wandering around aimlessly, unable to find their next departure gate. I understand that airports can be large, confusing places, but really, that's like me getting lost in the lab. Do doctors get lost in the hospital? Does Obama get lost in the Whitehouse? The situation didn't seem to make much sense. We were then updated that the crew simply flew somewhere else. Ooohhh I see, so they were so confused they got on the wrong plane? And it took off? Our flight nearly got cancelled, until at 10pm they announced that we'd be getting a new plane and new crew members, 'and we'll see about your luggage.' 'SEE' about our luggage? WHAT? So the crew flew off in our plane, with our luggage? Did they just forget to board the plane? Is this what they were trying to admit to us? I was at a loss at this point. Apparently the woman working at the gate couldn't take the stress of 100 passengers asking her what the hell was going on, so she left too. Awesome. Soon after this, the phone at the gate started ringing. Naturally, some random dude on our flight got up and answered it. 'Gate D14 speaking,' he said a-matter-of-factly. At this point there was a chorus of laughter - at least people were finding some hilarity in the situation. I, meanwhile, had already started to blog about it and had been giggling uncontrollably to myself in the corner for the last two hours (this is what happens while I am writing blogs). They notified us of a futher delay and went back to their initial prediction of a cancelled flight. Then the phone rang again. 'This had better be fantastic news' was the greeting this time around. The man got off the phone and yelled to everyone 'WE'RE MOVING! NEW DEPARTURE GATE, WE'RE GOING TO GATE A PEOPLE!' Well glad we had some responsible patrons that were taking control of the airline communication! Finally - and I mean FINALLY - after we waited another 30min for the last crew member to arrive - we were on our way to Portland. We landed at 1AM and fortunately so did our bags. I ended this amazing trip with a 1-hour cab ride to Lewiston, where I would be staying for the next 5 days.

Bates College campus

Some would say this conference is a pretty big deal. At least, the people attending think they're a big deal. And I guess most of them are. So of course I am rooming next to professors from all over the world who have discovered some critical gene in cancer and who have probably cured one form of the disease or another. And it's my first time meeting them. So what do I do on the first day to impress them? Well, let me tell you! Of course I was running twice a day on this trip, squeezing in 12-milers before and after talks. So I got back from a run, left my room to take a shower, and returned wearing a skimpy towel and unruly hair only to discover that I had forgotten my key and was locked out. I paused and looked around, wondering what my options were. Walk to the security office (one block away) in nothing but a towel, and ask them to let me in? Try and scale the walls of the dormroom and enter via the window? Or ask some random person to call security for me? Just as I was about to leave the building and take my chances being seeing half-nude on the street, one of the professors from the conference turned the corner and jumped at the sight of me. I looked down in embarassment. 'Umm...I got locked out of my room,' I admitted shamefully. She looked at me sternly. 'Well, that's unfortunate! Where on earth were you intending on going in THAT?!' 'Uh. Security?' I responded innocently. 'Let me call the office, and I'll get security down here,' she continued, 'I'm on my way to meet someone, but I'll get someone sent over. What's your name?' I debated giving her a fake name, but realized that wouldn't help me any, so gave her my real identity. 'Are you one of the dancers here?' What? I thought to myself. This is just great. Not only do I come across as a complete idiot, but a hooker as well. That's just awesome. 'Um no I'm with the conference,' I answered, a little more firmly this time. 'REALLY?!' She could not hide her surprise. 'How old are you?!' Once again, I had to convince her that I was actually 10 years older than she thought I was. Luckily, after this she was much friendlier to me, and actually went to security and got them to come back and let me in. So now when my supervisor asks me if I met Adrienne Cox, a speaker at the conference, I can tell him that we actually had quite an intimate encounter, where she saw me half nude and mistook me for an exotic dancer. Nice.

The scientists I normally hang out with. Kinda laid back.

I later found out that it wasn't SO bad - it turns out there was a dance camp going on at the same time as the conference so at all the meals, half the room was filled with flamboyantly-dressed, loud and colourful young dancers and the other half with conservative, quiet and pensive scientists. It was quite an interesting clash of personalities. I actually seemed to fit in better with the dancers and ate a couple meals with them. They were an entertaining bunch. I especially enjoyed the one girl who was told by her instructor to get a new weave. I don't think she liked this idea: Girrrrl, 'I ain't gettin' no Maine weave! Who she tryin' to fool makin' me get some weave in Maine, yo they be messin' with yo hair down here. Girrrrrrl!'

As per usual, I digress. And of course with all the stories I have from this trip, I have neglected anything about my actual training! This week was supposed to be a low-intensity week with no workouts and plain 'ol mileage. I did doubles most days and reached a record mileage over 6 days of 128 miles. Although they were relatively un-intense miles, they weren't easy, as the small town of Lewiston was annoyingly hilly. At least they warned you with clear street names, such as 'Mountain Avenue,' (straight uphill), 'Big Road,' and my personal favourite - a near complete vertical road called 'OLD BLOODY HILL ROAD.' Amen! Why can't Toronto have such honest names? It would make for a much more entertaining tour of the city. Like 'Longest Street' instead of Yonge Street...'Rich Avenue' in place of Yorkville but mainly I'd way rather live on 'Money Road' instead of Bay Street. I mean, who wouldn't?!

So accurate

They also like to point out how big their houses are

Lookin' forward to a down week this week, capped off with the Acura 10-miler. Should be a great race with lotsa speedsters headin' down!