Bend the Round

…where the madness is recorded.

Book 15: Weird Carolinas March 25, 2008

Filed under: books — bendtheround @ 6:30 pm
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The Weird <Your State Here> books are so much fun. I’ve read the one for Virgina and really loved it. Each book is a collection of local ghost stories, folklore, and general oddities. It turns out that there’s supposed to be a hitchhiker ghost on a road not far from where I live right now! I’ve driven on that road since and now I always keep an eye out for the ghost. (Not that I believe in ghosts… just at night… in the dark… when I’m by myself…)

Matt and I went to North Carolina in November for the first half marathon that I ran. I really liked it. I thought it’d be fun to learn about some of the weird and wonderful stories from the Carolinas – and it was!

I’d highly recommend checking out the Weird books. Read one for the state in which you live – or if you’re going to be traveling, definitely check it out before leaving. You’ll probably find some oddball stuff that you’ll want to check out!

 

 

 

Recuperation Period

Filed under: running,state of BTR,yoga — bendtheround @ 6:15 pm
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After a long race, you’re supposed to go through a period of rest. The guideline I was able to find recommended that you rest about one day per mile you raced on the big day. That means that I’m supposed to take it easy at least until March 29th. It’s giving me a chance to rest up and heal. My right knee is healing nicely. It was sore after the reace but it doesn’t bother me much now. My left hip flexor is still bugging me, though. I can’t feel justified in complaining about it, because I haven’t put in the minor effort of stretching properly or regularly.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to plan my next steps. I’m moving in June, which is a huge stressor for me (there’s something about boxing up my stuff and moving that makes me very anxious). Preparing for the move is going to take up a good bit of my time soon – culling my belongings, cleaning, planning, job hunting, etc – so I’m hesitant to commit myself to another time-consuming round of training. Still, it’s going to be important that I keep up with my running. The exercise really helps me manage stress for one thing – for another, if I slow up too much I’ll never make either of my running goals for 2008.

There is another half marathon being held on April 20th that would be very accessible. It’s being held about 30-40 minutes from my current home. So… I could go do that race and take another crack at that 2:20 half marathon time. The pros – I’d have another shot at making my half marathon time goal; I’d have to keep up with my long distance training; the race is easy to get to. The cons – the long-distance training IS time-consuming, and I’d rather not put too big a strain on my time before a big move; the time-drain could also wind up causing more stress than the runs mitigate; I’d have to do another two week recuperation period during which I will likely be sore and cranky (cranky because I’m not getting my usual dose of endorphins from running).

Or I could sign up for a local 5K or 8K instead (for motivation and for the t-shirt!)… or volunteer to help out for the half marathon so that I can be motivated to run like the people I’m watching (yes, that sounds kinda lame, but I *do* finding it inspiring to watch people run these races)… or both.

I’ve also paid some lip service to the idea of starting back up with yoga again. I was pretty into it for a while – I even started up with some coursework to certify as an instructor. I had a falling out with the gym that was encouraging me to get certified and then an old injury to my wrist worsened to the point that I couldn’t do most of my favorite poses, so my practice dried up. Both are poor excuses, especially considering how incredible I’d feel after a good session of yoga practice.

It’ll take some concerted effort to get back into practice. My current residence doesn’t have a good place to practice inside. I can practice on the porch if I make the effort to clear away the porch furniture and if I can stop worrying that people can see me…and if it isn’t freakin’ freezing outside. Until it warms up, I’ll have to count on finding space at the rec center to practice.

I guess, ideally, in the next couple months I should probably try focus on getting back into yoga. I’ll still run, but I’ll do more frequent runs under five miles instead of a bunch of shorter runs and an obscenely long run every week. The yoga I like to practice *does* have some strength training elements in it, but I never got the same sort of results (ie, got noticeably stronger) so I should keep doing the strength training Matt suggested for me, too.

So, I start working out again officially next week. I’ll tinker with possible schedules this week and try some out starting next week.

At this point, I doubt I’ll do another half marathon before the move. BUT – I’m not giving up on my running goals! I’ll keep updating my mileage on the New Year’s Resolution page on this website, and as soon as I pick out the next half marathon, I’ll start updating on how training for that is going. Until I start half marathon training again, I think that I’ll shift my reporting on distance running training to reporting on how I’m doing starting back up my yoga practice. Hopefully, that’ll be at least a little interesting…

 

Book 14: Grave Surprise March 20, 2008

Filed under: books — bendtheround @ 8:50 pm
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I’m glad I stuck around for the second Harper Connelly book. It still wasn’t as stellar as the Sookie series, but it was much better than the first book. Harper and her brother are fleshed out more in this book, and I like the way the characters are developing. They’re motivations are somehow better explained in this one – maybe it’s the brief contact the reader has with their younger siblings that does it, but they are more human and approachable this time. That sense of “other” that they need to have is still there, but it’s dialed back to the right degree this time.
I also liked the story better this time. A lot better. I had an idea about what was going on, but I didn’t have it pinned down like I did with the first storyline.
Several new characters with some great potential were introduced. Manfred was almost more interesting than the main characters, actually. Depending on how the character develops (assuming we get to see more of him), he could be great fodder for a spin-off series.
One discordant note was the involvement of Josiah. His presence in the novel mutates our definition of Harper’s abilities, and I’m still not sure what to make of it. I enjoyed his bit in the book, but I missed the purpose behind it, and what triggered Harper’s ability to interact with him. I’m hoping that Harris was setting up something for the next one, An Ice Cold Grave. Which is on The List now, officially. 🙂
 

Half Marathon Weekend March 17, 2008

Filed under: running — bendtheround @ 3:04 pm
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Saturday was the day of the big half marathon!

Matt and I drove up to my parent’s place Friday after work. We got up there in time for a nice dinner with my parents and then a couple hours of Rock Band. They’ve been practicing! Dad’s kicking butt on the drums AND guitar now, and Mom’s doing awesome on vocals. I’ll typically either play the guitar (bass or regular guitar, I’m not picky) or vocals. Anyway, we played until the foot pedal on the drum set broke during a particular tough song (Reptilia by the Strokes… boy is that tough on the wrists for the bass guitarist!). He immediately ordered another one. 🙂

Some friends of mine and Matt’s (Beth and Shep) met us at Mom and Dad’s around 11:30 and we collectively hit the hay about then. It was pretty late and we did have to get up for the race the next day, after all. Beth was the only other one running, but Mom, Dad, Matt, and Shep were all going to go to cheer us on.

Race day morning was about what I expected. We sat around too long enjoying breakfast and each other’s company…we’re talkers once you get us going…so we had to scramble a bit to get to the race start in time.
The weather had had us a little concerned, but when race day dawned, it decided to shine. It was perfect. It was in the upper 40s or lower 50s. Blue sky, puffy clouds, a bit of a breeze. Just beautiful. I opted to wear running tights for comfort and to keep a bit of compression on my knees. (My right knee was still bothering me a bit after having hyper-extended it a bit on the treadmill earlier in the week.) I wore a green t-shirt for visibility and for St. Patrick’s Day, and a great big felt hat shaped like a mug of beer (also for visibility and St. Patrick’s Day…and for fun). I also took my race-day pack with me to carry my iPhone and my Gu. (My race-day pack is basically a tiny, somewhat glorified fanny pack. Looks a bit goofy, but it’s functional, light, and doesn’t hurt my back…plus, I had a giant beer on my head…nobody was going to be judging my choice of running accessories.)

We got to the school where the race started just in time to pick up our packets, use the facilities, strap on a knee brace I borrowed from Matt, and pin our numbers on. We got out to the road where everyone was lining up, stretched for about 45 seconds and then it was time to go!

It was a little odd. All the training and pasta and preparation and concern about my knee, and when it came right down to it, that day, I wasn’t nervous at all. I wasn’t worried about finishing the run in the time I wanted to make. I wasn’t at all concerned about being able to finish it. I wasn’t even all that worried about whether or not my knee would hold out or how sore I’d be later. I was just looking forward to a nice long run. I said so to Dad just before we got started when he came over for one last fist bump before the starting gun. It was a nice feeling.

Beth and I started nearly last in the pack, which was just fine with me. Pretty hard to get run over when you’re in the back. Plus, I like seeing the really fast runners stretch out in front once we get around a bend or two. It’s incredible to see how fast some people can run. I noticed something rather odd in the first mile. That’s where people are setting their paces and the pack is thinning out…when you can start getting a look at the other runners. Nobody was running in costume! I was really surprised since it was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s day.

This was actually Beth’s first race of any sort. Imagine starting with a half marathon! Gutsy, huh? She’s been running a lot longer than I have, though, and is built like a runner. Tall, long legs, willowy, etc. I’ve seen her run before once, when we got together at the beach to do a long training run. She’s a lot better at it than I am. Still, she was concerned about finishing. I knew darn well that she’d do great, and that she’d finish before me (and I told her so). Still, we started out running together for the first half to three quarters of a mile before she started pulling ahead. I was really tickled for her – she did great while I could see her (and after she was out of my line of sight, too).

I lost sight of her right about mile 2.5. That was when the first really bad hill loomed up. I say first because most of the damn course turned out to be hills. The course description had been very light on details. “Some rolling country roads” was about all the information that we got. Sounded pretty gentle to me, and I’ve run on the roads close to my parents’ place. The course wasn’t that far from their house, so I figured that Mom and Dad’s rolling country roads would be a good approximation. Boy, I was wrong.

Like I said, the first bad hill was right around mile 2.5. It was a steep incline with a bend to the left. When I finally shuffled to the top, I could see down the short decline to where the next hill started. It was even bigger than the first one. In short, the course was all hill. There were a few bits that were relatively gentle inclines or declines, but the vast majority of the thing was hill. So for future reference, “rolling country roads” translates roughly into “bring climbing gear.”

Up until that first bad hill, I’d been going along at a nice 10:30 pace and was really pretty tickled about it. I knew that if I kept it up, I’d make my New Year’s Resolution of running a 2 hr 20 minute half marathon! And even if I didn’t, I still stood a chance of shaving some decent minutes off of my time from the last half marathon. I think I hoped until around mile 6 or so when it was good and apparent that the hills were not going to stop. I kept thinking that maybe the downhill bits would help make up for the slower uphill parts, but the running hills is HARD. At that point, I thought it was a good thing that I wasn’t there with my heart set on breaking any personal records that day. (Also around mile 6, I inexplicably started craving a beer. I suspect it was the hat…)

It’s a good thing Matt gave me a knee brace for race day. I had never run in one before, and I was a little concerned about it chafing despite the fact that it was on over my running tights, but we figured that if it bothered me after a mile or two, I could pull it off and chuck it on the side of the road to be retrieved later. It wound up not chafing me at all, which was great since I think I really needed it. By the time mile 10 rolled around, whenever I slowed to a walk to get up a particularly unpleasant stretch of hill, I was favoring that knee a good bit. (That was also about the same time that I looked up and saw the turkey buzzards circling. Seriously. Yikes.) I hate to think what it would have been like without it. Once again, Matt was right.

Besides the hills, the run was really very uneventful for me. It was a very small event in PA, so there weren’t as many volunteers or spectators as I’ve seen at other races in the past. Maybe the small size of the event was the reason for the conspicuous lack of costumed runners. I was really hoping (and expecting) there to be some neat St. Patrick’s day costumes. As it turned out, my big funny hat was about all the costume there was to be seen. It did make people smile, and I was glad of that at least. But being the one runner with funny attire, I drew more attention that I expected (and am strictly comfortable with). The race photographers loved me, lol. Every time I ran by one, a great big camera lens swung my way. Even the volunteers at corners occasionally whipped out cameras and snapped photos. Not exactly what I had in mind, but hardly unforeseeable. So, now there are photos of me out there somewhere in which I am sweaty and gross and wearing a great big hat that looks like a giant beer. Peachy. LOL.

I finished the run in 2 hours 40 minutes and 6 seconds (I think…I was kinda tired when I came in, but I think that’s what the great big digital timer said). When I crossed the finish line, I was oddly unable to stop. My legs were still set on go. Even stranger was that they didn’t seem to particularly care what direction they were going in as long as they were still moving. Matt came right up and I tried to give him a hug, but my legs gave out a little and he had to catch me. We got me upright again and I started unintentionally walking backwards. Now THAT was a weird feeling.

Beth came in about 10-15 minutes before I did, which was exactly how I thought she’d do. I figured she’d get a mile or so ahead of me by the end. 🙂

We all headed into the school where the race was anchored for the awards ceremony (it was already started when I finally rolled in). I really wasn’t all that interested in the ceremony. I was tired and filthy and wanted to go home, but it was good to get inside to use the facilities. The ceremony was probably centered around the girl who had broken the course record that day. A 19 year old had beaten out an Olympic level runner to do it. Good for her – pretty damn impressive! 🙂 Plus, I’m hoping that the newspapers were more impressed with her considerable accomplishment than they were amused with my big funny hat. As long as they are, my beer-laden head will avoid being plastered over the local section of the papers. That would be nice.

After the race, we loaded back into our vehicles and headed back to Mom and Dad’s place. On the way back, I drank a protein shake that Mom had made for me – it was surprisingly tasty. And shockingly filling. Usually when I finish a long run, I wind up eating all the food I can get my little hands on. I’ll literally come out of the kitchen with a double-armload of whatever I can carry, then sit down and go Hungry-Hungry-Hippo on it. No so this time. After drinking that protein shake, I was pretty much OK. I was still thirsty, but I wasn’t hungry. I have got to get me some of that stuff!

When we got back, Beth and I got cleaned up and we got started with the rest of the weekend. We intended to have something of a party, but we failed to realize just how tired we’d all be when the race was done. The “party” wound up being just us hanging around, drinking, eating, watching TV, and occasionally dozing. Not exactly loads of excitement, but it was nice.

In retrospect, I’m not unhappy with my race time. I would have really liked to have done better, but given the difficulty of the course, I think it’s great that I was able to maintain my time. I think that shows improvement. The half marathon I did first was beautifully flat. There were some very gentle inclines and declines, but it was nearly all flat – basically, the polar opposite of the one I did this past weekend. If I’m going to make my New Year’s Resolution goal of 2 hrs 20 min for a half marathon, I’m going to have to keep training and pay more attention to the course type!

There is some very solidly good news – I am in pretty darn good shape post-race. It’s two days after the race, and my feet don’t hurt! I have some mild to moderate muscle soreness in my legs and my right knee is a bit stiff, but nothing that a little ibprofen can’t handle. Looks like I get to keep all my toenails this time, too! Super awesome 🙂 My only race injuries were a bloody toe (ran right through the skin…didn’t even feel it and it never did bother to hurt), and about a six square inches of skin lost over my rib cage due to chafing in the chest area (this has been a pretty consistent issue with my sports bras and it’s past time to find a solution…that’ll be a priority over the next round of training).

I’m already hunting for the next half marathon to do. I might have time to do one before June, but it’ll be pretty tough for me to get one in for a couple months after June for a variety of reasons. I’m using the next two weeks to recover – so no running for two weeks – but I will be doing some planning and deciding which one to try next.

Overall – good run! Looking forward to the next one! 🙂

 

Costumed Runners March 13, 2008

Filed under: running — bendtheround @ 1:58 pm
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Runners wear some weird stuff. At a race, you might see running shoes in Day-Glo colors or shoes that look like they escaped from a Crayola factory. You’ll a great deal of spandex. There will be men in tights with bright checkered prints or stripes or tribal patterns. There might be women in running briefs (ie, spandex underwear), sports bras, and a smile. While all this would be pretty darn weird for a jaunt around the mall, it’s pretty normal for a race – practical, really. It’s the folks who take it to the next level that really make me smile – the ones that run in costume.

As far as I can tell, there are two significant advantages to running in costume.

1. If you’re lucky enough to have someone (or several someones) there to cheer you on, a costume, or at least a funny hat or T-shirt, will help them find you in the herd. See, races are usually pretty crowded events. There can be thousands of people running a course, and once a crowd that size gets together, it starts getting hard to pick out individuals. Your cheering section might be waiting for you to run a couple miles before you get to them. If you’re wearing a Storm Trooper outfit, they’ll probably either be able to see you further off, or they’ll be tipped off by your approach by the cheering of the folks further down the course.

Which brings me to the second advantage…

2. Spectators and volunteers (particularly those at a long running event) have a potentially long wait until the end of the race. In the meantime, all there is to do is cheer for the sweaty people running by. In my admittedly limited experience, people LOVE to pull for the unusual runner on the course. It’s a lot more fun to yell “Yeah! Go, Santa!” than it is to yell “Yeah! Go, guy-in-the-plain-white-tshirt!” It really, really helps a lot to hear someone cheering for you. Even if you’re someone very shy of praise (like me), it’s quite a boost to hear someone rooting for you. You’re putting in a hell of a lot of effort to do something, and someone is noticing and is pulling for you. It’s a great feeling and it helps a lot.

(It’s also nice to entertain the volunteers and spectators – it’s a big deal to put on a race event and the volunteers make or break it. And a race without spectators just wouldn’t be the same. So if it makes them smile on race day, then I’m all for it.)

The only time I’ve seen people cheer louder for someone not in costume was at last year’s Philadelphia Marathon. A woman came around the corner, setting an amazing pace…running on a prosthetic leg. There was a half beat of surprise while we registered what we were seeing (I was a spectator), then the crowd went nuts – “Yeah!!! Wooooo!!!” If it had been a movie or a cartoon, we all would have had handfuls of confetti that we would have thrown in the air. The runner pumped her fists in the air a couple times to acknowledge our appreciation. I’m tearing up remembering it – it was awesome. Anyway, back to costumes…

Some of the costumes and crazy things I’ve seen on courses…

I’ve seen Santa Claus, and a half dozen elves. I’ve seen people juggling as they run a course (running faster than me, while they’re at it). I saw a guy running the JFK 50 Miler in a shark costume. These are all not counting the costumes at the Halloween 5K I attended this past year… those were some fun costumes.

I did a couple quick searches online for fun race-day costumes, but didn’t find as many as I had expected. I’ll have to make sure to get photos of the best costumes at this weekend’s half marathon. It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend, so there are sure to be some fun St. Patty’s Day themed costumes.

 

Book 13: Cat Deck the Halls March 12, 2008

Filed under: books — bendtheround @ 3:17 pm
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Finally! The last Joe Grey mystery! (Well, the last one in the series so far…)
The book before this one ended with the promise of new feline characters, but none of them were even alluded to in Cat Deck the Halls and I was pretty disappointed about it. Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s cat characters are much more interesting than her human ones.
Beside that disappointment, the book wasn’t bad. Still not the best written material I’ve read, but definitely an enjoyable cozy. Kit continues to develop into a formidable sleuth, and Murphy keeps tabs on the younger character’s development as well – Lori and Dillan seem to be growing up nicely.
I’m still waiting for Max Harper (the police chief) to figure out who his snitches are – I had hoped that this might be the book in which he does. Whatever else Murphy does with her series, she’s still got that card to play. At some point, Max has to figure it out, and when he does, there’s sure to be a very interesting scene. I suspect I’ll keep reading any new Joe Grey books at least until that happens. In the meantime, another character is in the know, and I was pleased with that development.
Now that I’ve caught up with the series, I feel like I can make broader comments on it. I would recommend it for anybody who loves cats and enjoys cozies (murder mysteries in which the murders aren’t graphic… think PG-13). The easy style of writing would make the books suitable for kids who are more advanced readers – maybe kids who love animals but aren’t quite ready for Brian Jaques Redwall series. They’re not bad books for adults – they are intended for adults, I believe – but I think young adults would enjoy them as well.
I still say that the author has a really neat idea here. I’m a sucker for animals, and talking animals are even more appealing. (Dean Koontz’s book Watchers is an old favorite solely because I’m so enchanted by the idea of a golden retriever with human level intelligence.) Still, I hope that she gets around to writing a Joe Grey book (or a book in the Joe Grey universe) for a higher reading level.
 

Last Weekend Before the Half March 10, 2008

Filed under: running — bendtheround @ 3:26 pm
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The weekend started out right on Friday night. Matt and I were watching a movie and heard a strange sound. At first, I thought the cat had something – a bug or a twist-tie or a toy – and was batting it around, but Matt quickly ID’d it. It was the ceiling. It was leaking. There’s a whole second story of house between the roof and the ceiling that was leaking, so despite the fact that it was raining, we immediately knew it was a plumbing problem of some sort. The ceiling was already starting to bubble unpleasantly, so we had to act fast. After some strategic scurrying around the house, we were unable to locate the source of the leak and were forced to shut the water off in an attempt to save the section of ceiling. Buckets were set out, the landlord was called (I left several messages in several voicemail inboxes). Once we had the water off, the leak slowed, and the ceiling didn’t seem like it was about to split open and rain down upon us, so we opted to wait for the landlord to call us back.

We slept late and had a light breakfast of oranges and tangerines. I didn’t want to cook anything because we had a limited amount of water left and because I wouldn’t be able to clean the dishes. The landlord still hadn’t called, and I had to get a 3 miler in, so I packed up my gym bag with the necessary toiletries and trucked on out to the rec center. I brushed my teeth and put my contacts in at the rec center, and tried to pretend this wasn’t unusual. (I had neglected to put my contacts in before I peeled the oranges. I wasn’t sure I could get all the citric acid off of my fingers without washing them properly. Any kind of acid in the eyes is not appealing to me at all, so I waited to put them in until I got to the rec center.) After that, I got my 3 mile run in on the treadmill and hopped on down to the locker room to shower.

The rec center has an incredibly awesome “Leisure Pool.” It has several water slides (one of which actually goes outside the building and comes back in), a lazy river, a jungle gym area, and a big hot tub. It’s packed with happy screaming children on the weekend, which means that the locker room is also packed with happy screaming children. I was lucky enough to find an unoccupied shower stall and got cleaned up. There were people waiting to shower, so I wrapped up in a towel and went to change in the locker room area. Being a shy sort of person, I like to pick a corner to face while getting dressed. I’m kinda glad I did this time. There was a group of little girls behind me somewhere taking group photos of themselves with someone’s cell phone. They were all dressed and everything, thank goodness. I hope my rear end isn’t in any of those photos.

The landlord called when I was on my way out of the rec center. The poor guy had been calling all three of us (Matt, Luke, and me) and had been unable to get any of us. Matt was at work (the reception is terrible there), Luke had been napping and had his cell phone off, and I had been in the bowels of the rec center trying to keep seven year old girls from taking photos that had my butt as a background. Anyhow, he and I were able to arrange to have a plumber come out.

I spent the rest of the day hanging about waiting for the plumber. He finally made it by that evening and was able to fix the problem pretty quickly. (thank goodness!) It turned out to be a leak in a supply pipe to a toilet upstairs.

Thus ended the adventures for the day.

Sunday was my last long training run before the half marathon. It was a beautiful day, but windy and a bit nippy out. I think it got up to the 40s, but it was hard to tell with the wind.

I had a really nice 12 mile route planned out. It took me through two wooded park/trail areas, both with nice little streams to run next to. The only problem was that I took a wrong turn in the first one and added a significant distance to my run before I was able to get back on course. As a result, I have no idea how far the route actually was.

I took the training run very, very easy. In fact, I walked a lot of it. As mentioned, it was a beautiful day…the sun was shining, and despite the cold, there were signs of spring everywhere. It was really nice to cruise along, enjoy the sights, and let my mind wander. I spent a significant amount of time waiting at crosswalks. I also stopped at the library to return a book and use the facilities. When I was about to leave the library, the landlord called again to check in. It was windy out, so I stayed put so we’d be able to hear each other. We had a nice little chat and agreed to arrange for him to come by to check out the damage to the ceiling some time this week. I even stopped a couple times to look at the streams I was going by. It had rained recently, and the extra water had made some interesting changes in places. One spot had been dammed up by leaves and sticks and such before, but a section had been swept away. Basically, it was more of a leisurely hike with occasional stretches of running. Boy, it was nice. Nice, but I won’t mention how long it took me to finally meander to the finish line. A long, long time.

This week is the taper before the half marathon. Oh, sweet, sweet taper, how I’ve looked forward to it. Now that the pressure is off, I feel more like running. Funny how that works, huh? Anyhow, total this week, I’ll run no more than 10 miles before the half marathon. Should be nice to purposefully have a low mileage week. 🙂