Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lindsey Got Runover...

I'm trapped in a vicious sugar cycle that has seriously damaged my running mojo. I call it, the runover. What is a runover? A runover is when your body thinks it's hungover after running.

There are few things in this life to which I consider myself an expert. I know a little bit about this and that and just barely enough to survive in this adulty world. However, one topic I'm far to familiar with is the phenomenon known as the hangover. 

The hangover is my cup of tea, my stein of beer, my shot of whiskey. While I can't quote Associated Press style off the top of my head and can barely remember any of Italian language I minored in, here is what I remember from college:
- Never mix liquors
-Liquor + Beer, you're in the clear. Beer before Liquor, never been sicker.
-The more sugar in a drink, the worse you'll feel in the morning
-eat before and after
-it's never a good idea the next day

I can wake up the morning after drinking and immediately gauge my level of hangover. 
Level  1- sober/headache/cranky/sleepy but definitely functional. Drink coffee and water
Level 2- sober/headache/sleepy/tight stomach, drink coffee, water and OJ. 
Level 3- not sober/room spinning/headache/sleepy/hungry, drink coffee, eat something, and OJ. 
Level 4- still drunk/room spinning/headache/hungry/nausea/thirsty/nonstop feeling of wanting to puke, do not drink water or eat, go back to sleep for 4 hours. 
Level 5- Drunker than when you went to bed/room is like a tornado/throwing up everything you've consumed in the past 48 hours and some bile/smells are offensive/ do not drink water, or eat for 7 hours. 

My runovers started the day Lauren and I ran 15 miles together. At the end of our run, I felt great emotionally and mentally but it didn't take long for my stomach to drop and I just knew something was not right. As we limped our way towards the car, I felt more and more like I was waking up with a Level 4, minus the drunk. I had nausea, I was shaky, my stomach was cramping. I've had this happen after races before but it usually passes pretty quickly. I thought it was a combo of endorphins and blood sugar levels.  However, it stuck. I felt sick, hungover sick, the entire ride from Philly to New Jersey. I guzzled water along the way only to throw it back up minutes later. I figured I had not eaten enough the day before or during the run and my blood sugar levels were yelling at me. But I re-tallied and had fueled properly. I made oatmeal that morning with brown sugar and cinnamon and hazelnut coffee.

Then it hit me, I had had a lot of sugar that day in my oatmeal and coffee. I think there was a dessert of some type the night before. My dad once told me (as I fought to hide a Level 4 at the breakfast table during a visit home during college) that SUGAR dehydrates your body and thus causes hangovers. 

And a hangover is essentially dehydration. My body was dehydrated and thus behaving like it was hungover.  I made a mental note to watch sugar consumptions before long runs and to drink more water. I haven't been drinking enough water since the temperatures dropped. I guess since it's not warm, I don't assume thirst? The 15 mile runover passed quickly enough and soon I was devouring my dinner and back to feeling proud of my accomplishment. 

I thought the runovers would be a long-run only occurrence. I thought I was safe since I didn't foresee any double digit runs in my near future. I went on my merry runner way. It's cold and I see no reason to run outside when there is a chance your sweat will freeze\ to your face, so I've been sentenced to months of treadmill running.

And, apparently, runovers. A few nights ago, I powered out a glorious 5 mile tempo run (1 mile at 6.0, 1 mile at 6.3, 2 miles at 6.5, .5 miles at 6.3, .5 at 6.5). I felt awesome. I came home, chugged some water, made a smoothie, sat down to stretch, and it happened.... The Run Over. The spinning room, the nausea, the headache. I got a shower and went to bed. I was runover the past four times I have run. I've drank water before and after.  I've decreased the intensity which is hard to do on a boring dreadmill. It even happened on an easy 4 miler I attempted to squeeze in at my parents on Christmas eve. 

My sugar consumption has skyrocketed this month thanks to the wonder  that is Christmas cookies and my renewed love of Pop-tarts. It's the only change in my diet. And just like my body has an unpleasant physical reaction when some one asks me if I want do a shot or drink any form of whiskey or tequila, my running self is now afraid of the runover. I don't 'booze' nearly as much as I used to because I hate the hangovers and now they've invaded my running world! 

It's interesting how a minor increase in a small ingredient can have such a drastic impact on my body. I'm almost hesitant to believe that an extra scoop of sugar can wreck my system and wonder if there are any other factors at play. 

Any ideas, Blogworld? Has anyone ever experienced this? Is it just dehydration? Why didn't I feel this way during the summer when I was running longer distances and sweating more? I want to run again without the fear of spinning rooms and toilet hugging. 

Disclaimer: I'm not an alcoholic or a lush by any means. My alcohol consumption habits have always been on par with those in my age group. I drank a little in high school. Sorry, Mom and Dad. I drank a lot in college. Sorry, Liver. And while there have been some crazy bad-decision juiced moments since college, I've calmed down considerably and allocate any booze to weekends., I drank like a college student in college and now drink like a responsible 28 year-old. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pimpin' Ain't Easy....

Ok, seriously. I don't know how polygamists do this!

Running is my significant other. For the purposes of this analogy, consider it to be my husband or wife. I think wife may work better. Running has my heart, and always will. The medals on my wall and callouses on my feet are our eternal bound.

Karate is my dirty mistress. My little somethin' somethin' on the side to keep things interesting. Running knows about karate and that it's mostly a physical thing. Running is fine with that because it makes me a better runner. I spend time with karate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and do my running thing on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Sunday, we rest. All parties involved have been happy with this arrangement until recently.

I've been spending more time with karate than running lately and a lot of that is weather and time related. It doesn't mean I love running any less, it's just cold. I feel bad but again running doesn't mind. It understands that it takes up a lot of time and can be rough on me. We appreciate our time apart because we just have that much more fun when we're together. Running and I are tight like that.

Lately, my mistress is getting a bit needy. Karate wants me to leave running! Well, it never actually said that but I know what it's thinking.
For a few months, the conversation between karate and I went like this:
Karate: We need to get you sparring gear.
Me: But I don't wanna spar.
Karate: It's fun.
Me: I do not want to spar.
Karate: For me, please? Just come watch. I'll be your best friend.
Me: I don't wanna spar. Look, change of subject.  

I approached karate about this. I said I needed new gloves because I lost mine. Karate seems to think "I need new gloves" means "I want to be here more and therefore need new stuff." Next thing I know, I'm buying a car payment's worth of sparring gear .I'm fairly sure this is the equivalent of getting pregnant to keep a guy.  Seriously. I can't leave karate now, I'm an orange belt and I have a giant bag full of new clothes to wear. Clothes = padded vests and knee pads.

Starting in January, I'll be going back to graduate school, increasing my already stressful work load at my full-time job and attempting to train for a pretty intense challenge in Florida with aspirations for a marathon(!) in the fall. Tell me, when am I going to be able to raise this sparring baby with karate? When? Karate tried the old, 'but other people have full schedules and sparring babies too," and "but running is so old and doesn't get you like I do" and "you promised me you'd get your black belt." 

I'm sorry, karate, I never said I wanted a black belt. I wanted to be a ninja. I made my intentions clear from the beginning. I feel torn because I do enjoy karate. I don't want to quit or walk away.
I need to reason with karate and find a way to build on my skills while maintaining a balanced schedule and achieving all the goals I have. I also need to evaluate our relationship. I need to reaffirm and spend more time with running. It's definitely being neglected lately.
There is a physical, tangible release that comes from actually getting to punch and kick things (safely and without fear of human resources or police interference) that cannot be found with running. There are very few people in my life whose face has not appeared on that punching bag or kicking paddle. Karate is loud. It's in your face, it's fun. It's anger management in it's purest form.
Running is quiet. Running is long stretches of a determined silence. Running is just me, my thoughts and my feet. There is also a release that comes in thinking through the stress, in plotting, rationalizing and strategizeing and telling people off in your head.

This is hard! I love them both but want the long-term commitment with running and short-term with karate. Pimpin' ain't easy. Fo' real.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Still Believe in Santa.

This post has nothing to do with running or Cliff Lee's triumpthant return to the Philadelphia Phillies.

I still believe in Santa. I own this fivilous belief and embrace it's absurbity. I love it and I love Santa. I see parents with carts full of toys and make myself think they're just for neices and nephews. Though it is one of my favorite traditions, my heart still breaks every Christmas Eve when my brother-in-law and dad get the kids' gifts out of hiding and lay them out by the tree. I refuse to help (too much) and won't eat the treats left out because those are for the reindeer. They are. I have anxiety about where the letters to Santa actually go when they get to the post office. I think my worst fear would be accidentally telling a child the devastating truth about Santa. I couldn't do that, and I don't like kids all that much.

Is it wrong to allow children to think that a man magically appears to every single household in the world and leaves them exactly what they asked for and does the same for everyone? It's no more wrong than making girls think they can only like pink and be pretty and boys have to like sports and never cry. When you consider the other tales and false truths we pump into our childrens' minds throughout their lives via actions or media, the hope and joy in reward seems quite reasonable.

The myth of Santa and his elves watching over us, seeing our good deeds and bad deeds is an interesting thought. As children, it made us behave. We listened to our parents especially during those final months of the year, we were nice. It was a tool to teach us morality and values. Right, wrong, nice, naughty. I find no harm in believing that if we're good all year, we will be rewarded. We do so much based on this single principle, hard work = reward and often this equation doesn't work out.

As adults, we know the truth about Santa; we also know so many other disappointing truths. Hard work is not always rewarded. Being good may not always get you what you want. Being bad won't either. When you ask kids what they want for Christmas, you get material responses, dolls, toys, books, electronic whatevs. Adults want the material things too but I think if you ask many grown ups, they'd all ask for an intangible. People want more money (need more), we ask for health, we ask for forgiveness. We ask for happiness. We ask for love. We ask for our children to be ok, for our lives to be better. For all those things that being good and working hard still sometimes can't deliver in the ways we want.

When I was a kid, I believed that not fighting with my siblings, listening to my parents, doing my homework, helping with my chores, being nice to others, not getting into trouble at school were all the things that Santa would consider "good."

I'm like somewhat of an adult now and my definition of good has completely changed. I stopped not listening to my mom years ago. It took me about 28 years to comprehend that my mom is always right and/or knows what to do. I don't fight with my siblings anymore because I kind of like them and my brother finally started letting me sit in the front seat in the car. I define good now by eating well, by sticking to a schedule, making good choices, by completing to-do lists, by paying bills. All of these things do have benefits and rewards. But rarely are they as fun as getting a freebie gift under a tree for no reason other than someone loves me enough to let me believe in a myth. You can't unwrap good credit and a done to-do list is not a great stocking stuffer.

For the next two weeks, I'm going eat super well and play nice with my coworkers and I won't yell at other drivers and I will try not to curse as much. Because I'm fully expecting/wishing/hoping that Santa brings me the Lost Series Set DVDs.

So yes, I still believe in Santa because I don't always have faith in everything else.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Farthest v. Furthest, oh who cares. I ran a long way!

I ran 15 miles on Saturday. In runnery world, that is what we call a Personal Distance Record. I'm calling it my best run ever. I say ever a lot but I really mean it this time. I've run 13.1 miles seven times, but never a foot more than that pesky one-tenth of mile. I take the term "finish line" very seriously.

Lauren and I are a good running duo. We both share a hatred of hills, maintain a similar pace (she's definitely faster and more experienced), like to set out with a goal and course in mind and have lots to talk about. When I asked her if she'd be interested in doing a long run this weekend, I had an easy 8 or 10 miler in mind. After all, she did just complete her first full marathon not even a month ago. One would assume that she'd either never want to run again. Wrong. She came back with the suggestion of 15 so she could keep her mileage at about 40/week and thus avoid any holiday/cookie guilt. And you all thought I was nuts.

My first reaction wasn't an immediate no. Ok, my first reaction was considering having my friend committed. The inspirations of the NYC and Philadelphia Marathons have gotten the wheels moving in my head towards the epic 26.2. I'm no longer afraid but apprehensive about training and time. This 15 opportunity really hit at the perfect time. I struck a deal with Lauren that I would make it to 12 miles and every thing after that would be bonus.

Oh, and I wouldn't have to buy her a Christmas gift.

Because of my trepidation about the mileage, we had to plot our course carefully. I wanted to retrace the first half of the Philly Marathon. It started in front of the Art Museum---through Center City, along the Delaware River, up through University City, to Girard Ave, through Fairmount Park and eventually looping back to the Art Museum. All things in Philadelphia begin and end at the Art Museum, you can blame or thank Rocky for that. I figured we'd do a solid 13 and she could continue down Kelly Drive to get the full 15 if I chickened out.

Lauren informed me that the Fairmount Park part was one biiiiiig hill and thus that option was removed. We've run the Art Museum/ Kelly Drive/ West River Drive loop too many times and are 'over it.' We decided to head in the opposite direction for an hour and then figure it out. We had no map or route, just figured we'd see where that went.
 We headed south on the Schuylkill River Trail. Our pace was brisk and spirits high. Saturday was a perfect day for running. It was chilly but not cold. The wind was silent and the sun was kind.After 2 miles and the end of the trail, we hung a left and went down Locust Street. We followed Locust Street from 25th through Rittenhouse, past Thomas Jefferson and decided to head towards Penns Landing. We did our fair share of stopping at red lights, dodging shoppers, pointing out various landmarks, jumping potholes, and admiring the scenery.

We came to Penns Landing feeling great. The Ben Franklin Bridge was taunting us. We both looked at it, looked at each other, did that raised eyebrow thing and then decided not to anyway. Someday, we will run to Jersey, but not that day. We decided to check out the new Sugar House Casino by Northern Liberties and headed north along Delaware Ave. The scenery and smells definitely changed during this leg of the journey. After being underwhelmed by the monstrosity that is Sugar House, we turned around because it was also the end of 'safe running zone.'

We headed back and turned up Race Street.We took Race to South Street, to Broad Street, through City Hall, where we got yelled at for running through a Christmas festival and I did my trademark discreet flip-o-the-bird, up Market Street towards 30th Street station. It was fun to tell stories of first dates and crazy nights while running (sober) through Old City and South Street.

We were at about 9 miles at this point and I was feeling good. My legs were definitely sore from Friday evening's karate class and my feet were puffing out. But, nothing crazy bad. I was expecting my stomach to start revolting or those negative thoughts in my head to start up. But, neither happened. We picked up the Schuylkill River Train again and turned back towards the Art Museum area.

When we came up on 11 miles, I was feeling good but I didn't know if I could last another 4 miles. I remembered the deal I had with Lauren that I didn't have to do the full 15. I decided that I was definitely going to 13. Our conversation had increased while our pace slightly decreased.

At mile 12 the soreness in my legs started to become a tightness, pulling on every muscle in the back of my legs. But, I was determined. Just 3 more miles.

When my Garmin beeped on the 13th mile, I couldn't believe it. We were no where near a PR time and despite the pain in my legs, I could keep going. We were surprisingly maintaining an average 10min/mile pace. I did ask to stop for a stretch break and from miles 13 to 15 there were several stretch and then walk to the lamppost type moments. We decided to make it to the the 2 mile boat house, turn back and run until the garmin said 15. I was happy that every time I checked my watch, another half mile had passed. We hit 15 at the plaza/fountain area with the statues of people know one knows about. (The only statues that matters in our city are William Penn and Rocky.) We stopped, high fived and then bemoaned the 1.5mile walk back to the car.

As soon as we stopped running, my legs went from sore and tight to weak and jelly-like. My stomach also decided to come to life. We also realized that it was cold and our clothes were wet. I dropped my water bottle at one point and it took a good 90 seconds to pick it up. I was hit with the runner's cocktail of pain and pride with a side of nausea. No sooner had I finished saying that eating ShotBlocks at mile 8 really helped me then my head got really light, the world started to spin and I knew I'd be in for a few hours of unpleasant.

Our 15 mile run had somehow triggered a hangover. For about two hours afterward, I was hungover. It was, actually, dehydration caused by too much sugar, not enough carbs or electrolytes, possibly stale ShotBlocks and well, just plain running. But it presented itself in the same manner as a hangover does but with less room spinning and more stretching. I had two 'revisits' with some of the water I had drank but was fine afterward. I all put licked my plate clean at dinner that evening and have been eating cookies nonstop since.

I was amazed how easy it was to wrap my brain around 15 and then do it. Lauren made the excellent point that races, from 5Ks to fulls, put a lot of pressure on us so that the enjoyment of just running is sometimes overlooked by the pursuit of a personal record. On Saturday, two friends set out with a common goal and (one of them) went further than she thought she could. I didn't get a medal from a smiling volunteer; there was no t-shirt. There were no mile markers or fan fare. This experience gave me the confidence and reassurance that I can handle marathon training--when it's time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Since You're Behind...How's Mine?

I'll admit that I've been lacking in the running motivation department lately. I'm not training for any races or adventures and have been focusing getting my orange belt in karate.

And it's really cold out! And it's dark in the mornings. And at night. And and and...I don't wanna!!

I've been digging deep into my bag of tricks to get my butt out the door. If I need to do a morning run, I've found that sleeping in the base layer of my running gear definitely helps. The spandex are sometimes daunting enough to turn the alarm off. Because who in their right mind would want to wake up at 5 am to put on incredibly tight clothes?

Righteous Runner TIP of the YEAR-- set your coffee timer the night before. If you do nothing else, make sure that there is a fresh pot brewed and waiting for you. My coffee maker, or miracle machine as I like to call it, is really loud and wakes me up more than my many many alarms. I may be angry at the miracle machine but I do love it's juice. When it's cold out, any warmth is good.

Coffee is made, clothes are on. No excuse now, get to running! Wait, it's cold and dark. Interestingly--since I started taking karate and self-defense classes, I'm more afraid of the dark than ever. I still can't figure out a way around the cold darkness aside from bundle up and be careful. I sometimes like to pretend I'm Helios, the Greek god who dragged the Sun across the sky. It'll be light when you're finished and you can feel a secret smugness throughout the day that you already exercised.

Tonight, I felt particularly unmotivated to run. After getting home late from work with a full briefcase of more work to do, all I really wanted to do was flop on my bed. And eat peanut butter. My tummy hurt and my brain was done. I was about to surrender to the couch when I remembered something.

I got a new shirt. After the Thanksgiving Half Marathon, I treated myself to an obnoxious dryfit running shirt from the super fancy Nike store in the super fancy Lenox Mall. It's purple. On the front in obnoxiously large font, it screams SINCE YOU'RE BEHIND and on the bottom of the back, in smaller font, HOW'S MINE?. I usually stick to race tees or plain Old Navy tees for running but this one made me smile. I wanted to save it for some kind of running occasion but desperate times call for desperate measures.

See cool shirt here, but picture me in it. :-)

I thought to myself, "Lindsey, you can wear your funny new shirt if you go to the gym. And you could even wear your Old Navy running pants with the purple lining."

Fine! I'll go to the gym and run since I have a new outfit. Fine. It's cold, I'm tired but I have a new shirt. Divas and funny women for centuries have been saying it for year. Sometimes, the outfit just makes it happen.

When you can't do something truly useful, you tend to vent the pent up energy in something useless but available, like snappy dressing. ~Lois McMaster Bujold

What a strange power there is in clothing. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

I'm sure there is a Sex and the City quote out there for the occasion. I'd go try to find it but I just ran 6 miles at 9:30 pm and have two frosty bags of veggies on my knees. So, use your imagination.

Moral of the story, get creative and dig deal for whatever the hell motivation that is needed to get out of bed. The spandex pjs and goofy shirts make me laugh at myself as I pound out the miles. And that's all that matters, right?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Runner Confession and A Runner Rant

Here's a little confession for y'all:

This has happened to me several times recently. It's really silly.

If I put my pony tail too high on the back of my head and pull it the whole way through, it swings around as I run. Inevitably it will swing forward and hit my shoulder or back. And I will inevitably get startled and jump.

every. single. time.

Usually after about three mini-heart attacks and a mental run down of the defense moves I'd use to fend off the person who could be behind me before realizing it's my own stupid self, I'll pause my watch and redo the perilous pony tail.

My list of imaginary dangers while running now includes bears and my own hair. 

Despite my claims of being a running ninja, I'm actually quite cowardly when I'm out on the road solo. Everything scares me. I've had to remove the following songs from my playlist for terror alerts
Thriller- Micheal Jackson
Magic- David Bowie
No One- Alicia Keys (emotional terror)
Out loud- Dispatch

I think car headlights are swerving off the road and coming right at me. Even if the car is on the other side of the road and there is a body of water between us. I assume that all deer are waiting to be on "When Animals Attack."

And now, for the rant.

I do love my town. It's small, quaint, close to everything and has a Starbucks. I love the centrally located Wawa with it's faithful team of lifers and disgruntled teenagers who provide me with breakfast and dinner multiple times a week. I'm curious about the high concentration of day spas, hair studios and nail salons along the one mile strip that is Main Street and surrounding strip malls. As I strained my eyes and arranged my living will on my pitch black 5:30 am run this morning, I realized the one thing this lovely little yuppie town needs is STREET LIGHTS! They have wonderfully wide walking trails lining the McMansion developments and overpriced Condo Communities, but nary a streetlamp is to be found. Sure, Heacock Meadows and WeThinkWe're Royal Farms developments have tennis courts, pools, ample parking, high property taxes and neighborhood watches, but can we get a streetlamp so that the lonely little morning runners or late nighters can SEE. Perhaps if there were streetlamps along the perimeters of the residential zones, the gaggle of unsupervised tweens that populate the 'streets' would relocate closer to their mother ships and stop skateboarding in front of my house. I sound really really old there, I know.

Perhaps there are no streetlamps along the walking trails because they are not in the "Borough." This area is unlike I've ever seen where people introduce their town and immediately distinguish borough or the name of the development. A typical  introductory conversation would go,
Local: Where do you live?
Me: I'm in Yardley.
Local: In the borough?

Me: Huh?
Local: I'm on Big Oak Road in WashingtonWasNearHere Once. Do you know where nail salon Number 45 is? It's close to that.

So, Yardley, proper? Or Yardely McMansionville, or Lower Makefeild or whatever you call yourselves to feel superior to us town dwellers, please invest less in your nails and more in streetlamps. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon

My seventh half marathon is now in the books. Lucky number seven.... not so much.

While planning a Thanksgiving reunion with some girlfriends to Atlanta, I stumbled upon searched for a  fun turkey trot event. Only I really didn't want to get my butt out of head at 6am on a holiday to run a 5K. When I saw a half marathon option too, I immediately signed up. I thought it would be a great way to explore the city and definitely earn my turkey.

I've become a bit tired of the a$$-crack of dawn wake up times, endless Porto potty lines and constantly getting in the way of someones group photo. All the race materials suggested getting to the starting area an hour before the 7:30am start. Child's play, I thought. Plus our apartment was all of 3 miles away, there is no way we'd have to worry about being late.

Wrong. As we pulled onto the entrance ramp for 1-75 South, we were met with a parking lot. Traffic in the right two lanes was simply not moving and was backed up for miles. I was shocked. Shocked. And uncaffeinated thanks to a closed Starbucks and surprising lack of convience stores in downtown Atlanta, there was no coffee/breakfast stop. Kylie deserves a humanitarian award for dealing with my Jackal/Hyde reactions to this. I went from,
"It's ok, I have an electronic timer on my D-Tag. I don't need to start with everyone," to
"This is crap! This is absolute unprofessional bull!" 

We see other runners getting out of cars on the highway and heading towards the race area. To add insult to injury, we could see the course up ahead. At 7:30, I saw the half marathon runners go. At 7:45, I see the 5K start. And at 7:55, we were finally close enough that I jumped out of the car and headed opposite of where the runners were coming from.

I wasn't alone. There were hundreds of other runners stuck in traffic. I  caught up with two others who had ditched their rides and went by foot. The race started right outside of Turner's Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves. I forgot where I was for a minute and joked, "No wonder no one goes to Braves games." The one guy was no amused. Ooops. Go Phils! 

I made it to the half marathon starting line just as they were about to turn off the sensors and pull up the mats. I stomped my foot on the sensor mat and took off like a bat out of hell. I was furious too. Angry running is good running. Running to catch up to the rest of the race is good running. At first.

The first two miles were a steady incline and I was maintaining a miraculous 8:50 pace. I had to make a conscientious effort to slow down. Because I was in the back, I wasted a lot of energy passing people. At first it felt great but after a while I got really annoyed and developed a deep appreciation of the corral system. Running Guru John Bigham often jokes that if you want to have fun in race, stay to the back. I guess that is true but my good mood was a bit soured by the rough start.

The people in Atlanta are super friendly. The walkers were thanking the volunteers. You'd never see that north of the Mason Dixon Line.

This course was HILLY! It could be described as rolling hills which means a series of never ending up and downs. I was feeling really strong on well-rested legs and what I thought was a well-fueled tummy. I powered up those hills,refusing to walk or look at my watch on them. Atlanta has down hills too! It it a very beautiful city and course.  I would have stopped to take some photos but I was in race mode. Sorry, reader(s). (So instead, I used cropped race photos of me looking like I'm about to cry and further evidence that I don't lift my lefts when I run.) We went through midtown Atlanta to Piedmont Park to fancy residential areas through some college campus and ended back in front of Turner's Field.

Miles 1-8 flew by! A new PR was in sight. I crossed the 10K at 55 minutes which is really good for a non-treadmill run for me. I was perking up and despite a play list dispute with my iPod, was starting to enjoy myself. I overheard two women say how they were worried about the second part of the race which had the big hills. Huh? What? Big hills? What were these?

I began to tire at mile 10 and was absolutely miserable for the last 3 miles. I figured I had dominated the first nine miles of hills and surrendered to the final three. I tend to get sick to my stomach during the last 3 mile which is a direct result from not eating enough before or during the race. This time around I actually felt lightheaded too.It always slows me down and will be something I'll work on for my next. I walked up the hills and would do 20-30 second walk breaks. Hey, it happens.

I survived and finished my seventh half marathon! Lucky number seven it was not as I almost missed the race and then died at the end. But, I'm still proud of myself for having maintained a good pace until the end and for not yelling at anyone throughout.

My watch time is 2:12 and chip time is 2:15. Not a PR or a best race by any means, but I'll take it!

Below is a diagram of the official course map and elevation chart and my thoughts along the way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Disclaimer: Again, I'm a little behind on this post. It was originally supposed to go up on Saturday night and then on Sunday night. Creative juices and time management didn't start until Monday.

This is my friend, Lauren. She's pretty cool. Lauren loves history, her cats, the Philadelphia Phillies and running.


Lauren has been a huge guide on my running journey. She was the first person I ever met who had run more than, like, five miles. During the Fall of 2008, our friendship solidified over a mutal love of the Phillies, Lost and her lack of airplane making skills. Also, she ran a lot. I was still doing 4 and 5 miles in the local park after work with no training plan or knowledge. She was always there with advice and encouragement. Lauren's tales of 'races' and longs runs were a major factor in my New Years Resolution to conquer a Philadelphia Broad Street 10 Miler.

To be honest, I didn't even know that event existed until I met Lauren. I didn't know what a half marathon was or that running 1 mile burns one hundred calories.

She was running 10, 15, 20 miles on the weekends with Team in Training in preparation for the 2009 Disney Marathon.

A month before what was supposed to be the best weekend of her life, that she had trained and fundraised for, she woke up one morning with an unbearable pain in her hips. That pain was stress fracture in both hips. It was devastating. I remember getting an email from her and just feeling my stomach hit the floor. No marathon. No running. She could barely walk.

While Lauren was suffereing a major heartbreak, I was falling in love with running. I had begun my training for Broad Street and was constantly peppering her with "I RAN 6 MILES!" emails and questions like "Why do I not want junk food any more?" And even though she was in pain and upset, she answered and encouraged. It wasn't until she said I was ready to run it that I believed it I was. She rarely, rarely complained. You never knew how much agony, emotional and physical she was in. We still went to baseball games, watched Lost Season 5 and gossiped about coworkers.

With determination and patience, Lauren's hips eventually healed. And she was runnin' again.

Here she is at the 2009 Philadelphia Distance Run. This was my first half marathon and her second.

Lauren and I frequently have text message conversations consisting of nothing but a distance, time and lots of !!!!!!!!! or distance, time and some weather-related profanity. She is my favorite runny buddy. Her determination and tenacity about our sport is unmatched. Lauren has her running schedules prepared months in advance and will stick to them, come hell or high water. And, from the time we have started to run together, she has improved so much. Girl is speedy now. I remember telling her about speedwork and fartleks once. Fast forward three months and I could barely keep up with her and I silently cursed sharing that information. ;-)

We've run together a lot over the past year or so. Though neither of us will admit it, we compete against each other. She wins, everytime.  We've stood next to each other at the starting lines of three half marathons, two 5-milers, one 5K and one 10 miler. 



And on Sunday, November 21, 2010, Lauren Curran ran the Philadelphia Marathon. And she killed it. And I've never been more proud and inspired by a single person ever. I almost cried when she asked me to run miles 20 through 25 with her. I made sure, absolutely sure to be at the mile 20 point that day and kept an obsessive watch on the runner tracker to anticipate when she'd be approaching. When I finally saw that purple shirt and white hat making the way down Main Street of Manayunk, I got butterflies in my stomach.

As we ran--yes, she was still running at mile 20-- I chatted mindlessly about everything and anything I could. The only complaint from that girl was tight hamstrings. We took little walk breaks at each mile. She was incredible. I reminded her of the horrific hills she had to deal while training in Princeton all summer. The hills were gone, but her strength remained. I kept looking at her and saying, "Hey, Lauren. You're running your marathon."  I got a little choked up when the mile 25 marker came up and it was time for Lauren to conquer that final mile.

We all have obstacles and bumps in the road. I'm sure there were other runners with injuries and comeback stories on that course. But, I don't know them. I do know Lauren. And I know that Lauren has helped, encouraged,infuriated, motivated and amazed me for two years now.
So, thank you Lauren! And to show my gratitude and love, I leave you this delightfully embarrassing post. :-) You're awesome. I'm proud of you. And I hope you're going to help me get to marathon ready someday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cheating on Running

I cheated.
I’m a cheater.I am in a long term relationship with running. We’ve been together for two years. Two years of dedication, heartache and fun.

A few months ago, however, my eyes started to wander. Every relationship goes through ups and downs and you have to spice it up a little. In runner world, it’s called cross-training. Enter karate. I started casually seeing karate a once or twice a week and running seemed to be ok with it. It was. My legs, core and arms got a lot stronger and being stronger is always a good thing. My relationship with running became one of those hard-to-explain open relationships where running had my heart and emotional self but karate was the fun, exciting element.

That lasted for a couple of months. I earned a yellow belt and made some friends in karate. But, I suck at relationships and have major commitment issues. Or a short attention span. Things weren’t so great with running and even karate was feeling routine. Once again, my eyes started to wander.

I heard about kickboxing classes at the gym. I was angry at gym but wanted to give it a chance for redemption. I’ve watched women and a few brave men run around like crazy people to techno remixes of pop tunes and have seen the survivors walk towards the locker rooms with dazed looks on their faces. I was curious. I’ve avoided classes such as those because I lack coordination and have a self-righteous “I’m a runner. I don’t need no stinkin’ classes” approach to such things.

A friend asked me to join her at one of these mysterious kickboxing classes the other night. My frantic desire for something new led me to say yes. My nerves at trying something new also led me to text her twenty times with such pressing questions as “are they going to laugh at me?” and the always important “what do I wear?” I felt a little pang of guilt as she told me to bring my boxing gloves. Can I use my karate boxing gloves in kickboxing class? It felt like taking your mistress to your wife’s favorite restaurant. What’s a Catholic girl with commitment issues to do?

I’ll skip the foreplay parts because this is a family-read blog, but I had fun. I was uncoordinated and awkward, but I never felt overwhelmed or tired. I actually had energy to burn at the end and if I had time, would have banged out a few miles on the treadmill. It was a good sweat. Now, I was intrigued and I had that “I’m doing something bad and getting away with it” rush going. My friend asked if I wanted to try cardio kickboxing the next night. “Wait, that wasn’t cardio?,” I exclaimed! Oh, yes, I was in. Because if that 45-minute session wasn’t cardio, I needed to see what was!

I should have stopped while I was ahead.

We laced up our sneakers and squeezed into sports bras the following night for round two. And, hooo boy! Did I get my butt kicked! Remember those comments I made about not being coordinated and awkward? Those are one hundred percent factual statements. Now, factor lack of coordination in with an ability to maintain counts and being the only newbie in class and you get the limp-flailing, ten-step-behind-low-kicking-wrong-way-facing sweaty mess that was me in that class. The incredibly fast and energetic instructor kept yelling out combos at a pace which led me to believe she was stuck on fast forward and everyone else seemed to jump, kick hook jabcrosshookhookelbowdoggekickhookcrosskneekickhookscissor and SWITCH in perfect unison. My only thought was, “I’d rather be running.” I longed for the slower pace and cute sensei from karate. Yes, we did similar combos but at a much slower pace because they’re more focused on technique and strength than caloric burn and full body workouts.

I silently apologized to running and karate and promised to never cheat again. I worried that I’d be unable to move for the rest of week, thus ruining my monthly evaluation at karate and threatening my training for (another) half marathon next week. Did I ruin everything, both relationships, by trying the other class?
I'm happy to report that my penance of  guilt and glutimine powder (and Advil, water and Epson salt) seemed to have worked and my muscles are a normal amount of sore.

I can't promise I won't cheat on running again. We think that it we start training for a marathon one day, I'll stop stepping out on running. I mean, that works in other relationships right?

Friday, November 12, 2010

LA ForgetU-ness

I used to love my gym. I felt like a part of something as I handed my swipe card to the cheerful receptionist and beelined to the women's locker room. Yes, we areall making choices to be here to be better, healthier, happier I secretly chanted as I got changed and headed towards the treadmills. Back then, I could feel the adrenaline pumping and thrived off the sweaty energy. I would wave as I drove past it and proudly exclaim, "That's my gym!" Back when I thought that missing one run was going to undo every other run, I was there a lot. During the suffocating hot summer days, I'd be there. During the freezing cold and knee-deep snowy nights, I'd be there. I'd be there after work. I'd be there on weekends. Nothing says "loser" like being at the gym past 8 o'clock on a Friday night. Nothing.

I had a personal trainer for about a year which guaranteed a weekly visit. We ventured into that other area--the one with the mirrors and meatheads. I even did that terrifying chinup/dip machine and didn't die. Although, I would question her every time. She'd walk me over and adjust the weights and tell me to start with 15. I'd politely ask why she was trying to kill me and what I ever did to her. I was also doing a lot of speedwork training in a delusional attempt at a sub-two hour half marathon. It's a lot easier to do speedwork on a treadmill than a track.

 Fast forward:

Then my trainer moved away and I canceled the personal training package. I started taking karate classes a few times a week and running outside more and having more time and before I knew it, I hadn't been to the gym in two or three months.

I've been enjoying my casual status with running for the past few weeks. I started to feel gross and stuffy after the zero miles weeks and decided it was time. It was time to return to the gym.

I hate that place. Hate is maybe too strong a word. But it has significantly dropped in it's standings of places I like to be. First place--bed; Last place-- grocery story; Second to last place-- gym.

What I used to think was the stench of calories burning and muscle eating fat is now just plain stench.
Riddle me this, readers. I've been watching the same group of men play racquetball for about ninety minutes, three nights a week for two years. And not a single one of them have lost a single pound. They.all.look.exactly.the.same. (I haven't lost a single stinkin' pound in this adventure either, but my body has changed.) AND they have yet to figure out that the plastic doors are see through. Sometimes I just want to open the door and yell, "WE CAN SEE YOU!"

You're often on the same schedule as others and see the same faces every time. I swear there is a Shane Victorino lookalike who comes in around 8pm every night. I call him Shane Victorin-i. (Although, I don't think we'd be best buddies like the real deal and I would.) There is one overweight woman who works out in the pool and I've seen her slowly loosing weight over time. I want to say something but have absolutely no idea what or when. I'm proud of her though.
And there are the cute Asian ladies who come in every night. They're adorable and scary. I have no idea what they do there but they always seem to be getting out of the shower.

For a few months, I was on the same schedule as a lady who looks exactly like our high school drama teacher, crazy blond hair and all. She would attack the ellipticals with fury and seemed to change her shirt every twenty minutes. You know how I noticed that? Because I have seen that woman topless more times than I think necessary. There is acceptable amount of exposure while getting changed in an locker room and then there is this lady. She would seriously take her shirt off to go the bathrooms. And since we were on the same schedule, I'd see them coming and going! I've been going to the gym later in the evenings because a quieter, less crowded gym is a much more bearable, less rage inducing gym. I also thought this would spare me from the locker room flasher.  Nope. The first evening of my return, I turn the corner and bam!

Another mystery of the gym is the sitting on machines. This phenomena occurs mostly in the men and mostly on the ab machines. Maybe I'm only noticing this because I want to use the ab machines and there is always, always, some dude just sitting on them staring off into space. I understand you need to give your muscles recovery time in between sets. However, is it really necessary to listen to the entire song? Do your three sets of 25 or 50 or whatever other macho number you're doing and move on. I've never observed a woman hovering on an ab or any other machine for too long. I assume this is because  women a) naturally uncomfortable on that side of the gym and b) have darn much too to do  to sit on a machine for five minutes without actually doing anything. More and more, I find that men seem to have this constant luxury of time whereas women are always rushed and always frazzled.

*Side note: I know that working out in public and even entering a gym in intimidating and hard for many people out there. By no means am I attempting to mock or discredit the efforts and dedication of those whom are there. I don't know the stories behind these faces.These are just the thoughts that bumble through my head as I pound away on the treadmill. We're all beautiful people.)

I'll continue to drag myself there as it's cold and dark in the evenings now and the morning thing just ain't happening lately. And I'll continue to roll my eyes at the prissy receptionist and dose my hands in sanitizer when I leave.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NYC Marathon: A wonderful day of running watching

NYC Marathon: No, I didn’t run it.

Writers note: You have no idea what I went through to put this post together. I need to work on my photo adding abilities... or my laptop may pay the price. Is it better to write the post and then add photos or add photos and write around? 

One day. I ventured up to the bustling, busy, blissful concrete jungle that is New York City with a three-part mission: a) visit with high school bestie, Ayo; b) be not in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Princeton, or lost somewhere between them and c) watch the NYC Marathon with the hopes that it gets my running mojo flowing again and quells this fear I have of the full.

Missions accomplished! I’ll spare the details of the A and B aside from my first drag show, the Seinfeld restaurant and fancypants. When I originally mentioned to Ayo that the marathon was going on I’d like to get up early on Sunday to watch it, I was met with silence. I realized my error and corrected it to “I want to go to the Marathon by myself on Sunday morning while you sleep in and I’ll bring you back a Coke.”
I researched the marathon route and was happy to see that miles 22-26 where in Central Park and all I’d have to do is walk the half mile from Ayo’s Upper West Side apartment to the Upper East Side to watch some running magic. What I didn’t research, or consider, is that it takes a while to run a full marathon. It was like an algebra equation. If 40,000 runners start at 9 am and have to run 26.2miles and what time will the fastest ones be at mile 25? Ummmmm….. crap. Also, a factor to consider is the 30 minutes difference from the wheelchair start to the elites and the 20 minutes between elite women to elite men. And even if they’re super fast, it still takes a while. I ran through Central Park to arrive on 5th Ave and realize I was two hours early. The elite wheelchairs were just starting to zip through when I arrived.


Since no runners were on the course (yet) but everything was set up, I did a ‘test run’ and ran along the course from mile 23 through 25. I was just making sure it was safe! J I wasn’t the only over excited fan out there though.
The army of volunteers were ready and the water stations were stocked and I swear that even above the daily hum of the nation’s largest city, you could hear the pounding stampede of marathoners.
I took advantage of my mathematical mistake and got a good watching spot at mile 25. I figured this is where you have to truly gut it out and power through. The last mile is usually the best and the worst feelings in the world.

And so, we waited.
And waited. And waited. And finally….
RUNNERS! I cannot tell you how incredibly cool it was to see the elite women come zipping past. It was mile 25 and they still looked strong. I have video of the first and second finishers flying by, but I’m not that fancy yet.


These photos aren’t in order by finisher or anything. But they’re close. The group of elite women was much larger than I had expected. Second place went to an American, Shaylene Flanagan-- making her marathon debut. I overheard a group of people talking about a few of the elite American women as if they were all friends. So I was either standing next to American running royalty or really pretentious New Yorkers with subscriptions to Runner’s World and memberships to NYAC. They cheered loudly whenever anyone with NYAC shirts came by.
The men were close behind the women and also flew through mile 25 like it was a 5K.  Gebre Gebremariam, Ethiopia, the winner of the 2010 NYC Marathon had never run a marathon before.  He crossed the finish line at 2:08--which is my half marathon PR. Yeah. He average 4:53 minute pace for 26.2 miles.
Here is Meb Keflizighi, an American running hero. He won the 2009 NYC Marathon and was the first American male to win a marathon in 28 years. He came in sixth on Sunday.

I was expecting a great herd of runners led by the elites. But that wasn’t how it happened at all. The professional fasties went by one at a time. I guess that’s why it actually IS racing to them. One at a time soon became clusters of five or six and then a steady stream of speedsters. I called the first wave of non professional runners Bostoner’s because they were all qualifying for Boston Marathon in April. Slowly the steady stream turned into a flood I was expecting.


I watched and cheered and screamed my little runner’s heart out. I even flirted with a guy standing next to me. I yelled every cliché I knew! “You’re almost there!” “JUST ONE MORE MILE!” “LOOKING GOOD!”
If someone had their name on their shirt, I pointed and cheered specifically for them. If they were running for a cause, I yelled thank you. If they were walking, I said keep going! It was truly inspirational and amazing to see people reaching the end of a long journey and to have only a shred of understanding of what their going through. The journey to a marathon isn’t about the finish line. It’s the training runs, the dedication and the heart. I stood and cheered for about three or four hours.
I started to think that hey, everyone is looking so good and strong because they’re gutting it out and reaching deep down inside for mile 25. I needed to see some walls. I need to see a marathon be hard and see people hurting to know I can do it too. I don’t know if that makes sense but I don’t expect the smiles and pride at the end of the race to reflect the previous pain.
And…um…it got a little boring up there and people were getting pushy. I decided to see some deep marathon madness and walk back towards 96th street.
As I moseyed on back, I saw what I needed to see. I saw people walking. I saw tears. I saw limping. I saw that thing when a person puts their head down for a few seconds, takes a deep breath and then just powers forward. You know just from watching that they had said or thought or felt something deep down in order to move forward. It’s just there.

The wonderful thing about this sport is that everybody can do it, all shapes, all sizes, all nationalities, all economic levels, whatever. I saw a man with two prosthetic legs run through the 25 mile marker and I saw many a 70 year old zip past twentysomethings. A lot of the names I couldn’t yell because I couldn’t pronounce them. Signs in every language were being waved and I’m pretty sure I heard five different ways of saying “GO RUNNERS”!
It was along Fifth Ave, I realized I could do this and I can do this and very soon I will do this. Oh yes, I’m ready.

Because, if a Chilen miner who was trapped underground for 69 days with 32 other men can do this, I can do this. Yes, I saw him. Yes, here’s a photo.

I saw runners wrapped in blankets with their medals hanging from their necks as I made my way back to Ayo’s and on my way home. I had to hold myself back from giving them a hug or handshake. I wanted to ask everyone if it was their first marathon, how they did, and to thank them for the inspiration. I am motivated now simply out of out envy and awe. I want to limp my way down the 96th Street Subway stop, chilled to the bone, achy, anxious, hungry, and proud. I want to refuse to sit down because I won’t be sure I can get up.
It was an amazing day that really brought everything home for me. I remembered that crazy “I can’t believe I just did that!” pride and reveling in the tangible work you put in to get there. I know I can do half marathons, they’re almost easy at this point. I needed to see a marathon, not read about it or watch a documentary about it or have someone tell me about it. I had to see it to believe it. And now, I believe I can!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Because you're amazing/just the way you are

Girls on the Run Practice 5K

I have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with the Girls of the Run Program for the past ten weeks. I first learned of the program when my niece participated in it a few years ago. I wasn't a runner then but that was one of my introductions to organized running and training.

GOTR was started the inspirational Molly Barker as a tool to empower and educate young girls about confidence, fitness and strength. It's essentially a empowerment program with a running problem. You can learn more about Girls on the Run and I'll write more about what the past twelve weeks have meant later.

The culminating event for GOTR is a community 5K. As part of the training, we conducted on "Practice 5K" this past Saturday. It was truly amazing.

Coach Anne is our fearless leader and the absolute epitome of what a girl on the run is. She's always energetic, positive and strong. She's coached this program for years and makes it seem effortless. She wanted the Practice 5K to be as authentic to a real 5K race as possible. She asked for parents to donate food and beverages and had individual 'finisher medals' made for the girls. She also found a giant blow up spider to use as the 'finish line' and got one of the parents to donate his time and equipment for real DJ music.

Coaches and girls were encouraged, though no required, to wear running-friendly costumes. For some reason, the term "runaway bride" popped into my head for this event. For my running-friendly costume, I found a white sundress (I think it's the one I graduated high school in...ten years ago...), a cheap novelty veil, and a pair of sneakers. Get it? I even wore a blue sports bra for the something blue. :-) I thought it was funny but definitely felt out of place. I got many questionable stares as I was buying 2 boxes of Joe and 100 Munckins at Dunkin Donut's. What, doesn't everyone run in a white eyelet sundress overtop a UA turtleneck, black shorts and sneakers at 8:30 am on a Saturday? Coach Jenny found a pair of butterfly wings and a headband for a "Queen Butterfly Fairy" and Coach Anne simply added a headband, rose-colored glasses, and pigtails for a "Hippie". Much better and more appropriate.

The girls and parents arrived early and were ready to run. Everyone loved the giant spider and creative lap board. Our track is 1/3 of a mile and the girls would need to complete 9 laps. The music was pumping as the girls lined up at the "start line." With an enthusiastic pep talk from Coach Anne, they were off!

I was tasked with handing out lap counter bracelets, snapping photos, cheering, and sibling herding. A lot of the little sisters and brothers wanted to run too. I don't know if they were all so caught up in the moment, wanted to stay warm or just wanted a prize.

"Coach Lindsey! Can we run too?" asks two exact mini replicas of their older sisters
"YES! Absolutely. Go run, kids!! It's so great you want to run too."
"Can we have a bracelet if we run?"
"Of course!"
"Can we have a bracelet if we don't run?"

I think it was the prize. Speaking of the bracelets, why is the color so important? I couldn't just hand a pink one to Olivia, she wanted green. And Sophie already had three blue ones and wanted a purple. And Isabel had a purple and wanted a pink next. It was a like a logic puzzle.

The girls did so well! They ran under the spider with giant smiles on their faces. As the laps started to pile up, we had to prepare for the finish line excitement! Coach Anne wanted each girl to get the opportunity to break the tape and each parent to get a photo of it. I added 'tape holder' to my list of tasks and it was getting hectic! I was cheering and dancing and holding crete paper and snapping photos and handing out bracelets while Coach Bridgette was keeping count of each girls laps and updating us on the leaders. Allie's on 8! Sarah's on 9! Margaret is on 9! Here they come! It got crazy but was so fun! I don't know how many times I screamed "You're amazing!" "GREAT JOB!" "ONLY X MORE LAPS!" "KEEP GOING!" "GOOOOOO!"

Each girl got her break the tape photo even if it meant a few tries. Coach Jenny handed out the handmade finisher medals. Parents seemed to be having a good time and several dads were put to use 'holding down the spider' as it kept getting blown around.

As each of the 20 beautiful girls finish, they would gather by the spider and cheer for the others. Maiwah was our final finisher and had no interest in the photo or medal, she headed right for the snack table. I couldn't believe that 20 girls had just run 3 miles! We're usually trying to negotiate them to run just to that tree, now run to the next tree, and now the next tree and that morning they knocked out 9 laps!

The coaches gathered the girls in a circle to 'process the lesson.' I was already so proud and impressed by these girls that I had to hold myself back from hugging each and every one. As their parents looked on and Coach Anne started to tell them all how proud they should be, "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars started to play. I'm not sure if Coach Anne had that planned or not but there was no more perfect moment for it to play. The theme of GOTR is teaching confidence, self esteem and to respect ourselves just the way we are. Coach Anne said that song makes her think of all the GOTR every time she hears it. "And when you smile/the whole world stops and stares for a while/because you're amazing/just the way you are..."

And, I may have shed a tear on that. And I may be mildly obsessed with that song now. I may still get teary eyed when I hear it and it may be my ring tone right now.

The entire morning was incredible! I hope that the girls do understand that running 3 miles is something that not many people ever do and they did it at ages 8, 9 and 10. I hope they realize that they're all beautiful, intelligent, silly, adorable and kind girls and won't fall into those 'girl box' traps. I hope they felt good about themselves for doing something that was fun, positive and healthy. After the parents left, we lingered behind cleaning and dancing. It was IMPOSSIBLE to not be happy and feel lucky to be alive.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Zero Miles and Zero Guilt

I haven't run this week. At all. Not a single mile has been logged into my dailymile journal. I'm not sure where my sneakers are at the moment.

I have set my alarm three times this week with the truest intentions of a morning run. I laid out my clothes and prepped the coffee maker. It was raining on Tuesday (darn!), and Wednesday (shoot!) mornings and today was simply too foggy to be safe (oh man!). Did I then feel guilty about it for the rest of the day and force myself to the gym in the evenings? Nope.

And you know what?

I feel great! My knees are happy. I'm not getting random shots of mystery pain in my legs and my shoes (somewhat) fit this morning. It's 10:30 am and I'm not considering eating my arm as a mid-morning snack. I'm not exhausted. My shoes fit easily this morning because my feet aren't swollen. My energy level is up and I'm willing to walk to my coworkers office instead of emailing. I'm not panicking on the inside about decreasing mileage or gaining a pound or ten.

Huh? What's happening? Who is this girl? Didn't you say you can't go three days without running for fear of the world as you know it completely coming to an end? Are you and running fighting again?

Relax, I'm just resting.

On Saturday, I accomplished my goal of racing or participating in 100 miles in 2010. With four half marathons, two 10-milers, and a handful of smaller events, I successfully raced 104 miles from February to October. Those 100 miles do not take into account the hundreds of training miles and hours of cross training.
As I set out on an easy run on Sunday, my legs let me know that they were D-O-N-E. I could barely maintain a 10:45 minute pace. After 2 miles, I gave up and walked home. This was a huge 'listen to your body' moment. The pain in my shins and calves as I ran was more than the typical discomfort. It was threatening. With each forced step, my legs were saying, "If you don't stop now, we're going to make you stop." In my head, they sounded like my mom would while giving the I'll-give-you-something-to-cry-about threat.

I feel like this week off is allowing my body to play catch up. I've slept well these past few nights and have woken up feeling rested. Because I'm not burning through every calorie consumed and my body isn't working as hard, the bizarre cravings have also subsided. They've been replaced with a want for veggies and meat which means I was probably low on protein.
My appetite has decreased significantly and when I do get hungry, it's not accompanied by a lightheaded desperate feeling. I'm not HANGRY (hungry + angry = hangry). I bought a jar of peanut butter on Tuesday night and it's still unopened. That's saying something, people.

I'm not worried about losing my "runner-ness" because I know that soon my legs will be asking me to run and a new race will come my way that I'll want to train towards. This is the runner's cycle. You run until you hate it and then you rest until you need it. In this interim, I won't have to schedule runs or have distance/pace goals. I love the "off season" season because running returns to it's fun roots. I'll be out there because I feel like it and because I can.

My next run will be on Saturday with Girls on the Run as we do our 'practice 5k'. I predict that with running back and forth, I'll log 4 miles. And that's just fine with me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A 10 Mile Run Down Memory Lane

October 16, 2010. Octorara Covered Bridge Classic

A few months ago my family started telling me about a 10 mile run sponsored by the Octorara Community Recreation Center/YMCA. They finally figured out that if the pull of home-cooked food, free laundry and fun kid times wasn't enough to get me home, the promise of a bib and a free tshirt would surely do the trick. And my niece told me about it, so how could I say no?

I loaded up my car with three weeks worth of towels, socks and "Woolite Clothes (read: my nice work clothes that only Mom knows how to wash without ruining or have some kind of stain) and headed home for a weekend to run the Octorara Covered Bridge Classic 10 Mile Run.

I was really looking forward to this run as a private homecoming of sorts. While I grew up in the Octorara area and went to school there for 10 years, I've never truly felt like a huge part of the community. The problem with a small town school is that your role in life until you're 18 is defined when you are in elementary school. The fact that I didn't find cashier at Dutchmanns Grocery Store to be an acceptable career path really set me back socially. Having your mom as a teacher in the gauntlet that is middle school didn't help my case either. Oh, and I never shut up and was definitely a "late bloomer."

This was a very low key event and I honestly didn't know what to expect. The registration website crashed three times while I was attempting to register and I ended up just emailing the race director with my information. My new running philosophy is just have fun and relax so I wasn't stressing about it all. I was mostly concerned that I'd get lost along the hilly backroads of Atglen and Christiana. I was trying to not think of the hills.

The morning of the race, I woke up feeling great. I never sleep as well as I do in my old bedroom. My parents drove me to the starting which was nice change from me having to be coordinator, parking finder and arrangement maker. The registration was the parking lot of the church in Atglen. If you grew up in the area, you know exactly where I mean. The starting line was in front of what used to be the Atglen Market. It's boarded up now.

As we waited in the church basement, I joked with my parents that this could be first race where I could potentially finish last. There were maybe 100 runners milling around. Gulp. And while you can never judge a person's speed by their size, terrors of being last flashed threw my head. Everyone was really friendly and chatting about the unknown degree of hills we'd be encountering. The start line was just a guy with a pop gun, bullhorn and stop watch. This, again, was so refreshing compared to the 30,000 people crushing corral systems from bigger races. He yelled GO! and off we went.

We headed out Upper Valley Road. The wind was at our backs and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day for running. I forgot to start my Garmin until 3 minutes into the race. Oops. I barely remember the first two miles as I was running down memory lane passing houses of former friends and remembering what it was like to 13 years old again. As we came up to mile 2 and I was looking at the horse farm where Shanna S and Lindsay used to ride, I saw a familiar red SUV coming the other way. (Roads weren't blocked off for this event) It honks and out of the windows pop my nephew and niece!
My mom had called my sister and her kids to tell them the course and they tracked me down! I slowed down and slapped their hands. I asked for a ride but I don't think they heard me. How can you not smile and feel great when you have a carload of support! A few runners laughed as I threw my hands up and waved.

Behind my sister's car was an Amish buggy with a family of 4 watching in complete awe. I can only imagine what that family was thinking as they see a line of crazy Englishmen running with numbers on their shirts. For no reason. While they're freezing in buggies. There's work to be done! How lazy can they be to just run? :-)

As we passed farms, horses ran along with us and friendly, non annoyed drivers waved. It was a beautiful day indeed. At mile 3, I heard "LINDSEY! I MISSED THE START!" and a blue streak come whizzing past me. That blue streak was a very speedy Ashley Caldwell Landers. Though I wasn't friends with Ashley in high school, I remember her being one of the most genuine and nice girls in her class. I was happy to see her zip past and glad I've been able to connect with her through running and Facebook. :-)

We went through the Covered Bridge on Bailey's Crossroads and I was maintaining a smooth 9:20 pace. And then came the hill. It's like the opposite of a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a hill at the end of the tunnel. That hill ended up lasting 1.5 miles of steady incline. It was rough. And I ran it. I usually wimp out and walk up hills. This was a hometown hill and I was going to own it.
I remembered driving that hill everyday as it was part of Bus 18's route. I was the first one and last one off that bus for 8 years. I would talk to the bus driver, Mrs. Thompson, every day about whatever was on my mind. I even wanted to be a bus driver when I was a little girl. I thought about the antics and conversations and friendships and crushes and bumps that took place daily as the school bus hauled us around. Before I knew it, we were at the top of the hill! Fallowfield Road, consider yourself owned.

The massive hill ended at the top corner of Mocassin Run Golf Course where we turned right onto Highland Road. At the corner of the Golf Course, I see my parent's minvan and my mom and niece hop out! "HI LINDS! I BROUGHT YOU WATER AND AN APPLE!" I ran over and gave Hope a quick hug and took a gulp of the water before heading on my way again.

My sister and the kids surprised me by showing up at my first race ever and gave me the strength I need to finish. Mom and Dad were able to come to my first half marathon a few months later. I wish they could make it to more of these silly races because having people on the sidelines is so motivating and comforting. I was so happy and proud of them for coming! :-) I mean, I did practically run through their backyard. I still envision the images of my sister and kids on the sidelines or my parents during the really rough miles. It made me laugh they these two spotings of my family were the only support throughout the race except for the finish line. And my mom tried to feed me. Because that's how she does.

There was another massive hill at mile 5 but this one had a decline! The wind was a brutal at times and the chill in the air kept me moving. I paced with two ladies in their late forties from mile 5 on. I listened to them chat about IT Bands and their sons and husbands and travels while enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. I've driven Creek Road before but never noticed the little cottages on the banks or historic signs along the road. I had to resist the urge to stop and take pictures. I turned my Ipod on around mile 7 and my playlist was spot on for perfect nostalgic, easy music.

I looked behind me a few times and was relieved to see I wasn't last but there, um, weren't too many others back there. I've found a new running-spiration...fear of being last. I was also experiencing a wardrobe fail and may have accidentally exposed more of my bum to those behind me while attempting to roll the waist of my pants up without giving myself an atomic wedgie. Yep. That happened.

As always, by mile 9, I was ready to be done running. I had slowed to a 9:45 pace and my right knee was definitely letting itself be known. My dad made the astute observation earlier that mile 9 was sponsored by the local funeral home. I giggled about that for a bit and also thought about the family I used to babysit who lived along that road.

The last mile went into the wind and the final stretch went uphill. Will they ever learn? It didn't matter because at the top of the hill was my adorable mom and niece cheering! Ok, my mom was cheering. Hope was doing that "expressing excitement in the coolest way possible because I'm 11 and am in public" thing. I finished at 1:38! There was no hectic herding at the end or volunteers shoving bottles at you. Nope, I gave my bib tag to the volunteer and walked the two feet back to find my family. I gave Hope a sweaty hug and high five and finally took the apple from my mom. We stuck around for the awards ceremony-- five minutes later. Remember that blue streak from mile 3? Yeah, she came in second place! AWESOME!

Overall, I'd give this race an 8. I almost got hit by a huge SUV trying to make a left INTO runner traffic on a road that was closed off which I didn't appreciate. The course was challenging but not awful. The beginning of the race needs some attention as several runners missed the start and 3 different start times were advertised. There was water support at good locations and I loved being able to actually see the scenic route. After a year of big races, this small event was a great change. I think I'm done with the mass registrations, the huge expos and the hassles.

Afterwards, I got to go watch my nephew play soccer and then had a huge (free) lunch. And a nap. What else can you ask for?