Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Long, Sad Summer - Part 1

There have been many, many, many days in the past few months where I wanted to sit down and try to put into words what has been going on. I've started and abandoned so many entries that it borders on pathetic. Truth is, I just haven't had the words.

There are many reasons why I created and kept up with this blog. First and foremost, I started it mostly for myself. I have always kept some kind of journal. Among the things that I found in boxes of my childhood belongings are diaries (complete with cheap brass padlocks) from as far back as third grade, followed by spiral bound notebooks that I traded back and forth with my best friend throughout high school. In college, LiveJournal exploded and I started writing my daily thoughts and experiences on the web in 2003. I still thoroughly enjoy going back and reading old entries, which cover college, grad school, epic break ups, meeting my now-husband, and the start of my career. If not for those records, many memories would be long gone.

My last real entry in LJ was written in November 2011. By that time, LJ was a dinosaur akin to Myspace and Blogger was the new it platform, so I jumped format and RunEatPlayRVA was born. Much like that old personal journal, this blog is the place that I love to go to relive the past few years, to remind myself how far I've come; of the good times, bad times, silliness, and the hundreds of memories that have come from my new life as a runner in Richmond.

The secondary reason for starting this blog was that at the time, blogging was taking off and I really enjoyed finding out about other people's experiences in running through the medium. I wanted to get in on the conversation. I had always loved writing and interacting with people via my personal anecdotes, so it was natural.

Five years of blogging is an eternity in Internet years. I constantly scold myself for letting my poor RunEatPlayRVA sit abandoned. I regret having not turned to these digital pages to note my feelings, thoughts, and training over the past year (and then some) and for not sharing the many non-running adventures I've had in Richmond, because I love this city.

So what happened? Mainly, I got a demanding job where writing was my primary activity and it took all of my brain power to get through the days. When I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was write some more - it just felt too much like work. I took no pleasure in it anymore and it required far too much effort. And let's face it; blogging is not cool anymore as a social media platform. (Is the world "cool" even cool anymore? Somebody help me... I'm old and out of touch.) Even when I did post, it wasn't much of a conversation anymore.Everyone's gone to Instagram or Snapchat. I do IG but I've decided I am officially way too old and boring for Snapchat.

Blogging also stopped being cathartic for me. Somewhere along the line I stopped writing in my genuine voice and starting worrying about my "audience" (as it were). I would write a sentence 5 times and delete it for fear of how the tone might be judged or interpreted. The writing wasn't organic and it was too hard for me to force it into some kind of PC version of myself.

Well here's what I think about that now: screw it. I need to write again. I need to put out there what's been going on the past few months even if it serves no other purpose than me being able to come back here in September 2017 to see how far I've come. I also hope that it might help someone out there who is dealing with the same thing and needs to read about someone's experience.

Will my entries be perfect? Nope. They'll be stream of conscious again - the way that I write best. If you don't like them, sorry/not sorry. If you don't agree with the way I've gone about trying to right my situation, sorry/not sorry. If you don't like my attitude, sorry/not sorry. I am who I am. I'm not perfect by any means, I'm not some oracle or font of wisdom. That isn't ever what I set out to be in this space anyway; I just wanted to be me.

With that, I'm signing off this entry by really not telling you anything and being all vague about what's been going on the past few months. It wasn't intentional; it's just getting late. I'm not dying (only inside) or getting divorced or moving or homeless or jobless or anything that important. Oh and I'm NOT pregnant.

It's just this.



Monday, April 25, 2016

Redemption Part Deux: 10k

I was really unhappy with my Monument Avenue 10k performance this year. It just left a bad taste in my mouth, even though I know I was sick and therefore had a "valid" excuse for it.

I think excuses are crap, valid or not.*

Over the next few weeks as I recovered from the marathon and Plague 3.0, run after run felt very slow and sluggish. I felt like my legs had forgotten how to go fast.

At the beginning of last week, I told myself that if I was able to run some 10k PR pace miles on Monday or Wednesday, then I'd sign up to run the Carytown 10k and try to redeem myself. To me, there was no point in running another 10k right now unless I was going to set the personal record that I had wanted to achieve at Monument Avenue. My standing PR was set last May at Stratford Hills, with a pace of 7:11/mile, so I was targeting 7:05/mile as the goal for Carytown.

Then, I didn't manage to run a single mile at PR pace during any of my workouts. But at the end of Wednesday morning's run, I decided to go ahead and do Carytown anyway. Even if it wasn't going to be a PR effort, I knew that it would be more enjoyable than Monument Avenue and I wanted that bad experience to be erased.

The morning of the race, my stomach was giving me some trouble so when I arrived early to pick up my bib and to meet Kit for a little shake out, I wasn't feeling very hopeful. GB was also running the race and we connected while milling around waiting for Kit to arrive, so he joined us on a little half mile warm up. BFF Steve has been having me do butt-kickers to try to get me further up into a mid foot strike, so I did some of that to loosen up as we slowly ran our warm up. It also makes me feel lighter on my feet, even though I look like a doofus.

 For those who don't know what butt kickers are...

Our warm up route took us to the starting area, where the three of us lined up together near the front of the pack. Carytown 10k is not a huge race - this year there were 785 finishers - but it does tend to attract a decently fast crowd, as most races organized by Richmond Road Runners Club do. Therefore, starting up front can be very dangerous. I did that at the Moonlight 4 Miler last August and ended up running a 6:30 first mile or something, trying to keep up with the lead pack (not a good idea, by the way). It's easy to get swept up, but it's also nice because you can just take off and run your pace immediately without tripping over the people in front of you and dodging/weaving until you find a comfortable spot and get into the groove.

Anyway, with the usual "Runners Set... and GO!" commands, we took off. Kit and I ran together for all of 2 blocks before he said, "Alright, see you at the end!" and then I found myself side by side with GB for pretty much the rest of the race. As Mile 1 ticked off, I noted that I felt about 1,000 times better than I had at the end of Mile 1 at Monument Ave.

Greg and I traded "leads" through 2, 3, and 4 with one or the other being just a few steps ahead at various points. I was pleasantly surprised at my performance thus far, which was on pace for a PR. We've never said it out loud, but GB and I definitely have a bit of a friendly rivalry going on at the 10k distance (admit it, GB). I know he was thinking, "I'm not letting her get ahead of me," while I was thinking, "I'm not letting Barch get this one." It actually serves us well and because of it, we push each other when we may have otherwise let up. This is exactly what happened during the second half of this race, where we were often running elbow to elbow, neither one of us giving in.

Then, in the last mile, we hit the tiny incline of Nansemond Street and per usual, GB got ahead of me going up the hill and I never caught him again. Not surprising; Barch is a hill beast and I don't think I have ever beaten him up one, big or small. He also has a great end-of-race kick that I can't match, so double whammy.

Excuses, excuses, Kathryn.

There is a happy ending though: I managed to pull out that personal record with a 43:30 race. Greg beat me by 15 seconds with his 43:15, also a PR. Kit rounded out the trifecta with his own super speedy PR of 41:59.

Victorious!

Making the morning even sweeter, Kit got 3rd in his age group and I got 2nd in my age group - a field of 72 women - and 7th woman overall. 

We even got ribbons!

My improvement was 1 minute, 14 seconds or around 10 seconds per mile. That doesn't sound like much, but for a 10k, it is actually not too shabby. Interestingly, that's nearly identical to the margin of improvement from my Erie Marathon pace (8:10/mile) to Wrightsville pace (8:01/mile).  

Hmmmm.

It's also 6 whole minutes ahead of my disaster Monument Avenue time from 2 weeks ago.

That's almost a minute a mile.

WHOA. I just now did that math.

I feel quite redeemed now.

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*Only when it comes to running; not when it comes to procrastinating on house cleaning or other responsible grown up stuff.

Friday, April 15, 2016

3 Years Later - What Do You Say?

Three years ago today, the running world was rocked by the unthinkable tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

At the time, the Boston Marathon was not something that I ever saw myself doing. I was in complete awe of anyone who did do it and did not see myself on the same plane - ever. Boston may as well have been on another planet. In fact, I had never even run a marathon at that point. When Husband and I visited Boston the year before, I didn't even go to see the finish line (which seems insane to me now). It just wasn't even within my realm of existence.

Below is what I wrote on Tuesday, the day after the bombings. I talked about Boston being a pipe dream.

Today - at this moment in fact - I should be landing in Boston for marathon weekend; to participate not as a volunteer or spectator, but as a runner. Last night, Husband's phone alerted us to a 6:20 am flight. He had forgotten to delete the reminder. Until then, I hadn't really even been thinking about it. This morning I woke up feeling very sorry for myself and the "injustice" of it all.

Then I logged on to social media and saw all of the reminders that today is the anniversary of the bombing. Now I feel stupid and shallow for whining about my "loss" on this day, in the face of the true loss felt by hundreds of people whose lives were forever changed on Monday, April 15, 2013.

I'm re-sharing my post below to remind myself of what it felt like that day and to be grateful that everyone I knew was safe. To be grateful that I have a strong body that has allowed me to realize my pipe dream. That I have two legs, two feet - unmarred by shrapnel. That even though it stinks that I didn't make the cutoff this year, I will be there next year. There is much to be happy about, even if I'm not in Beantown this weekend.

For all you fast bastards who filled up the slots ahead of me and are heading up to run Boston on Monday - have a fantastic race. I tip my proverbial hat to your speediness, grit, and achievements and truly hope that you enjoy every moment of your hard-earned reward. I mean that with all of my heart.

Oh, and have a cannoli at Mike's for me, would you?

--------------------------------------------------------

What Do You Say - posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I am not particularly gifted when it comes to eloquence. I'll leave that to the real writers.

There is nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. I'm just going to sort out my thoughts.
Yesterday, when the news came from Boston, my heart went to my throat and my mind went into overdrive.

Katherine, Theresa, Judith, Misti, Sarah.

Where were they? I knew they had all finished by the time the explosion happened. But were they back at the Finish among the spectators? Had they gone back to wait for someone? To meet their cheering squads? 

Please God, let them all be ok.

Why? Why would someone do this? Why would someone do this to runners? The runners I know are caring, loving people who give give give. Runners don't hurt anyone. Why would someone want to hurt them?

The spectators. Good God... the spectators. People who were there with nothing but goodness in their heart, showing their support to the people they loved or maybe even just to complete strangers. 
Boston. A city that had captured my heart last year and held it firmly since. My favorite American city. The one American city that I would move to in a heartbeat if I could. Back Bay - where I stay when I go because I can't get enough of its charming streets filled with an endlessly fascinating diversity of people, beauty, and good food.

I couldn't think of anything else for the rest of the day. One by one, I found out that Theresa, Judith, Misti, and Sarah were ok. But I hadn't heard from Katherine. I texted, I tweeted, I Facebooked. "The data networks are just overwhelmed. I'm sure she is fine." I kept repeating to myself. 

Finally, hours later, word that she was fine. 

By 4:30, my head was thumping with a headache that had begun that morning and had increased throughout the day. I still couldn't believe what had happened. My mind was still racing. I didn't know what to do.

So, I did the only thing I could think of. The only thing that would help me calm down. 
That thing, of course, was to go for a run.

I ran Monument Avenue. The place where just 2 days before I had been lucky enough to feel the power of running. Where nearly 40,000 runners and thousands more spectators and volunteers had come together to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. To cheer each other on. To help each other. To love and care for each other. To accomplish something. 

To celebrate LIFE and DOING. 

I meditated on Boston during the run. My thoughts began with the runners, then the spectators. As I sorted out what I was feeling, I couldn't stop thinking about how each of them - how each of us - has a light and a story. I believe that each of us has a spark of the divine. That our role as human beings is to respect and nurture that light in one another. Why else are we such social creatures? We need each other. Think about how much a random compliment from a stranger brightens up your day. How happy hour with a friend can make even the worst day better. How your running buddy can grab your hand at the finish and give you that last boost that you need to get it done. How study after study shows that being social and engaging with people helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer's in the elderly. 

When terrible things like this happen, like most people, I wonder what the person who carried out the act was thinking. I wonder what kind of life they had... what happened to them to make them want to harm someone else in such a random, senseless way? Deep down, I feel that the people who do these things have forgotten that we all have a light. They have lost touch with humanity. 

What can we do as a society to help these people? To remind them that everyone is important. That they are important and can contribute to the world. 

I'm not sure what we can do. For my part, I'm going to try to keep in mind the golden rule of do unto others as you would have done unto you. 

I'm going to keep running. I'm going to keep living. 

As I ran through what was the finish area for Saturday's Monument Avenue 10k, I sent up a prayer for the people whose finish line dreams were destroyed today. I sent my thanks that I am running again and that I can do this. That I can commune with my fellow runners - the ones that I know and don't know - who give me so much joy and happiness. 

Ironically, I had never really been much interested in the Boston Marathon before this year. But this year, the bug got me.  Even though I have never run a marathon and am not anywhere fast enough to qualify, the pipe dream of someday, somehow, running Boston entered my head. 

Now, all I can think is that I have to go. I have to go to Boston. Even if I don't run, I will go spectate or volunteer. I love Boston. I want to be in that city, on a day that means so much to the sport I love.

To prove that the power of good people is stronger than hate.

My Mom called me at 6 pm, as I was driving home after my run. "Are you ok?" she simply asked. I said I was, and that all of my friends were too. I was surprised at the tremor in my voice. Then she said, "I'm glad you are finished running races for a while."

I knew she would be worried. I know that she will worry from now on and that sucks. She's my mom - it's what she does. I'm her daughter - it's what I do too. But I said to her, "You know what Mom, nothing is safe anymore. It can happen anytime, anywhere. It could happen tomorrow. I can't let it stop me."

It won't stop us. We just have to keep loving. Keep being there for each other. Keep running, Keep living. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Monument Avenue 10k - Well That Sucked

I love the Monument Avenue 10k. Of all of the races I've done, it is my absolute favorite. Richmond Marathon is a really really close second place, but Monument Avenue wins because it is where this whole journey started for me and because it is where the journey starts for so many people in the metro-Richmond area. My friend and fellow fantastic runner/writer Chris once called the Monument Avenue 10k a "gateway race" and he is exactly right.

Monument Avenue 10k is also the only race that I have a streak going on too; I haven't missed one since my first in 2010, making this my 7th in a row. I am very determined to keep this streak going.

Not only that, but after running the hell out of the Marine Corps 17.75k last Saturday and then having another speedy negative split 4 miler with Kit on Monday, I was thinking that maybe I could PR my 10k. 

So imagine my irritation when, on Tuesday night, I started feeling ill. For the third time in the space of five months, I've got myself a pretty awful cold. That night at yoga, I arrived early and actually fell asleep on my mat waiting for class to start. In denial as usual, I laid out my running clothes and was looking forward to running through Bryan Park to see the spring azaleas the next morning but woke up feeling even worse.

I slept late and took the morning off, but went in to work that afternoon. I stubbornly went to work all day on Thursday too, and picked my bib for the 10k that afternoon. On Friday I went to my gait analysis appointment with BFF Steve, which required me to run on the dreadmill for 10 minutes. I felt like I was going to die.

That evening, Kit and I met for a "shake out" run. The problem with Kit and I going on a shake out run is that we are VERY BAD AT SHAKE OUT RUNS and we ended up doing 4 miles at a sub-8:00 pace.

Besides being slightly crazy, all runners are also more than slightly boneheaded. This morning I woke up thinking that I still might PR this race. That feeling lasted until about three blocks into the race, when it became all too obvious to me that I was not going to be able to run a 7:00 pace for 6.2 miles. I stayed in step with Kit for Mile 1 and then told him that it wasn't my day and that he should just go ahead and go for it.

The next 5.2 miles sucked. The Monument Avenue 10k is such a spirited race with so many bands, cheering squads, spectators, and runners that it should have been easy to just slow down and enjoy myself. But I couldn't enjoy myself at all. I felt horrific. The thoughts going through my mind were:
  • "Oh my God, am I finished yet?"
  • "You ran a BQ marathon 3 weeks ago... what is wrong you, pansy?"
  • "This is the longest 10k of my life."
  • "I kind of just want to stop at the med tent and quit. I've heard you get to ride a golf cart back to the start. I love golf carts." 
  • "There are a lot of people passing me and I don't even care."
  • "Am I finished yet???"

GB snapped this photo of me looking grim on the course, around mile 4ish.

 My lap times tell the tale of a steady crash.

Mile 1 - 7:00
Mile 2 - 7:25
Mile 3 - 7:44
Mile 4 - 7:48
Mile 5 - 8:12
Mile 6 - 8:05

3 and 6 aren't accurate; during 3 I saw my buddy Lauren and Coach Scott in the median cheering and, knowing that I wasn't PRing, I stopped to say hi and chat for at least 30 seconds. Same during mile 6, when I was looking for any excuse to stop for spell, I saw my friend Mark taking photos and stopped to chat with him. Out of habit, I cut off my watch each of those times but of course the race clock kept ticking on. My Garmin time was 48:04, but clock time was 49:07.

After I crossed the line, I found Kit and then went directly to the med tent. (Kit killed it after ditching me, running a 42:25 and missing a PR by seconds.) Thanks to my cold and the fierce wind, I had been not quite able to catch my breath along the course and had felt some tightness in my chest. I figured I was ok, but I always try to ere on the side of caution and wanted a medical professional to take a quick listen to the old ticker to make sure I was ok.

DON'T WORRY MOM, I'M FINE.

I'm super bummed about today; not because I didn't PR, but because I really didn't enjoy any of the time that I spent running. I've run this race to PR it and I've run it "casually." Either way, I always have an overall good time. Until today, I thought it was impossible to not enjoy the Monument Avenue 10k. So that sucks.

Thankfully, it's a rare day indeed when I completely hate every second of a run. And even though it sucked, I'm thankful I was able to continue my streak and for the lessons that this experience taught me: that it's pretty foolish to expect to PR three weeks after a BQ marathon and while in the midst of an illness. I've asked a hell of a lot of my body over the past month and it decided today that it would remind me that despite my desperate attempts to convince myself otherwise, I am not super human. I am the "Delicate Beast," as Kit calls me, and the Delicate Beast needs some rest.

(... at least for the next two weeks because maybe I'll try to redeem myself and PR at the Carytown 10k on the 24th...)

Despite my crappy race, I have smiled much and been able to revel in the happiness of so many others who had a fantastic race this morning. I got to shepherd my coworker Laura through her first Monument Avenue 10k experience (you guys know my soft spot for first timers). I saw local visually impaired runner Antoine Craig on the course with his guide and got to tell him he was doing great. He was so sweet and thanked me, then told me I was doing great too - before promptly taking off and beating me to the finish of course. He is so inspiring to me and it really lifted my spirits to see him. So many first timers have been proudly posting on our RVA Runners Facebook page, saying they're already signed up for their next race. My newsfeed has been filled with smiling faces of friends who ran and friends who cheered others on. Marcey crushed her goal time - on her birthday!

That's the thing about the Monument Avenue 10k - it is an event that has become so much more than a road race for this community. It is a joyful day that brings together people of all kinds, all ages, and all abilities. I'm so grateful that we have it. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Redemption is Mine: Wrightsville Marathon Race Report

It was not pretty. I can't say I had very much fun. But I did it.

Add caption

In a torrential downpour, I crossed the finish line at the Wrightsville Beach Marathon with a time of 3:30:05. 18th woman overall. 4th in my age group.

It doesn't seem real and just 5 days later, I'm sitting here thinking to myself, "Is it really over? Did it really happen?"

It did. Here's a quick synopsis on how it went down.

Taper/Pre-Race
My mindset in the week leading up to Wrightsville was the complete opposite of what I felt before Erie. To put it simply, starting 10 days out from the Erie Marathon, I was a HOT MESS. I had no appetite and when I forced myself to eat I felt terrible, my right foot was killing me, running during taper was exhausting and felt slow, and I was just a ball of nerves.

Inexplicably, this time I felt confident and excited. I just wanted to get to Wrightsville and run. My appetite was huge. For once, neither of my feet hurt. Neither did my knees or my back. I slept like a baby and did not have marathon related nightmares. Instead, I had a very vivid dream that I ran a 3:22:38 (yes, it was so vivid I remember the time down to the second). I'm sure this was partially due to the fact that during peak training week, which I never reported on because I am terribly lazy, I hit all of my targets for the two marathon predictor runs (Yasso Test and 22 mile long run at race pace). Nailing those two, along with a 10 mile long tempo run, did wonders to boost my confidence.

Per usual, the main cause of anxiety was the weather forecast. Every marathon, I tell myself I won't obsess over the forecast as obviously there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. But every time, I do. Kit and I were pretty bad this time around; we both checked up to 5 different weather services multiple times a day, starting about 10 days out. Initially, the weather for race day was looking far too warm. Then it shifted to a wash out/thunderstorms - preferable to being too hot but still not ideal.

At one point, Kit suggested that our obsession with the checking the forecast might be pathological. I would have to agree it absolutely was... right up until when we were standing in line for the porties at the start area and realized we couldn't check the weather anymore because we didn't have our phones.

We left for Wrightsville on Saturday morning. Kit arrived at my house a full 45 minutes ahead of our agreed upon departure time; Teresa wasn't far behind. We may have been a little bit over eager to get on the road. And we may have overpacked...

Three runners, 1 non-runner... 2 night trip.

The 4 hour car ride was uneventful (and full of weather updates). We arrived at the hotel, dumped our stuff, then walked to the expo to stretch our legs. The outdoor expo was right next to the finish (all located in the same large multi-use shopping/business/residential area as our hotel) and it took not time at all to grab our packets and get out. As we walked back to the hotel, my anxiety was rising. It was humid. It was really, really warm. I was sweating profusely in my pants and t-shirt.

We may have checked the weather multiple times during the 10 minute walk. A cold front was expected overnight, bringing rain and much colder temperatures (high 40s in the morning, low 50s as the daytime high), but I just didn't quite believe it based on how very warm and sticky it was about 12 hours out from start time.

Dinner was my usual pre-race routine of a steak, baked potato, and bread. Post-dinner was the usual routine of laying out my outfit and double checking that I had everything ready to go. For a hot second, I could not find my Injinji socks and nearly had a heart attack. My genius self had shoved them into my shoes. Kind of silly, but I also had a hard time deciding which top to wear: I have worn the same style for all of my marathons and brought along the orange version and the blue version. I'm not really terribly superstitious, but was really overthinking this decision as I considered the kind of juju the respective colors had. I wore the orange at my worst marathon ever - Raleigh - but also in Shamrock for my first BQ last year. The blue was worn at my first marathon - fantastic experience - and in Erie, where I didn't hit my goal.

Not that it matters, but in the end I chose the blue. Boston blue, right?



Race Day
I woke up at 5:00 AM and the first thing I did was - you guessed it - check the weather. It had not rained overnight like it was supposed to, but it was colder and windy (whew). The hourly also showed a much lower chance of rain over the race time frame than it had the previous night - just a 40% chance during the 10AM hour. If everything went the way it should, I would be finished by 10. Thus, I felt pretty good about the forecast but was slightly concerned about the real feel temperature of 39*, especially considering I was wearing shorts, a tank, and arm warmers. My throwaway was far too big to consider wearing outside of the corral. "C'est la vie," I told myself. "You wanted cold weather and you got it. Suck it up."

I also tortured myself over whether or not to wear a visor I had brought, just in case of rain. I never wear visors when I run (I've worn a hat a few times in rain but never a visor) and I was concerned that the wind might catch it and try to whip it off my head and consequently, I would be forever adjusting a visor for 26.2 miles. I have a stupidly small head and this happens to me when I try to wear a hat and run, as very recently experienced during a raining training run earlier this month.

In the end I opted no visor. This decision turned out to be not so great.

Husband and I met T and Kit in the lobby at 5:35 AM. There was a race shuttle but since Husband was there and it was cold and windy, we decided it would be better to have him drive us to the start so we could minimize time standing outside as much as possible. Kit helped me put on my pace bands and as we went to walk out, I realized I had put on the wrong ones. Husband ran back upstairs to grab the other pair while I thanked my lucky stars I had looked down and noticed before it was too late.

At Erie, I had eaten my usual 1/2 a PB&J on wheat before the race and then had felt half sick the entire time, burping the taste of peanut butter. At one point I wished that I would just puke to feel better - and I dread puking like nothing else, so that tells you how bad I felt. So this time I decided to do something crazy and not eat any real food before the race. During training I tried a cinnamon raisin bagel and it had not gone well. Instead, I ate a packet of Gatorade Prime chews and drank a bottle of water in the car during the 10 minute drive to the start area.

Once we were there, we were very reluctant to leave the warmth of the car. We watched the shuttles come in and other runners getting dropped off, but elected to wait it out until 6:10. It was extremely windy and spitting rain. Runners were huddling in the shelter of the UHaul truck being used for bag drop off, as it offered some protection from the wind.

I myself was extremely grateful that T and Kit were there; the three of us huddled in and hugged it out while standing in line for the Porties. Having running buddies is a very handy thing when you're standing in the freezing cold and need some shared body heat. When it was my turn in the Portie, I actually thought about just hiding out in there - it wasn't smelly or dirty and it was exponentially warmer in there than it was outside!

Next up was bag drop off and before we knew it, it was time to get into corrals. A big hug for T as she headed off to find the 3:45 pacer, then Kit and I headed toward the front to find the 3:30 and 3:20 pacers. Before we split up, we hugged each other hard. It's really tough to train hundreds of miles together and then not run the race together.

I found the 3:30 pacer quickly and made some small talk with a guy in an orange shirt (his name was Mark - which I didn't learn until after the marathon). It was his first marathon and he was hoping for a 3:30. I love a marathon virgin, so I was happy to have him along for the ride. When the announcer called 1 minute to go, I ditched my throw away and made it back just in time for the start.

During Mile 1, my two main thoughts were, "Wow, it's dark," and "Crap, it's windy." I listened to the banter between our pacer and some of the others in the group - he was obviously a local runner who was well known and had some friends along for the ride. I caught his name, "Stuart" and when there was a break in the conversation, I sidled up next to him and introduced myself.

"Hi Stuart, I'm Kathryn. I have a really bad habit of running faster than my pace group and then flaming out, so don't let me get ahead of you!"

My strategy for the race was to glue myself to the 3:30 pacer. Kit told me multiple times during training he thought I was capable of a sub-3:30. But I didn't need a sub-3:30. Just a 3:30. I wasn't going to take any risks. I had learned from my experiences in Shamrock (where I ran ahead of the pace group then flamed out) and Erie (where I let myself be too far behind them) that I'd just have to trust the pacer and stick to him/her no matter what. It is really, really, really hard to put your fate into the hands of a complete stranger on race day. Had he successfully paced a 3:30 group before? Did he run negative split? Even split? Modified warm up? Was he coming off of a cold or injury that might impact his performance? So many unknowns.

The pace bands I'd elected to wear planned a slight negative split - something else I learned from Shamrock and Erie was that banking time is not a good strategy. As we ticked off the first few miles, I checked in with the pace bands and we were running slightly "hot," as Stuart put it, but nothing substantial. I made friends with a guy named Bill who seemed to know Stuart really well and made small talk with him. I checked in on Mark every once in a while, talked with Stuart about my race history and why I was shooting for the 3:30, my training strategy, etc.

As is usually the case, the first few miles flew by and before I knew it we had run across the dreaded drawbridge, which we'd been warned about in emails as somewhat treacherous due to the open grating. The light rain had stopped and as we hit the mainland, the wind was also reduced. Around mile 4, I spotted Husband in his red Cardinals hat and "I Don't Do Marathons, I Do a Marathoner" shirt. (Seriously, that shirt never gets old.) I gave him two thumbs up as we turned to go into Landfall, a very fancy gated neighborhood where we would cover our next few miles.

Stuart must have something against Landfall because when we got in there, he started truckin. I stuck with Bill and my pace chart while Stuart and a small group ran about 30 yards in front of us. I had our pace somewhere between 7:40 and 7:50 for most of this section. The wind had pretty much stopped and I actually got kind of warm while we were running through the neighborhood which was filled with mansions, McMansions, and spectators with their designer dogs. It felt like we were in there forever. While we were in Landfall, I noticed that the mile markers were about .2 of a mile off. My Garmin, and the ones around me, all chirped mile splits far before we passed the markers for 6 and 7. This trend continued for the rest of the race. Knowing that what your Garmin says doesn't mean shit in a race, I tried to check my elapsed time against my pace bands when I actually passed mile markers from there on out.

After a water stop, I turned on the jets and caught up with Stuart again as we approached mile 8 and a left turn back toward the beach for another loop around the peninsula where we'd started. I knew I'd see Husband again, so I tried to pull of my arm warmers to give to him as I passed. I only managed to get the right one off in time and gave it to him.  "Hey babe! Love you!" I shouted, which he returned. The guys in the pace group ribbed for me for it immediately, parroting, "Love you baby!" and laughing.

Unlike Erie, as things settled in and what seemed like the core group of 3:30s emerged, I found myself surrounded by men. During our second loop around the peninsula, there was only one other woman still hanging with us. She dropped back at the half marathon mark and then it was just me and the dudes. I didn't mind, but the vibe was also different than I've experienced before. There was no idle chit chat going on; no swapping of race stories or talk of food or anything else for that matter. Of course there is always much less talk when you're running hard, but even in Erie, Katie, Carmel, and I had some good conversations as we covered 20 miles together. Now that I think about it, it's kind of funny that I predominantly train with men, but when I make new friends at a race, they are almost always women. In Shamrock, it was Chelsey for 17 miles.

Hmm.

When we hit the half marathon, I quietly sang Bon Jovi in my head - I doubted any of the guys who remained in the 3:30 pace group were going to join in. Stuart checked ranks and told us we were perfectly on pace and looking great - that we were going to make him look good. By this time, Bill had dropped back (I was worried about him) but Mark and I had fallen in together. We crossed the drawbridge again around 15, leaving the beach behind us as we started on a long west bound stretch along a 6 lane highway back toward UNC Wilmington's campus. Stuart told us this was a slight uphill and in my head, I cursed him for saying it because it immediately brought to mind the Main Street portion of the Richmond Marathon, which is very slight incline for miles 16 and 17, heading directly west. This past year, that part of the race was the most miserable section for Kit and I, as we fought a strong headwind on that long straight incline... placed in exactly the same part of the race that I was now tackling.

And I have to say, I wasn't feeling great. We were below pace now - by at least 1:30. I was maintaining mile by mile targets, but I was not feeling it. My right hamstring had been bothering me since the beginning of the race and it was slowly finding its way down to my calf. When mile 16 hit, I thought to myself, "HOW am I going to do this for ten more miles? I feel so done with this."

I saw Husband again at 17 and that boosted my resolve, especially when I realized that the next time I saw him would be the finish. I also reminded myself that I had little more than an hour left to go, which wasn't much in the grand scheme of things. By now, the pace group had strung out substantially leaving Mark, Stuart, and I seemingly trudging west. Mark was struggling with some cramping, and we were doing our best to get his mind off of it, telling him that he was really doing great and that we were in single digits - not much left to go.

As we finally came to the next section of the course - a paved multi-use trail - it was suddenly just Stuart and I. We fell in together and he must have sensed that I was feeling a bit tired because he started complimenting me. "You're killing this Kathryn. The way your form looks at this point in the race, I'm telling you that you are capable of a 3:20 marathon. You don't even look tired at all. I can tell you are strong and you are going to take off these last few miles. If you feel it, just go!"

I brushed off the compliments, "All I need is a 3:30... that's all I need... no fireworks today, let's just keep trucking." At this point, the mile markers being off really started to screw with my brain. Every time my Garmin ticked off another mile, I said to myself, "No... you aren't really at mile 20 yet. NOT YET."

Despite some of these negative thoughts, I also still felt like I could do it. I WAS doing it. I was ahead of pace and I wasn't feeling great but I also wasn't feeling terrible. I told myself to remember what Erie was like, and how I just let things fall apart after 20. How I promised myself I wouldn't do it again. I'd come this far, certainly I could hang on for another hour or so.

It was also around this time that it started to rain - a cold, steady rain. This made the wooden bridges that dotted the paved trail seem very treacherous. It also made me very cold. I started to lose the feeling in my fingers and cursed myself for not wearing the visor and for giving Jason my arm warmer. I distracted myself by watching the runners who were ahead of me come back toward me on the trail. I watched for Kit, knowing I'd have to see him eventually. That is pretty much what got me through the next few miles and onto the UNC Wilmington Campus. Stuart had dropped back from me at that point - I guess to check on some others who had been in the pace group. I looked ahead down the long straight promenade on campus, searching for Kit. My mind couldn't remember what color he had been wearing - when we parted in the corral he still had his throwaway on.

It was taking way too long for me to see him, and I started to get really worried. When I finally did spot him in his red singlet, I yelled and gave a thumbs up but he shook his head an gave me a thumbs down. He wasn't having a good day. "It's not happening," he said as I passed.

For a few seconds, I let that sink into my brain. But as much as I love Kit and felt a deep sadness at that moment, I couldn't let the way his race was going affect mine. I was on track, maintaining target pace, and it needed to stay that way. I set it aside and kept on keeping on. After the turnaround, I started looking for T in the on coming runners, again distracting myself. When I spotted her she seemed be doing ok and she said, "You're doing great!" as we passed.

Mile 23 now, and I was fading. From behind me, I could hear Stuart yelling at me, "Make your move now, Kathryn. Move it! Pick it up!" I was really tired. I felt like I was giving it my all. When 23 clicked off on the Garmin and I saw my pace had slowed substantially, I panicked slightly.

Stuart came up alongside me. He stayed with me for these last 2 miles, egging me on the whole way. I felt so done. I kept telling him, "I'm so tired. I'm giving it everything." He wouldn't take that for an answer. We emerged from the trail section, crossed the highway, and I knew we were in the home stretch because we were running on the road alongside my hotel. 24 ticked off and I looked at my watch. "It doesn't matter what the watch says, Kathryn. Stop looking and RUN!" Stuart yelled at me from behind.

I did not stop at the last water stop at mile 24. Water wasn't going to help me now - only running as fast as I could was going to get this finished. I thought we were going to have a straight away to the finish, but instead we took some hard turns through a residential area. The hard turns were killing me. I'm not good at regaining speed after a turn and especially not at the end of a marathon.

Somewhere during 24 or 25, it started to downpour. No more gentle rain. This was torrential. I had been soggy but now I was completely soaked in a matter of seconds. My top stuck to me uncomfortably. My feet felt incredibly heavy, I couldn't feel my arms, and I could barely see as I squinted against the rain.Again, I cursed myself for not wearing the damn visor.

This sounds really dramatic, doesn't it?

I kept telling myself the only thing to do was to keep running. Stuart was ahead of me now, still yelling over his shoulder. Another man was just in front of me - maybe 10 feet ahead of me. We passed a tiny group of spectators (God bless them) and the guys in the group yelled at me, "Chick him. CHICK HIM!"

I willed my legs to pump faster, but wouldn't you know it that guy was NOT going to get chicked. He sped up too and slipped away. I was thinking, "WHERE is the finish, for the love of God??" and then I saw the photographers that signal the end of the race. I threw up my peace signs and started smiling. One more right hand turn and there it was. The clock read 3:29 as it came into view and I pumped my legs as hard as I could. Tunnel vision kicked in and I heard nothing, saw nothing but those timing mats.

Courtesy of Chessie Photo; I've purchased this digital print but it isn't ready yet.

I crossed the line and stumbled to Stuart, who had finished just ahead of me, and hugged him. Poor guy. I didn't know what else to do - I was so relieved, so thankful that he had pushed me, and just overcome with everything. I had forgotten to hit stop on my watch immediately on crossing, so I wasn't sure what my chip time was but I was sure of one thing: the first part of it read 3:30.

Husband appeared along with Kit. Someone handed me the medal and then I clumsily draped myself in a wet mylar. I don't even know what I was saying or thinking at the moment, other than "I'm really wet, it's pouring, and I'm really cold."

After hugs and congratulations, Kit and I shuffled to the runner's tent while poor Husband went to wait in the pouring rain for T, who was still out there in that awful stuff. Unlike after Erie, I was famished and made a bee line for the pizza station and then grabbed a can of coke. We sat down at a table and I immediately put my arm around Kit. It was really hard to feel celebratory when I knew he hadn't BQd. He said he just didn't have it, that the mileage markers being so far off really threw him for a loop mentally and by the time we hit that long stretch of west bound road between 16 and 18, he was so far behind he knew he couldn't make it up.

For the record, he still beat me - he ran a freaking 3:27:48. But I know how it feels to run what others think is a fast race but what wasn't your own goal for yourself. It's hard. I struggled with it after Erie. Immensely.

We didn't talk more about the race; we were both getting more and more cold and started shivering pretty much uncontrollably. I'd brought along long sleeves to wear post race, but they were with Jason, who was outside in the rain. I ate another piece of pizza and then we elected to go gather Kit's bag from bag check. The bag check tent was nearly abandoned, so we again sat at a table and huddled together, waiting for T and Jason to arrive. I felt immensely guilty for not going to stand at the finish line to cheer T on, but I also was freezing and drenched. My hands were so cold that I my phone wasn't even registering my fingertips as I tried to text Marcey and my mother to tell them how I did. It took me 5 minutes to write, "I did it" to Marcey. Husband texted me that he had T and I called him to tell him where we were.

T did well, PRing despite being out in the downpour for longer than either Kit or myself. Talk about a trooper.

Thoughts
So there you have it. Eventually, the marathon's text service sent me my official results: a 3:30:05, 4th in my age group, 18th woman. This placed me well within the top 10% of female finishers and just inside the top 20% overall. I was thrilled but also slightly miffed at those 5 seconds. Still... a 4 minute, 55 second cushion should be more than enough to get me to Boston in 2017. I am pleased.

This race was not fun. During all of my other marathons- even miserable Raleigh - there were moments when I had fun and enjoyed myself. This was all business, all the time. As far as my performance goes, I'm pleased overall but know I still have things to work on. Per usual, I ran too fast in the middle of the race and then flamed out at the end. In Erie, the flame out started at mile 21. Thankfully I held it off for two more miles here. I had banked a little over a minute and 30 seconds, which is exactly how much I needed to cash in during 24, 25, and 26.2 to get the 3:30. 

My body held up pretty well. I was hurting but in less pain than at Shamrock or Erie, for sure. I didn't have to curse at body parts this time around. My right calf and hamstring were aching throughout the race - not the usual suspects - but they never seized on me. I've recovered quickly, too. I went to yoga Tuesday night, did a short run with Kit and Lauren on Wednesday, and today, I feel pretty much 100% with only a tiny bit of residual soreness in my quads. This means that either I am in the best shape I've been in or I didn't push myself hard enough.

I'm choosing to not think about that right now because I did what I needed to do and that's all that matters. I have qualified for Boston three times in less than 12 months. This time, I've secured a cushion that means I'm going to Boston in 2017. Redemption is mine. I'm thrilled, I'm happy, I'm proud.

But it is still a bittersweet victory. When your training partner, who has pushed you and suffered with you through all manner of torturous workouts, doesn't achieve their goal too, it's hard to feel completely happy. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without Kit, and because of that I am going to do everything I can to support him as he goes for it again at Erie this fall. It's the least I can do. We are a team, after all.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Road to Redemption Omnibus: February

I’m horrible at regular updates.  Therefore, this is really long – but nobody cares except me and I said I’d track this training cycle so darn it, I’m tracking it!

Week 5 (Jan 31 – Feb 6)

Monday – Speed work on the docket: 2 x 1600, 2 x 800. Goal paces were 6:41 for the 1600s and 3:13 for the 800s. You know sometimes within the first half mile of a run you know it’s just not going to happen? That was this run. At the end of the warm up mile I knew things were not going to go as planned. Here is how things panned out:

First 1600 – 6:47 (eh)
Second 1600 – 6:55 (bad)
First 800 – 3:23 (worse)
Second 800 – 3:35 (terrible)

 C’est la vie.

Tuesday – Yoga, per usual. At this point it was so long ago that I can’t remember any specifics from the class. Oh wait. Yes I can. I remember that I felt very tired and weak even though the routine was not one of Penny’s most challenging. It was during this class that I began to think that the random cough I’d been having for two days was developing into something more sinister.

Wednesday – Switched things up for this tempo and headed to south side instead of our normal north bound route. I had written in my training calendar that we were to run 6 total miles: a 2 mile warm up followed by 3 miles at 7:04 and 1 cool down mile. Since the night before, my illness had progressed and I felt way less than great when I met Kit in the parking lot and then proceeded to absolutely bomb this work out – or so I thought. Feeling very sorry myself and looking for an excuse or reason as to why I did so terribly for the second run in a row, I pulled out Run Less Run Faster to recheck what the tempo target pace was supposed to be for the work out.

Lo and behold, I had transcribed incorrectly and my goal pace for the tempo miles was 7:14 NOT 7:04. So in reality, I had managed to make goal. Thank goodness, because I was really starting to feel like a failure.

Thursday – I skipped spin. I hardly slept and felt terrible in the morning.

Friday – Felt even worse. I spent the day trying every possible remedy to relieve/cure cold including chicken noodle soup, Emergen-C, Airborne, and green tea with honey. None of it worked.

Saturday – Long run day with 16 miles on the schedule. I woke up feeling terrible and with a very low grade fever. But being the stubborn, bone-headed runner that I am, I headed to meet up with the training team anyway. My irrational thoughts included: “Maybe you can run this cold out and burn it off with a good workout” and “You’ve had two really crappy runs this week, last week got screwed up because of the blizzard, so you can’t miss this long run or the entire training cycle will be in the toilet.”

A few miles in, I knew I wasn’t going to be running the full 16. At the mile 4 water stop, I was so out of it that when Coach Shawn came over to say hi and give me a hug, I didn’t even realize who was hugging me until after it was over. Observations from my teammates included, “Kathryn, you aren’t running like yourself. You feel ok?” and this gem by Kit: “I can sense that you are suffering over there.” Despite my sickness, I was somehow maintaining between an 8:00 and 8:15 pace for the first 8 miles. But by the second water stop, I knew I needed to head straight back. In my fevered brain, I somehow thought that running straight down Monument Avenue from Monroe Park to Willow Lawn was only 2.5ish miles, which would bring me to around 11 for the day and that would be fine. Unfortunately, Monroe Park to Willow Lawn is actually more like 3.75 miles straight down Monument Avenue. And they were the worst 3.75 miles that I have run in a very, very long time. At every intersection, I stopped even if I had the light. I actually sat down on a retaining wall to take a break. I managed to will myself to keep running by playing the old “just get to the next traffic light and then we can take another break” trick. I haven’t done that in years.

Even though I felt that I must have been running a 10:00+ pace, the last three miles were an average of 8:30. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to finish a run than I was that day. Trying to do a 16 mile training run when you’ve got a fever, full on cold, and it’s only 20 degrees is really not a smart decision.

Total Weekly Running Mileage: 25.4
Total Overall: 138.72


Week 6 (Feb  7- Feb 14)

Monday – For some reason , I had the delusion that I was going to do the prescribed speed work (10 x 400) after work, even though I was in terrible shape. I was loathe to miss another training session and frustrated that I was suffering through an illness that was preventing me from running yet again. In fact, I had more than a tiny crisis in confidence after deciding that I should not do the run. I was certain that I would never be able to ready to run Wrightsville at goal pace and felt like quitting (truly).

Tuesday – No longer having insane coughing fits, I went to yoga and felt pretty good. When I left I thought that maybe I was fit enough to run a marathon in a few weeks and that the illness wouldn’t set me back too far. Maybe.

Wednesday – Ladder tempo run with Kit, with slightly modified pace goals given my lingering Typhoid-Mary status. I really REALLY needed a win and thank goodness, I got it. Things were a little bit uneven – the progression was not exactly perfect – but I did manage to increase my speed over the six tempo miles. When we finished and I caught up to Kit I said, “OK, maybe I can do this after all.”

Thursday – I opted once again to just sleep in and skipped spin. I’ve always been bad at sticking to cross-training.

Friday – Rest day; spent the day mentally prepping myself for 18 miles after having done nothing but run 8 miles during the week.

Saturday – I surprised myself. Honestly, I can’t remember what my goal for the long run was other than to finish it. I wasn’t feeling confident after nearly 2 weeks of sub-par training. The beginning of the course was mostly downhill and we ended up going too fast. What goes down must come up, and after what felt like a nearly vertical uphill at mile 8, my legs were protesting loudly. Thankfully the next 10 miles were relatively flat and forgiving, except for the last three which were headed due west… which also happened to be the direction from which a very strong head wind was blowing. Even Kit was feeling a beat down by the relentless wind and happily agreed to duck onto cross streets to “stretch” once or twice during that last three mile slog. Despite that, I finished with an overall average of 8:05 and felt immensely redeemed.

Total Weekly Running Mileage: 26
Total Overall: 164.72

 
Week 7 (Feb 15 – 21)

Monday – SNOW RUN! We were treated to about 4” of perfect powdery snow. Kit and I decided immediately that a snowy trail run > our planned speed week session, so we met up around 7:30 am and ran a point to point on the Buttermilk Trail, making first tracks in many sections. There is nothing more magical than a quiet snow run on the trails.

 

Tuesday – Yoga

Wednesday – Time for the first mid-week 10 miler of the training cycle. How I used to dread these runs; I remember during my first season of MTT, I looked ahead in the training plan and when I saw those 10 mile Wednesday runs, I wanted to just cry. Nowadays they don’t scare me so much anymore. This was a tempo run, 1 mile warm up and 1 mile cool down with 8 miles at 7:49 in the middle. Usually we try to stay pretty flat on tempo run days; Kit made the route for today and he thought he was sticking to the flats but as it turned out, there were quite a few moderate hills. We still met our goal (I actually finished with a 7:45 average) but when we finished, I declared that Kit was fired from the position of route-creator.

Thursday – I persuaded myself out of bed and went to spin class. ::pats self on back::

Friday – Rest day, spending most of the time fretting about the next day’s 20.

Saturday – When we originally devised our training plan, Kit and I had planned to run a 3 hour 30 minute run on this Saturday. The idea was that we’d spend the same amount of time on our feet that we would on marathon day and thus be prepared for all for all of the aches and pains that come during that last 30-40 minutes of a hard marathon effort. However, after last Saturday’s pacing fail (going out too fast and losing time from mile 15 on) and knowing that we are both pretty incapable of slowing up more than 10-15 seconds from our usual territory of 7:55-8:05, we changed our plan. We figured that if we ran for 3 hours, 30 minutes we would probably run 24 miles due to that inability to slow down; and running 24 miles wasn’t really necessary.

 I started researching alternative long run strategies that can mimic race day conditions/serve as marathon readiness tests and landed on the McMillan’s 3 Marathon Predictor Workouts and decided that instead of the timed run, maybe we should try a fast finish long run. After much back and forth, Kit and I decided on a 20 mile run, average pace goal of 8:00 (my race pace), with a negative split as follows:

Miles 1-5 goal pace 8:05
Miles 6-15 goal pace 8:00
Miles 16-20 goal pace 7:55

The first 13 miles or so were pretty much identical to a large segment of the Richmond Marathon – decidedly familiar territory for Kit and I (and really, most of the training team). In the cue sheet for the route, I actually wrote <bunch of crap we know> for that section of directions instead of taking the time and space to write out a bunch of turns that we know by heart at this point.

The whole thing went really well. After showing GREAT restraint during the first 5 miles, we may have run too fast for the rest (ok… we DID run the rest too fast) but it felt good. As Kit’s marathon goal pace is lower than mine, he opted to go it on his own for the last four and try to ratchet things down to a 7:39 pace. In an effort to try to keep myself from chasing him, I waited at the mile 15 water stop and gave him a good 2 minute head start so that he’d be far enough away that I’d never have a hope of catching him and the temptation to try would be less. It didn’t really help… I ran my last five miles in 7:39, 7:42, 7:48, and 7:37, and 7:58.

But the important thing was that I felt GREAT throughout the entire run – and that I accomplished my fast finish goal. The first half of the run was at an 8:00 average; the second half a 7:49.

For the rest of the day I was in a great mood. I wasn’t that tired and did not take my usual post-long run nap after I got home and showered. I did some house work and read a while, marveling in the fact that it didn’t feel at all like I had run 20 race pace (or faster) miles that morning.

And then I tried to go up the stairs. Suddenly, I could not lift my left leg. It felt like there was no strength at all in my hip or glutes. In my mind, I visualized that something had torn or come loose; some ligament completely slipped out of place and was flapping in the proverbial breeze, useless. I tried stretching, massaging, but I couldn’t find a place that hurt. It just seemed to be useless. When I went to bed, I had to haul my left leg up after me and then couldn’t lie on that side. I lay there, inwardly panicking while Googling the symptoms of hip fracture on my phone.

Talk about going from high to low.

Sunday – I could once again lift my leg on Sunday (a good sign) but there was definitely something still off about it.

Total Weekly Running Mileage: 37
Total Overall: 201.37

 
Week 8 (Feb 22 – 28)

Monday – Given the weirdness going on in my left leg, I did not have high hopes for speed work (yet again). It was a weird session, too: 2 x1200 followed by 4 x 800. Shockingly, I managed to hang in at pace for the 1200s and then, with the weird pain increasing deep in my left hip joint, decided to stick with Yasso pace for the 800s instead of the RLRF pace (3:30 per 800 versus 3:13). I ended up with something in between:

1st 800 – 3:19
2nd 800 – 3:21
3rd 800 – 3:20
4th 800 – 3:17

Tuesday – First thing in the morning, I was in to see BFF Steve. As I described my terror at not being able to lift my left leg on Saturday night, he didn’t seem nearly as alarmed and informed me that with SI joint dysfunction, weakness in the affected leg is really common. That was news to me; other than the very first time this issue ever came up back in 2013, I’ve never experienced anything like what had happened on Saturday. A quick check revealed that sure enough, my SI joint was literally stuck in a weird position and therefore had made all of the associated muscles and connective tissue really unhappy.

That night I went to yoga per usual and as we worked our way through a series of standing balance poses that I normally nail, I immediately found my balance was awful thanks to a high level of fatigue in my hips and glutes.

This SI joint is going to be the death of me.

Wednesday – Tempo Day! Tempo run day has definitely become my favorite run of the week. Since I fired Kit last week, I created a quick and flat north side jaunt. Goal: 7 miles, 5 tempo miles at 7:19. Result:

Mile 1 (warm up) – 7:45 (ha!)
Mile 2 – 7:12
Mile 3 – 7:19
Mile 4 – 7:19
Mile 5 – 7:17
Mile 6 – 7:14
Mile 7 – 8:20

Bam.

Thursday – Back to my usual laziness; skipped spin, this time employing the “don’t want to inflame my left hip” excuse.

Friday – Rest day that I didn’t really deserve considering the skipping of spin.

Saturday – “Drop back” week to 16 miles; but a tough 16 miles they were. We crossed the Nickel Bridge today and then ran the hilly part of Riverside Drive during the first half of the run. Pacing was all over the place and discipline was generally out the window… fastest mile was Mile 12 at 7:29 and slowest was Mile 14 at 8:14. Overall average worked out to be 7:49, so it is no wonder that I felt completely zapped by the end.

Sunday – The weather was beautiful, so I dragged Husband out for a little walk in the afternoon.

 
Total Weekly Running Mileage: 31
Total Overall: 232.37

-----------------------------------------------

So there you go. A very up and down month indeed. During the first two weeks of the month, I went through a number of days when I was just sure that there was no way in hell that I would ever be ready to make my goal at Wrightsville thanks to so many missed training runs. There were times when I really did think that I should just call it and give up this one.

Thankfully, just when I felt like I was ready to throw in the towel, the next day I would be right on target with a work out goal. After the 18 and then the successful fast finish 20, my confidence was buoyed and by the end of the month, I felt like it was possible to get the 3:30 in Wrightsville.

Friday, February 5, 2016

RVA February Picks

Last week, Husband and I were discussing Valentine's Day plans. I am the planner of our relationship (duh), but I told him that I would much prefer to not plan our V-Day activity for once.

"I'm terrible at thinking of things to do!" he lamented.

I countered with, "Come on, we've been married for 7 years. You know me by now. What do I like to do?"

"Run, run, run," he said.

That's true, but there are plenty of other things that I love to do in our fair city of RVA. In fact, there is often so much going on in just the arts and cultural world that I don't have nearly enough time or let's face it - money - to partake of everything that I want to. Let's not even talk about the food, festival, beer, and wine scenes.

Run, run, run has been all I've talked about thus far in the revival of the blog too. So I thought I might start to try to do a regular entry that highlights a few activities and a restaurant or two to try out in the coming month.

After all, the blog is called run, eat, play RVA.

So, I present to you my RVA picks for February.

Pick 1 - Science Museum of Virginia: The Blackbird Cometh
First two weeks of February

This might be slightly biased as this is my place of employment, but I'm putting it here anyway because when else will you ever get the opportunity to see the world's fastest production plane EVER, used to spy on the USSR during the Cold War, put into a 100-year old train station concourse ship-in-a-bottle-style and then hung from the ceiling very very carefully?


The answer is never. I don't know much 'bout engineering and math (I'm a squishy floofy liberal arts person) but I do know that this entire process is an incredible feat of both - and pretty darn cool to watch even for us plebeians.

Test suspension of the plane will start next week before it is permanently installed, but any day is a great one to come check out the action. Here is today's view - they're working on reassembling the plane - check out the sparks on the left under the wing.


Pro tip: While you're at the Museum, check out a film in the Dome, catch a Rat Basketball game, and make a bee buzzer in the Art Lab (I was the hand model for the instruction chart!).


Pick 2 - Richmond Ballet's Romeo + Juliet
February 12, 13, & 14

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Brett Bonda, Managing Director of the Richmond Ballet, speak at a Lunch Break Science lecture here at the Museum. I've been a big fan of the Richmond Ballet since I moved here 9 (!!) years ago. In fact, one of the first real "fancy" dates that Husband took me on was to go see the Richmond Ballet's production of The Nutcracker in 2006.

But as Brett will be quick to tell you, the Ballet is much more than The Nutcracker- and he's right. These dancers are amazing, phenomenally talented athletes and watching them in the up close and personal Studio series productions is a real treat. They make everything look easy, which is exactly why ballet is so very difficult. Now that I myself am something of an athlete, they amaze me even more.

Also a real treat? The once-a-season big, lavish stage production that isn't Nutcracker. This year's production is Romeo + Juliet, playing very fittingly over Valentine's Day weekend. Even more perfect? Newlywed Richmond Ballet company dancers Valerie Tellmann-Henning and Kirk Henning (whose wedding featured a groomsman dance that propelled them to You Tube fame) are stepping into the roles of the title pair.

All together now - awwwwwwwwwwww!



Brett's lecture reawakened my admiration and love for the ballet and I have since managed to convince Husband that we simply must go see Romeo + Juliet for Valentine's Day. I hope I've convinced you too. If you're a runner, you'll be amazed at the athleticism and precision of the finally honed machine that is a dancer. If you're not a runner, you'll just enjoy looking at all those beautiful machines in their tights...

...and the costumes, and the sets, and the live orchestral accompaniment, and everything else that makes a night at the ballet captivating.

Pro tip: Ticket prices can seem a bit eye popping at first. If you're looking for less expensive options, sit upstairs and don't be afraid to sit in the less-expensive second tier seats. You'll still have a great view of the entire stage and the orchestra pit, as long as you don't sit too far to either side. My favorite spot is dead center of the first row of second tier - lots of leg room, great view, and cheap(ish).


Pick 3 - Richmond Symphony's Rush Hour at Hardywood Series: Stravinsky, Strauss, & Beethoven
February 18

One of the greatest conundrums for symphony orchestra management the world over has been trying to figure out how to make symphony concerts seem less stuffy, boring, intellectual, elitist, etc. All kinds of gimmicks strategies have been deployed in the quest to make symphonies cool.

It's been a tough road.

This latest attempt by Richmond Symphony, however, is working. Plop your orchestra among the barrels (literally)  in one of the hottest craft breweries in Virginia, shorten the concert format to an hour, offer a single low ticket price, and allow your audience to talk amongst themselves and relax while they enjoy a beer and the music.

Voila - sold out concerts.

Steven Smith conducts the Richmond Symphony at the
January Rush Hour concert at Hardywood Craft Brewery.

Husband and I attended the January concert, which sold out a week in advance. Don't expect to sit down; the orchestra is squeezed into the cask room (technical term?) and there is room for about 30 chairs which all get spoken for pretty quickly. If you want to pay special attention to a piece, you hang out in standing room only in back of the cask room and if you don't want to pay rapt attention, you head to the tasting room where you can still hear the music in the background but are free to socialize. I admit to paying rapt attention to 2 of the 4 pieces in January and spending the rest of my time chatting with former coworkers and other friends that I ran into purely by coincidence.

This is a great option for those who might not think that a symphony concert is up their alley- it's a no pressure, casual environment where you can pay as much, or as little, attention to the concert as you want to. It's only an hour long and the price is unbeatable at $15. And if you end up hating it, at least there is beer.

(But you won't hate it.)

Pro tip: Parking at Hardywood can be tricky for event nights. Try to get there at least 30 minutes early. If you want one of those coveted chairs, better make it 45 minutes at least.

Pick 4 - Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: Rodin Evolution of a Genius
Through March 13

Just about everybody knows this guy:

The Thinker at the Musee Rodin in Paris
(September 2013 visit)
But do you know the guy behind The Thinker?

Auguste Rodin was a fascinating figure for many reasons and the VMFA exhibit does a great job in giving you an inside look at his revolutionary (for the time) artistic process. For example, did you know that Rodin wasn't the one hanging out with the chisel and granite or casting his creations? Rodin actually completed his work in clay and then employed a whole workshop of highly skilled artisans who cast and chiseled his clay models into the bronzes, plasters, and marbles that usually see. I was very surprised (and slightly disappointed) to learn that; I'd always imagined Rodin sitting at the base of the Gates of Hell, chisel in hand with brow furrowed, trying to decide his next move.

He was also a big recycler - using figures and body parts modeled for previous projects to Frankenstein together new works. As you move through the exhibit, it becomes a fun game to spot the recurring cast of characters and limbs.

Even if artistic process doesn't exactly inflame your passion, you should take the time to go check out this fantastic exhibition, which features many pieces from the Musée Rodin in Paris. Per usual, VMFA delivers us humble Richmonders a once in a lifetime chance to have a personal encounter with master pieces that others travel thousands of miles to see.

I left with a new vision of Rodin (covered in clay and plaster dust; no chisel) and an education on the technique of sculpture, along with an tongue-in-cheek and vastly overpriced but irresistible pad of Post-Its from the exhibit shop, featuring The Thinker and what else - thought bubbles.

I haven't been able to bring myself to use them.

Detail from a bronze cast of The Kiss

Pro tip: Though it closes in March, I recommend going now before everyone else realizes that they've procrastinated too long and are about to miss their chance. The audio tour (free from the iTunes app store) really adds to your understanding of the exhibit. Download it before you go, because there is little to no cell phone reception in the exhibit itself.


Restaurant Pick - Whisk

Because delicious, spot-on croissants and coffee await.



But don't roll up post-run in your sweaty clothes... you will immediately feel out of place and underdressed. The café space is small, white, clean, and pretty quiet even when the seats are full. To give you a feel for the vibe, when I was there, a guy wearing a suit at a table nearby was eating his muffin with a fork.

To say I felt very conspicuous with my unwashed hair, leggings, and sweater is an understatement. A grungy, casual coffee spot where you can blend in and barely hear your conversation over the roar of the grinder (a la Lift) this is not. But that's part of what makes it a nice addition to my rotation of breakfast spots. Just wash your hair, put on some real clothes, and enjoy a perfect croissant or breakfast soufflé.

I was dying to take home some macaroons which called to me from the cast for the entire duration of my hour-long breakfast date, but I managed to ignore their siren call. I don't think I'll be able to do that next time.