Friday, November 14, 2014

My 2 Cents, For What They're Worth

You've read Kit's play-by-play for tomorrow and I'm here to tell you that it's all true. You'll be like a kid on Christmas morning and wake up at 4 am. It will take forever for the start to happen. The first ten miles are so much fun. Riverside is glorious. You'll be stunned at how much of a hill Forest Hill Avenue really is. You'll make the Lee Bridge your bitch (cause it's the only way to do it). You'll curse at the overpass by the Diamond and through Bellevue. You won't even remember you name once you get to Grace Street and you'll probably do something silly like cry at the end.

Now, take all of that and file it away. Don't think about it again until you are in the moment tomorrow.

As I said, I'm not going to attempt a profound analysis for what you should do. In my day to day life, I over-analyze a lot. The strange thing is that when it comes to race day, I take on a whole different persona and do one thing:

Just run.

That is my advice for you. As I've already said in the lead up to Steamtown, the cake is in the oven. You've mixed that sucker to the max. Now you just sit back and wait. Or, more accurately, you just go out there and run.

To just run, you need to do a few things. Sounds oxymoronic, I know. But hear me out.

First and foremost, trust your training. I know you've heard this already about 500 times. I'll say it again though. Trust your training. This evening, go look at your training log. See all that you have accomplished already. Do you remember when it seemed like you'd never in a million years be able to run 15 miles? How about how nervous you were about that first 20? The second? The third? But you did it. Add up all the miles you ran. There are hundreds of them. YOU ran them. YOU did that.

What's 26.2 more? NOTHING! For my half marathon friends, what's 13.1 more? You've got this, I promise. You know what to do. You've been doing it since June. One foot in front of the other.

Just run.

Trust your training.

Be in the mile. This is the single best piece of advice anyone has ever given me. I have to give credit where credit is due - to Jeff Van Horn, the owner of Lucky Foot. This was his advice to me last year, imparted to me on Marathon Eve at the expo. I took it to heart and it has made a profound difference in the way I approach every run.

You know what lies ahead - Kit's got you prepared.

Now stop thinking about it.

Tomorrow, deal with the mile you are in and only the mile you are in. When you're at the start, don't fret about Scottview. On Forest Hill, don't think about Lee Bridge. Or the overpass. Or the last 10k.

Think about only what you are doing in that moment. The entire course is laid out for you - it will be there whether you worry over it or not. There's nothing you can do to change it. As you go through, think about what the mile you are in holds but nothing more. Deal with it as it comes. That way, it doesn't get overwhelming. You can run a mile in your sleep. So just run a mile.

Just run.

Trust your training.

Be in the mile.

Don't think about THE WALL. I spent my entire first marathon holding back because I was afraid of the wall.

I hate it when people try to scare first time marathoners with the looming specter of THE WALL. "It happens to everyone. You are going to be miserable at some point. Be ready for it." Listen, I'm no coach and I'm no seasoned marathoner, but in my opinion this is nothing more than a scare tactic.

Does it happen? Yes.

Will it definitely happen to you? NO.

I know this because I can honestly say that I've never hit THE WALL. Not even during the no-good-very-bad Raleigh Marathon.

Here's what I think about THE WALL: you have to tell yourself that it doesn't exist. Period. Kind of like the monsters under your bed. If you don't believe in it, it can't scare you.

Don't spend your whole first marathon worrying about it. My first marathon was a great experience, but in the back of my mind I kept wondering, "Where's the wall? When's it going to hit?" Everyone told me it would happen and I kept looking for it. I looked so smiley and happy in my marathon because I was holding back - out of fear of the wall. Since then, I have never wasted another minute worrying about it because it was a pointless exercise.

Don't spend your first marathon waiting and wondering when it will hit. Because it might not. And one way or the other, there's nothing you can do about it.

Just run.

Trust your training.

Be in the mile.

There is no wall.

Be thankful. Be grateful. For many reasons, lots of people can't do what you're going to do tomorrow. Putting all the time, effort, and money into marathon training and racing is a luxury that precious few in this world are able to afford. Your body is strong and healthy. It has gotten you this far without injury, it will get you to the start tomorrow and will carry you to the finish. So many of us were taken out of the game over the course of training. You're a lucky one. Don't forget it and don't take it for granted.

Just run.

Trust your training.

Be in the mile.

There is no wall.

Be grateful.

Be awed. You are doing something that very very few people do in their lifetime. When you've been living in a bubble of runners for months, it is easy to forget that we are a rare breed. Running any distance is a big deal. Accomplishing a marathon is an exceptional feat. Remember that.

Look around you tomorrow, at every other athlete who is realizing a dream. What a powerful thing to be a part of.

Thank the spectators. A lot of them don't get it. They might tell you that you are almost there when you're really not almost there. They might tell you that you look great when you know you don't. A lot of them probably don't even know exactly how long a marathon is.

But it doesn't matter. Smile. Thank them. Take their support. They are there for you, even if they don't quite understand everything that has gone into this day for you. Be grateful for their enthusiasm - it comes from the goodness of their hearts. I will never forget the older gentlemen around mile 23 of Steamtown who told me I looked great. I laughed and told him, "I know you're lying, but I love you for telling me that."

Or the guy who I think Sensei and I both imagined at mile 22. "Smile, relax, welcome to Steamtown" he said in a perfectly zen voice while bowing. I swear we imagined him. Real or not, he gave us strength when we needed it.

High five the kids, smile at the old gentlemen, laugh at the drunken revelers and the ridiculous
signs. They are out there freezing because they want to help you in some small way.

What a loving gesture by thousands of strangers.

Look for me - I'll be out there doing my best to support you all. I'll be brandishing one of these signs:



Actually, Husband will be near our house at Mile 10 brandishing the yellow sign and wearing an equally inappropriate and hilarious spectator shirt. He'll give you the laugh you need after making your way up Scottview.

I'll be waving green and orange all over the place on the north side of the river. The plan is to be somewhere on Monument near the beginning, on Main Street around mile 16-17 and then on Grace around mile 24.

You guys are my heart tomorrow. I'm running with you in spirit.

Keep your eye out for me. It will help distract you when you're feeling tired. Knowing that Marcey was up ahead is what got me through miles 20-23 last year. And then knowing that my entire family was near the finish forced me to keep it together. I didn't want them to see me looking anything but great and happy.

Not doing this race is killing me and selfishly, the only thing that is making it tolerable is the knowledge that I can maybe, just maybe, do what my spectating crew did last year and give that bit of inspiration that gets someone through a tough spot.

Just run.

Trust your training.

Be in the mile.

There is no wall.

Be grateful.

Be awed.

And my last bit of advice: drink it all in. Tomorrow is a celebration. It is the cherry on the top. Think of it as the reward for the hard work you've done. All those sweaty miles and Saturdays. All those early Wednesday mornings, waking up before the sun. All those Friday nights you couldn't go out and drink and eat whatever you wanted because you had to prepare for the Saturday long run.

Will it be hard work? Yes. But that doesn't mean you can't love every minute. Be proud of what you've accomplished. It's allowed. There is no better feeling than seeing that finish line. Let yourself cry. Don't forget to put your victory arms. Smile for the camera.

Just run.

Trust your training.

Be in the mile.

There is no wall.

Be grateful.

Be awed.

Celebrate.

You guys are amazing. I am already bursting with pride for every person who has had the guts to tackle a big dream tomorrow - whether it's the 8k, Half Marathon, or Marathon.

Your cakes are in the oven. Now,

JUST RUN.


My Sensei's Richmond Marathon Tips

If you follow me, you know who my Sensei is - Kit. First, I love Kit's name. I remember when he first introduced himself to Greg and I on a run. I'm pretty sure he said his name was Chris. But then we kept hearing people call him Kit. For about the next two weeks Greg and I debated and tried to figure out which he preferred. Finally, I decided enough was enough and asked him "So are you Kit or Chris??"

He's Kit. Mystery solved.

But soon after that, he became not Kit or Chris, but Sensei. You see, Kit is a quiet guy - the type who listens a lot, processes, thinks, and then only opens his mouth when he has something to say that will really contribute to a conversation. He doesn't just talk to talk. When Kit says something, it's gonna be wise. Or funny. Every time.

Paired with his rock steady running style (I swear he never slows down, whines, or flinches no matter what he may be going through), he became the silent leader of our little band of Navy runners. And I started to call him Sensei. I claim him as my own, but I know that Kit's friendship and wisdom has had a huge impact on many people, runners and non-runners alike.

Kit has run the Richmond Marathon I don't know how many times. (A lot of times, to say the least.) In the spirit of my Tackling Twenty post from a while back, I invited him to share his marathon tips today. His wise words of wisdom and companionship as a running buddy have helped me through three training cycles and I can say without a doubt he helped me get that PR in Steamtown this year.

He is the Master, I'm still the student. Me telling you what to do tomorrow isn't based in that much experience; Kit has that knowledge and a delivery that can't be duplicated.

So without further ado, I give you Sensei's tips for those who are taking on Richmond tomorrow.

------------------------------------------------
MTTers - If you attended the Race Prep Clinics you got a lot of really good advice from some coaches who have run and coached dozens of marathons.  Some of this will be familiar to you.  I’ve only run a few marathons but they’re fresh enough in my mind that I can remember every one.  Well, big chunks of every one.  I’m still learning, but here are the things I’ve picked up.

The night before:
I like to be sure all my running gear is clean before a marathon.  That’s part of my pre-race ritual.  After my last run I gather up every last hat, reflective band, glove and sock.  You never know what you might need.

That said, I have specific shorts and socks I wear only for long races and I wear them for every long race.  Wear what you know.  Put your outfit together the night before.  Put your bib on your shirt.  It’s a lot easier to get the bib square if you put a magazine inside the shirt before you pin the bib.  Put together your checkable bag the night before too.  I like to put an empty drawstring goody bag in there too, and transfer everything to the drawstring bag after the race.  It’s a lot easier to carry.  If you’ll be using BodyGlide, suntan lotion, medical tape  or anything else, put it with your outfit.  If you’re taking the Downtown Expressway, don’t forget toll change unless you have an EZPass.

Eating the day before is very important.  Have a good breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You can even have dessert.  You can have dessert after lunch too.  I don’t recommend beans or really spicy food, but if it works for you, go for it.  By now you know if it does.  I like a complete meat, carb and veggie dinner the night before, preferably with cheese bacon fries, but everyone works differently.

Set your alarm.  After you put together your outfit and bag, check it.  Check it again after dinner and before you go to bed.  You don’t have to do this but you will.  Check the weather while you’re at it.  You know you want to.  In fact, go ahead and check the weather right now.


RACE DAY!!
The alarm went off.  It didn’t matter because you were already awake, waiting for it.

Eat breakfast 2-3 hours before race time.  I like a veggie burger or turkey sandwich with cheese and mustard on a big thick whole wheat bun.  I have no appetite before a race and sometimes it takes me a really long time to eat my sandwich.  I have regretted every time I skipped my breakfast before a long run or race.

Don says to plan on getting there at 5:30.  That’s a little early for me, but I like to be parked by about 6:15.  If you take I64 east to 195 you’ll get into the line of cars before you get to the toll booth.  Don’t try to skip the line of cars or you’ll end up in Oregon Hill and have to backtrack.  I know this.  

BRING CHANGE FOR THE TOLL.  

Don’t get picky about choosing a parking deck.  They’re all the same.  I have always parked in the decks near or at the James Center.  It’s a pain in the butt and I hate it but I’ve also always gotten to the start in plenty of time.

Find your friends, take pictures, chat and giggle.  There are port-a-potties right next to the corrals.  You can get into line for these port-a-potties or you can walk just a little further back and find ones where there is no line.  About a half hour before gun time, turn on your GPS.  Better a little too early than a little too late.  Time to head to the corral.

The longest 15 minutes of your life.
Check the time: 15 more minutes. Where are my friends? There they are. Oh crap, my ankle hurts! This was all for nothing! Whoops, false alarm.  Feeling better.  How long is left? 14 minutes.  Where is everybody? Oh, there they are.  OK, there’s my pace guy. Why does my knee hurt so much? OK, better now.  What’s the time? 13 minutes to go.  Let me bounce up and down a little. Oh god, my knee hurts again! No it doesn’t. Can we please just start? Are we missing anyone? Nope, they’re all here.  I’ll bounce up and down a little more.  What’s the time? 12 minutes left. ……

You get the idea. 

Runners get ready….BANG!
The coaches have been telling you for the last few weeks not to start too fast. Don’t worry about that right now  If you try to go too fast for the first mile you’ll step on someone and fall down.  You are beginning the most exhilarating, joyful, passionately wonderful ten miles you’ve ever run.  Spirits are high, your friends are with you, your legs are fresh, you’re released from Taper Madness…Monument Avenue will be fresh and new, full of people cheering you on and the smell of fall leaves crushed underfoot.  This will be your first time running down the hill on Cary.  You can hear the party spot ahead at the shopping center and you feel like you’re floating.  Drink at the water stops.  If you have to walk to drink, wait until you’re past the tables and go to the side.

The Southside!
The Southside stretch starts with the most beautiful part of the course.  Crossing the river you have a gorgeous view to the west, you’re still just a few miles in and the adrenaline is still pumping, and you’ve been essentially running downhill for the last few miles.  Riverside is my favorite part.  All too soon it’s time to climb away from the river to the tedium of Forest Hill/Semmes Avenue.

Ideally you’ll run a negative split, but this is much easier in theory than in practice.  If you get too wrapped up in goal paces and checkpoints you’ll get yourself into trouble.  Don’t expect to speed up too much at the halfway point.  If you’re feeling really good, speed up a little but be careful.  You can speed up more later if you’re still feeling energetic.  There’s a clock and timing mat at the physical (as opposed to mental) halfway point.  You’ll get an idea of your status if your math brain is still working.  Don’t forget, the easy half is the part that’s done.  There’s no more Cary Street hill, no more pretty Riverside, no more Richmond Road Runners handing out candy.  This brings us to…

The Long Hill
Once you pass the party stop and pick up your gel, you might notice it’s getting a little harder to run.  It’s not your imagination.  There is a slight but steady incline the last bit of Semmes, across the Lee Bridge and up Belvidere, all the way to the end of Main.  You’ll start to see people suffer a bit through here.  You might even be suffering a little yourself.  This is where the magnitude of the undertaking starts to sink in.

Anyone who has done a long run with me knows I start losing some of the higher brain function after about mile 14-15.  The non-essential parts of my brain (mostly speech and decision-making) start to shut down.  There is a junk food stop either on the bridge or just after it.  My first marathon, I saw the water and registered the junk food and started thinking about whether I wanted some gummy bears.  I decided that yes, gummy bears would be a good thing.  By the time I made this decision the whole stop – water, gummy bears and all – was behind me and I missed my chance.  Don’t do this.  Drink at every stop and grab some gummies.  If you realize you didn’t want them you can drop them later.

Northside
The Long Hill is done when you hit Boulevard, but you’re most likely feeling a bit pooped unless you’re the Wonder Woman owner of this blog, in which case you have a great big smile on your face.  This is the tough part for me.  I’ve developed some strategies for the miles between your longest run to date and Almost There.

1. Straighten your back, hold your head up, close your mouth and swing your arms.  Physically this opens your chest, lengthens your stride and stops you from gasping.  It also brings back some confidence.  You’ve still got a ways to go, but it’s not like you’re going to stop.
2. Set yourself little goals – the top of the overpass, the next stoplight, the Pope Arch.  Something you can watch as it gets closer.  Look away from the goal you’ve set for a while and then look back.  It will be closer than it was.
3. Cuss a lot.  You don’t have to cuss loud and scare the kids and the nice Northsiders, although if that’s what it takes to get through Fauquier then don’t hold back.

My first marathon, partly because I missed the water stop on the Lee Bridge, I had vicious cramps from the end of Main through to the finish line.  If you start cramping there’s not much you can do except keep moving forward.  They might start getting better but they probably won’t.  If you don’t stop moving forward you’re guaranteed to cross the finish line.  For me, somewhere around Virginia Union University, Northside magically turns into…

Almost There!
There are two miles left.  There’s pain and exhaustion, but a grin is starting to show every so often like the sun breaking through after days of rain.  The pace picks up a little.  Even if you’re cramping and gimping, the cramp and gimp gets a little faster.  The grin gets a little stronger.  Grace Street looks pretty nice.  Some of the people around you are starting to run a little faster too.  Some of them aren’t.  That’s OK.  There are a lot more people cheering now and that helps too.  At this point there’s no more strategy.  When you’re running down 5th, try pumping your arms in the air.  The crowd will respond.  It’s pretty cool.  If you’re tempted to leap across the finish line, don’t forget that you’ll be landing on exhausted legs.  Some of us can do that and the rest of us can come really close to a lesson on regret.
 
The Chute and Thereafter
You’ve just finished what is most likely the hardest, most challenging thing you’ve ever done.  Your coaches made sure you were trained, your family and friends supported you and your running buddies shared the pain, but only you ran and finished your marathon. It’s OK to cry a bit.  I usually do.  The mixture of pain, exhaustion, exhilaration and relief is pretty overwhelming.  Be forewarned, if I see you at the finish line you’ll likely get a sweaty hug and some incoherent babble too. 
 
Walk around a bit.  Hug people.  Get some food.  I find that bagels require way too much chewing so I skip them and have a couple slices of pizza.  Go home and take the best shower ever.  Celebrate with your friends. Wear your medal, hat and shirt to work on Monday.  Start planning the next one. 
 
Congratulations, marathoner.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Running is such a temperamental mistress. One week, it takes you to the heights of happiness and then, when you weren’t expecting it, BAM! Plunged into the depths of despair.

Right now I should be basking in the afterglow of a mission accomplished at Steamtown and coasting my way to a fun-filled Richmond Marathon, where I planned to just have a good time running with my teammates and enjoying the beautiful course and city that I love.

Remember how I said that Steamtown would either be a piece of cake or the confirmation that I have a bum knee? When I wrote my recap, I was confident that the outcome had been that lovely piece of cake that I had been longing for.

As it turns out, I got the piece of cake but with a side of Runner’s Knee. (Hooray – I’m an official runner stereotype!)

I’ll spare you the details and whining, but the basics are that I took a week off without running a step and then every attempt since has involved massive amounts of knee pain, weakness, and frustration. 

Cue panicked icing, visits to BFF Steve, internet searches for exercises to mitigate Runner’s Knee, purchase of a patellar tendonitis knee strap, and progression through the five emotional stages of dealing with an injury: 1) denial, 2) anger/betrayal, 3) more denial, 4) massive depression, 5) begrudging acceptance.

Until last Wednesday, I was determined that I was going to “run” Richmond, bum knee or not.  Even if it was an ugly, slow experience, I was going to do it because damn it – lots of people run multiple marathons in a season and for whatever stupid reason, I seem to think that I need to do this too to prove myself (or some silly nonsense).  I also wanted to run for less selfish reasons too, mainly that I wanted to be there for my teammates, especially the first timers, to help them get through their first marathon the way that Kit and Teresa did for me last year.

Ok, ok, and I wanted the darn medal. And the finisher blanket. And the hat.

Then Coach Shawn found out my crazy intention and sent me a whole series of text messages that made me cry at work (in a good way), basically begging me to be reasonable and abandon this ill-fated plan. He reminded me that I already had a great season, hitting every goal I set for myself. Why would I tarnish that with a potentially horrible experience in Richmond or even worse, a DNF? Why potentially injure myself even worse, taking myself out of the game even longer because I was stubborn and reckless?

He reminded me how much it meant to me when I saw my supporters along the route last year and that I can help my teammates just as much by being out on the course in the tough spots, cheering them on.

I knew he was right on all counts, but I still fought against the inevitable by trying to transfer into the half marathon instead. But I was thwarted – the half is sold out and no transfers are allowed.

With that, I finally accepted that I won’t be running Richmond this year; a painful and depressing decision, but likely to be less painful long term.

The worst part about this situation is fully knowing that to let myself be this bent out of shape over something as inconsequential as running a race is supremely stupid and irrational. Knowing that you are being ridiculous but at the same time being unable to summon the ability to make yourself stop adds to the feeling of powerlessness.

Optimism is a hard thing for me, but this weekend I did my best to put on my big girl panties and deal. On Saturday, I went to MTT but exercised great restraint by biking alongside my friends for the first 2/3 of the course before jumping off and running the last 4 miles with Kit and Lauren (while wearing a ridiculously huge knee brace loaned to me by T). I obtained poster-making supplies and started to work on my spectator signs. This is a big deal because I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. I started to plan out race day, trying to figure out where I need to be and when (and how I’ll get there) and focusing on how much fun it will be to spectate.

I keep telling myself to be grateful for the season I’ve had and to focus on the big picture – getting stronger and faster next year.


Why is it so hard?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Have Your Cake - Steamtown Marathon Recap

Marathon 3 is finished, and I'm so pleased to be able to report that it turned out to be a lovely piece of cake.

I loved the Steamtown Marathon, from start to finish. I haven't written because for some reason, I'm having a really hard time expressing my thoughts about it. It's odd, because it was a fantastic time: a picture perfect fall day, a beautiful course full of natural scenery and adorable Pennsylvania villages, crowd support that included my personal weakness - adorable old men from Lion's clubs and military vets, a surprise appearance by Husband at mile 17, and the company of my Sensei for 23 miles.

It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies. By mile 10, I knew that my SI was going to be a problem - and it was. By mile 21, my left leg (what I could feel of it) felt like a lead weight. From there out, I had to concentrate very hard to maintain decent form and keep moving. Thank God Kit and I ended up running together - if he hadn't been with me, I'm sure I would have stopped to stretch or walk. As it was, I did not walk a step and maintained my pace thanks to pure grit and the determination that I wasn't going to let Kit out of my sight.

Waving at Jason, mile 17

They aren't kidding about the hills. Running down the mountain was, as expected, tricky - but not for the reasons I thought it would be. In my mind, it would be very steep but it wasn't at all. The downhill was subtle enough that we hardly even noticed it. I found myself asking if we were running down the mountain yet (we were) and because it was so NOT obvious, we had to really pay close attention to our pace. But the quiet mountain road was also my favorite part of the course. Fall has truly arrived in northern Pennsylvania, and the beautiful reds, oranges, and golds of the foliage that lined the road were a glorious sight. Paired with the quiet interrupted only by the sound of foot falls, it was a meditative experience that gave me goosebumps.

No - the mountain isn't your worry in Steamtown. The truly challenging part of the course is from mile 23-26.2, not because of the typical end-of-a-marathon aspect, but  because there are some evil, monster hills to take on. As we approached the very steep hill at mile 23, I looked at Kit and said, "Well, this is where sh*t gets real, Sensei." We then did what we do to psych ourselves up - curse at the hill. Kit went barreling up and me with my bum leg followed behind, yelling at him to "make that hill your b*tch!" the whole time. That was just the warm up though - the hill at Mile 25 is what really separates the boys from the men. It is no joke, let me tell you. But it seems like all of Scranton is out there lining the sides of Washington Street, screaming, yelling, and cheering and there is no walking when you have that kind of support.

The trail portions were beautiful respites. It was quiet in the woods and the scenery around us was just gorgeous. The soft surface felt good on our legs after pounding down a mountain on pavement for 14 miles. A lot of people complain about the trails but I, for one, think they are one of the loveliest things about the course.

I didn't cry at the finish this time. I was too focused on the task at hand to feel any emotion. There was no room in my brain for anything other than concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

Approaching the finish

But once I crossed the line and realized what I had done, there were lots of smiles.

Despite that cranky SI, I managed to finish in 3:46:25 - an 11 minute PR from Richmond. My super secret goal was 3:45:00, so I didn't quite make it according to the official clock. However, my Garmin showed 26.5 miles when I finished so as far as I'm concerned, I did run 26.2 miles in 3:45:00. I'll make it official next time, I hope.

Not only did I have a massive PR, I also managed to run the marathon with a negative split. My first half was completed at an average pace of 8:35 and the second half at 8:32. This is precisely what I had wanted to do, but thought it would be impossible given my SI situation and the uphills at the end. That I accomplished it is the perfect demonstration of what you can achieve when you put your mind to something.

My splits, according to Almighty Garmin.
I wanted to run Steamtown for me, and I did. But I am so grateful that Kit and I were on the same running wavelength for so much of the race. Steamtown taught me that even though running is an incredibly  individualistic pursuit, sometimes just the steady presence of a running buddy beside you can make all the difference. Though we both ran our own races, I think it is safe to say that the parts were greater than the whole for Kit and I in Steamtown. We both had some difficult moments; luckily they were not at the same time, so the struggler was pulled by the stronger and vice versa.

Kit finished just before me, and as soon as I crossed the line I started yelling his name over and over trying to find him in the crowd to share our accomplishment. I think the med staff thought I was hysterical, because I was stopped twice and asked if I needed medical attention. "No! I just need to find my friend!!" I told them. When I found him, our celebratory hug was fantastic. We had both achieved PRs and we had done it together.

Don't worry, Steamtown. I fully intend to purchase this photo,
as I think it is the biggest I've ever seen Sensei smile.

Though a completely different experience from Rock n Roll Raleigh Marathon, Steamtown also drove home the point that with enough mental fortitude, I can do anything. You can't see in my splits where my leg started to give out. That's because I absolutely refused to let it stop me. You can't see the hills either, because I was conquering those things. My slower laps (mile 16 and 19) were, I believe, on the trails, where we did slow down ever so slightly as it became very necessary to watch where each foot fall went on the uneven surfaces. Otherwise, it was truly a full steam ahead effort in every way.

My mantra for the day.
"Resolve" is one of my new favorite sentiments.

Not only did Kit and I have a fantastic day, but the rest of our group thoroughly enjoyed Steamtown. We are especially proud of our girl Lauren, who absolutely crushed it and earned herself a BQ. She shared her goal with the group while we were hunkered down in the high school gym at the top of the mountain, waiting for the start. We all knew she'd do it because when Lauren sets her mind to something, consider it done. Whenever things got rough for me, I thought about her up ahead, running even harder than I was to get that BQ, and knew that I had to keep going - pushing her from behind with all of the karma I could muster. After crossing the finish, I found Jason who told me that she had earned that BQ and I was more excited for her than for myself. When I found her, I hugged her so hard (partially hoping some of her greatness will transfer to me, but mostly because I was so happy and proud that I couldn't stand it!).

Our BQ Girl.
Lauren's achievement is even more amazing considering she is a med student who barely has time to eat and/or sleep, let alone train for a marathon. Her natural talent and determination can't be stopped! We are all looking forward to cheering her on in Boston in 2016.

So, thanks Steamtown, for a great day. The Richmond Steamtown Contingent all agree that we'll be happy to come back any time to run your race again!

Kit, T, me, GB, and Will, taking a bite out of our well-earned medals.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Cake is in the Oven

Tonight we leave for Steamtown. It's a long drive, so we are going up halfway, using my parents' house a hotel (thanks Mom and Dad!) and then continuing on to Scranton on Saturday morning.

Two weeks ago, I felt like I was going to kick the crap out of this race.

Today, I am feeling extremely anxious.

My right knee is bothering me, which is really disturbing. Neither of my knees has ever ached in the way that it has been for the past 10 days or so. I can only hope that it holds in there until I cross the finish line on Sunday. After that, it can crap out if it wants to.

I'm discovering that coordinating the needs and wants of a group of five runners headed to an out of state marathon is kind of stressful. I, for instance, have discovered that red sauce and pasta are just not a good idea for me the night before a long run. Guess what they are serving at the Pasta Dinner? Therefore, I need to fall back on my old pre-race staple of a steak and baked potato... but that doesn't work for everyone either.

That's just one example.

This work week has been incredibly busy and stressful - and the next three weeks are looking the same. I haven't been able to focus on a game plan, write a packing list, or anything else. If it wasn't for the fact that I have my crew constantly reminding me that the marathon is this weekend, I would have forgotten. I hope that worries about work don't affect my mindset over the weekend.

BUT it's not all bad news bears.

The weather forecast is looking pretty decent. Partly sunny, low of 42 and high of 62. Pretty prime running weather.

Even though it seems stressful to coordinate everyone, I know having the crew together at the race will be a great experience.

I'm really looking forward to the course - I expect that it is going to be just beautiful and a joy.

Despite my wonky knee, I do think I am in the best shape I've ever been in. As long as I can put that out of my mind (or it settles down), I think I can PR this race.

This morning, Sensei and I had one of our transcendental morning runs at Belle Isle. We stopped at my favorite overlook spot in all of Richmond just in time to catch the sunrise. At first the sky was blue and clear, and then suddenly everything became warm and pink - like being inside of a lovely spool of pink cotton candy.



Just looking at the photos gives me goose bumps again. I'm so thankful for that run this morning - as always, a Belle Isle sunrise reminds me of all of the gifts that this sport has given to me and makes me grateful for it.

I have tried to not worry too much or puzzle over strategy, the course, or trying to obsess over every detail of the coming task. At this point, the cake is in the oven and there is nothing that I can do to dramatically change what is going to happen on Sunday. The hard work has been done, the training cycle finished. 26.2 miles are waiting in Pennsylvania and all I have to do is show up and put one foot in the front of the other until I'm finished.

All that remains is pulling the cake out on Sunday and taking a big old bite to see how it turned out.

So, what are my goals for Steamtown? Well, I'd love to PR. I think it is possible. I have a secret audacious time goal that I am not going to share publicly until afterwards. I don't want to jinx myself. So my public goal is to beat Richmond's 3:57:24.

Strangely, I want to suffer at Steamtown. As in, I want to know that I gave the race my all. It sounds crazy, but Richmond was far too pleasant last year. I ran conservatively (as I should have for my first marathon) because I was afraid of the unknown. Raleigh was horrible because of factors beyond my control, but gave me some grit and showed me that marathons can be really NOT fun. I certainly put forth more effort in Raleigh, but I didn't push myself to suffer unnecessarily.

At Steamtown, I want to do my best to restrain myself and not burn up my legs on the downhill, then run hard for the rest of the race. I want to feel spent. I want to push myself and see what I can really do when I put in all of my effort. I want to cry with relief when I see the finish line - not only because I'm becoming a marathoner again, but because I have used every last bit of energy in me and need to stop.

I need to run selfishly and I want everyone else to do the same. Even though it is hard for me to do, I need to run my own race and not feel compelled to stay at a pace (whatever it is) that isn't mine. There's nothing I love more than finishing with one of my friends beside me, but this time, I need to see what I am capable of.

I'm not sure what will happen in Steamtown, but I know two things: that my friends will be with me and that means that I will be ok no matter what and that I will learn something important about myself too.

Let's hope it's not that I have a bum knee and that Steamtown turns out to be a delicious cake indeed.

I'll close with the pun that has defined my training season:

FULL STEAM AHEAD.

See you all on the other side.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Road to Steamtown: Weeks 17 & 18

Week 17 was my highest mileage week of the cycle:


3 run for 36 miles
No cross training

After a great speed work session on Monday, I suddenly found my right knee hurting when I went down stairs. Of course knee pain is just about every runner's worst nightmare - the stereotypical injury that nobody wants. I figured it was thanks to all of the hard running I had done the week before and decided to take it easy with no cross training.

I was nervous about the 20 (who isn't) both because of my knee, which never got worse but was still a little bit squeaky every now and again, and because the weather forecast wasn't what I would call ideal. The forecast being sunny and high 60's.

Thankfully, the miles somehow flew by. I didn't push things and hung out with some of our 20 mile virgins instead of flying to the very front of the pack with Kit and Lauren, who must have had jet fuel for breakfast because they tore it up. It was really fun for me to stay with Jadee and Brian as they finished their first 20.


Immediately after the run, a group of us hit the Dairy Bar. I devoured a chili cheese omelet, biscuit, hash browns, and bacon. Oh and a cookies and cream milk shake.

That night we gathered again to celebrate at Hardywood Brewery, where we were all miraculously walking normally and had enough energy to stand around and debate bad movies

The Midnight Crew
And then I took the train straight to Taper Town:


3 runs for 24.75 miles
2 miles of swim


Running miles logged so far: 584.15
STLY: 531.0

The pesky knee pain stuck around, but didn't keep me from running my speed work on Monday and enjoying a nice south side run with Kit and Greg in the early morning on Wednesday.

For Saturday's run, I decided that instead of taking it super easy for my last long run before the marathon, I would push myself. This isn't typically what you are supposed to do during taper, but my theory was that I wanted to run fast, feel tired, and make myself keep going despite wanting to slow - things that I am going to have to do next week if I can achieve the goal that I want to.

Luckily, Coach Shawn was apparently also in the mood to run fast and suffer - he, Kit, and I ended up running at an average pace of 8:16 and we definitely had one or two sub-8:00 miles in there. The crazy thing is that Shawn ran 20 this week and was running Kit and I into the ground even though we were only doing 12!




I was perfectly exhausted when we finished - and starving later that day. I guess that's what 12 tempo miles will do to you.

So this week I'm supposed to do speed work on Monday and 5 miles on Wednesday and then nada until Steamtown on Sunday. I think I am going to slightly amend to a Tuesday swim and Wednesday 5 mile tempo followed by an easy 3 on Friday morning instead.

Hard to believe that at this time next week I will have finished my third marathon. The summer and September went by in a surreal blur. Part of me is really glad that I'm getting the marathon done this month, but another part of me feels strange to not be on the same schedule with the rest of the team.

Despite that, I'm feeling confident. At the end of my training last fall, I ran a total of 550 miles. I am already sitting at 580 miles, and expect to top out at 590 total. Though my knee is being a little weird, I'm not too concerned about it. I think this week of "rest" will be all it needs. My SI isn't giving me the trouble it was last year and everything else feels great.

Now all I need to do is make it through the next 7 days without getting sick or hurting myself - too bad I don't have a bubble.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tackling Twenty

This weekend marks my second (and last!) twenty mile run of the Steamtown training cycle, but for many of my MTT Midnight teammates, this will be their first ever 20 miler.

Just one year ago I was in their shoes and frankly, I was terrified - of the unknown but also of the potential for failure. In my mind, if I wasn't able to hack it on a 20 mile training run, I'd never in a million years be able to do 10k on top of that and successfully finish a marathon. I was also afraid that it would be a terrible experience and that I would never want to do it again and hence, would be miserable for the rest of training and for the marathon itself.

As with so many things, there are 438,413,043,180 articles, blogs, and boards that you could read for advice on how to survive your first twenty mile run. The problem with that is that nobody has time to read 438,413,043,180 articles, blogs, or boards and that even if you could read just 10 of them, you'd likely get 10 different takes that probably even contradict each other. I know this because I tried to come up with the perfect plan last year.

In the end, the sea of information was too overwhelming and I ended up relying upon two things: 1) advice from my trusted teammates and friends, and 2) my own experience to that point.

In an effort to pay it forward and maybe help out some of the Team Midnight 20 Mile Virgin Club, I'm going to take a few minutes to share how I have tackled my 20 mile runs. To be sure, I'm no expert - I have only run 20 or more miles 6 times - but thankfully, each time has turned out to be a not-so-bad (and sometimes even joyous!) experience.

Step One: It's Just One More Mile
This was the approach I take for every single training run as things start to ramp up. Without a doubt, the mental aspect of your "longest run ever" has the biggest impact on your performance. For me, the way to deal with it is not think of it as 20 miles, but rather as the longest run I've done + a few. For most of the first-timers on MTT, that figure is 19 + 1.

Let's think about that for a minute.

This weekend, you will run one measly mile more than you ever have before. At this point, running a mile is such a walk in the park that you barely even notice you've done it. Remember that when you get to 19. You could run that mile in your SLEEP.

Mind games = solved.

Step Two: Preparation
Hey party animals, I hate to break it to you, but to successfully complete your 20 miler and not feel like death, you are going to have to become a well-behaved social outcast starting 48 hours beforehand. For MTT Midnight, that means Thursday which is tough. I can't tell you how much I miss having a nice glass (or two...) or wine on Friday night after a long work week.

But hey, training for a marathon is tough. If you're not up for it, stay out on your Friday nights drinking and go run a half instead (JUST KIDDING!).

Preparation comes in three parts for me: meal planning, being mindful about hydration, and
making smart activity choices.

Meal Planning - Everyone is different when it comes to what foods they can and cannot handle before a long run. I found out the hard way that dairy is a NO GO for me. So I make sure that consumption of cheese, yogurt, cream-based sauces, and ice cream is kept to a minimum, especially on Friday. As a cheese and ice cream lover, this very hard for me.

But again, training for a marathon requires sacrifices. And besides, after the run, I can eat as much cheese and ice cream as I want.

I also steer clear of coffee/lattes/cappuccinos of any kind the night before, soda, big salads, fried foods, and any kind of medicine that isn't a part of my daily routine. Even if I have a huge headache or congestion the night before a run, I won't take an Advil or Sudafed. It's so ugly the next day that I'd rather try to fight through it than risk the alternative.

Oh - and Mexican or beans. Not a good idea. Trust me on that one.

In those 48 hours leading up to the long run, I try to up my carb intake and calorie intake, focusing on protein and good fats like avocado, olive oils, breads, peanut butter, nuts, granola, and eggs. My fuel of choice for the night before the run is usually either a pasta with olive oil or tomato based sauce and chicken or a baked potato with minimum butter alongside a giant lean cut of steak. Both come with additional bread (of course).

Hydration - Then there is the hydration. Being runners, we all just loooooooove to talk about what we like to eat, but not so much about how much we should love to drink water too. I think that a lot of people just assume they can drink the night before or morning of and be ok. For some, it probably works. For me, I start to consciously drink more water at least the day before. I like to think of myself as a camel getting ready to make a long trek - gotta stock up on that water. Of course I realize that people are not camels and it doesn't exactly work that way, but you get the idea.

By the way, here are some things that don't count as hydration:
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Any other alcohol
  • Soda
Seems pretty self-evident, but I have heard stories of people who go out drinking the night before a long run or race and then wonder why they cramped up or crash. Because alcohol (and soda) is a diuretic that dehydrates you. Save your celebratory drink for after your long run.


Activity Level - Perhaps the hardest thing to be smart about is the activity piece of things. And it's the easiest to over look.

I try my best to not do anything on a Friday (cross train or run) before a super long training run. I'd prefer my legs to be as fresh as possible.

I try not to be on my feet excessively the day before either, whether it's standing still or walking around a lot. (For instance, going to an amusement park and walking around the park + standing in one spot while in long lines is not a good idea the day before your 20.)

Even though it pains me, I typically don't go out to movies or game nights or other social gatherings on Friday. I go home, I fuel up, I lay out the stuff I need for the next day, and I go to sleep. Make sure you get a really good night of sleep. It's boring and makes you a social outcast, but that is the price you pay to be a marathoner.

Step Three: Run It
You're ready, mentally and physically, so now just go do what you do - run.

Use the 20 as a test for marathon day.
  • Wear your marathon outfit.
  • Don't dawdle at the SAGs - get what you need and go. On marathon day, you won't stand around and gab at SAGs, so practice that now.
  • Carry whatever you plan to carry - water, fuel, phone - so that you know if it will get on your nerves or not.
  • Try different fueling options. I fuel on pretzels, gummi bears, and candy corn, since that is what I'm used to from SAGs. If you're going to attempt Gu, sport beans, energy chews, etc you'd better do it now.
  • Practice drinking and/or eating while running. I still stink at drinking on the run, but have gotten slightly better.
  • When you get tired, imagine what you would do on race day. Try to find it within yourself to keep running, no matter what.
Have fun too. Remember that what you are doing is an incredible accomplishment. Enjoy the time with your teammates. Talk about the food you are going to celebrate with. Tell them when you're feeling bad - they'll pull you through. Tell bad jokes. Be on the lookout for "That's what she said!" moments. When everyone's brain starts turning to mush, work together to make sure you don't take a wrong turn and end up going 22 miles instead of 20 (it has happened).

Don't be surprised if you get emotional near the end of your first 20. I still get goose bumps thinking about mine. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried a little bit.

Step Four: Aftermath
You just ran 20 miles, woo hoo! That means you can sit on the couch for the next 10 hours and not move a muscle until you transfer yourself into your bed, right?

WRONG.

That is probably the worst thing you can do.

It's simple physics - a body in motion stays in motion.

Try to walk a little and stay somewhat active for at least part of the rest of the day. You will hurt a lot more the next day if you don't. I usually feast, then go home, shower, put on compression socks, take a nap, then try to be active around the house - even if it just doing laundry or cleaning.

Oh, and make sure you CELEBRATE. You were a well-behaved monk for 48 hours - go out and reap the rewards now.

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

So that is my not-so-sage advice for tackling your 20 miler. I feel like I can stand by it, because of all of my 20+ mile runs, only one of them was miserable (Raleigh Rock n Roll Marathon, I'm looking at you). To be honest, the rest were actually pretty great. Empowering. FUN, even - because I have found what works for me.

Do you have to do all of this stuff? Nope. I bet you could run twenty miles even without thoughtful preparation and rest. A lot of people do. But here's my thing - do you want that 20 miles to be a slog, or do you want to feel victorious when it is over? Do you want to do it just to get it over with, or do you want to feel like you have improved and grown as a runner?

For me, I don't want to go on a half assed 3+ hour run at the butt crack of dawn on a Saturday morning. If you're going to do it, why not do your best?

With that, I'll wish you happy prepping and see you all out there on Saturday!

Further reading on my 20+ experiences from last year's MTT, if you're interested or bored:

First 20 Miler Ever
Second




The Road to Steamtown: Week 16

What a week!


4 runs (including 2 races) for 34 miles
1 mile swim

Running miles logged so far: 523.4
STLY: 506.05

Training highlights:
  • New 5k PR on Tuesday, when I participated in the Amazing Raise 5k. This is a fundraising race where each entrant runs for their chosen non-profit in hopes of nabbing a cash prize for best in age group. I ran for my beloved Richmond Symphony and really made an all out effort. For the first time ever during a race, I felt like I might actually get sick from over-exertion, but I didn't and was so bound and determined to give it my all that it didn't stop me either. Unfortunately, my 23:04, though a PR for me by 2 full minutes, was not a winner in my age group. Turns out I had the women's overall winner (who did an 18:43) as well as the next 4 top women in my age group (lucky me). I finished 6th of 122 in my age group but 10th female overall, which I feel pretty proud about. And did I mention that this was not a flat course? No indeed - very hilly actually.
  • Wednesday featured my first ever twofer. Kit and I hit Riverside Drive in the morning. Along the way I twisted my ankle/foot on the Pony Pasture trails, even though there was no visible obstacle. Being the stubborn person I am, I kept going. (But it only hurts when I'm not running - I swear!). Iced it all day at work and then met up with a gaggle of folks at the Sports Backer's open house run. Marcey and I did a nice little 3 miler, giving me the grant total of 12 for the day.
  • Bonus run on Friday morning 'cause the weather was just too nice to pass up!
  • Second PR of the week at the Philly Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon. Perfect weather, nice course, and made myself a new running buddy who helped me rock out the last 7 miles of this race (featuring two sub-8:00 miles, one being mile 13!). A more detailed race report to follow.

Training lowlights:
  • My problematic and apparently incredibly weak left ankle has got me on edge. I opted not to run with my ankle compression sleeve at Philly because it has a tendency to cut into the bottom of my foot, but I feel like I need some kind of support for Steamtown. So... I'm not exactly sure what to do. I meant to go grab an AOS ankle brace at the local medical supply store to test it out before this weekend's scheduled 20 miler, but I haven't had the time and already logged this week's miles (meaning no test run before Saturday).
Other than that, I'm feeling incredibly strong and confident about the marathon right now, which is great. Bonus that the weather has suddenly turned into fall and thus far, the week's runs have been my favorite kind - crisp and cool.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Road To Steamtown: Weeks 8-15 (?!?!?!)

First and foremost, I am still alive and I am still training for the marathon.

Running miles logged so far: 489.45
STLY: 469.85

So, what on Earth happened to me back in July?

Where do I even begin...

July

The week after I wrote my last update, I took it easy. After a 30 mile week, I dropped to 14.5 miles. No speed work, an "easy" test run of 4.5 miles mid week, and a scheduled 13 mile long run that was cut short thanks to a giant thunder/lightening storm. I am still shocked that MTT allowed us to go out at all that morning - it was storming when we arrived and even though it stopped briefly, we knew thanks to radar that another round was coming. We were 5 miles in, running next to a golf course, when a huge thunder clap came out of nowhere and warning sirens on the golf course went off. We opted to seek shelter on the University of Richmond campus and made it to a student commons building just as things really opened up. After the worst went through, we decided to run back the way we came because hey - there was no other way to get back. It was absolutely pouring the entire way back. Not fun.

The following week (also my last week on my previous job... more on that later), my anxiety about my foot hit the limit. I went to Dr. Cutter on July 30  at 9 am for X-Rays. The X-Rays revealed that my pesky 4th metatarsal was fine, but there was clouding on the 5th that concerned him. Next stop? An MRI that afternoon. More later on what to expect from an MRI. Let's just say I was clueless and ended up being surprised by the process.

And the bill.

Anywho, I got my MRI at 3 pm and was back in Dr. Cutter's office looking at the oh-so-fascinating images of my foot bones and such by 4 pm. The verdict? My bones looks beautiful (thank God) but there was a lot of swelling and fluid in the ball of my foot, indicating a slight sprain.

But Doctor, can I still run?

Yes, I could. Woo hoo!

Surprise MRI: $550
Peace of mind: Priceless.

August

Started nicely. I started my new job on August 4th, which was a stressful but happy change.

Husband and I were in Baltimore for the Cardinals vs. O's series the weekend of Aug 9 -10, so I took the opportunity to run with the Baltimore Pacemakers group, as I had before. It was a very nice run and a great chance to catch up with my instant-friend, Barbara, who I met and clicked with at last year's Shakeout Run with Bart Yasso before the marathon. (I took a photo with Barbara but apparently when I did the new iPhone update it ate all of my pictures and I can't find it...awesome.) She has me nearly convinced to try a triathlon next year.

The week of August 18th, Greg, Kit, and I were doing our Wednesday longish run - a mix of roads and trails. During the trail portion I kept stepping wrong and my ankle would wobble a bit. And then I bit it - big time. I actually just sat there for a few minutes as the pain flooded through my left foot, thinking that this was it - I was done. The irony is that I fell not on the actual trail but on a little cut through of beat down grass and dirt that is perfectly root-and-obstacle free.

The guys sprang into action, offering for one to run back and fetch a car and for one to stay with me. I told them to just wait a minute. They pulled me up after I collected myself (I did not cry, though I came close), and I walked it off for a few minutes. Bleeding EVERYWHERE from a cut on my knee and covered with dirt. Being the boneheaded girl that I am, I insisted we run back to the Y. Which we did.


Running it back on the 9th Street bridge after biting it.


Bad ass trail runner.

My twisted/sprained foot was tender to the touch and ugly as all get out, but it didn't hurt to run. So... I kept running and logged a total of 26 miles that week and 30 the following.

Aside from getting a new job in August, Husband I also finally sold our house out in the country and were in the process of purchasing our new home (inspections, addendums, appraisals, mortgages... oh my!), which is in Richmond proper. As anyone who has ever gone through the process of purchasing a home knows, it is one of the most stressful life events. Throw in a demanding new job and the peak of marathon training on top and you can imagine what kind of stress I was under.

And unfortunately for us, things were not smooth. Our intended move in date (Labor Day weekend) had to be delayed because of shenanigans with our buyers' USDA-backed loan, which didn't clear the process until ten full business days AFTER the original closing date. We were living out of suitcases at my in-laws house for a week because our previous residence was fully packed and unlivable. My anxiety was so high that I was sick to my stomach (literally), which caused missed training runs, I wasn't sleeping well, and had no appetite. Basically I was a walking ball of stress from September 1 through out closing date, September 11.

The reschedule also meant that I was going to miss an 18 mile training run on September 6th. It turns out that was lucky for me, as it went down as THE WORST RUN IN THE HISTORY OF MTT thanks to extremely high temperatures and humidity. We were moving that day, so I still got plenty of exercise. But a week that was supposed to include 33 miles had just 15... 5 of which were a casual jaunt with Marcey on our first ever KBP + HMR Labor Day Run.

Which brings us up to last week (whew!)... and my first 20 miler of the training cycle. To say I was more than a little worried about my ability to pull of 20 is an understatement. But, thankfully, things went absolutely beautifully. The weather cooperated (overcast, in the high 60s). The route was challenging but one that I don't mind. I ended up getting separated from the main posse, but grinding out the hills of Riverside Drive and tackling the Lee Bridge by myself wasn't so bad. I finished in under 3 hours, feeling quite accomplished. Nothing hurt except my feet - which I expected. I knew my shoes were done but hadn't yet been able to locate my new pair (still in a box somewhere...).

Feeling on top of the world, I met a bunch of Team Midnight at the local dessert restaurant, Shyndigz, where we all ate cake for dinner.

For reference, the cup behind the cake is a pint glass.
(Meaning, this cake is HUGE)

Then that night, the shit hit the fan - literally. At 8 pm, I sent Husband downstairs to switch out laundry. He came back up to our bedroom, where I was organizing the closet, to inform me that the bathroom had, in his words, "Exploded."

The main sewer line into the house had backed up and there was literally sewage in my house. At 8 pm on a Saturday night.

TWO DAYS AFTER WE CLOSED.

Cue frantic calls to emergency plumbers, home warranty company (completely unhelpful, in case you're wondering), and real estate agent. The plumber arrived at 9 pm and left at 2 am ($165/hour... you do the math), having cleared the blockage for the night but informing us that we had root infestation in the main line and that it would have to be replaced. Oh and guess what? NONE OF IT is covered by home owners insurance, home warranties, or the municipal government. That means we are possibly looking at thousands of dollars worth of repairs. After having just spent thousands of dollars to move.

So... it's been fun.

But the good news is that our new home is located in a prime spot for runners. I have easy access to the James River Trail system and Riverside Drive, which is probably the most picturesque place in all of Richmond to run. So much so that it is on the marathon route and 75% of the photos that you see accompanying articles about the Richmond Marathon are ones taken on Riverside Drive.

Like this one.

Easy access means that this is less than a mile away from my door step.

Kit and I have embarked upon two runs from my house thus far. We always be sure to run east on Riverside, just as the sun is coming up over the river. It is absolutely breathtaking - and it reminds me that all of the stress and anxiety have been worth it.

Three Weeks to Steamtown

This brings us to today. September 18.

So far this week, I PR'd the crap out of a 5k on Tuesday night with a 23:04. That's 2 minutes off of my previous PR and on a hilly course too. I finished 10th out of 431 females, 6th in my age group, and 68th overall. I'm pretty proud of that.

Then yesterday morning, my lame foot gave out again during my run with Kit. I didn't fall, but there was that searing pain (same as August) and I had to stop then walk it off. Truly, I have no idea what even set it off... the trails are very flat and relatively obstruction free in Pony Pasture. The lovely bruising is back, but again, being me, I am running on it all the same. We finished that run and then last night I did 3 more with Marcey at the Sports Backer's open house celebration. My self-diagnosis is that the ligaments are just so loose that where a normal person's foot would recover after hitting something uneven, mine just decides to roll completely. I'm going to try to track down some strengthening exercises but other wise am carrying on.

Teresa and I are running the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half this weekend.

Then there's a 20 miler. Then a 12 miler.

And then the marathon on October 13.

I'm feeling confident at this point, especially after last week's 20. That evening I was having a bit of piriformis pain but it was gone on Sunday. No residual soreness what-so-ever. I guess that means I'm doing something right, even though I feel like this training cycle has been less than ideal.

But through all of this craziness, I am more thankful than ever for the run. It was the only constant in my life throughout the past 6 weeks. No matter what was happening, I knew one thing would be there for me, unchanged. And it was.

So onward we go... 24 days til Steamtown.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Donut Dash: WPA Edition

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over and that the last Donut Dash is upon us!

We saved a kind of super secret donut spot for this last edition. WPA Bakery is more well known for being probably a supplier of delicious cakes and pies to Richmond's restaurant scene including Ipanema Cafe, Garnett's Cafe (one of my favorites), and The Roosevelt. They opened their Church Hill location in 2012 and have been serving their delectable pastries to eager crowds ever since.


WPA is located in one of Richmond's most-historic but I think often most over-looked areas, Church Hill. Thanks to a bustling restaurant scene and Daniel Day Lewis (who stayed in a house in Church Hill while filming Lincoln in Richmond), the area is seeing a revival of epic proportions after suffering from a bad reputation for a very long time.


WPA only makes its wonderful donuts on Sunday mornings, making them kind of a best-kept donut secret. Unlike Dixie or Sugar Shack, the donuts here are classics - I recommend going with can't-go-wrong perfection of a glazed donut. Their style is hard to describe - they are cake donuts, but not heavy at all. I think they are a perfect cross between Dixie and Sugar Shack, making this spot a fitting finale for the Summer Donut Dash.

The route for this 5k is chock-full of great Richmond history - trust me, you don't want to miss it. Katie has put together a great tour and you will definitely feel like you've earned those donuts.

When: Sunday, August 24, 2014. Group departs promptly at 8 am.

Where: WPA Bakery at 2707 East Marshall Street, Richmond, VA. Street parking is plentiful and free.

Course: We'll head straight downhill to cover Richmond's oldest neighborhoods and sights including the warehouse district in Shockoe Bottom, the canal, Shockoe Slip, the Virginia State Capitol, Main Street Station, Lumpkins Slave Jail site, the Poe Museum, and historic St. John's Church. Please note that this area is called Church Hill for a reason - yes, this will be a hilly course! We are keeping the uphills to a minimum and will walk back up the last hill after completing our official 5k at the bottom.

How: Register online here. Pre-registration and completed waiver required; payment in cash or credit can be accepted on site Please arrive early if paying on site. PLEASE NOTE that if you don't get a confirmation email, you aren't registered - make sure you follow through to the last step to ensure proper registration.

Full information about the series can be found on the Food Running Tours! Tab.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Road to Steamtown: Week 7

We're halfway there having just finished week 12 of 24 official weeks of training.

 
 
4 runs for 29.6 miles
1 mile swim
 
Running miles logged so far: 282.5
STLY: 243.6
 
Training highlights:
  • Feeling more and more like a real swimmer these days (as opposed to a amateur flailer). I've been feeling very comfortable with my pattern of alternating 200 yards of free style with 200 yards of breast stroke and decided that it was time to up the ante on the free style. So, this week I swam repeats of 300 yards of free and 100 yards of breast stroke. And guess what? Though it was a bit harder, it still felt good. Additionally, one of the "master swimmers" invited me to join their group, which does work outs on M/W/F mornings. I said I was extremely flattered because I am anything but a "master" swimmer, but I'd think about it - only if she would teach me how to do the elusive flip turn.
  • A fantastic runner I would consider a Sister from Another Mother joined us for our Wednesday run and I know I've found another great running buddy and kindred spirit.
  • Despite mounting concerns that my foot was going to break in half during Saturday's long run, it went rather well. The 14 whizzed by in no time at all and my cardio is presumably so in shape right now that I never breathed hard. Not once. Waking up at 4:30 am to get there in time to add 6 to the team's scheduled 8 at 7 am was not fun, but we survived. And I took a very long nap when I got home.
  • On Sunday, I led the Summer Donut Dash: Dixie Donuts edition. We had nice, overcast weather and a fun group. The 5k wound through Byrd Park, where lots of tidbits of Richmond history were shared. I had been concerned that Byrd Park wouldn't be the most interesting area to run in (historically speaking) but thankfully, it turns out I was wrong. I found a plethora of fun facts that even lifelong Richmonders in the group didn't know. Guess we are doing something right!




Training lowlights:
  • Like I said, this was a tough week. Our test run of the Dixie Course on Monday felt like death, even at a 9:00/mile pace. Thank you, 100% humidity.
  • Swelling and continued discomfort in my foot really had me freaked out to the point that I ditched speed work on Monday, opted for an easy pace for Wednesday's 7 miler in lieu of tempo, and considered not doing the Saturday long run at all. When I arrived on Saturday morning, I was in pretty low spirits and confessed to T that I was convinced that it was going to break during the run. It bothered me on and off throughout the 14, but being the stubborn runner that I am, I just kept going. My theory is that if it is going to break, I'd rather it just do it full on rather than mess around with a maybe-stress-fracture.
Given all of the drama and anxiety surround my stubborn appendage, I have made the decision to take off from running this week. When I announced this to Husband on Saturday evening, he looked at me like I had lost my mind. He keeps asking me every night, "So... are you running tomorrow?" because he expects me to change my mind.

So far, I've held true to my word. More on that in a later entry.
 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Road to Steamtown: Week 6



3 runs for 21.5 miles
2 swim sessions; 1 mile each

Running miles logged so far: 252.9
STLY: 219.5

Training highlights:
  • ... Ummmm ...
  • I managed to finally get two session of cross training in.
  • Post long run Sugar Shack trip with some fellow Team Midnight-ers (?). The best part was the donut, but almost as awesome was when we all stood up from our spots on the sidewalk and saw this:
Team Midnight was here

We all found it quite hilarious. (You know you're a runner when you think a butt sweat print is funny and not totally disgusting.) It was a great bonding moment with some Team Midnight newbies and as I drove home, I thought to myself how grateful I am for the experience of MTT and our every growing running family.

Training lowlights:
  • Thanks to continued irritability on the part of my foot (will it ever end??), I opted to not do tempo work on Wednesday and did "easy" trails instead. On that run, T tripped on a railroad track and busted her knee wide open (but thankfully not her face or head). She wound up with three stitches and a tetanus shot; I wound up with a serious case of guilt since I had picked the route. In true T fashion, after the fall we dusted her off, slapped on a band aid (my car was conveniently parked nearby for a planned on SAG), and she ran 5 more miles.
  • Thanks to continued irritability on the part of my foot (yep, I just said that again) and a sudden case of light-headedness, I did not add any mileage to the team long run on Saturday. Steamtown Contingent was supposed to do 13 and as you can see I did just 11. I'm glad that I didn't because this was the extremely challenging and always-dreaded Riverside Drive route. It was so miserably hot and humid that pretty much of the ladies in the Edge of Midnight pace group ended up going #fullonBarch
I don't look quite as pale in black and white, right?

This foot thing... yeah. I don't even know. I talked to a teammate who own a local running store about it on Saturday during the run. I asked if maybe it was a shoe problem and he said that often when people have pain on the outside and top of the foot, it is because of tension in the calf. He advised me to use a stick on my left calf, looking for a lump or knot in the outside of muscle. Sure enough, I found the lump and rolled the heck out of it, only to be rewarded with a super sore calf and foot the next morning.

So good news is that I think it is all stemming from my left side being just stupid and tight (piriformis hurts too lately - surprise surprise). Bad news is... everyone on my left side hurts. I'm strongly considering headed back to Dr. Cutter so that I can get back to Steve and get my SI checked out, but things are just so crazy right now for me that I don't have the time to deal with it. I guess I should, before I have no choice.

Ah, the boneheaded runner.