17 October 2011


Post-marathon I have been a bit of a sloth. Most of that is justified, I think, but it's been a week and a day, my legs feel fine and I have yet to strap on my Mizunos and head out the door for a run. I got the sad guilt-trip email from dailymile today that says, "Your friends miss your training :(." I mean, probably they don't, really, but I kind of miss my training, so now I am pondering my next move.

I'd like to do a second marathon and I would like to do it properly. I would like to have a Training Plan and maybe some potential training partners so when I'm all "ugh, why would anyone ever want to go run 17 miles on a weekend?" I can know that someone's counting on me to get my butt out the door. I would like to actually complete those weekend training runs by waking up early and getting it done than by waking up whenever I wake up, having breakfast, digesting and then going outside finally at maybe 11 or 1 or 3 or whatever and then it's HOT and I've been SITTING AROUND and WHATEVER, I WILL JUST DO IT TOMORROW.

Properly, is what I am saying to you now.

For this purpose, I have been eying this guy:

It's on St. Patrick's Day in DC. Because I have a mondo huge base built up at the moment I think the timing would be good; I could ease back into full-on training mode in about two weeks and be ready to go. And I have bffs in DC who would be happy to let me crash and also be happy to come support me, possibly while drinking out of flasks. (I mean it is St. Patrick's Day.) Importantly, this means that I can do DC on the cheap. I get the impression that other running bloggers make bank, because y'all are always planning trips to run races in fun places (New York, Vegas, even Chicago), but I, sadly, do not. I am a journalist. I get paid crap. So supporting my racing habit is an exercise in financial wizardry.

I never read Harry Potter but I'm pretty sure this is what wizards do. Anyway, so I'm about 60 percent ready to commit to registering, I am just waiting for an email from my running coach confirming that he is willing to work with me on a training plan (aka willing to deal with my ridiculous and frequent emails that involve me panicking about various things, only some of which are related to running). Until then I'm going to remain here on the couch, eating Papa John's and watching DVR'd Project Runway. It's season one. Things are ugly.

14 October 2011

Chicago Marathon recap (of sorts)

Oh hey. I'm a marathoner now. No big deal.

Just kidding. It's a ginormous huge deal and I am still, five days later, riding a bit of a high from it. After all the months of training (and all the weeks of not training), the moving to North Carolina, the heat and humidity, the semi-injuries, the foam-rolling and twisted ankles and quality time with ice packs, it's all over in 26.2 miles and 4 hours, 36 minutes and 32 seconds.

I can't remember when I first decided that I wanted to run a marathon. I think it was something I always knew I would do, from the moment I first put on racing shoes and ran in my first cross-country meet when I was 16. I put it on my "do before I'm 30" list and then slipped on ice in January and bruised my tailbone and couldn't run for three months. I was living in Wisconsin at the time after quitting my job in Virginia to move to California with my boyfriend, only to be there for a grand total of two days before breaking up - painfully, and messily, and horribly. I was supposed to spend that winter in the desert with palm trees and sunshine and love; I was not supposed to be walking on black ice at 6 am in the dark by myself, falling so quickly it took my breath away. In retrospect, it was a fitting metaphor for my life at the time. I limped back to my mother's house. I waited for my tailbone to feel better. I watched it snow and snow and snow. And then I decided it was time to stop waiting, and I registered for the Chicago Marathon.

I picked Chicago for no reason other than geographic location. Chicago was within driving distance of Madison, where I was living at the time; I knew my family could easily make the trip down to see me race, and I also knew that if PLEASE, GOD, PLEASE I found a job and got the F out of Wisconsin, I could easily fly back into Chicago with no hassle. I knew almost nothing else about the race when I clicked that register button. I didn't know it was one of the big five. I didn't know that 45,000 people would line up with me behind the starting line. I just knew it made sense for where I was at the time.

In the weeks leading up to race day, I was extremely nervous. My training, as I have written countless times before, didn't go as planned, for a lot of reasons but mostly because I didn't dedicate myself to it as fully as I wanted to. I did my one and only 20-mile run 12 days before the race. My left hamstring and my right IT band were bothering me right up until I walked to Grant Park on race morning. I knew I could do the race, sort of, but I also really didn't know that I could do it. People say, "trust your training." I didn't trust my training because I hadn't fully done my training. My father said, "It's okay to walk." My stepmother said, "All you have to do is finish, and you can do that." My friends signed up en masse to track my race progress via text message and told me they knew I could do it. But I wasn't so sure. All I knew is that I would try.

I ironed my name onto my tank top the night before the race so that people would cheer for me. On race day, I woke up at 4:45, got coffee, got dressed, popped ibuprofen and walked to Grant Park. Because I raced with a charity, I had the option of checking my bag at the Team PAWS tent, which was great because it allowed me to avoid the lines at the general gear check. It was not so great because the Team PAWS tent was about a 15-minute walk from the corrals. I trekked over, dropped off my bag, stopped in two Port-a-Potty lines, and finally got back to the corrals minutes before the gun went off. I couldn't find the entryway, so I made friends with a group of runners hanging out by the fence and we all jumped it together. One of the guys sort of caught me - I warned them that I was clumsy and would probably die if I tried to do it alone - and he stumbled and fell off the curb and I had a moment of panic where I worried that I had injured him and he wouldn't be able to run. He was fine. Also, awesome.

And from there it's kind of a blur. I stood in the open corral telling the people around me that I was nervous. Then the gun went off and I crossed the starting line and for about the first 10 miles the only thing I could think was, "I. Am Running. A MARATHON." I couldn't stop smiling. Spectators screamed my name and I waved at them and laughed and high-fived kids with their arms outstretched. Shortly after the two-mile mark, we ran over a bridge and I saw my dad. My heart kind of exploded with happiness as we waved and shouted at each other. He snapped this, the only non-official photo of me racing. It's early in the race, but this is what I looked like pretty much the entire time.

I saw him, with my stepmom, again at mile 10; she said later, "I couldn't believe how happy you looked!"

Honestly, I know this will make me sound like an asshole, but I had the greatest time ever running that race. My legs started to hurt around mile 12 and I just told them to shut up and kept going. The race didn't feel great - and I went out conservatively and was running at about a 10:30 pace, which for me is really really slow and really really comfortable - but I did. I kept thinking in my head, "My legs are unhappy but I'm not." I broke the race down into five five-mile sections, but when I got to mile 20 I got to switch to my plan of dedicating each of the last six miles to someone in my life and honestly, it's the best thing ever. Because instead of focusing on the pain and how far I had to go, I got to spend each of those miles thinking about someone amazing in my life and how much I love them.

I never hit a wall, per se. My legs hurt, and I was ready to stop when the race was over, but there was no wall; no feeling like I couldn't go on. After mile 20 I walked a little, but not much at all. I kept telling myself to walk for one song and run for two, but I'd walk for maybe half of one and then run for 10 or 12 or 15 minutes. And before I knew it, I was turning the corner to go to the finish line. And just like that, I crossed it, they put a medal around my neck and now I've run a marathon.

When I got back to my phone it was full of text messages from people who had tracked me; people I had no idea cared. Coworkers. People who donated to my charity that I haven't spoken to since I moved. My mom. My bff. Then I collected my things and met my dad, stepmom and stepsister and that was the end of my marathon day.

It was one of the happiest and best things I've ever, ever done. It was the perfect way to end the crappiest year of my life. And I can't wait to do it again.

P.S. I did not fall down even once!

06 October 2011


I sent my dad an email yesterday asking if he could call me at my office so I could have a Chicago panic attack. So he rang me up and I proceeded to talk quickly at him for about three minutes without taking a breath, mostly about my gear-check questions, and then he said:

"Why don't I just hold your post-race clothes for you?"*

I started to explain that that wasn't really what I MEANT, that I would have all this OTHER gear and then I stopped and actually thought about it and ... oh. Um. I might not even need to do the gear-check thing, here's why.

Things I will be carrying:
- gels
- nuun
- water bottle
- iPod (my 2005 shuffle, word)
- throw-away sweats

The end. Gels and nuun go into my Spibelt, ipod goes into my water bottle pocket, throw-away sweats get thrown away. WHAT. IS LEFT. TO CHECK. Do you see what I am saying to you??

Except not confusing, because I AM JUST A MORON. Running the race may not kill me (though it may, my hamstring still hurts), but getting to the starting line in one piece is likely to do me in. Headdesk. Pray for my soul. Etc.

*Why no, post-race clothing had not occurred to me at all, thanks for asking. FML.

05 October 2011

final countdown

*I wrote this on Sunday and then never posted it because follow-through is my #1 strong point. So I am editing it to make sense...but it might not, still, I'M SORRY.

I am leaving for Chicago in two days. Things I need to do before then:

Go for a pain-free run. I went out to do an easy five miles Saturday and capped it at three because my legs were so tight and sore. I haven’t been stretching lately at all, mostly because I keep doing super-long runs right before I have to go to work. This is stupid. My legs hate me and I don’t blame them. I am doing lots of foam-rolling and telling my legs how pretty they are. We will try to run again tomorrow. Please stop hating me, friends. It's Not Sunday Anymore Update: My legs and I ran three miles last night and we are sort of on speaking terms again. The spot where my IT band connects to my right knee is sore but I don't care about that; it's an injury I have been dealing with for more than a year and I know I can push through it and that it is okay for me to do that, per the advice of the fabulous Dr. Weber. It is my left hamstring I'm more concerned with - it's tight and kind of a dull pain. After my run I spent about a half an hour doing hamstring-focused stretching and then I foam-rolled and iced and it is MUCH MUCH better today. Yesterday's run was super slow for me (9:50 pace) and I kept thinking "If I had to run 26 miles on these legs I could." But it's easy to say that when you're running really slowly and it's, you know, not necessary to actually run 26 miles. SO WE WILL SEE. Fingers crossed! And legs! Toes! Etc!

Yeah. You better get over that quick, bitches, because we'll be spending a lot of quality time together on Sunday.

Buy a suitcase. I have attic storage in my house, which is where my suitcases are, but the ladder comes down on my dresser and moving the dresser is a pain and anyway the zippers on the suitcase that fits into the overhead compartment are broken and I am NOT. PAYING. To check a bag even though buying a new suitcase will probably be more expensive, also I’m broke and run-on sentences and logic like this are probably the reasons why, whatever. Shiny new suitcase!

PACK. UGH. I know what I’m going to wear for the race, sort of (if you are wondering if the outfit involves tiny shorts, the answer is yes, yes it does). I’d like to get a new tech tee in an annoying color so my family can find me, and stick my name on it so strangers will cheer for me, but I don’t know where I can do that around here. I think they sell these types of things at the expo, right? Anybody? Bueller?

Buy gels. I take them every 45 minutes, so just to be safe I should buy…what? Six? Seven? Math is hard, time math is harder. English major for life.

Figure out if I should run with a pace group or what. Here’s what I know: This race is going to hurt. I don’t know at what point, but I know it’s going to hurt. I don’t have a time goal in mind, really; I’d like to finish in around four hours and I think based on my training runs, that’s realistic, but I also think that after 20 miles all bets are off. I think it might be smart to latch onto a slower pace group (say, 4:45? 4:30?) for the first 13-17 miles, see how I feel and then increase or decrease my pace as needed. I also think maybe I should just run how I feel. Does anyone have thoughts?

Buy throw-away clothes for the starting line. The forecast is showing 65-ish degrees and sunny, but it’ll be cold in the morning for sure. So I need to get some super-stylish sweats. I guess I should look for pants that I can take off easily, in case I want to actually run in them for awhile.

Y’all, I’m flailing a little here. Any advice is appreciated. I am capable of getting to the airport and on a plane on time, but after that it’s all pretty much up in the air. The biggest race I’ve run so far is the Charlottesville Half Marathon. A) that race was not big and B) I ran it with my exceedingly-good-at-life father who took care of all the logistics.

I know where and when to get my packet and that’s about it. I mean, I know where the race starts, I know I’m supposed to get there early to check in my gear, etc. BUT. FOR EXAMPLE. I am running with Team PAWS (the charity I did fundraising for), and they have their own gear check. So I should go there, right? They're "strongly recommending" that people get there at 5:30, do I REALLY need to do that, because the race doesn’t start until 7:30 and I won’t know anyone so that’s just a LOT of time to stand around in the dark wishing I had more coffee? How do I find my gear after? How do I find my family after? Should I bring my handheld water bottle even though there will be water? (Duh, yes. That one isn’t a real question. And if I get tired of it I’m just going to chuck it at my dad as I run by him. WHICH MAKES FINDING HIM SORT OF A NECESSITY.)

Anyway, all of the crap I have left to do notwithstanding, I am mostly looking forward to the race. Yes, it is going to hurt. I did not train (or blog about training) as much as I wanted to going into my first marathon. But I don’t care. I still think it’s going to be really fun. Because I believe the last six miles will be awful, I have picked six important people in my life and dedicated one of those miles to each of them. (Actually, I picked eight, but two of them are couples.) So in addition to the money I raised for homeless animals, in addition to the crazy experience of training for a marathon then running it with 40,000 other people, I have those wonderful people to get me through the hardest part of the race.

AND! SPOILER ALERT! I decided to run that last 1.2 miles all for me. It turns out, in the crazy way my life works sometimes, that the day of the race is the one-year anniversary of the day I got back to Wisconsin after breaking up with my boyfriend and leaving California. For the most part it’s been a spectacularly crappy year for me; I have gone through and dealt with and, most importantly, overcome a huge boatload of crap* and I can’t think of a better way to close that chapter than by taking a 26.2-mile race and kicking it square in the teeth. If I can overcome everything I have in the past year, I can sure as hell tackle a marathon. Bring it, Chicago.

*I also managed to have a little fun. Take that, past year!