Hell froze over

Snow on palm trees. What?

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Yes, it snowed. In South Carolina. Fortunately, not until the day AFTER the marathon. February 17, 2013

It took me nearly 5 years between marathons #13 and #14 – you’d think I’d have run (err, shuffled) right home and written the post about my Great Comeback Marathon at Myrtle Beach. Alas. No.

Now, in the wake of all that has happened in the past two weeks, it seems pretty anticlimactic, not to mention irrelevant, to write about a marathon from over two months ago. But there are some highlights to revisit, and I suppose they are worth revisiting.

First, leading up to the race, I made sure to do all the right things: I worked 10-12 hours a day, I didn’t exercise at all, and I got super stressed-out in the office (see items 1 and 2), so I was a joy to be around. Oh, and my birthday was Fat Tuesday, so I celebrated by not going out and by watching the State of the Union like the DC nerd I am. (Don’t feel too bad. I celebrated early, on Sunday, with Bon Jovi and drinks with friends at my homeboy Lincoln‘s bar.)

But the day of departure finally arrived, I deleted access to my work email from my phone, and I made my way to meet Nikki at the airport. We boarded the bus to our teeny tiny plane, only to realize Cokie Roberts was on board with her husband (she helpfully pointed out a place for Nikki to place her bag). Now, Cokie is on the board of my organization, and I’d just had a bad week…so for the purposes of conversation my place of work became “Safeway.” I was pretty sure she wasn’t running the marathon, but that would have been particularly awesome.

We flew into Myrtle Beach and took a cab to our hotel. Unfortunately it reeked of smoke. He took us on the short ride into town – and I began freaking out that I’d convinced 6 friends to run a race in Cancun; specifically, it looked like Cancun threw up. I had not been to Myrtle Beach since 1976, and since I was 2 then, my memory wasn’t so good. Of course, I had to say this on Facebook…and (of course), when my post went up I found out a friend from growing up lived there, and I’d just insulted her city. Sorry, Brandi!

Myrtle Beach was an awesome race, because everything was very closely located. We stayed in the Sheraton, and the expo was in the convention center attached to the hotel, so we could walk to everything without even having to go outside. Priorities, though: Nikki and I convened with our NYC friends and went in search of food before doing anything else.

One of the people in this photo wearing stripes flew all the way from Switzerland to join us. (She’s crazy.) (Love you, Andrea!)

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Yes, we will run long.
Why can’t a marathon be, say, 15 miles?

After lunch, we headed to the expo. No signage, but we just followed the fit-looking people.

Best part of the expo?

Baby tigers.

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Baby tigers?! What do baby tigers have to do with a marathon? Not too much. But this race’s beneficiary was the The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S….get it?). More on that later.

We breezed through the expo, gave some money to service dogs-in-training (if you took out a dollar, they’d take it from you, and dump it in their charity’s bucket. Awesome party trick.)

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Looks like Turkey. Only Turkey doesn’t have any party tricks. She sleeps through parties.

Then we went in search of food again. Dinner time!

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Andrea and I actually share a birthday, but she was passed out already. Fine. More tiramisu for me.

Traveling with my friend Ilse is like traveling with a personal concierge. She had done tons of research, scoped out good places to eat, and made reservations for nearly all of our weekend meals ahead of time. Even when we found a closer place, the reservation was magically switched – all I had to do was show up and eat. This is my kind of vacation! Dinner was Italian, and delicious, and ended with a birthday tiramisu for me (+ 3 days) and birthday chocolate something for Nikki (actual birthday).

We all went our separate ways, so we could set our alarms for (4 a.m.) an early-bird (6:30 a.m.) start time. Honestly it had been so long since I did a marathon that I couldn’t remember what to do. So I took a shower, laid out my clothes, and talked with Nikki. At some point I fell asleep, because next thing I knew the three alarms (and our wakeup call) were blaring and it was time to get up.

The good part about not remembering was that I also wasn’t very nervous. I ate my gross soy nut butter sandwich, had some coffee, and used my foam roller. The start line was about 3/4 of a mile away from the hotel, so we followed everyone else walking in the street. I peed behind a gas station, and Ilse, Phil and I lined up.

Then Bubbles started the race.

Bubbles

BUBBLES IS AN ELEPHANT!!!
Photo Credit: Bubbles the Elephant’s Facebook page.
We are friends.

As we passed Ms. Bubbles, I thought she might be taking a poo, but she was just lying down in the median (the half-marathoners were separated from the marathoners by the median; the course is shared until about Mile 11). Also, as you can see from Ms. Bubbles’ backdrop, at 6:30 a.m. it was still dark. This reminded me a lot of running the Honolulu Marathon, where the race begins at 5 a.m.

So then what happened. Lots of running. 26.2 miles of it, actually. Ilse, Phil and I stayed together for the first 18 or so miles, and Ilse and me until after mile 20. The highlights, if you want to call them that, of what I remember:

  • Phil and I ran behind some bushes to pee around mile 7 (We wondered if the good people of Myrtle Beach might arrest us for this. They didn’t.), then spent the better part of the next mile catching back up to Ilse.
  • Some excellent hotel signs from the many hotels of Myrtle Beach. I can’t remember a single one. But they were funny.
  • At Mile 14, I declared I was “over this” and “didn’t understand why anyone would think running a marathon was fun.”
  • At Mile 14.5 we turned a corner and ended the long slog along the strip of hotels. Two men sat on that corner singing “Wagon Wheel” and I lit up. Old Crow Medicine Show is a band started by some young’uns from my hometown – I am all about “signs,” and it was a sign that I would finish. It also gave me something to sing.
  • At Mile 15, I said “well, at least we have less than 10 miles to go.” Err… my math was corrected quickly.
  • At Mile 17, I saw my friend Sandeep from my DC runners group run by…which surprised me because he’s way faster than I am, but I also had no idea he’d be there. He started 10 minutes late (?) and it took him the 17 miles to catch up and then pass us.
  • Mile 20, some random man in a median singing Jackopierce songs. This made me even happier than Wagon Wheel.
  • Miles 20-26 made me think about how I probably should have trained better. Or, you know, maybe run more than twice a week.
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    My mantra. Thanks, Ragnar Relay, for summing up my feelings so succinctly.

    • I was alone for the ending miles, but around 24 I saw Phil and was super happy to catch up with him. I wanted to run the rest of the way together, but he waved me ahead.
    • I did at least remember to run quickly at the end – I still had some kick – and my last mile was my fastest (8:15). Unfortunately, my dying piece-of-junk, want-me-to-pay-$32-for-new-battery Nike watch deleted the splits, but we were pretty consistent all day.
    • Ilse, Andrea, Phil and I all finished within four minutes of each other. Finally, I was off of (very unlucky) Marathon #13, and onto #14. Final time: 3:51:53. No complaints here!

The post-race food and goodies were excellent – soup, chocolate milk (better idea than reality, at least for me), Cape Cod potato chips, and who knows what else.

This is perhaps the most boring race recap I’ve ever written. I don’t even have a photo of all of us from the end, because I am too cheap to spend $30 on MarathonFoto to get one, and I haven’t seen Sandeep (who took one on his phone) since race day.

I really, really wish I could post them, but MarathonFoto is smarter than I am.

Now I will probably get sued.

Now I will probably get sued.

Here is the link, if you so desire.

Anyway. Overall, Myrtle Beach is NOT Cancun, at least not in the wintertime. The people are exceptionally friendly, the food was good (and inexpensive) and we had a great time. If the most negative thing I can say is that “the cabbies smoked in their cabs,” well….I guess that worked out alright.

Once again, I am going to ponder…what could I run if I really, really trained? I am beginning prayers to the Keep Me Safe From Injury God now. Let’s see what happens!

Posted in Ankle Shenanigans, Race Reports | Tagged , | Leave a comment

My heart. Our hearts.

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Thank you, Mungerites, for the signs! (photo credit: Scream Tunnel Signs by Wellesley’s Munger Hall)

My heart doesn’t even know how to process this, or where to begin. All of my Wellesley sisters know what I’m talking about. So does everyone else who’s ever gone to school in or near, or lived in or near, Boston. This day, so inextricably linked to who we are as a college, and to who I am as a runner. Who I am as a person.

I’ve long said Patriot’s Day – Marathon Monday – is my favorite day of the year. For 21 years it has been the brightest spot of the spring, the turning of mud season into spring, a day of celebration, and, once I moved westward, of internet tracking and fond memories, and finally, goals met and success.

In 1992, Marathon Day was the day after Easter. It followed Wellesley’s spring open campus weekend, when I decided, aw, hell, yeah, I’ll go to a women’s college. From the second I set foot on campus in June 1991, I knew I belonged there; it just took me ten months to accept it. I’d been running since I was 8, and the excitement of Boston and all its surrounding towns was palpable.

In 1993, my friend Karen and I ran our first half marathon together at Boston, as part of a college organized bandit plan. We took a van out to Hopkinton and ran back, ending just past Thunder Sports in the ‘Vil. At the time I didn’t think I’d done anything harder. Or cooler. And I’d yet to learn about writing up race reports, but how I wish I had documentation of what our emotions were that day! We thought we’d climbed Mount Everest, and we rewarded ourselves with ice cream. This was the epitome of “seemed like a good idea at the time.” My body, only vaguely prepared to run those 13.1 downhill miles, did not see dairy as a welcome introduction. I was savagely ill, stopping in bathrooms in Munger and Pomeroy on the long slog back up to Claflin, Whitney carrying my belongings all the way. I haven’t felt the same about ice cream again.

In 1994, I trained on icy roads with my friend Oana, my first running soulmate. Over miles and through a cold, cold winter, we poured out our hearts and deepened our friendship. While we knew each other well, how little we knew about training. Coolmax hadn’t been invented. We put on layers of sweatshirts, sweatpants, and socks. All cotton. We’d do our long runs westward, reversing the course, towards Natick and beyond, stopping at 7-11 to buy more water. Gels? Had gels been invented? I’ve no idea what, if anything, we ate. Race day came and again we took the van to Hopkinton, and ran back. No ice cream. Better experience.

Note the yellow walkman!

Love that yellow walkman! Halfway, 1994

Many friends know I struggled with an eating disorder for years, from late junior high through the middle of Wellesley. The summer of 1994, living at dear old Theta Chi on Beacon Street, with Oana as my roommate and a bevy of MIT boys as housemates, and a kick-ass therapist who finally had my number, marked the beginning of my recovery. Oana and I commuted to Wellesley together daily for our summer jobs. We continued to run, and she taught me to lift weights. I admired her, this strong, proud volleyball player who was not afraid of food in the way that I was, who was proud of her body and what it could achieve. The Theta Chis with whom we lived, who didn’t give food any emotional weight, and who ate whatever without a second thought, they taught me, too. I ran along the Charles, I ran on the course. I walked to Star Market in the Prudential and bought groceries and tried to comprehend how they wouldn’t kill me.

My recovery and Boston? Linked. You can do a lot on nothing, as I did slumming through high school cross-country races, running somehow just fast enough to get by and not kicked off the team out of Coach Bugg’s pity. But you cannot run a marathon on nothing. You have to feed your body, and without fuel, you can’t do it. I often wonder what kind of runner I might have been in high school, if only I’d eaten.

1995 marked Oana’s graduation year, and we resolved to run the entire marathon. We continued our runs together. I surrounded myself with strong, proud, athletic friends, and continued to learn how to trust my body and to eat. Six weeks prior to race day, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture. Of my femur, the largest bone in the body. (If you’re gonna do it, go big. I guess.) Though I’d been eating “normally” again for almost eight months, my body was not ready for the kind of pounding that 16-, 18-, 20- mile training runs produce. Into the water I went, doing long, boring aqua-jogs alone in Wellelsey’s pool while Oana slogged along alone on the roads through the rest of a dreadful winter. Two weeks before race day, I went back to Newton-Wellesley Hospital for a follow-up visit, where I asked my orthopedist if I could run. I’ll never forget his reply: “Maureen, I’m a medical professional. I’m not going to tell you it’s ok to run.” I countered (always a bargainer, me): “But will I do permanent medical damage if I run?” And he finally allowed that no, I would not.

So I ran. But I didn’t run the whole thing. I “compromised” and ran the last twelve miles, meeting Oana and Regan at the Boston Chicken in Wellesley Hills, just before the steep steep downslope to the Newton-Wellesley line. We passed Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Oana struggled up the hills. I ran on adrenaline steps in front of her, holding out my hand behind me, telling her to grab it, to follow me. We crossed the line on Boylston, bandits but still treated with unbelievable care, given our mylars and carefully shifted out of the lines, away from the medals. It was my first Boston finish line and I knew I’d be back, with a real number that I’d earned. We lay on Boylston Street, feet in the air, as my mom and aunt fetched us bagels and coffee.

Most accurate capture ever -  THIS is what a marathon feels like

Most accurate capture ever:
THIS is what a marathon feels like. Headed back to Wellesley with Oana on the T, 1995.

1996 was my own graduation year, and marked the 100th running of the race. There was a lottery, allowing in a people who hadn’t qualified, and tripling the size of the field. I entered the lottery, but wasn’t selected. So for the first time, I didn’t bandit. I volunteered, earning my first Boston jacket as I served pasta to the masses at the Hynes Convention Center. I was honored to attend a weekend lunch hosted by Wellesley with the top women elite, from Uta Pippig to Tegla Loroupe, joining the captains of Wellesley’s varsity teams. On race day I stood on the sidelines for the first time, part of Wellesley’s storied tunnel, cheering the masses and tearing up at Dick Hoyt as he ran past, pushing his son Rick.

1997, was I there? Probably. 1998, I was working at Wellesley and living in Boston. My friend Julie was marking her own Wellesley graduation with the marathon. I ran from my apartment near Boston College and met her at the top of Heartbreak Hill, running her in to the end, using the same “grab my hand-behind me” technique of three years earlier.

I was weeks away from my own watershed, the core-shattering suicide of my dear friend Matt. I left Boston that summer, moving first to Colorado, then later on to California. I didn’t set foot on the course again until 2007.

I ran my first full marathon in December 2000, 6,000 miles away from Boston in Honolulu, finishing nearly an hour and 30 minutes slower than the necessary qualifying time. On my 9th marathon, on a cold, rainy day in Napa in March 2006, I finally qualified. On Monday, Ezra Klein’s excellent article gave it a name: I was a “squeaker,” sneaking in with just 58 seconds to spare. Just weeks away from that year’s Boston, I’d missed the window, and waited over a year to make my way to the official starting line.

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The coolest marathoners wear plastic bags. Hopkinton with Kim, 2007

A nor’easter meant the 2007 race was nearly cancelled for the first time in its 111-year history. My training buddy Kim and I laughed and shrugged and struggled through the day. It was far from pretty, but we did it, and (to her chagrin, I must imagine), I relived my college glory days over every passing mile. I was met along the way by friends Ryan and Ilse and my mom, all three of whom traveled just to support me. My aunts and cousins lined the course as well.

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Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials with Ilse, 2008

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Carbo-loading at Bertucci’s with cousins Sarah (Wellesley ’11!), Kate, my parents, aunt Peggy, and Diana, 2008

That fall I requalified at CIM with Ilse, shoring up my squeak by over two minutes in Sacramento, celebrating with Minnie, Jon, and Diana. I went back to Boston to run again in 2008, watched the Olympic trials, met one of my (then) heroes at a bar, and celebrated with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

It still wasn’t pretty. It’s harder than Ironman. But I was still living my dream.

That December I adopted my Turkey, love of my life, and chose the official Patriot’s Day for her made-up birthday; I only chose the “official” since “observed” marathon day changes year-to-year, and the vet needed a date for her chart.

In 2009, I could’ve gone back, my qualifying time still “good” for another use. But grad school and an empty bank account had the better of me, and I opted to do the Krispy Kreme Challenge instead. A fall and a torn tendon that November kept me out of the marathon scene. Surgery in 2012 and a slow recovery meant it was almost 5 years between Boston 2008 and my next marathon, the one for which I’ve yet to write a race report, Myrtle Beach 2013. I didn’t requalify at Myrtle Beach, but that wasn’t my goal. At almost 5 years out, I was happy to finish with my still tendon intact and standing upright.

When I saw a Wellesley friend post “prayers for Boston,” I was confused. I’d been tracking friends, and random blogger acquaintances all day, feeling sad I wasn’t there, but prayers? Had it gotten hot? A snowstorm? Why prayers? Boston.com was down, but the NY Times had enough of a snippet that I turned on the TV. I gasped in disbelief, and frantically started trying to reach my friends. It felt vaguely reminiscent of the early minutes of 9/11, trying to figure out if those we knew and loved were in harms’ way or safe. I sobbed as I dialed Minnie, and then her husband Jon. My own phone began lighting up with texts from friends near and far wondering if I was there, too. All the while I kept seeing more and more Facebook posts from friends I hadn’t even realized were there.

I’d wanted to go to Boston this year, to cheer on Minnie and Diana and celebrate their success with them, when they’ve given so much to me for the 12 years since we met. Instead I was diverted to “dog camp,” springing LizzieDog from the kennel for a week while my parents are gone for three. I knew relatively quickly that Minnie was ok, but no news of Diana for over two hours made my heart ache. I revisited her time splits, and studied the map of the final mile, trying to calculate how close she would have been. I know absolutely nothing of what it must have felt like to be there yesterday, to have been in a place celebrating joys and accomplishments, and have it taken away. When Minnie and I finally spoke live this morning, my heart broke for her pain, but it was also uplifted by her stories of the outpouring of generosity she, Diana, and everyone around them experienced.

How to describe what Boston means? The deep friendships formed while training, running, traveling and racing? The postcards of Wellesley and images of friends in the newspaper I’ve saved from our student days? The closest I’ll ever feel or be to feeling like a “champion,” high-fiving kids and drunken college students the entire way? The recovery and celebration of my body and soul from a soul-sucking and body-draining mental illness? The celebration and joy of humanity on perfect spring days? Every memory I have of this race, and this place, is so deeply intertwined with my closest friends, my family, and everything that I know and love. Boston isn’t the name of a city, or a race, or a course, to me. Boston is everything.

My first legal Boston in 2007 was the same day as the shootings at Virginia Tech, and afterwards, my friend Sarah – a Tech alum – shared with me her sadness that a place she loved so much and was such a big part of her life and so many happy memories would now be always associated with such grief.

Now I understand what she meant on such a different level. I have loved this place since I was born, and this race since 1992. My friend Jen said it well on Facebook, and I’m stealing part of it here: “Patriots Day remains to me the one day each year when everyone in Boston is just…happy. I love Boston, but it’s a city more often associated with the cold and gruff than the warm and fuzzy. Marathon Day is the exception. Everyone is your friend, everyone has a smile, and there’s a sense of all being part of something together.”

I don’t have the words. Those are the words.

Pray, run, peace. My memories are all about me, but for every one of me, there are hundreds of thousands more. The race will be run again. Boston will be ok again. The outpouring of support and warmth is wonderful. But the happiness, the unadulterated joy I felt for this race, and everything that Boston has been to me, those have been changed. Pray. Run. Peace.

Other excellent posts from some of my favorite writers that begin to capture what I want to say, in far fewer and far more poignant words:

Posted in Random | Tagged | 7 Comments

Almost to the starting line

I probably shouldn’t write that, because I know I’m totally jinxing myself.

I probably also shouldn’t believe in jinxes, but seriously, after the past few years of mishaps, wouldn’t you?

But maybe my spate of bad luck is over.

After the “can’t sit up” day with a bad back, and the resulting trip to creepy chiropractor and my fabulously awesome PT, I took the entire week off from running. I swam once (almost drowned), I stretched, and I did the elliptical. I even stopped Body Pump. And I didn’t run.

Instead of a long run, I drove 225 miles to East Bumblefudge, NC, to meet this sweet gal. Does she look familiar?

Lizzy-turned-Lizzie

Lizzy – turned – Lizzie

She might. Let’s look at it this way.

Which one's which?

Which one’s which?

Since the week before Christmas, I’d been obsessed with “Lizzy” on PAWS of Hertford County’s website. Why? Miss Turkey came from PAWS (via a foster). This gal was 4 years old, and in all likelihood is Miss Turkey’s baby – and she’d been there for over 5 months. Who can say no to that sweet face?

My parents had considered adopting her, but decided they weren’t ready – my “childhood” dog, Sniffer, has been dead for almost 15 years. But several weeks later, they decided, well….maybe we’re ready. Let’s go meet her. And more importantly, let’s see if Turkey likes her.

Turkey and Lizzie didn’t seem to have an issue with each other, after a walk, and a romp around the shelter’s yard.

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All good? Let’s drive 225 miles back, Lizzie in my parents’ car, and Turkey in mine. 450 miles in one day (with a back issue)(and one pullover by a cop that resulted in me needing to make a court appearance near Richmond on March 22) did not a happy camper make. But Lizzie farted the whole way home, so really, I think my parents had it worse.

Things did not continue quite so smoothly, Turkey got a gash to the eye, and let’s just say there’s now a behavioral therapist involved (for Turkey, not for me….though one for me might be cheaper and would not involve hot dogs and Thundershirts). As soon as they realize there is fun to be had together, we’ll probably be waxing nostalgic for these days.

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One week later, I ran my three hours…quadratus lumborum survived. Then I got sick and stayed home for 4 days. Totally not related.

Despite staying home for 4 days, the next weekend I got doped up on sudafed and ran 16 miles with Flora and saw the fabulous Sweaty Emily out and about – shrieking “I know her!” as she ran by.

If you’re keeping track, this means my “training plan” consisted of approximately two runs a week for all of January, no Body Pump, and only one 20-miler. I know that it’s been nearly 5 years (58 months) since my last marathon, and that’s a dang long time, but even I remember that this is not the ideal way to do things.

Alternatively, I guess I could consider this a 6-week taper, chased with cheese.

Either way, this weekend’s gonna be…interesting. I’m bringing muscle relaxers and a jug of wine. Hope TSA lets me through.

Posted in Ankle Shenanigans, Training | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

One Year Later

Here’s why you shouldn’t plan: if you plan, it will go wrong.

Today marks one year since my ankle surgery, which commenced 8 weeks on crutches and 12 weeks of no driving – and included 1 month living with my parents and another living with my friend from work.

Don't you want this awesome shirt too? Maybe next time she orders them you can have one

Good times

I’ve been training to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon as my big ol’ “comeback” race – and my first marathon in almost FIVE stinkin’ years.

You want a reminder of how much can change in five years? Remember when this guy was a hero? Now rumor has it he’ll finally confess to Oprah in an interview tomorrow. (I am so, so curious as to whether/how she’ll respond, and if she’ll go all James Frey on him. I watched the James Frey interview and felt like I was in the principal’s office. Only worse.)

Just hanging out with my pal (he beat me by an hour and a half)

Hanging out with my pal pre-Boston 2008. He beat me by an hour and a half…

Training has been going insanely, amazingly well, which is (perhaps) why I have been loathe to write about it.

After the ridiculously windy and awesome Thanksgiving 5k, where I ran a time I hadn’t seen since I was a 16-year old, I started to up my “long run” miles. I ran 12 miles alone Thanksgiving weekend. It took me the entire day to make it out of my apartment, so I started looking for a weekend running group, knowing that it would only be getting darker, there’s no better way to waste a weekend than sitting around “thinking” about running, and that it’d be a lot more fun to run with friends.

The weekend after Thanksgiving I ran the Annapolis Half Marathon – my first half race since November 1, 2009 (the weekend before I wrecked my ankle). Annapolis was the only half I could find scheduled between December and February that wouldn’t require flying (shockingly, winter is not a super-popular time for halves on the East Coast). It required getting up at 3:55 a.m. and driving 45 minutes to – wait for it – Annapolis, but it was a great race and I would recommend it (in addition to a nice 1/4 zip coolmax shirt, we got nice coolmax hats). Mentally, I really wanted to do a half race to regain some confidence, and also to remember what it felt like to race for that many miles (it feels terrible). I also made a bunch of mistakes, which is the whole point of doing a test run. Apparently when running races in December on the East Coast, it is important to be in possession of a warm hat, or an earband. Fortunately, there was a vendor selling just these things in the tent before the start, so I bought one and was saved.

Proof I ran a race and wore sexy black earband:

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I ended my streak (ok, two races, not exactly a streak) of running sub-8s and getting PRs, but I was happy with a 1:49-something (especially because it included a 1:30 potty break).

The weekend after that, I sucked up being “shy” and “afraid to talk to strangers” (ridiculous, given my profession), and went out to meet the DC Road Runners, who do a long run every Saturday. Guess what? They are nice. And it has been 1000x easier to get out of bed in the dark on a Saturday knowing there’s a group of people to run with – even if 95% of them are way faster than me.

Which brings me to my point. My “plan” was to run 3 hrs this weekend, as the first of my longest long runs before Myrtle Beach. I was going to do two or three three-hour runs; I’m a subscriber to “time on my feet” vs true mileage training, so I don’t really care how many miles it works out to be. Last weekend I ran 2:40 and took my first winter ice bath (terrible, terrible experience)(the ice bath, not the run), so 3:00 seemed pretty reasonable.

How poetic! My longest long run on the anniversary weekend of my surgery! Oh, I could hear the muses sing.

They’re not singing. They are snorting.

Earlier this week I tweaked my back, to the point I called in sick to work on Wednesday because I COULD NOT SIT UP. There’s no better way to feel your age.

Everyone had their theories – it was the 17.5 mile long run last weekend! It was Body Pump! It’s my stupid, OSHA-violating work set-up! It’s my mattress!

Maybe it’s all of the above. But that doesn’t help my back feel any better. I called, begged, and got into see the chiropractor I don’t much care for (and haven’t seen since the day before surgery last year), hoping that might help. He adjusted me, and it helped temporarily. But he also tried to get me to buy new orthotics, asked about my supplements (of course he has some of those to sell, too) and was generally creepy. I can’t take advil or any NSAIDs, so ice and stretching are the only things I can try.

I went back to work on Thursday, hobbled about, and begged the awesome PT to fit me into her schedule. Which she did, and helped 100x more than Creepy Chiropractor. On Friday I went back to CC again (desperate times, I’d agreed Weds to go again on Fri), where he tried to tell me I’d need to come back 3x a week for the next 5 weeks leading up to my race. (Yeah right, buddy. Don’t think so.) (Dr. Rabbetz I miss you so much, please move to DC and open a practice here!)

I felt better, and decided I’d try to run yesterday (knowing full well 3 hours was probably not going to happen). It didn’t. I ran with two of my new running buds for an hour before the group met at 8 – several weeks of running another hour AFTER everyone had finished had become demoralizing – and I felt ok for that – just a few twinges. But the second hour was badness, and I returned home before everybody else. 2:07 in the bag.

7# ice bath, tiger balm, lots of stretching, the entire new season of Downton Abbey, several glasses of wine later, and it’s still sore. It hurts to sit for more than 20 minutes, and it really hurts to get in and out of my car. (Let me introduce you to the quadratus lumborum).

So today, I found myself in the pool for the first time in almost two years, ready to aqua-jog for the first time in three years. I am sad to report it is still boring as all heck. After “running,” I swam another 10 minutes, and didn’t drown. Somehow my stroke count is lower than it used to be (go figure).

This week I’m laying off my beloved Body Pump. I’m stretching, I’m going to get up from my OSHA-violating desk every 20 minutes, and I’m going back to the pool. I just spent the entire Golden Globes broadcast looking for my mattress receipt (still under warranty!). I guess I’ll see what happens.

The good news? It’s not my ankle!

Here we are, 52 weeks:

52 weeks

52 weeks – Jan 13, 2013

Two weeks! Jan 25, 2012

So long ago…Two weeks! Jan 25, 2012

Posted in Ankle Shenanigans, Training | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Thankful List 2012 – 50 things!

A few years ago one of my favorite bloggers (Kristen @ The Frugal Girl) began a tradition of writing a list of 50 things for which she is thankful every Thanksgiving. So as not to taint her memory, she doesn’t review last year’s list until she is done. Now, lots of people have been writing “one thing a day” on Facebook this year, but I like the purity of Kristen’s 50. The first 10 are super easy. 10-30 takes a little bit more thought. But 30-50 – you really, really have to think about what you appreciate. Dig deep! It’s worth it.

This year marks Kristen’s 5th year of 50 Thankful Things. I know I did this myself two or three years ago, and was curious to see what I’d written (“escaping work at – ahem – ‘Walgreens’” comes to mind, so that would make it 2010). I was going to violate Kristen’s “rule” and review it, but I can’t seem to find it on this computer…so who knows where it has gone. Guess I followed the rule after all.

Anyway….behold, 2012. (In no particular order.)

  1. (no surprise) My dog Turkey – love of my life. Best thing that ever happened to me, and certainly the best thing I’ve ever found on the Internet. Even when she pees on her bed. Or on mine.
  2. My parents – glad they are healthy, happy, and still together after 45 years of marriage, and 47 years together.
  3. My brother and his wife – that he lives in the US again, that they found each other, and that I finally have a sister.
  4. Being Auntie MoMo/Miss Maureen. I have so many little ones in my life that I adore. I love spending time with them, spoiling them, and sending them treats in the mail!
  5. Dr. Awesome Doc. For fixing a 2-year old tear and being a sport with my crazy emails, questions, and request for photos of my surgery site. I email him after every success, and he calls me bionic. Win-win.
  6. AWESOME PT Jill. For putting up with me, but also kicking me out when she knew I didn’t need to be there anymore.
  7. My job. That I have any job is, of course, great. But that I have a job working with people I respect, and on a mission I believe (even though it’s hard to explain and decidedly not sexy) is incredibly important.
  8. Duke’s Loan Assistance Program. Helping me repay those MBA loans (eligible since I work for a nonprofit and not a more lucrative post-MBA career). Every bit counts, even if I will be 50 by the time I’m done.
  9. HEALTHCARE. Again, to have any is great. But my work pays 90% of my premium, which is awesome in itself; I’ve never paid so little for healthcare. But I have also stumbled across/sought out/stalked some of the best in DC/NoVA, from #5 above, to derms to internal medicine.
  10. The amazing friends, family, and coworkers (who are friends!) who helped me through 12 weeks on crutches this year. There is NO WAY I could have gone through the surgery and extensive rehab without their support. From taking me to the grocery store to supervising trips to Starbucks and practice tries on Metro escalators – I could not have done it without them.
  11. Butternut squash.
  12. The DC library and the many books in them. Seriously, I don’t live in DC, but I get to use their library. It’s so much faster and better than my local option – I’m often the first to read a new book. Movies for a week. E-notification of holds. And you can turn in a book more than a month late and not pay a fine (even when you beg. They will not take your money. They really should.)
  13. Electricity. It was out for three days in June after the big storm/derecho, and 10 hours after Sandy. This is nothing. My heart goes out to all who are still waiting for it to come back. Easily the easiest (?) convenience we take for granted.
  14. Blistex Silk and Shine. It’s awesome.
  15. Pumpkin anything.
  16. Coffee.
  17. Prilosec. To help when I stress too much about #7 and/or have too much of #16.
  18. MY HEALTH. Physical, mental, emotional…all of it.
  19. My crazy, kooky extended family. My mom is one of five, and I have 15 (?) cousins through birth and through marriage. Most of those cousins now have kids. We are all weird. And perfectly weird for each other.
  20. My sewn-up peroneal brevis tendon, and #5 who sewed it up.
  21. Running. I’ve been running for 30 (!!!) years, give or take time off for injuries. I’ve never had a layoff as long, or as dramatic, as these past few years. Every time I run now I am happy to be out there, and speechless when I keep dropping times I’ve never seen (or haven’t seen since I was 16). 7:41 average this morning at the Surfin’ Turkey 5k (ahem, 5.47k). 6th woman overall!
  22. Body Pump. There is nothing else to explain the drops in my times since my return to running. My core is strong, my arms are strong, and it is an awesome workout.
  23. The ferry and road workers of NCDOT, working the emergency ferry from Stumpy Point and allowing residents and vacationers alike access to Hatteras Island when the road – because there is only one! – washed away. The road workers are trying to repair the road whenever the weather cooperates, which isn’t often. I hope they are all getting paid triple time. Photo below by the Island Free Press. Believe it or not, there’s a road in there. The only road.
  24. Hatteras Island, NC. Especially in the fall. Quiet, friendly, relaxed. Nowhere to go, and you see the same people everywhere. It is too quiet this fall, since it is very difficult to get here, an the local businesses are all struggling.
  25. Candy corn.
  26. My many, many friends, from all phases of my life. I have rarely left a place – and God knows I’ve had plenty of those – without a close friend or 50. Growing up, Wellesley, CTY, Poughkeepsie, Boston, Denver, San Francisco, Ironteam, Duke, DC. You know where you fall. Whether I’ve known them for my entire life or only the past 1-2 years, my roots are deep and I am beyond blessed.
  27. Pretzel M&Ms. Many thanks to my dear friends at Mars Chocolates for making this one happen.
  28. Sleep.
  29. Sunscreen. Avid user since high school…regularly mistaken for legit 20-something.
  30. Homeland. Oh my goodness, has a better TV show ever existed?
  31. DVR. I know I was 10+ years late to this party, but it’s amazing. I can record totally terrible TV, watch two seconds, and delete it.
  32. Loving and losing. I’ve lost five people with whom I was very close. Only two, my grandmothers, died at a “natural” age. The other three – my aunt Betsy, my friend Ray, and my friend Matt – died far too young, at 56 (2010), 35 (2010), and 24 (1998). I have struggled with the “why” on all three, and fought to see what possible “gift” could come of their deaths. I miss them desperately. I have also been reminded that every day IS a gift. You don’t know – and can’t predict – when life will change. Don’t wish it away.
  33. Laughing. A good belly laugh makes almost anything feel better, or hurt less. At least for a while.
  34. Bloggers. I don’t think it’s wasting time, since I learn Important Things: The Frugal Girl (best outlook on life); Ali on the Run (producer of the I Heart Sweat shirt); Sweat Once a Day (led me to Dr. Awesome Doc); Smitten Kitchen (yum); and newly, Young House Love (I want them to adopt me).
  35. Bikes. I didn’t really learn to ride – and certainly not love – a bike until 2003, when I joined the triathlon team for TNT. I wanted to join Ironteam in the fall, so figured I best learn to ride before then. Many of my dearest friends have come through cycling, and I have fun and fond memories of learning, falling, and riding all over creation.

    My dear friend Minnie and me when we didn’t even know how to shift (1/2003)

  36. Freedom. You know the saying freedom isn’t free? I was shocked to learn that less than 1% of all US citizens have served in the military. I am deeply grateful for their service to keep the other 99% of us safe and free. I hope as a country we are moving towards treating our veterans with the care and respect they deserve for their lifetimes.
  37. Jackopierce. They have been my favorite band for 20 years. It was a thrill to spend a weekend in Asheville with them this fall, even if it did make me realize that I am middle-aged. Their music makes me happy.
  38. Sweet potatoes.
  39. HOW DID I GET TO #37 without being thankful for IN-N-OUT BURGER?!?!
  40. Being funny and making other people laugh. Just stole this from a college friend. But it’s true. Or I think it’s true. Usually people seem to laugh. I hope it’s with me.
  41. Foster’s Market biscuits from Durham.
  42. Durham. I miss her so!
  43. Vacation time. Of course I’d love more. But I love what I have!
  44. Sunshine! I am definitely sun-dependent, and if I lived in Portland or Seattle I’d been in dire need of a SAD light.
  45. My snug-tight apartment and the way it found me when I needed a place to go.
  46. Lost Dog pizza. Reliably delicious. And helping support an important rescue organization (#49).
  47. My boss. Yes, my boss. She’s a huge part of why I stay in my job. I’ve never had a boss with whom I work so well, or with whom I can agree to disagree. She’s professional, direct, witty, and understanding. I know I am lucky!
  48. Rescue organizations, like the one that rescued Turkey, and the two I volunteer for in DC. They give abandoned animals another chance, and spread great joy to those who have the good luck to interact with them.
  49. A fleeting sense, and hope and faith – sometimes greater, sometimes lesser – that everything will work out as it should.
  50. (ooops, and my eagle-eye dad, for pointing out I somehow only listed 49.)
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Double Digits!

It took me almost 15 months, but yesterday I ran double digits for the first time since August 21, 2011 (and yes, I remember the date).

Now you’d think I’d be all excited to run longer, given how many months it’s taken to get back this far.

You’d be wrong.

I had all sorts of anxiety about it, and some mental hurdle in my head that kept telling me double-digits was more of a big deal than it actually is. I planned to run on Saturday, but slept through 3 alarms and didn’t make it out of bed until after 10 a.m.

I did finally realize the sound hasn’t been working on my phone alarm, which makes it rather…ineffective as an alarm. (At least this helps explain why I overslept every day this past week.) I puttered around (my Nana would have called it “dithered” – and it’s just that), and justified every which way about why I couldn’t go, and soon it was too late/getting dark/I had plans.

I promised myself I’d go on Sunday.

Sunday, I woke up (fixed alarm, but still slept til 9. Darn the time change! I need sunlight! Or at least a light box!), and repeated the charade. I had plans to go see Argo in the afternoon with a friend (awesome movie, go see it if you haven’t already), so I procrastinated until the very last minute. Too long, actually, to even get the full 90 minutes that I needed to get to 10 LSD miles in. After much deliberation on running attire, consideration of route, application of sunscreen, oh wait, maybe Body Glide, too, what about sunglasses? It’s sunny out, etc etc etc, I headed out the door.

It was rather anti-climatic. I know how to run.

I ran my “old” route, into DC and up the towpath. It was a beautiful day. Lots of people out. My stomach cooperated (mostly). I ate an expired Hammer Gel, and to my surprise it stayed down.

I finished the run about 10 minutes short, but promised myself I’d go back out after the movie. While ordinarily I am not a stickler for exact times or miles (“good enough” and “close enough” are fine by me), mentally I really needed to get over the hurdle and run the full 90 minutes.

And guess what? I did it. Sitting in the movies for 2 hours meant I’d stiffened up considerably, so running around the block (which is apparently 1.2 miles) felt awesome. 1:32 total for the day, 25 total miles for the week.

Maybe this is what they call “training”???

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NYC Marathon Kickoff

I was in NYC for the wedding of my old SF roomie Krista the weekend just before Superstorm Sandy, and made my bus getaway back to NoVA hours before they shut down all of NYC transit.

Mo, Ray and Krista, 2002…on the way someplace fun and getting into trouble, no doubt

I was staying with my good friend Ilse, and months ago decided that running the NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5-miler with her the morning after the wedding would be a good idea.

(I’ve never said that all my ideas are good ones.)

Now, obviously on October 27-28 no one had any idea that Sandy would be as bad as she actually turned out to be. The weather forecasters were freaking out. But, like many others, I thought the storm would end up being more like Irene, and not be as bad as anticipated. So of course the expectation was still that the marathon was happening – the flags were up, excitement was high, and it was going to be a good day for a race.

I hadn’t run much in the two weeks since the Acumen 8k (are we sensing a theme here…I have got to do something about this) – took a quick trip to NC to see my friend Amy in Winston-Salem and then to see a “destination show” of Jackopierce at the Biltmore in Asheville with Whitney. Amy introduced me to the Insanity workout and I literally could not lift my arms above my head for two days. So much for Body Pump making me in shape – apparently Insanity requires a whole ‘nother level.

Anyway. Krista’s wedding was beautiful, and lasted until the wee hours of the morning. I got to hang out with Ray’s mom and dad, which was fun, and made me miss him all the more. (I did not bring my camera to the wedding, so sadly no pics of the beautiful bride or me in my sassy evening wear and $19.99  Target clutch).

This post deserves a few more photos of Krista and Ray.

Krista, Ray, and Mo reminiscing in NYC, summer 2009.

I outdid my stellar 8k prep by sleeping only 5 hours instead of 6, and by eating a (delicious, amazing) Wayegu beef shortrib entree at 10 p.m. I did not have high hopes. Also, Central Park is super hilly. I haven’t run a race in Central Park since the women’s mini 10k in 2007, so…yeah. I forgot. It’s hilly.

There is not too much to say, other than this: I was passed, and summarily beaten by Gumby. And some ladies in tutus. But given the circumstances I was fast enough, and I survived without falling or being trampled by the 4,892 other runners in the race.

I feel for the people of NYC and NJ, family and friends and strangers alike who have not had power for weeks, and those who have lost their homes. I hate the way the marathon cancellation was handled, but think it was the right decision – just wish it could have been made sooner, and with less vitriol towards the runners.

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