Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Girl and Her Mat

My body feels bored already, but that’s probably my head telling my body how to react.  My leg hurts and I’ve accepted that part…I think.  During the Philly Marathon, my left calf cramp kicked in at mile five.  I continued to push past that to finish with a smile on my face.  The pain that endured two days following didn’t tarnish my ear-to-ear grin.  So there, ha!  I win.  Tuesday’s gym experience was quite eventful after a mere thirty minutes on the bike.  I started to roll my sore and swollen calf when my shin appeared to cave in on itself.  Modern medical marvel?  No, just some sexy pitting edema (Google it – hot stuff).  By the time Thursday rolled around, post-massage, I felt like myself again. 
Saturday’s activities would set me straight.  I ran the Bethlehem Turkey Trot 5K while pushing my darling ladies.  And please let me elaborate on the adjective ‘darling’.  The girls failed to cooperate with each other for most of the race.  Allison wanted NOTHING to do with the gloves I continued to put on her pudgy hands, Ava wanted EVERYTHING to do with touching Allison.  Both girls REFUSED to share the blanket I brought.  Playing referee before and during the race was the easy part.  Pushing over 100 lbs. through the flat streets of Bethlehem (sarcasm) with a sensitive calf would prohibit me from walking normally for the rest of the day.  I was overjoyed to push the whiny carriage across the finishing mat in the hopes that my cramp would subside with some stretching.  No dice.Since I got to the race later than I had hoped (yeah, I realized my bib was at home about 1/2 of the way there), my parking spot was less than desirable from a distance perspective.  And I had to walk up hill, in the snow with no shoes.  Might as well have been that bad.  I tried to exercise my left ankle throughout the day and I made sure to ice it after a tender massage.  I knew that after care and time my calf would be back in business.  The most challenging part for me is the passage of time.  Passing time = no training.  Bummer.  As of yesterday, I surrendered to my body by not participating in any more races for the rest of 2012.  This doesn’t sound too bad, but I’m worried that I’ll lose any sense of focus if there’s nothing mapped out in the near future.   
Today, I rolled out my yoga mat as a way to officially mark my period of rehabilitation.  Sounds dramatic, yes, but do you know me?  I spent a good forty-five minutes genuinely breathing through every pose as the sunlight peeked through the room.  I placed myself on the mat in Savasana with a long exhale.  My focus wouldn’t be lost; my focus would shift to what’s important.  Right now, the focus is on recovery.  I spent eighteen weeks training for a marathon – building strength and endurance while making sacrifices along the way.  The chapter of recovery won’t be as long, I promise you, but it’s time to make other sacrifices while building my strength back up again.  I just have to keep telling myself that.   

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Go Big to Go Home

I ran a marathon on July 3, 2010; Muffin Madness 2010, to be exact.  The course wasn’t a Boston Qualifier, the tee-shirts weren’t made of technical fabric and there was no chip timing.  With some help from my friends, I organized an unofficial marathon all for myself.  So, check?  Done.  No…that’s not how I roll.  After learning I didn’t get selected in the NY Marathon lottery I reactively signed up for Philly.  I felt the need to make my marathon trek legit.  I convinced three sorority sisters* that Philly would be the place to be, so they signed up and kicked off their ‘get-ready’ plans.  I started training in mid-July with a three mile run in a new pair of Brooks.  Normally, I run in my Vibrams, but I wasn’t sure if my legs or feet would hold out the distance.  I purchased the super light Brooks based on the advice from my neighborhood running store.  Some days, my training felt like it was lasting forever, but, as I sit here, I can’t believe it’s over. 

I FINALLY got to Philly around 7:30 pm Friday night.  The traffic was unusually difficult to navigate which delayed my arrival by an extra hour.  After exiting the highway, I blew past the hotel entrance, not once, but twice.  I carefully navigated my husband’s car through a side street and pulled into the hotel’s valet parking chute.  Within ten minutes, I exited the elevators in a mad rush to enter my Presidential Suite.  That’s right; I got a sweet suite.  I’m not sure how I scored that, but I wasn’t going to question my good luck.  The weekend would be filled with pre-race rituals and superstitions; clearly, this was in my favor.  I cleaned up, picked up my race packet and had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I indulged in a semi-sweet glass of wine and an entree of pot roast with vegetables in a deep red gravy and a side of Yukon garlic mashed potatoes.  Woah.  It’s a blessing I wasn’t racing the next morning.  I returned to the room, ahem, Presidential Suite, and went to bed fat. 

Up early Saturday am, without an alarm, to realize that my hotel didn’t have NBC as a channel.  Weird.  I got myself together and headed toward the art museum for a three mile shakeout run with Bart Yasso (read: smitten).  Originally, the thought of running ANY miles seemed ridiculous, but the short jaunt relaxed my mind and gave me an opportunity to socialize with other runners.  I spent the time running along side a displaced NY Marathoner.  Lord help me remember her name…turns out she teaches English Literature at a college in Chicago.  Lord help me remember the name of her school.  Nevertheless, we completed the run, offered best wishes and went on our separate ways.  I’ll save you from the dreamy-eyed recap of my finish line photo with Mr. Yasso followed by a personal Starbucks breakfast.  And, no, I didn’t ask for a job. 

Saturday ended with a low key dinner at Garces Trading Company on Locust Street.  My two sisters, Liz with her boyfriend and Cassie with her parents, met up with me, Marcus and Chris, another close friend, for a deliciously gluttonous, but classy dinner.  Just short of doing shots of the infused oils and balsamic vinegars, we practically licked our plates clean.  The group broke up for the evening and four of us embarked on a brisk walk back to my Presidential quarters (teehehe).  I packed a post-race bag, packed my go-home bag and carefully re-laid out my race gear.  A warm shower calmed my mind again.  I literally crawled into bed and passed out just as my wet head hit the pillow.

(There is a chunk to this story that involves two people entering the Presidential Suite.  They attempted to navigate the room in silence.  But we all know how drunk people really act.)

Rise and Shine - Race day.  Within thirty minutes the occupants of the Presidential Suite pulled themselves and their gear together like a tornado ripping through an unsuspecting neighborhood.  Cassie, Marcus, Chris and I met up with Liz and Sarah, another friend, in front of the Starbucks before making the 1.5 mile walk to the Start Line.  I’m not going to lie – it was COLD.  I’m not sure if the layer of Vaseline on my legs actually kept me a little warmer, or if it was all mental.  I tucked my ears inside my hat, crossed my arms and hugged my hands under my warm armpits.  For a moment, I remembered high school marching band competitions in the middle of November.  Chris left to line up in his corral (ready to conquer the half) while Marcus wished me luck with a strong hug and kiss.  A blanket of uncertainty covered my entire body as we started to line up in our corral – purple, my favorite color.  This race was a big deal; failure is not an option.  I toed an invisible line with thousands of eager runners.  Cassie bounced up and down in front of me before quickly turning around.  She expressed doubt and I, looking her with honest eyes, repeated one of my mantras: “The day will come when I can no longer do this.  Today is NOT that day.  Today is NOT that day.”  I had to repeat this a few times so I would start to believe.  And just like that, we were off…

My Muffin Madness recap took you through almost every mile across three separate blog posts.  I won’t do that to you.  This post is already ridiculous and we didn’t make it to mile one yet.  I’ll do my best to summarize. 

The Philly streets were lined with great people.  This was my largest race to date – both distance and crowd support.  Cheering fans, funny signs, cowbells and those pain-in-the-ass vuvuzela’s echoed against the buildings in each city block.  I carefully navigated the field paying mind to the imperfections in the road.  Before the second mile, I pulled off my 2010 Peeps Fest 5K shirt and tossed it to the curb.  Game on.  I heard, and noted on the race map, that there was a fairly nice incline (potential oxymoron) between miles 8 – 10.  My sources did not disappoint.  As racers pulled to the right side of the road in a near crawl, I split the middle the ate that hill…and ate it…and ate it.  Damn, it was a long incline.  I let out my signature howl about halfway into the hill only to, once again, startle some close runners.  Thankfully, a few people, mainly women, echoed my call.  Signs marking the marathon/half-marathon field split were visible on the roads after we pulled away from the zoo.  Like Moses parted the Red Sea, or so I’m told, the runners split almost immediately.  I hugged the middle of the left lane ready to set the lap on my watch.  Based on the time, I hit the halfway mark at about 2:07; this wasn’t a personal best, but I was on my way to potentially hit four hours.  I felt fresh, ready to continue the rest of the journey.  We split; I set the lap and took off with a smile on my face. 

It seemed like forever until we reached Manayunk – I might have hit a small wall leading into the boisterous neighborhood.  A loud woman, bundled for the weather, handed out delicious orange wedges while shouted, “Welcome to Manayunk!!!!”  What a relief!  I ripped the wedge out of her hand and crammed it into my mouth like Cujo would a fox.  The sweet juice oozed from the corners of my mouth and the citrus scent gave me a fresh outlook.  I heard Manayunk had hills, but the elevation map displayed the terrain like blackheads compared to the blistering pimple at miles 8 – 10.  But, damn it.  Any hill at miles 18 – 21 can suck the life out of a confident runner.  At this stage in the game, I kept glancing at my watch, hoping for the miles to just tick by.  I anxiously looked ahead to see any glimpse of a mile marker; they were larger than life – IN YOUR FACE – surely there was another one come up.  Maybe this was the wall.  I wanted to stop running; I couldn’t stop thinking about the miles, water, shot blocks, hot/cold, wind, blisters and that damn nagging cramp in my left calf.  THAT NAGGING CRAMP I HAD IN MY LEFT CALF SINCE MILE FIVE.  Mile five.  That was a long time ago.  How long have I been running really?  Well, I’m not going to hit four hours, but I’m okay with that.  I’m just going to focus on the finish.  I AM going to finish.  Right??  What mile are we at anyway?  AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE NEXT WATER STOP.  Okay.  I hit a wall. 

By mile 24, I miraculously pulled my head out of my ass and kicked it into high gear.  The excitement of finally closing in on the finish line gave me the extra energy to kick my legs the last two point two miles.  Lest we forget about that point two.  Did I mention the cramp in my left calf?  I got that around mile five.  As we approached the area surrounding the art museum, the crowds grew as well as their screams.  I rounded the corner and sped down the straightaway to the finish line.  Just before finishing the point two of the race, I caught a glimpse of my fan club wildly cheering for me.  I high fived Mr. Yasso and, while crossing the finish mat, I high fived Mayor Nutter.  Sticking with my routine, I stopped the watch and raised my hands in accomplishment. 

Muffin Madness 2010 Report Philly Muffathon 2012 Report

At the end of the day:

  • I actually made it in 5:03:24.
  • I loved seeing everyone along the way.
  • Dan and Dawn ran way more than I ever imagined.
  • I motivated people to get their asses in gear. I have the responsibility to be a role model for my family & friends.
  • We ran through a total of four sprinklers and got hosed down by a large woman in a stretched out tube top.
  • Jeff drank apple juice. :)
  • Dan and I finally held hands.
  • I spouted off approximately 300 expletives just during the last 6 miles.
  • During the race I ate 3 gel packets, 1 packet of electrolyte/carb jelly beans, 1 serving of shot blocks and 1 piece of gum; I drank 32 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and 48 oz. of water.
  • After the race I ate 3 hot dogs, 1 cheese burger, 2 large handfuls of ruffled potato chips, 1 cup of macaroni salad, 1/2 cup of potato salad, 1 piece of cake and a lot of Doritos.
  • My pre-race weight was 125; my post-race weight was 125 (this proves my science of hydration worked).
  • I burned over 2200 calories.
  • I gained 11 blisters on my feet, semi-permanent sport bra marks and a whole lot of respect for myself.
  • It took me three days to get my legs back.
  • I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
  • I will do this again…and I plan to shave an hour off my time.

At the end of the day:

  • I actually made it in 4:16:18.
  • I loved seeing Philly fans represent.
  • Liz and Cassie came along for the ride.
  • I coerced three people to sign up all the while continuing to motivate people. 
  • We ran through some of the most historical areas of Philadelphia.
  • Apple juice would have been a bad idea for anyone.
  • I high-fived the mayor.
  • I spouted off expletives at EVERY water stop.  
  • During the race I ate two sleeves of Shot Blocks and drank about 10 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and about 20 oz. of water.
  • After the race I ate two soft pretzels and one Train Wreck, gluten included.
  • I didn’t care anything about my pre-race weight.
  • I burned over 2400 calories.
  • I birthed 1 additional blister on my feet, rubbed my waist raw with the help of my SPI belt and gained a whole lot of respect for myself.
  • It took me three days to get my legs back after fighting some wicked edema in my right leg. 
  • I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
  • I will do this again…and I plan to shave off the additional sixteen minutes and eighteen seconds to hit an even 4 hours.

And then, after all that, I went home.


Cassie, Me and Liz pre-race


Me, Cassie and Liz sporting some heavy metal

*Due to an injury one of my sisters needed to stop training.  Although she wasn’t physically with us, we know her support carried us to the finish.  Next year, baby…

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Go Big or Go Home: Part II

I’m finally taking a few moments to relax before hitting the streets of Philly (again) for a lovely evening of eating.  The pre-race rituals begin tonight, but this time it’s huge.  Tomorrow is the Philly Marathon.  M-A-R-A-T-H-O-N.  That spells MARATHON.  I made an impulsive decision to sign up earlier in the year and quickly recruited a few unsuspecting sorority sisters along the way.  I distinctly remember peeling through all my running books to settle on the ‘perfect’ training plan.  Operation Philly Muffathon kicked off Monday, July 16th with an easy three mile run. 

The past eighteen weeks challenged my stamina, mental endurance and, sometimes, my patience.  I rarely strayed from the plan; hell, I even logged a ten mile run during my OBX vacation (read: How to properly hydrate during a North Carolina run in August).  I continued to enter races sparingly, all the while making sure I saved my energy for longer distances.  Most early morning runs started between 4:30 – 5:30.  I tiptoed in darkness through the bedroom searching for my gear (next time I’ll get it organized the night before).  I strategically navigated the stairs so I wouldn’t hit the creaky spots.  My loving and supportive husband minded the girls as I spent hours running. 

I ran a boat load of miles, drank a shit load of water, took at least five ice baths, used a full roller of BioFreeze, ate thousands of calories, applied Body Glide like I was buttering thirty ears of fresh, hot corn, washed a lot of clothes, upgraded myself from ‘Expert’ to ‘Master Snot Rocketeer’, bonded with friends I hadn’t seen in some time, rolled my legs enough to turn my muscles into Jello and listened to my previous Ava say, ‘Mommy, you smell.’ after every long run.  And honestly, through all the bitching, complaining, soreness, headaches, fevers, fat days and wardrobe malfunctions, I loved all of it. 

Tonight, I’m going to celebrate this milestone weekend with good friends.  I’ll religiously lay out my gear and do some light stretching.  We will share our training stories, personal triumphs and hopes for tomorrow morning.  Tonight, I relax.  Tomorrow we kick some Philly ass. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekend Warrior

Late post

Finally, a quiet evening has fallen on my home.  The kids are snuggled in their beds and except for an occasional cough from Allison’s room, silence fills the second floor.  I parked myself on my favorite couch with a fleece blanket and a cup of hot chocolate (I know it warm).  The glow of the TV and laptop softly lights the room as I focus on this post.  Although I’ve seen Halloween more times than I can count, I needed to change the channel; I’m home alone.  No thank you.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to talk about even though I have a short list of hopeful posts.  I just came off of a unique and fantastic weekend; I think it’s best to share.

This past weekend was the Runner’s World Half Marathon and Festival in Bethlehem, PA.  Earlier this year, once registration opened, I hopped on the website and signed up for the Hat Trick – three races (5K, 10K and half marathon) in two days.  Yup, sounds crazy enough for me.  I’m in.  The weekend festivities would give me plenty of opportunities to socialize with Runner’s World staff.  It’s no secret that I’d love to work for the publication in any capacity, so this could be my foot in the door. 

Starting the second week in July, I started a marathon training program to prepare myself for Philly in November.  The up-coming Hat Trick would only serve as another training run in my marathon schedule.  As the weeks rolled on I increased mileage and became quite diligent in following a plan.  Thankfully, I kept the plan a little flexible.  Some minor wrenches required modifications – foot pain, nagging cold, childcare and getting a good night sleep – such as shifting some days around or skipping a low mileage workout all together. 

I knew that the October Hat Trick would screw up a regularly scheduled long run, but I was okay with totaling two days worth of miles and calling it a win.  And sticking with my need to put a cherry on something already amazing, I decided that our near annual trip to Dorney Park’s Haunt would be the Friday before the races.  The weekend would be go-go-go – that’s how I roll.  I spent Friday night eating shit (as in buckets full of crab fries dripped in fake cheese sauce), screaming my face off and walking around the amusement park.  These activities should be avoided the night before lots ‘o races.  The cherry on that night was strolling home at midnight, only to fall asleep at 1:30 am.  Excellent. 

Regardless of the prior evening’s events, I sprung out of bed at 5:15 am with the nervous energy of a soon-to-be Mom in labor, um, minus the protruding belly.  I felt sick to my stomach, but needed to eat something – it would be a while before I could eat again.  I showered and dressed, grabbed my bag and walked out with a smile on my puffy face.  I mentally prepared for the day during the fifteen mile drive to Bethlehem.  After navigating the city from parking lot to parking lot, I finally squeezed into a lot, grabbed my crap and started to walk to the Festival.  I met up with a friend (who thankfully had parked closer) and put my gear in her car.  I carefully pinned my bib and we made way to the start. 

With so much activities during the day, I could see myself spending the entire weekend at the Festival attending seminars and meeting some of the editors.  I quickly realized, during the break between the 5K and 10K, that I painfully missed my family.  The day didn’t feel right being without them.  I left early enough that everyone was snoozing.  I missed their faces…even the dog’s.  I think I almost cried during the 10K, but that was probably some dust that got kicked up into my eye around of the turns.  Yeah, that’s right.  Dust.  I finished the 10K, chatted a little, took a few pictures and then went to my car.  And then went to my car.  That wasn’t a typo.  I forgot where I parked.  I wandered back and forth among a few designated parking lots looking for the car while I talked with a friend.  Hey, we needed to catch up; this was the perfect opportunity!  Once I got home, I spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening relaxing the the family.  It truly was a joy to see them. 

I drove back to Bethlehem to see Matt Long speak.  If you don’t know who he is GOOGLE (yes, that’s a verb, oh and a command).  I met another friend and we climbed the stairs to the top floor.  The open room, framed out with tall windows, overlooked the steel stacks.  Matt pulled the crowd in with his dynamic speech, peppered with humor.  I wished that more of my friends had been there to hear his story.  Most of the audience waited in line to get Matt’s autograph; I was absolutely one of them.  Too bad he couldn’t sign my iPad copy (#VictimOfTechnology).  Before leaving Bethlehem, I purchased a hot chocolate spiked with Malibu Rum.  I strolled in early enough to chat it up with the hubbs before turning in for the night.  I used the extra time to repack my bag and lay out my outfit for the following morning.  Running a half marathon the next day would be considered a piece of cake compared to the sixteen miles I ran the previous weekend. 

I prepared for the half by running the course a few weeks prior.  It was sadistically amusing to hear the field’s moan and groans each time we approached a hill.  I’m almost always prepared for hills and I used the opportunity to pass a lot of people.  Staying true to myself, I yelled a few times during the race, most notably on the hills.  And by yelling, I mean I mustered up a bellowing cry from the base of my soul which could cause any runner in a quarter mile radius to turn and look towards the origin of the sound.  I almost literally bumped into a man named David Patrick who is from the Bethlehem area.  He firmly believes that he could run with a martini.  Nice man, David Patrick.  In conversation, he invited me to a post-race party that The Baker’s were having in his honor.  David’s wife made sticky buns.  I rounded the corner away from the steel stacks and back onto Daly Avenue.  Again.  The 5K, 10K and half courses all had the same finish.  I was sick and overjoyed as I climbed the road’s incline.  The chute, leading to the finish line, was packed with cheering spectators.  I hugged the right side of the course, scanning the nameless faces.  The sight of my family brought tears to my eyes.  Or maybe it was course dust lodged under my contact.  Yeah, that’s right.  Course dust.