First Run of 2015, With Some Extra Wings

On December 30, 2014, my mom lost her battle with lung cancer.

On January 1, 2015, I ran the first miles of 2015 for her.

I hadn’t run since December 3rd. On that particular run, my breathing was heavy and my body ached. I took a break from running and workouts. My heart needed to be with her, not my running. I just didn’t have room for both.

On that first day of the new year, I wanted to run, my heart was ready. I felt sad, but also somehow light, lifted, and free…like I had some extra wings. I miss her terribly, but I’m relieved she is no longer burdened with pain and a broken body.

We did not live in the same state, but she got to see me run some races. She was not a runner, but she was my biggest supporter.

mother marathon support

My mother and my daughter cheering the first mile of my first marathon in matching pink coats.

marathon mother support

My mom and I freezing at the start of my first marathon, 2012.

marathon mother support

Before my first half marathon in 2011.

Philadelphia Marathon

She was with me at the Philly Marathon in 2013.

This next picture is from that New Year’s Day run a few days ago. I’m making the sign (albeit backwards) for “I love you,” as she was an educator for the heading impaired.

marathon mother support It’s going to be my new finish-line hand signal.

I love you, Mom.

Advertisements

My Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System

I have something to celebrate: I came out of the TCS NYC Marathon with all of my toenails! Not only that, but NOT ONE BLISTER!

blister bitch bubbles

After last year’s Philly Marathon, my tootsies looked like someone had taken a hammer to them:

black toenails plantar plate tear toe drift

Martyr left 2nd toenail barely hanging on, 2nd right toe “drifting” toward big toe, blisters on the side of each big toe, unexpected and totally rando black toenail on 4th toe.

This year, I could be a foot model. Haha, just kidding. But I was shocked…shocked! to find zero damage after I peeled off my compression socks post-marathon this year.

To partake in my blister-free bliss, I’m going to share with you my Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System, because believe me, this blister-free life doesn’t come easy.

Disclaimer: Only guaranteed up to 26.2 miles. Anything over that, I cannot be held responsible. Really, I cannot be held responsible for any blisters you get, ever. Because you’re probably a runner and I’m a runner and runners do stupid things to their feet. Also, only guaranteed if you have my exact same foot shape, bunions and bunionettes, Morton’s Toe, a formerly damaged plantar plate tear, former plantar fasciitis, and callouses on the side of your big toes that never go away no matter how much the nail tech scrapes, scrubs, and grunts (true story). Basically, only if you have feet that are as anatomically messed-up as mine.

Start my making sure you have some grown-out nail polish that is halfway covering your hideous blackened toenails that you got from forgetting that when you run in the afternoons during the first week of school, your feet turn into balloons and you have to go up a 1/2 size.

marathon blister prevention

It’s not blurry. It’s soft-focus.

Next get out your arsenal.

marathon blister prevention

Not seen: Cheap nylon footies.

As a precautionary measure, I still tape down my cranky toe with waterproof tape on my right foot. I find that the generic tape doesn’t stick as well. Buy the J&J stuff.

marathon blister prevention

The taping holds my toe’s ligament in place. Also, who knew a big-toe callus could reflect so much light?

Now the blister prevention can begin.

First, I apply Body Glide stick to my usual hot spot areas – the insides of my feet.  The Body Glide “For Her” was the only thing in stock at the store at the time. It’s for when you want to feel more feminine while you lube up your bunions.

marathon blister prevention

Lube those puppies.

Then, I apply Mission 5-hour Anti-Chafe ON TOP of the Body Glide. Why? Two different viscosities = double protection. If one fails, there’s a backup. I also put some Mission on the tips of my toes and my heels out of an abundance of caution.

Next, I ready my footies. Nylon footie socks are KEY. Yes, the kind you can buy at Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc.

marathon blister prevention

The key to ending your misery.

Blisters form when 2 things (in this case your skin and your shoe) rub against each other. If you wear footies UNDER your running socks, your skin will not have direct contact with the part of your shoe that’s rubbing — it will rub against your sock instead, which is way more forgiving.

Before I put the footies on, I sprinkle in 2Tom’s Blister Prevention Powder, you know, because IT CAN’T HURT.

marathon blister prevention

I might as well throw a pinch of it over my shoulder, too.

IMG_0096

Once the footies are on, I put on my regular socks (for short runs) or compression socks (longer than 2 hour runs) over them. The easiest way to put on compression socks is to roll them down and out before you put them on, then, instead of having to slide them up (which is impossible), you just roll them up. Who am I kidding? They’re still a pain in the patootie to get on. But here’s my regular, mid-weight, wicking socks.

marathon blister prevention

My new favorite, from Wrightsocks.

Now you’re ready for shoes. In theory, if you have good fitting shoes, you won’t get blisters. However, if you’ve got gnarly feet like mine, you might have to make some modifications. Since my bout two years ago with plantar fasciitis, I had custom orthotics made, and they all but cured it. Since my toe injury one year ago, I added a metatarsal pad on the right side. I can’t say enough about what a godsend these things are.

marathon blister prevention

Worth it.

I have bunions on both the inside and the outside of my feet. The outside ones are more problematic for running. One day out of desperation, I grabbed a pair of scissors, took a deep breath, and poked 4 holes in my $160 Hokas; one on each side. It was the best thing I ever did. My feet were ecstatic!

marathon blister prevention

Oh yes I did poke a hole in my Hokas! This was the second pair I’ve hacked.

And there you have it. My Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Do you get blisters? What do you use to prevent them? Do you have gnarly feet and just need to vent? Do so in the comments below!

 

 

The TCS New York City Marathon: Where the Wind Really Blows

My brain is still swimming in race day memories…I’ve been walking around in this post-event haze, replaying parts of the event in my mind. I want to jump back into those moments, not to necessarily change anything, but to savor the nuggets I missed. I tried to take it all in, but it just simply wasn’t possible. This recap will have to do.

I didn’t have a chance to write about this marathon’s goals. This race had been almost 4 years in the making, therefore my main goal was to soak it all in. Immerse myself in the experience. My other goal was to kick the time clock’s butt. I had a killer training cycle this year, running 94% of my prescribed miles from Coach Erin, (about 400 miles from July 1!) even tackling 3 successful 20-milers. Last year, I had a wonderful experience, and a PR, at the Philadelphia Marathon, and I wanted that again. I was trained, hopeful, and ready for a 4:15 marathon.

The universe had other plans for me that day on one of those goals.

The Morning Of: I woke up on race morning about 5:00 AM. Actually, the wind rattled my windows about 4:00 AM, and I laid awake for an hour, listening to it throw branches on our roof, debating my outfit, and hoping not to lose power. And daylight savings time that weekend meant one extra hour of insomnia, sweet! I opted not to spend the night in the city, as my wave didn’t start until 10:30, and because I’m in a cheapskate phase right now. So by 6:00 AM, I was in the car driving into the city, dodging downed branches along the way and nervously downing a banana, the first part of my breakfast.

TCS NYC Marathon

Flat Nancy’s Battle Armor: Hot pink tank: Kohl’s, Pearl Izumi black shrug, Skirt Sports skirt (with all the pockets!), 110% compresion socks, my beloved Hokas, and my Badass Mother Runner hat from Another Mother Runner.

I made a couple of last-minute changes to my outfit before I left. Earlier in the week I sewed snaps onto my running skirt, onto which I would snap my race number. But I scrapped that idea, fearing that the wind would rip it off. My Badass Mother Runner cap — with a photo of my mom and I taped inside the brim —  got switched out for my NYC Marathon beanie I bought at the expo the day before. I have a tiny, wimpy ponytail, and I feared that the cap would get blown off my head in the wind. I also added my 110% Play Harder buff (that I received during that crazy Ragnar weekend) around my neck to pop up over my mouth to breathe warm air. FORESHADOWING!

Trains, Buses, Boats, and Automobiles: I drove into the city and parked in a garage. Walked to the subway. Took the subway, packed with runners, to the Staten Island Ferry. I aimed for the 8:15 ferry, but due to the crowds I got the 8:30 instead.

NYC Marathon

Lotsa runnahs

Always enjoying “Working Girl” flashbacks while riding the ferry, I headed to the lower lever for more seating to spread out and finish the rest of my breakfast: a bagel with almond butter and tart dried cherries, greek yogurt, orange juice, and water spiked with Nuun.

NYC Marathon

Verrazano Bridge, I’m coming for you!

Once docked on the Staten Island side, runners had to take a shuttle bus to the start. This is where things got a little backlogged…I had to wait over 30 minutes outside to board a bus. Right on the edge of the island, I could see the whitecaps on the Hudson and started to shiver as wind slapped my cheeks. I wore 2 sweatshirts and a pair of sweatpants over my race outfit, and I carried a blanket around my shoulders, and I was still quite cold. I pulled my buff over my nose and mouth, glanced at the Statue of Liberty, and stood amongst the huddled masses yearning to be warm.

After finally boarding a bus, it got stuck in a logjam on the way to the start. I knew I’d be cutting it close to make my wave at 10:30. I took a glance at my hands, on which I had sharpie’d the day’s mantras:

NYC Marathon

The left hand is NSFW.

“I am here, now.” That is a mantra I got from Dimity McDowell, one of the creators of Another Mother Runner, and co-leader of that crazy Ragnar weekend. It’s a way of staying in the present, and not worrying about the next thing. It’s about experiencing and savoring the moment while staying grounded.

BAMR” stands for BadAss Mother Runner. Ever since that Ragnar weekend, my teammates and I have kept up our private Facebook group, friendships have grown, and cheering sections have exploded. I knew I wanted the collective power of the BAMR group with me on this day. It also reminds me of my mother. She may not be a runner, but she has fought stage 4 lung cancer for the past 2 years. Truly, the epitome of a badass mother.

CTFD” is like “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” only more profane…sorry I’m not sorry. You’re going to have to Google it, because I don’t want to type it, even with asterisks, here. I started using it over the summer in the middle of runs or races in order to stay calm and focus on the task/route/run/breath at hand. I used it quite a bit in my last triathlon. “Calm down” is just not strong enough. I mean, we’re racing, not saving lives here. So CTFD, already.

The Start Corrals: After being stuck in backlogged marathon traffic, my bus finally arrived at the start and let us off and for a security check (bag check, a dog sniff, and a wand) at 10:15. Decision time: I could either rush to get into my wave, or CTFD and get into the 10:55 wave. As I still needed to strip some layers, load my pockets, and use the porta-potty, I decided to CTFD and go with 10:55. That also meant that I could hop into the wave that goes over the upper level of the Verrazano…YES!

I got myself pocketed and pottied, stripped my outermost layers, and headed into a corral line, which unbeknownst to me was the last corral of the last wave. I had heard horror stories of long waits in the start villages, but being that I was late, I didn’t have any time to sit around and get nervous. Before I knew it, I heard the cannons go off and “New York, New York” start to play, and because we were in the back corral…we didn’t move. That song ended and another song started, THEN we started to move, I synced up my GPS watch, started power walking…

NYC Marathon

The buses were used to “corral” the herd.

…turned the corner to see the start…

NYC Marathon

Almost there…

…started a jog, dodging discarded clothing items that were being dropped every which way…

NYC Marathon

Hmph

…and was greeted by 2 little “start” kiosks and a rusty Verrazano arch. Where did the cannons go? Where’s the bus-mounted scaffolds? Where’s the FANFARE?? In the 5 short minutes it took for me to get to the start line, everyone at the start got the heck out of dodge. I had heard the organizers dismounted much of the start line earlier due to the winds. The whole scene was bizarre. FORESHADOWING! No time to dwell. It’s time to CTFD and get moving!

NYC Marathon

The discarded layers (to be gathered and given to Goodwill) were gathering like a snow drift.

The Race: Staten Island/Verrazano Bridge
Once I passed the bus conga line and the start mats…HOLY WHIPPING WIND! The gusts blew around my head and I thought, jeez, who pissed off Storm from X-Men? People were stopping by the edge to take photos and I thought hellz no, a swirl would take me right over the edge. The gusts were so bad that it started clipping my heels together and pulling me to the right. Whitecaps raged on the Hudson. I felt like I was in one of those ridiculous Weather Channel videos. Runners who stripped lightweight layers tried to toss them to the side only to have them tumbleweed back into the main lanes to become wrapped up in others’ feet. I saw caps fly right off several heads and was thankful for the beanie decision. I felt my pinned-on race bib pull from the strain and I held it protectively to my torso.

NYC Marathon

My favorite shot on downside.

I put the buff over my nose and mouth to try and breathe warm air. I struggled to maintain a 10:00/mile pace, even when my goal was 9:40/mile. I told myself it would get better in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn:

It was not better in Brooklyn.

While the wind continued to slap us around, the sun did come out, warming things up a tad. The crowds appeared, and there are no words to describe the vibe that came with them. People holding “Welcome to Brooklyn” signs, kids with noisemakers, signs everywhere, NYPD officers clapping and cheering from their posts…cheering for strangers! It was a little overwhelming, and I got a little teary. CTFD, I told myself, and save the tears for later. It was then I realized just how crowded this race was. I was under strict orders not to weave, but it was so packed, and I was so far back, it couldn’t be helped.

While I was having a hard time maintaining my goal pace, I was enjoying myself on that long, straight thoroughfare that is 4th Avenue. I prepared myself for my first personal spectator spotting around mile 6.5…my friend Kelly (whom I met through Lori) told me at what block and which side she’d be on. Lo and behold, just after 11st Street, I spied her! Actually, this sign was hard to miss:

NYC Marathon

Really, just the best.

HOW AWESOME IS THAT?? She even had her baby boy strapped to her chest, under a pile of blankets, waiting in the cold and wind, for me…WITH A SIGN. I kissed Kelly, kissed the babyhead through the blankets, took a photo, and carried on, completely buoyed by the pitstop.

It wasn’t long after that I think this photo was taken, by a photographer on a lift, dangling over the roadway:

NYC Marathon

Happy runner here!

The happys continued despite more heel-clipping, dodging of wind-born water cups, jumping over discarded clothing, and a slower-than-desired pace. The route took me near (but not quite through) my old ‘hood, Cobble Hill. Brooklyn looks NOTHING like it did in 1997. Except this cool building is still there.

nyc marathon

My favorite shot of the day. Love the cloud swirl.

Shortly thereafter, I got a text from my husband that he and the kiddos would be waiting for me in the next block, but he didn’t tell me which side to look. I stayed in the middle, scanning left to right like I was at a tennis match. At the last minute, I saw my son and called his name, and darted over to see them. Cheers! Joy! Calls of “Mommy! I was afraid we missed you! I was crying that I missed you!” After some kisses and hugs, I was on my way, still feeling pretty good.

It got a little warmer as it was now mid-day. I ditched my gloves somewhere in Greenpoint, and carried on. Brooklyn is a loooooooong borough. The smaller streets offered a slight buffer from the wind, and I was able to get my pace into the mid-9:00’s with some effort, but then the Pulaski Bridge happened:

nyc marathon

Sorry for the blur. This bridge is the halfway point.

The Halfway Point: Mile 13.1
On target and running about a 2:12-2:13 half marathon, I decided to use the bridge to stop and stretch my Achilles’ which were not bothersome but tend to tighten up in cold race pace conditions. As soon as I took the first step to start up again, I suddenly and sharply felt an acute, tight pain on the outside of my knee. OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY KNEE?? I hobbled a bit. The more I hobbled, the more it loosened, but I was freaked out! I hadn’t had knee pain in fifteen years – and it was the other knee! I got up to a decent run, but I could feel the pain lingering.  Going down the other side of that bridge, I faced reality at that point. I knew I was not going to make my clock time I wanted. The effort needed to maintain even a 10:00/mile pace in this weather was not going to be sustainable, especially with this funky knee business. I glanced at my hand mantras and I tried to shift into a better headspace.

Queens:
Once over the bridge, I tried to troubleshoot what might be amiss with my knee. It occupied my thoughts for a while, and then I decided to put on my headphones and turned on my music. I tried to stay present…I AM HERE, NOW…and while my knee felt mostly better while I was running, Queens was a blur, and I don’t remember much of it. Mantra fail.

Just before the Queensboro Bridge to run into Manhattan, I slowed to a walk at a fluid station for water. I thought, “I’m okay, CTFD, it must have been a cramp.” I started to run again, and OH NO NO NO, the pain on the side of my knee was back like a gremlin. I had to run tip-toe and wincing, for about 30-40 steps before it started to subside. What the hell was happening? Was my knee going to completely crap out on me? Was I going to have to DNF (Did Not Finish) the race? I had time to think about this, as the Queensboro Bridge loomed ahead.

The bridge has the reputation as being one of the hardest parts of the race…a long, continual uphill and no spectators allowed.

nyc marathon

At the base, starting the climb. It was crowed like sardines. Running sardines.

I enjoyed the relative silence of the bridge, and being that we were on the lower level and somewhat buffered from the wind (turns out this was the ONLY point I remember feeling relief from it), I just put my head down, plodded along, and ate that hill for lunch. That made me feel better about my knee.

NYC Marathon

My photography skills were going downhill too, apparently.

Manhattan:
Coming off the bridge was way cool. The crowds enveloped us on either side, sometimes 3-4 people deep, all going nutzo! Calling my name! A stranger to them, running an insane distance, and they’re cheering for ME! For everyone!

NYC Marathon

The screaming was unreal.

I stopped to see Mary somewhere in the 80’s (I ditched my camera to her to lighten the load), and then Dan and the kids again shortly thereafter. Both times, I would walk and be fine, and then startup again to that horrible knee pain, which would mostly subside after about 30-40 steps. I dreaded stopping and starting up again, but I knew I had to, at least for fluid stations. I was only at mile 18! I was also tiring (not bonking, though) and taking longer walk breaks but dreading the start-ups, because I knew it would hurt again. The wind kept at it, and at large intersections would swirl and whirl around our bodies, again clipping our heels together as we all hunched and hunkered to try avoid debris in our eyes. I AM EFFING HERE, NOW! I thought-yelled to myself as I buried my face in the crook of my elbows.

The Bronx:
Around the Willis Ave Bridge, which is about mile 19 and heading into The Bronx, the wind was at its absolute worst. On the bridge, I stopped for another achilles stretch, and as I was fighting again with the knee upon start up, another huge trolling gust came though, the biggest one yet, and I almost collided with another runner beside me. The whole thing was so ridiculous, we just had to laugh. A split-second later, I saw the photographer in front of me, and did this:

NYC Marathon

“WHAT-EVAH!”

It was right then and there I decided to walk. I was going to give myself this mile.

While I was walking, I reevaluated. I wasn’t bonking or hitting “The Wall”, but my energy was waning. Every other part of my body felt just fine, even my feet, go figure! I was just wondering if my knee would make it, or if I would have to do the rest walking. I didn’t want to walk, even though I was prepared to do so. But it was quite chilly walking and I didn’t want 90+ more minutes of that cold nonsense. Between miles 20-21, I went in fits and starts, more walking than running, and I was starting to get mad and annoyed.

Back in Manhattan again:
Around mile 21, I looked up to notice a squadron of people passing me. It was the 5-hour pace group! I funneled my annoyance into motivation. I WAS GOING TO GO SUB-5, WHETHER MY KNEE WANTED TO OR NOT, DAMMIT. I did not want a 5:00+ marathon, especially after I was trained for 4:15. My slowest marathon prior to this was 4:58. Pushed by my pride, I was determined to keep them in my sights.

I was hydrated and fueled, so I knew that if I could just run those last 5 miles without stopping, I would be okay. I knew that if I stopped to walk again, that’d be it…those shoes would be made for a cold, hard walk the rest of the way. I put my headphones back on and focused only on the road in front of me. As if it knew, Under Pressure came on my music mix.

None of my hand-mantras were really appropriate for this clutch-time. Desperate times call for desperate mantras. I thought of my mom. As in Philly, I called on her from 500 miles away to push me forward. It’s been 26+ months since she’s been fighting the pain from her cancer. If she can fight for 26 months, I can fight for 26 miles. My mantra became “Fight for Mom, fight for Mom.” Over and over, like some record on repeat.

NYC Marathon

Clutch-time race-face. Central Park.

I don’t remember much after that…I was in a bizarre headspace and I just focused on the patch of pavement 10 feet in front of me, and my music. The bands and the crowds became sensory overload and I felt like my brain was turning inside out. Fight for Mom, fight for Mom. Dan and the kids were somewhere in Central Park, but I was so tuned out we missed each other. I vaguely remember people called my name (it was on my shirt) but I could focus on nothing but digging as deep as possible. Fight for Mom. Dig. Fight. Dig. Fight. I don’t think I’ve ever dug so deep in a race as I did in those last 5 miles, they seemed so long, yet they were ending in a flash.

Crowds roaring. Slight uphill. Finish line. I came out of my stupor. I raised my hands and smiled. I stopped my watch. 4:56:13. The fight was over. I was the victor.

TCS NYC Marathon

Hands in the air!

I started sobbing like a baby. I couldn’t believe something I’d planned for almost 4 years was over, and that I had persevered. More than one volunteer asked if I was okay. I nodded I was. A sweet lady put the medal around my neck and said, “Tears of joy, honey…let it out. You did it.” I cried harder.

NYC Marathon

Weeping-over-a-medal selfie

In my hypothermic haze after the finish line, I had a moment of mourning for the perfect sunny, temperate, fast, pain-free race I’d hoped for. But looking around at my heat-sheeted companions, shuffling toward the park exit, I had a realization. The clock didn’t matter today. What did matter was that I did not give up, even when I feared I might have to. It was the toughest race I’ve ever done, hands (legs) down.

Let’s see how long it takes for me to sign up for another one.

Epilogue: 

I went my chiropractor the day after. Turns out that my painful knee was classic IT band pain! I’ve never had that before. Nothing that a little rest and ice won’t fix. The doc thinks that it might have been due to tons of lateral movements. Between the throngs of runners, the clothing in the road, and the other obstacles like potholes and plates, I weaved and dodged more than I wanted to. There is no possible way to run straight on that course with that many people! Now, 10 days later, all is well. Onward.

Coming Soon: Random noticings (yes, that’s a word, because I say so) and insights from the race (that didn’t fit in this narrative)!

A Tale of Three 20’s

Three 20-mile runs. I have never before done THREE of them in a single marathon training cycle.

In 2012, I was a novice runner, and my marathon training included one 20-miler, which I accidentally turned into a 22-miler and almost killed my friend.

In 2013, I was supposed to run 2 X 20’s during that cycle, but the weekend before the first one was scheduled, I ran an extremely danger-zone-hot Ragnar Race, which was epic in and of itself, but also so epic that when I was done I felt like I had just run a marathon. I took the following week as a drop-in-mileage week to recover, and did the other 20-miler later in the cycle with a very sore toe (which turned out to be a plantar plate tear). It wasn’t pleasant, but I pushed through.

This year, when I got my training plan from Coach Erin for the 2014 TCS New York Marathon, I did a spit-take as I glanced at the plan. One…two…THREE twenty-milers??  *looking around the room*  Who..me?

Being that my mantra of the past 6 months has been Calm the Heck Down, (only substitute a certain cuss word for “heck”), I pretty much just told myself that over and over. I’m going to abbreviate it CTFD. I think it’s going to turn into my mantra for life in general.

Twenty miler #1/September 14th: “Relief”

Considering I went to bed at 1 AM and didn’t hydrate properly (was in Manhattan for a play the night before) this run went pretty well. My main goal was to finish, test out my fueling, and try out the elaborate blister-reducing system I had planned for my feet.

I did loops in town from the Starbucks (restroom and water available!) of 6 miles-4 miles-6 miles-4 miles. I was really stoked to have my Ragnar van-mate Iliana join me for the first 10, my friend Chris join for 6, and my bud Lori join me for 14. It makes the time go so much faster when we’re jabbering away. Also, running friends help you CTFD.

It was a bright beautiful day...hence, the squinting.

It was a bright beautiful day…hence, the squinting.

I didn’t bonk (which means I fueled well), and I held back my pace (re: CTFD) to make sure my average pace was 11:09/mile (my goal for long runs is the low-11’s). One teeny blister showed up, but other than that I was happy. I knew if I could get JUST ONE of these suckas under my belt that would acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable, as it had been in the prior years. The run wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, but it certainly wasn’t the ugly depths of hell, either. It did, however, make me completely useless the rest of the day.

marathon long run 20-miler

Pretty much stayed this way the rest of the day.

Twenty-miler #2/September 28th: “Shock”

I made it through the 6-4-6-4 loops again. And I felt pretty…good! Controlling my pace (again, C-ingTFD), my average was 11:10/mile. I wasn’t completely wiped out afterward, either. But you what I felt afterward? SHOCK. I was shocked that I felt so…good! I believe my quote on my running log to coach Erin was, “WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?!”

TWO DOWN. I knew that if the wheels came off this training plan, I’d have two 20-milers under my belt. WHEW. I didn’t take a photo before or after the run, but I did take a recovery photo of The Icing Of the Cranky Toe whilst watching my son’s baseball game later that day. A day in the life of a mother runner…

marathon long run 20 miler

Don’t worry, it’s not reinjured. Just soothing the angry digits.

 

Twenty-Miler #3/October 12: “Confidence” 

I faced this one alone…on purpose. I wanted to test my own mettle, just me and my running tunes. I also thought “don’t fix what’s not broken” and stuck with my usual hilly 6-4-6-4 loop route. The last two miles needed to be at goal race pace, somewhere around 9:30-ish/mile. It was the kind of crisp, lovely fall day that makes you want to do a long run (oh wait, maybe that’s just me?), and I was also testing out my race outfit. I’m happy to say that after C-ingTFD, I did not make a bathroom stop, I fueled perfectly, my race outfit did not chafe in hideous places, my average pace was 10:53(!) and the last miles were 9:25 and 10:00. BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA-BOOM!

marathon long run

An eyes-closed selfie is my secret signal that I’m READY

Now I know why Coach Erin put three 20-milers on the plan. Not simply to put the miles on my feet, but to put the CONFIDENCE in my head. I feel READY. My race goal (TBA publicly soon) actually feels reachable. I could race tomorrow if I had to. Don’t get me wrong, I still have random twinges of anxiety about it, but all I have to do is CTFD, right?

Relief, shock, and confidence. Good things come in threes, they say. Good things, indeed.

4.5 Personal Running Quirks

I like the word quirk. The word itself is quirky, like a visual-type of onomatopoeia. It also rhymes with work, jerk, and twerk, just in case you are a rapper looking for some dope rhymes.

All runners have quirks. On the quirky scale, I’d say these are moderately quirky. I know some runners that have extreme quirks. Some I didn’t even realize were quirks until someone pointed it out to me. Here are 4 of mine that I can think of.

1. I don’t always run with music, but when I do, my headphones’ cord MUST be behind me. I always, always run the cord through the back of my bra. I just can’t have it swinging in front of me, lest I accidentally swipe it with an errant thumb, yank the old iPod Nano out of my pocket, and fling it across the road. (It has happened.)

2. I always wear a hat or visor, even when I’m inside on the treadmill. I need something on my forehead to keep the sweat and sun out of my eyes. A headband isn’t going to cut it. Mostly I reach for hats, because my natural $60 haircolor MUST BE PROTECTED.

Hatapalooza

Hatapalooza

3. I always default to executing loop-style runs in a counter-clockwise direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a loop in my neighborhood, or a loop in town. Long or short. I think this has something to do with running track at an early age? All it took was ONE middle-school track-and-field season where I ran the 800 meters to imprint a counter-clockwise direction on my runner brain forevah. I almost always finished last or near last in those co-ed races, except for that one time I beat a boy and came in second-to-last. That was GLORIOUS.

4. This is not so much a quirk as it is a ritual. I take a lower-body ice-bath on any run over ten miles. That in and of itself is not so quirky (or maybe it is? I think I lost perspective the moment ice bath entered my vocabulary), but it’s the accessorizing that might put it over the top. I make a cup of steaming milk with a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and together with my favorite raspberry newtons cookies, they go on the edge of the tub ready to be consumed. Then I grab a hoodie and a beanie and put them on (if the bottom part of me will freeze, then the top part of me will be toasty). Next, I lower myself with an f-bomb filled tirade into the icy water, white-knuckle my phone, set the timer for 15 minutes, turn on a running mix, and play Angry Birds Rio until the timer goes off. Every single time. Okay, yeah, that’s a little quirky.

running quirks marathon training

Quirkalicious.

4a. I just thought of a little one. If I’ve reached a turnaround point and there’s a stop sign there, I must reach up and smack the sign. I don’t know why. Perhaps I just like smacking things. #cantstopwontstop.

So that’s my four-and-a-half weird, eccentric running quirks. The best thing about them? They’re mine. I’ll wear them like a badge, because I think they make me run better/stronger/faster. I just know that if I run a clockwise loop with my headphone cord in front and no hat and skip my ice bath, that run’s going to suck.

What are some of your running quirks?

Marathon Training Update: A Whole Bunch of YAYs

NYC Marathon training from August 18-September 7, also known as “Hell Weeks” for teachers, went surprisingly smooth. I’m not sure if it’s because this is deja vu, the awesome running weather, the extra sleep I got, or what. I’m sure it’s the “or what.”

Week 7 Highlights:

This week was all about recovery from the Mingoman Triathlon adventures. We drove back from Ohio, and I dove right into schoolwork: Setting up my classroom, attending meetings and professional development, and getting ready for the First Day. Right away, I had to move a scheduled run to another day, but I got it in. There were 3 “easy” runs, and a 10-mile long run. I also wore my GPS watch when I mowed the yard, just to see how many miles it was (with a non-power-assist push mower, mind you).

cross training mowing

I’m guessing it’s not entirely accurate, but apparently, that’s how I roll.

It was actually 1.2 miles total, at a smokin’ 29:31 pace. Kara Goucher, eat your heart out.

That week’s 10-miler was vexing. It felt like a slog-fest, but ended up being an average of 10:52 pace. Anything under 11:00 miles on a long run is quite unusual for me. I was quite tired and a little dehydrated the rest of the day, which goes to show you that PERCEIVED EFFORT is just as important as listening to your GPS watch. But still, YAY!

Week 8 Highlights:

I commemorated the First Day of School by running at 5:30 AM with a headlamp. Overachiever, much?

marathon training dark

‘Tis the season

I actually had good energy this week. I made sure to go to bed early, which for this night owl, is a hard habit to get into. There’s always ONE MORE THING to do before bed, right?

I ended the week with a total, complete, remember-this-run-because-they-don’t-come-along-that-often 16-miler! I ran completely by myself, had virtually no blisters, and had an average of 10:51…whaaaaaaaat? YAY!

marathon training long run

There might have been fist-pumping involved after this run.

It must have been all of the extra zzzz’s.

Week 9 Highlights

This week, in mid-September, summer finally appeared, in all of it’s hot, humid glory. Here’s a poem, referring to speed work on the high school track.

Where art thou,

My sweet track breeze?

Nowhere to be found,

As it’s football practice and 85 degrees.

It stayed hot the whole week. On Saturday, I did my long run of 18-miles. I did 3x 6-mile loops in town starting from the local Starbucks (Restrooms and water? Don’t mind if I do.Three times.) I was comfortable for the first 10 miles, then the sun came out blasting. I was getting a little worried about over-heating, but then, like some glistening beacon of refreshment, I saw the library’s sprinklers were on, and ran right through them with no shame. Later, I saw a random landscaper watering some flowers. I screeched to a stop, threw my hands up in the air, and pleaded “HOSE ME DOWN, PLEASE!!” (He did…twice. Remember, I was running loops.) When I finished my second loop, I saw that the Ridgefield High School baseball team was setting up a car-wash fundraiser next door. Of course, I ran over and asked a bunch of high-school boys to turn the hose on me. I’LL BRING MY CAR OVER WHEN I’M DONE JUST HOSE ME DOWN GUYS. Not weird at all.

marathon training hot

Thumbs up to the baseball boys behind me.

Also during that run, I was randomly joined by another mother runner who recognized me from the Run Like a Mother training sessions last spring. It was delightful as she joined me for miles 12-15 (ish) and we decided we’d run again in the future. YAY for new rando running friends!

Between the hoses and the new friends, it was actually a smashing run, despite the heat. Average pace was 11:17. And I did let the baseball boys wash my car afterward.

YAY for lawn mowing! YAY for hoses! YAY new running friends!

It’s September…let’s hear it now: YAY!

Mingoman Triathlon: Calm the Heck Down

This is a very tardy race report. Since school started in late-ish August, I’m busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony.

The Mingoman Triathlon was pretty great for an inaugural race – one could tell this company has put on other tris before. Just some tiny little tweaks I would change, but no major issues. You can read about my pre-race tri-anxiety here.

So how was it? Short version: Pretty darn good.

Pre-event: We had over an hour drive to get up to Delaware, OH, a cute little town just north of Columbus. Dan was doing the Olympic version of the tri, and my friend Janet was doing her first sprint tri.

The point-to-point course complicated things a bit. We drove to the swim/transition #1 and set up our bikes in the dark. Then we drove to the finish/transition #2 and parked, and took the shuttle back to the swim start. I know, I’m confused too.

Once we were back at the reservoir for the start, it was daylight (albeit overcast) and I entered the water to warm up a bit. The water was 68 degrees, which meant it was wetsuit legal. When I got in, the water clarity was so poor that I COULD NOT SEE MY HAND EXTENDED IN FRONT OF MY FACE. Talk about sensory deprivation! That could definitely set off an Open Water Panic Attack. I told myself to calm the heck down, and continued my half-blind warmup.

Swim: After a delayed start (the prior waves did not go off on time), I ran into the water, and a little voice inside me told me that today would be a good day to try and dolphin dive to gain momentum. I should’ve told that voice to shut up. I dove a couple of times, bumped into a few people because I couldn’t see a damn thing underwater, started to freestyle, and immediately lost my breathing rhythm. After a few sputters and head pop-ups, and a brief chat with myself to calm the heck down, I was able to get some momentum. I knew I had to get used to being under-water-blind. Normally I sight (sighting is popping your head up and forward on a breath to make sure you’re going where you want to go) every 12th stroke, but this time, I did every 8th. After a couple of hundred yards, I finally found a rhythm. I wasn’t ever fully “calm and smooth” like my mantra was in last year’s TriFitness race, and I about crashed into other swimmers many times, because I couldn’t even see their wake of bubbles until it was too late. I almost got smashed in the nose with a foot —again with the water blindness. I finally reached the shore, climbed out, and breathed my usual big sigh of relief.

Transition 1: Due to this being a point-to-point tri, I avoided the dreaded DERP DANCE of INDECISION, (which is when one is so adrenaline-fueled that you can’t remember what you need next), and I was able to strip out of my wetsuit, hop on my bike and go. I did, however, need to make sure that all of my swim stuff was packed into the provided race bag, as it would be transported back to the finish line for me. Lost a few seconds there. Trying to pack a wet wetsuit into a small plastic bag is hard and silly, but it had to be done. Off I go!

Bike: Flat road. Corn. Soybeans. Sang to myself. Found a zen place in my mind. More corn. Sun came out. More soybeans. Kept telling myself to calm the heck down and enjoy it. Saw my shadow and thought, Who the heck IS that person? Marty McFly performed wonderfully. It was a lovely ride – I think this was my favorite part of the race. 21 miles…done!

Transition 2: Easy-peasy. Rack bike, change shoes, eat a GU, and go.

Run: The first half mile was a decent-sized hill. The sun was out, and it was hot, but I managed to pass a few people. I was working pretty hard, harder than I wanted, and I was trying to save some for the last mile. So I calmed the heck down, dialed back my pace a little, and just tried to keep in motion. There were some rolling hills, playing the part of equalizers, as many central Ohio triathletes don’t have many hills to train on but back in Connecticut I sure do! The run course was in town, so there were quite a few spectators, and the Delaware High School cheering squads were out in full force. As I came into the last 1/2 mile, I passed Dan as he headed out on his second lap. I stepped on the gas…

mingoman triathlon

“Two thumbs up!” appears to be my new thing.

My lungs were burning, and after I crossed the finish line in 2:03:22, I received a finisher’s medal that quickly rose to up to being in my top 3 of race medals:

Mingoman triathlon

Clever!

That’s bike chain encircling it, folks. And, it’s not big and gaudy. LOVE IT.

I got to spectate and cheer for Dan and Janet when they came in. I’m so proud of Jan.

mingoman triathlon

You go girl!

mingoman triathlon

Me nd the hubs on yet another tri-date.

Sooooo…did I meet my goals?

Swim: A dreamy result would have been 18:00 or under. I hit 18:09! (It felt a little short, though, I have to admit. Or maybe I just swam straighter? I’ll take straighter.)

Bike: I had no idea what my goal should’ve been for this, as 21 miles is an odd distance. I had hoped for 1h 20m or less. With an average of 17.2 miles per hour, I smoked a 1:13:04!

Run: Was really hoping to break 26:00 on this one, but the heat got me and I’m happy with the 27:41 I was able to pull off.

I found out later that was good enough for second place in my age group! WAA-HOO!

mingoman triathlon

It’s real plaque that I can hang on my wall and lord over my minions. #lookatallthesportssayings

My husband won 1st in his age group for the Olympic distance. IT’S A FAMILY SWEEP! (Kinda.)

So much for keeping calm.

can-t-keep-calm-i-just-placed-in-my-age-group

NEXT: New York City Marathon training continues…stay tuned!