RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


2 Comments

Boston

I hear a lot of people talking about feeling humbled by others’ praises. So often it strikes false. The humble brag of, “I’m so undeserving of this really competitive amazing thing, and I just can’t believe people think I’m so amazing (like I think, ha).” And it’s probably the cynic in me for thinking this. However, I truly was humbled by the outpouring of support from my friends. I was actually embarrassed that people were paying attention to me and thought I was doing something awesome. I mean, Boston IS awesome, but I am very uncomfortable receiving compliments or accepting support or acknowledgment from others (*cough, crazy family, cough*).

I also realize that some of this, particularly in regards to athletic accomplishments, is particular to women. I remember from my first Ragnar Relay, we were literally one of the first teams in the entire field and a bunch of us were marathoners and a guy from another said, “Wow, so you guys are pretty serious runners, huh?” We all hemmed and hawed like, “Oh, no.” We couldn’t accept the label that we WERE awesome and we WERE serious. I think back on that, and how I have to learn to accept support and acknowledgment gracefully. And, while I don’t want to get a big head, I can also admit that I’m doing something pretty amazing and it’s ok for people to say that. With that said, I will say that I did choose to NOT wear my marathon jacket and medal on the air plane ride home. Baby steps, people.

My awesome running group brought (to my kid’s preschool musical performance no less) balloons and a care package for the trip. Highlight of the bag? Trashy magazine! I also got a yard sign!

My good friend, Misty, also gave me Wonder Woman knee high socks and chocolate. Don’t worry, I didn’t run in them. 🙂

I escaped Chicago’s airport with little trouble. I felt a little guilty leaving the kids for the second time within two weeks, but it’s the last bit of traveling for a long while so they’ll survive. I stayed for most of the trip with my dear friend, Swati, who just defended her dissertation! She’s officially joined the ranks of Dr.’s that can not medically help you. We got to go out solo (she’s also a newish mom to Asha, who’s about to turn one year old) for dinner and ice cream. Like tourists, I made her take a picture with me and the cow at the famous J.P. Licks.

I have some other photos and stuff about my time in Boston, but I’m going to stick to marathon stuff for this one to help keep it from being a tome.

Saturday morning, Jen, Patty, and I decided to meet at the expo. Actually, Patty’s in-laws were awesome and picked me up so we rode together to the convention center. It was massive. You get almost 30,000 runners and their families and it’s going to be crazy. To be honest, I actually wondered about fire code because some of the exhibit lanes were narrow and tended to bottle neck up…Total mom mode, right? Anyhow, we took the requisite cheesy photos at the five million various photo op possibilities. Because the packet pick up and expo were on different floors, there really were a crazy number of opportunities to take photos. One of my favorite ones was the huge wall of names of every single runner. We each got free posters of it. Mine, sadly, got left behind in Boston at Swati’s house, but she promises to mail it to me.

Because this is the big mama of marathons, there were quite a few celebrity sightings at the expo. So…like total creeps, we took photos of these unsuspecting individuals. On the left is Shalane Flanagan promoting her new cooking book; top right is the back of Katherine Switzer (white jacket), first woman to officially run the marathon, and bottom right is a cardboard cutout of Meb. Ha. He was in town, but we didn’t see him live.

Patty and I did the bus tour of the whole marathon route. I was surprised to see that there were tents with souvenirs and food and things at the start already. For those unfamiliar with Boston, it’s a point to point course, which means you take a bus out to the start ~25 miles west of the city to Hopkinton and run your way back to Boston proper.

I took the obligatory start line photo. Some people were taking photos kissing the ground. Um, unless it’s like the foot of Jesus (and I’m not even religious), I’m not kissing it.

Riding the route, I was simultaneously nervous AND calmed. There were way more hills than I had thought, but they also seemed somewhat flatter than I had imagined. The tour guide, who was formerly a competitive runner, stressed the importance of really taking it easy the first half of the race, which has a net downhill. Most people take it too fast and trash their legs before the hills of Newton.

The night before was “dinner” at 4:30 at Vinny’s in Somerville. Good food, and we were glad to have time to hang out and lounge instead of eating and then going straight to bed. Jen and I were staying at friends, but we shacked up with Patty in her hotel room for the night before the marathon. Jen ended up using a great deal of her waking hours trying on the same two tank tops over and over, trying to determine which one would or would not chafe. We also went back and forth because the weather was supposed to be in the upper 60’s when we started. Trust me, Patty aka “Radar” was giving me minute-by-minute updates on every degree change in temperature and wind.

The rest of the night, we ended up buying a movie, How to Be Single, to watch in the hotel room. It was predictable and a bit young for us, but Rebel Wilson was funny and it was perfect for a group of women looking for a distraction. Patty fell asleep during it and had no trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned for over an hour, but eventually fell asleep and slept solid. Jen woke up throughout the night several times, so I guess it’s good we went to bed early!

Because there are so many stages to getting to the actual start line, we all got up around 6 am. We were going to take our hotel’s shuttle to Boston Commons to take the marathon shuttle to Hopkinton (which was supposed to leave at 8:15 for our wave). When we got outside the hotel, though, the line was like 30 people deep for a 14-person van. One of the door guys suggested we pay $5/person for a private shuttle. We thought it was a little shady, but we were also getting nervous about having to wait for several loadings of the shuttle so we did. Well, actually I had no cash and Jen only had $10 so we haggled that for the 3 of us.

We got to the Boston Commons and met up with Kelly, a colleague’s wife who was also running. Coincidentally, she was in the same wave and corral as Jen. I was actually in the wave before Jen, but I had decided to drop back so we could run together. Sadly, Patty was in the wave after us, almost 20 minutes later. We all got on the school buses and headed out to Hopkinton. We arrived at the high school and the athlete’s village was out on the fields. It was a huge area with tents (for shelter), free bagels, Gatorade, water, and coffee. We had over 2 hours to kill, which we spent mostly going to the bathroom and people-watching. We were surprised to see that some people still had their gear check bags, as gear check happened in Boston by the finish lines. I’m not sure what they ended up doing with them.

Finally it was time for us (sans Patty) to start moving towards the entry point. We gathered together in the parking lot before heading down the chute, which was probably over a quarter mile through the streets of Hopkinton. Before we started moving, I noticed what looked like sharp shooters on top of the high school. While I appreciated the safety concerns, their presence actually made me more nervous.

Along the way, right before people headed into the corrals, there was an area designated with the last port-a-potties (which they call port-a-johns out there). This was like two concentric circles of over 100 potties–a human waste Stonehenge of sorts. With all the waiting in between, we ended up doing another last ditch effort. Despite that, I still saw a woman squatting next to a light pole. Once we got into the corral, Jen did her obsessive shoe-tying shuffle. First it was too loose, then too tight, then the other one was weird. All while trying to keep moving along with the crowd.

We were off, and I got nervous right away. Between the heat and downhills, the run felt like a struggle right away. And I would struggle with hitting a rhythm for a good deal of it. I perked up a bit when I saw a runner up ahead wearing an Every Mother Counts shirt. My friend, Ayesha, is an ambassador for them and our Ragnar team ran miles for them last year. (Side note: Ayesha is running the Big Sur Marathon as a relay for them this weekend). It’s a charity that works to make pregnancy and childbearing safe for women. I had remembered reading that Christy Turlington, its founder and former supermodel, had qualified and was running Boston to raise funds. This could be Christy up ahead, and next to her was a tall, curly-haired man with a bandana–perhaps Scott Jurek? I couldn’t be sure, though, and when I mentioned it to Jen, she suggested we speed up to check. I couldn’t fathom pulling up any speed, though, and shrugged off such crazy talk. I would actually end up leapfrogging with them throughout most of the race and did end up chatting with them a couple times. Also, like a total creep, I took a running selfie with them. Marathon of creepy celebrity photos. Ha. At one point, Jen also said that her goal was to beat a supermodel. Spoiler: That dream didn’t happen. Christy beat us by 2 minutes.

This is me at mile 13. You can see I look pretty tired. I was beyond grateful to see Mr. UnRunner (he’s been demoted recently). I was mentally really struggling with the idea that I was going to be doing this for hours. HOURS, people. I just wanted to lay down and go home. I was really struggling with the heat and the downhills. Seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place was amazing.

I really had to suppress my urge to punch him, though, when he told me to “go catch Jen.” By this point, Jen had left me behind. She had spent a good deal of the first several miles a few yards in front of me, constantly checking over her shoulder that I was still there. I told her that I did not want to watch her doing that for the next several hours so go ahead. Deja vu to Chicago.

The Wellesley girls were out and screaming, but the way the literature described it, I thought it was going to be like Beatles-style screaming hordes of hysterical coeds. They were out and yelling and had the “kiss me…” signs, but, shh, I gotta say I wasn’t THAT impressed. I don’t know that I would call them legendary. I did see two girls who appeared to be naked under their posters, which read, “If you run fast enough, I’ll drop my poster.” My favorite sign along the course, though, was “You’re running better than our government.” This is particularly true in Illinois.

Another welcome break was seeing these girls around mile 17. These are the super fans that came from Chicago to cheer for us (mostly Jen, but also me and Patty): Dorene, Michelle, Michelle, and Jen. They are all runners and the two Michelle’s are training for a May marathon. Michelle (with sunglasses) ran Boston years ago in her youth and hopes to return again one day.

I got some very welcome hugs from the girls, although someone totally rammed their shoulder into my throat at one point, which was AWESOME. Choking and running. Good combo.

At some point between miles 17 and 19, Jen and I hooked up together again. She decided running alone sucked (again, deja vu to Chicago) and waited for me. We did conquer Heartbreak Hill together (next pic is us at the top). I have to say that Heartbreak hill wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it sucked, but I think the million OTHER hills were what were quietly crushing my soul. By that point, Jen and I just wanted to be done. We joked about rolling each other down the hill. Joked. Not really.

We split up again. See a pattern? Fortunately, I saw Mr. UnRunner and my friend Swati around mile 21 at the Boston College gates. (on a side note, the race goes through THREE college campuses, Wellesley, Boston College, and Boston University AND it’s a state holiday so the crow support along the route is crazy). Again, I was really excited for a reason to stop and see happy, familiar faces. Mentally, knowing I was more than half done, I was doing a lot better than the first half even though it was physically more challenging. Knowing I had a dozen marathons under my belt helped me push through. At one point on the course, I do recall chanting mentally, “I know I can” to get me over a hill.

The physical demands of the downhill and the heat took its toll on runners. I saw A LOT of runners down at medical tents along the way, on the side of the road, and even a runner in the middle of the course with medics towards mile 21. Two of the running bloggers I follow had to stop and receive some medical aid before being able to finish the course. I think they still beat my time. Sigh. I even saw one runner just completely stop and stand in the middle of the road, teetering. I stopped and asked him if he was ok or needed help. He said he was fine, even though he kept standing there teetering. I decided his male ego would be bruised by a chick helping him and we were only a few yards from a medical tent so I figured he’d be ok.

Jen and I did hook back up around mile 21 I think in time to see the super fans one more time. She was really struggling mentally and pulled ahead again a couple miles later. I could tell she just really wanted it to be over, though, and wasn’t going to be stopping again for me. She finished about 30 second ahead of me.

You can see I didn’t do a great job with the tangents, running .3 over. Thanks for the BLM bracelet, Bill! The personal is political!

The finish line was akin to the starting line, a long chute stretching out over a couple blocks to get your medal, water, bag of food (nice stuff!), banana, thermal blanket, gear check, and then finally heading out to the family reunion section. Jen and I got massages while waiting for everyone to meet at the designated spot. We were pretty out of it, but it helped getting to lay down and worked on a bit. The massages were inside and there were probably like 40 tables in the room, with massage therapists from all over. The guy working on me was from 2 hours away, and it was his fifth year in a row volunteering at the marathon.

Patty finished (on the clock, since she started later) only about 15 minutes behind us. She said she had a GREAT race, which just shows who’s the best runner in our crew. We got to take one big group photo before everyone head their different ways. The super fans were heading home, Jen was going to meet back up with her friend, and Patty and I were going to dinner together with her family.


Patty, our spouses, and I went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and hang out before having dinner with Patty’s family at Morton’s steak house. The dinner was AWESOME, hot shower was divine, and the company was stupendous. Morton’s even had the menus printed with our names on it (gotta find the pic I took). By the end of the night, I was dead on my feet and looking forward to bed.

The next day was uneventful, with a chill lunch with Swati, and an early departure for the airport. It was funny seeing the sea of stiff-legged runners in their aqua?/teal? marathon jackets tottering towards the gates. I didn’t wear my jacket cuz I’m weird like that.

I came home to this loveliness. Cuz nothing says I love you like toilet paper strew on your lawn. Ha.

Even though I’m not in this photo–actually it’s only the super fans and none of the actual Boston runners–I love it and wanted to end the post with it. I’m still processing my emotions from the race, but I couldn’t help but love the connectedness of the ladies. I did not get to Boston on my own, and I couldn’t have finished Boston on my own. I am blown away (again) by these women and (and men) that have encouraged me, supported me, and praised me. All of the texts, Facebook messages, calls, and well wishes. I don’t feel worthy of any of it, truly. It was such a communal effort and can only offer my warmest thanks and love for everyone that’s been part of this. Patty is already concocting what to do for next year. Good luck with that, I’ll be supporting you from home, haha. I’ll follow up this post with some of the other things I did in Boston, but for now, signing off.


Leave a comment

Denial is not just a river: Boston

It’s been awhile…I’ve been slightly in denial and slightly overwhelmed. There are some things going on outside of running that are taking up a lot of emotional energy and time. There’s barely been time to process that Boston is in less than 4 days. I get on a plane in about 24 hours. I haven’t really thought about packing or logistics or anything. This is despite the fact that Jen and Patty (mostly Patty) have been blowing up my phone with messages about Boston weather, packing lists, more weather, expo pick up, more weather…I have been only partaking in reading in small bursts. Cuz I. CAN’T. EVEN.

To my credit, part of of the reason is that I was immersed in professional nerd-dom in our nation’s capital. I attended the major educational research conference for 4 days last weekend. It was good to get away, and I got some time to run with cool people and see some more cool things. Still, it was an intense 4 days.

My favorite monument run this time was the (newer) Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Memorial. I shrink at sentiment, but I was surprisingly moved by the memorial. It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture/architecture, and I couldn’t help but feel the importance of King’s legacy and the ongoing fight for racial and economic justice today. There is still so much work to do. And it can feel overwhelming at times, but none of us struggles alone. Others have gone before us, others struggle alongside, and others will come after.

The King portion of the monument almost looked like a breakaway from a larger concrete mountain. Somehow, I failed to take a picture of that part. However, surrounding the main monument was a long wall of quotes. There were some amazing ones, and it inspired me to go back and finish a book of his essays I’ve had forever. A lot of people were taking photos, and I had trouble choosing just one. This one seemed timely, though, in terms of the importance of all of us speaking out against injustice even if it’s not comfortable.


I also did a very convoluted route (partly because I got lost and partly because it was a long run) past the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial (which is on a funky island/peninsula bit and totally reminded me of the Simpsons episode where Bart talks to the various monument/presidents), and meandering over into Virginia.

This tree was beautiful and strange. A cork tree! It actually looked dead, and there was a sign asking people not to climb or touch it so that it wouldn’t be damaged. While the majority of the cherry blossoms were gone, there were still some trees with blossoms so it was a pretty run.

I have to say that there was some strange criss-crossing back and forth across the river to try and get back from Virginia to DC. It makes it more delightful to find hidden little spots like this one, though!

I ran out of miles on that run, though. Right when I got to Theodore Roosevelt Island, I had to head home, so I dragged some of my friends back there Sunday. I wanted to see the island and get some trails under my feet. It took some convincing to get them out there as they were concerned I would be too fast, but I was tapering and more concerned about enjoying the run with friends than speed.

Tracey makes a second appearance (middle bottom), though still only in DC 🙂 Laura, top middle, also works with me. And Susan, far right, is the awesome friend that sent me lipstick a little while ago. We also make it a habit to purchase beauty supplies when traveling together. Hey, can’t be nerds all the time!

The island wasn’t very big, just over a mile running the circumference. In the middle of the island was a big carved out section with little bridges, water (though it was drained for the winter still), and a big Theodore Roosevelt monument. We asked a fellow runner to take our picture, and we went with the Black Power fist instead of the regular one hand up in the air that Teddy was doing (the photographer didn’t seem to get that we wanted Teddy in the picture also so you’ll just have to imagine it). We all do critical work, and it jived with the theme of the run as we also saw the MLK memorial (a second time for me, I couldn’t get enough!).

Us, in nature.

This last picture is of my friend, Ramon, who I HAVE run with years ago. However, he said he tends to cycle on and off with running, and he has NOT been running for a bit but wants to start again. I am putting his picture up here to publicly shame/encourage him to start running more regularly. So, if you know Ramon Martinez, make sure you ask him about running!

Work this week has been really rough. I got a chance to do an early, very therapeutic 4 miles this morning with Jen. I was greeted by this awesome sign from the amazing, supportive ladies of Best Foot Forward. It helped remind me that I’m NOT doing this alone, and these girls have helped support me every step of the way. Onward and upward!


Leave a comment

Monday Catch-Up Madness 

Last week was rough. I was really, really not feeling training. Like really. And then, my Lauren Fleshman “Believe” training journal serendipitously hit the right spot when I turned the page to the “Hit Reset” photo. Perfect timing. The next couple of pages were all about recovering and taking time to relax. MUCH NEEDED reminder. I actually went to yoga class (bottom left pic) the next day that left me a totally sweat-drenched, stretched out recovering and relaxing runner.

The week was also busy. We celebrated the lovely Patty’s birthday Thursday night. Instead of taking a picture of us, I took a picture of the dessert. Patty decided it was an edible flower and ate it. It probably was an edible flower, but the stem/pistil section of it seemed awfully hard and fibrous compared to the edible pansies I’ve seen so I declined. I’m pretty sure training calls for chocolate 🙂

It was also a little tricky getting in all of my runs since the ankle biters were home on spring break. I have a hard time sitting at home with them, so we made TWO excursions to the Museum of Science and Industry–one of which involved the Lego Exhibit, Brick by Brick. That was pretty cool. I realized I have no imagination for Lego-building though. Pathetic. still, my kids really liked it and there were interactive sections where you got to build and play with Legos. They were probably more excited by that than by any of the actual awesome Lego sculptures.

We also went to the Mexican Museum of Fine Art, an amazing and FREE museum in Chicago. I think my favorite piece was this huge, super-intricate beadwork. I could have stayed staring at it for hours. I was super-mom and even thought ahead to bring paper and colored pencils for the kids to try and copy some of it.

Finally, as my activist-training action for the kids, I took them down to the massive Day of Action on April 1, spearheaded by the Chicago Teachers Union. As a former Chicago Public School teacher, a teacher educator, and having multiple friends impacted both on the K-12 and university level by Illinois budget issues, I felt it was important to go show support. The picture makes it look like it was a great adventure. Alas, t’would be a lie, there was so much whining, complaining, and general irritation. The youngest, who is also a wanderer, also managed to escape into the crowd, was picked up by a cop, and I was called to the stage to get her. Mother of the year. This would be her second time getting lost in a large public space–this happened at the Field Museum a couple weeks prior–and being helped by security to locate her parents. I swear parents would be so much happier if we could chip our children.

Speaking of education, one of my students was demonstrating a reading strategy the other day and she handed out these write-ups. Mine, not sure if it was happenstance or purposeful, was with the word “run.” Love it.

Finally, last long run as a group before Boston weekend. Jen and I are out of town next week and Boston is, insanely, 2 weeks out, so it’s the final group run for our trio (until whatever shakeout run we’ll do in Boston). We decided to go with the hills of the Arboretum. We posed by our favorite sculpture (and those pants I’m wearing are really unflattering, snarf).

Jen and I were also making fun of each other a ton, and I threatened to cut her out of the blog. So instead of tripping each other, we did ridiculous poses showing how we are the best of friends. Ha. We are such great friends that we are going to apply as the two-person “Chasers” for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s weird reality show game, “The Runner.” Because I don’t want to increase the number of people applying, I will make it less easy for you to find the information and not link it. If you’re a runner, though, and have been paying attention at all, you’ve probably seen multiple posts about it already. And if you haven’t, you can use the powers of Google. Hey, how are an academic and a social worker going to make any money otherwise?! We got 6 kids between us to support.

Alas, Patty did not make it into the picture since she was taking it. Kelly (far right), though, who just did an impromptu 50k last weekend, is looking strong! That run was tough, though. We were pelted by hard little bits of snow and a good deal of wind through the whole run. In fact, there was a wind advisory starting right after we finished. Chicago weather has been crazy. It jumped over 30 degrees within 24 hours (and vice versa).

I finally did the math and looked at the actual climb for Boston’s Heartbreak Hill and the climbs from our local runs. Heartbreak Hill is about 95-100 feet climb over a half mile. I’m not sure what the actual math is on the Arboretum hills, but I do know that Big Bertha at Waterfall Glen is about 125 feet of climb over a half mile, so I’m feeling ok about it. Obviously, that’s not been coming at mile 21 of our runs, but still…it’s not quite as insurmountable as thought. See, sometimes the anticipation of something is so much worse than the reality of it.

Anyhow, hope everyone survived spring break if you’ve had it. And good luck if you haven’t yet 🙂 What do you do to recover, relax, and stay in the right frame of mind?


3 Comments

Taper Time

Holy smokes, folks (you like that? I’m a poet), it’s Taper Time (a side of alliteration with my rhyme please). This weekend’s run was the final 20 miler before the slow wind down to the BIG DAY. And it was a doozy.

Because Jen had things like a family vacation to deal with (the nerve, right?!), we moved up the long run to Friday. Let’s just say that encountering a long line of people marching carrying a large wooden cross the final miles of our 20 gives some indication what the run felt like. No, I am not comparing the run to the pain of Christ hanging on a cross and dying for our sins. But Jesus also never ran a marathon. Just sayin’…Now that I’ve offended my readers, the details.

We decided to go with the Prairie Path in Elmhurst and head west. The idea of pounding pavement for 20 miles–even if it was Salt Creek–or replicating that hideous Waterfall Glen run seemed awful. While I did appreciate the somewhat softer crushed limestone, the ruts in the path from bikers (*shakes fist in fury) for 3+ hours did a number on my ankles. Many of the regular port-a-potties that are on the path weren’t there. There were no unseemly accidents, but there were some moments of irritation for sure.

Normally, path running is great and helps the time go by faster. However, the lack of visual markers of distance passing (like blocks or different houses) has made recent path/trail runs feel excruciatingly long. I forgot my Garmin for the run and had to rely on Jen (what is with me and my forgetting the watch lately?!). We all groaned when we hadn’t even gotten to 3 miles, and you know it’s bad when you have to use Gu stops to help break up the run. We never hit a groove and were working the whole time, moaning and groaning. Constantly asking Jen the mileage (ok, that was just me). We all complained how we had had so much anxiety about the run before and had secretly hoped we’d be relieved it wasn’t that hard. WRONG. It sucked. AND, we even debated cutting the run short. Patty pointed out, though, that all that time and energy worrying about the 20 would have been wasted if we didn’t actually do the 20. I know, it’s not exactly logical yet it makes perfect sense. So we did the stupid 20.

The upside is that we had alot of time to talk about some things going on in our lives, and we were all miserable. I think I would have tripped Patty or Jen if one of them was having a great run. But we were in sync with it being just a bad run.

We did get some delicious coffee at Eliajh’s, which is right by where we started. Let’s just say, though, it took several attempts and not until after coffee, that we got a picture of us smiling.

Elijah’s is a cute local coffee shop, and they feature local artists. This was an exhibit featuring work from a local art school using coffee as a medium. Clever. I will make sure to say that it’s art when I hand back my students’ papers with coffee on it in the future.

It’s rough having such a crap run, but we got through it. And we got through it together. We talked a lot about not having time goals for Boston, which really helps knock off some of the pressure. Reinforcing the idea of having a good time and just enjoying our time there is helpful. I honestly don’t know that I’ve had such a huge chunk of my training be so hard before. I feel like if this were a better blog, I’d list a top 10 list of things to do when training is not going great. Alas, this is just my blog. So THIS is what I do…

Homemade drumstick cone made with custard from the local shop. Drown misery in sugar. Life lessons learned the hard way. And it’s the best way, ha. Seriously, I was so excited to see that the local custard shop was already open for the season. Hole in the Wall Custard Shoppe. MMMMM. The tots were pretty pumped about it as well.

The rest of the weekend was filled with family time. It was pretty sunny and nice for most of it, so we took the kite out.

And this munchkin even dressed up for Easter (just for the record, we don’t even really celebrate Easter and the dress is a hand-me-down). We felt like we had a mix-up, cuz she does not clean up like that ever. Especially the ponytail!

This was her the previous evening.

12891586_10153476058448837_7097958969952894914_o

After much anxiety, I finally also got my Boston Marathon passport and registration stuff. I had seen a couple other bloggers post pics of their materials online before I got mine. Even though I know I’m in and I will be getting the stuff, it made me nervous to not get it the same day as some other folks. It’s pretty awesome. Seriously, it’s getting real folks!

I am relieved that we are finally rounding the last bend on this journey. I think I have to remember to try and enjoy it as much as I can. I worked so hard the last couple of years to reach this point. And even if my training hasn’t been everything I’ve wanted, it will be enough. I will finish Boston, hopefully with my friends. I just need to trust the training and trust myself. And revel in the taper 🙂

Onward and upward, friends!


2 Comments

When your long run sucks

This weekend was the first 20 miler of this training cycle. Because this cycle has been so off, I’ve been dreading this run. Patty and Jen also had not been looking forward to it, and the run took quite a bit of finagling since one of us had childcare issues. All of Patty’s talk about hill training and my final examination of Boston’s elevation map convinced us to head out to Waterfall Glen.

We got a little crew going for our Saturday morning. Ayesha (first from left) only did one loop with us. She’s training with Every Mother Counts for the Big Sur Marathon Relay, so she needed some hills as well. Kelly, second from left, did an earlier loop and ran her second loop with us on our first. She’s also doing the Ice Age 50k.

Here’s a less posed shot, where we look much more excited than we actually felt. Poor Jen got cut off.

The big joke starting out was that nobody had their watch on them (well, none of us that ran the two loops together. Ironically, Kelly and Ayesha did.). I had my Garmin, but for some reason the battery was almost dead. It didn’t really matter as we had a rough sense of the distance, just over 9.5 miles for a loop, but we all know it doesn’t count if it’s not on the Garmin.

The first loop was ok. I was grateful for Kelly’s Garmin as I could tell we were above pace for most of it. I love Jenny, but she can’t pace herself at all and she’s inclined towards speed. She led the group, so I was constantly hollering to pull it back. The Garmin helped validate my sense of pace. We decided to head out on the trail clockwise first, which meant we headed into Big Berth (a 125 foot climb over a half mile, between mile markers 4 and 5) uphill. I’ve found it helps to reverse the route for a second loop to keep things fresh. Knowing that Big Bertha is more uphill clockwise, I opted to have us head into it on our first loop when our legs were fresher. I can not say it helped us tremendously. Sigh. It never felt easy. I never hit a groove with the run. It was just straight plodding. The funniest quote from the run, though, “What the heck is that? It sounds like a fire alarm.” “Frogs.” City kids. The frogs were definitely in a dither heralding in spring for us. It broke up the monotony of the brown woods a bit.

We took a short break at the end of the first loop to send off Kelly and Ayesha, refuel, and take a bathroom break. It took a lot of self-talk, cajoling, and mutual harassment to get going again. For me, it kind of went downhill from there. The whole second loop was a struggle. I felt like I was constantly out of breath, the hills felt like mountains, and I went to a bad place mentally. I also almost had an emergency bathroom break in the woods, but a fellow runner told me we weren’t far from a port-a-potty when she saw me break into the woods. There is a port-a-potty midway along the loop, which we were still at least a mile from (and I couldn’t wait for), but this was one at one of the parking lots less than a half mile from where I stopped. I had high hopes for that bathroom break to renew my spirits. Alas, t’was not to be. After initial sense of relief, it was back to plodding.

I lagged behind the group for a good chunk of the run, and Patty held back with me. I have no idea what pace we were going, but Emily, Jen, and Jenny were pushing faster than I felt I wanted or could go. We were all having a rough time of it, evidenced by the minimal talking on the run (5-7 women on a run and silence? Unheard of!). That trio, though, believes more in the “end the misery faster” school of thought. Whereas, I tend to believe it will be worse if you try to push yourself faster through a tough run. Patty was with me, and we coached each other through walk breaks, hills, and the run overall. She even stopped to take a couple photos of me to break it up 🙂

THIS is where I started really wishing Boston was over. I wanted to walk so much more than I did, but marathoners (at least most of the ones I know) are firm believers in running the distance. Any walking is seen as a cop-out or not “really” counting. Ultra/trail runners seem to follow more of the “time on your feet” thinking, so whether you’re walking or running, you’re moving and covering the ground. I hated that whole battle of “I can do it” and “I want to lay down right now.” Really, without Patty, I think I would have walked the last 2 miles in. Which would have only prolonged the agony. And made me even more insecure and self-doubting, so thanks Patty!

In all honesty, I was having some trouble with the ankles/Achilles on the hills, particularly downhill, so I will be headed to see Craig this week.

I had to laugh, though, when we finally hauled it back in to the trailhead and this is what we saw.

Yup, 21st century folks. 3 individuals tired from a hard 20 milers documenting their tiredness for social media. Gotta love it. I was jealous they got to lay down. And for convoluted reasons, I had to drive Patty’s car home while everyone moaned about feeling nauseous and sharing photos. I drove in sullen depression. Quite a great run.

Most of us, I found out later, lay around the house for several hours in a general nauseated malaise. There were rumors that someone may have thrown up in their mouth during the run as well. God, running is so sexy. Despite all this trauma/drama, most of us were out at a mutual friend’s 40th birthday party. And just to show, I can clean myself up once in a blue moon (literally), here’s a nice shot of me and Jen not running or in sweaty workout clothes.

img_3591

I also spent part of Sunday shoving my face full of these delicious dumplings. They’re called wahng mahndoo (that is my phonetic spelling), which translates into something like king dumplings and are sold from a little shack outside of Joong Boo Foods (Korean supermarket) in Chicago. $2 each and they were huge. Of course, I ate 2. The one on the left is black rice with sweet bean, and the one on the right is kimchi. They also had a pork one that was already eaten by one of the kids. So good. I texted my friend when I was at the store to see if she needed anything. She requested 4 dumplings and nothing else when she heard I was there. Ha.

Anyhow, so what do you do when you have a crap run?

a. Ignore it and pretend it never happened (my family’s go-to reaction to anything difficult)

b. Look in the mirror, practice a winner’s smile, and say out loud to yourself, “Gosh darn it, you work hard, you look strong, and people like you.”

c. Give up running altogether as you’ve realized it’s not right for you after all.

d. Moan, groan, and bellyache about it to anyone who will listen, and then move the f* on. It’s a run, not world hunger, or nuclear disarmament. You could even try some Vonnegut on it, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

You can try and guess what I should do. What would YOU do?

P.S. Can we talk for a minute about how daylight savings it the curse of all parents? Got up at 7:30 this morning with one kid missing the bus, so a frenzy of lunch-packing, clothes-changing, and general chaos. Sigh.


2 Comments

Hilly hump day …

Ok, so after much haranguing, harumphing, and general boohooing, I finally looked at an elevation map of the Boston Marathon. I was totally in that “ignorance is bliss” stage. Not SO ignorant that I didn’t know Boston was hilly nor unfamiliar with the dreaded “Heartbreak Hill.” However, when I finally decided to do some Googling and actually SEE what all the insanity was about, I wasn’t sure I made the right choice. Here’s the comparison between Chicago and Boston by the numbers.

But then, here it is visually (I didn’t even bother attaching an elevation map of Chicago. It’s essentially a flat line…).

Click here for image source

It’s a NET decline…but you can see that there are pretty significant climbs. Now, when you consider climbs, you have to consider not just the amount of climb, but how quickly it happens. I’ve run many a path I thought it was flat on an out-and-back run, and realized that there was a slight decline on the way out, which feels mountainous on the way back. Also, the reason it’s called Heartbreak Hill is that it hits right at the point in the marathon where a lot of people bonk, doubt their sanity, or start crying for their moms. Right around/after mile 20. From the bit I’ve read, people will also trash their legs taking the downhill the first half of the marathon too hard. By the time you get to Heartbreak Hill, you don’t have much left.

That is why I’m glad I’ve gotten TWO, count them TWO, hill workouts in this week. Well, part of last week (Saturday’s long run) and Tuesday’s run. Here’s Kelly’s Gramin elevation breakdown from our Palos adventure.

12789821_10207145792436467_1147553980_o

It was also GLORIOUSLY warm on Tuesday, hot even, so I decided to be in nature and do the hills of Morton Arboretum. I’m not gonna lie, I was tired and took them too fast. I even did some form drills–overachiever, I know.

Here are some very professional-looking shots of my run… I know my hair looks crazy, but I feel silly enough taking selfies running. To spend time fixing myself to take the selfie when I’m a hot sweaty mess? Meh. As I said to someone last week, I like to keep expectations low so people are amazed when I can clean up 🙂

This picture was to show some of the elevation change at the Arboretum, but the 3-dimensional aspect isn’t quite capture, so it just looks like flat brown grass all the way to the water. I promise it looked hilly.

This “strength” bench is still one of my favorite bits.

You can see from my Garmin data, though…hardly impressive compared to BostonSnip20160309_2

I’m gonna have to get out to Palos more or do interval hill repeats at Big Bertha at Waterfall Glen. Ugh. This whole Boston training thing is draining. Really. Jen and I have been constant Negative Nellie’s about it. It’s not simply good enough to train for a marathon, but you have to do all this extra stuff you’re not used to running as a flatlander. Yes, yes, I know it’s “good for us.”

Boo, I don’t like things that are good for me. And, the insecurity complexes come out when I read about other run bloggers trying to PR at Boston and such. My training mileage is barely breaking 35 miles right now. This coming off of last fall’s training where I was running 55+ miles weekly BEFORE peaking. Patty, Jen, and I are trying to talk ourselves up about the FUN we are going to have at Boston and it probably (at least for me and Jen as of right now) is a “once in a lifetime” experience (although this year’s Boston jacket is so ugly, I feel like I will need to run it again to get a better one. Insanity, right?). Still, I can’t help but wonder if I will feel like a failure if I don’t reach some non-determined goal time. I told Jen last night that we should force ourselves to stop and take photos to “ruin” our end times and not think about the clock. We’ll see.

It IS hard, though, isn’t it? To not compare yourself to other people? Whether it is in regards to running, parenting, or general appearances. It’s a struggle to accept what is right FOR YOU and not for someone else. Long ago, I became a distance runner because I accepted that I wasn’t fast. Then I got a bit faster and started fixating on time and wanting to be “above average” (I’m pretty happy with race times if I’m above the midpoint time, ha). Then, when everyone started running marathons, I felt the need to be “above average” by qualifying for Boston (let’s ignore the fact that the average person does not run marathons, so that fact alone makes one above average…or at least NOT average). And now that I’m training for Boston, I feel a bit unsure I guess. I am NOT going to be above average there. And the more stable-minded, balanced folk reading this might ask, “What’s wrong with average?” Or maybe “average” is relative. I’m not even sure if this makes sense. The mind hamsters on their wheels are spinning and going nowhere, right?

It’s just that lately, even that pressure of getting out and doing the tempo runs or intervals is feeling burdensome, because there’s no clear goal. I am not going to be “above average” at Boston, so then I just want to go out and run now for fun. But I also have a hard time completely accepting that.

So I guess I’m at a crossroads of sorts in trying to figure out my feelings about running and racing (which are NOT synonymous, by the way). I still love running, but I’m trying to figure out what kind of training makes sense for me after Boston. Stay tuned! And feel free to pipe up with your thoughts on mixing things up and trying to figure out your own truth.


Leave a comment

Form Friday: That time I changed my form part 2

If you recall, a few weeks ago I promised a multi-week piece on good form. Little did you know that it meant it would be a couple weeks before the next post, ha!

Anyhow, to review: good form can be broken down by 1) midfoot strike, 2) running tall, 3) cadence, and 4) toe off. I wrote last time about the midfoot strike, so on to running tall. This one seems like an easy one. I mean, who wants to run short? Or run slouchy? HOWEVER, it’s rampant–partly because people, particularly women, have poor posture to begin with. Factor in double digit miles and tiredness and you get the picture. As much as I hate to admit it, running involves more than just strong legs and mental toughness. It involves quite a bit of core work.

Now before you get your panties in a bunch about why women have worse posture, let me explain. I’ve been talking a lot with Nicole of Mama’s Gotta Move about the importance of core for runners, but particularly the various core issues women (especially post-partum) have with weak core muscles. (Sidebar: She’s AMAZING and definitely a great resource/trainer for this, and has published in Runner’s World and other magazines about this.) This actually can lead to the breakdown of your body in other ways as you try to compensate.

As an example, I know someone  who is a perfectly lovely woman. She has a one-year-old at home (and another child) and her posture is painful to observe. It looks somewhat like a backwards question mark, with slouched shoulders and severely tucked in pelvis. If you then imagine the pressure on your spine and legs over miles running in that kind of position, you can begin to imagine the issues. Without good posture and core strength, she would essentially be collapsing in on herself with every stride.

With the running tall, there are actually two parts: a) posture and b) lean. I like the visual from yoga of imagining a string pulling you up from the crown of your head to the sky so that everything is nice and straight. Another way to visualize or practice this is to imagine/place a book upon your head (hello RunNerdider Lady’s Finishing School!) and walk around. If you demonstrate poor posture or slump either your head or shoulders, the book will fall.

I have a lot on my mind

Obviously if you were that stiff and rigid while you were running, that wouldn’t work either but you get the idea. You could try it with a bean bag for more give. So that’s the posture part.The other part is to lean slightly forward FROM YOUR ANKLES. To get a feel for what this means, stand as straight as you can and maintain that straight line from head to ankles and lean a bit forward keeping everything straight (so that your body looks like a math problem about angles). One workshop I attended on form suggested leaning until you almost fell into your next step and using that momentum. But always keeping that tall feeling. Leaning forward will also help keep your feet under your hips and prevent you from overstriding. If you want an extreme visual of what this looks like, look at a sprinter. When I was watching Race, they showed some of Owen’s training, particularly starting out. He was almost parallel to the ground for his first several steps, but he still had good posture and was really working to push off. Obviously you can’t keep that going, but that visual helps me think about my body and the power of my legs.

So this week try thinking about pulling yourself straight when you’re running, PARTICULARLY when you’re tired. I’ve noticed that I tend to lean back when I run, which places me more on my heels and requires more effort (and more pressure on my legs). Whenever I run by shop windows, I tend to check my posture–I swear it’s not to check if I look cute 🙂 Use opportunities to check in on what you’re doing and to correct yourself when you can! And obviously good posture is helpful outside of running as well.

On a very different note, I recently got an email from Boston that we are less than 50 days away. How is that possible? I can not think of another time that I’ve gone into a training cycle feeling so nervous and unsure. And even unprepared. I’m not sure if it’s because this race has been such a long-coming endeavor or because it’s BOSTON, but it’s FREAKING ME OUT. I think the fact that Patty, Jen, and I are all struggling with the training hasn’t been helping any of us. I keep vacillating about reading more about the race and learning as much as possible or doing the “don’t read/ignore/block everything until I’m there” route. Patty is going with the read everything and over-prepare route, but I don’t see it helping her anxiety about the race (sorry, Patty) so that doesn’t hold much promise for me. It also seems foolhardy to not go into the race with any understanding of what to expect either. Argh. Thoughts on race preparation and quelling nerves, etc? How do you manage anxiety around big races? Chime in with what you got!

And finally, I’m on Facebook. I’ve set up the blog to post through my new Facebook page as well. I know a lot of people spend more time reading on Facebook if they’re not heavy blog-readers, so you can catch me on there or here. I might also post up random thoughts that aren’t full posts there as well.

https://www.facebook.com/runnerdier

Happy running this weekend folks. Hope everyone gets a great long run in!