Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 Year In Review Mega-Post

2009, what a year. Running-wise, I’m not sure how 2010 is going to be able to top it. I had some amazing races, some huge training breakthroughs, tried some new things and loved them, and overall had a pretty incredible year. If I had to pick a theme for my athletic endeavors this past year, I’d have to use the line from the Gavin Degraw song “Meaning” – ‘sometimes the only way is jumping, I hope you’re not afraid of heights’.

2009 Race Stats
Miles: 4 [all track]
Best – 5:58, Carthage College Tadd Metzger Invite
Worst – 6:10?**, UWSP Invite [ugh, what a disaster...never try to race a mile less than an hour after the 3K...death]

3Ks: 3 [all track]
Best – 11:50, Wisconsin Open
Worst – 12:34, Carthage College Tadd Metzger Invite [first attempt at the distance, almost missed the start, got tripped...and still wanted to do it again]

3K steeplechase: 1
Wisconsin Twilight – 12:54

5Ks: 7 [5 track, 2 road]
Best – 19:54, Phil Esten Challenge @ SMU
Worst – 22:11, UW Running Club Valentine’s Day 5K [worst time, but by no means the worst race, that honor goes to my 20:47 at the Loras Open]

10Ks: 0 [eh, I really don’t like the 10K anyway. Maybe I’ll try to get one of those on the schedule in 2010]

Half Marathons: 2
Best – 1:42:25, Madison Half Marathon
Worst – 1:48:28, Madison Mini Marathon [exhibit A as to why you should not run a half marathon with a bad cold]

Marathons: 1
Baystate Marathon – 3:39:15, BQ

Triathlons: 1 [sprint]
Elkhart Lake Triathlon – 1:18:44

Total Races: 18
PRs set: 6 [PR in every event run except the mile]
Top 3 Best Races [no particular order]: Baystate Marathon, Elkhart Lake Triathlon, SMU 5K
Bottom 3 Worst Races [no particular order]: Madison Mini Marathon, Loras 5K, UWSP mile
Most Ridiculous Weather Award: Baystate Marathon [38 degrees, 20+ mph winds, rain...and over 3.5 hours to enjoy it!]
Runner Up: WLC 5K [35 degrees and windy up to 40 mph a track meet!]
AG Awards: 2 [1st place AG/overall female, Black Tie 5K, 1st place AG Elkhart Lake Tri]

This year has been the year that I really found out what it means to be a true long distance runner. My mid-distance running in track was limited to a few outings in the mile, all but one of which were pretty unsuccessful and one which was downright dreadful. I sucked it up and decided to give the 3000 meters a try, and ended up really liking it [despite almost missing the start and then getting tripped and going down hard 800 meters in in my first outing at the distance]. My best race at the distance came in January and was probably one of my better executed races of the year. And then...outdoor track.

My journey into the 5K began ridiculously enough on a 35 degree, windstorm day in March, at possibly the smallest track meet I’ve ever been to in my life...and that includes some JV duals in high school. Running the 5K on the track was a terrifying thing, I really had no clue what I was doing or why the hell I thought running a race that was almost 13 laps around the damn track was a good idea...but one way or another, I LIKED it. As soon as I finished that first race, steeplechase was no longer going to be my primary event of the season...I had to see what I could do in this crazy LD world.

Track season was nothing short of awesome – breaking my 4 year curse at Oshkosh, PRing at almost every meet, and just generally surpassing my wildest expectations of what I thought I could do in a distance event. As my race times kept getting better and my training was going perfectly, I started thinking that my goal of breaking 20 minutes, a goal which I had pretty much randomly pulled out of the air as a good thing to shoot for but really didn’t think I stood a chance of actually accomplishing, was actually becoming a possibility. And one magical night at St Mary’s University, it did. That race, that 19:54, running alone and in the back the entire race, I think was one of the top 5 best races of my running career. I ran like a total idiot [going out in 6:07? Not really that great of an idea] but somehow, everything came together right, and crossing that line to the number 19 on the clock was absolutely one of my top 5 running moments of 2009. The leap of faith into the 5K paid off...I had one of the best track seasons of my life, proved to myself that I could do it and that training hard paid off.

With track season over, my attention turned from track long distances into LONG long distances. First up, a half marathon, which was pretty much just an afterthought to the track season. The result? A 6:30 PR, though it was the result of one of the hardest races I’ve run in my life. Then, the BF talked me into doing a triathlon. I really had no clue what I was doing, but I rocked the swim, survived the bike, and kicked some serious ass on the run...and finally achieved my coveted 1st place AG award...hilariously, NOT in a strictly running race. Triathlon is slightly on the back burner in 2010 due to my lack of a bike and money to buy one, but don’t worry...this isn’t the last you’ll hear of that crazy sport here, because I smiled through the entire race and loved every second. I can’t wait to do another one, perhaps I’ll do more training than 5 trips to the pool and 2 bike rides this time...

And finally, I made the biggest jump of all...into the big kahuna of distance running, the marathon. I tossed the idea around for awhile, chickened out and started contemplating a half marathon instead, but when the HM closed and the pieces started coming together for a marathon, I took the plunge and signed up. Clicking “submit” on my marathon payment? TERRIFYING. And so began 4 months of figuring out how to train to run 26.2 miles. There were good days and bad days, and I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing, and I’m sure I made some mistakes. But in the end, on a freezing, raining, wind blowing October day, the result was a beautiful thing. For once in my life, I had a race plan, I knew what I wanted to do, and I executed. And that right there is why the marathon was the absolute proudest running moment of 2009 for me. I have a long history of choking in big races or races where I set my expectations high and am like “THIS is the day I’m going to do this” [see: NIRCA Nationals 08, high school track sectionals, Loras Open 5K, and plenty of other races throughout my career]. But here for once, magically and perfectly, everything came together and I stuck to my plan, and knew I could do it. I didn’t get freaked out by the competition, or get caught up in things and go out too fast, or pick a goal time too lofty for my training. I did exactly what I needed to do, when I needed to do it...and wow, was it incredible.

After the marathon, 2009 kind of whimpered out, as I’ve been struggling with IT band issues ever since the race. Things are starting to look up though since I’ve joined a gym and am incorporated cross training and a whole lot of foam rolling into my routine, and little by little things seem to be healing. I’m confident that even with a few setbacks at the beginning of this training cycle, running the Boston Marathon in 2010 is going to be an experience that I will never, ever forget.

So now that I’ve rambled on for awhile about the highlights of my running life in ’09, here are some things that I’ve learned as a runner:
~I’ve learned that marathons are AWESOME, and the journey there is like 95% of the reward...but a great performance on race day is the icing on the cake.
~I’ve learned that a 22 mile solo run will really show you what you’re made of.
~I’ve learned that it’s OK to have a bad race and that it’s pointless to dwell on a poor performance. I still beat myself up over bad races, but I’m trying to be more positive and focus more on things that I can do to make the next race a success.
~I’ve learned that I really like racing and I get antsy when I don’t do it for awhile.
~I’ve learned that it’s actually possible to smile during a race
~I’ve learned that you don’t get bored while running marathons
~~I think, in general, I’ve become a much smarter runner. I am slowly but surely learning how to run EASY on easy days and why it’s not necessary to hammer every single day. I feel like I’m much more in tune with my training and figuring out what things are working for me and what things aren’t, and I think in general I’ve just become more serious about the sport and am working to improve all aspects of my training to make me a better runner.
~I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to take a risk and do something that totally scares you, and while you’re training for it you think to yourself “why the hell am I doing this?” and on race day you’re terrified that you’re going to completely fail. It’s like that quote “only those who risk going too far can find out how far they can possibly go”. If somebody had told me a year ago that I’d be running 2 marathons, one of them being Boston, before I turned 23, I would have laughed in their face. You just never know what a new distance has in store for you...and you’ll never find out unless you give it a try.

Finally, as I say goodbye to 2009, time to put in place some GOALS for 2010! Dare I say new year’s resolutions?
-Be SMART about injuries, and don’t run through an injury again. If I hadn’t been an idiot and tried to run through this IT band crap, I probably would be fine by now. Sometimes taking a break from running is completely necessary and it’s not going to ruin all of your fitness and strength.
-Along those same lines, working on injury prevention and strengthening. I’m really going to try hard to keep up with my core work and get in the gym to lift a couple times a week, because strength training is something that’s always been missing in my running routine and I’m sure it hasn’t helped my injury problems.
-Cross train on days off of running. Now that I belong to a gym, I don’t have an excuse. I actually really, really enjoy swimming, and I’ve found that it can mimic the intensity of running pretty well. I’m still keeping my 1 day off of running a week [it keeps me sane], but I’m hoping to at least get some workout in on that day.
-Run at least run race of 5K, 10K, HM, and marathon. The marathon is obviously Boston. I’m really interested to see what I could run in a 10K in a couple months. The 5K I’m kind of scared of because I’m sure I’ve only gone downhill from that glorious 19:54, but my road race PR is only 21:47, so I’d love to best that. And the HM...well, we have some unfinished business to take care of. I’d love to have a GOOD half marathon race.
-Try some new distances. I’ve already got my eye on the Eastern States 20 miler as Boston Prep, but I think a 15K or 10 miler would also be fun to add to the repetoire.
-Run a couple of XC meets. I miss XC. I want to get more involved in GBTC too, it’s been hard since the marathon with being injured and all, but hopefully that’s on the road to recovery.
-Try to eat healthier. I’m blessed with a combination of a great metabolism and being really active, so I basically eat whatever I want, but I really WANT to do a better job of eating more things that are actually good for me. More fruits and veggies, and more cooking instead of making crap from a box [difficult at times as a poor grad student, but at least making the effort would be good :)] If nothing else, at least take my vitamins every day. :)
-Have a healthy, injury-free, successful 2010 filled with fun, races, and many PRS :) this long enough yet? I’m writing this at 35,000 feet or whatever airplane cruising altitude is because I’m on my way back to Wisconsin for Christmas...yay! First time bringing a laptop on a plane...oh so thrilling haha. I’m also running on approximately 2 hours of sleep which is awesome...our flight left at 6:15 am and the trains don’t run that early, so we decided to just go the night before and hang out at the airport from midnight on. FUN TIMES! Luckily my quickie 4 mile run [yes!! I’m running again, and my knee doesn’t hurt!!!] at 9 pm woke me up for awhile. Airport floors/seats are not as comfortable to sleep on as I would have hoped haha, but I did snuggle under my pea coat and catch a few Zs. And wrapped all my presents! Hehe. Actually funny story...I am bringing my Stick home so I can keep up with my IT band rolling while I’m there...and my bag got called out of security because of it! Not because of the scissors I used to wrap presents, oh no, the guy was like “’s some sort of exercise bar?” It kind of made me laugh.

I guess this is what happens when I don’t post for like...forever, and then I’m bored and caffienated on a plane and need something to do haha. But I’m going to wrap this up. Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL Christmas and holidays, and a happy, happy new year! I hope you all had a fantastic 2009 and that 2010 is just as good. :)

In the immortal words of NSYNC...”Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!”

Edit on 12/26: Finally getting around to posting this! Sorry I have been absent for quite some time in blogland, my google reader has 49 new blogs for me to read which is A LOT for me! Thanks a lot, crappy home internet.  I'll be back to commenting and whatnot soon :) Hope everyone had a very merry Christmas...I'm now back in the airport at Milwaukee [thanks, Google, for the free WiFi!] and headed back to Boston on a slightly delayed flight. AND I ran 6 miles yesterday [Christmas day], outside [in the rain :)], pain free [longest run with no knee pain since the marathon!!].  Talk about a great Christmas present... :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where have I been?

A mulitple choice quiz: What have I been doing that's been keeping me from blogging this past week?
A) Joining a gym and discovering the "joys" of ellipticalling, pool running, swimming, and lifting
B) Making best friends/becoming a slave to the foam roller
C) Working almost 50 hours, including 28 in the past 2 days
D) Running 5 miles pain free today!
E) All of the above

If you guessed win!'s been a CRAZY week at work [everyone wants their dog groomed and looking snazzy for the holidays, oh boy], I finally sucked it up and joined a gym, taking an entire WEEK off of running [um, TORTURE!] I have found that I can swim for 45 minutes straight and enjoy it, that the elliptical destroys my soul, and that the foam roller is both amazing and evil.  And I have been formulating a master plan for making it to Boston without my knee exploding or my training sucking.  For now, I'm just starting back up running every other day again and working up the mileage relatively slowly.  On the non-running days, I'm cross training like a beast and becoming one of those cool people who actually lifts...haha oh geez.  Anyway, hopefully I'll manage to start posting more often again once my work schedule calms down a little bit, at the very least I must post a review of 2009 before the new year begins!

For now I'm basking in the glow of the fact that I ran 5 miles today [albeit on the treadmill of doom] and my knee didn't poop out on me, and that I'm going out to dinner and the Nutcracker with my favorite boy...don't worry, I'm back in the holiday spirit, no bah humbugs here :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bah humbug

That's what I think about my knee...turns out, I will NOT be running Walter's Run 5K tomorrow [good thing I was planning on signing up day-of, right?] because my knee decided to completely poop out on me after 3 awesome days of running.  8+ miles, 6 miles, 8+ miles, all pretty much pain-free...then after ~2 miles yesterday, I was left unable to go up & down stairs without pain.

I think this is the final straw and I finally have to swallow my pride and admit: I can't run through this injury.  I have tried and tried to make it OK, and I've thought that just a little pain vs. a TON of pain meant it was getting better...but clearly, it's not.  I'm really frustrated since I had zero problems when I was running crazy high mileage leading up to the marathon, and now I can't do anything - clearly, something happened during the marathon that...wasn't cool. I've been trying so hard to slowly get my mileage back up and see what I can do while still keeping the pain in check, but it just doesn't seem to be working.  So...I'm forcing myself to take a week COMPLETELY off of running.  You heard me right - zero running.  I am planning on taking advantage of a "7-day trial" that a fitness center with a pool in my area has and rocking out the swimming/pool running/elipticalling [ugh, gag me] for the next week, and seeing if things improve.  This is going to be SO HARD for me...but all I've wanted for the past 2 months was to be able to just go out and run and not worry about my damn knee falling apart on maybe, if I give it a little time to rest and take the stress off, while continuing to stretch and roll it out...good things will happen [maybe a Christmas miracle?]

I'm sort of freaking out because my marathon training program for Boston is supposed to start in 2 WEEKS...and obviously, I am nowhere near ready for that kind of intensity at the moment. My cardio, and for the most part my muscles, feel relatively ready, but it terrifies me to have to go into this training program without a real, solid week of base where I've made it over 37 miles, and ONE damn 10 mile run which was pretty much a failure thanks to my stupid knee.   I've been trying to run within the limits of my injury issue, but I'm starting to wish that I had taken the time off when the problem STARTED, not after it's continued and potentially gotten worse over the past 2 months.  Unfortunately, I only just got a job a couple of weeks ago, so getting into the gym wasn't even a question when I didn't have any income...

One other thought: my self-diagnosis of my problem is IT band syndrome, something I've dealt with before pretty successfully by just taking a week or two off [I vividly remember being on a run with my friend Nicole and literally being in tears because I felt like my knee was being ripped apart from the inside, and ending up having to walk ~3 miles home, after going on a 6 day vacation to Mexico where I didn't run at all, and then another week of just cross training, all was fine].  I've heard some pretty amazing things about ART, and I know there are at least a few decent practices in the Boston area, so for anyone who has any experience with this: is it worth the money? I do have a job at this point, but I'm still trying to save for student loans and various other things, so $75 for a 30 minute session seems like a lot to me...however, if it would let me run pain-free again, and let me train fo a PR in Boston?  I can't even put a price on that.

I am also wondering if my shoes are playing a role in this problem?  I did train for the marathon in a pair of apparently higher stability shoes, Etonics Kendaris [won in a small road race, I didn't even know that Etonics made running shoes, but I was a poor college student and figured I should take what I could get!] I went back to my old standby, Mizuno Wave Inspires, after 550+ miles on the Kendaris, but I'm starting to feel like the 5th edition of this shoe has less of the stability of the 4s.  I noticed that they came out with a 6th edition of the Inspires [already??] so I wonder if those would be better...if anyone has any experience with those, I'd love to hear about it!

Anyway, I'm pretty frustrated.  I'm trying to look on the bright side and hopefully I'll be able to work these trial memberships for all they're worth and advance my fitness in other ways...but really, all I want to do is run, and not worry about my knee falling apart or ruining my day halfway through a long run.  I wasn't worried about training for another marathon just because of the distance, but now with this issue hanging over my head....I'm really worried.  :(

Monday, December 07, 2009

Oh hey, 5K

So I've realized I'm really boring and have absolutely nothing to write about on this when I'm not in training for something - LAME! And then I realized that right now is the first time in a looong time that I haven't been training for something...I mean, the past couple of months of just doing whatever I've wanted in terms of running have been great, but I'm getting antsy! I need to go fast! And I can't help feeling that I've lost fitness so at the same time I know the first few weeks of hard training are going to be a beeeyotch, especially if my knee continues it's on again-off again act. [Saturday's 5.5 miler: total disaster that ended in me having to walk part of the way home, Sunday's 6.1 miler, just peachy keen!]

Sooo in the spirit of changing things up a little bit, I think I'm going to run a 5K on Saturday...ahhhh yes. I don't even remember how to run a 5K. When was the last time I even vaguely tried to go fast? May? Haha yeah... Interestingly enough, it can be kind of hard to find races out here that I can actually get to without a car...obviously Boston does have quite a few pretty major road races, but it's a little harder if you're looking for just kind of a cheap, local 5K that isn't going to sell out...well, that appears to be basically what this one is. The proceeds go to a kids charity, after looking at the results from last year it looks like I would at least have a shot in the dark of placing in my age group if I ran decently [not that that's really a reason I run a race, but it's always a bonus], and who can say no to a festive Christmas run? Not this girl! I also think I'm going to run in "costume" which isn't something I've ever done before...I've always been super hardcore about racing, but who says you can't run well while wearing a green tank top with red underarmor and socks that say "Santa Paws" on them? Haha.

For real though, I think this will be a great opportunity to see what kind of shape I'm in and how my knee will hold up to a few miles of faster running. I'm actually a little scared that I'll end up running some awful time because I haven't run fast in so long, and I KNOW it's going to be painful and suck...but it will be fun, right? I need a new race number to add to the board, anyway. :)

Other than that...this week has been crazy in terms of weather, it was 68 degrees on Thursday, which was just...INSANE! I never thought I'd see the day I could run in shorts and a t-shirt in December...but that's exactly what I did! It was a little weird to be honest. Then later in the week it snowed, and I had to remember how to dress for running in the winter...and of course how much I adore UnderArmor! Yesterday I did my favorite reservoir run and it was absolutely beautiful...the snow was clinging to the trees and the grass and the cluster of houses that are on the hill across from the reservoir looked like one of those little Christmas pretty! I actually kind of like running in the winter...maybe it's my Wisconsin upbringing haha...but I always feel badass when I'm running and it's cold...there's a special camaradrie between the runners who are crazy enough to go pound out some miles when it's sleeting or below freezing.

Weekly mileage: 35.5
2 weeks straight of 30+ mileage? Whoa...let's not get ahead of ourselves here. :P

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's Christmas season, in case you didn't get that. I'm one of those people who refuses to give in to the day-after-Halloween-let's bust out the carols business, but when the day after Thanksgiving does arrive...I am FESTIVE...and my festivity is doubled this year because I don't have winter finals hanging over my head before the holidays...glorious! Yesterday I went to Yankee Candle and bought my 2 faaaavorite Xmas scents...balsam/cedar and now the apartment smells amazing, and today I had to hold myself back from buying out the entire holiday decoration section at Marshalls...I mean...who DOESN'T want dishtowels with reindeer on them or santa wine glasses or glittery Christmas trees? I'm such a nerd haha. I did pick up a couple of things for the Toys for Tots drive that the alumni association is doing, so that made me happy...I love doing that sort of thing around the holidays, and it kind of makes me laugh that I spend way too much money at Christmas because I absolutely LOVE buying stuff for other people!

So, I admit I've been neglecting this blog a little bit this past week...I have just been BUSY [lol, I just accidentally wrote "busty" for that...which I most definitely am not haha]...and when I'm not busy, I'm sleepy. I've been training at my job which has been a lot of work and time, but I'm playing with puppies and making money, so I'm pretty happy. Running wise, I finally managed to get in a decent week last week - 37.7 miles. After the sad 20-25 mile weeks I've been putting in since the marathon, I was really happy to actually put some semi-respectable mileage on the board. I actually did 2 "long" runs this week - 9.25 miles on Thanksgiving, and 10.1 on Sunday. The Thanksgiving run was crazy. First of all, I was running really fast for most of it - there's another reservoir near me that is almost exactly 1 mile around, and I clocked one of my laps there at 6:54...tempo run what what! I had planned on doing 6 or 7 miles, then stopping at the grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine [which the BF and I had forgotten for our stuffing recipe] and taking the train home...buuut then Trader Joe's was closed, so I ran around to all the nearby grocery/liquor stores [there are a LOT within a ~1 mile radius!]...unfortunatly none were open. Duh Audrey, why would a liquor store be open on Thanksgiving? I wasn't THAT sad about it because I was happy to get in a longer run. :) And no worries, the wine turned out to be a pretty minor ingredient and the stuffing was perfectly amazing without it!

My knee started bugging me about halfway through my 10 miler on Sunday, which was too bad. The weather was was like 55 and I actually ran about half of the time in just a t-shirt and shorts, then threw on my arm warmers when it started to get darker/colder. That's pretty much unheard of for me at that time of the year! I had to keep stopping every few minutes after about 7 miles to stretch out my leg, which was pretty frustrating...this damn knee keeps faking me out, making me think it's all better! Boo. But I was happy to get through it and realize that I do still have the fitness to do some longer runs.

Hmm...well I ended up with 112.6 miles in November, which is honestly more than I would have expected considering I've been semi-injured the whole month. It's kind of hard to believe that the marathon was a month and a half ago! I started off December with a very nice 5.5 mile run on my one and only spectacular "night run route" [well lit, busy streets, tons of runners, & Boston College!] and as a fitting beginning to December, I actually had to bust out my running tights! Sad? Kinda, but in my mind winter doesn't start until December, so I can tolerate it I guess haha. The thing I hate about winter is how early it gets dark...seriously...completely dark at 5 pm?? That's practically still afternoon! The only positive is that there are plenty of people finishing up work at that time, and so plenty of runners out and about which always makes me feel better. Another thing I don't mind about winter running? I have a full Christmas playlist on my iPod, and I don't feel bad about listening to it. Don't even worry about it. Manheim Steamroller = AMAZING!

And finally, to start off December right, I give you a holiday "classic"...always makes me laugh :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some kind of happiness is measured out in miles

It's night, mist is hanging heavy over the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, the lights of the BC stadium seem extra bright reflecting across the water, against the haze. I'm wet but not cold in the least, and I'm flying along the reservoir with "Born To Run" blasting in my headphones. I haven't seen a single runner out tonight, even though it's 5:30 pm, usually a rush hour of runners up and down Beacon Street after work. But not tonight...tonight the reservoir is mine. I cruise along, finally stopping at a baseball/football field, abandoned at the moment but blazing with lights for some reason, a brilliant square of light. For some reason I'm totally caught up in the joy and awesomeness of having this field all to myself - I want to spin in circles with my arms out like a little kid, giddy in the rain. But instead I do the next best thing - I stride across the field as fast as I can, kicking up mud and leaves and rain, soaking my shoes through, half-tripping in holes and slipping on muddy patches. I'm just completely caught up in utter joy and this running, this crazy thing, that makes me feel more alive than anything else I can imagine. Rain flies off my face as I sprint down the field one last time, and I know this: I can have this, these moments of pure freedom and happiness, and I am infinitely grateful.

I don't mean to write a cliched "oh it's Thanksgiving, so I'm thankful for..." type post. There are more incredible people and things in my life than I can count, along with the less incredible it goes for most people. But tonight as I was running, and thinking of how Thanksgiving is tomorrow, all could feel was the overwhelming emotion was that I am so thankful for this.

I hope everyone has a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving...I am looking forward to cooking more food than the BF and I will ever be able to eat. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An open letter to my left knee + earliest run ever!

Dear knee,

Honestly, for the most part, you've been very good to me. You've gotten me through many, many, many miles with nary a complaint. You got me through some intense cross country and track seasons, and even training for a marathon with not an effing clue what I was doing, without making a peep. 65 mile weeks and you were totally cool with it. Sure, there were days when you were a little cranky with me, but we always managed to make amends. So what's changed, knee? Are you mad at me for only running 5 days a week lately? Were you not happy with the 5 days off I gifted you with after the marathon? Or are you pissed off that I'm trying to get my mileage back up to a respectable number after a month of crap? Because lately, knee, you've been acting like the lyrics to the song...

You're hot then you're cold, you're yes then you're no, you're in then you're out, you're up then you're down. You're wrong when it's right, it's black then it's white, we fight, we break up, we kiss, we make up.

Seriously though knee? What's going on? We've had some really great runs the past couple of weeks. When you were hurting a while back, I gave you your space. I gave it a rest. I worked my way back into your heart slowly, and you seemed cool with it. Things were just getting back to normal, knee. So where did I go wrong? Suddenly you're hurting me again, and that's just not fair. Knee, I really don't think our relationship is in a good place right now. This just isn't right. So please, for both our sakes, get it together, man up, do whatever you have to do. Because I'm getting sick and tired of pampering you and catering to your every need at every hour of the day...and I especially dislike doing this when you pick 4 miles into my run to start screaming at me. I will not tolerate this, knee. I will roll and stretch you and the muscles connected to you until you and I start to see eye to eye. Because seriously. Not cool, knee. NOT COOL.

Lovingly yours,

So yeah, I'm not real happy with my knee at the moment. I've been virtually pain free for the past 2 weeks, and now suddenly - BAM, flare-up. For now, I'm going to blame the 3 days in a row I took off while I was attempting to adjust to my new up-at-6am-hour commute-work for 7 hours-hour commute-want to sleep schedule. Yes, folks, I have rejoined the land of the employed, which is great for my bank account but not so great for my running. Because apparently my only marketable skill involves pampering puppies, I found a job at a dog groomer/kennel, which is awesome, except for the fact that it takes ~an hour to get to via a combination of 2 different trains and a bus. But then I realized something magical: the reason it takes so long to get to this place by public transportation is because it's not a straight shot - you have to go downtown and then across town and etc. Straigh there, it's a little over 6 miles. Sooo the wheels started turning in my head - obviously it would take me less than an hour to run 6 miles...get my run in AND skip a long & boring commute? Um yes please!

So I put my plan into action today and ran to work, leaving a little before 7 am. I'm pretty sure that's the earliest I've ever headed out for a run in my LIFE! And it was awesome! I think I'm really a morning person at heart, I just have to get used to going to bed early enough that I get enough sleep to not be cranky in the morning [aka, I've been going to bed at 10-10:30 lately...LAME I know but's not like I would be doing anything at that time of night besides stupid things on the computer or whatever]. Plus, the idea of killing two birds with one run is just so enticing to me - one of the things I hate is getting home from work [when it's 4:15 and practically dark out already] and knowing I have to go for a run, in the dark, on a lame street that's lit, and I'm tired and I never want to. Especially after coming home from a job where I'm standing, squatting, bending, reining in crazy dogs who want to jump off the grooming table, and other active things all day. This way it was like...woo hoo! I'm getting to work AND my run is done for the day! That's just pure awesome right there.

It also didn't hurt that the route to my job happens to be randomly gorgeous! Some things I get to run past included: 3 different ponds, parks, the Arboretum [yes, I FINALLY found it, so next time I go on a 20 mile adventure I will turn the correct way :)], a really pretty parkway with some cool woods [and possibly trails which I may have to go exploring at some point?], another trail running along some woods...freaking amazing! Apparently there are a bunch of other parks in the vicinity so I will most likely be checking those out at some point. Hello, new marathon training routes! Unfortunately, my knee started getting cranky around pond #2, and by the time I hit the pretty parkway it was screaming at me. At that point I also thought I might be lost so I wasn't too happy about having to keep stopping to stretch and rub my leg when I wasn't even sure where I was. Luckily I was not, in fact, lost, and I somehow made it to work on time despite my crying knee. Whatever this thing is [and I still can't figure out if its IT band issues, tendinitis, or some other mystery problem], rest doesn't seem to help AT ALL. If anything, it seems to make it worse. However, running through pain like that doesn't seem like a great idea either, so what. the. effing. crap. am I to do about it? I sort of neglected my stretching the past few days, and I think that was bad, since stretching did seem to help today during my run...sooo...let's just say I will be making sure to stretch a LOT in the coming days and see what happens.

Well, the good news about the run was that aside from the poopy knee, I felt great! Morning runs may very well become a staple of my running schedule...and I think I'll like it that way.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fall frolickings

This past weekend my beloved Wisconsin Track Club raced at NIRCA XC Nationals [NIRCA being an organization for collegiate running clubs that is pretty sweet]. The boys repeated as national champs [woot woot!] and the girls got 4th, which is pretty awesome considering that last year we got 9th. It's CRAZY business though how much faster that team is getting, last year at nationals I was the 6th runner on our team [granted, in a mind-blowingly awful race in which I ran a minute and a half slower than my PR...but yeah] after generally hanging out around the #4 or 5 spot in the earlier part of the season. This year? My previous PR would have put me 10th on our team. Holy crap, my friends are FAST!

I really do miss cross country - both the team aspect and just the races themselves...running fast over hills and through the mud and was just so cool and badass. I kind of missed out on the XC season at Franklin Park here because I was in marathon mode, and something tells me that next fall might be more of a return to the trails instead of marathon madness. I didn't really think about it or miss it until after I finished the marathon, when I saw all of my teammates busting out these amazing times and I couldn't help but wonder...if everyone I've been running with for 4 years is kicking ass now...would I be doing the same? Would I be dropping tons of time too? Or would I be getting left in the dust? It was weird looking at the results and thinking "oh, well if I ran in the same spot as I usually do...I would be PRing by a lot!" Obviously I was committed to a much different goal this season, and only one of those teammates has run a marathon [and she's way better than me in all distances anyway :)] so it doesn't really bother me, but it's just kind of...weird. As I think I said at some point previously on this blog, this is the first time my life hasn't been measured in track and XC seasons, and it's sort of strange not having all these races to improve upon throughout the year and instead just having this one BIG race. I'm thinking that for my Boston training cycle, I'm going to try to include more races in my training, because they're a good stimulus for me to run hard and not slack off, plus they let me keep my sanity a little bit. :)

So, I must have been thinking about running fast when I went on my usual Chestnut Hill Reservoir loop today, because I ran the fastest I ever have on that loop...I'm calling it an "unintentional tempo run" - 5.8 miles at 7:18 pace. It was such a gorgeous, crispy, sunny fall day, and I really got into a great rhythm for the first time in what feels like a looooong time. How has it been a month since the marathon?

On Sunday I actually sucked it up and ran 9.5 miles which was...interesting? It was super humid which didn't help my situation, but I was kind of sad at how exhausted I felt. Then I realized that my longest run in the past month had been 6 miles [once] and I didn't feel so bad anymore. I did keep a 7:49 average pace so that was pretty good, my life probably would have been a lot easier if I would have just slowed down but we all know that's not how I roll. :) Seriously though, I think it's time for this girl to get back into the running groove! My knee is still a little questionable at times, like at the end of todays fast run it was definitely tight and cranky, but I'm keeping an eye on it and stretching and doing strenthening exercises like a mofo...and I think as long as I'm not an idiot and completely overdo it, it will be OK.

I also decided...finally...that this winter, I am going to start doing ABS again! My core could definitely use some work, and it's been so long since I did any ab/back exercises...too long! My new ab workout is called...POWER HOUR ABS! It's kind of like 8 minute IS 8 minute abs, but I keep track of the time using a playlist I made for a power hour a couple years ago. Exactly 1-minute songs that are all fun and get you excited to do some crunches? Heck yes! I'm also going to try to start working some pushups and other arm stuff into my routine because I am a weakling when it comes to my arms! And I figure, any kind of increase in strength anywhere is bound to help my running one way or another!

Well in non-running related news, I had a fantastic weekend. On Friday night the BF and I had an impromptu Mexican fiesta with a couple friends, complete with a couple Coronas with lime and Chipotle-style burritos the BF and I cooked up...yum! Saturday we headed to The Baseball Tavern and watched the Badgers kick the crap out of most-hated MICHIGAN so that was pretty sweet. We decided to go to the aquarium after the game because it was rainy and crappy, and being members, we get in for free whenever we want! They have a really cool jellyfish exhibit:

Cool sea nettles

They also do a lot with bigger sea animals like seals, sharks, and [my personal favorite] SEA TURTLES!!

Myrtle the turtle!

This one is my personal favorite! His name is Bandalier and he's just a little guy...the aquarium does lots of sea turtle rescues around this time of year when turtles get stranded as they head south and get shocked by the cold. I'm a total sucker for random animals [llamas, goats, penguins...] and I think sea turtles may have been added to the list of ridiculous animals that I just love for some reason. :) [Also, I really like the name Bandalier for some reason, and I decided that when I finally get a road bike, that's what it's name will be. Just FYI, I like planning ahead on these things haha]

And finally, I just have to share the dinner I made yesterday....I was really excited about it haha. Being poor grad students/college graduates, the BF and often survive on such delicacies as mac & cheese, ham sandwiches, and black beans & rice...all delicious, but not much fun or excitement, and no real cooking involved! So occasionally we entertain ourselves and come up with something fun, delicious, healthy, and reasonably cheap to create. Last night I got the idea into my head that I really wanted some acorn squash with brown mom always used to make it in the fall when I was younger, but I definitely haven't had it since going to college! I went to Whole Foods [which conveniently and somewhat horribly] is located like a block from my apartment, and picked up some squash, brown sugar, and some things to mix into pasta. The squash was super easy to just throw a little butter and sugar into and bake, then I threw together some pasta [I really like those curly ones, they're fun] with sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and olive oil. Add a Saranac Maple Porter to top it off and...ta da! A delicious fall dinner!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Hump Day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

TIART: Favorite Race

So here I go, jumping on the TIART bandwagon! I'm actually kind of excited about this too because I'm sure it will give me more awesome blogs to yay for that! So the question of the week is from Yummy Running, whose blog I haven't checked out yet, so I'm putting that on the to-do list! The question is:
What is your favorite race? Do you live for the marathons or crave a 5k? Would you rather race in the morning, afternoon, or at night? Do you like big races with tons of people and encouraging crowds or do you prefer the smaller hometown races?

Hmm...the more I think about this question, the tougher it gets for me to answer it! Well, lets start off with what ISN'T my favorite race: the 10K. I don't know...I just don't dig the 10K. It's too long to be 5K fast, but still short enough that it's kind of just painful...yeah, it's just not my style.

While I don't hate the half marathon, and I definitely think my time to break 1:40 is coming soon, I wouldn't say it's my favorite race either. HMs hurt a lot. I wouldn't say I've ever had an "amazing" HM race. They're fun, and I like that they're more of an endurance race, but favorite? Ehh, you'll have to earn that title, 13.1.

So that brings us to the opposite ends of the spectrum: the 5K and the marathon. I love them both for different reasons. The 5K is FAST. You can run it on a track, or cross country...and boy oh boy, do I love track and cross country. Training for the 5K on the track and actually achieving my goal of breaking 20 was one of the coolest experiences I've had as a runner, and the feeling of running FAST is pretty amazing. I also love the fact that outside the college running circuit, you can pretty much jump in a 5K whenever, without really having to specifically train or think about it. If your "A" race doesn't go as planned, it's highly likely you can find a new "A" race the next weekend, and I like that a lot about the 5K. I also get very, very competitive in this race, probably due to my background with it on the track and in XC. 5K, I LIKE you!

Buuut then there's the marathon...which I'm a little afraid to say I may be slightly in love with. Maybe it's because I was lucky enough to have just a magical first marathon experience, but something about the marathon...I love it. I think the fact that training for the marathon is so much of the journey is what makes me love it. The marathon is amzing too because just doing it, and doing it well, is an accomplishment by itself, whereas if I run a 5K and it doesn't go well, I just feel cranky and like I failed.

And obviously, I'm bad at making decisions! I almost think I like the 5K and the marathon equally because they're opposites - the 5K is like "run fast until you puke" and the marathon is like "run slow until your legs want to fall off". So maybe the answer is that I like races that are really painful, but so incredibly gratifying when you're done. :)

Well, I think as far as size, I like a medium sized race - one enough that there's still competition and excitement, but not so huge that you get totally lost in the crowd. Even though I like doing runs/workouts at night, I like racing in the morning...something about getting up super early is half the fun! And there is NOTHING in the world like a cross country race...hundreds of people flying off that line...that's one thing I really miss, and I'd love to find some open XC races out here.

Anyway...that's about it! Happy Thursday everyone!

The beginning of the Boston plan...and birdwatching!

First things first: I found this as I was mindlessly surfing blogs the other day, and I got really excited [again] about Boston even though it's months away...gotta start with some inspiration!

I mention this because today I got my special postcard that says "Yay, you're officially running Boston!" [ know...something to that effect :)] Getting mail is exciting enough by itself these days, since the mailbox is usually empty or maybe if I'm lucky includes a Brookstone or IKEA catalog addressed to the previous resident, so when I opened the box and saw a letter with the return address of "The Starting Line, Hopkinton, MA" [yes, that's really what it says, which is AWESOME in my opinion] I was just like...eek! Yay!

Anyway. So even though I have a month and a half before I have to get back into hardcore marathon training mode, I've been starting to look at my Baystate training cycle and try to figure out what I liked, what I didn't like, what I think worked, what I don't think worked...etc. I put all my workouts and paces into a nifty little Excel file and have been kind of looking at how it all lays out. Here are some of the most basic stats I came up with:

# of weeks: 16 [technically, my spreadsheet is 22 weeks, but it's pretty obvious when you look at it the first 6 I wasn't really in training...well, I was in training, but I was in training for a TRIATHLON. Not a whole lot of hard running going on there.]

Average weekly mileage: 46.8 miles [when I take the week when I went up north and only ran 19 miles out, the average goes up to 48.2 which is probably a more accurate representation]

Highest mileage: 66.8

Easy run pace range: 7:16-8:22 [hmm...yeah, we'll talk more about this later :)]

Long run pace range: 8:01-8:45

Average workouts/week: 1

Long run progression: 11, 14, 16, 16, 18, none, 13.1, none 21, 22, 18, 22, 13

So, what things do I like about this? Well, I think the 16 week plan was just about perfect. If I start on January 1 for Boston, that gives me 15 weeks, which I think is fine since if you take my 19 mile week into account, I really only had 15 weeks of official training anyway. I think keeping my mileage between about 50 and 60 is pretty solid, although I wouldn't mind upping the miles even a little more this cycle. I could see myself topping out maybe at 70 this time around, although we'll see about that.

I consistently took 1 day off a week, and while it sure is easier to get 70 miles into 7 days than it is into 6, I'm keeping my day off, and I think I'll continue to do so in future training cycles for any running-only event. Having a day when I don't have to run at ALL really kept me sane, especially when the mileage got pretty big and I was doing a 20 mile long run, an interval workout, and another 10 or 11 mile quality day in the same week.

As far as long runs, I think I could do a little better in that area. Mostly I don't want to have essentially 3 weeks with my longest run being 13 miles. I liked the 3 20+ mile runs, and I think I'll keep that pretty much the way it was - the timing of them seemed pretty good too, with the last one close enough to the race that it was just a huge confidence boost. Basically my plan is to be up to 10 or 11 miles before I actually get into "training" and then after that my long runs look like this: 12, 14, 15, 16, 16, 18, 16, 18, 15, 21, 22, 18, 22, 13 [notice a similarity in the last 5 weeks from this past cycle? Yeah, yeah, I'm a little superstitious, and now that I didn't do an exactly 20 mile run in this cycle, I'll always do more than 20, never exactly :)]

OK, well I'm sure anyone reading this is probably terribly bored by now, so I'll unveil the other parts of the plan later [paces and plans for workouts, hehe] One thing I will say is that I plan on trying to work on running at "marathon goal pace" obviously that meant I actually had to PICK a goal pace. So as of right now, I am setting my goal at 3:35, which is an 8:12 pace. 10 seconds per mile to take off is a lot, but who knows. So that's the idea for right now...

In other news, my knee finally seems to be getting back to it's old self! My hamstrings and glutes are still pretty tight, but stretching a lot combined with running more actually seems to be helping rather than hurting. Yesterday I was thrilled to actually be able to run 6 miles with no problem...WOO HOO!! I think I'll just be hanging out in the 30-40 mpw range for awhile, but I'm just happy at the moment to actually be able to run for 45 minutes without my knee exploding. The only thing that's still a little weird is having to kind of conciously think about it while I'm running - I guess in a way it's good to be more in tune with my body when I'm running because half the time I'm totally in my head and just kind of cruising along. But since my knee problem, I have really actively been thinking about things feeling tight, aches, pains, and sensations as I'm running and just being a lot more aware of what's going on.

Today's run was just another example of why I LOVE fall in New England! It was a crispy 50 degrees and pretty windy, which was a little irritating to fight but I hardly noticed after awhile. The leaves are such gorgeous colors right now, and I was very happy listening to them crunch on the sidewalk as I ran through. I went to my other "go-to" reservoir, the 1 mile loop at Brookline, and saw some ducks, geese, and a fun new duck-like bird I had never seen before called a hooded merganser...if you check out the picture, I was able to ID it because of the huge white spot on their heads. :) I don't go "bird-watching", but I do have a field guide and it's kind of fun to look it up when I see a bird I've never seen before...there are plenty out here that I hadn't seen in Wisconsin!

OK, so I decided that I want to start doing Take It And Run Thursday because I like the idea and so many of my fellow bloggers do it's always nice to have guaranteed something to write about! BUT I am going to do it in a separate post, because this one is looong. So you can read them separately if you want, yay :)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

show me your he♥rt

I tried to do this little game thing like a month ago, but couldn't get the formatting right...but I decided in honor of 2 awesome years with the BF, I would try to make it work today. :) the name of the game is:
with as much creativity as you can muster, show your he♥rt in: a picture, poem, a song (or piece of music), a phrase (or quote), an item of clothing, a place, and (just for fun) a disney princess. we go!

This pic was taken ~2 days after the BF and I started dating, and to this day it's still one of my favorites of the two of us. I worked a little photo editing magic on it last year so it brings out the other heart in the picture...Badger red!
"The Song of the Ungirt Runners" by Charles Hamilton Sorley
We swing ungirded hips
and lightened are our eyes
the rain is on our lips
we do not run for prize
we know not whom we trust
nor witherward we fare
but we run because we must
through the great, wide air

The waters of the sea
are troubled by the storm
the tempest strips the leaves
and does not leave them warm
does the tearing tempest pause?
do the treetops ask it why?
so we run without a cause
'neath the big, bare sky

The rain is on our lips
we do not run for prize
but the storm the water whips
and the wave howls to the skies
the winds arise and strike it
and scatter it like sand
and we run because we like it
through the broad, bright land

Song: "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey [at first I thought this one was going to be hard, and then I realized it was a TOTAL no brainer! :)]

Quote: "Every passion has it's destiny." ~Billy Mills

Clothing: My Wisconsin Track Club jacket that I designed and distributed out of my dorm room as a freshman...such a ridiculous undertaking, but I adore that jacket. And the WTC! You can also just ignore how ridiculous I look in this was at a very cold XC meet...

Place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI

I decided to make this one NOT involve running...there is nothing in this world like BADGER GAMEDAY!

Disney Princess: Jasmine! Mostly just because I was her for Halloween...and she's pretty badass :)My friend's cat was "Rajah"...the BF was Aladdin...obviously :)

So there you have it...that was fun! Anyone who actually reads this blog and hasn't done it already...go ahead, it was a good time. :)

In other news, I ran for 35 minutes today with NO KNEE PAIN!! After my endless frustrations the past couple of weeks, I decided to take a few days off, and then just start running every day and adding on a little time each day, seeing how much my leg would take. I also vowed to STOP if I started feeling any pain at all because obviously that would just make things worse. I started out with 20 minutes, when that was cool I moved up to 25, then today I mean to go for 30 minutes but it...uh...*accidentally* turned into 35. I took it pretty easy but I was thrilled that I had zero signs of the problems I've been having lately. I'm still cautiously optimistic and am going to try to rein in my glee this coming week and keep things to 45 minutes or so and easy...but I think as far as I can tell...I'm Back! With a stretching and massage regimen to add to my training fun. :)

I was actually thinking about it, and I realized that the last time I had IT band problems, it was in a similar situation - right after XC season ended, so I had just finished a pretty hard training cycle with a lot of miles, and I was just running suuuper easy...then it flared up! From everything I've read on it, ITBS generally flares up when you increase mileage too fast...not decrease either I'm some kind of mutant or my body just really, REALLY loves running lots and lots of miles...I think I'll take the latter. :)

I was lucky enough to celebrate 2 years with the BF last night and it was just perfect. Last year we went out for dinner at a super expensive restaurant, but obviously this year we're slightly poorer haha. So we decided to go out to dinner at the Sunset, which is a bar/restaurant that we've been to to drink [cuz...ya 500 different types of beer!] but never to eat. We got dressed up even though it's kind of a casual place and had just a wonderful time sampling a couple of beers [including a blueberry ale that came with real blueberries in it...YUM!], eating, and then coming home and just hanging out and watching some episodes of Lost. Pretty low key, but wonderful.

I've generally been in a much better mood this week than the past couple...finally starting to get over this injury has helped a lot...seriously, being able to run does WONDERS for my personal happiness. :) I'm also excited about the gorgeous fall weather that we've been having...I LOVE crispy weather between like 40 and 55 with the leaves falling and just that fall smell! I feel like I've taken so many stupid internet surveys over the years that ask "what's your favorite season?" and I could never decide, but I think I can definitively say now: I LOVE FALL!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! :)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

AG awards for a half marathon walk?

So today I got my official confirmation of acceptance into the Boston Marathon! [And they said verification would take 3-5 weeks? That sure was fast! Maybe you get extra credit for running a race in MA? Haha :)] A little bit a little giddy when I saw my name on the "official entrants" list.

But anyway, since [*sigh*] I still have nothing new to report on the running front, I had a couple of random things that I was thinking about commenting on for awhile. I found it kind of funny that right around the time of my first marathon, that NY Times article came out questioning whether slower runners have a place in marathons. There's been quite a crazy debate and I guess I thought I would just share my opinions on the subject since...well...I want to!

In general, I really disagree with the article. Honestly, if you trained for the race, worked hard, and work as hard as you can during the race itself, you deserve to be there, whether you're running for 2 hours or 8. Are there certain cutoff times that I would consider reasonable? Yeah...I mean, the story of the people who stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch in the Honolulu Marathon...ok that might be a bit much. But basically - if you're giving it your all, I couldn't care less how fast you're going. Does it really affect any of the people who are going to run a faster time what the person who comes in last runs? Not really, unless they try to start at the front of the elite corrall or something dumb like that. Frankly, I think it's pretty cool to see people trying to push their limits regardless of what those limits may be.

But the one thing I do have to say is this: fundamentally, a marathon or half marathon is something that you should have trained for, and it should be an accomplishment for you regardless of what level you're at....and this brings me to the actual point of my rambling. I've never really seen this happen in a marathon, but a half marathon that I raced in last year has decided to institute a specific half marathon WALK. Not only that, but the walk division includes age group awards. Ummm...yeah...not so sure how I feel about that one.

I'm totally cool with the walk division in a 5K or 10K, because there are people who walk for fitness and it's awesome that they're able to participate in races/fundraisers and enjoy themselves that way. But I feel like a half marathon is kind of on a whole different level from's a pretty major endurance event that people train hard and put in a lot of miles for. The thing that just confuses me is that, its not like the race was ever EXCLUDING walkers...there is something like a 16:00/mile pace cutoff that's not terribly strictly enforced and I'm sure if anyone just wanted to walk the majority of the race that would be just fine. But age group awards for a walk? I feel like that just kind of undermines the achievement of the people who ran, walk/ran, jogged, or, basically, really worked hard to complete that 13.1 miles. I'm not saying that walking 13.1 miles would be easy [although, I can't imagine why anyone would want to!] but I don't know...a race just doesn't seem like the right setting for it. IF they really wanted to have a "fun walk", I doubt the people who would sign up for such a thing would want the competition of awards...because if they did, they would be signed up for the actual race. This race also has a 1/4 marathon event, which it seems to me would make a lot more sensible distance to add a specific walk event's not like the half marathon was their shortest race, and the directors felt they needed to cater to walkers somehow.

I guess what it comes down to for me is this: a race is a race. If you want to go for a leisurely walk, or even a walk that is some kind of test of endurance [ie, walkathons, multi-day charity walks, etc]...that is AWESOME. I'm all for physical activity of any sort. I just don't think that creating a separate division in a race scenario, especially in a distance like 13.1, is really where that kind of thing belongs.

Hmm...well I hope this doesn't come off as incredibly elitist or anything - because really, I'm not that kind of person at all. I guess I just don't like to see people half-assing things just to check something off a list or say they did it. I don't care how fast or slow you're going, as long as you're giving it 110%...and that's what I feel like any race, especially a long-distance one, should really represent.

Annnnd rambling over. :) I ventured to the library today despite the crazy crowds of people with political signs and picked up a new book to read while "resting" [Ken Follett...World Without End...I liked Pillars of the Earth, so hopefully this will be equally good!] I have been stretching and Sticking out of control, which seems to be the thing that is helping my questionable IT band the most - after some combination of those two, my leg feels much less tight and achy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that with this combination + a couple more days of rest, I'll be able to kick this stupid problem! I'm totally blaming the weather on marathon day for this...I think the cold + rain made my muscles much tighter than they would have been, and that combined with the stress of, ya know, running a marathon, just kind of took its toll.

Finally, belated shoutout to lindsay for rocking it out in NYC this past weekend! Oh yeah, and Meb know, for being the first American to win the thing in something like forever. Awesome!

Monday, November 02, 2009

It's not all bad..

Today wasn't that great of a day, but there was one thing that got me pretty excited about life....

114th Boston Marathon
Dear Audrey:

Your entry for the 114th Boston Marathon has been received, and your credit card has been authorized for payment in the amount of US $130.00. You may notice a pre-authorization draft on your credit card statement. This authorization will be removed in approximately three business days. The actual charge will not appear on your credit card until your entry has been verified and accepted. Entry verification and acceptance can take four to five weeks depending on how quickly we receive the official results from your qualifying marathon. Please make note of your Submission ID #: 20016338.

You will be notified of your acceptance by email and first class mail. Your notification of acceptance will be sent as soon as we verify your official results from your qualifying marathon. When you are accepted, your name will be posted in the Boston Marathon section of the B.A.A. website,, under "Entrants."

Please contact the B.A.A. registration office at 508-435-6905 (or send an email to with any questions regarding your entry.

We look forward to your participation on race day!

Boston Athletic Association

I may still be on the DL for anything over 3 miles at the moment [and...frustrated as hell, but lets not go there right now] but I AM going to be running I guess I've got that going for me. :) As I told my grandma earlier..."If someone had told me I would run 2 marathons before I turned 23, I would laugh in their face." Who's laughing now? I can't wait to get my verification postcard. :)

Well, my knee is still not laughing. 3 days off with ice and ibuprofin and Sticking like crazy and stretching [ok, so maybe my Halloween spent as Cuddy from House in 4 inch stilettos wasn't so great for my legs...but whatever] and today I made it 23 measly minutes before things went down the crapper and I had to call it quits. Now, 23 minutes is better than 0 minutes...but ahhh it is such a TEASE!! Like, oh yay for running, remember how much you love running, boy oh boy this feels amazing....buuuuut now you have to stop. Wah wah. As I said before, if I could just make my way to a damn pool or something I would be infinitely better off...I am just sooo not content to sit and watch all my fitness disappear when I was just in the best shape of my life. Argh!

It is better to take time off now than keep going and injure myself worse. I have 2 months before I really need to start training. I should probably repeat those two sentences over and over again to myself until they're ingrained in my brain. If I really want to take a shot at a PR at Boston, I'm going to have to train even harder than I did this time around, and in order to do that I NEED to be healthy and not have any silly injuries lingering around. So...I rest! Bah. Anybody know any cardio that doesn't involve your knees or a pool?

Well, in non-running related news [since all my running related news mainly involves bitching about my stupid knee], Halloween was quite fun. The BF and I went in costume as House and Cuddy to the Badger game viewing which was great - Badgers won 37-0, we played some drinking games with a few friends, good times overall. Later on there was a "fishbowl" that I created in a pumpkin trick-or-treat bucket...if I ever make one of those again, it mayyyybe should be shared by more than 2 people...hmm. ;) Overall, it wasn't exactly Madison Halloween [and I highly doubt any in my life will compare again] but alas, I'm not in college for a "real-world" Halloween, it was pretty fun.

Off to bed, I'm sure with visions of running dancing in my head...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad knee

Warning: this is not a happy, fun, or entertaining post. This is pretty much a whining, unhappy rant.

So much as the marathon led me to believe this is true, I am definitely not invincible. Something is wrong with my left knee and I am so unhappy I could throw things about it. I honestly don't get WTF happened. I took a few days off after the marathon, ran SUPER easy for 20 minutes the days after that. The problem started in the last mile or so of a 5.8 miler at the end of last week. The outer front part of my knee below the kneecap (not like the outside of the knee where IT band pain would be, more like directly under and to the left of my left kneecap) started feeling tight and kind of hurt. I thought it had something to do with my IT band so I stretched that, along with my quads and hamstrings, took a day off, wrote it off as something still to do with the marathon, done and done.

Fast forward to Monday...I planned on doing the same route, but this time the flare up happened earlier, after ~20 minutes, and I ended up cutting the run short. Tuesday similar problem after about 20 minutes, so I took yesterday off. Today, things were feeling fine and I'm thinking "well, I've been icing and stretching and even taking some anti-inflammatories for the past few days, it didn't feel as bad on Tuesday, I took yesterday off, things should be fine for a 6 or 7 miler, right?" Wishful thinking, that.

Once again, I set off and felt ZERO PAIN for the first 20 minutes. Absolutely nothing that would indicate that I was going to have a problem. After exactly 20 minutes, I could feel the tightness starting. I stopped and stretched everything...quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, IT band, name it...anything that would possibly be tightening and causing this problem. Continued on for like 5 more minutes..tightness starts up again. Stop, stretch, this time it doesn't help as much and soon the tightness has once again escalated into all out pain. [Insert screaming various expletives here. That's what I was doing in my mind.] So I ended up having to walk the 2 miles home, pretty much holding back tears the entire time. I tried to jog a couple of times and my leg just wasn't having I would go back to walking dejectedly and cursing anyone running past. It doesn't hurt when I'm walking. It doesn't hurt when I'm doing ANYTHING besides running, which is just stupid, and actually makes me even crankier because I keep thinking it's fine when it's not.

I think the level of frustration I'm feeling about this really goes beyond just the fact that "I'm cranky because I'm injured and I can't run". One problem is that I don't have any options for cross training. I just got done with 4 months of the most intense running I've ever done, and I need my daily shot of endorphins. I don't have access to a pool, which would be my #1 option for a basically injury proof workout, and something that I enjoy doing too...I'd be totally cool with taking some time off running if I could do that for 2 weeks. But...I don't. Nor do I have an elliptical, rowing machine, exercise bike, or anything else, or the money to join a place where I could have access to that kind of equipment. But I think the worst part it of all this this: I'm still unemployed, and getting more and more frustrated and angry by the day about it. I really thought I had something going, but apparently the guy has decided he doesn't want to follow through...nothing I can do about it, I guess. Anyway, hunting for a job has made me feel pretty worthless - I mean, I can't even get a job as a waitress or at a damn Starbucks for the love of God. It's just the feeling of never being good enough. Not to mention, spending my days watching TV and playing video games when I'm not looking for a job has made me feel like a piece of crap too. So running has been the ONE THING that has made me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. That one or two or three hours a day when I can forget about all the other crap that seems to be neverending in my life. Like..."well shit, I don't have a job or money to do anything, but at least I can run 20 miles at 8:15 pace! or pass every single person I see on the reservoir! or fly down the sidewalk like there's no tomorrow! and this is FREE!" So not even being able to do that, especially when financially my shit is about to hit the fan, well, its just really freaking poor timing, I'll tell you that.

I know I should be happy that this happened AFTER the marathon and when I really have nothing to even vaguely think about training for in the next 2 months, but I'm finding it hard to see the sunny side of the situation at the moment. I'm sure running the marathon in that type of weather was enough to eff up anybody, and yeah, I suppose this is an ideal time to take some time off, but without running I have literally NOTHING to do. And when I don't have anything to do...I get bored. Which makes me cranky. And when I'm bored and cranky and jobless and don't even have the option of going out and running as fast as I can for 10 miles...well...let's just say you should probably pity the BF for having to deal with me in that state.

So if anybody has any idea what sort of mystery injury I've brought upon myself and how to fix it, go ahead and let me know. Until then I guess I'll be resting...possibly in an endless river of my own tears. Hopefully next time you here from me we will be back to our regularly scheduled, entertaining, happy, ramblings...hopefully.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A picture is worth 1000 words...

I swear, I actually have a huge smile on my face in this picture. I'm pretty sure you just can't tell because it was so ridiculously cold that my mouth was frozen...also, I enjoy the fact that you can SEE THE BLOOD dripping down my leg. One thing I didn't mention in my race report was the fact that apparently my calves were rubbing together during the race [and my legs were also apparently numb, because I felt nothing] and I ended up chafing so much I was bleeding for who knows how long. I had no idea until I finished the race and looked down and was Why am I bleeding? Battle wounds - kinda badass.

That singlet is so freaking short. Damn you, women's cut. But this is my favorite of the "close up" finish line pictures
I think this one pretty much says it all. Throwing up the W! I also love how you can that a) it's raining and b) it's freezing by the miserable, bundled up spectators in the background. I also like that you can kind of see the clock. :)

Thanks Capstone Photo! I will definitely be ordering these pictures. :)

Today it was 68 AND, so weird. Last time I checked it was the end of October? I'm still waiting on fall. I was thinking about it though, and honestly, if the weather had been like this for the race, I don't think it would have gone as well at all. I think for me, crappy weather is more of an advantage than anything else, I seem to deal well with it. Not that I'm opposed at all to 55 and sunny and dry with no wind and puffy clouds, but I would take what we had on Sunday any day over something that in any way resembles warm or humid.

I went for my longest run since the marathon because I just got so ansty I couldn't stand it anymore. It felt great to get out for a run of more than 20 minutes, but my left knee is still a little jacked up - I think it's something with the IT band stuff that I was feeling before the race, that just got escalated by running for 3.5+ hours in the freezing rain. Aside from that though, my legs are feeling pretty much normal. Muscularly, I think things are good. I did two reaaaaally easy 3 mile runs yesterday and the day before and I wasn't feeling so great during those, but I think everything is finally starting to calm down.

And finally, a shoutout to my beloved WTC XC ladies for WINNING NIRCA REGIONALS!!! For as long as I can remember the women's team has been kind of overshadowed by the guys, so it's SO awesome to hear that they finally brought home a plaque! [The guys team won the meet as well but I mean...that's no surprise :)]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I suck at recovering

I seriously want nothing more right now than to run out the door and pound out a few miles, that is the kind of high I'm still on from Sunday. I have taken THREE WHOLE DAYS off! And it has basically felt like forever. I will say I had absolutely no desire to run the day after the race. My knees were absolutely killing my, my left Achilles was so sore that I had to stretch it before I could even walk normally, and my legs just generally ached. Of course, I had to take the T to a job interview and that meant walking up and down massive flights of stairs...I was almost late to the damn interview because I was having so much trouble, and I'm sure the people around me were...well...intrigued as to why I was moving like a slug haha. Yesterday things were quite a bit better, although it seems as the pain in my knees and feet has started to fade, I've actually noticed the fact that my quads and hamstrings feel kind of torn up. So yesterday was much more of an "ouch my muscles are sore" kind of pain than a "I feel like someone has been banging on my knees with a metal rod" sort of pain. Today I am feeling almost 100%, a little lingering soreness but I was still able to run, with 3 bags of groceries, to catch the train, so I must be recovering well. If I'm feeling good tomorrow I'll probably go for an easy half hour run or something just because I'm starting to go a little crazy with this recovery business. It's harder than the training, I tell you!

Today I put my antsiness towards something productive and cleaned my closet. And did dishes. And laundry. Wow, recovery posts aren't nearly as interesting as training posts are they? I'm still looking for a place to put my mylar blanket. As gloriously as it blends in with the decor of our living room...hehe. I know I need to let my body recover from what was obviously one of the hardest races of my life, but there's a little voice inside me that's like...hey, so when do we get to do another one of those long runs? Like a good 20 miler maybe? WHO AM I??!! Hahaha.

And of course I keep thinking back to the race, which almost seems like some sort of wonderful dream that I can't even believe actually happened. I realized last night as I was falling asleep that my math had been flawed and I actually didn't run the second half of the marathon 25 seconds slower, but 25 seconds FASTER! A real live negative split? That's not something I've ever seen before. I'm already starting to think about my next training cycle and what I'm going to try to change or improve on. Since I didn't really have a plan of any sort going into this race, but whatever I was doing obviously worked for me, I'm hoping to kind of analyze what I DID do a little bit and maybe make an effort to create something that resembles a plan as I train for Boston. Granted, it will be the Run Like A Llama plan, not the Higdon/Pfitz/Hudson/whoever plan, though I will probably be trying to take some hints from all 3 of those peeps, who are obviously smarter training planners than me. But I'm already thinking in the back of my mind, hmm, if you could run this time and feel great the whole time and negative split even though you went out faster than planned and do it all in the shittiest weather imaginable, you could probably run even faster. So don't worry, the details of this plan will probably be hashed out over the next couple of months on this blog, because I'm sure the BF doesn't want to hear about how many tempo runs I'm planning on doing or what my new goal MP is. :)

The fact that I'm already getting excited about running another marathon is really cool to me. When I finished each of the 3 half marathons that I've done, my overwhelming feeling was of never wanting to put myself through that ever again. Obviously I did, and I will continue to do so [because damnit 1:40, I'm coming for you!], but at the time of the finish of the race it was just like...omg that was awful. Compare that to the marathon where even at the worst of times I was still enjoying myself and pushing myself and all I could think as I crossed the finish line was that was AWESOME! When can I do it again? So does this mean I should be running the marathon faster, so I DO feel that way? Who knows. Guess we'll see next time around. ;)

I'm also working on my "race calender" for the next 6 months because right now, for the first time ever? possibly? I have nothing planned or scheduled. I am definitely going to take it relatively easy for the next couple of months, maybe jump in a turkey trot, a 10K would actually be awesome since I haven't really gone for a good PR in that distance in awhile...and then it will be back on the marathon bus in January...

See, you would think that having to take a few days off of running would maybe mean I would stop THINKING about running for maybe 5 seconds...but then again I guess if you know me at all, you know that's really not possible. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Three hours, thirty nine minutes, and fifteen seconds of joy: Baystate Marathon Race Report

OK, well, since we all know that I write some of the longest race reports around, I would suggest grabbing some food or a tasty beverage to enjoy while reading what I'm sure is going to be an absolutely epic post...but you know, it was my first marathon [so...longest race ever, which probably means longest race report ever :)], and it was absolutely amazing, and I don't want to forget a single instant of it!

Day before the race - 10/17
I got a great night of sleep Friday night and took myself for a little mile jog to shake out my legs a bit that morning. Pretty much all I could think to myself was the next time I put on these shoes, I'm going to be running a marathon which was enough to send my heart rate shooting through the roof. I kept busy packing/freaking out the rest of the morning, almost had a heart attack when I thought I lost my one and only pair of tech socks [Thought process: I will NOT run in the rain in cotton socks!!] but eventually seemed to have my crap together. As I was waiting around, watching the Badgers play a pathetic second half against Iowa, Claire called to tell me she had finished her marathon and that it was awesome! She said it didn't really feel any harder than her 20 miler even though she was going faster, and she had a huge negative split so that made me feel good about my race strategy. She apologized for stealing all the nice weather...of course the forecast was still looking grim for Sunday but I tried not to think about it.

Kelly and her husband picked the BF and I up at around 2:30 and we headed to Lowell for the expo. It was held at the high school which was kind of hilarious...picture a whole bunch of runners milling around in a cafeteria with signs for "Vote for Diamond for Homecoming Queen!" hung up everywhere. We got our packets and bib numbers, and that's kind of when I knew it was real...tomorrow I would be wearing this number...tomorrow I would be running a marathon. There wasn't much to the expo, but we browsed around a bit and then decided to take advantage of the free pasta dinner, even though it was only like 4:45...we figured we could eat now, then continue to snack once we got back to their place. We got to go through what was essentially the high school lunch line which was kind of hilarious [though the guy working promised us it wasn't cafeteria food, haha], got the standard spaghetti with meat sauce, bread, and water [the BF enjoyed the soda option "for the non-runners" haha]

By the time we [when I say we, I mean my running buddy Kelly, her husband, and the BF] left the, the wind had already started to pick up in an extremely foreboding way. We decided to drive the course before heading back to Waltham and I just could not wrap my mind around the fact that I would be RUNNING this tomorrow. It all kept becoming more and more real, seeing the porta potties set up for water stops, lines on the ground for mile marks, and finally, the chute leading into the stadium where the finish would be...I got chills just looking at it. Tomorrow, I will be here, finishing a marathon...

We headed back to Waltham to eat, drink, and attempt to relax. After some Gatorade and pretzels, we all settled in to watch Running On The Sun, a documentary about the Badwater 135 mile ultramarathon. I felt slightly better about having to run a marathon in a frigging Nor'easter after watching these nut jobs run approximately 5 marathons back to back in Death Valley....dear lord. We turned on the weather channel, as if somehow watching the scrolling forecast of doom would change it, but to no was still looking like a cold, rainy, windy forecast for marathon day. But this song had come on my iPod on one of my last training runs..."Everytime it rains...I know it's good to be alive..."

I somehow fell asleep at 9:30...I have no idea how I did it. I only woke up like twice throughout the night, it was by far the best night of sleep I've ever had before a big race. Now, this might have something to do with the fact that I was sleeping on a comfy sofa-bed in a quiet Massachusetts suburb, as opposed to a too-short couch in a 90 degree apartment [CDC 07] or a Murphy bed without pillows on a loud, major street [MMM 09], but either way, I woke up 3 minutes before my 5 am alarm feeling awake, and ready to go.

Race Day - 10/18/09
This is it. It's Marathon Day.

I woke up before my alarm and sat in bed for a few moments, stretching easily and just savoring the last few moments of quiet before I began the pre-race ritual that would culminate in me putting my body and mind through quite possibly the hardest thing I had ever done. Just a few moments to remember all the work that had brought me to this day...and now, here it was. It was time.

And then it was up and walking around, eating breakfast, drinking Gatorade, making sure everything was right with the race outfit. I had a banana and my standard "deconstructed peanut butter sandwich" [two pieces of toast, one with peanut butter...I realize I could just put them together as a sandwich but for some reason I like the peanut butter one followed by just a piece of dry toast...also, I'm a weirdo.]. I started getting race-ready...on with the race outfit, the singlet and arm warmers, hair up in a messy bun [a style I rock for races and only for races], prewrap headband and orange ribbon in the hair, D-tag on the shoe, number crumpled and pinned on the singlet...the next 45 minutes were a blur, just going through the motions of pre-race ritual that I've done so many times before, only this time everything seemed more deliberate, like it would somehow change the outcome of my race if the bow in my hair wasn't tied just right or my bracelet was on the wrong side of my watch [God forbid!! haha]. Anyway. Just the standard weird crap that seems extremely important when you're about to go run 26.2 miles.

We left the apartment at 5:45, by which point it had started to mist, but the outside temperature was apparently around 45 and didn't seem too awful. It could only get warmer, right? [Hint: wrong.]

We arrived in Lowell fairly early which meant we didn't have to deal with much traffic - I realized how amazing this was later when we were headed to the starting line and there were still cars lined up trying to yeah I'm pretty sure that that would be my WORST nightmare! There was plenty of space to relax and stretch in the blissfully heated arena that was acting as the staging area for the race, and once we arrived there, I started to get into racing mode. I munched on some strawberry Gu Chomps since my stomach was starting to feel a little empty, threw on my iPod with the mix I made specifically for this purpose, and tried to get in the zone. The enormous, indoor bathrooms were pretty phenomenal...about 8 million times better than the standard porta potties, and the lines weren't terrible either which was somewhat mind-blowing haha. I honestly felt extremely calm...there was none of the intense anxiety that I've felt in cross country in track was like the calm before a big, big storm. Relax...breathe...stretch...I cued up my power songs [Swim - Jack's Mannequin, Don't Stop Believin' - both the Journey and Glee versions, Poker Face - Lady Gaga, My Weakness - Moby (because it makes me think of this YouTube video which almost made me cry in the week leading up to the race) and How Far We've Come - Matchbox 20], tried to figure out how to deal with shoving 3 Gus into my racing attire [one in the bra, one in the shorts pocket, and one safety pinned to the tag turned out to be the winning combo], more random pre-race self pumping-up...and soon, it was time to head to the start line.

The street leading from the Tsongas Arena to the start line was a sea of adrenaline and humanity with more than one nervous comment being made about the weather. There was a waterfall-type fountain outside the arena and I heard one woman behind me gasp "Oh my God! I thought that was rain!" Little did we know... We reached the bag drop and it was time to strip down to racing gear...maybe it was the adrenaline rushing through my body, maybe it was the fact that the wind and rain hadn't really kicked up yet, but as I stood there wearing clothes that most people would think appropriate for a day in summer, maybe spring, I didn't really feel cold.
Race ready! Wearing that hat = best decision of my life

A couple quick sips from my Nalgene, one last kiss to the BF, and we were off to the starting line. Which was, for lack of a better word, a clusterfuck. The half marathon and the marathon started on opposite sides of the same street, and the only access to the corral was through the front and back, no side gates at all. This isn't some gigantic race, but there were still 1500 marathoners to contend with and trying to squeeze your way through the sausage casing of the corral gates with 5 minutes until race time just wasn't going to end well. Kelly and I decided to try to get in through the front and hope that people would let us move back, as opposed to starting out near the back and risk getting caught up in the slower runners. the end, we were about 5 rows back from the start...yes, definitely much further up than we probably sould have been, but there was literally no way out. People were smashed together like sardines left and right, back and front, so all we could do was own our place in line and wait for the start.

I was so incredibly giddy right before the start of the race - I just couldn't believe I was actually doing it, actually here, that I was really, truly going to run a marathon. I honestly got a little teary eyed during the national anthem...all of the emotion of everything that had brought me to this day and to this place just kind of welled up in me. Then the mayor of Lowell came on the mike and here it!

Miles 1-5: Easy peasy
8:08, 8:16, 8:12, 8:33, 8:13
Remember my plan of going out really slow and easy? Funny how that didn't work out so well, huh? Not that I'm terribly surprised that most of my splits for this section were fast, but I had to kind of laugh when we went through the first mile in 8:08...whoops. :) As we crossed the starting line, I literally got chills, and once again, that sheer excitement and disbelief welled up in me - it's actually starting, I'm ACTUALLY DOING THIS!! I tucked in beside Kelly and just tried to relax, relax, relax. With the awkwardness of the start corral and the fact that the half was starting at the same time, there were people speeding by at various levels of craziness, and it was really difficult not to get caught up in it all, but I just kept telling myself, either a) they're running HALF the distance you are, or b) they are crazy-looking men, obviously they're going to be running faster than you!

I remember thinking that I felt like I was pushing just a little bit too hard for this point in the race, but everytime I tried to dial it back nothing really happened. Kelly and I talked a bit but for the most part we were kind of in our own little bubbles just focusing on moving forward and staying calm and relaxed. At the 4 mile mark I thought to myself "woo hoo, only 22 miles to go! You've run 22 miles before. Just forget that you ran the last 4 miles and just rock it like a long run!" Mind games, how I love thee. Also around that point was when the supposed 3:40 pacer passed me. Now, since I'm pretty sure I was in the middle of my 8:13 mile at that point, I'm not sure what kind of pace those girls were running, and so I decided to put them out of my mind together. Bye bye, neon yellow shirt! [Little did I know I would be seeing them again later...]

We hit up the water stop that was right around 5 miles, and I decided I didn't want to pull off for a drink that point. Kelly did, and she must have gotten caught up behind me because before I knew it, she was gone. I was on my own now, with 21 miles left to go.

Miles 6-10: Let it rain
8:25, 8:30 [10K split: 51:41], 8:24, 8:25, 8:23
And the rain rain rain came down down down, and Audrey kept on running.

So around mile 6, it started drizzling. And then the drizzle became more than a drizzle, and then the wind started kicking up, and soon enough it was just a ridiculous, pouring, mess out there. But for some reason, now that the race was actually in progress, it didn't bother me that it was raining. I actually thought it was kind of awesome. Like, I'm pretty sure this is actually how my thought process went during the race: Wow, it's raining. God I'm glad I'm wearing this hat. These arm warmers are the best. thing. ever. God I love running in the rain. THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!!! The sad part is, I'm actually not even kidding.

So my main recollection about these miles is just how steady, calm, and relaxed I felt. Like I could literally go on like this forever and ever. I got all snazzy with my Gu #1 [Chocolate Outrage] at about mile 7, pulling it out of my sports bra and ripping it open with my teeth before I got to the water stop, taking it down, and then grabbing Gatorade on the run as I ran through. Side note: I LEARNED HOW TO DRINK WHILE RUNNING!! Don't ask me how. It's like something that miraculously came to me during this race. Did I get a little bit of Gatorade on my face? Yeah, but I did not stop running, at any point in time, for any reason. OK, so that was pretty amazing. The water stops were all manned by high school XC teams which was pretty amazing, they were all really upbeat despite the weather and my whacked out mind found it hilarious hearing them yelling things that you would totally hear in a cross country race [my personal favorite: "Look at this pack! Keep working together guys, stay with this pack, you're looking awesome! Cross country all the way :)]

Mile 8 was the bridge that we got to run over twice, basically representing the turn back towards home. The first time I ran over it I was kind of taken by surprise because it was one of those suspension bridges that like...bounces...when you run on it? Now multiply that by a whole bunch of people running on it and was kind of weird. There were a bunch of spectators right near it though, so that was cool...such troopers. At this point in the race, the mile markers seemed to come SO quickly...I would be that a mile marker up there? OMG it is! How has it seriously been another mile? I also dealt with some interesting characters running near me over this stretch. I had two different women and one man who were possibly the LOUDEST breathers I have ever encountered. I mean...whatever floats your boat I guess, but just being near these people was making me feel like I was getting more tired! As for myself, my breathing was about as calm as could be. There was also a dude whose friends me up with him to give him Gatorade and then ran with him for a ways. I really couldn't care one way or another about the "outside help" thing, but what bothered me is that they were running 3 across, kind of blocking my way. The roads were open on a lot of the course and we didn't have a very wide lane to run in, so it was just kind of like....hello? Can these people who are not actually racing get out of my way??!! Not to mention this man was also the hyperventilator so...double whammy of irritation haha. But it was really no big deal. I was feeling cool as a cucumber and my legs felt great. I knew after the halfway point things would probably get tougher, so I was just focusing on the fact that for now, I felt great, and just savoring every step. I was running a marathon, and it was feeling AWESOME!

Miles 11-15: My humps, my lovely lady lumps
8:27, 8:25, 8:27 [HM split ~1:49:50], 8:23, 8:20
Miles 11 and 12 passed very similarly to the previous 10. I was cruising along, feeling great. I remember thinking "wow, I remember when I ran 10 miles and thought I was the coolest person in the world...and I was probably running way slower than this!" Mile 13 was a big bridge that marked the turnaround, where we would go into our second loop. The atmosphere on the bridge was electric - there were pretty much the most spectators I had seen all day, and everyone was yelling and banging cowbells and just generally being rowdy. I was absolutely thrilled [and perhaps even a little surprised] to be feeling as good as I was, and being on the bridge knowing I was halfway there definitely pumped me up. I saw the BF, which made me SO happy - what a frickin' trooper, standing out in the rain and cold for all those hours to see me run by!! I yelled "I love you!!!" and grinned and blew him a kiss, and he actually yelled "Go Audrey!" [which is impressive, because he's not big on cheering haha] And then it was onward into the second lap...and now it was time to race.

As soon as I crossed the half marathon mark it was like my mind was like "now time to pick it up!" I think this was part of why mile 14 was one of the hardest for me, because I just got a little worried mentally since when I tried to pick up just a little bit, my legs felt it. But I mean, hello, I had already run over 13 miles! I took my second Gu [Tri-berry] at the water stop near the 14 mile mark, and did my same eating on the run act. That definitely gave me a little boost heading into the "hilly" portion of the course. There were definitely a few rollers between miles 14-17, and boy, did I ever feel them the second time around! Holy crap! It was like wait...I don't remember there being a hill here? And somehow, my crazy marathon mind followed this thought process: meh, these hills aren't that big...they're just like little humps! My humps my lovely little lumps...check it out...oh god, no, what have you humps my humps...and thus, I trucked on to the tune of "My Humps" for the next couple of miles. Of all the possible songs...dear lord.

I also noticed at this point that the mile markers didn't seem so close together anymore. In fact, I often found myself wondering where in the hell the next mile marker was. But I was becoming encouraged because amazingly, I was starting to pass people. Chug chug chug...I just kept chugging along. Between miles 14 and 15 was the only point in the race where I ever really had a conversation with anyone. I had been running with a woman for awhile, and she asked me if I had done this race before. I told her I hadn't, and that this was actually my first marathon and I had just moved from Wisconsin. She was like "oh, you're used to this weather then!" Damn straight, lady! Then she tried to strike up a conversation about what I was doing here, and while I'd love to detail all the finer points of my PT school application process, in the midst of a marathon was not the time to do it. She told me she was a nurse, and I said something along the lines of "yeah, it seems like most runners I know are really smart people! Although, anyone watching us running in this weather would probably think otherwise..." After a couple more minutes, she dropped back and that was that. I was happy in a way, since I just don't like feeling like I need to "pace" off anyone.

So things were getting harder, but I was still feeling really good, despite the increasingly ridiculous onslaught of rain and wind. I also started dropping the pace just a little bit, so little that I hardly even noticed, but each time I looked at my watch at a mile mark and saw something faster than 8:24, it just gave me a little shot of maybe, just maybe, somehow, I could BQ today.

Miles 16-20: Fish hats and cruise control
8:21, 8:20, 8:15, 8:23, 8:25
I continued on through what I was thinking of as the "backstretch", and surprisingly [to me anyway], I was constantly passing people. Not really consciously, it just kind of...happened! This was also where I kind of started to notice the wind. And the fact that it was kind of cold. And the fact that my feet were starting to get wet. And then, out of nowhere, here is the song that popped into my head [note: NOT the original song, but this version, ridiculous lyrics and all]:

Most particularly, the part involving the "fish hat" and "Angola". Seriously brain? WHY? When I told the BF about it later, he said it was probably because I was cold and I wanted to be warm haha. So anyway, that lovely little ditty was playing in my head for the next couple of miles, but at least it had a nice beat!

I noticed I had pretty consistently started picking up the pace just a little bit, and I was continuing to pass people, which was making me really happy. I kept trying to tell myself that there was still a ways to go, but I couldn't stop myself from grinning when I hit mile 17 and thought to myself, less than 10 miles! And if miles 16 and 17 were good, I couldn't have even prepared myself for mile 18 when suddenly, up ahead in the distance, I saw a familiar neon yellow shirt. Could it be? Was this going to happen?

Yes, yes it was. Shortly before mile 18, I passed the 3:40 pacer. That was seriously the defining moment in the race for me. I was keeping my pace, keeping steady, my legs still feeling reasonably good, and here it was: I PASSED the 3:40 pacer! It was just that moment, I knew. I knew come hell or high water, I was going to do this. I had it in me. It was mine.

Just after this glorious realization, along with the fact that I had somehow thrown down an 8:15 18th mile, we crossed the bridge that represented the turn toward home. 8 more miles, all headed in this was going to happen. Cruise control, I kept telling myself, just put yourself on cruise control and your legs will keep this up. You're cruising. And cruise I did. I did slow down slightly after the crazy bridge mile, and miles 19 and 20 were definitely where things started to get a little hard. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that I was getting COLD! It was getting harder to push my watch for a split with each passing mile because my fingers weren't really enjoying attempting to move anymore. I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to unpin my last Gu from my shorts, so I grabbed one from the Gu stop [Orange Burst, almost getting run over in the process, but you do what you gotta do] and took it right around mile 20. At mile 19, I thought to myself - 7 miles to go! This is the Arb loop - that's it - how many times have you run the Arb loop? And this is way less hilly! No big deal! Let's rock!

The clock at the 20 mile read 2:47:27. I had calculated [based on what, I don't even know] that if I could get to 22 miles by 3:05, I could qualify. So the new mind game was: Can I run 2 miles in 18 minutes? Well yes, I can do that! And I just kept on keeping on, putting my legs into cruise control, still passing people basically nonstop, and thinking - holy crap...6 miles to go. I'm really, seriously going to do this.

Miles 21-26.2: Don't stop believin'
8:22, 8:17, 8:26, 8:26, 8:08, 1:43 [last.2]
Six miles to go.

And I think to myself, this is where you find out. This is where it happens. This is where you really find out what you've got inside you. And a familiar tune started to pulse through my brain, the beat in time with my footsteps: Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'. These 8 words became my mantra for the rest of the race.

I hit mile 21 and saw another familiar neon yellow shirt. There was another 3:40 pacer, WTF? In a kind of hilarious twist, I ended up running in a pack near her for about a mile. It made me laugh. Earlier in this race, though it seemed like approximately an eternity ago, I had told Kelly that "I don't run with pacers because I don't really like running even splits"...and here I was, unknowingly doing both of those things. She later pulled ahead [so once again clearly running faster than 3:40 pace] but I was unconcerned. My heart gave a little jump as I came through mile 22 [where did I pull that 8:17 out of??]. We were in no-man's land now...the distance of my furthest long run was behind me. My legs and training had taken me this far. Now it was time for my heart to take me the rest of the way.

Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'.
4 miles...4 miles...why, that's shorter than even your easiest days! But the mile markers seemed to be getting further and further apart, and the wind was going insane, and dear god was it cold. And this was where the carnage was starting to pile up...lots and lots of people walking, people pulled off to the side stretching, and no more of the chatter that had been everywhere through the first part of the race. People are paying for too-fast starts, or the cold is getting to them, or they are cramping up...and somehow, I am still moving forward. Things are starting to tighten, and God I would LOVE to stop, but I can't. I know walking at this point for me would be a death wish. And so I truck on.

The last 3 miles, hands down, were the most challenging 3 miles I have ever run in my life. I was absolutely freezing, and my legs were starting to shut down. We passed the bridge where we had turned around on the previous lap and headed into an extremely open area near the river where the wind just kicked up another 5 notches from where it had been the rest of the race. I had given up trying to avoid puddles a long time ago since my shoes were already soaked, and I just kept my eyes on the white line stretching out endlessly in front of me [it's like a lane on the track!] It seemed like the closer we got to the finish line the more people were slowing down, or walking, and oh how much I wanted to stop, but inside I just kept screaming at myself those lyrics from "Swim"...I'M NOT GIVING IN!!! I had not come this far, to come this close to qualifying for Boston to give up and slow down and give in with two miles to go. It just wasn't happening. Today was MY day, and I was going to keep on believin' until I had crossed that freaking finish line.

I came to the 24 mile mark and it was just like....OH MY LORD 2 MILES TO GO! 2 miles. 2 miles is nothing! I can do this...I am GOING to do this seriously happening?? It's happening. Oh my gosh. This is about where I started getting a little emotional. I was in so much pain but with two miles to go I knew, with all my heart and soul, that not only was I going to finish this race, I was going to BQ. And I literally thought I was going to start crying...but now was not the time to get emotional. But I did allow myself to think about all of the people and events that had brought me to this place. Of the miles, and miles, and miles, and miles, and running when I didn't want to, and getting up early, and runs in the heat of the summer when I thought I might die, and of Kelly who got me through some of the longest runs in the training cycle and convinced me to do this in the first place, and of all my WTC girls who had made me love running - I've never been so proud to be wearing that club jersey. And just everything - this was me, someone who had never been thought of as much of an athletic person and who was one of the 10% of people in elementary and middle school who didn't play soccer and who finished last in conference in the 300 hurdles twice in a row and who never could have dreamed of accomplishing something like this ever in my life....this was happening for me. I was going to do this, this thing that such a small, small percentage of people can ever say they did. Those were my thoughts during mile 25 - just awe and wonder and so much joy that I was doing this...I was really, truly doing this. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'.

I don't know if there is any sight so glorious in this world as the mile 26 marker during a marathon. A LITTLE OVER A MILE TO GO! Doing some quick mental math, I figured I had about 12 minutes to run 1.2 miles. Oh my God. I was going to do it. For real and for true. There was a "one mile to go" sign located directly across from, of all the possible things, A TRACK. What an absolutely beautiful coincidence. Where it all began for me, and sure enough, there it is, with one mile left to go in my first, amazing, wonderful marathon. Once again, I almost felt like crying, but my emotional mood was quickly changed by one of my favorite things that happened to me the entire race. There was this one, lonely guy standing by the "one mile to go" sign, and when I ran by I happened to be kind of by myself. So as I go by this dude starts absolutely SCREAMING: "THERE IS ONLY ONE MILE LEFT! YOU CAN DO IT! YOU ARE AMAZING! GO GO GO!!" It was absolutely incredible, I have no idea who this man was out there cheering for but there he was, standing alone in the pouring rain and giving so much motivation to every single person going by.

One mile to go. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'. Just one more mile. This is happening. You're doing're really, really doing this! In that last mile, the pain and the cold and the fact that I'd been running for 3 and a half was all gone. None of it mattered. The only feeling I experienced that last mile was 100% pure joy. I could not stop myself from smiling as I cruised down this last road, towards the last bridge which I knew was coming. One more mile. One more mile. This is it. This is happening!!!

I was so tired, so, so tired, but it didn't matter. I turned onto the last bridge, the bridge that I had said about the night before "I'm totally going to freak out when I hit this's like a speed tunnel!". I sped up and I could see it, the stadium, there was the finish. 706 miles, and this is what it comes down to, one last push over a bridge with a huge smile on my face, the rain pouring down but I can't even feel it, the wind whipping but who cares, strong and powerful and everything I've ever dreamed of being I am, here at this moment.

Across the bridge, turning a corner, and into the "chute" that led into the stadium. I saw the BF once more, overcome with everything in the moment I couldn't say anything but knowing he was there meant everything. The corrall leading into the stadium was lined with people, cheering and screaming and banging cowbells and holding signs...everything you imagine the finish of a marathon to be. Right before actually turning into the stadium, there it was, the 26 mile mark. Oh my God. 0.2 miles. This is real, this is happening...THIS IS YOUR VICTORY LAP!!!

I turned onto the warning track of this Lowell Spinners baseball stadium, and I don't think I've ever felt so much emotion in my entire life. I wanted to laugh, cry, yell, throw my arms in the air, and grin uncontrollably, all while attempting to run as fast as my legs would go. There was a photographer somewhere on that warning track and I have the feeling that's going to be a ridiculous, yet awesome picture. I passed one last person and there I was, into the home straight. I could see it...the finish line, and the clock with those incredible numbers of 3:39. It was happening. It was really truly happening. As I crossed the line, I threw up my arms into the "W" sign that was such a thing with our club last year. It was a W for Wisconsin...for WTC...and for Win. Because I had defeated every running demon I had ever had, every voice that ever told me I could never truly be great, and most importantly, my thoughts that I couldn't execute in a race when it really did not matter in the least what place I had actually come in in this race...I had won.

Mile 26.3 and onward: Post race
The instant I stopped running was the instant the cold and the pain hit. I was so overcome with emotion that I had done it, that it was over, and most of all, that I had actually qualified for Boston, that I was somewhere between hyperventilating, laughing, and crying. I got my mylar blanket and promptly almost fell over, my legs were shaking so hard. A girl put a medal around my neck and asked how I was...when I responded "AMAZING!" she laughed and was like..."wow, that's the first time I've heard THAT one today!". But how could I not feel amazing? I had just finished my first marathon AND qualified for Boston!

With my newly gained shiny objects, I slowly, painfully made my way towards the bleachers, still in my awkward laugh/cry/hyperventilate stage, although now I had added "shivering uncontrollably" and "hoping legs don't collapse" into the mix. Then, the cruelest of all tortures: we had to CLIMB THE STAIRS to get to food, friends, and bathrooms. TORTURE! Most painful stair climb of my life, hands down, although I'm sure it was quite entertaining to spectators to watch thousands of gimpy runners struggle up the steps of the bleachers. I finally reached the BF and basically fell into his arms. "I did it!!! I qualified!" "I know!" I still didn't really know what to do with myself so we decided to try and make our way up the rest of the stairs to locate the post-race food. On the way I ran into Kelly's husband, who had finished 11th overall and PRed - pretty awesome, and he is one speedy guy! I decided I wanted some food and struggled my way over to the tent...honestly, I can't even think of anything to compare the pain in my legs after that race to. It didn't help that I was shaking uncontrollably, so my muscles which were already in pain were spasming...causing them to be in more pain...and it was just generally awful. This so occupied my mind when I got to the food table that I really wasn't even sure what to do, and ended up with some chicken noodle soup [which I eventually managed to eat] and a peanut butter sandwich [which I essentially stared at for 20 minutes before realizing that it didn't look even remotely appetizing]. Oh, and a Diet Pepsi. Because apparently these race organizers read my mind and know about how much I adore diet soda after a hard run.

I found my way to the bathroom to put on some dry clothes and discovered just how difficult it is to put on pants when your hands are frozen and you can hardly move your legs. I was moving like a granny, that was for sure. Right as I came out of the bathroom Kelly came in, and we were all pretty anxious to hightail it back to the was like half a mile away. A painful half mile, let me tell you. The BF was practically carrying me. Once we got back to the car and warmed up everyone started to feel a bit better and we all swapped race stories and talked about the ridiculousness of the weather and whatnot. I think I was still kind of in shock and amazement over the whole thing, to be honest!! I obviously had to call the fam, and the cutest thing was my sister [who had called Saturday and asked if I was running THE Boston Marathon, which I told her you had to qualify for] who called and was so incredibly excited and proud and was like "and you said it was really hard to qualify for!! You are so amazing!!" Hearing from her actually made me tear up a little bit too to be honest, since it was kind of incredible to see just how huge this is even to someone who isn't at all involved in running.

We finally made it home, and by now it was snowing. I was just in a world of pain, but I wanted one thing and one thing only: an enormous burger. So the BF and I trekked on the train to Joshua Tree and I ate possible the most incredible meal of my life: an appetizer of calamari, waffle fries, and a burger STUFFED WITH CHEESE, and topped with cheese, bacon, bbq sauce [BQ sauce??!!] and the usual veggie fixings. And of course, a Magic Hat #9, because beer was kind of a requirement in my life at that point. We got home and attempted to watch a movie/have a couple more beers. but my legs hurt so badly that all I could really do was whine about it. I went to bed at 9:30 and it was amazing. And there it seriously marathon day.

So I have all sorts of other random ramblings to ramble about this race being the culmination of my running life so far and things...but I think I'll at least put that post under a different heading because I'm sure anyone who has made it this far is probably really sick of scrolling down this page. I've also been writing this on and off for almost 2 hours brain is a little fried, especially with re-living the race in my head. But I will end this post with 3 post-race thoughts:

1. I am so, so, so proud of the way I ran this race. Honestly, I would say it's one of the best races I've ever run in my life. I excecuted exactly how I wanted to [my second half was only 25 seconds slower than my first. Despite the fact that I went out faster than planned. That is almost even splits, people! Remember when I said I don't do even splits??!!], when things got tough I refused to give in and back off the pace, and I pushed myself as hard as I knew how for 26.2 miles, ran my own raced, and finished feeling strong, powerful, and incredible.

2. Today I was riding the T to a job interview, and I looked out the window at this random hotel on Beacon Street. And I suddenly thought to myself: I have run past that hotel so many times in the past month and a half. On short runs, on long runs, good days, and bad. And an even funnier thought crossed my mind: I realized that the first run I went on when I arrived in Boston was the last 4 miles of the Boston Marathon course. And then I thought: Wow. I am going to be running down this street to the finish of the Boston Marathon in 6 months. And I almost started crying right there on the train, and at the same time just grinned. I think that was the moment when I realized that I am going to run THE Boston Marathon. And that is pretty much the coolest thing I can think of.

3. Yesterday, for the first time in my entire life, I finally realized that I am a good runner. And I've been able to come that realization through the training and the miles that have led up to this one, amazing moment, this one race. And now that I know what I'm capable of...well..the possibilities are endless.

Well, I just copied and pasted this entry into Microsoft Word and discovered that it is 11 PAGES to anyone who has reached the end, I salute you.

52/185 AG
572/1561 OA