Friday, November 02, 2012

Being both

Every Friday, I take a 2 hour ballet/pointe class through BU. Last week, this class happened to occur about 45 minutes after I had raced a "5K" (actually 3.5 mile) race and placed second. After scarfing down a sandwich and struggling into my leotard, I was at the barre doing plies and frappes with the rest of the class, legs exhausted, calves screaming every time I had to hold a releve. What are you doing?! my body was screaming at me. This is insane!

Sometimes, as I looked around the class during center work, and saw girls who could pirouette more cleanly than me, had better extensions than me, could master quick footwork better than me, I thought, ah, if only I hadn't stopped taking ballet for the past 8 years. I am lucky to possess a fair amount of qualities that naturally lend me to dance - long legs, flexible back, and (my one claim to fame) really, really great feet - and there are times when I wonder what could have been had life worked out differently, if I had devoted myself completely to dance. But in glancing around the class again, I had another thought: how many of these girls have ever RACED a 5K? Or a marathon? Or known the feeling of one last 800 as the rain starts to come down, pounding the track until you can't see, and there's nothing but you and your breath and the feeling of being so completely alive?

The thought works in reverse too: how many of those who I run with have ever known the feeling of finally landing that turn, of being so caught up in the music and the movement that you almost feel like you've transcended into a different plane. How many of them have felt the ache of a long day in pointe shoes, or the chill-inducing joy of seeing a dance that you created, alone in your living room, come to life on the stage?

Looking at my training over the past few months, it's easy to wonder if I've stopped caring about running, lost motivation, whatever. But really, I don't think it's so much that I've lost running as that I've found (re-found) dance. And when I think about how rare it is to be able to have not one, but two passions - to know what it is to push my body to the limit in a race AND to fly on stage in front of the audience, to be both a badass runner with my race face on AND a ballerina in pointe shoes and a bun, to be both - I mostly think I'm pretty damn lucky. And sometimes it may mean I run less miles in a week, but it's worth it for the opportunity to be both.

Monday, October 15, 2012


*pokes head in sheepishly*

Well goodness, guess I've found out what happens to my blog when my training is in the tank...with not much happening on the running/inspiration/racing front, I just decide to forgo posting. Well, not anymore! I have decided that at the absolute minimum, I'm going to post my weekly training here to keep me accountable, not only to my training but to this blog. I really like to write, and I haven't been doing much of it lately, so I think this is a good way to slowly slide back into more frequent writing, whether it be about running or something else (I've had a real urge to write some fiction lately, but I always just feel like every fiction I write is so...awkward. And the main character is always just me with a different name and a different job. So that needs some work.)

Anyway...what have I been doing? I'm ashamed to admit that this past week was the first week in almost 2 months that I have cracked the 30 mile barrier. I mean...what? The good news about this is, I don't feel terribly "un-fit", mostly because I have been religiously going to GBTC practices this fall and doing the workouts (to what end, I have no idea...I really can't see myself racing any time in the near future, but the fact that I've been motivated enough to get to practice is something in and of itself.) The other thing is that I have been dancing a TON this semester. I have 3 hours of rehearsal a week, a 2 hour ballet class on Fridays, as well as teaching 2 kid's classes and choreographing one of the 3 pieces I'm in. Dance isn't something I've discussed a ton on this blog, but it's something that I rediscovered my passion for while I was in NYC and so I am back at it. I honestly believe that dancing really does make me a stronger runner, partially by serving as cross/strength training that works a whole different muscle set (hello, injury prevention!) and also just as an overall strength and power workout. Probably more importantly, it makes me outrageously happy. Which is actually the point, isn't it?

So, we begin with week 1 of the comeback tour. I didn't run with a watch all week except for at practice because I was too lazy to charge my Garmin. Who really gives a crap what I ran for a random easy run anyway? At the moment, not me.
M - 6.2 easy, Dean Road loop. Nothing particularly memorable about this one. Nice weather.
T - GBTC workout - mile repeats @ 10K pace. 4 x mile in 6:54, 6:56, 6:51, 6:46 with 1 lap jog recoveries. Clearly that is not my current (or ever) 10K I felt like a baller during this workout. I consistenly dread track workouts when I'm on my way there and on the first rep, but by the end I'm just like yesssss everything is wonderful. A little over 8 miles total.
W - 5.3 easy, I honestly remember nothing about this run.
R - OFF. Thursdays are a bit insane since I have class, teach class, and have rehearsal...however, I definitely have time to run in the morning if I would just haul my lazy ass out of bed, so if I choose to take a Monday off (as I am today)...well, Thursday has to happen. 1 hour of dance rehearsal.
F - 7 easy, JP, first run in AGES where I've actually added on distance because I wanted to keep running. Listened to "Into The Fire" from The Scarlet Pimpernel on repeat. Gloriousness. Followed by 2 hour ballet class.
Sat - OFF. College football season and running on weekends are not conducive to each other. That is all.
Sun - 3.9 easy, SO LAZY. Followed by 2 hours rehearsal.

Total for week: 30.6 miles running, 5 hours dance

So. Yup. Welcome back. My goals for this comeback, which I am putting out here to hold myself accountable for the world to see, are to race at the GBTC indoor track invite in January (possibly shoot for 3K PR), attempt to break 20 in the 5K on the road in the spring of 2013, and to be ready for an attempt at a PR marathon in November 2013. Let's do it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

National running day magic

Because I have been doing far too much bitching when I DO post on this blog, may I give you the story of one of the most magical runs I've ever had, which happened to occur on national running day.

Lately I have been really struggling with getting out the door to run before about 7 pm...not that that's a big deal because it's summer and it stays light, but it's not really conducive to longer runs unless I want to eat dinner at like 10. I had a shorter run on the schedule for today but then I realized that it's going to be like 87 on Sunday...and wouldn't it be much nicer to run 10 miles on this glorious 60 degree afternoon than in an inferno over the weekend?

So off I went. At 6:30 (after being a lazy pile of crap and eating trail mix and watching the series 4 finale of Doctor Who for the second time...STOP JUDGING). The first mile my legs were really heavy which I kind of figured considering I took a tough dance class last night, but I was still kind of like 'ehh, not sure if I'm actually going to make it 10 miles tonight'. And then...I hit the Hudson River.  Which I'm kind of obsessed with. Dare I say almost as much as Central Park? I's a I'm not really sure why I enjoy it so much more than the Charles...but whatever. I'm a fan. Anyway, my legs were starting to feel pretty good and it was looking like it was going to be a pretty sweet sunset. And then the slow build of awesome began.

As I was running by the 79th St cafe thing there was a cluster of people looking up at a tree...and well, if there's a cluster of people, there has to be something interesting. And it was a peregrine falcon!! I sort of have a thing for birds of prey so I was really excited by this. I kept running and eventually reached my turnaround point...which I had conveniently set up to be at the Intrepid museum, new home of the Enterprise space shuttle! So I saw the space shuttle in real life. It may be the nerdiest thing I have ever said that I was really excited by this, but I have been fascinated by astronomy since I was a kid so...I was pumped.

As soon as I turned around it started raining, and I love nothing more than running in the rain. It was perfect - steady and enough to be cooling, but not like 'holy shit we're gonna die and my shoes are soaked' downpour.  I decided to run out onto the longer pier at maybe 68th St to add some mileage and check out the view, since the clouds were looking pretty awesome by this point. Then I turned around, and there was a  FULL ARCH RAINBOW. I can't even describe. The rest of the run I was just so giddy with how well things had been going that I wasn't even thinking about anything besides how much fun I was having. My pace was actually significantly faster than I would have expected for my first double digit run in 2 months and I felt that didn't hurt as a nice little ego boost either. :)

It was amazing to have a run where all I felt was joy. I think it's been rare lately for me to go running and a) WANT to go further than the randomly specified distance I picked out for the day or b) be having fun while I'm doing it. It's been more of a chore which isn't what I want. So to have both of those things happen on the same day - conveniently - national running day - well, it was pretty great. To remember that maybe not all the time, but for the most part, RUNNING IS AWESOME. And I am lucky and grateful to be in a position where I can run along the Hudson River without a care in the world besides what awesome birds of prey, rainbows, monuments, vistas, and generally incredible things my legs are going to lead me to next.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Looking up

This week I ran 31.1 miles. Nothing crazy - in the grand scheme of my running life we're talking like sophomore year cross country mileage. I skipped one day that I probably shouldn't have because I decided to spend the day frolicking around NYC [here for a summer clinical, it's my favorite city IN THE WORLD and I am basically over the moon with happiness. Although I miss Andrew.] but I'm OK with that because hi...first weekend to myself in New York. So 31.1 miles...the majority of them easy, none of them workouts, nothing to write home about. BUT...this week, for the first time in a LONG time...I felt like I was finally going somewhere.

I feel like I've spent the last 4-odd months, and hell, to be honest, the majority of the last couple of years, in just a weird holding pattern with running. Ever since Baystate 2010, there's been injury after injury, no racing, thyroid issues up the butt, and the life stress of school on top of it all. Looking back, I can hardly believe that that person who ran a 3:22 was me; it seems like some sort of bizarre and miraculous dream. I don't feel like I'm that runner anymore. I've been going through the motions, thwarted by injury at every turn, and basically done nothing worthwhile running-wise since then. I've stagnated, I've done just enough to avoid getting fat and even that hasn't been completely successful (NOT calling myself fat...but the ~10 pound weight gain over the past year I certainly could do without). And there have been times, especially over the past few months, where I've wondered: what is even the point? I felt ruined, mainly by this whole thyroid debacle. I'm not ashamed to admit that there have been times when I've been in tears wondering whether losing my thyroid has ruined me as a runner. Whether it took my speed, my competitive drive, my strength. I wonder whether I will EVER race well again I haven't since the surgery, not that there's a very large sample size to pick from since I think I've raced 3 times since then. And that's been hard, because it's not something I can easily talk about to anyone. I know at a certain point my mom and Andrew eventually grow really sick of hearing about it because, well, it's only running and who really cares if you never PR again, running's not your career. Don't you just do it because you love to run?

But then I remember. I AM that same runner who ran a 3:22 marathon. I did break 20 in the 5K. And there is NO reason why I cannot do those things again, besides that fact that I've been lazy - well, and injured. But that stopped being a good excuse 2 months ago. And, what the hell, it's going to be hard, it's not necessarily going to be pretty, and it may take awhile, but I'll be damned if I can't get back to being that runner again.

Which brings me, finally, back to my original point of this post. Dear lord, I do go off on some ridiculous tangents. But again I think I have approximately 4 readers if that, annd this blog is basically my brain dump so I DON'T have to torture my boyfriend or my deal with it.  SO - this week...running when I didn't feel like it and the weather was shit and my legs were tired from being on my feet all day...I felt like - hey, keep this up and you might actually go somewhere! So my hope is that maybe, just maybe, I finally have hit rock bottom of this running slump and that there's nowhere to go but up. Yeah, there's a loooong way to go to get back to the level of fitness I was at a year and a half ago...but can I do it? Sure.  And I think being here in NYC with the fabulousness of Central Park and random 5Ks all over the place might be just the thing to start the climb back to awesomeness. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The 116th Boston Marathon

Well then.
Where do I begin?

I felt a lot of things during this year's Boston Marathon. I felt pain (a LOT of pain). I felt fear. I felt disappointment. I felt joy, giddiness, happiness. I felt optimism and pessimism, self-loathing and self-affirmation. But the one emotion that I think I'll remember when I look back on April 16, 2012 is this: I felt love.

Never in my life have I ever experienced a crowd that made me feel more like a rockstar. Never have I had so many people on the course, on facebook, on twitter, on dailymile cheering me on and making me feel like I had done something to be proud of. And never have I been more aware of the fact that runners are my people. Those brave and crazy souls who made the journey from Hopkinton - they are like me. From a simple "are you OK?" from a woman who saw me walking to rub out a side cramp early in the race to the collective hoots of joy when the sun went behind the one minuscule cloud in the sky, just for an instant, the sense of camaraderie and of love for our sport was on pure display on Monday.  And long after I've forgotten the time I ran in the race (and trust me, it was as forgettable as they come), I will remember that.

SO - onward to my marathon report. I was awake before my alarm. I lay in bed in the dark contemplating, mostly with disbelief, the fact that I was running a marathon today.  This whole "not really training" thing left me far outside of my comfort zone, but damn it, I was doing the thing, and here it was. So I got up and drank a shooter of iced coffee, got my crap together and I left. It's weird standing at the train station where you leave to go to class every single day with the knowledge that today holds much greater possibilities. What I remember from the last time I ran Boston, and which I still loved this time around, was the train ride downtown. There were a few runners with their telltale orange bags on my train, each engrossed in thought or their ipods or a bottle of water, along with a surprisingly large number of regular people headed off to their jobs or whatever the day would bring. And the train was absolutely silent, yet full of the electric tingle of nervous energy. There's really nothing like it.

I made it to the Common around 6:30 and serendipitously (not a word, whatevs) was able to meet up with my friend Jen before things got too insane, and we got on a bus pretty quickly. As usual the bus ride out to Hopkinton was long and nervewracking, with each passing minute a reminder of "oh right, I have to RUN BACK". I found that playing Draw Something and checking facebook 400 times was an effective use of time. As I was randomly perusing blogs, the entry on "1000 Awesome Things" caught my eye:
#4 - Today: Today’s the greatest day you’ve ever lived. Today’s the only day you’ve ever lived. The past is gone, the future is far, nothing else matters, except where you are. AWESOME!
That was the perfect way to get me the mindset for the race - be where you are, don't worry about the past or the future, enjoy today. This moment. This opportunity. This experience.We got off the bus and it was already painfully clear that it was going to be HOT. People were already in tank tops and shorts as we walked from the bus to the athlete's village, not a good sign considering last time I was here everyone was bundled up. In

We arrived in the village and staked out our spot...and waited while the temps continued to rise. I took care of the usual pre-marathon needs, went to say hi to DailyMile friends Maddy and Norman, and just generally tried to walk off my nerves. After an epic texting struggle, I finally tracked down Joy, who had found a red sports bra for me the night before. After that there wasn't much time left. We made final outfit preparations, debated how many Gu Chomps to eat, and generally bounced around nervously.
GBTC ladies! Please note my incredible homemade GBTC bra. This did not survive long into the race.
Soon enough it was time to make our way down that long, long road to the start corrals. The walk seemed even longer this year, but it was less terrifying because I wasn't taking it alone. I tried to take a Gu, which was already hot and managed to trigger my gag reflex - not exactly a great beginning. As we walked past ascending numbered corrals, I lost my friends one by one...until I was being directed into corral 1 of the second wave. And all I could think was "holy shit, I'm here. How did I get here?" And then I started tearing up again, because, well, that's what I do at the beginning of marathons. In between this emotional storm I looked at the countdown clock and realized that we would be starting in about 20 seconds...well, there's no turning back now....and gunshot.

And then I was running. Running, may I add, like an IDIOT. For all of the times I told myself "go out slow", I got totally caught up in the giddiness of the moment. It was the exact opposite of the last time I ran Boston when I was like an angry gorilla on a rampage trying to get people out of my way. This time it was like "wheeee!! Downhill! I'm running a marathon! This isn't so bad! Hooray!" 7:48 was my first mile. No, I could not possibly be stupider. Whatever. The next couple of miles were in the high 7s/low 8s and I started feeling nauseous. And fearful. I was no longer smiling and I was suddenly terrified. Then I came to a shocking realization: it's 85 degrees out, SLOW DOWN. ENJOY THIS. And so that's what I tried to do.

The bad times kicked in pretty early. Within 5 or 6 miles I was legitimately concerned about my chances of finishing the race. The heat was utterly miserable. The one saving grace of everything was the crowd - holy crap, I've never experienced anything like it. I wrote my name on my stomach this year because I remembered wishing that I had last time, and man am I glad I did. Having people at every turn screaming your name, telling you you look great and to keep going - I never thought I could feed off the spectator support so much, but in a situation like Monday it became absolutely essential.

By 7 my pace was already dipping into the high 9s as I had started walking through water stops. I probably would have started this later, but there really was no point in trying to run through them since there was a traffic jam at pretty much every stop and you basically had to slow down/stop if you wanted a cup.  Over the previous few miles, I had been falling victim to the negative thinking that I knew would sneak up on me in this race - you're undertrained, your time is going to be shit, this is embarrassing, why are you even doing this? But around 7 or 8 I hit a turning point where I realized - yeah, my time is going to be shit. But you know what? WHO CARES. These people cheering for you don't care. Your friends don't care. And these people are all making you feel like a freaking rockstar - so enjoy it, damn it! And after that, I spent a lot more of my time smiling.  I yelled "On Wisconsin" at anyone I saw wearing Badger gear (there were several). I had a temporary Bucky tattoo on my back, which I got SO many comments on from fellow runners during the race, including one couple who started singing 'Varsity'. (I sang along. I almost cried. You guys don't even know.) I thanked volunteers. I told people that they were going to make it. I was happy.

The problem was, as determined as I was to have fun, running was becoming more and more of a struggle. The sun was just unrelenting...every time I would drench myself with water, it would be dry and I would be hot again 5 minutes later. Again, the spectators with their endless supply of spray bottles, cold sponges, sprinklers, water cups, etc were absolute saviors. I tried to take as many things from little kids as possible because it was clear that they absolutely were in awe of everyone out there (how freaking cool! Can you imagine, being a little kid handing out oranges and NOT wanting to grow up to run Boston someday?)

15K. LOOK HOW MUCH FUN I'M HAVING (in real life, I had slowed down a lot right before this, but then remembered this photo op from 2010 and made myself speed up and look cheerful. Bad news when you need to make yourself look happy at mile 9...) 
After 8 or 9, I actually hit a groove for a little while. I had gotten into a good system of taking advantage of every mister/water/whatever that I saw, which was keeping me wet and at a generally OK level of heat, and for a few miles I just kind of jammed along, enjoying the crowd and ignoring how many people were passing  me. We hit the gentle downhill towards Wellesley and there was actually some shade for awhile, which was glorious, and I was in pretty good spirits when I hit the scream tunnel (and actually a little surprised at how quickly the first half had seemed to go by).  The "KISS ME" gauntlet was as incredible as I remembered, it seemed to go on FOREVER. I actually had made up my mind that if there were any men in the line I would go in for a kiss (why not, right?) but alas, I didn't see any. Bolstered by the screams, I forged ahead, feeling I was ready for the second half.  And then...bad things started happening.

As I came up the slight incline that comes after Wellesley college, my left knee tightened up. It hurt, and I was confused. Knee pain...what is this? I guess it's a testament to how limited my brain function was at that point that I didn't even recognize the problem for the brewing IT band disaster that it was until a couple of miles down the road. At the time I took a quick walk break and then started up running again, hoping that something just needed to be knocked back into place, but the pain persisted. I would be doing a significant amount of walking for the remainder of the race as a result.

The epic Wellesley downhill was AMAZING - it was somewhat shaded, seemed to go on forever, and I just let myself go. I had stopped taking splits at the half when I became aware that things were probably about to go downhill pretty quickly, and I had no interest in seeing 13 minute miles start popping up on my screen.  I remember absolutely loving the area by Newton-Wellesley - the crowds were going crazy, there was music blasting from somewhere, and I think that's the point in the race (mile 16) when everyone starts to think about the fact that they might actually make it. Shortly after that was the glorious moment when the sun went behind this teeny cloud for literally 5 seconds - and you could hear every single runner on the course either sigh or yelp with joy. We made our way towards the firehouse and finally made the turn towards the Newton hills...which is when things went from bad to worse.

I became aware of a few things as I struggled up the first hill, which I have affectionately dubbed "Ass Panther Hill " (don't ask why.) First of all, every time I tried to start running, my knee would buckle in pain. Obviously - bad. Secondly, I was starting to get chills (yes it's hot out, no that's not good) and a sort of tunnel vision type phenomenon that was legitimately freaking me out. But the most distressing thing was the fact that I was honestly a bit disoriented. I run in the Newton hills at least once a week, it's my home turf and I know it well. So when I looked around and felt confused as to exactly where we were in the hills, and everything looked unfamiliar, I was extremely, extremely concerned. I did NOT want to pass out. Or end up in the hospital. Or give myself a long-term injury, for that matter. So I made the executive decision that there was going to be a significant amount of walking from here on out. I was frustrated with my body for failing me, but the voice in the back of my head kept whispering that I wasn't giving up, I was being smart. And so I continued on, albeit at a slower pace. I ran the downhills, since my knee was cooperating with them significantly better than on the uphills, tried to get some more fluids into myself, and continued my neverending quest for sprinklers and ice pops.

The rest of the Newton hills basically sucked. I was in pain, hot, afraid that I was about to succumb to heat sickness, and embarassed about the amount of walking I was being forced to do. But there were moments when things were OK. For example - in the midst of several people holding cups of water, there was a woman holding a grape popsicle. Literally, the only thing I wanted in life at that moment was that popsicle. She offered me this popsicle, to which I responded "OH GOD YES" (I wish I was joking. I am not.) and I got a good laugh from that. I trotted along, biting my popsicle. It was cold, and I was happy. I'm pretty sure I actually revert to being 5 years old during marathons. I do remember seeing my favorite sign on the hill, which said "If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. Just keep going." (Of course, I also filled in the blank with the Firefly quote of "If you can't crawl, there'll be someone to carry you"...which actually became even more fitting later in the race)

I hit Heartbreak after what had felt like an extended walk break (in reality, it was probably like 2 minutes) and said aloud to myself "come on, you have to fucking try". So I started trying to run up Heartbreak. 30 seconds later, the pain in my knee was unbearable...well, at least I tried. The only consolation was that the big BC downhill was coming up...and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to run down THAT.  So as soon as I crested the hill I let gravity pull me along - and holy crap, BC was incredible. I don't know if I wasn't paying attention, didn't care, or if it was because I didn't have my name on me in 2010, but these drunk kids made me feel like I was some sort of celebrity. Absolutely screaming their faces off, offering high fives - it was spectacular. I just ran down that high five line grinning.  Also at that point one of the armed forces groups that was marching the route IN UNIFORM came by, and that was incredible because the entire crowd just started chanting "USA, USA, USA" in unison. Awesome.

Of course by now I knew any hope of a respectable time was out the window, and I was starting to feel truly awful. I took a quarter of a nuun in my water at the 22 mile water stop - couldn't decide if I was getting a little hyponaetremic (I had been drinking a LOT) or dehydrated. Not sure if it was a placebo or what, but it seemed to improve my outlook on everything except my knee situation. Since I still couldn't run for more than about a minute, I started off on a 1 min run/1 min walk plan that worked out pretty well for the rest of the "race". All I could think about coming into Cleveland Circle was "In like 5 minutes you get to see your friends!!! And when you see them you can't look like you're dying!" So as I came down the hill into Washington Square, I did my best to look like I wasn't ready to lie down and die in the road, which I was. So I was running when I saw them, even though I was also yelling "sorry it took so long!"

Oh my God. I have the best friends ever. First of all, they were all standing there screaming and waving all of these signs which I couldn't even comprehend at the time. But then, not only did they have freeze pops for me (4 of them, amazing) BUT THEY HAD ICE COLD DIET COKE. If an angel could have flown down from heaven and offered me one wish at that point in the race, it probably would have been Diet Coke. It was like delicious nectar of the gods and at that moment, I knew I was going to finish.

The last 2 miles, I just tried to have fun. My run-walk strategy was surprisingly allowing me to pass people who were dying more than me at this point in the race (I'm assuming since it was my knee, not the heat, that turned out to be the limiting reagent - when I WAS running I was running hard). The crowd was just ridiculous, and I found myself hamming it up for random people who were screaming my name (hey guy who called me sexy and told me I would make it, but then didn't get to high five me because I was already past - sorry about that! Glad you were a fan of the sports bra :P) Almost the next thing I knew, I was headed into Kenmore and the cheering was taken up by another 100%. Horns. Cowbells, Vuzuvelas. Absolute screaming, banging, insane, awesome. Coming through the part of Comm right before the underpass, I encountered a group of girls from my PT program who went absolutely INSANE when they saw me, which of course triggered me to start running just a little faster. I was almost done, and these people thought I was awesome no matter what, and I was HERE - I was going to finish the infernal Boston 2012. Only 21,606 people in the entire WORLD can say that, and I was one of them.

As we made the turn onto Hereford, my knee gave out again. Fuck. The frustration crept in again; I couldn't believe I was being forced to a walk this close to the finish line. And then something happened that I will probably remember for the rest of my life.

This gray-haired woman with glasses in a pink tank top came up on my right side. She looked at me, she took my hand, and she said "come on. You can do this." And she pulled me into a run. And I knew I would not stop running until I crossed the finish line. This was one of those things that, I don't know, you never expect would happen in real life. It seems like it's out of an inspirational movie or something. And since I'm the most stubborn, fiercely independent person you can imagine, it seems appropriate that this would happen to me. Because sometimes, you NEED someone to pull you along and tell you not to give up.  And that it doesn't matter if your time is crap or if things didn't go as long as you finish.
This is probably my favorite picture from the race - headed down Boyleston, eyes on the finish line. You can see my fairy godmother behind me in the pink - I wish I knew who she was. I hope I can do for someone what she did for me one day.
The finish line seemed like it was an eternity away, and all I could think with each step was IwanttostopIwanttostopIwanttostop. So when I finally crossed the line and I COULD stop, and it was OK...all I could do was breathe a sigh of relief. I had made it. I was still here. And though my 4:32:15 might say otherwise, I was a freaking runner who had just finished my 4th marathon. There was no taking that away.

The volunteers continued to be INCREDIBLE as I slowly made my way through the exit chute. The guy who gave me my water bottle was particularly great, yelling "Hey Audrey! You are awesome. You just finished the Boston Marathon!". I can't imagine that standing out in the heat watching people suffer was that much more fun than being the suffer-ee, so the enthusiasm was seriously appreciated. I gradually found my way out of the chute and made my way to the T while calling my mom to let her know I was alive (and I did NOT almost need to vomit in a planter this year! Epic success!!) I snagged a seat on the T and made my way back to my cheering crew, where I was legitimately treated like royalty. A random man who was spectating offered me a chair. My friends ran to the 7-11 to obtain me more popsicles and Diet Coke. And I sat there in my borrowed chair with my chafed feet and my dead legs, watching the runners who were still going by. And time be damned, I was happy.

Andrew helping me home post race. He gave me his shoes so I could take off my bloody/wet ones
I can't wait to put together a legitimate training cycle and RACE a marathon again. I'm antsy to start attacking PRs after almost 2 years of worthless training. But this time, just for a moment, it was enough just to know that running makes me happy, and that I am absolutely blessed to be able to experience that happiness that few others ever can, with the most wonderful friends and family behind my every step. When it comes down to it, that is enough.

No worries, Boston. I'll be back. Third time's the charm, right? ;)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Goal: Freeze Pop PR

Well in case you've been living under a rock, you've seen that the forecast for tomorrow is a high of somewhere between 86 and 88 degrees, depending on which website you look at. There was actually a deferment option introduced, where if you chose not to run due to the weather (which the BAA actually RECOMMENDED for unexperienced marathoners/people with health issues) you would automatically be in for next year. I'll admit, I toyed with the option for a split second. After all, I don't have a BQ yet for '13 (actually, since the next remote possibility of me running a marathon is in October, there's basically 0% chance that I'll get one) and it would be like a reset to this awful training cycle that mainly featured injury.

But then I thought, you know what? Screw that. My training may have been several trains and a bus ride short of spectacular, but I'll be damned if I didn't work a 20 mile, 2-18 miles, a 15 mile and 2-13 milers into my schedule in the 6 weeks that I was actually ABLE to run. If there was even an outside chance of me being able to get through this race I wanted to take it - because my friends would be cheering for me, because I wanted to enjoy the experience (unlike last time when I was so frustrated that I wasn't going to PR that I just went into my bubble of sad and ignored the awesomenss that is BOSTON). Is this going to be the epic comeback marathon that I dreamed it would be when I signed up in September? No. But it wouldn't have been that regardless of the heat - so the heat just gives me one more reason to take the pressure off and just savor what I can do.  I can run. I AM STILL A RUNNER - no matter what shit has gone on in the past year. This marathon has always been about showing that the things that life has thrown at me will. not. break me. So in a way, adding the WORST possible weather I could imagine for a race just adds to that.

Now I'm not going to lie, the weather scares the living bejeezus out of me. My heat tolerance has always been poor - I'm the kind of person who will be wearing short sleeves and shorts to run when everyone else is still wearing tights - so I'm a little concerned about how my body is going to respond. But my #1 goal is to FINISH THE RACE - so if I have to walk half of it because I'm overheating, well, that's better than not finishing.  My plan is pretty simple: run as close to naked as possible (sports bra and shorts, that's it), drink a sip and throw the water on myself at every water stop while drinking a full cup at every 3rd or so (depending on how I'm feeling), and care exactly zero about pace.

A+++ Beat my last Boston time (3:46:48). I would say that if the weather had been normal there was about a 50% chance of this happening, I am now taking that percentage down to ~1%. Looks like I'm taking that shot of tequila. Womp.
A Within 5 minutes on either side of 4 hours. Given the heat and my training, I think this could be reasonable.
B Set a freeze pop PR. Considering I have eaten a grand total of one freeze pop during a marathon ever (Boston 2010, lifesaving) I think this is completely doable!
C Finish. And you bet I WILL FINISH.

This is a weird situation. I've never in my running life as I know it gone into a race without optimal training or some sort of PR-style goal. But I'm hoping that maybe this will be just what I need to rekindle the fire that seems to have gone missing lately. And I mean, hell, if I can make it through a marathon in 88 degree heat, every other race/run EVER is going to seem like heaven in comparison, right?

Right on Hereford, left on Boyleson...

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Still alive

I'm still alive. I'm still running Boston, even though it's going to be a complete and utter shitshow. I am massively undertrained and in constant pain from both of my posterior tibs, but hey! It'll be fun, right?

I wrote a big long emo post a few weeks ago about how frustrated I was with all this -injuries, thyroid-induced craptasticness, etc, but I decided not to post it. It came off as whiny and stupid. I've kind of become numb to the situation I think. I hate that I'm going to be representing my team in such a crappy way, I hate that 26.2 miles is a LONG time to think about how undertrained you are, and I hate that I stupidly made a bet that means if I run a personal worst (pretty much a given), I have to take a double shot of chile pepper tequila. (Bad Idea with a capital B.)

But I really don't feel like talking about it much. Much as I love writing about running when running is good...I hate writing about it when it's bad. And folks, it's been bad lately. I can count on 2 hands the number of runs I've had in the past 2 months where I actually felt like a runner. So once this marathon is over, it's time to get my legs healthy, rediscover what I love about this sport, and overhaul my training. It's time to be a runner again.

Oh, and I'll let you know how Boston goes. All I can say is I'm going to do my best to have fun.

Friday, February 10, 2012

When is a training cycle not a training cycle?

When you get injured in the 3rd week of said training cycle and have to take 4 (possibly more?) weeks off. No running. None. Zero. Zip. Hi, welcome to my Boston training 2012.

My left shin had been irritated ever since I started going back to track workouts, but I chalked it up to, oh, I don't know, doing my first sub-6:30 pace running in over a year, in combination with my standard shin splint issues and figured it would pass. It did not. I did manage to get in one glorious 17 miler on 1/15 and a great track workout on 1/17...and then the shit hit the fan.  The day after the track workout, I was an emotional trainwreck and was vaguely aware that the pain in my shin was starting to get to the point where it was noticeable/having an effect on me while I was running.  Given that I've had shin splints ever since I started running 10 years ago, and have been able to run through them in every case, this was a giant red flag.  The following day I decided to run easy on the treadmill, thinking that the more forgiving surface would help. It did not.

At this point I was still thinking that maybe I would just take a few days off and jump right back in.  I took 4 days off/in the pool and decided to go back to track practice the next week to see if things had improved. By mile 1.5 of the warmup, it became apparent that not only were things not better...they were actually worse. And that (1/24) was the last time I ran. It took another 2 weeks after that for me to suck it up and see a doctor (when I had to jog for a train and my leg throbbed for 3 hours afterward, that was the final straw). The good news is that according to x-ray, it's not a stress fracture, most likely a stress reaction, and the fact that I've already taken 3 weeks off at this point means that healing is happening and hopefully recovery is around the corner.  The bad news? I haven't run a meaningful run/workout in almost a MONTH. During which time I was supposed to be TRAINING FOR A MARATHON.

I pretty much went through all of the injury stages, including the one that involves "bursting into tears for no particular reason because you feel like the essence of everything you are has been taken away". I am beyond that now and am mostly dedicated to just kicking my own ass day after day in the pool and the weight room. I know that I'm being a smart athlete, doing my damnest to keep my fitness up by getting in the pool (pool running...not as soul sucking as I expected) and on the bike, and strength training as much as I can to come out of this stronger than I was before (no lie...I have done more strength training in the last month than in the rest of my life combined. And the shock of the century is..I ENJOY it.)  But...I have obviously had to drastically lower my expectations as far as this marathon is concerned.  Am I going to run the marathon? Oh hell yes. Is it going to be pretty? Oh hell no.  I can't imagine shooting for a PR with a maximum of 8 weeks of actual training under my belt. But maybe this will force me to go into the race as a no pressure situation and just. freaking. enjoy it. I've already basically made the decision that I'm racing a fall marathon since it's clear that Boston is going to be a shitshow at best, so why not just go out there and just...see what happens?

So that's my life right now.  I have been listening to "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson a lot during my workouts lately (shut up, I love her.) and the lyrics ring pretty true to me in terms of being thrown some shit by life in the last 6 months...
You think you got the best of me
Think you had the last laugh
Bet you think that everything good is gone
Think you left me broken down
Think I'd come running back
Baby, you don't know me cause you're dead wrong
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Undoubtedly, I will come back stronger, fiercer, and maybe with a little more gratitude for the fact that I'm able to run. Onward and upward.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Boston training, week 1-2

I know all the cool kids are writing recaps of 2011 around this time of year (or maybe I'm a little late on that, considering it's January 9...) but in terms of running, 2011 was forgettable at best. Hopefully in 2012, tendonitis/ankle sprains/thyroid cancer will leave me the hell alone and let me do my thing.  And currently, that thing is....Boston Training!

So, I really don't even know what I'm doing right now. I kept telling myself all semester "you really should make a plan for Boston training because it's coming up sooner than you think!"...and now all of a sudden it's here, and I don't know what's going on. To be fair I'm not usually a person who follows a specific plan and tend to wing it on everything besides the long run, but I've gotten wayyyy too used to just going out every day and running whatever I feel like. I need to actually think about the purpose behind the runs I'm doing and not just aimlessly run around.  That being said, I actually did do a couple of things that could be construed as "workouts" this week and I think that's a step in the right direction.

One exciting thing that DID happen to me in 2011...I finally bit the bullet and jumped on the Garmin train with the shiny new 405 that I got for Christmas. I'm still deciding on a name, lol. Originally I said I was ONLY going to wear it for speed workouts, blah blah blah, but I quickly realized how amazing and fun it was to see exactly how far I had run at any point in time and now wear it every day. The only downside of this has been the discovery that EVERY route I've ever mapped out online is ~0.2 miles short. Wah wahhh. I know Garmins have some error too, but that it's probably closer to accurate than an online map.  It has seemed pretty accurate as far as pacing in the couple of "speed" workouts I've done though, so I think for tempo runs and intervals it's going to be an absolutely invaluable tool. Plus I love being able to log my runs to the 100th of a mile. :)'s what's been going on in training land the past couple of weeks. Only 5 days of running each week, probably could have done better there, but I was home for part of the time and I had one of my best friends in town for a few days and we just didn't have the time to run every single day she was here. I got the long runs in though, which I think is what really matters at this point.

Week of 12/26-1/1
Mon - OFF
Tues - 7.02 E/8:02 pace, ran on some new trails around some retention ponds at home in Wisco which I was pretty excited about, since I get really bored of the same old parkway when I'm home (not that I'm there too often, but still)
Wed - 7.90 hills/7:44 pace, downhills workout on Heartbreak that I completely forgot about.
Thurs - 5.15 E/8:10 pace
Fri - Nicole arrived, we drank a lot, didn't run
Sat - 12.83 L/8:23 pace, ran the first 5 solo and then picked up Nicole for the rest...long runs with a friend make long runs SO much oh man.  It's been a couple years since we did a long run together so this was fantastic. And the perfect prelude to NYE festivities!
Sun - 5.0 E/8:21 pace, I mean, couldn't start 2012 with a zero now, could we? Hungover.
Total: 37.9

Week of 1/2-1/8
Mon - OFF. Rose Bowl day...had my heart crushed by the Badger loss.
Tues - OFF...hungover, miserably stuffed up, and it was my friend Nicole's last day in town and her knee was bugging her, so we wanted to spend the day doing touristy things rather than running.
Wed - 6.30 E/7:52 pace, the run where I realized my "6.55" mile route that I've been running a TON this fall was not, in fact, 6.55 miles. Core workout.
Thurs - 7.46 w/3.9 mile fartlek/7:55 pace, ran to Brookline res, 6 x 2min @5K pace/3min easy, ran home. Felt really hard but the paces were OK so I'll take it.
Fri - 6.33 E/8:07 pace, felt like crap but saw an INCREDIBLE sunset. LE strength workout.
Sat - 7.12 T/7:27 pace, felt good for the first time in forever, and was running in shorts + t-shirt in January.
Sun - 15.01 L/8:09 pace, first real long run of the training cycle, definitely tough but made it through surprisingly well with the pace probably unnecessarily fast. Made me wonder why I'm doing this marathon training business again but definitely was happy to get through it successfully.
Total: 42.2 miles, 2 strength/core workouts

And that is what's new on the training front.  I'm enjoying my last week off before the semester starts again and looking forward to Thursday night when, after taking some radioactive iodine to kill off any rogue thyroid cells still lurking in my body, I can eat CHEESE again! Seriously...low iodine diet =/= fun.  I haven't been able to eat any dairy or anything with salt added (because I don't know if it's iodized salt or not)...I have been trying to pretend I'm a healthy living blogger or something and "cleansing" myself of processed food but really...I am just hungry and looking forward to eating a pizza.  Come on...I am a runner...I need my processed carbs!

Oh, and I've decided 2012 is going to be a kickass year. The end.