A quick update on the past 2 weeks, plus 10 things you need to know about me, the runner

So, the past two weeks: well, week and a day, really, but still. It started with the 18-miler. What can I say? It started out fine, got tough in the middle, but around mile 15 I realized I would be fine and kept banging on until the end. When I was done, I. Felt. Awesome. I’d given blood two days prior, which may explain why I then had a crap week of running these past few days – another shitty 8-mile pace run, flanked by a couple of “meh” 5-mile easy runs. The first one, though, reminded me of one thing I love about where I live: you can run two miles out of the city and be in horse country, isolated completely, surrounded by fields and deer and birds and the occasional errant golf ball. It was really nice, even if my pace was a bit off. I did 13 miles yesterday, which unbeknownst to me until it was too late had a HUGE hill at mile 5. Oops. But after having reached the top of it, I felt completely recharged, which set the tone for the rest of the run. Maybe it was the brisk weather (55 degrees at run time – heaven!), maybe it was my refreshed legs, who knows, but it was a perfectly pleasant and happy half-marathon. (And it actually was 13.1, since I added 0.1 zigzagging through a parking garage when I had to take an unplanned detour and discovered that the normal way out of the garage was closed. Ha!) I also had a fun experience with a blue heron, whom I startled right before the huge 5-mile-marker hill. It flew up out of a creek right in front of me, which scared the crap out of ME in return, but it was a breathtaking sight, these magnificent wings just pawing at the air 5 feet from me. I’m thankful it didn’t turn around and attack me or something.

I calculated my mileage for this month, and it’s the highest it’s ever been: just over 143. I’ll do more next month before I start my taper. That’s insane. My year to date mileage is – and I couldn’t believe this – about 765. By the time my marathon is done, that number will be 942. (Runners know exactly what my next thought was upon learning this) The marathon is November 10; I have a 10-miler in early December, which would knock that number up to 952, leaving me about 47 miles to run over six weeks to get to 1000. That’s 1000 miles, run by MY FEET, IN ONE YEAR.

I might actually go for it. THAT is insane.

This week is a reduced-mileage week – three 5-mile runs during the week – and then 19 on Sunday, which will be 6 on a treadmill at my hotel and then 13 at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge half marathon. AND THEN, oh goodness, I’m going to my first ever Redskins game about which I am so excited I might pop. (Or poop. One never knows with me.)

Finally, apropos of nothing – seriously, I came up with this on my 13-miler yesterday, so no one thing or person triggered it except my own weird brain – here’s an unofficial list of ten things you need to know about me, as a runner. (Read this with a grain of salt, or with tongue in cheek, but maybe don’t combine the two unless you have a canker sore.)

1) I don’t run fast. I run slow, but I can run for a long time. In a possible zombie apocalypse, you want me on your team. Remember this.

2) When we hang out, if I start being That Person who won’t shut up about running, please tell me to Shut It Now. In fact, I’d love to talk about anything else – football, beer, the last good book you or I read. Running already consumes my life. I don’t want it to consume every one of my conversations, but I’m often not aware that it’s doing so before it’s too late. Help me help you not hate me!

3) It’s okay – I think I’m insane, too. And no, I don’t get it either.

4) When I decline to hang out with you on basically any night of the week that’s not Saturday, it’s not because you’re lame. It’s because I’m lame and go to bed by 10:00 every night, because I’m up at 6:00 pretty much every morning. Saturday is the exception to this. Saturday is when I am looking to do something STUPID. And fun.

5) The older I get, the less I can drink like I did in college. The more I run, the less I can drink than I could six months ago. This is good for you, because it makes me an incredibly cheap date. Not kidding: three beers of a good ABV will probably knock me under the table. Or start a fight. Join me for drinks with caution.

6) If you see me running and you honk or wave at me, I’m not going to return your gesture. This is for one of two reasons: one, I’m in the zone, which could mean that I’m focusing on my breathing, or that I’m desperately trying to convince my legs that they want to keep going; two, I’ve run far enough to cause the joyous delirium that removes all thought from my head and renders me basically unable to do little more than put one foot in front of the other and hope I don’t get hit by a car. If you’re in a car, please don’t hit me to say hi to me. I think that somewhat misses the point. 🙂

7) Please please please please don’t feel intimidated or silly or anything because you’re ‘just’ training for a 5k. One, we all had to start somewhere, and I clearly recall how long it took and how awful I felt going from 1 mile to 2 miles to 3 miles. Two, are you kidding? 5ks are HARD. Harder than a half marathon, in my opinion. Are your feet on the ground? You have my respect.

8) If we go out to dinner and you offer to split something with me, be warned: I’m going to eat 75% of it. Sorry. I have a running tapeworm that requires me to eat as if every day is my last day on earth.

9) I have no idea when I smell bad anymore. I spend so much time steeped in my own gross sweat that I’m immune to it. If I stink, please tell me.

10) Last, but certainly not least: especially in the moments after a hard run or a race, but always, even in the middle of the night – I can never adequately express how much your support means to me and motivates me. Even if it’s a two-word “Go Kat!”, it doesn’t matter. Having people back you up is sometimes the only thing that gets you through your worst mile. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And thank you for reading this. 😀

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Post-race report: Run For Green half marathon

First of all: T-minus less-than-50-days until the marathon. Insane.

Second of all: I’ve finally had one of those weeks where I fell in love with running again. I think this is because the weather (finally?) turned last weekend, and the humidity has been slowly trickling away as the fall equinox approaches. What this has meant is cooler weather and, though sunny, much less stifling conditions, at all hours of the day. Running-wise, this means less of a perceived effort for me, and faster times even on my easy runs, which I expected, but is still a nice boost to my well-being. (Basically, running in 60-degree weather with the blue sky ablaze and a breeze to cool you is the greatest thing ever, and don’t even get me started when the leaves start changing for real. AAAHHHH.)

I’ve had great runs all week, which is an awesome feeling – a rain-induced 5-mile pace run on Tuesday, a lovely 8-mile jaunt on Wednesday that when I finished, I actually thought, oh, is that all? I’m done now? Shoot, I wanted more, and a speedy 5-mile jaunt yesterday that ended with me thinking Holy crap, my legs are dead, but I love this shit. I’m about to finish week 11 of my training plan, and I recall distinctly before starting that I looked ahead to this week and though there’s no way-  NO WAY! – I’m going to be able to survive 5-8-5s when this starts. How on earth am I going to carve out the time and mental space for all of that? 8 miles on a weekday? Madness! And yet it’s happened, and it feels great. I’m so beyond ready for Saturday’s 18-miler – yes, the “dreaded” 18-miler. Are you kidding? Dreaded? I can’t wait to knock this thing out of the park. And (as of this drafting) I haven’t even had coffee yet! AHHHHHH.

Anyway, the title of this post has to do with a half-marathon, so I need to tell you guys the story about that, don’t I? Okay then!

Like I said a couple of posts ago, this was the first race I’ve ever run in another state, and the first race I’ve run in which I’ve never seen the course beforehand. It was the Run For Green half-marathon in Davidson, NC, home of Davidson College and a few stones’ throws from where most of my family lives. The race had a 10k and 5k going on concurrently, and the whole shebang was part of the town’s Green Day celebration, sponsored by the Davidson Lands Conservancy – which explains the finisher’s medal, made from a recyclable, which you’ll see below. Pretty cool concept, and pretty good cause; proceeds from the race went to the Conservancy, which makes me feel a little better about all the gas I burned driving to and from NC.

Anyway, the best I could do as far as getting a sense of the course went was to look at the course maps and try to do some elevation mapping to see where the hills were. So I had some clue as to the first couple of miles being downhill, then the course flattening out, then a gradual – but not steep – climb, then rolling hills and a sliiiiight climb to end the course. Okay, I can handle this, I thought. I’d told my family the night before that I was hoping to break my PR (of one race, haha) of 2:15, and it seemed like the course would make that possible.

The race was on Saturday morning, and Friday afternoon I rolled into town, went to packet pickup, and drove out to the start of the race so I could a) find my way there and not get lost on race morning and b) time myself so I’d know when to leave for the race on race morning. These were anxiety-soothers more than anything else, since I get nervous and squidgy when I don’t know where I’m going and have to be someplace at a particular time (see: the time I took my GREs and the testing center was absolutely nowhere near where my maps told me it was. I showed up late, which was verboten, and the attendant tried to jokingly tell me I was forbidden from taking the test due to tardiness and would have to sign up for a later date. I’d driven THREE HOURS to get to that point; I didn’t laugh. I cried. He quickly let me in, the jerkface.).

So that all went well. Saturday morning I woke up on time, and left on time, and even had enough time for a quick pit stop to pick up a banana and some Gatorade. I arrived in good stead, and had plenty of time to walk to the starting line from my parking space – good thing #1: there was ample parking and it was about 500 feet away from the start line – and explore the area a little bit. Good thing #2 was that there was a CVS with plenty of bathrooms that was open at that hour (7am), all of which were being used by runners. Good thing #3 was the weather; it was a cool morning, a little humid, but not excruciatingly so. The sun would rise and shine strongly for the duration of the race, but it was never overly hot, though I did manage to still be totally soaked through with sweat by the end.

We lined up at 7:20 and were off exactly at 7:30, and thus began what may be known hereafter – until my next half, anyway – as the Most Smiley 13.1 Miles I’ve Ever Run In My Life.

The first 3 miles were indeed downhill, quite gradually at first, but that gave me a false sense of speed and I ended up doing my first mile a bit faster than I’d wanted. I checked myself for the next two, and going from mile 3 into mile 4 I had a gradual but still steep-ish ascent to help me do this. We did go through some neighborhood roads, and almost immediately I discovered good things #4 and #5 about this race: there were immediately people cheering on the side of the road, and there were a ton of signs and cones and people directing traffic to make sure we knew where we were going. I get very anxious when I’m going somewhere for the first time, and road races aren’t to me really the sort of place you want to have that anxiety of not knowing where you’re going creep in. Because what happens if you make a wrong turn and get lost? So, I appreciate well-marked courses because they ensure that I, whose brain usually shuts completely off after 8 or 9 miles, will not actually end up somewhere in Georgia. I also really appreciate people cheering on the side of the road at frequent intervals because as a slow runner I can tell you that it sucks to get to the end of a race and have no one there because everyone else has gone home. It’s one of the reasons I sat outside my house after my first half-marathon and cheered on the slower marathon runners when they were going by; I know that’s going to be me in November, so I love to be – and see- that support. It makes a HUGE difference, especially if the course is an out-and-back and they’re the same people you saw going out before turning around to come back. This was an out-and-back, and every single one of those people stayed until the end, and cheered just as loud and hard for us when we were coming as when we were going.

Anyway, before we got onto the flattened-out greenway we had to run out of the neighborhood somehow, and I was pretty pissed to discover that it was via an incredibly steep downhill at mile 2.5ish, because that meant that we’d have to run back up that steep hill later at about mile 11.5ish, which, hey, I’m sorry, isn’t really the time in my half-marathon where I want to see one of those soul-crushing ascents. But, you know, what can you do? (Most people walk it. I dug my toes into the pavement and ran up the damn thing just to prove to it that I was better than it. Pbbbbllllt. My hamstrings took a couple of days to forgive me, but they got over it eventually.) But there was our first water stop after that, and hey, there’s good thing #6: plenty of, and well-spaced, water stops. With the nicest people in the world to the point where I actually felt bad not taking water from them. How does that happen? It was so great, especially when I did take water from them on the way back.

Through the greenway we went, into the shade, and I got totally distracted by the sunrise coloring a haze over the top of the tall grass in the adjacent fields. It got more distracting when we turned out of the greenway and went onto an actual road, which was lined with cornfields, which were colored the most ridiculously brilliant gold and red against that early blue-purple September sky. It was breathtaking, and not just because it meant we were chugging uphill. But, thankfully, that was short-lived, and into another neighborhood we trotted, into the fun and windy parts near golf courses and some absurdly large houses. (Hello, professor-land!)

The middle miles of the course were, as I’d expected, full of rolling hills. Some of them were steep; some were not, so it was a good mix. But, I had a hard time figuring out whether or not to conserve my energy, because I knew I’d be coming back over these hills, but I also didn’t know how much of an uphill finish the finish actually was, since it was slightly different from the start (we forked right after mile 12 where we’d originally come in from the left). So I slowed down, a lot, and by mile 8 had pretty much figured that my chances at a PR were shot. I was a little disappointed at first, but I eventually realized that the only thing really wrong with this was that I had family waiting at the finish line, and my first thought was that they were going to think I was laying dead in the middle of the road somewhere if I didn’t finish around when I told them I’d expected to. (My next thought: boy, are they going to be happy when they see that I’m actually not dead!)

Because you know what? I was having SO MUCH FUN just being out there and running and chatting with people and smiling and encouraging people and BEING encouraged that I honestly didn’t care that I was nowhere near a PR. This is the first race I’ve ever been a part of where everyone within earshot of me when the leaders doubled back on us cheered for every single one of them, pretty much until we got to the point where we were doubling back on ourselves, which made us laugh pretty hard (and exchange a few high-fives). It really made me appreciate other runners, and it made me so happy to see all of us supporting one another- a few of the leaders even yelled back at us “you’re doing great too!”, which was so awesome. Maybe it’s just where I run in Virginia, but that’s never really happened to me before, even in the half I did in my city. This isn’t to say the people here weren’t supportive, because they were to a great extent, but these North Carolinians really knew how to put the hospitality in “Southern hospitality”. It really made for a race-changing experience, and I can’t thank any of my fellow runners or the course-marking-people or water-stop-manning people enough for their cheers and encouragement.

Mile 9 came, and I decided to try to pick it up a little so that my family would indeed not decided that I was dead, though I knew I had to save some energy for that nasty hill at mile 11.5. I have no idea what my splits were for the last 4 miles, so I have no idea if I succeeded, but my legs were telling me that they were doing their best but had more to give, so I made them give a little more. The nasty hill was nasty indeed, but once I’d climbed it, it was mostly smooth sailing from there. I didn’t know that mile 12 would be relatively flat until it was mile 12.75, so I didn’t really start to hustle until it was rather too late, but that ended up being just fine since it gave me momentum to get up the – ARGH! – final hill. Which was slight, but still – uphill finishes stink! 🙂 But, I knew I was going as hard as I could, and that I would finish strong-  that’s always what I intend to do on any of my runs, even my long ones: to finish the last mile as best and fast and strong as I can for that run, and pretty much leave it all on the pavement. That habit led to me booking it towards the finish line last Saturday; I rounded the last corner, saw the finish chute, and immediately scanned the people lined up there for my family. I didn’t see them at first, and panicked: Aw, crap, they gave up and went home!  Stupid brain: they wouldn’t actually do that… and no, they hadn’t. WaitohmygodtheretheyareEEEEEEandI’mfinishedEEEEEEholycrapcanIhavesomewater. And then I was handed my medal and then my smart-aleck nephew made the comment you’ll see below.

Here, have a look at some peektures:

This is the awesome finishers’ medal that we got. I wasn’t even expecting one, so it was pretty cool to be handed this at the end; they’re made from the bottoms of green glass bottles, and stamped with the race logo, so each one is unique. I couldn’t stop holding mine up to the light:

Nice and simple, on a green piece of string. I love it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my cheering squad, headed by my nieces and nephew:

One niece is totally covered up by her sign (oops!), and the other was being a bit camera-shy, so you only see nephew behind me. He’s the one who, when I crossed the finish line, chirped “what took you so long?” Twit. He gets it from me. 🙂

So, after exchanging sweaty hugs and congratulations and love to and from the family – my mom, two sisters, nephew, and two nieces – we went our separate ways: they went home, and I went to get a free beer at the taphouse next to the finish line. Not gonna lie, it was probably the best free beer I’ve had in a very long time. I chatted with folks for a bit, walked back to my car, stretched out, and joined my sister back at her house, where there was a quick shower, lunch, and then an afternoon out on the boat that involved lots of sitting around and drinking and playing volleyball. It was a good afternoon; the perfect way to celebrate the most fun I’ve ever had running a race in my life.

(My final time was 2:21, which isn’t terribly far off my 2:15 goal. In case you were curious.)

So that’s that – if any of you are on the east coast and are looking for a fun, small, friendly, very-well-planned half -marathon for the fall next year, please consider the Run For Green half (and no, they didn’t pay me to say that!). It really is worth traveling to, and I hope they run it for many more years to come. I know I’ll be there as long as I’m out here!

Gotta get back to doing work now (grading papers, wheee!) – but I confess, I’m a little fidgety thinking about my 18-miler tomorrow morning. Can’t wait to just get out there and enjoy the run.

I’ve done (at least) two insane things in the past ten days…

I mean, relatively speaking. But these are more egregious than the rest:

1) I signed up for another half-marathon before my November marathon. I’m running my according-to-training-plan half this weekend, two days from now in fact (about which I’m pumped; the course looks relatively flat – FAMOUS LAST WORDS HAHAHA – and the weather should be spot-on perfect), so it’s not like I need another half. I don’t, at all, especially not in early October when I have a 19-mile run scheduled. But come on, a 6-mile warmup before a race? I’ve totally done that before, and it totally turned out okay. (Never mind that that race was half the distance that this one will be.)

So why the hell did I sign up for this thing? If you’ve ever lived in the metro DC area, you’ll understand this: Saint of a Boyfriend had dinner with some assorted folks a couple of nights ago and through conversation discovered that one of them is from the DC area and is big into running. Said runner told Saint about “the most awesome half-marathon I’ve ever done that was sooooo cool”, which Saint later relayed to me as “they shut down an entire bridge that’s part of a highway over the river from Virginia into Maryland and you run over it”. Having no idea which bridge he was talking about – there are two major ones, the George Washington Memorial Bridge part of I-495 that runs on the western side of DC, and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge part of I-95 that runs on the eastern side of DC – I was nonetheless intrigued. How awesome would it be to be able to run through two states and over D.C. waters, especially if it happened to be the bridge on which I’ve been stuck in traffic hopeless, countless times driving to and from Maryland into Virginia and vice versa? [sidenote: I grew up in the part of Maryland from which you have to take that bridge to get into Virginia, and went to college in Virginia, so I know that bridge well and have spent far more time on that bridge than I care to think about.] Answer: totally awesome.

Alas, I Googled the thing, and was slightly disappointed to find out that the race is actually over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, but, I’ve been stuck in traffic on that span of concrete enough to understand that this would still be a really cool opportunity. I hemmed and hawed for a bit – the price is a bit steep, it’s on a Sunday, but the course looks really pretty plus it’s in October and I love all things on an early morning in October, and Saint would come with me, plus he was so exuberant about this other runner guy having had such an excellent experience that I was nearly getting palpitations just listening to him describe how the other guy felt – but, last night, I took the plunge. Signed up. Confirmed. Done.

Whatthefuhiswrongwithme? )(Answer: marathon madness.)

Icing on the cake: as if this was Fate intervening, there’s a home game for the Redskins later that afternoon a few miles up the road. I’m about to call Saint to convince him that we should get some cheap tickets in the upper seats and spend our Sunday afternoon that way. 😀

Here’s the site for the race, if you’re curious: http://www.wilsonbridgehalf.com/

2) I spent $40 on socks. Sorry, I should clarify: I spent $40 on only four pairs of socks. But hear me out here: my feet get blisters. Rather, my toes get blisters, like whoa, and it’s gross. Maximally disgusting, to borrow a term from the 1980s. I hit a breaking point when I realized I was going through 40+ Band-Aids a week – at least 10 per run – to prevent my blisters from getting worse or bleeding or anything. It’s not my shoes; this happens no matter which running shoes I wear, though it did occur to me later that I could probably just tie them tighter and save myself $40. But I started Googling, and sifted through enough reviews to settle on several pairs of Balega Hidden Comfort socks – most of the reviews I read said “my blisters were many but the heavens parted once I put these on and BAM! my feet were singing blister-free praises”. That’s enough to convince me; four pairs it was. Confirmed. Shipped.

I got them in the mail the day before my 17-miler last weekend. I decided it was not maybe the best idea to try them then, because I believe in starting small and working my way up, even though I probably would have been fine. The night before that run, I slipped on a pair just to see how they felt.

Cue the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah. No joke. I was almost sad to take them off. (Pathetic, kind of, isn’t it?)

But, I was also really, really excited to wear them on my shorter runs this week. And I did: two 4-milers and a 7-mile pace run. TURN THAT HALLELUJAH CHORUS UP TO 20, because these socks are freaking miraculous. No Band-Aids, nice, tight tying of the laces, and I am set. I do still have blisters because they won’t ever fully heal until I stop running – which will probably be the day my legs actually physically are separated from my body – but the important thing is that they’re not being rubbed down any more or having new blisters form on top of them. They don’t even hurt during my runs. That’s how epically awesome these socks are.

So, point being: I highly, highly, stratospherically recommend these socks to anyone who runs. Absolutely worth the absurd amount of money I no longer feel guilty at having spent.

Here you go: http://www.balega.com/socks/hidden-comfort

That’s it… for now. Happy weekend, everyone! 😀

A post of many firsts. Also, 60 days out. Ack!

I like things in numbered lists. This post will be no exception, since it will cover a lot and will almost certainly make no sense if I even attempt to make it coherent. Wheee!

1) Last week: during my short-ish weekday runs I was feeling kinda ehhhh. Tuesday’s run was a nice 4-miler, during which I ran over a bridge and had this wonderful sense of nostalgic deja-vu wash over me. It was a bright morning, but there were impossibly large, billowing white clouds in the sky, some of which were tinted gray on the bottom – harbingers of the absurd amounts of rain we got last week that had, at the time, mercifully abated enough for me to catch an outdoor jaunt – and the way the wind was blowing combined with those things and the fact that I was running over a bridge instantly transported me back to St Petersburg. (The one in Russia, not in Florida.) In that moment I realized that ten years ago at this very time, I’d just arrived there for an academic-year stay, and I can so clearly remember the impressions that I had in the first few weeks I was there. Last Tuesday was a near-exact replica, sky- and wind-wise, of many a September day I had in St Petersburg, walking around, wondering how a sky could be so wide and full of color and clouds, going over the same bridge four or five times a day because it was really the only place to stop and just watch life move for a while. (St Pete is a city full of bridges, since they connect the various islands that compose the city proper. The bridges are somewhat iconic, and even the small ones didn’t fail to impress me.) I’ve gotten emotional while running before – sometimes merely because the pain in my whatever-it-is-that-niggles-that-day is almost too much – but this hit me like nothing I’ve ever run with before. I had to swallow a hard lump in my throat real fast, mostly because a gentleman passing by me said hello to me and I was not going to leave him hello-hanging, but also partly because it got me thinking about how much my life has changed in the last ten years, since that seminal year in Russia. So much that didn’t turn out how I thought it would, for both better and worse. So much that I never, ever expected would be true – and, of course, one thing I keep coming back to is this whole idea of running a marathon. I’d have laughed you stupid if you’d stopped me on one of those bridges and said to me, So hey, ten years from now you’re going to be about two months away from running 26.2 miles. But you know what? It’s true, and it’s not entirely laughable.

2) But it does sort of totally freak me out that the marathon countdown on the race’s homepage says 60 days. Two months to the day, exactly. WHATTHEFUH. I mean, I know time passes quickly and all, but it seems impossible that I will probably blink and that counter will say 30 days. And then 20. And then 10. And then I might start leaking from my pores all of the ridiculous excitement and nervousness I have.

3) Of course, a good deal of that nervousness is me constantly doubting that I can actually do this thing. When I have bad runs, I have every doubt that I will be able to recover and have a good run the next time out, even though that’s almost always exactly what happens. Wednesday and Thursday of last week are textbook examples of this. Because I am doing horribly at keeping to my training plan as written down – purely in the sense of doing week 9 during week 10 instead of week 9, for example, and switching around pace runs and easy runs according to the weather or my mood that day; the mileage is all there, not to worry – I switched weeks 9 and 10 and ran week 10 last week to run week 9 this week, so that I could do a half-marathon very close to where most of my family in North Carolina lives so they could come out and see me. That meant jumping up to an 8-mile pace run after only two 7-mile runs in the preceding two weeks, which did not please me, but on I went.

Well.

It didn’t go so well, and I ended up slowing down and jogging out for a lot more of the run than I’d wanted to, and finished not terribly far off my target pace, but far enough for me to be mad at myself. And then the doubts started creeping in, especially because the long run for the week was scheduled at 17 miles, and I’m at the point now where most of the long runs are at the point of running them the longest I’ll have ever run in my life. 17 miles was that – the most I’d done prior to that was 15, the weekend before. (I know, I know: 2 more miles seems ridiculous to worry about when the mileage is already that high, but (warning: profound statement coming!) 17 is really close to 18, and 18 is just unfathomable, right?)

So, I made a deal with myself: if, come Thursday, it was raining as much as the weather folks said it would be, then I would shelve my regular 4-mile run and take it inside to do a 4-mile pace run. The running gods must have heard my vow, since Thursday morning brought about a serious gullywasher that actually threatened some flash flooding. Okay then! I thought. Pace run it is. 

And thus it was. I decided to really push myself and run a (to me) torturously fast 4-miler, but I was helped by the fact that I arrived at the gym late due to circumstances completely beyond my control, related to the rain, and had to do the same amount of working out and showering in much less time than I usually have. The first thing of my routine that I can fix is how long I run for, so it was a happy coincidence that I was in a somewhat self-punitive mood. And you know what? I thought I was going to puke, but when I was done, I felt fantastic. Damn endorphins… they get me every time. Ultimately, I was feeling pretty good about the weekend’s 17-miler by the time I left the gym, entertaining approximately zero thoughts that it would a) suck or b) be impossible.

4) I carried those thoughts into Saturday morning when my alarm went off at the ridiculous hour of 2:45am. Even then, I was looking forward to the challenge, somewhat (maybe totally) because I had a breakfast date afterwards for all-you-can-eat pancakes at the peach orchard near where I had that spectacular 12-mile-run bonk last month. Also because my route, which I had broken down into loops to make it more mentally manageable, in pieces rather than in one giant 17-mile behemoth, took me past a Dunkin’ Donuts three times and actually into it twice (it’s open 24 hours, and I figured that if they wouldn’t give me free water, they’d at least be willing to accept 50 cents for some ice). I ended up leaving late due to mapping issues, but once I got out – holy cow. Holy COW. It was gorgeous. Only a mite humid, but the sky was clear and the stars were still out, since the sun wasn’t due to rise for another 90 minutes at that point. I was soon glad I had my headlamp, since the first loop was along several very dark roads, some of which were so dark I had problems seeing in front of me where my feet were landing, which was a bit disconcerting, especially since I’m clumsy enough to have fallen off of sidewalks before. On this first loop I ran into the same three people twice throughout – coming and going – which was amusing, but also encouraging, because the first few miles of a run always suck hard for me and I have to remind myself that they do, eventually, get much better. Having people to wave to gives a little pick-me-up that takes my mind off of the suck, so that was fun.

But the highlight of the first loop was definitely the sunrise. Somehow I planned it totally by accident so that I was looping back to come into town at the top of a hill and running on a long downslope for about a half-mile right about the time the colors were starting to peak over the horizon. In these parts, the horizon is made of mountains, and there was still a bit of lingering mist over them as the pre-dawn purples and blues gave way to the reds and oranges, and my heart caught in my throat as I was making my way down the hill and looking over to the skyline. There’s a lot I may not like too much about where I live, but God damn (sorry) if the sunrise in the mountains isn’t one of the things I will miss so hard when I finally move away from here. And not just any mountains – they call them the Blue Ridge mountains because they actually do look blue, and when they’re bathed in a misted end-of-summer-peeking-into-fall twilight, they’re just freaking gorgeous. I actually stopped and said, out loud, “Holy shit, that’s beautiful”, and of course had no idea that there was someone in an adjacent parking lot who heard me and made a noise at me like I was crazy. I didn’t care; I meant the words. It really was something.

And that got me going for the rest of the long run. Finish Loop 1, stop at the house for some water, carry on. The sun rose and then was osbcured by fog and clouds, which didn’t burn off until I was actually turning for home for the last time to finish my run and cool down, so not only was it not as awfully humid as it has been, but it was also not sunny, which pretty much ensured awesome running conditions. I eased into Loop 2, and before I knew it was making my first stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. Onward to Loop 3, and another stop at DD. Begin Loop 4, when it hit me that I’d been out for a really, really long time and was wondering when I would be done because damn, 17 miles is really, really far. I still had my headlamp on – it was acting as a great sweatband, which is the sole reason I didn’t take it off even though I knew it looked stupid – and not only was it not dark at all but it was also getting to be time for the football tailgaters to be in full swing, so I knew it was almost time to finish up. A mile from home, I got that stupid perk in my stride that says run faster, you’re almost home, so I did. The usual sore parts of me were sore and whining hey, can we go home and get stretched out now?, but I was so happy that I didn’t care that they were nagging at me, and by the time I made that turn for home I was booking it. And grinning like an idiot. Because it meant two things: one, that 18 miles was just one more mile than what I was doing and that, in the grand scheme of things, is nothing, and two, 20 miles later on isn’t even that much farther than 18, and that suddenly seemed totally possible, which meant that the full marathon distance also suddenly seemed possible. For the first time in my training, it occurred to me: Hey dumbass, you’re actually going to DO THIS, and it is ACTUALLY POSSIBLE.

What a fucking feeling.

(Sorry for the cursing. Sort of. Not really. I was stoked. I’m GETTING stoked just writing about it…)

And then I was done and at home and walking it off and laughing like a fool. And then I stretched, rinsed off, and went to inhale peach-topped pancakes and catch up with a dear friend. And it was all fantastic.

5) I said this was a post with firsts, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t note (WARNING: GROSS NASTY THINGS COMING) that the 17-miler was not only my first run at that distance but also my first run in which I finally, FINALLY, got the runners’ shits. I’ve heard time and time again of people being out for long runs and being seized suddenly with the urge to poop, not to mention actually pooping themselves in the middle of these runs. Given my wonderful track record with all things digestive, I figured it was just a matter of time before I joined the club, especially also given the number of times I’ve farted on long runs and wondered whether or not it was merely a fart. I know it sounds ridiculous to actually want this to happen to me, but it’s somewhat logical: I’d rather it happen to me on a long run for the first time, instead of during the marathon, so I know how to deal with it should it happen during the marathon itself. Also, I’ve never puked on a run or even after a run, and I feel like I’m missing out on countless other milestones that make you a “real” runner.

Happily, the 17-miler did not disappoint me: 8 miles in, I was hit with the most inconceivably strong urge to fart that I’ve ever had in my life. I mean like all-hands-on-deck-situation-critical-evacuate-NOW-to-protect-loss-of-life-and-property strong. I gave a test toot, and immediately realized that this was no farting situation. Oh no, this was, in fact, It. I started laughing; I’d just left my house, and was now nowhere near a toilet. So then began the game of just how long can I hold this? I might add that Dunkin’ Donuts has a toilet, which I certainly could have used, but I wanted to tempt fate and see if I could make it all the way to 17 without pooping myself.  (I know this is not healthy. I know that if this happens again I will not be so lucky next time. Shhhh.)

You’ll be happy to know (if, dear God, you’re still actually reading this) that even though that turd indeed made a good and compelling case for its immediate dismissal from my bowels, my will triumphed, and I made it back to my house unscathed. (Unscatted?) However – and come on, you HAD to see this coming – as soon as I opened the door to my house and walked in, my brain shut off and my body screamed “GET TO THE TOILET RIGHT NOW OR THERE WILL BE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES”. How does my ass know I’m home every single time? Amazing thing, the human body is. This time I did not ignore it, and all was well with the world.  And I had a virtual notch in my belt as a runner – the only one that I really want, so I’m content to stop notching there.

okay, GROSS NASTY THINGS ARE OVER. Come back… please?

6) Okay, this is my last first thing and last bit of this post. This Saturday brings several firsts with it: first half-marathon outside of Virginia, first half-marathon in North Carolina, first race ever where I know nothing about the course other than the route map available online. I’ve never seen any of these roads or even been to where the race is, which is totally new to me and a little uncomfortable, but to the point where I see it as pushing myself outside my comfort zone and enjoying the simple experience of running someplace new. This is also the first time anyone in my immediate blood-related family will have seen me run a race, which I’m really excited about, not least because my nephew and nieces will be there with signs (so my sister threatens :)). I don’t think they know how much it helps to have support at any level, be it in the form of a note saying “way to go!” or a high-five at the end of a run; they think I’m crazy, and by and large they’re right, but it’s going to be pretty great having them there to support and love me anyway.

Except, maybe, if I fart on them.

Post-race report will come when it’s said and done! I hope you can enjoy the cooler weather this week as I will. 😀

Beer. And shoes. And some other stuff, too

I’m always amused at how much traffic my blog gets when I include the word “beer” anywhere in a post. Dear people who clicked on this because it contains that magical word: This is not a blog about beer, sorry. But, I can give you a picture of beer:

Mmm, pumpkin-y.That’s most – but not all – of my pumpkin beer stock for this fall. There are 8 more Smuttynose bottles in storage, and I sampled one of them last weekend when we got a nice chill in the air on a couple of nights that portended the wonderful End of Awful Hot Weather and the imminent arrival of My Most Favorite and Most Awesome Season Every Year. If you need further proof of this, Dunkin’ Donuts is soon to be selling their Pumpkin Spice coffee, which I am more than prepared to consume en masse.

Ahem. Anyway, I’m looking forward to drinking this stock over the next several weeks. Fall is the best, for many reasons, and this is but one of them.

Now, on to shoes. When I got my new kicks at the end of July, I took a picture of the old ones and the new ones to compare how they looked and I was quite surprised at how beat-up the old ones had gotten. Take a look:


Wow. I guess that’s what happens when you put 422 miles on one pair….!

And now, for the other stuff. Last week was a good running week; since I was still mondo-sore from my first real round of squats and lunges, I ran as many uphill routes as I could muster, since downhill running was really rather quite painful. That meant that I ran up a mountain on Wednesday, but the views were fantastic, even if the sun was doing its best to kill me in the middle of the day. I’ve been doing more squats and lunges and side-leg lifts, and I can feel them for sure, but the soreness has abated, which is nice. Saturday I volunteered at a race for the first time, which was a ton of fun. I was at one of the water tables and had a total blast cheering every single runner and walker on, dodging flung water cups all the while. I ran there and back, which was a perfect 7.5-mile route one-way to give me my 15-mile roundtrip long run for the week, and it was hilly as all get-out, but quite lovely, even if it was raining most of the way and I was completely, utterly soaked by the time I got home. It didn’t matter; I felt fantastic, and not just from having completed the (to date) longest run of my life. Lots and lots of warm fuzzies from the volunteering experience; it’s definitely something I need to do more of, stat.

And that brings me to this week, where I tick above 30 miles per week for the first time (eeee!) and maybe, definitely, by the end of the week start thinking about dipping into those pumpkin beers. Oh, and the NFL kicks off this week, too. HOT DOG.

Happy start to September, indeed!