10 days out.

This is going to be a short post, because I have to scoot off to start dinner – which will be pumpkin soup, because dang it got cold quick. I guess having a cold front plus the western edge of a superstorm will do that to you. Sandy mostly left us here in central VA alone; we got steady rain and winds for most of yesterday and last night, and less so today, so I’m grateful that the two gallons of water I bought just in case will have to be used at a later time. My thoughts do go out to the people in NY and NJ, though, who were not so lucky. (I’ve had to stop looking at pictures of the damage; they’ve started making me quite sad.)

Okay then!

1) 10 days out from the marathon: yes, it’s taper time. I’ve been incredibly busy with school work, so I’m not going as crazy as I could be, which may or may not be a bad thing. I’ve only spent a couple of hours reading race recaps from years prior, instead of ten or twelve hours, like I thought I might be. However, check back with me in a week, and I might report that I am, in fact, climbing my walls.

2) I had my last long run this past Saturday. I know I’m a sick person when I casually tell someone, “oh, I only ran 12 this morning”. I feel like an asshole saying it, but I guess I’ve gotten to the point in my running when a 10-miler is now something to train faster for, and not just to finish. One year ago, I would not have seen that coming. Pursuant to that, my now-very-short-runs of 3 and 4 miles are more annoying than anything, since I get going and then have to stop, but I know I’ll remember that thought and laugh somewhere around mile 22, if my brain is still engaged at all by then.

3) One possible way for me to avoid climbing my walls next week is riding my bike. Still unnamed, she is, though for some reason I can’t get the name Matilda out of my head; we went on a long ride out in the country on Sunday, with a group of people I didn’t know save for one person (the kind soul who sold me my bike, who invited me to this ride). Normally that would be a situation that induces extreme anxiety in me, to the point where I’ll often just come up with some lame excuse and bail, but I sucked it up and went, and had a total blast spending seven hours rolling around foliage-covered apple orchards and horse farms and mountains with 30 like-minded souls. We stopped often, and for long periods of time; lunch was an absurd affair, with at least four bottles of wine, three cheese boards, two pies, and several six-packs of PBR and gallons of apple cider. These people know how to throw down, I tell you. They ride again in May, which I’m very much looking forward to.

4) The Virginia Film Festival is this weekend, which is something I always enjoy. I’ll let you know if anything truly awesome is shown that everyone should go see, like, now.

5) Cold-weather running. For some reason – mostly because I could, I think, having been stuck in the house for most of the past 2-ish days after officials said “DO NOT GO ANYWHERE” and I was happy to comply – I decided it was sane and normal to run outside in 40-degree weather this morning. In shorts and a long-sleeve shirt (and gloves – oh, I bought these fantastic waterproof lightweight gloves and boy, have they already come in handy! Ba-dum chhhh), when the other 10 people who were also crazy enough to be running outside were wearing pants and jackets. I kept telling myself it was because I need to start acclimating to colder temperatures, which is true, but when I couldn’t feel my knees for the first 2 miles I started wondering what was wrong with me. But, it was a great run; there was a spring in my step the entire time, and I felt strong and light, even though it was, um, really cold and oh, there was a nice 10mph headwind for most of the way.

6) Yep, 10 days. Shit’s gettin’ real. Which reminds me – I go to see my butt doctor tomorrow, which is good because we have some talking to do. Nothing horrible, but I’m not where I’d like to be in terms of feeling 100% digestively healthy, and by God I’ve waited three months for this appointment so we are going to have a nice chat.

But yeah. 10 days. That is all.

I left my heart in New York City.

I’ve always loved visiting good ol’ NYC. My family is from Long Island, and I have happy memories of driving to see my grandparents and aunts and uncles at least twice a year – usually once in the summer, almost always at either Thanksgiving or Christmas or both – and passing the same sights every time: over the Verrazano Bridge, onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to sit in traffic, straining to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty in between the buildings, winking back at the lights of the skyline as the Twin Towers and the Empire State Building receded into the distance. Sometimes we’d go over the Kosciuzko Bridge, where my mom and I would always announce it as the “Koss-kee-OSS-koh” bridge, and I wouldn’t learn until years later in Polish class that our pronunciation was just a leeetle bit off. I loved and hated the stink of New Jersey near Exit 13 on the Turnpike, because reaching it meant we were either almost there (yay!) or about to leave (booo). I loved the way the words “Carteret/Rahway” looked on the signs for Exit 12, and I loved the sweeping span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge – coming, it portended a much grander vista at the Verrazano, and leaving, it served as a reminder of the time I’d just spent up north. (My mom once told me – or maybe it was five times, or twenty – that when my grandfather was young, he worked on the Verrazano Bridge, helping to build it. I have no idea if that’s still true, but every apocryphal story told about my grandfather automatically becomes true, because he was a great man, and I believe every single thing ever said about him.) My grandfather did – and I know this is true, because I’ve seen pictures, and badges, and after he died and my cousin joined, he received Grandpa’s badge – serve in the NYPD for a long time, so I feel a special affinity for them, and the city in general, quite unlike any place I’ve ever actually lived. I grew up in the D.C. area, but I never quite get the same chill in my blood (in a good way) whenever I set foot on its streets. New York is a different story; I bask in the accent, churlish to some but mellifluous to me. I revel in the smells, rancid to some but indicative of a constant movement to me. I giggle at the honks and the whistles; obnoxious to some, harmonious to me. I rub the grit in deeper; sooty to some, it feels like the very earth of my forebears to me. I’ve always said I love to visit New York City, but could never, ever live there; I’ve said the same thing about D.C., and I’ve lived there, so I know it’s true – I’ll never go back permanently. But, I’ve never lived in New York, and for the first time in my life, this past weekend I got that little hatchling of an idea in my brain that said you should try this, just once.

I should begin with two disclaimers about this hatchling: 1) the entire reason I was in New York in the first place was for a wedding; 2) you could not have scripted a more picture-perfect weekend in terms of weather and color and temperature if you were actually a person who is in fact paid to create such instances. I mention 1) because I know that I – the deep-seated romantic-at-heart – am very vulnerable to the feelings of goodwill produced by watching two people profess their love for one another in public, and am thus also susceptible to believe that everything is right with the world in that place, in that moment. I mention 2) because I am also vulnerable to the heartbreaking effects of an azure-blue sky framed by chlorophyll-exploding trees, bathed in certain kinds of sunlight that only autumn can offer, buffeted by the gusty winds that swirl leaves around and make your hair do stupid things and make you pull your coat closed just a little bit tighter. One of my former professors calls this feeling (or at least I call it this; hers might be entirely different) an “autumnal yawp” – it’s the urge I get to shout in sad exuberance, which makes no sense, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what my brain does at this time of year. I’ve had one yawp already this fall, and I was not entirely prepared to be gobsmacked with the One Yawp To Rule Them All this past weekend. I should also mention that I was by the time of the wedding running on about 2 hours of sleep for reasons I won’t elucidate here, but I know as well as anyone that the brain makes very interesting decisions when it hasn’t been well-rested enough. AND, last but not least, I was also on my period, which is enough to make me cry at the drop of a hat, especially if I haven’t gotten enough sleep.

Anyway, that’s all a very florid way of saying that circumstances set me up to decide on the basis of 32 hours spent someplace that I want to live in that place, even though I’ve previously vociferously rejected it as a potential home. Ahem. Florid, indeed.

The wedding was beautiful; there isn’t any other word to describe it, really, and ‘joyous’ gets close, but ‘beautiful’ is it. I enjoy weddings because I like seeing people happy and in love and flush with the promise of their entire lives in front of them together, and not a small part of me hopes that some day that will be me, too, giving back some of that radiant exultation that others have given me whether they know it or not. It took place in Central Park  on a balmy-for-October Saturday afternoon, and the party continued well into the night. Saint was with me, and we went out for one drink after the clean-up was done (the wedding was mostly DYI, which I really enjoyed), and when I felt myself starting to nod off at the table – which was in a very crowded and loud small space – I told him it was time for my exhausted self to turn in. Back to our host’s apartment we shuffled, and I set the alarm for 3:30 Sunday morning, to start running in time to get to Central Park (we were staying about a mile away) when it opened at 6am.

I should clarify first that this was to be no ordinary jaunt around Central Park. One, I’ve never run there before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect – and here, I must tip my cap to the friendly and helpful folks on Reddit who assuaged my fears about running alone in a place I’ve never run before – and two, this was The Twenty-Miler of my marathon training. People who have trained for marathons know what I’m referring to: when you start a training plan, you look far ahead into week 15 or 16 or whatever and see the number 20 under that week’s long run. Maybe you’ve only run as far as 4 miles, or 6 miles, or 10 miles, or even 13.1 miles, at that point in your life. Regardless, you see that 20 and you think there is no way in HELL or anywhere in between that I will be ready to run 20 miles when that piece of paper says I am supposed to. 20 is where you’ve heard everyone hits the wall. 20 is where the wheels come off. 20 is where you find out what you’re made of. If you can do 20, you can do 26.2. (But isn’t that 6.2 just so much more?!) But 20? Really? Noooooo.

I’ve been one of those people, even after running 18 and 19 miles, which really, are so close to 20 that they may as well be 20. But it’s 200% psychological at 18 or 19 miles; it’s only 1 more mile to 20, but your brain starts to wonder before you’ve even started if your body can actually carry you the full distance. Your brain also knows that getting over that hurdle of 20 means that it will also not be daunted by the prospect of 26.2, even if your legs say they will be quite daunted, thank you very much. Such has been my brain; I knew I was perfectly capable of doing 20, and I confess that I was not pleased at the prospect of doing it in a place that was not home, with no easy way to bail out and get home in case something went wrong. But, that’s what marathon training is: finding that uncomfortable spot in your brain and your legs, and quite literally running right past it and over it. Put up or shut up. I find myself awake at 5am on a Sunday with the hours stretching in front of me, a deadline for brunch looming, and the thought of nothing else but putting up. Feet on the ground, air in the lungs, this seemed so impossible three months ago but here I go, out the door and into the dawn.

I left a little late, closer to 6am, so it wasn’t as dark as it could have been, and there were also more people out than there might have been at 5am. It’s a city, so who knows if that’s true. Almost instantly I felt my worries about safety dissipate, though I didn’t put away my handheld safety device (um, a housekey wedged between two fingers) until sunrise just to be sure. After walking for a bit, I broke into my long-run pace, and scaled the slightly downhill mile to Central Park, where I was to run three full loops of what everyone in New York City calls “the outer loop”, and then run the mile back to where I was staying. (I ended up running about a quarter-mile extra, but no harm, no foul there.)

I entered, and immediately fell in with three other people. I was amazed: who else is out here right at 6am? It quickly became apparent that I was not going to be alone again for the next four hours, as there were even more people waiting around every new curve and hill. (One major reason for this was that, unbeknownst to me until the onslaught of pink, Sunday was the day of the Avon breast cancer awareness walk in New York, which was being held in – two guesses! – Central Park.) That cheered me, and I forgot any fear I’d had of being in an unsafe situation, and settled into my rhythm.

The first loop was a lot of me measuring myself, trying to establish an even cadence, and also trying not to run into anything or anyone because I was reveling in the pre-sunrise backdrop of the city around me. The skyline was in silhouette, dotted with lights in windows; the reservoir inside the park was glassy but smooth, reflecting those lights back at the sky. I squinted hard at Orion to see if I could make out any meteors – Saturday night was the peak of the Orionid meteor shower – but I’m not even sure I found more than one, given where I was and its inherently poor visibility. I was also looking around for water fountains, since I was running without my own hydration (something I normally do in my hometown where I know the locations of water fountains, or can place a water bottle somewhere where I know it won’t be swiped) and knew that after an hour and a half I’d have to start eating gels and drinking water. Beyond that, though, it was just me (and, okay, the other several tens of people), my feet, the path, and the park. Down the hills, up the hills, merging with the side paths, saying hi to a few people, sidestepping the dog owners, listening to my own breathing, watching the sky get lighter and the lights in the windows get dimmer. Recognize a few landmarks – hey, that’s Rockefeller Center, there’s the skating pond, the electronic display on the CNN building tells me it’s 6:49 am and 45 degrees. My hands do feel cold, but the rest of me – in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt – doesn’t. The park is so quiet, even though it’s filling up with people: not just runners and bikers and walkers of dogs, but vendors wheeling their carts of “Hot Nuts” (it’s okay, I laughed too) into place and volunteer groups setting up their water stations for the breast cancer walk. Mostly I don’t notice any smell, until I get to the part of the loop near the stables where the cart horses are kept, and then it smells like home, a far-off home where I’m 8 and brushing my favorite lesson horse and he dumps a fresh one in the straw right behind me but I don’t care because I’m just happy to be close to and alone with him for a few minutes. I pass that point, and notice the marker of the spot where the wedding took place the day before. I know I’m at least halfway done with the first loop, and the sky is getting lighter. Finally, I wend my way down another hill and around a curve and then up another hill, and I’m done with the first loop.

…Wow, already? The sky is even lighter; I’ve not even noticed that it’s been an hour and a half since I started running. Time for gels and water. I get the gels, and soon after the water, and since it is 7:30, I make sure my brain tells the rest of me that we are to take water and gels every 30 minutes until we are finished running, because I have in the past let my legs dictate my feeding and watering schedule and it has gone very, very poorly. My mantra down the first hill of the loop, over and over, is: Every 30 minutes. Every 30 minutes. I’ve barely even noticed that the sun has come up for real now, and is poking through the leaves of the trees whose brilliant colors I learned yesterday. I’ve also barely noticed how many more people there are, and they all smell surprisingly good for being out and moving – oh crap, I forgot to put on deodorant before I left, didn’t I. Ooops. No matter, though; it’s so cool, and so not the least bit humid, that any sweat I’m sweating is evaporating almost immediately. The CNN building still says 45, 46 degrees? It feels so much warmer, in a good way. Hands are still cold. I hear more jingles of dog tags and whirrs of bike wheels, and more horns of traffic outside the park. Oh, there’s the Met –  I knew that was there last time, but it didn’t register. Oh, the saxophone player under the bridge near the wedding spot is here – already? Wow, it’s 8:00 already. Time for a gel and some water. Squirrels everywhere. Women wearing pink showing up in larger and larger numbers. Two people on Rollerblades; one carries a hockey stick, the other moves with ski poles as if to simulate the motion of carving. Is he cross-training for something? The horse smell, again; will I see any? Where am I in my mileage, anyway? 11 miles? This loop seems like it’s taking so much longer, except it also sort of doesn’t. This feels great. The sun is climbing higher.

And then, THEN, around the corner, under a splendid yellow tree floating its leaves across the loop pavement, it happens.

While I know my grandfather served in the NYPD, one thing I’m never sure of is where exactly in the city his beat was. I have no idea if he ever walked through Central Park with his cap tilted over his blue eyes – the ones my mom passed on to me –  just so, baton at his side, maybe whistling, maybe just taking it all in. I have to think he might have, that at some point while he was here on this earth he strolled around the park, contemplating a landscape probably far removed from the park’s contours today; but still feeling a small measure of peace and quiet in a parcel of green plunked square in the middle of such a hectic place. Out of nowhere, this tree, with its stupid yellow leaves and the morning sun hitting it just so, told me a story about Grandpa watching me run and being so proud of me, putting my feet where his had trod so many years prior. The closing in my throat I’m feeling right now writing this is the same closing I felt Sunday morning; it took a long, hard swallow of the lump there and a fake “it’s chilly so I need to snuffle to stop my nose from running” for me to not start bawling in the middle of my run. The wind shifted and I was already moving away from the tree, but I felt this incredible sense of calm and inner peace and, dare I say, joy, that I was out spending my Sunday morning with a few thousand of my closest stranger-friends and this city and these colors and these smells (dear God, the Hot Nuts trucks smell so good when you’ve not eaten anything in four hours), and somewhere in all of this, amid the cacophony of everything going on around me, there was a completely silent space in my head, being filled at that moment with a single thought:

You’ve got this.

Sometimes I wonder why I run. On the days when I feel pain in every joint, when I’m so soaked with sweat that I feel like no amount of soap can clean me, when my head hurts because I’m dehydrated or when my knees just can’t take one more step, when I fall into bed having canceled plans yet again when I’m just too tired, when I get angry at my alarm clock for interrupting me at 3am so I can get up and go outside to freeze half to death, I wonder why I run. When I’m in the middle of a hill and my hamstrings are screaming at me to stop, when my blisters are rubbed raw and threaten to crack and bleed, when it becomes a labor of love to walk up three flights of stairs, when I have to decline the invitation to close down the bar because I have to get up for ten miles the next day, when I go so fast I feel like there’s no way I’m not going to puke when I stop, I wonder why I run. When a polite stranger asks me why I’m training for a marathon, I wonder why I run. When my friends shake their heads at me in either amazement or pity, I wonder why I run. Whenever that doubt creeps in – can you really do what you set out to do? Can you not get hurt? Can you juggle this with everything else that’s going on in your life? – I wonder why I run.

That moment under that tree with that single thought in my head is why I run. That’s where I find my peace, my refuge, the culmination of everything I am and everything that came before me – the place where my particles form me, and my thoughts are purely my own, and everything is clicking together in the singular way that means I am moving through this space and this time. I don’t run so I can beat people or brag about how great I am; I’m too slow for all of that anyway. I run because it is the closest I can get to being one with the world around me, and because it is where I can be surrounded by so much and still feel completely left alone, and safe, and comforted, and absolutely invincible. In a sense, it’s not surprising that I found Grandpa there; he was always bemusedly supportive of my crazy endeavors, and I know that if he were alive today, he’d be there with me at the finish line next month, hugging me and slapping my back with his grizzled hand, laughing himself into a coughing fit that he was proud of me, and probably finding a way to fix me his special pancakes, which years of trying have failed to exactly replicate.

Anyway, after that – yes, this was The Yawp of which I wrote earlier – the second loop flew on by and I realized that I was in what I usually call “five-mile-euphoria”. I take at least 3 miles to warm up during any run, ever, which makes short runs really suck, and long runs suck at first but then even out. Five miles seems to be the perfect distance to illustrate this; at the start of mile four, I start waking up and settling into my stride, and at the start of mile five, I feel comfortable enough to significantly pick up my pace. Over longer distances this gets stretched out; in a half-marathon, for example, the settling happens around mile 8, and the pace pick-up happens around mile 11. Lately, the 13.1-mile mark has been my settling point, and mile 17 has been my pick-up point. During the second half of this Central Park second loop, I felt completely recharged and refreshed, and had to actively remind myself that I was in “second-loop euphoria”, and to not start speeding up just yet (and also, to get some water). It didn’t help that the sun was climbing ever higher and the crowds were getting bigger and the beauty of the day was just multiplying, which fairly made me want to leap into the air mid-stride and yell. I finished the second loop in the same amount of time as the first loop, and set off for the third loop. Loop the third. Wow, have I really done two loops already? My watch tells me it’s 8:40, so, yes, I have. But that means I’m one loop and one mile away from finishing this thing…

…and I didn’t want to be done. Throngs of women wearing pink and green and any and all colors, now walking in organized masses, cheering for each other at top volume (and cheering for me by proxy, or so I told myself). Smoke wafting from the Hot Nuts trucks. Snippets of conversation about coffee and brunch. Rehashing a date gone wrong from the night before. “On your left!”from a biker who – hey, that’s the same type of bike I have, cool! Dogs wrestling in the grass. Clop-clop-clop of the cart horses as their drivers spin stories about the park. Rockefeller Center, looming large. Soccer fields giving way to elementary-school-age games. Skateboarders and rollerbladers, more. The occasional golf cart or truck full of water bottles for the walkers. The same groups of people I’ve been passed by and passing for the last loop or two. Old people, young people, black people, white people, men, women, short people, tall people, fast people, slow people, everyone in between. Headphones, no headphones, shouting at friends running the other way. The water fountains, again, what mile am I at? Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, down the west side of the park. One last nod to the reservoir to the left. The road markers change from being prefixed with W to being prefixed with C to being prefixed with E – already, on the east side? The horses again. The breeze. The sun is starting to blind me! Last gel, but can’t get water since my path is blocked by the walking women. No worries. Cheers and chants. My feet hurt. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. There’s the wedding site again; saxophone man is still going strong. The boathouse, which has smelled like bacon for two hours. Two very small and hairy dachsunds growling at a German shepherd. My ankles hurt. My tendons hurt. My abs hurt. My breathing is fine. My hands aren’t cold any more. The CNN building says it’s 49 degrees. I feel like I’ve hardly sweated! Wasn’t there a store somewhere on the way down to the park? I need to stop and get a banana on the way home. I want the Hot Nuts, but a banana is what is good for me. Eighteen miles. My legs are telling my brain that this is some serious malarkey. My brain telling my legs to shut up unless they can offer a better way to get home. (My legs not knowing I have an emergency $5 in my pocket for bus fare in case of injury.) My legs shrugging, saying okay then!, and carrying on. So much red and green and gold. I will drink so much water and take such a large and satisfying poop when I get back. I’m going down the last descent which means it’s almost time – yes, there’s the Berkeley Castle sign – to round the corner for the last time and leave the park. I move over to the right of the loop, as if I’m a car preparing to exit; I say my silent good-byes, and my silent thank-yous, to these acres of solitude and every living thing therein for getting me to mile 19. And just like that, like clockwork, at the exact same pace at which I completed the first two loops, my third loop is done and I’m out.

Back up the way I came. Literally; it’s an incline, and it’s not bad at all but at mile 19.1, 19.2, 19.3 it feels like utter hell. My brain knows nothing other than to tell my toes to dig into the pavement and go. I get to an intersection; the walk-sign has turned and is counting down from 10 to a don’t-walk sign. I know that if I stop, I won’t want to start again. I speed up to make it across; where the hell did THAT come from?! It’s mile 19.5; I have no business going any faster, do I? Up, up, up. Crest the hill. More women in pink lining the streets to the right. Pass the street I was supposed to stop at. We go downhill; I keep going. There’s the store I saw on the way in; just get to there. Two more blocks. I am going on pure adrenaline at this point; my body stopped moving itself a while ago, and it is pure spirit and chemicals that are pushing me to one block, one half of a block, red light…

Done. 20 miles. Done.

Later in the day, on our way back south, Saint and I are sitting on a bus and through the windshield I can see the low purples and reds and blues over the horizon as the sun starts to set and the stars and moon start to rise behind the Delaware Memorial Bridge. The effect throws the giant trusses of the bridge, cables and all, into silhouette, and the color is so lovely and dark and deep – a la Robert Frost, whom I’ve already quoted once that day – that something catches in my throat. I realize I’ve left something in New York even after having checked and re-checked that I’ve packed everything; it’s under that yellow tree, waiting for me to come back and get it, or maybe find it somewhere else, possibly in less than three weeks when 20 turns into 26.2.

Now, I finally get it: the wall they say happens at Mile 20 has been knocked down, dragged away, done with. 26.2 is the magic number now, and where I was standing at the bottom of Mount Everest looking up at it in Week One of training, I am now over three-fourths of the way to the summit, peering over a precipice to see it. It’s winking at me, the top, saying it can’t wait for me to get there. I know I have a few little crags to scale before then, but all in good time… all in good time.

Back at the end of mile 20, which is really mile 20.25, I bluster into the store I’d seen earlier and buy a banana. I walk out, peel it, and eat it in three bites; I’m famished. I need water. My legs are holding up as well as they can for the moment, but please don’t ask them to run up any stairs just yet. It’s an impossibly gorgeous morning. I finished five minutes sooner than I’d estimated. The world is so alive, and so am I. Deep lunges to stretch; double-decker buses full of tourists. Revival songs coming from the basement of a church. Noises of a festival across the street. I turn the corner back to the place I’m staying, and the movement is natural, as if I’d known where I was going all along.

As if I were home.

Home.

Oh.

The Hangover Run, the Zombie Watch, the Lost Toenail, and the New Bike

Right, so: last Saturday I had probably the weirdest hangover run I’ve ever had. It was only 12 miles, but the longest hangover run – yes, this refers to a run done the morning after a night of a bit too much drinking – I’d done prior to this was 6 miles. I figured I could handle 12, especially since when my alarm went off I said to it “oh HELL no” and gave myself two more hours of sleep.

Well. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great, at first, when my head would not stop pounding (too little sleep + dehydration + exercise = hello lady!). Once I got into the first few miles, I stopped wishing for a swift death, and started enjoying the scenery around me. I’d chosen to run from a main road to an off-road that leads to a camp, and wends through the woods pretty well to do so, but is still paved. It was a clear, crisp, silent fall morning once I got out of earshot of the interstate nearby; a crystal-clear blue sky, birds twittering all around, chilly air kissing my cheeks, little springs babbling water a few feet away, the brilliant color of some of the changed leaves shining bright… AUGH. GORGEOUS. And my head was still pounding, but I had that moment where I realized I didn’t care. I had what a former professor calls her “autumnal yawp”: that strangely exuberant feeling that only a certain combination of light and color and temperature can spur that makes you want to jump in the air and explode. I only ever get it in the fall, for many reasons I won’t go into here, and I never know exactly when it will hit me, but this year it snuck up on me on that run and said “HEY HI LIFE IS AWESOME”. And so, on I went, with a spring in my step, outrunning that hangover one step at a time.

As it turned out, I had to deviate from my planned route due to construction, so I turned it into an out-and-back and had to add another mile and change when I got home. I’d randomly stopped into a coffee shop that’s on the way back to taste some coffee – they do tastings on Saturday mornings – so I thought for a hot second that it might have been bad to drink a bunch of coffee and then go run another mile, but I was so deep in my yawping that it didn’t matter. Didn’t care. I was actually sort of mad that I was only scheduled for 12 miles that day, since I felt like I could easily go 15-18 without a problem.

I should remember that feeling, when I’m at mile 24 of my marathon and want to die. 🙂

Anyway, Zombie Watch plays into this, as I had to leave it at home for this run because I thought the temperature might be a bit too chilly. See, Zombie Watch is my silly little Spongebob Squarepants digital watch that I got out of a cereal box some seven or eight years ago. As a running watch, it’s perfect because it does two things: tells me what time it is, and does not irritate my skin or fall off of me. It’s also never needed a new battery. It has, on occasion, stopped working when wet or cold or both, but has always magically started working again given enough time to dry out or warm up – usually a few hours, twelve at most.

Except for the half-marathon I talked about in my last post. That day was chilly and wet, and Zombie Watch succumbed to the elements. I set it aside until the Tuesday after the race (which was a week ago), but it still wasn’t working, which I assumed meant that it was, finally, Good and Dead. “Okay”, I thought, “this is where we have fun running without a watch and just enjoying what’s around us”. Which is what I did on Tuesday; I’ve run without a watch before by choice, so it was no big deal to do it one more time. But I kept thinking: how am I going to fix this in the long run (hahaha)? Buy another box of cereal just for the watch inside? Splurge on one of those fancy Garmin watches everyone seems to love so much? Just run watchless for the rest of my running life?

Wednesday arrived (still a week ago), and went, and Zombie Watch was still blank. Sigh. I did my 8-mile run as I’d posted about last time, watchless, and thought, “Hey, I could get used to this”. But I was still a little sad; Zombie Watch and I had been through a lot together, and I wanted it to at least live long enough to see me through my marathon.

Thursday dawned (yup, still last week), and out of sheer habit I’d put Zombie Watch in my bag before leaving for work. When I fished it out of said bag before my run, I was utterly shocked to see it display numbers. Legible, digital, time-telling numbers! Granted, they were the wrong ones, and when I clicked over to the date display, I learned that I’d fast-forwarded to December 1, but still – they were numbers. And the second hand was ticking.
Somehow, Zombie Watch had resurrected itself YET AGAIN.

I was simultaneously thrilled and vaguely terrified. On one hand, I had my old friend back! On the other hand, did this mean that the watch is imbued with some sort of evil magic that is eventually going to try to kill me in the middle of the night? (As Saint said in a text to me after I told him the news: “Keep that thing away from your head! It wants your brains!”) I shrugged off these thoughts, re-set the time and date, and set out on my Thursday 5-miler with a renewed sense of purpose. It was a fast one, too, and it felt great, which I though would set me up nicely for that Saturday’s 12-miler (the Hangover Run of above). When I woke up Saturday morning and realized the temperature was hovering around 50, I decided to leave Zombie Watch at home so as to not potentially expose it to too much cold (I was wearing gloves, but still: I’d just gotten my friend back, and didn’t want to lose it again so soon).

Zombie Watch came out with me on yesterday’s 5-miler, and while it now thinks that it’s yesterday still and is about 2.5 hours off of the actual time, the point is that it still works as a timekeeper, and – provided it’s not actually freezing outside – should, fingers crossed, be able to be there when I line up to start my marathon in (eeep) about 3 weeks.

WARNING: THE NEXT BIT IS POSSIBLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK. There aren’t pictures because I can’t bring myself to do it, so be grateful for that.

Okay, moving back to the Hangover Run. I’ve been tying my running shoes more tightly these days to prevent blisters, and by and large it’s worked pretty well. A side effect of this that I did not realize – in addition to me having cut too close to the quick when trimming before the half-marathon I ran in September – is that blood flow can get restricted in the toe box and in a sense cut off the blood supply to the toes. When something doesn’t get blood and all of the good things therein circulating to it, it dies. When this ‘something’ is a toenail, it will fall off.

When I started reading around various running fora online, nearly everyone who’s ever run any distance mentioned losing a toenail or ten at some point during their training. I had zero issues with toenails falling off through all of my training to this point; I started to feel like I wasn’t really a runner, even though I’d “achieved” the ‘you-are-a-runner-NOW!’ milestone of pooping myself while on a long run. [Sidenote: why do all of the milestones that make someone a ‘real’ runner involve gross bodily functions? Bloody nipples, poop going places it shouldn’t, bits falling off, blisters popping…] So when I cut this particular toenail too close to the quick last month, I was somewhat concerned when it started turning dark and darker colors. I left it alone, and only trimmed it the tiniest amount a couple of weeks later. But because I was the sort of kid who would, against all common sense to the contrary, take a loose tooth and wiggle it to the point of dangling in my mouth, I couldn’t resist touching the toenail to see if it would flex at all. One day, it gave a little. The next day, it gave a little more. The next day, I started to become very concerned that one day I was going to catch my foot on something (I wear flip-flops nearly year-round) and suddenly be down one toenail and in a LOT of pain. And then I thought, “what would that even LOOK like?” One toe with just… no nail on it. Huh. Weird.

Well, happily, I can now tell you that I won’t know for the near future what that does look like, because the human body is such a ridiculously good re-generator of its broken parts. Unbeknownst to me at the time, while the underneath-nail was turning dark colors and getting nasty, my body was growing an on-top nail to protect underneath-nail while it healed. Fast-forward to this past Sunday – a few days ago – and to me getting out of the shower after being at the gym. As I was drying off my feet, I felt a tug on one of my toes. “Oh no/Oh shit yes”, I thought, “this is it!” I peered down to the toe, and saw nothing unusual – except that it was clear that something flexible and nail-like was about to be dislodged from the top of that toe. I grabbed on and prepared for the pain. Sloooowly I worked it loose, but all of a sudden it just popped right off – yoink! – and wait, what? No pain? No blood? What the hell, is that a FULLY FORMED nail underneath the nail that just came off? HOLY CRAP THIS IS SO COOL.

The “new” underneath-nail is still dark in color, but I suspect that’s because I’ve still been tying my shoes too tight and have possibly permanently colored it dark red. Almost burgundy, if you look at it right, which makes me think I should just paint my toenails in the burgundy-and-gold of my beloved Redskins. (Ahem.) I’ll be tying my shoes more loosely from now on, but I clearly need to find the sweet spot between “too loose, causes blisters”, and “too tight, eats toenails”.

OKAY YOU CAN STOP READING THE GROSS STUFF NOW. Please come back, because this is exciting!

I’ve done a really good job of making short stories long in this post (and, really throughout my entire life), but I will not be doing the same for the last section of this post, which is The New Bike. I had been borrowing a friend’s bike for the past two years, but she took it back recently, and I grew increasingly despondent as the weather cooled off into Perfect Biking Weather and I started seeing people everywhere on bikes and it made me sad that I could not join them. So, I started shopping around for my very own, because, well, I have it in the budget and I really, really, REALLY miss having one. I contacted a friend who works at a bike shop, and we traded emails on the specifics of what I was looking for, and yesterday I went out to her store to see her and test-ride a bike or two.

Well.

The very first one she picked out for me I fell in love with. You know how sometimes you try on a pair of shoes and they immediately feel like you’ve owned them all your life? That was this bike for me. I couldn’t even let go of it when I was standing there talking to her about it, and about accessories and whatnots, and I kept asking if I could take it out for just one more, two more, three more little test rides. The shop was getting ready to close so I had to leave, so I told her I’d sleep on it for a night and make my decision in the morning. She nodded, and I immediately told her that if she couldn’t tell by my body language, I’d more or less already made up my mind that I was, in fact, going to go ahead and come in today (“in the morning” refers to this morning) and buy the bike. To make this very clear, I went ahead and bought a floor pump, lock, and tire lever, which she was kind enough to give to me at employee-discount prices (she’s also just GIVING me a tail light and an extra helmet that she has, which is absurdly nice of her, but that’s just who she is). She hung the bike up on the “do not sell to anyone but this person please” rack, and I bounced on home, fairly giggling at the prospect of being able to join her on a picnic ride next weekend.

It is this afternoon, rather after “in the morning” as I told her, and I am positively gleeful at the idea of leaving work in a few hours to go pick up my very own bike. Would you like to see her (yes, the bike is a ‘she’)? Here, I will give you a standard Google image (thank you to evanscycles.com):

SO PRETTY. And yes, she will be in black, and yes, OMG WHAT, she is a 2013 model. I’ve never owned the next-year-model of ANYTHING in my life, so this is pretty awesomely excellent.

If you hear any unexplained “squeeeeEEEEE!”-ing from my latitude and longitude this evening, now you know why. 🙂

This weekend I’ll be in New York celebrating the wedding of a dear friend, and trying not to get lost running 20 miles around Central Park. There are parts of my life that are fairly stressful right now, but I have a lot of good things too to balance them out, for which I am grateful. The four things mentioned in the title of this post I include among those good things – even the lost toenail! – and I feel like I’m headed towards making some pithy life-lesson statement about finding the positive in unexpected places, so I’ll stop there and instead just say: Excited. Stoked. Can’t Wait. Let’s Do This. ALL OF IT. 🙂

Race report: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon (plus, um, thirty days?!)

NOTE: I started writing this two days ago, on Wednesday. Here’s what I had before the end of the day:

—–

Yep. The countdown ticker on the marathon’s website now says 30 days… good gravy. That’s nuts. But it’s true: November 10 is right around the corner!

I feel a little bit of sadness at the fact that today I’ll run my last long (ie 5+ miles) midweek run. Today it’s 8; next week, 5, then 4, then 3, then (ACK) rest. It’s a bit hard to wrap my head around the fact that the taper starts happening after the 20-miler next weekend, but there it is, sooner than I could have fathomed even back in week 2. I’m already starting to get a bit… whimpery? … at the void that will be left in my days after training ends and the race is done. (I have things planned to fill that void, but still, it’s a little weird on its face, right now.)

——

That was before the 8-mile run, which ended up being cool, crisp, but into a damn headwind the entire time, which did not make the hills very much fun. I finally ran down to a park that I’ve only previously biked through, and in the middle of the day I was more or less alone on the trail. I’m used to city running – well, as ‘city’ as my large college town can get, but I’m more used to dodging pedestrians and inhaling vehicle exhaust and hearing the sounds of people moving than not – so it’s nice when I can get a bit of a respite, even if only for a mile or two. This park runs next to a river and has a paved path, but a couple of unpaved dirt trails can move you off to the side to make a couple of loops, or connect you back to civilization if you don’t feel like running the entire trail. I did end up having to bail on the trail about 2 miles in to get back to the main road, and it was on that dirt-side-trail that I had one of the coolest running moments I’d ever had: there was tall grass along the dirt trail, and as I was moving along, all of these teeny tiny little crickets were jumping out in front of me in waves! I felt like Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea. I actually started laughing, because it was such a ridiculous image: me, being preceded by fraidy-crickets.

The headwind made me feel like my ass had been kicked by the end of the run, but yesterday’s run sort of made up for it. Another chilly 5-miler, but I turned it up at the end and finished feeling good and strong. This run reminded me of a lot of things I always forget about fall running: 1) the feeling of cold air in my lungs, which is a startling change from feeling humid air in my lungs, and always hurts for the first few instances; 2) the return of the loogies! I forgot how much fun it is to accumulate snot in your throat when running! And what a fun game it is to try to get it out without covering yourself in it! 3) dangerous acorns! I’ve nearly rolled my ankles on several of them, which really means I need to be more careful, or just run in the road more, but that’s not always a possibility. Wet leaves will come soon, too, I fear. Wheee! 4) This I actually love: it is SO nice to not be soaked through with sweat when finishing any run, because the sweat actually evaporates instead of just sticking to me. It’s an odd thing to be chilly again in the first few miles of a run, but I’ll take it. (Except maybe my hands: I forgot how quickly they freeze up, even in 55-degree weather. Grrrr.)

Anyway, y’all came here for a race report, and that is what I am going to give you, darnit. This was my third half-marathon this year (and, really, ever), and it ended up being “the one where I didn’t PR, but I felt the best and strongest throughout” – I finally got to experience what it’s like to be on cruise control throughout a race! Woohoo! Here goes nothing…

This was, as the title says, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge half in Washington, D.C. Well, technically it starts in Virginia, at Mount Vernon – George Washington’s estate – and runs up the George Washington Parkway across the Potomac thr0ugh a tiny bit of D.C. proper and over the eponymous bridge into Maryland, where it finishes at the being-developed-into-awesomeness National Harbor. So yes, there is water, and there is wind, even when it is not 55 and raining as it was at the start of the race. It wasn’t raining hard, just sprinkling, and it never got too bad throughout the 13.1 miles, though I was definitely soaked by the time I finished – which, of course, was when the rain stopped. 🙂 So it was chilly and wet, but not terrible; it felt pretty good, actually, and was a nice change from the humidity of the last half I did a few weeks ago.

Getting to the race was not an issue because of how extremely well-planned it was; I was staying in a hotel at the finish line, so I just hopped on a bus that took us to the start. We got there with plenty of time, and I immediately sought out a porta-potty, for which there was almost no line, because – again, good planning! – there were a ton of them.

That’s where the first bad thing happened: I unzipped my butt pocket in my shorts for some unknown reason, and my chapstick fell out and mislocated itself.

I am ADDICTED to chapstick. As in, I have a serious physical craving for it. It’s bad; my lips chap easily, so I apply it every, oh, half-hour or so. To go without it for a few hours is not the worst thing ever, but it’s not ideal. But, when I’m doing my long runs, and have to eat gels occasionally, it’s nice to have it to re-apply after I’m done eating or drinking water – especially on a cold and wet day like this one.

When I realized that it was gone, I retraced my steps and started looking like the crazy person who’s ogling everyone’s shoes when, in fact, I was just trying to search out any nooks or crannies in the ground into which it could have rolled. (And YES, I would absolutely have picked it back up and used it. It has a cap on it, for crying out loud.) No luck there, so I double-checked my coat pockets. Nope, not there either. So, the best hope I had for finding it again was to assume I’d left it in my hotel room, and would get it after the race.

So that was strike one. Strike  two would come later, about eight miles into the race. But, before I get ahead of myself, let me note a potential strike three that ended up not being one: I violated one of the most sacred rules of running races – and got away with it: common running wisdom dictates that you don’t wear anything new on race day. No new shoes, shirts, shorts, etc. – because you don’t want to find out in the middle of a race that the new shorts you got are too short and are chafing you, or that your new shirt (*ahem* the race shirt for the race you’re in, which I never got why people run races in it, but plenty do, so to each their own) is going to be too loose or too tight and itch you or rub you the wrong way. I knew it was probably going to rain, so I wore a light rain jacket over my running singlet, which I figured I could take off and wrap around my waist if I got hot. (HA!) I also had a visor on, to keep water and sweat out of my eyes, but the jacket had a hood that I could pull over the visor if the rain got to be too bad.

I’ve worn the jacket many times,  but never, ever, ever run in it before. I had no idea how I was going to move in it, how it would feel – would it be too heavy? Too light? Too crinkly? Oh well,  I thought, throwing caution to the wind will at least keep me dry. The jacket does have armpit zippers, so I opened those guys up and hoped for the best as we lined up to start.

There’s another thing I should note about tempting fate: since last weekend was my scheduled 19-mile long run, I got up extra-super-early to run 6 miles on the hotel gym’s treadmills a few hours before the race. As insane as this sounds, I actually think it helped me a lot, because my legs were already warmed up and had the kinks out of them by the time the half started. I’m not suggesting that I do this to myself before EVERY half that I run, but it would do me well to keep in mind that a light 3-mile easy run before my next half might not be a bad thing. But, I did think that maybe it would end up tiring me out by the end of the race; happily, that was not the case, but I was a bit worried about that. Because 19 miles… is a lot. (Profound, no?)

Okay, so back to the start. The course overall, as I’d later learn, was fast, and flat, with a downhill start and only a couple of hills of which to speak. I lined up with the 12:00/mile group, and we took off in good order, rambling down the first 3 miles. I was purposefully going slow and letting people pass me, which I think also ended up helping me at the finish; these first few miles were mostly people sorting themselves out and me telling myself not to get too excited and speed up just because it was downhill and/or flat. But I was feeling good, and the cool weather was helping.

Another thing to note: because the race organizers very intelligently capped the field at 5,000 people, we had plenty of room to spread out; possibly due to the weather, about 3,000 people signed up and a few hundred less than that actually showed up. So, there was plenty of space and no overcrowding, which was nice. Also, there were a ton of water stops that were plenty well-stocked even by the time we slow folks came by, and they were staffed by the most ridiculously cheerful people who must have been freezing standing there in the rain with all that water sloshing around. There were actually really great cheer-ers and spectators throughout, and the end of the course happens in the streets of National Harbor, so you really have a crowd cheering you through that last half-mile.

Anyway, miles 4-6. This was where it started raining a bit harder, and I pulled my hood over my visor, which had the interesting effects of a) completely removing my peripheral vision and b) muffling pretty much any sound that was not the dark swish-swish of my jacket fabric as I ran. This sound was actually relaxing; the lack of vision was a bit unnerving, as I felt alone at times, but hearing the rhythm of me moving I think motivated me to keep it going. It may have also helped my breathing settle, too; it was in these miles that I realized that I was feeling no pain, no worry, and had a lot left in the tank for the second half of the race. But, I had to tell myself: not yet.

I got some water and took some gels at mile 6, and then we started moving slightly uphill out of the parkway area and towards the bridge. It’s funny, around mile 8 when the trees clear and you see the bridge for the first time, you’ve forgotten that it’s there, even though in the back of your mind you know it’s there, and it looks impossibly large and far away. But then you go around a couple of turns, and down a huge hill, and before you know it you’re running up the trail that – poof! – pops you out onto the running path on the westbound side of the bridge, separated from the cars by a mere wall of concrete. Some might have thought that weird, but I thought it was really, really cool. Look down: we’re so high up in the air! And there’s water down there! (Don’t fall in; it’s cold.) Look left: there’s the river stretching north to D.C. It’s too bad I can’t see more since it’s overcast and a bit foggy. Look right: WHOA CARS. AWESOME. Also, National Harbor glinting and beckoning in what seems like an impossible distance but is really only 4ish miles. Don’t look up, because then you can’t see where you’re going.

Oh, I almost forgot about strike two of the race: by mile 8, my shoes were totally soaked through with rain and spilled water-stop water, and my toes were going squish-squish-squish in said shoes. Normally this would have caused me panic because I get blisters at the blink of an eye, and have several that I have to bandage as it is, but for some odd reason – adrenaline, maybe? new synthetic socks, perhaps? – I registered this squishing and then forgot about it as much as I could. I was in no pain, still, so I rolled with it.

The first half of the bridge is the first major uphill of the race, and maybe I’m “spoiled” (hahaha I say this with quotations because I hate running up large hills) by running in a mountainous city, but I really didn’t think it was that bad. I couldn’t believe how many people I passed just maintaining a steady pace up the hill, and once we got to the apex in the middle of the bridge, it was back to a downhill beat, and I was still passing people. What the hell? Was I moving too early? Oh, whatever. I was feeling so good that I just decided to keep on keepin’ on. We passed the marker for mile 9 and I took the rest of my gels and ordered myself to get water at the next stop, which was just after mile 10. Perfect.

Into Maryland we wended our way – and we immediately crossed over a bridge that went over the bridge we’d just run across, and getting to look back on it was so cool! – and then downhill for a flat two miles before what they call The Rude Awakening. (The finisher’s medal for this race has a giant hand grabbing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which I later learned – after running past it and completely missing it – comes from a sculpture in the water called “The Awakening”, which has a giant hand and the top of a man’s head coming out of the surface of the water. It’s, um, pretty awesome.) This was the hill at the turnover from mile 11 to mile 12, and it was, truth be told, a bitch to have to climb, but really, not bad at all. Not anything like the monster hill at mile 6 of my first half-marathon – this looked like a bunny slope by comparison. So I put my head down and started pumping my arms, and up I went… still passing people. Another thing people do that I get, but still don’t get: why walk up hills? You’re just elongating the torture, and really, it feels so much more awesome to get to the top and be completely out of breath and get rewarded with a downhill. But, to each their own!

We got to the down-part of that hill and I knew that it was the last mile, and so it was time to really kick it in. I’d been moving at a faster pace since mile 9, but it was now or never by this point. And hell, even though it was downhill, I was flying. Even when the course turned onto a patch of gravel for about 500 yards, I was flying (and thinking, please don’t hit a rock and sprain an ankle, you fool). And passing SO MANY PEOPLE. But I didn’t care; I felt so awesome, so in control, so not caring that I had on a swishy-jacket and no chapstick and completely wet toes and legs. It got to the point where I started picking people out ahead of me and targeting them to pass. One guy in a turquoise outfit was particularly hard to catch, but I did it, right around the time that I heard a familiar voice yelling my name just off to the side. I looked, bewildered for who knows what reason, and it was Saint of a Boyfriend! My race-drained brain could only think to get out the words “OhmygodHI Iloveyou!” and then I was around a corner and gone. And still picking people off. (there’s a really great photo from the race where I’ve just gone past this guy and the look on his face is priceless- like, “what is this chick doing?!” Love it!) And rounding corners and oh my gosh so many people and for God’s sake my hands are freezing, where the HELL is the finish line and where the HELL is the beer. I missed the 13-mile marker, so I had no idea where I was in relation to the finish. Still picking people off. I knew long before then that I was not going to PR, but I figured that if I pushed it I could still finish under 2:20.

And then we rounded one last corner and crap there’s the finish line! And there are three women in tutus directly in my way! Which means my finish line photo is a sliver of me behind three women in tutus, but they looked awesome so it was okay. I finished in 2:19:54, which was indeed sub-2:20, and about five minutes off my PR, but I. Did. Not. Care. I had the biggest grin on my face; I wanted to just keep running, and was kind of sad that it was already over. I got my awesome medal, got a banana and a bagel, found Saint, and we got beer – they had lots of good local stuff on tap, so I got a Flying Dog Belgian IPA. Never had anything so delicious in my life. Of course, I was so cold after ceasing to move that I could barely hold my cup, so we walked and talked and took some pictures of me in front of “The Awakening” and then slowly, wetly, coldly made it back to the hotel.

It was there that I learned that my chapstick really was gone, but I got some later, so it was all good. After the hottest shower of the past year, we packed up our stuff and headed off to our first Redskins game, which they lost – man, the Falcons are good this year, damnit – but was still awesome in its own right. I may write about it later, if the spirit moves me. But know this: free hot dogs and hot chocolate, three rows away from the endzone. I was in HEAVEN.

So, would I run this race again? Absolutely, without a doubt, and I can’t wait to get the email asking for early-bird signups, because I am ALL OVER that sheezy. It was such a great experience from top to bottom, and I know I can’t replicate how I felt next year, but it was so, so excellent to feel that good before, during, and after a race – I was in the smallest amount of pain I’ve ever been after a run for the rest of Sunday and even into Monday, and really felt good and sharp by yesterday’s run. It gives me great hope that my 20-miler next weekend- and, of course, the marathon itself in 28 days AAAAHHHHH! – will both be equally as pain-free-ish and awesome.

Okay, gotta get off this mini-runner’s-high and get myself to class so I can teach. Happy fall running this weekend to all!

This is what I get for messing with THE PLAN.

I’ve been mostly good about sticking with my training plan for the marathon. I haven’t missed a single run; some long runs have been rain-delayed by a day, and some midweek easy runs have become tempo runs and vice versa for the same reason. I did some of this with my half-marathon training and everything came out fine. Well, this week, Hal Higdon has his revenge on me for assuming I know better than he does.

This week’s breakdown: midweek – Tuesday, 5 easy; Wednesday, 5 tempo; Thursday, 5 easy. Weekend long: 19. No problem, right? Except Tuesday was totally rained out, so I figured I’d make Tuesday my tempo run and Wednesday an easy run, with an eye on Thursday’s weather to see if it could also be a tempo run. (The answer is that it won’t, unless something happens today like it did yesterday.) This worked out well since I was crunched for time on Tuesday anyway. Tempo run it was. And tempo run went great.

I got started a bit late with Wednesday’s run, and was a bit pressed for time since I suddenly had a meeting in the afternoon that hadn’t been previously scheduled. But it was hot, and humid, and sticky, and I just wasn’t feeling it for the first couple of miles. Which may have been – or it could have just been my inherent clumsiness – why I totally failed to see a giant crack in the sidewalk on which I was running. The worst part about this is that I stumbled, sort of regained my balance, and then took several stutter-strides forward in what was ultimately a failed effort at staying upright. BAM. Down I went, left-knee-first, right-palm-second. I think I even slid a couple of feet, too.

So of course I got up and assessed the damage, which was lots of blood and an already-angry-looking bump of swollenness on my knee and a nicely scratched palm. Thankfully, I’d had the good sense to wipe out across the street from a convenience store, so I was able to get some paper towels to wipe myself off as best I could before continuing on. I mean, what else can you do, right? So I became that person running down crowded streets with blood trickling down my leg, which made me feel both bad-ass and gross at the same time. Adrenaline is a fantastic thing, let me tell you: not only did I not feel any pain until I stopped, but I also ended up accidentally making it another tempo run, this one even faster than Tuesday’s. So I think I’ve earned an easier run today, in slightly cooler weather.

But man. That little bugger got big and red and angry when I was done with my shower! I iced it for most of last night, and I think it’ll be okay; it doesn’t hurt now, but then, I haven’t tried to put 5 more miles on it yet.

What Hal doesn’t know yet is that I plan to split my weekend-long-run 19 miles into a 6-mile warmup and then a half-marathon, about two hours apart. Please, no one tell him. I don’t need to shed any more blood this week in the name of the run. 😛