Race recap: Virginia Creeper Marathon (pics at the end!)

Marathon #3 is in the books! And let me tell you, third time is the charm – this was the marathon I felt most prepared for, best about PRing in, and ready to completely kick all sorts of butt…

…which is why it’s funny when you look at my splits and realize exactly what I did at mile 10: Oh man, she went out too fast. I had two goals for this race: an A goal of 4:20, and a B goal of 4:30 – basically, anything faster than the 4:40 I ran at Marine Corps back in October.

Here are said splits (they’re at odd intervals because the timer was at the start/finish, which we passed at miles 9 and 18, which I’ll explain later):

First 9 miles: 1:27 (9:40/mile pace) (I’ve never before in my life run 9 miles at this pace, ha!)

I hit 18 miles at 2:58 (9:53/mile pace) (I’ve definitely never run 18 miles in less than 3 hours ever in my life, haha!)

Finish: 4:27:52, last last 8.2 in about 1:30 (10:58/mile pace) (yeeouch! I had to stop to walk a few times…)

HOO BOY. Look at that dropoff: THAT, friends, is what happens when you go out too fast and have to dial it back into survival mode for the last 8 miles. I’ve run races before, and I’ve done a great job at slowing down my start; why was this time different? I’m not entirely sure: it could have been the cool, snowy, sleety weather (my brain subconsciously telling my legs “move through this faster so we can get to a warm place with hot food, please”?), or it could have been the mostly flat terrain (although the first two miles of the race were out-and-back and a bit hilly, and the first ‘out’ of the first out-and-back on the actual trail was uphill, though I didn’t realize it until later), or it could have been the coffee I drank Sunday morning when I woke up (which I never, ever do before a long run, because I’m afraid it might cause a pit stop- but then, every run I’ve ever had after breaking that rule has been a really excellent and speedy one). Or it could have been adrenaline, or euphoria, or some odd combination of all of the above.

But, you know what? When I ran my first marathon in November 2012, after it was over, I thought, man, there is no way I’d ever be able to sustain anywhere near a 10:00/mile pace for an entire marathon, which is what I knew I’d have to do to ever get down to a 4:20 from a 5:00, which is about where I finished that first marathon. Even going down from 5:00 to 4:40 was hard as hell. And yet, I finished this one at a 10:13/mile pace, which – all things considered – is pretty frickin’ awesome, for me, because I never once thought I could do it. Sustain that pace for 5 miles, sure. Maybe even 7 or 8? In training, I was regularly clocking right about 10:00/mile paces for more and more runs, and longer and longer runs, yet I still didn’t think I could really do it (or anything close to it, or really anything under 10:30/mile) for the entire marathon. In fact, it wasn’t until my last 20-miler – which was a 21-miler – that I started to think that 4:20ish might be remotely possible.

So! Let me tell you about this marathon. It is a small-town marathon in lovely Abingdon, Virginia, which is near the southwest corner of the state where it meets Tennessee and Kentucky. (Bristol, TN, is the closest major city, and the date of this race changes every year based on when Bristol’s NASCAR race is scheduled, which I freaking love.) It costs $10 to enter, partially because the date is not decided on until a few months before it happens, but mostly because it’s a very low-frills race: no shirt, no medal, no fancy webpage or regular emails, no expo, no huge post-race party at the finish line. Only 100 entrants are allowed because everything is on the smaller side, and when the weather is bad like it was this year (well, I loved it, but I’m a little nuts and sort of enjoyed training through this ridiculous winter), more like 70 runners actually show up, which I think is what happened on Sunday. All entrants receive a bib with no chip and generally time themselves, and are responsible for bringing food or drink requirements beyond the water and Gatorade they have along the course, and everyone who shows up to the race receives a paperweight memento with the race’s emblem, name, date, etc. on it. At the finish, volunteers bring boxes of bananas, Fig Newtons, homemade cookies, etc. with them to give to finishers, and – I didn’t realize this until it happened to me – they take turns being on foil-wrapping duty for the finishers, because as soon as I crossed the line and was shepherded across the road, I was nearly tackled by two women with a foil sheet who insisted on giving me what I called the “leftovers!” treatment. Make no mistake, I was so happy to have that, because it was warm as hell, and I was not. 🙂 In sum, it’s the polar opposite of every race experience I’ve had thus far, and I absolutely LOVED every second of it, even the stretches of the race when I was completely alone for several minutes, maybe even a few miles, at a time.

The course itself was run mostly – with the exception of the first two miles – on the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is a 34-mile trail that runs from Abingdon to Damascus to Whitetop, and is a fantastic biking, hiking, running, horseback-riding, dog-walking trail that crosses through farms and over and under rivers and across the road and through the woods. Saint and I spent New Year’s Eve weekend in 2012 (into 2013) in Damascus, where we biked a good portion (about 17 miles) of the trail, and it was that trip – plus his story from childhood that if he ever ran a marathon, it would be the Virginia Creeper marathon – that convinced me to sign up for this race. Anyway, after those first two miles that cover a road to the south of the start/finish, the runners go east on the trail for about 3.5 miles, turn around, return to the start/finish area, head west on the trail for about 4.5 miles, turn around, return to the start/finish area, head east again for 3.5 miles, turn around, return to the start/finish area, and then head wast for 0.6 miles, turn around, and return to the start/finish area. So you end up traversing the same path several times, which can get a little tedious but is awesome for a couple of reasons: 1) when there’s snow on the ground – and on the trestles you have to cross on this trail – your first pass over the path can be used to gauge the condition of the footing, freeing you to use the second (and third) passes to gawk at the absolutely gorgeous scenery; 2) you get to pass the start/finish area several times, so if you have support waiting there (as Saint was), you get to see them more than you might during a different race. (Apparently he bonded with some of the other support folks, so at least he wasn’t alone in being cold and wet and probably miserable, as much as he wouldn’t let on about that third adjective.) Also, because this is small-town wonderfulness, you get to park about a mile away and get shuttled to the start/finish area, and at most you have to wait maybe 10 minutes for a shuttle (a trolley car, hee hee!) to come pick you up. AND, you feel awesome when you go to cross the road that links the two parts of the trail through the start/finish area and they stop traffic for you. (Can you tell I loved this marathon?)

Did I mention the course is gorgeous, by the way? Because so much of it is run through the woods, we got snowy-woods for a backdrop, which opened up onto snowy fields, which sat under snowy mountains, under a snowy, sleety, gray sky. Those fields contained, at any point, dogs, llamas, horses with thick fuzzy coats, a golf course, or cows, some of which were mooing loudly at us as we passed. I didn’t think I would enjoy being mooed at by a cow during a marathon, but it was strangely hilarious and comforting, if that makes any sense. Once the runners spread out, if you get left alone (like I was for most of the last 5 miles) with nature and the trail, and while it can be rather trying on a tired brain, it’s also really relaxing, and for me at least it was a nice chance to reflect on what had already happened in the race and what my strategy was going to be for the end – not to mention feel some pride at what I was about to accomplish. I learned an important lesson on this course: I don’t need cheering crowds to get me through a race; as nice as they are, it was kind of awesome to be left alone in my own headspace for a while, like I am on my long runs.

Now for the race itself! I started out towards the back of the pack, and generally stuck around the same 5-7 people, though I did buddy up with a guy from North Carolina who was running his third iteration of this race for several miles from, I think, mile 4 to mile 12 or so? We chatted for a while about a lot of things, which helped take my mind off the initial slog through the first 9 miles, and then after he dropped back I was more or less on my own, though I kept passing the same few people who would, in turn, pass me when I stopped for water or a snack. One woman, Pat, was running in a Boston Marathon jacket from 2011, which isn’t anything new for most runners, but I was sort of in awe of her – not to mention following that unicorn emblem was for some reason inspiring, and kept me going. She passed me for good with about 4 miles to go, and she was really the person who got me through to the finish – since we would all see one another at the turnarounds, we had several chances to encourage one another and urge each other on, and that spirit was out in full force at this race, let me tell you. There’s something special about bonding over a marathon, run in crappy weather, with several dozen complete strangers who realize they’re in this together, and we all had to look out for one another. Pat, and many others, were quick with words of support every time, but it wasn’t just us middle-of-the-pack folks doing it – the front-runners were, too, quick to tell us that we were looking good and strong, and doing a good job. I’ve never experienced that at any other race, not even the smaller races in my small-city hometown. At every turn, we had high-fives, pats on the back, checks to make sure we were all ok, shouts of “you got this!” and so, so many kind words – and that was just from the runners. I haven’t even mentioned the volunteers, who did the same, and were cheerful even 4+ hours in when they had to have been standing out in the cold, wet, windy (did I mention the 25+ MPH gusts? No, well, they were there, too!) weather for a very long time. They were the most outstanding volunteers I’ve ever seen at a race, by far, and they really made things easier, especially when they got hard.

Anyway, after the first suicidal 9 miles, I was feeling perfectly good and strong, and even told Saint the first time I saw him “today’s the day! I got this!”, and was pretty stoked when I saw that first clock-time at 1:27. Yet within a half-mile, I knew it was going to be trouble holding that pace, and when we got to the loose-gravel path that replaced the trestle that was being rebuilt after having been blown out by a tornado a couple of years back, I knew I was going to have to really work for 4:20. I kept bargaining with myself, telling myself that I’d be OK coming into 18 miles at 3:10, or even 3:20, but knowing that I’d have to do some hard work to get to 4:20 at that point. This was my brain talking, but my legs were not listening, as I continued to pound out the sub-10:00 miles in the eastern portion of the trail run. When I got to mile 18, before I saw that clock, I knew two things: 1) these last 8.2 miles would probably be some of the hardest I would ever run because I was now running on legs that had gone out too fast; 2) I’d be okay, and get through them, because all of my 20-milers done during training were done the day after hard, fast 10-mile pace runs, so running on exhausted legs was not something new to me. And, in fact, only one of those 20-milers was a 20-miler; the other two were 23 and 21 miles, and if I had done those on wiped legs, I could certainly do this, too.

When I saw the clock read 2:58 at 18 miles, I immediately realized that in order to hit 4:20, I’d have to maintain what was now an essentially unsustainable pace, but I also realized that I could make it through if I took a page out of Pat’s book, because all the times I passed her were when she stopped to walk. I figured if she could run Boston and still do run-walk breaks, why the hell couldn’t I? I used to be one of those people who thought you couldn’t say that you ran a marathon unless you ran the whole damn thing and never stopped to walk once, but now, I am decidedly not of that camp, because let me tell you, stopping to walk saved my legs, my lungs, and my sanity. Oh man. So, I got as far as I could running slower, and then took walk breaks on the uphill portions of miles 19-21, reminding myself that I could do this, thinking about it one, two miles at a time. My mantra became “I can do anything for 20 minutes” (which isn’t true – I can’t gargle salt water for 20 minutes – but you have to tell yourself a certain number of lies to get through a marathon, so there you go). When I got to the turnaround at mile 21.5, the volunteer there told me “welcome to the top!” and I had no idea what he meant – and as soon as I started heading towards mile 22, I got it: oh my God, this is so much easier than the way up here! No wonder I’d had such a hard time from miles 19-21: they were uphill, but so deceptively barely uphill that you don’t realize it until you’re heading back down. So I coasted for the next two miles, letting gravity do its work, stopping to walk only when I took one last gel at mile 24 to push me through, and then I got back to the start area at mile 25.

The clock read 4:16 as I passed, and since I’m not capable of 4-minute miles under any circumstances, I knew my A goal was out the window. Okay, time to shoot for the B goal, I thought. I had to stop to walk not long after, but then I thought “this is stupid, you’re so close to the end, just GO!”, and I did, and I really thought that turnaround cone at the 0.6-mile mark was never going to come, but then it did. Then it did! And then I was finally going to the finish line! And out of nowhere, my legs – which, bless them, had mostly remained pain-free and gotten me this far even after all I’d already asked of them – found a little extra pep and kicked up as I approached the 26-mile sign. Oh my God, I thought, I’m going to break 4:30. I am actually fucking DOING THIS. And in what seemed like a blur, in five steps I was barreling towards the finish line, taking every last bit that my legs would give me, and then – and then it was over! 4:27:52. (I know my legs were spent because I could barely hold myself up for a couple of minutes, though once I got foil-wrapped and scarfed down some snacks and started walking it out, I felt much better)

As soon as I was done snacking and getting water and thanking and congratulating Pat and the other runners in our little group and thanking the volunteers and race director, we hopped on the trolley car back to the parking area, and busted butt back to the bed & breakfast where we were staying because Brunch Was Nigh, and we were both freezing and wet, and oh. Oh, what a spread – the owner of the B&B lives there, on her horse farm, and she made us the most ridiculously awesome spread that was the epitome of comfort food. Of course, half an hour after we sat down, the damn sun came out and the temperature started rising, and of course it’s in the low 70s today and will be for the rest of the week – of course. Old man Winter had to have the last say for that marathon! But oh, that food was magical (and I practically inhaled two heaping plates and was hungry about two hours later, haha), and after a long shower and some good relaxing, we got back on the road. Upon arriving home I unpacked, cleaned up some stuff, and sat down to relax with my celebratory beer before turning in for the night. Monday I woke up around 9am and felt refreshed, rested, only a little sore in my hips (which is normal), and gleefully renewed and not the least bit guilty for having slept in so late. Divine! And now I take a week off, and then… Then comes the break. I don’t have any races scheduled for the rest of the year, so I’m going to run when I want to, for however long I feel like it, and maybe enter a 5k or 10k here or there, but I don’t plan to sign up for anything for a good, long while. And I am TOTALLY okay with that.

So, assessing the aftermath: What went right? Training, for one: running more miles – averaging 35 miles a week, on Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 marathon plan – was a great idea, and helped me a lot, especially in those last few miles when it got hard. Knowing I had the training to finish on tired legs was a HUGE mental boost. Fueling, for two: I drank more water during the race than my previous two marathons, and took more gels, and thanks to that, I think, never really felt totally fatigued like I was going to die. Getting enough sleep in the week prior to the race and carb-loading, for three and four: I got a solid 8 hours the night before the race, and averaged 6-7 hours per night the week before the race (5-6 is normal for me, since I don’t need that much sleep to function well). I consciously carb-loaded for the three days before the race, dialing it back a bit on Saturday night, and I felt like I had plenty of energy to last me throughout the race. I also didn’t have any GI issues save a weird stomach cramp around mile 23, so that was nice. (I got lucky with the coffee experiment, since I did not have to stop once to use the facilities during the race. After? Oh yes, but not during.) Finally, sticking out training through all of the crappy snow and sleet and wind that we had for most of the winter toughened me up nicely and prepared me to run in crappy race-day conditions.

What went wrong? Well, going out too fast, for one. Having that coffee probably wasn’t a good idea, for two, even though it turned out fine. Since the race was mostly flat, I should probably have trained on more flat surfaces (like the tracks in town) to get used to using all of my muscle groups at once, which may have helped me feel less fatigued towards the end. But, overall, the good DEFINITELY and FAR, FAR outweighs the bad in this race, and it’s an experience I will never forget, and cherish for years to come. I hope to be able to run this race more than once in the future, because it’s just so, so awesome.

So, you want pictures, you say? Here you are!

This is the group making its way to the start, heading down the road south of the start/finish area. Pretty, if cold and wet.
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Me, making my way back from the first out-and-back (and feeling like a rockstar for being mobbed by the two guys taking pictures, haha)
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Me again, getting closer to the start/finish area to make the first turn onto the Creeper trail after mile 2. I love the snowy field in the background!
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This is me and my “race buddy”, the guy from North Carolina with whom I chatted for a good chunk of the first part of the race; here, we’re coming off the first out-and-back, and passing the start/finish area for the second time. And yes, that trestle was a bit slippery…
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Here’s a fantastic one of me that Saint took the first time I saw him at the start/finish area; he wanted to get me against the snowy mountains in the background, and I was trying to finish chewing a gel so I could grab my water and move on.
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Finally, here’s me flying into the finish line. That smile is partly adrenaline, partly euphoria, partly gratitude, and mostly joy because I really did love everything about this race. 🙂
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Thanks for reading, and cheers!

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34 and it feels so good!

Today is my birthday. Hooray!

I’m four weeks from the marathon. I was scheduled to run 20 this morning, but decided to run 23, because I wanted to see if I could do it on tired, sore legs. Finishing marathons strong is not something I’ve been particularly good at in my first two attempts, so I wanted to experiment with mileage on these last couple of 20-milers (what an absurd set of words that is) to see what I’m capable of.

My route was challenging, but fun, with the last 3 miles mostly uphill because that’s another weak area of mine that I need to improve. The weather was perfect- low 40s (F), partly sunny, no wind; I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. I finished in 4 hours and 7 minutes, which bodes very well for me finishing my third marathon with a PR – I’m gunning for below 4:30, possibly 4:20, and if my slow-long-run pace can get me 23 miles at about 4:10, then I think my chances of success on the 30th are high indeed.

So, that was fun, and a nice 34th-birthday present to myself. The older my body gets, the more I’m astounded at what it can do and how it just handles whatever I throw at it with a “bitch, PLEASE”. 🙂 Saint made pancakes, bacon, and coffee for my post-run brunch, and I enjoyed a delicious shower beer after that. So long as the rain holds off, we’ll be heading to a college baseball game shortly, and then he’s taking me out for a nice dinner because he’s awesome. I’m a lucky woman, indeed. 🙂

Happy March, y’all!

Cue the Bon Jovi – a week late!

If I ever organize my own race, it will, regardless of distance, have the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” blaring from a stereo at the halfway point. It might be funnier if this was a one-mile fun run, but still: every time I run a race, this song pops into my head at the median point. Feel free to steal this idea and pass it on. 🙂

I’m on week 10 of my 17-week plan, which is why the Bon Jovi is a week late; technically I reached the median of my schedule last week, but didn’t get around to this until now. I wanted to see how many miles I’d end with for January, in any event. (It’s 156.05, in case you were curious, which is the most I’ve ever run in a month. Woohoo!)

I’m happy to report that my experiments with crunching all of my runs into the weekdays and skiing on the weekends have produced good and non-injured results, though I was so very glad last week to be able to back off and run a normal week/weekend per usual. It was a lower-mileage week anyway, which was well-timed. I even got the elusive, far-too-rare, extremely and guiltily pleasurable luxury of sleeping in this past Saturday, since I was scheduled to run a half-marathon on Sunday and rest for both the Friday and Saturday prior (and boy, was it great fun to do that run on fresh legs – there wasn’t a race I could enter, so I just ran a course around town that I thought would make a fun half). Saint had to work, and I confess that I giggled a little mischievously to myself when I rolled my eyes open around 9am and thought, “hmm, he’s already been at work an hour”. Glorious, wonderful, magical, and I *so* enjoyed having a leisurely morning of coffee and laundry to myself. I could see a bit forward into the future, in, say, April or May, when this happens again after this marathon is done, and the thought makes me quite happy indeed.

Week 10 is when the runs start getting longer and harder (oh baby!), and the familiar feeling of somewhat-permanent exhaustion is already starting to settle in. I’m doing okay in taking care of myself, though I could probably use a bit more sleep, but the tiredness is a good kind of tiredness, like it always is. I’m still looking forward to the rest of the process, and the end result, though I feel like if it rains one god-damned more time on my Sunday long run I am going to throttle Mother Nature somewhere unspecified, unless this is some master plan to prepare me for a gullywashed marathon experience at the end of March, in which case, carry on, you fickle mistress, you. It’s been… interesting running through all of this cold and snow, but it has certainly toughened me up (not to mention made me immensely grateful for a working heater and hot water).

In other non-news, baseball starts very, very soon (pitchers & catchers report in ten days, and my college team’s first game is two weeks from today), which is good.

DIPAs are coming out in droves now, which is also good. It’s still cold enough for stouts and the like, but I do also love me a good DIPA on a chilly winter evening.

The Olympics start this week, which is… I wish it was good, I really do, because I love the pageantry and the incredible feats of athleticism and the usual proclivity of the world to ignore politics and get along for a couple of weeks, but it feels different this time, and it makes me uneasy. There’s some element of corruption and wasted money and exploitation in every Olympic games, sure, but I’m much more attuned to the effects of these Olympics on Russia and Sochi because Russia is “my” area of the world – it’s what I study, it’s what I read about over my lunch break. This also means I’m more aware and fearful of terrorist attacks there, and while I hope to God that nothing happens, it wouldn’t surprise me too much if something did. It also makes me a bit sick (for lack of a better word) that NBC – who has said they’ll not ignore the political and social conflicts surrounding these Games – seems to be carrying on like nothing is wrong. Their tone strikes me as insincere, a bit head-in-the-sand, a bit “ignorance is bliss, viewers!”, and I hope they do find a way to address the “real-world” goings-on outside the Olympic village. I’ll still watch, mind you, but with bated breath, and I hope (and as close to praying without actually doing so) that everything proceeds safely and soundly. Who knows, maybe this will end up being something spectacular, but I can’t shake the feeling that this will amount to little more than what NPR’s David Greene referred to as “Putin’s Potemkin Village” (read the story in which he uses the phrase here).

Sorry about that; I got a bit away from myself there. 🙂 To bring it back to running, this all makes me think of the Munich massacre in 1972, and how they ran the marathon anyway (Runner’s World had a great article about it a couple of years ago). The spirit tends to find a way to prevail, I suppose.

OK, what about you? Do you watch the winter Olympics? Which sports are your favorites? (Mine are figure skating, speed skating, downhill skiing – for obvious reasons 🙂 – curling, and the bobsled. Oh, and ski jumping, which women are finally allowed to compete in for the first time!) How is your winter running going? Are you ready for spring yet?

Happy running!

Just dropping in to say hi… and what happened to my 2013 goal(s)?

I got swallowed by Thanksgiving, the end of the semester, and Christmas, so I’m just dropping in to say HI!… and Happy New Year, while I’m briefly here. I’ve not been in my house in ten days; that’s where I am now, but I’m leaving again in a little while to hit the road again until the 1st, at which point I am going to finally enjoy sleeping in my own bed for the first time in what will seem like forever.

Non-running-wise, life is good; there’s not much new to report, though I did get some neat running-related things for Christmas, the most awesome of which is a pair of Wigwam Ironman socks that got me through 13.6 miles of completely rain-soaked running yesterday with nary a blister, even after I splashed through giant puddles by accident at mile 0.5. I love me my Balegas, but these may be my new go-to socks once those crap out. I got some nice beer, too, most of which is gone but was so deliciously worth drinking – I’m looking at you, Scaldis Noel.

Running-wise, life is also good; I’m still enjoying cold-weather, pre-dawn runs (and I got to watch the sun rise on Christmas morning when I had the clear sky with stars and Venus and the moon all to myself, which was lovely), and I’ve made it to the end of 2013 injury-free and generally pleased with my running at the moment. Of course, I say this with one short 3-miler left for tomorrow, which is when I’m sure I’ll finally manage to get hit by a car during a run, but barring that, I’ll finish this year with-

Well, wait. Let me hold you in competely gimmicky and fabricated suspense for a second: What were my 2013 running goals, anyway?

From my only January post: “Sub-25:00 5k, Sub-2 hour half-marathon, Sub-5 hour marathon.(Oh, and, um, not get hurt. Hmmm….)”

I’m happy to say that I accomplished all three of those goals, with a 23:58 5k PR, a 1:59 half-marathon PR, and a 4:40 marathon PR. I didn’t set a 10k goal because I wasn’t sure if I’d race one in 2013; I didn’t, so that’s one of my 2014 goals. I also took time off when I felt hurt, and have not had any issues since June when I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon. So, yay me!

While I’m at it, why not set those goals off the top of my head? Hmmm. I think this year, after my March marathon, I’d like to take some time off and just run for fun, instead of always being so focused on training for something. I’d also like to get better at the 5k and 10k distances, so I’m going to say that I’d like a sub-22:00 5k, a sub-55:00 10k, and only doing a half or another full if it’s an offer I can’t refuse.

So! Now that you’ve read this far, why was I holding you in suspense a little while ago? Well, at some point earlier this year, possibly during the Super Bowl or some other such football-watching event where I may have been drinking beer and running my mouth off, I told Saint that I could totally run more miles in 2013 than the NFL’s regular-season leading rusher would run yards. The regular season concluded yesterday, and the leader was LeSean McCoy, with (according to ESPN.com) 1,607 yards. In 2013, counting tomorrow’s run, I (will) have run… 1,511 miles. Dang! So close! Way closer than last year, anyway, when Adrian Peterson outran me by a lot more. So, here’s another goal: I will try again to outrun the leading NFL rusher during the regular season, and I will try to break 1,750 miles for the year.

I leave you with that; what are your goals for 2014? However you choose to usher it in, I hope it’s safe and happy for you. Cheers to the New Year!

Running in Boston

First of all, iamarunnerandsocanyou is going to call me out on this for not getting in touch with him, but my public apology goes like this: my schedule was such that I only had time to run before the sun was up while I was in Boston, which I figured no sane individual would want to join me for. So, my apologies, and I hope that my next visit to Boston is more leisure and less business so I can enjoy more of the city.

I was there for a field-related conference, giving a paper, which went swimmingly well and was by and large a great event. The conference hotel was in Copley Square, which is in the lovely Back  Bay area of Boston (and yes, is about two blocks away from where the bombings occurred in April). While my primary purpose for visiting was this conference, I do not think that blogging about it is going to keep anyone awake, so I’m going to bore you with other details about running and sightseeing.

I arrived late Wednesday evening and had enough time to quickly get the lay of the land before going to bed. The conference wasn’t to begin until noon on Thursday, so I woke up just before sunrise and went for a run along the Charles River Esplanade as it was rising, per Andy’s suggestion. It was chilly, but absolutely breathtaking – Thursday dawned a clear and bright day, and it was such a joy and privilege to be able to greet the day from that riverside location. I explored some of the Back Bay neighborhoods as well, and marveled at the architecture thereof (I’m a sucker for brownstones with gorgeous windows). It’s no secret that I fell in love with Boston at first sight when I first visited in 2006, and I vowed one day to move there, which is still a threat I think is valid. Every time I leave, a little piece of me stays behind.  (I know I’ve said this about New York City, too, but Boston has a spirit that New York just can’t catch, not that I can put that into words but if you’ve ever visited both places I think you know what I mean.)

After that, I got ready for the day and went over to Harvard to check out an exhibit sponsored by their Russian center. It’s called the Blokadnitsy Project, and it’s a collection of twelve photobooks compiled of pictures and interviews of and with a group of women who survived the German siege of Leningrad during World War II. It’s absolutely astonishing, and I think anyone in the Boston area should go see it. I don’t get moved to tears that much, but I had to choke back a sob when I saw a picture of one woman’s hands and her description of the way she used them to move and stack dead bodies of her fellow citizens into mass graves. It was incredibly moving, and I was glad that I had made the trip out there to see the exhibit. Plus, okay, walking through Harvard Yard is pretty neat, too.

After THAT, conference stuff began.

When I arrived from the T at Copley from the airport on Wednesday night, I did a triple-take at one building that I walked past on my way to the hotel. It wasn’t the Trinity Church, which I had been told to check out if I could (and as it turns out, I didn’t have time, alas! – but check out the building slideshow), but, as I later realized, the Boston Public Library’s Central branch, which I also later found out did “Art & Architecture Tours” on Thursdays at 6pm. Wouldn’t you know it – my conference stuff ended at 5:45pm on Thursday! So, when that happened, I booked it over to the library and got a wonderful treat. Seriously, click on that link and then click on the links and look at some of the pictures of those halls and murals – just gorgeous. I was in heaven. My favorite part – as hard as it is to choose just one! –  was the statue in the courtyard, which is lit up at night and looks simply amazing.

After the tour was over, I wandered around for a bit and chatted with the security guard about working in a place of such absurd beauty, and when my stomach gave an angry, empty growl, he smiled and we agreed that I should probably go fix that. On a completely unrelated note, I had no idea that Sam Adams makes a small-batch Gingerbread Stout – it’s no Hardywood Park gingerbread stout, true, but then again, what is? – that I discovered is rather quite good, to my surprise. Sam Adams has been doing a lot of seasonal small batches over the past couple of years, and this is one I’d drink again with pleasure.

On Friday I did not run, which was a wise decision since it rained all day. I conferenced instead.

On Saturday, I ran 7ish miles before sunrise that took me far down Commonwealth Avenue and past Boston University through Allston/Brighton and ontothe wrong side of Memorial Drive such that I was running in the grass next to a guardrail next to 40-mph-traffic, separated from the sandy ground of a train yard by a chain-link fence to my right. This was not the wisest idea, but I was not about to go playing Frogger in the dark with those cars, so I decided to just run as fast as I could to get the bridge I needed to cross back over to Brookline. When I got to that bridge, I had to go up a very dark and very tall staircase, which was a bit unnerving, but hey, stairs-speedwork! Next time, I will listen to the guy driving the truck who is motioning to me to tell me that no, Memorial Drive isn’t actually on that side of the road.

I conferenced the rest of Saturday, which was when I gave my paper and celebrated with a lunch beer and then had a fantastically amazing and satisfying dinner at The Salty Pig with some old friends. (Vegetarians, beware that clicky-thing.) Beers were had, laughter flowed in abundance. It was good.

It was also VERY sharply cold and windy outside. This did not change Sunday when I went for a run at 5am.

I can now say that I have gone on a run and not encountered a single other runner on my route, which, no matter where or when or in what weather I’ve run before, has never  been the case. So that felt kind of badass, but at the same time I had a few moments in which I seriously questioned my judgement. This isn’t because of the route I chose, but rather because of the wind, which was blowing at a steady 15MPH and gusting to a hearty 30MPH, when it was already only about 20F outside. (I later learned that this was a wind chill of about 9 degrees…!) I was dressed fine – long pants, gloves, and two base-layer shirts, one of which had a collar – but it was the sort of wind that no matter what you were wearing, it just cut right through you and hit you in the bones. I accepted that this would be true for my entire run (7ish miles again) pretty much when I stepped out of the hotel door and nearly got blown sideways, which I think helped a lot in my decision to not quit. It also helped that I kept telling myself that I’ve skied entire days in such conditions, albeit with more layers on and much more snow, and it helped even more that I loathe running on the treadmill and had first-hand evidence that the hot water in our shower was indeed capable of getting very hot.

So, on I went, past the gorgeous-when-lit Museum of Fine Arts  (another place I wish I’d had time to visit!), to the Longwood area of medical colleges, to the Riverway and the fens behind Fenway (though I missed Fenway Park by a couple of blocks, oh well – I consoled myself by saying it was too dark to appreciate anyway), over the Charlesgate and back to Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, past the Boston Common and up that goddamned hill that I always forget exists to Park Street and then over to Stuart Street until reaching my hotel. Again, beautiful buildings, even in the dark and pre-dawn light, and the few pedestrians who were out waiting for buses or on their own way to work or the airport gave me “lady, you must be nuts” look that made it worth it. So what if I almost tripped over a crack in the sidewalk because my eyes were full of tears from the wind? You run faster when it’s cold, and this run was no exception: it was the fastest pace I’ve held above 5 miles in a very long time, and it felt amazing, even given the conditions.

God, I love Boston. 🙂

After getting ready and packing up, I did last-day-conferencing, got myself to the airport early enough to have a gateside beer while watching football, and was able to continue watching football thanks to the magic of JetBlue and their free DirecTV. I also got to watch the sun set from the sky, which was a brilliant shade of red I’m not sure I would have gotten on the ground, so that was pretty neat, too.

I arrived in good stead, was fed a lovely hot dinner by Saint’s parents, and got myself back home late last night to breathe for two days before taking off for Thanksgiving madness with my own family – provided the weather cooperates – after which I think I will take a small break from traveling because as much as I love Boston, and running in Boston, and being and feeling such joy in Boston, my own bed is a wonderful place all its own.

My paper, by the way, was on the concept of “home”, which I think is somewhat apropos for this post. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, a bit early, y’all. Thanks for reading.

Marine Corps Marathon 2013 recap

Well. Marathon #2 is in the books, and I think I can split this race into three categories:

Physical. This thing was PHYSICAL: I felt great until mile 12, when a woman right in front of me stopped suddenly to walk and I had no escape route other than to hop up onto the curb next to us; when I landed, I rolled my left foot in a slightly odd manner. When I hopped back off the curb, I landed awkwardly, and two steps later knew I’d aggravated the ankle strain I think I sustained in mid-August. It never bothered me again, not even during my 20-milers, so I never got it checked out. From then until mile 14, I thought two things: one, there goes 4:30 for my goal time, and two, I might have to think about dropping out, because walking was not an option and running on it hurt. Running faster on it let the adrenaline dull the pain, however, and by mile 15 I felt like I might be okay. Mile 16 was when I told myself that I was NOT going to drop out no matter what; if I had to crawl to the finish line, I would. The ankle nagged at me a whole lot throughout the rest of the race, especially on the rougher pavement of 395 and the roads around the National Mall, and unfortunately the worst during the uphill to the finish (because I was pushing off of it to propel myself uphill), but I fought it out. I also knew I was worn out around mile 24, but it wasn’t as bad as the exhaustion I felt in the last 10k in Richmond last year, which I attribute to more miles during training. It did hurt to finish, yes, but I felt stronger throughout the end than I did at the end of Richmond, which was one of my non-time-related goals for this race.  However, I do need to work on finishing stronger, as my splits below will show.

Mental.  This thing was MENTAL: my first thoughts were, after starting so slow, how can I meet my time goal? It was very difficult to convince myself to a) take it slow and b) believe that I would still reach my goal at this early pace. This was very discouraging in the first 8-10 miles, though after the half I started to feel better about it. I didn’t really realize I could get 4:40 until the 35k mark, when I finally decided that all the math I’d been doing all along (subtract about 20 minutes from the gun time clocks at the markers) was in fact correct- of course, this is also when I slowed down a bit, because okay, yeah, it was HARD and I was hurting the requisite amount (not to mention the ankle – the ankle!), plus I stopped at both water stations near the end to drink and dump some water on my head. But, no excuses- and you know, it’s not productive to think “oh, I could have broken 4:40 if I hadn’t done these two or three things”. You know what? I PR’ed by 22 minutes in this race. 23 wouldn’t have been any better, and 22 isn’t any less sweet. I am effing PROUD of myself. I dug in and found something in me to get me to the end – one of my favorite signs early in the race, that I kept telling myself throughout, was “You CAN do this and you WILL do this. FIND A WAY.” Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have Marines shouting at you “dig deep!” and “you’ve come all this way to finish this thing, get it done!”.

Emotional. This  thing was EMOTIONAL: My grandfather was a Marine, and my mom was able to find his emblem pin and mail it to me so I could wear it during the race. (A little bit of family when they can’t be with you, it turns out, is a HUGE thing.) I started getting a little weepy while we were on our way to the starting line, watching the parachuters and the first bits of light from the sunrise, thinking about the past 4 months and what they led to, and what I was about to do for the next 4ish hours. During the race, I went through the gamut of feelings: I had some fond memories of old friends running towards and through Georgetown, marveling that 14 years ago (when that place was part of my life for a bit) I would never have thought that I’d be back there running a marathon. I also went through fear (can I make my goal? Is my ankle irretrievably messed up? Can I sustain this pace? Am I hurting myself by not slowing down?), disappointment (Saint missed me at our first two planned viewing spots; starting slower than I wanted to), utter happiness and joy (he found me at the third spot, and ran all across the National Mall to chase me and take pictures), love (how can I not love someone who does that for me?), irritation (some stretches of the course are on long but thankfully flat highways but still – you can’t see the end no matter how far you stretch your vision, and it’s demoralizing), elation (donuts at mile 24 are AWESOME), so much laughter and fuzzy feelings (at the signs and the spectator support and the people calling out my name that I’d written on my bib), pride (at my fellow runners who shouted encouragement to one another, especially the hand-cyclists who had difficulty getting up the hills), gratitude (for everyone there, especially the Marines), to elation (I am going to finish strong, and I am going to shatter my previous marathon time). All of this whomped me in my gut when I crossed the finish line and got in line to wait for my race medal; the corrals for those are lined with Marines who shake your hand and say “Congratulations, ma’am. You did great.” I lost it there, and started bawling like an idiot, and it didn’t get any better when the Marine actually gave me my medal. There were race photographers taking pictures of runners right after receiving medals, and I’m sure there’s one of me with my hands over my face, shaking from the crying. Totally attractive! But, it was such an emotional moment, the culmination of all of that hard work plus the Marines who have been through things I can never imagine telling me I did something great. I couldn’t help it. I’m getting weepy now even thinking about it. And then you get to get your finisher’s picture taken in front of Iwo Jima, which is something else entirely. And then, after getting food and water and jackets and getting my drop-bag and making my way over to the meetup area… seeing Saint. I didn’t lose it again, but I was close. I tell him how much I appreciate that he comes with me to these races and is there to support me, but I feel like he can never really understand how much it means to me.

But hey, that goes for everyone else who supports me, too. I have no words left other than “thank you”.

Here are my splits, per the race website:

Finish Time
Finish Net 4:40:29
Finish Gun 4:58:16
Location Net Time Clock Time Time of Day Pace Pace Between
5K 34:55 52:42 8:52:47 11:13 /mi
10:41 /mi
10K 1:08:06 1:25:54 9:25:58 10:57 /mi
11:21 /mi
15K 1:43:25 2:01:12 10:01:17 11:05 /mi
10:26 /mi
20K 2:15:50 2:33:37 10:33:42 10:55 /mi
10:11 /mi
Half 2:22:47 2:40:35 10:40:39 10:53 /mi
10:26 /mi
25K 2:48:07 3:05:55 11:05:59 10:49 /mi
10:06 /mi
30K 3:19:33 3:37:20 11:37:25 10:42 /mi
10:23 /mi
35K 3:51:51 4:09:38 12:09:43 10:39 /mi
10:51 /mi
40K 4:25:35 4:43:22 12:43:27 10:41 /mi
10:55 /mi
Finish 4:40:29 4:58:16 12:58:21 10:41 /mi

I ran negative splits…  mostly. The thing I need to work on for my next marathon, it seems, is finishing – so, maybe there’s a 22-miler in my training future?

So, you ask, how was the course itself? I’ll talk about the expo first before I get to that 🙂 I went on the last day, and got there around 11am, and was aghast at how long the line to get into packet pickup was. It got 10x worse by the time I left, so it seems I dodged a bullet there. But, once I got in line, we moved really quickly, and I was done in about an hour. Then I had to go wait to get into the expo itself to pick up my participant shirt, but that was only another 15 minutes. Aside from the packet pickup tent being completely dark when I finally made it in – which I thought was normal, but I later learned was not normal as there had been a power outage in the tent. But I fell over the poor people in front of me because our eyes hadn’t adjusted from the bright sunlight to the complete darkness of the tent, so we were all stumbling around like zombies, haha! – I have no qualms with the process. All things considered, I thought it went really well. I didn’t spend too long at the expo since I’d made lunch plans in downtown D.C. with a friend while I was waiting in line, so i hightailed it out of there after getting my shirt, which I’m sure my wallet also thanks me for. (It does not, however, thank me for the somewhat expensive beer lunch I then had, but that was worth every penny, because it’s rare to get a long 2-hour liquid lunch with one of your most-missed friends. And yes, I did eat food, too. :P)

I also have no qualms with the shuttle to the race itself, which picked up and dropped off later about a block away from my hotel. I left early enough Sunday morning that we arrived at the starting area with about an hour to spare, which was plenty of time to pee and check my afterwards-bag and ask a couple of spectator questions for Saint. I also got to see the awesome skydivers who came down with an American flag, which was really cool. The shuttle on the way back got stuck in traffic, but still delivered us to our original point one block from the hotel, which was a godsend given how shot my legs were at that point. So, logistics-wise, I would say this race did an incredible job considering the sheer numbers of people and jurisdictions that required coordinating.

Okay, so, now! The course itself, which was new this year after they changed miles 6-8 to go around Rock Creek Park.

Miles 1-3 were pretty uphill, which I’d known from the elevation map. I didn’t mind this, since it helped ensure a slow start. I kept my throwaway sweatshirt on until mile 3ish, and then I chucked it roadside; it got warmer as the sun rose, but then when the clouds came around mile 10 it got chilly. Once we hit mile 16 the sun came back out and it got warm; at the finish, it was about 60F but breezy, so the finisher’s jacket was a welcome accessory. Anyway, miles 1-3: out of the Pentagon area and through Rosslyn, which had some really great crowds for such an early hour.

Miles 3-5 took us over the Key Bridge and into Georgetown, which was a lot of fun because of the crowd support (and also, running over the bridge, which I’ve only ever been on foot on once in my life, and it was a very hot summer evening walking to a party from Rosslyn). I had some happy memories here, and started feeling really good about my pace and the race in general. (This is otherwise known as the Fake Early-Race Euphoria which you have to learn to ignore, because it can cause you to go faster than you want to at this point.)

Miles 5-9 were a bit odd because they doubled back on one another; this was the loop up by Rock Creek Park, so we could see the runners coming back as we were going in. That was actually fun, and both sides were cheering one another on. I started getting excited during this stretch, because I thought I’d see Saint around mile 11 in just a short bit.

Miles 10-12 were the descent along the northern bank of the Potomac down to Hains Point; Saint apparently was waiting for me at mile 10, on top of the Route 66 overpass, but I completely missed him, and I actually spent a lot of time during this stretch scanning faces in the crowd to see if I could see him. The advantage of that was that it helped me not realize how long these miles seemed, even though I did a mental happy dance at the mile 10 marker because we’d finally broken into double digits.

Miles 12-15 were the loop around Hains Point, which did have a few spectators but was composed mostly of signs. They were all really funny or inspiring signs, though, so it became like a game to see which sign was next to see if it could outdo the one before it. My favorite one was “Knowledge is realizing that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that you shouldn’t put it in a fruit salad.” Totally random, but it made me laugh! These signs were great because they helped take my mind off  the ankle issue detailed above, and they helped me keep pushing when it felt really lonely and awful.

Miles 15-17 were the wonderful stretch out of Hains Point (I’ve never been so happy to see an EXIT sign in my life) and towards the National Mall, which was where I saw Saint for the first time at the corner where the 17-mile marker was. Crowd support here, and through mile 19, was some of the loudest and most awesome of the entire course.

Miles 18-19 became an exercise in watching Saint sprint ahead past the crowds to get pictures of me at random points, which I thought was really funny – shouldn’t be the only one running this thing?? I also was tortured by the smell of the grilled food coming from the street vendors near the Smithsonian museums, and I laughed when a fellow runner heard me and presented a bag of chips he’d clearly just bought from one of them, asking me if I wanted some. (I politely refused – nothing new on race day!)

Mile 19-20 and a bit beyond was the one leaving the Mall (goodbye crowds) and heading towards the 14th Street bridge, which is the bridge you have to beat by a certain time before they reopen it to traffic. I was in no danger of missing the cutoff, so that was fine, but the experience was anticlimactic, because once you “beat the  bridge” you then have to run over it, which is a good .75 miles of running… on… a… bridge. It was warm, I was a little tired but too badly so, and it seemed like the bridge would never end. At least when you go over the Key Bridge you have a visible endpoint and visible destination; no such luck on the 14th Street bridge, so you keep going and hope it will end at some point. It does, at mile 21, and then you run on 395 for another mile before you get to Crystal City. Mile 21-22 is just running on a highway, and I’ll state it plainly: it sucks. You can see Crystal City off to your left, but you swear they keep picking it up and moving it the closer you get to it, and then just when you start to despair because that means the donuts are even further away, you make a gentle left turn and then are off the ramp and WHAM! Crystal City is having a party and YOU are invited!

Miles 22-24 were in Crystal City, and were SUCH a welcome relief after that awful bridge. I was hurting a bit through this part, but the crowds and the donuts and the 35k marker clock that told me I could actually hit 4:40 if I just kept pushing helped me get through these miles. It was neat passing the mile 23 marker that I’d walked past on Friday night on my way to the Metro, and I knew then that the donuts were just around the corner. And oh, heavens, those little doughy sugary rounds of perfection- MCM, that was EXACTLY the boost I needed to keep going, and even more so because the last two miles were just…

Blergh. Blergh! Miles 24-26 took us back towards Rosslyn and behind the Pentagon, and while I knew the finish was not far, it was hard to visualize. It was a lot of running on roads that seemed to go on forever, even when we entered the Pentagon area. I’m really grateful for the Marines standing in that area because their motivational shouts were just the thing I needed to hear at that point (though really, I’d probably do anything that a Marine yelled at me to do – you don’t mess with those folks!). I’d missed a couple of mile marker signs earlier in the race so I thought I’d missed the one at 25 when it finally came, and then it seemed like forever and a damn day to 26. I knew vaguely where 26 was since we’d passed it on our way out to Rosslyn at the start of the race, and it was kind of neat running past the starting line area again and thinking “hey, wasn’t I just here a few hours ago?”, and thinking about all I’d seen and been through between those two times. But that damn sign took forever to show itself. And then it did, and then I realized that this race was about to be over. I got a little sad around mile 23 when I had the same realization, but here it turned to grim determination, because that hill towards the finish line is A Thing, and my ankle was killing me and my calves were seizing up a bit. But out of the corner of my ear and eye I heard and saw Saint among that giant crowd, and I think he said he was so proud of me (awww). Honestly, the crowd was pretty much the thing that carried me across the finish line, because my legs were just about done at that point. I finally remembered to look up, and I saw the clock turn to 4:58 and just started laughing and smiling like an idiot- I’d done it! I’d hit 4:40! Arms in the air, and I’d have leaped with joy if either my legs or ankles could manage it.

And then I was off to the medal area to have my silly emotional breakdown. The rest of the story, you know, to a point: once I found Saint and we made it onto a shuttle, we got back to the hotel as fast as we could because I way overshot the late checkout I’d been given, and we got locked out of our room so I had to beg the front desk to let me in so we could get our stuff (and, um, so I could take a quick shower, which I shower-beered with a Flying Dog Raging Bitch, about which I have zero regrets and in fact highly recommend). Then, we went to a local bar to watch the Redskins game (and so I could stuff my face), which is not worth wasting words on (sigh), and then we drove back to our respective homes (after I, um, bought a Cold Stone milkshake so I could keep stuffing my face on the drive. Again, I have no regrets.) I arrived at 10:30pm and was fast asleep by 11:15, having taken this morning off work (wisely), so I got to sleep in until 8:45. GLORIOUS. I’m a bit sore today because I didn’t have time to stretch at all, not even in the shower, but that will work itself out.

And now, time for some post-mortem:

What went well: Running more miles during training helped a lot, especially in the last 10k. Taking gels every 3 miles after 6 miles kept my energy up, and I timed them well around the donuts at the end. Training with donuts during my 20-milers worked, because I knew they wouldn’t make me sick on race day. Carrying my own water bottle with me let me sip water whenever I wanted, instead of relying on water stops (though there were a TON of them- MCM definitely does this right!). Starting out slow helped me conserve energy for the finish. Training on hills prepared me for the hills throughout, and at the end. Not stopping to pee probably helped me cut a few minutes off my time, though I was wishing by the end of the race that I’d stopped maybe once.

What didn’t go so well: Thankfully, not much, though there are two things I can think of right now: I still don’t think I drank enough water, because I was parched by the end and chugged two water bottles and was still parched afterwards. My brain does stupid things when it’s chilly and tells me I don’t need to drink as much water as I do when it’s hot, which is not exactly true, so I need to be better about drinking more water during my long runs. My finish was strong, but not as strong as it could have been, so I need to work on finishing my long runs faster. Some speedwork might help with that. Also, my ankle; what was up with that? I should probably have it taped or wrapped for my next marathon… speaking of,

What’s next?: I’m taking most of this week off, then probably going out for an easy 6-7 miles on Saturday. I’m pacing a friend through her first half on November 16, which I’m really looking forward to, and then training in earnest resumes again for a marathon on March 29. (Right now I’m thinking “my God, there’s no way I can do this AGAIN that soon”, but I know I’ll feel differently by Friday, if not sooner) I’ve yet to decide if I want to see if I can shave another 20 minutes off my MCM time, but I confess I was tempted to say “yes” when Saint asked me yesterday “so are you going to go for 4:20 in the Creeper marathon?” Right now I’ve come out healthy and happy from this one, so I don’t want to make any major running decisions just yet.

Pictures to come soon when Saint emails them to me! Thanks for reading and supporting- let me know if you have any such experiences to share 🙂

Writer’s block. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

I’m revising my first dissertation chapter and I’m just stuck – stuck – on this one point. I’m pretty sure I know what I want to say, but my brain can’t make my fingers make sense of it on the keyboard. And yet, I have at the ready far too many words I’d be dying to tell anyone who would listen about what I’m doing Sunday morning.

In a moment of cookie- and good-fellowship- and 25%-off-induced euphoria last night [protip: DON’T go to a running store that is having a mega-sale during the last week of your taper, because you will decide that you need even more rewards for the hell you’ve put yourself through in the last 4.5 months – this is one of several reasons I’ve studiously avoided going out for beers this week, because I know how that ends], I bought a very warm pair of Sugoi tights for the snowy/windy runs I think I might encounter this winter in central Virginia, and an Asics half-zip long-sleeve top – that is screamingly orange and purple to the point of embarrassment, if I cared about that sort of thing; it also has thumb holes, which I didn’t think I cared about until I put it on and realized that they’re pretty nifty – for the 5am runs that have now become habit even though it’s pitch-black and hey, um, pretty chilly at that time of day. Where I’m going with this is that I didn’t try them on before I bought them, like you should, because this was a special sale and the dressing rooms weren’t being used- it was pretty much a free-for-all, grab-what-you-can-and-hope-it-fits sort of thing. And when I got home, I ripped the tags off and then tried them on.

They fit just fine, and it’s not like I couldn’t have returned them with the receipt for store credit, but… But.

The cursor in that Word document sits, blinking, mocking me, while this one just flies along.

This is my brain on marathon tapering.

I should know better, really, than to have saved the hardest work of my week for today, since my thoughts have now turned pretty fully to the upcoming weekend. And yet, while I remember reading obsessively about everything-Richmond I could last year, I’m sort of… not meh, but more Zen about Marine Corps this year. I’m sure prior marathon experience plays a large role in that; I’m also sure that higher-mileage training and better quality training play a role in that, too. I have a metric fuckton more confidence heading into this marathon, which either means I’m going to kill it completely, or have an epic collapse somewhere around mile 22.

I don’t have the jitters I thought I might, right now, though I’m sure that will change between now and Sunday at 5am when my alarm goes off. (when I’ll already have been awake since 3 or 4…) I just kind of want the time to pass quickly enough, so that I can still savor the fun things I have planned for the weekend (I’m going to watch horses jump over tall things tomorrow night after I gorge myself on the world’s most gigantic plate of spaghetti and meatballs which I have been craving all damn week; then I plan to meet up with a dear friend from high school on Saturday before possibly going to a party hosted by an old college friend; then I plan to watch “Chariots of Fire” as I fall asleep that night), but also so that the downtime is minimized because I – and, I’m sure, about 29,999 other people – just want to get to that start line and kick ass already.

Bwaaaaaaa. I’ve hit a wall here, so I’m going to go back to that damned blinking cursor over there and push my damn way through the wall over there. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere… Nah. 🙂