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!

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!

MCM 2013: The post-mortem!

I’ve always thought that using the term “post-mortem” with a reflection of an event is kind of odd, since in the literal sense I am very much still alive (woohoo!) and the event isn’t strictly a living thing in and of itself. But it kind of makes sense, I guess, if you think of it in terms of having enough perspective on the event to be able to objectively analyze it. That, and the event is now history, something to be remembered rather than anticipated.

So, this may not be the most interesting post to people who aren’t me, but maybe you’ll find something of use in it if you happen to be reading. Also, I put pictures at the end, so if you get bored, you can scroll down to those for a good laugh.

For my recovery this time, I took five whole days off of running and any other physical activity that was not scaling stairs or shuffling after a bus I was about to miss. On days one and two, I felt sure that this was a good decision. On day three, I still felt that it was a good decision, but I could feel the soreness in my legs and joints going away for good, and I started to get that itch again. On day four, personal-life-things took an acute turn for the not-so-good and I was really regretting my stubborn decision to not go for a run even though I was very stressed out and craving like mad the endorphins from exercise. My legs were not sore, so I was itching quite badly to run, but I told myself “no”. Day five was 3x worse than day four, but I had a light at the end of the tunnel: on day four I’d set up a day-six morning run with the friend I’m pacing through her first half, so I knew I’d be getting out and chasing endorphins by the next morning. One of these years I’m going to make it a full seven days between “marathon” and “run again”, but this is not that year.

The run itself was a warm and cloudy 9.5-mile jaunt in about 1:40, which is about right for my long runs, so at least it looks like friend and I have about the same pace, which is good. I think she started out too fast, though, since by the end she had slowed down a lot and was not feeling happy. I’m trying to think of ways I can subtly steer her towards a slower start that don’t involve taking off from the start line at a half-jog, so if anyone has any suggestions (and no, loading her pockets with rocks is not going to work) I’m all ears. My own legs hurt a little by the end, but it felt fantastic to run again, both for the sheer motion and the endorphins. I’d told myself to stick to 8-9 miles, and accidentally overshot to 9.5, but I felt like I could have gone for at least another three or four.

On Sunday, I’d planned to run an easy-easy recovery 5 miles, but then I realized that I had not slept in and failed to run and been lazy and given Saint the pleasure of my company on a Sunday morning since… um… early June. Fuck that, I said, and rolled right back over and ignored the alarm. I have no regrets. 🙂

I was back at the gym this morning for some cross-training, and tomorrow I’ll ease back into the running-weights-Tuesday-Thursday and running-Wednesday and rest-Friday routine. Saturday morning I’ll go for an early, easy 11.5, and then Sunday I’ll aim for an easy-recovery 4.5ish.

Okay then! With that out of the way, commence the 2013 MCM post-mortem, which I have labeled “NOTES TO SELF”.

– I had zero, none, zip, zilch! stomach issues throughout the race at all; not even any feeling of having to poo, which was odd (but very much welcome!). This could have been due to a lack of water consumption on my part, but I did eat my usual pre-race cereal and finish it 2 hours before the race began (instead of finishing 45 minutes to an hour before running), so maybe my stomach had time to process it properly? One hour before the race began I ate a snacky bar, and all was well. I also sipped on water before the start, which turned out to be ok, so it’s good to know I can do those things again if I need to.

– Being on my feet as much as I was the day before the race (waiting in line at the packet pickup/expo for an hour and change, spending a lot of time walking to and from Metro stations and my hotel and places nearby) might MAYBE have fatigued my legs somewhat. My next marathon takes place the day after the local 10-miler WHICH I SWEAR I WILL RUN ONE OF THESE YEARS DAMMIT, so I plan to volunteer at the race for the second year in a row. However, I know now to look into volunteer opportunities that involve a lot of sitting down. 😛 I was at a water stop last year, but that was a good 3-4 hours on my feet, so that’s a no-go, which sucks since it’s a lot of fun.

– 3/1 long runs (run the first 3/4 slow and gradually speed up over the last 1/4 of the distance) should probably be written down on my training calendar so that I actually adhere to them at 3-week intervals. I think I started doing them early on in my training, and then by week 9 or 10 they sort of fell by the wayside, That may have contributed to my lack of strong finish.

– Running by feel is a good thing. I may honestly never wear a watch when I run ever again. I’m used to it now, so I can’t imagine going back. (Yes, this means you have to return the Garmin you got me for Christmas. Awww!)

– So far, day 3 after the marathon was the one on which I was the least sore, but having said that, future self: TAKE TIME TO STRETCH RIGHT AFTER THE RACE IS OVER, DAMMIT. Getting good sleep (at least 7 hours/night) and eating well (lots of extra protein) also worked well for me.

– Day 4 was when I got the itch to run again. I am telling my future self to ignore it. Wait until day 6. I REPEAT: WAIT UNTIL DAY 6.

– IMPORTANT: Try a two-week taper next time. Three might have been a BIT much. Maybe do a 22-miler 2 weeks out, and go from there?

– Not lifting weights the week before the race was a good idea. Do that again next time.

– It’s still okay to drink a beer or two the day/night before the race, but maybe no more than two. The beer lunch was a lot of fun, but it might not have been exactly the best idea.

Okay then! Post-mortem done. Pictures you want, pictures you get.

Because I am too cheap to buy anything from MarathonFoto before they reduce the prices heavily, here’s a link to the page that has my pictures:

http://www.marathonfoto.com/Marathon/Marine-Corps-Marathon-2013/LastName/THOMPSON/BibNumber/25907/offering/myMarathonfotos/RaceOID/13692013F1/Language/en?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=6%20More%20Photos%20ID%20ENG-SPA%20%285%29

Last but not least, here are the pictures Saint took, in chronological order!

I somehow COMPLETELY missed this guy’s sign, which makes me sad because that’s a reference to one of my favorite movies (“Better Off Dead”, if you’ve never seen it BUT YOU SHOULD):

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I saw a sign similar to this one at mile 7, and I had to actively avoid focusing on it as I passed it in case my bowels understood what was going on:

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Saint found this guy’s outfit amusing. Also that he stopped to stretch in that spot:

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Hey look, it’s me! Right around the mile 17 marker, and feeling great for it being that late in the race. You can see my grandfather’s pin on my left side (though it’s on the right, here):

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Around the corner, this is me making my confused “why are you running after me to take pictures?” face (the scaffolding on the Washington Monument behind me is coming down this week, btw):

SAMSUNG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, one last shot before we parted ways to meet at the finish:

SAMSUNG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That one would have come out pretty well if not for that silly sign blocking half of my torso. 😛

That’s that, then! Happy Monday to you. 🙂

 

 

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 🙂

I’m 1/3 of the way through MCM training, but I need to talk about beer.

Running stuff first:

As the title says, today marks the start of Week 7 of my MCM training. This is an 18-week plan, so the first 6 weeks are over (thank you, Captain Obvious…), and now’s when the real fun begins. I forget that the first 6 weeks of such plans are the easy weeks, wherein one flirts with a 30-mile-week but spends most of one’s running time hovering in the low-to-mid-20’s for weekly mileage. The next six weeks begin with this week’s 36-mile week, then continue with next week’s 37-mile week, then one drops to 26, then goes back up to 41 (!), then 44, then back down to 36. And I haven’t even gotten to my 20-mile long runs yet!

But, this is the good stuff. This is the meat of the training, where the best work gets done, and the best foundation is built for that Sunday in October. This is where, as they say, shit gets real.

Okay, so now on to beer. (yay!)

Summer school ended last week, so Saint and I planned a trip far out of town and as much off the grid as we could manage. As it turned out, there was wifi and cell phone reception, but we generally opted not to use it unless getting lost was imminent, and I forgot how great it is to drop all the white noise and just be with your surroundings and company for a couple of days. We went to the far northern corner of Virginia, near where it meets West Virginia and Maryland. Yesterday was spent exploring Harper’s Ferry, which I’ve never been to (or at least don’t remember, if I went when I was very young), and we had a great time hiking around and learning about the area’s history. And, um, eating ice cream. On a return trip, we’d like to devote more time to a longer hike, because some of the scenery on the West Virginia side of the Shenandoah River looked quite lovely and alluring indeed. (Not to mention the impossibly sweeping sky over horse country when it’s flooded with summer-afternoon-cloud-lit sunlight. GAH. Gorgeous!)

Saturday, however, was spent sampling as much beer and wine as we could get our hands on. We only made it to two wineries, which means that we should probably devote an entire day to wine if we decide to pursue that endeavor on a return trip, but based on the mind-boggling number of craft breweries that have exploded into the area recently, it’s going to be difficult not to return to the places we did visit as well as visit the ones we neglected. For example, we never made it to the Mad Horse Brewpub, where I see friends checking into all the time on Facebook, and of which I have generally heard good things. Or Magnolia’s at the Mill, of which we actually were within spitting distance, but were in search of coffee rather than beer at that particular moment.

The three places we did manage to visit were, in order of visitation, Adroit Theory Brewing Company, the Macdowell Brew Kitchen – home of Mud Hound Brewing – and Crooked Run Brewing. (All of these are easily Google-able and findable both on Facebook and Twitter, so I won’t waste space with links and such.) What happened at the first somewhat knocked us on our rear ends a little, such that when we visited places 2 and 3 where there was only one brewer’s-own beer available to drink, we weren’t entirely disappointed.

I’ll work backwards, starting with Crooked Run, who unfortunately only had their Hopsail (a Belgian single) on tap when we arrived. They’d sold out of their American and English pale ales, and did not yet have their raspberry dark Saison, which I would have loved to try. Happily, the Hopsail was a very nicely done single, and it made us wish that more breweries made singles; as much as Saint and I both love dubbels and tripels, a well-made single can be very refreshing. That’s what this was: refreshing in its simplicity and good execution.

Prior to Crooked Run, we’d visited the Macdowell Brew Kitchen across the street, which is where one can sample the beers of Mud Hound Brewing Company. Alas, only one was on tap when we arrived, and it was their American Pale Wheat Ale, Pocket Full of Sunshine. Saint sampled it, not I, because I was not in the mood for something grapefruity, so I can’t say what I thought of it. He wasn’t a big fan, but I suspect that was due to the grapefruityness. I’d love to return when the Kitchen has more of Mud Hound’s beers available, because some of them sound delicious: a double IPA, a tripel, an oatmeal stout, to name a few. In any event, I had a Three Brothers Admiral Double IPA, which was delicious, and also local – to Harrisonburg, anyway – if not exactly local-local.

Before our coffee run, we headed to Purcellville to meet Greg, the brewer at Adroit Theory Brewing. Since ATBC isn’t yet officially open, I had to do some emailing to figure out how exactly to arrange a tasting; I saw notes and photos of their beers and the folks who had consumed them on their Facebook page, but it wasn’t immediately obvious how those beers and people had come together in the first place. I was given Greg’s email, and we arranged to meet at noon on Saturday, when he would be at the brewery tinkering with some things.

I should have known we were in for an unusual 90 or so minutes when Saint and I got out of the car and were told “I need to check on a keg, come with me and I can pour you some of what’s in there”. We followed him back to the temporary storage room, and quickly learned that “what’s in there” was a barleywine that had spent a couple of weeks in a bourbon barrel. [Turns out it’s their Tenebris from Ghost 014, if you follow them on Untappd.] I don’t usually care for barleywine, and I’m no longer the fan of bourbon that I used to be, but good LORD, this was like being hit in the face with a sweet beery bourbon wallop that hollered “HEY! You! Pay attention to me, for I AM DELICIOUS.” And it was. At 11% ABV, this is not a brew to be taken lightly, and I was a little nervous that this was only the first sample of the day: ATBC’s philosophy is that no beer under 7% ABV shall be made by them, and I can emphatically appreciate that philosophy, but it makes one wish that one had invested in a slightly more safe method of transportation elsewhere than the car one has driven to the place of beer.

Thankfully, Greg was very much willing to share with us the plans for the space as it transforms from an industrial space into a social, beer-drinking space, and some of the history behind what we were tasting and his methods for devising brews. Because I a) confess that I can’t recall most of what was said thanks to all of those damned delicious beers and b) it would really do an injustice to Greg to take the words out of his mouth, I won’t even attempt to convey what we learned, but instead I will suggest heartily and strongly that you visit Greg yourself. Until this place opens, word of mouth is what they have to rely on, and I feel like if I tell 5 people, and they each tell 5 people, and so on, etc., this brewery will thrive once it’s officially open.

Why would I care about a brewery more than a few hours away, you ask? For two reasons: 1) they are one of the most DIY breweries I’ve ever encountered; 2) we walked away with seven (7) bottles of beer, for which Greg would not take payment. I’m no businessperson, but you can’t make money by giving away your product. Concerning 1), each bottle is hand-corked, hand-cage-wired, and hand-labeled, which right now is done by either Greg himself as he’s packing up a goody bag or two for you, or by volunteers who come in and help out. ATBC does have its own graphic designer for the (*ahem* awesome) labels, but everything else is in-house. That is, on its face, absurd.

Concerning 2), well, that speaks for itself. I’m not being paid or in any way comped to write this, unless you count beer as payment, in which case I declare this to be the best business model ever. 🙂 In addition to the beer, Saint and I took a bunch of stickers to put up in our respective towns, and I have every intention of telling anyone who will listen about ATBC, because not only are they making really effing good beer, but they’re also making really effing good unique beerTheir first was an Imperial Stout, which – okay, I’m already primed to love them for that right there, not to mention their quickly-apparent preference for very hoppy beers – is an unusual choice for a debut beer. Since then, they’ve brewed a milk stout without water, a smoked porter aged on serrano peppers, imperial brown ales, a saison brewed with wormwood that you can try with sugar cubes, a wheat wine, and more – and, the barleywine that we tried is also going to be aged in brandy and gin barrels in the future.  Saint and I sampled all of those, and they were unusual and absolutely delicious. The pepper-smoked porter sticks with you for a long time after you’ve finished it, but in the best of ways. The wheat wine is a devilish little thing of a drink that completely betrays its 9% ABV status; it would be easy to open this on a warm summer or fall day and drink it entirely too quickly before you realized what you’d done. The brown ales – each brewed by a different person, but using the same basic recipe – were rather unlike any brown ale I’ve ever had, and the imperial double red ale was not as grapefruity as I’d anticipated and thus delectable. We left with a bottle of each of the three brown ales, and one each of the imperial double red, the wheat wine, the wormwood saison, and the bourbon-aged barleywine. Saint took one of the brown ales to share with his dad, and I took the rest with me to, um “save for us to drink together”.

Anyway, so, after we took up a good chunk of Greg’s time, we scooted out into the rainy afternoon and made our way to a coffee shop, because it was close to 1:30 in the afternoon and we were both feeling a bit, erm, sleepy for some reason. Having consumed caffeine, we made it on with the rest of our day, and as good as the other beers were that we sampled, they didn’t quite match up to the experience we had with ATBC. Plus, we have other places we need to visit, which really just means a return is inevitable – when, with any luck, ATBC will be capital o- Open and we can try whatever deliciousness they’ve conjured since August.

So, that’s my beer report for this weekend. It’s not a stretch to imagine that I also enjoy this part of the marathon-training schedule because it makes me feel less guilty about drinking all of this beer, though I know I can’t have weekends like this all the time. It does, however, make me thankful that I live in an area so rich in delicious beverages. I confess I’m a little worried about the microbrewing industry reaching a saturation point, but until then, I’m going to keep on sampling and visiting as much as I can. *urrrp* You’re welcome. 🙂

HAHAHA whaaat? Another 2013 goal achieved: 5k PR smashed!

Saint, before I left for the hilly 5k yesterday morning: I think you’re going to run it in… 26:30.

Me: Are you kidding? I’m going for sub-25:00 [as that’s my 5k goal for 2013].

Saint: Oh, well then! I thought you didn’t like the course?

Me: [the course map was emailed to us late Friday night, so I knew it before I left] Nah, it’s not that I don’t like it per se… it’s just hilly, more so than I might like, but I’m familiar with it and I know how to run it. I may not get sub-25:00, but I am certainly going to do my best!

Saint: Get it, girl! *high-five*

And off I went.

This is the part that Saint missed:

I put myself near the front and thought I went out entirely too fast, but I was being drafted and eventually passed by a guy with the most astoundingly loud footfalls on the downhills that I wanted to get away from him just to escape that awful thudding sound that made me cringe and think “knee injury coming through!”. So I dusted him and finally disposed of him on the flat parts, and as we rounded the turns towards the middle of the course, I was passed by a guy with the name “Hunter” on the back of his shirt. I don’t know why, but he irritated me, and I resolved to pass him – right when we turned around to head back and got to the really hilly part of the course. Whatever, I thought, I know how to run these hills and I bet he doesn’t. [Even if that’s not true, it helps me to tell myself that as motivation!] So I started pumping my arms to catch him. But he wasn’t giving in! Two more turns, and then I had him: and then I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t glance back, but I knew someone was drafting me again, and as we turned a corner and the volunteers directed us, they cheered for him: “Go, Dr. Pearson!” OK, not the Hunter guy, I thought, but don’t let him pass you. It’s stupid, really, because in a race I’m really only racing against myself, but I find it helpful sometimes to use poor unsuspecting people as motivation to keep pushing. This guy will never know it, but he’s the only thing that kept me from slowing down in the last mile.

We pushed up a giant hill and then back down to make one of the last two left turns with about a half-mile to go, and there was a girl far in front of me that I knew I wasn’t going to catch (I mean like 200 yards in front of me, even though she kept looking back as if she was afraid of being caught). I knew the doctor was still close behind me, so I pushed on the flat and downhill parts to put some distance between us in case he had a kick for the hill at the end saved up. At one point I’d thought I was going to puke and hyperventilate because I was, really, running way outside of my comfort zone, but I also knew that if I pushed I could probably get that sub-25:00 PR. I was again running without a watch, and running only by feel, and I felt like crap in the way that I knew I was going to have a good race, if that makes sense.

So we approached the final hill and I hauled ass up it. I heard the doctor’s footsteps drop off and I thought for a second that he’d stopped entirely – but no, when we got to the top and onto the flat straightaway before the downhill into the last turn into the finish, I could hear him again, but not as close as he’d sounded before. I didn’t dare look back, so I focused on getting downhill. One last turn – there’s the timing clock, what does it say? I squinted, but couldn’t make it out juuuust yet – wait, what? Does that say 23:something? 23:30 – HOLY SHIT WHAT. Not only was I going to make sub-25:00, but if I truly hauled ass, I could make sub-24:00. I think I actually started laughing, and then I started sprinting. My lungs were all “what the fuck are you doing” and my legs were all “you bitch, you have GOT to be kidding” but the clock was ticking 23:48, 23:49, 23:50… I think? I don’t know! And then I crossed, and what the FUCK that was awesome. I just broke 24:00 in the 5k WHAAAAaaaaaat.

I knew I’d gotten under 24, but not by how much, and I didn’t find out until much later when I was home and looking for the results. The PDF listed the age group winners first, so I scrolled right past them and went for my name in the finishers’ list- ah, there I was, 37th place (out of 150), 23:54. Woohoo! Then I scrolled up again and –

Huh. Wait, is that my name up there? The fuck?

I got 2nd in my age group, 30-39 females. 😀

WHAAAAAT. I mean, you guys, I don’t do this. I don’t win races, I don’t come close to winning races or even age groups, but – wait, wow, what? OMG, I won a prize that I now have to go pick up somewhere because I left early because I never in any sort of version of life figured that I’d get an age group award?

I thought I was going to bounce off the walls. I high-fived Saint with such force that I think I hurt his hand. This is so big for me: I’ve now met 2 of my 4 running goals for 2013, and we’re only at the end of March. [Yes, okay, there *were* only 150 people in the race, but I also was the 8th female overall, which also just does not happen. Word!]

So, yeah, I felt/feel pretty freaking awesome about that. It’s a rainy Easter day here, so we’re just taking it easy, lounging and watching TV and (I at least am) reading about baseball because TOMORROW IS OPENING DAY AND THAT IS GOOD. March ends on a rather fantastic note, which pleases me greatly. 😀

Marine Corps Marathon 2013: here I come!

Huzzah! (Can I say “ooh-rah” if I’m not a Marine? It feels wrong, so I’ll just stick with Huzzah! for now.) I am one of the lucky several thousand who received an email yesterday afternoon containing the following magical words: “Congratulations, you’re in!” In case you hadn’t heard (and I don’t expect you to have), The People’s Marathon is one of the fastest sell-outs in the U.S., and this year it sold out in less time than many people will run it: 2 hours and 27 minutes. I was online right when registration opened, and spent 20 minutes refreshing windows in multiple browsers, but eventually, I made it in. Many did not, and I understand their frustration, so I wonder if the MCM is going to continue to use its active.com online registration free-for-all next year. Since I have no complaints, I don’t think they should do anything, but a quick peek at the vitriol being spewed on Facebook at the MCM tells a different story.

*shrug*

In any event, I’m in and I’m giddy as a schoolgirl, because I’ve already booked my hotel room for the weekend and spent a little too much time last night geeking out over the course map (see it here, and tell me you don’t see what I see on the right-hand side: http://www.marinemarathon.com/MCM_Runner_Info/Course_Maps_908.htm) and reading a million things about logistics and race-day fun and the foods they’ll have on the course. I did that last thing because one thing I might try with training for this marathon is using the fuel they’ll offer in the race on my long runs – and I decided that before I saw that they’re handing out Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins at mile 24. 🙂

Another thing I’m going to try with training for this marathon (my second. Eeee!) is simply running more: upwards of 40-50 miles a week, or about twice what I did when training for my first one. How exactly I am going to accomplish this while working, teaching, and writing my dissertation is a question I am still sorting out, but –

Wait, what? Writing my dissertation? Didn’t I have to pass some PhD exams first, you ask? (Or I ask, rhetorically?)

Well, yes, I did, and yes, I did – I finished my oral exams yesterday, so I’m all officially ABD (“all-but-dissertation”, in gradschool speak). This means that the only thing left to do (HA!) before graduating is write (and, uh, I guess defend) my dissertation, which then means I can get a job being all teachy-like somewhere. But, yes, this was a huge hurdle, and I’m glad to have cleared it. I definitely cracked open a celebratory Hopslam last night when I got home. 🙂

In other brief running news, just for fun, I’m running a 5k Saturday morning to see if I can achieve another 2013 goal: the sub-25:00 5k. It’s a hilly course – actually, I don’t know what the exact course is, but it’s a neighborhood course that has several hills and I kind of like that it’s a “show up and we tell you where to go” sort of race – so I’m not sure how this will shake out, but I feel ready to do some sprinting for a few miles. I’ve been having good success with recovering slowly and safely after my half two weeks ago, and the race benefits a good cause, so why not?

So, that’s that for now. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, this was all rather redundant, but oh well. 🙂