December 20, 2011

Good deeds gone wrong

At the risk of receiving no eternal reward for my good deeds, I'm going to shout to all the world that last week I saved someone from getting a ticket at the parking meter. When I pulled up to the tight downtown parking spot, I noticed that my neighboring left-hand meter had no time left but a car was still in the spot. By the time I lugged two sleeping toddler folk out of the car, a police officer had pulled directly in front of my car and had started to strut about the lot to find and fine violators. I felt so awesome that I had an extra dime to put into the meter to give that guy or gal a second shot at not overstaying their parking welcome and getting out of downtown without a miserable ticket right before Christmas. In my imagination, they were on the verge of losing their job and had to rush in to meet a deadline, thus ignoring their paid-parking obligations. My imagination also told me that if they had to pay for a ticket, they might not eat on Christmas day, and not one of their seven children would get candy in their stocking. Also, the penny pincher in me said that for ten cents, which equals twelve meter minutes, I could save maybe $50 on a ticket. How much is a downtown meter ticket, anyway?

Well, after an anniversary lunch at Sitar, my favorite Indian buffet in town, we strolled back out to the parking lot, where I was elated to see that my plan worked. The cop was nowhere in site, and because of my quick-parking-lot-ticket-possibility thinking, there was also no ticket in site. Until I looked to my right and noticed that the car to my right must have also had an empty meter, but because my generousness was so narrowly focused on the left, where all of my goings and comings happen with getting the twinners in and out of the car, there was a big fat Merry Christmas ticket on their window. One more dime was all it would have taken to make someone else's Christmas wish of no parking ticket come true. Then I imagined that the elderly lady parked there was probably going to visit her husband in the oncology ward of UAB. Her heart, already broken, would just wilt a little more upon receiving this ticket that, again, could have been prevented with a dime.

My lesson learned is to not get so prideful in your swell (or just one) of good deeds because you'll look to the right and see the opportunity you missed.

Another inexpensive way of being nice to people is to make way for them on the running trails, especially if they are running with their friend or their dog. I basically know zero running etiquette, but if someone is with their dog, I feel better about moving over for them than I do moving off the trail for a gaggle of twenty friends running together. Two or three friends I get. But those groups of five+ friends who are all trying to run abreast kind of confuse me and make me feel awkward. Again, I'm sure it's just because I don't know anything about running, and I only have one running friend so I never encounter this problem. Does this sound like the rantings of a jealous person who wants twenty running friends yet? Seriously, I'm ready to take running to the level where you actually make friends through running. How does that work exactly? Night running, anyone?

Back to how great it feels to make room for someone running with their dog. Man's best friend is obligated to be leashed to you on the trails, and I always get a small sense of joy from making sure that I don't startle the dogs and that I give them plenty of space. Human beings, I will run right into you and smear my sweaty elbow all over your shirt (not really, but sometimes I want to), but the dogs make giving space joyful. I think it's because you know if they are taking up all of the sidewalk or making weird zig zags or pooping directly in your path, they didn't do it because they feel entitled to that piece of sidewalk, they just have innocent doggy brains following their innocent doggy instincts. I'm not even a dog lover, but for some reason I love them on running trails. The other day, I stepped in a giant piece of dog poop at the playground, and guess who I blamed? Not the innocent doggy-brained dog. The owner who didn't scoop the poop.

So on Saturday, towards the end of my long run (16 miles!) on Jemison trail in Mountain Brook, I made a quick decision to dog-dodge by going around a tree to completely clear the path. Somewhere in the dodge my toe snagged a root, and with my arms straight out like Superlady, I slid into a landing. The nice dog owner stopped to see if I survived and claimed that she does that "all the time," which I know has to be a lie. If you really fall like that all the time, you should probably seriously consider not running. It's just really painful to scrape the whole front of your body on tiny rocks and roots, not to mention the ankle twisting. Even with her exaggeration of her own tripping experiences, it was so nice of her to stop and check to see if I was alive, and other than a sore ankle for the day and a minuscule hand scrape, I was fine. Dirty but fine, and I had learned me lesson. Never try to be nice to anyone again ever in life. Also I learned that it's much more awesome to fall in front of people you know than strangers. Anytime I fall, I want to laugh really hard about it, but with a stranger you have to brush off your wounds quickly instead of crying about them (which helps make the transition to laughing), and you can't laugh because they are so serious about checking to make sure you are ok.

In summary, tis the season to be nice, but just be prepared for a service face plant when you least expect it.

November 19, 2011

Shades of Vestavia 5K

Sometimes I like to do things backwards, like run a marathon before running a 5K. Thanks to an awesome group of healthy ladies, I ran my first 5K a couple of weeks ago. We just picked the race weekend that worked best for the most people who wanted to run and went with it. That put us running Shades of Vestavia on Nov. 19th.

This race was to benefit the community by raising money to replace trees that had been ripped down in the tornadoes earlier this year. You would think there is no shortage of trees in Alabama, so why the heck do we need a fundraiser to buy more? That's what we thought. Then we drove to the race site, passing houses and trees that had been demolished in the storm, and after seeing the path of destruction, the idea made a lot more sense. The areas where the tornadoes came through left empty gaps in the skyline, and where green curtains of leafy trees used to stand, snapped trees now looked more like flimsy, broken toothpicks than 50-year-old oaks. 

The race was sponsored by our local police department, which meant that we had awesome road support. For such a small race (maybe 60 participants?), I was surprised that we had chip timing, police at every turn blocking traffic from streets and even from coming out of parking lots onto the course, and race day registration (of which I took advantage) that still included a t-shirt. They also offered every participant a free tree to plant in their yard. Sorry, earth, but I declined. We are already raking our arms off with our existing trees.

Some things they didn't have were post-run snacks. Boo! And they divided the ages groups into 15-24 and 25-40. Weirdly wide age ranges. There may have been another category, but I know about these two because I got third place in my age group with a time of 24:00:07. After already giving me my medal, the announcer called me up to ask me how old I was because he had accidentally given me the 15-24 medal. I didn't notice until then that the age group was engraved on the back of the medal. Thank you, Mr. Police Officer for mistaking my age range. Or maybe he also didn't notice the engravings on the back. Either way, that young filly now has the appropriate medal.

Third place medal from a friendly officer, back when he thought I was 15.
This is either when I switched medals or when I was paying him to give me a medal.
Guard your medal, fifteen year old in the pink shirt. Some old people were stealing them from the young thangs.
The highlight of the race was running with lots of awesome ladies (one who was four months pregnant!) who have enough panache to wear bright pink headbands with giant felt flowers attached. Nothing unifies a group like giant headbands. We also wore orange ribbons for our friend Janette who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. If you made it this far in the post, take a second to pray for her and her family. Seriously, do it!

Most of us agreed that we want to tackle another race in the beginning of the new year. I say we commit now to even bigger headbands! If you can still see my face, it's not big enough.

Also, I committed to my next marathon today. The tiny Ocala Marathon on January 22nd, 2012. It's in Ocala, FL, where my mom lives, which is my main motivation to run it. We'll be able to visit our friends in FL and get in a great run on some rolling hills in horse country. Sounds perfect! I'm trying out the Hanson brothers training plan, which includes a ton more miles during the week than my previous plan but has shorter long runs. The maximum mileage before the race is 16, but it is supposed to set you up so that your legs are so fatigued from the running throughout the week that it's like you are running the last 16 miles of the marathon. I had to skip ahead in the plan because I only had ten weeks to train before the race, so we'll see what ten weeks (minus one sickly Thanksgiving week) of Hanson can accomplish.

Also, during the 11-11-11 Rock-n-Roll sale, I signed up for the Nashville marathon on April 28, 2012. So if the Hanson training doesn't work out, I have a few months to get something else started. Remember that time I said that I was only running one marathon, ever, and I mentioned several times that I hated running. Looks like I changed my mind. 

November 5, 2011

Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon November 5, 2011

Now that I can walk again, I thought it would be a good time to sit. And post something. If you ever want to have the best weekend of your life, just run a marathon. It hurts so good. Finishing was almost identical to finally pushing your baby out of darkness into the light of your hospital room. It's so painful, and you are almost positive that it will never end, but when it does, it's hard to remember what just happened. All you know is that you have a medal, or a baby, and all of those endorphins your body produced to cover the full-body pain are now just hanging around wanting to make you a nice person to your family again. That's fortunate because some people get really crabby leading up to races because they are anxious and fail to sleep soundly. Some husband's may mention this to their crabby spouses, which could increase crabbiness, if you are like that. I am a firm believer that anything I say or do will be totally forgotten by me and my loved ones when replaced by an awesome medal, I mean baby. 

The deets: 
We left around 9 on Saturday morning, figuring that with the six-hour drive and hour added for time change, we would have plenty of time to make it to the expo closing at 7 p.m. Except that it took us much longer than that because of wrecks and general interstate messiness south of Atlanta. Luckily, the expo people extended the hours until 8 p.m. We made it just a smudge before 7 to pick up my race packet, but it was nice to know that there was that extra hour in case traffic got crazier. Traffic leading out to the expo was similar to what we had seen all day, backed up and slow, so we weren't that shocked by it. Judging by Facebook comments, a lot of people were annoyed by the expo traffic. I was just annoyed that we had been in the car all day with four whiny small people, so the expo felt like a huge, stretch-your-legs relief. I was also sad that the actual expo part of the expo closed at 7, so no shopping for over-priced running gear. Super bummer!

The shirts were my favorite. They made ones especially for ladies so that they fit! 
Yes, that's my name in painter's tape on my bib.  Just trying to class that place up.
We stayed with a friend, which made race morning ultra low stress (which is good because I had a hard time sleeping the night before). They knew the city and routes well and dropped us off a couple blocks front the start around 6:45 a.m. I had plenty of time to meander, use the port-a-potty, freeze, and get in my corral. I shed my donation shirt and pants a few minutes before 7:30, and we were good to go.

Trying to get the buns straight without a second mirror.
Twelve hair ties later and those suckers aren't budging!
Miles 1-14
My pace was averaging 8:30. For the most part, I was silent and focused on weaving through folks. I don't know a lot of running manners, but I just tried not to get too close to people and pass when my elbows wouldn't hit theirs. It seemed to work out ok. Since I was running by myself, I would find people to follow. If I liked your pace, I would follow you for a while. It gave me something to focus on. Around mile 10, I met some people from AL, and that helped distract me for a mile or so until the half/full marathon split. I finished the half in 1:49. I knew my family was planning on meeting me at mile 14, so I was happy until I didn't see them there. 

Mile 14-18
Starting to wonder if I will see my family. Decided to look at my phone and saw that they messaged that they kept missing me, so I gave myself permission to slow down a smidge and told myself that I would get a little break when I saw them and stopped to take pictures. Finally, they were at mile 18. I've never been happier to see them. Ever.

Mile 18-20
Really starting to feel the burn. Mentally it got hard here because I knew that I had never passed 19 miles in training (I missed my 20-miler because of the a foot injury). 

Mile 20-26.2
Seeing the family at 21.5
I slowed way down because of cramping, but I got one final morale boost from the family at 21.5. I almost threw myself on the ground beside them and refused to get up, but Amory kept yelling at me to run. Easy for him to say, right? We had to run a lot of this mileage on a lonely, uphill interstate with no people to prod us on. Also, there was a strongish headwind to make it more fun. This is where I saw a lot of people vomiting. They may have been vomiting earlier, but there were places to hide. On the interstate, there was lots of vomiting right in front of you. Because my legs and feet were cramping so bad, I moved to a walk/run model that hurt my time a lot, but at this point, my only goal was to finish. I would run until the muscles were so tight that I couldn't stand it any more, and then I would walk until they loosened up. I tried to run on the side of the road so that I wouldn't get in the way of other people. This also meant that I had to dodge more vomit piles. Did I mention if you are nauseated, don't read this segment?

Thought I was waving to nice people on the bridge at mile 23 and
realized when I saw this picture that they were my family.
Can you say "delirious"?
High-fiving friends, even though I didn't recognize them, at the finish line.
I was in a daze as I crossed the finish line. My family and friends were yelling at me and giving me high fives, but I didn't even notice who they were. I was so happy to be finished so that I could stretch for a long time! I'm not sure if it was missing some of my training runs or not eating enough bananas or what, but my muscles were so cramped. I finished in 4:03, which I feel like is a great start for the marathon phase of my life. Immediately after crossing the finish line, I decided three things.

1. I have to run another marathon. Part of me wants to prove that I can even out the time of my first and second halves of the marathon. I want to run the same speed for both halves. Or not have to walk so much, or at all, at the end. Another part of me just wants to feel that great again. Although I was so dazed that I didn't recognize that I was high-fiving my family and friends leading up to the finish line, I still felt amazing inside because I had finished. Next possible stops on the marathon train: Ocala Marathon (Florida) and the Martian Marathon (Michigan), both places where we can visit people and race in the same weekend.

2. I am now ok with putting a 26.2 sticker on my car. I have laughed at those stickers for as long as I knew what they meant (which is just this year), but it took me four hours and three minutes to change my mind. You have earned the darn sticker, and you better put it on your car. They gave us some in our swag bag, and that bad boy is on my car right now.

3. Uhhhh, wait. Ummm, let me see. There were three things. Ummmm, uhhh, I know what one and two are but...ummm (Rick Perry joke for anyone who watched the Republican debate this week).

No really, #3 is that running without my family is a no-go. For a long time, it was the plan for me to go to the marathon by myself, while my family stayed in AL. The week of the race, we decided to all go together, and now I realize that the previous plan would not have worked. I saw them at mile 18 and 21.5. They saw me (when I didn't see them) at mile 23 (they were on a bridge looking down) and at the finish line. Just knowing that I could look forward to seeing them was so motivating. By mile 18, I was basically just living to see them. I can't remember a time I felt happier to see their sweet faces. In the challenging final miles, their support pushed each heavy footstep, and I realized that I don't want to race without them again. 

Overall, I liked that the race took us through a lot of different parts of town. Some people were disappointed that we had to run through poorer areas of town. Give me a break, snobby runner people. In every neighborhood, people were out on the sidewalks cheering us on, which is especially helpful when you are running solo and trying to stay motivated. The most motivating crowds were at Savannah State University. I didn't like running the interstate because all I could hear was vomiting and the strained this-could-be-my-last-breath-before-I-pass-out breathing.  

Staying with Savannah natives helped us miss out on a lot of the traffic problems others had, so I will definitely consider this race again next year. I also loved how easy it was to find my family after the race. The park at the end was a perfect setting to hang out with them and relax (and stretch!) before we were ready to grab a bite to eat.

Just finished! Enoch immediately borrowed my blanket and medal.
It's hard work watching your mom run 26.2 miles.
Recovery went pretty well. I was very sore for two days, and the third day, I ran a couple of miles and eased back into regular activity. The only lingering issue is a toenail that will probably come off. I wore new CEP compression socks, and they had some fabric bunching at the toe. I didn't realize until near the end that the way it was rubbing my toe was hurting my toenail (so many other things were hurting worse). I probably could have prevented it by adjusting the socks, although I think that they are just sort of bulky on my foot no matter what. Note to self: don't try something for the first time on race day.  

October 15, 2011

Go Commando Half Marathon Oct. 15, 2011

In the midst of training for my marathon, J (my bro) asked me if I wanted to run the Go Commando half marathon in Clarksville, TN, on Oct. 15th. Where 13.1 miles at one time felt like an eternity of outer darkness to me, it now seemed like he was asking me to skip along a rose-lined path. That's what happens when numbers like 18, 19 and 20 crop up on your Saturday long runs.

I'm not saying this came easy. This came with a lot of awkward moments of wetting myself a little when I had to go really badly but no bathroom was available. (I'm putting that out there on the world wide interweb to keep it real) It came with other moments of getting lost in someone's yard trying to find a sidewalk connection, only to then accidentally run in front of that person's car as they were trying to exit their driveway. Police may have been called. Not least, it came with hundreds of miles put in at a crappy little indoor gym track (for the sake of babysitting) that would drive most people loco. I'm about as close to that as I am to the marathon, which means I just got back from crazy. And it was a fun trip.  

This was the first year for the Go Commando race, and about 450 people ran the half marathon. Our official time was 1:45:59, and we came in 121st and 122nd. Even though our times were the same, I was the one who came in 122nd. I demand a recount! I have one deceiving picture (above) that makes it look like I could possibly run faster than J, but that is very untrue. Occasionally I would find enough oxygen to eek out that we needed to slow down our pace, but for the most part, the run felt great. Running with J definitely forces me to up my running ante. 

Despite the race description saying that the course was flat, there were lots of hills in the beginning, but then it flattened out towards the end. There was an occasional spectator who looked like he/she just happened to accidentally walk outside and wonder what the heck a bunch of people were doing running down the street. Sometimes we waved with no response from the onlooker, indicating that disturbing them in their native habitat might not be welcomed. There were several groups, like lady steppers and cheerleaders, who came out to cheer us on, and there was only once incident of a guy yelling really loudly at law enforcement that he had places to be when he couldn't get through a blocked intersection.

The course had some weird zig zags in the beginning around the park, and we had to double back at the end, which wasn't super exciting, but the country roads and bridge that we ran in the beginning of the race were really a perfect slice of southern scenery. 

This race was full of super fit military people, one of whom ran the entire race in a gas mask for team RWB. He was trying to set the record for the fastest half marathon time in a gas mask. I'm guessing there isn't  a ton of competition in that category.

In summary, definitely run a race with a sibling or friend. It takes away a ton of the anxiety of race day. 

October 2, 2011

Don't bite my beats, or me

You know your life is moving in a new direction when:

1. In searching your music archive for songs to fill out your marathon playlist, you discover the New School Rap folder, which contains the fresh beats of Regulate and Let Me Ride. Apparently updating your rap folders hasn't been on the to-do list since the 90's.

2. You run 19 miles and don't want to kill someone afterwards. To accomplish this you wake up early the day of the run and spend an hour prepping, longer than it takes to get ready for church. Hair (Baby Stout style double buns with six hair ties each), beauty products (loads of sunscreen), clothes (carefully chosen to keep it cool and non-chafing), shoes (the last run with this pair because they have had the beat down from training), music (including the rap files) and snacks (one Clif Bar before and one in your pocket for later). During the run you appear confused many times, prompting other friendly runners to give you handy info like where the neighborhood water stops are and which roads have sidewalks. At other times you run-dance and sing when you think no one is looking. Run-dancing is tricky and comes out as more of a wicked case of air drums, but if you get past 15 miles and some of that new school rap blasts through the ear buds, you have little choice. At the end you are so happy that you want to scream (joyously) that you loved tolerated every minute of it.

3. It's a great day when no one bites you hard enough to leave a mark.

4. You get your most accurate news reports from an eight year old.

5. That same eight year old tells you that the Halloween skeleton scrub brush looks like you, and you are surprisingly not at all offended.

September 4, 2011

The running coach

My long run was horrendous on Saturday, but before I delve into the pathetic-ness of it, I have to say that the prior week's long run was awesome. That week, I did a few miles inside and then took on the rainstorm (the same storm that robbed us of power for three days) and a jogging path with my brother for the rest of the 9 miles. Even though I misstepped into a giant puddle that I had to swim out of (thank you, Ziploc, for saving my phone), the running was great. The rain kept it cool, and I felt strong for most of the time. In my training schedule, that was a short week, meaning that my long-run (Saturday) mileage will increase for a few weeks and then drop for a week before it picks up again. So maybe the decrease in mileage made me feel stronger, just to set me up for the wimpiest run of my life the next week.

This week it was hot and miserable. I decided that I need to train more outside, but I waited until the afternoon to run, which was a brutal mistake. The cool temps of the week before were long gone, and I melted pretty quickly. Then, I decided to run in my neighborhood, which is, no exaggeration, the hilliest place in the galaxy. That was the second mistake. Not enough water during my run was the third. Amory put out some Gatorade for me so I could run past the house occasionally and drink some, but I got stuck a couple miles out with a mad case of the thirsties. You know you have it when you consider busting out a window in the local middle school to get to the water fountain inside. You will have tried all the knobs first as you lurk creepily around the school, definitely with a mad look in your eyes and mumbling something to to yourself about water belts. I am in general not into a lot of fancy gear that costs extra money, but I'm thinking that those ridiculous-looking water belts, that have to be giving people water-belt burns on long runs, might be my new friend.

At mile 13.5 (of 17), I shuffled home and cried to A, the husband. My feet were bruised. I had tweaked my calf on one leg and my ankle on the other leg while going downhill. Oh, and I was mad thirsty. He was waiting for me to get home, so he could go on a (motor)bike ride, and I told him to get going because I was not going to go back out there for more torture. He wasn't having it. Even though his desire for a bike ride was at an all-time high, he pretty much demanded that I get my tush back out there and finish the run. After some more crying and blubbering about quitting from me, I finally realized that he was not going to relent on his telling me to get to it.

This is when I realized that I have a running coach. He doesn't run, but he sure knows how to scrape you off the sidewalk and throw you back into the ring. Isn't that all coaches need to do anyway? Motivate. I can get all my practical running tips from Google searches, but Google can't make me feel like a loser for not finishing. I'm sure they'll come out with GoogleLoser next week, but until then, I need the coach.

This isn't Coach A's first rodeo either. He has listened to me complain about running for the last nine months, so he knows my weaknesses. Number one: I love to complain (as evidenced in this post). Number two: I love to sleep late (not a good combo with a long run). Number three: I get the opposite of a runner's high, runner's delirious anger. This is when you are so mad at running that you want to quit forever and waste the money you paid for the race entry fee (if you know me, you know that would be sinful). Somehow, it is just this week that I realized that Coach A is slowly chipping away at all of my weaknesses, and most important, he will not let me quit. Not even if I cry and say I have intestinal issues that would require a 30-minute bathroom break. Not saying it happened, just saying that Coach A wouldn't let that stop me if it hypothetically happened.

Thanks, coach! It may have taken me for-flippin-ever to finish those 17 miles on Saturday, but without you, I would still be trying to (hypothetically) blame my intestines for an incomplete run.

August 22, 2011

Miles without medals

My sister-in-law was right. This marathon in November will seem like a treat compared to all of these lonely hours logged at the gym track.

This is week 7 of my training schedule, and my long run on Saturday was 14 miles, which is the most I have ever run in one stint. The longest before that was the half marathon, 13.1. The track was pretty sadly empty. A few heavy duty walkers were there with me through the first hour. About four other people ran on it at some point. Just one or two laps at a time. I like having other runners there, even if we don't make eye contact. There is solidarity in solo running. It's the unspoken knowledge that at least someone else is out there suffering (or rejoicing, if you are an optimistic/annoying person) with you. Or maybe I am just a group-sports person at heart, and I like to have someone to whom I can complain. Whatever it was, on Saturday the track felt lonely.

Perhaps because of the lack of oxygen to the brain, I also lose the ability to count past (or under) one when I am running. I use the Nike chip in my shoe to track my time and distance. It syncs with my phone to tell me how far I have already run, and I can't tell you the number of times while running that I have been unable to subtract two simple numbers to come up with the distance remaining in my run. I blame it on the running, but it could just be the new, barely-able-to-caluclate me. What do you mean, 4 minus 3.2 isn't 1.8? The good news is, I usually overestimate my remaining distance and end up excited that I finished earlier than I thought I would.

It took me two hours to finish my miles on Saturday, and when my Nike app told me I was finished, I did a slightly audible cheer. That was it. No medal. No back patting. No finish line treats. I had to go immediately home and make my own self some snacks. Boo!

And I was completely exhausted. I made the mistake of doing Bikram (in a boiling hot room) yoga that same morning. I thought it would really help to loosen me up for the run. Oh, and I had a coupon that was about to expire for the yoga class. This is my inspiration for over half of the activities in my life. Overall, I think that it was too much sweating for one day. I was really cold after running, and without having researched this at all, I just felt like being cold after running that far was not really a good sign. So the rest of the day I rested and ate.

But now I'm intimidated by next Saturday which is supposed to be 15 miles. I just don't want to feel that completely wiped out again. So I think I will break out the GU energy gels and maybe stash a bottle of Gatorade at the track. I took a water break at the fountain after every third song, so I didn't feel like I was dehydrated, just de-electrolyted. If you needed to harvest some salt for goiter and cretinism prevention, you could have used the surface of my skin. I never realized that we had enough salt in our sweat to actually create salt dunes on our skin. It's true, people.

Any advice from you runners at large?

June 6, 2011

Payment made, waiver signed. I'm running a marathon.

It took a discount to make me sign up for my first marathon. I had contemplated it. Thought about how sore and awkward it would make me. Pictured the finish line with my family cheering me on with a makeshift sign (or not making it in time, or making it to the opposite side of the divided road). Hoped for delicious treats at the end and lots of fluids and ice chips handed to me (with minimal spills) by volunteers. Wondered if anyone would be holding a sign funny enough that I could remember to blog about it afterwards. Contemplated wearing very colorful socks.

In the end, there was a sale on National Running Day, and I couldn't pass it up. With the sale, it was cheaper to run the full marathon than the half.

The first time I knew I could do it was when I finished the half marathon in Nashville, and I went out to the parking lot. I was alone and called my friend who I severely missed to tell her about everything. For some reason, even though I had just made it through the biggest physical challenge of my life and should be super happy and endorphin-filled, I couldn't stop crying. During the race, I had worn a shirt I made in honor of Evan, my friend's son who drowned two and a half years ago just before his second birthday. My friend was going to run with me, wearing her shirt too, but she got injured. So I was running for both of us and for Evan. During the run, I felt that I needed to run harder to pass more people so they could see his sweet face and know that protecting little people from accidents is important. There were other times during the race that I looked up to the sky and thought about the glorious gift we are given to live on this earth, even if our time is short (bur preferably as long as possible). Endorphins have a way of making you feel closer to heaven. After talking through some of this with my friend, I dried up the tears and started out of the parking lot.

That's when I saw him -- a man at least 25 years older than me who had just finished the full marathon. His only sign of pain was double knee bands, but he otherwise looked happy and extremely healthy -- and tan. So in the time that it took me to grab some snacks and cry in the parking lot, he had run another 13.1 miles. That was the moment I knew. If this guy, who has lived almost twice my life span (this is a broad estimate generated to make me feel younger), just finished the full marathon, then I will too one day. Isn't it interesting the effect that a random elderly gentleman can have on you? He will never know that he was the deciding factor.

Possibly the same man, minus the tan

Then later I questioned that decision when I overheard two race participants say a man collapsed (and possibly died, but I don't think that part of their story was true) in front of them at mile 9.

But it's done. Payment made, waiver signed. November 5th in Savannah. For now, this is it. I plan to do one marathon and go back to regular living after that. Unless you count next year's intercontinental marathon in Istanbul. Let's just say sometimes I like to set my eye on a prize that Amory thinks is partially ludicrous.

April 30, 2011

Country Music Half Marathon April 2011

Me rocking the double fist pump at the finish line

There are so many things about the day of the half marathon that I want to document forever. Like how I almost cried because I got stuck in a traffic jam the morning of and how I was mean to my husband in lieu of, or in addition to, crying. But five minutes before the traffic jam I was so happy and endorphin filled that I was rocking out to country music in my car (it's a great day to be alive, you know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes, there's some hard times in the neighborhood, but why can't every day be just this good). And I was really believing in the lyrics until I came to a complete stop on the interstate and it took me an hour to drive four miles.

The stress was all for naught because I made it in plenty of time to walk around aimlessly looking for food because I could have sworn there would be some there, stand in line for twenty minutes to use the dirtiest port-a-potty ever known to man and woman, retie my jacket around my waist six times to make sure it wouldn't fall off, and make five new friends in my corral as we pushed to the starting line.

The running part was great too. The funny thing is that I am sore in really weird places today, and I am trying to trace them back to the race.

Sore spot #1, my jaw. I was chewing gum, the only "food" available in my car. But I chew gum a lot, so I thought that the sore jaw might also be related to something else, like smiling at all of the spectators on the roadside. They were so friendly, except the frowny, bored-looking group between miles 9 and 10. Maybe they didn't realize how long they would have to wait for their friends to run by? Conclusion: we should initiate a gum chewing, smiling marathon. It is apparently even more taxing than the running.

Sore spot #2, upper back. My low back gets sore a lot when I run, probably because of some poor posture issues, but my upper back is always fine. Today, it feels like I was in a rowing event. Possible explanation: all of the high fives and fist pumps. Every single kid that had their hand out for a high five got one from me. Also, I think I did more fist pumping than necessary whenever there was a large group of people cheering. I wanted to give something back to let them know they were appreciated. Conclusion: I just need to be in the middle of a large cheering crowd to get a really strong face and upper back. Or move to the Jersey shore.

Sore spot #3, left foot, middle toe. Not even worth considering why.

Oh, and my legs kill, but I expected that.

My favorite parts of the course were the shaded neighborhoods. I kept thinking that I would see someone I knew standing in their yard. You know how you go back to your childhood home and expect to walk into the store and bump into people you know. It rarely happens, but I like to be mentally prepared for unexpected reunions, which makes them expected, but whatever. And, no, I didn't spot anyone familiar, but I saw some very funny signs, which made the race so much less boring. Running sometimes equals boring for me, but running with funny signs to read equals awesome. And I heard about some even better ones after the race from our friends who ran. Examples: "Worst parade EVER" and "If this were easy, it would be called 'your mom.'" You know I like your-mom jokes. Thanks, Nashvillians.

Oh, and the hills! I was so nervous about tackling the dreaded hills, but if you are from Birmingham and have run outside, don't sweat the hills of Nashville. Since we live in Vestavia Hills (note the Hills in that name), I should have figured that I would be prepared. The worst hill for me was at the very end. I was saturated with physical and mental exhaustion, and that hill felt longer than the rest of the race combined.

And the bling! I'm not sure why, but I wasn't expecting bling at the end of the race. I thought you only got a medal if you were top three, but for this race, they gave you a seriously blingy medal for crossing the finish line. This was the closest I've ever felt to an olympian. Bring on the podium and the national anthem.

And the final results, time 2:02:11, 339th in my division (women age 30-34) and 4,370th overall. Did I mention there were a lot of people there? It sounds better when I emphasize that.

April 2, 2011

Race Without Limits 8K

The night before my first race, Race Without Limits 8K (or 4.97 miles), I couldn't sleep. I get cold sweats just thinking about competition (even though it was just for fun, the word "race" is in the title, thus alerting my sweat glands), and I am always nervous that I won't wake up for important events. The kids, who get up with the first light, usually serve as my alarm clock, but I needed to get up earlier than them, which required my actual alarm clock. It has been so long since I used it that I wasn't 100% sure it would work, adding to my cold sweats and fitful turns in the night.

Well, crisis averted, my alarm clock worked, and A was already up roaming around anyway. I made it up in plenty of time to eat a banana, drink some water, and head out to meet my brother Jimmy, who probably had a great night's sleep as he was not nervous about the race because he is a frequent and lifetime runner (meaning that, unlike me, he did not just pick up running to prepare for a race) and was just coming back from a run with his two healthy-sized dogs when I got to his house. What? Who runs vigorously before you are about to run vigorously? Super healthy people, that's who.

The things that went well:

1. We found a great parking spot to save all of our leg energy for the race. Well, that was just me trying to save leg energy.
2. Running with J (my brother) and his co-worker (who is prepping to run the full marathon in Nashville) was awesome. They talked the whole time, which gave me a chance to listen and laugh without using too much oxygen to talk. I was sucking wind pretty hard.
3. They stayed with my pace for the first four miles, and we all ran our hardest the last .96. That meant passing a few people, but mainly just trying to stay conscious because it was hard giving my max effort for that long.
4. They had snacks at the end.
5. I finished in 41.5 (approximately) minutes and got second place for ladies in my age group. Woohoo!
6. I didn't throw up!
7. We did a family photo shoot (below) in Railroad Park in front of A's new workplace.

Things that could have been better:

1. Instead of running my hardest for the last .96, next time I will only try sprinting for the last 400 meters or so. I was quickly losing energy at the end. My brother came back from his finish and ran the last leg with me, which was good because my legs almost stopped right before that.
2. I told my family that it would take me 45 minutes to finish, so they didn't make it for the finish line. But check out the sweet victory signs the kids handcrafted (below). I still loved seeing the signs, even if it wasn't at the finish line!
3. I was so excited about finishing the race that I didn't really stretch properly or drink enough water, but I did partake of some free snacks. But the not-drinking-enough-water part gave me a large headache.
4. I left my headphones in the car, but I should have brought them so I could power song it through that last .96. Yes, I just used power song as a verb. No, I don't regret it.

Now I feel like the next race in Nashville is actually possible, and I'm starting to plan for after that. The plans won't be definite until the conclusion and survival of the half marathon, but I've put a lot of notices on my calendar about deadlines for signing up for races. Anyone want to join in? I'm open to traveling to your hometown to do a race with you. Especially if we are related! That's not exclusive, but I would love to visit family and run at the same time. I'm already looking at some events in Florida and California.

My friend who is prepping for the same race in Nashville has a nice little chart that she marks off every time she runs. She is obsessed with marking the chart, and with charts in general, and though I have a chart that I don't mark off, I am also obsessed with meeting goals. I like doing new things that make me feel very uncomfortable. Not like crack or meth. Mostly things that I know will be good for me, but I dread anyway. Usually there is a portion of the activity that I enjoy, but some huge part of it also makes me cringe. I felt this way when I started teaching group exercise and when I started playing organized soccer again. Part of me loved doing it, but the other equal part would be silently hyperventilating.

Motherhood is somewhat in this category. I knew it was something that I wanted to happen, but there were many parts of it that I dreaded. And many parts that I enjoy. So the obvious conclusion: the things that make you want to throw up the most bring you the most joy and rewards.