Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

It's post-marathon time, which means lazy mornings sleeping in, eating random things for dinner (tonight I had sautéed radishes, wilted radish greens, and a piece of whole wheat bread smeared with olive oil), and that uneasy sense of well, what the hell do I do now?

Write a long, rambling blog post infested with bullet points, that's what!
  • Summer is looming just over the horizon. How do I know? Because yesterday morning after I took my shower, even after toweling off I was still sweaty and damp. Additionally, when I came out of my office building after work on Wednesday the temperature was about 20 degrees warmer and the humidity 50% more oppressive than when I entered it at 8:00 am.
  • You know you're a runner when you use Body Glide for things other than sports bra chafage. I'll leave that one up to your imaginations.
  • During the Cleveland Marathon I passed a man who was wearing a sign on his back which read: "110 Marathons...But Who's Counting?" Amazing. If I manage to run a quarter of that number I will be ecstatic.
  • On my run Wednesday morning I saw something I had never seen before: a domestic pet rabbit huddled under a bush in someone's front yard. I passed by and thought, That was not a cat. I doubled back to take a closer look and yes indeed, it was a large black domesticated rabbit of indeterminate breed, a doe (female) by the look of her prominent dewlap. (How do I know this? Three years of 4-H rabbit club and 10 years of having a bunny.) I tried to approach her but she hopped away. I was totally confounded as to what to do. This animal clearly had no business being alone in someone's front yard at 6:30 am. There was really nothing I could do, so I left her and continued on my run.
  • On Monday, May 18 I went to my long, LONG-awaited Animal Collective concert in Royal Oak. Even though it was the day after the marathon, there was no way I was going to miss it. With sore and aching legs I took myself out on the town. And oh, oh, OH was it ever amazing. I haven't had that much fun at a concert in years. True, I was at least 10 years older than the majority of attendees, but I didn't let that bother me. Am I not edgy enough to hang with the hipsters? Even though my own creaky hips were complaining vociferously by the end of the night? I got my groove on, I rocked out, I boogied, I jumped and bounced and screamed and sang and got breathless and sprinted to the bathroom only to hear the opening chords of "Summertime Clothes" while I was still in the john and ran out of there so fast I left a cloud of toilet paper lint in my wake. Hearing "My Girls" and "Summertime Clothes" live was fucking awesome I can't even begin to describe it. "Don't cool off...I like your warmth..." Yeah.
  • I signed up for another summer of Running Fit 501. I enjoyed my session with the program last summer so much that I decided to do it again even though my plans for the rest of the year are amorphous. At the moment I'm still riding my BQ high (hey didja know I qualified for the Boston Marathon?) and thus I have avoided the post-marathon blues like I had last fall after Detroit. However, I do have a few things in mind. One, I would like to do the Akron Marathon. Two, I put my name into the New York City Marathon lottery. I will know in June if I was chosen. If I get selected in the NYC lottery hell yeah I'm doing it! In the more immediate future I will be jet-planing off to New York City in three weeks for the Green Mountain Relay as one member of a 12-person team. I asked for the Runner #3 slot on the team because Leg 3 includes a covered bridge. How could I not take the covered bridge route? Covered roads...oh yeah!
  • And lastly, I have a new addition to the Wall of Fame:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 2009: If You Have Forty-Five Seconds to Spare

Call me morbid, call me pale
I've spent six years on your trail
Six full years of my life on your trail.1

Where it all begins.

Ah, marathon morning. Is there a time which is at once so peaceful yet so calamitous? The stillness of a late spring dawn, cold and quiet, but what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and at 4:35 am a runner awakens in the blackness of her bedchamber and lies motionless, staring at the ceiling, thinking, I am going to run a marathon today. And then the flurry of activity so early in the day, the donning of the special outfit, the arranging of the items, the packing of the bag, the trimming of the toenails, the brewing of the coffee. The heart rate monitor is strapped on, the Body Glide is applied, the D-Chip is fastened, the wild hair is contained, the laces are tied. The laces of the shoes (Brooks Adrenaline 9s) which will carry the runner girl 26.2 miles to either glory or heartbreak.

I ate a banana and a scrambled egg for breakfast, followed by a cup of coffee. Then I took two anti-diarrhea pills. I wanted to avoid the porta-potty fiasco which befell me during the Detroit Marathon last fall. In doing so, I broke the cardinal rule of marathon racing: never try anything new the day of your marathon. I had never taken anti-diarrhea medication before. It was a reckless and potentially disastrous move, but I was determined not to let my GI tract have the upper hand.

We rolled into downtown Cleveland around 6:15 am. At 6:50 I was still trapped in the seemingly endless line for the porta-potties. I squeezed myself into the crowded field as the national anthem was ending and managed to thread my way to a spot near the 3:40 pace group. The sun was rising into a cloudless sky, the temperature was about 45 degrees, and a stiff Lake Erie breeze was coursing down East 9th St. into my face. There was some noise, the crowd surged forward and relaxed, surged and relaxed, and then surged and kept moving. This was it. No hesitation, no doubts, no excuses. It was time for me to run.

Before I had gone even half a mile, I heard it from behind me: "Fuck Michigan!" I turned and saw some guy behind me with a smirk on his face. I shrugged and said, "I knew I was going to get shit for wearing this shirt!"

Brazenly flaunting my Michigan allegiance all over the streets of Cleveland. The nerve.

For the record, that guy never passed me. I totally crushed him. So there.

In addition to my U of M Alumni Association T-shirt, I wore a Dump Runners Club headband which I received from the head Dump Runner himself. My awesomely retro DRC headband plus one of my Bondi Bands kept the 'fro nicely contained and the sweat out of my eyes.

In the very early part of the race I had to deal with a serious problem. The night before, I had set Garmy in its cradle for overnight charging. Except instead of charging, it...didn't. It anti-charged. I got it out to strap it to my wrist once we reached Cleveland and when I pressed the power button, nothing happened. Nothing. The screen was as blank and expressionless as Keanu Reeves' face. Immediately I started to wail, because my entire marathon race strategy was connected to Garmy. My mom came to my rescue, taking back her Garmin 305 which she had given to my dad (my dad ran the half marathon) and giving it to me. But her Garmy was not my Garmy, configured the way I liked it. I got the Auto Lap set up to record each mile, and the display to show pace, distance, HR, and elapsed time, but when we started I realized it was also going to be angrily barking at me because my heart rate had immediately exceeded my mom's maximum HR, and I had programmed her Garmy months ago to chirp if her HR went above a certain level. That had to be stopped RIGHT NOW. I remembered how irritated I had been during the Martian Half Marathon in April when some woman's Garmin kept jingling incessantly, and how I had sped up during the second half of the race for the sole purpose of getting the hell away from her and her annoying watch. Irritation, not strategy or physical conditioning, propelled me to a PR in that race. Thus, I spent the majority of the first mile frantically pressing buttons to make the heart rate alert stop. When I finally lifted my head I was already passing by the baseball stadium. I took the time to look around and enjoy the view from on high as I crossed the Lorain Ave. bridge over the Cuyahoga River and the Flats to the West Side.

My carefully planned three-part race strategy was shot in the first mile. I hit mile 1 at 8:03, which was considerably faster than I had intended (no faster than 8:30 under pain of death!). I forced myself to slow down with limited success. My splits were all over the place. I was executing poorly and I knew it. Yet, it was a beautiful morning for a run, I felt amazing, and I couldn't help myself. The course passed by the West Side Market, St. Ignatius High School, and onward through historic Ohio City to Lakewood with its beautiful old homes along Edgewater Drive. Crowd support in this area was excellent, and I received a number of hearty "Go Blues!" from Michigan fans along the course. There was one guy with a huge Michigan flag attached to the side of his truck, wearing a Michigan sweatshirt and hat, and when he saw me passing by he yelled, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" I pointed at him and yelled back, "Go Blue!"

On the course in Lakewood.

Passing by Browns Stadium again. Almost halfway there.

Miles 1-13: 8:03, 8:40, 8:23, 8:18, 8:09, 8:09, 8:22, 8:16, 8:19, 8:18, 8:41, 8:29, 8:13. Half marathon split: 1:50:03 (8:24/mile pace).

After I passed the half marathon split near Burke Lakefront Airport, the course began the long march eastward on North Marginal Rd., a three-mile straight shot sandwiched between the highway and the lakeshore. After driving this portion of the course the week before, I knew this could be a potentially dangerous area in terms of my morale. And so it was: spectator support dwindled to nothing, my only accompaniment was the whir and rush of cars (and the occasional honk), and the sun glared down, unhindered by any tree. Around mile 14.5 I took my only porta-potty break of the race. The anti-diarrhea meds had done their best, but I still had to stop. Until that point I was on pace for a 3:40 finish. I had a 3:40 pace band on my wrist upon which I had been keeping a close eye, and I knew I was well ahead of my Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3:45:59. If I could maintain my speed, a BQ was in the bag.

Oh, hubris! I was sort of asking for it, wasn't I?

After the long tiresome drag of North Marginal Rd,. the course followed East Blvd and then Martin Luther King Drive, two beautiful, winding, tree-shaded streets encompassing miles 16-21. I was still feeling energetic, eyeing my wristband, mindful of my pace, taking in the scenery, enjoying myself.

On MLK Dr., around mile 19. Looking good.

At mile 21 the course went up a short but painfully steep hill to St. Clair Ave. I walked through the water stop there, at the top of the hill, and getting moving again was difficult. I was starting to drag. The end was tantalizingly close, but as every marathon runner knows, the real race takes place in the final 6.2 miles. It was time to buckle down and put my training to the test.

And then, around mile 22, the pain ripped through my left hamstring, the same pain which had caused me to abort one of my runs several weeks earlier. My stride became lopsided as I began favoring my left leg. Pain shot up and down the back of my leg with each step and I groaned inwardly, wondering if this was it, if it was all over, if I was going to be forced to stop and walk. Then, unbidden, a little ditty swam up from the murk in my mind. Just keep swimming...just keep swimming...It was the character Dory from the film Finding Nemo.

Just keep swimming...just keep swimming...

So that's what I did. One foot in front of the other, just keep swimming. The course entered St. Clair Ave. at East 82nd St. and it would not turn until East 40th St. Two miles of pure BLAH. I tried not to look at the street signs as they painfully ticked off one by one. I alternated that thought with "Boston, Boston, Boston." My leg hurt like hell. My calves were beginning to tense up. I limped. Just keep swimming...Boston, Boston, Boston. At mile 23 I peeked at my watch and I had been running for 3:16. I did a fast calculation in my head: 3.2 miles left. I have 29 minutes to run 3.2 miles. That's essentially a 5K. Can I do it? I've done it before. 3 miles in 29 minutes, that's nothing.

However, this wasn't me starting a 5K race fresh as a daisy with a spring in my step and a couple of sub-7:00 miles in me. This was mile 23 of a marathon and I was tired and in pain. The thought that I might miss my goal by mere seconds weighed heavily on my mind. I stared at the pavement, the three miles left to run feeling more like 20.

Then, at the corner of St Clair and E. 40th just after mile 23 I looked up and my running partner, FK, was standing on the sidewalk. I was so glad to see him. He jumped into the road and started running beside me. I groaned, "Oh my God, I'm so tired." He inquired how I was feeling. I said, "My hamstring hurts. I just want this to be over." We ran along E. 40th and turned onto Euclid Ave. around mile 24. I said, "Talk to me...about anything. Just talk."So he did. He rambled on and we made the northward turn onto E. 18th at mile 25. Only 1.2 miles to go. I looked at my watch. Holy shit, it was going to be close. Now is the time, I thought. You want this so badly. Don't give up.

I made the final turn onto Lakeside Ave. at mile 25.5. I could see far off in the distance the Cleveland City Hall building which was adjacent to the finish line. It might as well have been ten miles away. That's what it looked like to my exhausted eyes.

So close.

My running partner left me on the course just before mile 26. I was alone, ready to engage in the final battle against the clock, against myself.

My dad took this picture from the sideline. I heard him shouting my name as I ran past and all I could do was roll my eyes helplessly in his direction.

SO CLOSE. Within 100 meters of the finish.

I could see the blue banner over the finish line. My heart was thundering in my chest and I was panting. I didn't look at my watch. I didn't want to know. I screamed at myself inside my head: "HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT THIS? DON'T LET IT SLIP AWAY! JUST RUN! RUN! RUN! JUST FUCKING RUN HARDER THAN YOU'VE EVER RUN IN YOUR LIFE! RUNNNNNNN!!!"

And so I did. I ran. My entire world narrowed down to that little strip of blue. There was a dull roar in my ears which I was dimly aware of as crowd noise. I could barely hear it.

You want suffering, here it is. Gosh, doesn't this make running a marathon look like so much FUN?


MOST...(woah, check out those calf muscles!)


As you can see, there was no lifting of my arms in victory or punching at the air as I crossed the finish line. I was totally, utterly spent. I could barely lift my hand to stop Garmy. I looked down. 3:45:16.

I had done it, yet it barely registered. I was preoccupied with the fact that I felt as if I were about to collapse. I moved to the side and put my hands on my knees. My chest was heaving. I saw two pairs of feet appear: race volunteers who had come to see if I was okay. One of them voiced as much and that's when I pushed myself up to a standing position, took the proffered bottle of water, and blurted out, "I JUST QUALIFIED FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON!" They congratulated me and I staggered off through the finishing corral. That was when it finally crashed down on me like a ton of bricks. I had done it. I had really, truly, done it. I started to laugh hysterically, a whooping, crazed sound. Then I began crying at the same time. I covered my face with my hands. Someone said, "I hope those are tears of joy!" I uncovered my face, took a banana from the race volunteer and yelled, "I just qualified for Boston!" I came to the end of the finish corral and my parents and running partner were waiting. I screamed, "I DID IT!"

My final official chip time was 3:45:14.

My Boston qualifying time had to be 3:45:59 or better.

45 seconds. That was how close it was. 45 seconds.

Miles 14-26.2: 8:21, 9:49 (bathroom stop), 8:36, 8:33, 8:46, 8:35, 8:39, 8:31, 9:11 (long walk at water stop), 8:55, 8:42, 8:59, 8:19, and the final 0.2 at a 7:49 pace. Second half: 1:55:11 (8:47/mile pace).

Behold, a Boston Marathon qualifier. I could barely stand up.

FK swapping my shoes for me while I excitedly text a whole bunch of people. I'm so lazy (tired?) I can't even tie my own shoes.

We slowly made our way back to the car, where my dad went inside the parking garage to retrieve it so I would not have to navigate the stairs. In the middle of the street opposite the garage was the 26 mile marker which I had passed not even an hour earlier.

I came, I saw, I conquered this mile.

Then we went down to the Flats for lunch at the Flat Iron Cafe. I wanted a beer and a greasy hamburger, dammit! I got both.

With my long-awaited pint of Smithwick's. It was delicious.

My dad and I back at the parental homestead after the race.

It has now been nine days since the race. I am still recovering physically and getting used to the idea that I am going to be running the Boston Marathon next spring. Me, who three years ago couldn't even run half a mile and weighed 65 pounds more than I do now. Me, who had never run farther than 8 miles at once before I began training for my first half marathon. Me, who could barely maintain a 9:15 pace for a 5K a mere two years ago.

I will be toeing the line in Hopkinton in April 2010.

Final race stats: 3:45:14; 8:35/mile avg; 154 avg HR; 170 max HR; 19/127 AG; 106/854 women.

1: At least that's what it felt like at the time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

After the Marathon

I'll have a proper Cleveland Marathon race report eventually, but in the meantime, this video will tell you all you need to know. Additionally, thank you all SO MUCH for the kind words of congratulations. I am still having a hard time believing I did it...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cleveland Marathon: Boston Bound, Baby!



My god, I did it. I did it, people. I DID IT!

Full gory details soon. Must recuperate first.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Whoop-ass!

That's my official forecast for Sunday.

Actual forecast may vary.

I just picked up my race bib and various other goodies including, yes, three more Bondi Bands for 'fro control.

T-minus 18 hours to race time.

Let's rock and run.

*thanks to TC for post title inspiration.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Know the Enemy

I took a little trip to over the weekend to visit family and go on a reconnaissance mission on the Cleveland Marathon course. I am glad that I did. I have seen the enemy...and it is...Cleveland.

I got a ground-level view of what I am in for on Sunday morning. Some sections of the course promise to be lovely. Others...not so much. Um...whose idea was it for three miles on North Marginal Road with a lovely view of I-90? Really?

The intersection of East 9th and Lakeside in downtown Cleveland, looking west. The finish line is just beyond the Free Stamp (visible at right of picture).

Sunday morning between 10:40 and 10:45 am (barring disaster) I will be pounding pavement as hard as I can down this very stretch of road to complete my second marathon and hopefully, HOPEFULLY, qualify for the Boston Marathon.

I began training for this race exactly four months ago. It's time to put up or shut up. It's on, bitches.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Cat is Famous


When this came up in my Google Reader ("Animals" category) about 10 minutes ago I did the biggest double take in recent memory, since this is my cat in a picture I took and submitted months ago. I had completely forgotten about it.

Bouhaki goes Undercover!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pin Up Girl

You know you're a runner when you have a pile of race bib safety pins on your desk at work.

You also know you're a runner when you have race bib pins everywhere.

12 days to Cleveland. Taper tantrums in full swing. Stay back.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Berkshire Proud Dad's 5K: Assaulting the Taper

I said I wasn't going to do it. I swore it would be the last time. I thought, "No more until my marathon is over!"

Yeah. Well...I totally committed a felony on my taper today. This went past simple disrespect and straight into assault territory.

I ran another 5K race today. Once again, this was a race I had no intention of running; in fact, I was unaware of its existence before about 8:00 yesterday evening. To say this was a spur of the moment decision would be an understatement. Nevertheless, I found myself in a small crowd of people at 7:30 am this morning outside an elementary school in Beverly Hills (Michigan), ready to run in the most perfect running weather imaginable (about 45 degrees, sunny, and windless).

Since I ran a hard 5K race on Wednesday, I wanted to take it easy today. I was supposed to do 4 miles at marathon pace (8:30/mile), so I thought I would try to hold myself to that in a race scenario. Just relax, no pressure, run smart, don't overdo it.

The race started, and I trundled off at what I thought was an easy pace. My breathing was deep and slow, and I felt extremely loose and limber. I was in the groove. Zen-like. I was working the running mojo.

Mile 1: 7:34.


So much for taking it easy. I finished in 23:07. The whole time I felt ridiculously serene. I was just out for a spin around the neighborhood, enjoying the cool morning air. Oh yeah, and I was also running at a pace that a little more than a year ago would have been my all-out can't-run-any-faster I'm-dying-here PR-setting pace. No, wait, scratch that: I was running smooth and easy at a pace faster than that with which I set a 5K PR in March 2008.

Today, running at a speed which felt natural, effortless, and easy, I turned in my fourth-fastest 5K time ever. In the small field, it was good enough to snag me another first-place age group award. Two races in three days, two first-in-age-group placings.

Collecting my 1st-place age-group ribbon with race organizers Jeff Sullivan and Bill Reader (husband of local rockstar runner Marybeth Reader, who won the women's race today in 19:14).

Once I returned home, I decided to reorganize my "Wall of Fame." I wanted to have all of my race bibs and assorted paraphernalia in one place. They have been in a messy pile for the past 2 years. I arranged them in chronological order, with my bib from the Vision Builders 5K (May 2007) at the start. I ran that race in 28:44. Consider that for a moment: 28:44. In two years I have chopped six and a half minutes off my 5K time. I have gone from pushing myself as hard as I could to run a 5K at a 9:15 pace and feeling like I was going to throw up and collapse to moseying through a 5K at a 7:25 pace and feeling sprightly and fresh the whole time.

People, never underestimate the value of consistent training and what it can do for you. I am living proof. Never, I tell you, never in a million years would I have thought I could run a 7:30 pace and think it was "easy." Never.

28 races and counting...

The empty space under my race bib from today (far bottom right) is reserved for my bib from the Cleveland Marathon.

Two more weeks.

Final stats: 23:07; 7:25/mile avg; 1/8 AG; 3rd woman; 17th overall

I changed my blog banner picture; if y'all are used to reading this in Google Reader you should spare a moment and swing by my actual blog to check it out. :)