Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two runs post-marathon runs + SPECIAL GUEST BLOG! (Dr. E-Lamp

Of less interest--First post-marathon run on Saturday was an ugly and tired 2 miles. Monday's 5.5 through Southie brought back some speed, some confidence, and a tiny nag in one knee I'll be keeping an eye on.

Of primary importance: Evan's blog. He's running his first full marathon this Sunday, May 4, starting at 6:00 a.m.--please think motivating thoughts for him through 10:30!!

Also, as an FYI, Lampshade, you were definitely a motivating factor in my long-distance running startup:)

Without further ado...

Greetings, Dr. E-Lamp is guest blogging again.
I’m writing this only a few days prior to my running the Colorado Marathon EARLY this Sunday. Formerly, the run was called the Fort Collins Old Town Marathon. This marathon is Colorado’s oldest, and this year marks the debut of the half marathon along with the 5k, 10k, marathon, and kiddie run. We’ll start out of town at the Stevens Gulch campground in Roosevelt National Forest, follow the Poudre Canyon into the town of LaPorte, and end up in (obviously) Old Town Fort Collins, where all the other races will finish in an extravaganza of running glory. This is a Boston qualifier, and boasts the top US qualifying rate due to its downhill nature: 16-18%.

All right, the boring details are out of the way, now for my feelings about the marathon. I have been obsessing to various degrees about this since January: first I was very obsessed and trained hard until the end of February, then slacked off for almost all of March (and drank a lot of rum to boot), and then the time I spent obsessing and training increased exponentially through April and **science geek alert** there is no asymptote or carrying capacity in sight.
My training was by no means scientific, but I’m in really good shape. I ran 4:20 as my longest run with the intent of running 26 10-minute miles. Did I run that far? I have no idea. I hope it doesn’t take me much longer than that, as I got woozy at the end – although my nourishment/hydration while running was nonexistent. I run 9:15-30/mile half marathons. Entering a recent 5k effort into a pace calculator projects me at 3:43, last year’s half time projects me at 4:13.

Any distance runner knows that long runs are more mental than physical. My first half marathon I let the mental part get to me and ran/walked the last bit. I don’t want to do that this weekend, because once I decide it’s OK to walk once I stop and walk a lot.

My hips, knees, quads, calves, and lower back alternately harassed me at different points of my long runs. Typically, I’ve felt astonishingly good afterward, to the point of running 5ks the day after a couple of times. Probably won’t happen this time…

For four years I’ve been running half marathons and thinking about running the whole thing. Abby’s entry into the Boston Marathon was my clincher. It’s pretty cool; I like to think I at least somewhat inspired her to start long-distance running, and she definitely inspired me to run the marathon. Fargo was always destined to be my first, but I kept wimping out and moved to the mountains before running it. Fargo is only two weeks after the Colorado, but I have a hunch I won’t make it. Two girls from our high school ran the Fargo Marathon in ’07 but are running the half this year – apparently they weren’t very happy afterward. Last year three of my NDSU entomology colleagues ran the half (I finished 2nd out of 4), and this year two are running the full for the next time.

All right, wish me luck. I think most of the readers of this either are related to me or don’t know me, so anything helps. I didn’t raise any money, but the race fees I paid go to local charities such as Habitat for Humanity and groups getting kids to start running, which are good in their own right.

P.S. I can’t wait to eat pizza, drink alcohol, and eat candy again!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Marathon Monday Recap

Monday. Monday. could you, Monday?

Marathon Monday dawned sunny and cool, and runners throughout the greater Boston area (including myself) rejoiced--no repeat of last year's tiny monsoon. While waiting in line to board the BAA buses at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m., I reveled in my last-minute decision to wear a long-sleeved under armour under my Dana Farber singlet.

I ditched it within the first mile, as the sun broke its full warmth onto 25,000 runners lining the streets from Hopkinton to Boston. The crowd was present even in Hopkinton, with streets lined nearly the full 26.2 miles. Partyers shouted encourage from rooftops and tailgates, children lined the streets with sliced oranges and Dixie cups of water, and even a group of fireman shouted some hoorahs as we ran by.

I'd settled in with Caitlin and Brenda, and we'd agreed to start together at the very least. We spent the first 13 miles forcing ourselves and each other to slow down, constantly on the watch for a too-fast pace on the downhills that we knew would destroy our quads if we weren't careful. By the half-marathon, we were holding to a 10:00 minute/mile pace, on target for our goal of a 4:30 marathon.

At 17 miles, my quads had started to burn above the knees, and I started looking for my family and friends--clad in matching baby blue "Team Vern" t-shirts. Here was where I could:

1. Stop for a breather.
2. Say hello.
3. Meet up with Kate, who planned to jump in and run with me for a while, and
4. Stop for a breather.

At the same time, Caitlin found her boyfriend Lucas, shanghaied into running the last 9 miles with her. She broke from the pack, and then it was just Brenda and I, with Kate's fresh legs alongside us.

By 18 miles, the ache in my quads was a squeeze with every footfall, and I piteously requested of Kate that we walk for a bit. Brenda (the endless energy of that chick!) bolted ahead with an eye to finding a friend who'd promised to meet her.

The next four miles can only be described as a trial--to my legs, my sanity, and to my friendship with Kate, who I actually started to hate for a while. She deserves a much nicer medal than the BAA gave me for putting up with my surliness, whiny-ness, the conflicting requests I made of her ("Kate, I need you talk; tell me something to distract me." "Kate. You need to be quiet now while we go up this hill." "Kate, I need to walk for a minute." "Kate, I need you to be mean and make me keep going."), and, occasionally, outright rudeness. To her credit, Kate, a marathoner in her own right (Nike Women's, October 2007), took it all in stride, even going so far as to offer to punch the person of my choosing in the face. (This was right after I told her I hated everyone in the universe. What can I say? There were a few rough miles.) I didn't take her up on it, but mostly because to find the girl watching the marathon in her purple bathing suit and leg warmers would have meant backtracking.

By 22 or 23 miles, she's convinced me of the futility of stopping, and that I had in me the ability to continue moving. Never have the words "You're looking good. This is a good pace." had the ability to drive me forward as they did on Monday. My thoughts became consumed with maintaining the effort needed to move forward.

At 24 miles, I spotted roommate Liz shouting at another Dana Farber runner. I beelined for her, and while she hugged me and shouted about how proud she was of me, I draped the majority of my weight onto her (her at about 5'2"; me at 5'11") for a quick minute.

25 miles, and the drunk baseball fans were out in full force. My legs were throbbing, my spirits low--and there again was my cheering section--Mom, Dad, Jared, and roommate Katie, all waving the Dana Farber pompoms and cheering madly. There was not stopping this time, just a pitiable wave as Kate and I slogged past them towards the finish up Comm. Ave.
Afraid I would quit without her motivating force, I asked Kate to run with me to the turn onto Boylston Street, where there was only 4 or so blocks to go. She did, and off I went, at my now plodding pace. (I'd like to say I picked up the pace those last few blocks...but I didn't. The tank was empty, and there was no race for home.) I finished my first marathon in 20, 190 place, at 4:51, about 20 minutes slower than I had hoped, but with no complaints from me after having traveled the distance.

The next couple days were sore ones, but I was lucky in having some serious enforced stretching immediately after the marathon, and the next day--I am convinced that it was because of this that I am walking so comfortably today (Friday), only 4 days later. My cheering section was in full force (with gorgeous flowers even) post-marathon, with congratulatory words and squeezes. (Note also, the sheer bad-assery of my dad in those glasses.)

Overall--This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The number of runners, the numbers of fans...the encouragement from both to everyone there was incredible, and I truly felt that I was a part of something greater.

Congrats to all the runners! We'll be seeing each other next year, I think... :)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Last Run Before Monday...

Today a lazy 3 (or so) mile loop around the Charles with Jared...and now it's two days to go.

The run this morning was everything I needed it to be--short, slow, and completely comfortable. The weeks of rest have left my legs and knee feeling strong and vibrant. Now the hardest part will be the wait, as I am raring to go, full of energy and zest for life and running. Though I'm sure they'll be back, my fears have gone quiet for now, as they are edged out of my crowded brain with focus and determination.

Today, instead of saying I'm afraid of what will happen, I am saying:

"Come on, road. Come up to meet me. My lungs are iron, and my legs are strong and hungry for the miles and miles. My heart and mind--my will--they are untouchable and indescribable. So come on. Come to meet me."

Something I know: Monday will be slow, hard, and uncomfortable. But I am ready to DO THIS, as are so many of the DFMC'ers.

So now, since there's little more to say, I'll leave you with my favorite inspirational running quotes:

"No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."
--Sir Roger Bannister (first man to run a sub-four-minute mile)

"May you run and not grow weary, walk and not faint."
--Isaiah 40:31

"Every morning in
Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle when the sun comes up you'd better be running. (But, unless you're a runner, you won't understand.)"

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."
--William Faulkner

And my occasional personal mantra when running (when I'm so tired I can
barely function, let alone comprehend another 5 miles) is to "Just. Keep. Running." Keep moving forward, because "Miles are just miles."

Good luck on Monday, runners. We're all in this together now:)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

3.5 on the Charles with one Allison Ruhlmann

During the past months of marathon training, I've met an assortment of new people and forged strong bonds with fellow runners. But some days, its nice to get together with the people I ran with before. I've blogged before about Kate. This week I ran with another friend, Allison "Abby, you know I don't run unless you make me" Ruhlmann. Well, Al, I did make you run yesterday, to the sweet spring tune of 3.5 miles around the Charles River.

We bolted off from Al's place in Beacon Hill, and headed for the Charles. When she took the stairs while I took the (totally longer) ramp cross over to the esplanade, I let her have it--much to the enjoyment of a female stranger, also in athletic gear, who also likely has running friends who take the stairs rather than the (totally longer) ramp.

We passed a lazy 30 or 40 minutes jogging along the river, then slowed to a walk as we crossed the Mass. Ave bridge--sheerly for the purpose of zealous gossip, not due to tiredness.

Allison is one of the most entertaining persons I run with--she is 100% herself--no artifice, no excuses. She is the friend who will say, "If you want to run fast, that's fine. I'm not going to run with you, though." Or "I don't need you to be rational right now. I need you to agree with my side of the story." She is always honest, usually practical, a steadfast friend, and an easily peer-pressured runner.

And though I have to promise to run slow to get her to come with me, she doesn't usually complain when I sneakily speed up a mile in.

SIDE NOTE: New running pal and feast for the senses Jared did a very nice thing recently. Tough to describe, and better put with the link to what he set up for my family and close friends for Marathon Monday. Check it out by clicking HERE.

Now that's a good man. :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

10 mile taper run in Ogunquit...and now only a week to go

This weekend was the LAST LONG(ish) RUN BEFORE THE MARATHON...and oh, am I getting nervous. I had managed to sucker my newest running buddy Jared into banging out a 10-miler in Ogunquit, Maine. See above for how that conversation could have gone (but didn't--he was actually thrilled to try a longer run).

We arrived in Maine with plans to run along the coastline. After hurdling a fence, then hurdling another fence, we ran a couple hundred yards. We then clambored down a beach area "in construction", through the crumbling dirt along its edges, and popped up over the other side, where I ducked the orange barricade, while Jared tried to move it to the side...and broke it. As the local cop idled 5 feet away, Jared quickly put it back together. We got back into our running stride just as the cop drove by yelling "I've got that on camera..."

Though we got a little lost at first, and the hills in the first 5 miles were many, the last 5 were a fairly flat shot home (see our circuitous route at left). The majority of the loop was lazy and delightful, with occasional pauses to walk, stretch, or simply to absorb the gorgeous terrain. Scenic vistas abounded, with waves crashing on the rocky shoreline, piles of seashells along one strip of road, a deep and sea-fragrant mist at every turn, the occasional lycra-clad biker zooming by (have you SEEN the quads on those guys?!), a tiny shack with hundreds of brightly colored birdhouses displayed outside, and before we knew it, we were passing Bourne Lane, marking the end of the run. We motored our way up a last hill, then decided to walk a bit. The run ended with a truly delightful decision to stop for a mocha (me) and latte (Jared).

These are the kinds of runs that I love to do--there is no pressure to achieve a certain distance or speed. These runs, whether they be taper runs, or a lazy weekend run, are what ground me and remind me of just how enjoyable the long miles can be.

And extra props to the Hitman must be given. At 10 miles, this is not only the longest run he's ever done, but is the longest run by 5 miles. :)

Sad news last. Throughout this journey of mile after mile, one of my favorite running buddies, Caitlin Andrews, has been running in support of a good friend of hers, Frankie O'Day. Frankie had been a patient of Dana Farber for some time, and had Hodgkins Disease. At each week's long run, Caitlin would give us an update on how Frankie was doing, and we'd come up with a plan to send him a photo of the three of us at the marathon with "For Frankie" written on us somewhere, as from all accounts, he would have enjoyed a photo of three women wearing his name. :) Unfortunately, Frankie didn't make it. He passed away last week, after having proved his doctors wrong several times already. To read his story, please go to He was only 29.

For me at least, cancer is a bit removed. Though my grandmother and uncle passed away due to cancer, it was so long ago, and feels as though it is a safe and faded distance from my life today. But the truth is that we are still losing people to this disease every day--every single day. I can't imagine how Frankie's family is feeling right now.

I admit that when I started training for the marathon, the cause was important to me (incredibly important), but so was the running, perhaps the latter more so--it was more immediate in my own consciousness. But it becomes more and more clear every moment, with every mile, what exactly we are trying to eradicate. We're doing this, we're running, yes. But we're also fighting something greater, something crueler, than a couple of hard hills could even be comparable to--so that people don't have to lose their parents, their friends, or god forbid, their children.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

TAaaaaaper....sweet, sweet taper

In the list of things I love, the "taper" now holds a special place in my heart.

A sleek (ok, a slow--see my new sign (and motto) at right--all I need now is a beeping noise when I back up) 12 or 13 through Southie left me happy, healthy, and heading for home and large pot of Folger's Classic Roast. (Okay, two pots--but I blame that on Brenda.)

We're getting closer now...and it is official. Got my bib number a week or two ago (22453), and busy planning the logistics of where to put my parents on the course. Strange, though I worry about my mom and dad becoming frazzled at the alarming number of people out and about on Marathon Monday, it is more likely that I'll pop over the top of Heartbreak Hill to find them clinking plastic keg cups with some random kids in Brookline.

Only one more longish run to go, which will hover around a blissfully short 10 miles. In a bid to exorcise any local demons, I may head for the hills to do it...or at least out of beantown.

I'll be seeing you on the 21st, though.... :)