Sunday, March 30, 2008

21 days to go...and at last (!) we begin the sweet, sweet taper.

Today I ran 22.6 miles, easily the hardest thing I've done to date, at least in a physical sense. My legs were dull, heavy, and shaking with fatigue by the time I finished, and the moments of doubt in the last mile were strong and sinuous, attempting to wind their way into my consciousness. But I traveled the distance, as did so many other runners today--not just Dana Farber's, but the hundreds of others we saw along the route.

Tonight I received a letter, one that reminded me that every mile is a victory, every step a journey. An excerpt for my fellow runners:

"Remember--You are strong and were created this way with purpose. No amount of miles can take that away from you.

We are all proud of you. You are never running alone."

I'm a writer by nature, but some things...some things get you so deep, that there aren't any words that are enough to say how you feel--full, happy, joyful, encouraged, loved--not enough. NEVER enough.

Runners, take heart--none of us are running alone.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Oh to be responsible...

Well, let me begin this blog by saying my previously gremlin-filled knee is doing QUITE a bit better. So much better in fact,that I felt a little weird getting it checked out this Tuesday. However, in a brief, responsible moment, I decided there certainly wouldn't be any harm keeping the appointment, where the doctor told me.....

"You're really tight. And need to stretch. Doing that should pretty much take care of the irritation in the knee." What? You mean that when Jack said cross-train, he didn't mean hours of hoops, and when he said stretch, he didn't mean...not stretch? Well, shit. Color me chagrined. I'm kind of embarrassed at the thought that I'd somehow managed to put these things off (for going on 3 months--yikes), end up with a sore knee, and then find that the two were, in fact, inextricably intertwined.

So today, like a good little marathoner, I convinced myself that I must go to the gym! Oh, the gym. Cold in the winter, muggy in the summer, with a year-round funk of stale body odor. Half the machines don't work, a third are occupied, and the other third appear to be a modernized versions of the Rack and the Iron Maiden. (Yes, I am aware the math doesn't work there; you can see how dismayed I was at the tableau that I knew surely lay ahead of me.) Still, I was committed! To the GYM!

Despite a few touch and go moments as I neared the exit for the gym (Get off the exit? Continue driving toward home and the vast and wonderful, though rainy outdoors? Meet Allison for a movie and dinner?) I made it to the haven of Biffs, Buffs, Amys, and Ambers.

And it wasn't that bad. Despite realizing within the first 10 minutes that an arc trainer is quite possibly the most boring apparatus I'd ever clambered onto, it made me appreciate....that's right--TEAM INJURED. B*--you stayed on this thing for more than an hour?? I salute your fortitude! I salute your endurance! (I also salute my own foresight in bringing a book.)

All ended well, with another day of rest for She With the Once Sore Knee Who Does Not Stretch or Crosstrain (can be shorted to Idiotface for usability), and some miles still in.

See you Sunday, folks, for some beautiful, beautiful miles on the big open road.

*To check out this stalwart soul's blog, hit the following site:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Satchmo Goes for a Walk!

Note use of the term walk, as this lovable coonhound wasn't too willing to run more than about 1.5 to 2 miles. (Note also, however, that he did win first in his division in a 5K last summer, despite an unfortunate early stop to check the curb, and claim it as his own.) 
I admit, that in a fit of sheer laziness, I offered to take Satch with me--knowing full well that he's not happy doing more than 2 miles, provided you can get him to go that far. Though this charmer's long legs appear built for speed, his giant ears have the effect of a race car's parachute, effectively hindering his need for speed. So, when we headed out to enjoy the gorgeous (50+ degrees!) day, I had an idea what the "run" would entail. 

We made it down to Castle Island, with only two stops--both assessments of the sidewalk (thank goodness for Katie's hollered "Don't forget a bag!" as I was running out the door). We gamboled about on the sandy beach, surreptitiously checking out the local action--nothing but a spinster bulldog, a high-maintenance pomeranian, and a miscellany of mixed mutts with no obvious gender. 

Having done the necessary beach prowl, we shambled around Castle Island, only to stop on the Causeway--Satchmo, having decided by now he's had quite enough of the running, did seem to find enough energy to jump on the retaining wall every 10 feet, exhibiting his true yen for the blue yonder and love of coastal travel. 

We walked the rest of the way home, happily, casually, contentedly enjoying the waning daylight, pausing only to make note of new and exciting territory--be it garbage, light pole, strangers, strange dogs, grass, concrete, or what might have once been a beer can. 

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boston strikes a low blow against NYC

After this weekend, I've come to realize the true culprit of the ongoing feud between Bostonians and New Yorkers. It's not that we've destroyed the Yankees' hope of a World Series the past couple years; it's not basic East Coast rivalry. In fact, it's not lingering thoughts of the curse of the Bambino.

It's the curse of the Indian food.

After (no lie), a 5.5 hour bridal shower in an upper East Side apartment in Manhattan, and 4 full days of rest (which I readily admit my knee still needed), I was ready to RUN. After the Indian food of the night before, with dire consequences. Here is my letter of apology:

Dear surly Pizza Nova owner or worker,

I must apologize for what surely seems to you to be an unforgivable breach of manners. I am, of course, referring to the atrocity of your toilet. What happened was this:

A resident of Boston (though I harbor no ill will toward you and yours, in baseball or any other arena) and a runner training for the marathon in less than a month, I found myself in Manhattan this past Saturday. Coming off a lengthy rest on behalf of a stiff knee, I was, needless to say, ready to hit the promenade for a lengthy run along the Hudson.

An hour into said run, I started to feel the effects of the previous evening's Indian food. I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say that, while delicious, that particular cuisine is not one I'll be partaking the night before a run again.

When I happened across your pizzeria, I had already bolted (ok, it was more like a running hunchback who'd been shot in the ass at that point) into a grocery store, where the cruel and merciless clerk had refused me the use of his restroom. When I dashed (see previous parenthetical) into your pizzeria, and asked, with a surely panicked look in my eyes, to use your restroom, you merely grunted and gestured with floury hands toward a tiny and dank (and obviously employee only) toilet in the back. You appeared a sweet and benevolent god in those moments.

I repaid your kindess and generosity with a horrible parting gift, but how was I to know the toilet wouldn't flush? In a moment of panic, I did the only thing I could think of, what I do best...and ran.

Fled, more accurately. Thanks for your kindness to a stranger, sir, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart.

My red-sox hatted and jacketed heart.


8 Mile (Charles River, not to be confused with Detroit)

Nothing much to say about Monday's 8 miles with Caitlin. We started from her place in the South End and carried our sorry selves, aching knees and all down to the Charles for a lazy loop. The run was fine, both of us a bit sore around mile 7, and happy to be heading home.

Sorry for the lack of detail; after waiting nearly a week, it's hard to remember!

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Paddy's 5K

Sunday came far too early for a girl who, though sober, still didn't hit the hay until after 2:00 a.m. I crawled out of bed repeatedly to hit the snooze button, following up each wack of the alarm with a gangly leap back into the bed (not sure why I don't walk to the side of the bed to get back in; instead always hurdle up onto it at the foot and walk/crawl my way to the top, sighing with pleasure once I'm back under the warm, warm maiden aunt patterned coverlet, thankfully covered with a lovely earthy brown duvet...)

In any event, I digress. Eventually I had to get up if I was to make it to the race. After brushing my teeth, popping in the contacts, gasping at the atrocity that was my hair (yes, another Teen Wolf meets Bridget Nielsen ala Rocky IV moment, this time coupled with some Christina Applegate (in the early 90s) style do they DO that?!), I meandered into the kitchen. Ah! Sticky floor! Some sort of solidified bread bowl dip on the stove! Orange gatorade and Guinness in the lines between linoleum tiles! And bottles, cans, cups...every drinking receptacle you could think of. I had to face the truth--my apartment was a war zone.

Needless to say, I poured myself some pre-race water, ate some pre-race rye toast and settled into some cleaning, having the worst of it out of the way by the time Kate, Sean, and neighbor Dan had arrived for the race. The three of them pitched in for another 10 minutes, while Kate's fiancee Seb lay on the couch moaning in a hungover agony. Then, we were off!

The race started about four blocks from my apartment so we were there quickly. I continued to insist to Kate that we were going to "RIP" this race out...this is what happens when I run 5 miles in about 10 days. Waaay too much energy and no outlet leads me to rash decisions.

But also PRs. :) at 24.21.

Hoorah. My knee may still be hurting me, but my soul is divine. And dammit, I felt like A RUNNER again.

And after that, a little more mopping didn't seem so bad.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Paddy's in Southie

Sorry, guys, no 10-15 on Saturday morning due to icky, icky New England rain. My idea was to wait for it to blow over. It did. When it turned to snow around 10:00 a.m. Caitlin and I rescheduled for Monday. So why, you are thinking, is there a blog?

Ok, so this may not really be a running blog either (I know! Two!), but...last night was the infamous St. Patrick's Day throwdown at the WBB. This year we had decided to ask any and all guests to freely throw in some dollars at the door for Dana Farber. If they wanted to contribute less ($2 was the lowest, I think, and--not to cover the keg, but to go to to be fair, this was the entirety that this generous soul had in his wallet), that was fine. However, a number of guests went the other route and happily offered $10-20. So, without further ado, here is the night by the numbers:

Time of start: 4:00 p.m.
Time of end: approximately 2:00 a.m.
Cupcakes consumed: 19 (I was responsible for two...ok, three.)
Beers or other beverages consumed: countless (one by yours truly even)
Pounds of other assorted snacklike foods consumed: 8-10 (this is only my best guess, of course)
Times I described the Claudia Adams Barr Program: 7 (also only an estimate)
People not wearing green: 4 (spoilsports)
Past and present CAC ballers in attendance: 9+

Signs (see left) created by stellar roommates Liz and Katie the previous weekend as a surprise for yours truly: 1
Dollars raised: $600+

Thank you. All of you, for throwing in, for hanging out, and for being so very, very supportive along the road. You are all the difference and I hope you know how much you are appreciated.*

PS A real running blog is to come, I promise, as four of us ran the 5K road race this morning. :)

*Special props to Katie, who once had to deal with some severe GI distress as I darted into the bathroom post a heinous 5:30 a.m. Thursday run. While she was in the shower. I owe you one...but please don't collect.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not a running blog per se…

No miles since Sunday, but today is Day 2 without a sore knee—Hoorah! This, combined with the beautiful weather, may mean some delicious miles through Southie tonight. I know, I know, good choices mean cross-training on some metal and plastic machine of doom and dullness inside the sunless claustrophobia of a gym while listening to Madonna and Britney Spears dances remixes….but my SOUL NEEDS IT. J

I received this email from Kate yesterday (subject line: an excerpt you might appreciate):

This was at the end of a running blog I read today. The writer's friend was really sick after a recent race and this was the writer's message:

I am a runner.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with race results, placings, PR's, split times, training programs, gender, age, racing schedule, weekly mileage, or pace bands. This has to do with something deep, something tender, something profound, something powerful and something untouchable about who we are in our hearts. This is why we recognize each other, on the road or in coffee shops, and we nod and smile. This is why we are never alone, even if we are training far from our hometown or way outside our comfort zone. Even if no other "I am" statement feels good about our life at the moment, we always have that one.

I have no doubt that Katie will regain her health and her strength. Likely she will be able to eat something besides brown rice and run around her block rather than walk, hopefully with me and Paige by her side. Sweetheart, in the meantime, you are not left out or left behind. You are simply pacing yourself. What I want to tell Katie, and anyone else out there struggling with injury, illness, delay, or disappointment of any kind is that even if you are healing or taking time off... you are still, and always, a runner.

Kate followed up with a second message (subject line: I should have my head examined):

this stuff is making me get all teary:

"Never in my life, before running, did I ever push hard after something that did not rank high on the list of things that come easily to me. I have always aspired to/excelled at things that I was already good at. This probably stems from fear, pride, laziness or some perfection compulsion; my priest or therapist would know for sure. But running isn't like that for me. It's hard for me. I struggle. I suffer. I get discouraged. I get mad. I celebrate, sometimes. And when I chase after Paige, Katie or any other zippy friend, it's not because I suck, it's because they don't. Running for Paige is one of her passions, one of her God-given talents, as natural for her as nursing a baby or riding a horse bareback. It isn't one of mine, and that is okay with me (or will be as soon as this epiphany sinks in), because I love it anyway...I just love it differently than she does. I love it the way you love a rivalrous sibling, deep tissue massage, a session with your therapist, giving birth, or a big fight with someone you love. It doesn't always feel good in the moment, but ultimately you are a better person for it."

Me too, Kate, me too.

Only a little over a month to go now…

Monday, March 10, 2008

"I'm talking to you, Woman!"

After last Sunday's 20 miler, plus an additional 5 days of rest, plus one hellish evening of "Beginner / Intermediate Pilates" (Kate, you are a cruel, cruel animal, admittedly with Madonna-esque arms and a ridiculous ass) = one angsty Abby...who no one had seen running all week.

Saturday dawned with a torrential downpour, and no miles for me. A still sore knee, and at this point, I had started to...fret. Maybe not panic, but...fret. In a moment of pity, Jared promised me earlier in the week to do some miles with me over the weekend. Sunday rolled around, and LO! 'TWAS A CLEAR AND SUNNY DAY! The fates were with us. We headed out from the scene of many a crime (note the ongoing mystery of my missing jump shot), the CAC.*

The first mile seemed grim, with me paying strict attention to the angry scrape inside that cursed left knee. Some reassurance from my chipper (damn you, anyway) running partner, and we continued on our merry way, with me pleasantly surprised at the loosening up after a few miles. Total distance-ish=4.5ish, at what I thought was a respectable pace.

Bonus points (sometimes I award them to myself) for having talked aforementioned running buddy into potentially running a half marathon. As Kate says, never agree to run a race while you're running on a beautiful day along the river....muahahahahahaha...or as Jared says, perhaps we could do a biathlon, as long as it doesn't involve biking or swimming.

*Note: This gym is also where I've made many a poor decision to play basketball after a long run. See Derry entry for reference.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday 20 and I am a hot mess on Monday

Friday's (and Saturday's) snowy, rainy mess lead to the second cancellation (see previous blog entry), but luckily Jack, our utterly awesome training coach, set up an "unofficial" group run on Sunday, out of the Woodland T stop. About 30 of us ended up there around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, happily finding all the fixins' for multiple water stops--volunteers, gatorade, and peanut m&m's.

I was absurdly happy to see Caitlin back at it again, putting in a sleek 10 miles in the name of good (but not irresponsible) miles. My first 10 were spent with her and Matt, another runner for Dana-Farber, who regaled me with horror stories of the first marathon he and his wife ran together (apparently some friendly softball teammates of hers, drunk and in jeans, saw the horrid shape the two were in, and ran several miles with them to keep them going). After Caitlin stopped at 10 miles, I spent another couple running with Matt, before the two of us parted ways for the remainder. Around this time, Matt asked how the training was going for me--to which I responded "Pretty good...My legs feel really strong. But I'm having a little stiffness in the knees."

Famous last words. By Mile 19, my left knee had turned into a fiery ball of agony with every punctuated hit of my foot on the cursed asphalt. The day, earlier a sunny, beaming, glorious thing, suddenly seemed cruel and eternal. (Needless to say, I am exaggerating. It was, in fact, still a gorgeous day for running.)

Finishing Mile 20 was a study in contrasting emotions for this cat--the sure knowledge that I should have called it quits several miles earlier and rested my sore knee, and that I would certainly be paying for it (I am)...ah, but then...the sure knowledge that my own legs had just carried me 20 MILES. Under my own physical and mental power, I traveled 20 MILES on Sunday.

It's hard to be upset about that. Even if it means a boatload of ibuprofen, ice, and a forced rest from running for the next week. There are days when absolutely nothing matters but the knowledge of what you have done and when the possibilities for what you are capable of doing seem positively endless.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

6.75 on Thurs

Nothing exciting here, as this was pretty much a typical run in Southie for me. Only odd part was that I kept running into people--two neighbors in the span of a mile.

More disappointing--for the second week in a row the damned weather has caused the cancellation of a 20-miler....AAARGH. Was to run this morning, but the streets were a muddy, snowy, thoroughly gross mess. The upside though, is that it looks like there's a run being organized for tomorrow, of 18-20.

I REALLY want to get this distance in already. Sick, I know, but also true. Just want to have it under my belt, and know that my legs will physically carry me the distance. If you can run 20...well, you get my drift.

More tomorrow, post-run, hopefully.