Yesterday I submitted a guest blog to Run Addicts. They published it today! Have yourself a little read, won’t you?
Archive for November, 2010
So why not reflect on the things that have made me a very thankful runner.
- I’m thankful for those that encouraged me when I was a first time runner. Bert. Laura. Matt. Roberto. Mark. Who knows where I’d be had you all not entered my life.
- I am grateful for dri-fit clothing. Unfortunately, I don’t “glow.” I sweat like a pig and wicking technology has made me a much more comfortable athlete. P.S. I am also grateful for cute dri-fit clothes. This girl still likes to look put together even when running.
- I’m thankful for the Monon Trail. Some people hate it as they find it boring, crowded and uninspiring. For me, it’s that familiar pavement that comforts me through each mile. Those mile markers that reward me at every half-mile. The familiar faces I see every Saturday morning.
- Speaking of, I am thankful for Bob. I don’t know his last name or his story. He’s at least 80+ years old and come rain or shine, hot or cold, he’s out there on the Monon. He walks the same strip of pavement with the help of a cane. He pays special attention to the ladies and every time I pass him, he claps for me and gives me a high-five. Once, I was running in 8 degrees on 2 inches of ice. No one was crazy enough to be on the Monon but Bob and me. He hugged me as I passed and it warmed my body from the inside out.
- I am grateful for chocolate milk. My stomach is a complete wreck after every long run and it’s the only thing that not only replenishes calories and protein, but also calms my icky tummy.
- I am grateful for race medals. There is something very Olympian about completing a race and having a medal draped around your neck.
- I am thankful for my treadmill at home. I don’t love running on a treadmill, but it’s nice to have the convenience of escaping to the basement, turning on my DVR and knocking out a few miles. I am also thankful for the many fantastic books that have kept my brain occupied as I plod along on the ‘mill.
- I am grateful for my newest running partners, Kelly & Martha. You are two people I have no intention of letting down. You make me accountable and a better runner. Plus, I adore our conversations (or lack thereof) and the friendships that continue to build mile after mile.
- I am thankful for my race fans. Matthew. Nicki. Nathan. Hunter. Suzanne. Martha. Walker. Caleb. Natalie. Kate. Blake. Jamie. Hayden. Matt. Jason. Adam. Liz. Michael. And my biggest fan, JD. Nothing, and I mean, nothing, re-energizes me more than seeing you on the marathon course.
- For those of you who have inspired me through pure competition, thank you. I am incredibly competitive and so those that are faster than me, who have run more marathons than me, who are cuter than me….it’s you that drives me. I want to continue to grow and you are my moving targets. When I don’t want to get out of bed to run, you are in the back of my mind haunting me. You don’t know who you are, but I do. And I enjoy the friendly competition we have. So thank you.
- I am thankful to have run in some amazing places. Through Vatican City. Through the hills of Amalfi. In the streets of London. Along the river in Boston. I can’t wait to keep adding to the list.
- For “the wall.” I never quite knew what ”hitting the wall” entailed, but had heard other runners talk about it. It wasn’t until mile 20 in the Indy Monumental Marathon this year that I came face to face with it. I am thankful that not only do I know how to recognize you, but I also know that I can run through you.
- For the hills of San Francisco. The further I get away from that race, the more I respect the magnitude of the course. So thank you for giving me perspective on what hills really are.
- For London. I am so utterly grateful to be going in April to run the Virgin London Marathon. I am so blessed for the opportunity.
- And for all the future donors to the Parkinson’s UK fund. My official fundraising for the London Marathon will start soon, and I am thanking you all in advance for your generosity. I know you won’t let me down.
- I am grateful for the supporters of this blog. I love that people find enjoyment in reading my ramblings. And even more, I love that there are many of you who have signed up for a half-marathon or marathon because you feel inspired and empowered. I’ll be there to support you through every mile. Thank you for continuing to give me reasons to write.
I am a lucky girl.
Today I experienced my first spinning class. Sitting here with bruises on my tailbone, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on this first-timer experience.
I woke up this morning knowing that at 11:30am, I was going to head to the YMCA for a spinning class. However, my typical issue with non-running exercise is that I never want to substitute one for the other. And given my usual busy schedule, that’s what has to happen. But today, the world was my oyster so I started the morning off by running 5 miles. Afterwards, I hopped in the shower, changed into fresh workout clothes and headed to the gym. I signed up at 11:10am for the class and was geared up!
When I walked into the room, people were already getting situated. I identified myself as a newbie to Kate, our instructor (who looks like a cross between Peter Pan and Giada). She took one look at me and told me to get water and towels. Um…are we birthing a baby here or just riding a stationary bike for awhile?
I get on my bike and immediately feel that I need those padded biking shorts. The seat digs into my tailbone and yet no one else seems to be bothered so I just start peddling. She cranks up the music, turns off the lights and we get started. At this point, I realize I should have looked at the schedule a little closer because when she says ”We’re together for the next 90 minutes!” I almost fell off the bike. Ninety minutes? I thought we’d do this for 45 minutes! OK…reset expectations. Ignore the burning sensation from the seat. This is going to be fun.
And honestly, it really was. Her music selection combined the best of the ’80s with Ke$ha, Usher and Rhianna. We were doing a tempo ride in the saddle for one song and then the next song, we’d be “climbing,” “racing” and “running.” Sweat poured off my body. At one point we rode with our hands behind our backs and I could barely touch my shirt because it was soaked. We were working! My legs burned with each quarter-rotation in resistance and I lived for the moments where we could “ride on a flat road.” Each song meant a different combination of moves and my personal favorite was doing “jumps” to Abba. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the 90-minutes flew by, but I was still smiling at the end.
Lessons learned from this experience:
- There is no need to run before spinning. Ninety minutes with Piada (Peter Pan + Giada) was plenty and I am certain I could rock some of those “steady climb” exercises better with fresh legs.
- Wear spandex shorts/capri pants. I wore running shorts and had to keep messing with them to keep them situated with the seat.
- Get there early to sign up and then at least 10 minutes early to get your bike ready and in position.
- Bring lots of water and multiple towels. Not because you will be performing a home birth, but because your heart rate will hover in the 180s the entire time.
- Find a resistance scale that works for you. A full turn for Piada may mean a half-turn for me as I start building up those muscles.
I’ll definitely be back as it was a fun group exercise that clearly worked my bum off (quite literally, I presume). However, I won’t return in the next couple of days because I will be sitting on an inflatable donut for awhile.
It’s been ten days since the marathon and since then, I have had a very active social life. Going out with friends, eating good food, drinking red wine and loving that I don’t have to plan for my next training run. It’s lovely to go to work without my gym bag. I enjoy knowing that my weeknight plans don’t have to revolve around a planned run. I don’t feel bad when I drink that extra Diet Coke mid-afternoon rather than water. And my laundry load has been significantly lightened. In a word: glorious. But it has to end.
In addition to the risk of gaining weight (like those awesome 6 lbs. I packed on back in May/June when I was in between marathons), I also don’t want to lose my fitness level by stopping running. I know my body and mind need a break from the wear and tear of training, but at the same time, my body really likes me right now. Two marathons in three weeks and not a single injury. When running, I feel swift and speedy, smooth and easy. So how do I find the balance of giving my body a much-deserved reprieve without losing what I have built?
I really don’t know the answer. I know that I could technically start training as early as mid-December for the London Marathon and as late as mid-January. So for the next 4-8 weeks, I need to find a balance. I also know that without a plan, I won’t keep running (as evidenced by the May/June time frame). So here is what I am thinking: Run 4 times a week with an average of 20-30 miles total, and my long run ranging from 8-12 miles. Maybe, I could even try new things like swimming or going to my very first spinning class. (But LBS (let’s be serious), I’ve said these things before and like the New-Year-Resolutioners that buy a gym membership on January 1st and don’t go back after mid January, non-running exercise never lasts with me). So we’ll give this a whirl and I hope to enter my next training plan with a body that is rested, but that can still knock out a half marathon without too much effort.
Speaking of training plan…what to choose? I have used Hal Higdon’s programs three times. They run for 18-weeks and by the end, I usually hate running. I am burned out. So this summer, I decided to try something new. I found a girl’s blog online who is a serious marathoner and followed her plan. It was 15 weeks long and varied from 4 to 6 days of running per week, which I liked. However, due to a very busy summer, I skipped more long runs than anyone should. Yet I wonder -was taking a shorter-duration training program and not pushing my body to excruciatingly long runs every Saturday better for me? Is that the reason my joints feel fine and I haven’t been injured? I haven’t figured this out yet. But I know that whatever training program I am going to do, there will be more consistent tempo and interval runs. And no hills necessary. (Hooray!)
On Friday night, my husband says to me: “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I am telling you about your 30th birthday gift early. Also, you have to work really hard for this gift. The good news is that you are going to be running the London Marathon.”
Man does he know me well. I am beyond thrilled. This is more than just another marathon. It combines three life passions into one very special trip.
First, Running. The Virgin London Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors. Boston, London, Chicago, New York and Brazil are the top 5 Marathons throughout the world. This will be my first time participating in one of the big ones…but maybe I’ll add the whole series to my bucket list! (Granted, since Boston is a qualifiying race, at my pace I’ll be 60 before I am eligible).
Second, it’s London. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am obsessed with London. I had the most amazing opportunity to live there for 6 months in college. I worked for Ernst & Young, Global right in the heart of Mayfair, on the Strategic Planning Team. I was 20 years old, living on my own, in a foreign city, and getting paid for it (quite handsomely I must add). Professionally, the experience was unmatched. I worked on projects for the Global CEO of EYG. I spent months right in the eye of the Arthur Anderson/Enron storm, while able to see Big Ben from the office. I planned events for people across the world. Surrounding me were smart, ambitious people who mentored me and taught me things like the proper way to order a screwdriver (Vodka Orange), pronounce aluminum (al-you-min-ee-um), and the difference between “pants” and “trousers.”
Personally, my “coming of age” novel also happened in London. I become independent through the process of finding my own place to live and paying bills for the first time (and trust me, I have fantastic stories about living in the tiniest flat imaginable with Christof and Leon from France, sharing a bathroom, showering with a sink faucet and doing laundry in the bathtub). I also consciously made the decision to reinvent myself when I was over there. Meeting new people, making friends, establishing myself professionally - I had the chance to choose who I wanted to be. And I chose a confident, smart, gregarious, caring person. The core of who I am today was refined by those 6 months. It’s no wonder that London holds a special place in my heart. It’s the most amazing city in the world and I will happily take someone to the mattresses who thinks otherwise. It’s my safe place. The city that breathes warmth into my heart and soul.
And lastly, I am raising money for and running on behalf of Parkinson’s UK – the largest charity funder for Parkinson’s research and support in the UK. My dad has Parkinson’s Disease. He’s been suffering from PD for almost 15 years. It first started as a little tremor and slower movements. But now, many years later, every single action of his life is affected. He hasn’t driven in over 2 years. He can’t write. He has difficulty swallowing so most food options are off the table and he drools constantly. Walking is very difficult due to dsykinesia, freezing, and shuffling. His arms swing in big motions without him realizing it. And talking is a struggle. He has to focus on every single sound and syllable to try to get his brain to speak to his muscles. You see, Parkinson’s patients suffer from a lack of dopamine in their brain. If you think of the brain as a series of gears that operate in sync with each other…dopamine is the oil that keeps them running. Without it, they stick. They malfunction. And no matter what the cocktail of pills he takes each day, there is no cure. One medicine solves the tremor, but adds the dyskinesia. One fixes the dyskinesia, but makes the rigidity worse. There are always side effects. He was lucky enough to have Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery 6 years ago which definitely slowed the progression of the disease. But it IS a progressive disease. His days aren’t getting any easier.
And here is the thing…he’s the nicest man you’ll ever know. Even as a child I used to say that if I grew up to have half of his kindness, I would still be an amazingly good person. He never complains. He has an inner strength that you would never know about because he walks softly, carrying a big stick. Watching him go through this year after year, day after day breaks my heart. I am a controlling person and yet have absolutely no control over this. I can’t stop him from hurting. But, on April 17th, I can run in honor of him and the millions of others that battle this disease. And I will raise money. Buckets and boatloads of it. I will sing his story to every person who reads this blog, follows me on Twitter and has shaken my hand.
And then, I will run 26.2 miles because I can and in honor of those who can’t.
London, baby. We’re going to London.
4:28:25. BHAG is in the bag!
Let’s break it down. Saturday morning was cold. 28 degrees cold. My plan was to wear two long sleeved shirts, running tights, gloves and a headband throughout the race. But before every race, I layer up with some throw away clothes to ward off the chills. Unfortunately, my supply of toss-away, long sleeved tshirts is dwindling after all of these races. So this time I chose a holiday sweater. We have a couple of them from past “ugly holiday sweater” parties and so as I am standing at the start line, trying to look fierce in the face of 26.2 miles, my chest is covered in sequined snowmen and teddy bears. I got plenty of strange looks before I discarded it at mile 1.
I started off with Annette but knew it was short-lived. She’s faster than me and I didn’t want to slow her down, or for her to speed me up. We parted right before I threw away the snowman sweater. My race plan was to hover around the 10:10/mile pace, but for the first 13 miles, I was consistently running around a 9:56/mile pace and couldn’t seem to slow myself down. I knew that eventually that would catch up to me, but I felt good so just went for it. For some reason, this race really didn’t feel like 26.2. Compared to San Fran, where it was by far the longest 4:41:44 of my life…Saturday morning seemed to fly by. I think the main reason is that I was able to break the race down in small chunks.
The first 5 mile chunk was quick and easy. At mile 4, I saw friends Martha and Suzanne cheering loudly (with a cowbell) and saw my friend Lindsay at mile 5. The crowd of runners dwindled significantly when the half-marathoners split off at mile 6.5 so I latched on to a small group that seemed to be at my same pace. I had planned to go as long as possible without turning my iPod on and made it all the way to mile 8 before it became a necessity. I have never run a race with my iPhone and every time it vibrated my bicep, I knew it was another text rolling in. I read them at mile 9 and loved seeing all the encouraging words and positive messages.
I knew I had friends at mile 10 so plugged along through the middle chunk of miles, letting Bill Maher’s political humor keep me company. I literally did an Irish jig when I saw my friends Jason, Caleb and Natalie screaming my name (they also snapped this great pic of JD!) I can’t express enough how much it means to have people out there cheering for you. If there is a benefit to running a race in your hometown, this is it.
The next little chunk was from 10-12, where my friend (the other Jason) was. I was excited to see him at mile 12 and celebrated the halfway point being near. Mentally, I knew I just had 3 more miles before I could see friends but the miles between 14-20 are always very hard for me. I am halfway done, but there are still so many more miles, it’s hard not to let the mind games start. During this time, I switched over to music, kept a steady pace and let the sun finally warm me up. I was actually quite comfortable during the race, except for my fingers. I mentioned circulation issues in the last post and spent a good portion of those middle miles trying to shake my hands and keep blood flowing to them.
At mile 15.5, I saw Martha and Suzanne again. They asked me how I was feeling and I admitted for the first time that things were starting to get tough. My legs were tight. The 10 min/mile pace I had been trying to keep felt labored. At mile 16, I saw my entire group of friends. Blake, Kate, Mike, Jamie, Hayden, Jason, Caleb, Natalie. They were cheering and screaming and I wanted to reach out and hug every one of them. It gave me the boost I needed to get through the next couple of miles.
At mile 17.5, I saw my friend Michael. He and I used to work together and the course passed right by his house. Earlier in the week he told me if I needed a bathroom break I could go there, and I highly contemplated it. I knew a pit stop would be necessary but plugged along hoping to find an empty porta-potti along the course. Around Butler, the Pi Phis were passing out water. I seriously thought about giving them the secret handshake.
These miles were tough. It was slightly hilly, boring and my legs were failing me. I kept thinking of that video I saw where two women finished an IronMan race on their knees, crawling across the finish line. I was resolved to finish…whether on legs or all fours. Martha was waiting for me at the IMA and I couldn’t wait to get to her. She ran the Marine Corps Marathon just a week beforeand told me she’d run part of this race with me. Honestly, I don’t know that I could have done it without her. From the moment she popped along beside me, she was my Sherpa. My cheerleader. She told me stories as we ran through 100 Acres. She fed me gossip as we ran by the Naval Artillery. She held my gloves when I finally found a porta-potti without a line. She handed me IBprofen.
By far, the worst miles on the course are 20-23. It’s boring. Quiet. Zero spectators. My legs were screaming and I pushed as hard as I could and yet my pace was dragging. I didn’t want to eat jelly beans, but my Sherpa told me to. When I wanted to walk, she only let me for a few seconds before we’d run again. When I wanted to throw away my new fanny pack, she took it instead and wore it. She looked up other runners’ times for me and kept my mind occupied. When we finally got to mile 23, it’s a straight shot down Meridian. Her brother was picking her up at 14th and Meridian which meant she ran miles 19-24 with me. When my quads felt frozen and my legs burned with pain, Martha kept me going by telling me my stride was good and that I was a rockstar. At one point, she ran ahead through a water station and yelled “This is Meggie Dials everyone. She’s amazing! Cheer for her.” When I approached, they all clapped and loudly cheered “Go Peggy! You can do it.” I couldn’t help but laugh. At another water station, they handed out chocolate – little Reece’s Peanut Butter cups. She unwrapped it and fed it to me. I can’t tell you how much I needed that sugar. Soon after, she left and from that point on, my energy surged. I don’t know if it was the candy or maybe just wanting to make Martha – my savior- proud of me, but I kicked up my heels. I was back under a 10 minute pace with 2 miles to go. I rounded through the circle, listening to “Defying Gravity” from the Wicked soundtrack. I ran up Capital listening to “Regulators” and when I hit the 26 mile marker, I turned off the music, dug in and sprinted towards the finish. My coworkers and friends were screaming my name and I crossed the finish line with a smile. I didn’t shed a single tear the entire day.
I knew immediately that I had hit my BHAG – under a 4:29! Josh and Annette were waiting for me and they both did amazing. Annette finished at 4:23:24 and my husband did a 2:57:29. That’s a 6:47 pace. He’s unreal…literally I can’t even describe how proud of him I am.
Saturday we celebrated with friends. Yesterday I ate cupcakes and drank more wine than anyone should on a Sunday. Today I am sore but it’s a constant reminder of success, so I don’t mind one bit. My body needs a break from running, albeit a short one. There’s another race on the horizon…but that’s for another post.
Thank you for your support. Your words and cheers. For those who followed online and to the friends that texted me in the middle of the race. To my cheerleaders on the course – this race was fun because of you. And to Martha, who truly carried me through the hardest miles of the race. I love you all.
In less than 24 hours, I will be huddled in a crowd of people, listening for the gun to start the Monumental Marathon. It will be cold and dark and 26.2 miles awaiting me. And hopefully, I will be calm. Marathon #5.
All week I have been ignoring the fact that this race is before me. But with so little time left, I have some things to think about. My biggest unknown is how I will pace myself. I am not using a pacer (for reasons previously discussed) so I am going at it alone. But this time, without my trusty GPS watch that tells me my pace every instant. (I left mine in Jamaica last spring, so JD and I share and since I have already had my big marathon, he gets both the Garmin and the iPod nano tomorrow. I get a Timex and my iPhone.)
So for the first mile, I’ll just have to gauge my pace by feeling and then fall into stride hopefully soon after at a consistent pace. But what should that pace be? JD asked me last night why I signed up for this race. Because if I am proud of my San Fran race (which I am), he thinks I should go for it – leave nothing on the table and push myself as hard as I can. Hmm…what an interesting concept. Normally, I try to think of marathons as a smooth, steady race where I am pushing myself, but never too hard because there are always so many more miles to run. And when there are only a few miles left to go, I give everything I have just to get through it. That’s the smart way to run it. Isn’t it? But his question opened up new thoughts: should I be adopting more of a racer attitude – be comfortable knowing that I am going to be really uncomfortable for 4+ hours? Run at a faster pace throughout and see how long I can maintain, knowing I may crash and burn at mile 18 and have to walk it in?
In addition to pace, what am I going to wear? It’s going to be high 20s at the start which means lots of layers. I also have a circulation disorder that I have to consider given the extended period of time I’ll be out in the chilly weather.
And then there is entertainment. Will my iPhone battery hold up for the entire race? I need to research some power-saving tips to ensure I don’t lose my music!
I also need to pick up a new fuel belt at the race expo today. My previous fanny pack is probably still laying on a curb, mile 23 in San Fran.
These are the things I still need to tackle. I am a procrastinator at heart so it’s not unusual for me to have so many unknowns at the very last minute. I just hope that by the time we are carb loading at my favorite Indianapolis restaurant (Mama Carolla’s) tonight, I will have it all figured out. And luckily, our friend, Annette, will be staying with us tonight. She ran Chicago and will be running tomorrow’s marathon as well (I give full credit to her for the “I am a warrior” mantra). I know she, along with JD, will have good, sound advice.
Once again, thank you to all of you who have sent me cards, messages, tweets, texts. Your support humbles me. Knowing I have friends who will be cheering for me at miles 10, 11, 16, 17 and then my friend Martha, waiting at the IMA to run a few miles with me…will truly fuel me through every mile. No matter how strong I may sound about this race, it’s still very emotional for me. Which was evidenced this morning as I let the tears roll down my face as I watched yet another video sent to me by my friend, Pete. Thank you.
Good luck to all the other runners…Amy, Meghan and Adam in the half. Eric, Annette, Megan and JD in the full. Tomorrow is going to be an amazing day.
P.S. – If you want to track me…you can here! http://tracking.theendresultco.com/2010/imm/index.php
I hardly slept last night. Granted, I did have the pleasure of cleaning up dog vomit in the middle of the night (cheers, Harper!) But mostly, I lay in bed, wide awake, thinking about this marathon. With only 4 days until I embark on 26.2 again, I am trying not to freak out. Up until this point, my stay calm strategy has been to ignore the subject altogether. But despite the fact that I get this sick feeling in my stomach just thinking about it, I must face the music, find focus and create a race plan.
I don’t know why I get so nervous. This is marathon #5. I’ve been down this road before and quite literally…this very same road. I completed this race last year and had my best time to date. Rationally, I can calm myself down with the simple facts. I did the same distance less than 3 weeks ago. I’m not injured and feel that my body has recovered quite well. I’m running faster than I ever have. The weather will be chilly, with just a high of 43 degrees. But it’s not like San Fran was winning my heart with her piercing wind, sideways rain and cold temps. My last marathon was a 4:41:44 which included lots of walking and a bathroom stop. Assuming I can keep the feet in motion throughout the entire race, I’ll beat that easily. And most importantly, the course is flat. Oh mercy me is it flat.
Let’s review. The biggest hill on the Monumental Marathon course is a fifty foot ascent at mile 16.
So the evidence is on my side. Beyond a reasonable doubt, I can say with confidence that I’ve got this. But it doesn’t stop me from letting that self-doubt creep in. I still lay awake in bed, thinking of how to prevent the evil voices from talking to me during the race. I kept them at bay in San Fran without falter. Can I do it again on Saturday? I hope so. I think so. I’ve got nothing to worry about. Repeat after me. Nothing. To worry about.