Thursday, October 29, 2009

Part Two: The End

I can now proudly say that I have two full marathons under my belt, and I beat my previous time [(albeit by 1 minute), though, to be honest, I feel I could have easily broken 5 hours on a flatter course…which means I want to test that theory by completing just one more marathon. I have my sights set on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this time (let’s just hope they have had enough time to learn from their mistake back in 2007). The Chicago Marathon is in the Fall (like Nike)…putting that together…I will be training during summer again (Ugh! Me no likey the heat). So, cats and kittens, if anyone wants to come with me to either run the marathon, or sightsee in Chicago afterwards - start planning now! You have approximately 1 year to schedule time off :)]

I know I thank people a lot on here - but, again, a BIG thank you to my parents and Juan for coming out to support me on marathon day! The pictures you took during and afterwards have reconfirmed my belief that I look awesomely terrible when I run.

As for the trip and race itself…

I felt like a little kid on the morning of Christmas when I got on my Virgin America flight 2 days before the marathon: I hadn’t slept more then 4 hours, I was hoping that the man with the big flying mobile was going to bring me something good, and I had an anxious leap in my stomach every time I thought about what was just about to happen.

I had booked my westward bound flight to be the same one as my team so that I could have some companions on the long journey (though I spent most of the trip asleep). I had traveled solo to Alaska, and although I didn’t mind it too much when I was in the air, I was thankful to have someone I already knew at the designation when I landed (who also happened to pick me up from the airport). Since I went with my Team, I was able to hop on the prepaid bus with everyone else, and not have to worry about whether or not I was going to arrive at the correct local.

We were staying in the downtown section of San Francisco, just 2 measly blocks away from Union Square (a.k.a. the start line), with some of the other chapters - who all seemed to arrive at just the same moment we did to check-in. Fan-tabulous. We all stood in the windy, long line on the second floor of the
Parc 55, waiting to see if our room was ready and we could check in early. Everyone in front of me seemed to be having luck, and I even texted my mentor and teammate, Kristy, (who had arrived slightly before us) to see if she got into her room - which, she, of course, did. I could not wait to get a shower.

I get up to the counter, “Name’s Mozer, Lauren” and…

“I’m sorry miss, your room won’t be ready until 3 pm today.” It was then 10 something in the AM. I slowly took a look back at my luggage and sighed. Since my medium sized bag had broken recently on a trip to Texas, I was forced to use my gargantuan roller bag instead (that I proceeded to pack until Virgin America needed to strap a “HEAVY” tag on it for the poor guys hefting it into the airplane’s belly), as well as bringing along my bookbag, and large purse. They gave me the option of leaving all of it downstairs at the concierge desk for the time being, but that still didn’t take care of the whole showering issue. I felt gross and just wanted to rinse away my 5 hour plane ride before hitting the streets of San Francisco for the first time.

Luckily Kristy arrived in the lobby moments later, and graciously allowed me to use her room for my primping needs while she headed out to pick up her race day packet and window shop for awhile. Fifteen minutes later, I felt and looked much better. After I finished getting ready (cough…another 30 or so minutes later…), our other team member and my marathon roommate, Wendy, had arrived into town with her boyfriend - completing our trio (well, quartet, including Greg).

We headed out, and up. I knew San Fran had big hills, but I didn’t realize that there would be nothing BUT hills everywhere. You are constantly going up or down a hill no matter what direction you are headed. You were headed north up a hill, and then decided to make a quick left west down a side street, and are now…still going up a hill? What in the…? The day, however, was absolutely gorgeous (though a tad warmer then what I had been expecting), making whatever we did that morning enjoyable. Plus, I was in California! Life was good.

When we arrived it was sunny and just around 78 outside. I didn’t need more then jeans and a tee-shirt to walk around in - which was fine for the first day, but seeing as how I packed mostly light sweaters and thin jackets - anticipating a more Fall like atmosphere - I was nervous I would have to buy a completely new wardrobe for my 5 day trip. It ultimately worked out just fine, and I had brought just the right amount of cooler clothes with me. (Side note re: weather - I had also apparently planned my trip perfectly, seeing the East Coast had massive amounts of flooding and chilling temperatures from almost the moment I left, but yet when I flew back the next week, I was coming into sunshine and 70 degree temperature. Thanks weather gods!)

My immediate impression of SF (aside from the hilly streets) was that it reminded me very much of New York, NY - only (I hate to say it) not as good (though MUCH better smelling). We were staying strictly in the downtown section (read - skyscrapers and chain clothing stores), and I hadn’t made it to the water yet (which I wanted to note immediately after making my “SF looked like NYC” comment, since I got MANY sideways glances after verbalizing my initial observation while still in Cali), staying between Market Street and Washington Street, traveling briefly into Chinatown looking for a cookie factory [that we never found :( ]

After a bit of walking around, and a quick bite to eat at a very cute Irish pub (with outside seating), we headed back over to Union Square so Wendy and I could pick up our race day packets as well. On our way down (yes, finally, down!) Post Street, we ran smack into Nike Town where a crowd of women gathered on the sidewalk to find their name on the (wait for it…its quite profound…) “Wall of Names.”

The “Wall of Names” holds every name of every runner who signed up to do either the Half or the Full Marathon, which of course brings out everyone’s narcissistic side as they clamber to locate their name, screaming “I found it!” proceeded by, “Take my picture! Take my picture!” to some family member/ friend/ spouse standing back away from the crowd with camera in hand. I was no different or better (as you can tell by my picture).

We then walked across the street to the big tent set up in Union Square and waited in line to get our race day packets, which included: race number, a few coupons to use later, some sport beans, a granola bar/ fruit bar thing and our race chip. We decided not to spend too much time in the expo since it was ubber crowded, and planned on coming back early the next morning to get our free manicures, fruit smoothies, and flavored oxygen (Ooo La La!). Feeling a little tired and needing to check- in we headed back to the hotel and made some dinner reservations down in North Beach (where my parents were staying, so I gave them a quick call so that they could meet up with us). Once we were inside the room we took advantage of the time and started to organize and get ready for the next few days ahead.

Saturday we stayed true to our word and got up early for free manicures and smoothies (I passed on the flavored oxygen), and then decided to walk down to the Embarcadero to do some more sight seeing and picture taking. We took the flattest route we could find (Market Street) and walked at a leisurely pace. After checking out a cute outdoor market, snapping shots in front of the Bay Bridge (side note - did you hear that the Bay Bridge is now closed indefinitely? Talk about a scary commute home from work!), walking down the boardwalk and checking out some of the Piers (I'm on Pier 7 in the video),

I met up with my folks and cabbed it up to Fisherman’s Wharf. Hello tourist trap! I did enjoy getting my first look at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in person, and seeing the Pier 39 seals (noisy suckers). After lunch we grabbed a trolley ride back downtown so that we could get ready for the Inspiration Dinner Team In Training organized for us. At some point during the day Kristy had to run over to our lead staffer, Jenny, and pick up a few things from her. While there, Jenny handed Kristy some personal notes our head coach had made for every single Nike participant from our chapter. Since he, Coach Charlie, went through all the trouble of making these for us - and I thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen - I thought i'd share my card with all of you:

Tell me that didn't make you smile.

The room for this dinner was two times the size of the one we had in Alaska. EVERY Team In Training chapter participates in this event since the entire marathon (whether you did it through TNT or not) benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. After wafting through the crowds of people and cheering coaches, we headed over to the buffet tables, grabbed some food and drinks, and navigated our way up to the front where the National Chapter’s tables were.

The food was decent, but the speakers were top notch. We had Joan Benoit, who was the first woman to win a gold medal in the marathon in 1984, a woman, around my age, who not only watched her mother and father deal with Hodgkin's Lymphoma as a young girl, but was diagnosed herself a few years ago with the disease and became a direct beneficiary of funds provided by LLS to help her cover her medical expense (amazing story. I was surprised I wasn’t crying), and, finally, John "The Penguin" Bingham once again showed up and ended the evening with a bang and a laugh. I was the only one at my table who had seen him “perform” before at a LLS dinner. Favorite quotes from that evening’s performance:

“I have been told that during the Victory Party I will be in the game room playing something called Wii. Now, I don’t know what that is, but that would so be like San Francisco, wouldn’t it? We can all go ‘Wee’ in the game room.”

“Now, for all of you that have run a marathon before you have had a personal experience with the next thing I’m about to talk about - but for all you newcomers, let me warn you that, I don’t know when, but at some point during the race tomorrow you will experience what I like to refer to as the ‘bite-me zone.’ It could be the person you spill all your secrets to, the person who has stood next to you during the toughest of times, you love this person with all your heart, however, you will get into this zone and if they open their mouth, or heck, look at you…‘Shut up! Just shut up would you! No one CARES what you have to say. NO ONE!!! Get the hell away from me!’” (More on my personal experience in the bite me zone later…)

After everyone had eaten their fill, and the speakers were done inspiring us - we filed out of the Moscone Center and headed for our respective hotels. I hugged my parents goodbye, attended a brief meeting with the TNT coaches and staff to talk about logistics for the following morning, and went back to my room to iron on my name to my jersey, puffy paint my neon green visor and lay out everything I needed the following morning in a convenient location. By this point (9 pm PST or 12 am EST), I was exhausted and ready to get some sleep. And I did, like a log.

The alarm went off around 5:15 am, Wendy and I got up and started the process of putting on our race gear. Body Glide on entire body - check, sport sunscreen applied - check, race number pinned to jersey - check, timer chip attached to shoes - check and OW! As I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to lift my right leg onto my left knee to adjust my shoelaces to accommodate the chip a dull ache shot from the tips of my toes all the way to my right glut muscle. It was too painful to keep that position and I put my leg back on the floor. Hoping that maybe that was just a fluke spasm, I tried again - ouch! Nope. I started to panic slightly and think back on the last few days. Darn those hills! I started pacing the room to warm my legs slightly, and then began to stretch out my IT band and hamstring. Wendy was even nice enough to let me use her stick. After working on it awhile, it still wasn’t feeling any better - but what was I going to do? Not run the marathon? Hardly. I changed my running plan slightly, and decided to start the marathon off at a slower minute per mile pace to help relax the muscle. I wasn’t thrilled, but I also knew that our first intermediate hill was at mile 3 and I wasn’t going to Charlie Horse and have to be carted off the course. No way, no how. So after accepting my fate, we headed to the lobby to meet up with the rest of our team and walk over to the start line (two blocks away).

After Kristy, Wendy and I dropped off our bags and did our port-o-potty rotation, we headed down Geary Street to locate our pace group (denoted by one person who volunteered to hold a pole with a sign attached to the top of it, which listed the pace they were running and time they were going to finish at, for the entire marathon. Insane.). The race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am PST (10:00 am EST), and by the time we got in place, we had about 10 minutes until the gun and then however long after that until we crossed the finish line (turned out to be 15 minutes or so after the gun went off). True to form, as soon as we were settled I had to go to the bathroom again. I looked back to where I’d have to go to hit the restroom line again, and thought better of it. I knew I’d never find Kristy and Wendy again, and I wanted to at least start the race with them, especially with the way my leg was feeling.

It would have been nice to have my camera with me at this point, though there was just no way I was going to carry it with me for 26.2 miles. Being in the sea of people (mostly women), a lot of them with the LLS purple on, was incredible and hard to describe. Since most of the “death march” to the start line was spent with my eyes on the immediate ground in front of me, making sure I didn’t trip over anything, it was hard to focus on anything other then, “left, right, left, (rock), right, (curb), left, right, (pothole)…”

I missed a lot of the ambiance of the beginning of the race. Luckily, I can count on

Thank you MoshBrown for this video. She did an excellant job capturing a lot of the course - especially the beginning. The slow shuffle you see everyone doing before hitting the Start Line is exactly what I am referring to when I say "death march"

LaTeenCulture also created a great short video which shows more of the course, and gets a few people speaking about the experience (the second tux guy - the one in sunglasses - was the one who handed me my necklace!):

And last, but not least...someone was nice enough to stand on the curb, right past the start line, and videotape the whole begin of the marathon. I couldn’t find me in the massive crowd - but seeing as how I crossed around 15 minutes past the gun, I’m in one of the later videos (somewhere, probably -I'm like a female "Where's Waldo?" - purple shirt, black stretchy pants, green visor. If you find me, let me know!). If you have some time to kill - enjoy :)

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

And finally, Part 4 of 4

We crossed the finished line and took off at a jog. I clicked my watch to start the timer, and tried to get in the mindset that I wasn’t going to stop running for the next few hours.

I saw Juan, who had arrived the night before, right off the bat (so great!) and after that my mind kind of goes blank for the next mile or 2. I did stop off at the bathroom, where NO ONE seemed to understand the importance of “pee quick and go” - I stood in line no less then 10 minutes. It was nerve wracking. Not because I had to go so badly, but because I was frustrated that I had not only lost my running partners, but had lost so much time and could no longer see the 4:40 pace sign! 10 minutes can be the difference of an entire mile for me. I tried not to get discouraged, and thought about how I’d make up the time later. I also didn’t want to step out of line because I knew the same scenario would present itself at the next bathroom stop (whenever that was) and I did kind of have to go. So, once I was able to get back on the course, I picked up pace - slightly.

The next thing I remember - I was at the first intermediate hill and Coach Chip (who had coached me during Mayor’s) was there cheering me on and reminding me to take smaller steps and keep my shoulders loose. I ran up the hill, and the next thing I remember after that was that I was coming down the other side of that hill, at mile 4, and I hear, “Lauren! Lauren! Woo hoo - Lauren!” I was disoriented, still focusing on my lost time, so it took me a minute to realize it was my parents yelling out to me. Yeah! It was so good to see them, and definitely broke me out of my funk. I trotted along, feeling pretty good.

Since I really only remember snippets of the next few miles, I will give you a brief overview of what I remember:

- The first big hill I decided to walk partly up because I was running just as fast as I could walk it.

- At the top of that hill was a gorgeous view of the Bay, and I remember huffing and puffing, keeping my head down slightly, then looking to my right at the top and, “Oh, isn’t that pretty!”

- At Mile 5 I knew I was going to finish the race and became very very excited that I was finally out there running. My leg had loosened up and I couldn’t wait to cross that finish line. (See - I told you I don't like running until mile 5...)

- Another hill, I can’t remember if it was the next big one or not, was the part of the course where they gave us slices of oranges. I don’t eat when I run (other then Luna Moons) so I bypassed this section and then spent the next 1/2 mile or so dodging peels on the road, nearly slipping a few times. I guess every course has to have a, “What were you thinking when you planned this?” section. This was Nike's.

- Nike picked some GREAT "Power Songs" for us to listen to at the designated sections. Can’t tell you exactly what they were (my gut says 80’s) - but I remember jamming out to them! [No headphones at all for this race for me :)!!!]

- Safeway (a sponsor of the event) and random spectators all made a good showing with their signs – most were specified towards a certain runner, others were witty, or inspirational, but my absolute favorite of the day was literally written on an index card and all it said was, “Go!” For some reason I got a giggle out of it. It was short, sweet, and to the point.

- Speaking of…at some point I ran into Kristy and her friend Erin (Wendy was apparently up ahead), and we were able to chat for a bit about how the course was going.

When we hit the portion of the course (around mile 12) that herded the half marathoners in one direction, and the marathoners in the other (it's in MoshBrown's vid), I thought two things: 1) Oh thank goodness there won’t be so many people on the course anymore! and, 2) okay, next time I’m near this section I’ll be finishing the marathon!

After the halfers moved on, they had us do a long U turn before entering Golden Gate Park - which allowed us to pass some people coming down the other side. I spotted my teammates Anita and Wendy! They both looked like they were doing great. I had devilish thought (just for a second) that I could hop over to the other side and join her. The only thing separating me from the other side were sparsely set up cones…but, no. I didn’t want to get a lower time by cheating - not after all the work I had put into training. Darn my morals!

The park was pretty, and I tried to enjoy it and not to hate those that were just out for a brisk Sunday jog (still not in my bite me zone yet). As I was on the way out I ran into a familiar and friendly face, Wendy’s boyfriend, Greg, pops up on the course and starts jogging with me…in jeans, and stylish, non-running sneakers. Oh Greg, how sweet! He also tried to snap a few shots of me, but, not wanting to stop, it took a few attempts before he was able to get a clear shot. Apparently, that day Greg ran further then he had EVER – all in the name of keeping his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s friends company – awl, what a sweetie!

Next memory is of the stretch of course next to the beach when I hit mile 16. My parents were waiting on the median with homemade signs and their camera. My mom and dad had huge grins on their faces, and my dad was waving his sign back and forth to make sure I saw – unfortunately, it was upside down. I still have no idea what he wrote on it. As I was headed up, I tried to tell him so that he would turn it around, but in his excitement (and after probably standing around in the cold awhile) it didn’t click until I was almost passed him. He jumped out on the road with me to ask him how I was feeling and if I needed anything. I was in a good mindset at this point in the race. I had passed the mile marker for 16 a little while back, which means I just had to go 5 up and 5 back to be done. I could do that – no sweat. I told him I was good, and he asked me if I wanted him to run with me some more, “Nope!” and I took off down the lane. The race coordinators had set the course up so as we were headed up from mile 16 – 19, we could see the people who were about to finish on the other side. This screwed with my head in many ways.

1) Seeing them finish made me think that there wasn’t far for me to go (though I’m not sure why, since I new I had 10 miles left to run. Probably because there is a point in which your brain just turns off logical thinking when you run this far. Your body just can’t handle running that long and making rational connections at the same time. At least, mine can’t),

2) with this euphoria of thinking that I was almost at the turn around point, when I came to the part where I thought I would U Turn, like before, it was time to run around the (dauntingly large looking) lake,

3) I had completely forgotten about the Merced Lake and seeing it completely took the wind out of my sails. EVERYONE I have talked with since the race has said that the lake was the hardest section for them – and all because it was a mind scrambler.

In reality, it was only 3 miles of the course, but coming up to it looks twice that long. Not only is the first impression tough, but it’s lonely out there (besides all the traffic that was let through and we had to run next to), there are many tiny hills you are constantly going up and down (this is the part of the race where I started to throw curses at the hills in my head – not the big hills, all the stupid, nagging, little hills that never seemed to end. Can we get a little “flat” here please? Thanks.), and I was completely disoriented as to where the ending point of this never ending circle was (this was probably the hardest to deal with of the three). I had now hit the bite me zone – for all 3 miles. Mile 22, just like the last marathon, was the absolute worst for me - mentally. It had been 6 miles since I had seen my family last, and although I hadn’t minded my father running with me at Mile 16, I started to get angry about the possibility of him running with me after I broke free from the lake.

“He better not. He doesn’t know how this feels and then he is going to be asking me all of these unnecessary questions. He shouldn’t ask me questions. He shouldn’t even talk to me. I bet he’ll jump out again and be smiling and will pat me on the back. He better not pat me on the back. Oh, he better NOT run with me. How dare he think he should run with me!”

I couldn’t believe how angry I was over something that hadn’t even happened yet, and had a good possibility of not happening at all. My poor father, who flew across the country to love and support me, who stood in the freeze wind for hours waiting for his daughter to get done her marathon, was now, unnecessarily, getting yelled at in my head. What kind of terrible person am I?

I feel bad NOW, but when I was in the bite me zone, the anger just radiated through my body. Word to the wise: if you know of someone who is running a race, and they hit the bite me zone – just back away, quickly. Trust me when I say, you do not want to get caught up in their bite.

When I finally did come back around to the other side of the lake, it was like finding my stride all over again. Sure, I was sore and, according to my watch, I was about 30 minutes off of my goal time (I blame the hills, my sore leg/ glut and the long port-o-john line), but I had hit the part of the course that was now all down hill (woo hoo!) and only 2 miles from the finish line. I picked up speed, and just let myself coast for the next 1.5 miles. I decided not to look around to much and focus on my goal – the finish line. I ran into Coach Mikey around mile 25, and he kept pace with me for a little while. When he fell back, he let me know that I looked strong and happy.

“It’s all an illusion.” He got a good chuckle out of that.

I came to the last ½ mile. Coaches, finishers, spectators all crowded the sides and cheered us on as we came in. I picked up more speed and just strided into the finish line. I walked up to the nearest tuxedoed man, who handed me the ever coveted eggshell blue box, and felt joy and sadness that the adventure was now over. Did I really just complete my second marathon? Wow. I proceeded towards the finisher exit where I handed over my time chip (I could actually lift my leg to the stool they set up, I was pretty proud!), and then was bombarded with bagels, bananas, granola bars, coupons, our mylar wrap and – luckily – a bag to put it all in. (Dear volunteers, we, who just finished a marathon, are lacking motor skills. Please give us a few extra seconds to situate ourselves so we don’t drop things on the ground. Kind regards, me).

My parents found me disturbingly quick, and the next thing I know Juan is by my side. Great job guys! After a few pictures, and the donning of my Tiffany’s Necklace (e.g. race medal) I checked in at the TNT tent, sent my dad to get the bag I checked before the race, sent my mom to wait in the massage line for me (they’re the greatest), and headed to the stretching tent.

Although my time was right about the same, I felt 100x better after I finished then I did during my first marathon. At Mayor’s I could hardly walk when I was done. Getting 100 feet took 10 minutes and the next day was even worse. Rita and I crawled around her apartment, only walking erect if it was absolutely necessary. There wasn’t a whole lot of “absolutely necessary” going on that day. After Nike, besides my right knee being a little sore and my legs a little stiff, I felt good. I walked around with no issues.

After a quick massage, I decided to head over to the medical tent to get some ice for my legs anyway, just as a precaution. I’m guessing because it’s a women’s race, Nike stocks only SF’s cutest guys to come help out. Not only were there male cheerleaders on the course, adorable firemen in tuxes at the finish line, but my EMT, Justin, was also very handsome. Unfortunately for me, I had just run a marathon and was not looking or smelling my finest. Oh yeah, AND he lives in California. Oh, right. I had initially just expected them to hand over some bags of ice to me, but I was given the full work up. And, since it was just my right knee and right hamstring that were sore, Justin had to wrap the ice around my leg so that I couldn’t bend at the knee joint. It was quite comical to watch me attempt to walk around after that point.

When I was ready to head back to shower and change, I could not locate the TNT shuttle buses. I finally ran into one of hte mentors, Mimi, who had fortunately done this race before and lead the way. For some reason the TNT shuttle buses were rather far away from the finishers’ area. We had to walk across a parking lot, go through a wooded path, and then down about a block before locating our Parc 55 shuttle bus. I kept thinking that I was lucky I wasn’t more sore at this point. Since my parents were taking a different shuttle bus back to their local, I hugged and kissed them goodbye (my mom let me know later that I tasted like salt. Well, yeah - silly!). Juan had disappeared earlier to meet up with another friend in SF (such the popular guy!), so we had made plans to grab a drink after my Victory Party.

Wendy was already in the room taking her ice shower when I got there. I hopped in after her and decided against taking a nap before dinner. Not sure I would have made myself get up after being in my nice, warm, rented bed! I met up with my folks across the street at the Hilton for the VP, ate 3 or 4 plates of food, plus desert, plus wine, plus water (I was hungry…I tried to note the calories I burned when I finished. It was something akin to 2,630. I apparently need 1979 calories per day to sustain my current weight. Since I was in the negative zone, I had some catching up to do!). After eating our fill, we all headed over to the karaoke room and jammed out with some rather impressive karaokers. Everyone looked great, I even saw some girls in 4 inch heels (no idea how they were able to pull that off after a marathon - or even a half marathon).

My parents were leaving the next morning, and since I was continuing on with my trip, we said our goodbyes that evening before they headed for their hotel. They were tuckered out! They had had a long day :)

It didn’t take me long to crash either, yet forced myself to keep my word to Juan and head out for a drink. How many times am I in San Francisco? Exactly. I was getting a drink out, darn it. Wendy and Greg joined us at Lefty O’Douls, Kristy apparently was already asleep by the time I called to invite her out (only smart one of the bunch!) so we raised a glass to her in her absence.

The rest of the trip would take me another 12 paragraphs or more to write about, so I’ll do a quick summation (because it was amazing):

- My hotel reservation at the Parc 55 was only booked until Monday morning (since that is when the other TNTers were headed home). Wanting to wait until I got into the area to see where I should book, I plopped down at the hotel computer and searched for something close to where I was already, and boy did I find something! The Mosser - are you kidding me?!?! Pronounced slightly different, but still. Completely affordable too (thank you!) Juan helped me lug everything over, just 3 blocks or so, and became instantly jealous of my surroundings. So he ended up booking a room there for his last night in SF :)

- Monday we also went to Berkeley. Originally we were going to head to Napa, but we both wanted to sleep in a bit after the long day we had on Sunday. We meet up with Kristy and her dad for breakfast, and she let us know that the BART would take us right there, so…we hopped on and walked around. First, we had duck into Walgreen’s and pick up some umbrellas (it POURED that day), and find out where the school was actually located. Gorgeous campus - I’m officially jealous I didn’t do undergrad there. And, apparently the stereotypical Berkeley hippie has taken a shower, gone to Abercrombie, and made themselves more preppie. Interesting…a few hippies were spotted in the metro when we were headed back into the city, though. Whew! Thank goodness the culture hasn’t completely died!

- Tuesday we hopped on a tour bus and headed for Napa! We had opted for a tour bus since neither one of us was familiar with the area, or had a car, or wanted to spent the day debating what wineries to hit, or hold back on the tastings (most important part!) On our way out to wine country we got to go across the Golden Gate Bridge (please see video) -

which thrilled me to pieces. Once in Sonoma/ Napa Valley, we visited Jacuzzi (yes, the same Jacuzzi), Madonna Estates (no relation to the singer) and Sutter Home (yes, Sutter Home. No, I’m not kidding. Sutter Home.) The first was by far my favorite - nicest wine, and the winery itself was breathtaking. I should have purchased more bottles. At the second one, Juan and I were joined by some of my friends from back east - Gideon and his wife, Emily. So, so great to see them. They looked so relaxed too - I guess not working will do that for a person (wink). I, for some unknown reason, couldn’t talk them into accompanying us to Sutter Home (hmmm), but they were able to join us for a leisurely lunch on what turned out to be a perfect day for wine tasting. Thank goodness we had decided to sleep in and hit up Berkeley Monday! After some delicious sandwiches and good conversation, Juan and I said goodbye to our friends and got back on the bus. Our last stop was the Sutter Home vineyard. (They actually had a reserve that was quite good. It doesn’t get mass marketed, like their others; you can only buy it in their tasting room. I still opted against purchasing it.) Sutter Home also had some very beautiful grounds, and apparently the cottage in the back is somewhere you can rent a room while you stay in the area. Hm, a B&B near a winery…? I think I could like California…

- In general, I’d like to go back to SF when 20,000 women, plus their friends and family, aren’t taking over the joint. I’m sure there is a completely different feel to it. I’ll be glad that I know the city a little better next time though, since apparently no one in SF can give directions. Juan and I, on multiple occasions, from multiple sources (to include hotel concierges) would get wrong street names, or they say left when it was really a right - you name it, we were sent in the wrong direction. I’m sticking strictly to my map during San Fran, Part 2 - whenever that is.

- The day had finally come where I was headed off. A lot of people had had their flight delayed because of weather conditions back east. Again, the weather Gods blessed me and I actually arrived 20 minutes early! Too bad my bag didn’t arrive until 9:00 pm that evening…Yeah. Even though I had shown up to the airport an hour early that morning, Virgin didn’t put my bag on my flight (for God knows what reason) - so it didn’t arrive until the next inward bound flight from SF. They couriered it over to me, arriving at the reasonable hour of 2:00 am - 1.5 hours after they said their latest arrival time would be. (insert gasp here). I never check my bag, so the one time I do - stupid oversize, wine bottle carrying, suitcase! Upside to this was that I didn’t have to worry about lugging in to class with me (which I went to, straight from the airport)!

I think this is long enough! Thank you again to everyone who donated and participated in this experience with me!!! Clearly it was amazing - from start, to finish. Oh, and if you see me in the Youtube videos up top - please let me know which part and at what time! Think - green visor!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Every race has hills, and with this in mind (and to put my mind at ease) I went back to the elevation chart from my FIRST marathon to see what I ran then and how it compares to what I will be running on Sunday (yes, Sunday. Yes, THIS Sunday. Yes, 3 days from now. Yes.).

Please note the circled section of the chart all the way to the right. It takes a certain kind of evil to plan out a course that has a nearly 100 foot incline at the 26 mile mark. I’m sure I have mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again - that they also put a water stop directly below this incline, removing any momentum you may have built up for that final hill. (Jerks.) I luckily did not fall for it.

A lot of the race in Alaska took place in the woods, and you were tunneled through foliage mile after mile (which I do truly enjoy, however), this time I will be running near the water, which should have spectacular views (fingers crossed it’s not too windy!) of the Bay and the city!

Now, Nike will be no cake walk - but all the major hills are toward the beginning. Miles 6-7 and 11 - 13 won’t be much fun, but I should be golden after that. You can also see the glorious 2 mile decline I spoke of before. Glorious…

I have also run worse. Please see the elevation from my 10 mile run a few weekends back. Ah, Wisconsin Avenue. You make me feel like I’m going to die when I run up you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Part One: The End

I am incredibly humbled every time I think back on the last few months. From the people who didn’t even know me, but offered me a ride to the early morning Saturday practice when I sent out a pleading email, to my close friends and family who came out to my fundraisers, donated to the cause and gave me encouraging words of advice and support. To my coaches, my mentors, and the amazing people who work for LLS, I admire your selflessness and dedication to your team members, giving us every opportunity to not only succeed, but have fun in the process.

I have a lot of people to thank, so I figured I would kick off my last entry before the marathon identifying some of those people who have been such a great support to me over the past few weeks/ months (heck, I’ll say it - years).

Bob: Thank you for giving so generously to my fundraising goal - and for all of the helpful tips on what I should expect once I arrive in San Francisco!

Dave: You are my very own marathon superstar! A man, who not only runs them, but trains on his own. You amaze me. After I’m finished with this marathon I’m hoping to sign up for a 1/2. Let me know if you are interested in doing one with me!

You are such a good friend. Thank you for not only donating to my cause, but motivating me to do my training run the same day by coming out to join me! Let’s plan a gathering of sorts to celebrate your recent trip and my marathon completion next week!

Ben: My Myspace/ Facebook buddy. LOVED the amount you put down as your donation! Thank you so much for your encouraging words and best wishes! You’ve been through it, so you know what is ahead for me! Ugh - mile 22….

Emily: You are from my original running group - high school track! You are also my fundraiser groupie - I love it. Let’s make hanging out more of a habit, shall we? This whole, “going years without seeing each other thing,” well, I just don’t like it!

Julie and Luis: Mi mejor amigos! It means the world to me that you donated - especially after just buying a house! [You must like me ;)] I can’t wait to have time so I can come up and see the “new” place. I am sorry that I am not able to see you more. Know that you are always in my thoughts, and I love you both very much! (Alright, enough mushiness for one public blog…)

Miriam: My most vivid running group memory I have of you is when we were out on the Mall during a late, very windy, Fall night. Everyone else was at least a mile ahead of us, and we decided to shorten the route a bit - however, coming back up from the Capitol Building we hit this tunnel of wind that was so strong it was as if we were swimming through it for at least 1/2 mile. Good times. You such a great person, I’m so glad we have stayed in touch - thanks so much for your donation!

Uncle Jack and Aunt Marcy: I love you both very much. Thank you for your support in every sense of the word through this journey - and all the ones that came before it (and, I’m sure, for all the ones to come). You are two very special people in my life - I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family!

Your donation does not show yet, BUT it should be posted soon! I am continually in awe of your perseverance, strength and love. You are a man to be honored and admired - and I hope you know that I do both. With more love then can be shown in a blog, hugs and love from your grand daughter, your girlfriend, me.

To All My Fundraiser Participants!
You helped me raise $1,327.53! Wow. Just plain wow. You rock!
A special thanks goes out to:
Giant, Best Cellars, The Green Turtle, and McFadden’s!

Another special thanks goes to
Alex Block, without whom my blog would not be half of what it is today. Thanks for taking the time to work with me on “upgrading” it, especially since you aren’t fan of Blogger.

So, as my training has started to wind down, I feel pretty, to be honest, out of shape. I haven’t been putting the intensity into my workouts like I did 2 or 3 weeks ago, and the miles have been steadily decreasing. Apparently, it’s completely normal to feel this way during your tapering process, but that doesn't reassure me as much as I'd like it to.

How do I know this is normal? Well, since you asked - every week, we get a “Coach’s Update” email, which tells us where we will be running that weekend, any important TNT race updates, as well as running and injury tips. September 30th’s email focused on the upcoming tapering period of our training and contained an article by Runner’s World (yes, we all revere them as our runner’s bible) which gives us a guideline on what we should expect and how we should proceed during our last three weeks before race day, breaking it down week by week, and separating it into mental and physical preparation.

"Every good marathon-training plan should "taper" during those final 21 days. That means you run less and rest more. For some people, the idea of backing off on their training just before the big race seems counterintuitive. "So many runners train hard right up to the day of the marathon because they're desperately afraid of losing fitness if they don't," says Patti Finke, who coaches 250 marathoners a year as co-director of the Portland (Oregon) Marathon Clinic. "What they don't realize is that in those last few weeks it's the rest more than the work that makes you strong. And you don't lose fitness in 3 weeks of tapering. In fact, studies show that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of fitness, doesn't change at all."

Mind you, I got the stomach flu, or food poisoning (jury is still out on that one), right at the beginning of my taper period. I was unable to run until late in the week, and even then I was only able to take it easy. Combine that with my hamstring and groin soreness [again, I always feel weird when talking about my groin pulls, but that is what it is. Side story - I had felt a little strain in my groin (especially up and down inclines…um…yeah…already nervous about the hills! Don’t really need anything EXTRA to drive that home, thanks.) on the run this past Saturday, so I talked with the coaches about it and commiserated with some of my teammates who had aches an pains (read - all of them). The word “groin” was being thrown around left and right. No thang - no one batted an eye. Skip ahead to today, one of my (very sweet, very thoughtful) teammates writes to me to ask, “How’s the groin feeling?” which sent me into giggle overdrive. I wanted to slap myself on the wrist - if everyone else can talk about my groin with a straight face, why can’t I? Oh right, I have the maturity level of a 7th grader. I forgot.], I’m nervous that I am not prepared for the marathon. Deep down I know I am and that I’ll be fine - I have no endorsement deals that I need to worry about losing, so when I don’t come in first no one will be shocked. I DO want to do well, and was hoping to beat my previous time (5:05), but I have to prepare myself that that may not happen (but, to be honest, I’m not sure that is a possibility. I will be crushed if I don’t beat last marathon’s time, and if I come in way later…well, let’s just say - it’s a good thing there will be Tiffany’s, chocolate and lots of wine at the end of it all.). Touching back on that Runner’s World article, the first thing listed under this week’s (the week of the marathon) mental preparation tips is: "Confidence should be the focus of the final week," says Hays, "but you may still experience anxiety. If so, remind yourself that you're physically prepared because you did the necessary training, and you're mentally prepared because you did the necessary trouble-shooting and goal-setting."

"You may still experience anxiety" - okay, covered that one on the check list!

As for training, I won’t be really “training this week.” It’s all about keeping the body loose and the head clear. Example - today, I went on an extremely easy, seriously-I-can't-believe-I'm-jogging-at-this-pace, 2 or 3 mile run. (No aches, no pains, felt good. Did lots and lots of stretching afterwards.) As for the bible, here is what Runner's World said I should be up to this week:

Training Checklist
1. Beginning on Monday, do no runs longer than 4 miles. And when you do head out, remember that these jaunts are more for your head than your body, because training has little effect this week.
2. Almost all running should be at 11/2 to 2 minutes per mile slower than marathon goal pace--except a Tuesday 2-miler at marathon goal pace, sandwiched by 1-mile jogs. Again, if you want, throw in some quick 100-meter strides after one or two of your workouts. This helps fight off the sluggish feeling that can occur during your taper.
3. Three days before the race, run just 2 to 3 miles easy.
4. Two days before the race, don't run at all.
5. On the day before the race, jog 2 miles to take the edge off your pent-up energy so you'll sleep better that night.

Nutrition is also a big part of the last few weeks. Protein is mentioned a lot in order to help rebuild and repair muscle tissue (I have been making sure to incorporate egg whites and lean turkey/ chicken into my diet more lately), carbohydrates are also very important (pasta, crackers, bread - oh my!), and who could forget water? People could swim in me I drink so much water every day now. On top of keeping hydrated, I also decided to cut out any and all alcohol consumption the last two weeks before the marathon. First - we all have experienced what our body feels like after a night of drinking. Nothing says, “let me hit the snooze alarm…again,” or, “wow, I’m dehydrated,” like throwing a few back the night before. Secondly - even not getting to the point of intoxication, alcohol isn’t/ wasn’t advancing my training in any way - so, why continue to put my body under undo stress right before the race? Why, indeed. So I nixed it. Plus, Napa Valley’s wine will be that much more sweet when tasted through lips that have been deprived for awhile.

Ah, Napa. I look forward to sampling your wares :)

As for the last two TNT training runs…they went okay. I took them about a minute per mile slower then I would typically run, trying not to pull my hamstring any more then it was. It was a great opportunity to catch up with a few running teammates, and enjoy the morning [both runs started an hour later then usual. I actually have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I get to spend a little more time in bed and possibly use the Metro. On the other, I get done the run later then I would have if we started at 7:00 am and using the Metro increases my “get home” time - stupid weekend time schedules and track work!!! (grrrr)] This past Saturday we started and ended at the
Iwo Jima Memorial, most likely because this is where the Marathon Corps Marathoners, who have been training with us as well, will end their race (good luck, good luck, good luck!). I have to say, I don’t envy their steady incline in the last mile. Ouch! Taking a look at the elevation levels for Nike, it’s not as if we don’t have any inclines built into our race (cough - San Fran - cough), but the race planners were nice enough to include a glorious 2 mile decline at the end. Thank you, I’m sure I’ll be appreciating that even more in a few days.

One of my teammates snapped a few pictures before our run, and sent me the one of the two of us. Take a look at it and see if you notice the same thing that I did (okay...I've highlighted it with yellow arrows, so missing it will be hard, but...take a look anyways)

There is an indentation showing on my left knee from the past few months of wearing my knee brace! I hadn't noticed it before seeing this picture. Back story - I moved (yet again) and had been finally unpacking all of my boxes and setting up my room (leaving it in a disarray). Although my knee brace was used during the week, I put it down somewhere and was not able to find it when getting ready for practice Saturday morning. Since my right hamstring has been tight lately, I decided to keep my right knee wrapped and try out my left knee with no brace. It did really well - and I wasn't having any issues with it for the 8 miler (though, I'm not risking it for the marathon, and I WILL be wearing it then). When this picture was taken, I had not worn my brace in two days. I later found it in one of my bags containing weekday workout gear (duh). It was a huge relief to find it. The mantra is - don't wear, eat, or do anything different on race day then you have been doing in practice. The idea of loosing such a crucial article of gear, days before the race, did not rest well in my belly.

Again, thank you to everyone who has support me through the last 5 months of training - whether it was a kind word, a ride to practice, or generously donating to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on my webpage. If you haven't donated, it's not too late. Please visit and make a tax deductable donation right now. A few bucks makes a world of difference to the patients battling these blood cancers, and the families that are by their sides watching them struggle. I may have reached my fundraising minimum (it doesn't show yet, but I will actually be slightly over!), but the ultimate goal is a cure. Please help LLS. Please donate.

My Nike Women's Marathon journey has almost come to a close. I'm anxious and want to do well, but also feel like I have already kind of won. I met some really amazing people, I'm on the brink of completing my second marathon (never thought I'd do one!), and it's all been in the name of a truly wonderful cause. I wish there was some sort of montage that could show a summation of the last few months, but I will have to substitute classic Rocky instead:

All the prepatory leg work has been done - it's time to man up and run 26.2 miles. But first, I'll have to stop over at the Expo and get my free manicure. Have to look cute for the!

Monday, October 12, 2009

6 Days Away

I don't even know what to say beyond that. My marathon is 6 days away.

Nike has been keeping a blog for participants of the race, which includes training tips, course and other race day information, photos, and other assorted helpful tid bits. One of the more recent posts talks about Course Highlights. It explains where the aid/ water stations will be, as well as the other amazing things set up for us throughout the course: Gospel Choirs, Inspirational Quotes, Specifically Picked Out Race Tunes, Cheerleaders, TNT Cheering sections, photo opts...doesn't sound like the course will be boring at all!!!

I'm excited, mostly nervous, but excited. A big thanks to Juan and my parents who will be out there supporting me on the sidelines! It's going to be so great to see your faces! Just remember to tell me I look radiant and that I'm doing great - even if "sluggish swamp thing" is more of what comes to mind when you see me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Breaking Point of Shoes

Before putting in the kind of miles that will cause one’s shoes to “break,” it’s good to know how you run (e.g. the way that your body aligns itself when it strikes the ground). This has a lot to do with your arch (high, low, neutral), knee and hip alignment. Running, in a general sense, is going to put your body under stress, and you are going to need to combat that in a number of ways. Always try to think “preventative,” keep limber by stretching A LOT and get yourself a good pair of running sneakers that are catered to your body’s running needs. You need to know how a shoe SHOULD feel, and how your body SHOULD feel, when it is being well supported by a solid pair of running sneakers.

At the start of the Team In Training season, they always have “clinics” which give you instruction on not only running techniques, but what and wear you should buy gear. They even have one or two sessions dedicated strictly to buying the proper shoes, and having “professionals” come in to watch you run and tell you what type of runner you are (
Pronation: where your foot and ankle roll inward, or Supination: where your foot and ankle roll to the outside). This can be very helpful, especially after the first few Saturday runs when the new/ first time marathoners come big-eyed and dressed in cut-off sweat pants (no, no, no – let me introduce you to the “dri-fit” running short).

As you know from my July 1st blog post, I have not had much luck when it comes to finding “professionals” in shoe stores fit me for a good shoe (or tell me corresponding information), and was very pleased that I could lean on a trained PT to explain my gait to me (I’m fairly even, with some slight pronation in my right foot). However, doing some research to write this blog has brought to me many interesting websites and really allowed me to SEE what an “over pronator” or “over supinator” looks like and what it really means about and for your body. Northcoast Footcare, Inc. has a great website that goes over the
biomechanics of your foot, and really explains what is going on with your feet as you strike the ground when you walk or run.

If a picture tells a thousand words, then a moving picture has to tell a million, so I, of course, also hiked it over to to see if I could find some informational videos on this topic as well. Youtube did not disappoint (has it ever, really?)


Supination (they call it “underpronation” in the video…it’s the same thing):

Watching these videos really illustrates the extra stress that your ankle joints are put under when you are an overpronator or oversupinator. To get fit for the proper shoe you can do some self assessment of your gait from the comfort of your own home, without even stepping one foot into a specialty running store. Just look at the soles of your old shoes to see if there is a definite wearing down on one side, compared to the other. This will give you great indication of whether or not your ankles roll and put more pressure on the inside or on the outside of your foot.

If you are a light runner (1-3 miles once a week or so) your body may not feel the effects of your less-then-aligned gait, however, tack on 8-10+ miles, and you are sure to walk (hobble) way with some definite joint discomfort or a more serious (and annoyingly long healing) use injury.

Buying the proper shoes is key (they are now designed with gender in mind and to help straighten out your gait so that you are striking the ground more head on), but making sure you don’t keep them past their “breaking point” is equally important. How long shoes last will depend on how many miles you are putting on them each week (including taking into account use for – walking to/ from work, lifting or the elliptical machine at the gym, etc.) Most people who aren’t training for a race (like a marathon) will not put as many miles on their shoes because they won’t be doing (the ridiculously long) miles that, say, marathoners put in on the weekends. The stress on your shoes won’t be as great, and you’ll be able to hold on to them a few more weeks.

It is recommended that you replace running shoes between 350-550 miles depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. Lighter runners can get closer to the upper end of the recommendation while heavier runners are harder on shoes and should consider replacement shoes closer to 350 miles.

My shoes out and out broke on my 20 miler day. My cousin, God love him, scheduled his wedding on the same day that Team In Training had scheduled our 20 mile training run. Since I couldn’t really turn to my cousin and say, “Hey, I know you have already completely rearranged your life and sent out ‘wedding invitations’ to friends and family across the United States and booked everything for the 26th of September, but would you mind changing this one, teenie, tiny detail…the day it’s taking place? It kinda conflicts with my training schedule. That’s not going to be inconvenient…right???”


So, I had to find an alternative day and time to do my run. I spoke with the coaches, and some of my teammates, and decided that I was going to do it on the Thursday before the wedding/ the team’s 20 miler, and break it up into two 10 mile runs. It wasn’t ideal, and I got a few teeth-bared, air-sucked in faces from the coaches, but if I tried to do it all at once, I’d either have to wake up at 3:30 am, to be out on the road by 4:00 am, or do it directly after work and not finish until around 10:00 pm. Neither one of these options appealed to me. One of the coaches, Mikey, said that he would run the second 10 miler with me after work. I, unfortunately, could not rope anyone into the morning 10 miler (shocking, yes, I know), so I had to motivate myself to roll out of bed and get to my office’s gym by 6:00 am so that I could head out on the mean streets of DC and get an early morning start to my day. As I learned (and previously predicted), starting your day with 10 miles isn’t the same as starting it with your typical cup of morning joe, but it will get you going (yuck, yuck!). Since my super cool heart monitor watch is not also a super cool GPS tracker, I’ed my route ahead of time, printed out the map and tucked it into the pouch of my waterbelt to help me remember where I was headed. It was pretty straight forward, just a left out of my building, down towards Georgetown, up towards DuPont, then a right onto Massachusetts Avenue, a right onto 6th Street, then a left onto Pennsylvania heading up and around the Capitol Building, then staying straight to hit the National Mall all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, head back down past the reflection pool, over to Pennsylvania again, run down Pennsylvania, back towards the Capitol and past the White House, left onto 15th Street, a left through Farragut Square, and then back to my building. Ta da! Nothing to it. Since I was out before many commuters had decided to get into the city, I was able to breeze through crosswalks and bypass all the red lights with no problem. However, as soon as I started out, I could feel my gait was off. I hoped that as the miles wore on, my body would loosen up and I would become more settled in the pace, but luck wasn’t with me. I knew it was partly because my back was still twinged from the 18 miler the other week. I had felt fantastic the day of, and, in relative terms, I consider how I felt to be “great overall” after running 18 miles, but afterwards my back had been begging for hands to constantly kneed at the knotted muscles, and would often crack if I shifted my weight from side to side (“Oh…that can’t be good,” I’d think). So, my body started to try to compensate for my awkward gait resulting in my right hamstring tightening up on me. Even though the stops weren’t as frequent as they would have been if I had run later in the day, when they came about I used them to get a stretch in and try to loosen up. It helped, a little, but combating my stretching attempts were my now worn out shoes.

I’d say, right about the 6 mile mark, it became undeniably clear that my running shoes were no longer supporting me the way they needed to. Every time I would strike the ground, I could feel how I’d just sink right into the pavement - every time I would catch the edge of the curb, that curb would be nestled into my arch just a bit too snuggly. They had broken, in a big, big way, and were consequently taking my body down along with them (e.g. my right hamstring). I have typically not really gotten to this point with my running shoes. I may not
Mary-Kate or Ashley Olsen, but I don’t weigh all that much, which allows shoes to last a bit longer then they would for someone who was heavier. And, prior to my marathon running ways, I’d ask for and only run a 1 mile loop – scoffing if someone offered a longer course. “2 miles! (scoff, scoff) That would take, like, 25 minutes!” I’d switch out shoes every 6 months – 1 year, because honestly, they would last that long. My last marathon, I had switched out shoes a bit more then I did for this one. Unfortunately, they were a pair I had no business running in (even though I had been fitted for them), which I think added to my knee issues later that season. I used my old shoes when I would cross train on Wednesdays, but pretty much stuck with the one pair for the whole training season. I knew I’d need to replace them, but because of other things I was shelling money out for, I was trying to put it off as long as humanly possible (probably not the best thing to scrimp on).’s “When To Replace Running Shoes” even starts off it’s article with:

Running in old or worn out shoes can lead to an increase in running injuries. Over time running shoes lose stability and shock absorption capacity. When this happens the stress to the feet and legs increases dramatically. Over time such added stress can lead to an overuse injury. A simple prevention strategy includes replacing running shoes when they wear out.

Ah, seems so simple. The light was seen, and I was resolved to the fact that I would have to go home and order myself some new running sneakers. If only could get them to me before the second installment of my 20 mile/2 day! Not so much.

Despite my hamstring, the run went fine. It was a perfect morning to be out there, a good early Fall breeze was blowing, the skies were clear and blue, and I even thought I was lucky enough to get a Barack-Obama-doing-an-early-morning-bike-ride-around-the-Mall sighting…but alas, it was just some other politician surrounded by security. I ended the run, I showered, and I went to work, prepared to finish my run later that day.

As the hours wore on, and sitting in an office chair became my major movement of the day, my hamstring started to get tighter and tighter. I tried to discreetly stretch my legs under my desk and keep moving as much as possible. I emailed and finalized a meeting spot with Coach Mikey, and just told myself to suck it up but take it easy on the second half.

I have to give major thanks to Mikey - he is amazing. Not only did he run 10 miles with me just because I needed someone to run with, but it was on a day that he had to get up and be at work by 5:00 am, after having a rather long night the night before. I think the National Chapter gets a little spoiled by the caliber of support they are given, because, man, when they say “we are there for you if you need something,” they are not joking. Our coaches, mentors and LLS staff are top notch. Having him there for my second installment of the 20 miles was a big help. He was easy to talk with, distracting me from the miles being put in, and I actually kept a more even and open stride, allowing my hamstring to relax some so that I could finish without thinking, “Oh, I may have really pulled something here.” As a precautionary measure, I wrapped my right knee before the last ten miles, as well as my left, to give my joints some extra support since I knew the additional stress could cause me issues I don’t want (ever, but especially) so close to the race. Sure, I was sick of running half way through the second 10, but with a little help from my friend, I was able to push through. We got in front of my office and he threw his hands up, “And, you’re done!” …and so were my shoes.

I got home, popped online, and purchased the same make and model as my last pair. When they arrived a few days later was when I TRULY saw and felt how much I had beaten them up over the course of my training. Sure, the picture shows how dirty they are, but that can happen in a matter of a day after some trail running - the true test was when I slipped one foot into the old sneaker, and the other foot into the new sneaker. Holy cow! It was like I had carved out all of the cushioning from my old sneakers and chucked it in the trash. There was NO support, what-so-ever, left in my old shoes. None. Nada. Zilch. I had killed them, and they were trying to return the favor during my 20 miler (which, they only slightly succeeded in).

You can tell by my tread, that the ware is pretty even around the sole of the shoe. I haven’t been keeping count like I did last season, but I ran 4-6 miles about 3 times a week, plus the long runs on Saturdays - which ranged from 3 miles all the way up to 20, so my guesstimation would be that I put in around 300 miles this season [which would be like me running from Washington, DC to (just a few miles shy of) Fayetteville, NC]. That is on the low side of the mileage people usually go by when it comes to changing out running shoes, which means that it is important to not go by the standard, but how you are feeling. If you are finding that you are having more joint discomfort or muscle fatigue, although there are many factors that can contribute to this, take a look at your shoes and make sure you aren’t wearing them thin (almost literally - all that compression your body puts on the sole, and the wearing away of your thread will cause your shoe to thin out).

Since receiving my new sneaks, I have been strictly using them to make sure that they are broken in before the race. You never want to go into a race in anything new, so I had a little less then a month to make them “used.” Again, as a precautionary measure, I will be Body Gliding the stuffing out of my feet on race day. Nothing says ouch! like a blister on mile 5 of 26.2. That would be a whole other kind of breaking point…

Other articles you may want to check out that deal with this topic are:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So the Warrior, the Purist, the Socializer and the Exerciser All Walk Into A Bar...

For those of us that exercise [and I believe that we all do, whatever the reason and for however long…upcoming event we want to look good for, to minimize the ol’ muffin top sitting at the waist line of our jeans, because you saw a bunch of attractive (hopefully) singles running in one area and want to accidentally, on purpose, run into them (“Oops! How clumsy of me to have run directly into your path…must have been the sun glare! My name’s Lauren by the way. Run here often?”…)] we know what kind of runner we are, but I thought this was a pretty cute quiz done by UK’s Runner’s World (the ending charactatures remind me of a picture I got done of myself on the New Jersey Shore Boardwalk when I was 10 – only, increase the head size, like, 50%).

I’m apparently “The Exerciser” (though I find this title to be highly redundant based on the fact that running is, well, exercising). Although “The Exerciser” isn’t a 100% accurate description of my running mentality, it does hold nuggets of truth in there. Check it out – if nothing else, it’s something to do if you’re bored [and since you are currently reading my running blog, I can safely guesstimate that you are, in fact, bored…or avoiding work. You can thank me later for helping you procrastinate ;)]