Saturday, December 20, 2008

I confess....

Okay, I admit it.... I cried today while watching a romantic comedy.

Only, it had nothing to do with anything lovey-dovey (come to think of it, there may not have been anything overly lovey-dovey IN this movie... And, by the way, movie spoilers may follow). It had everything to do with reliving my final steps across the marathon finish line. 

After my morning run with Tiffany and her pooch, June, I settled onto my couch to watch "Run, Fatboy, Run." I have found that I am a sucker for just about anything that combines film and running. ("St. Ralph" and "Spirit of the Marathon" were the first two films that proved that...) In case you missed the trailers, the theatrical run and the DVD debut, "Run, Fatboy, Run" is the story of a man who, as it turns out, is a bit of a loser -- having left his pregnant fiancee at the alter years earlier. Said girl has a new boyfriend who is handsome, successful, fit -- and happens to run marathons for charity. In order to prove that he has changed and can stick to something, our hero decides to run the London Marathon, which is only weeks away. 

The two end up running side by side and start incredibly fast, passing even the elite frontrunners. New boyfriend (now fiance) trips our hero who, we are left to assume, sprains his ankle. But alas, he doesn't give up but begins hobbling toward the finish -- which is still about 23.7 miles away. Night falls and our hero is still hobbling on, followed by crowds of well-wishers and a select circle who try to encourage him to quit (as they bet against him completing the race). We watch as he hits "the wall," bursts through it and eventually is within eye-sight of the finish. 

In romantic comedy fashion, his love and their son show up at the finish line and urge him to take those last steps.

This led me to remember turning that last corner, seeing both the finish and my training partner Tiffany and realizing "I'm about to finish a marathon." And I cried, because it is still hard for me to believe I did it. Since these last few weeks have been tough, it was nice reliving that moment and the great sense of accomplishment and sheer joy that accompanied it. 

We only ran 2.5 miles this morning, but they were decent miles and at a fast-for-me pace. Amazing what having a pup with you can do. And I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this again -- just in time to base build before half marathon training begins again ;0) 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another one bites the dust

The marathon also produced a bit of a black nail on my big right toe. Today, I can feel the pressure indicating that the nail is beginning to loosen. It is a truly odd sensation. Feels like my shoes have suddenly become tighter -- but only because I can FEEL the nail. I'm taking predictions on how long it will take to fall off. 

I'm guessing it will hold on till Groundhog Day. 

And an update on my other naked toes -- no new growth, but I no longer notice them at all. What is the purpose of toenails? It certainly doesn't seem to cause any problem to have them missing...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taming the brain

Sooner or later it happens. Something clicks. The brain checks out and movement becomes automatic. Stopping is no longer on the mind, because you don't even realize you are moving. 

When I'm on my game, I don't run because a schedule says to or even because I find it enjoyable. I run because my body craves it. In that moment, not running isn't an option.

I found that moment again today. I'll admit I hadn't pulled on my shoes since the disastrous Turkey Trot 5k. I've walked. I've done yoga. I've lifted weights. No running. I knew I wasn't quitting -- I could never allow myself to do that... but I just couldn't face the street. It mocked me. But I knew today was the day. A weekend with daylight hours would be the perfect time to force myself to get over whatever monster was attacking and run through the grossness. 

I would do a light afternoon run and get it over with. 

The only problem? I didn't make it till then. I woke up early, as always and began watching "Bella" -- my latest netflix rental. Halfway through my brain started cranking, and I couldn't sit still. My head wanted to run. It assured me it would not be silent until I had a date with the road. So I dug out my almost-tights and my Penguin shirt. Found a pair of matching socks and pulled on my faithful runners. Grabbed Garmin and headed out the door. 

It was a short run -- 20 minutes. I didn't set any speed records, but I didn't have any desire to stop -- and my calves weren't screaming at me. For the first time in a long time, I didn't run out of obligation but out of desperate need. And I remembered. Running isn't about feeling good, it's about not feeling. It's about letting my brain work out all its craziness and coming to a place where all I'm thinking about is the pattern of my breathing, the sound of shoes on pavement. 

Somewhere in the race for distance and the longing for quicker miles, I left that behind. I still want to run marathons, but more than that -- I want to remember what it feels like to crave each and every run. To miss running on my crosstraining days. Maybe that is what the occasional easy 20 minutes are for. Not every run needs to be long or fast. They can sometimes be short and slow. 

I think I'm back in the game. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Confessions of a post-marathoner

I've been avoiding this blog, doing whatever the Internet equivalent is to pacing and preparing to leave, only to be somewhat drawn in again. I'd hoped to be able to brag about my new 5k PR. Instead, I found myself having severe muscle spasms during my Thanksgiving race, and stumbled across the line with my worst time ever. 

And I'm okay with that. Or I would be, if such runs haven't started feeling like the rule rather than the exception. 

I'm finding I fear going out, because I fear I'll find my feet don't remember how to run. I thought I was prepared for this. I thought wrong. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


It's official. I have made it to one of the categories of elite runners - you know, the group that makes you shake your head and cringe. I have officially lost two toenails. My left pinky toe is now naked and looks REALLY funny. My right pinky toe had been preparing longer and has a really thin nail that grew beneath the other. 

For those not yet in this elite group -- no, it doesn't hurt. It's nothing like when you cut a nail too short and it bleeds and gets tender. As the nail loosened, the skin beneath got thicker. That area actually has no feeling. I say that, but the whole lack of toenail does feel incredibly odd! 

I find myself wondering why it is that nails fall off. This was an incredibly gradual process -- starting months ago for my right nail and at the marathon for the left. And of all the times I've dropped things on my feet, tripped, banged into stuff, worn shoes that were too small... it takes running for long periods of time for this to happen? How does THAT make sense? 

I think I need this shirt from OneMoreMile, though. If only it had a naked toe on the back... ;0)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Remember to breathe

"You're breathing, right?"
The room was dimly lit with a few lamps and a strand of Christmas lights. As I walked in, the three other people were lying on mats and wrapped in blankets. Did I arrive at a yoga class or a new nap center? As the instructor handed me a couple of blankets and told me to make myself comfortable, I still wasn't sure.

After a few minutes of calming down from my rush to the Yoga Center, I realized the value of the rest. As we sat up and my classmates emerged from their blankets, I looked around. I was the youngest in the room by a good 20 years. Given my utter lack of coordination and balance, I considered this a good thing. Surely these women would be concerned, not humored at the new girl falling over in warrior pose. 

A few moments into the warmup, my seriousness was tested. "Everyone on your hands and knees. We're going to do lion pose." I quickly learned lion pose is where you breathe in deeply and stick your tongue out and make a funny face as you exhale. "We'll do three, but you can do more if you find it fun." I did find it fun, but as the new girl, I didn't want to get caught with my tongue hanging out while everyone else moved on. 

Plank to downward-facing dog to plank to downward-facing dog... has anyone really seen a dog do something like this? Perhaps they just look more graceful than I do. But can a dog imitate a plank? I think not.

Shortly thereafter, we were back to placing our mats against the wall and resting with our feet straight up. THIS, I can do. I've practiced this "pose" every Saturday after long runs. Deep breathing... eyes closed... I could do this forever. Does anyone ever fall asleep in yoga? The person next to me sounds asleep. "And roll over onto your side..." Nope, she's awake. 

Sit up. Breathe. Always breathe.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The fever is back

Today was the first truly cold run of the year. According to the weather channel, it was in the 20s this morning. I'm sure my Canadian friends are laughing at me, but to this midwesterner who grew up in Louisiana -- the 20s are cold! I pulled out my almost-tights, and layered up -- long-sleeve tech shirt, vest, running jacket -- threw on my running gloves and ear warmers, and even broke out my Thorlos socks (granted, they are thin on top and only ankle-high). 

Today's 3-miler felt a LOT better than the around 2.5 last Thursday. Still felt heavy, but I was no longer fighting through jell-o. Always a positive.

My friend Sarah just ran the Rock 'n Roll Marathon, and I found myself jealous. Chicago is beginning to feel really far away. Granted, I'm planning to run the Go! St. Louis half again, but I'm finding I have marathon fever. 

Perhaps part of it is due to talking to Jessimo and possibly convincing her (and therefore Mike) to run Chicago with me. The dates aren't posted yet, but I find myself starting to mentally solidify plans. Three miles doesn't feel normal yet, but 26.2 is appealing. Go figure. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The sea of jell-o

This morning, I did it. The alarm went off at 5 a.m. I begrudgingly turned on the light, threw on my running clothes (including my new "The miracle is not that I finished; the miracle is that I had the courage to start" shirt!), searched through the pile of clean tech clothes for a pair of matching socks, put on my shoes, cut off the tracker tag from the marathon and drove to the trailhead.

And then I waited. And waited. And checked my cell phone for the time. Four minutes till -- surely someone will show up... but what do I do if they don't? Run alone at 5:30? Go home, sleep and vow to run this evening? - No, that won't work... have a meeting. And isn't weather supposed to get bad? 

Luckily, just as I was giving up hope, a maroon car pulled into the lot -- my ever-dependable running partner! 

And thus began my first post-marathon run. Garmin-free, even. I have no idea what pace we ran. Somewhat freeing -- and somewhat "help! I'm naked!" 

The dark and cold were comforting. The lack of a plan and a timeline was encouraging. This run was for me. As we started, I discovered that I have forgotten how to breathe. Or at least I've forgotten how to run without panting. "We are marathoners," we encouraged ourselves. Or maybe it was just Tiffany encouraging me -- her breathing was normal. Her breathing is always normal. And have I mentioned that she's always cheerful? She is. A lesser person could hate her for that at 5:30. I find it inspiring. "We are marathoners," I thought. 

"I am a marathoner who is not sure she run for more than a few feet...." No, suppress that thought. "I completed a freakin' marathon -- what's a few miles without a Garmin?"

"I can tell I'm not back in full form," Tiffany offered. No, I responded. It seems the world is made of jell-o — or something thicker than jell-o. I must carve a tunnel in order to take each step. And by the way, did someone coat the trail in glue? 

After the turnaround, I found myself mentally picturing the mile markers. I could do this — right? As we approached Dunn Bro's, I knew I needed to take action. "Fartlek to the bridge!" I yelled while taking off. Tiffany and I both sped up. "Oh, the bridge is farther than I thought!" The pine tree is good... We settled back into the plodding jell-o pace, but giggling. A hint of the fun and play of running emerged. 

And it was done. We had reached the parking lot. The two people who braved the thicker-than-jell-o-morning and survived. Perhaps more than survived. What's with all the losers who slept in?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where dreams and running collide

Deena Kastor's Web site features this nice little Deenaism: "I've always taken the philosophy that you have to dream a little in this sport, if you stay in your comfort zone, you're not going to do anything special."

Deena broke her foot in the early miles of the Beijing Olympic marathon and had to drop out of the race. She has since been recovering from that injury. Her site features the news that she has been actively recovering and should start running again in December. At that time, she will have been running-free for about 6 months. 

An Olympian. Elite. Runner. NOT RUNNING. 6 months. Deena has a much healthier attitude than do most of us in the sport -- "Oh, it hurts... I'll just squeeze in a few more miles." "Doc said I could do a little bit of physical activity -- surely that meant a 5k race is okay." 

And yet, this Olympian -- who knows she has to push beyond her comfort zone in order to compete -- knows when to rest. Is it just me, or is there a lesson here? And perhaps one that extends beyond running into "real life." 

Pushing harder -- in running or life -- isn't the only thing outside our comfort. Sometimes resting is even less comforting. And sometimes that rest makes all the difference. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Facing the "what nows"

I haven't entered a post-marathon depression, but I have been facing a lot of "what nows." What do I do now that the marathon is over? What are my goals for the Spring racing season? What should my weekly mileage look like now? 

I've determined that my first priority is to lose the weight I gained while marathon training -- and perhaps take a few more pounds along with it! I've used the idea that "weight loss while running is hard" as an excuse to ignore it. It may be harder to find the balance, but I just completed a marathon -- since when am I hiding from the "hard?"

As for fitness goals, I'm adding running back in this week. Plan to make it to 5:30 group tomorrow morning for an easy run -- my first since the marathon. I am also going to focus on my core using yoga for runners and some pilates work. I know that core fitness will improve my running performance, so I'll plan to do yoga twice a week to start. 

While this is perhaps not the typical time to start cycling, I WILL take my bike to the local shop for a tune-up this weekend. As soon as I get it back, I'll start a twice-a-week cycling plan. 

I'd really like to be running 30-miles a week consistently by the end of the year. I'm taking this week easy running-wise, but will start forming a plan for my runs to take me into half marathon training season. Once December hits, I'll add a weekly speed workout. 

Nutrition-wise, I plan to eat around 1,500 calories a day this week, increasing as I add more running back into my schedule (based on a calories in-calories out system). 

First goal: back to pre-marathon weight by the end of December. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If I could turn back time

Turns out, I'm not dead last. But it wasn't for lack of being the last one across the line. According to the results, I either moved so slow in the second half that I reversed time and won the marathon, or I'm still on the course somewhere, searching for the finish. I prefer to think the first option is true. I've always wanted to win a race and defy the laws of physics. Guess Sunday was my lucky day.

I suppose the real answer lies in the fact that the folks back at the finish FORGOT about me and started shutting equipment down right as I arrived. They saw me and restarted music, but apparently the sensor didn't kick on. One of the officials went to check it and assured me that they "had me," but alas, I only have a split time (3:09) and an empty spot for time and pace.

Kinda sad, as I'll never know my official time -- but fun in that someone checking results sees MY name right above the 1st place finisher (who, by the way, finished the race 12 minutes and 1 second before I reached the halfway point!). And I learned that there were only 320 finishers. And as I don't actually have a ranking, my buddy Judy (not Judi, as I spelled it before) is officially dead last, having arrived at the finish shortly before me =0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Waddling toward recovery

I am amazed by the number of people who have stopped by to read my blog. Yesterday was a record day of 49 unique visitors. So thank you all for reading and joining in my journey! 

After four ice baths, my muscles feel almost back to normal. However, I am now the slowest walker in Jefferson City. In fact, I think a snail passed me as I walked from my car to the polling place to vote this morning. Even so, I think the blisters on my mid-forefoot are starting to shrink, if just a bit.

I have been finding recovery more of a challenge than I anticipated. I know I should be drinking a lot of water, but do you know how long it takes to get from my desk chair to the water cooler?? Or from my couch to the kitchen?? I thought the mental abilities it took to get from the beginning of training to the marathon finish line were challenging enough, but they have nothing on the mental strength it takes to encourage myself to stand and walk across the room! Forget the medal for crossing the finish, where's the medal for making it to water cooler?

I am pretty entertaining to watch. I've been hoping that my neighbors get a good laugh from watching me try to get down the flight of stairs that leads to my apartment building. I'm a little better going up the flight that leads to my actual apartment -- although I think I've been employing the same sound effects that weight lifters use. As I lift each foot to the next step, grunting definitely occurs, followed by heavy breathing. 

Once I make it to the top of the stairs and into my apartment, I like to read the line in "Marathoning for Mortals" that reminds me that as a marathoner, I am more fit that 99% of the population that has ever lived (I like the "that has ever lived" part). If I knew earlier that being fit means you waddle slower than snails and grunt while going up the stairs, I could have faked it a lot better years ago! 

I did order my marathoning reward yesterday from a long-sleeve tech shirt with the Penguin logo and mantra ("The Miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.") and a 26.2 window cling. Not that I really NEEDED a reward, but I've joked that I was running the marathon so I could put a 26.2 sticker on my car -- then no one sold them at the expo! So I HAD to order one, and I could hardly justify spending 3x the sticker price for shipping, so I obviously had to order a shirt to justify the purchase. A real sacrifice, I know.

As the Penguin says, "Waddle On, friends!"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Big, shiny medals

Everyone wants to know how the marathon went. I'm finding it remarkably hard to answer that question. It was incredibly tough -- race conditions were far from ideal. I'm not entirely sure what the temps got up to, but it was hot! And most of the second half of the race course was exposed and left runners to the mercy of the sun. That said, while the day wasn't a "magical" race day, I enjoyed it. 

When I got to the expo Saturday morning, I realized this marathon was going to be a LOT smaller than I had thought (I think the count was somewhere around 500 runners and another 300 for the half -- although I may have those backwards). The expo was tiny. No samples of the latest running gels, sport beans, pain blockers; no chance to buy goofy running gear. Coolest thing at the expo was a large area Kashi sponsored, with cooking tips, free yoga classes, and lots of free product/coupons. I picked up a couple canvas bags (two after the race on Sunday when they were tearing down), and a yoga mat. 

Starting Block, one of Columbia's running stores, was set up with their treadmill gait analyzer -- I was really surprised to see they were the only running store represented, especially since there is one (maybe two?) in Springfield...

Race morning was great. Found Tiffany (or rather, she found me) just a few minutes after I arrived. Pre-race atmosphere is always fun. The sun wasn't quite up yet, and there was a guy imitating Barney Fife wandering around the line-up area. 

Line-up was fairly chaotic. There was no method to the madness -- no one was lined up according to pace. Just a mass of people bunched close to the starting line. We were toward the mid-back, and still managed to cross the start about 30 seconds after the gun. 

Since Jeff Galloway was one of the weekend's speakers, about half of the marathoner's were utilizing the Galloway run-walk-run plan. It was pretty entertaining -- and humbling to see folks run ahead of me, stop to walk while I passed them, then surge forward again. As it turns out, they passed pretty quickly (after about 6 or 7 of these cycles). 

I ran the first half right on target and feeling good. Shortly thereafter, things fell apart. The sun got to me. I've never been good at running in the heat, and my energy was zapped. Mentally, I hung on and never doubted finishing. I just threw out my idea of a finishing time!

Since the race itself was small, there were very few spectators along the way. I did see two folks I knew -- Sarah Glidewell and Maggie Rogers. It was fun seeing them, and the volunteers at aid stations stepped up by creating mini cheering tunnels every two miles. The low numbers also made for a really sparse course. In fact, at one point while running on the Galloway trail, I was scared I was headed the wrong way because I hadn't seen another runner, volunteer or sign that any had been there! I slowed down and finally saw Judi, who I'd run with a little earlier (and made me feel I was running with YOU, Judi! While she was twice your age, she was a great conversationalist and told fantastic stories) -- felt a lot better after that! 

There were several points where I slowed even more to try to help strugglers. There was one man experiencing severe muscle cramps, so I kept pace with him for awhile. Shortly thereafter, was a duo of girls, one who was obviously having difficulty. She had her friend go on ahead, and was obviously about to quit. I walked with her and trying to distract her from the negative thoughts by asking about her life. It worked for about 10 minutes. She started feeling sick and said she'd catch up -- I told her she better, that we needed her! She apparently threw up, felt slightly better and determined to walk the rest of the way... but later dropped out. I think hearing that was the saddest moment for me.

After walking with her, I realized I was the last person out there. While I felt rather ridiculous (especially since the old man with muscle cramps was in front of me!), I realized that I had participated in the race I wanted -- trying to encourage others and keep them from giving up on their goals was far more important than my finish time. Besides, I was enjoying myself and mentally strong, even when the physical was ready to stop. 

I made it up the long, gradual incline of the last four miles, turned the corner to Bass Pro and saw Tiffany, who waited for me at the finish. Seeing her made everything real -- I became emotional, but as soon as I reached her, developed the strength run toward the finish. As the Rocky theme song played, I sped up, forgetting about the pain, and crossed the finish with a big, goofy grin on my face.

So I finished dead last -- finishing is something many who began the course weren't able to accomplish -- and something the 99% of the population who have never stood at the starting line will never understand.

Today I wear my fish medal proudly. And, as soon as the blisters on the bottoms of my feet heal, I look forward to getting out there and rocking the recovery runs!

Friday, October 31, 2008

And it begins

This morning I packed my bag. And, following the John Bingham method, I have four pairs of shorts, 3 shirts and 3 pairs of socks -- along with a pair of running gloves. You know, just in case. Why I would need gloves while wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts is beyond me. But it COULD happen =0) I do also have my running jacket in the car, but no current plans to use it. 

Next to my bag of clothes is the pile of other things I'll need -- Body Glide (to prevent blisters on feet), bottle of Tropical-flavored Hammer Gel and gel flask (for quick-acting carbs along the run), couple packages of Recoverite (right carb-protein ratio for better recovery AFTER the race), a couple of Espresso-flavored Hammer gel packs in case Tiffany wants them. And, of course, hair ties to pull my hair back. 

In my car, I have the running cap I got at the St Louis half -- in case I need shielding from rain. 

Over lunch, I plan to visit the grocery store and pick up bananas, kid's clif bars and more pasta. 

When 5 hits, I'm out of here -- on my way to Springfield for race weekend. 

It is absolutely amazing how quickly all this has gone. Last night I realized one of the lessons running has taught me is that those points in the distant future come all too quickly. And that there is always something beyond that point. For the last 6 months or so, my mind has been on this marathon. It has been my focus. In two days it will be over, and my focus will shift to something else. Strange thought.

I've also come to realize that Paul knew nothing about long distance racing. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24). 

In truth, all those who have put in the training and run with the finish line in mind receive the prize. Of course, now adays, that is just about literal, since all those who complete the race receive a finisher's medal. But while I intend to wear that medal proudly, the prize is far beyond it. 

I was explaining to a friend that the non-elites run races to have a shared experience. We could run 26.2 miles on our own, but there is something about joining together and experiencing the run as a community -- encouraging each other to continue, reminding each other of that prize ahead. In some bizarre way, races are like the kingdom of God -- it isn't just about getting to the line, it is about getting there together. There is a "cloud of witnesses" who cheer the runners on and offer beverages to help ensure a well-run race; who tell you "you're almost there, the finish is just up ahead."

Fellow runners who share some of the burden by sharing lives and miles. Everyone believes in the other's ability to finish -- even when believing in your own ability is tough. And through that shared belief, we somehow make it. And when we do, regardless of how long it takes to get there -- we have won the prize. 

And this proves there should be some law prohibiting marathoners from blogging before heading off to a race! See you on the other side =0) 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Saint in Texas

I received word yesterday that St. Rick and I ended up on a Texas Baptist blog. It's the first time I know of that I've been linked to on another blog -- and definitely a first to have an organization link =0) So thanks John and Texas Baptists! 

Three days left till I reach the starting line. The extreme dear is waning a bit, and I'm finding myself excited. Down to carb-loading, water-drinking, and money-raising. And mantra-collecting. People are beginning to tell me what they think of during the hard-spots. Pretty fun. Feel free to share your own -- whether running-related or in the midst of any other tough time. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fulfilling dreams

Friends of mine associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri recently returned from a trip to Kenya. While I haven't had the opportunity to hear many stories yet, the photos are heartbreaking -- pictures of kids that will melt your heart. One series of photos, in Kibera -- the largest slum in East Africa -- reminded me of a short film I saw last year over my birthday weekend at the Manhattan Short Film Festival. "I Want to Be a Pilot" follows a young boy who lives in Kibera with the text of a poem over it. View it at

In many ways, this marathon journey has been about my own dream. I wanted to push myself past the limits -- to do the impossible. When I started running, a 5k sounded huge. I thought about that first race this morning -- how I was so proud to pick up my race packet. How I felt the constant need to prove that I was a runner. I hadn't yet figured out how supportive the running community is -- they had never questioned whether or not I was a runner. 

I'll be walking into that same building to pick up my marathon race packet. And, from what I understand, I'll be crossing the same finish line -- running through an open garage-style door into the Bass Pro building. I'm doing the impossible, and next Sunday, my dream will be fulfilled.

But I also race because there are many out there who don't have the resources they need to meet their dreams. Like the little boy in "I Want to Be a Pilot," their dreams consist of regular meals, security and the opportunity to love and be loved. Among my friend's photos was a picture of a World Vision sign -- a beacon of hope. The sign was a reminder that these children and families are not forgotten. And that I - that WE - have an opportunity to help make dreams a reality in a very broken world. 

That photo made me proud to be a part of Team World Vision. My training has made what seemed impossible a reality. I am so thankful for my sponsors who are helping to make impossible dreams a reality for those who desperately deserve it. 

You may also notice that I am nowhere near my fundraising goal. If you have a few extra dollars, I ask you to visit my Team World Vision fundraising page. Not all of us can visit Africa, but we can help make a difference in lives around the world. 

Anything is possible.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ode to John Bingham

Where would I be without the wise council of John Bingham? (To paraphrase:) "Don't go out and buy new clothes. Your body has been conditioned for a long distance race, not a ten-year reunion." 

Had that thought not been running through my mind, I may have come home from Target with a new wardrobe yesterday. Which is perhaps better than returning home with a new car or a GPS/heart rate monitor/watch/cup holder. But still, not the best idea =0)

I think some of the madness is wearing off -- or at least changing. I haven't had any sudden desire to eat toasted snails or any indication that I'm coming down with the plague. 

And while I feel like I'm alternating between eating myself out of house and home and completely forgetting meals, I've actually lost 2 pounds in the last few days. It figures -- I cut my mileage and throw structured eating out the window and I lose weight. It does give me hope that the rest of the 10 pounds I've gained while training will come off in the weeks following the marathon (and hopefully not due to the loss of limbs!).

I'm still strangely emotional and wanting to go on a shopping spree, however. Although I had to REMIND myself to place an order for Hammer gel (tropical flavor!) -- which I actually NEED for the marathon (yes, it is what I used throughout training, and happened to run out of after the 20-miler -- so nothing new here). Is it MY fault that Hammer always includes free samples of other things in their orders?? Hopefully I'll regain some control in the next few days so that I'll ignore it when it arrives.

Ooh, AND I'm actually looking forward to running 6 miles tomorrow. This is a drastic improvement from "can't I get hit by a car instead?" 

Have I mentioned that I'm now in the single-digit countdown? NINE days to go. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Beware the madwoman

Ah, taper madness. Instead of fearing it or fighting it, I've decided to fully embrace it. So far, I've become overly emotional -- I cried over two movies during the weekend and essentially cried myself to sleep Sunday night. 

I've considered several major life changes, such as becoming a vegetarian or selling all of my possessions. 

I have a strange desire to eat only new things (this one I AM fighting, as I know changing my diet now could be a MAJOR problem) -- or to eat nothing at all, because at least 30 times a day I feel somewhat sick to my stomach.

I do have the John Bingham desire to buy new running gear and running toys. And along with that, I still want to change EVERYthing. I tried different gels during my 10-miler, I'm considering different socks for my 6-miler Saturday... and I desperately want to look at new clothes designed for cooler weather. Forget the things I wore last fall/winter! 

And have I mentioned that I'm scared out of my mind? Because I am. Except for the half of the time that I'm not. Because during that half of the time, I am confident and over-giddy.

Every five minutes I think I'm coming down with a deadly disease (well, maybe not deadly, but at least not-so-nice). It may just be possible that I will die of an incurable disease moments before the race starts. 

What if I were to attempt the first half of the race on crutches and then pretended to half a miraculous recovery? Who thinks of these kinds of things??

The madness has set in. Beware.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Return of the Saint

There is something about 10-mile runs. While today's 10-mile run was about 10 times easier than the first, something very similar to my first 10-miler occurred -- the appearance of St. Rick.

Since I haven't told that story here, the digest version is that my first 10-miler, I was in St Louis, away from my running group. This was the longest run I'd have before the half marathon. So I drove to Forest Park and joined up with the official training group. Only one problem: only three people showed up, because the St. Patrick's Day 5/10k was going on. The girl I started with was significantly faster than me. She was kind and ran my 12-minute pace until she was sure I could navigate the course, then she took off. About a mile later, a man wearing a sweatshirt caught up with me and asked if he could run with me for awhile. 

We ran about 7 miles together, leaving me only about two left to run alone. And while those two were extremely tough, I'm sure I wouldn't have made it to those last two miles without Rick there to distract me. And as a leader in the... oh, sad day, I forget the denomination (and perhaps it was more than a typo that I originally typed "DEMONination..." oops)... whatever it is church, now for their missions organization, I believe. So we had some light theological discussions and chatted about our running goals (we were both running our first half marathon -- and neither sure WHY we thought that was a good idea!). I ran into him again on the Metro on the way to the half, and met his lovely wife and embarrassed him by referring to "Saint Rick." But he truly was a God-send (which is somewhat like a godsend) that day.

Today I met the Saint in a different form, shortly after completing my 10 miles -- which, strangely enough, is now a taper distance. A guy in a wheelchair was rolling along the trail and began chatting with me. At the beginning of the conversation, I found myself trying to stereotype him (homeless, perhaps? mental issues?), but he dashed through the boxes I tried to place him in. I think he just needed to share his story, and as a journalist, I needed to hear it. He's been in a wheelchair for a month. It didn't seem appropriate to ask him how he ended up there, so I didn't. But he told me about the distance he has covered, started last week going from JCMG to Mike Kehoe (which is about 1.75 miles one way -- so 3.5 total) to making it to the Washington Park entrance (another half mile out -- so 4.5 total distance) this week. 

He asked how far I was going, so I mentioned my running partner and I had just completed 10 miles and that we are running a marathon in two weeks. He informed me that he is training for the 2012 Olympics. He later laughed and said that is only a dream, because at age 58, he'd be the oldest qualifier. But he struck me as the kind of person who could do it. He told me about the difficulty of facing the trail in a wheelchair. The trail is sloped, which means he uses one arm on the way out and the other on the way back. And while he didn't mention it, there is also a short, but fairly steep hill within that route. I imagine it would be pretty challenging on wheels -- especially as he is still getting used to them. 

He's trying to convince the city of a need for a place where those in wheelchairs -- and senior adults -- can gather -- with a basketball hoop and obstacle course. He informed me that most folks in wheelchairs have their favorite place to sit at home and watch their favorite soap operas all day. And as I thought back, in a year of running on the Greenway, he is the only person in a wheelchair I've seen out there. 

He told me about the power of prayer in his life, and how he thinks it is so cool that God is right there to listen. He said that I was the blessing God sent today. I responded that he was also mine. 

And he introduced himself. "My name is Rick." I should have known.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Foot Transplant

"Maybe you should consider exchanging your feet." That was the advice I received from Jen at Fleet Feet in St. Peters, MO. So I called my doc, who set me up with a specialist -- my foot transplant surgery is scheduled for early next week. 

Or not. But it certainly sounds like a good possibility.

The latest culprit in my foot troubles: the double-layered socks I've been wearing to PREVENT blisters. Apparently, they have a tendency to CAUSE blisters beneath toes when unsuspecting sock wearers try to grip the bottom of their shoes with their toes. 

Sounds completely plausible -- here's hoping the new SINGLE-layered socks I purchased (as all my others are worn out) work. 

I think I came pretty close to stumping both employees at Fleet Feet. "Are you wearing synthetic socks?" Yes. "Have you tried Body Glide?" Sure have. "Did the inserts make your shoes too small?" Yes -- so I bought a pair a full size larger. "Oh. You've tried everything." Yes. Yes, I have. Thanks.

They agreed that putting duct tape on toes didn't sound like the best idea in the world. 

I also bought some Gu to try. I haven't used anything but Hammer gels and thought I'd give Gu a shot (but not a shot blok!) on this Saturday's 10-miler. 

2.5 weeks till marathon day. How did training fly by so quickly??? I have so many fears and excitements and dreads... I want the race to be tomorrow so I can get it over with, in a month so I have more time to train, and 3 years from now, so I'll still have a goal to aim for. I'm terrified I won't make it, or that I won't make it the same day I start (John Bingham's goal). What if I'm a DNF (did not finish)? What if I take a wrong turn and end up in Bolivar instead of the finish line? What if I fall over dead .2 miles away from the finish line? 

Ultimately I believe I will finish. If I have to pay observers to drag me across the line, I will. My fears lie more in HOW I will finish. While I expect to be hurting and 6+ miles past every fiber in my body wanting to quit, I want to finish well. I want to have muscle stiffness, not injury-type pain. I want to be able to enjoy the moment of having the medal hung around my neck. I want to have the desire to run again at some point in the future. 

I'm already scared of the post-marathon letdown. I didn't expect to get here so quickly. What do I aim for next? I don't have any ultramarathon ambition... 

I suppose, just like in training -- and in life, I just need to take this one step at a time. Why worry about the post-marathon when I haven't made it to the starting line?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tapering, day 1

After yesterday's disastrous run, my tapering for race day is going to have quite a bit of damage control. Remembering something I saw on Runner's World awhile back, I did a search for "toe caps." I just ordered a pack of these: While running with something around my toes does not sound like the most comfortable thing ever, a bit of inconvenience is better than a repeat of yesterday... here's hoping they work. In theory, my toe problem was not from shoes being too small; after all, my current shoes are a full size larger than my last pair (of the "updated" make and model).

Anyone used these toe caps before? 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Admit defeat? NEVER

Today's 20-miler did not turn out as I had hoped. I knew I was taking a gamble by wearing shoes that seemed to still be rubbing, but I decided it was the greater of two evils. What I didn't expect was that my toes would be collateral damage. 

None of the day's run was particularly easy. While the first 8-10 miles felt good, I was sluggish. Since Garmin's battery was low, I have no idea of my actual pace, but I watched as Tiffany became smaller and smaller with distance. But still, I was running and surviving. 

Toward the end of what I think was mile 10, I began fighting side stitches. Took deep breaths in attempt to ward them off. Was mostly successful. It never became continuous, but made an appearance a few more times. 

Around that time, I began fighting with my mind. The typical last high-mileage week brain sabotage was kicking into high gear. "You'll never be able to do this. Remember how hard 18 miles was? You're obviously not in good enough shape. May as well quit now."

After admitting this to Tiffany, I was able to talk some sense into my own head. "You've done the training. You are strong. You WILL finish. Your body feels fine, so brain -- get over it!"

And it worked. I hit a second wind and was able to pick up the pace a bit, and felt -- surprisingly -- energized. I was able to keep pace pretty well until my fuel belt completely fell off. Hilarious moment. Would have been more hilarious for anyone watching. Girl running down road, belt with four water bottles suddenly hits ground. Shortly thereafter, I began feeling the mileage. Managed to keep running until a hill at the lake. Planned to start running after hitting flat ground. Didn't happen. 

Met T again after circling the lake, ran with her back to Edgewood. Made it about half a mile before my feet just wouldn't let me run anymore. Sat down, took off my left shoe and sock -- two bloody toes with a wedge-shaped blister. I was done for. The next four miles were excruciating -- although perhaps more mentally/emotionally than physically. Yes, I was in pain and it really didn't allow me to run (I tried and nearly collapsed), but failure kept going through my head. I nearly broke down in tears -- hard, bitter tears -- several times during those long miles (as I was not moving quickly at ALL my this point). I learned that four miles is a LONG way to crawl, and an even longer time to beat yourself up emotionally. I admit I did a LOT of praying. And the last section did seem to pass much quicker than I anticipated -- there was a curve that never seemed to come... Right when I thought I should have about a mile left, I saw Schnucks, the half mile marker. And the moment I could see the parking lot was absolute magic. So while I accused God of leaving me, perhaps God was right there all the time, taking those painful steps along with me. 

What does this mean for the marathon? I hope it merely means that tapering won't be as nice as I once hoped. My feet are demanding that I figure out something better in the next three weeks. I imagine I need custom orthodics, but know that isn't a possibility for race day... I'm not really sure what the next step is...

I am, of course, incredibly afraid. While I moved for 20 miles, I didn't run any of the last four. And while I was able to crawl four miles, the thought of crawling 10 is torturous. So my goal is to keep that from becoming an issue. 

Step 1: heal feet
Step 2: hello running store
Step 3: trust the system

I have done the work. Didn't end as beautifully as I'd like, but it doesn't always -- and that can be okay. So I'll take my place in race day lineup with pride. I deserve to be there. And if I have an 8 hour finishing time after an agonizing journey, I'll wear that with honor. As my mom reminded me, completing the mileage is impressive no matter how you get there. Here's hoping I'll be on my own two feet!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I have a dream...

I have a dream... of a shoe that doesn't need an insert, that won't cause blisters or make my toenails turn black. I understand it is possible, but I sure haven't found it! I reheated my archmolds last night to adjust them in my new shoes, but this morning's run still left my arches feeling in danger of blisters -- NOT allowed for my 20-miler this weekend.

I've been fighting the shoe battle for a year now, and I'm tired of it. How long should it take to find the perfect shoes?? Especially since I'm going to specialty running stores that do gait analysis, etc. 

I plan to walk around in the new shoes and attempt another short run tomorrow. If that doesn't work, I'm reverting back to my old, dead, too small pair for the weekend. What's another lost toenail, after all?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Along the journey...

Long ago I mentioned that this blog would document my journey to the marathon -- physically, mentally and spiritually. Not sure I've done well with those last two...

You may have noticed that a lot of this training season has been really difficult for me. And for a first marathon, I'm guessing that isn't particularly unusual. Training is pretty brutal. Aside from the physical hardships (which range from running way too stinkin' far to my shoe issues and black toenail syndrome), this has been a complete mental challenge. From the beginning, I've had doubts about my own ability to conquer the marathon distance. The half marathon was REALLY hard, could I really double it? Am I rushing -- after all, all the literature says you shouldn't even think about marathon training till you've been running about 2 years...? With all that is going on in your life, you should really just quit...

And somehow, I've continued on and am left with only one really long run before race day. What seemed impossible -- running anything beyond 10 miles without wanting to or actually dying -- has become a reality. 

As I look back on the last few months, I do seem to find a lot of faith parallels. While I don't want to force comparisons, running has always been a faith journey for me. In my experience, the two can't really be separated. 

Faith and marathon training both require work -- and working through pain. On my faith journey, I often have to take steps and trust that I am actually getting somewhere. Often, I'm not even sure I want to get where I'm going. The journey often seems pointless and too hard to continue. And sometimes it hurts. There is so much I don't understand and the frustration can easily pile up. At the points when everything is hard, I have to trust. 

On particularly tough runs, I often choose the farthest spot I can see and focus on simply getting there. "I just have to get to that tree/light/car..." And while concentrating on that object, it seems amazing just how quickly it is in reach. Paul talks about keeping one's eye on the prize -- and perhaps that is what he is talking about. When focusing on the goal in front of you, the pain, difficulty and distractions seem inconsequential. 

And while the prize is worth it, I must admit -- I miss having feet that didn't terrify small children!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crawling to the finish

If I can't get any comments to a post on nudist running, I may as well quit ;0)

Ran 18 miles on Saturday -- and while during the run and the hours following began to think running a marathon is the dumbest idea I've ever had, I am now insanely proud that my mental training allowed me to continue moving until hitting that 18-mile point. After two weeks of very little running, I really wasn't sure I'd make it. While I'm glad to have two weeks before the 20-miler, I'm convinced it has nothing on what I've already accomplished. 

In other news, I'm nursing my first (and hopefully last...) black toenail. It luckily is a mild case, only painful due to the blisters around it. But I imagine I will be losing at least part of a nail at some point... yay.

Bought new shoes in a larger size yesterday to solve the problem (and the problem of all my blistered toes!). While my shoe insert has helped my arches, it apparently helped crowd the front of my shoe... either that or my feet really have spread out after a year of running. Either way, it was the first pair of size 10 shoes I've ever purchased. And after 18 miles in dead shoes, having a brand new pair is REALLY nice. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baptists support nudist running??

Part of my job here at W&W is looking through the other state Baptist newspapers that are sent to the office. It helps me keep up with what is going on in other states and search for "quotables" for our editorial page. Today I stumbled across a headline that made me laugh:

"Strip down. Start running. Never quit!"

While the columnist intended the headline to be a reference to Hebrews 12 and encouraging folks to help with disaster relief efforts, you certainly wouldn't know it without reading the article!

And if this made YOU smile, show your appreciation by contributing to Team World Vision (how's that as a way to tie in my morning post?)

World Vision

Marathon day is creeping ever closer. Due to some scary health issues that have creeped up in my family in the last few weeks, my training has been interrupted. Ran for the first time in a week and a half yesterday. Luckily my legs seemed to remember what they were supposed to do. This weekend, we face an 18-miler training run. Since I missed the 16-miler, this will be FOUR miles further than I've run previously. And did I mention Saturday is my birthday?

I think Tiffany and I are both ready for Nov. 3, when the marathon will be over =0) I'd also settle for cooler weather. 

Since Saturday is my 26th birthday, I'll make another appeal for my Team World Vision cause. If any of you have any spare change needing to find a worthy home, I'd appreciate a contribution. World Vision is a fantastic organization that seeks to help children, families and communities in poverty settings. They also provide help for disaster relief -- including the recent hurricanes. I'm running this marathon on their behalf, and have set a rather lofty goal of $1,000. At this point, I am nowhere close. If you have 26 cents, 26 dollars or 26,000 dollars to contribute, you may do so either in person or via the widget to the right of this blog. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008's COLD

I love ice baths. And yes, I realize that is a bizarre sentiment. But after running 10+ miles, there is absolutely NOTHING I'd rather do. I'll add to say that if I've done anything OTHER than run 10+ miles, an ice bath is the farthest thing from my mind.

And yes, this photo is of a birdbath, not a bathtub -- get over it.

Ah, but the ice bath. As much ice as you can possibly stand (or, in my case, as much ice as you have stored in the freezer or remember to buy the day before) + water as cold as you can get it from the tap = ice bath.

According to Runner's World, "Cryotherapy ('cold therapy') constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. 'Ice baths don't only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles,' says David Terry, M.D., an ultrarunner who has finished both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run 10 consecutive times."

But forget science and technicalities -- all I know is that by some sort of miracle, ice baths WORK. 

My recovery routine:
*remove shoes
*refuel using low fat chocolate milk / recoverite / etc.
*ice bath while reading something to remind me why I run (Runner's World, latest running book, etc). I tend to soak at least 20 minutes.
*lay on my bed with my legs at a right angle against the headboard (with the rest of my wrapped up, because I am now FREEZING!) for about 20-30 minutes. 
*I typically don't want to move at this point. Nap and/or lying on couch = GOOD.
*TaDa! Energy returns AND I can move WITHOUT hurting! Magic!!

Oh yeah, I also take a legitimate shower somewhere in there (after the legs at right angle step...) and clean the sweaty grossness away... prior to that, I am always laying on a towel, not directly on my bed!

Tips to make ice baths more tolerable (which you may need unless you are insane and actually learn to like them, like me!):
down jackets, hot beverages, hat! Runner's World Nikki Kimball even wears neoprene booties so that only her legs actually get the full-on cold. 

All I know -- anything that means I can get up and down the stairs to my apartment without grimacing is fantastic!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Skirt review

This morning, the 5 a.m. alarm was actually not an issue. The alarm went off, and I was amazingly awake. Or so I thought... on my drive to the trail, I was all prepared to continue to the office. At 5:20 a.m. Because I usually show up to work in running gear while it is still dark outside.... right. Luckily, I was following another one of our group and was reminded of my actual intent with enough time to turn into the trail head.

Sadly, my allergies were attacking today, forcing me to walk more than I had hoped. Coughing + drainage + running = gross. Luckily things evened out the last 15 minutes or so... 

Finally got around to using the skirt for actual running (after a weekend spent wearing it camping/canoeing). Turns out, the issues I thought I had (skirt being a bit big -- thought I may end up with chafing issues...) didn't cause any problems on the 3.5-miler this morning. Overall, I dig the skirt!

Things I don't understand:
What's with the upside-down pockets in running clothes? Are they really beneficial in any way? They are often hidden, so it can't just be a trendy thing. 

I guess that's only one thing... but if you can explain it, I will be thrilled! And may even dedicate my next blog post to you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A look back

I went back over some of my running logs from last year. Turns out my official running anniversary is Sept. 5.

It is fun to read back over the challenges I faced with those first running steps. How frustrating my first "bad" run days were. The joys of my first pair of running shoes.

Perhaps the most entertaining thing is that nothing really has changed. My distances are longer, but I still complain when a run doesn't turn out like I wanted. I still get nervous that I won't reach my goals in time. I still love putting on a pair of new running shoes for the first time. 

As the New Balance ads state, I continue to have a love/hate relationship with running. Every running day, I wake up trying to think of excuses not to run. Every cross training day, I wish I could be on the trail running. 

it is true that those first running weeks are the magical weeks of running -- every step is a new victory. Every distance is new and exciting. Although, I am finding the magic hasn't really ended. I'm still amazed at what my body is able to do. My body's fuel may even be cheaper than that of my car. Hrmmmmm... funny concept.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy anniversary to me

I started running after last year's labor day canoe trip. Today's 14 mile run (a record for me!) marks my 1 year anniversary, if not by date (as it isn't), then by holiday.

This morning's run caps the year's accomplishments. I went from running a quarter mile -- and struggling with it -- a year ago to running a challenging, but strong 14 miles today. That makes all the days that have seemed too hard, that I've felt I was progressing far too slowly all seem incredibly dim.

Yesterday I was reflecting that training is never ideal. Today's 14-miler came too early and too soon after a two day camping and canoeing trip. It would have been easy to call and cancel, to say that I needed to sleep in. But there is always an excuse. This year I've decided to say "no" to excuses. To train even when circumstances are not ideal. It's amazing how rewarding that is.

Here's to the first year of a lifetime of running.

Today I prove that ANYone can become a runner.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I've given in

And bought a running skirt. I've been eyeing them all summer and became more curious after Runner's World feature on the trend. So I finally gave in and bought the skirt I've been drooling over all season long. Drooling may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have had my eye on it. I got the last one. It is slightly loose, but I think the spandex shorts underneath will be just fine. Just further proof that I am in love with the Champion line at Target. Almost all of my running clothes come from there -- and most from the sale racks!

Any of you run in skirts? What are your thoughts?

I'll let you know what I think after I try it out!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No need for.... speed?

On weeks that are free of tempo runs, one of my mid-week training days ends in speed/form drills. During a one-minute period, I run and gradually pick up pace until I'm essentially running all-out. Somehow I'm supposed to be thinking about form during all of this... A thirty second break and the cycle is repeated three additional times.

Speed drills are usually a necessary evil. The first two may be sort of fun, but after that it gets hard -- and, after all, I'm already tired from the 40-minute run.

Today the schedule fell so that Tiffany and I ran drills together. And it essentially felt like a game of tag -- mostly because Tiffany takes off in front of me, and I'm left to try and catch up! But something about the chase (and knowing it will only last a minute!) turns a routine drill into something fun and childlike. T zooms forward, so I surge to follow, thinking that SOME day I may just catch up. And then the minute is over, we recover and the chase begins again. I ALMOST caught her in drill 4. We were essentially running together, and when she noticed, she picked up the pace -- sadly, I was already running as fast as I found possible =0)

I've needed the play-like attitude of this week. I started this whole race-training thing because running is FUN. But somewhere amongst the schedules and early mornings, it finds a way to lose its appeal. Between puddle-jumping and unofficial games of tag, the fun has been renewed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The Rookie Runner's rain motto should have been going through my head this morning. Unfortunately, I didn't think about it till my drive home -- and then I laughed. "I'm a duck. I'm a duck. I'm a duck. I'm a duck...."

This morning's tempo run left me drenched. While the sky was only spitting when we started, it was pouring by the time we made it very far. During the walk between the two tempo portions, we passed Jason, another member of the 5:30a.m. running group who merely said "You are stupid" as he passed by. I pointed out that he, too, was running in the rain -- of course, he WAS heading back toward the cars while Tiffany and I were still headed AWAY from the cars.

But there is something really fun about running in the rain -- even when forgetting the fun duck mantra. The childishness of splashing through puddles, of not caring about the sheets of water coming down. And since it was a tempo run, we got to run fast (well, fast for ME). The heavy breathing and warm face add yet another childlike quality to the morning. Days when you wear yourself out chasing after others in a game of tag. 

If only tempo runs didn't feel more like work than tag! But then, perhaps that is what the rain is for -- a reminder that this "work" is supposed to be fun, a form of play. After all, what can be more fun than listening to your double-layered wicking socks squish within your rain-pail shoes, while the rain in your face makes all the lights kinda hazy? 

Today I flap my wings and thrash my webbed feet through the puddles. And you'll hear me chant "I'm a duck. I'm a duck. I'm a duck. I'm a duck...." quack.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


With all the thought of actually training for the race, I must admit I've not been doing too well at raising funds for -- or awareness of -- World Vision. In fact, I'm really just no good at fundraising! Aside from a blog post here, a ticker on my facebook page and a signature in my "home" e-mail account, I really haven't made any efforts. Anyone have any tips on gaining sponsors?

World Vision is such a worthy cause, and I am truly proud to be running on their behalf. 

The ticker for my fundraising page is to the right if you wish to contribute =0) If you don't like the idea of giving money online, other arrangements could be made (I even accept spare change!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Broken dreams... or bones.

It shouldn't be too hard to believe that the Olympic event I was most interested in was the Women's Marathon. My main interest? Deena Kastor. I love Deena Kastor. My laptop's wallpaper is a photo of Deena during a tempo run. I find her both incredibly intriguing and motivating. 

The recent documentary "Spirit of the Marathon" included her in it's feature on the Chicago Marathon. She was warm, friendly and funny -- the sort of person you want to be friends with. At the same time, she is this elite distance runner with an insanely demanding training schedule. 

When I first saw the film, (in the beginning stages of training for my first half) I laughed as a massage therapist stretched her out after one of her training runs. "Oh, those silly elites," I thought, "won't even bother stretching on their own..." NOW, I get it. Reaching your toes becomes nearly impossible after long runs -- and I'm sure that goes double with the kind of training folks like Deena face.

ANYWAY, back to the Olympics... I wasn't able to watch. I was busy practically all day Saturday. Sunday morning, I started bugging everyone I saw. 
"Did Deena medal?" 
"Deena Kastor -- she's American."
"Uh, no, I don't think so..."

And then I started hearing sad reports.
"Yeah, one American had to drop out."
"It wasn't Deena Kastor, was it?"
"I don't know... might have been..."

It was. She apparently broke her foot. The report from her coach, Terrence Mahon (according to Runner's World): "Deena suffered a broken bone in the distal head of the 3rd metatarsal in her right foot. It is a clean break all the way through. The doctors did not have to set the bone since the X ray showed that it was lined up where it should be. They have immobilized her foot and she is now on crutches. We will do further tests when she returns home to the U.S."

The Runner's World report of the marathon mentioned that Deena limped away, wiping tears from her face. I wonder how many of those were pain related and how many were from dashed dreams at Beijing. To have trained so hard to end up injured around the 5k mark... 

May you have a quick recovery, Deena. The running community is cheering you on!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Countdown

12 weeks left. Two school grading periods. Two and a half months. The time has never seemed so short. In 12 weeks I will be in Springfield, toeing the line and praying to cross the finish. 

It's getting hard. I feel worn out. My body is rebelling. Most of it is probably my own doing. I'm scaring myself and wearing myself down by overanalyzing; by focusing on weeks I'm not on yet. 

I'm eating better this week, calorie counting again -- trying to stay between 1350-1700 per day. If I keep to that, with a good blend of multi-grain carbs and lots of fruits and veggies, I should feel better. 

Lynne and Bryan sent me links to a YouTube video full of motivational quotes. My favorite was one of Winston Churchill's. "If you are going through hell, keep going." It actually made me laugh because of the simple truth. 

When things get hard, it is so tempting to stop. But who wants to be STUCK in hell? Once I reach that starting line, the months spent running in hot and humid weather, in ill-fitted shoes and through bad days will be MORE than worth it. 

So here I am, continuing through hell for the right to line up on November 2. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Along the journey

When people learn I'm training for a marathon, they often smile and say "wow, that's great! how long is a marathon?" When I smile back and respond "26.2 miles," their expressions immediately change from a nice, encouraging look to the ever-feared "are you out of your MIND!?!" face. I quickly assure them, "yes, actually, I am!"

I have days and weeks where I wonder what exactly it is that I'm doing. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment -- but so are thousands of other things that I'm too sane to participate in.

SO, here's a list of some of the changes/things I've learned since training for scarily-long events:

1. I've developed a large collection (well, large to ME...) of perfectly good-looking retired running shoes.

2. While I still giggle when I hear the word "fartlek," I know what it means and its significance.

3. I know I'm capable of far more than I would have thought possible -- new challenges no longer scare me.

4. I am more likely to waddle up and down stairs due to sore muscles than I am to stop until I'm capable of breathing again.

5. I've learned that I have a really strange-looking gait. Why has no one ever told me I look ridiculous when I walk??

6. I recognize I look funny when I walk or run and don't care as long as I can keep going!

7. I get up earlier on Saturdays than I do on regular weekdays so I can run before the temps are too unbearable.

8. The alarm clock no longer terrifies me when it goes off before 5 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

9. I have more cravings for gatorade than any other non-water beverage.

10. I'm learning that there truly is a mental part of fitness that can carry me on past the state of total exhaustion.

11. You can develop more of a bond with a person while running miles 7 and on than you can in almost any other setting.

12. God really is awake before the sun comes up.

13. Hills are ALWAYS scary.

14. I can almost always run them IF someone else is running with me.

15. And somewhere along the line, I have learned to consider this "fun."

16. I am truly, without a question, insane.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shoe Saga

Returned to The Starting Block yesterday to see what options I had for inserts or another pair of shoes. After another fitting and the consulting of three staffers (including co-owner Amy), I'm back in the Asics 2120s with heat-molded ArchMolds

I also learned that while Asics HAS done away with the 2120s, the 2130 is essentially the same shoe. So I can stick with my old friends for awhile =0)

I'm hopeful this will solve my blister problem. I kept getting "wow, this IS bad" as a comment from the salespeople! 

Guess I'm now ready to tackle Saturday's 10-miler!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Trail of Spuds?

On Saturday morning's long run, as we approached the hill I've dubbed "Mount Moriah," I noticed a potato lying in the middle of the trail. Tiffany didn't notice it, and as it was incredibly humid and I was sweating buckets and trying to ignore the pain from my blister, I thought maybe I was hallucinating ;0)

Not so. As we walked back (T was kind enough to walk with my on the return trip, as I decided it was dumb to keep running with my foot the way it was -- it was a low mileage week for a reason... didn't want to make things worse for the 10-miler this next Saturday), realized it was definitely a potato. No idea what it was doing on the trail. 

Guess someone decided they would need the carbs before the hill on their next run =0)

On the blister note, I've found coating the site in chafing cream and wrapping with an Ace bandage has helped a LOT. Tuesday evening, I'm heading back to Columbia, so I plan to stop in at Starting Block and see what options I have for shoe inserts... I'm hoping there is an easy solution. And unless I hear otherwise, I'm going to switch back to the Asics 2120s for the rest of marathon training. I think the Mizunos have caused more trouble than help. Plus, since the 2120s are being retired, they are REALLY cheap these days! 

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Casualties of the tempo run

Today was the first tempo run of the marathon training schedule. 10 minute warm-up run followed by three cycles of a 5-minute tempo pace and 1 minute recovery walk, ending with a 10-minute cool-down run. 

During the warm-up, my legs felt like bricks, so I was a bit worried -- and probably worrying Tiffany! I was proud of us, though, we ran the tempo portions at about a 8.30 pace, which is two minutes FASTER than I'd anticipated. It felt remarkably good. Something about running at a pace where it is hard to br
eathe is rather exciting -- even if my "really stinkin' fast" pace is rather average for many. 

My left foot, on the other hand, is not doing so well. The blister went into hyperdrive along with the rest of me, leaving a gigantic sore spot on the bottom of my foot. Hope you're okay with gross things, since I posted the picture =0) Since there isn't much perspective in the photo, I just measured the thing -- the blister is 2 inches long.

I've got to figure out how to keep this from happening. I've been wearing double-layered wicking socks that are supposed to prevent rubbing. I've tried wearing thick wicking socks... and I've even tried the single-layer thin socks... so I know THEY aren't the problem. My feet are apparently just too narrow for my own good... having a high arch that collapses when I run doesn't help either. 

Here's hoping a simple insert will solve the problem.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sad shoe news

I just discovered that Mizuno is discontinuing the Wave Alchemy 7s AND Asics is discontinuing the G2120s. Sad day in the life of my feet! I've been wearing the Mizunos for about a month and a half now, and really like them... I was planning to use the 2120s for my backup shoe -- and maybe even go back to them with an insert to fix my blister problem. 

Now it looks as if I need to find new shoes altogether. Sad day.

Mental training

The crazy hard mental aspect of training has begun. On Saturday, T and I ran 9 miles in 100% humidity. As we finished the 7th mile, I was absolutely exhausted. My body wanted to quit. In fact, it not only wanted to quit -- it wanted to fall over, collapse and not move again for a week. Caffeinated gels and copious amounts of sports drink could do nothing for me at this point. Each step, instead, had to be willed. 

And we persevered. We were coated in sweat and resembled limp noodles, but we completed the 9-miler and gained a nice level of giddy endorphins (yeah, AFTER we stopped) to last until we each got home and crashed. 

In less than a month, our long runs will be beyond what I've ever done. And I'm so thankful I have a running partner who inspires me to keep going just by showing up and pounding out these miles with me. I'm becoming more and more impressed with the mental strength of those who train for endurance events alone. I would have quit a thousand times already. 

This business is stinkin' hard. Yet somehow, every step is worth it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Too important to do alone

I thought I enjoyed my alone-time runs until the 5:30 a.m. running group started. There is something about knowing that others are depending on you (which really isn't as true with the group as it is with Saturday long runs, but still -- let me dream!) to show up and the communal aspect that makes running easier and more fun. 

When I interviewed him for my faith and distance running story, Hugh mentioned that running is like church in that it is far too important to do alone. As more and more of my weekly runs become group runs (only 1 run a week is alone now), I'm finding that I am beginning to ascribe to that idea. Perhaps this is too important to do alone.

Running with a group also gives me far more reason to push myself. I always joke that Tiffany is my personal trainer, because she challenges me to run, rather than walk the crazy hills. 

Our new RouteMaster and his assistants designed perhaps the hilliest route I've run for this morning's adventure. And yet, somehow, it isn't seem all that hard. T and I kept a 12.3 minute pace, which, while slower than our average non-slow day, was pretty darn impressive for us on the route! 

We were a group of 7 this morning, which amazes me. I'm not sure I ever really believed this group would materialize, and now new people are beginning to show up! We actually had 3 (or maybe 4?) different pace groups this morning! It's exciting!

This Saturday is a 9-miler. And amazingly, it doesn't sound terrifying! 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 1

Today was the first gathering of the Jeff City Tuesday Thursday 5:30a.m. Running Group. Long name, but at least we know when we meet! Five of us showed up to run -- and we had one oversleeper (*cough*dulce*cough*). Not bad for a start-up! 

The alarm going off at 4:45 was not a pleasant experience, but running while the sun comes up makes summer training MUCH easier. Don't know why I didn't think of this earlier... oh, right -- I like to sleep!

Covered 3.75 miles in 45 minutes, putting me right at a 12 minute mile this morning. Not too bad for being out there before God is awake... =0)

Note to self: forgetting to stretch after running is a BAD plan. I can feel my legs getting stiff. Oops!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Let it Out: The Movie

Due to the success of the "Let it Out" Kleenex campaign, "Let it Out: the Movie" will be released for the start of the Olympics. The film documents memories of former Olympians. You can watch the trailer here

Note the musicians who pop up in the trailer -- they are the reason why I am truly excited about this documentary. The guys are my buddies StarrFadu, a southwest Missouri band that received international attention when their song "Let it Out" was used for the campaign. 

You can check out their myspace page (for some tunes and another look at the trailer) at Leave a note and tell them I said "hi." 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tuesday/Thursday running group

It's official. As of Thursday, July 17, the Jefferson City chapter of the Tuesday/Thursday 5:30 running group be will in existence. Anyone who wants to wake up insanely early and join the fun is welcome to meet at the Greenway parking lot on Edgewood. We already have at least two pace groups -- the penguins and the Bostonites =0) 

I'm excited! Remind me of that when my alarm clock tries to wake me before 5 a.m.!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thank you, Runner's World!

I've been struggling with slower runs being tough recently -- even a slow pace seems draining. Enter Runner's World to save the day! The new issue, which I received yesterday, mentioned that a person should slow down 30 seconds per mile for every 5 degrees above 60. 

Turns out, I'm not slow after all and may, in fact, be building speed. Reminder that I may be pushing myself too hard when trying to run at my good-weather pace. I imagine I'll build up to it naturally as training continues and I add tempo workouts in. 

This is a rest week, meaning I have only 3 running days (instead of 4), and my long-run mileage goes down. Gotta love these little recouping breaks!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

And the angels sing...

Did NOT want to run this morning. Got back into town around 1:30 after roadtripping with the lovely Kate Murphy to Troy. We went to see some buddies of her and enjoy the fantastic Troy fireworks ;0) Good times were had.

But the idea of running at 7:30 seemed INSANE. My alarm went off in the middle of a bizarre dream (which had suddenly become a musical... go figure), and the zombie-version of me climbed out of bed to eat half a clif bar and prepare my fuel belt. It is amazing how close I came to leaving the house without shoes.

As usual, as soon as we hit the trail, I was awake. Today was a 7-miler, which reminded me of how close we are to surpassing what we covered in half marathon training. In a few weeks, 10 miles will be a rest day. Scary thought.

We made it to the top of both sides of the scary Edgewood Hill, and during the last mile, I realized that running felt GOOD. I was enjoying it. It had to be our fastest mile of the 7. Had I not been wearing the evil pair of running shorts that left me with chafing, running another few miles would have seemed like no problem. 

YAY! Running is FUN again =0)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Don't stop believing

I'm finding the desire for training difficult this week. The days I want to run, I find a thunderstorm pushing me inside. The days that are beautiful running weather... well, the swimming pool looks so inviting. So last night, I swam. I promised myself it would be okay if I crosstrained instead, but it is always bad news for me to stray away from my schedule.

I think I'm still scared I don't have what it takes, and am therefore trying to sabotage myself. Why is it that we are so good at believing in others, but find it so difficult to believe in ourselves?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

They like Jesus...

After months of recommendations from my friend and partner-in-crime Jeanie, I finally got around to starting Dan Kimball's "They Like Jesus, But Not the Church." I'm about halfway though at this point and finding myself resonating with a lot of what Kimball has to say.

His point is that many in the "emerging generations" (those between 20-35) are really open to Jesus and his message, but not the church or what they view as organized Christianity.

This is something I've thought about for years on a personal basis, and something I ponder a lot when I run. How is it that the Christ I read about in Scriptures seems so different from the image I see projected in the larger church?

I wonder how it is that I've stuck around when so many of my friends have given up on the church. I used to think it was because I grew up in the church and have always been familiar with the mess. But as I've pondered this question recently, I've realized it has far more to do with who I am than my background. I can't walk away from problems. If there is any hope whatsoever, I cling to it and fight to make the hope a reality. I'm not necessarily good at it -- truth is, I'm a coward -- but I long to be a proponent of all that is good in Christianity and inject that back into the church.

I'm lucky in that I am part of a fantastic congregation. My pastors are true examples of what I believe Christianity is all about. As Coach Rod pointed out at a recent meeting, our church -- at its best -- is a place of grace. It encourages the messy kind of faith that I love; the kind of faith that is strong, but realizes it isn't always right. The kind of faith that is open to dialogue, correction and disagreement. 

I've privileged because I've seen enough of the good to know that it is worth facing the bad -- even when the bad is a big, ugly mess. 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's official

I've received confirmation that I am registered for the Bass Pro Shops Conservation Marathon. Since training has already begun, I didn't have my expected "Dear God, what have I DONE?" moment -- I've already had plenty of those as I look through the coming weeks of my training schedule!

What IS going through my head is "whoa, I'm a MARATHON runner." The weeks ahead still scare me, but today a goofy grin is plastered across my face. This was always something I WANTED to do, but something I assumed I wasn't capable of. Today I paid $68 to be one of the insane folks eating massive amounts of pasta during the Saturday evening pasta dinner -- where I'll get to hear Bill Rodgers speak -- and line up with up to 1,000 others going after the medal and hat that confirm I've done something insane, run 26.2 miles in one stretch. The course is open for 8 hours, and I imagine I'll be on it for about 6 of that. EEK!

In other news, looks like we're finally getting a Jefferson City running group started. I've been exchanging e-mails with a few folks. I'm hoping for a group with a blend of all abilities / paces. If you are interested, let me know! I think it would be a lot of fun to have a group of beginners working on the Couch to 5k program.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gettin' crafty

My new Nathan Speed 4 fuel belt FINALLY came in the mail yesterday. I'm so excited about having it with me on Saturday's long run. It's far too hot to be running for an hour + without water / sport drink.
Because I'm impatient, I ordered the small -- because it was the only one in stock at Performance Bike -- knowing it would be, well, too small. I figured I'd be able to rig up some sort of workable extension. 

Luckily, I figured right. I purchased some industrial-strength velcro to add to (what I believe is) the front. With the extra few inches, the belt fits comfortably around my hips, AND puts the bottles low enough and farther back enough that I won't constantly hit them with my arms. 

The belt has a small pouch in front and a larger pouch in back to carry keys and -- I hope -- a Hammer gel flask. If I use it to bike, the pouch is also perfect for my mp3 player. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Team World Vision

For those not aware, I'm running as part of Team World Vision. I've been a fan of World Vision for years, thanks to my buddy Aarik Danielsen. We partnered together in 2005 to organize a fundraising event for World Vision's orphans and widows fund, which helps families torn apart by HIV/AIDS.

World Vision is most known for helping kids around the world. They have a fantastic child sponsorship system -- for $30 a month, you can provide clean water, food and education to help 
end the cycle of poverty in developing countries. 

In addition to helping kids, World Vision helps families by tackling issues should as the world AIDS crisis and water and sanitation. They provide means of living -- livestock and agricultural knowledge -- for families unable to provide for themselves. They also work to provide quick disaster response when natural disasters occur.

I'm added a widget to the side of my blog that links to my Team World Vision fundraising page. The page allows you to sponsor a child or make a one-time donation that immediately goes to work to tackle the causes of poverty and injustice.

If you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete interested in becoming part of Team World Vision, I'd love to tell you more about the program. I'm currently working with the powers that be to become a team leader -- I'd love to have you aboard!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Elemental, my dear Watson

I spent Sunday afternoon standing in the community garden at First Baptist Church, Springfield, chatting with and taking pictures of Adam and Kristie Stoddard. Adam commented that there is something spiritual about digging in the dirt, after all, it was the first job God gave us.

Like the act of gardening, there is something spiritual about running. Chris Cook, pastor of Parkade Baptist Church in Columbia, enjoys telling others that running is the only Biblical sport. I must admit that Paul's words about running toward the goal held different meaning for me after my half marathon in April. 

But I suppose a Bible-reference doesn't make any action more spiritual than any other (otherwise I need to trade in my car for either the Disciples' Accord or a mule... and I don't think a mule would fit my apartment complex's pet policy!). 

The rhythm of running somehow clears my mind. While that sounds easy enough, my OCD makes that a near miracle -- my mind is NEVER clear. I'm always thinking of at least 50 things, usually in a cycle that makes no sense to anyone without this lovely disorder. But when running, my brain quiets.

I haven't yet found the ability to pray while pounding the pavement, but somehow the act itself seems like an act of prayer -- perhaps an offered prayer for those things beyond my comprehension, and therefore beyond words. 

Running serves as a reminder that we are intricately and wonderfully made -- and that our bodies are capable of far more than we imagine. 

In running, I remember those basics. The time away from cell phones and noise distractions (I've found recently that running with an mp3 player seems to crowd my head -- when Coach Rod first mentioned that about himself, I thought "whoa, I'll never be there." A month later, I decided to grab my player on the way out the door and couldn't stand it.) beyond the occasional passing car, birds and toads. The view of creation as I waddle past. Even the quickened heart rate and huffing and puffing of my breathing serve as pointers to something greater... 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm finding that my biggest challenge right now is mental. My head doesn't think I can do it, even when my body is fine. My weekday runs have been extremely slow, and I've even thrown a walking break here and there. I don't need it. Physically I feel fine, but my brain essentially shuts down -- and I've been listening to it.

It makes me even more glad to have Tiffany to run with on Saturdays. When I run with her, I'm not scared of speeding up a bit. We rely on each other and push each other, and therefore do more together than at least I could do alone. If only I can carry the same attitude into the rest of the week. 

My goal this week is to rock my weekday runs. I'll allow myself the slow pace on Monday if I get through the entire run without stopping. Wednesday and Thursday, I'm back at training pace -- between 10-12 minute miles. 

Anyone have mental tricks to share?

Friday, June 20, 2008

I run because.... I'm insane

Seems that runners have a high percentage of news of the weird. While browsing Runner's World this morning, I found this (

Residents Bracing for Grandma's "Nervous Bladders"
By Mark Remy

Grandma's Marathon is this Saturday.

For those running it, these last few days pre-race are a time to rest up, pack, and visualize success. For homeowners in Duluth, Minn., where the race takes place, it's a time to brace for a veritable flood of urine.

Well, that may be overstating it.

But according to this Associated Press article on, residents along the course of this weekend's marathon and half-marathon are "dreading the nervous bladders" that Grandma's brings to their backyards (or front yards, or shrubs) each year.

Race officials have threatened to disqualify any runners caught relieving themselves al fresco. And if that's not enough, consider these suggestions from the comments on the original article:

Photograph the runner (don't need to see the face...their number will identify) or sit nearby with either a garden hose or a Super Soaker squirt gun loaded with water and a few drops of red vegetable dye.

Time to get the Rottweiler’s and Pit Bulls out of storage. Nothing keeps runners moving like a lunging attack dog.

Oh my - how RUDE! I would buy a taser and zap anyone peeing in my yard...


How about you? Have you ever, um, used the facilities in the out-of-doors before, during, or after a race? Ever had to face an angry bystander? Ever been tased, bro?

Wonder if this will result in a higher percentage of DNFs? Or maybe a lot of PRs from all the folks running from large dogs. Unfortunately, no one will be able to catch them to present trophies!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Too ambitious?

Tuesday, as I was chatting with the man who was fitting me for shoes, I watched as his face morphed into a fatherly look of concern. He learned I've been running a little under a year, have completed a half marathon and am now in training for a full. "You're certainly ambitious," he said -- and it obviously wasn't meant as a compliment.

I admit I've been a bit freaked out since then. Am I rushing this? He seemed slightly relieved when I shared that I'm using the John Bingham/Jenny Hadfield plan and merely want to cross the finish line. 

That conversation changed my fear from "can I really do this?" to "SHOULD I really do this?" Am I making a mistake? Am I setting myself up for injury or a hatred of running? 

I don't have immediate plans to give up. I'm enjoying training again too much to let one man dictate what I should be doing. But there is that slight seed of doubt, so I'm curious what others think.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Finding the 'want to'

My first training run last night was horrific. Forty minutes felt like an eternity, and my evil blisters returned. My friend Cassie referenced how she is finally enjoying running distance again after her half -- I responded that I still seem to be lacking my "want to." I don't necessarily WANT to run, I do so because I remember enjoying it and because I don't want this training schedule to kill me.

Cassie sent me a virtual box of "want to" about the same time I was purchasing a "want to" box of my own -- only mine had a new pair of Mizuno Wave Alchemy 7 shoes in it. After talking about it for months, I finally stopped by Tryathletics in Columbia to talk shoes. These are essentially the same as my beloved Asics 2120s, but with a bit more arch support -- which will hopefully eliminate my blistering problem. 

I love new running gear! I'm already sad that this is a cross-training day, as I'm wanting to play in my new shoes! 

Tonight's feat: 30 minutes of cycling
Have I mentioned how bad I am on a bike? Should be fun.