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?