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!