We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

TITLE NOTE: “Auld Lang Syne” gets overshadowed this time of year by sugary sweet cheesecake holiday tunes.  I shared my own top ten Christmas  music list last year around this time and included Ben Rector’s version of the one-day wonder.  Since then Colbie Caillat has released her own version of the old-school Scottish tune, which trumps all other previously recorded renditions.  (:

12 ks

The 12Ks of Christmas for Runwell!  I have never eaten so well while running, which is a grandiose statement, considering the usual spread of grub at ultra marathons.  December 9, about fifty of my favorite running peeps gathered at Orchard Hills Park in Chesterland, Ohio, for a festive fundraiser for Runwell.  Each runner/walker completed 12 loops of a marked one-kilometer course, stopping at the toasty warm aid station after each K for a holiday treat and beverage.

Some of my favorites were the spicy brownies, candy cane cookies, Nutter Butters dipped in chocolate and decorated to look like reindeer, and the giant hoho.  I politely declined the beer, chocolate wine, peppermint schnapps, and Irish coffee, but I more than made up for it with about six cups of punch…the red stuff with the foamy sherbet yumminess on top.

Some of us lingered at the aid station more than others, to consume more than our share of punch, smiles, laughter, and overall merriment.  I call this “fueling,” both the body and soul.

fueling

Most of us dressed in festive elf-like apparel.

elves

Some of us cajoled others into running more laps.

jay

Somebody finished her 12K LAST as a result of too much yapping between laps…

peg and me

…but some of us didn’t finish all twelve at all, due to too much “fueling.”  (:

winning

I have never met a more genuine and loving group of people in my entire life.  We raised $1,500 for Runwell, all in support the very fabulous Des and her journey towards Racing the Planet: Iceland next summer.  For more information, click on the link above or check out Des’s fundraising page.

Runwell is a non-profit foundation dedicated to inspiring individuals around the world to lead healthy, active lifestyles. It encourages anyone involved with drug or alcohol addictions, from chemical dependents to their friends and families, to get involved in sports. 

This is one thing in my life that I know for sure

2 YEARS
The more I run, the more I want to run, and the more I live a life conditioned and influenced and fashioned by my running. And the more I run, the more certain I am that I am heading for my real goal: to become the person I am.
–George Sheehan, M.D., beloved former RW columnist

TITLE NOTE:  Exactly two years ago today, I flipped a switch in my life.  What better song to capture how I feel now – my two-year blog-aversary – than AG’s “Lunatic“?

RR: Autumn Leaves 5M 2012 Edition

Autumn Leaves is definitely in the running as my favorite race ever.  I mean really…where else can you sprint through a barn, muck through a muddy (I hope?) cow pasture, make animal noises as you blaze by sheep and cows, race (literally) through a corn maze, and cruise past the graveyard of Halloween Hayrides past?  It was the scene of my very first trail race last year and happens to also be the name of my favorite jazz tune.

A NERC event notorious for sweet swag, great grub, and familiar faces, Autumn Leaves brings everyone out to Lake Farmpark – road and trail runners alike.  I am not exaggerating when I say I probably knew at least half of the 226-person field.  It was a little chilly that morning, so my new Outrun long-sleeve t-shirt made its race debut, topped off (pun!) with my fleece Lake Metroparks hat.  I stuck with my Oiselle Roga shorts, which made me the target of some dirty slash crazy slash whaaaaa? looks, and I laced up my tanks Saucony Xodus 2s to get me through the mud and the muck.  I was running Garmin-free, but I still wanted to place in my age group in order to double my collection of Second Sole mugs.

As a distance runner, I know that warming up before short races is in my best interest, as I usually suck wind and feel awkward for the first mile or so. So after wandering around shmoozing it up with new and old friends, I made my way out to the start line, where I warmed up watched other people warm up before the race with some striders.   I found Outrun’s fearless leader (the bearded dude in the pic above), and we chatted about calves and butt pain and such as the horn went off.  Before too long he was out of sight, so I set my sights on my friend Linda, who was wearing fabulous day-glo calf sleeves.  And is in my age group.  And beat me last year.

This year did not even compare to the mudfest of 2011, even after Hurricane Sandy sent her torrential rains to the midwest.  We stumbled through some long grass and rutted trails, but I never had that suction cup feeling that makes you happy you tied your shoelaces extra tightly.  Somehow, even though we skipped the muddiest pasture on the farm, my legs ended up splattered in mud anyways.   Me likey mud (what a difference a year makes!), so I had a five mile smile that morning, cheered on by my favorite Outrun friends, Second Sole staff, and fellow NERC members.  Running is fun.  I knew it!

I caught up with Linda right at the corn maze (don’t ask me what mile it was; I was running naked, remember?).  They roped it off and left two entrances, one path shorter than the other.  I yelled to Linda the we should split up, and she shouted back, “Okay!  I’m going right…no left!”  I waved to the Second Sole boys, then headed to the right…immediately realizing that I took the long cut.  After rudely cutting around the lady in front of me to try to get through the maze first (insert Flowers for Algernon reference here), I burst out of the corn…seconds behind Linda.  Grr!  We stayed close the rest of the race, me gaining ground the second time through the barn and then passing her with a mile or so left to go.  She stayed right on my tail, and I picked off a few runners before climbing one last hill and crossing the finish line – third in my age group.

I literally beat Linda by one second: 41:54 TO 41:55.  Here’s the photo finish…

I congratulated the JV Mentor XC kids and the cutsie pie Achilles boys on their speediness, jogged to the car for a change of clothes, then headed inside to warm up with coffee, pumpkin bagels, and a cookie.  Not only did I take home my age group prize, I also scored a door prize that included a NERC travel mug, two pairs of gloves, and a hat from last year’s race.  I also accepted two other age group awards on behalf of friends (speedy ones that win all the time and are too cool to stay for the awards), then promptly ate the Reese’s squares out of both of their mugs.  As a delivery fee.

I finished this race 4.5 minutes faster than last year’s edition.  It really is FUN.  Put it on your calendar for 2013 (November 3, FYI).  Unless you’re in my age group…

On a side note, I just started a super duper dose of extra-strength (read: ginormous) antibiotics for my standard sinus infection that comes around every fall.  It must be late this year, because in last year’s Autumn Leaves post I write about just finishing up a round of the very same said strong super drugs.  Because Z-packs are for amateurs.

 OH!  And I finally joined NERC…in spite of this guy.

STATS: 41:54; 3rd in my age group, 68/226 overall.

PROS: barns, cows, corn maze, pumpkin bagels, long sleeve tech T, familiar faces, Madison XC girls at the water stops, great pics, a warm place for awards (and bathrooms), video of the start, polka guy directing traffic, Metroparks love, and the best spectators ever

CONS: men’s cut shirt

RR: Covered Bridges Half Marathon

Two weeks after Wineglass I ran (rather at the last minute) the newest half marathon in these here parts: the Spire Institute Covered Bridges Half Marathon.  After my bonk in Corning I launched “Operation Run for Fun!” : I’ve been a running store group run hussy, I’ve added a few shorter races to my calendar, and I have been hitting the trails naked – all as a part of my new low-pressure training strategy (naked: without a watch, perv).  The Covered Bridges Half didn’t exactly fit into the “What goal?” winter mindset I had decided on, but a PR trip through Wine Country, Ohio (not long after my crash and burn in Wine Country, NY) sure smelled like mini-redemption to me.  And grapes.

The race started at 7:00 am from the Spire Institute parking lot.  Spire is a non-profit founded on the belief that “sports and education enrich lives.”  The place is massive, with an 8-lane indoor track, soccer/football stadium, aquatic center, restaurant, banquet facilities, and health and fitness club.  When I was looking to join a gym with a pool last month (more to come on my new H2O endeavor), Spire was one of the first places I checked out.  It’s really affordable (less than $40 a month), the pools are sparkling, and it’s the home of the MHS swim team.  In the end, however, I just couldn’t justify driving thirty minutes to swim for forty-five, so I opted for the equally priced yet not so shiny and new YMCA five minutes away from my front door.

Spire still looks a little unfinished.  The batting cages are filled with weight machines and other exercise equipment, and for some reason the parking lot has not been paved.  So at 7:00 sharp, we lined up on the gravel (in the dark) for pre-race announcements no one could hear (isn’t that always the case?) before heading around the building and onto the main roads of Geneva.  For the first half mile I focused on not rolling an ankle in a gravel pot hole.  Then I concentrated on keeping a steady 8:00/mile pace, which lasted less than five miles.  After hitting the half at Wineglass at 1:47, I had set myself a lofty goal of 1:45.  At work we have to write SMART goals for learning (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely)…but for some reason in my sweaty life I go a little overboard with the A and the R.  I knew after the first hill/covered bridge that I would have to settle for a PR (anything less than 1:56).  My lovelies at Achilles Running Shop had never released the course elevation.  Now I know why.

I am not a baby on hills.  From ultra running (where we WALK the hills, btw), I’ve learned that it’s all about equal effort, not equal pace. This spring at the Flying Pig so many people barreled up the hills and zoomed down the other side, while I kept a steady effort, trucked along, and passed them on the flats.  At Covered Bridges I thought I’d use the same strategy: go easy on the hills, then earn some time back on the flats.  Except (as you can see) there weren’t a lot of flat sections.  Towards the end (where I’ve pointed out the Secret Ninja Hills) it was all tiny rolling hills of dooooooooom.  Flat free.  I basically crawled the last few miles back to Spire, ran around the track, crossed the finish, got my medal, and punched that Cutsie Pie Achilles Boy right in the gut.  (The one in the purple.  The one in the green ran it in 1:15, so he experienced more than enough pain and is off the hook.)

STATS: 1:54:37; 76/218, 6/15 in my age group

PROS: PR, super sweet swag (1/4 zip North Face fleece), wine and (more importantly) coffee after the race, Cutsie Pie Achilles Boys, Spire Institute (read: indoor bathrooms), DJ Jeremy calling my name out as I entered the track (fries?  call me), track finish, perfect fall weather, running over two covered bridges, the smell of grapes

CONS: first half mile in the dark on gravel, secret ninja hills (how about we release the course elevation ahead of time, kiddos?), a bizarre amount of roadkill on the course, and lack of race day photos

RR: 2012 Wineglass Marathon

Well.  I may have been avoiding you, Interwebz accountability peeps.  Let’s get it over with.  I did NOT run a 3:35 at the 2012 Wineglass Marathon.  I in fact ran a 3:56…and took the worst best finishing photo known to man.

Not really sure what’s going on there.   I do know that I laughed so hard I cried when I saw this gem (thanks, Brightroom; excuse me if I don’t drop everything and pay $24.99 to get a non-illegal, high res version of this one), and at the time I definitely needed a good chuckle.  I still get ridiculously giggly just thinking about it.  Go ahead, share it with your friends.  Have a caption contest and report back to me.  Maybe you can figure out what I’m looking at, or what (besides my time) has me so incredibly horrified.  Or why I have tiny tyrannosaurus arms.  Thanks in advance.

I am 100% sold on mini destination races.  After our awesome experience at the Flying Pig in Cinci this May, my sister and I immediately picked Wineglass as our fall marathon of choice.  The Wineglass Marathon is a point-to-point race in the Finger Lakes region of New York, starting in Bath and ending in Corning.  The course is a fast one (BQ-able), with a net elevation loss of 250 feet and a scenic route through the hills and small towns of wine country.  There are also half marathon and 5K distances available race weekend.  The swag is notoriously killer, and to top it all off, at least ninety percent of my entire family lives within a fifty mile radius of the starting line (including my mom!).

Saturday morning I woke up with a sore throat.  I packed my bags (including three possible race outfits), then snoozed on the couch until the guys arrived.  Jim and Matt got to our place around noon, and we loaded the car and headed to marathonville.  Jim (our chauffeur slash photographer for the weekend) had decorated his rear window with pictures of us running, and we beeped and yelled randomly at prospective fellow marathoners on the four and a half hour trip east.   Well, they did.  I slept most of the way.

We headed right to the expo at the Corning YMCA to pick up our bibs, shirts, and string bags and to make ourselves our own motivational signs.  Kelly wrote “I am awesome,” while I chose a classy line from a very sophisticated piece of popular music.  We then hopped over to Market Street to grab our half bottle of local “champagne” and commemorative wineglass and spent some time frolicking in the street before dinner.  I had perked up quite a bit by this time, so I took my now signature jumping picture in the crosswalk on Market Street.  Totally safe.  Please ignore the car in the background.

Corning is an adorable little town and is dubbed the “Crystal City” for its glass industry.  We didn’t have time to check out the Corning Glass Museum, and the art galleries were all closed (#fail), but we enjoyed the little time we had strolling down the sidewalk and window shopping (which is translated as “window licking” in French, btw).  Corning is definitely on my “Weekend Destination To-Do List,” along with Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor, and Indianapolis.  And Paris.

After an excursion to the grocery store (mmm…Wegman’s), we settled in at the hotel.  I selected an outfit and carefully organized my marathon gear.  I suck at mornings, so for me it’s best to have everything already ready to roll.  I tried to go to sleep early, but my heart was beating so loudly that I had a hard time relaxing.  I panicked a little bit.  Okay maybe a lot.  I don’t remember falling asleep, but I know the alarm rang way too early for our 6:00 breakfast rendezvous.

We parked close to the start and wandered about a half mile to the line (next to the jail), shivering the whole way.  I decided to leave my throw away shirt in the car (good move), but gave my inhaler to Jim to carry just in case.  It felt like there was no one at the start.  With only about 1,500 runners, I found the 3:35 pace group lined up terrifyingly close to the starting line. In fact, at the end of the day, my chip and clock times were only 19 seconds apart.  To put it into CLE perspective, our Turkey Trot alone has three times the number of runners, and CLE marathon and the Pig both have about 15,000 runners toeing the line on race day (all events).  Even though there were an additional 1,500 Wineglass half marathoners, they started at mile 13.1, and we never saw them.  To be honest, the start was subdued and quite disappointing.  No national anthem, no speeches, no music, no spectacle at all.  A man with a bullhorn yelled, “Runners set, go” and we were off.

My pace group was one of the largest, made up mostly of women about my age who were trying to finish in 03:35:00…or less.  Everyone had Boston on the brain, and some even had it written on their bodies or bibs.  I chatted up as many people as I could, including an ultra runner, a French Canadian, two (?) women who spoke Danish, a man from PIttsburgh with whom I declared a truce for the day, and a girl who was dressed like my Cinci Flying Pig twin – the very same black, red, and white striped shirt, black shorts, AND yellow Adizero Bostons I wore in May.  I saw Jim and my mom and step dad Hank among the sparse spectators in the first half of the race.  Mom held a sign that said, “Just do it,” and I glanced at my Fearless bracelet with every mile my Garmin announced.  My confidence was pretty low going into the race, so I was shocked around mile 9 when I considered for probably the first time that I could actually do it.  It seemed I could run all day long at that pace (8:05ish).  It wasn’t super comfortable, but it didn’t hurt.  My faraway Boston dream seemed so close.

I hit the halfway point in 1:47:24, a half marathon PR and right on target.  I remember thinking of my running BFFs following me at home and sent them all some love as I cruised across the mat.  Then…I don’t even know how to describe it.  I came unplugged?  I found myself drifting farther back from my pace group.  I would rally, catch up, slowly slip back a couple hundred yards, catch up again, then fall back once more.  I did this countless times, then watched that little sign get farther and farther away, turn a corner, and finally disappear.  My legs didn’t hurt.  I didn’t cramp up.   I just couldn’t convince my legs to turn over any faster.

The rest of the race was a constant struggle.  I was passed constantly.  I slowed down.  I thought about quitting.

Somewhere along an empty road, I came across a lone woman watching the race from her front yard.  As I passed by, she said to me, “I am so proud of you.  Do you realize what you’re doing?  This is amazing.”  This complete stranger seemed so genuine, so full of emotion, that she made me think of all the people I know that cannot run 26.2 miles – at any speed – no matter how bad they want it.  And I felt guilty.  Guilty that for me, 26.2 wasn’t enough.  So I plodded on, crossing the finish line in downtown Corning after three hours and fifty-six minutes – a forty-five second PR.  And despite my best efforts, I found my mom and shed a few tears for my Boston dream deferred.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past week trying to figure out what went wrong.  Was I overtrained?  Under confident?  Did I overanalyze?  Underestimate?  I’ve discussed my race with many a veteran runner, and they all pretty much say the same thing.  “Stop agonizing over it.  Sometimes there isn’t a reason.  It simply wasn’t your day.”

It wasn’t my day.  I can accept that.  But my day is coming.  See you soon, Hopkinton.

STATS: 03:56:22:76, 615/ 1586 overall, 43/128 in age group

SPLITS: 1:47:24 and 2:09:16.  Oops.

PROS: scenery, 10% dinner discount and pasta specials for runners, cutsie pie Corning, running with friends, mini road trip, homemade signs, street jumping, Mennonite spectators with tambourines, our personal photographer/chauffeur Jim, ample potties, seeing Mom on the course, flat course, good grub, sweet race swag (LS shirt, string bag, wine glass, mini bottle of sparking wine), coolest medal ever (see below), and the sign that read “Run faster or I’ll vote for Romney”

CONS: Way too small of a race, no music/bands, few spectators, massages a HALF mile from the finish line, bonking

But I won’t do that, no I won’t do that

TITLE NOTE:  This blog post has nothing to do with love or marriage or Meatloaf.  (Sorry?)  The only other semi-appropriate lyric from today’s title song “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” is “I’d run right into hell and back.”  But I wouldn’t.

A lot of people think I’m crazy.  In a typical week I run four times, box twice, and lose play a game or two of soccer in a co-ed rec league.  When I can, I sneak in a lazy yoga class, which isn’t very often.  My running friends can’t believe I hit people, my boxing friends think I’m insane to pound so much pavement, and my entire soccer team shakes their heads in disbelief as I run my pre- and post-game laps around the field.  Yoga peeps don’t seem to judge me, at least not out loud, but my high school students (and colleagues!) are very vocal about my sweatiness.  Most conversations start with “Why…??” and end with a look that screams, “My teacher is cray cray!”

I train a lot (too much lately, apparently).  I’ve run marathons, ultra marathons, and one lonely triathlon, but many of my sweaty friends have wayyyyyy fewer marbles than I, and based on recent experiences, I’ve decided that there two things I will not do.  Read on.

Run 100 miles

When you run trails there seems to be a lot of pressure to leg up and race ultra marathons.  I myself have run two 50Ks – Run for Regis and the Buckeye Trail 50K, and I’m planning to add another to my race schedule this winter.  Next year you might even see me bibbing it up at a 50 miler (gasp!).  HOWEVER, this girl finds 100 miles to be certifiably sick.  Four marathons?  Back to back?  Non merci.

I crewed at the Burning River 100 for one of the most dynamic, energetic people I know.  Although I had a blast following him around for 29 hours, shoving Ramen noodles down his throat, and pacing him in the dark woods without a headlamp, I witnessed first-hand the destruction your body – and mind – experiences on such a journey.  I saw a lot of brokenness where I usually look for strength, and it shook me to the core.  The atmosphere of support at the finish line and the runners’ final push to the end brought a steady flow of tears to my eyes, and words cannot adequately describe how I felt watching Kevin cross the finish line – confident, strong, and beaming – after fearing a DNF for hours and thinking he had absolutely nothing left.

I am in awe of my 100-miler friends.  You are infinitely more badass than I, and you do the work every day…HOWEVER I am not ready to hop on the 8-missing-toenails train.  I do, however, love to make signs, skip ahead of zombie runners, and drink coffee while acting a fool.  So if you are in need of a crew, call me.  I’ll even smile every time you say, “Oh, you run 50Ks?  That’s cute.”

Do an Ironman

Normally my mantra is “Make time, not excuses.”  The background of my phone reads, “Someone busier than you is running right now.”  No matter how full your day, I wholeheartedly believe that you can find the time to add a little sweatiness into your life.  You might have to get up before dawn, run on your lunch, or drag the kids along with you, but it’s possible.  It’s a choice you make and a committment you keep, just as you would an allergist appointment…or the season finale of Breaking Bad.

This weekend I travelled to America’s Roller Coast and spent Sunday morning dragging unwilling, frightened children on all my favorite rides at Cedar Point, then headed over to the run course of the Rev3 Ironman.  From a grassy corner not far from the lake, a few friends and I – armed with clever signs and sporting puffy-painted shirts – cheered until our throats were raw.  We were technically there to support/crew for our friend Matt, but the course had so many switchbacks (and was two loops) that we saw each athlete about six times and became everyone’s biggest fans.  We gave people nicknames, complimented outfits, kept them running, offered roast beef sandwiches, and flirted with every man in spandex that ran/shuffled/stumbled by.  And some of the women.  It was a long day, and towards the end our cheering skills were getting sloppy.  Kat, who enjoyed cheering on the Ironmen while lying on the grass – accidentally called to a guy, “You might look like ass, but you feel great!”  Kelly and I got slaphappy and came up with ridiculous sayings for our next signs, and I lamented the absence of tutus and my lack of gymnastics/cheerleading skills while shoving handfuls of pretzel M&Ms in my mouth…even though I found them disgusting.  When Kelly headed off to run Matt’s last miles with him, Kat and I commandeered her Orangemobile and continued screaming motivational cheesiness from the open windows on our way back to the park.

The finish line was overwhelming.  It was getting dark, and the rain fell intermittently as runners trudged through the last point six of their 140.6.  Their names were announced as they crossed the finish line, and many had friends and family join them for the last final push.  I got emotional watching strangers familiar faces accomplish such an enormous goal, and as always I was amazed and proud of the atypical athletes – people whose shapes and sizes may not scream “Ironman” to the rest of the world and who stand as proof of the power of a focused mind, a dream decided, and a registration click.

HOWEVER (lots of howevers today), despite the awesome, motivational, and inspiring weekend I had at Rev3, I am not willing to sacrifice the time required to train for an Ironman.  Notice I didn’t say I can’t make the time; I said I am unwilling to do so.  The “easiest” (ha!) training plan I found called for EIGHTEEN HOURS of training in peak week, with scary demands like “1900 swim ladder” and a six hour bike ride.  Non merci.  A half ironman is totally within my sights, but I’m going to pass on the full.  Let me know when you’re doing one, though.  I’ll make some signs.  And wear a tutu this time.

**DISCLAIMER** At one point I remember saying that I would never run a marathon.  Or ANOTHER marathon.  Or an ultra.  Or ANOTHER ultra.  So…as Biebs (and now T. Swift) so poignantly states NEVER SAY NEVER.  (:

Random conclusion drawn from my crewing/spectating this year: I think TRAINING for an Ironman is more work, but RUNNING a 100-miler seems harder.  Thoughts?

I’m letting go of the thoughts that do not make me strong

TITLE NOTE:  I could not ask for a more perfect song for this post or my current state of mind.  In less than twenty-four hours I will be staring glassy-eyed at the hairy yet handsome face of Jason Mraz as he lays down some of my favorite lyrics on Earth – “Sleeping to Dream,” “A Beautiful Mess,” “Frank D. Fixer,” “93 Million Miles,” and the song of my summer, “Living in the Moment.”  The man is a lyrical genius, a figurative language freak in a fedora…but more about the wonder of Mister Az (from the second row!) later this week.

In less than four weeks I will be toeing the line at my third marathon and my first attempt at qualifying for Boston.  “Living in the Moment,” although a fairly straightforward and radio-friendly offering from Mraz, will be on repeat in my mind as I plow through my final weeks of training for the Wineglass Marathon and try to convince myself I’m ready.

WARNING: Whining ahead.

Lately, running has been hard.  Not physically, but mentally.

It all started when a few weeks ago I had a mono scare.  I went to the doctor with a creepy, white-flecked throat, and she said it was viral tonsillitis, probably caused by mono.  However, because they made me sit in the waiting room for so long (where there are only pregnancy/kid and golf magazines to read, btdubs), the lab was closed and she couldn’t do the official test.  She cautioned me to stay away from contact sports (something about a possible exploding spleen) but said I was free to run as much as my energy level allowed.  I was a little freaked out – marathon training and mono definitely don’t mix – but feeling very much like myself (only with a scratchy throat), I ignored her contact-cautious advice and went to soccer anyways…and took a shot right to the spleen.  That weekend I also muscled out a 2/3/2 tempo run and a 17 mile long run, struggling through both because I was convinced I was sick and weak and wasting my time.  It turns out I WAS sick, with short-lived viral tonsillitis, not mono.  It’s crazy how your poisoned mind can convince your legs they’re tired.  And how little doctors really know.

I’ve also been having some logistic difficulty with my track workouts.  In August and September, it is nearly impossible to find an UNLOCKED and UNOCCUPIED track.  At first I climbed the fence at a the high school by my house but soon found myself struggling  to get back OUT after my track workouts ramped up to double digit repeats.  Then I tried to shimmy through the gate at the local Catholic high school (sorry Jesus) but was unsuccessful and quite honestly scared to death of tearing my new Oiselle Rogas.  The school where I teach is a two-a-day powerhouse and peewee football paradise, so most recently I found myself mucking out 14x400s at one of our district’s middle schools – on a track with equal amounts cinder, sand, gravel, and goose poop – and running mile repeats at Gullybrook Park, a metro park minutes from my home with a 1.? mile loop of crushed limestone…and a veritable satellite dead zone.  Mile repeats get reallllly frustrating when you’re huffing and puffing and turning over like nobody’s business and your GarGar is telling you you’re running an 8:40 pace.

To round off my list of #whinyrunnerproblems, there’s this training plan I’ve been following.  It’s badass and was created for me by the fastest runner I know.  It’s an Excel extravaganza with comments like “crucial run” and “don’t skip this one” next to split paces, long run goals, and acronyms galore (MGP, T, C, BQ, WU, CD, STFU).  Remember last time when I whined about wanting to run fast?  Ha!  At this point I would just like to run…without thinking.  No pace goals, no advanced mental calculations, no labels, no “Oooh, the trails at North Chagrin at 7?  I’d love to, but I have 10 800 repeats that day.”  It’s stressing me out and turning running into a CHORE.  I’ve found solace in the two words on my plan that still make me smile: “CROSS TRAINING.”  Boxing and soccer (along with a little thing called “Back to School!”) have helped keep me quasi-sane these past few weeks, and I’ve made time for both, even if it meant skipping [gasp!] a quick run here or there (or everywhere?).  Soccer makes me feel fast because I get to outrun 80% of the league, and boxing is my number one stress reliever (oddly enough I’ve recently discovered that getting hit is much more therapeutic for me than hitting someone or something else; I am a freak).

To conclude…yesterday was my longest run of the training cycle – 23 miles that I was hoping to keep under a 9:15 pace.  Oops.  It was hot, so hot that my shirt came off at mile 18.  It was also slow…too slow, especially after my calves both cramped up at 22.  But it was definitely 23 miles, and I most definitely dug deep after my brain tried to tell my legs to quit 252 times.  So today, I begin a NEW training plan.  Do the work, and trust the training.  Think good thoughts.  Keep your head up.  Crazy would be changing your mind.  Decide what to be, and go be it.  You are more than just enough.  I’m not afraid.  God knows I’m tough enough.  Insert positive mantra here.

I will not waste my days
Making up all kinds of ways
To worry about all the things
That will not happen to me

So I just let go of what I know I don’t know
And I know I’ll only do this by
Living in the moment
Living our life
Easy and breezy
With peace in my mind
With peace in my heart
Got peace in my soul
Wherever I’m going, I’m already home
Living in the moment

I’m letting myself off the hook for things I’ve done
I let my past go past
And now I’m having more fun
I’m letting go of the thoughts
That do not make me strong
And I believe this way can be the same for everyone

Do you have a powerful mantra I can add to my list?  Where do you do your speed workouts?  Do you ever hate running right before a big race?  

RR: Perfect 10 Miler, 2012 Edition

Everyone keeps warning me that eventually I’ll hit a plateau and the PR train will derail miserably forever. But until that day comes I will party it up with invisible confetti every time I set a new personal record.

The Perfect 10-Miler (which I ran last year in 1:32) was my third ten mile race this year. After a 1:21:54 at the Spring Classic in April and a 1:20:50 on the Towpath in June, I was dead set on seeing a 1:1x:xx in bright red numbers on the clock. My plan was to keep my pace under eight minutes, aiming for 7:45 in the first couple miles to earn some minutes in the bank.

After nearly forgetting to huff my inhaler (you didn’t think my asthma just magically disappeared, did you?) and lamenting my pocket-free running shorts, I toed the line not far some fabulous sweaty friends…who all subsequently passed me within minutes. The course is bor-ing, dodging through neighborhoods with too many turns and a long steady climb in the middle.  Much to my surprise, around the first mile marker, the SAME GUY that followed me at FNL caught up with me, introduced himself, and said (with a big smile), “So what’s our plan today?” In true stalker/drafting form, he and his horse feet stayed literally two steps behind me until I grabbed some water around mile 7, then left me in his dust and snagged a 1:17:xx.  He found me at the finish, along with at least four other guys who said they followed my butt socks [and my "steady pace"] the entire race.  You are very welcome, but next time I’m gonna have to charge you.

After a tough-ish couple of last miles where my average pace started with an 8 (thank goodness I banked that time in the beginning!) and a final push to the finish, I snagged my sun-catcher medal (and my sub 1:20).  I love milling about after races, talking about goals and race calendars and PRs and XC season and BOSTON and cupcakes…okay, maybe I’m the only one that wants to talk about cupcakes…I caught up with some of my favorite running peeps – my crazy fast Normandy Invader Michelle, Pam the Outrun ultra badass, and my newest (and tallest) pink-shoed trail-running friend, Christen (who is blasting her first ultra in two weeks!).

I was also reeeeeally looking forward to the Perfect 10 race shirt and medal, since last year’s shirt actually made a few public appearances.  The medal did not disappoint (it’s a sun catcher!), but the shirt was a MEN’s Brooks tech tee, so even though I got a small it is absolutely unwearable.  Speedy Michelle complained too, so hopefully they’ll get it right next year.  You can check out the t-shirt, my P-10 medal in its new home on my wall, AND a pic of a women’s Brooks small tech tee compared with the men’s small I received at this race in the collage below.  #notbitteratall

Lately I feel like blog me is all about racing.  There is so much more going on – soccer, boxing, closing Beach Adventure Camp, a thwarted mono scare, starting school, and that little Wineglass marathon thing coming up in about a month that I’ve been freaking out about obsessing over just a tad.  My next post will NOT be a race recap.  #pinkyswear #dothework

STATS: 1:19:11.9, 9/68 in my age group

PROS: perfect weather, a ridiculous amount of friends on the out and back-ish course, travel mugs as AG prizes (drool), suncatcher medal

CONS: GIANT tech tee (a men’s small does not fit this girl…), mile 8 in general

RR: Friday Night Lights 5K 2012 Edition

SPOILER:

Friday Night Lights is one of my favs.  Even though the race is in the middle of summer, it jumpstarts my teacher brain and gets me started on the path towards back to school.  The race starts and finishes on the track at MHS, where I spend my non beach months, and both the boys and girls XC come out in full force, including some of my favorite best students.  And since they are all faster than me, I have my very own cheering section for the final 400m.

Sweaty Brian and Erin were also running, along with the entire staff of my favorite running store (who also turned into spectators slash motivators after about 18 minutes due to their freaky speed).  A guy from GriffonRawl even showed up, although his lazy bones were there to watch, not run.  At least he took our picture.

I don’t remember much about the race (maybe due to the fact that it was THREE WEEKS AGO, slacker?), but I tried to keep my pace at or around a 7:00 mile (a full two MINUTES faster than last year‘s plan!).  The start, as always, was insane, with everyone going out too fast on the track and then dying and nearly stopping when they hit the parking lot.  I navigated a sea of people, not feeling comfortable and in open space until almost the first mile marker.  It was also about that time that a man told me he liked my pace and asked if he could follow me the rest of the way.   Sure buddy, whatever works for you.  (It ended up working quite well for him, as he surged ahead at the finish and beat me.)

As always, my second mile was the slowest (7:06, 7:18, 7:11), but I blazed around the track at about a 6:00 pace to just miss my coveted 21:xx.  When I crossed the finish line I noticed a ridiculous amount of vomit on the ground.  (It’s a 5K people, relax.  Interestingly enough, there was a vomit guy LAST YEAR too!)  I wolfed down some watermelon and a smiley cookie, then wandered around yapping with students, parents, coworkers, cutsie pie running boys, and strangers before taking home my third place prize, missing first by less than thirty seconds!

STATS:  22:14; 3/32 in my age group; 151/598 overall

PROS: PR, familiar faces EVERYWHERE, location, student cheering section, watermelon, glow bracelets, smiley cookies, and a wear-worthy race shirt

I usually don’t wear race shirts – either they’re too big, too “this color was on clearance,” or too terribly designed to make public appearances.  Last year’s Friday Night Lights shirt made the top t-shirt drawer, which means it is not assigned to post shower/bedtime duty only.  This year’s did not disappoint, with an ET feel and a logo that almost looks like FML.  (:

CONS: results seemed to take a little long, too much vomit

RR: Lighthouse Triathlon

I was worried about my first triathlon…not because I feared the open-water swim or the legit road bike…and the 5k definitely wasn’t an issue.

I was afraid I’d love it. And want to do more.

And I did. And I do.

I have volunteered for the Lighthouse Triathlon (formerly known as the Pirate Triathlon) the past two years – at a very cold and rainy water stop in 2010 and last year as a flag-waving pirate wench on the bike course. For the 2012 edition of Lake Metroparks’s tri, I relinquished my volunteer status in favor of a very unflattering TYR swimsuit, a borrowed fancy FELT road bike, and – of course – my pink Adizero Bostons.

Directly after the Buckeye Trail 50K, I jumped into a very intense triathlon training schedule. I officially swam four times and biked twice before the race. I also got photo proof of both.

The day before the race I headed up to my office the beach to help organize and run packet pick up. A LOT of familiar faces came through the tent, along with a few new ones that I would see again at Burning River the next weekend (BR100 post to follow). I was very impressed with the race shirt this year – although a t-shirt, not gender specific, and sadly pirate-free, the men’s were blue and the ladies were pink. You might not know this, but I like pink. The shirts also highlighted Fairport Harbor’s Marine Museum and Lighthouse, celebrating its bicentennial next year!

Race morning I returned to packet pick up to help out my favorite LMP staff dudes, then wandered around eating blueberries and talking to friends that were clearly better prepared than I…but probably not quite as excited.

My sister was timing the race, so we paused to take the exact photo we’ve been rocking since the fall of 1998.

500 meter swim

I almost missed my wave. Ladies under 34 were to start at 8:15, but I was so busy chatting up strangers on the beach that I didn’t notice them call my age group. I looked around, saw absolutely NO green wrist bands, and sprinted into the water with three minutes to spare. The water was cold. June 14 cold. I treaded water nervously with the other girls until my favorite LMP bossman gave us the start signal. I immediately got kicked in the calf and the shoulder, so I headed towards the lane line to get away from the splashy, freezing madness. I absolutely stink at bilateral breathing and tend to hyperventilate while doing the front crawl. I also veer at least 40 degrees off course, so I alternated between breaststroke, front crawl, and sidestroke. I like breaststroke the best, and as an added bonus I can see where I’m going and avoid others’ flailing limbs. At the turnaround I knew I was towards the back of my wave, so I made an effort to speed up my stroke and actually passed two people…both were men. I’m not sure quite how that worked.

I hit the sand bar running, high-kneeing it through the shallow water as my LMP bossman cheered me on over the megaphone and gave me a high five. I was a little lightheaded but managed to get to the transition area pretty quickly. I got a drink, Gu-ed, dried my feet, and laced up my Bostons. I slipped on my [nonbike] shorts and pulled my favorite Nike tank top over my head…which promptly got all twisted and tangled in the bib I had so carefully attached the night before. I slammed my helmet on my head, took 30 seconds to clip the darn thing, then grabbed my borrowed bike off the rack and trotted over towards the chute. I knew I took a long time in transition, but at that point I was having fun, not racing. I pretend-reluctantly hopped on the bike, then muscled up the hill to start my ride.

20K bike

I am not big on cycling. I like to watch the Tour de France as much as the next person, and I drool over bikers’ calves more than the average person, but I’ve never really ridden a bike for fitness purposes. I borrowed Sweaty Brian’s road bike for the day (with lame-o regular pedals, which hurt him to put on), and my goals were don’t fall off, don’t die, and don’t be last. I’m not too steady on a road bike – I can’t even reach down and grab my water bottle while in motion – and cars freak me out because I can never hear them coming up behind me. So imagine my surprise when I started passing people…a lot of people. Brian’s Garmin was attached to the handlebars, so I turned it on to try and keep my cadence up to his badass standards on his badass bike. The ride went by quickly, but I was pretty uncomfortable for most of it. Even with boxing, my shoulders were not comfortable supporting my weight on the handlebars, so I kept switching my hand positions around and shaking out my arms on the long stretches. As I headed back into town to finish my ride, I passed BMO and my personal cameraman Doug heading out on their run. I was jealous and couldn’t wait to let my feet pound the pavement.

5K run

The second transition was crazy easy. Since I didn’t have clip-in shoes, I flung my helmet on the ground, grabbed a drink and another Gu (how does one fuel during a triathlon? Don’t ask this girl), and headed back towards the road with a big grin on my face. My legs felt very wobbly, and it seemed like I was running at a 12-minute pace. I saw a friend as I went up that damn hill a second time and yelled, “How long will my legs be confused like this?” He laughed and held up five fingers. I guess I should’ve done a brick workout after all. Before too long muscle memory kicked in and I found my stride quickly. After a slow crawl of a swim and a full 20K of discomfort on the bike, running felt like home. I started picking people off, set my legs on autopilot, and took a little time to reflect on the day. I was having a blast. It was ridiculously delightful to wake up on race day with no PR pressure and zero expectations. I came out of the water so late in my wave that the rest of the race was a Passapalooza, and I enjoyed every minute. I decided that – at least for me – triathlons are less about technical skill and more about general fitness level and endurance. After a little over an hour of swimming and biking, I still had a lot of zoom zoom in my legs because my body was used to running long and sustaining steady effort. I saw a lot of supportive, familiar faces as I headed up [another!] hill towards the finish line, LMP bossman again announcing my name with a smile. I grabbed a veggie sub (miam miam) and a banana and spent a LONG time smiling and laughing with my sweaty friends.

I really want to do more triathlons. Longer ones. I think I could be competitive. But a girl can only focus on one giant dream at a time, and this is the era of the Boston qualifying marathon. 3:35:00 or bust. Do the work!

STATS: 1:26, 8/30 in my age group, 175/343 overall

PROS: Lake Metroparks, Lake Erie love, 500 entrants, race swag, easy parking, close to home, quick results, familiar faces, LMP family to cheer me on, delicious post-race grub (including roasted red pepper, spinach, and mozz subs!), party atmosphere, super cheap

CONS: I am the slowest swimmer ever. And there were a lot of potholes.