Monday, November 5, 2012

Monumental Marathon Race Report

I have not posted in a long time. But I feel I must post a race report for my goal marathon. Moreso for myself than anyone else. I find it helpful to re-read my race reports for motivation and, in some cases, levity.

My (and Tim's) goal fall race was the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I have a short and somewhat sordid history of marathoning. I became a runner in late 2008, and trained for my first marathon in 2009. I became seriously injured at the end of that cycle, and missed my first marathon (if any of you knew me at that point, you'll remember). Then I got pregnant, had my son, and ran my first marathon in May of 2011. I had a good debut at the Eugene Marathon in Oregon, running 3:18:56. That race, however, was not drama free. I won't go into the details, but I'll just say that I ran that race wearing two (yes, two) TENS units attached to my abdomen...going at full power for the entire 26.2 miles. It was the only way I could run.

After that, I set a goal of 3:10 for the Chicago marathon in 2011. I couldn't wait to race sans TENS. It was a warm day, and I had a spectacular blow up. I ran bending over sideways for about nine miles. I have no recollection of the last three miles, and I was out cold at the finish. I ran 3:23. Then I ran Boston in April of 2012. It was extremely hot, with temperatures reaching 90 on the course. I did not race it, and ran something around 4:05. It was terrible, and I suffered a heat-related injury and an IT band injury to go along with it.

So, after three marathons, my first marathon (the one that involved wearing machines that shocked me the whole time) was still my PR. SURELY I could do better than that? All my shorter race times told me that I could. I had to be doing something wrong (probably a lot of things), so I enlisted the help of my runner extraordinaire friend, Scott Breeden. Scott began coaching me last November. Inbetween the Chicago blow up and the Boston suffer fest, he coached me to a huge half marathon PR, and an outstanding third place finish in my first 60 K. He also coached me for the marathon I ran two days ago.

I won't bore you with training details, but I'll give you the quick and dirty: When I do speedwork, I get hurt. I am currently working on a lot of muscle imbalances that I have that cause this, but during this training cycle, I hadn't yet met the athletic trainer with whom I am now working. So I knew I couldn't do true speed work. So we did miles. Lots and lots of miles. And progression runs. But mostly...I ran a LOT of slow miles.

Going into this race, I had the 3:10 goal as an optimal, everything-comes-together-perfectly goal. But I really just wanted a good, healthy PR. I must admit that I had no confidence in my ability to do this, though. The day before the race, I was nearly despondent with how I just knew I would go out there and fail terribly. This is what taper does to me. Every. Single. Time. The truth, however, is that I was more fit than I'd ever been. All I had to do was look at the multiple 75 mile weeks, and the one 80 mile week that I ran. And read through all my progression runs. My training was not perfect (lost almost a week when my back went out and had some knee pain), but I was more ready than ever.

The Monumental Marathon is in Indy. I decided, after Boston, that I'm never again running huge marathons. Well, I may run them, but I won't race them. I need something smaller...and this was it. We went up to Indy the night before and stayed at the Hilton. We expo'd (met the Boston marathon champion!) and went out to dinner with Ed and Jo. Jo was running the half and in for a HUGE PR. After dinner, we went to bed early. I slept about as terribly as you can imagine.

Race Morning
Nerves. Dread. This is how I felt walking to the starting line. But that is not different from any other race. It's just how I feel. It was cold. A little too cold for ideal conditions, but at least it wasn't hot. I wore shorts, singlet, throw away arm warmers, and gloves. I had decided that I would start with the 3:15 pace group and see how I felt at 20. This would probably prevent me from getting my ultimate goal of 3:10, but would ensure that I started slowly and comfortably. I bid farewell to Tim and headed to my corral, where I found my 3:15 group pacer, Matt.

I've run with pacers before, and some of them are not to be trusted. That's why I always interview them. So I set about doing this. I asked him what kind of splits he was planning on--even, banking time, negative split? What kind of timing device did he have--I hoped it was a Garmin? Anyway--he passed the test and I decided to run with him and the others signed up for that group. It was about five minutes to start time, so I decided to get my Garmin locked in. I had actually already gotten it locked in, but needed to reset it. So I did. I held the button down, just like I have 5,478 other times during this training cycle. I waited for the beep to tell me that it had reset.

Beep never came. I looked down, only to find that the screen had frozen. This had happened to me before, with my old watch. But this watch (a 610) was BRAND NEW. I urgently asked all the other Garmin-toting runners around me if they knew how to reset it. Many said they did. They pushed the buttons. Nothing happened. I pushed the buttons over and over in a fit of anxiety. Two minutes til the start. It was still locked.

There was nothing I could do. I was completely out of control of this situation. I prayed that I'd have peace about it, and everyone in the group told me they'd be sure to yell out splits to me. I thanked them, halfway in a daze. My watch locked up in my first marathon, at mile 10. But Tim was running with me, so we had his. However, when he stopped for a bathroom break, I dropped the pace by over 10 seconds per mile in his absence. I couldn't let that happen again. I vowed to stay right on the pacer.

I said my prayers for strength, peace, endurance, and joy...and we were off.

Miles 1-5
I don't have much to say about these because they were so easy. The miles clicked by so effortlessly, and I couldn't believe it every time I saw another mile marker. Note to all potential marathoners: THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO FEEL. When I ran Chicago and Boston, it didn't feel this way. Those were bad races, so I took the swiftness with which I was perceiving the mile markers were arriving as a very good sign. A few things to note about these miles...first, I saw some dear friends from church who had come to spectate. They came in the COLD to watch us. I saw them at mile three, and gave them high fives. I knew I wouldn't see them again until late in the race, so I just kept focusing on making it to them again.

Second, as I was running, around mile 3, I kept thinking "that guy right in front of me, I know that stride." Well that's because I did--it was Lester Burris! He's a Bedford runner and I've done lots of runs with him. I was so pleasantly surprised to  be running with someone that I actually KNOW. Thank you to Lester for running with me. We didn't talk to much, but we did ask how the other was doing multiple times.

I felt it necessary to run right next to the pacer (control freak). It felt completely easy, and I wondered if I'd started too slowly (AGAIN--THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO FEEL!). At each water stop, I would fall off a little bit getting water, and have to speed up to catch back up. But everything was lovely and easy and I felt like I could run forever. I took my first gel at 5, as well as my first salt tab.

I forgot that I didn't have a watch, and couldn't wait to hear our splits at each mile. We ran most of them right on, but there were a couple of fast ones--a 7:12 and a 7:18. I didn't feel them at the time, but I'm sure it affected me later.

Miles 6-10
Again, I was still on easy street for these miles. I became engaged in conversation with people in the group, and especially the pacer. Lester was still there, and we were still checking on one another. My legs felt fantastic. How could this be so EASY? I knew that this was a sign that I needed to just keep doing what I was doing. Just hang on and relax. Our pacer kept reminding us to relax, and I did so. I also prayed a lot. Sometimes silently, sometimes quietly out loud. I prayed thanks and for strength.

I warmed up around mile ten, and threw my arm warmers. It was cold, but not much breeze. This would change later. Our splits during this section were right around 7:25 (I think, anyway..of course I have no Garmin data).

Miles 10-13.1
We went through the half at 1:36:58. A touch fast. So our pacer quickly corrected and made us slow down. I felt fine, but vaguely remember thinking that I was glad to slow down a bit. I was still talking, chatting, and running RIGHT NEXT TO the pacer (as if that makes any difference). Our group became smaller at the half way point. People started falling off a bit. But Lester and I were still right there. There was also a guy in blue race ready shorts. I talked to him a lot, but don't know his name.

Miles 13.1-18
Okay, so now the race has started. Blue shorts even said it aloud to himself, and I concurred. I stayed relaxed, and focused on making it to the next mile. Honestly, I did not feel like I was working during these miles. I just felt like I had to stay focused mentally. There were several uphills in this section, and I just had to ensure I didn't push too hard up them.

Miles 15-18 are the worst of this course. Now, they are not BAD. They are just the worst in the course--slightly hilly and pretty much no crowd. Plus, it's just the point in the race when you are kind of beginning to be over it. I made it through the hills, and around 16 I noticed my left hamstring, down by the knee, being tight. I reached in to take another salt tab, and I DROPPED THEM! Nothing to be done about it...I started taking Gatorade at the water stops from then on. I also really had to pee.

I checked in with Lester around 18 (I think), and he said he was okay but could feel his legs now. I felt the same. Matt, our pacer, encouraged everyone to relax until 20. I was able to do that, and I just hung on his shoulder. Some point around 18, it got windy. A head wind I didn't expect. I drafted off of blue shorts as best I could.

Miles 19-22
Ah, now we were in the true depths of marathoning. If you're racing a marathon, odds are that you are going to hit a rough patch. Odds are that it's going to happen somewhere in here. I went through 19 and 20 with no problem. I felt good, and considered, around 20, leaving the group. Then, at 21, my hamstring cramped. Where it had been tight before, it was now in a ball of muscle. It hurt badly, but I knew I had to keep running or it could bring me down. It also started raining/sleeting at this point, and it became very windy.

After the hamstring balled up, I consciously let off the gas a bit to try to get it to relax. It worked, but the group was now about 5 seconds ahead of me. I tried to catch up with them, and that effort caused the hamstring to sing again. I said something to Lester like "I'm feeling it now and it's too much effort to be right with them." He said something similar. Shortly after that, he fell back and I didn't see him again. But we made it almost to 22 together.

22 is where I entered the suffer zone. I was now apart from my pace group, there were NO CLOCKS, I had no watch, and I was intermittently cramping in my left hamstring. I wanted to cry. Whereas earlier I had been praying quite verbose prayers of praise and thanks, all I could utter now was, "Father, strength." And I did. I said it over and over and over. I had no idea what pace I was going, and no idea if I was on PR pace. I could still see the pace group in front of me, so I figured I at least was on PR pace...but that PR could certainly be lost if I didn't hold it together for four miles.

It was freezing, sleeting, and windy. People around me were dying. They were walking. And my hamstring continued to cramp.

Miles 23-26.2
Whereas before I felt like I could have sped up if not for the hamstring, the switch had now been flipped--the marathon switch. I don't know how to explain it other than to say you feel one way one second, and another the next. I went from feeling like I could pour it on to wondering if I was going to have to stop and walk. It has happened to me each and every time I've ever run a marathon. It's always so sudden and surprising. I had three miles to go, and I wondered if I could do it. "Father, strength."

All I wanted to do was to stop running. I never wanted to run again. This is all normal behavior/thinking during the last few miles of a marathon. The only difference here was that I had no watch. Usually, when I'm feeling that way, I can look at my pace and bargain with myself. "Just don't slow down this mile." I couldn't do that. I had NO IDEA what pace I was running. My effort was high, but had I been reduced to a 9 minute mile? Possibly worse? I wanted to push as hard as I could simply because I wanted it to be over, but the hamstring got worse every time I did. So I began to do a fartlek--I would count to 30 running hard, then count to 10 backing off a bit, allowing the hamstring to relax. I did this for a long time.

Another symptom of being late in a marathon is assuming you've passed a mile marker and just didn't see it, when in reality it's still a half mile away. I asked some guy (who was dying) if we had hit 24 yet. "NO! No, no, no, not yet." CRAP. And then I saw it, up in the distance, just barely. The little flourescent orange "24." Still so far away. And then two more after that? I didn't know if I could do it.

I used all my normal mind games. Run hard to that stoplight, then you can slow down. I found myself running hard to the stoplight and then continuing to run hard, but the stupid hamstring would not let me. So I continued to fartlek. I was in misery--hands freezing, no energy, hamstring on fire, etc., etc. I'm not saying that to make you feel sorry for me...that is how the end of a marathon feels if you are racing (minus the cramp--wish that hadn't happened). The weather was just making things worse.

When I got to 24, I remembered that at some point soon I'd be seeing my friends from church. Ok Wendy. Make it to them. Just make it to them, then you can stop (hahaha...the lies we runners tell ourselves!). Next thing I knew, someone darted into the road and said, "Wendy?" It was Brent Voigtschild from Bedford. I could hardly utter anything but he told me to finish strong. I think I asked about Kathy (his wife, whom he was on his way to find), but I couldn't really speak. Thank you, though, Brent for jumping in and running with me a few seconds!

 Mile 24 to 25 was the absolute worst for me. I tried to remind myself of all the 5:30 am runs I'd done in preparation for this. The two-a-days. Surely I could hold on for another 15ish minutes. I prayed constantly. I prayed for humilty, for strength. I prayed for something that would please help me to finish this race, regardless of time. I surrendered that I couldn't do this on my own. I was just past 25, wondering if I could continue on, and I heard it.

"WWWWEEEENNNNDDDDY!" My crew! My peeps! It was Rachel, Kristen, and Jenna (Kristen's daughter). Oh, I wanted to cry. I would have but my eyes were frozen. They all jumped in and ran. Then Rachel kept running with me. I could hear Kristen whooping and yelling for me from behind, and suddenly I had new energy.

Rachel ran right next to me, and I told her I didn't know if I could do this (again, normal 25th-mile-of-a-marathon speak). I told her I had been praying for strength. And then she started singing a song--a worship song about running to God's arms. I wanted to sing but I couldn't. I don't know if I told her to keep singing, but I wanted her to. All I could do was grunt. She kept saying words of encouragement over and over. I told her I had no idea how fast I was going, and I truly didn't. But she said I was moving. I decided to believe her.

I heard a woman saying "Two more left turns and you're finished!" THANK YOU. That is runner-speak. Just tell me how many turns til I'm done. I focused on the first left turn. I closed my eyes and I heard Rachel say it was time to turn. I turned and could see the 26 mile marker and the 13 mile marker (for the half marathoners). I knew that the 13 mile marker was only .1 from my finish line. .1 miles until this suffering would end.

I closed my eyes and pushed hard, hamstring cramping all the way. Once I got to 13, I had to convince myself I could go another .1 (yes, it gets that bad). I made the final left turn, having NO idea what the clock would say. I had not been praying for a PR, just for strength, but was elated when I saw the clock say 3:15:xx as I made the turn. I honestly thought I had slowed down much more than that.

I heard three people call my name, one of whom was Tim. I wanted to be done. I passed three people in the final stretch, and crossed the line at 3:16:09. An almost 3 minute PR, and I ran the second half just under two minutes slower than the first--that is as close to even splits as I've ever been.

As soon as I finished, I leaned down, and surprised myself with lots of tears. They were not tears of pain, nor tears of joy, really. I was not crying because I got a PR. They were tears of peace, humility, and repentance. You see, running is very wrapped up in my relationship with God. I have had so much anxiety and worry over injuries, and even my ablity to continue running. But He takes care of me. He did on Saturday. By his grace and mercy alone did I get through that race with NO knee pain (which has plauged me this entire cycle). As I crossed the line, I felt an overwhelming sense of knowing that He takes care of me--not just because I got a PR. No, I don't think that's all that important, actually. But because all of my fears and my worries--He always comes through. And yet I still struggle to trust. God's grace abounds.

That prior paragraph may not make a whole lot of sense, but I don't know how else to describe how I felt when I finished--peaceful, humble, repentant.

I don't know when I'll race another marathon. It's not on my radar. I am doing a 50 miler in May, and probably another one next fall...God willing.

Thank you to my coach, husband, family, and friends for their tremendous support during my training cycle!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Tried It.

The name of my blog is runnerwendy. I am a runner. However, as summer began this year, I decided to do a triathlon. This was a big deal, because I have never been a swimmer. I never had lessons as a child. I knew how to frolic in a pool, but that was it. And I could ride a bike, but not well. I am married to a triathlete. I train with many of them, too.

So how did I get roped into doing this? I refer you to my previous blog post relating to the Burris v. Miller challenge. As it turns out, circumstances (a drought!) kept that actual challenge from occurring. However, that challenge kept me, at least, doing tri training when it is way out of my comfort zone.

My original plan had been to compete in the Cicero Triathlon on August 11. The swim there is around 400 meters, followed by a 10 mile bike, and a 5K run. In other words, short. And flat. I trained with these distances in mind all summer. However, in case you weren't aware, there was (and still is) a drought in Indiana. This resulted in Cicero being converted to a run-bike-run event. While that could have been fun, I learned to swim for that race. Again, I say...I LEARNED TO SWIM. It would have been highly disappointing to go from treading water to being able to swim comfortably in open water for nothing. So I decided to change my race, and set my sights on the Columbus Challenge Triathlon, which was today. The only issue was that the distances of the swim and bike were much longer than Cicero (the run, of course, was the same distance--go figure).

At Columbus, the swim is 880 yards--a half mile. The bike is 17 miles. Now, I knew I could ride 17 miles on my bike. Maybe not as well as I could ride 10 (I did not do long rides...longest was 32), but I could do it. However, I was not sure if I was capable of swimming a half mile in open water. I approached Bill and asked him to be straight with me--did he think I could swim that? He has seen me swim a lot, is an excellent swimmer, and also a swim coach. He did not hesitate in saying that, yes, I could do that. At that moment, I decided to do Columbus.

The only problem was that this decision was made just a week and a half before the race, and I left the following day for vacation (meaning that I could not get any riding or swimming in). And, though I started out well early summer, my training for the tri began to wane at the end of June. There were several factors. First, I was running a lot more. I took a long time coming back from Boston, and so I wasn't running that much until June. Once I hit 50 miles a  week, I was less enthused about doing the other two disciplines. Second, it became difficult to manage tri training between me and Tim since we have an (almost) two-year-old. I generally deferred to him since I knew I only had to do a short swim and bike. In other words, I got comfortable enough to know that I could do Cicero without any trouble at all. I rode 30 miles at the Jim-N-I the end of June, and then rode my bike a grand total of ONCE between then and the race. Every time I tried to make a ride, Rowan was sick, I got stuck at work, etc...something always happened. If I were more passionate about riding, I would have gone out on my own. But I'm not, so I didn't. I did a bit better with swimming, but not much.

So, given my relative lack of training, I was scared about competing in the Columbus triathlon today. Not nervous--scared. But I was determined to do it. And so it commenced.

The Race
Tim, Rowan, and I loaded up in the car at 5:30 this morning. We didn't have a sitter, so Tim didn't do the race, but he and Rowan came to spectate. I am so glad he came, because I had no idea what I was doing in terms of setting up a transition area, etc. I'd never even practiced transitions (not a good strategy). We arrived, I checked in, got body marked (new experience for me), and set up my transition area with Tim's help. It's all very complicated. Then I wanted to look at the swim. I needed to pick out sight markers. I walked down to the lake and could see the buoys. I also saw a race official and Tim asked him to explain the course. He did, and I was confused.

He said we were to go to the RIGHT of the buoys, and that they'd always be on our left. But Bill had told me (as have a lot of other triathletes), that the buoys should always be on your right. I breathe on my right side, so this works for me. Well, in Columbus they have you go counter clockwise...and thus the buoys are to be on your left. I don't know why, but that really freaked me out. I just stood there, staring at the lake...getting myself all worked up. I did a brief warm up swim, and all I could think about was how far I had to swim. I nearly got myself convinced that it would be impossible for me to finish the swim. The mind is powerful.

At the pre-race meeting, I ran into Rand. Tim Galloway was there as well. Rand tried to calm my nerves regarding the swim, and he listened to me gripe about them putting the buoys ON THE WRONG SIDE. Then it was time to line up.

It was a time trial start. They had us indicate, upon registration, if we are elite, above average, average, below average, or slow swimmers. I said I was average. But this ended up meaning nothing as we were left to organize ourselves. I didn't know where to go, and then I heard people saying that we should line up by numbers. So I tried to do that, but no one else was, so it wouldn't have worked. Finally, I just got in the very back. There were maybe 8-10 people behind me. I nearly got in the VERY back, as I kept telling myself "I'm not a good swimmer, they'll swim over and drown me." But I stayed where I was.

Standing there, I wanted to vomit. Again, not nervous--scared. Not that I'd drown (there are lifeguards), but that I was in for almost 20 minutes of torture as I tried to survive. Finally, it was time to get in. I ran in, dove, and had no idea if I was doing it right. I stayed relaxed and tried to remind myself to go easy, easy, easy until the end. I was not racing...I just needed to prove I could do this. Before I knew it, there were arms and legs everywhere. I was passing a big group of people. As I was sighting, I realized they weren't doing anything you could actually call swimming. Some were kind of breast stroking, but most of them were flailing wildly. One guy was walking through the water. It was then that I realized that there are, in fact, people who swim even worse than I (and Burris would have passed them all, too!). Anyway--they were all in my way. There were three or four times I had to swim off course to get around them. And they were unpredictable, changing "strokes" and direction without warning. I could hear them gasping for air. I did not expect this.

I made it to the first buoy, where I had to turn left, and I could see a whole clot of people there. They weren't really moving. Many of them were standing (it was quite shallow), and it made the turn very difficult. I was regretting, at this point, lining up so far back. I  was having to sight way more than I planned just to avoid them. That said, though, my swimming felt great. Not forced, I wasn't tired, and I felt like I could swim forever. I also swam freestyle the whole time, never taking a break and going side stroke.

Then I ran into a boat. Yes, a pontoon boat full of race volunteers. I had swung wide to avoid the aquatic acrobatics going on in front of me, and I went too far. I got back on course, and in doing so got in the line of a breast stroker. He caught my foot with his hand, and at that moment I felt my chip that was on my ankle loosen greatly. As I kept swimming, I felt it flapping. I just kept going, hoping it would survive. It was a feeling akin to driving a car on E and hoping you make it to the next gas station. Within a minute, I felt the chip slip off.

I stopped immediately and reached back. Too late--already under water. I looked up at the boat of volunteers and told them what happened. They looked at me wide-eyed, and one said "If you want a time you better get it!" So I went down and felt around for it. Could not find it. Went down two more times. Decided I'd try once more, then just swim on. I found it that time and then took a minute to re-attach it. Thank goodness for the drought or I'd have to have done that treading water.

Exiting the lake.
The rest of the swim was fine. I had to pass the flailers again, but I did it and came into the swim finish feeling actually very, very good. I zig zagged to the finish (had trouble sighting it), losing some time, but I was just glad to be alive. I saw Tim, put on my sandals, and ran (on the extremely slippery black top) to my bike. The transition was not fun. It's hard to get ready to ride a bike when you're wet and disoriented. I'm not sure of my exact T1 split, but it was slow.

I got out of transition, and had to make a dead stop to get on my bike. It's still a  production for me to clip in. I immediately went down into aero. When I first started going, maybe for the first half mile, I didn't feel comfortable. I don't know why, but it was hard. That faded, and I began passing people. A lot of people. My plan had been to survive the swim and then race the bike all out. And I did. It was much hillier than I expected, but I continued to fly past people. I decided to make a goal of passing 30 people by 10 miles.

Finishing the bike.
At the 10 mile mark, I had passed 32 people. One person (a 20-year-old guy) had passed me, but that was it. I decided to try and pass 40 people by the end. I was riding very hard. The hills were killing me, but I kept the pressure on. I was really racing this part. I passed two women from my age group, and that gave me an extra jolt. I continued passing people the entire ride--including on the hills--until the end. I passed a total of 48 people. Counting them was a fun, distracting game. In my mind, every one of them had a number. I climbed the final hill..legs burning..and I was at the finish of the bike leg. I've never ridden that hard for that long. It hurt. I had a bit of trouble dismounting, but did it without falling. I can say I had an excellent bike experience. Extra thanks to Bill for really encouraging/helping me to learn aero--it's a huge advantage. Onto the next transition.

I had promised myself this transition would go more smoothly. It did, at first. I removed the helmet, hung up the bike, and changed my shoes. I was just about to put on my right knee strap, when something unexpected happened. As I bent down to grab it, a muscle deep in my abdomen (I think it was psoas) seized up. Hard. As're-not-moving-from-this-position hard. I yelped aloud and stood up. Tried to bend down again to put it on and it happened again. I did not drink at ALL on the bike (and only took a sip at transition before heading out on the bike). STUPID. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to put the brace on without risking a major cramp, so I simply carried the brace and headed out on the run.

To my surprise, people were WALKING from transition to the run course, thus blocking me from running. Finally on the course, I began to run. I had no intention of racing the run all out. I have chronic issues with both of my knees and my right ankle (that I tweaked on vacation) that are highly aggravated by speed. Before the race, I had promised myself that I would run the run steady/comfortably but not at all fast. It is not worth it to me to compromise my marathon training. I've run a lot of 5Ks...this was not the day for me to race another. I even ran 9 miles the day before the race to ensure that my legs would be tired.

I stuck to this plan. However, the run was still uncomfortable. Ironically, it was my least favorite part of the day. It was extremely humid by this point. I also couldn't feel my legs the first mile and a half due to the transition from the bike. I only did a few bricks this summer, none of them recent, and this was a mistake. I stopped once to put on the knee brace. It ended up being too tight, so I stopped again to take it off.

Finally, I was on my way. I decided not to look at my watch until the end of each mile and just run comfortably. I passed a ton of people. Many were walking. A lot of very fit-looking people were barely moving. I think the heat/humidity was getting them. At this point, I was glad that I've been running 50+ miles a week in this junk. I focused simply on running steady and passing people. I passed 42 in the 3.1 miles. 42! One thing I learned is that a lot of triathletes don't put nearly as much emphasis on running as they do the other events, allowing runners to pass scores of them with only moderate effort.

Though I wasn't racing the run, I wanted it to be done. I was hot, felt cramps coming on, and just wanted to stop. I saw Tim and Rowan around 1.5 miles and that gave me a boost. Before I knew it, I was done. I averaged around 7:20 for the run. Not at ALL fast...I was pleased with myself for sticking to the plan.

After finishing, I immediately was hungry and thirsty. This is rare for usually takes me a bit to want anything. But I was craving salt and fluids. I found Tim and Rowan, got some food, and felt pretty darned pleased with myself. I told Tim of all the swim drama and how I worked so hard on the bike. I daresay he was proud of his purist runner wife. I ended up taking third in my age group (a huge surprise), and was only two minutes off first. Tim and Rand did great as well, placing second and first in their categories, respectively.

I'm glad I did it. it was a challenge, and I had a lot of fun. My only regret is that I was quite undertrained for the swim and especially the bike. But I'm happy to know that my run fitness translated pretty well to the bike. I ended up averaging 18.8 mph on a hilly course. That is GOOD for me. I will most likely do this race again next year. Some takeaways:

-I am apparently a better swimmer than I thought. Next time, I will line up more midpack. However, the acrobatics I saw in the water were entertaining.
-You should always put the chip velcro on the inside of your ankle. ALWAYS.
-I actually really enjoy swimming. I didn't panic at all, and I felt really comfortable. I am planning to swim on my lunch hour three days a week at the indoor IU pool all winter. Shocking, I know.
-If I would devote some time to the bike, I could be pretty good on it. It might also hurt a little less.
-Transitions are difficult, and should be practiced prior to race day.
-Bricks are important.
-Drink on the bike.

And, with that, my first tri is in the books. Thanks to Tim/Bill/Jimmy/Rand/Allen/et al. for their inspiration, guidance, and help in this endeavor. I was completely ignorant of what these events entail, and all of them were more than willing to answer my questions. Special shout out to Jimmy who let me use his bike! Now...back to marathon training.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Red Eye Relay--Race Report

Puppy D and the Mad Dogs. Or were we Pappy D and the Mud Dogs? No matter--I'm here to report that our team finished the 2012 Red Eye Relay. If you want more details, read on!

The Red Eye Relay is an arduous event. It involves running, as a team, about 104 miles through some of the hilliest bits of Monroe and Morgan counties. And it happens overnight--meaning you do all of it without sleep. Runners are an interesting breed. We actually sign up for (and PAY for) experiences which are bound to be, in many ways, quite miserable. The RER has the potential to be extra miserable. And, since we're runners, we're attracted to that.

We had an official team of seven runners--me, Tim, Wes, Bill, Jimmy, Jessie, and Rachel. Each of us would be running 3 legs. We also had, however, two extra runners--Scott and Beau. They would be there to fill in if needed and also to run with our runners to minimize the time anyone had to run alone. We had planned on having one SAG vehicle to follow our runners, but Bill decided, at the last minute, to drive as well. I am glad he had the acumen to do this, because I'm not sure how we would have managed otherwise. Okay, the 21-leg breakdown. I'm putting in this much detail so that I can remember how grueling this race is :) After the team meeting (where the RD butchered our team name and alerted us all that a body was being removed from the forest), we were off.

Leg 1: Jessie ran the first leg from Upland Brewery to Griffey Lake. He was accompanied by Wes, Beau, and Scott. The mom in me didn't want the freshman in high school running alone. He did a great job.

Leg 2: I was up next, and my first leg was through the hilliest part of Griffey. The biggest mistake I made was not warming up. I hit a massive hill within the first quarter mile of my leg, and it was a complete shock to my system. Scott ran with me. I saw a ferocious dog. Other than that, this leg was pretty uneventful.

Leg 3: This one was Jimmy's. I arrived to the handoff about two minutes behind schedule...and my team had been giving me grief over making too aggressive of a schedule. The relay works with staggered starts--you pick any time to start between 2:30 pm (ouch) and 10:30 pm to allow your team to finish by 9:30 am the next morning. So, here I was putting us behind...even though the schedule *DID* have some wiggle room. They had no faith in the Mad Dogs, but I did! Jimmy took off at a very good clip on this leg. Which was great...except it tweaked his hamstring. Scott and Wes ran this with him.

Leg 4: Bill's turn. While waiting for Jimmy to arrive, Bill donned his reflective gear. It was a bit small for his frame...and he somehow ended up doing a Magic Mike dance. It was hysterical. It is an image forever burned in my mind. Bill was accompanied by Beau and Scott (and maybe Wes...I can't remember at this point). I heard Beau ask Bill what kind of pace he was going to run. Bill said, "Oh, around 8:30." I wanted to turn around and say "He's lying, Beau! He's going to run much faster!" And he did, of course. Bill hasn't been running much, so he was afraid that he would hardly get through the night. But, on this leg, he dropped the hammer and made up the time we had lost, while also gaining some time for us. Magic Mike killed it!

Leg 5: Rachel's first leg. Scott continued to run every leg, including this one. Rachel WORKED this leg. She ran very, very hard. I was shocked when they finished almost 3 minutes ahead of schedule!

Leg 6: All of the legs in this race are very challenging and hilly, but this one is probably the worst. So..of course I gave it to Wes. Scott accompanied him, and they made it over the 2.5 mile climb with ease. I remember that it had started getting really dark at this point, and that I was starting to get sleepy. It was becoming a long night.

Leg 7: Jessie was up again, and Beau ran with him this time. The boys were moving, when suddenly there was some confusion. There was an arrow marked "RER" that pointed them in the direction of a gravel road. From the car behind them, we told them to take the turn. It was a mistake. It was a dead end. I'll never understand why that arrow was there. Alas, it was the only time we got lost during the race.

Leg 8: "Lakeside Ass Whoopin'" was the name of this leg. Sounds like it was named for Bill. He ran this one fast and hard, too.

Leg 9: Finally, Tim's chance to run! Scott chose to take a break during this leg...because he'd already run over 30 miles and we all knew Tim was going to run hard. He did. Very hard. And he got stung by something..and suffered a horrible allergic reaction as a result...complete with hives and itching. Thank goodness for 24 hour CVSs and Benadryl!

Leg 10: Jimmy again. Would the hammy hang in? I was nervous...because I didn't want him to push through something that would end up taking him out of running for a long time. But...he did it, and he seemed okay afterward. I'm sure Scott ran this leg. He ran so much I couldn't keep track.

Leg 11: Wes ran this one to finish up our first 50-mile loop.

Leg 12: Rachel. Can you see how my descriptions are getting shorter? It's because I honestly can't remember details. She ran it, and she ran it well.

Leg 13: Now this one I do remember. It was supposed to be Rachel's leg, but she was so tired from the prior one that someone had to jump in for her. Scott was too tired, as was Beau. Tim was still recovering from his allergic reaction, and Wes looked like death. Had to be me. I had been dozing in the car and was in no way ready to run, but I just got out and did it. I had a full I was thankful when Rachel jumped back in after a couple of miles. I must also add that we continued to be ahead of schedule at this point. I knew I was right about the schedule!

Leg 14: My turn again. And...something strange happened. It felt cool out. Cool. As in..a temperature opposite of sweltering, oppresive, miserable, etc. It was actually pleasant out. I was so tired, but I couldn't complain about the weather. My knees, however, did complain about this leg a lot. Scott ran with me. I couldn't believe he was still going.

Leg 15: Bill's final leg...and it would be Scott's as well. Scott finished this leg, giving him a total of 100 kilometers for the night. That's 62 miles. 62 miles...for fun...during training...all night long. Insane.

Leg 16: Tim's second hilly it hurts to think about it. He ran it fast, of course.

Leg 17: Jimmy's final leg. His hammy would survive! He ran a great, fast loop around Lake Lemon before handing off to me.

Leg 18: I was SO tired as I stood waiting for Jimmy. I love to run, but I can honestly say, standing there...watching for Jimmy...I did not want to run. I wanted to curl up and sleep. But I still had 5 miles to survive. When Jimmy handed off to me, I decided that I was going to run this one a little harder than the last two. Why? Because I wanted it to be OVER! I was surprised when I actually got into a good rhythm running around 7:00 minute/mile pace. Then I saw some other runners in front of me. I KNEW I could catch them. So I began to fartlek. I held 7:00 pace for a while, then I would surge for about 200 meters, down to around 6:25. I did this the whole way in. Not that fast, I know, but it felt it after not having had any sleep. I passed two people (including a guy...chick'd!) and finished utterly exhausted. However, this is the best running weather I've run in in many, many months.

Leg 19: Tim's final leg. I've never seen him so happy to stop running. Except Boston 09.

Leg 20: This was a Wes/Rachel combo. Wes' earlier addition of miles came back to bite him, and so Rachel picked up the latter portion of this very difficult leg. It includes Boltinghouse Hill. Enough said.

Leg 21: The final leg, and it went to Jessie. He ran us in...and we finished in 13.5 hours...

12 MINUTES AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. #thankyouverymuch

Some notes about this race:
-It's really, really hard on one's body to stay up all night long.
-Beau and Jessie were the only people who got any sleep. Beau passed out for about three hours, as did Jessie. I'm jealous.
-The change in race management from last year made this event a lot less desirable. I won't go into details, but I'll just say I don't know where the $400 each team paid actually went. We didn't even get shirts. Or medals. Or food. Or water. Or course assistance. There were guys on HAM radios (volunteers), but after 3 am they were all asleep.
-I have great friends.
-I love running, but I don't want to do that again for a very long time. At least a year :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jim-N-I Report

Yesterday, I competed, for the second consecutive year, in the Jim-N-I triathlon. However, last year, I only did the run portion. This year, I took part in all three events. To understand how that's possible/allowed, you need to know the background of the Jim-N-I. Luckily, Bill has blogged about that very subject (read about it here).

So, if you compete in the Jim-N-I, and finish any portion of any discipline, you are a finisher. And to be a finisher at the Jim-N-I is a very big deal--it gets you a one-of-a-kind tie dye shirt. So I set out to be a finisher.

First, the swim. I knew I was not going to swim the whole 1.2 miles. Not because I don't think I could do it (I could, with some breaks), but I didn't want to hold up the race that long--unlike in a typical tri, in the Jim-N-I, there is a group start to each event. Also, it was in open water. I'm *very* uncomfortable swimming in open water. So I decided to do one loop (which ended up being out 800 meters, information we have thanks to Bill's Garmin that I really want). We got in the water, and it was gross. The level was so incredibly low. All I could feel was nasty green slime up to my knees.

The muck, however, meant that, at pretty much any time during the swim, you'd be able to stand up. This was good news for me and Allen. We started off, and I let the fast swimmers go ahead. This left me and Allen, and we started at the same time. When my head went under, I was struck by how dark and green the water was. I could see nothing. This is the problem I have with open water swimming--I can't see. And this was the worst I'd ever been in. Within about twelve strokes, my goggles broke, and the nasty green water rushed into my open eyes. I stood up (gross!) and saw that the nose piece had come undone.  I tried to fix it, and started swimming again. Then it broke again. And, for good measure, once more. Finally it appeared fixed, and I took off.

The swim is a loop. Out to a buoy, then back. Effort-wise, I felt fine. I felt completely comfortable...which is huge for me since this was swimming. The only problem is, I don't do well with sighting. In the pool, I don't need to sight. Out there, though, it's vital. I kept trying to sight, and kept noticing that I was not on course. I have no ability to swim in a straight line without the guidance of the black line at the bottom of the pool. My goggles broke one more time as I arrived at the buoy, and I stood up to fix them. I saw Allen swimming toward me, and I am telling you he's improved a lot! I fixed the goggles, started again, and realized there was something sharp in my right eye. I stopped and stood in the muck again, and attempted to get it out. I couldn't.

So I just decided to swim the rest of the way with my right eye closed. That worked for a while, until the goggle leaked again. I stood up again, and heard my name. It was Allen, from the rescue boat, telling me he was going to beat me back. What a cheater! Anyway, I made it back...and zig zagged the entire way. I finally, in the last 100 meters, figured out a way to sight more effectively. And I need to start practicing it in the pool. I got out, and my right eye was killing me. Luckily, Dr. Jimmy was there and flushed out whatever was in it--feels fine today.

Then it was time for the bike ride--50 miles. I had planned to do 30 miles of this ride since I wasn't sure I was up for 50. I'm building running miles, adding speed work, and simply not that experienced on the bike. You have to understand--most of the people with whom I train and certainly most of the people at this event--are very good cyclists and primarily train in this sport (at least in the summer). As I stood there, I knew there was no way I'd be keeping up with the main group (they planned to pace line--something a novice like me shouldn't yet attempt), and I was pretty sure I wouldn't even be able to keep them in sight. I decided I'd get to the SAG stop, then decide if I should head back in the car, or finish up with the remaining 20.

I ended up doing the former. The first 18 miles of the ride were actually good. I stayed down in aero the majority of the time, and I think I rode faster than I ever have. Then, the wind hit. I was riding completely alone, and it hadn't bothered me til now. It felt like someone had let the air out of my tires, or removed my quads. Despite very high effort, I was only able to hold around 15 mph--much slower on the uphills. I have no idea how to describe it other than to say it was brutal. Around 27 miles, my phone rang. It was in my fanny pack, so I couldn't reach to answer it, but I assumed it was Tim making sure I wasn't dead out there (he was ahead in the pace line). This let me know that he was at the SAG stop, which meant I couldn't be too far. I was suffering and really wanting this part to be over. It was hot, windy, and I was over it. Just when I thought I could take no more, I saw the SAG stop. I dismounted the Kestrel and made it known that I was done on the bike for the day.

Usually, cutting things short like that really bothers me. But it didn't--I knew I had to run 9 miles in 90+ degree heat, and I was already feeling it. I, as well as several other riders, caught rides back to the house. Tim and Scott (who did very well in the swim and bike!) headed back on their bikes. On the way back to the house, I was feeling a bit dizzy. I was getting dehydrated, so I tried to slam fluids in while waiting for the other riders to return. Still, though, when we set out on the run, I hadn't been able to pee yet. Not a great sign.

As we lined up for the run, I knew I'd be running it easy. It was really, really hot, and I was already dehydrated. We started, and Scott was off in the distance quite quickly. To try and keep up with him was futile, so Tim and I settled into a comfortable pace between Scott and the rest of the group behind us. I felt surprisingly okay on the run. Not great, but okay--and the run is indeed my comfort zone. Before I knew it, we were at the SAG station. These SAG stations are amazing. Ice cold Gatorade and water, fruit, cookies, etc. And sponges soaked in ice cold water. They make you feel elite at the Jim-N-I! I downed some more Gatorade, possibly too fast, because it upset my stomach. But I was trying to keep up with the massive sweat loss. Tim and I didn't spend long at the SAG, and when we started off Bill was with us.

Bill and I talked cross country, which made the miles tick by. Before I knew it, we were at the next SAG. This was one of those runs where I felt better as the run went on (which is quite normal for me--the last five miles of a long run are usually where I feel the best). At this SAG, we picked up Jimmy. So now it was me, Bill, Jimmy, and Tim for the last three miles. The runners behind us were looking weary from the heat, and some got picked up by cars. Not a bad decision given how stinking hot it was at this point.

Having Jimmy in the group led to more talking and joking, which made the miles go by even faster. We weren't running fast--around a 8:00 minute pace, but with the heat it didn't feel that slow. The last mile, we (actually, I think it was Jimmy) picked it up to around 7:20 range, and I finished just behind the row of the three guys. I was feeling tired in the last mile, but not trashed. We crossed the finish line on the drive way, and the work was done.

The Blacks (who host the event) are the most gracious hosts ever--they not only host this event, but they open up their clean bathrooms and showers to a bunch of sweaty athletes. I showered, and felt human again. Then we were treated to ribs, barbecue, salads, homemade ice cream, etc., etc. My belly full and my body clean, I felt pretty good, if tired, by the end of the day.

Tim played a few holes of Frisbee golf, but then we had to head home to Rowan. It was a great, if exhausting, day. Can't wait til next year! Thanks again to the Blacks for their hospitality.

Friday, June 22, 2012

(Very) Belated Summer Check-In

It's been a long time since I've put out an original blog post. I don't have any great excuse except I simply didn't feel like it. Have I been busy? Yes. But that's not the reason I ceased blogging. I suppose I just needed a break.

But now I feel like it again, and for me to blog about anything worthwhile I have to catch you up on what's been going on the past couple of months. When I last checked in, we had just completed Dances with Dirt. I was still healing from knee injuries and a heat stroke I suffered in Boston, and running was not quite fun again yet. I had also told you how I had committed to competing in a sprint triathlon in August, with the only purpose being to beat Dr. Burris in the first two disciplines.

First, the running. I've been building up VERY slowly, and am now at about 50 miles per week. And I just did my first speed workout this week. I'd rather be running more, but coach Scott was very smart to make me ease in. I was completely trashed from the combo of LBL and Boston. And I've run one race, a few weeks ago--the DINO 15K trail race. I shocked myself there with a 5+ minute PR there and an age group win. At that point my miles were low--like under 30--so I figured I'd have a tough day. But it actually went very well.

My next race is not until September--the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon-where I will again try to break 1:30. I ran 1:31:03 in Houston in January, and I think I could have met the goal had it not been for the issue of having to cut off half my shoe (I'm sure I blogged about it last January) and all the vomiting I experienced during the race. After that is my fall marathon--the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November.

I am still building base right now, with just a little speed injected in. I've actually been training (during the week) with the BNL girls cross country team (coached by Bill), and I absolutely love doing that. Not only does it give me people to run with (I pretty much have to run in the morning, and the group runs with Jimmy et al. occur in the evening), but I'm really enjoying getting to know the girls. They were quiet at first, but now, as soon as we start running, they ask me all kinds of questions...about running, racing, and what BNL "used to be like." Yes, I'm that old. I will keep that up along with whatever coach Scott assigns.

Normally, I'd stop the post there--but I can't. Because there's more. I have kept my promise to train for a tri.  I have been swimming about three times a week, and riding twice a week. With two of us training (Tim is training for a half Ironman), it's about all I can get in while keeping running the priority. The swimming is going well--I can swim about 1,000 meters without stopping. But that's in the pool. I have done one open water swim. It's a whole different experience, so I have to continue to work on sighting.

The biking--it has improved because Jimmy is letting me use one of his old tri bikes. A Kestrel Talon. He hasn't agreed to put it up for sale yet, but he's being gracious and letting me train on it. I haven't really told anyone...but I love that bike. Probably because it's just so much more comfortable than my other one, or maybe because I know that Jimmy rode an Ironman on it..but I love it. Bill has helped me learn how to get comfortable down in aero, and I have to say that it's now my favorite position in which to ride. I just need to put it all together--aero, cadence, knowing when to change gears--and I think I can be decent on the bike.

As far as Allen--I'm a better swimmer, and he's better on the bike. So, at this point, I'm kind of wishing I had left the run in the challenge :) But I didn't, so I have to stick with what I said originally--I want to beat him through the end of the bike leg. This means I have to really work my swim. I need to come out of the water as far ahead of him as possible. Luckily, it's a short bike ride. Otherwise, I assure you he would catch me. And he may still. But I'm going to get my butt down in aero and try to prevent it.

Jim-N-I is tomorrow...I'll write a report.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dirt Day

For the third consecutive year, Team Dragon Slayers participated in the DWD Gnawbone 100K relay. In case you're not familiar with this race, it's kind of just one big spectacle.  There are other races--a half marathon, marathon, 50K, and 50 miler--going on concurrently with the relay, and those are serious...but the relay (for most teams) is one big party. The Dragon Slayers aren't partiers.  We don't wear costumes or drink alcohol during the race.  We run hard.  But, still, the prime goal is to have fun.

Team Dragon Slayers: Terry Quigley, Tim, Wes, me, and dad.
The race is broken down into 15 legs.  They are all on trails, all challenging, but some are just downright awful. Each of us ran three legs.  Now, there is always a common theme at DWD for me. That theme is that I'm never 100% healthy or normal.  In 2010, I ran it while 7 months pregnant. In 2011, I ran it 4 days after having abdominal surgery.  This year, I'm coming back from an IT band injury.  That is to say, there is, every year, an excuse for me to get the "easy" legs. More on that later.

The night before the race, Tim and I met Scott and some other running friends (Beau, Jonathan, Pius, Rebecca) for wonderful Italian food at Grazie in Bloomington.  I carbo-loaded like I was running an ultra even though I would only be running 8 miles at most.  Oh, was worth it! It was nice to see Jon and Beau again (I had met them at my FAVORITE RACE EVER..Louisville Lovin' the Hills) and to meet Pius and Rebecca.  Pius is from Kenya.  He's really fast, but even more funny and nice. I had a very entertaining conversation with him about the "big, giant, fake checks" he wins at races.

Dad and Quigley didn't want to go out to eat, and Wes couldn't make it because he was driving home from grad school that evening. When Tim and I got home, we said hi to Wes, thanked my mom for babysitting, and went to bed. I did not sleep well or long enough, but got up anyway very early the next morning. The weather was supposed to be warm and muggy, but it was cool in the morning (thankfully).

We arrived at Mike's Dance Barn in Brown County at about 6:40. We checked in, then waited for the race to start. In doing so, we saw a lot of crazy runners in costumes and already downing the alcohol. The one thing that seriously bothers me about this race is that likely 50% of the team cars involved could be pulled over for DUIs. Anyway--the race was soon underway, with Quigley leading off our first leg. Quigley is a BEAST, but all of us were shocked when he came out of the woods in the top 10 finishers! There were some really fast people out there, and Quig was hanging with them!  We thought he looked tired when he was coming out of the woods, and then I noticed that he was beat red. He exchanged with dad, lost his breakfast, and got ready for his next leg.  Have to love The Quig.
Quig passing off to dad.

Dad ran leg 2. I killed time by doing my physical therapy exercises and poking fun at drunk runners with Wes and Tim. Dad handed off to Wes for leg 3, and we had to head over to Ogle Lake for the next exchange. That would be MY first leg. I was nervous. Not because I'm in horrible shape (I am!), but because I've been doing all my runs on flat stuff, and all of those runs have been short. The Ogle Lake leg is only 2.6 miles long (actually more like 3--most legs are longer than advertised), so I figured I could get through that and Tim would take my other legs if needed, but I was so fearful of my IT band locking up and me breaking into tears.  I said a quick prayer as I saw Wes sprinting toward me. We slapped hands, and I was off.
Me waiting for Wes at Ogle Lake.

I instantly thought to myself, "I remember this leg.  There are lots of stairs." This would be my third running of the Ogle Lake leg. I also had a quick flashback to running it last year--how much my abdomen hurt from the incisions in it. I then thought to myself, "At least I was in a lot better shape last year." Those thoughts were interrupted by the first flight of stairs.  I HATE STAIRS on trails.  I understand they serve a good purpose for hikers, but all they do is enrage runners. I passed a couple of people going up them, and then started climbing immediately sans stairs. Then I sort of wished I had the stairs again so I could at least have an excuse to walk. I'm telling you--I haven't been in this bad of shape since right after I had Rowan. I actually think I was in better shape then!

All I could think about the entire run was my IT band. I was praying that I would get through the leg without any pain. Now, I've not had any pain in a couple of weeks, but I've hardly been running and certainly not on anything like Brown County trails. I decided that, each half mile without pain, I had better praise God for getting me through it. So I did (silently). I was feeling good, and knew I was toward the end of the leg. I saw a set of stairs I had to descend, and did so quickly. I got to the bottom of them, though, and was confused.  Where's the trail?  All I could see was the lake and some Boy Scouts.  I heard people above me running, and then shouting "trail's up here!"  I had gone down a set of stairs that I wasn't supposed to.  Which, yes, meant I had to then go UP a set of stairs I wasn't supposed to.  I was demoralized and kind of angry, but quickly remembered the happiness that I associate with running--especially pain free running--and I laughed at myself.

I could hear the other runners cheering, so I knew I was getting close.  I heard the "woo!" guy (a guy who comes every year, drinks a ton, and screams "woooooo!" at the top of his lungs for ANYTHING, including leaves and animals, that come out of the woods) and could then see Quigley, to whom I was handing off.  I ran hard to him, slapped his hand, and I was done.  I told Tim my leg was fine and I should be fine to do the next leg, which was only another 3 miles. I've kind of lost track of what happened next.  I believe Quigley handed off to Wes, and Wes handed off to dad.

And that's when it got bad for dad. I am the unofficial team captain and do try to give people new legs to run each year. I knew that dad had not run leg 8--"Dazed and Confused"--nor leg 15, the last leg--"The Crack of Doom"--so I gave him both of those. Leg 8 was rough. It was almost completely off-road. Bush whacking was heavily involved, and, in the end, it took him about 50 minutes to go 3.5 miles. Sorry, dad!

Next up was Tim. The next few legs were all Millers. It went Tim, me, Tim, me. I was nervous about doing a second leg...kind of waiting for my IT band to kick in. But my doctor had told me that I had to test it at some point. So I waited patiently for Tim and anticipated another leg I've run many times. It's called short bone, and it starts kind of in a field. I saw Tim coming out of the forest, watched him overtake another runner, and smacked his hand. I was off.  I immediately passed two runners dressed as Richard Simmons and hit the trail. I had forgotten that this leg was pretty much totally uphill for the first half. I passed a TON of runners on this stretch, including one dressed as a beer keg. I made it the entire 3 miles without any pain. I smacked Tim's hand and it was time to drive to the next stop. As I walked to the car after cheering Tim on, all I could think about was how out of shape I felt. My HR (though I wasn't wearing a monitor) was spiking terribly.  It was a little warm out, but not truth, it was not that bad. I was running at a pace that shouldn't have caused me to feel I figured it was just the hills and stopped thinking about it.

Tim runs so fast that we barely made it to the next hand off.  But we did, and I started my last leg. I kept praying that God would get me through the next 2.6 miles pain free...and then I could be done and know that my leg was better. The leg started with a massive and steep downhill--not IT band friendly.  So I took it easy.  And I had no pain.  Before I knew it, though, I was passing people coming the other way on the trail. I was very annoyed that they had arranged the course this way, and then, when a guy said to me "What are you doing?  Getting extra miles in?" I realized I might have been lost. Crap! But I knew this trail, and I knew it was a loop, so I figured I had to come out at the right spot eventually. All I knew was that I had to climb a huge hill to get to the finish. Once I got there, I was comforted.

And then very annoyed given how big the hill was. I'm a good hill runner, but I haven't run a hill since Boston. And my HR was spiking again. I was maintaining a very even effort (something Coach Scott taught me long ago--fartleking up a hill is never a good idea), but I felt like I just couldn't breathe.  There was a guy standing near the top, and he had this sort of half-smile. It irritated me a lot...that's how I knew I was tired. I was glad to see Quigley waiting for me. I slapped his hand, he went on his way, and I joyfully told Tim I hadn't had any knee pain.

It was the most uneventful DWD (and maybe even trail race) I've ever done. I did not fall one time. I only got mildly lost. It was quite atypical for me. Quigley, Wes, and dad had the last three legs. And dad got the big one--The Crack of Doom--which allowed him to run across the finish line for our team. He got his HR up to 197 during the final stretch.  That's impressive for a 63-year-old.

The best part of DWD is the socializing afterward. We caught up with Beau, Jon, Scott, and Pius. Scott and Pius did not run the race (though they did an insane workout in Bloomington that morning!), but Beau had run the half and Jon the 50 miler. Beau did very well, but took a really nasty fall. Jon placed second overall in the 50! I asked him how it was, because I had been thinking about the DWD 50 being my first 50 miler. He looked at me and said, simply, "Never again." And I wasn't that surprised...I was getting the vibe throughout the day that this was one really, really tough 50. His course review sealed the deal that my first 50 miler will be (God willing) the Land Between the Lakes 50 miler in March (same place I did the 60K). We also saw Rebecca, whom I'd met at dinner, and she completed her first marathon (that's one tough first marathon!).

We watched dad finish, ate a bit more, talked a bit more, and headed home with our medals. My IT band is better, but I seem to still be suffering from the effects of heat stroke. My plan for dealing with that is just to run slowly until my body recovers. Any heat at all sends my HR skyrocketing. This type of recovery can't be rushed--so I won't.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer...and Miller v. Burris

Summer is here!  Like...officially (but don't tell my daughter this, as she's in school until May 31).  If you live in southern Indiana, you know that it has felt like summer since March. But now the real deal is here.  Which means that I have survived my first semester as a tenure-track faculty member at IU.  I absolutely love my job and have not, for a second, ever regretted my decision to work so long and arduously to be able to have it.

A lot of people are asking me, "aren't you off over the summer?"  Nope.  And I'm glad.  I have a ton of work to do, and it will be much easier to do without students around.  I love having students, but it's nice to have some dedicated time for my own scholarship.

Summer is also often a big few months of training for runners. And it typically is for me, too (though I don't discriminate--I train long and hard in the winter, too). But it's going to start out slowly for me. To catch you up, I picked up an IT band injury right after my first ultra marathon, along with patellar tendonitis. I (stupidly) ran Boston on these injuries, making them worse. I am not surprised by this.  I made the decision to run Boston knowing that this would probably be the case. I didn't, however, plan on suffering from heat stroke during that race. I did, and it's taking my body a long time to recover from that. I've read that it takes months to recover from a heat-related injury.

All that is to say--I'm dinged up.  I'm running, but not very much.  I'm in PT for my knee twice a week, and it's definitely getting better.  Right now, I'm running about 4 miles a day.  My doctor would allow me to run more (not that I've ever listened when he said not to), but there simply is not a reason for it at the moment. My plan is to use the remainder of May as a "rehabilitation  month."  Easy, flat running and nothing else. As a runner, I've had to learn that you must operate in peaks and valleys of training, or you will burn out/get hurt, or both.  Don't choose to take some down time (a valley), and your body will demand it of you. That is the problem with our flesh--so weak! I was in a peak from around November 2011-March 2012. I was training a lot, injury free, and extremely fit. I had some great races, including a top-3 finish at my very first ultra. I should have known to give my body a break right after...but the problem is you feel so GOOD (i.e. fast, fit, indestructible) at that point.

The valley began in April 2012, and I ignored it for a few weeks, but am now accepting of it.  I'm not fast right now. I don't have much endurance. I'm a few pounds heavier than my "race weight." Completing a marathon (which, at this point in my running career, is not something I think of as a big deal--though I used to) right now, at any pace, would be much less pleasant than usual. There is a word for all of this, and it's called detraining.

Some people, like my friend Mark, call it recovery.  Recovery sounds really positive.  It also sounds necessary (and, to my disappointment, it is). But what is really is is letting your body detrain a bit.  To "heal" as Mark says. Whatever.  I don't like it one bit, but I'm going to do it. Once June hits, I will ramp up my mileage (slowly, and under the supervision of Scott) and begin training for a September half and, one of my two major goals for this year, a sub-3:10 full in November. For now, I'm happy to be able to run my four flat, slow miles every day.

I am, however, doing DWD this weekend.  Calm down, I'm not running much at all, and I'm certainly not running fast.  Dr. W says it will be a good way to assess where my knee is after all this therapy since I've not taken it beyond 4 tiny miles. That race is this weekend, and it is my favorite of the year. My family plus a guy named Quigley have been on the same team for a few years now, and we always have a blast.  I can't wait.

Another thing I get to do this summer?  Help Sara Jane train again.  She took some down time after New York (smart girl), and is now getting back into training.  She ran a stupendous 5K a couple of weeks ago with zero training, and I can't wait to see what she does in a half, a full, and a bunch of trail races (which she's interested in doing).

She has also inspired me to do something I previously said I would never do. Something that I still can't wrap my head around..a triathlon. She mentioned to me that she wanted to do one, and via hearing her talk about it + Tim and Jimmy telling me about a triathlon with a VERY short swim which happens in August...I decided to do one.  Now, to triathletes, it will seem like nothing. But, you see, for a purist runner, swimming and biking any distance on purpose as part of an event is a big deal. The Cicero triathlon is in August, and it's kind of a baby tri. 200 meter swim, 9 mile bike, and a 5K run. It sounds crazy, but I am going to have to actually train a lot to be able to swim 200 continuous meters. Right now, I'm guessing I could make it 25 a pool. 

It's a new challenge.  Everyone in my Bedford running group also does tris.  In fact, to my amazement, they prefer them. They got Tim to drink the Kool-Aid in 2010 and, while I'll never do that, I've heard them talk about it so much that I feel I have to do it to keep my spot in the running group! Jimmy and Tim were talking about Cicero while we were in Boston. This was after the race, and I kind of loathed running at that point, so I agreed to think about trying something different.

Then, last night, Tim said to me "Allen thinks he'll pass you on the bike at Cicero." Allen is one Mr. (Dr., actually) Allen Burris.  A pastor and good running friend of ours. He is an excellent, God-loving man...who apparently thinks he can overtake yours truly on his bike. He's new to triathlons and, unlike me, wants to complete an Ironman (I can say with confidence that I will never even have the desire to do that). Apparently, before their weekly pace line bike ride last night, Tim was telling them that I was going to do Cicero, and Allen mentioned something about at least being able to pass me on the bike.

Allen--I have news for you.  I am a TERRIBLE swimmer. I doubt that I would ever come out of the water in front of you unless a shark was right on my heels. Sources tell me that Dr. Burris can swim 350 meters without stopping.  He's way ahead of me there. However, I'm not too shabby on the bike.  I'm not fast, by any means, but my riding ability certainly trumps my swimming ability.  So I'm going to say that my new goal is to pass Dr. Burris on the ride portion of the Cicero triathlon. Dr. Miller v. Dr. Burris. Bedford v. Mitchell. He will have many more cycling miles on his legs, and I'm sure much more swimming. He also has a much nicer bike. But I'm going to beat him.

Now, it's not enough to say that I'll beat him in the race. I have some good leg speed, and it's possible for me to catch him on the run and pass him that way even after having two horrendous first phases of the race. But given that Allen and I are both new to this tri thing, the real race has to take place in the first two phases:  I have to finish the bike portion ahead of Allen. He made the challenge (perhaps without even knowing it..right, Allen?) and I have responded. I am counting on Tim, Bill, and Jimmy to train me to out swim and out bike that Dr. Burris from Mitchell. The Dr. from Bedford shall win this challenge.

Now, what do I win if I do beat Allen?  I'm proposing three breakfasts at Bob Evans. I'd say one, but this is kind of a big deal. I don't eat that much, Allen...and what I really like there are the bottomless cappuccinos. So I promise not to break you.  Except in the race.  It's on...and I call Tim, Bill, and Jimmy as *MY* coaches. You get the nice bike, I get the coaches.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oh, Boston...

...will you ever go away?  I'm sorry to still be talking about Boston, but it's just necessary.  I've always said I'd never run that race. I've always felt like the righteous thing to do was to boycott it entirely.  I BQ'd in my first marathon, but made a point NOT to mention that in my race report (and I've deleted and retyped that three times because I hate to even mention it now).  When I was deep into a blow up in Chicago, my goals kept shifting from 3:10, PR, sub 3:25, and let's just finish this thing standing up.  Never did I even set "BQ" as a goal.  I did BQ in that race, by a lot, but it meant nothing to me. 

For any non-runners (are there any?) who read this blog, let me explain the BQ (Boston qualifier).  Depending on your age and gender, you must run a certain time in order to qualify to even TRY to sign up for Boston (it sells out quickly).  So that means that if you can't complete a marathon in a certain time, you can't run Boston (unless you do it for charity--but woe to you if you mention that tidbit to any runner who has actually "earned" a BQ).  There is nothing wrong with that--it's exactly how the Olympic Trials work.  It is, of course, a ploy by the BAA to create prestige about their race, which, in turn, creates uber profits. But there is nothing inherently wrong with having a race like Boston--one that you must qualify to run. In fact, there are others, like the NYC marathon, who also use a qualifying standard..though they supplement that with a lottery to allow slower runners in.

The problem is the divisiveness that a race like Boston brings to the running community (please recognize that this is based solely on my experiences and therefore may be completely inaccurate.  But it's my blog).  Running is not like other sports.  For instance, I love to watch speed skating.  I'm not, however, able to go out and speed skate.  I also love to watch gymnastics.  Again, not going to happen.  I'm not built for it, nor am I talented in that way.  But with running...almost ANYONE can run.  Maybe not fast, and maybe not terribly long (though I wager you could if you go slowly enough), but you can run. God built humans to be able to run. So you can be in love with a sport in which you can actually participate.  You can watch the elites and then go do it yourself (although more slowly).

Then there is the Boston problem. I've only been a runner not quite 4 years (gasp, I know).  And I've been on a lot of message boards and been exposed to a lot of runners.  A lot of the time, the talk is about Boston.  When I was a brand new runner, I can remember hearing some people talking about Boston during a long run, and thinking "Why do they keep talking about that?"  So, finally, I asked.  I was given several "are you kidding me?" looks and was then told that Boston is special.  So I asked why it is special.  Then I found out the truth, at least from the viewpoint of these runners (which, by the way, include no one from my local running group): only fast runners get to run Boston. Again, that is not an inherently bad thing (though, I admit, I am clearly biased against this race).  The people in that conversation immediately identified themselves as either BQers or non-BQers without any prompting. It was clear that the non-BQers were quite ashamed of their status, and they wanted to make it known that they were certainly still training to try to BQ.

Since that time, I've experienced that scenario over and over.  Runners stress themselves out over meeting or not meeting a BQ.  It becomes this sort of quest.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen people say to a newly BQ'd runner "Congrats, now you're a real runner."  Really?  So that person was not physically completing the action of running before then?  No runner's self-worth as a runner should be completely dependent on being able to cover 26.2 miles in some pre-determined time frame.  I'm not at all against time goals.  What I am against is "slower" runners being hard on themselves, and other runners turning their noses up at them.  And I can't deny that I feel a pain in my gut every time I hear a newly BQ'd runner say something about finally being a "real runner" now that he/she has BQ'd.  That is just wrong.  Running is too natural and versatile a sport for anyone to feel that way.  I have no idea why I'm even on this rant, but please know that you should be proud if you've qualified for Boston.  But also should you be if you've run a marathon and not qualified for Boston.

So why did I run Boston?  Because I love my running group and they were all doing it.  Yeah--peer pressure.  Actually, I happen to be married to someone who's kind of in love with the race.  I refuse to drink out of his Boston Marathon coffee cups, but we have plenty of them.  And lots of jackets.  We even have a mouse pad and he may even have, in his office, a framed Boston poster from his first Boston--complete with bib number and space blanket.  Clearly this race means something to my husband.  He really wanted me to experience the race at least once.  Given that + lots of Bedford folk (again--none of them use Boston to make other runners feel inadequate...they are class acts!)...I decided to run it.

I can say, at this point, I shouldn't have. What really prompted this post is that Boston is still lingering in my life.  No, not the jacket (haven't worn it all week in protest).  I'm sick.  I've felt bad since the minute I crossed the line (actually, it started about mile 20!).  The night of the race we all went out to eat and I could hardly keep my head up.  Eating some Mike's Pastries helped, but I just felt horrid.  I kept telling Tim that I didn't understand it.  I've run marathons and an ultra marathon and I'd never felt this bad.  Everyone seemed to have this energy that I just didn't.  Not just tired legs, but a tired HEAD.  I felt dizzy, fuzzy, nauseated.  I figured it was just the race and it would go away.  But it was there the next day....and the rest of the week.

I felt really awful last week, to the point that, a couple of times, when trying to work at my computer in my office, I had to just stop and lie down flat on the floor.  I was so dizzy.  Driving made it so much worse.  My appetite was gone (I didn't even have Starbucks!) and I was having night sweats and still occasional muscle cramps.  I hadn't been getting better, but worse, and Monday night things got very bad.  Tim was out of town, so I was home with the kids, and I was freezing.  Chilling.  I went to bed wearing long sleeves and pants, and I still was shaking.  Clearly, I had a fever but I had no energy to get up and find the thermometer.

Thanks to Amelia's help, I got the kids to school and daycare the next morning, and came home....and the vomiting started. And it's only just now stopped.  I won't go into details, but it was the most vomiting I've ever done in that time frame.  My entire body hurt.  My back, my abs...and I had a fever of 102.  I barely got through the day and my mom had to come take care of the kids last night.  All I could do was lay in the fetal position and moan and pray for relief.

Today, I went to the doctor.  I had some labs drawn.  It was not pretty.  I'm severely dehydrated and have electrolyte disturbances which point to something called "exercise-induced illness."  My doctor is convinced I had a heat stroke during the race and have never fully recovered, getting progressively more dehydrated.  This led to dangerous changes in my sodium and potassium, which played into the nausea and vomiting, and it became a big cycle.  I got some anti-nausea medication and two liters of fluid and I'm feeling MUCH better.  I've got a ways to go, but I don't have to crawl up my stairs any longer.

So there are two points to this post.  Okay, three:  1) I shouldn't have run Boston.  You don't badmouth a race that much and get away with it. 2)The truth is I, as a daughter of my father, who is known across the world for his heat intolerance, should not run long distances when the temperature at the START of the race is 87, and 90 is reached halfway in.  And when I don't stop long enough to take in water (I don't do well at all drinking on the run.  I usually carry a straw but forgot to get one for Boston). 3) I am better suited for smaller road marathons and trail races.  I have never had a good experience at a big race.  Now, I've only done two, but I'm kind of bitter about it will be hard to ever get me in a big one again.

Okay.  Goodbye, Boston...putting you to bed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It is not a race...IT IS AN EXPERIENCE warned the B.A.A. on the eve of the Boston Marathon.  Back to that in a minute.

Arriving at the airport.
If you read my last blog post, you saw me all sappy and happy about celebrating being a runner in Boston. I'm still exceedingly glad to be a runner (and there were moments during the race when even that thought waned), but, at this point, I'm even more thrilled to be alive.  I did indeed run and finish the 116th Boston Marathon this past Monday.  It was my personal worst time for the distance (by almost an hour), and (very narrowly) the second-to-worst running experience I've ever had. Now that I've got you excited about reading this sordid tale, let me share the details of the weekend.

Bedford ---> Boston
We left early Saturday morning.  Bill, Leisa, Jimmy, Tim, and I were all on the same Beantown-bound flight, and that was fun.  In two short hours, the Bedfordites began to invade Boston. We were in very good spirits until we started getting the BAA emails.  What emails, you ask?  Oh, they don't usually send them.  Only when the forecast is calling for 90-degree heat on race day do these bad boys get sent out.  I won't quote them verbatim for you, but let's just say that all our phones began lighting up with warning messages about running in Monday's race.  As in, we probably shouldn't be doing it.  It was going to be hot--very hot--from beginning to end. Though the doomsday messages dampened the mood a little bit, it was almost imperceptible.  Bill commented on his impeccable timing: the last time he ran Boston, in 2004, it was the hottest Boston yet.  And this year was supposed to be even hotter.  AND (for those of you who don't know Bill) he does not do well in heat.  At all.  We joked about the probability of seeing Bill on the ground in convusions after the race and headed to our hotels.

Jimmy, John (who had a different flight), Tim, and I were all at the Sheraton.  Bill and Leisa were somewhere else, as was Allen, and Rand, Kathy, Robin, and her husband Joe were at the Westin.  After settling in our hotels, the plan was to get straight to the expo.  But Bill, Rand, and I were starving.  So we stopped and ate at a place on Boylston Street, The Globe, before heading over.  We sat outside.  And it was hot.  It slowly began to sink in that this was going to be my slowest marathon ever.  I actually knew that before I came, but it was starting to hit me just HOW slow it might be.  We played around on Boylston street a little, and then Tim, Bill, Leisa, Rand, Kathy, and I headed to the expo.

You've probably heard me say it before--but I hate expos.  I just do.  It's crowded, it's loud, and it's not too far off from the feeling you get in a Mexican market--everyone wants to sell you something.  But you HAVE to go to the expo to get your race number.  It's a trap!  Boston jackets were everywhere.  Apparently, it's an unwritten rule that if you've run Boston before, and you come BACK to Boston, you wear your Boston jacket to the expo.  EVEN if it's 80 degrees. I was silently judging/scoffing this practice when I saw this year's jacets.  They were orange.  People were commenting on the ugly color.  Outwardly, I agreed.  Inwardly, I was terribly ashamed that I actually kind of liked them.  But I kept walking past them.  I was determined not to buy anything that said BOSTON on it.  And, at the expo, I didn't.  I got my number, found out they were offering a deferrment, and headed back to the room.

About the deferrment--that is almost unheard of.  The BAA was saying, about the most popular/prestigious marathon in the country, "Look, if you will show some smarts and not run on Monday, we'll hold a spot for you in next year's race."  Don't get too excited--they were going to make you pay again (surprise), but it's a huge deal to have a spot held for you in Boston.  I never once considered the deferrment.  Mostly because I don't plan on going back to Boston and I was already there--money paid, etc.  And I just felt like I wanted to get it over with.  No one in our group ended up deferring.

That evening, the entire Bedford group (sans Allen, who couldn't stay up that late) went out to dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant on the North End.  There was more laughing/talking about Bill in convulsions, and lots of bread-eating.  One thing was clear:  the pressure was off on race day.  Nobody was planning to race.  Well, Kathy didn't come right out and say that, but the rest of us did.  We were in it to finish.  After that, we went to bed and I slept like a log.

Sunday morning--one day before the race--Tim, Jimmy, and I went to a little spot on Boylston Street for breakfast, where I enjoyed my first ever Diet Coke in a glass bottle.  Tim and I had plans to meet up with our friend Randy for lunch, so soon after breakfast we went for a 2 mile shake out run.  I was concerned about how my knee would hold up.  To my relief, it was fine.  But I got sopping wet with sweat in that 2 miles--not a good sign.  After the run, we ate at a great place with Randy, then made our way back to our hotel.

And then it hit me.  About 100 yards in the distance, there was this row of those bright orange jackets.  They had been calling my name the entire weekend, and I'd yet to admit that I actually liked them.  As a joke, Tim had me try one on and he took a picture.  And then...he said I should get it.  I finally admitted that, okay, I really liked the color, but there was NO WAY ON EARTH I was buying a Boston jacket.  I had promised in my prior blog post to do no such thing.  He took it from my hands and bought it for me.  What's a girl to do?  Can't go refusing gifts from her husband.  So, I have, and am indeed wearing right now (only because I'm cold--a sensation with which, after running this race, I was afraid I would never become familar again) a 2012 Boston Marathon jacket.  I assure you it's the color that got me.  But beyond that, I have no defense.  Judge away.

That night, Tim, Jimmy, John, and (later) Rand and I went out for pizza.  I was able to debut my jacket and get lots of fun made of me.  Again, no defense.  The BAA still, at this point, were harrassing us with emails about how stupid we were to even consider running their race.  Their final attempt was to send us an email which read:  "Tomorrow's race is not a race.  It is an experience."  And that, it would be.

The race starts at 10, but, being a point to point, requires that the (non-elite) runners wake up much earlier.  We had to walk a mile from our hotel to be loaded onto school buses.  Those school buses would take us to Hopkinton, where the race began.  It was hot at 6:30.  Not a good sign.  We met up with Bill and Allen, and off we were to Hopkinton.  It's about a one hour bus ride from Boston to the start.  I have not been on a school bus in a LONG time.  I almost forgot how sick they make me.  Until, well, it happened.  About halfway into the ride, I became deathly ill.  I just wanted to die, and I had no idea if I could walk, much less run.  Finally we made it to Hopkinton, where I darted out of the bus and puked my guts out.  It would happen twice more while in Athletes Village--again, not a good thing to lose all your fluid before starting a 26.2 mile, 80+ degree adventure.

Tim and me in Athlete's Village.
It was probably a half hour before I got my wits about me.  We settled on the blacktop next to the school, and we waited.  With each moment, it just got hotter.  But we were "all in" now.  The start occurs in three waves.  Tim, Bill, Jimmy, and I were in the first one.  So we got to start the earliest possible--a blessing given the heat.  On our way to the start, I just kept thinking "It's hot, it's hot, it's hot."  I kept looking at Bill, wondering if I'd ever see him alive again.  I have done my fair share of hot weather running and always been okay, but I had seen him melt more than once.

We lined up in the back of the wave (Jimmy had this bright idea even though that's where we were assigned anyway) and waited some more.  The guy in front of us happened to be from Bloomington, also named Jim, ALSO qualified with a 3:18 (same as me and Jimmy), and ALSO works at IU and does most of his runs on the B line (where I run almost daily).  Small world.  It took us 8 minutes to reach the start line from the back of the corral, and we were off.

It was hot.  I know I keep saying that, but it just WAS.  The good thing about the first few miles, though, is that we were practically alone.  Seriously--it was like doing one of our runs down Washington Avenue.  We were clicking off 8:30s and reminiscing about how we wished the rest of our Bedford group could have started with us.  Around 5 miles, though, it got more crowded.  The wave behind us had started, and there were some poor souls who had decided to go ahead and go after the dream that day.  They were at race effort.  We saw many of them again, and I daresay a lot of them never finished.

The first 10 or so miles are down and up the whole way, with most of it being down.  I was still surprised, however, at mile 12 when my IT band pain kicked in.  I had a cortisone injection in it six days before the race, and that injection had left me 100% pain free.  Until now.  I tried to ignore it, and at points I could--like going through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel.  I didn't kiss any girls (or boys), but I gave a ton of high fives during that stretch.  Bill is the only one in our group who came out of the tunnel with some lipstick on his cheek.  He also caught a football at one point.  The crowds were amazing.

Just after the halfway point, I started noticing my feet really burning.  Like I could feel the pavement under them--this has never happened to me.  I remember, at mile 14, Jimmy said "Now it's just two back-to-back 6 mile runs."  I love sayings like that.  I was starting to get tired and hot, but thought to myself, "Yeah, I can do that."  Then, around 15, I started feeling cold.  This is NOT a good sign when it's 90 degrees out (which, at this point, it was).  I knew I had to start walking through the water stops to ensure I got enough fluid.  So I did this, but every time I did I would lose contact with Bill and Jimmy.  I'd speed up to catch them, then do it all again a mile later.  Still, though, I felt okay.  I can't say I was really enjoying myself at this point, but I was okay.  Tim and Bill had to stop to use the porta johns a couple of times, so Jimmy and I ran alone for a little while.  Then, before I knew it, I HAD to go to the bathroom myself.  I didn't really have an option.

So all of us except for Bill stopped.  He jogged ahead very slowly.  I felt much better after the bathroom stop, and we soon caught up with Bill.  I think this was around mile 19 or a taste more.  We were in the middle of the Newton Hills.  I must say--these hills are not bad.  I barely noticed them on the uphill side.  The downhill sides were killing my IT band, but they really are hyped up to be way worse than they are.

Tim and I were right behind Bill and Jimmy until about 20.5, when all the sudden I felt a searing pain in my second toe on the left foot.  I tried to keep going but my foot just kept pulling up.  It had to be some sort of blister.  I motioned to Tim, and we pulled off and I sat down on a curb.  I kind of tried to yell to Jimmy, but I saw his and Bill's heads bob into the crowd.  And that was the last time we saw them.  I immediately noticed my shoe was bloody--not that uncommon for a marathon, but when I pulled it, and my sock, off, the true source of the pain was revealed.

It's no secret that I have toenail problems, especially with my second toes.  But what happened was that a blister had managed to form UNDER a badly mangled toenail.  I didn't know what to do, so I put my shoe back on and tried to keep going.  Couldn't do it.  Some nice bystanders offered to get me some paper towels, but I knew I needed an aid station.  The next one was up heart break hill.  We jogged/limped up heart break (which, again, is not that bad) to the medical tent.  I went in and all I could perceive was the coolness--it was air conditioned!  I slipped off my shoe and showed him my toe.  He didn't know what to do with it either, so he put a bandaid around it (after having cleaned it up with alcohol--ouch!!).  They asked me a bunch of questions, and I went back out on the road.  I couldn't do it. Still.

So I went back in and asked for their scissors.  This wasn't my first rodeo--I've dealt with something similar before.  I handed Tim my shoe and the scissors, and he knew what to do.  He cut away the portion of the shoe that was exerting pressure on the bad toe.  But it still hurt.  So then he cut up the sock.  Then, finally, I could run.  So I emerged from the tent about 12 minutes after I had gone in, but finally able to run.  I ran the rest of heart break feeling half way decent.

But once on the other side, my IT band locked up.  I honestly thought I was going to have to drop out.  I couldn't bend that leg.  I prayed that I could please, please just finish this stupid race.  I kept running, and it was very painful for about a half mile.  Then it settled into just a normal painful, and I could take that.  This was just past 21 miles.  Everyone had said "just make it to 21 miles and you'll be fine," but this is where I started to lose it.  The uphills were gone, but they hadn't bothered me, and now I was going downhill on a bad IT band and the heat was taking its toll.  I was cold again, and I had to use the bathroom again.  I was having horrible diarrhea, and it didn't help that the porta johns had to be over 110 degrees inside.  I stopped several times, and during one of those my abdominal muscles began to cramp.

After that, I told Tim it was vital that I start walking the water stops in order to get Gatorade in.  I was SO excited every time I saw one, because that meant I could walk for about 10 seconds.  That's how bad my legs felt.  And every time I walked, the IT band locked up again.   It was a viscious cycle.

My pace had slipped deep into the 9's and stayed there.  I had no idea what our total time was, and I did NOT care.  I had lost so much time in the med tent and bathrooms it was futile to even think of the clock at this point.  Around 23, my right quad cramped.  I've never had cramps, and certainly never in the quads.  Let me just tell you--you don't want them.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was that runner next to the light pole attempting to stretch it out.  Tim massaged me and I was off again, but only for about another mile when it happened again.

I felt, at mile 24, worse than I ever have in any other race.  Even Chicago.  At the end of my 60K never did I even APPROACH feeling this wasted.  I was still of sound mind (which is the only reason this is a close second in terms of being the worst running experience ever), but it was like I had no control over my legs.  I just kept saying to myself "How could this be happening?  I ran almost 40 miles on a hilly trail and I never got to this point."  It was as though I was running on my bones were against the pavement.  And my quad kept cramping.

Finally, Tim pointed out the Citgo sign (which I had forgotten about) and that we were going under the last underpass--less than a mile to the finish.  My quad cramped hard, and I stopped again.  I said to him, "I don't know if I'm going to finish."  I was just a mile away, but that statement was absolutely true.  He stayed right with me and I just kept repeating the mantra of "one step at a time," praying that I wouldn't cramp that next step.  Finally, we were to Boylston.  But it's a looooong stretch down Boylston.  I was closing my eyes and running for a while, then opening them to peek and see how much closer I was.  Yes, it was that bad.  Had my right quad cramped any worse, I wasn't going to be able to walk, much less run, to the finish.  Finally, by the grace of God, we were there.  I grabbed Tim's hand, hoisted it in the air, and did what I had been wanting to do for the last five miles:  I stopped running.

It was over.  And I was glad.  I cramped and cramped all the way from the buses to get our stuff to the letter "B" where we were meeting our Bedford friends.  We saw Bill and Jimmy there and explained to them what happened to us.  The biggest surprise of the day was that Bill looked GREAT.  Jimmy didn't look quite so great and ended up in the medical tent for a brief time.  Kathy had struggled with bathroom issues, John had cramped all over, Allen had sucumbbed to the heat and was even turned away by a Wellesley girl, and Robin nearly melted...but we ALL FINISHED.  Take that, Boston!

So, what now?  As much as I'd love to lace up and get right back to running--it's clear that I can't.  My body is, from all angles, revolting.  Especially my left knee/IT band.  I got the shot to get through the race.  I barely did that, so now it's time to get rid of the pain for good.  I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and I'll go from there.  No running for likely 14 days.  After this little break, it's time for Dances with Dirt.  For now, all I can say is that I EARNED that jacket!