It’s only a goal if it’s your own

Assuming you know the story of My First MaraNot (if not go back and catch up, I’ll wait) . . .

Okay, now that we all know the story, there’s one line in there that turns out to be not-quite-so-true for me. When I said (repeatedly) and wrote (just the one time) “And, I still have a marathon to run!”, well, it turns out I didn’t really mean it. Okay I meant it in that ‘All the Kool Kids are saying/doing it!’ kinda way. But it turns out it wasn’t really so much a part of My Truth after all.

Those of you who are diehard, driven, The Goal is The Goal kind of folks might want to stop reading right now before you get to the ‘throwing up in your mouth a little’ part. Unless you already have and in that case: I apologize. Here’s a breath mint.

To say that I have been ambivalent about running for the past two months is an understatement of epic proportions. As I was sharing with my Sole Sister/RYL (Running/Yoga/Life) Mentor Tonia there was a day a couple weeks ago when I was sitting at my desk glaring at my gym bag when the thought “I’m just going to quit running” walked purposefully through my mind.
Followed by complete and utter silence.
There was no immediate outcry from The Parts of Me That Lurve Running.
There was nothing.
No argument.
No “But you’ve got Nashville coming up!”
Nada.
Zip.
Infinity x Zero = Crickets.
And that was the moment I realized that there was something seriously wrong.

The problem wasn’t running. I <3 Running! Really, I do!
I wrote more about running than my husband on Valentine’s Day!
If that’s not proof I don’t know what is.
But somewhere between Friday morning when I typed out that cherubic little missive to my sport of choice, and Saturday afternoon when Tonia texted me asking “Can you talk?” (or words to that effect) I realized that The Problem was The Goal.
Not MY Goal.
Rather the goal I picked up and took home that really wasn’t mine.

Here’s the deal. (Yes, I say that in actual conversation. Frequently.)
When St. Jude was cancelled I was upset.
Correction I was hurt.
Corrected correction I was hurt and disappointed.
Correcting the corrected correction: I was hurt and disappointed and angry.
I was robbed!
I’d spent six months of my life training to run that marathon and now It Wasn’t Happening!
Oh sure, I could have gone out on No-Longer-Race-Day and run the course – hundreds of people did and they had a blast!  But we had other things to take care of.
The next week there was very well put together Make Up Marathon I could have taken part of.  And I just couldn’t get into it.
I did neither of those things.
Because I spent six months of my life training to run That Marathon.
Nothing else.
Not the Run It Anyway Marathon, not the Make-Up Marathon, not even one of the three races we were given the opportunity to transfer our registrations to.
That Marathon.
The 2013 Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
And It Didn’t Happen.
Not because I couldn’t do it or because I didn’t feel like it.
The event simply didn’t happen.  (For completely valid reasons.)

In all, 100%, complete, total honesty my first reaction was “Okay, well, it isn’t meant to be.” And I was okay with that.
Until everyone around me started saying (to be encouraging and supportive) “So you’ll Find Another Marathon to do? Right? Right!! Yay Julianne! Ewe can dew eet!”
And because I didn’t want to be A Quitter, and because I didn’t want to let everyone else down, I Found Another Marathon! And I registered and I set up a training plan based on the one we’d used before and even with having to have one of my 2,000 parts forcibly evicted (removed, surgically, it was my gallbladder, not my brain) I had more than enough time to recover and train and Run My Marathon in April!
Only that wasn’t ‘My Marathon’.
It was Everybody Else’s Marathon.
I had been perfectly okay releasing my Marathon Dream to “Eh, it happens!” and move forward to my stated goals for 2014 that centered around reducing my times in shorter races and embracing my Inner Halfer.
But I said I was Running A Marathon!
And Everybody expected me to Run A Marathon.
Many of my running buddies dove headlong into the next closest-on-the-calendar Marathon and did it! Others opted to get into trail running, and some into really long trail running. I admire each and every one of them for what they’ve done.  Especially those really long trail running people.  (They’re crazy, but it’s that admirable kind of crazy.)  Sometimes admiration is the sincerest form of flattery, not imitation.
And when I finally said, out loud, to Tonia “I really don’t think I want to train for and run a marathon, any marathon” I felt like the weight of the expectation of a thousand expectated expectations were lifted from my shoulders.

Because here’s the thing: Nobody – not one person runner or non-runner – ever said to me “Okay Julianne I/we expect you to run another marathon or you will be dead to me/us!”
Nobody threatened to take away my Asics or all the miles I’d put in training or the fact that I love running or even the really cute skirt I’d bought Just For That Race if I didn’t find some other marathon to run.
*I* did that to me.
*I* put that expectation of an expectation on me. And them. But mostly on me. On their behalf. Wasn’t that good of me?

There’s nothing wrong with saying “Okay, that race didn’t happen” and taking that as the answer to “Is it part of my journey?”.
Funny thing is that when I blurted all of that out to Tonia her answer was “If it isn’t your passion – don’t do it!”. And when I shared with my ‘nother running friend Tracie on Sunday she said “If you’re not going to enjoy it – why do it?”
Yet another reason I <3 <3 <3 Runners!
We’re big fans of that whole “It’s your race!” concept in and out of our Asics. Or Brooks. Or whatever fits your footfall.

So I’m running in Nashville (and I’m still raising money as a St. Jude Hero, as is HCRP) but I’ll be running the Half. HCRP hasn’t fully made up his mind yet, and whatever he chooses to do is his race.

Merrily we run along! And longer and longest!

I promise I’ve not forgot about you.
I didn’t forget my password.
I didn’t lose my laptop.
I’ve just been . . . well . . . running.
And working and other things, but what I mostly think (and I’m sure my non-runner friends will say talk) about is running.
And eating.  There’s a lot of eating and thinking about eating and talking about eating going on too.  My appetite has been taken over by an adolescent boy and that kid can put away some groceries.

We’re 73 days from Race Day and the training miles are starting to ramp up.
Last Saturday we ran fifteen miles. All at once. On purpose.
This week we’ll do the same thing for sixteen miles.

Twelve Miles seems to be my personal Waterloo Distance.
Last year when I ran twelve training for my first Half it was torturous and involved far more walking than I’d have preferred. I don’t recall all of what contributed to that, likely the fact that it was the first time I’d ever run that distance. But it was awful and had me going into that Half with more fear and angst than was necessary. Fortunately I paired up with another first-time Halfer who was as nervous as I was and enough younger than me that my Inner Mommy sprang into action, my own fears were set aside, and the race itself was a blast!
I know exactly what loosened the lug nuts on the wheels of this year’s twelve miles: lack of rest and insufficient fueling. Those lug nuts started dropping around mile nine when I actually considered stopping. As in sitting down right where I was and calling someone to come get me. Quitting.  And crying. There might actually have been a few tears mixed in with the sweat dripping down my face during that mile. I did not; however sit down, quit, or phone-a-friend.  But with the wheels falling off we walked nearly all of the last two miles.
It was ugly.
It was awful.
It was demoralizing.
It was a Lesson Learned.
You must rest.  You must fuel.

Fourteen Miles was looming the week after The Worst Twelve Miles Ever which began with me really, truly, not caring if I ever ran another step.  After consultation with one of my Running Mentors, I blew off Monday’s short run. I just wasn’t feeling it (not good when you’re coming up on The Longest Distance You’ve Ever Run at the end of that week).  But, according to the wisdom of my Mentor (which turned out to be wise wisdom indeed) sometimes you just need to step back from something, even something you love.
As it turned out what I was feeling was a combination of defeat and sinus infection.  I went to the doctor who put me on one of those antibiotics that upholds the adage “the cure is worse than the cause”. The combination of illness and side effects of the ‘cure’ had me walking more of those last two miles than I ran as well.  I spent a fair amount of the next couple days beating myself up over those last two miles until I finally accepted that being sick (and medication side effects) were a factor and it wasn’t (entirely) a huge personal failure.

Sidebar:
Before we get to Fifteen Miles, Let’s talk about running on flat courses versus running hilly courses, shall we?
Conventional Wisdom would dictate that running flats is easier, therefore it is better. Right?
Wrong!
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong!
Remember that fourteen mile run? We ran that one out of town.  We were in St. Louis for HCRP’s 30 year reunion and rather than running the ridiculously hilly (and sidewalk deficient/not very safe) course he’d mapped out (not knowing about the no sidewalks/shoulders thing) we opted for one of their Rails-To-Trails courses: Grant’s Trail.
Beautiful trail!
Very well maintained trail!
Essentially flat trail.
I say “essentially flat” because the way we ran it it was seven miles of a ½% – 1% ‘downhill’ grade followed by that same percent ‘uphill’ grade on the way back. Essentially flat.
Our first run back home we ran on Memphis’ own R-T-T which is flat, then the Friday night we ran a race whose course was also essentially flat. For those of you playing at home that comes to twenty-four miles of . . . Flats!
And buddy boy did my quads let me hear about it on that ‘just’ nine miles!
Yet another Lesson Learned: Hills are our friends!
End Sidebar

The next week (after Fourteen) was a ‘drop back’ week – nine miles.
The night before our nine mile run was one of the best and most popular races in Memphis and since we’d missed it last year we were determined to run it this year. This meant switching up our training schedule, skipping Thursday and running Friday, but since it was ‘just nine miles’ (cracks me up every time I hear myself say that) I wasn’t worried about it.
And I PR’ed the four miles!
I mean, it was a ‘given’ PR since it was my first four mile race. But I PR’ed the first mile (11:03), ran the entire first 1.45 miles with no walk intervals, and finished the race with an overall pace of 11:41 min/mile. Official Finish Time: 47:48.  Booyah baybee!
For someone who sticks to those regular run/walk intervals like they are oxygen and maintains a consistent 12:00 – 12:30 min/mile pace that was pretty cool! 
We stayed up way past our bedtime enjoying the race’s after party and the company of our BRFF Couple so Saturday’s nine started well after our accustomed 6am start time and we ran that nine in our (very hilly) subdivision.
Running Friday night then getting up and running our long run Saturday was good experience for running on ‘tired legs’.

In the wake of my recent ‘disastrous’ twelve and fourteen mile runs, I went into this past Saturday’s FIFTEEN MILE run with a fair amount of ‘fear and loathing’.
Lots of fear and loathing.
I had visions of not just thinking about quitting and sitting crying on a curb waiting on someone to come get me, I had visions of that actually happening.
Not because I wanted to quit, but because I had to.
Because I failed.
Because I had bit off more than I could chew with this whole “Hey everybody! I’m gonna run a marathon!” delusion and was simply not capable of it.
To say I started Saturday’s run with ‘butterflies in my stomach’ would be an understatement of hyperbolic proportions.  I started Saturday’s fifteen miles nearly nauseous with butterflies stomping around in combat boots in my stomach. Combat boots made of fear and laced with loathing.
My mantras (mantri?) for the entire fourteen miles were:
This isn’t harder than chemo for a kid.
and
I can do anything for five minutes.
And at the end of that fifteen miles? I did it! We did it! Because HCRP was there with me every step of the way.
When we came to a completely unexpected overpass where I nearly stopped dead and turned back around.
When we ran (TWICE!) past one of Memphis’ best breakfast joints and did not stop in for either biscuits & gravy (first pass) or bacon (second pass).
When we knew we were absolutely, positively Dead Last by a good distance.
We were doing it.
And we did it!

At about mile thirteen when I knew we still had two more miles to go, and the specters of the ‘walked more than run’ last two miles of Twelve and Fourteen playing at the back of my brain, I had an epiphany: I felt really good!
Not “That was a great massage” good.
Not “Mimosas and Omelettes at Noon” good.
But definitely good for thirteen miles in and two more to go good.
We finished those last two miles running more than walking. In fact, with one brief ‘walk off a cramp’ exception we ran every run interval and only walked the walk intervals and hit the ‘finish line’ marveling at just how Fifteen of Fifteen Miles Good we both felt.
And for the first time in all this running, and running longer, and Running Longer Than I’ve Ever Run Before I began to see The Finish Line of This Marathon (My Marathon) as truly doable and not just some pipe dream made of other people’s marathons and finish lines.
Now I’m excited!

One last ‘shout out’ before I put this one to bed…
Our local Running Store that sponsors our training program/runs are some of the most incredibly supportive people I could ever imagine having behind us on this journey.  And these are some serious, experienced, fast runners I’m talking about!

Saturday’s fifteen consisted of a 7.5 mile loop through neighborhood streets, a greenline trail, and trails through a large urban park that we ran twice.
There were five points along the trail where store employees (and the owner) were set up to provide us with water, make sure we didn’t miss turns, and make sure we were okay (by which I mean vertical and moving). When we got to the first aid station on our second loop we told the guy standing there that we had ample water in our CamelBaks and to call ahead and let everyone know they could go on about their days since we were Dead Last by a good distance and knew it. He asked if we were sure, and we assured him we were.
As we got to the second aid station, there sat Michael. Encouraging, offering water, and just there.
We got to the next place where we knew someone was ‘supposed to be’ and sure enough: There sat BR (the owner) with water and encouragement and shrugging off our “We told him you didn’t have to wait for us!”, because that’s just not how they roll. They’re not done supporting until there are no more runners out there.
You don’t get that just everywhere. But here in Memphis, and especially with Breakaway, it’s pretty much the norm.
For which we are grateful beyond words!
And because of which we’re really gonna do this thing!

We run. We learn. We suffer Ignominity.

In the one year and roughly ten months since I laced up my theretofore walking shoes and set out on my first outing as a runner I have learned many things.

  1. That I can, in fact, run!  Not just run “because zombies/people with big guns/IRS agents/Student Loan collectors are chasing me”, but run because I want to and I actually enjoy doing it.
  2. That falling on a run is generally never as bad as we imagine it will be before we’ve done it.
  3. That sometimes when one adopts a major lifestyle change, other people aren’t so much fans of it.  And that’s okay.  They don’t have to be.
  4. That if you push yourself past one “I’ve never/I could never” boundary you start looking for others to barrel over.
    I started running saying “I’ll only ever want to run 5Ks.  I have no need to ever run A Marathon!”  I currently have several 5Ks, three 10Ks, and a Half under my laces, and now those laces are with me as I train for what? A Marathon.
  5. That once you open yourself up to One Big, New Thing other Bigger, Newer Things follow quickly in its wake and your life becomes the Biggest, Newest Thing of them all.
  6. Tonight I learned that I can, in fact, stay on an elliptical for more than 1.5 miles and it will not kill me.
    And by “stay on” I don’t mean just stand there texting and flirting with the weight lifters (seen it!).  I mean “stay on” as in actually moving the foot sleds in an appropriate rotational motion over and over and over and over again for all of 3.0 miles!  And I didn’t quit.  Not even when my quads were screaming in two part harmony “Get thee to a treadmill woman!”  (They didn’t say “woman” but Mother will be sorely disappointed if I repeat their little potty-mouthed commentaries.)

Like many other runners I’ve come to love reading about running.  Amby Burfoot, Christopher McDougall, Hal Higdon, and George Sheehan are my new Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman.  Runner’s World has replaced O and Real Simple.
Most of my “Liked” pages on Facebook have to do with running.
And our social life revolves around races, either running them or volunteering with our running club because that’s another running is: A community.

But I’m digressing a bit here . . .
Back to the reading about running . . .

As I’ve read about running I’ve come to the conclusion that there certain Inevitable Ignominious Interludes in the life of every runner.  After Sunday’s run I’ve knocked two off the list. It was actually during Sunday’s run (which was supposed to be Saturday’s run but got put off due to circumstances beyond our control) that this list came to me.  So here I will share:

The Runner’s List of (mostly) Inevitable Ignominious Interludes

  1. Falling.  Otherwise known as face-planting.
    Been there, done that.  Got the high fives from other runners!
  2. Eating a bug.  Covered this one on Sunday.  Okay, kindasorta covered it…
    There I was running along and feeling pretty good given that Sunday was “Suddenly Summer Day” here in our fair metrolopolis when *ack* *cough* *gag* I felt the distinctive sensation of a bug hitting the roof of my mouth.  Thank God my lightening quick “I don’t want to choke to death alone on this trail” reflex kicked in and I managed to trap it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth and spit it out before I ended up curled up on the trail praying for a Heimlich Certified ‘nother runner to come along before I gasped my last gasp.
  3. Spitting/Being Spat Upon
    Much like everyone poops (the cute children’s book, not the runner version – I’m getting to that) every runner spits.
    I learned to spit.
    Unlike my little sister and her childhood BFF Angie I did not hone my spitting skills at a young age.  I was blessed to have a Southern Grandmother who instilled in me a strong sense of what Young Ladies do and do not do.  Spitting ranked high on that list.  Little Sister had the same Southern Grandmother, she just didn’t care about The List.
    However, once you become a runner many otherwise socially unacceptable behaviors become necessities.  Spitting is high on that list.  It didn’t take me too many runs to learn that swallowing too much water while running would more than likely lead to ignominity #5 or #6, so my ever-patient HCRP worked with me on the vital skill of “Swish and Spit”.
    But with great power comes great responsibility and in the case of spitting one must learn to look left, look right, look right again, then spit.  To the right.  I have yet to spit on another runner and, thankfully, I have yet to be spat upon.  My days are, obviously, numbered.
  4. Snot Rockets.
    I’m reasonably certain I just lost every single non-runner who’s ever stumbled across this blog with those two little words.  But runners know the nose knows and sometimes you just got to blow.

    I actually saw Kara Goucher blow a snot rocket at the Starting Line of the New Orleans Half this year and was shocked when I found myself respecting her style instead of being utterly disgusted. Another “I’m A Real Runner Now!” moment.
  5. Puking.
    There are a host of reasons why puking happens in running: Nerves, fueling too close to your run, changing what you eat to fuel before a run the day of a race (never, ever, ever do this!), consuming too much water or sports beverages during a run (hence the importance of mastering the Swish and Spit), and heat (a big one down here in Dixie).  And the one that I think maybe about 10% of us ever really do: Leaving absolutely everything on the course and having nothing but the waning contents of your stomach to leave at the Finish Line.
  6. Peeing.
    As in down one’s own leg, not just in general.
    Again, a number of factors can lead to this, but it generally comes down to either skipping a port-o-john or being so intent to PR or win that you honestly don’t care about anything else and stopping is not an option!  (I can assure you this one will likely never happen to me. If I have to choose between peeing anywhere but down my own leg or pretty much anything else, the “anything else” is out the window.)
  7. Remember: Everybody Poops
    And sometimes runners poop . . .  well . . . on the run.
    This is one that easily 99% of us will never, ever experience because we don’t run that far or that hard.  But it does happen.  To the Extreme Runners.  And from what I gather, they really don’t give a crap!  Okay, they do but not the way most of the rest of us would.  They’re too busy being awesome and superhuman to care about such.  In fact, at that level, I’m pretty certain it’s almost a badge of honor.
    However, if you’re concerned about preventing this in your own running experience I had a little time Sunday during The Longest 2.75 Mile Run Ever to come up with my personal list of Things That (might) Make You Go Poo:
    Changing your pre-run/race fueling foods. This is not the time to change partners in mid-dance people!  Replacing peanut butter with almond butter is probably perfectly safe, just not right before running.  Tummies are funny things.
    Switching sports drinks.  If you’re a Gatorade drinker switching to Powerade is probably best done on a rest day just in case there really is a substantive difference in their chemical composition.  (This is a lesson I learned from personal experience, thankfully not during a run or race.)
    Deciding that the night before a race (or run) is the perfect time to try “Thai Hot” for the very first time.  It isn’t.  It never will be.

I am certain, because I’m still a Running Newbie, that I’ve either missed or completely mis-conceived something in this list.  But if you’re Running Newbier than me I’m probably not too far from right.

Some things you never really lose

The blog.
My blog is still here.

I also still have legs and lungs.
And they still work well together.
At least for three and four mile stretches.

I had every reason not to run in November – I was sick with an upper respiratory crud that just Would Not Go Away.
I had every reason not to run in December (okay two reasons) – I had surgery that required time for stitches to heal.  Six weeks worth of time.
I got back to running (and writing) in mid-January.
I continued running(ish) (and writing) through February and into mid-March.

And then.
Well then I got busy with the run-up to the 5K for which I am Race Director.  The race went well.  Thanks for asking.  It went well despite our local weathermen calling for freezing rain and sleet and snow the week leading up to the race, and cold (40s) temperatures and rain the day of.  (I know a guy who knows a guy and those weathermen won’t be a problem for next year…)

And then.
Well then was The Week After and I was that heady combination of overwhelmed and exhausted and tired of thinking about shirts and safety pins and water cups and packet pick-ups and all things race related.  And HCRP and I were getting ready to go to Big Texas City where Young Female Progeny (YFP) goes to college (freshman) for Easter Weekend.

And then.
Well then, some cook or server or busboy or barback or someone, at one of the many places we ate during the roadtrip and visit failed to wash his or her hands after he or she ‘did their business’ in the men’s or ladies’ room and yours truly ended up with Norovirus.
Norovirus, for the uninitiated (and non-link clickers), is (and I quote) “transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces”.  You do not want me to explain ‘aerosolization’.
Wash.  Your.  Hands.

There were a lot of excuses to skip runs, and we took them and . . . well . . . and didn’t run with them.  Earlier this week I started trying to beat myself up about it, but I realized that sometimes a break – intentional or not – is precisely what is required to renew our drive for something.
Yeah, I’m sticking with that.

So this week we got back to running.
Three miles Monday night, four tonight.
Not pretty miles, but miles (mostly) run.
I also spent a fair number (some would say too many) hours plotting our 30 week marathon training plan on a spreadsheet in conjunction with races we choose to run and races we choose to volunteer for.

2013 is going to be Our Running Year.
And I’m good with that.
For us running is about more than just pounding feet on the pavement.
We have become part of a community of runners and it’s as much about the races we do in support of particular causes as it is the races we volunteer to ‘work’ to support the runners who are racing to support those particular causes.
Just like running is about more than the miles, being part of our running community is about more than the races.

And my personal favorite thing is the volunteer coaching we’ll be doing again this year with our local running club’s women’s running training program.  There are no words for how much having this opportunity to bring running into a meaningful place in another woman’s life means to me.
I don’t know how many women have participated in this event in it’s 20+ year history here in our fair, hot, Southern, consistently ranked fattest/unhealthiest city.  I’m willing to wager that number could easily populate one of the many smaller towns in and around here.
What I do know is that in 2011 it changed my life.
I know that it led me to continue running and to become a Race Director (twice!).
I know that in 2012 I was privileged to witness it changing the life of a mother and her two daughters who are now running/racing machines!  And seeing that galvanized in me a desire to do more of that witnessing it thing.
I know that in 2013 it will change another woman’s life, many womens’ lives.  And being even a small part of that will further change me and my life.

As much as my mother/daughters running machine team thrilled – and continue to thrill and inspire – me; as much as I love the friendship that has grown out of those ten weeks spent sweating our rear ends off on a long, flat stretch of asphalt; it is another woman – one whose name I have never known – who is the reason I’ll be returning as a volunteer coach with the Beginning Runners again this year.

Every year WRWM is kicked off with an Expo.
For the Walkers and Beginning Runners it is their first ever Running Expo, I know it was mine, and for as simple as it was it was a heady experience.  Truth be told, anything more would have been Too Much!
Last year I was standing around with the other Beginning Runners Volunteer Coaches waiting to answer questions from nervous, scared, “Oh my starz! What have I got myself into?!” Beginning Runners when a woman I estimate to have been in her mid-to-late 50s walked up to me and more or less stood there like she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be saying to me.  Truth be told I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be saying to her either so I led with the obvious “Is this your first time doing this?” and the answer I got was far from the “Well DUH!” I was expecting.
She looked at the floor as if I’d caught her with her hand in the cookie jar, looked back up at me, smiled a little, and said “This is the first thing I’ve ever done in my life that is just for me.”
What I wanted to do was burst into tears and hug her.  I also didn’t want to scare the crap out of her, so what I did do was pat her on the shoulder, smile back the tears and say “Well good for you!  You’re gonna love this!”
I meant that first part in all sincerity.

I kinda hoped she’d forget that second part the following Monday when it was 100 degrees in the shade and we were out running in the full sun of a mid-July late Memphis afternoon.
That following Monday she made a bee-line for me and was grinning from ear-to-ear and telling everyone around us “This is the first thing I’ve ever done in my life that is just for me!” and we hadn’t even run the first step yet.  And week after week – rain or shine, heat and more heat – she came back always with that smile long after many younger, fitter-looking women had quit the program.

So that’s our year.
Lots of running.  A few races.  And even more reasons for all of it.

Oh.
And writing.
Always writing!

What’s that you say Mr. Piriformis?!

I believe the ‘mutterings’ coming from the area directly behind my front between my waist and my thigh on the right side of my body are bringing the following message:
Dear, Sweet, Delusional Julianne,
On behalf of the entire rest of your body we, the Piriformis and Upper IT Band, are here to mandate that you do the following before even attempting to train for a marathon (any marathon ever):
A) Yoga more than once a week.  We recommend you get back to that Tuesdays and Fridays thing that looked so good on paper a few weeks ago.
B) Strength training for the following muscles: Glutes (mini- and maxi- mus . . . mini- and maxi- mi?  we digress . . .); Hamstrings (which are, oddly enough, made of neither ham nor string); Abductors; and finally Adductors.
C) Is for CLEAN!  As in CLEAN UP your eating habits.  Consistently.  And with Commitment.  And no more exCuses.  Ocay?
Refusal to comply with the above listed mandates (not suggestions, not recommendations, not even ‘guidelines’, m-a-n-d-a-t-e-s) will result in two things: Injury and Failure.  Because we know how much you hate Injury and Failure we stand (and sit) willing to assure that you will experience both - individually and simultaneously, possibly repeatedly – should you disregard this evening’s little ‘warning shot’.
We further assure that you will not experience what it feels like to cross the Finish Line of the 2013 St. Jude Full Marathon.
We feel we have made our Terms and Conditions clear and understandable and trust that you will take appropriate measures to see to our mutual best interests.
Sincerely,
Piriformis and IT Band
United we (and you) stand, divided . . . well . . . you know the rest.

So.
I think we all see what I have to do.
Follow up on the Stated Intentions I stated several weeks ago.
All of them.
Consistently.

Moving on . . .

Last weekend HCRP and I went to New Orleans for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half-Marathon with another runner couple we’re good friends with and had a blast!
The trip down and back on Amtrak was a laughapalooza!  If you ever have the opportunity to travel any distance via Amtrak I highly recommend spending the majority of your time in the observation car.  Not just for the scenery, but also for the people watching.  Totally worth it for the people watching.  The four of us had a great time just hanging together.  To make no mention of eating, drinking, and generally enjoying The Big Easy and each other’s company outside our usual environment.  HCRP and I relayed the Half and our friends each ran the full Half.
The NOLA Half was about eight weeks out from a Full Marathon they’re training for, so in many ways they approached this as ‘just another training run’.  For HCRP and I relaying was somewhat of a let down as we had originally planned to do the full Half, but what with me having to reschedule my reduction surgery from February 26th to December 6th and not able to get back to running til Mid January . . . well running the entire Half was pretty much contraindicated.  So we relayed it.  And in the end had a great time doing it!

I mean it isn’t every day that HCRP is going to be passed by (on opposite sides of the turnaround) someone like Mo Farah!
And it sure isn’t every day that I’m going to see Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan live and in person at the Starting Line and again when they blazed past me where I was waiting for HCRP at the relay hand-off point.
We ran with Olympians!
A fairly good distance
behind the Olympians, but still.  We were in the same race!
HOW freakin’ cool is that?!

But the best was yet to come!
Better than Mo, and Shalane, and Kara; better than not shoulder checking the rude tourist who walked right out into the middle of the race and nearly right into me; and even better than finishing the port-a-john deficient race without peeing down my own leg was this: I got to meet two people!
First was BBE who is a member of our local running club and A Running Machine!  The funniest part is that while we share several friends – not the least of whom is The Incredible TLC – we had yet to meet each other live and in person.  We had to go all the way to New Orleans to meet each other and we probably live less than five miles from each other and have likely run in several races together.  Meeting BBE brought no surprises.  She’s one of those genuine, “What you see is what you get!” kind of people I love best!
Second was The Blogosphere’s own Rebuilding Holly!  She and her family were in town playing tourists and they were gracious enough to make time to meet us and share coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde Monday morning.  And there were no big surprises in that meeting either.  She is every bit who and what she comes across as in her blog. Open and interested in everything and willing to share herself and her experiences along the journey.

So that’s what I’ve been – or not been – up to and what I have to get up to going forward.
Thus spoke Piriformisustra!

A Tale of Four Socks

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it led to The Best Customer Service Experience Ever.

Let me ‘splain. No, there’s too much. Let me sum up.
Bonus Points to the first person – other than HCRP – who can name that movie reference without Googling. I hereby invoke The Official Online Interaction No-Googling Before Answering Clause/Oath.

Back to Socks.
It’s been a big week for me and socks.

Yesterday I got a by-name-mention on my favorite running blog. Which had to do with socks. (Click the link, I’ll wait for you to get back. Promise.)
See? Right here where I said I’d be.

Today my heavy weight Thorlo running socks (a link to which I can’t find) kept my feet warm standing around outside in 30 degree temperatures for four hours volunteering at a 5K/10K. Well those and my faux Uggs boots. But the socks were a pretty big factor too.

Then when we got home I had a package in the mail that made my day and restored my faith in corporate integrity and customer service.

In August 2012 I ordered a pair of orange Thorlo Experia running socks through an Amazon.com vendor. I specifically wanted a pair of orange because my BFF Lisa has MS and orange is The Official Color of MS Awareness. I decided not to wear them on training runs – I had a couple other pair of Thorlos for that – and to make them my Race Socks. Not that runners are superstitious about having a particular pair of socks for races or anything like that . . . I got the socks and wore them in maybe two races before I (was horrified when I) noticed a ‘run’ in one of them and a hole in the other. They were still wearable, but they weren’t in the pristine condition I’d insured they would be with meticulous care. And, not wanting them to fall completely apart, I ‘retired’ them.

Thorlo Experia socks are not inexpensive, therefore having this pair of ‘retired’, high dollar socks staring at me week after week really started grating on my nerves. So I did what anyone would do: I contacted the vendor from whom I’d purchased them.
Their reply was less than satisfactory.  Their name will remain undisclosed because I don’t need to have the socks sued off of me for libel.
Despite chronicling the meticulous care with which I had treated these socks down to the number of uses and laundering practices, they stated their ‘policy’ that after thirty days they are no longer responsible for replacement and wished me well and invited me to buy a new pair from their stock.
*blinks*
*blinks again*

Again, I did what any self-respecting consumer would do: I stashed the offending, apparently unrefundable, unreplaceable, $14.99 pair of socks deeper in the shelf where my winter weather running gear, bandanas, headbands, and other, in tact socks reside so as to escape their unraveling, orange, mocking stares and tried to forget about them.  Which worked for a couple months until one day when I was searching for a particular headband and they fell at my feet.

I’d recently bought a new pair and, for some inexplicable reason, still had the card they hang on racks by and there it was on my dresser with the mailing address for Thor-Lo, Inc. in Statesville, North Carolina right there on it. I tossed the traitor socks and the hanging-thing card in the bag I carry to work every day where they stayed for about a month.

Until the day I glanced down at the bag where the traitorous, ravelling socks were lying there mocking me and I decided to send them back from whence they came. But not alone. No, I sent them with an appeal to their maker to make good on what I knew to be the otherwise superior quality of their products by replacing this clearly inferior pair.
I shared my history with their fine products, including the touching tale of My First Thorlos and how they’d taken me from frightened, newbie runner to successful half-marathon finisher. I told them how I had successfully converted HCRP from being an “any sock will do” runner to wearing only their fine socks for both training runs and in races.
I used phrases like “otherwise fine quality of your products” and “absolutely do not represent your brand quality” in reference to Traitor Socks.
I sucked up.
Hard.
I wanted these socks replaced.  For free.  No other pair of this brand and style had ever come undone like this.  It was an aberration, an anomaly, a veritable anathema in the world of Thorlos!
And I didn’t want them replaced in any old color. I wanted orange.  Orange Thorlo Experia Running Socks. So I explained the significance of the orange socks and about Lisa and how wearing those socks reminds me that I’m also running for her (among many other friends whose mobility is limited by things they didn’t choose) in every race.  And I sent the socks and eloquently written letter off to Experia Land.  Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting a reply, let alone a replacement.  I was just tired of those mocking, orange stares but wasn’t about to throw away a pair of Thorlos!  I am not a monster, I am a human being!  (More movie reference bonus points.  No Googling Clause/Oath invoked.)

 

This afternoon when we got home there was a small plastic mailing pouch with something squishy inside from a return address I didn’t remember ordering anything from. I did a quick mental run-through of recent Amazon purchases and nothing came back that fit “squishy thing in small plastic mailing pouch”.
So I opened it.
And lo and behold I saw this:
IMG_0960I’d like to draw your attention to two little details on the ‘invoice’ that accompanied those neon orange socks.  And I have no clue why the second image is sideways OR how to fix that.  Sorry.

No. Charge.

No. Charge.

This was their message to me: Enjoy!

This was their message to me: Enjoy!

Now that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what I call Customer Service with a big ol’ heapin’ spoonful of integrity and standing behind one’s product.

Dear Thor-Lo, Inc.:
I may have mentioned my Running Blog in my letter requesting a replacement for that rogue, raveling pair of traitorous socks. I have literally several followers who hang on my every word about running and running paraphernalia. Especially bras and socks.
Please know that henceforth and forevermore your Thorlo Experia Running Socks will be The Official Running Socks of my little corner of the World Wide Web, and of my feet in every mile I run.
Sincerely,
One Very Happy, Vocal, Blogging Customer

Vini. Vidi. Badissi.

No, I’m not calling myself a badass.  Badissi is one of the ‘uncommon’ Latin translations of the verb “run” or “ran”.
As in: Vini. Vidi. Vici?
Only instead of “I came.  I saw.  I conquered.” it’s “I came.  I saw.  I ran.”
But not ‘away’.  I did not run away.  Either with or from anything.  I just ran.

Saturday was another race under my belt.
I finished 257th out of 291 and dead last in my age group.
Freakin’.  Awesome!

And yes, I know, I know, I know what you’re itching to tell me.
I know all the platitudes about how many miles I was ahead of the people on the couches and that hey at least I did it and that it doesn’t matter if you finish last as long as you finish and all the other pablum we spew at late/last finishers when we’re working Finish Lines and as Course Monitors.
The truth is that none of that means a hill of beans until we are saying it to ourselves.
And meaning it.
Which I don’t just quite yet.
But back to Saturday’s race . . .

Truth be told I had no business running a 10K Saturday.
I hadn’t run in over ten days and that last run had been only two miles.
After some discussion with Tonia – my running buddy/mentor/yoga nazi – and HCRP I settled on a plan: Run the first three miles, walk miles four and five, run the last 1.2 miles.  And at all costs to myself and others: Finish.  Running!

HCRP stayed with me the first couple miles to make sure I wasn’t going to have any dizzy spells (I didn’t).  I ran my 5:2 intervals the first 3 miles then slowed to a brisk walking pace.

Walking mile 3 to mile 4 wasn’t bad.
Oh don’t get me wrong, the more people who passed me the higher my “I don’t want to finish last” anxiety crept, but I kept it at bay with a mantra of “Plan the run – run the plan!” and reminders of last year’s two month ‘break’ courtesy of Runner’s Knee courtesy of adding too many miles too quickly.

Walking mile 4 to mile 5 . . .
Well.
It sucked!
I kept looking over my shoulder to be certain there was someone behind me that wasn’t the “Bringing Up The Rear” Police escort or (even worse) the Running Club’s truck picking up the cones that marked the course.
And somewhere between the mile 4 marker and the (I am certain someone moved it) mile 5 marker the following conversation took place in my head.

Bad Voice: This sucks!  This is stupid.  Just start running.
Good Voice: No.  Plan the run – run the plan.
BV: Bullsh*t!  Look!  Everyone is passing you!  The Tutu Girls have pasesd you!
GV: So?  We’ll pass them back once we start running at 5.
BV: There is no ’5′.  They forgot to put the marker out.
GV: No they didn’t!
BV: Someone moved it.  We have gone way further than a mile since we saw ’4′.
GV: No we haven’t.  I don’t think.  Let me check Endomondo.
(Checks phone which is inconclusive since I was using the interval training program and not the straight run tracker.)
BV: Well?
GV: It wasn’t moved.
BV: You have no business being out here.  You are completely undertrained for this.  You’re making a fool of yourself!
GV: Hey!  I’m out here aren’t I?!  Besides between being sick and surgery recovery I was out of commission for training for ten weeks!
BV: Excuses!
GV: Reasons.
BV: And what about the last two weeks?!  What about those?  People run DRUNK!  You could have run with a few little dizzy spells.
GV: Hey!  Everyone I talked to said running with that dizzy thing going on was ill-advised at best.
BV: Excuse.
GV: Reason.
BV: How much further?
GV: I don’t know!
BV: You suck at this running thing.  You are inconsistent at best and you really think you can train for a marathon with your track record?!  Track record!  I crack me up!
GV: Shut up.
BV: Excuses!
GV: Reasons.
This went on for quite some time until, mercifully, the Mile 5 marker did show up and I switched from the audiobook I was (mostly) listening to back to my running playlist, hit ‘shuffle’, and Gwen Stefani came roaring to the rescue of my attitude.
Do you know how impossible it is to beat yourself up with Hollaback Girl rockin’ in your brain?  Now that I think of it, Good Voice sounds an awful lot like Gwen!

So I finished the race.
I finished it running.
I wasn’t last.
There was neither a Police car nor the cone truck behind me either.
There were 34 other actual human people behind me.
Including The Tutu Girls.
For some reason early on in the run I’d seen the two girls wearing net tutus and decided as long as I was ahead of them (they didn’t look to be very experienced runners) I was doing good.
We all do that.
We find the Other Runner we pace ourselves by.  Sometimes from in front and other times from behind.

And with having run a grand total of only sixteen miles since January 14th my time (6.2 in 1:20:52) was actually pretty respectable.
So maybe I am a little bit of a badass after all.
I badissied the b-a-n-a-n-a-s out of that race!