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.

Won’t you be my Valentine?

Dear Running,
What to say?
I know I’ve been distant and aloof these past couple months.
Oh, I’ve flirted with you here and there.
Those quickies on the treadmill.
That long weekend in New Orleans that wasn’t everything it could have been. By the way, thanks for doing your part there even though I didn’t do mine getting ready and all.
But really, we both know my heart hasn’t been in it.
And truth be told, I haven’t missed you. Much.

Because I love being part of The Kook Kids Klub, I’ve kept up the facade that we’re still A Thing. But you and I? We know what’s been up between us. Or hasn’t.  Thanks for not blowing my cover.

And really, it hasn’t been you, it’s been all me babe.
I got my feelings hurt when that Big Date we had planned back in December fell through. That wasn’t you or me. It was that witch Winter Weather. But I let disappointment turn into a long-term pout and I took it out on you with that whole silent treatment thing.

Of course having one of my 2,000 parts decide to stop doing that voodoo it (used to) do so well and having to be evicted didn’t help. But I’ve been over that for weeks now.

I do still love you.
I promise.

I’ve got too much invested in this relationship to back out now.
And we’ve got that whole Spring Prom thing planned in Nashville at the end of April! I know you’ll be there and I have no intention of standing you up.
I’ve just needed my space.  Okay maybe not “needed” but I took it anyway.

But this morning I woke up truly and fully missing you.
Everything about you.
The sweat.
The time and distance with nothing but the two of us.
The caring about a time on a clock at a finish line and wanting to make it something different. 
The Zone. That mile or so when it feels like my feet aren’t even touching the ground and I Could Do This Forever.
And yes, even that first sucktastic mile or so when I have to remind the legs and the lungs that yes they’ve done this before.
Yeah, I woke up missing that too.

So I guess what I’m saying is it’s time we got back together.
For real now. No more treadmill flirtations or half-hearted weekend getaways.
It’s time for me to come back to you. You’re right where you’ve always been: under my laces, on the streets. Thanks for that.
See you tomorrow morning!

It’s all about the numbers

Numbers of miles run.

Numbers of calories burned that simply must be replaced.

Numbers of ounces of fluid lost that absolutely must be replaced.

Numbers of ‘other things’ you pass on because “I have to run tonight/early tomorrow.”

Numbers and numbers of numbers.

And the numbers that matter most of all? 12/7 and 26.2.

Oh, and 1.9 million.
That’s the number of dollars it takes every single day just to open the doors and turn on the lights at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Only those doors never close, and those lights never go off.

So all those numbers of miles and calories and ounces and “Can’t make it”s really don’t add up to a hill of beans in light of that $1,900,000.
Now do they?

One number that keeps resounding in my head, because it’s pretty huge for me, is Sixteen.
That’s the number of miles we ran last Saturday.
That’s 2.9 miles further than the half marathon that seemed like So Many Miles a little over a year ago.
That’s four miles further than than my Waterloo Distance of Twelve Miles.
And at the end of the Sixteen I felt pretty damn good!
Or at least better than I’d expected to feel.
I think I actually got a little Runner’s High around fourteen miles because suddenly my legs that had been filling with lead at Thirteen felt awesome!
I felt awesome!
The air was airier, the sun was sunnier, I think I actually levitated for a few steps!  Okay maybe I didn’t levitate, but  I can see how people get addicted to running these longer distances.

Tonight’s seven miles started out great.  Legs and lungs were working together from ‘Go!’ and everything was awesome until it wasn’t which was around four miles when my right hamstring started tightening up.  Then my left knee started humming in harmony, and by 6.75 miles both hamstrings were doing all they could to secede from the union of my legs so I walked the last quarter mile and until HCRP could get back to the car and come pick me up a little past seven.

I know what caused it.
Lack of consistent cross-training.
So we’ll be correcting that immediately.
And I’ll be getting in to see Dr. Awesome Sauce, Official Unofficial Chiropractor of Every Runner I Know, to see if he thinks taping my hamstrings will help.  Or if he, like TJ (my Running Friendtor – Friend + Mentor = Friendtor) thinks this is lack of consistent cross-training.
You know, doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing.
Another thing that adds up.
Doing + What You Know To Do = Success
What You Know To Do – Doing = Pain/Possible Injury
That’s math I know how to do.

National Running Day

Who knew?!
No. Seriously. Who knew? Before like Sunday when it started popping up all over Facebook I didn’t know that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day.
And because I didn’t know that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day I had accepted an invitation (and tickets) for HCRP and I to attend a local charity event.

I woke up this morning thinking “Ooh! 89 degrees will make for a great run this evening!” I even had the presence of mind to check my gym bag to be sure I had everything together for a run. And then it hit me (when it was too late to get a run in before work): There are simply not enough hours in the day for me to work, run, attend the charity event, be a good pet owner, eat, sleep . . .
And let the guilt cycling begin!
How am I not going to run on National Running Day?!
How am I not going to attend this event we’ve been so generously hosted at?!
How am I going to do everything that’s expected of me by my running friends and my job and my non-runner friends and the cats and the dog and – oh yeah – a girl’s gotta eat!
I finally said, out loud, and in So Many Words “There just aren’t enough hours to make everybody happy!”

And then I got to work.
I fired up my computer, and my desktop background started cycling through the 30+ ‘motivational/inspirational’ images I’ve collected from Ye Olde Interwebs and lo and behold I get patted on the shoulder by this one:

281972_439898836052990_1821223776_n“You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”

Not my running friends.
Not my non-running friends.
Not anyone.
Not. Any. One.

So no, I will not in fact be running on National Running Day.
I will be going to work.
I will be supporting my fellow runners as they log their miles today.
I will be honoring the graciousness of the person hosting us at the event we are attending tonight.
I will be taking care of my household.
I will not be running.
Not today.
I will run tomorrow.
And that’s okay.
And I will set a reminder on my calendar for next year that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day.

Oh and P.S. the pain that’s plagued the ball of my right foot for the past five weeks? I saw a (really freakin’ awesome) Podiatrist yesterday and the verdict is: inflammation of second metatarsal. Have an orthotic to offset pressure on the ball of the foot. Double dose of Aleve twice a day for 2 weeks. And I’m good to go to “get back out there running”.

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.

Week One: And so it begins!

This is Week One of our Marathon Training Program to complete The Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
The Full Marathon.
26.2 miles.
All in the same day.
This is, arguably, the single biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life!
Yes, that counts childbirth and motherhood.
I always expected to have a child and be a mother.
Running a marathon?!  Not ever in my wildest dreams (until sometime late last year) would I have ever seen myself running a marathon.
And the thing of it is, running the marathon itself isn’t really The Thing of It.
Oh, the marathon is big.  Huge!
The marathon is The Prize.
The Victory Lap.
The cherry on top.
The point and purpose to be sure, but not really The Thing of It.
The training is The Thing of It.
Or so I’m told.
Right now the marathon seems like complete insanity.
But I haven’t finished a 20 mile training run yet.

We’re following Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme, 30 Week program.
We’re implementing upper body strength training, yoga, elliptical cross-training, and various interval running training . . .  ummm . . . running training things.
We mutually agreed on the overall training program.  And we have a spreadsheet.
HCRP is in charge of the interval running training things seeing as how he ran cross country in high school and knows what pyramids and 400s and 800s and other such things actually are.
I’m in charge of diet and nutrition.  And yoga.  I’m mostly in charge of sharing what I learn from my Personal Yogi with HCRP.
We are mutually in charge of keeping each other from freaking out.
The rest of you are in charge of keeping us from chickening out.
Just so you know.

Tonight was our first Short Run and it called for 1.5 miles.
On one hand that seemed like a really short distance given that nine days ago we did a 10K race.
On the other hand we truly are Supreme Marathon Novices so it has been decided that we will follow this plan To The Letter.
So we ran 1.5 miles.
They weren’t fun miles.  My sinuses and allergies have been giving me fits so I felt like I had no lung capacity and the sore throat that set in late this afternoon made the breathing less than comfortable.
But it will get better.

In addition to training to and running the Marathon, HCRP and I are registered for The St. Jude as St. Jude Heroes which means we have each committed to raising funds for St. Jude and the incredible, miraculous work they do there. If you are interested in assisting us in our efforts to support St. Jude, below are links to our individual fundraising pages.
And thank you for any amount you are able to contribute.  Every dollar helps.

My St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

HCRP’s St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

Some of the best runs belong to other runners

Today HCRP and I had the unique experience . . . correction . . . we had the unique honor of playing Support Team to a couple we are privileged to count as both friends and fellow runners.

Our friends or (as I called them in several Facebook picture tags) Team Action Jackson were running in today’s St. Jude Country Music Marathon.
Mrs. Action Jackson has run several marathons, this was Mr. Action Jackson’s first.
They’ve spent the past sixteen weeks dedicating their lives to training for this event.
I can’t count the number of (cold, winter) mornings I’ve stumbled out of bed at 5am to be greeted by the Endomondo/Facebook cross-post “Mr. AJ tracked a run . . . ” that had started an hour before any part of me was anywhere close to tracking the path from the bed to the toilet, let alone a run!
Mrs. AJ (who loathes cold weather like ice cubes loathe sunny beaches) went out on countless weekday runs in overcast, sub-freezing temperatures.  And did I mention her getting both spin instructor and lifeguard certified during this time period?  Yeah.  That too.
Which says nothing of their Saturday Long Runs, many of which took place on cold, overcast, rainy days.  Thus are the perils of springtime marathon runners.
But they did it.
Week after week.
Run after bone-chilling, pre-dawn, I’d-rather-be-post-swim/spin-napping run.

Today was The Payoff.
The End of The Rainbow.
The Victory Lap.
And the weather?  Sucked!
All week we – Mr. and Mrs. AJ, HCRP, me, and 25,000 other runners and their respective cheering sections/support teams – have been staring down Ye Olde Weathere Reporte and never once did it blink.
A high percentage chance of rain and temperatures that would have been ideal on a sunny day, but didn’t bode well with all those higher-than-the-temperature-chance-of-rain percentages.

We were all awake and headed to The Venue well before the sun had even considered its position above or below the yardarm. The sun had, by all appearances, entered the Solar System Warming Device Protection Program and the sky was weeping its absence.
All.
Morning.
Long.
The temperatures joined the sky in its doldrums and stayed as low as the earth’s tilt on its axis would allow.
Awesome!
(NOTE: Both of the above linked-to-definition words are Maritime Terms.  That’s how much it was raining.  Without thinking I used Maritime Terms in writing this post.  I didn’t even know they were Maritime Terms until I Googled them to link to the meanings for clarification.  And to be cute.  But still, there was that much rain.)

But who were we (the non-runners of this race) to complain in the face of The Runners’ excitement and all that adrenaline oozing out of their every pore?!
Did I mention Cousin AJ?
Oh. My. Starz!
Cute as a button.  Clearly a cheerleader or coach or cheerleading coach to the core (all meant in the best, most admiration soaked possible ways).  She was there to run with The AJs.  She’s one of those Running Dynamos who, when asked “How many marathons have you run?” actually has to stop and think and may (or may not) recall the actual numbers because really they’re all just fun runs for her!
And you simply can not hate her.
In fact, you like her all the more!
Seriously.
I adore this girl after having spent maybe 45 entire minutes in her presence in my nearly 50 years of life!

We get to The Venue, deposit them at their Corral and headed to the Starting Line so we could enjoy The Energy of the race and get a picture of them as they started.
We absorbed enough energy to power the Eastern Seaboard for a week.
We missed getting their starting line picture because they moved up two corrals and we didn’t know.
Fortunately, we did get to see them as they passed our position about twenty feet past the Start.  We cheered, high-fived, were happy for, wished well, and then headed back to the car to head to our First Meeting Point: Mile Ten.

Here’s the “Advice Portion” of this post:
If you are ever fortunate enough to play Support Team for friends taking part in a marathon in a city you know abso-freakin-lutely nothing about I highly recommend researching three things ahead of time:
1) Your Meeting Points;
2) The Race Course;
3) Road Closures that might impact your travel from meeting point to meeting point with road closures taken into account.
Just for fun.
You got GPS?  GPS don’t care about no Road Closures.
GPS is a Honey Badger!  Honey Badger don’t care about no Road Closure because of Race Course!  (Seriously, click on that Honey Badger link.  Be Warned: They use ‘ugly words’.  You’ve been warned.  But seriously: Fuuuuuunnnyyyy!!!!)

Thankfully, HCRP is The King of Navigating Unfamiliar Territories.  This is why he will be the one doing all the driving when the two of us take part in The Amazing Race.
One other bit of advice: If the weather forecast calls for any sort of ‘extreme’ weather anticipate The Worst of said ‘extreme’.
If it’s supposed to “rain” assume it will monsoon.  Dollar Store ponchos will not suffice!
Have extra dry clothes that are easily changed into in your vehicle.
Large umbrellas.  Can not stress the importance of a large umbrella (actually in your vehicle, not at home in your garage) enough.
Dress in layers in case the weather ‘breaks’ and the cold monsoon becomes a tropical sauna.
If rain turns to shine, have extra dry socks and shoes to change into mid-weather change.
If rain remains rain, have extra dry socks and shoes to change into when all is run and done.
Trust me.
You’ll thank me.

The Mile Ten Meeting
We arrived at (or as near as we could get to) Mile Ten and started waiting for them to arrive.  Fortunately Mr. AJ and I are Endomondo Friends so I could follow their progress as often as the app updated.  We knew we’d arrived at Mile Ten plenty early because we saw the Pace Vehicle and Elite Runners come through while we were figuring out if this was the best place to be.
A lot of rain, a (thank you nice Lobby Monitor Guy) potty break, and a whole lot of runners later we saw The AJs and Cousin Awesome coming down the hill to where we’d stationed ourselves.
I fully expected them to want to change into the dry shoes we had for them.  *I* wanted to change into dry shoes!  They got to Mile Ten literally jumping up and down, hugging, happy, and genuinely doing great.  Rain and soaked shoes notwithstanding.
We parted ways, us winding our way to Mile Seventeen, and them gleefully running on.

The Seventeen Mile Meeting
This meeting was notsomuch fun to be at for any of us.
By this time the front that had brought the onslaught of rain had moved through, the wind had picked up, and the temperature hadn’t necessarily dropped, but the wind certainly made it feel colder.
The AJs and Cousin Awesome arrived at this meeting place having just crossed The Cumberland River which (I am assuming) meant running the arc of a bridge, and being buffeted by the wind on that bridge pretty hard.
By this point we’d been out in the wind and the cold and the rain for a fair amount of time.  Walking.  In and out of cover.  A good hour of that time in our vehicle driving.  And our feet were soaked.  And we were cold.  And tired.  Our friends, on the other hand (or foot, as the case may be), had been out in all those things the entire time.  Non-stop.  And running.
Dear God!
If they were ready to quit the instant they saw us I would have totally understood!  Hell (sorry Mom) I was damn near ready to try and talk them into it!  I mean running a marathon is an admirable goal and all, but this was just ridiculous!
And then we saw them!
I bellowed out Mrs. AJ’s name because I knew she’d hear me.
They came over to where we were standing.
Still excited.
Wetter (if that was possible).
Colder (which was certain).
Tireder (well duh!).
But still enjoying the race (if not the weather) and determined to FINISH!
We gave them hugs, told them they were doing great, took a picture (Facebook!), and sent them on their way.

The next thing we did I’m still carrying a bit of shame about, but we ducked into Shoney’s (truly the only food-bearing option anywhere around) and ate.  We sat in a heated restaurant and ate hot food while our friends ran on through the wind and the cold and the rain.
*hangs head*
We finished our meal-of-shame and headed to . . .

The Finish Line
Marathon Finish Lines are a lot like Maternity Ward Waiting Rooms.
Everyone outside the fences is there for the same reason, and we all know it.  There’s no reason to exchange pleasantries because really, we’re all just waiting on The Other Guy to see his/her baby so they can get the hell out of our way so we can get our first look (and picture) of our baby!
“Great!  Your spouse/child/co-worker/BFF/neighbor finished!  Yay!  Now MOVE IT buddy, you’re blocking my view/shot!”
Nobody actually says it, but we’re all thinking it and we all know it.
We stood there.
And stood there.
And stood there.
And.
Truth be told.
I shed tears for more than a few complete stranger spouses, children, co-workers, BFFs, and neighbors in whose faces I saw the same thing: Oh my God!  I did it!  I finished!

There are those who finish a marathon like they’ve just finished their grocery list at Kroger’s.  Seriously.  I saw them today.  They’re rare.  Like seeing a Bald Eagle.  I don’t think they breathe the same air the rest of us do.

Then there are The Rest of Us.
The First Time Marathoners.
The Finally Back In It Marathoners.
The I Beat The Odds Marathoners.
The I Ran This For ________________ Marathoners.
Whatever the reason or purpose, you can see it in their faces about twenty feet after the actual Finish Line.
And it’s like seeing that baby (whose father or grandparent you’ve been standing there trying not to elbow out of your own way) open its eyes for the very first time.
Know them or not, you know what it is for them.

After watching dozens and dozens of other people’s marathon stories both unfold and finish before me we finally saw Our Runners round the final turn and head towards Their Finish Line.
We – and by “we” I mean “I” – started screaming Mrs. AJ’s name and she bee-lined it over to me, grabbed me over the fencing, and burst into tears of “I did it!”.
This was Mr. AJ’s First Marathon.
This was Mrs. AJ’s Back In It Marathon.
And we were immeasurably proud of and for them!  They DID IT!!!

Cousin Awesome?  She was basically just there for them!  (See?  How do you not love her?!)
We met them at the end of the Runners’ Only Area, exchanged hugs and offered more “Congratulations”, then had to take off to get to a family event a couple hours away.
It was just such an incredible experience, and one I am deeply grateful to have been allowed to be a part of.

I started the day with more than a little bit of fear and trepidation.
I was afraid that seeing “what the run did to them” along the miles was going to prove to me that I had absolutely no business even considering running a marathon.
I was afraid that I would stand at that Finish Line and see myself in another late-40s woman who crossed the finish line either hobbled beyond movement, or who collapsed and had to be carried off on a stretcher.
I have a really vivid imagination and (obviously) entirely too much time on my hands to spend thinking about such things!

Instead I came away knowing that I can totally do this thing!
I have ample time to train.
I have a great training plan to follow.
I have runner friends – like Mrs. AJ – who have been where I’m going and are more than willing to share the wisdom of their experiences.
I have HCRP and he has me – like Mr. and Mrs. AJ had each other – and doing the training together and running the race together will be our strength.
All this from a race run by others.
And shared with me.

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!

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!

Amby Burfoot saved my marathon!

A couple weeks ago I ordered this book:

 

Its home is in the basket in our Reading Room.  You know, the bathroom.  C’mon everybody reads in there and you can admit it here, we’re all friends and this is a safe place.
This morning I picked it up and started reading.  It opens with such promise with the words “Anyone can run a marathon.”  This is exactly what I want to hear/read.  I’m “anyone”!  I can run a marathon!  And I gleefully continued reading the Introduction, About the Runner’s World Challenge, About the Authors, then on to Training which also has a very promising start.  “Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is no small task, to be sure.  But anyone who has done it will tell you that getting to the finish line isn’t the tough part – getting to the starting line is.”  Having run that 13.1 I can attest to that.  The race itself was really almost a denouement after the weeks and months of training and anticipation.  But it was still one of the coolest freakin’ experiences of my life!
So I kept reading and everything is peachie groovy until I get to this: Build a base. As long as you’ve been running at least four times a week for about 6 months and you’re in the habit of exercising regularly, you should be able to complete a marathon or half-marathon training program without a problem. . . . If you’ve been running only sporadically and have to give your weekly routine an extreme makeover to start training, it’s going to be tough to stick with it.  Plus, you’re bound to end up with any variety of overuse injuries that come from doing too much too soon, . . .”
And that, my friends, was not exactly what I wanted to read/hear.  It wasn’t even in the same zip code as what I wanted to read/hear.  I’m not 100% certain it was even on the same continent.  Because let’s face facts: Being out of running for ten weeks doesn’t exactly qualify as “running at least four times a week for about six months” and was definitely much more akin to “running only sporadically and have to give your weekly routine an extreme makeover to start training”.  So there I sat numb-butted and heartsunk.
Great!  Just freakin’ great!  I have told everyone I know and a fair number of complete strangers “I’m going to run my first full marathon this year!”  And now I am presented with pretty irrefutable evidence that I’m not even ready to start training for said event, let alone successfully and without injury completing the training for said said event, let alone getting through said said said event without some part of my body being irrevocably damaged or falling off completely.
The next section was titled (ominiously at this point) Time it right.  Awesome!  Exactly what I have failed to do!  I began reading.  Okay I began skimming the words because really, who cares anymore?  Clearly this isn’t in the cards for me.  And as I flip to page 4 (doesn’t take much to dash my dreams now does it?) I glance at the bottom of the page and there’s a pen and ink drawing of none other than one of My Running Heroes, and author of my favorite book on Running Philosophy, Mr. Amby Burfoot staring at me from one of those little sidebar boxes you sometimes see on the sides or bottoms of pages of books.  And what are the first words Amby has to contribute to this Marathon Training Bible?  Let me share with you.  Amby’s opening salvo was this: Most experts think you should work up to marathons and half-marathons slowly and gradually.  Not helping me here Amby old buddy old pal . . .  blah, blah a few 5Ks… blah, blah what I think you should do, too.  Except for this difference: I’m willing to acknowledge the power of the marathon and half-marathon to “grab” runners and motivate them to jump into the unknown.  So if it grabs you hard, I say: What the heck, go for it! But remember this: You have to be very realistic about your expectations.  I’m realistic about my expectations!  I am very realistic about my expectations!  Unless you’re young and fit (I’m middle-aged and kinda fit!), you’ll have to do most of your training on a run-walk pattern. I do all my training – heck all my races – on a run-walk pattern!  I am back in the game now baby!  Thank you Amby Burfoot wherever you are!
So I’m not giving up the dream.
I have four months to get back in condition, and after today’s four miler I can safely say I am soooo not in condition, but I have four months to get back to there before we begin Hal Higdon’s thirty week training program that is based on a run-walk pattern.

Speaking of today’s four miler, it wasn’t the prettiest run ever, but it was definitely one of the most heartfelt.  I felt my heart pounding in my chest nearly every running step I was taking.  And I’m almost certain part of the 3.5 pounds the doctor removed might possibly have included one of my lungs because there was a definite loss in air capacity going on.  I ended up finishing the four miles in 53:19 and maintained an average pace of 13:11 minutes per mile.  Interestingly enough the first mile was my jackrabbit mile and we were running straight into a good 10 mph headwind.  Which might be part of why it was my fastest mile.  I get a little ‘deadset and bygod determined’ when going into a headwind.
And I had to keep reminding myself (during and after) that I haven’t run in ten weeks and in the middle of all that not running I had surgery and my body is still recovering from that surgery.  Just because things are no longer shades of black and blue and feeling more bruised than they look doesn’t mean I’m back to 100%.  I’m still healing.  Healing requires energy and my body is going to appropriate energy for that before anything else.

But getting back to that marathon training thing.  Thursday evening, with the input/advice of a couple of fitness trainer friends, I finalized our training program which we are following effective immediately.
Sunday: Rest Day 
Monday: Short run & upper body strength training
Tuesday: Yoga (which will help with core strengthening)
Wednesday: Mid-length run
Thursday: Short run & upper body strength training
Friday: Yoga (again with the core thing)
Saturday: Long run
Yesterday my running mentor/buddy Tonia came up to my work and we did a 45 minute yoga session focusing on poses that target core strengthening.  Can I just say two things about said Yoga workout?
#1 If you think Yoga “isn’t a real workout” you are doing it wrong!
#2 If you think Yoga has nothing to do with core strengthening you are really doing it wrong!
Yoga is about nothing but core work. That’s where the balance comes from.
You also have to breathe.  If you hold your breath or forget to focus on pulling your navel towards your spine you will fall over.  I promise!
Today every muscle that’s supposed to be around the middle of my body is letting me know that I was, in fact, doing it right.  And I need to continue doing it right until it no longer hurts (as much).
I have a feeling that’s going to go for marathon training in general.

Last night HCRP was looking for a picture on his computer and came across some “Before” pictures he took of me in August 2011 about a month after I started running.
Not.  Pretty.
I got all cute and decided that I wanted to stage “After” pictures wearing the same shorts.  So this evening we did.
I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed at the overall changes in my body.  I’m nearly twenty pounds lighter, but other than the obvious pre- and post-op differences in my chest I just don’t see as much of a change as I know has taken place.
I’m down two full jeans sizes, my butt is (or was before my ‘sabbatical’) ‘higher and tighter’, my arms are a lot leaner and stronger.  (Who knew you developed guns from running?)  But I have to say I’m just not seeing all the differences.
I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth fifteen in my head about posting the pictures here or not, and I’ve finally decided “What the heck, go for it!”  I mean if Amby can say that about training to run a marathon, what’s a couple less-than-flattering pictures between friends?
B&A Front B&A Side

They say running is as much a mental sport as a physical one, so I’m going to adopt that same philosophy towards changes in one’s body.  I know they took place so I’m to trust in that and know that the work I’m putting in now will result in even more – and more visible – changes in the coming months.
When you speak of this, and you will speak of this, be kind.