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!

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.

We ARE a Family

“Every man’s death diminishes me.”
John Donne Meditation XVII

I am a runner.

I am part of a community.

I am part of a family.
Most of whose members I will never know by name.
But we know each other when we meet, sweating and panting, on trails and neighborhood streets. It’s a jerk of the head, the raise of a hand, a thumbs up, sometimes transitioning a grimace into a grin just so you don’t look like a big ol’ weinie.

That community, that family, is made up of the runners of course.
It also includes the spectators, the supporters, the race directors, the volunteers, the Police and EMTs who work our races, the cities who host them.

There are, of course, The Favorite Kids among us.
Those gazelles, those jack rabbits, The Elites. Our Heroes and Heroines.

There are those whose Stories bring us to tears, and those who inspire us and make it impossible to quit.

We cheer each others’ victories, commiserate each others’ injuries and missed PRs, and empathize the races we just can’t run.
But more than anything, we run together.
We train together, although our paces vary.
We race together, no matter who finishes first.
We cross Start and Finish Lines together, all of us.

And today we stopped together.
We stopped to stare in shock at computer screens and smartphones and televisions as our sport’s premiere event came under what felt like a very personal attack.

The Finish Line of The Boston Marathon was, if not obliterated, rendered moot.
Mute for several thousand runners who had yet to reach it, training notwithstanding.
It went from victory moment to crime scene in two short blasts.
Lives were lost and changed forever.
Memories were forever darkened.
Victories and PRs lost a little bit of sweetness.
And the one question I have yet to see a single runner friend ask is: Why?
Because for us this, like all things running, isn’t about the “Why”. It’s about the “Who”.
And the who in this is our family.
Our runner family.
Our spectator family.
Our first responder family.
Our volunteer family.
Our race director family.
Our host city family.
Our Family.

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!

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.

First Run with my . . .

. . . new goal of running a marathon this year.

. . . fear of heights as a factor.

. . . apparent need for therapy to overcome Mean Girl trauma from high school still in play.

. . . staying consistently hydrated clearly out of play.

. . . New.  Boobs.

Admit it, you totally expected me to lead with that last one.  Didn’t you?  But let’s take them in order, shall we?  And I promise I’ll get to the boobs.

But tonight was my First Run both in a long time and since my surgery.
And yes, I’ve been putting it off.
When we got home I realized that the reason I’d been putting it off was fear.  Fear of several things, and I’ll get to those.  But yeah, I’ve been caving to fear.  And I just hate doing that!

Now on to that list up there…
The New Running a Marathon Goal:
I have the better part of a year – like nearly 50 weeks’ worth part of the year – to train for My Marathon.  I have selected a 30 week training program that is guaranteed to work if adhered to.  Thousands of people, many who have fewer miles under their laces than me, have followed it and crossed their Marathon Finish Lines vertical, breathing, and ready to at least continue running if not actually do it again.

And I have been questioning for the entire ten-and-a-half weeks since I last ran (November 3rd) whether or not I would be able to get back into running sufficiently to be able to train to be ready by December 7th.
So tonight I set out on the shortest run I have set out to do in a long, long time.  And I was, between you and me, scared to the core of my being.
I was afraid The Twins weren’t going to be as ready-to-run as I thought and that there would either be: A) pain; B) incisions coming undone; or C) things falling off altogether.
I was afraid my legs (the bending part in the middle in particular) would completely fail me.
I was afraid I would finish ‘just two miles’ a sweaty, gasping, heaving (like actually vomiting), mess collapsed on the side of the track and mocked by those going ’round and ’round past me over and over again.
That didn’t happen.
There was sweating and a little bit of gasping.  And the overwhelming paint odor had me a little queasy, but nothing hurt, popped open, or full-on fell off.  Not even the butt that’s been following me around the past three or four weeks since Muscle Tone finally gave up the ghost.
Next…

Fear of Heights as A Factor:
I am, and always have been, afraid of heights.  “heights” being defined as my feet more than about a foot above the firmest terra firma/lowest possible place to stand in my vicinity.  The indoor track at our (probable) new gym is an elevated track which hangs (precariously and flipping gravity the bird) a good fifteen feet above the (incredibly hard, painful to fall fifteen feet onto) basketball court(s) floor way too far below it.
Walkers get to walk on the outside (much safer), closer to the wall lane of the track.
Runners get to take their laps right on the edge of the precipice.  Oh there’s a railing, but it is entirely too low for my comfort and they failed to install a safety net (like you see under trapeze artists) because that would make entirely too much sense.
But it was 30 degrees outside and the specter of cold weather lung burn outweighed the specter of hurtling over the railing and ending up a broken, contorted, former runner in the middle of horrified, traumatized ballaz and shot callaz.
So I just kept moving.

My apparent need for therapy to overcome Mean Girl trauma from high school still in play:
As posted on Facebook: I just have to say that no matter how old you are, or how pleased you are with where you are in your life and in your skin, when you hear teenage Mean Girls in a locker room verbally slicing and dicing someone who isn’t even there you will TOTALLY go into the toilet stall to change into your workout clothes rather than risk being the NEXT person they criticize and make fun of.
And yes, I actually changed in the toilet stall.  *hangs head in shame at my own shame*

I got a huge amount of support from other women – of all ages – on Facebook. And I could well become responsible for inspiring a “Flash mob of real women. Stretch marks, preggo belly, and saggy boobs. I may even go hairy legged.” as suggested by one of my running buddies.  The fact that she is a running machine and is cute as a button really only served to make me feel that much better about myself!
Of course I had about half a second where I was tempted to do one of two things:
Go ahead and change “in full view” and freak the little Teenie Meanies completely out since my scars are still fairly visible and probably very scary looking to a group of obsessed-with-perfect-bodies Swim Team Mean Girls.
Or
Light into them for being the Mean Girls they are and inform them that while this may make them the top of the food chain now, in about twenty years it isn’t going to serve them well and that if they don’t keep up with the swimming those tight little buns were going to scare the hell out of them in a mirror reflection one day.
Thankfully my Higher Self piped up right about then and reminded me that behind all the meanness were scared, insecure little girls whose only defense was to find fault with and belittle others and, unless something changes dramatically in their lives, that would likely continue to be their only defense.  So I said nothing.

Staying consistently hydrated clearly out of play:
Yeah.
It was a side-cramp-a-palooza after only 1.5 miles.  The only excuse for that – given my 13:00 minute per mile pace – was lack of hydration.  I gotta get better at that.

And now, finally, the bullet point you’ve been waiting for:
My First Run with My New Boobs:
In short: It was A Whole New (running) World! (You’re welcome for the earworm.)
About halfway through our second lap (12 laps = 1 mile) HCRP asked “Well?  Is it different?” and all I could say was “There’s no bouncing.  There’s nothing bouncing up and down.” and I had to stop thinking and talking about it because history has taught me that I am physically incapable of three things: peeing up a wall; circular breathing; and running while crying.  There was movement – gravity is still, after all, the law and not just a good idea – but there wasn’t MOVEMENT going on right under my chin.

A little further in I realized I was – or at least seemed to be – running a little faster than usual.  I checked in with HCRP and he confirmed that I was “keeping a pretty good pace”.  Of course this was still in the first mile and didn’t last forever, but it wasn’t half bad.  I do believe that aerodynamics were also a casualty of my previous endowment.

The third thing was actually something someone else had said to me before I even had the surgery.  They had suggested that after surgery I would be able to breathe easier without “all that weight on your chest”.  Admittedly my first thought was “It isn’t like they’re pressing in on my lungs!” and so I kindasorta dismissed the idea.  But yawannaknowsomething?  They were absolutely right!  Breathing was easier.  I’ll be damned.  (Sorry Mom.)

It also occurred to me that I will no longer have the chafing on the inside of my upper arms from the constant rubbing against the sides of my breasts where they were wider than my ribcage.
Dear Glide,
While I’m not exactly ‘breaking up’ with you, I think it’s time we took it back a notch in our relationship. It’ll be just you and the blister prone spots on my feet from now on.
Sincerely,
Happy to be
Less of me

On our drive home it occurred to me how much less energy and effort is going to be required on my runs  with that 3.5 pounds – and not just pounds in general, but in a fairly concentrated area – eliminated.
How much less strain on my entire body.

How much less jarring up and down and up and down.
How much less wind resistance.
How much more just fun running is going to be!
Once I get my lungs back.
And once that happens that 30 minute 5K is mine!
As is that marathon in December…