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.

Momma said there’d be runs like this

I had forty-leven excuses not to run tonight.
Okay I had maybe three.  But how often do you get to use the number forty-leven!

I was feeling slightly queasy.  Queasy isn’t good for running.
My throat was still a little sore/scratchy from allergies.
And I had just sought medical care.  For my shoulder.  Which is fine.
I just didn’t feel like running.
Today was what the Running Meme calls “A busted can of biscuits” day.
(Click the link.  You’ll thank me.  You’re welcome.)
Busted can of biscuits days never make me feel much of anything with the exception of a desire for (and this is too exquisitely ironic not to share) an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the tub, hunched over on my corner of the couch like Smeegel in a cave with his Precious.

Week One, Day Two and I’m already “not feelin’ it”.
This does not bode well for the next 30 weeks.
Momma said there’d be runs like this.
The ones you do, not because all you could think about all day was lacing up and hitting the streets and leaving It all on the pavement, but the ones you do because a training log says “3.0 Miles”.  And it doesn’t blink.
So you go home and leave your excuses not to in the hamper with your day job clothes and put on the running tank you got in New Orleans because . . . well . . . because you feel maybe a little bit less like that can of biscuits in that one.
And you head out and start running.
And it suuuuuccckksssss…ssss…ssssssss….
That hissing sound at the end?  That’s the air that doesn’t seem to be able to get in your lungs quite right which has you getting to the walking intervals consistently 30 seconds  before Endomondo Lady gets to the walking intervals.
But you keep running (most of) those five minute intervals until you get in those three, cursed, non-blinking miles.

And in the end you feel, well, you feel kinda crappy to be honest.
The IT band on the right leg is tight, the right knee is protesting a bit, the lungs are still seriously uncooperative (thank you over-achieving pollenating plants of the Mid-South), and  in general you know you just did a run that was a “Because I have to” run.
And that feels pretty darn good!
Which suddenly started boding better for Weeks 2 through 30.
Thanks Mom!

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.

Some things you never really lose

The blog.
My blog is still here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh.
And writing.
Always writing!

On running and Running a race

Where it comes to 5Ks there’s more than one way to run one.

First you run the races.
Throw on the Thorlos.
Lace up the Asics.
And run.
Some you run faster than others.
Always there’s something to prove.  If only to yourself.
You prove the worth of your training.
You prove you’ve still got your running mojo.
You prove that finishing is more important than finish time.
You prove a lot out there on the road.
Step by step.  Mile by mile.
It only ever really matters to the runner in the mirror.

And then you Run the races.
You ask The Question.
The one that goes something like this: Why hasn’t anyone ever done a 5K for Cause?  The only (ever) answer to which is “Well Runner Girl!  Why don’t you just do that?!”
And just like that, with nary a puff of smoke, black or white, you my friend are A Race Director of your Very Own 5K!  (That one’s mine.  Get your own!)
And as Race Director you learn everything you ever wanted to know about port-o-john rental, city permits, certificates of insurance, purchasing safety pins in bulk, logo image resolution, and how to stalk your entire community one registrant at a time without having restraining orders taken out against you but were afraid to ask.

You also learn what it means to have a woman place third in her age group in your race which was the very first 5K she ever took part in as a runner.
You learn how much support means to non-profits.
You learn how many other people care enough about a thing to devote several weeks of their not-so-copious free time to helping you pull the whole thing off.
You learn that all those lessons about life that came from pounding out all those miles training for other Race Directors’ 5Ks (and 10Ks, and half marathons) apply to this kind of running of a race too.
You learn that no matter how many sleepless nights and miles of pacing floors and stressing over Things that turn out to be noThings you may go through – when it comes time to do it all again next year you can’t wait to get started!

So that’s me right now running and Running.
And occasionally having ice cream for dinner.

Next up: Cleaning up the diet and Marathon Training!
*eep*

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…