Won’t you be my Valentine?

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

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

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

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

I do still love you.
I promise.

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

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

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

Well that takes some gall!!

At least it took all of mine!
I just crack me up sometimes…

I’m a big believer that our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Every part – from eyebrows to appendixes to baby toe toenails – serve a purpose.
When you get into the guts of the thing, all the things in our guts are particularly designed to work in concert together. Even the appendix. It’s there, isn’t it?
I digress.
It is because of this strongly held belief that I resisted the idea of having one of my internal organs removed. It is also because I am no big fan of general anesthesia. That’s a lot of drugs pumped into a body all at once, and anything they do that has the potential to stop respiration and cardiac activity without careful (and expensive) monitoring . . . well . . . I’m just not a big fan of having that done to me.
So I bought time, I did all I could to try and remedy its faulty performance, and in the end it was painfully (literally painfully) obvious that keeping it was going to wind up doing more harm than good. So I agreed to have it removed. Technically I asked to have it removed. And it was.


Still reading??

You can’t say you weren’t warned.

Proceed at your own peril.

Before going any further let me say one thing: I am not a doctor. 
I don’t even play one on television. 
I never even played pretend doctor as a child, I preferred playing teacher or mommy. 
What I’m sharing here is based on information provided to me by my GI Doc, my Surgeon, Internet Research on life post-Cholecystectomy, seeing what my son dealt with after his Cholecystectomy four years ago, and my personal (very short-term) experience.

There are (by my estimation and, to date, experience) several levels on which the body recovers from gallbladder surgery.
The Procedural Impact
This, in my mind, largely entails overcoming the short-term effects of anesthesia combined with the longer-term (anywhere from a week to 30 days depending on individual metabolism) ‘purging’ of said anesthesia from one’s system. My body takes at least a couple weeks to fully divest itself of anesthesia. I know this because it takes me a couple weeks (minimum) after being under general anesthesia to stop feeling doped in the mornings and succumbing to sudden attacks of mind-numbing fatigue mid-afternoon, followed by fighting sleep by 7pm. But that’s just my body. Some people can be knocked out and do advanced trig three hours later. Not The Girl.

The other procedural aspect that’s a tad uncomfortable is the bloated feeling you have in your abdomen because of the carbon dioxide that’s pumped into the abdominal cavity during the procedure to give the doctor space to see (through the itty bitty ‘Innerspace’-esque camera they insert in one of the incisions) and work (with the itty bitty snipper thingy they insert in aonther of the incisions). Basically you feel like you have horrible gas from eating way too much of whatever it is that gives you horrible gas.
You do not, in fact, have gas.
And you won’t fart.
Which is, to be honest, a little disappointing. Because you get to the point where you just know that if you could just fart – I’m talkin’ a Blazing Saddles campfire scene worthy fart – you would feel soooo much better.
But you can’t.
And you won’t.
At least I didn’t.

You just have to wait for the CO2 to ooze into the fibers of your being and out the pores on the other side of your skin and into the ether of the universe.

The First Cut is NOT the Deepest
When one has one’s gallbladder removed there are three distinct sets of cuts made:
#1: Skin incisions
#2: Muscle tissue incisions
#3: Separating the gallbladder from the cystic duct cut
Let’s take the healing of these incisions one-by-one.

#1: Skin Incisions
These are the least of your concerns. Seriously. I have four of them and all together they’re not four inches long. And mine look almost exactly like theseExcept the one in my navel looks like I scratched myself with my fingernails.
The worst part of these? The itching under the bandages in the first three or four days when they begin healing.  Seriously.  I’ve had hangnails that were more painful.
There was some bruising around the incisions. Frankly in the lowest left incision (your left in the linked image), and about an inch below my navel I looked like I’d been hit by a major league pitcher’s fastball. Then again, I bruise like a dang banana.

#2: Muscle tissue incisions
Remember how itty bitty those top three incisions are? The muscle tissue incisions are essentially three times as wide. And they go, well, all the way through to your guts. This takes longer to heal.
I’d say most of that has to do with the fact that they’re deeper and wider than the itty bitty skin cuts. But some of it has to be contributed to because look where they are! In the middle of your body. The abs. Your core.
Name one thing you do – other than blinking – where your core isn’t engaged in some shape, form, or fashion.
If you’re thinking about this longer than it takes to read this sentence, have an incision in your mid-section and that answer will come a whole lot quicker.
There’s not much.
Sneeze – core engaged.
Cough – core engaged.
Laugh – core engaged.
Accidentally start to turn over in your sleep – core engaged.
Reach for something one inch past the tip of your middle finger – core engaged.
Sit comfortably and raise your leg – core engaged.
It’s the mid-section equivalent of pulling your groin. Which is also engaged with everything you do with the possible exception of blinking.
I’m currently twelve days post-op and those incisions are still tender. And because they are tender I don’t 100% trust them to be 100% knitted back together so I’m holding off on getting back to running.
I will tell you that there is a palpable indication – aside from the tenderness – as to the healing status of these: Knots. You know exactly where how big this healing incision is because you feel it. While these internal incisions are healing they feel like knots under the skin. Tender knots you don’t want to bump into.
Have you ever backed really hard into a doorknob or the corner of a table and ended up with one of those big, deep bruises that has a hard spot in the middle of it? (No? Seriously?! I get to hate you for a minute because I do this all the time. Okay, I’m over it now.) That’s what these knots feel like.

#3: Separating the gallbladder from the cystic duct cut
This is, of all of them, the one that is the biggest crapshoot as far as I’m concerned.
“Why?!” I hear you asking.
Because there are no visual or physically palpable cues as to when the closure of this particular ‘cut’ is fully healed. I’m sure they cauterize it, or do something else to make sure it’s fully closed. But it still makes me a tad nervous.

So you’ve got all these incisions healing.
Which is the short-term impact of the surgery.

Going Forward: Your New Digestive System and You
There are two spects to your post-Cholecystectomy gastro-intestional experience: Upper GI (stomach) and Lower GI (intestines). The stomach’s only relationship to the gallbladder is that its fullness and contents triggers the liver to send bile to the gallbladder which essentially meters the amount of bile secreted into the small intestine to help break down whatever it is you’ve eaten. (That’s the ‘Sally, Dick, and Jane‘ explanation I distilled down from what the GI Doc and the Surgeon told me, and from the non-med-jargon laden websites I’ve researched.)

After your gallbladder has been sent to some medical waste facililty to be turned into whatever removed organs are turned into these two aspects of the digestive system become separate, but not equal. Not literally, but it starts to feel that way.

The Stomach just becomes its own thing. Or at least mine has.
It gets fuller quicker – which could have some positive weight loss benefits.
I burp. A lot. Which I find both embarrassing and annoying.
And there’s no telling what’s going to leave me feeling all heartburn-y and queasy.
According to my son (who had his gallbladder removed four years ago) this isn’t unusual and will (mostly, or not) pass.
My experience – after all of fifteen days – is that high fat foods are The Enemy.
I learned this after succumbing to pizza. Cheese pizza. Pretty sure it was the fat from the cheese that had my stomach churning and me feeling its every step through my intestines starting at 3am the other night.

Then there’s The Rest of The GI Tract
Remember that whole “gallbladder essentially meters the amount of bile” thing up there? Yeah. Those were the days, weren’t they? The days of metered bile.
You’ll miss those days.
I miss those days.

Because what happens once Ye Olde Bladdere of Galle is no more is that the liver, absent its more rational thinking partner, just dumps bile into the small intestine all willy nilly with little regard as to what might actually be required from one meal to the next. This “just dumps bile” thing is referred to as ‘Bile Dump Syndrome’ and . . . well . . . it’s just your new normal.
What essentially happens is that you re-learn how to eat.
You learn what you can (and can’t) eat that will (or hopefully not) trigger the Bile Dump, which will send the preceding contents of your intestines on a fast-track to . . . ummm . . . well . . .
Let’s just say that an over-abundance of bile tends to “over process” whatever is in your intestines not unlike a virulent stomach bug. You get what I’m saying here?
I’m still on the short end of this particular learning curve. And I’m not pushing it. (Completely unintentional pun there, but I’m leaving it.)
From all I’ve been told and read online this curve is a good six months to a year long. Which makes sense if you think about it. It takes babies a good six months to a year to learn to eat solid food too.

My biggest concern, as a runner, is what happens when I’m able to get back to actual distance running (8+ miles) that requires the consumption of fuel during a run which might result in runs of an entirely different sort? There’s also the natural effect of running a certain distance on a consistent basis to ‘get things going’ to take into account.
I plan to do some ‘test runs’ with shorter runs on a treadmill so I’m within decent proximity to a bathroom should such a need arise. Or, more accurately, drop.

One Last Bit of Advice:
The Pain Medication Effect
Whether you have your gallbladder, your wisdom teeth, or whatever surgery you might incur you will likely wind up taking pain medication for a day or two. Whatever might find you taking prescription pain killers, allow me to give you one last piece of advice: Stool softeners.
Everytime you take a pain pill, take a stool softener. Whether your doctor prescribes it or not (unless it is contra-indicated by some other prescription medication you take).
My doctor didn’t give me this piece of advice.
My BFF’s doctor gave her this advice nearly nine years ago when she had surgery.
I should have taken better notes that day.  Among other things I should have taken.

At the end of the day, I have no regrets over having had the surgery.
I was walking around with a ticking time-bomb in my gut and the impact of a ruptured gallbladder is far worse than any of the after effects of the surgery described above.
People die from burst gallbladders. Livers get damaged. Sepsis sets in.
And even if the faulty gallbladder never bursts, a poorly or non-functioning organ takes a toll on all the others it is attached to.
And with the digestive system, well, they call it a system for a reason.
Pick a random part of your vehicle’s engine, take it out of commission on some level, and let me know how the whole thing functions.
Get it?
Got it?

And there you have it.

If it isn’t one thing, it’s an organ…

This will be a short post.
It’s late (for me – it’s past 9pm).
I’m tired (I slept for crap last night).
And I’m under the influence of half-of-a-pain-pill.

Remember back in October when I wound up in the ER and then went to the GI Doctor and then he sent me for an ultrasound and then told me I had gallstones and he was all “We need to remove your gallbladder.” and I was all “Can it wait ’til after 2pm on December 7th?” and he was all “What the whaaaaa?!” and I was all “I have a marathon to finish!” and he was all “Okay as long as you’re careful what you eat and don’t have any more major flare-ups.” and I was all “I will totally make that happen!”?
And I did!
?  (The gallbladder keeping part, not the marathon.  Mother Nature had other plans for that.)
Sure you do!
Because you hang on every moment of my life.

Well, in the parlance of my boys when they were teenagers (aka about ten years ago – Holy Crap!  TEN years ago?!  That can’t be right.  No, wait.  It was.  Damn.  Sorry for the cuss word Mother.  I digress…) “Wha’ ha’ happen wuz….”  The ticker ran down on my gallbladder and it’s time to suck it up and get this thing out from under my skin (and liver) so I can move forward with marathon training.
And life.
But mostly marathon training.
Did I mention we’ve registered for The Country Music Marathon in Nashville on April 26th to get our marathon under our collective/respective belts?
We registered for The Country Music Marathon in Nashville on April 26th to get our marathon under our collective/respective belts.

Ye Olde Bladder of Gall hadn’t been bothering me since a couple weeks after my ER visit when I got stupid, and in a hurry, and ate convenient instead of healthy/smart.
Until last Friday.
I didn’t eat anything ‘bad’ (Read: High fat, fried, otherwise unhealthy) but by the time I got home from work I was fully expecting to wind up at the ER before sunrise Saturday morning.
That (thankfully) didn’t happen.
But the overall discomfort hasn’t ever gone completely away and since yesterday morning the inflammation has been significant enough that it is visibly more ‘swollen’ on the right side than the left.
Two days worth of phone calls to several different doctors offices later and I have an appointment Friday morning for a consultation with a surgeon.

I am hoping to have the surgery scheduled and completed before the end of this year.  Honestly, I’m hoping to have it done before Christmas.
Because of the holidays?
So I can be recuperated sufficiently to be in full Marathon Training Mode by January 1st.
Because I do have my priorities…
*rolls eyes*

My First MaraNot

By now I’m pretty sure everyone who knows me on any semblance of a personal level –  and most people who follow charity marathon events – knows that The Memphis St. Jude Marathon was cancelled.
My/Our First Marathon.
When I got the email – which, frankly, I’d been anticipating all day – I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut.
I wasn’t surprised.
Just felt the full weight of a disappointment I’d been anticipating for hours.

Memphis got hit by an unseasonably early ice storm.
Ice storms, for those of you who’ve never had the privilege of experiencing one, are nothing to be trifled with.
There’s black ice.
There’s ice on trees.
There’s ice on power lines.
There’s just ice.
The overall accumulation in any given area might not look like much, but when you take into account the overall impact on a major (or semi-major) metropolitan area you have to take into account The Greater Good/Need when there’s something like a marathon involving 20,000 participants, (roughly) 3,000 volunteers, who-knows-how-many First Responders, and even more who-knows-how-many spectators/supporters over a 26.2 mile course involved. (Not to mention the entire rest of the metropolitan area who – believe it or not – have no stake in The Marathon but might have a stake in first responders’ availability and medical personnel.)
Oh and the Finish Line which had become, basically, a potential skating rink.
Not sure about anyone else, but I don’t run in ice skates nor do I carry an extra set of strap-on blades.
In short: The Race Director and other Race/City Officials made The Right Call.

Was I happy?
No.  When I got the email that preceded the Official Announcement (because HCRP and I were assisting with the Race Planning Committee) I burst into tears.  And my BFF who’d come to town for the express purpose of seeing us run/finish Our First Marathon, and one of my Running BFFs/Mentors grabbed me and hugged me and let me cry.  (HCRP had stepped away from where we were to get with the captain of our marathon training team.)
Then I cussed.
Pretty much all the cusses I know.
Then BFF and Running BFF swept me away to grab a beer from the beer table at the celebratory banquet we were at.
Then the CEO of ALSAC (St. Jude’s fundraising organization) took the podium and explained the multi-faceted reasons behind the cancellation.

And then he shared with us how much we – The St. Jude Heroes – had raised for the hospital: $8.2 million!
And then he shared Sam’s Story.
And then he introduced us to Hillary, who spoke so beautifully and from the heart and for every child who has ever crossed the threshold of that place.
And suddenly the fact that I wouldn’t be running tomorrow (which is now today) Just Didn’t Matter quite so much.

Oh I was still disappointed.  I’m not gonna lie.  We’ve been training for SIX MONTHS!
But I gave myself 24 hours to pout about it after which it was time to Move On!

I have a 5K to plan for March 22!
And, I still have a marathon to run!
So HCRP and I will be re-beginning our marathon training come Monday morning.
We’ll be running the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville in April.  Possibly as Heroes.  The jury’s still out on that.  (Most likely, we will.  I mean, why not take advantage of the opportunity to raise more money for the hospital and its mission?!)

We spent the morning at the Finish Line venue helping to break things down and pack things up.
We spent the morning finishing what we started as our part of the Race Planning Committee.
We spent the morning with good running friends.
We spent the morning doing what we love.
Being involved.
Being engaged.
And come Monday, it will be Training Time again!

I commented to my BFF who’d come down to see us finish this race that, as I see it, we’ve spent the past six months “training to train for a marathon”.
We’ve made mistakes.
We’ve skipped runs.
We weren’t exactly diligent about cross-training.
Which means we have room for improvement.
And finishing even stronger in April than we expected to today.

So, yeah, our First MaraTHON ended up being a MaraNOT.
And that’s okay.
Because, like everything in running, it’s all part of The Process.
And The Process is The Thing of It.

Thought #4,365

There are a bajillion thoughts that go through your head while you are tapering for a marathon.
Most of them are the result of a little known condition commonly known as “Marathonirritationitis“.
Until you are in the grips of it you are apt to think something like “Oh, it can’t be that bad!”  And, until you are in the grips of it, you would be WRONG!
WRONG Mister!  Just WRONG!
The opposite of right.
Everything that is not ‘correct’.  That would be you.  Y-O-U.  But not me. Never me.

So…  Yeah… I’ve been around.
And I’ve been running/training.
And I haven’t written here in a ridiculously long amount of time.

I spent some (Read: Way Too Much) time trying to figure out Why exactly I wasn’t writing about this whole Marathon Training thing I’ve been doing.
Writing is my ‘thing’.  It’s how I process – and by ‘process’ I mean ‘deal with’ – life.  It’s what I do.
Yet I have avoided that very ‘thing’ that ‘process’, my ‘deal with’ about what is arguably one of the single most significant events of my life.
And you want to know why?
Let me tell you.
One word: Fear.

Everything was going ‘too good’.
The Really Long Training Runs went good – mostly – and even the bad ones weren’t horrible. They were merely challenging.  And the week after The Really Hard Ones would come a Really Long Training Run that went so much better than I would have ever imagined on the whole, let alone in light of the previous Long Training Run.
So I stopped writing about ‘it’.
And ‘it’ became ‘them’ and before you knew it a superstition was born!
If you write about it, it will fail!

Yet here I am, less than four days from The Day – Marathon Day.
Here I am Less Than Four Days from Marathon Day.
And I started this post with a thought in mind.  Thought #4,365 to be precise.
Which was . . .
No clue.
And this is what happens The Week Before A Marathon.
Your brain gets eaten.
You develop the attention span of a gnat on crack for anything that isn’t directly relate to Race Day.
Or The Weather on Race Day.
Or What You’re Going to Wear on Race Day based on The Race Day Weather Forecast.

In short: You become self-absorbed and single-minded and boring.
So “Thought #4,365” essentially becomes about The Marathon.
Your Marathon.
Your First Marathon.
MY First Marathon.

Holy Crap!
I’m running A Marathon!!

It’s all about the numbers

Numbers of miles run.

Numbers of calories burned that simply must be replaced.

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

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

Numbers and numbers of numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!
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.
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!