January 2009

This week’s topic at the Runner’s Lounge is The Marathon and Why Don’t They Get It?

I think this question elicits responses similar to people’s reactions when you ask them if they’re a runner, like I did this morning to one of my students. Her reaction is that to run is like torture. For some people it really is. For others (like me) it’s therapy.

When you get to the marathon, some people are completely content to never have to run that distance. Until last year, I was one of them.  For others, a marathon can even be considered just a warm-up distance (I’ve not gotten to this point mentally, but my brother has.)  As many others have done, I trained for the marathon with a charity called the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and its Team in Training organization.  I figured if I was going to put my body through this, I might as well raise money for a good cause in the meantime.

I think a lot of people think of the marathon distance as being impossibly long. They know it can take 4-6 months to train for, as it takes a long time to build that endurance, especially if you’ve never even “run” before on a regular basis. They may list multiple reasons why they don’t have the time, and all are valid, in my book:

  1. they have a family;
  2. they have a demanding job;
  3.  they don’t have  enough money to buy all the gear that they think they’ll need, not to mention all the GUs and supplements, etc. (it can be done cheaply, just ask my brother who’s very much a minimalist when it comes to running unlike me who’s never seen a piece of gear I’ve not tried); and
  4. they have  health reasons, such as bad knees, joints, ankles, etc.

Yet, once you can get past these reasons, they might find they like it. For me, I did it last year to see what I could push myself to do. It was a challenge, and now I can say I’ve done it, and it was not as bad as I feared.I can now say I’ve done something that only 3 to 5% of the population has done (at least I think that’s the right statistic.)

What I loved about training for a marathon was the self-confidence that increased with every mile that I could add to my long runs each week. I also liked the way it helped to transform my outlook on life from one that was quite negative a lot of the time to one that was more positive. I still have slipbacks, occasionally, since I’m human, but to be able to get through a marathon, and its training beforehand, you have to have a positive outlook. Just ask my training partner from last year what some of our/my worst runs were like, and she’ll probably remember that I was in a bad mood that day or was trying to work through some problem. 

Oh, and if you train for a marathon with a group, you are very likely to make some strong relationships. There is no way you can spend that much time with others, sweating, panting, going through a lot of bodily functional issues (trust me, you may see more or learn more about the other person than you may want to), without making some good friends.  Lis and I spent many hours together on Saturday mornings and found that we wanted to train together outside of our TNT practices, which we did, until she got injured.  But we’re looking forward to starting up again in the spring once tax season is over (she’ll be insanely busy at work until then.)  Meeting Lis was definitely one of the best results from my TNT escapade.

Oh, and there are two pieces of advice that people should remember if they decide to see “what all this marathon business” is all about – do NOT, and I repeat DO NOT give blood while you’re training. My running partner did that in the days preceding our 16 mile run, and she paid for it dearly.   Also, if you start to feel some pain and fear you are injured, do NOT try to run through it or self-diagnose. Go see a doctor (preferably one who is a runner, or works with a lot of runner because they’ll  understand your mindset), and get it checked out EARLY. Do not think you can run through it and make it all better – you may actually be making things worse.

I’d like to end this on a positive note, so I’ll say this: I ran my first marathon with my younger brother, who’s run many marathons and an ultra already.  It was one of the best days of my life, and I cried at the end (I’m sure I’m not the only one.)  My brother and I were close before and I think that experience even strengthened that bond. We now “get it” and “get each other” more for having shared those 4 hours, 51 minutes and 38 seconds together on that Sunday in October.   I also received moral support from so many running bloggers out there – if you decide to try one, you won’t be alone. You’ll be cheered on every step of the way.

Happy Running!


I have to admit, last night, I was wondering what I might write about today. I spent some time on YouTube looking for videos, etc., and nothing was really hitting me.

Then right before I fell asleep it hit me. One of the reasons I mentioned in one of my very first posts about Why I Run, was that I run for others who can’t.  Someone who used to be a personal trainer at my gym is one of them – his name is Tim, and you can read about his progress on this website, For Timmy.

If you’ve been reading me all along, you’ve heard about him before. But if not, then please read on.

Tim is  (notice I’m using the present tense) a personal trainer.  He spent 45 minutes with me abotu 6 months before his accident, and afterward I could feel the pain in my abs for about 6 days.  And that was just an “introduction” into what he could show me on the machines. Imagine if I’d spent a whole full hour with him as a paying client! (And I even thought I was fit at the time – well, ha! He sure showed me!)

Anyway, Tim was in a car accident – he wasn’t wearing his seat belt at the time (I’m sure he knows now that was not the best move), and he was thrown through the sunroof/moonroof of his Jeep.  His friends who were with him at the time, I believe, only had minor injuries. He was not so lucky.

After his accident, his family was not sure if he was going to live. He was in this weird bed that kept rocking him back and forth at first – from the way they describe it on the site, it’s kind of freaky.  He was in the hospital for quite a while, underwent a major surgery on his spine that took several hours.  From the way he describes it, his injury is what they call a “total” spine injury, and he’s not supposed to be able to recover any strength in the area where his injury is. 

If you read about Tim’s progress on his website, you can see that he’s proving “them” wrong.  He spends hours every day in this contraption where he’s standing up – I believe its function is to help improve muscle memory (that’s my simplified description of it anyway.) 

I mention Tim tonight because he’s truly an example of mind over matter. Right now, he’s mentally willing his muscles to move. They’re spasming, and I think that’s a good sign. With Tim’s background, he knows it’s a good sign.

If you read through the many posts on Tim’s site, you’ll see a few themes. His family truly loves him, and he really loves them back. You’ll also see that he really, really, REALLY has a positive attitude about his recovery and the fact that he’s going to walk again.

With all that we’ve seen and done in life, how can we not agree with him? So the next time you’re out there running, and you think you can’t make one more step, think of the fact that Tim is literally willing himself back to being able to walk again.  By the time you’re done with that thought, you’ve probably taken a dozen steps in the meantime.  And, hopefully feel much better.

Thanks Tim, for being an inspiration.

Yes, at this point, I am trying to make some of you giggle like little kids with that acronym, I admit it.  LOL!   Bill has now taken to calling my Tuesday Indoor Track sessions my Forrest Gump Anonymous sessions.  I can’t believe we are more than halfway through our indoor track season already! I’m definitely going to miss it, and have to see if there’s a way I could work my flex 4-day schedule in the summer (if that’s still offered this year) so that I could continue doing something like this. As one of my fellow “Group G”ers said tonight, you couldn’t do these workouts on your own, it’d be very hard to keep it up.  Only problem is that when they do outdoor track, they meet earlier in the evening, around 5:30, I think, and that would be impossible for me to make from work.

I was pretty happy tonight. I made a vow to myself after that one hideous showing about a month ago, when we were all dying, and me particularly so, I was NOT going to lag behind again. I’m happy to say I was able to lead for at least half the time tonight and it felt GREAT. There were a few parts where I was said to my group “I’ll try to lead, I can’t promise I can keep it up, but I’ll do my best” but, suprisingly, I did. I even went too fast on our last go-around of 3 lap!  (To be honest, at that point of the evening, when I know we’re done, I just want to FINISH.) Someone even yelled out to us tonight toward the end “Good Group!”  I guess it’s because we pretty much all stick together.  🙂

So, Lis, if you’re out there reading this, you and I will have to start running track workouts together again once tax season is over. Deal??!!  I promise, no stadiums! 🙂

I also found out that the lady who normally leads our group, Francine, just ran the  Half-Marathon (along with Lindsay) down in Disney a few weeks ago. She did it in 1:54.  That makes me feel good to know I’m running along with someone who has that kind of speed.

So back to the new nickname for our Tuesday night sessions. Remember this scene from the movie?  How many of us have been out running somewhere and have heard some jackass yell out “Run Forrest Run!” ?   Yep, like we’ve never heard that before!

Oh, and I found out some bad news tonight.  My brother is likely now running the Pittsfield Peaks 53 mile race rather than the Vermont 100. He said he and his friend Scott want to do that one next year. But he might also do the Vermont 50 in September – he’s still considering it.  That’d make two ultras and the Boston Marathon within 6 months of each other. In case you’re wondering, yep, Boston is the hardest of all marathons, in his opinion.  

The Pittsfield Peaks race doesn’t allow pacers – here is the elevation gain for the race – can you even begin to IMAGINE this hell?

Pittsfield Peaks Distances and Elevations:1. Contest Trail (Wilcox Mtn) – 12.96 miles – 2787 vertical
2. Hayes Brook Loop – 6 miles – 957 vertical
3. Bloodroot Mtn. – 19.89 miles – 4670 vertical
4. Hedgehog – 3.79 miles – 700 vertical
5. South Hill – 4.43 miles – 1508 vertical
6. Joe’s Hill (Sable Mtn) – 7.08 miles – 3383 vertical

 53 MILES – 14,005 vertical

However, the Vermont 50 does allow pacers, so there’s still a goal for me to keep in mind, and that race does have a lot of elevation gain too, so I’m still going to work on a fair amount of hills.

So, I’m pumped for this weekend’s 5K – I’m going to get out there and see what I can do, and hopefully use it as a baseline for this spring. My plan is to run Thursday, run or cross-train Friday, and take Saturday off so I’ve got fresh legs on Sunday.  I’ll miss out on my long run, but I really want to do well. Wish me luck!

By Aaron Escobar, from Flickr.com

By Aaron Escobar, from Flickr.com

Yes, I’m dreaming with this photo to the left.

Ok, the weatherman didn’t lie. It was really all of 5 degrees when I ran this morning. It was 4 when I stopped. Huh? Yeah, I don’t get it either. All I can say is that it was cold enough that my legs were RED even when wearing tights and another layer of pants over them.

And yes, I did wear the face mask, and did my bank-robber impression, although I have to admit, a bank robber is probably not going to be stupid enough to also wear a headlamp at the same time, like me. I promise, next time I have the pleasure of wearing the two together, I’ll have Bill take a picture so you can see that I have truly crossed the line and have jumped the shark, as they say, when it comes to being a dork while running, and am TRULY  a gear-head. Yes, I wear that badge proudly, and with honor.  🙂

bank robber or runner? you decide

bank robber or runner? you decide

Anyway, I am proud to say, and especially for Lindsay who commented last week that she’d like to see me with some “8s” in my times, (**wink*), that I did just that this morning. As you can see, I was getting a bit slower but I think that was a side effect of NOT BEING ABLE TO FEEL MY LEGS.  Check out these bad boys below!!!

Lap 1 = 8:34 pace

Lap 2 = 8:48 pace

Lap 3: 8:56 pace

Time overall, for 3.02 miles = 26:28

Average overall = 8:46 pace!!!

Now, granted, this route is mainly flat, and somewhat downhill (I need to try it in reverse and see how much that affects my time now that I have the autolap thing working on my Garmin.)

I’m not sure if you can tell from this photo, but what works well on it is that there’s a strip of mesh that goes over your mouth, so you can breathe a bit better than if your mouth were exposed to the elements. At first, I didn’ t have it situated correctly on my face, and I did freak out a bit – I’m clausterphobic, but once I pulled it down, it worked just fine.  But like all things, it does get a bit wet, as you can imagine, so I don’t know that I would want to wear it for more than 5-6 miles, but let’s be honest, who wants to be out in that cold for that long anyway? NOT ME!

I have to thank all of you for your cheering me on as I slowly, ever so slowly, am getting faster. Especially Lisa, who said to me yesterday that she thought to herself while running “you can do anything for 9 minutes” and also that because of all the speedwork I’ve been doing, I should be able to do under 9 minute miles for a 5K. I kind of kept repeating that to myself as I went out there, even when I COULDN’T FEEL MY LEGS. (Can you tell –  I like to keep complaining about that? Maybe it’s more like a statement than a complaint.  Haven’t decided yet.) I also thought of how she kept up an 8:37 pace for a half marathon, and how Alissa ran under 4 last week. Thanks for motivating me, all of you, I mean it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering – at 5 degrees, whatever you breathe out, will crystallize on your face mask/balaclava. I know. I could see it out of the corner of my eye.  I think I could also see water crystallizing on my face – I tried to wipe my eyes at one point, and I was like, “what is that blurry stuff I see?”  I really do think that’s the coldest it’s ever felt while running. I think the difference between this run and that of my 5-miler a few weeks ago in negative degree wind chills was that there was no sun this time, and no hope of it either, since I ran before/during dawn. (The sun rises here around 7:03 now, I believe, and that’s right when I finished.)

Anyway, I see the weather forecast for this week is we’re expecting 6-12 inches on Wednesday, I believe right after the arctic blast leaves us, on Tuesday. THAT’S JUST AWESOME. (Please, do note the sarcasm.)

Anyway, don’t get the wrong idea – I am totally psyched for my time this morning and am really looking forward to the Lowell Super 5K that I signed up for, this coming Sunday. It’s supposed to be 32, with a wind chill of maybe 18.

That’s practically tropical!!! You see, it’s all just relative and a mind over matter. That, and a  lot of clothes. I have got to weigh all this gear sometime and see how many pounds I’m carrying on my body. Imagine what I could do if all I had to wear was a tshirt and shorts?! I’m excited for this summer, for many reasons.

Happy Running, folks. I’m glad I started off my Monday on a high, albeit cold-as-ice note.

We are experiencing another “arctic blast” here in the Northeast – this winter has just been brutal – so much cold and snow at the same time! usually we’ll get one or the other, or maybe I’m just using selective memory, who knows?  Anyway, I’m feeling a bit scattered this evening, as I’m sure  you can tell by this post…

We ran 11 miles yesterday, and the temperature actually FELL while we were running. When we started, it was about 33, but it was also supposed to be really windy so I had on three layers up top, plus 2 layers on my legs. After the first 5 miles, we stopped, and lost two runners, and then one of us were goaded into doing 5 more by the others (I felt so bad for Elisa!), and then did another 5.  Oh, and I took off my second layer of pants (it felt awesome to only have to run in tights!!) Kara did another extra mile to make 11, with me.

We didn’t go super fast – I did some 10 minutes miles, and mainly 11 minute miles. Some were in the 12 range, but  Elisa, who originally planned on doing only 5, was having some problems with her hip.  The course was actually very pretty – the same as the Bradford Valentine’s Day 5 miler.  It is a lot of “rolling hills” with a major hill in the first mile – it’s basically just about up, for over the first mile and then  you get to relax somewhat.   

I didn’t really care that we weren’t going super fast – I can always run on my own, and worry about that sort of thing. The ladies I was running with were super nice, and we had some good conversations, and to me somedays that is more important. I don’t have a ton of women friends around here, and we don’t even get to see each other as often as we want to, so it’s cool to be able to chat and do something I love at the same time. 

The cool thing about yesterday was that I also started to feel, for the first time again, like I really can continue to keep going and going and going for long distances.  I was beginning to wonder about that, honestly.

However, I have good news on that front – last Thursday morning I ran 5 miles outside, in the cold, and it was somewhere around 49 minutes. I don’t know the exact time because my Garmin decided to not work for the first 1.5 or so, and I only got times for the 3.49 miles at the end. Those laps were:

lap 1 = 10:24 mph; lap 2 = 10:06 mph; lap 3 = 9:51 mph; lap 4 = 8:54 mph (only for .49 miles though…)

I’m still happy about that last half mile pace though!  🙂

By the way, I’ve been checking the elevation profiles for some upcoming races – I think I’ve got to get a lot of work done on hills!

Bradford Valentine’s Day 5 Miler

Total climb: 244 feet / 74 m
Total elevation change: 486 feet / 148 m

OR Bradford Valentine’s Day 6K:

Total climb: 155 feet / 47 m
Total elevation change: 304 feet / 93 m
Lehigh Valley Half Marathon (May 3rd):

Total climb: 434 feet / 132 m
Total elevation change: 937 feet / 286 m

Vermont 100 – if my brother ends up running this race, I can pace him for up to 30 miles. It’s described like this on the website: ” It is a “shamrock” loop, consisting of 70% dirt or jeep roads with the rest on woods trails (there are a couple miles of pavement).  The course both climbs and descends 14000 – 15000 feet.”


By the way, talking about WOW – I talked to Lisa earlier today, and saw Penny’s results online – I’m so proud of and happy for both of them and how they did at the Carlsbad Half Marathon!!!!! 

Ok, gotta get to bed – I’ve got a 3 Miler/5K on the schedule for tomorrow morning – it’s supposed to be 5 DEGREES, but feel like 11!  I sure hope this comes in handy – I’ve reached a whole new level of DORKDOM, I know!

Balaclava by Outdoor Designs (see the nice mesh area you get to breathe through?)

Balaclava by Outdoor Designs (see the nice mesh area you get to breathe through?)

This week at the Runner’s Lounge, the Take It and Run Thursday topic was about the half-marathon. Yes, I do realize it’s Friday. I haven’t lost my calendar but I was  not home last evening until around 10, and then it was straight to bed! I’ve only done two so I don’t know how much advice I can give, but I can say what I like about this distance.

So here goes nothing (and yes, for those of you who like my lists and feel like it’s been forever since I did one, you’ve got your wish!)  Really? There are some of you out there?!  LOL.

  1. Same need to eat Country Pad Thai food the night before, as I would with training for a full. (I know, I’m weird, but it’s my power food before a long run.)
  2. Same need to get up early before even the crack of dawn to get my running in before my husband even gets out of bed. 🙂
  3. Less boring for my husband and family to watch, and less time-consuming for him/them too. (For me a full takes over 4:30, so you can only imagine.)
  4. Less likely to be a not-so-nice person due to being so tired all the time on a Saturday, while training for a half.
  5. Less likely to feel the need to do a face plant into my dinner by  7 or 8 p.m. on a Saturday night (with training for a full, I was beat by that time of day.)
  6. Less likely to have the need to buy 5-6 bags of ice, and then promptly submerge myself in them, because you know, those first 5 minutes are just heavenly… (ahem, NOT.)  (Although the next 25 minutes might as well be an hour for all I know, my legs are completely frozen!)
  7. Still get to taste the yummy Powerbar Gels.  And Endurolytes. And Sports Beans.
  8. Still need to consume tons of Gatorade (yay!) (You’re wondering if I’m being sarcastic, aren’t you?)
  9. Still need to wear the pink Camelbak – just don’t have to fill it all the way. Only need to carry what feels like 2-3 extra pounds of weight on my back rather than the entire 50 oz.  (Yep, I still get to look like a dork.)
  10. Still get lots of people cheering for you at races. 
  11. Due to my being a middle-of-the-packer, with this distance, we are less spread out, and it’s less lonely, especially at a smaller race.
  12. Get to do more of them during the year due to needing less recovery time.  Consequently, able to see more improvement, quicker.
  13. Only one shirt needed for the race, and for training runs. (Must explain – I “sweat like a farm animal”, as my husband so lovingly says, and on some of my training runs for a full, I brought a second shirt to change into halfway, on the advice of my coach, after seeing how disturbed I was on some hot days with the amount of sweat. So gross.)
  14. Still feel like I’ve accomplished something great.
  15. Still feel like I’m in great shape. You can’t be in bad shape and still get out there and run for 2+ hours.

Finally, because you can run them more often, I can cheer for my fellow bloggers more often too, as a lot of them seem to really like the distance also.   On that note, I’d like to wish my friends Penny, and Lisa, AWESOME LUCK THIS WEEKEND at the Carlsbad Half Marathon! (Hopefully, I can cyber stalk you guys and see how you’re doing online!! And I don’t even have to get up early since I’m three hours ahead of you!)  I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone else who is running it – I’ll be catching up on everyone’s blogs this weekend!

In your honor, I’m running 11 miles tomorrow and will be thinking of you guys running this weekend – you’ll keep me going!

Welcome to my second WIT. I’m still figuring out how I want to write these, but here goes nothing for number 2.

I had sent out an email to the Get Up and Move email list we’ve started at work, asking people if they would share their goals and resolutions for this year, if they had any. Some folks said that they wanted to make a goal of taking the stairs more often (our library is huge – it has 5 floors.) That caused another coworker to remember a very prominent law professor who she always saw took the stairs, even when he was 92.  She was always impressed by that and felt inspired.

This made me start thinking about my grandmother, who died  7 years ago this April, and just shy of her 94th birthday. Well into her eighties, she would shovel her very steep, uphill, driveway, as well as mow her lawn (also on a hill.)

I was home with my mom a few weeks ago around the Christmas holiday. After I left, my mom came across a letter that a friend of  my sister and I, (Kristie), had written shortly after my grandma died.  It kind of brings tears to my eyes to read through it now, but they are good tears because she said so many nice things about her, and my mom.  Kristie said how they were both so welcome and caring to her, and that they were both independent and strong, and that my grandma’s spark lives on in all of those lives she touched. Finally, she also mentions that my grandma is looking down on all of us still, making sure we’re all ok.

The Lehigh Valley Half Marathon that I’ve signed up for in May, is located about 15-20 miles from where my grandma is buried, in a place called, coincidentally, Hope Cemetery.  I’ve turned this marathon into my annual trip to visit my grandma this year.  In the past, some times when we’ve taken this trip down to PA, it was literally pouring rain for the entire 6-7 hours it took us to drive there.  However, for the half hour or so that I was at the cemetery, guess what?  No rain. Maybe even a little sun.  Then when I left to go back to the motel and see Bill, it’d start to rain again.

Bill didn’t think this was a coincidence. Neither do I.

I’ve also always felt on these trips, that there was a symbolic “white light” around our car that kept us safe from harm. I feel like she knows that I’m on my way to “see”  her and won’t let anything happen to us.  

I feel pretty strongly about that, just like I felt like my grandfather (who’s been dead since my mom was 17) had also been in the hospital room with my grandma during the last 24 hours of her life. It’s hard to explain, but my grandma definitely acted like there was someone else in the room other than me, at times, and I felt like he was there waiting for her.  I don’t think that love dies just when someone’s physically gone.

I have a lot of faith that the same will hold true this year when I’m down there in May. She’s going to be my inspiration to train for that race this spring, and to not let myself down when otherwise I might feel compelled to do so.  I know that because she was my grandma, she wouldn’t be disappointed with whatever effort I put forth in the race, as long as I don’t let myself down.  And, she’ll be the person I visualize seeing at the finish line, along with my mom and Bill, who will be there in body and spirit.

Just knowing I’ve got her longevity genes, strength, and will power (that helped her quit smoking cold turkey after 58 years), makes me smile.

So there is my inspirational thought for this Wednesday.  Do any of you have any individuals in their life, past or present, that you feel has inspired you, or you feel the same way about? (I know some of you have told me about someone like that.)

Heavenly Clouds, by SlopJop, on flickr.com

Heavenly Clouds, by SlopJop, on flickr.com

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