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Posts Tagged ‘running’

I’ve long held the belief that running a marathon is similar to giving birth. And soon enough, I’ll be able to test that theory.

The nerd in me is thrilled.

(You know, in addition to being thrilled about finally meeting my son.)

So far, I can only speak for marathons, but my hypothesis is that the following apply to both scenarios:

  • You prepare for months ahead of time, but when it comes down to race/birth day, it’s all just a crapshoot, dependent on the amount and quality of sleep you got, the weather, your previous meal, the encouraging signs, etc.
  • You push your body to its limits, make it go through a certain amount of pain and agony, and come out with a prize on the other end.
  • There may be blood, chafing, or other bruises.
  • You can’t walk normally for the next few days and yet, when you decide to do it again, you conveniently forget that part.

When I went through my Marathon Maniac phase, I remember finishing the Chicago Marathon, collapsing, and thinking, How the hell am I going to do this again in 3 weeks?

But I did. (And then I did it again.) Because the body is an amazing machine. And somehow, in three weeks, the pain was nothing compared with the adrenaline of crossing the finish line and achieving my goals.

I don’t know what birth is going to be like. Or rather, I don’t know what it’ll be like for me.

I very much doubt that I’ll be willing to do it all over again in just three weeks – never mind the fact that that’s not even possible. But I imagine that, given some time, I’ll forget the pain and only remember the wonder of bringing a little human into the world.

I mean, it’s got to work that way, otherwise there wouldn’t be any younger siblings, right?

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Some people are photogenic, no matter what they do.

Some people are especially good at spotting any camera in their vicinity, and can therefore pose and appear to always be photogenic.

I am neither of those people.

And the times that has proven to be most true?

Races. Always races.

Sometimes, the photos aren’t so bad – just goofy looking:

sleepyrace

Not the only photo in which I closed my eyes this race.

Granted, running-while-sleeping did result in a PR, but I would still recommend keeping your eyes on the road.

Sometimes, though, the race photos are bad – seriously bad – and belong on Seriously Ugly Race Pics.

Husband introduced me to the site months ago, and I figured I’d submit one of my gems. You know, embrace the ugly.

Chicago - worstfaceever

Chicago Marathon, 2011

I never heard back and never saw it posted, so I assumed it didn’t make the cut and forgot about it.

Until I got an email confirmation last night that it was being added to the queue.

Now, being part of a photo collection with the word “ugly” in the title isn’t exactly something I’ve aspired to in my life, but I was oddly pleased to share.

Maybe it’s because every runner knows that they hit this point eventually, whether the camera captures it or not.

Maybe it’s because I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous I look.

Or maybe it’s because I know from experience that there will always be another photo like this, and you just have to learn to run with it.

MCM2011-oof

Marine Corps Marathon, 2011

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Up until now I’ve only seen races from the runner’s perspective. I wasn’t especially privy to all the behind-the-scenes organization and set-up.

That changed this weekend.

On Sunday I volunteered at the Girls on the Run 5k, with Heather, Kate, and MJ. We volunteered to help at the finish line – particularly with passing out the medals to the finishers. I can’t speak for all of us, but I know that I was thinking of how it felt to finish the Marine Corps Marathon and have that medal placed around my neck. I might not be a marine, and this might not have been a marathon, but there’s still an awesome sense of accomplishment for finishing a race, and I wanted the girls to feel that.

At the starting line...

At the starting line

The first step to handing out the medals, however, was unwrapping them. Each medal had its own individual plastic wrapping, and there were roughly 1,000 medals.

GOTR medals

Step two was figuring out where to stand to distribute them. Were we meeting the girls right at the finish? Were we funneling them toward the food and water? Were we a line across the course, or two receiving lines on either side? Honestly, I’m still not sure. We ended up in each of those places at one point or another.

The third (and arguably most important) step was identifying who got a medal. We’d first heard that it was just girls who were part of the GOTR program. Then it was all kids.  Then it was everyone. At the end of the day, we still had medals left over.

Part of what you don’t always see as a runner is the communication confusion among the volunteers. During our finish line stint, one race official told us one thing, another contradicted her. And then both changed their minds.

When all was said and done, though, the runners didn’t seem to notice the confusion. The girls got their medals and had huge smiles on their faces, even after sprinting to the finish.

They were so incredibly proud of themselves, and they had every right to be.

And that – plus seeing those final sprints – made any frustration from the confusion completely worth it.

GOTR

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My previous 10k PR was from 2008, from the second race I’d ever done in my life. I ran the 6.2 miles in 56:16 and was fairly proud of myself (even though I really didn’t have anything to compare it to).

I expected to get faster, but subsequent 10ks were slower, and I started to feel that maybe I had already peaked. Maybe 56:16 would always be my fastest.

But after some recent PR success in other races, I figured it was about time to (try to) update the 10k, and began looking for a race in which to do it.

Enter Heather.

Through her blog, she alerted me to the Run for Shelter 10k, and I decided that now was as good a time as any to go for speed. As Husband has noted, I’m a slave to the weather, and fall is far and away my peak race season.

The race was billed as fairly flat, an easy out-and-back. The organizers also offered free parking and indoor facilities in which to wait for the race start. After many many races of waiting outside in the cold, this was a very welcome change.

My favorite part, however, was the size of the race. There were only 414 10k finishers. That means no weaving, jostling, or crowding on the course. It means that you can focus 100% on you.

Which is exactly what I did.

Aided by a few key running songs (these two are perfect) I pushed myself along, glancing every so often at Guillermo, to make sure we were on track.

My reward was a final time of 50:23, and a brand new shiny PR.

I also managed to finish in the top 10 (okay, #10) of my age group for the first time in…well, ever. So there’s that.

Bottom line: Saturday was the perfect combination of a well-organized race and ideal weather.

And I couldn’t have asked for better PR-setting conditions.

Heather’s far more photo-friendly recap is here.

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In the weeks leading up to the half-marathon (which was yesterday), I ran 9 times. Of those runs, only two were 6 miles or more – not even half of a half-marathon.

I basically did everything wrong when preparing for this race.

But still I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could beat my old time of 2:06:50. (Even though my pseudo-secret goal – before lack-of-training was obvious – was under 2 hours.)

So I suited up – complete with a pace band, to keep me on track – and thanked God for yesterday morning’s absolutely perfect running weather.

A recent injury kept Husband on the sidelines, but he biked around the course, looking for (and usually finding) me at certain mile markers. It became a game for me. I knew that the next time I saw him I’d be x% done with the course.

Nothing like a good math problem to distract from how tired your body is.

I was afraid that I’d started off too fast. Afraid that I hadn’t paced myself properly (even with the pace band on my wrist, spelling it out for me). I was afraid that I’d crash before hitting the finish line.

And I could have. Except for two things:

  1. I knew that Husband was waiting at the finish line for me.
  2. I could see from Guillermo that, if I could stay steady, I would achieve my secret goal – by a lot.

So I stayed steady and sprinted the last stretch.

And when I crossed the finish line – finding Husband immediately – Guillermo showed me that it was totally worth it, reading 1:53:58.

At the finish line – I really was happy, but the smile doesn’t quite make it to my eyes because I was about to fall over.

I beat my previous PR by more than 10 minutes, and I came in well under 2 hours.

As I wobbled over to the food and water, Husband was there to hold me up and tell me how proud he was. As well as (understandably) slightly surprised.

You hardly trained for that! You really are a slave to the weather.

He’s right. If there had been any humidity yesterday, I would have been a goner.

But there wasn’t.

So now I have a brand new PR, and one more thing to cross off my list.

*All photos courtesy of Husband. Thank you for finding me.

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I have been on a running hiatus.

After becoming a Marathon Maniac, and riding the running wave through the end of the year, my body simply decided to stop. I became better acquainted with the elliptical, and kept the running to a minimum.

Which doesn’t exactly mesh well with my race goals from the 27 list.

Because to accomplish them, I actually have to register for races. And to be able to PR, I need to train for said races. And to train, I need to actually run with some regularity.

And at this point in time I really don’t feel like running on a regular basis if I’m not training for anything.

So it would seem we are at an impasse.

Or rather, that we were.

Because now…

In four and a half weeks I’ll be racing another half-marathon, gunning for a PR.

Husband and I signed up about a week ago, at the invitation/encouragement of Heather (who will be running as well).

I started training on Monday, and have so far completed a grand total of 1 run. Woo. Hoo.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to get up to speed – especially if my training is limited to the treadmill.

And, let’s be honest, if the humidity keeps up, I’m not training outside.

But maybe – just maybe – this race will be the motivation I need to regularly slip back into my little running shorts and embrace my new, barely used (but very stylish) sneakers.

After all, isn’t the outfit what running’s all about?

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Don’t act like you weren’t expecting this. You know how I love me a list.

If the 26 list had several items requiring attitude adjustment (letting go of grudges, judging less), 27 is a little more concrete.

So, as I march into my late-20s, I want to:

1) Get married!

2) Go to Phillies spring training in Clearwater.

3) Learn to drive stick. My younger cousin tried to teach me once. It wasn’t pretty. I don’t think I’ll be able to convince him to give me another shot.

4) Make my own creme brulee. (I already own the blowtorch!)

5) Run Boston (which will also mean fundraising, because try as I might, I’m not qualifying).

6) Stop talking about doing more yoga and actually DO more yoga. Let’s aim for once a week.

7) Read more. Last year I set the bar at 10 books, and finished 18. So let’s go for 30 this year. With my new Kindle Fire I’m unstoppable!

8 ) Try a new recipe every other week.

9) Travel somewhere new, even if it’s a neighborhood in DC I’ve never been to before. Though I would like to branch out a little more than that.

10) Create a bucket list. I’m honestly not sure why I haven’t done that yet.

11) Learn to fear the ocean less.

12) Eat dimsum. It just sounds fun.

13) Get involved with the youth program at church. For all the work I do with camp, you’d think I could do a little more locally.

14) Visit the Statue of Liberty. I was sick the day of the middle school class trip and I’ve never made up for it. Maybe we could even throw Ellis Island on there for good measure!

15) Replace my computer. My trusty MacBook is 5 1/2 years old and the hard drive has crashed twice. It’s time.

16) Host a seder.

17) Learn to make challah from scratch. (Do you notice the trend of food goals?)

18) Visit at least one new state.

19) Finish all the “thank you” notes within 2 months of the wedding.

20) Set a new half marathon PR.

21) Take a bike ride out to Mount Vernon.

22) See all the Oscar nominations for Best Picture (before the Oscars).

23) Get involved in international volunteer work.

24) Volunteer at a race.

25) Explore my career options. (Yes, this is intentionally vague.)

26) Give blood. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you have to wait a year after getting a tattoo, so I should be eligible in May 2013.)

27) Set a new 10k PR.

I suppose this list could be summed up in three words: food, running, travel.

And I see nothing wrong with that.

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