Category Archives: marathon

Grace and Grit: The Salt Lake City Marathon

I’m home. And it’s good to be home.

But it was great to be there, too. If you’ve ever wanted to fly across the country to run 26.2 miles I mean, who doesn’t??? consider the tale of of Mommy who hates to leave home. Mommy had to be brave.

Last Friday morning I awoke at 4 a.m. and drove to the airport in the pitch black, headed toward a race. After four months of training through the coldest and snowiest New England winter ever, it was finally here. I was excited for the adventure, feeling both invincible and like a complete hypochondriac.  In flight, every sneeze, cough, and possible measles contamination was aimed at me. Every step was a potential fall and twist of an ankle. The day before I left Paige had a possible and contagious(!) case of strep throat and Brynne had cried, bursting out that she thought my plane was going to crash. I took two of Paige’s antibiotics and hoped it covered both scenarios. I know. It was bad of me. I still feel guilty. And probably killed all good gut flora.

 The big bird in the sky carried me west, where already the nerves were starting to tingle with fear and an excited anticipation.

IMG_3024Of course I had to take pictures, marveling at the Sky Guy’s great work. I read about the Boston Marathon, just two days after SLC. I read about all the spectators who lost limbs. How hard this year has been. I read about the little boy who wrote about peace, then died because of that stupid, senseless bomb. I read about the heroes. And try not to weep. I close my eyes and imagine a finish line. #BostonStrong now feels intrinsically tied to this thing Marathon Glenn and I are about to do.

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We land at the base of the Rockies. It’s just wow. My rock star sister picks me up and takes me to the expo where we serendipitously run into Marathon Glenn and family. Destiny! Glenn is my brother-in-law, the optimist, the instigator of this race, the inspiration for us all. He’s driven eight hours with his family and flown me across the country with a flight voucher when he could have gone to Disney! Just so we can run 26.2 miles the next day. It’s a little…wacky? Yeah, and we’re almost jumping up and down with excitement.

IMG_3031We eat free yogurt, try on race headbands. This is Finny! We pick up our bib numbers, 689 and 690 out of 5000 runners and cyclists.

The nerves build. But so does energy and this feeling that we’re almost there. We once again discuss strategy, hills, altitude, and correct fuel. We pick a conservative strategy: start slow and if there is anything left at mile 20, go for it.

That night the gear is carefully laid out; part of mental preparation. Wicking socks, shorts, shirt, bib number with four pins. 2 vanilla GUs and 1 salted caramel, GU belt, Body Glide, hair bands, watch. Tunes. And then. The Shoes – pretty run fasters!

That night each one of my brothers texts, sends a YouTube video, or emails. Sisters-in-law, New England running buddy and I exchange emails and well wishes. I feel surrounded by love. My mom and dad call, wishing they were with me. They are.

IMG_3032I eye the band I’ve worn for four months. “I Will Go Faster.” please?

IMG_3034Sleep comes, though I glance at the clock every few hours. Finally we arise at 5 with no need for an alarm. Peanut butter and banana for breakfast. I can hardly get it down. It feels like the dead of night when Sister drops us off. Glenn and I walk past the parked Bomb Squad van. Can you believe this? Then there is the line of port-a-potties. Which is good since I visit the potties five times beforehand. The body is amazingly good at knowing.

IMG_3040The last picture before the outer wear comes off, and one last pit stop. I find a tree. Don’t care. At this point it’s akin to childbirth. We head toward the start and the national anthem is sung live. The crowd swells toward the start. Out of the 5000 racers, only 888 are running the full marathon. The rest will do the half or cycle. I wonder why? Do they know something I don’t? Marathon Glenn gives me a fist pump. Go gettem’. So we try. See you at the finish line!

The first 5 miles come easily. Time flies as I run without music, wanting to save it for when I really need it. There are some downhills. Love that. I run through water stops the first few times. Police officers, EMTS, the Bomb Squad, the firemen; all of them arose at 3 a.m. so we could do this. Geez, we’re blessed.

The whole first half I’m holding myself back, whoa Nellie! I make myself go slow, wondering if altitude or the hills are going to kick my butt. We have studied the map countless times. Miles 6-15 are the hills. But mile 9-10 is supposed to be the big one. Streets are blocked off so the race is pretty quiet. The sun is coming up over the mountains and I run toward the light. Until we turn and are left in the shadows with hills to climb. I feel utterly alone. Me against myself.

We pass a church and I ponder the word Grace, a topic I’ve been obsessed with for months. We casually fling out phrases like, “by the grace of God” but I’m just starting to get it. Grace is his strength, something bigger than what we can do on our own. This is what I’m going to need – some Grace. More than me. Many of my friends tell me that when they run, they talk to God, Allah, or Buddah, or the great unknown Universe. I nod enthusiastically – I thought it was just me! Our words are different, but our meaning is the same. We pray for Grace out there, mile after mile, because this is when you begin to suffer. You descend, are humbled by this really hard thing – whether it’s to run one or 26 miles. You somehow know that you’re just not going to get it done on your own.

Humility brings you to your knees. As my legs move and my feet hit the pavement I think of all the people who wish they could run. You GET to run this race. You have legs! You’re so lucky. But I also know – it’s not just a gift. Every single mile is earned. It’s Grit. And woo-wee, Grit combined with Grace is an unstoppable combination. You give what you’ve got and he’s going to give you back a little bit more. You stop asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking for more, you say, please help me run my best race.

I see Kim twice, with little Tate and Finn. I’m so happy to see them. I realize I have never been alone. All these runners and spectators are running with me. It’s deep, cathartic. There are so many meanings with each mile marker. So we run and we suffer together.

Mile 20 and I’m not feeling the final kick I was hoping for. I’m asking, where are the downhills??? The map indicated downhill! They don’t come. Those final miles are just about holding on as the sun beats down. I look down at my watch. I’ve got to hang on. You came for a Personal Record (PR). Now RUN! Oh, I try. I run through the pain until finally, the finish line looms. I can hear my brother-in-law cheering, see my sister in tears. Because that’s what finish lines do to us. It’s a genetic thing. We cry.

I wobble through the finish line and see Ashley. She ran a full marathon four months pregnant and looks like she took a lovely stroll in the park. I whimper something that sounds like congratulations! She’s amazing. Four months pregnant.

IMG_3064This picture says, I’m going to throw up.

IMG_3065This picture says, I’m still going to throw up.

But then I have to get up and go find Marathon Glenn. He had big dreams! Where is he?

IMG_3066I find Marathon Glenn! He beats his PR by 25 whole minutes – HUGE! I’m so proud of him, even though this picture says, I still feel like throwing up. But strangely, it’s kind of an awesome feeling.

See you next time, he says. Will there be a next time? I’m still trying not to throw up.

As sister and family go to an Easter egg hunt, I shower and rest. I am terribly homesick, wondering how to stow myself in the wheel compartment of an airplane. But then Daddy calls and tells me that the stomach bug hit the house. I ditch the stowaway plan in a heartbeat second. Daddy says this makes me sound bad 🙂

IMG_3045Okay, so here’s random picture in the middle of marathon weekend. That night I recover by going to a Brandon Mull signing. Cool! I want to interrogate him on his writing process, but am hardly coherent. I just snap a photo. He’s really nice. Even as I droop around the Fablehaven display.

IMG_3071That night the sun sets over the mountains. We sit for hours as my sister shows me her garden plans, the newly plowed soil. Her husband Curt makes me the most delicious tomato soup and I’m such a pig I eat almost the whole pot.(recipe coming!)

My sister chases her kids, calls them in for bed, snuggles them, stays up late making gluten-free Easter muffins. In many ways, my life is just easier than hers because I feel good and her stomach always hurts. Yet she just keeps on going, being a mother to five children, running her own race on a different course. She says she’s proud of me. I say I’m proud of her. So it’s win-win 🙂

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The trees are in full bloom in Utah on Easter Sunday. The kids call me from their sick beds and give me all the important news – I threw up at church! Three times! Poor Daddy is running his very own marathon, too…

The next morning I board the plane, and come back to where I came from. Thousands of miles across the sky. Parking is paid and I drive the 45 miles home, on highway that turns into country roads.

IMG_3080This is the reason Mamas should leave every one in awhile. Those cherub devils realize they want you to come back.

IMG_3081Mommy!!! I missed you sooo much! “Did you win?” they shout. I laugh. One person actually wins a marathon. And I stand in awe. But for the rest of us, we hang a finisher’s metal around our necks. “Yes. We won. BECAUSE WE FINISHED.”

We hug, kiss, and then they run to the backyard to finish a baseball game.  Daddy has made dinner. I swoon with gratitude. Never in my life have I been so happy to unload the dishwasher. I do a load of laundry. Mom is home.

IMG_3117All week I find notes around the house.

IMG_3116All sorts of notes.

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It’s so good to be home.

It was bittersweet, but right after the marathon, I took off my “I Will Go Faster” band and carefully tucked it into a small zipped pocket of my bag. It’s time to slow down for awhile, time to recover, water the tomato seedlings, read Curious George, and think about the ideal compost ratio.

But dang it, a slow burn has already begun. Here is something I know: We have not yet reached our potential.

The call hasn’t come yet, but I know it will. One of these days Marathon Glenn is going to come calling again…I’m so glad 🙂

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Running West and East

In 10 days I will be running with Marathon Glenn. Finally. It’s been the longest, coldest, and darkest four months of winter running. Ever.

We are wicked excited. We say “wicked” a lot in New Hampshuh’.

Wicked takes Excited to a whole new level, don’t you think?

This is where we can look back and remember the cold winter mornings.road

Oh how fondly I remember this day. When the running program said “Run 15 miles.” But the roads apparently ignored the memo and were covered with ice and snow. Um, hello?? I showed up and this is what you’re giving me to work with??

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The most oft-asked question: “Why did we decide to train during the coldest part of the year?” When we had to wear two layers – long johns and running tights – and were still cold the entire run.

This was always the answer: It will be worth it in April!

I wasn’t always so sure, like that time I came home and cried, when my hands hurt so much I thought they would have to be amputated.

Or that time last weekend when my poor little baby toe swelled up to the size of an orange and I was performing emergency surgery at 2:45 in the morning, cursing those things called BLISTERS.

There were chapped lips, black toenails, lost toenails, less sleep, less writing time, unidentifiable aches and pains, weird dietary changes.

When our conversations consisted of chafing, fuel, VO2 max, pit stops, shoes, wicking socks, and whether the altitude change will kill me or not.

There were other conversations too, ones that only happen out there on the road; conversations of family, children, grief, God, turning another year older, and whether or not we should go gray naturally. A firm no has been decided 🙂

These are the moments that bond women together for life.

There were days when the only time we could fit in a run was before the sun was up.buddies

We had to wear fluorescent running vests so we wouldn’t be mistaken for deer, so cars driving in the dark could see us. We had to wear hats, mittens, face masks. We often had to wear head lamps to even see the road, and then it became so cold and slippery, that the run had to wait for the sun.

Why do we look so happy in this picture? Oh yeah…it was…fun.

I’ve said it before: I couldn’t have done it without the buddies.

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Yes, there were times we questioned our sanity.

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And because it was winter, sometimes the run had to be done on the dreaded treadmill, a psychological weapon which I have already spoken about and won’t go into until next December. Oh spring, I love you!

Now, two roads diverge in a barren wood…we will part ways and each run our own race.slc

Headed west. In 10 days I will run at the base of the mighty Rockies.

Running buddy will go east and run in the famed Boston which, after last year’s tragedy, is going to be the greatest marathon the city has ever seen, with the fastest qualifying times ever recorded. Where American runner and Boston runner, Shalane Flanagan, will seek redemption. She wants to win it bad. For all of us.

We’re all looking to prove something to ourselves, that all the training over four long winter months was worth it. It’s a funny thing, this hard thing. You can run your guts out, throw up at the finish line, and say, “that was awesome.”

Now, as the weather is finally starting to warm, as the mountains of snow are mere hills, when we are in the best shape of our lives, and all the training that can be done, is done…I can look back fondly at how hard it was to get from there to here.

Anyone can run. But it won’t always come easy. And that’s what makes it so great.

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The Dog Days of Winter

We are bundled up in the house today – It’s a snow day! It’s like Christmas, the children bouncing out of bed in the wee hours of the morning. snow

There was a dart fight, polly pockets, barbies, Pinterest browsing, a rowdy game of tag – all before 9 a.m. Then I made them feed the chickens, clean up the one million darts and polly pieces, and practice the piano because it’s not really Christmas and I’m mean like that.

I like snow, but I’m sorry, winter…it’s time we spend some time apart. Thankfully we have the Olympics. Shaun White, Nick!, Julia Mancuso, the Russians pairs last night! Heartbreak and Jubilation. I love it all, stay up way too late, and often fall asleep on the couch.

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I do have to say, it’s breathtakingly beautiful after a snowfall.

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Tenny does not think it’s too cold. He could frolic with his friend, Reubens, all day long.

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It’s so cold the hens don’t want to leave their coop. I don’t fault them for this as I try to never leave the house. They also stop laying as much unless they have light. Even a regular lightbulb will encourage laying. I find that fascinating!

hay

Cope took this picture of me. Hauling hay out of the barn for chicken and bunny warmth. I tell you, the roles we play in life…

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Here’s my girl getting her basketball on. This is really her first time playing on a team except one short stint in elementary. She is proud of the eight points she has scored this season! Sadly, she got a concussion two weeks ago and is out of play for a bit. This also means I haul the hay.

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Nelson is also a baller. My heart jumps and sinks with every swoosh in the net, and near-basket that only almost goes in. I watch his face light up when coach puts him in. I tell you, small moments mean so much. They can live for months on a game-changing play, when all their buddies slap them on the back. The reverse is true, too. Oh, the emotion of the game!

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Here Nellie boy tries out for a summer AAU team. My heart was pounding, both of us sweating with anticipation…please don’t cut my boy! Oh, it’s hard for a middle school boy who lives for sports. He’s small, but runs his guts out. He made the team 🙂 Thank you, Coach!

brynne

When it’s too cold to go outside, we pay money to give our mother multiple heart attacks. Here Brynne flips at a local gym. I hate this. I just do. 

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Paige finds a quiet place to read. In the closet. Sometimes you just have to carve out your own space, don’t you?

valentines

Valentine making for the big day tomorrow. However, another storm in coming, followed by freezing rain, followed by another winter storm. Pounding! The girls are very sad not to go for their valentine party 🙁 And I can’t make my fruit heart. Wah!

Knowing the storm was coming, I had to get my long run in this morning. Thankfully my running buddy is back! Our run went from cold to enjoyable to grueling as the storm began to chase us down the road.

The snow under our feet made the miles feel like we were running in sand, making our hamstrings and calves burn with lactic acid. At 15 degrees, it was so cold, that my left hand went numb by mile 11. I knew I was going to pay dearly for it. Even with a hat and a face warmer, our hair and faces were covered with frost. So grueling.dead

“Mother, are you alive?”

I wasn’t so sure, walking into the house and collapsing on a pile of polly pocket pieces and Lala Loopsies. My hand was hurting so badly I thought I had frostbite and it was going to fall off. Remember being a little kid and your hands were so cold they hurt? Cope has no memory of this ever happening to her. Gloves must be made better these days. The thawing out process produced many painful sounds and noises from my mouth as I rolled around on the carpet, finally finding solace parked in front of the fireplace until I could feel my fingers. The children stared at me, eyes wide, wondering what their mother had turned into. They scurried to procure chocolate milk and peanut butter.

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Rendered useless. Though it was hard, I’m grateful I have legs to run down winter roads. It seems like just yesterday that I was nursing babies or terribly sleep-deprived from changing wet beds in the middle of the night, and all I needed was a little break to walk down the road, some fresh air and sunshine. Now, my babes are old enough to take care of each other while I go traverse country roads in the snow. If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry. Enjoy your stage. Shawni reminds me that Life is Long. There is a season for everything. It does occur to me that perhaps you will never look forward to running in snow…

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I begged Cope to give me this wrist band. I wear it at all times, to remind me that spring will be here soon, and I will be glad for the miles run when I meet the Rocky Mountains in April. Sometimes, to feel inspired, I listen to Martin Luther King’s last speech, I Have Been to the Mountain Top. I have been to the mountaintop…and I have seen the promised land!

Amen.

Come back tomorrow – I have a cookie recipe that will get you through the winter. It has a special ingredient that will knock your Sorel boots right off your feet!

xoxo!

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The Hartford Marathon

It’s five days post-marathon and I can finally write this.  It’s been a tremendous week.
Last friday I dropped the kids off to play for the afternoon, with minimal supervision, and drove into my dreams…

“Bye Mommy!  Good luck!  Run fast!”  

“You too!” I called. “Stay out of the woods, don’t talk to strangers, good luck, run fast!”  Love them so.

I took the most scenic, most beautiful drive through New Hampshire, Vermont, a little bit of Mass, and finally, Connecticut.  People pay for this time of foliage experience.  And then.  Hello, Hartford! 

I count it as a major accomplishment that not once did I get lost, that I actually used my GPS, found a parking spot, and walked into the giant expo center all.by.myself. in the middle of a city.  Unknowns in big cities make me nervous, which is funny and tells me I’ve lived amongst water buffalo and cows for a very long time.

I checked into the marathon, got my race number and marathon t-shirt (it was a great one, a pretty salmon) and walked around looking at all the cool gear for sale and collected free samples of Lara bars, GU, cheese, and Hawaiian sweet rolls. 

Then I plugged in the GPS once again and drove to East Hartford to find my running buddy and brother-in-law, Glenn, and our most amazing chauffeur, Dan.

We checked into the hotel and did a happy dance: We were going to run a marathon! We ate salad and soup at The Olive Garden and snagged free tickets to a hockey game. 

May we pause a moment and reflect on the sport of hockey.  After witnessing this game and my Fenway experience this summer, I’ve concluded that sport does indeed bring out the very best in us – and the absolute, most despicable, worst.  I took a picture of a fan, but decided to not post it out of some sort of politeness. 

Fans yelled horrible things and as Glenn predicted, there were two fights in the first quarter.  Please explain:  The refs watched them go at it! Hockey players punched each other in the face while small children and extremely out of shape people, cheered.  

We left, ready to move on to the morning.  Where hopefully we would encounter some higher decorum.

We drove into the night, the sun setting.  I slept well and set my internal alarm to 6.  In the morning I was up and ready to go.  Ponytail, shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, watch, GU, shot bloks.  Peanut butter sandwich, half a banana, and my special energy drink mix.  It’s a tradition.

I wrote down the pace I wanted to keep – to keep me on track.  This was done for one purpose:  To qualify for the Boston marathon.  I felt I had a shot.

My running buddy, Maryn, out with a hurt foot loaned me this great little pouch – an essential for storing fuel. In my shorts I put two caffeinated chocolate GU pouches.  In this little pouch I put shot bloks and one more GU.

Ready to go.

I also kept wishing I had a notebook handy to record all the one-liners Dan and Glenn exchanged.  They kept me laughing the entire time; a great nerve distraction.

Dan drove us to Bushnell Park, right outside the capital building; here’s something I really recommend:  A chauffeur.  Forget trying to navigate the streets.  As Glenn became social, I began to withdraw; this always happens to me before a race.  The zone was coming.

This picture above is the long, long line where we dropped off our special race bag. The line moved quickly, but we only just made it – about five minutes before the race.  And then it was time to join the throng of people.

The elites start the race, everyone else lines up in back.  Your time doesn’t officially start until you cross the starting line, an electronic chip in your bib keeping your time.  Glenn and I fist-pumped, then joined 16,000 other races.  

A veteran sang the national anthem.  Bands played. There were no fights, no booing, no penalty boxes.  Only cheering, excitement, heart-pounding adrenaline.

The announcer reminded us that this race was a BOSTON QUALIFIER!!!  As if I could forget!  So run fast, he said, run well.  And then we all sang Sweet Caroline, just like we did at Fenway – So good! So good! So good!

It was, in a word, awesome. I felt so happy to be with all these people who had set a goal, had run all those hard training runs, and were joined in one united group. Huge amounts of money was raised for charities, thousands got in shape. A hundred smoothies later, it was time.

The marathon was the pay-off.

The gun went off.

Two minutes later I passed the start, pressed START on my watch, and began to run.

Crowds lined the streets, flags waved, children jumped up and down.  I was careful not to go out too fast.  I knew that after a few miles, all the adrenaline would wear and I would be left with only my training.  After two miles, the crowds thinned, after eight, I wasn’t trying to move around anyone. 

I was never alone the entire race.  There were always people around, and this felt good because though I didn’t actually speak to anyone, I felt the energy.

Hartford does such an amazing job with organization, water, and GU.  The only thing I wished I had done was grab the vaseline to prevent the chafing.  This however, I didn’t feel until it was all over.  And no, I am not above talking about chafing.  Let’s get real, man. 

I ran a great half, coming in three minutes under my goal.  In retrospect, this perhaps, may have been a little too fast.  But I was feeling really good until about mile 16 and by mile 18, I was starting to feel a ton of pain all the way up my hamstrings and butt.  Mile splits began to slow.

I actually had to stop a couple of times to stretch. 

At mile 20 I knew I wasn’t going to make my Boston goal and while this was a little sad, I focused on one thing:  Finish it.

It was hard, one of the hardest races I’ve raced.  The last six miles I ran almost two minutes off my pace.  A girl ahead of me collapsed, paramedics came.  It was hot.  My music helped.  Finish, finish, finish.  Get across the line.

And finally I saw it.

The Finish Line.  Lined with the same cheering crowds who had been waiting for hours to see their runners come through.

Here’s a shot Dan captured…eyes closed…finish, finish, finish.  Pretend it doesn’t hurt.

I came through, stopped my watch, and walked in a somnambulatory state…like sleepwalking while being given a water bottle, a heavy metal.  

I stumbled to lie down on the grass surrounded by hundreds of other runners who were mostly celebrating, talking about times.  I saw a wife comforting her sick husband.  I covered my face with my arm and cried. I was so disappointed.

I tend to take these things hard.  I was so embarrassed I had even mentioned Boston on this blog, that I had even told people it was a goal.  It seemed directly related to my novel – good, but never good enough…and so it went for the next half hour.  It was a despairing moment.  And then I crawled to my feet and went to claim my bag.  I sat on the steps of the capital and watched a girl approach a boy – “You crushed it!” she exclaimed.  I cried some more, and no one comforted me.  It’s just understood.

Then I hobbled to the finish line to cheer on everyone else, knowing that this race wasn’t ever just about me, but everyone else trying to come in, too.

I spoke to my husband on the phone.  “Looks like the last six was pretty tough,” he said.  He had been getting texts the entire race.  “Yes,” I said, not being able to say anything more.

Glenn came in.

And we need to stop and think about Glenn.  This was his first marathon.  He’s got a football player frame, an athlete with a ton of power and strength.  And he crushed it.  After weeks of training, of making me do this, of pushing me to even sign up, to be excited about a huge distance, suffering through shin splints and a crazy travel schedule.  I’m just so proud of him.

I watched a little longer as the 5:30 mark came around, as runners ran through the finish line, both exultant and crying from pain.  Runners were congratulated over the big speaker for finishing 50 miles in all 50 states.  I watched an elderly couple, wrinkled from age, holding hands as they ran across the finish line.  They raised their clasped grasp in the air. Together.

I found Glenn and Dan.  They have a way of making me feel happier 🙂  We began to talk about next time.

Glenn lays in the wood chips.

We separated soon after that, a little sore, a little nauseated.  Dan and Glenn drove to Mystic where Glenn would take a flight to Colorado.  I got in the car and drove to New Hampshire.

I reflected on why I hadn’t “reached my potential.”  And the thought came that these races aren’t just about times.  Yes, there is training and a new respect for the distance.  But potential isn’t all about what the worldly success, the career highs.  Potential is the thing you learn from shortcomings.  Like humility, gratitude, kindness, hard work.

I felt, at that moment, all of those things.

The phone rang several times.  Texts came pouring in.  I felt the love.  I felt such gratitude.

Mindy called.  “Want to go for a run?”  I laughed, told her where I was, told her of my disappointment.  “Oh Amy!” she said. “You’re not getting paid to do this! At this time in our lives – just be happy you finished the damn race!”

I smiled.  I need friends like this.

Perspective began to come.

As Sarah also reminded me, “Let yourself wallow a bit.  But no more than 24 hours.  Then pull yourself up by your bra straps, get it together, and come up with a plan.”

Five hours after the race I was starving so I pulled over for some KFC.  KFC is totally underrated.  It was like, the best thing ever.
Five days out, there is more perspective.  There is this, the most spectacular fall weather.  There is beauty all around.  My children had been well taken care of by their saint of a grandmother. They hugged me and then went out to Chinese while I took a shower.  It was the most wonderful and worst shower of my life (oh my chafing!) 

As I laced up my running shoes this morning, there was this feeling…God gave me these legs. Defeat begins to fade. There will always be another race. Another “next time.” 
Run on, mates.  To the next thing.  For as dear Theodore said,”…the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…”
Keep running.  Get in the arena.  And I’ll see you there!

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My "Pretty Run Fasters" and a Marathon Check List

I’ve had this giddy, expectant feeling for days, like waiting for a baby to be born.  In 1:17:56 I will step off the start line and run the Hartford marathon. Which truly will be a laborous.

To say I’m nervous is not quite the word.  A little sweaty, clammy.  A little twitchy.

Last week I felt unstoppable and healthy.  This week I keep expecting to trip and break my ankle.  What’s that tickle in my throat?  Oh my gosh, am I’m getting the flu?  I’m feeling fairly hypochondriac so please don’t sneeze on me today.

After all the long miles, will it all come together?  I’m hoping for the perfect race. 

A marathon check-list:

Ask and Ye Shall Receive:  Runner’s World is a great place to start, but I’ve been asking many marathoners how to actually run a marathon.  My running buddy, Maryn, and Coach Brian are full of gems and words of wisdom that will surely save me many mistakes.

Sleep:  

I have to pick up my race packet the night before so I am going up a day early and spending the night at a hopefully-good(!) hotel.  Non-smoking.  I will bring my own pillow, soft and warm pajamas, and ear plugs just in case my race buddies are…less quiet at night time than I am.













Clothing:
Check the weather! I’ll definitely be wearing shorts and short sleeve shirt or tank for this race.  

I’ll lay out clothes the night before and gaze at them fondly…

Must wear warm clothes until the very last minute to keep muscles warm!

Most comfortable sports bra and socks.  And of course, must not forget to pack the shoes!

Directions:  Even though I’ve driven to Hartford (several times) I’m so sure I can manage to get lost that I’m printing out directions and turning on GPS.  This is one of my biggest race stressors.  My husband cannot understand how my internal GPS can be so bad.  It’s really bad.

Tunes:  I like music when I’m running a long distance so I made a very special marathon playlis that now includes some Glee, Aerosmith, Carrie Underwood, Matt Nathanson, Katy Perry – and more! Ipod is fully charged.

The Watch:  Can’t run without it.  Watch is fully charged.  It’s very unnerving to turn on your watch right before a race only discover you forgot to charge it….err. Been there.  Don’t wear a watch?  Lucky you. I don’t run that free and easy.

A Goal:  
Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I did.  I began to dream of qualifying for Boston. I have to run a 3:40 to qualify. And. Boston competition is so fierce, that that still might not get me in.  Coach Brian says to shoot for 3:37. A 3:35 will mean I have to run 8:12 mile splits. I have not done this, um, ever, for 26.2 miles.  I don’t know what to expect, but I’m going to give it a shot.  Hartford has pacers with big signs you can find before the race.  If you stay with your pacer, they’ll get you across the finish line. Dream big, right?








Pacing:  If I’d been more on the ball, I would have ordered a pace tattoo.  Now I’ll be writing pace markers on my arm with a sharpie – miles 6, 13, 18, and 22.

Beauty:  Hair elastic. Stretchy hair headband.  Face lotion with SPF.  I happen to like a Trader Joe’s variety.  I also rub conditioner on the ends of my hair before tying it up in a messy bun b/c sweat and salt make it so dry and my poor color…running is hard on hair! If I were brave I’d go grey naturally.  I could probably be a beautiful white by the time I was 50.  But I’m not brave that way. Boo.

Fuel:  This is a make or break item.  It’s so important, but since I’ve never run 26.2, I’m not exactly sure what to expect.  I do know, that I must not change anything in my diet between now and then.  Here’s what I packed for pre-race loading:  1 loaf 12 grain bread, 1 jar peanut butter (with knife!), bananas, apples, nuts and pretzels.  This is for the night before, and morning-of breakfast. 

2 hours before race:  I will begin to sip an 18oz water bottle filled with water, 1 Emergen-C, and 1 scoop AC-G3. This is just my personal pre-race fuel preference.

During Race:  I’m going to carry at least 3-4 gels or bloks and take them at miles 6, 12, 18, and possibly 22. I tend to get very hungry during long runs and I’m a little worried about fuel.  Coach Brian tells me I must use caffeine in my gels or bloks – “if you’re not a caffeine person it will make you a rocket.”  I obviously want to be the rocket!  He slipped me some GU in the school parking lot this afternoon. If you saw us make the exchange, that’s what it was.  Really.

Post Fuel:  The race will provide.  Not too worried.  I’ll find food. or kill a bear.

Other items not to forget:
Phone charger
Warm pants to wear until the last minute
Toiletries
Allergy pills (in case hotel isn’t friendly)
Clothes to change into after the marathon
Cash


Luck:  We must not forget luck!

I’m not usually superstitious about anything.  But I’m wearing two bracelets I believe will carry me through: The first is a friendship bracelet Brynne made me.  During one grueling run last month I looked down at it and felt the ghosts of my girls running with me.  I knew then, that I couldn’t take it off until after the marathon.  I just know Brynne’s fiery spirit will stay with me.

The second is a soccer bracelet all my soccer kids signed. Since I can’t be at their soccer jamboree, I’m just taking them with me. Running for something or someone is very inspiring.












A friend ordered a new pair of Newtons for me (discount alert: firemen and police officers can get you a discount on Newton running shoes!).

So now I have shoes, but these are special shoes.  They are called my “pretty run fasters.”

These shoes sat at my friend’s house for a few days until I finally drove by to pick them up.  There are two adorable little girls who live at this house and for days they couldn’t stop looking at my new bright, beautiful running shoes. Mason, the littlest, kept calling them her “pretty run fasters.”  

I thought that was pretty much the best thing I’d ever heard, especially when her mom told me they call Mason, “Masie” which is just too close to “Maisy” to be a coincidence don’t you think???

None of this matters of course, if you haven’t put in the training. But if you’ve trained, got some luck with you, and your “pretty run fasters,” I’ve got to believe we will run the race we were meant to run. 

I also include a prayer… Please God, don’t let me bonk.

Do you have any advice for me?  I would love to hear it.  And now I say farewell – See you at the finish line!
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