Friday, December 31, 2010

Where It Began

So most runners run to stay fit, and some run to lose weight. No big news there, right? I even think many fit runners want to lose just a few pounds here or there, and it's charts like this one that make us all aspire to lose just a little bit more. Who wouldn't want to lose 10 pounds and run nearly nine minutes faster in the marathon as a result? But back in my college years, I took dieting to an extreme. Running was the catalyst in my extreme weight loss. Before long, anorexia nervosa had begun to take hold of me. Here is the story of how it happened.
Healthy weight at eighteenth birthday party in 1995, right before leaving for college
I was a typical college freshman at Auburn University in 1995, and, like most freshman, I gained the dreaded "Freshman 15" while enjoying the usual college dorm food. I probably got at the most up to about 130 pounds, and I am 5'5"--not overweight by any means, but big enough that my size 5 clothes were fitting too tight and I felt bigger all over. So, when I signed up for a running class for credit in the Spring of my freshman year, I was ecstatic to have found a way to earn an easy A while also working myself back into shape. I excelled in the class and earned many bonus points for running in Auburn's local races outside of our usual runs during class time. My roommate at the time was a nice girl who was a runner and a health-conscious eater as well. After the class ended, I began running with her on a regular basis (something like 4-5 miles a day) and adopted some of her eating habits.

But then, little by little, I began taking things just one step too far. I had always been very perfectionistic and competitive as a child and teenager-- very hard on myself and very eager to please. I was the kind of student who would get so worried before Chemistry tests that I would be sick beforehand. And I hated anything less than an A; in fact, I never earned less than an A all through high school and college. As I began losing the weight, I started feeling better about myself and also began getting some good attention as well. And suddenly eating had become the enemy, and running, my best friend. I kept a diary all through college, and here are some of the more telling entries from that period:

October 14, 1995 "I've had a good couple of days. I ran the Auburn Fall 5K with {roommate's name} and we got 26:40. We didn't stop at all!"
October 13, 1996 "Tonight, {my sister},{my roommate}, and I went out for ice cream. We started talking about weight and stuff. {Roommate} weighs 123 and I weigh 116. I feel better about my body now. I will try to eat good--but in this crazy life I have trouble."
December 20, 1996 "All of the holiday cookies and sweets around the house are driving me crazy! I hope I don't gain any weight or only a few pounds. I'm at 110 (with clothes)."
April 28, 1997 "Today began at 7:15 a.m. when {Roommate} and I went to work out (stairmaster-35 min.) at the Student Act [Students Activities Center]. She made me weigh myself (her-120, me-100) and then freaked out and told me to start eating more fat. I think it's ironic that she's the one that makes me feel guilty when I do eat fat."
April 1997 --A year and a half since the picture above

June 27, 1997 "My biggest (hugest, HUGEST) problem since I have been home is my weight and eating habits. I am obsessed! I only allow myself certain foods for b'fast and lunch (fat-free yogurt, fruit, graham crackers for b'fast--combo of 2; salad and pretzels for lunch). Then I feel guilty at night and torture myself with guilty feelings if I snack. Why? I weigh about 90 now, and I know I have a problem. I run 4 miles everyday or I feel bad, but I'm really tired when I run. Everyone at work asks if I lost weight, if I was sick, what do I eat, etc. I HATE it."
Summer 1997
June 4, 1998 "Today I weighed 100 at the Student Act. I'm proud but also upset that I'm letting this happen again. I eat only fruits and vegetables most days and it makes me feel good throwing out fatty food."
February 21, 1999 "I feel like I need to get this out--I've been feeling fat again lately."

Twenty-first birthday--three years into the disease and after many ups and downs

Before I knew it, I had become anorexic. I had heard about anorexia nervosa back in high school when a teacher showed us a movie called The Karen Carpenter Story. But back in high school, I never thought that would happen to me and never aspired to it at all. When I started losing the weight, I bought a book on anorexia and realized that I showed most of the symptoms even though I wanted to stop. I remember being so tired of getting on the scale, "measuring" my arms (I would encircle my thumb and middle finger around my upper arm right above my elbow as a means to "check" myself), restricting my food, being cold, being stared at, etc. Still, each morning, I felt a strong desire to get up and run (even though I had absolutely no energy) and to continue the day with my strange eating patterns.
My family was so worried for me but didn't know how to "fix" me. My heart aches now for all of the pain I put them through, and it hurts for all of the young girls (and boys) living this way right now. Even the memory is so unpleasant to me that I put off writing this (and put off thinking about this stage of my life) for a very long time. Still, the process has been cathartic to me and, it is my hope, may also be helpful to someone else reading this. My story does not end here.
Before I continue with my second post, I wanted to share some of my research. I went through a list from this website to review the definition and symptoms again and see how many related to me at that time. It states:
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that's far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively.
Anorexia (an-oh-REK-see-uh) nervosa isn't really about food. It's an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia nervosa, you often equate thinness with self-worth.

Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia include:
(I added the asterisks to the ones that applied to me and added my comments next to the items)
*Extreme weight loss (I went from about 130 to around 90)
*Thin appearance
*Abnormal blood counts (Around age 21, I tried giving blood and was anemic. This was when I was also not eating meat)
Dizziness or fainting
A bluish discoloration of the fingers
*Brittle nails
*Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
*Soft, downy hair covering the body (This was very apparent and hard to hide)
*Absence of menstruation (Lost periods for over a year and then they were hit-or-miss)
*Dry skin
*Intolerance of cold (AC in the summer was always too cold)
Irregular heart rhythms
Low blood pressure
Swelling of arms or legs

Emotional and behavioral characteristics associated with anorexia include:
*Refusal to eat (I did not eat breakfast or snack, so I normally ate only two meals a day. I tried counting calories and aimed for 1000 calories or under, and very few fat grams a day)
*Denial of hunger (I actually lost the ability to feel hungry after awhile)
*Excessive exercise
*Flat mood, or lack of emotion
*Social withdrawal
*Preoccupation with food (I dreamed about food and often wrote what I ate in my diary)
Reduced interest in sex
*Depressed mood
Possible use of herbal products or diet aids

If you're concerned that a loved one may have anorexia, watch for these possible red flags:
*Skipping meals
*Making excuses for not eating
*Eating only a few certain "safe" foods, usually those low in fat and calories (This is how I began shunning meat. I was a vegetarian for years and loved how "in control" it felt to not eat meat. I also ate only fat-free dairy. I loved anything fat-free since it felt "safer." Rice cakes and olestra fat-free chips were a big splurge for me. I could eat the whole package of each in a sitting.)
Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
Cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat
*Repeated weighing of themselves
*Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
Complaining about being fat
*Not wanting to eat in public (I would purposefully avoid eating out with friends because I didn't know what was "safe" on the menu. I lost many friends that way.)

I overcame each of these terrible symptoms. Running is now my release, my joy, a great source of my happiness. And I have learned to overcome my unhealthy food habits.

Tune in for the second part of my story where I share my recovery.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Things Don’t Come Together…

So my entry on the Marshall University Marathon was a fun one to write. What a great marathon experience! I ran a PR, qualified for Boston for the first time, and we just had a great all around marathon trip. I couldn’t have asked for any better, and I feel blessed looking back on it all. I’ve had several conversations with other marathoners about how so many variables have to come together for a marathon to really be great. You know the ones I’m talking about: training, lack of injuries, nutrition, hydration, sleep, weather, health, stresses, etc. Some of those variables you can control, some you can influence and some are in the hands of God. Having a very bad marathon experience, where so many of those variables did not come together, also makes me appreciate the experience we had in Huntington. The marathon that provided perspective for me was Des Moines, Iowa. Katie and I ran this marathon on October 18, 2009.

First of all, this marathon followed the Maui Marathon Katie and I ran during our five year anniversary trip to Hawaii (our strategy is to run a few marathons about a month apart once we’re in “marathon shape”). We decided on this marathon because it was about a month after Maui and geographically close to Katie’s sister, Laurie, who lives in Madison, WI. We all decided on Des Moines over Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our original plan was to meet up and visit in Des Moines, and then Laurie would watch the kids while we ran. That turned out to be the first of many things that didn’t work out according to plan. School/work responsibilities precluded Laurie from making the trip. No problem; Katie’s mom, Ginny, agreed to join us. So this trip would still work out. (Looking back we were very determined to make this marathon happen.)

The next part requires me to explain a bit about my work situation at the time. I’m a Thrust Vector Control (TVC) engineer with Jacobs Engineering (NASA contractor). The group I work with is responsible for, to put it in layman’s terms, the power steering system on the rocket that directs it as it ascends. In our group, I was given the responsibility as the “Ares I-X guy.” If you are interested you can learn about Ares I-X here. Anyway, I supported all things TVC for Ares I-X, and an issue with the Ares I-X TVC system was discovered on October 14th during launch preparations. I was at Kennedy Space Center on October 15th (three days before the marathon). Not knowing how serious the issue was, I wasn’t too optimistic about making the start of the race. I decided not to tell anyone at work that I was registered to run a marathon on October 18. I would do the marathon if work situations allowed, but I wouldn’t race instead of taking care of work responsibilities. Anyway, we worked the TVC problem and the fix came together very quickly. So I made plans to fly from Orlando to Des Moines and join Katie, Ginny and the kids and return soon after the marathon. I made my flight arrangement as last minute on Friday as possible (leaving Orlando at 5:30 p.m. and arriving in Des Moines at 11:15 p.m.), knowing anything can happen when it comes to rockets. That turned out to be a good thing, because I received a call at my hotel room on Friday morning that a group at work was getting together to discuss some other options for our system. I was bummed because, at the time, I thought for sure this would mean that I wouldn’t be able to drive to Orlando and catch that last minute flight. Well the meeting went quickly (that never happens), and the group basically decided to leave the system as it was. So I hopped in my rental car and dashed off for the airport. Things were not exactly coming together, but I’d do my best to make them come together if I could.

So now it was time to transition into a marathon mindset (and get halfway across the country). I packed a small backpack with some running clothes and one set of clothes other than what I was wearing. I made it to the airport with very little time to spare, and I was all set to make a late night race eve arrival in Des Moines. I would have to ad lib all of the usual marathon preparation stuff in airports and during the flights. Carb loading was: Chinese fast food at a food court in Atlanta and snacking during the flight on anything from an airport convenience store that seemed appropriate (granola bars, trail mix, etc.). The flight into Des Moines was a bit behind schedule so I arrived a little later than expected. Things were still not coming together, but the taxi driver gave me a brief description (as best he knew) of the marathon course on the way to the hotel. That’s something right? I quietly snuck into the hotel room after midnight. After a short discussion with Katie and Ginny, I changed my return flight to originate in St. Louis (we’d visit Katie’s Aunt Rosie/Ginny’s sister and take in the St. Louis zoo on Sunday) instead of Des Moines on Sunday before it was too late. After all of that craziness, I attempted to slow the spinning gears in my head long enough to get a few hours of sleep before the race. I really wanted to do this race and hoped that it would go well despite the craziness leading up to it. Saturday morning came early and I (foolishly) had a bowl of hotel “Raisin Bran” cereal and some yogurt for breakfast.

The organizers for the Des Moines marathon do a pretty good job. We found a close parking spot easily, and I remember thinking the start area and activities were well planned. Something we did, dropping a bag or something I don’t remember now, had us a bit rushed to make it to the start line. It was quite crowded at the start and we were standing on a sidewalk perpendicular to the course with several others as the gun went off. Nothing else leading up to this marathon was relaxed, why should the start be any different? We made it into the start area quickly though and were shuffling with the sea of runners for the start of marathon state number 14 for Katie and me.

The first several miles actually went pretty well for me. I think I was aiming for somewhere under nine minute miles. I thought I could have a decent marathon but the bigger goal for today was to have a good experience and check Iowa off of the list of states left to race. I remember running up a decent hill around mile four and seeing a wheelchair racer inching his way up the hill backwards. He was going so slowly, and it looked painfully difficult. I also remember Katie and I saw a very animated pacer (the 3:30 pacer I believe). He had a lot of personality and was telling the group how fast they were running, how many seconds they had “banked” in the last mile, how far ahead of schedule they were, and cheering on runners around him. It was pretty interesting and I was doing well enough at this point to be amused.

Then things gradually started to take a turn for the worse. I don’t clearly remember the first urge to find a port-a-potty. I probably thought that I would just make a quick stop and be going again without too much interruption. I made the first pit stop and not too long after I was keeping an eye out for the next port-a-potty. This process would repeat over and over during the race. Mile after mile I was focused on the course ahead and hoping that cresting a hill or turning a corner would bring a port-a-potty into sight. At first, the stops weren’t eating into my pace too badly and I had hopes of finishing at a reasonable pace. Katie had already pulled away, but I was determined to make the best of it. I remember the course went into a stadium and around a track at one point. I saw Katie coming out of the stadium as I was going in. Somehow I communicated it wasn’t my day for a good race (and then I made another dash into a port-a-potty right by the stadium).

Over time, I realized that not only were my stomach issues not going away, but they would be a big issue at this race. The urge to search for the next “King Johnnie” would arrive immediately after I had finished at the previous. A few times I contemplated back tracking on the course. But another thing the organizers did well was set up the port-a-potties along the course. They were all over the place and set up where the course crossed back on itself so that I could visit the same one twice. Looking back, I believe this was the only thing that allowed me to finish this marathon. If I had attempted to run several miles in this condition without relief, I probably would have pulled out. I also remember at one point later in the race, I thought the worst was over and maybe I could make a push for a few decent miles before finish. I wanted to have at least a final slice of enjoyment from this race. That thought lasted for a mile or two at the most. When I thought I wouldn’t possibly have to make another stop, around mile 22.5, I did. This will sound strange, but I’ll say it anyway. For some reason I was counting these stops, and I ended up with 14 total during the race. As all of this was going on I passed the same guy a few times. One time when I was passing him again, he commented that he didn’t remember passing me. There was a reason for that…

As much as I wanted to deny it at the time, this issue was affecting my energy and ability to run. It was inevitable that this issue would catch up with the rest of my body. I wanted so bad to keep some kind of “running” pace going near the end. I gave an audible grunt of frustration around mile 23.5 when I just couldn’t push myself to keep running any more. I was going to finish this marathon, but I was mad that it would be so slow and that I’d have to walk it in. The last miles were miserable because I was so spent. I remember one nice guy encouraging me to jog the last half mile or so with him and I just couldn’t do it. He had a whole different gear that I didn’t have at that point. It took a big effort to shuffle the last bit where the crowds were lining the finishing area and the photographers were snapping away.

Walking it in…

This finish line picture sums it up

It really is too bad that I spent so much time focused on an unpleasant feeling and not as much on enjoying this marathon. What little I was able to appreciate about the course was very nice. Going around the track was cool, we spent quite a bit of time running in residential areas where trees canopied the course, we ran through a scenic park and along a small river, and we ran over a cool bridge where prisms cast rainbows on the path. I just wish I could have taken in and enjoyed these parts of the course more because the course really did exceed my expectations for scenery along a marathon in Iowa.
Oh well. When you plan to do 50+ of these, I suppose there will be ones like this. Hopefully they are few and far between.

I ended up finishing in 4:14:36. Here are my splits




























Monday, December 20, 2010

The Week After the Marathon

Wow, I can't believe Christmas is a few days away! The weekend of the marathon was so busy that it feels like I haven't recovered from that yet. And now my ankle is hurting, so I guess I haven't! It seems like I get a new injury every time I pick up my mileage. Boo. The week after the marathon, I felt good enough to run on Monday, but it was so cold (wind chill of 6 degrees!) that we decided not to run and I did the elliptical machine instead. Then I did a hilly 10 mile run on Wednesday, a 10 mile run on Friday (did part of Alice's long run with her), and a 15 mile trail run run on Saturday (the second half of the Mountain Mist course). Then Monday was an 8 mile run. So many longer runs is not usual for me, so I mostly wanted to record this for my own poor memory. It is good Mountain Mist training.
I've been thinking a lot about how important running should be in my life (see Jane's "Just a Thing" post for her momma's good advice on this topic). Also have a good post on body image in the works (complete with pictures of my tumultuous last 15 years or so). Digging out the old pictures has made me very contemplative of how running has affected both my body and my view of my body. It's on the to-do list for Christmas Break.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

(Nearly) Hitting the Target in my Rocket City Trilogy

Photo by We Run Huntsville
Pacing at mile 24, happy and chatting away

The Run
So I began the morning of my first event as a pacer around 4 a.m. when Rick's alarm went off. I laid in bed after he left afraid to go asleep since I might miss my alarm (like in the classic Seinfield episode!). I really take for granted that Rick runs my marathons with me. He gets me up, drives me there, and holds the keys while we run. All of this is harder alone! But once I had laid there until 5:45 or so, I got up and showered (does anyone else like to do this before a marathon?) and got dressed. I was just beginning to wonder if the sitter forgot when I saw her pull up. After going over the instructions and hitting my bathroom one last time, I headed for the race! I parked at the library and headed over to the hotel for one more potty break. With the frantic pace of my morning, I was a little warm and decided to throw off my gloves and long-sleeve shirt back at the car (weather was mid-30s at start but near 50 at finish). I made it a quick jog since I was supposed to be at the start by 7:45 a.m.

At the start, people instantly came up when they saw the sign. I met two of the runners who had corresponded to me via email before the race. And I saw my friends Jane and Madelyn and met Jane's mother, Erin. I am usually not talkative during the race, but I found it easy to have lots of little conversations with the runners in the group, which started out very large in the beginning. I met so many nice people--a guy who ran Rocket City 24 years ago, a woman who ran the last 6 miles of her last marathon with a stress fracture obtained in the race, a guy who ran on a John Bingham cruise to Alaska, a guy who is planning to run his 10th Mountain Mist this year, 2 Pauls (one who offered to carry my sign for me), among many others.

I found it hard to regulate my pace because once I started talking to someone, I would have to let them keep going while I slowed down (though several people slowed just like I did). I also noticed that I picked up my pace each time I passed a crowd or music. Looking back, I was about 5-10 seconds too fast in the crucial first 20 miles. Though I now think, "Why did I do this?" I think at the time that I was worried about the last 6 so much that I wanted to build that cushion. Running very even splits is new to me (and my body), but seriously slowing down at the end is not! So I was overly cautious. Throughout the race, I took the 2 Gu's offered on the course, water or Powerade at every aid station, and some Cliffshots and Sportsbeans stashed in my pocket. I never hit a wall or really even felt like I could not continue running the pace (as I always do when I am running my pace in a race). It was nice to be an encouragement to those around me even in the end (I told them to picture the finish line and brought up other bits of encouragement).

The highlights for me in pacing included obviously meeting many great people committing to that pace, seeing my mom and dad at Whitesburg School, seeing Rick at mile 18, and helping my friend Patrick from miles 24-26. It was so great to be able to encourage others so much while running (usually I am too tired to really do this). But it was funny having people think I was some sort of expert at pacing or even the 4:15 pace (which I had never run before!). Near the end, some people seemed discouraged to see the 4:15 pacer passing them, because with me their goal time was also passing them by. Well, I have been in that same boat, and it is no fun! When I made it to the finish, I knew I was a little ahead of pace but jogged slowly to the end. It felt funny to get a medal since it didn't feel like "my" race. It was strange to call this "volunteering" too, though.
The Gear
I felt very official in my red pacer shirt (also wore my red FF team shorts since I know they are comfortable and best-of-all, they were free!). We were told to carry small pacer signs for at least the first 5 miles, but I found that it was not heavy at all so I carried it the whole time. People could tell what pace group was approaching, thus finding their relative or friend more easily. And I could shout, "Let's hear it for the 4:15 pace group" which I thought helped get the crowd's support for the runners. And the runners in front could turn around and see us coming.
The Garmin was set up perfectly with the three-screen rotation. It not only helped me but also the others in the group for me to be able to say, "This is a 9:30 mile, but our overall pace is a 9:42" etc. The tattoo did not stick to my arm so at the last minute I had turned it into a bracelet with a little packing tape and a safety pin. I used it several times also as I ran, not every mile but at places like the halfway point. As I began running, I was instantly a little confused about whether to use chip or gun time for the 4:15 pace, but I decided that chip time made the most sense so I went with that.
The End Result
I realized pretty close to the end that I was too far ahead of my goal time. I later heard that some of the pacers turned the last corner and started walking to get closer to their pace time. I may try that in the future if I get too far ahead, though running more on-target splits throughout will be my main goal next time. I was actually the furthest from my pace time of all of us pacers. That shows you what an awesome group of pacers we had and gives me something to strive for next time. The chip time was 4:12:47, or 2 minutes and 13 seconds above pace. We were supposed to do 1-2 minutes ahead of our goal pace max. I am trying to not be too discouraged, but I know that running the earlier miles too fast might have discouraged those trying to keep the 9:44 pace. That is hard to swallow.
Eric Charette (who organized the pacing team) wrote the nicest thank you letter to us pacers. Here it is:
On behalf of the Huntsville Track Club, Rocket City Marathon and the sponsors Nike and Fleet Feet, I wanted to send our gratitude to you as pacers for your service this weekend. While many people volunteer on race day, you not only sacrificed your own marathon, but put in the training time to be able to hit your goal time. This was an incredible task for which you volunteered, to run even pace for the entire race and come under your goal time. I am proud to say that with only minor variation, were we able to meet all of our goals.

I heard so many great comments about the pacers and how they helped people realize their goal times, qualify for Boston or just pull them along with encouraging words during the race. Tut Said from Nike expressed his appreciation multiple times and Suzanne Taylor and Wayne Smith even noted it at the award ceremony.

I hope that each of you rests tonight with the pride that you helped others realize their dreams while you unselfishly gave of yourself. I know that personally this was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done with running.

We will definitely be looking to have pacers help to complement our marathon in 2011 and beyond.
Listed below are the names and times of the pacers
Josh Hite (3:10) - 3:08:10
Eric Schotz (3:15) - 3:14:35
Jon Elmore/Eric Fritz (3:20) - 3:20:59
Brett Addington (3:30) - 3:29:33
John Nevels/Dana Overton (3:35) - 3:33:23
Eric Charette (3:40) - 3:38:46
Eric Patterson (3:45) - 3:45:04
James Falcon (3:50) - 3:49:58
Linda Scavarda (4:00) - 3:59:33
David Rawlings (4:05) - 4:04:24
Katie Maehlmann (4:15) - 4:12:47
Jane Reneau (4:30) - 4:29:16
Rob/Kathy Youngren (6:00) - 5:58:46

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pacing and Partying

The Rocket City Marathon is tomorrow morning. Rick has been hard at work getting the course sentries and all of the stuff that goes along with that. I have the sitter ready to come at 6:45 a.m. so I can leave with plenty of time tomorrow since he will get up at about 4 a.m. to begin his duties (thank you to all the volunteers who work so hard!).
I have already learned a couple of things about pacing as I prepared to pace the 4:15 group for the marathon. First is that actually staying on pace is much more complicated than I thought! Pacers are told that the first couple of miles might be slower than pace due to the crowds at the start. Then, from miles 2-20, we are supposed to run 10-15 seconds faster than pace since we will probably slow a little at the end. Our optimal finishing time is just under the actual pace, so I would be perfectly happy getting a 4:14:59 tomorrow :) We are also supposed to take fluid at every aid station. That is new to me since I usually only take every other at the beginning, then maybe take every one near the end. I have had Rick adjust our Garmin several times, trying to get it to read what I think is the most useful information possible. Mine will show 3 rotating screens: total elapsed pace along with total distance, pace for the current mile, and then overall elapsed time. Along with that, I bought a tattoo of the 4:15 pace. I thought I was all set until Jane pointed out to me that my arm will likely be covered for the race! Oops! These are the things I am learning as I go along. A final word about this is that I have never set a time goal and finished at that time before! I once made my own pacing bracelet out of an index card, safety pin, and some packing tape. And I sometimes will set a pace goal just in my head, then I use my watch to see each split. I am interested to see if the Garmin and tattoo will help keep me more focused. And I am hoping not to let anyone down if I do fall off pace.
I have a work party tonight (not a great night to be up late but we are eating Italian so that is good!) and then Rick and I are hosting a Christmas party tomorrow at 4 p.m. This is such a busy weekend! I am looking forward to the next few weeks when I will have a break from work and also begin my trail running in preparation for Mountain Mist.
Good luck to all of the marathon runners tomorrow!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Decade of Running Has Been a "Blast!"

If I've figured this correctly, my Huntsville Rocket City Marathon this year will be my 20th marathon and will mark the 10th year of my running marathons. I like that those two big milestones will converge on my "home turf," so to speak. Rocket City was my first marathon back in 2001. I ran it again in 2004 and had some great memories the second time too. I'm also pretty happy with the two-marathons-a-year pace we've set over the last decade (Rick's had a similar number, maybe one less?). It's been a busy decade with starting our family, so it will be interesting to see how we do in our second decade of running. Rick thinks once you are close(r) to the 50 states that you may get excited and pick up the pace a bit, maybe even hitting some of the harder-to-travel-to states in a doubles weekend.
A little walk down memory lane...
Here Rick and I are running Rocket City together in 2001. John Christy is to the right. Rick and I were just friends when this picture was taken. It is our first picture together. We ran several miles together, then he left me. He headed to work right after finishing the race. I returned for the awards and randomly won the $1000 cash prize. It was an unforgettable day!
My second Rocket City. It was colder and rainy. Rick paced me and I ran with April Brass. I was competing in the Grand Slam that year and needed to finish Rocket City (plus 3 other ultras in town) in order to get a finisher's prize. It turned out to be a really nice duffle bag that I use for all of my weekend trips now.

Jingle, jingle

My daughter and I went out to the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis today. It is a festive 5K, kids' 1-mile, and little kids' "Santa Chase." Rick and our son are out of town so I didn't think I could run the race, but my friend Angie offered to help watch my daughter during the 5K. It worked out great! I did have to pay $10 extra for race-day registration and did not get a shirt, but I was happy to be able to run! My legs still aren't 100% from the marathon. I got a sub-21 (I think it was 20:57 or so, not sure of the official time). Again, my first mile was 6:27, way too fast, and my second was 6:52. I was pushing it so hard by mile 3 that I didn't want to take the effort to hit the split on my watch, so I didn't! (I know Rick is thinking right now, "Well, why didn't you use the Garmin?") Fleet Feet has a new finish line inflatable arch for the finishers. It was a neat touch and great to see it from far back! The best part of this race was that is was so Christmas-y and so fun for the children. My daughter (once we reunited after the race) did the Santa Chase, jumped on a moon bounce, got a hot chocolate, and made an ornament craft. We had some good girl time and supported a good cause too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marshall Marathon - Rick's view

So I thought I would document my memories of the Marshall University Marathon while they are still somewhat fresh on my mind. I've seen others do this and have read lengthy descriptions. Hopefully this won’t be too long and will prompt a few more entries for other memorable marathons. This marathon was memorable because things came together. Others have been memorable for other reasons.

My training for this marathon was improved since running a few marathons at the end of last year and earlier this year (Maui, Des Moines, New Orleans, and St. Louis). My training was improved because I was going for a PR at the Monte Sano 15k on October 9. Because of that goal, I spent time at the track and doing intervals and tempo runs. I felt my fitness was improving and noticed my 5k race times were steadily decreasing between the Cotton Row 5k (19:56, I was happy to be under 20) until the Marshall Running Club 5k (18:45) where I missed my PR at the 5k distance by 6 seconds. My focus in general improved. I was eating better and cross training. And I started improving the quality of my long runs thanks mainly to Teddy (he kicked the long runs into overdrive and was a positive influence on my marathon training). Mostly by accident, I ended up doing two 23 mile long runs. The first was because I ran a loop at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge twice that put me at 23 miles and the second was because of ignoring my Garmin during a long run with Teddy and Patrick that put me at 23 by the time I ran back home. So I was feeling pretty good going into this one. My legs seemed ready to go during the taper time, but I did a decent job resting up.

Things just seemed to come together for this race. Even the trip to Huntington was restful and carbo loading went well (including the free spaghetti dinner the race provided). Several other runners stayed at our hotel and I enjoyed conversing about the race, past marathon experiences, etc... For some reason I spent more time studying this marathon during the final weeks. I memorized the course including the sections that repeated a dirt path through Ritter Park (the first time through was a clockwise loop and counter-clockwise the second). I noticed there was a hill (not much of one, but a "hill" for this course) that was repeated. It came in at miles 8-10 the first time and about miles 19.5-21.5 the second time. I strategized that I would use going down these hills to start two pushes. The first push would be to pick up the pace after starting conservatively and the second would be the final push to the finish. The weather was also close to ideal. It was a bit cool at the start (26 degrees F and we scraped ice off the minivan before leaving the hotel parking lot), but the Marshall University recreation center was just around the corner from the start. It was warm and had ample space and bathrooms. Katie and I left the car near the finish line and at the same time only a block or two from the start. I also found my sunglasses, that I had given up on finding, between our seats just before locking up the minivan to go to the start line. Things were just coming together...

I didn't really have any expectations for a finish time. Teddy and I talked about and I thought 3:20 would be nice, but didn't know how realistic that was. So I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't run any faster than 7:40 splits for the first 10 miles or so, and then see what happened from there. Well that's where Katie comes in. She starts fast and usually doesn't slow down much. She stayed true to form at the start, and I ran a slightly faster than 7:40s keeping her within sight. I felt pretty good when the "downhill" came in around mile 10 and picked up the pace some as planned (with a brief pause at a port-a-potty). I maintained the pace and was joined by "Josh" at mile 15 or so. He said he'd been chasing me since mile 11. We ran together and talked some. He provided a nice distraction and kept the pace honest. While we were running together I saw an ideal temperature, 38 degrees, displayed on a bank sign. Josh and I were running in the low 7s for about five miles and then he pulled away around mile 21. I kept a decent pace going and then felt the fatigue slowly creeping in. I welcomed it because I knew that meant the finish wasn't far. My last two miles slowed to low 8s, so I feel like I sufficiently emptied the tank. I didn't make the extra effort to take one of the flowers being offered to drop in the fountain that is a memorial to the plane crash victims. And I didn't carry a football that was offered across the finish line. I did enjoy finishing by running through the stadium and down the length of the football field to the finish line. I even raised my arms a bit when I saw that I was sub-3:15. I finished with a 3:14:52 which is a little over a minute and a half off of my previous PR. This time was a nice improvement from my last marathon (St. Louis in 3:39:45) and a Boston Qualifying time for a 35 year old (I'm 34, but registration is closed for 2011. I'll be 35 in April 2012). I was proud of running a negative split too. My first half marathon was 1:38:13 and the second half was 1:36:39. It is nice to Boston Qualify, but it feels a bit like cheating because the bar, for me, has been set at 3:10 for all ten years I've been running marathons. I'd still like to run that time, but I couldn't be happier with this PR and my first BQ time.

My splits:


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How We Rolled to the Marshall Marathon- Part 2: The Race

Here are a few pictures of the weekend.

Rick does all of the driving for our marathons. He is very good at it, and I love him for it! I don't see how he can drive right after finishing a marathon. Seriously, we barely had time to take a shower and load the car before we had to turn around and head home this trip. At least one of us could prop our feet up!
Lots of smiles as we set out on the 7 hour car trip.

Carbo loading Thai-style (Rick's idea). It was a good one-- yum!

Monika was a super aunt on this trip. Here she is braving the cold so that the children can run some of their energy out! Seriously, she rode in the back with the children (watching all of their movies and such) and slept in our room (which included a child's 2 a.m. bed-wetting accident on the first night and LOTS of loud whispers), and she didn't complain once!

Packet pickup (Band competition in the background)

They had a free pasta dinner that we could not pass up. It was really neat to get to sit and talk with the other runners. The ones next to Rick were in their 60s and had done something like 100 marathons. The ones next to me had run the race last year and said they handed out the DVD "We Are Marshall" that year. What a neat touch!

I love the two-sided medal

Rick had a good idea to take a picture of all of the mementos all together. He opted for a fleece jacket instead of the shirt, but I really liked the logo and color of the shirt. My age group award (3rd place) is the pretty blue glass bowl.
The race had a cold start (26 degrees), but we could drop off our clothes at our car and just walk right over to the start line. We both wore our arm sleeves, and they were a great choice for the entire race (ended in the 50s). I am a port-a-potty "snob" and use them only when I have no other choice (and even now pack my own sanitizer and baby wipes just in case), but we had the university's fitness center bathrooms for use pre-race. They were awesome!
Rick and I had talked pace a little beforehand. He wanted 7:40s (it's actually a little more complicated than that and will hopefully be something he writes about in his blog entry about the race), and I wanted 8:00s. But it was so cold when we started that I went out at about 7:30s instead and even stayed near or ahead of him for awhile. I am so used to starting too fast that I knew it wasn't smart, but Rick told me later that it wouldn't have surprised him at all if I'd been able to keep that pace through the whole race (my race pace seems to have nothing to do with my training sometimes). I kept St. Louis in the back of my mind throughout the race, wanting to use that experience to motivate me to stay strong. It was a pretty small race, and I prefer the big crowds and music in some of the bigger races. There was also no gu on the course, so we both packed Cliff Blocks in little baggies and stashed them in our shorts (mine rubbed sores on my hip) and later shared stories about how we couldn't open them with our frozen fingers. Around mile 18, my pace just slowed and never picked back up. I attribute that mostly to my foot tightening up and am just thankful that it didn't act up worse. I was glad to see the roses at mile 25 (you could throw one into the memorial fountain for the Marshall University football players that died in the plane crash) and was convincing myself not to walk. When I finished, I saw and smelled hot dogs and hamburgers and gladly accepted a hot dog to eat! I saw Rick then and he told me he'd gotten a PR--3:14:50-- which will also qualify him for Boston 2012 (he will be 35 then so can use that time to qualify). I got a 3:29:25, the best I've done since having children. I felt a little bad that I had slowed down so much at the end and was on track for a PR myself until the last 9 miles or so, but overall I was really happy with my time.
We had fun finding out through our discussions pre-race that we have now been running marathons together (first as friends, then while dating, and now married) for 10 years. I love having a spouse that runs marathons too!
3:29:25 99th OA
8:00 pace (ironic that I still ended with an 8:00 pace!)

How We Rolled to the Marshall Marathon- Part 1: The Planning

It is Tuesday night, two nights after we returned from our weekend trip to the Marshall Marathon. It is always strange to me how I can be running a marathon one morning and the next morning I am just back to being a mom dropping the kids off at the preschool and limping slightly while doing so! And today things were almost all the way back to normal. To me, running a marathon is like Christmas morning or the mornings I delivered my babies. You should get to feel special for at least a few more days! It's almost like I want to feel the stiffness and pain since it helps me remember the race more vividly. And now the memory is already starting to fade a little, so I will write some now to hopefully keep the memory alive!

First, almost none of our marathons would even be possible without Rick's good planning and organization. I found this email from back in June when we were talking about our fall marathon schedule:
(from Rick)
...looking at marathons in Oct./Nov. I found three possibilities for consideration:

Freedom's Run, October 2, Shepherdstown, WV (near Baltimore, MD), ~11 hour drive from Madison, AL direct flight to Baltimore from Huntsville is a possibility

Marshall University Marathon, November 7, Huntington, WV, ~7.5 hour drive from Madison, AL drive

SunTrust Richmond Marathon, November 13, Richmond, VA, ~11 hour drive from Madison, AL by Runner's World

at first glance, I'm kinda leaning towards the Marshall University Marathon
... Rick

We ended up picking the Marshall Marathon based on these words alone: SHORTEST DRIVE!
Fast forward to a couple of week ago when Rick then sent his sister (and our babysitter) and me a detailed itinerary for the weekend plans:

Leave Madison ~7:30 a.m.
Pick up Monika in Nashville~9:30 (where should we meet you?)
Stop in Lexington for a lunch (picnic?) ~1:30
Check out the Explorium of Lexington (
Grab some dinner (near Ashland, KY) ~6:00
Check into the hotel in Ashland, KY ~7:00-7:30crash...

sleep in!
go to a park (Harris Riverfront Park)
go to the shopping area - Pullman Square
eat some lunch
go to the expo (sometime between 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.)
go to ??? (ideas anyone?)
eat some dinner
go to sleep

make sure the time zone difference and time change hasn't messed us up
leave for the marathon ~5:45 a.m.
start the marathon 7:00
finish the marathon ~11:00
back at the hotel ~noon
shower and check out ~1:00
lunch and hit the road for home
back to Nashville ~7:30
back to Madison ~9:30

This pretty much sums up how our weekend was spent and how organization can really help our trip go smoothly. As most marathoners do, we have a pretty set routine with laying out all of our stuff for the marathon the night before too. Everything from what we will eat, to our clothes, to our watches and race numbers. Seeing all of this organization makes me happy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Spooktacular 5K and Running Off All the Halloween Candy

I ran the Spooktacular 5K this past Saturday, this being the first 5K since the Monte Sano 5K on September 4 for me. I hadn't done any speedwork since that race and have been injured, so I didn't really have a goal time. I finished in 20:44, a 6:41 pace. I was very pleased with the time given the circumstances. And my first mile was 6:22, way too fast. That is a big problem for me. I have a hard time finding my 5K pace so my splits are all over the place (roughly a 6:22, 7:00, and 6:38). It would be nice to have even splits over the 3 miles instead.
This race is another good family event. There was a moon bounce, lots of great costumes, and a neat Thriller show on the street right before the race (not too scary either). I ran into my friend, Liv. We had fun trying to find a bathroom without a line before the start of the race and doing a warmup together. Earthfare had some neat samples after the race that I took home for the children. Gear-wise, the temperature was in the 40s, so I had a chance to wear my Sugoi armsleeves (mine are a pretty electric blue with snowflakes, not black like these) along with my singlet and shorts. I loved the weather!
Jane and I ran 5.5 miles on Sunday to burn off some of the Halloween candy we would get later that night. My family came home after our trick or treating and had a total of ONE trick or the $10 in candy that I bought is still here, along with all the other candy we got over last week. I am in full taper-mode, so I will be spending a lot of time here in this house with all of the candy. I'm not sure if candy makes the best food for carboloading but I will be eating a lot of it regardless!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Catching Up

So, I am bummed because after a lot of back and forth, Rick and I decided that I should run the Boston Marathon this year. We planned to register me together tonight. I went on the computer around 5:10 p.m. and saw that registration was already filled at 5:03--yeah, I missed it by like 7 minutes. I had no way of knowing--it took 2 months to fill up last year but less than a day this year.

The main reason that I'm bummed is that I realized that I may be pregnant for Boston 2012 (we are thinking about Baby #3 for then), so it may be a long time before I qualify again and before we can afford a trip up there for me to run it. I just wonder if I will look back on today and wished I'd done something different. I guess Suzanne Taylor will be a good example for me--she just ran her first marathon in a decade a little while ago and qualified for the Boston Marathon and will be running it in 2011. So I guess there's no way to know what the future will hold for me!

Today I ran for the first time in 9 days, and I managed to run 20 miles. I had been having foot pain in my right foot that I thought was plantar fasciitis. It was in the arch, but it spread up to my ankle and even made my left knee buckle too (from over compensation). I finally hurt so bad after running and limped so much during running that I went to see a podiatrist. She gave me oral steroids, a band to stretch with, and instructions to ice and do physical therapy. Well, I did most of that but skipped the therapy. I managed to do a 12-mile run in a lot of pain before completely not running for 8 days. I used the elliptical and pretty much adjusted my goal in the marathon. After not finishing St. Louis, I just wanted to be able to finish the Marshall Marathon next month. I feel a little more optimistic after today's run (which was actually a combination of an 11 mile run with my running friends in the early morning and a 9 mile run after dropping the kids off at preschool). It was hilly and fast (at parts) and really wonderful. I missed running!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marathon Training

This week marked the first of 3 20-milers that I will do in preparation for "marathon season." For me, it will begin with the Marshall Marathon in West Virginia on November 7. Rick prints the training programs for me (usually from Hal Higdon) and I do my best to follow the long runs and omit all the speed work!! Seriously, I usually just run whatever I feel like during the week without paying attention to what I'm "supposed" to do. This week was one of the higher mileage weeks for me, and it was still under 50 miles. But that's totally fine, since I can clearly remember weeks just last year that were only 10 miles or so. So I'm proud that I'm doing more than that! I got some good advice today to just keep using the "Katie approach," which to me means doing what works for me. Also today and on the 20-miler, my right foot was driving me crazy (plantar fasciitis). I have been icing it, taking Advil, and massaging it. Today it even affected my left knee as I overcompensated and, during the long run, my right ankle hurt too. I sure hope it will not cause any more problems. Mostly for me to remember my "big week" of training, here are the miles I did this week:


Monday-10.5 mile run in the a.m. Walked the kids for over an hour in the stroller, so 3 miles?

Tuesday-25 minutes on the elliptical

Wednesday-8 mile run (convinced Kristen to do the last 1.5 miles with me--Good job, Kristen!)

Thursday-30 minutes on the elliptical

Friday-7 mile run (with Jane, wanted to do a few more on my own, but decided not to with the 20-miler the next day)

Saturday-20 mile run (started at 4 a.m., at the soccer field by 8 a.m.!)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Monte Sano 5K

You know you are finally feeling fall weather when you can start the morning like this...

And end up like this!
{At the 39th annual Monte Sano 10k and 5k races September 4, 2010)
My family went up to one of our favorite places, Monte Sano Mountain, for Rick and me to run the Monte Sano 10k and 5k races this past Saturday. We had originally planned to each run both races (the 5k is an hour and a half after the start of the 10k), but our sitter fell through so we opted to only race one each. It turned out to be a lot better for me because I was running on fresh legs for the 5k while many of the other runners had already done the 10k.
I have to admit that I really liked watching the 10k runners warming up before the race and knowing I did not have to run it myself! I took the children for a nice walk in the double jogger. They thought the race had already started since they saw so many people running! During the race, we cheered for Daddy, who placed 3rd in his age group and looked pretty tough finishing his race!
Rick was able to run his cool down with me during my warm up (he pushed the stroller). I met my friend, Julia, and we all three finished the short run together. He suggested I shoot for a 20:30, to take 7 seconds off of my last 5k time. Now I am getting forgetful, but I think it was something like a 6:37 per mile, so I figured I would aim for that. Right before the start, I couldn't figure out how to start his Garmin, but luckily my fellow teammate, Lisa, pressed a couple of buttons and got me to the right screen easily. Two things were different for me from the last time I had run this race: the women start separately from the men by 10 minutes (we are second), and the women could start on either side of a median (I chose the right side if you are facing in the starting direction). As we started the race, I took first place but felt another girl right behind me. The weather was great, and I felt strong in the first mile. I had forgotten that probably a mile of the race is run on loose gravel. It was very hard to run on. This is where I caught up to the men's race, and I found it hard to maneuver through the other runners. I have that same problem when half marathons start with marathons in the same start line. It is much easier for me to pace myself with runners of a similar pace, and I am kind of clumsy when it comes to passing people gracefully. One really nice guy called out, "You're first female. You're my hero!" That was so sweet and uplifting! I also liked the turnaround because I was able to see many of my friends and cheer for them as we passed one another. My second split was a 6:43, just a tad bit slower than what I wanted to get, but I was just trying to hold the lead for the last mile since it ends with a slight hill. I saw the finish line and heard Rick and the children yelling, "Go Mommy!" That was the best part! And I finished in 20:40, not quite what I wanted to get but very consistent with the 20:37 in my last 5k and good given this course. My running friends have inspired me to run the day before races (I used to take the day off), and I had run 12 miles the day before, and I felt fine and don't think it hindered me at all.
We really enjoyed talking to friends after my race and waiting around for the awards. I won a really nice picnic blanket and an Outback gift certificate (dinner for 2) for first overall female. I love sitting in the old amphitheater for the awards in this race. My friend, Kathy, came over and talked to us a little bit. She is getting ready to run a 153 mile race in Greece called the Spartathalon. That is amazing! The children ate ice cream and hunted in the woods around the amphitheater for sticks and bugs. It was a great day for our family and a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

10.5 mile run

Here is my Monday run. Rick (my husband) went for his 17 mile run that day. When I asked to join him for a little bit of it, he said, "Yes, but you should know that I normally do 8:30 miles." That seemed fast for an easy long run, so I declined and decided to do my 10 miles alone. And I decided to average 8:30 miles just to show him! (yes, I am competitive!!). I borrowed his Garmin the minute he got back. That thing is addictive! After starting slow for the first mile, I played around with my pace until, finally, at mile 8, I had that 8:30 average pace to show him! Then it went down to 8:27 and up to 8:28 at 10.5 miles. I have learned that it is hard to make your average pace move too much on a long run! It was fun running with the Garmin and turning the pace thing into a game for myself. It helped to pass the time, but I probably looked at it 15-20 times more than I would have looked at just my watch. So the Garmin is helping me feel accountable for my pace and to motivate me to go faster--I guess that's what they're for!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Today's Run

17 miles

My run this morning was a first---earliest run ever for me! I set my alarm for 3:49 a.m., then I kept waking up afraid I would miss it going off (I know, that makes no sense!). So I was ready and jumped out of bed even before 3:49, and I headed out to meet Jane at 4:10. I tried out my new Nathan handheld water bottle from Fleet Feet (oh, Jane and I got a big laugh when I at first strapped it onto my hand backwards! I'm such a goof!). We ran together for about 8.5 miles, then she left to go to No Boundaries, and I ran back to Asbury and met up with Madelyn, Kristen, and Angie for about 5 miles or so, and then I finished the run alone. I "ran" into my supervisor at work, an old friend from college, a fellow soccer mom, and a former teacher friend all in one run! So there really are other people up before the sun rises! As far as the training part of the run, I felt very good and strong for the entire run. My right foot hurt a little (plantar fasciitis). I drank a Gatorade and had Sportsbeans, and that seemed enough for the distance today. I also tried picking up the pace again at the end (I think it's good for my training and it helps Rick when I get back earlier). My last mile was slower because I ran into my former teaching friend (she passed by my in her car), and we got to talking. So, with the Garmin, I kind of feel bad if I stop it for that sort of thing; I mean, the clock won't stop on race day for me to get water, tie my shoe, etc. So I debated a bit about whether to stop it on that last mile because I really wanted to see how fast I had run it, but it didn't feel right stopping it so I let it run. My best piece of advise for those running in the early morning--stick to the larger, well lit roads. We did quite a bit on Hughes Road this morning and another well lit subdivision and felt very safe. So, another long run done (17 miles), and a race next weekend (Monte Sano 10K and 5K).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rick's First Blog Entry

So Katie has been encouraging me for quite a while to provide a post for this blog. We talked about a few topics that I could use for an entry, but I just haven't pulled the trigger. Until now.

The topic I've chosen isn't something I feel strongly about or something I got too excited about. I just found some time and this was on my mind. The topic is the Sprint Triathalon that happened this past Saturday. I've worked the run/bike transition for several years and the experience is very similar every year. I enjoy working this event because of the diversity in the participants. There are athletes completing the run course (~3 miles) in 17 minutes and there are kids riding their bikes with 16 inch wheels and streamers on the handle bars. There were several bikes with aero wheels and several with baskets and/or bells.

But the triathalon is also the day that I have to be a big meanie. I think I'm starting to soften some, because I had a hard time motivating myself to be a meanie this year, but I still think I managed. Why do I have to be meanie? Because it communicates to people, and it is the only way to communicate to some (some I still didn't get through to). I have to shout at spectators in a less than pleasant tone to chase them out of the transition area, or to get people to stop riding their bikes in the transition area, or to buckle their helmets.

I feel strongly about chasing people out of the transition area because I have seen what happens when they don't listen. One of the first times I worked the transition area, a family with three young girls showed up very late, after the first heat had already started the run course. I encouraged them to quickly place their bikes and move out of the area. As the time approached for the first runners to be coming through, I told them they had to leave. When they didn't leave, I asked again with more urgency. When I saw the first runners finishing, I told them they had to leave immediately. Of course they didn't leave and the next thing I knew there was a girl (probably 8 years old) laying on the ground crying after a collision with one of the top competitors. So I felt that some of that collision was my fault because I was the "transition guy." So that's why I run around encouraging people to stay out of the area and even picked up a young toddler on Saturday to carry him out to his mother. I don't want to see another kid (or adult) laying flat on their face in the transition area.

One thing I found interesting on Saturday was all of the reasons people came up with why the rules didn't apply to them.

The rule about staying out of the transition area didn't apply to them because "I just have to get something real quick," or "I was already past the tape when I realized I'm not supposed to be in here, so I'll just cross the rest of the way." One guy told me he would just look to make sure that he wasn't in a competitor's way. Do people realize what they are saying? Do they stop to think what would happen if everyone took the same approach? But no, the rule applies to everyone else... But like I said, I'm headed towards becoming a softie. One woman wanted to put an encouraging sign near her daughter's bike, and I offered to do it for her.

Most people who we had to tell to push their bike instead of ride it out of the transition area were quick to hop off. They didn't even realize they were supposed to push it to the mount line or force of habit caused them to throw a leg over and start riding. But there was also a guy who rode his bike through the entire transition area after three (maybe four) of us told him to get off his bike and push it. He explained to us that he was already clipped in and he couldn't clip out. Yeah right. If that was true, I'd like to see what happened when he got to the end of the bike ride.

I did try to offset all of those corrections with some encouragement too. I clapped and told people, "way to go" or "nice job, keep it up." So maybe not everyone sees me as the transition meanie.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Birthday Run

Well, most people may not think this was the best way to start my birthday, but I got up at 4:30 am this morning and met my friend Alice for a 16 mile run. I had a great time; it's been awhile since I've run that far, and I am getting excited about the upcoming marathon season! We started a little faster than normal (9:45s) and ended her section of the run with me with a more comfortable 10-10:30 minute miles (miles 5-10). It was SO dark, and it was just the two of us, so it was a little scary in the neighborhoods (though we were wearing lights for visibility and carrying pepper spray). We also took a couple of wrong turns since our usual friends that are super good with knowing the courses were not there. We had a great time catching up with each other about the first weeks of school and about our busy lives. She had to get back to Asbury and finished right over 10 miles. Not really knowing the rest of the route I wanted to do, I headed for a familiar route that was pretty hilly but also more scenic than the busy Hughes Road! I put in my headphones and picked up my pace. Around mile 14, I realized that I was running short on time because I was still a long way from Asbury. I used my husband's GPS watch (or Garmin or whatever they call it!) for the first time, laughing at the word "bezel" as he instructed me on it last night. Anyway, the Garmin was set to show average pace and distance, not duration of the run or the current time! And I was afraid to push any button thinking I might accidentally turn it off! So, as I passed Bob Jones High School, I read the clock which said 7:07, and I knew I was LATE (had to be back at my car at 7:08 to make it home in time for Rick to leave for work). I booked it back to my car, running near 8 minute miles and feeling very tired! And then I called Rick quickly and jumped into my car and raced home. Then I hurried to get the kids ready for school, got myself ready, and taught my class of 8 1 1/2 year olds until 1. We had a small birthday party for my twin sister and me tonight, and now I am getting ready to crash! Yea for the weekend, and yea for the long run for the week already being over before Saturday!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cotton Row Pictures

Here are some pictures of our family at the Cotton Row Run on May 31st.

Our children are cheering on the 5K runners. Don't they look cute in their patriotic clothes and waving their flags?

Rick and our son running side by side in the 1 mile. They finished near 14 minutes.

My two-year-old daughter loved running the 1 mile and did a good job--around 17 mintes. Her running pace was my walking pace, so I walked next to her along with my friend, Linda. When you are two, you can wear cute bows when you run!

They finished all hot and sweaty. They are holding their finishers' ribbons.

Our family at Cotton Row
We met so many friends at Cotton Row. This picture was taken by one of them, Corey. Thanks, Corey!

from HTC News

September 20, 2009 Maui Marathon

If you are a Huntsville runner (even a very casual one), you really should consider becoming a Huntsville Track Club member. I remember, before joining in 2001, that I had no idea what it was or why I would want to join a track club (it seemed like something for maybe high school or college runners?). I have no idea of the history of the name, but it is not only for high school and college runners in our area, but for all ages of runners (my children are actually members too--we have a family membership). A benefit I have found is that I receive a large, booklet-type newsletter regularly in the mail from the HTC. It has good articles and some race results and the results for the competitive Grand Prix. I love these newsletters so much that I have started saving them all. I think they will be great to look back on someday, which brings me to the awesome article that Harold Tinsley wrote in the July/August 2010 issue called "What Will Your Memories Be When You No Longer Run." It may seem sad or even depressing to think about that, but I find that it helps me appreciate so much more where I am right now. Here is an excerpt:

"Take time to enjoy your accomplishments. They will have a lot more meaning later in life if you do. You ran a PR, or won a race, or won your age group and you had that feeling of accomplishment that you trained so hard for. Did you give it the importance of something you may never do again? Probably not. Everyone expects the next race, or one soon to follow, will be a new and better accomplishment. And early in your running that may very well happen, even frequently, but one day you will have run your ultimate race. Not until later will you realize that." (emphasis added)

I have hopefully not reached that stage yet, but I certainly got slower after having children, and this made me ache for when I felt good while running. The wins and PRs are nice, but I want to remember when running was fun, and when it made me feel alive. I have a lot of bad knees in my family (and a mom who swears I am doing so much damage to mine right now), so I know my running days may be numbered. Let me use Harold's wisdom to help me fully appreciate where I am today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Newest Running Partner

Meet Monte, the Amazing Running Pug!
So, though I love running in the company of my good friends, I've really only run with others for about 6 months. Before that it was, for the most part, alone or with Rick. Now that it's light out by 5:30 (my criteria for running alone), I have tried some solo runs. The most obvious benefit is the efficiency in time--I can leave right from my door instead of driving to a meeting place, which means more time to sleep in! But I also enjoy setting my own pace and distance and being lost in my own thoughts. And a really strange thing I like to do when I run solo is try to keep my mouth closed for the entire run (that tells you that I'm not really running all that hard!). I listen to 88.1 (Christian radio) or other songs on my MPs player (Mandisa and others, really a big mix including a bunch of preschool Jack Hartmann songs on there that I have to keep forwarding!). By listening to the Christian songs and running in such pretty surroundings (the creek is on my route), I end up feeling closer to God and more focused on Him.
I've also decided that I should include our first and most neglected baby in on my runs. Monte is our nearly 6 year old pug and was a pretty good runner back in the day. He used to run LONG with us--like over 10 mile runs, and he also ran trails quite a bit with Rick while I was pregnant (I was the jealous ex who got replaced!). His run always looks like a casual jaunt, and he saunters along like he does this every day. It is especially funny to see him to this on the trails, like going up Waterline on Monte Sano. He barely looks winded as he races in front of us, but his is shorter. I think his height and his four legs to our two are quite an advantage on the trails. Anyway, if you know anything about pugs, you know that they are not meant to be outdoorsy dogs. They were bred to be lapdogs, and, with their little pug noses, they often can't even breathe all that well when they get overexerted. So we never went into the adoption of Monte thinking that he would ever run with us (even though he was named after our favorite mountain to run on, Monte Sano). Surprisingly, we found that his smaller stature than most pugs (he was bred to be leaner than your traditional pug) and his HIGH energy level made him the perfect running companion. I love that he provides a little company while on the run, and some security too (he pulls when someone approaches from behind). And running gives him some much-needed exercise (he gained 4 pounds on his 15-pound frame the year after my daughter was born and all of our running suffered). Back in the day, we dubbed him "Monte the Amazing Running Pug," and I think this little guy (who came on my 6-plus mile run with me today) still deserves this title!