Day +8: More than a Number

IMAG3247So this came in the mail today. It looks like three digits and a decimal point, right? No, it’s more than that.

It’s the miles I did for training. (574+ including race day)

It’s the sum of the mornings I got up pre-dawn for a long run.

It’s the runs I did after work, trying to fit in the training miles when time was a commodity I didn’t have.

It’s the gallons of water I drank, and the pounds of healthy food I ate to get my body ready.

It’s the number of running shoes I went through on all those training runs. Only one pair went with me to the race. The rest gave their all to get me there.

It’s the number of times I thought, “What was I thinking? I can’t do this.” (Some said on race day.)

It’s the number of times I thought I was crazy.

It’s the number of times I felt invincible.

I still can’t believe it’s real. I earned this. I worked for it, and it’s mine. Someone can steal my car or my magnet or (God forbid) my medal, but no one can take from me the knowledge that I did it. And I can do it again.

NYC Marathon, you got next.



Day 0: In The Books

I did it. I’m hurting pretty bad; my knees hate me and no doubt my heel will not let me walk tomorrow, but I did it and I have the medal to prove it. I also have the video to prove it. I stayed pretty calm since then until I realized my parents will get to see me finish my first marathon. Then I lost it completely.

I didn’t take the medals in the shower with me, but I did have to think about it first.

My never ending gratitude goes to my friend Linda Reilly for being my coach, mentor and tour guide for all 26.2 miles through Philadelphia. You are an amazing person and I’m grateful we met.

Me n Linda

This is me, thrilled to find my car where I left it when we parked at 5:00 a.m. For a moment I was scared, thinking it might get towed. Also, I believed parking in Philly is free on Sundays so when I came back to find no ticket? Double thrilled!


And this is Ryan, my hero, without whom I couldn’t have done half as much as I did. The best was seeing his face as I crossed the finish line, his expression saying, “She did it! She really did it!” Either that or “Finally this is over and we can go home!”


Now I retire from running. At least for 2014. I’ve already registered for a 5k next year but all my running for the rest of this year will be on my time, at my leisure. Once I can walk again, it’s going to be spectacular!


Day 1: Go The Distance

I can’t believe I just did my last training before the marathon. Sixteen weeks of training, over. Where the HELL did the time go? I remember my first run at the park in my shiny new OAR singlet, feeling all full of myself, thinking about contacting the local paper so they could follow me and I could raise more money for the charity. I saw my picture in the paper, and people recognizing me in stores.

Okay, that didn’t happen. 🙂 I ran my training in relative obscurity, sometimes with my friend Jack, sometimes with music, sometimes entirely in my own head. But I did every single mile and now it’s over.

I’m afraid I’m going to feel rudderless without the structure of training so I’m sticking to it but modifying it a little as time permits. I can’t take off Fridays to do 20 anymore, but then again, this is also my last race of 2014. My first was a little 5k at the Navy Yards in the cold of February but it was fun and I think I can fit into the shirt now. 🙂

I’m nervous but I have a plan. I’m laying out all my clothes this afternoon when I get back from the expo—where I can’t wait to get my geek on!—so that come 4:00 tomorrow morning, all I have to do is go to where I left what I need and get my ass out the door. Funny thing is, this morning I gave my alarm clock a training run and set it for 4 a.m. I heard Christmas music whispering from the clock radio and rolled over at 4:41. The volume was too low. Thank GOD I tested it out or I’d be in a world of sh*t tomorrow. (And here I’d thought it absurd to set the alarm for 4 when I didn’t need to be up ’til 7.)

Some of the things I need are already in place. The weather should hold up so I’m thinking I’ll only wear my singlet and pants, with a throwaway sweatshirt over the top that I can toss off around mile 2. By then I’ll be warmed up and feeling good, though we’ll also be heading for Columbus Boulevard, which I hear can be cold, but the starting temps should be in the mid-40’s. I’ll see how I feel.

My friend Linda is at the expo and posted a pic of the medals. Not the big gaudy gold things from last year (the 20th anniversary) but still good; I won’t be refusing it when I cross the finish line. My comment: “WANT!” Her reply: “And you shall have!” I adore that lady.

In my heart I feel good; I feel like I can do it. My head is worried by this because arrogance is dangerous. But I did the training (all of it!) and I have everything I need. I know what I have to do; I have a metric sh*t-ton of support from my Sunday Funday Runday group, my family and friends; I’m prepared and I did the homework. Now is when the rubber meets the road, literally.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. Can’t wait to show you the medal tomorrow.

Day 3: I Bet My Life

I’m hooked on this song. I’m playing it now. If I weren’t running with Linda on Sunday, I’d put this on repeat for 26.2 miles.

Something just hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m not afraid. Really, I’m not. It amazes me but this race, this marathon, it’s just a stepping stone. When this is over, I can and will rebuild the path of my life, because once I do this, I know I can do this. And I will.

This will lead to bigger and better things because from here I will be stronger. I will be braver. I will not be afraid.

I am not afraid. But when this is over, I know I’m going to want more. Sure, it may hurt. So what. I can build on that too.

What more? Only time will tell.

I’m not afraid. Let’s do this.

Day 5: Coming Together

Sometimes it’s amazing how tiny little pieces fall into place at the right time. The marathon-day weather I was so terrified of has been steadily improving since I started checking the 10-day forecasts 5 days ago. Now we’re up to a morning low of 49, midday high of 58. If the rain expected for later in the day holds out, it’ll be perfect. I’ll be fine if the rain just holds out ’til 1:30.

Tonight I ate dinner (alone, because the boys took their plates and ran back to whatever they were doing) and a commercial came on with a brief snippet of a song that caught my attention. Within ten minutes it was downloaded and on my Run playlist. Look for Imagine Dragons, “I Bet My Life.” It’ll knock your socks off.

But the really amazing one happened yesterday. I have a wonderful friend, Linda Reilly, who’s leading Reilly Regiment, our OAR team for the marathon. I’ve talked to her quite a few times (we have so much in common!) and she picked up on my nerves, offering to run the marathon with me. I appreciated the offer but I’d envisioned myself running it alone, head deep into the music on my iPod. Yeah, I can do it alone, but I don’t always HAVE to, and after the fantastic 10k I did with Laura on the 9th, I was tempted to take Linda up on her offer. Having someone there to talk to kept my mind off everything else I might’ve otherwise spent too much time focused on: my heel, nerves, stress, etc.

So then someone else in our running group expressed some concerns about her first marathon, and another chimed in too. I thought, “There’s something to this running with friends thing”, and I asked if they wanted to run it together. If anyone felt strong enough to take off, go for it; feel free. But at least if we started together, we could keep each other relaxed, grounded, steady.

From there I thought of the time my therapist called me a “kindness hog.” She’s right; I’m more than happy to help others, but I don’t like taking help when people offer it to me, even if I really need it. She asked if I liked how it felt to help someone and of course I said yes. Well, her theory was that I was denying someone else the chance to feel that same joy. I had that in mind when I asked Linda if her offer still stood, and even though she could blow through this marathon in 2 hours less time than it’ll take me, she’s going to be right there with me for 26.2 miles. (People, she’s BQ’d for the next TWO YEARS. She’s my very own personal Meb Keflezighi!) And on top of that, she’ll be there to help Jen and Jill too, so not only will Linda be there to help me, but she can help them too. Winners all around!

This isn’t chilling out the nerves, though. Last night I dreamed I was so excited to see Ryan at Eakins Oval (the halfway point) that I turned right instead of left and crossed the finish line for the Half. The officials wouldn’t let me go back to run the rest of the full, and I woke up PISSED. I can’t wait to see what I dream of tonight but I’m told this isn’t uncommon.

I have a pile of clothes waiting for Sunday morning, o’dark thirty. I have two parking lots mapped out. I know where the nearest Wawa is for Ryan to go get hot chocolate and something to eat. I did my third-to-last training run tonight, though I did it on the AMT at the gym to save my heel, which is feeling better but not 100%. Tomorrow I’m supposed to rest but I’m going to the gym again and using some weights. Can’t hurt. Thursday 5 miles, Saturday 1-3 miles. Sunday… <exhale>

I’m almost there. I can’t believe 16 weeks of training is almost over. Scared may not be the word to describe how I feel. Anxious. Excited. Nervous. But I also think I’m ready. I mean, I’ve done three 20 milers. I did 3 races in 2 weeks. Just keep moving and I’ll be fine. And now that the weather seems to be cooperating…?

This is going to be amazing. These are the last days for me to call myself a marathoner in training. Sunday night when I look in the mirror before bed, I’ll own a new title:  marathoner.

And yes, I’ll probably be insufferably obnoxious. Deal with it. 😀

10 days: Grateful Dead

I titled this post Grateful Dead because I keep thinking about what a long strange trip it’s been.

Can’t believe the big day is in 10 days. I try not to say “marathon” too much because a) it scares me down to my soul, and b) I don’t want to overuse the word. Chances are good I’ll have lots of time to do that AFTER it’s over.

I did a 10k this past weekend, and I have another one this weekend. There was once a day when I thought a 6 mile run was rough. Now it’s a pasttime. My plan is to run the race thinking, “Okay, I’ve done 20 mile practice runs before. They’re not easy but I can do them.” Once I get to the 20 mile mark, I just remind myself that hey, I’ve done 10k’s before, and that’s all that’s left.

Mostly I just want to know if I can do it. I want to put myself to the test and see what happens. I think I got what it takes, but the proof is in the pudding.

If the race were tomorrow, I’d be ready. Well, ready except for not being in bed by 8. If I have to get up at 4, I’m hitting the sack early the Saturday before. Not that I’m going to sleep. I remember getting maybe 3 hours of sleep the night before my first 5k. I was scared out of my mind, certain I’d forgotten something, some item or detail or information that would completely ruin the whole thing. I still remember finishing the first mile, seeing how much more I had ahead, and thinking, “I think I’ve greatly overestimated myself.” But when I saw a potential PR ahead of me, I rocketed for the finish line. My feet were sore for two days but I did it.

My Across the Bay  10k medal looks fantastic on my medal rack. (Also known as the curtain rod in my room.) It’s one of my prouder possessions not for my accomplishment but for my friend Laura’s. She wasn’t sure she could run 6 miles. Her longest training run was 3, and her foot still hurt from an old injury, to say nothing of the stress fracture from which she’d only recently healed. We talked most of the way through the 6 miles, occasionally checking in for physical cues, but when we crossed the finish line, hands held high, I could see the pride and joy (and great relief) in her face. I was so thrilled and honored to get to be there for her. I can’t wait ’til we do it again next year!

Sometimes I’m nervous when I think about the race. The latest check of the weather says the day before will be 44 degrees and clear. I have a space blanket from the 10k, and I found some amazing fleece pants that I’ll bring with me, along with a fleece/microfiber/knit blanket that I’ll burrito myself into when it’s over. I seem to have this thing about hypothermia, but I’ve come in from races and even from the gym on cold nights, and my lips are blue. Needless to say, I need to find myself a good pair of gloves.

I told Ryan the other day that I’ve put more thought and planning into this one race than for any book I’ve ever written. On second thought, I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I daydream about stories; I jot notes when they come to me; I listen to music and get ideas. For this race, I’ve read articles, watched videos, sat glued to marathon coverage for hours. And then there’s the training miles. I think it’s over 500, all told, and I haven’t gone short yet.

This race is all for me. It’s taken me a while to learn how to be selfish but when I go out to run this thing, the difference between success and failure is all me and only me. I’m the only one who can impact the end result. And I think I can do it. Now to see.

finish line ATB10k

Day 56: A New Wrinkle

So this was my horoscope today:

“An inspirational person enters your life today, presenting you with an intriguing opportunity. You could be so eager for something new to happen that you start dreaming about all the possibilities without considering the practicalities involved. Be patient and try not to prematurely jump to any extreme conclusions. Although your conversation might not catalyze an immediate change, it could lead to something else that’s ultimately a positive move.”

I suspect I already know who the new person is: me. Seems after what feels like years of pre-menopausal symptoms, I’m finally there. If you’ll pardon the TMI, this appears to be the first time in my life I’m missing a period without there being a really nice reason for it. I’m not even sure what to do about it. For all the times I cursed The Curse, here it may be departing and I’m wondering what the hell to do now.

So I went for a 14 mile training run. If nothing else, life does go on, and marathon training has been brilliant for weight loss. I’ve lost 12 pounds since I started and this is the end if week 8. I feel awesome and I’m adjusting to the changes in my appearance because I’m not used to seeing this new person in the mirror. I’m even thinking I’m going to continue training after the marathon, though I may do shorter long runs on weekends.

Alas, the run is over, I have some errands, and then I plan on spending the rest of the day doing as little as humanly possible, because the last two weeks have been insane and I’m due for some down time. Make it a good one, people!

Day 62: It’s All In The Bounce Back

No, not the Shemar Moore movie. (Which I’m greatly looking forward to because damn is he hot.) I realized something interesting today. The long runs take it out of you, but the real test is the day after. Do you have the stuff to go out there and do it again, even though you’re hurting like hell?

I almost didn’t do it. Yesterday I ran 20 miles and it was the hardest run of my life. Bear in mind, it was broken up into smaller, what I thought would be more manageable pieces. I drove to East Falls, ran 3 miles to Memorial Hall, waited 30 minutes then ran the Variety Superheroes 5k, recovered a little, ate a banana and had some water, then race-walked 3 miles back to my car (at that point I had my swag bag so while I’m not the most graceful runner, running with a swag bag only makes me look that much worse). I put the bag in my car, toweled off a little, then ran up Kelly Drive to the water works and back, then 1.5 miles into Manayunk and back. Well, almost. I got to 1.37 miles down God only knows where the hell I was, and I got terrified I’d get lost so I said, “Screw it. I’ll just circle the parking lot ’til I get to 3 miles.” But given that I got lost getting to Memorial Hall and the 5k included a 10th of a mile, when I called it a day at 2.8 miles (over the 17 I’d already done), I decided we were even and headed for home. After some extensive stretching, that is. I probably wouldn’t have been functional without it.

But the rest of the afternoon I was almost sick. My body ached like I had the flu. The whole surface of my skin felt hot; I probably had some sunburn, which seemed odd considering I hadn’t exposed a whole lot of skin. (Though I did run from, technically, 6:30 to 12:30.) I couldn’t get comfortable sitting, and I definitely wasn’t happy on my feet. My hips ached, possibly akin to Ryan’s dysplasia. I napped for minutes at a time because that was the best I could get. I didn’t feel hungry. Overall I was one giant hot mess. Part of it was my fault; until 4:30 I hadn’t taken a Motrin, and that usually helps with the body aches, especially if I take it right after a run. I also hadn’t had coffee, but I really didn’t want to go on a long run and have to pee every 5 minutes.

At the last minute I had to bow out of dinner with my running group, Sunday Funday Runday. I’d been looking forward to their pre-Rock & Roll Half carb-up party for WEEKS and when the day came I knew I’d only look like a half-dead wild animal. Rather than embarrass myself and them, I let them know I wasn’t going to make it. It broke my heart, and I spent the night on my own. Watching “Tangled” kind of made up for it; Flynn Rider was adorable. I may have to make him into a future hero some day. Oh wait, Disney did that already. 😉

I barely slept last night. The plan had been to get up, get in my 3 miles, then clean up and take the boys to the soccer fundraiser breakfast, but 6:00 came and I couldn’t move. My hip was in agony, and I hadn’t gotten comfortable all night. I shuffled off to the bathroom, debated the options, then went back to bed. By then I was starting to consider putting off the 3 until tomorrow when I might feel better, but tomorrow Alex has a pasta party after school (with the soccer team) so my free time is limited. I almost skipped the breakfast, too, but Ryan wanted to go. Well, kind of; they didn’t serve bacon, so breakfast of course could only be second best, as far as he was concerned. We had a great time, though, so I’m glad we went, but I figured I’d let myself digest breakfast, and then think about going out for a run. By 11 I said, “C’mon, let’s just go do it.” Alex has a soccer tournament at 3 so again, narrow window of opportunity here.

Just got back in from it, and I’m glad I did because it taught me something. The long run is tough, and it takes a tough person to accomplish it. I’m going to run over 500 miles to train for the 26.2 mile marathon. But when you’ve been beaten to a pulp and just barely survived the last long run, the true essence of tough goes back out the next day and gets those last 3 miles in. You might not want to. You might even think you can’t, but dammit, you lace up and plug in and out you go.

To quote Eminem, “Feet fail me not…success is my only MFing option, failure’s not.”


Some pics from yesterday. It’s breathtaking how still the Schuylkill is, first thing in the morning. IMAG2844 IMAG2846 IMAG2848 IMAG2857


Look out, Philly Marathon: I’m coming for YOU next. 🙂 BTW, I PRed the 5k I ran yesterday: 34:26, with an 11:06 pace. Never ran a 11:06 pace before and it feels AWESOME. It didn’t hurt that the course was mostly flat. I did appreciate that. 🙂

Day 98: Uncle

I had 12 miles to do today. Around mile 6 I started dropping F bombs like they were a mandatory pause between words. Around mile 8 my legs said, “Screw you, bitch; we’re outtahere.” Around mile 10 I wanted to hit my head against a tree because for some reason I kept thinking I only had 10 miles to do, and when I realized I had to go 2 more, yes, please shoot me now; that would be fine.

Now I’m home, my legs are crying, my back hurts, and of all the stupid things, my feet actually feel okay. I’m starting to see the mental aspect of marathon running, when your body’s saying, “For the love of God, stop this!” but your brain is saying, “But I have 6 more miles to go! If not now, when?” It’s like staying in a bad marriage but you stay in it for…well, some reason. In both cases, self-flagellation is probably involved.

BUT on the happy side, I dropped 5 whole pounds between when I woke up this morning—and had breakfast and a cup of coffee—and when I came back from the run. Naturally, as I tried to lie down and stop sweating, my mind strayed over to, “Hey, if I lost 5 pounds on 12 miles, I’ll lose at least 10 pounds on 26, right?” Really, I am dropping some serious weight (AT LAST!) and it feels good. My friend Karen told me to come raid her closet but in another month, I could very well be down to a size 10. And in another month I’ll still have 2 more months of training to go, and then the 20 mile practice runs will start.

Oh please, just shoot me now?

But also on the happy side, had this been a half marathon, I would’ve PR’d. I did some hellacious hills. I’ve taken to calling the hill that leads to the Hay Barn “Depression Hill.” I had to do it twice and almost did it a third time—until I realized the flaw in my math, and that going that way a third time still would be put me 3 miles from 12—but the idea of climbing that bastard one more time? Oh hell no. Something about beating myself up that hill brings out some very dark and dangerous thoughts in my head. The kind of thoughts even therapists shy away from addressing. Had I done that loop 3 times, I could’ve knocked out 6 miles, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. Turned out to be a good thing, though, because I did the compost loop by the EN complex instead and realized where I can get water.

The heel-to-toe stride has made a ridiculous amount of difference. My feet can handle the distances and my knee didn’t go on strike. I get a much better push off a heel strike, and at one point up Depression Hill, I found a burst of speed and went for it. Not on the second trip; that was where my mind was edging into Hannibal Lecter territory, and I didn’t dare go the third time.

So today I did 12. Next week, 14; likely at Kelly Drive, up to the Art Museum, back to Falls Bridge, and then up to Manayunk and back for the balance. The week after, 10, which will feel like a vacation. Then the REAL fun begins.

After the run, I took a shower and then laid on the bed, willing myself to stop sweating. For a while I looked up at the curtain rod over the window by the bed. I’ve hung my race medals there, and looking at them always makes me feel better. Each one represents something I did that I wasn’t sure I could do. The last one on the rack right now is the Broad Street medal, but come November I want to hang two new medals: my Philly Marathon medal and my OAR team medal. I really want those, so that’s why I’m doing this. It’s not the having something that they really represent. It’s the earning.