My “nine-eleven”

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 43/52 recap

5 hills – 5 with 10 Strides – 20 EZ

My regular 5 mile route, when I am not hitting up Struble Road for hills like I did this week, goes right by the house of a local bus driver. His morning driving schedule includes some of the buses I take into work. This past week I rode his bus and he mentioned that he has seen me running by some early mornings. I affirmed that my schedule was getting more intense and my 20 miler would take me by his place. I said that I would have about 5 miles to go as I passed his house.

He chit-chatted about a bunch of other things on our ride so what he said to me as I disembarked was something that took me a while to figure out what he meant. He waved and said, “Good luck with your nine-eleven.” I nodded and probably looked confused as I got off the bus. It was nearly September and I racked my brain to think what I was doing on that date. Or was he racially profiling the younger Asian man who got off with me? The young fellow was looking for a store near where I live and I had told him I would show him where it was. Why would I need luck with that? Did the driver feel that everyone without lily-white skin was some kind of terrorist threat? No, he said it in a genuine clear way like he was really wishing my luck… on my 20 mile run – DUH! Nine plus eleven is twenty. I swear, I had never heard it called that before.

My past handful of long runs have not gone all that well with the exception of last week’s 10 miler. I had been ending up dizzy after them and was doing my best to get my electrolytes and fueling strategies down. My feet hand been really sore and I was dealing with bruised toenails and blisters. I realized I had built up so much mileage on all of my shoes and I needed to purchase new ones and weed the dead pairs out as fast as I could. All of these challenges had me wondering if seeing the marathon through was a good idea. Having a 20 miler coming up did sort of feel like an immanent attack; I was dreading my “nine-eleven.”

I slept poorly and the morning of my 20 miler morning started quite early because I wanted to beat the heat. Thankfully it was a very pleasant morning and I saw a catbird flitting from tree to tree in the pre-dawn light. Just as I was about 2 miles into my run, probably when I started to break a sweat, I felt my bare upper arms brushing the sides of my body. I realized I had applied anti-chafing stick to everywhere BUT my upper arms, the one place that chafes without fail on runs over 10 miles.chapstick

The memory of how much a chafe like that stings and takes so long to heal caused me to let out a stream of whispered swears. Because I had zig-zagged past my house on the first mile, I knew Jim was already gone to set out my hydration caches (I LOVE THIS MAN). There was no reason he would have left the door unlocked so even trying to hold my arms away from my body for the rest of the 14 miles until I went back past my house to get some Vaseline would be unacceptable. It wasn’t a real emergency but I was pretty upset.

I know I probably slowed my pace even more as I thought about what I could do. I had always thought that my dear Green Tea Mint Chapstick (whole story dedicated to it here) was a magical salve and had toyed with thinking of it as an emergency anti-chafe. Well, here was its chance to prove it.

The Green Tea Mint Chapstick I carried in the back zipper section of my skirt had already been accidentally left in a skirt, laundered and (yes indeed) sent through the drier. It did solidify but was kind of off center so it made it easy to chip off a hunk to squish between my fingers then smear on the inside of my upper arms. I hoped that might avert the crisis.

Temps stayed low and I enjoyed the sunrise as I ran the bike path to Boalsburg and back. I re-applied my Green Tea Mint Chapstick anti-chafe every time I needed it on my lips, about every for miles after I refueled. Regarding refueling, one of the things that had kept me from sleeping soundly was worrying about fully committing to a new fuel, Generation UCAN ®. My coach, Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy, has had great luck with Generation UCAN ® and I really liked the results I had on my 10 miler the week before. Twice that distance with new fuel is a whole other level of commitment.

I carried a few back-up gels in case I started to feel like the UCAN wasn’t settling right with me or I needed some kind of boost but I never even thought of using one. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t make me any faster and the final miles were hard but it fueled me in an even and steady manner without the up and down energy curves or mild stomach upset I had with Hammer Perpetuem. I am very pleased with Generation UCAN.0830140914-00

I did get slow and tired on my final miles. My feet, although a little sore and beat up, were much better with “new” shoes. I had worn them for about 3 runs prior to log a total of 17 miles on them. It was crazy more than doubling the mileage on them in one run. No blisters and my knee-joint doesn’t seem to be swelling the way it does when my shoes are dead. I can’t ask for much more than that after 20 miles.

So, yeah, I am a lot slower than I was a couple of years ago. My stride is a little truncated and I go through shoes more quickly but I have built back really well with my SI joint and lower back arthritis. I am no longer dreading my training nor the NYC Marathon. It will all be a lot of work but not the kind of end-of-the-world scenario that I was spinning it into. My 20 miler was but a stepping stone, not the nine-eleven I had worried it might be.

Oh! As for my upper arms, the Green Tea Mint Chapstick worked! Jim met me at mile 18 as he will on the NYC Marathon course and I begged some emergency Vaseline but I had no chafe at all. I know the race course will have first aid tents every mile after mile 3 but this was a great fix for this demi-emergency. photo

Getting Busy

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 42/52 recap

5 EZ – 5 EZ – 10 EZ

Back to school also means back to work for me. With just 10 weeks left of training for the NYC Marathon, I have little spare time.

Things are going ok. I have tiny things that have been issues but it is all a balance so far. It was nice to have my Outlaw, Amy, visit for a week. All this means I haven’t had time to update this running blog.

Summer has been cool but a few warmer days are sneaking into the area. We found some photos of us in the Hellbander Half Marathon on the race page so I will share those below.

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Hellbender Half Marathon

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 41/52 recap

6.6 EZ – 4 strides – 13.1 race 2:16:47

Congratulations to Jimmy-the-Eye for setting a PR at the Hellbender Half Marathon! I did an audio recording, interviewing Jim and reviewing the race. Check out this link on Run Pennsyltucky that leads to the podcast style race review.

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Free at Last

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 40/52 recap

5.3 EZ – 6.7 EZ – 8.2 EZ 1:24:06

When I run and cross train on a long bike ride, it can free my mind to think of anything or nothing at all. Here is an example of the free association of thoughts that flowed on a recent run.

Free at last. Takin’ my time but I don’t know where. Free to take any route or any pace I like today.

No dog poop, no dog poop, no dog poop, clear! I never know what I am going to run into on these blind curves.

Ha, that lady has her matching gray schnauzers in little rain coats today. I am glad I am not made of spun sugar, I can run in the rain. Ooo! I wonder if we will go to Knoebel’s after the race and I can get some cotton candy! I haven’t had any for a couple of years.

Warming up just as it is starting to rain harder. *cough-a-cough* I always clear my throat on a run with that same rhythm, odd. *cough-a-cough* Then it gets me thinking that song from Aladdin, *cough-a-cough* wah wah, *cough-a-cough* wah wah, You ain’t never had a friend like me. Awwwww, Robin Williams just died. I don’t want to think about that unless I dedicate this run to his spirit. He really was an avid biker though so I will save that for my next bike ride.

I remember an indoor track workout that I dedicated to Pete Seeger earlier this year. I pounded out those laps thinking If I had a Hammer. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this la-and. I hammer out danger, I’d hammer out a warning, I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters. That is a really good tempo for running.

A wheel bug as a Fed Ex delivery. Not funny.

A wheel bug as a Fed Ex delivery. Not funny.

I am feeling pretty good today and the rain let up again. I am lucky, no sound of thunder yet and I am over a third into my run. That thought will keep me moving. That and wheel bugs, oh holy terror. If I had wheel bugs chasing me I would run like mad. I don’t know how that one got on me. I got it from Poe Valley or just our yard and I am glad it didn’t sting me when I knocked it out of my hair in the bedroom.

Rain keeps the small annoying bugs away even when I run more slowly they aren’t bothering me out here today. No bikers commuting today either. That was a great bike ride out to Poe on Friday and the little swim I took in the lake was lovely.

Too bad I fogged up my purple watch – what HAPPENED to that watch!? I set it out in the sun Saturday and it seemed to have un-fogged. Then Sunday it fogged again and I put it out exactly the same way, on that small table in the yard. Monday I woke to realize that I never brought it in nor checked on it. THEN I remembered it hadn’t been on the little table in the yard when I moved it to set up a spot for my parents to sit on Sunday afternoon! After raking then mowing the lawn it still didn’t turn up and that drives me crazy.

There’s that guy and his huge standard-bred poodle, off lead as usual.
“Coco, Coco, COCO, come boy. No! COCO COME!”
I have no words for him this time, not even a good morning. I wish he would learn that his dog just doesn’t listen and I have no time to pet his dog. He was wearing a raincoat but the dog wasn’t. Hm, what does that mean? No idea.

Man, I am in a groove today. I could really kick harder but am going to keep it easy as per my training. I will save my itchy legs for the race on Sunday. Not that I am running as fast as I used to but I am feeling pretty good, miles are actually clipping away and I am not stressing about anything. Turn around point and downhill.

I wore these sunglasses to keep the rain out of my eyes but they are fogging up. I wonder if my Mom still has that anti-fog stuff for glasses. I should have used it on the inside of my purple watch, grrrrr. I guess I will just put them up on the brim of my ball cap.

There’s that guy and Coco, coming back.
“Coco come.”
“Have a good one,” I say. If I had a nickel for every time someone had to call their dog for chasing me I could use it for therapy to cure me of me fear of dogs. HA! Coco, Bo, Deanna and all the nameless dogs whose owners tell me, “She won’t bother you.” If the dog has already forced me off the paved way, it has bothered me.

Reminds me of a woman I knew who claimed her dog got agitated and barked a lot when runners would go by because, “She can’t understand why the they won’t stop and play with her.” or was it, “say hello to her.” So, it’s the runner’s fault her dog was agitated, not hers for neglecting to teach the dog. I suppose if a skunk, porcupine, snake or bear didn’t stop and be nice to her dog it would be their fault too. I don’t know why I would think this woman would consider teaching her dog not to chase or bark at runners. She is the same woman who has had her deceased pet cat in her freezer for over a decade because she can’t bare to part with him. She also has had the cat’s DNA collected and saved in some other fashion with the hopes of cloning her soul-mate.

Gosh, last thing I knew her boyfriend also had his pet ferret in his freezer! HELLO PEOPLE WITH PETS IN YOUR FREEZERS – IT IS SUMMER NOW! Set aside a time before the end of August and bury your pet’s remains and free up freezer space! Make it a special time to commemorate what a great pet they were and bury their remains; they won’t be needing that body anymore and neither will you.

I am gonna blast up this hill today! There is that cute mailbox with those dog portraits painted on it – “Mookie” and “Artie”. It has been painted that way for maybe 20 years and I haven’t seen either of the dogs in well over 5 years so they have probably passed on by now. I wonder if they would want me to paint a halo (or lil devil horns) on them the way I added them to my painting of Mooch? I bet they don’t have those dogs in their freezer.

Washing Pepper, probably his last summer with us.

Washing Pepper, probably his last summer with us.

You know, even in the dead of winter, we have always found a way to bury our pets. When I was 18 or 19, our dog Pepper died. He had been with our family since I was 6 and was very dear to us. It was a very glum day in late winter and Dad took an ax to the perma-frost layer in our back yard to dig his grave. I can remember hearing the pounding of the tool hitting the frozen ground, almost feeling it shake the floor as I sat in the house and cried. It was like a slow drum beat, a dirge for Pepper.

Pepper’s death hit us all hard. As hard as I just ran that hill, yeah and almost home. I didn’t realize the memory of it stayed even with my Dad. That was until this past winter when he was battling with so much, going from hospital to rehab, rehab to hospital, not returning to his own home for months. In the midst of it, when he was feeling pretty much at his lowest, he quietly said, “I wonder what Pepper is thinking.”

Not sure what he was getting at, I turned it back Dad by asking, “What do you think Pepper is thinking?” Then he said to me the words I remember him saying as he tossed Pepper’s leash into the grave before covering our dog’s body with the cold earth, “Free at last.”

Three Months to Go

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 39/52 recap

5 EZ – 5 EZ – 10 paced 1:44:16

Jim_13Jim is so ready to rock his second ever half-marathon in a couple of weeks at the Hellbender Half Marathon. It was late 2012 when he ran his first Nittany Valley Half. His training that lead up to is was fine but allowed no step down weeks until the week prior to the race. Therefore, just 3 weeks prior to his race he was running his first 12-miler. This season he has run multiple 12-milers, a few 13-milers and peaked out a couple weeks ago with his first 14-miler. As his chalked finish line in the photo says, “Begin Taper.” Jim is going to be ready to race and recover so much better this year.

I really can’t say that I am faster or stronger for my marathon this time around but I think I am better prepared over all. It is easy for me to get caught up in the immediacy of my training and forget how far I have come since last November. I couldn’t walk a block without grabbing my lower back in pain, I left my volunteering position at the ING NYC Marathon expo because standing in one place for 3 hours without moving was killing me and riding in a vehicle caused my lower back to creak and ping with pain in my SI joint.

This time around I am coming back from dealing with moderate arthritis when in 2012 I was not. I am a completely different person running a completely different race this year. In 2012 each time I reached a new distance milestone it was a huge victory, a big deal reaching uncharted territories. This year I have a hard time not comparing myself to the times I reached those distances before. I am not too terribly far off but falling short feels like a defeat even though I am training differently, on different courses with a different set of challenges.

The 18-miler last week was tough; don’t let my smiling face in that kiddy pool fool you. I ran what I call my “NYC Marathon Training Course” that dishes out a solid incline at 15-16 miles just the way I will be hitting the Queensborough Bridge in 3 months. I ran the whole route very slowly because I pulled my calf on those same hills mid-June and have been healing from that ever since. I took the hills slowly and carefully, using my upper leg more on the uphills. This got me through the 18 miles but caused a slight groin muscle strain that I mostly recovered from this week.

A couple years ago, my first 18 miler was such a big deal that family road bikes along side of me cheering me most of the way. On a lot of my longs runs in 2012, I begged Jim to ride along with me and distract me with odd stories that were in the news. I asked that he put a treat in my half marathon caches, have a change of shirt, towel, back up sun glasses and an emergency kit containing things like ibuprofen and Vaseline.

This year I wouldn’t call my longer runs (~14 plus miles) mundane but they aren’t huge unknowns for me. They are hard, maybe harder than ever, and that might be partially because I am digging deep and relying more on just myself to get me through them. Last week, I really wanted to run the early miles a lot faster. Part of me wanted to get 18 miles over with as quickly as possible but knew I had to be careful about re-injury and kept a very slow pace and relaxed attitude the whole way. Hour upon hour running alone with myself can be demanding, soothing, grueling, empowering, nauseating, boring, amazing and transcending.

In three months I will certainly be towing the line on Staten Island for the NYC Marathon. I have selected the 7:00AM ride on the Staten Island ferry as my transportation to the start and chosen to forgo checking any baggage before the race starts. I have found some second hand warm up clothes that I will leave for charity at the start line or discard as I warm up during the first few miles of the race. My current training is solid thanks to the guidance of my coach Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy. I am determined to continue put in the work and deal with the challenges that come up. The next three months leading to the NYC Marathon should be exciting and I am ready for what they bring.

Pre-marathon Summer

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 37/52 recap

5.3 ez – 4.9 hills – 10 miles

This post is quite delayed because of the wonderful visit we had with Arron for a couple of weeks. It was great supporting Jim on his 14 miler last weekend and I ran a very nice 10 miles the next day. I set a personal course record for my local 10 mile route!

bking2A lot is coming together for me. My cross training and core work as well as PT has been going well. I have made reservations to take a Megabus to NYC the end of October and got the tickets for $1. I was also able to reserve a spot on what they call Marathon in a Motorcoach that will drive the marathon route. I scheduled it just before the expo opens at the Javits center so when I return I can pick up my race packet, bib, any light shopping, hug Bart Yasso and then I can chill until race day.

I do have to say that it has been just a hair frustrating balancing all of the other fun stuff that I like to do and keep up with my training. I haven’t been able to go letterboxing, hiking or any long trips. biking

What was nice was Arron accompanying me on my cross training days when I had to bike for a couple of hours. One location was our family’s favorite picnic spot that is 18 miles from our home. I never would have dreamed that I could bike there but, with Arron’s encouragement, we set out on a perfect day and got there in under 3 hours. Mom, Dad and Jim met us with picnic foods and I swear it was the best time we ever spent there.

It is a hard balance to train hard and still make time for the other priorities. I am making sacrifices (no mojitos, sangria, early bed times) and hope it all pays off in November.