October 31, 2010


I just did something that I may regret.  Or maybe not.  We'll know in a couple weeks.  I signed up for the Pensacola Marathon.  I couldn't help it.  2 reasons why I signed up:

1.  I've been thinking about it for a while.  Why?  Because the California International Marathon is 2 days (48 hours!) too late for me to become a marathon maniac.  And I want wanna be one SO BAD!  I probably wouldn't have cared if it hadn't been a mere 48 hours.  But missing by such a small margin makes me whiny.  (Cue Veruca Salt's shrill cry: "I want an Oompa Loompa now!")

2.  And since it was on my mind, I happened to check the webpage this morning to see when the price increased and saw that... WHAT!?!?  It will cost $10 more tomorrow!  Ahh!  The poor student in me couldn't let the price increase $10!!!  (Despite the fact that not doing the marathon, and simply doing my runs per usual would be free... but that's just getting picky with details.)

Oh!  And the other bonus:  Pensacola is the same day as the Po-Boy Preservation Festival, which takes place a couple blocks from my house.  So, yes.  I will be taking full advantage of the fact I'll have burned a ga-zillion calories in order to justify pigging out when I get back to NOLA.

So, basically I was forced into it.  It wasn't my fault.  And now I'll be forced into more self-induced poverty.  (No, really... I LOVE ramen noodles!)  The trick will be that I want to PR at CIM 3 weeks later.  I think it will be ok, since the weekend of Pensacola I was supposed to do a 10 mile pace run and a 20 mile LSD.  I guess I'll turn that into a marathon.  Maybe try to run the first 18-20 slow and then pick it up to marathon pace for the end?

Anyone have suggestions?  Yes, I know this may have been a less than stellar move.  So please... refrain from telling me I'm an idiot unless you simultaneously make me laugh.

Jazz Half Marathon Recap

My goals for the Jazz Half:
1.  Use the half as part of a 20 mile long run
2.  Have fun
3.  Get some great pictures
Mission accomplished on all accounts.

The day started off when I met a friend around 5:30 so we could run downtown to the start, about 5.5 miles away.  I knew I wouldn't want to keep going for another 7 after the race, so I figured this would be the best way to squeeze in the extra miles.  Not surprisingly, the roads were pretty empty at this hour but the miles passed quickly as we made our way in the darkness.

Team "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"
with obligatory side ponytails all around. 
We got to the start with a lot of time to spare so I headed down the road to knock out the last 1.5 miles before the race.  As usual, there were runners arriving from all directions so I got first glimpse at some of the costumes.  There were plenty of superheroes, Saints fans (LOTS of black & gold tutus), various animals, zombies... perhaps my favorite was a guy dripping in LSU attire.  Not because I love LSU, but because the guy had on a HUGE cowboy hat, yellow fringe around his waist & ankles, running rights & a purple lei around his waist.

There were also some scary Halloween hazards on the course.  First, 2 miles in we passed the Boogie Monster.  And by "boogie" I mean he was snot-rocketing into the crowd of runners.  Please, people!  I recognize that snot-rockets are an expected hazard, but move to where you're not going to slime anyone!

Then, arriving on St. Charles we started our trek through the deadly pothole passage.  Hell... who am I kidding?  All of New Orleans is a pothole obstacle course.  But right after Lee Circle is particularly bad.  We passed our first casualty around mile 3-4 who looked like she'd recently face planted, with blood gushing from her nose, elbows and knees.  Ouch!  After making sure she was ok, we continued on our journey.

On our way back from Audubon Park we passed State Street - known for its Halloween zeal - and stopped for pictures.  We posed in front of one particular house (above right) that has at least 20 skeletons in their front yard.  We're standing next to "Deadly Glare."  There's also "the Scream," a skeleton doing a cart-wheel & hula-hoop, "dead tired"... all pretty bad puns but entertaining nonetheless.

Then, less than a mile from the finish line we passed my favorite "costume."  Some guy was standing on a rock  (presumably brought from home?) at Lee Circle.  Dressed as Jesus.  Why?  Who knows.  This is New Orleans.  He probably does this everyday and simply relocated for the race.  I almost didn't stop for the picture - we were almost at the finish line after all - but just as we were leaving the circle I knew I would regret not having his picture.  So here he is, "Jazz Half Jesus" in his full glory standing in front of a line of port-a-potties.  (We shouted his name to get his attention and he gave us his best pose):
"Jazz Half Jesus"

Once we arrived at the finish line it was time for food.  Any NOLA events always have good food so we downed a couple cups of water and then headed over for the real goods.  Among the offering were Jambalaya, Kung Pao Chicken, Mich Ultra & chocolate fudgesicles.  Mmmm.  Add a bunch of bands, rocking out on stage, a ga-zillion runners & spectators and you've got yourself a party.

Overall, a great race.  My only complaint is that the price is a bit steep ($60) for a half marathon - I prefer running marathons for less.  But it's the only New Orleans race around Halloween so, all in all, it's pretty entertaining.

October 29, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Well, here's the "before" picture.  Since I'm squeezing in some miles before the race starts tomorrow, I didn't want to have to take a picture at the crack of dawn.  And once I get to the starting line, the costume might not look so bright and shiny.

I also managed to procure some bright green leg warmers which are super warm!  Who knew?!?!  Once I tried them on I realized I might not be able to wear them tomorrow.  It's cooled down here in NOLA but not that much.  I did wear them in the picture, but the reflectors on my pants made you want to tear your eyes out a little.  (I left ya just a hint to share the love.)

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

I'm a grad student.  This means that I'm poor and love free hand outs.  This can be a challenge because not all free things are good for you so I sometimes find myself in a quandary.  Like free pizza, for example.  Free pizza means one meal I don't have to pay for.  Not with money, anyway.  All that delicious cheesy goodness unhealthy grease means I pay in other ways, perhaps, but as long as I limit it to the rare occasion I figure it's not a huge deal.

But sometimes everything works out for the best.  Yesterday Brooks' double decker bus, the Cavalcade of Curiosities, came through New Orleans to promote the Rock-N-Roll Mardi Gras Marathon.  And as often happens on these occasions, there was free stuff galore!  I got there early so there weren't a lot of other people to compete with and meant that I didn't have to wait at all.  So what did they have?

 First off, they were doing free gait analysis.  At the top of the bus, they had 2 treadmills and video cameras which would record your feet for 10 seconds as you jogged barefoot.  It was a little awkward because they set the pace just barely faster than walking so I didn't feel like I could run normally.  I ended up running on the balls of my feet (I'm normally a mid-foot striker).  He explained it wouldn't be a problem and proceeded to show me how I run and make a shoe recommendation.

Backtrack:  So, I normally wear Brooks' Adrenaline shoes.  My first running shoes were New Balance, which were fine but I wasn't in love with them.  A running friend of mine (the aforementioned "Coach") told me that she wears Brooks and loves them so I gave them a shot.  I'm now on my 3rd pair of Adrenalines and recently found an amazing deal on some Adrenaline 9s that a store was clearing out (they're now making 11s).  I bought a couple pairs as an early Christmas present to myself.  (It's sad how excited I was about the deal.  They were only $50!  Woot!)

Anyway, back to yesterday.  I really wanted to hear what they had to say because I'd never had anyone officially "recommend" the Adrenalines.  Honestly, I think I first ended up wearing them because they were on sale.  (Hey, I'm poor.)  Turns out, they're exactly what Brooks recommends based on my stride!  Nice.  I also was pleased to learn that I don't over-pronate as much as I'd thought.  Using their recording they showed me that I pronate a little under 5 degrees.  Not bad at all.  He said that some of the problems I had in the past with less support (IT band, piriformis syndrome) may have been due to my high arch needing a little more support.  Makes sense.

I also asked about lighter weight racing shoes and got good and bad news:  They recommend staying with shoes that have more support when you're running marathons.  I kinda thought they'd say that but was interested in trying something new.  The good news is that the Adrenaline 9 (which I have a couple of now) is 11 oz and the newer versions are both more than 1.5 ounces lighter.  So when I'm looking for my next discount, it'll likely feel like I'm wearing super lightweight shoes.  I guess that works.

What else was there?  The local running store co-sponsoring the event - Varsity Sports - had a table, along with Team-in Training, American Cancer Society DetermiNation, and the director for the Rock-N-Roll Mardi Gras Marathon was there!  I chatted it up with the race director for a while and put in my 2 cents about the 2010 race course (their first year running the event).  Everyone was super friendly and I managed to walk away with 2 Brooks bandanas, a Rock-N-Roll koozie and 2 reusable bags.  I can't complain.

In case you're feeling left out, Brooks is also doing daily prizes on their webpage through December.  I haven't won anything yet, but not for lack of trying.  Also, their bus is traveling the country.  Today it's in Baton Rouge, LA but it might be near you in the coming weeks.  You can find where it's headed next on the Brooks webpage.

Now, if only I could get free body glide somewhere I'd be golden.  Right now mine is looking pretty shabby.

Do you know of any free handouts or have you gotten a good deal recently?

October 28, 2010

Costumes, anyone?

In case you haven't noticed the grocery store aisles dripping in candy corn, I'll remind you that Sunday is Halloween.  A day once best known as All Hallows Eve (the night before All Saints Day), now it's best known for bite sized candy bars and weight gain.  So, what's a runner to do?

Run in costume!  Saturday (Oct 30) is the 2nd annual Jazz Half Marathon here in New Orleans and, here in NOLA, any excuse is a good excuse to dress in costume.  A couple of my friends and I decided we'd all dress in 80s attire.  Perhaps not the most amazingly creative, but it's hard to find something that's both easily recognizable and won't cause severe pain when wearing it to run 13.1 miles.  (Um, and I'm actually turning the half into my 20 mile long run.)

Mercury (Hard to see,
but there are wings on
my heels.)
Last year, we ran into the problem of having great costumes which weren't easily recognizable.  (And by we, I mean me.)  My running partner dressed as Bam-Bam from the Flintstones.  Everyone at least knew that she was a cavewoman.  I, on the other hand, dressed as Mercury/Hermes.  (You know, the Greek/Roman god with wings on his heels?)  One guy cheered something like, "Go, greek... uh... goddess!"  Everyone else just cheered for Bam-Bam and I pretended that they meant me.  Not gonna happen again, so 80s it is.

Plus, the added bonus is that 80s is cheap and easy.  (Yes, I will be cheap and easy for Halloween.  And, no, you're not allowed to respond with, "but you're supposed to wear a costume.")  I picked up some brightly colored, over-sized t-shirts at Kmart for 99 cents, I'm borrowing a pair of bright pink leg warmers (a must!) and I'll simply throw on some running capris.  I do have some awesome, HUGE earrings for after the race, but running 20 miles with them will likely make me homicidal.  (It's all fun and games until you stab fellow runners with your accessories.)  The one thing I'm missing is a crimper, but we're working on that.

In case you're looking for some running costume ideas, there's an amazing flickr pool of runners in costumes.  Here are some of my favorites:

Ever raced in costume?  What did you wear?

October 26, 2010

Do You Believe in Magic?

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera so I have to
settle on stealing borrowing someone else's picture.
One of my favorite phenomenons occurred this morning on my run and again this afternoon when biking over to the gym:  It rained while the sun was out.  I love that.  Perfect weather for rainbows.  I wasn't lucky enough to catch sight of one, but I hope someone did.  There's something magical about sunlight flashing through raindrops.  Kinda makes you want to dance.

October 24, 2010

Wall? What Wall?

Today NPR had an interesting article about avoiding the infamous "Wall."  (You can find the original article here.)  The jist of it is that if you use your heart rate at rest and during exercise (to estimate VO2 max) combined with your weight in order to estimate your "fastest theoretical marathon time".  In order to reach that pace, you would need to train properly, carb load and have "grit."

What did I think about the article?  My first thought was "duh."   Many of us could probably run much faster under ideal circumstances.  If we push ourselves harder, have proper training and eat well we could all, likely, shave a couple (or many) minutes off our current PRs.  And articles like this can help you go that extra mile.  If makes you wonder how much better you could do if you made those important changes.  However, those are a lot of ifs and most of us have many other factors in our lives demanding our time and attention.  Sure, I could probably run 30 minutes faster if training were the focus of my days.  I must admit, I do like a challenge.  But I also like enjoying the races I do, and I love my work.  I'm no where near wanting to dedicate myself solely to training.

What I take from the article is that we can all improve and there are many ways to do so.  What are you doing achieve your next PR?

October 23, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

Time to make it hurt.  Yesterday I had the day off so I did some speed work for the first time in months.  The late summer and fall included some of my most time consuming rotations, studying for Step 2 exams (national medical exams), applying for residencies, and training for my past 2 marathons.  I try to be as efficient as possible, but efficiency isn't always enough and there are often things you have to cut out.  (I do my best to make sure sleep isn't one of those things.)  While I continued to do Fartleks, pace runs and tempos here and there, I cut out speedwork and in the end I think that hurt me on the Towpath marathon.

So, now I'm back in the saddle and I started out with 7 x 800, jogging 400s in between.  I also made sure to warm-up and cooldown.  A lot of people like to skip those components (I'm certainly guilty of that sometimes) but when doing speedwork it's particularly important to warm-up in order to avoid injury.  I used the popular strategy of using your desired marathon time to determine my goal for the 800s.  The idea is that if you want to run a 3 hr marathon, you should run your 800s in 3:00 minutes.  (Or 4 minutes 45 seconds for a 4:45 marathon, etc...)

I had a goal in mind, but I seemed to keep finishing 10 seconds too fast despite many attempts to slow down.  Once I was halfway through the runs, I figured I was feeling good so I might as well keep up the pace.  And by feeling good I mean that my lungs and legs were burning and felt a little nauseous after each lap but I knew I could continue the pace.  The last lap required a little internal yelling at myself but I did it.

Yup.  That's the track I where I was running.
One thing that helped get me through it?  I ended up with an accidental audience.  I hadn't thought about the fact that they would be setting up for Voodoo fest at City Park, and the track was surrounded by at least 40 guys setting up stages, structures, fencing, etc...  As is often the case in New Orleans they weren't working continuously, so they frequently stopped to watch the runners on the track for entertainment.  There were only a couple of us, and I was the only woman, so I kept hearing them talking about me as I would run by.  If it had just been me and the couple of older and overweight guys at the track, I might have let the pace slip a little.  Compared to them I looked like a speed demon.  But now there were people watching and that kicked my competitiveness into overdrive.  Thanks to them, I made sure the last lap hurt.

I will be glad, come December, that I'm back to speedwork.  In the meantime, I remind myself that it could be worse.  At least the heat index isn't 115 anymore.

October 20, 2010


The good news?  I found a possible swim coach.  The bad news?  This may hurt.

A fellow classmate of mine (with way more experience with both swimming & triathlons) helped me out today and watch me swim.  While she said that I'm starting off as a relatively good swimmer (yay!) I apparently have many ways I can improve.  On my own, I didn't really have any idea where to start, so someone who can give me direction is much appreciated.

Today we started off with a bunch of drills.  For some drill ideas, you can find ideas and proper technique in "Be Iron Fit" by Don Fink, which I've found helpful so far.  Each drill I did today breaks down the various movements you use while swimming to help you focus on each aspect of the motion.  At the end of the drills, you put it all together and focus on good overall technique.  Unfortunately, at this early stage of training, by the end of drills my technique tends to get sloppy because I'm tired.  But I'm working on it.  :)  Sometimes it feels good to hurt a little bit.

October 18, 2010

Gravity: 1 Me: 0

Today was my bonus day off.  My current boss (it's always changing in med school) had a ton of meetings today, so she had pity on me and gave me a long weekend.  Which is awesome mostly because I needed the extra free time to do all the things I haven't done over the last month.  Unfortunately, I still didn't get to my laundry.  Clean clothes are over-rated anyway.  But I did get to enjoy girls' night last night and splurge on pizza, wine and cookies.  So much for healthy eating.

So today I hopped back on the saddle and got in some quality workouts after running non-stop errands all morning.  Yesterday I'd been kinda sore and took it easy, so I was looking forward to a good workout today.  And as I rushed to head over to the gym, I slipped and took a tumble down the stairs.  Apparently I'm a little gravity impaired.  No major injuries (except the one to my ego) and no bruises yet, but my left ankle is definitely feeling a little sore.  And as an added bonus, I biked to the gym only to realize that I'd left my bike lock at home.  Some days you just can't win.

At least I got an extra 2 miles in?

October 16, 2010

Middendorf's Manchac 10 Mile Race

The goal today was to run conservatively and continue my recovery so that I can qualify for Boston in December.  I guess I kinda forgot about the conservative part.

But we'll get there.  Let's start at the beginning.  Yesterday I'd had a long day.  I knew I had a lot of running around to do so I shot an email to someone who'd offered rides to today's race so I wouldn't forget.  Over the course of the day work ran late, I did 10 miles of biking (I've been commuting to school & work) and had a beer over lunch.  Not the ideal pre-race plan, but life happens.  When the afternoon rolled around I was feeling overtired, dehydrated and I had a headache.  Frankly, I was grouchy.  I seriously thought about just skipping the race, but when I got home I had an email saying it wouldn't be a problem for me to hitch a ride.  I figured I might as well go since I already paid for it and I have a ride.

Cut to this morning.  I woke up feeling like I could have slept another 10 hours, but I guess 8 will have to do. Breakfast was a bagel with peanut butter and a cup of coffee.  Luckily my ride lives 3 blocks away so I walked over and we hit the road.  The long drive helped the coffee kick in and I started waking up.  I mentioned how I was trying to stay slow today.  At most I'd run marathon pace.  Maybe the first couple miles at MP+20 to start it off.  I figured saying it out loud would help me stick to the plan.  (I tend to get overly enthusiastic at races and go out too fast.)

When we got there, I was a little disappointed to see the race started with a HUGE hill, about a quarter mile up and a quarter mile down.  Since it's an out and back course, that means it would finish on a hill.  (To get an idea, here's an old picture from the finish line.)  Awesome.  In case you've never been to New Orleans, it's like a pancake.  Running here makes running in Kansas into a hill work-out.  (Seriouly.  I did a 5 mile run in Kansas City this summer and the hills had me panting.) The elevation here is -6.5 to 20 ft.  The 20 feet is probably the levees - our only "hills".  It's turned me into a hill-hater, which is something I've got to get over.

Yet when we bolted across the starting line, I was feeling good.  I tried to take it easy heading over the bridge but I saw I was at an 8:30 pace.  As I kept going I settled into an 8:00 pace but was feeling pretty good.  I figured I'd drop the pace down if anything started hurting.

As we approached the turn-around I decided to count how many women were ahead.  I wasn't counting that carefully until I realized that I think there were only 15 women in front of me!  15th woman and feeling pretty good.  Once I realized that I was doomed.  (Doomed in a my-competitiveness-goes-into-overdrive type of way.)  Now there was no slowing down.  At this point I already picked out the woman before me who looked like another 5 miles would be a fight.  So I could definitely be 14.  At least.

Damn.  So much for recovery.  The next 5 miles I spent slowly catching up to woman #14 (my sole attempt at being "conservative"), who'd started running with #13.  Great - 2 easy passes.  I made a point to not blow it, so I took a couple miles to catch up and passed them around mile 8.  Since our paces were close, one of them stayed with me and I couldn't shake her.  As we arrived at the base of the hill there was 0.8 miles to go.  At this point my legs were starting to burn.  I've been biking and swimming all this week and I was thinking maybe that wasn't a great idea.  We head up the hill and I pass a woman right away who's hurting.  She won't catch up - another one down.

I was feeling great for half of the uphill and then I start to want to die.  I actually walked for about 5 seconds before my brain kicked in and said "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?!"  Ahh!  The woman who'd tagged along passed me (DOH!) and then I was all out.  We crested the bridge and I started booking it, letting gravity be my friend.  Most runners were relatively spread out, but I managed to pass one guy on the downhill before crossing the finish line.

Phew.  I definitely didn't have a lot left at the end, but I felt pretty good.  My legs are tired, but not sore.  I downed a ton of water and gatorade, cheered on some friends and headed over for the food.  You can't run a race hosted by a seafood restaurant and not try the fried catfish.  And a beer.  Oh, Louisiana, you may be the death of me, but after a race you can rationalize just about anything.  (Besides, it was a light beer!)

October 15, 2010

Recovery? What's that?

With a marathon less than 1 week behind me, I'm already looking forward to my next race:  Middendorf's Manchac 10 Mile Race.  It's hosted by the New Orleans Track Club and Middendorf's, a Louisiana seafood restaurant.  Food after the race features Middendorf's famous fried catfish.  Real healthy.  This is what it's like trying to run & stay healthy in New Orleans.  Most races here often feature beer at the finish line and the Mardi Gras Marathon even has a water station that offers beer around mile 6.  Seriously.

Other than the constant battle to eat healthy while experiencing New Orleans, there's the battle over what to do this weekend.  I want to race.  And I don't mean show up to the race, I meann, I want to run like I'm racing.  See what I can do.  But everyone says you should ease yourself back into speed when you've run a marathon.  And I realize that this race is much less important than my upcoming marathon in December.  I certainly don't want to sabotage myself.  But it's so hard!  Ahhh!

Ever find yourself with 2 competing desires for a race?  What did you do?

October 13, 2010

Towpath Marathon - Race Report

The morning of the race I woke up early.  And by early I mean 2 am.  It seems impossible to get good sleep the night before a race, plus I was nervous because I had an ambitious goal:  qualify for Boston.  I eventually fell back asleep, waking a couple more times before getting up at 5:30.  Ugh.

I got dressed, attached my race number, put my chip on my shoes, finalized my pace band and made breakfast: coffee, bread with peanut butter and a banana.  I don't normally eat that much, but I knew I was going to be arriving at the race 90 minutes early so there was plenty of time to digest.  The race started at the Boston mills Ski Resort, which is accessible only by a couple small 2 lane roads.  I luckily overheard that traffic is terrible the morning of the race when I was picking up my number, so I planned to get there early.  Nobody wants to be stuck in traffic worrying about whether they'll make the start.

I was feeling pretty good that morning.  It was cold, although I knew it was supposed to get hot before the race ended.  Not great, but I was trying not to think about it.  (If I finished fast enough maybe I could beat the heat?)  There were a ton of people who arrived early, so we were sitting in the dark of the ski resort lodge, stretching and talking about other races.  When they announced we should head to the start, I stopped at my car to drop off my warm up pants and sweatshirt, and double checked that I had everything I needed:  Garmin.  Armband with iPod and gels.  Sunglasses.  Check, check, check.

The race started off heading downhill on a two lane road (I took a picture of the starting line after the race which you can see on the left); plenty of room as everyone found their pace and fell into a groove.  We entered the towpath trail about a half mile into the race, and things had spread out enough that I didn't feel too crowded.  I was carefully watching my Garmin to stay on track.  I sometimes find it hard to stick to my pace with the adrenaline pumping at the start of a race.  I tried turning on my iPod for about a mile, but realized that I simply don't like listening to music during races.  (I've always had my iPod with me, but have never used it before.)

We would run South along the trail for around 9 miles before turning around and heading North.  I felt pretty comfortable keeping my pace, but I knew that it was my upper limit and it would be a challenge to stay there for 26 miles.  The first guy to pass me going the other direction passed around mile 7 (their mile 9) and I was still feeling pretty good.  There weren't many people out cheering - the trail is not easily accessible at many points, but there were water/HEED stops every mile or so and the volunteers were well organized.

By the time I hit mile 12 or 13 I was starting to doubt myself.  The mile markers were slightly off from my Garmin, so when I would hit mile 7, for example, my Garmin (which I started when I crossed the mat) would read 7.08 or 7.13.  So I was running faster than pace "just in case" and it was starting to take its toll.  I was still keeping pace ok, but those little voices, "maybe I'm going too fast" and "you'll never keep this up" started to echo.

What didn't help?  Passing the half mark, I started noting a nagging pain in my feet, knees and my right shin.  I never have foot and knee pain <knock on wood> and the shin pain I only get when I'm wearing shoes that are too old.  I'd realized 2 weeks before the marathon that my shoes reached the 500 mile mark, but 2 weeks is not enough time to transition to new shoes.  Bummer.  That wasn't going to stop me, but it certainly wasn't going to make it comfortable.

As I approached mile 16 and 17, I was starting to hurt.  I knew I could finish.  That wasn't the question.  But it became increasingly clear that I wasn't going to be able to qualify without hurting myself, either because of the shoes, the pace being too much or the increasing heat.  So I began to consider my options.  Keep pushing at the same pace and see how far I could make it.  Or back off and save my legs for another day.  I stayed at a 8:20 pace until mile 19.

And then it hit me.  It was a beautiful day, even if a bit warm for a run, and I was in a gorgeous national park. The problem?  I had barely taken a look around to enjoy the scenery.  I could keep pushing the pace until I broke down, or I could literally stop and smell the roses.

So I walked.  That moment was a mix of emotions.  Walking when I'd already stayed on pace for over 19 miles, I knew I wouldn't hit my goal, but I knew that already.  Yet I also realized that I'd been missing the point.  Trail races offer the opportunity to get out of our usual city grind and wander through nature.  They offer a breath of fresh air.  There aren't the big crowds of city events, and that's part of the point.  And I'd been plowing through the race, pushing myself, and missing everything.

After mile 19, I watched my average pace creep up second by second.  At first, I felt disappointment.  But as I started paying more attention to my fellow runners and the beauty around me, I cared less.  Save it for another day.  I started taking regular walk breaks.  Partly because I'd burned out my legs - I didn't have a choice, and partly because I was enjoying myself.

The other runners were amazing.  Everyone was cheering each other on, even when you could tell the encouragement was as much for themselves as for you.  And most managed to keep a smile on their faces, which is as it should be.  We all want to challenge ourselves, and that's a good thing.  And sometimes that extra push is painful.  But, I feel that if you can't come out of the day with a smile on your face, perhaps it wasn't worth it.

So keep smiling.  And remember:  You run because you love it.

October 10, 2010

Towpath Recap

I'll have a full report later, but things today went... good, but not as planned.  I went out a little too quick and knew by mile 19 that qualifying for Boston wasn't going to happen.  So, rather than get too down, I decided to enjoy the beautiful race.  The trees were all changing color, which I barely noticed during the first half because I was focused on my Garmin.  After mile 19, I decided that if I was going to be out there, I might as well take in the sights and enjoy myself.  So, overall, I didn't hit my goal but the day turned out well.  As for qualifying, there's always next time.

October 2, 2010

An Unlikely Story

For most of my life, running was a punishment.  In gym class, after losing a soccer game, during volleyball camp... if things weren't going well, you had to run.  No.  Fun.  Runs were something I tended to associate with a lot of pain.

But when I decided to go to medical school after 2 years in the Peace Corps, I found that stress was omnipresent and I needed some dedicated time when I couldn't study.  Time where I could organize my thoughts, enjoy the beauty of nature, and find some peace.  Though I was in relatively good shape, I ran my first race in 2008 - a 2 mile "fun run" sponsored by a bar where I used to work - and I felt like I was going to die.  I also found myself thinking that I wanted to do that again.

Glutton for punishment?  Masochistic?  Maybe, a little.  (I did go to med school, after all.)  But I also find that running offers both a peacefulness and an opportunity to push myself beyond what I thought was possible.  2 years later, I have finally started to feel comfortable calling myself a runner.  A marathoner, even.  At this point I have 4 marathons under my belt and I'm constantly looking the next challenge.  I hope you'll join me on my journey.