My One Big Goal - 700 miles


My One Big Goal - 700 miles


Running from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Savannah, Georgia

Miles Run So Far: 63.7

Miles To Go: 636.3

Friday, December 3, 2010

jazz hands

Last night I did something I have never done before: I participated in a fitness class.

Claire attends a tap-ballet class at local studio that offers various exercise classes in addition to feeding the ballerina dreams of countless four year olds. The studio offers busy moms a deal: half off the fitness class that occurs when your prima ballerina is doing the spunky monkey.

Now that winter is here and dark nights are upon us, I thought, "Why the hell not?" After getting Claire to her class (late) and signing her in, paying for December, paying the deposit for her costume for the recital in June, and watching Claire learn a few more steps to the penguin cha cha, I got to the "Combo Aerobics" class 15 minutes late.

I walk in and there's the instructor and 3 older women all doing step-aerobics. Way back in ninth grade, my mom got herself a Step and a VHS tape, and I remember trying it out a couple of times. Twenty years ago.

Apparently, I'm in a time warp. But, I've paid my 2 bucks, so I set up a step and join in.

Holy goodness! The great thing about running is that anyone can do it and few people (Phoebe from Friends aside) look ridiculous attempting to run. The same can not be said of step-aerobics. This involves the need for coordination, something that the Good Lord forgot to give me my share of on the day He created me. I struggle along, just smiling to myself at how ridiculous I look in the wall of mirrors...and then...

Jazzercize.

I didn't know people still did that! But in this class, you do four minutes of step, then four minutes of jazzercize inspired "jogging". If the Good Lord forgot to give me coordination, He certainly forgot to give me any sense of timing, rhythm, or grace. After a minute, I gave up on the cute, jazzy kicky thing the 4 post-menopausal ladies were succeeding at (and looking good, too! I decided then & there, I want to be that fit when I'm their age). I just jogged in place, giving an occasional kick when I felt I could do so without falling over.

A few times I nearly tripped over my step. Most of the minutes I was doing the exact opposite of what the other four ladies were doing, all the while rocking out to "We Are Family" and "Mama Mia".

But, I did get my heart rate up and it was a good cardio workout in the bright safety of an exercise studio. I think I found a way to keep my fitness up during the long, dark winter.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

winter wishes

It's the most wonderful time of the year - when all our greedy desires no longer have to be hidden behind polite faces, but can be blazoned in lights bright enough to reach all the way to the North Pole so that the jolly old man up there can put all those goodies on his sleigh.

My two oldest daughters have crafted their Christmas Wish List. Rachel's been working on hers for at least 2 months now, the feature desire being some fancy cell phone with a touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard. Sarah is less thoughtful, drafting her list on scraps of paper or napkins (which get lost), and then asking me, "What is it I want again?" Claire mostly summarizes her list as "Santa will bring me LOTS of presents, I'll get more than anyone. And he can bring me whatever he thinks will make me happy."

So, it is in this holiday spirit that I offer up my Greedy Desires Wish List.

1. A really cute running skirt.
I saw the one I want, a cute orange paisley creation, at the Disney Princess Half Marathon Expo last March, but didn't fork over the $40 for it since I was spending all my money on my bitty Princess Claire. I can't find that skirt online, but I did find a funky green one and sent my Mr. Claus the link.

2. YakTrax.
Last winter we were hammered with 3 blizzards in 16 days while I was trying to train for the Disney Princess Half...unable to run outside, I took to walking the cul de sac in endless circles in all my snow gear, causing Glenn to wonder about my sanity (and his for marrying me). This winter, we might not get a flake of snow, but I want to be ready with these babies to strap on to my shoes and get some miles in.

3. A fitness membership.
Another option to the YakTrax would be the ability to go to a gym and run on their treadmill, free of snow, dark, danger, ice and distracted drivers. And, I could get some strength training in too, something I haven't really been able to do for a few years.

4. My very own treadmill.
Even better, would be my own dreadmill to jump on when the weather outside is frightful. Of course, there would still be the frightful children to deal with, which I wouldn't have to do at the gym...hhhmmmm...

5. An orange iPod shuffle.
Running on a dreadmill can be quite boring, so to pass the time, I'd love a little shuffle, one that clips on to my clothes while I run. Then I can listen to some tunes or some podcasts. When I run outside, I mostly run alongside roads, and it just isn't safe to block out reality with music...but there are those few times when I'm on a long trail and a little musical distraction would be lovely.

6. A bigger home, in which to place the new treadmill.
I have a very lovely, warm, safe, happy home...but there is just no extra space for a dreadmill. Santa would need to put a set of keys and a deed in my stocking, so that I could actually set up my dreadmill and run upon it. Thank you, Santa.

7. Entry into the Boston Marathon.
That is my biggest, greedy desire: a racing bib that allows me to run through my hometown State, chug up Heartbreak Hill, and throw my arms up in victory as I trot through Copley Square on my way to the finish line.

This is a "if money were no object" kind of list, though of course money is the very object I'd need for all of them...oh well. I'd be very happy to receive #1 and enjoy the happy squeals of my children as Rachel gets her phone (not a touch screen, though), Sarah gets clothes from Hollister and Justice, and Claire has the most presents under the tree because hers are the cheapest.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

my Bunny

From a 4 year old's perspective, every game is about winning. When we play Candy Land or Go Fish or Scooby Doo Memory, I don't let Claire win every time, but I don't try that hard to win myself. If she wins she is thrilled and if I win she is, well, learning to be a gracious loser.

Which is why my races confuse Claire a bit. She knows - and loves - that I run. She'll make pictures or Cootie Bugs of runners because "mommy is a runner" (my heart expands each time she says it). On my thrice-weekly runs, I am a runner, and there is no one else out there with me, so I always win, and time means little to a 4 year old, so telling her I rocked out a 9:52 minute pace means even less.

However, Claire does love going to my races and cheering for me - she's a great cheerleader! This past weekend's race, Claire was going to be with her daddy all weekend and Claire was quite disappointed that she wasn't going to be there to yell, "Yay, Mommy!"

As soon as I picked her up on Tuesday, she asked me, "Did you win your race, Mommy?" I told her nope. "Well, did you come in second?" Nope again. "Well," she persisted, "what place did you come in?" And I told her, "I came in seven hundred and twelfth place."

And beaming at me from her car seat, my Bunny said, "Oh, Mommy, I am so proud of you! You did so well!"

That made me smile...but the thing is, Claire really means it. The next day I was on the phone with a friend who asked how I did in the race and I was describing the race, and Claire was behind me bouncing, "Tell her how well you did, Mommy, tell her what place you got!"

I am not a fast runner and I will never finish at the top of my age division, but in my Bunny's eyes I am the best - and that is the best!

at the end of the Disney Princess Half in March, me & the Bunny

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

doing it amish style



I had set 4 goals for my second (real) half marathon, the Amish Country Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon, which I ran this past Saturday. Three time goals (Good - under 2:30; Better - 2:25; Best - 2:20) and one untimed goal (since that's what Runner's World told me to do, and they are my running Gospel) which was to take walk breaks as soon as I felt the need, but to keep those breaks to under a minute (usually I run til I can't take another step, then walk for 2 minutes).

The night before my race, I had one of those anxiety dreams that often happen before an important event, like when you dream you're giving your big presentation naked. I wasn't running naked, but in the dream I kept taking bags of M&Ms from these personless hands. Just before I left the house on my way to Lancaster County, I grabbed a "fun size" M&M bag from Claire's Halloween pumpkin - it's best to listen to the running gods when they speak.

I parked my car in the Smuckers Farm field (don't know if it's that Smuckers...) and had to watch out for cow pies. I could see the starting line from my car and after standing around in the cold (35*) for ten minutes, I went back to my car for warmth and relief.

There is one important pre-race thought I'd like to share. Never stand in the port-a-potty line at the start of a race. It's pointless. The line is always ridiculously long and by the time you get into that tiny space, you are facing one of the most disgusting scenes ever viewed. Instead, I hearkened back to the car trips of my youth, and at my car I opened both doors on the driver's side, thus making a little private space for me. I peed right next to a cow pie - hey if cows can poop here, I can pee here.

I stayed in my warm car until I'd watched nearly every other entrant walk over to the starting area, then I joined them. As I bounced in the cold morning air, I remembered my M&Ms, safely stowed in my throw-it-away thrift store sweatshirt. My stomach hadn't been feeling awesome - I'd had to force down my PB toast, a feat that took me 45 minutes to complete. But as soon as I ate those bright bits of chocolaty heaven, my belly purred like a content kitty. Thank you, running gods!

After a bit of delay, the race started. I wished I'd had my camera for this race. The scenery was truly awe-inspiring. The roads wound themselves through farm fields, browned grass matted down by tractors and held together with frost. The broken ends of corn stalks stuck up in little patchwork spots in between where Amish homes welcomed and Holstein cows grazed. The sky was that sort of delicate blue shade that occurs only in the early hours of a cold morning, and the clouds were still tinged pink and purple with the escaping dawn.

The landscape was rolling, and at the top of each hill (that I conquered!! woohoo to loads of hill training!) my soul leaped at the incredible beauty that reached for miles. If there is one word I can think of to describe this race, it is peaceful. That's not normally a word used when describing a half marathon, but this one was just that. Not only the scenery contributed to that scenes of calm, but the welcoming support of dozens and dozens of Amish families added to this peace. I hadn't expected a lot of crowd support for this race (nestled in a community of 3000), but at many of the farms, parents held sleepy toddlers and young children held out their hands for high fives (yup, even the Amish give a high five!). Each of the water stops were filled with Amish volunteers, plain and beautiful.

I stayed where I expected to run - at the back of the back, my peeps. At one point in the race, four miles in, I crested a hill and looked off in the distance and could see a long, thin snake of runners weaving their way through the farms, several miles ahead of me. That might have been discouraging to some, but all I felt was a sense of coming accomplishment: I was running stronger than I'd even felt before and I knew that this was going to be my race. I don't know my mile-split times, but I hit the four mile mark at 40:06, and I maintained a 10 minute-ish pace for most of the race (mile 7 was a slow one, and mile 12...).

The sixth mile marker was at the start of the biggest of the hills on this rolling race and when I glanced at my watch I actually whooped in joy: 1:00:42! Nearly half way through the race and doing way better than my hoped for goal time. I knew that I was going to finish in 2:20...maybe even better! Tears stung my eyes as I passed several people up that hill (who over took me a few minutes later...my energy surge from my joy was short lived).

When I'd driven through the farms the day before the race on my way to packet-pickup with Claire, all she could say was, "Pee Yew Cows." When I'd told her I'd be running my race on this very road, she said, "Well, I hope you can hold your breath for a long time because it is stinky." Maybe it was the chill in the air or the fantastic mood, but even the cows smelled better!

Mile 10 took us straight through the heart of a farm on one of their access roads (normally off-limits to the public), a nice gravelly road which my body loved after all the hard pounding on the pavement. The last few miles were flattish ones, and I finally started to overtake a few of my fellow runners. The last mile was really tough, though; my legs were getting tired and lifting them began to feel like work (the first 10 or 11 miles, that was all play).

At mile 12, when I looked at my time I couldn't believe it - 2:02! I was definitely going to make my Best Goal of 2:20...and this is where the mental side of running comes in. All the miles leading up to that last one, that was all my body: using all the training I had done over the weeks to prepare myself, listening to what my body needed - stretch now, sip now, feeling the strength in my legs. That last mile, The Voice came in and said, "Good job! You are so tired, why not just walk this last mile, you'll still make 2:20 or so." And my legs said, "Wow, that is a great idea!" and they began to slow down all on their own and groan with how tired they were.

But The Runner replied back, "Are you nuts? I don't want 2:20 any more. I want 2:15 and I'm going for it, nothing less than that." I had to focus on every step, if my mind wandered, my body started to feel the pain of 13 miles and slow down. At one point, I allowed myself a 30 second walk break, i wasn't sure how much further I had to run...turns out, it was only another 1/4 mile or so.

I turned down the last lane towards the finish line, I could see the food tent set up, see the all the cars parked in the cow pasture, and my kick came in. I always have a good strong finish - somewhere deep within, once my body can see that finish line, my legs take over.

At this race, they announced your name as you crossed the finish line - a very cool touch! I crossed the finish line, saw my time, and with both fists pumping in the air, I shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes! I did it!!"

2:15:25

A volunteer put my medal around my neck...and I started to cry. None of my family were able to be there this day, and I hadn't realized just how much I wanted to share this accomplishment with the love of my life, until I looked at the crowd and did not see his face smiling back at me with wild pride.

When I finally made my way back home, I managed a second great accomplishment in my day: my first-ever omelet that actually was an omelet (usually I make "broken omelets", aka scrambled eggs with stuff in them).

Later on in the day, Glenn and I went out to celebrate my PR in the way we know best: hot Buffalo wings and cold beer!

Monday, November 1, 2010

game time

I've got six days (counting today) until my next half marathon, the one that I want to really try hard at, to see how well I can do, to challenge myself.

I was getting a bit worried about this race, wondering if I was truly ready to run it, especially when my longest run went so badly (read here). My training isn't where I'd want it to be (which, I think, is the motto of the amateur runner: lately, I've read the same sentiment on 3 runner friends' blogs/status updates). Ideally, I'd have logged several runs more than 10 miles, and all my training reach was one 10 miler.

And yet, I'm feeling pretty confident going in to these last few days before the race. My run on Friday left me flying high - it was a hill workout that was challenging but didn't leave me struggling; in fact, I wished I'd had more time to run a few more miles, but a Go Fish game with Claire had me leaving the house a little later than I wanted and Family Dinner Out Night had me heading home wanting more.

In a way, I think, I am just where I should be in my training - I'm healthy, have no injuries, and I know that my body can do the mileage of this race. I'm making my race day check list, I'm worrying about the weather, and I'm thinking that 2:25 is totally do-able, so why not 2:20?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

even if i'm last

The old joke goes: What do you call the person who graduated at dead last in their class at med school? DOCTOR.

Yesterday's long run was designed to show me what I can reasonably expect of myself in my upcoming half marathon on November 6th. The Amish Half is a very hilly course - last year I biked some of those roads in the MS Bike Ride and let me tell you, those hills are constant and fierce. Up down, up up up level up some more...tough on a bike for this newbie. But, I was feeling fairly confident of running this course.

The goal I had set for myself in this race was to finish in 2:20, maybe - dare I hope for it? - 2:15. This was a real, achievable goal, I thought, when I set it two months ago. Then, I lost a couple weeks of training, and after a painful return to running doing 7 miles in the hilly and beautiful Valley Forge Park, I thought, "Uh oh."

Yesterday, I drove away from my flat neighborhood and headed to the hillier part of the county. The topography matches Lancaster County, and I thought, this run will let me know what I'm reasonably capable of. The first 5 miles were good enough - even if I didn't run all the way up the non-stop hills, I kept my walks to less than a minute. I was feeling strong. I took my gu at the right time, was hydrating well. A good run. That all fell apart.

Suddenly, my legs just didn't want to go too much more. A little more than an hour in, and everywhere I looked was an uphill and my quads were cursing me with words that would make a trucker blush. I realized that I was delusional when setting a 2:20 goal and a 2:15 hope. In fact, I was delusional to think that I should even race in 2 weeks. Better, I thought, that I delay my registration til next year. I quit. In my head, I was done. Not prepared to run the race I wanted, just not gonna do it.

That thought process lasted for about 2 minutes...maybe it would have lasted longer if I had any clue where in God's country I was and just how close to my car...but I was several miles from anything, so I couldn't quit running at that moment. And then I thought, "Well, someone's got to come in last." Maybe that someone is me. While that may sound like Loser Lurgy, really it was comforting. There's no reason to quit. My goal just needed to be adjusted (and thank you Runner's World for your November issue whose theme is just that).

I plugged on, taking walk breaks every 7-9 minutes, a slow little turtle trot. I began to enjoy the incredibly beautiful scenery again. Blue sky blanketed the rolling farms, Holstein cows out grazing, the stumps of corn stalks poking like a five o'clock shadow out of the dusty fields.

My cranky hip decided it had enough my last mile or so. And then I remembered. I'm not sure how these words didn't stick with my my whole run, but they were said and then instantly lost. Just as I began my ten miles, a woman in her 40s in a motorized cart was out with her dog, moving along the opposite side of the street for me. As she saw me, I did that courtesy flip wave, and she said to me, "Wish I was doing that."

Wish I was doing that. Too many people's bodies won't let them enjoy the simple freedom of walking down an autumn street, never mind attempt the challenge of a ten mile run on a Saturday morning. I was humbled, no, chastened, for my quitter's thoughts.

Later that night, Glenn told me that if I want a 2:20 then I have to run my half as a runner who will get a 2:20. And he's right. I love his confidence in me and the way he pushes me to be the best person I can.

This morning, I read this quote on my friend Heather's facebook page (she's aiming for a 1:50 half time this morning).

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit".- George Sheehan

Ain't that the truth? I might be last in my upcoming half...but I will be out there, trotting and running, hoping for a 2:20, thankful for the health and strength in my body and the limits I can push myself to.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

memory lane - my first half marathon

As I prepare to run my third half marathon, I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane about my first distance race...

The BackStory

I signed up for the Philadelphia (half) Marathon on November 23rd, 2008 and gave myself about 7 weeks to train for it. Though I'd been running for a while, I'd only had a few really long runs before I signed up. And, then after I signed up, as life always has it for me, I hadn't logged too much running the first 2 or 3 weeks of "training". I got a cold, I started dating an awesome guy (who is now my awesome husband), my boss left for 3 months of FMLA...the excuses piled up and I wasn't running.

I was starting to get nervous that I was going to be walking ten of the 13 miles and wasting my extravagant entry fee ($100!!!!) ~ and disappointing myself and the goal I've had for 2 years to run a half...

In order to get some running in, I'd have to do so from work. I mapped out a route to travel through the Philly neighborhoods of Wynnefield and Overbrook. It was a 2.5 mile loop and for a week I walked it every day. Then, I started running the 2.5 miles on my lunch break a few times a week, but running nothing longer than that. I still had a LONG way to go to make 13 miles seem do-able...however, I was feeling really good and my time was reasonably ok too (I usually run a 11:20 mile and these runs had me at a 10:50 mile).

Finally, about three weeks before the race, I got back out for a long run, and I was so anxious to see how I'd do, kind of to take stock of where I was for this half. Well, I ran 9 miles in 1:38 and I am thrilled! I actually shaved 8 minutes off my time from my last 9 mile run a month ago. Progress!

RaceDay

My goal time was to run the half in 2:30 ~ and I beat my goal time!!! I ran in 2:25:33!!! Well, officially I ran 2:33:48, but I waited for 8 minutes at a port-a-potty stop to pee. Next time I don't care how cold it is, I'm just peeing next to a building like the guys did.

The Race Day was totally awesome! My parents and nieces drove down from Massachusetts, and with my daughter cheered for me at the half way point, complete with signs and t-shirts that read "Team Jill."


Glenn got up with me at 5:00 am to drive me to Philly in 23 degree weather, and stood at the start/finish line for me. We were newly dating and he HATES driving in big cities, so that tells you just what a great guy he is.

And a new friend of mine, her hubby, and daughter drove from Delaware to Philly and were at the finish line! It was so great to have people I care about there to be proud of me.

The spectators out there were a pretty quiet and frozen bunch. It was about 28 degrees at start time and was 36 when I got back to the car at 10 am. Everyone was silently shivering (conserving energy I'm sure ~ it was FREEZING!), all except for a group of fraternity brothers who were outside their house bright and early (with beer) and banging on pots and pans. Every time the spectators cheered, it really did give me (and the other runners) such a boost and pick-me-up. I wish there had been better crowd support.

It was so pretty to be running through Philadelphia that early in the morning: I remember I turned up one street and saw the skyline all lit up with the early rising sun, golden and pink reflected on the buildings, and it was breathtaking! It was cold, sometimes the road was icy and dangerous...but it was AWESOME!! 3 years ago I couldn't have run a mile...and now I just ran 13!

After the race, when we were all back at my home and getting ready to go out for a celebratory lunch, my 2 1/2 year old angel said to me, "Mommy, I so proud of you!"


Saturday, September 25, 2010

no excuses


My best friend Pat had a saying a while back when he was busy changing his lifestyle and losing weight, "NO EXCUSES." No excuses to cut a workout short. No excuses to order fries not salad. No excuses to skip a trip to the gym.

Of all the weeks for excuses, this was one for me.

My training plan had me on for a Tues run of 3 miles, Thurs run of 5, and Sat run of 7 miles. Monday, however, I was in a fender bender which gave me a mild case of whiplash. There would be no run on Tuesday. By Thursday, I was feeling better, but I didn't want to push it and had limited time: 2 miles was all I could do. Last night, my allergies acted up in a big way and I managed to get about 4 hours of sleep. Today was super busy with kids games and work, and I was exhausted and my eyes & nose were a faucet.

By the time 4:00 rolled around you could've stuck a fork in me, I was done.

No excuses.

So, on went the running gear and I munched a handful of M&Ms. Then Glenn and I set out for a run (he did the first 2 miles with me; aside: I so love running with my husband! My pace is slow because I'm just chattering away and he's like, "Stop talking!").

At 2 miles, Glenn turned around for home and I plugged on. I mapped out a new route through a development and I came to this spot where I could take the easy way out and log just under 5, or I could push it. No excuses. I did the loop.

All in all, I ran 6 miles on a day when few would've done so. Car accident. No sleep. Kids with games. Work. Plenty of reasons not to run. Except, Jill L. is a runner. And I've got just enough crazy to run even when my battery is empty.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

IN YOUR FACE!

Runners have a love/hate relationship with hills. We love how we feel when we get to the top - such a fantastic accomplishment that driving around in the cool comfort of your car hides from you. We love how strong we know our legs are getting, pounding up a steep grade. But, we HATE them - we hate how much harder they make us work, how we huff, how we struggle, how our stride goes from gazelle to gopher.

Runners respect hills so much that we even name them. Hills in major races get named by the runners who strive up them towards the finish line, like Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon. But we name even the hills that are around our homes, the hills we are so familiar with we know each pothole, the dog at each home along the way. A friend of mine has named the hills she runs on in Central Park "Hell Hill." I've run that one with her, and the name is well deserved.

My hill is called by me the "Big Ass Hill."

Big Ass Hill is a long, slow half mile of a pretty steep grade through a beautiful McMansion subdevelopment near my cul-de-sac. It begins 1.6 miles from my front door and goes up, and up, and up, and then levels of so that it's almost flat (but not) and then goes up til the road ends.

This summer, in the high heat and humidity, I avoided Big Ass since it was tough enough to breathe in the thick, sweat air on the flat roads along the corn and dairy farms.

But now, it's time to run her again. I signed up for the Amish Half Marathon, a scenic 13 mile run up and down and up and down the large rolling hills through Lancaster...hills are in my future.

Last week I attempted to run up Big Ass Hill - and she beat me. I couldn't do it. My legs and lungs gave out half way up...

...but this morning, I conquered her. I ran up Big Ass Hill and then, just to show her that *I* am the boss, I did hill repeats on the steepest 0.1 of Big Ass. In your face!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the Fonz


When I run, I often look like The Fonz.

I don't mean that I resemble Arthur Fonzerelli, white t-shirt and leather jacket and super awesome hairstyle. Actually, if Fonzie were to need to run for some reason (though, most certainly he wouldn't run, but saunter down the road) but if he did, you can be sure that Fonzie would do so in the most cool manner possible - I bet he could even pull of running 26.2 without breaking a sweat in that jacket of his.

Nope. There's nothing that exudes "cool" or "trend-setter" when I run.

When I run, my hands take on the Fonzie pose. Passing cars must think I'm a stumbling, trotting hitchhiker, my right hand always out there, looking for some Good Samaritan to take pity on my huffing & puffing self and load me into the cool interior of their back seat, saving myself from having to make my way back home.

When I become conscience of that I am channeling my inner-Fonzie, I try to make my thumbs behave normally, but that makes the rest of my arms behave weirdly. Then I run like I've just been given these 2 new limbs to try out, and they are all wavy and floppy and I don't seem to know what to do with them.

So, if you see me turtle-trotting down the road, thumb out, know this: I'm not trying to bum a ride. I'm just saying, "Aaaaaaayyyyy."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

sshhhh...be very, very quiet, i'm hunting...

I think I'm very close to capturing the elusive Ms. Mojo. I caught a glimpse of her Tuesday morning while I was running, and all day yesterday she haunted my thoughts like a desire for chocolate cake - only better (running doesn't make you worry about your thighs like a nice, moist hunk of dark cake will).

When Glenn got home from work, I did something I rarely, rarely do - I ran back to back days. I didn't run much on Tuesday, and that run left me feeling both elated, satisfied and still wanting, panting for more. Yesterday was a deliciously cool day...so I went out for a run.

And there I came across her, my mojo. She's still a bit shy - after all, I'd been ignoring her for a while. But I think she's ready to come home.

And I'm ready to run again today. I won't go, I don't want to do too much too fast...but I've got that longing ache in my soul to be out there, sweating and trotting along the side of the road, just me and the wind.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

where has all my mojo gone?

Geesh. You think I could be a grown-up and get out there and do my runs because 1. I crazy love running (I do) 2. it's so good for me and 3. I'm a runner. But no. I actually have to have a race that I'm signed up for to get out there and make it happen.

In the past month, I've run a handful of times. I ran 1.8 miles a few days after pacing my friend Tara at her ultra, I ran twice the following week (3.1 miles a piece), ten days later I ran in the Epilepsy 5K Race with a slow 5k time (31:14). That last run was nine days ago...

I'm feeling flabby fat and lazy...something that my belated honeymoon cruise to Bermuda didn't exactly help with (fancy French food every dinner, full-fat breakfasts, sushi every evening...). Though I had every intention of running while on the cruise - I even said so to Glenn at least twice, "I want to run tomorrow and need to do that in the morning" - still, nothing.

So, I'm finding a fall race and signing up.

Who ever said running was cheaper than a gym membership was dead wrong. Or *WAY* more type A than I am, because I need a goal to push myself towards. Apparently, that goal will either be a race on October 2nd or one November 6th, both of which go through the lolling hills of Lancaster County, past Amish farms and other quaint sights.

I'm looking for my mojo. If you see her, please send her home. I went out this morning and ran around the neighborhood, trying to find her, and I swear, I caught a glimpse of her heels, kicking in high glee just ahead of me fading in and out of the fog as I chased her.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

a missed run

This morning, I missed my run. Actually, I haven't run all week, but this morning was the first day that I had made a plan to run, rather than doing the "if you wish it, you will run" philosophy. I woke up at 6:15 and lay there slowly easing into being awake, letting the last vestiges of a dream seep away. I climbed out of bed, careful not to disturb Glenn, grabbed my running clothes and shoes, opened the door and saw...

Claire.

Standing there in her Ariel jammies, sleepy smile on her face and a book, Watch Your Whiskers, Geronimo Stilton, in her hand. "Read this to me, mommy," she said.

I told her I was going for a run, it's very early, and she should go back to bed. So, she climbed in while I was in the bathroom, changing...and thinking...

I crept into Claire's room and snuggled up to her on the bed. And as I lay there, I realized this would be my last morning for a while that I would get to snuggle her. Tonight, Claire goes back to her daddy's house for 3 weeks, the rest of the summer custody schedule. I'm going to miss these chances to snuggle her, and not just over the next few weeks...Claire's doesn't wake up hardly at all (knock on wood) for snuggles any more.

So, I snuggled my Bunny. And missed my run. This means that my hope of going sub-29 for my 5K race on Saturday is out the window (too many missed runs) and I probably won't run sub-30 either. But, I got some good snuggly love in with my daughter and that is even better for the soul than a run.

Oh, and if you'd like to make a donation, I'm running for the Epilepsy Foundation on Saturday. My friends have a beautiful little girl who is 6 years old and has epilepsy. When she was a baby, the doctors removed the right side of her brain to diminish the severity of the seizures. She's a sweet, mischievous little girl and a nice playmate of Claire's. If you've got $5, you can give it here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the let down reflex

I am experiencing let down.

That post-running event malaise that comes over any runner once they run the race that has been marked on their calendar for months and has loomed in their minds with a capital R.

My capital-R race wasn't even one that I paid an entry fee for. However, it was the race that divided my summer into two halves, before the Lone Ranger when I'd be pacing Tara and after the race. Before the race, I was consistently running, making sure to log plenty of miles each week, to run at a good pace, to take few walk breaks, all so that I could be a helpful, worthwhile pacer (not a slow, lazy pacer who was an annoying slug next to the speedy hundred mile gal). After the race...well, there isn't anything on the calendar except a weekend trip to Massachusetts and a honeymoon in Bermuda (which isn't to say, I'm not extremely, fantastically excited for my belated honeymoon, because I am: pink sands, turquoise waters, mai tais, long walks with the love of my life...perfection). I guess I should say, there is no Next Race on the calendar.

So, I've run twice since the Lone Ranger, a 1.8 mile run and this mornings 3.1. Not much.

I guess even this relaxed runner needs a purpose, otherwise I move beyond relaxed and into sloth.

So, I'm signing up for a 5K race - the Epilepsy Run/Walk - in Harrisburg on August 7th. I'll get to support a cause that is important in the life of some friends whose little girl has epilepsy. And I've given myself a new goal.

Sub-29.

Think I can do it?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Lone Ranger gets by with a little help from her friends

A few months ago, Tara, a "virtual" friend of mine (i.e. someone I only know via online, social networking sites), planned on coming to Philadelphia to participate in an ultra race and she needed some runners to pace her. I signed on for this gig, even though I had little idea what "pacing" someone really meant.

In the last few weeks before the race, the 20in24 Lone Ranger Ultra Marathon, things started to get real. Real, as in I'd agreed to run 16 miles with Tara even though my longest runs ever in my entire life were 13 miles. Real, as in someone was depending on me to run long enough and possibly fast enough so that she'd make her goal (running 100 miles). This was a bit scary for me, since I generally run only for me, and I'm a bit of a slacker. Tara is no slacker. (Here's Tara's own blog...)

However, on Friday July 16th, I wandered the house gathering all sorts of items I'd agreed to bring to the race: a scale, pompoms, hydrogen peroxide, scissors, markers, chairs, blankets, coolers, a foam roller, pillows...My car was packed to the gills with so much stuff that neighbors must have thought I was preparing for an apocalyptic event rather than camping along the banks of the Schuylkill River.

When I met Tara, I was so excited - here, in the flesh, was my virtual friend! She sounded just like I thought she would and was just as cool in person as she seemed online. I also got to meet Bethany, captain of Team Ultara (our pacing/support team), and Anna, a good friend and fellow relaxed runner. The four of us went over gear and race strategy, had a pasta dinner, and went to bed early.

By 8 am on Saturday, the four of us were setting up camp behind the Philly Art Museum. Up went our tent, we unloaded all our gear, and killed time until it was close enough for the race to start. Finally, Tara took off running, and Team Ultara had about 75 minutes of time to kill.

Honestly, I think I was pretty disorganized as a support person for Tara's first 2 laps. I wasn't expecting Tara - this funny, smart, laughing person - to transform into this lean, mean running machine. Man, was I impressed! Tara flew in to the transition area, told us what she needed and was gone before I could count to 21. In fact, on lap 2, Tara didn't even stop for fuel, water, electrolytes - she just kept running!

But, by lap 3 Bethany, Anna, and I had our assignments. We decided zone defense was our best offense. Bethany's role was to QB - talk to Tara, find out about fuel and needs. Anna was on water duty. My role was to get Tara to drink her Ensure and refill her electrolytes. Truthfully, we were pretty awesome at it! Like a well oiled pit crew, changing tires and getting our racing machine back out there to burn rubber (ok, I've mixed quite a few metaphors, but you get what I'm saying).

Tara is such a fighter! She often has to battle a wonky stomach, and the heat and some hidden gluten had her insides all messed up. She looked like hell after lap 3 - like she'd run about 70 miles instead of 24. I couldn't imagine her running in that condition for another 20 miles, never mind her goal of 80 more. But, once her stomach settled down, she just dug in and ran on. And on. And on!

As I soon discovered, there are two sides of being on an ultra runner's team: the pacing side, and the support side. The support side is what I've been describing - checking on nutrition, water intake, asking about blisters or chafing. Then there is the actual running with your runner, the pacing.

I was Tara's third pacer of the day and got to run with her at about 9 o'clock at night. Pro: it's dark and the heat is seeping away. Con: it's my bedtime.

I'd been practicing pacing in my head for the last couple of weeks. Each time I'd run, I'd pretend I was with Tara, and asking her questions. "Did you take your electrolyte tablet?" "How many calories do you need this loop?" "What do you want in your handheld?" I had to get myself ready to run with the focus not on me and my body, but on Tara and her body.

Turns out, Tara sort of hit the wall on my lap. Which is to be expected. She'd been running for 11 hours straight, no breaks. Other Lone Rangers would run a lap, hang out in the air conditioned exhibit hall or at their tent site, then do another lap. Tara, she planned to be on her feet, moving forward, for 24 hours straight. No stopping.

This lap was one of Tara's longest, timewise. We walked quite a bit, especially while she was eating. At one of the aid stations, Tara wanted Coke in her water bottle and the volunteer was so confused. Tara kept saying "I want Coke" and the volunteer would say, "Gatorade or water?" over and over again. The volunteer filled a dixie cup with an inch of Coke and set it in front of Tara, and then looked at me with this expression like "your runner is losing it" and asked me if she should put water or Gatorade in the water bottle. "COKE" I said, and then explained to the incredulous volunteer, "Coke has calories and caffeine. It's what ultra runners need."

I have to say, running at night in Philadelphia was pretty cool. We were running along the Schuylkill River, with Boathouse Row all lit up, sparkling in the cool night air, a gorgeous quarter moon hung low in the sky a lovely harvest gold color. Generally, Philly isn't safe enough to run in Fairmont Park at night, so this truly was a unique experience. I even saw two hookers and their pimps, who looked a bit put out by all the lights, runners, and volunteers on bikes, scaring away the johns.

Tara and I kept going over the math in our heads: how many miles she had yet to go to reach 100, how many hours she had yet to accomplish this task. The math said she had it nailed, with up to 2 hours to spare.

When my lap with Tara was done, I passed her off to Anna, explaining how Tara was doing (feeling really tired and not wanting to eat). Tara's watch had died and she wanted her back-up which was at the campsite. She and Anna took off running, I hauled our refueling gear from the transition area to the campsite, found the watch, and jogged off to find them. I mean, how fast can one girl run after already completing 67 miles? Turns out, pretty fast! I had to sprint for about half a mile to catch up with them, blowing by a few younger guys, who were impressed with my super speed. When I turned back around to head to the camp, they were shocked that I ran all that way just to pass off a watch..."it's for my runner" I said, feeling very proud of Tara.

Then, I went to the hotel for a nap. When I woke up at 4:30 and checked in with Bethany, she reported that Tara was on lap 11, at the three mile mark, and her feet were killing her. They were going to stop at mile 4 where there was a small medical aid station to check out her feet. The good news: no blisters. The bad news: Tara's feet hurt so much she couldn't run at all. They walked. At mile 5 they called me to come pick up Tara - we had to get her to the main medical tent because something had gone very wrong with her feet.

There we were at the medical tent, ice bags surrounding her feet, and the doctors told Tara she was done. She had contusions on the bottoms of both her feet. "But I'm in 3rd place," Tara said, "Do you think I can go back out and walk?" They looked at her like she was nutz. Doctor #2 said, "If you were repeatedly hitting your head on the wall and your head hurt, what would you do?" "Stop hitting my head," Tara said dejectedly. "Yeah, but," Bethany chimed in, "if you were in 3rd place in the Hitting Your Head contest, you might do it one or two more times, right?"

When the doctors became more involved with another runner, Team Ultara made our getaway. I drove Tara back to the 5 mile mark, dropped her off at 6:55 am - she still had 3 hours to go and even walking slowly could finish several more miles. Tara had on my flipflops, the biggest shoes we had for her tender feet. She took mincing, little steps with Bethany on one side, Anna on the other. I parked a mile away...30 minutes later, Tara arrived at mile 6. I was thrilled with the time she was making. I whooped and hollered...I joined the Team as we walked with Tara. I read to her all the texts I'd received from our awesome Running Moms group, and Tara laughed at their outrageously loving support of her.

Each step was a battle for Tara. We knew that 3rd place was gone. We knew that 100 miles was gone, too. But even knowing this, Tara kept going. Step. Step. She wouldn't quit. When walking became difficult, she actually crawled in the grass along the path, giving true life to the Dean Karnazes quote, "Run when you can. Walk when you must. Crawl if you have to. Just never give up.”

After walking with Tara for half a mile, I ran back to the car and drove it to find another spot to park, just in case. And about ten minutes later, I got the call from Anna, "Tara's done. Come get her."

Part of me felt such sadness over this, Tara's goal that she trained for over 5 months, her dream of 100 miles in under 24 hours set aside. And yet, I was in complete awe of her - her determination, her courage, her faith in herself, her strength and will.

Final tally: 92.5 miles in 22 hours.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Running off the beaten path

Recently, I participated in the following exchange at a sporting goods store in Harrisburg.

Me to young girl working behind the counter: Do you have Gu?

Young girl: What? Goo?

Me: Do you have Gu or, um, Clif Shots?

Young girl: Shots? (I could almost see the thought bubble over her head, like in a cartoon, with a tequila bottle and a shot glass next to it, maybe sitting in a sticky pool of mysterious goo.)

Me (now rather frustrated): No, not goo - you know, energy gels. For running. Gu.

Young girl: Oh, those things in packets? No, we had a box but it expired so we threw it out.

That, in a nutshell, is what it's like doing a specialized activity in the heart of Pennsylvania. I'd made a special trip to this local chain sporting goods store in Harrisburg because I was pretty sure that the smaller stores in my hometown wouldn't have anything specialized. I'd once made a trip in my town to the sporting store for running socks, but the closest they had were "cotton" socks for working out.

In my previous life - when I didn't get the chance to run alongside gorgeous cornfields after stepping out my front door - there was a running store 5 blocks from me. And another running store 10 minutes away. And another running store 25 minutes away. Filled with dozens of pairs of running shoes and knowledgeable staff who knew about which shoe to give an over-pronator with well-defined arches and plenty of options for fuel from gels to chews to bars.

But now, running - and all the gear, the shoes, the clothes, the energy gels - that accompany this sport I've fallen in love with - is a unique pastime, not well understood or supported off the beaten path. Trade-off: no running stores, but running with corn. Not bad, really.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ice ice baby...

Last weekend, after my long run of 6.5 miles, I decided that I wanted to do an ice bath.

Now, to most of the population, let's say 99.2%, the above statement sounds so ludicrous, like an anti-sado-masochistic form of self-torture (anti, because there can be no pleasure found sitting in an ice bath, can there?).

Of the remaining 0.8% of the population, 0.6% shudder knowingly, nod their heads, and understand. The other 0.2% I think actually enjoy ice baths. There have to be a few real wackos out there.

Ice baths are the realm, I suppose, of those athletes who have pushed themselves far enough and need the cooling relief that ice provides sore and overused muscles. I write that a bit self-depricatingly since I don't really lump myself in with "athletes" like Lance Armstrong or Kara Goucher. But, in this case, I guess I fall into that category, at least for ice baths.

Here's how my ever first ice bath went. I arrived back at home after my run sweating so profusely I left an icky schmeery mark on the glass of our front door. My legs felt great, but I pushed them a bit, and for once, I actually had time. That, really, is the key element to taking an ice bath. I need time, say an extra 20 minutes, to perform this ritual and since I'm a slow runner, the 20 minutes adds onto my already climbing number of minutes I'm occupied with the activity of running in some way.

Anywho, I grabbed all the ice in the freezer - 2 whole trays worth - and head upstairs. I run the cold water into the tub about half way and crack the ice into the water. Then I lower my legs into the cold-ish water.

I have this crazy mental snapshot of me, sitting there in 5 inches of water with about 40 ice cubes floating around in there with me, melting pretty quickly in my cool bath. I'm pretty sure that when Paula Radcliffe takes an ice bath, she's got way more than 40 ice cubes. I've gotten the water temp to luke-cold, I think.

Claire comes into the bathroom and sees me in a tubby and gets sssoooooo excited, in the way that only 4 year olds can get excited about a bath. She puts in baby dolphin and mama whale, 2 ponies, and a boat and takes off her clothes. She ignores all my warnings about how cool the water is, until she's standing there in the water with me. "Mommy!" she yells, eyes super-big, "you forgot the warm. Let me turn it on for you." I don't let her, so she just settles in to the cold-ish water, hands me mama whale, and gets me to play with her.

That was last week. Tonight's bath went a little better. I had 5 whole trays of ice cubes and I felt only a little less silly than last week. I huddled under a purple bath towel for warmth and read 11 pages of a book.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

kicking and screaming

Even though I packed my running clothes and THOUGHT about running while on vacation, somehow, vacation had other plans.

Wednesday, the fam and I toured the Freedom Trail in Beantown, walked a few miles...after a delicious dinner, Claire and I fell asleep about 8:30, and I forgot to lay out my running clothes. Early the next morning, I was awake in the hotel room, wanting to go downstairs to the fitness center, but I couldn't. Trying to find my clothes would've disturbed everyone - including a 4 year old who was all ready wiggling awake.

Thursday and Friday were busts too - too much good times with my girls and Glenn, too much beach fun and lobster, pools and swimming. Saturday morning was my best time for a run and I DIDN"T WANT TO GO! My parents took the girls out for breakfast, so I had a perfect morning to run, but I lay around on the couch in my jammies until well past 10. I knew I should run, I knew I wanted to run, but I just didn't feel like I had the energy to run.

But, I went out and brought Glenn with me. I went out because I said I would - I wanted to run to celebrate my friend Kari being a year cancer free; I wanted to run because my friend Paula is racing her first Ironman this weekend; I wanted to run because I knew how much I'd love it when I got back.

But the first mile was hell. I was kicking and screaming inside the whole time. I didn't want to run...booooooooo....My poor husband, who I dragged along with me, I brought him into this too. Mean jill.

And then that perfect moment happened - it was very brief, just a few minutes of running where my stride felt good and my breathing was good. This was followed by another 15 minutes of wondering why I was out running when I could've been sitting on a couch drinking iced coffee and not sweating my arse off.

When Glenn and I were done with the run, we were both happy - happy for the run to be done, but happy too that we went out, made ourselves do it, kicking and screaming the whole way. Sometimes, a run is just like that. The next one will be that much more enjoyable, and that's what keeps me going.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

packing


I'm heading up to Massachusetts with the family for almost a week of vacation. Last night, as I was setting out my week of clothing - shorts, tanks, sweatshirt for the cold nights - I had this separate pile of clothes.

Sarah asked, "What's that for?" pointing at the black pile.

"Oh," I said, "that's all my running stuff." Yeah, the majority of my running clothes are black.

"You're going to run?" then after a pause, "will you run up the sand banks?"

Near my sister's home are these HUGE sand banks left over from decades of quarrying. Huh, I thought, now THAT would be a great hill work out!

"Maybe I will. We can all go for a walk and I'll run up and down those hills." Sarah just smiled, like I was a little crazy.

Which I am...only crazy people lay out their running clothes FIRST when they are packing for a trip. Only crazy people hone in on the words "jogging path" when they are reviewing the deck layouts of the cruise ship they will be on for their honeymoon. Only crazy people get excited when they know there'll be a fitness center at the hotel they are staying at because it will mean fitting in runs will be a bit easier in the family vacation.

Guess you just gotta love me!

Friday, June 18, 2010

REAL runners milestone

Yesterday I went out for a perfectly lovely 7 1/2 mile run. The weather was made for a nice long run - warmish and sunny, but not humid and there was a slight breeze. I put on my running skirt and a pink striped tank top, filled up my water bottle, and drove to one of my favorite places to run, the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails.

The running skirt I have is a Kohl's brand - so it's kind of a knock-off from the "real" sports wear like Adidas or Nike. Last year, when I bought the skirt, I loved running in it. Gosh, I felt all cute and feminine.

This year, once it was warm enough to go for a run in my skirt, I discovered something - or several somethings. Those seven pounds I wrote about in my last blog, they made my running skirt (the inner shorts part) rather tight around my now bigger thighs. And not just tight...but the squeezed out flesh now rubbed together. Niiiiice.

But, still I pressed on, wearing my skirt on hot days because, well, I don't have the running wardrobe I dream about. For warm days I have 1 skirt and 1 pair of running shorts and 1 pair of cotton bike shorts. Slim pickins.

So, yesterday, as I was saying, I wore my running skirt for my run...and yes, I did feel my thighs compressed in the undershorts squeezing out like puffy sausage. I also felt those inner thighs rubbing together but I was able to ignore that dreadful sensation.

Overall, the run felt great - a picture perfect summer day. I saw 8 bright red cardinals on my run and countless other birds that I have absolutely no idea of their names. The trees danced in the wind, I gazelle-jumped over a decapitated mouse, and the only music I listened to was of birdsong.

Back at home, I took a much needed shower. Boy, did that water feel awesome as it rinsed off all the sweat and dead bugs stuck to my skin...until...it happened. The water reached enough of my thighs and I SCREAMED! Ow ow ouch!

CHAFING. Real, honest to God chafing, something that in my four years of running I had never experienced before. And I have to say, I do hope I don't experience that again.

However, I do feel like I've achieved some great and necessary milestone, and I feel all the same kind of pride I did when I would receive my latest Girl Scout Merit Badge. Because I earned it. Yes, I did.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seven pounds

I am ignoring you, delicious looking chocolate cake. Yes, I know you are less than 15 feet away, so close my left arm tingles with the held-back energy as I resist reaching out for you. My eyes are focused on the convener of the meeting, but ever so often, I find that suddenly, there you are, floating tantalizingly before me. I stick a piece of sugar-free (but sweet) bubble gum in my mouth, which is supposed to help me ignore you, but it doesn't. I still want you, chocolate cake.

Why do I struggle to resist your charms, you ask? Because of 7 pounds.

Seven pounds I wish would disappear. Seven pounds that are welded on to my bellyhipsthighsbutt. That's not a huge amount of weight, I know.

Five years ago, when I started this "healthy living", when the number on the scale screamed out OVERWEIGHT and I battled to make exercising and eating better my new normal, I had a number in mind.

125

That's the weight I want to be. I've been there - actually, for two years I was way below that number (but that was too thin) - but slowly in the past year and half, I've crept upward.

My one saving grace is running. Without running, my love for chocolate cake - and food in general - would have me well past 160 pounds, as I was 5 years ago. Running - and the occasional salad and missed cookie - keeps me at the curvaceous weight of 132. On the days I run, it is much easier to ignore the ridonkulously delicious peanut-butter-and-chocolate donuts from our local bakery (or, at least, only have 1 instead of 3 or 4).

Now, I know these 7 pounds aren't horrible. Glenn likes my curviness. And with these extra few pounds, I can once again wear my favoritest skirt ever, the greeny one with the cool flower appliques.

Since I can't seem to get rid of my love for beer & buffalo wings, chocolate and strawberry pie, and second helpings, I'm trying to make peace with 7 pounds. But ONLY seven pounds...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

tempo runs

Speedwork has always been a mystery to me. When I started running a few years ago, I checked a few books out of the library to learn more about proper mechanics, nutrition, whatever about my new passion. The section on Speed Work was filled with strange terms that I only vaguely understood. Fartleks, yassos, strides, tempo runs. So, I ignored the chapter. I figured, mostly, I just want to get out there and run, I'm not going to be fast, I'm not trying to win any races.

When I was running my first half marathon, I used Runner's World's "SmartCoach" to create a training plan. I entered my race day, how many miles I currently ran, and my one 5K time from six months before, and SmartCoach spit out a calender for me. Each day an activity was listed: run so many miles on Tuesday and Thursdays, crosstrain on Wednesdays, rest on Mondays. Made sense, more or less. But beneath the "Run 5 miles" there would be strange numbers listed. Pace 11:52 I would be directed. 4X400 repeats would be listed. Tempo run. I didn't know what it meant - I mean, I read the definitions, but I didn't know what running a tempo run - or yasso or fartlek - felt like.

Three years later, I'm still not trying to win any races, or even get too much speedier. But, I've finally stumbled across what a tempo run feels like and how to fit one in periodically.

A tempo run feels uncomfortably fast - running faster than I'm used to, but not an all out sprint. And a tempo run is a pace I should be able to maintain for a mile or two before I'm sucking wind so badly I need to stop the pace and bring it down to my turtle trot.

I discovered this by pure accident. One afternoon, I knew I should run, but I was feeling a bit scraped thin. Claire was demanding a huge amount of attention I didn't have and a level of patience that was completely lacking. Mercifully, the time came when I was to bring her to the Enrichment Class at a local preschool, giving me a blessed hour to myself. This is normally the hour I run, and I usually run 3-4 miles during this time. Well, I had a case of the dontwannas. So I sat in the sun and read my Runner's World magazine for about 20 minutes. I then proceeded on my run, but when I looked at my watch, I thought, holy crap there is no way I'm going to run these 2 miles and get back in time.

So, I pushed it, fast. I ran 2 miles in 19:11, which is like lightening fast for me. Or, as I later discovered, my tempo run pace.

Speedwork is an idea that I continue to flirt with. I don't do tempo runs all that often, or intervals, or fartleks, though once or twice a month I do think about doing something like that. I wonder if just thinking about trying to be faster will make me faster...probably not. So, I'll just keep trottin' on!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

memorial day 5K

On the Saturday of a weekend that kicks off summer, while others were traveling or getting ready for a day at the beach or preparing for some yard work, Glenn and I woke our girls early and brought them to the Lebanon VA Hospital Campus, the site of the 23rd Annual Memorial Weekend 5K Race.

We got to the campus just about 8:30 - meaning on time, meaning with plenty of time before the 9 o'clock start time. The morning was overcast but much warmer than wunderground.com had lead me to believe it would be. Rather than a nice, cool 58* at 8:30, it was closer to 68* - I hoped that it wouldn't warm up too much for the race. The girls were a bit Sleepy and Grumpy (2 of the 7 dwarves) but held it together while Glenn and I got our race packets and looked for our friend, Trevor, who was going to keep an eye on Rachel, Sarah, and Claire while we ran, giving up a kid-free Saturday to watch our kids (Thanks, Trevor!).

The crowd for this race was HUGE! So much larger than last year (the first year I ran this 5K). In fact there were over 500 runners half of whom, it turns out, fall into the "serious/competitive" category (and there went my secret hope of achieving an age group place). Just looking around at the other runners, I knew that there was no way I'd place, which was a long shot any how. Glenn works for the VA, so he said hello to some co-workers, introduced Our Family - Claire soaked up all the attention, Rachel gave a grimace (still too early).

Finally, it was time to move towards the starting area. This race always begins with both Christian and Patriotic elements, which I find both startling and interesting...So, someone lead us in praying the Our Father, someone else lead us in the Pledge of the Allegiance (which I haven't said for several decades and faltered over a few words). A veteran sang the National Anthem, which brought tears to my eyes, not for the quality but for the significance of someone who actively served our country, standing up for the very freedom F. Scott Key described, singing that tune.

Glenn and I took our position in the middle of the pack...and we were off! The first mile loops around the hospital campus, and the crowd was pretty thick since there were over 500 of us. We kept coming up on people Glenn knew, trying to carefully pass some of the slower runners and the walkers. We came up on our first mile so fast and checked our watches - 9:26! Wow! I laughed - I'd never run a mile that fast before! Glenn, who hadn't run a step in 4 weeks due to a calf muscle pull, was doing awesome - all those long bike rides were paying off for the CV activity. And, thankfully, his calf muscle kept quiet. [We'd discussed ahead of time what to do if it screamed at him...when to call it quits, should he finish, walk, whatever.]

We ran for a bit just ahead of or just behind this guy Glenn works with who was running with his 8 year old son (super cute little guy!). It was the son's first 5K, and he had all that youthful bounding enthusiasm and perfect running form, which was a wonder to see, though at about the half way point we didn't see that any more, since the 8 year old way outpaced us.

The second mile is through a beautiful town park called South Hills that Claire & I love to go to for its great playground and huge sandbox. Here's where the moment of reality hits you: those at the front of the pack are already passing you by on their way to the finish line...that can feel a bit discouraging if you think about it too much (which I don't). There's a bit of a hill through the park that slowed us a bit (and I pulled back my pace, since I didn't want to wear out). Our second mile was run in 9:40, a bit slower, but still quite fast (for me).

That was when it hit me: I had the best shot ever in my running to come in well under 31 minutes (my fastest 5K run before being about 31:15, a training run...last year's time on this same course was 32:33). I was going to finish, and look at my watch and the first numbers would be a 3 and 0. How awesome was that!?

Then, there's a long flat stretch followed by a nice long hill...My legs started to feel very tired on that flat stretch and all I could think about was that long hill and how I'd have nothing left. I tried to do the math in my head - my last mile needed to be 11 minutes to finish at 30-something. I could slow way down, I figured. I could stop and walk...The finish felt so far away and I was beating myself up for going out too fast.

Glenn must have realized I was silently struggling (and obviously slowing down), because he kept up a steady chatter for a couple minutes - "you can do this, baby, we're almost done, you can see the finish line, keep going" - and in those moments, he was my savior. I would have done a nice long walk break without his being at my side (oh, then the most discouraging sight: those who already finished, walked all the way back the final 1/2 mile to chat with some of the police out on the course...ggrrrr....cool and calm and chatting away, that's just not right!).

I ran up the hill pretty well and glanced down at my watch. 29:10. Holy crap! I glanced again just to be sure, but yes, there it was, a twenty-nine. And, as tired as I was I thought, "I could actually run this in UNDER 30 MINUTES!" which was beyond any dream I thought possible. I had a tenth to go and Glenn said, "Got anything left in your tanks?" and I took off in a (for me) fast sprint. Arms pumping, head held high, I just focused on that finisher's chute (couldn't see Trevor & the girls...wondered where they were). I crossed the finish line and tore off the little strip at the bottom of my bib (if the field keeps growing, they race will have to go official and get timing chips) and handed it to a volunteer which is how they figure out your final time.

I came to a stumbling walk, heaving, and looked back for Glenn (just behind me) and then realized that there the girls and Trevor were, sitting on the curb just after the finish line. As soon as Claire saw me, she started wailing (she'd tripped over the curb and got a booboo; the sight of her own blood keeps her in hysterics). Claire wanted me to carry her and I was just trying not to collapse or black out...within a minute I was fine, but that last push really took it all out of me.

All the girls wanted pizza, which is what the racers get at the end...I held them back, saying the pizza was for those who ran, not for spectators and they were not pleased with me. It didn't help that another runner let his kids get pizza and they were right next to us. I said they needed to wait, let runners get first dibs, that this was race etiquette...boy, were they grumpy about that. We did let them have some of the fruit & pretzels and Hershey's Kisses, since there was a TON of that.

Claire finally realized she was not mortally wounded by the Incident with the Curb and after chocolate and band-aids, decided that she was going to run in the Kids Race. Rachel and Sarah ran with her. It was a 1/4 mile run and I so wished I brought my camera. Claire had dressed in her running skirt & shirt she wore for her Disney Race, and Rachel held her hand the whole way (Sarah decided she wanted to run fast...). They all got purple race ribbons they were psyched about, even Rachel who sometimes tries to be too big about things.

Then Claire wanted to run in the Mile Race, but we missed the start trying to figure out if Rachel was going to go with her. So, Claire and I tried to catch up with the Milers, but that didn't happen. A full mile is a long way for a four year old, especially without seeing the other runners. She kept stopping to pick flowers for me. Glenn got the volunteers to wait for us, though, so Claire got another ribbon and a prize (Sarah, too, because she ran the last tenth with us).

It was a great day, really. I was flying high about my finishing time (Glenn finished in the same time too, but he has faster finishing times...he was just glad to finish under 30 and without reinjuring his calf muscle). Next year, it would be great to have Rachel and Sarah run the 5K with us...definitely want them do the mile, which they probably would have done if we had talked it up more ahead of time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

my secret hope

I know that I'm a turtle trotter - and mostly, I am at peace with this. However, sometimes I get little whispers from some place deep within that thinks I could run faster if I really push myself.

Ever so often, I give in to that voice. Like last week. On Wednesday, while thinking about my usual 4 mile run that I do when Claire is at her enrichment class, that little voice whispered, "You can run this 4 miles in under 40 minutes". It probably wasn't too much of a stretch, since the last 2 times I ran that route I did it in 40:44 and then 40:11. So, I listened to that little voice. I took off feet flying, arms pumping, which I kept up for the first mile and half (a mile and half I shared with a manure truck that was spraying fertilizer as God intended it all over the field I was running through...if you've never run in the heat while aspirating manure, then you are a lucky person).

Then, I felt like I was going to puke. I've never run so fast that I've come to that point, though many runners have (especially at races when they push themselves...be careful when you cross the finish line not to step in the fruits of their achievement). I ended up needing a 3 minute walk break, along with two other minute walk breaks...and my time was 41:something. Not too bad, really...but slower than I'd done that route and slower than I wanted. That little whispery voice drew me away from my relaxed running ways and nearly had me puking right next to the golf course.

Which brings me to My Secret Hope. I've nursed this secret desire way down inside of me that I would finish in the top 6 in my age group at the annual Memorial Day VA 5K Race here in Lebanon. For most races I've been in, I am to ridiculously slow to even contemplate an age group finish. But the VA race is local - and they give out not the usual three, but SIX, awards. Wow! I thought, this might be possible...To do so, I'd definitely need to finish in under 30 minutes, but six months ago, that seemed totally do-able. I'd have to run, train, even do a few speedwork sessions, but I planned to be in GREAT shape by the time May rolled around.

Well, the race is tomorrow and I am in pretty decent running shape. I've consistently brought my overall pace time down to nearly a 10 minute mile - woohoo! But, realistically, that's not going to bring me a Top 6 tomorrow morning. Sigh.

I guess I'll just have to keep nursing that secret hope. There's always next year!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A mile in her shoes

Yesterday, my running friend Anna accomplished something amazing: she ran 1 mile for every year of her life as a way to celebrate turning 30.

Being the fabulous person that she is, there were plenty of ladies who wanted to celebrate and support Anna on this journey, and I was honored to be a part of Anna's running 30 miles through New York City.

Anna's support team included 5 or 6 wonderful women who ran different legs of her 30 miles in a relay of love & support. Those of us who weren't running with her followed Anna in a car, weaving in and out of traffic, avoiding parades and closed streets, so that we could be both an oasis for rest and refreshment for the runners (water, gatorade, gu, and potato chips were well stocked in the back of the car) as well as a mobile cheering squad. I'm sure that there were plenty of New Yorkers who were wondering what the heck was going on when a car full of crazy ladies would slow down, honking and screaming at a few be-pinked women running near them.

I got to run miles 9.5 through 16 with Anna (and her constant coach Stephanie, who ran all 30 miles with Anna) through Riverside Park on the West Side of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. This gave me a unique perspective of a part of the city that I have only ever viewed at 64 mph while I zoom down one of the Parkways on my way from Pennsylvania through to Massachusetts. Anna was running strong, but starting to feel all the miles, and I got to be my exuberant self, hopefully distracting her from thoughts of "What the heck was I thinking!!??"

When Team Anna met the birthday girl at mile 25, she was looking extremely tired and a wee bit grumpy...By the time I joined her again at mile 26.5 to finish the run with her, all Anna wanted to do was walk and get this over with. Her feet were KILLING her. So, I offered Anna my shoes. I run in ginormous Asics, and when Anna put them on, her feet just spread out. I put on Anna's smaller shoes and now my feet started to hurt (but I was willing to take one for Team Anna). A mile later of running in each other's shoes got us that much closer to our goal (beer at the finish line) and gave me a new appreciation of why I love my Asics and why Anna's feet must've hurt her...

We switched back for the last mile and Anna happily hobbled her way to the end. We wound up at the strangest bar ever (if a 9 year old could design a bar, it would've been this one that boasted a shelf of board games like Sorry and Operation and a menu with PB & J sandwiches) where we had a celebratory glass of Yuengling (yum!) and then went home for Indian take-out (yummer!).

And may I say, I am superdeeduper proud of my friend Anna! She totally rocked those 30 miles!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jill L. is a runner

Recently I followed my fellow running moms into joining a website called "dailymile." It's kind of like Facebook for people who want to track & post their workouts. It's a great site - easy to post, gives helpful feedback like how many calories I burned on a 5 mile run (585) or a 19 mile bike ride (1200-something). At the end of the week the site emails you a summary of what you did. Friends can comment on your workouts or send you motivation. I've linked dailymile to my blog, and so every time I post a new workout, a pretty orange (my favorite color!) box updates how many miles I ran.

But here's why I really love dailymile: when creating your profile you pick if you are a cyclist, runner, walker, swimmer, whatever. I picked runner. When I'm logged in to dailymile and on my profile page, here's what the tab reads:

Jill L. is a runner from Lebanon, PA

Sometimes I don't feel like much of a runner. Not the ATHLETE sort of runner. I've been at this activity for a few years now and I've gotten myself to the super-speedy mile pace of 10 minutes a mile, which I was reminded (inadvertently) by two people this weekend isn't really all that fast. When I'm running my 10 m/m, I am running with full-on effort. This is not a leisurely jog, this is me pushing pretty hard to maintain that pace and still breathe and not have my right arm go all tingly. I love to run, but some days I just don't feel like a "runner"; I'm just a mom who runs.

So, I've started to log-in to dailymile, just so I can glance at the tab.

Jill L. is a runner from Lebanon, PA

If it says so on the internet it must be true!

Monday, May 17, 2010

happy birthday to me!

Last Friday was my 35th birthday (how did I get to be THAT old? I swear I was just, like, 28 two years ago).

Friday didn't seem very birthday-y. That's one of the big differences of growing up - birthdays are just a blip of difference in the otherwise busy living of raising your family. Glenn and the kids wished me happy birthday in the morning, but we didn't really have much by way of plans since Sarah had a softball game that evening. After Sarah's game, we went out to a pizza place with the girls and another softball family. The waitstaff sang me "happy birthday" and put a candle in a piece of tiramisu. With all the rushing around, I didn't even open up my presents!

I'd told Glenn at some point that I really needed to get a run in on Saturday morning. I got into my running skirt right out of bed, but between my slow waking up, playing with Claire, drinking coffee...suddenly it was almost 9:30 and I hadn't yet run. Glenn had to leave to pick up Rachel from a sleepover, go to the supermarket, and we were having friends over at noon for a cookout. It seemed crazy for me to try and fit in a 5 mile run at my turtle trot pace, stretching, and a shower before the Pierces came over. I told him, I'd just go out of 4:00 but he was insistent that I run. So I did.

It was a great run. The weather was sunny but chilly, there was some wind but I chose a route with plenty of houses to block the gusts (originally I wanted to run through the farmlands, but that would've been tough). I can feel that I'm running better, more consistently, more strongly, and that's such a wonderfully alive feeling - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

As soon as I got home, Glenn was standing in the door. "Why don't you stretch outside?" he said. That seemed strange to me and I was a bit put off, but again he was insistent. So, there I was, trying to stretch on the sidewalk with Glenn standing on the steps in front of the door. He filled up my water bottle...and then I got it.

Oh, the girls were up to something, probably making birthday cards. Ok, I figured, I'd play along.

Glenn rushed me into the shower and when I was much less stinky, I came downstairs. The girls were hiding under blankets on the couches and yelled "Surprise!" Which was so cute! I opened my gifts from them - Sarah put a rubber chicken in a gift bag as a gag gift - and then noticed the cake Glenn got from the grocery store. It was HUGE. Way more cake than 4 adults and 4 kids could eat.

"What's up with the ridiculously large cake?" I asked...and Glenn said, "Surprise! We're having a party for you!"

The afternoon was spent with friends dropping by for burgers and hot dogs....and just after 2:00, my mother and niece showed up! They drove all the way from Massachusetts that morning to come to my party - how wicked awesome was that?

This was the best birthday I've had in YEARS, and I owe it all to my amazing husband. God certainly blessed me the day I met him.

And, since I'd had such a great 5 1/4 mile run that morning, I had a BIG piece of my ridiculously large cake!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

saturdays with my love

Every other Saturday, Glenn and I are blessed with a wonderful gift - no kids. Don't get me wrong - we love our children and are completely devoted to them. It's just nice to have a day that we can devote to grown-up things like applying for passports, paying bills, planning life events, mulching stuff and hauling our good-enough junk to the charity store.

The best part of our Saturdays: our bike ride. There's a great Rails for Trails that runs right through Lebanon Valley, and it is a wonderful place for a bike ride. There's shady spots and beautiful views of rolling Pennsylvania farmland, green hills and red barns.

On today's bike ride, my legs were tired pretty much from mile 2 on (and we rode 19 miles). My 6 mile run yesterday probably had a lot to do with that, as did the crazy wind, which was constant and gusts up to 40 mph. Talk about your resistance training! The bike ride made me feel both fit and unfit at the same time...fit, just to be outside working my muscles, enjoying my husband's company...unfit at the struggle it was to keep peddling at times.

My motivation: Paula (AdventureJunkieMom). Paula is training for an Ironman. An Ironman. I am exhausted just typing that word, never mind contemplating the 2 1/2 mile swim, 112 miles biked followed by running a marathon. Last weekend Paula ran a mock-half Ironman as part of her training...as I was peddling my little (ok, big) butt off, I kept thinking of Paula, biking 56 miles and then thinking, "Oh, I'll now run 13..."

When I got home, I nearly fell going down the stairs, my muscles were that tired! But, tired in that great way that lets you know you are alive and using every muscle that God gave you, taking care of the gift of life given to you by your Creator.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

king of pain

I think being a runner means living in constant fear of WHAT WAS THAT TWINGE??

You are running along and are suddenly aware that your left hip is a bit tight....OMG is that my illiotal band tightening up?? You are getting out of bed in the morning and find that your right foot is aching in a particular spot...OMG is that plantar fasciitis? You are sitting at your desk at work for a few hours and discover, upon rising, a sharp pain localized at the top of your left shin...OMG is that a stress fracture?

That last little scenario was me on Tuesday. An off day for running, I was at work, arose from my desk, and had this strange, sharp pain. The spot was tender to touch. All day, into the evening, there this pain was, lurking. At first, I just thought it was, well, a little pain. Just an ache. Any one - runner or not - gets these from time to time, right? And then...the more It lingered, the more I thought. I thought about Tracey and her stress fracture and 6 weeks of no running. I thought, I've just come off of two weeks of rest. I thought about my running shoes that have about 235 miles on them and I'm not ready to fork over another $135 for a new pair.

I tried to ignore the hot spot, but something like this just looms large in your mind, like some huge lurking monster smirking in the corner. I went to bed, thinking, It will be gone in the morning. And when I awoke on Wednesday, THERE IT WAS! Horror! I got out of bed, worried.

I went about my morning routine - congratulating Claire on another night dry, making Glenn's lunch, eating my Kashi, getting breakfast for the girls. And then, I realized.

It was gone!

No more pain. Heck, the spot wasn't even tender.

So, what was this all about? Did I imagine it? Am I some kind of runner's version of a hypochondriac, only imagining worst case scenarios of the running kind? Or was this just what it appears, simply an ache, a pain that will occur from time to time because, let's face it, running does put more pounding stress on the body than just sitting in front of your TV for hours?

Whatever it is, I'll just keep running. Which I did later on Wednesday, running 4 miles in the hot sun, along the rolling farm roads, passing a group of cows who actually moo'ed at me, and seeing only one piece of roadkill.