Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Boston Marathon Recap

The Boston Marathon itself is truly a bucket-list experience. I knew running this race would be more meaningful than any other marathon I’d done, and it absolutely was - I just never expected why it would mean so much...and I’ll never forget the moment the feeling washed over me.

I signed up to run Boston with the Hall Steps Foundation just one month before the race – I was an injury replacement. I’d been training consistently, but hadn’t done the long runs marathon training demanded and found myself woefully unprepared for Boston’s soul-crushing hills. As I shuffled up a particularly steep incline on mile 17, I wanted to walk. I was upset with myself and knew my goal time was out of reach. I was really feeling sorry for myself…but then it hit me; this race was not about me.

The only reason I was there was because of Steps and I wasn’t running this race for myself, I was running for the Mom in Kenya who might get to see her kids grow up because Steps provided clean drinking water. I was running for the little girl in Chicago who learns through the Steps mentoring program that she’s worth something and can achieve things, so she stays out of trouble because jail would seriously hinder her long-runs. I pushed past the pain, pushed through the hill and just kept going. Eight more miles was a long way to go, but when I thought about the people being helped by the money I was raising and all they had to go through, it seemed so much easier.

When I hit Heartbreak, I expected it would take everything I had but that’s when lightning struck for me; that was the moment I’ll forever remember. Fueled by a new sense of meaning, Heartbreak was a breeze and as I crested the hill, I was overcome. The crowd carried me through then last 10K and when I crossed the finish line and was handed my medal, I had never felt such pride...or such gratitude for Steps and what they gave me as I got through the race.

The Boston Marathon is an amazing event, but being a part of the Hall Steps Foundation team made it so much better. I never expected to meet and bond so quickly with such amazing teammates with whom I had so much in common. I never expected to be cheered on and treated with such sincere kindness by the Steps staff and volunteers. With such enormous fame and success, I never expected Ryan and Sara Hall to be so giving of themselves and sincere in talking with every person they met, and so truly thankful for all we were doing for them.

Boston is among my most treasured memories, and the race itself was just one piece of the experience. I'm a competitive person who can hit some low-lows when my performances don't match my expectations. Of the four marathons I've run, this was my worst showing by 10 minutes and yet somehow became the best time of my life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I just got word that I get to run THIS YEAR'S BOSTON MARATHON!!!

I'm teaming up with the Hall Steps Foundation and am honored to have the opportunity to raise money for them in return for participating in every runner's dream event, the Boston Marathon.

Please help me support this incredible cause. The Hall Steps Foundation takes small steps every day toward the marathon goal of ending poverty.

STEPS partners with existing charities and is in the process of creating its own initiatives within the United States, including mentoring running programs for at-risk youth. Money raised through STEPS will help provide clean water, fight human trafficking and funding a rescue center home, among many other things.

I'd like to raise at least $100 for every mile I'll run, so I've set a goal of $2,620. Please help me get there by donating through the website linked below. It's simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts.

Many thanks for your support -- and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too! Click on the gadget at the right to visit my donation page.
Runners too often ignore how important rest is to one’s training. No one could say that about me; the 2007 Dog Days 5K was my first race in 14 years. In between the two races, I’d graduated high school and college, had a son, been married and divorced, changed careers, run maybe 30 miles...and tacked on 30 pounds. Well-rested indeed. Although that race was a mere 3.1 miles, I never expected the journey I’d take from there and what it would mean to me along the way.

While it felt good to complete the challenging Dog Days course, I was discouraged with my time. You see, those who ran in high school or college must grapple with the unreasonable idea of being just as good as you once were, when running was your only job and your body had yet to understand the concept of mutiny. We must overcome this idea to recapture the joy of running. Some never do.

After running another 5K, I wanted to challenge myself in a way I never had, so I set my sights on a half-marathon. I’d never run that far before and truly didn’t know if I could. I decided on the Austin Half Marathon, booked the tickets and began training.

Fighting through a couple of training setbacks, I arrived in Texas having only gone as far as an 11-mile long run. I began the race on that cold mid-February morning in 2008 among 15,000 runners. It took 30 minutes for the pack to thin and as the miles ticked away, I became more relaxed, trying to soak in the experience. Amid the cheering crowds at mile nine, a runner’s high washed over me in a way it never had before, and has not since. This elation drew tears of pride and accomplishment, as it was in that moment that I knew, no matter what, I would finish this race. The last 5K wound through a grueling array of hills, testing my mettle in ways unexpected. Sprinting through the finish drew tears once more, as I felt perhaps the greatest sense of personal accomplishment in my life. Running was magical that day, more meaningful than it had ever been and yet, this feeling had nothing to do with my time.

This Valentine’s Day, 2010, most of my friends were at home, running the Gainesville full or half marathons. I wanted to be there too, but was again drawn to the Austin half. I think I was trying to recapture that elusive high I felt two years prior. Once again, my training has not gone as planned, but I had a goal I thought challenging but achievable.

As my alarm clock went off that morning, it took everything I had to drag myself out of bed. The race began and before finishing the first mile, I ran through the list of reasons why I should pull out. To borrow from Yogi Berra, running is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical; this was going to be a long day.

I wore the Florida Track Club singlet, and was proud to represent our club, being careful not to cover the logo with my number. I didn’t start how I’d planned, however, and I was getting frustrated and embarrassed...but after three miles, as the pack began to thin, something changed for me; I heard someone yell, “Go Florida!” It happened once, then again as complete strangers saw the FTC logo and cheered me through. At the 10K mark, there were hundreds of spectators screaming out to me, and I felt something I never had before. Magic struck in Austin and once again, this feeling had nothing to do with time.

Not quite two and a half years since my first race back, I’ve dropped five minutes from my 5K time...and those 30 pounds. When I think of when running has been most meaningful to me, very little had anything to do with my time. Meaning has come the through struggle and success. Meaning has arrived in the friends I’ve made along the way. I’ve run three marathons, four halves, and been part of a team that’s run across the state twice. I haven’t beat my high school times and maybe I never will, but I sure have enjoyed the ride.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In 2008, we never expected to win the Ragnar Relay. As a co-ed team of six women and six men, our team, Road Thrill, ran Florida’s inaugural Ragnar Relay with a goal of running nearly 200 miles in less than 24 hours. Knowing we had a strong team, we expected to compete for the co-ed title. A little more than halfway through the race, our focus changed a bit realizing we were neck and neck for the overall lead, duking it out with an all-male cross country team from Florida College. As dusk gave way to dawn, Road Thrill emerged in the lead with our best runners yet to begin their last legs. However, as one of our runners got injured, then fatigue, pacing and unseasonably warm temperatures started to affect some of the fastest people, the win wasn’t as certain. The team rallied and cheered one another on, and as Lindsay Sundell handed off to Andrew Robinson for the final leg. Flanked by many of his teammates, Andrew crossed the finish line nearly 40 minutes ahead of Florida College. Our time was 22:14, a 6:51 overall pace for 194 miles. An unexpected benefit of running this race was that this group of 12 became fast friends, attending regular meetings and even the occasional wedding, and one thing kept coming back up – how do we top that kind of effort?

Keeping as much of the original Road Thrill team intact as possible, we began preparing for the 2009 race. We had to replace a couple of runners due to injury – and yet another due to pregnancy, a different kind of injury all together. We finally completed the roster two days before the race and though a few of us were nursing injuries, we hopped into two vans – a van for the boys and one for the girls – with six original Road Thrillers and six newcomers.

Based on predicted overall time, Ragnar starts teams in waves with the goal of having all teams finish in a window of a couple of hours. The first of more than 100 teams started at 7:15, then 8, 9 and so on. Pulling into the start in Clearwater, the top five teams from last year came back, all said they were faster and it became apparent that Road Thrill 2.0 was the hunted. With the last wave of competitors starting at 2:00pm, our ladies van began the first stretch of the competition, and by the time the beauties yielded to the beasts (the men’s van), Road Thrill was comfortably in front. Our focus changed once again from an overall victory to beating every other team to the finish line – even the ones with an almost 7-hour head start. We ran into the night, dancing on the shoulders of busy highways, then through pitch-black trails and eventually, handing off one last time to the ladies and trying desperately but unsuccessfully to grab an hour of sleep before our last run. When the ladies handed off to the guys van for the final time, Road Thrill caught all but one of the teams…or so we thought. Our first male runner, Brent Schneider made quick work of the last team and Road Thrill was going to cruise to an overall victory and be the first team to finish.

Midway through our last van, we found out there was another team on the course – his name was Mike. Mike decided to do the whole course on his own, beginning his journey four days prior and I had the great honor of being the one to meet him on the course. It was my last leg and I was hurting, but somehow, it was very hard to feel sorry for myself with my 16.9 miles when Mike was doing 204. I caught up, asked his name and thanked him for the inspiration before I passed the baton.
There was no better ending to the story for us then when we saw our team captain, Oscar Boykin, running through the blazing heat, down the boardwalk in Daytona Beach. This time, we were all there, at his side when he crossed the finish line in 21:55 – a 6:30 overall pace and ahead of the next team by just under two hours. We are so proud of the accomplishment and inspired by our teammates…and inspired, of course, by Mike as well.

Road Thrill 2.0 consists of :
Jo Shott, Anna Busby, Erin Boykin, Lindsay Sundell, Allison Costello and Mary Waechter
Brent Schneider, Andy Robinson, Oscar Boykin, Jake Logan, Alex Phipps and THE Julio Palma

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Six Full Months, Eight Weeks To Go

I set aside six full months to devote to training for this marathon. I have eschewed countless races that I would have done because I am dedicated to racing this 26.2. I am just eight weeks away and what I’ve learned thus far is that marathon training is a roller coaster ride. There have been so many ups and so many downs. First I was hurt and had to adjust my goal. Then I learned to manage my injury and started to run further than I ever have. I was under all the prescribed times on every workout and began toying with adjusting my goal time of 3:30. I finished my first 20-miler on top of the world, well under my target time and with enough left to finish another 6.2 if I were so inclined. Immediately after, I caught a cold I couldn’t shake and couldn’t run for more than two weeks. Tuesday was my first day back and my track workout went well. Today (Thursday) was a tempo run (comfortably fast) and I couldn’t finish the whole workout. It’s amazing how much is lost in 16 days. I’m supposed to do another 20 miler this weekend and, based on today, I don’t see that happening. This, too, shall pass and I will get going again but it sure has been an interesting journey thus far.

My team for the Ragnar Relay is getting rolling. I mentioned this run in an earlier blog, but this is a race from Clearwater to Daytona Beach. There are 12 of us on the team, six men and six women. We are going to run 191 miles in less than 24 hours. Here’s how it works, but first we’ll go through the vocab:
1) Segment – the total amount of mileage one does over the entire race
2) Leg – Everyone runs three different legs which equal their segment
So, there are twelve segments and each one averages about 16 miles, the longest being 21.2 and the shortest being about 11 miles. Once you choose the segment, the legs are set in that they are evenly spaced. So, you couldn’t run all 16 at once. If you run the first leg, you then run the 13th and the 25th – hours apart. Got it? I don’t know for sure which leg I am running, but I would LOVE to run the last one and bring it all home to my old stomping grounds in Daytona. Most likely, I’ll run the second or third leg. We’ll see. We’ll be in different vans, six in each one, runners one through six in the first and the rest in the other. I don’t expect I’ll sleep at all or eat a whole lot. I hope to shower once and will be forced to bond in special ways with some teammates who we don’t really know all that well. Will be fun to write about.

Anyway, our team expects to win. What I mean is, I’ve looked at the times for other races and, for the co-ed division; we really should be positioned well, averaging about a 6:45 minute mile pace throughout. The race is November 14 & 15. I’ll keep you updated.

By the way, I am still raising money for the Heart Association! I know everyone has so much jack laying around these days, so there’s nothing better that you could do with that money than donating it to charity! Help me out – I’m actually pretty close to my goal. Thank you – I hope you all are well.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Overdue Blog

Sorry for the lack of updates of late. The fact is, not having a job is kind of a downer. You see, I want (or at least envision) my blog being informational with a bit of humor. Perhaps some levity in lieu of poignancy? Anyway, I haven’t been in the mood to be terribly funny. I do, however, have a tremendous amount of faith in myself (perhaps an unreasonable amount?) and am sure something will turn up here soon enough. The running, however, has really helped keep me centered and has given me something to which I look forward.

I am nearing the end of my fifth week of marathon training. While I have been ‘training’ for months, this particular program is five-weeks old. Last week, I racked up 30 miles, which is the most I’ve had in one week since I was a sophomore in high school. Coincidentally, I am also back to my high school weight, tipping the scales at 154 lbs, which according to my height, is on the upper end of the BMI scale for ‘normal.’ I’m 10 pounds away from technically being ‘overweight.’ I think BMI is rubbish because it doesn’t take body type into consideration, but I digress.

This Saturday, I will meet members of my running group at 5:45 am and begin, in earnest, a slow 18-mile run. This will most likely leave me lethargic for the rest of the day, as the last four weeks of long runs (12, 14, 16.5 and 16) have. I’m not sure if it’s the distance, the early morning start or a combination of the two, but what I do know is that by 9:30 in the morning, I will have burned nearly 2,500 calories, allowing me to eat pretty much as a damn-well please for the day. I’m still not sure it’s worth it, but justification is a powerful thing and deserves reverence.

So, this is the part of the show where I ramble about the long runs, as that’s today’s selected topic. For the most part, I feel like I do many things well; sleeping is not among them. To prepare for these long runs, I try to go to bed super-early (around 10 for me). The thrashing usually begins at about 2. Last week I was awake from 2-4, then the alarm when off at 5. I ate a proper breakfast of steel-cut oats (with yogurt, blueberries, honey and cinnamon) that I made overnight in the slow cooker (slow-cooker is the masculine way to say ‘crock-pot’…it should however be noted that it’s unclear if owning either can ever really be masculine).

So, on any given Saturday, I drive to whatever location is decided on for the week by the running group leader, a truly incredible woman; a wealth of knowledge and experience, she’s gracious and committed. I run a couple of quick miles, probably three, before the bulk of the group gets there at 6:15. These first three are creaky miles, as my body threatens mutiny not only for the hell I will put it through over the next several hours, but also because it’s just too damn early. The group gets there, and I settle into the pack, sometimes in the middle, sometimes up front, and we gallivant all over little Gainesville. I have lived here for a total of eight years and these people have shown me incredible things I never would have known existed in this town, from renowned Tobacco Road, to the trails at Ring Park to Gainesville’s steepest hills near Westside Park.

Many in the group are training for a marathon – I’m not sure any are doing the same one but all have a focus. I usually settle into a pace in the low 8’s with another runner. She’s doing the Jacksonville Bank Marathon two weeks after I do Memphis and absolutely kicks my butt up and down the streets. I don’t know if I would have been able to hang on last week if I hadn’t attached myself to her shoulder for the last four or five miles.

People keep asking how my foot is doing. It still hurts; it’s a low-grade, constant pain. Rarely is it much worse during the course of any specific day. If I were to use the standard pain assessment scale our medical professionals use, I would say it’s anywhere from a 1 to a 4. So, when I wake up, it hurts the most – typically a 4. I stretch it out then it settles into its number for the day – usually a 2. It doesn’t really get in the way of my running; it’s just kind of annoying. I wear these soft inserts that help, but I want to try to get out of them because they retain sweat. By the end of my long runs, my socks and shoes are soaking wet, weighing everything down. My toes have the albino raisin look about them, frequently chewed to hell and often sporting two or three blisters. Regardless, it’s manageable. I look forward to the few weeks after the marathon where I will largely be off my feet and hope it will heal then as I decide what kind of a runner I want to be if I grow up. More marathons? Triathlons, perhaps? Focus in on a sub-17 minute 5K? We shall see.

Anyhow, that’s all I’ve got for now. I will try to be more diligent about it. If you feel so inclined, please feel free to suggest topics. Oh, and by the way, happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Sun is Always Brighter

Well, it’s been a month since the Boilermaker in Utica (picture of my finish to the left) and the slight injury I got just doesn’t want to go away. I took a week off and the foot was feeling pretty good. Then, in a dazzling attempt to defy any semblance of intelligence one might assign me, I ran a 400 meter race on a whim which, as you may have guessed, ended badly. I made the injury worse and took another week off.

I got some inserts that have helped and I have been running very sparingly over the last two weeks. I have discontinued a Jake Logan staple of flip-flops and have taken to wearing shoes with the said inserts all hours of the day – I even put them in my dress shoes.

Running on it doesn’t agitate my foot, but it’s also just not getting better. I went to a podiatrist, who has run four marathons himself and he told me I should just run through it, so run through it I shall.

I have been taking it easy. To give you a point of reference, I had run more than 25 miles a week the entire month before the Boilermaker. Over the last four weeks, however, I haven’t even run 25 miles combined.

I didn’t realize this until just recently, but the drop-off in activity has had a dramatic effect on me. While I haven’t gained a lot of weight, the weight has already shifted. For some reason, my already suspect sleeping habits have once again deteriorated, putting me at less than five hours a night and, most upsetting, has wreaked havoc on my moods.

I am to start my 16-week marathon training plan Tuesday, August 19 which includes a13 miler that Saturday. I have every intention of diving in to this program and we’ll see what happens.

Some of the highlights of the last couple of weeks; I ran 4 miles in Atlanta with my sister-in-law. I ran 4 miles through campus at the University of Virginia and 7.5 through a very hilly BJ Park in Richmond. Additionally, I purchased a road bike to try and do some cross training and maybe get started with Triathlons. We shall see.

The bottom line is, the sun is always brighter elsewhere and despite all the whining running rampant through the rest of this update, all will be well. This will get better or it won’t and I’ll further adjust my expectations. What I know is, I will get through this marathon; I’ll bounce back from it all as I refuse for this last year to be a sunset soon forgotten. In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated.