Monday, September 29, 2008

2 States, 5 Cities, 26.2 Miles... Part 4

As soon as I crossed the 20 mile mark, I started scanning the streets for Steve's bright yellow windbreaker. Everybody cheered for me, and my Mom asked, "How are you doing?" I had to admit that I did not feel good. Again carrying Jack, Steve ran along side of me and asked what was wrong. He was afraid that maybe I was hurt - he told me later that he could see a difference - in my face, in my stride, everything - when I got off the island. I explained that I was really tired and that my legs were cramping.

"You can do this," Steve said. "You just need to run 3 miles there, then another 3 miles back. You can do 3 miles in your sleep. You'll be done before you know it."

Is he a great runner husband or what? You can really tell he's been listening and knows how to make the crazy sound completely reasonable.

The course went along side the river in Moline, a place where I have run many, many times. It was out and back, so I was able to see other runners headed towards the finish line when I was headed out and vice versa. I actually liked that a lot - it made the last 10K seem less lonely than it did when I ran in Des Moines. I saw my brother, then Kent, both of whom gave me high fives.

Still, you guys, I was tired. When the 22 mile marker was in sight, I tried an experiment in which I picked up the pace big time and headed towards it. Sweet Yoda, did my knees scream at me for that one. Lesson learned: slow and steady with walk breaks as needed.

A bit later, a guy in a hat came up next to me and started chatting with me. We agreed that my 4:30 goal wasn't going to happen, but talked positive - that most people in the world could not do what we were doing at that very moment, and that we were setting a positive example for our friends and family. I thought about Jack, his beaming pride at racing a fine quarter mile, and the way he says, "That lady is running like Mommy" every time he sees a runner. He and I stuck pretty close together for several miles. In the book The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide, they talk about a "running angel," someone who appears when you most need a boost. Maybe it's a spectator ringing a cowbell, or a volunteer with an orange slice when you desperately need it. In my case, the guy in the hat was my running angel. He helped me keep my mind off of how much I was hurting and helped me focus on why I was running.

On we ran, all the way through Moline, then basically did a toe touch in East Moline. There, the UTHS cheerleaders had built a giant wall for us to run through, which was pretty darned cool.

I struggled on, thinking, "Okay, I can do this," which I must have unwittingly said out loud, since another runner looked at me and said, "Yes, you can." I tried my best to focus on how hard I'd worked, how far I've come, and all of the reasons I'm a runner. I thought about other things that I've done in my life that have been physically difficult that I got through. And I looked at the runners headed in the other direction and thought how they'd change places with me if they could, to be as close to the finish as I was. I knew that 4:30 was no longer a possibility, but I knew that even if I ran slowly, I could still get 4:45 or better, which would still be a PR.

With one mile to go, I focused on runners ahead of me and did my best to pass them, catching two. My mom, Doug, and Andy were near the finish line, cheering for me. Andy looked tired and very happy to not be running. I picked up my pace, with the finish line in sight... and strained my eyes for the yellow windbreaker I'd been looking for all day. Steve and Jack went crazy cheering for me, but you can really see the struggle on my face at that point.

The announcer called, "And coming in to the finish line, Betsy Wasser of Moline!" I put my arms up in celebration, then heard, "Congratulations, Mom. Looks like you've got a little one helping you out." I looked down, and sure enough, Jack was running me in to the finish. Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a peak experience; having Jack by my side made that peak experience even stronger.

My finishing time? 4:38:23. I didn't make my 4:30 goal, but considering what a hard time I had at the end, I am very proud of the fact that I came so close. Even more importantly, I beat my previous time by almost 20 minutes.

After a rest, it was time to head home - but first, I spotted my running angel, the guy in the hat. I told everyone to wait and rushed (okay, shuffled at a slightly elevated pace) over to talk to him. I told him how much he helped me, how much easier finishing the race was because of him. I told him that on that day, he was my running angel. He smiled and said that getting a finisher's medal is a great feeling, but that knowing he'd helped a fellow runner was even better. We hugged, and I headed home. I hope one day to be able to do the same for someone else.

The rest of the day was spent dozing in bed, watching movies with Jack. We went out for a celebratory dinner, and Steve and Jack presented me with a new charm bracelet to congratulate me on a great race. I can't wait to add more charms to it as I finish more races.

"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon."
-Emil Zatopek

2 States, 5 Cities, 26.2 Miles, Part 3

I tried my best to think positive about running on the Arsenal. I'd heard it was rough - 7 miles, which included the dreaded "middle miles," and with spectators few and far between. That was all true and it was not good. It was, however, really pretty. We got to run along the river some more, at at that point in the morning, it was filled with sailboats. Lovely, right? There were also plenty of trees, a nice golf course, and some interesting houses and whatnot.

However, it was absolutely true that there was a dearth of spectators. At around mile 16, I started to get tired. My legs were cramping, and I really did not feel great. I could not have been more ready to get off the island. For the first time all morning, I started taking walk breaks of more than a few steps.

I got a bit of a boost at mile 19, when I saw an old friend of mine from high school. She was volunteering and did an outstanding job of cheering her lungs out for me. I kept on pushing through, my entire focus being to get off the island and hit the 20 mile mark. There, I knew I'd see my family again and be so very close to do.

Fatigue was setting in bigtime when the 4:30 pace group passed me. I did my best to keep them in my sights as I finally left Arsenal Island.

To be continued...

2 States, 5 Cities, 26.2 Miles... Part 2

And we were off! The race course got really cool immediately as we crossed the I-74 bridge over the Mississippi River into Iowa. This is the only time that the bridge is ever open to pedestrians, and the view was spectacular. We ran into Bettendorf, Iowa, up a slight incline, then back down to run along the river. At some point in the downhill, I got ahead of the 4:30 pace group, but I felt so good that I kept on going, cruising along at or under 10:00 miles.

At around the 6 mile mark, I was greeted by my family - Steve (wearing a bright yellow jacket that I looked for all day, Jack clanging his cowbell, and my mom and Doug holding up signs for me.

I continued along the river, enjoying the beautiful views. I feel very fortunate as a runner that any time I want to go running, I can do so along the banks of the Mississippi, and to be able to run my hometown marathon there was a thrill. My family greeted me again at 10 miles as I ran through Davenport.

We crossed over the Centennial Bridge, back to Illinois, this time in Rock Island. The course ran around downtown, and there were nice pockets of spectators. My knee had an odd tinge to it that I decided to nip in the bud, so I called Steve and asked him to have ready 4 Advil for me - and a pack of Sport Beans. At mile 12 or so, he handed it off to me, then he jogged about a block with me, carrying a grinning Jack all the way.

I crossed the half marathon point at around 2:11 and felt fantastic. With that, the course entered Arsenal Island, which I had been warned was deadly dull.

To be continued...

2 States, 5 Cities, 26.2 Miles: Part 1

I've heard about a meme floating around the internets that poses a challenge: if you only had 12 hours to spend in the area where you live now, what would you do? The very first thing I would do?

Run the Quad Cities Marathon.

Running this course was a spectacular way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the area where I live. Even when I was hurting the most, I worked hard to take it in and enjoy myself. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind to Saturday, the day before the race.

Some of the best marathon advice I have read is to get a good night's sleep two nights before the race. The night before, you can count on being nervous and antsy, so there may be nothing you can do to sleep well. But two nights before, you can bank some sleep. That's what I did. Then, the boys and I drove around the course so that Steve could determine the best cheering spots for my support crew.

After that, it was time to go to the race expo - and for Jack to run the Kids' Micromarathon. I bought two new Bondi Bands (I love my first one so much that I was spending a crazy amount of time washing it), a very cool windbreaker in red with the race logo on the back, and a cowbell for Jack. While I was there, I went ahead and joined our the Cornbelt Running Club, a local group I've been meaning to sign up with. As a bonus, I got a logo coffee mug from them.

The rest of the family - my mom, my stepdad, and my brother (who came in to run the marathon as well) arrived in time to watch Jack run. Jack's race was a quarter mile, which is the longest race he's ever run. A quarter mile is a really long way when you're only three, but I knew he could do it. Jack even asked Steve to just watch, rather than run with him. Jack did awesome. He tore up that course with the biggest smile on his face. I ran along the sidelines so I could cheer for him and was very impressed when he turned on the speed at the end and passed a bunch of kids. That's my boy!

Back at Stately Wasser Manor, we enjoyed a pre-race carb dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread, and my mom's homemade apple crisp for dessert. I actually slept pretty well, despite a bad dream in which I couldn't find a place to park and missed the start of the race.

Race morning, Andy and I had coffee and bagels, then headed to the race. I love the energy at the starting line. You're surrounded by runners, and there is a delicious anticipation about everything. I found the 4:30 pace group, took my place, and when the gun went off, I found myself thinking, "This is it! I'm running a marathon!"

To be continued...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

26.2 Words

Marathon magic comes when you decide to do something so difficult, requiring so much work and dedication. Crossing the finishing line is icing on the cake.

(This is my contribution to this week's Take it and Run Thursday, in which we were challenged to talk about the marathon in 26 words or less. I used 26... my picture is the .2. Have you ever seen someone so happy to be sitting on a bench eating a sandwich?)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

George Clooney

I tried momentarily to come up with a more clever title for this post, but why bother? Really, how could you not read a post titled so provocatively? "George Clooney" should be all I need to say.

My boyfriend George Clooney may be hard to resist when he looks like this:

or this:

(and I'd like to add that the incredible crappiness of Batman and Robin was not his fault at all. Poor George had a lousy script to work with.)

But then, I saw Burn After Reading, in which he looked like this:

Not only does his character look like George Clooney, but he is also a runner. Come on! Throughout the movie, he obsesses about whether or not "I have time to get a run in." His mood depends very much on how long it has been since his last run - towards the end, he despairs, "I haven't been running in three days!" I hear you, George. Maybe we can get in a quick run together. In fact, perhaps I've discovered the cure for taper madness.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Okay, Internet, we are now at less than ONE WEEK before the marathon, so it is time for me to kick up the obsessiveness into high gear. Current topic: race strategy.

My strategy when I ran the Des Moines marathon last year was fairly simple - my goal was (1) to finish and (2) to not die, and I thus achieved that goal by moving in a forward direction until I crossed the finish line and got my medal and space blanket. Mission accomplished!

But this time, I am looking to PR by a significant amount and to finish as strong as I possibly can. But I can think of several different approaches that will get me there.

One thing I have figured out is my hydration and fuel strategy. I will get water and/or Gatorade approximately every three miles and will take Gu or sport beans every six. I will walk through those water stops - my goal is not so ambitious that I can't afford these short breaks, and I know from my long runs that they work well for me.

But what about pace?

Option 1: Program my Garmin, Paula, to prompt me to run a pace that will get me to my goal of 4:30. Aim for even splits. The pros are that this strategy is very straightforward, and obviously will work if I just run as fast as I need to. The con is that what if 4:30 is not the fastest I could have run? What if I end up doing myself a disservice?

Option 2: Fly blind. Use Paula to track mileage, but ignore the pace. Possibly even tape over that part of the screen with blue painter's tape to avoid temptation. When I ran the trisko, I did most of it blind because Paula couldn't get a signal in the bad weather. I ran completely by feel, and I think that because of that, I ran faster than I would have. If I had known how fast I was going, I might have said, "Betsy, that is way too fast for these conditions. Take it easy." The con to this idea is that I might go out too fast and die in the end.

Option 3: Make a hybrid of these two plans, leaving the door open for negative splits. Program Paula to get me on 4:30 pace through the halfway point, then run by feeling, picking it up if I feel up to it.

Well, runners? What say you?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Por Supesto

Jack: I hope that my toy in my Happy Meal is Mr. Freeze.

Me: That would be cool.

Jack: I really want a Mr. Freeze who comes with a blaster and whose head comes off and you can put a shark head in place of his regular head and he can use his shark head to scare Batman.

Me: Wow. That's... elaborate.

Jack: Does "elaborate" mean "cool" in Spanish?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I have created a monster

This morning, Jack and I were talking about "Mommy's big race" that is coming up, also known as the Quad Cities Marathon.

Jack: Can I run the race with you, Mommy?
Me: No, this one I need to run by myself.
Jack: But I really want to run it with you.
Me: I do need you to cheer for me. You'll do that, right? How are you going to cheer for me?
Jack (forlornly): gomommygo.
Me: What? Is that what it's going to sound like?
Jack: I'm just sad because I want to run with you, Mommy.

Then I reminded him that he is running a race the day before my big race, and that if he wants to, he can run it all by himself.

Me: So, what do you think? Do you want me to run the race with you?
Jack: No. I am going to run it with Daddy and Uncle Andy. You can hold my tigers.

Dude is totally trying to make me feel bad.

The Best Running Blog You're Not Reading

Running blogs have become yet another way for me to feed my obsession with running. I love seeing what other runners - of different ability levels, of different distances, of different ambitions, in different parts of the world - are thinking about. Learning about what my BRF's are up to makes me laugh, pings at my heart, and makes me want to lace up my shoes and hit the road.

Some running bloggers have developed quite the following. I'll see an article in my feeds and discover that there have been 20 comments before I've even had my coffee. That's super cool, and I love those blogs as much as the next runner. But today, for Take It and Run Thursday, I want to send some love to a blogger who writes great stuff, but that maybe you haven't found yet.

The blog is called Sprinting Around DC, and it's by my friend and fellow Reality News Online editor Sandy.

Sandy became a runner just recently, running her first half marathon in Virginia Beach last year. Running was a challenge for her. She'd email me questions about clothing, gear, whether to run on the sidewalk or on grass - anything she could think of to make her a better runner.

Sandy's early entries are studded with remarks like, "I only had to stop to walk once today!" She worked hard, persevered, and finished with the world's biggest smile on her face.

Then, she kept on going. Specifically, Sandy took her running to an even bigger, better place. She signed on with Team In Training, ran her first marathon, then ran Virginia Beach again, turning in an impressive new PR despite some lousy weather. She also now serves as a team captain for TNT, mentoring people who are becoming runners for the first time, not unlike what she did herself not so long ago. She's also training to run her second marathon ever - and her second one this year. How cool is that? When the fabulous Amy from Runner's Lounge gave me an extra I AM A RUNNER braceleet, I knew I had to send it to Sandy right away. If anyone is a runner, it's Sandy.

It's true that I've been a runner for longer than Sandy has, and she still occasionally emails me looking for advice. But Sandy is absolutely an inspiration to me. I love reading her blog, seeing her continuing joy as she deepens her relationship with running, seeing the strength she derives from her work with TNT, and watching her go from trying not to take too many walk breaks on a five mile run to deciding that one marathon a year isn't enough.

So, go on over to Sandy's blog and discover a great new read.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A New Hope

Jack doesn't know this yet (and don't you punks tell him), but the three of us are going to Disney World next month. And while we're there, we will go to a Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom. We did last year, and the three of us dressed as The Incredibles. It really added to the (already huge amounts of) fun to be in family costumes, so Steve and I resolved to do it again.

When we broached the subject hypothetically - what costumes could we all wear for Halloween - Jack's answer was immediate: Star Wars guys. He'd be Anakin, I'd be Princess Leia, and Steve would be Luke. I think we all know that at this point, Steve and I are not even remotely humoring Jack; it's not like I'm Dora, Jack is Diego, and Steve is Rescue Pack (Roary would be Baby Jaguar); we are freaking psyched to wear Star Wars costumes.

Last night, we decided to surprise Jack with the costumes, which arrived in the mail. While he was downstairs talking to GrandmaGrandpa, Steve and I hurriedly put our costumes on. We were sure Jack would totally freak out, be overcome with joy and surprise.

We came downstairs, decked out in our Episode IV finery: Steve in Luke's Tattoine garb, complete with boots, utility belt, and blue lightsaber; me in white dress and cinnamon bun hair.

Jack's reaction?

"Oh, did my costume come, too?"

He did not freak out in the least. He completely rolled with it. That is because, in Jack's world, why wouldn't you dress like a Star Wars character if given the opportunity?

We did, however, have this conversation:

Jack: Mommy?
Me: Yes, Anakin?
Jack: Oh, Princess Leia? Can I talk to Mommy for a minute:
Me: What is it, Jack?
Jack: How did you get your hair to do that?
Me: It's a wig.
Jack: No, how did you get your hair to look like Princess Leia?

He finally got it when I took off the wig and put it on his head.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Unplanned Awesomeness

Saturday morning, I woke Jack up bright and early. "I want to keep on sleeping, Mommy," he told me, but when I reminded him that we were running a race, he perked right up. "It's raining today," I told him, "And some people don't like to run in the rain." Jack gave me a big grin and said, "But not us!" He was even more excited when he looked out the window and saw just how hard it was raining.

Rain or no rain, the race looked like a fun one. It started and finished at Niabi Zoo, and there was a whole morning of races for the two of us. First, a 5K for me, then a 1 mile family race that Jack and I planned to rock out with the jogger, then a 1/4 mile run for him. We got really cool long sleeved t-shirts in our swag bags, and Jack even got a stuffed giraffe. Score! My mom drove us there to act as race support- carry my jacket for me, hang out with Jack while I was running, and of course, cheer for us. Ever the dedicated fan, the rain didn't dampen her enthusiasm ever.

But then, a dark cloud covered all of the other dark clouds. I heard rumors circulating that only the 5K was on - all other races had been cancelled. I was beyond disappointed - I really did not need to run a 5K race two weeks before my marathon, and I had a little guy just dying to run a race.

I pulled Race Support Staff Mom aside and told her the news. We quickly formulated a plan: after I started running, she and Jack would find a spot near the finish line. Then, when I got to him, he'd join me and we'd cross the finish line together. We filled Jack in on the plan, and he was so excited about finishing the race with Mommy that I think he completely forgot about everything else.

As I started my race, I did my best to relax and run easy. No need to kill myself on what should be a fun run, after all. But I soon realized that there was only one woman in front of me. Crazy, right? For the first time in I don't know how long, I was poised to place, and to get an age group award for sure.

I also realized that scoring a trophy was nowhere near the most important thing on my mind. I was so excited to see my little guy and to finish the race with him.

Jack and Mom were waiting for me 100 meters or so from the finish. I called to Jack to join me... just as another woman passed me. Uncharacteristically, I let her go, finishing the race with Jack just behind me. As he ran, Jack waved at his throngs of adoring fans. Mom told me later that Jack had actually practiced running through the finish line a couple of times. The announcer cheered for Jack through his bullhorn as we finshed the race together.

I ended up chatting with the girl who passed me. She actually said, "Sorry about passing you at the end; I hate doing that." I was like, "Woman, please. It's a race," leaving out the fact that in this case, I didn't even try to catch her. We joked that everyone put their age group on their t-shirts, so as she passed me, I would have known she was only 29.

Meanwhile, Jack found the world's biggest puddles and had the time of his life splashing through them. My mom and I watched as he actually removed a boot, dumped out about a gallon of water, and resumed splashing. Another runner told Jack, "I don't think anybody out here is having more fun than you are today."

Perhaps not, but I have to say, I came close.

Overall results:
Overall place: 21
3rd place woman
1st place, women 30-34
Time: 25:14 For those of you keeping score, that's one second slower than my 5K PR. I am definitely getting stronger.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Guess My Marathon Finishing Time

"Get your weight guessed right here! Only a buck! Actual live weight guessing! Take a chance and win some crap!"
--Navin R. Johnson, The Jerk

I don't know if I've mentioned it lately, but I am running a marathon in just a few weeks.

Oh, I did?

Well, anyway...

One of my new favorite things to obsess over is how fast I am really going to be able to run this race. For my first marathon, I trained to finish, which I did, in 4:57. This time, I want to set a PR, and to put as much time between last year's finish and this year's as possible. But how fast can I run it? The trouble is, any educated predictions are all over the place.

Yasso 800s: The theory is, if you run 8-10 800s a few weeks before your marathon, the time in minutes and seconds will be your marathon finishing time. I ran 800 meter repeats last night, and as an added challenge, had to run them on the street since there was a soccer game rudely interrupting my planned track workout. Even with some sloping hills, my average time was less than 4:00. I really don't think that's going to happen.

So, what about past race performances?

5K: My most recent 5K was a PR of 25:13. I ran it under near ideal conditions. The course was almost completely flat and the weather was gorgeous. This predicts a finishing time of 4:05:50.

10K: Longer distance, tougher conditions. It was July 4, so it was pretty hot and humid. And the course was very hilly and challenging. I finished in 54:59, which predicts a marathon finish of 4:18:02.

Trisko: Even longer distance, even tougher conditions. The course itself wasn't too bad. There was a big, steep hill at mile 2, a steep downhill at around mile 5, and one of those long, gradual, soul-sucking uphills at mile 12. The real challenge was the weather. Pelting rain, strong winds, and catlicking snow in May made that 13.1 miles really challenging. McMillan prediction? 4:23:38.

I don't know, Internet. My goal right now is 4:30, and that seems daunting. What's your prediction? The course is mostly flat, and I am hopeful for nice fall running weather.

In other news, the fine folks at Runners' Lounge featured me for Take The Mike Friday! I am really flattered to have been asked, and this massive wave of publicity makes me think again of the wisdom of Navin R. Johnson.

Navin: The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!
Harry: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.
Navin: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Taper Schedule

6:30 AM: The dream about having to stop to pee 47 times in 26.2 miles is thankfully interrupted by the alarm clock.

6:31 AM: Wonder if the alarm is loud enough for race day.

7:00 AM: The first cup of coffee brings back to mind the 47 pee nightmare. Wonder if the usual bagel is an adequate pre-race breakfast, or if perhaps oatmeal would be better.

7:15 AM: A Google search for "pre-marathon breakfast" uncovers an article in an obscure scientific journal suggesting that the ideal breakfast is uji, a thin porridge popular in Kenya. Realize that it is impossible to find uji in your local grocery store, not to mention that such a breakfast has been completely untested pre-long run. Resolve to stick with the bagel.

7:30 AM: Is Garmin charged? Better go check.

8:00 AM: While showering wonder if a warm shower pre-race would be loosen muscles or, conversely, if a cold shower would shock them into pre-emptive recovery. Resolve to Google it at work.

8:15 AM: Oh my God! Where is Garmin? Is it lost? Is there time to buy another one before the race?

8:16 AM: Oh, right; is on charger.

9:00 AM: Google offers no advice on pre-race shower temperature; odd. Post question on online running forum seeking advice.

10:00 AM: Check four online websites for race day weather predictions. None have any forecast, as race is still two weeks away. Opt instead to review meteorological history of marathon date in hopes of determining trends.

11:00 AM: Feel phantom pain in left elbow. Panic. What could it be? Have never heard of runner's elbow. Google!

11:15 AM: Oh, God. Is clearly tendonitis. Will this ruin race plans?

11:16 AM: Huh; elbow seems fine. Never mind.

12:00 PM: Eat high carbohydrate lunch. True, is too early to really store glycogen for the race, but surely some practice carbs will be of some benefit. Or will it?

12:15 PM: Google search inconclusive.

1:00 PM: Coworker suggests walking up and down the stairs for a while, for exercise and to break post-lunch coma. Consider it, but are wary of the potential to fall or get injured and say no, feeling virtuous. Completely ignore look on coworker's face that clearly says, "You're wlling to run 26.2 miles, but you won't walk up and down the stairs with me for 15 minutes?"

2:00 PM: Maybe race day weather is posted. Better check.

3:00 PM: Drink a glass of water, then feel immediate panic: what if race day sports drink is a different, untested flavor?!? Send urgent email to race director and make back-up plan to arm friends with preferred lemon-lime.

4:00 PM: Is that pain in hamstring? Where did that come from? Back to Dr. Google.

4:15 PM: Might be a a total rupture. Oh, God, no!

4:20 PM: Never mind; hamstring pain is gone.

5:00 PM: Five mile run. Feel blissfully free of worry for the first time all day.

6:00 PM: Feel confident that a PR is inevitable.

6:15 PM: Or maybe not. What about that hamstring and elbow thing? Also, weather findings suggest the remote possibility of strong winds for which you are untrained - and that's without even considering the unpredictable weather brought on by global warming. A DNF is inevitable.

6:30 PM: Or maybe a PR. Go to three online race calculators and plug in finish times for recent races ranging from 5K to half marathon, as well as a 20 mile training run.

6:45 PM: Results inconclusive. Attempt to chart out probability, considering projected race day weather and course elevation map.

7:00 PM: All that thinking leads to an ice cream craving. Eat gigantic bowl of it.

7:10 PM: Immediate remorse. Remember about how a 1% loss of body fat will equate a 1% increase in running speed. Lament being so weak.

8:00 PM: Decide to break up crazy thoughts by relaxing with a book. Such as Ultramarathon Man, Performance Nutrition for Runners, or Advanced Marathoning.

9:00 PM: Time to go to sleep, but just want to check online running forums quick.

9:15 PM: Ooh, would be really cool to find race reports from years past of this marathon.

12:00 AM: Oops. Still awake. Chase 2 Tylenol PM with a glass of red wine and hope for the best.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Setting: The grocery store. Jack spots a rack of stuffed animals.

Jack (gasping): Mommy! Yookit!
(He holds up an orange striped animal.)

Me: Yes. That's Garfield.

Jack: Mommy! He is the daddy of Roary and Nicey!

Jack (as Nicey): Daddy!

Jack (as Garfield): Nicey!

Me: Oh, boy.

Jack: Mommy, I think that Garfield needs to come and live with us and be part of our family.

(I quickly scan Garfield's price tag and discover that he costs six dollars.)

Me (sighing): Okay.

Jack (to random passer-by): Hey, yookit this tiger! He is the daddy of this tiger named Nicey and my other tiger Roary who is in the car. He is married to my tiger Emmy and my mommy said that we can get him!

Random Passer-By: That's nice.

Jack: Garfield is going to be part of our family and when we get to the car, he is going to see Roary and Emmy and they are going to be so surprised.

So, yes: I am a huge sucker. But did you really want to see poor Roary and Nicey grow up without their dad if I could get him for less than ten dollars? And to see Emmy struggling as a single mom?

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Last Long Run

Saturday was my last really long run (18 miles) before the Quad Cities Marathon, and it was a glorious end to this phase of my training.

The weather was absolutely perfect - cool, with a slight breeze, and sunny. I will be a very happy woman indeed if the marathon is that nice. Better still, it stayed consistently nice the entire time I was out running.

It was a fun day to be out, too. I started by running downtown and to the river, where there was a lot going on. Set up was underway for the Viva Quad Cities Festival - including a 5K race that I didn't know about until Friday night. Bad job with the publicity, guys. At the same time, people were gathering for an Alzheimer's Memory Walk, so I sent a little love up to my Grandpa, who did with the disease. There were lots of people out on the path by the river riding bikes, walking, running, or just watching the water.

As I did my neighborhood loops, I tried my best to enjoy every moment of it. I feel so much stronger than I did when I started my training for this race. I have four 20 mile training runs under my belt. My speed work is going great. And I think I have learned how to focus better, allowing me to keep going past the point of... not exhaustion, but rather monotony.

Then, with one mile left to go, I felt a very strange feeling in my knee. It was a stinging, burning feeling that actually reminded me of the sensation I got a few weeks ago when I was pulling weeds and got hold of a stinging nettle. I actually swatted at it, like a bee had stung me. Then, I thought calmly to myself, "This will pass." I kept on running, reminding myself gently that this weird feeling was not going to stop me. Sure enough, it faded in just a few minutes.

I had a realization: when I got to the end of the street ahead of me, all of my high mileage weeks would be complete. Just past that stop sign was my taper. I raced for it, then had a relaxing walk home.

I am grateful for my long runs. I am grateful that I have built the strength, confidence, and focus to run as far as I have. For Steve, happy to spend Saturday mornings hanging out with Jack while I run. For Jack, who unfailingly asks me if I had a good run and is always happy to snuggle up and relax with me when it's over. For being able to complete all of these weeks of training with no serious injuries. For all of the time I've been able to spend out on the road, completely alone and happy to be running.

And now, I taper, doing my best to relax (ha) before the big day arrives.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Feels Like the First Time?

Seeing as how I'm less than a month away from my marathon, now is the time for me to find random stuff to freak out about.

Currently on my mind? What if I don't love my second baby as much as I love the first one?

Running my first marathon was a life-changing experience. As the days drew closer to race day, I had a feeling of absolute euphoria. I had worked so hard and had run distances that I had never run before. Before I even ran a step of the race itself, I felt like I had already won.

And after I crossed the finish line with 26.2 miles behind me? Wow. I felt like I could do absolutely anything.

Will finishing my second marathon not be such a big deal? This time around, I don't have that lingering doubt about whether or not I can really run that far - I know I can. I've done it before, and I've trained for it. Will crossing the finish line be ho-hum? Or is every single marathon an exciting, passionate experience?

These questions are not rhetorical, you guys.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vader's Faulty Memory

The last time we went to the library, Jack checked out a ton of coffee table style books about Star Wars. We were looking at one that is a "visual dictionary," with detailed information about all kinds of stuff related to the movies. The picture of R2-D2, for example, has a breakdown of every single gadget on the little droid.

On Saturday, Jack brought his Darth Vader action figure and the book over to me and "Vader" demanded that I read it to him. As we went through the book, it became clear that Vader has a rather selective memory about his life.

Me: Okay, Vader, that picture is of the droid that you used to torture your daughter, Princess Leia, for the location of the rebel base. Remember that?
Vader: Uh, no.


Vader: Oh, lookit! There's my friend Boba Fett.
Me: That's right, Vader. Remember how you had him freeze Han Solo in carbonite and give him to Jabba so that you could lure Luke to Bespin? And turn him over to the dark side?
Vader: Uh, no.

Vader: Hey, a lightsaber.
Me: Vader, that is Luke's first lightsaber. It used to be yours, but Obi-Wan took it away from you when you guys had a huge battle-fight. Remember that?
Vader: Uh, no.
Me: And then Obi-Wan gave it to your son Luke so he could learn the force. And then Luke lost it when you cut off his hand. Remember that?
Vader: Uh, no.