Monday, September 28, 2009

Race Report: Quad Cities Half Marathon

So, during the course of my training for the Quad Cities Marathon's half marathon trisko, there was a little something I neglected to mention: a nagging pain in my left shin.

Why did this never come up? Well, for one thing, it wasn't that bad. It would be sore for a while after a run, but not too bad and it never slowed me down. But the little bugger persisted. For months. And if I actually said out loud that I had an injury that wasn't healing, then people might suggest something sensible, like that I not go out and race for 13.1 miles. And that was a conversation I was not interested in having.

Still, between that little nagging injury and the fact that my training has not been as focused this season (and that is another post altogether), I knew that this race would not be my best work. That's okay, though - they can't all be PRs, and I was very excited to run on a beautiful course, support my fellow club members, and have a good time.

I met my running club at the hideous hour of 6:30. We all wore our neon yellow training t-shirts and posed for a very bright group photo. Everyone was excited, especially the firs time marathoners. I was so glad that I decided to train with the group instead of on my own. The sense of camaraderie was great. The weather was a bit chilly, probably in the 50s, so I waited until the absolute last second to, as they say in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, pop off the shirt.

I think that the fact that I ran the 26.2 version of this race last year made me really appreciate the trisko course. It had all of the good - running over bridges across the Mississippi, stunning views of the river, friendly spectators, and a conveniently timed hot air balloon festival - and none of the tedium of spending far too long of a stretch running on Arsenal Island.

A half marathon, while more than half as easy as a full marathon, is still not easy. As I hit miles 10 and 11, I was feeling tired. I kept on pushing forward, though, knowing how close I was. I was definitely not on track for a PR (thanks in part to a bathroom break I took at mile 2, figuring that would help me enjoy the race more, especially without any records in the offing), but I still wanted to finish respectfully.

At mile 12, huge spasms shot up and down my left leg. They hurt so much that I actually said, "Ow!" out loud. But no matter, I kept on running listened to Steve, Jack, and my mom cheer me in, and happily crossed the finish line with a totally decent time of 2:05:32.

As soon as I did, that nagging injury, which was pretty quiet through the entire race, started screaming at me. I stayed on my feet and limped through the after party, figuring that would be better for me than sitting down. I enjoyed my first post-race massage, which was heavenly.

The bad news, Internet, is that my shin is in very bad shape. Standing or walking on it is incredibly painful, and walking up and down the stairs is an exercise in toughness. When I got to the post-race party my club had, I groaned when I saw I'd have to go up stairs to join everybody. Russ, my coach, immediately saw me limping and wanted to know what happened. He was glad to hear my plans to see my doctor and rest, though still concerned about me. The party was great. Everyone was in a celebratory mood. And Paul, the president of our club, had spent the entire day completing a slide show, set to music, that documented our training. It was amazing to see how long we'd all be running together and how hard we had all worked. It ended with shots of each and every one of us crossing the finish line.

I limped my way through work and limped my way to the doctor's office today. My doctor thinks that I have some kind of soft tissue damage and doesn't think that the bone is injured. I am going to an orthopedist on Thursday who will have a better assesment of what's wrong, and I will go on from there.

One of my co-workers saw me dragging my semi-useless leg around today and asked if I hurt myself, "In a one-legged ass-kicking contest." I like to think that's exactly what happened. I ran a great race despite what seems to be a bad injury, and I kicked ass.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last one!

Sunday marked my last long run before next week's half marathon trisko. The entire group - both those training for the marathon and for the trisko - ran eight miles. Russ, our coach, told us to run them easy, have fun, and try to run with somebody new.

That sounded like a good idea, so I kept my iPod in my pocket and found a couple of runners to hang out with for eight miles. I'm glad I did. Both women were training for their first marathon, and it was fun to hear what they were thinking about and how excited they were about their first race.

After the run, we had a potluck picnic. I read somewhere that runners have no guilt at the buffet table, and our training group definitely proved that. One guy loaded up his plate with both fried chicken and doughnuts. John, another of our coaches, had a cinnamon roll in one hand, and a beer in the other - a fine Sunday morning breakfast. My own breakfast included a ham sandwich, tuna noodle casserole (surprisingly delicious after an 8 mile run and before 9:00 in the morning), lots of fruit, and cake.

So now, with that last run behind me, I am feeling excited. I have my race day outfit ready to go (featuring a new pair of Wright Socks), have looked at the course map, and am excited to do some shopping at the expo. Let's get this party started.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


My half marathon trisko is a little over a week away. Since I'm husband-free this week and can't go out for a running, I'm grabbing inspiration elsewhere.

To kick things off, I am re-reading Once a Runner. Sure, the main character's race is 12.1 miles shorter than mine, but any runner can read this book and relate to what he's going through. It makes me want to throw on my running shoes, get out there, and WORK.

Then, I just finished watching my DVD of Spirit of the Marathon. I seriously think I should watch this movie before every single race that I run. I love that it shows the hard work and determination of the runners not just on race day, but during their training. It also makes me proud to see that the elite runners have many of the same challenges that the ordinary runners do.

Between Spirit of the Marathon and Once a Runner, I am so completely pumped to get out there and race that it may count as doping.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

6.2 miles of friends

This week's Take It and Run Thursday asks a fun question.

You get to run the last six miles of your next marathon with 6 different people. They can be dead or alive; famous or not famous. Who are these people and why did you pick them? Furthermore, why did you pick them for the specific mile you did? Remember, you get an extra .2 miles with runner #6.

Fun, right?

Mile 21: Ryan Reynolds. I think we are all aware of the simple fact that any good looking guy becomes exponentially better looking when you find out he's a runner. Ryan Reynolds is funny, seems to put a reasonabl eamount of effort into his core fitness, and has run a marathon before. Ryan and I would hang out in mile 21, and I'd be sympathetic to the fact that he doesn't get to run with his wife, Scarlett Johansson. That's got to be a bummer for him, and hopefully Scarlett wouldn't be too jealous of the time we were spending together. Poor girl probably has trouble running because of her enormous rack, a problem I do not share. I'd bid Ryan farewell, then it'd be time for

Mile 22: I would spend this mile hanging out with Non-Runner Nancy. In case you live under a rock, NRN recently faced an injury and surgery that she's recovering from nicely... but learned that running and her body don't mix. Well, through the magic of Take It and Run Thursday, Nancy can, in fact, run again. She would hand me her red lipstick, and the two o fus would laugh through that 22nd mile. Nancy would help me remember that, even in the hardest parts of any race, I should be grateful about the fact that I can run at all.

Mile 23: I'd spend the 23rd mile of the race with two of my favorite people in the world - my brother Andy and my sister Jenny. The three of us would spend so much time laughing and telling stories about each other that the miel would be over before I knew it... something that would definitely be appreciated so far into a marathon.

Mile 24: Mile 24 would mean time for a different kind of inspiration. Sharing this mile with me would be a group of women who would have to slow down one whole hell of a lot to hang out with me: Paula Radcliffe, Kara Goucher, Deena Kastor, Catherine "The Great" Ndereba, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, and Katherine Switzer. Their strength would carry me through that mile.

Mile 25: I would love to spend the 25th mile with the man who really turned me into a runner: my high school cross country coach, Jeff Quick. Coach Quick taught me a lot about running - how to do speedwork, how to run hills, the same stretching routines that I use today. He also taught me toughness, tenacity, and to trust my own instincts. I'd love to run with Quick to show him how those lessons have stuck with me.

Mile 26-26.2: The final 1.2 miles could only be spent with my guys, Steve and Jack. The fact of the matter is, I couldn't run at all if it weren't for the love and support that the two of them show me. Neither of them ever complains when I leave the house to go running. Steve always makes sure I get enough to eat after a long run, Jack always talks about how he wants to be a runner "like Mommy," and the two of them do a million other things every single day that help me get on my shoes and be my best. Steve and Jack would run that last 1.2 with me because the two of them are with me every step of the way. Every mile I run, not just in a marathon, but every inch of my training, I run with the two of them in my heart.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taper Dreams

Let's get this out of the way: it's been almost a month since my last post. In that time, I've been busying myself with a family vacation, a trip to the circus with Jack, beating Steve at Rummikub, working like a maniac, and... the occasional run.

My half marathon trisko is just a few weeks away. I've completed some really solid long runs, so I'm confident that I'll be able to finish the race in a respectable time. I'm also confident that this will not be my finest work ever.

I was chatting with Tom from Runners' Lounge recently. He said that to have a really successful race, everything has to come together: running, work, family - everything. It's a beautiful thing when it happens, but it's also rare. For me, for this race, the stars have not aligned. I think the biggest problem is that my shorter runs have lacked the intensity I've put into my long runs, so my speed work has not been very strong.

Why is this? Well, I've thought about it so much that it's a post in and of itself, so I'll shelf that one for later. Now I am truly excelling at tapering. In fact, I am over-achieving by not running at all. Steve is out of town this week, so I've been spending lots of time hanging out with Jack. I'll grab a 5 miler on Saturday, then run 8 with my training group on Sunday. Then, just a few easy runs before the race, and that's it.

Maybe it's been this lack of running that caused me to have a really crazy nightmare last night.

It was the day of the race, and I decided it would be a good idea to go to the dentist, "just really quick, before the race." Yes, in my dream, the dentist's office was open at 6:00 in the morning on a Sunday. Just go with it. The dentist had just finished telling me that I was going to need to get braces again (braces are a recurring theme in Betsy anxiety dreams)when I realized I had completely forgotten my running clothes at home.

I had to call my mom and ask her to go to my house to get them for me. I tried my best to walk her through the exact details of what I needed, because if you're running 13.1 miles, any old thing will not do. She kept getting distracted and couldn't find what I needed. My mom was ignoring my requests for the Wright Socks SLX or at least the DLX in favor of talking about how cute and little Jack's socks are when, mercifully, the alarm went off.