Tuesday, November 30, 2010

At Least the Gym is Cheap

To me, a bad day running/biking/training/playing outside is better than a good day at the gym. But, sometimes the reality of being an adult on planet Earth necessitates that I don’t have time to be outside during daylight hours (the whole employment thing) so I head to the gym.

Here’s the highlight of going there: It is $18 a month.
Here’s the lowlight: Pretty much everything else.

I don’t know what to do at the gym. Lifting? I sort of make it up as I go along while simultaneously boring myself to death. Elliptical? I swear that sitting on the couch drinking a glass of wine burns more calories. I sometimes break out the dusty rowing skills from college and erg a bit but it’s just not the same without a coxswain screaming.

That leaves the treadmill. When I am on it the only thought in my head is this: When in the hell can I get off of this thing? I run 5ks at race pace, do 800 repeats faster than I can on the track and, during the 7 feet of snow last winter, did long training runs at sub-marathon pace. Such a chore. The motivation of getting the miles in as fast as possible in order to be able to stop keeps me going.

That, and the entertainment of the whacks who run/do something vaguely akin to running near me. Take tonight, for example. I was doing a quick 2 miles (after doing 6 crunches and 2 bicep curls) before going home to eat tons of home-made pizza Bill was making. The gym I go to has approximately 6,879 treadmills, all in working order, all exactly the same. Only 3 were in use at the time.

A dude stood in front of me just about the whole time I was running, asking me every 45 seconds if I was almost done because he wanted to use the exact treadmill I was on. I could have easily moved to the one next to me, but I didn’t wanna. Apparently the treadmill I used was the one he uses every day at the exact same time and now he thinks he owns it. Weirdo.

My other favorite thing: Dudes who are really, really concerned with the pace of people around them. Especially if the people around them are girls. My favorite: The guy who checked out my pace, jacked up his pace higher, and then STOOD ON THE SIDES of the treadmill. He didn’t run one step. After about 5 minutes he turned the machine off and went away. Ok, sir. Good exercising there.

Until I am willing to build my own gym in my pea-sized house, though, I will try to be a good citizen of the gym.

That is all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Guess This Beats Getting Hit In the Head With Falling Rocks

I live basically at the end of Wissahickon Park, an awesome, giant green part of the city with a zillion miles of trails for running, biking, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding (I don’t actually partake in this activity), cross-country skiing (I don’t really partake in this one, either), snowshoeing (no partaking in this, yet again), unicycling (there is a dude who rides a mountain unicycle through the park, I see him constantly and sort of want to be his friend) and humping.

When we decided to buy a house we didn’t care that much if it had a roof, rooms, running water or electricity --- we cared about how close it was to the park and have landed about 3/4ths of a mile from its main entrance.

Except now the entrance is closed and I am surly. The park basically sits in a valley and thus has several awesome old bridges that span it. One of the bridges, is, apparently, dumping rocks onto the runners, hikers, rock climbers, horseback riders, cross-country skiers, unicyclers and humpers. The city, fearful that people will be squished by things falling from the sky, has essentially closed this section of the park indefinitely.

Not the end of the world, certainly, and there are plenty of other park entrances (that are farther away), but this makes me grumpy. Crumbling bridge, please stop interfering with my activities. Thank you.

That is all.

Dirty Bird (For Real)

When the alarm went off on Sunday I rolled over and went back to sleep. “The race was yesterday,” I thought in my sleepy brain. “I can sleep and sleep.”

After hitting snooze 886 times I realized that, no, the race (15k trail run) wasn’t yesterday, it was today. For real this time.

What a difference a day makes.
Fortunately the Philly traffic Goddesses smiled upon us two mornings in a row and we made it to the race with my required hour of sit-and-do-nothing time.

The weather was great – sunny, in the high 40s, no wind.

I’ve done the race once before, two years ago after an especially lumpy Thanksgiving weekend. The course, for me, is pretty technical. A few decent climbs and moderately steep downhills, but more alarming to me, lots of rocks, boulders, rock gardens, loose rocks, rocky rocks, pebbles, stones and incognito rocks hiding under leaves. Last time I wasn’t in remotely good shape and I tripped over some sort of rockish thing at mile 8.5 and fell, hard. Some sweet scars rewarded my effort and I wasn’t especially thrilled with the way I ran.

So, my goals for this race were:
1) Run faster than last time by at least 30 seconds a mile.
2) Run faster than last time.
3) Run the same as last time.
4) Cross the finish line without blood pouring off of any part of my person.

The first 600 yards or so are on a flat road and then the course makes a sharp right up a steep, rooted and rocky single-track hill. I knew that if I was too far in front faster people would make me work too hard and blow up and if I was too far in back I’d be walking and weaving around other runners so I tried to get into the right pack of people. Fortunately, I picked a good bunch* and had an appropriate steady climb for the first part of the course.

I managed to pass a few people once we wove back onto the road for about 1/4th of a mile and then we hit the downhill single track. A few people passed me, I passed a few people and I was feeling quite lovely.

We hit an uphill followed by a steep, technical downhill at about mile 4.5. A short portion is an out-and-back and the leaders passed me at this point. They were running faster uphill than I was running downhill.

What goes down must go up and we soon looped around and began to climb. I walked for a bit and felt a bit defeated but made a deal with myself that I would push hard on the flats and downhills. I was running with a group of four dudes. Three were cool and we worked together – one seemed pissed to find himself running in a race and wasn’t so nice.

We crossed over a small dam, up an easy hill, down something steep and then onto a road, a flat trail and through a parking lot to the finish. I actually managed to pass people during the last mile. Exciting to me because while I still can’t quite pace myself I haven’t been passed by droves of people toward the end of a race in at least five days.

I crossed the line about 6 minutes faster than last time (I forgot to stop my watch and the results aren’t posted yet) and didn’t have any booboos. Success! Plus, they give you soup at the finish line. Trail run+No booboos+soup=fantastic.

When I finished Bill looked like he had been waiting for me for a bit. In fact, he had. He pretty much crushed the course, took 12 minutes off of his 2008 time and came in 28th. Rock on, dawg. I knew I married you for a reason.

Me and my speedster lumberjack.

*Aside from a woman, who, for the first 3 miles or so, would push ahead of me (like, literally push), get in front of me and then start walking. It is so cool with me if you pass me – in fact I generally give you a sincere “Good work!” when you do. But getting in front of me and walking on single track makes me not like you too much.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our House Is In This Trailer. I Love Our Hood.

We bought our house in the hood about 3 1/2 years ago for the following reasons:
  1. It was for sale. Helpful when buying a house.
  2. It wouldn't make us housepoor. Bill is a non-tenured professor and I am a social worker. Thus we don't bathe in balls of cash.
  3. It was exactly where we wanted it to be (although a fun and convienet chunk is currently closed due to a collapsing bridge, which makes me grumpy.).
  4. When we first saw it, neighbors were nice to us. And they still are.
  5. It needed no real work. We could just show up with our junk and a few cans of paint.
  6. Plus, this. Our street was shut down for a week or so about two years ago just before the election. We weren't sure why other than we got a letter asking us to take down our Obama '08 sign. At first we thoguht Philly had suddenly gone Republican but then the catering trucks, lights and cameras settled in. A movie! Annoying (some chick with a headset once asked me to not run because during the time period when the movie was set said "white people didn't live here then, at all, and no one ran in spandex.") but also sort of fun. Our house is in the trailer just past the half-way point. How random.
I love G-town!

That is all.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Am Dumb

I like to get to races early, never less than an hour before a race starts. Waiting around chills me out and gives me time to figure out what I am doing with myself.

Today, though, was absurd.

The Dirty Bird was what we thought we were waking up to do this morning. We drove and drove to French Creek State Park (about an hour away) and when we got there it was us and a bunch of hunters and shotguns. Did we sign up for The Most Dangerous Game by mistake?

When we got to the start area, nothing except an empty tent. And worms for sale from a vending machine.
Thanks to this convenient machine we
grabbed lunch after our run.

Looks like something fun might occur here at some point
But not on November 27.
We thought that we had maybe gone to the wrong part of the park so we drove around for a few minutes and I got out of the car to go pee behind a tree. During my misdemeanor, Bill (who was in charge of this outing) checked the race Web site on his phone. I got back into the car and he looked at me like he was a bit worried I would hit him with a hammer.

Bill: Hey, I love you.
Me: What did you do?
Bill: The race is tomorrow.

For about 4 minutes I was pretty pissed. And then I got over it.

Since we drove all that way we decided to run anyway. We ended up doing about 6 miles and had the entire park to ourselves except for the hunters in trees shooting at things.

When we got home, Bill checked his planner. In giant letters under Saturday, November 27, it said this: DIRTY BIRD 15k TRAIL RUN.

Why did we insist this race was on Saturday? Why are we dumb?

Tomorrow: The Dirty Bird. For real this time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I Run So I Can Eat Mass Amounts of Mashed Potatos

Usually I like to sit around on Thanksgiving and be as lumpy as possible. At best I will go for a quick run and then resume lumping.

Today though, after nine years of racing and avoiding Turkey Trots, I did this. Not because I have had a change of heart and have decided to not be lumpy today, but because the race was organized, in part, by the fantastic Katy Otto whose full-time fun is supporting the good people of Face to Face, a very helpful community agency literally a few yards from our front door.

So when Katy asked if we were running, how could we say no? I’ve known her since we were 13, she recently moved to Philly and she's just about the nicest person ever. I wanted to show her some luv.

Bill and I made the mistake of checking the weather report last night – 31 degrees, freezing rain. Hmm. I am cold all of the time. All. Unless it is 80 degrees, count on me being chilly.

Maybe I should be lazy and stay in bed, I thought. I whine and whine in the cold and have only done maybe 30 miles since New York.

The alarm went off and I actually got up. Mostly to look out the window to see if crap was falling from the sky, in which case I would have gone back to bed (Bill was going no matter what). No crap was falling so out the door we went.

Registered. Got shirts. And then I spent way too much time deciding exactly what to wear. It would snow, the sun would peek out, it would sleet, the wind would blow. Please, weather, decide what to do.

The course is a mostly flat out-and-back along Forbidden Drive, the main path through Wissahickon Park (pretty much my favorite place on Earth). I went out way too fast, as always, but decided to race it and hang on as long as I could. There was a dude in the race with a double-wide stroller and I decided that I needed to pass him. Sometimes my ego is a pain in my ass.

A woman and I were running side by side and she must live in my brain a little bit: “Let’s pass Stroller Dad,” she said. So we pushed the pace and eventually passed him (his one kid was singing Baaa Baaa Black Sheep and was pretty damn cute).

Hit the turnaround and knew that I would be running a positive split. Again, as always. Someone please teach me how to pace myself. I did manage to have a tiny bit of a kick at the finish (I usually don’t) so I guess I could have run a dumber race.

Finished the second half 45 seconds slower than the first but I was happy enough with my time. I’ve done the course five or six times before and I was about 11 seconds slower than when I PRed there in July. I’ll take it.

I spent the rest of the day with Bill and his extended family eating, drinking and napping. A day of running and lumping. Truly a reason to give thanks.

The End.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goal Achieved! Sort Of.

I have a dream: To be on Biggest Loser.

I am exaggerating, but only a bit. I sometimes think about gluing myself to the couch and living exclusively off of Oreos, Crisco and Cheetos dipped in Big Mac Special Sauce just so I can gain weight ASAP and go live in a place where they feed you veggies all day long and where you get to play outside and exercise with bitchy Jillian and lil’ Bob yelling at you.

That was a run-on sentence.

Today, a dream undeferred. We don’t have cable because a year of cable = the cost of a year of racing, we like to pretend that we would rather read books and we are also boring. Thus we are relegated to watching whatever the major networks decide to blast through the airwaves. Tonight our choices were something involving country music (Q: How many times can country music people have awards shows? A: Eight times a week.), something else, ping-pong on the occasionally brilliant channel 10.3* and a Biggest Loser update show. Score!

This year some of the past contestants ran the Boston Marathon. They didn’t show them actually running the race, just checking their bags and walking to the start line. Because we all know that checking bags is the most exciting part of running a marathon.

Randos were shown, however, crossing the start line of wave two. One of the randos was me, easy to spot in my bright blue-shirted glory. Bill and I saw me at the exact same time, pointed at the TV and laughed, laughed and laughed.

“Did you just see that?” Bill said.

“You mean me crossing the start of the Boston Marathon on a Biggest Loser special?” I asked through the hilarity. “Yes, I just saw that.”

Two goals smooshed together – running Boston and Biggest Loser. Now I no longer feel the need to switch to a crash diet of scrapple and E-Z Cheez.

See? I am E-Z to spy.
*AKA Universal Sports, where, in the course of a few hours, you get ice skating, curling, beach volleyball, adventure racing, the Giro, the Boston Marathon and the Ironman championship from 2002. How sweet is that?

Fake Thanksgiving

My subconscious goal for 2010 is, apparently, to gain 88 pounds between November 1 and January 1. So far I have had two Thanksgiving dinners and it is only Wednesday. Sloth world, here I come.

Sunday marked the sixth (or so) annual Fake Thanksgiving, so called because it 1) does not involve Thanksgiving day and 2) does not involve meat. Our friend Lori is a vegetarian, as am I*, and our husbands (hers is called Dave) are not but they indulge us by having a turkey-free pseudo-Thanksgiving dinner. What nice boys they are!
We had a very beige, but very delicious, dinner, topped off with Billy’s Best Pumpkin Pie. Hooray!
Wine, people and beige food.

Kevin eats some mashed potatoes. Don't worry, we
will wash the dish before you come over for dinner.

*Except on marathon days and on the occasion when I eat a giant pile of fish.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Like to Watch

Today was the Philadelphia Marathon, my favorite race that I never do. Philly was my first marathon in 2001 and I haven’t done it since. Haven’t even considered it and I am not sure why.

Because it starts three feet from my face though, I usually go watch and cheer until I sound like a couple of frogs have shacked up in my throat.

Best worst picture of me ever.
Danny is ignoring me.
I was up before the alarm went off this morning, quickly threw on the bike clothes I sat out the night before and pedaled to 19th and Chestnut to meet up with my friend April. Usually this part of the course is occupied by runners and the chirping of crickets, but this year it was sort of packed with screaming fans doing their best impression of 1st Avenue in New York. Good times!

Bill rolled along, and then his bro Danny. I was rocking the cowbell and rocking my big mouth like a pro.

After about 71 hours, none of the people we were expecting to see had gone by yet. We saw the usual people dressed like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, turkeys, a man running in only a flannel shirt and a “No Parking” cardboard sign. Philadelphia Marathon, when did you get so weird and fun?

We waited some more, and then – Claire! A familiar face! My sister-in-law seemed extra happy to see us and for a moment I thought she was actually going to hang out for a bit and grab a cup of coffee and a scone before continuing on her way in the half.

Danny went back to bed, Bill went to work and April and I rode over to the 14-mile mark. I was having a great time – mostly because I like playing cheerleader but also because I was glad I wasn’t running. Usually spectating makes me a bit jealous. This time I was thrilled to be on the sidelines with no marathon to train for any time soon.

April is good at clapping.
I made up a dance (bang cowbell against hand while jumping in circles around April) and gained a makeshift bullhorn. I yelled until I was dizzy.

Cones make good bullhorns. And I am upholding my vow
to wear a helmet even while standing still.
This morning, I don’t know who impressed me more – the winner who ran a 2:21 or the people who were plugging along at mile 14 four hours into the race.

The first time I ever watched a marathon it was by mistake. I was in college, visiting my parents who at the time lived in a land far, far away. We were going on a boat tour and didn’t know that there was a marathon that went near the docks. While we were waiting for the boat, the race leaders went by. I remember thinking that they looked like they were flying. “They must be running 8-minute miles,” I said to myself. I had no idea how fast people could actually go.

We got on the boat, went on a three-hour tour and, when we docked, I couldn’t believe that there were still people running.

I have to do that one day, I said to my mom. Four years later I ran my first marathon.

Anyway, April and I stuck around until the 5-hour pace group finished. We never saw anyone else we were stalking but sometimes cheering for rando strangers can be almost as fun.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Pie!

It is pumpkin pie time! Yay!

Every Thanksgiving time Bill buys pumpkins and goes to town making pies from scratch. Right now our house smells delicious and I want to smoosh pumpkin pie into my person as soon as possible.

Dude actually goes to the patch and buys
pumpkins, guts them, bakes them and makes PIE!

He looks so proud!

Tadaa! Pie!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hooray for Helmets

Fortunately, these are the booboos I got on my mountain bike ride today.
Today I learned I have hairy elbows.

Why fortunately? These are not pictures of a piece or two of my brain.

My badness at mountain riding has already been established. Today I got to prove to myself that I quite possibly still need training wheels. And that I definitely need a new helmet.

Bill and I headed out for a ride. About 898 meters from our front door, riding on boring flat cement, I bit it. Hard. My wheels slid out from under me and that was that.

My head broke my fall.

The loudest sound I have ever heard slammed through my ears. A crack, followed by a cartoonish sound of a spring. SPLUUUUUUMPPPP!

I laid there for a bit, glad that I wasn’t in the way of oncoming traffic. Bill helped me scoop myself up off the ground and I took inventory. Booboo elbow? Check! Booboo knee? Check! My bike gloves kept my hands well and I was glad to be wearing long sleeves and tights or else the booboos would have been worse. I felt mostly ok and entirely dumb.

I took off my helmet to readjust the straps and was greeted with a crack along the side. I knew I had hit my head hard but, woah. I was a bit freaked out – I always, always ride with a helmet but have never actually used one to actively protect my brainy bits.

If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I am absolutely sure I would have experienced my first ambulance ride today.

We eventually continued on our way (and I wore the helmet – in hindsight I should have gone home to exchange for another one) and I had the most timid ride of my life.

I look scared to be on a  big-girl bike.

I will probably now begin wearing a helmet while standing still, driving, showering, running and sleeping. Because helmets reduce smooshed heads.

Since I started biking I have wondered why some people don’t wear helmets. Do they not like their skulls? Do their brains make them angry? What?

I feel bad for the helmet I had to put down today. It did its job well and because of that it now lives in the trash amongst cat litter, zucchini peels and string cheese wrappers (string cheese is so delicious).

Thank you, Mr. Helmet. May you RIP.

We are smiling because I still have a brain.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Lil' Mud

On Wendesdays, I don’t go to work until noon. Best gift my boss ever gave me.

For the past months, months and months I either spent the time running hills or running around a track depending on what my marathon training schedule said I was supposed to do.

One of the first thoughts I had after crossing the New York finish line was,“Yay! Now I can mountain bike on Wednesday mornings.”

The rest of the workweek I am too lazy to get up and out on the bike early enough still make it to work at 8:30 (sike, I am never on time, it’s more like 9). But on Wednesdays I can roll out of bed at 9:30, get in a decent ride, wash the grime off of me, feed myself and still make it to work on time-ish.

So far I am sticking with this plan. Rode last week and yesterday and had a grand old time, except for the frequent reminders that I sort of blow at mountain biking. I am scared of riding over rocks, downhills, roots, mud, streams, logs, trees, pebbles, squirrels, bottles, paper, twigs, chipmunks, grass, dirt and many other nouns.

Yesterday I stuck to a flat, non-technical dirt road and paved hills because it apparently stormed like a mofo overnight (I slept through it) and the real trails were sopping wet. Within two miles I was covered in mud. The face part of me looked like this:

Fun times! Way more sloppy than road running!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All Who Wander Are Lost

Would you like to see an incomplete list of people/things that have a better sense of direction than I do? No? Ok, then, here it is:

• The DVD case for North Shore
• My 21-month-old cousin
• George Donner
This cat
• My copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare from college
• Kale
• Etc.

I missed an entire day of high school toward the end of my senior year because I got lost driving to school. I wasn’t the new kid or anything – I’d lived in the same house since 5th grade yet I took 8,897 wrong turns and ended up in front of the Washington monument, 20 miles from my school.

Things did not, unfortunately, get better as I got older. In college, with the help of a good friend, I went over the Ben Franklin Bridge six times in attempt to find The Spaghetti Warehouse, three whole miles from where I lived at the time. Total necessary trips over the bridge to get to The Spaghetti Warehouse? None.

Often, I contemplate which makes me more sad – the fact that I spent a Friday night going over the same bridge six times by accident or the fact that I spent a Friday night trying to go to The Spaghetti Warehouse on purpose.

Things haven’t changed. Whenever I go somewhere new I have an atlas (I am not kidding), MapQuest directions and at least one GPS ready to go. Yet still I get lost.

I am extremely fortunate that my lack of internal compass carries over to foot-based activities.

A few years ago I hung out in Oslo for a week or two, mostly because I am a dork and thus became mildly obsessed with the Vigeland Park. I went for a run one day through the park and toward some hills in the distance.

After about 30 minutes I reached the hills and ducked into the woods. Not too smart and no proper trails but it was beautiful and I wanted to explore. I reasoned if I went straight ahead and up I could easily find my way back by turning around and going straight ahead and down. Incorrect. Four hours of running/jogging/hiking/uh, will I ever see another human again/if I do will they have Gatorade?/I wonder if I can survive on the moss growing on that log over there/maybe I will at least find Viking bones later I made it back to the hostel.

Best unintentional long run ever.

A year or two later Bill was on a kick for a bit that I should know how to navigate in adventure races so we spent many early weekend mornings orienteering. We were surrounded by dudes with names like Thorbjorn and Vedmundr who wore outfits like this…

…and this …
I won't lie ... at first I did a bit of internal
mocking. And then I realized that these
peeps could crush me in all sorts of sport.

… while I wore running shorts. Each time. I never learned my lesson and ended up looking like Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Krueger played Pirates of the Caribbean swordfight on my legs. The lack of appropriate wardrobe was the high point of my orienteering career. Low point? Getting so lost at one meet that the dudes with names like Thorbjorn and Vedmundr had to come looking for me.

The fun continues. Last week I and my friend Christine headed to Columbus, Ohio, to meet my friend Annemarie’s new adorable kid.

Columbus, home of a marathon so flat with so few turns that even I can eek out a time just good enough to sneek into the Boston Marathon. The course is basically a couple of straight out-and-backs and a few loops and goes within a block of Annemarie’s house. The course markers are left up year round giving locals or bobos visiting from out of town the chance to train on the exact race course.

See? Doesn't that look easy?
On Sunday I headed out for a quick run. “I will be back in 20 minutes,” I told my friends. I quickly found the 25-mile marker for the race and decided to head to the finish line and then back to their house. Impossible to screw up.

Fourteen miles and 109 minutes later I made it back.

From the 26-mile marker I headed right when I should have headed left and ended up seeing most of Columbus on foot. At one point I ran onto the entrance ramp for a highway but realized my mistake before I had to merge.

“Columbus is the size of a pea,” I kept telling myself. “I will stumble upon their house sometime soon.” Thirty minutes went by. “Well, as long as I don’t see signs for Cincinnati I am ok.” I looked up and saw a sign for Cincinnati.

“Um, hmm,” I thought. “I am still in marathon recovery mode. This might not be good. Even more tragic, my iPod battery is low.”

Eventually I saw the mighty Columbus skyline and headed toward it reasoning that at least I knew I was in the right city. A half-hour later I saw signs directing to a landmark only a mile or so from Annemarie’s and finally wove my way back. I felt like a champion!

My buds admitted they were starting to get worried, but here is why I love them: “Well, I just guessed that you found the marathon route, followed it for a while, tried to come right back but went in the exact opposite direction,” Christine said. “I thought you would eventually come back.” And I did.

Together again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

To The Finish, Part Two

I hit the 14-mile mark and, as I usually do at this point in marathons, realized that I still had a lot of running ahead of me. I also realized that I was still cold, it was still windy and my knees and hips randomly hurt. My pace slowed significantly but I knew I could still meet my goal time. My brain felt stronger than my body and I kept reminding myself that I would get where I was going as long as I kept moving. I have no idea what my pace was and I hadn’t looked at my watch in miles but I was sure I was slowing. People started passing me in droves but this was also the point where people started walking.

And then there it was. The Queensboro Bridge. I wanted to cry before I actually stepped foot on it. A mile and a half across the East River. Mr. or Mrs. Bridge Designer, why did you build this thing with a mile of uphill followed by 800 meters of narrow, steep, left-leaning downhill? The climb went on forever. People were staggering all over the place, stopping, falling over, sitting down. I’ve never seen anything like it in any race I have ever done. Added excitement came from drunk people swinging from the beams of the bridge. Odd times. I kept running, being passed by as many people as I was passing.

Finally, finally, we bottlenecked down a tight left exit ramp and plopped out onto First Avenue.


Crowds were at least four deep along the entire 3.5 miles on First Ave. Handing out bananas, beer and brownies, dressed in nothing, dressed like Spongebob, dressed like GreenMan. A zillion kids wanting high-fives, a zillion adults jumping and yelling. Even though I felt like crap I yelled and laughed out loud a lot along this stretch. A giant, miles-long party.

The First Avenue insanity carried me through until mile 19.5, home of another damn bridge. I can’t remember what it was called or what it looked like, only that it was steep and I sort of hated it from the core of my being. A dude racing in a handcycle bike with zero legs and one arm was rocking it, though. The uphill. The uphill with one arm. You go, BAMF. The only other awesome thing along this not-so-fun part was a dude filling up little cups with Franzia and yelling at us in Spanish to drink his wine. At least I think that's what he was saying.

The damn bridge dumped us into the Bronx. How do I know we were in the Bronx? A large dude with a megaphone screaming “Welcome to the Bronx, bitches!” over and over again made it clear. That had to be more tiring than actually running the race. He was dancing all around, yelling and yelling, with YMCA playing in the background. A happy church choir tossed some motivation my way and on and on I went. Practically, I knew the finish was only getting closer. Physically, I knew I was going to be thrilled to stop running the second I crossed the finish.

At about mile 21 there was this, stolen from the interwebs:

The video doesn’t quite do the drummers justice – in person it was much more fun and much more motivating.

The next few miles are notable by how terrible felt. My feet hurt. Maybe this seems like an obvious thing to say about miles 22 through 24 of a marathon but it felt like the bottom of my feet were being hit with hammers. Awesome!

Just before we turned into Central Park the crowds were so thick that runners were basically relegated to a two-by-two shuffle. Words cannot express how thankful I was to these humans (especially to the woman with the sign that read "Keep Going! Keep Going! (that's what she said)) as it gave me no option but to slow my shuffling self down even more.

Once we hit the park I started to believe that at some point in my life I would, in fact, cross the finish line. We winded around and around, up and down, left, right, one more mile, zig, zag. Uh, where the hell were they hiding the finish line? Burkina Faso?

Finally, finally, I turned right and hit the 26-mile marker. I heard people screaming (it was Kate, Bill and Steve, although I was too tired to pick up my head and look around so I didn’t see them), some terrible song was playing, and then, tadaa, the finish. One of the more thrilling finishes of my life. I have never seen more teetering/falling over/crying/snot/happiness/emotion at a finish line, ever. I was sort of happy with myself. My body hadn't held up well but my brain sucked it up and got me there. I wasn't really close to a PR but I beat my Boston time by 9 minutes on a course that I thought was much harder.**

Bill and Co. were apparently yelling and yelling ...
...but I was so tired that ...

... a t-rex could have been marching around ...

... and I wouldn't have noticed.

I like this picture because I am sort of actually
running to the finish.

Got my medal, got my hot potato blanket, and then got moving. I had to walk past 57 of 63 UPS trucks parked single-file through Central Park before getting my stuff. I’d mentally prepared for this hike almost as much as the race, though, so I tried not to be too sad. Plus, I got to see this: A woman got her bag and then promptly leaned over a fence and barfed on bags not yet claimed. Terrible.

Found my stuff, threw on my snuggly clothes (although I had a case of marathon brain and am pretty sure I stood in Central Park half-naked for a bit as a result) and then realized I had about 3 miles to walk to meet up with the crew for lunch. I wanted to weep but it was clear that getting a cab would be impossible. I pretended I was just out for a stroll. And then … Bill! Kate! Steve! Plus a David Byrne book someone was giving away! Wings! A cheeseburger! Success!

The end.

Me, my hat and my free David B. book

The first thing Bill asked? "What's with that book?"

Kate navigated us to the Land of Giant Cheeseburgers. And I geeked
out and wore my medal until we got back to her house.

Marathon days are meat days!

** After being reunited with my cell phone, the first thing I said to Bill was this --> (edited for the sake of my mom) “This (femaleparentintercoursing) race makes Boston look like a (intercoursing) 5k.” Because it did. Well, maybe not a 5k, but New York was so much more difficult. At least for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To The Finish, Part One

About a minute after the gun went off I crossed the start line. I was expecting banners, flags, the Statue of Liberty to come to life … fanfare. But just a timing mat. As soon as I stepped onto the bridge proper a hurricane hit. Within the first 25 seconds of the race my hat blew off my head, over the railing and into the harbor. I realized I couldn’t feel my feet, I was still shivering, my person was getting blown around, I was running uphill into a headwind that was taking my breath away and I still had 26.17 miles to go.


While my hat blew off of my head these people were already at the 8.5 mile mark:

Lead women's pack, including a tucked-away Shalane Flanagan
zooming toward a second-place finish in her marathon debut.

A gnocchi maker makes an excellent hammer.

Here come the boys.

I decided I wanted to get the hell off of that bridge and took off. Or at least I thought I did – I hit the one-mile mark and peeked at my watch which indicated a first mile at a blistering 10:02. Uh, WTF? I was out of breath and working hard for a 10:02? I didn’t really have a goal time for this race aside from running faster than I had at Boston, just to keep me moving. My Boston time wasn't exactly the speed of light so I know my arbitrary goal was within reach, but a 10:02 wasn’t going to cut it. Demoralizing, but after I crested the peak of the bridge I picked it up on the downhill and felt some feeling coming back to my feet.

And then the crowds started. From the bridge we headed into Brooklyn. Holy mother, was it loud. People were yelling from overpasses, swinging from trees, playing tubas, beating on pots with hammers and screaming their heads off.

I made a deal with myself that even if I felt terrible I would suck it up and run the entire race. No walking through water stops, no bathroom breaks, no whining, no crying, no stopping for an oil change. New Yorkers apparently take their marathon watching very seriously and I didn’t wanna disrespect by walking.

With that decided, the first 7 or so miles flew by. My pace was where I wanted it to be (a bit too fast, actually, and I knew I would pay for it later). The crowds were at least three people deep and the course was relatively flat. I felt good but also felt I wouldn’t be holding that pace for too long or PRing. I could tell I didn’t have enough in the tank and I also wanted to enjoy the ride as much as possible.

The police along this part of course were particularly awesome and looked happy to be there– high-fiving, taking pictures with runners, cowbelling it up, getting all dancypants to the random musicians sprinkled along the course. Good times.

My peeps were waiting for me at mile 8.5, rocking the “Go Edison & Laurie (and everybody else)” signs Kate (who also took all the pictures here) made. Right where I thought they would be, there they were. Bill, Kate, her husband Steve and some of their friends were under a tree where they’d nailed the signs using a gnocchi maker as a hammer (apparently hammers aren't allowed in Brooklyn). I yelled something, apparently made some weird faces (see below) and was on my way.

What am I yelling? What is the dude
in the orange shirt doing with his hands?
Mysteries of life.

Looks like  I am missing some teeth here.
Don't worry Mom, I still have all my chompers.
 A mile or so later complete quiet replaced the screams of the crowd. We were in the ‘hood of Williamsburg, formerly known to me as the land of hipsters but now and forever known to me as the land of Hasidic Jewish people. 45,000 people were running by and the locals stared straight ahead. Occasionally a little kid would observe one of the few non-Hasidic people and mimic the cheers, high-fives and general absurdity or would run alongside a racer until a mom or dad convinced them not to. I tripped and rolled my ankles twice during these miles, too preoccupied with the change in crowd to pay attention to potholes and rutted roads.

Laurie's running tip of the week: Don’t trip or twist your ankles while running a marathon.

The 13.1 mark was on the Pulaski Bridge, a steep but short climb before a steep downhill and a  jumbotron broadcasting the runners under it. Fun, except a few mofos decided that coming to a complete stop and taking pictures of themselves waving on screen was a brilliant plan. HONK HONK! Dudes, I know I am not moving at the speed of sound but get out of my way.

Halftime. Intermission. Midway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

To The Start

The New York Marathon’s course wasn’t the only thing that basically kicked my ass on Sunday. Getting to the start line did as well.

I knew that this was going to be a challenge, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how tired I would be before even crossing the start. On Saturday Kate and I decided to figure out what LIRR train I would need to be on. Except, for marathon weekend, the LIRR railroad peeps decided to do track work and there were no early morning trains. If I wanted to get to the Verrazano bridge after the back of the pack crossed the finish line I was good to go but since I wanted to be there for my start time I was a bit screwed.

Kate (yelling with toys) and me (awesome pink shirt with hearts)
go way back to the dawn of time.
After much discussion and an hour on the NY MTA Web site, Kate decided that driving me to a subway stop about 20 minutes away, taking the subway to Manhattan and then transferring to another train would get me close to the Staten Island ferry. I was convinced I would screw up this plan and end up in Toronto by mistake so I made her write directions down, print out maps from Google maps and keep her cell phone on until I made it to where I belonged.

After zero sleep (I think that my brain decided that not actually falling asleep would ensure I wouldn’t oversleep) the alarm went off at 3:30. I hopped up, got dressed, realized I didn’t have to eat breakfast at that point because it was the middle of the night and Bill and Kate drove me to the subway.

Rocking the signs Kate made for the Chilean miner
and me while trying to catch a brief nap.

Where I waited, and waited and waited. Finally the train rolled up and I got on, along with a mouse who would be my subway buddy as he/she ran around at top speed in the car I was in. I pretended that he/she was running a little mouse marathon. Go, mouse buddy, go!

My other travel companion was an entire Big Mac sitting in a seat near me. Not in a container or anything, just the sandwich sitting in a chair. Curious. Even more curious was the drunk dude who got on a few stops later, burped 88 times before taking a seat, sat for a few, looked around, noticed the sandwich and ate it. Nothing like strange Big Mac with subway seat cooties at 5 a.m.

Camera, why didn’t I bring you with me?

After almost an hour on the subway I realized I was going to miss my assigned ferry but there was nothing I could do so I decided not to stress a lot.

Ever since watching The Wiz and the video for Bad
subways scare me.

Finally I got to the transferring station and the next train I needed was courteous to show up right away. I was still convinced I was doing it wrong because I didn’t see anyone else who appeared to be running the marathon. But after I got off the second train runners swarmed everywhere. After climbing out of the subway I was happy to see a giant glowing sign: Staten Island Ferry. Yay!

The ferry ride was pretty cool. The sun was coming up and I had a great view of the Verrazano slowly growing closer. It looked long. And steep. Once docked everyone sprinted to the buses taking us to the start villages. Um, people, we have plenty of running to do and the start is still three hours away. I was expecting the bus ride to be all of five minutes but it was closer to 30. I ate my PB sandwich and read the New York Times over the shoulder of the guy in front of me to pass the time.

We finally rolled in to the start area, a.k.a. gun central. Police, armed guards and security were everywhere, searching bags and checking and re-checking race numbers to make sure only registered runners were going through. A bit intimidating, but better than having a shoot-out, a bombing or someone not registered getting a free bagel.

An almost mile-long walk was in front of me as I headed to the green start waiting area. IT WAS FREEZING! SO EFFING FREEZING! I pretty much had as much warm stuff with me as I could --- long pants, two hats, two pairs of gloves, three extra shirts, a trash bag, a blanket and four hand warmers, but I couldn’t stop shivering. It was sort of crowded (but not the chaos I was expecting, fortunately) so I didn’t use my trick of camping out in a portapotty because I thought that would be rude. Fortunately, the view of the bridge was beautiful so I had something to look at while I waited.

As I didn't have my camera with me, I've decided to represent my trip to the start line in tattoos:

My cousin Gia let me borrow a pic of her tattoo. The
guns at the race seemed more like bazookas though.

Thank you brooklynmadetattoo.com. And thank you to the man
 who loves Brooklyn and the Verrazano Bridge enough to
 have this stuck to him for ever and ever.

Instead, I sat there in all of my warms for as long as I could until I had to check my bag. I had a hat, gloves, sweatshirt and blanket to toss (I hope they were actually collected and given to a NYC organization for homeless people as we were told they would) and remained amazingly cold and shivery. Fun.

As everyone waited for the corrals to open, I talked with a woman from San Diego who looked colder than I was. She was hoping to PR with a 3:25 and said that she hired a coach to help her. Her coach had her do two runs a week on a track – not sprints, but tempo runs. Seven-mile tempo runs on a track. Twenty-eight laps. On a track. I am never hiring a coach out of the fear that he or she would put me through that. I don’t think I would have the mental endurance for tempo runs on a track, now or ever.

Finally it was corral time. Announcements were continuously made in six different languages that the wave one corrals (there were three waves 30 minutes apart) would close at 8:55. In case you couldn’t hear, the announcements were also presented on more than a dozen gigantic tv screens set up all over the village. The corrals were actually kept open until about 9:15, but when they closed, they were closed.

The perimeter of the corrals were contained by tall fences covered in plastic so they couldn’t be climbed, and big gates and even bigger security guards sealed up the entrances to each corral. Of course, about a zillion people weren’t where they were supposed to be and I thought I was about to see a riot.

In my corral a group of about 100 runners wanted in. They were yelling that they had a right to be in their assigned corral (that is in the Bill of Rights after all, amendment 1 1/2: Congress shall make no law barring marathon runners from their assigned corral, regardless of their lateness) and the security guards were yelling that they weren’t getting in. Which they didn’t although they were told that they could run in the second or third wave.

Not sure if anyone actually tried climbing the fence (which looked impossible) or if punches were thrown because we were soon moved close to the entrance ramp of the bridge. The wind was blowing and gusting all over the place which made me more nervous (I was more nervous before the start of this race than any other race I can think of. Not sure why).

I thought about the last time I was on the Verrazano. I was in a car, packed in traffic and it took me an hour to get across. Two cars were randomly unattended (like, no popo or firefighters) and on fire leading to a mofo of a traffic jam. Standing there with a few thousand anxious runners with 26.2 miles to cover was much less stressful and much more fun.

I took a moment to take in the sunshine, the morning, the sight and the spectacle. Then, New York, New York filled the air, a cannon blasted, and we were off.

“I did it, I did it! I made it to the start of the New York marathon,” I thought. Goal One complete. Goal Two? Run a marathon on a course hellbent on crushing me. And enjoy it.