Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Marathon #27 - Runalicious Little Rock

Well....it was a new record for me....my slowest marathon ever, but I still managed to drag my ass across the finish line after 26.2 challenging miles. I had pretty low expectations going into the race because I really only had about 4 weeks of training because I got really sick after Disney and lost half of an already shortened training schedule to the most ridiculous lingering couch/cold I think I have ever had. In the 4 weeks I had to train, I only managed to get in a few 10 mile runs. One of them was in soft squishy snow so it felt like I ran 20 miles, but really I just didn't get to a good place where I felt confident about the marathon I had to run.

In the week before the race I was seriously considering just not going. I was not prepared physically or mentally to tackle the 26.2 mile journey and I knew it. My cat was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and she has a bad heart so surgery and many of the medicinal treatments are not an option. I'm basically trying to keep her comfortable and monitor her for any signs of distress. She has days or weeks of life left and I am doing my best to make those days the best days they can be, spoiling her with treats and as much food as I can get her to eat. It's incredibly difficult and emotionally draining to watch a pet fade away and try to determine the most humane time to let her go. I do not want to rob her of good days, but I do not want to make her suffer through any bad days either. Worrying about how she would be and if she would eat while I was away weighed very heavily on me and almost made me stay home and skip the trip all together. I would only be gone 2 and a half days and I had a good friend checking on her and feeding her so I decided to go.
I tried to do some research and find things to see and do in Little Rock for the day and a half I was there and not running and came up with nothing. There is not a whole lot to do in Arkansas. There is a presidential library, but I really don't care about seeing a bunch of books. Little Rock is the state capital but their state house looks pretty much the same as any I've seen - big dumb building with a dome in the middle and maybe some gold ornament thingy at the top of that dome. Pretty boring. There were some parks and local hikes and trails nearby, but I didn't want to do a whole lot of walking the day before I was going to do a whole lot of walking (let's be honest, I knew I couldn't really 'run' the whole marathon with little to no training).

They did have a bunch of local breweries and a passport program that if you visit X number of breweries and collect stickers in your passport you get 'free' stuff. The minimum was 10 breweries and that got you a soapstone coaster. I figured why not. Friday when I arrived in Little Rock I needed to get lunch and then later would need dinner so I started to collect some stickers. I wanted to get most of the 10 done on Friday so that I didn't have to do much on Saturday. I succeeded in collecting 7 stickers Friday and my head Saturday morning felt like it was not so much a 'success', but whatever. Saturday I went to the packet pick up and expo then to a Walmart Super Center for some Gatorade and water (because Walmart was founded in Arkansas and it seemed like a mecca I should visit). Then I got a late lunch and my last 3 stickers for my passport and called it a night.
Sunday morning I got up wicked early because I learned the day before that the 'continuous shuttle' from the hotel to the start/finish area was not really very reliable and even less consistent about where it stopped and how frequently they came, so I decided to drive to the start and park. Problem was the rental 'car' I got was a Ford F-150 and all the parking near the finish was on street parallel parking or garages with wicked low clearance. I wanted to get there early enough to be able to pull straight into a spot on the street. I managed to find a space a block away from the finish and was able to stay warm in the truck for a while before heading to the start, which was nice because as luck would have it, it was pouring rain and really windy.

The race started at 7:00am. It was still raining despite the fact that accuweather said it was supposed to stop. The first half of the race felt pretty good, then there were hills and more hills and never-ending hills, oh and also some really brutal headwinds too. I'd say by about mile 18 I was done. I wanted to bail. Everything hurt, it seemed like there were not enough water stops, the miles did not go by fast, I tried to shuffle for a little bit and walk for a little bit. I would look at my Garmin and try to do math and figure out if I could at least maintain XYZ pace, I might cross the finish line in a certain amount of time plus or minus a half hour. There was an 8 hour time limit so I figured I was pretty safe to assume I could finish. I had in mind a time I wanted to see at the finish but accepted the reality that my finish time might be a lot longer than that.

As different pacers passed me with their projected finish times on poles my ideal time faded away in the distance with them. Each mile I fought the internal battle of quit now or keep going. At what point is the amount of pain ahead of you too much to continue? And when have you gone too far to even think about stopping? One foot in front of the other, keep making forward progress, even slow progress is progress. No matter how long it takes your feet are still carrying you the distance of a marathon and you may consider it a failure because it doesn't meet certain time goals you had in mind, but it is still an accomplishment that few can say they have completed. It's almost more impressive to complete the distance despite incredible pain and pushing through mental barriers when every ounce of you wants to stop. So.....I continued on and I finished!
I learned some things - Little Rock is wicked boring, Arkansas is NOT flat, and I am one tough and determined badass that cannot and will not quit no matter what. Although it was my slowest race ever and it was pretty much the combination of all of my worst races in one - rain, wind, hills, plantar fasciitis, back spasms, not enough water stops - I still managed to make it to the finish line and collect my medal. And what a "sweet" medal it is......pun intended.
I could not have been more happy to be done with that race and headed home. No offense Arkansas, but I'm not a big fan and will probably never go back. I made it home and my cat is doing ok. For now she is stable, not eating as much as I'd like and her most recent x-ray shows the lung cancer is a large defined mass in one lung that is causing her some difficulty breathing, but no pain. I brought her to the vet and we started her on a low dose of steroids to try and help her breath easier and feel a little better, hopefully even eat a little more. I'll keep an eye on her and hopefully give her a few more weeks of quality time, lots of treats and brushing and love. I worry about her and struggle with when is the right time to say goodbye. For now, my vet assures me that she has some pep in her step and still has some good days ahead. I'll stay close to home until she's gone. The next marathon I am registered for is Disney 2018. I want to do a fall marathon, but haven't decided on which one and I really need to get back on track with training and nutrition so that I am ready for another 26.2 miles. I have a bunch of half marathons over the summer hopefully those will keep me motivated and help me get back into shape.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wow, 2017 already, how did that happen?

I was looking yesterday and realized I hadn't posted any update since my Portland marathon re-cap. That was in OCTOBER! November and December kind of flew by in a blur and I didn't even really do a whole lot. I tried to train for my 4th Dopey Challenge and hit a few bumps and snags. My Plantar Fasciitis came back and slowed my training to a crawl. My longest run before Disney was 14 miles and my back to back runs were almost all complete failures. The first run would go great and then I would bonk about 8 miles into the second run.



Anyway, even though my training was less than ideal, I went to Florida and ran my 4th Dopey Challenge and the Gods were smiling on me because as luck would have it, severe thunderstorms threatened the half marathon causing Disney to cancel it. That gave me an entire day to rest between the 5K-10K and the full marathon. So, I didn't technically complete the entire Dopey Challenge, but it didn't really matter to me because I DID finish the marathon and I wasn't sure that would happen if I had done the half the day before.

As usual, I had a lot of fun running all those magical miles. Unfortunately, this year I didn't make it to Animal Kingdom early enough to jump on Everest mid-race, but I had noticed last year that the end of the marathon wraps around the World Showcase in Epcot and the last country you go through is Mexico. Lots of people were finishing with margaritas in their hands and I thought what a brilliant idea. It's not like I'm fast and I'm looking to break any records. I just want to finish feeling good about it and smiling. So........this year as I approached the finish and was about half a mile out run-walking through the world showcase, I stopped with a little cash in my pocket and bought myself the strongest most magical margarita ever! Cheers Disney!
 Damn, it was really good, but also really strong. I had to sip it.

As you can see, I succeeded. Had fun - check. Finished feeling pretty good - check. And smiling - check.

As soon as I got home from Disney I caught the plague that has been going around and have been ridiculously sick. I have been resting and sleeping A LOT. I am hoping that maybe after this weekend, if I rest a little bit more and let my body fight this horrible cold I will be better and ready to start training for the next event. I NEED to start training. Only about 2 weeks until the stair climb and only 44 days until my next marathon. With an already shortened training schedule and missing two weeks of it, Little Rock could be a bit of a challenge, but I'm up for it.
In the meantime, I have been getting better at pottery and I did glass blowing again over the holidays. I'm looking for some more non-running things to keep me busy, but I've been completely useless with this cold and not doing much of anything. Hoping that I can start filling my jar of awesome for 2017 and checking some things off my list again soon. The grand total for 2016 was 52 things including some pretty awesome things - Try blacksmithing, attend opening day at Fenway, Ride in a glider, Go to Iceland, Fly a helicopter, go white water rafting, eat a Voodoo donut.







Can't wait to see what awesome things I do in 2017!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The OTHER Portland Race recap

So, marathon #25 is in the books. Portland (Oregon)  - DONE! My 11th state. As one would expect (although I hoped it wouldn't happen) it rained, for the ENTIRE race. My training was less than ideal so it sort of made sense that the race conditions were also less than ideal. I went along with it though. Cool, cloudy and a little (or a lot) wet for 26.2 miles.....oh wait that's right it was closer to 26.8 miles because the volunteers in the first mile failed to block an intersection and direct runners to the first right hand turn on the course leading thousands of confused runners through a maze of winding streets that were NOT part of the course.
Overall, all things considered and now a few days post-race with the pain and soreness fading, I think I can say it was a pretty good race. I mean, I knew from my Garmin that each mile marker was about half a mile off the distance I had traveled, but I figured it was due to the variability and error of the GPS and it usually normalizes over the course of 26 miles, but this was different. It was consistently off by about the same amount each mile. Oh and there was that part right after the first mile where we saw a bunch of runners apparently cutting the course, but later learned that they were directed correctly at the right turn we missed. And yes, the rain was relentless and add in a little wind here and there and it was a recipe for a pretty miserable day.
BUT other than some nasty chaffing and general aches and pains and a slower than I wanted pace, I felt good. I finished really strong. I looked at my watch a little after 20 miles and did some fuzzy math and figured out a realistic goal for a time and I went for it. It was maybe 30-45 minutes slower than I wanted to be when I started the race, but considering the extra distance and the awful weather, I was ok with it. In the last 2 miles I pushed through a lot of pain in my feet and ankles and picked up my pace as much as I could with my time goal in mind and looking at my watch every few minutes to make sure it was do-able. I made the last turn towards the finish line and 'sprinted' in slow motion past some hobbling 'runners' to cross the line with literally just seconds to spare. 6:59:52 Slow AF, I know. Not at all what I wanted to do or where I want to be with my running, but I wanted to be under 7 hours and I did it.
Before the race, I had a blast in Portland. I really want to go back sometime just to eat and drink my way through the city and not have to run 26 miles while I'm there. Got a Voodoo Donut, did a BrewCycle pub crawl tour, saw the World's smallest park, went to a haunted pizza place (totally saw a ghost) and saw the famous penny used in the coin flip that named the city after my hometown, Portland Maine.

Feels a little weird actually after such an amazing trip and super busy summer doing all sorts of fun and crazy things, I have nothing 'on deck' on my to-do list. For the next 10 weeks or so, my calendar is completely empty. Not sure why, but it makes me sort of anxious and antsy. I feel the need to find something fun to do. 87 days until my next marathon......

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Amazed by my own awesomeness lately

So, my running has been suffering lately, I am really slow and struggling to get in the miles I need for training, but on the bright side I am crushing my "to-do list" this summer. I've always been pretty adventurous and up for anything and willing to try new things. I've had people ask me if I am in fact dying or recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and my answer is always the same maybe not in the same exact words, but the same general message. I am not dying (that I know of), I AM LIVING! That's why I don't call my list a "bucket list" because I prefer to think of it as things to do to feel alive, not things to do before I die.

I think I've mentioned it before but my approach is something like this - Opportunity + Ability + Means = Infinite Possibility. If I have the opportunity and the ability to do something and it is within my budget to do it, why wait for sometime or another time or next year or when someone else wants to do it too, if I have a chance I WILL take it. It just so happens that this summer I have had a lot of amazing opportunities to do some really awesome things.

Beginning in May - ran two marathons back to back (although in hindsight that was dumb). Went for a ride in a glider, that was unreal and something I definitely want to do again. June - Did the Best Buddies challenge 50 mile bike ride. Gave a stranger a $100 bill. Ran up Mount Washington. Saw the famous sign post in Maine with all the different countries on it. Went to Iceland. Licked an iceberg. Ran the midnight sun half marathon. July - Hit balls at a driving range for the first time ever. Bought my first brand new car. August - Flew a helicopter. Ran the Falmouth Road Race. Went to Martha's Vineyard. Went zip lining. Rode the Alpine roller coaster at Gunstock mountain.



My September calendar was looking pretty boring in comparison, but to be fair I am at the end of my marathon training and need to do some pretty long runs in the next 4 weeks. Ideally, if the weather cooperates and I don't die from heat stroke, the plan is for 16-18-20-18-TAPER. With those kind of miles planned that will likely take me 3-4 hours to complete, then refueling and resting afterwards, my weekends are likely to be toast as a result. This coming weekend is Labor day and so I have an extra day to play. The plan was to do my long run Saturday morning and then have the rest of the weekend for adventures. I searched Groupon for ideas and at first didn't come up with much. There was a white water rafting trip deal, but I had very low confidence that they would have availability so last minute and I was right. But they put me on the wait list.....and yesterday they called and I'm in. Opportunity + Ability + Means = Oh heck yeah I'm doing it!
Booked my white water rafting trip, then I looked up when the most recent high water release date was because New England is in an extreme drought right now and I was wondering if the water levels would be really low. Well, wouldn't you know it the next high water release date.......Sunday. The day I am going. I could not be more excited, nervous, amped, maybe a little scared. I tried to think and this might be the most dangerous thing I have done. Skydiving is a close tie. But white water rafting on one of the highest water release dates of the summer in the biggest river in Maine, which happens to be called the Dead River. Yeah, it's going to be awesome!

The rest of the month is wide open, but if an opportunity comes up, I WILL take it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Random thought brought me to tears

I was driving into work this morning and just listening to random songs from my iTunes on shuffle. A song from a movie I had seen with my mom and my brother a few years ago on Christmas came on and at first it reminded me of that movie and that Christmas and it was a good memory of good times. Then my mind started to wander to this Christmas and what movie we might go to see. I know the movie about a marathon bombings and the manhunt that followed is scheduled to be released this December and I got an overwhelming rush of anxiety that my mom and my brother will want to go see it and will not understand why I cannot. Images flashed in my brain of that day and the possibility of reliving it through Hollywood's eyes and I started crying.

I immediately started trying to come up with the words to explain why I cannot go watch a big screen re-enactment of a horrific event I witnessed first hand. Not only for my own emotional well being, but also the deep feelings I have about someone profiting from the recreation of the events. On the first part - to some, including my mom and brother, it may be simple to want to go see a movie about an event that happened recently with famous people in it acting out the roles of real people they saw on the news when it happened.

To me it is not that simple. I really, really wish it was, believe me, more than anything I WISH I could somehow compartmentalize the feelings I had that day and that week and disconnect them from my daily life. But for me, even the idea of seeing a recreation immediately brings me back to that moment and that intense fear and isolation I felt in the moment as if it is happening all over again. I know in my rational brain that 3 years have gone by, things have changed, I ran the marathon safely and triumphantly the following year, I watched daily as news vans reported from the Federal Courthouse next to my office on the trial of the bomber, I quietly cried when I heard the verdict, I go on doing different marathons and going on adventures and accomplishing goals, but every once in a while completely unexpected and randomly something happens or a thought enters my brain and I am right back in Boston on April 15th, 2013.

As far as the second part of why I cannot see the movie, I know that it is a dramatic story that must be told. I bought all the books that came out in the year after the bombings, not out of fascination, but more out of comfort in hearing that people are ok and learning about the stories of average people that became heroes that day and in a way it helped me to process the information and the events and cope with the emotions I felt and also support the many other people that lived through it because most if not all of the books published donated proceeds to the victims of the bombings. That is where the movie takes a different approach and it is exactly why I cannot go see it, it doesn't seem as though it was filmed for the reasons the books were written and on the contrary it IS for entertainment and to feed that strange fascination that people have and it is FOR PROFIT. I know the OneFund no longer exists and that money has been given to the people that deserved to receive it for the traumas they endured, but there are other charities that were established and other ways the film could support the community impacted by the events, but instead the famous people acting out the roles of the real people in this story will collect a fat paycheck and probably not think twice about the people they played and the lasting effect that day had on them.

Anyway, this is all just the randomness that entered my brain this morning along my 35 minute commute to work. I changed the song and shuffled to the next song and wiped away the tears and thought there are still several months until Christmas and there will be plenty of other movies to pick from. In the meantime, I have a marathon to train for and adventures to plan. Focusing on those things and living my life to the fullest possible amount of awesomeness I can manage keeps me going and forward and prevents me from going back to that place mentally. So one foot in front of the other, I will keep moving forward.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How did that happen?


Another month gone by. It's been the hottest and driest summer on record for parts of New England. Which equals the worst ever marathon training conditions for me. Only 7 weeks left to train for Portland Oregon and I have yet to complete more than 14 miles. The past two attempts at 16 miles I cut short at 10 because it got dangerously hot with the heat index over 100 degrees. I am seriously hoping that in the next few weeks at least I can get to 16 or 18 miles before I start to taper.

My longest run of the summer, also ridiculously slow, but I'll take it considering the day before I tried to do my run and only made it a little over a mile from my house before walking home because it was too hot and too humid. I tried so hard and just couldn't breath and couldn't lift one foot in front of the other. It was definitely one of those days when running felt impossible. The next morning I got up determined and the weather cooperated, sort of. It was a little cooler and a lot less humid so I left early and got my run done.

Although not a long run, I did complete the Beach to Beacon 10K again this year. It was cooler temperature wise, but the humidity made it feel like a swim not a run. I still managed to have fun with it though. I met some great people on the course and in the start corral. I made it just about 4 miles before the guy in the lighthouse passed me. (yes, there's a guy that runs the race IN a lighthouse).
After the race I met up with a friend and we did a brewery tour of the Greater Portland area - Bissell Brothers, Foundation, Austin Street, Allagash, and Geary's. Then spent some time chilling in my mom's pool. Maine really is "the way life should be."

On the non-running side of life, I am having a lot of fun checking some really cool things off my list. I hit balls at a driving range for the first time. That was exciting. And it might have been a little cruel, but I bet all the guys I was with $20 if they could hit the kid driving the cart that sucks up the balls on the green. It made things a little more challenging. 

I also said goodbye to my Subaru. It was a great and reliable car for 10yrs and 183,000+ miles, but it was time and I wanted to shop for a new car before the Subaru 'shit the bed' (as Mainer's say). So, I checked off another item on my list. For the first time in my life I bought a brand NEW car. I have always had used cars ever since I got my license. First was the Subaru my brother and I shared in high school, then I had a Jetta in college, then when the Jetta died I got a Ford Focus because it was all I could afford at the time and I hated it. Then I totaled the Focus and bought my Subaru. Now I am the proud owner of a 2016 MINI Cooper that only had 12 miles on it when I picked it up.
I tried to get up early last week and see the Perseid Meteor shower and failed. It was 2am and definitely dark enough out, but the lights in the courtyard of my condo were much too bright for me to see any shooting stars. But that was a small thing on my list compared to what I did next. I learned to fly a helicopter! Technically it was just an introductory lesson and there's no chance I could actually fly one solo, but I did a 30 minute ground instruction and a 30 minute flight where I did the take off AND landing and NAILED IT. It was amazing and I actually thought it was easier than flying a plane. I don't think I will be getting a helicopter pilot's license or anything crazy, but it was a lot of fun. I might have to add to my list revisit the idea of continuing flight lessons. I wouldn't mind getting a pilot's license to fly small planes like Cessnas or something. Those are really fun!
I have a few things 'on deck' but will be brainstorming some more fun things to squeeze in too. I am getting really close to completing my 200th item on the list. Flying a helicopter was #193. Stay tuned for new adventures and more on my marathon training.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Really struggling lately

After I initially lost just over 100lbs., I was able to maintain my weight for about 7 years. I fluctuated +/- 5-10lbs on a monthly average weight depending on my training (and overtraining), but I stayed within my ideal weight range for a while. In the last 3 years that has not been the case and it is really upsetting me.

I KNOW some of this is purely excuses, everyone has them and I KNOW there are solutions and things I can do to change things up, but I guess what I am getting at is IT'S HARD. REALLY HARD.

A series of unfortunate events has caused some of my unhealthy behaviors to return and my fitness and nutrition habits have suffered. First, I was laid off from my job in 2011, which actually wasn't a bad thing, but I lost access to my gym and all my gym friends. I stopped doing strength training completely and focused only on running and biking and occasionally swimming if I had a triathlon to do. I have no doubt this caused me to lose muscle mass and metabolize food differently.

The biggest event with the biggest impact was the bombings in 2013. I was not injured, but I was definitely scarred for life and have some very real symptoms of PTSD. For weeks and months after the bombings I had awful nightmares (and I still do occasionally). I worry about things I never used to worry about. I take notice of things I probably never thought about before when in public or large crowds. Fireworks and loud noises still startle me and sometimes make me cry. As a result of these things I began drinking more frequently. (from 2010-2012 I didn't drink at all) After the bombings, I would have 3-4 beers just to get to bed at night and when neighbors set off fireworks I'd sit awake in bed shaking and crying unable to get back to sleep.

I slowly got back to somewhat of a normal routine and tried eating vegetarian in an effort to switch things up and put better fuel in my engine, but got exhausted easily and gave up after about a year of no meat. In 2014, I was laid off again and stressed out because I had very little severance pay and finding a new job took a lot longer than it did in 2011. I got a new job and I love it, but the location makes it difficult to run near work and even more difficult to meet friends to run after work, and when things are not convenient and easy, they just don't happen. There is a fitness center onsite and I am a member but the managers, the atmosphere, and members are just not as fun as the gym where I initially lost weight and started this journey.

As a result of the weight I have gained back, I am A LOT slower and running is A LOT harder. This makes me not want to run. It makes me embarrassed to run with friends that are faster than me. It makes me ashamed of my race results, I finish, yes, but dead last definitely takes the wind out of the sails, so to speak, and doesn't feel like a great accomplishment anymore. It makes me try to find reasons NOT to sign up for races I used to love because I don't want people to see me there and see me fail.

All of this breaks my heart and I am really struggling to climb my way out of this hole but keep falling deeper and deeper into the abyss. I am hoping that in sharing this struggle and getting it out there, I can find the strength and determination I had almost 10 years ago now when I first stepped on a scale horrified by my own body and how big I had become. I need that back. I need to start over. I KNOW I can do this. I've done it before. It's frustrating to find myself creeping back to where I started but I want to stop and reverse this course and get back to my healthy weight and happier self.