Friday, June 28, 2013 many ways

So, after avoiding it for a little over 2 months, I finally went to the memorial site in Copley Square last weekend before it was taken down Tuesday.  I should have brought tissues with me.  I knew it was going to be tough and overwhelming.  I mean, just walking there, not knowing what to expect and not knowing exactly where everything was, I was getting anxiety as I approached it even several blocks away.  I had parked in the common because the BAA 10K was just wrapping up and my friend Steve was working and helping out at the race, so I figured I'd say hi and maybe we could grab lunch.  Plus, the Health and Fitness Expo was going on at the Hynes and I was thinking of swinging by to check it out. 

I walked from the Common towards Copley.  It was really hot and humid out.  Actually a beautiful day to be in the city.  My heart was pounding and I felt like I couldn't breathe as I walked down Boylston towards the finish line.  I don't spend a lot of time in that part of the city and my only memories of it are when there are barricades and busses lining the streets and runners with mylar walking around.  None of it looked familiar to me at all.  I didn't know where I was until I saw a police car and a few officers and then just past them on the sidewalk a gathering.  There was noise and the regular hustle and bustle of a city, although lighter than usual because it was a Sunday morning.  When I crossed the street to the memorial all sound seemed to vanish.  The barricades that once lined the street and separated the runners only area from the spectator and family meeting area were now covered in shoes and hats and notes and flags and bib numbers with flowers laid softly at the footing.  I walked around and took several photos.  I read some of the notes and absorbed the pain and loss of the entire city of Boston and the running world. 

I wish that I had brought my shoes or something to leave behind with all of the other momentos.  I thought about the ribbons I had made and distributed in the days following the bombings and wished that I had just one more to pin up and show my support.  I thought about the "RUN FOR BOSTON" sign in the trunk of my car and wished that I had carried it with me to place with all the other signs and notes.  Then I realized, sort of selfishly, that those things are doing more good in helping me heal than I think they would do collected and archived in a warehouse somewhere in Boston.  I shared my tears with the city that day and at the memorial 2 months later.  I chose to hold onto my memories and momentos, gathering strength from them.  I hope that like the city of Boston I can move on and recover from this experience.

I took a little bit of a break from running this week in part because of the ridiculous heat and in part because I was busy trying new things.  I am focusing on fun and making a conscious effort to spend more time with friends and enjoy the little things in life.  I got an email from the Berlin Marathon this week reminding me that it is only 3 months away.  So, let the training begin and bring on the beer and maybe even some brauts.  Oktoberfest here I come!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Some runs are good, some runs suck

I guess they can't all be awesome.  Yesterday I had a really crappy run.  I didn't sleep much the night before because someone in my neighborhood was blowing stuff up or setting off fireworks in the middle of the night and it scared the crap out of me and gave me nightmares.  I just wanted to stay in bed all day.  As I drove to work in the morning I couldn't contain the emotion, I started to cry wondering, "when will the nightmares go away".  At work there is a guy in the cubicle next to mine that is hard of hearing and screams at everyone he talks to on the phone and all morning he was on a conference call.  I just had no patience for it and my head was throbbing.  I had missed my run the day before because of 'potentially life threatening flash flood' thunderstorms that rolled through in the afternoon. I really wanted to run, but probably should have just skipped it because I was so tired.  Plus, I think it's time for new shoes because my foot started to hurt and was really bothering me after the run.  I only did about 5 miles and it was slow and sluggish.  Totally sucked.

Thankfully, this weekend running up Mount Washington was the exact opposite - wicked awesome.  I left work early Friday to drive up to NH.  I thought there would be a lot of traffic because it was bike week and a friday afternoon in the summer time which usually means giant back up at the Hampton tolls.  There was no traffic and I got to my hotel around 3:00, checked in and got some lunch then drove around exploring the area before heading to Mount Washington to get my race packet and have the pasta dinner.  I took a bunch of pictures and talked to a few other runners then went back to my hotel and settled in for the night to try and rest before running 'just one hill'.

Saturday morning I got up and went to the base of the mountain with about 1200 other runners and a couple hundred volunteers and spectators.  It was very well organized.  I had bailed on my pre-arranged ride down the mountain (a prius jammed full with 5 adults and a child) and found a new ride with a guy there with his dad (driving a ford explorer with only 3 people in it).  Hung out with some friends from the Merrimack Valley Striders and tried not to get too nervous about the race.  I had no idea what to expect and just planned on having fun.  I wore my costume as planned and it was a big hit, but I was a little nervous about being too cold at the top.  The day before it was sunny and warm at the bottom, but people coming down from the top said it was raining and cold so I had no idea what it would be like.  And it was really windy even at the bottom so I wondered what that meant for the weather conditions at the summit.

Before I knew it, it was time to line up and start the journey up the hill.  The race director Dave McGillivray (also the race director of the Boston Marathon) said a few inspiring words and then a quick joke requesting no emails be sent to him saying the course was too hilly.  And we were off.  There is actually a short downhill before the 'one hill' starts so that was pretty much the only section of the course I was able to go fast on.  The first mile went by faster than I thought it would - 14:56.  I had talked to a girl in the port o potty line before the start about strategy and she suggested doing a regimented run walk approach.  So, I took her advice and tried to count to 30 running and if I felt good, pushed on to 45 or 60, then walked for 20-30.  It worked until the really steep sections.  Even trying to run was stupid because I could power walk past people that were attempting to run.

Best comment on my photo all week goes to Mark Remy of Runner's World:
 "the hills are alive ..... with the sound of AWESOME!"

I reached the halfway point and the clock said 1:04!!!!  Going into it I figured about 8 miles should take me 1:20 normally, so if I doubled that (2:40) that's sort of what I expected for a finish time.  1:04 at the half indicated I was doing a lot better than that.  I couldn't believe it and I was super excited.   Plus, I was stopping to take pictures the whole time and chatting with people and handing out cards for the stair climb.  My pace for miles 2-4 were slower, but a solid 17 minutes per mile.  Miles 5-7 got really steep and it was above the tree line so the wind picked up.  The wind was occasionally at our backs and felt like it was pushing us up the hill, but then we turned and it was in our faces.  Uphill into a headwind, was challenging to say the least.  And I started to get a little cold.  Overall I felt really good, just my hands were getting chilly.

Towards the end I could hear all the people cheering and I had forgotten that my name was on my bib so I sort of thought that it was weird that so many people knew me, I didn't remember that many friends at the start.  It flattened out for a little bit and I started to jog a little, then I turned one of the last corners and it just went straight up at a 22% grade for the last little section before the finish.  Brutal, but awesome.  I made it!  I crossed the finish all smiles in 2:15 and collected my polar fleece blanket.  It was AWESOME!!!!!  I bundled up and put on my warm clothes and then got a quick picture at the summit before driving down to the bottom for the lunch and a celebratory beer. 

It was an absolutely beautiful day.  The weather could not have been any more perfect.  We ate and drank and laughed and talked about how he race went for everyone.  The drive home seemed really long probably because I was really tired, but I got there eventually then fell asleep almost immediately on my couch.  I wasn't even really sore afterwards, just tired and a little dehydrated.  I even ran 7 miles along the Charles Monday and was totally fine.  I determined I WILL definitely try it again now that I know what to expect and I think I will try to break 2 hours going without taking pictures and a definite game plan of run walk. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I heart hills.....right?

Just a few days until I run 7.6 miles up 'just one hill'.  I hope I'm ready, I don't really FEEL ready, but how do you prepare for running up the largest mountain in New England?  I haven't really trained for this, but I'm going to do it anyway and see what happens.  I mean I ran Big Sur only 7 weeks ago, then Reach the Beach 4 weeks ago and Run to Remember half marathon the week after that.  I have been pretty consistently running 4 days a week with one mid-distance run in the week and a long run on the weekend, a little speed/fartlek running along the Charles and an easier 'recovery' run in there too.  Still haven't added any strength or cross training and really need to, but haven't felt motivated.

It's been a rocky few weeks training and living and trying to resume normal routine at work after the traumatic events in and around Boston made it very difficult to focus on anything.  I'm getting there.  I finally feel like I can sort of think straight and get things done.  I go through spurts of attention to a particular task and focused effort then it's like a fog rolls in and the focus blurs and my brain either goes blank and stops or goes into overload and thinks about everything all at once.  I'm sleeping a little better with only occasional nightmares when someone in the neighborhood decides to set off fireworks or some other type of expolsions or undetermined origin.  Doing my best to keep the stress in my life to a minimum and keep the fun at a maximum.

Last weekend for example, it was kind of rainy and gross out Saturday.  I did a 16 mile run over lots of hillstrying to prepare a little for Mount Washington even though there really are no hills big enough to even do repeats on to train for a MOUNTAIN.  It was still a really great run.  It was rainy and gloomy when I started out, but not cold.  About half way in, the sun came out and when it did it was STRONG. I could feel myself cooking instantly.  I had to keep going though, only one way home, and it was 8 miles away.  Kept a pretty consistent pace the whole time and felt good.  Slower than I'd like and a little gassed on some of the hills, but overall I finished 16 miles and felt good about it.

After the run, I showered and ate some food, then I headed to the mall.  I had received an email during the week about a celebrity appearance that sounded pretty funny and like it would be worth checking out just for fun.  I figured no one else would go to the mall since the sun had come out and it had been raining for several days, but I was wrong.  I got to the mall and there was a HUGE line for the appearance.  I got in line with all the other people and started people watching.  It was really entertaining and made the time pass pretty quickly.  Ok, so most of the people in line were under the age of, ummm maybe, 10 years old.  I may have been the only adult, but it was funny.  The mall security was all over the place trying to keep things organized and the staff were walking through the line giving thigs out because the line was so long some people might not make it in time to see the celbrity before they had to leave.  I MADE IT!  Hahahhahaha
Sunday, my neighbors had a yard sale so I threw some of my things out on the lawn to try and get rid of stuff and make a little money.  Of course this caused some drama with my nut job neighbor.  I didn't organize it.  I just jumped on board.  The crazy guy upstairs came out yelling at everyone because he was not included and asked why I didn't tell him.  I'm chairperson of the association and something involving the community and the property happened and he wasn't informed.  OMG, seriously?  I just ignored him.  I didn't send out the information and didn't verify that everyone was included.  Not my job to make sure all the neighbors talk to each other and play nice.  I just threw some stuff on the lawn hoping to get rid of it.  I ended up making a little over $100 and ALMOST got rid of my PEZ collection.  Will try again.  I have about 400 of them, wanted to sell them for 50 cents each or $100 for the entire collection.  A steal if you are a collector.

Anyway, back to work on Monday.  I made the mistake after my fun over the weekend of relaxing on the couch and started to watch the much talked about 'Game of Thrones' show On Demand just to see what the fuss was about, and I got hooked.  So I stayed up way too late Sunday watching it and didn't get enough sleep so I was super groggy and sleepy when I got to work.  I made it through the day, but did not feel like going for a run after work (plus it was raining AND I had a few more episodes of GOT to watch to get caught up). 

Tuesday it felt like a Thursday and my brain was just not functioning.  I was wicked productive in the first few hours of the day and then it's like my brain shut down.  I got a lot done, but then by afternoon I was pretty much mentally spent.  I went for a run and it was AWESOME.  I had rested 2 days in a row!  It paid off.  I did my favorite 6 mile loop along the Charles and could have kept going.  It was cool and cloudy and there was not much wind at all and I ran really decent pace for the entire run and stayed strong the whole time, finished up and felt amazing with a huge smile on my face.  Then I got stuck in traffic for 90 minutes trying to go home. 

On my way home I had a brilliant idea though.  About the race this weekend, I know it's going to be more of a hike than a run.  I will be walking as fast as I can up the mountain and trying not to get too burnt out and just enjoying the experience.  Then I thought wouldn't it be fun to do it in a costume to REALLY have a lot of fun with it and get some great pictures AND advertise for the Stair Climb too!  So, I'm thinking I might wear a Heidi-like, lederhosen sort of costume and wear my hair in my typical braids.  Oh and I made a back bib with the Climb Flyer so that I can really draw attention to it.  I figure people that sign up to run up the biggest mountain in New England must like to climb so they would also enjoy running up stairs.  I hope it works.  So, I posted the same photo that is at the top of this blog on my Facebook page for the blog, like it, share it, comment on it and I will run in costume and post funny photos next week.  Here's a preview of the costume I might wear.....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer is here

So, we went from snow in some parts of New England over Memorial Day weekend to a legit heat wave (4 days in a row above 90 degrees) the following weekend.  Crazy freaking weather.  It made for some steamy runs but also a lot of fun in the sun.  Last week, seven seemed to be my lucky number.  I ran 7 miles Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Despite the heat I felt really good all week. 

Friday I typically go home after work and crash on my couch, but last Friday I decided to be social and go out for drinks with some coworkers.  I get in a lot earlier than most and therefore they stay a lot later than me so I ran my new favorite distance along the Charles to kill some time before meeting them at the local pub.  I'm not old, but most of them are close to 10 years younger than me, I want to be able to hang and be cool but damn it's tough staying out late drinking.  I just don't do it anymore so I'm not used to it.  I'm used to going to bed by 9:00 and getting up at 4:00 or 5:00am and running for a few hours before these young kids even get out of bed.  I'm really glad I went though.  It was really fun even though it was way past my bed time by the time I finally got home.  I might even do it all over again this week!

So, as a result of my late night Friday, getting up early Saturday to do a long run didn't really go as planned.  I wanted to do a longer sort of hilly loop in preparation for Mount Washington, like maybe 12-14 miles, but I had plans around noon to go to a wine tasting with my friend Denise so I was limited, plus it was hotter than the surface of the sun outside so I didn't want to start too late and be out too long.  I ended up just doing a little over 10 miles.  Felt pretty decent, but definitely a little sluggish and perhaps dehydrated from drinking the night before.  But I finished it and felt really good about it.

Got home and hopped in the shower and got dressed to go to Denise's house.  I stopped by Whole Foods on my way for some snacks.  We met up with her friend Rich and his wife Liz and drove down to Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery.  It's a cute little place with an art gallery and tasting room.  A tour was not included in our tasting which was a little disappointing and the woman pouring the wines was not exactly exciting to listen to, plus she was a total scrooge with the pours - exactly one ounce for everyone no more.  We tasted 5 wines, 3 sparkling and 2 whites, no reds.  It was pretty good, nothing amazing, but tasty.  After the quick taste of wines we ventured outside and had a little picnic with our snacks and a bottle of wine.  That was the best part.  It was a little cooler and the sun was out and the scenery was very nice and of course the company of friends new and not so new made it a great experience.
When we got back to Denise's neighborhood we decided to go for dinner and ice cream (really it was the ice cream we wanted).  Denise was one of the people I was cheering for during the Boston Marathon and I had planned to jump the baricade and run the last little bit with her before time stopped.  It was really great to see her and catch up since we missed each other that day.  We sat and talked over dinner and then finally got our ice cream.  It was the perfect end to an amazing day.

Sunday I was going to go for another run and do the extra long loop I wanted to do the day before, but when I stepped out the door and the oppressive heat hit me I decided to take a 'rest' day and do some yard work instead.  Three and a half hours later, and several wheel barrels full of weeds and rocks it was midday and I was completely exhausted and covered in dirt, but the garden in front of my house looked awesome!  I took a shower and went grocery shopping, then passed out on my couch for an afternoon nap.

Monday morning I woke up so sore and covered in bruises that I couldn't remember getting.  I did not want to go to work.  And to make matters even more miserable when I got to work I had a really annoying email in my inbox that set the tone for the day.  I managed to muddle through the day and get a little work done, although not really a lot.  Then went for home to go for a run with Kim.  I hadn't really run with her in over a month.  It was really great to see her and catch up a little.  We just did 4 miles, but she has been getting progressively faster and I have gotten steadily slower and sluggish so it felt like a speed workout and I was dying the entire time.  I need to run with her more often so maybe I can get back to my happy pace.

Tuesday the weather was near perfect for running.  Warm but not too warm, almost no humidity in the air and a light breeze.  I was going ot just do 6 miles along the Charles, but once I got out there I felt so good I just kept going.  I did 8.5 miles and if I had brought water with me I could have kept going, but I was parched when I finished so it's good that I stopped.  It was a really good run.  Unfortunately, when I was done I thought that maybe I'd be leaving the city late enough that I would miss traffic, but I was wrong.  It was bumper to bumper my entire way home and it took me twice as long as it normally does.  Add to that equation work stress, extreme thirst and hunger, followed by needing to pee because I guzzled a liter of water right when I finished my run and I got the worst case of road rage I have ever experienced.  I wanted to stomp on the gas pedal and just plow through the cars all stopped in front of me or moving so slow it felt like we were stopped.  I thought to myself "why do they call it Rush Hour is no one appears to be in a rush at all????"

Anyway, yesterday was a much better day.  I got a lot accomplished at work and even went out for a walk at lunch time and had a few laughs at a meeting in the afternoon.  After work I had a meeting in downtown Boston for the stair climb committee and it wasn't until 5:30 so I went for a short run to celebrate National Running Day before going to the meeting.  I was going to do a few miles and then go early and get some ice cream at the Jimmy Fund's Scooper Bowl before the meeting, but my run turned into a death march and it took me almost 90 minutes to finish 5 miles.  I started running and felt like I had cinder blocks on my feet and pushed though it and thought the first mile is always the toughest.  Well, the second mile was worse, but i figured it's more uphill than the first mile so that explains it.  By the time I got to the third mile I felt completely exhausted and my heart rate was sky high and I couldn't breathe so I walked a little then tried to start running again.  I couldn't do it.  I felt horrible.  Just totally out of gas and like gravity had tripled on me.  I walked for the last two miles and chalked it up to some days are good some are bad and I probably should have taken a rest day.

I didn't make it to the parking garage near my meeting early enough to get ice cream so I just went straight to the meeting.  It was the best part of the day.  It was really great to meet some new committee members and talk about the exciting changes and challenges ahead for the event planning and recruitment for 2014.  We ended up talking for a little longer than planned, but it was nice.   When I left there was NO traffic and I breezed home in about 30 minutes.