Monday, November 29, 2010

Notes on a Busy Week

Hmmm... where to start since I need to keep this short?

Thanksgiving was wonderful, and in fact all of Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful. Marvelous to have Pete's family come visit, superlative to have so much time with Buddy and The Dude, and lovely to have so much yummy yummy food. (Especially the pecan pie. I love pecan pie.)

Work is busy (surprise, surprise), but okay.

My "To Make For Christmas" to-do list has far more entries than days available, but I am oddly calm about it (right now) and enjoying every opportunity to work on them.

I had three decent workouts last week and have hopes of two this week. My IT band is not getting worse. I have decided not to stress about how much I am working out or not until the new year starts.

I have the opportunity this week to visit with a friend I have not seen in over twenty years and am grateful for that as well.

I cannot explain my calm right now other than to say I have either gotten the Christmas spirit, or some good sleep over the holiday weekend. Either way, I am grateful. I do know I am most grateful that Buddy took a nap every day over the long weekend, a gift I was not expecting.

Hope this finds all well. I doubt I will be writing much over the next few weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Notes on a Low Week

I think I'll start with the positive stuff from last week, since otherwise I will probably just wallow.

The house is clean and (mostly) ready for visitors.

I got in two good workouts last week, through a combination of walking and the ergometer.

While still twingy, my ITB is not disabling, as evidenced by my ability to run (without pain) after a certain imp.

I got some good work done on my Christmas presents and really enjoyed doing so.

The bug that was threatening to fell me last week has retreated to "tolerable" status.

Work, while stressful, is still on the right side of manageable.

I am enjoying reading a couple of art books that I would not have read six weeks ago, before I decided to succumb to my artsy/crafty self.

And everyone in this household and among my closest loved ones is well and in decent health.

Okay, good enough! No need to make a similar catalog of my blues. I'll just go listen to a bunch of country music instead.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Word of the Day

Automagically.

Isn't that awesome? There is a lot these days that seems to happen automagically. How else could I be writing this and a friend in Japan reads it moments later?

My son's word on Saturday was "broken." I don't remember what particular incident prompted that, but he savored the word for the rest of the day.

And I remember being 10 and in love with the word "inquisitive."

Do you have a word for the day?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Is Not My Week

I got scolded on the train today for talking on the phone with my parents. Like, chewed out. I was stunned, mostly because, as anyone who rides the Chicago El knows, everyone talks on the phone on the train --- I thought I was at least trying to be fairly quiet and considerate. But apparently there are different rules in play on the Brown Line at 8:00am.

I have a magnet I keep on the door to my office, to let people know I'm here even if the door is closed. My eyes keep going back to it today... I chose this quote to help me remember to be nice to people when I don't want to be, but today I think it's to remember to be nice to me:

Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars.
In the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
~ Max Ehrmann

Peace to us all.

Eh, Or Maybe Not

After thinking some more about these birds I'm making, and looking at the photos in the book of what they're supposed to look like, and then thinking some more (mostly about what really gets me excited about working with cloth and thread, and what would I design if I were to make up some birds for my friends), and then staying up too late and waking up too early because my brain is just turning... I've switched gears, jumped tracks, and am heading in a somewhat different direction. Somewhere that's more me.

Thankfully most of what I cut out can be cannibalized for these new designs, and with a little bit of sketching and a little bit of photocopying, I am now ready to cut out new patterns tonight and get started sewing on the train tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Notes on a Frustrating Week

I'm not even going to bother listing out my workouts this past week, it's just too upsetting. Tuesday I went for a longer run than I should have and ended up injuring my ITB. It's been coming all season so I can't get too upset about it, in many ways I'm just grateful that it happened now (rather than before the marathon or my race last weekend). Not only that, but November/December are hugely stressful months for me at work, plus of course all my own holiday preparations. And I will admit I'm feeling run-down. So it's a good time to be running less (or not at all right now), but I still don't like it.

I've been frustrated trying to figure out good cross-training as well. For reasons I won't get into (because it makes me too angry) I can't use the pool for a while, but we haven't joined our local health club yet, so I'm left with the exercise room at our local park district center. Typically the only machines there that work properly are these odd combination of bike/arm-thing that make a huge amount of noise and don't have any gear adjustment at all --- you just get on and pedal and move your arms back and forth. I just can't make myself use them, I can't. So then you cross your fingers and hope that one of the more modern machines are working... Today that left me with the ergometer, which I love, but that's really not a lot of choice.

I won't even touch on work frustration becuase it's just not worth it. This is a hard time of year, made harder by other people's holiday craziness, and that I don't feel I really get to enjoy my own holiday preparations. I suspect I won't be writing much in these next six weeks.

On the upside, we actually managed to consolidate our books and reorganize our bookshelves this weekend... we've only lived together five years and in this apartment for three, after all, can't rush into these things... Buddy thought it was hugely entertaining and "helped" pull books off the shelves for us, usually after we'd finished a shelf. But I'm most proud of us, me for being willing to consolidate (mostly) and The Dude for being willing to organize and get rid of some things to boot.

I like to end my posts with some kind of cheery or witty note but I'm too tired to be either today. Hope your Novembers are going better.

This Week: Cutting, Sewing, Swearing, Groaning

A number of my friends had babies about the same time that my imp was born. Those whose showers I was able to attend got a gift from their registry, but a few of them never ended up getting a gift for their children at all, which I have not been happy about (especially when we have then received gifts for Buddy from them... oh, the shame). And then two of my friends in this category have since had a second child! I am far, far behind in my gift-giving.

So I have started my venture back into art-making with a number of gift projects, some for Christmas, and some to ease my conscience around missed gift-giving opportunities. This week I have been working on two stuffed birds, both from, or loosely based on, designs in the book "Little Birds."

I'm working on a tight deadline so I don't think I'll get any process pictures up. A childhood friend from Japan whom I haven't seen in 24 years will be here for a conference in two weeks, and since I'd rather not pay the postage to Japan I'm trying to get these done in time for her arrival. Hence some of the groaning. The other groaning came when I first turned the body of one of these birds right side out. It's been so long since I made anything three-dimensional in fabric, and never from someone else's pattern (or so small) --- it just didn't look anything like I thought it would.

Still, it is in process --- the body is not yet stuffed or closed, the wings are not yet attached, the decorative stitching and beading is not yet done --- and I am trying to remember that it has been a very long time since I made anything at all and to have patience and gentleness of heart towards myself.

I am so very much enjoying all the parts of making these birds: choosing fabrics, cutting out the pieces, pinning, machine sewing, turning, stuffing, handsewing (in the train this morning!), embroidering. So that gives me confidence about what I am doing overall... regardless of how these particular birds might turn out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Change in Plans, That's It, Just a Change in Plans

Yesterday I scheduled myself for a nice, easy, 4-mile run. You know, nice and easy to recover from Saturday's race.

And then it was so beautiful outside... I decided to make it six.

Do you know where this is going? That's right, at mile 4 (and still 2 miles from home), my right knee started bothering me. And then some more. And then some more. I kept going because frankly it was easier to keep going than to stop and start up again, and I was still 2 miles from home, and I didn't want to walk (I didn't think it would feel any better to walk), but by the time I got home more than my knee was hurting.

Now, thankfully, I don't think I've done anything serious to myself. I could walk around mostly fine yesterday (just some problems after going down steps), and I haven't had any major pain today (just twinges... but a bunch of them). But I'm taking this as a big red flag to back waaaay off the running for a while.

Last year, at about this same time, I started having problems with my left foot, and I didn't back off... until January, when I had to, and then ended up with about eight weeks of wondering if I'd be able to run again this year at all. And I still have to baby that foot. I don't plan to make that mistake twice! So from now until the end of the year I'm going to hit the pool and the gym, and if I go running, just something nice and easy (for real), maybe once a week.

Happy that I already decided to do a sprint tri next year! I'll be able to enjoy those hours in the pool and the gym and not chafe at "missed" training opportunities. Now I just need to find someone to sucker persuade into doing it with me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back With The Big Fish

This was my first day back in the fast lane after a break of two months. I had scaled back my swimming during the most intense marathon training, and kept it low-key during taper and recovery as well. And for that I didn't need the pressure of swimming in the fast lane, worrying about what other swimmers were thinking about me (I know, I know, they aren't), and feeling tempted to swim faster or longer than I should. And I didn't have any concrete plans for returning to the fast lane either, I was just planning to slowly increase my swim time back to an hour or so and not concern myself with how fast I was going.

And then.

And then I showed up at the pool today and saw there were 8 people already in the medium lane, two of whom make me grit my teeth every time I have to share space with them. It was just so going to be a clusterf***, excuse my french.

And in the fast lane? Five. All swimming steadily and easily, passing each other as needed with no drama that I could tell.

So in I went. And spent the first 10 minutes going too fast, worrying that I was getting in the way, looking back too often to make sure I wasn't going to cut someone off at the turn. And then I realized that I was okay, I wasn't getting passed like crazy, everyone seemed to be handling my being there without breaking stride, so to speak. I was pretty revved up by then, though, so I kept going at my faster clip and gradually realized I could keep it up, and hey, maybe I wanted to swim an extra three laps too. You know, just for kicks (ha, ha).

And I got out and feel fine, and have felt fine since then, better than fine, really, I was STOKED... and promptly went home and retooled my winter training plan to include MORE SWIMMING. I want to run my first ultra next year, after all, need to get my cardio up there without hurting myself with too much running. Whatever... it just feels so good to feel tough. Sexy, even.

(It doesn't hurt that there are some beautiful men in the fast lane. Oh, swimmers. Along with soccer and rugby players easily the most beautiful men in the world.)

Now if only my budget allowed for some swim coaching... and a new swimsuit...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hot Chocolate - Hurrah!

Good grief, this whole race has felt like a comedy of errors, though one with a happy ending at least. First I got the date wrong and only realized my mistake 13 hours before the start time, necessitating a complete change of plans for the weekend (luckily it actually worked out better for us this way). Then I left my watch at home, and with no clock at the start that I could see I wasn't able to keep track of my mile splits until I was two miles in. I somehow managed to lose my beloved ear warmers during gear check, and it was COLD. I needed to pee right from the start but the course was woefully lacking in porta-potties and I didn't want to lose time standing in line, so I ended up running the whole thing wishing I could just go pee against a wall like guys do. The course was crowded the whole time with a number of bottlenecks, so I spent much of the race running on the very edge: on grass, on rocks, in ditches, and hopping back and forth over curbs. I lost time running to a fieldhouse only to find the restrooms were locked up for the season (and as a Chicago resident I knew better than to have tried, but I saw people coming back from it and they didn't say it was locked so I went, hoping). I barely saw the view or heard the music, so focused was I on getting through and around people and not twisting an ankle on the slopes/grass/rocks/curbs.

(I am so very grateful for all my trail running and balance exercises in yoga, busy strengthening all those little stabilizing muscles in my feet and ankles so that I could trust my footing in this insane course. Did I mention we spent a full mile on grass and rocks?)

Despite all the obstacles, I felt really good about how I was running (once I got past the first couple of miles of "it's really cold," "I hate all these people," and "we're running on highway, why am I even doing this"). First, my pace was really consistent, something I have struggled with in races, gradually accelerating over the first two miles to a 10 minute pace and then staying there for the next three miles. Then, once I got past the 5 mile mark, I let myself go faster, and was able to steadily accelerate again over the next couple of miles until I was really running at capacity, and then kept it there for the rest of the race. I was way more aggressive about passing then I've ever been (and have the elbow-shaped bruise on my breastbone today to testify to that) --- that was fun. Plus, there were a number of hills on the way back (the first half had been a gradual and consistent slope), and I love hills. I practice on them as much as I can around here, so yesterday I could take them steadily going up without losing much speed, and then really FLY on the way back down, trusting in my ankles and sense of balance and my training, loving the feeling of flight and also trying to make up time lost in bottlenecks and that failed toilet stop.

That last mile and change I just kept pushing myself, making myself chase people down and just. keep. going. I hit the 9 mile mark and realized I was pretty much at my limit but there were only 400 some meters left to go and I just had to keep going and then I hit the last 50 meters and pushed harder and crossed the finish line. And immediately felt like throwing up. Yes! A perfect race.

I didn't even know what my time was until this morning, I was just hoping to have broken a 10 minute pace overall. And I did! Final time --- 1:32:30, for a 9:56 pace, finishing 507 out of 1192 for my age group (women 35-39). To put that in perspective, last year I ran this race at a 10:42 pace, and earlier this year I ran a 10k at a 9:54 pace. I am moving on up.

Now to figure out what my goals are for next year's races and devise training plans for them. Yum, yum, yum.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hot Chocolate - Oops

Well, I found out on my way out of work last night that the Hot Chocolate 15k is TODAY, not Sunday as I had been thinking all season long. Wow. And here I'd been wondering why the expo was on Thursday and Friday only.

I've been grousing to myself about this race all week long --- it's become all about "sell, sell, sell," they ran out of most sizes of shirts before it was anywhere near full, there was no chocolate at the expo despite all their email promises, etc., etc., (when really I signed up for it out of "post-marathon mania" and now, a month later, just don't feel like racing) --- so I could have very easily taken this as a sign that it was not to be.

But instead, here I am, all geared up and about to head out the door early on a COLD Chicago morning to go kick myself in the butt. And excited about it.

We runners, we are crazy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Procrastination Is My Best Friend

Sometimes it's good I don't always get to things when I want to. (I find this to be true at work all the time.) If I'd written on Sunday as I meant to, I would have written that the pumpkin bread I made for Halloween (and used all my quiet personal time on) was a FAIL. Not enough pumpkin flavor, not enough spice, not enough sweet, and according to The Dude, not a good texture (I disagreed with him there, I like my quick breads to be dense, a.k.a. whole-grain, at least in part).

However, despite these flaws, Buddy and I have been enjoying it all week, him with a little milk in the mornings, me with coffee as my second breakfast, topped with cream cheese and apple butter, or peanut butter and honey.

So I need to tweak the recipe --- anyone know how to make something more "pumpkin-y" with adding more pumpkin? --- but overall I would say it's a qualified success. And The Dude will just have to content himself with cold cereal.

I am on the hunt for a good cranberry-walnut bread recipe, though. One with some fiber!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Notes on a Friend-Full Week

This week was both exhausting and a delight. The delights included having lunch with one good friend and then a post-Buddy-bedtime dessert outing with another. (We meant to have wine but the desserts just called louder!) Then in the next couple of weeks I have a coffee date planned, plus another lunch, plus who knows what might pop up. Oh yes, and I had breakfast with another friend last week and we'll probably manage to get together before Thanksgiving as well.

I mention this because it really wasn't that long ago that I was bemoaning my lack of regular friendtime. One close friend moved to New England, one moved to Evanston, and all around it seemed that I didn't have any close friends nearby (insert dramatic sigh here) and I was all alone (really big sigh here). But really what happened was that changes in my life (ahem, Buddy) and changes in my friends' lives meant that the patterns we had got disrupted, and I hadn't yet built any new ones up.

Today I look around and feel rich in friendships again --- some new, some strengthened, some transformed --- and I am very grateful. Grateful, and also aware that this would not have happened without my attention and care and making friend time more of a priority again.

Monday: Ran 8 miles, yoga. Meant these to be "easy" miles but ended up more like a tempo run.

Tuesday: Yoga, swam 27 laps.

Wednesday: Rest day, went into work early.

Thursday: Nine miles at the track, 4 mile-repeats. Last speed workout before the Hot Chocolate 15k on 11/7 and I'm feeling strong. Yoga.

Friday: Yoga, swam 27 laps.

Saturday: Slept in, so no yoga in the morning, than Buddy didn't nap, so no yoga in the afternoon. Decided to see the whole day as an opportunity for spiritual practice --- breathe, baby, breathe.

Sunday: Ran 6 miles in the wrong shoes, not much fun. And then Buddy didn't nap again. Kind of frazzled by weekend's end. I'm taking that as my excuse for all the candy consumed today. Evidently sugar won out over mindfulness. Happens sometimes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh Dear

So, the Chicago Lakefront 50/50 (50k or 50M) is this coming Saturday, and I want to do the 50k sooooo much.

I know I'm not ready for it this year (plus we've got a really heavy schedule this weekend), but I'm seriously thinking about it for next year.

The Dude asked me in my post-marathon moping week why I wanted to run marathons, and why I wanted to run particular ones (Flying Pig, San Francisco, New York, London, Berlin... Boston), and I really couldn't give him a good answer. I just... want to. And certain ones more than others. And while I'd certainly like to improve on my marathon time I feel content right now to leave my racing efforts to shorter distances --- I just want to run these.

But before any of these I want to run that 50k...

(And then someday my S.B.A.*...)

Oh, time to pull out my planner and training books.

*Secret Burning Ambition. Still not ready to talk about this. Thought it had gone away but I guess it hasn't.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Notes from a Fruitful Week

Monday: Swam 24 laps, yoga.

Tuesday: Ran three miles, of sorts. Buddy had been sent home from daycare the day before (he had bad hives) with the instruction not to return until we had a doctor's note. The Dude valiantly managed to pick up B and get him to the doctor in time, but then I forgot to bring the note with me. No admission. So my three miles were broken up by running home with Buddy to get the note, then running back, then running the remaining 1 1/2 miles around the nearby park and home. Anger made the first half go quickly --- leftover adrenaline made the second half go even faster. So in the end a satisfying run, though not my usual way of doing speedwork! Finished up with calming yoga.

Wednesday: Rest day (yoga/strength). After months of trying to fit six workouts into my week, not counting my yoga and strength training, and almost always failing to do so, I have decided that for proper balance in my life I am only scheduling 5 workouts a week. Thereby leaving myself one morning each week for visiting with friends, or heading into work early, or getting some extra time for art-making. So far so good!

Thursday: And then after that resolution I woke up tired and wanting to finish up some writing/sketching I didn't get to the night before, so took another rest day as well.

Friday: Ran seven miles along the lake, lovely and fast. Plus yoga.

Saturday: Meant to do my long run since Sunday's schedule wasn't going to permit it, but I woke up tired and grumpy, and was sent to bed after lunch to try to get some niceness back. That sort of worked... I was nicer the rest of the day... but then I had a hard time sleeping that night, so my aversion to naps remains confirmed. But I would not have been able to do a long run anyway.

Sunday: Woke up shaky, so no run even if there'd been time. But a long nap on Buddy's part, accompanied by The Dude taking his long run, left me with quiet alone time that was apparently what I had been needing all along.

So, this was a "fruitful" week, even though punctuated by more rest days than I would have cared for, because amongst all that agitation I came to some important decisions (and more importantly, started acting on them), and determined that my legs are up to seriously running the Hot Chocolate 15K in two weeks time. If I take my sleep seriously as well. Which will be a challenge since it's still Scary Movie Month (I so owe a post or two on this), but I am nothing if not one determined mama.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Whoa, Buddy!

 

Beautiful fall day, wind in the hair, all of Chicago before him --- 
a boy's gotta ride!

(Mama, meanwhile, was taking a much needed nap inside.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Whoa, Annie!

So I guess I'm serious about this art stuff...

I've been making cards to sell and working up sketches for paintings...

I need to find myself a new table easel (had a beautiful one but sold it a post-breakup purge some years back, WTF?!).

I now have an Etsy account but no store there yet...

Need to rearrange my work space this weekend so it's easier to paint there (while still keeping things safe from the Budster).

I'm remembering some of why I have let myself not make art in the past... once I get started and the ideas start flowing it's a little overwhelming, almost scary at times. I could, truly, spend all day working on projects, and then all night, and then again all day... and I've done that, when I was single and had no social life. But now I'm married and have a small child and my life looks very different, it's very structured.

But I'm also very different now, and a lot less fearful about losing ideas or momentum if I put work down for a while, and a lot better about finding ways to make myself "pick up the pace" when I have the opportunity and "reining it back in" when I need to. So I will find a way to make my life work around this renewed need.

Oh, and I had an awesome run this morning! Seven miles by the lake, didn't have a watch but definitely faster than I've done it in the past, judging by when I got home. Feeling like I'll be good and ready for the Hot Chocolate in two weeks time if I can keep from pushing myself too much. (Plus got some ideas for paintings...)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oh, And Another One

Last July I wrote about committing to lose 25 lbs. I'm happy to say that sometime this summer I achieved that goal. In the course of doing so, however, I've realized that I could safely lose still more weight --- in fact, probably close to another 25 lbs.

Why? Well, for health reasons, in part. I'm still overweight by health charts and with the history of heart issues in my family I'm certainly motivated to do all I can to reduce my likelihood of heart problems. But mostly? I want to race better. A lighter body means faster times, and a lighter body also means fewer problems with overheating, something I am always struggling with in hot weather (though it has gotten a lot better for me as I have lost weight). I really don't see Chicago getting any cooler as time goes on.

I have lost a lot of weight over the years (down 85 lbs. from my heaviest, after college), and I'm pleased with that. But I also feel ready to get to the next level. I'm more committed to staying healthy and strong than I am to a particular number, so I don't intend to do anything that feels unsafe or unsustainable, and I'm open to changing my goals if that feels necessary. I also expect that this next level of weight loss will take more time, and I don't intend to post about my progress or lack thereof. But I do believe in the power of stating one's goals publicly, so that is why I have written today.

Wish me luck!

New Challenges

Many people this summer, when they found out I was either training for or had run the marathon, had this reaction: "I could never do that."

Really?

I have never doubted that I could run a marathon, even back when I first started running. The question for me was always, "Do I want to run a marathon?" and, more importantly, "Do I want to enough?" Twice now I've started training to do so and realized that no, I didn't want to badly enough. I don't think there's any shame in changing your mind about a goal if in the course of striving for it you learn new things --- about what's needed, about what you're capable of, about what you're willing to do --- that make you reevaluate the worthiness of attempting it at that time.

(Of course there are limits on what any individual body can do, but I think that they are often less than we are willing to believe.)

There are other limits that we place on ourselves though, I believe mostly out of fear. One limit I have put on myself consistently is to say, "Oh, I could never make a business for myself with my art."

Really?
And why is that?

My answers are not all that good.

So, I'm going ahead and putting it out there and saying, I want to develop my artistic voice, and I want to put my work out there, and I want to make a business for myself with my art.

I don't know what that will look like right now. I do believe that it will take time to grow, and that my vision will evolve as I get back in the practice of making art and as I learn more about the business of art and as I get a better sense of where my work fits into that world.

But I do know that I am tired of coming up with reasons "this is why not", and am ready to live into "Why, yes!"

Do I want this enough?

I think I finally do.

To My Readers

Thank you for all the wonderful comments these last weeks! I've been trying to figure out a way to reply directly, but Blogger doesn't have this as an option, and so far I haven't been able to figure out the workarounds (I'm not tech-minded, that's why I chose Blogger in the first place). So for now just know that I am very appreciative of all your encouraging/kind/inspiring words.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Notes on a Recovery Week

I suppose since I didn't go running this was technically a recovery week. Didn't feel that way at the time, what with not sleeping well myself and then a sick Buddy. But since I am now mostly pain-free, and eating better again, and feeling more like myself in my body in general, I will declare myself on the road to recovery.

Which is good, because in three weeks is the Hot Chocolate 15K, and I'd really like to rip it up!

Oh, and can anyone explain why my butt has suddenly gotten bigger? I know I gained a couple of pounds during taper and then my post-marathon indulgences, but seriously, all in my butt? My underwear, it does not fit right (sad face).

Monday: Walking around the neighborhood, yoga.

Tuesday: Swam 21 laps.

Wednesday: Rest day, yoga.

Thursday: At home with a sick Buddy. Yoga during his nap.

Friday: The Dude stayed at home with Buddy today, so I went swimming before work, 24 laps.

Saturday: No planned exercise, except for yoga, and not exactly a rest day, since Buddy was still under the weather and woke up early to boot. But we did get to run around at the park with his aunt and his cousin The Lion Child(he has the most astonishing roar, especially for such a mellow child). So cute!

Sunday: First run since the marathon! 5 miles, with yoga afterwards. I don't quite know how to describe how it felt since it was difficult in a way I haven't experienced before. But it was a beautiful day and I was so happy to be outside, and so grateful that everything seems to be working okay. Then home to make corn muffins for The Dude's chili, then fall asleep in front of Sunday Night Football.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marathon Report (And Then I'm Done)

So, you've seen from the short report that I was frustrated and disappointed. I've had a few days now to reflect and to talk it over with friends, and I'm grateful to say that my perspective has changed.

(Feel free to skip the processing part and go straight to the highlights.)

All through the summer and my training, I've been treating the marathon as if it were another race, and setting my expectations --- of how I go about it, of my goal time --- accordingly. From that perspective I didn't run it "well": not only was I way off my goal time, but I also didn't run it "smartly," which for me means adjusting my goals to the weather, making sure to keep the entire first half conservative, and then checking in at every point from there on to see how I can push myself faster.

But this was my first time at that distance! I should not have been thinking of it as a race! For no other distance have I taken that approach for my first time out. It wasn't until my third 10k, for example, that I started to think about "racing" that distance, and I would say that I'm still only getting the hang of it. Why was I even thinking about trying to "race" the marathon?

(Because I'm a competitive little freak, that's why.)

So with that in mind...

YAY! I finished my first marathon! And I finished with an average pace that was faster than any of my races before last year, and faster than most of my long runs this summer.

YAY! I didn't overheat! I paid attention to my warning signs and took care of myself: walking at each aid station for water and Gatorade even when I didn't want to, taking my gels even when I didn't want to, and holding myself back once I knew I was at my safety threshold, even though I didn't want to.

YAY! I got to turn it on at the very end, for the kind of finish I like: strong and giving it all out there. With George Michael's "Freedom," my personal running anthem, in my ears, just like I'd envisioned.

So, some highlights of my 2010 Chicago Marathon experience:
  • Meeting up with some chatty marathoners on the train on my way down --- our chat kept me from getting too nervous.
  • Finding a quiet corner outside of Grant Park to sit down and attach my bib and timing chip, and to take in the beauty of the morning.
  • Crossing the bridge in Grant Park and looking at the Chicago skyline, I don't think I'd even seen it from that viewpoint before. Breathtaking.
  • Waiting to start and suddenly realizing what an amazing thing it was that I was there at all. I've wanted to run a marathon since I started running, sixteen years ago. I've even started training for one a couple of times before, but it was only at the end of last year that I felt like I could seriously take it on, that I had gotten fit enough and fast enough (and lean and mean enough) to run it with some pleasure, and not just as a one-time bucket-list crazy endurance challenge.
  • Being at the start line and praying to myself the e.e. cummings poem "i thank you god" (we pray the first stanza as part of Buddy's goodnight prayers) as a way to center myself, getting to the line "for the leaping greenly spirits of trees / and a blue true dream of sky" and realizing that I was looking up at an amazing blue true dream of sky right then. And feeling connected through that poem to all the parts of my life and to my loved ones.
  • Running through Lincoln Park Zoo, and the first twelve miles for that matter. Feeling like I could go on forever, that I was flying, but I wasn't worried because it felt effortless. And of course the gay rifle corps in Boystown.
  • People watching. I love watching people and listening to their conversations during races.
  • Seeing people I knew and having them call out to me. Thanks, Tara! Thanks, Barbara!
  • Favorite signs: "Your feet hurt because you're kicking ass," "Beer at end," "Pain is temporary, accomplishment is forever," and my absolute favorite, seen a few times on the course, "Run happy."
  • Then, once the heat hit me and we left the shade (for good, grrr), knowing that I was taking care of myself, as frustrating as that was.
  • And realizing that I could just make myself keep going, and make myself start again every time I stopped for water/Gatorade/gel/potty/just-because-I-had-to.
  • Knowing that I was keeping good form, even though I was tired and upset. And then later seeing the photos to prove it.
  • Running through Pilsen! Best crowd of the whole city.
  • Passing people. I love passing people.
  • Being able to push myself faster again in the last 10k, and then again in the last 2 miles, even though I was taking walk breaks and it wasn't as pretty as I'd been hoping for or as fast as earlier in the course.
  • Then making that last turn, pushing up that hill (I love hills) and knowing that the end was so so close and I was going to be able to push myself faster that last 100 meters even if I had nothing left afterwards at all.

And the best thing about the 2010 Chicago Marathon? Knowing that I have now run that far, and can do it again, and that my dreams of running x, y, and z marathons are possible and not me deluding myself.

Oh, and my final time was 5:03:09.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

Full report tomorrow. Right now I'm just glad to be clean, about to be well fed, with "North By Northwest" in the DVD player and a little boy asleep early (though that's due to overexcitement these last two days and a slight fever, so we'll see if he stays that way).

Short report --- frustrated by the weather, disappointed by some foolish mistakes, but ultimately I ran a sensible race (as in, I finished and did not overheat) and am making big plans for the future.

Thanks for all your good wishes!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

And Here We Go...

I've been hoping for this day for so long (in the abstract for 15 years, concretely for six months), that at this point I don't even know what to say.

I'm looking forward to just running --- the logistics and crowds are what have me most nervous right now.

I'm incredibly grateful for all the support I've been given.

I'm as ready as I can be.

Let's go!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Last Days

Struggling a bit right now, my cold has a firm cold on me. No hugely obnoxious symptoms today, just this fog and ache that has settled over me. I'm actually kind of grateful in a weird way, it's making me slow down and get inwardly focused in just the way I was hoping to do before Sunday, but is so hard to carve out the time for.

So I'm finishing up a few more things at work and then heading home early, I won't be in again until after it's all over. I feel as if I'm about to embark on a very long journey and I don't quite know who I'll be on the other side. I suspect that's about right.

Bon voyage!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Taper Taper Taper Get Some Madness Here

I have not been enjoying taper. Doesn't sound like anyone else I know is either.

Food has gone all to hell. My schedule has gone all to hell. Yoga has gone all to hell. And everything hurts when I run slow. What happened to all that energy I was supposed to be feeling right now?

Thank God I figured out my "I wake up at 3:00am and can't get any more good sleep" problem. Since April I've been waking up hungry, but not quite hungry enough to realize it. A rabbit's bite of trail mix has solved this.

I can't figure out a pair of shorts I like. My usual ones aren't good for racing (takes too long to adjust them around the waist --- too big). But it's going to be warm on Sunday. I have a pair of capris that fit great around the waist and butt but not the knees, so I've cut them down and will hem them tonight, and try them on my run tomorrow to see if I can make them work for me.

My favorite shoes have died and I can't get replacements for them --- I bought this last pair off of E-bay as it is. I've gotten the model that is supposed to replace my faves, and they feel pretty good to run in, but they don't have the same cushioning, not really my choice for a long run. But there isn't time to experiment with other models at this point. So I'm looking at some serious aggravation of my Morton's Neuroma on Sunday and will just have to run through it. Better than trying to run on dead shoes, which for me always results in shin splints and tendinitis.

It's hard to run slow! I don't like it.

And carbo-loading makes me very nervous (have a history with overeating). I can handle it for the day before a long run, but for several days beforehand? Or when people are telling me in these last weeks, "Oh, you can have whatever you want"? No.

And the last "poor me" you'll hear before Sunday? I HAVE A FREAKIN' COLD. Thank you, Dude.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Notes on an Inward Week

Travel always makes me introspective, and I spent much of the week thinking about where I am in my life, where I want to be, and how I might get from here to there. I'm feeling good about where I've come to after that thinking, and ready to start putting some new things into motion, but between my busy head, the travel, and work, I wouldn't say this was a restful week. I think maybe the whole notion of taper weeks doesn't really apply to working moms. Some good runs, though.

Sunday: Ran 8 miles in Englewood Reserve. I love running here. I love the trees and the wildflowers and the lake, and how the path opens up as you go along the base of the dam and again at the top. I love that the hills make me work.

I did not love that my favorite shoes are now officially dead, and I had to get new ones, a new style even, since my favorites (Brooks Axiom 3) are no longer around. The new ones are not quite right, but at this point I don't have much choice. I'll save my experimenting for the winter.

Monday: Rest / travel day.

Tuesday: Ran 5 miles (yoga).

Wednesday: Swam 21 laps.

Thursday: Ran 6 miles @ 10:10 (yoga). Wasn't planning to run at this speed, it's just where my body felt I needed to be. Pretty awesome.

Friday: Feeling out-of-sorts when I woke up, needing some extra time with Buddy and some extra time to myself. Rest day!

Saturday: Rest / work day (yoga).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

So Grateful

Just another beautiful run this morning, seems to be something about Thursdays... That's when I give myself a more intense (and usually longer) run, either at the track with speedwork, or on the road with a little more "umph."

Today I wanted to be sure to get into the office a bit earlier so I kept it to 6 miles and was super diligent about getting Buddy dropped off on time and having everything set up so I could leave as soon as I got back. And it worked! Of course it helped that I covered those 6 miles in an hour, so much faster than last year. Yet another reason to be grateful. Plus the sun on the lake...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Notes on a Scattered Week

Started off all healthy with 20 miles and yoga, moved into high stress (and too much junk food) during the week, then finished off with a trip to Dayton --- sunshine, music, art, and family!

Sunday: CARA 20-miler (yoga).
This was a great event overall, well organized and great practice for the marathon: gear check, pace groups, wave starts, aid stations, after-run party. I was pleased with how it went for me, but I didn't really like running with a pace group, and was happiest when I was running without them. At the end I decided to just go ahead on my own. Good thing for me to know about myself!

Monday: Swam 2/3 mile.

Tuesday: 5 miles (yoga).

Wednesday: 9 miles total, 5 mile repeats @ 9:05 (yoga).

Thursday: Yoga.

Friday: Swam 2/3 mile.

Saturday: Dayton Oktoberfest! Music and art and chasing a little boy around the park. Beer and pretzels and candied almonds. A beautiful run through woods the next day and a trip to Aullwood Audabon Center to look at quilts. What a treat!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Finally!

Just finished my last major workout before the marathon: 5 mile repeats, all between 9:00-9:05. Awesome!

I planned to run 9 miles total but I was listening to Marc Maron's podcast on my way home from the track and kept stopping to laugh. Finally I just gave up and walked the rest of the way home.

Let the taper begin! I believe there is some chocolate in my future.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Notes on Another Intense Week

Quite the emotional hangover this week from last Saturday's incident (officially diagnosed as a panic attack, which is actually a lot less frightening than thinking I'm a) going crazy, or b) having a stroke). Then The Dude's race on Sunday, then following up with doctors, topped off with Buddy's birthday! Plus I was nervous about the upcoming 20-miler, which was my first time running with a pace group, plus TD and I were fighting just a wee bit. All in all, I came to the end of the week exhausted.

Sunday: Rest, and pamper TD when he came home.

Monday: 15 miles @ 11:04 pace (yoga).

Tuesday: Swam 0.75 miles.

Wednesday: 4 miles.

Thursday: Woke up tired and achey, took the day off from exercise.

Friday: Thought about making up Thursday's missed track workout, decided to go for an easy 8 miles instead and travel through some of my favorite neighborhoods. Lovely run. Then yoga.

Saturday: Rest day (yoga).

Everything seems to have reset itself by the end of the week, though, thank goodness.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dude On The Run

Oh, and I cannot forget to mention that The Dude ran the Chicago Half Marathon this past Sunday! Woo-hoo!

He looked awesome. (Though Blogger doesn't like the photos we have so I can't show you.)

This is the third incarnation of the Buster Brown Celebration Fun Run (so named when we were calling Buddy, "Buster"). You can read about how last year's went here and about how we decided to do it here.

Last year I wrote that this was a way to honor our work as parents and to honor our wonderful little boy. But now that we've got a couple of years of this parenting thing under our belt, I would say that it is also about honoring our own needs as individuals. As partners and parents it is wonderful that we can share our passion for running as a family --- but it is essential that we each have something that is "all our own," and running is that way for both of us as well.

Go Dude!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Notes on an Intense Week

Highest mileage week --- ever --- and the highest week scheduled of my marathon training.

Sunday: 20 miles! And it went well. Had enough fuel in the tank before leaving, had enough with me for along the way. The weather was cooler, I got to go out in the morning instead of after a few hours of toddler-wrangling (it really makes a difference), I got some decent sleep the week before. A run to make me feel more confident about finishing the marathon with some style.

Monday: Rest day (yoga).

Tuesday: 5 miles easy (yoga).

Wednesday: Swam 0.75 mile.

Thursday: 9 miles total, 8x800@4:20 (yoga).

Friday: Swam 0.75 mile.

Saturday: Rest day.

Migraines all week (last week too), with a scary spacey/low-blood-sugar/panic-attack-like-thing on Saturday. So I've got some phone calls to make and appointments to set up. Plus a bit more eating to do! Now is not the time to try to lose weight --- I have to keep remembering that since I do have some more to come off (and just got my copy of Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald, which has me thinking about it). But not right now.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yasso 800s (Or, Just How Fast Can I Run This Thing Anyway?)

I tried the Yasso 800s this morning for the first time, just to see if my marathon goal is sound. (I had been running mile repeats as my track workout all season, rather than 800s.) I only did eight of them today, rather than the recommended ten, since I'd been set to do 4 mile repeats today, and I still have a couple of weeks left to fit in another attempt if I want.

Okay, here comes a bit of number crunching of no interest except other runners (maybe).
  • My goal for the marathon is 4:35 (hours), based on the McMillan calculator and my actual past workouts.
  • My goal for the Yasso 800s this morning was 4:30 (minutes), based on my previous results with mile repeats.
  • My actual performance was 4:20, and I felt I could certainly have done another 2 repeats at that speed.
So I smoked them, right? I should be reconsidering my goal time, yes? That was certainly my first thought.

Then I started doing some more online research, mostly in an attempt to find an easier way to explain these to a non-running audience. I didn't find that (so I refer you to the original article about them in Runner's World), but I found a lot of dissent about the use of Yasso 800s, either as a predictor, or as a training tool. You can Google this yourself if you're interested.

I had thought a 4:20 marathon was too good to be true for me at this point, so I wasn't truly discouraged by what I read. Mostly what I take from my reading is that the Yasso 800s can be a decent predictor of performance (and not so much a training tool), and only if the necessary support is there (in the form of long runs, tempo runs, etc.). And that it's best to add on 5-15 minutes to that prediction time anyway. Which brings me right back to a goal time of 4:35. Maybe, possibly, cross-my-fingers, 4:25 if everything lines up beautifully that day.

I guess I'm spending so much time thinking about this because over the summer I've been frequently disheartened by my long runs. For a while it seemed like I just. could. not. do them at the paces I thought I should be able to. Everything else was lining up according to past experience and pace calculators, why weren't the long runs? (Leaving aside the issue of a hellish Chicago summer, of course.)

I had basically resigned my self to "just" finishing, as if that weren't accomplishment enough for my first time out. Although it will help with how I go about the marathon that day if I have a good and realistic sense of what I am capable of.

But finally, things seem to be a bit more on pace, ha-ha. The weather has cooled which makes a world of difference, and I feel like I'm getting a better handle on my pre-long-run nutrition needs as well, thanks to The Dude (still struggling with what to take in during my runs, alas).

I'm getting excited... I'm getting hopeful... what I don't want is to get crazy.

To any runners reading this, what has been your experience in predicting race times?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Team in Training

Just had to share this photo... we were at the Chicago Botanic Garden and failed to keep Buddy from falling into a fountain within 15 minutes of arriving... (this is where we sing "bad parent...") But he didn't seem to mind too much in the long run!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Notes on a Frustrating (and Finally Fruitful) Week

Sunday: Another brutally hot and humid day. This was going to be 8 miles in the afternoon, but instead ran 6.5 miles with Buddy in the morning, with a nice long break halfway through to check out the Peace Garden and make sure we both got enough water. Then half an hour yoga while Buddy napped.

Monday: Ran 5 miles (yoga).

Tuesday: Swam 0.8 miles.

Wednesday: Meant to run home from work but came home exhausted and in a rage instead. Per The Dude's advice, decided to take the next day off from work.

Thursday: Ran 8.5 miles (5@9:25), then yoga. Then went swimming (0.75 miles), then another half hour of restorative yoga. Taking a day off clearly restored me, yay!

Friday: Ran 4 miles. Beautiful day, nice easy run. La-la-la!

Saturday: Rest. Rest, rest, rest. Spent the day running errands with my family, doing lots of laundry, and sorting cabinets and shelves. And then a big pasta meal to get ready for my 20 miles on Sunday.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What I Did With My Day Off

And what do I do when I have a day to myself?
  • Slept in (a little).
  • Made breakfast and took care of Buddy.
  • Had extended walk time with Buddy on his way to daycare before transferring him to the stroller.
  • Ran 8.5 miles, 5@9:25 pace.
  • Did 30 minutes stretching yoga.
  • Had my second breakfast, and read.
  • Puttered about the house and baked cookies, washed dishes.
  • Worked on my blog (101 goals page, at the top of the screen below my heading --- check it out!).
  • Went swimming (26 laps).
  • Dropped off books at the library, and picked up lunch at a nearby Thai place.
  • Ate lunch and read.
  • Worked some more on my blog.
  • Did 30 minutes restorative yoga.
  • Started getting dinner ready for The Dude and Buddy.
Very nice! I feel much more myself again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fried

That's it. I am officially crispy. From work, mostly, plus a little bit of terrible twos, and possibly a long run or two. Weather-wise, it was another unbearably heavy-pressure day too, I woke up with a sinus headache that migrated into not just one, but two migraines.

I've made my phone calls, put my "out of office assistant" on my work email, and am spending tomorrow at home. Alone. I see cookie-making in my future...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Notes on a Work Week (Plus 18 Good Miles!)

Another week's lovely training plan, torn up by work. Ah well.

Sunday: 18 miles @ 12:25 pace (yoga).
This went much better than my previous long runs. I listened to The Dude when he told me I wasn't carbo-loading enough the day before my long runs, and made sure to get some extra Gatorade and healthy snacks before this one. It worked! I'm sure it also helped that I went out earlier in the day, so it was cooler for me than in previous weeks, plus I made sure to extend my walk breaks just a smidge more when I took them, but at no point did I feel like I had to stop. In fact, I was feeling so good at 12 miles that I decided to take the last six without walk breaks (aside from traffic lights, natch), and was then even able to push it more in the last couple of miles. Sweet!

Monday: Work/rest.

Tuesday: Swam 0.9 miles. It's been a while since I swam --- this was harder than I thought it would be --- but it was lovely to swim. I paid for my effort though, sometimes when I swim too hard my tummy gets cranky for the rest of the day. Probably also didn't help that I worked a VERY LONG day.

Wednesday: 5 miles (yoga).
Started off briskly and just kept it up from there. A great run, feeling strong and smooth. The only disappointment was in the last mile I kept hitting traffic lights, train crossings, etc., all against me, and after enough of these I couldn't keep my momentum going and my speed up. Ah well.

Thursday: Work. (This was certainly no rest day, I was slinging boxes and bags of school supplies around all day, and running from one end of the church to the other.)

Friday: Ran to work, 8 miles, at 11:00 pace.
Lovely day, lovely run. And I ran into R on the lakefront, heading the opposite direction. What a lovely surprise! We're getting together for breakfast next week to discuss our marathon training.
Saturday: Work. Again, no rest day here --- hauling school supplies around, then out in the hot sun, bookended both times with driving the church van. So glad to come home today.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's Coming, It's Almost Here!

No, not the marathon, silly! (Though that's coming up fast too.)

Scary Movie Month!

If you're new to this blog, here's a description of what this is all about. Except this year I have actually included a movie with demonic possession among my choices --- after seeing "The Exorcist" last year and not being horribly upset by it, I figure I can probably handle some others in stride as well.

We've been talking about it for the last couple of weeks, and then yesterday The Dude put together a spreadsheet (a spreadsheet!) with a number of different movies across seven different categories (seven!), and asked me to choose one movie in each category (except I ended up choosing two in most). So then he made his choices and now we have our Netflix queue for the month (a month early) --- 32 possible movies to choose from for SMM.

We'll only end up seeing half of those or so, but it's good to have back-ups in case there's a wait on some of them, or if I end up deciding that no, I don't want to see any demonic possession after all.

Here are the seven categories:
  • Classic
  • Super Scary
  • 80's Kitsch
  • Suspense
  • Kids
  • Quirky
  • Comedy
Oh, I'm so excited. A whole month of snuggling up with my sweetie every chance I get, eating homemade popcorn and getting safely scared. I can't wait for Buddy to be able to do this with us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Balancing Act

For a couple of weeks now, I've been wanting to write something wise and wonderful about balance, the challenge of finding it between work and family and training, needing to adjust things when one area is more demanding than usual while maintaining a calm head and heart. About how I start nearly every day off with tree pose, as a small prayer for balance in my life that day.

I haven't written that something wise and wonderful. I've been too busy. And when I'm not actually busy with work, then I'm busy trying not to be resentful of work, or busy trying not to think about work. Or I'm actually succeeding at those last two and am managing to be in the moment with my husband, my child, myself --- in which case I don't want to be writing about struggling to remain composed at those other times.

The last hectic week in this particular work project is starting, and by Labor Day it will be finished. I go through this every year at this time, and every year it takes me by surprise just how hard it is (and then again in Nov/Dec). I even wrote on my calendar for August, "DO NOT SCHEDULE ANYTHING EXTRA," but then didn't take that quite seriously enough. For future reference, that includes marathon training. Since I can't do anything about Buddy's daycare having their annual teacher training (no kids) at this time.

Time to wake the household and begin.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Notes on a Buddy-Full Week

Sunday: 18 miles (yoga).

Monday: At home with Buddy. 60 minutes strength and balance yoga during his naptime.

Tuesday: 3 miles with Buddy (yoga).

Wednesday: Work day.

Thursday: 7 miles, 4@tempo (9:25 pace). Run on the way to work with a small pack. This was a lot of fun. Plus I got a nice mid-length run in and was still in the office (cleaned up and refreshed) by 9:00. I will definitely be running to work more often.

Friday: Zoo day with The Dude and Buddy!

Saturday: Rest day (yoga).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Long Run #3: Notes on 18 Miles

Three loops, all familiar to me. Lakefront, cemetery, park.

Another hot and humid day in Chicago. Another afternoon run right at the hottest part of the day. I made sure to leave more than enough time for an icebath and shower before dinner, though.

Used a FuelBelt for the first time.
http://www.fuelbelt.com/fuel_belts/images/helium4_large.jpg
It was unwieldy for the first two miles and then I got used to it. Having it on really made me focus on drinking whenever I felt thirsty and on refilling my bottles every chance I got. For the first time on a long run this summer I felt I got enough water.

I had planned stops for refueling at miles 4, 8, 12, and 16, starting with Gatorade and then gels at the other stops, making sure to take water with the gels. GU strawberry/banana flavor (not as bad as it could have been, I prefer lemon/lime) and Accel Gel lemon/lime. I liked the Accel Gel, it had a slightly chalky feel to it but it was more liquid than the GU, so easier to get down. But in the future I'm going to bring more Gatorade with me (now that I've got my FuelBelt), since after two gels I just couldn't handle anymore, but I need more salt/sugar later in the run.

This was a much more pleasurable run than the last few have been, even though I still had to stop and walk a bit more in the last half than I would have liked. I attribute the improvement to better hydration, nutrition, and a better night's sleep than I usually get.

Despite the rest of my training going to plan, I haven't been able to hit my paces on my long runs. Well, I've hit my heat-adjusted paces, but it just doesn't feel the same --- on a long run those extra minutes really add up. I had a bit of despair about this on my final walk home, hurting, especially since I've signed up to do the CARA 20-mile training run on September 19 at a 11:00 pace (MP+30). But I'll just see what the weather is like that day and adjust accordingly.

Of course, my pace wouldn't matter if I were just looking to finish. But I've really enjoyed my training and have started to have ambitions. Like, maybe someday qualifying for Boston. Mind you, that's a lo-o-ong way off... I'm not even in the age group I hope to qualify for yet.

On the iPod: Fresh Air interviews with Sharon Jones, the creators of South Park, Marisa Tomei, and Jackie DeShannon. Cassandra Wilson's latest album Loverly. Then random songs from my running mix.

Next week --- another 18! At least I don't have to figure out a new route.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Notes on a Humid Week

Sunday: 12 miles. Hot and humid again. I didn't get started until way late in the afternoon, so not enough to eat beforehand, and I felt like this run just beat me up. Very disappointing. Got home right before dinner and to a cranky kid/dad, no time for icing, showering, stretching, or any kind of recovery. And I'd mistakenly had a gel with caffeine in it on my run, so then I slept badly that night as well.

Note to self: Next time I get started so late, better to cut short my run, rather than my recovery.

Monday: Swam 0.75 mile (yoga). Exactly what I needed after Sunday's experience.

Tuesday: Biked to work today and back (2 x 7 mi.) It was great to finally get started on the bike again, but I mostly did it because work is hectic right now, and I could save myself some time by making my commute serve as my workout too.

Wednesday: Rest/work day.

Thursday: 6.5 miles, 3@9:05 (yoga).
Humid again! This has been a brutal summer. But it felt awesome to run such a strong workout. I actually had planned to run my tempo miles at 9:30, but my first 1/2-mile lap was 4:20. I kept pulling back and pulling back but just got into a rhythm and finally decided to see if I could finish out that way.

Friday: Swam 0.75 miles.

Saturday: Rest day (yoga).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day Back!

I rode my bike to work and back yesterday --- first time riding a bike for several years. Only a 7 mile trip each way but enough to get me excited about riding (and for my butt to be a bit sore today).

It will take me a while to learn the best way to travel from my home to the lakefront --- I really dislike riding on Chicago streets. So of course I will need to learn some routes I am comfortable with for longer rides as well. I also think the next step is to have a fit consultation, so I can find out what modifications I can make for better positioning --- or if actually the next best step is to get another bike next year when I start training in earnest. My ride yesterday definitely showed me that I want to be riding lots more!

Quick highlights:
  • Watching the fog roll in off the lake by biking into and through it
  • Going up inclines that previously had slowed me down --- with barely an extra breath needed
  • Seeing all the different people that use the lakefront (and there were some lovely bodies among them, yum)
  • Getting in two quick workouts during the time I would otherwise be on the train!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Notes on a Week

Sunday: Ran 16 miles. (yoga)

Hot, humid. Not enough to drink along the way --- I ended up stopping with a mile left to go and buying a Gatorade at a gas station. Still figuring out nutrition/fluids for long runs.

Monday: Swam 0.75 miles. In the fast lane, but I was not fast today. But it was good to swim.

Tuesday: Ran 4 miles, easy. This was nice.

Wednesday: Rest day, and a chance to go in early to work. (yoga)

Thursday: Meant to run 6 miles, 3 at 9:30. Instead came into work early, and stayed late. Grrr.

Friday: This would have been my second swim day, but I decided to make up my run from Thursday instead. Too tired (three days of not enough sleep) to attempt the tempo run on the track, so I meant to just do an easy 5. Except once I got started I got going fast, so decided to make it a tempo run anyway, 3 miles fast (by feel), with a mile-long warmup and cooldown. Then yoga. Awesome run --- it's getting easier to find ways to push myself to go faster for longer.

Saturday: Usually a rest day, today a work day. Very stressful. I think I will end up collapsing once I get home. I'm praying for a good night's sleep tonight. I have 12 miles planned for tomorrow, but the forecast is for heat. I've been really looking forward to tomorrow's run, but I need some more rest if it's going to be hot as well.

A word about my yoga: I try to practice at least a little bit twice a day, when I get up and then again right before bed. This is my prayer/meditation time and a way to move into the next part of the day. Then in addition I try to practice for a longer period of time (30 minutes) 3-4 times a week. I use these sessions to work out anything that feels tight, to do some strength/balance building, for general alignment (physical and mental), and/or extra meditation time. And sometimes if I'm not able go swimming during the week I'll do an extra-long session instead.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grumble, Grumble, Grrr

I think nothing gets me crankier than having to miss a workout for work. Especially on short notice. I can roll with the punches on a lot of things (and have gotten even better since having a kid), but not this.

I am writing about this now in the hope that by tomorrow morning I will have made my peace with it, when I am heading to work instead of the track or the pool.

I'm also working late tomorrow (just a super long day all around) so I think some kind of special treat will be in order. Probably involving chocolate. I welcome any suggestions.

At least my nose is feeling a bit better...

Monday, August 2, 2010

And the Wheels of the Bike Go Round and Round

On a happier note, for my birthday, my dearest, darling husband fixed up an old woman's mountain bike he had lying around, and I once again have a bike of my own!

It's a little short and I may end up having to get a new seat with a longer post, but I like the distance from seat to handle --- I have a way short torso and usually if the frame is tall enough for my legs it feels too long for my body.

My last bike, which was stolen, was a monster, heavy and big, and while I bought it to feel safe on the streets I found I didn't use it enough --- it was just too much bike for me. I wasn't too sad when it disappeared.

I so badly want to start riding already, but I need to be careful with my physical activity from here on out to the marathon (10 weeks away!). Especially since August is my crazy work month and it will take all my discipline to make sure I'm getting enough rest and recovery as it is. I need to make sure I've got enough oomph for my long runs and I'm loath to give up any existing running or swimming plans. Maybe on a rest week I'll trade a short run and bike into work instead. Otherwise I figure once the marathon is done I can start commuting by bike 1-2x a week, at least until the snow comes.

This bike is ugly as sin, but she's beautiful to me.

They Bring Nothing But Pain...

I don't even really know how it happened. We were just sitting on the couch watching "Sunday Morning." And all of a sudden Buddy flung himself at me, or sideways, or somehow, I can't quite recall, and I ended up with a big solid crack to my nose and he ended up face-up in my lap, giggling.

Discussion with the Dude and of course the mandatory Wikipedia search on "broken noses" (but no actual doctor visit, are you kidding?) leads me to believe that he did indeed cause damage to the bone (maybe a hairline crack), but not sufficient to result in massive swelling/bruising/nosebleed/etc. You know, anything that looks like I might have a broken nose so I can get the sympathy I properly deserve. Just localized sharp pain and generalized ache since yesterday, slight vertigo and queasiness at odd moments, and a strong aversion to having anyone or anything come near my face.

I will just feel sorry for myself by myself.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Swimming With the Big Dogs!

I got yelled at in the pool today.

I had just started, only two laps in. And yes, I was passing people. But that happens in a community pool. You pass people, you get passed. I always try to pass carefully, without getting into the other person's space.

We have been having some problems recently this summer (it always seems to be worse in the summer) with very fast swimmers coming into the medium-speed lane and passing aggressively. Like, just taking over the center of the lane and zooming back and forth. So quickly that no one else can use that area to pass in.

Well, anyway, I was on my second lap, at the end of the pool, about to pass on the turn, when the woman I was going to pass popped up out of the water, hit the water with her arm, swore at me, and shouted, "You don't belong here! Go swim in the fast lane!"

I stared at her, said "calm down" or something brilliant like that, and swam away. Very fast. I tell you, I have never swum so fast as in those next ten laps.

But as I was swimming, aside from being angry and thinking of great come-backs/explanations, I thought, maybe she's right. Maybe it is time for me to move over into the fast zone. Maybe I am ready. I've gotten faster, I can swim farther than ever before. What am I waiting for?

And then I thought, if I move into the fast lane I'll only have to deal with people passing me (no big deal), and I won't have to deal with getting around people who don't know how to share the pool. Who swim on their back, wide-armed, slowly veering into the center. Who suddenly stop, ten feet away from the end, and swim over to the other side. Who stop and chat with their friends, taking up the entire length of the shallow end. Who get upset and swear at you when they get passed.

So I moved over. And it was great. I could swim evenly, smoothly, just focusing on my swimming and how things felt in the water, not worrying about having to get around people at every turn. For the first time I could really feel what it was like to get passed and pulled along a bit by that person's passing, how the texture of the water changed as I entered the deeper end, and changed again as I got near the edge of the pool. I felt strong and alive.

And I got passed --- smoothly and evenly --- and I passed a couple of people, and it was all easy and uninterrupted. No big deal.

I was having such a good time that I decided to just go for it and swim another quarter mile farther than I have before, for a mile and a half (54 laps). And it was hard, and I kept going, and told myself all the same things I do when I'm running and it's hard, and did all the same things and I got to the last quarter mile and I started counting down, nine laps to go, eight, seven...

And then I was done. And it was good. And it didn't matter that I got yelled at, or that I was going to be sore later that day. 'Cause I have graduated to the fast lane, and I never thought I'd be here. Boo-yah!

Monday, July 26, 2010

More Oops

Oh, I can't do math while running (and certainly not if my distance is off to begin with).

I meant to run 12 miles at a 11:30 pace. Instead, I ran the first 6.4 miles in an hour twelve for a 11:15 pace, then the next 6.5 miles in an hour six for a 10:10 pace. You'll notice that adds up to 12.9 miles, not 12.

It's the first run where I've felt, yes, I can do this marathon. Not just complete it but possibly run it with some sass (I'm not going so far as to say I'll "race" it). Which gets me thinking I may want to do more in the future... like maybe the Flying Pig next spring?

I won't lie, the second half was hard. I was just trying to beat the time on my first half, thinking it was only 6 miles. I'd adjusted my route once I started so I had no idea where my miles were and thus no idea how fast I was going. It hurt --- my feet of course, but also my butt and back --- but at no point did it feel like a dangerous or worrisome hurt, just the hurt of a hard effort. I just kept going, backing on and off at times but always going. My special "kiss a**" music mix kicked in for the last three miles and that helped a lot. I kept thinking, c'mon, the marathon will be harder than this, you'll be doing these 6 miles at the end of 20 in a couple of months, not after a measly six.

I thought I would pay for it this week but I feel surprisingly fine today. I can get away with this unplanned push because I still have 11 weeks to go, but going forward I need to be careful to stick to my plan. That means figuring out my loops beforehand, not just the mileage but also my intended time, and then stick to that.

I could use a Garmin!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fleet Feet Women's Festival 10K --- Race Report

Well, I woke up shaky, another bad night. Checked the weather report: 74 degrees and rising, 85% humidity. Ungh. If this race hadn't been in my own backyard, so to speak, I would have called it off. But I knew I could walk down there and the course would be mostly shaded, and I could just make a nice morning of it --- though I was still crossing my fingers that I would be able to do something more.

Despite having planned a late departure time I still managed to leave later than I meant to. I started walking down, jogged a couple of blocks to test out my legs and to save some time. Legs felt heavy. Okay, keep it easy, enjoy the day.

Then at the field the lines to the porta-potties were unbelievable (all-women's event, after all) and thanks to my late departure I was in serious risk of not getting to the start in time. Another runner told us about bathrooms in the nearby boat house and while jogging there I noticed that my legs were feeling springy. Hoo-hah! I might be able to do something after all.

Mile 1
The start was amazing --- all those women, all different types of bodies and types of runners. And with just an awesome friendly (though serious) vibe to it all. I worked on keeping it easy, telling myself "Do not pass!" Looked for women at my speed to follow, then gave up because there were just too many women, too much to look at and listen to. At the first mile mark I saw I had run it in 11:05. My heat-adjusted goal pace was 10:55, so this was a good start.

Mile 2
At this point the course narrowed considerably and there were some sharp tight turns. We all had to slow wa-a-ay down, a bit frustrating. I listed to the conversations around me: mothers talking about their kids, vacation plans, work, all the stuff I talk about with my friends. I had some little side stitches so used one of those narrow turns to slow myself down for a while. At the mile marker I saw I had run this one in 11:20. I wasn't happy about that, but there was still time to make it up, and it was more important not to get hurt.

Mile 3
At mile 3 things changed. I was warmed up and started feeling sassy. The course straightened out and I knew we were nearly halfway. I started to go faster. Estimated time, 10:30.

(From here on all times are a reconstruction based on what I thought I was doing, from what I can remember of the clocks. I stop being able to do math in my head once the numbers get above thirty. Would be nice to have a watch that can do splits!)

Miles 4-5
Just before the 3 mile mark the 5K people dropped away, and I could feel this sense of release from the 10K runners. The course opened up, conversation stopped, everyone became more intense. I knew I could start pushing it. And even though I got serious and tucked in too, I made sure to look around from time to time. I had such a feeling of joy --- this is my turf, this is mine! I know this course, the harbor, the golf course, the wildflowers. I listened to people breathing around me, noticing who was breathing heavier. I felt good and strong, breathing steady, and started passing people. Estimated time for both miles, 9:45.

Mile 6
The final mile --- I picked it up! Passing lots more women, especially on the hills, both going up and down. Then I needed to pull back a little towards the end, when I was nearing my limits but couldn't tell where the finish line was (lots of turns and trees). Estimated time, 9:10.

The End
I saw the finish line and picked it up again, then saw the three mile marker for the 5K course and knew I had only 200 m. left, so I started to sprint. All of a sudden one person flew past me, with no hope of catching her, the first person I'd noticed passing me since the halfway point. I could hear people cheering us on from the sides, stayed focused on the end pushing hard, and then I was done. For the first time in a race I felt I could throw up afterwards (this passed quickly as I kept walking) --- I had left it all on the course.

I walked around a little, got a kefir sample and a bagel, stopped by the Girls On The Run tent and said hello (I was wearing my SoleMates shirt for the race), and walked home. It would have been neat to have had some friends there --- there was a fashion show, free manicures, all kinds of demos and samples --- but that sort of stuff is not much fun on my own. I guess I'll have to start recruiting for next year!

My final time was 1:03:15 for an average pace of 10:11. I placed 685 out of 1469, so better than half, and in my age group I placed 107 out of 269, near the top of the middle third. Compared to other races, I'm moving up! I know there were a lot of beginners at this race, though, so I'll have to run some others to really get a sense of where I am in comparison to other runners. It would be neat to consistently place in the top third of my age group.

I feel really good about this race --- I ran it both by numbers and by feel, using one to inform the other. If I'd used heat-adjusted goals in May (when it was 89 degrees) I wouldn't have made the mistake of trying to speed up after my first mile and "catch" my previous pace. Now, how this will translate to the marathon I don't know. I need to do some more research and see how my long runs go. But I'm so glad to have gotten a good race experience in me this year, working off of my mistakes in previous races.

And here's me telling The Dude about it. Don't I look pleased!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot... Humid?

I'm running the Fleet Feet Women's Festival 10K tomorrow morning, and have been fretting all week about how to approach it. My training has been all over the place for the last three weeks --- Buddy was sick, then we were on vacation, then Buddy was sick again --- but mostly I'm bothered by the forecast: HOT!

90 degrees hot, though based on the last couple of days, it's likely to be about 80 degrees at race time.

And if that weren't enough, it's also due to storm, so it may well be HUMID, which is what really kills me.

I ran a 10K at the beginning of April and was disappointed with my experience. Then I signed up for 10K in mid-May and it turned out to be hot (about the same as forecast for tomorrow, actually) and I ended up not finishing. Doubly disappointing. So I signed up for two more 10K, the Run for the Zoo at the beginning of June (which I did with Buddy as a fun run), and tomorrow's.

Can you see I probably have a little too much riding on this?

I'm trying to remember that it's about the race experience, not the results. I want to go out strong and steady but not too fast, so that I can push myself increasingly more as the race goes on. I don't yet have a good sense of what "strong and steady and not too fast" should be, and that is what has hurt me in the past. That's what I've been wanting to rectify.

So I did a little research on racing in the heat, and of course I've been training in it these last two months, and I've come up with the following plan.

First of all, I'm bringing my own water with me, my awesome hand-held Amphipod, and will make sure to take sips frequently. (Thank you to the saleswomen at Fleet Feet, who understood my unhappiness with having anything around my waist --- as opposed to the salesmen there who kept recommending different running packs).

Then, given that every five-degree rise in temperature above 60° can slow you down by 20-30 seconds per mile, I am adjusting my goal pace to 10:55. (I train based on a 9:35 10K pace.)

Here are my actual goals, in the order of my likelihood of achieving them:
  1. Finish!
  2. Finish with a negative split.
  3. Finish with a negative split, faster than 10:55 pace.
  4. Then, because I'm in better shape than I was three months ago, and because I've been training in the heat, the dream goal would be to finish at or faster than that 10K, despite the weather.
Of course, if it's super steamy, all bets are off, and I make this a fun run on my favorite course.

Wish me luck (and dry skies)!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Uh Oh...

I've been bitten by the triathlon bug.

I've really tried to avoid this. The gear, the expense, the absolute insanity of some of the tri-folk I've encountered online...

"No, no, no," I told myself, every time I started thinking about what it might be like, remembering my ocean/lake swimming and my hours on the bike in high school, the glory of it all... "You're too slow, and can't swim that far anyway."

Except I've gotten faster, and have been swimming longer and longer...

Sigh.

I can't seriously do anything about this until after marathon training anyway, so right now I'm just going to let The Dude fix up his spare bike for me (because he just happens to have an extra woman's frame lying around, go figure), and keep on swimming. But next year...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Any Other Slow Tri/Running-Obsessed Mothers of Young Children Out There?

Not that I don't love reading about all these fierce mamas who place in their age group and can compete in multiple events every season... but I'd love to read more about other mothers who also plan their spare time (hah) around training and racing, without any hope of actually winning an event, age group or otherwise.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Notes From Ohio

Still hot, still humid. It's vacation, so all my runs have been at the hottest part of the day. We just can't get the whole household up and organized early enough to do otherwise.

Eight miles today in the Englewood Reserve. All either up or down... or very up or down. Kicked my butt. But awesome.

Wildlife seen during two days of running in the reserve: rabbits and squirrels, one chipmunk, two yearling bucks with fuzz still on their antlers, bluebirds, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and assorted beetles.

Wildlife seen in my son's hair after a morning of running around outside: one slug. Yuck!

Ripped up stuffed squirrels in the backyard look disconcertingly like real dead squirrels, especially early in the morning.

Moments to do a mother proud: toddler son running between me and Nana as we make dinner, begging for pieces of raw zucchini, yellow peppers, and green beans to eat.

Small boy hands are apparently impervious to thistles. But small boy faces --- excruciatingly sensitive to beagle whiskers. Go figure.

More moments to do a mama proud: enthusiastic (and unprompted) hugs of grandparents' knees upon all arrivals and departures from various grandparental dwellings.

We head home tomorrow, boo-hoo. But back again in September!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Long Run #1: Oh Yes, I Am That Stubborn

Here's how I looked before my hot, sweaty, painful 15-mile-run yesterday.
Thankfully no one was home to take my photo when I got home.

It was HOT. I made sure to start off re-e-e-al slow, and to take water breaks every 3-4 miles. Half way through I stopped to use the bathroom at the park and while I was there I soaked my hat in cold water, a genius move. Thankfully I had planned it so that the second half was the shadiest and breeziest, otherwise I don't know that I would have finished it. But I did! Longest distance run ever (I have covered longer than that before, but at a run/walk).

Then waffles with peanut butter and honey while in my ice bath, then dinner, a couple of episodes of King of the Hill, and early to bed.

And no pain today, hurrah!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Odds and Ends

How do you know when you're a serious runner? When you buy two pairs of running shoes in one day...

My shin is steadily getting better --- lots of arnica, stretching, and being careful with my running: no sprinting and going easy down hills.

Made my first veggie loaf last weekend and have been enjoying it in sandwiches all week. There is room for improvement but overall I'm quite pleased with myself.

I have my first 15 mile run of the season today and am very excited. It's going to be hot and I can't head out until after lunch, so I will make sure to go slow, have water and salts handy, and take breaks as I need to. I'm hoping it rains again, that will make it easier.

Swimming has felt incredible this week --- easy, steady, endless. Thursday I swam 2k, the longest I've gone since since high school. Blissful.

We went to the beach for the first time with Buddy last weekend, with my friend J and her son E. E very kindly shared his beach toys. Buddy LOVED it. Here's my favorite picture of the two of us.
(I didn't think I'd get in the water so that's my sports bra, not a bathing suit).

What stood out in your week?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wah, Wah, Wah

So, the good news is that my left foot has been steadily getting better, even with the increased milage, and this week I haven't noticed it at all.

The bad news is that my right shin has been giving me some serious grief. As in, OW!

I am truly aggrieved by this because I haven't suffered from shin splints in a long time. Isn't that a beginner's problem? Okay, so I've upped my milage a bunch this week...

And of course I'd much rather it be shin splints than the alternative (a stress fracture).

Also of course I didn't baby it nearly enough, early enough, and so now it's hurting far more than shin splints usually do. That makes me nervous. However, it is responding to arnica and to ice, and it doesn't hurt extra when I press on it, so I am taking those as signs of hope.

I will take some running days off and see how it progresses with more ice and arnica. The weather's supposed to be beastly the next couple of days anyway --- a good time for some extra swimming!

Now if I could just stop worrying about it...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Good Eating!

After my long run yesterday (12 miles!) I needed to stop by Whole Foods on my way in to work to grab a couple of things, and decided to treat myself to their salad bar for lunch. Oh the glories of a high-quality salad bar!
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Shredded carrots
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Edamame
  • Roasted garlic cloves
  • Roasted red potatoes
  • Sliced egg
  • Ceasar dressing thinned with Bragg's liquid amino acids

Plus one of their Seeduction rolls (whole grains and a mess of different seeds) topped with Earth Balance spread. Heavenly.

Some other exciting food news --- I tried out Yolk at Chicago/Wells last week for the first time and could not stop raving about it to anyone who would listen. Not only did the food taste amazing but the quantity/price ratio was impressive --- we both ended up with meals for the next day. And I'm excited about First Slice opening up a new location near my work --- their mission is to feed the hungry with good food, the same food offered in their dine-in locations. They operate the cafe at the Lill Street Art Center, I've eaten there a few times and always been happy with the food, so I'm pleased that I now have them as a weekday lunch option!

And after months of lusting after Mark Bittman's new book, "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," I have finally splurged and ordered it for myself. I can't wait to start trying stuff out.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Holy Running Season, Wonder Woman! What a Weekend! (Part 3)

So the last part of this event-packed weekend was the Run for the Zoo 10K, on Sunday morning. Truly, I don't think it could have gone better.

It was a beautiful day --- sunny but not too hot, breezy, some cloud cover.

It was a neat course --- through the zoo, along the bike path to Belmont harbor, and then along the lakefront. Great views. Very twisty with some up-and-downs which made it interesting, and very well-directed by volunteers.

Best race shirt ever! It's become my favorite one to run in. It even matches our running stroller!

It was the first time running a race with Buddy and he loved it. He kept busy watching everyone and got very excited when he saw the boats at Belmont Harbor. Two-thirds of the way in he started twisting around to look at me, beaming. It made me so happy that he was enjoying himself. Once we finished I let him out of the stroller while we stretched, and he wandered around, happy to be free of the stroller, happy to explore, banana in one hand, bagel in the other.

(They had whole wheat bagels! What a race!)

The other great thrill for me was that I got to be a pacer for my friend R, who is just taking up road racing and who is also training for the Chicago Marathon this fall. It's so cool to be in a position where I can usefully offer my racing experience (instead of just boring people with it). I was proud of myself for being in the physical condition where I could act as a pacer, and so proud of R for taking this new challenge on. And it was just fun. She ended up besting her goal pace by 30 seconds per mile --- so cool to have had a part in that.

This race is definitely in the "to do again" category, probably as a family affair. They have a kids' race which Buddy is probably still too small for now, but next year, watch out! If nothing else he'll get a cool t-shirt from it.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Reports...

To bring exciting news --- today I ran a mile in under 9:00!

8:58, to be exact, the second of two mile repeats in my track workout today.

I realize this is ridiculously slow to some people, but it's quite an achievement for me.

Makes me think a sub-8:00 mile might yet be possible...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Holy Blackhawks, Chicago! What a Weekend! (Part 2)

So on Friday and Saturday I volunteered for the Girls On The Run spring 5K. They have two runs a year, one for each of their 12 week programs, and while the fall one take place in the suburbs somewhere, their spring run is right in my stomping grounds, Montrose Harbor. How could I resist?

Friday was setup for the race, so I went down and inserted signs into holders and then moved the signs to where they would be mounted the next day. There were over 100 signs (I didn't prep all of them myself) --- one for each of the schools where Girls On The Run has a program in the Chicago area. Wowza! Then I put ziplocks on the porta-potties, and then I had to go home. The race geek in me was thrilled to see the other side of things, all those details that must be thought of for a successful race, and to meet staff from both GOTR and Chicago Event Management (the folks who put on the Chicago Marathon). I even got to talk shop!

Saturday I came back and saw that the field had been transformed to a sea of girls in pink and blue t-shirts, set among the masts of their schools' signs. Awesome.

At the starting line, I think...
I found the volunteer booth, got my hat and my assignment, and went to take medals out of the plastic wrapping they'd been shipped in. Over 3000 of them. This was set to be the largest GOTR event ever, with over 3000 girls participating, and another 3500 runners signed up.
All of the other volunteers I met were runners, so it was neat to chat with them while we worked about how they found out about GOTR, what races they were doing this year, and basic runners' chat about gear and training, stuff I cannot get enough of and totally boring to anyone who doesn't run.
It started raining, then backed off, started raining more seriously, backed off again, and basically continued that way, back and forth, for the entire event. We kept one ear open for thunder and one eye on the sky, and kept unwrapping medals. Once that was done we stationed ourselves along the finish area, ready to pass out water, oranges, and medals, and to KEEP PEOPLE MOVING. I didn't get the urgency of this instruction at first...
It was so cool to see all those people come across the finish: runners, girls, their families. Mostly looking stunned that they'd done it, and then very, very happy. I liked looking at all the different race shirts that the runners wore and I liked looking at all the different family members who had joined the girls --- so many of them had never done something like this themselves, and were just as proud of themselves as the girls were. I was proud of them too.
And then the deluge! Not rain (though that too), but people. Oh my gosh, I had never seen anything like it --- it seemed all 6500 participants crossed the finish line at once (which of course wasn't true) and there was no more looking at shirts or at individuals but just hands, hands, hands as we passed out water and ran out of oranges and tried to sort out the medals which had gotten all tangled together.
And then, just like a summer storm, it was done. We picked up trash, collapsed boxes, folded tables, and I went home.
And marked my calendar for November!