Monday, September 29, 2008

Extreme Taper

I remember the first time I wrote about tapering. I didn't actually write about the taper. I just wrote about how I missed drinking.

Gawd. That was so long ago. So much time and so many miles.

But nevermind that. This is about today.

Or rather, yesterday.

Hell, let's make it about the past week.

Last week, for those of you who still care, I was in the Boston-area. Not Boston, which would have been a lot cooler, but the Boston area. In and/or around Boston. Whatever. I was in Danvers.

Danvers was quite lovely. At least it was that one day (was it Tuesday?) when I told my coworkers I was going for the run in the middle of the afternoon on an absolutely perfect day. I ran up two hills. Big hills. Real hills. The kind of hills you don't see in Chicago.

Two hills. Fifty minutes of running. Two days after my 20 miles. It was fantastic. It's days like that when we can remember why we started in the first place.

Lou... consider yourself recovered.

I gotta tell ya... mostly because I'm rambling and have no real direction for this post, that 20 mile run was tough. I think what people sometimes fail to realize is that during these hard fought long runs it's possible to get into an ugly place. A place of self-doubt, of negative self talk, a place where I decide that "they" are talking about me when "they" talk about people who shouldn't be running the marathon.

Ha! Running. That's a laugh. It sure was for the asshat who passed me around mile 12 on his bike and shouted to his friend, "I don't know how they consider this running a marathon."

It was me. He's talking about me. Slow, fat, whatever. I'm in no shape to be doing this. I wallowed for a few miles more.

Then I pulled it together and ran to a finish line that was 5 or so miles away.

On Tuesday, during that beautiful run, I realized that maybe sometimes one shouldn't always judge herself based on the run (or the run/walk), but rather the ability to run after the fact... up a gigantic hill for instance... with only one day of rest after her longest run ever. Perhaps recovery time is a better measure for readiness.

I let that sink in, and I decided I was ready.

So I ran in Danvers.

And then... nothing. Business travel is not conducive to getting shit done... runs or otherwise. I came home and, exhausted, I skipped my 12 mile run on the weekend.

Extreme taper.

Today, when MM and I got home from the car dealership (holy crap I bought a car!), I said I was too busy/tired/hungry to run. He said, "Are you sure you're going to ready for the marathon?" I was furious. Like, get off my case man, I've had a tough day, a tough week, a tough year, a tough life... all perfectly good reasons to slack... for... ever...

After a brief argument fueled by PMS and... PMS... I laced up my shoes, and we headed to the park for a 45 minute run on a cool night in Chicago.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Well Gee, Hell Sure Does Look Familiar

Ever since the whole Chicago Marathon 2007 mess, CARA and the wackjobs at Marathon Headquarters have been touting this weather alert "system."


Which reminds me of another alert system...


As if I need a color-coded flag to tell me it's hot as hell outside. Or humid as hell. Or both. And, hey genius, being that its so freaking hot and humid Satan would go to the movies just to get a few hours of central air action, one might be wise to slow the fuck down.

Really? REALLY? Ya think?

Thanks Captain Obvious, but until this event gets canceled I'm going to keep moving forward.

I should have known when I sat in our kitchen to eat a bagel this morning and said, "Gosh, MM it's awful hot in here," even though it was supposedly like 58 degrees outside.

Anyway...

Today I ran CARA's Ready to Run 20 miler. Ready to Run is an organized, supported training run set up like a race course. This all would have been lovely if the weather (mostly the humidity) had cooperated. When we began, the CARA folks kept announcing that we were code Yellow, which of course means nothing to anyone. HAHA. Just kidding! It means "conditions are less than ideal." Welcome to Chicago. It's fall, isn't it?

By the time I hit the aid station at mile market something or other, the flags were a-waving. We were officially code Red, which is bad... very very bad. Slow down people! Oh course, had I slowed down at that point, I would have been standing still.

So, the weather was brutal. Did I mention that? I ran the first seven miles, and then gave in to it. I ran walked the next seven miles. I hit mile 15 and by some miracle I got my second wind, which might have actually been my first wind, and I ran the vast majority of the final miles. Lindy was there with her little girls to cheer me on at mile 18-ish, and it was extremely motivating to see a familiar face.

Honestly, I remember very little of it. I cried at the end. I literally cried. MM was there, thank god (even though he's the type of dude who has no idea what to do with a crier). I have never cried after a run before. It was like reliving the 2007 marathon, only it wasn't quite as hot and I was basically alone... oh yeah... and I finished because no one stopped me.

For all the fun makin' about the weather alert system, CARA was out and proud the entire run, even for those of lagging on the course. The volunteers on bikes road up and down the course asking every single person if they were OK. Most were. Some weren't. According to MM, he saw at least 20 people taken away in ambulances at the finish line.

What is it with this town?

5:30 AM

Less excited.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Untitled

It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that, come tomorrow, I will completely regret the words I am about to type, but here goes nothing… and everything…

I am freaking kid-on-Christmas-morning giddy stupid excited about tomorrow’s run. I’m sorry… tomorrow's… ahem… 20 mile run. The big 2-0. This is it people. From here it’s nothing but blue skies and puppies before marathon day.

Bring. It.

Say it with me.

Bring Period It Period.

I have half a mind to put on my damn singlet and just go now.

But crazy aside, this run is nearly three years in the making. This will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done… provided that I do it.

Next stop the marathon.

And then world domination.

Reality Bites

Do you realize that this time last year I was in Europe nursing a bum knee?

Maybe this whole 20 mile thing is getting to me a bit more than I'd like to consciously admit.

Last night, in my dream, I didn't make it to the group run, and for some reason, I kept needing to do "something else" before I actually get started. First, it was that I didn't have my socks on. Then I forgot my iPod. Then my socks started sagging in my shoes, so I needed new ones. And so on. I never actually started running, though granted, perhaps if my mom hadn't called and woken me up at 8am, I would have eventually made it to the lakefront path.

Not to mention that on Friday morning -- my vacation day -- I woke up feeling like crap. My throat was sore, my head hurt, I was exhausted. I was very clearly teetering on the edge of illness. So, I leaped into panic mode: Emergen-C, ZICAM, echinacea, and Zyrtec just in case it was "allergies." And I slept for more than four hours in the middle of the day. I woke up feeling much better today, but still have a... little something... in my throat, when I swallow I can feel it. So I'm still dosing myself with the remedies, hoping I will be 100% for tomorrow's run.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blaming Facebook and TV... and "News"

It has come to my attention, even though obviously no one cares, that I have been blogging less than usual. I suppose the inspiration ebbs and flows. Lately, except when I’m doing really long runs, I don’t think in terms of “how I’ll right this story on my blog.” I often think in narrative. Not lately though. Perhaps my brain is turning to mush. Sometimes it feels that way.

I have my suspicions. They are, as follows:
  1. Work. It might be killing me. It’s possible I’m exaggerating, but for those of you who haven’t read this a gazillion times on my blog already, I am traveling this fall… a lot. Of course this directly collides with the final weeks of marathon training, which, if I think about the upcoming weeks too much, makes me feel a bit out of control. Reality is, it’s not out of control. The thing that’s out of control is the amount of crap I ingest while on the road. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
  2. Facebook. Is everyone else wasting their lives scanning other people’s photos, commenting on status updates, and playing Scramble? No? Just me I guess. God. This social networking crap is like heroin for bored young professionals. I got to get off this stuff.
  3. "Nesting." There’s a lot of relaxing going on at home these days. MM is on vacation. The house is in order… sort of. The family room (yes, we literally have a family room… and yes, it is totally awesome) allows us to lounge for hours.... what with our obscenely large television, cable stations, wireless Internet, and multiple (two) laptops. It’s like a playground of lazy. We (and by “we,” I mean “I”) have been making dinner and camping out on the couch most evenings.
  4. Marathon. The truth is, I stopped thinking about it. It’s easier that way. And really, all of the madness is slowly winding down. I mean, after this weekend – the 20 mile run – it’s all downhill to October 12. I don’t need to think about any of that. My strategy is don’t think, just do. Since the marathon and marathon training is my A number one source of topical information for you folks this presents a bit of a problem. If I’m not thinking about it, I’m not thinking about writing it, and ultimately I’m just not writing it.
  5. The "news" as told by multiple liberal leaning political blogs. I have to say, I feel as though I'm far better educated about the candidates this time around. Granted, I don't tend to "remember" stuff that happened... like... "ago." It's a little mind numbing though, all of it. I have numerous conversations that start with the words, "I'm pretty sure the whole country has lost its collective mind..." And my mom writes me emails that start with, "Lou, I'm so depressed..." and it's all about Sarah Palin and the election. And I laugh because I think my mom's "I'm depressed" emails are funny, which makes me horrible person. How am I to write under these conditions?
  6. Pushups. Have you guys seen this? Keni pointed it out to me a few weeks (a month? three months? what year is this? why do I keep writing 2009?) ago. I love stuff like this. It's so contained and... chart-like. It's a specific time frame with specific outcomes. I'm on week three. And yes, I'm doing them on my knees. But, I figure if I can do 100 on my knees, I can start the program over on my toes. Baby steps people.
I’m glad I have blamed my lack of writing on Facebook. I think it’s about time I recognize that the “Face” is sucking the life out of my creative soul. Haha. Face.

Peace out homies. I’m going to investigate why my Runner’s World never made it my new address even though I changed my address.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Misery Loves Company: A Race Report

Races tend to have a rain or shine policy. Unless conditions are crazy dangerous – I guess this means a typhoon or tsunami – the show must go on. And a little bit of rain never hurt anybody, am I right?

Of course I’m not.

When MM and I woke up on Sunday morning, the day of the Chicago Half Marathon (different, mind you, than the Chicago Distance Classic which we ran in August), it was raining, which wasn’t a surprise. It had, as best I can remember, been raining for approximately my entire life… or three days. Give or take.

For reasons I cannot quite explain, we kept moving forward. We got decked out in our race attire. We ate bagels. I drank my coffee. We waited for our ride. We checked our gear. We lined up in the corral. We never questioned any of it.

And it kept raining.

The thing that’s even wackier about all of this half marathon madness is that everybody else showed up too. We're freaking lemmings. And every last one of us was drenched before we even crossed the start line. When did we collectively decide that we wouldn't let a little rain get in the way of our BIG half marathon plans?

Only it wasn’t a little. It was a lot. And it never stopped. Not once. In fact, it got worse.

I started the race with Lindy and a plan. The plan went like this: run slow, walk through aid stations, run slow. Actually, it was a little more strategic than that. I decided that this race would be my marathon “dress rehearsal.” I wanted to finish this race knowing that I could keep going.

At mile 5, Lindy dropped back and I, not wanting to deviate from my strategy, forged ahead. The course was long, kind of lonely, and extremely wet. The vast majority of it happened on Lakeshore Drive, which happens to be concrete and is not super fantastic when it comes to comfort and other such nonsense/luxuries. I forgot my iPod because the massive amount of moisture made caused molding in my brain which led to memory loss. The loss of the memory that I had put my iPod in my bag and failed to take it out before checking my gear.

But I did it. It wasn’t the best “oh my God I love running” run, but it happened. And the truth is, I felt pretty good about it. I was at the back of the pack (of course), but I was strong. And as we moved closer to the finish line, I passed more and more people. Why? Because I can do this. I know how to do this. I know how (on a good day) not to burn myself out at the beginning. It's like I put on a purity ring and won't lose it until the marathon, the day I wed... the... pavement. I'm the everything but girl. HAHA. Vintage SATC references AND social commentary. Wait, what was my metaphor?

2:49:52. Slow even for me, but I was shooting for a time between 2:45:00 and 3:00:00 because that is when I would like to see the 13.1 sign on October 12, 2008. And let's face it, these were the second worse racing conditions I have ever experienced.

So whatever. I'm still drying out. It's going to take awhile.

And remember friends, we’re only halfway there. From here, it only gets harder.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

All On Black

Once upon a time, I took up knitting. I was in college, and my roommate Anastasia learned how to crochet. I suppose I wanted to do something with yarn and a stick as well. So I bought some needles and a how-to booklet, and I started knitting.

My first project, a scarf, resulted in a much-to-be-desired potholder. As did my second scarf. And, for the sake of honesty, I never learned how to cast off anyway. I just didn't have it in me.

Knitting is not my thing. And eventually, after attempting to pick it up three or four more times throughout my early 20s, I accepted that.

Anastasia, on the other hand, gave me a crotched scarf when I left Ohio to attend graduate school in Illinois five years later.

Since Saturday, I have done a lot of thinking, I have reread what I wrote after my 18 mile run, and I have wondered, “Why am I running this marathon?" Hell, why am I running at all? A dozen and a half miles in, and I can’t remember why I started running in the first place.

Then a new post from the blog Studies in Clydeology showed up in my Google Reader. This guy just ran an ultramarathon… 100 miles… seriously people, all at the same time. And I think he’s totally nuts. And I think his accomplishments make my accomplishments look small and insignificant. Oh yeah, and he just signed up for another 100 mile race. But, seriously, why on earth, after a grueling 100 miles, would you ever decide to do it again?

And then I read this:
This is the direction of my life. Those who have known me best and known me longest know this has been my path. I have found another tool to take me where I’m going and there is really no time to spare.
And that's just it. Running -- this life -- stuck.

It was not foreseen. Is is not something I would have guessed… or could have guessed. It, given the opportunity to make the choice, is probably not the road I would have taken. But here I am. I can bitch and moan and gripe all I want, but this is what makes me tick. And I can guarantee you that when I finish the Chicago Marathon -- no matter how ugly it does or doesn't get -- I’ll sign up for another one -- a marathon, a half marathon, a triathlon.

I know in my heart that this is my path. I know this like I've only known one other thing in my life. One can only imagine how it will all end up unfolding, but I believe that I'm headed some where amazing. And in the reality of the moment, of right this very second, I’m just thankful I have a direction and, at least on the good days, I am moving forward.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I'll Just Write “Shit” a Dozen and a Half Times

Shit man. Don’t let any of these fools like me who wax all poetic and shit about running persuade you. Somewhere… say… oh *I don’t know*… between mile 1 and mile 18, your shit starts to hurt, and running becomes less about running and more about blindly putting one foot in front of the other so that you can actually get to where you’re going without having to crawl there or pay for a cab.

Ah yes, here we are once again for our weekly installment of “Lou Gets Her Lazy Ass on the Lakefront Path at Stupid O'Clock in the Morning to Run Stupid Far and then Bitches and/or Imparts Wisdom to You Lucky Folks Who, for Whatever Reason, Keep Reading Her Blog.”

Hell. Onwards.

I find -- and perhaps some of you experience this as well -- that there’s often a moment during a training run when you know… you just know you’re going to make it. On the flip side, the runs when you don’t make it, there’s a moment when you give up, give in, and throw it away. At that point, you’re done, and even if you try to get it back, all efforts are in vain and short-lived. You already made your decision, even if you’re trying to fool yourself into believing that you haven’t. Like the time I left Boston for a job in Chicago. But that’s a different story. Of course, there are, from time to time, the runs when neither happens, and you battle it out. But you’re never quite sure you’re going to make it until you make it.

This run I knew. I knew on Friday night. Barring injury, insult, or illness, I would be doing this, and I knew I could. So yeah. With the exception of walking all of maybe three minutes after two hydration stations, I ran 18 relatively uneventful miles this morning. Just your typical, "shit running really far is hard and stuff" stuff.

You might be wondering, where’s the fanfare Lou? Where’s the joy? Where's the overcoming of adversity? The triumph in the face of impossible circumstances? I suppose eventually you reach the threshold of diminishing returns. The runs get harder and the inspiration that comes from pushing one’s self gets… well… not as abundant. Yeah. I'm there.

You know how we are. I mean, let’s be honest. Some – and by some I mean all – of us do this crap because it makes us feel good about us… maybe a little too good sometimes if you're... say... me. At some point, that shitty grin that comes from thinking I'm awesome because I train for ridiculous athletic events, gets wiped off my face. Right around... oh... mile 15. There are fewer thoughts. There is no wisdom. It’s mostly just a string of expletives that rotate through my brain like an electronic message board. Something along the lines of... Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Shit. And then I start to realize, “Holy crap, those people who say this marathon stuff is insane are right! Why on earth am I still running? I’ve been running for three hours and my entire life.”

There’s other crazy stuff too. I noticed today around mile 14.5 that my ability to count became compromised. I got confused about how far I had gone and how far that meant I had to go. Wait… Am I running 17 miles or 18 miles? If I’m at 15.5 does that mean I have 1.5 left? That doesn’t sound right. At mile 16, I started to wonder if I would find God (or perhaps gods) in the midst of the last few miles of the marathon. Or, given the opportunity, would I make a deal with the devil? One never can be sure, but I reasoned, “I think the thing with this God fella is that its about finding the strength within myself to get through the hard times, while the devil would just do it for me, and that sounds a lot better. Regardless, I’m pretty sure I could sell my soul and still be incapable of finishing this shit in less than five hours so maybe eternal damnation isn't worth it after all.”

And then it was hard. And it hurt. And finally, it was over. And I realized that on October 12, 2008, when I reach mile 18 I’ll only have eight more miles to go.

And then I realized how totally fucked up my thoughts are. I mean, *ONLY* eight miles. Only? ONLY? Some people go their whole lives without ever running eight miles. Not once.

Here’s what’s even weirder. As much as I was all, “good riddance,” today, I knew I had a good run, and I could have gone two more miles. I really believe I can do 20 miles (and we’ll find out if I’m right in two weeks!). But after I hit mile 20 at the marathon, I’m guessing I have a solid hour fifteen before I see the finish line. One hour and fifteen minutes!?!?! Some people go their whole lives without ever running one hour and fifteen minutes!!!! I’m just going to go ahead and do that after I’ve been running for… oh… *I don’t know*… venture a guess... addition... subtraction... carry the crazy... four and a half hours give or take 15 minutes.

Bitching aside, consider this an official call for friends who run but were smart enough not to sign up for the marathon. If you want to jump in with me for a mile or two, between mile 16 and the finish, I will love you forever and reward you with one or more of the following: 1) stone cold silence; 2) vomiting; 3) whining; 4) crying. Sounds tempting, I know.

So. There you have it. Shit. A dozen times over. I’d like to spend the rest of my day being spoon feed pizza and ice cream by a hot, half-naked dude who will also be in charge of the clicking the clicker on my command. Who am I kidding, that’s how I’d like to spend the rest of my life. And yes, MM will do just fine in the roll of dude who feeds me and changes the TV channel and generally does my bidding. Unfortunately, he's not here right now.

Friday, September 05, 2008

On The Horizon

I know. I suck. I’m lazy. Whatever.

My head just doesn’t seem to want to work correctly these days. So, if I’m a regular reader of your blog, chances are you haven’t heard from me in a week or so via the comments section. If you have, it’s probably been something lame-o like, “Congrats,” or “I think you’re doing just swell,” because I haven’t had the mental wherewithal to craft one of my notoriously long, yet witty and insightful comments on stuff you had to say. Don’t worry, I know who you are, and I’ll come back ‘round to them after our regularly scheduled crazy.

I’ve decided to blame the RNC, and the backasswardness that was at first amusing, but then caused numbing of the mind. Thank God that’s over. Now, can we all start bitching about everything and just go vote for the Democrats and be done with the madness? I know; I just pissed off at least two of my five readers. It’s OK. We can still be friends.

Or maybe it’s that fall seems to have arrived, quickly, and with very little fanfare. Summer was just kind of like “see ya” and suddenly there are brown and orange leaves on the ground and I’m wearing a sweater.

I’m at peace with the seasons changing. Despite the rampant onset of season affective disorder, I am looking forward to the cooler weather. I think it’s primarily because I just want to get on with a few things all ready, like the marathon, and the season o’ glorious business travel that lies ahead, and… well… hmmmm…. there must be AT LEAST ONE OTHER THING THAT SHOULD HAPPEN THIS FALL.

I feel a little nuts right now.

Hey guys?!?!?! Guess what? Tomorrow is our 18 mile training run. Maybe this year will be better than the last.

Monday, September 01, 2008

In Defense Of

I don't even know where to start. First off, I wasn't exactly planning to post something today, but then again I wasn't exactly planning to spend the better part of my early evening sitting in a police station. It's a long story, and no, the jail cells do not come eqiuped with hi speed Wi-Fi Internet access these days. I just happen to know people.

Well, let's start with why I have been noticeably absent. MM and I moved! Yay! We have a fantastic new apartment that has seen more foot traffic in the last week than my previous apartment saw in two years. This one is, let's say, much more conducive to entertaining, even when it is half filled with boxes (because there's a whole other half of the apartment where you can sit and visit and whatnot). So far, so good. I mean, sure MM moved in with me in June, but that's when he was invading my space. He was living in my apartment. Now we're living in our apartment.

I was thinking, as one will tend to do, about whether or not leaving the old place -- my place -- would be sad or depressing, if I would feel a sense of loss or have some kind of moment when I said "good-bye" to my former life in that place and began a new life in this place or something similarly melodramatic. I did not. The truth is, while the move to my apartment was a bit of a turning point for my life here in Chicago, I moved there under shitty circumstances. The apartment itself means little. The people who I met, the neighborhood where I put down some roots, the Chicago that became mine, happened around it, but all that's still there, and we're still there. Or close enough.

So it's good. MM's and my first home together. Say it with me now, "Ahhhhhhh." Puke.

Anyway, that's a good part of the reason I've been MIA. I gots no T.V. and I gots no Internet. I had to listen to Obama's speech at the DNC old school style: via the radio. It was all very nineteen hundred and something.. one of those years when the TV didn't exist.

I know what you're thinking, "but Lou, you had all kinds of time to share with us the trials and tribulations of your marathon training whilst at work this week." I just love the way my readership uses the word, "whilst." It's all very nineteen hundreed and something. No so. I was only "at work" for two days during which time I was trying desperately not to fall asleep. It was not conducive to stuff happening.

So, there's your explanation. Much longer and more involved than "I'm lazy."

On to the next topic: Training! Woo Hoo! Last week, not a whole lot of that happened. No running Monday through Thursday, though I did manage to make it to yoga on Thursday night. On Friday, MM and I got home from our respective work places at approximately the same time and promptly fell asleep for two-and-a-half hours. We probably would have slept the entire night too if it weren't for the neighborhood block bbq thingy that our landpeople kind of strong-armed us into attending. It was fine. We stayed until about 8pm, which would have been fine too, if MM wasn't dead set on running. I mean, I could have just let him go, but then I would have felt uber-lazy and even though *I* had to run 12 miles in the morning, I figured 30 minutes would loosen up my legs. Or something. Off we went. By the time we made it back home it was after 9pm, and I had not eaten dinner. So we got take out, and finally drifted off to sleep at some time that was way too late.

The alarm went off at 4:30am.

Here's the thing. I knew it before I stepped onto the lakefront path. In my heart, I knew that I was not going to be able to run 12 miles. And, despite that knowing, I ran six miles to the turnaround (though I KNEW I should turn around at 5) with the 11:30 pace group. I made it two-ish miles beyond the turnaround, and never made it back to home base. Instead, I walked off the path and had trusty running bud Meg pick me up on the street. True story.

Like I said, I knew it. Going in to this run, I knew I was tired. I knew I had been eating crap for... my entire life... I knew that my feet hurt. I knew that I was never going to make it. Perhaps I threw it away before I even got there, but whatever. I didn't need to run 12 miles to feel confident this week. I needed that at 15; I needed that at 16. This week, I needed a break. A throwaway. And 8 miles is significant enough for a cutback week.

So there. Sometimes you have to go with the running gods.