4/13/2013 Boston Strong

There is a condition called The Anniversary Effect, “defined as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts, or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.” (thanks to http://www.psychologytoday.com for that tidbit of information).

Over the last month or so I’ve been following the One Run For Boston facebook group which of course is comprised of many Bostonians.  Several have mentioned that emotions have really been running high in the city recently, and one woman commented that the anniversary has brought so much back up to the surface that people thought they’d dealt with months ago.

I have to say,  I’ve been thinking a lot about April 15, 2013 over the last couple of weeks.  It is still so surreal to think that Aaron and I were in Boston one year ago.

Of course, there are the marathon memories. The Scream Tunnel at Wellesley that gave me so much motivation, the feeling of badassery that came with hitting the top of Heartbreak Hill, and finally coming to the Right at Hereford, then the Left at Boylston with my first Finish Line sighting.  All wonderful memories of my time running my dream race.

But the memories of post 2:50 pm are so much more prominent.

I remember that Whitney (a blog friend who I had met at a race before) was the first person to text me and ask if I was ok.  At that point, we didn’t know what had happened, and she was the one that broke the news to me that there had been an explosion at the Finish Line.

I remember all of the sudden getting a ton of messages, and having to post on facebook and twitter that we were all right.  Shortly after that, cell service was cut.

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I remember having so many racing thoughts during our 2 mile walk to our hotel in Cambridge.  Wondering if another bomb was going to go off.  Wondering where I’d run if a building collapsed behind me.  Remembering back to a cold fall day in October, the day after the Chicago Marathon, sitting in a Bacon and Beer Bar in Chicago, deeply conflicted over whether or not I should register for Boston 2013 or hold off until 2014, and thinking that I should have listened to Aaron and waited to run.

But the most clear memory for me was getting back to our hotel, turning on the television, and seeing footage of the Finish Line, where I had just been, getting blown up.  My body tried to cry, but I was too dehydrated to produce tears. I will never forget the feeling of seeing that footage for the first time.

 

I have never experienced fear like I did in the following days.  We went into Boston the next day and I couldn’t walk past any trash cans without wondering what was in them.  There were armed guards with automatic rifles on every corner.  We drove into New York that night, and even though we were far away, I couldn’t sleep.  Back home in Albuquerque on Wednesday, I still felt so vulnerable.  It wasn’t until I woke up on Friday morning to see that the suspects were in hot pursuit that I felt any relief.  When the younger brother was found, I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders.  It is unfathomable to me that so many people live in that type of fear for an entire lifetime because it was truthfully maddening.

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I do believe in moving on and focusing on the positive, but sometimes, especially on milestones like anniversaries, reflecting on what we’ve been through is the only way to look forward. The more we talk about our bad experiences, the less power they have over us.

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But, more than our experiences, April 15th is about the amazing people who have shown strength in the face of adversity.

During the last year, we’ve seen stories of SURVIVAL.  264 people were injured, and 14 of them required amputations.  Despite this, we’ve seen them overcome.  We’ve seen them get engaged, get married, and start families.  We’ve seen them rock climb and train for marathons.

They haven’t lied about their struggles, but more often we’ve seen them smile,  and we’ve seen how much life goes on after tragedy. They inspire me every day.

The phrase “Boston Strong” has come to be the mantra of Bostonians, the people who were there like us, and all runners who have ever crossed a finish line or had supporters cheering them on from the sidelines.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

CHARLES KRUPA/AP

There have been far more stories of hope and strength in the last year than of fear and terror. Just my experiences with One Run For Boston this past month have shown how supportive we are of each other and our community.

Sadly, there will be other acts of terror and other senseless violence.  Just this weekend three people were shot in Kansas City for no other apparent reason than being Jewish. Last week a teenager stabbed more than 20 of his classmates. Today is just one of many anniversaries that will draw forth strong emotions of loss.  But we will go on, and we will endure.  Days like April 15th will come to symbolize our patriotism, our pride, and our strength in the face of evil. And I firmly believe that good will always triumph.

“Turn from evil and do good.  Seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalm 34:14

In honor of all those who lost their lives and whose lives were forever changed on April 15, 2013 including:

Krystle Campbell, 29 Fatal injury

Martin William Richard, 8, Fatal injury

Lingzi Lu, 23, Fatal Injury

Sean Collier, 26, Fatal Injury

Richard H. Donohue Jr., 33, Severe injury

Kaitlynn Cates, 25, Severe leg injury

Brittany Loring, 29 severe head, leg and arm injuries

Sydney Corcoran, 17, severe leg injury,

Liza Cherney

Heather Abbott, 38, Severe leg injury

Jeff Bauman Jr., 27, Severe leg injury

Roseann Sdoia, 45, Severe leg injury

Jacqui Webb, Severe leg injury

Patrick Downes, 30, severe leg injuries

Jessica Downes, 32, severe leg injuries

David Yepez, 15, Head and arm injuries

Jarrod Clowery, 35, Hearing loss, leg injuries

Aaron Hern, 11, Leg injury

Remy Lawler, 25, Upper leg injuries

JP Norden, 31, Severe leg injury

Paul Norden, 33, Severe leg injury

Caroline Reinsch, 39, Severe leg and ear injuries

Christian Williams, 41, Severe leg and hand injuries

Adrianne Haslet, 32, Severe leg injury

Adam Davis, 33, Severe foot and leg injuries

Sarah MacKay, 21, Severe leg and ear injuries

Ron Brassard, 51, Severe leg, artery, and nerve injuries

Karen Brassard, 51, Severe leg and ankle injuries

Krystara Brassard, 20, Severe hip and ankle injuries

Karen Rand, 52, Severe leg injury

Alvaro Galvis, 62, Severe leg and buttocks injuries

Martha Galvis, 60, Severe leg and hand injuries

Beth Roche, 59, Severe leg injury

Marc Fucarile, 34. Severe leg, chest injuries

Erika Brannock, 29, Severe leg injury

John Odom, 65, Severe leg injury

Eric Whalley, 65, Severe head injury, other wounds

Ann Whalley, 65, Severe leg injury

Sarah Girouard, 20, Injuries to lower extremities, received surgery

Celeste Corcoran, 47, Sydney’s mother, severe leg injury

Nicole Gross, 31, Severe leg and ear injuries

Marilyn Kight, 63, Severe leg injury

Denise Richard, Severe upper body injury, Martin Richard’s mother

Jane Richard, 7, Severe leg injury, Martin Richard’s sister

Denise Spenard, Abdominal injury

Lee Ann Yanni, 31, Severe leg injury

J.P. Craven, 24, Head injuries

Michelle L’Heureux, Severe arm and leg injuries

Darrel Folkert, 42, Leg injuries

William White, Severe leg injury

Victoria McGrath, 20, severe leg injuries

Michael Gross, 38, Head injuries

Michelle Connolly, 52, Head injuries

Nicholas Yanni, 32, Temporary hearing loss

Ascer Barlatier, 35, Wounded in chest and leg

Jenny Chung, Shrapnel wounds

Dan Soleau, 36, Hearing loss

Ryan C. McMahon, 33, Back and arm injuries

Mery Daniel, 31, Severe leg injury

One Run For Boston Relay Recap

There is a little baton named Miles Junior who spent the last month traveling in the sweaty hands of runners across the country.  He made it to his final destination, the Finish Line on Bolyston Street in Boston, yesterday evening and served as a symbol of the solidarity against the senseless act of terrorism that hijacked The Boston Marathon last year.  (Miles Senior, who made his way across the country last June, lives at the BAA offices).

Photo from Danny Bent, One Run For Boston

But three weeks ago, Miles Junior was hanging out here in New Mexico, and Aaron, my dad, and I had the distinct privilege of carrying him for almost 35 miles between us in his cross-country journey.

To catch up anyone sitting there like, “HUH?”: The One Run For Boston is a cross-country relay that started in Santa Monica, CA on March 16th and ended in Boston yesterday, moving 24 hours a day, rain or shine (or tornadoes as the case was in Missouri). The concept was created by three British mates (see, I can hang with the British lingo!) who felt the overwhelming need to help the people of Boston who were affected by the bombings.  Last year, they dreamed up this cross-country relay and brought it to fruition, and we were part of the inaugural run (you can read that recap HERE).  Round Two was organized to conclude near the one-year anniversary of the bombings.

This year, we signed up for stages on Sunday, March 23rd somewhere in the western part of the state, south of Albuquerque. While our stages this year were much closer to home than last year’s, we still decided to drive an hour south and stay in a small town called Socorro overnight to prevent a very early morning trek out to Middle of Nowhere.

This year, we also decided to take Giuseppe with us on his first big overnight adventure.

America's Best Value Inn...truthfully not terrible

America’s Best Value Inn…truthfully not terrible

Unfortunately, Giuseppe was on edge all night in the strange environment with strange sounds, and an unusually high number of people seemed to arrive at midnight, so none of us Lavenders got very much sleep.  Aaron’s stage started at about 6:30 about an hour and a half away from the motel, so we got up at about 4:00 am after what I would call a 2-hour nighttime nap.

My dad had opted to stay in a small motel closer to Aaron’s start (smart man, that father of mine), so we drove out to pick him up before heading to the meeting point of  County Road A095 (thank goodness the relay organizers provided coordinates, because we could just copy them into our GPS to get an exact location instead of trying to find A095 on our own in the dark open wilderness).

When we arrived at the start of Aaron’s stage, a man was waiting there for us in a pickup truck.  That man, Scott, who flew in from Pennsylvania, had been traveling with the relay since Phoenix.  His brother Will, who came in from Fort Collins, CO was the current runner with the baton.  Will, who we met last year during the relay, was being supported by a woman from Phoenix named Amanda, and the Brits, Danny and Kate, who are some of the most awesome people you will ever meet, were with them.

We climbed out of the car to meet Scott (and gave hugs because this group of people is kind of obsessed with them), and realized that it was in fact freezing in a very unexpected way.  About 17 degrees actually.  When Amanda drove up, she was wearing an actual adult onsie covered in rubber ducks that they found in a K-Mart to keep her warm because she was similarly not anticipating an encounter with the tundra.

As we were all talking and devouring some Breaking Bad donuts that I brought, we saw a light slowly bouncing its way towards us, which turns out was Kate running with the Baton.  Aaron prepared himself as best he could for the frigid 13 miler he was about to embark on.

Since the relay had fallen about half an hour behind, Aaron wasted absolutely no time in the hand-off (plus, it was cold and we all wanted to be back in our warm cars).  With little to-do, Aaron started his stage into the sunrise.  He reported later that ice formed on his beard.

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Aaron and Kate in a very cold Baton hand-off.

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As the sun came up, the temperature rose, and each time I stopped to give Aaron some water, he stripped off some layers.  We slowly made our way closer and closer to Pie Town, NM where I would take over baton duties from Aaron.

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Aaron and his sushi hat…I can’t make him stop wearing it!

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Photo from Danny Bent, One Run For Boston

I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of Pie Town before this relay, but apparently it is well know for (wait for it…) PIE.  There are exactly two pie establishments in Pie Town and maybe 2 non-pie establishments.  The place is tiny, but I was so excited to get to run through a place dedicated to Pie! Sadly, there was no pie to be had in Pie Town.  Things didn’t open up until about 10:00 am, and despite some begging from some cold runners and friendly Brits, no doors were opened.

Thanks to Aaron’s super fast running skills, he ran into Pie Town about a half hour ahead of schedule.  I asked the Brits if they’d rather we wait for a bit in order to keep the relay on time, or if I should just go for it.  They decided it was best for me to keep going in case we got behind later in the day, so Aaron and I did our symbolic hand-off, and I started running. But first, I had to take a Miles Selfie in front of a Pie Town sign.

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It was now almost 9:00 am, the sun was up, and the temperatures were warm enough for me to strip off my Boston Marathon long-sleeve pretty early into my stage.  This year, unlike last year, we were so far ahead of schedule, that I had the luxury of really just enjoying my run.  I was able to enjoy the scenery, take photos, and even upload some to the facebook group and instagram when I had data and cell service.

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This year, Toyota donated the relay support vehicle, so Danny and Kate made it across the country in style, plus the car doubled as a moving autograph wall for runners to sign.  Danny and Kate were great cheerleaders, blasting music next to me as I ran (they were belting out some song that I truthfully didn’t know, but it was nice all the same).

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My support car with Aaron, my dad, and Giuseppe stopped every couple of miles to cheer me on with water and snacks.

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What support crews do in Middle of Nowhere

It turns out that I had the highest elevation point of the relay.  I was a bit worried, because 8,100 feet is about 2,000 feet higher than Albuquerque, but overall I was feeling pretty good and only noticed the lack of oxygen a couple of times.  Whereas Aaron had the steep uphills, I had the long uphills,and while a year ago that might have been an issue for me, (uphill is my weakness in a big way), I actually felt really strong pounding out the uphill miles. At some point I crossed over the Continental Divide which was kind of cool (less cool though because I didn’t actually see the sign, and I had planned on a Miles Selfie).

After that curve, the uphill keeps going.

After that curve, the uphill keeps going.

The highest point was pretty easy to identify based on my ability to inhale, and after I hit the summit, the rest of the stage was glorious downhill.

Miles had been redesigned this year and was much easier to hold.  I actually feel like I bonded more with him this year as we braved the wild west. I started thinking about all of the people who had held him before me, and all of the people who would hold him after, and as I was taking Miles Selfie pictures, I imagined all of the places that he would see and the landscapes that he would run though.  He might be the most personified cylinder of plastic that I’ve ever met!

Before I knew it, I could spot the entourage at the side of the road, signaling that my 12 miles were almost up.

In addition to my support crew, I had hundreds of people following along via the facebook group (there was some sort of glitch with the baton tracker GPS for about 2 days, so they couldn’t see exactly where we were), and I was sad to know, that once again, my time carrying the baton for Boston and for the survivors was coming to an end.

My dad was taking over the baton for me, but two other people had signed up to run with him. We were still running ahead of schedule, and the other runners hadn’t made it to the meeting point yet, and this was one of those points without cell service.  This turned out to be a good thing because Will, the IT guru of the relay who knew the secret to all baton issues, needed to do some surgery.

HOW MANY RUNNERS DOES IT TAKE TO FIX A BATON?

HOW MANY RUNNERS DOES IT TAKE TO FIX A BATON?

DeAnza is also from Albuquerque and she had three adorable little kids with her (her husband is serving with the military in Korea).  Steve is a track coach/cowboy from a small town in that area called Magdalena, and looked to be a pretty serious runner type.  He had his daughter, son-in-law, and adorable grandson with him.

Even though there wasn’t a true hand-off, they still headed into their 9 mile stage with a bang.

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As they made their way with plenty of support from other people, Aaron and I took this opportunity to head toward their finishing point and take a nap.

About an hour later, slightly more rested than before, we saw the trio triumphantly running their last little bit, and I snapped a picture that was actually used in a USA Today video about the event!

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They came to the end of their stage in a small town called Datil, and handed the Baton off to Matt, a runner from Albuquerque (originally from Boston) who was one of the qualifiers who didn’t get a spot in this year’s marathon.

As Matt made his way across New Mexico, we continued to bond with Brits, make friends with runners who had stages later in the day, and check out Very Large Array, which is a huge field of satellites in the middle of New Mexico.

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And, I am happy to report that in all, I only had to pee on the side of the road TWICE this year which is about 1/3 of the amount of times I had to last year.  I consider this a One Run For Boston victory.

Overall, I will say that the whole experience felt different this year, though not necessarily in a bad way.  Last year, there were less runners and the focus was on getting the baton across the country.  This year, the focus was on raising as much money as possible for the people most affected by the bombings.  Everything felt far more emotional this year, and I can’t imagine what the atmosphere must have been like when the baton crossed the finish line last night, led by the survivors of the attacks.

Everyone is in a process of healing, and with the upcoming anniversary, I’ve heard that people from  Boston are feeling very stressed and emotions are running high. I’m glad that an event like this exists to help facilitate some positivity and hope, and even possibly the celebration of resilience.  Walkers/runners/people in wheelchairs were all invited to participate. To date, we have raised over $434,000 for the One Fund. People like me who couldn’t be at the finish line this year were able to run in solidarity with more than 2,000 baton-carriers across the country. The little baton I held for 12 miles was also carried by people who have overcome so much to be running today. Sometimes I forget that people are willing to stand up and help those in need.  An event like this shows just how much can be accomplished by some big ideas and some running shoes.

And that is absolutely amazing.

LOVE this photo of me taking a photo! Courtesy of Danny Bent

LOVE this photo of me taking a photo! Courtesy of Danny Bent

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead

A special thanks to the wonderful blog friends who donated to my run: Hyedi, Dan, and Dominick.  You can still donate HERE to the One Fund via my One Run For Boston fundraising page.

Back in the Double Digits

(Written and edited during my lunch break, so apologies because there WILL be errors and probably some prepositions at the ends of sentences, but it has been almost 3 weeks, and I needed my blog post writing fix even if it means typing while spilling guac on my keyboard!).

I knew someday it would happen.  Someday, I would be able to go more than 5 miles at a time and not wish death upon running.  It was a bit touch and go there in January and February, but with enough repetition, running was bound to get easier at some point.

That some point came two weekends ago with a 9 mile run.  I won’t complain about New Mexico weather because truthfully, since January, it’s been about 97% glorious with highs in the high 60′s.  But, on this particular Sunday, it was raining and snowing, and while we treasure those rare moments of moisture, most desert dwellers do believe that we will melt like the wicked witch.

So, I set out with my sunglasses, shorts, and light pullover to run 9 miles in the moisture.  There were a surprising number of other runners braving the elements, but they all looked prepared for a Niagara Falls excursion.  Two walkers were even using those poles used for hiking…on a flat asphalt surface…I got many a sympathetic look as I made my way across Tramway (one of about 2 long, flat-ish running routes in the city).

And, for whatever reason, it felt awesome.  I HAD taken the entire week off before that though because of some weird pain in the ball of my foot (according to WebMD, this is caused by the fact that I am *almost* 5 feet tall and wear high heels everyday just so people can see me). I couldn’t walk on it for about 2 days.  It healed on its own, but I don’t really know why it happened or how to fix it.

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Worried that the amazing 9-miler was a fluke, I set out for our 10-miler this past Sunday slightly nervous, because 10 miles is kind of a lot of miles. DOUBLE DIGITS is a lot of digits.

But I cruised along, and before I knew it, I was at mile 8, amazed at how little I had even thought about how many miles I was adding to my Garmin.

Lesson learned: if you keep running, eventually your body will get with the program.  Alternately, progress doesn’t happen over night. Don’t mind me.  Just trying to be inspirational.

I am finally feeling like myself again! I mean, I’m still running more than a minute per mile slower than I’ll need to be during those July/August 20 milers, but running isn’t sucking as much anymore, and my entire disposition is better because of it.

Which is good because my disposition needs all of the help I can get.  Between Daylight Savings Time (love the daylight, hate the screwed up sleeping pattern), that crazy vanishing airplane in Malaysia that hasn’t been found (I wouldn’t say I’m a conspiracy theorist, but I do love a good conspiracy theory, and I AM a “worst case scenario-ist” so the thought of an energy field sucking up something as big as a Boeing 777 is enough to keep me stressed for mankind), I’m kind of in need of something like a good run to get me through these days.

As far as the training-but-not-training that I talked about last post, I’m right on track.  Long runs are going well, and I should be good to fulfill my obligation of running 12 miles in the One Run for Boston Relay.

Speaking of that, it was brought to my attention that my stage is the highest in elevation in the entire event.  I will run about 11.5 miles uphill to reach a peak of 8,100 feet, and then start the descent only to reach the end of my stage and pass the baton.

As recently as September I trained at that elevation, but it was slow then and really, it can only be slower now.  And the baton has a GPS signal in it that allows everyone to see exactly where I’m at and how fast I’m going.  These relay people are REALLY into this event (I’m kind of becoming one of them), so I will probably have well over 500 people watch my progress which is kind of intimidating.

So, if you would like to support my efforts, you can donate to my fundraising page! 100% of your donation will go the the One Fund which supports those who were injured in the blasts.  You can donate to me HERE.

Do you know that most prosthetics only last an average of THREE YEARS and a set can cost up to $50,000 a pair? That means that someone like 27 year old Jeff Bauman, made famous as the subject of an intense moment of photojournalism in a wheelchair while “Cowboy Carlos” pinched his arteries, might have to go through 20 pairs of prosthetic legs costing $1,000,000 over his lifetime. I don’t ever want him or the hundreds of others injured to have to worry about whether or not they can afford what they need to live a normal life.   

Aaron is smoking me in our fundraising efforts, so now my main goal is to at least match his total. I would appreciate your help in this matter!

And since this post hasn’t been random enough, I did want to share that, per my 2014 bucket list, my new experience for February was going to one of those Sip and Paint concepts.

We did a Living Social deal at a place that was doing a knock-off version of the franchise.  While most of these things have one painting that everyone is guided through, we just got a canvas and had to go at it.  Now, I am descended from an actual French Impressionist from the late 1800′s and a great great uncle was the contributing sculptor to The Atlas in Rockefeller Center, and I don’t think I’m unartistic by any means, but I don’t know how to paint.  Aaron on the other hand is an actual artist (I have yet to find something that he isn’t good at) and manged to whip up something amazing in our 2 hour session.

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Hope you are having a wonderful week!

Base-Building/Maintaining/Attempting To Not Lose “It” In General

I still have more than two months until our official 16-week marathon training begins for Santa Rosa, so in the meantime, I’m in this Limbo Land (of the non-dancing kind) where I’m not required by Hal Higdon, or anyone else for that matter, to run at all much less any set distances or workouts.  Yet, to be able to start training for an aggressive PR marathon, you have to actually be in pretty good shape when you take that first 10-mile long run step. So I really should be running and covering some distance.

But, because I live in a state of paranoia, I believe that running more/harder than I’m supposed to is a recipe for injury and disaster, neither of which are useful. I’m scared to actively work at getting faster now because speed training seems to be the culprit of any weird aches and pains that I get.

I’m caught in this “why would I attempt to push the pace on a long run now if I don’t have to” vs. “I HATE that it is taking me 1 hour and 20 minutes to run 7 miles.”  I don’t like this place at all. It’s like I’m training, but I can’t actually train the way I want to.

I’m almost to enter into Year 3 of my runnerhood, and this is really the first time I’ve allowed a substantial break in between races, so figuring out the whole “downtime” thing is a pretty new area of study for me.

My last race distance was at the beginning of September.  We continued short bouts of running 3-4 miles until December, and then with the craziness of vacations, holidays, weddings, and sickness, I pretty much didn’t lace up my running shoes for about 6 weeks.  As I’m sure many of you can attest, you lose a lot in 6 weeks of inactivity.  We started running again in 3 mile spurts in mid-January, but it all felt so much harder.  Three miles seemed especially long, and the mere thought of ramping up to 5 miles just seemed like torture.

One Run for Boston is in about 4 weeks, and my leg is 12 miles, so we’ve been adding a mile to our run every weekend.  We ran 7 last weekend, and my feet hurt far worse by the end of it than they should have.

About a month after One Run is the Albuquerque Half Marathon, and about two weeks after that is the Run for the Zoo Half Marathon which happens to fall on the same weekend as our official marathon training kick-off.

As mentioned before, I want to do both of these races, not necessarily to gauge where I’m at speed wise, but more to get in the groove of racing again.

Downtime Dilemma.

I know that with the way I’m going, I’ll be probably hitting very substantial personal worsts in any race/relay that I do prior to official marathon training. I really (really, really) don’t like the thought of running personal worsts. At all.

On the other hand, any attempt to train for and “race” these events will likely interfere with my goal of entering marathon training uninjured and free from burnout.  Santa Rosa (even though it isn’t for another 26 weeks) is my priority, and I’m trying to make decisions over the next couple of months that support that, even if it means running practice races slower than my pride will let me.

I have two months to reconcile this in my head. I know this is way overdramatic, but I’m really not a “racing for fun” type of person.

Other efforts I’m taking during “downtime:”

1) Heavy weights to build leg muscles: Weak muscles result in overcompensation (resulting in injury) in other muscles. But, heavy weights result in tired and sore legs which do not make for great runs.  I’m trying to build muscle now so I don’t have to run 800′s with a sore bum.

2) Yoga: Being limber and stretched out is good. Being tight is bad. The more I can start training with un-tight muscles, the better.

3) Paying a ridiculous amount of attention to every little niggle, no matter how slight: Pulling in my calf? Lower back aches? If I notice it, I’m trying to address it immediately. I want to enter into marathon training feeling 100% because Lord knows it won’t last very long.

And, because it is Friday and Fridays are happy, here is my jam of the moment.  It makes me want to dance in the streets! But not too hard.  I don’t want to injure myself!

Have a fantastic weekend!

And We Have a Winner!

(Sorry, this was scheduled to go up early this morning, but obviously it did not!).

It’s time to announce the winner of the Spartan Race Entry Giveaway!

In a highly sophisticated manner, I numbered all of the comments and used an online random number generator to determine the winner.

And that lucky person is……(drumroll, of course): Static Seth! Congratulations! I’ll send you an email later on today with the details!

Thanks to everyone who entered! Remember to check out the Spartan Race series for upcoming events.

And happy Valentine’s Day! It appears as if Cry Me a River is the anti-love song of choice, so if you don’t have a reason to celebrate, Justin is there for you.

Committing to Marathon #3

FIRST: Remember to enter to win a free race entry into any 2014 Spartan Race! Right now, your chances of winning are pretty darn high! Winner is announced tomorrow. 

There is some sort of general theory suggesting that no matter how painful pregnancy and/or childbirth might be, and no matter how much someone might swear that she will never (ever, so help you God) subject herself to this torture again in the moment, most women look back 1-2 years later and remember 36 hours of labor as “bad, but not THAT bad,” and many (most?) decide to do it all over again. Multiple times.

(I am obviously at the life stage where 75% of my facebook friends are either pregnant or have a child in the newborn/toddler range).

While I have yet to bring myself to the whole childbirth thing, I think that this general theory also applies to marathons.

While there is nothing like the pride I experienced crossing the finish line at Chicago, my body HURT so very bad in ways I didn’t think possible starting at about mile 22, I was violently sick to my stomach all day, and I couldn’t walk like a normal person for about a week. Stepping up from the street to the sidewalk? Forget about it.

I thought, “wow, that was a great accomplishment, but this distance isn’t for me, or even humans in general.” Yet, despite all this, I registered for Boston the next day.

The whole cycle did a repeat 4 months later.  Except, when I crossed my second 26.2 finish line, I knew that I would do another one in the (far off) future when I could forget about blisters and chaffing.

Slide3Who’s idea was this anyway?

I didn’t apply to get into Boston this year.  I could have used my Chicago qualifier again, but I decided in September that a trip to Boston in April wasn’t in the cards. Closing on our house probably had something to do with this.

Turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered.  My qualifier wasn’t fast enough to get me in. Truthfully, it was a blow to the ego.  I had never thought of my time, 1 minute and 5 seconds under, to be a “squeaker,” but in the end, it wasn’t even that.  It was just plain insufficient.

So, it was with renewed enthusiasm that I made a commitment to not only run another marathon, but also attempt another BQ and run a time that would, without any shadow of a doubt, get me into Boston 2015.

And perfect timing really, because all of that pain that I described above (soreness, sickness, blisters, chaffing, fatigue, aching feet, etc.) is now a very abstract memory.  Like, I don’t even remember what it feels like to seriously contemplate whether it would be less painful to just chop your feet off than run another step on them.

However, I suppose saying that I’m going to run a 3:27 marathon (that’s my goal, which is a big fat YIKES) is the easy part.  Training for it is much harder.  But before I can even begin to train, I need something to train for.

STEP 1: Choosing The Marathon

For me, choosing the right marathon felt similar (if not more intense) to figuring out what we wanted in a first house.  For both, we had a list of non-negotiables along with a list of things we could compromise.  Except, with a house, we could fix almost anything with enough time and money.  I can’t exactly remodel a marathon course to fit my needs.

So, what was I looking for?:

1) Held in June, July, or August: Since I’m going for a BQ, I need the race to be prior to September’s registration, which essentially eliminates all of the big fall races.  Add on 4 months of training, plus about 2 months of base-building, and I’ve crossed off all late winter/spring races off the list too.

2) Mild Summer Weather:  Since I’m looking at a summer race, it needed to be in an area that has at least some chance of not being ridiculously hot or humid.  This really limited us to the Coastal West part of the country, or the far Northeast.

3) Needs to compliment our strengths: That means a relatively flat course without a huge elevation gain and something at sea level to take full advantage of our training in the mountains. Mentally, I’d prefer a course that wasn’t 2 loops of a half course, and a substantial marathon field (1000+) because I do well when I have the energy (and competition) of other runners off which to feed.

4) Within close-ish proximity to New Mexico: to keep travel costs down. We’re talking second tier on the Southwest Airlines sale scale.

There were slim pickings after all of the elimination.  Slim pickings.

It came down to Eugene, OR and Santa Rosa, CA.

E vs. SR

These marathons were ridiculously similar.  Both are designed as “Boston Qualifier” fast and flat courses, both are held in smaller towns, both run on bike paths and scenic nature routes, both appear to be well-organized with lots of positive reviews from fast runners, and both offer post-race pancakes which is actually sounding really good right about now…

But neither offer substantial spectator support throughout the entire 26.2 miles (unlike Boston or Chicago), and both have courses that do a bit of back-tracking. And, considering my first two marathons were World Majors, these two are pretty small without the bells and whistles you get from having Shalane Flanagan somewhere ahead of you.

While Santa Rosa’s course seems a bit harder (runs on a slight uphill during the last few miles, and portions run on gravel) and the the field is considerably smaller (capped somewhere around 1600), in the end, the fact that that Eugene moved it’s date from mid-April to July this year (meaning potential hiccups), and the 2 hour drive from the Portland airport helped us in our resolve to choose Santa Rosa.  Eugene is also the weekend before my sister’s wedding, so Santa Rosa fit better into bridesmaid duties.

With a bottle of wine and a jacket (and rumors of a Lululemon bag!) included in the $125 registration fee, Santa Rosa also appears to offers more bang for the buck.  Plus, the fact that it is only 1 hour from San Francisco adds about 10 points. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it (HA), but I’m obsessive over San Francisco. And wine.

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So, I will be attempting a Boston qualifying time at the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August (and hoping to meet some of you California folks!).

I am beyond myself excited (27 weeks and 1 day).  Training will officially start at the end of April, and I am looking forward to every 800 repeat in 90 degree temperatures and every 20 mile long run that I have coming up.  What pain? What torture? All I remember is the amazing feeling of looking down at my Garmin, and knowing.  I hope to have that feeling again.

The rest of our 2014 racing schedule looks pretty dismal, especially compared to all of the fun we’ve had over the last 2 and a half years. But I do need to get back into the racing groove with at least a couple of half+ distances because it isn’t second nature to me anymore.  What do I eat for breakfast? How many trips to the porta-potty do I need to make before lining up? These are answers I don’t think I have anymore.

1) Albuquerque Half Marathon: I really don’t like this race.  But, with the uninspired course, the heat, the smell of farm, and the small race size, it should help build up some mental toughness.

From 2012

From 2012

2) Shiprock Half Marathon: This is a HUGE maybe. Initially, I was thinking that the full version might be my goal race, but I don’t think the course lends itself to not-quite squeakers like me.  I do want to run it eventually because it is one of the best races in the state.  Plus, I’d get to see 50-states Dan in action as he crosses New Mexico off his almost complete list.  BUT, it is on the same weekend as…

3) Run for the Zoo Half: I love Run for the Zoo.  I ran my first ever 5-K here in 2010, and I haven’t missed a year since.  It really feels like everyone in Albuquerque is involved in some way, and I love all of the high fives you get from friends, co-workers, family, etc. as you turn into the last stretch.

So, there we have it.  One big race with the sole goal of qualifying (and wine), and some small local races.  And with any luck, the 2015 schedule will include a bus ride to Hopkington, a battle with Heartbreak, and a left on Boylston.

So, who wants to come join me in some running and wine drinking in Santa Rosa?

The expo is held at a winery, a bottle of wine is included with entry fee, and you actually run through a barrel room.  GOOD TIMES! 

Hope you have a wonderful three day weekend! Remember to spread some LOVE and eat lots of chocolate!’

*Also, thanks to the Santa Rosa Marathon facebook page for supplying most of the photos! 

Spartan Race Entry Giveaway

Here’s the thing: I have never done an obstacle/adventure race.  I’ve wanted to.  I even added one to my 2012 Bucket List for when a particular race announced an Albuquerque date. But then that date got pushed back a year, and now, two years later, it isn’t even on their calender.  So, my encounter with mud pits and barbed wire (at least in a controlled environment) has yet to happen.

When the Spartan Race, one of the more popular versions of the endurance obstacle race, asked if I would host a giveaway for a free race entry on my blog, I was honestly hesitant since I’d essentially be advocating for something that I know nothing about.

So, I put it out to facebook (which is really how I solve all of my life problems these days). It turns out that a bunch of you have already thrust yourselves up giant walls before getting bombarded by giant q-tips and seemed to really enjoy the process! So, I figured if I could save a blog friend the cost of a race entry, then it would be worthwhile.

And I have to admit, the Spartan Race looks like a lot of fun (though maybe “fun” isn’t the most accurate word to use for a race that requires obscene amounts of burpees)! They host events all over the country (except for in New Mexico) with several international stops.  Depending on which race you do, the course can be anywhere from 3-12 miles.

Spartan Events

They are particularly looking to promote the Las Vegas event on April 5th.  Torture yourself all day, party all night.

Since I can’t tell you firsthand what the race is like, I suggest you read Colby (and Tina’s) recap of their Fenway Spartan Race experience because they make it sound like you may be missing out on a fulfilling life if you don’t participate in one.

And then this video.  Definitely doesn’t look like a wimpy “mud run” race.

So, as mentioned above, I am hosting a giveaway for one free entry into any Spartan Race in 2014. I was offered a free race entry for myself in addition to the one that I am giving away so I could tell you all about it, but we won’t be able to get to any of the races.

So, how do you get this free entry?

1) Comment below with your favorite anti-love song to help counteract all of the Valentine’s Day amazingness that is sure to start clogging your life over the next couple of days (google it…there are lists upon lists of anti-love songs!). 

My favorite is Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood.  I don’t typically like any of her songs, but I think if I was slighted, I might take a Louisville slugger to someone’s headlights. (UPDATED: I heard You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette on the radio this morning.  So much anti-love goodness in that song!).

And, if you would like an optional second entry, you can do one of the following:

a) follow me on one or all of the following: facebook, twitter, instagram, or blog and leave a comment about it OR

b) if you already follow me on all of those, you can leave a comment saying that I already infiltrate your life for a second entry.

Contest will close Thursday evening and the winner will be announced Friday morning.

Good luck!

February Instagram Challenge

Back in December, I participated in an Instagram daily photo challenge hosted by the Daily Travelettes.  Even though I only participated in about 75% of the days, I actually really enjoyed brainstorming ways to interpret the daily themes and seeing some of the amazing photos that other participants posted.

I actually really missed having a challenge this month.  I would go to the app, excited to see the new word of the day, and I would be a little sad when I realized there wasn’t one. Yesterday I started searching for February challenges, but I couldn’t find any that I liked. Lot’s of lovey dovey ones, but nothing that got me excited.  So, my solution was to create my own.

Lacking the time to brainstorm clever daily themes, I googled “random word generator,” and was taken to watchout4snakes.com, and started randomly generating away.

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Admittedly, I skipped about 3 words that I didn’t think would make for inspired photos (for example, “essay”), but for the most part, the words that came up were pretty perfect for something like this. Real friend (and half marathoner) Kevin (@ikeatkinson on Instagram) jumped on board!

Since this is a running blog, I’m going to try to take these while on a run, but I don’t run everyday, so sometimes they will not be taken on a run. How is that for flexibility?

If I end up being the only person (along with Kevin) who does this, I will be totally cool with it, but if you are feeling like you want to take a picture and you just don’t know what your subject should be, or if you see a daily theme and really personally connect with it (because I know the effect these things can have on people :)) then please jump on in! I’ve created the hash tag #randomlygeneratedphotochallenge and when running, I will add #randomlygeneratedrunningphoto. Please hire me to generate creative hashtags!

So, if you’re wondering why I’m taking a picture of a yeti on February 13th, now you’ll know why! Blame the random word generator.  And really, there should be a bigger Yeti presence on Instagram.

February Instagram ChallengeThose are conversation hearts.  Because, Valentine’s Day. 

My Instagram is HERE.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’m going pro-Broncos on Sunday, and pretty excited for some 90′s sitcom reunions that are supposed to happen!

Who are you cheering for? Commercial you are most looking forward to? 

Train Travel: January’s New Experience

I had never been on a train.

I’ve been on the train at Disneyland, and on the train in Durango, CO but, as fun as they are, I suppose they don’t actually qualify as legitimate train travel.

My little sister and her fiance moved to a middle of nowhere town about an hour and half from Barstow in Southern California this past weekend.  We drove their cars out, but the nearest airport was not in fact very near, so the most sensical option was to drive into Barstow and take the train back to Albuquerque.  In lieu of a bucket list, I’m trying to do one completely new and adventurous thing per month, so I figured this would be a great way to kick-off the year.

I have more pictures of this sign than any normal person should

I have more pictures of this sign than any normal person should

I honestly didn’t know that interstate train travel still existed on such a large scale in this country.  I’ve never known anyone who has traveled by train, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a commercial or advertisement. I figured the railroads were reserved for hauling cargo instead of people.

I’ve also been convinced that the people who rode trains were hobos or bandits (WHERE DID THIS EVEN COME FROM?).  Also, Murder on the Orient Express suggested that I might get stabbed by a whole gang of people if I slept.  Pretty sure there were some dementors on the Hogwarts Express too…

But, a quick look on the Amtrak website showed us that train travel is alive and well with routes all over the place.  So, in need of a way to get home, and keeping my eyes open for a new adventure for January, we decided to book 2 seats on the Southwest Chief.

Our less than 48 hour trip into California involved some In-n-Out Burger (probably 85% of the reason we went), a quick (and I mean very quick) drive through some really sketchy towns, some unloading and unpacking, and that’s just about it.

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Johannesburg, CA…population 165 + 4 animal carcasses

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I went to college in the Bay Area, so I’ve done the drive through Barstow/general armpit of California many, many times, but I forgot just how un-”California” it all actually is (my sister does have a beautiful palm tree in her front yard thank goodness). I also forgot how cold it can get at night.  We went on a 3.5 mile run in Barstow on Sunday morning pre-sunrise, and I didn’t pack any layers, so I was running in 37 degrees in shorts and a tank top.  Which apparently was more reasonable than hopping on the hotel treadmill or you know, skipping it.  Silly runners.

After the driving and unpacking (and watching the first half of the Broncos/Patriots game at a Sports Bar), my future brother-in-law dropped us off at the Barstow train station (why are train stations always in the scariest parts of town?).  The place was kind of dark and abandoned at 9:40, and we weren’t at all positive that we were in the right place because there wasn’t a departure/arrival board and the building was locked. With the moon shining and the street lamps illuminating the tracks, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a contemplative Dagny Taggert standing on the platform, waiting for The Comet to arrive.

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Eventually the train rolled up right on schedule, and with very little “to-do,” we boarded (they checked our tickets after we were seated).  I have to say I’m a bit sad that the conductor didn’t yell “all aboard!”

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Our car was already about half full of sleepy passengers when we boarded (it originates in LA and travels all the way to Chicago, so we were the 4th or 5th stop).  We took our seats and reclined back, eager to sleep.

I think if we’d been a bit more prepared, we would have been quite comfortable.  But we didn’t bring blankets or pillows, so we were cold and slightly contorted.  For a higher premium, we could have reserved private sleeper cars, which I think would have been great if we were spending two nights on the train.  The train made a few stops along the way (they were very fast stops), but aside from other trains passing right next to us on the track (which was kind of scary and loud) it was a pretty quiet ride.  They also had power outlets at each seat, so we were able to charge our phones while we slept.

When we woke up the next morning, we headed to the snack cart for some $2 coffee, and watched the sunrise along the desert horizon from the observation car, which was set up with chairs facing the window.

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We went to the dining car for breakfast, and it felt like a throwback to a more glamorous time complete with white table clothes and vases full of fresh flowers, all while watching the western New Mexico landscape unfold before our eyes. The railroad travels into those Route 66 roadside towns that the interstate bypasses, so, we got to see a lot of the charm that we usually miss traveling through I-40.

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We pulled into Albuquerque about an hour earlier than scheduled, sufficiently fed and caffeinated, and very open to the idea of more train travel.

At a time when it seems that airlines add new fees while eliminating leg room on a daily basis, and a pleasant experience in the sky has been replaced with no-nonsense safety protocols to prevent terrorist attacks, I have to say that the very reasonably priced train fare  ($75 per person from Barstow to Albuquerque, or $76 per person from LA to Albuquerque) coupled with the cheerful and accommodating attitude of the staff have really changed my thinking. Other selling points: the hassle-free boarding process (no security line!), convenient overnight itineraries that don’t make you feel like you are wasting time, ample space, and the ability to get up and stretch or walk around at any time.  I also felt very safe which was truthfully one of our biggest concerns (and misconceptions) about train travel.  No hobos!

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I’m also thinking that train travel would be so much more comfortable after a marathon than a plane or car.  Instead of waiting around in an airport and trying to make your legs not ache after sitting for a few hours, I could walk around at my leisure on a train, prop my feet up, and eat a decent meal at a real table.  Seriously.  It’s like my whole outlook on travel has changed.  Even my mom said she would do it again (and that’s saying something).

So, January’s new experience has been successfully crossed off.

I hope you are having a wonderful week despite all of the weather weirdness. It was 10 degrees here this morning which I know is warmer than most places. STAY WARM!

The 2014 Goal “Plan”

We made it! We are now successfully existing here in 2014.

I’ve really missed the boat on my “New Year Resolution” post to the point where I’m guessing most resolutions are already broken.  But I am known for my creative timing, so here we are.

Now that things have finally started calming down a bit, I’ve been trying to put together my plan for 2014.  I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t very good at resolutions.  Turns out I’m not very good at Bucket Lists either as evidenced by my attempts over the last two years.  I think I crossed 9 items off of 2013′s list.

Luckily, by definition, you can’t actually fail at a bucket list, so that’s why I chose that route in the first place because failure sucks.  But I do believe in using opportunities…like new years…for improvement.  And I really like making goals and lists of goals, even if I don’t keep them, because goal setting is what gets things done.

And this year in particular is a big one for me, because, as you have heard (and will likely continue to hear), I will be turning 30 in September.  Even though 30 is the new 20 and blah blah blah, I’ve had a heck of of a lot of fun during this past decade, and I know just by virtue of maturity, my 30′s will involve a lot more saving (as in, putting money away instead of going on impromptu vacations), a lot more Saturdays spent working on the house instead of out on the town, and probably kids at some point which is just far more responsibility than I can even handle thinking about for right now.  So, the next year holds a lot of pressure to leave my 20′s with a BIG bang.

So, in the most ideal (but really, the most realistic) of circumstances, this is what I hope to have crossed off my list when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2014:

1) Run another Boston Qualifying marathon: More on when and where later, but after a racing hiatus, I’m itching to train hard and crush goals.

2) Establish Financial Security: I say this every year because it is the right thing to say, but I’ve never truthfully actually meant it.  While this qualifies as more of a “30″ responsibility than a “29,” suddenly, I get it. I need to pay off debt and have at least have 2 months worth of expenses in savings. We made some good strides this year (we both started saving for retirement and we bought a house and already have some equity established), but I still feel unprepared financially to face a crisis, and that makes me uncomfortable.

3) Get to Europe: I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education, so I feel like it is almost a crime that neither of us have been to Europe.  Of course, this all depends on the financial security issue because I think that is more of a priority at this point, but I would not mind adding some stamps to my passport this year.

Nope, the Disney World version of Germany doesn't count!

Nope, the Disney World version of Germany doesn’t count!

4) Work toward a fitness model body:I sign up for a New Year’s fitness/weight loss challenge every year through the gym where Aaron works, but I’ve never actually taken it seriously because I tend to care more about how my body moves rather than how it looks these days.  But I’m pretty sure if I don’t do it now, it won’t ever happen because the metabolism isn’t quite what it used to be.  But don’t worry…I don’t plan on posting daily gym selfies on Instagram.

5) Write every day: I technically have “writer” in my job title, so I write a lot, but I’d like to write recreationally every day whether here on the blog (because I miss it!), or on that novel that I’ve been attempting for 2 years. You don’t become the Jane Austen of modern times (or even the Danielle Steele) by not writing.

6) Once a month, try something I’ve never tried before: This is taking the place of an actual 2014 bucket list, and I’m going to be pretty flexible on what I do and when I do it.  The point is to experience new things when opportunities arise instead of mapping out ideas in January and NOT doing them.  Some ideas including SUPing, taking a cooking class, and going on a full moon midnight hike, but I’m open to suggestions!

7) Continue attempting to cross items off the 2013/2014 lists: Because really, most of these do sound like a lot of fun!

 * Run a race in a crazy costume

* Organize all of our medals, bibs, and pictures into an impressive display

* Compete in a triathlon

* Get 4-pack abs (6 pack abs is asking too much I think)

* Be able to do 50 push-ups in a row

* Hike up a 14er

* Learn to swim.

* Explore 2 of New Mexico’s “must see” places (Carlsbad Caverns and Chaco Canyon)

* Get Passport stamp #4

* Go on a White Water Rafting weekend expedition.

* Do one big random act of kindness

* Take an art class

* Study up on the history of Israel vs. Palestine

Read my way through Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of all time (the list and my progress is here on a sub page).

* Relearn French

* Brew our own beer

* At least once a month, choose a recipe and cook dinner with Aaron

* Host a ridiculously over-themed Mad Men Party

* Ride in a hot air balloon.

* Learn how to use my camera and take awe-inspiring photos.

* Win something (anything) in a radio contest.

* Invest in a piece of artwork.

So we will see how this year turns out!

How are your resolutions working out? 

Any suggestions for “new experiences” I can try?