Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Dumbo Double Dare 2015

Next up on my fall running adventure schedule was the Dumbo Double Dare - two days of running totaling 19.3 miles at the Disneyland resort in California. I had been looking forward to this for a long time because the Dumbo medal is super cute AND it would give me a chance to see my Disney running friends. I have been very lucky to have made such a great group of friends over my years of running. It started out with my local running group and has gradually expanded to include runners from around the country. For all the stories in the news about the dangers of social media and how it's cutting people off from "real life" interaction, for me personally the opposite has been true. I've made at least a dozen great friends via the Internet who I have been lucky enough to run with from Coast to Coast.

The first race on the weekend schedule was the villain themed 10K. My running group had custom running shirts made this past summer that were black with red and yellow flames and a flaming Mickey Mouse skull. This is NOT my typical look but it seemed to go well with the race theme. I decided to throw it together with my ruffled Vixen skirt from Skirt Sports. We looked pretty awesome, I have to say, and got a ton of compliments from the other runners on the shirts.

I was a tiny bit worried about this run because I hadn't run at all since the marathon-to-nowhere and despite having run 100s of miles at Disney races by now I'm still never sure how my legs will feel after two days of being a tourist in a theme park. My other minor worry was running at a 2:1 interval instead of my normal :60/:30 since I hadn't done that in awhile. Luckily, the legs and the interval felt great and I had an awesome time with my friend Julie posing for photos all over the parks.

Posing near the tiny castle

Trying to become the new ruler of England:

With Queen's magic mirror.

After the run, in true Disney fashion, I spent the day running all over Disneyland and California Adventure going on rides, eating snacks and having celebratory drinks. (Exactly what one should NOT do when having to get up at 3:30 AM to run a half-marathon!)

Sunday dawned bright and early and I picked up some more friends to run with in the parks and on the streets of Anaheim. I can not express enough how much fun it is to go on a run with a bunch of people when your only goal is to see the sights, enjoy the course, and get to the finish line.

Eventually, close to the end of the run, I saw a pile of discarded costume parts and when I realized the pile contained a bedazzled hat with attached Dumbo ears and I just could not resist the impulse to trash-pick the abandoned item to wear across the finish line. We laughed our heads off in the last half mile about the ears and the reaction of my germophobic friend to the whole transaction. They do not call this the Dumbo Double Dare for nothing!

One of my team's favorite things to do at Walt Disney World marathon weekend is to ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster in the middle of the marathon. There's no chance to do a similar thing out in California so we decided that the next best thing would be to go directly to California Adventure and ride the Grizzly Rapids ride while wearing our race outfits and medals. OMG. There should be a flume ride included after EVERY summer run. It was so incredibly fun. I tried to take video during the ride with my cellphone inside a baggie and it looks like some kind of Blair Witch Project type movie. So funny and such a great memory.

I was in California for just over 4 days and I picked up four new shiny medals and tons of memories on the trip. It was worth all the time stuck in an airplane, for sure.

Next up: Bird In Hand race weekend in Lancaster, PA. This is a 5K/Half-Marathon combo and will feature hot air balloons and an entirely different cast of running sidekicks!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Marathon to Nowhere 2015

On Saturday my running group was scheduled to do a 26 mile training run. This is part of the Galloway method of training and while I understand where the plan is coming from, I'm pretty well convinced that this level of preparation is overkill. Last year I did the 26.2 mile training run because I thought it would be fun to prove to myself that I was tough enough to run a marathon with no other incentive than that I could do it. Sure, it was on the training plan, but I knew deep down I could quit early and be in perfectly good shape to run my scheduled race. This year, it was coming up on the schedule again and while I remained skeptical, most of the others wanted to do the run.

On our long runs earlier in the summer we'd often talk about the 26 mile run. We plotted the best route, we discussed registering for virtual races so we'd get a medal on the big day, we thought about all of the reasons NOT to do it. It loomed large for all of us. As marathon Saturday approached, our group of five had dwindled to three runners: one had family plans in another state and couldn't make the run, one had a bad 23 mile outing and was timid about pushing all the way to 26. Personally, I was seriously considering skipping it. I have a habit of developing hypochondria before marathons. My typical M.O. is to imagine that I have a stress fracture about a week or so before a big event. This time though, I was fretting over a twinge or two I felt in my hip. Could this be the return of the problem I had two summers ago? I have too much on the line for that to happen! As I dug into the recesses of my closet looking for my super deluxe CW-X compression shorts, I seriously considered bagging the run for fear that it would jeopardize my trip to Disneyland for the Dumbo Double Dare one week later. As much as I thought about quitting, on Friday night I filled my hydration belt, gathered up my snacks and went to bed early.

Saturday morning was about as perfect a day as one could hope for when running a marathon in August. It was 54 degrees and chilly when I left my house, so chilly I actually wondered if I should change into something warmer (I didn't!) My hip ailment had disappeared and I chose my cute Skirt Sports skirt over my ugly but functional compression shorts. As I drove to the meeting spot, I started to get excited. Not quite race level excited but I was feeling confident and ready.

I'm lucky to live near a fantastic rails to trails system so we were going to spend the whole day running along the Perkiomen Trail and the Perkiomen Creek. It's a beautiful, green and shady trail and it's a wonderful place to run. Before I knew it, we were 8 miles into the run, refueling at a water fountain and appreciating the gorgeous morning. Things were still looking great at mile 15 when we passed a local convenience store and stopped for a quick hit of air conditioning and snacks. Everyone was in good spirits and as the day heated up we decided to work on keeping our spirits high and agreed that if things got rough we'd stick together. Slow the pace when we had to, take breaks when we had to, just get it done. Time on feet not time on clock. We chatted about books and vacations and sending kids off to college but mostly we talked about how much we were going to enjoy a chocolate milkshake when it was over. (One great thing about parking for your run across the trail from a diner is instant gratification when it's over!)

So what have I learned by running the Marathon to Nowhere? While running that far is never exactly FUN, it is satisfying in the way that only a long, long run can be. For me, who already has a lot of marathons under my belt, I think there is minimal benefit as part of the training plan but for those who are less experienced going the full distance gives them a boost and more time to experiment with nutrition plans. It's no secret that I think running a marathon can change your life and running a marathon when it's not a race builds upon that foundation. Pushing that far when there is nothing at stake takes a level of determination that I wasn't completely convinced that I possessed. I've done it twice now and I still think it's crazy but it won't surprise me if I wind up doing it again next summer. I was wearing a shirt during this run that says "I love running... just not while I'm doing it" and while that can be true for me on a homework run, on the long runs, when I'm out there for hours, I do love every second of it.

Next up: DISNEYLAND!!!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Homework Runs

I know that the secret to success in long distance events is doing all the runs in the training cycle. I'm not a runner who is motivated by the clock so my homework isn't so much about tempo runs or hill repeats but more about logging regular weekly miles to build up my base so I can run a lot of races at a comfortable pace. I'm also a little bit unusual in that I tend to really look forward to my super long runs and think of them more as mini adventures. Short runs on the other hand are nothing but homework for me. Something I have to do but seldom want to face even when I know they are good for me and almost always turn out to be rewarding.

I have a pretty good routine with my running partners to meet twice a week after work to get in 4-5 miles and without them I'd find excuses to skip the run more often than not. Last night is a great example: as I mentioned, we're in the middle of a heatwave and temperatures were in the 90s most of the day yesterday. I live in the mid-Atlantic and most days are really humid as well as hot. This was not adding up for great running conditions - especially since our typical Tuesday takes us to Valley Forge National Park and it's five mile, hilly, mostly unshaded loop trail. Blah. The excuse maker in my head looks at those conditions and says "No sane person would run in this. Go home. Use the treadmill or run tomorrow." The committed running partner in me says "They will be waiting for me. They are not wimping out. Just go." And so I went.

Luckily, I have smart friends and one suggested a change of venue to a shady flat trail that runs along the Schuylkill River so things were looking better already.

We started off at a conversational pace and chatted about everyday life: vacations, frustrations with the cable guy, buying new furniture. Before we knew it we were at the end of the trail and had committed ourselves to a six mile run which is about a mile father than we usually go on a Tuesday. Amazingly, the humidity was not oppressive so even though it was hot the shade on the trail was enough to make the run pretty pleasant. The run back to the car was even better. Our pace picked up and we started having a more philosophical conversation about marriage and divorce and started to notice the trail itself a bit more: how many spider webs we were seeing clinging to the trees, how soothing the sounds of the cicadas were, how the foliage was ever so slightly starting to change from summer to autumn. And then we were back. Six speedy miles in the tank, homework done, relaxed and content.

In other news, I quite enjoyed all the feedback I got about my upcoming fall schedule! While most think I'm nuts there are a few out there who are doing similar crazy things. That said, I've already started to modify the plan. One of my scheduled runs is the Rocky Balboa 10K in Philadelphia in mid-November. I ran this one last year and it had an absolutely fantastic medal and it was a very fun day but I just found out that one of my husband's favorite runs is on that same day this year: The Foot Pursuit 5K and 5 Mile Run. His race is local, 5 miles instead of six, and costs a lot less. I'm leaning towards swapping out the Rocky run for this much more low key event that I can decide on at the last minute. By November I think I might need the time off and at the very least will enjoy NOT having to drive downtown for an event when I'll be doing that on Halloween for Rock'n'Roll and for the Philadelphia Half a week later.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The calm before the storm

We're in the thick of summer here in Pennsylvania and I am well into my marathon training for the fall. Luckily, as we enter yet another heat wave, I have an easy running week ahead of me: my normal mid-week runs followed by a Saturday "long" run of a mere 6 miles. Can you imagine? 6 miles is my long run. It's awesome!

But after that, it's crazy time. Due to my own overzealous love of the marathon, some lucky and unpredicted opportunities, and my desire to run with out of town friends, I'm about to head into a frenzy of fall running. Check out the weekends I have ahead of me:

August 29: 26 mile training run
September 5-6: Dumbo Double Dare at Disneyland (19.3 miles of running)
September 12: Bird In Hand Half Marathon and 5K (That's right, I'm doing both in hilly Lancaster County)
September 19: Relief! only a 6 mile run!
September 25: DIVA 1/2 marathon in Virginia (with my friends from Skirt Sports)
October 3: New Hampshire Marathon (HILLS HILLS HILLS)
October 10: 14x1 mile repeats for MCM training
October 18: rest ( 6 miles)
October 25: Marine Corps Marathon
October 31: Rock N Roll Half Marathon Philadelphia
November 7: rest (6 miles)
November 14: Rocky Balboa 10K run
November 22: Philadelphia Half Marathon
November 28: rest
December 5: Rehoboth Marathon

In the upcoming 15 weeks I plan to run 3 official marathons and 1 unofficial marathon, 5 half marathons, 2 10Ks and a 5K

That's nuts. That's more than people do in a whole year.

And I'm nuts because instead of being petrified about all of this I'm actually looking forward to it.

A lot.

So much so that I haven't completely eliminated the possibility of adding another marathon (upgrading from 1/2 at Philadelphia) but I am hoping that I remain sane enough not to do that.

I'm hoping that my training has given me a great base so all of this activity won't kill me physically and that I will have enough distractions and each event to keep me mentally focused.

It's going to be a wild ride, for sure, and I plan to chronicle it all right here.

Now, I'm off to find myself a virtual race so I can get a real medal for the 26 mile training run I'm scheduled to do soon. I ran that far last summer and all I got was a date with the ice bucket challenge when it was over and this year I'm hoping for an upgrade!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day - Skirt Sports Giveaway!

As many of you know, this is my first Mother's Day without my Mom. My Mom was not a runner (or much of an athlete at all) and she thought those of us who were runners were a little bit bonkers. She was however, impressed by all of us. She never could quite believe that my sisters and I were able to finish marathons and she was proud of us and glad that we'd found something that made us so happy. So, instead of being sad today, I'm running a contest in her honor. I think she'd approve of this for a lot of reasons:

1) She loved pretty clothes and I'm sure she'd approve of ladies running in brightly colored skirts instead of something less cute.
2) She loved presents (who doesn't?)
3) She REALLY loved cake and this giveaway includes cake at the finish line if you are lucky enough to run the event in person in Colorado. (If you run with me in PA I will provide a finish line cupcake!)

What am I giving away? I Basic entry to the Skirt Sports 13er race - a Half marathon/10k/5K (taking place in Louisville, CO or virtually anywhere)

The winner's package includes entry to the race (in person or virtually)
$50 gift certificate from Skirt Sports
Race #
Finisher's Skirt (Don't Sweat It Collection pull over skirt)
Sponsor swag

So how do you win? Sometime between now and May 20th comment on this blog and tell me about your favorite Half Marathon (if you haven't done a half yet, tell me about a race of a different distance that you have done or a race you WANT to do someday!) Then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter box to enter the giveaway! I'll be in touch after 5/20 to tell you know who the winner is and to explain how to enter the race.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Real people, real adventures, #REALwomenmove

Sometime during the year 2000 my oldest sister Mary saw a cable TV show where an overweight woman was showing off her recently earned Mickey Mouse shaped marathon medal. She looked like a regular, real person! Not some kind of super athlete like you expect all marathoners to be. That random mystery woman inspired my sister, a lifelong non-athlete, to sign up for the 2001 Walt Disney World half marathon. That decision set her on a course to lose a bunch of weight and to complete 50+ marathons. Watching her transformation had a trickle down effect on me and after I few false starts, I too did a half marathon and then a full marathon and 28 marathons later I still haven't stopped running.

Check us out here after finishing the Disney marathon together back in 2004 in identical Snowman hats. (We knew about Olaf before DISNEY knew about Olaf!)

Back in the late 90s Mary and I took a trip out west to the Grand Canyon we spent most of that trip in the car and walking maybe 500 steps at a time from the car to peek over the edges of some scenic vistas. Since then I've transformed from the kind of person who sits in the car to a woman who carried a 35 pound back to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out again. I've become the kind of person who will take a vacation to ride a mountain bike 70 miles around a national park, who will go night snorkeling in the middle of the ocean, who will hike to remote chalets where the only way to get there is on your own two feet. I have adventures.

Along the way I discovered that the people who run marathons and have adventures are NOT all young, super-fit people. They are people who are excited about life. REAL people who are committed to their own happiness and fitness. Sure, some are skinny and have perfect bodies, but more often than not they are a little bit squishy around the middle, they have aches and pains, they might be in a little over their heads. They might even be....old!

See the woman in the center of this picture in the orange hat? Her name is Sarah and she is almost 80 years old. That's her husband next to her in the green shirt. He actually was 80 -- they were at Glacier National Park celebrating his birthday. We are on the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail in this photo. To even get to this trailhead we had to hike about 8 miles and then we had to go straight up about 500 vertical feet to the overlook. And off of this at an elevation about 7700 feet. Let me say it again: they are 80 years old.

Here's a photo from the end of my 70 mile mountain bike trip at Canyonlands NP. I am in my early 40s and I was the youngest person on this trip. The bravest cyclist on this trip was an overweight woman in her 50s. The lady on the far right? This was her first vacation after her hip replacement! These people are proof that if you want to lead an active and adventurous life you absolutely can do it.

REAL people, REAL adventures. REALLY possible.

Look, not everybody has the genetic gifts to be a super athlete. Not everybody has the luxury of staying fit and perfect for a lifetime. Life happens to people. We fall out of good habits and into bad ones. We get older and slower and maybe a little sad about what we used to be. We start to think that maybe it's too late to change. But it is never too late. These random REAL people I have met over the years prove that getting out there and doing things is always possible. It's never too late. You might not be climbing mountains at 80 but you just might be if you do a little something today to set you on that path. Take a walk, ride a bike, just get out there and be awesome and see what the world has waiting for you.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Make it Happen

A friend of mine messaged me today saying he thinks maybe he wants to run a marathon this fall. It's not something he ever thought he'd want to do but now it is starting to look more appealing. We chatted a little bit and I encouraged him to pursue the idea. What I really wanted to do was jump up and down with glee thinking "YES! Another convert!"

I want every runner to finish a marathon.

There is nothing I like more than being out there on marathon day. The anticipation in the corrals before the start, the bliss of the first few adrenaline fueled miles and then settling into an easy groove. Feeling like a badass at mile 13 when the half marathoners take the turn to the finish line but you boldly keep on running in the other direction. Realizing around mile 17 that you are more than a little crazy for doing this, understanding how far you've come and how far you still have to go. Grinding it out in misery until around mile 23 or so when you start to feel lighter again because you know nothing but an act of God is going to keep you from finishing no matter what. Finally crossing the finish line and knowing that you did this supremely hard thing. A thing that everyone, even non-athletes, understand to be a hard thing. It's terrible and amazing all at once.

I know it's not the only important distance in running. I don't think it's the best distance or even the hardest distance but it's a special distance.

So if you are out there thinking about it -- get out there make it happen!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What should I do this fall?

Here we are on March 31 knocking on the door of spring so of course all my focus is on my running schedule for the fall.


One thing I hate about marathon running is how much time it takes to prepare yourself to run a good one. You have to decide months in advance what your A race will be and make all your plans around it. And when I say "all your plans" I don't just mean running plans I mean ALL your plans. Besides running, my other favorite pastime is travel and Brian and I are trying to plan our vacations for the rest of 2015 and that means I need to determine how many spare vacation days I will have for running trips vs. regular vacation trips and the dates of the trips will need to fall around big running weekends. It's all so complicated. This doesn't happen with a 10K!

Last Wednesday I found out that I was lucky enough to get chosen in the lottery for the 40th Anniversary Marine Corps Marathon which is great because it's my favorite marathon and I have a bunch of friends who also got into the race. This means a great weekend with friends on a beautiful race course. Sounds great, right? It also means that I probably won't be able to hit a PR at this race because there will be too many distractions - the huge size of the race field and those aforementioned friends. At heart, I'm a social runner, I prefer friends and good conversation when I run to pushing the pace. I can't be at a race with friends and PR. I know because I've tried to do it in Philadelphia in 2013 and the result was not a PR and the only marathon of my 28 where I finished feeling sad - not about the missed PR but about the missed experience of running with my friends. It was a lose/lose. So if I choose Marine Corps, I will be choosing to run for fun not for the clock.

Which brings me to Option 2: Steamtown Marathon. I haven't run this one but I've heard from many running friends that it's a fantastic race. It's a great course, it has wonderful support, a great medal and it has a reputation for being VERY FAST. This would be a great option for me to run this fall as my A race. This is the clear winner if I want to run for time on the clock. What's the catch? It's two weeks before Marine Corps. I could choose this one but if I do I will probably lose out on the camaraderie at Marine Corps weekend. I have run full marathons two weeks apart before but I can't say it was the smartest thing I've ever done and I'm not sure I want to do it again. But then again, maybe I do?

Option 3: Have I mentioned my friends who are trying to run marathons in all 50 states? I have a few of those. I might be one of those people myself (I've got ten states but haven't joined the club....yet) That crew is planning to run the Outer Banks Marathon in early November. I'd love to see these people and run with them again. Most of them I only interact with online but I've run marathons with all of them in the past but this race is two weeks after Marine Corps. It's a flat, fast course, which is good for PR but then I have the friend problem again. If I run in North Carolina I pick up a new state. (Does that go on the Pro or Con side of the list?)

And then we have option 4: the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in December. A good friend is planning to come run this one as part of her 50 states quest. I'd love to join her since I've run the half here in the past and enjoyed it enough that I want to come back for the full. But this run will be with her so again, no PR option.

Let's not forget Option 5: the Philadelphia Marathon. Probably my second favorite race. The race where I set my PR. The course I know the best. The old standby. Easy to do, easy to skip over because it will always be there.

Odds are good that I will run at least two of these races - maybe even three of them. I can't run them all. I don't even want to run them all. (Well, I do, but I know that I can't actually pull that off.) I don't know how to choose. I don't know what's the most important thing to me right now.

Registration for Steamtown and Philadelphia starts tomorrow. Time to start flipping some coins...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bringing Back the Blog?

Wow! Looks like I haven't updated my blog in more than five years! I'm acting surprised about that but I'm really not - when I stopped writing it was a conscious decision just like today I'm making a conscious decision to start doing it again.

Back in 2009 I decided to stop writing here because so much of my blogging was about my running life and I was taking on a leadership role in my local running group that made me feel very uncomfortable about putting my feelings about running and the group out into the world. I felt like I had to keep all that buttoned up. Times have changed, that group doesn't exist anymore, and I'm finding that I'm in a bit of a running rut and I think that this blog might help me get out of it.

What have I been doing in the past five years? Running a lot! I've continued to do marathons and half marathons and I've also taken up cycling although I haven't been quite brave enough to tackle an organized cycling event. I am hoping that might change this summer. I'll have to go somewhere official to tally up my running stats for the blog bio but I know I'm closing in on 30 full marathons and I crossed the 50 half marathon milestone a couple of years back. I still talk often about retiring from marathon distance running but I love it too much for that and I'm reminded of my how much every time I'm out there on race day.

I've been lucky enough to become an Ambassador for Skirt Sports (my long time favorite apparel company) and that's one of the reasons I wanted to resurrect the blog. Lots of the other ladies on the Ambassador team have blogs and I thought I might as well join the mix.

But I mentioned a running rut earlier and then I changed the subject. (I don't like to talk about my rut.) I'm not tired of running but I've lost my focus. I don't know what I want anymore. I've long known that chasing PR on the clock doesn't really motivate me most of time -- I'm much more of a social runner -- but I think the urge is coming back. This winter has been a tough one around here with lots of bitterly cold weather and icy trails and that combined with my mother's illness and death combined to give me about a month with no running at all. I feel like this spring I'm going to be starting from scratch with my training and that makes me want to REALLY reboot what I've been doing. That's not so easily done though because I belong to a training group that follows a specific training plan (Galloway) and while I want to run with my BRFs (Best Running Friends) I'm not sure that I want to follow the group plan and that makes life a little difficult. Maybe not so much if I push myself more in my weeknight workouts. We shall see. Plans have yet to really form.

I'm also trying to choose a fall race to focus my attention and training on. I've entered the Marine Corps Marathon lottery again with a bunch of friends and I would love to run it again but I know that's not the race for me to set a marathon PR. I will need one in early October where I can run solo and push myself OR I might just try again at Philadelphia, a race I know like the back of my hand and the course that I set my current PR on. I don't know what to do but I'm glad to be thinking about it all again.