Saturday, November 5, 2011

Race Report: Great Island 5k

For our anniversary weekend, Alan and I took a little road trip.  Well, first we delivered the kids to Nana Mary's house up in Milo [Thanks-have fun-see ya!], then we turned around and drove south.  It was a perfect fall day and we enjoyed the drive.  We found our hotel in Kittery pretty easily and scooted right on over to Portsmouth, NH, where we managed to navigate to Runner's Alley to window shop a bit before remembering-the-hard-way how to get onto the little island that is home to Newcastle,NH.  Once we found the right causeway, though, it all came back to us and we wandered around the lovely park a bit and took some pictures before hitting packet pickup.

After that, we checked in to our hotel and wandered around Kittery a little while trying to figure out where to eat.  We didn't do more than set foot inside the Kittery Trading Post long enough to observe that a wooden statue inside looks a lot like one of Alan's former grad school professors at UMaine, the late, great Welch Everman.  If you knew him, I think you'll agree, although the outfit is a bit off (he was a writer, not a mountain man):

Ultimately, we hit a drugstore for a few snacks and a leg sleeve for Alan (because his ankle was bothering him) and then got take-out 'cause we were almost to the point of shaky, we were so hungry.  We ate in our hotel room, did the night-before-a-race ritual of laying out our running clothes, and turned in.

The weather for the race--and our anniversary--could not have been any nicer.  We arrived in plenty of time to use the restrooms, finish our breakfast, drink some water, stretch, etc.  We embedded ourselves about halfway back in the pack--well in front of the strollers, but not really approaching the "real" competitors, waited for the horn and off we went.  This course is really pretty, the volunteers are abundant and amazing, the race organizer is a total pro and seems like a genuinely nice guy.  Alan started out at a pretty good clip and I stuck with him for almost the whole way.  We were wearing these signs on our backs, see, and people kept commenting on them:

"Hey! Happy Anniversary!" "Congratulations!"  "Awwww... that's sweet!"  "Good for you!"
I loved it!  I wasn't sure how much of it Alan could hear (he had his headphones in) so I felt obligated to respond on both our behalves, which meant uttering a lot of breathless "thank you!"s, but it was great.

When I finally gave in and walked a little I felt bad about splitting up.  I imagined that people behind us were running a little faster just to catch up enough to read the signs.  Of course, it was pretty amazing that they all passed us easily and disappeared into the distance....(!)  Anyway, I took a couple short walking breaks but managed to use the few little downhill stretches to make up some time and eventually caught back up.  I was pushing it the whole time--breathing hard--but my legs felt good.  Alan, however, was dealing with a lingering shin thing [technical term] leftover from his marathon the previous weekend, and said later that he should not have run Great Island at all.

Once again, we finished together and once again our names were not called by the announcer.  I think we have a family destiny to be the unmentioned finishers at every race.  We weren't announced at Big Lake--even though we crossed hand-in-hand.  Alan's name was not called at the Maine Marathon--even though he crossed the line alone.  My survivor mom didn't even get announced at the Komen for the Cure!  This was not the announcer's fault, however--I'm embarrassed to admit that a child of mine who shall not be named tripped over the microphone cord and unplugged it just as Mom was finishing.  It didn't happen at the Tufts 10k, either (and there was a picture snafu, but that's the next blogpost).  We're cursed, I tell you, cursed!

We also had hopes of actually winning one of the gazillion door prizes or maybe even getting some sort of mention on account of our anniversary (and our clever signs), but unfortunately we could not stay long enough to find out.  We did, however, enjoy the awesome post-race spread.  For a little race in a small town, they have a LOT of food.  And good food, at that.  There was plenty of water and bagels, cream cheese, donuts, homemade blueberry-banana bread, pretzels, bananas, pita chips & hummus....I can't even remember it all.  We visited, and ate, and I took a sort of baby-wipes-sponge-bath in the restroom, and then we were off to catch a train for the second half of our Anniversary Adventure.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why Not Have Pie for Breakfast?

Nana Mary brought us two big bags of apples a while back, and yesterday, I finally got around to making an apple pie with help from Jeremy and Madeline (James is in Boston with the Boy Scouts).  I peeled the apples, Jeremy operated the corer-slicer gadget, and Madeline mixed the spices.  We used a Betty Crocker pie crust mix with Asiago cheese added in. We also added raspberries and blackberries to our filling.  
We cut heart shapes in the top crust and slathered it with cream with cinnamon and nutmeg.  It was beautiful!  But I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped it in 3 layers of plastic wrap.  Oops.  
It is now in the freezer and ready to go to Vermont to be baked for Thanksgiving.

We were pretty enthusiastic and had lots of apple filling leftover.
So, this morning I thought, Why NOT have pie for breakfast?!
I used a smaller crock to bake our mini deep-dish pie.  

I experimented with the crust: Bisquick, butter, water and Asiago.

We repeated yesterday's decorating scheme.  It came out even more beautiful than the first one...

...and tastes delicious with tangy frozen yogurt!


And Now For Something Completely Different

I have a whole series of these but this is the best one.  I was driving [yes, driving] down Stillwater Avenue from Bangor to Orono.   At times I could see the entire arch of the rainbow, doubled at both ends.  To the right the sun was brilliantly illuminating the early fall foliage.  To the left the sky was a deep grey.  By the time I snapped the next picture there was hail hitting the windshield.  I thought it was freakin' amazing and kept taking pictures with my phone out the windshield, out my window, through the passenger window... When I arrived at soccer practice to pick up Jeremy there were some other opinions on the matter.  Practice had been abruptly abandoned so the team could seek shelter inside the school and several seven-year-olds were convinced they were near frostbite.  Drama!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Alan's Marathon Blog Post, Part 4

I realize that I haven’t really said much about the actual running up till now, but there really isn’t that much to say.  I don’t think it could have gone better for me for my first marathon.  I held my starting pace for about the first 6 miles or so, and I didn’t slow too badly throughout.  I ended with a 13:09 pace for the whole race, and I’ll certainly take that.  At the 20 mile mark I was 36 minutes faster than when I had done my 20 mile training run a few weeks earlier.  And like I said, I never had to walk, except for a few hills that I had planned on walking anyway and I didn’t walk at all until sometime after mile 12.  There was no “wall,” at least for me in this race (I imagine I’ll find out all about that someday, though).  It started to hurt some after 15 miles, mostly in my hips, and the last six were even tougher.  I wasn’t running all that fast over the last few miles, but I was running, and I never felt like I couldn’t go any further.  I finished in 5:44:13 (net time—it took me almost 2 minutes to get to the starting line after the gun went off).  I said going in that I would be happy with anything under 6 hours, and this was well below that.  808th out of 945.  I’ll take it.

The race started out as a giant mass of people (around 3,000 or so) but for me it got lonelier and lonelier as the day went on.  Going out from the starting line and around Back Cove in Portland, I could look ahead and see runners stretched out almost all the way around the cove.  It was pretty neat to watch.  And just little while later crossing the Martin Point Bridge, again it was crowded with runners.  Not too much further on I started seeing runners on the return leg of the half marathon, so it got even busier.  But around mile 6.5 I passed the half marathon turn around and things got pretty quiet.  Eventually I started seeing the returning marathoners and it picked up again for awhile, but when I turned into the loop at the far end of the course at mile 12, that was it.  It was just the few runners who were at around my pace.  Some would pass me.  I would pass some.  Sometimes we would move back and forth like that a few times.  But I think most of us were alone in our own little personal races from then on as we crossed the halfway point and started the long haul back to the finish.  As I entered Back Cove again on the way back some 3 hours later, it struck me just how deserted it was.  There were a couple of girls cheering runners on at the last turn onto the cove, and one last water station that was just a table covered with cups of water and a woman beginning to pack things up.  I could see a couple of runners maybe a quarter mile or so ahead, and that was it.  No other runners.  No crowds.  It was kind of peaceful, actually.  Still, I was glad to see Nancy coming up the other way to meet me.  I took off my headphones and listened as she chatted and I talked a little, but mostly I didn’t have the energy so I just enjoyed the company over the last mile.

Crossing that finish line felt great.  Getting that medal put around my neck was one of the more satisfying moments I’ve ever had.  

In the back of my mind over the years I had always thought that it would be great to be able to run a marathon someday, but since I never stuck with running for long periods of time it was never a concrete goal, just a “wow, that would be cool” kind of thought.  Back when I was in college I had this one night on the track in the field house where I was up to 8 miles and feeling pretty good.  I figured I’d go for 10, which would have been the longest I had ever run.  And then they closed the building for the night and kicked me out.  I never got back to that distance and 10 miles was the goal I had for a long, long time.  It was over 20 years before I hit that goal last year, and now here I am having finished my first marathon. 

Is it a little sick that I was looking up stuff about the Sugarloaf Marathon (May of 2012) the next day?  I made need to seek help.

Some post race notes:
·         I mentioned that the weather bothered me the most before the race started.  That’s not entirely true.  I think it was worse after I finished.  Running kept me nice and warm for the most part but I started shivering almost the moment I stopped.  The space blanket was nice, but the wind kept whipping it out behind me like a cape, which seriously undermined its effectiveness (even if it looked cool—in my head at least).   

    As painful as running a marathon can be, it’s absolutely nothing compared to the day after.  By the next night it was all I could do to stand up out of a chair, and going down stairs was a whole new experience in pain.  As I write this, 3 days after the race, I’m starting to feel something like normal.  A little stiff, but I actually did a couple of miles on the track today and it didn’t feel too bad.

·         While I did notice the crowd a lot more than I usually do, I still didn’t really pay a heck of a lot of attention to the signs people had.  There was one that I heard about after the fact that I really liked, though.  It said, “Because 26.3 miles would just be crazy.”  That sums it all up for me.

·         There were a few signs that I did notice, though.  It was great to come through the door back at home that evening to cheering kids and signs that said, “Yay!” and, “Woo Hoo!” and “You did it!” and, “Now go take a nap.”  The kids didn’t come along for this one.  Spending 6 hours in the cold and rain would have been too much, both for them and for Nancy.  Her head might have exploded.  But they were there in spirit.  

Alan's Marathon Blog Post, Part 3

In general, I had a pretty clear race plan all laid out.  I knew what I wanted for a pace, how often I wanted to eat, how I was going to stay hydrated, etc.  That all went out the window pretty quick, mostly because of the weather.  My plan for my pace stayed the same, but that was about it.  I planned on a 12 minute per mile pace to start, and I would try to maintain that for as long as I could.  There were a few small hills (that I swear looked bigger driving them than when I was running them—I suppose that’s better than the other way around) that I planned to walk whether I felt I needed to or not, just to conserve energy for later on.  I wasn’t going to break any records at that pace, but it isn’t as if I was ever going to do that anyway.  The race website said that course support would end at 2 p.m., 6 hours and 15 minutes after the starting gun, and as my pace got slower and slower as I increased my mileage during training, I started to wonder whether I could make that.  For those who expected to be slower than that, they recommended the 6 a.m. start, and I never wanted to do that.  For one thing, I’d need to be up at like 4 in the morning and that’s just not going to happen, but more than that I wanted to be in the big crowd of over 3,000 at the start.  That was a big part of the experience.  Plus, while I don’t have any problem watching the faster runners run away from me at the start (I’m used to that), having them all come flying by me (even though I had started almost two hours ahead of them) would just be too damned depressing to take.  The pace I had set for myself would get me to the finish in plenty of time, but only if I could sustain it.  I knew that I would slow throughout the day, and that was fine, but if I crashed late in the race and ended up walking a lot, then I might be in later than 2 p.m.  In the end, though, I was fine.  I did slow over the course of 26 miles, and I took a few short walk breaks on purpose on a handful of the hills, but I never “had” to walk like I would sometimes have to at the end of longer training runs.  In the last few miles of the race I went by several people who would run 15 or 20 seconds and then have to stop and walk for awhile.  I’ve been there, and it sucks, but that never happened to me during the race.  I wasn’t exactly sprinting by people, but I was running the whole way.

But, largely because of the weather, everything else changed.  I figured I’d be eating every 3 miles to keep my energy up.  It’s a little more often than the “every 45 minutes” that most of the running books recommend, but at my size I figured I burned calories a little faster, so eating more often couldn’t hurt.  The problem was that it was so wet and so cold I didn’t want to bother.  I didn’t want to take the gloves off to dig in my pouch for food and my fingers were too cold to work the way they were supposed to anyways.  I finally forced myself to eat after about 5 miles, and then about every 4 after that, nowheres near as often as I had intended.  Late in the race I had to make myself eat because my stomach was grumbling.  I was a little worried I might run out of gas, but luckily I didn’t.  (Note:  For a long time, my running fuel of choice was Fig Newtons, but I got pretty sick of those so now it’s Pop Tarts.  Not the healthiest of choices, but oh well.  Gu makes me gag every time I try to choke one down.  Besides, I like Pop Tarts, even if Nancy claims they aren’t really “food.”)

The other plan that went completely out the window was what and how much I was drinking.  For runs more than 5 miles, I always run with a Camelbak.  I even recently got a nice new Octane LR that has the lumbar reservoir, just for this race (I did get to try it out at the MDI Half, though).  The water reservoir sits down on your hips instead of riding up between your shoulders and it’s so much more comfortable on really long runs.  The plan was to run without it for the first 6 miles and when I saw Nancy at the first good spectator area I would get it from her.  But as I got closer to the 6 mile mark I just wasn’t needing it.  The rain and the cold was making it so I just wasn’t sweating, so as I went by Nancy and grabbed a Gatorade, I told her I would get it when I saw her again in 4 miles.  4 miles later, I told her not to bother.  I never ended up needing it, so that was a good 5 pounds that I didn’t need to lug around all day.  So I guess the lesson that comes out of all this for me is that it’s great to have a solid plan for the race, but when the race starts and circumstances change, be willing to keep what works and drop what doesn’t. 

As for Nancy, she was great and I wouldn’t have had the day I did if it wasn’t for her support all through the race.  We had it all marked out where she would meet me (and what I wanted from her at each spot).  She saw me off at the start (I caught a glimpse of her running along just after the starting line snapping pictures), met me 6 miles in, and again at 10.  Then she stayed where she was until I came back around a little after mile 16 and the hopped back to the first location where she met me a little after mile 20.  Then it was back to the start where she parked, put on her running shoes and came up the course to meet me at mile 25 and run the last mile in with me.  She had food, Gatorade, the Camelbak I didn’t end up needing, and much needed support all along the way. 

have Gatorade, will travel

 She also acted as “race reporter,” sending text messages to the kids (and our parents) back home at each checkpoint to let them know how I was doing.  And while she didn’t have to run all day, in some ways standing around in the rain was even worse because she could never get warm.  She’d go back to the van after I went running by, spend just enough time in it to start to dry off, then it was back out into the rain again.  She was a trooper.

self-portrait between sightings (watercolor)

Her being at each of those stops did more than just give me stuff, though.  It helped me to chunk the run into smaller pieces so it wouldn’t seem overwhelming.  I didn’t have to run 26 miles.  I only had to run 6.  And then 4.  And so on.  More than that, though, it was nice to have some moral support throughout the day.  When I run I tend to get in a little bubble with my headphones on and I ignore most of what is going on around me.  Nancy is completely different when she runs.  She likes to chat with people along the way, both runners and spectators.  She gets a big boost out of the crowd support.  I’m generally not like that, but I’ve discovered that running a marathon is different for me when it comes to that.  I even managed to smile and wave at a lot of the spectators.  What really helped, though, wasn’t just having a bunch of strangers shout encouragement to me while I was running, but having someone who actually knew me, telling me I was doing well and spurring me on.  It made a big difference.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Alan's Marathon Blog Post, Part 2

When I got up a little after 5 a.m. on race day, the ankle was better.  Still looked a little puffy, and if I poked in the right places (which didn’t seem like it would be an issue when I was running) it was still tender, but I didn’t notice anything when I walked around.  Occasionally I forgot completely about it.  And that was that.  I won’t say all the worry was for nothing because if I hadn’t gotten to the chiropractor and spent a lot of time with an ice pack on it, I might have been in trouble, but thankfully it ended up being a complete non issue during the race.  Never felt it even a little over the whole time.

So all I had to worry about now was that trivial 26.2 miles.  I won’t say I wasn’t nervous at all.  The lack of saliva I could manage as I choked down a little pre-race breakfast proves that wasn’t the case, but I think I was more anxious than nervous.  After all the build-up, I just wanted to be on my way and see if I could make it.  We left the hotel in the dark at 6:45 a.m.  One hour till the start.
kind of a "where's Waldo" shot in the hotel parking lot

putting on my bib under cover of the lift gate

The big story of the day was the weather.  Wet.  Cold and wet.  Windy, cold and wet.  And did I mention wet?  I had been obsessing about the weather forecast ever since the extended forecast on the Weather Channel’s website reached race day (so 9 days beforehand).  It couldn’t make up its mind.  One day it looked like it was going to be perfect.  Partly cloudy, 60 degrees and dry.  The next day it would say rain.  The day after that it was going to be dry again on race day.  They couldn’t make up their minds.  But as the day of the race got closer and closer, it settled more consistently on rainy, and that was what the race was like, consistently rainy. 

It was worst waiting for the start.  There was no way to warm up and stretch and do all the other things you needed to do to get ready.  Even the port-a-potties were complicated by it.  They were set up in two rows, one on either side of a small parking lot.  The problem was that there was a slope to the parking lot.  The ones on the high side of the lot were fine, but those on the low side were sitting in a good 3 inches of water.  At least I hope it was just water.  I lined up for the port-a-potties on the upslope just in case.

And then we were off.  
crossing the starting mat

No more worrying about whether I was going to be healthy, or whether my foot was going to be okay for the race, or about what the weather was going to do.  Finally I could just run and see if I could do it. 

As bad as the weather was, though, it never really bothered me during the race.  It was only during the first mile or so that I felt its effects in a bad way.  Like I said, milling around in the rain at the start didn’t let us warm up or stretch, so I was stiff and cold for the first mile or so until the blood got flowing.  After that, as crazy as it sounds, I kind of liked the weather.  I’m not sure I would have done as well as I ended up doing if it hadn’t been for it.  I could have done without the headwind that came up from time to time, and the rain was a little heavy a few times, but what it did was keep me nice and cool.  At 6’3” and 225 lbs., I’m not built for running in the heat and I have a hard time staying hydrated.  I’ve gone for long runs where I’ve weighed myself before and after and I’ll be 5 lbs. lighter at the end, even though I was drinking regularly from my Camelbak the whole time and took in 5 lbs. of water during the run.  So, in a way, this weather was ideal for me.  I never overheated, and I never got dehydrated.  I started the race wearing a rain jacket (a nice L.L. Bean shell—much more stylish than the garbage bag ponchos that it seemed like at least a third of the runners were wearing) and gloves.  I was warmed up enough by 8 miles or so to take off the gloves (they were soaked through so they didn’t do me much good by then anyway) and left both them and the jacket with Nancy at mile 10.  After that I was fine in just a sleeveless running shirt. 

The rain didn’t even bother me mentally, and it could have.  If I had gotten down about the weather, or thought too much about how hard it might make the race (or whether it would keep me from finishing at all), I think I would have been sunk.  So much of long distance running is mental.  If I had let the weather get me down, it could have ruined me.  A couple of things helped it go the other way.  One was early in the race, just a few miles in.  I was running next to several other people (later in the race, I would be much, much more alone) and they started joking about the rain.  It seems like such a little thing, but I think if I had been next to a group of people bitching about the rain, the day might have gone a lot differently.  The other thing was my playlist on my mp3 player.  I forget exactly where and when it was, but it couldn’t have been more than a third of the way into the race.  The skies really opened up.  On a day that was wet almost from beginning to end, this was the wettest part.  And just at that moment, with the rain pouring down and the headwind picking up, Sheryl Crow’s “Soak up the Sun” starts coming through my headphones.  All I could do was tip my head back, hold my arms out, and laugh.  From then on, the weather was nothing.  It would end up changing the way I did some things, but it wasn’t going to bother me.

Alan's Marathon Blog Post, Part 1

[It took running a marathon to get Alan to write on the blog, and then he wrote so much I decided to "chunk it" for easier consumption.  Other than that, all I've done is throw in a picture or two.]

Surprisingly, I wasn’t really all that nervous the morning of the race.  I had actually been more worried in the days leading up to it.  Not so much about the race itself, though.  I felt I was about as ready as I could be for it.  I’d gotten my 20 miler in three weeks before.  It wasn’t as fast as I had hoped it would be by about half an hour, but it was actually my second attempt in just 6 days to make that distance.  The first time I came up short at 16 miles because my knee was hurting and I didn’t want to push it, so to hit my 20 miler only six days later at any pace was fine as far as I was concerned.  And then I bounced back from that quickly enough to do the MDI Half the following weekend and have a new PR for that distance.  So after tapering over the following two weeks, I was nice and rested and in a pretty good place as far as my training was concerned.  On top of all that, I broke 600 miles for the year in my last short run before the marathon.  There was no telling what might happen on race day, but there really wasn’t a hell of a lot more I could have done to get ready for it, and I didn’t feel stressed.

I also managed to fight off the cold that blew through our house the week after the MDI Half.  Two of the kids and Nancy all spent time home sick, and I could feel the telltale stuffy nose and scratchy throat that almost always leads to a major cold for me.  I was sure I was doomed.  It’s been my pattern over the last year or so.  I stay healthy all through the training cycle and then get sick right before the race.  I had a miserable cold for the two weeks leading up to the MDI Half in 2010 (my first ever half marathon).  It broke just a couple of days before the race, but I was still wrung out on race day and was a good 15 minutes slower than my goal pace.  Almost exactly the same thing happened in May this year at the Big Lake Half, and I ended with almost exactly the same time as last year’s MDI.  This year’s MDI was the exception to that.  For a change I was perfectly healthy and it showed in the PR.  Now, though, I felt like I was going to pay for that bit of good luck and be miserable for the big race I’d been training for for the past five months.  If a bad cold could lay me up the way it did before those two half marathons, how bad would it be to run twice that distance (and to be going 6.2 miles longer than I had ever run in my life).  In the end, though, I got lucky.  I spent a week pumping myself full of vitamin C, sucking on those god-awful tasting zinc lozenges, and staying as far away as I could from the rest of the family.  I felt a little guilty every time I told my kids to get away from me because I didn’t want them to breathe on me, but eventually the scratchy throat and stuffed up nose went away.  A week ‘till the race and I was feeling fine.

It couldn’t last, though, as Murphy would say.  Something had to go wrong, and it did.  I went to bed the Wednesday before the race feeling fine, and woke up Thursday morning with my left foot stiff and hurting.  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve been running steadily for almost two years, 1100 miles total, 3 half marathons and a handful of 5 to 10k races and during all that I managed to avoid injury.  Now, 3 days before running my first marathon, I somehow managed to hurt myself . . . IN MY SLEEP.  I know that when you get older you become more prone to injury, but isn’t that pushing it a bit? 

I did my final short run of 3 miles that morning despite the soreness in my foot and was reassured because it didn’t bother me while I was running.  It was side to side motion that hurt and since the whole point of a race it to move forward, I figured there was hope, at least.  But I also knew that there is a big difference between running 3 miles and running 26.2 miles, so I spent much of the day icing the foot, trying to stretch whatever I could stretch, calling the chiropractor for an emergency appointment, grumbling about it when I couldn’t get one, and generally convincing myself that I was completely screwed. 

On Friday I finally managed to get in on a cancellation at the chiropractor, and he spent a long time working on the foot trying to get things to straighten out.  There turned out to be three different bones that had slipped out of place (the cuboid, the calcaneous and one other whose name I forget) and they didn’t want to go back where they belonged.  At one point he was lifting my ankle a foot or so above the table and slamming it down hard to try to get the bones to shift.  Eventually they did, but I was still not all that optimistic about the marathon now just two days away.  Lots of ice and elevation lay in my immediate future.

Come Saturday, Nancy and I drove to Portland to pick up my race packet and to spend the night before the race in a hotel, and while my foot was a little better, it was far from perfect.  All around the ankle bone was visibly swollen (I made sure that Nancy got a good look at it so that she could verify that I wasn’t making up some excuse in case I couldn’t finish the race).  I tried not to let it ruin the experience, though.  We wandered around the race expo.  Nancy bought a couple of things from the vendors, and I got a rub down from the volunteer massage therapists set up there.  We had a nice lunch at the aptly named Full Belly Deli, and I carbo-loaded later that night on pancakes and hash browns at Denny’s.  But my mind kept coming back to the way my ankle felt which might have been a little better, but was far from perfect.  One last ice down and then it was time to get some sleep. 

pickle-laden sandwich at Full Belly Deli

Friday, October 7, 2011

He Did It!

Let it be known throughout the blogosphere:

Alan ran his first Full Marathon!

He did the Maine Marathon on Sunday, October 2nd, a rainy, wet, sopping, drenching, soggy, did I mention wet? day.

I'm so darned proud of my hubby.  He worked really hard to get here and had so many ups and downs along the way.  It's been an adventure.  I'm so lucky to have him inspiring me and supporting me in my running efforts and it's great to see him accomplish something so huge.

Beware: Alan wrote a novel about it and we will be subjecting you to it over the next few posts!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekend Report (Part 3 of 3): Komen for the Cure

And now for a post about the slowest and yet most inspiring run of my life.

I was planning to put together a little video because there are just so many pictures from this very cool event and they all describe it so much better than I can with words...but I haven't had much time on the PC at home and I just don't have the oomph for it now (plus Emilie's way better at that sort of thing...). 
But I've GOT to get some pictures up here and I NEED to tell you a little about them.

I took a bunch of pictures with my phone while we were hanging around in the mob scene that was the Komen starting area at the Bangor Waterfront.  Here I am with Mom.  She's all decked out in her "Survivor" gear. 

Mum agreed to walk the Komen for her friend, Beth (my friend Emilie's mom), who was diagnosed with cancer, beat it and took up running all in 2011 (yes, they are an entire family of over-achievers!).  Mom feels funny about her survivor status because she had it pretty easy as breast cancer bouts go and it was a long time ago now.  The way I see it, she's the poster girl for the way things ought to be: if anyone has to get this vile thing, it should be caught super early and eradicated swiftly and thoroughly.  And there's certainly no shame in getting lucky.

So anyway...I convinced Mum to walk the 5k after Emilie convinced me to run it, even though it just happened to land on the day after the MDI Half Marathon. While that wasn't very convenient timing for me, I told myself "Hey: when has cancer ever been convenient for anyone, right? Suck it up, Nancy." and emailed Emilie that I'd do it. As soon as I was on board, I figured Madeline would want to do, but I was surprised how excited James was about it.

Here, Jeremy is getting a pink ribbon temporary tattoo and you can see my left sleeve, memorializing Linda Scott, Great Aunt Louise and Nana Madeline Dane (my right sleeve honored survivors Mom, Betty, Beth and Laurie). 

Madeline is sporting a pink bear on her hat and a Team Beth sign:

I love this classic shot of Emilie getting one of her classic shots (plus the whole sea of pink):

Here I am with James, who was sporting a very manly "real men wear pink" wristband:

Emilie, our friend, Doug, and I all stayed with Beth as sort of her entourage (and taking it easy since we'd just run MDI).  Mum walked with another woman who was there to support Beth and she was a wonderful motivator, pushing Mum's pace the whole way.  Jeremy spectated with Alan.  Here's Madeline's finish:

And Beth's, hand-in-hand with Emilie (Doug's behind them):

Alan totally missed me crossing the finish line (dude!), but did manage to spot two of his cousins:

The reason why he missed me is because Emilie gave me her camera at the end and I ran ahead to take nausea-inducing footage of Beth's big finish.  You can view it (as part of one of her awesome photo-video-movies) here.  That will give you the real feel of the event.

I know I'm not doing this blogpost justice, so I'll just wrap up by saying it was an awesome event and I'm so glad I did it.  The run itself was fun and relaxing--it actually felt good to loosen up a little after the Half--although by the afternoon I was pretty stiff and sore and I swear, I get super stoopid when I'm running-tired. I could not string two intelligible thoughts together the next day!  Emotionally, it felt really good to celebrate the survivors I know and I managed to avoid getting sappy about it, which is good because otherwise I would have gotten all verklempt and been a big mess.  And nobody wants to see that! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weekend Report (Part 2 of 3): MDI Half Marathon 2011

Saturday, September 17th
When we dragged ourselves out of bed in the wee small hours it was definitely nippy, but it proved to be a gorgeous day with blue cloudless skies, and crisp clear air...a most exquisite early fall Saturday in Maine. 
Much of the day turned out as planned (or better).  We arrived at the starting line appropriately equipped and on time for the horn (barely, in my case, but it meant I could skip the pit stop later).  The Nanas managed navigation and timing such that they met us each at several points on the course (including the crucial first stop where they handed us our camelbaks), didn't lose or damage either of the kids, and got everyone back to the Y in time to see us finish.  Mum even got some pictures.  Here I am swooping in for a hug from Jeremy at the top of Eagle Lake. 

I only paused long enough to get my headphones tangled up and to correct Mum when she mistakenly estimated that Alan would be back at the top of the lake in approximately 8 minutes.  We were four minutes apart at that point so her calculation would have him doing 6 miles in about 12 minutes.  [It turns out, he had been trying to help her determine how far behind him I would eventually be, but no matter.]   Here's Alan having completed said circuit (a reasonable amount of time later).

Alan just after mile 10
Alan--considering this just another training run, and part of his taper at that--had planned to take it fairly slow ("but not shingles slow" because that would just be embarrassing).   His final time was 2:33:02, a new PR for him (compared to 2:46:59 last year, and 2:47:57 at Big Lake).  He wasn't actually complaining about the finisher's "prize" when this picture was taken, but it does look that way, and the caption expresses our general feelings on the matter.
A freakin' TRAVEL MUG??!!  Where's my #@&#% medal?!?!
I knew I'd be faster than last year, but didn't think I'd be in a position to beat my time from May, so I was shooting for 2:50:00 and was going to be happy as long as I was under 3 hours.  This is me feeling pretty darn good about my own PR of 2:43:17 (compared to Big Lake's 2:47:56 and last year's sad, slow, shingly 3:13:13).
Nancy triumphant!  (and ready for a shower!)

Here we are with our support crew and Emilie-the-Great, who looks like a rock star and ran like one, too.  Note that SHE has a medal....

Medals vs Mugs

After polling registrants a couple months back as to whether we'd like an engraved travel mug in place of a medal, the race organizers decided to offer a choice of a mug or a medal.  That sounds reasonable, but unfortunately they grossly miscalculated how many people would want the hardware and so RAN OUT OF MEDALS by the time the back-of-the-packers arrived (you know, the people who are less likely to have an excess of race bling and more likely to care about it).  While I wish I had a medal, I really wish the organizers had been gutsier about the whole thing.  They should have picked one item, made it a quality item, and presented it with style.  The finisher's prize is a mug?  OK, then make it a darned nice mug, put a ribbon on the handle and hang it around my neck.  I'm serious! And make sure it says that I completed the race, instead of looking like something anyone could buy at a fundraiser and using it to advertise the store that sponsored them.  While I applaud efforts to be unique and interesting, this did not cut it.  I hope very much not ever again to bust my butt for 13.1 miles to be handed [I am not exaggerating here] A WHITE CARDBOARD BOX that says "MADE IN CHINA".  Unless I'm in China, in which case that last part would be fine.  But there better be something cool inside.

Other races have truly unique prizes:
  • The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon  medal has a removable ribbon, a giant refrigerator magnet on the back and is shaped like a surfboard with a shark bite taken out of it that doubles as a bottle opener. 
  • There are companies like this one devoted to creating unique medals.
  • And, it doesn't even have to be a medal.  Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival gives out cowbells and I heard of another race that gives out small pieces of granite on a ribbon [hello? pink granite would represent Acadia nicely.]
Also, Alan was disappointed to be fourth in line for a post-race rubdown when they announced they only had time for two more people.  But other than that, everything was really well organized, the course was pristine and magnificent, and everyone was incredibly nice as always.  For all my razzing about the mugs, we know this race is special: there's nothing quite like it anywhere else and we're truly fortunate to experience it. 

Afterward, we drove around aimlessly for a bit hoping to find a shady spot with picnic tables, then gave up and headed back into Bar Harbor where our minivan circled like a giant silver vulture looking for a parking space.  Finally, we landed on the green (conveniently near the public restrooms) and enjoyed a lovely picnic.  We stuffed our faces, watched the boats in the harbor and even had a visit from a very friendly and trusting little bird that was like something out of a partially-animated, G-rated movie.

"Feed the birds...tuppence a bag..."

It even agreed to be passed around...

...and pecked at Alan's ankle...
...and Madeline's sparkly nailpolish.

So a good day was had by all and at this point all I had to do was figure out how to get up off the grass. 
Oh yeah, and run a 5k the next morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Report (part 1 of 3): On Pins and Needles

Friday, September 16th

After months of tending the countdown calendar on my cubicle wall, I arrived at work dressed in jeans and last year's MDI Half Marathon technical tee and slid the ominous number "1" into its little laminated pocket.

until we run the
MDI Half Marathon

I worked a few hours, set my vacation responder to "on", then zipped home to to make a double batch of my new favorite snack--homemade granola bars with dark chocolate and dried cherries [recipe coming soon, I promise, Anne-Marie!].  Then I finished packing my clothes [read: finally decided what to wear for the race], the cooler (coldcuts, condiments, water, gatorade and coke), the green bag full of breakfast stuff (pop tarts, oatmeal, raisin bread & bananas), the picnic basket (plates, napkins, breads, snacks), and the red bag (camelbak parts and cowbells). At some point Nana Mary arrived (with more poptarts, cinnamon buns, brownies, cheese and crackers) and we eventually got all three kids home from school and packed and into the car and over to Mom and Dad's.  We left James there, to spend the night with Gumpy and help push the train in the Charleston Bicentennial Parade, and picked up Nana Lois.  At last six of us were off to Hancock where Alan and I unceremoniously deposited the two kids, two nanas and all our stuff, grabbed a couple of over-sized brownies, and dashed off to the island*. 

Somewhere around Lamoine I had a few moments of internet connection on my phone and updated my facebook status.  Alan asked "so how do you feel?". When I hesitated, he said "I'm guessing you're feeling better than you did last year?".  Hell, yeah!  For the past two weeks I've been a little down on myself for not feeling as prepared as I'd like to be.  I had a really great half in May with good reason: I'd worked hard, plus I was healthy and mentally prepared, too.  But this summer, I didn't really do a lot of the training I meant to do.  I did almost everything on my plan for running, but did virtually nothing else--no weights, no wii, no cross-training whatsoever.  On the other hand, boy, does it feel good to be gearing up for this race again and not have shingles!   So, I've been looking at this year's MDI Half as "the great do-over".  Conditions are really pretty much the same as last year in terms of my overall fitness (although I wish I were improved), the one real difference being that I'm not sick: I don't have nerve pain from my ass to my ankle and I have been sleeping through the night like a normal person.  Crazy!  [Side note: last year a week before this race our friend, Sue, supported me while I was barely able to stand with chills, fatigue and nerve pain, watching my kids run the DI Pie in the Sky fun run and telling me that there would be other chances to run a half marathon.  This year, a week ago, I watched my kids run (adorned in pie-winning costumes!) and then ran the 5k with Sue's husband, Bucky and their dog, Cricket.  What a happy difference!]

We arrived at packet pick-up with time to spare before dinner, so when an acupuncturist asked if we wanted free mini-sessions we shrugged and said "sure!".  Neither one of us had ever tried acupuncture, but we love our chiropractor and I didn't feel like it a would be a big stretch.  Next thing we knew, I was face down on a table with tiny needles in my neck, my lower back and one leg while Alan was draped in a chair with needles in his back and a space blanket draped over him while strangers milled around picking up their packets and talking about "jogglers". 

Is that Alan or a giant baked potato??

Actually, I found the whole thing very relaxing.  The needles only prickled when they were being inserted or moved and she managed to calm down a nasty knot in my neck and help relax the issue I've been having with my achilles.  Alan took a little video of a needle in my ankle wobbling in rythmn to my pulse. Weird. Right afterwards I was a little chilly and worried that I'd tighten up again, but we donned our fleece jackets and walked to dinner so it wasn't an issue.

We turned straight to the pasta menu at Poor Boy's Gourmet.  We'd never been there but it lived up to its internet reputation nicely--excellent food, very nice people and very reasonably priced.  We enjoyed huge bowls of pasta with delicious sauces on their pleasant, mostly-enclosed porch--again, I was afraid I'd be cold, but wasn't--and listened in to some other runners dining at the next table.

I had dessert--white chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust and raspberry chambord sauce.  Mmmmmmm...

By then I was nicely stuffed, relaxed and ready to go.  We drove back to the cottage, where we reviewed the plans for the morning with Mum and Mary.  I took a Tylenol PM and Alan set his alarm for 5:30am. 

*Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, Mt. Cadillac, Bar Harbor, Reel Pizza, Little Notch Bakery, Seawall, Blackwoods, Jordan Pond House, Wonderland, the mice from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and so much more.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Adventure

[That's Jeremy's title for what happened Friday afternoon at Choir Camp.  And what follows is our joint rendition of that story.]
Friday was the last of five days of singing and fun with 35 kids at our beloved St. Johns.
All had been going well...when suddenly: SLAM! a door was accidentally closed on Jeremy's fingers!

"OPEN THE DOOR!!!" Jeremy yelled. 

[more happened at church: the door was opened, the room was cleared of extraneous children, Dr. Creaser made a makeshift splint, freezer pops were applied and a very nice camp mom, Michaelene, sat with Jeremy and kept him company until I arrived....but Jeremy doesn't think that part is interesting.]

Flash forward to McDonald's where we got a snack and a nice lady gave Jeremy an "ice glove" to replace the now-melted freezer pops [not THAT's interesting...!].

Then we went to Dr. Martin's office, where Jo-Jo the Monkey sits, and Jeremy was told he needed X-Rays. [Cool!]

The X-Ray technician was very nice and Jo-Jo got some X-Rays too [but didn't actually make it into the shot].

[Mom got to watch from the tech room which was really neat.]

Here are the actual images on the computer screen:

Verdict from the Doctor?  No Fractures.  Hooray!!!
And Jeremy made it back to "full contact choir camp" just in time to robe up and sing the Evensong.

At the reception, Jeremy got hit by a flying grape and bonked his head on a railing.  Ouch! 
Later on, we all went to Denny's and had a very nice dinner, after which Jeremy fell down in the parking lot and added a scraped elbow, another bonked head, and butt pains to the injury list. 
We all agreed that he won the contest for most hurt that day.

  THE END!!!