Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Mountain Marathon, Part 2

And now for Part 2 of 
The Really Long-Winded [pun intended] Race Report:
(probably of interest only to other runners, but too bad, Mom, you have to read it anyway)

First meet-up with our support crew, around mile 6: we're still together and surrounded by other runners (half marathoners are passing us in the other direction).

Miles 8-13
We didn't see our crew at the second meet-up (around mile 10) but I was so jazzed by the scenic course and the runners passing me on their way back and the awesome volunteers that I barely even noticed.  There was even a little band of 3 people by a B&B playing pots & pans and a gong.  It was fun and there were still people coming toward me and we were smiling and waving at each other and sharing words of encouragement.  It wasn't until we passed several other spots where the gang could have been but wasn't, and I started to catch up to Alan, that I got concerned because I suspected he was relying on them more for supplies than I was.  I realize now that this is also when the bulk of the other marathoners were done passing us on their return trip.  After a couple texts and a breathy phone call to Madeline, I determined that the gang had gotten confused: they thought they had missed us at 10 miles and therefore headed to the turn-around point.  I instructed them to STAY THERE and then caught up with Alan to assure him his supplies were less than a mile away.  I had passed mile 12 at 17 minutes ahead of pace and still felt pretty good.  We had another check-in from Al, the friendly "sweep" who had been following at a respectful distance so he and Alan got introduced.  We met up with Helen et al, grabbed what we needed, made a U-turn and crossed the mats at the halfway mark.   Helen would only confirm that I was 5 minutes ahead of pace, which momentarily confused me but I realized soon after leaving her that she was looking at Alan's pacing strategy, not mine.

Alan and Al on opposite sides of the U-turn (13.1 mark in the background)

Sam (how cute is she?!), Jeremy, Madeline, and Rich showing  their support
(Helen should be in this but she's the one who took the pictures)

 Miles 13-15
I confirmed my pace at the next mile marker and felt immediately better, but I was already starting to slow down and the necessary stop at a port-a-potty lopped a chunk off my lead.  It was right next to a water stop and the volunteers all cheered for me AND for Al before amiably packing things up.  Al rode next to me for a bit when I started running again.  I think this was the last time I started running after a stop without consciously telling myself to run, not walk.  I passed the B&B band again but it was sort of ethereal this time because it was just them and me and the wind and a nice downhill stretch that I was not able to fully take advantage of.  I knew I was slowing down, but I concentrated on keeping my walking to a minimum, and remembering to fuel on schedule.

Miles 15-19
With the rest of the runners out of the way, the gang had an easier time meeting up with us.  They would park somewhere, wait for us, scream, cheer, snap photos, and give us supplies, then pull ahead a couple miles to another convenient spot along the way.

How can you not be motivated by this?
The kids all had posters which got progressively more colorful every time we saw them.  My childhood nickname was NESsie (as in the famous Scottish monster, similar to "Champ" who is rumored to occupy Lake Champlain) so, naturally, there were sea monsters.  Alan, AKA"Big Red" was portrayed as a very cool cartoon character.  And Sam's sign read "GO ZIPPY BANANAFANNY!" referencing a certain Captain Underpants book in which Professor Poopypants plots to change everyone's name. According to the chart, we become the Bananafanny family and ironically, my name becomes "Zippy".  I can't remember what Alan's is supposed to be, but I've dubbed him "Squeaky" because for the first mile or so I thought some very enthusiastic squirrel was cheering for us but it turned out to be his knee sleeves rubbing together.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Green Mountain Marathon, Part 1

We did it, folks: Alan's second and my first ever marathon!

The facts:
We finished!
No, really: we both finished! (even though my name was missing from the preliminary results at first!)
We finished together (not quite what Alan had in mind, but it was nice to have company the last 8 miles or so).
We finished in under 6 hours...barely.
The race organizers and volunteers were awesome, as were all our family members who pitched in to make the whole weekend happen for us.

And now for Part 1 of 
The Really Long-Winded [pun intended] Race Report:
(probably of interest only to other runners, but too bad, Mom, you have to read it anyway)

Friday, we yanked Madeline and Jeremy out of school at noon (James stayed home with Nana Mary because he had a X-Country meet on Saturday) and drove to Vermont.  The trip was uneventful except for the flurries we encountered in Bethlehem, NH.  Actual white on the White Mountains kinda freaked out these runners a little.  Saturday, we had a lovely breakfast (including bacon*) and then we all went into Burlington to pick up our race packets and shop a little before splitting up.  Rich stayed home to hang out with the kids while Helen and Alan and I went to the island to drive the course.  The weather was gorgeous and the colors were still largely brilliant and the whole area was incredibly picturesque.  There were farms and vineyards and cabins and estates. We saw cows and horses, geese and ducks, sheep and pigs, and hunters with elaborate blinds and decoys. On one stretch of the course there's a veritable city of brightly painted birdhouses.  On another stretch there's an entire field of "farm fresh fuel"--sunflowers gone by now, but how brilliant they must have been in full bloom!  After getting a thorough understanding of the roads on and around the course, we headed back down to S. Burlington for our pre-race breakfast-for-dinner at Denny's (with more bacon, of course).

Race day
Sunday morning we got up early and got on the road only a little behind schedule.  Getting there was easy since we knew where we were going.  The main parking lot was full so we were directed a little ways up the road, to a farm stand/petting zoo.  It was cold and windy in an exhilarating, crowd-bonding kind of way.  Everyone was hopping around like they had to pee.  Of course, people do that anyway in the porta-potty line, which is where we were once we arrived until about 10 minutes before the start. Sadly, while waiting in line, we noticed two very small, very pink, very dead animals on the ground that made me sad and were kinda freaking out a couple girls behind us.  I picked them up with a a large leaf (and wearing gloves) and deposited them next to a fence.  A man who worked there (who called Willy, the donkey, for his breakfast, eliciting a loud bray, and got a kiss from him) told me they were newborn bunnies and said something about how they let the rabbits out to roam....  I didn't catch whether the dead bunnies were an unwanted side-effect or population control.  Alan cared only that he now has proof that I'm perfectly capable of removing dead rodents from our house.  Helen and co arrived just as we got to the front of the line and dutifully started photo-documenting.

post-potty, but pre-race: ready to go!

Miles 0-3
At the start, Alan and I positioned ourselves about 3/4 of the way back in the crowd, tried to shake off the nerves, shared a kiss, and we were off!  Helen thought we'd be all the way at the back so she kinda missed us with the camera.  We chatted a bit through the first mile, mostly commenting on some interesting wardrobe choices [I really wish I had a picture of the two gals in matching running tights that were so unfortunately unattractive (the pants, not the gals).  Not only were they thin enough that one lady's polka-dot underwear showed through, but the seams--white stitching on black pants--made a design that is best described as the pictorial version of "place panty-shield here".  We also noted that, clearly, a lot of people didn't get their chance at the porta-potties at the start, because every now and then someone would suddenly turn 90 degrees right or left to make a beeline for a random potty.  Or tree.  Or--in at least two cases--to "water the corn stalks".  Actual fact turned new euphemism. [No Mom, this isn't the type of thing I'm usually referring to when I say that "runners enjoy a special, close-knit community", although it does seem to apply...].

Miles 3-8
During the first third of the race I felt really good.  The air was brisk but the wind was mostly behind us and I was dressed appropriately; I kept a good pace.  I had a laminated pacing sheet with me, tied to my belt pouch so I wouldn't lose it, that I dutifully referenced at every mile.  I'd consult my watch as I passed the marker, then compare the number to the one on my chart.  I had mapped it all out for a 13:30 pace the whole way which would get me to the finish in a little under 6 hours.  My strategy--which I shared with the nice fellow on the bicycle assigned to bring up the rear--was to be as much ahead of pace as possible through 15 miles or so, "banking' whatever time I could before dipping into it when my pace started to crash later.  The early miles were more like 11s so my plan was working well.  I even pulled ahead of Alan briefly on a nice downhill stretch that was just too good to pass up (and I knew he'd catch up on my next walking/snack break).  My chart also had the locations where "the gang" (my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and Jeremy & Madeline) was going to be meeting us and notes about when I should be fueling (every 40 minutes).  My mood was great and I enjoyed the scenery (in spite of weather that markedly dampened the landscape), and the people.  I had 6 hours of music on my mp3, but the race technically didn't allow headphones and I wasn't really missing it, so I kept it in my belt pouch, figuring I would pull it out later, when things got lonely and I needed motivation.


The prettiest housing development ever.

*Our friend Anne-Marie (reputedly a former vegetarian who came back for bacon) had a pre-marathon anxiety dream on our behalf in which she attempted to make us breakfast but only cooked 5 slices of bacon for 10 people, got annoyed with herself, and went back to bed!  In her honor, I made every effort to alleviate any real or perceived bacon deficit throughout the weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Let's Pretend This Has Been Happening All Along

I haven't blogged in ages, but instead of trying to catch up or make lame excuses, I'm just going to reference this book made of Awesome by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) and move on. You need to read her (as long as you're not at work and won't be offended by prevalent use of the f-word. And aren't drinking something you don't want to come out your nose. Seriously. Don't blame me if that Margarita stings on the way out. Did you check out her blog yet?  I doubt it because if you did you probably didn't bother to come back here.  Or if you did, it's a month later and you suddenly remembered who you have to thank for exposing you to Jenny's wacky, thinky, dark humor. Either way, I hope you ordered her book. And another margarita.).
So I finally met my new primary care physician (to whom I was assigned when my previous one left the practice like, I dunno...a year ago??) and had a long-overdue physical. [Wow, you are so clicking on the Bloggess' link again aren't you? Totally don't blame you.]  my new doctor is nice, seemed attentive, and was delighted to have an easy patient (Smoker? No. Diabetes? No. Hallucinations involving giant rabbits? No. And so on...).  She's not a runner so she didn't have much to say for or against the marathon I'm supposed to be training for [more on that later].  I did mention that I was pretty sure my iron was low again so she sent me to the lab and said she might call in a couple days if anything showed up.
I think I was first on the call list the next morning.
I imagine the answering machine message was something to the effect of
"Your iron is extremely low.  Like, REALLY low.  Like, maybe you're not answering the phone because you fainted.  So...start popping iron pills like candy,OK?  Now please.  Or as soon as you're done fainting.  Whichever's easier.  Maybe snack on an iron bar or two between meals? Tell us how that goes." 
I'm sure it was just like that.

So I'm back on iron pills 3 times a day (with meals, 'cause I've learned the hard way that taking them on an empty stomach with an OJ chaser--as recommended by the medical professionals/lab nerds who never have to follow their own advice--is really not worthwhile since it induces massive stomach pains) and hoping this will magically make me live up to my Captain Underpants nickname:

Using the first letter of your first name:
N = "Zippy" 

[Do I have to tell them that our last name is "Bananafanny"? No?  Oh good. Thanks.]

Because I need some zip in order to finish 26.2 miles in under 6 hours.  See, since I've been blogging about this all summer (see title of this post), you know that Alan and I are planning to run the Green Mountain Marathon in October.  Yeah, I still can't believe I might actually do this.  Then again, since some of my training runs have been about as substantial as my summer blog posts, I might not.

Here's the thing:  I'm behind on my training runs--the longest I've managed is 15 miles--and I've done pathetically little cross-training.  Alan's behind too but I'm confident he'll do fine.  So we've been waffling a bit and hadn't actually registered until last night when Alan looked online and determined that registration is capped at 700 and they were at 686.  Yikes! Time to commit!  There's a Full marathon, and a Half, and they allow you to switch from one to the other up until about a week out (for a fee).  This has been my safety net all along; I knew I could drop down to the half.  But then we did the math and I ended up registering for the half with the option to bump up if I feel I can handle it.  I don't mind spending more to do the real deal, but it would just add insult to injury to pay extra to wimp out. I haven't given up yet, but I really need to stay on target for the next five weeks.
That didn't come out right.  I meant to say


Holy bananafannies! So here's the plan:

MDI Half Marathon next Saturday [remember when THAT was a huge big deal? The thing is, it won't be as easy as it should be at this late stage...]
18 and 20 mile runs the following two weekends (simple, right?)
Eat my Wheaties.

I also need to keep my job and keep on top of all the kids' extra-curriculars and keep taking my iron pills and keep running my lines for the play I'm in later this month....

Oh yeah: and keep blogging.  Which shouldn't be hard 'cause I've been doing that all along, of course.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good Intentions Do Not Keep a Blog Going But I'm Trying To Make Up For That A Little By Finally Posting This Recipe

Just in case you didn't notice, I've been super lame about blogging.  As in, I haven't.  Since October.  Wow, that is really pathetic.  Oddly enough, wanting to blog, meaning to blog, and composing blog posts in my head are all things that are helpful to a blogger, but do not in fact necessarily result in any actually blogging.  Who knew?

So I've taken another inadvertent hiatus with no dramatic reasons behind it.  The Marks family is doing fine and keeping busy as usual. It's just been the same old underlying problem of not actually scheduling time to blog.  Plus, we don't have any good pictures of anything since October 2nd.  Wasn't that the day Alan ran his first ever full marathon? you ask.  Why yes it was!  It also rained.  A lot.  And the camera got wet.  A lot.  And it died. Just once, but very thoroughly.  So we've been limited to whatever our phones can capture and that makes me unexcited about documenting events because the pix are just lame (mostly because there's a tangible delay between when you hit the little shutter icon and when the fake shutter sound--and the actual taking of the picture--occurs) and not having good pictures has made me unexcited about blogging.

But never mind that for now.

For Lent, I have promised myself that I will complete some sort of correspondence every day (and also that I will not eat fast food for lunch but that's another post altogether, mostly about the fact that I am not giving up Coke this year. Go ahead: call me a wuss, but I think I'm doing my family a favor).  So far, I have written one long-overdue thank you note and composed an article for a newsletter.  Today I am blogging. [And by "today" I mean Friday even though it's technically Saturday because it is now after midnight(!).]

So, here is my recipe for Homemade Granola Bars that I promised I would pass along to several people, but particularly Anne-Marie at Green(ish) Monkeys.  These hearty snacks debuted officially at last year's MDI 10k and fun run and a picnic afterward which our two families enjoyed together.  This is my favorite healthy-ish food and four-fifths of our family* loves them, particularly when hiking or before and after road races.  I could eat them all day.  Nut-free versions have been endorsed (by virtue of practically being inhaled) by the Orono Middle School Field Hockey team and the Cheerleading squad.  Here's James showing his approval at MDI. 

*Alan doesn't "do" oatmeal.  Or nuts.  Or dried cherries.  And definitely not wheat germ. Oy!

Nancy's Homemade Granola Bars
Recipe adapted from several I found online and my personal penchant for combining almonds, dark chocolate and dried cherries.  

2 cups oats
1 cup crushed Cheerios (this started because I had a bunch that were stale and I thought it was a good way to use them up, but I liked it so I keep putting them in)
3/4 cup chopped almonds (I usually use unsalted)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup honey crunch wheat germ

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

a handful of dried cherries, chopped 
chocolate chips/chopped chocolate, to taste

1. Mix the first four dry ingredients together, spread on a baking pan and toast lightly in the oven. Add the wheat germ after toasting because it tends to burn. 
Note:  Don't let the dry ingredients burn.  And if you do, don't use it anyway because you'll still taste the burny parts even if you add orange-flavored chocolate you got for Christmas and that's just a big ol' waste of good chocolate. In fact, I'm not entirely sure this whole toasting step is necessary.... 

2. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, honey, butter and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

3. Mix everything together in a large bowl, adding the chocolate last.  Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and press flat into pan (I use a small cutting board to make it very smooth). Allow to cool before cutting into bars or square.

Of course you can play with the ingredients all you want.  I usually use a combination of dark and milk chocolate.  The orange-flavored stuff would have been great if it weren't for the whole burned wheat germ thing. I have plans to try white chocolate, pecans, coconut, peanut butter, orange zest, etc.  Skip the nuts when sending to school functions (ours has a nut-free policy, but it's good to err on the side of caution anyway).