Thursday, October 28, 2010

Half the Fun Is Getting There

Marathons seem straightforward. Register. Train. Go to start line. Run for 26.2 miles. Cross finish line. Eat cheeseburgers and drink beer. Repeat as necessary.

Except some races confuse me.

In 10 days I, along with 44,999 strangers, am running the New York City Marathon. Next Sunday I will get up at 2:30 in the morning. My friend Kate, a car, a train, another train, a bus, a ferry, a shuttle and a half-mile walk will, in theory, get me to the start line by 9:40. More than 7 hours after the alarm goes off I will head up and over the Verrazano Bridge and weave my way through NYC. At least that is the plan.

Unfortunately, I can't figure the damn race out, despite reading the 66-page book delivered last week via USPS titled The ING New York City Marathon 2010 Official Handbook I'm In ING New York City Marathon cover to cover. Twice. I still have no idea what I am supposed to do.

Hopefully New York will continue to make me smile like it
 did the time I visited the potato famine memorial. I thought
 I was on a regular boring hill until I realized I was actually
 on a memorial dedicated to famine and then I felt like a jerk.
An entire page of The ING New York City Marathon 2010 Official Handbook I'm In ING New York City Marathon is dedicated to decoding what the hell your race number means. If you have a green background, you run across the green start line. There are three waves starting at 30-minute increments. At the designated time, you go to your corresponding wave and color and then line up in corrals according to the first two numbers of your race number. For the first 8 miles of the race, you run along one of three different routes designated by your bib color. At mile 8 everyone piles on top of each other as the three different colored routes merge.

At some point before you get to the start line there are bagels, juice and church or synagogue in addition to drum circles and AA meetings.

 There is to be no peeing on the Verrazano Bridge. This rule takes up almost an entire page of the book. The New York Road Runners et al. (2010) state that:

"There will be more than 1,700 portable toilets in Fort Wadsworth. Portable toilets will also be available before moving onto the bridge. Please refrain from urinating on the bridge – it is extremely unpleasant and dangerous (electrical equipment is housed on the bridge) to you and fellow runners. NYRR reserves the right to disqualify anyone who does not use a portable toilet (p. 37)."

NYRR, if I get zapped to death because some bobo urinates on a wire I want my $191 back. I am, unfortunately, at increased risk for zappage because I think my bib color (green) starts on the lower level of the bridge and for the past several years the upper level runners have passed the time waiting for the gun to go off by whizzing off the side of the bridge onto the runners below. Scary times.

I will be the one running with an umbrella.

Dodging runner urine will be worth it though, as something magical awaits at the finish because "each finisher will receive a food/fluid bag containing Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, G Series™ Gatorade Recover 03, a Gatorade G Series™ Pro Endurance Formula powder stick, Emerald Nuts, PowerBar Recovery bars®, a NY apple®™€£©∞ and pretzels.” (p.45).

I guess the pretzels are generic.

Ok. I am done making fun of the ING New York City Marathon 2010 now. I am actually looking forward to it, a lot. My goal is to finish and enjoy every mile. Simple. People I’ve spoken with who have run both New York and Boston said the crowds at New York put Boston’s to shame, something that will blow my mind a bit if it’s actually true and something that is making me even more excited to run.

I’ve put in the time and the effort training and feel ready to go, aside from the fact that I don’t really know how to get to the start line, what to do when I get there, what way to run, what the weather will be, where the course goes, where to put my stuff, how to get my stuff back when I finish or where my post-race cheeseburger will be.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brave Bill

Bill must have showered in extra awesomeness this morning. He took out the trash (although he always does that), made dinner, and, as an added bonus, just registered us for The Edge adventure race this weekend. On Friday we were supposed to head to somewhere in Virginia for a weekend of trail running, mountain biking, camping, beer drinking, sleeping, dirt, climbing, lack of showering, camp fires, roasted marshmallows, head lamps, etc.

Our friend who we were meeting up with, however, had an incident while “light wrestling.” We aren’t sure what this means. Did he injure himself while rolling around with a 60-watt bulb or maybe while being gently body-slammed by Hulk Hogan? We are too afraid to ask and will therefore never know. What we do know is that a few of his ribs are now bending (?) the wrong way so the trip is off. Instead of spending 11hours in the car to do what we can basically do in our own backyard (although I am not sure if we would ever actually camp in our backyard in Germantown) we decided to stay home. I’ve been whining about the fact that I haven’t done an adventure race in 14 months, we had nothing else to do, Bill’s mountain bike is finally fixed, so he bravely signed us up.
Dave, Bill and I in the first race Bill and I ever did together.
Pleas note the historic Y100 sign and Bill's cargo net skillz.

Why bravely? The last time we did this race I pelted him with crabapples. Repeatedly.

It was sometime in or around the 2003-2006 time period. Or maybe 2002 or 2007. Sometime after we met and before we were married. I lived in awesome Royersford, a relatively quick bike ride and an even faster drive to Green Lane Park, home of the race. We started strong and only got stronger over the first section. We flew through our second section, a brief paddle followed by a run up and over a mile or so of steep power lines back to transition. We threw on our bike stuff and got ready to ride. Bill grabbed the map case. But not really. No map case. He’d* left it in the boat, a 30-minute run out and back. It’s hard to navigate an AR without a map. I am terrible at nav so I don’t really know what I am talking about, but I am going to go with it actually being impossible. In adventure racing you have to stay within a handful of yards of your teammate so we both got to go for a bonus run.

And the last race we did together. Don't we look awesome?
Teams we had been ahead of passed us all over the place as we started our run back. We got to the base of the first hill and I was really, really grumpy and having a hard time keeping up. I stepped on a crabapple and rolled my ankle. Bill took off ahead, not realizing I was a bit broken. I yelled, he didn’t hear me. So I did what any normal girlfriend would do. I picked up a crabapple and hurled it in his general direction. I missed by a lot so I decided to give it another shot. Impressively, I nailed him in the calf. He kept going. I tried again. I have mad skillz, as the crabapple hit him squarely between the shoulder blades. He turned.

“Did you just hit me with a crabapple?,” he asked. “Yup,” I said. “I am good at throwing.” “I see that. I can’t believe you hit me with a crabapple,” he said. “Neither can I. I am sorry,” said I. We kissed and made up (the bad part of racing with your boyfriend/girlfriend/ husband/wife is that it can be prime time for fighting, the good part of racing with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife is that it is sort of sweet to do so and makes for a pretty badass date).

We finished the race exactly 30 minutes out of first place for our division and in the middle of the pack. So, yes, Bill is quite brave to suggest doing this race again.

*Adventure racing is a team thing, so it was sort of my fault too. I realize that now, in my old age. Also if you would like to do an adventure race, peek at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weird Things Seen

When I am out and about running on my own weirdness often abounds. I am convinced that at some point in my life I will be one of those lucky souls who find a dead body while out on a run or a bike. Fingers crossed!
Follow the rules!
So I live about a mile from a giant city park with tons of trails, tons of good times, tons of trees and tons of random junk, including people who like to bump uglies in public. There I was, happily trotting along on a run after work. Awesome weather, awesome mood, happiness.  I turned left onto a trail I don’t hit often. It leads to a technical downhill that is more of a scramble over boulders, so a run turns into a slow hike for a bit. Boulders are hard, boulders  make me fall, some boulders can be fun to climb, and, for at least two Philadelphia-area residents, boulders in a public park are a good place for sex. Yikes. Just a few yards in front of me a dude and a chick were Super8-ing like the end of the world was near.
 I had a major decision to make, and limited options: Ask them to move out of my way, turn around and go back the way I came thus adding multiple miles onto my route or jump over them. What would Emily Post do? I thought about dropping her a quick line but decided that would take too long.
Decision time. I am sort of shy, so I didn’t want to actually speak to them.  Plus, what does one say? “Hello. My name is Laurie and I am out for my evening jog. I am sorry to interrupt, but could you please slide over a bit so I can pass?” Or, “ALERT HUMPERS! Runner coming through!” Or, “On your left!” None seemed appropriate.
Turn around and go back? Nope.  I am lazy. I didn’t feel like running more miles just to avoid people who decided to make a pile of rocks their honeymoon suite.
So, jump over them it was. I got a sprinting start, held my breath, leaped and hoped to land on my own two feet as opposed to any body part of anyone else. I landed it! Success! I ran away as fast as I could, but not fast enough to miss the dude saying “Do you think she saw us?” Yes, sir and ma’am, I saw you.
The other most awesome thing I saw on a run still confuses me a great deal. I was camping with a friend in Susquehanna State Park.  She had her two dogs with her, and one started barfing and barfing, so she left early to spend $5,470 at the vet just to learn that the dog ate some dirt and would be totally fine. That left me alone in the woods with a day to kill. The place was pretty cool and seemed pretty safe so I decided to head out on a long-ish run.  

The one I saw wasn't this great.

Susquehanna State Park is, surprisingly, along the Susquehanna River, but I headed about 10 miles in the opposite direction from the water. I was on a rocky, winding uphill, paying attention to the terrain immediately in front of me. Suddenly I stepped on a swordfish. An entire,  but somewhat rotting and entirely smelly swordfish.  A damn swordfish. A fish with a sword for a nose. I laughed so hard I cried and stood there for a bit trying to figure out how it got there. Did it grow legs in the style of the snakeheads that walked to my parents’ house? Wings? Parachute didn’t open? WHAT?! WHAAAT?! I still have no idea how this poor fish ended up on a rocky trail at least 10 miles from water.
Our strange next-door neighbor is currently blasting Hey Soul Sister over and over again, so I am going to bury my head under a pile of pillows now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lost In Boston

This time last year I’d finished happily running myself into the ground to run the Columbus Marathon in flat, mildly scenic, freezing (it was 27 degrees at the start*) Columbus, Ohio. I wasn’t running this particular race just because I’d always dreamed of running a marathon in which miles 18 through 23 involved zigzagging through an office park parking lot (one of the more demoralizing things I’ve encountered in a race). I was running to qualify for Boston, or at least to try to. After slamming face-first into the wall at about mile 19, I managed to scrape myself together for a quick-ish final two miles and barely, barely made it (I had 83 whole seconds to spare). Crossing that finish line was, at that point, the most fun I have ever had at any race. Plus I ate a giant cheeseburger and a dozen wings afterward (marathon days = days I eat meat) so it was a good day.

I registered for Boston that afternoon and started training about a month later. Six months and seven feet of snow later, we piled into the car and drove to Boston. After geeking out at the expo where I spent about half a paycheck on marathon crap, we got to hang with some peeps and some fam for two days until the race. I woke up before the alarm on race day – I am usually the snooze button’s number one fan. Danced around like it was Christmas and my birthday all at the same time. I was so damn excited, jumped around like a bobo at the start line and actually clapped when the gun went off.

The weather was perfect, the crowd was awesome and I smiled so much over the 26.2 miles that my face hurt worse than my legs the next day. My expectations were exceeded. The right turn up a hill, the left onto Boylston Street, then 800 meters to the finish were the best steps I ever ran. I felt like I was the only one running and that the crowd was there just for me. Perfect. Boston was my slowest marathon by 9 minutes but absolutely my best.

Today Boston registration opened. My qualifying time was good again for 2011. I decided not to run it again, then decided I would, then that I wouldn’t, and then that I would. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. After about 15 tries this morning to get the registration form to open (everyone, I am assuming, with the intent to run Boston did the same thing as it was expected to, and did, sell out in 8 hours and 4 minutes --- in 2008 it sold out the day before the race), I typed in my name, address, qualifying time, credit card info, and then when it was time to hit “submit” I totally bailed. And was immediately relieved.

I’ve been training for marathons basically continuously since April of 2009. In that time almost all the racing I've done was on road. I haven’t done an adventure race since August of 2009. My mountain bike is literally collecting dust. I have a new roadbike I got in January that is beautiful and has all of 500 miles on it. Running Boston this year was perfect – what if it wasn’t in 2011? What if it rains? What if I don’t have fun? Do I really want to spend another winter only running on roads and being scared every time I ski that I will get a big booboo and won’t be able to run Boston? Do I really want to volunteer at adventure races and sit on the sidelines at trail runs? I haven’t minded these things for the past 18 months but don’t want to give them up for another 7.

I’ve upped the mileage to between 48 and 52 (this is a lot for me) for the past month to train for the New York marathon in less than three weeks. The runs have been going well and I think I am ready for the start line but I am even more ready to scrape the cobwebs off my mountain bike, shine up the pretty pretty road bike (seriously, it’s freakin beautiful), slap on the skis and get bloody knees on the trail. Just not all at the same time.

*I got to the starting area about 90 minutes early, wrapped in several trash bags, hand warmers stuffed into my sportsbra and running tights and was still freezing. There was nowhere to go. Except the portopotties. I went in and sat and sat and sat for an hour. It was surprisingly, and alarmingly, warm.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Because Running Around Makes Me Happy Most of the Time...

... and because most of the blogs I have stumbled across are either by peeps who either are pros and thus have free bikes/shoes/money/entry fees/cash/homes/gu/arm warmers piled upon them or are by peeps who are thinking of potentially thinking about training for a 5k fun walk at some point before 2017, I am starting my own. Just not right now because I am going to take a nap first. So there, dawg.