Thursday, December 29, 2011

Snow Please!

Hope everyone is enjoying their winter! We are supposed to be heading out to some mountains to do some skiing tomorrow. But it's basically bikini weather all along the east coast. People on the news are whining because temps have dropped to the low 50s. In Philadelphia. In December. Think snow for me, please?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Found Myself

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2011: Learn how to navigate, at least a tiny bit, so I can maybe, on at least one occasion, help Bill navigate in a race.

I'd failed miserably in our adventure races -- I really didn't even try, to be honest. As 2011 began to wind down, though, we found ourselves with a few free weekends.

About a month ago we headed to a small park a few miles from our house for the first orienteering meet I'd done in probably five or six years. My goal was to finish -- I did, slowly and carefully as I picked my way through the course, making some poor route choices along the way.

Last weekend Abby, Brent, Bill and I schlepped to Ridley Creek State Park for another meet. Abby and I both headed out on an intermediate course while Bill headed out on an advanced route and Brent zoomed through something twice as difficult and two times longer than what Abby and I were attempting.

It sucked. I sucked. After taking more than 20 minutes to find the first point (it should have taken 10), I started to get demoralized. I slowly got the hang of things, until the crux of the course about half-way through. Somehow I manged to land on a trail going in the exact opposite direction that I should have been going. Except I didn't realize it until I ran for about 20 minutes (with a nasty fall resulting in a nasty booboo) in the wrong direction. I still didn't realize it until nothing around me looked like it was supposed to look on the map. A woman out on the advanced course took the time to point out to me where I actually was -- about a mile from where I was supposed to be.

I contemplated dropping out (mostly because I felt bad that my buddies would have to wait for me at the finish) but I was pissed off at how much I suck at orienteering, and when I am pissed I get stubborn (usually I am a flexible, free-flowing, relaxed chick ... just ask Bill and my mom) so I stuck it out.

The route should have taken about an hour and 20 minutes. It took me more than twice that, clocking in at a blistering 2:43.

Abby, Bill and Brent had been waiting for me for about an hour.

I was grumpy.

On the ride home Abby and I vowed to head back out the following weekend to make amends with the navigation gods and goddesses during the last orienteering meet of the year.

So, this past Sunday we met up again on a chilly morning in Brandywine State Park (where The Edge was in October) in Delaware. Bill dropped me off bright and early at what we thought would be the start of the meet. After about an hour of hiking around in the cold I realized I was in the wrong spot. After a few phone calls with Brent and a bit of remembering from the adventure race I managed to find the start. Abby and I both initially registered to do the intermediate course solo but at the last minute we decided to attempt to tackle a more difficult course together.

I was sort of convinced we'd get so lost we'd end up in the wrong state, even the wrong country perhaps. But, surprisingly, we didn't.

I am still not sure how we made it work but we had no mis-steps, no wandering, no moments of wondering where the hell we were or how we could possibly get to where we needed to be. Most of the course was off-trail but we still managed to find our way. Abby was better with the map than I was and I was a bit more familiar with the compass, and together we picked off points like we were good at it, sometimes with only three or four minutes between one punch and the next.

We finished 80 minutes faster than I had the week before. And we were on a more difficult course. As an added bonus, I understood where we were, where we were going and how to get there the entire time.

Sort of crazy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Alive and Lumpy

Happy December.

I am still alive -- I've just been pretty lazy since the Philly marathon. It's that time of year that passes for the off season around here, and until I am registered for something I think the lack of training will continue.

It's sort of unfortunate that the off-season coincides with too many opportunities for food (the brownie and blocks of cheese kind of food, not the salad and cantaloupe kind) and drink (the red wine and hard cider kind, not the Nuun and water kind).

I've been playing in the woods a bit and am hoping that 2012 brings lots of time on the trails. There's a 50k in March about 6 hours from Philadelphia that I've had a tiny bit of an eye on but until I con someone into running it it will remain on the "maybe" list. Seems like a lot of driving to do solo for a 6-or 7-hour race.

In the meantime I am trying to convince the snow gods to dump on the east coast -- a lovely new pair of cross country skis and a pair of snowshoes are waiting patiently in the basement.

That is all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Warning: Sorta Gross

Every time I am grumpy about something or not feeling well (like now, for instance -- after more than 5 years of not so much as a sneeze, I am a giant gross ball of cold/flu/etc.) I am just going to look at the photo below and be thankful that I am not this guy. Or, more specifically, that I am not his bloody nipple.

Hopefully this runner crossed the finish line of the Philly marathon happy with his time because otherwise I don't know if it's worth looking like you took a gunshot wound to the chest.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Philly Marathon: Go Team Go!

I never thought a marathon was a team event. Until I ran one with Abby.

Leading up to the Philadelphia Marathon I had no goals. I knew I had the endurance to finish, thanks to a year of trail runs and adventure races. I knew, though, that I didn't have the speed to come close to a PR, let alone the new and improved BQ times.

Leaving me with what to shoot for? I was as aimless as humanly possible when it came to a goal. Prior to Philly, I'd run five other marathons -- Philadelphia in 2001, Steamtown in 2002 (at the time I had the goal of running a marathon a year, I failed), Columbus in 2009, Boston and New York in 2010. Goals were clear-cut to me (finish, finish faster than at Philly, qualify for Boston, have a shit-ton of fun at Boston, beat my Boston time at New York, respectively).

Abby was in it to enjoy it, and that didn't sound like too bad of a plan. We decided to cross the start line together and I had 3:45:00 in my head as a number to shoot for just to keep me moving forward -- a bit better than my average marathon time so I couldn't just mosey along but obtainable without feeling like hell, hopefully.

I didn't even hit snooze on race morning. I was up by 5, on my second cup of coffee by 5:15, decided against a third, stuffed an Eggo with peanut butter into my face, properly lubed, dressed, deoderized and was actually ready to go when Abby and her crew rolled by to pick me up at 5:40.

By 6:20 we were at the race site and were in the longest portapotty line in the history of the universe. Actually, the line itself wasn't too long -- the people in front of us were apparently giving birth and/or performing minor surgeries in there and were taking forever and ever. Finally I gave up, got out of line and peed between a rock and a tree while pretending no one could see me -- the start was getting close.

Abby and I parted ways with her people and headed to the start together. The plan? Run together until we didn't. Have a good time. And, for me, don't do anything stupid in the first half -- all my other marathons came with positive second-half splits of 7 to 15 minutes. Terrible. F.

We crossed the start about 7 minutes after the gun and dodged our way over, under, around and through other runners and walkers for the first mile -- hit the marker at right around 9 minutes. A little slower than I would have liked but, eh. The weather was great, the company was great, I was happy, the road was flat.

Just before mile 2 I had a cheerleader -- an old coworker from an old job out bright and early to push along the runners. I was amused and surprised to see her, so yay.

And then, another familiar face -- Abby's husband Brent. "Look, there he is," Abby basically whispered to me. Among the footfalls of a zillion runners on a packed course, he, oddly, did not hear her whisper.  "BREEENNNNT!," I yelled and then pointed at him and jumped up and down a bit. It worked -- he saw us.

Friends of friends who managed to recognize me and a drumline (my favorite thing during races) made the next few miles tick by. Abby and I chatted about nothing in particular as we weaved around more runners and held a comfortable 8:35 pace.

As we hit mile five, a thought popped into my brain. Should I share it? "Dare I say it?," I said to Abby. "I think I am actually having fun."

"I wasn't going to say it out loud," she said, "but I am, too."

As we approached mile 5, there was Brent again. This time he saw us and started snapping away with his camera.

I sort of love this picture -- we both look thrilled
to be running!
The crowd (that had already been pretty solid) grew thicker and louder. I knew that about mile 6, where I set up shop last year for my first cheering spot, would be the first likely mile where Bill would be on his bike. And sure enough, there he was.

"Bill! Bill! Bill! BILL! BILLLL!," I screamed (apparently I get very excited when I see people I know while running marathons). He saw us and waved. He knows better than to ignore my big mouth but we were so damn fast he wasn't able to get any pictures.

Motivated by the unexpectedly loud and large crowds, the next several miles flew by. We chatted about whatever -- mostly adventure racing, I think, and before we knew it we were smelling the Philadelphia Zoo. Barf. I don't do stink while running and the smell of caged elephants and monkeys and lions and tigers and bears and lemurs and aardvarks and whatever made me a bit gaggy but I kept that to myself. Plus, I had more important things to think about -- the only significant hill of the course was right in front of us.

Abby and I didn't increase our effort as we steadily climbed the hill. Some runners around us started to struggle but we'd run this part of the course twice on two of our longer runs. We knew it wasn't that long, or that steep and that we'd be met at the top by about a mile of flat followed by a short, steep downhill so we kept things in control.

"Man, I can't believe we've already run what, like 8 miles?," I commented. I hadn't been paying close attention to mile markers and would check in only occasionally with Abby and her Garmin about our pace. "Try 10 miles," she said.

Yep, the miles were flying by. We were running solidly and comfortably and were right on pace for a 3:45 finish.

As the course dropped us along the Schuylkill River, Bill found us again. This time he was ready with the camera.

We also saw something crazy -- people dressed like bacon, grilled cheese and pizza dancing around. Silly! Soon signs were directing people running the full in one direction, the half in the other. I couldn't believe we were almost at the 13.1-mark. As we peeled in one direction and the half runners peeled into the other, we hit the middle at about 1:52 and some change.

At the mile 14 water stop I was bolstered by two friends handing out cups. Damn, they were loud. Just past them a dude dressed like Batman was playing the theme song to Rocky on a trombone. Abby was absolutely thrilled by this. I, however, have never seen Rocky despite living in Philly for more than 15 years so I didn't know what was happening.

As we chugged along on the out-and-back I realized Abby was in for a huge PR unless something unhappy happened. I tried to be extra-careful to knock her down, trip or kick her or punch her -- didn't want to ruin her day.

Outward bound. Can you spot us?

Next up was a detour from the main out-and-back -- about a mile across a bridge, down a hill, around a cone, back up the hill and back over the bridge. I'd been mentally dreading this part all morning -- not sure why, but I was. Just as we were about to reach the bridge a friend of Abby's let us know that Brent was waiting for us at the turnaround cone. Yay! Something to look forward to. I zoomed down the hill and was eager to see another familiar face.

I don't remember feeling as dead serious as
I look in the top picture. 

As we spun around the cone I was elated. "I was dreading that part! And now it's over!," I must have repeated enough times to make Abby want to sprint far, far away from me. Mostly I was just happy that both brain and body were still into the race.
We both started to get a bit bored about a mile or so later. "Talk to me about something," Abby requested. Do you know how hard it is to think of things to talk about when someone asks you to say words? Uhhhhh...
All I could think about was racing. I peppered Abby with questions about the race she was most scared of at the start line, her favorite race, her first race, her last race, her thoughts on race relations, race race race.

As we slogged into Manayunk the crowds grew louder and drunker. And we started to pass a lot of runners. People were starting to struggle. I felt a bit bad too, but, surprisingly, only a bit -- Abby started to pick up the pace and I was happy to tuck behind her. Then we passed a group of people handing out little cups o' beer and I dry-heaved. I like beer as much as (ok, probably more than) the next person, but not at mile 21.5 of a marathon.

"Oh, God, there's beer, I am going to puke," I said, as I darted as far away from the beer as I could. Fortunately, I didn't actually barf.

The course dumped us back alongside the river and I realized we only had four miles to go. Four miles? That's a prologue in an adventure race, a distance I can manage on a treadmill, 32 minutes and some change until the finish, depending on how well I was able to keep it together.

Let's go! I was feeling better than I ever had at mile 22 of a marathon. Usually at mile 22 I am wanting to cry and contemplating burning all running shoes/shorts/shirts/tights/hats/gloves/gus/water bottles/etc. and never running again.

This time ,though, was different.

I started to run a bit harder, not so much that it hurt yet but enough that I knew that it would before I crossed the finish line. Gradually, Abby and I began to pull apart. I peeked over my shoulder a few times -- she was still right back there but I decided I wanted to be done and I knew she would finish with a nastyhuge PR with or without me so I dropped my pace into the high 7s/low 8s, hoping to hold that for the duration.

Bill found me again. I wasn't smiling quite as big as I had been -- slowly but surely I was starting to hurt but I really thought I could hang on. I was actually passing people and the fact that I didn't seem to be hurting as much as many of the runners around me gave me a bit of motivation -- I apparently wasn't going to shit the bed with only three miles to go.

I passed my buddies at the water stop again -- they seemed to be having the most fun of all. Bill rode on the path just off the course and snapped a few more pictures.

 So many spectators!

I have no idea who I am smiling at in this picture.

I wasn't sure what to do -- most of the people around me were grumpy and many were walking. A few were crying and a few were saying "fuck" a lot. I needed someone ungrumpy and unhurting to motivate me. I scanned the runners around me and settled in on Purple Shirt. She looked like she'd been at mile 24 of a marathoon before, and looked like she wanted to finish strong. I made myself promise to myself that I wouldn't let her get more than 15 feet in front of me.

And then she picked up the pace a bit. Purple Shirt, were you trying to kill me? I hung on, barely, and managed to convince myself that I could hang on for the 18 or so minutes of running still ahead of me.

Thank you Purple Shirt, whomever you are.

I am not going to lie -- mile 24.5 to about mile 25.5 sucked. My lungs were unhappy, my legs were tired and my brain was starting to go. But then the crowd got huger and louder and I started smiling like a bobo. Suddenly I was so happy again. I didn't notice the last little incline as I rounded a bend to find the finish line staring me in the face. I ran as hard as I could for the last 100 meters or so, and that was that.

Chip time: 3:43:46. Fine by me. I worked my way to the gear check truck, threw on some warms (although the day was actually sunny and quite warm for Philly in mid-November) and met up with Bill, Abby, Brent and Abby's family before slogging about a mile to brunch/beer/breakfast/coffee.

Abby had a 9-minute PR. Nine minutes. NINE MINUTES. I would sell my soul for a PR like that. And she seemed to have fun while doing it, too. My big achievement for the day was a negative split -- only by a few seconds, but I fianlly didn't crash and burn in the second half of a marathon.

A nice little Sunday.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Well That Was Nice

Don't worry, I will bore you with a rambling race report in the near future.

For now, though, I am lazy and have a few too many (ok, three) hard ciders flowing through my person and there's a soccer game on so here's the abridged version of the Philly Marathon:

  • I finished. But forgot to properly stop my watch. I knew I crossed the line in 3:43:XX but wasn't sure about the XX part. After no race results posted on the race site for me for a few too many hours, there it was. A 3:43:46. Not a PR, not a PW. A bit faster than my average marathon pace. I will take it.
  • Even better? I had fun! Like, actual good times, complete with smiles, high-fives, a few giggles and happiness. I ran most of the way with Abby. Neither one of us wanted to lay down on the sidewalk and curl up into a fetal position at any point. Even though I started to feel sort of junky during the last mile I was smiling like a freak. I never once was surly, either. WTF?  
  • I didn't really hit the wall and I am pretty sure I ran dead even splits. Unheard of for me. Abby did a great job of not letting me sprint away like an idiot -- in every other road marathon I have run my second half was anywhere between 7 and 15 minutes slower than the first half. Sort of pathetic but hopefully I've broken that habit.
That is all!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Marathon Eve Eve

Twas two nights before Philly
And I had nothing to fear
Except, for maybe, my belly full o' beer.

Ok, not really full, but there was a delicious microbrew on tap at dinner tonight and I just had to have a sip(s). Probably not the best idea, but bad ideas love company so now I continue to taper while on the couch with a glass of wine. Hooray!?

After a shitstorm of a workweek (bookended by some good stuff on Monday morning and Friday afternoon, fortuantely) I booked fast and hard away from the hospital by 1 this afternoon to head to the race expo. We have a wedding tomorrow evening and I hated the idea of braving the expo on a Saturday afternoon so I fought like a honey badger to get the afternoon off.

I did well at the expo -- it took two seconds to get my number and then I wandered around with Abby and a friend or two of hers while we drank free chocolate milk (wahoo!), free coconut water (sort of nasty) and purchased headbands made out of, I swear I am not making this up, velvet.

WTF? A velvet headband? For $15? Did I really just purchase a $15 (plus tax) headband made out of mofoing velvet? Yes. Yes I did.

But the sign said it wouldn't slip. I am holding the sign to its word -- my hair is sort of short right now and every headband I own either doesn't slip because it is so tight that my skull feels like it is being crushed or so slippy that it's on the ground before I make it to the end of the block so I was suckered.

The race shirt was fine -- I will wear it but I won't snuggle with it in bed or anything. I also picked up my Ronald McDonald House race shirt. I sort of love it. Nice and plain without, like, a giant Big Mac or a scary clown on it. And, although I am generally against wearing new stuff on race day, it is the softest thing of all time. Can't you see the abundant softness bursting through?

I love plain stuff, especially plain black and white stuff. So yay. Something else fun is that today the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House marathon team reached its fundraising goal of $25,000. Thanks to all who contributed. This is the first year the PRMH had a team and I am glad it wasn't a disaster and that we didn't, like, just raise $1.67 or anything.

Race goals? Not a ton. I am going to go out at a 3:45 pace and see what happens from there. Uh, what's a 3:45 pace anyway? 8:38 miles or something? I guess I should figure this out pretty soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tapering Makes Me Surly

For whatever reason, I really only taper for marathons. Something about halves not being long enough to need to truly taper and long adventure races being so damn long that a taper won't make a difference.

So here I sit, in the middle of a week-long taper leading up to the Philly marathon this weekend.

I think I am losing my brain.

My person feels like I've had 88 Mountain Dews and a Big Gulp of coffee. I want to run around for hours. Instead, last night I had a hockey game and today I did about 3 miles on the treadmill. I did the first and last one at an easy pace but jacked up the speed for the middle mile -- not a brilliant plan race-week wise but I would like to fall asleep tonight before 2 a.m. so I wanted to get out a bit of energy.

Tomorrow will be a slow 3 or 4 miles with a few hills thrown in just for fun.

The sad part of this? I know I will wake up bright and early Sunday morning tired, not ready to run and will be a sore, sad mess by mile 20.

That is all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No Stopping Sunday

I had a present waiting for me in the mail today! At first I worried that it might be anthrax, but then I remembered that's so 2002. Then I worried it might be a tiger, but the package was flat, not roaring and had no air holes.

So I proceeded with opening the package.

What could it be? It was this:

When I ran Boston in 2010 I lamented the fact that I neglected to steal one of the 8 zillion "No Stopping Monday" signs that lined the course. My friend April, marathon cheerer-oner of the universe, happened to be in Boston when I ran and watched me slog on by a few times. Even better, she snagged a sign and sent it my way.

Sweet! I am thinking of whiting out "Boston" and "Monday" and writing in "Philadelphia" and "Sunday" and then making Bill wave it around the marathon course as he cheers his head off on Sunday.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I hate it when people bail on plans. I am a planner ... for example, the fact that I don't know EXACTLY when I am going to the race expo for the Philly marathon next weekend is sort of driving me crazy.

A good trait? Hell no. But I don't think it's going anywhere any time soon.

Tonight, though, I managed to deviate from my plan.

After an absurd week at work -- the kid of week where it's hard to explain why it sucked without going on and on about work and violating HIPAA in 88 different ways -- I was planning on spending a few hours after work lifting and then doing a quick 3 miles on my new most least favorite thing, the treadmill.

After an awful meeting in the morning and then an afternoon of being asked things like "Oh, can you get patient so-and-so immediate emergency insurance, because they have 88,876 follow-up appointments after their discharge next week" (uh, what the hell is immediate emergency insurance, and can I have some of that, please?) and "We decided that this kid needs to go into foster care immediately, so do you just get the court order and take them home yourself, or what?," I wanted to punch people in the face. Hard, and frequently. **

The idea of driving to the gym, lifting, running, driving home cold and sweaty and then deciding whether to just call it a night or destink myself and make some plans made me sad.

For probably the fifth or sixth time in my running life, I bailed on a run. My gym bag was in my car, my iPod was charged. But my brain was having none of it.

I wanted a damn beer.

Instead of the gym, I headed to one of my favorite bars (although the bartender we had tonight was quite a wanker) with a co-worker where we ranted about our shitty work week and sipped some autumn beers.

I mentioned no less than 8 trillion times that I bailed on a run for a happy hour, which I am sure she was completely fascinated by, but I was sort of proud of myself.

Of course, right now it is 9:30 on a Friday night and I am on the couch in my PJs sipping some Nuun and watching CSI in anticipation of a 7 a.m. wake-up call for an 8 a.m. run so I am clearly still the biggest dork in town.

** Fortunately, for my long-term sanity, I was covering a unit that is not my own ... I luv my NICU and hate it when I have to venture off to other areas of the hospital.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Clover -- It's What's For Dinner

Yesterday was my last long run (to me, a long run is anything more than 10 miles) before Philly. Decided on a combination of technical trails, paved trails, dirt roads and regular old roads for a 12-mile loop. Bill let me borrow his 83-cent GPS watch, mostly because he wasn't sure it actually worked and I wanted to try to figure out if it did.

I think it works. After standing in front of my house shaking it at the sky for a bit, it picked up a signal and I manged to figure out how to have it track overall pace and distance, but not how to stop when I was stuck at red lights and stop signs. At times it told me I was running a 42-minute-mile but it seemed to give an accurate measurement of distance and of speed when I wasn't standing still.

At the end of my loop I was happy with my pace and, more importantly, with how I felt. Until an hour later when every body part below my neck felt like it was trying to vacate my person. I flopped on the couch in a robe and whined and whined. The fact that we were meeting friends for dinner at a raw bar only made me whine more -- the idea of slimy oysters and clams, Tabasco sauce and beer made me weep a bit.

I made it through dinner, barely. After eating one oyster, a dozen oyster crackers and some clover (nothing helps you refuel after a 12-mile run like some clover) I was GRUMPY. I was grateful to climb into bed and more grateful for the extra hour of sleep. Two a.m. should come twice every day.

Woke up today and sat around, drank coffee and we eventually hopped on the bikes for a 6.5-mile ride to an orienteering meet. I hadn't done one in forever -- years and years. And the last time I did an o-meet Bill thought I was gone forever. The incentive to get out of pjs and out the door was zero.

I'd like to say that I blew through the course at the speed of sound. But instead, I stood literally on top of one point for several minutes trying to figure out what was going on (I was on top of a boulder, the flag was on the underside of the boulder) and then I got stuck in a shit-ton of thorns when I tried to take a short-cut that wasn't -- I plucked thorns from my arms and legs as I wandered around trying to figure out where I was. After crashing into a creek and gashing my hand (because it doesn't count as a jaunt in the woods unless there is blood) I worked my way back to being found instead of lost, but I was sort of pissed that I screwed up.

But, I actually could read the map, never got insanely lost, never resorted to guessing where I was and didn't have Bill thinking I had been abducted by the Blair Witch, so hooray.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Treadmill, I Beat You

I loathe treadmill running. So much, in fact, that I tend to run as fast as I can just to get off the damn thing. Not wise, I know, but I do it anyway.

Over the past week, however, late nights at work, my everlasting hatred of getting up early to run and a winter blast over the weekend led to far too many miles on the mill.

Today after work I headed for the gym for four miles. As I shed my work clothes and pulled on running stuff I realized I forgot a headband. Fortunately I just got most of my hair chopped off so I decided I could handle a few sweaty strands in my eyes.

Then I reached for my iPod. Dead battery. Unacceptable. I depend on it to make the miles tick by. Depend completely. After contemplating bailing and going home to eat some chips and slug some beer I decided to do a two-mile time trial and then get the hell out of there.

Hopped on, cranked the POS up to a barely tolerable speed and stared at the clock on the wall in front of me. After a mile I was surprised that I felt like I was jogging -- I was running comfortably and my breathing did not sound like the normal sweaty beast I turn into. I picked up the pace a bit more. As I neared the two-mile mark I decided to go for a 5k treadmill PR. I was well on my way when I hit the 2.5-mile mark.

Then the gym started looking bizarre. A bit foggy. Smoky, you might say. "That's weird," I thought to myself. "Runrunrunrunrunrunrunrunrunihatethetredmillhatehatehatealmostdonealmostdone."

And then, a smell. Sawdust mixed with campfire. Followed by quite a sound -- a squeal of brakes mixed with dial-up-modem.

The treadmill came to a grinding halt. Because it was on fire. Not a complete inferno, but smoke was pouring out from under the belt.


I looked around. People were looking at me. I pretended that nothing was happening. The treadmill screen alternated blinking "fatal error" and "no signal."

I hopped off and headed to the guy at the front desk. "The treadmill third from the end is ablaze," I said. But he knew that already. Ok, ablaze was overstating things, but there was some serious smoldering action happening.

Unsure of what proper gym etiquette called for in such circumstances, I thought about grabbing for the sanitizing wipes and making sure my sweat was off the machine. But that seemed dangerous. Instead I grabbed a magazine and hopped on the elliptical for a bit. While I ellipticalled I watched the guy at the front desk unplug the treadmill, squirt it with water from a squirt bottle, scribble "Out of order" on a post-it and stick it to the machine. I started to giggle. Then laugh. A lot. Like a weirdo. So I went home.

And yes, I am fully aware that the fact the damn thing caught fire had nothing to do with me running -- I am not so fast at all -- and everything to do with the fact that my crazy inexpensive gym is so cheap because the equipment is junk.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Best 83 Cents Bill Has Ever Spent

Last week I got a pair of $109 cross-country ski boots for 83 cents. Such a steal. A mere $145 later and I had skis, poles and mounted bindings. Bring on the snow, please.

Today Bill scored a returned, but seemingly fully functional, Timex GPS watch that retails for $325 for ... 83 cents. Someone returned it and it was put out for sale at more than half-off but no one bought it. Then it was $75. No one. Then $50. No one. Then 83 cents. After clearing it with his manager, Bill brought the thing home.

Crazy. It's all his, as I generally don't even run with a regular watch, but if another 99.89 percent off sale comes my way, I will gladly purchase one of my own. Or maybe I will just save my dimes and borrow his for the Philly marathon.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


It is snowing here in Philadelphia right now. Snowing hard. It is October. I hope this is a sign of piles of snow to come this winter so I can use all of my snow toys a ton.

Melie at G(r)eek Melie tagged me. I am it. Ten things about me that you didn't know before. I am not sure what  "you" I am supposed to be writing for so I apologize if none of these things are new for your.

1) After undergrad I went to law school for a bit more than a semester. I hated it. A lot. One day in the middle of contracts class I walked out and never went back. I left my books in class, stuff in my locker (yep, we had lockers in law school) and spent about three years writing for a newspaper and a medical publishing company before going to grad school to get my master's in social work. And now I love my job.

2) Our dehumidifier is broken, Bill just informed me. Bet none of you knew that already. He is also refusing to turn on the heat until next week so I am currently on the couch in flannel pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece and a ski hat.

3) The book nearest to me at this exact moment is "Runners World Guide to Adventure Racing: How To Become a Successful Racer and Adventure Athlete." It is Bill's. He's been racing for about 13 years. I am wondering if there's anything he can actually learn from this book, especially considering that chapters are titled things like "Everything You Need to Know About Eating." Elio's and Gus, my friends, Elio's and Gus.

4) Staring at this little chunk of horror is how I spent a piece of my Friday night. I posted a plea to Facebook, begging someone to explain why these things exist in the first place, let alone cost more than I make in a week. I am going to go as these pants for Halloween. I will just put my legs through the armholes of a grey t-shirt. Tadaa. Costume.

5) My first-ever race was about 10 years ago, a fast and flat 10-k not too far from where I live now. I was convinced I wouldn't be able to finish and, that if I did finish, I would be DFL. Neither happened, and I was hooked. I raced 10- and 5-ks almost every weekend for about three months, did a 13.1 and the guy I'd just started dating convinced me to train for the Philly marathon later that fall. Now I am married to that guy and the Philly marathon marks the 10-year anniversary of my first 26.2.

6) I am fairly certain I could exist entirely on coffee, Stacy's Pita Chips and Nuun. At least for a week or two.

7) I am short to begin with, and fairly sure I am shrinking. I swear I used to be five-foot-two, but now I am much closer to five-foot-one. At this rate I will be under four feet by the time I am 40.

8) In college I had an irrational fear of getting scurvy. I ate vitamin C by the handful. And it worked -- I never got scurvy.

9) I was at the slow end of the bell curve when I was learning how to downhill ski. I was extra bad at it. For the first part of the first season I skiied I learned how to stand up and how to get off of the lift without falling every time. For the second part I worked on moving forward down the hill.  I didn't get to stopping that season -- once I managed to ski into the lodge because I didn't know how to stop going. I am still a horrible skier. While I can mostly keep up with Bill, who snowboards, I have every bad habit there is and I refuse to take lessons to help me shake some of them.

10) When I was little my dad mad me paper dolls. I named them Fee-Fong and Wee-Woe. I think I was about two at the time. My parents found me a bit odd. My little brother had an imaginary friend, a bird named Fragile. When Fragile was about two, my little brother came walking into the house with a giant dead blue jay. "Fragile died," he said, as he handed my mom the bird. And that was the end of his imaginary friend. But yeah, I was the odd one.

I am supposed to tag ten more people but I am stubborn and refuse to do so. But please feel free to share random things about yourself anyway. Plus I don't read ten blogs to begin with. If anyone has one that you think I would like please leave a link in the comments section. I am not a fan of blogs that focus on close-up pictures of food. I know what a fruit smoothie or a loaf of whole-grain bread looks like, thanks.

It is still snowing. In fact, it is starting to stick! Yay!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marathon Meh

Here's what I've learned this year -- I like off-road racing more than road racing. Give me an adventure race or a trail run any day. My marathon training has been mentally painful and physically slow. Why do laps around the block when you can bound up and down trails and rocks, you know?

Regardless, my final race of 2011 will be the Philadelphia Marathon. I hope to cross the finish line before Christmas.

Training has been a bit meh. I've been putting in the miles, mostly (if adventure racing counts as a long run) but I haven't been doing the speed work. I know I have the endurance to finish, barring something unforeseen, but I don't have the speed to do anything special on race day. And, honestly, nor do I have the desire.

My lack of motivation this training cycle has impressed me. Why go run for three hours on the road when you can bound around on a trail? When you can get your feet wet? When you can get your legs muddy? A 50k sounds less daunting to me right now than a road marathon (and, speaking of, will someone please do this with me?).

As I am running for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, though, it is only fair that I at least put forth some effort in training, even if I am not feeling particularly passionate about the race. There's neither chance nor desire to qualify for either Boston or a PR and I am struggling to latch onto a time goal that will keep me motivated on race day.

On the upside, yesterday's 20-miler with Abby (read her account of it here ... Personally, I plan to read it before every 20-mile run for inspiration) didn't suck at all. Not entirely sure why, but it didn't. Some guesses as to why it wasn't terrible:
  1.  It was early in the morning, at least for me. The shock of such an early wake-up call got me going a bit.
  2. There were a ton of other runners out. I commented to Abby no less than 10 times that I couldn't believe how many other runners there were. She was all "Welcome to the world of adults who get out of bed before noon and get their long runs in before dinner time" and I was all "Geeze, it's a whole different world out here before 3 p.m."
  3. The weather ruled. Thank you, Nature, for that gift.
  4. Nothing really hurt. A few pings in my right ankle toward the end but I woke up today feeling fresh.
  5. Company! Usually for long runs, Bill will go for a bike ride and we will meet for a few minutes at pre-determined points so he can give me fuel and water. This time, though, the conversation with Abby about everything from adventure racing (shocking) to future travel plans made the miles tick by quickly. I am still sort of convinced that her Garmin was off and we really only did about 5 miles, but if she insists we hit 20, then I guess we hit 20.
I did about 6 miles of recovery today along a flat path and felt fine. Legs were a bit heavy but nothing hurt or was sore and I had to make a concerted effort not to go hard so that was a bit uplifting.

The race is only 4 weeks away. Hopefully next weekend will bring at least 25 miles between an organized group 20-miler on Saturday, possibly an orienteering meet on Saturday night and another group run on Sunday. Toss in another 20 miles or so the following weekend and then it is taper time already.

Maybe this marathon thing isn't so terrible after all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Best 83 Cents I've Ever Spent

I found myself running early for a hair appointment after work on Tuesday -- an oddity already. I rarely get my hair cut (I am cheap and lazy) and I even more rarely run early, especially for after-work things as I get stuck late at the hospital more often than not.

What to do with the 45 minutes I had to kill? REI, right down the road from the hair cut place. I had about $25 in cash and no credit card as my wallet was stolen last week (fun) so I planned to just wander around, maybe try on some downhill boots and drool over the skis just put on display.

Cross-country gear was tucked behind the massive downhill display. And there it was -- a pair of xc boots marked down from $109 to $9.93. Brand new with the tags still on! Size 37 -- too small for me, I thought, but I decided to try to stuff my boat feet into them anyway. They fit! A miracle! Neither too big, nor too small, neither too hot, nor too cold. Just right!

I skipped to the check-out, hugging the boots to my chest. And it turned out I had a random $9.70 credit on my REI membership, bringing the grand total of my purchase to a bank-breaking 83 cents.

The downside to my purchase? I don't own cross-country skis. Or poles. Or bindings. So right now I have a sweet pair of boots that I got for a steal that will lead to about $300 leaving my bank account. A bonus, though, is that Bill apparently ordered skis and boots last week so at least I will have someone to ski with. Here's hoping for another winter with 787 feet of snow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If I Knew It Was That Kind of Party I Would've Worn Pants

I am going to start at the end. We won our co-ed 2 division of 14 teams at The Edge sprint adventure race Sunday. I don't want to be like that kid we all knew in high school who swore she failed a test and then set the curve but I don't want the fact that we placed well to negate the fact that we weren't overly happy with the way we raced the race.

Bill and I both know that we should have done better and shouldn't have left more than one, if any, checkpoints on the course. When we both realized we weren't going to clear the course we both yelled fuck. A lot. With some shits and dammits thrown in just to keep things from getting too boring.

The first four hours were sort of great. After a brief opening orienteering segment (teams had to find 6 checkpoints and could split up -- I found my three points all by myself like a big girl! And Bill fell into a thorn bush, rendering him covered in blood a mere 15 minutes into the race! Excitement!) we were on our bikes for a sprint to another checkpoint that would serve as the main transition area for the race.

A friendly volunteer handed us our passports and we learned that we would be heading out for the foot section first -- teams were randomly assigned foot, bike, canoe or special challenges. Eleven points that we hoped to clear. And we did, but not after ripping through some nasty thorn bushes, barbed wire(!), brier, a creek crossing or five, a thorn to my eye, a wrong turn (although I managed to figure out where we were in about two minutes by looking at the map ... I helped with navigation! Redonk!) and lots of running.

The course was great -- challenging but not impossible even for first-time teams and the design took advantage of the park terrain and features. The entire race was rogaine format -- each checkpoint was optional and had a point value. The team with the most points wins. A tie goes to the team with the fastest overall time.

Our legs were shredded, bloody disasters by the time we worked our way back into transition. I wore capris and bike shorts and Bill just wore shorts. Had we known that we'd spend more time dragging ourselves through thorns than on trail we would have worn pants.

If you don't like grody legs, skip over these pictures that you've probably already seen by now. In real life, Bill isn't bow-legged. And I also like how my leg has "XTC" carved into it. One of my favorite bands from high school, hooray!

We dropped our bikes and sprinted (sort of ) to the canoe put-in. Four points up- and down-stream. The down was easy and the up wasn't as bad as we thought aside from one narrow section of the creek where we were sprinting paddle-style and getting nowhere. I was expecting the paddle to take more than an hour but we were out of the water in about 45 minutes. Sweet, because after the Storm the Eastern Shore paddle everything else in a boat is boring.

Special challenges were next. For some reason, challenges seem to be a staple of just about every sprint race. And, frankly, I think that they are silly so I am not going to go into detail. Here's a tip, though: Never have a medical emergency if you are stuck with me or Bill in the wild. One of the challenges was a wilderness first-aid quiz. We failed miserably. Several times. Although we did mock ourselves a little and giggle a lot so that was sweet.

We headed out on our bikes with about two hours before the 6-hour race cutoff. After that points would be deducted for every five minutes we were late. We pushed the pace and found the first few bike points easily.

Then the trail got technical, at least for me. I had to get off and carry my bike over boulders and other junk that I didn't think I could ride.

And then we couldn't find a point. In hindsight we probably blew right past it without noticing but instead we rode around several fields for a while, getting progressively more frustrated as we realized we weren't going to clear the course. At one point we were even on our bikes in a pumpkin patch with toddlers and their parents. A bit disoriented were we.

Then we ran into the nicest team ever. They ended up coming in right behind us in our division and it was their first race of all time. Silly overachievers. We agreed to team up to find one of the bike checkpoints that was a bit confusing on the map, especially considering that we weren't entirely sure where we were.

It only took us about 10 minutes to get to the point we were looking for. A bit off the bike trial, the CP rested in a pit of steaming green and black filth. I made Bill go get it. And then felt bad because I started having flashbacks to Artax getting sucked into a swamp in The Neverending Story and got concerned that Bill was next.

I felt less bad just now when Bill watched this clip and said it reminded him more of when the swamp tried to eat me in the Storm the Shore.

We were down to 30 minutes and had neglected four points. We still had to check back into the transition area before continuing on to the finish line -- a ride that was all uphill. Not what we had hoped for. We quickly nabbed one more point (well, sort of quickly ... we only found it because I was stomping around having a minor temper tantrum because the point wasn't right where we thought it was when I happened to look up and see it on top of a rocky hill), sped back to transition and then headed off for the uphill slog to the finish.

We ened up in a line of more than 30 teams, all trying to cross the finish before the 6-hour cutoff. I've never seen a finish like it in the 20 or so adventure races I've done. Usually teams trickle across the line one at a time, minutes or even hours apart.

This, however, was a hot mess of teams all going for broke, not wanting to lose any points for crossing the finish too late. Some teams were going for broke better than others and, not to sound like a dick, some got in my way. The uphill trail was single-and double-track, and some teams got a bit tired and just hopped off their bikes and stood there, getting in everyone else's way. Sort of inconsiderate and, as we were in a bit of a rush to, you know, finish the race in time, I was pissed. We finally just rode a bit off trail to get around people and when the trail gave way to a giant open hill we pushed to the top.

Bill was off and riding and I realized I could run with my bike faster than I could pedal. I hoppped off, picked up my old Trek and ran up the hill. Lungs burned, legs hated me, but we got there with several minutes to spare.

We slumped over to our car, Bill threw the bikes onto the roof and we discussed what went wrong. A few minor nav errors, a lack of first aid knowledge -- but what it seemed to come down to was that we just hadn't gone fast enough to clear the course. Another 20 or 30 minutes and had we not blown past that one bike CP, we could have done it.

But we didn't do it. And we were grumpy.

As the results were posted and we saw that we won our division, our grumpiness was only mildly mitigated. And the sweet beer stein and Road ID gift card that were our prizes helped a bit more, too.

Alas, AR season is officially over for us. At least it ended on a fun, well-designed course. The rogaine style meant that most teams finished in the last 30 minutes of the race-- the winners cleared, the newer teams didn't, but everyone got to be on the course for just about the full six hours. Usually, the super-speedy teams finish a sprint in three or four hours, sitting at the finish for hours while the rest of the field completes the course.

Next up, the Philly marathon. That I haven't trained for a lot. A 20-miler is on tap for Saturday followed by about 10 miles on Sunday. The race is soon -- less than a month away. Little speedwork, nothing more than 18 miles as my long run up to this point. Should be a disaster! But hopefully a fun one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A, B, C

A) Because neither one of us likes to sit still for too long and because I will apparently do anything to justify getting out of a long run, Bill signed us up for this today. At least I am assuming it was Bill. I checked my e-mail at work today (don't tell my boss) and found a race registration confirmation in my inbox. This year, The Edge is at a park we've raced in once before. The course designers were mean  -- made us paddle for 2.5 miles upstream which was more terrible than you might think. But then they got nicer and the bike course was the most fun I've had on my mountain bike in a race, ever. Too bad I haven't been on my mountain bike in more than two weeks.

B) We have a new buddy in our house. His name is Archie and his favorite book is The Hunger Games.

SPOILER ALERT: He cried when Rue died.

C) My new favorite thing to laugh at is collection of photoshopped pictures taken from a stockpile of photos from a hidden camera in a haunted house. I realize I think this is so much more hilarious than it actually is.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Storm the Eastern Shore, The End

I apologize in advance if this post makes even less sense than usual. After literally years with not even a sneeze, I find myself at home in a benadryl-induced haze trying to fight off something grody that is attempting to take over my person.

After the boys stared at the map for a bit and we shuffled around for about a mile trying to figure out exactly where we were we found our first point. And then the second, third and fourth in about 45 minutes. The points were almost right on top of each other -- two were less than 30 yards apart.

So, instead of just going for the mandatory four points we ended up with seven. Hooray! The sun worked its way up, our headlamps went back in our packs and after less than two hours (I think) we were rolling out of transition on our bikes for a few more points over 20 miles. And also a few more mosquito bites. At one point I was standing still to pay a toll we had to go through on our bikes and I was instantaneously covered in mosquitoes. Delicious.

We rode in a pace line most of the way and were moving along quick enough (for us) as we worked our way to the put-in for the final kayak, about 8 k down the Chesapeake. Didn't sound too bad.

We didn't waste too much time in transition and were off.

And then I got hit in the back of the head with Bill's paddle.

"Oh, sorry! I was just looking at the maps!" he said.

A few yards later I was clunked in the back of the head again. And then again. I turned, careful not to throw the boat out of balance.

Bill was sound asleep but still paddling the air.

Great. After a few failed attempts to keep him awake I realized I would be mostly paddling for two. I was pretty tired myself and made B.J. keep me engaged in conversation to keep me awake.

And then we saw sharks swimming toward us -- three fins popping above the water. Except I soon realized that the fins, fortunately, belonged to dolphins that swam right up to us, curious toward a bunch of smelly people in kayaks in their space.

How amazing -- probably the coolest thing that I've ever experienced during a race (aside from a few awesome hallucinations I had at my first 24-hour). Our new friends woke Bill up a bit and we continued down the bay.

The take-out came into view and we all started to pick up the pace, motivated by the finish line. We beached our boats and started to figure out the best way to rig them in order to complete the half-mile portage to the finish.

And then, a miracle! The dude from the team that stole back their portage wheels rolled up in a car and handed us a set of wheels!

We pushed and pulled our way to the finish (the portage was uphill, of course) and tadaa! All done!

The results still aren't posted but I am guessing we finished toward the middle.

I loved, loved this race. So fun, well-organized, the course took advantage of what the terrain had to offer and amazingly friendly volunteers. The fact that I felt physically strong for most of the race and only had one near-meltdown when I was stuck in  the swamp didn't hurt either.

And now I am bored. I want to get out there again immediately. Well, not immediately, as I am currently still in my pjs after 14 hours of sleep with more meds and tea pumping through me than is allowed by law. But soon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Storm the Eastern Shore, Part II

It was 7-ish or 7:30-ish or something when we headed out on our mountain bikes for a quick 25-mile ride, all on roads. The race director made it clear that the bike sections could be ridden on road bikes but we were mandated to use mountain bikes. Our tires were changed out from quite knobbies to just a little bit knobbies so we could zoom along as much as possible.

We put ourselves into a pace line and felt like we were flying after the slow hours in the boat. In just over 1.5 hours we covered more ground than in the first 10 hours of the race. That's a bit crazy.

One checkpoint was a bit hard to find -- we had to write down what year the giant  court house that clearly was RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACE moved to its current location. No indication anywhere -- we rode in circles around the building, smooshed our faces up against the front door to see if the date we were looking for was inside, looked for cornerstones ... nothing. Finally we found it on a tiny plaque on the side of the road (it was moved in 1677, in case you were wondering), 10 minutes wasted.

We continued on... and zoomed right past the turnoff to the transition to orienteering. So did just about every other team. Bike lights ahead, bike lights behind as we all rode back and forth looking for the proper turnoff. A friendly solo racer who ended up coming in second overall took the time to stop and show us that the road we needed wasn't actually on our map and pointed us in the right direction. Fortunately, we weren't too far out of the way and pulled into a muddy little patch of grass in the middle of nowhere that would serve as our transition to a 14-point orienteering course.

We had to get 8 points in order not to be short-coursed so that's what we did. In hindsight we could have gotten at least three or four more but, as the course maps were handed out section by section, we didn't know what was ahead of us  and decided to go just for the 8 points.

After throwing on our trail runners we were off. B.J. took the navigational lead and we soon found ourselves scraping through chest-high thorn bushes in the dark. Thorn bushes that hid sharp rocks and giant damn turkeys. Do you want to know how trippy it is to find yourself face to face with a wild turkey at 2 a.m. after 17 hours of racing?

Here's how trippy: Very. Very damn trippy.

Fortunately, we stumbled upon the first two or three points easily and thought we were well on our way to snagging our 8 points.

Then, a swamp tried to eat me. I am not making this up.

We were searching for a point along an reentrant. In case you are new to these parts, reentrants are not my friends. As we slogged along through swamp that reeked, the muck sucked at our ankles and threatened to take off our shoes. The point was visible just over and up the side of the swamp, though, so we continued on our route and punched the point. Hooray!

But all was not well. We headed a bit east through the swamp. And then I started sinking. Sinking fast. The boys were a few yards ahead as the Swamp Thing tried to pull me under. Within a few seconds I was in the putrid, rotting, thick mess up to my hips.

I was stuck. Impossibly stuck. And sinking.

What to do? I know! Freak the F out!

I started screaming and shrieking and flailing around. Oddly, this behavior did not get me unstuck. But it did get Bill and B.J. to turn around and come stare at me.

"Get me out! Get me ouuuut! GET ME OOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTTT!," I demanded while waving my hands in the air like I just didn't care. Too bad Bill didn't have the camera out for this.

So they did. First they tried to have me lean over and yank my arms. I got more stuck. Then they had me try to lay on my side and unstick myself. Not happening. Finally, they managed to stand far enough away that they didn't sink and they each grabbed me under an arm and yanked straight up.

Free at last! My shoes managed to stay on too so I guess I can't complain too much. We got a few more points (including one that was within the ruins of a house that made me feel like we were living The Blair Witch Project ... sort of awesome and sort of scary) and soon were up to six. We headed back to transition to take a bearing -- the points looked easy on the map and both seemed to be a straight shot on the far side of a soybean field.

But, no. More swamp, more stickers, more rocks and more swamp. We moseyed along with a few other teams and were starting to get a bit concerned that we were lost when we found one point and then, after more time being stabbed by thorn bushes, the other, neatly tucked within a sticker bush, hidden behind a tree. Ouch.

We headed back to transition, put on clean socks and  were off on our bikes again. I didn't wear a watch for this race, hoping to avoid the phenomenon of feeling awake, then looking at my watch, seeing that it is 3:30 in the morning and then suddenly feeling achingly tired, so I am not sure what time it was -- sometime between sunset and sunrise.

Ahead of us was about 25 miles on the bike to the next orienteering section. We found ourselves in some sort of apple orchard/sheep farm/swamp where race volunteers handed us a hand-sketched map with 8 points on it, with no clear markings delineating where we were in the map. Four points were mandatory, four were optional.

I sat in the grass while Bill and B.J. tried to figure out exactly where we were located on the map. This took a bit, so I stuffed my face with more chicken nuggets and a cheeseburger and waited for the fun to begin again ...

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Do you like the giant picture of my butt at the top of the page?

Storm The Eastern Shore, Part I

After a crazy rainy ride down to Cape Charles, Virgina (just past the north side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel) one thing was clear to me: I wasn't nervous for this race at all. No butterflies, no anxiety (other than the fact I realized I left my DEET at home and that I couldn't find my bike computer anywhere) and I had a steady diet of chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, Diet Mountain Dew and Ellio's (thanks for the race fuel inspiration, Abby and Val) to look forward to.

We met up with B.J., ate pizza, threw our junk into our packs and gear box and I actually got about 7 hours of sleep before our alarms started ringing at 5:30 a.m.

Maps weren't handed out until 6 a.m. Points were already plotted, although we** were all a bit curious about navigating via satellite maps in addition to the usual topo maps.

This race was BYO boat. Most of the other teams had these pencil-thin sea kayaks that looked like they weighed as much as a yard of gossamer. Our  rental "kayaks" rolled up an hour or so late, towed by a guy who I am pretty sure was The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

Hello. I will tow crappy ocean kayaks to you. Then I will bowl and drink
a white Russian or seven.

The gouged clunkers The Dude brought to us would have to do -- or we could swim the 30 miles of paddling that were ahead of us.

At just after 9 a.m. we were off for a short 4-mile foot section before the paddle put-in. I was in a good mood. I sprinted. The boys hung back, chatting about whatever it is that boys chat about at the beginning of a 30-hour race. I ran back to my teammates, grabbed the passport from Bill and ran ahead to punch the first point.

LET'S GO! The terrain was flat, the nav was obvious even to me and it wasn't pouring down rain like it was supposed to. I was happy.

We jogged into transition to the kayak put-in and tried to carry our boats the half-mile or so to the water. Um, no. Too heavy, so we took the time to set up our two pairs of portage wheels -- one for the tandem that Bill and I were using and one for B.J.'s single. We were off and managed to save ourselves some time and effort.

And then we hit the water.

"How long do you think this part is?" I questioned.

"In miles or in hours?" Bill asked.

"Uh, both."

"Oh, about 25 or 30 miles. Will probably take us at least 10 hours," Bill responded.

Well, shit. I decided that I'd hate the paddle, be terrible at it and that we'd miss the 4 p.m. course cutoff for one of the kayak checkpoints.

Except sea kayaks move a bit faster than the damn duckies we'd been relegated to for most of our other races this year. And we were in open water with silly birds, fun plants and other cool things to navigate through.

Happy boys. And a milk jug bailer I made the morning of the race. A shoutout to my parents who bought Bill a waterproof camera for his birthday. Alas, this was the only occasion we had time to actually take it out during the race. The rest of the time we were using our arms to push aside thorn bushes, ride, paddle, stuff food into our face, swat at mosquitos ...

I was loving it. I announced to Bill, B.J. and whatever other poor teams were within earshot of my glee that I was having a great time. I did this approximately every 30 seconds for the first three hours.

And then we hit a portion of nasty, shallow water suffering from low tide. And lots and lots of stink. It smelled like the inside of 1,000 shoes after a marathon, plus 56 blocks of Velveeta, plus rotting veggies and also a bit of barf. Fortunately, I got to appreciate this to the fullest extent possible. The water soon became too shallow to paddle. As Bill had a spray skirt and was staring at the maps I got to get out and pull us along. Spectacular.

Nothing says "I love you" like dragging your husband through the mire at hour three of an adventure race. The nasty muck seeped into my trail shoes and squished between my toes. I gagged a few times and threw up in my mouth once. But I was amused.

I wish that this video was scratch and sniff so you could get the full effect of the stench.

Soon, I felt like we were playing Legend of Zelda, circa 1989. Bill switched from the topo to the satellite map and we wove our way through a labyrinth of grass, reeds and gigantic birds who looked bewildered to see us.

I had no idea where we were as we plugged along for miles. Fortunately, Bill knew what he was doing and suddenly the maze spit us out right where we belonged -- checkpoint 6. The lead teams were already on their way out but we were certainly in the thick of things (at that point, anyway) and decided to go for CP 7 -- a bonus point that seemed to be a straightforward run about a mile and a half south on the beach into a grove of trees.

Off we went, running hard. A few minutes in Bill realized he left the map in the boat. Grr.  But he was convinced that the CP flag would be easy to spot so we continued on.

This part of the course was awesome. As we jogged along the isolated coast, silent aside from the shuffle of our feet and the lulling sound of waves lapping at the shore, I realized I was having way too much fun.

Yelling "WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE" did not seem appropriate, however, so I focused my joy into running harder. I ran a minute ahead of the boys, easily found the point, we spun it and we were on our way back to the boats for a mile portage. Eazy peasy, with our two sets of wheels and all.


One set of wheels was on loan from the race directer/owner/whatever else he does for GOALS. The second set was on loan from some friends of B.J.'s who were racing as a team of two. Unfortunately for us, that team decided to sit on and break the set of wheels that they were using. We found them standing next to our boats when we returned from CP 7, eager to have their wheels back.

Well, thanks. They snagged the wheels from us and zoomed on their way to CP 8 as we stood there and looked at each other, trying to figure out how to portage our massive boats, gear, paddles, food and various other sundries that we were instructed to carry to CP 8.

First we tried stacking the boats onto the one set of wheels. No go. The balance was off a lot and the boats kept tipping over. Then the boys tried to carry the single kayak. Too heavy. Finally, we borrowed some webbing from another team, B.J. rigged up a sling and he dragged his boat through ankle-deep water while Bill and I pulled the tandem through the sand. Fortunately CP 8 was easy to find and we spun it back to where we picked up our boats to start the portage.

I am cool with portaging when it serves a purpose, but checkpoint 8 seemed to be added just to give us a chance to lug all of our junk up the beach for a bit. Boring, especially considering that the course was otherwise creative.

We soon realized that we were racing against the clock. In order to get credit for our bonus CP 7 to count we had to check in at the next kayak point by 4 p.m. It was 2:45 and we estimated it would take us more than an hour to get to the next point.

The race was on. We peed in the sand (I was modest and hid behind an oyster shell), threw ourselves and our stuff into the boat and paddled hard.

I, usually the pessimist, was feeling optimistic.

"I bet that the tide is in and that crap we had to walk through on the way here is now under water," I said.

The boys hoped I was right. And for once I was sure that I was.

Sure enough, the tide and the current was on our side and we moved along quickly, passing several teams as we went.

I wanted food. I wanted a break. But I wanted credit for CP 7 more.

We saw what we thought was the point a mile or so in the distance. It quickly came closer and we saw the race volunteers snapping pictures and cheering us along -- we made it with 45 minutes to spare.

We paused for a snack and a drink. I thought we only had a mile or two left. At this point we'd been in the boat for almost 7 hours. Time to do something else.

Bill broke the news to me gently -- he told me we still had more than 9 miles of open water to go, with some challenging navigation choices along the way.

We made one mistake along the way that cost us about 20 minutes, but then Bill decided we should take a gamble that we'd be able to paddle a section of land usually above water except during high tide. He thought the tide would still be high enough and, if it was, about 2 miles of paddling would be cut off our trip.

He was dead on and pointed out a house in the distance that marked the end of what was about 9 hours in the boat out of the first 10 hours of racing. We paddled hard to the takeout and learned we were toward the back of the pack. We were, however, also one of the few teams who opted to go to CP 7, so we weren't too surly about our position.

We got some UTM coordinates that B.J. and Bill plotted while I refilled water bottles, put on dry clothes and ate pizza and chicken nuggets (complete with sweet and sour sauce) before we set out on our bikes for the next leg of the race.

**When I say "we" I really mean B.J. and Bill. I don't navigate. I am not too proud to admit it.

Come back for Part II, coming sooner or later to a Brick Wall near you.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Storm the Eastern Shore went well. I have no idea how we placed other than we most def did not win our division. There were only two teams, out of about 25, and the other 3/4 person coed team is nationally ranked and cleared the course hours before anyone else even crossed the finish line.

We even managed to squeeze in a few optional points this time around. I never felt tired except for about 30 minutes toward the end and I didn't feel like I was slowing down the boys, either.

However, I am covered in mosquito bites. Even though I doused myself in DEET a billion times and basically started drinking it, those little mofos loved me. I have about 55 bites at last count and want to hire someone to come over and scratch the one between my shoulder blades for me.

I am also itchy in my brain -- adventure race season is more or less over (there's one more short sprint we might do in a few weeks) and I want to have a long race on the calendar. I am already calling for a reunification of the Bees' Knees for the Rev3 next year, but that race isn't until the end of April.

A real race report to follow soon. Ok, maybe not soon, but in the next few days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Almost Race Day...

... which means it is almost chicken nugget time! This race I think I am going to actually carry the nuggets with me. Ten to start, 20 in my gear box. Should kill any cravings and provide me with enough sodium and calories to last a lifetime. Or at least to last 30 hours.

Don't worry, Ma. This tattoo is not on my person. It's just a photo from that thing called the Internet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Runs In the Family

Watch this. Be patient. Or just skip ahead to about the 2:35 mark.

Can you guess the runner I am related to?

If you can't guess, read this

Or read this.

So yeah. The kid who loses the fight with the rando pole is my cousin Ben. He went on to finish the race and while he didn't place as well as he had hoped thanks to taking a giant metal pole to the eyeball he still finished well into the top half. Once he managed to scrape himself and his retina off the ground and get moving again.

Now Ben, imported all of the way from Maryland to Philly for his running talent, goes to the same college I went to and is gearing up for what I am sure will be one hell of a freshman season of cross-country running.

Welcome to the big, dirty, nasty city, cousin. It's a hell of a place to be a runner.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I keep trying to make plans for the weekend of September 24. Dinners, happy hours, runs and races. "I have a free weekend!" my brain keeps telling me.

Except I don't. I have a 30-hour adventure race five hours from home.

Miles and miles of open-water paddling on the Chesapeake Bay and/or the giant ocean has me the most nervous. Hopefully we will get boats with motors attached, but I doubt it.

Also hopefully, there won't be any hurricanes/floods/crazy rain/etc. that have pelted the east coast over the past 10 days (wiped out a lot of Wissahickon Park, sadly, but I am currently too lazy to upload pictures).

I am fine with running and biking in the rain but paddling in a storm? No thanks. Unlike most adventure races this one looks like it will be paddle-heavy -- up to 35 miles in the boat with only 15 to 25 miles on foot and 80 on bike. Doesn't play to my strengths at all, but Bill is coming off of a minor foot injury so the course could be to our benefit.

But man, 35 miles on open water? Grr.

The good news is that I think we will place well in the 3/4-person co-ed division. Because we are the only one in it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sweatfest 2011

Sorry for the lack of blog action as of late. I've been too busy turning myself into a date or a prune by sweating every ounce of hydration out of my person.

Bill and I headed down to my parents' in Maryland for a large chunk of the weekend. With Storm the Shore two weeks away (shit!) we knew we had to get some training in between sleep, tailgates, Navy football and play time with the fam and the friends.

Bill is well on the mend from a foot booboo and wants to stay that way so we lugged the mountain bikes down with us to get some time in the saddle. I hadn't sat on that saddle since the finish line of the Equinox almost two months ago.

What kind of an adventure racer am I? Circle all that apply.
     A) The awesome kind.
     B) The short kind.
     C) The lazy kind.

I know you leaned toward A but, in fact, the correct answer is both B and C.

We headed down to a small park about 20 minutes south of my parents' digs near Annapolis. Only one real trail -- a 9.5 mile loop. We thought it would be boring and, based by the quality of the riders and bikes in the parking lot when we rolled into the park bright and early I was worried I was in for a day of hot mess technicality.

Instead, an awesome roller coaster of buttery single track, some short climbs, tight turns and only a few rocks and roots. I always forget that the Wissahickon, my usual riding spot, is one of the more technical spots to bike within a few hundred miles.

It was pretty stellar. We did a lap and a half and then found ourselves unable to stay away from the awesome -- we headed back to the park the next day for a few more hours of riding.

Bill likes to mountain bike, a lot. He also happens to be pretty good at it -- pushing the pace and the more technical, the better. This park was a bit beneath the technical junk he prefers so we decided to make the ride a bit more of a challenge for the both of us. I'd get an 8-minute head start on the first lap and then the last one to the end had to buy gas and Wawa hoagies to get us through the ride back to Philly.

I was off, zooming the best that I could up and around switchbacks, through tight turns, wedging between trees and splashing through a few streams. I could ride the whole thing -- only had to unclip when I'd go around a turn to find another rider zooming right toward me.

So yeah, I suck at mountain biking. Just past the half-way point I heard someone come up behind me, fast. It was Bill. We rode together for about two miles and then he was off, making it to the parking lot almost 20 minutes faster than I did.

I was a drippy, muddy, sweaty mess as we sat in the parking lot for a few before heading out on the trail again. Sweating so much that the sweat was actually rinsing off the mud on my legs. How damn nasty is that?

My new bike shoe make my feet look extra gigantic!

We rolled back to Philly at around 9 p.m. and I was up again at 8 to meet Abby for a longer trail run in the Wissahickon. As we chatted about whether our run counted as marathon or adventure race training, my new found obsession with The Hunger Games and whether we should really try to race the Philly marathon or just make sure we cross the finish line I found myself basically melting.

My entire person turned to sweat. I had a small pack on with about 60 ounces of water that I was chugging. It might have been more efficient just to dump the water directly onto my person. Every few minutes I'd grab the sides of my shirt and wring them out, sweat leaving a trail behind me. My hair looked like I'd gotten caught in a downpour. My shoelaces were so drippy they started whipping my ankles as I meandered along the trail. Blisters? I got them on my feet, thanks to the fact that my socks were so wet that I wrung them out when I got home.

How effing disgusting is that? On a scale of 1 to 10, please leave your score in a comment. Personally, I think it's a 9.

I don't weigh myself a lot, maybe a few times a year to make sure I don't have a tapeworm or that I haven't secretly been eating Big Macs and tubs of Crisco in my sleep, so I am not entirely sure what I weigh at any given point in time. But, I hopped on the scale once I got home from our 17.5 nasty (and, for me, sort of painful) trail miles.

I weighed 2 points less than I ever have in my adult life.

Not good. Kidneys, I apologize. Heart, I apologize to you, too.

I spent several hours sipping on blue-flavored Powerade, lemonade-flavored Nuun, water and chocolate milk. I never felt entirely terrible or death-like -- I just felt like the most dehydrated person in the tri-state area.

When I got on the scale this morning I'd put on five pounds. I felt fine today -- not sore, not dehydrated, not particularly tired, so I guess I didn't do any real damage.

But, fall, roll in soon. Please and thank you.