Monday, November 22, 2010

Heavier Things

If running has brought anything unquantifiable and worthwhile to my life, it has brought the knowledge of what it feels like to push through difficulties to reach something that I know I want.

There are several parts to that, the first being the end: something that I know I want.  When I ran near the finish line of the marathon around mile 16 (because of the race's strange set up over the last half), I had zero desire to turn in a half marathon time instead of a full because I wanted the full marathon.  I wanted to run and finish it so badly that I gleefully kept going.  The second part of it is that I had never really before felt the satisfaction of pushing through something to get somewhere I knew I wanted to be.  As proud of myself as I was to graduate from college, it was (almost) a given.  I did struggle with things during those four years, and there were challenges to face, but somehow it was different.  

This is one of the reasons that has kept me running.  I want to keep that feeling alive, I want to keep building my mileage, although at this point it is rebuilding, and I want to keep reaching those goals.

Now, though, I want more.  I want to have that feeling in my life.  I want to discover a goal, go and do the work to achieve it, and then achieve it.  Whether this needs to happen in my work or in some outside activity, I'm not sure.

Where does running fit into this heavy question of what to do?  It is, hopefully, a catalyst that will place the big picture into perspective.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Good Life Ain't Half Bad

It's been one month since I ran the marathon.  The days don't seem quite as long now.  I can almost feel the breeze, whipping past my aching legs...almost.  But then it goes away...and I wonder, will I ever, ever feel that way again?

Sike! This has been a great month.  I've really taken advantage of my new found free time and have gotten back in touch with friends, including the better-rested, less-stressed version of myself that I'm quite fond of.  The things that needed attention, like say, what I'm doing with my life, have also been getting the attention they deserve, and I'm finding that things are going in a direction.

Not to say that I didn't love training for the marathon and then running it.  If you've read any of my posts, you know that I did. Satisfaction doesn't even begin to describe the feeling that I would get after a run.  Athletics have never really been my thing, so it was a new and very appreciated experience.

But now I find myself here, one month later, asking what's next.  Since I'm the type A person that I am (sorta), I can actually tell you what's next!

1) the Hyannis Half Marathon--this one will probably be on my schedule every year as long as I am in the area.
2) Massachusetts Reach The Beach Relay in May--it's the inaugural year for this springtime race, and team Too Late to Turn Back (from Vermont!) is at it again

I've realized a couple of things that I wish I had done differently in my training the past year.  I really wish I had done more speedwork.  Speed was not my goal when I did those races, I really just wanted to finish, but now that I've done the races, I think it's okay to let my competitive side out a bit.  No more running just for the hell of it.  Well that's not true...but more speed workouts.  We'll just go with that....

And in case you were wondering, the number of times I've run since the marathon?  5 times.  5 glorious, wonderful times.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Marathon, Or, My Tour of San Francisco

My plane wasn't delayed, the weather was good, and I found myself in San Francisco three weeks ago, doing anything BUT thinking about the marathon I was to run the next day.  We walked around Union Square, registered for the race, got some free stuff, went to brunch, and had a generally relaxing day.  When Jenny, my friend who went with me, asked if I was nervous, I could honestly say no.  That's because I just wasn't thinking about it.

The next morning, however, was different.  I was bounding down the stairs in the hotel to use the restroom, I was bounding back up them to meet up with people, I was awake, I was excited, and I just wanted to run.

The night before the race was the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner.  There were 3800 TNTers there.  3800!  That's a lot of people raising a lot of money for LLS.  Joan Benoit spoke at the beginning and gave us some inspiration for the run the next day.   "The Penguin" of Runner's World magazine was the host and told some funny jokes and kept us entertained.  Then the honored hero of the night came up and spoke about her sister passing away a year ago and how she and her other 5 sisters were running in the race in memory of her.  It was a great way to remind everyone that there are bigger things in the world.  Nerves just don't stack up when it comes to things like that.

The best part about the whole event--the 3800 of us managed to raise $13 million for LLS for this race.  The Massachusetts Chapters raised $106,000 of that.  I've never been moved by people's generosity so much before.  Thank you all.

On to the race.

The following is not how you would expect a tour of San Francisco to go:

"First, you will walk through the streets of the financial district, where you will see clothes strewn about on the street.  Don't worry, this is totally normal.   Next, we will be going along the Embarcadero, where you will worry about tripping over the train tracks there.  A few hills and 6 miles later, we're going to climb a doozy of a hill.  But there's more!  At the top will be a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge, where you, in all your sweaty and exhausted glory, can stop and be photographed!..."

Nicole and I gearing up
We're ready to go!

But that is, in fact, how the race started.  The streets were deserted, save for a few dedicated fans and runners strewn-about unneeded 2nd layers.   Nicole and I started the race together and ran these first 6 miles together.  Nike had "Power Song" stations every 4 or 5 miles, and the station for mile 6 was special because at the pre-race expo, we were able to vote for the song that would play.  This was important because it was the start of the largest hill we would encounter.  I may or may not have voted for "Dynamite" three times.  And guess what--it won!  I have to say, I felt incredibly strong going up the hills.  I have no idea why, but it's great that my love for hills has returned and I've temporarily forgotten about Vermont. (oh Vermont...).

Nicole and I became separated on this hill, and so I ran the next 5 miles by myself, and by that I mean with way too many people surrounding me.  It was great that the race was so popular, because you never really were running by yourself, but it was also a source of frustration in the beginning.  On the way down the hill, I ran next to a lady from the Central Ohio Chapter of Team in Training so we sparked up a conversation about Columbus and the Buckeyes.

Just before mile 11, Jenny joined me.  I can't even begin to thank her enough for running with me for the next 7 miles.  I really, truly can't.  With her, I picked up my pace a little bit and we kept ourselves entertained by talking.  Around mile 17, we passed a station playing "Eye of the Tiger" and we belted out our beautiful voices to that song.  At mile 18, she turned around to go back to the finish line to patiently wait for another hour and half for me to finish.  I have no idea exactly how much having her run with me actually helped but I know that she left me with high spirits and confidence.  Thank you Jenny!!
Jenny and I at the end
What also helped with the race were the myriad of Team in Training coaches dotting the course and calling good luck to everyone whose name they could see clearly.  Mine was written on my singlet as well as my right arm, and apparently it was clear enough that I had my name called out a lot.  Towards the end of the race, people started saying to me "Looking strong Kristin," which I was coherent enough to question whether I really did look strong or whether I looked so weak that they were shouting confidence in my direction.  I have no idea...
Teammate Danyell and I at the end

The weather was, in my opinion, perfect for the race. The sky was overcast and there was a light rain that came and went throughout the whole thing.  I know some people said they were cold but for me, it was ideal.  Everything would have been so much more difficult if it had been hot.

Overall, it was a great day and an experience that I won't forget.  I realize how lucky I am that I didn't have any issues or injuries while running it.  I know several people who have had such issues, or who just had a plain old bad day, and while they were all able to finish the race, it wasn't easy.
To the Finish!

I'll definitely run another one of those things.  Not anytime soon, though.  I will be doing several half marathons again next year and I also plan on doing another sprint triathlon.

ALSO I do plan on keeping up with the blog!  My facebook status updates about it will probably cease but feel free to check back every so often!

Thanks so much for everyone's support!  


More Details on the Run (because I didn't want to bore most of you...)

I finished the race faster than I expected.  When I started training in May, my goal was to run it under 4hr 30min.  As I ran through the summer and into Autumn, that adjusted to under 5 hours, with the ultimate goal being 4hr 45min. I started off pretty slow, probably going just over 11 min/mile.  I was passed at some point by the 4hr 45min pacer, and while I tried to keep her in my sights (she had a sign saying 4:45, afterall), I lost her and eventually went back to a comfortable pace.  But with the increase in pace with Jenny, I caught up with her at around mile 19.  Since I become even more social than normal when I run sometimes, I said to her "I'm so glad to see you!" and her response was "well stick with me, the coming miles are uncharted territory."  I thought about that, and assessed how I was feeling, and heeded her advice, but only in making sure I didn't go all out just yet.  I continued on, passing by the group that was sticking to her like glue, and stayed strong through the last 8 miles.  It did get harder, and my legs did get tired, but it was never enough to make me even think about stopping or slowing down.

Around mile 24, I felt confident enough that I'd be able to finish without breaking down that I picked up my pace, with the full intention of slowing down once I hit mile 25.  I slowed a bit, but not much, and I was able to finish with a time of 4hr 38min.

Next marathon goal--break 4:30