Monday, December 23, 2013

Josh’s Story: “I Wanted It Too.” A Romance with Running, from Basement Treadmill to Detroit Marathon.

Josh_performing with sax

I’ve known Joshua James for a long time.  We attended Albion College together and shared a social circle.  We even dated briefly, which makes me smile now when I think back on “that one time I dated a musician.”  After college, we lost touch as we moved in different directions.  Today, Josh is a musician and music teacher, performing and teaching in the Detroit area.  He’s a self-made runner who ran his first marathon in October, the Detroit Marathon.  Josh finished in a super-speedy 4:02:58—smokin’ fast!  We reconnected via Facebook because of the marathon, and he was kind enough to do an interview with me about his newfound love for running.

Our interview is a long one, but I think Josh tells a great story.  So grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, maybe some Christmas cookies, and settle in for a good read. 

Rose-Anne:  I'll start. What sparked your interest in running?

Josh: Well, here's how it REALLY started.  About two years ago I was in terrible shape, and I had some pretty bad health issues.  A combination of stress at my job (teaching) coupled with a musician's lifestyle (late night gigs, food runs at 3 AM, drinking until the sun came up) left me pushing 267 pounds with terrible blood pressure and a heart arrhythmia.

I had a treadmill in the basement (from the previous homeowner), and I forced myself to start getting on it every day.  When I started, I could barely do a 12-minute mile for 10 minutes...

Rose-Anne: Yikes!  Yes, musicians are kinda famous for the health hazards of their work.

Josh:  Indeed, we are terrible with our bodies…so as I started forcing myself to get on the treadmill, I started seeing some great results.  The weight was coming off (fast), and I was sleeping MUCH better at night.  I began eating healthier compared to musician standards.  I got down to 220 after about eight months, and I stayed there for a long while.

At this point my doctor noticed how, despite my [healthy] upswing, the previous years of "hard-livin" had taken a toll on my ticker, and I was placed on some pretty serious blood-pressure meds that I didn't like.  I had some bad reactions to [them].

Rose-Anne:  Ah, no!

Josh:  I realized at that point that if I truly took my health—mental as well as physical—that I could beat this thing without the meds.  (I HATE taking meds unless ABSOLUTELY necessary.)

Rose-Anne:  That must have been a powerful moment for you—that feeling of complete responsibility.  ABLE to respond to this challenge.

Josh:  Oh, for sure. Because of those positive side-effects [from running], I redoubled my efforts on exercise, added some mild meditation, and just began a general push towards "chilling out."

But again, Rose-Anne, I was still just running on a treadmill; I hadn't ever run outside, let alone with people, until late March of this year.

Rose-Anne:  Let’s back up a moment to the challenges of being a healthy musician when the default model is “work hard, play even harder.”  Was it easier to back off of drinking when you started exercising?

Josh:  Regarding the drinking, yes, exercise curbed it considerably.  I'm not dry by any means, but I find now I drink a lot less.  There was time I laid off of beer for eight months.  I really lost weight during that time.

Rose-Anne:  I'm not dry either!  I'm definitely an everything-in-moderation person.

Josh:  Me too, now.  It's taken me a long time to learn that lesson.

Rose-Anne:  But you have, and you did it by adding stuff first.

Josh:  For sure.

Rose-Anne:  Which is always interesting to me--the idea of changing habits by starting something good rather than cutting back on something that can be...well, too much.

Josh:  I decided one day to sign up for Cranbrook's "5k/10k Fun Run" in April.  [The experience was] exhilarating because it felt amazing.  (And it was a trail run, too.)  But I had only prepped for a 5K, and the stupid kids working the course sent me to the 10k path instead of the 5K split.  Those bastards!

Rose-Anne:  Haha!  They knew you were a marathoner-to-be!

Josh:  I never knew what my time was; I ran like 4.5 miles and left in frustration!!

Rose-Anne:  Oh, man!  That sucks!  That kinda sounds like my first cross-country race.  Except I got myself lost because I was so damn slow.  And dumb, apparently.

Josh:  But on my way home I realized how much fun I had, and that I actually could run outside, in races, with people.

Rose-Anne:  Did you feel at all nervous about running with people at the race?

Josh:  I was nervous as hell!  But I wanted to see what all these people could do, and if I could do it, too.

Josh in running gear

Now here comes the cool part.  So [my wife] Kat came across this post on Facebook of some mutual friends who were thinking of starting a Ferndale runners’ group.  They were calling all ages, all paces.  Kat felt I should maybe join them, at the very least for advice and some experience.

Rose-Anne:  What did you think?

Josh:  I did, and I realized I could actually "hang" at something athletic.  I immediately fell in love with it.  [And they] are now some of my best friends.

Rose-Anne:  Aw! That is awesome.  How was your first group run with them?

Josh:  My first run was similar to my Cranbrook fun run; I got lost along the way! But that's how I met my friend Brian, and we've been bosom buddies ever since. 

Rose-Anne:  It must have been so refreshing to leave the basement and find camaraderie in sneakers.

Josh:  Shit yeah!!!  Brian encouraged me to run my first 10-mile race.  That was a great experience...

Rose-Anne:  It's funny how we start running for the health benefits and we stay for something deeper.  Running involves too much pain and inconvenience to be worth it for one thing only.  So which race did you choose for the first ten-miler?  Crim?

Josh:  No, the Kona in Northville. That Hines Park hill was a bitch!!

Rose-Anne:  Oh, shit. Northville is a brutal place to run.

Josh:  So dig this...I had only run for 10 miles the week before, on my own, visiting Kat's mom in Florida.  THAT was brutal!  Brian practically peer-pressured me into signing up last minute for the Kona.  Humid as a rhino's...well, you know.

Rose-Anne:  Heh. Running friends are the worst…(and the best!)

Josh:  So on the Kona, I told Brian..."I'm just gonna ride your hip."  Brian and I helped each other out on that race.  He helped me, and I helped [him] get past those hills.

Rose-Anne:  Ah, so you're a hill runner!

Josh:  Hey, what can I say, I love self-abuse!

Rose-Anne: YES!  Your masochistic streak found a new outlet!

Josh:  When July came around, I decided to just go for the FREEP.

Rose-Anne:  Wow!

Josh:  That's it exactly!!!  A fellow music teacher/cellist friend of mine has run a ton of marathons in her life.  She is a very dear friend.

Rose-Anne:  So you had about three months of serious time to train for the marathon.

Josh:  Yes.

Rose-Anne:  And a good running base to support you.

Josh:  Yes, for sure, but it was more than that.  I remembered how she (my friend Jen) spoke of running...I remembered your experience with running...

Rose-Anne:  Romantically?

Josh:  I looked around and saw all of my friends [and their] relationship with running...Yes, it was and is a romantic view.  All these long-term relationships, and I wanted it, too!

Rose-Anne:  It really is.  "I want what they have!"  That is beautiful.

Josh:  Yes!!!!!

Rose-Anne:  It's a good metaphor, too.

Josh:  Here's the thing; now I'm hooked!

Rose-Anne:  That's the risk you run...

Josh:  It's like a drug!!!!

Rose-Anne:  Wearing ridiculous clothes, spending too much money on races...Getting up early to run?  WTF?!?

Josh:  Haha, yeah...


Rose-Anne:  We are ridiculous.

Josh:  I know, right!?  We surely are...but we're also a deep community!

Rose-Anne:  The highest of highs, the lowest of lows...

Josh:  Dig this…I was thinking a lot about the marathon yesterday...about everyone who's been[our friend] running crew...and everybody else...

Not one of us...I mean, if we're really into this...not one of us is ever competing against each other.  We are only ever competing ourselves.

Rose-Anne:  It's true.

Josh:  And all of us...the community of trying to help everyone else take that first step...and then the next one.

Rose-Anne:  I feel nothing but admiration for our community.  Running is HARD. Even after all these years, it's still hard for me.

Josh:  Rose-Anne, that is the one thing I love the most about running...the community.

Rose-Anne:  You're going to make me cry...Our community is incredible!

Josh:  I LOVE seeing all of the different people on races. And even just out and about in the neighborhood.  I love running past another runner, giving them a nod, and getting one in return.  It IS incredible.

Rose-Anne:  I love waxing romantically about running!  Hearing someone else do it is wonderful.  So tell me more about your marathon training.  How many days a week did you run?

Josh:  Four days a week.  I did the Higdon novice II schedule.  Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat.  [Check out Josh’s marathon schedule here.]

Rose-Anne:  Ah, awesome.  How did you feel the first time you ran more than 10 miles?

Josh:  Yeah...I felt amazing!!


Josh:  I couldn't believe I could run that far!  Heck yeah!!!

Rose-Anne:  I know, right?  How well did your body respond to the increasing distances?  Any bumps along the way during training?  And how often were you running with your running group?  Did you have marathon training buddies?

Josh:  [My body] was doing okay.  At times I had some lower back pains.  But then my massage therapist hipped to running thumbs-up…that helped with the hips!  I ran with the group all during the summer...Mondays at 6 PM, and Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6 AM.

Rose-Anne:  My hips are my weak spot too.

Josh:  I even corralled my sister-in-law to run, too.  Thumbs-up will help a ton!!!  I was always on my own for long runs.

Rose-Anne:  Thumbs-up posture-wise?

Josh:  Everyone had their own thing.

Rose-Anne:  For alignment, maybe?

Josh: forces your arms to move like a locomotive engine.

Rose-Anne:  Ah!  Good form.  Did you like the solo long runs?

Josh:  At first no, but then yes!  I love coming up with new routes.  The old Albion [College] Midnight Runners gave me a great idea, too…cemetery runs.

Rose-Anne:  Gah, the idea of running at midnight right now strikes me as more insane than a marathon.  I am an old lady.

Josh:  I run down to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Palmer Woods neighborhood. Never past 7 PM, of course.  I'd get a shiv in the back if I ran at midnight down there!

Rose-Anne:  Yikes!

Josh:  I'm more of a morning runner.

Rose-Anne:  Less of a shiv-in-the-back runner?

Josh:  Uh, yes.

Rose-Anne:  Ha!   What was your most memorable training run during the marathon cycle?

Josh:  Most memorable...Kat and I were vacationing in Traverse City for my birthday in August.  I woke up super early and ran along the T.A.R.T. trail from Traverse City to Sutton's Bay.  Kat met me there and picked me up for breakfast.  15 miles.  That was a great morning.

Rose-Anne:  Oh, that sounds great.  A perfect morning.

Josh:  It was actually on my birthday, too. It was a great memory.  I drank some good beer later that day, too. 

Rose-Anne:  Aw!  What a way to celebrate.  Beer's good for recovery from long runs.  Right?  Refill those glycogen stores.  Okay, one last question: what was your favorite part about the Detroit Marathon?

Josh:  Oh boy...

Rose-Anne:  Obviously you had an amazing finish, but before that...

Josh:  Brian and his friend Jeni, the three of us, we're all trying to run a four-hour race.  So we're running together…and despite the fact that Jeni and I lost Brian behind us around 12 miles, and I lost Jeni behind me around mile 18, the three of us were constantly looking out for each other.  That was my favorite part.  Oh yeah, and crying like a toddler when I saw the finish line after I turned the corner.

Rose-Anne:  I do not blame you!  I almost cried too, but it was from the pain!

Josh:  I had no tears, of course, but you know what I mean.

Rose-Anne:  I do.  If I had started crying before the finish, I wouldn't have been ABLE to finish.  I'm so proud of you, Josh!  Your story is amazing and deeply inspiring.  I kinda want to go for a run right now...

Josh:  Rose-Anne, I 'm proud of you, too!!!!!

Rose-Anne:  Aw!  You are very sweet.

Josh:  I'm jonesing to get back into training mode again.

Rose-Anne:  Me, too. (But don't tell anyone!)  I struggled through my training this year.

Josh:  Toronto 2015 sounds great!

Rose-Anne:  Yes!  JD is PUMPED about Toronto.  If I plan to run it way in advance, I can probably make the scheduling happen.  So that's good.

Josh:  I saw the web traffic about that spill you had in Texas. Man, Kat and I were sending positive vibes your way.

Rose-Anne:  Yeah, that was freaky and terrible.  [You can read about that accident here.]

Josh:  But hey, chica, you beat its ass the moment you ran across the start line!!!

Rose-Anne:  The worst part of it?  Thinking I'd have to give up the marathon.  Because I wouldn't be able to train for it in the Texas heat/humidity.

Josh:  Just showing up is amazing.

Rose-Anne:  So I power-walked most of my "long runs."

Josh:  I'm glad you kept it going.

Rose-Anne:  And it worked!  I finished!  [You can read my marathon race report here.]

Josh:  You're a trooper training down there!!!  Geez louise!!!

Rose-Anne:  Aw! I just wanted to experience the marathon.  You know?

Josh:  I do indeed.

Rose-Anne:  Thank you so much [for the interview].  You are terrific.

Josh:  Thanks for asking. Let's keep in touch.

Rose-Anne:  Toronto 2015...get it tattooed somewhere

Josh:  I'll run if you do.

Rose-Anne:  Yes, awesome!

Josh:  Hahaha...I'll do it...

Rose-Anne:  And yes, let's keep in touch.

Josh_racing image

* * *

Remember how I said earlier that Josh is a self-made runner?  I’m not so sure about that after this interview.  In fact, after the marathon, he said to me, “Rose-Anne Meissner, it’s ALWAYS we.  If running a marathon has taught me anything, it's that one immutable fact.”

Maybe we take that first step by ourselves, tentative and hoping we’re taking a step toward changing our lives.  But if we’re lucky, we find our running communities, on-line and at races, around town and in runners’ groups.  Once you start feeling a connection with someone because hey, they run too! then you know you have made it.  You have become a runner.

Congratulations, Josh.  Not only did you smoke the Detroit Marathon, you are officially a runner.  I am so very proud of you.

(Toronto 2015!)

All photos courtesy of Josh James and his Facebook page.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

For the Rest of This Month…


This month, I think I’d like to take a break from my usual format of work-out posts + life updates to focus on other material.  Lined up in the queue is an interview with my friend Josh, who ran a super-speedy marathon, a year-in-running review, and a “What’s next?” post.  I’ve been doing a lot of walking this month anyway, so my work-out posts would be not so exciting.  (Besides, I’m in Michigan now and left my notes about last week’s work-outs on my coffee table.  So yeah: I’m not always perfectly organized, but perhaps that is a blessing in disguise.)

Does that sound good to you?  Yes?  Good!  Now I can finally get to work on editing that interview with Josh that’s been on my list of want-to-do for two months.  My motto is always so many ideas and projects, so little time…finishing things is hard.

Happy Solstice, friends.

PS  An owl in Christmas lights!

Owl in Lights

Sunday, December 8, 2013

To Give Something Back

Mile 7 Before the Runners

Mile 7 Below

Mile 7 Above

Week of December 2, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run.  36 minutes total, with 24 minutes running.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Bike commute to work

Friday: Off

Saturday: ~25 minute walk (slow, not included below)

Sunday: Bike ride to and from my assigned marathon spot. (~7 miles round-trip) 

Estimated mileage: 3.2 miles.  Total minutes run/walked: 36.

This weekend, I was able to be on the other side of marathoning: the volunteer side!  On Saturday, Paul dropped me off on the other side of town so I could work the bib table at the expo for three hours.  And this morning, I biked about four miles from my apartment to be the course marshal at Mile 7 of the BCS Marathon.  I figured after a half-marathon and a full marathon this year, it was time for me to give something back to my running community.  So it was with a sense of duty and excitement that I bundled up into marshmallow-like layers and braved the cold and the dark.  My biggest fear was biking in the dark this morning, but even at 6:45 AM, there was enough light that I felt safe.  Plus the roads were pretty empty—always a perk of an early-morning departure.

I made my way into Bryan, parked my bike, and waited for the first runners to come through.  About 40 minutes after the start, a scrappy-looking guy came through, looking strong and fast (<6:00/mile!).  Two minutes later, another runner came through, followed by a handful of other leaders.  The trickle became a steady flow of runners, coming in all shapes and sizes.  I cheered for them all, including my former boss and my friend Tonya.  I clapped, I cheered, I said words of encouragement, and I even got a few high-fives.  There were plenty of runners saying thank you as they went by, and I kept saying, “No, thank YOU!”  I was just as happy to see them as they were to see me.

Having run my first marathon earlier this year, I think it was especially fun to volunteer because I felt like I was part of the club.  I knew what it felt like to be in their shoes.  I knew that most of them would be feeling great when I saw them at Mile 7, but ten or fifteen miles later, they would be digging deep to find the strength to finish.  Knowing what a big accomplishment it is to run 26.2 miles, I was honored to be a part of it for this group of runners.  It was satisfying to give to them some of the love that I received on the Detroit Marathon course.

But now I’m cozy and warm at home again.  We’re going out to dinner tonight to celebrate Tonya’s first marathon, and I’m looking forward to that.  I’ve been working at home today, doing some lab website work and trying to tick off my to-do list.  (Clean out kitty’s litter box?  Check.  Vacuum?  Check.  Give Paul gas money?  Um…no check.)  Tomorrow I get to work at home, which I am very much looking forward to.  Last Friday was my final paid day for postdoc job #2, and I’m glad that milestone has now come and gone.  My last day wasn’t bad, but it’s awkward leaving a job when it isn’t your choice.  I really hate that, no matter how smooth it may look from the outside.

Nothing lasts forever.  A first marathon comes and goes.  Jobs come and go.  Everything flows.  Knowing that, running teaches us to embrace the moment for all it’s worth and to do our very best with the time we have.

I just love how running is a perfect metaphor for life.

PS  Lucy didn’t run today, but she did provide early-morning company.  She’s resting now.  It takes serious dedication to look this cute all the time.  

So Pretty

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Friendsgiving + Contemplation

Ground Covered

Blurry Above

Week of November 25, 2013:

Monday: Evening yoga

Tuesday: Treadmill run.  40 minutes total, 32 minutes running

Wednesday: Off (grocery shopping + date night with Paul)

Thursday: A Thanksgiving Day run!  40 minutes total, 30 minutes running

Friday: Long walk with friends (untimed)

Saturday: A photo walk by myself (also untimed)

Sunday: Long run!  62 minutes total, 47 minutes running.

Estimated mileage: 13.1 miles.  Total minutes run/walked: 142.

Ah, Thanksgiving weekend!  It’s always a much-needed break, isn’t it?  Mine has been just about perfect.  On Wednesday evening, Paul and I had our usual date night.  Despite the temptation to buy nachos from Freebirds for dinner, we made a fried rice dish that was very, very tasty (definitely blog-worthy, if I ever have time to write the post).  After dinner, it was 30 Rock and turning in early because we were both exhausted.  In the morning, we made blueberry pancakes with my favorite pancake recipe (also blog-worthy and on the to-write list) and cooked some eggs to eat on the side.  After breakfast and some relaxing, I nudged Paul out the door so I could go for a run in the sunshine.  It was glorious!  After six days of cold and rain, being outside was heavenly.

Post-run, I packed up and Paul and I headed to Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends.  Our friend Courtney made a Tex-Mex feast, and we ate tamales, Spanish rice, nachos, homemade salsas, latkes (to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah, of course), and pie.  To wash all that down, we drank frozen margaritas.  The conversation flowed effortlessly along with the wine, and I felt thankful to be in the company of so many dear friends.  It was one of the best Thanksgivings of my life.  Friendsgiving for the win(e)!

The next day, we lazed about and eventually wandered outside to take a walk.  We met several gorgeous neighborhood cats, one of whom accompanied us on our walk for a while.  (Paul later told my cat how I had tried to woo these other cats.  Lucy was jealous for a moment, but she got over it.  She knows that I love all the cats.)  After our walk, Paul and I packed up and left Courtney’s, stopped for dinner at Fadi’s (a Houston treat for us), and drove to his sister’s house for an evening visit.  His sister and her wife are always up for a visit, but they were sad that we didn’t spend the night.  Next time…

We arrived home late and went straight to bed.  The next day, after bowls of oatmeal gussied up with maple syrup and butter, Paul left and I was able to tackle some chores.  I spent most of the afternoon organizing money stuff, which I know doesn’t sound fun, but it was a relief to get rent, bills, and receipts squared away.  What can I say—order makes me happy!  After that, I took a photo walk around the neighborhood and thought about my life.  I had hoped that November would be a month during which I could slow down a bit, but that plan dissipated when I found out that I was being laid off from my job.  It’s been a very emotional and stressful month for me, but I think I’m coming to some decisions about what I want to do next.  The short answer is that I’m leaving the academic job sector and seeking my fortunes elsewhere.  My heart feels peaceful about this decision.  As Courtney said, the academic job market is like a black hole: once you’re inside, it can feel damn impossible to get out.  And as Paul said, I’ve got to achieve escape velocity in order to flee the gravity well of academe.  (You get rocket metaphors when you’re dating someone who worked for NASA, and that someone loaned you his copy of Pale Blue Dot.)

I’ve been on the fence about my immediate future for several weeks, but the more I think about not working in a lab, the more I believe that I must leave.  I may come back to academe in a different position.  But my heart isn’t in the lab any more, and I’m in a position right now where I can make a very intentional decision to work on other skill sets and learn more about myself as a professional.

With that decision on my mind, today I did chores, a little bit of work, and went for a late-afternoon long run.  I had daylight but not much sunshine, which is okay with me during these dark autumn months.  After my run, I tallied up my estimated miles run/walked for the month: a total of 32.8 miles.  (I’m cheating a bit and counting today’s run in my estimate.)  I had wanted to run 40 miles, but during this post-marathon month, I’ll take 32.8.  Next month, I’ll try for 40 again!

It’s funny how you can be facing such big life decisions, and yet you still have the daily work of home and cooking and taking care of the cat and doing laundry.  It’s comforting, I think, to feel connected to those rhythms during a time of turmoil.  I hope to write more about my recent work experiences; I think sometimes I delay writing about stuff until I feel like I can say something coherent about it.  My frustration with the academic sector is complex.  It’s not something I can articulate easily in a blog post.  Paul thinks I should write a book about it, and maybe I will, someday.  Right now, my anger and sadness are too raw.

For now, I have one more full week of academic science ahead of me.  Then I blast off into the great unknown beyond the ivory tower.  

PS  Completely unrelated: Lucy loves her outdoor time.

Kitty on Stairs

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Austin, Again

North by Northwest

Week of November 18, 2013:

Monday: Evening run.  26 minutes total, 15 minutes running

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Bike commute to work

Thursday: DIY yoga

Friday: Treadmill run.  33 minutes total, 22 minutes running

Saturday: Off to Austin!

Sunday: Hanging out in Austin

Estimated mileage: 5.2 miles.  Total minutes run/walked: 59.

I’m taking advantage of the holiday weekend to catch up here!  Last weekend, Paul and I were in Austin on a variety of missions.  We visited Agua Dulce Farm again to meet with its proprietor.  We were able to see the greenhouses and the fish tanks, and we got a bit of a tour of the innerworkings of the nutrient cycle between plants and fish.  The goats, unfortunately, were huddled up in their shed, trying to stay warm on a cold morning.  The whole weekend was freakishly cold and wet, which put a damper on things.

After visiting the farm, we met up with Paul’s best friend Tim, Tim’s girlfriend Mary, and another friend, Joel.  We warmed up with big bowls of ramen for lunch at Michi Ramen, which is amaaaazing.  I wanted to take photos at Michi Ramen, but Paul is embarrassed by that sort of behavior, so I kept my camera tucked away.  The cutest thing at Michi Ramen are the signs on the table showing a sad bowl of broth that reads, “Lonely broth?”  You can order a kaedame, or refill of noodles for your lonely broth.  When he finished his noodles, Paul announced, “I declare kaedame!” and we all laughed.  The ramen was so good and warming that we all felt positively euphoric.  We think their homemade chili oil may have psychotropic effects…

After Michi Ramen, Paul and I went back to Tim’s apartment, changed, and headed out to a wedding at North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery for a wedding!  Yes, a wedding at a brewery.  It was awesome.  The wedding ceremony quoted Carl Sagan, we all stayed bundled up in coats because it was chilly inside the wedding tent, and we debated whether the key lime pie was indeed too limey.  (I was on the side of deliciously limey.  I was in the minority, which meant more key lime pie for me!)

The next day was my birthday!  I’m 2^5, or 32 years old.  Paul had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I had two wishes.  One was a really great breakfast, and the other was a birthday hike in a beautiful place.  Since we were in Austin, we went to Kerbey Lane for breakfast and ate pancakes and eggs.  (Gah, their pancakes are irresistible.  This time we had cinnamon roll pancakes and apple whole wheat pancakes, and we completely stuffed ourselves on them.)  After breakfast, we wanted to go for a hike, but it was cold and rainy—miserable weather for a hike.  So I took a raincheck on my hike, and we went to the movies!  We watched 12 Years a Slave, which broke my heart.  I was on the verge of tears during the whole movie.  It was powerful.  After the movie, we packed up our things, loaded the car, and grabbed a late lunch at a vegetarian food truck, Conscious Cravings.  Like everything we ate in Austin, it was delicious.  Finally, we hit the road back to College Station, the grey dusky light fading to black as our weekend ended.

It was a good one.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Revisiting Old Friends

In Her Favorite Spot

A New Favorite Spot

{Lucy loves a good window spot.}

Week of November 11, 2013:

Monday: Bike commute to work

Tuesday: Evening run.  34 minutes total, 25 minutes running

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Morning walk with Paul and Lulu the dog + Bike commute to work and wine night with friends

Friday: Off

Saturday: Another run!  34 minutes total, 20 minutes running + Bike ride to hippie food store

Sunday:  LONG RUN!  55 minutes total, 40 minutes running

Estimated mileage: 11 miles. Total minutes: 123.

I had an amazing weekend!  It was fun overload, and I regret nothing.  Friday night, Paul and his dance partner Leah had a performance, so I tagged along for moral support.  Afterward, Paul, Leah, Leah’s husband Ryan, Leah’s brother Ryan, Ryan’s partner Lauren, and I went out for some good eats.  (Yes, you read that right: we had two Ryans with us.  There seems to be a natural law such that Leah attracts Ryans into her life.)  First we stopped by The Chocolate Gallery, where we sampled gelato and bought a few treats.  Then we hopped across the street and ate dinner at Caffe Capri, which I think is my new favorite dinner spot in downtown Bryan.  It’s a carbfest for sure with all the pasta and bread, but oh, it is so delicious!  But check this out: one member of our group is dealing with some issues and is on a restricted diet.  I worried about taking her to Caffe Capri, but they had an entrée with salmon and vegetables that was perfect for her.  We had to send it back once because it arrived with cheese on top, but our server was very gracious about helping us.  Best of all, we spent the entire meal laughing, telling stories and jokes.  Paul and I wanted to spend some time with Leah and her husband, so I was really happy that we had the chance to enjoy an evening together.  The six of us had a blast.

On Saturday night, I went to a dinner party hosted by a friend of mine.  The food was amazing, and the company was entertaining.  I got into a heated intellectual argument with a libertarian-leaning man.  It’s funny: I don’t think we have opposing worldviews so much as we share no values, no common ground.  He’s a strict “let capitalism rule” and I think social justice is too important to throw all our fortunes into the marketplace, as though the marketplace is some magical land where all our problems will be solved.  Besides, we’re so far past the point of having a “free” marketplace that I don’t think we’re ever coming back.

ANYWAYS, Saturday night was fun, and even my libertarian companion and I found a few topics that we could discuss without my wanting to yell at him for being a douchebag.  And Sunday, I went out for a long run, huffed and puffed, then rushed back so I could tutor students in the afternoon.  My tutoring sessions went well, and I was happy with the results.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was a surprise visit I made to Brazos Natural Foods.  I decided to zip down there on my bike to pick up a few ingredients to make brownies, and I found a long-lost friend working the register!  My friend Jeremy moved away from the area several years ago, and I was sad to see him leave.  We always chatted and laughed at BNF, and sometimes I’d see him on campus and we’d wave hello and smile.  We weren’t best friends or anything like that, but seeing him always lifted my spirits.  And he gave me a hug once when I was having a really, really bad day, and that memory has stayed with me.  Jeremy has moved back to Bryan/College Station to be near his family, and I am so happy he’s here again.

Another old friend I visited on Saturday is the country road between where I live and Brazos Natural Foods.  I know it sounds like such a small thing, biking down a road that I love, but it made me happy.  Familiar roads are part of what make a town home for me, and I have missed biking on Rosemary Drive.

Little things make me happy.  So do long runs, even if I huff and puff.  (But no houses were blown down.)

Happy new week, friends!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One More Recovery Week…

Sunday evening at home…

Want Should Need

Sleepy Cat

Week of November 4, 2013:

Monday: Off?

Tuesday: Bike commute to campus, I believe.

Wednesday: Off (just wanted to cook dinner for date night, but I did sneak in a few push-ups and crunches.  What, don’t you do your strength training right before date night?)

Thursday: Off (but I did walk to wine night!  Does that count?)

Friday: Bike commute to and from work!  Because it finally stopped raining.

Saturday: Bike ride to Target, Freebirds, and HEB

Sunday: Morning hike (~3 miles?) in Lick Creek Park with Paul and Lulu the dog + easy evening run.  45 minutes on my feet (14 min. running and 31 minutes power-walking)

Estimated mileage: 3.5 miles. Total minutes: 45.  (I’m only counting Sunday night’s more intense work-out here.)

Do you ever kick yourself later for not taking photos of something wonderful?  That is how I’m feeling tonight.  Paul and I had the best Sunday morning today.  He’s house-sitting this week, and this morning, we had access to the house waffle iron.  We made Ashley’s Peanut Butter + Banana Waffles and topped them with this warm apple sauté (doubled up for the two of us).  Best breakfast ever!  I wish we’d tripled the apple sauté because they were so delicious and I love them, but that is my only regret.  Full disclosure: we didn’t make the waffle recipe exactly as written.  I subbed an egg for the ground flax seed, and the batter was a bit too thin, so we added some more whole wheat flour to thicken it.  The waffles were a bit “floppy,” to use Paul’s description, and perhaps a bit more fragile than other waffles, but the flavor was great.  We will definitely be making them again…if Santa brings one of us a waffle iron for Christmas.  Or maybe a birthday elf will drop one off for me this month!

After our waffles, Paul and I took Lulu the dog out for a walk in Lick Creek Park.  It was cool this morning, and it felt really nice, even in my short sleeves.  Lulu enjoyed some leashless time in the park, though she was too shy to meet most of the other dogs and humans in the park that day.  Still, she seemed to have a great time exploring and sniffing.  Such a sweet dog she is!

You can see from my log above that I took it easy again this week.  It rained almost every day last week, and I took advantage of that time to cook and work on other projects, including going out to see my friends at wine night.  I have missed wine night!  It’s a Thursday tradition for us, and I’ve been more or less on hiatus this year, between all the traveling and training for the marathon.  It was so fun to see my female friends and catch up on their lives.  On top of that, I learned that Paul and I will be in Austin during my birthday weekend, so we’re going to take full advantage of that, with a Kerbey Lane breakfast and a hike in some lovely Austin location.  I’m excited.  It’s all I really want for my birthday: a tasty breakfast and a hike.  I thought we were going to be at home in College Station that day, but my friends are getting married in Austin on November 23rd, so in Austin we shall be on the 24th.

This week, I want to get back into a running groove.  I had some great bike rides last week, and now I feel ready to recombine my running and biking.  Last week Raquelita had asked everybody what their health-related goals for the month are, and I think mine is to log 40 miles of running/power-walking.  It’s a good goal to get me back in the running game after a nearly three-week hiatus!

Have a wonderful week, speedy friends!  Enjoy November!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Turtles and Dancing (but not together)

Turtles at Wolf Pen Creek 

Week of October 28, 2013:

Monday: 20 min. of evening yoga

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Evening walk around my neighborhood (slow and untimed)

Thursday: Off (but I did walk about 3.5 miles today for work and for fun) 

Friday: Bike commute to and from work!  First time in a very, very long time.

Saturday: Short walk around Rice University’s campus

Sunday: Biked to and from a wedding shower for friends.

(Skipping the mileage calculations since I took it so easy this week.)

Whew, finally some time to blog!  Now that the marathon is history, I’ve been back on the bike, to commute to work and to get around town.  My new friends Dana and Jason are getting married in a few weeks, and our friend Tonya threw them a wonderful wedding shower.  I rode my bike across town to the party.  As I was riding, I thought, Man, I am not in good bike-riding shape these days.  This is hard!  And on the way back, I realized why: the ride to the party was all uphill, so the ride back is downhill.  Which means I really feel like I’m flying on the way back!  Those turtles above were spotted on the way over to the wedding shower, and of course I cannot resist a turtle photo op.  You know me.

As you can see from my activity log above, I’ve been taking it easy since the marathon.  But more than that, I’ve just been BUSY.  I’m back on the job market, which is time-consuming.  But there’s been fun busy-ness too, like spectating at a ballroom dance competition at Rice University in Houston.  Paul and his dance partner Leah competed last Saturday, and I tagged along for moral support.  They took home a slew of ribbons, including two first-place awards!  Even better than that is how amazing they look on the dance floor.  They’re tall and attractive, and they look very natural and comfortable when they dance together.  They make it look easy, and I can assure you it is not easy.  Paul and I had our first dance lesson together a few weeks ago, and there is a lot to think about and practice when it comes to ballroom.  Paul was, I think, disappointed that despite the hours and hours he spends dancing, he found himself a non-dancing girlfriend.  What can I say?  I run, I bike, I bake birthday cakes.  But dancing?  It’s not on my list of current hobbies.

But we’re working on it.  Paul introduced me to the waltz and foxtrot (I think…).  While observing the Latin round, I thought, Hey, the rumba looks pretty straightforward!  So during one of his breaks, Paul walked me through the rumba, and Leah jumped in with some advice.  And the other night, Paul tried to samba with me, but I fear that trying to samba with a follow (traditionally, the female is the follow, while the male is the lead) who doesn’t know how to samba just looks like you are holding her hostage while you gyrate around the room.  In other words: not pretty.

But you know what is pretty?  Paul and Leah in their dancing outfits!  Look how beautiful they look together!  The gorgeous sunlight we had that day helped, too. 

Paul and Leah at Rice Competition

Happy weekend, friends!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week Twenty: Life After the Marathon

Autumn Red

A Passion for Euclidean Geometry

Hiding_Sort of

Week of October 21, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Slow walk around the neighborhood (untimed)

Wednesday: Off (flew back to Texas, so there was plenty of walking around airports with my luggage)

Thursday:  Evening run!  The first post-marathon run.  29 minutes total, with 10 minutes of slow running.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Power-walked to the bank and back, 26 min. total.

Sunday: First post-marathon LONG RUN.  42 min. total with 30 min. running at a comfortable pace.

Estimated mileage: 7.8 miles. Total minutes: 97.

I flew back to Texas on Wednesday and returned to work on Thursday.  I am so glad that I took several days off from work after the marathon; I can’t even imagine trying to run a marathon on Sunday and then working on Monday.  For the work that I do, which involves a lot of time on my feet, walking to and fro, that would have been complete torture.

And I’m happy to report that I’ve even run twice since the big race!  I felt pretty good during both runs, though I am experiencing a little twinge of something uncomfortable on the back of my leg, behind my knee.  I think with some more time, whatever it is will heal itself.  While I am getting myself ready to begin training for my next half-marathon (another Armadillo Dash!), I’m not in a rush to begin piling on the long run miles.

This week I’d like to return to my yoga mat for some dearly missed stretching and quiet time.  Thank goodness I haven’t lost all my flexibility due to marathon training, but I’m ready to work on my back and hips on the mat.

What’s on your fitness agenda for the week?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon

Detroit Marathon 2013_People Mover 10_26_13 cropped

At long last: the marathon report.  Because the first marathon is such a landmark event in a runner’s life, I feel a hint of trepidation at the thought of trying to write about it.  But in the end, I can’t NOT write about it, so here we go.

3:30 AM: I nearly have a heart attack when my alarm goes off in the middle of the night.  I manage not to turn it off but instead hit the snooze button and end up waking up my brother too.  Oops.  (But he’s nice about it.)  I wash my face and dress, unsure how exactly to layer warmer clothes over my racing clothes.  In the end, I wear pink pajama pants over my running skirt and get nicknamed “Pajamas” at our after-party celebration.  I also wear a favorite tattered sweatshirt—my Red Wings sweatshirt.  Perfect for the Detroit Marathon!

Moon Peeking Out

Running Outfit_Maybe

I eat a cold breakfast and drink cold coffee, grateful to have done most of my breakfast prep the night before.  It turns out that I have more than enough time and can spend a few minutes on Facebook, posting some race-day thoughts and letting my family know that they can track my progress during the race.  Once the race starts, my sister decides to post updates on my status for everyone to see (so sweet of her!).

James (JD) and his friend John pick me up a bit after 5 AM, and we head into the city for the race.  We arrive and park easily in the pre-dawn darkness and head to Cobo Joe’s, a bar that several running groups have rented out for the day.  JD secured John and me spots in Cobo Joe’s, and I am touched by his care.  It’s a chilly morning, and having a warm, safe spot to leave our things is wonderful.  We finish hydrating and pre-race-fueling and head out to the start.

We line up toward the back of the pack.  JD is hoping to run a sub-5:30; I’m just hoping to finish.  We marvel at the sea of runners around us; the energy is electric.  We are all here to run, ready to run, can’t WAIT to run!  It’s an exciting place to be.  Despite the chilly morning, I barely feel the cold.  I just feel happy and ready for what the day will bring.

Miles 0-8: “I think this is going to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”  We start the course about 20 minutes after the fastest marathoners cross the starting line, and it’s slow going at first.  The crowd is packed.  JD jogs slowly; I alternate walking and jogging.  We see piles of clothes as people start stripping off their warm layers in anticipation of warmed-up bodies.  JD tells me that any clothes dropped in the first few miles of the race are collected and donated to homeless shelters.

The start of the marathon is full of incredible sights, my favorite of which is the run up and over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada.  As we approach the bridge, we can see the runners moving like ants along the bridge.  Running up to the bridge, I turn to JD and his friend Renee and say, “I may be exaggerating, but I think this is going to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”  I am bubbling with joy.  By the time we’re on the bridge, we can look out onto the water and the sunlit city.  The marathon has begun.

We pass over the bridge and enter Windsor, Canada to begin the international portion of our race.  (Did you know the Detroit Marathon is an international event?  We run over a bridge and through a tunnel—to Canada and back!)  Windsor is fun and festive, and we feel good.  JD is keeping a very solid, steady pace; I’m keeping up with him just fine.  We run along the riverfront and enter the underwater tunnel to come back into the United States.  The tunnel is…interesting.  I have to duck beneath and between people who have stopped to take photos at the flags that mark the border between the US and Canada.  There are a lot of people taking pictures during the race; I’m not one of them, hence no real race photos in this post.

JD had warned me that the tunnel feels stuffy and hot compared to the cool October air outside, and he’s right.  The tunnel is fun to enter, but I’m glad to get out when it ends.  On top of the refreshing air, when we come out of the tunnel, we’re greeted by cheering crowds and signs that say, “Welcome home!”  We’re back in Detroit, and we keep running.

Miles 8-17: Slow and steady keeps the miles flying by.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of this part of the race.  We still feel pretty good, though my knees are starting to feel tight.  This is a neighborhood part of the course; we ran through Corktown, Mexicantown, and Indian Village, I believe.

Mile 17-18: How long is one mile?  After Mile 17, JD and I lose each other, and I lose track of where I am in the race.  I stop paying attention to the mile markers then become convinced that I have definitely passed the Mile 18 marker.  Nope!  So Mile 17 feels really long.  I start pacing my walk breaks so that I can alternate bites of a Clif bar with water or Gatorade.  JD and I have been taking a really conservative approach to fuel and hydration—neither of us wants to have that sloshy, full feeling in the stomach while we’re running.

Miles 18-20: Preparing for the hardest run of my life. Miles 18-20 take us out toward Belle Isle, a small island in the Detroit River.  Belle Isle is rumored to be the hardest part of the marathon.  Crowd support is sparse, the Isle is windy, and you’re about to pass the 20-mile mark, which is the start of new miles for a lot of first-time marathoners.  By Mile 18, I’m already into new miles, but knowing that we are now in single-digit numbers for the remaining miles is exciting and terrifying.  I don’t feel tired or low on energy, but my knees and hips are starting to feel painfully sore.  Not injured sore, work-out sore.  Which is, I think, about as good as I could hope to feel by Mile 20 of my first marathon.

Despite the pain, running over the bridge to Belle Isle is fun.  I look out and see the Ambassador Bridge that we ran over hours ago.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  It’s hard to believe that by Mile 20, I’ve been running for almost four hours.  I’m at 3:46:15, and I start to realize and believe that a sub-5:00 marathon is within my reach.  I keep trucking!

Miles 20-22: Onto Belle Isle and beginning our descent into pain.  Contrary to what I’ve been told, I actually love running on Belle Isle.  It’s beautiful and peaceful.  My legs hurt pretty bad, but the wind is calm and the Isle is green and sparkling.  I’m in love. 

Miles 22-24: Holding on for dear life.  Mile 22 is just before we cross the bridge to leave Belle Isle and run along the Detroit riverfront.  The riverfront is gorgeous, but I can’t really appreciate it because I’m in too much pain by now.  I set tiny goals: run to the next mile marker, run for two more minutes, walk for just two minutes and then start running again.  I am doing everything I can to keep up the pace because 5:00!  It could be mine!  And how can I not go for it while I’m here and injury-free?

But oh, the pain.  At this point, the effort to run is purely mental.  My legs have long since given up getting any relief from the searing tightness.  They feel a bit numb from the effort.  But not numb enough: pain is taking over all my faculties. 

Miles 24-26: Please don’t cry.  I crawl through the last whole miles, which take us back onto city streets.  They are literally the hardest miles I’ve ever run.  I struggle to not start crying.  We’re so close to the end, and I know if I start crying, I will lose it completely.  The pain, oh, it needs to end…

Mile 26 to the finish: It’s almost over.  It’s a strange feeling when you cross Mile 26 of a marathon.  You’re basically done, but wait, no, that damn fifth of a mile sits between you and the sweet finish line.  I feel like I run to the finish line in slow motion; I am “running” so slowly that it’s not purely an illusion.  But the watch doesn’t lie: if I can just claw my way to the finish, I’ll finish in under five hours.  I want this so bad that it’s all I can think about.  Finish, finish, finish…

FINISH: Wow, that was amazing.  And at last, it’s over.  26.2 miles covered in one morning.  I’m stunned and elated to have finished in an official time of 4:56:50, more than five hours after the official start of the marathon.

Surprisingly, I don’t start crying at the finish.  I wanted to cry earlier, but now I’m just done.  I move through the finish chute, collecting my medal and enough food to feed me for the next month.  I’m quickly chilled after I stop running and end up tying my space blanket around my waist to keep my bare legs warm.  I sit to rest a bit, eat, and drink some water and chocolate milk.  I have a hard time getting up again, but I stagger down to the end to wait for JD.  I see him and feel relief—he looks so happy with a marathon medal dangling around his neck.  We compare loot (SO MUCH FOOD!) and wait for his friend Renee, who is not far behind.

After congratulations and time-checking, we head back to Cobo Joe’s for drinks and pizzas.  It is truly a party, with cheers and smiles and lots of congratulations.  I am so happy to be with these people today and so lucky to have been able to run this race.  I eat until I am pleasantly full, making sure to drink water too.  I chat with JD’s running coaches, one of whom saw me on the course and cheered for me.  They are an absolute delight, and I wish I lived close enough to join the running group for their twice-weekly runs.

Finally, after basking in the afterglow in the city, we pack up and head out.  JD and I are both…beyond words.  Happy, relieved, full of pizza.  It’s been a good day.  I take a few photos on our way out of the city and feel that all those long, sweaty, lonely hours in Texas this summer were worth it for this one day of running.

Joy.  That’s how running your first marathon feels.

A few more photos from marathon day.

Old Churches

Eastern Wig and Hair Co

Church Plus Stoplight

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Recovery and Ruminations on Failure

Tall Trees

Today I went out for my first post-marathon exercise: a slow walk next to the tall trees with their autumn leaves swaying in the breeze.  It’s chilly in Michigan today, so I was bundled up in tights, a scarf, and a sweater that has its own built-in hand-warmers.

Hand Warmers and Fingers

As I walked, I thought about the marathon training cycle that ended successfully on Sunday.  I keep thinking that I really should not have run such a fast marathon.  (A side note: yes, I know that for some people, a five-hour finish is not fast.  For me, it was fast and unexpected.  Let’s just agree that fast is a relative term, okay?)  After all, I walked most of my long “runs.”  I learned how to power-walk for long intervals, slowly building endurance.  I tinkered with speeds to learn how difference paces felt, at least on a treadmill inside an air-conditioned gym.  And in the end, I chose to be outside in the Texas heat because that’s what I do: I train outside.  It’s just part of who I am.  Whenever I’m inside on a treadmill, I’m always wishing I were outside, even as I’m grateful to have the treadmill as a work-out option.

My marathon training was a series of struggles, but the most important struggle happened between my ears.  I believed that since I failed to execute my training plan perfectly, I had already failed at the marathon.  I was so hard on myself about all my setbacks, secretly convinced that I deserved to fail because I had failed in so many little ways already.  And yet…4:56:50.  Not only did I finish, but I ran the marathon respectably well.  Better than I thought possible.  Which brings me back to the mental game and a question I can’t answer:

How do we decide what is possible?

Looking back now, I feel much softer toward myself.  Not only has it been a crazy year, a year of transition and heartache and falling in love and finding myself again, it’s been a year of doing things I have never done.  I never dreamed that I’d resign from a job without a new job waiting for me.  I never thought I’d ask a new boyfriend to go on a huge, multi-destination trip with me.  And I never thought I’d start a marathon feeling so unprepared for the miles ahead of me.

When I’m being kind to myself, I can acknowledge that since August, I’ve had a very full plate.  Starting a new job is a challenge by itself, let alone a new job plus marathon training plus the rest of my life.  I fit marathon training into that life as best I could.  Sometimes I nailed my training plans; other times I fell short and tried to be flexible.  The point is that I didn’t let a lack of perfection completely derail me.  I kept at it, kept trying to do better.  I think Sunday’s performance was my ultimate “do better.”  And that felt amazing.

I want to work on being more positive with myself.  Not just with my running, but with everything.  It’s never too late to do better.  I believe that with my whole heart.  But it’s also important to know when to persist and when to back off.  If I had felt I was courting injury, I would have backed off of marathon training.  If I felt like I was under-performing at work or hurting people by being negligent, then I would have reconsidered my schedule.  Mostly, I felt the tug of disappointment that I had to settle for “good enough” in every area of my life.  But maybe “good enough” is still really damn good.  The experience of stretching myself to my limit is worth having.  It provides perspective, builds discipline, encourages growth.  I think this year has shown me my limits and my ability to adapt.  I am grateful for all of it.

Gorgeous Yellow Leaves

Boots Tights Leaves

SPI Belt_Not just for running anymore

{SPI belt: not just for running any more!}

Thanks for reading, sweet friends.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

We Gave It Our All

Bib Plus Medal

We came, we ran, we finished: JD and I are now marathoners.

Today was an amazing day.  Really, everything about the 2013 Detroit Marathon was awesome: the course, the volunteers, the police/security/border patrol.  But sharing the first marathon experience with JD was the most special thing about today.  Like many runners, we had toyed with the idea of running a marathon separately, but it was together that we made it happen.  And I love that we ran Detroit together, our beloved hometown big city.  The course blew me away with its beauty and grandeur, from crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Canada to Belle Isle to winding through historic Detroit neighborhoods.  It was Detroit as I’d never seen it before.  Seeing it through an adult’s eyes and on foot was a novel experience, one that I will forever treasure.

I’m exhausted tonight, so I just wanted to pop in to say that the race went well, we finished, and we are still (painfully) mobile.  My legs hurt so bad that when my niece tried to get me to go for an evening bike ride or sit in my lap, I had to say no.  Exercise is not my friend right now, nor is any pressure on my tender knees and quads.  I feel like a terrible auntie.

But before I go, I want to report our finishing times.  JD clocked an amazing 5:25:11, nicely snagging that under-5:30 time he wanted.  I finished in 4:56:50, a time that I had no business running, and yet there it is.  I’ll take it!

I’ll be back soon with a longer, fuller race report.  For tonight, I’m basking in the glow of a successful first marathon and ready for a deep, restful sleep.

Until then…run with heart, friends.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week Nineteen: The Home Stretch

Excellent Happens Here'

Giant Marathon Map

From the Passenger Side

Week of October 14, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run: 31 minutes total with 20 minutes running

Wednesday: Off to Detroit + Evening run with JD’s running group (29 minutes total, with 24 minutes running) 

Thursday: Off.  Completely off.  Didn’t even go outside today.

Friday: Played with Devin in the yard and went for a quick walk/run with him (untimed)

Saturday: Walked around the marathon expo with JD and went to the apple orchard with the family (Does jumping up and down on a teeter-totter count as a work-out?)


Estimated mileage: 5.5 miles. Total minutes: 60.

The marathon is upon us, friends!  This morning James (JD) and I went down to the Detroit Marathon expo to pick up our bibs and soak in the marathon excitement.  For me, this week has made the marathon feel real in a way it hadn’t before.  I’m sure it’s because I’ve done almost all of my training alone, and on top of that, I’ve struggled with my commitment to this race.  But I’m here, and I’m ready to run/walk 26.2 miles starting just after 7 AM tomorrow morning.

I’m especially excited for JD to run this race.  He’s been training with a running group all summer, and his speed and endurance have both skyrocketed this year.  I think he’s going to have a fantastic race.  We’re going to try to run as much of the marathon together as possible, but I will be taking powerwalk breaks in between running bouts.  As I’ve told a lot of people, my walking plan for tomorrow is not a “death walk”—it’s powerwalking, which means the goal is to keep up the pace and effort throughout the race.  The “death walk” or “death shuffle,” as some people call it, is what happens when you’ve run as much as you can, and fatigue forces you to walk.  My goal is to avoid the death shuffle and to stay strong until the finish.

I have no idea how fast I will finish.  Those last nine miles or so are going to be very tough, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll finish by 5:30.  And if not 5:30, then please let me finish before 6:30 when the course closes!

Either way, JD and I are super excited for our first marathon.  Whatever tomorrow brings—rain or sun, cold or hot, wind or calm—I hope we have smiles on our faces at the end.



See you at the finish line, friends!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week Eighteen: Almost There…

Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi

Voyage to Saturn

A New Friend

Week of October 7, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run: 31 minutes total with 20 minutes running

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Morning run: 42 minutes total with 30 minutes running

Friday: Off (off to Corpus Christi for the last wedding of the year!)

Saturday: Off (tooling around and celebrating in Corpus)

Sunday: Evening run: 89 minutes total with 51 minutes running

Estimated mileage: 14.2 miles.  Total minutes: 162.

Over the weekend, Paul and I went to Saturn, which was a short walk from our hotel in Corpus Christi.  In fact, we visited the whole solar system, from Pluto all the way to the sun, although we did it in two legs, from Uranus to the sun one day and then Neptune to Pluto the next.  It was pretty awesome because it’s not every day you get to tour the planets!

(Wait.  Maybe I should back up and explain our interplanetary journey?)

We visited a scale model of the solar system in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Last Friday, we headed south for our final wedding of the year.  Paul’s stepbrother was getting married, so not only were we finishing our wedding circuit, but I was poised to meet Paul’s extended family.  It was a really wonderful weekend; his family was so gracious and welcoming.  I had already met some of his immediate family, including his parents, sister, and sister’s family.  (Fun side note: I met his sister’s family when I was missing my front tooth.  After the accident and a visit to urgent care, we went to Houston for his niece and nephew’s birthday (they’re twins) because why not?  I had nothing else to do that day, other than mope about my missing tooth.)  At the wedding, I also met his stepfamily and his aunt and uncle, as well as friends and acquaintances from years gone by.  Weddings are always interesting and a bit nervewracking for me (and everyone else?).  This particular wedding had a few bumps, but overall it was a lovely and love-filled weekend.

Paul and I had a free morning on Saturday, so we found breakfast at a fun local diner (Hester’s Café and Coffee Bar) and then set off for a little mini-adventure.  We visited K Space, an art gallery in which Paul’s friend Matt had a piece in the current exhibition.  We walked along the sea wall, which is where the scale model solar system is on display.  It’s a brilliant use of the space: the planets and sun are proportionally spaced apart, so the walk from one planet to the next represents the distance between, say, Saturn and Jupiter.  And walking along the sea wall is a required activity for tourists—it feels like instant vacation to stroll along the sea, looking out at the ships and water.

On Sunday evening, I dutifully set off for my last “long” work-out before the marathon.  My training plan called for 45 minutes, but I had missed a work-out earlier in the week, so I decided to roll them together and ended up clocking 89 minutes of running and walking.  It was an uncomfortable run; I had a cramp in my diaphragm for much of it, so I ended up walking more than I would have liked.  That’s running for you: you never know how any given run will turn out.

As I type this, I am above the Earth, en route to Detroit from Houston.  Paul and I ended up driving to Houston late last night and staying at his sister’s house.  This morning we had a very filling, relaxing breakfast at Black Walnut Café, which our friend Courtney introduced to us.  If you didn’t know it already, Houston has some seriously delicious vegetarian food.  Besides Black Walnut Café, we’ve also fallen hard for Fadi’s, which serves amazing Middle Eastern food.  Next on my list of places to try is Bombay Pizza Co.—they make pizzas and top them with Indian-style toppings, such as saag paneer.  Yum!

I’m looking forward to my week in Michigan, but truthfully, I already miss Paul and my cat.  Which reminds me: I almost forgot the required cat photo!  Here you go:


Two updates down, one more to go before Sunday…

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week Seventeen: Camping and Cooler Weather

Incredible Stone Formations


Week of September 30, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run: 34 minutes total with 25 minutes of running

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Evening run: 49 minutes total with 37 minutes of running

Friday: Went for a hike while camping with Paul at Pedernales Falls State Park

Saturday: Another hike!

Sunday: Long run: 60 minutes total with 49 minutes of running.

Estimated mileage: 13.2 miles.  Total minutes: 143.

We’re down to the final countdown before the marathon: six days until the big M.  And here I am, weeks behind on my training log, as usual.  Better late than never, right?

Last weekend Paul and I headed west to Pedernales Falls State Park, a mouthful of a name that I can’t seem to say without pausing to get it right.  It was a gorgeous weekend, and though we had just one night of camping, we went hiking twice, cooked a wonderful (if slightly burnt) dinner, and saw a skyful of stars and our very own Milky Way shining across the light years.  I’m hoping to write more about that weekend on my other blog, so if you read both, I might be repeating myself.  I hope you’ll forgive me!

The weather turned chilly on Saturday as we drove to San Angelo for the wedding, and the cool weather stayed with us the next day when we came home.  What a difference it makes for running!  I had the most wonderful run of my training season that day—I felt speedy and strong in the pleasantly autumnal weather.  It made me so excited for my trip to Michigan and the marathon itself, which is slated to give us a temperature high of 55 degrees F.  55 degrees!  I haven’t seen weather like that since…well, maybe since that weekend in San Angelo!

In unrelated news, my sister Theresa sent Lucy some presents, including a little cat carpet with a feather and a zipper pouch for catnip.  Lucy loves her new carpet!

Lucy and Her New Carpet

Going After the Twine

And here’s proof that Paul and Lucy are soulmates:

Paul Likes the Carpet Too

He loves the carpet too.

This week’s goal: finish my marathon training posts before the actual marathon!  One down, two more to go…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week Sixteen: 3:32!

A few photos from my Saturday morning (my last one at home for the next few weeks!):

 Current Reading

Clouds Gathering

Sleepy Kitty

{Current reading material // Lounging outside on campus // Morning cat}

Week of September 23, 2013:

Monday: Long powerwalk, 110 minutes

Tuesday: Evening run, 42 minutes total with 30 minutes running

Wednesday: Off (date night!)

Thursday: Evening walk, 32 minutes.

Friday: Off (felt a little under the weather)

Saturday: Off (but walked around campus on a fun tour)

Sunday: Long walk/run, 212 minutes total.  Details below.

{Both estimated}  Total miles run/walked this week: 30.4.  Total minutes: 396.  WHOA NOW!

Today’s post is a two-parter.  Over the weekend, Paul and I had a friend in town.  It was Lewis!  Lewis of Austin Sea Veggies and the goats, and we were thrilled to hang out with him.  Lewis invited us to tag along with him on a sciencey Saturday adventure.  I met up with Paul and Lewis at Antonio’s, where we met even more friends for pizza and chatting.  (Note: black beans and avocado sound odd on pizza, but they are delicious.  Assuming you love black beans as much as I do.)  Afterward, we headed over to meet a professor and talk about an undergraduate research project involving coral and the tiny dinoflagellates that live with them.  Paul and I did more listening than talking during that meeting, but I like to think that we each offered something of value.  There should be more partnerships between mechanical engineers and biologists!

Afterward, we walked around campus and toured several of the fish tanks, including Aglantis in the MSC, our big beautiful student center.  Paul and I had visited Aglantis once before, as part of a Tuesday lunch date.  Today we got to see the underworkings—the pumps and hidden tank that are used to add algae-derived nutrients to the main tank.  By this time, I was ready for a nap, but my engineering-minded boyfriend was busy peering into the secret compartment.  It was very fun to get a taste of a different kind of science that’s happening right here on campus.  My work is pretty far removed from zoology, yet the techniques of molecular biology can be applied to virtually any organism.  Which probably means that I’ll always have a job, assuming that job involves things like nucleic acids and genomic sequences.  That’s certainly why I have my current job!

On Sunday afternoon, I set out for my final long work-out.  The schedule asked for 3.5 hours, and I was determined to clock 3.5 hours on my feet.  After the pity party/reality check in my last post, I realized I had one last shot to get some serious mileage into my training before the marathon.  I could do this!  I could conquer my laziness and make those mikes happen!  And as you can see above, I did, but here’s the twist I used to keep myself from getting bored.  After a warm-up, I did a running ladder of sorts, starting at 1 minute and working up to 10.  It looked something like this:

Run 1 minute.

Walk 9 minutes.

Run 2 minutes.

Walk 8 minutes.

Run 3 minutes.

Walk 7 minutes.

And so on, all the way up to running 10 minutes.  Over the course of 100 minutes, that’s 55 minutes of running.  It is an excellent way to keep your pace up while run/walking.  I did one full version of that ladder, walked for 10 minutes, and started another one, ending at 8 minutes of running (because I’d reached my time goal for the work-out).  Altogether, I logged 91 minutes of running.  I’m so happy with the ladder work-out that I will probably use it during the marathon at least once.

At the risk of bragging, I will say that I am immensely proud of myself for Sunday’s work-out.  At an estimated 17.1 miles, it is the final push before the marathon and my longest on-foot work-out ever.  I have struggled a lot with my commitment to this race.  More than once I have wondered if maybe I should not be doing it at all.  I can say now without hesitation that I am a half-marathoner at heart—I love 13.1 and see myself racing that distance for years and years.  I’ve had a real mental block for 26.2, on top of the other challenges that marathon training has posed for me, such as the time-intensive work-outs and the unforgiving Texas heat.  26.2 just hasn’t felt do-able for me, which has translated to an I-can’t-do-this attitude.  Hence my ambivalence for the past four months.

But now…now I think maybe I can do this.  17.1 is still 9.1 short of 26.2, and believe me, I was hurting by the end of 17.1.  More importantly, now I remember why we sign up for something as crazy as a 26.2-mile race: to see if we can do it.  Those of us who are first-time marathoners don’t know if we can do it.  When we push outside of our comfort zones, we give ourselves the chance to be amazing, to be better, to be more.  We do it to lift ourselves out of our daily experience.  To ascend, if only for a moment, to greatness.  Our own personal greatness.  There’s a fine line, I think, between identifying as people and identifying as the sum of our accomplishments.  I know I will be the same essential person after October 20th—I’m still me.  But if I manage to finish that damn marathon, I will be a buoyantly accomplished version of me.  I will be a marathoner.  And that’s pretty awesome.

To the marathon, friends!