Monthly Archives: October 2012

What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays.  So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

When I saw Halloween fell on a Wednesday, I had visions of donning a costume, grabbing a few friends and doing a  group run around town while kids trick or treated around us. But Sandy had other ideas, trick or treat is postponed and Halloween all but forgotten around these parts.  I set off on a 5 miler this AM, and was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful day – windy yes, but the sun made its much anticipated return. Here were my own trick or treats:

Trick: First run of the year that I needed capris, gloves and earband.

Treat: The sun!!!

Treat: Dramatic sky

Treat: Sun battles the clouds and then sun won!

Treat: Although flooded, the beach at the state park acted just as it was designed – after the water recedes, the higher berms stays intact as the backside of the beach is flooded. The standing water will hopefully kill the vegetation and keep the habitat grade A, top choice for beachnesters.

Trick: Tree down on the trails of the state park. State offices are officially closed today, so I imagine this will be something they will deal with as soon as they are given the go-ahead to come back to work.

Treat: A giant swirling mass of what I am assuming were swallows!

Trick: Flooded state park trails forced me to back track since I was not interested in cold, wet sneaks.

Treat: Our wedding ceremony site was unscathed, save for a few downed branches.

Treat: GD continues the hurricane birding!

Treat: Happy birders all in a row

Treat: The Red Store was open and I could not resist the smell of their cinnamon buns wafting out the door as I ran by! Throw in some candy, and I will still be able to celebrate the Halloween that wasn’t.

What did you see on your run today?

How will you celebrate Halloween this year? Business as usual or postponed?

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Scenes from Sandy

They say Sandy was the storm of a lifetime and I hope they are right. The  destruction left in her path is truly mind boggling for someone who has called the Jersey Shore home for nearly 15 years.  It’s an odd feeling, escaping disaster by the skin of your teeth, but that is just what we did here in Cape May. Unlike the rest of the coast, we avoided most of problems that are plaguing other communities and had a relatively uneventful hurricane experience. We choose, against advisement, to ride out the storm on the second story apartment of Scott, along with Tiff and Samsters.

The dichotomy of feeling cozied up with your nearest and dearest, with electricity and near gourmet meals provided by Scott against the dire images and texts/Facebook messages we were getting from friends and loved ones was intense. These feelings only grew today as we made our way back to our little cottage and found that Mother Nature left her intact (minus a roof ornament that blew down, but that is hardly worth mentioning). I unpacked us back into our regular life,  breathing with relief as I pulled on my running clothes for a 9 miler. I trotted through our little town, the images of other locales on the coast juxtaposed with what my eyes were seeing – some downed trees, lots of leaves but no actual problems. No road ripped up like in Avalon and Longport, no roller coaster in the ocean like Seaside, no sheds floating down the road like in Stone Harbor, no Asbury Ave underwater like in Ocean City, no hole where the boardwalk should be like in Atlantic City. My sadness for our coast today is settling into my bones, here for the long haul. I wish everything were as ok for everyone else tonight as it is for us in our little bubble in Cape May. Nights like this really make me wonder about luck and fate and climate and fear and hope.

Here is what Hurricane Sandy looked like from a Cape May perspective:

The sign on Sunday at the entrance to Cape May Point. I appreciated the politeness of the request with the word “Please”.

We toiled way the hours with video games, movies, work (yep, I actually found it really easy to work with all the chatter- I love background noise!), and near obsessive level check-ins on Facebook and weather sites.

Our only drama was the three leaks the roof sprang. Superfriends in action with nary a butt crack in sight!

This was near the peak of the storm and about as nasty as it got for us. Not too bad!

A sampling of Scott’s versatility in the kitchen – leg of lamb. During our stay he also made deboned chicken stuffed with chard apple stuffing, french toast, homemade chicken soup and biscuits, a pear/apple tart and had many apps/wine/ to keep everyone’s taste buds VERY content! Ladies, he is single!! For reals, this dude is no joke and a CATCH (sorry, Scott, not trying to embarrass but I have decided to promote myself  to chief advertiser 🙂 )

There were some downed trees and flooded streets, but for the most part, Cape May looked like this Tuesday morning.

And the main event! The primary reason we stayed in Cape May was for hurricane birding (well, for GD – I am more a “pop in and check out the birds, say hi to birders and then do other stuff” kind of girl). GD and company spent from about 8am til sunset tonight staring at the Delaware Bay for birds that were caught in the storm and pushed out of their normal range. They had a fantastic day – in fact, GD is sitting beside me right now, flipping though a Sibley and reliving it. He’s already planning to go out again at sunrise tomorrow.

The merry little band joined a larger but just as merry band of birders at Sunset Beach, the go-to hurricane birding hotspot (they were at Higbees first b/c the road to Sunset was closed earlier for downed wires in the Point).

The ocean and lighthouse through the window of the still standing gazebo at 2nd Ave Jetty.

I post this tonight with a heavy heart and love to everyone out there affected by Sandy. We’ll get thought this, one tide at a time.

If you want to help, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 and they will tack on $10 to your phone bill. Easy-peasy.

How did Sandy affect you?

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Sandy Break

Hurricane Sandy has made running, and pretty much everything else besides eating and playing on Facebook,  all but impossible so I’ll be back after the storm. We are not at our house, but we hear there is no electric, so hopefully it won’t be too long. Be safe out there!

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Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 9-12

Instead of recapping my marathon training on a daily or weekly basis, I am going for the corporate-style quarterly update. I am hoping to provide some business style charts, a la:

Since there are 16 weeks of training there will be 4 updates. Each one will be comprised of the quarterly report (like in business, but with less corruption and pantyhose. oh, and no bogus bonuses) and a topic germane to marathon training. So check out how I have been making out and then let us all know how your training is going (marathon or any other distance/race)!

Update 1 – Weeks 1-4

Update 2 – Weeks 5-8

Update 3 – Weeks 9-12

Quarterly Report

Summary: Finally, the good stuff! You know that whole “it’s not the destination, it’ s the journey” mindset? Yeah, I could pretty much tattoo that across my back. No, strike that – for me it is the journey AND the destination. I love, love, love race day, but also have the best time getting there! (I’ll give you a second to recover from my ridiculous enthusiasm – I know. Sometimes it is even too much for me and I find my internal monologue ping ponging between “I love running and marathons and life!” and “Okkkkay, we getttt it. Lalala, life is beautiful. Fantastic. Now, what’s for dinner?”).

This quarter felt like serious marathon training, as the mileage and the difficulty both increased. It featured 2-20 milers, both of which you will not be surprised to find out I developed huge crushes on (oh double digits, how I covet thee!) .  I oddly enjoyed my interval workouts and was especially into my “marathon pace” workouts. Annnd I got to accompany Kat on her marathon journey, which was a definite highlight!An excellent quarter filled with happy miles that the weather gods smiled warmly down upon (realllllly hoping that does not change this week with Sandy!)

Tweaks and twinges: Nada! As long as I foam roll the hammies and ball roll the arches, I am as golden as the McDonald’s ones!  Tangent alert – It is possible to PR at a marathon fueled solely by Mickey D’s

Mental Runitude:  Ideal! Confidence grew as the weeks went on and my body handled the work very well. Still too far out to get super nervous (ie butterflies anytime anyone mentions anything remotely related to Philadelphia, running, marathons, pasta, ice, safety pins, etc lol) leading to a mostly anxiety-free quarter.

Topic du Quarter – PACING

Much like choosing your favorite New Kid (Donny!)  I find pacing to be a very personal issue. What works for one person won’t for another – and truthfully, I am still trying to figure out what works for me. Unlike most average marathoners, I have a tendency towards a negative split (this is where you run the second half of a race faster than the first half). This can be great, because unlike people who positive split (i.e. slow down over the course of the race), it is much easier psychologically to negative split – by the end you are feeling strong and are usually passing people, which can stoke your competitive fires into a frenzy (note: please don’t tell my competitive fires that my times are nothing to write home about. It’s a closely held secret from them, I need them to believe Olympic caliber performances are happening out there, lol!).  For the most part, I am grateful that I negative split naturally. Except… except late at night when my mind is abuzz from a run and I am still high on the fumes of those miles and I start wondering “could I run harder in the beginning? Am I negative splitting because I am going out too conservatively?”

Those late night musings have shaped this marathon cycle’s  training program – I have worked on my “speed” in early miles, proving to myself that it is ok to push sooner than I am used to. I have worked on my mental toughness, convincing myself that there is only one way to my goal time – and that is a faster first half.

Will this work? No idea, you’ll have to check with Miss Clio (free for the first minute). There is a very strong chance that the wheels are gonna come flying off the Kashi bus come November 18th. But that is what this race is all about for me – find my limit, see what I am made of and run fearlessly. Step by Step, I’ll be Hangin’ Tough.

How is your training cycle treating you?

What are your pacing issues?

Who was your favorite New Kid?

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What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays.  So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

Belleplain State Forest is a gorgeous tract of land that is just far enough off my commute route that I don’t manage to run there nearly enough. But at least one day every autumn the combination of fall colors and mild weather stirs within me the desire to veer off that 31 mile route and head a little west to this gem. As I ran through the trails and roads, I could not help but click through my Kodak carousel of memories – taking a nature walk with a group in my late teens when I was starting to realize that an environmental degree might be a better path for me, CLICK, a date with a delightful, but dirty,  fellow Carrie nicknamed “Pigpen” who made us a great meal in his campfire and introduced me to quinoa for the first time, CLICK, birding with another delightful and quite a bit cleaner fellow nicknamed GD who pointed out spring warblers as I struggled to keep up with his fast ID’s, CLICK, and today…

Horses!!

Belleplain has regular cute lil cabins, but if you wanna channel your inner nomadic central Asian, try a yurt!

Starting in the late 1970s, people started incorporating yurts into ski resorts, parks and the like. A fun alternative to a wood cabin, especially if you don’t like sharp corners or 90 degree angles 🙂

I was feeling tired during the run (whoa, peak marathon training is no joke) and just wanted to stop and get lost in these colors for awhile. So, I did 🙂

When I was a little girl, a major component of my dad’s “stranger danger” talks was to stay away from windowless vans. To this day, Lil Sis and I steer clear. I did not have a particular route in mind while running, but you can bet your bottom dollar, heck even your top dollar, that I ran the opposite direction of this van!

Every which way you looked, a new path beckoned you to run down it. I felt a little like a mouse in a maze, so many options!

The smell of a lake and fallen leaves in fall makes me feel like it is cross-country season. I miss Parvins on days like this!

I find roots to be very Halloweenie! Spoooooooky!

I spot some woodpecker’s favorite tree!

What was on your carousel today?

How was your run?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spectating Report – Atlantic City Marathon

Yesterday morning dawned bright and clear, just like the OCNJ half-marathon a few weeks ago. If there is a better time in the northeast to run at the shore than fall, I certainly have not met it! I made my way up the Parkway  for the Atlantic City Marathon to watch my friend Kat run her first marathon. And by watch, I mean horn in on the action and run some with her! I had 8 miles on my schedule and since I find it near impossible to watch a race without wanting to run it, I was super excited when Kat accepted my offer to run with her for a portion of the course. Our plan was for me to meet her at Mile 14… but before we hooked up, there was plenty of action:

The sky was a brilliant blue, birds were migrating and some late monarchs were too! Temps in the upper 50s and breeze that was not too stiff all added up to a perfect day for runners and spectators.

Speaking of spectators, here are two of Kat’s! They made shirts that said “Kat’s Krew. If you don’t get a runner’s high, there is always Plan B!” with a picture of a cat slurping down a cold brew 🙂

Lil sis and Mary Beth in a rare moment of non-cheering. The start and the ~9 mile marker were in the same place so there was some downtime waiting for runner’s to come back. After that, they were all business! In the meantime, they regaled me with tales of their dating adventures. Pineapple!

The shirts were super cute, but my favorite crew accessory were the signs Mary Beth made. Not only were they hilarious and heartfelt, but also numerous! We could swap out new ones every so often and I know the runners and fellow spectators loved them, since some asked to take pics of them and they also ended up on Twitter.

Click to enlarge. Other favorites were “You have stamina, call me!”, “I am a stranger but I am SO proud of you!” and “It wasn’t easy getting up and making this sign, either!”

A major player of Kat’s Krew, maybe even the krewiest of the bunch, was Jeff. He was uber mobile on his bike and because of it was able to provide Kat with GU, fresh gum, music and water when she needed it most and us with laughs (foreshadowing!).

Jef brought me to tears on multiple occasions because of his dedication to helping Kat. Yes, I am always a weepy mess at marathons, that shit gets me every time!

Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat! (We re-purposed Meg’s fancy “Scott, Scott…Scott!” cheer for Kat and it was a raging success yet again. You can’t beat that one, lol!)

We got our first look at Kat around Mile 9! She looked strong and happy and I high-fived her and then high-tailed it to our meeting spot at the 14th mile water station. I made it there  about 15 minutes before she arrived. I knew I would warm up once we got going, but the windy locale was making me cold, so I put on gloves and a sweatshirt that I figured I would shed once we got rolling. I spotted Kat and started running with her. I am sure she knew right away she was in good hands when I struggled for a good block trying to get the sweatshirt off my head while still moving ,lol.

I seriously could not get that damn sweatshirt off! I blame the visor.

Kat and I logged a few blocks with another Krew member, Noel, which was cool because I had heard so much about her (and vice versa) it was like we had already knew each other well! Shortly after, we bumped into more Krew and mini-Krew members! This group was awesome because they made it their mission to see Kat as much as possible on the course and kept driving to new locations. Every so often we’d turn a corner and there they’d be! Major props for their roving spectating skills!

As we chugged along into the late teen miles, the course was starting to take its toll on Kat, as marathons are apt to do. She faced a few issues, so let’s talk about them for a minute because one of the best things about race reports is learning from other’s experiences! The first issue was that the course was getting boring. Like, really boring. This happens on almost every marathon course (though Melissa, who was running through the redwoods out west on the very same day, may beg to differ!) and it is helpful to review a course beforehand so that you know what to expect and when you might falter. For example, I knew on the ultra that the miles on Rt. 347/47 were going to be monotonous and blah. They definitely were, but I was prepared for them to be so, and I think that makes it a little easier to handle. You just tell yourself that you knew this was going to happen and to go on autopilot and plow through them.

Secondly, Kat was not feeling as good as she hoped at this point and not as good as she had felt during training runs at the same distance. This can happen for many reasons – some days we are just “off”, sometimes our training took too much out of us (Bart Yasso talks about people peaking on their longest training run and still recovering from that during a race) and sometimes it is easier to feel good at mile 17 of a 20 miler (3 miles to go) than a 26.2 miler (9.2 to go – a big difference!). It is why I employ my mental fake-outs of pretending my training runs are longer than they are. At these low points, you must have tricks up your sleeve to handle whatever is coming your way. Practice, practice, practice during training the speeches you are going to give yourself when things go a little haywire out on the course.

The other option to help deal with tough miles is to have your Krew tangle with course paraphernalia.  Jeff was apparently concerned that his assurances to Kat that she would make it were enough, so he decided to switch it up with some physical comedy. As we made our turn to get back on the boardwalk, Jeff’s chain became BFF’s with the yellow tape marking the course. The giant orange barrel didn’t want to be left out, so it too joined the party and before long, Jeff was all wrapped up in both. After ensuring no one was hurt, I took a break from my laughing fit to capture this moment:

22 miles came and went and I told Kat I could stop or stay with her. When she said “stay”, I nearly jumped for joy! After some hard miles, I knew more were in front of her. But I also knew she was going to beat this monster and I wanted to be there when she did! The boardwalk miles were tough and our girl was getting really thirsty. Jeff decided to bike ahead to the next water station and returned with the nectar of the marathon gods – a huge amount of cool water!!

Success!!

I think Kat enjoyed that jug of water more than any other jug of water in her life. And there have been many, lol.

We saw her parents and when her dad ran with us for a few steps with his homemade sign about cold beer and warm pizza, I teared up (shocker! But seriously, how cute are parents?!?).  She ticked off the miles and after countless people saying “you are almost there!” to which she would say “No, i’m not!”, the end was finally REALLY in sight. Note to spectators – unless the finish line literally within steps, don’t tell runners that they are almost there! I know in your mind that 24 of 26.2 miles completed seems like it is “almost there”, but take my word for it – to a runner in pain, those last two miles might as well be as far away as the moon.

She made her final push to the finish line and Kat’s Krew welcomed her back in style – screaming at the top of their lungs, holding up their signs, dancing around in all their green Krew-y glory, they gave her that last burst she needed to make it home!

I usually don’t go through a finish chute for a race I bandit, but I just wanted to be there ’til the end with her! I was hooping and hollering and crying (uh-huh, again) – just SO SO PROUD of this woman and the race she had run!

Jeff and I crashed the runner’s-only section to be the first to congratulate our girl. Sure, in the picture below it looks like Jeff is proposing, but in reality he is doing something even better for a lady after her race – a calf massage!

Kat’s Krew tracked her down and spent a little time doing the post-race breakdown that is one of my favorite parts of a run! We got some Gatorade in her, had her lick salt off pretzels and all basked in the warm glow of her moment.

A huge benefit to running this race is the ocean that is steps from the finish line. Kat dove right in, surely soothing her screaming muscles, and enjoyed her victory over the 26.2 mile beast.

I loved every step of that run with her. She ran with me during my ultra and it felt so, so good to get the chance to be her support crew this time around.  I won’t ever forget the look of concentration and determination in her eyes as she battled her internal struggle and kept moving forward when every muscle in her body was begging her to stop. She and I were texting this morning and she wrote, “I’m already thinking about my next run. Am I addicted?!”. Yes, yes you are. Welcome to the marathon family!

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The 3 Times Running Saved Mr. P’s Life

During our Cape Island Spotlight interview, Mr. P and I went on many a tangent. Due to space, I had to cut a lot of what we talked about, but there was one conversation I just could not dismiss. It did not answer any of the questions that I had asked him, so I decided to give it its own post. Hey, if running is saving someone’s life, it is the least I can do! Enjoy!

The 3 Times Running Saved Mr. P’s Life

As he mentioned during our interview, Mr. P has a birth defect that does not allow his right hand to properly function. As a child, he endured 8 surgeries. In between those surgeries, he was an athletic kid – his whole family was, in fact. He loved playing sports like baseball and football. But each of those important surgeries came with a price – a cast. A cast is a wonderful thing, but not when you are trying to play sports where you have to grip bats, throw balls and tackle people. By freshman year, he gravitated towards running and finally found the answer to his very unique problem – he could run whenever or wherever he wanted,  with or without a cast. As he put it “It changed my life because my hand would never get in the way again. The hand dominated my early life, everyone was always worried about me. This was finally something that was  not my hand , something different just for me”. 

In the mid-1990s I had let my weight creep up to 230 pounds. I felt like I could not run because I was too fat and I could not lose the weight because I was not running. It was a viscous circle. I considered quitting coaching because what kind of example is an overweight coach who can’t run with his athletes setting?  I finally was able to get on a bike to lose some of the weight and then was able to start running again.  Adding running back into the mix allowed me to drop 40 pounds and feel like myself again. It saved my life.”

In the spring of 2009, Mr. P was struck with what was originally diagnosed as colitis. He’d never had experienced anything quite as bad as this and as the summer progressed, it got  worse. Much worse. Through a series of concerned friends and doctors he finally learned what he was actually battling – a nasty bout with Crohn’s that turned downright life threatening when an abscess in his colon formed a fistula.    By the time they figured out what it actually was, there was a serious chance that he would not pull through. He got set up with a fantastic surgeon at Temple University and together they, along with Mr. P’s family, began a battle for his life.

He spent 7 weeks in the hospital, lost an enormous amount of weight and recalls the time period mostly through the memories of others, as he has few  of his own from the early weeks of the hospital stay. Especially since we know the story ends happily, some of the stories from that time are equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious. For instance:

His good friend and fellow runner/biker, Jamie,  came to visit and ask him “what do you want to do?” and Mr. P would say, “I want to run”  and he would mimic the motions of running.

He told his wife (let’s take a a quick detour here and give a word of praise for Mrs. P – throughout this whole ordeal, she never lost hope that he would pull through and would not even entertain thoughts or talk of any other outcome.   She, and Mr. P’s sister, rearranged their schedules and made herculean efforts to be by his side as much as possible. You can’t help but think this had to make a difference. Way to go Mrs. P and Sister P! The recovery is his, his doctors and yours!) … anyway, he told his wife that he had been having long conversations with his Uncle Sal who not only was not there, but had been dead for years (Well, strike that. What do I know? Maybe good ol’ Sal was there!). She would also come into the room to Mr. P telling her  “hang on just a second,I just have to finish this lesson about FDR.”

Despite still being alive and starting to regain his wits, Mr. P. found himself in a very dark place. Sure, it was fantastic he was alive – but what kind of life was he in? He was hooked up to all manner of machines, which he kept trying to pull out of his body, and just could not make the mental leap that was needed to help him take those baby steps on a very long road to recovery. We have all been to this place (and if you have not, just wait, it will happen eventually) – where you know what needs to be done but it just sounds so exhausting and hard and terrible that you put off doing anything, frozen in a place that is neither here nor there.

Enter a brother of Mr. P.  He said the magic words that unlocked P’s mental paralysis – “Remember marathon training? You never missed a practice. Well, this is a marathon and you are on Day 1.”  The words hit P’s sweet spot and that day he got up and walked down the hallway and every day did a little more.

What followed was his journey on that long road back. He started with a rowing machine and eventually got himself back to running. He used Broad Street training (it’s now quite clear why that race means so much to him!) to keep him going. One day, he had Mrs. P drop him 8 miles from their house, just to ensure that he would have run to get home. The girls track team happened to go by on a bus and cheered their little hearts out. He ran home so fast that when he came inside Mrs. P. asked who had given him a ride. The truth was that no one had physically pulled over in their car and driven him back. But Mrs. P, his family, his students, his athletes, his doctors, fellow coaches, everyone that had prayed for him – every single one of those people gave him a ride that day.

Running saved his life once more, and this time it was clearer than ever that it was not just the miles logged on legs that should not be here, but also every person that believed that he would live to run again that did the trick.  Running is a gift and if we let it, every day it gives us just what we need.

Mr. P., thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s ones like this that I tuck in my pocket for the hard miles in a marathon, where I will pull it out, draw on its strength, and remember that every day I get to run (no matter how much it hurts) is an awfully good day.

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