Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Today is New Year's Eve, and like many people, it seems like I spend this time of year reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next one.

It's been quite a year to say the least. I'm not one bit sorry to see 2008 go.

I've had so many ups and downs -- at many points along the way it seemed like the 'downs' outnumbered the 'ups'.

But I know with every one of those 'downs' I learned a little something, a little piece of the puzzle that's come together to make me the person I am today.

I know myself better than I ever thought I would, have a clearer understanding about what's important in life, how I want to live my life and where I want to be in the future. Quite simply, I'm a better me.

I couldn't have done this alone.

It was about a year ago that I was preparing to embark on my first half marathon adventure, traveling to Disney to run with the TnT team. It was something that forced me way, way outside my comfort zone.

I joined TnT as a way to challenge myself to do something I had never done. I joined TnT to meet people. I joined TnT as an outlet to escape some of the negative things I was dealing with in my life.

I accomplished all that -- and so much more.

Never did I imagine that TnT would have helped me so much. The people I've met have truly helped me -- not only helped me to become a runner, to finish a half marathon or to know that it's possible to do the unthinkable.

They've helped me get through a very tough year for me - and probably many of them don't even know it.

They listened to me, they gave me advice, they made me laugh, they made me think, they gave me confidence.

In the days approaching New Year's Eve, I mulled several offers that I had for New Year's plans. It was actually nice to have so many offers on the table, but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. A big part of me wanted to just spend it at home by myself.

Spending it by myself seemed somewhat appropriate because I've used this year (and especially the last several months) to really worry about me. I've come to know that caring about yourself and taking care of yourself isn't selfish. It's just plain necessary.

Without a good sense of self, how can you give yourself to someone else? How can you be truly happy? I don't think you can.

I was completely content to spend tonight alone and celebrate how much I've changed for the better this year ... that is, until I spent Monday evening with a group of my TnT friends.

We spent the evening laughing - as usual - sometimes laughing so hard that my stomach hurt (although that might have been the residual effects the ab work I've done at the gym lately).

Our team is about much more than just running or raising money for a good cause. I think the ones who see that get the most out of the TnT experience.

I decided to join them for New Year's festivities. I couldn't think of a better way to spend the evening -- with people who I care about and who care about me and who have really made a difference in my life this year.

Step by step, through all these miles (I wonder how many miles I ran this year), it's been a year to create lasting friendships and really learn a lot about myself. And tonight it's time to celebrate and look forward to next year with great friends.

Thanks, Team ... and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My haitus

Wow, I can't believe that it's been more than two months since I've written here. So much has happened since then -- not the least of which is cutting another 10 minutes off my half marathon time.

I'm still chugging along, but now it seems I'm chugging with a little more ease, a little more speed and a little more confidence.

I've even decided to have another go at the Hampton Half Marathon in February. Yes, that's the one that I swore I would never do again after running 13.1 miles in the cold and wet snow last year.

I'm still hoping for good weather for that one on Feb. 15. Will make for a much more enjoyable race.

Speaking of weather, Mother Nature is throwing another good one at us as I write this... and Coach Jack's even decided to cancel practice, something he rarely does. ("Can't pick the weather on race day," he reminds us.)

But when the conditions become too dangerous for us to run on the roads, Coach Jack makes the call to cancel.

Tomorrow was to be the 10-miler for the new Disney team. I was looking forward to running it with Sarah and celebrating her accomplishment.

We'll still do it. New England weather is just delaying that celebration until next week.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Maine Marathon Weekend

Had a great time at the Maine Marathon weekend -- and will be sure to write more on it later. For now, enjoy a few pix from the weekend by using this link:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hampster Wheel

I'm not yet used to these shorter days. I prefer to run in the evenings, when busy families are shuffling kids to and from various practices, cooking dinner and running around with other errands.

I like changing out of my work clothes, lacing up my shoes and using the miles to get away the stress of everyday life and out of work-mode.

But lately I can't seem to keep up with the diminishing daylight. I can no longer take my time when I get home from work.

Yesterday was no exception.

Sometimes when I know I'll lose the daylight battle, I just decide to skip the run. But with the Maine Half Marathon next weekend, I thought I should try to get some miles in.

So I headed to the gym. Unfortunately.

Don't get me wrong... I really like the gym. I like the cross training. I like trying my hand at weights. I love people-watching.

But a gym run is not a relaxing run for me. With 17 television screens flickering in front of me, the whir of the cardio marchines and the chit-chat of gym buddies around me, I can't just lose myself in the run ... can't let my mind go and get into a rhythm where the miles pass easily.

In an attempt to drown out the gym sounds, I cranked my iPod last night and started out slowly on the treadmill. I couldn't believe when I looked down at the display screen and it had only been a little more than a mile.

I felt like I'd been running forever. And I was sweating like crazy.

I missed the smell of the fresh air, the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, the changing scenery and even the challenge of dodging cars driven by distracted drivers.

In the end, I got my four miles in -- and noticed that gym runners don't run as long as outside runners -- and felt good about not skipping that run.

I just hope not to have too many Hampster Wheel nights in my future.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I took the step yesterday (no pun intended) and changed the name of this blog. I even tried my hand at a fancy new header, which I think turned out alright. (No, that's not my actual footprint, although I did just have a foot scan the other day.)

The name change was something I'd been considering for a while. My 'jog blog,' as a co-worker called it, seemed to have become much more than just a blog about running.

Disney 13.1 seems like something from another lifetime.

What started out as a way to chronicle my progress toward running my first half marathon seems to have gone in a new direction and touched on the ways that my life has changed since joining Team In Training.

I don't attribute all of the changes to taking up running, but I do think that running has helped me focus on me and the solitary hours on the road have really given me time to think about where I want to be in life, eventually.

I'm surely not saying I'm even close to having the answers, but step by step I'm getting closer.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Better Than Running In The Rain

Congrats to Kate and Colleen for raising $800 at their party this weekend by raffling off a case of wine. (I didn't win, darn it.)

Joining them at the party was more enjoyable than that morning's run -- when we questioned our sanity after waking up in the early morning hours to drive an hour for the team run in the remnants of Hurricane Gustav.

Already cold and wet, we ended up getting splashed by a passing car, which is probably when Kate changed from saying that I 'inspired' her to I 'dragged' her into the program.

On the bright side, at least the car wasn't driving through the overflowing sewage that filled the street near the start of the downtown loop.

Here's a pic of Kate and Co
lleen looking a little drier and awarding the winner the case of wine. Clean up nicely, don't they? (They don't smile that much while running.)

And here's a pic of me with a couple of people I don't really know...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The New Team

The new team started two weeks ago, training for the Seacoast Half Marathon and the Disney Full and Half Marathons. Thanks to Ken (who turns out to be my former neighbor) for taking this pic.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Turn Where?

Shawnna and Jack remind us to "turn after the lions" in the downtown loop. These photos were taken during Jack's birthday party at the Red Hook Brewery last week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Life Happens

The last time I sat down to write, it was 22 days ago -- most certainly the longest I've gone since starting this blog just more than a year ago.

Things have been hectic, to say the least, and I've been dealing with the ups and downs of moving in a less-than-ideal situation, conflicts at work, a saddening break from Charming Friend and the realization that I won't be running the marathon in October.

All in the course of a couple of weeks. Phew.

Although I'm getting back on track, the process has been slow. (I was referring to my running, but it seems like an appropriate description of my whole life right now.)

I had a couple weeks of no running at all, then a few walk/runs, then eased back into the miles -- but I'm nowhere near where I was in my training and where I need to be to have a successful and enjoyable marathon.

I tried to convince myself otherwise for a while, kept telling myself that I'd be able to get back in time to run the marathon, but as the days ticked away (who's bright idea was it to put a countdown clock on here anyway??), I realized it wasn't going to happen.

It took me a while for it to settle in and for it not to seem like giving up or failure. I know I need to remind myself that there will be other marathons and plenty of time to get ready for them. There's no need to push it and end up hurting myself more.

So for now I'll just focus on getting better, taking care of myself and supporting my fellow teammates.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Little Anniversary Perspective

It's officially been a year since I joined Team in Training. I didn't realize it until last night when, as I looked around the room at Info Night, I realized that the group was weighing their options between the same races I'd been considering at my Info Night.

I almost didn't go to last night's Info Night -- but after a twinge of guilt about blowing off the team run and Dave's team party this weekend, I decided I should.

And I'm really glad I did.

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed during the past couple of weeks. (Here are the highlights:)

I signed a lease on a new condo and have been busy switching utitilies, get flooring estimates, picking paint colors, cleaning carpets. Not to mention the weekend of painting that kept me away from the team activities.

I close on my house in a couple of weeks after a much-too-long and emotionally draining process of moving forward with my life. It's involved a lot of calls back and forth with realtors, lawyers and visits to my therapist.

Needless to say, it's been a rough road and I'm just glad I can see the light at the end of the tunnel -- I just wonder why the bumpiest part of the road seems to be the end. And I have a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better.

And packing up and moving? Yikes, it's going to be a lot of work. Moving is tough under the best of circumstances, but when you're unsure what even goes in 'your' boxes (and you have to go through a lawyer to ask what goes in 'his'), it's even harder.

I thought a vacation would be a great way to get away from some of these things, to take a break from reality for a week. My vacation, which was the first full week I've taken off from work in four years, was good -- until the accident on the last day (see my last post).

Granted, it could have been a lot worse. But the relatively minor accident has added phone calls to and from insurance companies, paperwork, a round of physical therapy and put a temporary delay in my training.

Lastly, my relationship with my Charming Friend seems to be a little 'off' since we returned from vacation, maybe a bit before. Things are just different. I can't quite pinpoint it and I might be worrying a lot about nothing (at least I hope so), but it's been on my mind. To be honest, I know I need to talk to him about it, but with everything else going on, I'm just not sure I'm ready for a talk like that. Just not with everything else going on. Maybe I'm afraid of what I'll hear.

Yep, I thought Iwas enduring a lot. I started to question why the heck I chose this time in my life to train for a marathon. I must be nuts. Was I just testing to see how much one person could take?

That's what I thought -- until last night.

I was prepared to hear a mentor, coach and TnT staff speak at Info Night. They'd say the same things I'd heard several times before -- it will change your life, people will donate, you'll make a difference, you can run that far. (All are true, by the way.)

I don't think I was prepared to hear the inspiring and tear-jerking story of Julie, a woman who completed the Maine Half Marathon last year. Julie wasn't the typical TnT runner. Well, she was 'typical' in the sense that she didn't come from a life of running and quesitoned whether she could do it.

What was different about her was her personal connection to the TnT cause. In a quiet and calm voice, which sometimes cracked on the verge of tears, she shared her story of being diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 22, right after graduating from UNH and moving to North Carolina for her first real job.

The doctors were unsure of her prognosis and told her she wouldn't be able to continue working while going through vigorous treatment. She quit her job and returned to New Hampshire to start chemotherapy, determined to battle her illness.

Not long into her treatment, Julie suddenly lost her vision. She hoped it was temporary, but it turns out that it wasn't. Doctors weren't sure whether it was the cancer or the chemotherapy causing the vision problems. She debated heavily whether to continue treatment, knowing that stopping it would allow the cancer to spread. It was likely she wouldn't make it.

But she continued on, dealing with her her vision problems that left her with only about 1 percent of her vision and only able to see shadows and differences in light.

For 18 years, Julie lived as a cancer survivor. But she still felt a need to do something.

When she received a postcard for TnT, she found the answer. She'd run a half marathon and raise money in hopes that no one else would have to go through what she'd gone through.

The thought of anyone training for a half marathon is impressive. Raising money for a good cause while you're doing it is even better. But a cancer survivor with minimal vision signing up? It's almost unbelievable.

A few days later she ran into an old high school friend, who'd trained for a few long-distance running events, and the two began chatting about TnT. They decided to do it together.

Together, the pair ran all of the training runs -- and eventually across the finish line at the Maine Half Marathon. Her friend 'became my eyes,' guiding her along the running route, Julie told us last night.

When the two crossed the finish line, Julie told us, she finally felt back in control of her life. Getting control of mine doesn't seem nearly as difficult anymore... at least for the moment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nature's Rules ... Part II

After my falling incident last year, a co-worker told me to look to Mr. Miyagi for some advice: "First walk, then run. Nature's rules, Danielson, not mine."

It's been a week and a half since the motorcycle accident and almost a week since my excruciating attempt at a three-mile run.

I'm anxious to get back on my feet, but am trying diligently to follow the doctor's orders -- and I have to admit it's really hard at times. The weather's been nice, I've had some free evenings and mornings with a light work schedule and I have an almost-new pair of running shoes next to my bed.

After my painful run last Friday, during which I noticed that I was digging my fingernails into the palm of my hand as a subconscious way to avert my mind from the pain in my calf, I decided to skip the team run on Saturday morning.

Well, not skip it entirely. I decided I'd still make the early morning trip to Portsmouth to support the team. I didn't even put on my running gear and shoes, so I wouldn't be tempted to join the run. I let Rebel tag along as an extra assurance that I wouldn't run.

And I know I would have been tempted -- the weather was perfect and the route brought the marathon runners along the beach. A nice run.

Instead, I drove the route (and noticed how far we run!), checked on the runners and picked up the water stop -- overall, an enjoyable way to spend the morning.

On Monday, I had my first round physical therapy, which included some sort of electric stimulation therapy, some laser therapy and a strange configuration of support tape on my calf.

My leg was killing me after two hours of therapy. I began to question whether it was the right choice (and, with some tears in my eyes, definitely doubted whether I could keep up with training), but I knew in the back of my mind it was the best way to heal -- with or without a marathon in my future.

I dreaded my next appointment on Wednesday and the massage they'd scheduled me for on Thursday.

The good news is that I woke up this morning with my leg feeling better than it has in a while. Today's therapy included some more electric stimulation, heat and laser. Then we added a bit of stretching and some take-home exercises.

I'm sure I was smiling when the doc gave me the OK to try a walk tonight and a light workout on the Elliptical in the morning, if I'm feeling up to it.

Massage tomorrow and another round of PT on Friday and Monday -- all in hopes of getting back in the running shoes and not falling any farther behind in the program.

Can't wait to get back to normal. But, I'll have to listen to Mr. Miyagi and have some patience (not my strong suit, I'll admit).

Walk first, then run. Nature's rules.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crash Course

I spent last week on a relaxing vacation, enjoying my first camping experience and a motorcyle trip to Vermont later in the week.

I even managed to get in a couple of runs while camping in Maine. The change of scenery was nice and I'm loving my new shoes.

Unfortunately, my vacation ended with a bang -- and when I say 'bang' I mean the sound of an 800-pound motorcycle being hit by a minivan when a less-than-attentive woman decides she's going to make a right turn into a parking lot from the left lane.

The problem was that we were between her and the parking lot.

Yep, just a few minutes after we packed the bike and started on the 200-mile trip home, we were hit. I doubt we were even two or three miles from the hotel.

It's a funny feeling as you see the van starting to make the turn directly into your lane, knowing that there's no way that we'll avoid the collision.

Charming Friend did an excellent job trying to maneuver us out of the way as much as he could (don't worry, Mom, he is a good driver), but we still ended up with our left legs pinned between the van and his bike as we were dragged about 15 feet, the bike scrapping along the pavement.

Eventually we broke free, somehow jumped off the bike before it went down and evaluated our injuries -- and the bike's condition.

We seemed fine. No scratches, scrapes or blood. The bike, it seemed, had more damage than we did.

The woman immediately took responsibility for the crash, the police wrote up the report and the brigade of parents we were on the trip with rushed to the scene of the accident. Even though none of them were my parents, I still got plenty of mothering, hugs and concern -- especially after I started crying for no known reason.

I usually don't let people see me cry, but I couldn't help the tears from flowing -- despite the fact that it was a good 15 minutes after the accident and we were fine. Maybe it was the shock of being hit or the thought of how much worse it could have been if we'd been going a little faster.

Over and over, the parents (all six of them) asked if we were okay. Each time, CF and I had the same response: "We're fine."

I knew my left leg hurt, but I didn't say anything. It wasn't bad. I was sure CF must have had some aches, too, but he didn't say anything.

The bike's crash bars took the brunt of the collision -- thankfully CF had gotten them installed last year because he thought they looked good. I was glad to learn that these aesthetically pleasing bars also served a purpose and told CF that they were worth every penny he spent on them.

The left crash bar was bent and the foot pedal was twisted against the bike. We would not be making the trek home that night -- plus, there's no way the parents would let us get on the road again that night.

The guys in the group banged the bars and adjusted things until the bike was again drivable. CF's dad got on to test it out. It seemed to run okay, with only a slight rubbing sound coming from the front tire. A last trip to one of the vendors helped straighten everything out a little more and we made plans to leave in the morning -- after a slumber party in CF's parents' hotel room because there were no rooms left for the night.

We all took a dip in the pool that night, and CF and I quietly talked about our slight aches and pains, knowing that if the parents heard us, they'd be alarmed. I'm sure we would have been forced to go to the hospital. We took a couple of pain relievers before bed.

The rest of the trip home was relatively uneventful -- except for the rain that soaked us as we make the ride down 89. Otherwise, all was fine.

As my calf ache persisted, I began to wonder how I'd keep up with my running schedule. Thanks to a couple of runs on vacation, I wasn't behind. My original plan had been to get in my long run after we returned on Sunday. That wasn't going to happen.

Just to be sure all was okay, I made an appointment with my doctor's office yesterday. She checked me out and told me I had a 'crush injury' to my left calf. Nothing serious, but the muscle was swollen in its pouch and causing the pain. She prescribed anti-inflammatories and ice -- and just a bit of patience. Muscles take a bit longer to heal, she told me.

I told her I'm training for a marathon and she referred me to physical therapy to make sure I'm healing properly. A slight injury can turn into something serious if it's not dealt with correctly.

As far as running goes, I just need to listen to my body. My leg will tell me when it's okay to get back to a regular running schedule.

CF visits his doctor today, and I'm pretty sure he'll be okay. I least I hope so -- I hope he's not more hurt than he's letting on.

It really could have been a lot worse. I think we all know that. If a little ache and a few days of light running is the only price I have to pay for a motorcycle accident, I think I'm pretty lucky. We both are.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Weighty Issue

It's getting hot now and we're running far enough, that we travel with our not-so-stylish-but-very-functional water belts.

As I strapped mine on the other day, I couldn't help but notice how much two 8-ounce bottles of liquid add. Even though I run with only two of the six bottles that my belt holds, this small amount of liquid feels like I'm lugging around a small child latched to my waist. It seems to add several extra pounds in my mid-section.

Then, I thought to myself, I am lugging around several extra pounds. Unfortunately, it isn't only due to the water belt.

Weight's always been an issue for me -- if not always physically, most certainly mentally. Even when I'm at my lighter weights, I feel fat. I look in the mirror and see fat. Even when I know I'm not. It's always been that way and unfortunately probably always will.

Seriously, it's almost obsessive. I look at almost every woman and compare myself to them -- are my legs bigger than hers? My butt? Stomach? I stare and grab at my fatty parts and imagine just cutting out the unwanted stuff. (There's plenty of it.) I pick out people I'd like to look like -- eventually.

I just never seem to get there. And even when I'm closer, I still do it.

Several years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight. I looked good, I'm sure -- at least that's what people told me -- but I still wanted to lose more. And so I did.

I turned to extreme dieting -- I know I never ate more than 1,000 calories in a day, probably around 500 on most days. I lived on giant travel mugs of black coffee, water and a heaping pile of veggies for dinner. One meal a day, that's it. Definitely no snacks. I weighed myself no fewer than 10 times a day.

Every now and then I'd treat myself to a single wheat tortilla wrap. Yes, that's right. I'd treat myself to a paper-thin, plain wrap. And it tasted so good. I'm sure my body was craving anything substantial -- and at that point, a wrap seemed substantial.

Inside, I knew it wasn't the right way to do it. But, with the gushing compliments and my loose-fitting pants, I kept at it. I began to love the feeling of feeling hungry -- that pit in the bottom of my stomach that never went away. Sometimes I'd be so hungry I'd shake. But I liked it. That's how I knew I'd get thinner.

People began asking me if I was sick because the weight was coming off so quickly. And believe it or not, I actually felt good when they asked.

You think it would be a wake-up call to me -- I mean, really, I'm a pretty smart person -- but instead I felt that it validated what I was doing. Messed up thinking, I know. I guess that's how these things work.

It doesn't help that when you lose weight -- no matter how you do it -- people compliment you. And when you gain, people don't.

I surely wasn't stick-thin, but I took quiet pride in the fact that my hipbones stuck out and I could see each vertebrae on my back.

At my lowest, I was about 30 pounds lighter than I am now. I kept the weight off for quite a while -- a couple of years -- even after coming back to a healthier lifestyle. Then, slowly, the pounds came back. And then some.

These days, I'd love to lose 10 pounds -- well, I'd love to lose 12 pounds, actually, and I'd be happier losing 15 or 20 pounds. But I figure if I set my goals a little smaller, I might achieve them. (Kind of used the same mentality when deciding to run a half marathon before the full marathon, I suppose.)

I imagine that running would easier for me with those few pounds gone, like running without an extra 20 water belts hanging from my body. Maybe I'd actually feel good about wearing running clothes in public, especially the shorts. I'd like to be the person that people look at and aren't surprised that I can run 13+ miles on a Saturday morning. I want those pointy knees, dammit.

It's so tempting to go back to bad habits -- the weight came off quickly, I looked good, I wore any clothes I wanted to, people complimented me on my body. And it was easy.

But I can't. I won't. I have to keep telling myself that.

I'm come way too far to do stupid things like that again. Plus, I know I can't do that and train at the same time.

And so now I struggle -- some days a lot -- with wanting to lose weight the right way and not being able to do it...and the constant temptation to return to the way that worked for me in the past.

I mean, seriously, if you knew someone who ran literally hundreds of miles, spent hours in the gym and had decent eating habits for several months, wouldn't you expect they'd lose just a little? But, nope, not me. Sure, I know I'm a healthier person and I've built muscle, but the scale just doesn't budge.

It's frustrating. Really frustrating, to a point that I've actually cried over it. I can't believe it.

I guess I just have to keep working at it, refine my eating habits a bit more and keep trudging along.

Hmm, trudging -- that's a pretty good description of what I feel I'm doing when I feel like I'm dragging along these tree trunks I call legs. Worse than tree trunks, they're jiggly tree trunks.

I know I should take pride in all that I've accomplished -- and I do. I've done things I never thought I was capable of -- and surprisingly enjoyed doing it. Heck, I'm training for a marathon. That's 26.2-freaking miles.

But I don't like failure. And this struggle to hit those magic numbers on the scale seems like failure.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This Girl Ain't Got No Rhythm

I do a lot of people-watching. When I'm at a race, I watch runners' strides and gaits. I watch runners on the side of the road. I watch my teammates.

Everyone has a different running style. Some have serious spring in their step. Others seem to shuffle along. Some seem to run with ease. Others seem to exert themselves.

I'm not sure what my running style is, but lately I've noticed an ever-increasing clunkiness to my steps. At first I attributed to an off-day. Some days running is just easier than others.

The other day as I ran a mid-week jaunt near my home, I felt as if I was favoring my right side. My right foot seemed to hit the pavement with more conviction and a steadier step.

While I surely wasn't limping, I didn't feel even. I couldn't put my finger on it, but decided to make a mental note of it to see if it continued.

It did.

As I did more runs, I felt increasingly uncoordinated. I couldn't get into the rhythm I'd managed to achieve in previous runs. I'll admit that I'm not a 'pretty' runner. I don't spring along like a gazelle. Not a natural, you might say.

If it's possible that something could become more unnatural, that's what seemed to be happening to me and running. I questioned whether I'd actually be able to complete the upcoming marathon. Would it be smarter to just try to improve my performance in a half marathon?

Determined not to get to that point yet, I decided to make it through my mid-week runs and ask Coach Jack at my next practice.

Turns out I didn't have to. He beat me to it.

Coach Jack and Dave ended up running behind me and Erin for a while during Saturday's team run. Coach Jack noticed that my gait was off -- the message got passed to me by Dave, who caught up with me for the remaining miles after Jack and Erin turned back.

The diagnosis: Tight hips.

It made sense. At times I could feel a tightness in my hips, especially the left one. It would certainly explain my clunky gait. Coach Jack noticed my feet flaring out in an awkward way -- a sign that I needed to stretch my hips a lot more.

I had the diagnosis, but now I needed to know how to stretch my hips. Sounds funny, but I wasn't exactly sure how to target that area.

Dave showed me a few stretches and I did some more searching online. I tried them out and could really feel the pull, in a good way.
I'm determined to set aside some time for extra stretching and get in a few Bikram yoga sessions.

Hopefully I'll get my rhythm back -- well, as much as I ever had to begin with.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I did it. I held up my end of the bargain and completed five out of the six races in the Gone Loco race series.

That's right -- five races and 36.4 miles, to be exact. Did I mention that the series included a bone-chilling race on New Year's Day and two half marathons -- one in the rain and snow along Hampton Beach in February and a much-too-hilly course at Great Bay.

So imagine my disappointment when I went to pick up my jacket at the final race of the series -- and I wasn't on the list.

That's right. The woman behind the table scanned through the list. No Robinson. No jacket for me. I couldn't believe it.

She asked, Maybe you didn't run all of the races?

No, I was sure. I remember every step of them. The woman assured me that they'd clear up the mix-up this week and get me my jacket soon.

I spent the next couple of hours at the race, watching the other series finishers with their coveted jackets. My emotions ranged from disappointment to disbelief and then, well, to humor. I had to admit it was kind of funny.

I'd spent the last six months talking about this stupid jacket, spending more money than I should on race entries and driving to the races -- not to mention actually running all of them -- all with my sights set on completing this challenge and receiving the prize at the end.

After recovering from my initial shock of not being on the list, I realized that it really wasn't about the jacket at all. It don't even care what what the jacket looks like or even if it fits. Who knows if I'll ever even wear it.

It was about pushing myself to do something I'd never thought I could do -- and doing it.

I should be happy with that, right? I should take pride in my accomplishment. I shouldn't need a jacket to prove that I did it. Yeah right, I still want that jacket.

Luckily, my worry was short-lived. I was pleasantly surprised Monday morning when I received an email from Mike at Loco asking me to verify, somehow, that I had run the April Fool's 4-miler in Salisbury. Apparently, I wasn't on his list.

I did a quick search on the race site and found my finishing time and place. I emailed it off to him and the mix-up was cleared. My jacket will arrive shortly.

Unfortunately, he only had a men's medium left, so the jacket might not fit after all. It might never come out of my closet or I might look ridiculous wearing it. Either way, I'll still have it and know that I earned it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Left In The Dust

I ran my second race with my Charming Friend yesterday. Well, I use the word "with" very loosely because I really only ran "with" him for the first 20 steps or so ... then he left me in his dust.

Yep, CF finished nearly a minute and a half ahead of me at the
Smuttynose 5K in Newmarket, about 3 or 4 minutes faster than his first race last month.

At first I was a little disappointed that he wasn't running with me (after all, we'd signed up for this together, right?), but then I realized he was on a mission: Beat Big Dan.

CF had invited a couple of co-workers to join us for the race, including Big Dan. As we waited at the starting line, Big Dan estimated he'd be running an 8:30-mile. (I thought I'd be between a 9 and 10-minute mile, so I immediately knew that I wouldn't be running alongside Big Dan.)

CF, however, had a different idea. Not only did he want to run alongside him, he wanted to beat him.

I found out later that Big Dan had thrown a few jabs CF's way after the Concord race, teasing him about getting beaten by an 'old guy' -- and so the challenge was on.

We started out running together, making our way through the crowded start. Soon CF pulled away from me, and as he did so I saw him gaining on Big Dan rather quickly. I wondered if he'd be able to keep up his pace, especially considering he's only run a couple of times since the last race and yesterday's hot, humid temps made for a hard run.

I gotta give CF credit. He hung in there, passed all of us and finished in a little more than 27 minutes. I made it to the finish line in a little more than 29 minutes -- still better than my last race time and not bad considering I'd just finished 10+ miles the day before.

I know I'll never be the fastest and that's okay. (I'm sure it will be the the first of many races in which CF will beat me.) As he gave me some gentle teasing (something along the lines of "you suck" as we checked our times on the posted list), I reminded myself I could win a distance race against any one of them.

We all have our own goals -- get in shape, support a charity, get faster,
beat Big Dan. Or for me, just add to my marathon training and have fun doing it.

I guess I don't have to run with CF to run with him. Either way, I'm glad he's trying it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Running At Practice vs. Running Practice

A few weeks back, when I met up with some TnT colleagues to celebrate Scott's successful completion of the San Diego marathon, talk turned to plans for the Market Square day booth and race.

Dave mentioned he needed some help manning the booth, so I said I'd gladly offer an hour or two of my time to help spread the word about TnT.

"But you and Erin will be running practice," he said.

Running practice? Of course I'd be running at practice -- just like I do every Saturday morning.

"No, you'll be running practice," he explained. With Dave tied up with Market Square Day responsibilities and a scheduling conflict with Coach Jack's new job, they'd turn the team over to me and Erin.

Yikes. Immediately my mind turned to the 'what if's' -- What if something goes wrong? What if somebody gets hurt? Or lost? I think I told Coach Jack about five or six times that evening to be sure to let me know ahead of time exactly what needs to be done and what to do in the 'what if' situations.

Then there were the simple things. Would I remember where the turn-arounds were? Would I remember what stretches we do?

It probably didn't help that I've actually experienced one of those 'what if' situations when I fell during training last fall. Please don't let one of the runners come around the corner bleeding from the knees and face like I did, I said to myself.

Erin and I met about a hour before the team run to get a few miles in -- since, as mentors, our runs with the team are unpredictable. We never know if we'll get our distance in or whether we'll need to lend a hand elsewhere.

It was a great day for running -- sunny and not too hot. The team trickled into the school's parking lot and formed a circle, settling in to listen to some quick tips on fundraising.

As we listened, Coach Jack pulled in and quietly entered the circle next to me. He handed me a the check-in sheets and a binder, showing me where to find the emergency information. Oh, and he gave me a first aid kit. I crossed my fingers that none of it would be needed.

Coach Jack patted me on the shoulder, told me everything would be fine, and pulled away, leaving the team in my hands.

With the fundraising seminar completed, Erin and I rounded up the team for the warm-up lap and stretching. The team was relaxed -- they didn't seem to mind that Erin and I were in charge. We must have been portraying confidence that we didn't really have at the time.

We were worried about losing runners -- it was the first time the marathoners would be running the full six-mile loop. They wouldn't know where to make the turns.

We described, as best we could, where the turn-arounds were and where the turns were. (Granted, we almost sent the half-marathoners on an extra mile, but were quickly corrected by the marathoners who told us that the Coast Guard station is the same place they turned around for five miles last week.)

With the directions conveyed, we started the run. Erin and I talked about our strategy -- should we run ahead to the turn-around? Should we stop at the Old Mobil to make sure the marathons go the right way? (We both knew there was no way we'd keep up with Nicholas, so we quickly abandoned that idea.)

We trotted out of the school and onto South Street. Just a few steps in, Erin and I agreed to turn around and let the runners continue. We'd drive the loop to make sure we could keep track of all of the runners. (With everyone running a different paces and distances, it's hard to do that while running with the group. Plus, if something happened, we wanted to have a car readily available.)

As we drove by our teammates, we'd slow down and offer words of encouragement or a thumbs-up. We stopped at certain points to make sure the runners knew they were on track.

Everything seemed fine. And it was for the rest of the run.

As is usually the case, it was a lot of worrying for nothing. (I've probably taken years off of my life worrying away at things that did not need to be given a second thought.)

We eventually waited at the school for runners to return, clapping as they made their way down the homestretch. Everyone cheered for Vicky's small personal victory when she made it back to the school before the marathoner girls.

Eventually, everyone made it back safely. Almost everyone had run farther than they had ever run before. It's a nice feeling being able to share that with the team.

Being in charge wasn't so bad. A lot of worrying for nothing -- as usual. It gave me a new appreciation for Coach Jack, who seems to head up the team effortlessly.

Even though it wasn't so bad, I'm looking forward to the return of Coach Jack and Dave on Saturday -- and getting back to the normal routine.

Friday, June 13, 2008

26.1 miles

A few weeks ago, as I was driving to my sister's summer place on Sebago Lake, I just happened to glance at a small mile marker sign on the side of the road: 26.1 miles.

Immediately, I thought about the marathon distance I'd be running this fall: 26.2 miles.

I remember thinking that I'd been driving along the Maine Turnpike for quite a while (26.1 miles, to be exact) and my mind questioned whether I'd be able to run that distance in just a few months. It seemed impossible.

But, as long as I stick to the TnT training -- and have the support of my teammates, friends and family -- I'm sure I'll make it.

I have the marathon training schedule posted on my work bulletin board and on my refrigerator, so I always know what's expected. It fits my nature just perfectly -- tell me exactly what's expected and I'll do it.

I've been pretty good at keeping up with the training so far. With my base mileage built up from the four half marathons I've done this year (never thought I'd be saying that!), I was ahead of schedule. Now, with the mileage increasing steadily, I'm right on track.

Cross training is really helping my running. I've added a few gym workouts -- weights or cardio, depending on the day -- and some yoga sessions. It's nice to give my legs a break and mix up the routine.

And even though I'm probably doing more in terms of exercise, running's becoming easier and I definitely feel stronger. I've just got to keep it up.

Just 16 weeks to go.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Turning Up The Heat

I've never sweat so much in my life as I did last night.

No, it wasn't from an extra hard run or a sudden heat wave. Last night I added something new to my cross-training repertoire -- Bikram yoga.

If you're not familiar with Bikram yoga, let me help you understand. Last night, I packed into a relatively small room with about 35 other people and twisted our bodies into all sorts of shapes for an hour and a half. And here's the kicker -- the room is at least 100 degrees.

That's no exaggeration. Ideally, Bikram is practiced at temperatures above 105 degrees, according to the brief online research I did.

I'd heard a lot about Bikram and know a lot of people who've tried it - and loved it. So, willing to give it a try, I decided to sign up for 10-day test drive.

I asked a friend of mine what I should bring. Her advice: minimal clothing and a couple of towels.

She was right. Normally, I'm pretty modest, but somewhere after the first five minutes of class last night, I was glad that I chose to go with only a sports bra and shorts. Even the light wicking material of my tanktop would have been unbearable.

(No, that's not me in the photo, but if I stick with this stuff perhaps it could be some day.)

I found my way to the second row (it was the second of two rows, just in case you think I was getting too ambitious) and placed my mat and towel on the floor. Others in the room did gentle stretches and some just lay motionless in a relaxed position while we waited for the instructor.

Somehow I ended up behind an incredibly toned and flexible man -- who happened to be wearing the smallest and tightest shorts I'd ever seen. He also probably had the fittest body I'd ever seen. As he contorted his body in ways that shouldn't be humanly possible, I resisted the urge not to stare.

Part of me felt awkward standing behind the nearly-naked man, but the other part felt as if I'd have a pretty good example in front of me to mimic his poses. He obviously knew what he was doing. (Turns out he is actually an instructor for another class, so my hunch to follow his lead was right on.)

Luckily, not everyone in the class was so perfect and toned. Sure, some were pictures of ideal body shapes and proportions, but most were what I will call 'normal' people.

The class started with two breathing exercises -- the first of which made me question whether the class was right for me when the instructor let out a guttural, throaty sound on the exhale. The class followed her lead -- letting out noisy, awkward exhales. I resisted the urge to snicker or run out of the room.

I re-focused my mind -- as I'm sure I wasn't supposed to be thinking about the germ-ridden breath of strangers that was filling the 100+ degree, air-tight room -- and concentrated on the deep breaths bringing oxygen to my lungs and blood.

The class got dramatically better from there and we moved into the postures. As a first-timer, I had to pay attention to exactly how my body was supposed to move. I watched myself in the mirrors at the front of the room and tried to replicate what I saw the others doing. We went through the series of postures, tightening and stretching our muscles in ways I'd never experienced.

The instructor guided us calmly through the series, correcting our form as to give us the most benefits.
I'm sure the postures will come more naturally to me as my body gets used to working in this way. At least I hope so.

Soon, I was drenched with sweat. At one point, I noticed droplets plopping onto the mat below me. (I looked around to make sure I wasn't the only one experiencing this. I surely wasn't.)

I was sweating from places I'd never sweat before and my whole body was seeping.
We were like chickens in a roasting pan, slowly letting out our juices. It wasn't at all like the sweat you experience after a hard cardio workout.

I knew I was getting an intense workout to my muscles, but I wasn't exhausted and my muscles didn't ache from use. They felt energized and lean.

When the 90 minutes were up, my body felt great. I felt stretched and relaxed, both physically and mentally. My skin was softer than I remember it being in a long time. It was like my whole body had gotten a facial.

I never thought I'd be looking forward to spending 90 minutes in a stifling hot room with a bunch of barely-dressed strangers twisting our sweaty bodies into almost-unnatural shapes. But I can't wait to go back.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

His First Race

My Charming Friend finished his first race yesterday -- not that I had any doubt that he would follow through on his commitment to run Concord's Rock N' Road Race.

He did a pretty good job -- very good, actually -- especially considering that we haven't been running much lately.

CF agreed to the run the race as part of the wedu team, which I had joined in exchange for having their team captain at my table for a Big Brothers Big Sisters breakfast earlier this year. In my world, it's all about bartering and exchanging favors.

During one of our few practice runs, CF had completed 3+ miles (although perhaps there were some walking points in those runs?), so I didn't have a doubt that he could do it. Plus, being his nature, I knew that the race atmosphere and the energy of the crowd would pull him easily through the 3.1 miles.

And, as he later told me, he drew upon others for inspiration. "If they could do it, so could I," he said of some not-so-physically fit people in the crowd.

CF showed up in brand-spankin' new running clothes, definitely looking the part for the day and ready to run. (I was a bit disappointed that he didn't show up in padded Spandex like he told me he would.)

We made our way to the Big Bell on the State House lawn, where we were to meet the rest of our team. The rest of the team eventually joined us (I say eventually because I'm sure CF will point out that we were precisely on time and the others were late).

We laced on our timing chips, pinned on our numbers and headed to the Start Line. And we waited some more.

Then it started to rain. Oh, and it was cold.

Certainly not a great day for a race. I told CF once again that he's a good sport. I think it was probably the tenth time I'd told him that day.

The starting gun went off and the 5,600+ runners and walkers slowly took off. The rain came down and soaked us for the first mile. CF didn't complain and just kept running.

He didn't even stop at the chocolate covered strawberries or the straw hats being handed out to runners. (Maybe he just wanted to get the race over with?)

We spent the rest of the race people watching and commenting on runner's body shapes (and studying the extremely defined calves of a runner in front of us).

Soon enough -- in just a little more than 31 minutes -- we crossed the Finish Line. CF had finished his first 5K. I was so proud. He took it all in stride -- and talked about ways we could have made better time.

But for me it wasn't about the timing clock or distance or anything else. It was about doing something I enjoy with someone I enjoy spending time with. There'll be plenty of ways to improve our time for the next race.

Yep, the next race. CF's already given me the OK for me to sign him up for another 5K next month.

Either he's crazy or really likes me -- or maybe a bit of both.

Monday, May 19, 2008

That Doggie In The Window

I'm a sucker for puppy eyes. And Rebel knows it.

Sunday was the first day that I didn't take my furry running partner (not to be confused with my Charming Friend) with me on the run from my house.

It was in his best interest, but he didn't know that.

I woke up Sunday morning with thoughts of getting a longer run in. I had planned a 10-mile run with Scott and Erin on Saturday, but after a mishap with my lawnmower and a couple of house showings scheduled for the day, that didn't happen.

As I laced up my shoes, Rebel thought it was his cue. He ran excitedly to the landing at the top of the steps, waiting (somewhat) patiently for me to buckle his collar and leash.

Sorry, Buddy, I said. Not today.

It was 9 a.m. by the time I got around to the run. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was somewhere in the high 50's.

I knew Rebel's double fur coat would be too much for him and that he wouldn't make the whole run without needing many water breaks.

Luckily, the 2 1/2 mile mark is the lake's boat launch where he can lap up the water and wade around to cool off. But I was planning to do the whole 7 miles around the lake, so there wouldn't be another water break for the poor pup.

I think Rebel sensed he might not be coming with me, so he bounced down the stairs and sat in front of the door -- looking expectantly at the doorknob, then at me with those puppy eyes.

Pleeeese, Mom, he seemed to say.

It was almost enough to make me cave. But I resisted, knowing that as much as I wanted him to run with me, it wouldn't be good for him.

I called him to the top of the stairs, apologized to him and gave him a good pat on the head. Again, the puppy eyes stared at me in disbelief.

As I crouched down to pet him, he even gave me his version of a hug -- he puts his paw up on my arm and snuggles into me. It makes my heart melt every time. I'm sure he knows it, too.

I won't be long, I told him.

It was the first run I'd done without him since I started running in August. We were a team, running buddies. How could I leave him?

I apologized again -- do dogs even know what the word "sorry" means? -- and headed out the door.

I heard a few barks from the house as I made my way down the driveway. (He never barks when I'm leaving the house.) Wait for me, he was telling me. Pleeease.

I turned around for one last look. A little face peeked out through the curtains in the picture window. Even from the end of the driveway, I could see the puppy eyes.

I took one deep breath, felt terribly guilty and turned out of the driveway to run.

It turned out to be a good run. I concentrated on some of the things Coach Jack had talked about on Saturday to improve form and efficiency. Plus, I didn't have to stop for any pee breaks along the way. How can Rebel can possibly lift his leg 15 times in a 3-miles run?)

By the time I made it back an hour later, Rebel had mostly likely forgotten about the episode. I'm sure he didn't feel neglected or abandoned.

Nonetheless, I gave him some extra love when I got home -- and made up for it with a trip to the dog park later in the day, where he met up with his pal (although I'm not sure the feeling is mutual), Bogey and some other new-found friends.

Maybe the hardest part of marathon training during the summer months is going to be resisting those puppy eyes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Returning the Favor

When I woke up Saturday morning, I listened for rain -- even before opening my eyes.

I had told myself that if it was raining I wasn't going to run the Big Lake Half Marathon in Alton. But I didn't hear the sound of raindrops on the windows, so I reluctantly peeled my eyelids back to face the morning.

Within a few minutes, I was dressed in my running gear and packing a bag of things to keep my body fueled throughout the day -- a couple of GU gels, jellybeans, a banana, an orange, Gatorade and water. (I didn't end up eating all of those things, but thought that it was better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.)

I met up with Erin in Rochester so we could carpool to Alton, where we filed into the parking lot with the other runners. (Neither of us had an official number for the race after some last-minute changes in plans, so we decided we'd jump in at the starting line and jump out before the chute at the end of the race.)

We found Coach Jack and the TnT-ers in the school gym, dressed in their distinct purple singlets. Erin and I both wore TnT shirts, convincing ourselves that it wouldn't be as bad to 'illegally' run the race if we were there to support the other TnT-ers.

We lost the group somewhere near the starting line. As the race started and we made our way around Alton Bay, Erin and I chatted about nothing in particular -- running stuff, personal life stuff, plans to run the Maine Marathon (she's also signed up).

Somewhere between Mile 3 and 4, Erin decided that she was going to turn back. I felt pretty good and knew I could finish the 13.1 miles, so I kept going.

As I ran up the steady incline along Route 11, I found myself passing bunches of runners. From time to time, I'd end up chatting with the person next to me for a moment (wearing a Team In Training shirt sparks a lot of conversation).

There was a woman who told a story of running an Alaska marathon with TnT -- and having the race diverted because a moose was crossing the trail. And there was a TnT-er from the Boston team who was running her first half marathon. Then I caught up with Kara, one of my fellow Disney teammates.

Soon afterward I found myself running alone for a while. The steady incline continued and I made my way up the hill, taking in the views of the Lake Winnipesaukee. I passed an entertaining mile marker at Mile 5 that featured loud disco music, people in leisure suits and bubbles in the air.

And then Scott found me.

Scott's training for a marathon in San Diego on June 1 and was working on his longest run of his training on Saturday. He arrived before the race to get in 7 miles and would complete another 13 with the race.

Somewhere along the route, I told Scott that I felt bad that I didn't have a number and was running unofficially. He said not to worry because I was there supporting him today as part of TnT. Maybe he was just helping to rationalize my race entry, but it did help to know that I was helping him that day.

During the half marathon at Great Bay last month, Scott really pulled me through the last few miles. If not for him, I would have done a lot of walking. I couldn't take the hills anymore and just wanted to quit. He helped me mentally finish the run.

So Saturday's Big Lake was just the opportunity for me to return the favor.

I could tell that somewhere around Mile 8, Scott was getting less interested in talking. (It was Mile 15 for him.) He was approaching what is sometimes referred to as the Bite Me Stage -- a point at which you just want to finish and hidden parts of your personality will leap out at whomever is nearby.

Scott just got quieter, so I ceased the small talk and just focused on running next to him -- encouraging him up the hills, offering whatever fuel I had in my pouch and generally just moving forward.

As the mileage increased, so did Scott's pace. By the time we met up with Erin at a water stop (she stayed to help out during the race) around Mile 10, he was running at a pretty good clip.

Erin and I picked up with chit-chat as Scott continued his now-silent run. I could tell he just wanted it to be over. We offered some words of encouragement here and there as Scott neared his 20-mile mark.

As we make our way down the straight-away to the Finish Line, Erin and I left the pack (running unofficially, we couldn't run through the timing chute at the end). Scott continued to pick up his pace and press on toward the finish, determined to hit the 20-mile mark that day.

We lost Scott in the crowd at the Finish Line, which is unusual because he's 6'5"-ish and usually easy to spot. Erin and I hoped that he made it through the Finish okay and figured that he just wanted to get home and left immediately after the Finish.

I finished the 13.1 miles feeling pretty good -- it was the first time that I actually felt that I could have kept running, not that I was just pushing myself to finish the race.

It also felt pretty good that I could help out a fellow TnT-er. It's one of the great things about being part of a team, even if not officially.

Friday, May 9, 2008

When 13.1 Isn't Enough...

What are you doing October 5, 2008? If all goes according to plan, I'll be running the Maine Marathon. Yep, that's right. I signed up.

Now what?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

I have a couple of decisions to make in the next week or so -- and I don't know why I can't make up my mind.

I need to decide whether to run the Big Lake Half Marathon on Saturday (yes, less than a week away). And, on a bigger scale, decide if I'm up for training for a full marathon.

The first one is a relatively easy decision. I told myself if I ran 10 miles yesterday (which I did) that I'd sign up for the Big Lake Half in Alton. So I guess that's what I'll do -- despite the fact that the 10 miles wasn't a great run.

I'm hoping I can attribute a less-than-quality run to the fact that I stayed up until 12:30 a.m. the night before, probably didn't fuel up as well as I should and felt as if I just need to get the run in so that I could make my 10:30 a.m. can't-be-late appointment to head to Maine for the day.

So, with my mind set on running the half marathon on Saturday, I guess I only have one decision left to make: Should I train for a full marathon?

I almost typed "Can I train for a full marathon?" but then decided to change it to the word "should" because I truly think (thanks to my experience with TnT) that I can do it.

Last year at this time, I never imagined that I could run a half marathon -- let alone be preparing for my fourth of the year already. And I know the people I've watched train for full marathons with TnT never thought they could do it. But they did.

And I can, too.

Despite that (sometimes wavering) sense of confidence, I still can't make up my mind about whether I should give it a try.

For starters, I can't decide which full marathon I'd like to try. I'd love to run the Chicago Marathon -- which would give me a chance to meet up with college friends and see the city where I lived in high school and college. I've thought about the Toronto Marathon -- which would bring me back to the city where I was born. And I'm considering the Maine Marathon -- which is on the next TnT training program, is nearby and would lend the support of fellow TnT-ers and family members.

Even if I could decide which one I wanted to try, there's part of me that wonders if I'd have the time I'd need to properly train. I also know that training for a full marathon will take a lot of dedication and some changes in lifestyle habits.

With the nagging part of me that keeps saying that the half just isn't enough, I'm sure I'll eventually get there. I just need to decide when, where and how.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Charming Running Partner

The first person I told after I signed up for the Disney Half was someone I didn't really know very well. I'm not exactly why that is. Why didn't I tell my family, long-time friends or even co-workers?

I've come to know this person (whom I refer to as my Charming Friend) a lot better since August, and it turned out he was one of my biggest supporters during my Disney training (despite his somewhat sarcastic comments posted on this blog).

Throughout my journey, my Charming Friend has toyed with the idea of taking up running. (I try to contain my excitement when he talks about it -- thinking of what it would be like to have a steady running partner and thinking of the opportunities that training runs and races would give us to spend time together, get in shape and support good causes.)

I contain the excitement because I don't want to get my hopes up. I also don't want to be a nag or put pressure on him. I want him to run because he wants to run, not because I want him to.

You can imagine how hard it was to play it cool when he told me he just returned from Runner's Alley with a new pair of shoes. (Okay, so the shoes sat in the box for a few weeks (maybe more), but he still took the first step of buying them.)

I talked him into coming with me to the Fitness Expo before the Great Bay Half Marathon a few weekends ago, where I'd be picking up my race number for my third half marathon of the year.

Our first stop at the small expo was what I'll call the Remedies-For-All-The-Things-That-Can-Go-Wrong-With -Your-Body Booth: IT Band and knee braces, chaffing remedies, blister prevention, toe caps (I bought some of those), nipple covers (don't ask), shoe inserts and a bunch of other things designed to deal with problems that might arise while running.

It certainly wasn't a place I should be bringing a non-runner whom I hope will become my running partner, but he didn't seem to flinch. (Didn't start running right away, but it didn't scare him off entirely.)

A few days later, My Charming Friend
did his first run -- a mile by himself on the concourse of the arena where he works. I was really proud, but tried my hardest to avoid gushing with compliments when he told me. (Don't scare him off, Teresa, I told myself.)

I wouldn't say he enjoyed his first run entirely -- I wish I could post an audio file of the voicemail message he left me about his aching shins, sore arches, throbbing back and the list of other ailments that his first mile had thrown at him.

But it still wasn't enough for him to quit. (I doubt that quit is in his vocabulary.)

The next day I joined him for another mile around the concourse -- a much slower mile, he told me, which I pointed out might be part of the reason he was hurting so badly after his first run.

He still didn't feel right, so brought his shoes back to Runner's Alley, exchanged them for another pair and chatted with the manager for a while about possible problems and fixes.

Not long after that, we ventured outside for a three-mile route in downtown Manchester that he created on -- which actually included scaling a brick wall (obviously not shown on the website route).

Three miles and he did it. And he finished strong, sprinting to our finishing point.

Again, I played it cool, congratulating him mildly on his accomplishment and patting him on the back (I know it drives him crazy to have his T-shirt pressed up against his sweaty back, so that move was partially congratulatory and partially intentionally annoying.)

He tried to play it cool, too, but I know he was proud of himself. (He sent a couple of text messages off to co-workers telling him he finished the three miles.) He also used the phrase "farther than I've ever run in my life."

TnT-ers use this phrase a lot. There's nothing like the feeling of running farther than you've ever run before.

And there's nothing like having a Charming Friend who takes up running -- or at least is willing to give it a try.

Friday, April 4, 2008

This Little Piggy ...

I have eight toenails.

In case you're wondering, I have 10 toes. But only eight toenails.

This toenail deficiency is a recent thing. It officially happened last weekend, although it's been a while in the making.

The day after my Disney race, I noticed that the second toe on my right foot was particularly tender. I wasn't sure why. It felt as if the tenderness was coming from underneath my nail. I couldn't see anything wrong with my foot, but it definitely hurt when I put pressure on it.

I chalked it up to the effects of my first half marathon. Could have been a lot worse, I told myself.

The next day, Ericka, a fellow TnT-er, ran the full marathon. Later in day, she complained of a painful toenail. Hers was worse -- she could feel and see the fluid build-up under the nail. I think she may have even tried to pop it. (Ouch!)

I didn't think much more of my toenail pain, but as the weeks progressed and my running continued, I found my nail getting yellowed - almost bruised. Eventually, it felt loose - almost as if I could flick it right off of my toe without any effort at all.

I did nothing, figuring if my body decided it was time for it to go, it would fall off.

Then recently, probably after my next half marathon, the same thing happened to the second toe on my left foot. Although the pain wasn't nearly as noticeable, that toenail suffered the same nasty process, yellowing, bruising and loosening.

Yuck. What had I done to my once-decent-looking feet? (At least I've been told my feet are nice ... well, were nice. No one's seen them lately. And at this rate, I won't be showing anyone.)

I stopped at Runner's Alley last week to pick up some socks and GU for my upcoming half marathon. While checking out, I decided to ask the woman behind the counter about my toenail mishap.

"Happens to people all the time," she said. She then asked me a series of questions: did I have my shoes fitted, how far did I run, how often does it happen?

She told me about the tendency for the foot to tighten during long runs, pushing the toes against the top of the shoe. She told me about various ways to lace the shoe to avoid pressure on the toes. But, basically, she told me that there's really not much I can do.

Great, another battle scar? Aren't the scars on my knees and shoulder from my fall enough?

Giving my nails a little trim on Sunday, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I made my way to the loosened toenails and gingerly started cutting. And kept cutting and cutting.

I discovered a fresh, new toenail growing underneath. I cut the old toenail all the way back. The new one was extremely delicate and thin -- like a baby's fingernails -- but it was definitely there. The right foot looks better than the left, but I'm hoping that the left one keeps growing into a full nail.

Just before writing this I decided to do a little research. (Like everyone these days, I consider 'research' to be typing something into an online search engine and trusting the information that pops up.)

I googled "running toenails" and found a host of website with stories and advice. The woman at Runner's Alley was right. It does happen all the time.

The consensus of the websites was simple: After ruling out possible causes (shoes that don't fit, socks that are too thick, running in hot weather, etc.) and watching for ongoing problems (extreme pain, infection, etc.), just deal with it.

I guess that's what I'll do.

I just hope my brand-new, baby-like toenails make it through the Great Bay Half Marathon on Sunday. They're only a week old. I don't want to lose them yet.