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.