Monday, November 30, 2009

The Butterfly Effect

If I wouldn't have gotten a flat on my last ride...
  • ...we wouldn't have stopped to pick up a new tube.
  • ...and we wouldn't have noticed the worn tire on TC's bike in the parking lot of the store.
  • ...and we wouldn't have gotten a new tire for him.
  • ...and he wouldn't have taken his bike off the back of my car to put the new one on.
  • ...and the bike would have been safely clasped to the rack.
There are a whole laundry list of "what if's" that could have happened yesterday - not the least of which would have resulted in TC's prized possession going tumbling and crumbling down the highway at 70 mph.

Luckily, the bike was left dangling by a bike lock that for some reason TC had decided to attach after we decided to scrap our ride for the day. Neither one of us is sure why he locked the bike - since he usually only locks it once we reach our destination, if we're leaving the bikes unattended.

But we certainly were thankful he did.

At that moment, we should have been on our way to a long ride in as-good-as-November-gets riding conditions. It was sunny, but chilly - and after sleeping in and having an unusually big breakfast, TC and I decided we'd get a ride in.

We mapped out a new route - somewhere near Peterborough - that would give us a 25-30-mile ride for the day. I was excited that the plan called for at least 21 miles - the minimum that TC needed to break the 2,000-mile mark for the year. (For the record, I think I'm somewhere around 500 miles for my first season. I should track it better next year.)

But as TC pulled off his back wheel to replace the worn tire, the gears came off (yes, I'm obviously a very technical mechanic) and couldn't easily be repaired. We decided it would be better to cancel the ride and bring the bike to the experts for repair, rather than get stuck out on a road.

Again.

We both recalled a time earlier this summer when I had to pick up a stranded TC on the side of a road in New Boston one evening because of a similar problem with the bike. And we both recalled that his bike was making an odd rubbing sound during our ride last week.

We didn't want to risk it.

There's a theory, dating back to the 1890s, that the smallest of events can have profound effects. The
Butterfly Effect refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location.

Perhaps we dodged our own little tornado yesterday. It's safe to say that TC and I were both a bit freaked out when the bike popped off the back of my car, leaving it hanging about three inches from the ground only by a small cable.

Had the wheel still been on, who knows what damage could have been done. If the bike fell off entirely, we knew it wouldn't be pretty. It may have even caused an accident.

TC didn't reach his 2,000 mark yesterday. Depending on the weather and schedules, he may not reach it at all. It will be disappointing, but not the end of the world. (I can say that so easily because it's not my goal to reach.)

Yesterday could have been a lot worse. Had that butterfly flapped its wings a little differently, we could have been right in the path of that tornado.


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Week 3: Gobblin' Another Pound

WEEK THREE:
  • Weight: 142.0 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: -1.0 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -2.5 lbs
  • Activities: 17m running, 19m biking/spin
  • Notes: Happy with another pound gone, especially considering this week included Thanksgiving - two of 'em, actually - and tables full of food, drinks and pie. Focusing on at least one speed/interval run a week. Hate the treadmill, but trying to make the most of my time there. No junk miles for me!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Non-Traditional Traditions

I've never been a huge fan of some holiday traditions.

I'm not quite sure why we "have to" eat Turkey and pumpkin pie on the fourth Thursday in November, why we wait until February 14 to express our feelings to someone or why people stress about neatly wrapping Christmas gifts only to have them torn apart the next morning.

Despite that, I'm usually roped into some level of tradition (yes, I ate turkey and the traditional mashed potatoes, gravy and other fixins yesterday), and to some extent I don't mind tradition.

It's just that I've always liked to think that I'd come up with my own traditions - doing something because I want to do it, not because society tells me it's what I should do. Heck, if I want to eat spaghetti on Thanksgiving, I should be able to - and be able to without people looking at me like I told them I was eating bugs on Thanksgiving. Right?

For the record, I don't want to eat spaghetti on Thanksgiving (it would be angel hair, anyway, not spaghetti), and I thoroughly enjoyed my traditional Thanksgiving meal with TC's family yesterday.

One of the things I liked most about it was that it was very much like my family's Thanksgivings - we'll experience that tomorrow when it's Turkey Day Part II for us - no expectation to dress up or act any differently just because it's a holiday.

I must give some major props to my mom here for stepping outside the box and suggesting that we celebrate on Saturday so that we don't have to rush around from place to place. Perhaps that's where I get a bit of my fondness for non-traditional traditions (I recall we once ate Chinese food on Easter), and I wouldn't be surprised if future Thanksgivings in the Robinson household were moved to Saturdays.

With the "kids" (I'm using that word loosely since we're technically and chronologically grown-ups now) being pulled in different directions with significant others, Thanksgiving at my family's was going to be hard to pull off in a traditional way. My parents realized they'd rather have us all together - even if, gasp, we celebrated on a Saturday - than to have some parts of the family absent or rushing in and out.

Without the stress of figuring out how we'd fit in all the "must-do's" into Thanksgiving Day, TC and I were left with a bit of free time in the morning. What a welcome change, as we're usually running around trying to squeeze everything we want to into our non-work hours.

Even as we were faced with this new opening in our schedules, we didn't feel compelled to sleep in, sit around in pajamas, watch television or anything else like that. Nope, not us.

Instead, we headed out for a morning run, mapping out a new route from my place, through parts of Londonderry we'd never traveled, and back. It was brisk, but a great morning for a run. The roads were quiet, and I figured everyone was still snuggled in their homes or already starting to prepare the turkey for the day's meal.

As we ran, we noted the sights and homes along this new route - which seemed to go uphill for the first four miles, seriously - and
for the most part, our conversation wasn't overly deep or meaningful. At many times we ran without saying much at all.

Still, I know we each appreciated being next to each other, for encouraging each other to do something active and productive on Thanksgiving and for finding happiness in this non-traditional tradition. A tradition of our own.


Kudos to TC for logging his longest run ever - 8.75 miles - especially since he was suffering a bit from what sounds like a reoccurring IT band issue near the later miles. We looped back to my place, where I dropped him off to shower and start getting ready for the day, while I added a few more miles to bring my day's total to 12.

As much as I don't want to get caught up in the I'm-thankful-for posts I've been bombarded with through my various social medial outlets during the past couple of days, I would be remiss if I didn't note that I'm particularly thankful for a few things this year. (In reality, I could probably fill up a whole notebook listing things I'm thankful for, so I'll hit just a few of the highlights here.)

I'm thankful that I have TC in my life. I'm thankful that he doesn't think I'm crazy to get up and run 12 miles on Thanksgiving morning. And even more thankful that he's someone who will join me and encourage me. I'm thankful for the everyday things we do together - traditional and not.

I'm thankful to be welcomed into TC's family Thanksgiving - and to feel totally, completely comfortable there. I'm thankful that I laugh and am not offended when someone at the table calls out the white elephant in the room (or in a case yesterday, one of the dog's odoriferous moments).

I'm thankful that I have parents who understand that Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey or gravy or, most especially, the day of the week.


I'm thankful that they know - and have taught me - that it's about spending time with family, being yourself and making your own traditions.

Even if those traditions aren't like anyone else's - or perhaps I should say, especially if those traditions aren't like any one else's.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Here's To You, Mrs. Robinson

This post has been rattling around in my head for a few days now - actually, for nearly two weeks, when my grandmother turned 88 years old. In fact, it's the only post I've ever left in the "edit" folder without completing and posting in one sitting.

I think I wanted to take the time to say the right things here - although I often think when you write from the heart, the words flow naturally and little editing is needed (except for spelling, grammar and those types of things).

When I noted Granny's birthday on the calendar, I wanted to write a few things down, to share some thoughts, to write a personal birthday message. For once, I just didn't know how to put the pieces together into something readable.

It's interesting because when I think of 88-year-old women, I think of old ladies. But when I think of Granny, I think of anything but old ladies. Images of rocking chairs and aprons are nowhere in the picture.

Granny is a soft-spoken, petite, put-together lady - typical English, just as you'd expect given her heritage. Because my family moved around when I was younger and, for most of my life, didn't live near extended family, I grew up without that typical grandchild-grandparent relationship with most of my elder relatives.

That's not to say that we didn't have sleepovers and holidays and hugs and hand-knit sweaters; it was just a different kind of relationship than most of my peers share with their grandparents.

I have fond memories of my grandfather ("Granddad"), even though he passed away when I was in third grade. I still vividly remember my parents calling us downstairs, just as we were sorting through our Halloween candy, to tell us that the cancer had won out.

I really wish I had the opportunity to know him better. I think even as a youngster I was aware of the fact that he was a little eccentric - but it was the kind of eccentricity that I think I'd like.

For example, he once packed up a tent and left on his bicycle to ride from Toronto to Cape Cod, befriending people along the way for dinners, a warm bed or just some lively conversation. Along the way, Granddad kept a journal of his travels, documenting his mileage (kilometers, actually), the people he met and minute details of his trip.

The journal also includes a handful of (somewhat badly taken) photos of the people he met, along with a log addresses and phone numbers of these new friends. When he passed away shortly after his return from that trip, Granny contacted them to let them know.

I've secretly (and now not-so-secretly) thought it would be cool to retrace his path someday on my bike - although I'd probably skip the room-with-strangers bit.

Of course at eight years old, there was no way of appreciating this feat. I just knew that Granddad was going on a very long bike ride. That's a pretty relative thing to a kid. He could have been riding across the city for all I knew.

I'm glad that he took a moment to jot down his thoughts, take some pictures and share a bit of his story with me - even if it was years later when the tiny journal was passed down to my dad by my grandmother.

Granny is one hot ticket. Really, that's the best way to describe her. Sure, she's soft-spoken and proper at times, but just beneath the surface - when you start asking her questions about her life - you find out there's so much more to this silver-haired, spunky lady.

For example, she married my grandfather after a penpal-type relationship they had during WWII. They met face-to-face when he returned on leave one weekend, and shortly after that she received an engagement ring in the mail.

Imagine doing such a thing now!? (By the way, they were married for 38 years, cut short only by his passing.)

I've learned that I have a lot of my grandfather in me - he loved to run long distances, worked as a bike messenger, had a sense of adventure and a sense of humor that not everyone understood.

All of this I've learned through my grandmother, who has shared stories during the past couple of years, mostly in response to direct questions I asked over the internet as she started to embrace online communication. (Yes, my 88-year-old grandmother is tech-savvy. It's awesome.)

I cherish that I've been able to learn more about her, despite the fact that we live in different countries, and that our relationship has given me a glimpse into parts of my family and stories that I probably wouldn't otherwise have known.

She's taken a keen interest in my running progress and other aspects of my life - she's a big dog fan, so I always am sure to send her the latest pictures of my boy.

I feel a connection to her through these stories and moments (yes, I realize I should also pass to others in my family). I'm reminded of that connection everyday when I put on my two standard pieces of jewelry - a round opal and diamond ring that I wear on my right hand and a dainty ruby and diamond band I wear on my left.

Both belonged to Granny.

The opal piece was given to me by my mother, who thought it looked like something I would wear. And the ruby and diamond band was given to me directly by Granny, who pulled it out of her coat pocket during my last visit to Toronto to see her. If I'm not mistaken, it may be her engagement ring.

This post started out as a pseudo-birthday greeting for Granny, but as I finally finish it up the day before Thanksgiving, I realize it's a reminder to be thankful for family and important relationships in my life. I hope it reminds you to do the same.

Happy (now belated) birthday, Granny. And Happy Thanksgiving.


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Jingle All The Way

I've run quite a few races during the past couple of years, and I'm often asked what causes they support.

To be honest, I usually don't know.

I run races as a way to motivate me, to change-up my training a bit and
to experience something new - sometimes it's a new place, sometimes it's a race with a gimmick.

As bad as this might sound (although I could argue that I'm just like a lot of runners in this aspect), picking a race is often more about where it falls on the calendar or its distance than it is the cause it supports.

This wasn't the case on Saturday when I entered the annual Jingle Bell Run 10K to support the Arthritis Foundation.

After a super-busy Friday, I was seriously questioning whether I'd have enough motivation and drive to get me to the starting line. But as the fleeting thought passed through my head, I was reminded that my mother suffers from arthritis and the least I could do was get out of bed and give the $25 registration fee to help support an organization that may give her some relief someday.

Plus, I told myself, my mom would probably give a lot - probably almost anything - to be able to run. Or walk. Or even just get in and out of a chair without help. I've watched her health deteriorate during the past couple of years, and things that you and I take for granted have become struggles.

I needed to run this race.

Tying the customary jingle bells to the laces
, TC and I joined Jamie at the starting line. To our delight, it was a beautiful day for a run along the coast.

TC and I played the we-don't-want-to-finish-behind-that-guy game along the way to keep us passing fellow runners. We paced well and noticed that no one passed us in the last half of the race or so. Nice.

We crossed the finish line at the same time (technically I was slightly ahead of him, but that was only because he let me go first), giving each other high-fives, as we clocked a 56:10 final time for the 10K (a PR for me at a 9:04 minute-mile).

Jamie finished shortly after us, and we gathered in the school's gym for some stretching and food. We also learned that the guy that we agreed would be "acceptable" to finish near was in the 70+ age category. We both wished that we could look that good - and be running 10Ks - at that age.


Knowing we had a nice day ahead of us (perhaps one of the last of the season), TC and I had loaded our bikes onto the car before the race. We quickly changed from running clothes to riding attire at hopped on for a 20-mile jaunt along the coast - which started with me having a clipped-in fall in the parking lot just a few feet from the car.

Luckily, it got better from there. By the end of the ride - we'd put in 26.3 miles in running and riding that day - our legs were tired and we were beat.

Still, we agreed it was a great way to spend a Saturday in November. And we were both motivated enough to get up the next day for some more - me with a 10-mile run with my teammates and TC with a 20-something bike ride around Candia and Auburn.

Wish we had more weekends like tha
t.

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Week 2: In The Right Direction

WEEK TWO:
  • Weight: 143.0 lbs
  • Gain/Loss: -1.5 lbs
  • Activities: 21m running, 39m biking/spin

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One In The Same

During the last few weeks leading up to the marathon, I remember feeling a sense of relief that after I crossed the finish line I could get back to running "for fun."

I was looking forward to not sticking to a specific training schedule, not stressing out if I didn't reach a certain mileage goal - basically to getting back to running because I "wanted to," not because I "had to."

The funny this is, just two weeks after the marathon, I'm beginning to realize that those might be one in the same after all.

My new tracking chart is filling up just as quickly as my marathon training chart did. I've increased my visits to spin class (although that's partly because the days are getting regrettably shorter), focused on quality runs and am looking forward to getting a double-digit jaunt in this weekend with Shawnna.

In fact, I even suggested to Shawnna that we meet early on Sunday to do a five-mile loop together in Portsmouth before running another six with the team. Yes, I am willingly suggesting leaving my house at 6 a.m. on a Sunday to run 11 miles.

We even threw out a suggestion to get back on the Manchester Marathon course on Thanksgiving morning - maybe the first half.

It's nice not to have the pressure of a "have-to" run, but it's even nicer when you realize you were doing what you "wanted to" all along.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Week 1: Holdin' Steady, Technically

If there's one thing that I learned from marathon training, is that accountability and dedication are (some of the) keys to success.

In the quest to finish 26.2, these things manifested themselves in a few ways - I trained with friends, tracked and charted my progress and told everyone I would run a marathon (which is different than planning to run one).


It seemed to work - and I figure that I should adapt that philosophy and approach to shedding these 10 (or so) pounds. Mind you, I'm fully aware that losing 10 pounds is not nearly as impressive as running a marathon - although I might argue that in some way
s and at some times it seems harder.

I certainly don't plan to shout my efforts and progress (good or bad) from the mountain tops like I did with marathon training. I don't think you'll see a Facebook status update or Tweet about this subject (I hope).

I'm aware that some people will look at me, roll their eyes and sigh when I tell them I want to drop weight - in that familiar way we do when "skinny" people complain about being fat.

While it's nice to know that some people think of me in that category and I admit I probably wear pant sizes that some women wished they could buy, this challenge is not just about getting skinnier or trying to fit into smaller size (but wouldn't that be nice!?).

It's about feeling good about myself, it's about having my body catch up to the fitness level I know I've already developed inside, it's about conquering the black 10-pound cloud that hovers over me.

It's about not having that sense of dread when I get the email saying Race Day photos are up online. (Anyone who's seen pictures of themselves running in running shorts can relate to that, I'm sure.)

Knowing that I'll be stepping on the scale every Monday, filling that number out on my chart and providing a weekly update will provide that sense of accountability I need for myself.
Here's the report after my first week.

WEEK ONE:
  • Weight: 144.5 lbs*
  • Gain/Loss: 0*
  • Exercise/Activities: 10m running, 58.8m biking/spin, 1 session weights (arms)
*Note: My first "weigh-in" clicked in at 140 pounds on TC's bathroom scale. This morning, that dial showed the same number. Figuring I probably won't consistently have access to TC's bathroom scale at the same time and day of the week, I also weighed in on my bathroom scale this morning. The result, as you see listed above: 144.5.

Luckily, because I'd already weighed myself at TC's, I knew I was holding steady for the week (still a bit disappointing, I admit). Still, seeing 144.5 on the large digital read-out at my feet made my heart sink when I stepped onto the scale at my place. Hopefully I won't see it again anytime soon.


That's not to say that I was entirely surprised. I suspected that TC's scale lightened me up a little. Plus, I didn't feel like I did an overly good job at "being good" this week. I certainly didn't expect to have dropped many pounds or any at all, really. Sure, I was able to get in a lot of activity - but let's not forget that I've had at least this amount of activity every week during my last four months of marathon training - but I felt like I hadn't had the focus that I needed to when it comes to eating properly.

My goal for this week is to buckle down on portion size and eating out - and to manage to squeeze a few runs or workouts into an incredibly busy work-week.

Sometimes I'd rather just plan for a 18-miler at the end of the week. Seems so much simpler.


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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Banana Pancakes

It's raining here today. Not just raining - pouring. And cold. Just plain raw.

It's the kind of day that makes you want to stay in your PJ's all day, snuggled up under the covers, maybe watching a bad made-for-TV movie or reading a book.

It's the kind of day that TC refers to as a Banana Pancakes Day, with a nod toward Jack Johnson, who wrote a song about days just like this. Days best spent sleeping in, eating banana pancakes with someone you love.

And it's the kind of day that, during marathon training just a few weeks ago, would have had me trudging through some double-digit run in this silliness. I would have been wringing out my socks and drying my shoes for days.

As I looked out the window this morning, there was a part of me that told myself it wasn't raining that badly. I could get in a run, maybe six miles or so. Tough it out, right?

Not today.

I struck a little balance between what I wanted to do (stay under covers and enjoy the Banana Pancakes Day) and the craziness of what I could have done (made myself go for a rain-soaked run) and ended up at the gym.

I didn't really have a plan in mind. I'd gotten two good spin classes in this week (totaling 32+ miles on the bike) and one decent outdoor run mid-week (decent because I felt great and strong, not necessarily because of the distance).

A few miles on the treadmill would do me some good, I thought.

But oh how I dislike the treadmill - its monotony, that large display screen slowly ticking away the miles and minutes, the constant whirring, the dozens of flickering television screens in front of me, the people next to me focusing on anything and everything but running (talking on cell phones, reading magazines, etc.).

I decided to make my most of my trip to the gym, spending part of my time with some circuit training on my upper body and the rest of the time doing some interval work on the treadmill.

My iPod shuffle, still loaded with my "Getting Thru 26.2" playlist, made today's trip a little more bearable. I cranked it to drown out the annoyances of the gym.

In all, I tallied only four miles. But for a change I wasn't focused on distance or on just getting the miles in for training. I was focused on making them good, productive miles. I'm beginning to realize what people mean when they say "junk" miles.

I alternated half-mile intervals between a comfortably steady pace (around 10-minute-miles) and a fast-for-me pace of 8-minute-miles. I felt great and the time flew by. The calorie counter, although I know they aren't exactly accurate, showed many more calories burned than I would have in a normal, steady four miler.

Hopefully workouts like this - and the spin classes and any other cross training I might add - will help me shed these 10 pounds I gained during marathon training (yes, really!) and get me in tip-top shape over the winter.

My marathon training plan has been removed from my fridge door, replaced now with a more general tracking sheet to help me log my runs and other activities. I've also added a column to track my weight at the beginning of each week - and TC's on board to help me with a graph at his place tracking both of our progress. (He's already at his "goal" weight, but wants to focus on maintaining that number during the winter when he doesn't ride.)

I really appreciate his support (are you getting sick of me saying that yet?) and help with this weight thing. Remember, it's been an issue for me in the past (see this post from July 2008) and one of those things I'm never sure I'll ever be entirely happy with.

TC's chart obviously had to include our weights - and honestly, I felt a little uneasy revealing "my number" to him. Rationally, I knew he wouldn't care what the number was - but these things aren't always rational. And women are funny about their weight. I'm probably even funnier than most women about it.

Here it goes: I weighed in at 140 (I can't believe I'm writing that), 10 pounds heavier than last year at this time. And a good 25+ pounds higher than my lowest weight several years ago. On another note, that number is still about 15 pounds lighter than I was during the college years (all those late night pizzas and plenty of beer add up).

It's not that I want the world to know how much I weigh. But
I'm a big proponent of writing down and tracking goals, which isn't a surprise to anyone who's seen the charts on my fridge. I figure throwing it out there in black and white will put that extra bit of pressure on me. I'll be sure to post updates and goals here along the way, if only for myself.

I won't know until Monday what to fill in the new weight column on the fridge. But on the training side, things are off to a good start. (Is it still called training if I don't have another race scheduled?)

It looks like this week's chart will end up at 10 miles of running and 60-something miles of biking (32 miles of spin class and somewhere around 30 miles of "real" biking, if TC and I can get out for the ride we have planned for tomorrow). Not too shabby, considering the battle with disappearing daylight and a busier-than-usual schedule at work recently.

I'm really looking forward to the fresh air, to seeing new places, even to struggling up the hills tomorrow.
I can't wait to be outside again.

Luckily, the forecast calls for a sunny day in the 60's - perfect for an end-of-season ride,
the kind of ride that isn't about counting calories burned or anything like that.

It's the kind of ride you just enjoy with someone you love. Think of it as a better, more healthy version of banana pancakes.


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Friday, November 6, 2009

Manchester 26.2

NOTE: My apologies for the lengthy post. In the days following the marathon, I've slowly been able to put together this account of Marathon Day - although I suspect there are many more details that will pop up in stories to share in the future. Enjoy!

TWO DAYS AND COUNTING

A case of the nerves was building as I approached Marathon Eve. A day earlier I had picked up my race number. I scrolled down the alphabetical list of marathoners posted at the expo. Next to my name I saw the number 34. Immediately thinking that must be the column listing runners' ages (I still have a hard time thinking of myself as 34 - how did that happen?), I kept looking.

I soon realized that I'd be wearing a bold "34" stamped on the bright yellow bib, secretly advertising my age for all to see. I didn't care, though, I was just thinking how cool it was to be holding my own personal marathon number. I smiled a bit, thinking that some people were going to think that I was some almost-elite runner with such a low number. Little did they know I just signed up early. Way early.

Almost predictably, I snapped a photo of my bib and uploaded it to my Facebook account. Comments started rolling in. The first, posted by Kevin, was one of my favorites: "The Truth. Perfect."

Just outside the expo, I grabbed some lunch with Shawnna. We split a grilled veggie wrap and I added a cup of pumpkin soup. And we each had a pre-marathon beer - despite the fact that my plan was to forgo alcohol for the week leading up to the marathon. (In reality, it wasn't the lunchtime brew with Shawnna that broke the plan. I'd had a glass of wine with TC at least once earlier in the week.)

Shawnna and I strategized - planned water breaks, GU stops, what we would wear, where we would meet on race day, and a number of other details. I confided to her that, despite the fact that I felt ready and excited for Marathon Day, I was starting to feel nervous. Could I do 26.2?

With a huge smile, Shawnna quickly quelled my fears. "Teresa," she said, "you've done the hard part." It was true. We'd put in the miles and training. We'd gotten up early every Saturday of the summer, we'd planted water stops behind trees, we'd mapped out our routes, we'd run those long miles alone and in the rain.

On race day, she reminded me, we'd have people handing us water, people out there cheering, volunteer holding back traffic allowing us to pass, perfect weather.

TnT leaders often remind runners to think of Marathon Day as a day to celebrate - a time to celebrate all of the hard work you already put in. I never really understood what they meant.

MARATHON EVE

As race day approached, well wishes poured in from friends and family in the forms of text messages, emails and Facebook posts. (Thank you, technology!) I planned to have a low-key day and spent most of the morning catching up on things around the house. I began to feel a little stir-crazy and grabbed The Beast for an easy jaunt - justifying a quick jog as a necessary to loosen up my legs and test out my new iPod playlist.

The Beast (the affectionate name for my lovable, snuggly-when-he-needs to be, 115-pound German Shepherd) sensed he was coming with me this time and was more than excited to join me. I gave him the "let's go" cue and he ran around my condo from end-to-end, sometimes up and down the stairs. Finally, he sat at the front door long enough to me to attach his leash.

It was unseasonably warm, reaching into the 70s on the last day of October. I wore shorts - the same ones I planned to wear in the marathon, after an overnight wash of course - and a tanktop. I decided to try a new route, a 3.1-mile loop that would take me along a gravel road without much traffic. It would be nice to run on a new surface and without the worry of traffic. Plus, because The Beast has a great habit of scooting off into the woods for his business, I wouldn't have to carry any pick-up bags.

I opted to do the loop counter-clockwise, which would put me on a downhill for the last mile or so. The first part had a steady incline up a semi-busy road before I made the turn to bring me to a country-like setting - the kind I love finding on the outskirts of Manchester.

The Beast trotted along beside me, sometimes going from one side to the other - an annoying habit I'll try to break him of at some point. I talked to him along the way (yes, I talk to my dog - a lot) and he looked up at me with that irresistible face. I swear he was smiling. And I couldn't help but smile back.

He stared intently at an older woman who waved to us and said hello as she tended to her goats. I remarked that he seemed more interested in the woman than the goats, even though I wasn't sure he'd seen a goat before.

The run was peaceful and relaxing. I didn't even wear a watch. My legs felt great, and even though I knew I could go faster, I kept it slow - not only wanting to reserve my strength for the next day's challenge, but just wanting to enjoy the moment. The last run before I'd become a marathoner.

As I downed the hill leading back to my condo, I started to reflect on my journey. I thought of those first runs I took with The Beast. I thought about all of the friends and loved ones who had helped me get here. I thought about how running has become a positive part of my life. And I thought about how much I love my life right now. I really do.

I felt a little lump form in my throat as all of those thoughts jumped around in my mind. My eyes got a little misty. If this is what I am like at the end of 3.1-mile run by myself, what am I going to be like when I cross that marathon Finish Line, I asked myself. Remember, I hate crying in front of people.

I'm not sure if I was "supposed" to run the day before my marathon. At that point, I really didn't care. I wouldn't trade those 3.1 miles for anything now.

The rest of Marathon Eve was spent with my Trusty Companion, scooting around doing some errands, enjoying a deliciously fresh lunch (actually, another veggie wrap - this one filled with black beans and corn, mmm) and sharing a perfectly presented cup of coffee at a hidden gem of a place I wish was just a tad closer to home.

TC ordered a "Cup of Love," which came complete with a chocolate heart swirled on top of the foam. I smiled as I looked at him with it in front of him at the table. (And snapped another photo, of course.)

Weeks earlier, I'd decided on my pre-marathon dinner, which is unusual for a person who is usually figuring out what to eat for dinner at 8 p.m. and making trips to the grocery store at times when some people are getting ready for bed.

Crazy Bastard. That's what I wanted. TC had snipped a Mario Batali recipe from a food magazine and earlier this summer we had our first taste of "Fusilli a la Crazy Bastard," named after a New Yorker cartoon in which a piece of pasta is shown talking on the phone exclaiming, "Fusilli, you crazy bastard!"

The name made me laugh. I probably would have eaten it just based on the name alone, but with a recipe that called for multi-grain pasta, roasted tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese, I knew it would be something I'd like. A good, fresh meal. Since it didn't really have a sauce, except for the one that came together by using a cup of leftover pasta water, a touch of olive oil and the juices from the roasted tomatoes, it was nice and light.

Dinner was accompanied by a cup of milk (served with my mandatory three ice cubes) - for some reason I was really craving milk - and plenty of water. TC enjoyed a glass of wine and I stole a sip near the end of the meal.

Our discussion turned to logistics for the next day. TC pulled out the marathon map and a pen. The forecast called for perfect weather, so he'd be on the course on his bike. We planned where to I'd see him and what I might need - ditch my long-sleeve shirt at the first stop, maybe a GU around Mile 9 or so, Glide along the way and plenty of moral support.

Part of TC's responsibilities was to also send text updates to a group of friends and family. We set up a group list and sent out a test text, sparking almost instant replies.

We finished up well after 9 p.m. - sticking right with our usual schedule - and sat down on the floor for a game of cribbage. (I'm in a Cribbage Immersion Program to learn the game so that I can partake in post-dinner activities at TC's parents' home and need almost daily practice to figure out all the rules of the game.)

Soon enough, I headed home to attempt to get a good night's sleep.

I'M RUNNING A MARATHON. HOLY CRAP.
For the most part, I slept well, despite the fact that everyone warned me I probably wouldn't. I woke up around 3:30 (we had changed the clocks that night, so it was "really" 4:30) and felt wide awake. I tossed and turned for the next couple of hours, scrolling through a list of things I needed and expected for the upcoming day.

By 5:30 a.m., I got out of bed. Let's get this day started.

I had prepared everything the night before - my clothes, my number, everything for TC's mobile support, so there really wasn't much to do in the morning. I took The Beast for a walk and started breakfast: a whole wheat English muffin with crunchy peanut butter and a touch of honey. I'd had eaten those a million times before training runs. Don't change anything.

I did a quick Facebook check and updated my status: "Teresa is running a marathon day. For real. Holy crap."

By 6:30 a.m., I was itching to get going, even though I hadn't planned to be at TC's until 7:30 a.m. I sent a text asking if I could come over early (not that I needed to ask) and headed out the door, not to return until after I crossed the Finish Line.

THE START
Shawnna met us outside TC's apartment - he lives conveniently only a few blocks from the start of the Manchester Marathon and almost exactly at the 13.1-mile mark. It was the same spot that we'd met every Saturday of the summer as we ran either half of the course for our training runs.

We made the chilly walk toward the start. After all, it was early and we were in shorts. But the day's temps were expected to get into the 50s, so running tights would not be needed later on. Phew.

We met up with some runners who were welcoming enough to open up their Elm Street business for us to stretch, keep warm and take advantage of an actual (not portable) toilet before the race. Time passed quickly and we soon found ourselves heading to the start - seeing two racers running along the way, one of whom easily jumped a traffic barrier.

I looked at Shawnna. Seriously? Is this what I signed up for?

Somehow among the 1,700+ runners, I managed to bump into a few people I knew. I chatted it up with Katie, who was running the relay with her family. Suddenly, the crowd let out a cheer. And we were off.

Yep, that was the start of my first marathon. Such little fanfare, so tucked away in the crowd that I didn't even hear the start. No worries, though, I was just glad to get started.

The timing chips - really uncomfortable and big black straps around our ankles - beeped as the runners passed over the timing mat. A crowd lined the street and cheered, whooped at hollered. I saw TC standing quietly on the sidelines just as I passed over the start. I gave him a smile and waved.

THE FIRST HALF
Although Shawnna and I had run parts of the course almost weekly during training, we'd never actually run the first mile. We'd usually go another way to wind up on River Road. The start took us down the Granite Street hill (which I mentally noted we'd be running up 24.5 miles from then) and through the Millyard.

It was crowded, and Shawnna and I consciously tried to maintain the 10-minute pace we wanted to have throughout the first half. Although we could run faster, we wanted to run a consistent race. We were trying to do it the smart way. The one piece of advice that every marathon vet gave us: Don't go out too fast. You'll have nothing left at the end.

Just past the second mile, I saw TC - an unexpected appearance that made me smile and wonder if he was already planning surprise stops along the way. I shed my long-sleeved, neon green shirt and tossed it to him. Underneath, I wore my trusty black tanktop - again, I'd worn it on countless training runs.

After much debate, I'd opted to display my name on my shirt. There is was, written on teal duct tape in a thick black Sharpie. As I rounded the first corner since shedding my first layer, a woman on the sidelines looked at me and quietly said, "Go Teresa." At that moment, I knew I made the right decision by having my name on my shirt.

The first half passed in a flash. It was great to run the course with other people, seeing friends along the way. At Mile 2 or so, our publisher was standing at a cross road. A little up the road, I saw Katie's husband. At Mile 5, Shannon had come out to cheer me on. A little past Mile 6, I saw Kate. Then just around the corner, Patty Jo and her family were waving a sign and rattling noise makers.

And all throughout, TC was there on his bike. Clapping, asking what we needed, giving us support.

As we approached Mile 8, just after we broke away from two guys we were chatting with about first-time marathons, I saw Kevin. He was holding a sign at the base of the hill that runs along Hillside Middle School. It's a relatively steep little incline, one that we'd done bunches of times in training. I smiled as I noted the sign and mentally noted that it kinda looked like a sign you see a homeless person holding. Instead of "Will Work For Food," it said "Go Teresa!" Very cool.

Kevin, who ran his first marathon in Boston this year and from whom I'd drawn a lot of inspiration along the way, jumped in and ran us up the hill. He was full of support - telling us we looked good, were keeping a good pace and all the other things we needed to hear at that point. We got to the 8-mile marker (right on time, I might add) and he sent us on our way.

Needless to say, the support I had from friends and family was awesome. I can't begin to tell you what it's like to see a familiar face, to see a smile or hear a cheer. Keeps those miles passing quickly.

A WHOLE DIFFERENT RACE
We made our way down Hanover Street, where the half-marathoners took a left turn and marathoners were directed to the right. To me, this is where the marathon started. We grabbed some water and made the turn.

We passed the halfway point at 2 hours, 13 minutes - right on schedule. Man, we were good. And we felt great. I just wanted to keep going. I wanted to run a marathon more than ever.

Suddenly, the cheers we'd heard coming down Hanover Street were silenced. In fact, I didn't see a single person. Elm Street, which was closed to traffic, was wider than I'd ever imagined it was. In front of me I saw three, maybe four runners.

It was quiet. It was a whole different race now.

TC's parents knocked on his window, which faces Bridge Street along the route, and sent well wishes through the screen of his third-floor apartment. We crossed the bridge and were quickly sent on a sharp right turn - a turn that we never made during training. Had we misread the course map?

We both knew we'd eventually get back onto Coolidge Avenue and the course we'd trained on, but I think Shawnna and I were a little taken aback by this sudden, unexpected turn. Just how would we get back?

To both of our dismays, we'd get there by making our way up a short but pretty steep (especially at Mile 14 or so) hill. It was a tough one - probably partly because we hadn't done it before. We both wished aloud we'd trained on it.

It was behind us soon enough and we snaked our way through the neighborhoods, chatting with volunteers at water stops and thanking them for being out there. (Race volunteers deserve as much credit - if not more - than the marathoners.)

Around Mile 16, I couldn't stand the chaffing and rubbing of the ankle timer. I took it off, looped it around in every direction through my shoelaces so it wouldn't fall off. I laughed out loud thinking of the poor volunteer at the finish line who had to take it off for me. Oh well, that's what they get for giving us these stupid ankle timers, I thought.

Mile 17-18 was the hardest for me. At one point, as Shawnna pulled ahead of me on Mast Road, I told her I needed to slow down a bit. My body was starting to get stiff - nothing unusual. It had just been running for 17 miles. I tried my iPod, thinking some music would be a needed distraction.

Silence. What? I'd tested it the day before, charged it up and everything. Why wasn't it working? I kept trying and trying and trying.

Just past Mile 18 on Daniel Plummer Hill, I saw TC. We stopped for some GU and water, as a passing running asked TC if he would give him a ride on his bike. (He'd already been offered $1,500 for it by another struggling runner with a good sense of humor.)

I tried my iPod again. It worked! Miracle.

I cranked it. "Add It Up" pulled me up the Daniel Plummer Hill. Thank you, Violent Femmes.

Near the top, we passed an older runner (much older than us, at least) and I glanced at his ankle. I saw a "26.2" tattooed in black. Above it, there were dozens of hash marks.

"Is that how many marathons you've run?" I asked him, pointing at his ankle.

"When I finish today, it will be 29," he said. When, not if.

Shawnna lifted the bottom of her shorts slightly to reveal her ink - a green shamrock on her right thigh. Below it, 26.2

We'd gone to get tattoos together to celebrate Shawnna's 40th birthday in April. It was something we'd talked about for about a year. I'd secretly always wanted a tattoo. I just never could think of something I'd want forever. And didn't know where to put it.

When I found the design online, I knew that's what I wanted. (The graphic of my "runner girl" tattoo is on the right side of this blog page.) I ended up getting "her" on my right hip, hidden enough that only those closest to me would see it.

At Mile 19, the random stranger with 28 hash marks on his ankle was "close enough" to me, I guess. I flipped the waistband of my shorts down a bit to reveal the runner girl. Going to add 26.2 after today, he asked. I'm still not sure.

The water stop at Mile 19 was one of my favorites. I had expected to be struggling at that point, so it's nice to have a good memory of the St. A's campus. The students manning the stop cheered like crazy, called my name (remember, written on my shirt) and blasted Michael Jackson's "Beat It' from a nearby car. They danced, we danced. Yes, I was having fun at Mile 19!

I grabbed a cup from the last student in the line. Water? I asked. He had Gatorade. "You want water? Stay here," he told me. He ran back to the front of the line and grabbed me a water. Very, very cool.

Just before Mile 20, we met up with Coach Jack and TC in a St. A's parking lot. I saw RunBlogger's students filiming footstrikes - I can only imagine what my gait looked like at that point. I wished I'd known Coach Jack would be so close to them. He's a shoe guy and a foot guy. I knew he would have been interested in what they were doing. Next time, next time.

Coach Jack had planned to run back into the city with us. We started on our way, Coach Jack with a backpack of supplies. We went down the hill - ouch! - and Coach Jack reminded us to relax and take it easy. At that point, the downhill felt worse than any uphill.


FARTHER THAN I'VE EVER RUN
My longest training run had been 20 miles. I was now in unchartered waters. I thought I'd be fixated on that, but honestly it didn't even cross my mind. The first mile with Coach Jack flew by. I saw TC and his parents (a nice surprise!) again at Mile 21. As I ran (or walked) through the water stop, more St. A's students greeted me with personalized cheers. (I tell ya, I don't care how dorky it is, I liked having my name on my shirt.)

We still felt great. This was amazing, I thought. I had been expecting to be dragging myself along the last six miles. Instead, we were picking up speed, laughing and chatting the miles away.

I buckled down for Miles 22-23, which I'd say were the most mentally tough miles for me. Still a long way to go. I cranked my iPod again (sorry if I don't answer you, I told Shawnna and Coach Jack). This time an unexpected song pulled me through those miles - "Evacuate the Dance Floor," an borderline annoying upbeat dance song given to me on a CD for my marathon playlist by longtime friend Kristi.

We'd just seen Kristi and her family a few miles earlier at the St. A's campus. They had a sign - "Run T-Bird. The Cooties Are Coming" - and cheered and waved it wildly as we approached. I stopped to give her a hug.

I played "Evacuate the Dance Floor" a couple of times during Miles 22-23, keeping my pace up and reminding me of friends, like Kristi, who have helped me get this far - literally.

At Mile 23, we met up with TC at a water stop. We were out of breath and I felt like I'd been running faster. I think we gotta slow down a bit, I told Coach Jack. We ran the last mile at a 9:30 - above where we wanted to to stay on pace, but notable because we could run faster than we planned at that point. We actually picked up speed at Mile 22. Pretty nice.

In reality, I may have been able to keep the pace for the final three miles, but we all opted for the smarter thing to do. Finish strong and with a smile, I told myself.

We chugged along the Westside and to the footbridge, where TC was waiting once again for us. I gave him a thumbs-up. I looked at Shawnna as we passed the 24-mile marker. "This is your mile," I said to her, referring to my the dedication of my marathon miles I'd sent out a week earlier.

We smiled at each other, and although we didn't say much, we both knew that we had helped each other do this and have fun while doing it. (Between running a marathon and getting tattoos together, we are pretty much bonded for life.)

Just behind the Fisher Cats' stadium, we hit another water stop. An older gentleman looked at my race number. "You must be someone important," he said. I laughed. Hardly. Shawnna told him that I was just proudly displaying my age to which he replied that there was no way I was 34 years old. I'm sure he was just being nice at that point. After all, I was almost at Mile 25 of a marathon. And I'm sure I looked it.

TC was precisely at the Mie 25 point, just as a They Might Be Giants Song played on my iPod. It was fitting because, just a few weeks after we met, TC had secretly dropped off a mix of TMBG songs for me with a note: "Good luck with your half marathon." (I ran the Hampton Half on Feb. 15. The note, which I have on my computer in front of me, still makes me smile.)

I looked at him standing at Mile 25 - a long way from that little note and CD he gave me. I flashed him a quick thumbs up and said "We've got this." One more mile.

Coach Jack ran with us to Elm Street, then in a pre-planned move, took a left to head to the Finish Line. We stayed on the course for the final mile. Shawnna and I had started this journey together, had put in the sweat and the miles. We wanted to spend that final mile together, alone. It was perfect.

We topped the hill on Auburn Street. "Last hill," I told her. We high-fived and smiled.

As we trotted along Pine Street, I heard the cheers of some loud onlookers uphead. We smiled and laughed when we discovered it was some of our TnT friends - Dave and Nancy and Ken and Bonnie. They hooted and hollered. Awesome. Again.

We turned onto Hanover Street, the last turn before The Finish. I shut off my iPod - not because it "wasn't allowed" but because I wanted to experience everything about the finish. Shawnna and I took a few moments to thank each other and to share a private a moment of appreciation.

Then we turned the corner. I could see it in the distance, the gated chute, the timing clock. The Finish Line. I could hear the crowd. Shawnna fell back behind me, letting me bask in the moment of my marathon finish. Looking back, I'm sure it was intentional.

We picked up speed and made our way down the chute. I saw familiar faces on either side. I saw Kristi and family shouting on my right. I saw Katie jumping up and down. On my left, I saw my family, cheering and smiling. I heard the announcer say my name.

And, 4 hours, 47 minutes and 38 seconds after I started, I crossed The Finish Line.

I was a marathoner.

AT THE END

I don't exactly know what I was expecting to feel as I crossed The Finish. A sense of relief? A sense of accomplishment? A wave of emotion?

I suppose I felt touches of all of that. What I noticed, though, was that The Finish was very mechanical, methodical. Cross here, turn there, move this way. Pick up your medal, get wrapped in foil, take water from the table. Stop here to get the chip timer removed.

It wasn't until I was out of the chute, after all of the must-do's were checked off the list that I think I really started to absorb what I had just done. I don't exactly mean what I had just done - meaning the 4:47 hours of running - I mean the task of successfully taking on a marathon.

I had done precisely what I wanted to do - finish smiling and feeling good. And, although everyone warned me not to set a time goal, I was secretly thrilled that I had finished in less than five hours. (Recall, I declared earlier this year that I wanted to beat The Biggest Loser marathon winner.)

There were plenty of hugs and well wishes to go around. I probably couldn't stop smiling as I accepted the congratulations of many and talked about how the run.

It wasn't until I made my way over to TC, who was quietly and calmly standing out the outskirts of the commotion, that I think the emotion of the marathon - and more importantly the hard work and training that led up to the Finish Line - came upon me.

I hugged him hard and tight, my eyes welling up as he told me how proud he was of me. I was so happy to have him out there every step of the way - not just at points along the course, but throughout the entire training.

I'd say, although I felt twinges of emotion along the way and as I crossed the finish, it was the first time I cried. I cried because I was happy and proud. I cried because I'd done something most people never attempt. And I cried because TC was there for me.

Yep, I had done it. And I had done it with the support and love of so many people who came out to help me celebrate Marathon Day. Running the course was a sort of this-is-your-life experience for me, with snapshots of people along the route who supported me in their own special way.

At that moment, I knew exactly what the TnT people mean when they say Marathon Day is the day to celebrate what you've already accomplished.

WHAT'S NEXT
At dinner following the marathon - yes, I felt good enough to take a quick shower and join my family for a celebratory dinner - my dad asked, "So what's the next challenge?"

Anyone who knows me, knows that crossing the Finish Line isn't the end of this journey. They know I have another thing on my life's to-do list already lined up.

And they're right. At the top of the list? A Century Ride.

That's right. The girl who wobbled her way through her first bike ride earlier this year and just recently ventured into clipless pedals wants to try a 100 miles. TC and I are already talking about a September trip to America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe next fall.

Don't worry, that's not to say I'm giving up on running. It's become a part of my life.

And because TC got me into biking, I'm dragging him into running. He'd already done a bunch of shorter training runs with me. After the marathon, TC told me he'd consider training for a half-marathon. ("After what I saw on the second half out there, I have no desire to do a full," he said.)

I'm confident we'll seek out a neat little half-marathon sometime next spring - which leads me to my next goal: a sub 2-hour half marathon. It's definitely within reach now, with my 2:07 finishing time at the Maine Half last month.

Oh, and
I'm already thinking of my next marathon. Perhaps something early in the year so that I can spend the summer months training on my bike. I hear Vermont is lovely that time of year.

Stay tuned, friends.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action

Thanks to mobile technology, I'm able to share the Finish Line moment here. Many thanks to Kristi and her family for the video, super-cool sign at Mile 19+ and being there for support!


video

I DID IT!

I did it! Sure, there's a lot I want to share about Marathon Day - the faces I saw, the sounds, what it's like to run 26.2, how it feels to cross the finish line, that uncontrollable urge to ask "what's next?" ...

I'll get a chance to share
that with you all soon enough.

For now, I want to thank the many, many people who made this accomplishment possible - and a very special thank you to the friendly faces I saw along the way and much appreciation to those to jumped in a ran a few steps with me.

I felt better than I exp
ected to along the way and as I crossed the Finish Line - 4:47:38 later. Notice my smile at mile 26.2 in this pic?

In fact, I feel pretty darn good today, too. I really couldn't as
k for anything more. Still, I'm glad I planned a couple of days off and a mini-vacation to the North Country to relax and celebrate.

Here are a few sna
pshots from the Finish Line.