Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Blame Mother Nature

I blame Mother Nature.

My last running related post was over 2 months ago, remarking on the start of the official training for my latest endeavor in the world of ridiculous physical undertakings. The past two months were supposed to be filled with countless miles run and hours spent on the trails. Instead, I was a prisoner, held captive by the evil weather gods.

Not one, or two, even three, but FOUR major snow storms dumped record breaking amounts of snow on the east coast, keeping the trails effectively in hibernation until just recently. March came and with spring just around the corner, the snow finally melted thanks to flood producing rains. The trails went from snow and ice covered to drenched in water and filled with mud.

Weekend after weekend has gone by without time on the trails. The treadmill, the streets or the couch have been meager, but ineffective substitutes.
Now with only 9 days to go until race day (or doom's day), it seems that spring has arrived. The sun is shining and temperatures are pushing 70 degrees. Just in time to taper.
Mother Nature has really had her timing all screwed up this year.

However, the 10 day forecast is calling for a high of 56 degrees and only a 50% chance of light showers in Lyndhurst, Virginia on Saturday, March 27th.
It seems like she may be trying to redeem herself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Have A Dream...

This week marks the one year anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama and the celebration of the 81st birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although I have always been inspired by and my life has been shaped by Dr. King, I hadn't realized the extent of it until I watched the inauguration of President Obama. Less than 50 years before he was inaugurated, a man like Barack Obama would have been forced to the back of the bus. A far cry from the front seat on the stage at the base of the U.S. Capitol Building with the nation, and the world, as a captive audience. I found myself deep in reflection about how far we'd come. But how very far we still had to go.

(Although a contrast to the normal musings on my blog, I "wrote" this while running so I guess it counts as a rumination from a life on the run.)
January 20, 2009

In light of the presidential inauguration and the “new” America, I reflect.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told millions about the dream that he had. He dreamed that his children would someday “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He dreamed that they could, one day, walk hand in hand with children of any race and not be judged or hated or killed.

Twenty-six years later, almost to the day, I began Kindergarten at Samuel Powel Elementary School in Philadelphia. As a six year old, I couldn’t understand the significance of the experience that began then and would continue for the next five years. Looking back, however, I am amazed. It was a place that Dr. King could only dreamed would become a reality. My classmates and I were exceptional, though at the time, we were unaware.

We began school together. We learned together. We graduated together.
We were Christian- Protestant and Catholic. We were Jewish. We were Muslim. We were Agnostic.
We had parents who were doctors, teachers, waitresses, activists, military personnel, ex-convicts and artists.
We were neighbors. We were classmates. We were boys. We were girls. We were black. We were white. We were mixed race. We were friends.
We had black teachers and we had white teachers.
We didn’t notice skin color as anything more than pigmentation. We saw only what was inside, the outside made no difference.
We had trust funds. We had food stamps.
We had parents: a mom and a dad, two moms, grandparents, a single mother, a single father, a brother or a sister, a loving guardian.
We were named Abigail, Farrakan, Elizabeth, Lamont, Jack, Bronwen, Mohammed, Debby and Azziza.
We celebrated birthdays, but understood why our Jehovah’s Witness classmates choose to go to another classroom.
We learned about why our classmate Mohammed didn’t eat with us at lunch for a whole month during Ramadan.
We sang “Jingle Bells”, “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Kwanzaa, Oh Kwanzaa.”
We knew that my best friend’s first kiss was with a black boy and no one thought oddly of it, except that it happened when they were both Kindergarteners.
We learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks as figures of the distant past, because their dreams and fights were irrelevant to us, they were our reality.
We drank from the same water fountains. We walked in and out of the same doors. We ate at the same lunch tables. We rode the same buses sitting next to whoever we wanted.
We played kickball every morning together. We sang in chorus together. We learned and played violins and recorders together. We mourned the death of a classmate from a house fire together. We cheered the Phillies in the World Series together.
We were not taught how to hate. We were not taught about ignorance. We were not taught about cruelty. We were not taught about judgment.
We were taught about acceptance. We were taught about tolerance. We were taught about equality. We were taught about freedom.
We were, together, equally black and white: gray, if you will.
We joined hands, “little black boys and black girls…with little white boys and white girls,” just like Martin Luther King Jr. had dreamed we would someday be able to do. We did it everyday.

This was not a specialized, radial, free-thinking, progressive school. This was a small inner-city public elementary school. It was, however, undoubtedly a very special place. A place that, for those who were lucky enough to have attended, shaped minds, promoted independence and fostered vastly intelligent children. I am a better person for having had the experience. I am forever indebted.

The talk of the post-election “new” America is something that I have already experienced. And having experienced it, I hope that America can become like my elementary school class- gray, where we don’t see color, gender, ethnicity, orientation, class. A place where we can all work, live, help, share and love together. Because when that happens, everyone will be amazed at the power we will have.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This Is It....

Tomorrow marks the official day one of the Ultimate Ultramarathon Training Plan (according to Bess & Abby) in preparation for the grand pooh-bah of my running career to this point: The Bel Monte Endurance 50 Ultramarathon. Just seventy three (yes, 73) days from tomorrow, I'll lace up my sneakers and embark on a journey up, down, over and across 50 miles of trails central Virginia.
I haven't been doing a great deal of running to set a nice base for the start of the official training. The last month has involved:
- record cold and down-right bone chilling weather- the temperatures the last two mornings have been below freezing....COMBINE. 15F on Sunday, 16F yesterday. NOT running weather, if you ask me.
- nearly 10,000 miles of travel (to destinations domestically and internationally)
- two minor but annoying head cold/cough like sicknesses (probably due to the combination of the two aforementioned factors)
- very sporadic running

Although the ultra has been on my radar for a while, it has always been a thing of the future. Lots of statements akin to "when I'm training for the ultra..." and "that would be good for the ultra..." have come up, but it always seemed a distant concept. Not anymore. It's now baby. (Well, tomorrow.)

It's undoubtedly going to be difficult. I know that going in. A trail race, a 50 mile trail race at that, is different in many ways from anything I've ever done. The training is more strategic and specific compared with a marathon or even triathlon. The mindset must be to "just finish" rather than achieve any PRs or top finishes.

There will be a lot of running (and some walking), many sore muscles, probably some bumps and bruises (I've been known to be a bit clumsy on trails), and lots of dirty clothes. But I'm prepared for it and anxiously looking forward to the challenge that the training and race will bring.

Here goes nothing. Or something. Or everything.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

26 in 26

Four days from now will be my twenty sixth birthday. About three years ago, I set a personal goal. I wanted to run twenty six marathons by my twenty sixth birthday.

As you can see by my "Quest to 26" list on this page, I've got a ways to go. A stress fracture two years ago and a running burnout last winter caused stagnation in my quest. Unless I run three marathons a day until my birthday (and then one on my birthday), I won't be achieving my goal.

Fear not, I realized the loftiness of my goal a while ago and made a necessary adaptation.

Twenty six marathons by the end of my twenty sixth year.

So I've got another year. And four days. To run ten marathons.

No problem. Piece of cake. Easy peasy. Right?

Luckily, I have an ultramarathon planned for March so that's one closer. (Or maybe two? I'm thinking a 50 mile ultramarathon should count as two marathons.) Plus, in training for the ultra, I hope to check a few more off the list.

But I've still got quite a few marathons to run. The other day, I went through the Marathon Guide calendar to find probable races. Location, date, time of year and course were considered. I came up with sixteen strong possibilities and many more less reasonable but still viable options.

I realize it's a lofty goal, but I'm no slacker. I aim high. Sometimes crazy high.

That's all for now. I have to run.

I've got a lot of running to do.

Note: The Las Vegas Marathon is the week before my birthday. Seems like the perfect 26th marathon and birthday celebration. Who's coming with me?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

So Did You Win?

It's a question that I get a lot from friends, family or any others with whom I discuss recent racing events: "so did you win?" Usually I giggle and explain that in a marathon with thousands of participants, the goal is not to win, but rather to finish and accomplish personal goals.

Except today. Today I did win (sort of).

Today was my initiation and introduction into the sport of adventure racing with the completion of The Edge sprint distance adventure race in suburban Pennsylvania. After volunteering at a similar event in April, I decided that this was something I wanted to try. Another experience to add to my ever-growing repertoire of crazy hobbies.

With veteran adventure racers Abby and Sue as my trusty teammates, I simply followed behind them like a blind baby duckling. I knew little more than the basics of what would happen and wasn't even physically prepared for even that. I had been on a bike once, yes once, in preparation and had no paddling experience other than the occasional afternoon kayak trip at camp. I did have surprisingly good knot tying abilities and memory recall (rabbit, skateboard, doll, bird, skateboard, keys, ball).

The iskiate-fueled energizer bunny (Abby), the spot-on-orienteerer (Sue) and I had quite the performance today, clearing every checkpoint (even the one at the brew pub in town and the one all the way at the end of the lake, on top of a bridge, behind a cross) and pushing ourselves, but having fun. And we finished first in the female-three division and were one of only about 12 teams to clear the entire course. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Some scratches on my legs, a large bruise on my left upper arm, a sore tushy and back and some very muddy wet clothes/shoes/bike are the only lingering effects of yesterday. And a desire to do this craziness again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Is Not A Race Report

My lower back is very tender.
My quads feel more like bricks than muscles.
My nose and lips are chapped.
My toenails are bruised, blistered, callused, or missing.
But I deserve it. I ran a marathon. Again.

They never get shorter. They don't really get easier. They are usually fun. They are always a great accomplishment.

Sunday's Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA was no exception. In order to spare everyone, I won't issue a play-by-play of the day's events and emotions. For Abby and me, it was our redemption marathon. After the less than planned events of the New Jersey Marathon this spring, we were looking to prove our capabilities. Our training was interjected by summer vacations, swine flu outbreaks, weekends away, job duties and generalized exhaustion. But we did it. We got through the training, atypical as it was. We got to the start line of the marathon. We made it through the miles, some easier, some harder, some longer, some shorter (really, the mile 16 sign was improperly placed). Most of all, we made it to the finish line. Smiling. Running. Together. Holding hands. Redeemed.

There were sing-alongs: a short interlude of The Sound of Music prompted by a local high school band's rendition of "Do Re Me," several duets to the Grease soundtrack, having to resist the temptation to moonwalk along to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" playing from spectator radios, dancing the macarena while running up a hill at mile 24.

There were times when the miles felt like they were flying by. Enough that I commented that they must have really short miles up in northeastern Pennsylvania. Foolish, I know.

There were conversations. A recap of our past Halloween costumes. My long-winded, tangential answer to a question from Abby that lasted nearly 5 miles. Small talk with any number of fellow runners who we happened upon.

There were pep-talks. Reminding each other and ourselves that marathons aren't supposed to be easy, our muscles were tired and sore because we'd run for 10, 14, 18, 21 miles, despite our assumed lack of training we were still fully capable, and that the ultimate goal was just to finish, smiling.

And so it was, not quite as planned, but exactly as desired.

A good weekend all around. Got a new t-shirt on Saturday, a lovely Sunday morning run through the fall foliage draping the mountains, a post-race meal of french fries, hot chocolate and frozen yogurt.

Oh, and the pride of another marathon finish. As triumphant and satisfactory as any other.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A New Challenge

Six years ago, wanting a goal, needing a challenge and looking for something to do, I signed up to train and participate in a triathlon. I was, by no stretch of the means, an athlete, having only taken up biking and running within the previous year and only the swimming skills that I learned in summer camp swim lessons. I’ll never know what possessed me to decide to do it.

Luckily, I don’t need the answer. For six months I trained- swimming, biking and/or running nearly every day. Working up to levels of endurance that I didn’t know I had inside of myself. I loved the challenge and enjoyed seeing the things I was capable of doing. More than anything, it gave me a new identity. After my first race, it was onto the next and the next and the next. Before I knew it I was a triathlete, a marathoner, a runner, an endurance athlete. It was everything I’d never been before. My teenage years were marked with inactivity, laziness, unhealthy eating and being overweight. For no reason other than a desire for something new, I transformed myself.

Six years, dozens of races and thousands of miles later, it’s become an integral part of my life. In describing myself, I usually say “I’m a runner.” My license plate shows my job and my hobby: RNNR RN. I run marathons “for fun” just because I can and I enjoy the challenge and accomplishment.

Now, on the cusp of my 16th marathon, I have decided to enter a new realm of challenge, adventure, endurance, willpower, craziness: the ultramarathon. In the next six months, I’ll have my eyes (and my feet) on training for the Bel Monte Endurance 50, a 50 mile trail ultramarathon in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m excited and nervous, motivated and scared, anxious and eager.

Luckily Abby, my partner in crime and crazy adventures, will be beside me (or in front or back on the single track) for all 50 miles!