Monday, October 28, 2013

Every Run Has Purpose

Once, a while back, I did a product review on


It sounds a bit cray-cray, but I remember that it completely worked.

You log miles in certain pace zones, and on race day, you blow your own mind.

I haven't done it in a long time though. I have been logging miles in the saddle with N+1.  2nd place Age Group Finishes don't just happen. You kinda have to ride a heckofalotof miles to get that fitness.  And while those miles are great for the lungs and mind, they're not great for run speed. My fitness is here, but my run still feels off balance.

Today I was slugging along at (race pace + 1 min) and I was wondering what possible benefit my run could be doing for my fitness.  I was running on old roads, that is, on familiar territory.  They aren't particularly hilly, nor are there lots of traffic lights to stop me mid stride, which either one would have gone toward explaining the boggy pace. 

The pace just was what it was, because I could not bring myself to run any faster or slower. I was just logging miles because it's Monday, and on Mondays I have a few spare minutes in which to squeeze between 3-6 miles between classes.  The distance is relative to the amount of studying I have, and whether or not our professor lectures "over" her time allowance.

About 4 miles in I realized that the benefit of running at any pace is that it adds to the conditioning of my bones and joints. If I want to log more distance, I have to train my body to hold up while running for longer harder distances. SO, I accepted that even though I was "just" logging miles, I was running slow to run fast.

I was training, whether it felt like it or not. 

And so I added another .8 miles onto my route, and savored the run.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Doing It Right in Chicago! (TWSS)

Highest of Highs to the Lowest of Lows
Bobbi & I, Friday night, in CHICAGO!

I could be talking about:
Baseball Playoffs
Nursing School
Chicago Marathon
Any Marathon, for that matter
My weekend away in Chicago that involved a police officer & background check?

Chicago Chicago Chicago.  

The energy pulsed through me from the moment our plane took off from good old RVA.

It was a weekend that was all about counting down to the Moment when The Good Dr went out and proved to himself what I already knew:  One can execute a race to perfection if one FOLLOWS THE PLAN.

The Good Dr's plan, every single training run, was to start slow, and ease into a solid pace, and bring it/hold it for the last miles of the run.

I know following a plan to perfection can be done (Rehoboth Marathon, Frostbite 15K). To do it, a runner just needs to combine mental strength and stamina – both things he has, cos’, ya know, he’s a marathoner and all.... uh...

I digress.

The Good Dr and I met up with Zeroto26point2 Bobbi and her Husband on Friday night for dinner when they were kind enough to pick us up from the Airport. Best.Dinner.Company.Ever.
Ever had that moment when you just fall into a connection, and the conversation flows, and the beer flows, and the dinner is delicious, and the city is beautiful and raw and amazing all at once? Chicago Chicago Chicago...

The next day we were
Tourists played by the part of a Nursing Student and a Pre-race Day Marathoner.

Thus, we did some exploring, we took cabs, expo, rode the freaking best Ferris Wheel EVER, we found delicious food, and we visited with our friends who had travelled with us from RVA to run the marathon also.

We also had to hang out for a few hours back at the hotel while I dug deep into my studies, as I had a Mid-Term Exam worth 30% of my grade in one of my classes on Monday at 5pm.

Of course, a smart person would have maybe skipped the trip all together... but if that’s the criteria for smart, well then, I’m not smart.

I wouldn’t miss The Good Dr’s Chicago experience for ANYTHING.

SO I decided I just HAD to study on the trip and get a good grade despite my travels.

Moving on to Sunday morning.

Bobbi showed up, a little unexpectedly, to spectate the race with me. It was Epic. Wonderful. Amazing. Super Fun.

We were freaking BRILLIANT.

We decided the caption of the day was, “Doing it Right”, as we navigated the course, the train system, held a sign until our arms were shaking, and screamed and screamed and screamed our support for every single runner we saw running Chicago Marathon.  Chicago Chicago Chicago...

I heard a lot of runners say, “Best sign EVER!” as they ran by, and I pretty much agreed... which is why I chose to grace the side of Chicago with some words to live by, per Q.

Maybe some of you all saw the article in the Chicago newspapers and carried by the big networks that The Chicago Marathon was threatening to arrest Bandit Runners as a security risk... that kinda put a crimp in jumping in and running with any of the 8 or so people I knew running the race on Sunday.

Doing it RIGHT on the Train
But Crimps don’t usually stop me, and I won’t say I did jump in and run, but I won’t say I didn’t. 

Let’s just say it was a great day.

The Good Dr’s race went down to perfection, negative splits on an amazingly congested course brought him in with :50somewthing seconds to spare on his goal and earned him a nice PR.

We celebrated with beer, and hugs, and beer, and a power bar, and beer, and burgers, and ... yeah, I realized at some point during the day that I drank a lot more beer than water this weekend...

The Good Dr, with me and a beer, after running
Negative Splits(!!!) at Chicago Marathon.
Anyway, after we’d sobered up, we checked out of our hotel to make our way back to RVA via O’Hare. We had a nice direct flight, we’d be in at a decent hour, there would be ample time to study before bed, and in the morning I could even sleep in a little and study some more.

Oh well... you know what they say about the best-laid plans?

We rode the train from the city out to the airport, and it was crowded.  We disembarked and my phone suddenly started going a bit crazy with Text Messages and incoming calls from unfamiliar numbers.

And this is where we hit a stumbling block that brought me down to the lowest point I’ve ever been at while in an airport.

It was my bank, notifying me of suspicious activity on my Debit Card, and I opened my purse, which was oddly not snapped any more... to discover that my wallet was gone.

My ID was in that wallet.

Anyone here have any idea how to get through airport security without a wallet?

Yeah, well... I didn’t either, but fortunately for me there’s a process to make it happen, but it takes a freakishly long time and involves cops and high level TSA folks, a complete body scan, a luggage search to the nth degree, and... yeah, I think that covers it.

The Body Scan was the standard scan... you know, the one they assure you that isn’t invasive at all?

Well do you know what I figured out? It is looking for objects in your pockets, but it is also detecting heat in your body.  After my cough run cough, my right medial ankle was a bit sore.

And it lit up on the scanner as a point of interest.

As did my Va-Jay-Jay.



Yeah, well, apparently I have a hot desire to change the subject here before I offend half of my readership.

The Good Dr was amazing, and as cool as I was ~ahem~ hot, and handled everything as it came to us... we missed our flight, flew standby on the next flight – which was delayed, and were home at a ridiculously LATE, er early hour on Monday morning

But it all worked out.
It was an adventure that is worth reliving in it’s best and worst moments, because even at my lowest point, I found myself laughing with the TSA guys, teasing the Body Scanning/Pat down folks about my ~ahem~ hotness, and spending time with one of my truly favorite people to spend time with...

And honestly, could life be any better if you’re laughing?
I think not.

Congrats to The Good Dr, and all the other’s who dominated Chicago Marathon one way or another.

(Oh by the way, I did a little better than OK on the Mid Term. i.e. I’m pleased)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

106% WIN

Gentleman 3R "We've got 110 psi in the tires, 40 ounces of water, its dark and we're wearing sun glasses."

Hit it.

On Saturday I completed my 2013 New Years Goal. I remember it like it was yesterday, It was New Years Day, I was talking to a GOTR Merlin, and I said, "This year I'm going to do a Century".

It took till Oct 5th, but I did it. The Martin's Tour of Richmond Gran Fondo.

So let's discuss... “Gran Fondo” means “Big Ride” in Italian.  (That's what she said). 

Oh yeah. It was big (That's what she said). In fact, two days before the race I learned that they'd added 4 miles to the course. As if 102 miles wasn't enough, I was now doing 106 miles. Good stuff.

Leading up to the ride I was asked repeatedly, "What's your goal?"
I'm big on goals.

Mostly the weekend consisted of these goals:
Survive the heat.
Finish the ride.
Smile a lot.
Did I mention "don't die?", cos it's on the list... the forecast was something along the lines of 92 degrees so... yeah, in October...

I did the event with my pals, The Gentlemen of the Roads and The Ladies of the Lanes. We were divided into pace groups - the A group, the B group, the DD group... that's where Lady Karen and I fell in....

shade = more important
than it looks
It was an awesome ride. Through parts of the city I had never seen before...
Riding down the marathon race course I spotted in the distance two runners standing on the street corner, waiting for 1,000 cyclists to ride past. They looked annoyed. Hands on hips. Sipping from water bottles... hey.. wait a minute...I know them...


At some point just before the first worlds longest hill I found myself on the tire of Gentlemen Tom. It was fun to hang with them for a bit, and I dropped myself when the climb started and reconnected with Mike, British & Karen.

First rest stop, quick top off water bottles, porta potty, and go!

TMI: Strategy for 106 miles in 90+ degree heat - I decided EVERY stop I would hit the potty and see if I was peeing enough. #weird. I think nursing school ruined me for normalcy. At any rate, it worked well. By the end of the day I knew I was WAY behind in hydration.

Rest stop TWO - This is SO much better with lube! (That's what she said).

A blur of miles... rest stops... drink again, drink again, drink again... and lots of eating. And Beer Talk.

The Fearsome Four - 60% done, and that ain't bad.
Connected again to the B group at another stop and Gentlemen Tom teased me about my standard melt down - predicting it would happen at mile 87. At this point we were around mile 60something and I was still smiling.

And then more miles and more miles and I started watching the clock... not because I was worried about a melt down, but more because... Gentleman British's Daughter had a birthday party he HAD to be back for... and my daughter had to be at said birthday party... 

so we started picking up the pace.

We fell into a new little group - and I was once again on Tom's tire. It was work, but only in the way that cycling comfortably is work. I wasn't struggling, we were just moving along. 

Tom: "My garmin says it's 94 degrees here."
Me: "Information I could have done without..."

Hot Sweaty Mess
It was hot, we were pounding our drinks. But we couldn't slow down, because by now, we were racing the clock... not sure racing is a fair assessment. I was moving my bike as fast as I could given the circumstances.

And wait a freaking minute here...

I realized that we were cruising, and I was 93 miles into my ride. Holy wow.

A wash of euphoria rolled over me and I grinned as I soaked in the HIGH that comes from endurance sports.

Somewhere around mile 93 or so my legs asked, politely, if we could just stop and take a dirt nap.

I told them to STFU.

They piped up again at mile 94.

At this point, I promised them that if they kept doing their job that there would be beer.  “Just keep pedaling up this hill, there’s beer at the finish. It’s true.”
“The faster you pedal, the faster you get to the beer. Hang on Tom’s wheel and Go to the Beer.”
Until eventually, the cohesiveness of my thoughts unraveled and my thoughts became, 
“Tom’s Tire. Beer.”
And finally,

Richmond International
Raceway - Victory Lap
I’m pretty sure the single mindedness of my mantra could have been a lot more inspirational. Imagine the power of this blog If I’d had some schmoopy inspirational laden mantra about the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.

Not this girl.
She was focused on beer.

Ironically, by the time I pulled myself over the 106th mile in the 90+ degree heat, beer wasn’t nearly as heaven sent as a cold iced washcloth and a bottle of BluesomethingorotherAid.  I think I proposed to the girl who handed it to me. I’m not sure, it’s vague. It might have been a guy now that I think about it...

After the event though, I realized that despite how hard it was, I did an amazing job. 
it's not pretty, but it's
authentic. I was suffering
and it is HOT here. But I am
getting it done at RIR.
1 mile to go.

But this was NOT about winning, or getting an age group finish, or being ahead of anyone else. This was about ENJOYING MY SPORT and EMBRACING MY OWN ACCOMPLISHMENT.  

Regardless of how fast or slow I completed the 102 106 miles, it was a STELLAR DAY. I consider it a 106% SUCCESS.

I was proud of my strong finish. I did exactly what I set out to do, and so much more than that. 

And oh look, there was a timing chip and the results are telling. The more fun you have doing something, the better you are at it

... Thanks to Tom, British Les and Mike, true Gentlemen of the Road, who pulled me to a 2nd place age group finish.

As an aside - Sportsbackers did a great job. There was plenty of water, plenty of volunteers, food, etc. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being a fail and 10 being Spot On, I'd give them an 8. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Wall

"It is always cold on the Wall."
"You think so?"
"I know so, my lady."
"Then you know nothing, Jon Snow," she whispered.
George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

This semester in Nursing School I was reminded that I am Jon Snow.  I know nothing tangible, except that The Wall is out there, somewhere. When winter gets here, I want to be on the correct side of the wall.

Any Marathoner finisher knows that the wall is in your head, and if you believe that you can get to the other side, you will succeed at finishing the event.

But the wall that knocked me to my knees recently is not the mental and physical exhaustion that goes with running for 4 hours. I hit The Wall about 25% of the way through my semester, and I hit it hard. I had a moment that I haven’t had in a long time, and I questioned whether or not I am smart enough to do what I’m doing.

Plenty of people graduate from nursing school every year... but a heck of a lot more than that START nursing school every year.  In fact, looking around the trenches at my fellow soldiers, and reflecting back on the fallen many in my class, I realize we have lost about 40% of those who started with us.

100% of those people had good grades at some point in their lives. Like me, they worked hard to get into school.  Like me, those folks took and passed classes before Nursing School that were prerequisite level classes intended to weed out the unworthy.

I typically compare the Nursing School experience to a marathon training plan.  The long miles getting ready for the big day wear you down physically and mentally, and on the particularly tough days you wonder - Why am I doing this? And, Will the end ever come? Or even, Should I be here?

So two weeks ago on Monday, I hit the wall when I failed a few assignments that I was well prepared for, which scared me. If I don’t study and fail, I deserve to fail. If I study until my eye twitches, I figure, it’s a problem with my brain....  And it wasn’t one thing, it was multiple assignments in different classes.

I sat in front of that wall and looked at it’s 700 feet of un-scalable ice covered rock and I began to cry. I tucked myself into a corner and sobbed until my throat was raw and my tinny voice sounded like that of a stranger. I let the tears flow until no more came.  

And I then I blew my nose, washed my face, gathered my tattered self-esteem around me like a flimsy cloak, and I stood in the shadow of the wall.  I tried to tell myself “I am McGyver. I have a cloak, some books, and a Smart Phone. I can climb, tunnel through or fly over this wall. I can.”

It was at this point that I tried to go have a thoughtful conversation with someone important to my academic success... and as I attempted to push words past a growing lump in my throat, I knew there was no hope for me... and I cried some more.

I wanted to quit.
I desperately wanted to lie down in the dirt and sleep for a week and see what happened if I checked out of my world. Because maybe the wall would melt in a week's time, or another student could pull the wall down, or... something...

Of course that is NOT what I did.

I gathered the others on the wrong side of the wall and we began to formulate a plan. We made lists and charts. Bit by bit, we scaled the wall using the will and ingenuity of the students in the group. Shared energy led to success, and shared success led to energy. 

Phone calls were made. Homework was finished. Dogs were walked. Breakfast was eaten. 
Above all else, the flames of panic were smothered under the wet blanket of determination.

Today is Friday. The first week of midterms are done, and there are more to come next week. But, I’m not feeling worry about that right now.

The view from the top of this wall is not so bad. I’ve made it here, and I can see the finish. All I need to do is just keep going (TWSS).

Yesterday’s failure is in the past sitting beside Yesterday’s accomplishment. I can’t dwell on the success or the failure; I must focus on the now and do what needs to be done today to prepare for the next test.  Worrying about tomorrow’s difficulty is a waste of energy.

Today I will enjoy the view, because today is the day that matters.