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PegLeg last won the day on February 8 2020

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  1. PegLeg

    Runs in the Time of Corona

    I don't get any sense of stigma or "shame" around here from people being out and about for the purpose of exercise and fresh air. In fact, people are doing it much more than ever.... families taking their restless kids out, couples walking together. I think as long as distance is maintained, it's such a good thing for your immune system! Nothing is helped by people getting haggard and weak and driving each other crazy.
  2. Boy, I wasn’t sure about this whole racing thing. I’ve been enjoying my leisurely solo jaunts around the block, the almost daily meanderings around the little suburban maze of my immediate ‘hood with the kids and Tucker, and proclaiming myself not a slave to any dangling carrots. Tucker is our 4 month old Shih-Tzu/Bichon Frise puppy, btw. Part of the family. Beloved by all of us. Not excluding yours truly who was very slow and grudging to commit to getting a dog (if I wanted more creatures to depend on me I would have had more children!) but now sees this white furball of barely 7 pounds as something to incessantly dote on. This is Tucker... he is spunky and wiggly. His favorite things to do are eat, run, and bark at the neighbor dogs being walked past our house as he watches from the window. He loves naps, cuddles, and bacon, in no particular order. He is also not shy at all with new people and will beg to be held and give puppy kisses. Especially if you have dog smells on you from your own furbaby! The farthest he has run is 3 miles. He is VERY happy to have the little humans home from school these days. But as for the dangling carrots, dang it, Dave. DANG IT! I’m out of shape for racing and not in the mood for it, either! But since you arranged the first of the series on my weekend off work, and I really have been feeling good on a couple of recent runs and- okay, fine, I’ll do it. The weather was perfect. Cloudy, just under 50 degrees. I started my 5-ish mile loop. Regardless which direction I go from my house, the first mile is mostly uphill, and no, there is nothing I can do to prevent that. Does it give me a slightly unfair advantage in a race? Maybe. But to be fair, the cooldown mile is usually solid downhill as well, soooo… it’s not like I get all the downhill back in the middle miles. I knew this “race” would be a little more challenging than a regular race. For starters, there are no rabbits. I tend to run much better with some competition. Second, I live in an area where there are lots of people out and about on weekends, adults walking their pets willy-nilly on either side of the street or kids riding bikes. This has increased a lot with the stay-at-home orders in place. Normally I just hope that I can hold that snot rocket back until I’m well past them, try to establish in my own mind that I did indeed apply deodorant before the run, and go about my merry way. Now though, nope. I’m getting off the roadway, and in the ditch if necessary, to get an acceptable distance between us. If I get any suspicious looks, whatever. Feel free to ask me what I do for a job and when I tell you, you will probably become a runner on the spot. One that’s fleeing me. Anyway. The warmup was slow and rusty. A couple people out and about. I stopped to chat/holler from a distance with a neighbor who was on the front porch. It’s nice how people go the extra effort to shout hello and ask each other how it’s going, now that the privilege of being social has its limits. I hope that goodwill continues. I ease into the first mile. By ease, I mean huff and puff. Holy crap, this is hard. Ugh. I am honestly relieved that I have to stop for a minute at the intersection because vehicles are turning in from a busy cross street and I am one to always yield to cars because well, I am a bug and they are the windshield. Getting back into a smooth pace was hard after that. Especially since I was hitting a slight ascent. Telling myself I just need to hang on until I hit the flat part, yes please. 7:15. Meh. Mile 2 was definitely the butter run, if there was any butter present, of this race. Because I haven’t gotten around to setting my new Garmin 235 to lap pace (because I haven’t raced and I haven’t cared about pace), I don’t have a good idea of what mile pace I’m running during each mile. So I was surprised when it came in at 7:08. Though I did stop to let cars pass me on both street crossings on the slight out and back portion to get to a full 5 miles on this not-quite-5 loop. And that mile had a lot of downhill so there’s that. And then because I haven’t raced in awhile and I might as well be a newb all over again, the third mile was painful. Obviously I started out too fast, surprise, surprise. I managed to hold on somewhat reasonably, even though another out and back at the end of the block meant that I was running the final .1 uphill. Came in at a hard-fought 7:23 and then a rather excruciating .1 in 45 seconds. There ya have it. Female, 35-37 AG, 22:30 if I calculated correctly (7:14, 7:08, 7:23 + the 45 seconds for .1 mile) Definitely unofficial with the stops and a net downhill BUT that’s the hardest I’ve pushed in a long time and was pleasantly surprised to not collapse in agony at that pace. Muscle memory is kind of nice, I guess, and all these junk maintenance miles have maybe been more maintenance and less junk. A post-race pic! I have also lost about 5-6 pounds lately, off of my “normal” weight that I’ve been at for years…thanks to work and a bit of personal stress/distress that’s a whole other bloop that will probably never materialize. But yay for the couple of seconds per mile for each pound less? I was so pumped about having had a decent workout that I ran extra (AFTER stopping my watch for awhile and wheezing out half a lung, lord have mercy) cooldown distance. Up a hill. Just because. And then back down. For 6 total! And because Tucker cannot bear it when I come into the house with running shoes on when HE didn’t get a walk or run yet today, I took him out for another 2 miles. Which I regretted because I wanted to trot along at a nice 10-11 minute pace, but NOOOO, the fluffball had other ideas. He stops abruptly. often, and without warning, but just for a couple seconds at a time. Otherwise, it's 8:30-9:30 pace, straining at the leash, C'MON MOM! I was tired. But a good tired. Thanks, Dave, for putting this together and maybe I’ll participate again in the future. On a weekend I’m not working, because 3 x 12 hour shifts back-to-back don’t mesh well with racing at all... Speaking of work, just going to mention a little. Erie has had 8 cases of covid-19 so far, 2 of which were transported by our ambulance service (neither of them my unit). So far, thanks to the utmost care whenever covid-19 patients are handled, those crews have not yet appeared with symptoms. Whenever specific symptoms are present, we suit up accordingly. We wipe everything down in the ambulance before and after every patient, every shift. Still, testing is scarce and we are not naïve about the fact that probably numerous covid patients have been in and out of our ambulances and will continue to do so, perhaps in much larger numbers in the coming days. Everyone at work is upbeat and strong, but we are wary. Things are made more difficult by the scarcity of masks and protective gear, both with 911 agencies and in the hospitals we frequent and transfer patients to every day. We work closely with the doctors and nurses and try to communicate as much as we can about which patients may be or could be infected. We protect ourselves as best we can. An unpleasant side effect is that we are seeing more alcohol and drug abuse, more volatile situations and scenes such as domestic altercations and attempts of harm to to others and/or suicides, which is as scary to first responders as potential illness (and far more likely to end badly). What can we say—this is our job, our calling. We would volunteer our services even if not hired to do so. I chose to do this work. I couldn’t stay home and pretend my kids matter more than other people’s kids when I have the training to do this and maybe make a difference. I worry more about giving it than getting it. I pray a lot. Thank you to all you folks who have been social distancing, supporting, thinking of, praying for people on the front lines. We are all in this together and we need you guys to do your part with staying home. Each person is "essential" in the prevention of this spread! I am grateful to have a job. Had I stayed where I was before, I would be laid off and not able to get unemployment benefits since I was part-time. I truly love what I do, and no less so because of this. This work gives me such purpose. My husband is in electrical service and repair, so considered essential as well. My scheduled shifts are nights from 5:30pm/5:30am so I am able to be here with the kids during the day. It's a little challenging to get them helped with schoolwork on top of working 45+ hours a week, but their teachers have been amazing with Zoom meetings and classes and the kids amaze me with their technological abilities (Zoom WHAT?). My heart goes out to all the folks who have lost jobs or are scared for their family-owned businesses- on top of fear of illness. These are hard times. I can’t even put into words how I feel about it, from every angle, and how it affects everything and everyone. But the human spirit is brave and hopeful. We'll get through this, and I pray we get to the other side of it as soon as possible. At least running is not taken from us. Like always, running helps and heals. I encourage it, or any outdoor physical activity, to other people regularly. Families of patients or people who ask what they should or should not do to prevent this. By all means, go outside. Your mental health is so important. The virus is far less likely to be outdoors than in any structure or building or vehicle. Shoring up your immune system with exercise and a good diet might mean the difference in fighting off the virus if you do get it. Keep running if you can! But far enough from others that a snot rocket doesn’t stand a chance of hitting them.
  3. PegLeg

    Clouds and more clouds.

    Our winter has been mild in terms of snow and cold, but endlessly dreary. So little sun. I LOVED The Man in the High Castle. Keep watching it. A lot of "weirdness" in the second season gets explained by subsequent seasons. It ended a little abruptly and awkwardly, I thought, but I guess there's no way to end a show like that in a satisfactory way.
  4. It occurred to me as I was driving an ambulance, my hands trembling from the rapid descent after a spike in adrenaline: I enjoy my job because it’s a lot like running and racing. Just a bit prior, I was on my knees in a crowded, semi-lit living room, surrounded by 3 firefighters, 2 paramedics, and 1 other EMT with the same title as myself… hovering over the exposed chest of a male in his 60s who was sprawled supine on the floor. My palms were face down over his sternum just above the xiphoid process, where beneath lay that precious pump of the human body: the heart. A heart that had stopped working. Cardiac arrest. It is controlled chaos. The area around the patient looks like a tornado went through a medicine cabinet… used needle catheters, wrappers, packaging, medical bags with contents spilled everywhere, oxygen tanks. I am doing chest compressions, taking over for the firefighter who had been doing CPR upon our arrival. He is now ventilating the patient via bag-valve mask, a breath every 5-6 seconds. The medic in charge of the scene is reading the cardiac monitor and calling out instructions. One medic is inserting an IV, pushing meds. The other EMT is holding the IV bag and handing over supplies. Another firefighter is speaking with family, getting information and medical history. There is sobbing, wailing, from one or two adult daughters, or perhaps a wife? I am too distracted to really take note, but I see glimpses of them in the shadows as they helplessly watch, as they call his name over and over, entreating, willing him back. Push-push-push-push-push-push… I have never done CPR on a human before, but the EMT training in class comes back. Beads of sweat are forming on my forehead and I hate that I didn’t take off my uniform parka; it is very warm in this crowded room. There is a hot spot forming at one place in my palm from it rubbing against one of the defibrillator pads with each compression. I feel calm. Acutely aware of every sound, sight, smell in the room, in ice-cold clarity, but at the same time, it seems as if I am in a dream. A trance. I am compressing, hard and fast, using my shoulders to drive the clenched palms downward. 20 thrusts, 50 thrusts, 100. You lose count. You just keep going. Someone asks me if I want to switch out yet. I shake my head and say another minute. Push-push-push-push. The monitor is showing the pumping of the heart; right now, we are contracting this man’s heart for him. Nowhere nearly as well as the healthy, functioning heart will do on its own, but enough to keep oxygenated blood circulating in vital organs. And most importantly, oxygen to the brain. The medic calls for a pause to check. CPR stops. The AED is analyzing, seeing if there is a shockable rhythm to deliver a charge to. For a second, everything halts, and I swear every person there held a breath at the same time. If nothing has changed, we have to go back to CPR, maybe another shock/charge, back to begging the body to respond. And then. The zig-zag blip across the screen. The medic reaches down and checks the carotid pulse. “We have one!” he says, and instantly radios headquarters to let them know we have a converted arrest. All 7 first responders gathered around let out a collective sigh, sharing quick nods of relief. It is a team effort. I feel tears pricking the back of my eyelids. Except there’s no time to waste now as the patient is packaged and carried out to the ambulance. Just because he has a pulse again does not mean he’s out of the woods. The family realizes that we stopped CPR, but that he is alive, and they are expectant and hopeful. We transfer the patient into the primary unit’s ambulance, and two medics hop inside with the second EMT driving. They head out with lights flashing, while ventilating and monitoring the still-critical patient. (FYI, Paramedics are amazing. They are the doctors of pre-hospital medicine, they are the kings of the emergency scene). I follow in my unit’s ambulance. I look down at my hands and realize that I am shaking. The entire time on-scene, I felt dead calm. Now I’m climbing back down the adrenaline ladder and it hits me like a tidal wave. There was the déjà vu, the familiarity. This is like running a marathon. The fear going in, the trepidation and nerves. While racing: the cold, calculating focus of doing what needs to be done, the almost trance-like state. The final suspense, the push to the finish, the physical demand. Then the relief, the accomplishment, the completion. Followed by the emotion, trembling, the wide-eyed coming out of the fog. A converted arrest feels like a marathon PR. Maybe even a better feeling, since you helped give life back to a person whose name you don’t even know. And then because the EMS gods are like the running gods in that they are unpredictable and ruthless, our unit got called to a second cardiac arrest on the same night. I go nearly 3 months without witnessing one… then I help work 2 of them in a 12 hour period. When it rains... As the assisting unit, we show up after CPR had already been initiated by the first-in unit. We assist with extrication and transport, this one being about 25 minutes from the hospital. At the hospital, I am on the side of the stretcher, feet on the lower rails a couple inches off the ground as two medics are wheeling myself and the patient into the ER. My one hand is holding onto a top rail to keep my balance, the heel of my other hand is used for one-handed CPR. As once again, I hover over a heart not my own…pushing, willing, hoping. It is strange how we humans are so connected. My own heart is exerting, doubling down, pumping harder… in order to help save the heart of another. An entire team awaits, swarming around us. A nurse takes over the chest compressions. I stand back, walk out, joined by the remainder of the teams. Our work is done. Once again, the shaking, the coming down from adrenaline. It is morning, nearly 12 hours in, at the end of my shift. I am suddenly exhausted. More so than I have ever been at the end of a shift. Today, the heel of my hand is tender and bruised, my shoulders and upper arms sore. Before we leave the hospital, we are informed. We couldn't save this one. Too far gone before anyone arrived, but there’s a duty to act and to always try. This is more of a race DNF feeling, the one where the outcome isn’t what you wanted. It hurts. You feel sad. Just like marathons gone awry though, you have to remind yourself you did what you could, you gave it your best. It is the unfortunate nature of cardiac arrests, much like races: perfect outcomes are more the exception than the rule. The variables are many and the margin of success is small. There are boring shifts of medical transports and helping Grandma up after she fell off the toilet. There was that time driving to Pittsburgh in a snowstorm with a two year old in the back of the ambulance, going to Children’s. There are end-of-shift calls that force you to clock out two hours late from a 12 hour shift. There’s vehicle maintenance and rig checks and supply restocking. Holding puke bags for vomiting patients. Cleaning blood off the stretcher. And charting, oh the endless charting. There’s a lot of mundane stuff as well as challenges taking you out of your comfort zone. In just a couple of months, I've been on a maternity call where a baby was born, a shooting with multiple gunshot wounds, a pedestrian struck by a car, several overdoses, and now two cardiac arrests. I've never missed the office job. And yes, I still run sometimes, too. Planning on gearing up for a spring race, and maybe some trail running and an ultra this summer. My focus has definitely shifted now that I work more and am focused on furthering training/experience in that field. But you cannot ask more from your life’s work than to have it give you purpose. And in the same way running helped shape me, fill me, and give me purpose, well, this is no different. A time on a clock or a heartbeat on a screen. You are fortunate indeed if you are able to do the things that make you glad to be alive.
  5. PegLeg

    A Tale of Two (Races)

    I have officially become a Loopster MIA. I’m not even lurking lately *hangs head in shame* both here and on Loopville. To be fair, what used to be the Loop is now like an empty ballroom after a big party… the majority of the people have disappeared for sleep, Uber, bigger parties elsewhere, or waking up on a friend’s couch without pants on, not remembering how they got there. Except for Dave lingering to drink a little more cake and punch and Gwen requesting one more song from the DJ and Sara dancing to it despite having run 3 marathons in the last week... Okay so maybe I lurk a LITTLE here and there… But I don’t run or race much anymore. I have my reasons, some which are sort of excuses and some that are just, well, reasons. First, I spent the summer and fall working toward a new career in prehospital emergency medicine. Took the 5 month class, passed the state and national tests, got the card pronouncing me an EMT. Needless to say, working in my previous job while going to class after work twice a week and every other Saturday plus studying in my free time... not a lot of time for running and racing. It was worth it, though. I applied to and got hired by the city's largest ambulance/paramedic service. After a few weeks of training, I’m now on an ambulance shift as the EMT of a crew (each crew of two on each ambulance consists of one paramedic + one EMT). I’m working nights, 5:30pm to 5:30am, but I actually love that shift and adapted to it well. The 12 hour shifts alternate every other week; 3 shifts one week, 4 shifts the next week. I never work more than 2 or 3 days at a time, with 2 days off inbetween each series of 2-3 consecutive shifts. I only work 7 out of 14 days and average about 44 hours a week which means the shifts are long but the days off are many. I also work every other weekend, which cuts into race opportunities. As for the actual job- I do love it. It’s challenging and stressful sometimes and definitely takes me out of my comfort zone regularly. Like driving the ambulance with a child in the back during a snowstorm. But it is never boring and I am always learning something new and I dig that. My partner is also great to work with; he’s a young paramedic with his sights on med school in the next couple of years. Translate: the little bit that I know and have learned pales beside this kid’s experience and education level. Second, life doesn’t get any slower or less crazy. My kidlets are now 9 and 12 (in a couple weeks), and my son has only about 3 more inches in order to meet my height, which at his current rate of rapid growth might be Christmas. At the latest, St. Pat’s Day. They have sleepovers and playdates and activities to get to… Boy Scouts and band for my son (trumpet) and cross-country for the mini-me and it’s a bit of a whirlwind at this age. Third, I lost my road mojo. I like running with the mini, who has her own Garmin now and usually insists on it being our only method of pace and time so she can dictate pace and call out splits. I try to run a few miles before or after running with her. I like running easy morning or anytime miles with a couple of girlfriends who run. I like occasionally running a leisurely 3-4 miles with Mr. Peg while the kids bike. What I don’t like anymore? Tempos, intervals, and long runs on the road. I know, I know. What the hell happened to me? I don’t know. Just that suddenly speedwork became a toothache ending in a root canal and long runs on asphalt starting feeling like a jury duty mandate or at the very least an invite to Aunt Gertrude’s knitting party. Even easy runs on the same old routes… elevator music. Where the heck was the joie de vivre that running used to pour into me? Turns out it was in the woods. A few weeks ago, I showed up to the Marilla Trail Race in Bradford, PA aka the hairy underbelly of the boondocks. Remote, beautiful, mountain vastness in the middle of an Indian Reservation. Driving to the race, my phone GPS completely lost its wits for the last few miles. I kept mine about me for once and followed cars that fit a gingerly guess at what a runner’s vehicle might look like. Not everyone has the 26.2 sticker, just saying, so consider this a PSA about how useful that is to suburban moms who have been away from Timbuktu for too long... Two of my friends showed up, Steve and Jessie. They are local trail runners who I ran with on my inaugural trail half marathon in September. <That race was only gently rolling and a good beginner course, but with plenty of singletrack to get me acclimated. I went into it dubiously, came out of it happy as a lark, and then wondered in the days after if my renewed excitement over running was just a momentary fluke. Anyway, I’d signed up for Marilla earlier this summer, lured by peer-pressure and promises of post-race beer and BBQ chicken. I cannot resist BBQ. Smoked meats are pure heaven for me, bringing the Germanic/Nordic hunter right out of my northern European blood. Wait, maybe this explains the trail thing, too? Steve and Jessie were there, too, but since I’d run a slower pace that I felt I could do on the previous race, I told them I would stay with them for a couple of miles and then speed up if I felt good. At this point, I’d also acquired my first pair of trail shoes, per the recommendation of Roger the Pied Pacer. And like the fool I can sometimes be, I ran them fresh out of the box without a single mile. Just two laps around my coffee table on the living room shag area rug, pronouncing the shoes “comfy”. (Turns out the shoes were one of the least problematic of any running shoes ever, including no hotspots, no blisters, and not a single tweak or pain over 14 miles in a drizzle. I know, there is a special place in Runner Karma Hell for this kind of benevolence bestowed by the running gods for my audacity idiocy). I could give you the play by play, but the short story is this: after the first 2 miles uphill and around a small mountain, the rest meandered up and down over trails covered in blankets of leaves, the occasional water, some mud, a fine misty drizzle, fall colors like a blanket shrouding everything, and a picture perfect finish around a reservoir and through a covered bridge to the finish. I ran the back half with a big negative split, felt better with every mile, and my heart sang the whole time, okay, maybe just the last 11 miles after that initial 500 foot climb. About 1800 ft of elevation gain total, so still not gnarly by most standards but definitely some climbing for a flatlander. I loved it. I finished 14 miles in 2:24, and was first in my age group. Small race, but thank God for small mercies. And one of my favorite race photos ever! Next up: Joshua Tree Half Marathon, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in- well, Joshua-freaking-Tree, California. I won’t go into all the hiking and scenery details, but we did plenty of that throughout the whole weekend and I’ll post pics at the end… This trip was with half a dozen or so runners from around here who know each other, run some together, and hang out frequently. We had flown into Las Vegas and prior to traveling farther west for the race, we stayed in a little town in Nevada called Pahrump. Like Pahrump-pa-pum-pum in Little Drummer Boy, not “Par-Hump” like my friend Dan -who is still a 12 year old- insisted on calling it. We visited Death Valley and hiked our butts off. The next day, we went to Joshua Tree and spent more time hiking. Joshua Tree is one of the half marathons in the Vacation Race Series, races with an emphasis on beautiful and unique places in the American West. Probably not one of the most scenic trail races on the list (since it's at night when it's dark) or one with the most elevation but likely one of the most unique. Oh, and the entire course is on sand. !!!!!!!! Our group of 5 (6 after meeting up with another friend who flew in from Colorado) chose to bury our heads in said sand prior to the race and instead of hydrating, getting sleep, and eating properly, we drank freely, hiked extensively, soaked in the hot tub late at night instead of sleeping, and stuffed our faces with junk food and the best Mexican in town 24 hours before the race. When in Rome. This is where the running gods decided the successful new shoe stunt could be properly atoned for. We got to the race in plenty of time to hang out, scout the area, and enjoy the sunset. At home, there was hail and freezing temperatures, but here we were in the middle of the Mojave desert with the sun sliding behind the golden mountains in the distance, enjoying our flip-flops and tank tops in 70 plus degrees. The race had 2000 runners, plus lots of friends and family, and many of them were camped near the race site. The entire race compound had a very Woodstock/Burning Man feel… California definitely has a few more Woodstocky people than northern PA… and there was music, some alcohol here and there, and the occasional slight whiff of cannabis. I think I would have made a good hippie. It got loud and crowded as race time approached. A few clouds decided to appear to make the sunset interesting. We donned our headlamps, wished each other beuno luck, and off we went. So the first mile or so was pretty magical, really. The race area was dazzling with fluorescent lighting plus two thousand runners streaming into the desert, all wearing headlamps. A quarter of the way up the initial incline, I stopped to look back at the ocean of runners behind me. With the red glow of the sinking sun still behind the runners, and the sea of bobbing lights... well, it was stunning. One of those moments you just can’t replicate. All hakuna matata in the desert here… Then the damn incline kept going. And going. Like so. The path went from hard packed sand to less hard packed sand. We were stirring up a fine, silty dust that started raining down on everyone and I now realized why I saw so many runners with a bandanna over their mouths. Not so different from running through snow at home in Erie, just a heckuva lot warmer. There were plenty of runners around at all times, I was never running completely solo. We finally made it to the top of a ridge with the rest of the race consisting of a few more rolling ascents/climbs before a final descent back into the valley. I settled into a slowish pace on the sandiest parts and tried to up the pace on the areas where the sand was packed. We passed the occasional house or cluster of houses up in the hills. I had to wonder what made people want to live out here in the desolation... yet… at the same time I saw the appeal of said desolation. Most folks had their porch lights on and were playing loud music and sitting out watching the runners streaming by. Around mile 8 at one of the highest and most desolate areas, the course passed one ominous looking house with weird lights where a lady was walking around in the yard in the dark, alternating screeching and laughing manically. It took a good 100 yards for the goosebumps to fade from that one. Although I preferred the crazy lady goosebumps to what came next: my stomach revolting. Yes, I know I asked for it. Travel, lots of alcohol, miles and miles on my feet, a huge Mexican meal the night before, junk food… and then I ask my body to run a half marathon on a tough course. It’s a wonder it took until Mile 8 for the gastrointestinal mutiny to begin. The next few miles are a blur of cramps and pain with every jarring step. I stopped at a port a potty twice, but nothing was far enough along to make an exit, just more cramping and distress. So this is the beginning stage of a Code Abby?! I walked a lot of times, but then would start up again determined to not have a completely dismal finish time. Because it was dry and parched and hot, I started pigging out on oranges slices at the aid stations. I took handfuls of them, slurping one at a time and tossing the peels along the trails. Guess what? Fruit doesn’t make GI issues go away AT ALL. I was miserable. There's photographic evidence of my misery. The end eventually came. Every step was jarring the pain and turmoil in my stomach, which was now feeling like a volcano in its last days before eruption. We started the descent into the finish. Unfortunately, about the time I expected I could let loose and maybe gain some time on a nice downhill, the trail got vastly softer. Like beach-sand soft. Oh boy. So even with the descent, which was very pleasant, the soft sand made running difficult. However, with about a mile to go, I had the finish to look forward to. I could see the lights of the race finish area from the top of the ridge, and as I got closer, could hear the usual cacophony of milling runners, music, and race announcers. GI distress is not pleasant, but there was at least one runner having a much worse day than I was. For about a quarter mile, a dude behind me and off to the side of the trail (for obvious reasons) was having the other kind of tummy trouble. Whenever he needed to upchuck, so to speak, he would loudly cuss. So it went like this: “F########ck!” and then … retching. A few seconds of silence, then: “F######ck”, puke, and…. rinse, repeat about 5 times. Kudos to the guy, he kept running tho. We were finally in the homestretch! The lights were bright and the music loud and they announced your name and where you were from coming into the finish. Because my stomach hurt and my ankles were wrecked from the sand and I was tired and ready to be done, I remember thinking, Yeah, you folks, I came ALL THE WAY FROM FREAKING PENNSYLVANIA just to run your freaking sandy, hilly, dusty race!!!! Cue sardonic smile. 2:21 finish time. All the very nice volunteers wrapped in three layers of scarves and mittens and sweatpants handed me a heatsheet and I realized that I was shivering uncontrollably. The temp in the desert had dropped from a pleasant 70*+ at race start to about 45* at the finish. Between the heatsheet, the beautiful medal, and the cup of hot chocolate, I was back to, Awwww, I love the desert and I love California! Best hot chocolate ever. And the medal glows in the dark. I reunited with the ones from our group who finished before me and we waited until everyone finished before wearily trekking back to the comfort and warmth of our beautiful digs. The rest of the weekend was spent doing more of the things we did pre-race: eating, drinking and hiking. And sunset chasing. Photo dump here: Also, I got to meet up with a friend and Loop Legend who was in Palm Springs the same day our group was: BANGLE! He even brought his stunt double aka brother. We got to catch up over food, beer and football... The entire trip was memorable and beautiful and a wonderful experience. The desert is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, with its many faces; its changing landscapes, temperatures, colors. I hope I get to go back someday. Even though the race was challenging and painful at times, I still love the trails and I want more of them.
  6. PegLeg

    When Ya Know

    “When ya know, ya know... ya know?" That was Crush, the sea turtle, in Finding Nemo. And that’s me, veering into a whole new career choice. Most of you know my background, growing up in what is a glorified (by some) cult. For the first 24 years of my life, few of my decisions were my own. As an Amish person, first, which took away most of the experiences and choices of what we consider normal coming-of-age, and secondly, as a woman, which limited or eliminated them further. What you wore, where you went, who you could hang out with, whether you got an education or not (8th grade), what you did for a career (you don’t have one), who you marry (almost completely the choice of the males, ie the boy/man who “chose” you and your father’s consent). I always laugh a little when people ask if our marriage was arranged... 'My friend, your whole life in that culture is arranged.' Mostly I’m okay with how it all went because there’s nothing I can do to change it. Play the cards you're dealt and all that. Occasionally I mourn a bit the life I didn’t get to live or choose for those years, years that are so important to who you are and what you become. But in the end, I can only be what I am going forward. Years ago, when my babies were little, I thought of going into the emergency medical field. It appealed to me to then. But the schedule of classes seemed almost impossible; at the time, my husband was working overtime plus attending classes of his own to become a volunteer firefighter. I was taking classes online to get an associates degree and, you know, babies. Once said babies were both in school, I stepped into the working world and got a job. For two years, I worked at a bank. Which I enjoyed, but the pay was crappy and the hours (every Saturday) even crappier. When an opportunity came up for better hours and pay came up at the beginning of this year, I took it. Except that almost immediately after being hired I was asked to work 8 hours more per week than I’d agreed to. And though I like the people around me and have no complaints about my actual workplace, I simply hate the work. I'm chained (figuratively) to a desk answering phone calls and fielding complaints/problems. It’s mindless, it’s numbing, it’s absolutely NOT what I want to do for the remainder of the month, much less the remainder of the year. And certainly not my life. After 3 months of it, I was confiding to a friend how I felt: hating my job, dreading Mondays, feeling generally stuck and unmotivated in my life. She said, “Peg, if you’re feeling like that only 3 months in, it’s not the right fit.” So I thought hard about what it is I might want to do, talked with people around me and my husband said, you always wanted to be an EMT, why not do that? And something in me said, YES, WHY NOT?! I made some calls, paid some money, squeaked into an already-full class by impulsively calling the instructor and pleading my case, and voila! A week later I was an EMT student. The schedule is tough. On the class days of Tuesday/Thursday, I leave my house at 8:30 for work and I leave work at 5:00 in order to make the class on the other side of town. I have about a 30 minute cushion to grab something to eat, or study, or grab a nap in the car (I’ve chosen that over dinner), and then class begins at 6:00. It runs to 9:30-10:00, after which I make the trek back home, usually getting in the door around 10:20 or so. Home from my day, no shower, often no dinner, and exhausted. Every other Saturday I have a weekend class that runs 9:00am to 3:00-4:00pm or whenever the material is covered. Yesterday was the first Saturday. Last night I was online doing lecture modules and practice quizzes for over 3 hours- after the day of class. The written material is a 1500 page textbook, divided in 40 chapters, with online tests, quizzes, etc. that go toward your final score. About half of the time in class also includes hands on practicals, which will soon increase to almost all of the classtime going forward. A big final showdown of testing in both on-field practicals and a written test comes at the very end, and if I pass in mid-August, I’ll be a state and nationally certified EMT. There’s a high demand for this in our area (and maybe everywhere), so I was assured getting a job is no problem. From there, who knows? I have a long-term goal of becoming a paramedic (1000 hours/1 year of training). Maybe a flight medic, or an EMT instructor? All I know is that despite the challenge of an additional 8-16 hours of class per week on top of working 30 hours and caring for a family and trying to get some runs/workouts in, it’s what I want. As opposed to what I do now… after 24 hours out of the 150 required for the course, I am loving this stuff. They say you know fairly quickly if you’re cut out for it or not. I guess I haven’t yet seen blood and gore and limbs breaking and babies being born and using an AED to shock someone’s heart (though I did it on a mannequin!) but if hearing about it and learning about it indicates anything, well, I’m cut out for this. It grabs me. It’s interesting. It feels like purpose. Like I’m doing something that means something, not just to me, but to the greater world around me. I need that sense of purpose like I need to breathe. We just covered anatomy, which was my favorite. Specifically, heart stuff. Holy cow, the heart is an amazing little muscle-pump-of-never-ending-beast-mode. And all that running, including the injuries!- came in handy at last. ‘Skeletal structure of the lower extremities? Got it. Difference between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism? Yessir.’ Medical terminology, ughhhh, not so much. Pages and pages. All those suffixes and prefixes that you can attach onto words to make a whole new medical term? *holds head in hands* And don’t even get me started on mnemonics. THEY ARE MANY. The increased workload will mean no ultras for me this summer, and probably no marathons until at least late fall, if any. Boston is still out there, but for now I need this more. I’m okay with running for fun… doing some 5ks and actually training for one?... using running as a way to alleviate the stress of sitting at work and sitting (again) through class. Currently, I need running to be a supportive friend, not another obligation/job. I tell myself, when it gets chaotic and tough and there aren’t enough hours in a day and I feel like a bad mom and wife and I’m trying to stay awake long enough to shower and eat at 11:00pm… this is like a marathon. A summer of hard work, a lot of sacrifices, maybe not as much sweat but definitely a few tears. The finish line is worth it. And like the marathon, the finish line is seldom just a finish. Instead, it can be the door to a world of new possibilities.
  7. Aw, running with kids is the best... Aunt of the Year award!
  8. I couldn't agree more. One thing I really noticed with my first long-term injury versus some other layoffs (injuries or otherwise) since is that the longer I'm running, the quicker I come back. And stressing over how slow and out of shape I am coming back actually seems to hinder the process of getting it back. Its a heckuva lot to ask for us Type As, buuuuuut if I can manage to zen everything down as much as possible, the comeback is better AND faster. My husband always adds, "and women" to the "memory like an elephant" thing.
  9. Sandbagging' since 2009, LOL. You'll have a great race, go knock it out of the park. And enjoy!
  10. "...goin wherever it leads..." Geez, it’s been awhile. Last time I blooped was what, well before Wineglass? Yep. I went to Corning and ran a half marathon with Aubree and Tim (it’s been so long that I have no idea what the loop names are anymore) and had a great time pacing with Tim for Aubree’s sub- 1:45. Some belated pics, because I know how much everyone loves to see #raceface. I also ran a 5k with Juliet, who is a tiny little bundle of running awesomeness... She was so determined to run a sub-30 5k. And she did. She was crying for the last quarter mile, she was in so much pain, but she wanted NOTHING TO DO with slowing down and calling a 30:xx good enough. Sprinted to the finish with 10 seconds to spare and then it was my turn to cry a little. This summer, she'll be registering for her school's cross country program and I'm excited for that. But much of last year was kind of a bust, running-wise. I went through a huge slump- one I might still be in?- after the cluster-fudge brownie that was Buffalo. Something about that race cracked me wide open. God, I hate that race. I still have nightmares about that race. But I try to chalk up the debacle to character building and all that jazz. Moving on. Summer proved to only perpetuate the running $h$tshow, though, with a crazy schedule at work, and insanely hot temps (for here) and my general apathy at running. Working every single Saturday meant I could hardly ever race and since I couldn’t race, my mojo wilted like cotton candy in a rainstorm. I didn’t wanna run. At least not long and not far and not much. Add to that the fact that C, the RB I ran with last year, had his divorce finalized, got a girlfriend and promptly stopped running. Cold turkey. BAM. I mean, I kinda get it... a single dad with 2 kids and a full-time job doesn’t leave much time for running with a friend once you have better things to do (literally? lol ). And the girlfriend doesn’t run. So it was back to solo runs. This time, no RB and still no mojo, except for Wineglass weekend. Then this year rolled around, and I finally said screw it to the job that was holding all my Saturdays hostage. I got a new job. More pay, similar work, and NO WEEKENDS. I don’t really enjoy it all that much and am bored but most people don’t love their jobs so why should I expect more? What people do love, and I am no exception, is weekends. Hallelujah, I get real weekends again. I was going to run a marathon this spring, at Glass City. Like, BQ attempt and all that. I even tried a few weeks of training. Ran long runs up to 15 miles. And then one day I just said, you know what? I don’t want to do this. It’s not fun anymore. I was skipping tempos and dreading long runs. Especially since the winter weather seems to drag on and on and on and not in a good way like in the Journey song. It’s March 3 and it’s 15 degrees. This is not funny. Or maybe I just didn’t want a repeat of Buffalo, where I trained through a cold spring and then showed up for 80 degrees and air like soup. Have I mentioned disliking that race? Wait a minute. When was the last time I had a spring/summer where I just HAD FUN? Where the whole better-get-your-ass-into-training-mode wasn’t like an insistent alarm clock going off in my head? When I did what I WANTED? Ruling out what I don’t want was the first step but the next step was asking myself, Peg, what do you want? Here’s what I want: I want to enjoy my life, my family, my weekends. I want to be able to run with friends at yackety-yak minutes/mile instead of being saddled to a specific pace for 15 miles. I want to race some short distances. Specifically, 5ks and 10ks, without worrying that racing in the middle of training will either hurt my marathon training or end in a crappy race. Or get me injured. I want to do track workouts of 400s, 800s, mile repeats. I like track workouts. I want to get out my road bike and I want to bike, a lot. I want to drive to other parts of town, or other towns, and run while exploring. I want my running and biking to take me to places and experiences. And I’d like to bloop/blog about said places and experiences… yes, I’d like to hang out here more. I’ve missed writing about running, mostly because I’ve missed ENJOYING running. Oh, btw, I want to start *gasp* running trails. 50k. Maybe a 50 miler later. Yep, you heard me. ULTRAS I need something new. I need a change. I want to love running again. Once warmer weather rolls around (based on current trends, hoping to be in short sleeves by Memorial Day), I want to join a group from around here that regularly spends Saturdays or Sunday afternoons in the summer running trails down at Oil Creek State Park. That’s home to the Oil Creek 100M, 100k, and 50k every October; ZamGirl has done that one (HOLY COW I JUST REMEMBERED A LOOP NAME! Oh, I haven’t forgotten Bangle and 5Starks and KeepRunningGirl and atombuddy and dammit I AM A LOOPSTER STILL). The trail running group is largely insane trail junkies who run ultras and 24 hour stuff and 100 milers. So I will be the newbie in the group showing up in track flats and an 8 oz handheld and no bug spray or toilet paper. But I have been the newbie at everything under the sun since 2007 when I emerged a blinking newborn (figuratively) into the real modern world, so what else is new? I blame any gaffes on my hair color and ask lots of questions and take people’s advice and so far I’ve managed to get fairly far on that. I’m a couple weeks in of just… backing off and running differently. I even started doing some runs watchless, aka going out there and running routes that I know are a specific amount of miles and estimating the pace based on time passed. That’s relaxing. Different for me, for sure. Next thing you know I’ll be inputting runs of 5.98356 miles when I do wear the watch, and not running 20 foot laps in my driveway to get to 6…. ….. Kidding, never happening, the neighbors would be so disappointed to learn that I am not certifiably insane and I dislike letting people down. I will revisit the Boston dream again. Maybe a late marathon this fall, for a 2021 shot. Or maybe I’ll do the Glass City thing next spring instead. Somewhere, sometime, I’ll have the laser-focus that I used to have. You know, where I did every single run at least 10 seconds per mile faster than I’m supposed to and got 16 PRs in one year and ran, what was it, a sub-1:40 half marathon? Sometimes I kinda miss the old 2013 or 2017 me sometimes. You know what I don’t miss? The injuries. 2014, 2015, 2016. Turns out the world doesn’t come to a complete stop just because I’m a little more chill about running. In the meantime, I totally revamped my training. NEW PLAN!!! 5ks, 10ks, so speedwork during the week, along with short easy runs. And longer training runs on the weekend, hopefully some on trails, but with the focus of time on feet and not speed/pace. A possible 30k in May, providing the 23 people ahead of me on the waiting list decide they have better things to do on a Saturday morning. Go shopping, people. Picnic. Family wedding. Help me out here. And then I'm eyeing a 50k in June. Then I’m kiiiiiiiiinda putting a 50 miler at either Burning River 50 or Finger Lakes 50 on the table... It’s on the way far corner of the table and it may topple off at any moment, but the fact that it’s on the table is progress. And then, there’s always the Oil City 100k in October. That’s not on the table, that’s just a tiny seed in my brain. But you know, little acorns to mighty oaks and that sort of thing. Let’s not even start on the Ironman I still want to complete someday. But I don’t want to ruin this summer by taking up swimming (shudder) again. I'm not Fish or stewmanji (god, I love the loop names coming back to me). I kind of like the feeling I have right now, of doing my own thing. A simmering excitement. Trying new things. Going off the beaten path. Doing what I want, running what I want. Stay tuned.
  11. At this point, I'm just hoping to keep up!
  12. HA! Nope, 40 isn't old. I just like giving my friends a hard time about getting old if they are older than me... or if they require 20 minutes of loosening up before a race....
  13. Years ago on Loopville, someone (I think it was Corc) posted a link to an article written by Lauren Fleshman. It was about the difference between male and female runners/athletes and accepting that difference. I thought of that article again this weekend. Read it here! https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a20793927/i-run-like-a-girl/ It's not just insightful and interesting, it's hilarious. Seriously. Stop reading my bloop right now and go read it and then come back (or not). And I remembered that article and looked it up because I ran my worst 5k in four years, and instead of pacing my RB- who is male and who was running his first 5k- as planned, I got paced by him. And vastly outrun. HIS FIRST. But it was still a great evening, for so many reasons. As much as I prefer morning races, I also work almost every Saturday from 8:30-1, so I miss out on most local 5ks/10ks. The Chase is a small, local 5k that benefits the XC program of a local school and draws out most of the runners here in little Harborcreek. And it's on a Friday night. I love this race because there are so many people I know who show up to run it, either local runners I’m already connected to or customers at the bank here in town where I work. Every 10 feet I was stopping and talking to people… Rod, Jim, Karen, another Karen, Desiree, Dan from Erie and his best friend also named Dan, from Buffalo, Bill who I see at the bank, the RDs husband who is also a bank customer, Juliann, Christina, Tom, Andrew… seriously, I know half the field here! And my baby girl was running it, too! Unlike last summer, when Jules and I trained 2-3 times a week, training for her kinda fell by the wayside this season. Mostly because I was not feeling running all that much, thus it was hard to translate joy for it to my kiddo. And also because she was playing soccer all season and doing quite a bit running even though it wasn’t specific run-training. About 5 days before the race, she decided that, yes, she wants to run it! We did two 2 mile runs in which she ran between 10:00 and 10:30 pace and I figured hey, if she can run 2 miles she can run 3, right? My RB C. -remember him from that 10k RR early this year- was also running the 5k, his first. Now, C. has been busy with work and coaching our church softball team (which my husband is on) and being a single parent and hasn’t been able to run much. Like, once or twice a week. I haven’t been running much but I’ve been running a little more than that. And I ran a marathon just—oh crap, that was 2 months ago already? Okay, forget all the training benefits of that. Anyway, I’ve been running more than him. I should be faster. So I’ll pace him, right? That takes the pressure off me to have to race it, and it’ll be more fun pacing anyway. RIGHT???!! It’ll be more fun, she says. 🤣 Jules was raring to go 45 minutes before the race and completely confident of her ability to run this whole race without stopping. Despite having run very little lately (besides soccer), thus being the least 5k-trained of the three of us. Man, I need that kind of untroubled audacity. Hakuna matata all the way. Meanwhile, C. is old- almost 40- which means he needs to stretch. Now, there’s stretching. You know, normal, light, easy stretching...... And then there’s like, 'oh, wait, I have to do a 20 minute yoga session before I run' stretching. WHUT? oooookay. I made fun of him, which the karma gods duly noted. Pre-race pics for Jules and I when all the stretching was FINALLY done. We lined up to start. I’m completely out of sight in the start photo, but C. is there. Jules is out of sight beside me instead of lining up with all the kids. There were a LOT of kids there, which is always a great thing to see. This race is not a fast course. The first mile is uphill. The second mile is mostly flat but includes a bunch of wooded trail. The third mile is a mix of said trail plus about .5 mile of downhill pavement back to the finish. It’s easy to blow up climbing in the first mile and ruin everything, but it’s nice to have that downhill finish to redeem yourself a smidge, if redemption is something you need (spoiler alert: I did). We hadn’t even gotten close to the top of the hill, maybe .75 mile in before I realized two things. 1) I felt like crap. Not just normal 5k pain crap, but absolute crap from head to toe. My stomach was roiling, my legs felt dead and heavy and my breathing was ragged. 2) C. was pulling away from me, trotting easily as if he ran 5ks every day instead of this being his first one, his bright yellow shirt like a beacon ahead of me. WTH????!! Somewhere in mile 2, I realized that I was struggling to stay under 8:00 minute pace. WHAT? This is absurd. I have run how many 5ks now, and much faster than this, and I feel like I'm being strangled? About the time I realized that my race was going to be awful, C. started yelling encouragement. Which helped a lot... I was grateful, because I was falling apart in the worst way. But the pacer had become the pacee. Beginner pacing coach. Again. WHUT? 😧 And for the rest of the race, C. was ahead of me and pulling away, holding back while yelling at me to stay with him. Which I could not do. Once I considered stopping to puke because I felt like doing so almost the entire race, but that would take like, a good half minute off my time, soooo… I basically huffed and puffed and agonized my way to the finish. When we got to the final .2, C. started putting on the gas. I tried my best to kick into my usual high-gear finish, but nope. I yelled at him to go. Go, go, go! He sprinted toward the clock, coming in at 23:10. And I finished 10 seconds later, feeling and looking like death, and all I could think was “He could have run a 22:30, easily!” I dry-heaved along the side for a little until my stomach eased up on the queasiness. C. came over to lend support and I demanded of him why he didn’t just go and LEAVE my sorry ass?! He kept saying, no, no, no, that’s not what this race was about, he’s fine with it. Okay, well, your coach demands that in the future, you will run a 5k all out to see what you can do. Oh, and you are faster than me now, congrats! A part of me was like, wow, that was fast... going from a non-runner to this in what, 6-7 months? But I was and am so proud that none of it mattered an iota. Well, besides the iota that it took to admit that he's faster than me now. Which was maybe a little more than an iota... So okay, it mattered a little that he was faster than me but he worked for and deserves it and I am proud as punch. I still don't know what went wrong. Not having trained for a 5k (all marathon training stuff this past winter and spring)? Worked and was on my feet all day (a night race versus a morning race)? Heat and humidity? Or just woefully out of shape physically and mentally? Idk. Whatever it was, it's a time I'm happy to put behind me. My slowest 5k since early 2014 when I was coming back from injury, a minute slower than last year on this course, and nearly 2 minutes slower than my PR. But hey… I ran it. It sucked but I did it. JULES!!! What drove my own race out of my mind was the thought of my little girl out there running. I hurried back up the course to find her. The whole time I was worrying... she hadn't trained for this, and without me there to encourage her and run with her, would she fall apart and walk (she'd wanted to not walk at ALL!) and then cry and be heartbroken and beat up on herself? Because she tends to beat up on herself when she doesn't do well, we have no idea where the heck she inherited THAT mysterious trait. Or the crying....... Before I even got as far back on the course as I expected or wanted to, less than 2 tenths of a mile, here comes Juliet, charging along with her face red with determination, her stride still strong and beautiful. My heart got all the fuzzy feelings, seeing my little offspring running like a champ. She spied me and broke out in a huge grin, shouting at me, ‘MOM! MOM! I DIDN’T STOP ONCE AND I PASSED 8 PEOPLE!!!” I had told her beforehand to pick people off, and she told me she wants to see how many people she can pass. Ah, she’s a fierce little thing! I started running with her, slightly ahead, encouraging her. I told her we’re gonna kick it to the end, so I led out in front of her. She gave it a massive kick at the end, and we did the final .1 mile at an 8:14 pace. I let her go through the chute by herself, and she was flying! Final time: 31:18. 10:04 pace. And a 10-second PR over last year on this course, which I did not expect given so little training! Juliet was so excited and I was so proud. Her 3rd 5k… and she wants to do more this fall. I have a flat, fast October 5k all lined up for her. She wants to break 30 minutes, which I think is entirely possible with a little training and on a faster course. The first thing Jules wanted to do was eat! What the heck?! My stomach was still revolting, and she’s sitting there inhaling 2 pieces of pizza and a donut with sprinkles. Though I normally love this race for the pizza and watermelon, I could not stomach it today. No food for me. The sting from a bad race was quickly assuaged by getting my 3rd place OA female (despite the sucky time) medal and Jules missed an AG win by just one place, since she got lumped into the 10-and-under group... but she was so thrilled with her time and having run the whole race by herself without stopping that she didn't mind. And C!! Seeing him get his 2ND in AG medal—his first award, in his FIRST 5K was amazing. Even though I know full well that he could have finished with a faster time, I am incredibly proud of how far he's come as a runner. And he was a true friend, helping me get through a tough race when he DIDN'T HAVE TO AT ALL. We gotta get pics, of course. Then C. and I took Jules back home to get put to bed by my DH, along with the other kiddo. Then we swung by Karen’s house for an hour or two of chitchat, snacks, and drinks at her annual post-race party. Since I had to work the next morning (BOOOOO) we didn’t stay around too long, but it’s always wonderful to catch up with everyone. Even if the race itself was pretty much a bust, good friends can make up for it. As for being soundly beaten by my protégé, hey, if a pro like Lauren Fleshman can see the beauty in getting beaten by boys, so can a mortal like myself? Plus, I'm a long-distance runner and C. is better at shorter distances and we have that half-marathon coming up... 🤨
  14. There was just so much to love about Buffalo… except the 26.2 miles themselves. The city is small enough to be welcoming, big enough to be an adventure. Packet pickup and expo was organized, there were plenty of porta-potties, the marathon jacket was sweet, the medal was big enough to eat a small entrée off it, the spectators were fabulous with their garden hoses, buckets of ice and orange slices. And the course was pleasantly diverse without being too challenging. But Memorial Day weekend, 2018, was the first scorcher of the year, coming on the heels of the coldest, snowiest winter on record and a chilly spring that ended, well, the week before Memorial Day. Erie had just come within an inch of the most snowfall in any city in any one winter (with Buffalo, ironically, still holding the record), and I had trained through that winter. The Sunday before the marathon, I'd run in tights and a long-sleeve shirt. The morning of the marathon, I got up to 85% humidity and temps that were already nearing 70* at 5:00am. My body was even more ill-adjusted to the climate than my mind. The first 10 miles were not bad. I stayed on a nice 7:55-8:10 pace. The sun was behind a partial cloud cover and there were some miles along the river where the cooling breezes helped offset the humidity. But then the clouds passed and the sun came out it in full force. Temps rose to 80 and more, the air was shimmering with the humid haze, and my heart rate was escalating at an alarming rate. By mile 14 my legs were heavy and my breathing ragged. By 15, I contemplated quitting and by 16, I was experiencing cramping and what seemed to be mild heat exhaustion. The last 10 miles were a death march of walk/running. Yes, I said 10 miles. I discovered that none of my training runs quite prepared for the grim reality of 10 MORE MILES when you have run 16 and feel like utter poop. Like so. Aaaaand glaring at the sadistic photographer who dared to ask me to smile.... Around the Mile 20 water stop, I pulled off to the side and started taking my bib off. A lady from the stop asked me, sympathetically, if I was calling it quits. I started saying I was, then stopped. What I wanted to say was “Yeah, I’m done. I trained through a brutal winter and through some crazy work schedules between my husband and I and through some personal life/identity crisis upheavals that felt like my world turning upside-down and through a period of life and training burnout and I trained my butt off for a BQ and I've been trying for 5 freaking years but you know, here I am sweating like a pig and dehydrating and cramping and looking at finishing with my slowest time ever, and I am so, so tired of marathon training and I am in excruciating pain right now and I sure as heck don’t want to run 6 more miles. So you know what? I'M DONE. I'M DONE WITH ALL OF THIS!!" But I didn't and suddenly decided I HADN'T done all the above to just end here in another DNF. I fought back tears that suddenly threatened to break loose and said quietly, “No, ma’am, I’m just taking a moment.” I scooped another handful of ice into my sport bra (absolutely a lifesaver on a hot day) grabbed an orange slice, and trudged on. 6 of the longest and most painful miles I’ve ever run later, I crossed the finish line, a whole lot broken and a little out of sorts, but you know what? I didn’t quit on a day when everything was against me so there is that. Wait. The was ONE Balm in Gilead. Mile 24. Oh, man, I'll never forget Mile 24. When a group of 6-8 college-aged boys were hollering from the sidelines that they have a cooler full of beer. Everyone in front of me was plodding past them, peering at them dully from beneath their heat-blasted eyelids, thinking only of finishing and getting out of this hell on earth. I decided my marathon was in the crapper anyway and at that moment, a cold beer sounded like the answer to all my current problems (don’t all cold beers seem to promise that?). I swung over and held out my hand in answer to raucous cheers and appreciative applause. A shirtless, tanned kid 10 years my junior shoved an ice-cold LaBlatt Blue in my hands, dramatically cracking it open first. I raised it to my lips as 4 or 5 more boys, equally shirtless, fit, and tanned, circled me and started chanting “chug, chug, chug, chug….” I met the eyes of one over the top of the can and blushed a little as he winked mischievously and shouted, “a girl who likes beer, let’s get her number!” Making it to about halfway through the can until my stomach said “UH, WE GOOD”, I handed back the beer with my brightest smile and profuse thanks. The boys screamed and cheered me on as I trotted back down the street, fist-bumping a few pleased spectators who got a chuckle out of the whole thing. Now THAT was the highlight of the Buffalo Marathon. It didn’t salvage my time (a personal worst by 14 minutes at 4:10) whatsoever, but it numbed the pain and gave me just enough sugar and adrenaline to make it through. A tiny smile? I was just so darn relieved that the ordeal was OVER. And there's the marathon version of Kayla Maroney face.... Unlike a lot of other bad races that fueled my desire for more, Buffalo seemed to have broken me a little. I came home quietly, not wanting to talk about it much, not wanting to relive it, and till now, not wanting to blog about it. Granted, there were factors beyond just running that had affected the whole training cycle and race, and it was a lesson for me to remember that when life is throwing you some curve balls, maybe you gotta readjust your goals. I think I stayed broken for awhile. Recovery was slow and agonizing. I didn’t feel like my legs came back to me for about a month, the damage done by 10 miles on cramping legs taking its sweet time to heal. And mentally, it was much more so. I’ve never experienced such a complete loss of motivation and sometimes, a downright distaste for running. If I was going on an easy run with a friend, I was fine. But any solo runs, any speedwork, any long runs. They all seemed like misery, drudgery, pain. In not-running news, my husband's younger sister got married during the marathon recovery downtime. I got to be dolled up and be a bridesmaid. It was a fun wedding, one of the highlights of summer. At this perfect venue... an old restored barn... Juliet was flower girl... And provided me with quite possibly my favorite father/daughter picture ever (that's my husband with Jules on the dance floor)... Back to running. I’m not running Erie, because I didn’t train for it. Thus, BOS2019 is not a possibility. I will register, with the same quiet resignation of probably at least 5,000 other runners who qualified but will not have enough cushion to actually get in. A minute and 50 seconds. Back when I first started dreaming Boston, that would have gotten me in. I try not to think about that. Of course, there's that tiny little sliver of hope that maybe this year is a fluke, the margin won't be several minutes, but I try to brace myself for the rejection email I already know I'm getting. Maybe I'm okay with that. Maybe I'm not. I’m not sure how to proceed. I've never felt so conflicted about my relationship with running. I either was running and loved it or I was injured and aching to run again. What is this weird stuff I'm feeling... this apathy. It scares me. Regardless, I’m starting training once again, with my eyes set on possibly running Harrisburg in 15 weeks. Wineglass is in late September, but I will be running that at an easy pace just for fun. You know what I want, for a change? I want to run a marathon with no pressure, no expectations. I want to run 26.2 miles and actually enjoy it regardless of the time and pace. I want to experience it. I want to RUN IT, not race it. So I’m going to. Because it’s just running and I can do what I want with running. Sometimes I’m almost weary of the Boston dream. It’s been 6 years. I’ve been way off, and I’ve actually qualified with a so-close but not close enough, and everything inbetween. DNSs, DNFs. Each close call and way off call and not-even-gotten-there has its own lessons but it's also natural that each attempt drives the dagger in just a little deeper. The one that asks “Am I good enough? Why do I keep falling short? Do I want it enough? How does it seem so easy and attainable for some and so difficult for me? What is wrong with me? “ And I know those are the wrong questions, but they still press down on me. Especially when I am tired. Tired of running, tired of training, tired of failing. I have a 5k this weekend, on Friday night. I’m pacing my RB Clark, and hoping not to get beat by his naturally fast-twitch sprinting ability. My sweet daughter Juliet is running it ALL BY HERSELF. She hasn’t been training a lot but she has played soccer this summer, so we’ll see what happens. Her only request was that she be allowed to run it alone. I did ask- and was granted- to run the homestretch with her, the final .30 or so of the downhill finish. All the local running folks will be there, so there is lots of camaraderie and fun. There is pizza and watermelon at the finish and my friend Karen hosts a post-race party/bonfire in her backyard for her running friends afterward. Then I have a half marathon in September, again one that I’m pacing Clark for- his first half (I’m the stamina queen, so I have no intention of being bested there). I keep hoping that pacing with no pressure, while surrounding myself with fellow runners, will bring back the hunger and the love. If not, I might ditch marathon training in 2019 and train for an Ironman instead. Yep, you heard me. Stay tuned.
  15. Mile repeats. I remember the first time I did the workout-- 3 x 1- and decided they are in the most cruel and unusual sweet spot between the hard, fast intensity of short workouts and controlled, eternal, grueling challenge of long workouts. I still decide that after every mile repeats session. ‘Imma gonna make you hurt’, I told him via text. ‘I ain’t scared’, he texted back. Though he admitted later to some apprehension leading up to it, and I admitted also to not being sure how to pace him. Which means we led into the first interval way too fast. I tend to do that. When we were still almost sub-6 at the end of the first lap, I held back. But Clark was coming off a two day reprieve from running (the days he had his kids, plus work, etc), so his legs were fresh. I had done 12 on Monday, easy 5 on Tuesday and another easy 6 on Wednesday. I had miles, but not hard miles and the legs were pretty okay with dancing to the tune of 6:xx instead of 8s, 9s, and 10s. Interval 1: 6:45. Uhhh. My tentative goal had been 7:10. Well, readjust for sure! However, I told Clark we would dial it back for the second interval. AND we were doing the full 800m, 2 lap recoveries at a very leisurely 11-14 minute pace of alternating walking with jogging, conversational and relaxed. It was a beautiful night on the local high school track, deserted except for the two of us. Windy, for sure, but the wind was the warmest we’ve had in awhile. At 65 degrees, I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts and I felt freshly-freed from the mother of all winters, having been in tights and long sleeves since November. During our workout, the sun sank into oblivion and darkness closed around us like a comforting blanket. The clouds shrank back onto the horizon and a clear sky sprinkled with stars hung over us. During the recovery, our breaths and heart rates returned to a near normal state as we enjoyed the lull, the shared company, the fellowship of running. I sighed contentedly, my face raised to the sky. I love the night… I love the dark, serene tranquility of a world hypnotized into silence by twilight’s come-hither glance. And I love the wind in my face. More so during the recovery jogs than when I am heading into the wall of wind on the backstretch of Lap 3, but still… it was a good night to be alive. My legs felt responsive and bouncy, my body alert, taut, humming with the rushing blood of intense effort. I love running. I love life. And then my zest for life and running got slightly dampened as we headed into the second mile (Well, my 3rd. I had gone to the track early and done over two miles of warmup and one interval at 6:36 before Clark had arrived because, well… marathon training. I need the miles and the longer workouts.). I dialed it back a little for this one, knowing that if we blew up completely on the first two, the last one would be especially painful. And I’d promised Clark I wouldn’t kill him. Not that he was scared, of course... Still, 6:59. Whoaaaa. To say I was surprised and pleased was an understatement. Yes, Clark was hurting a little on the final lap. But he held it, kept up and didn’t lag or complain. This dude is no slacker. We took our time on the recovery for this one. Then it was back to the final round. The last one tends to be the easiest, IF you have enough left. But still, you can offer freely what’s left in the tank and knowing it’s your last is mentally a relief. Obviously tonight that was the case. Clark was breathing raggedly by the second lap, but he was holding his own. I held steady for the 3rd lap, then pushed it on the last and final lap. We thundered into the final stretch, legs and lungs burning… 6:34!! Sure, we were bent over gasping with our hands on our knees for a few seconds before weakly high-fiving, but dang. That was a quality speed workout. And exceeding my expectations… I’d run 4 x 1 mile intervals at an average of 6:43 pace, and Clark ran 3 x 1 at an average of 6:45 pace. I was pretty proud. For a first time mile-repeat runner, and someone who’s only been training for a few months, a 3 x 1 at sub-7 is SOLID. His strength is definitely the short-to-medium distances… he is already at my paces for intervals. But I am the endurance girl; I can go all day (and night), baby! We dropped to a bench near the track for a few minutes, letting our shredded muscles catch up a little, soaking in the solitude and beauty of a spring night. Then we parted ways, and it was good, because we were now faster and stronger than when we’d arrived. It’s Monster Month. I’m a little tired and a lot hungry… both phenomenon striking at weird times. I can have no appetite and then suddenly an hour later be ravenous. I can be not-tired for awhile after a workout, rejuvenated, even… then fall into a thick fog of fatigue. My body is taking on the lean, hungry look of marathoning. A couple pounds down. I’m not lifting much, if it all, just some light toning and strengthening. Core work a couple times a week. But my legs are being chiseled and pummeled. My quads are hard, my calves snug in skinny jeans. Sitting on the couch after hard workouts or long runs, I can feel and see muscle fibers twitch and hum and gyrate in their little recovery dance. Oh, and I need new shoes AGAIN and my pile of running laundry never ends. Yep, it’s marathon training. I’ve averaging 50 miles a week, and this week I will hit 60 if all miles go as planned. The speedwork is changing from the shorter, faster stuff to 6 x 1 mile or 4 x 1.5 mile repeats and the upcoming 2 x 2 mile, 3 x 2 mile, and 2 x 3. Tempos are around 7:40-8:00. I ran 18 last Sunday-- 8 at MP + 20 seconds and the remaining 10 with Clark at 9:xx. Mid-distance runs, like those 10/10 back-to-backs on Saturday and Sunday on the inbetween “easy” weeks are averaging in the 8:teens or faster. Some days it feels comfortable, some days it’s a struggle. Just more realities of marathon training. I am enjoying this marathon training cycle more than probably any so far. The company of an RB, obviously, and the fact that we are training for the same destination race. But I have become a little looser with my grasp, a little more okay with the journey. I’m not a slave to the plan, even if it is the somewhat rigorous Hansons Marathon Method… it’s only a doable method for me if I can DO it, and I can only fit it into my sometimes crazy life if I’m able to adjust. As long as the miles are at or near what I’m supposed to be, the speedwork and long run distances are according to plan, and I get that cumulative fatigue stuff at the end of the week, I tweak whenever I need to. Life’s too short and running’s too fun to be needlessly stressed out by it. Buffalo is in 7 weeks. Which means I have about 5 weeks before the taper. I’m not nervous yet. Historically, I peak too early when I do the longer 16-18 week plans, so I’m hoping this shorter, but just as intense, training will have me ready at the right time without ending into over-trained, burned-out territory. I feel strong right now. Strong and happy with running. The Plan never wavers. Get that 3:38 PR and BQ down to a more comfortable 3:30-3:34. Because we all know that short of a miracle, that 1 minute and 52 seconds I got for my Wineglass BQ is not enough to get in. And if Buffalo isn’t the golden ticket for me, I have Erie (possibly) and Wineglass (definitely) to train for in the fall. Last minute chance for 2019 at Erie and a let’s-just-start-over look at 2020 at Wineglass. Still chasing it, still wanting it. Just over here putting in the work. Goin’ hard, but at the same time, ‘takin it easy’ as the Eagles recommend. Trying to not let the sound of (my) own wheels make me crazy…
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