Conquering Things

It has been a weekend for conquering things (and celebrating the conquering of things):

As my trip to Savannah approached, I was searching for a running route. Madeline of Food, Fitness, and Family, who I first met as an “Elf For Health” partner, lives in the vicinity but suggested that Victoria of Victoria Runs would be the best person to ask. Now that the weekend (and the run) have come and gone, I better understand why Victoria’s first question was, “Do you want to include the Talmadge Bridge?” I now understand why that question wasn’t as innocuous a question as “do you want to run on streets or trails?” The Talmadge Bridge changes up everything about a “Saturday long run”:

bridge(Oh, and by the way Victoria gave me a great coffee shop recommendation too, so a shoutout to Gallery Espresso is in order (the “Welcome Runners” image below is from their door).

gallery espresso door

Then there’s my friend Matt “Luau” Wilson, who ran 100 miles in 27 hours and 57 minutes in the TARC 100. This must set an all-time record for the number of continuous Charity Miles run. It’s one very big thing to accomplish the running of 100 miles. it’s an even bigger thing to do it for your child and for all families for whom autism is part of their world (Matt ran his miles for Autism Speaks). Way to go, Matt. I am proud beyond words to call you friend.

luau tarc(Oh, and by the way Matt has a great spouse too, who had quite a weekend of her own as Matt slogged through the mud, so a shoutout to Jess is in order).

Lastly, my niece Jessica graduated from South University with her Pharm.D. (that’s why I was in Savannah). It has been academically grueling, and the years she committed to an accelerated program have had their share of life’s ups and downs, but she has persevered with intellect, persistence, class, and grace. Jessica, I love you and am forever elated to be your family member.

jess grad(Oh, and by the way Jessica has a great set of parents, too, who have done their share of sacrificing, loving, and nurturing along the way so a shoutout to Mary and Jamie is in order.)

A big bridge, a hundred miles, and a doctorate. Conquered!

 

Then The Blue-Haired Gorilla Happened

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I love to use my blog as a platform for worthy causes.

In addition to blogging, I enjoy adding “causes” to the reasons I run. In fact, when I made my Badass Army 2012 Resolution, I customized it by adding this statement: 

I will actively seek out and promote fitness opportunities that do good for causes I support.

Back in July, I started seeing posts on Facebook (and tweets on Twitter) that stated that the miles run, biked, or walked by the individual posting had helped causes through Charity Miles. For example:

When I participated in the Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks in September, our team learned more about Charity Miles and how the app can be used to raise support (via corporate sponsorship) for various causes via the simple acts of walking, running, and biking (25 cents per mile walked or run, 10 cents per mile biked!

Once I returned to Florida, I began using Charity Miles for all of my workouts. Then I came up with a plan. I would do a workout for each of the Charity Miles causes, and blog about that cause that week (if you’re a blogger, you may be familiar with the hunger/desperation to come up with topics!).

That’s why I did a workout on September 27, 2012 that was dedicated to the ASPCA:

But then the potential for this happened:

Read about how the loser of the #teamluau vs #teambecca October Charity Miles Throwdown for Autism Speaks has to run the difference in miles in a blue-afroed, Autism Speaks jerseyed gorilla suit get-up here.

And I couldn’t resist joining in to help some of my favorite people with a favorite cause.

(But I do feel a little guilty about the diversion from Plan A – I actually sent Luau a DM on Twitter that said “somewhere out there an unvaccinated puppy just shed a tear” – I will get back to you, ASPCA, I promise!)

And then the decision had to be made about which team I would be on, #teamluau or #teambecca?

I am a HUGE Luau fan. After all, he convinced me sight unseen to divert (I see a diversion theme here…) from my 2012 goal of running a 5K in 29:59 or less (the long run training probably actually helped that goal actually but that’s for a different blog) in order to train for a half marathon. When forced to make a decision, and noting that Rebecca is a) from Florida like me (yay!) b) someone I didn’t manage to meet in Boston (not sure how that happened) and c) a fellow mom (like me), I decided I needed to throw my miles in with #teambecca (she’s on the right in the billboard below):

Which gets me to this:

First of all, check out Charity Miles.  You can read Luau’s post explaining it all. Or you can watch this video:

Secondly, if you have been wavering about where, when, and how to start (or resume) a fitness routine, why not use this as your motivation?  Pick a cause you love and go for it. Of course, since the Charity Miles Autism Speaks throwdown is still on for the rest of October, feel free to tweet your miles with #teambecca (or heck even #teamluau) if you are on Twitter!!

Lastly, I guess this quote is more pertinent to the Nature Conservancy Charity Milers:

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

But let’s extrapolate to running, walking, biking for autism:

“The creation a thousand ways to help Autism Speaks is in one mile.”

Why not add yours to the total?

Boston 13.1

A week has gone by since I ran my first half marathon, the Allstate Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks. Whereas I usually feel like I could write hundreds of words about pretty much any workout, that has not been the case with this event. I can’t decide whether to start with the people who motivated me to do the race in the first place; the coach and fellow runners who supported me through the eight months of training, the families for whom autism is a part of each and every day who were among my biggest incentives, or the race day itself, a day that was so autumnally perfect that it almost defied belief.

This experience started on February 14, 2012, when I was the first person to comment on this post by Luau:

In retrospect, there was zero doubt that I would participate in this race from 10:15 a.m. on 2/14/12 when I made this first comment to 7:00 a.m. on 9/16/12 when I started the race. But there were steps along the way …… talking it over with my spouse since there would be a commitment of time (to train) and finances (to travel to Boston). Fortunately, the timing was in my favor because it was Valentine’s Day and I asked for his support of this effort as my gift. (It worked!). There were fundraising steps (as a member of the Autism Speaks team I agreed to raise at least $500), including the comment contest that brought in 278 comments (there were two winners and I came in third, but I really appreciated everyone’s willingness to help me out!). There were also literal steps – thousands of them as my training progressed. My training was transformed in April when I began training with Jeff Kline (Coach PRS) of PRS Fit. Along the way, there was one truly awful run but that was outweighed by progressively stronger and longer training runs the last six weeks that helped me feel utterly prepared for my race.

As race weekend approached, I ran the last of my long runs (14 miles) and started tapering. I flew in to JFK Airport on the Friday prior to the race, spent Friday evening in Connecticut with my good friend Audrey, and drove up to Boston on Saturday, September 15.  I got all my gear (my Autism Speaks team tank, a tech shirt, a dri-fit hat, and my all-important race number) and returned to my room to organize myself prior to the team dinner.

As the dinner approached, I found myself feeling inexplicably anxious about meeting the people who I felt I had come to know relatively well via social media. Up until this weekend, I had been batting 1000 for meeting people in real life who I had first met on social media — in that the “IRL” meeting confirmed all the warm, fuzzy, and our-senses-of-humor-match intuitions that led me to invest in a social media relationship. To go back to my husband’s first reaction (remember Valentine’s Day 2/14/12?) of “but you can run 13.1 miles right here in Tallahassee,” I felt more like a 6th grader attending a new middle school after just having moved to the town; I was nervous. Which led me to procrastinate going down to the dinner and (I thought) miss an opportunity to mingle with all the people who I wanted to match a twitter handle to a real face and voice. When I was in line for my food (pasta, of course), I did find/meet Luau, Jess, and “Jersey” and ended up joining them at their table. That was a real blessing because race day flew by with less opportunity to chat. I also met Ann Marie, another twitter acquaintance, and Beth Clark, who I had just started interacting with on social media but turns out to have a love of things Bronx and NY Theater (and autism support) so that was pretty darn fabulous too. (And thanks to Jess for the best compliment of the weekend which may sound completely wrong out of context but I think we were talking about my theater choices when I ended up in New York after the race and we were talking about Avenue Q, which has “racy” content. Someone said, “If you’re easily offended, it’s not for you,” to which Jess said, “if she were easily offended she wouldn’t be here.” (For someone (me) who spends a lot of time feeling very thin-skinned, that was the ultimate pat on the thick-skinned back!).

Equipped with the all-important cow bell,

I returned to my room and met up with my friend Jacqui, who had driven down from New Hampshire to do the race with me. It definitely helped to have someone along for the experience who had run a marathon before (Boston, actually) and was able to keep the tone light. We both turned in pretty early since the race started at 7 a.m. and we had to drive to Suffolk Downs.

The race started at 7 a.m., and we took off through the horse gates. I remember Jacqui saying “Lucky Seven” as she went through Gate 7 and saying about my gate (8) “Eight is Enough.”

After the horse gates, we were truly off! I have to hand Luau kudos for his mid-stride photography skills (the blue afro is part of his fundraising approach – read more about the blue afro here (and sign the petition to convince Katy Perry to donate a blue wig for his NYC Marathon run here):

One of my concerns pre-race had been that I had never done a run this long without music (or an audiobook). I almost always listen to something when training, but never listen to anything when racing. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the lack of that electronic/audio security blanket. Turns out there was so much activity along the course (people cheering, other runners approaching due to the out and back (and a little loopy) nature of the course) that the lack of music wasn’t an issue; I really think I would have missed a lot of the race environment if I had been plugged in.

There was also the issue of heart rate. Being a bit anal about all of this, and knowing that my coach wanted me to stay at Zone 2 with 3 minute surges into Zone 3 every fifteen minutes, I had taken the time the night before the race to meticulously write down the time intervals for these surges upside down and big enough to hopefully see without digging my glasses out (they’re right above the QR code):

That part of the plan tanked when a) my Polar stopped recording my heart rate a half hour in (and had to be reset), and b) it was clear that Zone 2 was not happening for any of the 13.1 miles. Adrenaline, a new/different terrain, you name it – I was never going to get down to Zone 2 without crawling or sleeping. But I do know from observing my HR monitor that I stayed pretty consistent the whole race, and hopefully that means something good.

I have always admired runners who write race reports with incredible specificity – identifying particular details at named mile markers, such as what their heart rate was, how their breathing was, what they ate, etc. That’s not me.  If I had to pick five specific things about my experience on the course they would be:

1) The first 5 miles really seemed to fly by (relatively).

2) Although I had my own hydration and nutrition with me, there were a lot of water/gatorade stops. That, and the volunteers handing out strawberries. I didn’t want a strawberry but I think that fragrance will always trigger memories of this 13.1 in my head.

3) There was a neighborhood that started around the 8 mile mark — I could see the 9 mile marker right across from the 8 mile marker so I knew that I would loop around and encounter it in a mile; for some reason that was mentally a relief.

4) My left foot. My left foot has had a very subtle “something” (stiffness?) for a few weeks now. It seemed especially notable on Friday as I was flying up for the race. Maybe my hypersensitivity to it had to do with my nerves about the race. I don’t know. Throughout the whole 13.1, it was always “noticeable” — I just wanted to get through the race without it getting so bad that I could not finish on my own terms (which meant running even if my running is slower than some walkers).

5) My thought process at the Ten Mile Marker. When I got to the Ten Mile Marker, I literally thought, “Oh, all that’s left is a 5K.” That is such a big change in mentality for me. It felt great to know that I had run more than 13.1 miles before, that I would be doing it today, and that I was so close to knocking a goal off of my list.

(I finished in 3:09:03.)

As I was thinking over how to close out this post, which has turned into a novel, I ran  across my horoscope for today. It said:

“You have a talent for choosing the right people to hang out with. That doesn’t mean they are always easy to be around, though. Your friends will be mentors, motivators, and reality checkers.”

(Holiday Mathis)

One thing I did “right” was entering into a coaching relationship with PRS Fit. I had to give up things I enjoyed (like the boot camps that involved stadium climbing) and my “regular” Tuesday night interval group. Early on, Coach Jeff pointed out that “what I had always done clearly had not worked” (as it related to running a faster 5K). Being coached made a huge difference in my conditioning level and my mental preparation.

The other “right people” who were along for this run were the donors who contributed toward my fundraising for Autism Speaks. Over the last few years, I have asked for a lot of support for many causes. I try my best to reciprocate but I am pretty sure in this situation much more was given than I can ever repay. I love this image of a heart held aloft, because everyone who contribute (whose names are incorporated into the image) “held me” financially and morale-wise. I can’t thank them enough.