Monday, November 21, 2005

Welcome to my brain, parts eight through eight thousand

Ever since Saturday’s speedfest, I’ve been making feverish mental calculations, as you do. I’ve carried the two, and subtracted the remainder. I’ve cross-multiplied, and educatedly guessed, and I just keep coming back to the same conclusion.

I’m going to KILL this marathon. And you know what? I’m going to throw all caution to the wind, and admit—

Really? Am I going to say this out loud?

Yes. Yes. I will boldly state that my goal for this marathon is–

Are you ready? Because I’m not sure if you’re all aware of the concept of “jinxing” but I am risking everything, EVERYTHING, by saying this,

Here it is. My goal: a time in the 4:30 range. (Or faster.) (Shhh. I didn’t really say that.)

You all know me well enough by now to know what comes next:

The Panic.

The panic falls into two categories: Things I can do something about and Things I can do nothing about.

Ready? Let’s go.

Things I can do something about
The knee. And the stretching.

New plan: 20 minutes of good stretching every morning right after I wake up. (If I write it with conviction, it has to come true.)

To help this new plan, I bought Yoga for Athletes. Except that I cheaped out, and, to save $5, I ordered it from instead of Amazon, so it’ll probably not be delivered until forever. Sometimes I’m not so smart. (Sometimes?)

I now have visions of my incredibly bendy future self (like, when? Tomorrow? Day after?), resting my elbows on the floor when I bend at the waist, and crossing my legs behind my head, like that girl used to be able to do when we were in first grade and we were supposed to be reading quietly over by the bean bag chairs.


And now for the:

Things I can do nothing about
--It will be sunny and warm in Florida. This is a good thing, except…
I am training in and around Washington, DC where at best it will be sunny and cold.

How will I cope with the climate change? Will I cramp up and fall apart? Will I sweat and become dehydrated and cramp up and fall apart? Will I get sunburned, sweat, become dehydrated, cramp up and fall apart?

--There are no hills in Florida. This is a good thing, except…
I am training in and around Washington, DC, where there are many hills. Some are hills that go up, which is harder than flat, so will be a good thing, right? Except…
Some are hills that go down.

What will happen when there are no downhills on which to recover? Will I cramp up and fall apart? Will I get tired and cramp up and fall apart? Will I… Whatever. You get the point.

-- I have now come to the conclusion that I am capable of running many sub-ten minute miles. This is a good thing, except…
Twenty six (point two) is a lot of sub-ten minute miles. Several more than almost-fourteen-miles.

What if I start at that pace, and hit the wall (dunh dunh DUNHHHHHH), and fall apart?

I’m sure I’ll think of more as the weeks progress. Feel free to write in your suggestions. How else can I screw this up?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

It begins...

If this were Typepad, I’d have categories for all my entries. And this entry would be filed under, “I’m totally the fastest runner, ever” and “Ah, Jen, we meet again.” And also, “The Blog Gods were smiling on me.”

An action-packed entry, is what I’m trying to say. So get excited.

Oh, but first, an apology/correction. In my typical fashion, I have, without question, put my foot in my mouth. Or in my keyboard. Or somewhere. Not the point. This is: my last entry may have appeared to have been set up as a “things that sucked about last time that will be better this time” structure, putting my sister in the first category and my brother in the second. Well, it was a convenient structure, for the rest of the entry, anyway, and in my head, I figured everyone would know how absolutely fabulous it was to have my sister with me in Anchorage, and how very unbelievably cool she is. But reading back over it, I’m not so sure that was clear. Because she rocks. My sister. And I’m glad my brother is coming to Miami with me (and it now looks like my dad and maybe my mom will be there too) but there’s nobody I would have rather had cheering me on at my first marathon than my sister.

Are we clear? Good.

So, onward.

Let’s play the good news bad news game.

The schedule called for 14 miles today. And, as I’ve been doing for the past three weeks, I woke up at 7 and headed to Alexandria to run with Potomac Runners, a local, informal running club.

Good news: I woke up on time, and got myself out to the appropriate parking lot by 8 am.
More good news: It was a gorgeous sunny morning.
Bad news: It was really cold.

When I walked over to the group, a woman I hadn’t met popped over to discuss my fuel belt, and, as we were talking, a woman I had met last week walked over.

Funny news: The women’s names? Chelle and Deanna. Okay, not THAT Chelle or Dianna, but… Yeah, fine. I’ll shut up.

Last week, Deanna ran about 20 seconds/mile ahead of me, and the people that I did run with turned back after 4.5 miles. Which meant that I ran almost 8 miles on my own, and with no music.

Good news: This morning Deanna and I fell into a comfortable pace together.
Bad news: It was also comfortable for Mr. BPD (Bad Personality Disorder). You know the type.
Redeeming news: He turned back after three miles.

Best news: It turns out that our comfortable pace? Averaged to around 9:40 minutes/mile. There were three unmarked miles, and I think they were a couple tenths short, so I don’t know exactly, but we finished in 2:09:50, which is by far the fastest I’ve ever run that distance, whatever that distance was. And, like I said, it was plenty comfortable. Heartrate- and breathing- wise.

Other-wise? Well, wait for the

Worst News: Jen made a big appearance around mile 9. I was able to keep running, but I had to stop and stretch twice. And it hurt.

So. What does all this mean?

More stretching. A lot more stretching. I say this a lot. But this time I mean it! For reals.

But also?

I’m totally the fastest runner ever!

(Even if Deanna and I were also totally the last of the Potomac Runners to finish.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Born again (again)*

So you may be shocked to learn that the monstrosity that was the template for this blog since FOREVER was never intended to see the light of day. It was an aborted attempt at a redesign that went horribly, horribly wrong. And then I got frustrated. And gave up. And never bothered to fix it.

So to all of you who kept reading, despite the burning retinas, I apologize.

I’ll tell you a secret. The reason I was able to live with that design for so very long is because I never read my posts there. My friend syndicated the blog for livejournal, and I read it there.

But I feel MUCH better about this. Simple, readable, no scary background colors, and still a healthy dose of turquoise, which is my absolute favoritest color.


In other news, this has officially become a marathon training blog again.

You could be forgiven for not having noticed.

But for the past two weeks, I have officially been following my official Naomi Trains for a Marathon Again training schedule. It’s official. I haven’t actually registered for the marathon yet (I like my escape clauses) but I’ve set the plans in motion.

I’m aiming for the ING Miami Marathon, on January 29th. I know that I said New Orleans, but I changed my mind.

Here’s why I think this marathon is going to be wildly successful.

Last time: I was in Alaska. It was far away, cold, rainy, and there were lots of hills.
This time: Miami is flat. And warm. And sunny. But also far away.

Last time: I stayed in a hotel. It was expensive.
This time: I will stay at my Dad’s house. It’s free.

Last time: I ate in restaurants.
This time: I will cook. Or maybe not. But I have the option of cooking.

Last time: My sister came and cheered me on.
This time: My brother will come and cheer me on. (He has even agreed to drive me to the marathon start. Which is at 6 am. I think that makes up for at least several months of the years of tickling, teasing, and general annoyingness from our childhood).

Oh, and

Last Time: The longest run pre-marathon was 20 miles.
This Time: I’ll run 20 and 22. And longer (ish) runs on Wednesdays.

Right, last one:

Last time: I ran a lot. All the time. Some more. And that was all. (It was a lot.)
This time: I will run a lot. 4 days a week. But there will also be swimming, spinning, and dance classes. And some weight training. Maybe.

So that’s the plan. I have visions of glory and of triumph and of finishing in under five hours. Like a lot under five hours. These visions may be unrealistic. But either way, I will finish in style. No whinging. No moaning. No wimpering. I am tough. I am steely.

And, frankly, nobody’s making me do this but me, and nobody wants to hear me whine.

Well, you all do. And I’ll try to deliver.

So please look forward to:
Why is it always dark?
Did I tell you about the SNOW?
Again I have to run? I just ran yesterday!

And, your favorite and mine:
My knee kinda hurts. I think I’m going to be crippled for life.

Get excited folks. It’s ON.

*ETA: Turns out I already named a post "Born Again." Do you think that means something?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

10K + 10 Days

I know. I suck.

Let’s move on.

So it’s Sunday morning. Well not really. It’s Tuesday evening. But the story I’m telling happened on a Sunday morning, and for a sense of immediacy, I’m choosing to write this story in the present tense.

So it’s Sunday morning. The race starts at 8 am and I haven’t registered. I need to drive there, because the metro doesn’t open until too late, and isn’t convenient to the race start anyway. I can either leave ridiculously early and be assured of finding a parking spot without any trouble and also have to stand around FOREVER in the chilly morning air waiting for the race to start, or I can leave with a minimum of extra time to spare, and risk being late. I can think of no happy medium.

I choose the second option.

I leave the house soon after 7 am, and head down Connecticut Avenue towards the Mall. It’s 7 am on a Sunday morning, so there’s nobody else on the roads. And I’m worried about time. So I’m driving fast-ish. Like 50 mph. About 10 miles above the speed limit, if the speed limit is 40 mph.

Only thing is, the speed limit is 25 mph (oops).

So I’m rather blithely speeding down Connecticut Avenue, and I notice a car start to pass me on the right. And then I notice it’s a cop.

So I slow down, and turn my head as he passes me.

He’s giving me the death stare from his driver seat.

Naomi: Shit. I’m going to get a ticket. And then I’m going to be really late. Gah. This sucks.

Universe: Nah, it’s all right. I’ve got you covered this time.

Naomi: Really?

Universe: Yeah, I’ve been messing with you enough for a while. How about that bike? That you paid 60 bucks to have tuned up? And how the chain doesn’t shift onto the smallest ring? Even after you brought it back and SBSRG fixed it AGAIN? That was pretty sweet.

Naomi: So, you’re just… gonna let this one slide?

[Cop continues past me, and eventually turns onto a side street.]

Universe: Eh. I’m feeling benevolent.

So I continue on my way, choosing a parking spot a few blocks farther than ideal rather than driving closer and having to circle around to find one. I start jogging to the race start, more to have a warm up than because I’m running late, and start to cross in front of the Lincoln Memorial (which, by the way, looks spectacular in the bright morning light).

A cop stops us (me and several other racers).

Cop: You’re going to have to wait here until they’re done shooting. Or you can walk around the back side of the memorial.

We (the runners) deduce that he means shooting with film, not bullets, and we mill around a bit, wondering how long “shooting” would take.

Naomi: See, I knew it was too good to last.

Universe: Nah, it’s all right. Just wait a sec.

A head-set wearing, clipboard-holding person is chatting with the cop. She walks away and the cop waves us through.

Cop: Just be quick.

Naomi: Wow.

Universe: Yeah. Don’t worry about it.

It’s not even 7:30, so I have plenty of time. I walk up to the registration tent, and immediately notice the sign that says $30 for race day registration. Which is a shame, because I thought it was $25. And I locked my wallet in my car (didn’t want to leave it in the bag check), opting instead to grab just enough cash to register.

Universe: Wow. You are really pushing it today.

Naomi: I suck.

Universe: Whatever. You owe me one.

Race Volunteer: It’s okay. Just give me what you’ve got. We just want everyone out and having fun.

Naomi: Thank you so much!

And so it goes. I pin my number, lace my Chip, check my bag, and even manage to find Bex and Jeanne before the race, even though we hadn’t formed any sort of plan for a meeting place.

I line up with Bex and her two friends, all of whom are inching towards the 8 minute side of the 9 minute pace area, even though I suspect I should be much closer to the 10 minute side. The race starts and my suspicions are confirmed when Bex and her friends quickly recede into the distance, and everybody around me seems to be speeding past.

I remind myself (like a mantra) that I’m running my own race, and it doesn’t matter what everyone else is running, but I still feel very slow—and also slightly winded, like I’m going to have to slow down if I plan to finish the race with any grace.

So I’m pleased (and rather surprised) when I pass the first mile marker and see 8:45 on my watch. I’m aiming for a 9 minute pace, and that means I have some room to maneuver.

The course is flat, the weather is beautiful, and the iPod only stopped working once, somewhere between mile 4 and 5. And when I get it working again, it skips right to the theme from Rocky. It feels like I’m running as hard as I can (and the fact that I can sort of taste the dried apricots I ate for breakfast that morning bears up that claim) but afterwards, of course, I feel like I could have gone faster. For the last two and a half miles, I pace myself off a woman in a navy shirt about 10 feet in front of me. Until she stops to walk. She starts running again and soon catches up, and then I’m back on her tail.

I’m running to the finish line, and I see Jeanne on the right, with a camera. I smile and try to look light on my feet. I cross the finish line at 55:44, for an average pace of 8:59 minutes/mile, and nearly a full minute off my previous 10K time. I am the last of our little group to finish, but I ran faster than a 9 minute pace for more than 6 miles (and I don’t CARE that it was only one second faster) and I think I could do better next time.

After the race, I hang out with Jeanne and Bex some more, eat a divine chocolate chip cookie, chat with a friendly Irish woman in line as we wait for our FREE massages, and head out in plenty of time to make it to my African dance class. Which I am able to participate in enthusiastically, once I eat a PowerGel with caffeine. Seriously. Caffeine is amazing. How did I not know this?

Universe: Do you want me to answer that?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Spectation and participation

I had never been a spectator at a road race before. Let’s be honest, up until I joined TNT, I was completely oblivious to the sport—to the extent that I knew it existed, I thought it sounded horrible for everyone involved.

The VA Beach Half Marathon was the first race I ran that had any real spectator presence, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I especially appreciated the people who opened their hoses on the runners that day. It was not chilly that weekend, no it was not. During that race, Jackie and I decided that we would return the favor during the Marine Corps Marathon—in costume, no less. Or wigs. And cat ears. As the case may be.

I knew I wanted to cheer for Jeanne, and I knew that the end is where the cheering matters most, so I intended to hang out somewhere towards mile 20. But Jackie wanted to be near Georgetown, where we could get brunch, and also so she would have time to do the rest of the things she needs to do on her one day of weekend. So we agreed to meet in Georgetown at 9:30, in time to catch the second wave of starters, get some brunch, and then I would head towards the end of the course to continue my cheering.

I rode my bike to Georgetown that morning, and, not knowing how long it would take, ended up getting there at about 8:45 (answer: like 10 minutes)—just in time to see the men’s leaders fly through. I expected to be excited, and maybe a little bored, and grateful that I could stop and eat a bagel while all these other people were still running.

I did not expect to feel overcome. Yet here were these people who had trained for months for this day, this marathon, and this was their moment. I felt proud for these complete strangers, and worried for the ones who already looked a little ragged, less than five miles in. I was thrilled for them, as they waved at strangers, and hugged their friends.

My favorite runners were the ones who were in complete sync with their spectator partner. The ones who locked eyes from 20 yards away, grinning. They tossed their gloves or their long sleeved-shirts to their partners, gave them a big kiss, or just a wave and kept going. The partners ripped open their backpacks, threw in the discarded apparel and the camera, hopped on their bikes, and raced off to catch their runner another few miles later. One by one, these spectators smiled, took photos, waved, and peeled off.

More than anything, I was incredibly jealous of the runners. I desperately wanted to be out there on the course, having trained my hardest, floating through the early miles and pushing myself through the harder later ones (because that’s how a marathon goes, in my fantasy—no inkling of pain or injury in this vision).

When Jackie and Tim finally arrived (at 9:30, as planned), Jackie in a hot pink wig, and carrying pink leopard ears for me, we started cheering in earnest. We shouted almost every name we could read, and hollered for everyone else. We hooted for the people in costume (“Rock on Superman!”) and for the people wearing flags (“Yeah, Canada!” “Go Texas!). And we cheered for the people with charity singlets (“Go AIDS marathon!” “Yeah Team in Training! GO TEAM!”) and laughed over some of the mouthfuls we tripped over (Yeah St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital!”).

Most people seemed to appreciate the attention. Some complimented our Halloween flair. Some ignored us. But mostly we were having fun, working off each other, catching the people the other missed, and cheering together for the ones with Penn shirts or Eagles jerseys. Or at least, Jackie and I did. Tim didn’t seem to have the same cheerleader spirit, but he did clap for everyone, and cheer for the Eagles.

We cheered for Jeanne as she went by with her pace group, and eventually, when the rivers of runners had slowed to a trickle, and the buses were passing through, we walked down M Street in search of breakfast.

Later, after we had eaten, Jackie and Tim headed back to the metro, and I rode my bike towards the Tidal Basin, where the course would loop around for miles 15-20. It was still early, so I headed towards mile 15.

There were few spectators now, and these were the synched partners, leapfrogging the course in advance of their runners. They cheered for everyone who passed, until their runner appeared, and then they jetted off to the next spot.

Fifteen miles in, the day was heating up, and people were starting to look tired. Most were still going strong, although there was definitely some limping, some walking, and some set jaws. The runners seemed much more grateful for attention now than they did ten miles earlier, and one woman, who recognized me from M Street, smiled and said hello. It was harder work, though, cheering without Jackie, and when I ran into CML, from my TNT group, the jealousy kicked in again. He had joined up with the TNT training group as soon as he had gotten back from Anchorage, picking up the training at about week 4.

When Jeanne ran by, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I decided to start running. I told her (and myself) that I was running to keep her company, to cheer her on, and to help her get through the tough miles of the race. But, as usual, it was really all about me. It was about having an excuse to jump onto the course, to be a part of the action, and stop sitting on the sidelines.

I’ve read Jeanne’s account of the race, and she doesn’t give herself nearly enough credit. She was tired, and hurting, but she pushed through and never slowed down. She may have walked an extra interval or two, and she may have felt like she just wanted to curl up and die and never, ever, run another step. But she looked like a seasoned pro, and she always found energy to run for the cameras.

I babbled on about my weekend and my swimming and whatever else I could think of to keep her and W entertained, and sometimes I tried to cajole them into running more or running faster (not that it mattered—Jeanne ran when she could, whether I had suggested it or not).

At mile 20 we picked up Bex, who was even more high energy and encouraging than I was. She worried over Jeanne’s breathing and fatigue, then pronounced her fine, and reminded her how great she was doing.

And so we continued until the end, where the rest of Jeanne’s entourage was waiting with signs and flowers and more cheering. I had no intention of crossing the finish line, but totally did, and had to duck out of the way before a marine put an undeserved medal around my neck.

The only thing I regret is that I think, in our attempt to be good cheerleaders, we may have overdone it, and left Jeanne with the false impression that we were somehow partially responsible for her performance at the marathon. Of course that’s not true: no one can run a marathon for someone else, and it was Jeanne’s two legs, and nothing else, that carried her across 26.2 miles.

And after this account, you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that I’ve decided to start training for the New Orleans marathon. Maybe. Kind of. I’m not sure.

Given all the rest of the stuff that’s going on in my life right now, the logical part of my brain says not to. That I have enough to keep me busy, and that a marathon takes a lot of physical and mental energy, and that right now I need to save my mental energy for Senegal or Peace Corps.

Plus, it’s getting colder, and the sun sets earlier. And I only have 14 weeks to train—but if I want to go to Senegal in February, then the New Orleans Marathon (the first Sunday in February) is the latest marathon that fits into those plans.

Lots of reasons not to.

But I want to.

I think.

I made a schedule yesterday, and it intimidates the hell out of me. But the mileage for this week isn't too bad. So I think I’ll try it, and see how it goes.

And, if this is anything like last spring, I’ll just keep doing that until marathon day.


We’ll see.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Still not dead (but thanks for checking, Scooter)

Me? I had a great weekend, thanks for asking. How was yours?

What did I do? Well, the weather was spectacular, and:

I ran with a new (to me) running club, went to Target, bought new running shoes, had dinner with friends, PR’d at a 10K with Bex and Jeanne (Bex ran, Jeanne cheered), had a scrumptious cookie and a free 10 minute massage, went to my West African dance class, bought delicious produce at the Farmer’s Market, napped on the couch, read on the rooftop deck, cleaned my apartment, and slept in this morning.

What about you?


So one of the things they tell you when you’re training for a marathon (they, in this case, being people who have already done at least one marathon) is that if you can run a marathon, you can do anything.

This was very encouraging, when I was training for the marathon this spring, because, and I think most people would agree here, the ability to do anything seemed like a cool superpower.

In as much as I examined that statement critically (as opposed to my usual response of grinning and thinking about how cool I am/was), I figured that they meant that certain skills acquired or perfected during the training for said marathon would be applicable later in my attempts to do the previously mentioned “anything.” But once I went and did all the training, it became clear to me that training for a marathon leaves you with just one skill, and that is the ability to run for a really, really (really) long time. Which is surely useful sometimes, but didn’t seem to guarantee my ability to do “anything”.

So I decided that they must mean that the accomplishment of a marathon was a sort of litmus test. Like, there are people who can do anything, and people who have run a marathons are a subset of that group. Not everyone who can do anything will choose to run a marathon, but if you do run a marathon, you have proved your membership in the “can do anything” set.

(In my head, this whole idea was a lot funnier and less math-nerdy than it seems in print. Just saying. Also? You can blame anybody who asked me about Peace Corps for this post. Because, eventually, I will get to my point, which is about Peace Corps.)

Right. I thought I had a point.

I did!

It was this:

At 24, I didn’t feel ready to rest on the laurels of one relatively unspectacular marathon performance and the proven ability to do “anything”. There are a couple more instances of “anything” that I’d like to accomplish. Like becoming a journalist. And writing about Africa.

So I thought I’d return to the original interpretation of marathon-training having real world applications.

The key to being able to run a 26.2 mile race is to train for it. And the way you train to run a lot is to run. A lot. Even when the runs suck. Or when the weather sucks. Or when you’re still a little sore from the last time. Or when you don’t have any clean socks anymore, so you just wear the dirty ones again (or is that just me?).

And sometimes the runs are great and the weather is lovely and you have super cool new running shorts and you fly through the miles. But either way, if you keep running week after week, you’ll become stronger and more confident and then one day it will be marathon day and you’ll run the marathon.

But you can’t train for a marathon without running. You can ride your bike a lot, and that will get you into really great shape, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing to do before training to run a marathon. But eventually? If you want to run a marathon? You have to start running.

So (here’s the connection to Peace Corps): I want to be a journalist in Africa. And Peace Corps is a great thing to do, and wouldn’t be a bad thing to do before being a journalist in Africa. But eventually? If I want to write articles for newspapers and magazines? I have to start writing. And, talking to journalists who have the careers I envy, they’ve told me that if you’re willing (and financially able) to gamble—to go a place you want to be, and you start writing about it—it pays off and people will start publishing what you write.

There’s more to it than that. There’s work you need to do ahead of time, to make sure that you’re in the right position to succeed when you get there. But even though it sounds terrifying, it also sounds exciting.

And this is how come, all of a sudden, I’m grateful to Peace Corps for taking so damn long to send me somewhere. Because it gives me a good option for something to do, starting in June. But in the meantime, I have a little time to try something different. To go somewhere and start writing. For a few months. After which, I’ll re-evaluate based on what I’ve accomplished and what I want to do next.

So that’s today’s plan.

And actually, that doesn’t really answer anybody’s questions about the Peace Corps interview and what the process is like. It’s not particularly exciting, truth be told, and I have no idea how typical my experience is. The interviewer was an enthusiastic woman who had served as a PC volunteer in Nepal. The interview was a long questionnaire provided by the bureaucracy, and whenever I looked stuck for an answer, she would suggest something based on something else I’d already said.

I had been under the impression that Peace Corps didn’t care where you wanted to go, they would send you wherever they felt like, but the day after my interview, the woman emailed me with two options (not specific placements, just a region and a general area of expertise) and let me choose the one I preferred, and promised to send on as many details about my specific preferences as possible.

Now I’m doing the medical evaluation (I have a physical tomorrow, the dentist next week) and assuming there’s nothing wrong with me, I imagine I’ll get my official invitation to serve within the next two months.


Okay, so I still need to update you about my incredible swimming progress (true story! I float!), and about my spectator-turned-bandit run at the Marine Corps marathon, and about the 10K this weekend, but for now I’m going to go do some work.


Oh, but before I go, does anyone want to redesign this web page for me? It’s a pretty two-bit affair, here at 26.2 vs. Me, and I’ve been meaning to change it since August at least, but my skills in the web design are not exactly advanced. I can work with HTML, but I don’t know enough to create my own blogger template. Plus? Where do you all host your fancy banners and background images? Because I don’t have server space anywhere, so what do I do?