Sunday, January 26, 2014

Long Run, January 25th: Riverside Run #2

I was really not feeling in the mood for a long run when I got up on Saturday. I had been up a bit late stringing pretzel necklaces with my coworker, Rebecca, for us all to bring to the craft beer festival downtown on Saturday evening. So I was tired, not to mention sick of the cold, which I can feel beginning to take a toll on me. This past week in particular was rather challenging. Super early on Thursday morning I ventured out into very low single-digit temps to do an 8-miler around the Fresh Pond area with Carl's girlfriend, Katie, who is running on the Tuft's team. When I got back to the T, my hands were so frozen and swollen that I was literally unable to unzip my pocket to get my T pass out. There was a train coming in 1 minute and I was already late getting home, but no matter how hard I tried, my fingers could not grasp the little zipper. In desperation I started rubbing my butt up and down on the sensor to see if it could read my card through my pants, but it didn't work and definitely got me some weird looks (in the end, I was so completely helpless that I just had to ghost in after someone). The hill workout on Tuesday night was equally ridiculous. We have yet to have reasonable weather for any of those--first the extreme cold, then the downpour, and this week's fun times in some very heavy snowfall that reduced traction to the point where I felt like I was running in sand. I am done complaining, but let's just say that whoever decided to put the Boston Marathon in the spring is not my favorite. In fact, they are almost certainly dead at this point, and I don't feel bad.

The upside of Saturday was that it was a practically balmy 20 degrees out, although really clouded over and sort of dull. Nicole and I have been setting our rendezvous time later and later, so we got to Joint Ventures not too long before we all once again piled onto the T at Kenmore for the trip out to Riverside. I was zoning out on the train, almost ready to take a nap, when I looked down the car and got a wave from Katherine, the woman who I ran with way back in December on our first Furey run. It was great to see her again, and after reaching Riverside we embarked on the journey back together. Even though she hasn't been able to attend many of these program runs, she explained how she's been running to and from her job at Boston Medical Center with her work clothes in a little backpack, and that she recently took her 2-year-old for a 12-miler in a running stroller. She had also acquired one of those nifty GPS watches that clocks your mileage and pace, so she was able to keep an eye on our speed.

The first segment of the Riverside run isn't so great, as it's along big roads and the sidewalk wasn't really shoveled so there were a lot of snow and ice patches. I was really glad to reach Commonwealth Ave, which has the carriage road to run on. This time, it was filled with even more runners than before, which Katherine thought was hilarious and she even ran into some people that she knew from her sports club. The masses of runners training up and down the Newton hills is really quite impressive, although you can totally tell we're the charity bunch--pretty rag-tag compared to what people typically imagine when they think "marathon runner." It was great energy all around though, and after the first hill we ran into Katy who was running with another teammate, Helene, who is my "big sib" on the Samaritans team (since she did it last year, although was unfortunately stopped before the finish). We chatted with them for a while before moving on, and then it was just the two of us.

After passing BC and jumping onto Beacon Street for the final 3 miles home, Katherine began to explain her journey to her current job--how she moved out the Bay Area after college and got involved in health clinic work which led her back to Yale for graduate school and then up to Boston to work at BMC. She is 40 (although doesn't look it), and surprised me at one point by exclaiming how much she loves getting older, and how each era of her life seems better than the last. Upon hearing her say that, I couldn't help but express my envy and admit that I definitely struggle with the fear of getting older and how much stress it brings me to think about it. She listened thoughtfully while I explained more fully how derailed I was at age 22 when Nathaniel's death really pulled the framework from my life and left me with reeling with uncertainty and questions that did not make me feel very optimistic about my future. After reflecting on this, she wondered if it was a bit like climbing a mountain, where the uphill battle seems endless but when you suddenly turn and look back, that's when you are able to see how far you have come. And she was right--moving forward does seem slow, but in many ways my life is less stagnant than I sometimes believe.

Katy caught us again while we lingered and talked to John at the water stop that he'd set up right after BC, so the three of us took the final few miles together. It seems a bit backwards that running 10 miles would make me feel more energetic, but the sluggishness that I'd felt while on the T had finally passed. When we got back to Joint Ventures, Katherine's watch device declared our pace to be around 8:22, which had felt really slow so we were both pleased about that. And I felt way less wasted than I had last week after pushing it so hard on the 15 miler. I think that this speed is probably the way to go if I am going to stay in one piece. I took care to spend some time rolling a golf ball under my right foot to stretch my plantar fascia, and I think that helped ward off the heel pain which always flares up very aggressively after the longer runs. I'm still skeptical about my hips, which feel a bit off. I asked hot Dr. Hagan about it on Wednesday, and he said not to worry about it too much--that nobody is perfectly even and the exercises he's having me do will help level them slowly on their own. I wasn't entirely sure I believed him and kind of just wanted him to knock them back into place, but he seemed confident that all was OK. I skeptically agreed, uncomfortably aware of how the more he frustrated me the more I felt attracted to him...not sure what that's all about, but regardless, my injuries are indeed slowly improving despite the increases in mileage, so I guess I will just have to take his word. We'll see what next week's 16-miler does to me.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Long Run, January 18th: Roid Rage

I've only ever run two half-marathons, although I have run 12 or 13 miles a few other times on my own. I think the longest I ever ran was maybe 13.5, back in June. So with today's scheduled run being around 14.7, I knew I was passing into a slightly new realm. I took better care of my body on Friday night this time, partly because I've been feeling a bit run down since the middle of the week and possibly on the brink of illness. Our hill workout on the Common Tuesday night almost put me over the edge--I will always run in wet weather, but this was a real deluge of 45-degree rain, and I was truly dripping wet and chilled through during my commute home. But a super laid back movie night yesterday (seeing the new Hobbit...for the third time) with Carl followed by All-Star Pizza Bar awesomeness and early bedtime left me feeling ready and not-sniffly on Saturday morning.

Thus far I have always chatted with others during the long runs, but today I was hoping to listen to some music to help with my pacing and get the adrenaline going. Nothing can get me flowing better than listening to the right tune, and I was kind of in the mood to push the pace up, which would make conversation too difficult anyway. Then I realized that I had forgotten my ipod at work. Still, there were a LOT of runners today, so I hoped to find a buddy that would maybe at least run with me, even if we didn't talk so much. As the crowd petered out onto the street, I started out alongside a girl in a purple top. She appeared to be following two quintessential-looking runner dudes (all skinny and wearing shirts that had things like "XC" and "26.2" on them) and as they made their way to Cleveland Circle, I kind of just tagged along. Their pace wasn't too aggressive, but it wasn't slow either--maybe around a 7:30. I knew I had a long way ahead of me, but I had laid down a loose plan: by the time I got to the Newton hills, I wanted to be tired. Last week I took them really easy, but I was ready to beat myself up a little today. She and I didn't talk except for a few brief words at an intersection; I almost started conversation but we were going a little too quick to easily speak. Plus she seemed to prefer being silent. So, at the first water stop right at the reservoir, as the three of them lingered over their drinks, I decided to move on. I figured they would catch me soon after, but I didn't see them again. We had exited Joint Ventures ahead of most of the crowd, so I knew that there were probably only a few people out ahead of me. Maybe I would see them, maybe not, but for now I was alone. I really wished for Nathaniel's ipod.

Following Beacon Street into Newton, the downhills were jostling my bladder at just the right frequency to induce major pee urges and I cursed myself for drinking that mug of green tea after getting up. The area was super residential, so I was pretty much out of luck. I found my attention occupied with scanning my surroundings for the perfect pee bush, but my college days are over and public urination has since moved higher on my list of unattractive activities. Especially in a ritzy Newton yard--I found myself coming up with ridiculous scenarios involving me dropping trou behind some sculpted hedge only to be caught in the act by some intellectual-looking doctor who had shuffled out in his bathrobe (which would be brown) to grab the paper (probably with a pipe in his mouth) so he could begin his morning ritual of dominating the crossword with his intelligence, and then catch me defiling his yard. Should this cringe-worthy scenario occur, I already had a speech forming that would potentially lessen the possibility of his calling the cops or turning the hose on me. Regardless, by the time I had finishing coming up with all this nonsense, I was arriving in Newton Centre and all of it was irrelevant, since there were plenty of cafes that certainly had restrooms. But since I had just passed mile 6, I decided to not bother anyway--after 8 miles your body sucks the pee back up. Or something like that.

Aside from some people going in the opposite direction, the only person I'd seen were glimpses of a guy wearing the hallowed blue and yellow BAA marathon jacket up ahead. I passed him on Chestnut Street, but once I was on Commonwealth Avenue, I was yet again part of a pony parade of runners from all sorts of charities and training programs. I had managed to maintain a pace that I judged to be just a bit under 8 minutes, and was beginning to feel it. One runner passed me with a dog, who was exerting all sorts of extra energy by bouncing from side to side and shaking his toy. "I wish I felt that good," a lady runner muttered as we passed the hyperactive animal. I totally agreed, so at the base of Heartbreak Hill I was pleased to see John Furey and his Gatorade, and decided it was time for an energy gel.

Heartbreak Hill is not a particularly big hill in either length or steepness, especially compared to the ones back home. Its menace stems from its location, about 21 miles into the race. Apparently it is so named due to an incident back in 1936, when Native American runner Ellis "Tarzan" Brown, who had taken off at a record-breaking pace, was overtaken on this hill by defending champion Johnny Kelley, who gave Brown a sympathetic pat on the back as he passed. This action spurred on Brown, who rallied and passed Kelley to win the race, thus breaking Kelley's heart....regardless, with a comparatively measly 10 miles behind me, the hill did not pose a significant threat. In fact, by the time I reached the top, I could already feel the GU Roctane gel kicking in. I've only ever used them on my two half-marathons, but they had a rather noticeable effect on my energy levels. They're mostly just a ton of sugar and caffeine, but I'm pretty sure the Blueberry Pomegranate flavor also has cocaine and steroids in it because around the time I was passing BC I was developing an overwhelming urge to scream "BRING ITTTTTT!!!!!" at the road ahead in my best linebacker yell. I didn't. Instead I just continued on quietly while resisting the desire to start running really fast, since I still had about 3 miles left.

After Coolidge Corner, I managed to get my roid rage under control and finished in a reasonable manner. As always seems to happen, I began to feel a bit tired during the final mile. Aside from that, I didn't really feel like I had just run the furthest I had ever gone. The steady drizzle had kept me from overheating, and while waiting for Nicole back at Joint Ventures, I had time to fully stretch and foam roll it out. This past week I have found that, while my plantar fasciitis and posterior tibial tendonitis haven't been very bad, I have been experiencing muscle tension all the way up my right side, especially through my hamstrings and glutes. Looking in the mirror, I am definitely able to see that my right hip sits a bit higher than my left, no doubt the root of all this nonsense on my right side. I will definitely be bringing this up with Dr. Hagan on Wednesday, and hopefully he can fix my cooked body with his magical hands. For next weeks 10-miler, I'll probably take it easy again and slow it down so I can chat to pass the time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Long Run, January 11th: Riverside Run

After waking up multiple times in the night to pound glasses of water before crashing back onto my pillow, I was pleased to find that, come 6:45am, my decision to consume the liquid equivalent of two loaves of bread the previous night was not going to haunt me too terribly. Despite my overindulgence, I was feeling pretty ready as I made my way over to Nicole's house to carpool to Kenmore. Moreover, I was so relieved to finally have the weather on my side again. If you live near anywhere, you are familiar with the fact that this past week was unfairly cold--in fact, our first hill workout on the Boston Common on Tuesday night was in probably just about the most brutal cold and wind I have ever experienced. But today could not be more different. The air was damp and misty, and it was already mid-40s. The snow piles were steaming, and the only downside was that the freezing cold ground was producing huge patches of very invisible black ice on the wet sidewalks. I almost wiped out several times just at a walk.

Shortly after Nicole, other Nicole, and I arrived at Joint Ventures, the group headed down into Kenmore station to ride the D train out to Riverside ("ride the D"...yeah, gets me every time). Although our first attempt was thwarted by the T driver, who was some kind of dangus. These green trains are like little two-car nuggets, and it pulled all the way up to the front of the platform. The throng of us began to walk quickly over to where the trolly was, and as the massive crowd neared the doors, they promptly slammed shut. One runner banged on the door, since there were obviously like 50 of us trying to get on, but the driver ignored us and scooted away down the tracks. Uh, what? So we were a little late getting to Riverside, but I think we were all thankful to have a bit more time to wake up.

A sizable number of people had decided to commute on their own and meet us on the platform. It was there that I ran into Katy, one of our alternate runners who we are all hoping will get a bib sometime in the next couple months. Training for a marathon that you may not be able to even run in (not to mention being on call to jump into fundraising potentially very late in the game) is a whole new level of selfless, in my opinion. The two of us took off together on the journey back to Kenmore, amidst hundreds of other charity runners from many different training programs that were also practicing on the course. I felt like I was a part of a rainbow of runners, with everyone's brightly colored athletic tops and jackets dotting the road ahead of us as we navigated up and down the Newton hills. Getting close-ups of the dozens of runners who passed us going the opposite direction began to trigger some major running shoes and clothes envy, as well as brand guessing. Adidas. Nike. Nike. Under Armour. Brooks. Nike. Lululemon (nice). Athleta. Saucony? Nike....

Katy was great company, although I probably did most of the talking. As we dodged black ice on Comm Ave, we discussed injuries and our mutual interest in the human body and the physiology behind our various pains, past and present. She has hip issues, while meanwhile my right leg was busy cramping up from top to bottom. She admitted that it seemed not ideal for an alternate to be dealing with injuries, but we both agreed that everyone has their problem areas. By the time we were cruising into the BC area, I was busy reliving my epically idiotic blender disaster and she shared an equally gruesome finger injury tale that involved getting her ring caught on a basketball hoop. All in all, the ten miles flew by without much effort (maybe I have last night's liquid carbo-loading to thank for that), and as we arrived into Kenmore Square we were cheered on enthusiastically by some randos leaning out their 3rd-floor apartment window. A trainer at Joint Ventures held a complementary Runner's Yoga session soon after we arrived, so the next half hour found me flopping around on the floor trying to fight my hamstrings into poses with intimidating names like "fallen warrior" and "one-legged frog" (I was not successful). Proper stretching is an area in which I am "Developing Skills," which is a 3rd grade report card way of saying that I have nowhere to go but up (once upon a time I received a DS in the "fine motor skills" component of Phys Ed--that's actually the real reason I picked running). But hopefully incorporating that into my ever-growing running routine will help loosen up my right side and help keep strain off my ankle, which is so far holding up with a little TLC from Dr. Hagan, thankfully.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Long Run, January 4th: Cold

It didn't seem like many runners were interested in doing the training program long run this weekend, given how the sidewalks are snowy and slushy it's extremely cold. Still, I was a little surprised to be the only Samaritans representative down in Kenmore Square come 7:30am on Saturday morning. Thankfully, I am someone who (as long as I am running in the morning) is not too bothered by cold temps. That said, it was still not easy waking up in my icebox of a room at 6:30 and shuffling out into the barely-lit morning to catch the number 1 bus in Central Square. The sky was still dim and my street looked muted, but the air was so cold and clear it made everything seem sharp as nails. At about 1 degree out, the packed snow on the sidewalks felt hard as concrete and it was the type of powder and squeaks and crunches, and even copious amounts of rock salt couldn't convince it to melt. I think there might have been a  pretty view of a sunrise-in-the-making from the bridge, but the bus window was so caked with salt I couldn't really make out any detail.

As 8:00 rolled around, the eight or so of us who gathered at Joint Ventures smeared vaseline on our cheeks and noses to ward off frostbite, although thankfully it was not very windy out. The nor'easter that brought the snow and cold had been replaced by a rather soft but steady breeze from the west. Our route took us down Beacon street, and by Coolidge Corner it became clear that there weren't really any other runners who were my pace--a few faster ones out in front of me and the rest behind. I wished I hadn't forgotten Nan's ipod. So thus began a somewhat lonely and really freaking cold run out to Newton Centre. Yet Beacon street is so busy, and I had the T to look at and people walking their dogs, so I never really got bored. At the beginning when we were more clumped together, several passersby gave us sort of knowing winks and "oh, aren't you all brave!" kind of comments but were really probably just thinking we were crazy. And by the time I got to Cleveland Circle, I was beginning to have my own doubts. My Asselin was freezing, and I began to wonder if butt frostbite was a thing. My left foot had gone numb, and it seemed that if I bumped my numb elbows, weird zingers would shoot down my arms and into the sides of my palms. Hmm.

John had his truck parked next to the reservoir, and was waiting for me with water cups as I approached. "How are you doing, how do you feel?" he asked with this super concerned look on his face. He told me that calling it quits due to poor footing didn't count as copping out, but I assured him I was really doing fine. He looked dubious and urged me to cover my face with my gator as I left. The wind coming off the reservoir was a bit too refreshing, so I did indeed pull the fleece over my nose, although my breath soon began to cake the outside with ice. The rest of the way into Newton was a kind of dodgy, footing-wise. Big patches of un-shoveled sidewalk meant a lot of dancing back and forth between the road and the walk. Newton Centre was a mess, and I had to wade through puddles of slush and climb over a few snow banks to reach Centre Street. The upside was that the sun had now risen above the buildings, and I was so thankful I was wearing all black. Still, it had barely crept past 6 degrees.

Coming up Commonwealth Avenue, I knew that I was supposed to turn on Chestnut Hill Ave, but I was not sure when to look for it. I saw a car drop off two runners who took off ahead of me, and as I passed the driver I slowed to ask where I should look for the turn. She was clearly in charge of another charity training program--the National MS Society, it turned out, and although she couldn't give me directions she instead offered me gatorade, water, and gels. I declined, but thought that was awfully nice of her. I caught up with her runners and spoke with them briefly before spying John up ahead with gatorade, and he said the turn was in 3/4 of a mile. He asked me again how I was doing, and then concernedly asked if I thought he was negligent for not canceling the run. I did my best to assure him otherwise, although he was obviously worried he was going to find at least one of us stripping off our running clothes in the throws of hypothermia on that final stretch of Beacon Street.

The journey back from Cleveland circle was uneventful. By the last mile I began to feel a bit tired, and could feel the loose footing taking its toll on my legs. It is hard to maintain pace on slippery surfaces. We slowly all staggered back into Joint Ventures one by one. Somehow I was sweaty, yet freezing, yet overheated, yet numb. I decided to wait until I got home to see how my butt looked (turns out it was fine). Let us hope that next week brings warmer temps and a larger crowd to train with.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fundraising Updates

The past week has been awesome, fundraising-wise. Thank you to everyone who has helped me reach the $6000 mark! It feels really crazy to be already %60 of the way to my goal. I am so appreciative of my supporters--thank you. And thank you to my parents for getting me some sweet gear for Christmas. When I woke up today there was already about 2 inches of snow down, so it was very nice to have new warm things. What I need now is some snow chains for my running shoes. I don't think I will be able to run tomorrow. Big blizzard moving in...