Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Hey runners! Remember when I said that things would settle down after school let out for the holidays? Yeah? Well smack me upside the head next time I mention things "settling down" during the holidays. I mean, really!

In an attempt to (again) catch this blog up with my life, I will post some of the stuff that's happened during the past couple weeks in bullet point format . . . because I'd kind of like to finish this before 2011 arrives! :)

  • Finished Christmas shopping AND a huge assignment at school (designing a ridiculously detailed template for my future personal training clients), while still managing to fit two short runs in during the week
  • Ran 30 miles the weekend before Christmas (PEAK WEEK!!) . . . it was one crazy-ass weekend. I somehow ran an effortless 10 miles in 1:29:38 (8:58 pace!) on Saturday a.m., went to school all day for my Sports Performance Clinic, went home, ate pasta, went to sleep, got up on Sunday and felt really sick (sinus crap), ran 20 miles anyway, checked my garmin like 40 times afterwards to make sure I had REALLY run 20 miles,* ate fast food (Sonic) for the first time in a year, felt REALLY sick (sinuses and tummy, both) and went to bed
  • Studied for and aced another test at school despite the constantly-building sinus pressure in my head
  • Survived my car making a WEIRD ASS sound** on the way to Target, checked and added oil to my car (that wasn't the problem; that was more a "just in case" kind of thing); renamed said car "The Little Suzuki That Could" with the hopes that I would make it to my older sister's house in Beaufort, SC without my life turning into one of those Fa-La-La-La-Lifetime movies I'd been watching recently
  • "Baked"*** until the wee hours of the morning before heading to one last (entertaining) class and hitting the road for Beaufort
  • Drove for 5 hours with my blood pressure through the roof as a result of my fear that my car would breakdown somewhere in rural Georgia with no cell reception
  • Made it to SC without incident, ate some homemade gumbo and spent the next day-and-a-half wrapping presents, eating cookies and hanging out with the fam
  • Had a wonderful Christmas**** in which I received many running-themed presents (will post photos soon!), new headphones and a telephoto lens for my "big girl" SLR camera
  • Spent the next few days hanging out with the fam, attempting to get over my sinus infection that had morphed itself into bronchitis, and being lazy. I wasn't TOTALLY lazy, though . . . my younger sis, Mo, and I did rock the Dance Dance Revolution pretty hard! That game will get you sweating, let me tell ya! I also managed to work in a day of lifting, a metabolic conditioning workout and a bunch of walks around my sister's beautiful neighborhood . . . not much, but I'll take it considering I felt like absolute crap and was getting about 2 hours of sleep a night as a result of my inability to breathe and the fact that I was hacking up a lung every 4 seconds
  • Researched rental cars and flights for like 45 hours straight in an attempt to figure out how the heck I'm going to get home to NYC in THREE WEEKS! Yes, you read that right . . . THREE WEEKS!
  • Spent one extra day (Monday) at Mallory's house so that I could attempt to deflect some of my niece's CRAZY energy off of her. That child was WIRED!
  • Drove back to Orlando, still slightly terrified that my car was going to break down. Made it without incident (whew!)
  • Since I got back to Orlando on Tuesday night, I've spent my time polishing my resume, job-hunting, house-hunting in various parts of the country*****, researching a presentation I'll have to do in class in a week or so and prepping for Wilson's visit.
Have I mentioned that Wilson gets here tomorrow?****** 'CUZ HE DOES! That being said (and with everything going on at school right now--ugh, SO MUCH), I may or may not have much time to post over the next 10 days . . . or hell, over the next 3 weeks until I'm done with school. I will, at a minimum, let you all know how Goofy goes, though! Um . . . yeah, because that shizz is in just over a week. YIKES! Here's hoping the bronchitis is completely gone by that time!

Alright, I better get my booty to bed for now . . . I'd hate to be late picking my man up from the airport tomorrow a.m.! Happy New Year, y'all! Here's hoping 2010 brings us all lots of hugs, runs and happiness :)

*It seemed WAY too easy . . . that's never happened to me before on a 20-miler!

**Like gravel was jumping around under the hood, in case you're interested

***I don't have an oven in my hotel room; thus, I was stuck with "no bake" recipes only

****Minus a minor/major argument--ah, family!!

*****Yes, I realize this is a complete waste of time until I figure out where we're going to be . . . but I like it, so sue me!

******Actually today, seeing as how it is now past midnight. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Two Weekends For the Price of One

I swear, I am *THIS* close to hiring somebody to write for my blog. Oy. This time of year is always an especially tough one for me, it seems . . . I just don't understand where the time goes! First and foremost, I'm going to have to blame Falalala Lifetime's insistence on playing Christmas movies 24/7. Why do I continue to watch these horribly awesome movies with what little free time I have? WHY?! That, and I've been spending a HUGE amount of time scouring the interwebs, trying to find thrifty but fabulous presents for my loved ones. Being a student without any income sucks, yo . . .

Anyway, life has been good. Not much excitement happening during the week . . . school, workout, run, study; repeat. Boring, right? The weekends, however, have been great. Thus, I will now tell you about them in an attempt to make my life sound more interesting than it actually is.

Two weekends ago, I got to head home to NYC to spend some quality time with Wilson and my beloved Brooklyn Heights apartment (okay, fine--and the cat too). Wouldn't you know, NYC was kind enough to greet me upon my arrival with some kind of freezing sleet/rain crap that felt absolutely LOVELY on my sissy Floridian skin. Yowsers. After that cleared up, though, it was a fabulous weekend indeed. I decorated the apartment for Christmas and helped Wilson bake gingerbread cookies. We also managed to squeeze in a 14-ish mile run along my favorite NYC route (over the Brooklyn Bridge and up the Hudson River--gorgeous). Most importantly, though, I got to eat at all of my favorite NYC establishments that I miss so dearly . . . brunch at Stone Park Cafe; Vietnamese sandwiches and bubble tea from Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches; pizza from Lucali; and Falafel from Waterfalls. Ah, how I've missed those places . . . and Brooklyn. Sigh. Only six weeks to go, though, until I get to return back home (and back to the real world--yikes!). How crazy is that?

This past weekend, on the other hand, I stayed in Orlando and had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with the the Redhead for 12 miles on Saturday morning. Those of you who have read her recap already know it wasn't exactly smooth sailing for the two of us. First things first, I was scared silly by a strange man laying on a bench right outside my hotel as I left at the early (and dark) hour of 6 a.m. He screamed, "GOOD MORNING!" at me at the top of his lungs as I scurried out the front door into the pitch blackness. I prayed he wouldn't follow me, and rushed to my car. Luckily, he did not . . . so I hopped in and immediately locked my doors. I was on my way!

The drive was uneventful (read: I managed to not get lost) and I arrived at our meeting point right on time. The only issue was that the lot we usually park in was all blocked off. FRICK. I pulled into a nearby McDonalds and pulled out my phone to text the Redhead and let her know where I was. As I waited for her to arrive, I could see flashing lights coming from the other side of the McD's, reflecting off of a nearby parked car. "OH SNAP," I thought. "Somebody got busted." I kid you not, 5 seconds later, I got a text from the Redhead saying that she had just been pulled over by a cop in the same McDonald's parking lot I was waiting in. Ha. Luckily, the cop just gave her a warning (whew!). With our usual parking spaces unavailable (we speculated there must be a race of some kind going on), we decided to head over to the Publix to park. Only, when we got there and climbed out of our cars, we realized we were like 10 yards from a big finish line area. Oops! Guess there WAS a race going on, and we'd basically driven right up to it.

We moved our cars away from the finish line and finally made our way to the nearby trail we were planning to run on, hoping and praying that the race wasn't taking place ON the trail. Well, I'm sure you know where this is going . . . but yeah, it was most certainly taking place right on the trail. DAMN. Luckily, it was still early enough that there weren't many people around. I should probably mention that right around this time, I tripped over absolutely nothing and just about bit it. Yep, we hadn't even begun running and all this crap had happened. But still, we were determined to have a good run. So, off we went!

All in all, the first mile went by without a hitch. Well, other than the golf cart of race volunteers who inadvertently blocked our path and then almost ran over us, that is. But hey, we came away from it unscathed, so that's all that matters. We kept running along the trail, and suddenly off in the distance, we saw a displeasing sight . . . the trail was blocked off with a fence up ahead. Oh geeze. Luckily, there was a lovely orange detour sign pointing us towards the right. We set off on our "detour", laughing ourselves silly about our bad luck. On we ran, praying we were following the detour correctly. After a couple of miles of detour, however, we started to get nervous. We realized neither of us had our cell phones and neither of us had any clue where we were. We attempted to recall how we'd gotten to where we were . . . just in case we needed to turn around at some point. Meanwhile, we joked about how we'd probably never be found, and how the cop who had pulled the Redhead over would later be interviewed on the news, weeping and saying he was the last person to see the Redhead. Ha, awesome.

FINALLY, we saw another orange detour sign up ahead, which led us back to our beloved trail. We hopped back onto the trail and tried to figure out how much mileage we had gained/lost as a result of the detour. Um, let's just say we are NOT math geniuses when we run. We got to the end of the trail around the mile-5 point and stopped to gel up. The Redhead had a fabulous idea to add on a loopy thing-a-ma-bob which we thought would make it so that we would hit 12 miles right as we got back to our cars. It made sense to me (which is honestly not saying much) . . . so off we went!

I managed to trip over my own feet like 13 more times as we made our way back to our starting point (soooo graceful!). We also managed to take a sprinkler right in the face, which was pretty awesome. The good news is that we rocked that detour like champs on the way back . . . go us! Unfortunately, though, at some point during the detour, I found myself quickly growing REALLY tired. I realized the past week was probably catching up to me . . . because my legs (and my entire body, really) were just PISSED. I tried my best to remain perky, but I was doing a baaaaad job of trying to hide my exhaustion. You know when you get to the point where you are just too tired to be good at holding a conversation? Yeah, that was me. I felt like such a loser, but told myself to just suck it up. Before long, we made it back to the 5K race course area where we'd started, and tried to figure out how to finish up the run without getting in the way of the participants. Luckily, though, it appeared to be just a handful of the far back of the pack who were still out on the course by the time we got back, so it wasn't much of an issue.

We got back to the area where we'd parked and quickly came to realize that we were only at about 11 miles. CRAPPERS. Looks like we were a little lacking in the math while running skillz department! Or, to use the Redhead's term, we were "run-tarded"! I debated whether or not to finish the 12 miles off or call it quits. I felt bad leaving the Redhead on her own for the last mile, but I was also semi-worried about time since we'd gotten a late start and I had to be at school by 9:30 a.m. for a 7-hour Sports Performance Clinic. Well, that and I was really starting to struggle. Considering I still had a 2-hour workout ahead of me at school, I thought it might be wise to call it quits and head off. The Redhead, being an example of total awesomeness continued on to finish out 12 miles as I made my way back to my car.

I quickly drove over to my school, all the while chugging my gatorade down and stuffing my face with an Amy's Organic black bean burrito. I made it there by 9:10, excited to strip out of my wet clothes and hop in the shower (ah, the perks of going to school at a gym!). Well, this was easier said than done . . . turns out there was NO HOT WATER. Oh dear god. It was painfully cold. I kept expecting to go into shock or something. But somehow, I managed to quickly get cleaned up without dying of hypothermia. I quickly got dressed and made it back into the classroom with a few minutes to spare. Nice! The workshop itself (which will run for the next three weekends minus the Saturdays after both Christmas and New Years) was REALLY interesting. I would love, love, love to work with sports teams some day; so this stuff was right up my alley. Oh, and the workout wasn't bad at all since we were mostly learning about dynamic warm-ups.

I got home around 4 p.m. and spent the remainder of the day laid out on my hotel bed (in my hot pink recovery socks, of course), watching Falalala Lifetime. It was early to bed for me, as I had plans for ANOTHER long run on Sunday morning. Weeeellllll, it turned out my body had other plans for me when I woke up at 6:30 on Sunday a.m. Oy. I was DEAD. I pulled the "I'm just going to lay back down for a second" trick . . . and didn't wake up until 10:30 a.m. Um, oopsies! Around 2:30 p.m., I finally convinced myself to head out, which was awesome considering it was HOT out. Don't get me wrong; it was a BEAUTIFUL day (and I know many of you would KILL for some 80s right about now) . . . it's just that running long was not the awesomest thing ever to be doing mid-afternoon. Around the 6-mile mark, I made a decision to slow to a power walk and shoot for "time on my feet" instead of my originally planned 16-18 miles. I ended up covering a total of 14-miles in just under 3 hours. It wasn't exactly what I set out to do, but given my busy weekend and the crazy-exhausting metabolic circuits we'd done in class during the previous week, I figured it was good enough. Plus, slowing down came with some perks: I saw 3 turtles and a couple of wild turkeys along the trail! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have noticed any of them had I run the whole time. So yay. I guess there are some benefits to slowing down :)

Well, there you have it, folks. That's what I've been up to. I am STILL trying to catch up on my Google Reader . . . because I am nothing if not stubborn! But I figure if I can just hang on another week, I'll be on a 10-day Christmas break from school and can FINALLY get myself fully caught up. Whew! Almost there! Hope you are all well! I really can't wait to catch up with you guys!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Balance is a Real Bugger

Soooo . . . hi all! I'm still alive and kicking, despite what the silence of this blog would lead you to believe! I guess stuff has just been kinda busy lately.

The good news is that I aced my midterm; not only that, but I pulled the highest grade in the class with a 99%! What's up, bitches?! Hahaha. SO glad to see all of my crazy studying paid off! But the bad news about my crazy studying (combined, of course, with a crazy-fun Thanksgiving holiday with the fam) is that I am so far behind in my google reader, I want to cry just thinking about it! I haven't even opened it over the past couple days because the number of unread entries is so overwhelming. But today is the day I start chipping away at it. I simply don't have the heart to clear the whole thing out. Slowly but surely, I WILL catch up on all 202 postings!

Now for a little bit of bad news. Don't worry, my dad is just fine; no problems there. But it turns out that I'm not doing so well. Apparently working out twice a day 5 times a week and then attempting two back-to-back long runs every weekend is a good way to end up seriously overtrained. Shit. The overtrained-ness may actually be to blame for my insomnia according to this article. So anyway, I'm in a bit of a pickle. We're getting to the point at school where we are really upping the ante, so to speak; we're getting to training methods like metabolic conditioning that can really kick your ass if you're not careful. So basically, I have no choice but to cut back on everything else a little bit; otherwise, my progress will be seriously halted . . . which is obviously completely unacceptable.

So how am I planning to do this? Well, I've decided I should probably cut my evening sessions back to (at most) one a week. While this makes me a little sad, I know it is what my body needs. I've also decided to cut my weekday runs down from two to one, and reduce that one run from 6-8 miles to 4-6 miles, thus cutting my weekly mileage down from the 40-45 range to about the 30-35 range. Hopefully, this will be enough to combat the overtraining issue . . . if not, I guess I'll have to reassess things further. Ugh, what a drag . . .

Anyway, other than that, things are going just swimmingly. We're getting to some really interesting stuff at school . . . and I am loving it! Ooh, and I get to head back home to NYC this weekend to see Wilson (and my kitty), and to do some long runs in NOT hot weather. Not gonna lie, homies. I'm sorta/kinda really excited about that one!

For now, though, it's time to catch back up with what y'all have been doing! Can't wait!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good News!

So, first things first . . . I have to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers and kind words regarding my father. Just to update you, we got word on Monday that my father's bone scan came back negative. This is very good news as it means the cancer is confined to his prostate and has not spread elsewhere in his body. After meeting with the doc, my pops was given options of either surgery or radiation. At this point in time, he is leaning towards the surgery; but that won't take place until six weeks or so down the road (I guess he has to take some time to recover from the biopsy). Know what's awesome about that? It means we'll get to go ahead with the family Thanksgiving as planned! I am so excited, I can't even tell you. In addition to it being Thanksgiving, my adorable niece turns 4 on Thanksgiving Day . . . so it will be one big party at the Irish Cream household! Can't wait :)

In other news, I am tired. Like, really tired. I've suffered on and off from bouts of insomnia . . . and guess what? It's back. Blech. I'm trying to do everything in my power to make myself sleep at night, but for the past week or so, it's been a losing battle. Luckily, I've still managed to get my workouts in and stick to the schedule like white on rice. My first run of the week was a 6-miler on Monday after class. I started out running pretty easy, but then felt like picking up the pace about 1.5-miles in. My splits were kind of all over the place--not sure what that's all about--but I felt good the entire time, so I'll take it.

Mile-1: 9:25
Mile-2: 9:13
Mile-3: 8:54
Mile-4: 9:11
Mile-5: 8:48
Mile-6: 8:19

Not bad. Not bad at all. Yesterday was my evening circuit training session at school, and let me tell you, it was ROUGH. I think the lack of sleep finally caught up with me or something because I was SO not feeling it. I still gave my all, but I just didn't have my usual "stuff." Sigh.

Today, I got home from school and was equally exhausted. I was SO tempted to blow my scheduled run off. After all, with our big midterm coming up on Tuesday, I had a decent excuse. But in the end, I knew I would feel better if I got out there and ran. I put my clothes on and headed out, telling myself that I could run 4-miles and call it a day. Of course, once I got started, I was very happy to be running and, once again, felt like picking up the pace and getting a little speedy. Somehow, I managed to turn the run into a progressive run, with each mile clocking in faster than the previous mile. Isn't it funny how the runs you dread the most can sometimes turn into your best runs ever? My splits for today's run were as follows:

Mile-1: 9:10
Mile-2: 8:50
Mile-3: 8:34
Mile-4: 8:27

Now, it's back to studying because this midterm is NOT going to be easy. So . . . much . . . information! Happy Hump Day, folks! We've got a short week next week, so hang in there ;)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Great Weekend

Another weekend is coming to an end, leaving me with nothing but smiles . . . which is actually somewhat shocking when you take into account the fact that I had my first ever experience with back-to-back long runs (a la Goofy) this weekend.

I ran the first one on Friday morning before class. Getting up at 5:45 a.m. was a total b*tch due to the fact that I have been suffering from some insomnia lately. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with adding the evening circuit training workouts into my routine. I'm hoping once my body gets used to them, I'll get back to sleeping better. Somehow, despite my lack of sleep, I managed to drag my practically lifeless body out of bed, get dressed and head out the door by 6:30 on Friday morning. It was nothing short of a miracle, folks. Once I got going, I was fine, of course (always am--it's just the waking up that's hard) . . . completing 6.01 miles in 56:24 (9:23 pace). The best thing about the run was the weather--in the high-fifties--just about perfect running weather, if you ask me! The funny thing is that 3 out of the 5 people I passed while running looked at my scantily clad self (just shorts and a short-sleeved shirt) and asked me incredulously, "Aren't you freezing?!" Ah, Floridians. I resisted the urge to point out that it would actually have to be about 25 degrees cooler to be considered "freezing".

Saturday morning held another 5:45 a.m. wake-up call, as I was scheduled to meet Morgan from the blog Caution: Redhead Running for my 12-mile long run. As I mentioned in my last post, we were originally going to run long together; but it turned out that she had a 10K to rock the next day (word on the street is that there was a PR involved--keep an eye out on her blog for the race report). Rather than cancel on me, though, she offered to ride her bike alongside me and keep me company. How infinitely cool is that?! Being my usually car-less New Yorker self, I got lost on my way to our meet-up spot (shocking, I know). I've said this before, and I will say it again . . . I should NOT be trusted to drive anywhere, people! Once Morgan figured out where I was and helped me to find my way, though, we finally got to meet. Shortly thereafter we embarked on what was to become my favorite long run EVER. First of all, not only did Morgan ride her bike alongside me and distract me with all kinds of fun topics of conversation, but she also wore a backpack and insisted on carrying ALL of my sh*t for me! Oh, and she also brought me an ice cold bottle of water and carried that on her bike for me too. Talk about being spoiled! Everyone we passed was seriously jealous of my personal support crew!

Now--let's be honest--I was slightly nervous about this run going into it. I just wasn't sure how the school workouts plus all the running I've been doing plus the back-to-back long runs were going to affect me. I was secretly convinced that my legs were going to give up 2 miles in and I was going to look really stupid and lame in front of this awesome runner girl who could have just slept in was it not for me! But seriously, the miles FLEW by. We chatted about everything under the sun . . . lots of it running-related, but lots of it not. At one point, we got a good laugh in when some dude biking ahead of us stopped and picked up this HUGE palm branch. He then proceeded to ride his bike while carrying this thing. WTF? Sadly, by the time we realized what he was doing, he was too far in front of us for Morgan to snap a photo. Still, it was definitely good for a laugh or two! Honestly, every moment from start to finish was just so much fun. Isn't it so funny how you can meet another running blogger for the first time and the conversation just flows as though you've known each other for years?

In the end, we finished 12.01 miles in 2:01:25; or a 10:07 pace. Things that are awesome about this: 1) I FINALLY managed to keep my pace down. I think chatting with Morgan really helped with this. Ah, conversation pace! Who knew all you had to do to find it was . . . to have a conversation with someone; 2) I felt REALLY good throughout the run. During maybe the last 1.5 miles, my legs started to fatigue a little and it started to heat up a bit; but it wasn't a big deal; 3) I am now feeling much more confident in my ability to do the training for Goofy. Although, seriously? I might just have to pay Morgan to accompany me on all of my long runs from here on out! We have tentative plans to run long together at some point in December, and I can't wait!

After we finished, we chatted for a bit longer until we both realized how hungry we were getting and went our separate ways. I headed back to my hotel, ate, showered, got in some phone time with both Wilson and my mother, napped, and then spent the entire evening watching college football and hiding from my classmates who were trying to insist that I go out and get drunk with them. I almost feel badly . . . but not really. I think it's just REALLY hard for them to understand that I'm just not that into "partying" these days. Poor souls. They too will get old and boring someday . . .

Today was finally a rest day; so I've made the most of it . . . sitting on my bum and perusing my new favorite website: Care2 Make a Difference ( For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it has all kinds of healthy and green living articles; as well as like a trillion amazing and healthy recipes. There is just so much to peruse, I have wasted hours upon hours today doing so. That being said, I was also semi-productive--getting some grocery shopping done, tidying up my room and doing some dishes; not to mention, doing some cooking. That is honestly my favorite thing about not working a job I hate that demands my attention 24 hours a day . . . I FINALLY have time to cook and clean up after every meal. What a blessing! :)

Alrighty, well I'm off to hit the books . . . but I hope you all had as super-fabulous a weekend as I did!! Can't wait to see what y'all did :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Some things . . .

Wow, so much to talk about! I guess that's what happens when you let a week and a half go by without posting, eh?

First let's start with some bad news I received about a week ago. I always like to get that stuff out of the way first so that I can move onto happier things :) Sooooooo . . . my pops was diagnosed with prostate cancer last Friday. Bummer, right? Who wants to actually be forced to think/talk/etc. about their father's prostate? Yikes--no thanks! But in all seriousness, if he has to have cancer, prostate cancer isn't the worst thing ever. It still sucks obviously, but there are far worse cancers out there. At this point in time, we're waiting on results of a bone scan to see whether the cancer has spread to his bones at all. Luckily, my father is a pretty fit, healthy dude (he's a runner too) . . . so we're pretty optimistic that no matter what the prognosis, he'll be just fine. Still, we could definitely use all the prayers, happy thoughts, finger-crossing, etc. you can spare!

Okay, now moving on to happier items: I am in love with school. I mean, seriously in love. Like, I would probably consider cheating on Wilson if school was a person. Luckily, school is not a person. But I digress . . . it is honestly going just INCREDIBLY. I feel like I have learned such a crazy amount of stuff in such a short time (only 7 weeks so far!). That's the reason I haven't been posting much about what I'm learning . . . it's kind of just like, "Where the hell do I even start?!" The one thing I WILL say is that resistance training can SERIOUSLY improve your running--and yes, it is important to do some resistance training for those legs of yours, homies. Trust me on this one--you WILL see improvements in your running if you train your legs. And we're not talking crappy leg press, leg curl, leg extension machines here . . . we're talking body-weight squats, lunges, step-ups, box jumps, hip extensions, calf-raises, etc. And guess what's awesome about all of that stuff I just mentioned? YOU DON'T EVEN NEED A GYM TO DO IT! Sorry, y'all . . . no excuses. Anyway, I'll talk about this stuff more at some point, but if you don't do these exercises now, think about adding some in.

My new favorite thing at school is the "make-up sessions" we can attend on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Basically, we can only have 2 unexcused absences during the program if we want to graduate--and if you happen to have more than 2, you are forced to attend evening "make-up sessions" to cancel out the extra absences. I went to the first of these sessions not really sure what to expect. I'd only missed 2 days (one from my Chicago trip and one because I was sick) . . . but I figured it would be smart to earn my free days back just in case I happen to need them later on. For the first part of the session, our instructor had us clean the gym. BO-RING (and also, EW). But then, he put us through some crazy-difficult circuit training. It was HARD. Two dudes puked--not even kidding--because the point of these sessions is to be so difficult that they prevent people from missing too many classes. But, I am such a crazy masochist that I have decided to just go to all of these sessions I can make (which, lets be honest, is all of them--I have no life!) because I REALLY love having my butt kicked. I figure I might as well get my money's worth and do everything I can at school, no?

The only issue with this is trying to figure out when to fit my training runs in. Ha. Between the daily workouts we do--which are pretty hard core (all kinds of super-setting, compound-setting, etc.)--and then these extra sessions, it's hard to figure out when to run. But I think I finally figured out my schedule. It will involve "two-a-days" 5 days a week . . . so hopefully it won't kill me. But if it becomes too difficult, I can always drop the extra sessions at school (or at least one a week):

-Resistance train upper body/interval training (at school)
-Evening run of 4-8 miles

-Resistance train lower body/core/interval training (at school)
-Circuit training (evening session at school)

-Resistance train upper body/interval training (at school)
-Evening run of 4-8 miles

-Resistance train lower body/core/interval training (at school)
-Circuit training (evening session at school)

-1st of back-to-back long runs in the a.m. (7-10 miles)
-Resistance train upper body/interval training (at school)

-Long run (12-20 miles); core (optional)


So um, yeah. Ha, I guess that's a lot. But I'm feeling stronger than ever . . . and my body composition has already changed SIGNIFICANTLY. As in, none of my effing clothes fit me anymore. I know I shouldn't complain about this, but I AM kind of bummed that I'm going to have to basically buy an entire new wardrobe when this whole thing is over! Talk about unexpected expenses . . .

In other happy news, I got to visit my older sister and adorable niece again last weekend. My sis had some girlfriends in town for a "girls' weekend" . . . and I was the designated babysitter/kiddo distracter since my bro-in-law was out of the country on business. First things first, the drive was FAR more successful this time . . . I didn't even run off the road once! Go me! Second of all, Iris and I had A BLAST together coloring, riding bikes, looking at stingrays in the river and doing all kinds of puzzles. The only time we seemed to butt heads a little was when she tried to convince me that Halloween candy and cookies would make a "good lunch." No, no, little one. Sorry, but your Aunt Bailey is learning all about nutrition at school, and she is not going to be fooled into believing that! We settled on grilled cheese, yogurt and a banana. Overall, though, she was VERY well-behaved. I was impressed. Still, I was definitely exhausted come the end of the weekend. Here are a few photos of Iris and I hanging out together that one of Mallory's girlfriends took:

Oh my gosh, and I just remembered that I have even MORE happy stuff to talk about. Guess who I get to meet this weekend? ONLY YOUR FAVORITE REDHEAD EVER!! Aren't you jealous? We had planned to do a long run together on Saturday, but it turns out she has a 10K to rock on Sunday. Most people would simply cancel and try again another week . . . BUT NO! She is officially the coolest person EVER and she offered to ride her bike beside me while I run! How incredible is that?! I'm so excited to finally meet her!

Okay, well I THINK that's all for now. I'll probably think of something else right affter I hit "publish" . . . but I guess I'll have to save whatever it is for the next post ;)

Hope you all are having wonderful weeks . . . we're ALMOST to the weekend! Hang in there ;)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Best Weekend Ever?

Man oh man. Is it just me, or do the weekends just keep getting better and better?! As I had mentioned in my last post, I spent this past weekend in the City of Brotherly Love. And let me tell you, it was THE place to be. There was just SO much going on . . . everything from the World Series, to Pearl Jam playing the last shows EVER in the Spectrum, to Obama visiting, to Halloween, to an Eagles game on Sunday. Holy moly, there was a lot going on!

My flight got into Philly around 9:00 Friday night and I made my way straight to our hotel. Wilson had tickets to the PJ show that night as well, but sadly I couldn't find a flight that would get me there in time, thanks to my school schedule. Thus, he was on his own for the show. I was a little bit bummed, but it was fine. I got to the hotel by around 9:30 p.m., changed into my PJs and sprawled out on the super comfy hotel bed. Considering how crappy I was feeling (thanks to my stupid sinus infection which was, of course, only made worse by the flight--hello severe ear and sinus pain/pressure), this was probably for the best. I fell asleep with the television on, and awoke to Wilson petting my head at around 12:30 a.m. We caught up for a little while and then hit the sack, excited for the big day ahead of us.

The next morning, we took our time getting ready, and eventually headed out to a restaurant I REALLY wanted to get brunch at. As lame as this is, I had seen it mentioned in the American Way magazine found in the seat back pocket of my American Airlines flight to Chi-town a couple weeks earlier! But seriously, I am so glad I trusted that magazine because the place was just AWESOME. It's called Jones, and it is seriously the cutest place ever. I highly recommend you check it out if you are ever in Philly. It's just a really fun, lively place. They serve some seriously awesome comfort food dishes, and I just love the decor. Check out this photo taken from the restaurant's web page:

We were seated very quickly right next to a cozy fireplace, and were served by a friendly waiter dressed up as Lady Gaga (all of the servers were wearing costumes--loved it!). In addition to the monkey bread that Jones is known for, they also had a special pumpkin bread available as a starter. Um, yes please? We couldn't resist, and holy crap, I am glad we didn't! That stuff was DELICIOUS! Wilson went for a yummy looking huevos rancheros entree and I decided on a turkey sausage, spinach and cheddar omelet served with tater tots. The food was seriously awesome. I will definitely go back there whenever I'm next in Philly!

Next up, we went on a nice, long walk to a movie theater that was showing Paranormal Activity. It WAS Halloween after all, and we knew we had to do SOMETHING to celebrate the holiday! Okay, fine. The truth is I REALLY wanted to see the movie, but was too afraid to go by myself! Luckily, Wilson agreed to go while we were in Philly so that I could see it! :) Anyway, it was just as freaky as I'd hoped, and definitely set the mood for the holiday (and gave us a lot to talk about to boot)!! When it was over, Wilson and I headed back to a cozy coffee shop we'd passed on the way to the theater and enjoyed a little late afternoon caffeine fix. The best part about this place (other than the delicious coffees) was that the windows were wide open (it was unseasonably warm on Saturday), and we could watch all of the dressed up kiddos walking by with their loot :) Some of the costumes were just ADORABLE!

After our coffee break, we headed towards South Philly, passing oodles and oodles more trick-or-treating kids on the way. It was so much fun to see everyone out and all dressed up that the walk FLEW by. Before we knew it we were at Tony Luke's, anxious to devour some REAL cheese steaks. We knew we'd made the right decision about where to get our cheese steaks* when we saw the long, long line. Luckily we had plenty of time before the concert started to wait it out. When we finally got our grub and took our first bites, it was like heaven on a hoagie. Holy goodness, that was some good stuff! My mouth is watering now, just thinking about it! See for yourselves:

We ate our massive cheese steaks as we walked to the Spectrum for the last show ever before the place would be demolished. We got slightly wet on the way, as the weather turned a bit uncooperative . . . but it didn't dampen our spirits any. We knew we had an epic Pearl Jam concert to look forward to . . . and epic, it was. The boys were in rare form, playing songs they rarely (if ever) play, and just having a blast. They played for 3 1/2 hours straight! It was just an INCREDIBLE night that we were very lucky to be able to experience. The only downside to the show was that I COMPLETELY lost my voice, singing and cheering my lungs off for my favorite band EVER. I just had nothing left by the end of the show. Oh well, it was well worth it!

On Sunday, we lazed around the hotel room all morning until it was finally time to check out at noon. While I was getting ready, Wilson--being the sweet boyfriend he is--ran out and grabbed us breakfast (fresh coffee and blueberry/banana filled Belgian sugar waffles--yum!) from this amazing place called Bonte; then after we checked out, we headed out to explore the Independence Mall area and get a dose of history, since we're geeks like that. We got to see the Liberty Bell and toured Independence Hall and Congress Hall . . . and we spent a LONG time checking out the Dialogues with Darwin exhibit in the Philosophical Hall. I think we were both pretty into that exhibit--yep, total nerds! It was all very cool to see and a GREAT refresher in some of the American History that has slipped my memory since high school. I really do love historical sites like that . . . it's just so cool to be in the same places where historical events took place centuries ago! Fun :)

After we finished up with our history tours, we moved on to our last meal in Philly. We hit up the Reading Terminal Market in search of some grub.** Sadly, when we got to our intended restaurant, DiNic's Roast Beef and Pork, we discovered it was closed. But no worries, there were PLENTY of other yummy places to choose from. After wandering around a bit and checking out the options, we finally went with Hershel's East Side Deli, where we both ordered the most mammoth-sized corned beef sandwiches I have ever seen in my entire life. See Bonnie S.'s photo from yelp:

It was SO good, but there was just no hope of me finishing that thing. I made a valiant effort, and then we headed back to hotel to collect our things and head off in separate directions; I, back to Orlando . . . and Wilson, back to NYC.
Wilson was sweet enough to walk me to the train station to make sure I got off to the airport alright . . . and I tried my hardest not to sob as we said goodbye. It was rough. We'd had such a wonderful weekend together, it was really hard to see it come to an end. But at least we'd made some pretty awesome memories together that weekend. What more can you ask for out of a weekend, really? I'm just so glad I have someone to share the best things in life with . . . travelling, eating and running, of course! I am one lucky girl! :)

*Truth be told, most of our decisions about where to eat when visiting in other cities are made based upon where Man vs. Food filmed while in the city. This is true for Tony Luke's as well.

**Again, this decision was based on what we saw on Man vs. Food. We are so predictable . . .

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Busy, Busy . . . Plus a Monsoon Thunderstorm Run

Howdy all! I can't believe an ENTIRE WEEK has passed since I last posted. What have I been up to? Well, there's school, of course. And studying. Then there's running--I've been doing a fair amount of that. Oh, and there's the trip I made to SC to visit my sister, bro-in-law and niece last weekend (5 hours both ways--whew!). There were many highlights of this trip. But first, let's talk about what WASN'T a highlight: My pathetic attempt to navigate my way through pitch black rural South Carolina with a nasty case of night blindness. Holy crap. I seriously can't see in the dark, y'all--I probably shouldn't even have a driver's license! It was super freaky, and I was lost, lost, lost. But luckily, I eventually found my way--only pissing off like 5 or 6 cars in the process--and best of all, I was immediately thereafter greeted with an ice cold pint of beer. My sister knows me too well ;)

Anyway, I had lots of fun catching up with them all . . . especially my 4 year-old niece, Iris (see photographic evidence of her adorableness below).

Iris and I had an exciting day of pumpkins, hay rides and cupcakes on Saturday, and then went on to dance the night away to the music of a live band. This fun was all a part of their neighborhood's Fall Harvest Festival (and by the way, dancing with a 4 year old = pretty darn exhausting). On Sunday, we played together for hours and hours. It's amazing how long you can keep a kid entertained just by making stuffed animals talk! Iris showed me the medal she had earned playing peewee soccer, which led me to believe that she will one day be a marathoner. I mean, c'mon . . . who else would be so darn impressed with a silly piece of metal looped around a ribbon? Also, at one point, as we were attempting to put together a Hello Kitty puzzle, Iris turned into the cutest kid on the face of the planet. Just imagine those gorgeous blue eyes staring up at you with nothing but love and saying this:

Iris: Aunt Bailey?

Me: Yes, Iris?

Iris: I love you.

Me (trying not to spontaneously burst into tears): I love you too, Iris.

Iris: I really, really missed you.

Me: Aw, I missed you too, Iris.

It was officially the cutest moment of my entire life. I was definitely a bit choked up. It also made me want to pop a kid out right then and there (tick tock, tick tock). Luckily this didn't happen (although I DID have a dream last night that I woke up one day and was randomly like 7 months pregnant with twins--all I could think about was how I hadn't received prenatal care and my kids were probably all effed up!). Anyway, aren't kids the cutest? I wish I could convey the absolute sincerity with which Iris spoke. It totally broke my heart and made me want to move next door to my sister so that she'd never have to miss me ever again . . .

But alas, the time came for me to hit the road. Conveniently, this coincided with nap time for Iris. This worked out perfectly because I didn't have to have my heart torn to shreds by her crying and begging me to stay as I walked out the door. Mallory sent me off with a HUGE bag full of veggies from their farm share, as well as half a loaf of homemade banana bread. YUMMY. I got back to Orlando around 8 p.m. and was forced to cram for a test that would be taking place during class on Monday morning. It was not fun. But somehow, I managed to pull the highest grade in the class despite my lack of motivation to study. So it all worked out in the end.

Yesterday, I started to feel like I was coming down with something--maybe a sinus infection? Maybe swine flu? Blech. But despite feeling a bit crappy, I still really wanted to get a run in. I checked accuweather and noticed it was supposed to storm later in the evening, but I thought I had time to squeeze the run in before the weather got too crazy. WRONG-O. As is just my luck, I got to my turn-around point at the 3-mile mark (also known as the furthest point from my car possible) and turned around to see the darkest, most ominous sky ever staring me down. Oh shit. I tried to push the pace in an attempt to get back to my car before the storm started, but no such luck. I made it only 50 yards before a torrential downpour began. It was somehow raining sideways and was raining so hard that the rain was slicing into my eyes in all kinds of painful ways. Ouch. I couldn't see ANYTHING. I forged on, praying it wouldn't lightening. Of course, two seconds later, I saw the first flash. Here I was, 2.5 miles from my car on a tree-lined path. If that doesn't make you run fast, I'm not sure what will. I managed to make it back to my car unscathed, covering the 6 miles in 53:18; that's an 8:53 pace for all you keeping track at home. Not bad. Not bad at all. Perhaps I should go running in Monsoon Thunderstorms more often?

I also made a roller-blading friend on this run. We were stopped at a traffic light at one point and he decided to inflate my ego by telling me that I was "really cruising back there." Never in my life has anyone described my running in such a way. It felt . . . really good :) I could get used to hearing that kind of thing! We also discussed how we were both clearly in better shape than the high school-aged kids who had run past us earlier, and really looked like they were struggling. Go old folks! Anyway, I came into contact with this man twice more--once as he passed me on his way back to his car in the middle of the monsoon, and then again in the parking lot where he was pulling out as I was walking to my car. "Glad you made it back okay!" he yelled out his window. How nice is that? These Florida folks are much nicer than I am used to!

Well, I'm off to Philly for a weekend full of Pearl Jam, Wilson and cheese steaks starting on Friday :) Since I will be computer-less, I want to be sure to wish all of you running the NYC Marathon this weekend luck! There are oodles of you! Run like you mean it, kids! I'll be anxiously (and somewhat selfishly) awaiting your race reports!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Welcome to CRAZYTOWN

Hey runners! Thanks again for all the amazing feedback on the race reports!

Recovery has been going just fine . . . or well, maybe a little too good? While I KNOW I should have been running at recovery pace (10:44-11:14 according to the McMillan Calculator) over the last couple weeks, it hasn't quite happened. For some silly reason, my legs are actually UNABLE to run at recovery pace--like it's physically impossible. The first run I attempted was last Thursday. I covered 4 miles at a 10:03 pace. Slow-ish, but not quite as slow as "recovery pace" obviously. Then, on Sunday, I attempted a quasi-long run of 7 miles. I ended up running this at a 9:24 pace. Oops. THEN, yesterday, I ran 3.64 miles at a 9:02 pace. WTF?! Apparently running the Chicago Marathon was not only awesome, but it made me magically faster too. Or perhaps it's all of the resistance training I've been doing over the past month? Whatever the case, I think it's safe to say that I am recovering quite nicely! I'm planning to run 6 tomorrow and 10-12 this weekend . . . so I guess we'll just have to see what happens.

Then? Guess who starts Goofy training on Monday? THIS GIRL! I am kind of excited-slash-terrified. I guess I'm just a little nervous about how to approach the training considering I already work out like a crazy person 5 days a week at school. I think I'm going to end up running back-to-back long runs on Fridays and Saturdays so that I can have my Sundays off as a rest day. I mean, call me crazy, but I just don't think I can survive the next 12 weeks without a single day off (which would be the case were I to run the long runs on Sat/Sun). At any rate, I'm excited to see how this crazy little idea pans out . . .

Speaking of crazy, I've been contemplating adding ANOTHER marathon in (on top of Chicago and Goofy) at some point in the next 3 months. Basically, I am dying to be one of the cool kids . . . I want to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs! The way I see it, if I'm already doing something crazy, why not run for mayor of Crazytown? Soooo. Originally I was sold on the idea of the X-Country Marathon in Tampa on November 22. I was picturing myself frolicking with bambi and thumper and all kinds of friendly, furry animals. But then I got nosy and found the TWO race reports that exist for this marathon on the interwebs. And one of them mentioned that the dude ALMOST STEPPED ON A SNAKE. Game over. I spent the next four hours obsessively googling in an attempt to figure out what kind of wildlife I could expect to encounter. It appears that there are many animals that could maul and/or maim me in the Tampa area including alligators, bobcats and various snakes. Um, no thank you. It's a wrap. Turns out I DON'T actually like nature all that much.

On to plan B. Now, I should mention my original inspiration for this silly plan was the discovery that one of the criteria for qualifying for maniacs is 3 marathons in 90 days. It just so happens that Chicago and Disney are spaced perfectly apart for me to accomplish just that should I throw another marathon in the middle somewhere. So my next idea was to run either the Atlanta Marathon or the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa Beach, FL. Problem is . . . both of these marathons fall during Thanksgiving weekend, which totally goes against my belief that Thanksgiving is a time for being gluttonous and lazy. And for spending time with family, of course ;)

Finally, I decided to think outside of the box. What if I didn't run 3 marathons in 3 months . . . but instead ran 2 marathons in 3 weekends? I took a look at the race calendar and realized that the Clearwater Marathon just so happens to fall 2 weeks after Disney! Not only that, but it's two days after my graduation from NPTI . . . what better way to celebrate making it through my school program than by running a marathon and qualifying for the Marathon Maniacs! Right? Right?! Anyway, this is the plan as of right now. I, of course, reserve the right to change my mind as I have yet to officially commit myself via registration. I have to say, though, I'm liking this idea a lot. For starters, I think training for Goofy is enough craziness in and of itself. No need to throw another marathon in the mix when I've only got 12 weeks to train in the first place! By choosing to run Clearwater, I can basically slog my way through on my Goofy-butchered legs with my goal being simply to finish (I believe the cut-off is 6:30 hours--SURELY I can do that). And hey, I promise to take it NICE and easy for a while after I get through this next string of races.

So has anyone out there run Clearwater before? Any thoughts/advice/etc. to share?

Have I officially lost my mind? Comments welcome (I think)! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part III

Okay, now that I'm done being all mushy and whatnot . . . it's back to our regularly scheduled program.

Let's see. Where did we leave off? I believe Wilson and I had just crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. Cute, no? Well wait 'til you hear this next thing then. We slowed to a walk, and Wilson said to me, "I'm really proud of you." I tried my hardest to fight back the tears. On we waddled through the finishers' chute. While I had definitely been in pain during those last few miles, it was NOTHING compared to the pain I was experiencing now that we had stopped. I could hardly walk on my own. And then? The lower back spasms started. This came out of nowhere . . . shockingly, my back hadn't bothered me until the last several miles; and even then, it was pretty tame in comparison to races past. Holy effer, those spasms killed. Between the pain and the pride, I could no longer hold the tears back. The floodgates opened, and I began bawling.

Wilson did a double-take and looked back at me, concerned. "I-I-I-I'm in SO much pain!" I cried between sniffles. He slowed up, and allowed me to lean on him as we walked. I honestly thought I might throw up, I was hurting so badly. My hips. My quads. My calves. My back. Even my forearms hurt--not even kidding.* I would stop every now and then . . . because more than anything, I just wanted to lay down and die. But Wilson encouraged me to keep moving, mentioning that he'd read that any runners who stopped in the finishers' chute would be taken straight to the medic tent. I definitely didn't want that! So I prepared my response should any of the medics come up and see me bawling and unable to move. "I'm just really emotional" would be my response. Clever, eh? Haha. It seemed like it at the time anyway . . .

Wilson steered me over to the side of the chute where we were able to snag mylar blankets. I was super grateful to have one as I was starting to get REALLY chilled now that we were done running. Next we got our medals. Immediately thereafter, our chips were removed. Then, I finally managed to quit crying once I saw the mile-long tables of food. Funny how that works. The selection was pretty great and the volunteers were super generous with it. I grabbed at various items, and on multiple occasions, the volunteers insisted I take 2! My stash consisted of: a bottle of water, a banana, a whole wheat bagel, some cheesy dolphin crackers (x2), pretzels (x2) and some chocolate sandwich cookies (x2). I was really wishing I had some kind of baggie to hold it all . . . I must have been quite a sight, trying to juggle all that, whilst still keeping my mylar blanket wrapped around my shoulders and hobbling--across the finish chute--towards the side of the road. The goal was to find a spot just short of the beer table.** Somehow we made it, and Wilson spryly plopped down on the warm asphalt, as though he'd simply done a warm-up jog or something. I, on the other hand, was a hot mess.

It took me probably 3 minutes to figure out how the hell to lower myself onto the ground--my legs were that torn up. But when I finally made it down there, I was in heaven. I sat there and scarfed down a ton of my food; all the while trying to keep an eye out for A. on the off-chance she passed by us. In all honesty, though, we both figured it would probably be a while before she finished based on how she looked the last time we'd seen her (thus, the half-hour long picnic in the finish chute). Finally, Wilson decided we had eaten enough food and drank enough water to hit up the beer table. I got up (very slowly, and with a lot of assistance from Wilson), cursed and then made a beeline for that beer table. "Congratulations!" the volunteer said as she gave me my Goose Island 312. I quickly thought back to A.'s comment at the very beginning of the race and laughed.

Beers in hand, Wilson and I moved onward towards the gear check tents. I'm pretty sure my beer was 3/4 of the way gone by the time we made it the 100 yards or so up there. I was downing that thing! Ha, I looked over at Wilson's beer, and realized he had only taken a few sips of his! I'm such a lush! Whatever, I EARNED that beer! We collected our bag and I took a break from my beloved drink to change my shirt and throw on my sweats. It felt SO good to have clean, dry sweats on. I then proceeded to chug the rest of my beer and toss the cup before we even left the finish area.

Now, at the start of the race, we'd told A. to meet at the letter "Z" in the family meet-up area afterwards if we ever got separated. But try as we might, Wilson and I could NOT find the stupid family meet-up area (we probably should have studied the start/finish area map a little more diligently prior to the race). We were thinking the meet-up area would be closer to the finish chute than it was; in reality, it was right next to the beer tent (BRILLIANT!), which was a ways off from the finish area. Luckily, my mother called as we were wandering around, and agreed to come to where we were and walk us over to the family meet-up/beer tent area. Whew!

We stayed where we were, and before long, my parents came walking up. "So? How'd it go?" my mother asked (keep in mind that they never actually saw us on the course). When I told her that we'd finished in 4:34, I thought she was going to die of shock. Ha. She seemed really surprised . . . which honestly, probably stems from the fact that I kept saying the night before that I didn't think I could ever run an entire marathon without walking. Anyway, we chatted for a minute or two, until I got thirsty again and insisted we make our way over to the beer tent/family meet-up area.

We got over to the letter "Z" (situated RIGHT next to the beer tent--NICE!), and wouldn't you know, A. was already there waiting for us!! "Where the hell have you guys been?!" she asked between sips of her beer. Um, oops! Turns out, the girl had seriously rocked it out there even after her pit stop. She ended up finishing not even 15 minutes behind us (and at least 10 of those minutes had been waiting for and then using the porta-potty!). I was SO proud of her! I gave her a big, sweaty hug and then quickly excused myself to grab my free beer (yes, this makes the SECOND free beer of the day--LOVE YOU, Chicago Marathon), while she caught up with my parents.***

When I got back, A. entertained us with a story about how she'd lost the free beer ticket from her bib, but had managed to sweet talk her way into getting her free beer anyway. With her long blond hair and baby blue eyes, it was NOT a shock--but entertaining nonetheless. We stood around drinking beer and chatting until A.'s hubby showed up to pick her up. My fam walked her to the corner he was meeting her at, we said our goodbyes (pretending that we might actually have the energy to meet up later that night for another drink--riiiiiight) and then the Ertel clan headed back to the hotel so that Wilson and I could shower "quickly."

And when I say quickly, I mean VERRRRRRY slowly. I took off my clothing only to realize--per usual--that my sports bra had attempted to devour me (and yes, I HAD used Body Glide). But that wasn't even the worst part. Where the seam of my arm warmers had been at the top of my arms were HUGE gashes. Yep, my arm warmers had basically attempted to sever both of my arms.**** Awesome. The first ten minutes of my shower consisted of me screaming my head off, while attempting to clean out my gaping chafing wounds. OUCH. All I could think of was a sign I'd seen at one point along the course: "Chafe now. Brag to your friends later." Ha.

Finally, Wilson and I were ready to go. I wanted a nap SO badly . . . but not quite as badly as I wanted Gino's East deep dish pizza. And also more beer. We had to wait on line to get into the place (despite the fact that we got there a little before 4--clearly, this was the marathon crowd!), but it was SO worth it. We chowed down on bread sticks and sausage supreme deep dish pizza . . . and we washed that down with pitchers of Sam Adam's Octoberfest. Best. Meal. Ever. Suddenly, all of the pain and suffering was well worth it. And you know what's funny? I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the pizza and beer tasted even better with the side of marathon PR. Just sayin' :)

After sufficiently gorging ourselves, my parents kindly dropped Wilson and I off at the front door of our hotel, congratulating us again. After thanking them profusely, we headed up to our room, and I immediately got into my pjs and climbed into bed. I asked Wilson whether 7:30 p.m. was too early to go to sleep, and he said yes. We turned the tv on, thinking we could distract ourselves with that. But for reals, I think I survived an hour--if that--before I finally passed out for good; of course, visions of future marathons danced in my head as I slept for the next 11 hours . . .

*We later realized the forearm thing was probably a result of my grasping my gloves for 9+ miles. Oops.
**Wilson, being the intelligent person he is, insisted that I eat some food and drink some water before consuming any alcoholic beverages. Fun? No. Smart? Yeah, fine.
***A. and I were soccer teammates growing up, and were always spending time at one anther's' houses . . . so we were pretty tight with each others' parents.
****Ever hear the saying, "don't wear anything new on race day?" Yeah, you might just want to listen to that one, folks! And btw, what works for a 4-mile easy run won't necessarily work for a 26.2-mile race. Duly noted.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank you.

Okay, I promise I will get to Part III of my race report (the after-party . . . woo woo!) soon. But I need to get something out of my system first before I can continue with that. Just now, I was going over all of the incredible, kind comments you guys have left me since the Chicago Marathon, and I got a little choked up--okay, more than a little choked up--a lot choked up. It was one of those moments where I realized just how crazy supportive and all-around amazing you RBFs (or BRFs, depending on who you ask) are. You guys have stuck with me through some rough times, and never--NOT ONCE--have you ever doubted me. You've always been there, armed with kind words and encouragement, a little motivation or a joke just when I needed it most. You guys are seriously the only reason I've been able to keep going some days. Hell, there are times when I like y'all more than my own friends and family . . . no lie! To be fair, part of that stems from the fact that you'd never say things to me like, "Geez, Bae. That Goofy Challenge thing sounds a little bit excessive to me." Or "Did you win your marathon this weekend?" Or "How many miles was this marathon?" Y'all just get me. And I guess it's unreasonable to expect non-runners to "get it" . . . but just know that I am incredibly grateful to have you people around to help me obsess over the minute details of running.

I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you for always being there when I need you the most. Thank you for attempting to build my lousy confidence time and time again. Thank you for continuing to show interest in the drivel I spew into the blogosphere. Thank you for picking me up when I start to doubt myself (which, let's be honest, is pretty often). Thank you for inevitably putting a smile on my face no matter how bad a day I'm having. Thank you for giving me the motivation to get out there day after day. Thank you for caring about my goals and accomplishments. Thank you for inspiring me in the best ways possible. Thank you for being hilarious, generous, unique individuals. Thank you for your sage advice. Thank you for keeping me honest. Thank you for giving me a shoulder to cry on when things don't go as planned. Thank you for being such awesome ambassadors for this sport that I love so very much.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I love you guys. Seriously. I realize that may come across as creepy . . . but sometimes when I'm reading your incredible blogs or looking over your wonderful comments, I just can't help but feel blessed to have taken the plunge and started this silly little blog. My life would feel empty without y'all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part II

Mile 1 - 11:30(!)

As we crossed the start line, I somehow managed to remember to hit start on my Garmin (Gertie) despite all but bursting at the seams with exhilaration and excitement. I was SO thrilled to finally be running the Chicago Marathon--and with both A. and Wilson by my side to boot. It almost made it worth having to skip the race last year (when I tore my MCL two weeks into training). A. pointed out the Goose Island beer tent as we ran by, and we laughed about how ridiculous it was that we were taking such a crazy, round-about path to ultimately get back to the beer tent. As we ran, we dodged throw-away garments and thousands of other runners. I knew we were running REALLY slowly, but we didn't have much of a choice. I was not about to waste precious energy weaving in and out like a crazy person . . . plus, I knew that if I chose to do that, I'd probably lose my running partners pretty quickly. Instead, the three of us focused on staying together and taking advantage of any opportunity we got to move ahead of some of the slower runners. The highlight of this mile was CLEARLY running underneath Columbus Drive and hearing the sound of tens of thousands of runners' feet clapping against the pavement. We were DOING this (along with 35,000 of our best friends)!

Mile 2 - 10:47 (!)

Things were still VERY congested as we made our way through Streeterville, surrounded by scenic skyscrapers. I didn't even look at Gertie--again, knowing we were moving WAY too slowly--and instead, tried my best to take it all in . . . the plethora of fans lining the course, the beautiful scenery, the companionship of my running partners. It was all like a dream!

Mile 3 - 11:37 (!)

During Mile-3, I began to wonder what kind of day it was going to be for me. My legs still weren't really feeling alive, but I figured it was probably the cold temps that were causing them to take so long to warm up. Luckily (?), the course was still so congested that I had plenty to focus on besides my icy legs! *Dodge, dodge, dodge. Omigod, where are A. & Wilson? Oh right . . . there they are. Dodge, dodge, dodge* I prayed that things would thin out soon.

Mile 4 - 10:04

By Mile-4, things hadn't really thinned out considerably, but it seemed like we had finally caught up to more people who were running around the same pace as us. For this, I was very grateful. We still had to dodge in and out continually, but I felt like we were no longer getting trapped behind huge walls of people who were running MUCH slower than we wanted to. Also around this time, Wilson pulled over to take off his throw-away top, and told A. and I to keep on going--that he'd catch up with us. This, of course, made me incredibly nervous . . . it was so crowded, I was convinced he'd never find us again. Just as A. and I were starting to get really nervous that we'd lost him, though, we turned around and he was running right behind us! Apparently he'd been there for a while too! I blamed my obliviousness on "marathon brain" :)

Mile 5 - 10:23

By Mile-5, I was finally feeling like I was "in the groove." My legs were nice and warmed up, and I was feeling like I could run forever. It was at this point that I started to think that it just might be a good day for me. Still, I proceeded cautiously, knowing that my training hadn't been the greatest ever. I was just praying that if I kept my pace slow I'd be able to hold on until the end.

Mile 6 - 10:12

Helloooooo Lincoln Park!! And goodbye, Wilson!! As we entered the zoo, Wilson dove off the side of the course to pee behind a tree, again telling A. and I to go ahead. But what he didn't realize was that there was an aid station just a few hundred meters up ahead where A. and I would be stopping to gel up. As a result, he grossly overestimated how far ahead we were when he got done watering the tree. It looked like us chicas were officially on our own.

Mile 7 - 9:50

As A. and I ran on, I continually looked back over my shoulder, hoping and praying that Wilson would magically reappear. I told A. that I was pretty sure my neck would be sore by the end of the race if he didn't show up soon! Admittedly, I was a little freaked out by the prospect of having lost him . . . but I just kept telling myself that even if Wilson never showed back up, I could certainly get A. to the finish line myself. I HAD to stay strong for A. Luckily, before I could start panicking, I heard my jam off in the distance ("I've got a feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas). I realized we must be close to Boystown because I could hear the party raging just a few blocks over. This got me pretty damn excited :) I'd always heard how amazing that area of the course was . . . I couldn't WAIT to get there and join the party!

Mile 8 - 9:48

Boystown was just like I'd always heard--one big party! It was definitely one of the highlights of the race. Let me just tell you, nothing gets you smiling like a spunky group of all male cheerleaders! :) And smile we did. This part of the course was so much fun that I was really tempted to start dancing . . . but in the end, I figured it best to save my energy for later in the race when I'd REALLY be needing it!

Mile 9 - 10:21

At some point during this mile, A. and I were running along . . . and all of a sudden, Wilson jumped onto the course in front of us! It took me a second to realize what was going on . . . and when I did figure it out, I was so happy I seriously came close to crying. Apparently he had been trying to catch us for the past several miles, until he noticed he was running an 8:00 pace, and the realization that he must have overshot us set in. But being the amazing boyfriend he is, he stopped and waited on the side of the road for a good five minutes until we finally showed up! How sweet is that? Seeing him there was honestly the best part of the entire race for me. I decided I would NOT be letting him out of my sight for the remainder of the race! I'd follow him into a frickin' porta-potty if need be!

Mile 10 - 10:15

Right at the beginning of Mile-10, I realized how hot my hands were getting and made the decision to take my gloves off. I thought about tossing them, but realized I'd be seeing my parents somewhere between the mile-12 and mile-13 markers, and figured I might as well hang onto the gloves and hand them off to my parents when I saw them. Also around this time, I started to feel a small drop in energy, and wisely decided to Gu up at the aid station located at the 9.35-mile mark. Almost instantaneously, I felt much better . . . like I had my mojo back. A., Wilson and I continued on, still running strong. We turned onto the beautifully tree-lined Sedgewick St., and I distracted myself by reading all of the spectators' signs. I remembered a long run not so long ago when I felt like I was going to die at the 10-mile mark. Not today . . .

Mile 11 - 10:10

During Mile-11, I felt my first twinges of pain in my legs. They weren't anything bad, but I was certainly a little nervous about the fact that my legs were already hurting and I still had over 15 miles to go! I just prayed that I would have the strength to ignore the achiness and continue on until I reached that finish line. Somehow, I really felt like I'd be fine.

Mile 12 - 10:02

During this mile, A. and I were walking through an aid station, sipping on Gatorade, when she looked at me with her famous puppy dog eyes and told my her legs were hurting. We were in the same boat . . . under-trained and getting sore. I told her to hang in there--and that I was hurting too. And much to my surprise she got running again right away. 'ATTA GIRL!

Mile 13 - 10:30

Mile-13 was spent desperately searching for my parents in the HUMONGOUS crowd of spectators. There were people 4- and 5-people deep in some areas. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the exact location my parents had said they were going to be; thus, I spent the entirety of this mile looking for them, praying I'd find them soon so I could ditch my gloves. I was REALLY getting sick of carrying them.

Mile 14 - 10:19

As soon as we hit the half-way point, I knew we'd missed my parents. I was a little bit bummed, but figured I'd see them at the next spot on the course they'd planned to hit up--between the mile-16 and mile-17 markers. I honestly don't know why it made sense to me that I'd actually see them at the next point, considering they'd have been cutting it close had they actually SEEN us at the first point (and they told us later they never did see us) . . . but apparently it did. Perhaps it just speaks to my high level of optimism at that point in time. At any rate, we hit the half-way mark at around 2:16, a few minutes slower than I was hoping (and actually 4 minutes slower than my half split at Rock n' Roll Seattle). I could have freaked out and given up, but something told me that I could do it. I just had to keep trucking and I'd get that PR!

Mile 15 - 9:50

I don't remember much from this mile. It was one of those miles that kind of just flew by. But I DO remember that there was a sign taped on a lamp post that said "8 miles to beer." I got seriously excited, and then realized the sign was REALLY wrong. A. screamed out loud that she wanted to hurt whoever put that sign there. Ha. What a cruel, cruel joke (or some seriously lacking math skills!).

Mile 16 - 10:12

Mile-16 was a little bit of a blur as well. I was still feeling fine minus some leg pain, and I was REALLY looking forward to seeing my parents and getting rid of my stupid gloves. I HATE holding anything in my hands while running . . . so I kept switching up which hand I held them in as I ran. It was SUPER annoying. One cute thing that happened during this mile, though, was that A. started to look like she was struggling a little bit, and Wilson said to her, "hang in there. Only a little over a mile until we get to the single digits!" It was adorable. Here he was cheering on someone he'd just met that morning as though he'd known her all her life. It was awesome! :)

Mile 17 - 10:12

Well--surprise surprise--we never did see my parents. I hugged the left-hand curb all mile long, desperately searching for them . . . but to no avail. Wilson finally explained to me what probably happened, and I tried my hardest not to burst into tears. I don't know why, but I was really bummed that they didn't get to see me running, looking strong. I guess it's probably because the last time they saw me running was at mile-19 of the L.A. Marathon, dying of heat exhaustion. I wanted them to see just how much I've improved as a runner. Oh well . . . maybe next time :)

Mile 18 - 10:23

I was giddy with excitement as we hit the mile-17 marker. At exactly the same time, Wilson and I yelled out to everyone around us, "SINGLE DIGITS!!" (Jinxies!) Yep, we were THOSE people. But honestly, I could NOT believe how great I was feeling, considering my last real long run had been a 20-miler (of which 2 miles were walked) 8 or so weeks prior to race day! I was terrified with every step that I was about to hit the wall, but at the same time, I was REALLY proud that I had made it that far without walking. It was officially the farthest I'd ever made it in a marathon without walking. Go me! It was during this mile that I FINALLY gave up on carrying my gloves. I tossed them to the sidelines somewhere on Halsted, and I was SO relieved to not have anything in my hands! Why didn't I get rid of them sooner?!

Mile 19 - 9:49

Still trucking. I believe it was during this mile that we saw a group of guys hand a cup of beer to a runner and tell him to "share with that guy," motioning to another runner. Yep, two random runners were definitely sharing a beer in the middle of the race! Ha. I think if they would have offered me beer at that point, I would have definitely obliged--I was feeling good and having fun--it just made sense! Luckily, no one offered me any beer. But seriously, if you would have bet me a million dollars that I would be "having fun" during mile-19 of the Chicago Marathon, I NEVER would have taken the bet. But here I was, still smiling!

Mile 20 - 10:03

A. had mentioned that she needed to use the bathroom at some point during the previous mile, so when we finally saw an aid station up ahead just after the mile-19 marker, we got ready to stop. A. pleaded with us to go ahead rather than wait for her . . . that she would find somebody else to run behind and make it to the end just fine. I was really hesitant to leave her, but it seemed like it was honestly what she wanted. I suddenly realized that she might want to walk, but didn't want to slow us down. So finally, I agreed to go ahead. A. made a beeline for the porta-potties while Wilson and I continued on.

Mile 21 - 10:21

I could NOT believe I'd made it 20 miles without walking (besides aid stations). As we had been all race, Wilson and I were continuing to pass people, which was one of the biggest confidence boosters EVER. It felt so good to be feeling strong and running tall, while people all around me were slowing to a walk or a shuffle. I even heard a spectator comment as Wilson and I approached, "man, some of these people look really good for Mile-21 of a marathon!" I have no clue whether or not they were referring to us, but I told myself that they were. After all, I was still feeling strong, thinking that nothing could stop me from snagging that PR!

Mile 22 - 10:06

HELLO CHINATOWN! And HELLLLOOOO WALL. Oh. Dear. God. So THAT'S what it feels like, eh? Right around the 21.5 mark, I felt like my legs could NOT move. It was as though some crazy ghost being was pushing me backwards or something. It hurt. I was pissy. But luckily, the energetic crowds of Chinatown carried me along (thank you, Chinatown!). Somehow, despite all the pain I was experiencing, I managed to keep going . . . and at a decent-ish pace. I pretended I was a video game character, and that I would gain strength every time I passed someone. Wilson and I would split around other runners and meet back together in front of them. It felt amazing to be passing people so late in the race.

Mile 23 - 12:22

Enter the Mile 22.3 aid station. My hip abductors and achilles/calves were KILLING me. I don't think I've ever been in so much pain in all my life. I begged Wilson to let me stop and stretch as we approached the end of the aid station. He agreed. I grabbed the fence, looking over the Dan Ryan Expressway (I may or may not have been secretly thinking about scaling the fence and jumping into traffic) . . . and tried to figure out what to stretch first. I was so out of it, I couldn't even remember what stretches were appropriate to target my hip abductors. I gave up pretty quickly on that area and instead stretched my calves. That one I could definitely remember. After a solid couple of minutes worth of stretching, we finally got going again. My legs were like lead. I realized right then and there that the easiest and least painful way to make it to the finish line was to JUST KEEP MOVING. No more stopping . . . not until I crossed that finish line! Wilson tried to encourage me by telling me we only had "4.5 miles left to go." I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had thought we only had 3.5 miles to go! I looked at Gertie again . . . wait! I was right! "3.5, Wilson! 3.5! Right? Right?!" "Uh, oh yeah!" he responded. Whew, math is hard yo.

Mile 24 - 10:51

Ouch. Shit hurts. Kill me now. Grumpy. Why do I do this?! Wilson tried to cheer me up by pointing out that we were "on the home stretch", AKA Michigan Avenue . . . but I was kind of inconsolable. I just wanted to be DONE! Oh, hi aid station! Why yes, I think I WILL slow to a walk to take my last gel, thank you very much!

Mile 25 - 10:45

So CLOSE. So much pain. Why are these mile markers forever apart?! Oh goody . . . another aid station! I don't even want anything to drink, but I'm going to pretend like I do, just to get a walk break! Please, just make this shit end! Now?!

Mile 26 - 10:01

Still trucking up Michigan Avenue. Right past the 25-mile marker, there was yet ANOTHER aid station. Wilson asked if I thought I could make it through the aid station without walking, telling me there was just a little over a mile left. In my most pathetic, exhausted voice I replied, "I just don't know." We made it 3/4 of the way through the aid station before I stopped suddenly and said, "I just need a second . . . " Wilson tried desperately to convince me to get going again. There were fans lining Michigan Avenue, looking at me with pity. Within maybe 10 seconds, Wilson convinced me and I was moving again, determined to NOT stop until I crossed that finish line. This stretch lasted FOR FRICKIN' EVER. Dear God. FINALLY, I could see the turn onto Roosevelt. We were SO almost there. The crowd noise was deafening as we turned the corner. We just had to make it up over the bridge, turn onto Columbus, and we were home free! I expected the slight uphill over the bridge to be awful, but it wasn't bad at all. I was so close to the finish I could taste my Goose Island beer! There it is! The 26-mile marker! Push it, Irish! Push it!

Last .2 - 9:53 pace

Just as I started to kick a little bit, the turn onto Columbus became a HUGE congested mass of people. I tried to find away around the obstacles in front of me, but I just didn't have the energy. I coasted behind them through the turn . . . and then booked it towards the finish line as soon as I saw an opening. It seemed like the damn thing was moving farther and farther away from me with every step I took! FINALLY, Wilson grabbed my hand and we made it, crossing the finish line at 4:34:05. We had done it!

To Be Continued . . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part I

Remember when I said that I thought this race would end up being very memorable? I think I must be psychic. Or maybe it was simply the running gods trying to boost my rather lacking sense of self-confidence. Whatever the case, I was in a state of euphoria from the moment I stepped foot in Chicago on Friday night. I was so happy to be there that not even the cold could get me down. I got off the plane (grinning from ear-to-ear), hopped into a cab and was on my way to the Loop by a little after 9 p.m. At one point, as my cabbie was approaching downtown, I glanced out the window and saw a sight that left me a little breathless . . . painted on the facade of a building was the same Chicago Marathon image I'd seen decorating countless promotional materials, including our oh-so-important confirmation brochures. I took a deep breath and tried to keep myself from squealing out loud. Just. Stay. Calm.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I found my way up to our room and couldn't have been happier to finally see Wilson after two long weeks apart. While I had been SUPER tired on the plane, I was suddenly wide awake and couldn't help but talk at about a million miles an hour. I don't know how we had so damn much to talk about (we talk every day on google chat and/or by phone), but it was like we hadn't seen each other in years, and I had to hurry to fit in everything I needed to tell him about before I went and forgot it! We ended up staying up chatting, laughing and hanging out until well after 1 a.m. Oops, there goes another one of the rules of marathoning . . . but I just didn't care. I was so thrilled to be able to finally catch up that it was definitely worth trading in the extra couple hours of sleep!

The next morning (Saturday), I woke up ready to be transformed into the nervous wreck I typically turn into the day before a marathon. Somehow, though, it never really happened. I was nervous, sure . . . but not like I have been in the past where my appetite is actually compromised. Wilson and I took our time getting out of bed, and eventually made it up and out to Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and bagels/muffins. Right about that time, my parents showed up at our hotel. We sat in the lobby lounge area for quite a while eating our breakfast and chatting away with them. I know I'm supposed to be an adult, and this probably shouldn't be the case, but I always feel so much more calm and composed with my parents around. I was secretly REALLY happy that they had offered to come into town to cheer Wilson and I on (thanks, Mom & Dad!).

After lazing around for a bit, we realized we should probably get ready to head to the Expo. We headed up to our room to drop off the throw-away clothing my parents had graciously donated to me, and then made our way over to the Hilton at Grant Park to catch the free shuttle to the Expo. We stood on line for a lot longer than we had planned and ended up getting to the Expo later than anticipated, thus ruining any chance of a bloggy buddy meet-up (oops! Sorry, y'all!). We did, however, try all kinds of freebies and checked out as many of the booths as possible before finally heading back to the Hilton. At that point, it was already well past 4:30 p.m. and, having not eaten since breakfast, we were all ravenous. The problem was that we had dinner reservations for 6 p.m., so we didn't dare eat much. Usually, I would have freaked over the fact that my pre-race nutrition was so messed up, but I didn't let myself get worked up over it. I decided to just go with the flow and see what happened . . .

We checked into the condo/hotel/place my parents were staying at for the night and then grabbed some snacks in a nearby deli--carrots and hummus, bagel chips, pita chips, etc. Oh, and of course, some beer! I gladly accepted one when my parents offered--there's nothing like a nice cold beer to calm the nerves! We hung out snacking and watching football for the next hour or so until it was finally time for our dinner reservations at a cute little Italian restaurant near the Sears Tower, where my Dad works. I ordered gnocchi with meat sauce (my favorite), and ate almost the entire plate, I was so hungry! I also filled up on fresh bread with olive oil--YUM. We sat and chatted for a bit even after we were done eating, and my father filled us in on the details of his one-and-only Chicago Marathon experience (back almost 30 years ago). I don't know how this is possible, but I had never actually heard much about his marathon! It was definitely cool to think that I would be following in my father's footsteps the very next morning! :)

Finally, we decided to call it a night, and headed back to our respective hotels. In the past, I'd been pretty sombre at this point of the night before . . . it always seemed to be the point when the reality of how great a task lay ahead of me set in. But for some reason, I was the complete opposite on Saturday night. I was seriously goofy bordering on hyperactive! I insisted that Wilson and I both try on our sexy throw-away looks as practice for "looking sexy" the next morning. Then, we proceeded to dance around our tiny hotel room and carry on like crazy people. Ha, it was seriously a lot of fun. After watching some college football and texting back and forth with my friend A, we hit the sack around 10:30 p.m. anxious to see what the next day had in store for us.

I fully expected to lay awake all night long and not get a wink of sleep . . . that's what I usually do the night before a marathon. But somehow, I ended up falling asleep for pretty good chunks of time. During one of them, I had a crazy ass dream where I was riding in the passenger seat of my mother's car and she got pulled over by the cops. I figured she was speeding or something, but when the cops got to the car, they told me I was under arrest for committing over a billion dollars worth of credit card fraud. It was terrifying, to say the least . . . no matter how hard I tried to convince them that they had the wrong person, they just wouldn't listen. It was nuts. I awoke in a sweat, confused. But somehow, I made it back to sleep even after that.

Our alarms (all three of them) started going off at around 5 a.m., and I was actually kind of relieved to be getting out of bed. Not too long after the relief, though, came the terror. I was FINALLY nervous. Wilson and I got up, made some coffee and turned on CNN as we were getting ready. The reporter on CNN mentioned the Chicago Marathon would be starting in a couple hours and that it would be "extremely" cold. "Have fun with that one!" he quipped sarcastically. I started to get even MORE nervous. Had I chosen the right gear to wear? Would my 18 layers of throw-aways keep me warm enough? What if I couldn't find A? What if the cold killed my sensitive lungs? EEK!

I tried my hardest to force a dry bagel down, and made it about 2/3 of the way before finally giving in. I chugged a cup of coffee, took care of my business, threw my stuff into our gear check bag . . . and suddenly realized it was already past time to leave! Yikes! What if A was waiting for us? Wilson and I hurried out of the hotel and down the street to the Art Institute Museum where we would be meeting A. But when we got there, we couldn't find her anywhere! I was freaked that she had already left for the start without us . . . but we were only a couple minutes late. Just as I went to pull my phone out to see if I could get a hold of A, it began ringing. She was stuck in traffic, and having trouble getting to the museum. Nervous, I told her we would wait for her, but encouraged her to try to hurry.

After what seemed like a lifetime, A finally showed up. I wish I could explain how crazy it is to suddenly see someone you haven't seen in 10 years walk--or in A's case, bound--right up to you out of a sea of thousands of people. It is just bananas. She walked up, gave me a huge hug and then we quickly took off on the short trek to the start area. We had a LOT to catch up on! The three of us were chatting away for probably a good 5-10 minutes before I realized I'd never actually introduced A and Wilson! Oops! I properly introduced them, we walked and chatted some more, and then we came upon the porta-potties--which shockingly, didn't have much of a line despite the fact that it was already past 6:45 a.m. (the race started at 7:30 a.m.). We used the facilities, hit up gear check and then made our way to the open corral. This, my friends, was easier said than done. Our late arrival made it so that we couldn't get up to the 10-minute pace sign like we'd originally planned. Luckily, I didn't care much. After all, I had taken all pressure to PR off of myself . . . and I was was pretty busy trying to keep A distracted from thinking about how damn crazy it is to run 26.2 miles all at once! We settled in somewhere behind the 10:30 pace marker and waited for our turn to begin running.

Finally, the gun went off (or so we assumed--we couldn't actually hear it from where we were lined up). A sea of clothing shot up into the air. I wish I could describe what this looked like--it was basically one of the most hilarious things I've seen. A whole pile of sweats landed right on my head. I shook them off and laughed. There's nothing like getting pummeled with old clothing to lighten the atmosphere! I took off my own throw-away sweatshirt, pants and hat. BRRRRR. It was chilly! Luckily, all of the runners crammed around us provided ample body heat . . . and but for a few biting wind gusts, it wasn't intolerable. Slooooowly, us mid-packers made our way up to the start line. At exactly 20:00, Wilson, A and I crossed the start line together. We were on our way!

To Be Continued . . .