Friday, November 16, 2012

Model Patient

A few weeks back I wrote about the sudden foot pain and trip to the podiatrist, and even though I wasn't 100% convinced about the diagnosis of joint capsulitis, I took his advice.  Or rather, I listened to his advice and applied bits and pieces of it where I felt I could compromise. 

The doctor had given me some orthotics to wear in my shoes and metatarsal pads to relieve pressure from the ball of my foot.  His strict orders were to: stay off the foot, ice the foot, take Motrin regularly, wear rigid shoes, and keep the foot as immobile as possible.  Then come back in two weeks.

Translation: Don't run for two weeks.

During this two weeks of healing I tried to find other ways to keep active because of a marathon I have hanging over my head in January.  (Whose idea was this?!)  I started swimming with the track girls a couple times a week, and spent a lot more time on my bike.  I started to really enjoy swimming which I thought I never would, and found a nice 10 mile loop on the bike that I can ride on my lunch break.  I stayed optimistic and thought of this as a great way of cross training.  With the exception of my foot, I really had never felt better!  I even went on a challenging mountain bike ride and only tipped over a handful of times.

Two weeks later I walked gingerly back into the podiatrist's office.  He asked how things were going.  Here's how the conversation went:
Me: Well those orthotics are great, I really feel better walking with them.  But I still have just as much pain.  I would say I'm maybe 10% better.  I wanted to be about 80% better by now.  I need to get back to running very soon.
Doc: Only 10%? That's surprising.  And you've been icing it? And taking Motrin?  Keeping the foot immobile?
Me: I definitely didn't run, that I can promise you.  I iced it once and bought a bottle of Motrin but it didn't really hurt except for when I walk so I didn't bother taking any.
Doc: What about keeping the foot immobile, how's that been going?
Me: Yes, definitely.  I've been wearing my stiffest pair of sneakers.  For example, when I went mountain biking last weekend, I wore some stiff trail shoes.  I know what you're thinking, that I shouldn't be pedaling, but really it was not a problem.  I have regular pedals, not clips, so I could just put the pedal in the arch of my foot instead of the ball.  Smart, right?
Doc: You're kind of a psycho, you know that? 

The doctor then spent some time looking at my foot, the wear pattern on my shoes, analyzed the way I stand, and then started poking around the top of my foot.  We kept up a friendly banter while this was taking place, where he lightly scolded me for being a bad patient.  He asked why I work out so much, saying "obviously it's not to look good".  I really didn't know how to respond to that!  Luckily that awkward moment passed quickly when he touched a spot on the top of my foot that made me gasp. 
Doc: That looks like it hurt a lot.  I thought you said it didn't really hurt.
Me: Well it didn't until you just touched it.
Doc: Remember when I asked you how much it hurt on a scale of 1 to 10, and you said 5? You should've said 10.  Just for the record, that's a 10.
With that, he ordered an MRI on the foot to see if it was a fracture or any type of tear.  In the meantime he told me (you guessed it): Rest, ice, Motrin, keep it immobile, and for the love of dirt... no mountain biking! 

The poking around he did really made my foot sore so I took his advice and iced it, and even popped a few Motrin here and there.  I had my MRI on a Saturday night, and Monday morning the doctor's office told me that I had a fractured 3rd metatarsal bone.  I needed to immediately get over to a medical supply place to pick up this sweet walking cast. 

The boot was awkward to walk in but definitely provided a lot of relief to my foot.  That's a good thing because I was headed to a four day horse show and was going to be doing a lot of walking around.  I needed all the help I could get!  The boot didn't keep me from working out though.  I wore it on the bike, and even wore it up to the pool. 

Also during this time I had my annual awards banquet for my running club.  Last year I showed up on crutches and loaded with pain killers after having my hip surgery.  I'm officially turning into "that person" that always has something wrong.  Ugh.
I wore the boot from Monday until the following Wednesday.  Although the boot didn't bother me, it really started making my good foot hurt.  The boot is so much higher off the ground than a sneaker, and it was causing me to put too much stress on my good foot.  And since I need at least one good foot, the boot came off.  Plus, I was starting to feel better.  In fact, I may have texted a couple people that I was nearly ready to run again.

Yesterday I went back to the podiatrist.  I wore my sneakers and was practically almost not really even favoring it at all.  Naturally the doctor wanted to know where my boot was.  I explained why I wasn't wearing it, which of course made him concerned about the other foot.  I said not to worry, I'm starting to feel better and I'm pretty sure I can run soon.
Doc: You aren't ready to run yet.  Your foot is broken.  You can't run until your foot is no longer broken.  We won't know that until we do xrays in a couple weeks.
Me: So you're thinking two more weeks then? 
Doc: We'll talk about it in two weeks.  In the meantime, you need to wear the boot.
Me: I'm not wearing the boot.
Doc: Okay.  Maybe you can return the boot.  Is it still in good condition?
Me: Not really, my buddy dropped a full margarita on it.
Doc (eye roll): Okay, how about crutches.
Me: Absolutely not.
Doc: Okay. Sit tight.  I'll just wrap it up.  You'll like this.
(Doctor proceeds to wrap my foot all up nice and snug with some wrap that has some sort of pasty glue like substance).
Me: Perfect! I like this better.  So I just have to take this on and off?
Doc: Nope. This is a cast.  It doesn't come off.
Me: What?! Well is it waterproof?  I'm going swimming tonight.
Doc: No you're not.  Your foot is broken.  You're benched.  Think of it as a vacation.  You needed a break.  And you got one, bahaha!  (Doctor humor). You're not allowed to move your foot.  Have you been taking your Motrin?
Me: No. Why, do you think I should?
Doc: Do you understand that your foot is broken?

So here's what I'm up against for the next two weeks:  No running, swimming, biking, or any sort of unusual activity.  In two weeks I'll go get xrays (on both my feet), and then I'll meet back up with the doctor to hopefully get the green light to run again. 

One thing that several people mentioned is that stress fractures can happen pretty easily if there's a vitamin D deficiency.  I ran this by my friend Becca, a pharmacist, and she agreed that I should definitely be taking supplements.  She turned me onto Viactiv chocolate flavored chews, which taste way too good to be a vitamin.  So now I start my day off with 2 multi-vitamin gummies and 1 calcium and vitamin D chocolate chew religiously.  See?  Sometimes I really can be a good patient!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Looking past Newport

So it took a little  bit of time to digest everything that's happened over the last week and put it into words.  I had been doing very well running, sticking to my marathon training plan, and was feeling very good about running the Newport half marathon.  In fact, I felt more prepared for that race than probably any other race I've run, and I was quite confident that I would break my personal record.

In the days leading up to Newport I felt good, although some minor aches were popping up.  Nothing was unmanageable, but my hip area was giving me a little bit of trouble.  Other than that, I had some very minor foot soreness but nothing that was slowing me down.  For several days before Newport I took it easy.  My long run that week was only 7 miles, and I did a couple short runs during the week.  On the Friday before Newport I headed out for a very slow, easy 3 mile run and that's when I ran into trouble.  My foot bothered me pretty much from the beginning of the run, which was unusual, and then about 2.5 miles into the run, the pain became extreme.  I thought it was just a weird quirky pain that I could run through, but I couldn't.  Running through the pain wasn't an option.  I knew at that moment, on Friday afternoon, that I was out of commission.  I walked back to my house, discouraged and in disbelief at the rotten timing of this injury, although I thanked my lucky stars that it happened close to home and not a couple miles into a race.  When I got home I packed it in ice and popped a few Motrin, and still hoped it was just a fluke pain that would disappear as quickly as it came.  

Friday night, the track girls all got together for a fun night of pre-race festivities.  Marie invited us all to her house for a pasta dinner and even hired a manicurist to do our nails! 

We had tons of fun hanging out, having a couple drinks and some good food, and swapped stories of running, training, races, and injuries.  We all speculated on what was going on with my foot, and I tried to remain positive.  

Saturday when I climbed out of bed, it was clear that my foot was no better.  It was extremely frustrating, and I was definitely losing hope about running Newport.  Still, I packed a bag full of running clothes and headed down to Newport for the night with Deb and Diana.  I hobbled around the race expo and we picked up our packets, then did a little bit of sight seeing near the water.  I never get sick of sunsets in Newport!!

Deb (who had just run the Hartford Marathon earlier in the day, pacing the 4:30 group) and Diana, running her first half marathon!
After packet pickup we headed over to my friend Michael's house, who lives 20 miles outside of Newport.  We made a nice pasta dinner and had a great time chatting for a couple hours  - while I continued icing my foot in a Hail Mary attempt to cure it - before tucking ourselves in for a decent sleep.

Sunday morning I put my feet on the floor, and the pain was instant and intense.  There was no choice, I wasn't going to be running the race.  I was extremely disappointed and it was hard to hide my feelings!  We headed to the race, which turned into a giant fiasco since the traffic was so jammed trying to get into Newport.  It was so bad, in fact, that they hopped out of the car a couple miles away from the start of the race and walked/ran the rest of the way.  I stayed in the car, finally made it to the parking lot, took a shuttle, and got to the race late (8:05) but the race was late starting so I still saw the runners take off.  I was bummed that I wasn't able to catch up with anyone before the race started, and really questioned what the heck I was even doing there.  The only cool thing was that I was able to spot Jackie and Marie as they passed by me at the starting line.  

Once the runners were all on course, I was struck with the realization that I was going to be spending the next 2+ hours here waiting for everyone to come back.  It was freezing, the wind was whipping at 20+ mph, and in my haste to catch the shuttle I didn't bring a coat or any money.  I sat on a barrier for a few minutes with the wind whipping rain into my face and cried.

When everyone started coming in, I heard many stories of the intense, almost unbearable wind.  Everyone ran well, and almost everyone had PR's!  It was great to see my track girls do so well.  All that hard work over the summer really paid off!

Jackie & Marie both got PR's 
After everyone grabbed a bite to eat we headed out.  Back at the car, Diana had a surprise for us!

These are little "cakettes", and are completely decadent.  Isn't this the coolest thing?  There were 4 different flavors, and we snacked on a few of these on the ride home!

That night I was inconsolable.  I just had to sulk and get it out of my system.  It was the first race I had ever entered and didn't start.  For the afternoon I sulked, and then after I started getting my head together realized I needed to make a plan.  That plan was going to have to get me training for Disney one way or another.  If I couldn't do it by running, I was going to have to find another way.  So, in came the bike!

The great thing about having such strong running friends is that they understand my disappointment, and are genuinely just as concerned about my foot as I am.  On Tuesday Marie called and invited me to go swimming with her.  I hate swimming.  I'm terrible at swimming and I avoid water whenever possible.  I've heard of all the amazing benefits of swimming and how it's great cross training for runners, but it kind of freaks me out so I avoid it.  This, I realized, is exactly what I need.  So I popped over to Sports Authority, got myself a swimsuit, cap, and goggles, and prepared for aqua battle!  

Looking a little Smurfy
Marie, Coleen and I ended up having a really good time swimming and it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.  I did manage to nearly choke to death right when we started but after that I was okay.  I quickly realized that I have no fitness when it comes to swimming, so I had to take constant breaks to catch my breath.  This is probably exactly why I never wanted to swim before, because it seemed so hard.  Coleen insisted that it's just like running, and that over time you can build up speed, distance, and work on form.  It was a great introduction to swimming and I'm proud to say I went back tonight by myself and did pretty well!

In the meantime, I went to the podiatrist yesterday to get to the bottom of my foot problem.  I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the doctor, but I think he's got me going in the right direction.  He's calling this injury joint capsulitis.  The treatment is roughly 4 weeks of no running, keeping the foot immobile (no flexing), ice, Motrin, orthotics, and metartarsal pads under my foot to relieve pressure.  I have a follow up appointment in two weeks, and if by then there's no improvement then we'll probably do an x-ray or MRI.

I'm being surprisingly mature about this injury, diagnosis, and treatment.  I'm not yet worried about Disney, provided that I can get back to running in a few weeks.  This is certainly not ideal, but I'm planning on doing a fair amount of swimming and biking to keep the cardio and leg strength.  I'm looking at this as an opportunity to force myself into more cross-training, which I've never been great at.  And even though I'm bummed about not running, all this free time means time to do a lot more of this...

Some of this...

...and of course a bit more of this...

So I'm not too worried about having down time over the next 4 weeks!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Oh, the Humanity!

Last night I had to do the unthinkable.  I had to do my long run all alone.  I've gotten spoiled rotten by running with a group of friends every week, so the thought of running for a couple hours all by myself seemed like such a drag.  Not to mention that I was already pretty tired from spending the day riding in a horse competition, and pretty demoralized from watching the Patriots lose.  If we're being honest, all I wanted to do was open a beer and sack out in the recliner.  I thought about taking the day off and moving the long run to today, but since I'm only technically on Week 2 of marathon training, it seemed a little early to be wimping out. 

Reluctantly I threw the cat off me, got dressed, and made a last minute decision to bring an iPod.  I haven't run with an iPod in years, but I figured I might need a little extra motivation since I didn't have anyone to talk to.  Up the steep hill I went, holding the iPod while I struggled to keep the ear buds stuffed into my ears.  Every once in a while I would swing my arm a little too much and yank one back out.  A half mile into the run I remembered how much I hated iPods and thought about stashing it on the side of the road, but tried to stick it out a little longer.

Less than a mile into the run I realized it was going to be one of "those days".  As I was approaching a driveway on my street, a car backed out onto the street without even looking.  Now I'm not one to think that it's "all about me", but if my toes are already in the driveway, it's probably worth letting me pass.  A short time later, not one but several cars veered so close to me I had to jump into a lawn to avoid losing my knees.  And then there were the classic "I don't think runners should run in the road when there's a sidewalk" drivers that wouldn't move over at all even though no cars were coming towards them, just to send a message.  Finally as I was approaching the parking lot exit of a school, a car came up behind me and turned left into the exit, cutting me off in the process.  Arm motions were made and I distinctly remember calling him a "stupid blah-bitty-blah!"  The joke was on him though because he then drove around and caught me again as he was trying to exit through the entrance, where I suddenly felt the need to run reeeaallly slowwww so he had to wait for me.  After this encounter I broke into my "I hate people" mood and started getting pretty aggravated.  In my country towns it's unusual to run into such a string of angry drivers, so I'm going to chaulk this up to the Patriots loss.  I'll make a note of that in the future so I don't schedule runs immediately following football games.

Shortly after passing the school, I reached the breaking point of the iPod.  I absolutely hated having music directly streaming into my ear drums and the cords felt constricting.  I stopped on the side of the road, in an area I call the "creepy section".  My friends know where I mean.  It's a road where there are virtually no houses and it gives off a major creep factor.  While keeping an eye out for kidnappers, I stuffed the iPod into my fuel belt and got a good gulp of water.  Just as I was getting ready to go again, a woman on a bicycle passed by, asking if I was okay.  I said I was fine, thanks, and thought to myself, what a nice lady!  I bet she didn't watch the Patriots game.  I started down the road again and order was restored.  My head felt better without the music invading it, and I just let loose.  It was one of those runs where I felt like I switched bodies with a good runner.  I busted a move for miles, and aside from the occasional crack of body parts slapping together or knees cracking, it was a very peaceful run.  Every time I checked my watch I found myself going even faster than the last mile.  I don't really know what got into me and I know I was supposed to be doing a long slow run, but I felt good so I just went with it. 

Something tells me that my body language showed the way I felt.  I can't help but feel that the dog walkers and bicyclists I passed gave me a more enthusiastic wave, and one lady walking two dogs actually clapped and said, "great job!"  Okay that was actually a little weird.

I barreled towards the finish of my route, which was going to end at a trail and then I was going to walk the trail back for a cool down.  I got to the trail and stopped, checked my watch, and realized the route was a little shorter than I wanted.  So I took a few sips of water, regrouped, and just as I was starting to run again I saw a woman on a bicycle coming.  No, it's not possibly the same lady that passed me four miles ago.  Yes, yes it was.  I made sure I looked strong and in need of no assistance as she passed me, and she gave me a big smile and thumbs up.  I can't help but wonder what she was thinking as she saw me again.  Why is that lady always standing on the side of the road?  How did she get here so fast if she's always just standing on the side of the road?  I chuckled and continued on. 

The last 1.5 miles of the run I did through the woods and just did a slow cooldown jog.  This too is a creepy area because at 6:30 at night it was getting dark and I didn't want to spend any more time in the woods than necessary.  About a half mile from my house I spotted two questionable looking men loitering in the trail.  Covered in tattoos and moving slowly, they were enough to make my skin crawl.  I kept calm, heading towards them but thinking of ways around them and preparing myself for the possibility that I may need to do some sprinting in the next 30 seconds.  (Finally, a practical application for track workouts!)  When they heard me coming they turned around and motioned for me to stop.  I slowed, weighing my options, and they yelled out that there was a giant bee's nest up ahead and I should stay away from it.  I stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes, checking out (but keeping a very safe distance from) the bee's nest.  Turns out they were looking for a pair of sunglasses that they had lost a couple hours earlier when they were being attacked by the bees.  I felt a little foolish for thinking the worst of them, and grateful that they warned me about the bees.  I started getting really cold really fast so I left them to look for the glasses and I ran the rest of the way home. 

So, all in all a great run.  I lost faith in humanity after repeated near-roadkill episodes, but faith was restored with my bicycle angel, my cheering spectators, and the beekeepers!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Breaking all kinds of track records!

Throughout the last few months I've been attending my club's weekly track sessions.  If you recall in my first track session ever back in May, I had committed to going every week in hopes of seeing speed and fitness improvements.  There have definitely been up's and down's from week to week, and sometimes even just within the hour.  For the most part I think I've been improving, although sometimes it's hard to judge because the workouts seem to keep getting harder.  Last week I hit a new "Jill world record" by completing a 400 meter run in 1:35!  After that high, I sunk to a new low by walking part of the 600 and then cutting the 800's into 400's.  I had all the characteristics of a failing Red Sox season.

One aspect of track that's been a steady "up" is the friendships I've built with the "track girls".  They've been so motivational to me, have pulled me along through some tough intervals, and we get to chit chat during the recoveries.  This camaraderie has spilled over into our weekends, where we've been getting together for early morning long runs!

Kerri, Julia, Marie, Coleen, Jackie and I heading out for a 12 miler
Over the last week I've reassessed my track strategy and decided that I really need to run my own pace, not get pulled into the faster paces, and not start off too fast.  I wanted to complete the workout, no matter what.  Even if that meant running a little slow.  So that's the approach I was ready to take last night.

On my long drive home from work last night I felt a headache coming on, and by the time I got home it was pounding.  I quickly changed into running clothes, downed a couple of Motrin, and headed out to track.  I can't say I was really looking forward to the workout, but I was looking forward to the peacefulness of the track.  When I got to track and hopped out of the car, I heard a repetitive drumming noise.  Oh HELL no, it couldn't be... As I got closer to the track, my fear was confirmed.  The entire Milford High School marching band was practicing on the infield of the track.  The drum beat was in sync with the pounding in my head, so I was thankful that our warm up mile was off the track.

Our coach Rich wasn't there last night so Jay was in charge, enforcing the workout that Rich had created.  I announced that I wouldn't be attaining any "Jill world records" tonight, and that I was running slower so that I could finish the workout this time.  With overwhelming understanding and compassion, Jay jokingly responded, "Interesting strategy, I don't think it will be very beneficial".  We can joke around before and after the workout, but on the track he is all business and no amount of our whining could elicit any sympathy from him.  

The workout Rich created (and was conveniently absent for) was 400, 800, 800, 800, 800, 400.  The first 400 was fairly painless, all of us holding back considerably knowing what we had ahead of us.  My time was 1:41, and I was okay with that.  We settled into the 800's and that's where it started to hurt.  Jackie and Coleen surged ahead and I tucked in behind Paul, which proved to be a good strategy for the rest of the workout.  The first 800 was a 3:44, and Jay told me to get a 3:42 next time.  As if I have any idea how to "make that happen".  I have zero sense of pace.  I run as well as I can, and hope it's a respectable time when I cross the finish.  The second 800 was a little screwy because Paul confused me by staying behind me.  I think he was trying to conserve energy and it really made me wonder if I was going out too fast.  We finished that one in 3:39, and I was shocked that I went a full five seconds faster.  The third 800 we resumed the Paul-Jill order, an again we shaved another five seconds off and finished in 3:34 (a new Jill world record!).  At this point I felt like I was unraveling a bit.  I was dying for this last 800 to be over.  I may have mentioned that at the start line.  Jay may have responded with, "this is the last one, so you have to push harder this time".  If I could have formed words at that moment I may have given him a piece of my mind, but instead he said "Go!" and we went!  Once again Jackie and Coleen surged ahead and I tried to stick with Paul, but he started pulling away after 600 meters.  In the final stretch I closed in on him and felt a terrible queasiness in my stomach.  Don't think about it, just run.  Push.  Do it.  Don't suck.  As we barreled down the straightaway I amused myself by noting the band practicing on the infield, playing some motivating music.  While my legs churned I observed the darkness settling in around the track, the perfect orange lanes illuminated with ultra-strong lights on the field.  I felt athletic.  I felt like a bona-fide athlete under the bright lights, with the band playing just for me.  I pushed through the nausea and about ten feet before I crossed the finish line, I watched Coleen veer into the infield, double over, and hurl blue Gatorade all over the field.  In a feat of impressive multi-tasking, I started gagging but managed to cross the finish line, press the lap button on the Garmin, veer off to the outside of the track, brace against the chain link fence, and hurl my own water all over the grass.  I remained doubled over for about 20 or so seconds until I felt somewhat sure I was done, and looked up to see Coleen and Jackie checking on me.  I laughed and gave them a thumbs up, and trotted up to them.  The whole throwing up thing was completely overshadowed by the fact that my finishing time was 3:31!!  Totally shattering the previous Jill world record!  We jogged about 3/4 around the track for our recovery, and then started walking in the straightaway.  It was at that moment that I remembered that all 75 members of the marching band (playing just for me, the amazing track star) were faced in our direction, most likely perplexed and disturbed by the old ladies that just threw up all over their brand new track in front of them.  As we started giggling about that, we spotted Jay at the start line, throwing his arms up in a "what the hell are you guys doing" motion.  We yelled to him that we both just threw up.  His sympathetic response was, "So?  You're not throwing up right now! Move it!"  We grumbled, and I announced that this final 400 was going to be untimed for me.  I was cooked.  Coleen responded, "C'mon, it's just one more.  You can do it!".  So, we lined up and took off.  (Wisely I opted not to drink before this last interval).  In the first turn Coleen blew past us and Jackie said, "She's going to make herself puke again.  Oh it's going to happen".  We laughed and finished strong, and as I was approaching the finish line I again spotted Coleen hurling onto the grass.  I stopped my watch and blew past the finish line, trying to avoid my own repeat performance.  I was excited to see my final 400 was a 1:35, tying the Jill world record from last week!  What a strong way to finish!

We all met back up on the track and then headed out for our cool down mile.  In an effort to display a zero-mercy policy, Jay took us on an extended cool down, up a big hill and through a neighborhood.  Despite all the puking, somehow we all managed to have a great time and shared some good laughs.  

As for the puking, for me it was a proud moment!  It wasn't the result of a bad meal, one beer too many, or anxiety.  It was the outcome of giving everything I had in a sport that I love.  When I hopped back into my car to head home, headache gone, stomach still unsettled, the first thing I did was text someone who would understand: Scott!  The text said simply, "I did it!! I puked at track!!"  His response was, "that's awesome, congrats!  That's a rite of passage!".  He gets it!  And while I'm proud of this bizarre accomplishment, it's a record that I'm hoping I don't get in the habit of breaking.

*Everything I said about Jay was only half true.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sometimes you just gotta walk

I went for a walk today on my lunch break.  A leisurely, stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of walk.  I honestly can't remember the last time I took a walk, with the exception of walks at work.  That's my new thing.  My one-on-one meetings are now conducted in sneakers around the building.  My staff really seems to like it and we have much more to talk about when we're out there swinging our arms and legs in the fresh air.  But today I walked instead of ran.  How leisurely was it?  Well... I even stopped and took a picture!

View from the West Hill Dam spillway
I walked partly because my legs were tired, but mostly because I've had a couple of back to back long runs, and track tomorrow night.  If last week's killer track session was any indication, I better have some fresh legs when I get there!  I'm not 100% sure if I'm getting any faster at track.  It seems that every week I'm just as depleted and sore afterwards as the week before, and I still always run at the back of the pack.  I guess the truth will come out if I finally bring myself to enter a 5K this fall.  The very cool thing about track is the great group of ladies I've gotten to run with.  Here we thought track was so intimidating and only for the fast guys, but us chicks have formed our own little pack.  We stick together and encourage each other, and last weekend we got together for a super fun long run!

This is my standard view on any run - road, track or trail!

Another reason I went for a walk today is because I'm forcing myself to get into the habit of cross training.  Although my "official" Disney marathon training plan doesn't start until September 10, I built in a few pre-plan base weeks to make sure I could get into the routine.  It calls for a cross-training day (which should be Monday) and should be walking, cycling, swimming, or any other type of aerobic sport.  I tried to convince myself that my firearms class at the range tonight would qualify as cross training, but even I couldn't make that leap.  Truthfully I probably should've done something a little more challenging than a walk, but it felt good to stretch my tight hip flexors.  Walking through the woods today reminded me of how monumental it was over the winter when I finally graduated to one crutch, and then to one ski pole, as I gained stability.  That seems like eons ago!

Today is my 10 month anniversary of the hip surgery, and honestly sometimes I forget I even had it!  It seemed like the end of the world at the time, but here I am running 25 miles a week and gearing up for a winter marathon.  I'm hoping to jump into a couple 5K's this fall, and then I'll be running the Newport half marathon on October 14.  I'd like to find a good race to run on October 28, which will be the one-year anniversary of my surgery.  After that it's train-train-train to Disney!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Old Port Half Marathon Race Report

2012 has been a year of recovery and fun runs, so when I saw an ad on Facebook about a fun half marathon in Portland, Maine, I was intrigued!  Jaimee, Kerri and I had been brainstorming about a fun destination race, and this seemed like a good fit.  Not too far, and conveniently located right near one of my favorite campgrounds.  With very little coercion convincing, they were on board!
I'll get to the details, but <spoiler alert> this ended up being one of the best weekends I've ever had.  The company, the location, the weather, the race, it was all around a phenomenal weekend!
On Friday, July 20 (sorry, I'm a little behind!) we headed up to Maine, camper in tow.  Kerri and I stopped at a rest stop in New Hampshire to pick up Jaimee, and continued the trek to Scarborough, Maine where we booked a site at Bayley's Campground.  It was a nice smooth ride up there, and in no time we had the camper set up and were all settled in.  What do you get when three female runners go camping together?
A very well organized, healthy fridge!
Once we were all settled in, we sat down for a much needed (and very healthy) lunch!
We spent the afternoon exploring the massive campground, and relaxed poolside.  (I took one of those uber-annoying pictures of my feet crossed with the pool in the background, but I was so annoyed by it that I had to delete it).  After the pool, we did a nice easy 4 mile run towards Old Orchard Beach.  The weather was great, 80's, sunny and low humidity.  We finished our run, showered, and treated ourselves to an outstanding lobstah dinnah!
Lobstah, steamers, homemade potato salad, corn, home grown zucchini (and French fries, busted!)

I ate every last bit of my lobster and part of Kerri's too!
We headed up to the entertainment complex, listened to a band play, and ate ice cream.  Then we headed over to our friend Joanna's campsite.  Coincidentally she was camping there all week!  (Although try as we did, we couldn't convince her to run the race with us).  We enjoyed a couple beers and a nice fire with her family, then eventually headed back to our site.  
On Saturday we were up early for a day at the beach!  We took the campground trolley to Old Orchard Beach.  It was a beautiful beach day, and I easily could have stayed there for a good ten hours.  But, we wanted to avoid getting sunburned or dehydrated, so we only stayed for three hours.  We even went in the cold Maine water (which wasn't actually that cold) and had a blast flopping around in some big waves!

We came back from the beach, showered, and headed to Portland to check out the city and pick up our bibs at Maine Running Company.
Personalized bib!  I feel famous!
We took advantage of being in the city to drive around and try to figure out where the start and finish were located.  We knew from the map and the course description that there was about a mile between the start and finish, and we wanted to have a good idea of where to go so that we weren't scrambling around at 6am trying to figure out where to go.  Despite the detours and road closures due to construction, we found the start line and approximate finish line.  The start line was located at Fort Sumner Park, which ended up being so pretty that we pulled over to take pictures.
We walked around for a little while, taking in the gorgeous views, before heading back to the campground.  By mid-afternoon it was time to relax and conserve energy, so I sat in a recliner reading a book while Kerri and Jaimee played cards.  For dinner we opted for traditional pasta.  I took mine with olive oil instead of red sauce, and added some leftover zucchini.  It was delicious, but I wonder now if the very garlicky zucchini had anything to do with the stomach cramps I would experience on race day.
I swear, I did not eat this whole plate!
At 5am Sunday morning, we woke to the sound of the coffee maker alarm signaling the coffee was ready (ah, the joys of "roughing it"!).  We rose, did all our pre-race rituals, drank our coffee, and attempted to choke down some form of pre-race nutrition.  I made myself a half of a peanut butter sandwich, and managed to eat about half of that while driving to Portland.  We arrived to the city at 6:30 or so, leaving plenty of time to find a trolley and make our way to the start (7:30am start).
Beautiful finish at the Maine State Pier
We caught the next available trolley and headed to the start line.  The race was started in gender waves: Women at 7:30 and Men at 7:48.  I thought it was a little strange to split up the field in this way, since the fast men would end up having to navigate through a large field of slower women.  However, I was thankful for such an early start.  You would think that a 7:30am start in Maine would be cool, but it wasn't as cool as I expected.  It was well into the 70's by the time the race started, and I instantly regretted leaving my hat behind.  My number one goal was to have fun at the race, and not worry about the time.  It was, after all, my first half marathon since my surgery.  I was just thankful to be there and finish.  But if pressured, I'd tell you I was aiming to make 2 hours or less.  I felt good, strong, and I had been doing really well at track.  
The course was a little strange, and for most of the race I couldn't decide if I liked it or not.  It took me a bit of reflection to decide that I actually really liked it.  It was a bit narrow and difficult to pass people (however, that turned out to not be a huge factor since I ended up not being in a position to pass many people!).  About a mile into the race, we were running alongside a highway, which was a little unsettling since there wasn't any barrier or even cones.  About the time I was feeling vulnerable, a State Trooper came driving by us, shouting through his microphone that we were not supposed to be on this road.  All around me, people were confused but kept plodding along.  The trooper pulled over, directing drivers around us, and I overheard him saying into his phone that a race went the wrong direction and there were runners all over the road.  It was unsettling for those of us that heard it, and I was nervous that we were going to get to the next intersection and would be told we were off course.  That ended up not being the case though, and we just keep going on.  The course had nearly no shade, and the sun really heated things up fast.  By 4 or so miles into the race I was getting hot.  About 5 miles in, we ran around a field (in the field!) which was part of a sanctuary.  This was my first time off-roading during a half marathon.  Within this field was a porta-john.  I didn't stop at it.  This is significant.
At about 6 miles into the race, I started getting really overheated.  Luckily there were water stops almost every mile, and even a pool of ice and sponges to cool us down in a couple spots.  At mile 6.5 I had severe stomach cramps.  I don't know if it was from the garlicky zucchini, the morning coffee, the Chomps, the heat, but I looked high and low for a porta-john.  I slowed my pace way down, and several times I had to walk.  At mile 7.5 we moved onto a gravel path, where we stayed for the next 4.5 miles.  It was well packed and smooth, but still different than pavement and it was a first for me on a half marathon.  It was just enough extra effort that I didn't have, and again I walked several times.  I kept my eyes peeled for a porta-john, and finally at mile 10 I spotted one in a parking lot.  I made a beeline to it, and after a short wait I hopped in.
<Cue elevator hold music>... 
And we're back!  Phew, what a relief!  I picked up a strong stride after the pit stop, but looking at my watch it became clear that I wasn't making 2 hours.  I might not even make 2:05.  At that realization, I just settled into a comfortable pace, took my time at the remaining water stops, and tried to enjoy the last few miles.  I was feeling comfortable at about mile 12, when I saw a familiar shape ahead of me, and realized it was Kerri.  She was walking.  It was so unfathomable to me that she would be walking, that I thought she had already finished the race and was just walking around.  I tapped her on the shoulder and when I saw her face it was clear that she wasn't done, and wasn't happy.  She waved at me to keep going so I did.  Up ahead I saw Jaimee on the corner cheering like crazy, and it was awesome to see a familiar face.  I told her Kerri was behind me and having trouble, so she said she was going to find her.  I made the final turn to the finish line and came in strong, briefly catching the time on the clock (2:11:38, oops!).  
After crossing the finish line (and I mean, literally I had one foot over the finish line) a completely awesome hero-volunteer shoved a freezing cold bottle of ice water into my hands, and another handed me a finisher medal.  I guzzled the ice water and stumbled around trying to get my bearings.  I wandered over to a cool misting station, and spotted some pools where people were sitting or dunking their feet.  At that point the water didn't seem icy enough so I just stuck with the misting station.  Kerri and Jaimee caught back up with us and we sat down to try to cool off.  Finding shade was a problem, but Jaimee was our hero.  She had finished in an outstanding 1:50, so she had all kinds of extra time to scope things out. She wandered off and came back with sopping wet ice cold towels (heaven!) and a cup full of sweet and salty snacks.  Once I cooled down enough, Jaimee and I headed to the Shipyard Ale beer garden, while Kerri rested on the pier.  I grabbed a slice of pizza, and we headed in for our two free beers!
The payoff!
I was hoping to be able to bring the unopened beers home with me, but unfortunately we had to open and drink it in the beer garden.  
Jaimee chillin' with her Shipyard Ale! (This was her second one!)
As much as I want to brag that I downed 2 beers at 9:30 in the morning, the truth is I could barely drink half of one.  Regrettably I had to dump the beer, but it sure was tasty!  (I later bought a six pack of Shipyard Ale, my little way of paying back the company that sponsored such an awesome race!).  I even had a tiny cup of ice cream before heading out.  Once we were all recovered, we headed out of the pier and back to the car, where we laughed about having beer, pizza, and ice cream all by 10:00am.  We also realized once we got to the car that it was already 85 degrees out!  We knew it was hot!
On the way back to Scarborough, Jaimee sat in the backseat snacking and chatting about the race.  At one point she exclaimed, "Did that even feel like 13 miles to you?  I feel like I just ran a 5K!" at which point Kerri said to me, "Make her stop".  I turned and said, "You realize we both want to punch you in the face right now" and we all laughed.  

The bottom line:
Here's what I loved about this race: 
  • The early (7:30am) start time
  • The low entry fee
  • The location (Portland Maine, beautiful!)
  • The free beer!
  • The free pizza!
  • The free ice cream!
  • The free snacks!
  • The ice cold water in the reusable water bottle
  • The sopping wet ice cold towels at the finish
  • The phenomenal volunteers
  • The very generous water stops
  • The sponging stations
  • The misting station at the end
Here's what I didn't love about the race:
  • The very limited porta-johns on the course
  • The narrow course, with awkward starting waves
  • The lack of shade (race director, plant some trees! Just kidding)
  • Running past a waste water treatment plant - ew!
  • The race results online were screwy.  (It was corrected within a day)
As for the actual course, I'm still not sure which column to put that in, but I'm getting closer and closer to saying that I really liked the course.  

So the bottom line, this was an awesome weekend with great friends and was capped off with a very well organized race.  I absolutely want to make this an annual event!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

If I were being chased by a guy with a knife...

You've heard this expression.  If you are a runner talking to a non-runner, casually mentioning how many miles you ran today, the non-runner chimes in and says, "I couldn't run that far if I were being chased by a guy with a knife!".  Similarly, if you are a non-runner trying to flatter or otherwise appear less immortal than the runner, you respond to the runner's mileage tally with, "I couldn't run that far if I were being chased by a guy with a knife!".  It is the most overused and least logical expression ever shared between the worlds of runners and non-runners.  No wonder we don't understand each other!  

Why is it always a knife?  And a guy?  Why not a bear?  Or a guy with a tarantula? Or a bear with a tarantula?

Here's the scenario. I ran 9 miles.  Someone "couldn't run 9 miles if they were being chased by a guy with a knife".  Why would a guy run after you for 9 miles with a knife?  What the hell did you do to this guy that he felt compelled to run 9 miles to stab you?  Where are you that there isn't anyone to call or anywhere to hide from this 9-mile-knife-wielding houligan?

Okay so let's just go along with the scenario.  So there I was, mugging someone, and the victim turned on me with a knife and... No, that's not realistic.  So there I was, kicking someone's puppy, and... No, wouldn't happen.  So there I was, insulting someone for having obnoxious, ill-mannered children...yeahhhh that's more like it... and the parent of the ill-mannered child comes at me with a knife.  In a fit of rage the parent, let's call it a father, abandons the child and a pursuit ensues.  (I think we now understand why the child is so obnoxious, and that my insulting tirade was completely justified).  In my fantasy I'm going to pretend that I happened to be wearing running clothes.  I spin and take flight, and in a burst of adrenaline I take off at a fast clip, but I hear this maniac behind me and he's too close for comfort.  My speed increases, until my years of training start creeping into my psyche.  I can't sustain this pace.  If I start off too fast I am going to bonk.  I'm not adequately hydrated.  I should start off slow so I can achieve a negative split.  All of these educated running thoughts are going to overwhelm me and supersede my fight-or-flight instinct.  No doubt I'll try to rationalize this with the maniac so he can understand the need to Finish Strong! but it's a safe bet he'll stab me before I can show him my split times on the Garmin.  So in this scenario, it's not going take the stabber 9 miles to reach me.  He'll get to me before we reach the street.

Now, let's just say I make it to the street, and he has to pause for oncoming traffic.  I get a slight advantage, and from there I have time to fully prepare my race strategy.  And, there are no side streets or payphones for the next 9 miles.  In that case?  Oh yeah, I got that.  And later the local news would tell of a mysterious John Doe found on a deserted street, knife in hand, cause of death likely cardiac arrest, heat stroke, dehydration, or feelings of inadequacy.  

Is this one of the subconscious reasons why we run distance?  To have a sense of immortality, where we possess the ability to flee from danger?  What if, instead of thinking of whatever horror we are running from, we think of the fulfillment that we are running towards?  What would you run 9 miles for?  Or 13.1? Or 26.2? Or 50????

Monday, July 16, 2012

JP Morgan Corporate Challenge - race* report

Two years ago, back when I was still new to racing, I ran the 2010 JP Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston representing my company, Putnam Investments.  I remember it being a complete log jam of people and thoroughly overwhelming, but it was fun hanging out with friends and overall I was glad I participated.  Fast forward two years, and here we go again. 
We received the email on April 17th soliciting runners for this year's event, and by the end of the day all Putnam slots were full.  This was disappointing to a lot of people that wanted to participate and had no idea how quickly the slots would fill up.  Also disappointing was the lack of coordination within our team, and no communication regarding the race.  We received our shirts the day before the race, and were left with only mediums and larges.  Jaimee scooped up the last of the mediums for us, but they looked like nightgowns on us and required some modifications.  I cut the sleeves off and tucked in the bottom of the shirt, but Jaimee took it a step further by cutting off the bottom and even making her own V-neck.  Very Flashdance. 
Jaimee offered to drive into Boston, so Kerri, Steve (one of our lunch run buddies), Chris (Steve's friend), and I all met at Jaimee's house and we drove in together.  It was just under 90 degrees driving into Boston, and unfortunately there was no sea breeze to cool us down.  We relaxed in the shade in Boston Common and waited for the rest of our team to arrive.  Finally our team captain arrived with the bibs and t-shirts for anyone who hadn't picked theirs up yet.  There were 100 runners representing team Putnam, 100 race bibs, and approximately 45 safety pins.  I managed to snag 2 pins, and many other runners didn't have any pins or only one.  Some people ended up not wearing a bib because they couldn't find any pins, and others asked other teams for spares.  Not exactly a great start to a race. 

Now hiring: Wardrobe Manager

The pre-race crowd was deceiving, as the Common was relatively empty while we relaxed at the gazebo.  As we made our way to the start line, the crowds quickly thickened and it was impossible to move.  Finally we were able to move into the starting chute, and we lined up at the 7:00 pace sign.  Although I knew this pace was a little fast for me, I also knew I didn't want to get stuck behind a few thousand other runners.  With 12,000 runners on a 3.5 mile course, start line positioning is important.  Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to feel the same way.
This was the second race in a row where I was frustrated by the lack of start line etiquette.  It took several minutes to cross the start line, and then I was swallowed up in a sea of body parts.  Passing people wasn't an option for the first five minutes of the course, as we were forced to walk with the crowd. Finally when the pace began to speed up, I found myself running an 11 minute pace, passing people that were walking.  It's impossible to describe how crowded this race was, but at one point I had the following thought, "This is what Running with the Bulls must feel like.  Right before the bull tramples you."  I tried to take advantage of every opening I could, only to get blocked by yet more walkers and slow joggers.  If I tried to pass near the middle of the street I would get blocked by groups running together.  If I tried to pass on the side of the street I would risk getting tripped by the feet of the barriers.  There were no safe options.  If anyone fell, they would surely be trampled.  The best (only) good part about this race was seeing the Citgo sign and the beautiful houses of the Back Bay.  I finished the race in a disappointing 30:54 (a full minute slower than 2 years ago) and headed to the post-race snack area.  There were generous amounts of water bottles, fruit snacks, bananas, and Larabars.  Rumor has it there were Hoodsie cups too but I didn't see those.  We met back at the gazebo and all had our own version of the same story to tell.  Although our times were slow, it was nice to see Jaimee, Kerri, and I come in 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively for team Putnam (females).  The race bibs had a QR code on them, which was really handy.  We were able to scan the code immediately to get our finish time and pace.  All races should do this!  Finally, as we all recounted the crowds, the poor planning, and the ill-fitting t-shirts, Jaimee showed us all what she thought of the Putnam shirt.

After the race we headed back to Jaimee's house and enjoyed a few post-race beers and a dip in her pool, which was a real treat!  That was definitely the best part of the race.  *Okay if we are being completely honest, watching Steve diving off the diving board was the best part of the race.

Twice now I have done this race, and the second time was worse than the first.  This will definitely be the last time I participate in this event, but the part I really liked was our lunch buddies (sans Todd) running together.  This coming weekend will be an exciting one too, as Jaimee, Kerri and I head to Portland Maine for the Old Port Half Marathon!  I was just reading the course description which highlighted a couple of key narrow areas that will cause some backup.  Eh, no problem!  Our ninja skills are freshly sharpened!

Click here to see the Corporate Challenge course

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The best part of a long run: when it's over

I'm two weeks away from my first half marathon of the year, and I've been dodging the pre-requisite long training runs.  Life gets in the way, races get in the way, heat... You name it, I can turn it into an excuse to shorten my route.  But, since it's been a year since I've logged any 1+ hour runs on my feet, I knew I had to get my act together.
Kerri and I planned to run today, and when the forecast called for mid-90's and oppressive humidity, I insisted on running early.  I mentioned it on Twitter, and somehow  ended up talking Jeff into running with us.  Jeff is training for the Chicago Marathon so he was looking to run long as well.  Turns out he was several beers deep on the night, when everything sounds fun.
We picked up Kerri and headed to the RI bike path, which has become a favorite of mine on the long run.  It's a safe path with friendly people, and if you go early enough it's completely shaded.  Our run started at 6:45am so we didn't see a ton of people for the first half.  I carried my fuel belt with frozen water bottles, which was a nice treat.  The ice thawed and stayed cold for over an hour, and the ice on my back was a bonus!  A couple miles into the run Kerri broke away and ran ahead, while Jeff and I tried to stick to a 9:45-10 minute slow pace.  She makes me nervous when she does this because she doesn't carry a watch, or water, and I didn't know how far she'd end up going.  The good thing about this path is that it is out and back, so there's *virtually no way to get lost.
On Thursday I ran with Anthony and another Jeff on some trails in Upton and I managed to roll my ankle pretty badly, and then managed to do it twice more over the course of the run.  It was quite tender yesterday and I didn't have a ton of confidence that I'd be able to make today's run.  I had it wrapped and iced much of yesterday and that did seem to help.  On today's run, the ankle immediately spoke up and bothered me a lot over the first several miles but seemed to ease up after that.  I'm not sure if the ankle actually stopped hurting or if the discomfort of the heat of the day trumped the ankle pain, but either way it wasn't an issue after about mile 3.
At one point Jeff and I hit a railroad crossing, with the signals flashing! We waited for the train.  And waited.  And waited.  Turns out there was a problem with the signal and there really wasn't a train coming, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't welcome the unexpected break.

Jeff and I finally made it to the six mile mark, and Kerri was nowhere to be found.  We walked an extra quarter mile to see if we could spot her, but eventually we had to get moving again before we stiffened up too much.  We figured that she probably ran a little farther than she should but would turn around when she was ready and would probably catch up to us.  Or, maybe she missed one turn that the bike path takes.  The way back was a lot slower as we had to climb back up the hills we had run down on the way out.  The heat was getting to us, and Jeff's dehydration from last night's beers were starting to give him some leg cramps.  We decided to walk the last mile back while he dealt with his leg cramp, and really started to panic when Kerri still hadn't caught up to us.  We worried about the fact that she didn't have water, and were making plans on how we were going to find her.  When we reached the parking lot, however, there was Kerri.  Looking fresh and well rested (she mentioned she was waiting for us for quite a while).  And oh, while she was running she bumped into someone who knows someone and he ended up giving her a bottle of water.  I'm still not clear on how she beat us back, but Kerri is after all our team ninja and so I'm not really surprised.
So here it is: 12 miles done. It wasn't fun after about mile 9, and by mile 10 I wouldn't have minded being kidnapped, but we did it.  I still hate running in heat and I'm not a fan of the chafing that seems to join it, but I just might hate it a little less nowadays.  And the best part about the run was climbing into the car when we were done, and realizing it was only 9am and the hardest part of the weekend was behind us!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Race Report: Finish at the 50 10K

Tuesday marked the third consecutive year that Harvard Pilgrim has hosted a race at Gillette Stadium.  In the first two years, the race was a 10K on the morning of July 4th.  This year they made a drastic change by adding a 5K option and scheduling the race for the evening of July 3rd instead.  I had a hunch this would change the feel of the race, and that hunch was spot on.
The 10K is a weird distance that I don't have a lot of experience with.  In looking back at my race calendars, I've run a lot of 5 milers and a bunch of half marathons, but nothing in between.  The distance is short enough that you have to keep your speed up, but long enough that you have to reserve enough energy or you'll fizzle out at the end.  It requires strategy, and this is a great course to practice that strategy.  It's a very comfortable course, and doesn't get much flatter.  In fact, I felt like I was running downhill a lot. That's the good part about this race.  The bad part is that it takes place in July, and whether the race takes place at 10am or 6pm, either way it's still hot.  
This year, the race not only expanded to include a 5K option  but also added fireworks afterwards, making it an all night affair and encouraging a lot more participants.  In fact, participation more than doubled with over 7,000 entrants.  Seems that quite a few people wanted a chance to run across the field at Gillette Stadium and meet Jerod Mayo at the finish line.  And why not?  A 5K is a doable distance for runners and walkers alike and a much less intimidating distance than the 10K.  The result of this was, let's call it... "growing pains".

As mentioned, the course itself is great.  The volunteers at the water stops were efficient, and there were plenty of water stops.  I heard some folks complain that there weren't enough water stops, but I disagree.  There were stops at the 1.5 mile, 3 mile, 4 mile, and 5 mile marks.  As always, it's fun running across the field at Gillette Stadium.  And the fireworks were a blast!

As mentioned, the theme of this year was growing pains.  I'm all for encouraging maximum participation but it shouldn't come at the expense of the entrant's experience. Both the 5K and the 10K races started at the same time, which caused overcrowding in the starting chute.  The chute was poorly designed, with the entry points to the chute blocked in several areas by large towers of water bottles.  Because of this, many runners were unable to enter the chutes and masses of people spilled out onto the sidewalks.  I could have lived with this, except...
Runners were self seeded, with the understanding that you line up in your pace category.  There are always going to be exceptions to this, but for the most part in most of the races I've participated in, runners do a pretty good and honest job at this.  I believe part of the problem in this race is that many of the participants were not avid racers, but instead local folks that wanted a chance to tour the stadium and used the 5K as a way to leisurely stroll the property.  And since they were just walking, heck why not start in front to get a head start!  The result was a bottleneck of runners trying to skirt around walkers and very slow joggers during the first mile.  I very much believe in running a smart race and avoiding jockeying for position at the beginning, which generally only results in wasted energy.  In this case it couldn't be helped, and it was very frustrating to me.
A similar frustration bubbled up in the final moments of the race, where the 5K and 10K routes merged shortly before entering the stadium.  It appears that someone had the foresight to realize this might become a problem, and had cones up to separate the two divisions.  Guess what runners do with cones...They run in between them!  If you really want to keep the two divisions separate, put up a solid barrier.  Here's the issue.  I'm a moderately paced 10K runner.  I'm not super fast, but I finished in the top 30% at a time of 54:45.  All of the folks finishing the 10K at this time are fairly strong runners looking for a good solid kick at the end.  Instead, we were finishing simultaneously with 5K entrants who were walking a 5K with a 54 minute finish time.  That's snail's pace.  The result: Log jam at the end in which I was barely able to jog around people up to the finish line.  Don't get me wrong, I am by no means a snobby runner.  I'm not breaking records or doing anything outstanding, but I have a strategy that really came unraveled because of the poor logistics.  My main strategy at the end of that race was "get me to a bottle of water as quickly as possible!", which leads me to my next gripe.  The water was all located outside the stadium, with signs posted everywhere that there was "NO RE-ENTRY!"  No one read those signs.  There were massive amounts of people standing, sitting, stretching, and drinking lots of water.  When I crossed that finish line I was lightheaded and nauseous, and knocked into people like a pinball trying to get off the field for water.  Literally, I would have failed a field sobriety test.  I'm not saying people shouldn't be able to hang out on the field, but if the "no re-entry" thing can't be enforced, then at least make it easier for finishers to get to the water before they pass out (which I nearly did).  

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't publicly humiliate the people that took advantage of the post-race snacks, hoarding them as if they were preparing for Armageddon.  This was an issue last year as well, when people were taking entire cases of granola bars instead of taking a single granola bar out of the case.  Seems that the race officials tried to prevent this by handing out pre-stuffed bags with goodies.  But these clever doomsday'ers found a work around, by stuffing tote bags with literally dozens of these pre-filled bags.  Not only does this represent heinous greed, but we can't even say it's impulsive.  Because really, what are you doing on the field of Gillette Stadium, after a 10K race, with several large empty tote bags?  Shame on you, sloths, for robbing the people that were still out on the course, working harder than you did.  

I'm always going to run this race, because despite everything I just said, I really enjoy it. This race is put on by DMSE (Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises, a top notch racing outfit) and I'm confident they will continue to fine tune this young event. The bottom line is that if they are going to continue drawing big-league numbers of participants, they are going to have to treat it like a big-league race.

But anyways, back to me...
Logistics aside, I still had a great time.  I stuck to my plan and ran conservatively in the first couple of miles, and even managed to move to the side of the road to wave to my son Andrew and Ronnie's wife Donna who were cheering for us.  Well, Donna was cheering for us.  Andrew was chatting on the phone, and holding a bag of Subway sandwiches.  I must say even though I was aggravated at all the people that lined up too far ahead, the benefit of this was that I felt like a rock star the entire race.  I literally passed people constantly for 6 miles, and had very few people pass me.  That was psychologically motivating, and although I got caught in a lot of traffic where it was difficult to pass, I felt relatively strong throughout the race.  My only hiccup was at the final water stop, where I slowed to walk, drank a sip of water and poured the rest over myself.  When I went to run again, my legs were spent and I found it very difficult to get back up to speed.  In the future, it seems that maybe I'm better off carrying my own water to avoid interrupting my legs' rhythm.  Once in the stadium, I was overwhelmed with thirst, crowds, and the feeling of any-minute-now-I'm-going-to-pass-out-or-vomit-or-both.  I pinballed my way to the water, grabbed a chunk of ice and stuck it under my hat, and downed a couple bottles of water.  Whereas the first two years I savored every moment of the experience of being on the field, looking for celebrities, seeing myself on the jumbotron, on this day it was more about survival.  Once I came back to life we headed back to the car, changed into dry clothes, and set up a great spread for tailgating.

Bragging rights...
As mentioned, my finishing time was 54:45.  Although I had a time goal of low 50's, I had modified that due to the heat.  Not only is that a new PR for me at that distance, but it's also a whopping six minutes faster than last year!