Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Questions of the Day

I found a list of great questions here at My Random Stuff. I'm going to take the time in December to ask and answer each of them myself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

2012 - Running My Crazy Feet Off

It looks like 2012 will be my running-est year ever. I've already locked down most of the big events I want to do, but I still have a few choices to make.

  1. 12/31/11 - New Years Eve Half Marathon (Dallas, TX)

  2. 01/01/12 - New Year Day Half Marathon (Dallas, TX)

  3. 01/15/12 - 13.1 Los Angeles Half Marathon

  4. 01/22/12 - Carlsbad Half Marathon

  5. 02/11/12 - Tour de Palm Springs Bike Ride

  6. 02/12/12 - Palm Springs Half Marathon

  7. 03/11/12 - San Diego Half Marathon

  8. 04/01/12 - Carlsbad 5000 (All Day 25K)

  9. 04/07/12 - Hollywood Half Marathon

  10. 04/29/12 - La Jolla Half Marathon

  11. 05/06/12 - The OC Half Marathon (Orange County)

  12. 06/08/12 - Rag Bag Reunion Half Marathon (Las Vegas, NV)

  13. 07/14/12 - Dana Point Half Marathon TENTATIVE

  14. 08/19/12 - AFC Half Marathon

  15. 09/08/12 - Heartbreak Ridge Half Marathon (Camp Pendleton) TENTATIVE

  16. 10/21/12 - Temecula Half Marathon TENTATIVE

  17. 11/11/12 - Silver Strand Half Marathon (Coronado)

I need to decide if I am running each of the half marathons listed as TENTATIVE. I may find other half marathons instead... or I may just push myself and add a full marathon or two. And I need to find something in December, too.

Here's to a fast and fit 2012!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Running The Marine Corps Marathon, Part II

Twelve minutes after the starting cannon shot, my running buddy and I made our way across the timing mat. We were on the go and starting our marathon.

After standing around for the better part of an hour, we were anxious to move. And we all know how easy it is to over-run at the beginning. Running in a tight pack kept us from going out too fast, though. Our plan was to stay somewhere around 11:00 minutes per mile. That's slower than my 10K pace of 9:30, but we both felt it was a pace we could maintain for the whole marathon.

The first mile was pretty flat. It was cold and shady, but I was all adrenaline at that point. It was so exciting to actually be running after months of preparation that the distance really flew by. But once we reached mile one, we hit the big incline. It was a long, sloping climb and it was my first, "oh, damn," moment. It's when the enormity of what I had signed up to do hit me full on.

Fortunately, everywhere we ran (and I do mean everywhere) there were cheering crowds of spectators lining the streets. Sometimes small groups, other times packed several people deep, but always... always... cheers and encouragement from the most amazing people I've ever seen at an event.

The hill continued until we hit the 2.5 mile mark. There, it was a nice steady downhill until mile 4. The course was beautiful, almost a back country run through intense autumn foliage of reds and browns. I'm from San Diego, so it was an extra benefit to be somewhere in the fall with so much scenery to enjoy.

At this point in the race, I was thinking about great advice someone had given me. They said, "don't get so caught up in the stress and worry that you forget to enjoy the event itself." I kept that in mind, and running through the beautiful countryside kept me more than distracted from the miles I was putting in.

Just after mile 4, we crossed over a bridge. I made sure to keep my head up and look both ways as I ran over it. It was still cold, but the sun was shining and the view was breathtaking. I was the only runner who called out, "hey, everyone, enjoy the view!"

The next five miles were an out and back along Canal Road through the Palisades, an upscale neighborhood adjacent to The Mall. Even though it was completely residential, we still had crowds out to cheer us on. Entire families were along the course, holding signs and waving pom-poms and clanging cowbells. (Seriously, what was with all the cowbells?!)

My best memory of these miles was the Navy sailor, running alone, carrying a flag, and singing "Take On Me" by a-ha. Yep, he even reached for the crazy high notes of "Take on me... take on me... taaaake meeeeee oooooooonnn... I'll beeeeee goooooooooonnnne, in a day or twoooooooooooooooo!"

He was just one of many memorable characters I "met" along the course. There were so many people with powerful stories, told through photos and names and descriptions included on their t-shirts and sweatshirts and pinned on signs.

Medal of Honor winners. Trauma survivors. Brave men and women who served and sacrificed in all branches of the service. Children with cancer and beloved family members. There were so many stories that touched my heart... and yes, there were some tears along the way. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I felt honored to share the miles with all of them.

Near mile 10, I thought we would be making our way to The Mall. But no. We ran by it, but we veered off to run along the river. It wasn't until mile 16 that we came back to the business district, and just before mile 17, I made a quick stop to discard my running pants. I was warm enough to run in shorts, despite having what seemed to be the whitest legs of any competitor out there.

To this point, I felt great. We were steady on our pace and feeling strong. And we had trained up to a long run of 20 miles, so this was nothing new for us. And hitting mile 17 meant we were almost at The MCM Gauntlet.

What is The Gauntlet? The Marine Corps Marathon requires an average pace of no less than 14 minutes per mile. In addition to that, there are two checkpoints you have to meet. The first is the Gauntlet, located at the start of the section of course along The Mall. The crowds were thick in this area, and the cheers and screams were so motivating. I felt so energized, like I could run all day long if I had to. And running by the Capital Building and past the Washington Monument? Absolutely incredible.

Finishing the lap around The Mall meant heading to the second checkpoint. Called "Beat The Bridge," it is located at mile 20. If you don't beat it, you get swept onto the follow bus. For me, hitting the bridge was my moment. It's when I realized that I was actually going to finish the marathon, that I could complete the run in the time left even if I had to crawl. And yep, I made Jerry stop for a water break and a quick photo while we were in the middle of the bridge.

Up to this point, I was doing great. But we had never trained past 20 miles, so we were on all new ground. I had no idea how tough it was going to get from here.

Miles 22, 23 and 24 were an out and back through Crystal City. The crowds were super supportive, but my body was starting to push back. Since I ran the Tough Mudder last May, my right hip has been my weak spot on long, long runs. The marathon was no exception. More than once, I had to make a quick stop to stretch and twist and try to loosen up my muscles.

At this point, I had two things going for me. One, I knew that I was not going to quit no matter what. Two, my friend, Jerry. He simply refused to let me stop. By the time we hit mile 25, we knew that we could finish in less than 5 hours. But that meant that we had to keep moving.

I had never seen anything as beautiful as the mile marker for mile 26, nor had I seen anything as terrible as the hill that we had to climb to the finish line. It felt straight up, and the crowds were pushing in so tight from either side that it felt like we could reach out and touch the spectators on either side of the course.

We dug in and kept running. I could barely lift my feet high enough off the ground to match the incline of the road, but my eyes were on the prize. And finally, with less than 40 seconds to spare, we crossed the finish line.

Yes, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:59:20. And I am proud of myself, grateful to my friend, and honored to have been part of "The People's Marathon."

(And for more photos of the course, check out another runner's blog:www.andherlittledogtoo.c

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Running The Marine Corps Marathon, Part I

Is it odd that I find writing a blog entry about my marathon experience is proving tougher than running the marathon, itself?

There is SO much I want to say, to explain, to share, that I hardly know where to start. Writing chronologically seems the best approach, though it means I am chomping at the bit to get to the great stuff.

My marathon weekend started with an uneventful plane flight out on Thursday, Oct 27th, from San Diego to Washington, DC. My husband and I came in mid-day, then headed back to the airport at midnight to pick up my running buddy, Jerry. On Friday morning, hopped on The Metro and headed into DC.

After a quick trip, we split up, the husband playing tourist on The Mall and me and Jerry going to the Fitness Expo at the DC Armory. Wow, what an experience. The packet pickup was quick and easy, so we were in great spirits to wander around and check out every vendor inside. We tasted beans and gels and blocks and chomps, tried on clothes and oogled high-tech gear. We shopped, browsed, and of course, bought cool Marine Corps Marathon jackets. Sure, the jacket was a bit pricey, but I decided that it was my once-in-a-lifetime experience and souvenir, and it was worth every penny. We walked out of there a couple hours later with swag bags filled to overflowing. (Thanks, Marine Corps Marathon and Semper Fi Fund for all the great goodies!)

After that, we headed back to the Mall to meet up with Ric. After a bit of outdoor sightseeing, we went inside and toured the National Museum of American History. It was a welcome break from the quickly-falling temperatures outside. (And yes, the weather will be a big part of my story still to come.)

Then it was Saturday, and we needed an indoor activity that wouldn't wear us out. We decided to visit the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, and it was an amazing day. I could spend forever in there, surrounded by the amazing stories and histories of the bravest fighting men and women this nation has ever seen. And it seemed right to be there, given that we were running the Marine Corps Marathon the next day.

Soon enough, it was time to return to my friend's apartment, prepare for the marathon, and get a good night's sleep. Fat chance of that. As soon as we walked out of the museum, we knew we were in for a crazy running experience. The rain was coming down hard, the temperature was still dropping, and snow was on its way.

Snow. Seriously. The day before the marathon. So much for "expected race day high of 55 degrees," right? We got back to the apartment and my friend started digging around for warm clothes we could borrow. We found sweatshirts, long sleeve shirts, and running pants. Whew!

Sunday morning. After a night of very little sleep (nerves? excitement? fear of the cold?!), we were up early and ready to go. We walked the mile and a half from my friend's place to the Pentagon, and there we hurried and scurried around, anything to keep warm. With wind chill, the pre-dawn temperature was 25 degrees. And Jerry kept glaring at me, saying, "oh, it will be warm... perfect running weather... you'll love it!" Thank goodness we have been friends for so long that he will forgive me anything, right?

Soon enough, we changed out of our comfy top layers of clothes and dropped them off with gear check. We then walked the quarter mile or so to the highway and got in our corral. At this point, the event became real for me. I knew that soon enough, I was going to hear the cannon fire, start moving, cross the line, and be running my very first full marathon.

There was an amazing spirit and energy before the run began. People were laughing and dancing around (to stay warm, I think), and there was a great "we're all in this together" vibe. There weren't strangers, just running buddies that we hadn't met, yet. And mostly, those around us that had already run a full marathon were supportive and encouraging. They said all the right things to let us know that we were going to be just fine. They really helped put my nervous mind at ease before we started.

And then we were off. It took a full twelve minutes to get from our corral to the start line. By then, we were ready to move and shake off the cold morning. The 26.2 mile journey had begun.

To Be Continued...

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Different Approach For Christmas

I've received this a few different times already via email, and I think it's worth posting here, too.
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods – merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor.

This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans.

There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.

And how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theater.  Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

Forward this to everyone on your mailing list — post it to discussion groups — throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city — send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments.

This is a revolution of caring about each other — and isn’t that what Christmas is about?