running

A Half Marathon Story in Two Halves, Part I

I know, I know… I was so excited to be free of my confines that I completely neglected to tell you about the race. Be forewarned, I will never be able to do the experience justice. It was the most exciting day of my shoe life and equal parts the best, and worst.

The excitement the night before was at a all time high. I even forgot to pose for flat runner, one of my favorite rituals. I mean, even during the pre-sleep bib pinning and lying out of the outfit, I still didn’t think of it. There were hours to get it done too, I tossed and turned in box for a long, long time until finally falling asleep. As you would imagine, the wake up call came early. Between getting dressed and then my person and her friend struggle with getting small, clear discs into her eyelets, we were out the door and on the street before I was fully awake. Glitz the flip flops secure in her clear drop-off bag and a pocket full of breakfast (coconut chocolate chip flavored CLIF bar = crack) we were ready to hail a cab. At least, that was the plan. Another pair of sneakers stood at the curb, their person also sporting a race bib.

“Wanna share a cab to the park?”

Turns out that all of the roads leading to and fro our hotel block were already closed off to most traffic. Thankfully, our new friends knew of an alternative travel option- the subway. We took off together, at a brisk pace, through a still somewhat dark city, toward a set of stairs leading under ground. I can’t say that it was the cleanest floor I’ve ever walked upon, but we weren’t on it long. No sooner had our people had swiped a shared card (a Metro one, whatever that means), a giant silver train rumbled into the station and we boarded what appeared to be the half marathon express. Seriously, almost everyone was wearing a race bib and there were more running shoes than the shelves from which I came. Only then we got off the train about fifteen minutes later and joined what appeared to be every runner in the world. Clearly, an exaggeration, but when 20,000 pairs of shoes come together, it is complete and total chaos. At least that’s from my point of view. My person, somehow knew exactly where to go.

A pit stop to drop Glitz off,  “see you guys later!”,  before heading through the first of several security checks: an officer checking bibs, who directed each of us to walk under an arch of sorts, I thought that I heard it was used to detect medals, but that can’t be right, none of us had even started, no less finished as yet. Next  up, a wall of officers who waved wands up and down the front and rear of every runner. Magic wands, for luck, I’m sure. It was after this blessing that we were finally inside Central Park and could look to locate our corral. So many people. Yet, only the last wave of the runners to take on NYC as registered participants. As we stretched and warmed up within our section, 13.1 miles away the elites were nearing the finish line. My person was probably receiving her second magic wanding of luck from the police officer at our corral entrance just as Molly and her Sauconys broke away from Joyce’s Adidas and took off on the last 800 meters solo.

Then, somehow, it was 8:30. Ninety six days from when we opened an email from NYRR.org telling us that we would be ‘flying through the streets’, we took off…

Through the six, seemingly endless miles of hilly Central Park:

2015 nychalf start

It was during these miles that we realized we never had breakfast, and that CLIF bar? Long gone. Plan B- Gatorade and the emergency Swedish Fish which were, thankfully, still on our person.

It was during these miles that we met the pace vehicle girls. Two spirited young ladies in a black Chevy Suburban, tasked with driving behind the pack at the speed of 15 minute miles. They sped up for a bit and drove alongside each of us back-of-the packers, explaining that once they passed us for real, we had two options- board the sweep bus, or continue to Water & Wall Streets via the sidewalks.

It was during these miles that we met the marshals. Two dedicated bicyclists who have been working the NYC Half for years, who had, in fact, ridden to the finish line once already that morning having ushered in the elites before circling back to keep us safe.

Most importantly, it was during these miles that we met Brigadeiros.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Year one.

WordPress just wished us a happy anniversary. A year has passed since we began this journey.
A year since we met our person; took a step with her feet; ran a minute; ran a mile.

We’ve run through snow and winter, sun and summer, rain and Disney.

A year of blisters and tears; of smiles and hugs.
A year of sweat, aches and pains. Countless Band-Aids and Epsom salt baths.

Thinking of all we’ve gone through makes me realize all the miles we’ve covered. I’m worn and tired.
As much as it pains me to admit it, I may need to start contemplating retirement.

Retirement. The logistics of which confound me. What will I do? More importantly, what about my person? Who will she run with? Who will support her and keep her feet safe? I’ve grown quite fond of her stride and can’t imagine a stranger traveling all the miles she has to go.

Too many concerns. Too many questions. My toe box hurts just thinking about it all. For now, I plan to focus on our upcoming race and not dwell on it being our last. The rest will come… 13.1 miles from now.

If Garmin didn’t track it, did the RUN even happen?

I love where we live. Granted, I don’t have much for comparison besides the mall, but the middle of nowhere usually suits me just fine. The roads we run are surrounded by trees, trees, trees and wild life. There’s a pond and a creek and farms galore. Not much can beat the sighting of deer, horses and/or cows.

Except, perhaps, ‘service’.

Not that I know what that exactly means. I just hear the word bandied about quite a bit, referring to an extreme lack of. Cell phones are often useless and apparently, GPS doesn’t always work either. My person has been known to take her car for a ride towards town in an effort to get her watch to detect her location. The timing of our run this weekend was such, with both the sun and snow set to begin their decent, that we took our chances that the signal would find us on the road.

Nope. Maybe we outran it #doubtful but whatever the case, no record of our run. No mileage saved. No pace timed.

Sigh.

sNOw more injuries

I have never been the kind of shoe to really care all that much about the weather. Maybe because I’m a girl. Or, maybe, because I started running at the very tail end of winter last year. Cold, but snow fall wasn’t much of an issue. Either way, weather.com has become one of the most visited websites in this house. I sometimes check it more than once a day.

Tomorrow’s high is expected to be 32 degrees. 32! To put my excitement into perspective, right now it’s 5 degrees. Monday is looking like low teens. With snow starting at some point tomorrow night. So, not only will we be able to get a run in before more snow arrives, my person won’t have to dress like a ninja to do so. I don’t know how she does it some days- sports bra, a compression-like tank top, 2 long sleeve tech tops, 2 pairs of leggings, knee-high compression socks, a down vest, ski hat, gloves and, the piece de resistance… a ginormous scarf covering her neck and half her face- leaving only her eyes visible. Seriously, I sometimes wonder how she can walk with all that on, no less run.

Not that walking was even so easy as late. She was limping around the house for almost two weeks. Between the weather and some sort of injury, there has barely been any training. I guess she hurt herself dancing? to some new, “it” band? I don’t know. What I do know, I am ready to get back out there. No matter how much stretching she now plans to do before hand.

it band

Monday- finally!

I know, right? Who is ever excited that Monday has arrived? I don’t even have a 9 to 5 & I don’t like Mondays! After this last weekend though, man, I am downright excited that its over.

It seemed to have started early for one thing. We skipped last week’s Learn to Run session with the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club on Thursday. My person had plans for a networking thing- don’t ask, I have no idea what it means either, with Fabulous. I guess they had a good night, I overheard her rehash the event with her husband later. They met with a group of ‘unique’ ladies.
That I looked up, it means ‘one of a kind’. Together they all sampled heavenly cheeses along with a wonderful glass of wine. Hardly sounds worth missing our training session, but she said that everyone was lovely and they spent much time laughing and chatting with new acquaintances. She said nothing about anyone’s footwear.

On Friday, after waiting in the car while she worked (not complaining, was happy to do so after last time), we headed to Fabulous’s. I totally thought we’d be running but when we arrived, there were 100s of fancy dresses all over her driveway. People kept heading into the house and coming our with more too! They were sorting and hanging and, of course, talking and laughing. I heard the word “Prom” so often that I thought we were going to attend one. We joined the chaos and while I had hoped to be running, being surrounds by so many beautiful dresses, I found myself fantasizing about my person wearing this, that or another one and taking me dancing! Thankfully, all the chatter flying around above me alleviated my confusion as to what was actually happening. My person is a member of the Junior League and while I had always thought this meant she played baseball or something, it turns out to be far cooler- this group of women get together and do all sorts of fun volunteer projects which are focused on women &/or children in their communities. The project I was lucky enough to assist with was called CINDERELLA’S CLOSET– they collected new & lightly used prom dresses and were then going to arrange a boutique of sorts, where local high school girls who wouldn’t be able to purchase a dress to attend, would be able to come & select one- therefore allowing them to attend a right-of-passage event they might have otherwise missed out on! Cool, right? I was so caught up in the satin and tulle and rhinestones that I barely even realized at first that Strength’s person was helping as well. I also hadn’t realized that after all the sorting and subsequent loading of all the racks of dresses and boxes into a huge truck concluded, we’d be doing our weekly running workout. I also hadn’t realized it would be a new regimen either. So, just when I thought we were done, Strength approached and asked if I was ready.

Ready? Ready for what?

One minute of walking and then nine minutes of running, that’s what. Three time, of course.

I’ll spare you the details. It wasn’t the prettiest run but we managed. I would even go out on a limb and say we’re improving. I mean, she’s still out of breath for much of it, and I still struggle with the whole supporting end of things but as each week passes, even though it doesn’t feel any easier we somehow get through harder and longer workouts. She often talks through them, and I have to give her credit, there’s no way I am at that point yet- Strength waits until we’re done to chat with me. The weather mostly cooperates too, so that doesn’t hurt matters. I hope Spring last forever!

After they finished cooling down, I figured we’d be heading home but before we got there, we stopped at the home of another Junior Leaguer- I didn’t catch her name but she was wearing friendly boat shoes who informed me that we had just missed out on the sorting and hanging and loading of the second batch of dresses. There was more?! Turns out that in total, these women managed to amass over 400 of them. Can you imagine?

I can. I can close my eyelets and picture 400+ dresses neatly hanging on racks, arranged by size. prom dresses1prom dresses2
I can do this because… yay! I got to go to the boutique and see it all happen! We were up and out super early and the entire day flew by as girls came in, found their favorites and left with bags of dresses and huge, ear to ear smiles. They had their hair and makeup done by a professional, snacked on pink cupcakes and pink sugar cookies and pink cake pops- all to be washed down with pink ginger ale (who wants to drink non-pink ginger ale now?) and hopefully had as good an afternoon as the Junior Leaguers, all of which spent the day alternating between laughter and, for some reason, crying- or almost.

Fair enough, having gotten to be a part of this experience, we had to help clean up. Even though so many young ladies were lucky enough to find the dress of their dreams- no one left with out one, there were still hundreds left over to be used for next year’s event. They had to be transported to a storage facility and while everyone was super tired, we managed to get everything put away in a few hours and thankfully, a group decided to stop for a bite and a beer before heading home, to bed! I say thankfully because while everyone dined above us, the shoes took a collective nap beneath the table.

After a whirlwind day like that, I had assumed we’d all be spending Sunday doing a whole lot of nothing. But as my loyal readers know- assuming, it is never wise. Nope, the alarm sounded before 9am and after a quick breakfast of oatmeal we headed to the gym. Strength and Quiet awaited us on the rail trail that runs behind it and neither took pity on us for the day prior, seeing as they were both there too! A ridiculously long 45 minutes of walking and running later, we were still not done. Quiet took her leave of us- heading out on a day she didn’t look forward to much either, so I couldn’t even be jealous.

Strength put us through the paces. There were planks and plank push-ups. There were an assortment of crunches. At one point, there was a giant stability ball. There was sweat and almost tears. There was also much encouragement. At one point, her person was literally on the floor next to mine, stop watch in hand, their faces inches apart while she called out the seconds and offered a constant stream of “you can do this” type chatter. How many people can say they have that kind of support system?

My person is super lucky to have the friends she does, this weekend was a testament to that fact.

What NOT to Wear (while running)

It’s Wednesday, so that means my person meets up with her friend, Fabulous, the fashion designer. They walk and run and talk, talk, talk. It’s awesome because I usually manage to pick up lots of information from their conversation. Except that this week, she was in such a rush to get out the door this morning she totally left. me. home.

Yup, sitting at home- by the door, with my socks. She had worn flip flops so I figured that she’d remember at some point and come fetch me. Either sooner- like right after she left, or later- like after work but before heading to meet Fabulous.

Nope.

When she realized her mistake, she rummaged through the back of her car and came up with two alternative options to running in flip flops… black high heeled pumps, ooooooooor, hot pink converse basketball shoes. & no socks.

converse

Looking at the bright side- at least she ran, right? The lack of support and cushioning probably insured that I won’t get left behind again either.

Running on the Brain, and, well, Socks too

I’m sure that from the outside it appears as if it has always been the case but I am officially obsessed with running. When is our next run? Who is joining us? Where will we go? How long? How far? How fast? It’s as if each run is its own reason for that day. We’re still only on intervals and to those who have been running for a while, its most likely child’s play, but to us- nine minutes at a time is harder than it sounds. An actual accomplishment.

When we’re not running, a lot of my person’s activities are still run-focused. Between gym visits, training meetings, food intake obsessing and making lofty goals for races in the future as well as fundraising for the half in November- which I had so better get to attend! An afternoon of wine tasting and prizes. Prizes! So far, Jewelry and Wine and Gift Certificates for Restaurants and a Gym membership annnnnnd socks! You KNOW how I love socks! Super cools one too. The company that graciously donated them, The Sox Box, also donated a pair for us to rock during races. How awesome is that? I was looking at their website earlier and it is going to be a tough choice, every pair is fabulous. In fact, take a look and let me know which pair you think we should get!

Wanna Race?

Apparently, we do! In exactly one month from today, we will be running in our very first race- a 5K! While this is equal parts exciting and terrifying, I am also concerned- is she going to up, ready and at the starting line by 8:10? AM? As in the morning? Having already had breakfast? Hmmmmmm.

Anyone out there reading this from within the Hudson Valley? Care to join us? I would love to see you and I am sure my person feels the same. Saturday, May 17th on the Dutchess County Rail Trail. For more information and to sign up, please visit the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club site.

I don’t know if its the 5K looming ahead, or if she is falling in love with running, but there has definitely been a step up in our training. Not that I am complaining- as hard as each session is as a beginner, it makes the following one slightly easier. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I never, ever thought we’d be capable of what we did during this evening’s Learn To Run session- walk for 2 minutes, run for
n i n e
m i n u t e s,
walk for two minute, run for ANOTHER
n i n e
w h o l e
m i n u t e s,
walk for two minutes and then, a gift! walk for only eight minutes! But we did, and for the most part, she managed to keep up her end of the conversations going on around us the whole time. Panting and sweaty? You bet! But mission completed. It makes me look forward to the next run, the next week, next (OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!) month!

What a (Sun)day!

Seriously, I thought she would never get off the computer! My person has been on-line for what feels like forever. Though really, its been like two days. Annnnnnnd, technically, it is her computer. But I had a great Sunday and have been itching to share!

We were out of the house early, which you know by now is a rarity, and she had herself a heavy breakfast so I knew she was planning a strenuous morning and wasn’t at all surprised when we exited the car to find us at Gold’s Gym. Only we didn’t head for the entrance, but towards the rear of the parking lot. Just beyond the fence line, there was a group of about dozen pairs of sneakers and their people. One pair stood out and after a moment I recognized them as those belonging to Ronnie, the personal trainer. She was leading the rest in a series of stretches and explaining that we would all be heading out on what I then realized was a paved trail, fifteen minutes out and then another fifteen back for a total of a half hour. Her further explanations lead me to understand that the shoes surrounding us were a sampling of the team mates for the half marathon in November and that this was one of several training sessions to follow in an effort to prepare, and to get to know one another. She said that we didn’t have to run, this time anyway, and I was concerned- my person can be pretty chatty and I was hoping that she wouldn’t put that above taking advantage of the opportunity to get a run in. Especially because the weather was perfect. A few more stretches and every one began to pair off and head up the path. I worried for naught,We wound up coupled with a lovely pair of grey and teal Asics who were down with the three & half minute walk/seven minute run times three session we would be indulging in if we’d be home. She told me that typically they do much shorter intervals of walking vs. running and while she seemed nervous at first to venture away from what she referred to as the Galloway method, claiming to not yet be ready to make it 7 minutes at a time, but she held her own. In fact, if the chatter from above is any indication, both of our peeps did just as well. We finished up with a group stretch and all agreed to meet again next week, same time/same place. I heard that this trail, which was converted into a multi-use path from a defunct train track goes on for like, ever and am looking forward to exploring even more of it! I got the feeling that the shoes we paired up with belong to a person mine already knows well and that she & I will be spending lots of time together.

The run had gone so well and the weather was so pleasant that I had already enjoyed a perfect morning and would’ve been happy enough had we headed straight home as usual when her husband picked us up, but to my surprise, when we got out of the car again we weren’t home, but in another, larger parking lot. The mall! I hadn’t been back here in quite some time- I am not the sneakers that get to go on errands, ever, so I was extra excited that when my person did decide to indulge me, it was to here! First stop, yup, the department store- where only a few short months ago, my story began. The two of them were discussing the very thing I have been obsessing over since our last Learn to Run session- the mileage at which running shoes get ::gulp:: replaced. I didn’t learn much more about it either, other than that she is equally freaked out about it. From what I gather, the plan is to get another pair and switch back & forth between us for training. She did some guesstimating and it’s looking like her training plans together with races (!) she hopes to run over the next few months will put me dangerously close to ‘too many miles’ to participate at Disney. I am trying to think positively but I have to admit, I am still uber nervous about the whole thing. I mean, what if she likes this new pair better? I know, I know, I have to have more confidence and not be so ‘girl’ about it, but I can’t help it. I AM a girl, you know?

Anyway, I guess she found a pair that she really liked from, you guessed it, the clearance rack. They didn’t get them though, which did make me feel a little better. I mean, with me, it was like an instant decision, she knew immediately that she had to have me. So, I guess I should just wait & see what happens. At least I learned that she feels the same as I do annnnd she is looking for an acceptable solution.

We hit a few more stores, none of them shoe, and then back in the car. I was completely blown away when we again exited the car again- beautiful, yes, but definitely not home. Lots of rolling hill with a pond and what appeared to be a horse in the distance. We entered one of three charming buildings on the property and were promptly greeted by a smell none too familiar and very inviting- like fruit, only better. There were glass bottles every where and a motif of grapes was prevalent- which could totally explain the smell. A tall, very ladylike woman invited us to have a seat and the two of them chatted for a long while about coming back in a few weeks time for an event. I think its a party of sorts, to raise more money towards our Sparrow’s Nest goals for the run in November. It sounded like its going to be lots of fun and I have all of my laces crossed that I get to attend!

Such an jam packed day! I was relieved when the next stop actually was home.

It All Looks Flat When You’re Looking At The Ground

Spring has sprung! Officially. On paper, anyway. Today’s weather even seemed like it would cooperate with the calendar, the sun shining out from within a bright blue sky and everything. Then we left to head to meet everyone at the park and like some sort of omen, the sun hid itself behind some dark clouds.

Please just don’t rain. Please just don’t rain. Please just don’t rain.

That ^ totally worked. It did not rain. The sun didn’t make another appearance and it didn’t get much warmer but it did not rain. Yay for that. Because it certainly didn’t get any easier this week- walk three minutes, run three minutes. Five sets of that. What? This is easing into running?

Ok, fine. Three and three. But that’s not all. Yup, up and down those hills. Those hills! When, when, when will that track be clear and available?

Stretching. There’s something I wish I could do. I bet it would help if I could just s t r e t c h my soles before we start off. It looks like it feels good and everyone raves about its importance. Any hoo, after they all got their stretch on, off we headed- towards those dreaded hills. & wouldn’t you know it, minute four placed us right smack dab at the bottom of the first incline. First three minute run and it may as well be vertical. Ugh. Its amazing how long three minutes is when something is difficult. We didn’t stop. We were super slow though, like so slow that the others in our little group kept turning around to check on us- both of them seasoned runners. In fact, the whole of our workout they spoke of past races run, and man, it was intimidating to be barely able to breathe while hearing about 26.2 miles. Talking about “the wall”. Yeah, ladies, we hear that! Our wall, its right here on this next hill.

I don’t mean to seem especially negative, there were definite highlights in this week’s training. The upside to running along side, or slightly behind, actual ‘runners’ is that you get usable advice. My person was advised to try looking down when going uphill because it all looks flat when you’re looking at the ground. Normally, she finds a fixed point to focus on- sort of an ‘up & over’ mentality. Not sure how well that’s working out for her because I can feel her struggling on those hills right along with me. She said she’s going to try it next time which can only help me too. I got some sage advice as well. The third set of running, midway up the biggest hill (of course!) I noticed that we were basically running in place. Seriously, the tree to the right of the path did not recede behind us even after like 4 steps. Strength saw it too and actually called out to me,

Get on your toes, girl!

Which totally worked! Up on our toes and just like that, we were moving again. I don’t what was more shocking, that we were no longer running in place, or that she was so willing to help that Strength took a chance of outing us both as ‘real’ to do the right thing. Not that any of the ladies above us would’ve even noticed, so caught up in their own convo. In fact, they continued chatting in the parking lot long after the training concluded which allowed us to do the same. It feels really nice to have a friend. So good, that I almost forgot about this whole Jim situation with my person. Almost.

Tomorrow morning is the big, early morning, date. I should probably hold off judgment until I have more information, but really, what else could it be?