Friday, August 5, 2016

Ode to a Running Partner

"There's a bench up here, let's just sit down for a second." It was the middle of the night, 80 something miles into the Boulder 100 and my running partner was tired. "There's no bench, Matty, let's just keep going." I said, worrying that if we sat down we'd never get up. It was my pacing duty to keep him going, to make sure he made it to the finish line, but he was determined to take a break. He sat down on the bench and managed a laugh. "You thought I was hallucinating this bench didn't you?" And so the story of the bench that appeared out of nowhere became legend. "And we're running along and I saw this bench and I say we should sit down for a second and Clythie thinks I'm hallucinating because she couldn't even see it! How did I end up with a pacer who can't even SEE?" And I would try to say that I just thought we should keep going, and the story always ends with him explaining to the audience that I was the one who was so tired I couldn't see the bench and that I was convinced he was hallucinating when he was completely fine. And we always laugh, at me. I've learned to laugh at myself a lot over the last 6 years that Matthew and I have been running together. Maybe that's what I've given to him. A lot of great laughs, mostly at my expense. I tell him he is awful and he says "You're laughing too." And I say, "Well, if the story was about someone else, I'd be laughing so I guess it *is* funny." And we laugh more. 

We met at work at a winery in Virginia and together with a group from the winery, we joined the Fauquier Running Club. During the day we would haul cases of wine, count wine, clean the winery, pick grapes, bottle wine, plan events, present tastings to customers, whatever the winery needed. And at night, we'd run. Neither of us had been runners growing up, but we were fascinated by it, and we wanted to get better and faster, and soon all we talked about was running and runners and more running. On Tuesdays we'd join for a group run, and on Thursdays, speed work or hill workouts. Before we started training on Thursdays we'd run The Fast Mile. It was an insane mile, starting out from the track downhill through a parking lot, with 2 big turns and then around a baseball field and through the woods, back to the track. We would all run our hearts out. Matthew was always in the top 3-4 finishers. And I was nearly always in the bottom 3-4 runners. And he was always there waiting at the end of The Fast Mile to cheer me in. And after track work or repeatedly climbing Hades Hill, we'd go back to the track and cool down and talk about our lives at the winery and our running and our shin splints and our aching backs and the sun would go down and we'd go home to sleep and wake up for another day of wine and running.  

Soon we signed up for our first race, a 5k in Front Royal, Virginia. Matthew finished first for his age group and I did not finish last and this became somewhat of a pattern for both of us. We've always been unlikely running partners. Not matched in age or pace or gender, but we shared a similar schedule and a love for running and a friendship like no other was born. 

Front Royal 5k. The real genius of this pic is the fact that we were both running in gigantic gym shorts.  

At another 5k, a mountain 5k, which was also our first trail race, by the time I was coming up the last hill, I was exhausted and near tears. Matthew finished racing and came back for me, as was now tradition, and started shouting. "YOU CAN CRY LATER. FINISH FIRST! RUN NOW! RUN!" And that day we both won age group medals. Full disclosure, his was first place and mine was for 3rd place in a field of 3 women in my age group. But I wouldn't have even made it to the finish line without him. That medal means more to me than 3rd out of 3. It's the one that reminds me to run through the pain, cry later, finish, run NOW. 

This picture was taken moments before they called my name to come pick up my medal. Needless to say I was surprised. 

We flew out to California and ran America's Finest City Half Marathon, the furthest we'd ever run in our lives at the time. My brother and Matthew finished and came back to run me in. Matthew would do that again for me a couple of months later at the Annapolis Half, a race which gave us both Half Marathon PRs and dual hangovers - the Annapolis runners know how to throw a great after party.

Big smiles after our first Half Marathon

And even bigger smiles after our second Half Marathon, double PRs and a few beers too.

I crewed for him at the Bull Run 50 Miler and when he started training for Boulder 100, I'd do my long runs (for Half Marathon training for Reston and Chicago) on Saturdays and then pace him with my bike on his long runs (17-30 miles) on Sundays. 

Between races, we'd run trails, always creating a great adventure out of a run. We'd start and end at the same place and run our own paces and then report back afterward. "I had a great run today, Matty!" I'd say, excited about how great I felt. "Yeah? Do that for 3 days in a row and report back to me again," he'd reply. Or he'd give me sage advice, "You, know, Clythie, if you want to run faster, you're going to have to run faster." He always pushes me, always encourages me to be better, work harder, not to let up. And I've always, I don't know? Been there for him?  Laughed with him? I can't keep up with him, even when he's tired. But we somehow help each other out. 

We've run many many miles on the Appalachian Trail, on the W&OD, the C&O Canal, through Rock Creek Park, in the mountains in West Virginia and at running camp in Colorado, and too many races together to recount. Despite the fact that we rarely run the same pace, we always run together. There's more to running together than matching pace. We're each other's running support system.

And now, in four days, I'm moving to San Diego and Matthew and I will no longer be running together. For 6 years we have run together and now we'll be 3,000 miles and 3 hours time change apart. How do you say goodbye to the best running partner on the planet? Hopefully with more laughs than tears but it won't be easy.  

I suppose it won't be that strange after we get used to it. After all we don't really run together. At least, that what I've been telling myself. And I'll have my brother and my sister in law, who are both amazing runners, and I have a group of wonderful running girlfriends in California. And I'll join a new running group. And Matthew has his friends in Woodley Ultra Society and other friends who  he runs with as well. And we'll plan running vacations and meet up for races and we'll see each other, not every day like we're used to, but we'll make it happen as often as we can, and we'll be there for each other as much as possible, like all running partners are. And we'll run at our own paces, and catch up with each other at the end and he'll likely elbow me and say, "Remember when you thought I was hallucinating that bench at the Boulder 100?" 


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lost and Found in Plain Sight

"I'm really exhausted today, I'll just run with you." Uh oh. My running partner was tired, which meant he wanted to run with me and it also meant that I would definitely still struggle to keep up. We usually start and stop our runs together, or meet up halfway through a run, but his typical speed is nearly double mine so we really don't actually run together at all. I've written before about how I don't like running with people very much but I thought for a second and made a suggestion. "OK, that sounds great and could you show me how that right hand trail where the trail splits into three trails, over by the weird sign, you know, like how it links up with the Western Ridge Trail? Or is that the Valley Trail?" 

It is a weird sign, right? 

He raised his eyebrows. "You know, for a person who purports to have a good sense of direction, you have a really awful sense of direction." We'd been running regularly in Rock Creek Park for 15 months now and he was right. I get turned around in the woods nearly every weekend. Before our runs he'll patiently explain where he's going to run and where I should run. "Take this trail," he'll say, "and don't worry if you get lost because they all loop around." And I get completely confused and most often meet up with him, coming from somewhere totally random, far off the trail that I had planned on running. But I always have a blast and Rock Creek Park is in the smack middle of DC, so I don't worry because I'm never far from civilization. My handy google maps app has helped me from time to time as well. 

"Yes. I will show you." And we set out. The pace was such that Matthew was barely moving and I was hustling my ass off to keep up with him. At one point he reached the top of a hill, turned around and just started laughing at me. I laughed back with the very precious little breath I had left. It's a pathetic situation trying to keep up with him but it makes for a good workout. And a lot of laughs.

"Is this the Western Ridge Trail?" I asked. "Nope. I don't know what this one is called but it loops back around so don't worry." And then he took a left turn up another freaking hill and I called out, "Is this the Western Ridge Trail?" "No, it isn't. But we're going up to the top on it and then we'll connect to the Western Ridge." And so I found myself huffing it up a steep ass trail that had no name which we had run to from another trail that had no name and I realized I would never be able to understand where the heck we were. So I just followed him up the hill as fast as I could. 

I'd stop from time to time to get my heart rate down a bit. "I'm taking a couple of pictures so I have landmarks for when I get lost in here by myself," I called up to him. He shook his head and ran up the trail.   

 Trail markings in Rock Creek Park. These are easier to spot than the more traditional flash markings on the trees.

"I'll be right there, don't feel like you have to wait!" I tried to call out to him but it was more of a whisper as I tried to breathe and move and live. 

I made it to the top of this hill, turned around to catch my breath and saw this appropriately placed skull-n-bones staring back at me. 

Soon after we reached the top of the hill we were running along a flattish path and I was starting to feel pretty good, and Matthew once again took a left. "Is this the Western-" He cut me off. "OH MAN I'VE WANTED TO FIND THIS PLACE FOR SO LONG!" He shouted.

I turned left behind him and looked ahead to a clearing filled with what looked to be large rocks. 

My brain was still trying to figure out what it all was when Matthew disappeared through a hole in the rock wall.  Do you see him there in the middle far left of this shot? 

I caught up to him and he explained where we were. "I can't believe this is where we are!" he said. "I've run by here so many times and I've never realized it was here!" I still didn't know where we were. "It's so cool right?!" Yes, it was magical. But where in the heck were we? The only thing I knew was that we weren't on the Western Ridge Trail. At least I was pretty sure about that.   

It's a magical land of slabs of stone. I'm positive gnomes live here. 

Finally he explained. The stones were brought to Rock Creek Park from the US Capitol building, and they're the remains of the eastern facade that was renovated in the fifties. The sandstone and marble pieces date back as far as 1818. Some are huge plain slabs, others are ornate corner pieces. Some have decorative accents. Some are stacked into walls and others are piled high as if they were tossed there by giants. It has the quiet feel of a cemetery and the mystique of stonehenge and there's moss everywhere and interesting numbers and markings on the slabs and you could just climb around or take a rest for hours. 

It's a secret land of stones and moss in the middle of the city.

Some stones are marked with numbers, others carved with flowery accents.

We stayed awhile, enjoying the quiet and checking out as many details as we could take in, and I managed to catch my breath and get my legs back under me. Before too long it was time to set off again. We continued on, beyond the horse stables, we crossed a road by the Nature Center and then we took another left and Matthew said to me, "Clythie, this is the Western Ridge Trail." 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Get to Know 2Toms Give Away!

It's the Get to Know 2Toms Give Away and it's super easy to win!

You probably already know I'm a huge 2Toms fan, and if you aren't already, you'll soon be a fan as well. Your chafing woes are about to disappear my friends. 

All you have to do is follow directions, and cross your fingers! I have TONS of prizes for a bunch of you lucky people! And a ton of exclamation points because I'm so excited about this give-away!


And I also have:

SportShield Roll On
SportShield Towelettes
SportShield 4 Her
SportShield 4 Her Towelettes
Blister Shield Powder
Blister Shield Powder Packets
Butt Shield Roll On
Butt Shield Towelettes
Captain SportShield T Shirts 
Stink Free Sports Detergent
Stink Free Sports Detergent Travel Size Samples
Stink Free Shoe & Gear Spray

There will be

2 Grand Prize Winners who'll each win:

The Captain SportShield Power Pack (filled with an insane amount of prizes)

10 Awesome Prize Winners who'll each win:

The Captain SportShield Mini Pack (filled with a few amazing prizes)

Here's all you have to do to enter below:

1. Follow 2Toms and me on twitter.

2. Retweet my contest announcement by copying this tweet (or RT me directly from twitter):

Get to Know @2Toms Give Away! Win Prizes! #ShieldYourself #CaptainSportShield

3. Comment on my blog. I suggest commenting on my SportShield for HER! Review. You can make any comment you'd like, but I hope it includes how excited you are to try 2Toms products!

Enter by clicking on this thing: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway    

You'll get 1 or more entries, depending on how much you love me. I mean you'll get 1 or more entries depending on how many times you enter based upon the criteria above. 

It's really that simple. Follow and retweet and comment and you're in! The contest will run for a week and I'll announce the winners on twitter and notify them via email. 

Good luck and as always, thank you so much for reading my blog! It means the world to me!

Now that you've read this far, as an extra thank you, I have 4 Captain SportShield t-shirts like the one I'm wearing below, in size Men's XL. Comment here in my blog and tell me you'd like one. The first four people who comment that they'd like a shirt will be instant winners!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Let's Get Real: An Analysis of Virtual Racing & The Leap Year Dare

I never understood why people would run virtual races when there are real races to run. But I also never understood why people would watch 50 Shades of Grey when there are real pornos to watch. It was time to figure it out. 

Virtual races are similar to real races in that you sign up, pay a registration fee and receive some sort of race pack (likely with a bib, t-shirt and medal or some combo of those items) but when it comes time to toe the line at the start...well...there isn't one. You just race yourself when it's convenient. It might be on a certain day or within a certain time frame but you can race your race from wherever you want and pretty much whenever you want to get it done. 

It seemed like...well, like not the real thing. It seemed like "a run." Or racing light. Fake racing? But to be fair, I hadn't ever tried one before. The only way to try to understand the appeal would be to experience one for myself. I focused on the part about not having to wake up early. I'm all about sleeping in so that part sounded pretty good to me. 

I signed up for something called the Leap Year Dare. Instead of one race, it would be 5 races throughout February (2016 being a Leap Year), starting with 2k, then 4k, 6k, 8k and culminating in a 10k race on the 29th. For $27 I would get a bib and a medal and I would run 5 "races." For an additional $20, I could order a t-shirt. Sounded reasonable enough for my experiment.  

The first thing I did when I received my race pack was put the medal away in a safe place without looking at it. I'm not about to even touch a medal that I have yet to earn. That's bad racing juju.  The medal would stay stashed until I completed all 5 "races." 

Next, I asked a bunch of my friends if they'd like to join me. There was a lot of confusion. "Where is the race?" "Um. It's virtual. You run a certain distance each week, leading up to a 10k on Leap Year Day." "Ok, but where do we race?" "Anywhere - that's the thing, it's a virtual race." "This sounds weird." "How do we get an official time?" "Uhhh I think you just time yourself?"

I inquired with the Leap Year Dare Race Director, asking if we were to time ourselves and then report it somewhere, like, on line? Or were we to email our times to the RD? I received a really nice reply. "You can post them in the Facebook group if you want, but really it's just for fun. We don't record the times." 

This is the first time I heard someone say a race would be fun. Haha! There are a lot of things I love about racing, but racing is not fun. Racing is stressful and rewarding and challenging and tough and insanely exhausting. It would be for fun? And there would be no winner? This virtual racing thing was getting more confusing by the moment. But since I had already received the medal before even running a step of the race, I had to see it through.   

I glanced at the Leap Year Dare Facebook page the last week of January and discovered that we were actually supposed to complete the first "race" that week! There were 5 to complete so the first one actually began the last week of January. I rallied the troops. "Reminder that we have our virtual 2k for the Leap Year Dare this week guys!" My friend Isabelle was the first to reply, "If I run 10 miles does that count?" We were all still confused. We were to "race" 2k, or 1.24 miles. "Should we do this on the track?" "Can you "race" on a treadmill?" I didn't really know but we decided you could do whatever you wanted, whenever. That was the beauty of virtual racing, right? 

So racing was now going to be fun and there was no pressure and it was to be convenient? I mean, it sounded kinda good. But what happened in reality was that without any motivation I completely forgot about it, and the week was nearly over when I was like, shit! The 2k "race"! I have to do that! And by then honestly, I didn't really care. I can knock out 2ks in my sleep. I had already done several runs much longer that week, and now, in the basement of my apartment building I cranked up the treadmill and "raced" my official 2k. During the "race" I slowed down to take a phone call. Then I stopped to retie my shoe. I really wasn't in a hurry because there was no one around to race against. And when it was done, it was just...done. I snapped a pic of myself with my bib, cracking up.  I sent my friends a note. 2k race in the books, bring on the next one!" It felt silly and weird.   

Are you supposed to wear the bib? Awkward. But go me!

The next week was 4k, or 2.4 miles. I decided that if I was going to make something of this experiment, I had better revamp my plan of action. Instead of going into the 4k with no pressure, for fun, I would PR the 4k and even though I wasn't racing other humans, I would run the hardest I could for 2.4 miles. That worked a little better. I ran hard for 4ks and then rounded out the run with a couple more miles at a more comfortable pace. Then I hopped on my bike and went on a 12 mile night run around the monuments at The National Mall. "Race" two was complete. 

4k "raced" on a mild February DC day

For the 6k, I was up in Canaan Valley, WV, so I decided to XC ski that week's race. I mean, cross country skiing is as tough a workout as running and this race appeared to have no rules, so why not? I skinned up to the top of Mount Baldy as fast as I could and skied back down for 3.7 miles of virtual racing. 

I skinned up the mountain from all the way down in the Valley. In true virtual race form, I had the course to myself. 

I even took a little break at a warming hut on the way down - it's not like I was trying to beat anyone, right? 6k "race", complete. 

Why not take a little break? I seem to be the only one here "racing" anyway. 

By this time, the enthusiasm amongst my runner friends had dissipated both virtually and in reality. "Are you still doing that pretend racing thing?" "I ran a 10k race over the weekend - do I count that as the 10k even though I didn't count a 4k or 6k? Cause I forgot about those." Some had just stopped logging the distances. "Who cares if I ran 6k? Honestly I have no motivation to "race" when there isn't an actual race!"  

That was my problem too. This whole "convenience" thing really was not a motivator for me. I was conveniently forgetting about the "races" since I didn't have to do them at any specific time. Sure, I was running, but was I "racing"? I still wasn't sure what it all even meant. And I wondered how many people bought the virtual race packs and never actually got around to actually running the "races"? But I had two more weeks of "racing" to complete. The medal was waiting for me. 

I was in California for the 8k and 10k "races." 

The 8k was one of my favorite runs ever in my life, and completely unexpected. My boss and I ran the Greenwich Steps in San Francisco and had a total blast. Was it a race? Most definitely not. Did it really have anything to do with the Leap Year Dare? No. But it happened to be the correct distance and since no one else seemed to care, I counted it. 8k, done. There was one more "race" to go!

Leap Year Day fell on the first day of my conference. We had meetings scheduled from 7AM until 10PM. It was one of those non-stop days when you barely remember to catch your breath. I fell into bed exhausted after finally making it back to the hotel after our business dinner and then remembered today had been the day to "race" my 10k for The Leap Year Dare. I thought about going to the gym and jumping on the treadmill. Then I looked at my mileage tracker for the day and there it was staring back at me: 6.7 miles! I had walked, very quickly in fact, I would even say *racing* from meeting to meeting (in heels by the way) just a bit more than a 10k that day. Leap Year Dare was done! I had crossed the virtual finish line! I fell back into the soft pillows, settling my tired body into the bed, and wondered if I would ever recall where I had hidden my medal.   

The race was over and now I could try on my Leap Year Dare tee!

This is the back of the super cool Leap Year Dare shirt. I still haven't found the medal. 

My experiment was over. I had completed the Leap Year Dare. I earned my medal. But I still didn't understand the allure of virtual racing. So I decided to ask some experts. I put this question out to the Run the Year 2016 Facebook group - Why do you participate in virtual races versus real races? And I received more than 100 insightful comments. Some people didn't understand my question and they told me their reasons were "to support the charity" or "for the bling" or "so I can give my 'I Run 4 Buddy' the medal." I gently responded, "Right, but you can support charities and get medals at real races. What I'm trying to understand is why do you do virtual races instead of real ones?" This has always been the part that I didn't get and even after completing the Leap Year Dare, I still didn't understand. 

What happened next opened my eyes. And if you agree with the few who commented that they, like me, feel that virtual races are kind of a waste of money, or that they seem to be just the act of buying a medal to reward yourself for a run, take a look at 

The Top 12 Reasons Why People Run Virtual Races: 

I paraphrased the comments and analyzed them, and learned a lot!

1. I hate crowds. {Ok, yes, I agree. People are gross. Especially early in the morning. Very good point.}

2. I live in the middle of nowhere {Valid. Getting to races is tough even when you actually have races to be able to get to. If you live in a remote location, real racing might not even be a choice.}

3. My best friend lives across the country and we pick the same day and time. We FaceTime at the start and finish - We virtually race together! {I love this. This so cute and sweet and awesome! I want to do this with one of you or a bunch of you. It sounds really fun. Who will do a Facetime Virtual Race with me? I'll provide prizes from 2Toms!}

4. This particular virtual race has a unicorn medal {Yes, we know that unicorns are a high motivator, of course. Interestingly, more than one person said they race virtually for unicorn medals.} 

5. I use the virtual race medals and themes to organize real races for my kids. {Once you throw kids into the mix I'm not going to debate you. I can barely take care of myself. The idea that you would do this for your kids melts my heart. Love it.}

6. I am a soccer mom and we spend all weekend at soccer during the time real races are run. {Same as above. I would die as a soccer mom. Proud of you for even finding time for any virtual races at all after all that soccer.}

7. I hate port-o-potties. {YAAAS. This person wins.}

8. I live in Alaska. {Anyone who lives in Alaska is a badass to me and therefore I defer to your judgement on what is and is not awesome.}

9. I live on a remote island and cannot leave. {What?}

10. I'm doing 45 races this year for my 45th birthday and didn't want to take up that many weekends. {For real? You should be lying by the pool every weekend with that many races planned for during the week. Wow!}

11. When I was Active Duty I couldn't go to races so I ran virtual races. And I filled my candy jar with my medals. {Anyone who defends our freedom can race however she wants, and thank you for your service so very much.} {Side note: I bet I would be at my goal weight if I replaced candy with medals. Nothing tastes as good as a win, but actual medals taste awful.} 

12. I get annoyed by people who pass me in real races. {Cannot. stop. laughing.}

See? There are a lot of reasons to participate in virtual races after all! 


We race with The Power of the Unicorn!

I'm not only glad I tried one virtual race (or five if you really think about it) but I'm especially glad I took the time to ask why others are drawn to this form of racing (and thankful for everyone who took the time to respond so graciously). 

I learned a lot. I learned that while virtual races are not my preferred kind of racing, that for some people, virtual races can be quite satisfying. I was glad to try it, to branch out, to experiment, to learn. And now if you'll excuse me, I guess I should probably try watching 50 Shades of Grey.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2001: A Marathon Odyssey - September 11th & My First Marathon

My September 11th story is unremarkable in comparison to so many, but it is mine and the horror of it will likely never completely leave me, despite my efforts over the years to forget. Not much really happened to me that's worthy of reporting, but the feeling of that day will never go away. It's right there as soon as I start to think about it, and sometimes when I don't even try. 

It was 8:30 in the morning and I was chatting with my girlfriend Carolyn on the phone from my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, as we watched the Today Show. Katie Couric was interviewing Harry Belafonte (we liked Katie's shoes, but we felt her hair style choice was poor) and I finished getting ready for work during the commercial break and then half listened as Matt Lauer interviewed someone about Howard Hughes. I called Carolyn back as Matt broke away from the interview to report the first plane.  It seemed strange, but far away. "I'm so late for work," I said to Carolyn, "This is really weird. Let me know what they say - I'm headed out the door." I turned off the TV and made the short commute down Columbia Pike to my office while the second plane hit. This is getting really weird, I thought, but I needed to get to work, and New York seemed really far away. I took the elevator up to the PH, the penthouse, named so in my office not just because we were located on the top floor, but because it was the 13th floor and PH made for a nicer floor name than the somewhat ominous 13th. Up in the PH, my co-workers were discussing New York, the Trade Center, the planes and how strange it all seemed. Moments later I quickly headed back down to the garage because I realized I had left my laptop at home. I sped back up Columbia Pike still not fully aware that our world had changed. I grabbed my laptop, and as I rushed back down Columbia Pike again, the 3rd plane flew into the Pentagon. 

In hindsight one would think my natural inclination would have been to get away from my tall office building, located so close to the Pentagon, but I was compelled to get to my coworkers. I headed back up to the 13th floor and into complete chaos. People were screaming, crying, hugging, holding hands, as they watched the Pentagon burn from our windows. Someone came running through the office shouting, "EVACUATE THE BUILDING! GO HOME! GET OUT OF HERE!" My co-worker John grabbed my hand and pulled me into the stairwell. "WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!" As we made it down to the garage, in full panic mode, I realized I had left my purse on the 13th floor. John looked at me, at the stairs, at the elevator and said, "Let go of my hand for one sec. Wait right here. I'll be back." He got into the elevator and went up for my purse. And I wondered if I would ever see him again.  But he was back in a few moments, my purse in hand. We hugged and ran to our cars. I drove back up Columbia Pike again, now listening to Jack Diamond on Q107 reporting complete insanity: there were still planes in the air, there were planes headed into many buildings, no one knew what was going on.

In the moments between the Pentagon crash and my 5 minute commute back home again, the Red Cross had set up a triage unit at the Salvation Army on Glebe Road, next to my apartment building. All roads were blocked and only emergency personnel and residents of the street were being let in. I talked to a police officer and he asked me for my license. "I can't let you in unless you live here," he said. My license had an older address on it. I asked again. I just wanted to go home so I could find Jeff and my mom and all of my friends.  He let me by. An hour later I left again to pick up Jeff at the metro and we once again begged our way back into the blocked off triage area so we could get home. We were running from the parking lot to the apartment when we heard and felt the sonic boom. In my panic I fell to the ground. I was completely and totally out of control. I realized the feeling of being terrorized.

In the days following, the skies were silent but there were near constant sirens on the roads, or so it seemed. Maybe I was just hyper aware of every noise. Paranoid. Terrified. Stressed. Every little normal life act seemed scary. What was going to happen next? So, when my mother casually reminded me that she would be flying to Dublin in a month for the Dublin Marathon, I freaked out. Dublin was really far away. "What if your plane gets blown up? I'm going with you." 

I was making absolutely no sense, but the world no longer made sense and everything felt out of control and I wasn't sure what to do about any of it. So I told my mother that I would fly to Dublin with her and we'd do the marathon together. What? In 2001 a good bit of exercise for me was walking  a couple of blocks to the bar. I was not yet a runner, I was in terrible shape. I was overweight. I smoked tons of cigarettes and I spent many late nights per week with a whiskey and a beer in hand at my favorite dive bars. 

My mother, on the other hand, had been training with the Leukemia Society's Team in Training for months, to race-walk her first marathon (her first half marathon was the year before, Mayor's Midnight Sun in Anchorage). But I was thinking, how hard could it be to walk 26.2 miles? And my mom was 30 years older, I could certainly keep up with her right? And I'd never been to Dublin. I would protect her and we would race together.   

I went along with her to a couple of TNT training practices before the race and learned a few things. Race walking is NO JOKE. A lot of race walkers haul ass. I went on to continue respecting them when I first became a runner and would routinely be passed by race walkers. Both younger and older race walkers. They wiggle walk their hearts out! I also learned what it felt like to be sore. Ouch. I could barely move after those training walks. Barfly to marathoner in 3 weeks is not recommended. But I was committed. And my mom agreed to slow down a bit for me. Mostly I was so proud to have some insight into this training world that my mother had been so involved with that I had been paying very little attention to prior to September 11th. She was amazing. She made it to every training practice, during the week and on weekends, and she also did a ton of fundraising for the Leukemia Society. I was beginning to learn that being an athlete is fun and despite the soreness, it's a lot more rewarding than a hangover. And in the next few weeks I had something positive to focus on instead of the terror. Before we knew it, it was time to get on a plane and race a marathon. 

Once we landed in Dublin, there was such a warm welcome by everyone we came into contact with and we felt so at home in this great little city. And we raced!  We wiggle walked our hearts out! We had such an amazing time together. Like my personal September 11th story, nothing much worthy of reporting actually happened to me that day. We raced all over Dublin with a ton of people from around the world. Unlike my September 11th, where I can remember every single mundane detail of that day, the marathon day is a bit of a blur.  But like September 11th, the feeling of that day will never go away. Only this time, the overwhelming feeling and memory is of joy and achievement and being with family and being surrounded by people cheering and smiling and laughing. That is what I will always remember. And when we'd crossed the finish line, my mother and I ended the day in a little pub, drinking our very first ever Guinness to celebrate, while we planned our next marathon. 

 The medal seems old school now, like someone printed them in local trophy shop but it remains one of my favorites.

There are a thousand reasons to love this photo. Please note where we're wearing our bibs. What? Did  we not notice we were the only ones wearing our bibs on our collar bones? We clearly had no idea what we were doing but we were so happy doing it. And I need to give a special shout out to my Le Sportsac fanny pack! That thing was retro even in 2001 (but I think they might be back in style now, cause I've seen the Petworth Hipsters slinging those things around on their hips on Georgia Avenue). I also love our cute little matching cotton bandanas. And the fact that we crossed the finish line together holding hands.  

The smile on my mother's face in this one says it all. Proud. Happy. The smile on my face says I'm ready for a beer! 

This poster was rolled up in the marathon swag bag. My mom had it mounted on wood into a 3D poster for me. I treasure it like I do the memories of that day. I look at it and think, you can do anything. You can get through anything. Grab someone's hand and make it happen.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Medi-Dyne RangeRoller Review: Welcome to My Torture Chamber

It's no coincidence that there are so many running sayings that involve, well, pain. Running is tough and along with the benefits like health and fitness and fun comes fatigue and sometimes, pain. 

No pain no gain
Pain is only temporary
Pain is weakness leaving the body
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional
Fuck this pain where's my beer? 

Ok, I made up the last one, and you can add your favorite pain related running slogan in the comments section (seriously if you add one in the comments I will love you forever. All I want in life is to have regular commentary on my blog. And faster race times. And chocolate gelato from Italy. And a lot more, actually but comment anyway, yeah? Am I begging here?). What was I saying? Oh right, really, there's a way to decrease aches and pains in your muscles and speed recovery and it really it's amazing if you can just 

suffer through the torture

We runners are something aren't we? We relieve pain with torture. May I have a side of psychiatric care with that post long run serving of torture, please? You know what I'm talking about. All runners are familiar with the Implements of Torture. 

These my friends, are very very very awful and terrible things that make you feel very good after you suffer a bit

Ok, the one on the left is a yoga block that I sometimes use after the torture sessions but the others are: Orange Knobby Foam Roller of Death, White PVC Pipe Roller from Hell, Regular Foam Roller for Wimps and The Stick.

Are you saying I'm the only one who names my Implements of Torture? Maybe I do need psychiatric care. And by the way The Stick came with its name. 

For those of you who aren't runners but are somehow still reading (thank you Mom) and want to know, why do we use foam rollers and sticks? They help immensely to remove lactic acid and to loosen the fascia that surrounds muscles. Lactic Acid removal and mobility of the fascia is really important because of the blah di blah - just read here and know that if it wasn't really imperative to running health we wouldn't do it. It hurts that much. 

So if you're a runner or if you clicked on the above you will know/see that using a foam roller also takes acrobatics because you have to actually roll yourself from above, along the foam roller, supporting yourself with your weak ass runner arms while you're tired and really just wanting to drink a recovery beer. 

This is why I prefer a stick. With a stick you roll it over your muscles instead of having to um, ride it like the way you do a foam roller, and you choose the level of pressure versus the way your entire body weight crushes the living daylights out of your muscles on a foam roller. Awhile ago I switched to a stick and was using it quite happily (ok, totally ouchingly because it also hurts) when my friends at Medi-Dyne sent me RangeRoller

Behold RangeRoller! 

First of all, let's just say right now, RangeRoller has a way better name than The Stick. RangeRoller - you can say it outloud, say it now, shout it - it's cool! RANGEROLLER! RangeRoller is genius. It comes in 3 sizes so you can choose the best one for your needs. The smallest size is sleek and compact and yet has the same functionality of larger sticks. Mine is black, white and navy and they come in 12 colors. You can get a red one and name it Raging Red RangeRoller or something like that. Maybe you can think of a better name. 

RangeRoller versus The Stick. RangeRoller is way more compact and offers access to more points on your body.

After using RangeRoller after several runs with complete success and happy muscles, I handed my RangeRoller to my friend Matthew who has run a few races and I asked him what he thought. He didn't say anything at first, probably because I was talking non stop about how awesome RangeRoller is, but he immediately began to use RangeRoller on his quads and calves and after awhile I had to interrupt myself to interrupt him using it so I could get it back. "I need that RangeRoller for my review," I said and he replied, "Where do I get one of those?" I think it's safe to say his review is positive. I also asked my husband Jeff to review RangeRoller. He's a massage therapist and a yoga teacher. He took it, looked at it, shook it (if you're ever in need, it doubles as maracas), used it on his quad and shoulders and said, "Yeah, this is really good. I'm better, but I charge $115 for an hour massage." So I think it's safe to say that you will save a lot of money using Range Roller.  

Each of the 3 RangeRollers comes with a different level of flexibility depending on your needs. Besides the cool name and kick ass rainbow of color choices, RangeRoller is better than other sticks because it has deep and narrow rollers that alternate with flat wider rollers so you can be sure to hit every spot. Ouch! And yes, thank you may I have some more?!

RangeRoller is cool, it's compact, it has soul and it's affordable. It does the job like a champ.  What more do you want in a post run torture fest? It may just become your best friend. Buy one or all three in your favorite colors and you'll be really happy.  After you use it. Cause during it's kind of a hurts so good situation. But we're on the same page about that right? 

Thanks for letting me torture you with another blog entry.

Medi-Dyne makes a lot of amazing products and they're on twitter here.

I'm on twitter too, right here.

And if you want to supplement your Range Roller usage with an amazing massage, Jeff is at


Monday, April 11, 2016

Beat the Bride 10k

It was only a few hours before the Rehearsal Dinner and Pam was nervous. She had been getting ready for this day for months and now it was time to shine. No need to get nervous, she thought. It’s going to be just like I planned. The weather was right, the guests were gathering and it was going to all go off on time.

We were all toeing the line at the Beat the Bride 10k and Pam was doubling as Race Director and Bride to Be. And right now, she was ready to race. Sure, her wedding itself lay ahead a mere 24 hours from now, but first it was time to run.

Race Director and Bride-to-Be, Pammy P. 

Who plans a race as the kickoff to a Wedding Weekend that would include a gorgeous rehearsal dinner followed by an after party bonfire by the lake, (with a popcorn bar!), dozens of guests staying over in her family’s historic Inn that was the site of all of the events, culminating in an outdoor wedding with a reception that will forever remain one of the best parties ever in all the guests hearts?  

Our friends Pam and Gabe decided to plan the race to begin the weekend, to celebrate their shared love of running. They’re the quintessential work-hard-play-hard couple and they enjoy life at 110% in everything they do. It only made sense that we’d be racing a 10k and then racing to get ready for a cocktail party.

The Groom and me, at the race start.

First though Jeff and I were racing to the Inn. We thought we’d left DC in time but we knew it was going to be close. The drive took a few hours and there were just a few minutes to throw on running clothes and get to the race start. Jeff wasn’t running. He doesn’t run. “Hey, you know what would be funny?” he commented. “Huh?” I asked, half listening. I was trying to quickly change.  “If I put on running clothes and tell Gabe I have been training and that I’m going to kick his ass.” “Haha, Gabe IS competitive. He definitely wants to win this race. And he’s the groom – he kinda should, right?” I laughed. “Can I borrow some running shorts?” Jeff asked. “Huh?” Before I could even finish changing Jeff had put on a pair of my running shorts, paring it with some amazing purple wrist bands and, well, who knows why he had them with him, but he did and they worked. “I’ll just run the race too. I mean, otherwise I’m just going to have to sit around and wait for you guys.” This would go on to be a theme for him at future races, but right now I was slightly incredulous. “You’re going to run 6 miles? With us in the race right now?” “Yeah. Why not?” “Um, well, there are a lot of reasons why not, but let’s just go – we’re late.”  

We gathered at the start, Jeff told Gabe that his sure-thing win was in jeopardy, and off went the gun – we only had a 10k between us and the Rehearsal Dinner.

The race was flat and fast, slightly exposed in the spring sun and I ran with Jeff for awhile and then Gabe’s sister, talking about the weekend ahead and how much we love Gabe and Pam and wondering if Jeff was going to be able to dance at the wedding. The finish was down a gorgeous lane leading back to the Inn and we had just enough time to catch our breath before we saw Jeff running toward us, hair flying in the breeze.

Serious styling and running capabilities that he pulled out of...where? 

Jeff approaches the finish at Beat the Bride 10k

Pam and Gabe did win. It was their wedding after all. 

Bride and Groom 10k winners!

But we all received medals. And Jeff proceeded to wear his all weekend. 

Post Race, showing off our medals 

And later we danced and danced and celebrated the race and the wedding and life.  

Rehearsal Dinner. Still wearing the medal.