Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where it all began...

Welcome to my new running blog! I know, I know, I have two other barely used blogs out there on the Internet, so why on earth do I need a third one? Easy...those blogs are littered with recipes and vacation to India...and while there is nothing wrong with that, those are distractions from what I really want to be talking to you about: running! You know, the pastime that occupies a large portion of my brain and closet space. The free therapy that keeps me sane and helps me be the best wife, mother and friend I can be. On this blog I will write about the parts of running that make me tick...the training, the races and, perhaps best of all, the experiences I have running with my friends in their training and racing.

 Because this is my first post, I thought I would give a little retrospective on my training, racing and pacing. Lucky for you I am not planning to give you a blow by blow of the last 20 years of my running. I will spare you that and just stick to the highlights. How about we go with a Top 10?

1. The beginning of my running...I started running because I was told I never could. Well, first I listened to all the people who told me I couldn't run for a very long time. But then I came across a great doctor who told me that if I worked hard AND smart enough AND practiced patience I could correct my long term knee pain enough to run the mile and a half to my college boathouse. After a year of rehab I nailed that first run and never looked back. Unfortunately it took me a long time to learn to apply the general principle of "work hard, work smart and be patient" to my running, but I am both forever grateful for that one orthopedist who bucked the conventional wisdom and for the principle I have been able to apply to my training as of late.

2. My first marathon...Los Angeles 1997. To say that this was a pretty auspicious beginning to my marathoning career is an understatement. I ran with Team in Training (an organization that I later had the opportunity to work for) and I had a great experience with my racing and fundraising...until I broke my femoral neck 12 weeks before the race. Yep, right after my 12 miler I ended up on crutches. I was down, but not out. Determined not to miss out on my opportunity to follow through on my promise to the little girl I was paired with who was in treatment for leukemia, I taught myself to swim and slogged through 8 long weeks of 90 minute swims. I ran 20 miles (total, not at once) in the 2 weeks before the marathon, hit my fundraising goal and pulled off a 3:24. I was hooked.

 The most unfashionable
shorts ever! But it was 1998...

3. Boston 1998...what NOT to do. This is the race where I learned that a) there is a time and a place for racing and b) I am not invincible. I went into this race over-trained, injured and with an abundance of enthusiasm. Sadly, I was too stubborn to alter my race plan to accommodate the situation. This race turned into a cautionary tale for how NOT to run a marathon. Long story short I ended up with some crazy rhabdomyolysis and a week long stint at Brigham and Women's hospital. On the upside I learned some good lessons and I ended up marrying my training partner. So I guess I also learned to always find the silver lining. 

pre-ironman sunscreen
exiting the swim, finally!
4. The big lull...for a bunch of years after Boston I was pretty unmoored as regarded my running. This was ultimately really good for me. I dabbled in triathlon and ultimately finished Ironman Canada in 2001. This was significant for three reasons: first, I managed to complete an irrationally long endurance event by training in a completely rational manner, second, I was able to be present as my friend Louis Bonpua finished Ironman in under 17 hours, while in treatment for leukemia. Louie taught me a lessons I will never forget about the power of both friendship and heart. He had more determination than anyone I have ever met and watching him will himself to the finish line in 16:56 was a seminal moment in my life. And third? Third, I learned that while I am capable of swimming distance (sort of quickly) and riding distance (slowly) I really just love to run. 

5. Excelsior and the PAUSATF 2003-2006...This is where I learned how to race. The PA is chock-a-block full of super fast women in "recreational" road racing and cross country. As a runner who hadn't competed in high school or college I was totally in over my head at the beginning racing against these speedy, experienced women, but I had some amazing teammates on Excelsior (Jenny Wong! Bean Wrenn!) who helped me along and kept me from getting discouraged. I learned to train properly, to rest, to race. And I was rewarded with a bunch of PR's, which was amazing...BUT....ultimately I also found that focusing on just racing fast left me feeling a little empty and burnt out.
Davis Mile with Jenny Wong!
Zippy 5k
Presidio XC

6. Stacy. In July of 2006 I had a darling 9 month old baby boy and my running was getting back on track post-partum. Then everything changed when one of my dearest friends in the world died in a cycling accident. It was devastating to lose Pat, but in losing him I gained an amazing friendship with his girlfriend Stacy. At her request we started on a mission to qualify her for Boston...a task that Pat had planned to undertake with her. She and I ran side by side for hundreds upon hundreds of miles and over the course of the next year we grieved our loss, built a wonderful friendship, and both qualified for and completed Boston. I gained so much from this experience - I took so much comfort in those runs and was so grateful for the opportunity to be able to run alongside Stacy as she achieved her long-held goal of finishing Boston while simultaneously celebrating Pat's memory. Those years were some of the most meaningful times in my 20 years of running and they cemented my enthusiasm for balancing achievement of my running goals with sharing my love of the sport with other women while helping them achieve their goals.

After finishing NYC, 2008 
Post-Boston, 2007

7. North Face Enduance Challenge, 2008. I entered this race on a lark (well, at the coercion of Jenny Wong...see #5). I wasn't a trail runner, but Stacy and I messed around on the local fire trails in a weak approximation at preparation. I went into this race with zero expectations but a general plan to simply run my own race. What I ended up with was a massive surprise and one of the most thrilling racing days of my life. You can read the race report here (Sadly...or maybe fortunately, I really have no photos from this one!)

Hanging out with my FoMo
peeps and Mr. Pickle
Davis Stampede 2011
8. Davis Stampede, 2011. By now I knew that I loved pacing my girlfriends (and sometimes, when I am lucky, my dad) but I rarely had the opportunity to BE paced by anyone, mostly because I just didn't ask. But in November of 2010 the amazing folks on the Forward Motion Racing Team welcomed me into their supportive and enthusiastic fold and I instantly knew I had found my people. On the day of this race not one but 3 of my teammates offered to simply run my race pace with me for as long as they could each manage (and then finish the race on their own). It was such an incredible experience to run with these guys and I was so, so grateful for their work. When all was said and done I had super-entertaining company for 9 miles and ended up with a PR and a win that I wasn't expecting. This race and the 8 glorious months I spent with this group really rekindled my enthusiasm for the sport of running at a time when I was feeling stale and unmotivated. And better still they showed me the importance of cultivating a strong and supportive (as well as totally irreverent) running community.

Cruising along with Ellen
en route to her first BQ!
Carter and me after her first 10k!
9. Janna, Carter and Ellen. I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to run with all of these women over the course of the past year. I coaxed and cajoled (well, okay, tricked) Janna into running longer than she had thought possible or reasonable, and was rewarded with some invaluable time with a dear friend at a time when I really needed it. On top of that, I was privileged to watch her transform into a truly badass runner who went from running 4 miles at a pop to qualifying for Boston in her first-ever marathon within the span of little more than a year. Carter welcomed me to my new hometown with dark, early morning runs which are the cornerstone of my sanity. We have known one another for 23 years and will mark the 24th year of our friendship (and our 40th birthdays) by running her first half-marathon this winter. I feel so fortunate that she has entrusted me with her training and I am having an amazing time witnessing her discovery of the speed and strength she previously didn't know she had. And talk about a privilege...Ellen trusted me to wear her garmin and set the pace on her latest attempt to make her Boston-qualifying dreams come true. She worked hard and we had a ridiculously good time en route to her whopping 11 minute PR. I cannot imagine any place on earth I would have rather been that day than running next to her! I still love running fast and racing for my own times, but spending time over the years running alongside Stacy, Janna, Carter and Ellen has given me so much joy. I feel truly fortunate to be able to balance my own training with the time I spend witnessing their developing love for the sport. I also am eternally grateful to have friends who run at all different levels; their personal reasons for running all help me to maintain perspective in my own training. 

10. LUNA, 2012. Another amazing chapter in my running began a few weeks ago when I learned that for the first time in 20 years of running I was going to be sponsored. And not just by anyone but by LUNA, a company who shares my passion for supporting female athletes of all levels. I applied for this sponsorship knowing so little about it, but the details really were not my motivation. Instead, after years of hearing my childhood best friend Carrie talk about her participation on the Seattle Luna Chix Triathlon Team, I simply knew that I wanted to jump at the chance to a part of this company's "family" as well. I am so humbled for the opportunity and I am really looking forward to spending my time as a LUNA athlete both continuing to develop myself as a runner and fostering my love for encouraging my running friends. So there you have it. Thanks for sticking around through that you are caught up I more retrospectives! We have a summer of training and a fall and winter of racing and pacing to get to!

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