Friday, September 12, 2008

Mupdate #5 (9/12/08)

I finally had the mental breakdown that everyone has warned me about. No, not *that* one, the one about running! I really should have had my head examined right up front for thinking that training for a marathon would be a good plan when I had to move 1000 miles away from my running groups and friends. But, of course, I signed up for it anyway and it seemed like everything was going swimmingly, even though I spent the summer doing all of my runs alone (and I do like to run in a group). I chalk this up to being in the Upper Peninsula, which is truly the place of my heart, and it being such a perfect and lovely summer there so that even when I was crabby, my attitude was still pretty positive for the most part. Things crashed and burned, however, once I hit Charlotte. My body ached beyond belief and I was lonely and unmotivated. (The blister that tripled the size of my little toe, painstakingly acquired on my last 14 mile run up north didn’t help either.) So I let myself wallow on the couch, staring at boxes for a week and a half. I think I needed that down time to not only heal (the blister and the aching stiffness and the twingy knee) but to get my determination back. A friend of mine has told me all along that running is a very mental sport, which of course means it’s inevitable that mental me would find it, and I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have avoided any mental breakdowns until now. Now I just have to hope that there aren’t any more in the near future since the marathon is a mere month away. There’s just no more time for the luxury of doubts about my capabilities (and that’s doubts about my physical capabilities, not mental capabilities for those of you out there snickering right now—besides we already *know* about the mental deficiencies).

One of the things that really stymied me on my running down here in the sunny South (which has been raining and flooding ever since we arrived—wonder if it’s me?!), was the fact that doesn’t seem to function well in this area. Every time I’ve mapped out a run, it has taken me down streets that end in dead-ends rather than continuing on through to the cross streets I’m supposed to turn down. The first time it happened, I sort of stood there gaping at the house that had the audacity to be built right smack where I should have been running and almost burst into tears (reference the mental breakdown stuff above). The second time, I schlepped my way through peoples’ soggy yards along a very busy road with no shoulder to get back to where I needed to be, muttering under my breath the whole way. So you can imagine how disconcerting it was to be stopped by a sheriff about a mile later once I was back near my neighborhood. He waved me over to him and started by saying, “I’m going to make you stop. I’ve had a complaint...” Meanwhile, in my head, I’m wondering if people could possibly be so mean as to complain about me walking through their yards along this scary, busy road (which I was NOT supposed to be on as per I was prepared to burst into tears as my defense but it turns out that the complaint was that about a dog that had charged out at a woman. Very gratefully, I gasped that I’d only been living around here a week and that I’d only run twice in that time so I hadn’t seen any dog. I don’t know if it was the relief or what, but as soon as I walked away from his car, I was super dizzy. Luckily it passed and I plodded on home. I could just see it: Woman arrested for trespassing, claims internet made her do it. Bet that would have made it nationwide and my family would have been so proud!

I assume that most of you weren’t glued to the tv watching the women’s marathon at the Olympics like I was. I was probably the most unsocial person at the bar that night (not that I ever rank far above that anyway but this was the first time I had an excuse!) but I was completely riveted by the whole thing. Those women are simply amazing. I am proud to say that I can run a half marathon faster than they can run a whole marathon. And that’s as close to greatness as I’m going to get in the sport of endurance running, I suspect. London in 2012 is definitely safe from the likes of me. I will say that I looked at their bodies and glanced down at mine (beer in hand—although beer is a carb, right?!) and wondered if I’d ever get to even half as toned as they were. Then I realized my problem (and it wasn’t the beer). I have the caloric intake of Michael Phelps (10-12,000 calories a day) and the activity level of, well, let’s not go there right now as I’m trying to get myself back on track! I will say that eating my weight in junk food the past few weeks has been a bad plan in terms of feeling good. I know I’m a slow learner, but now that I’m trying to be more mindful of the sorts of foods I’m eating, I do feel better. I may not lose another pound until after the marathon is behind me, but I do have more energy for running when my caloric intake isn’t almost solely provided by Frito Lay and Mrs. Fields.

As I get further and further into the crazy long distances, I am discovering all sorts of new places to develop blisters. My toes, despite liberal application of Body Glide to my poor abused feet, are sporting lumps and bumps in spots that prior to running I would have sworn came in contact with nothing besides air. But apparently when my feet swell into stuffed sausage form, every last part of them cozies up to some other part leaving me looking like I’m walking (make that wobbling) around on bubble wrap. Not a nice feeling, I might add! This is why you should buy running shoes a size too big: to account for the swelling. I was initially skeptical but shudder to think what variety of raw meat my feet would look like right now without that extra swell room. As is, they are quite the ugliest feet I’ve ever seen what with the blisters and the development of a second black toenail to keep the first one company. And because I’m so fashion forward, despite knowing the injunction about open-toed shoes and ugly feet, I generally schlep around in sandals when I’m not running, scaring small children and disgusting adults with the state of my gnarly looking feet. If you’re really lucky, I’ll take a picture of the final damage after the race and post it on my blog for the brave, curious, or those who appreciate the graphic nature of televised operations though I may have to post a warning to save the unsuspecting.

While blisters are an unpleasant by-product of all this crazy training, even worse is the horrid stiffness I can’t seem to shake without benefit of a rather ridiculous après-long run routine coupled with better living through chemicals. The folks at the local grocery store think we are the weirdest, partying-est people ever because I stop in every Saturday, soaked and stinking of sweat to buy four family-sized bags of ice. Unfortunately, the ice is for a party of one: me. I have to spend 20-30 minutes wearing a sweat shirt and sitting in an ice bath up to my hips if there’s a prayer in the world of me being able to even hobble, never mind walk like a normal human being, over the next few days. Once I have numbed my desperately screaming muscles into oblivion, I lie on my back and prop my legs against the wall to help drain all the blood out of them. The dog particularly loves this portion of the routine since it means she can freely lick my face, up my nose, sit on my hair, etc. and I’m incapable of escaping her. It’s also leaving some interesting heel marks on the wall in our bedroom. Guess I’ll have to consider painting once the marathon is over or maybe I’ll just wink at people and not explain when they see the marks. D. might appreciate that tack most. ;-) I have no idea if the ice baths and elevated legs are helping that much but I’m not discontinuing them for any amount of money just in case! The thing that is definitely a godsend though, is drugging the hell out of myself. Advil is my friend, and a better friend than I ever knew, I might add. I know for a fact that Wheaties is not the breakfast of champions, Advil is. Given that I never needed pain killers after swimming, I’m more convinced than ever that I was never meant to be a runner. But somehow, I’ve become one. So every morning I take calcium, a multi-vitamin, and Advil. Twenty minutes after my chemical cocktail, I’m actually capable of climbing the stairs and waking the kids up for school (not that they appreciate this, of course). I swear this marathon is making my joints feel eighty years old. Have I mentioned how much I am looking forward to tapering (after the 20 mile run in two weeks)?

Given how beaten down and torn-up my body has been feeling and how mentally broken down I’ve been, there have been a few things to raise my spirits. Two of you (and you know who you are!) sent me new running mixes after the plea in the last mupdate where I admitted to some downright bizarre musical choices. Both of the CD’s made me laugh because they date us so very well. Both the new mixes and my old mix share this summer’s big Kid Rock hit All Summer Long (yes, I have that one mixed in with my Erasure and Johnny Cash—see, I told you it was a bizarre mix) and Eye of the Tiger does nothing if not point out what children of the 80’s we are. But I love my new music and receiving it brightened my days and helped me get back out on the road. If anyone else wants to send me suggestions for music, I still need some, especially since my mix and the two new mixes only add up to 4.3 hours which that could be a bit optimistic pace-wise (about 10 minute miles) as I seem to getting slower on a daily basis. Goodies in the mail aren’t the only things that have helped the attitude. In true girly fashion, retail therapy went a long way towards helping too. All the mileage had worn the treads off the bottom of my shoes so I asked around to find a good running store here. I came away from the shopping experience with shiny, new shoes and Yankz, the newest gadget I absolutely had to have. Yankz are elastic shoe laces which enable me to be like my kids and unlearn the skill of shoe-tying. And they come in some spiffy fashion colors. Mine happen to be royal blue to match my shoes but I did consider the obnoxious lime-green for a minute, knowing that R. would have thought that was the coolest of my choices. Sadly, traditional, old, fuddy-duddiness reasserted itself quickly though. I guess I’m never destined to be the hip mom (and I’m sure it’s tragically pitiful to even worry about it). Un-cool color choice or not, giving the credit card a workout at the running store made me a happy little soul. After all, anything bought there is a necessary expenditure, right? I’m sure all the gadgets and whatnot are a very worthwhile investment in my health. ::snicker:: Lastly, my confidence in myself was also helped by a decent, if slow, long run last weekend. Don’t get me wrong, 16 miles was tough, but I did it and didn’t feel the urge to cry or call D. to come pick me up at any point during the run. What a giant step back into the swing of things!

I have to say I am amazed at how many people I know (and never suspected of being certifiable) or am meeting who have run marathons. I always thought I was a part of an elite minority—not to be mistaken for the “elite” runners who sign up for marathons and do crazy things like qualify for Boston and get to start up front at the starting line, far away from plodding riff-raff like me. Ah well, so I’m not unique. I’ll recover. The good part of realizing this is that this means there are so many people who can give me good advice (and odd but oddly soothing advice like elevating my legs). I do remain contentious though if the advice sounds like a sacrifice on my part. I mean, I do appreciate all the folks who have said that I should cut out all refined sugar these last 5 weeks but if you think that’s happening, you really haven’t met me! I’m quite certain it’s great advice but my body would likely shut-down and refuse all wheedling attempts to make it run if I did something so drastic and unsatisfactory as skipping dessert. After all, being able to eat dessert guilt-free is what got me into this running gig in the first place. And deprivation has never been a strong suit for me. I’m okay with giving up meat on the nights before a long run if that helps keep the bathroom emergencies down to a dull roar. I’m more than happy to carbo-load (the Atkins diet has never struck me as a particularly appealing option anyway) myself into a pasta coma and I will even grudgingly choke down a chocolate milk after a run to help with recovery. But give up sugar? I think not. You just can’t make me! And if sugar’s so darn bad, why does the marathon have a Ghiradelli chocolate mile? (Don’t answer that. I already know it was a great recruiting ploy. After all, I fell for it, didn’t I?)

So tomorrow is my 18-miler and two weeks from now is the big one: 20 miles. In the interest of keeping things fresh for these appallingly long runs, I have resorted to trying to come up with all the training clichés I can remember (and even some I never knew before this) so I can make myself gag (I mean giggle) as I’m out there trying to live them. So far I have:
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.
No pain. No gain.
And my personal favorite (which I have remembered since I was 12 years old and first saw it on the locker room wall at Mercersburg Academy for swim camp):
For a good time, call… No. Just kidding. It really goes: “Upon the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of countless thousands who upon the dawn of victory, paused to rest, and in resting, died.” Inspirational, no? Well, I thought so at 12. Now I find it a bit more morbid but it still manages to hover in my warped head as I run along. Any others you all want to funnel my way, I’d love to hear ‘em!

Lastly, for those of you who haven’t glazed over with boredom reading this, if you haven’t yet had the chance to donate, please consider doing so. It’s very easy to do. And maybe those of you who have donated once would like to prove how user friendly it all is and donate again? Just go to my site: and click the “donate now” button. You can also go here to read all the mupdates you might have missed. I know, I know. All that impressive sarcasm and inappropriate sharing all in one place! How will you be able to stand it? The fund-raising deadline is approaching like a runaway train (so is the marathon itself!) and while I’ve gone above my required numbers, this is such a great cause I can’t stop asking for you to support them. And in the spirit of the upcoming elections, my name is Kristen and I approve this message. (Don’t you think an entire work this long void of lying, mud-slinging, and character impugning deserves your support?)


  1. Here's one we invented decades ago while watching reporters being stupid while interviewing gold medal winners (I think in gymnastics). It's what you say when they ask you how it feels to win the gold medal:

    Don't think of it as success. Think of it as the postponement of failure.

    Hope that inspires!

  2. You are part of an "elite" group of marathoners. Less than 1/10th of the population completes a marathon. It's fun to meet others who have done the marathon scene before, but for everyone of those you meet you're bound to meet several more who ask questions like, "How long is this marathon?" in all innocence!

    Good luck in your training!


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