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I haven’t been able to run for the last two months.  Anyone who has had any amount of contact with me (in person or on the internets) will no doubt have heard about this before.  I don’t respond well to having one of my favorite things taken away.  It affects my sleep, my energy level and my overall attitude and though I tried to sub in other types of cardio, I haven’t really had a good adrenaline rush in a very long time.

I’ve been to the doctor, got a proper diagnosis (grownup alert!), got some pills, took them, did the recommended PT exercises, and actually went running pain-free on Friday.  Now I have to conquer The Fear.

When I was working at the library one night, a student came up to the reference desk and spent a tremendous amount of time with my co-worker.  I was busy myself, so I wasn’t really paying attention, but after the student left, my co-worker turned to me and asked, “Do you have any ideas on this one?”

It seems the student has a friend who was always athletic.  A while ago, she got inured, something like an ACL tear, and ever since then has been terrified of hurting herself.  I blinked at my co-worker, “Is that really something you can write a psych paper about, or is that just learning and conditioning?” If the stove is hot, you learn not to touch it; in figure skating, the first thing they teach you is how to fall safely.  Likewise, and I don’t really know anything about ACL injuries, but most sports injuries come from overuse, or from doing something wrong–so you try not to do something wrong.

Torn adductor, I blame yoga

In my case, I can’t quite pinpoint what I did wrong. I’ve had torn muscles in the past, and usually you can actually feel the muscle tear.  You take a step, and there’s a popping feeling followed by a tremendous amount of pain.  I never felt a pop for this one, which was why is was so hard to diagnose and treat properly.  I’d rest for a week, my leg would feel ok, and then I would try to go for a run often barely making it across the street.  When I was able to go for a longer run/walk, I ran about 1.5 miles and walked 4.5.  When I felt a slight twinge, I backed off and walked, which is something that this particular injury had left me unable to do as well.

The next morning after that test run, I woke up feeling fine.  I rested a few days, and went out for a four mile run/run (with a minimal amount of walking).  It felt great, I was maintaining a great pace (for an injured girl), and the act of running actually made my back pain go away.

The next day was race day.

If this had just been a normal race, I probably would have skipped it.  If this had been a 1/2 marathon, I would have known I wasn’t ready, but this was the Jamestown Bridge 10k, which is not only a really, really awesome race, but a distance I could actually handle.  So I had to do it.  Also, I was such a geek about this race that I was actually the first person to register for it–yeah.  Numbers 1 and 2 are reserved for last year’s winners, but I was number 3.

I ran over that–over and back.

Of course, running up and down that steep of an incline is a bit taxing, but I was prepared to take it slow and steady.  I met up with a friend and her mother before the race, and we made the plan to stick together and plod our way through the course.  She was also recovering from an injury, so at the start line, her 60-year-old mother took off like a shot, and we starting plugging our way down the on-ramp.

What ended up being strange and interesting about this experience was the fact that I was struggling.  My back had a ridiculous twinge, my leg felt stiff, and the previous day’s four miles just seemed like a beautiful dream as I hobbled along and eventually walked sending my friend ahead of me.  Near the end of the race, I saw the 6 mile marker meaning that there were only .2 miles ahead.  So I started running, tentatively at first, and then settled into my natural (if a bit slower than usual pace).  It felt perfect.  It felt like the previous day’s run instead of the plodding and drudgery of the first four miles of this race.

What I realized is in my terror of re-injuring myself and pushing too hard, I really hadn’t pushed hard enough at all.  It is harder on my body to run at an unnaturally slow pace than it is to run faster.  I used so much effort to slow down, that I wore myself out.  If I had attempted this race at a 10 minute mile pace, not only would I have finished with a much more respectable time, but I might not be so sore today.

Therein lies my conundrum: How can I know how much I can handle, unless I try and risk re-injury?  This conundrum sucks.

My next race is May 6th and it’s a 1/2 marathon that  I’ve run twice before.  My plan is to just not overthink it.

I joined a gym the other day.  Now that I’m employed full-time and have health insurance, it seemed like the next logical step in this whole journey toward adulthood.  Also, if I’m being completely honest, it’s been too cold to go running outside and the lack of running in my life has started to affect my ability to sleep.  Normally, this time of year, I just blame the people who don’t shovel their sidewalks for why I can’t run outside.  This makes me feel persecuted and gives me the healthy glow of righteous rage.  This year, I have no one to blame but myself and my sensitive, wimpy lungs.

The last gym I joined was the Jewish Community Center, which I picked because I had a coupon.  I signed up, got a tour, got my photo taken and that was it.  This time around, I signed up for Bally Total Fitness and the experience was much more involved.  I was in the office, giving my details to a very chipper lady, when this hulked-out Intense Trainer came in and crushed my hand with an overly-firm handshake.

He then proceeded to stand in that wide-legged arms crossed way that very fit people tend to do (because their muscles are so bulky, I assume), and he demanded “where were you working out before this?”

“Nowhere for the last three years.” I told him, “Just running outside.”

“With that body?” He said skeptically.

“Yes.”  I wasn’t really sure what to say to that, and I felt a bit like this was some sort of trainer mind trick designed to make me feel like I belong at the gym or something.  Also, running is supposed to be a great workout, why would I not be fit if that’s what I do?

“Well, you must have been an athlete in High School.” He insisted.

“No, I mean I’ve always been active, but I didn’t play any sports.”

“How many meals do you eat in a day?”

I’ve been asked a lot of questions in my life, but this was one of the strangest and hardest to answer.  Also, I felt like so far in our exchange, I had disappointed this guy many times, and I wanted to please him.  So I said “Three?  Sometimes three and a snack?”  The problem is, I’m still getting used to my new work schedule.  I used to have an early very small breakfast, go running and then have a late breakfast around 11am.  Then I’d have lunch around 3pm, dinner at 6pm and a late night snack (that was usually bigger than it should have been) at 10:30pm.  But that’s all changed now and not only am I barely working out, but I’m also eating meals at normal times, and I’m really not used to any of it.

Finally, Intense Trainer left the room, and I had a chat with More Normal Trainer Who Also Has Huge Arms.  MNTWAHHA asked more reasonable questions like “what are your fitness goals?” and “what do hope to get out of a gym membership?”

Unfortunately, my answers to these questions were no more intelligent than the answers I had given to Intense Trainer.  What I hope to get out of a gym membership, is access to a gym for those days when I don’t want to run outside, and possibly some classes.  I don’t have a real plan, or a real goal other than wanting to run faster and drop a few pounds.  “What do you want to learn?”  MNTWAHHA asked me, and I really had nothing to say to him.

Is this a sign that I’ve joined a super-serious gym, or should I maybe not have strolled in there in my super-wicking workout gear feeling a bit smug about my personal level of fitness?  Most of the other people I saw working out there were pretty old and did not look Olympics-bound, but it was also about 9:30am, so I assume all the super-fit assholes were already at work for the day.

I have an appointment with MNTWAHHA Monday morning and my homework is to “think of something you want me to teach you.”  Doesn’t that seem like something the trainer should just do?  I mean, how do I know what I need to know?  We’re in a post Biggest Loser world where I just expect every trainer to yell at me until I confess some dark secret that makes me overeat, but that doesn’t really apply in my case.

Any suggestions for what I should learn?  If anyone has particular questions they’d like answered by a certified personal trainer, I can pretend they’re my own and get some info.

My boss asked me last week if I had anything fun planned for my three- day weekend.

I’m running a 1/2 marathon on Sunday,” I told her, “So really, all I’ll be doing is eating a lot of protein, and getting plenty of sleep.”

“This Sunday!??!” She asked, “But it’s supposed to be hot! 80 degrees!  You can’t run in that!  It’s too hot!”

I thought about this momentarily and remembered that the first 1/2 marathon I ran was in 95 degree weather with about 90% humidity, my second one was 38 degrees, and third was torrential rain and gusting wind.  I started to perk up realizing that I technically would have ideal conditions for this race, and therefore, may actually be able to meet the personal goal I set of two hours–cutting of 33 minutes from my best time.

And then there were hills.

I live and run in Providence, and I looked at the course elevation map before:

but I was still ill-prepared for how much those hills suck.  I’m from the prairie; Fargo is possibly the flattest place in the world, and even though I did hill training in preparation for this race, I never ran up and down ten large hills in a single day. That was my undoing.

At first I was enthusiastic, none of the hills were terribly steep, so I practiced my lean forward and shuffle up the hill technique, which was working just fine.  Once I reached the longest hill known to man, started my shuffle, and then glanced up to realize that I couldn’t even see the top of the hill, I lost it, I walked, and I walked on the next one too.

Even though I loved the convenience of walking to and from the start line of the race, and seeing all kinds of new scenery in my own town (and neighboring Pawtucket), this race left me a bit underwhelmed.  Around mile 10, I just wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t get my running euphoria going.  It just wasn’t my day.  I think it might had have something to do with the fact that this was my first big run since my injury-plagued winter, and in the two days that I took off before the race, my leg was really stiff.  That made me more nervous than I’ve ever been, or again, it just wasn’t my day.

Overall, I’m disappointed in my performance since I had planned to do no walking of any kind, but I still cut at least 22 minutes off my previous best time, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much, but I feel like a bit of a pansy.  Am I a running wimp?

At the finish line, I had a free beer (the 5K was sponsored by Harpoon), and a couple slices of pizza, then walked home.  As I was trudging up the hill to my house I passed an old man loading stuff into his car.

“You look beautiful!” he yelled.

“I don’t believe you!” I told him, “I don’t feel beautiful, but thank you.”

Then I got home, took off my shoes and socks, and found this.

That is the twinge I felt around mile six.

I’m sorry you had to see it, but popping it was pretty awesome.

1452 ANDRIA  30 F 4312 PROVIDENCE RI 2:12:20.9 10:07 2:13:25.6

Well, not all of them, but we runners do tend to be a self-important lot, myself included.   Last week I went running outside.  I strapped on my super dorky hydration belt so I would have no excuse to stop running because sometimes I quit early due to thirst.  I packed a chapstick in the little pouch on the side of my super-dorky hydration belt, and I set out for a long run in the beautiful sunshine.

I have never been much of an outside runner for a number of reasons that I will now list:

  1. I have a huge fear of getting lost.  I am very good at finding my way home once I’ve been somewhere, but I am horrible with maps, and do get lost frequently (this is a constant source of shame, but is made better by the fact that plenty of Native Rhode Islanders admit to getting lost all the time.  Therefore, it’s not me, it’s Rhode Island).  Usually I get lost when driving, but that’s mostly because I never venture that far from home on foot. Since I’d be covering more distance running, thereby increasing the odds of getting lost, I just don’t go outside.
  2. I like a lot of gear, and I hate carrying it.  Aforementioned dorky hydration belt alludes to this.  I like having access to water while running.  I also like to be able to put on chapstick.  Once I start doing really long runs, I’ll probably want to bring some kind of treat with me so I don’t crap out fourteen miles from where I live.  I don’t know how distance runners can just leave their house with nothing, and come back twenty miles later.  Maybe they don’t actually do that, but I rarely see anyone else wearing a super dorky hydration belt like mine when I’m out and about.  My treadmill in the basement has a beverage space, a spot for chapstick, and I clipped a towel onto it–everything I need, none of the weight.
  3. I get sick of the attention.  The reason I run is because I like to be both active, and left alone.  I’m not a team player, and I run to clear my head and appreciate solitude.  I can’t get that when I get honked at by passing vehicles, or cat-called.  Honestly, I look terrible when I run, so I don’t know why anyone would “holla” at me, but they do.

Despite these setbacks, I started running outside last summer in preparation for the 1/2 marathon I did in October, and found that it can be quite wonderful.  There’s scenery! Sunshine on my shoulders does make me happy!  There are gently rolling hills that make my venture back to my house all downhill, which makes me feel like I’m flying!  Plus, I’m much faster outside, and that makes me feel badass.  I don’t think I’ll ever be a year-round outdoor runner, but it’s nice for the temperate months.

The other thing I love about running outside, is the solidarity head nod that you get from other runners.  It reminds me of the one finger wave people do in the Midwest, or the “hey, you also drive a bus” honk that I experienced in the Virgin Islands.  I came back from my long run flush with glee at having received the solidarity head nod three times, plus one wave from a old man wearing a Providence College track jacket.

Then I went back out for a few more runs, gave the solidarity head nod, and received no recognition of any kind.  My running route is fairly popular, and as I’ve mentioned before, is favored by superfit assholes who romp gazellelike and seem not to sweat.  Apparently, they also do not nod.  I received my nods when I went running at a different time of day than I usually do, perhaps that’s another part of the equation.  I was wounded after several of these people spurned me, but I’m taking a “whatever” approach.  They don’t want to give me the head nod, that’s their loss.

Another way that I’ve found runners to be self-important, is in that almost hipsterish way of “well, you don’t do this like I do it.”  This is rarer, as most often when two runners meet it becomes a total dorkfest of pacing, protein, stretching talk, but every now and then, you encounter a smug superiority that is obnoxious and judgy.

There is a fairly new book called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe of Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has never seen.  Basically, the title sums up what it’s about–a hidden tribe of superathletes, and ultramarathoning.  There’s also some interesting stuff about evolution and physiology, but the gist is in the title.  One can safely assume that this is a book that would mostly appeal to those of the running persuasion.  Someone called the library recently to put this book on hold, and I mentioned that it was very interesting.

“You’ve read it?” she asked.

“Yes, it made me feel very lazy.”

“Oh, well I run.”

I’ve told this story to a couple people who don’t seem to understand the level of my outrage, and who also asked me why I didn’t just explain to the woman, “I also run”, but that’s not the point.  The point is that this is what runners do, they just assume that no one else runs even though EVERYONE runs these days.  Implied in her terse statement was “I won’t feel lazy like you did when you read this book because I am superrunner who will more likely feel this book is speaking her unique language, and I will put it down feeling fulfilled and special not like you, sedentary reader.”

I did a similar thing to a woman whose blog I read.  For whatever reason, I have a fascination with reading people’s weight-loss blogs.  Thanks to my google reader, I now follow five.  There’s one in particular that I’ve been following for quite a while even though it’s horribly written (the woman cannot spell, repeats herself all the time, and if I met her in real life I would not like her at all). Recently in her weightloss journey, she started running.  She started doing the couch to 5k program, and I mentally encouraged her.  Then, like three weeks later, she announced that she was doing a 1/2 marathon in two months.  This filled me with rage.

There is nothing I hate more than people just deciding on a whim that they’re going to do a long race without having any clue how much time and effort is involved in preparing.  Two days later, she posted another blog about how hard running is, and I went off on her.  I was polite in my comment, but I also told her, “yeah, running is hard.”

Runners are probably jerks because they’re both proud of their accomplishments, and protective against fakers.  This makes sense to me.  Not returning the solidarity head nod makes no sense, but is something I’ll just deal with.

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

DNF, in racing parlance, stands for Did Not Finish.  When I first learned these words, I decided that I would never allow them to apply to me.  I’ve registered for races in the past, and been unable to take them on once the time came, but I’ve never started anything I didn’t finish, no matter how painful.

I’ve been running on my treadmill in the basement all winter, slowly rebounding from the torn muscle in my calf, and the assault I did on the muscle by climbing the steepest hill in the world far too soon after the initial injury.  I was feeling good, I was upping my mileage, and plowing through all five seasons of Alias.  Then it started to get nice outside, and I kept seeing all these superfit assholes romping like gazelles through my neighborhood.  My romping may not be gazellelike, but it’s a romp, which is always fun.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny with a projected high of 50 degrees. I promptly threw on my outdoor gear to go for a quick four miles before heading out to Historic Concord, MA to visit Louisa May Alcott.  I didn’t even get across the street.  I jogged in place a bit, and took a leap up onto the sidewalk then felt that familiar snap in my right calf followed by an intense amount of pain, and hobbled back home.  At least it wasn’t a long walk back.

I still went to Concord, and gimped my way through the afternoon because I refuse to postpone historical tourism just because climbing stairs is a bit time-consuming, then came home, propped my leg up on a bag of frozen mixed veg, and pouted for the rest of the night.

Now, it’s five days later, and I just walked five, pain-free miles at a pretty good speed.  I also have a half marathon coming up March 21st–11 days away.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to run, I’m going to wait until I can go down stairs painlessly before taking that on, but I can walk faster than most people run.  Dare I try it?  Is that just a hollow victory/way to potentially hurt myself more?  Or is it a respectable way to earn my medal?

Two things used to drive me crazy when I was growing up:

  1. When relatives would look at my little brother, and remark, “Wow, he is going to be tall.”  This happened at every extended family get together, and I would listen to it seething with rage and think, I’ll show them, I’m going to be tall too!  Jokes on me, though I do feel taller than I used to, I’m still average height.
  2. When people would ask me if I played sports like my brother.

My extended family lived far enough away that we only saw some of them once a year. Since my brother was tall (or would soon be tall), it was assumed that he either did play or would play basketball, so they talked about that, then the conversation would  extend to college or professional sports, and they would talk as equals.  I don’t know if my family was just sports obsessed, or really bad at talking to kids, but they would always ask me if I played sports.  If I did, we would talk awkwardly about it because there really wasn’t much to say, and even in my more athletic days, I wasn’t very athletic, and I didn’t really care about sports; or if I didn’t, I get some kind of mini-lecture about not joining enough things, and then we’d talk about my brother’s sporty endeavors.

As a kid, I was involved with plenty of other things: I was a figure skater, I was a Girl Scout, I took piano lessons and later played flute until junior year (first chair); in high school I was Future business Leaders of America Vice-President, I was yearbook co-editor–there was plenty of “joiny” things for us to talk about, plus I was always an avid reader/movie watcher/story writer.  All this was rendered useless because I hate and am no good at basketball.

I imagine that once of my brother’s major grievances is having to talk about sports all the time as well, cause it’s really bizarre, but I’m finding that it’s still continuing.

When Gentleman Scholar and I moved into our current apartment, the first floor apartment was empty, and Elderly Neighbor lived on the third floor.  He had since moved to the first floor, and Hip Young Couple are in the process of remodeling the third floor getting ready for their move in.  Elderly Neighbor being on the first floor, means that his living room is right above my “home gym” i.e. treadmill and tv in the dusty basement.

I ran into him on the stairs a while ago, and he mentioned that he could hear the tv.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” I told him, “I can turn it down.”

He waved away my concern, “It’s not a problem, I’m usually watching tv, or on the internet, so it doesn’t bother me.  How much do you run a day anyway?”

I told him that I was presently training for a 1/2 marathon, and he practically slapped his knee with glee, “I knew it! I knew when I heard you down there, I told myself ‘that girl is training for something’.”  Then he bombarded me with questions about my daily mileage, how many races run, how I started doing this, etc.  These are all questions I have no problem answering, but it seems to be all he cares about anymore. I’m half expecting him to come scampering down the stairs next time I’m running and monitor my breathing technique.

When I used to run into Elderly Neighbor on the stairs, we would talk about librarianship, or my cat, or just random other stuff–now it’s all running all the time.  What am I training for?  Is usually the big one, and when I say “nothing right now” the look of disappointment on his face is alarming.  I mean, I guess I’m always training for something, but nothing I’ve registered for, and that doesn’t seem to be exciting enough for him.  It seems like he would be unimpressed if I told him that I just like running.

I guess talking about books, movies, travel, librarianship, or anything else that I’m interested in/good at just isn’t going to happen, and I should accept that, and I should avoid him as much as I can.

calf_tear_bannerI used to always be jealous of sports-related injuries.  Since I missed out on the glory of being a high-school athlete, I would watch enviously those who were shambled around the halls on crutches with people constantly running up to them asking for progress reports and making sympathetic clucking sounds.  In all actuality, the main reason I was not a high school athlete (besides lack of ability) was because I would not have cared for moments like this, but I still remain oddly jealous.

After high school, I worked at Barnes & Noble for a general manager who was the most terrible human being I’ve ever met.  For example, when I came back from a semester in England, and reluctantly went to ask for my job back, I was told that she was out on medical leave.  When I asked my boss what for, he replied, “they tried to give her a heart, but her body rejected it.”

She was also of that certain age where she had had polio when younger and had one leg shorter than the other.  She had a big shoe, but still had a very pronounced hobble which made her both creepy and zombielike.  It didn’t seem like anyone as gimpy as she should be able to approach so quickly, but you’d see her from across the store, and then next thing, she’s right there with a syrupy smile that always made me feel like I disappointed her just by showing up to work.

It’s funny, because all of these high school athletes were constantly pestered by questions about their injuries and recovery, but no one would have asked her about her limp–the big shoe said it all.

Since I started running, I’ve had a couple injuries. I got a stress fracture about two months after I started running, probably because I was wearing $5 sneakers from Target designed more for fashion than function.  It turned my foot a disgusting shade of purplish green, and made it swell up like someone had injected me with marshmallow fluff, but healed in a few weeks, and hasn’t really been an issue since.  Then yesterday, I was running along merrily, ignoring this twinge in my left calf that I assumed was a strange kind of shin splint that stretching wasn’t helping.  I was determined to “push past the pain” and “overcome.” I was rounding in on mile one, just starting to accelerate, when I felt a pop in my left calf followed by an insane amount of pain.

After freaking out for a while about whether or not I should go to the doctor, I asked the internet what was wrong with me, and it told me that I had a calf pull or calf tear.  It’s not nearly as bad as it could be, it’s barely swollen, and there’s no bruising, but I now have a pronounced limp, especially if I’ve been sitting for a while.  Add this injury to the plantar fascitis that I’ve got going on with my right foot, and I now shuffle out of bed in the morning like an old man grunting and groaning.

The worst part of it all, is that now when I’m at the library, I feel like my old boss at the bookstore.  I shuffle along with patrons feeling like they’re annoyed with my slowness; I see my destination on the horizon and feel like it takes forever to get there; and I feel like everyone is looking at me wondering why the hell I’m walking so strangely, but they would never dare ask.

Pretty much describes the 2009 Newport Amica 1/2 marathon, and the words of Joni Mitchell: “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” have taken on a whole new meaning.

This is my third 1/2 marathon, and now I realize that I have been completely spoiled.  Yes, the weather was awful–driving needles of rain, gusts of wind, temperatures of about 45 degrees, but I’m  not blaming the race organizers for that, I’m blaming them for doing a terrible job for not anticipating the weather and having contingencies, and mostly for not having things that are necessary to runners that have nothing to do with the weather.

I arrived at the Newport Grand, at 6:45am.  We were told to park there, and that there would be shuttles to bring us to the start and pick us up at the finish line.  There were about 12 people waving us into place, four buses waiting, everything seemed to be fine.  Then once we unloaded at the start line, there was nowhere to go, and no one to tell us where to go, no signs.  People who hadn’t registered yet (really? you wait until 7am race day?) were allowed to go inside to get their numbers, but the rest of us who had the foresight to get our stuff earlier had to wait outside.  I leaned against a brick wall for over an hour.  I didn’t even know where the Start line for the race was, and no one I asked did either.  I briefly left my wall because someone said there were port-a-potties “that way,” but I couldn’t find them.  I figured I’d probably have to use the toilet somewhere along the race route, and that there would be plenty.

That was strike two for this race.  There were about 3,000 runners, and five toilets.  Here’s a dirty little secret about running: it makes most people want to crap.  At the very least, it makes you feel like you really need to pee.  As I’ve run more and more, I’ve kind of gotten over that, but considering I had been waiting around for 2 hours or so, I had to go.  I got in a line four people deep, and lamented what all this hanging around would do to my time, but by this point in the race–mile four–I had figured out that there weren’t going to be more toilets further on.

Dropping off port-a-potties has got to be the easiest thing any race organizer can do.  It requires two efforts–that’s all–drop off, and pick up.  Most runners don’t even care if they’re that clean.  I saw two runners, both dressed like Wonder Woman (girls) peeing in the trees in a fairly residential area.  Guys runners get to do that a lot–girls usually don’t, but if I had been wearing a skirt, I might have, that’s how desperate it was.

There were also very few aid stations, no First Aid, no Gu, no snacks, and only one station had Gatorade.  I commend any volunteers who came out to help in that weather, but I heard a girl afterward say that she had to pour her own water at one point.  Since it was downpouring, I didn’t drink too much water, but if this was all they had planned and it had turned out to be very hot–like last October– I get uncomfortable thinking about it.

The worst was the end of the race.  Like always, the runner tears across the finish line and is forced to stop immediately because there’s a whole crowd of people.  There was one person handing out medals, and one person handing out mylar, so finishers had to line up for each of those things.  The tent had a lot of food, more than I’ve seen at other races, but was entirely too small for all the people in it.  Again, I have to say, it rains all the time in New England, yet these people seemed to have no contingencies to deal with this.  I know that the race is rain or shine, and I’m fine with that, but afterward, we need to be comfortable.

I had a piece of pizza, which I could barely chew because I was shivering so hard, and decided that all I wanted in the world was to just get into my car and go home.  So I tried to find the bus to take me back to the Newport Grand.  I saw one, 1/2 full drive by and two people run into heavy traffic to try to get on it, but I was not willing to do that and figured there must be a pick up place somewhere.  I asked a volunteer who’s sole job seemed to be standing by this tiny Amica car, and he said “I think it’s down there.”

There was no sign, no indication of where the bus would be picking people up, just the line of 100 freezing runners and well-wishers standing in the rain.  We waited like that for thirty minutes until one bus came drove by, again 1/2 full, without stopping.  Then another came and filled up immediately, then another.  It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, freezing, angry people all fighting their way onto a Middletown school bus.  I managed to sneak my way on as the bus driver told the crowd that he couldn’t take any more, and a man yelled at him for taking people from the end of the line rather than the front. “You are a terrible human being!” he screamed.  “Don’t they know what we’ve been though?” another woman mumbled just sounding sad.

I realize that a lot of this may sound like petty grievances  to someone who doesn’t know better, but marathon organizers have to take into consideration that we’re putting our bodies through something very demanding, and need to be warm and dry (ish) afterward.  People die running races like this, this isn’t just an easy way to make a few bucks and dole out promotional t-shirts.

Right now, I’m more sore than I’ve been in a long time, and a lot of that is just due to shivering so hard.  I’m glad I didn’t get pneumonia or frostbite.  I don’t have my official race time, and I’m guessing it won’t be posted for quite a while.  I don’t even care anymore, I just hope I don’t get sick.

Update, Official Chip Time:
1382 Andrea Tieman 30 F 2830 Providence RI 2:33:48.69 2:36:36.72 11:58

Despite the elements, I shaved off seven minutes from my previous time. I was hoping to shave off twenty minutes or more, but that would have been impossible in this weather.

The main reason I’m so upset, is that I was really, really looking forward to this race.  Dean Karnazes, who has run marathons in all 50 states and on each continent called this one of the five most beautiful races he’s run.  Even in the driving rain, there were a few times when the waves broke along the ocean drive where I couldn’t help but think–aww that’s pretty, but the experience was so ruined that all I’m left with are bad thoughts.

I’m running another half marathon in a month, for which I may be woefully under-prepared, but I’m going to do it anyway.  I’m not too concerned about that though, nor am I concerned about Joe Roch, my running buddy, bailing on me.  This time, my worry really has little to do with the physical demands or potential loneliness (although I haven’t ever run a race with another person before, so I don’t care too much, mostly I’m just being mean to Joe), it’s the thought of running without my beloved Ipod.

This race does not allow portable music devices because of “safety” concerns. To them I ask, “Will I be running with the traffic? Are we just doing laps around the Jai Alai field on a game day?”  It’s a big race, and I’m fairly confident that the streets will be blocked off appropriately, so why torture me this way?

I know “real” runners don’t listen to music.  The hardcore ones don’t need anything–sometimes not even shoes, but that is not my scene.  I am a wimp, I admit it. I want my crappy Rob Thomas and Paramore jams, and I want to focus on something other than the sound of my own breathing.

I’m incredibly tempted to try to sneak something in, but I fear having it taken away or getting disqualified.  For all of my snarky attitude, I still remain, shockingly obedient.  I’m fairly certain though, that there will be plenty of people who didn’t see that part of the website, and who will bring Ipods just like they always would.  We’ll see what I end up doing.

The last half marathon I ran was in Fargo, and I had my Ipod with me (thankfully).  I kept it turned down low enough so I could still hear the spectators yelling at us, because that’s always fun, and there was one guy who I will never forget.  He was standing on the sidewalk, by himself, looking like he was just out for his morning walk and happened across a marathon.  He didn’t have signs or noisemakers, but he just kept clapping and yelling, “You love this! This is fun for you!  You could do this all day!”

I’d like to bring that guy along if I can’t have my Ipod.

woman_running_bannerWhen I was in Junior High, my overly-chatty and track-obsessed history teacher asked me if I was going out for track.  No one had ever suggested that I take on a sport at any other time in my life (in fact, my parents, though supportive, were never upset when I quit all the various sports I played growing up) so I found this shocking and very odd.

“I don’t run.” I told him, then went back to my book.

A few weeks later, I had to go to the Principal’s office for something, and the school Superintendent cornered me and demanded to know if I was going out for track.  I had been going to this school for about four months, had played no sports, and was mostly concerned with reading during class and not getting caught.  I was not sporty in the least.

“No.” I told him.

“Why not?” He asked.

“I have weak ankles.” I told him, and left the office.

It seemed like making up a medical reason was the only thing that would get these people to leave me alone.  I still am not 100% sure why all these grownups wanted me to be in track.  The only reason that makes any sense is that they knew my dad is a runner, but it seems weird that they would think I was too.

I didn’t actually start running until I was about 25.  I was working at tv station and got a discount on a gym membership, walking on the treadmill one day got a little boring, so I ran.  I didn’t like using the machines because there was always some bitchy woman staring you down, or some little old lady just sitting at one watching tv–so I just ran every day.

My friend and former co-worker/fellow gym-goer, Danie (who is presently training for her first 1/2 marathon), used to surreptitiously follow the personal trainers around as they were doing sessions, and nab free training advice.  When she told me this, I was quite impressed and remarked that I should do the same.

She scoffed, “You just run like someone’s chasing you.”

I used to run to my piano lessons pretending that I was being chased by wolves, so really, she wasn’t far off.

While I was participating in my recent medical study, I was required to have a physical.  I haven’t really had a lot of physicals in my life because I never played the sports that required me to get one, and I don’t like to go to the doctor.  I dislike going to the doctor primarily because I often don’t have insurance, but also because I always feel like I’m wasting his/her time since there’s never really anything major wrong with me.  Unless I’m bleeding from the eyes, or have an obviously dislocated body part, I feel like I should be able to just wait out whatever I think is wrong with me.

This time I had to get a physical because they wanted to make sure I was fit enough to get drunk.  The doctor came into the room, asked a few routine questions, and took my blood pressure.

“You’re resting pulse rate is very low.” He told me, sounding slightly concerned, “Do you run a lot?”

Something inside my head went zing, and I realized I have finally achieved low resting pulse rate–tangible evidence that all of my hard work has paid off.

The deal with the low resting pulse is that it’s basically a measure of fitness.  The lower the better because if your heart can pump as much blood as you need with fewer pumps, that means that your heart is stronger.  Lance Armstrong’s resting pulse is 30, as is Dean Karnazes‘–the man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  Average is 65-75, mine is about 53.

“I do run a lot,” I told the doctor, “Actually, my dad’s resting pulse is so low that they won’t allow him to donate blood.”

At this the doctor got excited, “So it could be genetic as well!  And his father?”

I just shrugged, “He never went to the doctor.”

Then the doctor took my pulse manually, and because I was so excited about this news it had sped up.