Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Alright Already

I did it. Not quite as daunting as Wil's finger hovering over the Ironman entry, but still daunting. To me.

(Jingle Bell Run, at evil Hain's point.)

(Oooh, and look at all the free crap and discounts I get!)

This message is generated as confirmation of your recent registration on You have been successfully registered for the following:

Registration: Acumen Solutions Jingle All the Way 10K
Purchase Date: 11/30/05
Category: 10K
Name: Jeanne McCann

So, now, I need you all to put your heads together and tell me what my race strategy should be. (Let the whining begin!) My primary goal is 1) to finish, and 2) to not run out of steam, and 3) Not to walk. (OK, that is three goals.)

So, do I run til I can't, and then walk? Do I plan to run/walk on some kind of schedule? (I don't wanna walk!) (No offense Nancy!!)) I won't have run farther than four miles by Dec. 11.

And don't tell me that if I can do four I can do two more! (OK, actually, yes, please, do tell me that.)

Should I slow down to 11:something minute miles for the first 3 miles, then try to pick it up?

This is worse than planning for the marathon.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Take Out Your Calculators

The 10K I'm scheduled to run is on Dec. 11.

The schedule I'm following to get me there is an eight-week one.

I just started week four. Once more proving that higher math skills elude me.

My question: Should I still do this 10K? Should I (and CAN I) just treat it as a training run, even though it's in two weeks and there is NO WAY on GOD'S GREEN EARTH that I will be ready? Because I can just see me trying to run the 6.whatever miles, having to walk, and then feeling like a failure. The farthest I've run (well, not counting the marathon) (yes, I'm linking to it whenever it's mentioned; what of it??) is 3.5 miles (post-marathon). I'm supposed to run four this weekend. (Well, I was supposed to run four last weekend. Had a little snafu with the whole mileage thing.) And then the race is next weekend. And my whole pace group signed up for this race, specifically because I CONVINCED them to!! So how, how can I back out now??

Woe, woe is me.

What do you all think??

And while I have your attention (in my fantasy world anyway), let me brag about this morning's three miles, because it makes me soooo happy! And I have no idea why I seem to be getting faster. None, nada, rien. (In fact, because I just wrote those words—that I am getting faster—now I'll get slower. That's how this jinx thing works, just so you know.)

Mile 1: 10:40
Mile 2: 10:39
Mile 3: 10:25
Average: 10:35 min/mile

It's so exciting to get better. I have still yet to feel like "oh, I could do this for a few more miles." Or even for a half a block more. But I guess that will come. Mostly I am still in the "Hang on, you're almost done" phase. Patience, missy. I haven't even been running for a year yet.


Parents: Thanks to everyone who asked about my vague reference to an ill parent. It's my mom, she's 83, has about a thousand problems, and was hospitalized last week, let out for Thanksgiving afternoon, then back to the ER on Friday with more problems. Not the least of her problems is that she is totally DEAF, along with her husband, but both of them refuse to admit that possibility, so I pretty much spent Thanksgiving weekend SCREAMING MY HEAD off, so that I could be heard. I literally had a sore throat at the end of the weekend. Watching them talk to each other is kind of amusing (well, it would be if the situation were not so dire): Q: "What did you say?" A: "What?" Q: "Say that again?" A: "What did you say?" ARGHHHHH!

Anyway, mom and I have not had the easiest of relationships; suffice it to say, I did yet another very hard thing by being with her over the holidays, which included sitting in the ER next to her bed for the entire day on Friday, because her husband went AWOL (don't get me started), before she was discharged with 57 medicines, all to be taken at different times of the day. Talk about needing your calculator. My biggest accomplishment, besides just being there, (which believe me, was huge), was telling every single person who came in contact with her that she is DEAF. Hearing aids should so be required.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes*

This morning's 6 a.m. run (note: it's SUNDAY, proving, once more, what a martyr I am at heart):

Mile 1: 10:11
Mile 2: 10:42
Mile 3: 10:14
Mile .5 5:22

(Today was supposed to be 4 miles, except (why, oh why is there always an "except?") I screwed up the mile markers. Whatever.)

I know I said I was throwing the watch out. I lied.

These are my fastest times ever ever ever.

I think one of my many idiosyncrasies is that I—like one of Pavlov's dogs—am totally conditioned to running the same route. And if I deviate, by say, doing something crazy like trying to run in West Virginia, or at some monastery on the Hudson River, well, my body apparently just can't deal.

So, the schizophrenic happy/mad running ride continues!! Y'all come back now.

*Joyce, James. Ulysses

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Picture this: Speeding pick-up trucks. Two-lane highway. Temp.: 30 degrees. Headwinds: No matter which way I turned. Dueling banjos. (Practically. I could practically hear them.)

Well, here's a close approximation of what running two itty bitty little miles on Route 219 in West Virginia could look like (cuz this is actually the scenic view of 219):

And here is the sad, sorry result of trying to run two miles on it on Thanksgiving Day:
Mile 1: 11:09
Mile 2: run: 7:18
walk: 1:34
run: 2:30

And I absolutely refuse to whine about it. All I will say is: I just ran out of breath and out of steam. I seem to run out of steam a lot. It's infuriating.

Tomorrow is 4 miles, and I am throwing out the watch (well, not literally). Because, you know what? JEANNE, PAY ATTENTION, BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT:
"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow."
- Aristotle

and while you are at it, READ THIS ONE, TOO, GIRLFRIEND:
"If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."
- Rabbi Harold Kushner

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Yeah, I need something presentable, dri-maxable, (and can it please look chic?) to wear when it's cold. The old cotton knit pants with the hole in the crotch and the ancient marine corps sweatshirt that we found somewhere (cool, huh?) are just not gonna cut it. And we've already been over wearing the long silk underwear ... but that was in a place where no one knew me. Cannot dress like a total freak at home.

What I'm saying here: I need some help! What do I wear? And it's not even really cold yet, but I can already tell I will want to die before I get on that treadmill; I can so see myself running in the snow! Can't wait! (Really, I'm psyched about that.) So, please, I need some cheap, good-looking gear, but don't know where to start. Send me suggestions, (extra points awarded if you include urls and product id's).

Yesterday's alarming (alarmingly good!) statistics:
2.5 miles:

Mile One: 10:56
Mile .5: 4.44 (unlikely that was actually .5, but whatever.)
Mile Two: (This is the exciting part, because this was exactly one mile and I didn't even have to kill myself:) 10:36!!!!!!

I so rock.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'll be in West Virginia, visiting a very sick parent.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Not a Thing to Do With Running

Bex and I went to see Ira Glass, host of "This American Life," live, Saturday night. If you haven't listened to this show yet, stop what you are doing, and go—now!

It's a hard show to explain, as the Web site itself acknowledges:
One of the problems with our show from the start has been that whenever we try to describe it in a sentence or two, it sounds awful. For instance: Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. That doesn't sound like something we'd want to listen to on the radio, and it's our show. In the early days of the program, in frustration, we'd sometimes tell public radio program directors that it's basically just like Car Talk. Except just one guy hosting. And no cars.

Start with "My Big Break."

If you like stories about real people who have things happen to them, you'll really like this show.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers

A nice thing happened Thursday on my two-mile run. I started at my usual place, and plodding pace, 6:45 a.m.-ish, and as I was struggling to get into my grooove (do I even have a groove?), a young gentleman was running toward me, (in the other lane), um, kinda fast. Like 6-min. mile pace fast. I smiled at him, because I am trying to get in the habit of smiling (in lieu of my usual concentrated scowling while running), and people, do you know what this fast young male did? He gave me the thumbs up, and then he said "good job!"

It made my day.

I just finished my 3.5 mile long run:
Except I'm calling it 3.6 miles because there was no 1/2 mile marker where I was and because here are the numbers:
Mile One: 10:59 (slight downhill)
Mile Two: 11:18 (big-ass up and then downhilll)
Mile Three: 11:03 (slight uphill, big-ass uphill then downhill, then slight uphill--ya gettin' all this??)
Mile .5 or .6: 5:42 (guessing mileage, based on time)

So it was either a 10.50 min pace if I went 3.6 miles or 11:09 min. pace if I went 3.5 miles. Like it matters. (Sigh. It does seem to matter.) Just for comparison, I went back and looked at my log for July 20, 2005, and found this: 4 miles
46:40 (11:40/mile). Some progress has been made.

But, that's not all! Because last night, I went to a rockin' out party with my pace group (remember them?). We had a potluck reunion at the home of one of our members. I didn't know what to expect: we hadn't all seen each other since the marathon, and I don't believe we'd ever seen each other dressed, showered, and all purtied up. It was awesome. We had a great dinner, in front of a roaring fire, shared all our photos, and marathon day stories, and reminiscences of training, and then everyone went around and told their story of why they decided to do a marathon. I told them mine, plus talked about the day of my emancipation from the running partner who had become a thorn in my side. They cheered.

But, that's not all! Our host had the most amazing gadget, called a magic mike, which turns your TV into a karaoke machine. Oh god, I thought, not karaoke! That's so last year. Four hours, several glasses of wine, and a sore throat later, I am so in love with that crazy game! We laughed our asses off—seeing our pace group leader sing "Cheeseburger in Paradise" or our hostess and host sing "I'm a Libbyan on a Jet Plane" or me doing bad harmony on "California Dreamin.'" Are you bad at parties? This thing is guaranteed to turn your party into the success you always dreamed of!

So, I got home at 2 a.m. which, if you know me, is waaaaay past my bedtime. I had not laughed so hard in 20 years, (and I laugh a lot).

And then, um, it was morning. And 3.5 miles awaited, after which I had an appointment at 11. Well, the 3.5 miles wasn't happening. My head was foggy. My throat still sore. But french toast? That was so happening. A lovely morning of french toast, then off to my appointment (which I may or may not share about--but it was good), then finally to work at 1:30, which was now the Time to Decide Whether to Run or Not Run.

The Key of course, is not thinking, as it is in so much of life. At work, I just let brain take over. Change clothes, grab keycard, and out I went. Sunny, fall, crisp, gorgeous day. And week #2 of training for my 10K is finís.

Friday, November 18, 2005


So apparently I missed the whole "don't run for six hundred days after a marathon" memo.

And, as you all know, I am in training for my first 10K (which I have yet to sign up for, but still.)

So, yesterday, I ran two miles —without my knee brace. (Get the title now? Naked.) Yes, tempting fate, but it was an accident. I was in a hurry, and after changing into full running regalia at work (no, no long silk underwear this time) in the wee hours, I walked to the trail that runs behind our building before I realized that I was braceless. But, I was too lazy walk the 20 steps back into the building to retreive it.

And, because I was slightly curious about what would happen if I ran without it. Because being scared all the time is just exhausting.

So what happened was:
Mile 1: 10:42 (slight downhill)
Mile 2: 10:54 (slight uphill)

I felt some slight twinges, but nothing bad. And, I didn't even push it and came in under 11 minutes! These are exciting times, my friends!! Under 11 minutes!! whooo-de-hooo!! Saturday is my "long run": 3.5 miles. And yes, I'm as nervous as a ... novice bell ringer making her debut on Sunday morning with the youth orchestra in front of a packed church. Yeah.

I have also jumped on the weight-loss bandwagon (all the
cool kids are doing it) with a simple trick I picked up at the monastery: dessert only on Sundays and holidays. After dinner, dessert is now 57 cups of decaf tea (Twinings, English Breakfast). Which I drink while taking my online Project Management class, which, I have to say, is literally? The single most horrifyingly boring class I have ever taken. But which every other person in my virtual class seems to love. I literally have to restrain myself from making snarky comments (well, from posting them , believe me, I'm making them alright), although I did post a question the other night asking if watching the 1,000 hours of videotaped lectures was really recommended, since the lecturer is reading verbatim from the powerpoint slides. Verbatim. And one of my classmates replied with: "I love the lectures." Alrighty then. (Work is paying for this class, and yes, I will learn something, so I am putting up with it. Besides, it takes my mind off the cookies I am not eating.)

But back to running. If I lose 10 pounds, I will become faster, and I won't be as likely to be injured. Or re-injured. This is my version of reality, so don't mess with it. My weight loss "program" is simple, mindless, and designed specifically to prevent an over-focus on food, eating, and all related subjects. So, this is probably the last time I'll post, or even talk, about it. Otherwise, the weight obsession kicks in.

In still other fascinating news, I have switched from the elliptical to the recumbent bike to work on those quads. And I'm still stretching.

No wonder I had to give up TV. Running is a freakin' full time job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Real World

Monks lead very busy lives.

6 a.m.: Matins
Noon: Diurnum
5 p.m.: Vespers
7:40 p.m.: Compline

In between those services, they are busy making delicious meals (the other CIA (Culinary Institute of America) is right across the river; apparently one of the monks is an escapee from there); working in their garden; or making incense (which is how they make their living).

There are worse ways to live.

So that was my schedule for Saturday and Sunday, plus attending a talk by our retreat leader (if you wished).

I'll tell you: it was hard getting any running in with all that going on. So here's what I did: I woke up at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday (it's really dark out at 5:15, just FYI). I believe the temperature was oh, around 5 degrees. Maybe. Did I have running tights with me? I did not. Do I own running tights? I do not. I did, however, bring long white, silk underwear with me since I heard it might be chilly. So I put those on, with my royal blue running shorts over them, added a dri-max t-shirt, topped with a dri-max (white) turtleneck, plus green gloves and a lovely plaid scarf ... I looked like ... a freak? Whatever. Turns out not all that many people are up at 5:30 a.m. Except the monks, and they were busy.

So, I trotted up the monastery driveway to the main highway in West Park, New York, and decided to run for just 45 minutes (the schedule called for a 3-mile run, but I had no way to tell miles).

It's amazing how running, combined with utter terror of pitch blackness, which was only occasionally lifted by the lights of giant 18-wheelers flying past about 10 inches from your nose, along with the fear of the bears that probably lived in the woods aligning both sides of the road ... well, it's amazing how all of that can combine to kinda warm you up, real fast. My heart was pounding before I even put one foot in front of the other.

Once the sun came up, it wasn't so bad:

And in fact, it was fantastic.

As was being silent. Except for the fact that the older woman I drove up with kept hunting me down throughout the weekend to tell me such things as where I could hang my coat (on the coat hanger), or ask me if I'd seen the dog (I had), or try to tell me about last year's retreat. It got to the point that I started ducking her. I guess she was lonely; but damnit, I was there for silence! And, please tell me, why would you go to a silent retreat, and bring your laptop, like one guy did? WHY??

The monks belong to an initiative called "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (caution: a bell will ring), in which religious organizations toll their bells whenever there is a public execution. On Friday night, they told us about this organization, and said there had been an execution that day (I think in North Carolina), and then they tolled their bells for the prisoner, the executioner , and the victim(s). That was very cool.

It was odd walking past people, nodding to them, but not talking. Or sitting through meals, and not talking. Odd, but very freeing, because? No b.s. allowed. No stress of making small talk with strangers. (Am I anti-social?? hmmm.) At lunch, one of the monks reads aloud; they were in the middle of a Bill Bryson book. Meals were taken in a room overlooking the Hudson River.

Like I said: there are worse ways to live.

So, yeah, running:

I am following Hal Higdon's novice 0-10k plan, trying to teach myself how to run. Yeah, yeah, it's kinda funny, ha ha. Just ran a marathon, now I have to learn how to run 2.5 miles. Legs like lead, huffing and puffing. Tell me please, if I stay with this, will it get any easier?? I know it's not supposed to be easy, but easier?

This morning: 2.5 miles (that's what the schedule said!) in 26:47 minutes.

I will give me this; I'm persistent.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quiet Down!

I so used to make fun of this woman*, and now I have to take it all back because she keeps sending me these amazingly timely and provocative posts! Stop it, damn you! Go back to e-mailing me shallow, simple, and superficial quotes.

"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results."
- Art Turock


Today I started my (OK, Hal Higdon's) 0-10K eight-week training program, for novices. I am starting all over again, and I'm going to learn how to run.

This morning was my first foray out onto the trail; gorgeous, chilly, leaves falling, sun shining!! I noticed as I walked up the stairs to the trail that my right leg hurt. And it continued to hurt, throughout the run, causing me to limp.

Mile 1: 11:33
Mile .5: 5.09
Mile 2: 11:32
Total: 28:15

When I got back, I stretched my head (legs) off. Then talked to one of the office's resident jocks, who asked some pointed questions like, how could I run a marathon a week ago, with no leg pain, and then today, I had pain? His diagnosis? "You obviously need a mediator between your head and your leg." He said all this while pointing to his head. And smiling. A kind, benevolent smile. In other words? I'm mental.

Who am I to disagree? My leg started hurting while I was still just thinking about running. And it's been fine all week. Until today. When I decided to run.

In other news ... I'm off to the Big Apple for a conference for two days. I am loaded down with a laptop, but alas, it's for an online class I am taking and am already behind in. So no fun in the city for this gal. And as soon as I get back, I'm off here for the weekend

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY

for a three-day silent retreat (no snickering; I can too be quiet!). This is my reward for running 26.2 miles. It's in Lara's neck of the woods, (Lara, I'll be kaizen-ing my brain out!) but not exactly. Still, on the Hudson River! In fall! Those monks really know how to live. I plan a few hikes but no running.

So I'll be quiet for a few days, much to everyone's relief.

*Kristin Coach

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Quit Yer Whinin'

Happy, excited pace group, BM (Before Marathon); l-r: Andrea, Maurice, Gwen, Claudia, Sarah, PGL Coleen, Wendy, Amy, Me, Melissa

Entering Rock Creek Park, spirits high! Around mile 6.

Me and the man. What can I say, I'm a sucker for celebrities. Obviously, I'm feeling pretty great here at mile 9ish, just past the Kennedy Center.

Along the National Mall, mile 11... whoo-hee!! Marathon? What marathon? (Photo, courtesy, S.)

My two saviors—Bex and Naomi—at my side. I think this is the ramp to the 14th street bridge (Mile 20) but I'm not sure I was actually there at the time this was taken. (Photo, courtesy S.)

(more to come...)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Morning After

Let's start by griping: First, how is it possible that a $19 oil change turns into $227??? Do these people see me coming, or what??

Second: Thanks for all your amazing, funny, uplifting, encouraging, warm-hearted comments. Really. Just awesome.

Third: Life. Does. Not. Change. After. A. Marathon. (See point first above.) After-marathon, I can safely say that I am no wiser*, no braver, not more organized, nor neater, thinner, or richer, than I was pre-marathon. And yes, I did suffer from thinking that some of these delusions might come to pass.


I am still me. And, still pondering the marathon and what it Meant.

I am proud, yes, but I'm also ... perplexed? annoyed? disappointed? embarassed? It's just the truth, that's how I feel. Right now.

I'm mad that I let myself get dehydrated. I'm mad that I didn't enjoy it more (though I enjoyed a whole lot of it). I'm mad that I didn't push myself to do more running and less walking. I'm mad that I didn't finish strong. I'm not talking about pushing myself to a five-hour finish, just a reasonable six-hour one. That was a totally do-able goal, and I'm not sure why it didn't happen, and yes, I know it really doesn't matter, I did an amazing thing. Still.

I've been ruminating about the whole run/walk training method. Five weeks ago, I thought it was just the most brilliant idea since high-def TV. Now, I'm not so sure (and I am talking solely about what's right for me, here). Yes, run/walk did allow me to finish. But I don't think I ever really learned to run. (Oh, just lent me vent, here, ok?!!)

So, if my body cooperates, I think that will be my next goal: to learn to run.

Even as I write this, I don't want to dis run/walk. It gave me an incredible experience: the training.

And I think that that's my main complaint, if I'm allowed to have one: the training was more exhilerating than the marathon was. And I'm really missing it.

So, as soon as I learn how to dress for running in the cold (suggestions welcome!) I'm going to follow this training plan that promises to get me ready to run a 10K.

*On second thought, I am actually a bit wiser. Here's what the marathon taught me, really: An amazing amount of people really care about me. And that is one mother of a humbling thought.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Real Recap: Part Two

Let's fast forward to the race.

Meet pace group at 7 a.m. at Metro stop. Marathon is starting in two waves: first wave at 8:15, second at 8:45. It's chilly. We take a short walk to the Pentagon, where there are seven zillion people milling around. Denise Austin (of exercise video fame) is supposed to do a warm up with us. No sign of her. I am the only one in my group with a bag to store, so everyone unloads their junk into my bag, which goes into one of 30 or so UPS trucks. (P.S. This was not such a good idea for after the race. When I couldn't find anyone from my group, and thus had to carry the bag. Which I ended up not carrying. But still.) We all decide on a 2:2 ratio to begin with (run two minutes/walk two minutes) but also decide everyone has to run their own race, so no worries if we break away from each other.

Use the portapotties (there are several million of these, so no waiting!). This is one organized race. The crowd swells and moves as one up a hill, walking along some highway, all of us wondering what the hell is happening.

Oh. We're starting.

Mile 1: 14:39 Groovy. Right on track.

Mile 2: 13:41 Nice! Except

Mile 3: 2:14---hello?? Jeanne has screwed up watch again.

Mile 2 redux: Probably 15:51 So this was the big-ass hill. It actually wasn't so bad. What was bad was watching the guy in the wheelchair try to negotiate it backwards. Then forwards. It took everything I had to not help him.

Mile 3: 13:27 Turning down Spout Run Parkway, a connector to the GW Parkway. This, this is what I live for, what I love!! It's a beautiful morning, people have already been cheering us along all the way, and now we're on this glorious tree-line parkway overlooking the Potomac. It was exhilerating! Our pace group was still kind of together at this point. We take turns making fun of the guys jumping off into the woods to do, um, something.

Mile 4: 13:21 I turn to cross Key Bridge into the District and there are my friends, R & K, jumping and screaming my name! I run over to hug them, telling them "Because I just hugged you, now I'll probably lose the race." Har-de-har-har. What a card! I remember (is it Dianna's advice?) to smile for every camera, so at the first video camera I'm sprinting and smiling my head off. I do this throughout the race, no matter how I feel. I am now running with W., and all is well.

Mile 5: 13:35 Right on pace! There's a high school band playing at the end of the bridge. I start singing along to "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" because? It would be so cool if they were playing that. Which they are not. Running down M Street in Georgetown, I see Noames and a friend, all decked out like ... well like some Halloween something. I can't stop again, we're getting ready to run downhill to the waterfront. I scream something to Naomi like "26.2 blah blah blah!"

Mile 6: 20 seconds. Stupid #!@$ watch!!!

Mile 6: 13:34 This is a loop around by the Watergate and up through Rock Creek Park. Familiar tramping grounds, and the beautiful park. So far, there have been hundreds and hundreds of people cheering us, and marching bands playing, and Marines lined up offering water and gatorade, and it's all been extremely humbling.

Mile 7: 20:26 We're still sort of running as a group, so for the first—and last—time ever, we all stop together for a potty break. Which turned out to be stupid, because we all ended up splitting up later. But even though it was stupid, it was still nice.

Mile 8: 12:43 Woo-hoo, we are doing fantastic!! We're right on schedule for a six-hour finish. Very very conservative. I am of course thinking about our pretend marathon, four weeks earlier, when I finished with energy to spare. Secretly I am hoping for 5:50, dare I think 5:45?? We are now looping back now out of Rock Creek Park. Someone spots buses behind us. "Are those the sweeper buses?" Meaning, are those are the buses that will throw out their tendrils and sweep you off the course if you are not at mile 20 by 1:45 p.m.? I say no, of course not! But I notice there are not so many people behind us now. Now, it's just me and W. running together. The rest of the group has gone ahead. My friends R. and K. appear again, and I practically knock K. over giving her a hug as she's trying to take my picture. I have so much energy!!

Mile 9: 13:01: Now we're really on home territory! We pass the Kennedy Center, right on our regular training route. I stop to have my photo taken with Austin Powers. No, really.

Mile 10: 14:37 Running up Constitution Ave., past the White House, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian. It all feels normal! Except we're running in the street and the crowds are fantastic! W. is hanging with me. I notice I am having a bit of trouble keeping up with her.

Mile 11: 13:41 My friend S. is here, with a sports drink for me! She has a big poster and she's waving it like crazy! S. has bad feet and I feel sorry for her having to stand there and wait for me! I can't stop though, (yeah, like that would make a big difference!) but I'm thrilled to see her.

Mile 12: 14:34 Hmm. slowing down a bit. Looping in front of the Capitol Building, again, this is home territory. Any other training run we'd be on our way home by now. This thought does not encourage me.

Mile 13: 14:08 I see my friend A. from work and he runs with me for a few feet, tells me I'm looking good! I tell him, as though this has just occured to me, that I am, in fact, dying. A bit further along I see my friend S. is there again, this time with W., also screaming and yelling! I think I hugged them. Can't remember. This was near where the Falun Gong (sp?) were cheering for us. I do remember saying to W. "Isn't that the group that blew up a subway train in Japan?" Whatever, they were cheering us!

Mile 14: 13:27 Not quite sure where we are. Somewhere around some memorials. Yeah.

Mile 15: 32:30? Yep, Jeanne and the watch again. I'm guessing this is really miles 15 and 16. Still run/walking with W. We talk a little about LOST, which she has watched in preparation for today. I'm trying not to pay attention to mileage. Oh, but at mile 15, there's Naomi again!! Sans friend, sans bike! She jumps in, with her backpack on, and long pants, and starts running with me and W. "For a little bit," she says. She tells us about a Halloween party she went to the night before dressed as a geisha instead of as Punky Brewster, which someone suggested, because no one would get Punky Brewster, she would just look like Naomi with pigtails. So she wore a bathrobe and ate a lot of chocolate (see, I was listening! I just couldn't talk!). So here she is running with a stomach full of chocolate, on a warm day, with a backpack and long pants.

Mile 17:15:00 Haine's Point. Remember beautiful Haine's point, with that great statue of the awakening? I now hate and detest Haine's point. It's endless. There are no crowds. There are Marines, lovely Marines, but no crowds. There is no end to this Point, is there? Somewhere between mile 17 and 18, I notice Naomi and W. are running ahead of me, and I cannot keep up. Hmm. I stop for water, and notice that the ground is moving and swirling beneath me. That can't be a good sign. Am I over-hydrated? Under-hydrated?? All those warnings have me so confused!! But I feel like I've been drinking as much as I usually do, and gu-ing it up too.

Mile 18: 15:46 Still on this damn $#!^!#@ peninsula!! Will it never end?? A guy rides his bike by, blasting Motown for us. That's kind of fun. Our coaches are here, telling us that we "really have to pick it up now because we have to make the bridge by 1:45." I say a bad word. I so don't want to know about time. I am waiting for my second wind.

Mile 19: 14: 56 S***, I am having trouble even walking. I haven't bonked, haven't hit the "wall," and nothing hurts, thank God! Well, my feet ache, but my ITB is A-OK! I just have zero energy. Like a car just running out of gas. Naomi is still hanging in, long pants and backpack, and I am definitely holding this little trio back. Which is really making me mad, because right now is when I'm supposed to get my burst of energy and surprise everyone by passing them. Just like in the pretend marathon. We're almost at the bridge, going underneath it, when I hear my name screamed from up above! It's M. and M. from our pace group, cheering us on!! awwwww.

Mile 20: 14:22 Finally!! There's an enormous crowd here practically willing us onto the ramp up to the bridge. It's a steep ramp but I manage it. My friend A. is there again, runs with me for a few feet and tells me I'm still "looking good." He later tells me this was a lie, that he was worried because it took me so long to get there, and I didn't look so great. Still, it was a good lie!! Up the ramp, and there are my friends S. and W., again!! S., with the bad feet, has somehow gotten from mile 13 to mile 20. God bless her!! She's taking photos and screaming and yelling! Plus, there's Bex!! She jumps in and now it's me and Bex and Naomi and W. all running together. We finally make it up the freakin' ramp. We are now on the 14th Street bridge. I think we are home free. But no. You have to actually get across the bridge by 1:45. We can see the cops holding back the traffic. Oh, I bet those people are in a good mood!

Yep, it's gone. Whatever I had left is gone. This bridge is endless. Later, at work, my pal R. describes it this way: "And yes, the 14th Street bridge looks much different when you hit it running after 15 miles. It feels like an asphalt Pike's Peak in the desert. Totally sucks."

That? Is an understatement. It is hot. It is concrete. There are no trees and no cheering people. Somehow, we have lost W. She is behind, which is impossible since I am going slower than she is. I take a few extra walk breaks. Naomi and Bex are now cajoling me and regaling me with stories to get me across this freakin' bridge. I say mean things to them. I have slightly lost my mind. I recall telling Naomi (who is trying to HELP me) to shut up, after she tells me that I have more in me than I know. But I am polite enough to add, "But I mean that in the nicest possible way." And I remember her words often. They take my hands during my walk breaks and help help me count strides of 10 to keep me going. Oh, they are awesome. How I abuse them.

Mile 21: 17:43 Over the bridge at last. I remember something about cookies being given out, and I am so mad that I can't eat a free cookie!! I now seriously have no idea where I am. We are in Crystal City, Virginia. But I have to ask my honor guard (Naomi and Bex). Bex warns me that she's going to try to push me to go faster at mile 24. I think I may have said a mean thing here.

Mile 22: 15:09 Well, these girls must be doing something right! I refuse to let myself think that the end is near, because it is so not near. Even though I know I can run 4 miles standing on my head!

Mile 23: 15:27 More of the same. Bex is now trying to get me to pour it on, but I tell her there's nothing left. I think of everything I've learned over the months, but it's not happening. I'm afraid if I go faster, I will end up crawling. Or collapsing. I'm just afraid again.

Mile 24: 29:36? Yeah, this is miles 24 and 25. During which I summon the strength to give a lecture to my entourage about how beginners should just NOT be running marathons, and the people on the coolrunning boards were right, and how I should have started with a 5K and then a 10K, and how no one should be running a marathon without having been running for at least a year first. Amazing what the mind can summon forth, isn't it?

Mile 26: 16:07 I am still run/walking and no amount of begging from Bex can get me to keep running.

Mile .2: 6:00 Mile .2 starts with a hill. Up a ramp. Where all my friends are now screaming at me to run run run. R. is there and she tells me if I don't run up this ramp I will be disqualified (liar) which makes me laugh, but at the same time, makes me scared, so I run. I think I run all the way up the ramp, which then turns into the chute, which looks like it lasts another 26.2 miles and I so want to cry. Bex is running alongside me now, I don't know what happened to Naomi, and i can't remember if I am still run/walking or just running. Bex is screaming at me not to let me beat her, and finally, finally, FINALLY, I turn it on just a little bit and sprint 20 feet over the finish line.

6:30:40. Which fact I don't know til Naomi checks for me later.

Where 20 Marines high-five me, someone grabs me and says something about the AIDS marathon tent, and another Marine solemnly puts the medal over my head, as though I just won this race, and I kiss him like he's going off to war. I can't let go of him, I just say "Thank you, thank you, thank you" over and over again. But I'm thanking everyone, really, they just can't hear me.

The Marine hugs me tight, then kneels in front of me to take off my timing chip. I almost cry, but I don't. It's all so big and humbling at the same time.

I mill around in a daze. I'm not sure what to do. Then all my friends are there, hugging and cheering me.

There's more to this story yet.

Let's Recap This Bad Boy! Part One

Not sure where to start. Do I start the day before marathon? Or back in April, when training started? Or four years ago, when I was bouncing from doctor to doctor, considering back surgery, and barely able to walk 20 feet? (Warning: This is so not short.)

The Backstory
(Get it? "Back story?") Yeah, that last one. After a few bouts in the hospital, and being unable to stand to brush my teeth because it hurt so much (standing, not brushing), I finally went to an orthopedic surgeon, who told me I have "degenerative disc disease," with four discs seriously just gone. But guess what, everyone has degenerative disc disease. You have it. Your kids have it. That doc put me through some painful diagnostic procedures, then recommended surgery, but he couldn't definitely tell me exactly what was causing so much pain. I went for a second opinion, and that doc recommended I see two other doctors, etc. etc. I finally ended up being treated with meds by a neurologist; I don't do well on medicine (read=lots of barfing), so I literally have a bagful of drugs from her, which I could probably make a pretty penny off of, were I that kind of girl. Which I'm not. But, I kept that bag o' drugs, just to remind myself. I also tried chiropractic and accupuncture. I was walking with a cane most of the time. Sitting hurt. Standing hurt. Laying down hurt.

After two years or so of this, I read an article about back pain that mentioned a local gym specializing in exercise for people with back pain and other disabilities, so I signed up and went three times a week for a year, doing lots of strengthening exercises, and paying out of pocket. It was there that I first confided my dream of one day running a marathon to my trainer, who said, "I don't think that's very likely. Running," she continued, "is just not good for your back. Or for anybody's."

Of course she was right!! What a nut I am! I went to that gym for one year, until August 2004. I saw some improvement, but was still in pain. After I left that gym, I started using the elliptical machine at work four times a week. Religiously. And gradually I saw improvement. I could sit, lay down, and walk without searing pain. Not perfect, but liveable.

My good friend R. had been forever telling me about Galloway's walk/run method and the AIDS Marathon Training program. She made it sound so easy! And fun! So, in February 2005 I attended an orientation session for the AIDS Marathon Training program, and after telliing them about my back, they assured me that they could work with anyone and I plunked down my $75. Training started in April 2005, and mercifully, (for you) I won't recap that here. (Cuz I kind of already have. See every previous entry.)

The Day Before
Since I live in the city in which the marathon occurs, I didn't have to pack, didn't have to worry about hotels or flights or anything. Instead, I focused all my worry on logistics. Which took the form of first: changing the sheets on my bed. Right? Totally normal. Then I did a load of laundry. Then cleaned the house. Was I nesting? Or worried I wouldn't be coming back?? Ever??

After all that, I started laying out everything I would need. This took several hours. I had to write my name on my singlet, and oh yeah, remember somebody gave me that cute little guardian angel pin several years ago? Let's spend a few hours looking for that. Found!

Hmm, now maybe I should scope out driving routes. Let's see, I'll get up at 5 a.m., take the Beltway to George Washington Parkway south to the Pentagon Metro stop, where I was meeting my pace group. Ding ding!! Wrong!! GW Pkwy is part of the course, (so I'd heard), and would, in all probability be closed since 31,000 people will be running it. Call it a hunch.

It is now around 4ish Saturday (and yes I have changed tenses. It's my recap.) I figure an alternate route. I take the Beltway to 395 North to the Pentagon City exit. I find the meeting place and all is well!

While I'm out and about, maybe I should drive a bit of the course. Because remember: I'm in denial about this entire thing. So I figure now is a good time to take a short peek at what I'll be doing in the morning.

First, I open up the elevation map that lovely marine at the Expo gave me:

Wouldya look at that! Mile 0-2 goes from 20 to 180 feet. Huh. So I drive it.

Which pretty much leaves me panting and heaving for oxygen. OK, we'll just walk that part! The next part is, hmm, a downhill of 140 feet. Perfect for IT problems. OK, we can handle that too, just go slow, zig zag, whatever you have to do.

Next I cross Key Bridge, down M St. in Georgetown, where Nicole Kidman is being filmed! And that's the end of the follow the course by car.

Part Two: To come ...

Update ... But Still Not the Recap!

Post-marathon headache of massive proportions, along with post-marathon sinus infection ... How come the books don't tell you about the headache?? I think I must have had the sinus thing brewing beforehand, since you can't catch an infection in one day!

Anyway, it's coming! But looking at the computer right now makes my head hurt more, so am going to take another day off from my usual computer attachment—well as much as I can, since today is back-to-work day. Yippee!

Onward! and After?