This year I accomplished my personal goal (the one I co-opted from my better half) of completing 50 half marathons before my 50th birthday with the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon in August. This was over a period of about 12 years (the overall goal, not that one run), with the majority of the events happening from fall 2011 on, after I got serious about the idea.
The goal was about quantity over quality. If I thought I’d be required to do any one of these events with any more speed than it took to come in some place other than very last, I’d have thrown in the towel. I may talk tough, but I’m a couch-potato at heart, really. My participation in most of these events could be considered neither particularly pretty nor fast. I keep a pace of between 11:30 and 12-minutes per mile.
Just so we’re clear I’m not breaking any speed records.
But I finished every one of ‘em, plus a few relays and other events. And because I’m a giver, here’s a list of things I’ve learned about running over the course of this little endeavor:
Once a year, a group of friends of ours gathers for a running relay event somewhere in the region. Mike and I haven’t been able to join them for the last couple of years for reasons that basically boil down to the fact that everything in our lives tends to happen all at once, and sometimes we have to prioritize as though we’re bonafide grownups.
If you don’t remember my talking about running with this group, here’s a little thing about the Grand Teton Relay, three years ago, and Hood to Coast, which we finished up on my birthday the year before that.
This year we were able to join the group for the Top of Zion Relay: 12 people split up between two vans winding 195 miles through southern Utah, with the opportunity to experience some of the best scenery the West has to offer.
I was really nervous about this run, not because of the distance, nor the prospect of spending 36 hours in a van with five other sweaty runners, but because of the elevation. I’ve run in the mountains before, mostly when Mike and I have been camping with family and I realize I need to get away from the people I love before killing them. I’ve noticed three things:
Some of you already know this, but I started running fairly regularly again in 2006 after a twenty-year hiatus. Then in 2011 I decided the half marathon event was more or less my thing. A little later, I stole adopted Mike’s goal of running 50 half marathons by that age.
Well, my 50th is coming right on up. I have four events left to go by August if I’m going to make my goal. Plus we have another relay event in June we’ve signed up for. It’s a little tight, but doable.
Run For Your Life in August. Despite the heat, it was a PR
The Tutu Run (duh)
Race to Robie Creek – Approaching the summit
The Fit One Half
This is what it looks like finishing a half when you’re also trying to finish the Whole30 – BONK.
The scenery at the Leavenworth Half Marathon
Running with friends at the Leavenworth
The scenery along the Boise River at the Beer-n-Brats Half
I’m shopping for the big five-oh now. And between our relay and summer plans, I left myself about a two week window in which to schedule the dang thing.
Here’s the other thing, it’s going to get warm around here soon, and lumbering along in the summer heat is about the least amount of fun I can imagine. I sweat. A lot. My muscles cramp. I whine. I look like one of the bad guys in that Indiana Jones movie who witnesses the opening of the Ark. Full on melty-face.
I’ll admit, when I posted my little rant earlier about a particular diet, I was a little overwrought. I don’t normally go in for drama, but it had been a trying couple of weeks. Now that we’re at the end of the Whole30 and I’ve had some crackers and calmed down, I thought some of you might like more of straightforward review.
… You know, in case you’re here for bonafide advice instead a load of nonsense.
We’ve done an elimination diet before – where you leave out most or all high-allergen foods for a while, then re-introduce them, one at a time, to isolate any food issues. We thought the Whole30 would be familiar territory.
Who eats grapefruit at a pancake house? Actually, who eats grapefruit anyway?
You know what happens when you order grapefruit? You pay three bucks for an orb of sour water pustules on which you must perform delicate surgery with a weird, serrated spoon to excise each tiny bite full of kill-me-right-now.
This is currently my life. A table in a pancake house, smack in the middle of maple and bacon and bakery smells threatening my thirty-days-and-then-some of meal prep and healthy eating and a whole lotta’ pretending I wouldn’t kill someone for a pancake at any moment.
It’s that time of year when our grass has turned brown and crinkly and I’m giving serious thought to xeriscaping, or maybe installing a Brady-family era AstroTurf lawn.
August is also known in the life of a CSA subscriber as “isn’t it about time we get some freaking tomatoes?”
About six years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, about the virtues of eating locally. Since then, I’ll admit I’ve been one of those moderately insufferable farmer’s market shoppers, paying exorbitant prices for grass-fed beef and organic beets. We’ve also been subscribers to one community supported agriculture (CSA) program or another each year, which means every spring we start picking up a weekly allotment of locally-grown seasonal vegetables, and I start combing the internet for new ways to make kale palatable, and for answers to what the hell one is supposed to do with kohlrabi.
About a month ago, Jack saw a blood drive van and told me he wanted to donate – had been wanting too for a while, in fact – and now that he was seventeen he could do so without parental permission, which makes two whole things I didn’t know.
What he actually said was it was on his “bucket list.” I told him he and I had different understandings of the term, but then he told me another list item was traveling to all seven continents. So maybe he does get it and is just a weirdo.
I’m not totally surprised he’d include something altruistic on his list of things to do before he dies, but why not digging wells in Africa or something? Building a house? Letting someone poke around trying to find a vein is on a list I keep too. A list of things that make me woozy if I think about them too much. Heights are on that list. Cleaning toilets. Ebola.
Tomorrow, I’ll be running a half marathon, which means today is the last day of that period we call the taper.
If you’re not familiar with the taper, it’s the result of a whole bunch of running science that says it’s good to reduce your miles and intensity a few days before a big event. The length of taper can be as much as three weeks for a full marathon, two weeks for a half, and so on.
I’ve been running 6 to 8 half marathons annually for the past four years or so. Having an event on the calendar keeps me on a regular schedule. Otherwise, I really might just stop all together. BUT, if I’m doing what science says I should, I’m tapering about two weeks before every half marathon, which on my schedule, gives me a solid 14 to 16 weeks every year of taking it easy.
I saw a post recently in a fitness-oriented social media group: a woman running, wearing a race bib. The photo was taken from a low angle, the watermark of an official race photographer in one corner.
I expected a “yay me!” message underneath instead of the anguish this woman poured out. She’d been proud of finishing her first 5k – until she opened the results email with the event photos. She hadn’t realized her thighs were that big. She didn’t remember feeling as awful as she looked. Heck, she appeared to barely be moving.
Rookie move, that: expecting too much from race pics. They’re bound to disappoint. I don’t know the woman, but I’m familiar with the feeling.
I always eagerly open the post race results email hoping to finally find a picture to commemorate all my hard work actually making it across the finish line. A memento. Particularly one that fits my running self-image: something of a cross between Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Cheetara from Thundercats.