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Monday, June 28, 2010

What Kind Of Fool Am I?

Well, I'm glad you asked that question, Mr. Sammy Davis Jr.!

Apparently, I'm the kind of fool that likes to run for beer, even if it hurts. Next up in the LOCO series was race #3: The 29th Annual April Fools 4 Mile Road Race in Salisbury, MA on Saturday, April 3rd 2010. This particular race started at 11:00 a.m. (because the drunks who do these events won't get up any earlier than that) and was sponsored by the fine folks at Harpoon Brewery. I mentioned in my last post how the short races were quite a challenge because you try to run as fast as you possibly can since they are, well, short. I hadn't done anything shorter than a 10K all year. And, to go one step beyond that, hadn't RACED a 4 miler since July of 2008.

In other words, I had no idea what I was doing.

Do I run it like a 5K? But, it's .9 longer. And I have a feeling if I do, that last .9 will be really, really, really, really painful. Do I run it like a 5 miler? Hmmmm, well, then maybe I'll be sandbagging. What IS my 4 mile race pace???

Truly, I didn't know.

So, I figured, what the heck??? I'll show up, get my free T-Shirt (like I need any more of THOSE) and run the race. And have beer. Can't forget about that part.

This race was a mere 14 miles from my house, which is always nice. After my experience driving to Stu's 30K in Clinton, you can understand why I like 'em close and easy to find. I also knew (for once) exactly where I was going, so there was no need to allow extra time.

But, of course, I did.

I believe it was 9:45 a.m. when I pulled into the parking lot at The Winners Circle. I was SO early, that I got a parking space right in front of the building. Score! Getting my #, chip and shirt took all of two minutes, so that meant I had lots of extra time to do...well...nothing.

It was a 4 mile race, after all. I didn't need to do the whole "body glide" thing, nor did I have to apportion the correct amount of gu packets. I had to, simply, pin my # on my shorts, attach my chip to my shoe and...wait.

Coach wanted me to do a 2 mile warm-up before running this race. You see, there is a fine art to timing exactly WHEN to do the warm-up. For one, you don't want to do it too soon, because then you cool down too much and the benefits are greatly diminished. On the other hand, you want to leave enough time to stand in line at the port-a-potties without missing the start.

These are two VERY important details, friends.

I synced up the GPS and checked the time. 10:15. Well, I figured the warm-up would take 18-19 minutes. That brought me to 10:35 or so. I also knew we had to go across the street and walk about 5 minutes to the start. That left 20 minutes to stand in line. And believe me, sometimes you need THAT much time.

I ran my 2 miles in 18:17 and took my place in the line. As predicted, it took a good 15 minutes to get from last to first. Good call, Cyndi Lou.

I had plenty of time to get to the start of the race without rushing, which was nice. I sort of just "followed the crowd" across the busy road, and into the neighborhood where the race would start. Since this was chip timed, I didn't see a need to get as close to the front as possible. I wandered up to the top 1/3rd of the pack and picked a spot to stand in. While waiting for the gun, I chatted with some runners who were next to me. You know, typical stuff: have you ever done this race before? What's the course like? Is it flat? Blah, blah, blah. Basically, I gathered from the peanut gallery that, indeed it was fairly flat and was sort of a 2 miles out, 2 miles back kind of race.

Alrighty, then. Let's get this show on the road.

On your mark, get set and GO! The gun went off about 5 minutes after the scheduled start time. I started the Garmin, powered on the iPod and took off.

Hopefully, you aren't expecting a scenic play by play of my race. As you may or may not remember, I don't really take in my surroundings all that much when I run. I just sort of follow the crowd and focus on running as hard as I can without dying. And I listen to that angry "kill your mother, kill your father" type music while doing so. Remember, this was only a 4 miler; not exactly a "stop and smell the roses" kind of experience.

The first mile of a short race isn't too painful. You are pretty much either gradually accelerating into your race pace or starting off a little conservatively in the hopes of negative splitting it. I'd like to say I had it all planned out, but you already know I didn't. I was flying by the seat of my pants.

Chirp. Mile 1 was a smart 7:27. Hmmm. Okay. I can live with that.

As I got into the second mile, I started getting a little cranky. Wow, this hurts, I thought to myself. I'm panting like a dog, here. I was used to running sub 7:30 pace at the track, but that was only for 800-1200 meters. My body was like, "huh...haven't done THIS in a while...and we haven't missed it much either, Cyndi."

When you run hard and fast like this, you run with your mouth open, because your breath becomes too deep and rapid to do it in and out of your nose. Somewhere between miles 1 and 2, a very opportunistic bug flew RIGHT into my mouth.

I don't know why she swallowed a fly.

Perhaps she'll die?

If only I could have gotten that lucky.

Chirp. 7:19. Ouch.

This is where we turned down a little side street to reverse our direction and head back to the finish. And this is when the voices in my head started clamoring for my attention.

You know, you don't have to run this fast, Cyndi.

You're STILL going to get that jacket. All you have to do is finish.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could stop and walk right now?

I have very unhelpful voices.

As I was debating all of these points between miles 2 and 3, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Bewildered, I turned to see a man running by me with no hair and sunglasses.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go."

And then, I realized it was some guy who went to the gym that I worked at as a personal trainer.

Crap on a cracker!!!

Someone KNOWS me here!

I can't tank it now!


Why what other people will think of us if we quit is more important than what WE will think of ourselves if we quit I do not know. But, I did know this: now is NOT the time to figure it out.

I had to run.

I kept my fleet footed friend in my sights trying to forget the voices as well as the bug that now resided in my GI tract. Perhaps the soothing sounds of "Raining Blood" by Slayer would dull the pain??

Chirp. 7:57.

Oh boy.

Go big or go home, right?

One more mile, Cyndi Lou. Let's just get this @#*&^% thing over with, already.

One more mile, and I could still see the man who was hell bent on keeping me honest, even if he had no idea that's what was happening. I could tell him after the race was over.

As long as I didn't die.

I tried not to look at my watch because I knew that if I did, that mile would have dragged on for an eternity. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again.

Eventually, we turned a corner and a line of orange cones came into view.

Which can only mean one thing.

This race is almost frickin' over!!!

If I had any kind of a kick left, now would be the time to use it.

Just as I was about to find out, I noticed my friend, Jimmie, standing on the sidelines cheering. I had hoped I would see someone I knew and now, as it turns out, I had. Not just one someone either.

I pushed as hard and as fast as I could until I crossed that finish line. I looked down at my watch and noticed I had averaged about a 7 minute pace for the last mile. My official time was 28:58. At the time, I didn't know what that meant in terms of the competition or how many people were behind me or ahead of me. I was just glad to be done! As soon as I finished, a race official handed me a white and blue plastic cup. And then it hit me...

Beer! It's for the beer! I can have a beer now!

But, first things first.

I went in pursuit of the bald man in shades to thank him for giving me a much needed kick in the a$$. He didn't know I was struggling out there, so I guess that means I'm pretty good at faking it (only talking about running at the moment). Turns out, his name is Tim and he finished the race in 28:51. Even though it had been an emotional tug of war for me, I'm glad he came along because it helped me to finish strong.

At this time, Jimmie came over to say hi. He and his friend, Ken, were getting ready to do a cool-down run, so I gladly went along, since Coach wanted me to do one anyway. We took off at a easy, conversational pace and compared notes. Jimmie ran 22:36 and Ken ran 25:42. Thank God for warm-ups and cool-downs or else I never would be able to hang out with these guys. We had a lot of laughs as we lamented the stiffness of our legs. But, we knew there would be some beer to dull the pain.

To The Winners Circle, Batman! There is a Harpoon with my name on it. And I even brought my own cup.

As we waited in the beer line, the race results were posted. We went over to check them out.

Well, what do you know?

Guess who took first in the F35-39 division?

Yup. You guessed it.

Shocker of the century. I could hardly believe it. After all the mental gymnastics, I ended up taking first. The person who came in second was about 50 seconds behind me. Not only did I take first, but it was a fairly comfortable placing at that. Jimmie ended up placing 2nd in his age group, so we both had reason to celebrate.

We ended up running into another friend of ours, Amy, who belongs to the same track club that Jimmie does. Amy is one of their coaches as well as a damn fine runner. Damn FAST runner! In fact, SHE ended up taking first in F30-34 with a stellar time of 25:48. It was shaping up to be quite a party.

I enjoyed chatting and drinking with these much so that I almost missed receiving my age group award: a first placed medal tucked inside a Harpoon pint glass. Oops.

I finished my beverage, said my goodbyes and headed to the car. I was happy and relieved with the way things ended up turning out. I didn't quite understand how I could have so many highs and lows in the span of 28 minutes and 58 seconds, though. Why do I go into these things with such a cavalier attitude and then entertain the notion to throw in the towel when the going gets tough? I ran Boston 2009 a little "too conservatively" and then kicked myself for not PR'ing. I DNF'ed at Hartford and almost crumbled under the weight of disappointment. Am I competitive or just crazy?? I had a feeling this was something that wasn't going to go away until I dealt with that underlying "fear of failure" I mentioned before. But, at that moment I wasn't quite ready to wrestle this demon to the ground. And, besides, it's not as easy to be introspective when you win.

What Kind Of Fool Am I?

I would soon find out in Beer Race #4.

Friday, June 25, 2010

In like a lion...out like

With the challenge of Stu's 30K behind me, it was back to focusing on the next event. Stu's was a deviation from my quest for beer. The next race in the series was to be the April Fools 4 Miler in Salisbury, MA.

4 Miler.


Perhaps you're wondering why my reaction is what it is. After all, I just did a 30K, which is 18.6 miles. A 4 miler should be a piece of cake, right?


The best way I can think of to describe it is by relating a conversation I had when running with my friend, Leigh, one day. I was sharing with her how people assume a 5K is easy once you've done a marathon. She chuckled knowingly and said, "when you get to mile 15 in a marathon you say to yourself, 'I feel a little tired'. When you have been running in a 5K for 15 minutes, you say to yourself, 'I think I'm having a stroke.'"

See the difference?

Think of all the energy you have as being stored up in a bottle. You have to spread your energy evenly over the distance that you are running. If you run a 5K or, in this case a 4 miler, that means your energy is flowing really, really fast...because when you cross that finish line, that sucker should be empty. However, you get the same size bottle in a marathon. But, it's more like "slow release". You still want it to be empty when you cross the finish line, but you are expending it sparingly.

Make sense now?

The rest of the month was pretty uneventful as far as running went. Some highlights included a 14 mile run with Christine and John on 3/13. The first five miles were easy paced, the next six miles were at an 8:20 pace and the final three were easy. It was nice having their company, particularly in the middle portion.

Plus it felt like old times. Except it wasn't below freezing and Christine didn't have her speed skater hood on.

On 3/20, I met some of my 2008/2009 Lazarus House Hunger Striker teammates at the Andover/North Andover YMCA for a 16 miler. It was great to see Kelly and Coach Bill again, not to mention meeting a couple of people for the first time. The miles just flew by and, before we knew it, we were done. Coach Bill has so many stories, it's ridiculous, and I mean that in a good way. The weather was warm and it was a marvelous day to be running.

The last run I'll mention is my 18 miler on 3/27. I had the pleasure of running the first six miles with my friend, Jeremy, (he is the theatric collapser I spoke of in an earlier post) and the last 12 with Ted. This was to be his longest run since he completed the LA marathon on 3/21 in 3:27, thus qualifying him for Boston in his first ever 26.2 adventure (good show, mate). He even offered to drive up to NH and meet me for the run. What a guy. We had a good time catching up while in motion. He told me about his marathon experience and it was positively inspiring to me. I was starting to get excited about running my race in May after hearing about his.

It was also around this time that the Vermont Marathon PR strategy changed a little bit. Originally, when John and I decided to do this race together, he offered to run with me the entire way in order for me to get my 3:45. Now that Ted was in our circle, things changed. Ted had his BQ already and believed John should run the marathon for himself. He offered to be my pacer. Remember, I had only known Ted since January and here we are, late-March, and he's offering to run a marathon with and for me. Thank you, Ted. Thank you, Universe!

The biggest story of the month, and the inspiration for the title, was the rain.

It rained. And it rained. And it f**king POURED!!!

As of 3/30/10, the City of Boston had seen almost 13 inches of rain, breaking every record you can possibly imagine. The city was expecting another 2.5 inches of rain to fall that day. Providence, RI already had 14.7 inches of rain that month and would easily break their record of 15.38 inches. Rivers and basements everywhere were flooding. Just when you thought it couldn't rain anymore, it did.

It's enough to make you run on the treadmill, isn't it???

Not us!

We ran in it anyway. John and I did 5 miles on that Tuesday and we got soaked to the bone. There were puddles EVERYWHERE. But, we wouldn't have had it any other way. I felt like a little kid again, splashing around, not caring one iota how much of a drowned rat I must have looked like. It was a blast. We couldn't control the weather, but we could control our attitude about it. Instead of complaining about it, we embraced it. As a result, we had a lot of fun.

The same can be said about anything that you approach in life. You are where you are. The Dalai Lama said, "We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves."

Make peace with where you are right now and you'll get to where you want to go.

In like a lion and out like a fish.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is a story 'bout Cyndi Lou runnin' Stu's-Part Three

After seeing my name and corresponding bib # (377 for those that are interested) and having the brief convo with my new pal, Curtis, I went over to the registration table to get my shirt, # and pins. I caught up with John and Ted. After saying hello, we had a good belly laugh over my driving snafu (they may have laughed a little harder and longer than me but, I can take it). I also made one of them promise that they wouldn't leave without me so I could have someone to follow back to the highway. Being cute, blonde and female does have it's advantages from time to time.

We got ourselves race ready. You know, the typical stuff: shed the warm-ups, pin the # on to your shirt/shorts, liberally apply body glide and/or vaseline to all potential chafe zones, etc. Lubrication IS a runner's best friend. I challenge anyone to tell me differently.

In true Cyndi fashion, I successfully evaded the "what's your time goal for today?" question by saying, "Eh, it's just a long run. I'll see how it goes. If I feel good, I'll pick it up." In other words, if I don't tell you what I want to do, then whatever the result, I can make it sound like I planned it that way. It's that whole "fear of failure" demon that I was aware of, but hadn't made friends with yet. I'll get to that later.

I should also mention that this was about the time that the fuel belt and I parted company. You see, for the first four marathons I ran, I wore a fuel belt, which held four 8 oz. bottles. I figured I was being smart bringing my own fluids using the whole "not getting stuck in the crowd at water stops" rationale. However, 32 oz. of water was not enough for a marathon, not enough for me anyway. Philadelphia had taught me that. I figured, why wear it if I'm just going to need the water stops toward the end anyway? Besides, it IS extra weight and this chick will take all the help she can get in being "lighter". At Stu's, I knew there would be water and gatorade every three miles. That would be enough. It's not like this was the dog days of summer where you have to chug a lug every 10 minutes. I hadn't yet mastered the fine art of drinking out of those cups while running but that's okay. Lots of people walk as they drink. It's a good mental boost too, because it breaks up the race in little segments. And you really don't lose all that much time.

So, no belt.

We all lined up together, exchanged wishes for a good run and prepared for takeoff. At the gun, we started to run (hey, that rhymes). I hit the button on my iPod and started running to the inspirational sounds of "Gonna Fly Now". I wanted to focus on being relaxed and ease into a rhythm. I had averaged about an 8:30 pace when I ran this race before, so I figured that could be my baseline. John was slightly ahead of me as we approached the 1 mile marker. Then, I see him turn around and jog back to me. I looked down at my watch and instantly knew why. We had run a 7:54. Oops.

"Too fast," he said. I agreed.

Time to reel it in.

Mile 2 was an 8:31. Perfect. Way to bounce back.

At this point, I didn't want to look at the watch anymore. I love my Garmin as much as the next runner, but you can drive yourself nuts looking at it every 5 minutes (and I have a tendency to do that). I decided to run by feel. Radical concept, isn't it?

"What????" You say? "Run by feel? You mean listen to your body???"


I had planned on walking the water stops anyway, so what if I just focused on running strong and steady in-between them? Hmmmmm. I could be on to something here.

That's what I did. I ran. Saw the water stop. Walked. Drank water. Walked more. Drank gatorade. Resumed running.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Whenever I encountered a hill, I would silently tell myself how much I loved hills and how strong my legs were. I repeated it over and over again until I crested each one of those suckers. It became my mantra. I love hills. I love hills. Breathe, Cyndi. I love hills.

I'm about 13 or 14 miles in when I hear a car beeping it's horn and a man's voice calling my name. I look over and it's my friend, Marc, who ran the race with Jeremy and me in 2007. He decided to take the path of least resistance this year and do a drive by while offering me a shout out of encouragement. I guess once was enough for him, as far as running the 30K goes. It was a nice gesture and I appreciated the thought. I pressed on.

I took my last walk/water/walk/gatorade break around mile 15 or so and saw two guys running side by side ahead of me. I decided to sort of draft off of them for a while since they appeared to be keeping a good pace. One thing leads to another and we started chatting. Being the social butterfly I am, I introduce myself to these two lovely gentlemen. The guy on my left says, "are you the same Cyndi that I talked to in the gym?"


Is that you???

Well, whaddya know?

It was.

We couldn't believe we had actually caught up with each other. There was well over 500 runners and I hadn't seen him since looking for my #. The three of us were amazed at how we found each other. I completely blanked on the name of Curtis' friend, so I'll refer to him as "Buddy".

Turns out, Curtis and Buddy had run this race before too. They were doing this as a training run for Boston and, I believe, they ran for the club that organized this race. We knew that a monster hill lay ahead around mile 17. We mentally prepared ourselves for what was to come. Let's do it, boys. That hill is ours. My watch chirped as the mile 17 marker AND the mini-mountain came into view.


Only 1.6 miles to go.

Bring it.

We kept putting one foot in front of the other and focused only on "just getting to the top". It seemed like it went on forever. Then, you turned a corner and it went up some more. Just run. Keep going. You're so close.

Breathlessly, we congratulated each other as we approached mile 18. Curtis and Buddy encouraged me to go.


8:41 on the monster mile.

No need to tell me twice. I'm gone, daddy-o.

I pushed as hard as I could on the last .6 miles. Worst case scenario, I told myself I only had to run 6 more minutes. That equaled a 10 minute mile pace. It doesn't matter how tired I am...I KNOW I can do a 10 minute mile. I just can.

I see the finish line. I see the chute. I dug down and sprinted toward it. Well, it felt like a sprint anyway. I averaged an 8:02/mi during that final stretch. After running an 18 mile warm-up, it's fair to say an 8 minute mile is like a 4 minute mile to the Kenyans.

I crossed the finish line and looked at the clock.


A big smile spread over my face. I PR'ed by almost three minutes!
(PR=Personal Record for my non-running reader friends)

I was panting like a dog and walking like I had a pole stuck up you-know-where, but I could care less. I felt like a million bucks.

I turned around and saw Curtis. I squealed in delight and gave him a big hug, congratulating him and thanking him and Buddy for running with me. Then, I saw John and Ted. I rushed over to them, giddy with excitement. I couldn't wait to tell them how I did and hear their stories. Ted came in with a time of 2:26:46; John ran 2:33:02. Translation: we all kicked major, major booty.

After our euphoric reunion, it was clear that we needed food and drink before we either passed out or threw up, so we made our way inside to refuel. The post-race fare at Stu's is an interesting hodgepodge of culinary delights, ranging from hot soup to Hostess pastries. You start off at the beginning of the line with water, soup, bagels and bananas. Towards the end, they have donuts, cupcakes, twinkies and soda. I find the contrast quite amusing. After running 18.6 miles, however, I passed no judgement on any of it. In fact, I think I had one of everything and still could have gone back for more. Cyndi is a slave to her bodily urges, particularly when it comes to hunger.

Once we started feeling semi-human again, we headed out to the parking lot to make our way home...but not before I reminded my pals that they promised I could follow them back to the highway. Ted volunteered.

And they say chivalry is dead.


Not in Cyndi Lou's world, anyway.

See you next year, Stu. And, save me a twinkie.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This is a story 'bout Cyndi Lou runnin' Stu's-Part Two

Two days before Stu's, my husband and I decided to go up to North Conway, NH to hang out with some friends. They own a condo and were spending the weekend up there. The race wasn't until 11 a.m. on Sunday, so I figured, why the heck not? We could go up Friday, stay over and come back sometime late Saturday afternoon. So, we packed an overnight bag and drove the 100+ miles up north.

If you have never visited this part of the state, you might want to consider taking a little trip. There is just something about it. Maybe it's because you are in the mountain region and the air is cleaner. I'm not sure, but I do know this: everyone just seems, well, nicer. Really. And, when you're around nice people, you just FEEL better.

We got there early evening on Friday, had dinner and drinks with our friends and just enjoyed ourselves. The next day, I had a 5-6 mile run on my schedule, so I decided I would run from their place to The Scarecrow for lunch. My husband was kind enough to bring a change of clothes along so I didn't have to sit in my own filth. (Truth be told, I think he was just trying to protect our friends and the restaurant public from my sweaty, smelly self.)

And, that's when it started.

That's when "what" started, you ask?

My friends.
My well-meaning friends.
My fun friends.
My "friends who weren't registered for Stu's 30K the next day" friends.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay over tonight too?"

"After all, your race isn't until 11."

"You could just leave at 7 a.m. tomorrow and still get there in plenty of time."

Those kinds of friends.

I was having fun. My husband was having fun. He wasn't registered for Stu's either.


Marathon training requires a certain level of commitment, dedication and focus. Basically, you live like a nun on the weekends. I love to eat, drink and be merry as much as the next guy, but I know what it'll get me.


Stressed out.

And probably a little hungover.

So, I dug in my heels, gritted my teeth and reluctantly declined their offer. We packed up the car and headed back home.


I could have been swayed. Really, I could have. I even briefly contemplated SKIPPING the race altogether. First, the Bradford conundrum and now this. Who WAS I????

But, the larger part of me won (yay, me) and I slept in my own bed the night before the race. I even managed to retire at a respectable hour so as to be well-rested. My inner nun applauded.

The next morning, I got up early and started preparing. Breakfast: check. Dress like a runner: check. Pack the Garmin and iPod: check. Google map the directions: check, double check and triple check. I looked at my watch. 8:15 a.m. The race was about 50 miles from my house and traffic is usually pretty light on Sunday mornings. I probably could have left at 9 and been there in plenty of time, but I had already wasted enough time on facebook (I can be a world class procrastinator). It's now or never, baby.

Hit the road, Jack.

So, off I went.

Cruising down 495 in the red car was a breeze. As predicted, there weren't many other cars on the road so, before I knew it, I was exiting the highway (I can also be a fast driver). I checked the time and it wasn't even 9:30 yet. I was only about 8 miles from my destination. Plenty of time! I was going to arrive super early. Whoo hoo! This was going to be a breeze.



Apparently, there was a bridge or something under construction and I could not get to where I wanted to go using the directions courtesy of google maps.

No, no, no, no, no, NO!

I don't do well under these kinds of circumstances, can you tell?

So, I'm driving around, and around, and around. I'd like to say that I remained calm, cool, and collected and chose not to make a big deal out of this.

But, I'd be a liar.

A big, fat liar who was in the middle of a raging panic attack.

I call John to let him know that I'm lost and I might not make it to the race in time. Now, remember what time it was when I got off the highway.


And then, scroll up to find out what time the race actually started.

Yup, 11:00.

That gave me 90 minutes. At this point, I was only a few miles away from the middle school, where the race started. 90 minutes. What the hell is the MATTER with me???

John was very good and indulged my little tantrum (this is not the first time I have gotten lost driving to a race either and he knew that). He sympathetically acknowledged the detour and told me which way he went. He did his best to try and find out where I was and point me in the right direction. At this point, I was only half-listening because I saw people walking their dog.



They must know where the school is!!!

I did what most females do: pulled over and asked for directions (sorry, guys). These nice people did the best they could to redirect me to where I needed to go. After a little more driving around, it was clear that I wasn't the only lost soul trying to find their way. There was a little caravan of cars with 26.2 stickers that kept trying this road...that road...turning around...going back. At least I wasn't alone anymore.

Finally, I got behind this guy who seemed to know where he was going. Lo and behold, in the distance was the middle school. The heavens opened up, the angels began to sing and I drove into the parking lot, relieved and STILL early for the race. Now, I just had to find my friends, get my number and run 30K. I got out of my car and profusely thanked this kind young man who I had been following. He was like my guardian angel and new best friend. I thought about giving him a big hug, but didn't want to scare him. He just kind of laughed at my obvious display of relief. I would have too if I was him.

Finding the registration area was much easier, I am happy to say. There was a big posterboard hanging up on the wall of the gymnasium with all pre-registered entrants and their race #'s. i walk over to get a closer look and realize that I just stepped in front of someone. I turned around to apologize to the man who's view I just obstructed. He just smiled and said, "no problem. I'm just looking for someone to run with." So, I smile back, extend my hand and say, "I'm Cyndi. You can run with me!" He took my hand and said, "I'm Curtis. Nice to meet you." We laugh. I wish him a good run and walk over to the registration table, not really expecting to see him again.

Or would I???

Monday, June 21, 2010

This is a story 'bout Cyndi Lou runnin' Stu's-Part One

And now, we're back to the "running" portion of the blog.

Upon returning from vacation, I looked forward to running the roads of New Hampshire once again. When I was in Florida, it was easier to run on the treadmill overlooking the pool area than it was to go outside. We did try it once and just kept running around the Hard Rock Hotel. Not exactly paradise if you ask me (all the good stuff is INSIDE). I'd rather scope out the waterfall and people watch.

So, no more hotel fitness center. No more treadmill.

I ran a good 13 miler outside the Sunday after I got back, which felt great. In exactly one week from that day, the "Vermont Three" would tackle their next running adventure: The 31st Annual Stu's 30K Road Race in Clinton, MA. For those that aren't familiar with the kilometer to mile ratio, 30K equals 18.6 miles. It's kind of random to us, but makes perfect sense to the rest of the world. This would be my longest run since I did the Philadelphia Marathon last November.

John and Ted were brand new to this wonderful (slightly sarcastic here) run, which was listed as being a "very hilly loop on paved roads around Wachusett reservoir". Doesn't that sound FUN??? Don't you just want to go out and run that sucker???

I didn't think so.

But, for some reason, we did. Particularly me. I think entering this race was my idea. And I'll tell you why.

You see, I had run this race before.

My friend, Jeremy, was training for his 2nd marathon back in 2007 (and, incidentally, it was the Boston Marathon). He had heard about this race and figured it would be a good training run. 18.6 miles in early March is right on target for those training for Boston, which usually falls on the 3rd Monday in April. He and I had become friends and training partners, both in the gym lifting weights and running outdoors. We pretty much did all of our workouts together. So, when he asked if I was interested in doing this race with him, I sorta shrugged my shoulders and said, "eh, sure, why not??" I hadn't done anything longer than a 16 mile run at that point in my life, so, really, Stu's was MY marathon.

When I ran it the first time, I had absolutely no expectations. I really didn't have a time goal, since this was the furthest I had ever gone. So, I had nothing to lose. To me, it was just a long run and quality time with a friend. Now, I didn't really expect to stay with him the whole time since he was a bit faster than me, but I figured we'd at least do the first few miles together.

We drove the 60-70 minutes to Clinton, registered, lined up and took off. I was running with Jeremy and my friend, Marc, who was training for a half-marathon (it was to be his longest run ever as well). Marc happened to live the next town over from where we were running, so it was like having your own personal tour guide. The three of us stuck together for at least the first 6 or 7 miles and then, gradually, we all broke away from each other.

I get to mile 12 and am ASTOUNDED at how good I feel. Seriously. I think I was getting better as I ran further. The next two miles I felt like superwoman (must be those crazy endorphins everyone keeps talking about). And then, in the distance, I saw a familiar figure. I got closer and...lo and was Jeremy! He hears my footsteps, turns around and says, "where the hell did you come from???" It was classic. I didn't plan on trying to keep up with him; it just sort of worked out that way. Basically, I lost him on the uphills, but I caught him on the downhills (I'm pretty good when I am going with gravity).

We did the whole back and forth thing with each other from about mile 14 to the finish. He crossed the finish line with a time of 2:38:17. I followed shortly thereafter with a time of 2:38:22. I couldn't BELIEVE it! I was amazed at how well I had run.

One thing I must mention before I leave 2007 and go back to 2010.

Jeremy has a flair for the dramatic.

I've done lots of races with him, so I have experience with this.
He pushes himself so hard towards the end, he throws himself on the ground after crossing the finish line. I've seen him do this many, many, many times. It doesn't matter if it's a 5K or a 30K.


Right in the grass.

So, of course, when he did this at Stu's, I wasn't worried in the least, since I knew this was in his repertoire. I just did what I always did; walked over to where he collapsed, took his hand and started talking to him.

Now, just because I KNEW he was okay, doesn't mean the volunteers at Stu's 30K did.

As you can imagine, more than ONE person came over to us asking if my friend needed medical assistance. Ah, that Jeremy is a card.

Now, fast forward to 2010.

I had SUCH a good experience doing this race the first time, it made me want to run it again. I couldn't really explain why I did so well at a race that people describe as "gutwrenching, hilly and brutal", but, well, I had. Why Boston Prep inspired a different reaction in me, I didn't know. I mean, after all it was SHORTER than Stu's.

Enough overthinking.

We were doing it. John, Ted, and me. Stu's 30K on March 7, 2010. Bring it ON!!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ramble On, Sing My Song, Gonna Work My Way All Around The World...

Alright, so, where were we?

Remind me to never, ever, EVER get this behind in the blog again. I don't know if there is enough Gingko Biloba in the world to help me remember all the details from late February to the present day.

But, hey, I'll give it a go.

Ah, yes, I remember. I ran for beer (this could be part of my memory problem) in Hampton at the half-marathon put on by LOCO Running. We headed homeward to pack and get ready for some fun in the sun. Our plane was leaving Logan at 6:05 a.m. the following day, so we should be getting to by 7:30 p.m. soon.

This is where I'll indulge in part one of the blog and ramble about our trip to Florida. But, I'll keep it short.

We got to the airport and on the plane without incident, which is always the best way to kick off vacation. Our plane landed in Ft. Lauderdale around 9:30 a.m. We were staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel Resort in Hollywood, FL. This place had a casino, restaurants, bars and shops galore, not to mention a really cool outdoor pool and bar. We figured we wouldn't need a rental car since everything we could possibly need or want would be right there. So, we took a cab ride from the airport to what would be our home for the next five days.

The weather was a little sketchy on Monday when we arrived, kind of cloudy, kind of humid, kind of rainy. But, we were on vacation. Who cares what it's doing out there? We had slot machines. We had plush Hard Rock bathrobes. We had ROOM SERVICE. You make do.

When the sun did come out the next day, we headed to the outdoor pool to catch some rays, have a frozen cocktail and do some people watching. It was unseasonably cool by Florida standards, but to us, it was like a heatwave. My husband even took one for the team and accompanied me to the fitness center on Tuesday and Wednesday (he knows I gravitate towards the cranky if I don't get my run on). On Thursday, my cousin, Suzanne, her husband, Mike, and their two kids, Halie and Samantha, drove up for Lake Worth, FL to stay overnight and spend some time with us. Suzanne got a babysitter to come to the hotel room so the four adults could go do adult things (no, there weren't any strippers). We went to a great Asian Restaurant, a comedy show and the Improv and donated some of our slush fund to the slot machines. All in all, we had a lot of fun.

The next day, we were scheduled to fly back home. Apparently, they were cancelling flights up and down the east coast due to weather concerns. We had no idea if we were even going to be able to get home. Thankfully, our flight was still scheduled for an on time departure back to Boston. I called my neighbor across the street to find out what the story was. She explained about the hurricane-like wind gusts and torrential rain. There was a power outage, but they were only without electricity for a few hours. Everything was restored.

So, my cousin and her husband offered to drop us off at the airport, saving us the cab fare from the hotel (thanks, cuz). We said our goodbyes and headed in to check our bag and get our boarding pass. Our travel agent totally rocks because she got us a direct flight to and from Florida. No stopovers, baby...going straight home. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.

The flight was pretty uneventful (also a very good thing) and we landed in Boston. We found our way to Baggage Claim and waited for our luggage. While we stood there, we witnessed a very unhappy gentleman stomping out of an office swearing very loudly. One could only surmise that he and his suitcase must have broken up. At first, we thought the same thing may have happened to us, but my husband's spidey sense kicked in and he sprinted across to another baggage carousel. Voila! There was our bag. Phew.

We took a shuttle bus from the airport back to the Newburyport terminal, where we had parked our car (free parking and the round trip bus ticket is pretty cheap). My husband and I couldn't find 2 seats together, so we sat across the aisle from each other. I think he has an invisible sign on his forehead that says "please talk to me". The gentleman next to him proceeded to chat him up from the time the bus closed it's doors to the time we got to Newburyport. This isn't the first time something like this has happened to him either. I almost feel a little bad for him. But, then I get over it. And I giggle. I just make sure he can't see me. :-)

Finally, we get off the bus, we get to our car and we drive home.

Home Sweet Home.
It's always nice to go away, but it's even nicer to come back. I used to think vacation was used to unwind from the stresses of everyday life and to get away from it all. But, really, for me anyway, it just reminds me how good my life REALLY is and how much I love living it.

Ramble On.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wouldn't you run for beer??

Fast forward to February 2010. Not only is it the shortest and most romantic month of the year (ahem, Valentine's Day on 2/14), but it's also where all the world waits in wonder to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow. Of all the modern technology we have available to us, our hopes still seem to rest on whether or not that little groundhog wants to come out and play. This year, the little bugger DID see his shadow, which meant we would have six more weeks of winter. I never quite understood this as the first official day of spring is and always has been around the 21st of March.

Do the math, folks. Is the fuzzy little weather prognosticator really necessary??

But, I digress.

I ran the Bradford Valentine's Day 5 miler on February 13th. Initially, John and I were going to be running as a team in the open male/female division, but he was recuperating from a minor illness. I had family visiting from Jersey and wasn't much up to racing that particular fact, I almost blew it off entirely! But, I did promise John I would pick up his shirt and, well, if I was going to go all the way over there, I might as well run it. I did a quick warm-up and toed the line. I didn't really have a strategy and hadn't planned on "racing" until halfway through the darn thing, so I wasn't expecting much. My official time was 39:36, averaging a 7:56 pace per mile. My 5 mile PR is 36:21 (Kingston 5 miler 2008), so it was nothing to write home about, but not every race is about PR'ing or, in this case, racing! At least not for me. I got a good run in, saw some people I knew, and set off to enjoy the rest of my weekend with my family.

Two rare occurrences were rapidly approaching in this particular month. One was that my husband, Michael, and I were going on vacation to Ft. Lauderdale (we don't get out much). The second one was I was doing a half-marathon. I hadn't done this distance since the fall of 2007. Seems like I either do the REALLY short stuff or the REALLY long ones. This 10K to half-marathon stuff is kind of unchartered territory. But, I had signed up for this "Will Run For Beer" Series through LOCO Running. Basically, you have six races to choose from and have to complete five out of the six. If you do that, you get a fancy schmancy jacket to show for all of your hard work. I decided I wanted that damn jacket, so I signed up. Plus, did you see what the name of the series was? Will Run For...Beer? I mean, wouldn't YOU run for beer? The first race in the series was the aptly named Hangover Classic 10K which took place on, you guessed it, New Years Day. This was race number two.

When we last left off in the blog, I was talking about how John, Ted and I were discussing our next race after we ran Boston Prep. Well, this was the race we all planned on doing. John was still working himself back to 100%, so he decided to be a spectator with my husband and cheer Ted and I on while we braved the cold and the wind (Hampton Beach is no picnic in the winter, friends).

Sunday the 21st comes and we're ready to go. We get in the car and head to the beach for my little jaunt up and down the coastline. Through a couple of text messages, we're able to locate John and Ted in the Ashworth hotel. After a brief stop at the pre-registration table, I have my number on and am ready to rock and roll. I had asked Coach whether or not it was necessary to warm-up prior to a half-marathon (I had never done that before) and he suggested I prepare just like I would for a track workout...which meant yes, Cyndi, you will warm-up for 10-15 minutes.

Ted was a willing participant, so he and I set off to jog around for a little bit before the start. This was only the second time I had met him, but it was clear we were hitting it off. He and John were becoming fast friends and it appeared that he and I weren't too far behind. Did you ever just meet someone and it seems as though you've known each other forever? Well, it was kind of like that. So, we chatted about various stuff as we warmed up. He was exactly one month out from his first marathon in LA, so this was going to be a good test to see where he was, fitness wise and speed wise. Truly, he didn't really know what he was capable of, yet. Then again, neither did I.

John and Ted had asked me what my goal for the race was. I always had the habit of keeping that information close to the vest. I sort of act nonchalant, brush it off and say, "Ah, I'll just see how I feel. I just want to run for fun." However, that's not entirely true. I am a perfectionist who has had challenges with an intense fear of failure. I am more competitive than I'll admit to anyone and want to PR everytime I run a race (shhhhh, don't tell anyone my dirty little secret).

My 1/2 marathon PR was 1:47:19, set in April of 2007 in Newmarket NH at the Great Bay Half Marathon. This was about one year before I was to run my first MARATHON, so I had definitely evolved a bit as a runner since then. I didn't really know what to expect as far as the weather or my conditioning at this distance, so being noncommittal about the time goal seemed like the best approach.

We jogged back to John and Michael, received one more "good luck" from them and headed out to the start line. This was a chip timed race, which means that your official time doesn't really start until you run over the timing mat. It's nice to start as close to the front of the pack as possible, but having the chip sort of takes the pressure off. Plus, I knew that Ted was planning to run a faster time than I was and it would be nice to start together, even if we didn't stay together long.

Ready, set and go! We were off and running. As predicted, I didn't see much of Ted, but that is okay (see my previous blog post for my "running your own race" philosophy). My first mile was an 8:10, which made me happy. I guess that whole "warming up first" thing really works after all (thanks, Coach). Miles 2 and 3 were identical 8:05 miles. Looks like I was settling into a rhythm quite nicely. But, I still had 10 miles to go.

Along the way, I tried to maintain my composure and stay relaxed. Basically, I attempted to channel my 2009 Philadelphia Marathon demeanor. I slowed up a bit in mile 4, but made it back in the 5th mile by running a 7:52.

Once I hit the halfway mark, I started feeling a bit anxious, but I was able to keep myself under control. I cruised to the 8 mile mark in style, running that lap in 7:59. Only 5.1 miles to go.

Now THIS is where the wind decided to make its presence known.

Of course, we are running by the water (it being the beach and all) and the wind can be pretty brutal. I averaged an 8:16 pace over the next three miles which was pretty respectable considering. I was starting to get tired and in my head a little too much. But, I pressed on. I knew I would see John and Michael right around mile 12, so that would give me a nice boost.

And, boy did it ever.

I ran mile 12 in 8:10. I was picking up speed! I only had 1.1 miles to go. Then, I saw them standing off on the side walk and I knew I was close. I could do this. The question remained: just how fast could I do this???

Mile 13 was a sub 8 minute mile...a 7:53 mile to be exact! I could see the finish! Digging down deep I gave it all I had, averaging a 7:41 pace for the last tenth. I crossed the line with an official time of 1:47:21. I was only 2 seconds off my 1/2 marathon PR which made me happy and slightly frustrated at the same time...happy because I was able to match my previous best...disappointed because, well, if I could run the last 1.1 miles under an 8 minute pace, that must mean I held back for fear guessed it...FAILING. More on that later.

Now it was time to find Ted. After a few minutes, I spotted him in the crowd and made my way over. We hugged and congratulated each other. He ran an impressive time of 1:38:20; nine whole minutes ahead of me! But, it was all good. I was very excited for him. We had both run well and it was time for, well, you guessed it...BEER!!!

We headed back to the Ashworth for the post-race party. Smuttynose was providing delicious draft beer so of course, we camped out by that table. Eventually, John and Michael found us and joined us in a frosty beverage. We drank beer, shared our race experiences, and had lots of laughs. I was glad to have race #2 in the bag and looked forward to five days of r&r in sunny Florida.

The next racing challenge was a mere 14 days away: the 31st annual Stu's 30K in Clinton, MA.

And all three of us would be running it this time. Not only that, but the "Boston Qualifying Quest" via a spring marathon in Burlington, Vermont was about to take a very interesting turn...

Monday, June 14, 2010

The HILLS are alive with the sound of runners...

When we last left our heroine, she was getting ready to run the Boston Prep 16 mile road race in Derry, NH. She was with her friends, John and Christine, and was introduced to John's new friend, Ted.

Okay, I'll stop talking about myself in the third person.

We all made our way to the start, which was about a 1/4 mile walk from where we were. Sometimes, just making the TREK to the start can be fairly treacherous, as we have to walk up a grassy hill, usually covered in snow and/or ice. My friends and I, boy can we run, but we're not the most graceful people in the world (we all have good stories about "falling down" while running).

The gun goes off and we do too. The first mile was pretty slow, 9:45 to be exact, but we started near the back of the pack and that's to be expected. But, we picked it up from there, averaging about an 8:20 pace over the next three miles. Of course, I knew this race and I knew where the hills were, so I was just biding my time.

Inevitably, John and I got separated after the first 5 or 6 miles, but that was okay. It's always nice to start off with friends, but you have to run your race. Training runs are one thing, but when you pay the money and have a number on you, all bets are off. So, it was all good with me. And, I had the iPod with me, so I could keep myself entertained.

Running by the mile 10 marker, I started getting the anticipatory butterflies about Warner Hill Road. It's one of those things you just have to "get up". I kept telling myself to take short, quick steps and maintain as even of an effort as I could in order to conserve my energy. Lap 11 came in at an 8:53. Brilliant! Lap 12 was a 9:08. I'll take it!!! I knew the last 4 miles would be a whole new ballgame. In other words, the worst of it is over. It's go time.

I rebounded on Lap 13 with an 8:30 mile. I was actually getting stronger post-climb; picking up steam. Lap 14 was even faster (8:27). Lap 15 was indicative of my desire to just "get this bleeping race done", an impressive 8:16. All that remained was one more mile. One more mile and I could breathe a sigh of relief, go inside, get warm and get food!!!

All of a sudden, I turn to my right and who do I see?? John!!! Somehow, he went by me in the beginning, but I must have passed him at some point, because I was in front of him (remember I talked about that whole tunnel vision thing?). He couldn't have come along at a better time. He gave me an extra spring in my step, and I'd like to think I did the same for him. We sprinted to the finish, me coming in at 2:18:29 and him one second behind me (after all, he IS a gentleman...ladies first and all of that). We hugged in sheer elation! How exciting for both of us. In 2009, I ran an official time of 2:25:10 and he came in at 2:28:07. We both had another year of distance running under our belts and it definitely showed.

From there, we set off to find our friends. We caught up with Ted, who ran an impressive 2:14:09. It was impressive because, first of all, he beat us and secondly, because it was the furthest he had ever run before. You see, Ted had only begun racing last August. Yes, only five months ago (don't people like that just piss you off? Just kidding, Ted). In fact, he was training for his first marathon, the LA marathon, which he was running on 3/21.

Once inside, we focused on putting back all the calories we had burned plus more, I'm sure. We talked about our own individual experiences about being on the course and how it felt for us. That has to be one of the high points of being a runner. The camaraderie. You can show up at a race and go up to any number of people and strike up a conversation like you've known them forever. It's such a strong bond that only other runners understand. It's an amazing feeling when you connect with another person like that.

We talked about what the next race on the horizon would be. As it turned out, we were all setting our sights on the "Half at the Hamptons" which was a 13.1 mile excursion on Hampton Beach. No bathing suits required, folks. This was taking place on Sunday, February 21st.'s New England...and it's February...and it's WINTER!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Now what?

So, I did it.

Cyndi got that Hartford monkey off of her back by completing the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon, AND got a PR to boot (3:47:46, which was 4 minutes and 24 seconds faster than my previous best, but who's counting). Believe me folks, I CELEBRATED this one. I basked in the glory of my accomplishment. I relaxed. I ate a TON. I SLEPT LATE every day for a week.

Hey, it was Thanksgiving break and I was on vacation. Cut me some slack, would ya??

All things must come to and end, and that included my 10 day holiday in the Mid-Atlantic region. It was time to head home. And, it was time to answer the question: so, now what?

Cyndi, wait a just completed a MARATHON. What do you mean "now what?" You're done. You did it. Right?


Well, not exactly.

A wise person once said you are not ready to run your next marathon until you have forgotten your last one (might have been Frank Shorter, but don't quote me on this one). Well, it didn't take long for me to look ahead to the next one. Now what? Where do we go from here? I mean, I still had my Coach. And, more importantly, I still had that goal to qualify for Boston.

Look, I ran Boston two years in a row for charity which, I must say, was a very fulfilling experience. In that time, I made friends with lots of people in the marathon biz. I know if it was just a matter of wanting to run Boston, I could have snagged a spot on a charity team and gone for a three peat. But, that wasn't it. That wasn't it at all.

I promised myself that the next time I ran the Boston Marathon, it would be as a qualified runner. It would be because I proved to the BAA and the world at large that I, Cynthia Ann Keough Springford, could and DID run a marathon in under 3 hours 45 minutes and 59 seconds (they give you a little cushion...mighty nice of them). Even if I never ran that marathon again...even if I never WANTED to run that marathon again...I wanted to know I COULD. If I wanted to. And I made a promise.


I wouldn't feel right going back on a promise I made to someone else, let alone myself. I would continue. I was going to keep my desire alive. I was going to train for another marathon in the spring. I was going to qualify for that @#$*& marathon.

While I trained for Boston '09, I ran with my girl, Christine, who gets lots of face time in my blog (for good reason...she is quite a character). But, there was another very important person involved in my training as well. His name is John. He is my friend, training partner and, well, just an all around great guy. He is like a brother to me. Now, I happen to already have a brother who, oddly enough, was the one who introduced me to John in the first place! So, Cyndi has two brothers now. The more the merrier.

John had some challenges with his foot as he trained for Boston. His training was affected towards the end. He ran Boston and finished, which was awesome, but it took him longer than he hoped it would. So, I took my chances to see if he'd be interested in throwing his hat back in the 26.2 ring. I mean, this process is time consuming and takes a lot of energy. But, when you go through it with someone else who is working towards the same goal, it just seems extra...special. And John is special, so I figured who better to go down this road with me than him?

At the time, I was trying to decide between two marathons: the NJ Marathon in Long Branch on May 2nd and the Keybank Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT on May 30th, which happened to be Memorial Day weekend. I picked NJ because it looked like it'd be a fast and flat course. Plus, those of you who have been reading from the beginning and paying attention know why I picked NJ of all states. Now, Vermont is a different story. I have heard stories from people who have done that race. All I hear is how wonderful it fun and awesome Burlington is...etc., etc., etc. Christine ran Vermont herself back in 2005, I think, and loved it. So, I ran them both by John, to see if either one of them struck a chord. I figured if he decided his heart (and foot) wasn't in it, I could just enter the NJ marathon and have the cousins hang out and watch me run. Either way, I was doing a marathon in the spring.

So, one cold night in December, John came over for a run. As we were going through one of the neighborhoods near my house that we frequently ran through, he told me that he had been thinking about the spring marathon proposition I posed and, in particular, the Vermont City Marathon. Then, he said, "Cyndi, let's get you your 3:45. This is going to be all about you. We're going to get you your BQ." I was floored. He was actually going to train with me and then RUN with me, pacing me...motivating me...encouraging me...supporting me! I was beyond excited! We shook on it and it was done. Vermont was a go.

I told Coach about my choice and he was about as tickled pink as I was! He said he was SO familiar with this venue. It just so happened to be one of his favorite vacationing spots. Not only that, but he has coached many for this particular event and said it was a good choice! Now, I have a training partner, a pacer and a pat on the head from Coach. Everything was falling into place. It was also good because Philly was late in the fall marathon season. Vermont is also late in the spring marathon season. So, I had six months between races...a little bit more. That gave me plenty of time to train, taper and be ready.

So, we started training. One of the training runs we did last year for Boston was the infamous Boston Prep 16 miler in Derry, NH. If I have any local New England runners reading this, perhaps a little chill ran up your spine upon seeing that last line. For those of you that don't know what the Boston Prep 16 miler is, let me educate you.

First of all, they call it "Moderately Challenging".

Hmmmm. I beg to differ.

The largest hill in the race is on Warner Hill Road. The climb starts at about 10.5 miles in and you don't really crest the hill until about 12.2 miles. Once you get to mile 13, it's mostly flat, even slightly downhill if you look at the elevation profile, until you get to the finish. But, the question is: how will you be FEELING by mile 13??? That hill can really beat you up. And to have already run over 10 miles before you even GET there? Not for the faint of heart, trust me.

Secondly, the big factor in this race is the temperature. It always seems to fall on the last Sunday in January. If you want to train for Boston, which is in April, you have to run through the winter. And, if you live in New England, you are bound to have some cold, snowy, icy days. I remember the first year I did this race (2007) it was 17 degrees at the start. 17 degrees!!! I was still new to distance running and wore my fuel belt over my jacket instead of under. Needless to say, my water froze. I learned a valuable lesson that day (use your body heat to keep your water from freezing)!!!

I have always had a love/hate relationship with this race. It's's hilly...I'm just a big old baby...blah, blah, blah.

But, do I do it every year? Hell, yeah.

So, John and I signed up. We figured we'd see how we feel at the start, run together for a while and then if one of us was feeling good and wanted to pick it up, so be it. Before you know, it, race day was here.

Before the start, we were all hanging out inside the elementary school, staying warm until the last possible moment. My friend, Christine, signed up for this race also, so I got a chance to see and catch up with her, which was nice. She was already registered for 2010 Boston, so she was in full blown marathon training mode. John showed up shortly afterwards with his new friend, Ted. John ran a race back in September and was playing cat and mouse with some guy. John would speed up, then this guy would...then John would...then this guy would. After the race, the "guy" in question came up to John to introduce himself, shake his hand and say thank you for the push. As a result, they both ran the race of their lives. And, they became friends on the spot.

Remember that name, Ted.

It's a very important name.

Because he is going to become a HUGE player in the story.

Which, I'll continue in my next entry. :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Previously...on Cyndi's Blog...

Let's pick it back up with the story of my DNF at the 2009 ING Hartford Marathon. Once I finally located my red car, I exited the garage and began the 2+ hour journey homeward. Alone. The not so fun part was returning phone calls and texts from curious, yet caring, people wanting to know "how it went" because, of course, Cyndi had to tell EVERYONE in the free world what she was doing on October 10th. That rated right up there with my annual visit to the gynecologist and getting my wisdom teeth extracted. But, it had to be done.

Then, I called my Coach to break the news. Both of us didn't see this coming. The training was spot on and it's not like this was my first time out. I mean, I HAD done a marathon before...three of them! And, I'm a group fitness instructor/personal trainer and have been for well over a decade.

I have muscles.
I have endurance.
I'm fit, dammit!

To Coach's credit, he was very encouraging and helped me sort through what had happened out there. He didn't shower me with pity, but he didn't call me a worthless and weak maggot either. After I told him the whole story I asked, "do I just take the rest of the year off to recover and regroup or should I get back on the horse?" Without missing a beat, Coach replied, "get back on the horse. Absolutely."

You see, because I didn't actually FINISH the marathon, I could conceivably jump into another marathon 4-6 weeks out from the one I had attempted to complete. Hartford would just be considered a hard 18 miler. Little did I know that I made the best possible choice by dropping out when I did. Here I thought I was an out of shape failure (okay, well, maybe I still thought that, but only a little). Turns out I was bordering on genius (slightly exaggerating here, but you get the point).

The only question remained: which one? Lots of people had already pre-registered for their fall marathons, myself included. And, many of the races were filled to capacity. There was the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA, but that was only 8 days out from Hartford. Then, there was the Manchester City Marathon in Manchester, NH, but that had more hills than we had prepared for. What to do???

We decided on the Philadelphia Marathon on November 22nd. It gave me almost six weeks to sort of recover, build up and then taper again. Also, as luck would have it, I was ALREADY flying into Philadelphia for the Thanksgiving holiday to see family in New Jersey (Philly is only an hour from where my cousin lives). Changing my flight was a breeze and cost me nothing. Plus, I had free lodging. This was getting better by the second. Thankfully, I was able to get a number and officially registered. I felt somewhat redeemed and, hopeful, even. I was going to get another shot at this.

So, back into marathon mode I went. I still entertained the notion of running a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time at Philly. Hey, why not?? I mean, I certainly couldn't do any worse than Hartford, could I?

About 7-10 days out from Philadelphia, the official word came down: Registration for the 2010 Boston Marathon is closed. The race is sold out. I almost couldn't believe it. I mean, technically, I could qualify for Boston at Philly and it would be good in 2011, but I mean, come on!!! Really? REALLY???? Usually, people can still get slots for Boston by December! This was...unprecedented! And rather annoying.

After hearing the news, I thought about my strategy for the marathon. At this point, I figured I had nothing to lose. I wasn't going to get into Boston next spring anyway. I was already registered for Philadelphia. It was a chance for me to run a new course and enjoy an extended vacation with my family. And, I needed to do this. I had to come out of this whole process with a medal. I wanted to salvage my season. Now, the primary goal was no longer to "qualify for Boston". Now, the goal was to FINISH, preferably in a respectable amount of time. I owed myself that much.

I suppose now is a good time to mention that I was darkening my physical therapist's doorstep at least twice a week to work on some major knots in my right hamstring and calf, which was causing my patella to slide all over the place. Just thought I would add to the intrigue. :-)

I flew out early on Saturday morning, November 21. My cousin, Scott, was there to greet me at the airport. We retrieved my baggage and off to the expo we went. In record time, I went in, got my race bag, timing chip, bib #, and got out. We did a little sightseeing around the Reading Terminal Market, which was kind of neat. Then, homeward to Jersey.

Scott's sister, Laurie, had already offered to drive me into Philly for the start of the race. She figured it'd be a nice little adventure for us and something new for her. She could walk around and scope out the sights while I was running. You've got to love someone who offers to get up at 4 a.m. on a Sunday for you. She's a great cousin...and a great lady.

We woke up early the next day and headed into the city. We had a few parking areas to choose from so we programmed one of the addresses into the GPS and hoped for the best. As you can imagine, we saw plenty of runners in the vicinity, so it wasn't too hard to find where we were going. But boy, was it cold! The marathon was a 7 a.m. start and we were there by 5:30ish or so. My cousin was walking around with a blanket around her, shivering. I kept joking around, calling her Grandma. Thankfully, she has a good sense of humor.

We found our way to the start and, of course, the port-a-potties: a marathon runner's best friend. After standing in line for what seemed like 2 days, I said my goodbyes to my dear cousin and attempted to find my corral, which was designated by color. I wasn't sure where mine was exactly, but, hey, it's a chip timed race. All I gotta do is line up with people wearing numbers. How hard can that be??

I waded my way through the crowd and found a spot to stand in. As I'm waiting for the gun, a young lady turns around, looks at me, and says, "wow, you look like a REAL runner!". I chuckled, patted her on the back and replied, "it's the sleeves." Hey, if I wasn't going to set the world on fire that day, at least I LOOKED the part.

Finally the race got underway. I ran. And I ran. And I RAN! I decided to wear my iPod for some tunes, but I also made a conscious effort to power it on and off so I could take in my surroundings. I tend to get major tunnel vision when I run. I just zone in on the area directly in front of me and I miss everything else. However, this time was going to be different. This one was for giggles. I was going to savor it. I was going to take it all in.

We ran through some downtown areas in the beginning, but also enjoyed some pretty scenery. We even ran by the Philadelphia Zoo! How cool is that???

Things began to thin out a bit, once the half-marathoners broke off towards the finish line while we continued towards mile 14. Believe me, the prospect of running only 13.1 was tempting, but I was definitely on marathon pace. Nah, I was doing this.

Halfway there.
Just go with the flow, Cyndi.
Go downstream and put one foot in front of the other.
Relax and let the race come to you.

So, I did.

I continued to turn the music on and off for variety. I looked around to take in my surroundings. I made a concerted effort to give fellow runners words of encouragement and the occasional "pat on the back". The miles continued to pass and I kept on moving.

Somewhere around mile 19, people were handing out beer. Yuengling, to be exact. Notice I said "mile 19". 7.2 miles short of the finish line. No way, Jose. Au Contraire, Mon Frere. I'm having all I can do to keep the gu down. Now you want me to drink some beer too??? I'll pass.

Towards the end, I ran out of water. At the time, I ran with a fuel belt, thinking it would allow me to avoid the crowded water stops. But, 32 ounces of water isn't enough for this chick. At least not for 3-4 hours of running.

I ran, I stopped, I drank, I ran again. Just keep moving, Cyndi. Just keep moving.

I found a nice guy to run with for a while. I figured I would try to stay with him as long as I could. It was a nice boost, especially during the last 10K of the race. Towards the end, we got separated, but it gave me the "oomph" I needed to keep going.

Finally, the finish line was in sight. I gave it everything I had and crossed the line. Now, I was done. Now, I could rest. Not only could I rest, but I could celebrate.

I ran an official time of 3:47:46. I took almost 5 minutes off of my previous best time.

Now, remember, I needed a 3:45 or better to qualify for Boston. But, nothing and no one could take this victory away from me. This was redemption. Marathon #4. Like Hartford 6 weeks before, I was relieved it was over. But, I was happier than I had been in a long time.

You might think that this is the end of the story.


It's not. :-)

We're only in November! It's June, for heaven's sake. Once again, to be continued...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!!!

It's been a very long time since I blogged. Theoretically, I only started this blog after a special person (and one of my greatest teachers in this life--possibly more on that later) suggested it might help with my 2009 Boston Marathon fundraising. Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. But, it was good for me and many people I know enjoyed reading it.

Well, at least that's what they told me.

Soooooooo, what exactly has been going on in the past 13 months???

I don't have much ranting to do, and everything from the first to the last word COULD be construed as rambling, so might as well talk about the rebuilding and the running.

As I recovered from my 2009 Boston experience, I went through lots of highs and lows, not so much physical, but emotional. I wasn't particularly happy at the time. For one thing, I was less than pleased with my non-qualifying time of 3:59:59 (although it IS pretty sweet that I snuck in under 4 hours) and, for another, I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to STOP comparing myself to other people who were running/racing better and expecting nothing short of perfection from myself. Truly, it was quite exhausting.

And, I'm sure, most annoying for those who claim to love me unconditionally. I happen to have a lot of really, REALLY good friends. Salt of the earth types. I won't say I don't deserve them, but at the time, I wasn't being worthy of them.

Days turned into weeks, and things weren't really improving. I was walking, talking, working, running and living life, but I wasn't me...the me that I know as me...the me that I am meant to be.


That me.

I decided that I really DID want to run, though, and continue my quest to qualify for "the big show". I wasn't 100% convinced at this time that I wanted to be a "marathon runner", but that was secondary to "just wanting to do it, already...even if I never run that bleeping Boston Marathon again...I just want to know that I BELONG there."

The icing on the cake came on May 24, 2009 when a dear friend of mine saw her husband, Carl, pass away after battling a brain tumor for seven years. When people lose a loved one, you just want to ease their pain and are usually willing to do just about anything in the process. So, before I knew it, I told her I wanted to do a fall marathon and dedicate it to her late husband, while raising money for the American Brain Tumor Association and increasing awareness about his condition. So, on the road I went. Time to do marathon #4.

After realizing that I had NO objectivity whatsoever when it came to myself (I mean, really, WHO does), I decided that I wanted to get a running coach. Hey, if therapists could have therapists, then why can't a personal trainer/group fitness instructor have a running coach?? Besides, I haven't had to pay a gym membership in well over a decade due to my vocation, so it was easy to pony up the $.

My friend and running partner referred me to a coach with a GREAT reputation, not only as a runner, but as a mentor and teacher. For a nominal fee, I would receive a schedule in my email each week outlining how many days I would run, how many miles and at what intensity. The guesswork was completely taken out of it. I was no longer responsible for designing my training. And, I have to say, that was a major relief...even though I have a tendency to be a bit of a control freak. Besides, if I crashed and burned, it could be SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT and, as we all know, blame feels a LOT better than guilt.

I set my sights on the 2009 ING Hartford Marathon on October 10th and let Coach know my goal was to run 3:45 or better (which is what a female 35-39 would need to run in order to qualify for Boston). My previous best marathon time was 3:52 at the 2008 Maine marathon, so I figured 7 minutes should be easy. I was self-coached then, after all. Now that I have my running "genie in a bottle" so to speak, this should be a gimme.

I trained.
And I trained.
And I T-R-A-I-N-E-D!!! Track workouts, the likes of which I had NEVER seen. Long runs in excess of 22-23 miles at the peak of the marathon training cycle. I didn't miss a beat. Didn't miss a workout. It was TEXTBOOK!

Race Day was rapidly approaching. The good news was, a dear friend of mine happened to be running the 1/2 at Hartford while I was running the full, so I would have a traveling companion and a hotel roommate. Things seemed to be falling perfectly into place. I began to taper and, before I knew it, the date on the calendar was Friday, October 9.

I drove to my friend, Paula's, house on that afternoon, picked her up, and off to Hartford we went. After battling the Friday traffic on the Mass Pike and I-84, we arrived at our destination. Check in was a breeze, so off to the expo we went, in search of our bib #'s, timing chips and race bags. We enjoyed a nice pasta dinner together, and had lots of laughs as I coerced her to help me put as much ice from the ice machine in a trash bag for my pre-marathon ice bath (this was Coach's idea, just so we're clear...NOT mine).

The next morning, we were up and at 'em. Paula was doing the 1/2 with Team NF (Neurofibromatosis), so she headed down to meet her teammates. I was standing at the front desk waiting for a clerk so I could hand off our room key while I did my race. A woman came up next to me and asked me if I was doing the race. I told her that I was. I'm not quite sure what she said next, but whatever it was prompted this response from me:

"Well, I always finish."

THAT I remember.

And THAT is a very important part of the story as you will soon see.

We headed out to Bushnell Park for the start of the marathon. As luck would have it, the 1/2 and full marathoners would be together for the first few miles before they broke off from us, so I could hang with Paula after the gun went off. For insurance purposes, I decided to look for the 3:45 pace leader. I mean, I HAD this, but hey, it couldn't hurt. Once we located him, I asked what his race strategy was, to which he replied, "to run even splits." Awesome.

The gun went off and so did we!!!

Paula and I were together for the first mile or two. Eventually, we became separated from each other and I focused on the back of the 3:45 pace leader. As the first few miles passed, it was becoming clear that our esteemed leader wasn't quite running even splits. For a 3:45 marathon, you would want to average an 8:35/mile. I was averaging an 8:21/mile after the first 6 miles. I started to panic a little bit and tried to reel it in. I tried to dial it back a little and focus on pacing.

Now, remember. I TRAINED. Track workouts. Long runs. But, the voices in the head started, right around mile 11. I started thinking, "Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this". But, I had to! I was doing it for Carl! I was doing it with a Coach! Everything was supposed to be perfect this time!!! I was ready!!!

The voices weren't getting any quieter and I wasn't feeling any better. Somewhere between miles 17 and 18, I decided to try walking for a little bit, just to see if it would help. I took some water and another gu packet and kept moving. Then, I resumed running. But, I had waited too long. By the time I decided to try and run again, my heart and my legs knew it was over. My desire, my drive, my motivation...all gone.

I saw a police car parked at an intersection and made the choice at that moment to drop out. The official distance on my GPS watch when I stopped was 17.93 miles.

The police man was very nice and accommodating. He let me sit in the back of his cruiser once he was reassured that there was nothing medically wrong with me while I waited for a ride back to the hotel. He even gave me a can of coke. And, I gotta tell that moment, it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted in my entire LIFE!!! And I was RELIEVED; relieved that it was over and glad I didn't have to run anymore.

Finally, the shuttle driver came, scooped me up and brought me back with a handful of other runners who decided that today was not going to be the day they crossed the finish line. I made my way back to the hotel, called Paula to let her know what happened, made a few other phone calls and got myself showered. After checkout, I wandered aimlessly around the parking garage for what seemed like hours in a desperate attempt to find where I parked my car. All the blood must have still been in my quads or something. Truthfully, the reality of the situation was beginning to set in and the relief I had felt upon stopping soon turned into regret, bitter disappointment and crushing sadness.

...and that's all the time we have for today. :-)

I forgot JUST how much time has passed and all the stuff that's happened since my last blog entry.

To BE continued.