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Thursday, July 29, 2010

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto

After the feeding frenzy I spoke of last time, things were pretty much business as usual. I ran almost 8 miles the following day, which was Wednesday, and taught an hour long spinning class, bringing my estimated daily caloric burn to 1100 kcal. I like counting the calories I EXPEND, not CONSUME. :-)

On Thursday, 4/29, I was supposed to do a track workout. These track workouts are long. Very long. This one in particular was a beauty. Here, I'll share it with you:

Warm up 16 minutes (arbitrary #, but okay, I'll do it).

5 x 400 at 1:55 with 60 sec rest
400 at 1:55 - Go right into a Mile (no stopping)
Mile at 8:20-8:30 ( 2:05-2:07 )
1 lap jog after mile
4 x 400 at 1:52 with 75-90 sec rest after each
400 at 1:52- Go right into 1200 ( no stopping )
1200 ( 3 laps ) at 2:05-2:07 a lap
200 meter jog after the 1200
4 x 400 at 1:50 with 90 sec rest after each
400 at 1:50 - Go right into 800
800 at 4:10-4:15 with cool down

Cool down 15 minutes

Lot of numbers there, eh? Kind of gives you a popsicle headache just looking at it, right? The good thing, for me anyway, is that I've been with Coach at this point for nine months. In that time, I have learned how to decode his "coach speak".

I remember this workout, specifically for two reasons, which I'll explain.

Usually, I like to run in the morning. When I have track workouts to do, it's best to get there between 5 and 6 a.m. Sounds grossly early, I know, but this was the end of April and the kiddos were still in school. If I didn't get done by 7:30 a.m., I ran the risk of getting swarmed by hormone crazed teenagers in the first period phys-ed class.


So, I sacrifice one morning of sleep in order to have the track to myself. Every now and again, there will be some random person running or walking while I do my workout, but most of the time, it's just me. However, this particular week, a morning workout wasn't feasible because I had to be at work at 6 a.m. One could argue that I could have gotten to the track at 3:30 a.m., but seriously folks, who does that??? It's challenging enough to get up at 4:30 a.m. to be at work for 6 a.m. I would have to do it in the afternoon.

Which would have been fine under normal circumstances.

But, as I'm sure you've already guessed, these were not.

It was an abnormally windy day out. We're talking, like 40 mph wind gust abnormal. However, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun shone brightly. I've run in the cold. I've run 21 miles. I've run in the rain. I've run 21 miles IN the rain.

I was a badass. Or so I thought.

After work, I went home to change, grab the GPS and headed to the track. On the highway, my car was getting blown around like crazy, but I didn't think too much of it. That's what happens when you're cruising down Route 495 doing 80 on a windy day (are there any cops reading this???).

I got out of my car and nearly got blown over. And I'm not a tiny person either. It was THAT windy. Then, I put my water bottle on the roof of my car. Frickin' thing blew off and started rolling down the parking lot. I had to chase after my water bottle. Craziness. But, I figured, how bad could it be once I got moving? Maybe it would subside.

Well, I found out. I did my 5-6 laps around the track to warm-up. I started running with the wind at my back. Pretty great.

Then, I got to the opposite side of the track.

Not so great.

At times, I wasn't even sure I was moving forward anymore. It felt as if someone had a huge rubber band around my waist and was pulling me back while I tried to get away. It was THAT windy. Reason number one.

Now, for reason number two.

After 12-13 minutes of this, I came to the conclusion that it was going to be quite a challenge to hit all of my splits with the wind gusting like it was. I did my 15 minute warm-up and decided to get the @%$# out of there.

I was treadmill bound.


Once upon a time, I didn't mind the treadmill. At times, I almost preferred it. I guess you could say I was a fair weather runner in the beginning. In fact, I used to split my time fairly evenly between outside and inside the first few years I ran. Then, gradually, it became less and less appealing to me. I would layer more when it was cold. I would wear a jacket and hat if it rained. I would plan my run on hot days early or late in the day.

Having said all that, you can imagine how windy it had to have been for me to pick the treadmill on a sunny day. But, this wasn't just a easy paced training run around the neighborhood. This was a track workout and, I gotta tell you, I didn't see much of a difference between running around the oval 35-40 times and making like a hamster for 75-80 minutes. No one can tell me, with a straight face, that they run at the track for the endorphins or "zen like" experience of being in the great outdoors.

I chose the latter. Between the iPod, closed captioning on the TV's and the interesting cast of characters that paraded in and out of the gym during my run, I managed to log 9-10 miles without dying of boredom. Okay, so I didn't slug it out in the gusty wind. However, running in place for that long requires a certain level of mental toughness. There is only so much one can be distracted by watching tv or people. I mean, you kind of have to focus on staying on the belt, particularly when it's going between 7.5-8.5 mph.

I've seen people wipe out on a treadmill. It's not pretty, folks.

So, I'm good with the decision I made and don't regret choosing the treadmill. I still got my workout in and sweat like a fiend. It was a win win.

And I was STILL a badass.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We now return to our regularly scheduled program already in progress

After running the Country Roads 5K on 4/24, I stayed in NJ for a few more days to rest, relax, reminisce and run (ever notice I kinda got a "thing" for "r" words??). I ended up flying home very early on Tuesday, April 27th. My plane landed in Manchester at 8:05 a.m. My husband picked me up and brought me home so I could jump right in my car and go back to work.

How's THAT for dedication???

It's always nice to come home; not because I get to go back to work (although things are a-okay on the career front), but I get to see my pals. I had invited John and Ted over to my place for a 6 p.m. run around my fair city (okay, so we're not exactly big enough to be called a city). The three of us went for a 6ish mile run on the main streets and back roads of the lovely place I call home. The run is always fun for us. We enjoy the challenge, we enjoy the fellowship and we enjoy the sheer joy of movement.

But, you know what else we love?

Mai Tais.

And Chinese food that could probably survive a nuclear holocaust.

You only live once, as far as we know, so might as well enjoy it.

After we got cleaned up from our run, my husband came home from a long day of lawn care. We told him of our devious plan to partake in cocktails and crab rangoon. It took a little arm twisting, but he decided to come along for the ride.

The four of us went to our favorite "hole in the wall" place where the lighting is dim and the drinks are strong. We took a booth in the bar area and waited for the bartender to come over.

Now, I must say this isn't the first time that John, my husband, and I have frequented this establishment for food and drink as a group. Au contraire, mon frere. We've been a few times and had our order down to a science: beef teriyaki, some variation of lo mein, scallion pancakes, crab rangoon and spring rolls (John and I are husband, not so much). Whenever we go, we always end up having food to take home (most of the time, we coerce John to take it so he can "enjoy it" for another day or so).

After noticing us, the bartender took our drink order and left us menus so we could pick out what we wanted. We looked it over and then decided to go with the tried and true. If it's not broken, don't fix it, right? Besides, we figured if Ted enjoyed running and our company, he probably would eat what we ate too. So, when Carlos the bartender (I know, an Asian man named Carlos working at a Chinese restaurant...I don't get it either) came back to take our order, we rattled it off as fluently as a military man would recite his name, rank and serial # when asked.

While we waited for our food to arrive, we tried to talk about things other than running. I mean, John, Ted and I are pretty single minded in regards to this particular subject and can prattle on for hours on end. Hubby is a good sport, but there is only so much of it he can relate to since he wasn't training for a marathon, nor does he plan to. Ever. Thankfully, we managed to find more neutral topics of conversation as we sipped our mai tais.

Carlos came back moments later with our food. We ate, drank and talked. Ate, drank, and talked. Ate. Drank. Talked.

And then, the unthinkable happened.

It was gone. All of it. The food. All gone.


Not a noodle or speck of spring roll remained. We sat back in the booth, amazed that we could actually finish it all. For the first time ever, we wouldn't hear that all important question: would you like to take that home? There was nothing to take home!!!

Our drinks were gone as well. It was time to pay the bill and be on our way. Ted was kind enough to drive, so we all piled in his car. The restaurant is only about two miles from our house, so it was a short ride back. We said our goodbyes to John and Ted, thanking them for their company and off they went.

As I reflected on the day's events (and what a long day it had been), I smiled, thinking about how much fun it was. I know it might seem counterintuitive to some who are physically fit to indulge in Chinese Food and mai tais after a 6 mile run. I mean, I can get down with a tall glass of iced water and a grilled chicken salad as much as the next fitness freak. But it's not so much about what you're eating, really. It's how you feel about what you are doing. Okay, I get it: a calorie is a calorie. But, we were laughing. We were genuinely enjoying each other's company. We were allowing ourselves to indulge in some culinary delights that might not even pass as real food in some places.

But, I loved it. Every second.

Because that, my friends, is living life. It's about being present and in the moment. Sometimes, but not always, those moments involve greasy food and fruity drinks that will knock you on your a$$ if you have one too many. And that's okay. It's okay to throw caution to the wind every now and again and say, "screw it".

They say ignorance is bliss for a reason. I don't know how many calories or chemicals were in my food and drink that night, nor do I want to. I am learning to listen to and trust my body a little bit more, knowing that one night is not going to be a dealbreaker. There is a place in life for nights like those. The root of the word "diet" is "die". Coincidence? I think not.

Carl Jung once said, "what you resist persists". The more you push against something, the more you get what you do not want. The more you deprive yourself and forbid yourself to do or have something, the more you will want to do or have it. It's just the way we are. Accepting, basking, enjoying and relaxing seems like a much better alternative to me, at least. If you are going to do something, you might as well do it and have fun in the process.

Tomorrow, I'll gladly return to the land of lean protein, complex carbs and vegetables.

But, until then, I'm going to enjoy my full belly and slight buzz. :-)

Carpe diem.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where do you go from here?

Today, I'm deviating from my normal blogging pattern.

I'm not going to talk about races, running for beer, earning jackets, or marathon training.

I just want to share some news and observations.

On Monday morning (7/12), I found out that an old friend of mine had sustained a loss over the weekend. Her husband died.

By his own hand. You see, he shot himself.

At the time, they were separated but had planned on trying to work things out. They also have two children under the age of 13.

When something like this happens, most people say things such as, "how selfish of him!" or "how dare he leave his children like that???" or, maybe even, "what a coward."

I'm not going to say any of those things.

But, I will say that I knew him once upon a time. I always found him to be a friendly, nice, generally good guy. I don't know what kind of a husband he was, nor do I know what kind of a father he was. But, none of that really matters anyway, does it? You can put whatever kind of spin you want on it, really. It does nothing to change what happened. We can say all we want that he didn't have to do this; that there was another way out. But, if he believed that, he'd still be here. Obviously, it was the only way out he saw. It was the way out he chose. Like it or not, that's the truth.

When people die, whether it be due to illness or a suicide, we want so much to make sense of it. We have to pigeonhole, categorize, justify and explain. We have to package it up in a nice, neat, little pile and tie a bow around it. It makes us just FEEL better somehow. I don't know why he did what he did. Even his own family cannot speak for him. The only person that can answer that question isn't here anymore. That's the way it is.

What I do know and what I do believe is that life is supposed to be good for all of us. We are supposed to love and be loved. We should travel a path of joy, happiness and well-being. We should embrace our now and live in the moment, cherishing every second of every single day.

So, I won't label, judge, categorize or blame.

I won't analyze, justify or wallow.

Because it won't bring him back or soothe anyone's pain.


I will smile a little more.
I will hug my loved ones a little tighter.
I will kiss them a little longer.
I will strive to love all people unconditionally.
I will find more things to appreciate and complain less often.
I will live my life in a manner pleasing to myself.
I will follow my bliss.
I will take responsibility for my own happiness.

I will live life to the utmost.

That's where I am going to go from here.

May you now rest in peace, friend.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Country Roads, Take Me Home

And that is the first and last time I will ever use a John Denver song as the title of a blog entry.

No offense intended, of course...may he rest.

But, I couldn't help myself.

The next race on my calendar just happened to be the 5th Annual Allies, Inc. Country Roads 5K in Allentown, NJ on Saturday, April 24, 2010, hence the song reference. And it was going to be super special because my cousin, Laurie, would be there running and my cousin, Scott, (her brother) would be there spectating with his daughter and Laur's two munchkins. The race started and ended at Cream Ridge Winery. Let me give them a plug:

I've tasted several varieties of their wine and, well, it's just delicious. So, when I saw they had a race, it was a no brainer. Wine and running, after all, are two of my favorite things in the world.

All you had to do was throw chocolate in there and I would have gone delirious with excitement. Anyone got a cigarette???

Southwest was giving out super cheap airfare too. I got myself a round trip ticket from Manchester to Philadelphia for well under $100, flying out on Thursday, April 22nd and returning early on Tuesday, April 27th. Laur offered to pick me up and drop me off at the airport too. As if I needed another reason to take the trip, it was her birthday on April 23rd. I haven't been able to celebrate her special day with her in a very long time since I'm up here and she's down there. So, it was a trip I couldn't pass up for many, many good reasons.

My flight was departing Manchester at 7 a.m on 4/22, so it was an early to bed, early to rise for Cyndi Lou. My husband was kind enough to drive me to the airport so I didn't have to leave my car in long term parking. Aw.

I arrived in Philly on time and headed to baggage claim, texting my cousin as I walked. Thankfully, I didn't walk into anyone while doing so. As the escalator descended, I caught view of her. We hugged and collected my bag. She introduced me to her friend, Theresa, who came along for the airport ride. My cousin said she wanted to have a girls day, which included going to her favorite flea market. This didn't sound too first.

We drove 30-40 minutes to this place (in Columbus, NJ, I think). We walked around, and around, and around...for what seemed like days. I love my cousin with my whole heart, but apparently, I don't share her love of flea markets. There are just tables and tables and tables of STUFF...and after a while, well, it just all starts to look alike. It's almost as if the producers of the show "Hoarders" took a bunch of random items from the people they feature on their show and just dumped it here, there and everywhere. The only thing that could numb the pain of flea marketing was pizza.

When the girls finally had their fill of "the flea", we hit the road for greener pastures. Not only do the girls like to shop, but they like wine too. Off to Laurita Winery in New Egypt, NJ for a tasting! Aw, what the heck, I'll give them a plug too:

We sampled ten of Laurita's finest offerings; some white, some red, some super fruity. It was a nice way to unwind after the early flight and hours of walking around tables of stuff people were trying to get rid of. We headed back to Laurie's house to see the family. I suited up to go for an easy six mile run. Laurie wasn't up for running that long or far with me, but she opted to bike next to me while I ran.

With one condition.

That I wouldn't laugh when I saw her bike.

I said, "Cuz, that's just ridiculous. Why would I laugh at your bike?"

She replied, "you'll see".

Apparently, she got this bike from freecycle which, as you can surmise, is a way to get free stuff. So, she brings it out of the garage. It was just a big old bike, with big old handlebars. But, I stayed true to my promise and did not laugh. I'm sure her warning me about it being free allowed me to control myself.

So, we were off. She pedaled next to me while I ran a comfortable pace. We chatted and enjoyed the sunshine together. About four miles in, I heard a hissing sound. Laurie just kept talking. I interrupt her mid-sentence.

"Um, cuz, I think you got a flat tire."

She looks at me in mild horror, "No way!"

Then she looked over her shoulder to check it out for herself.

And that is when she heard the hissing sound too.

She exclaimed, "Oh man! Do you think I can make it home??"

I look at my watch and then look at the tire. "Not for two miles, you can't."

So, we opted to take a shortcut back to her house, all the while hoping the bike would make it. Thankfully, it did. I left her there to finish up my run solo. I only had a little over a mile left to do. And I was really looking forward to being alone for a few minutes, so I could get all the laughter out I had been holding in about the bike, the tire and the look on her face.

Come on, admit it. You'd laugh too.

I enjoyed a nice family dinner with her, her husband, Shane, and their two kids. The next day was her birthday. We ended up going to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, which was only about an hour drive from her place. We promised each other to use $20 on the nickel slots. Once it was gone, it was gone. That was it. No more.

We stretched out that money for a good forty-five minutes or so. Just in time for the opening of the Borgata Buffet. For $17.95, you can give yourself a stomachache the likes of which you've never seen. Oh, but it was so worth it. Besides, it was her birthday. Everyone knows that birthday calories don't count.

We headed back to her place and relaxed for a while in the sun, praying lunch would be digested in time for dinner. I like to eat just as much as the next person, but even I have my limits. Thankfully, Shane wasn't going to be home from work until later. Not only did he take us out for dinner, but he and the kids surprised Laurie with a homemade birthday cake.

Now you know why I run so much.

After more eating, drinking and laughing, it was time to turn in. The 5K was at nine in the morning and we wanted to get there in plenty of time. Not only was Laurie doing the race but her friend, John was going to be there as well. From what she told me, he sounded like a pretty good runner. Turns out he ran the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon too, turning in a time of 3:23:23...24 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of me. Sheesh. Pretty sure I wouldn't be running with HIM at all.

We managed to get ourselves and the two kids up and ready in record time. Shane had to work that day, so he wasn't able to join us. He wished us a good run and we took off. After a minor GPS snafu, we arrived at our destination. We spotted my cousin instantly and went over to join him. We all must have looked pretty photogenic, because New Jersey 101.5 just HAD to take our picture for their webpage. They even gave us water bottles for our trouble (see pic above).

Shortly after that, I finally got to meet Laur's friend, John, live and in person.
I may have mentioned this before, but one of the reasons I love being a runner so much is the camaraderie. I had just met John that day, but we already had a bond. We've done a marathon. We "get it". So, it was like reuniting with an old friend. After registration, he and I did a warm-up jog together with a couple of strides at the end. Once we were race ready (which includes one more visit to the portables), we collected my cousin and walked to the start line. The race wasn't chip timed, so John and I positioned ourselves as close to the front as we could.

The race got underway shortly after that. As predicted, I saw John for all of ten seconds, which was fine. I firmly believe in "running your own race". And, I knew going in that he was faster than me. I wasn't sure how hard I was going to push it since I had a long run to do the next day. I told Coach I didn't mind just "running it for fun" if racing it would interfere with the marathon prep. But, before I left for Jersey, Ted encouraged me to "plan to fail" set a goal so outrageous, I didn't think I would meet it. So, I just randomly said, "okay, I plan to break 22 minutes". I didn't really think I'd do that since my speed focus was for marathon, not 5K, training.

I guess you could say I had Coach on one shoulder and Ted on the other. Somewhere after mile one, I decided to push the pace and just run as hard as I could. Screw it. I'm already here. Might as well see what I got in the tank. And that is exactly what I did (sorry, Coach). About halfway through the race, I noticed an older gentleman about 10-15 feet in front of me, wearing a 2010 Boston Marathon shirt. I fixed my gaze on him and made him my pacer.

Just keep looking at him, Cyndi. Keep him in your sights.

Country Roads, Take Me Home. Boston 2010, take me home.

Unfortunately, I don't have the GPS stats handy to share with you, but I'm happy to say that I crossed the finish line in under 22 minutes. I planned to fail, just like Ted suggested. And it worked! I saw John and he gave me a big hug, congratulating me on a good race. We decided to work a cooldown run into a recon mission to find my cousin. We jogged in the reverse direction until we spotted her and then ran her in. It was so much fun to see her cross the finish line. Her kids were on the sidelines too, cheering loudly for her as she finished. Something like that is almost sweet enough to make me reconsider having children.


The powers that be posted the race results, so we walked over to look at our times. John ran 19:10 and came in 1st for M4049. I ran 21:53 and took 2nd for F3039. Laurie came in 223 out of 260 runners with a great time of 35:14. I was so proud of her.

While we waited for the awards to be given out, I went over to Boston 2010 and introduced myself. I thanked him for being my unofficial pace car and told him about my quest to qualify for Boston. His name was Rudy and he lived in New Jersey. We talked about running for quite a while. Again, that whole camaraderie thing.

Finally, they gave out the age group awards. I collected a 2nd place certificate and received $10 worth of coupons for Dunkin' Donuts. Not bad for a day's work, eh? Before leaving the winery, we celebrated with a couple glasses of wine in the parking lot. It's like tailgating for cultured people. I exchanged numbers with John so we could stay in touch. Currently, he is training for the 2010 Chicago marathon. I have no doubt that he'll rock that thing.

Laurie suggested we get going before everyone was too drunk to drive, so we said our goodbyes to John and got on those country roads one final time. Because, it was time.

Time to enjoy being with my family for the rest of the weekend.
Time to go home. :-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The loneliness of the long distance runner

I love google.

How did we ever function without it? What did we do instead; go to the library? Or, I'll do you one better, go to the bookshelf and get an ENCYCLOPEDIA???


The only "pedia" I like is wikipedia. And it states:

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a short story by Alan Sillitoe which was published in 1959 as part of a short story collection of the same name. The work focuses on Colin, a poor Nottingham teenager from a dismal home in a blue-collar area, who has bleak prospects in life and few interests beyond petty crime. The boy turns to long-distance running as a method of both an emotional and a physical escape from his situation.

So, now you know where that phrase comes from. I know I was curious.

After Great Bay, I was race free on the calendar until April 24th. But, I still had those pesky long runs to do in preparation for the Vermont City Marathon on May 30th. Coach gave me a 21 miler to do on Saturday, April 17th. For the first time in a while, I was going this alone. All of my go to running peeps were otherwise occupied. Christine had her Girls Inc. 5K on that day. She is the race director/organizer. In addition, she was running the Boston Marathon on Monday. I am sure she didn't think a 21 mile run 48 hours before was a good idea. As for Jeremy and John, they were registered for her race. I think Ted had to work. The only company I could get was my fully charged iPod.

I got up early in prep for a 3+ hour excursion on the open road. I looked out the window.

It was cloudy.
And rainy.

After I consumed my pre-run breakfast and wasted 30-45 minutes of time on facebook (damn you, Mafia Wars), I got myself long run ready: vaseline/body glide on chafe zones, dri-fit layers, dri-fit baseball hat, rain jacket, gu, Garmin and iPod (worn INSIDE the jacket, of course). I decided it might be a good idea to run with my cell phone too, since I would be all alone for quite a while. I even had the foresight of putting it inside a ziploc plastic bag before it went in my pocket to insure it stayed nice and dry.

Sometimes, I think I take better care of my electronics than I do myself.

The hardest thing about doing the long run is just getting started. It's even harder when you are by yourself. There is no one at your front door waiting to go with you. It's just you. You are accountable! I mean, to a certain extent, I am accountable to my coach, but I still have the final say. First of all, he's not about to show up at my house to run with me, nor should he have to. Secondly, he still gets paid whether I do the runs on my schedule or not. Finally, I am only hurting myself if I don't stick to the plan.

So off I go. And I run the whole thing by myself. Here are the stats:

4/17/2010 8:33:41 AM

Total Distance
21.00 mi

Total Time

Avg Pace

Avg Speed
6.3 mph

Max Speed
11.8 mph

Total Ascent
3437 ft

Total Descent
3637 ft

Lap 01 -- 9:33
Lap 02 -- 9:17
Lap 03 -- 9:12
Lap 04 -- 9:21
Lap 05 -- 9:25
Lap 06 -- 9:24
Lap 07 -- 9:30
Lap 08 -- 9:51
Lap 09 -- 9:38
Lap 10 -- 9:49
Lap 11 -- 9:37
Lap 12 -- 9:30
Lap 13 -- 9:44
Lap 14 -- 9:24
Lap 15 -- 9:46
Lap 16 -- 9:22
Lap 17 -- 9:25
Lap 18 -- 9:22
Lap 19 -- 9:24
Lap 20 -- 9:35
Lap 21 -- 9:13

Yes, it is a long time to be running. Yes, it was light rain the whole time. And yes, I was alone. But, all of that was okay. When something in life is important enough, you'll do whatever is necessary to do, be or have it. I really want that BQ. I really want to be in the best shape of my life. I really want to be a runner.

So, you won't hear any complaints from me.

Besides, there is a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. I believe Henry David Thoreau said it best:

“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

I'm pretty sure that Thoreau didn't have buds shoved in his ears and an iPod blaring when he wrote that, but I think you get the point.

I look forward to pounding the pavement with my running partners again soon. But, in the meantime, 3+ hours of "me time" suits me just fine.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tastes Great-Less Filling

And Beer Race #4 is: the 4th Annual Great Bay Half-Marathon in Newmarket, NH. The organizers were advertising this race as "Great Bay Lite": 10% less hills and a spectacular downtown finish. I did the 1st Annual Great Bay Half back in 2007. It was the 2nd half-marathon I had ever done and was my PR (1:47:19) Once again, this was Cyndi pre-marathon, so I didn't really have an idea of a time goal. I just wanted to beat my first 1/2 marathon time (Baystate 2006 1:52:57).

And I did. By 5 minutes and 40 seconds, even.

As you may remember, I did the Hampton Half in 1:47:21. That was in February, in colder temps and wind. Between the clever advertising, improved weather conditions and my brand spanking new running skirt, I figured I had this one in the bag.

They had the option of packet pickup the day before as well as the day of the race, so I took advantage of the former option, for two reasons. First, I was spending the day with my brother and thought this might be a scenic ride for us to enjoy. Secondly, and I think you already figured this one out if you've been reading along, if I went the DAY before, I would know EXACTLY where I was going the day of!

Sense a theme here? At least I am consistent.

John and Ted were planning on doing Great Bay as well; John as the best spectator/cheerleader ever, and Ted as a hopeful PR'er (is that even a word? Well it is now.) I also offered to pick up Ted's chip, bib # and shirt so he wouldn't have to stand in line the morning of our half. If the guy was willing to run an entire marathon with me in May, I figured this was the least I could do in return.

I got there super duper early on Sunday morning and had my pick of places to park (try saying THAT five times fast). The race started at the Newmarket High School, but I decided to park at the Elementary School a little further away, figuring it'd be easier to get out when the time came to head home. I let John and Ted know, via text, where I was, visited the bathrooms a couple of times (can I get a "hell yeah" for indoor plumbing??) and got myself ready to go.

Once they arrived, we headed out so Ted and I could warm-up. I met a really nice woman, MJ, at the school while I was waiting for the guys, so we invited her to come along for the fun. We jogged around for 10-15 minutes, took our gu and headed to the start. John was on the sidelines ready to wish us well. We said our goodbyes and took our places in the pack of runners ready to take off. I wished Ted a good race, we hugged and it was game on. Once again, I didn't have a goal time in mind...or at least a goal time I was willing to share with them out loud.

I could go through a play by play of the race, but let me just post my GPS splits here. Then, I'll summarize my experience during the race:

Lap 01 -- 7:55
Lap 02 -- 8:04
Lap 03 -- 7:58
Lap 04 -- 8:26
Lap 05 -- 8:21
Lap 06 -- 8:03
Lap 07 -- 8:06
Lap 08 -- 8:07
Lap 09 -- 8:12
Lap 10 -- 8:20
Lap 11 -- 7:49
Lap 12 -- 9:06
Lap 13 -- 9:11
Lap 14 -- 1:15 (7:04/mi)

As you can see, there was a SIGNIFICANT drop off in my pace for Laps 12 and 13. Right around mile 11, I started getting the Hartford panic. I'm not sure what it is with that mile 11, but man, it is NOT my favorite number at ALL. First of all, it was pretty warm for an April day, so of course, that always has a bearing on your performance. Secondly, I must mention the "lite". I sort of assumed from reading the course description that major hills were pretty much over by mile 9. If you look at laps 10 and 11, you can see that my body did too. However...they really weren't.

As I was completing Lap 11, I was in this neighborhood they call "the lollipop". Think about what a tootsie roll pop looks like and that's kind of what it was. You ran down a road and did a huge circle around, and then headed out the way you came in. So, as you are entering the lollipop, you see all the speedy folks going out (like Ted) and as you exit, you see the not so speedy ones coming in. As I was leaving this neighborhood, I was overwhelmed with the desire to walk.

So I did.

But, unlike Hartford, I didn't quit. I allowed myself 30 second walk breaks and then ran 1 minute. I alternated this pattern for the next 1-2 miles until I saw John and thought, "oh crap, he can't see me walk. Crap, crap, crap!" As a result, you can see the last lap was super speedy. Once I saw the finish line, I knew that I could push myself extremely hard since it would be over in a minute or so.

I saw Ted waiting as I crossed and he hugged me. I was physically and mentally drained. I felt like I had been punched, kicked, bit and spit on about a dozen times. I was BEAT like a rented mule. Ouch, ouch, and ouch.

We made our way down the hill where the post-race celebration was...and where the food and drink was. I was so slow moving, so out of it...almost like in shock. I just wandered around. Then, John came after me, kind of sensing that I wasn't quite right. He gave me a hug and I was choking back tears. I just said to him, "it was so hard. I am so tired." As luck would have it, there was a little stream/pond area at the bottom of the hill. We walked over to it and John suggested I walk in and stand in the cold water to soothe my legs, which were probably a little inflamed, not to mention pissed off. It was like a homegrown ice bath, pretty much.

I did a lot of standing around (as were many other shell shocked runners) and not a lot of talking. Once I finally got some food and drink in me, I started perking up. Then, I started the chatter: maybe it was the heat...maybe I started off too fast...maybe it was the track workout I did earlier in the week. On and on it went. Truth of the matter was, it didn't matter what it was. You can't go back. What's done is done. No need to do an autopsy on the damn thing. It's just a race, for the love of Pete-just let it GO!!! (that is what the voices were telling me, btw).

The race results were posted. Here were my stats:

Net Time

Avg Pace

#254 overall

14/106 F35-39

I wasn't really happy or sad. I was just...blah. Kind of, well, blah. Just sort of indifferent and sulky. The good news was that Ted placed 2nd in his age group (M45-49) with a stellar time of 1:36:30. Even though I wasn't happy for me, I was happy for him and John and I cheered super loud when he went up for his award. As I said before, I did perk up after the food and drink, but resumed my sulkiness on the ride home.

John and Ted came back to my place post-race for a shower and some Coronas (perfect on a hot day). Once we were all cleaned and liquored up, we watched some golf and relaxed a bit. I wasn't exactly Superbi*ch, but wasn't sugar, spice and everything nice either. I had begun my foray into "wallowing". Thankfully, they're pretty good at putting up with me and my husband was there as a buffer. We said our goodbyes, they headed back to Boston and I commenced to ride the couch for the remainder of that Sunday.

After swapping some emails back and forth with the guys on Monday, John said he had a couple of theories about what had happened with me on Sunday if I wanted to hear them. I said I would be interested in talking about it some more so we made plans to chat on the phone later on that evening.

We talked for a good 30 minutes. First, he mentioned the generic stuff, i.e. the weather, the course and how I may have started off too fast. They were all very valid points and I could appreciate every one of those. Then, he brought up the not so generic stuff.

"You're afraid to fail," he said. "That's why you never tell us what kind of a time you want to run."

Ah, so I'm not as complicated as I like to think I am. Of course he was right. I had suspected that for a while. I just didn't know it was obvious. Perhaps it's not to the casual observer, but John and I were very good friends as well as training partners. All it really takes to see me for what I am is someone who gives half a sh*t about me and is paying attention. I don't hide my feelings well, even if I think that I do.

We talked some more about it and I could just feel the relief flooding over me as we spoke. I told him he was a great friend, that our talk was very helpful, and I'm so glad we are training partners. After I hung up, I just felt lighter.

Ted and I emailed a bit the next day. I had received an inspirational email that I felt compelled to share with he and John, particularly because the timing of it was so spooky. The underlying message of it was simply this: The main factor for dramatic success or failure lies within. After I emailed it to them, Ted replied back sharing his experiences along the road to his first marathon. This excerpt in particular spoke to me:

This is the truth: failure is everything - strive for it because it is the only way you will know exactly what you can do; what you can do AND DO defines you, and therein lies self-esteem. It does not matter what it looks like on the outside so long as you know you tried to fail and gave your maximum effort.

Talk about hitting home! It was time. Time to fess up. I replied back to him:

Those are great words and very inspiring.

John knows me better than I think…in fact, I think I’m so mysterious and complex. I’m really not. Anyone that takes a little time to get to know me and gives half a s**t has me pegged in no time.

I’m afraid to fail. I am afraid to say I’m going to do something and then to see it not happen. I am not just afraid of it. I am terrified. And I am terrified of others seeing it and shaking their head saying to themselves, “I knew she was too good to be true.”

So, there it is. I’ve said it.

I’m so afraid of being anything less than perfect, I limit myself…I tell myself it doesn’t matter…even if it does. I can’t bear the thought of being “less than” and have talked myself into believing that if you don’t try, you won’t fail…therefore you won’t lose.

And, for the most part, I have been able to skate through the first 38 years of my life with this mindset because, more often than not, I do more than most…without trying very hard.

But I lose. Every single time I do this.

The good news is that a belief is just a thought you keep on thinking. Even though I’ve carried it around with me for a very long time, I can choose what I think about from now on since I have learned how powerful our thoughts are. And then I’ll be able to fail.

The lesson I got out of this entire experience was simply this: everything that happens is for the good. If it wasn't for my friends and this 1/2 marathon, I wouldn't have had this epiphany. I saw it for what it was. I acknowledged it was there and I accepted it. I didn't try to push against it anymore and, most importantly, I gave myself a break for the first time in a long time.

Great Bay 2010 may not have been my fastest half-marathon, or my strongest performance. But, I wouldn't trade it for the world, because it brought me to where I am right now. For that, I am so appreciative. Maybe the race didn't "taste great", but the sweetness of what it taught me sure does.

Less baggage = less filling.