Monday, December 26, 2011

Finals Week

Upcoming is the last hard week of my training plan for the Houston Marathon. After New Year's Day, I will begin tapering (or, as McMillan calls it, "the peaking phase"). The two toughest runs this week will be a track workout of 3000-meter repeats on Thursday and a fast-finish long run of 18 miles on Saturday. It's sort of like Finals Week!

But it was actually the past week that marked the most miles I'll do in this cycle. For the first time since 2005, I ran over 50 miles in the week (51, to be precise). I'm really happy about how good my body feels. My long runs have gone MUCH better this cycle than they did leading up to September's Top of Utah Marathon. And while I'm still not sure I can qualify for the Boston Marathon when I toe the line in Houston in three weeks, I do think, if the day's weather favors me, I can set a personal record in the marathon, run much stronger (and hopefully smarter) than I did in September and inch closer to the Boston standard of 3:45.

The biggest chunk of my miles this past week were run on Christmas Eve. I ran 24 miles under bright sunshine. Part of me didn't want to go because it meant being away from my family for most of the morning and I wasn't looking forward to negotiating sidewalks and roads still snowy and icy from a huge storm we had on Thursday. White Christmas=wonderful! White Long Run=tedious! But I couldn't face 24 miles on a treadmill either.

I did two things to combat the boredom: 1) I listened to music only for the second six miles and the fourth six miles of the 24, thereby "rewarding" myself for getting through the first and third six-mile segments and 2) in the spirit of the season I tried to think of a blessing for each mile, so that by the time I was finished I'd have a list of 24 blessings (on top of the blessing of a 51-mile week!).

The first 13 miles were all about people.

Mile 1--My husband Dan. He is always first. He always will be.

Mile 2--My son Will. I thought about what a loud, passionate little soul he is. I thought about how he is like me--much nicer when he gets some endurance exercise.

Mile 3--My daughter Ruthie. She is sharp as a tack and has a silly sense of humor. I don't think anyone will ever pull one over on her (unlike me!).

Mile 4--My mom. She was back home helping Dan with the kids. Always a great example of optimism, good humor, sociability, kindness. I need to be more like her.

Mile 5--My dad. He's funny and empathetic. He was my first running partner, back when I was twelve and we'd knock out two flat miles every other day. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be running today.

Mile 6--My friend Kathy. She went from zero to marathon in a year and a half. She is the definition of game, the definition of tenacious. I'm glad she's going to be my roommate in Houston.

Mile 7--My bloggy friend Jill. She unfailingly says the right thing in all of her comments, on my blog and everyone else's. She's a blessing to so many people, even amid injury and tough times for herself.

Mile 8--My friend Christine. She was there when I conceived this Boston idea and she never fails to believe I can do it (even when I'm failing to believe in myself). I'm looking forward to getting back to our hike-spin-hike routine.

Mile 9--My friend Angela. I've known her since first grade. She's a great runner and a great person. She continues to inspire me and make me laugh, even though we don't talk nearly often enough.

Mile 10--My friend Max. Compared to what he goes through daily, nothing I do is a marathon.

Mile 11--My sister Mandy. You will never meet a more honest or genuine person than she.

Mile 12--My brother John. He's probably the only person in my family who understands why I like running long distances and going on other uncomfortable adventures, even when I run the risk of pooping in my pants and other unpleasant consequences.

Mile 13--My smart, practical sisters-in-law, Kate and Jessica. Kate, like Dan, is a true Renaissance person. Jessica has a dry, incisive sense of humor. They say you can't pick your family, but if I could I'd totally pick these two.

The next half of the run my brain got less focused, and I started being thankful for things and circumstances:

Mile 14--People who actually follow the rules and shovel their sidewalks. This was a purely practical blessing for that moment, that mile.

Mile 15--My health. During this mile I passed a guy limping down the street on crutches. My pace wasn't fast, but I am lucky nonetheless to be able to run under the bright sunshine. At all.

Mile 16--My (knock-on-wood) lack of running injuries so far. My lower back was twinging me a little, and I was thinking I need to work hard on my core during the next training cycle....but even with these concerns, I have stayed solid and strong.

Mile 17--The beautiful place I live. At this point I was working my way west on a highway in the county. On the horizon loomed Long's Peak and its companion, Meeker Mountain. Cool breezes and the smell of horses (which I like!) wafted over me.

Mile 18--Music. Of all kinds. The kind I had just turned back on--yay Mile 18 (I'm loving Pitbull these days). The kind I'd been listening to at home with Dan and the kids (all Christmas, all the time!).

Mile 19--That that truck next to Target back in Mile 10 didn't kill me when he tried to run a red light and then braked/honked at me as he skidded into the cross walk. There were lots of crazy drivers out. Last minute holiday shopping?

Mile 20--That I was finally headed home.

Mile 21--For my wonderful church, St. John's Episcopal, where we'd be taking the kids later for an afternoon Christmas service. Part of me will always be Roman Catholic (if you're born into it like I was, it's not something you can ever NOT be, no matter how much you disagree with certain points of church dogma), but I've never felt as at home and spiritually cared-for as I do at St. John's.

Mile 22--For my job. I'm so lucky to have one, and even luckier that the one I've got challenges me intellectually and helps me in forging a better character for myself. I'm thankful for everyone who uses a public library, even the crazy people. (I can't quite be thankful for the mean and entitled types yet.....the customer is NOT always right.....)

Mile 23--That this was now a two-mile run. And that Pitbull was still with me.

Mile 24--For that last hill up to my house. And that I was able to run up it, feeling strong, all the way home.


  1. 24 reasons you're going to ROCK HOUSTON!!!

  2. Misting up here, just a little. Thank you, my friend!!!

  3. What a great idea and a great way to spend your run. Yes, you were away from your family for the long run, but they were with you the whole time. Too cool.

    I was raised Catholic and now go to a different church, and I know exactly what you mean.

  4. another wonderful post! mile 14 made me laugh (but i would also be oh so thankful for that). mile 21 - i get it. i was born catholic and i don't practice but, yes, it will always be with me.

    i excited for you! it's getting very close :)

  5. Love the 24 miles of thanks. So great. You are in the home stretch and Houston is going to be your day! All the work is done now, so concentrate on rest--just as important as the training.

  6. Yay!! You are going to do so well in Houston and I can't wait to hear about it! And you'll have some delicious sweets for carb loading.

  7. This was such a great post! I love the idea of dedicating each mile to someone or something. I can't wait to see how you do, I bet you do better then you think.

  8. Terz, I do read your blog. See! This one is the kind of writing you do best and lovely prose that warms hearts. Love, Ma

  9. Great job getting 24 done! Ilove how you broke it down and conquered. Is that what Pit Bull looks like? Ive never seen him without shades. I swear he has a part in pretty much every song these days.
    Sounds like somebody's ready to go. Rock Houston!

  10. so awesome! I was thinking of you on Saturday wondering how you were doing on your long run with all the snow and ice to negotiate. I had no doubt you would get it done and was admiring your persistence from afar as I was driving around all cozy in my car with my newly minted snow tires.

  11. What a great post. I'm so excited for you with Houston!!

  12. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to the blessings in your life both big and small. You have worked so hard and have put it all out there--the training, the vulnerabilities that go w/ the training, and the victories along the way. No matter how you do timewise at the marathon you are going to be a success. I can't believe how much I'm rooting for you and I've never even met you!

  13. I told you many posts ago
    it will be "Houston we have NO problem"
    You are ready!
    your kids are beautiful!
    I love that picture!

  14. oh remember when you gave me suggestions of books to read
    you had the night circus on it
    and I got it for Christmas!!!

  15. I have no doubt you are going to pass your finals with flying colors! Good luck and have a great week. I am excited for you for Houston. I think you are going to have an awesome race! Great job on the 24 miler!!!

  16. So, you got the 24 done and you're on to a fast finish 18. You've worked really hard in training. I really think that will pay off in Houston!

  17. I love this post! Amazing job getting the whole way to this point, and for a cmas eve 24 miler! I love that you used it to be thankful... you've definitely put in the work for a great run in Houston!

  18. AMAZING post!!! Thank you so much for sharing it!!!

  19. 24 you've totally got BQ'ing at the Houston Marathon in your pocket!

    I know you didn't ask for advice, but I felt inspired by your story and I wanted to share with you what the key to my BQ a couple weeks ago was... go about 5 to 10 seconds below your BQ pace in the beginning and the rest of the race will be yours. When I ran Richmond (my first marathon) in Nov 2011, I got caught up with some pacers who were prob 20 to 30 seconds under my goal pace and it killed me.

    But then in Rehoboth (when I BQ'd a couple weeks ago in Dec 2011), I kept a very even pace the entire time (FORCED myself to slow down at the beginning and stuck to it) and I felt wonderful the whole time.

    Anyway, great run and I can't wait to hear about your marathon!

  20. I know what you mean about being Roman Catholic. I am too :)

    Glad you are feeling so good with your running! Love Neon Blondes advice btw I would go with that!

  21. Wow, a 24 mile long run is intense! I've never gone that far for a training run. I'm so impressed that you did it all by yourself too!

  22. Awwwwe, thank you, my sweet friend :). There are definitely blogs I feel a strong connection with and yours is high on that list! I hope 2012 brings us together more often - if nothing else at least for some shorter fun runs - or perhaps a shopping day in Boulder ;).

    I read something about dedicating every mile of a marathon to someone, or some very special time in your life. I wrote down 26 of these things when I went to St. George, my first BQ attempt, and I pulled out that paper every mile and thought about that person or that time each mile. I had a very hard time taking the entire mile and dedicating it to one thing as I got sidetracked by other things going on around me (scenery, pace group chatter, aid station, etc) but I can't tell you how much it really helped (I dedicated two miles to my mom, who passed away when I was young)....I was smiling big time when I read you did the same thing on your long run. I will try this when I attempt a long run this weekend. You truly are inspirational...I wish I had an ounce of your determination right now, it is going to pay off big for you in Houston....I know you'll be crossing that finish line with a smile :).

  23. A very good way to spend the time running. 24 miles are a long distance and the mind must be stronger than the legs.
    Now you are ready for the marathon and for a 2012 full of PB.
    Happy New Year to you and your family.

  24. I'm finally catching up on all my blog reading from the holidays. I love this list :) Congrats to you.