Monday, September 27, 2010

The Long Run

2% of 500 is 10… 2% of 510 is 10.20… 2% of 520.20 is…

Sometimes when I run, I compound interest.  Or I plan meals I’m going to cook for the week.  Or I imagine myself being interviewed on Oprah (most importantly, what outfit I will wear).  I do anything I can to keep my brain from doing this:

My hip hurts.  I’m bored.  This hill sucks.  Why am I doing this?  My toes feel squished.  My hip hurts.  I feel a little nauseous.  Am I getting nauseous?  It’s so hot out.  When can I stop?  How long have I been going?

To me, the hardest part about doing long runs is not the actual running.  Somewhere after 40 or 50 minutes, the pain/discomfort levels out.  The hardest part is keeping my mind off running.  For short runs, I can achieve a little running zen… feeling happy and content with just feeling myself run, feeling healthy and strong, listening to my breathing match my footsteps.  On short runs, I can problem solve.  For years, three mile runs have been my therapy, my brainstorming sessions, my best-idea-generators.  Long runs, runs where I’m out there silently pounding the pavement, are a whole different beast.

I completed my third half-marathon on Sunday.  The night before I didn’t feel particularly nervous this time – I knew we’d trained really well, including a super hilly 13 miles the weekend before.  I knew it would be hard – physically uncomfortable – and that we’d be out there for a really, really long time.

What I wasn’t anticipating though was the difference that a really small race makes, mentally.  My past two experiences have been huge races – the Virginia Beach Rock 'n’ Roll Half and the Baltimore Under Armor Half.  Both had well over 10,000 people, spectators throughout the race, and courses that wound through interesting scenery and cities.

But OUR race had the Lowe’s Motor Speedway!  We were going to run on the Speedway!

Turns out after about 1 minute on the speedway, the “coooooool, I’m on the Speedway!” factors wears off.  Then it’s just another 17 minutes (I’m slow) of running a big, long, gerbil track.  And the Z-Max Dragway?  Running down an airport runway.  To add insult to injury, there were only about 150 other runners and no one on the course except a volunteer every half mile or so to point the way.

“What’s 2% of 100?  And 2% of 102?”

I was digging deep to keep my mind busy.  Lauren and I paced together for the first 9 miles, and we tried hard to steer the conversation away from the crappy course.  After nearly 8 months of training runs together, we’ve covered pretty much every topic of conversation but we were both struggling to keep each other going on this one.  Around 9, Lauren started inching ahead and I waved her on.  9 was a uphill bridge back to the speedway, and then running through the back of the stands (where concessions are) to the entrance.  I sucked on a Gu, chanted “I feel good” to the sound of my feet (which was a far cry from the truth) and willed myself to get to the speedway.  10 was the entrance to the speedway, and after the initial “cool!” factor, I was over it.  Halfway around the track, at 11, I started channeling my dad.  When I ran Baltimore, my Dad was waiting at 11 and jumped in with me.  I heard his voice in my head again telling me it was just a few more miles, flat from here on out, I wasn’t going to stop now, keep going.  11.5 was the exit of the speedway, and a little old man sat at the corner pointing me to 12.

I always think when I get to 12, I’ll feel this burst of energy and just let it all out for the last mile.  This was not what happened.  I was literally chanting to myself “do not stop” “do not stop” over and over again to the sound of my feet.  I knew Lauren and Jamie were already finished, and would be waiting for me.  I started systemically picturing what I would do when I finished: drink a Gatorade.  Get in my car.  Go back to my sister’s apartment and take a shower with her really expensive, yummy smelling shampoo shampoo.  (Thanks, Katie.)  Eat a giant burger from Big Daddy’s. Go home and nap. I kept replaying what was to come in the next 10 minutes over and over again in my head.

And suddenly I was rounding the corner.  Seeing my friends.  Lauren and Jamie, and Lauren’s mom, sister and husband, and Crystal and Akanksha.  Crystal was snapping my picture and Jamie was jumping up and down and shouting.

I started to speed up… just in time to hear Jamie say “you have to go around the corner to finish!!!  Don’t stop!!!”


The finish line was around the corner from where we had started, and probably just another 100 yards but it felt like another mile as I rounded the corner.  I saw the timer ticking up another minute and I gave it every thing I had. 

And then, just like that: it’s over.  I had a Gatorade.  Hugged my friends.  Drove back to my sister’s apartment and took a shower with her really expensive, yummy smelling shampoo.  (Thanks, Katie.)  Went to Big Daddy’s with Jamie, Crystal and Akanksha and ate a pimiento cheese burger and homemade chips and a cookies and cream milkshake.

And now, 24 hours later, it’s over.  I can’t really remember the pain.  I can’t really remember how frustrated and tired and mentally challenged I was.  I had to pick out shoes carefully this morning to avoid blister pain and my calves protested the walk up to my third floor office, but other than that… I can’t really remember it.

What I can remember is seeing my friends faces as I rounded the corner.  Hugging Lauren – who after 8 months of training had just completed her first half. Jumping in the car with Jamie and expressing our relief that it was all over. Feeling blessed that 2 of my friends made the 40 mile drive down from Winston just to stand at the finish line and shout for us.  Realizing that a year ago this time, I dropped out of training for a half because of my colitis – and that I was healthy and strong enough to complete it this year. 

The finish line had felt miles away, and just like that it was all over.  And so instead of deleting the email I just got from Lauren about a half-marathon in February (in Disney…with LOTS of people….and LOTS of spectators…) I’m wondering if I could do it all over again….

IMG_5777 Jamie, Lauren + I post-race

Thursday, September 23, 2010


It's a scene out of a college brochure: 20 of us sitting underneath a large oak tree on a beautiful green campus, with brick buildings covered in ivy as a backdrop. We're discussing Siddhartha, or at least 19 of us are.

I am desperately willing myself not to start crying.

I'm so homesick that thoughts of my house, my bed, my dog, my mom and dad, my boyfriend, even my clothes-stealing-sister wash over me in waves. I will myself to choke back the lump in my throat, and to nod attentively when it seemed appropriate.

I was 17 years old, and it was my 2nd day out of a 3 week stay at a camp in Boston and I was miserably homesick.

The feeling passed, of course, and the experience went on to be one of the highlights of my teenage years. It did everything that a life-changing cliché experience is supposed to do: pushed me past my comfort zone. Stretched my confidence. Made new friends. Appreciated the life I had. Learned to embrace change.

Ok, scratch that last one. There are some people who run downhill open-armed at change and embrace it with the ferocity of seeing an old friend. Then there are people like me, who threw a fit at 8 years old about going to Hawaii.... because it meant not going to the same condo in Myrtle Beach we had gone to for the 7 prior years of my life.

I like routines. I like going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time. Running on the same days. Seeing the same people. Buying the same groceries. I thrive in patterns, in predictability and consistency.

Change, of course, is constant and good for you and something I've forced myself to get used to because you have to. Like eating broccoli and cleaning the pink mold out of toilet, you just accept that it's something you better do.

My experience at nerd camp armed me so when the same tidal waves of homesickness hit me my first week of college, I steeled myself with the knowledge they would past. When I moved to Durham for an internship by myself. To Spain. To Baltimore, for grad school. Every big change in my life has been marked by the same pattern: excitement as the event approaches, dread the moment I arrive, doubt as I sink into it, fear that I've made a mistake and I'll never be happy again, and patience to know that feeling will pass.

It always passes, and the new experience is everything that new experiences are meant to be. Even Hawaii was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

It's been almost two weeks of working my new job, and while I'm past the first-day-jitters, I'm still sort of bobbing along somewhere in between doubt and patience. With each experience and with maturity has come the recognition that, by virtue of being in charge of my thoughts, I'm also in charge of how quickly I move through each stage of the change. It's hard to leave comfort, predictability and routine behind - even when it really wasn't working for you anymore.

Fortunately, I now know that my days under the oak tree fighting off my longing for what's familiar will be numbered, and in a matter of days, weeks or maybe even months, I'll be settled in and wondering what all that fuss was about anyways.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My "mini vacay" in-between old job ending and new job starting ending up being a very event-full weekend!  Friday night, we went down to Charlotte to see the Kings of Leon.  Matt and I went down fairly early for some tailgating since we had the day off, and took the liberty of spreading out as many blankets as we could to reserve spots for our friends to arrive.  As the sun set and the opening band (The Whigs) started, everyone got there just in time.  The Black Keys played after The Whigs and then Kings of Leon came on.  It was a show – lights, fireworks, smoke.  And good gracious, Caleb Followill has a voice.  Matt and I got Only By the Night last summer from when we had first moved into the house, and I know whenever I hear those songs for the rest of my life I'm going to think of our first summer in our new house.

Late night concert rolled into early morning tailgate.  We got up early and hauled all our breakfast fixings over to the lot for the tailgate. Good food, good friends and my car battery did not die this time!  We headed into the game, only to have the sky open up on us in the 2nd quarter.  I'm pretty sure Matt, Locke, Matt J. and I were the only 4 people in the stadium who did not plan accordingly.  We were drenched.  I'm not sure if it was fortunate or not that they were winning - I imagine if we were getting walloped, the boys would have been a little more keen on leaving but as it was, I sat for 4 hours in the downpour and watched football.  For all the times I've gone home after a tailgate and watched the game at home while folding laundry, I think I just got redeemed.


Monday starts my new job - I've got equal part nervous energy jitters and excitement.  I have no idea what to expect, other than what time to show up and where to go.  And that there's a Sheetz on my way there.  Best fountain soda selection ever.  I should be all set, based on that alone.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good-bye, Old Friend.


Last day of work.  We had a good run, WFU.