Friday, August 31, 2012

guest blog - the husband speaks!!

As promised - here is the guest post by none other than The Husband.

And I should mention that he sent this to me well over a month ago but I never got my shit together enough to post it.  Until now.

You gotta love the man.  He wrote A LOT. (Blogging brings out the limelight loving extrovert in us introverts.) He's a pretty good storyteller, too. So sit back, grab a cookie, and enjoy!

When The Bitter Hag (TBH) requests a guest blog, it should not be passed up.

This is The Husband.

First of all, I believe some clarifications are in order.  The Bitter Hag is truly neither bitter nor a hag.  If you’ve read any of this blog, you know she’s quite amazing.  She also claims to be an “introvert”.  I think being a blogger sort of ruins that claim.  And regarding her love of tequila and Oreos…she is actually understated in her writings.

So she asked me to write about my first marathon experience.  I really have to go back 5 years to the genesis of this thing called “running”.  So as I recall I’m sitting on the couch watching TV, eating chips and drinking a beer and TBH says “Hey, wanna do a 5k”?

Is this a trick question?  Has she been drinking?  Does she know that is like over 3 miles?  Of RUNNING?

“I saw this plan on the Internet called Couch Potato to 5k.  I think we could do it.”


When TBH gets an idea in her head, there is going to be earnest planning and inevitable action.  And then I said the word that has serious ramifications in our relationship:


(This is how she responded when I asked her if she would marry me, but that is another story…)

I was pretty sure we’d try it for a few weeks and then the lack of time, or an injury, or the complete hatred of not being able to breathe would put a merciful end to this silly notion of being able to run for 30 minutes.  In a row.

I pictured us in our Golden Years looking back at this:

“Remember when we tried to do a 5k?”
“I don’t recall us biking.”
“Yeah, that hurt like hell.  Why are you yelling?”

However, as it turns out, when TBH gets going, there is no stopping her.  And since I like her, I tagged along.  The Couch to 5k was actually quite difficult for us, but we did the program and achieved the (at the time) unthinkable.

Fast-forward a couple of years and there is a whole story about TBH and a friend signing up for a MARATHON.  Tequila-based decision making is fun to witness.  But I KNEW she was going to do it.  And she did as fully documented in this blog.  I was amazed!

So I’m watching this all take place and I see her sign up for a second marathon and I start thinking, what is it about these people that do marathons?  It’s like they have this look in their eye like they know something that we don’t.  They smile at the end of 26 miles.  They put stickers on their cars with numbers.  And clearly the “point two” is important (if the marathon was 26.23, I’m sure they’d include the extra digit).  They buy funny watches with more technology than the first space missions.  And they sign up for more marathons which seems counter-intuitive.

So I thought I’d give it a try.  What could go wrong?

The mouse-click to sign up for the marathon was pretty simple.  That was easy.   Then the running began.  It was pretty easy the first few weeks and even when the miles started approaching 8, 9, 10 I could still rattle them off on rainy or cold Saturday mornings.  Then one day I started a run and went up a small incline and could NOT catch my breath.  I kept trying for a week and it just got worse.  Went to the doctor and he said to take a couple weeks off.  I really had no choice, but that was going to put me way behind on my plan.  So I became one of those first time marathoners who are constantly worrying that they aren’t training enough.  I probably drove TBH a little crazy.  She told me “everything will be fine”.  That’s what they always say.  I remained skeptical.

I started eating oddly named food call Gu and gels and chews in little packages during long runs.   I began referred to food as “fuel”.  I created routines that had to be followed.  I analyzed the color of my pee.  I went to bed early on Friday nights.  I became crazy.  I was becoming a marathoner.

I “caught up” the best I could on my training plan and after a 20 mile slog in 90 degree heat in Rochester, I figured I could finish Grandma’s if it wasn’t that hot.  So of course I analyzed the average daily temperature and record highs for Duluth for June 16th…”honey, unless we have a record, I think we are going to be ok!” I shout from another room, which was met by “everything will be fine”.  (If she rolled her eyes, it is understandable.)

So the race…we had over an entire day of waiting which was actually fun and relaxing.  Life sort of speeds by and the next thing I know is I’m waiting to get on a bus and starting to feel like an imposter.  Everyone looks so calm and is joking around.  I’m getting nervous and am not looking forward to sitting for an hour in the grass until start time.  We finally get off the bus and the throngs of people are milling about and doing the rituals they have to do (like putting on copious amounts of Vaseline, I swear a guy grabbed multiple goops the size of a baseball).  The clock is ticking and I am getting antsy to go.  A hard-to-hear national anthem, a fly-over, a tightly packed starting line, and Charlie Brown’s teacher saying something over the intercom, but we are off!

I didn’t think about the fact that I was trying to run 26.2 miles or that it was certainly going to take roughly 5 hours of running, I just ran one mile at a time.  Self-coaching takes over.  Don’t go too fast.  Enjoy the day.  You only have to do this once.  People are rooting for you.  People aren’t going to believe I finished.   One mile at a time.

The initial miles flew by.  The first 5k was a blip and we were going at a good pace (for me at least).  TBH was going to go for a 4:30 time and I told her to run her race, but she hung back with me and was helpful and it was awesome to run with her.  The first 10 miles were over before I knew it.  It was fun to run over the mats that you knew meant text messages were being sent to friends and family.   In the first half of the marathon I don’t remember much other than the women dropping their shorts and peeing on the side of the road.  That’s pretty hard core.  I guess the REALLY hard core ones just let it rip while running.

So we are half done with the marathon and our time is 2:20.  I’m thinking to myself that my secret goal of finishing in under 5 hours is going to be super easy.  I was going to be fine if I ran a 5:10, but still though under 5 would sound better.  But the first half was much easier than the second.

The miles started to take their toll on my knees.  I was looking forward to the mile markers a little too much, and they were certainly feeling like they were getting further apart.  We walked the water stops and around miles 17, 18, 19 it was painful to convert from running to walking, and I was downright Frankenstein-like changing back into running.  TBH gave me her last 2 Advil (I dropped mine somehow) and the race support was awesome with the bananas, oranges, ice and water.  The 5 hour marathon was starting to be doubted.

Making it to mile 20 was huge.  I knew I could finish if I could get to 20.  The crowd support got a little rowdier which was good (but no thanks, I’ll pass on the bacon, beer and the cigarette that was offered).  Each mile the pain got a little worse, but was bearable and I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS DAMN THING.

Snaking the way around downtown Duluth to the finish is every bit as annoying as people had warned.  But I was getting close.  I’m wondering what to do for “skeleton pain”.  And I’m dreaming of an ice bath.  And a martini.  No, two martinis.

Over the last mile I was looking for one of my sons who surprised me with a text message at 4:30 in the morning that read “I’m in Duluth!”.  TBH and I made the last turn to the straight-away and I saw him and his friends cheering wildly.  I teared up, high fived him, and ran the final .2 feeling great.  And we beat 5 hours.  It was very, very cool.

I ran a marathon.

I am an introvert, but I wore my medal to dinner.  Maybe the marathon changes you a little bit.  Oh yeah, I put one of those 26.2 stickers on my car.  I don’t care if people think it’s bragging, I earned it.  The marathon was hard, but easy compared to the training.  I used to think “I could never do that”, “that will ruin my knees”, “I don’t have the time”, but I know that anyone can run a marathon if they put in the time.  But one training tip - it does help if you have a smokin’ hot running partner!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Yes, this is a Star Trek reference.
No, it's not the first one to show up in this blog.
Yes, I am this much of a nerd.
48 days until the Chicago Marathon.  DoubleYouTeeEff.  How the hell did THAT happen?

Clearly, I'm caught in some sort of disturbance in the space-time continuum. Normally by this stage in marathon training, I would be running my ass off and piling up the miles, but clearly (again) that's not happening.  I'm blaming Life and it's propensity to get in the way. Long work hours makes Nora a very tired and non-motivated marathon trainee. And the last time I looked at my training plan, it didn't say "skip as many training runs as you want." And no matter how many times I check, it doesn't have the caption "Even though you didn't train properly, something magic happens here!!" on marathon day.


I know you just can't get enough of
my nasty looking toes.
I felt pretty good that I was able to rip off 16 miles last weekend without too much difficulty, but I don't think I'm doing myself any favors by not running during the week and then trying to run double digits on the weekend.  I'm afraid I'm going to end up hurting myself if I keep doing that. Oh, and I didn't get my long run done this weekend either.  The deficit worsens.......

Speaking of ugh, I lost the toenail on my left big toe today. Poor thing has been black since the MedCity 20 miler and has been hanging on by a thread for about a month. Ever see Darth Vader without his helmet?  That's what my big toe looks like. (I'd post a pic of that but having a Star Trek AND a Star Wars reference in the same blog post seems a bit much for even me.  Oh wait, I just did that, didn't I?  Shit. Oh well.) The second toe looks pretty rough too. The current count of missing/partial new growth toenails is three. My ill-fitting shoes really took a toll this spring!

So, back to my complaining about lack of time, energy, mojo, whatever it is that's keeping me from running.  Yeah, I know, woe is me. And I know I have first world problems. And I know, "If I really want it, I'll make it happen" blah, blah, blah.... But it's still depressing that I'm not getting my miles in! I'm already getting up at 4:00 a.m. most days to work, so trying to get by on even less sleep seems pert near impossible.  But enough beating myself up. Onward and upward!  Let's see what happens to life when we try to incorporate a little running into the mix. Hopefully this week will be better!  I'm not quite into panic mode.  Yet.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

havin' some ketchup

So yeah, my 2012 trend of poor blogging habits continues....

It's been tough to find time for blogging, Life, ya know?? And did I mention the weather?  It's been impossibly hot and humid for the majority of Summer.  Crazy weather!  Not that the weather interferes with my blogging but.....

Anywhoo, I've run a few races since Grandma's, for fun and for training.  Thank goodness for the races because my training for Chicago has been less than stellar. I sure hope something magic happens and transforms me into a race-ready marathoning machine come October.  I like to keep my dreams realistic. 

Perfect heart-shaped mud smear post-Warrior Dash.
Let's see - What was first?  Oh yeah, Warrior Dash. June 30th. The husband and I did this one again. Sad to say, it was lots more fun last year.  Maybe because we were in the 2:30 wave this year and the temps were in the high 90's with tropical humidity levels had something to do with the "less fun" perception.  Plus, we did the first obstacle (a leap over walls/crawl under barbed wire mix) and I felt something *pop* in my left quad. Not too painful at the time but then I was all, "What the hell am I doing this for when I'm training for a marathon???" So I decided I was going to make it a 3 mile walk with obstacles thrown in.  Luckily, the husband wasn't too jazzed about running up hills either (did I mention the race was held at a ski resort? Frickin' HUGE hills) so he was totally cool with that. He rocks.

Here are some photos of the day:

The backside of the first climber.  This was scary!  The steps were spaced about 2.5 feet apart - you could easily stip through and fall to the ground. There was a girl laying across the top trying to swing her leg over to climb down. she looked at me with a terrified look in her eyes and said, "This is f*cking intimidating!"  It was!
That's me on the left heading to the most refreshing "obstacle"of the day.  It felt so good I went through it twice.

The husband making his way down a cargo net.
The next race was supposed to be the Stillwater Log Run 10 mile race.  July 21st. 

Race morning I woke up to a thunderstorm.  I took my time getting ready, hoping the storm would quit.  It didn't. 

I drove to the bus area (runners were bussed the 10 miles to the start) and waited in the car hoping the storm would quit.  it didn't.  

So I got out and asked a race official if the race was still on. Yep.  He told me to hurry and get on the last bus heading out. So I ran through the rain to the bus and climbed aboard.  AND I WAS THE ONLY PERSON ON THE BUS.  I knew it was going to be a small race, but come ON. 

Off we went to the start. The bus driver: "I had no idea the weather was going to be so gnarly out today!" Gnarly??? I liked him already!  He was super nice and we chatted the whole way to the start. I mentioned I wasn't sure running today was such a great idea, and he said, "Well, I have to come back to town anyway so you could always stay on the bus.  I'll bring you back to the parking lot." 

Long story short, there were about 125 runners waiting in a parking lot at a Lake outside of town, watching the fabulous lightning display. No shelter. After about 15-20 minutes they called the race due to lightning. Works for me!  I have no problem running in the rain, but running out in the country in a thunderstorm?  No thank you. So I headed home, changed my clothes and hopped on the treadmill.  I was feeling so good I threw in a few more miles for fun and ended up doing 13.6 miles on the treadmill. I think that's a TM distance PR for me.

Read it and weep.  13.6 miles with Millie!
On to race #3.  The Boler Dash 5k. July 28th.  According to GarminElectra, I finished in 30:46.

TenacityChris organized this race to benefit one of the trainers at her studio whose house burned down in June. The family lost everything in that fire. TenacityChris did a fantastic job and had a great turnout considering it was pulled together in a month!  In addition to the race, there was a brunch and silent auction, along with drawings for prizes.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the brunch but I heard it was lots of fun. 

TenacityChris snapped a photo of me heading for the finish!  Don't you just love my awesome blue shoes?
Catch-up post #4  Minnesota Half Marathon 8/4/12 - 2:25:27
I think my center of gravity it too high to
rollerblade. Plus, I'm super clumsy so I don't
think I'll be doing this any time soon.

I decided the morning of the race that I'd run it. Had I registered for it yet? Nope. But I made sure they had race day registration before I drove the 20 miles to the start. I'm all about the planning, people.
My goal was to use this as a training run. I knew the course was a little bit hilly and that's cool, I like hills. I had a 14 mile run on the ol' training plan and I just wanted to be able to run and not carry my own water or have to plan a route. So I guess it's fair to say I ran the race out of sheer laziness.

Overall, other than a nasty pain in my side, it was a good run. The pain continues to be an issue a week later so I guess I'll have to get that checked out. 

One of the fun things about the race was that it could be done as a duathlon (running and inline skating). I've never seen an inline skating race before so that was really cool. There appears to be strategy and skill involved in that type of racing, however, so I should probably stick to foot races. The weather was FINALLY cool (although humid) so it was still a sweatfest, but a very tolerable sweatfest. The sky was overcast and it started to rain lightly during the last 2 miles. I enjoyed myself!

Cheesy post-race pose.
Last, but certainly not least, the Gopher to Badger Half Marathon 8/11/12 - 2:21:35 (Garmin) PLUS 3 mile warm-up.

Yet another race-as-training run on my journey to the Chicago Marathon. 
The course is awesome, it starts in Minnesota and finishes in Hudson, Wisconsin (hence the name). Because the start is only a few miles from my house, I decided to run there so that I could get all my training miles in for the day. I was feeling kind of crappy before heading out to the start of the race, but I figured worst case scenario, I'd call the husband and have him come pick me up mid-course. Luckily, the warm up miles seemed to kick out whatever was ailing me - by the time I got to the start of the race, I felt great! 
This was sort of a new race for me (I did the 5k last year) and I loved the course. It was fun to run through my hometown, there were more downhills than uphills, and lots of well-run water stops. The weather cooperated, too. Sunny, no wind, cool temps....heavenly! 
The husband met me at the finish after doing his own run this morning. It's always so nice to see his smiling face in the crowd! He took a couple of pictures for the ol' blog.  He knows me well.  Then to cap the day off, he grilled up some surf & turf for dinner. Tenderloin and king crab legs. Did I mention he rocks?  Yeah, he totally does.

So there you have it. I'm all ketched-up now! Better late than never! 

You know what's strange?  The fact that I RAN THREE MILES TO THE START OF MY HALF MARATHON. I know "real" runners do that kind of thing all the time, but I guess I don't classify myself as a real runner.  And I know I've run longer distances, and that I've tacked on miles AFTER a race to meet the mileage on my training plan, but still, I ran, RAN, to the start of a half marathon.  

Is it just me or is that batshit-crazy-sounding??  (But in a good way!)