Well hello there, blog. It’s been so long.

To sum up what you missed since I last blogged, it’s been business as usual. I trained through a very cold and snowy winter, with lots of treadmill time. I had a spectacular fall on my last long run, and sprained my thumb, scraped up both palms, bruised one knee so badly it still hurts two weeks later, and scraped the other knee, ripping a hole in my favorite capris in the process. The loss of the capris hurts more than the injuries.

Then I went to Vegas instead of running the C’ville 10 miler, but I had the Cherry Blossom on tap this weekend.

As with the Race Who Shall Not Be Named from last year, I took the train up and stayed with IronMo. She escorted me to an easy packet pickup with a fabulous expo, quite unlike the RWSNBN. We met up with my sister and her family for a quick, kid-friendly dinner, and then snagged some cookies at Whole Foods on the way back for a super early bedtime.

We were on the metro with another Friend of Mo by 6:30am, and had plenty of time for bag check before heading to the corrals. We had the unfortunate luck of being in the porta potties when the National Anthem started, which was an inauspicious start to the morning. 

Continuing this (neverending) winter’s trend, it was in the mid-30′s at the start. I was freezing. By the time I was in the corral, my feet were numb.

The race has a wave start, so I started 10 min or so after Mo and FoM. My numb feet made the first mile a bit dodgy, so I kept it slow. I really had no expectations going in, other than finishing. It’s rare that I don’t have solid plan going in. My only plan was to enjoy the sights, and to cross the finish under my own steam. It’s my first long run in years that I haven’t done with a group, so I was a little apprehensive about psyching myself out. I kept my head up, and the self-talk light.

By mile 2, I was much warmer, and slightly regretting keeping my fleece on. Near Arlington National Cemetery, I took off my gloves, and not long afterward, stepped off to the side to wriggle out of my fleece.

Around the 10K mark was when we hit Hains point. I was actually looking forward to this, remembering it as a cool and breezy oasis during the RWSNBN. Most people seem to dislike the monotony, but I was amped up for it! River views! Cherry trees! Breezes! Boats! Airplanes!

I discovered that once around Hains point is quite enough. My second time ever this year was overkill. I was feeling really draggy and even stopped to stretch during mile 8. I also stopped to gratefully take an Oreo from a spectator. I walked through a water stop. That was by far my slowest mile of the race. I really wish I’d brought headphones, just so I could listen to a podcast or an audiobook to keep myself occupied. Oh, and the cherry trees lining Hains? Yeah, not blossoming. Thank you very much, Polar Vortex!! (In all fairness, there was one lovely weeping cherry in full bloom. ONE. In three miles.)

But at mile 9, Hains point was fast becoming a distant, boring memory. There’s some considerable uphill getting off Hains point and up to the Washington Monument, but I welcomed it. I’m a hill runner, and I have come to depend on hills to help me adjust my form. Mile 10 was actually one of my faster miles. I amped myself up chastising spectators for not cheering. Do I need to remind you that I am a Scream Tunnel alum, and I take spectating VERY seriously? These jaded DC politico hipsters were obviously too cool for school. Whatever, nerds, you’re up early on a Sunday, you might as well make yourselves useful. But no, even direct, good-natured confrontation led mostly to blank stares. The spectators were looking past me SO HARD that I probably could have lifted their wallets without their noticing.

I wasn’t sure exactly where the finish was, so it seemed like I was running uphill forever, but finally, after cresting the hill, it came in to view. I didn’t sprint, I just kept on at a steady pace, and crossed without much to do at all. I continued down the hill, cooling off rapidly, and desperate for some water and a heat sheet. I finally found those, and headed to the meet up point, where Mo and her posse had been waiting forever, since one of them had run the 5K and the other two were a couple of waves ahead of me (and much faster). 

After we met up, I headed back to bag check and to the snack table where I was confronted with more bananas than you could shake a stick at. AND NOTHING ELSE. Please know that this was a beautifully organized event. Two races, tens of thousands of runners, and it was all so smooth. But damn you, I need something carbier and/or saltier at the end of a race. Apparently, there had been some samples of really healthy chips at one point, but they were gone by the time I finished. Mo generously offered me her baked Sweet Potato chips which I inhaled ferociously. We finally headed for Starbucks, and then hit the metro for brunch.

I was surprised at how good my stomach felt – the best I’ve been after a long run in YEARS. I credit my aggressive hydration strategy. Chugging water the day before, an Endurolyte and glass of water pre-race, 20 ounces of nuun during the race, plus water at two of the water stops. It’s a lot, I know, but I need it! I am super sweaty.

Post race I feel pretty good. My knees are a little creaky, and my left foot hurts. Mostly I’m just tired from the run and the travel involved. It turns out this was my second fastest 10 miler ever, so I’m a)pleasantly surprised at that and b)unpleasantly surprised by the reality of how slow I actually am.

I’m not sure when I’ll be racing next – two kids in baseball on Saturdays has my schedule jam-packed until the middle of June.


Summer’s End

02Sep13

The blog has been quiet because I haven’t really run all summer. Today is Labor Day – the unofficial end of summer. Time to end my running hiatus. 

I’ve struggled with foot problems since a couple of weeks after the Nike Half. I suspect plantar fasciitis, but as a person who has spent way too much time being capital-I-Injured these past couple of years, I detest the thought of getting a real diagnosis, so I’ve avoided that. Perhaps not wise, but after a summer of light running (really, just some brief jogging interludes while walking the dog), and religious wearing of Birks and Orthaheels* in gross violation of the “no flip flops” policy at work, I’m mostly ok. I’ve been stretching the old achilles, too. Basically, I’m to the point where my self-loathing for lack of fitness far outweighs any physical damage I might do by running.

Saturday marked the Women’s 4 Miler – an event that I no longer run because it is just too much of a circus for four lousy miles. But that I support wholeheartedly. I volunteered setting up packet pickup this year, and would have also volunteered on race day had I not had a scheduling conflict. It was great to see everyone’s facebook and twitter feeds all lit up with W4M posts. I am so proud to be part of a community that has as its biggest anti-cancer fundraiser a RUN, not just a walk. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good charity walk. I think it’s great that families and strollers can participate in those events.

But you know what thrills me about the W4M? It’s that the running community here believes that any woman has the potential to run four miles, and to call herself a runner. Women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities run this race. And yes, walkers are welcomed with open arms (in fact, the last-place finisher gets a special celebration), but the essence of this event is that YOU.CAN.DO.IT.

And so I leave this sedentary summer behind, and look forward. In less than 12 weeks there is a half marathon that I’m just crazy enough to train for, starting nearly from zero. And then my beloved 10 miler in the spring. I.CAN.DO.IT.

 

*I’m not compensated by either, but will still sing their praises.


I had hoped to end my running season by triumphantly sprinting up a mountain, so it stung to have such a bad run at the Montalto Challenge. And then I saw this picture of me:

Atop Montalto

Photo by Coach Mark, probably the only guy in town who can get such a happy face after such a crappy run.

Not only is this a good picture of me running, it is a good picture of me, end of sentence! I look so happy and fresh. I look like I even smell good.

Many thanks to Coach Mark for capturing this moment of relief. Truthfully, I was elated to see him, so happy to be done with this race, and within sight of bagels. Despite my lackluster performance, it was a happy moment, and I’m glad it was preserved. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Post-race doldrums be gone!!


I wish I had a good juicy race report for this one – it deserves better. This is a unique, all-uphill 5K that finishes at Montalto, which overlooks Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home and a World Heritage site. I mean, who gets to do that? Just me and 300 of my closest running friends. It’s crazy awesome.

Truthfully, it was just one race too many. The Ten Miler in March, Nike Half last weekend, and this, less than a week later. I.Am.Tired. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t hydrate properly. I didn’t eat breakfast. I haven’t been keeping up with my PT exercises. As a result, I was done by the time I finished my half-mile warmup.

I started walking before we even got to the switchbacks, just over halfway into the race. And then, the switchbacks. Someone at the start said it was a 10% grade. It reminded me of hiking up out of the Grand Canyon, which I did 11 years, two kids, and one hip surgery ago. And it was hard back then. By the time it “leveled” out, relatively speaking, about .3 from the finish, I waved my running partner on ahead and continued trudging.

The view was spectacular, but it was particularly chilly for this time of year, and I couldn’t wait to get off the mountaintop and crank up the heated seats. Not knowing when the buses would start going back down the mountain, we elected to walk down the switchbacks, and then were promptly passed by the first buses that started down the mountain about 90 seconds after we did. Ah, well. At least we enjoyed the view.

And thus concludes my 2012-2013 racing season! I’m looking forward to Saturday morning Mom Tri season, and refocusing my exercise time on my neglected PT exercises and cross training. This year was proof that the bad hip can do everything I want it to – by the time the dog days of summer roll around, I’ll be dreaming of PRs.


Yes, that’s the official name. Ridiculous. Like so much else about this race. My biggest compliment is that all the marketing collateral was really lovely. 

The original plan was that IronMo would stay with me Friday night, run the Park to Park in nearby Waynesboro on Saturday morning with me cheering, and then drive me back up to her house Saturday afternoon in time for packet pickup. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, but as the date neared, I realized that Max had back to back Little League games Friday night and Saturday morning, and I truly did not know how the timing and logistics were ever going to be possible. So when Mo floated the idea that maybe she was a little too over-stressed and under-prepared for the race, I had a train ticket booked before she could change her mind.

The train was awesome, and Mo met me at Union Station and we took a bus to Georgetown because of course Nike would put their packet pickup and “Expotique” in a place with no parking and no metro and nowhere near the racecourse. The line was unbelievably long. It took about 40 minutes to get into the tent where a volunteer speed-talked at me and shoved me out the door before I knew what the hell had just happened. Before I left the premises, I made sure I had my bib and my all important pace corral bracelet, because according to Nike’s facebook comments, you WOULD NOT be allowed in your pace corral without it and would have to start in the back with the walkers. (Cue ominous foreshadowing music.)

We visited the Expotique, which was totally, utterly lame, except for the Luna bar booth where you could have a custom cheer sign printed. I made a RUN WELLESLEY STRONG sign. And ate a ton of samples. 

Dinner followed with my adorable nephew and oh yeah his parents. I had a disgustingly wonderful bleu cheese bacon burger, and a milkshake, which I sucked down with abandon, right after having a conversation about becoming lactose intolerant in my old age. Not so bright, but I didn’t die, and it was delicious.

Meanwhile, Ida texted me wondering how we would know which pace corral to be in, and as it turns out, she had not gotten a corral bracelet in her packet. (Nor had she gotten safety pins, but luckily she came prepared with her own.) After a fruitless PM session with faceless, heartless Nike on Facebook, we made some half-assed contingency plans, and set up a morning meeting place and time.

I fell asleep fat and happy before 10pm, slept like the dead, and awoke just after 5am without an alarm. It is the best night’s sleep I have ever had before a race. I blearily pushed the “brew now” button on Mo’s tiny coffeemaker, got out the tiny container of milk (apparently, it was a quart, but it looked hilariously Lilliputian, given that I buy two gallons at a time), and half-filled her disproportionately large coffee mug.

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Hilariously small milk jug and coffeepot; giant mug

We were out the door on schedule, and Metro’ed in by 6:15 to meet up with Ida. Rather than brave the porta potty lines, we ducked into a hotel near the start, where a super-awesome hotel employee, noting the long line at the women’s restroom, cleared out the men’s room and guarded the door. I am sure that was not in his job description, and I am truly grateful for his sacrifice.

Then we set out for our corral. I was convinced they wouldn’t actually be checking the pace bracelets, but as we arrived, there was a huge throng of people trying to get in because there was only one tiny entrance for a zillion runners, and they were indeed checking bracelets. But lo and behold, as the pre-race announcements started, bracelet checking magically stopped, and everyone flooded in, including Ida, with no bracelet. 

Some really irritating rah rah crapola started up, but then they introduced Joanie and Shalane and I suddenly I puffy-heart loved Nike and this race and everything about it. For about three minutes.

A moment of silence for Boston, the national anthem, and then the start!! It only took us about five minutes to cross the start, but for the first long while, we were really crammed in and couldn’t move well. Just when people started to thin out, the course narrowed and we were jammed in together again.

In mile 1, we were routed through a tunnel. A very long tunnel. It really hit all my panic buttons. Enclosed space, lots of people, incredibly noisy. There were not one but two drumming stations inside the tunnel. I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I could not get out of there soon enough. Also, we lost satellites in the tunnel, and when we got out, I was eager to check our pace. As it turns out, Ida’s auto-pause was on, so every time we went in a tunnel or under an overpass, her clock stopped. Mine did some creative extrapolating, and showed us at 1.1 by the one mile mark.

We saw Mo around Mile 2, easy to spot in her bright blue Boston shirt. Apparently it’s a lot harder to spot two women running in a crowd of running women, because I had to go full on Mary-Catherine Gallagher to get her attention.

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Mile 6, Mary Catherine Gallagher style.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed the course, and it was scenic, lots of bands and crowd support, blah blah blah. There were so many people so close around us the whole time that it was hard to pay attention to the scenery for fear of crashing into another runner. I had had low expectations for the water stops, but they were actually quite well-organized. Even though I carried my water bottle, I stopped at two of them – once to pour water on my head because I was roasting in the sun, and again to fill my water bottle near the end. 

I felt really freaking awesome until mile 10, when my body said, “Hey wait, didn’t we train for a TEN miler?” and decided it was pretty well done. That happened to coincide with the only hill on the course, so we ended up taking a couple of walk breaks in the last three miles. Much to my horror, we also had to go back through the tunnel in mile 11, which, not coincidentally, was our fastest mile of the race, and the only one under 10 minutes. That is, according to my watch, which by that time was .4mi ahead of the race markers.

We straggled through the long out and back toward the Capitol, which would have been really stirring and patriotic were I not really, really done with hurty feet at that point. We took a moment to wave to Ida’s family, and then we pounded through the long, shadeless straightaway to the finish.

The clock at the finish was incorrect, Ida’s garmin was wrong, and mine was reading 13.5 mi so I didn’t trust it. So we really had no idea if we were close to our 2:25 goal or not.

But who cares! There was schwag!! And very sweet and handsome Howard ROTC students in tuxedos handing it out. They were adorable, and so tolerant of all the crazy, sweaty women who wanted hugs and pictures to go with their little blue boxes. They seemed so young I couldn’t even feel cougar-y about them. 

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Handsome college kid, Ida, and me, through my sweaty gross iPhone lens.

The finish line was crowded, but there was plenty of food left. I knew I had a Cliff Bar waiting for me with Mo, so I collected my snacks and turned them over to Ida to give to her kids. Then we got our t-shirts, and headed out of the finish area.

Once we took some photos and Ida collected her gear from Mo, she headed off to have family time in DC, while Mo and I headed back to her house, where I did an impossibly quick shower and change so that we could head back into the city for brunch.

Brunch was awesome. I had chocolate chip pancakes, three of them, that were the size of a dinner plate, a salad, and a vast quantity of coffee. So awesome. Plus, there were friends of Mo’s!!! It was truly delightful.

I had a while before my train, so we walked around DC, because if I couldn’t nap, I needed to keep moving or I’d stiffen up. We ducked in to the Portrait Gallery and looked at all the presidents’ portraits. Some of my commentary was probably inappropriate, but I was so exhausted, I really had no filters left between my brain and mouth.

Then Mo put me on the Metro to Union Station, and she headed home. I ate another huge quantity of food waiting for my train, and had a relaxing ride back, where I continued to not stretch.

I’m feeling pretty good, though I have some bothersome blisters on one toe, which is not like me – I can count on one hand the number of times I have had blisters, ever. So a shoe switch might be in order.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll do this race again. One, the tunnels. My god, the tunnels. So panic-inducing. Two, Nike. When a race uses a Facebook page as their website, that’s a red flag. I felt like I spent a lot of mental energy worrying about details surrounding the race (corral bracelets, how to get to packet pickup, no identifying info on the bib, no photos on the course, etc), when I should have been thinking about my race plan. Three, the crowded course. Give me a lonely country road any day.

But the Tiffany necklace is nice, and yes, I did pay an arm and a leg for the Tiffany blue Nike Frees. So, I’m enjoying all that. What I most loved about this race though was just the opportunity to spend time with my friends, old and new. I’m exhausted, but my spirit is invigorated. 

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Me and Iron Mo after the race, showing our Boston/Wellesley pride.


The Nike Women’s Half is coming up on Sunday – what a gift to have an opportunity to race less than two weeks after Boston. And what a gift to be able to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Yep, I’m begging for money! Because there’s still no cure for cancer….

http://mch.nikehalf.llsevent.org/ryanlooney

 


Still running

16Apr13

Since I last updated, I ran the 10 miler and had a great race. I got food poisoning and missed a week of training. I started raising money for LLS for the upcoming Nike Women’s Half in DC. I surreptitiously streamed coverage of the Boston Marathon at work, as I do every year. And then…

I have spectated in person 5 times, and from a distance at least a dozen others. I have looked up Boylston at those flags just past the four hour mark. That race is so close to my heart; it is part of what makes me who I am. I am a proud alumna of Wellesley College, aka the Scream Tunnel. Boston, though I could never hope to qualify, is the reason why I started running. Patriots Day was always the happiest day of the year in Boston.

There’s a thing that went around the Interwebs – an aerial photo of Manhattan’s orderly grids, captioned “New York, because we want you to know where you are and how to get where you’re going” and then a photo of Boston’s tangled streets captioned “Boston, because fuck you.”

Am I still going to run a very crowded race in our nation’s capital, less than two weeks after Boston? Yes. Because fuck you.

I run for Boston.




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