Thursday, June 29, 2006

Where in the world is...

...Nic? Where in the world is Nic?

Well let's see... According to the Outlook Calendar - and really, what else DOES one consult to figure out who one needs to see, what one needs to hurry up and finish, where one needs to go, when one needs to take one's medicine, why one needs to break down and buy a Crackberry already...

Yeah, so according to the Outlook Calendar:

24 JUN 06 - Board plane to Philadelphia. At the same time as Family who was visiting in San Francisco. But on a different airline. Because wasn't eight days enough? Eight days plus a couple more? At the house in which you grew up? Isn't that 25% more? FREE! Did the family even have a coupon?

25 JUN 06 - Drive to Plymouth Meeting, PA. Because who wants to drive on the PA Turnpike at 5:00 a.m. from Parents' house to Monday morning meeting when a King Sized bed and a warm cookie await your arrival at The Doubletree?

26 JUN 06 - Drive to Swiftwater, PA. Because that's where your FRENCH client decided to set-up some offices. And they're having a meeting, and they want you to attend...

27 JUN 06 - Back to Plymouth Meeting for a few more meetings before trying to get home to San Francisco. After sitting on the runway for 2 hours, then being re-directed in flight, Driving on the 101 never felt so good.

28 JUN 06 - Arrive in Evanston, IL! To visit the fantastic LGA. OK, by the time the plane touched down at 12:32 a.m. it was 29 JUN 06, but if the airlines aren't going to balk about a seven minute late arrival, I won't be picky.

30 JUN 06 - Arrive in Dubuque, IA! Yes, Iowa - another new state for Nic! Because some people ARE in fact from Iowa. These people may have moved to Chicago, but they still want to get married in EFFING IOWA. Much to the inconvenience of all the guests in attendance...

02 JUL 06 - Back to Chicago. For the third time in three months. This time should be more fun than the past two times, though. Because it's for fun and not work!

05 JUL 06 - Back to San Francisco. For four blissful days of sleeping in my own bed. While I'm there I plan to drink (soy) milk out of the carton while standing in front of the fridge with the door wide open. I so miss refridgerators while spending so many nights in hotels...

09 JUL 06 - Board plane to St. Petersburg, FL via Denver and Tampa. For week-long meeting sponsored by French client. Because a company that builds an office in Swiftwater, PA also thinks it's a great idea to have a meeting in Florida in July. For a week. (??????????????)

14 JUL 06 - Board plane to... drum roll... CHICAGO. Again. For the fourth time in three months. This time will NOT be more fun than the past three times. Because it's for work. Again.

15 JUL 06 - Board plane to... drum roll... BIG DRUM ROLL... CYMBALS! Yes, I want to hear CYMBALS. Because, finally, FINALLY, on 15 JUL 06 I will get off a plane in San Francisco. I will hop on a shuttle to Nob Hill. I will drop off my bags, then walk to the corner store. I will purchase copious amounts of (soy) milk. I will bring it home, and I will put it in the fridge. Only to immediately take it out and drink every last beautiful drop from the carton.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Family Ties

They are the ties that bind. And the ties that kept us together this past week, herding us through San Francisco. Up and down and up and down... Riding the emotional roller coaster that being a part of this family mandates.

After finally finding a place to park last Friday, these Family Ties looped us down the crooked Lombard Street for a few quick pictures before cocktails and homemade guacamole on my roof, for sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge. They induced story-telling with my roommates of Nic as a little kid, and festive imbibing of single malts and California wine into the wee (well, on the East Coast...) hours. And Family Ties that when Brother started to shake and shimmy out at bars, proved that dancing really does run in the family.

The Family Ties rappelled us down from Nob Hill and into Fisherman's Wharf on Saturday, for Boudin sourdough breadbowls and touristing along Pier 39. Then over to Fort Miley for a friend's BBQ and beautiful scenery of Ocean Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge, and back to Polk Street for a light dinner at a local spot on Polk Street.

Family Ties that gathered us Sunday morning for brunch in Mill Valley at The Dipsea Cafe before an afternoon in Napa. Celebrating Father's Day like a family with grown-up children should - with flights and pours at some of the best wineries in the country. And family ties that brought us together for Ferry Building lunches and Embarcadero explorations to celebrate a 30th wedding anniversary and a semi-second honeymoon on Monday June 19. Onto dinner at the Mission Hot-spot Delfina - compliments of Nic.

On Tuesday, they assembled us at the pier for a cruise to Alcatraz, and kept us from getting left in The Hole. Ties that reconvened us on Wednesday and Thursday in North Beach for fusion dining after days of travel to Muir Woods and Sausalito, Monterey and Carmel, the Presidio Golf Course and Half Moon Bay, as well as too many hours at the office for Nic.

They are ties that occasionally were a little tight and constricting. Ties that made it hard to breathe and smile. Ties that every now and then this past week, would have made a pretty good noose. OK, maybe just a bullwhip would have sufficed.

But Family Ties that keep us from slipping away from each other despite physical and emotional distance. That keep us happily dis-functioning with the best of them. For I am my father's daughter, and Brother is his mother's son. And though I sometimes contemplate how they ever got together in the first place, let alone survived thirty years of marriage, I am glad we're the herd that we are.

Because these Family Ties will always keep us connected, and pulled taught from PA to CA and back, with many more visits to come.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Meet the Parents

Dad, Mom, and Brother are in San Francisco!

...For EIGHT days.

Close your eyes. OK, in through the nose - hold it at the top. And now, exhale slowly. (Repeat.)

Yeah, we're past cleansing breaths at this point. Maybe I need a long run. Or a stiff drink. Or a lot of drugs. Maybe all three? Or perhaps I just need a healthy dose of patience. I wonder if they sell patience at the corner store? Do you think it comes in easy to swallow gel caps?

One day down, seven more to go. Of Forced Famliy Fun at its San Francisco FINEST.

Alcohol will probably be really helpful, though. Good thing we're going to Napa tomorrow!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Bunch of Lollygaggers

It was around Mile 11 when I heard myself say - to myself - because I was all alone again at that point, "Running is fucking bullshit. We are officially DONE with the running."

It was Leg #4 of the Lake Tahoe Relay. I had just seen my teammates around Mile 10.5-ish. And I had just twisted my ankle in a pot hole. I had just fallen to the ground, then tried to stand up, and then saw stars and blackness cloud my vision. From standing up too fast. Or from needing water. Or from running too much. Or from all three. I had just started to whimper to my roommate, JWC, that I didn't know how I was going to keep going for two more miles. I had taken her hand in mine, and squeezed it with all the energy I had at that moment.

"Nic, you are doing SOOO great. I will walk it with you, if you want. You're almost done!" (JWC has the most calming, reassuring voice.) "No, I just need to calm down. I need to just get a grip, and calm down. I'll... I'll be fine. See you in a couple of miles," I said, as I took off again. Up yet another hill. It was absolutely GORGEOUS. But it wasn't pretty.

The seven of us, plus our driver, were up by 6:00 a.m. feasting on peanut butter and bananas on wheat toast plus sides of oatmeal. We piled into our very own Silver Bullet (the minivan rental) and headed to the race start. 100 teams gathered around the 2006 DeCelle Memorial Start/Finish line.

At 7:00 a.m. JT ("Double Booked!") was off on Leg #1 as the team piled into Silver Bullet to get coffee and cheer on JT around Mile 3. JT was great. We had only picked him up off a UC Berkeley Hiking Message board on Friday night when one of our runners had to bail. He didn't know anyone else who was going to be on the trip and he came anyway, because he had never seen Lake Tahoe and was moving to Ithaca, NY in a few short weeks. What a great way to see Lake Tahoe for the first time!

JT ran a great leg and put A Bunch of Lollygaggers off to a great start. TN ("Photoshop!) picked up where JT left off to begin Leg #2 - Zephyr Cove. TN is likely the best runner of the crew - ran a 3:45 this year at Big Sur - his first marathon ever! - so he agreed to run one of the hardest legs of the race. It was only 8.2 miles, but it ascended 800 feet. TN didn't disappoint, averaging 8:30/miles MAX. At elevation, nonetheless, all after barely running for 5 weeks to overcome a sprained ankle. TN is my hero.

After making it to the top of the hill, it was time for roommie JWC ("Snorting is HOT!") to run Leg #3 - Spooner Summit. 10.3 miles of mostly downhill, this leg was gorgeous, but warm. JWC was a little nervous because she didn't spend much time training. But I'm so impressed! She also averaged slightly over 8:30s during her leg, even hopping the guard rail to run some trails in a construction zone!

Up next was Leg #4 - Highway 28 & Lakeshore. A 12.3 mile stretch along the intersection of Highway 28 and Lakeshore Drive, though Incline Village. Rolling hills and HOT weather. TN waited with me at the start as the rest of the team drove the Silver Bullet to pick up others who stayed back to pass JWC water at her 8 Mile mark. I was nervous before my leg began. I hadn't run more than the two blocks from my apartment to my car to make sure I wasn't in a Street Cleaning Zone Friday morning. My legs weren't 100% and I wasn't supposed to run this leg, but with the last minute changes to A Bunch of Lollygaggers, I sucked it up.

I got off to a good start, taking the slight incline in stride (haha) and enjoying the downhills. I focused my efforts on breathing deeply and running slowly. I used to think running the hills of San Francisco was tough, but running at 6300 feet above sea level really puts the Presidio hills into perspective. I was breathing deeply, but oxygen just wasn't getting into my lungs, much less my bloodstream. I rememberd TN telling me it would take a couple miles to get used to the air, though, so I remained calm. I passed a runner and tried to just enjoy the pace. It was difficult. Luckily, enjoying the scenery was much easier.

Pre-race, I hadn't spent much time reviewing my route. Nor have I spent any time in Lake Tahoe. So it was difficult to run this course. I tried to treat it like a recovery run, and just take things easily and slowly, but it's so hard to hold back during a race. I saw the team around two miles into my leg, drank some water, and absorbed as many "YOU LOOK GOOD!"s from the Lollygaggers as possible. It was time to enjoy the last (small) flat stretch I'd see for a while.

The climb started at Mile 4, 6325 feet above sea level. Now, I thought my big hill was at the end of my leg because when I checked the route map, I kind of reversed the directions in my head. The map was laid out West to East insted of East to West, and I thought the upgrade at Mile 4 was just a small one. So I pushed, telling myself the faster I got up this hill the sooner I'd be able to enjoy the descent back to the bottom. Only problem was that the little hill I thought I was running was the main (BIG) hill of my leg. It was torture. My hamstrings, which hadn't hurt me at all since San Diego, were aching. And I was nervous that I was going to cramp up, so I was afraid to walk.

I thought I had slowed my pace, but by the time I saw the Lollygaggers again at Mile 6.2, I learned that I had been running for 54 minutes. And I had already gone up and over the worst incline of my leg. But 6.2 was only my halfway point - I still had a ways to go. So after sucking down some Gu from KT - who encouraged me by saying I had really put some distance between myself and the teams behind us - I was off again, enjoying the flat road, the mountains ahead, and the beautiful lake to my right.

I saw everyone again around Mile 8. I was tired, and much to my dismay, I still wasn't breathing as well as I would have like to have been breathing. Given that I was 8 miles into my leg and that I still had 4.3 more miles to go. But I kept going, and I actually got to RUN across the California state line from the Nevada side of the lake back into California. An amazing moment for me...

I was feeling great for the next two miles. But as I again approached the Lollygaggers for my final water stop, I twisted my ankle. I fell down to the ground, then tried to stand up, but did so a little too quickly. I saw stars. And fog. And little birdies. I sat down to let the haze subside, drank some water, and tried to walk it off. The pain in my ankle had left, but the dizziness hadn't, and I wasn't sure how I was going to keep going. I did NOT want to run feeling like this.

So I started to cry. And as I've explained before, one cannot run, cry, and breathe at the same time. One HAS to pick two of the three. I held JWC's hand, because for a brief moment, I had decided to pick crying and breathing. When that wasn't getting me anywhere, though, I knew I had to pick running and breating, as running and crying would not allow me to breathe at all, and it was too gorgeous of a day to give up breathing. I inhaled - as much as I could so that I could grab onto as much oxygen as possible - and I let go of JWC's hand. I planted one foot in front of the other, and I didn't stop.

I told myself I could stop running forever after this race was done. I told myself that I could take yoga and spinning. That I could lie on my couch and watch television. That I could drink copious amounts of red wine... But that I had to finish this leg. For my team and for myself. And so I again climbed a hill. Which I promptly ran back down. The Lollygaggers, fearing my emotional state at mile 10.5, had stopped again at mile 11.5. Upon seeing them, my spirits soared. I danced by, gave thumbs up, took some water, and thanked JWC for making the extra stop. One last, "YOU LOOK GOOD!" and I was off again with barely a mile to go.

The next time I saw JWC my heart almost sank. I though I only had a mile to go? Why was she standing on the road again? "The finish is just ahead!" She yelled and smiled and pointed to KT, who was waiting for me at the pass-off. At that moment, I did see the flags. So I started to sprint. I heard the crowd say, "WOW, look how fast she's going!" and I sprinted harder. I slapped KT's hand one hour and 50 minutes after I started my leg. 12.3 miles with a 200 ft hill done at 6300 feet of elevation, at 8:57 average pace.

I was so happy to be done. But there wasn't much time to Lollygag. KT ("Dosen't everyone get turned on by efficiency?") didn't have an easy leg, either. Leg #5 - Cedar Flats was anything but flat. The hill started right away, which made KT a little cranky. "I can't believe you're trying to give me water on a HILL!" Uh, sorry, KT. We just thought you'd be thirsty... But she did a great job. Finishing her 10.5 miles in about 9:00 minute/mile pace, too. Breezing into the pass-off to tap KR ("Hot Legs") and send him off on Leg #6 - Homewood Ski.

Poor, KR. Leg #6 didn't look THAT bad on the map. Oh, but it was bad. Because it was really hot by the time we had reached this part of the map. And while everyone else had some really bad uphills, we also had some really sweet downhills. Not Leg #6. Leg #6 was relentless. But KR pressed through. While the Lollygaggers played Catch Phrase on the side of the road, KR climbed hill after hill. We fed him water, Gatorade, and Gu. We danced for him. And we cheered. And finally, after one hour and fourty five minutes, KR tapped EC ("I like large men and swords") to bring us home.

Leg #7 - Emerald Bay was without a doubt the most scenic leg of the race. Through the Bliss Park chain control zone. With the gentle rolling hills to finish, save one minor uphill struggle. In fact, the view from Leg #7 was so inspiring that even our driver, AH, who had carted us all over Lake Tahoe in the Silver Bullet all day, decided to stretch his legs and join in for some of the run. EC was smokin' fast throughout this leg, even through the Heart of the Forest Renaissance Fair. But I guess that if I saw a bunch of large men carrying swords in the forest in Lake Tahoe, I'd also run like the wind. No matter how tired I was!

We cheered EC on at miles 3, 6, and 9 of his leg, before heading back to the finish line to await for his return. Tired after a long day, we staggered from the Silver Bullet to the finish chute. It was 6:55 PM. Ten hours and 55 minutes after we started. Oh, EC! Hurry up! We can break 11 hours! We only had to endure the suspense for a few minutes, as EC turned the final corner to sprint through the Finish Line at 6:58 PM. Meaning that yes, even A Bunch of Lollygaggers can run 72 miles around Lake Tahoe, at 6300 feet or more above sea level, in under 11 hours. That's 9:08 minutes/mile, on average - enough for finishing in the top 50! (I think #45...)

Of course, now that it's over, I can't wait to race again. Which means that I am NOT "done" with running. If anything, I am more geared up to start training again. And I mean REALLY training. Up hills. And at elevation. With weights. And in pools. And on bikes. And on trails. And obviously, on long stretches of open road. Where I can think and push and breathe and soar and smile and sprint and run far and away and into the great, wide, open. How else can we expect to break ten hours next year?

Don't delay - LOLLYGAG!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Spinning My Wheels

Since I could walk down the hills of San Francisco today at the pace of a regular 26 year old, I decided it was time. To again don a sports bra. And a little spandex. To lace up my Asics, and pull my hair up in a ponytail. And boldly go where so many in this city go every day... THE GYM.

So I met AR at our nearest Crunch and we took a spinning class. Well, sort of. AR actively participated in the class from beginning to end. I pretty much sat on my bike and peddled with intent every now and then. I didn't sprint all out, nor did I pile on the resistance. I just wanted to get the blood flowing in my legs again. They've been feeling like dead weight since Monday evening.

But, it seems that 60 minutes on the bike also got the blood flowing to my brain, again, too. Four days without a run and I feel like I haven't had any time to just THINK.

Thursday 6:30 PM spin is a pretty good class. The instructor is hella ripped. He's also German, and since I'm pretty obsessed with accents, I can quickly get lost in his voice. So I tune out everything else, and just listen to his commands. I spend the entire class zoned out but deep in thought.

Thinking... (Position 1) About what I want to buy at the grocery store. (Position 2) Grocery store my ass. I want to go shopping at Nordstrom's. (Position 1) About whether or not I REALLY like my job. (Position 3) And about how I'm going to remedy my answer to that question. (Position 2) About my quadriceps, which are feeling a little sore right now. (Position 1) About apartments. And parking spaces. And down payments. (Position 3) About my butt. And about how it looks in my jeans. The jeans that I'm going to wear on Sunday. Oh, Sunday. I cannot WAIT for Sunday. (Position 3 - STILL) Are you effing kidding me? HURRY UP, Sunday! HURRY UP and get here! My butt is just FINE as is!

While cycling away, I also spent some time thinking about - of all things - cycling. I think I want a bike, sometimes. Yeah, it's turning into pretty much all the time. But I don't know how I feel about wearing THAT much spandex. Cyclists wear a lot of spandex... If I'm going to wear all that spandex, I'm probably going to have to get into the effing pool, at some point. Or at least back to regular weight training. Mabye I'll get a trainer? They're kind of expensive and likely not worth the money, though... But how much would I really pay for cut triceps? Hmm... Not as much as I would pay for six pack abs. OOOH! Bikram! I haven't been to Bikram in a while. I could DEFINITELY go for some Bikram. Right now. And a salad with avocado. I am hungry.

And for the rest of the class I can only think about food. But I welcome the hunger. I haven't been very hungry since the Powerade incident.

This hour on the bike has brought life back to my legs. Which is good. I'll be needing them again, very soon . And these sixty minutes of spinning have also provided me time for uninterrupted thought. My brain is coming back to life. Which is also good. 60 minutes of spinning my wheel and I'm feeling pretty damn SMART again.

And I'm getting all kinds of crazy ideas about what I want to do next...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Twiddling My Thumbs

I'm on top of all of my projects at work. (Pretty much.) And I don't have to travel anywhere again until July. (But of course, when I do, I'll be headed for Chicago...)

I've caught up on The Sopranos. And Big Love. All of my clothes are put away. My room is in order and the apartment is actually kind of clean.

I don't owe anyone an email. And it's too late (on the East Coast) to call the people I need to call.

...(twiddle, twiddle, twiddle)...

So... what do you do at night when you don't have to plan a route, pack a bag for the gym, make your breakfast the night before, wash your sports bras in the sink, or go to bed early? What do you DO with so much free time?

I'll tell you one thing - if you plan on hanging out with your roommates and Ben and Jerry, then you better remember to take your Lactaid pills.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Rock and Bonk Marathon Race Report

The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I was ready for it. Having already woken up at 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. to go peeps, I was feeling pretty good. Hydrated. Rested. Excited. I body-glided, dressed, slurped down my Organic Optimum Power Instant Hot Oatmeal (from a mug in my hotel room, since I forgot to pack spoons...) and began to quasi-obsess over how to wear my hair. Double French braids and a visor or pony tail and dri-fit cap?

At 5:15 a.m., I went downstairs. A. Maria, THE Little Miss Runner Pants herself, picked me up. (How cool is THAT?) A few moments later we were zipping down the freeway, headed to the starting village. With A. Maria's friend behind the wheel, we navigated a sweet back-road route to avoid the traffic. By 5:30 a.m. we were at the starting village.

We waited in line for the Port-o-potties, and I dodged a guy from my running club who irritates the hell out of me, before we met up with Runner Susan. Again, we used the port-o-potties, and then we went our separate ways to take some time for ourselves. I was excited, but calm. I felt really good and strong, but I wasn't sure I had eaten enough. So I grabbed a half of a bagel, jogged around Balboa park for a few minutes, peed yet again behind some bushes - much to the surprise (delight?) of the fellas who were doing the same - and headed to the corrals.

I entered Corral #4 and took a look around... Damn, these runners looked GOOD! But I felt good, too, so it was great standing side by side with a great group of men and women. I spotted the 3:40 pacer and tried to focus on going out slow and staying with the 3:40 pack. But then the gun went off, and we were on our way, and I quickly lost sight of that group as I dodged in and out of pockets of people.

The start was actually quite smooth for a race with 20,000 participants. I've done two Rock N Roll Half Marathons in Virginia Beach, and I will give Elite Racing props for consistently doing a great job at setting up the corrals. I passed the Mile 1 marker at 9:27 gun time and heard someone say, "25 more miles to go!" I couldn't stop smiling. I love running, races, and especially marathons.

Around mile 3 - just past the San Diego Zoo - I realized I was going to have to pee again. So I pulled over and went behind a bush. If you haven't noticed, I really detest port-o-potties. (And I've got a cute butt, so if some runners get to see it, good for them!) Looking back, I am sure that this quick pee break only took about 30 seconds. But I definitely picked up the pace after this pit stop. I spotted what I thought was the 3:40 pace group, and tried to catch up. Only to realize once I was within a few yards of them that they were the 3:30 pace group...

Still, I felt good. I didn't feel like I was breathing heavily. I didn't feel like my legs were uncomfortable. I felt strong. And fast. And fabulous. Down into the Gas Lamp district, the crowds were pretty good, although still a little too quiet and sedate, in my opinion. Pretty soon - actually, all too soon - I had passed the 10K mark. Chip time - 48:57. Pace - 7:54 min/mile.

Um, SLOW DOWN, Nic! Awesome 10K PR aside, we're racing a marathon here. Buck up!

So I let myself fall further behind the 3:30 group. Continuing through the Gas Lamp District past Mile 7 and onto 10th Avenue towards Mile 8. I continued to glide down the slight hill onto Highway 163, checking my pace band at every mile. Mile 9, Mile 10, Mile 11, Mile 12 - still ahead of a 3:40 finish. I can do this, I can do this. I feel great. Still many miles to go, but I feel strong and powerful. 3:40! 3:40! 3:40!

I crossed Mile 13.1 in 1:47:06. Another PR! Holy Shit. That's three minutes faster than my best half marathon to date.

Nic, slow down!!!! 8:11 minutes/mile is still TOO FAST!

Except that I didn't say that too myself. Maybe the logical side of me said that to myself, but the"Wow I'm running such a great race" side of me said something else: Keep it up! This is so much fun! Faster faster faster! Right left right left fly glide soar!

Why does my rational and practical side have to be so quite and reserved? If only Rational-Practical screamed like Bold-Daring does. Maybe Rational-Practical would have been able to make herself heard. But no... Bold-Daring was out of control! It was as if we were at a crazy college (UVA) fraternity party and everyone was about to go and streak The Lawn, but not without first taking shots of Jegger. (Bold-Daring was always up for Jegger shots. And streaking The Lawn.) So of course, yesterday on the marathon course, Bold-Daring wanted to keep up the quick pace. But not before grabbing a cup of Powerade at the next water stop.

I honestly don't remember having Powerade problems in the past. Dad says I hate the stuff. And since I never consume Powerade or Gatorade during training, I probably at one point did decide to not drink it anymore. (And because you called me three times during the race, Dad, I'm sure it's also because you remember everything and are often right. Happy Father's Day.) But I have definitely had Gatorade or Powerade during other races without any problems. But yesterday, the Powerade did NOT sit well. Nor did it absorb. It just kind of floated in my stomach. But I didn't really notice it until after Mile 14. After I had just drank another cup of it. And subsequently threw up in my mouth.

It was nasty. But it made me laugh, kind of, as I instinctively recited some of my favorite lines from the movie Dodgeball. Allow me...
  • White Goodman: Are you okay?
  • Kate Veatch: I'm fine. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
  • White Goodman: In some cultures, they only eat vomit. I never been there, but I read about it... *in a book*.
How can you not sort of recover even just a little bit when reciting lines from Dodgeball? Damn, Ben Stiller is a GENIUS. Anyway, I kept going, but by Mile 15 I was hurting - badly. It felt like I had put an entire keg of water (or beer... or Powerade...) in my stomach. I could hear and feel it swirling around in there. I kept wanting to burp but nothing would come out. Then the real stomach pain set in. I pulled over to the side to try to walk it off, but by then it was too late. I was in real trouble.

I think I slowed down to about 10 minute miles by Mile 16 or 17. I remember the 3:40 pace group passing me somewhere along that mile. But I hadn't given up yet, though. I remember thinking - HOPING - that my stomach would start to cooperate. I drank some water and walked for a couple of minutes. I don't remember any crowds during this leg of the race, but maybe that's because I couldn't think about much more than my stomach at that point.

Between Mile 18 and 19, I tried to drink more water. But it was just so hard to swallow. The thought of adding anything else to my stomach repulsed me. By Mile 20, my time was 3:07:11. That's when I finally accepted that 3:40 was not going to happen. Hell, at that point I knew I wasn't going to PR anymore, either. And I figured that I better just get to the finish line un-injured. So much for rocking and rolling... I had definitely bonked. (My first time ever.)

I heard the announcers at the finish line right as I was about to cross Mile 26. I heard them counting down the four-hour mark. And I felt an even larger ache as I realized I wasn't even going to break four hours. The dancer in me tried to smile as I came in for the final stretch, but it just hurt too much. I glanced at the clock and noticed that it read 4:03:43. Once I was in the finisher's chute, I just curled up in a ball. I couldn't even cry. I collected my things and headed out to the grass near the San Diego Track Club where we agreed to meet up with everyone. I nibbled on a Clif Bar and a banana, sipped some water, and just sat there kind of dazed.

After a while, I started to reflect. In particular, I thought about what I had been afraid of before the race: pain and failure.

Pain: The pain I felt at Mile 20 was not the same kind of pain I had been afraid of before the race. No, it was worse. Worse because I brought this pain onto myself with a very unintelligent, snap-decision. I'm sure I make many unintelligent snap-decisions throughout my daily life, but normally I can quickly recover from them. I couldn't recover from this one. Not on that course, anyway.

And Failure: Failure sucks as much as I thought it would. My ego is bruised. And I'm embarrassed. I don't fail. Really, I don't. I have only been handed one other rejection in my life. I hate that I finished the race yesterday in 4:02:24 - lungs solid, legs strong, hips and knees pain-free, stomach ROARING with pain. I hate that physically, I was capable of running the race I wanted to run. And I hate that I made a very bad decision - all by myself - and that that decision brought me down. I hate the clarity of hindsight and I hate that I can't go back and fix this mistake. I hate that I have to wait until October before I can try to prove myself again. I REALLY hate how this race played out.


But I love that I ran a 1:47 half marathon. I love that I visited San Diego. I love that I got to hang out with the real-life versions of bloggers - the running chick in the orange hat, laura from my beautiful life, runner susan, little miss runner pants, aa from it's a beautiful life, ncmunckin from winning by losing, anne run dmz, and Jeff. And I love that was able to celebrate the end of the worst marathon ever with a new fabulous real-life friend over French fries and tequila shots.

I still have a lot more to think about, though. As AFS very kindly reminded me, I am still a young marathoner. Both in age and inexperience. I am signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon on July 31, and the Chicago Marathon on October 22, and I am much better positioned for these races coming off of the training I completed throughout the first half of 2006 than I was when I ran my last full and half marathons. I still think I can qualify for Boston this year, if I want to. (And I do, but that's a whole other topic...) But I need some time to rest and recollect my thoughts and focus, first.

One final note, though. When reviewing my results on the Rock N Roll site, I found this interesting tidbit of information: "For the record, you finished ahead of about 72% of male finishers."

Good to know that despite totally bonking, I still kicked some serious Man Butt!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

No Dice

It was a very bad day for Nic...
  • Clock Time - 4:03:43
  • Chip Time - 4:02:24
I am really, really bummed. I probably went out too fast although it felt so good at the time. And then I ran into some major stomach issues at Mile 15. Fucking Powerade! Upon relaying this news to my father, he immediately asked, "Don't you remember saying you would never drink Powerade again after the 2004 Philly Marathon?" Um, no, Dad. If I remembered I wouldn't have sucked so much ASS today. But thanks for the reminder. Parents really do know EVERYTHING!

I know 4:02:24 is a very respectable time. But it doesn't feel that way becuase I know I am capable of running a much better race. However I am finding a little solitude in my placements...
  • Overall Place - 2890 out of 21,159 registered runners and 15,771 finishers (Top 18% of finishers)
  • Gender Place - 825 out of 8,414 finishers (Top 10%)
  • 25-29 Age Group Place - 236 out of 2030 (Top 12%)
I've been reflecting all day, and I still need some time to gather my thoughts. But I wanted to post the bad news now. Thank you all so much for your supportive comments, calls, and text messages the past few days. I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends... Both of the real-life and virtual variety.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Difficult but Doable

The past few days, I have been afraid of two moment's in tomorrow's race:

Moment #1: When I start to feel that the qualifying pace is too hard. When I run smack into the proverbial wall. That wall that I have never run into before during a race. I am afraid of that moment when it starts to hurt. To really fucking hurt.

- AND -

Moment #2: That point in time when I realize I am either going to make it to the finish in 3:40 or that I am going to totally miss my mark. I am afraid that I will have to keep running knowing that I'm not going to qualify for Boston. I am afraid that the pain of those miles will surpass anyting I felt earlier on in Moment #1.

So, I am afraid. Very afraid of these moments. But I think it's just because I so easily complicate things. Running is so simple, though, really. Putting one foot in front of the other, and then the other foot in front of that one. Repeating. Again and again and again. Over and over and over and over. Again. And quickly. Quickly quickly quickly quickly. "Fast as you can..." It's simple. And races? Why, the course is mapped out for us. Every mile is marked. With a clock, even. Just listen for the gun and then get going. And don't stop until you break the tape. Easy.

So I shouldn't be so afraid. That pending pain? Well, I'm ready for it. Because I've felt it before... And I've lived to talk about it. As the ad says, "Pain is weakness leaving the body." (So get the hell out. And hurry!) But thank you, HEG, for reminding me that even though THIS may hurt, and likely won't be easy, it is no less doable. And CO, you are right - that wall doesn't even exist! And I promise not to believe in it for a second.

And that moment of doom? When I'll learn if I'm going to hit or miss a Boston qualifying time? Well, I shouldn't have to worry about that moment. Because I'll have a pace band on my left arm. Right next to my watch. So I'll always know where I stand - in relationship to the 2006 RNR Finish Line, as well as in relationship to the 2007 Boston Starting Line in Hopkinton. So there's no need to obsess about that moment of realization.

Thus, the hardest part, is right now. Before the race starts. When my mind gets to race but my body doesn't get to follow. Yes, the hardest part is now. Because I am ready. So far this year, I have run 748.5 miles. I have gone long for 20, 21, and 22 miles, recovering each week with an *easy* 16. And I have intervaled, completing Yasso 800s in 3:40. I have climbed hills. And mountains, even. With speed and grace and lightness. My performances are consistent. And my easy pace has quickened. My legs are freakishly strong. I am Ms. High Mileage. And I am ready!

But Dad - it would help a LOT if you could yell, "Go, 'Cole!" at about 10:00 AM PDT tomorrow morning. So loud that I can hear you all the way from Philadelphia. I know what you're thinking... Difficult, but doable, right?

Yeah... Just like qualifying for Boston.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Believing Is Art

I can no longer tell you how many nights I have spent in a hotel by myself. Because it's a lot. With travel for work being what it is, and driving cross country by myself, I am the queen of the King Bed Good Night Sleeep.

But tonight, I wouldn't mind sharing a double with a good buddy. I am feeling pretty lonely.

And fat. I am feeling SO effing FAT. I had a brownie on Wednesday night at O'Hare whilst I waited for hours and hours and hours for my plane to take off. I know, it was just ONE brownie. But why do my little running shorts feel SO god damn LITTLE?!

I have also been a total dumb ass, today. Turns out, it was my flight BACK to San Francisco that was rescheduled to one hour earlier not my flight DOWN to San Diego. So I woke up at 5:00 a.m. for nothing. And I thought I forgot Wilson Jr. (My Nano) at home while riding to the airport and nearly had a heart attack before finding him deep in the OTHER pocket. And then I thought I forgot my wallet while checking-in for my flight and nearly had a stroke before finding her in the OTHER other pocket. And if those near-hospitalizations weren't enough, I also dropped my cell phone getting on the plane without realizing it. Yep, nearly threw myself out the window after that one.

But I am here now, in San Diego. And I am SO ridiculously nervous. My heart has been pounding in my throat pretty much all day. And I cannot sit still. I keep hearing myself take these deep cleansing breaths, too. What the hell is wrong with me?

I hope it is just that I am so tired. I still haven't caught up on sleep from the 22 hour day on Wednesday. So I am going to bed soon. And I am hoping to wake up with a better attitude... It's just really hard to believe in yourself when you are a total mess.

I did get in a three miler tonight. In 25:37. Which is about goal pace. And it felt OK, I guess.

"It Depends It Depends And It Comes Back Again.
Yes Things That Everybody Would Say.
Believing is Hard.
Believing is Art."

"Believing is Art," by Spoon. From the album, Girls Can Tell.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

3:40:59 - The Playlist

Feet don't fail me now...

Name Artist Album
Square One Coldplay X & Y
Bang a Gong (Get It On)
T. Rex Electric Warrior (Remastered)
The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Mr. Blue Sky Electric Light Orchestra Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Angels of the Silences Counting Crows Recovering the Satellites
Mother We Just Can't Get Enough The New Radicals Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) Arcade Fire Funeral
One by One All Day The Shins Oh, Inverted World
Runnin' Down A Dream Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits
Day Tripper The Beatles 1962-1966
Another Travelin' Song Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
Black Tambourine Beck Guero
Small Stakes Spoon Kill The Moonlight
Everlong Foo Fighters The Colour And The Shape
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight The Postal Service Give Up
Goodnight and Go Imogen Heap Music from The O.C.: Mix 4 (Soundtrack from the TV Show)
Pictures of Me Elliott Smith Either/Or
Where The Streets Have No Name U2 Joshua Tree
Finding Out True Love Is Blind Louis XIV The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (Bonus Tracks)
Diamond Dogs Beck Beck - Miscellaneous
California Waiting Kings of Leon Youth & Young Manhood
I'm Always in Love Wilco Summerteeth
Death Letter The White Stripes De Stijl
Harder to Breathe Maroon 5 Songs About Jane
They Never Got You Spoon Gimme Fiction
Paint It, Black The Rolling Stones Aftermath
Unglued Stone Temple Pilots Purple
Do You Want To Franz Ferdinand You Could Have It So Much Better
Just a Ride Jem Music from The O.C.: Mix 1
My Name Is Jonas Weezer Weezer
Even Better Than the Real Thing U2 The Best of 1990-2000
Shameless Ani DiFranco Living In Clip (Disc 2) [Live]
The Bends Radiohead The Bends
Mr. Brightside The Killers Hot Fuss
Bigger Than My Body John Mayer Heavier Things [Dualdisc] Disc 1
Fight Test The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Can't Stop The Red Hot Chili Peppers By the Way
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces Ben Folds Five Whatever and Ever Amen
Motorcycle Drive By Third Eye Blind Third Eye Blind
Blue Orchid The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
Here It Goes Again Ok Go Oh No
Just Like Heaven The Cure Galore
I Summon You Spoon Gimme Fiction
First Tube Phish Farmhouse
Happier Guster Lost and Gone Forever
Red Rain The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
Fast as You Can Fiona Apple When the Pawn
Let Go Frou Frou Garden State
Look Good In Leather Cody Chesnutt The Headphone Masterpiece (Disc 2)
It's The End Of The World (And I Feel Fine) R.E.M. The Very Best Of
The Hardest Button to Button The White Stripes Elephant
Jonathon Fisk Spoon Kill The Moonlight
Precious Things Tori Amos Little Earthquakes
30 Gallon Tank Spoon A Series of Sneaks
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song...(With All Your Power) The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics

It's the Humility

It's not the flight. It's the damn delay.
And it's not the work as much as it's the RIDICULOUS clients.
It's not the early six o'clock wake up call. It's the freaking Central Time Zone.
And it's not the meeting as much as it's the lost time spent sitting through it.

It's not the running. But it's everything else about training, at this point.
The 8 hours of sleep a night I haven't been getting the past few weeks.
The healthy meals I haven't been eating while living the life of a Road Warrior.

As for the race, which is now a little more than three days away...
It's not the 26.2 as much as the 3:40:59.
Not the distance. I know I can GO THE DISTANCE.
I just don't know if I can keep up that effing 8:24/mile average pace.

Really - it's not the heat. I can handle the heat. It's the humility that is keeping me up right now. After a 22 hour day in Chicago, exhausted as all hell, doubting that I'll even be able to pull myself out of bed tomorrow let alone complete my day at the office, on the trail, and in the laundromat before heading back to the effing airport AGAIN.

Next time, though, on my way to San Diego...