float on

We've been trying to squeeze every ounce of awesome out of this summer and part of that means getting in the water. Any water. Lakes, oceans, pools. I lamented one recent summer how I had barely spent any time in my bathing suit and what a shame that is, because summers are for swimming.

Well for me, it's mostly floating. I think I got it from my mom, but if you put me in a body of water all I want to do is float on my back and gaze up at the sky. This summer I've paddleboarded, paddleboated, tiptoed, waded, bathed, swam, lounged, jumped, dove, boozed and floated in bodies of water all over the place. I've been in Adirondack lakes and off the shore of Jamaican beaches and at private villa pools... fancy! Everywhere I've been I've found myself lazily floating and staring up at the sky. Watching the supermoon and counting off all of the people that I love. Sending my trippy blessings to people in different states and on different continents. Squinting into the afternoon sun and grinning, with periodic breaks to reapply my SPF 30. Life is never free of all stress and commotion, but floating sure makes me forget about the stressful bits.

Are you guys all getting some good pool, lake or ocean time in this year? In the past I haven't always been into it, but I'm totally back in action. Don't worry about whether or not you have a "bikini body" or what your bum looks like in your bathing suit, just get in that water and splash around. Or float, your call.

out of hibernation

I'd like to report back that I've been running strong through the winter. That I bought myself some new cold-weather running gear and have been hitting the streets, bundled up and tough as nails. That would, however, be a lie. Winter hits me hard and despite best intentions, I've only gotten outside for a run a handful of times this season. Because running outside in the bitter cold makes me feel sad. Sad and maybe a little hopeless? Yes, sure, afterwards I'm walking around all full of myself but I'm not sure it outweighs how sorry I feel when I'm out there and my lungs are burning, tears are stinging my eyes and I'm watching every step so I don't slip on ice.

If it's a mild winter day, then maybe. I'll take advantage of a sunny Saturday in the 30s perhaps, but 7pm in the single digits? No, ma'am. I'd rather putz around downstairs with my weights, get on the yoga mat or even, if I'm desperate, hit the treadmill at the gym. In winters past, I'd get really into group fitness classes- kickboxing, BodyPump, Zumba or whathaveyou. I've phased out of that, but this winter we joined another gym for its indoor pool and I've been occasionally cutting a few laps there after work. Tricky business, swimming is. On the one hand it's great to be splashing around in a warm pool in January. On the other hand, you're in a bathing suit in public in January. But afterwards we like to pick up some veggie rolls at the local sushi joint, so it's become a nice ritual.

Despite the unwelcome snowy weather this week, we've been enjoying small bursts of spring lately and I'm finally starting to feel that itch to get back out in my running sneaks. Cruising around the city on foot and getting some Vitamin D. Crawling out of hibernation.

It's a balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and listening to your body. On getting out there for a run even when you don't want to... and respecting the internal changes that happen with the seasons. On deciding to push through or choosing to change your goals and expectations. For me, this winter, I didn't feel much like running outdoors. So for the most part, I didn't. Instead we snowshoed with friends-- including a full moon Adirondack adventure through the woods leading to bonfires with hoards of bundled-up snowshoers and skiers huddled around drinking beer and roasting 'mallows. I've stretched and danced and worked on building strength. I've snuggled and read a lot too. No need for shame to accompany that decision, right? 

The transition to winter is tough.
Sometimes I like running for fun.
If all runs were like this one, I'd be an ultra-runner :)
I can't believe I trained for and ran a marathon!
Ok, just get outside and run.

that first marathon

I am a marathoner! Can you believe it? Now that a few days have passed since the race, I almost don't believe it. Someone check the records and make sure I finished all 26.2 miles.

The day has become a complete blur, as much as four and a half hours of nonstop running can be. My experience mirrored those of so many other first-time marathoners. The first ten miles passed by almost effortlessly. Mile markers were flying past me, my pace was comfortable and I was loving life. The next ten were harder, but I anticipated that. I was ready for it. Somewhere between miles 19 and 22, though, it got even tougher. I tried embracing it, knowing that this was what made it a marathon. The hard parts are what makes it such an awesome accomplishment. It's one thing to know that intellectually, though, and another to be right there in the thick of it with tired legs and an impatient mind and the sun beating down on you. But Hartford put on a great race, with lots of course entertainment, clear mile markers, tons of support and water stations and pretty decent crowd support. I never found the official pace group I had vague plans to run with, but I'd still recommend the race wholeheartedly. The weather was beautiful, starting out at 50 degrees and warming up quickly to a sunny 68-70 or so. Truthfully, it was actually a bit warmer than I'd like but I decided not to complain and upset the running gods that day.

During my training runs, I always imagined how emotional I would be in the last stretch of the race. How much of a relief it would be to pass mile 23, 24, 25... knowing that I only had a few more miles left of this epic adventure. As it turns out, I didn't feel that relief until I crossed the finish line. With one mile left, I couldn't muster up the weepy pride that I had assumed would overwhelm me. No slow-motion montages of all of my previous hard work playing through my head. Nope, just sheer grit to make it to the finish line. I knew I would make it, of course, but even a mile seemed like a far distance to run. At mile 26 I passed Chris, enthusiastically cheering me on, and he told me the finish was right around the corner. It would only be another minute until I could stop and rest, but I still didn't feel any sense of relief! I just wanted it to be over, finally. As I ran down the finishing chute, a small smile spread across my lips and I managed to pump my arms in the air as I crossed the line. I collected my medal, my shiny foil blanket and water. Only then did I feel great. I felt proud. I felt equally triumphant and nonchalant about the achievement. I wondered if any of my family had tracked my progress on the computer and if they were relieved that I had made it. I shimmied out of the giant foil blanket meant to keep me warm, thinking that it unfortunately made me feel like a soggy burrito. I wandered over to the place where Chris said he would be. I waited for a little bit, probably just a minute or two, unable to think clearly about calling his cell phone or even sitting down in the shade to wait. I just stood there, in the middle of a race-crazed crowd, and looked around. I was in a total fog, but it was a happy one. When Chris got there he ran over and hugged me and shouted, "You just ran a MARATHON!" Then I sat down and burst into tears.

I've already got marathon amnesia. I'm already thinking about another one, in the future, someday. I am so proud of myself that I stuck with it during all of the training runs, especially those that I desperately wanted to skip. I'm thankful for the awesome phone calls and text messages and FB/Instagram notes and high fives I've gotten. For the celebratory champagne and beers. For the post-race burritos and Ben & Jerry's. For having friends and family that get it, or at least pretend to. For having a husband who doubles as my zen running coach. For the opportunity and ability to become a marathoner. And for feeling pretty damn great afterwards, with no injuries or major discomforts at all. Mission complete.

a marathon

Tomorrow I'll run a marathon. A full 26.2 mile marathon. I'm not really sure how I got here, but there's
no backing out now.

Actually, I do know how I got here. I've been training for tomorrow's race for 18 weeks, since the middle of June. That was so long ago! Since then I've run 429 miles and spent just under 70 hours on my feet. Almost 200 of those miles were logged with bleary eyes and bedhead between 6 and 8am. I learned to love the satisfaction of having put in those miles before work, early enough that my brain didn't really comprehend what I was doing. By the time I left the office to go home at night I sometimes forgot that I even ran that day. Morning running is great when you can make it work for you. In the summertime it helped me avoid the heat and take advantage of those long days. Now that's it fall, it's a little tougher. But there was nothing like sitting down at my desk at 8:30am, knowing that I had already put away a solid eight miles in my sneakers. I switched a few runs around, but mostly stayed right on track.

(Middle: Day 1 of my training plan. Top left: Final training run before the race. All of the others: the days in between.)

Then there were the long runs. Those were intimidating. After running the Camp Chingachgook Half Marathon in August, my training plan called for increasingly higher-mileage long runs each weekend. Soon I was out the door for 15, 16, 18 and even 20 mile runs. It seems surreal! To be out running for hours, many hours, seems impossible, even as I write this. What did I think about? Was I bored? How did I pass the time? Truth is, I'm not sure. Sometimes I remember being bored. Sometimes it was pretty uncomfortable. I thought about a lot of things but really and straight-up zoned out for a lot of it. When Chris and I ran together we would occasionally ask what each other was thinking, and usually we couldn't come up with an answer. We were just running. Cruising around town with my hydration fanny pack on.

I've run in the morning, at night, in the rain and heat and even on vacation. If you look closely above, you can see the modifications I made to accommodate life. Tomorrow morning, I'm lacing up my sneaks and tackling the ING Hartford Marathon. I feel pretty good about it. The nerves are there, sure, but I'm shoving them aside for now in favor of feeling like a bad-ass zen running warrior, ready to soak in the sights at an autumn New England marathon.

If you have absolutely nothing else at all going on this Saturday, you can watch live coverage of the race here. You should also be able to track my progress on the course here. I expect to be crossing that finish line sometime around 12:30pm EST, but who really knows? Then I will be drinking chocolate milk while eating grilled cheeses and apple crisp, as is promised to me in the finisher's tent.

running for fun

For an average recreational runner, I sure do have a lot to say about the subject, right? I've been running a lot recently. The Plattsburgh Half Marathon in April energized me and built up my confidence enough to send me on a training plan that calls for long runs each weekend plus three workday runs of varying lengths. Every week, in most weather conditions. I've been sticking to the schedule, changing it around, abandoning it completely on vacation but still fitting in the most beautiful runs of my life. (Redwoods, Golden Gate, Big Sur & PDX.) Sometimes I curse it, most of the time I love it. I love checking off boxes and adding up mileage and looking back at my accomplishments. Even when I'm not on a structured plan, I've always loved keeping track of my running and other workouts. Because on bad days, I can look back and remember all of those bad days I've pushed through. I've gone on absolutely terrible three-mile runs, short runs that I thought I wouldn't be able to finish. Ones that could easily toss me into a deep slump. But then I remember that Hey! I've had great eight-mile runs and even twelve-mile runs!  It's ok to have bad days and awful runs! I like seeing it all add up, creating a foundation for reaching future goals.

So I've been running a bit. Chris is always running a bit. So two weekends he found a rare summer half marathon in Lake George, the Camp Chingachgook Challenge, and we decided to sign up for it on a whim. At the beginning of the summer, we decided we wanted to make running a part of it. To be content with taking hours of our weekend and giving them to running. To sign up for races and have fun with it. I'd like to play it cooler than this, but I can't:  I'm so excited that this half marathon was as close to "no big deal" as 13.1 miles will ever be to me. It was a little blip, a pit stop run before heading up to Plattsburgh for the weekend. That it wasn't a huge deal is a huge deal, ya know?

The race was small and hometown-y. Winners won homemade pies and candied apples. Chris was an age-group winner and won a cookie. (I ate most of it.) The course was incredibly hilly. Constant, consistent, rolling hills. Up, down, up, down. It was tough and I ran a really good race still, but about six minutes slower than the flatter, cooler temp Plattsburgh race. We stuck around afterwards to enjoy the BBQ and lake views, soaking in the sun and the summer moment.

And just this past Sunday, I ran farther than I'd ever run before. I ran 15 miles, by myself, around my city, with just my thoughts to keep me company and two water bottles strapped to my waist. The first ten miles felt great. (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.) Legs, lungs and mind were strong. Around 11 miles my feet started hurting just a bit and some clothes started rubbing wrong. Around 13 miles I actually got a little hungry. But overall, I felt pretty great. Sure, I showered, ate and then napped for an hour; I still have some work to do on my post-run productivity levels. I stretched and used my foam roller and ate gelato for dessert. Every time I finish a long run or race, I'm always astonished. "Did I really just run 13.1 miles?!" I always doubt it. But it's true! I've been getting my run on this year and I'm feeling great.

Yep, my hair is even shorter now. So it looks extra crazy when I'm running, but what can you do?! Keep running, that's what.