Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why Cancer Research UK?

Many of you have already donated to my fundraising efforts on behalf of Cancer Research UK and, for that, I am incredibly grateful. I’ve set a goal of raising £750.00 and am very, very, very slowly marching toward that goal. There’s a link just over on the right, if you would like to donate, or I’d be happy to take money in US dollars offline and pool it (leave a comment if you need my address).

I’ve had a few people wonder why I’ve chosen to run for Cancer Research UK, rather than a US-based charity. So, I thought I would try and explain.

The main reason is that I feel incredibly loyal to Cancer Research UK, because their events are the reason I started running. I’d tried running a few times, on and off, but it never stuck. But, back in 2006, when I was finishing my Master’s degree and living in London, my godsister was in the final stages of battling melanoma. My mother, as most of you know, fought gallbladder cancer for two years and passed away just before Thanksgiving, 2002. My father was by her side every step of the way and was the world’s most devoted caregiver. I really think his death, officially from a heart attack in May 2003, was the result of a broken heart. I was really far away from the people I loved* and felt powerless to support them. So, I signed up for one of Cancer Research’s women-only 5Ks, Race for Life, through the City of London. It felt like something I could do to show my support, even if it was just in a tiny, tiny way. And it was amazing.

And I’ve kept running them, in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. I stopped running during my time in South Africa, but signing up for another Race for Life, in Colchester, during the summer of 2009, is what got me started again. I’ve run them with friends, some of whom have run for years, others of whom were just getting started. I treasure those little medals, because they remind me of the people I miss, the memories I treasure, and the memories still to come.

So yes, there are millions of wonderful charities, some of which I send money to on a regular basis and many of which are also doing great work supporting cancer research and patients & families. But, Cancer Research UK inspired me to run and that’s a gift that I can never repay.

*That’s not entirely true. My parents LOVED London and the British Isles. When they were newly married, my parents saved up for some spectacular trips to the UK & Ireland. My mom collected British stamps, particularly stampless Scotland. I grew up watching old Britcoms with them and reading Paddington Bear. Our last family trip before my mom got sick was to England and Scotland. I think one of the hardest, bravest, and most loving things my father ever did was put me on a plane to London for study abroad less than a month and a half after my mother’s death. For reasons that are pretty clear to me, I feel their presence more strongly in London than anywhere else. It’s a place they loved, taught me to love, and where I still feel their love.

Monday, March 26, 2012

20 Miles!

Last week, I completed my last, solo long run of marathon training. Can you believe that? I ran 20 MILES. Granted, I’m going to have to run more than that next weekend (as part of the Birch Bay 30K + a few miles) and I’m going to have to run 6.2 more miles on marathon day, but I still think it’s a pretty awesome thing. You know, if I’m tooting my own horn.

The 20 mile run feels like a huge milestone. It’s kind of THE big long milestone run of marathon training. It’s a really long distance and it’s about where many marathon training plans, particularly those for the first-time marathoner, cap out. It feels like the top of the mountain: if you can run 20 miles in training, you CAN run 26.2 miles on marathon day.

I went into this run with more than a bit of concern after I crashed so badly on that 19 mile run a few weeks ago. But, I knew it needed to get done, so I bit the bullet (after watching my Hoyas lose in the second round of the NCAA tournament) and went out and did it.

I’d decided that after my trip down to Seward Park for the 10K that I’d really like to do this run on the Lake Washington Loop, because doing YET ANOTHER run on the Burke-Gilman Trail wasn’t going to be good for getting through this one mentally. It really is a beautiful route, once you navigate getting on to it from my house. I had wonderful views and, because the weather was a bit icky (mostly mist, with a period of pretty strong, cold rain in the middle), there weren’t very many bikers out at all (I don’t mind bikes, really, but you do have to listen out for them and it can be a bit scary when they whizz past you on a narrow path). Another bonus: the Lake Washington Loop is really flat. I ran from my house to Seward Park, then realized that continuing on the loop involved some complicated bits and, instead, opted to do three loops of the park, before heading back the way I’d come. I ended my run at a Starbucks and immediately refueled with a hot turkey bacon sandwich and a hot chocolate (WITH the whipped cream – I can’t even remember the last time that I had it!). It was only 0.8 miles to a bus stop that got me two blocks from home.
I can’t even describe how much better this run was than the 19 miler (but, I’ll try). I mean, it was still hard, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing about running 20 miles that’s supposed to be easy. I decided somewhere around 18 miles that I’d rather take the bar exam five times than finish this run or run a marathon (clearly that was the glycogen depletion speaking). You spend a lot of time thinking about why you were stupid enough to sign up for a marathon on these runs. And then, you just get it done and feel better about the whole thing. I thought a lot about how proud I am of myself for being so committed to my training and how this was the end of all those miles and miles of long runs, plodding along by myself. I thought about the places that I’ve done these long runs over the past few months – Chicago, Central Park, the last few pre-training runs in Indianapolis, Philadelphia – and the people who ran with me (Duchie), waited while I ran (Sarah, Anna, Mahsa), packed me off out the door with promises of hot chocolate when I came back (j00jie), or who simply encouraged me and gave me the mental strength to keep going (Jules, my godparents, MC & JD, Dana, Lynne & Caz). I thought about the people who have donated to Cancer Research in memory of their loved ones and mine. And, of course, I thought about the people who I wished could see me running, but who are no longer here.

Not all of my thoughts were deep ones, of course. I thought about how much better water, spiked with limeade, was than sugary sports drink in my Camelbak. I thought about how funny my favorite podcast was this week, even though it was shorter than usual. I thought it was hilarious that I kept stuffing my gels down my capris, instead of into the pocket on the back of my skirt, by accident. I thought about how greyhounds have HUGE thigh muscles and look a lot like human sprinters in that respect (I was following one for a bit, out for a jog with owner). I thought about how pretzels were yummy. I thought about my hot chocolate. I thought about how I could take a walk break if I JUST made it to the big bridge up ahead. I thought about how much funnier David Sedaris seemed this week, as opposed to on my 19 mile run.

Nutrition breakdown:
5 miles – Gu
7.5 miles – salt tablet & a few pretzel nubs
10 miles – Gu
12.5 miles – salt tablet & a few pretzal nubs
15 miles – 2-3 Gu chomps & a few pretzal nubs
(probably should have done another couple of Gu chomps at 17.5)

So, yeah. That went well! It was a big confidence boost!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One month!!!

OMG, in exactly one month's time, I will be running my first marathon!!! I'm miles from my fundraising goal & would really appreciate any donations! Online at or offline! Thank you!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New 10K PB!! (Vitality for Fitness 10K Recap)

As I think I've mentioned, I've found that the Marathon Talk podcast has been invaluable in my marathon training. I love the mix of marathoning news and the interviews that they do with famous runners (current and former), as well as the training advice that always seems to anticipate my latest training crisis. One of the things they've done is to host a spring motivation challenge on their website. In January, we had to say how many runs we were going to do each week and log them. In February, we had to log our number of weekly runs and say in advance how long our long run would be each week. In March, we do those things again, but also have to chose a distance to race and put down a time target that will really push us to run all out.

I have to admit that my OLD 10K PB/PR (the Brits say "personal best," the Americans say "personal record" - I like PB because it makes me thing of peanut butter and Paddington Bear) has never been my favorite. I was annoyed from the moment I set it, because I so desperately wanted to run that race in less than an hour. Just as the sub-30 minute 5K seemed like an important indicator that I was a "real" runner, I NEEDED to get my 10K time down to under an hour. 1:00:42. Stupid 42 seconds. Ugh. Of course, since my last 10K was in December 2010, I've clearly put a lot of effort into bringing down that particular PB.

BUT, this was going to be my month. After a stonking tempo session where I pushed out a 10K in 57:53 (but with water stops where I paused my Garmin, so I didn't actually run this straight through), I took a huge leap and announced to the Marathon Talk community that I was going to do a 10K in 57:30. And then promptly announced that I was very nervous about my chances.

The hardest part, honestly, was finding a 10K that I could actually do! I knew it had to be on one of the weekends when I only (only, she says) had to run 12 miles and after booking a trip to LA for my other "short" long run weekend - it had to be now! Trust me when I say that there aren't very many non-trail 10Ks in the Seattle area right now. Particularly if you don't want to dress up as a leprechaun. After a lot of searching (I miss how always had all of the DC area races), I found that Vitality for Fitness was holding their last race in a three-race series at Seward Park on Sunday and that I could do my 10K. Awesome. Booked the zipcar and off I went.

The race was really great - it was a two lap out and back right on the shore of Lake Washington. Lovely views, but the wind was fierce. I was going to wear my awesome green Brooks PR shirt from the track meet, but ended up switching to a long-sleeved, lined shirt. And my blue Nike capri skirt (with compression sleeves, so it was more like tights, really). The only time the wind was really bad was just as I was closing for home! The first lap was definitely better - there were fewer people to use as rabbits after the 5K-ers finished their races. My miles were 9:18, 9:18, 9:18, 9:26 (boo), 9:16, 9:21 & 7:37 for the very end SPRINT(!). Final chip time: 57:37. Consider that one-hour barrier CRUSHED. *happy Joyce*

After the race, I stood around for a bit to watch the awards, which was a really nice opportunity to chat with the other runners (and I found out that there's a Brooks outlet OMG). It was a small race and there were even fewer of us still around at the end, because it was so cold and the 5Kers were long done with their races, but I liked that a lot. And, then, I trotted out 5.8 more miles at a much, much slower pace, because I had to get in my full 12 miles. I'm pretty sure I'm going to use the Lake Washington loop for next weekend's super long run; it's just so beautiful along there!

Anyway, GO ME! I can't wait until after the marathon, when I'm going to focus on SPEED!
Done & dusted. Thank you, short run week!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Less whining, more running!

Thank you all for being indulgently understanding of last week’s whine about how hard my long runs have gotten. I particularly appreciated DG’s comment (DG, I assume I know who you are! DG is currently training for her first ultra, so she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to running long!) where she told me: “Remember to trust your training come race day! So the 19 miler was hard. That’s ok. You finished. Your body internalized what it needed from that distance. Even though you weren’t skipping in delight for the last few miles, your training is sound.”

I’ve read over and over again that not every run can be a “good run.” We all have days when we feel like we could go forever and days when three miles feels like an insurmountable obstacle.  God forbid, but marathon day might be one of those days. The only thing I can know about marathon day is that it will be a major test of my ability to be mentally tough and that I will be running 26.2 miles on a specified course through London, five miles further than I’ve ever run before in my life. I don’t know what the weather will be like, I don’t know how my tummy will feel, I don’t know what I’m going to wear (but I’m working on that), I don’t know if I’ll be able to find my friends in the crowd (but I hope I will!), I don’t know if I’ll be overtaken by someone dressed as a rhino or a camel (…just hope that I can outrun the daleks). There are SO many unknowns, but on every single run that I do, I can practice being tough and I should take comfort in the fact that, no matter how rough I felt, I KEPT going. Because that’s what I’m going to have to do on April 22. And that’s what I’m going to internalize from my 19 mile run.

Review: Running Skirts Mums in Bloom Athletic Skirt

So pretty! And, yes, I've tidied my room since then!
I’ll admit it, I’m a Skirt Sports girl, but when Schwaggle had a deal for free shipping on discounted Running Skirts, I had a poke of the website. And I found that a skirt I’d already fallen in love with on several other blogs was on sale! Bingo! I ordered the size that corresponded to the measurements for my usual size over on Skirt Sports.

First of all, I think this is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful skirt. I LOVE all of the colors and am a fan of how I think it can go with a really, really wide variety of tops (my other skirts are best worn with pink…and there are just days when I don’t want to wear pink!). Before I headed out, I sent my best friend/fashion advisor the photo above to show her and gush that this might be a great outfit for the marathon. She approved!*

Second, it’s really comfy. The shorties felt just a bit looser than my other running skirts, which felt kind of nice (I didn’t realize that this was actually going to be a big problem). There’s an extra band of fabric at the waist on the Running Skirt, compared to a Skirt Sports skirt, which is actually kind of nice for a tummy buffer and for general “will it stay up?” issues – I really wish Skirt Sports would find a way to put a drawstring in their skirts for a little extra insurance and have thought about having one added to my skirts. (edit: apparently I'm not the only person with this problem & they're in the process of adding drawstrings to their line now!)

Alas, I had some serious problems on the run itself. The comfortably loose shorties rode up really badly when I was running and it got pretty painful from a chaffing standpoint (yes, I have chub rub; I’ll admit it). I had to stop pretty frequently to pull them down and/or apply more body glide (thank goodness I had it with me, just in cases). I found that the shorts would mostly stay in place if I pulled the whole skirt down so that it would sit low on my hips. I later discovered (in the shower, of course) that this led to a whole different area of painful chaffing (backside-ish). Ow! (If you’re wondering, I think there’s a distinct chance that these issues also contributed to making my 19 miler less fun than it could have been, otherwise. Also, yes - trying out a new outfit on a really long run was a total rookie mistake.)

So, I e-mailed the customer service on Monday to ask if there was some way I’d accidentally gotten the wrong size. And, awesomely, they e-mailed back to tell me to send it back for an exchange!!! I need to wash it first, but I’m very excited that I might still be able to wear my pretty, pretty skirt for the marathon (and that I’m not stuck with a skirt that I can’t run in)! Thank you, Running Skirts! WTG on the customer service!

So, stay tuned for review…part II!

*Although, I’m thinking about seeing if I can get a technical shirt custom printed, because Cancer Research sent me a cotton t-shirt as my running kit. Obviously, I’m not running the marathon in it, but I’d really like something in their colors/with their logo. With my name printed on it, too, of course!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Running is hard...let's get a cat!

And so we did! His name is Rusifee (yes, I think it's dumb, but it's what the mice in Cinderella call the cat because they can't pronounce Lucifer) and we're actually just his foster mamas. We're official Seattle Humane Society foster parents and he's our first foster kitty. While Roommate was desperately hoping for kittens (KITTENS!), it turns out that I'm very happy with this large fluffy grey kitty who loves to cuddle. In fact, that's what he's doing right now: sitting on my lap while I type. He's a bit grope-y with his happy kneading and kind likes to give you kitty kisses with his nose. And tummy scratches! He's wonderful!

Rusifee came home with us on Sunday after our orientation session, via a trip to PetSmart (we totally took him in with us and plopped his carrier in the cart, because we weren't sure whether it was ok to leave him in the car). As is usual in American stores, I was blown away by the variety. Surely to goodness, there don't need to be THAT MANY different kinds of pet food available. He's five years old and officially on "respite" from the humane society. I don't know how long he'll be with us at this point, but after wanting a cat for so very long, I'm very, very happy to have my foster Kitty!

Your intrepid blogger. Plus cat. Watching the Super Tuesday results on C-SPAN. Cultured kitty!

In running-related news, running is hard. Very hard. These last few long runs have been incredibly difficult, particularly the 18 and 19 milers. It was almost as though my brain knew it had to keep building up the miles to get to the half marathon race and now it's been really hard to get motivated again - even though it's less than seven weeks to go until the marathon and, thank god, I only have two more really long runs before I start the taper (that's the last three weeks - when you're mostly focusing on resting your legs and not doing significant distances). And, only one more of those is by myself; I'm running the Birch Bay 30K Road Race (plus a few miles) for the final one. The finish line = the official start of taper!

This weekend was particularly rough. Roommate was out of town, but let me use her car, so I was able to use a new path - the Sammamish River Trail (awesome - flat, wide, fewer bikes than the Burke-Gilman, and everyone was much more friendly). Apparently I ran from Bothell to Redmond and back again. Highlights included a sheepdog puppy, two Icelandic ponies, an older man on a bike who pulled me over (near Redmond) and asked "did you really just run from Bothell?!?" (so sweet!), sculptures of salmon, and a guy who ran like he was a pogo stick for short distances at a time, and the first 10 miles. The last nine miles were a real slog. I get to a point when I'm just desperate for water and HATE drinking sports drink out of my camelbak. All I wanted to do was stop and stick my head between my legs (and I did - often). None of my usual tricks seemed to be working (just get to the end of this song; come on - you can push out this last 5K, etc.). If a marathon is about training your mental toughness and learning how to conquer your central governor/zip up your man suit (see, e.g., then that last run wasn't very good practice. It was BRUTAL. Luckily, I only (only!) have to run 12 miles this weekend and I'm very, very excited about that fact (I wish there was a half marathon I could run somewhere within driving distance, though, just to make it more fun).

It's hard to admit, but I am starting to wish that training were over and that I could tap into some of the motivation that I had in buckets back in December and January. I just have to have faith that I'll get my mojo back. I just know it. I'm determined. I'm still getting out there and doing my runs (tonight - 5 miles at 9:25 pace; legs felt dead and heavy, but I'm not sure I would have believed you six months ago if you'd told me I'd be pushing out those kinds of paces...on a bad day!). I still haven't missed or failed to complete a long run. I AM doing this. I WILL be ready. One run at a time (and a massage scheduled for tomorrow to hopefully get some of the kinks out).

Meanwhile, I am also very happy because I've bought my plane tickets to Los Angeles for later this month to see my two best grad school friends - one of whom usually lives in London, but is over in the US for several months. And as a bonus, my NJ college friend will also be in LAX that same weekend! I am SO EXCITED for a weekend with so many wonderful friends. And for a long run ON THE BEACH!!