Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pick us, pick us!!

Hi! We’re Carolyn & Joyce and we’ve been best friends since the first period on our first day of high school, when we met in Mr. Pappas’ world history class. Not that we’re that old or anything (and, for the record, Carolyn’s older), but we’ve finally gotten to the point that we’ve been friends for more than half our lives. Eeeks!
Junior Prom!

Joyce: You should probably know that I pretty much only and always call Carolyn, “Duchie,” because she was in madrigal choir in 9th grade. Her choir “name” was Duchess Knifeinbach…and I’ve never stopped using it!

Carolyn: Yup! We grew up about five minutes apart in Indianapolis and, after high school, went to college on opposite sides of Indiana. Then, Joyce kept leaving the country and I moved to Chicago, but every time we got together again, it never felt like we’d never been apart.

WE DID IT: our first half marathon!
Joyce: The day that Duchie and her husband decided to move to Washington, DC, where I’d eventually landed, was one of the happiest of MY life, because it meant that we were going to live in the same city for the first time since high school graduation! It was the most wonderful gift: living in different places means that you really, really appreciate that there’s nothing like being able to see your best friend when you need to rant or cry or celebrate or just watch trashy tv together.

Eventually, it also meant that we got to run together…a lot!

Carolyn: When I was a kid, my dad always seemed to be running. I can remember him coming home from runs all drippy and sweaty, and trying to get us to hug him (that never went over well). We traveled as a family to watch him run some races, and I thought it was cool, but it was never something I was interested in.

As a kid, I half-heartedly ran some races, and went through phases where I really wanted to run with dad, but none of it really stuck. I’d putter around the neighborhood, or slog miserably through a race, but it was never really something I wanted to do.

Joyce: When I was younger, I was a figure skater. Not a good one, mind you, but I stuck with it and I still miss the feeling of flying that you can only get on the ice. After college, I started running so that I could participate in Cancer Research UK’s annual women’s only 5Ks, Race for Life (I was living in London then).

At the time, my god-sister was in the final stages of battling melanoma. My mother had 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. Raising money for a cancer charity seemed like something I could do to support my godparents and to honor my parents’ memories. My running “career” went through several fits & starts after that, but was launched for good in summer 2009.

Carolyn: I noticed that Joyce was getting more excited about running and we’d toyed with the idea of doing a race together, but we didn’t really follow through with it until 2010. That year, for the first time since graduating from high school, Joyce and I lived in the same city again. We signed up to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon together, and started running together several times a week.
Joyce: Duchie wasn’t a runner at all when I first suggested that we train for the Princess and I think I’d only gotten as far as a 10K. So, it was a huge challenge for both of us.

Carolyn: Running became a way for Joyce and me to spend time together that was just ours. It was our chance to talk about what was going on in our lives—it was running therapy! 

Law school graduation - that degree was half Duchie's!
Joyce: It’s SO true. Without Duchie and our regularly-scheduled morning runs (which were a HUGE deal, given that she loves to sleep ‘til noon), I don’t know how I would have made it through the stress of law school and studying for the bar exam. I think we’ve always brought out the best in each other, as well as our inner children, but now we also make each other better runners, too. 

Carolyn: We successfully completed the half marathon, and several other races together, but once I started running of my own volition, my dad was so excited that we had this experience to share. Now, visiting my parents almost always includes a run with my dad. I’ve even gotten my husband to run (occasionally)! Running has become a unique way for me to interact with many of the important people in my life.

Joyce: Last fall, I got a job and moved all the way to Seattle, leaving Duchie behind in DC. It was really, really sad for both of us.

Carolyn: We’re both still running, and we talk on the phone together, but I miss our running therapy!

Joyce: Me, too! We haven’t been for a run together since January, when you dropped everything to come and see me in Philadelphia after my grandmother’s funeral. I know it was just a treadmill run in the hotel gym, but having you there made everything feel better.

Carolyn: Don’t forget that time when I totally dreamed that I was chasing you around the course of the London Marathon screaming “YOU CAN DO IT!!!.” 

First thing I did after my first marathon -
Call Duchie!
Joyce: I wish you could have been there in person! As usual, you were the first person I called when I finished it.

Carolyn: Joyce is easily distracted! Ahem….

Having the chance to go to the Totally Trials weekend together would be a fantastic chance for us to visit and catch up, while watching some truly inspiring athletes. We’ve bonded a lot over running, and it would be amazing to have a weekend together, sharing something we both enjoy.

Other than seeing Joyce, I am most excited about watching the hurdles. There’s something so graceful about watching the runners fly around the track and then float over those hurdles—it’s beautiful!

Joyce: Our amazing weekend at the Trials would involve some serious run time, right? In between the 5,000 and 10,000 meters? I can hardly wait to see who will make up the rest of the US “long” distance team – will it be a frustrated marathoner who came up short in Houston? I love these distances because I’ve, obviously, run them myself. It makes what the athletes do even more impressive!

Thank you so much, Oiselle, for the Totally Trials opportunity! We’d LOVE to come spend the weekend with you, our future Olympians…and with each other!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Soaring Eagle 5 Mile Trail Run

What a FABULOUS day!

A VERY happy Quins fan
First, I have to explain my clothing choices. When I signed up for this race, I had NO IDEA that my beloved rugby team, the Harlequins, would be playing in the championships of the English Premiership. For all the Americans - basically, it was the rugby Super Bowl. So, I got up at 7am to watch the first half, thinking that my friend would meet me at 7:45 and we'd head out to the race. Said friend pulled out, which meant that I got to watch the first 15 minutes of the second half, too, but had to PUUUUUUUUULL myself away from the match. I'm not saying I didn't think about staying, but I remembered how excited I'd been about this race for ages and thought I'd really regret it if I didn't go.
Let's just say…you haven't lived until you've frantically refreshed the Premiership Rugby app on your phone at EVERY stop to see how things are going. And BOOM! They WON!!!! I had my own mini celebration blasting the team song in the car and hugging my mini Harley Bear mascot. I was wearing my Quins jersey over my tech shirt, but made the last minute decision that I WAS going to celebrate by wearing it for the race. I mean, surely non-tech fabric couldn't kill me for the only 5 miles, right (spoiler alert - it didn't)? Awesome choice!

So, this was a pretty small race, although I got the feeling that it was bigger than some of their other trail races (fair enough - the weather was gorgeous and I think the relatively dry week convinced people that a trail race seemed like a good idea). Plus, it was only $28 for the 5 mile race, if you registered in advance (there were also 10M, marathon, and 50K options). Bargain! We had a pre-race briefing, which was kind of a first for me. Basically, we were told: follow the orange flags…and we were off!

My poor Sauconys! I had to do some pretty
serious scrubbing on my legs later, too.
And, I have to say, that was SO MUCH FUN!!! And, it was SO MUCH WORK!!! Five miles on the trails are so much harder than five miles on the road. We were on the fire road for the first 0.75 miles and then for the last mile and on single track in between. It was quite rolling, which was a real test for my legs - but a good one. And, of course, there were pretty steep sections on that last mile, too. There was mud, as well. I tried keeping my shoes clean some of the time, but at some point, I just had to give up! Glad I wore black socks and old shoes…because, really, I wouldn't have missed the fun of sloshing through the mud. I can't remember the last time I laughed gleefully during a race, but the mud was pretty awesome. I'd note that this was a DRY week - I suspect this course gets really sloppy when it's wetter!

This was my first real trail race, other than the extraordinarily tame North Face 10K in DC last year. I was really looking forward to seeing what this whole other discipline of running was all about, particularly in an area of the country where there are so many beautiful places to run off the roads. I have even more respect for trail runners now - it takes so much more concentration to watch your footing and the terrain is so much more challenging. Those little ups and down really took it out of me (even more proof that I need to do more of this kind of running, because it'll make me so much stronger). I absolutely see more trail running in my future. I've heard Cougar Mountain has some lovely trails. :-)

I would also firmly endorse the people who put on this race - Evergreen Trail Runs. The entry fee was just right, the organization was great. The trails were clearly marked, there were plenty of volunteers making sure we didn't get lost and the post-race spread was very nice (even though the jalepeno and Nutella bagels were an interesting choice - I don't think they knew they were jalepeno bagels, to be fair). I even liked the Zico coconut water that the company was passing out - I don't even usually like coconut water, but I drank one before and after the race (it was pretty hot & I was sweating up a storm). But, my favorite thing (aside from meeting some really nice people)? They took race photos and put them on Facebook! I will take that ANY day over a t-shirt (which were available for an extra fee), especially since some of them were pretty darn cute.
I found a Stade person! (They're our big European rivals)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bra Saga & Ladies' Night at Fleet Feet

Well, my chaffing issues couldn't have better timed. My most local running store (10 minute walk!), Fleet Feet Seattle, had a Ladies' Night tonight, including bra fittings with reps from Moving Comfort. Even better yet, they were donating 20% from the sale of every bra to Girls on the Run. 

After a poll of my friends, I decided that it was worth it to skip running club (*tear*) in order to sort out my bra issues. And, I think they were definitely right!

The sadness was significantly mitigated by the awesomeness of the goody bags that they had for the first 30 women who showed up (SOOOOO glad I got there about 10 minutes before it started, because the bags were awesome). My particular favorite item? The Brooks pint glass, which came in it's own mini-Brooks shoe box! Adorkable! Also - I love pint glasses. Friends don't let friends run thirsty, mmkay (or at least that's what it says on the box)? Other awesome goodies included a coupon for a dollar off Body Glide (a brilliant thing considering how much of it I've been using lately) and a whole bar of Theo Chocolate (another Seattle favorite and future neighbor of Brooks, when they move to Fremont). 

ANYWAY: BRAS. The woman from Moving Comfort took me behind a curtain and declared that I was wearing the wrong size entirely: apparently I needed to go down a band size (the chaffing is because the band is too big) and up a cup size. SOLD! I mean, I really wish I didn't have to buy a new size of bra, because those things are expensive when you actually need supportive ones, but it definitely took some of the sting out knowing that it's because I'm less 'round than I used to be. She also suggested that I try the new Jubralee, which is apparently a major update based on everything they've learned from the Fiona (which I think she said has been around for 11 years now). It sounds lovely. Fleet Feet didn't have them in stock, but Road Runner apparently does. Good thing I appear to be making biweekly trips over there. 
The Fiona:
Isn't this a gorgeous color? (Bahama Blue)
If I had to buy a new least it's pretty!!

Which leads me to one other thing - my body shape/size has been going a bit nuts since the marathon. It seems to be shrinking without a whole lot of effort on my part (well, ok, I'm still running >30 miles a week, so it isn't exactly effortless) - maybe I'm less hungry now than I was at the height of training? I was under the impression that it was very normal to gain some weight during marathon training (check), but have been surprised to see things shrinking after the race. Is that normal? I mean, just for a start, changing bra size is a pretty big shift on it's own! And, I've recently found that there are certain dresses that are fitting again, too, so it's been noticeable to a certain extent. Interesting...very interesting!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Ok, this is a problem.

After 3 years and training for a marathon with no problems, my running bras (Moving Comfort Fiona) have started causing me massive chaffing. They're not comfortable on long runs and I dread every post-run shower. The chaffing is squarely in the middle, just under the band, on my front and I have no idea why this oh-so-reliable favorite is causing me issues all of a sudden!

I've got too many long runs coming up to let this persist...guess it's time to get refitted for sports bras. Sigh. Do you know how much those things cost?!?

Monday, May 21, 2012

King Co. Trails #1: Soos Creek Trail

I've got a new project for myself & for the blog - running and reviewing all of the King County Trails! (See map)

On Sunday, I needed to get in a 16 mile run. On the suggestion of roommate, who had talked to someone from King County at her 5K in the morning, I headed for Kent and the Soos Creek Trail head. Sadly, my inability to read the information on the back of the map led me to believe that this was an 11 mile trail each way, instead of 11 miles round trip. Ahhh, doubling back to make 11 miles into 16...(but still better than the zillions of laps I did around the Magnuson Park sports fields last week to get to 14 miles).

I parked at Lake Meridian Park in Kent and immediately started looking around confusedly wondering where the trailhead was. Luckily, there was a very cute fisherman who knew that I needed to walk up the main road about two blocks to another parking area for the trail head. This was accomplished without trouble and I noted that there was a portapotty on site. Conveniently, the trail had distance markings every half mile, as well. There were several other potties along the way and a few benches and picnic tables, although I never saw any water fountains. There were a few places where the trail crossed roads - two or three with lights and two or three with crosswalks (it's worth noting that you should be VERY careful - cars were not very good about stopping for me, even when they had plenty of time to see me and I was very easy to see).

The trail itself is paved and lovely. Parts are in the woods, but large parts are in the "meadows" that spring up under large power lines and there's an accompanying bridle trail for most of the length. There wasn't much of a breeze and it was pretty warm and humid, even though it was a very cool, overcast day (if that makes any sense at all). In fact, the weather was miserable (steady to heavy rain, eclipse-hiding dense clouds), but, even so, there were a handful of people out walking, running, with their puppies, and riding bikes. I can imagine that on a nice day it might be somewhat busy, but everyone was considerate and friendly.

My source had said that this was a flat trail and, although parts of it were flat, there were some definite rollers, especially as you got closer and closer back to the Lake Meridian trailhead. After 16 miles, they were TOUGH. I actually liked that this trail involved a lot more hill work than anything I've run recently, because I've got some very hilly races in the fall and I know that hills make me stronger, as well as forcing lots of different muscles to work hard on the run. I'd say that it's a good mixed terrain trail and a nice gentle hill workout, if you want to make sure to get some varied terrain.

Finally, I wish I'd realized that I could have accessed another nine miles of the Lake Youngs Trail from Soos Creek! Oops! Then there would have been no doubling back! Oh, well - another time, especially since Lake Youngs is unpaved. I'm looking forward to it!

(Next time, I will take some know, now that I actually have a plan to review all of these trails.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Seattle's Best 15K

You know, I think this outfit is cute. Also cute: THE SPACE NEEDLE!
So, yesterday was race day. I'd originally signed up for this AGES ago, thinking that it would be my first big run after London. Obviously, with a 5K a week after the marathon, that wasn't the case and, because of things that I'm not currently talking about, this had to be downgraded from a "race" to a training run. My goal was to hold a nice steady 10:30 pace for the whole race, since I've still got to go out and do a long run today (which I'm currently procrastinating on doing, but it will get done).

Errr, I don't think I've mentioned this, but I bought a car two weeks ago! It's a lovely, dark blue Ford Focus and, yes, since I will continue to commute by bus, it's really for the weekends and, frankly, races! I'm calling it the Racemobile at the moment. I even bought a 26.2 sticker for it! No word yet on whether I'll be able to get it a "My Other Car is a Saucony" sticker, but I've tweeted @Saucony my request.

The Seattle's Best 15K (which, as far as I can tell has nothing to do with the coffee brand of the same name) started and ended at Gasworks Park and took in a lap of Lake Union (the big lake in the middle of Seattle). The race started at a super fun early 7am, so I was up by 5:15 and out of the house at 6. I knew I wanted to be a little early, since I tend to get lost and because I knew parking would be at a premium. Happily, I got a spot in the lot RIGHT next to Gasworks and bib pickup took all of about 30 seconds. w00t! The shirts for the race were technical (yay), but white (boo). BUT, GUESS WHAT! I'm NUMBER ONE!! (because the race numbers were assigned in alphabetical order). I keep looking at my bib and thinking it was for a kid's race - where they tend to give every munchkin a #1 bib.

The race kicked off promptly at 7 am with a run through a sprinkler! :-) The first (and last) part of the run was on the Burke-Gilman trail, but luckily, I haven't actually gone west on the trail for awhile, since I discovered that it actually ended far short of the distance I needed to cover in marathon training. We then popped over the Fremont Bridge and did an out and back along the canal. (I did pull a slightly annoyed runner at one point and asked two people to move over if they were going to walk, rather than walking two-abreast and taking up the entire "out" lane of the out and back section...I know, I'm a total bitch.) At the turnaround, there was a giant dancing chicken, which was seriously awesome. The aid stations were handing out water, gels, and Heed drink. I don't usually go for sports drinks, but this was actually really nice - I'd walk for about 15 seconds to get it all down and the taste was really, really light. I didn't take any of my own water for this race - it was only 9 miles, after all, and the level of support was perfect.

I can't say a ton about my own run. It was lovely to have company and I was never really working super duper hard - because it was a training run for me. I am pleased about how "easy" 9+ miles felt at 10:30 pace (and the last two miles at 9:5x pace when I got excited and enjoyed picking people off). One of my big goals for the fall is a great 10M PB and I'm pretty confident that I can pull that off with some work. I was very, very excited that I had NO trouble on the couple of short, but VERY steep hills before we crossed back over the University Bridge to the Burke-Gilman to the finish line. I powered up those puppies like they were nothing and passed a ton of people who were walking in the process. I've got some very hilly fall races, so it's nice to know that I've got a bit of hill strength in me (although I want to do some very serious hill work over the summer). Toward the finish area, I enjoyed passing people more than I probably should have, but passed the one person who I didn't want to pass - an amputee running with a carbon leg. I would have slowed to leave him in front, if he hadn't had to stop to walk because of the gravel in the finish area. I don't know about everyone else, but I am in awe of these men and women who race and run following the loss of their limbs. Was pleased with my time and felt great after the race, which was pretty much my goal.

This is the second race that I've done with this company, the Birch Bay 30K being the first, and I have to say that I've been SUPER impressed: they're exactly the kinds of races I love - small (369 finishers), scenic, well-supported, and with a cool medal! Seriously, now that I realize there were only 370 of us, the amount of organization is even more impressive - they had actual police out where there were cars to deal with, the perfect number of aid stations, and some AWESOME strawberry shortcake to eat after the race. OMNOMNOMNOM. Clearly, there's a TON of thought & care that goes into the organization of these races. I can't wait for the next one!

Oh, final result:
15K in 1:37:29 (10:28 pace)
And, it's a new PB, since I've never run a 15K before (but strongly suspect I'll be running the Birch Bay one next year, so there's something to aim at improving).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

London Marathon Recap

Although I'm well aware that it's stating the obvious, the one word that I'd use to describe the marathon is HARD. It was so, so, so hard. I'm very proud of finishing, even though the last 10 miles of the race were really, really difficult. I wish I had been able to go faster, but am well aware that without the training that I put in, that it might have been even harder. And, despite what I might have said right after the race, I'm totally ready to do it again (and, yes, I did enter the ballot for London 2013).


I finally had my first marathon-related bad dream the night before, when I dreamed that I was going to miss the start (I'm blaming all those posters in the Tube that warned us not to be late on marathon day). This had a useful side-effect, as I was awake 15 minutes before the first of the four alarms that I had set the night before. I set out all of my clothes the night before and my bag packed, which helped me get ready quickly (and left more time for checking e-mails/tweets/texts from everyone, too). I had a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of tea before I set out.

The VLM is so big that there are three start lines – Red (charity runners), Blue (ballot winners), and Green (elites & VIPS). All three starts are at Greenwich, but you approach the park from different train/tube stations, depending on the color of the number on your bib. I was blue, so I had to go to Blackheath Station, via the special train from London Bridge. When I first got on the train, there weren't very many runners (I, however, was surprised to see how many people were on the train at 7:15 on a Sunday morning), but the train really started filling up as we got closer to central London. There were a few minor delays to show our bibs for free travel (or, you know, had to pay because there was no station guard to let me through the gate), but I squeeeeeezed on to the super crowded train, just before it left for Blackheath. By 8:15, I was in Greenwich.

I really enjoyed the journey. For a start, it was a reasonably late start, for a race and, since London's transport is already so good, it was really easy and fast. Admittedly, I was on the early side, but I knew that I didn't want to stress out about being on time. Additionally, everyone was SO FRIENDLY and chatty! Lots of people were also running their first marathon (or their first VLM) and we bonded over that, while the vets reassured us that we would be fine. I love being around other runners and the sense of excitement and occasion was overwhelming on the trains.

After arriving at Blackheath, it was just a short walk to the Start village. As before, it was moving to see hundreds of runners all making their way to the start. When we got to Greenwich Park, itself, you could see the three blimps that mark the three start lines and the balloons that line the start chutes. Of course, I knew there were balloons, because I've watched the VLM on tv before, but seeing them in person really drove home the whole "OMG GOING TO RUN THE LONDON MARATHON" theme of the day.

The start village was really well organized. There were loads and loads of portapotties and, this being England, the queues were efficient and cheerful. My favorite thing was that they had a HUGE tv screen where someone was roaming around doing interviews with the runners at our start, as well as letting us watch the start of the elite women's and wheelchair races. It was that sort of thing that really let you feel like you were part of a world-class sporting event, not just the pack that ran hours behind the really fast people. I had a banana, used the toilets a few times, put my bag in the baggage truck, borrowed someone's tub of Vaseline when I realized that I'd forgotten to grease the chafe-prone spots on my arms, and finally decided that it was time to head to the starting pens!

By 9:45 (start time), it was decidedly sunny. The temperature still wasn't that warm, but the sun was definitely starting to heat things up. I was so, so grateful that I had remembered to pack my sunglasses and wore them for almost the entire race (I took them off for Tower Bridge & the finish, because I'm vain like that). I also had a pair of cheap cotton gloves and arm warmers that I'd made by cutting off the toe of the socks that I'd gotten on the airplane.

The start pens were a bit of a mess. I was in pen 8 of 9, but I think the pens weren't actually big enough, so everyone was just kind of hanging out next to them, figuring that we'd get in eventually. While I waited, I finished stretching, took a Gu, then realized that I didn't have any water – so I took a couple of swigs out of a water bottle that someone else had abandoned. I know, I know – but you do what you have to do, right? But, eventually, we started what I call the "death march" toward the start line. I have no idea when the gun actually went off or anything – it didn't seem to matter. So, I spent the last few minutes before the run chatting to a man dressed as children's animated character Peppa Pig. Apparently he actually owns the costume and has brought it out for several children's birthday parties, as well as running in it. He was aiming to get around the course in about six hours. I thought he was a bit nuts!


The Start line was a bit anti-climactic, really. Everyone was pretty spread out by the time we go to it, so I had no problem stepping aside to take its photo!

The highlight for me of the first few miles were actually the speed bumps in the road. At every single one (and there were maybe 10 or so over the first few miles), they had a volunteer stationed on either end holding a sign and yelling out "HUMP!" It was hilarious (you’ll have to take my word for it). Some of them got really into their HUMP duties. Another highlight was running past one of the Olympic venues - the shooting will be held at the Royal Artillery Barracks. There 
was actually a competition taking place during the marathon (they’re testing out the venues) and so some of the officials and athletes came out to see us, instead. (There were also rounds going off, making me sort of wonder if we’d be taken out and shot if we slowed down too much.) Weirdly, they weren’t making a sound, just standing there silently, watching. There was also a shop of Olympic merchandise, but I didn’t see anyone ducking out of the race to get their stuffed mascots or anything.

The first 10 miles or so were definitely my favorites of the race. We were, for the most part, running through fairly normal neighborhoods and EVERYONE was out having a street party! The spectators in London were fantastic - lots of little kids wanting high-5s, people passing out sweets, the pubs were going MENTAL and cranking out the music. My favorite group of spectators was also in that early group: a group of Sikhs had their drums out and were lining the pavement for almost a full block. To me, that is what London is about - everyone celebrating together in their own way, bringing their own cultures to make a wonderful, diverse city. I might have teared up, seeing them. It was also around this time that I passed two people on stilts and someone "dressed" as the Blackpool Tower. Around mile 5, we came to the Cutty Sark, where the crowds were fantastic. I did think about stopping off for a Nando’s, though.

The next highlights for me were seeing my friends, who I knew would be waiting for me about mile 8.5 and 9.5. Caz & Lynne were a little earlier than I expected, but they did a great job getting my attention. For their efforts, they got a very sweaty hug from a slightly gross Joyce. :-) I also found Ana, my old flatmate, at mile 9.5 - apparently we picked a really good spot for her to be standing (and 
basically out her front door - she lives right on the course). Turns out, however, that the poor thing got to stand right next to a bagpiper while she waited for me. I grabbed my extra Gu from her and a lovely, lovely bottle of weak lemonade and was off! I cannot say enough about how awesome it was to have my wonderful friends following me around London and being there right when I needed a friendly face or a word of encouragement. They spent a lot of time dashing around the city and were just so incredibly supportive. They even happily hauled around an emergency kit of things - pretzels, salt tablets, and extra gels (I didn’t have a chance to practice with Lucozade, which was the brand on the course, so I had to use the Gu that I brought from the States). 

I used to live in Southeast London, so much of mile 9-13 was really familiar to me - I used to buy groceries at the big Tesco at Surrey Quays and the bus home went right along the marathon route. Ana had pointed out some of the landmarks to me the week before, too. Some of my colleagues had lived at mile 12.5 while I was on law school study abroad and, of course, I did a TON of running right around Tower Bridge when I lived in London. So, unlike some people who apparently didn’t expect to see Tower Bridge when they turned THAT corner, I totally did.

But, OMG. What an incredible, incredible moment. Without a doubt, it was the best moment of the race. I could pick out the spot on the Bridge where I watched the race in 2006 and 2007, when I’d spend a couple of days afterwards thinking “I could do that! I should do that!” That’s where my dream began and here I ACTUALLY was - running the London Marathon! Last year, I ran to the Bridge on my “I must run the Thames Path every time I come to London” mission and took a few photos, thinking to myself “the next time I do this, it might be for the Marathon.” DREAM COME TRUE, y’all! DREAM COME TRUE! The crowds were fantastic and I put on my biggest, cheesiest grin for the cameras. The only sad moment was when I saw another runner take a bad fall just after the Bridge (I saw more runners than I would have liked to either fall or just after a fall, being attended by the First Aid responders.)

I had originally thought that “the Highway,” the mile-long stretch that goes from Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf, would be kind of dead. I was completely wrong. People were lined up 5 or 6 deep on BOTH sides of the two-lane road, screaming their heads off. I saw my favorite MP’s brother at this point, cheering for his charity and passed along the message that our mutual friend was rubbish for not coming out as he said he might (sorry, Pete, my brain might not have been working very well). You could also see some of the fast club runners and good for agers on the other side of the street, already at 21-22 miles. This was halfway and I got my iPod going just after crossing that mat. Caz & Lynne were waiting for me somewhere around mile 15. I believe I told them that it was HARD (which pretty much is word that I’m still using when someone asks how the race was)!

I felt good at halfway and I thought I’d been nice and conservative in my pacing. I thought I might be able to make my time goals, but I wasn’t really prepared for what came next. Somewhere around mile 15 or 16, I think I hit the wall, which I just wasn’t prepared for at that early point in the race. I’d had a really bad 19 mile long run and two great 20 milers, so I hoped that boded well for race day. Sadly...not so much. My calves kept threatening to cramp, so I stopped a lot to stretch them - which proved to be a welcome excuse to just hang my head over my knees and get a bit of an energy boost.

The crowds through the heart of Canary Wharf were also incredible. Apparently my friend Alison was there and saw me, but I missed her because I was just so out of it. For some reason, my main memory of Canary Wharf was that one of the streets smelled really, really bad - like car fumes, if I remember correctly (which I probably don’t). Around here, I kept passing and getting passed by someone dressed as Tinky Winky the Teletubby (for the record, I did beat him in the end). I had a detailed conversation in my head about whether or not his headpiece was correct (it was). I also almost caught up to the 4:48 pace group, but then they kept chugging away as I got slower and slower.

Caz & Lynne and I had our last rendezvous point just before mile 20, on the Poplar High Street. (For future marathon reference, this was a great place to meet friends - there’s a DLR station and there just aren’t very many other spectators, so it’s easy to find people, plus C&L were smart enough to borrow camping stools and could chill out waiting for me. They reported that a lot of people were making good friends with the fence behind them, stretching out their legs.) It was great to see them, even if I was exhausted. Lynne told me that I was on for a 5-hour finish and they took some exhausted Joyce photos while I stretched out my calves. It was definitely a boost seeing them. Poplar was also nice, because it was a return to the street party atmosphere that we’d had in the early miles, with everyone out on their stoops enjoying the runners and the beautiful day. My favorite spectators of the day were in Poplar - two people, clearly hungover, lounging on a couch that they’d dragged to the curbside, smoking cigarettes and surrounded by empty beer cans. WINNING!

After Mile 20, the whole thing just seemed to stretch on and on and on. I kept thinking we were almost to the Blackfriars Tunnel, but it just never came! I did resolve that I was going to keep running and chugging as much as I possibly, possibly could in that last 10K and, for the most part, I did (except the tunnel, which I’d given myself permission to walk). The crowds were great, but all I could think about is “am I done yet? where’s Parliament? am I done?” There was a lovely sign at 24 miles which said something like “In two miles, you’re part of history,” though. In the last miles, I realized that I was neck and neck with someone dressed as Percy Pig (my favorite M&S candy and minor obsession), which I thought was both appropriate and vaguely humiliating. She (it turned out that Percy was a woman after she took off her head at the finish line) was my rabbit for that last mile or so.

I was so, so relieved to get to Birdcage Walk and to make the turn into the Mall. The 385 yards to go sign was particularly awesome. I felt like I was going as fast as I could and it wasn’t very fast and I wanted to enjoy the whole thing, but I also really wanted to stop running! It was awesome to cross that finish line, but I didn’t start crying the way that I did at Birch Bay. I didn’t feel very different, really. I talked about it later with Juliana and realized that it isn’t the actual running of the marathon that makes you a marathoner and makes you stronger, it’s the five months of training where you push yourself to get out of bed, even though you’re exhausted and it’s raining and all of those hundreds of miles that you run on your own. I think that’s the part of the marathon that’s transformative. Because I did that! Going 26.2 miles is a big deal, of course, but the bigger deal is that I made it to that start line trained as well as I think I could have. Birch Bay was almost a bigger deal, because it was the moment that I knew I’d done what I could and that I was going to be ready for whatever London threw at me. I wish I’d had a better day “on the day,” as it were, but I am so proud of all of those months of running that got me to the finish line, in the end.

At the finish line, I got my chip taken off and they crowned me with my medal. It was such a surprise - I figured the design would be the same as the past two years, but with a different year. Instead, it was completely different and beautiful! I absolutely love it. I walked through to get my bag of clothes (immediately putting them on, since it was clear that I’d finished right before the the rain started, and it was getting cold) and finisher’s bag. I called Duchie and told her I was not in a hurry to do another marathon any time soon - I believe I might have said that it would be a few years.... Oops. I do, however, LOVE the photo of me talking on the phone to her (chocolate milk in hand). :-)

Caz & Lynne found me at the top of the steps after I left the secure finish area and gave me BIG HUGS and a Cadbury gold medal. We shuffled off to the Cancer Research reception and I ended up with a nice massage. While I was waiting, I couldn’t believe that I was the only person doing any stretching! It was also very weird to have two different people each working on a calf a the same time - in different ways. I had also asked them to do my lower back, which is how I discovered some fun chaffing. But, the best part about the massage was just that I got to LAY DOWN. Boy, did I need that. We found Ana, too, and I am SO GRATEFUL to my entire team! You were wonderful! Please let me know if I can ever be your cheerleader!

So, yeah. That was the marathon. It was so hard, but it was amazing. I am so glad that I ran London, because it was the most incredible experience. I don’t really know what I could have done differently, other than hydrate even more the day before and even sooner in the race itself. I don’t think I went out too quickly - since I was right around my uber-conservative 11-minute pace. But, the main result of my performance is that I’m GOING to have to do another one, just because I KNOW I can do better. I know I said I was only going to do one marathon - ever - but, now I know that I’m not done with the distance. Stay tuned.... :-)