Things I’ve learned about marathon training runs over the last few years:

Weather. It’s always too hot or too cold. Too cloudy or too sunny. Too rainy/snowy or too windy and dry. Doesn’t matter if you’re in Boston, MA or Bridgetown, Barbados. The 45-50 degree perfect run temperature with light cloud cover and little wind remains elusive.

Friendliness. Smiling and saying hi to other runners and pedestrians and waving at cars makes my runs more fun—even if sometimes I get only grunts or weird cocked eyebrow glances in response. 

Chocolate Gu with caffeine. A must for any run over 90 minutes. Someone recently told me at an athletic store that it contains real Belgian chocolate (thus explaining why it’s so tasty). I don’t necessarily believe that but sure does make you want to keep testing it to see if it’s true.

Feet. Blisters and strange bluish toenails after anything over 14 miles is a given. I haven’t found a wicking sock or the right shoe fit that doesn’t leave at least one of my toes the worse for wear after training season. Why don’t I care that much? Because blisters on the feet are better (in my opinion) than blisters on your hands (years of rowing). And toenails always grow back.

Bodily Harm. While my dad likes to send me articles about marathon runners dying, my training is no where near that level and overall as led to a lot of great health benefits. However, I have had a recurring injury somewhat unrelated. My feeling? If they’re not going to lead to permanent damage, you just have to power through. For example, two years ago after having an amazing training season (and in the middle of my taper—the time when you are cutting back on working out), I woke up in the middle of the night with blinding pain in my left knee. I’d been dead asleep on my back and BAM! out of nowhere, sharp, gasping, searing pain. Last week, when I was doing the least amount of working out or running—pretty much just sitting or standing in a hospital all week with a family illness—my lower back/hip started hurting. Now it’s migrated down to my left knee (the one from 2008) and is sharing its painful love. Apparently my body is extremely prone to injury when doing absolutely nothing related to marathon running. Eight words: Thank goodness for pain relievers and massage therapists.

Fuel. Long runs = the right to eat as much brunch as I want…almost. In the last few miles of a long run, even with the help of a few Gu, I start getting really hungry. I truly believe that the reason the last few miles of my runs are often slightly faster than my first is that I start thinking about chocolate chip pancakes at Deluxe Town Diner, the Garden Deluxe crepe at Cafénation, or every scramble at The Friendly Toast. One certain group of lady friends and I eat so often at Cafénation that to go even one weekend without a visit is a major sin (and I should also add they donated to the marathon so thank you!!!).

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Visit Girl2Woman.orgThis is not about travel. Full disclosure…professionally I do new media/web ‘stuff’ at a reproductive health nonprofit. We launched a new initiative this week called the 200 Thousand for 200 Million Challenge. The goal is to reach 200,000 video shares on www.Girl2Woman.org by International Women’s Day (March 8, 2010) to raise awareness about the 200 million women who want, but lack access to modern contraceptives.

The Girl2Woman site is in many ways a labor of love–particularly for our tiny Communications team–and this week I’m frantically working with my colleagues to raise the visibility of the challenge. I’ll post some blogs I write on other sites as well as places Girl2Woman.org gets picked up below (or in ‘Other Writing‘). If you have a minute, visit the site, share the videos, and help spread the word about the importance of reproductive health care!

Girl2Woman.org coverage:

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The last few weeks I have been seriously debating whether my travel karma has traveled to my immune system. Over the last few weeks I’ve battled a sinus infection (had to miss a day of work and had a lot of fun running later in the week with zero snot control), the norovirus complete with a 100 degree fever (which is probably just about the worst I’ve felt in about 6 years since I last had the norovirus Spring Training ’04), and then another weird iteration of sinus something post-noro. All in all, a good time. There’s nothing like having a constantly stuffed, yet runny nose, an inability to eat, and constantly having to run to the restroom. I joked with a friend that I felt like a human petri dish.

Amazingly enough, I’ve been able to continue to battle through some training runs. It hasn’t been pretty–but I’ve made it. Last week, the norovirus made working out pretty impossible for a good 3-4 days, but I powered through a 10 miler on the treadmill on Saturday. Of course, that workout was followed promptly by five hours of sleeping/laying on the couch in exhaustion and trying to figure out what my stomach could muster…

Now tonight my sig other has determined that I have some kind of gallbladder issue…attack of the gallbladder!

I could pack it in and say, enough!, my body is revolting! However, another illness is more pressing…my mom’s. She’s been waging her own private body war the last few months in an extreme amount of pain. They have finally determined what they think is the source of the problem, and she’ll be having a somewhat scary surgery Monday morning. It’s of course, all related to the aneurysm and stroke she had back in 1991. And that’s why I’m running the marathon. So despite illness karma, I’m going to keep getting up at 5:45, I’m going to keep wiping my runny nose on my running gear, and I’m going to keep raising awareness about stroke.

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There’s been a lot going on, perhaps the  most exciting of which is that I’m training for the Boston Marathon to raise money for the American Stroke Association on behalf of Tedy’s Team! This has led to two things: 1) not as much personal travel because I have to do my long runs on the weekend and 2) a lot of exhaustion (and thus less extracurricular writing).

My stroke hero, mom and I in front of giant Tedy's Team poster 2008

My stroke here and I in front of a giant Tedy's Team poster 2008

But this weekend I’m initiating a new take on travel karma: travel karma as it relates to travelling by foot. So over the next couple of months I’ll be posting pieces about my runs and the quirky, weird, or karmic kicks in the rear that they bring.

Today was quite the karmic run. While DC is inundated in feet of snow, Boston for once, is relatively snow-free. However snow-free does not equal warm. Two years ago when training for the Boston Marathon I was shaking my fists at the running-weather gods. Every weekend, without fail in the four months of training, it snowed. This year, I’m shaking my fists at the running-weather gods for cold. Last Saturday morning when I awoke for my run, it was -10 with windchill–not a good temperature to run outside. So I ran on the treadmill. Fourteen dreary miles of staring at TNT (and don’t get me wrong, I love me some TNT, but not when they’re playing reruns of Leverage. I want my Law and Order!).

This morning, my weather bug was showing 20 degrees–warm! When I flipped on the local news though, they were showing nine degrees with windchill. I thought, ok, I have the clothing to mount up for nine degrees. I was wrong.

The first three miles of my run consisted of me simultaneously cursing at the wind (in my head), trying to flex my hands (yes, they were gloved), glowering at walking people in parkas, debating turning around to grab more clothes or turning around and heading to the gym to run on the treadmill. Around mile three, my right leg started feeling odd–not a cramp, not sore, not tired, not an injury–just odd. It was the first moment in my life where I legitimately felt as though my Texan muscles were saying “we are not built for cold.”

From mile three on, my plan was to run the Charles River. As I turned right to head east toward downtown Boston, the wind hit me, my eyes teared up and I thought, this is officially crazy. Usually my internal monologue consists of fun thoughts, daydreaming, planning, feelings of “bad-ass-ness” and always, thoughts about my mom and those affected by stroke. Today all I could think was, why the hell am I doing this and oh-my-god am I cold. I couldn’t even keep my focus on a stroke hero.

Frozen Charles River

Frozen Charles River shot by brockvicky at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vickyb/372461462/

Around mile five I began to plan my escape. With no money and no cell phone on me, I started fantasizing about stopping someone on Storrow Drive and asking him/her to give me a ride home–or at the very least to lend a cell phone so I could call Jon or a friend. At mile six, I began to realize that there were not very many other runners out and about. The wind was cutting fiercely, whipping across the river of ice and pummeling the southern bank. Of the few other runners out, almost all seemed to have judged the conditions far better than me. In my one layer of long tights on the bottom and tanktop, long-sleeved wicking shirt, and short-sleeved ‘Tedy’s Team’ training shirt on top (with lightweight gloves and earwarmers), I was no match for those passing me in layers of fleece, windbreaker, and wool socks.

And then I saw the light. Somewhere near the Esplanade, I saw two guys snuggled in sweatshirts and down jackets, camped out in front of an SUV with sneakers, food, drinks and gear. I thought I was seeing a mirage–or if it was real, a water stop for another running team.

As I approached, smiles, friendly faces, and the words, “Would you like some water, snack, garble, garble, garble, or fleece gloves?”  WHAT? FREE GLOVES!? I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly. Could it be true? Two really nice guys from New Balance (a great shoe company based in Boston) were out manning a free water, rest, and food stop for Charles River runners in nine degree weather and they were giving out free fleece gloves! Talk about karma coming around.

As Ty helped me to a pair of gloves, I struggled to get them on under my pathetic lightweight ones. My hands were white and inflexible–probably on the point of frostbite. I don’t think I have ever smiled more widely. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. They were soft, fit perfectly, and most importantly–delightfully warm. I felt a new surge of energy and knew I was going to finish the run.

I thanked Ty and New Balance, continued on and a few miles later found another lifesaver: Microsoft. Microsoft saving me on a run? Here’s how: with the intense cold and an hour and a half of running came an incredible need to use indoor plumbing facilities–and those are few and far between along the Charles River. I saw what I thought (in my cold haze) was a gym and started running toward it. Turns out, it was the private gym at the huge Microsoft building which overlooks the Charles (I didn’t even know Microsoft had offices in Boston). A very kind security guard let me in and gave me the go ahead to use said indoor plumbing facilities. Fantastic. The heat of the plush building, the relief of indoor plumbing, and the kindness of the security guard once again saved the day. I thanked him profusely, handed him a Tedy’s Team stroke awareness card to shed some light on who this crazy girl was asking to use the restroom, and took off to finish the run.

I made it home in about two hours and forty minutes…not my usual pace and not my usual post-run excitement. But now, hours later, warm, and reflecting on the run, I can better appreciate the wonderful karma that occurred. If it weren’t for the generous actions of Ty and the Microsoft security guard, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. I like to think that my years of always smiling, waving and saying hi to other runners (who usually think I’m crazy) may have paid off today in some karmic way. Then again, I could be in for karmic backlash tomorrow when I’m unable to walk…

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Snow at Logan December 20, 2009

Stop the snow, stop the snow, stop the snow

I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to air travel. For the last several years I’ve had status on American Airlines. Once you have status, it’s hard to travel on airlines you don’t. Here’s a quick example…

Our flight to Denver has been delayed three hours. We arrived two hours early (just to make sure we had confirmed seats given how many other flights have been delayed thanks to the Storm of the Century). The line at the regular counter was insanely long. The line at first class was nonexistent. On American, I can pop up to any counter because of having status. With status (or priority access), you get to breeze through check-in and go through an extra-special security line (which isn’t all that super special, but they make it seem like it is so that you feel better).

Today on United, no status, no breeze-through, which meant, wait in the long line. Ok, not so bad right? I mean, we did have a five hour wait till our flight so why worry about waiting in a long line? Because I’m spoiled. And because frankly, there is no reason to wait in an incredibly long line if you don’t know whether all the other people are waiting to check in, or waiting to reschedule flights (I suspected the latter given all the delays).

I wanted to cut the line and go right to the computer check-ins. My travel partner, we’ll call Mr. K, did not agree. He wanted us to wait in the line. Everyone else was waiting in line, thus we should too.

But as I mentioned, I am spoiled. I walked up to the agent managing the line and inquired as to whether this line was for rescheduling or check in. She said it was for people waiting to talk to an agent. I said we were just checking in. “I’ll pull you from the line when you get closer,” was her response. Closer to what? There were 50 people waiting to talk to an agent, and 10 computers open with no one using them. We were about 45 people back…didn’t it make sense for us to just go use the computer now? Mr. K again disagreed and convinced me to be good and wait in the line.

Five minutes passed, ten, then fifteen. Did it matter? That meant we still had four hours and forty-five minutes till our flight. For me it did. I asked Mr. K to hold my bags and did the limbo under the ropes to get to the computers. I started the check-in process. We didn’t need an agent, we just needed our bags checked and our boarding passes printed.

I finished pressing all the right buttons, and Mr. K was convinced. He jumped from the line with our bags.

We checked in. Only four and a half hours left to wait! Hurrah.


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Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the airport is so delightful.
And since we’ve a place to go, stop the snow, Stop the snow, STOP the snow.

The weekend began with big plans…two months ago a good friend invited me to Solstice, an annual tradition in her family. One of our other friends planned her trip back from Ghana around the much-anticipated December 19th celebration and I encouraged my boyfriend that flying to Denver for our holiday celebration on December 20th so that I could also attend Solstice, would make him a very happy man.

But then all hell broke loose. It began simply enough–it was supposed to snow. Then CNN jumped in with its coverage of the “Storm of the Century.” Then the storm progressed into weathermen and women showing their stuff in gusting winds, picking up snow with their gloved hands shouting into the microphone ‘you can see Anderson, we’ve got major snow drifts…it’s just piling and piling.’

My newly-arrived-to-New York friend from Ghana called Saturday morning to say her train to Hartford was delayed. She asked what I thought the probability of making it to Barkhamsted would be. I was encouraging. Afterall, I have 4-wheel drive–and what better way to use it then driving through snow. Then her train was delayed again. And I started getting nervous watching Boston Channel 7’s ‘Storm force’ coverage. Ten to fifteen inches of snow was anticipated. Buses, trains, flights, all up and down the Eastern Seaboard were cancelled. CNN and the ‘Storm Force’ predicted deadly travel.

We decided to cancel. Travel kick-in-the-butt #1.

I decided to make the most of it, run some errands before the snow hit Boston, and do some last minute Christmas shopping. Apparently everyone in Boston had the same idea. Parking lots were masses of caroling car horns, people flicking holiday cheer through their middle fingers, and bumper nudges of affection. No snow.

When I finally went to bed Saturday night, it still wasn’t snowing.

This morning dawned, and with it, the harsh realities of the ‘Storm of the Century.’ Snow and lots of it. Boston’s Channel 7 ‘Storm Force’ was in full coverage with reporters in every small town of Massachusetts showing just how long they could stand in howling windy snow. Car accidents were reported. Logan cancelled almost all morning flights. The yoga instructor at the gym bailed (I called ahead to confirm class was still on, cleared off my car, drove in, waited 45 min and then gave up).

But our flight was still listed on time. So we packed, and planned, and organized, and laundered ski clothes–all while winds whipped outside and snow drifts accumulated against our front door.

We were ready to go by 2:30PM (our nonstop to Denver was scheduled to leave at 5:15). We checked the flight status again–delayed 45 minutes. We went ahead and called a cab. “How long do you think it’ll be?” I cheerfully asked Metrocab. “About 40 minutes to an hour if they can make it out to you,” replied the booking agent.

Shit. We launched into a mad scramble to look up long term parking fees at Logan, look up other taxis, or find another way to the airport. In the midst of some cussing, and general anxiety, my phone rang. “Your Metrocab taxi has arrived.”

What?! That was 5 minutes!! Another mad scramble, this time in disbelief, to the window. Yes, a cab was outside parked amid the piles of snow. A third mad scramble, bags thrown, shoes slightly untied, jackets grabbed, last minute attempts to jam extra items into bag crevices.

We made it to the cab–with all of our bags–and arrived at Logan about 20 minutes later. Then our flight delay began…and we’re still sitting here.
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Convio welcome banner in Austin

Welcoming the Summit attendees to the greatest city in Texas.

Yesterday I flew from BOS to AUS to attend the Convio Summit. Possibly one of my favorite things about working for a nonprofit that utilizes Convio is that they hold annual meetings in the greatest city in Texas, and arguably one of the greatest cities in the US.

The tricky part is getting here.

From Boston there are very few direct flights. The only one I could find was on JetBlue and it only goes once a day. So I opted for American (always close to my heart and even closer now that I’m inching towards reaching status again this year). That of course means a layover in Chicago or Dallas. Big D it was.

On my 2.5 hour layover I got a chance to navigate the bus system of DFW and have lunch with my parents in the new Grand Hyatt at Terminal A (something I highly recommend). (We chose that because it’s among the only spots not past security where I could meet them.) I also got a chance to rekindle my love-affair with Texan apparel. Being born and bred in Texas, there is something magical about stepping into DFW and becoming part of a glorious maze of cowboy hats, tight jeans, and boots complimented by ‘I love Texas’ stores, big blonde hair, and Sonny Bryan’s BBQ. I may not take advantage of any Texan clothing on a daily basis in Boston, but I have to say, I miss it.

I also miss the weather. During the lunch in Dallas, dark clouds were rolling in. Not a thunderstorm but a cooler front of air. Landing in Austin an hour later it was still warm, but the breeze was picking up and you could sense a change in the air. This morning, the temperature had slipped into the mid-50s with a strong breeze. The trees bent and swayed as flags around the capitol buildings snapped in the wind.

The trip down here ended up being long, but pretty pleasant (and shockingly no delays). Now it’s time to enjoy Austin, learn a lot at the conference, rock out during my presentation on Wednesday, and not think too hard about the 6am flight back on Thursday…

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