My 20-miler today was fan-freaking-tastic. Sure, it was a little windy, but the cool weather was a welcome change from the swampy heat we had for the past week. I didn’t see as many runners out there as I would expect on such a pretty day.
So here’s what I’m going to advise. Tomorrow and Monday will both be beautiful for running in the D.C. area. Both days have no chance of rain and highs in the 70s with low humidity and no wind. Take advantage of the cool mornings or warm-ish afternoons by going for a run. Do it. No, really. Put on your shorts, a short-sleeve top and running shoes, and get out the door.
Later in the week, the highs are supposed to top out in the 90s, and you’ll be wishing for these beautiful days again. Take my advice on this one. After your run, relax with a nice, cold beer in the nice, warm sun, and be happy about your long weekend.
I suppose something like this was bound to happen eventually. I just always thought when it happened I would have taken my eye off the road or that I would be at fault somehow. But that’s not how it happened.
First off, let me say that I’m fine, but I’m a little shaken. This morning I was five miles in to an easy six-miler on a part of a route that I run four or five times a week. I waited for the walk signal at the light at the top of a particularly steep hill that I always curse. I turned off my headphones like I usually do. I made sure the cars stopped in both directions as I crossed Columbia Road. A mother and her daughter and another woman crossed the street headed northwest. The walk sign at this light lasts about 30 seconds. I know that because I have a mental timer for all the lights all the way home from this point, you know, because I run this route several times per week. I started to cross the street headed southeast. Here’s a diagram because I like to illustrate how mad I am.
As I crossed Columbia in front of a stopped bus (the red thing in the diagram), a cab (the blue thing) pulled in to the crosswalk and did not stop. He bumped my leg. I stumbled — kind of staggered actually. For a half second I was stunned. Then I got mad. I looked up at the walk sign. Was I mistaken? No. Twenty-five seconds left.
The cabbie’s window was cracked. I yelled at him, with a shaky voice, and I pointed my finger in to the cab because I’m awesome. “You stop before you turn right. It’s right on red AFTER STOP!” I said. He said, “Ma’am you ran in front of me.” So I’m at fault because I’m running in a crosswalk? I was in the crosswalk with the light, and he didn’t stop. I was proud of myself for not cursing at him. I’m not sure how I kept my manners in that situation.
So I’ve been having a bad stretch at work and a generally bad week. The bump and stagger helped me take stock of things this morning. As I ran home, I went from mad to sad to thankful. I took a deep breath when I got home and was grateful I was able to run home. I’m still shaken by the encounter. While I don’t think I could have done much to prevent it, I’ll certainly be more cautious at that intersection in the future.
Sometimes I feel pessimistic about life and running and, well, the whole thing. Then I see a word cloud of my Facebook posts (via Wolfram), and some things jump out at me: fantastic, happy, thanks, good, PR, yum. I’m happier than I think. Oh, and I write about food a lot.
I’m running the Nike Women Half Marathon this weekend, and honestly, I’m a little confused about the whole thing. I have been reading the materials and following along on Facebook. Never have I felt like I should have a celebration for just getting to the start line of a race. I typically feel a kind of jittery pride when I’m at the start line for marathons I’ve had to work hard to qualify to run (Boston, New York City), but the only thing I needed to do to get to get here was pay and show up. The back of the NWH bib tells me I am “one of the FIRST strong, sexy, fierce women to run the 2013 Inaugural Nike Women Half Marathon DC.” The event promises to be quite girl-power-y and, yes, the branding does make me feel energized to run. But the Nike-branded training plans for beginner half marathoners are supremely lax. I certainly wouldn’t encourage someone starting a half marathon training plan to put in the kinds of 80-mile weeks I’ve been pulling lately. But I would advise them to get at least the 30 minutes of recommended physical activity each day. The NWH plans call for few (between two and four) miles some days this week and yoga or complete rest on others. One week early in training has a total of seven miles for the whole week.
Am I too hard-core in my thinking that some women might want to try a little harder in their training? That maybe simply getting to the finish line by walking or run-walking a race in under four hours isn’t what completing a half marathon is all about? Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy if even one woman who normally would be sitting at home on a Sunday morning is out on the street walking or jogging. I just don’t think we, as women, should be reaching only for the minimum.
A week after Boston, things seem much better. My wonderful friend Melanie organized a happy hour for Michael and me on Monday evening. We talked with friends and celebrated the best parts of the marathon. We talked about the run the way we should have. Plus I feel more clear-headed and happier after the week that seemed like it would never end finally wrapped up.
So! Over the weekend as I was setting up my training plans for the next few months ahead of the Wineglass Marathon, I started to think about running the Delaware Marathon again. Last year I entered this race after the record-breaking heat in Boston caused me to crash. This year I needed a good race to get the bad taste out of my mouth from last Monday. Spots were still open. The entry fee was a little steep since I would be registering pretty late. The race is May 12, and the entry fee had gone up by $30 to $115 in the last month. I checked on the Delaware Marathon Facebook page to see whether anyone knew of cheap hotel deals or discounted entry fees that might be available.
A few folks responded. A few more sent me hotel recommendations. I was happy with that. I got some numbers of hotels and was going to mull it a bit more on Monday.
Then I saw a response on Monday evening from the race director (this is the one with all the Likes).
I know it’s only Tuesday, but this has to be the best news of the week. I’m thrilled to be able to go back to Delaware to run this race, and I’m thankful for some kind person out there who decided to pay my way. I’ve come up with a tentative three-week plan that includes a pretty significant taper, and I should be ready to go on May 12.
I should be writing about a great race today — one where I ran remarkably consistent splits on a sunny day when the road between Hopkinton and Boylston Street was lined with great friends. I should be writing about the way the wind felt as I cruised down Boylston and recounting silly things from along the route. Instead I’m writing this post.
The marathon itself went as planned. We are staying close to the exit of the corrals after the finish line, near where the family meetup area is. Or was until it moved. I love staying close to the finish line exit because I can quickly come back to the room to take off my sweaty clothes and get a warm shower. Our room had a view of the exit area.
At around 2:58 p.m., a hotel staffer knocked on our door to bring me a finisher certificate with my official time on it and a list of splits. I took a photo and then got a text message from my friend Jamey asking if I was OK. We did not hear any explosions. My first instinct was to check Twitter. Michael turned on the TV, where the initial coverage was kind of spotty. I looked out my window and saw people running from the marathon exit. This is the area you see in the photo above. They were looking backward, and the runners who were wrapped in Mylar blankets did not have their bags. That was a bad sign. I craned my neck to see down to Boylston where I saw ambulances and fire trucks driving southwest toward the finish line.
As soon as I knew what was happening, I posted on Twitter and Facebook that we were safe and staying put. I hope everyone checked and got word. Actually, I know most of you saw it because you commented, Liked and Tweeted that you cared. Thank you so much. We were off the course for more than an hour before the explosions.
We were stuck in the hotel for the rest of the day, so we tried several appetizers and entrees from the hotel bar. We also tried several cocktails. This is not how we would have preferred to spend our calories and enjoy our post-marathon glow, but we were lucky to be together and safe. We also were lucky to have finished fast enough to be able to collect our bags and make our way to the hotel. I heard a few mid-pack runners on the bus saying they were flying home today. Because they might not have collected their race bags — with their IDs and lord knows what else — and because Logan grounded flights for a while today, I wonder if they made it home.
We can’t get away from the reports. The death and carnage are awful. There’s no question these pieces are the event’s most horrific aspects. I believe some of the casualties were spectators, too, which sickens me, since I rely on these people to cheer me on when I need it most. The age of one victim sickens me more. But apart from images at the explosion site, this one from the Boston Globe is the one that hits me hardest. These are runners at mile 25.5 who have been told to stop. The marathon is supposed to be a happy experience where one crowning accomplishment is that you can find just a little bit more kick in the final mile or meters to push yourself. Some evil person took that away from those runners and everyone behind them. They took away the thrill of rounding the corner on to Boylston to see the 26-mile mark and then cruise home while taking it all in. That is the feeling most of them worked hardest to be able to enjoy.
I have many more thoughts about how you simply cannot possibly make the entire marathon route and process secure and why the Boston Marathon will continue. I do not yet know how the Boston Marathon will react to this. The BAA is an amazing organization, so I assume they’ll come back stronger and that some of the injured will turn tragedy into triumph.
I have so many emotions that I can’t even collect right now. They’re all mixed up with this tragedy happening to my favorite race on a day I treat with a bit of reverence. I go from mad to sad to a little freaked out to see cameras trained on places I spent my whole weekend. My favorite weekend. If this had happened yesterday during the men’s mile, I would have been right across from the explosion.
I would not have imagined when I started the race this morning or when I was nervously milling about in the Athlete’s Village that today would go this way.
I’ve had several people ask whether I’ve had plantar fasciitis and how I cured it. Answers: yes and sort of. Yes, I have definitely had it, and I sort of got over it, though I don’t know if you ever really cure it. For me, plantar fasciitis has flared up twice — in 2005 and 2012. Each time was related to minor changes I’d made that, in hindsight, were kind of dumb. I am not a doctor, but these remedies in some combination worked for me.
First, let’s talk about why it happened. The first time I had significant pain between my sole and heel was in 2005 when I first started going on runs longer than the half marathon distance. I was wearing a pair of Asics 2000 series that were too wide so my foot was swimming inside the shoe. I made the mistake of putting about 600 miles on these shoes before I changed them, too. I must’ve had them for about half my life in graduate school. I also had no idea how to gradually increase my mileage. One week I was running 20 miles; the next week I was up to 35. I fell in to the too-much-too-fast-too-soon trap that all the running books warn you about. I didn’t know if all runners had sore feet and just didn’t talk about it or if I had a legitimate problem. The college doctor diagnosed me with PF and told me to not run for four weeks.
The second time PF came back was seven years later when I was stupidly experimenting with incredibly minimalist shoes leading up to a marathon. Minimalist shoes put too much stress on my lower legs, which my body transferred to my feet. So even when I was tapering, I was still in minimalist shoes, and I wasn’t doing myself any favors or giving my feet a break.
What Didn’t Work
Pool Running: I was the most pathetic pool runner. I strapped a blue floaty belt to my waist and paddled/tread up and down the swim lanes while the real swimmers passed me by. I wanted to cry after about 20 minutes of doing this and gave up on the idea after a few weeks. I switched to the elliptical and the bike instead. Pool running does not simulate real running. It is terrible. The end.
Shoe Inserts: In fairness, to say they didn’t work is a bit harsh. They just didn’t do anything positive for me. They made my shoes heavier and transferred the pain from my feet to my hips. I think my feet felt better and cushioned, but my form was lousy. On the bright side, I now wear the inserts in my walking shoes since they’re super-cushy.
Running Through the Pain: Duh, you say, this doesn’t work. I try to run through the pain every time without scaling back my mileage. I will say for me the pain is only bad for the first two or three miles and then my foot relaxes, but when I stop running, the muscles tighten up even worse, leading to excruciating pain.
Icy Water Bottle: Maybe this is more of a helpful mental trick, but when I roll my arch over a frozen water bottle, the pain seems to go away faster than when I roll my foot over a golf ball or anything else. I like a Vitamin Water bottle because it has nice grooves.
Foot Wheel: If you don’t want to be that weirdo at work with a frozen water bottle under your desk, be the weirdo at work with a Foot Wheel under your desk. The Foot Wheel works better than a golf ball because it is less likely to roll away. It is better than a golf ball at getting at the trigger points to relieve pain, too.
Strassburg Sock: This is the silliest remedy, but it works! I tried sleeping in the sock and ended up taking it off most nights because I would roll over to a weird position where the sock would stretch my foot in an uncomfortable way. The sock works by pulling back your toes to actively stretch the bottom of your foot without you having to work at it.
Alternating Shoes: I stopped wearing only minimalist shoes when my PF came back. I also run in shoes for about 400 miles, on average, or sometimes a little less if the shoes are starting to feel worn out.
Crocs Around the House and Structured Shoes at Work: My podiatrist recommended I not walk around in bare feet around the house and that I wear more structured shoes to work. He picked up my poor cutesy black ballet flats and bent them in half, saying, “Shoes should not do this!” My feet are much more comfortable now.
NSAIDs: In extreme cases, doctors recommend using anti-inflammatories to treat the pain. I had great luck with extra-strength Tylenol, but I only used it if I was in extreme pain, and I used it to get through the Chicago Marathon, with my doctor’s permission. NSAIDs tend to upset my stomach, so I used them sparingly.
The PF took about three weeks to fully rehab each time. The onset was a little abrupt. Each time, it came on at the end of a moderately long run. But I should have seen the warning signs of slight aches and pains and weird biomechanical changes before the pain hit. I have not had any pain since September 2012, though I’ve increased my mileage steadily by an average of about five miles per week since then. I also switch between minimal and semi-minimal shoes now so I am not putting so much stress on my lower legs every single day.