Posted tagged ‘Twin Lights Half Marathon’

Campus Run

May 4, 2013

The Twin Lights Half Marathon is tomorrow and I will not be running it.  I am at UMass Amherst with my husband for his 40th (or thereabouts) reunion with his mates from way back.  Although I am supposed to be training for a marathon in October, this weekend is out of bounds for training.  That being said…

After a night of eating, drinking, and some other stuff I am not going to mention here, I managed to haul my dehydrated self out of bed by eight o’clock this morning, throw back some kombucha and about a gallon of water, and get dressed in running gear.  The campus at UMass is ginormous, spring-green, and nicely paved all around. My start and end point:  the UMass Campus Hotel.  MH says it looks like a waffle iron.  I beg to differ.

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It took a mile or so to clear my head and remind my legs that I run.  I started easy, then picked up the pace as I passed dorms, science buildings, some very young runners, and a lot of construction sites.  I logged seven miles in a little over an hour, not bad considering last night’s behavioral slips.  I circled the campus a couple of times, took a few short detours through residential areas, and worked on reconciling myself with the anxiety I feel that stems from struggling with meeting and hanging out with a lot of strangers who share a serious history and know each other well.  Everyone has been nice to me, but it’s just a little weird.  It makes me wonder if I have ever done this to MH.  Probably.  He is just way more chilled than I am about this kind of stuff.  He’s a Type B.  Me?  Definitely a Type A.  Which is why I brought running gear and got up and out this morning.

There are two more days of fun planned, including a dinner tonight.  MH has built a video slide show from old slides and photographs from “back in the day” adventures from Wheeler dorm.  He has spent countless hours scanning slides and pictures, adding a soundtrack of music from the early seventies, back when I was still a little girl.  The music I know.  The adventures depicted in the slide show?  Not so much.  There may be more drinking.  Okay.  There will be more drinking.  And tomorrow, there will be more running.  Wish me luck!

The Twin Lights Half Marathon 2012

May 16, 2012

I find myself shivering this morning, despite the rising temperature.  A thousand runners mill around me.  I stand in the warm embrace of my husband, the best cheerleader and support team anyone could ever hope for.  He lets me wear his fleece sweatshirt over my warm-up jacket, but my legs shake and are covered with goosebumps despite the extra layers.  The ten minute signal has been given and the runners press closer together.  I slip out of the two extra layers, handing them over.  I take a final sip from my water bottle and hand that over, too.  A last hug and kiss and he eases his way to the sidelines.  I stand alone in the crowd, ready.

The emcee chatters away on the microphone, then plays a tape of “The Star Spangled Banner”.  The runners around me put their hands over their hearts.  I watch them and listen to the words, willing it to be over so we can run.  Finally, the music changes.  “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas blasts over the loudspeakers.  The announcer tells us to get ready.  There is no countdown, just a “GO!” and we’re off.  Although the we have been standing close together, we are able to run right from the start.  The runners spread apart quickly.  I forget all of my goals and just go.  I pick off one runner after another, passing with ease, seeking out the empty spaces through which I can slip.  The first mile is easy.

By the second mile, I am regretting my breakfast.  I chose to eat before the race, giving myself a good three hour window to start to digest.  The chai oatmeal sits like lead in my belly.  I feel no cramps, but rather a deep, uncomfortable pain that hurts more with each stride.  I suck it up and press on, wishing I had not read any of the advice from Runner’s World about what to eat.  I note my first lesson of the race:  stick with the banana for breakfast. I glance at my wristwatch at the mile three marker and see that I am under 24 minutes, much, much faster than I should be running.  I slow down.

I look for my children as I pass the foot of my street.  Neither one is there to cheer me on, but a couple of my neighbors are on the sidelines and call my name, waving, clapping, shouting encouragements—“Go Elizabeth!  Looking great!  You can do it!”—and I feel better.  Maybe my family will be there on the return loop.

We run through the downtown area of Rockport, up Main Street, and then along Beach Road.  I see a teacher I know from the high school who flashes me a wide smile and gives me the thumbs-up sign.  I wave and keep going.  I see at least six other people I usually pass on my regular morning run and each of them waves to me and calls out.  The support makes this mile easy.

We turn onto Granite Street and I chug up the hill, jumping up onto the sidewalk where no one else has chosen to run.  As I crest the hill, already tired and thirsty, I see my friend Charlene on my side of the road.  She’s waiting for me, standing under a tree, and as I approach, she reaches under the jacket she is holding and passes me a water bottle.  She has even thought to remove the cap and my heart swells with gratitude.  As I take sips and the refreshing water coats my parched lips and throat, I am filled with love—love for my friend who has remembered this day and come to cheer for me and give me exactly what I need, love for running, love for the beauty of the day.  The sun is bright,and the air  is warm and heavy with the scent of lilacs.  I can taste the salt of the sea with every breath.

As I continue along Granite Street, I see the woman who works at our local health food store, waving from her yard.  I wave back.  I see my friend Anthony outside his stonework shop and call to him.  He raises his head, immediately finds me in the group of runners, and calls out to me, “Go, go, go!  You got it!”  Again, I and filled with gratitude for the people in my life who are cheering for me today, and every day.

The route has been changed from last year and instead of turning onto Phillip’s Ave., we continue up the grueling hill on Granite Street.  We finally turn onto Curtis Street and I realize I am more than halfway through the race.  My legs are tired.  I can feel my quads protesting as I force myself up a sharp, short hill. I am lonesome, too.  This is the first long race I have run without a partner runner.  We turn again, then once more and are back on Granite Street.  Again I see Charlene, again on my side of the road.  A strange man calls my name and I see Charlene’s little girl Sarah standing with him and more children.  They wave and cheer.  Charlene’s husband is a few paces beyond them.  He holds his camera, the big lens aimed directly at me.  I give him my best sweaty movie star smile and wave.  I cannot wipe the grin off of my face as I let my legs carry me down the long hill back to Beach Road.

We retrace our steps most of the way down Main Street, running against the one-way traffic, then turn right onto School Street, the left onto Broadway.  We turn right onto Mount Pleasant Street and I realize I will have to run up the worst hill in town.  I plow on, wondering if either one of my children with be out looking for me.  I stop thinking about them as my muscles begin to protest the steep angle I am forcing them to overtake.  Although I have been taking advantage of each water stop, guzzling Gatorade, water, and more Gatorade, I know I am dehydrated.  The temperature is rising, rising.  My lips are cracked and I can taste blood.  I keep running, willing myself to take this hill as the biggest challenge of this race.

Sue, my running partner, makes me run this hill with her every time we go out together.  It starts off steep, then takes for damn ever to crest.  Up, up, up.  It’s Rockport’s Heartbreak Hill.  It is not breaking my heart.  Instead, it’s breaking my will.  I press on.  Runner after runner passes me.  I note the lesson here:  there is no conditioning for running other than running.  I cross-trained like crazy during the plantar fasciitis, but although my cardio fitness is excellent, perhaps better than ever, the lack of miles I usually log week after week has made a difference in my ability to easily run distance.  I tell myself I can finish.  I tell myself I am going back to running the way I did before the injury.  I take a careful mental note of this lesson.

I actually stop to drink three cups at the next water station, but jump right back in to the race.  Now, there are runners who are walking.  There are runners who are sitting.  There are runners who are down on the side of the road, medics attending them.  I send good thoughts their way.  I keep running.

And so to the last three miles.  My legs are made of lead.  My mouth is filled with cotton.  From the 13 mile marker to the finish, it is 10 miles to cover that last tenth mile.  I cross the finish line and see my husband standing in the crowd, the video camera in one hand, my warmup jacket in the other.  I go right up to the camera and say, “Do not let me run while recovering from an injury ever again!”  And then I smile into the camera.  “I DID IT!”

Time: 2:00:33.  Best lessons: maintain an excellent cheering squad and support team.  And keep running!

Baked Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Manicotti

May 11, 2012

Tomorrow is the big day!  I can barely wait to run the Twin Lights Half Marathon.  I am trying my best to rest and relax, which is work for me.  This morning looks perfect for a long run—the sun is out, the temperature hovers around 50 °,  and I am going crazy from resting.  I stick with my plan, though, and make a date for a lunchtime bike ride with my husband. What to do with myself for the morning?  Cook!

Carb-loading has never been a big concern for me, but this time, since I am working from a plan for this race, I figure I should follow some advice from Runner’s World and other runners.  I am also still succumbing to food daydreams.  My visions of roasted tomato sauce lavishly enveloping thick pasta stuffed with creamy ricotta and garlicky vegetables have reached a pinnacle and I must prepare this pre-race feast for dinner tonight.

Baked Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Manicotti

Ingredients:

1 pkg manicotti pasta

For the tofu ricotta:

1 pkg firm or extra-firm organic tofu*

juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 c nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp sea salt

For the vegetables:

3 T olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, diced fine

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 c grated carrot

1 small red bell pepper, diced fine

1 16 oz. pkg frozen spinach (I prefer the loose frozen spinach—that big frozen block just irritates me.  Too hard to defrost!)

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

sprinkle/pinch crushed red pepper flakes

10-12 large fresh basil leaves, minced

For the sauce:

8 cups tomato sauce of your choice (I used the final container of last summer’s roasted tomato sauce from my garden. You can use any sauce you like.)

Method:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 7 minutes.   Drain, rinse, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables and tofu ricotta:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onions, garlic, carrots and red bell pepper.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the spinach, black pepper, sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook until spinach is no longer frozen.  Turn off heat, stir in the minced basil leaves and set aside.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tofu ricotta:

In the bowl of a large food processor, combine the tofu, lemon juice, marjoram, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes and salt.  Pulse to combine, scraping the sides if needed.  Process for 30-60 seconds, or until tofu mixture is mostly smooth.  Taste and correct seasonings.

Combine the tofu ricotta with the vegetable mixture, either in the skillet or in a bowl.

To assemble:

Spoon half of the tomato sauce into a large baking or lasagna pan and spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Fill each of the manicotti pasta tubes with the tofu ricotta and vegetable mixture.  Place each tube in the baking pan on top of the tomato sauce.  Continue filling the tubes until you either run out of pasta or filling.  (I ran out of pasta, so cooked some jumbo shells to use up the rest of the filling.)    Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the manicotti.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Serve as an entree with a leafy salad.  These freeze well, too and heat up nicely in either the oven or the microwave.

*If there is one food to buy organic only, it’s tofu.  Most of our country’s soy is GMO and grown in toxic fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals that do not wash off.  It’s worth paying the extra quarter or so for the organic version.

Ready for Race Day

May 7, 2012

It’s Monday morning and I head out for an easy five mile run.  The sun shines warm and bright on me, and on the tiny new leaves on the trees.   The full moon has pulled the low tide farther out than usual and I can see dozens of seaweed-covered granite boulders poking their heads up on the shore of Back Beach.  As I run, I make my plan for this week.  I will back off on the miles, ice my heel and arch, refrain from any crazy plyometric sessions, and ease up on strength training—in other words, rest a bit so that I can run the Twin Lights Half Marathon this coming Saturday and finish strong.

Today is the third day in a row for running.  There is a part of me that still doesn’t trust myself to run the distance.  While I rest, I plan to spend some time adjusting my attitude.  I am going to get in my own head and boss myself around.  I am going to muzzle  the chattering monkeys.  And then, I am going to let go of everything and be present each minute of the race.  I like the plan.

The monkeys are already backing off this morning.  Each stride is relaxed.  My breath comes easy—I can sing along to Girl Talk, The Black Eyed Peas, and Foster the People.  I run along Granite Street and close my eyes for a moment to fully appreciate the scent of the hedge of flowering lilac bushes along the sidewalk.  The sweet pungent blooms bow gently over my head and I think of my Nana and how she loved lilacs, magnolias, and lilies of the valley.  This feeling of being in the moment, with good memories tagging along, takes me to the place that makes running magical for me.  I am not thinking about the race.  I am not thinking about my foot, whether it is hurting or not.  I am not thinking.   I am just being.

I make sure to cut my loop short so I stay within my self-imposed five mile limit.  I curve around Phillip’s Ave. and turn right instead of left, easing down the steep hill toward the ocean and the old Tool Company.  The water, visible to the left of the building,  glistens and sparkles in the early morning light.  The clean smells of ocean, low tide and flowers are the core of my awareness.  As I turn back onto Granite Street, I run past a few walkers.  A car horn sounds and I see the hand of someone I must know but don’t recognize wave to me from their window.  I raise my hand back, but don’t even look to see who it is.

I take the big hill slowly, not pushing, but when I come to the long, easy slope that heads back to town, I speed up, letting my body go as it wishes.  My legs feel long, long, long today and I can feel myself flying.  My feet barely have time to make contact before they pick up to stride again.  I sprint down Broadway, cross Mount Pleasant, then slow down to a dog-trot as I turn onto Atlantic.  A small sadness sets in, as I know I will be backing off the rest of the week.  That was it, the last real run.  I will take a couple more short jaunts, but otherwise stick to the plan.  I’m ready.

Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.

Twin Lights Half Marathon

May 16, 2011

I roll over at 4 am., listening to the rain pounding on the roof outside my bedroom window.  I sigh, knowing I will run anyway, and return to sleep, dreaming of tucking extra pairs of socks into my waterproof jacket pockets. In case blisters bubble up on my feet in my wet sneakers, I will be able to pull over and put on fresh socks.

I wake up before the alarm and see that there is just drizzle coming down outside. I can only hope the hard rain holds off until after the race.  After drinking two cups of coffee and eating a banana and some toast, I get dressed.  Sports bra, long underwear top, vest.  Capri bottoms, smart wool socks, my old Nike Free shoes.  I zip my bright aqua rain jacket and pin on my number—192—and I am ready.

Before my first race last year, I definitely had jitters.  Not too bad, but still.  It was my first race.  This time, I am nothing other than excited.  I have been looking forward to the Twin Lights Half Marathon for weeks.  I can’t wait until it’s time to leave.  My husband and I dance around the decision of driving.  Should we go together?  Should I leave now and he can meet at the finish?  Will there be enough parking for both cars?  We decide to go together and he fills a bowl with cereal to eat in the car.

We arrive at 9:15 and the timing is perfect.  We get a parking spot and get out to walk around.  Lots of runners are already there, tons more arrive as we scout out the vendor booths and start line.  I only have to pee twice, a true sign that I am not nervous.  I find my neighbor Debbie and her daughter Alyssa, who is running today, too.  Although Alyssa and I have never met, never mind run together, we decide to start off side by side for the warm-up part of the run.

The five minute delay does not throw me off, nor does the fact that my warm-up buddy is wearing an iPod.  We keep pace for the first five minutes or so, then split.  I  feel the grin on my face as I listen to the pounding of 2000 feet all around me. I hear spitting, too, and remember being surprised by that in my first race last year.   Men and women alike turn their heads and lay some pretty gross phlegm on the pavement.  I smile bigger with the sound of each splat.  The cool morning air makes me glad I chose warm clothes.  I see lots of women running in shorts and sports bras.  I shiver in my layers and pray for a quick warm up.

My son calls this photo "Where's Waldo" Runners' Edition".

After the first mile, the crowd thins out and I find myself running beside a woman who is almost exactly at my pace.  We start to chat.  She tells me her name—Christine—and before I know it, we are running the route together.  I am having so much fun that I am surprised when I notice we are at the halfway mark.  Christine is just a couple of years younger than I, from New Hampshire, and this is her fourth half marathon.  Her mom lives on Granite Street and is there with other members of her family to cheer her on.

The route takes us from Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester along route 127A to Rockport, through Pigeon Cove, then back onto 127A,  back to Good Harbor Beach.  The streets are lined with spectators, among them my running partner Sue, my daughter Savannah, friends from the high school and the gym.  It makes my heart soar to see so many familiar faces, and to hear so many voices cheering me on.

Thank goodness for the water stations!  I don’t usually drink on my long runs unless it’s hot out, but I find myself gulping two cups at almost every station.  I spill plenty of it, but it helps to be able to swallow the fresh, cool wetness, especially at the tops of the big hills.

I don’t spend time worrying about the hills.  The hills are always part of my regular daily run, but I can hear other runners struggling up the steep slopes, some saying they are surprised at how many and how intense the hills are on this route.  I keep running, thinking of my friend Maria who teases me all the time.  When she sees me, she says, “Run, Forrest, run!”  She herself is in running denial, claiming that 25 miles a week doesn’t count.  I smile to myself as her voice echoes in my head.

As Christine and I hit mile 11, she starts to fade back.  I press up the next hill, calling behind me.

“Are you still with me?”

“I’m coming!  You keep going!  You’re like a gazelle!”

All I can think of at that point is Robin the Mermaid, and how she calls me Gazelle Girl.  I leave Christine, ready to pick up the pace and finish strong.  Strong and alone, excited and happy to be finishing my first half marathon, I crest the last hill and push myself hard, now thinking of my running partner Sue, and what a great finisher she is.  I am going to finish like Sue.

I pass four or five runners, a couple of them boys, and think about how far I have come in my life—from the slow, round, cumbersome girl in Mrs. Hermann’s gym class, always last, to this—a runner.  A runner passing other runners at the end of 13 miles.  I sense a surge coming and I sprint across the finish!

Final Sprint---pushing hard, still in bright aqua rain jacket!

I don’t even know if I am really sprinting, but that is how it feels as I hear my name and clapping, see my friend Debbie and her husband, then finally, my own husband.  He stands waiting for me, camera ready, a huge smile on his face.  I can’t believe it!  I did it!  I check my time and see that I came in under two hours.  I turn to wait for Christine and she comes in a couple of minutes later.  She high-fives me  and we hug, slugging bottles of cool water in between praising each other and thanking each other for running strong the whole race.

Christine and I at the end of the race.

I cut the food line to grab a banana,

Post-run refuel. First things first!

then look for the result board.  1:52’38”, 237 out of 1000.  I did it!  And I did it well.

The rest of the day is a blur.  I go home shivering and take a long, very hot shower.  I eat.  I see a client.  I call my mom.  Every time I look at my husband, he mirrors the goofy smile I know is spread across my own face.  He says how proud he is of me.  Beneath all that, I am floating, prouder of myself than I have ever been.  13.1 miles?  Piece of cake!

Ready

April 29, 2011

The weather, oh, the weather!  It’s warm enough to run in shorts, cool enough for long sleeves and a cap most mornings.  Light, sweet breezes push me along.  Everyone is out running, walking, gardening, happy.  Magnolias are out in full force, cherry blossoms explode in pink and white.   Their sweet smell mingles with the fresh scent of salt air.  Even the misty mornings feel delicious against my bare legs.

Cars zoom by and people I don’t even know wave and beep ‘good morning’.  I ran by a dog yesterday and I swear it smiled at me.  The owner proudly held the leash and the pooch trotted along beside him with his eyes on me, looking like he wouldn’t mind coming along for a couple of miles if I would only take the leash in my own hand.

I start off thinking “Okay, just the six this morning”, but reach Andrew’s Point and instead of looping around, my feet, all of their own accord, take me up the long, slow hill at the other end of Phillip’s Ave.  I can’t bear the thought of not taking the little loop through Halibut Point State Park, and the long, delicious downhill on the return route along Granite Street. I press up Phillip’s, enjoying the way the pavement seems to glide beneath my worn out Nike Free sneakers.

Halibut Point is greening, the leaves popping brightly.  Yesterday I caught a glimpse of a wild pheasant pecking for bugs in the tall grass beside the edge of the woods.  It’s bright tail feathers disappeared as I bounded past, and I slowed to watch in delight.  The soft mulch path sprang up to meet my sneakers as I made my way back to the road.

Each run this week has seemed easier than the last, if that is possible.  Nothing less than six and a half, but averaging about eight.  I’m loaded with energy and excitement each time I head out the door.  I have been singing along with whatever is playing on my iPod (and hoping no one is listening!) and maintaining my speed on the hills, even the big ones.  A lot of the time, I feel as though I barely touch the ground.   I’m surprised by the way the miles and the time slip by, leaving me wanting more.

The Twin Lights Half Marathon is coming up soon. A week of hotel treadmills and too much driving left me wondering if I will really be ready.  Today’s 10.5 in just shy of 90 minutes relieves me of my worry.  As I sprinted up the last hill home this perfect April morning, I knew I’d be just fine.