The Pacific Urbanathalon 5k Race Report

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My first marathon is still my PR.  A few minutes under 6 hours.

I was 50 years old.  I had no idea I was old.

I do now.

Five marathons later, lots of feet trouble, and a gazillion bibs, this race comes along.

A 5K by the University of the Pacific, over the Calaveras River, and back to the aquatic  center.

Gravel, grass, mud, water, hay bales.  Sort of a mish-mash of several types of outdoor fun.

It’s been a weird March.  It started off with a great 10K in Sanger,

then the walk/run/die LA Marathon.

My doctor, the running doctor did an MRI, and proclaimed me runnable.

He told me to wait two weeks.

Which would be tomorrow.

So, naturally I signed up for the closest race to tomorrow.

Here’s the deal:  I loathe trail races.

I’m not that good of a runner on road, I thought.

But, that’s not it.  I truly love the road.

The familiarity.  The consistency.

Trail running is a lot of “what’s up here now?” kind of thinking,

Whereas I can lost in the road.  And I like it that way.

3.1 Miles on grass, trails and a few funnish obstacles.

Single file.

And, all I could think about was landing my feet in the right place

so that I wouldn’t twist my ankle or hurt myself.  Again.

It was super fun, because I shared it with two of my best friends.

We laughed.  I jumped in the last pool of water, because, well there was pride on the line.

And this.  I’m in the game.  I’m older.  I’m slower. And, I don’t care.

I’m running, and my feet were saved from the chopping block once again.

I came in 6th out of 8th in my age group, and I was thrilled.

I needed to toe the line today, no matter where or how.

Age?  It’s nothing but a number.  However, it’s a reality.

I can’t sit down without a lot of help in getting back up.

I’ll be on ice and heat the rest of the day for just a 5k.

It’s a number, but it’s MY number.  55.  And, I couldn’t be happier.

Posted in 5k

7 Years And Room For More.

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Seven years ago, I was a newly divorced, life-falling-apart PE teacher in a Middle School.  Trying to figure out how to get my students to be more active.  I came across the C25K running plan, and for 9 weeks, I had 7th and 8th graders running around the gym.  Over and over again.  I didn’t know anything, was just armed with my credential and a plan that I found on the internet.  My class ran a 5K to the pumping sounds of U and UR hand, and a runner was born.  That Fall, I started running on my own.

That month, I started a blog, and without fail, I’ve posted something every year on March 21, the inception of this blog.  Though yesterday, I just.  Didn’t.

In 2007, blogs were very new and radical.  It was a year before Twitter was born, and Facebook was something that didn’t register for me.  I loved to write, and I taught kids how to engage by making their own blogs.  So cutting edge.  Think of all that’s changed in just seven years.  We tweet and make status updates.  Lengthy emails feel like homework, and blogs, simply may have just run their course, because we simply can’t pay attention to that much verbage.

So, this blog is 7 years old.

Here are the stats:  4200 miles run.  6 marathons.  Ran my first marathon at age 50, and my last at 55.  Fell in love with someone I’m sure that I will never stop loving. Dusted myself off, and dated again.  Lost and saved this house three times.  Have spent hours at teenager’s sports events.  Traveled to see my parents once a month in the last year.  Found the job of my dreams out of a pile of ashes.  And those are just the highlights.

Just as I was typing this, and not sure what I should say, I happened to look up at this collection of pictures on my wall.  And I realized something.  Yes, the blog is 7 years old, and there they are…all the people that have made up the fabric of my life. I’ve become a runner and coach.  A mom to teenagers and a great employee.  And here’s the thing.  Even as I look at that collection, there are spaces where there is nothing.  Because there is room for more.

More love, more friendships, more life.  I have more books than I could ever read.  I have more music than I could ever possibly listen to in my whole lifetime.  I have food in my cupboards that could sustain me for months.  I have the love of my LA Family, and now facing moving from Ripon for the first time in 20 years, I realize that I do indeed have a group of fabulous friends here.  The empty spaces in this collection of pictures are just waiting for more.  Of everything.  I don’t always feel blessed. In fact, I can be a little negative.  But, tonight, my life is rich, and I thank you for being in it.

In the words of Ferris Bueller:

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Respect The Marathon.

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I came into this weekend untrained. My last long run was January 12. Only six days ago, I decided that I would, in fact, toe the line for this marathon.

Ron and I decided that the plan was to run between eight and 10 miles, then do a walk/run of a quarter-mile off and on until the end of the marathon. I knew truthfully that I would get a great 10K. My goal pace was to have 13:30 overall, and maybe even PR. (Anyone who goes into a marathon without that kind of a thought really is lying. Even if you’re untrained, you know in the back of your head there is just this little niggling voice that says maybe this time.)

Let me start by saying that I love the Los Angeles Marathon. It’s broken my heart, and given me great joy. It’s where I’m from, and going there and running the streets is like being back inside of my own soul. So I was very excited that I could even drive down and participate this year.

As usual, I went to the expo on Friday instead of Saturday. There was a 40 minute line just to get in the door, but you would expect that with 25,000 marathoners. The expo was fabulous, and I just had a really good time looking at all of the fun events and stuff you get to buy. And you start thinking about all of the races that you can run in the future. And you forget that you’re running a marathon in a day and a half.

Setting the clocks forward on Saturday night was a little bit tricky. I wasn’t sure which clock would set and which one wouldn’t. So I had about four hours sleep and finally close my eyes around midnight.

My parents drove me to Dodger Stadium at five in the morning. The drop off is always very smooth and as soon as I got my stuff out the parking attendants moved my parents along. I roamed around Blue Heaven, got in the bathroom line twice, and finally made my way down to the start line where the nonstop “I love LA” by Randy Newman plays for about an hour. I never get tired of that song.

As predicted, my first 10K was great. I was at 11:54 at 11:59 for mile 1 and 2. And I knew in the back of my mind that I probably should slow down, and on most normal marathons I would have. But considering it was going to be 85°, I thought I would run as much as I could before it got too hot. My 10K split was at 12:54 pace, but I knew I would not be able to keep that up all day. The second 10K was much slower, as at mile 10 I started my planned walk and run. As I’m writing this, it seems to me that it was more like mile eight.

From about mile 10 to 14, I kept up the running and walking as best I could. The streets are starting to get hot and littered with that smell we all love… water that has been trampled on and heat from the cement. It makes that perfume that only marathoners know… And then, I started to slow down. Like really slow down.

At mile 13, I nearly got a little dizzy and thought I should not even try to walk the rest of this marathon. I realized that I was going to be out there for a very long time. So, the only thing I could do was to start to pace myself with water and electrolytes and salt tablets. I was taking a salt tablet every 45 minutes, and sipping drinks all day. Every time there were slices of oranges or apples or bananas I took one whether I wanted to or not. At mile 15 or 16, the grim reality set in. I was on a death march.

So I decide to do the only thing that I can do. Just enjoy my music, and try to be grateful that I was even out there at all. Untrained legs, bruised feet, but a full heart.

This joyous feeling left me around mile 17. As I trudged through Beverly Hills, I even stopped in a bar, and told the guy I would pay him $10 if I could use his bathroom. He said no problem, just go in there… and even the bartender made me a big tall drink of very cold ice water. If you have never done the Los Angeles Marathon before, I urge you to try it. The spectators and families and people that are supporting you are just amazing. One of the finest things about this marathon.

At mile 18, people are starting to text me to watch out for the heat …people told me that there were runners lying here and there along the marathon course. Ambulances were going back and forth. Apparently, mile 22 was full of downed runners. A guy who I had been running with at some point in the marathon was on the side of the road with a paramedic. It was now beyond hot and everyone was really in pain. People started to come on to the course with sunscreen and spray runners. Firefighters opened up all the hoses, so there were people being sprayed from city water.

Around this time I got the best text of the day. My little sister Laura was at mile 20. I was so excited I almost cried, except I really couldn’t get any liquid out of my eyes. I couldn’t believe she had come. I was starting to be concerned that I might have some sort of heat exhaustion later, so my focus was only to drink.

I thought I would never get there. It took another hour at least for me to finally get to where she was, and she met me with the biggest bottle of Gatorade that I have seen. I was so excited to see her, and she reminded me of what true love is. Here she is, sitting in the heat waiting for me to walk by. Just to show her support. She’s been there for four marathons, and I love her (her text: You runners are crazy!) And because the course was so late, most of the Gatorade was gone ahead of me, so I stuck this bottle in my top and walked with it the rest of the way.

At mile 21 I wanted to cry. I still had a really long way to go, almost 2 more hours of walking. At that point I figured I might as well keep going, even though if my sister had stayed one more minute, I would’ve gotten in the car with her.

And I remembered my sweet friend Ali. Who is undergoing chemo, who was supposed to run this marathon with me. All of a sudden, my hurt feet and my back and my heart could make it five more miles. Because I don’t have cancer. Because I don’t have to vomit from chemotherapy. So the pink race continued.

They said, make it to the beach, it will be cool. I kept waiting for that, and we turn the corner around mile 23 to a very warmish wind. There was nothing cool about this course or it’s weather.

Okay, so nothing spectacular here. I couldn’t even shuffle to get across the finish line. I made it just under eight hours.

Here’s the deal. You cannot run a marathon or walk the marathon on untrained legs. Around mile 19 my quads were on fire. I’ve trained for five marathons before this, so I know by the time I get to race day, my quads are ready, and they do not hurt. That’s the whole point of training. Yesterday, on untrained legs, I really suffered. And I mean that not in an emotional way. I really learned that there is a purpose for 16 or 18 weeks of training. That you are actually building your legs to take you across that finish line. I’m not the best marathoner, but I am always trained very well. Yesterday proved to me once again that unless you really are fully trained, don’t even bother getting to the line. Even though I was doing this for my friend, and I have the bib, it was a very foolish move in some ways. And right here I want to thank my coach Ron. In the beginning he sent me a plan and said he would just be a good support, but he ended up being someone that I completely trusted when I didn’t think I could go on one more step yesterday. So even though he wasn’t officially it, yeah. He kind of was.

I will end with this. One of the finest moments was walking through West Hollywood, and there was a woman standing on her porch. She was by herself. As I started to walk by, she started to clap I looked up at her like why are you even clapping for me? I’ve done nothing. I’m just here walking. She looked at me and she said “you are an inspiration.”

And I am reminded again that everything that I want to know about myself happens on the marathon course. I’m super emotional today, because one more time I’m leaving Los Angeles. But I’m not leaving with broken dreams or a broken heart. My father fixed me French toast with extra bacon. My mother hugged me and fixed my legs with muscular therapy lotion. I talked with both of my sisters today. I am completely blessed. My children texted me when the marathon was over and said that they were proud of me. I really have done nothing. But I learned again why I love marathons.

I think I’m done. But I say that every time. We will see.

Granny and Fat Tuesday

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Dear Granny,

You left us on Fat Tuesday in 2003. It’s been eleven years, and today marks the first time that Fat Tuesday has been on March 4th, just as it was in 2003. And, even as I sit here, and realize all that’s gone on in these 11 years, there has been and will never be anyone quite like you. I remember the last time I saw you in the Nursing Home, when time stopped, and we held each other’s hands as Dolly Parton’s version of “I Will Always Love You” played somewhere in the background.

I can hear you saying “Linny”. No one gets to call me that. It’s a name reserved only for you. I’ve heard you in races. I think it was the Marine Corps Marathon where I visualized you sweeping the porch and getting your brothers up from the card table to blow me down the course. I can barely see the house in Selma now, because they’ve put up a big wall on Highway 99, but I FEEL you every time I drive home.

I miss you.

I miss your smile. I miss having dessert immediately after dinner so we can get all the eating done in one sitting. I miss watching you get up and slam the TV off after Lasorda refused to replace the pitcher, sending your beloved Dodgers to yet another loss. I drive by the Mobile Home park on Herndon and Blackstone, and I feel you there. I can call up the smell of your home, and the creak of the stairs as I walk up to see you. We are playing Bingo with dimes in the clubhouse. We are swimming, and you are washing and drying and wondering why no one can bring their own towel? (There is some type of karma here, because no one brings beach towels to my pool, either.)

It’s coming over to see you when, as a college student, I was a little blue and you would always have sweet rolls. The kind in the package. And you would try to cheer me up, and I would join a sorority and be in and out of your house, and you were always there. On the top step saying goodbye or hello, but always. There.

And I miss Dayton. Coloring books and crayons. Eskimo Pies. BoBo barking as we play basketball in your driveway. The fact that you made two types of oatmeal: One with water, and one with milk, because everyone liked it differently. And Christmas. The best ones at your house with all of the cousins. Hearing the train on hot summer Fresno nights, and going to the movies on the corner. Bass Lake, a topic on its own. But, a gift that you gave to all of us.

And my first memory. You in our house, and I am a little girl of 4, and I get to go in and wake you up in the morning. And I jump on top of you and you start singing to me. And the bed is warm, and you are my Granny and you LOVE me. You let me break the rules, and I can crawl all over you.

And so, dear Granny. It’s been 11 years. I lost that marriage (yep, number 2), and I have two teenagers, and they are magnificent. And, Lisa is a grandmother, and Laura has fallen in love…like, really in love. I just turned 55 and am running my 6th marathon, which might be a bit of a joke, but I’m doing it anyway. And I hope you will show up there, just like all the other times, and I will hear Dolly Parton, and I will always love you until my last breath.

It’s Fat Tuesday. Only you would have died on this day. A day of celebration and joy. Of fun. You brought joy to all of us, every single time. And I miss you more than words can say.

Love, Linda

LA Marathon: Decision Time

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I’m running the LA Marathon in 7 days.  This was my message to Ron today…and it solidified my decision.

Let me bring you up to speed.  On January 12th, I ran my last long run of 16 miles.  I ran from Ripon to a friend’s house in Modesto.  I was on pace, and I was halfway through my LA Marathon training schedule, and the next week my feet fell apart.  I ran a couple more runs, and then called it off.  Pulled the plug.  I went to the Ortho Doc, and followed his direction-that I shouldn’t run a marathon and only smallish miles.  Over the next month or so, I went to the gym, did the elliptical, etc.  I had the MRI, and they got the results.  I have an appointment on March 17th to see them.

I purposely chose that date, because I’m pacing a runner for a 5K in Fresno on the 16th, and I have 2 other runners working on their goals that day.  I didn’t want any results before the 16th.  At that point, I thought the LA Marathon was off the table.

Then yesterday happened.  I paced a runner for her first 10K in Sanger.  After all the pre-race hoopla, we were several blocks from the race start, and the race …started. Instead of jumping into the race, we needed to get back to the start line, so this made us the last people on the course.  The whole time, the police car stayed right behind us.  It was like having our own personal escort.  In some ways, it was lovely, because there was no pressure on her.  After mile 1, I asked her if she would rather have negative splits or have the race time we initially had discussed.  She wanted the elusive negative splits.

And so we ran along under the watchful eye of the road up to Kings Canyon National Park…a place I lived for a few years with my first husband.  It was just easy and fun. I told her that I wouldn’t write her report for her, but somewhere along the way, with no pain and just having fun running, my LA Marathon dream woke up, and I didn’t even realize it.  We did not finish DFL.  We passed one lady at mile 5.  Pride was on the line, after all.  She got her negative splits, and really nailed a nice race.  I earned third place for my age group.  I got a plaque.  After the requisite huevos rancheros and back to pick up some ladies for another AA event in Visalia, I drove home to Ripon.  It was a really long day.

When I got up this morning, as I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I uploaded the data and saw that she broke 13:00, and ran the race at 12:59.  Which means that I ran the race at 12:59.  I put in my pace calculator what a marathon pace is for 6 hours, my normal pace  in all 5 marathons.  It is 13:44.  And I sort of started to focus.

Maybe I could do it.  Maybe I could run the marathon.

I’m woefully unprepared.  But I don’t care.  I started to wrestle this in my brain.  Am I insane?  And yes.  The answer is yes.

  • It’s my sixth and maybe my last marathon
  • I can run it for fun
  • I bought 3 bibs last year that went unused due to poor planning.  This would be my 4th in a year.  Waste of money.
  • I feel good.  Really good.
  • I have new prescription shoes from my Orthopedist, who happens to run lunchtime 12 milers for fun while training for BadWater.
  • I don’t have to have any goal.  Not even to finish.  I can jump off if I’m hurt.

I messaged Ron, who, early in my training had agreed to send me a schedule, and to whom I had sent all my workouts.  He’s a great athlete and friend, and an all around excellent advocate for our sport.  You may remember that he gave me the plan of his own free will, simply because he’s a good guy.  Super supportive, and someone I trust implicitly.  He’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet, and I’m lucky to have him in my corner.  Even if he’s a Giants fan.

So, I spent all day lining up my week.  Printing out my marathon checklist.  Letting my parents know I’ll be there.  Arranging with my brother in law and Dad how to get to Dodger Stadium.  Focusing my energy on this race.  This run.

It’s only 26.2.  A decision has been made.

Please don’t tell me I’m crazy.  I know this.  Please don’t tell me I can’t do it.  I know this too.  But, in the world of running…we sometimes just have to say to hell with it and go.  And that’s just what I’m doing.

 

Pay $20 to Run In Your Hood: Worth It.

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There’s something pretty interesting about running a race on your regular home town route.  By this time in my running history, I can pretty much tell you how far every place in town is from my front door.  I cannot drive there; I cannot give you directions…but I know how far it is.  The start line of the Almond Blossom race is 1.65 miles from my front door.

I was dropped at the start line by my Mom around 8:15, and there got my bib and shirt, and of course, the requisite selfie.  I haven’t been running much, and I haven’t been running well, so I imagined my 11:32 pace from last year would probably stand as I loped through this course.  It’s such a small race (300 runners);  the director has a bullhorn, and at 9am sharp, we are off.  We run down Spring Creek, and out North Ripon Road, over to Santos (where the picture above was taken), then back down to Spring Creek to the Finish.

And.  If you listen close enough, you can actually hear my history pounded into the ground.  Running through heartache last year, when 3 days out of the last breakup, I forced myself to lace up and run.  You can see my worries falling from my body as I hit that smallish rise in the road near the country club.  Miles and Miles of lost love, and job stress, and fear.  Lots of fear.  But this year.  This year, I remembered all the joy.  The new job and new crush and dating when I thought I could never open my heart again.  Running when the boys were at basketball practice, and freshly painted blue nails for playoffs, and boy scouts, and the absolute joy of knowing that your neighbors really have your back.

I happened to look at my watch at mile 1, and it was 10:56 or so.  And I felt great.  I knew immediately that unless I fell apart, I would PR.  It was warmish as we hit Santos, but this race was in the books from the start.  I knew it would be good.  And, it was.  I had to fight at mile 4.5, as I was sort of running out of gas.  No negative splits this race, just a great time.

So.  About my feet.  I had an MRI.  The doctor suggested that I could run.  Maybe.  Yesterday, I got the call that they had my results.  I have 3 more races this month, so naturally, I scheduled the appointment for the day after my last race, March 17.

On this last Saturday in February, I ran.  And, I ran well.  I was slow in my 10 year age bracket, but I wasn’t last, and I PRd.  I paid $20 to run the miles I always run, and I had a ball.  I just turned 55, and I do believe I will keep going…

On Facebook Birthdays.

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I might be the only one. But I love birthdays on Facebook. Today I turned 55 years old, and I’m way past the point of lots of presents and parties and specialness of the day. And I know that 55 is not all that special unless you’re a runner of course and you’re going into a new age group. But, this is not about that because well, I’m sidelined for the last three weeks. With my marathon only a month away, the finish line is getting dimmer and dimmer as I continue to wait for the MRI on Tuesday.

So, Facebook. I never really wanted to be on Facebook because I loved Twitter so much. There was relative anonymity, and I could talk about and tweet whatever I wanted. On Facebook, there’s all kinds of little landmines. Will I irritate someone if I put this political post up? (Yes…) Will someone be so sick of Chet and my boys and basketball that they simply roll their eyes when I post another picture of my food next to the spa? Can you take another selfie of me in my running gear and my sunset?

I joined Facebook because I was in a relationship with somebody who was on Facebook. A lot. And this week Facebook came out with all these cute little videos of us on our timelines. And mine, well, it was really filled with my girlfriends. There was not one relationship post or anything to indicate that the angst of those last two years even existed. This thrilled me.

Because, it’s been a year. And, I can’t tell you the peace that I have on this day. Because that horrible day, I was offered a new job, and a new life.

So, back to Facebook birthdays. This year, when a notification came up that it was somebody’s birthday, I really made an effort to try to wish them happy birthday. It took less than 15 seconds out of my day. Sometimes if I really know you well, you might get a picture, or a little quote, or even maybe a gift. I got home tonight, and there were 150 messages waiting for me. (I’ve been really making an effort to stay off of Facebook during the day, because I really have little discipline. Plus, I like my job.)

I sat down tonight, and replied to every single person on my timeline, because I really want you to know that it means something to me that you even clicked on the little box next to my name and wrote happy birthday. That even though I’m 55, I still like a party and I still love the fact that I was born.

Life is messy.

This week there’s been some ups and downs some with my house. A Girlriend of mine is going to give birth hopefully before midnight, and I can say her daughter was born on my birthday. A friend’s husband beat lung cancer this year. Another friend is MIA as she attempts to face down breast cancer. Another is suffering from losing her boy. My dear friend Mona lost her sweet Albus this week. An old friend messaged me tonight that he is getting a divorce. And yet, I sat down and watched my friends videos, and I was filled with joy. Because this really is pretty damn good, this life.

And, say what you will, but I only know all of this in your life, because of Facebook. You like my kid pictures, and I like yours. (That’s the bargain). And so people say it’s just sort of an unbelievable make-believe world, but I beg to disagree. I think it’s the most real world we have. Of course, last weekend, the person that I used to love looked at something on one of my timelines, and was hurt something I said, maybe months ago. He took his friendship completely away from me. And because he didn’t bother to check out the truth, he is simply. Gone. So yeah, there’s that. If you only have social media and not real life, you can read into all kinds of things that aren’t really true.

But birthdays on Facebook. Isn’t there anything so exciting as to see a little notification that says I’m thinking about you, even if it’s only on my break as I sip coffee? I’m thinking about you.

The box of chocolates at the top of this page was given to me today by a sweet friend. I kept it sealed all day until I got home. Just as I was getting ready to turn everything off, I cracked it open, and ate my most favorite piece first. A Bordeaux. It was delicious, and the perfect ending to a great day. And I am ever so blessed.

*Update. The baby made it. She was born on my birthday. So I can hardly wait to she’s one-year-old and I can put a big picture on her Facebook page too.

** There is never too much. Never too much posting and sharing and being involved and I know I just wrote on this topic in my last post, but it’s still relevant to me.

***Happy Birthday to me. And thank you for being in my life.