Monday, February 23, 2009

Speedy Sarah

Last Tuesday was a day of reckoning: My coach, Lynn Jennings, had me do a timed mile to see what I was made of. (Well, okay, she had me do it so she could figure out what I should be running my track intervals at….) The first time I’d done four laps around the track for time, in May 2007, I’d run 7:31, and I thought I was hot stuff. After numerous track workouts, I dialed it back to 7:23 in September 2007. Now here I was, almost 18 months later, and it was once again time to put the pedal all the way down to the metal.

The night before, I asked hubby-Jack what he thought I’d run. His guess? 7:29. Oh, he of little faith! I snorted, “No way, I’m aiming for 7:00 to 7:15.”

The next morning, when Lynn and I got to the track, she had me do a 400-meter piece, which I clocked in 1:35—at least 10 seconds better than my usual repeats. (Amazing what having an Olympian holding a stopwatch on the sidelines can do for leg speed and turnover…) Then she gave me a few pointers—stay on it the entire way; light, quick steps; pump the arms—and I was off.

Coming around the backside of lap 1, my quads felt like they were running on empty. I visualized the honey I’d drizzled onto my pre-run steel-cut oats, and willed it to my straining muscles. It did the trick: My legs felt energized by the 400-meter mark.

Lynn yelled out my splits, but not my cumulative time. I suck at math even when standing still, so I was clueless as I continued to circle the track. I felt like I was pushing my hardest, but not in a scary, I’m-going-to-die way. I was in control, and I finished strong. I felt like I’d possibly met my goal…


I blew the doors off it! I ran 6:37!!! I was jubilant and in a state of disbelief as I jogged around the track. Me—I’d run a 6:37-minute mile!! Game on!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Coach, My Mentor, My Friend

Catholic guilt requires me to come clean: I’m not training for Eugene Marathon alone. I have a coach. But before you think I’m rolling in dough (au contraire!), let me tell you she’s a good friend of mine who is coaching me for free. She also happens to be an Olympic bronze medalist in 10,000 meters, and a three-time World Cross-Country champion. Yup, you guessed it: My marathon coach is Lynn Jennings, one of the greatest women runners this country has ever seen.

Gee, when I type it like that, I almost feel I should be intimidated instead of eminently grateful! While I realize I’m the runner doing the literal legwork for this marathon in my come-hell-or-high-water attempt to set a personal best, I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have Lynn plotting out my program. Honestly, I get teary eyed with gratitude and awe just thinking about it sometimes.

But what I appreciate more than the training schedule or technique tips from Lynn is her respect of me as an athlete. While we both openly admit she and I are in two separate stratospheres in terms of speed, ability, and talent, Lynn has high regard for my integrity and intent in this marathon undertaking. We were emailing last week about this very topic, and she wrote to me, “I do respect you. Highly. You are a motivated, disciplined, diligent and hard-working athlete. I can respect that to the ends of the earth.”

It’s heartfelt booster-comments like that one that I believe are going to help propel me along 26.2 miles faster—and more comfortably—than I ever have before. We’ll see come May 3. But whatever the outcome that day, this is a once-in-lifetime situation that I prize dearly.

Thank you, LJ.

*That’s a self-portrait of Lynn taken up in Portland’s Forest Park*

Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting Tripped Up

Last week I was so ahead of the game, by midweek, I had already written today’s blog post, which I've now shelved due to recent developments. The best laid plans…

No, instead I’m going to admit to you that even in a family-crisis, I still think of myself and my running. Am I selfish? You tell me. Here’s what happened: Saturday was a brilliantly sunny day here. One trip to the playground wasn’t nearly enough. For the kids or me. So after John’s nap, we piled in the van and headed out. We had a blast, climbing, jumping rope, tree climbing, monkey barring. Several times I literally stepped back to appreciate the moment—being at playground with all three kids, by myself (realtor-Jack was showing a client some houses), and feeling calm and in control of the situation. Silly me—flirting with karma like that. I lost, big time.

We were headed home, steps from the van, when John decides to purposefully fling himself over a low-slung chain, hung to keep cars from driving onto the blacktop. Face-plant! He landed hard on his face, nothing to cushion the blow. Lots of blood, but not as many tears or shrieks as I would have expected from John. I immediately scooped him up and tried to survey the damage. A woman passing by offered help, and immediately pronounced, “oh, he’s broken his nose.”

I hustled the kids home, got Jack and my insurance card (note to self: don’t leave home without them!), got a neighbor to watch Phoebe and Daphne, and headed to the emergency room. (Accident happened just after 5:00 p.m.) I was surprisingly calm (I’m squeamish about blood), and not terribly worried. The bleeding had stopped pretty quickly, and John’s nose didn’t look askew. My big concern was that he had a concussion, but he seemed alert and tracking.

Here’s where I get ego-centric: In the waiting room, while I was cradling my “baby” boy in my arms, my thoughts turned to when I’d be able to eat dinner and what carb-dense leftovers might be lurking in our fridge. See, I had to run 15 miles on Sunday, and I couldn’t go to bed on empty. My mood actually perked up when I remembered a substantial helping of cheese ravioli sitting in a Tupperware container from the night before. Now if only our neighbor didn’t reheat them and serve them to the girls for dinner, I’d be in business….

Jack was a comfort at the hospital, and I told him in gentle, but emphatic terms, that he would be on night-duty if John had any breathing issues or couldn’t sleep. I selfishly had to be fully rested for my long run. Thankfully, we ended up getting home by about 7:15 and John had an easy night (the doc thinks his nose has only a minor fracture).

And, since I know you’ll wonder: I had a very good run on Sunday. I did, however, think a lot about my little trooper, John, as I pounded out the miles.


*photo (above) is from today. And, yes, he's wearing his sisters' jammies and tunic. A current favorite ensemble.*

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stinky Momma

Just had to share this chuckle: This a.m. I had an awesome run (7 miles total, including 4 at 8:28 tempo) before anybody got up. By the time I was done eating breakie, the kids had ambled downstairs. Then we all headed upstairs to take a shower (yes, I rarely shower alone these days!). I started undressing by our laundry chute in the hall, and Phoebe joined me to peel off her jammies.

She turned to me with a screwed-up face, and asked, "Mom, why does it smell like sweat?"
Gee, I wonder why, Phoebe!???!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First Steps toward Fifth Marathon

And so it begins: Today was Day 1 of my training for Eugene Marathon. I didn’t really do anything special than I have the past few Sundays—I ran 12 miles—but it felt different. I had a spring in my stride, and I felt a sense of purpose as I set off in the fog. Even though I could barely see 25 yards in front of my face, I knew something was out there in the distance that I am aiming for.

I did the same fairly deserted loop I did in late December in a snowstorm, and I was energized remembering my perseverance on that run. This time, I delighted in the sound and sight of songbirds flying over some fields, feeling like winter is winding down here in Portland.

With about three miles to home, the route started up a gradual, multi-mile climb. I remembered running it with a friend late last summer when it drove us into the ground. This time, my iPod cued up just the right mix of songs (including some beloved English Beat), and my feet felt lighter and my steps got quicker. Without intending to, I started running sub-marathon pace. I felt great, so I went with it. When I got home, I felt like a million bucks, especially when my Garmin 305 told me I averaged 8:58 per mile for the 12 miles. And the topper? Discovering that Jack and Phoebe were still asleep (at 9:30!) and yet the twins hadn’t wreaked havoc on the place.
I think it all bodes well.