Friday, August 17, 2012

Third Time's The Charm...


          Since my birth as a runner in 1998, I have two DNFs (to those unfamiliar with runner lingo, that abbreviation stands for DID NOT FINISH) on my record.  The first one is the inaugural Clinton Lake 30-mile Trail Run in 2007 (made it to mile 20).  The second, the Waddell and Reed Kansas City Marathon in 2009... and... again, in 2010 (made it to mile 18... both times).
         DNF... no runner likes that serving of alphabet soup.   PR*.  BQ**. Those are the kind of abbreviations I'd rather find in my proverbial bowl.

          Cold comfort.

          Oh, sure, that DNF is a great source of anecdotes - usually along the line of what-not-to-do during a race/training for a race (bottom line: if it hurts, stop before you do any real damage... This isn't the Olympics.) 

         So, much like a boxer who has sustained a couple of blows that knocked her off her feet, I get up again... to face the race.  I'm signed up to run the Waddell and Reed Marathon on October 20.  Round three... ding, ding.

          Unlike my previous marathon (Flying Pig in May 2012), I'm much more subdued.  I haven't posted a lot of cheery status updates on Facebook, as I had with Pig.  No rhymes, no cutesy pictures of fountains (with over 200 in the city, KCMO is second only to Rome when it comes to having these water structures dotting our landscape).  No, training for the KC marathon has taken on a heads-down, let's-get-'er-done attitude this time around.  I've been slugging through the miles in relative silence, and fighting the demons of attempts past.

          The first mile... yeah, Mile One... is uphill.  Part of me is grateful since it hasn't ever felt like the other marathons I've run elsewhere.  People aren't necessarily automatically crammed like sardines, running shoulder to shoulder.  The climb sorts us out quickly, as we discover we're not taking off like rabbits.  Mile 3-4 takes us up Kessler Rd, and subsequently, the bear of a hill on Wyandotte.  The next big challenge comes around Mile 11-12, where we make the long climb up Sunset.  Miles 21-24 will be a long climb, and though not steep, we'll be truly tested, as our legs have logged in at least twenty by the time we get to Harrison Parkway/Boulevard.  The stretch on The Paseo, all the way to 18th Street will provide us fantastic sweeping views of the skyline and, hopefully, provide us much needed inspiration to stay strong and cross the Finish Line.

           What the course looks like, in its 2-D glory.  Deceitfully benign.

          How I see the course, and the subsequent task of taking it on:

           And much like Gandalf, I return... and I will be victorious.

Runner Lingo Decoder:
*       Personal Record
**     Boston Qualifier

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Six Weeks and a Day

Bienvenue to Kansas City!

Six weeks and a day ago, I left the community in which I became the long distance runner I am today.  Prior to moving to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, from Blacksburg, Virginia, I only ran short distances; the longest race in which I participated was a 5K... and I devoted my 1998-2001 racing years to that distance alone.

When my ex-husband found a job with the Illinois Water Survey and moved us to Champaign in 2001, I was amazed at how flat the area was, and thought to myself, "Man, I could run forever."  No more hills!  True enough, I raced the 10K distance (when Christie Clinic held their Run for the Health of It series) in Champaign.  I also got the support, encouragement and training to run my first half marathon (Indy Mini in IN) and marathon (Madison, WI), and 50K (Howl! in Danville, IL) from the wonderful running community in CU.  Second Wind Running Club is second to none, in my book.  And those Kennekuk folks sure know how to make an 8-hour timed ultra a blast.

So, when I left for good in June, to follow my heart and begin a new adventure in Kansas City, MO, I was both sad and excited at the same time.  Well, we distance runners know our hearts are strong enough for both emotions.

Tom and I had been dating for three years prior to getting engaged, so KCMO hasn't been a stranger to my New Balances (my Newts are wearing a familiar path around the city as well, but that's for another entry...).  I've run the streets here before, as a visitor... even completed the oldest race in the city, the granddaddy of 'em all: Hospital Hill Run.  I've attempted the Waddell and Reed Marathon twice, and cramped up so badly around mile 18 (both times!).  This year, I'm training harder, vowing to return stronger, and hoping that the third time will indeed be the charm (obviously the subject of future entries).

We live in what's considered midtown - in the Brookside neighborhood/section.  One of the perks of living where we do is having a great access point to one of the city's outdoor recreation gems, The Trolley Trail.  The picture below is an access point two blocks from our street.

The trail runs in a north/southwesterly direction from the Country Club Plaza, and runs southeast of the city.  Curious?  Here's an overview: map.  I've yet to make it all the way to the end of the trail towards Prospect.  Being a solo female runner, I am well aware of the need to reduce my risk of being assaulted (you know, since being a solo, female runner on an isolated trail is "just asking for it") if I choose to venture down this trail - which veers from traffic and becomes less traveled in certain areas ALONE.  I'll need to find a partner to make it to the most southeastern part one of these days.

The strange yet familiar... the terrain that introduced me to running has returned to welcome me to my new home, and my new chapter in running: hills!  Lordy, there's some hills 'round here!  I have a couple I like to tackle, and have made them a regular feature on my favorite 5-mile loop.  they both have me huffing-n-puffing on the way up, and practicing controlled yet speedy descents on the way down.  No need to avoid them, since the marathon course in October is riddled with 'em.

Running has certainly helped me along, as I adjust to my new life and new surroundings.  Feeling anxious?  Go for a run.  Want to try a new place to eat?  Hey, I remember running by this Middle Eastern place on my run.  Want to get a taste of the (running) community?  Run a race, or join a group run.

The adventure begins.  Follow me through the streets of Paris of the Plains.