Happy Father's Day

Father's Day Tribute

U.P. Tech Support.
Pops can fix just about anything I can wreck!

My father is a multi-talented individual. He is loyal, fair, and has a bit of mischief in store camouflaged by his calm, poker-face demeanor. I'll save his roast for another day though. He has taught me a lot. My dad knows about everything from finance, to cars, to computers, even politics. I thought all Dads knew these things as if it were a downloadable Dad Ap. It's not. My Dad is just special and I got really lucky to have him. He even taught me how to reformat the hard drive of my computer. O.k. I couldn't do it again but that's because I wasn't paying close enough attention. That's not his fault. My dad is so great you can call him in the U.P. when you are in San Diego with a blown transmission and he'll know what to do. He knows just what to do when the doors to your post college apartment freeze shut and you can't figure out how to get in. After 12 hours of night shift sleeping in the snowbank seems like a good idea.

It is fair to say my father can be credited for my athletic interests. Having two older brothers he encouraged me to give it my all and try to keep up with those bigger and stronger, older and wiser.

He fostered my abilities and delusions when I was in love with skiing and gymnastics. I wanted ski down a black diamond so bad. My brothers went down black diamonds. It would have been a slow painful 1/2 hour decent with me in the flying wedge. Smart enough to know I couldn't be reasoned with, he traversed across the bottom of three black diamonds with me. Then he told me I skied three of them. He'd even get me a pin. Who could argue with that?

I was convinced I had a shot a becoming the next Mary Lou Retton. My dad preferred Raisin Bran or Total but tolerated Wheaties just so I could have a glimpse of Mary Lou on the box before I headed off to school to practice my tumbling.....I mean learn arithmetic. My parents knew otherwise, I wouldn't be a Mary Lou. It didn't stop my dad from building me my very own balance beam. It was the bomb. My mom didn't want it in the house and to this day I don't understand why. My dad covered it with AstroTurf. He let me jack it up on whatever I could find in his garage. It was a couple of feet off the ground. After a few rains, the four inch wide balance beam became 5.5 inches, allowing me a little more wiggle room. Pops and I both new this but it was our little secret. I know now you are thinking I had no limits. My dad must have never said no to me. You are wrong. No matter how many times I asked to use his scaffolding for uneven parallel bars and his saw horses for a vault he said no. Limits, I tell you.

One thing my dad really wanted for me was to learn to swim well. After a couple summers of swimming lessons in the city pool I was still floundering with strokes. I loved the lake. Doing handstands, jumping off rocks, paddling rafts around... but swimming in that chlorinated pool with lane lines was a bore, and I just didn't get it. I only went without complaint because in the last 5 minutes of class we got to jump off the diving board. My dad really wanted me to learn to swim proficiently. My brothers were in junior lifesaving at this point and antsy to be finished with swimming lessons. The woody wagon didn't make trips to town for one kid, it was the three of us or bust. My dad conceded and made a deal if I could pass advanced beginners (determined by me swimming a 25 of any stroke and treading water for 5 minutes) we could all be finished with swimming lessons. I passed, I think my dad would have liked to see me progress further but it wasn't happening. I maybe one of the slowest swimmers in San Diego. but I think my dad would be quite proud that I can swim all the way from La Jolla Cove to La Jolla Shores and back, without hitching a ride from a dolphin or seal.

He didn't really care what the end results were so long as you gave 110%, played fairly, and remained humble. In fact, he'd rather see you finish last in the fast heat than first in the slow heat. That would be me ....100 and 300 hundred hurdles, last in the fast heat time and time again. High school track didn't go so well for me. When there are 52 people total in your class, you will run varsity as a 4'11 freshman. You might even enter the high jump. It stood to reason if I could do a standing back flip I would fair well at high jump. The problem was the one foot take off vs the two foot back flip. I nailed that bar countless times. I cringed when I had a happy accident and cleared it, knowing that the bar was going up. My dad, always positive and diplomatic, didn't criticize me or the coaches, he just suggested maybe I try long jump and maybe something longer than the 300 hurdles. He always thought I would be better suited for the 1/2 mile. I wanted to be a cool sprinter then so I didn't really listen just yet. Eventually I must have got the message as I definitely am endurance driven now.

I've probably blogged this before but it's important enough to blog again because it's something that has for sure shaped my life. Summers in Northern Michigan were all about playing ball. (We didn't have soccer where I grew up). Once the snow melted we played neighborhood softball from sun rise to sunset as long. We played with the boys. The best two players were captains and picked teams, we were self governed. Few rules existed except a ground in the woods was ruled a double and a fly ball in the woods a homer. Simple. A couple nights a week, the neighborhood kids went into town to play organized summer softball. It was the first year I was old enough to play on the league. I was super excited. I couldn't wait for my turn to practice batting. That was after all the rewards for fielding all those grounders right? I took to home plate with my pint sized t-ball bat in hand. I positioned myself in the stance my father had taught me the coach commented "A lefty and you're short, perfect. If you just scrunch down a bit you'll get walked every time." I was instructed never to swing, to scrunch whenever it was my turn to bat. This was a little disappointing to me as I could get a base hit in a neighborhood game. What was the point going to town if I wasn't allowed to swing at the ball? I mentioned this plan to my Dad. He wasn't impressed with the concept. I might not be small and hard to pitch to forever. Then what? It didn't seem like a great long term solution. He told me to stand up tall and take a swing at it. My goal should be to hit the ball and run as fast as I could. I'll never forget hearing his voice as I was batter up. Yelling for me to take a swing at it. He'd rather me strike out than get on base via the gravy train. My life likely would have gone much differently if we encouraged me to take the walk.

Thanks Pops for all you have done and for always putting family first. We are lucky to have you as a Dad and we love you.

By the way when I come visit I think I need some help reformatting my computer and some investment advice, and some car advice and we'll need to take over the garage as we are bringing are bikes. Can we borrow some tools;)

Sierra Rd. The Improvement Challenge

Day 4 of family camp. Seth had departed. Bruce was at yoga. I mean tapering. Cindy had launched into a mixed up triathlon run, bike, swim. Tim and I headed out solo for a little Sierra Rd. action. Not the longest ride we have everdone, but certainly steep enough and the scenery gets 5 stars. For the record, we did wuss out of the Mt. Hamilton loop. Tim and I will forever take razzing for this. It's over 110 miles of mountainous roads. The last time it was attempted by members of Team N, a support vehicle to cart their weary souls home. For some reason the option of lazily sipping coffee with Riley (the dog) at my side before riding sounded spectacular.

Sierra Rd has a bit of history. It has been used in the Tour of California. It historically kicked my butt like no other the first time I rode it. I think it may have been fear of the unknown. I knew no other female who had ridden it. The first time I climbed Palomar I was with another girl. My brain was consoled by if she can do it, I can do it. Right? Looking up Sierra Rd for the first time, not seeing the courtesy of a switchback, I panicked. What if I couldn't make it? What if? I cracked. It was ugly. I fussed, moaned, and groaned. Made it worse then it really was. Then I got to the top and said "was that all?"After all that fussing I declared it not so bad. I am still teased by Tim to this day.

Every year the Tri Club of San Diego gives out awards. This year I received the most improved. I am really touched by this. I think as triathletes we want to be better than we are, and at least better than we were yesterday. We use races as measuring sticks to measure improvement. Often when we get good results, we sabotage our enjoyment by coming up with another way of measuring to invalidate them. I am the queen of over thinking and perseverating. I realized though, if I am to have fun in this sport for the long term I have to let go of this. If I'm going to relive a moment. I should pick a good one. Nobody really cares about self proclaimed sub par performances anyway. This year I didn't have an A race, a B race, or a C race. (Some races are just longer than others so they require more prep) My goal has been to "just keep moving forward." Learn from the experiences. Focus on the good stuff.

Given dozens of people could have been chosen for the title of most improved. Somebody or bodies took the time to choose me. I was going to use Sierra Rd to prove them right. I would make my supporters proud. With my title of most improved I was going to climb this monster without a peep. O.k, it's most imporved not radically changed, there would be peeps, but peeps of positive words.

We headed towards the base of the climb. I focused of the positive. The extra gear I got for my birthday and the fact I was lighter than when I started the ride. Down from 3 full water bottles to 2. By the time I got to the top I might be really light and they might be empty. My bike Sweet Thunder, got a little spooked. She wanted to go charging into the base of the hill. I patted her aero bar's and instructed her to go easy. Momentum wouldn't carry me to the top.

I did really well for a while. I was able to spin my legs. We hit some switch backs and I LOVE SWITCHBACKS. I don't no exactly why, but I do. I just do. Then it got steeper, and despite trying to remain efficient I had to come out of the saddle for bits of time. The last I looked down, my speedometer said 4.6 mph. I wondered what Levi's speedometer said on Sierra Rd. No matter. I wasn't getting dropped at this speed. Tim was out of the saddle and climbing. Sweat was pouring off of us. It was really pretty and I wanted to take pictures. Tim said no way. We'd never be able to get our bikes moving again. I didn't talk much on the way up. I had a lot at stake. This was my chance show my respect to the title of most improved. Elizabeth discovered that talking makes your heart rate go up. I ditched my heart rate monitor when I found that out. I couldn't risk wasting energy talking. I just pedaled. O.k., I only spoke when we hit flatter spots.
After several false summits and somewhere into water bottle #3,we hit the top. I had done it. The proof was there. Nobody could argue that I hadn't improved. Not even me :) There was no subjectivity in this climb. (Well I did have an extra gear this time.....but I am not going to berate myself over that. No overthinking! Just take success a run with it;) For the life of me I don't know why I look so BAD and SAD in the above picture. I was a little spent at the top but very satisfied. I think it's just the nasal flaring. Maybe I am sad because we go home tomorrow and Tim goes back to a million hour work week:(
Tim is the only witness to both my Sierra Rd climbs. Tim says I am stronger this year. He might not be unbiased. I am the hand that doesn't quite feed him, but I do make him cookies and fill his water bottles so that has to count for something ;) Tim thanks those who nominated me for most improved. He says I'm much less whiny now and I can keep up better.

Thanks to all my supporters, resources, and inspirations. You know who you are.

Del Valle Day 3: My Bike Made Me Do It.

On the 3rd day of Family Camp. Tim, Seth, and I set out to ride the Tour de Livermore Loop. This was another cool ride.
We stopped off for a quick visit at Grandma's house along the way.
I couldn't capture it really well but we had a really pretty climb up before descending into Del Valle park. That is a beautiful park. Home of Bruce's first triathlon and home of Xterra. That would be a great race but I'd have to take the basket off my mtn bike to do that. It was gusty and overcast, but I think it somehow added to the ride quality. Sunny and calm are just so common.

Climbing back up Tim and Seth started trying to rip each others legs off. I am very thankful I have a girly gear. It allowed me to (sort of) spin. The boys were forced to muscle the pedals around. Just before we reached the summit, they unleashed attacks. I announced, in my most Miss Manners know it all voice. " I don't know why you boys must insist on playing those stupid games. You just destroy yourselves and the whole ride takes longer". Seth chuckled that he asks Val (his wife) if she wants to race whenever they run up a hill. For the record, Val has some good replies. I allowed let them to pull a full bike length ahead. I thought I was riding sufficiently. My bike, Sweet Thunder II, wasn't satisfied. She began to sing Beyonce's "All the Ladies" and said for all the ladies I should try to get those boys. What if I bonk? I'll have to eat humble pie later. I swear Sweet Thunder II shifted herself into the large chain ring and continued to spin her pedals. My legs burned a bit, but if Sweet Thunder was willing to take a chance I though I better go with it. I dropped into the aero bars and accelerated as fast as I could. The boys were tired now from their attempt to demolish each other. Tim claims they were slowing to get a GU, but his bike later told Sweet Thunder they were out of gas. Just as we crested, Sweet Thunder reached full throttle and carried me into the descent. Yee Haw. Somehow, Sweet Thunder's bell rang as she dropped those boys. I couldn't resist yelling "game on." Hold on, Sweet Thunder instructed. I hoped they hadn't jumped on to Sweet Thunder's rear wheel. If they drafted me down Del Valle it would definitely be a slice of humble pie. They would drop me at the bottom. Sweet Thunder just kept going . She warned me not to look back. It wasn't until we came to the next intersection that I had to pull on Sweet Thunders reins and wait for the boys. I didn't know which way to go. I sensed Sweet Thunder was a little irritated at my lack of direction. When the boys came along, I let out a yawn. I told them I had just finished catching up on all the blogs I follow. After that I had to pretend my get away was no big deal. I pretended like it was not premeditated, and it was so easy. I pulled for a good long time in the aero bars and didn't entertain Tim's suggestion to pace line. This was great until 20 miles from home when we had a head wind and all I could pull was 15 mph. The boys weren't going to patiently ride my rear wheel now. At 15 mph they were going to fall off their bikes with boredom. Oh boy, boys with quads do not typically tolerate wind patiently. They karate chop the wind. My insistence on pulling had allowed them to rest. Now their fast twitch fibers were ready to pounce. It was time to alternate 30 second pulls. Did I mention it was now on the other side of noon? Well if I had come this far I might as well hang on for a little bit longer. I tried to do my best to fake easily getting back on the paceline. I also pretended I wasn't bonking as my Bento box lay empty. Finally we exited the windy section and headed for a slight downhill. Yeah. I was going to make it. The pace was fast, but I would manage.

6 miles from Camp headquarters we passed a strawberry field. I could smell the strawberries. I could see them. My stomach growled, not once but twice. Tim started the next episode of Seinfeld by say that suggesting the strawberry field was a fraud and the farmers bought the strawberries from Costco. They were just a ploy. Tim's rationale to support his theory was so ludicrously funny I almost fell off my bike with laughter. Luckily laughter seems to be my greatest fuel source and I made it home unscathed. I better watch that pink bike of mine though, she could get me in a lot of trouble.

Cake Wars

As mentioned below, never trust a Neuschwander male in the final 10 minutes of a workout or with your dessert. They informed me I had married into the most competitive family in the country as evidenced by "cake wars."

When Tim and Seth were kids their father would stick his fork into Tim and Seth's cake and steal the first bite. He would say 10%. You have to learn to tithe. This infuriated Tim and Seth, but as kids, there wasn't much they could do about it. Tim and Seth grew bigger than their father. One day they got really bold and ganged up on their father. They intercepted with their forks and stole the first bite of Bruce's cake. Thus Cake Wars were born. Women are immune to these battles. 

Family Camp

Tim and Jen on top of Mt. Diablo. What fun!

Meet Seth. (See photo above).
 Seth is Tim's kid brother. 
Poor Seth.
 Tormented throughout childhood by the character pictured below. 

Notice the two of them look pretty worked over. For the record I reached the top of the climb fresh as a daisy. Poor Seth. He doesn't ride as much as Tim and I. He was convinced we were going to play some crazy roadie games and try to make him hurt. I promised we had no tricks up our sleeves and said the hill would be sufficient. He didn't believe me. A lifetime of Tim and Bruce had made Seth no fool. At every switch back Seth accelerated, convinced it might be when we were going to launch an attack.  Tim, for the record, did bait Seth. Suggesting we had a hour left of climbing when there was in actuality 20 minutes left of climbing. I told Seth the truth, how many miles we had left. I told Seth it was ok to ease off in preparation for the final face. He didn't believe me. I pedaled along relatively comfortably (in the girly gear, 28)while the boys taunted each other. They would say something in Spanish, presumably a derogatory phrase meaning hurry up, followed by "your Popsicle is melting." I couldn't resist playing a little too. On gentler pitches I would drop into the aero bars and pedal past them belting out "It's time for me to climb" and to the tune of REO Speed wagons 1980's "It's time for me to Fly"

As we neared the top I warned Seth of the final face. It's a sucker punch that one. You can see the crest, but you have about 100 pedal strokes out of the saddle to get there. The road is narrow and it is steep enough you might consider zig zagging. I promised Seth earlier he could relax I wasn't going to go zipping off. We both stood up to muscle the final face and a car came up behind us. I didn't want to block the car so I zipped in front of Seth and jammed it to the top. Finishing just ahead of him. This all would have been forgotten if not for the family driving the car coming over to tell me how fun it was to watch the girl on the pink bike move ahead of the guy and beat him to the top. 

I didn't even intend to have an Idropboys story today. Well actually, I was planning to drop Tim and Seth on the way home. Tim however was feeling pretty fresh too . He knew my tricks and banished me to the back of the pace line. I told him he was ruining my blog story but complied. Seth pretended to be tired. Even downed a GU 5 miles from home. A mile from home he unleashes the biggest stomp one can imagine. I'm learning never trust a Neuschwander when it comes to athletics or dessert.

Sunday Funday

T -shirt dress.

Let me tell you. I love visiting my in-laws. Sunday morning we woke up and headed to Master's. I t was great. The session is only 60 minutes vs. 90 minutes. Allowing me to swim a little faster than usual and to swim a little after the set like an overachiever vs. a slacker who exits the pool 5 minutes early to start out on my bike.  I swam in a lane with my mother in law Super Star Cindy, and tried not to let her lap me too many times.  We came home and enjoyed some cappuccino and pancakes.  Yum.

While the caffeine kicked in and the pancakes settled Tim prepped our bikes. The rest of us watched with admiration. 

Then we were off to climb Mount D(iablo)

We did not let Bruce come. 

He is tapering for CDA.
He was forbidden. 
I repeat he is forbidden. 
 No  climbing. 
No  riding over 20 miles.
No running over 4 miles. 
My mom sent me this picture from her walk the other day. 

Look Mom! Tim and I saw something on our bike ride too!
The first day of visiting Tim's parents in Northern California we had a photo op too. A snake. Tim and stopped our bikes. Tim ushered the snake out of the road with his front wheel. He said the snake was really cool and it took him a long time to get that big so he didn't want a car to run him over. I was not afraid of the snake, but I did annoyingly tell Tim "Don't you dare pick up that snake."Tim insisted he had know intentions of picking up the snake but I figured I couldn't assume he didn't have any ideations of being a snake charmer.
Later we stopped for something even more cool. A Bald Eagles Nest. We saw two bald eagles in the nest but it doesn't really show up on film. I guess you'll have to take my word for it. 

Recovery/ Dangerous Behavior

Dangerous Behavior

It's easy to find literature supporting the dangers of overtraining, the importance of tapering, and recovery. One never finds sources supporting the mischief one can get into during the recovery period. Without big workouts on the docket I have had ample time for things like yoga. Tim supports my yoga habit provided I ride my heavier-than-me mountain bike to class. He has watched every episode of the "Goode Family". Secretly I think he was hoping there wouldn't be parking for my bike and hoped I would have to ask the people at the studio to accommodate my non polluting bicycle. What an opportunity to emit smug. Fortunately or unfortunately  there is primo bike parking in front of the studio. 
I have decided after bike commuting the piddly distance to yoga that maybe Ironman athletes are not the best endurance athletes in the world. That title probably should be given to the homeless people who push their bikes loaded with everything they own all day long.  Elizabeth mentioned that she used to ride her bike to People's Market in OB and get groceries. Inspired by that I decided to practice by riding my bike down to the La Jolla Village in search of a T-shirt dress. Tim and I might be an episode of Seinfeld. I said the t-shirt dress was cool. Perfect for going to the pool or packing for post GWL rides. I am all about the 30-second parking lot change. Off jersey, dress on over sports bra, shorts off and you're dressed like a normal person for post ride Starbucks. This is a great alternative to the towel around your waist clothing change where you pray the towel doesn't fall down exposing you to everybody around. Tim said that a t-shirt dress is what usually is donned by 300lb women paired with big gulp slurpies. The kind sold at Vons with the silhouette of a skinny lady silk-screened on. I was determined to prove Tim wrong and he was so proud of me for riding my carbon emission free mtn bike that I had carte blanche. So off on my mtn bike I went to prove that recovery is dangerous. 

I'm going to Boston

Sunday at 3:40 a.m. I was up and at'em. Tim thought I was going to torture him with three -four taps on the snooze. He begged, please “No Snooze.” I didn't. Not on race day. On race day I do everything in my power correctly. (It’s the 350 other days of the year that my behavior is in question.) The gun would go off at 6:30 and I needed to absorb my coffee before then.
We caught the shuttle and were on the way to race start near Balboa park at 5:00 a.m. It was kind of cold and rainy but great for racing a marathon.

Once at the park the nerves kicked in despite ceasing drinking my Cytomax and I used the porta potty at least twice. Just before the race started I was exactly where I was two years ago at this race: half way down one of the canyons, behind a bush squatting. The ground was slippery from the rain. My feet slid as I peed and I peed on my left shoe. Must have been good luck.

I went to turn on my Garmin 305 and it was dead. Oh fudge, my plan, my plan, my plan. What to do about my plan? 8:30-8:40 miles 1-10, 8:15-25 miles 10-20. With 10K to go: all out. How would I pace that without my Garmin? Stacy ran 3:30 with no Garmin. Marathons have been done for years without Garmins. Tim and Bruce cracked up. Typical. I know the Garmin said ”Battery Charging in Process” I checked it 5 times before bed last night. Crap. It was dead. It stayed dead for two days after the race. I guess it got tired. Tim in usual selflessness took off his Garmin 405 and told me to wear it. I should have insisted he keep it as I hate the 405. The 405 and I don't sync. He said he didn't need it. There was a pace group and he was just going to hang on to them. I didn't know if there was a 3:40 pace group. The brochures said there was but at the expo the San Diego track club said there was a 3:45 group. I could run with the 3:45 and step it up at the half. Without a watch it would be tough. I selfishly accepted the 405. Tim and I made sure it was set to go and locked the bezel so it wouldn't inadvertently switch modes if I bumped it.

Bruce, Tim, and I headed to our corrals. Tim was in corral 2, Bruce and I in corral 4. In corral 3 was a man holding the 3:40 pace sign. I'll call him Mr 3:40. I looked at Bruce with eyes that must have been as big as saucers. I would have dissected the options a million times and been paralyzed with indecision. Should I or shouldn't I? It's not my corral, maybe I should negative split. Blah, Blah, Blah. Before I had time to think (I’m not sure thinking is the right word), Bruce told me to go, get up there, hang with the 3:40 group. He said “Jen, you're going to run 3:40.” There was no doubt in his voice. He was planning to run 3:45 and not one minute faster. This was a training day for Coeur D'Alene. Knowing this I didn't ask him to come with me. It’d be selfish of me. It was nice that I had him running sweep. If I had a rough day he would help me salvage things. Without allowing time to change my mind I ducked the rope and moved myself up to corral 3and tucked in beside Mr 3:40. I must have looked liked I belonged enough not to get sent back to coral 4. (Note: there were something like 50 corals and 20,000 people racing. Your official time was based on your chip not your corral. Just so you don' think I cheated. :)

When the gun sounded, I started my Garmin. It was working correctly and switched to auto pause. Perfect. I thought it would start as soon as I started moving and crossed the start. I tried to run just behind Mr 3:40. He was tall and I figured if I could draft him for 26.2 miles. It would save a lot of energy and marathons are draft legal :O) Also I would not, I repeat NOT go out too fast this time. (Although it is kind of fun to blast out really fast. It's just that at the end of the race my results look more like the long road to the dessert table;) Tucking in behind the pace guy sounds boring but it was wildly exciting. It was like the swim of a vicious triathlon. About 6 times I felt my feet lift up as they tangled with somebody behind me. Mr 3:40 was a popular guy. I am 5'3 in my running shoes. Rather than being shoulder to shoulder I was nose to armpit with most of the other runners. Deodorant and showers prior to a 6:30 a.m. start are not common. I decided to move to the side and front of the pace group. I wasn't going to get very far if I tripped or passed out from fumes. I looked down at my Garmin 405 and saw that the screen had changed to a digital compass. Well what do you know, I had a compass to help me navigate the marked coarse. Bonus, I was wearing my,oh so comfortable, plastic heart rate monitor that would provide me NO data for future training. Sorry Mom, but I gave a mental middle finger to the Garmin 405. I vowed to kick butt despite it. After DNF’ing a club race due to my battle with the Michelin tire I wasn’t going to say, "I didn’t make my time goal because I had trouble working my Garmin." That would prove me stupid and lame.

Running in a group made the miles go by quick and the leader just kept reinforcing not to go zipping off. I fell into step next to Kathleen, another member of the tri club. We used to ride in the Bellas together and I hadn't seen her for a long time. It was great. We were both shooting for the same time goal and started chatting it up. She seemed really comfortable with the pace but I lost her as we headed towards Friars road. She mentioned she had a leg injury prior and was going to call it a day if the pain came back. I guessed that was what happened (and it was) & I was bummed to loose her. She seemed very mature and reasonable about the injury. I was impressed. It’s great that in this sport we can share out experiences and learn from how others handle things. The thing about racing, training, and distance events is that injuries happen. You have to figure out when it's smarter to cut your losses. Nobody wants to drop out but sometimes it's a lot smarter to exit the race. Better to start the healing vs. hanging in and making things 10 times worse. I'm lucky I haven't had any significant injuries since the "Phantom Foot Pain." They happen. So here is a shout out my friends on the injured reserve list. I feel for them and am grateful for them showing me how to handle injury without being a crazy head (like me when I was injured) and showing you can come back and really kick butt. So thanks ladies.
Soon after the separation from Kathleen, I found Stacy. Yee Haw. Stacy, the super star runner, was doing the relay for her office. She was able to do her warm up with me. I wished she could have run with me to the finish. I was lucky she found me in the sea of 20,000. I told her to look for me with the 3:45 group. I said I would just be starting to step it up when I saw her. I worried she would think I went out too fast since I was with the 3:40's. We connected and the next 3.5 miles went by really fast. We had to be careful not to go zipping off from Mr.3:40. We hit Linda Vista and I said good by. Stacy was at her relay start.

I was happy the miles kept going by so quickly. I allowed myself to run a comfortable pace but made it a point not to get in front of the first runner with a 3:4o bib on their jersey. I didn't want to waste any energy. Around mile 15ish, I ran into Nikee and James. Yeah…more company. I chatted with them for a few minutes. James was recovering from an injury and said he was shooting for a 4 hour. I told him he was well ahead of schedule. He laughed and said he was going to need it. He did it though. We headed up Morena Boulevard. I noticed it was windy. Crap. The one spot I am alone and there is a head wind. I knew I was fine pace-wise. I could see the 3:40 sign a ways back but I worried about the wind. Visions of the group flying passed me went through my mind, I worried I would fall into the depths of despair. I read something recently about hypnotism and athletes. I'm not going to score high on any intelligence test while racing but I figured it was my best shot at avoiding negativity. Yup, I had to hypnotize myself right then and there. A girl was running ahead of me. She was super cute, like those ones in a magazine ad. It floors me how some women can race fast and pretty. I'm jealous. Have you seen my race pictures...nasal flaring, red face, hair sticking up all over. I'm ok with my nasal flaring race pictures. I'm just impressed that others can race fast while looking like they're not even working. Wow! She had on a bright orange sports bra and knee socks....super hip. Not only can I not have pretty race pics....but I can't race in hip clothing either. I was wearing tri club hat and tri club old school jersey (because it is bright enough for TCSD members to see and give me a pepping up if needed, and so Stacy could find me.) I wore tri shorts too, although not fashionable, they have pockets on the side. I am very impressed that I was able to carelessly shove both of my arm warmers in one packet. I didn't even lose one of them. I don't know where I would put all my stuff if I chose a more fashionable outfit. I realize it must seem excessive. Maybe the title of this blog should have been Costco shopper takes on marathon. I accessorized my outfit with my lucky Amphipod water bottle.
Back to my self hypnotizing techniques. The orange sports bra girl looked so effortless. I thought, I want to run like that. I stared at her shoes and watched them turn over. "Run like that, run like that," I inwardly chanted. All of the sudden I caught up. I guess hypnotism failed. Instead of "running like that" I ran faster. Score...who needs a Garmin. Then in honor of my pink bike, I drafted the guy she was running with. He was tall like Tim and I knew Tim would be so proud of me for saving energy. Then the guy turned around and said, "Do we have somebody drafting?"
Busted. I don't think he was mad, but I was in the hot seat. Rather than to explain I had been using his girl's shoes to hypnotize myself I said, "Well it was a little windy back there all alone so I thought we could switch off…paceline for a bit." I stepped it up and moved in front. I didn’t even jump off the front of the paceline, but I soon lost them. I heard the girl say she was struggling. Wait a minute....this was the girl I assumed things were so easy for. I guess things are sometimes deceiving; I felt a little bad I didn't have time to give her an inservice in self hypnosis....she could have used my shoes. Maybe another time.
We were approaching mile 20 and the Mr. 3:40 announced we were 37 seconds ahead of the 3:40 mark. Sweet and I wasn't even in trouble. The final 10K was going to be tough in my mind. I was prepared to put up a darn good fight. The bump they call a hill in Crown Point passed in a hurry and so did the bridges. At 20.5 something happened. I thought maybe I was starting to fail. The leader started to pick it up and I had a hard to staying up, much less being a few steps. I also got this wicked toe/foot cramp in my right foot. My right middle toe felt like it was sticking straight up and giving me the bird. I guess I should have peed on my right foot too. The left foot was behaving just fine.

We rolled through 21 miles and the clock said 2:56. A portly man, self appointed coach type, yelled, "3:40 runners: you are on pace for 3:43."
“NO, WE'RE NOT.” Mr. 3:40 said softly. I have a strong sense of injustice. One man is willing to run 26.2 miles carrying a heavy wooden sign to help other runners, another man stands on the side lines and says he did a bad job and is off pace. Now I'm fired up. "NO WE'RE NOT!" I said. My voice....it carries. There were probably 7 of us running together at this point. They all said "yeah" and started laughing. The self appointed coach probably didn't realize that was the gun time on the clock. We started a minute back. I don't know where he got the 2 minutes from but I was not going to take it. He got defensive. He said we weren't going to go to Boston if we didn't make up 2 minutes in the next 5.2 miles. Now I was fired up. From mile 5, the crowds were cheering to our group, "You're going to Boston." I didn't even know if I wanted to go to Boston, other races considered and the "pain" of running a marathon. I certainly wasn't going to celebrate victory until the end. At mile 21 of a marathon, no man on the sidelines will tell me I am two minutes down (if I’m not). I don't care if I don't have a working watch or if my toe is giving me the bird. So (hands on my hips) there. I AM GOING TO BOSTON. I'm pretty chill, but when I get fired up....there is some red in my hair (before the chlorine and Cali sun bleached it....and the help from my stylist). Maybe that man was my angel because I forgot I had to dig to keep up and my toe cramp seemed to have passed.
Just after mile 23 our group had splintered. It was very crowded now with the fallen and wounded vicitims of the 3:20 and 3:30 group:) Mr. 3:40 seemed to really surge and slow now, which just isn't my style. He's probably a track star or interval king. My background is the Ironman shuffle, so I was going to run along at a steady pace. I let him go as despite having nothing to tell me what pace we were running or what our ETA was. I didn't think the surge/slow method was going to be good for me. He surged and I didn't. I know coach said "at 10K go with everything you have left" but I am sure he meant go efficiently with everything you have left. I could see a big explosion on the horizon with the surging. I was at 5K, which is so close yet so far away. I didn’t want to risk it now.

I keep Mr 3:40 in my sight. The toe cramp resurfaces and I hear my breathing now. A guy in a purple jersey jumps out from the sidelines when he sees his friend/teammate. He is wearing a purple headband with green three leaf clovers attatched to the top via springs. They are bouncing. He is bouncing. She sounds teary, says she is struggling. Trying to qualify for Boston but out of gas. He slows to help her. He says "I have got news for you. You are doing great, on pace for a 3:50." Not again, a miss informed man trying to bring me down. I may have one failed Garmin and another I can't work but I was smart enough to check the time clock at mile 23. I was still on time for arrival. He says she is doing great. She'll reach the finish line. He's going to help her. It's time for a "Mission Moment." She's crying now. She thinks she has fallen off the 3:40 pace and lost 10 minutes. He slows and reads the “current” pace he is running off his Garmin. She slows. He slows in front of me with his bouncing headband. I have to make my way around him. It is crowded. I am so mad for her sake. He's not derailing me too. I say excuse me, I work around him and for her sake mention we are on pace for 3:40. We are fine. The girl doesn't listen to me. They are having a mission moment. I am sure his heart was in the right place. The injustice issue again....in my mind he messed up her race. Worse case scenario she could have started a minute ahead of me. I'm fired up again and I have forgot about my unruly toe.

I am out of the there and headed for mile 24. I am working now. Mr 3:40 sign is in my sight but a ways ahead. I feel like I am running hard. It's hard to say what my pace is because at this stage a 9 minute mile could feel like 7:30. I just go, with everything I have. I focus ahead looking for mile 24. I run for what seems like too long for one mile. I start to worry I have slowed. I pass a lady and ask her if we have passed mile 24. Not sure she says. How could she have missed the sign too? Oh this doesn't look good. Am I slowing and I don't know it? I just run on, with everything I have. It is supposed to be hard. I have run strong for so long. I am not giving up without out a fight. I will fight an ugly battle until the end. I will NOT run pretty. I'm ok with that. Somebody else says after a pregnant pause we did. Whew. That was close I relax a little.

I hit mile 25 and according to the clock I have plenty of time to get in under 3:40:59. We are entering the Marine Recruit Depot. My father was stationed in the Marines here when he was 18. I mentioned to him earlier about how great it was the race finished here and how pretty the buildings were as if he had fond memories of the place and me finishing a race there would elicit the fond memories for him. I didn't though because his life was really hard there. (Unlike my run where only the final 10 k was hard and I chose a marathon as my recreation.) He replied:

"That race finish would be the Marine Recruit Depot (MCRD) with the large parade deck and the fancy Spanish inspired buildings for the administrative buildings. Unfortunately, I stayed in a tent or a Quonset hut half barrel type building. Maybe they tore them down but knowing the Marines probably not. Good luck with that race."

At mile 25 I felt good about my run. I could have backed off a bit and still finished in 3:40:59 or something close to it. Respectable. When I left home this morning I didn't know if I would want to run Boston even if I qualified. I didn't know how much it meant to me. The last 1.2 miles through the MCRD I dug as deep as I could. It was in honor of and inspired by my father's nights in a Quonset hut. (and maybe fueled by his hint of sarcasm).... Dad if you are not impressed with only getting 1.2 miles of a 26.2 mile race I promise you the last 0.2 were the LONGEST 0.2 miles of my life. I didn't give up one second early. I could see the numbered on the clock turning....the people in the bleachers didn't know I started one minute back so everybody was cheering wildly for me (and the other in the chute) to break 3:40. I crossed in 3:40:05 but my actual time was 3:39:19. Once across the finish line I stood in shock. I couldn't beleive I had done it. After two open marathons and two Ironman marathons I had finally broken the 4 hour mark. Finally. I stood there for a second and blinked back tears, not since Arizona had I been so pleased with my efforts. I came back to reality when a guy asked me if I was alright. I headed to the med tent for some ice and set off to find Tim. I saw something that looked like a dead body lying on the ground after the finish line. Oh good, I found Tim!