“What did we do?,” she said. “6.2”, I replied.

I’ve been quiet since my Santa Hustle on Nov 23rd. But I haven’t stopped running. My daughter, Lucy, got home from college and she’s training for a 1/2 marathon in Minnesota – in February – called the Hypothermic Half. (And I thought I was crazy…)  So, she was all about getting some mileage in and I was happy to NOT become a lump on the couch, though I was tempted.

We managed some nice 4, 5, 6 mile distances.

THEN, we got an invitation from Ms. Joanie Benoit Samuelson (friend and former neighbor) to go for a spin with her and her daughter, right before Christmas. Well, let me tell you, this was an EVENT.  I’ve gone running with Joanie once, more than a year ago, and was both humbled and inspired. And I was really slow but kept with group, mostly, because they slowed down for me.  Now, I’ve got 2 marathons behind me since then, plus the extra 1/2 marathon, plus the recent running company of my young, spirited, daughter. I felt energized and excited.

We met up in the morning, in a mix of snow/rain/freezing rain (yay, Maine).  Some warm greetings exchanged, then we were off, 2 and 2, around Joanie’s favorite roads and trails. It was amazing. I was running better than the last time, and the girls were paced well together.  I asked a lot of questions knowing that Joanie could talk and run with no problem. Lucy, in particular, had wings on her feet and was having a blast – after about 45 minutes, she looked over her shoulder to give me a “thumbs up” but saw me dropping off the pace, definitely way at the back. Just after that, Joanie (in the lead, natch) yelled back, “Do you want to loop again or finish up?” Fortunately for me, Lucy took mercy on me and chirped, “One loop is fine, thanks!” and I smiled at her for saving me.

Joanie looked over her shoulder, then, saw me dragging, and circled back to run next to me, the girls comfortably running ahead, side by side, chatting.  Joanie paced me up the hill, with my stomach burning from that last stretch of speed.  As we closed in on her driveway, the conversation went like this:

Joanie: “Do you have a watch on?”

Me: “Yep”

Joanie: “What did we do?”

Me: “6.2”

Joanie: “How far did we go?”

PAUSE. Do you see what just happened there? Joanie Benoit Samuelson is the ONLY person who could mistake “6.2” as the PACE rather than the MILEAGE.  (For the record, our pace was not anywhere near a 6.2 mile. We were much slower than that, thank God.)

But, on the upside, as we trotted into her driveway, she nodded and said, “You’re much faster than the last time we ran together.”  Best Christmas Present EVER. Really. I keep hearing her over and over in my head.

So, Lucy and I departed, grateful for Joanie and Abby to share their run with us.  It was such a great day, and we felt so good about it, that we set out for a solid 10 miler right after Christmas.

We took off together, but about 7 miles in, it was just so obvious that Lucy was holding back to stay with me. I told her to follow her feet and find her own pace. She smoked me. And as I arrived, there she was waiting, walking in circles, all cooled off. But, we both got the 10 done and were pretty happy about it.

Then, Janet was ready to run. Last Sat, we took off in single digit temperatures. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we had a lot to talk about, and we realized we were hauling. Really. We both had a serious undercurrent of energy that fed off the other person and we just moved. Fastest I’ve ever run 6 miles *and* we had negative splits with hills.

All of this has been so inspiring that I decided to buy some new kicks. I really do need them – the soles of my sneaks are showing wear with about 450 miles into them – so definitely time to go shopping. And… as you know… I’m a fan of Fleet Feet Maine Running Company (the store) and a huge  fan of the Hoka (the shoes.) One might even say I’m a bit evangelistic about the Hokas. I’ve been through several pairs of the Hoka Stinsons since training for the Philly marathon in ’13, but I got brave, and ordered the new, Hoka Bondi 4.  They have some cool features and I was anxious to try them.

Here, you can see my Hoka Stinson Lites (front), with the Hoki Bondi 4 (back) and my dog, Stella, photo bombing…


Today, I got in a good 6 miles (in 0 degrees, thankyouverymuch), and I liked the shoes. But a major blister was revealed when I took them off. Too soon to say whether they’re going to work, but it’s not looking good. Blisters are bad. I may have to go back to another pair of the trusty Stinsons. We’ll see.


Chunk It

I know this isn’t a newsflash, but really, a marathon is just a very long way to go. Even traveling 26.2 miles in a car is commitment, not just a scoot around the corner.   Motoring the distance on your own two feet is an exceptional challenge.

I once heard a colleague who was facing an enormous, nearly impossible programming task, mumble to himself “How to eat an elephant? Just one bite at a time.”  In other words, chunk up the obstacle into pieces you already know how to deal with.

I live in Freeport, ME and have friends who work the holiday season at the LL Bean store – where the register lines are exceptionally long and never, ever ending.  I asked a friend how she keeps from being discouraged trying to manage a line that never gets smaller, and she said, “I just never look at the line. I always look at the customer in front of me.”   She chunks it up into one-person-at-a-time.

When I’m facing hundreds of applications that need to be read, I chunk them to groups of 5 apps in between breaks.

This is relevant because the marathon training plan now calls for consistently heavy mileage on the weekend runs. Not just heavier compared to the week before, but full-on heavy.  Saturday runs range from 14-20 miles from now until race day.  The marathon is a long distance, but all of the training runs combined are especially long!  (I’m still hungry from the 16 miler that Janet and I did 9 days ago, never mind the miles in between then and yesterday’s hilly 13.)

I looked at the training schedule this morning to compare it to my travel schedule, trying to figure out how everything could fit. I noticed that there are no more “soft” 10 milers in the plan. It’s all out distance now.

In a way, the training plan has already chunked it up – it started out the training in small pieces, incrementally adding mileage to mid week runs and the long runs until I find myself, in mid-September, casually referring to 10 milers as “soft” runs. Sheesh.  So, chunking must work.  But looking ahead, the training chunks are bigger – it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the thought of weekend mileage that gobbles up several hours of actual running time, never mind the time dedicated to icing, eating, and napping afterward.  And then the rest of my life – the things that I care about that also require my energy and attention.

Time to chunk the chunks.

In the last two weeks, Janet and I have had water stashed in 2 places along our long routes.  Two water stops chunks the run into 3 sections automatically.  Looking for landmarks that are meaningful – like a water view at mile 8, a pretty farm at mile 11-  two more chunks.  A stretch of flat terrain, another chunk. Getting through two sets of humbling hills. Two more chunks.  Those chunks might be uneven and disorderly, but they do break things up a bit.  (Also, if Janet takes a couple pit stops into the woods – there’s a couple more chunks of the run.)

There are  obvious, less clunky ways to chunk it up – like thinking of the overall mileage in sets of 3 or 4 miles (or whatever feels comfortable.)  Janet mentally chunks  30 minutes, which is good, because that amount of time seems doable, even when we’re whipped.  When I feel like stopping, I think in chunks of 1 mile, because I can endure anything for just 10 more minutes.

So, I know that I’m not the only one who thinks about breaking up the training tasks, and the actual race, into pieces.  There are some good articles out there about race prep that also talk about mentally preparing yourself for smaller distances as a method to string them together into a long, long distance. And people talk about the method out loud.  In the running store this afternoon (*returning* something rather than purchasing – a first!) – the sales guy asked how I’m doing facing the final 8 weeks of training and I said, “Ok, I think!  Finished a 16 miler – feels good to know I’ve run more than half the distance in one chunk.”  He replied, “Yeah. You gotta break it up.  A mile at a time.”  This is coming from a guy who can run a marathon in about 2.5 hrs, so he’s obviously figured out how to get it done. 🙂  And, there are some good articles out there about race prep that also talk about mentally dividing the challenge into pieces you can wrap your head and heart around.

This week, I’m traveling a bit and have to modify some of the runs suggested by my training schedule. (I’ll be in Toronto, Canada, by the way, if anyone has good 6-7 mile routes to recommend!)  But, I’m in a for a long run this weekend on Sunday, and I’ll have to do this one by myself (Janet has a conflict and will run her mileage before I get back from travel.)  I will be chunking all over town until I’ve met the required distance.  I’ll let you know how it goes!