There Are Lots of Things to Do During a 36-Hour Stay in Ohio

Continuing our Team Stimey tradition of splitting into various non-total family groups for vacations, Katie and I headed to Ohio last weekend. We left on Friday afternoon and returned on Sunday morning. It takes 6-7 hours to drive each way. Do that math. Still. We had all kinds of fun. Plus, I had Katie trapped in a car with me and my music playlist for multiple hours. Oh, the songs that we sang.

Photo of Katie and I in the car. She is making duck face and putting her fingers in a "v."

Do they teach this pose in homeroom on the first day of high school? Seriously. ALL teenagers do it.

The reason we went is because Katie’s girlfriend lives there (stupid internet, allowing people from far away to meet) and they wanted to go to an anime convention together. So that’s what they did all day Saturday, leaving me all kinds of Stimey-alone-in-Ohio time, which I took full advantage of, doing many fun things, including napping. But napping wasn’t the only great thing we did. There were many other things.

We stayed in a hotel a half hour away from both Kat’s friend and the anime convention.

We decided to go less than a week before we went. It turns out that all the cheap hotels nearby were filled up by better planners than us. At first, I was all, why the fuck is everyone in the world staying in this tiny Ohio town this weekend? When I woke up on Saturday and looked outside my window to see a school bus with an “ANIME CONVENTION SHUTTLE” sign on it, I realized why. It turns out that Katie and friend were not the only people attending the convention. I know. Weird.

We didn’t cosplay.

I mean, I didn’t go to the convention, but Katie didn’t dress up. She did not get her shit together quickly enough to cosplay for the convention. (She is bad and should feel bad.)

Katie looking cute.

She looked super cute though and the blue hair helped her fit in.

We arrived way early and found fun things to stand next to.

Kat’s friend was late or we were early and either way we had some time to hang out and do fun things.

Giant lion statue head. I am standing next to it looking delighted.

Presented without comment. Okay, one comment: How awesome is this? I wanted to hug it. But that would have been weird.

I was THAT mom.

Photo of me and Katie standing next to the lion.

“KAT! KAAAAAAAAT!!!! COME STAND NEXT TO THIS LION WITH ME!”

I am so goddamn embarrassing.

Kat with her hand over half her face in a "you're so embarrassing" way.

Picture Kat making this face a lot.

In my defense, I asked her several times if she wanted me to leave her alone to wait and she said no.

Katie leaning against a smaller lion statue.

You feel for her, don’t you? I am the WORST.

There were two of these lions. I leaned on one of them and it moved, which either means that I am waaaay heavier than I thought I was or they weren’t attached to the ground. Assuming the latter, I hatched a plan to come back in the dead of night to stuff them into my car and then post them on either side of the end of my driveway to create a sort of regal, Welcome to Stimeyland feel to my house. Said plan didn’t come to fruition. I am bad at follow through.

We people watched cosplayers. (They are good and should feel good.)

Seriously. These people. They gave me life. It is so damn cool when people are passionate about something. It is doubly cool when they are among their people and are clearly happy and free. People are so creative.

Katie sat picturesquely on a rock.

Katie sitting on a rock.

I think I stopped taking photos after this. Well, after the photo I took immediately after this one in which she was sticking out her tongue at me.

Then I was abandoned.

Kat’s girlfriend showed up and I walked over to say hi to her mom and the two of them ran into the convention without even saying goodbye. I didn’t even get a chance to yell any of my favorite parting lines like, “Don’t get kidnapped!” or “Don’t take drugs!

So I went running.

I had the rest of my day to fill so I did what I do when I have lots of hours: I went running. That morning I had found an app that showed me local trails. This was great because I was able to run on a wooded bike/running path instead of 7-1/2 miles down a sidewalk and then back on the other side of the street, which was what I assumed I would have to do.

I planned to run 15 miles, but only ran about 12-1/2 because it turned out that the trail wasn’t quite as long as it claimed. It was also really, really hot and big chunks of the trail had no tree cover.

It was really pretty though and I got to run over bridges and past a river…and under a freeway overpass. All very scenic.

Selfie during my run overlooking a river.

This super long bridge (I’m standing on it and you can see it in the background) was said to be the “highlight” of the trail. I think they were right. I don’t know why it is fun to run over bridges, but it is. My route had four or five of them.

I rued my lack of planning.

I forgot sunscreen on my run. I regretted this almost instantly. I was maybe a mile in when I realized what a terrible mistake this would be. I didn’t know what effect the sunglasses would have on the overall effect though.

Me with a red sunburned face and light circles around my eyes.

Look! I’m a reverse raccoon/trash panda.

Then I napped. And ate. And consumed media. And generally slugged about.

I also almost got run over on my way across the street to get to a Chipotle. Some guy had pulled out too far into the intersection, but didn’t make it across when the light turned red. He SAW me and didn’t back up his car. Then I walked behind his car and he immediately started backing up. I jumped out of the way. Some guy in a different car laughed really hard.

I realized how old and feeble I am.

Do you know what happens at one in the morning? I do now because that’s how late I had to stay up to chaperone Kat and friend. ONE IN THE A. M. Seriously. I’m 43, people. I don’t do 1 a.m. anymore and I don’t even feel bad saying that.

Kat ate all the food and I felt grateful for my cool kid.

Our hotel was right next door to a Denny’s. We headed over there before we set off back home. I hadn’t been to a Denny’s in years. It turns out that they’ve been keeping all of the food there!

Photo of Kat behind two plates of food and a plastic cup shaped like voltron.

They also had kids’ cups that look like Voltron, who, I am led to believe, is an anime character. Naturally, we insisted on purchasing one.

The trip was a little bit of a hassle what with all the driving and almost getting run over and stuff, but I am so glad that I could do it for Kat. And I am especially glad that she wanted to do it with me—that she talked to me in the car and sang the entire soundtrack to Hamilton (once each direction) and gave me hugs and was grateful and didn’t even spend the whole time texting with her friends. She’s the best.

The Hunchnail of Notre Jean

I am about to talk a lot about my toenails. Consider this your trigger warning.

I ran a marathon last January. It was really hard, but my recovery wasn’t too bad. My muscles were sore and one of my ankles temporarily came up with a weird new ache, but altogether, things were all right.

Then, three days after the race, the base of my big toenails started to hurt. Like a lot. And it was weird because that’s not a place I’ve ever associated with pain before. The toes themselves didn’t hurt, just the base of the nail beds.

Soon the pain ebbed and blackness started to creep up. Very clearly there was a bruise/blood under the nails and it was starting a whole thing. Said “whole thing” turned out to be two entirely black toenails.

Up until this time, I’d always felt kind of awesome for never having had a black toenail. I was pretty sure this was because of my virtuous use of shoes that had toeboxes big enough for my ginormous feet. Honestly, I felt pretty superior about the whole thing.

Evidently when you run for six hours all in a row, however, big toeboxes do not the difference make.

I have spent the past four and a half months watching the progression of my diseased toenails and freaking the fuck out of whatever member of my family was dumb enough to look at my toes. Occasionally, I’d text photos of my toes to people so they would have to discuss them with me. Because watching my toes was, like, 80 percent of my mental life and only, like, one percent of my verbal life.

I noticed at some point that each big toenail had grown a little ridge near the bottom. Every once in a while I would stub my toe and the nail would noticeably shift and I would spend a week or so convinced that it was going to fall off at any second and trying to show my toes to anyone who would look.

“Anyone who would look” in this case means “any poor sucker who let me shove my toe into their line of sight before they had a chance to look away,” i.e. mostly my family.

Just last week Alex ran over my left toe with a Home Depot flatbed cart carrying 150 pounds of shelving. The toenail survived and I decided that if that wasn’t the end, then I should probably admire its fortitude and just stop whining about it already.

Two days ago, because I am clumsy, I stubbed my toe again and there was a crack and half of my toenail lifted up, attached only by a flap of skin on the left side. I reacted the way pretty much anyone would: I texted a photo of what was under my toenail to Alex, freaked out my kids, then slapped shoes and socks on and went running in hopes that repeated footfalls would take care of the problem.

It did not. I had to detach the nail myself. Goddamn roomy toebox.

Interestingly, the toenail that was run over is still hanging in there, but now I know it has a lifespan because clearly the other one did as well.

I’m fighting every inclination I have to post a photo of my toe and nail in various states of detachment, because of course I created a photo journal of its journey, but I texted photos to three different people about the separation of me from my nail with funny captions like, “A photo of my toenail. Foot not included,” and the response was mostly, “OH GOD NO” and “I want a divorce.” Then, because I am a human capable of learning, I did not text a photo to two more people and then they asked for one because they know what is interesting in life and are reasonable people and good friends.

People are confusing and I am evidently not good at reading them.

My kids reacted in ways that are uniquely them. Katie nearly started crying and was upset that I’d even mentioned such a heinous thing to her. I think she has blocked the entire incident from memory.

Jack investigated it with his eyes and his fingers and then told me, “I think you might need surgery,” and asked me, “are you scared about this?” (Answers: Probably not and YES, YES I AM I AM FREAKED OUT ENTIRELY BY THIS.) Jack is clearly my favorite and also maybe a little bit of a weirdo.

Quinn has started walking into rooms with his eyes closed and his head turned away until I can convince him that I’m wearing shoes.

Alex says that we had a good run and that he will miss me but no one ever agreed to be married to a monster with nine toenails.

I’m curious if it will grow back enough to be damaged anew by my October marathon. And if this happens again, I wonder how many new toenails can grow? Is it like a salamander tail that will continue to regenerate? Is it like shark teeth, with additional but finite replacements? Or is it like the elephant tooth that wears away and then causes the animal to starve to death/not be able to paint her toes?

For now, I miss pedicures, because it seems cruel to make a stranger touch the foot that my family doesn’t even want to look at—even if I am an extraordinarily good pedicure tipper what with the rest of my running feet issues. I am also going to miss wearing sandals this summer. But I do get to look forward to losing the other injured toenail when it finally suffers enough trauma to decide to say au revoir to my foot. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the lucky one to get a text on that occasion.

Too Many Ideas to Fill Up a Weekend

You know how sometimes you have weekends when you have nothing to do and you kinda sit around and stare at your family and no one can think of fun things to do and the only options you have are to go grocery shopping and think about how you should probably consider vacuuming?

Well, if you ever have one of those weekends, I have some suggestions for you based on what I did last weekend—a weekend during which I went everywhere and did everything.

Friday night: Realize Your Baby Is No Longer a Baby

Friday night, I gave Quinn snack money and dropped him off at a party for sixth graders going into his middle school next year. You should be aware that he is my wee little baby and I just dropped him off and watched him run into the building all by himself. I didn’t even remember to shout, “Don’t get kidnapped!” at him.

I arrived two hours later to see him “playing basketball” with a couple of his friends. This involved a lot of hurling the ball at each other and not a lot of actual playing of basketball. Once he spotted me, he briefly ran into the dance part of the party to spend the last of his money on snacks before I could demand it back and then returned to the gym.

Photo taken through a window of Quinn throwing a basketball.

Quinn is sportsing!

He bought a cookie for me though, so I have forgiven him for growing into a large, independent person.

Saturday morning: Run a Trail Race for the First Time

I have run races put on by many different organizations and therefore I get emails from all of them suggesting that I register for more races. One came across my inbox a couple of months ago that seemed all kinds of fun. It was called the Nanty Narking Nearly 9K and that alone seemed like a reason to run it. It also described the course as running past historic sites and the Underground Railroad Experience Trail and I was all, “sign me up!” before it even occurred to me that running past historic sites means you don’t get to actually look at them for more than about 30 seconds.

But that is okay because this race was, in fact, nanty narking (the race description claims that is a Victorian expression meaning “great fun”). It was a trail race, which I’d never done before. You know what? Trail races are fantastic. It had rained heavily the day before so there was all kinds of mud and there were hills to climb and rocks to step around and piles of horse shit to avoid and just a crapton of fun. Seriously.

It was a really small race too, so during the about five and a half miles, there was a lot of time when I was just out in the woods without any other people in sight. It was seriously the best. I think I understand why people like trail running.

Selfie of me and Lyda before the race.

My friend Lyda ran with me. Neither of us tripped and fell even once.

Saturday afternoon: Ice Skate for Special Hockey

Saturday afternoon was the Montgomery Cheetahs’ Cheetah-thon, which we happily attended. (Thank you to all of you who donated. You make Jack and me so happy.) Jack, of course, is a super rock star at the Cheetah-thon and had a blast skating in literal circles around his family.

Jack ice skating.

I cropped Sam out of this photo because the event was for Jack. Sorry, Sam.

Everyone else had a good time too. Sam did a great job skating and was actually the member of Team Stimey who stayed on the ice the longest. Quinn worked hard at skating and definitely made improvements over the course of the evening. I suppose he’d get even better if he skated more than once a year.

Jack and Sam standing face to face on the ice. Alex helping Quinn skate. The whole picture is reflected in the rink glass.

I ran around before we left making sure everyone had socks and helmets and long pants and sweatshirts so they could skate and I forgot my socks so I had to stay on the edge of the rink and heckle them.

The ice is not where Quinn shines though. The raffle is where Quinn shines. There are so many prizes up for grabs at the Cheetah-thon—and Quinn wants to win them all. Last year, in addition to some other stuff, he won a basket of Girl Scout cookies, which was like the greatest thing to ever happen to him in this lifetime. Wanna know what he won this year?

Quinn holding a basket of Girl Scout cookies.

A basket of Girl Scout cookies.

We also won some other stuff and Jack got to hang out with his people and I got to say hi to a lot of people and then I got to sit quietly on a bench and try to not get overwhelmed by all the people and we also bought all of the Cheetahs’ merchandise up for sale and the Cheetahs raised a ton of money and I’m pretty sure Team Stimey contributed about a third of it through raffle ticket purchases for that basket of cookies.

Me wearing a Cheetahs hat and Jack drinking out of a Cheetahs water bottle.

Jack and I showing off our Cheetah gear.

All worth it for the team though. So worth it.

Saturday evening: Chill Out After a Busy Day By Heading to Costco on a Weekend

We go to Costco pretty much every weekend for milk and lettuce and stuff, so Alex thought we could get it out of the way by stopping by after the Cheetah-thon and no one had the nerve to tell him no, plus there is a delicious chicken place for dinner next to the Costco, so that’s where we went after ice skating.

Well, Sam and I went to Target first to return some shorts, but then met up with everyone else at Costco. Side note: Do you realize how short girl shorts are? Because I am living in that world now and I don’t know when a 3-inch inseam started being classified as LONG shorts, but jeebus, there is sooooooo much leg for teenage girls to show these days. Consequently, whenever I see shorts that pass my Mom Length Test, I buy them. And then Sam doesn’t like them and we return them. It’s like a fun little game we play that involves a lot of eye rolling on both sides.

Also, do you know who else goes to Costco on a Saturday night half an hour before it closes? EVERYONE.

Sunday morning: Drive 45 Minutes Each Way For Your Kid’s Bassoon Lesson

When your kid plays bassoon, you take your private lessons where you can get them. For us, that is a solid 35-45 minutes away. Every Sunday between 9:45 and 12:15, Sam and I take the long trip to bassoon lessons. On our way there, Sam tries to read on her phone and I try to have deep, meaningful conversations with her because she’s my captive audience. Guess who wins.

I have to say though, even if someone offered us bassoon lessons next door, we’d still go to this teacher. She is awesome. She has really done a lot to push Sam and to help her play with groups she wouldn’t have otherwise. We like her a lot.

Sunday Mid-day Chicken Interlude:

Quinn eats very specific fried chicken legs for school lunch every day. Every weekend, we have to go buy at least five chicken legs from a specific grocery store. Sometimes they don’t have chicken legs when we’re there and we have to go back later. It is ridiculous. Every once in a while we try to sneak in a leg from a more reliable, closer store. He is never fooled.

Sunday afternoon: Attend the Finale of Listen To Your Mother DC

This year was the last year for the fantastic Listen to Your Mother shows in DC. Having been in the first one, I absolutely wanted to be there at the end.

I’m so glad I was. Per usual, it was an amazing show full of laughs and heartwrenching stories and truth.

Sunday late afternoon: Run. Then When You Get Tired, Run More. Try To Run Through Three Jurisdictions.

I am running the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Even though it is a loooong ways away, I am already doing some hard training to make sure I am able to run it the way I want to run it. That means that I am doing long runs every weekend (with mid-length runs every three or four weekends to rest).

Because my weekend was so busy, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get my long run in or that I was going to have to wake up early to do it. (Gasp! The horror!) Then I had a brilliant idea: I could run home from Listen to Your Mother!

The show was at a theater in northern Virginia near a Metro station, so I Metroed down there and plotted a route home that would take me from Virginia, all the way through DC, and then to my neighborhood in Maryland. (I wish DC was a state so I could say I’d run through three states.)

Regardless, it was a little more than a 12-mile run and because I was running north, it was all uphill. (Just like all rivers run south, right?)

Elevation graph. It shows the elevation getting higher as I go, then it decreases some.

My Garmin says that I actually gained 732 feet. Just in case you ever wanted to know whether it is uphill or downhill into DC.

Now I understand why I was so tired when I got home.

Sunday evening: Collapse

I arrived home and sat down. I ate some food. I had to decline an invitation to ride my bike with the family to get ice cream. I took a bath and tried not to sink under the water. I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. It was awesome.

So, now you have some ideas of how to fill a weekend. I think this coming weekend will be similarly packed so I should have more ideas for you after you do all of these. But whatever you do, don’t forget the collapsing part. That is very important.

Alex’s Triumphant Footrace Debut

As you know, Alex has been running lately. He has worked his way through both Couch to 5K and Couch to 10K apps. At this point, his regular run is probably about 5 miles. He’s doing SO well. It has been really cool to watch him turn from a reluctant fine-this-is-good-for-me-so-I’ll-do-it runner into a huh-running-is-super-fun runner.

He has long maintained that he’s not into races, but as his goal is a half marathon at some point, it seemed smart to get him used to the race environment. Also, he has been less scowly lately when I ask if he wants to sign up for races. In fact, he even said I could look for a 5K for him provided that he could be kinda surly throughout and wouldn’t have to talk to anyone he knows before or after the event.

Challenge accepted.

It was surprisingly difficult to find the right race for him, but I finally chose the GW Parkway Classic, largely because it was far enough away that my Maryland running friends would not be there and because it offered both a t-shirt AND a medal, which is not something most 5Ks do. (There was also a 10-miler version, hence the medals.)

Alex grew surlier and surlier as race day approached, especially when he learned that because it was a point-to-point race, we would have to park, take a shuttle to the start, run, then take a shuttle back to our parking place. He did a lot of dramatic sighing when he heard that.

Then, when I told him we would have to leave the house at 5:45 in the a.m. because we had to drive to Virginia AND take a shuttle bus, he expressed surprise and alarm about the fact that we had to get up that early. I guess he never noticed how early I sometimes leave for races because he is sleeping right through my departure.

So he was already in a bad state about the whole thing when I heard the weather forecast for race day. I was all, “Alex, you’re going to start hearing words like ‘soaking rain’ and ‘Sunday’ together. Don’t freak out.”

To his credit, he didn’t freak out. He did, however, give me one of the most effective stink eyes I’ve ever seen him give.

Fortunately, by the time race day arrived, the weather had calmed and it was clear and cool. THANK GOD. I would never have heard the end of it had Alex had to run through a monsoon.

Also fortunately, this race was super well run and offered copious amenities. Catching the shuttle bus was super easy. And they weren’t even awful school buses, like at many races; they were regular city buses. It was delightful. We really wanted to pull the cord to request stops at lots of places, but we managed to restrain ourselves.

The bus let us off near the start line, which was at a beautiful green area next to the Potomac.

Selfie of Alex and I in front of the Potomac river. There are even geese in the background.

Many races start in a parking lot. Alex doesn’t know how good he has it.

There were also actual bathrooms there, which was nice not only because bathroom > porta potty, but because it was warm in there. Unfortunately, there were very much not enough bathrooms or porta potties for everyone at the start. That was my one complaint about the race.

After our stop at the bathroom, we took a trip down to the shore, where we were whale eyed by this guy:

Photo of a goose on the shore.

This goose has nothing to do with the race. I just like the photo.

We wandered over to the race area after freaking out the goose, where they had every amazing thing you could possibly want before a race (except a bathroom). They had space blankets to protect us from the cold wind coming off the river. They had giant blueberry muffins. They had bananas. They had hot coffee. It was unprecedented.

I took a space blanket, Alex took some coffee, then we wandered around, stretched, and Alex complained about the long wait until the start time and the fact that the DJ wasn’t playing his favorite music.

Goodness. All those paragraphs and we haven’t even run a step yet.

Start time finally arrived. We shuffled toward the start line together, crossed it, and Alex started putting distance between us. I had him in my sights for about a quarter of a mile and then he was gone.

It was a nice little course. Very pretty. Almost entirely flat. I was pushing my pace because of my goal this year of becoming speedier. I ran a speedy-for-me 34 minutes flat. Alex ran it in 31:26. Like a boss.

It’s been a week and the official race photos haven’t gone up yet, which is disappointing because I wanted mid-race photos to show you. You will have to make do with this one, which I forced Alex to pose for after we met up post-race.

Selfie of Alex and I post-race. He's holding up his medal.

Me: Hold your medal up.
Alex: *grimace*

I’m super proud of him. He totally killed it. I think he might have caught the race bug. While I was napping that afternoon, he was looking up his race results. Adorbs.

Way to go, Alex. I couldn’t be prouder of you.

Back in My Shoes

I had a really hard time making myself run after my marathon. I had hoped to keep up with at least 25-mile weeks to maintain my running capabilities, but I think my body and mind really just needed a rest. I eventually gave in and allowed myself to take some time, only heading out to run once or twice a week.

Alex is running these days, so if not for him inviting me on his runs, I might not even have done that. Hooray for Alex. Plus, he runs faster than I do, so he’s helping me with my “get faster” plan.

I am the type of person who needs an event hanging over my head to induce some panic training, so I wanted to put something threatening on my calendar that would force me into the streets.

Cue the Marine Corps Marathon 17.75K.

This is an 11.03-mile race that, if/when you finish, you are guaranteed entry into the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Registration was last Friday. It opened at 11am, which is when I registered. By the time I got home from work at 3pm and I looked at the site again, it was sold out. Phew! Glad I put reminders on my work calendar to sign up.

Happily, now I have a threatening event on my calendar—a marathon in October. Yikes! Also, however, I have to run this goddamn 11-miler, which, it turns out, looks fucking hard. (Hills, gravel roads, 11 miles, etc.)

Too bad I haven’t been running because that race is in five weeks. Double yikes.

Cue panic training.

I’ve just filled out my training calendar with every run I am taking between now and October 22. Seriously. Give me a date and I can tell you how far and how fast I’ll be running that day. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.

As long as I’m telling you about my running, I might as well tell you about the race I ran this weekend, which was called the Sykesville Shiver Shuffle even though it was 70-degrees outside and most people were wearing shorts. It made the guy there in the snowman costume look ironic. And it made the people who were running in Hawaiian shirts look less ironic.

This was just a 5k race, but its motto is apparently “Kill the hill!” because there is a big hill they make you run up. I was told that the first mile is uphill and then it is either flat or downhill with a one-mile all-downhill stretch at the end. That is all a bunch of lies though because every time I turned a corner, hey, guess what, another motherfucking hill. When I turned the corner with .75 miles to go and was confronted by another hill, I flat-out told the guy at the turn that this course was BULLSHIT. Because it was.

Regardless, it was a super fun course and at least they weren’t lying about the downhill stretch to the finish. It was one of those downhills where you just have to commit to gravity and have confidence that you aren’t going to fall because if you do, you are going to lose six or seven layers of your face. And probably a kneecap.

Photo of me running downhill. My hair is flying all round the back of my head.

I include this photo from the race mostly because my hair is fucking hilarious in it. While *I* was committed to gravity, my ponytail was not.

Regardless of hills, I still ran pretty fast, averaging about 11-minute miles, which is awesome for me. Yay, gravity!

Anyway, get prepared to hear lots of whining from me as I train over the course of the next few months because if marathon training in the winter in DC was obnoxious, imagine what marathon training in DC during the summer is going to be like. Blerg. Stupid Extremely Recent Past Stimey signing me up for this. But at least she’s getting me running again.

 

A List of Things Alex Did

You know how at celebrity award shows there is always some doofus who wins an award and then thanks everyone from her makeup artist to her lawyer but forgets to mention her partner, arguably the most important person of all?

Well. When Alex read yesterday’s post where I thanked everyone under the sun including a stranger who handed me a banana, he was all, “Too bad Alex didn’t help at all.” Then he threatened me with bodily harm if I tried to change the post after the fact.

I AM SO SORRY, ALEX. YOU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS.

Let’s take this opportunity to pretend that I had planned this post all along and I will tell you all of the wonderful things that Alex did to help me prepare for my marathon because seriously guys, I couldn’t have done it without him.

Photo of alex in a suit giving a goofy thumbs up.

Look how cute he is!

• Whenever I had a long run and only ran one direction because routes away from my house are downhill and routes back to my house are uphill, he came to pick me up.

• Sometimes he came to pick me up in really unfortunate places, like Georgetown on a Saturday night or next to the zoo during Zoo Lights a week before Christmas.

• When he picked me up, he would suffer through the stinkification of the car when I jacked the heat way up and sat really close to the vent. Trust me, that’s award-worthy right there.

• He let me structure the entire family’s schedule around my training calendar.

• When a family-related activity conflicted with my training calendar, he stepped up to be the parent-on-call.

• He let me go on a long run every Saturday when I would be gone for hours, then he let me come back and take a nap.

• When I had to get in a run, but knew I wouldn’t have time after work, he let me run in the morning and he would get all three kids ready for school and get them on their buses.

• He was my best cheerleader, never doubting that I would be able to run a marathon and making sure he let me know that.

• He put a ton of extra effort into leading the family when I was training. In terms of putting in a lot of work for something that had no direct benefit for him, he really stepped up.

• All actions including but not limited to the above mentioned activities.

AND

• When I called him after I finished last week’s marathon and asked him if it would be okay if I ran another one this fall, without hesitation he said yes.

Thank you, Alex. I love you.

Houston, We Have a Marathon

If any race deserves its own race report, it’s my first marathon. Last Sunday I ran my very first 26.2-mile race, the Chevron Houston Marathon.

Spoiler alert: Marathons are Hard.

Photo of me standing in front of a convention center with my arms upraised. The marquee reads " GRB Welcomes Chevron Houston Marathon"

I *think* “GRB” is the name of the convention center. It seems like a lot of work to look that up.

Before I get into how the race went, I’ll tell you of my original goals for it. These goals would change later in the race, but that’s okay. Originally I was hoping to run a 12-1/2 minute mile pace and I planned to run the entire race except for walking through water stops.

I ended up with an average pace of 13:23/mile, which is okay. That kept me under the official cutoff pace of the race. I ran until mile 20+ when I changed to some walk/run intervals for the remainder of the race. I really have no idea how much of the last five miles I walked, but I’m guessing it was probably two to three miles. I finished in 5 hours, 56 minutes, and 8 seconds. (That’s a long time to ambulate, by the way.)

But before all of that happened, I was up at 5:15 am and cheerfully waiting in my hotel room for 6 am to roll around so I could head over to my starting corral. I had gotten rooms for me and for my mom and stepdad (henceforth referred to as “Richard”) so we could be near the start line in the morning.

Photo of me sitting on a couch drinking a Diet Coke. I look cheerful.

Look how happy and blissfully unaware of the six hours to come I am.

I was set to start in Corral E, which was the last one. My family was nice enough to get up with me and walk over to the corral at 6 in the morning. I spent the next 45 minutes circling, fretting, stretching, and going back and forth from porta potty line to porta potty line.

Me standing on a street corner with my stepdad. I'm stretching.

This is me stretching. My stepdad wouldn’t let my mom take a photo of me in the porta potty line.

The weather is generally very mild for this race, but this year it was warm, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and high humidity. Thankfully it was overcast so at least there wasn’t much sun for most of the day. A few minutes before 7 I shooed my family away and wormed my way into the throng to wait for the start.

I waited, looking around as usual and then I had a thought. “Jean,” I thought to myself, “This is your first marathon. Take a minute to breathe it in and remember what it was like.” So I stopped and breathed it in and then I wormed a little farther ahead to get away from the porta potty and then I breathed it in again. Then I couldn’t stop smiling.

Start time was 7am, but I didn’t get across the start line until 7:30ish. That’s when I stopped smiling and got down to bizness. Bizness didn’t last long though because I passed my mom and Richard after about a quarter of a mile and my smile came back when I high fived them. Also, my name was on my bib, so bystanders did a lot of yelling of names and every time someone said my name it made me smile even more.

As I mentioned, it was pretty humid (by mile 2.5 I could already smell myself, which is never a good sign), but it was F.L.A.T., so going was good for the first section. There were lots of things to look at and the crowds were fantastic. There were people everywhere and they were all so nice. There was also Gatorade and water every mile and a half or so, so I drank a lot of liquid.

The first 8 or so miles the marathon ran with the half marathon, so there were lots of people. It felt amazing to take the right turn leading to the marathon route when we split off from them. That felt like a big deal. Suddenly there were a lot fewer of us and it felt different and kinda awesome.

There were also suddenly no lines for porta potties, so I took advantage of that, which also made me feel different and kinda awesome.

It was quiet along that stretch without a lot of spectators. I knew that the course would shortly pass my stepsister Sara’s church and I was hopeful that she would be out with her kiddo, Elliot. Sure enough, at mile 9, Elliot’s dad was suddenly there running alongside me, videotaping me as I passed Sara and Elliot on the corner.

It is amazing how much seeing my supporters on the sidelines affected my energy and pace. I was still feeling pretty fresh at that point, but still I perked up and headed off with fresh gusto.

There’s not a lot to report for the next few miles. I ran. That’s about it. I continued to hydrate. I was finally able to put on my sunglasses after a bystander handed me a tissue and I could clean the fog off of them (my clothes were entirely wet with sweat by then). Volunteers passed out wet sponges at mile 11. I encountered my first hill at mile 12 (freeway overpass), which is also where I saw a half marathoner trudging the wrong way along the course. I spent some time thinking about how awful it would be to take a right instead of a left and end up in a 26-mile race instead of a 13-miler.

I also passed my favorite sign right around the halfway mark. There was a man standing quietly by the side of the road, not shouting or cheering, and holding a small white sign on which was written in small black lettering, “You are doing good.” The simplicity of that sign made me smile for a long time.

Then it started to pour rain. Because we wanted ALL the weather that day.

At mile 15 I ate my Snickers bar, which did not melt, thank you very much, just in time to be captured by Richard’s camera as I rounded a corner to find him and my mom cheering.

Photo of me running. It is raining.

See me sucking Snickers bar out of my teeth there?

It was here that I decided to take my first break to stretch a little and also to ask my mom if I had chocolate on my face, because it is embarrassing if you are a chubby runner and you have, like, a peanut and a smear of caramel on your chin while you’re running a race.

Me bending over stretchng.

I look a little bit like I’m ready to barf here, but in fact I was stretching.

Sadly the rain had made my sunglasses unusable again, so I stopped to use a porta potty again and to use toilet paper to clean them off. The sun also came out, which was nice, but hot. This was the hottest part of the marathon, although it’s possible that I just stopped noticing at some point. The race had started under a yellow alert because of heat and humidity, but by the time I finished it was at red.

It was also around this point that I started to notice my mile splits were getting longer. I had been maintaining about a 12-minute mile for the first half marathon, but it was about here that they started getting longer. It looks like for my next marathon I’ll have to run longer more often during training.

I kept chugging along, although mile 16 and 17 were where I started to notice an upset stomach, which I think makes sense. I’d been expecting it. It was nothing too major, but just noticeable enough that I started to be more careful about what I consumed, trying to strike a balance between fueling enough and not, you know, puking on the course.

I’d expected to see my family once on the run, so it was a wonderful surprise to see them two or three more times on the route. They were so fantastic. I hope they know how much their presence meant to me. I loved seeing them and high-fiving them, although the last time I saw them at about mile 24, I did not want to spend the energy to veer away from the middle of the road to slap their hands, so I just mouthed “OH. MY. GOD.” at them and continued on my way.

Photo of my mom, Elliot, and Sara, taken by Richard.

See? Wouldn’t this cheer you up too?

My longest mile by a lot was mile 20. It took me 16:42 to traverse that section. I had started to feel a little light headed and so I slowed down and took time to stretch. It was also during the last quarter mile of mile 20 that I first took a walk break. I had badly wanted to run the whole marathon, but I was starting to realize that I could finish the whole thing or I could run the whole thing. I didn’t think I could do both. I felt a little demoralized about it, but decided that adjusting goals due to my condition was not the worst thing in the world.

I continued doing walk/run intervals, trying to run as much as I could. I also took a brief sitting break at some point to let my legs enjoy a bent position for a minute. I knew that even with my readjusted goals that I wanted to cross the finish line under six hours though, so I tried to keep hustling as much as possible.

At mile 23 I was trudging along near the side of the road when a stranger looked at me, looked at my bib, and said, “Jean, do you need a banana?” I nodded and she handed one to me. “Take little bites,” she told me.

That woman was my spirit animal. She got me, you know? She really, really GOT me.

Me walking in the last miles of the marathon.

I credit that banana with allowing me to smile when this photo was taken very late in the race. I wanted to pick it up and run past the photographer, but then decided a walking photo was an important record of this race for me.

Speaking of people by the side of the road, the bystander support at this marathon was phenomenal. Even when it was raining there were people out there. There were fantastic signs. There were people handing out pretty much anything you needed and often exactly when you needed it (tissue, banana, OMG those pretzels I ate at mile 17). I can’t even tell you how many people cheered specifically for me. That is a little thing, but it means a lot.

And I really needed all of that because by the end, my legs and feet huuuuurt. My earbud and the fact that music continued to play out of it was almost offensive to me. (At some point I realized that since I was only listening in one ear, I could switch ears. Brilliant!) A couple miles before the end, I reached for my waist pack and realized that my forearms were tired. My forearms. They hadn’t done anything. I guess I’ve pinpointed the wussiest part of my body.

Then, just as we were approaching downtown again, probably two or three miles out, a headwind started up. And I was all, “FOR FUCKING REAL?! Now you’re ACTIVELY pushing AGAINST me, Houston?” It was messed up.

Nonetheless, I persevered. I cannot even tell you what it was like to enter the city again. They were letting pedestrians by at one of the cross streets and I swear to God, if the traffic control hadn’t stopped people, I don’t know that I would have been capable of stopping myself from barrelling right through them. Because once I entered the city, I committed to running until the end and nothing was going to stop me.

Photo of me running. I look alright.

I know this was taken right near the end because of those barricades and also because I’d finally ripped out all of my earbuds altogether.

I actually look kind of all right in that photo. I look much less like I wanted to die than I felt in the moment. Finally it was there—the finish line, which I triumphantly crossed after 5 hours, 56 minutes, and 8 seconds.

Photo of me crossing the finish line. There is a digital clock that reads 6:28:35 above.

Ignore the clocktime. I didn’t get across the start line until 31 minutes or so.

Here is video of me lurching over the finish line and then immediately slowing to a walk.

My family was right there after I crossed too. I don’t know how they got there, parked, and forced their way to the front of the crowd, but they did and I got to see their smiling faces just after I finished.

I am going to run other marathons and I hope to run them with better time and endurance, but I am so proud of myself for this one and I am so grateful that I got to do it with my wonderful Houston family. Thank you. This marathon was an incredible experience and I am so happy with it.

But even though I had finished, it still wasn’t time to rest. I had to wander through the finish line area and pick up my finisher shirt and beer mug. (Really? Glass? They are lucky I didn’t immediately drop it what with my weak-ass forearms.) Then I had to continue through the long path through the convention center until I could get to the runner reunification area.

There was a woman walking in front of me and she was dragging her gear bag on the floor behind her. I sped up a little bit to tell her “The way you are dragging that gear bag is exactly the way I feel right now.” She looked at me kind of desperately and said, “It’s so heeeeaaavy.” We understood each other.

I had planned to meet my family under the “J” area at runner reunification, but unfortunately they were arranged in ranges and figuring out that “J” was between “H” and “L” took longer than I thought it should have. Then my family wasn’t there yet, and I spent some time turning slowly in circles and reciting the alphabet to make sure I had it right.

Suddenly though, they arrived and they were so congratulatory and my mom even hugged me (I wouldn’t have hugged me) and I felt so happy.

Photo of Sara, Elliot, my mom, me, and Richard.

My crew. <3

From there I only had to walk, like, a mile back to my hotel where we had late checkout so I could shower. Fortunately, my mom is brilliant and (along with requesting said late checkout) had brought a space blanket, which saved my life on the walk back. We walked along the race route and cheered on the last few racers.

Me wrapped in a silver blanket.

Not to mention that I think maybe space blankets hold in some of the stink.

I did it, you guys. But I didn’t do it alone. Thank you to everyone who cheered me on via Facebook and here. Thank you to everyone who texted me the day of the race—my waistpack kept buzzing as I was running so I knew you were in touch even if I didn’t see the texts until later. Thank you to my running friends at home who encouraged me through all of my training. Thank you to my mom, Richard, Sara, Elliot, and Ashley for your support on the course—you have no idea how much it meant. Thank you to Houston for hosting such a good marathon. And, perhaps, most of all, thank you to that lady at mile 23 with the banana.

Photo of me after the race holding my medal and grinning.

Marathoner.