Race Report: The 42nd Marine Corps Marathon

or, if you want to be dramatic about the whole thing: Stimey Versus the Marathon.

Pretend movie poster spoofing Joe Versus the Volcano that says Stimey Versus the Marathon

(Hat tip to Joe Versus the Volcano) Do you see that little tag hanging off of my race bib? It was my “free beer at the finish line” coupon. I knew I didn’t want a free beer, but I left it there juuuuuuust in case I changed my mind. It mildly bothered me for 26.2 miles. I didn’t want a free beer at the finish line. I knew I didn’t want a free beer at the finish line. I should have ripped it off at the start line.

Hey guys! I ran myself a marathon a couple weeks ago! I gotta tell you, I really did learn some things about marathons during this race. I also learned some things about myself. And I learned some things about marathons as they relate to myself. It was quite a mental journey.

If I had a bucket list, the Marine Corps Marathon would have been on it. My dad and my uncle were both marines and I have a fondness for that military branch. Plus, it’s a big, local marathon that takes runners sightseeing all over DC. I have wanted to run this race for a long time, so after I ran the Houston Marathon and was looking to do another one, hopefully faster and better, MCM was a natural choice. What could possibly go wrong?

My hope and goal going into this marathon was to not have to take walk breaks (other than through water stops, because I ALWAYS walk through water stops) and to hopefully finish it faster than I finished Houston.

Neither of those things happened. And I’m okay with that. I finished in 6:14:53 and I took a lot of walk breaks. Frankly, after about mile 15, I shuffled through the last 11 miles, either at a walk or a slow run. One of the things I learned about myself is that I am a person who, at this point in my running career, cannot run a marathon without taking walk breaks and that is GREAT. Because I have finished two marathons and I feel pretty darn good about that.

Let me start at the beginning.

Even getting to the start of the marathon was an ordeal. The Metro opened at 6am and I was on a train at 6:05. Trouble started when I and 80 gajillion of my closest friends got off the train at the Pentagon and tried to get up the escalators from the train platform. It took at least 15 minutes to do that, and the lines continued from there.

By the time I got to the pre-race runners’ village, it was well after 7 and every line for the porta potties was long enough to make me late to the start line. I had read the race booklet though, because I’m a nerd like that, and it said there were “150 lesser used” porta potties on the road where they start the race. I crossed my fingers and continued up the road, hoping they weren’t lying to me. Happily, the race booklet was right and I only had to wait behind about five people. I was very pleased with myself and also very relieved that I didn’t have to run a marathon with, like, 40 ounces of liquid sloshing around my insides.

I wormed my way up to the start line by 7:40, a full 15 minutes before the race was supposed to start. It was not a stress free or relaxing start to my day. But at least I wasn’t sweaty yet. Much.

Selfie of me before the race.

Look how dry and non-crampy I look.

There are three time cutoffs in the MCM (mile 17 at about 4-1/2 hours, mile 20 at 5-1/4 hours, and mile 22 at 5-3/4 hours). I was pretty sure that, barring disaster, I would make these cutoffs pretty easily. I was, however, worried that it would take me half an hour to get over the start line because I was in the back of the pack and that time would get me DNFed. Happily, things went smoothly, and even though they started the race ten minutes late, I was over the start in just a few minutes.

After I crossed the start line, I ran for six and a quarter hours and then I finished. The end.

Just kidding.

But there’s some truth to that. I spent a lot of time in my head during this race. My only constant was continued forward motion—except for that time I dropped my Clif Bloks and had to run backwards to pick them up. Otherwise, it was one foot in front of the other over and over and over.

This will sound obvious to all of you, but it hit me hard at about mile ten: Marathons are long. I felt tired pretty early on, but I’ve run tired before. It was fun to run down into Hains Point because that was the location of my first 10K almost exactly four years ago. Hains Point is also the location of the wear blue mile honoring fallen service members, which is really quite an amazing thing. I have never run a mile in a race where it was so quiet.

After all of that, you get to the halfway mark, which is great because then at that point you’re all in because it’s too late to turn around and walk back. (<—joke) Actually what the halfway mark means is that then you have to do what you’ve just done…again. But! Every step after the halfway mark is taken on the down side of the mileage.

Well. It made sense to me. There are all kinds of mind games I play with myself on long runs.

I ran for something like 16 years to get off of the peninsula. I knew that the national mall section was coming up and I was looking forward to that, but I forgot the two-something additional miles down and back Independence Avenue before that. I’m pretty sure there were monuments and views to look at, but I didn’t see any of that. (See: “I spent a lot of time in my head.”) I think it was in this area that I took my first walk break.

After that, I ran up and down the shaft of the race. (see map)

Map of the course. Part of it looks like male genitalia.

See it up there to the left of the Capitol?

The shaft portion was tough. I had expected to be a little more excited about running around the mall and past the Capitol, but mostly I was just tired and parts of my body were trying to cramp up, which is not something I usually experience. I stopped to stretch a few times, but I would, like, stretch my hamstring and my quad would seize up. At one point later in the race, I was moving from a walk to a run and my ankle tried to cramp. My ANKLE. I didn’t even know that could happen.

None of that is evident from this oddly cheerful photo though.

Photo of me running with the Capitol in the background.

I mean, except you can tell I’m going, like, 4MPH because even though I’m running, both of my feet are aaaaaaalmost on the ground.

Mile 20 is where you “Beat the Bridge,” meaning you cross over the 14th Street Bridge before the cutoff. People were very pleased to have made it.

A woman right behind me stopped suddenly with a cry of pain and I turned around and asked her if she was okay and she gave me this quizzical look and I was all, “I mean, you know,” and gestured at the road indicating the base level of suffering I was hoping she hadn’t crossed. This woman had zero words she could formulate about her state of being, but she nodded, so I carried on.

It was right around here that I determined that because I wasn’t going to win any land-speed records—or even Jean-speed records—that I was going to be cheerful and make jokes and generally try to have a good time for the rest of the race and not worry about my time at all. I figured I could kill myself trying to shave 15 minutes off of my time or I could enjoy myself—you know, to the extent that you can enjoy the last 10K of a marathon.

I was taking significant walk breaks by this time and I was not alone. It seemed like most people were doing the same. The last cutoff point was at mile 22. After that, I heard some people who were all, “Now we can walk the rest of the way. We did it!” Frankly, by the end of the race back at my end, many people didn’t seem to be doing any running at all, which was gratifying because I got to pass them. You know, verrrrryy slooooowly.

The bridge and subsequent descent into Crystal City was kinda brutal. It was HOT by this time and there was no shade. A marine was encouraging us by claiming that there was shade and water up ahead. He was right, and even better than that, there was also a fire hose spraying water into the air that we could run through. That was fantastic. There were maybe three or four of those in the next few miles, but one of them was on the far outside of a corner instead of the inside and after much internal debate I decided that I didn’t want to run the extra 20 feet, so I skipped it. I ran through the rest of them though.

Crystal City really pulled it out for us. Some lady gave me a handful of ice and at first I was all, “I really only need one of these, what am I going to do with the rest?” and then I discovered that each ice cube actually had four uses: (1) keeping my hand cool, (2) keeping my forehead cool when I wiped it with the ice cube, (3) cooling off the inside of me when I put it in my mouth, and (4) making me less thirsty. I realized at this point that I had lost all sense of personal hygiene (yes, I’ll wipe that on my body then eat it) and also, damn, I had been really hot. That ice pepped me up enough that I ran at a reasonable pace for a decent chunk of time.

A kid gave me a tiny cup of ice cubes later on and when I still had some ice in there, a different woman filled it with water and I had maybe two swallows of ice water at mile 23 and it was DIVINE.

After that, it was just a matter of slugging it out to the end along a long, hot road.

Me running. On a long, hot road.

I think you can start to really see my sunburn here. I didn’t feel it until hours later. I had other pains to deal with.

I amused myself by making little quips to other runners. (“Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch,” I told one woman I passed. “All the things on me hurt,” I said to a cheering bystander as I gestured at myself from head to toe. “If my watch says 26.2, does that mean I can stop?” I asked another, who told me her watch said the same thing. And so on.) There were others who were doing the same, and I found it very endearing.

The last quarter of a mile or so involves a left turn up a hill and then a flat tenth of a mile or so through the finish line. I didn’t sprint the hill or anything, but I have never felt a hill less. At this point, there was nothing that could put me through more exertion. Plus, I knew once I hit the finish line, I could stop running.

Me crossing the mat and giving a marine five. There's a medic in the forefreont of the photo.

That medic wasn’t there for me. I swear it.

There was a long line of marines standing in a line after the finish line giving high fives and handshakes to finishers. It was really cool. Although I think part of their purpose was to distract us from the long walk we had to make to the finish festival.

Before we left the finish area, there were marines giving out medals. But they weren’t just handing them to finishers. The woman who gave me mine put it over my head and then saluted me. It was quite a moment. A marine…saluting me. I felt pretty honored.

Selfie of me holidng my medal.

Proud.

Alex met me at the finish to drive me home, thank God, because I can’t even imagine standing in the line to catch a bus back to a metro station and then sitting on a train with all my sweatiest buddies. I ran 26.2 (or 26.73 according to my Garmin, but who’s quibbling?) miles, but Alex drove me home and he’s kind of a hero for that. He did make me walk up a hill to get to the car and he did walk faster than me, forcing me to hobble to keep up with him, but that’s okay. Also, like, three body parts seized up on me when I got into the car and I had to contort into a plank position in the seat to work all the cramps out.

And that was the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon. It was a journey, both literal and metaphorical. Like, I said, I learned that it’s okay for me to walk during a marathon and I don’t feel the slightest bit bad about it. I also learned that if you ever ask me how a marathon is, I will answer you by saying “hard.” Always and forever. Marathons are no goddamn joke. Another lesson was to get out of my head and focus on the experience, something I intended to do going into the race, but only managed to do for some of the miles.

Another very important thing I learned is that my body did the absolute best it could do at this distance. I realize that at my body weight and fitness level, I am not going to be running any speedier marathons any time soon. I think I might work on those things for a while and then maybe run another marathon in two or three years. I’m not saying never again, but I also know that two marathon training cycles basically on top of each other kinda wrecked me and I need to put in some serious work on myself before attempting it again.

Lastly, I learned that it is a good idea to buy a sweatshirt with an ostentatious marathon logo on it for two reasons. First, because if you spend a million dollars on a hoodie at the expo, you will finish the goddamn race so you can legitimately wear the thing.

My back in a mirror. I'm waring a sweatshirt with big letters that say Marine Corps Marathon and has an outline of the Marine memorial.

Also I learned how hard it is to take a mirror photo of your own back.

And, second, because if you wear it, people ask you if you ran a marathon. And you get to say yes. And they don’t care that it took you more than six hours. And you don’t really care either. And everyone feels good about the accomplishment that you achieved. No one more than you.

Photo of me in front of a banner that says #Marines Mission Accompolished

Mission accomplished. Semper fi, motherfuckers.

Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!

My family sitting on the curb at a parade.

Gosh, you guys, it’s been a while. I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now and I keep getting hung up on trying to recap stuff I haven’t told you. So how about I don’t do that and just plow on ahead?

Now that my kids are back in school and I don’t have to deal with (as much) working mom guilt and marathon-training mom guilt, I’m hoping to have time to write a little more. (Ha! You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?)

Anywho, things are going well. Alex and the munchkins are good, we went to see the total eclipse, we destroyed the lives of another group of ants in an ant farm, and I’ve been enjoying the golden age of television. Maybe I’ll write about some of that soon. Hopefully not the television part.

Mostly it feels like I’ve been running all the time. I only have about a month until my marathon and then I might take up another sport. Like competitive potato chip eating. If I suggest that I run another marathon in the near future, you have my full permission to hold some type of intervention. This intervention would probably have to include Alex, who is tired of coming to pick me up after I run 15 miles in one direction and then call him for help because I’m too sweaty to get into an Uber.

That said, Alex has been kind of killing it in terms of his own running goals. I had a 20-mile race that I wanted to run last weekend and they have a 10-mile one at the same time, so I talked him into doing the ten-miler. He did a great job training for it, although when I reminded him the night before the race that in 12 hours we’d be setting off from the start line, he gave me the angriest look I’d ever seen him give me. It looked like he wanted to punch me. You know how Past Jean always screws Present Jean? Well this time she also screwed Present Alex.

Although she was also the impetus for Alex’s triumphant finish of a ten-mile race as well. So, kudos, Past Jean. Also, kudos to Rock Star Alex. He really did an amazing job. I’m super proud of him.

Alex and I pre-race. We're both wearing black.

This was pre-race. It amused us that we both looked as if we’d dressed for a running funeral. We considered going up to the other runners dressed in all black and asking them if they were there for the funeral too, but we didn’t want people to think we were weird or something.

I also triumphantly finished my 20-miler by running my last mile faster than any of the prior six or so because I so desperately wanted to get to the finish line and sit down. I accomplished my goal though, which was to run the whole thing (except for water stops, which I always walk through), so I feel good about that. This course gave me a good idea of what to expect out of myself under race conditions. For example, I learned that for my marathon, I am not setting any time goals other than to go faster than the race cutoff. My sole goal is to grind through 26.2 miles without walk breaks. (I’m not against walk breaks, but I want to prove to myself that I can run the whole thing.)

I did take one, brief unscheduled break during my run to witness the brutality of nature. I almost never stop to take photos during races, but this one demanded it. Squeamish people who love deer, look away.

Photo of a dead, partially flayed deer by the side of a canal. There are two vultures sitting on him.

These vultures were, like, lifting flaps of hide offa this guy. It was a trip.

I also ran a half marathon the week prior to the 20-miler. I signed my entire family up to volunteer at the 9-mile water stop, so they were forced to be there to encourage me. I liked that. I should sign them up to volunteer at all my races. Perhaps their radiant love gave me a speed boost because I beat my best half marathon time by 21 seconds. That’s right—twenty. one. (<— I’m mocking myself here, but I’m still putting a little star by my results in my races list.)

Photo of me nearing the finish line of my half marathon.

Of course, my PR is many runners’ worst case scenario, but I race against me, not them, so it’s okay.

Alrighty, then. Here’s hoping I’ll be back before too much time elapses. I hope you all are doing well.

Run the Hill You’re In

I ran Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon last Sunday. I registered for it in a bout of optimism last March after successfully running a long, hilly race. I read, “Do you love running hills? Do you love running in summer heat? Does the DC area humidity inspire you to get out and sweat it out?” on the race description page and was all, “THIS IS THE RACE FOR ME!”

Just as a point of order, I don’t love hills, summer heat, OR humidity. But I guess Past Jean thought I did.

See, I am running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall and I figured that if I couldn’t do a tough half marathon in July, I had no business running MCM in October.

I ended up running just about 12 minute miles (I actually finished with the 12 minute pace group) at two hours and 39 minutes.

Me in a tank and shorts, running on a sidwalk

This is me at about mile 12.8. I had aaaaalmost reached the end of the hills. There was a gentle upslope almost to the finish line.

I was pretty happy with my time, especially considering the elevation, which consisted of more than 700 feet of elevation gain and nearly that same number of feet of elevation loss. I will run a flatter half marathon in September that will probably give me a better idea about my MCM pace estimate.

Photo of jagged up and downs on an elevation map

Yeah, I’m the dipshit who photographs a computer screen. In my defense, I was texting it to someone and the photo was easier than a screenshot.

I don’t think there was any flat ground. You might notice that long climb right at the end of the race. You might assume that it sucked. You’d be right.

I actually kinda really enjoyed this race. Maybe I DO like running hills. See, with uphills come downhills. Not to mention that it is more interesting to run rolling terrain than flat. And the course was really gorgeous. Also, due to Apple’s decision to make their new iPhone headphone jack-less and my absentmindedness regarding remembering to bring my adapter, I ran completely without music other than birdsong.

It was really sort of delightful. The race was on small roads surrounded by greenery, the sound of birds, and other interesting runners to eavesdrop on. Often on long runs, I am super focused on the distance that I’ve run, but at this race I just relaxed into it and kept on keepin’ on.

See how beautiful?

Me running up a road with green trees in the background. I am wearing shorts.

I just started wearing running shorts instead of capris this summer. That’s a whole other post. I have body image issues.

Riley’s Rumble provides sport popsicles at mid-race. That was awesome. Although I created a whole thing because I skipped the first few people and then when I demanded a cherry popsicle from the guy on the end, he only had other flavors and there was much flapping around (by me) and rushing for a cherry popsicle (by him) and I forgot to say thank you, so let’s consider this my heartfelt thank you because that popsicle was Good.

Speaking of popsicles, this race takes place at the end of July in the DC area, so it is generally super hot and humid. This year, however, the weather was gorgeous. It could not have been more suited for running. Also, much of the course was shady. (See above.) Humidity could have been a killer though. We got lucky.

I felt pretty good throughout the race, although I was definitely aware of how hard my legs were working. I’m trying to do less shuffling through races and more pushing myself during them, so I tried to keep attention on how I was running and how much energy I could expend.

At one point, on a kinda sucky uphill prior to the big one at 11 miles, I modified the running adage “run the mile you’re in” to “run the hill you’re in,” in an effort to focus on doing my best without despairing over the elevation to come. I gotta say, it worked.

I hadn’t managed to convince any of my running friends to run the half marathon with me, but there was an 8K race as well and my friends Lyda and Bob signed up for that one. The distance was shorter, but they still got to run the really crappy hills at the beginning and end, so you can feel reassured that they got their workouts in.

After their races, they stuck around for, like, an hour and a half to cheer me in. They even made a sign for me. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to see them. I was even inspired enough to ramp it up and pass two more runners between seeing them and the finish line. I wasn’t quite able to pass the 12-minute mile pace team (who had obviously trained together), but because I finished with them, I get to be the interloper in all their triumphant finish line photos.

Had you asked me at mile 12 if I was interested in running this thing again, I might have looked at you askance as I muttered “you can do it you can do it you can do it” to myself. In the afterglow of success, however, I could be talked into it.

I just hope Future Jean remembers that the Riley’s Rumble course is no joke if she decides to sign up. Fun, challenging, beautiful, popsicle-filled…but no joke.

Jean, Lyda, and Bob after the race. I'm holding a Riley's Rumble magnet.

My apologies to Bob and Lyda for making them stand next to the smelliest half-marathoner in the world to get this photo.

On to the next one.

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.