On Tap for Today

A fun loving, inspired living blog


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Today: A few of my (current) favorite things.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens (ew, I hate cats).  Let’s just cut to “a few of my favorite things.”

Basil grown from seed

I started growing these little guys from a seed kit early this summer.  While the basil isn’t quite ready to harvest, or whatever, I am quite surprised I’ve kept it alive this long.  I sneak over to the windowsill a few times each week to water the canister, and linger just long enough for a whiff of fresh basil– one of my favorite scents in the world.  Every once in a while I pick up Clark so he can have a sniff, too.  On second thought, maybe I have terrorized the basil to the point that it won’t grow any taller?

Christmas anything

We came home from New York to a full mailbox, stuffed with holiday-themed magazines.  With training behind me, and a wobbly foot below me, I can think of no better way to pass the time than tucked under a warm throw on the sofa with Martha Stewart at my side.  Will this be the year I sew felt slippers for everyone I know?  Likely not, but a girl can dream.

I’ve been alternating between sports talk and the oldies station in Boston that is already playing exclusively holiday music during my brief commute to and from work.  It feels so wrong, and yet so right.  Nothing cures a long day at work quite like a solo-sing-along on Massachusetts Avenue.  Everyone sounds good singing Christmas carols.  As my friends on 98.5 the Sports Hub would say, Fact.  Not opinion.

I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and that I shouldn’t wish away the time, but peppermint and snowflakes and tinsel are my lifeblood.  I can’t help it.

Paper straws

What’s whimsical but sturdy, candy-striped but calorie free?  A paper straw.  One of life’s little luxuries and better for the environment than, um, plastic straws (but worse than say, not using a straw at all)… this little jar is a great reminder to keep throwing back that water.  Not that I need much of a reminder, as I am perpetually thirsty.

Want to hear a sad story about water? (It’s not really that sad, and yes, I am well aware how lucky I am to have a reliable source of clean, drinkable water.)  When I finally crossed the finish line last Sunday (I promise to stop talking about this sooner rather than later), yanked my right shoe off, and hobbled the eleven blocks to the park exit, all I wanted was a cup of water.  And a chariot to transport me to meet my cousin, sister, and fiance.  And a warm bath.  And six bags of cheese doodles.  Okay, I wanted a lot of things… but water was at the top of the list.

We were given a bottle of water in our finishers’ bags, but my hands were full, and mostly, I felt crazy.  Too crazy to open the bag and peel the cover off the bottle.  I made a deal with myself: hobble the three additional blocks necessary to grab a taxi, get situated while waiting for a cab to arrive, and break into that stash of water and pretzels.

With no free cabs in sight, I opened my bag, fished out my water bottle and set it on ground next to me.  I called Nick to tell him it may take me a while to get to them, feeling equal parts sore and discouraged.  Just as I hung up, a car careened past me, hitting my water bottle and smashing it flat, sending water clear across Amsterdam Avenue.  Being the most pathetic person on the planet (or at least, the block), I burst into tears.  And then got refused by a taxi driver who clearly thought I was mentally insane.  Waaa.  Anyway, I like straws.

Getting jacked

Though I’m registered for a race next month (I am planning to dress as a Christmas tree.  See tinsel as lifeblood above.), I want to make sure I give my little body plenty of time to recover before hitting the road.  Instead, I will hitting the gym.  Hard.  Sort of.  I’ve really loved strength training at the boxing gym, and am looking forward to upping the ante a bit.

Nick is helping me navigate Stage 1 of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, which seems to be a great jumping-off point and the perfect set of goals to work toward.  I’m also looking forward to putting my TRX to use, cashing in a Groupon for a 10-pack of yoga classes, and making time for all the things I put off “because of the marathon.”

With cats to hate basil to grow, holidays to celebrate, water to sip and iron to pump, I have a feeling I’ve got plenty to keep myself busy.  Hopefully so busy that I don’t have time to act on my inclination to register for another marathon.

Also On Tap for Today:

Care to share a few of your favorite things?


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Today: Follow the signs.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]As I’ve mentioned once before, marathons aren’t easy.  That’s sort of the point.  This past weekend’s ING NYC Marathon nearly broke my foot (or maybe it did?  I haven’t made it under an X-ray device quite yet.), but New York City stole my heart.  It’s taken me a few days to recount the experience, as I’ve been at a bit of a loss for words.  Moans and groans?  Yes.  Thoughtful, coherent words?  Not quite.  Lots of sleeping? You better believe it.

And then this morning I had the chance to talk with someone about the quieter things.  We didn’t talk about how many hills there were, or those infernal bridges.  We didn’t talk about the medal, or how a Gu somehow exploded in my pocket before the race even started.  We talked about the little moments, each adding up to something so huge that it could push, carry or drag me across the finish line.

I’m not especially in tune with the Universe, but every now and then I look up from my iPhone or Sudoku puzzle, and I notice the smaller things.  The signs.  If there was any question that Sunday was going to be a day to remember, all I had to do was follow the signs.

I am proud of you.

Before I even entered the athletes villages at Fort Wadsworth, I saw an older woman, standing by the side of the road with a handmade cardboard sign.  “I am proud of you, complete stranger,” it read.  I had heard story after story about the incredible crowd support in New York, but if this woman was the only New Yorker I saw all day, she would have been enough.

After finding my way to the green village, I spread out my trash bag and hunkered down with a pre-made PB&J (which tasted like an old shoe), and waited to be overcome with nerves.  And waited.  And waited.  But somehow, amidst the buzzing of 45,000 other runners sampling random flavors of Power Bars (witnessing this gave me a second-hand stomach ache) and going through their pre-race rituals, all I felt was ready.  This, from the girl who usually becomes a hot mess before a walk to work or a friendly 5k.  I knew I had done the work.  I knew I had a plan.  I knew that this was my day (and, like, everybody else’s, too… fairly certain that’s bad grammar.).

Brooklyn loves marathoners.

As I took off running up and over the Verrazano Bridge, and Sinatra crooned over the speaker system, I felt invincible.  Coming down the backside of the bridge, I reminded myself to stay the course.  Slow and steady, not free-wheelin’ and crazy.  After peeling off my gloves and dealing with the aforementioned gu-tastrophe, I looked up to see a man holding a “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign.  Alongside him was the first of several “Brooklyn loves marathoners” signs.

And, man… do they know how to show marathoners the love.  I felt my heart swell with every word of encouragement, every high five, every smile, every nod.  I have never heard my name pronounced so many different ways.  I have never made non-awkward eye contact with so many strangers.  The crowds were dispersed perfectly– there were so many people out on the streets that the energy was constant, but not so many people that you couldn’t say thank you.

There was a rush of noise at the top of every hill, around every turn.  I fell in love with the New York Marathon in Brooklyn.  And fell out of love with it in Queens… just kidding… or am I?  In all seriousness, Brooklyn practically ran those 12 miles for me.  Sort of.

Beware.  Hipsters ahead.

I knew exactly which block my friend Meg would be standing on in Williamsburg, but at some point, I lost track of where that would be mileage-wise.  In an especially daft moment, I mistook the Harlem United cheering zone for our entry into Harlem.  10 miles too early (with no bridge yet crossed, nor 1st Avenue climbed).  When I looked up to see a sign warning us of hipsters ahead, I knew Williamsburg, and therefore Meg, wasn’t far away.  I picked up my pace just a bit, and registered the only bit of soreness I was experiencing: on my face… from smiling.

After hugging Meg and Sue over and over, I set off, feeling like this was going to be the run of my life.  Which was fitting, because I planned to never run again after Sunday.  Not for the T, not from a strange dog, not from a strange man, even.  I was going to crush New York and then hang it up for good.

I’m just trying to cross the street.

An especially cheeky fellow in Brooklyn held up a sign reading, “I’m just trying to cross the street.”  He was either joking, or he needed to make more of an effort.  Dude was just standing there.  He got me thinking, though, about how grateful I should be.  And, most of the time, I am.  I am amazed my body can do this.  But beyond that, some people really are just trying to cross the street, while I get to spend hours lost in thought.  Hours jamming out to Michael Jackson.  Hours running through the city, with only one task at hand: to keep running.  Running is a privilege.  It’s a luxury.

Though at points it sort of felt like I was being poked with a red-hot poker, no one was forcing me to run.  This was a choice I made.  And I am darn lucky to have choices.  Thank you, snarky spectator, for reminding me of this.

Hurry up so I can watch football.

As runners, we ask a lot of ourselves.  We also ask a lot of other people.  We need people to encourage us, to support us.  We need people to walk our dog when we’re out on long Saturday morning runs.  We need people to help us find the perfect shoe, and give us advice.  We expect people to put up with our overwhelming volume of laundry.  We need people to listen to us tell the same stupid marathon story six hundred times.  We need entire cities to shut down, just so we can live the dream.  Marathoners allegedly make up 1% of the world’s population.  The other 99% has better things to do. Like sleep outside South Station in tents and make broadcasts over the “people’s mic.”  Just kidding… kind of.

Thank you, kind sir in the Bronx, for the laugh.  And the reality check.

The body says, Stop.  The spirit cries, Never!

You know how I feel about boxing, so when I noticed that one spectator had borrowed a lyric from Survivor’s “Burning Heart” (yes, from Rocky IV), I just about fell to my knees.

In the warrior’s code

There’s no surrender

Though his body says, Stop.

His spirit cries, Never!

By the time I saw that sign, the race of my life was far behind me.  Shortly after texting Nick “I feel great!” I started to feel… not so great.  I pushed over the Queensboro Bridge, knowing that I would be coming around the bend onto 1st Avenue soon, where Nick, my sister Andrea, and my cousin Katie would be just blocks away.   By the time I reached Manhattan, that legendary “wall of sound” was more like a small row of shrubbery.  Or an old picket fence.  I didn’t mind much; my personal cheering section awaited.  I leaned over the barrier, and buried my head in Nick’s shoulder as one or two tears snuck out.  The three had a plan to see me again towards the finish, so I moved along with that to look forward to.

Thirty blocks later, I saw Kristine running towards me for a big hug.  Am I lucky or what?  I stopped to walk with her for a few minutes, and even sat down to stretch.  Just shy of mile 18, I felt some real concern creeping in.  My foot shouldn’t feel like this, I kept thinking.  Eleven minute miles became thirteen mile minutes.  Though I was still running, I was getting passed by people walking.  Hell, I even got passed by a joggler.

What started as a dull ache in my right foot around mile 16, soon became a sharp pain.  The last eight miles of the marathon were brutal.  I knew something was wrong.   I tried to focus on that sign, and the encouraging smile of the woman holding it, hoping it might carry me to the finish line.  I wanted to cross that last mat so badly, and felt my spirit crying Never! just as I felt my eyes, well, actually crying.  Good thing I’m not melodramatic, eh?

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

Several people advised me to have plenty left “in the tank” for the last few miles.  Despite the best of planning and intentions, I felt like I was trying to coast in on fumes… uphill.  I wasn’t expecting 5th Ave to be such a climb.  I also didn’t expect my iPod to time Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” so perfectly.  I sort of wanted to drop that thing down a storm drain.  But then I saw a solitary sign, left propped up against a tree.  A nod to Friday Night Lights: Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.  No matter how much it hurt, I wasn’t going to lose.  I couldn’t.  By the time I saw Nick, Andrea and Katie at Mile 25, I could barely put pressure on my foot without wincing.

With tears streaming down my face, I pushed and pushed and pushed through that last mile.  I thought about all of those people who stood along the Bay Ridge Parkway, 4th Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn.  I thought about the people on 11th Street, 48th Avenue, Vernon Boulevard, 10th Street, 44th Drive, Crescent Street, and Queens Boulevard in Queens.  I thought about everyone on Willis Avenue, E. 135th Street, 3rd Avenue, Morris Avenue, E. 138th Street, Rider Avenue, and 138th Street in the Bronx.  I thought about the people on 1st Avenue and 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and the people who stayed so late in the day to lend their support in Central Park.

I thought about that woman, by the side of the road, on Staten Island, who told me and 45,000 other people that she was proud of us.  I thanked God (and the people who actually put magic marker to poster board) for all of those signs.

In the final 800 meters, I saw the one sign I had been looking for all day.  I looked up.  It said, FINISH.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the best marathon sign you’ve ever seen?


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Today: Here we go again.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]You know something’s up when you’ve got paper cuts from flipping through old issues of Runner’s World, your blisters grow their own blisters, and giant boxes of Gu Chomps arrive in the mail.

It’s time to train for another marathon.  I learned a lot while training for, and ultimately completing, my first marathon.  That’s one of the great advantages to being a slow runner.  You’re out there for so long, you can’t help but gain experience.  Most of what I learned was really awesome.  For example:

  • The marathon is a gift you give yourself. Like most experiences in life, you get out of it what you put into it… but I hobbled away from the marathon feeling like I had hit the jackpot.  I learned a lot about myself during those hours on my feet, and over the course of our training.  I proved to myself that I can do something pretty incredible.   I overcame physical weakness with emotional strength I didn’t know I had.  And on top of that, I had a really, really good time (as in experience, not clock time… obvi).
  • The marathon is a gift your fellow runners give you.  Unlike 5k or 10k races, people actually talk to one another during a marathon.  The “we’re all in this together” spirit is pretty unbelievable.  My marathon experience feels sort of like a quilt of people sewn together.  It boasts patches of Endorphin Dude, TNT runners from chapters across the country, and a leukemia survivor from Long Island that I was blessed to run alongside for a quarter mile or so.  These people gave me laughter, inspiration, and courage.
  • Running a marathon is hard. That’s sort of the point. There were moments that broke my heart, and miles that nearly broke my legs.  There were times when I wanted to quit, and felt so sick that I worried I would have to quit.  But nothing– nothing– can compare to the overwhelming joy I felt when being thanked by a spectator, encouraged by a coach or fellow runner, and having a big, fat medal draped around my neck.  I did it.  And if I can do it, you can too.

[Read the original marathon recap posts here.]

And everything else I learned can be filed under learn from these mistakes, or else.

The months of training leading up to the marathon are the hard part.  The marathon itself is a party.  Free Gu for everyone, yes even you with the IBS!  As training was winding down the first time around, I felt burned out, stressed out and wanted to punch anyone and everyone wearing Spandex.  Including myself.  Nay, especially myself.  This time around, I have shortened my training plan by a few weeks and am concentrating on making every, single workout count.

I am building in incentives (pedicures, YouTube videos of micro pigs, a new hoodie or twelve, Harry Potter movie marathons, six hour naps, etc. etc.) to stay motivated.  This time around I am more excited than terrified (though I am a little terrified).  My freezer is stocked with ice packs and my cabinet is stocked with peanut butter.  Plus, I have a really cute new sports bra.

I am making time for strength training, cross training that I actually enjoy (and does not involve pedaling a bike to nowhere), stretching, and thoughtful fueling.  My training plan is a mash-up of the NYRR official plan, our old Team in Training plan, excerpts from Four Months to a Four Hour Marathon, and a series of complicated numbers I accidentally typed into the calculator on my iPhone.  Essentially, it looks something like this:

  • Sunday is for recovering: 2-3 mile run, no watch, lots of stretching
  • Monday is for speed: soccer game or track workout
  • Tuesday is for kicking ass: boxing class
  • Wednesday is currently a wild card: rest or cross train (will soon be swapped with Friday, as long run mileage increases)
  • Thursday is for tempo: 2-6 mile run, focus on pacing with a good warm up/cool down
  • Friday is for getting my ass kicked: fighter conditioning class
  • Saturday is for long runs: slow and steady

I am ready for Number 2.  Sort of.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your favorite incentive for staying on track?


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Today: Turn two.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Technically, On Tap for Today turned two four days ago, but I sort of forgot.  I thought it might be fun to go back and read my first post, but in reality, it was more weird than fun.   Sort of like hearing your own voice on the answering machine.  Like, when people still used answering machines.  I think I might bring back the paper beers, though.  What do you say?  Does anyone know a house elf who is particularly adept at cutting out bottle and mug shapes?

 

A few old favorites:

While we’re playing favorites, here are a few of my favorite posts:

I never really imagined anyone would bother reading this nonsense besides Nick (because I’d make him, obvi), and maybe my parents (because I’d make them, obvi)… and maybe the person who keeps finding On Tap for Today by Googling “a pitcher of a puppy.”

Blogging has become a great creative outlet for me, and provided some real motivation to not sit on my sofa all day painting and re-painting my nails.  I’m truly thankful for the great relationships and adventures that have come from clicking publish.  And I really do appreciate your stopping by every now and then to read up on my antics.  For real.

Also On Tap for Today:

Is it too soon to be excited for the holiday weekend?


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Today: Run for your lives.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Happy National Running Day!  And Happy 1st Day of June!  I’m sure there are plenty of other things to be happy about… so Happy Everything Else, too!  I always love the start of a new month (and clearly, exclamation points).  With the big focus on running today, I’m looking forward to a summer (and fall and winter) full of races.  What’s On Tap for the rest of 2011 race-wise?

Summer

Fall

Winter

Basically, if I didn’t register for 50 million races, I would never run.  Ever.  I would just sit on the sofa at watch Masterpiece Theatre.  I ran my first race 4 or so years ago, at Nick’s encouragement.  I saw how hard he was training, and the pride he felt with each new PR.  I regularly ran on the treadmill at the gym, though without much purpose.  I’d watch the timer tick down from 30 and be done.  Running with a goal in mind– finishing a race– was a whole new ballgame.  I found myself wanting to run further, run faster, and run longer.

My first trip across the finish line wasn’t pretty, but that feeling of accomplishment and relief coupled with overwhelming desire to either take an immediate nap or drink a celebratory beer was instantly addictive.  In just a few short years, I’ve gone from wondering if I could run a 5k to knowing I can run a marathon.  I’ve saved every single race bib and medal (the ones shaped like bottle openers are especially useful), and will soon be featured on a special runners edition of Hoarders.  Just kidding.  Unless that’s a real thing, in which case… producers, call me.

A (pained) smile made for television, don't you think? No? Maybe? What if I promised to shower first?

I am not especially good, and I am not especially fast.  Sometimes I take walking breaks.  Sometimes I forget to charge my iPod and after a mile or two, I want to commit criminal acts.  I am not a zen runner.  I spend more time starring at my watch than I should.   I don’t always stick to the plan.  I have been known to skip a workout here and there.  Sometimes I worry too much about who’s faster than me or what I am wearing.  But other times, I just run.  I don’t run like the wind; I am more of a slight breeze.  But when I am caught up in the moments, rather than the minutes, I am unstoppable.  And if I can be unstoppable, you can be unstoppable too.

Whether you’re a veteran runner or thinking about getting started, the National Running Day website is packed with great information.  A few links worth exploring:

One foot in front of the other, my friends.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you most looking forward to this month?  Are you celebrating with a run today?


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Today: Early bird special.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Today, instead of devoting 58 minutes to trying on five thousand work outfits, and subsequently forming a Mt. Saint Helens of clothes on our bedroom floor, I went for a run.  What brought about this deviation from my normal routine of wasting time, you might ask?

...this is partly why I stuck to the treadmill this morning.

I’ve been slacking.  Big time.  The problem with being important busy, is that there are never enough hours in the day.  I start the day with the best  of intentions, a bunch of things happen and suddenly it’s time to go to bed so that the bags under my eyes stay on my face, and don’t migrate any further south. I’ve let running take a back seat.  With a half marathon on the schedule in just a few weeks, my longest run has been 8 miles.  In other words, I sort of blew it.

I could give you a bunch of excuses (I have a really good imagination), but I’d rather take responsibility for my under-training, and let the past’s mistakes inform the future’s successes.  Whoa, that sounded good.  I wonder if I made that up? I spend most of the afternoon yesterday speech-writing… where was that gem when I needed it?  Anyway… I’ve emailed the race directors and asked if I can switch to the 5 miler.  They were happy to oblige.

[Photo source]

Why have a miserable 13.1 miles and risk injury, when you can have a fun 5 miles and be done in time to cheer on Nick and the rest of our team?  I have a half marathon On Tap in early August, hopefully the Falmouth Road Race (though I likely used up all my good race lottery juju already), and most exciting of all, the New York City marathon in November.  That’s two, possibly three, chances to stick to my long distance training plans, ramp up the intensity a bit, and make changes where I need to.

Change #1: Work out in the morning, if I know there’s even a chance my evening will get consumed by work, life, or Jeopardy!.  No excuses, play like a champion.  That first change precipitates a second change: Safety first.  Running in the wee hours means I’ll need two things: a plan (which I will communicate in advance to Nick and Clark) and reflective gear.

I don’t want to get hit by a car, but if I do, I’d like someone to find me before I get hit by another car.  Or the MBTA bus.  Those things have no regard.

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you a morning exerciser?  What’s your secret?  I want/need all of them…


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Today: I feel like I won the lottery.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Because I did.  Seriously.  Except that it’s the kind of lottery that costs money when you win, and has the potential to break your legs and crush your soul.  But like the regular lottery, it can change your life.  By some miracle (or computer glitch), I was one of the lucky few to gain entry to the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.  And I am freaking out, man.

Secret identities rule!

At 12:30 this afternoon, I checked the selection website and then re-checked it and then re-re-checked it and then danced around my office to the point that I got a weird foot cramp.  And then I tweeted the good news, a bit worried of sounding like an insensitive braggart, and was overwhelmed by the encouragement I received.  I am so grateful, especially knowing that very few people were selected.  Unfortunately, it seems like everyone I know (Nick included) didn’t get in.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to it, and I am not sure how I got so lucky.

Mile 26: A great place to stop for a photo.

I do know this, though: I am going to make the most of this opportunity.  And I am going to run my little heart out.  I had no idea how badly I wanted this fresh shot  at 26.2 until I was almost certain I hadn’t been selected.  This time around, I’ll do a few things differently:

  • I will believe in myself, knowing that I am a marathoner, and that I am capable of crossing that finish line.
  • I will run my own training runs and race, and spend less energy worrying about being slower or weaker that my fellow runners.
  • I will not eat anything produced in a Walt Disney World kitchen (and subsequently star in MTV’s True Life: I ran a marathon with amoebic desentary).  For real.
  • I will train harder, but still sensibly.
And one (huge) thing I won’t change:

Oh, and I’ll still probably cry on my long runs.  Maybe I was chosen by the NYRR for sheer comedy?

Also On Tap for Today:

Have you been lucky lately?  If you had a chance to do something over, would you do anything differently?