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Last year, I ran the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, my second half-marathon. A few weeks later, BWB and I were visiting his mother and discussing this event. I had been trying to convince him to come run with me, and his mother got involved. The short version of this story is that BWB agreed — nay, promised — to run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon 2011 alongside me. In front of his mother. Oh yes, he was definitely doomed at that point.

Fast forward to last December. We had been gradually increasing our running, but the time had come to commit to the marathon training program. To say BWB was uncertain would be putting it mildly. In retrospect, he says that his “I could do it if I want, I just don’t know if I want to” attitude was probably a cover for something more along the lines of, “I don’t think I can do this.” Early on, we had a couple of training runs which ended, quite frankly, in tears and yelling. After the second or third of these calamitous endings, we sat down and talked. Well, mostly, I talked. I told him that I didn’t want him to do anything I wanted to do, or to feel forced into something, but that the idea of crossing the finish line together was incredible to me. Nobody I love runs, so nobody understands exactly why I do these things. I wanted to share that feeling of accomplishment and joy with him. For his part, he told me he was scared that he wouldn’t be fast enough, that he’d slow me down, that he would disappoint me in some way. I said that wasn’t possible, and I promised to be patient.

A few days later, I registered both of us, and it was a done deal.

Training began in earnest, and except for a few missed runs while we were in very cold places, we stuck to the schedule. In evaluating our pace, we figured out that we were probably going to shoot for a 15 minute mile, with our goal to finish at around 3:15:00. BWB asked me what time I finished at the last time I ran it, and I mumbled something faster than that. He looked crestfallen, “I’m slowing you down.” No, no, honey, it’s not about that. This is exactly what I want to be doing.

Race Day. Out the door by 6am, parking at the finish line, and a shuttle to the start line. It was cold, but we had planned for this, and the next thing I knew we were standing with our start wave, bouncing up and down to keep warm (and from the excitement), then crossing the start line, then running down Tchoupitoulas. Together, every step of the way.

In the middle of the race, we were doing really well, sticking with the plan and pounding through. At some point about mile 8, I realized that if we managed to maintain that pace, we would finish at under three hours. I started to push us towards that goal, run a little harder, move a little faster. BWB figured this out in the middle of a scheduled walk break and gave me a hurt look, “Why are you pushing so hard? I thought this was about finishing with me.”

I paused. The drive to finish faster was mine, not his. When I had been pushing him, I thought it was because he would be even more proud of himself if we managed to finish so much faster than expected. I thought he would be delighted by that finish time, that the race would be even better for him. All of that was me, though — I was pushing my feelings, my goals, my interpretation of success and achievement, projecting them onto my husband. His goal was to finish, to finish around 3:15:00, and to finish together. Those were the goals I shared at the start of the race, and it wasn’t fair to decide on his behalf that he would be happier if I changed them for him mid-stream.

So I said, “You’re right, honey, I’m sorry.”

He looked at me suspiciously and asked me what the catch was.

I explained, apologized again, he forgave me, and we went on to finish the race.


Crossing the finish line with him was even more amazing than I expected it to be. If I hadn’t been slightly dehydrated at that point, I think I would have cried. We finished in 3:03:00, twelve minutes faster than expected may I point out. It was amazing and wonderful and beyond worth all of the effort and struggle.

BWB says he wants to do another half, and then start looking at a full marathon. I’ve never done a full, although I’ve wanted to. It seems big and scary and long, and I’m a little intimidated by the distance. That’s not going to stop us, though. We’re going to do our first marathon, and cross the finish line holding hands.


I’m always curious what people have on the playlists they run or workout to.  I find it really interesting to see what music strikes other people as inspiring or driving.  Sometimes it’s clear that people have selected songs based on the rhythym, cadence, or beat, where other times it seems like the choice was made more for the content of the lyrics.  I have a little bit of both on mine, and I thought I would share my current playlist on the premise that I might not be the only musical voyeur out there.  The only songs I took off of this list are a bunch from Study With Substance P.  Substance P is a guy who has set some important medical facts to music in an attempt to make the brute force memorization require a little less brute force.  I highly recommend these tracks to other health profession students, but they’re not really relevant for anyone else.  Unless you’re weirdly interested in random medical knowledge, in which case more power to you.

The only other note I have is that I am also subscribed to the podcast from This American Life, and when I have longer runs I often opt to listen to that instead, or some combination of the podcast and the music.  I’ve been thinking about delving into the realm of audiobooks, but haven’t done so as of yet.

And now, without further ado, White Horse Girl’s running playlist:

All Nite (Don’t Stop) Janet Jackson
Alles Neu Peter Fox
As Cool as I am Dar Williams
Beep The Pussycat Dolls
Bitch Meredith Brooks
Black & Gold (Who Dat!!) K. Gates
Boom Boom Pow Black Eyed Peas
Breakaway Kelly Clarkson
Breaking the Habit Linkin Park
Bring Me to Life Evanescence
Buddy Holly Weezer
Burning Love Elvis Presley
Catch My Disease Ben Lee
Cobrastyle Teddybears featuring Mad Cobra
Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color for Your Eyes Kristin Andreassen
Defying Gravity (Dance Mix) Idina Menzel
(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar The Guild
Dragostea Din Tei O-Zone
Flood Jars of Clay
Get the Party Started P!nk
Girlfriend Avril Lavigne
Give It to Me Timbaland featuring Justin Timberlake & Nelly Furtado
Gold Digger (Featuring Jamie Foxx) Kanye West
Gone Daddy Gone Gnarls Barkley
Great DJ The Ting Tings
Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk!) Ying Yang Twins & Homebwoi
Haste To The Wedding Corrs
I Write Sins Not Tragedies Panic! At The Disco
If Janet Jackson
In the Belly of the Whale Newsboys
Jenny Says Cowboy Mouth
King Without a Crown Matisyahu
Let It Rock Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne
Livin’ on a Prayer Bon Jovi
Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
Mercy Duffy
Piece of Me Britney Spears
Poker Face Lady GaGa
Pump It Black Eyed Peas
Quick Eddie From Ohio
Right Round Flo Rida
The Saints Are Coming (Live from New Orleans) Green Day & U2
Shine Newsboys
Smooth Criminal Alien Ant Farm
Some Days You Gotta Dance Dixie Chicks
Stand Rascal Flatts
Stick to the Status Quo High School Musical (Soundtrack)
Stronger Kanye West
Switch Will Smith
The Tale of Mr. Morton Skee-Lo  (School House Rock! Rocks)
Telephone Lady GaGa & Beyonce
Tubthumping Chumbawamba
Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss Bloodhound Gang
Under Pressure David Bowie & Queen
Uptown Girl Me First & The Gimme Gimmes
Walk Away Kelly Clarkson
Wannabe Spice Girls
What Do You Hear In These Sounds Dar Williams
What Do You Love More Than Love Dar Williams
What I’ve Done Linkin Park
What You Waiting For? Gwen Stefani
You Give Love a Bad Name Bon Jovi

Okay, now it’s your turn!  What music is on your exercise playlist?

Two and a half years ago, I went on a bike ride with a good friend.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the grass was green, the pavement was hard, my head was not… The day ended poorly.

Since then, my poor little bicycle has been sitting forlornly in the corner.  It is a fantastic bike, one I acquired when a Team in Training mentor was upgrading to a custom job.  This bike has done two Ironman triathlons.  It was seriously a downgrade in ownership when it came to me, and has only gotten worse over the last two years of non-use. Alas, the poor neglected bicycle.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of getting on the bike or anything, I just didn’t want to.  Just never came up.  No need.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Fast forward to the Mardi Gras Marathon in February.  Standing there at the start line, feeling the rush of adrenaline that comes from standing in a crowd of people about to do something amazing, I remembered why races are so motivating for me.  That morning, I decided to do another race, and soon.  By the end of the week, I had decided that I would do another Olympic-distance triathlon in October, and then shoot for a half-Ironman next spring.  I’ve done tris before, and am excited to get back into it.  There’s part of me which is tempted to aim for a full Ironman, but the half seems more sensible, and my husband appreciates it when I am not broken.

Of course, making this decision meant I would have to actually get back on the bike.

I have put together a training plan which takes me as far as the Olympic distance race, and it starts at the end of April.  The first week, the plan calls for a 45 minute bike ride one day and an hour ride on another.  It occurred to me (since I am clever) that I might want to get on the bike a few times before attempting this 45 minute bike ride, not to mention the hour long ride, and so I worked backwards to create a gradual increase and all that responsible, sensible stuff.  (See above.)

Today, I had the monumental task of 15 minutes on my bike.

I am only partially being sarcastic.  It really did turn out to be monumental.

First there was the helmet.  I have a new one, since generally when one puts a dent in one’s bike helmet one is supposed to replace it.  This meant I had to fit the thing, which proved to be entertaining.  Apparently either my head is small or they just like to give you as much strap as possible in an attempt to give your cats something to play with.  It took me probably 20 minutes of yanking and sliding and twisting and un-twisting to get it to where it would go on my head, at which point I remembered that helmets are not made for ponytails, or buns, or really any hair at all.

Then I went out to the shed and grabbed the bike.  I had it tuned last year, thinking I might actually get on it then, so I knew it was in decent if not perfect shape.  The tires, of course, needed to be pumped up.  I took off the little black plastic cap, stuck the pump thingy over the stem bit that pokes out of the wheely round thing (try to keep up when the language gets technical, it’s a challenge), and started pumping for all I was worth.

Nothing happened.  Or more specifically, nothing happened with the wheel.  The pump was exceptionally recalcitrant, I was literally jumping up and down on it to try and get it to move, and yet the tire was still as empty as an Alaskan former governor’s head.  I took the pump thingy off, fiddled with it, put it back on.  Nothing.  Took the pump thingy off, shook the pump (a variant of percussive repair), put it back on.  Still nothing.  Just when I was coming to the conclusion that I would need to either replace the tube or the pump, and that I was going to have to take both in to the bike shop, I realized my mistake.  See, on these fancy tires, you take off the black plastic cap, and then there’s this little metal bit that has to be loosened, too.  Except I hadn’t loosened the metal bit. Very glad I had realized this before making an idiot of myself to the bike shop guys, I loosened the metal bits and was then successfully able to pump up the tires.

Finally, I was going to be able to get on the bike and ride!  I walked the bike around to the front of the house and prepared to ride off into the sunset like a real live athlete.

Or not.  As I started to get on the bike, I could feel my heart rate increasing.  Perhaps there was more to this not riding the bike for two and a half years than just not feeling the need.  I took a deep breath, told myself that I was not about to die, and clipped in to the pedals.

A half a block later, I was thinking, this isn’t so bad, hey look I even remember how to shift gears!

Another half block later, I realized I had forgotten how to un-shift.  I could shift up (I think), but down was right out.  (Or it might be vice versa, I have never been able to keep those straight.)  I stopped, unclipping my feet in time to not crash and burn — you laugh, but you should see the bumps, bruises, and abrasions I sustained the first time I rode clipped in! — and then sat there for a minute or two trying every combination of pushing, pulling, and twisting I could think of to get the gear moving shifting cable things to go the other direction.  Eventually, I figured it out, got back on the bike, and started riding again.

And I rode.  I rode around in circles.  I rode past cars.  Cars rode past me riding.  I went over a gravel-ish spot.  I rode on some broken pavement.  Mostly, I rode around about a 3-block radius from my house, convincing myself to relax every time the road was uneven (and there’s a lot of that here in New Orleans).  At the end of 15 minutes, I felt like I might have just ridden the entire Olympic bike leg.  But I did it, and I didn’t crash and burn.  I didn’t even fall once.

Thursday, I will get on the bike and ride some more, and this time I will venture out beyond a three-block radius.  My plan is to go down St. Charles to Audubon and do loops there.  I’m starting slow and working my way up.

What I realized today is that my bike training is going to have two components this summer.  There’s going to be the part I do in the gym on a stationary bike or in a spinning class, which will be where I work on the strength and endurance I need.  Then there’s going to be the part where I get on my actual bike and go ride in the actual world, and that is going to be a lot more about re-learning to trust the bike, trust myself, and enjoy the road.

I have a confession to make.

I don’t actually like to run.

Oh sure, there are days when the runner’s high catches me and I feel like I could go for days, bopping out to pop music I would never admit to enjoying and freaking people on the streetcars out (“why is that girl grinning like a crazy person?”), but those days are rarities. More often, I have to drag myself over to my shoes, my inner toddler throwing fits while the rational adult informs her that no, not being able to find the pink socks is not an excuse to skip the run today.  (She has a point.  I mean c’mon, can you really expect me to run WITHOUT THE PINK SOCKS?  The horror.)  I dread leaving the house.  I mentally calculate how much longer I have, eagerly anticipating walk breaks and water stops.  The first block or so, I always consider turning around and just going home.  Do this run tomorrow, I rationalize, when you’re not so tired.  Except tomorrow, I’m still tired, and now I feel guilty as well.

No, for the most part, I don’t really like the act of running.  Especially the first quarter of any run, that’s the worst part.  The entirety of the thing looming out there in front of me, long and dark and arduous.  It’s much better once I’ve come to the halfway point, or when the chipper voice of my Nike+ starts counting down the last 400 meters.  With the end in sight, I have renewed energy and motivation to get to my goal.

In case there was any doubt, the goal in this case is to get out of these sweaty clothes and into a nice clean shower.

I am sure after the preceding paragraphs, one might seriously question why on earth I would ever willingly choose to inflict this kind of suffering on myself.  The answer is, I like goals. Not the shower at the end of the run goals, the big goals, the kinds of goals that make you feel like the queen of the universe when you accomplish them.  In other words, I am the kind of person that would climb a mountain just because there was one there that needed climbing.  For better or for worse, I like a good challenge.

I started running because I wanted to do a triathlon, and in order to finish one, I would have to run.  So, I got some shoes and started running.  I did one little sprint triathlon, and then later I went on to an Olympic distance.  Eventually, I did a half-marathon, too.  All of these events were spread out over the course of years, and I noticed a funny thing.  If I was actively training for a specific race, I would run (or bike, or swim).  Not only that, but I loved my schedule.  I love watching my mileage increase and my times get faster.  I enjoy the process of training — making a plan, following the plan, and reaping the benefits in the form of a medal and the rush at the end of the race.  It feels really good to cross that finish line and know that I’ve done something that I never would have thought I could do.

Of course, the converse of this is that when I don’t have a race in mind, I don’t run.  Are you crazy?  Why would I put myself through all that for nothing?

At the moment, I am training for the Mardi Gras Half-Marathon, which will be run on 28 February 2010.  I’ve had a few lapses in training, mostly related to the wedding and being in Chicago where it was too cold to even think about going outside — seriously, I think I got frostbite from considering the idea — but I’m back on track now, and looking forward to that race.  My husband hasn’t seen me run any races, as my last one was before we started dating, and I’m especially excited that this time he’ll be at the finish line waiting for me.  I can just imagine coming across that gateway, and getting my medal, and giving him a big, sweaty kiss while he tells me how proud he is of me — yeah, that’s a pretty great feeling right there.

I don’t actually like to run, but I do actually like the way it feels to finish a run, any run.  Finishing races is amazing, but even at the end of a short 30-minute easy run I get a great sense of accomplishment.  I did it.  I beat it.  I win at today.  Go me.

Some days, finishing a 30-minute easy run is the only thing I feel that way about.  On those days, I still don’t like running, but the runs are what keep me sane.

Someday, I want to do a full marathon.  Someday I also want to do a full Ironman triathlon, but I think that someday is farther off.  Someday, maybe the days that I enjoy my run, the actual running part, will outnumber the days that I don’t.  Someday, maybe I will be one of the runners I admire at the gym, all muscle-y and fit looking.  Okay, maybe not that last one.  But the other three, those are still on the table.

In the meantime, I’ll be slogging along the neutral ground, getting extra protein in my teeth from the swarms of gnats that seem to have decided that January is a great time of year to go sightseeing, mentally dragging my inner three-year-old as she has the mother of all tantrums about having been forced out of the house in BLUE SOCKS for pity’s sake, and trying to keep in mind why I’m doing this.  Keeping my eyes on the prize.

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