Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Broad Street Run 2012

Guess what? I paced myself and was rewarded with a good race. I don't think I could've run any better.

This is what I looked like 6.5 miles in. I was about to "chick" someone. (Thanks to my friend Farrah who took this picture and cropped out the runners in front.)

With this, I retire.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CRAMPS (Philadelphia Marathon 2011 Race Report)

C.R.A.M.P.S. = Cheung Runs A Marathon Painfully & Slowly (or Positively Splitting)
This pretty much sums up the last eight miles of my marathon on Sunday.

Marathon day was beautiful - sunny, temperatures in the 50s, slight breeze. Pre-race logistics went smoothly -- bathroom, breakfast, drive, pumped, banana, bathroom, shed layers, national anthem. I found the 3:10 pace  balloons in the Maroon corral right away and lined up near them. I was neither nervous nor cold. I felt ready.

Instead of the gun, there was a countdown. When we started running, the pace felt like my last few marathon pace runs. It felt smooth and easy. I was relieved. I was almost giddy to be running through Center City on this brilliant day, with the view of a sea of bobbing heads in front of me. I felt so alive and so lucky to be part of what feels like a giant parade. Chestnut Street was Philadelphia Marathon's version of First Avenue of the NYC Marathon. It was lined with spectators screaming their lungs out. Awesome!

As we made our way up 34th Street, I looked at my watch. It read 50 some minutes at around 7 miles. I was right on time. Noah met up and ran a little bit with me shortly after, and when he peeled off, his friends Elaine and Roger were there with an Occupy Philly Marathon sign to cheer me on. I waved to them.

I kept this steady stride through Fairmount Park and West River Drive, staying on the fringe of the pace group and enjoying the scenery. The half was over in 1:34. I performed a mental check-up. How are the legs? Good, a little tired, not tight. Lungs? Good, still breathing through nose. Stomach? Fine, maybe thirsty, but that's fixable.

I knew that the Kelly Drive portion would be the toughest. On my last long run, I actually rehearsed my self-talk in this portion of the race. Noah joined me just past the boat houses. I don't even remember what we talked about. All I remember was constantly wondering if I shouldn't have got ahead of the pace group and if I should slow down a little. Looking at the splits after the race, I might have upped the pace from 7:15 to 7:00 when I hit Kelly Drive. But I decided to keep going because I felt fine.

Then, around mile 17, I got a cramp breeze. Cramps are my crutch in every marathon and I had made a point in my training design to prevent them. So, I knew it won't be "just a breeze." I backed off a little and the pace group caught up to me. At mile 18.5, I got my first Charlie Horse. I ran with it, dragging the cramped up leg with the other until the cramp subsided. At the Wanderers water stop, I grabbed a cup of Gatorade from Bob. It was useless.

For the remainder of the race, I got cramps on the calves, shins, feet, and toes of both sides. Serial cramps. Increasing in duration, frequency, and intensity. They reminded me of labor pains. Some of the cramps caused me to limp. In between cramps, I tried to run my normal pace and stride. On Main Street, I started to lose the pace group. I looked for Melissa and Ezra at the turnaround but missed them. They saw me and took the picture below. (Check out the forced stride.)

I felt like I was dying publicly. My legs and lungs were still strong, I was ready to race tired, but the cramps took over completely. All I could do is continue to put one foot in front of the other.

I passed the Wanderers water stop at mile 21 on the way back. I waved hello to people and tried to look normal. Then, I looked for Noah, who would run with me most of the rest of the way. He was tremendous - making up stories to tell me, reminding me to breathe, helping me stay up during the most severe cramps.
I thought about what Betty told me the night before, "Expect something to go wrong. Then you don't have to worry about it." I thought about my mom, who in addition to being a supermom, is also a super grandmom. And Zonker, who I've missed every Tuesday night when I did my long run. I thought about what a privilege it was to be able to run a marathon. The people in my life let me get away with having a full-time job, an adorable son, and time to run.

Those 5 miles took a while, but eventually, I got within sight of the finish line. People were cheering wildly and I kept hearing my name (thank you, Kelly). But there was no sprint finish.  I merely dragged my sorry legs across the timing mats. The time on the clock read 3:15:59. My net time was 3:15:32. The cramps cost me a PR, but you know what? It's done! I'm a marathon momster! Just like having a kid, it was hard and painful and totally worth it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Not doing much today

I'm not doing much today. Why? I will be running my sixth marathon tomorrow. I'm hoping to finish, have a good experience, and have a good time, in that order. I might PR but I probably won't. I'm just looking forward to running with a ton of people without a target on my back, with expectations relatively low.

My training has gone well. I made an abbreviated plan and followed it since mid-August. This plan consisted of 5 days/week of running building up from 40 to 50+ miles/week. Most of the miles were done when Zonker was sleeping, or when we thought he would be sleeping. Each week I did one faster-pace run, one trail run, and one long run that's a run commute. That's the gist of it. No cross-training. For me this is a minimalist plan with low mileage. When I wrote it up, I just wanted to get to the starting line without injuries, to keep my quality time with Zonker and Noah, and to see if doing speedier runs would help me avoid calf cramps late in the race.

Marathon training added to a very busy Fall. It hasn't been easy to combine breastfeeding with marathon running. But with the help of my mom, who took care of Zonker three days a week including every Tuesday night when we did a long run home from work, and Noah, who ran all of the long runs with me, I'm here, on the eve of the race, in one piece. I'm sitting on a chair, not lifting a finger, dreading both the taper and the end of it. I can't decide what to wear, how I'll feed or pump milk before the race, how and when to take gels, etc. I'm not sure how tough I'm going to be. I wish I could say I'm looking forward to the race, but I am mostly scared of it. I want it done. And then I want to play with Zonker and not have to worry about tiring myself out doing it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How Zonker Became Zachary

So, yes, we named our baby Zonker.
Kind of, anyway.
The birth certificate says Zachary. That's not really what we call him though.
People have been asking us how we came up with the nickname, but truth be told, we had the nickname first. See, we didn't have a very easy time coming up with a name. Even after a full day at the hospital – when Zonker already was a living, breathing human being – we didn't have a name.

Except that, early on, we did have a name. Ana. A girl's name, because we were thinking (in the lack of any actual evidence either way) that we were having a girl. So we'd talk about her as Ana. 'Do you think Ana will have my teeth? Do you think we should send Ana to public school or private?'

Then it turned out we were having a boy. And the name search went back to the beginning.

"How's Sam doing?" Or, "Has Ben been kicking a lot today?" We tried a bunch of names out like that. Aaron, Max, Henry. None of them quite stuck. We did call him Piglet a fair amount, but that's not really a name. I tried to get myself to like the name Abraham, for my grandfather who passed away a couple years ago. But I could never quite embrace it enough. We were scrambling for names, and the due date kept getting closer.

Then I got the Doonesbury retrospective for my birthday. And for some reason, I started calling the kid Zonker.
And it stuck. Nothing else had, this had. "Has Zonker been kicking much?" "Do you think Zonker will get your eyes?" It just sounded right.
I just wasn't sure that I could put "Zonker" on my son's birth certificate.
Not Helen – she was sure. "We are not putting Zonker on the birth certificate."
So, ok, group decision and I was wary anyway. So we weren't going to name him Zonker. But that just left us back where we started. We never did come up with any other name that stuck.
Helen gives Betty credit for this, but for me it was Helen that suggested it – if we name him Zachary, we can call him Zonker.
That, then, is the story of how Zachary became Zonker.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Definitely our child

Look at those lungs!

Our little Zonker arrived on St. Patrick's Day. He weighed 6 lbs, 9 ozs and was 19 inches long. We are doing well. He's got big feet, meaty and fin-like (with medium-low arches) . At first we thought that meant he'd be a swimmer like his mom, but then we gave him a bath and learned that he doesn't like the water. If he decides to be an endurance athlete, he will be able to use that innate ability to scream for hours with the look of suffering on his face.

For those who tuned in to this blog to check out our running, I jogged 3-6 miles a day until the day I went into labor. After the baby "dropped," I actually felt better and could maintain 9-minute/mile pace. Since he was born, I've rested for a week and then have been walking a few miles everyday. Childbirth is *so much* harder than marathons, but I think running has helped me have a quick delivery and recovery.