Sunday, January 29, 2012

(Recovery) Week(s) in Review

1/23 through 1/29:
55 miles
0 days off
0 doubles
0 workouts

1/16 through 1/22:
0 miles
7 days off
2 hours elliptical
5 days in SLC
4 airports (BOS, DEN, SLC, JFK)

As promised, I took an entire we
ek off from running. Eight days, actually. My first run after the Trials didn't occur until Monday afternoon, shortly after arriving on a red-eye flight from Salt Lake City after an exhausting week/weekend of working the Outdoor Retailer show. I don't know what I was expecting from that first run back, but what I got was one of the most humbling experiences of my entire life. Simply put, it was awful. Every stride felt slow, awkward and incredibly unnatural, almost as if I'd never run before in my life. Really? I asked Running. I've given you so much of myself, day in and day out for the past however many days, and this is how you choose to repay me? By making me feel as though I couldn't run one single mile at my marathon pace right now if my life depended on it? How rude.

Fortunately, my runs got better, albeit only marginally, as the week progressed. By Saturday I felt ambitious enough to embark on my first double digit run, bolstered by excellent company. Emily and Carly drove up from the city and I took them on a few loops of the Neck before returning
to the fort for a gourmet breakfast whipped up by Jordan. (While I truly hate that he's not running right now, I always appreciate a well-crafted flapjack.) On Sunday I reciprocated the drive by meeting Emily, Carly, Teresa, Terry and some new (to me) BAA faces for a "long" run on part of the Boston Marathon course. They planned to do an 11-mile loop twice, but once was more than enough for me at this stage in my recovery. Though it was ridiculously windy and my legs felt pretty terrible climbing the Newton hills, I was definitely glad I made the trip. I look forward to many more runs and workouts with these guys as I return to serious training.

What I've been doing in the evening instead of doubling

For now, however, I definitely plan to take it easy for another week. I may throw in a baby workout on Thursday or Friday if I'm feeling frisky, but I plan to keep the mileage where it's at and really listen to my body. It's silly to jeopardize some potentially great spring performances by rushing back into things now. I've got big goals for 2012, and it's important to keep the big picture in mind. So instead of training my heart out, I'll just live vicariously through my friends and training partners as they knock out some great workouts and races. Life could be worse!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

(Trials) Week in Review

55ish miles
26.2 mile long run
2 days off
4 days in Houston

6 AFDs

The CRC Musketeers after the pre-race dinner

I'm not sure if the 'ol "Week in Review" post is necessary this week, but I guess I'm a creature of habit. It's worth noting that I took a day off on Thursday (unforeseen, due to a hellacious day of travel which even now pains me to recall) and of course Sunday after the race. While my legs were surprisingly not destroyed--surprising both due to the fact that I, you know, ran 26 miles for the second time ever, but also because almost the entire race course was made of concrete--my feet were a totally different story. Thanks to all the turns and the aforementioned concrete, Allison and Caitlin and I and I'm sure a hundred other people suffered from some pretty debilitating blisters. To make this even more graphic for you, I'll share that around mile 25 I felt one underneath the first metatarsal head on my right foot swelling and ballooning up with fluid. This, as you can imagine, made each pounding footfall increasingly more uncomfortable than the one that preceeded it. With less than half a mile to go until the finish, I suddenly stopped feeling it. Instead of being relieved, I realized with a sense of dread that this could only mean my blister had popped. It did, and it had, and I'm pretty sure a week from now I'll still wince at the memory every time I step down on it too hard. Ah, the glamorous life of a marathoner.

One other point of note, which may or may not be of interest to anyone except myself, is that it turns out I didn't slow down nearly as much as I thought during those final miles. On the contrary, the splits show that I stayed more or less on pace even though every sensory cue from my body
indicated otherwise. The slowest mile of the race was actually mile 14, when Caitlin and I took a break from leading our pack to let someone else take on a bit of the work. While we greatly appreciated her willingness to help, in hindsight this mile and the one immediately following it cost me almost 30 precious seconds. I'll never know whether this was the exact moment where my hopes of sub-2:40 were lost, but it definitely didn't help. See below for the play-by-play (and note that the first mile numbers don't match up due to the difference between chip time and gun time). Regardless, I read somewhere that only 34 women PR'ed at the Trials, and I'm proud to be included among them.

Meagan Overall Mile Splits
6:23 0:06:20
12:21 5:58:00
18:29 6:08:00
24:29:00 6:00:00
30:32:00 6:03:00
36:43:00 6:11:00
42:54:00 6:11:00
48:54:00 6:00:00
55:03:00 6:09:00
1:01:10 0:06:07
1:07:18 0:06:08
1:13:24 0:06:06
1:19:33 0:06:09
1:25:56 0:06:23
1:32:09 0:06:13
1:38:12 0:06:03
1:44:27 0:06:15
1:50:35 0:06:08
1:56:45 0:06:10
2:02:53 0:06:08
2:09:01 0:06:08
2:15:17 0:06:16
2:21:29 0:06:12
2:27:32 0:06:03
2:33:44 0:06:12
2:39:51 0:06:07
2:41:06 0:01:15

So, moving on: what's next? Such a simple question with no readily available answer. Much of this spring's training and racing depends on how quickly my body recovers from this weekend's little jaunt. Though highly out of character, I plan on taking a full week off with no running whatsoever, no matter what, effective immediately. It's rare for me to take more than one or two days off even over an extended period of time unless I'm injured, but this is a conscious decision that I think will benefit me tremendously in the coming months. Last year after Mercedes, I felt decent enough after the marathon that I ran 60 miles the following week and never really allowed myself any down time. In hindsight, I'm sure this is what led me to feel sluggish for months afterward any time I tried to run fast and probably also contributed to the fierce case of IT band syndrome that flared up in mid-March. So, in an effort to actually learn from my mistakes, I plan to be extremely cautious when coming back this time around. Forced rest won't be easy, especially considering how ingrained I've become in my daily routine, but I'm confident it's the right decision.

Enjoying some time with the parentals on Sunday morning

And so, at long last, the "2012 Olympic Trials" chapter of my training and racing has drawn to a close. It's hard to comprehend, after investing so much of my physical and emotional energy into this pursuit over the past year, that it can be brushed aside so easily. But although the race itself is now behind me, the entire experience has definitely renewed my will to train, to compete, to become a better and more experienced runner. I'm so excited to see what the coming year brings!

But first, I rest.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

US Olympic Marathon Trials Recap

Goal #1: Finish
Goal #2: Finish not last
Goal #3: Finish with a PR (sub-2:45:00: 6:18 pace)
Goal #4: Finish top 50
Goal #5: Finish sub-2:40 (6:05 pace)

Actual: 2:41:05 (6:08 pace)
49th place out of 152 finishers
Results; Mile by Mile Splits
Splits (that I remember): 10k @38:00; 10 mile @61:10; 20k @1:15:55; 13 @1:1
Slowest mile: 6:23

Fastest mile: 5:58
Goals Achieved: 1-4

My alarm went off at 5:15, but it was unnecessary. I'd been thinking of this morning, dreaming of it, consciously and subconsciously, for almost a year. I looked over at Jordan, who was also wide awake, and we both wordlessly swung our legs over the side of the hotel bed and stood to our feet. It was time.

An hour later, our backpacks filled wit
h various race-day miscellany, we slowly trotted down the darkened early morning streets of downtown Houston. Leaving the Residence Inn behind, my destination was the Hilton, then Caitlin's room, then the George R. Brown Convention Center, and then my destiny. Not listed in order of importance. As Caitlin and I filed into the elite athlete holding area, flanked by Jordan and Garrett, the incomprehensible reality that we were actually doing this became ineluctable. My entire body tingled with nervous energy, though on the surface I remained quiet and calm. Caitlin, Megan Hovis and I situated ourselves along a side wall, soon to be joined by my friend Allison. Almost one year ago Allison and I roomed together at the 2011 Houston Marathon, both of us walking (hobbling) away from that event feeling more discouraged than triumphant. This year, this time, we were determined to work together with Caitlin for our vindication. With 30 minutes to go we were herded down the escalator and outside to the elite athlete staging area, and you could almost feel the collective sharp intake of breath as we were thrust into the cold, wind-blown shade of the downtown skyline. After a few minutes of jogging, a stride or two, a bathroom trip or four and a hasty discarding of clothing into the bag drop, I found myself being led to the starting line.

How to describe the feeling? Surreal, yes. Overwhelmed, for sure. Nervous, excited, anticipatory; all accurate. But as I queued up behind the starting line, the starter's commands nearly drowned out by the noise of the crowd, my peripheral vision a blur of broad stripes and bright stars, everything else was superseded by an almost eery sense of calm. Caitlin and I turned to each other and grinned, our faces mirroring the same understanding: this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it was time to make the most if it. Less than a minute later, we were off into the early morning sunshine.

As Caitlin described in her own fantastic race recap, the first 10 miles passed almost imperceptibly. I don't remember any physical effort being expended, although I'm sure it was. After completing a flat 2.2 mile loop of the downtown area, we circled back through the start (and finish) area before heading out on an 8-mile loo
p that we would cover three times before finishing our journey exactly where it began. (Is there symbolism there? Maybe. Who has the time to uncover it all.) During these early miles, Caitlin and I worked diligently to cultivate a pack of like-minded runners, to varying degrees of success. Allison was invested, and though her words were minimal, her consistent stride and quiet confidence spoke volumes. At one point our group would swell to almost 10 women, but the entire first half of the race found Caitlin and I bearing the brunt of the leadership responsibilities. Every so often another woman would join or another would drop back, but by midway through the second loop our formidable cadre had whittled down to four, the original three plus Laura Farley. Laura and I had never met before, and may never again, but for the next hour I would swear she was one of the best friends I'd ever known. That's part of what the marathon does to you, of course. It breaks you down physically, scrambles you emotionally, blunts your powers of reasoning and perception--sometimes all at once.

And we ran.

We passed together under the finishing clock after the second loop, a mere eight miles separating us from the sweet relief of no longer pushing our bodies past the point of sensible resistance. My feet had long since relinquished any protest, instead succumbing to the cruel concrete and myriad turns that the criterium course had forced upon them. To say that I had developed a few blisters would be equal parts completely accurate and wildly insufficient. I could sense that Caitlin was faltering along with the fragile equilibrium of our group. I turned back once, then twice, beckoning her to follow, but from that point onward it was eyes straight ahead. I wasn't feeling so chipper myself, and as the 20-mile marker came and went so did my contact with Laura and Allison. I asked, begged, pleaded with my body to stay in contact, but it had other plans. As the two of them slowly slipped away, so did my hopes at sub-2:40. My foggy brain couldn't do the math, but it didn't have to. Somewhere deep inside, with the inner metronome finely honed over miles and trials too numerous to count, I knew. And so I trudged along in the grim resignation of no-man's land, fervently willing myself to stay positive even when innate, primitive self-preservation instincts screamed at me to STOP.

I didn't stop. Each step was a renewal of will. I focused on one runner ahead, then the next. A few minutes later I realized I was approaching my friend and one-time training partner Megan Skeels. As I pulled up alongside, I could tell that she was foundering. "Tuck in with me," I implored. "We
can still break 2:40." It was a lie; we couldn't. But part of me was still trying to convince myself, to reaffirm why I was still pushing and pushing and forcing every muscle in my body to endure this assault. Megan shook her head; the movement was slight, but it said enough. I pulled ahead, turned and motioned her to follow, then continued on in my single solitary provision of hell.

I've often heard it said that the marathon is a war of attrition, and never has that truth been more evident than in these final miles. As terrible as I felt, as certain as I was that the n
ext step could be my last (did I mention exaggerated suffering? another unfortunate side effect), I was still passing people. And not just people. People I had absolutely no business finishing before. Names I knew, faces I recognized from running magazines and articles and training groups and the actual profession of running. I was dying, but then again I suppose it's all relative.

With two miles to go, I saw Jordan. This was the second or third time I'd spotted him, though he swore he had shouted at me almost 10 times. It was entirely probable, just like it was probable tha
t my mom had screamed my name as I passed at mile 8, just like Rebecca Thomason and my high school coach and Matt Jaskot and my dad's running partner and my former teacher and a dozen other people had stood less than an arm's length from me at some point during the morning, pouring their energy and enthusiasm into me. No, seriously. I mean, don't get me wrong, I heard plenty of generic cheering. I also heard lots of voices shouting my last name, which was splayed across my chest via my bib number. (And, astonishingly, although every customer service representative and solicitor under the sun seems to bumble their way through the pronunciation of "Nedlo" as though it were written in Farsi even though it's perfectly phonetical, I didn't hear a single inaccurate rendering.) But I was overwhelmed, amazed and utterly humbled by the number of people who called me by my first name. It is highly unlikely that I will ever run another race in any venue or capacity for which I can say the same. Utterly, completely blown away by the support of the crowd.

But I digress. I saw Jordan, and I heard him say, "You can still do it!" I knew he meant that I could still break 2:40, and just as surely I knew that he was wrong. But shortly thereafter, I heard the voice of someone else: "You're in 54th place!" First of all, I had no idea if they were right. I had no idea if they knew how to
count, or if they'd been paying attention, or if they even comprehended how significant their words would be. What I did know is that although my goal of sub-2:40 was gone, I could still finish out the final 10 minutes of this run, the most important run of my life up to this point, with purpose. With determination. With a resolve to pour everything of myself into each step. With gratitude for the opportunity I was given--no, for the opportunity I worked my ass off for--and the single-minded focus of simply putting one foot in front of the other, as fast as I could, for as long as I could, for as long as it took until I crossed the finish line.

And then, unceremoniously, I did. There was no fanfare, no announcement, nothing but the full-bodied release and wearied relief that any competitor, at any level, feels when they encounter the intersection of weariness and satisfaction. I wasn't at the front of the pack, not even close, nor was I within miles of contention for the coveted Olympic spots for which this race exists in the first place. But I was, emphatically, finished.

I waited for Caitlin. She came soon after. And we hugged, and high-fived, and probably would've cried had either of us spared the energy. When she could barely walk, I propped her up. When we didn't know where to go, my parents magically appeared to guide us to the escalators back to the elite holding room. We'd been there only hours before, but as different people. I came here as the 152nd qualifier of over 200 women. I started the race today as seed number 140 based on those who actually toed the line. Just over two and a half hours later, I finished as one of the top 50 female marathoners in the country. There has been plenty of talk about how the women's qualifying time needs to be lowered, and while that could comprise a separate post unto itself, I categorically agree with the sentiment. And to the same people, I say: make the standard whatever the hell you want. I will run it. I'm just getting started as a marathoner, and I will be at the 2016 Trials. No matter what.

But today's effort isn't about 2016. It's about right now, today, the ability and capacity that I had to give during this moment. Though I'm not completely satisfied with my time, I can honestly say I gave every part of myself at every part of the race. That may not be enough to earn an Olympic berth, but it unquestionably embodies the Olympic spirit, and I sincerely believe the same can be said for every single woman who toed the line today. We didn't all run together, not literally, but in some sense we did. We are all Olympic Trials Qualifiers. We all ran the Olympic Trials.

We all ran. We all run.

We all have a memory to last a lifetime.

US Olympic Marathon Trials Results

49th place out of 152 finishers (~200 starters)

Recap to come but I wanted to post up the results. Looking forward to sharing all the details with you when I have a few free moments. What an amazing experience!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

(Taper) Week in Review

60 miles
1 double
1 day off
3 runs in Palm Springs
5 AFDs

Well, friends, I challenged myself to keep this week's mileage at 75 or below, and suffice it to say I knocked that goal out of the park. Looking back in the archives, this is my lowest weekly mileage total since the week of August 23rd. I hadn't intended to go quite this low, but taking Friday off (and omitting a planned Thursday evening double) was the smart decision for several reasons. I can only hope I will reap the rewards of my infinite wisdom come Saturday.

If nothing else, this sharp reduction in mileage has allowed me to focus on the ancillary factors that had all but fallen by the wayside during my 100+ weeks. Excluding the day of our red-eye flight I've averaged 9+ hours of sleep each night, and I've been able to fit in 20-30 minutes of core, drills and strength almost every day. And trust me, I know how crazy this sounds, but Jordan and I actually had time to watch a movie one night. Although I would be lying to say it doesn't feel a little bit strange to not spend literally every waking hour of my free time in running clothes, I suppose it's not half bad.

Looking ahead to next week, it appears as though--holy shit!--I'll actually be racing the Olympic Trials marathon. Pardon me for sounding surprised, but although intellectually I've known this day was coming, some part of me never comprehended that the race would actually happen in a real, tangible way. But as it turns out, Jordan and I will be getting on a plane Thursday morning bound for my home state for the express purpose of running this race. Of course the weekend will encompass a flurry of other activities--reunions with far-flung running friends from literally all across the country, lots of free food from the hospitality suite, technical meetings and pre-race massages and event dinners and a promised evening of post-race revelry and merriment--but I'd be kidding myself if I didn't acknowledge that the race itself doesn't loom larger in my mind than the broader "experience" of the Olympic Trials, at least as I sit here typing this less than a week out. I'm full of excitement and nervous energy at the culmination of a year's--some would argue, a lifetime's--preparation, all for one single moment. If you can consider an event spanning almost three hours to comprise a single moment, that is.

Time permitting, I plan to check back in with some real time snippets of next weekend's activities. Of course I always hope that people enjoy reading this blog, but I originally penned "greenlightningrunning" over three years ago as a record for myself, a time capsule of a a journey of miles and trials that, at the time, I had no idea would lead me to the present moment. I want to document as much of the Trials experience as I can, knowing full well it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity despite my hopes to the contrary. I want to preserve the details of the weekend for my readers, but more for myself, and of course for my hypothetical (and I mean extremely hypothetical, Suzanne) grandchildren who will one day stare in disbelief as their wrinkly old grandma waves her cane this way and that while animatedly describing the glory days when, believe it or not, she ran pretty darn fast.

More to come from Houston in just a few short days. See you there!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Taper "Long Run" with the BAA

Target: 12-14 miles w/some portion @MP
Actual: 9 miles easy, 2 miles @11:50, 1 mile easy, 5x1 min. on/off, 1/2 mile easy
Total: ~13.5 miles @1:36

For my last "long run" before the Trials, Jordan and I decided to take a Saturday trip into the city and hook up with BAA coach Terry Shea and his wife, Carly, among a few others. Jordan planned to run a progressive uptempo with the boys, while I was aiming to get in about an hour of easy running before dropping the pace for a few miles.

In the past several days leading into this run, my body has been a mess. Not only has my foot still been achy--nothing debilitating, just a nagging, dull discomfort that refuses to subside--but I woke up on Friday morning feeling like absolute death. Fortunately/unfortunately, I'd already decided to take the day off for the sake of my foot--my first day sans running since late August--which meant that after struggling to spend a few minutes being productive at my computer, I had enough free time to stumble back into the bedroom and pass out for another hour before getting ready for work. I spent the entire remainder of the day feeling, for lack of a better description, decidedly out of sorts. Tired, achy, warm and vaguely uncomfortable. I instantly flashed back to the day before when I'd taken my absent coworker Mattison's mouse--which, in my defense, he'd originally stolen from me--and ignored the warning from my other coworker who warned me that Mattison had been deathly ill before leaving work the previous day. I'd shaken off his suggestion of sanitizing the mouse because, really, how long can germs last?? If I was about to find out that answer the hard way, just a week out from the biggest race of my life, I would be livid. After barely surviving the entire day at the office, I curled up on the couch, choked down a meager dinner (that's when you know something is wrong with me) and collapsed into bed at 8:30, an hour which is considered early even by my octogenarian standards. But wouldn't you know, my eyes snapped open at 7:30 on Saturday morning--yes, that's an astonishing 11 hours later--and I felt good as new. Phew!

And so, back to the run: 9am, Harvard track, Jordan and I, Carly and Terry, a few other BAA peeps. We set off toward the Charles and embarked on the same 4.2-mile loop where I'd tempoed with Terry and Emily last month. After one easy loop together the group disbanded; some to pick up the pace, others to begin a workout and Carly and I to the indoor track bathroom before continuing with our easy run. Though the weather had been downright frigid the past few days, this morning brought temps in the low 40s, negligible wind and bright sunshine--quite pleasant by Boston winter standards. We chatted through another loop before I dropped Carly back off at Harvard, at which point I planned to attempt a few uptempo miles. Though I felt infinitely better than yesterday, my legs were inexplicably heavy and I was doubting my ability to run sub-7 pace, much less sub-6. I was able to huff and puff my way through two miles in 11:50, but good grief did it feel hard. This was roughly the same pace I maintained when cruising through longer intervals on Tuesday, so needless to say today's efforts did not inspire much self-confidence. Even the one minute portions felt forced and awkward, all energy completely sapped from my legs. Considering how strong my training has been and how confident I've felt over the past few months, this isn't exactly the best timing for a complete physical meltdown. At this point I'm trying to engage in positive self-talk and remind myself of all the marathon paced workouts I've nailed, trusting that the fitness is there. There's absolutely no benefit to dwelling on the negative, so as I jogged back to the parking lot I sternly instructed myself to shake it off and chalk this up as one more sub-race pace "workout" in the bank.

Fortunately, the rest of the day left little time for self-pity. After the run we went straight to Carly and Terry's for some late morning turned early afternoon brunch and coffee, then Jordan and I headed across town to visit Jeff "G-Unit" Gaudette and his better half Melanie for the afternoon. In addition to being Jordan's current and my former coach, Jeff also used to own a massage therapy business, so naturally I implored him to come out of retirement for a pre-Trials rubdown. He was happy to oblige so long as he still had a good angle on the Bruins game, and I'm confident his handiwork will help flush out whatever is ailing my tired legs. Several hours and a plate of homemade nachos later Jordan and I hit the road back to Marblehead, happy to have enjoyed a relaxing Saturday in the city with new friends and old.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cali Farewell Workout

6k w/u + strides
Target: 2x5k @MP (6-6:05 pace) w/3 min. jog
Actual: 18:42 (5:59 pace); 18:35 (5:57 pace)
~800m c/d
Total: 10 miles

When deciding whether to work out today or tomorrow, the answer was obvious. On Tuesday morning we would still be basking in the warm sunshine of Palm Springs, while Wednesday would find us fresh off a red-eye flight just in time to greet the coldest day thus far in Boston. So, despite having a busy day of work and travel that included meetings in LA and San
Diego and that aforementioned red eye, we woke up early to enjoy one last hurrah in shorts and a t-shirt.

While warming up, Jordan suggested using the same route he'd taken for a similar effort the previous day. It was fairly low traffic and only featured a few turns, so it seemed ideal. What would make the loop a bit challenging is that it started with a long, gradual uphill for a full mile--not the most enjoyable way to kick things off, but fortunately this segment was immediately followed by a flat half-mile and then a gradual downhill mile before finishing slightly uphill for the final kilometer. Certainly not the rolling hills of Charlotte or even the Marblehead Neck, but still a bit mentally challenging. Jordan's plan also dictated not running faster than goal marathon pace, as the purpose here was not to achieve any fitness improvements but rather to gain comfort and confidence at the clip I'll hopefully be maintaining for over two and a half hours in less than two weeks' time.

As expected, the first mile was a bit of a grind as my breathing and legs struggled to find the pace on the uphill section. As soon as we turned the corner, however, everything fell into place. I was completely cruising through the middle portion of the interval and breathing like it was
a light morning jog. Even the final slightly uphill kilometer did little to fatigue my breathing, which returned to normal almost immediately after finishing the first interval. Three minutes later, we set off again on the familiar loop with similar results. This time, however, I found my legs and lungs struggling more than I would've liked on the final uphill kilometer despite once again killing the middle section. Overall I'm still pleased with my breathing but frustrated by how tired my legs felt toward the end. Jordan assured me this is normal and that my body will snap out of it before next weekend, so I'll have to trust in that. I'm also nursing a slightly sore left foot, which meant I played it smart and cut the cooldown out almost completely--hey, I'm tapering!--so I could run home and stick my foot in the icy non-heated pool in Jordan's dad's complex. We're both depressed about leaving beautiful, warm, sunny California later tonight, so I'm glad we were able to fit this in before departing. Nothing but rest and recovery between now and Houston!

View from our last dinner, at Pacific Beach in San Diego
Can you blame us for wanting to stay??

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week in Review

87 miles
2 doubles
1 run in Sacramento
2 runs in Santa Rosa
1 run in San Jose
5 runs in Palm Springs

While many sensible people--including myself in most scenarios--wouldn't consider 87 miles to remotely resemble a taper, in reality it was. I only doubled twice and ran easy every day excluding Thursday's workout. Also, my long run was "only" a two-hour, 16+ mile jaunt with no uptempo sections. I also enjoyed at least 9+ hours of sleep per night (including some embarrassingly early bedtimes but hey, my body still thinks it's on the east coast) and plenty/too much good food and wine. So, believe it or not, this week was very much a step down from most in recent memory.

That said, next week I'm going to try my hardest to "only" run 75 miles. I'm pretty sure only fellow runners can understand that it will be much more difficult to limit my mileage than to increase it, but that's the beautiful, horrible paradox of the taper. We'll be catching a red-eye home on Tuesday night, unceremoniously thrust into what promises to be a frigid awakening contrasted against the blue skies and palm trees we've been enjoying in Palm Springs all week. I'll probably take advantage of the weather and pancake flat terrain with a short marathon-paced workout tomorrow, designed more as a confidence booster than a fitness provider. From then forward the remaining 10 days of training will primarily be an exercise in self-restraint and harnessing nervous energy. This is my least favorite part of the training cycle but probably also one of the most crucial for ensuring race-day success.

Over the past few days I've enjoyed reading fellow bloggers' "year in review" posts and have considered writing one myself. However the reality is, this entire year has been a build-up for the Trials, so it would be disingenuous of me to summarize the past 365 without acknowledging that as my focus. With that in mind, you'll have to wait until at least January 15th for my annual summary. In lieu of that, check out my interview with "Writing About Running" blogger Pat Porter. My 15 seconds of fame!

I hope you all had a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve and a fantastic first day of 2012. Best of luck with all your training and racing goals!