Martini Fridays: A Newt Named George


Race day for Adrienne Martini at the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon is getting closer, and on this episode of Martini Fridays, she meets the dark side of her soul and a newt.

To cut right to the chase, Saturday’s 12-miler was all that you could hope a 12-miler might be, which is 12 miles long and full of opportunities for growth.

Given that spring is finally here—I love you spring!—my sinus cavities were visited by the pollen fairy the night before my big run. Antihistamines are not a performance enhancing drug, by the way. But it was nice to be able to breathe through both nostrils, more or less, even if my brain felt like it was full of cotton.

I plotted a course that had the potential to be 13 miles if I was feeling extra zippy. And while plotting said course, I took great care to avoid having to run up a hill that scares me. In doing so, I wound up putting myself on a hill that was exponentially steeper and longer. I offer this up as a lesson. Just run the dang hill that scares you. All of your maneuvering will only make it worse.

Where my long, dark mile of the soul started.
Where my long, dark mile of the soul started.

Sadly, said hill coincided with mile 7 and triggered one of those long trudges of the soul. I had doubts, reader. Serious ones about the idea of running 13 miles when I felt so lousy after a mere 7. Everything hurt. My nose started running again. I’d been running straight uphill for hours and was hot and tired and over it.

I did what one does, which is put my head down and keep moving forward. By the time I slurped down a Gu at mile 8, I was past the worst of my bleak mood. I was also mighty thankful that I’d used a bandana as a headband that morning because it gave me something else to wipe my nose on. You probably don’t want to know if I put it back on my head.

I’m not really complaining about the allergies. In a week or so, they will be done and I’ll have to find something else to grouse about. After this winter I am just so happy that things are greening up that I don’t mind the sneezing so much.

And I shall love him and I shall call him George.
And I shall love him and pet him and call him George.

In addition to building mental toughness, this run led me to this little guy, who nearly got himself stepped on by a sniffly mother runner. I’m told by a salamander specialist, who teaches at one of the local colleges, that it’s an “Eastern Red Newt in its eft stage.”

And you thought this column would only be about running.

This is the week when all of the newts and peeper frogs wake up, it seems. On previous long runs, I’d only seen lots and lots of deer, a bunny or two, cats, dogs, and turkeys, who are much bigger when you’re only a foot or two from them. Given that this is a college town, I frequently see undergrads who are doing the walk of shame. But newts are new.

There are crocuses, too. CROCUSES! We may all live to see summer again. Lest you think this is about to turn into Nature Watch with Adrienne, just know that my enthusiasm only stems from how bloomin’ excited I am to see something other than snow, slush, snail, and ice. If nothing else, this training has forced me to interact with the weather more as well as pay more attention to what the seasons actually look like.

Spring is finally here! Hooray!
Spring is finally here! Hooray!

It’s also forced me to realize that I can run 13 miles, even though I haven’t yet his that magical mileage number on Herr Garmin. My body certainly feels like it’s ready -- and will be even more ready after the next couple of weeks of tapering. One more mile feels physically do-able, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say. My brain is mostly on-board, too, despite the occasional dark moments where I want to simply want to sit down and maybe have a nice mocha. The trick will be maintaining this belief in my own abilities between now and May 4. How do you all manage the taper without being convinced that you are losing all of your fitness and that all of the miles you’ve already put in are nothing but a mirage?

In other news, I’ve ordered a SparkleTech skirt and will try it out on this week’s (only!) 8-mile run. Is it wrong that I’m already planning what I’ll be able to do during the rest of Saturday, given that I might have some energy to do something crazy like vacuum? These taper weeks, if nothing else, will give me the gift of a few more hours in the week. My hope is that I won’t spend all of those new hours worrying about the race to come.

 How do you deal with the taper week(s)? Is your house extra clean—or your energy unharnessable?

22 responses to “Martini Fridays: A Newt Named George

  1. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here
    and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?

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  2. As a former “Pittsburgher,” I just want to say I really enjoy the Martini Friday columns! I remember the miserable runs in sleet and icy wind, the difficult footing in winter, other beautiful runs on sparkly snowy days with glistening trees, and that joy of seeing crocuses and new life in the spring. Hope your half goes well on May 4th!

  3. i just completed my first half last saturday. i followed this plan as well. i was so scared of this long taper (at least it seemed longer than others), i was sure i was losing fitness. i felt wonderful on race day, and even crushed my “goal” time (and at 15 weeks pregnant). i will follow this plan again….

  4. Do not fear the taper. Trust the taper. The taper is all-knowing.

    Seriously,don’t sweat it. I had the same fears but felt fantastic the day I toed the line for my first half. The rest will do you good and allow you to store energy rather than focusing its attention on healing your microtears and aches.

  5. Stopping in to let you know I have enjoyed reading your posts. You’ve made me laugh. You are going to do great! Wishing you all the best on your race day and looking forward to hearing how it went. Embrace the tapper. Enjoy the extra time and pick at all those little things you blew off while in training mode. Drink lots of water, go out for a walk. I also make the kids doc. appointments at tapper time.

    PS – I loved your running finds.

  6. Pittsburgh for me as well…looking at 12 on Easter Sunday. 🙂 this will leave my family to clean the house! Lol! Not sure how much to taper as this half is on the road to a half ironman and I should do a 4 hour bike on the Saturday before. Anybody?

  7. I love reading Martini Fridays…my first half is this June, and I’m one mile behind you in my LSD runs, so it is a great motivator to read before I go out on the weekend. Cheering you on in Canada!

  8. Congrats on the 12 miler and Spring too! Yay!! Tapering is like nesting when pregnant. You’ll have more time and energy so you’ll clean, sort, and fret. I ALWAYS think I am losing muscle when I lose a pound or 2 during taper. Hmm, Could it be because I’m not running as much and therefore not eating as much? No, nope, it’s muscle weight. Kidding! You’re going to do great! I’m running a half (Wallis Sands) that same day so I’ll be running with you virtually. Sending good racing vibes your way!

  9. My only taper advice is wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Did I say, wash you hands?
    Eat healthy food, get plenty of sleep, and trust your training!

  10. I’ve been meaning to write to let you know how much I love your posts. I just ran my first half on April 6 and reading about your training was (and continues to be) very inspiring to me. You are going to be fabulous on May 4!

  11. I don’t have any advice about the running thing since I’m all “Woot! Woot! I ran one full mile without dying, unlike last week!”

    But as a Michigander, I HEAR you about the new appreciation for crocuses and greenery. I saw a daffodil in bloom yesterday when I was on a run and I’m not ashamed to say it… I cried. I knelt down and whispered to it, “Sweet yellow daffodil, you are a little ray of sunshine come down from heaven to thaw my frozen heart. Because that damn Disney movie LIED when it said that love can thaw snow and ice. Believe me, I tried.”

    Good luck on your race!!

  12. O’ my! Did I learn my taper lesson this week. Don’t stress AT.All. over it and just embrace the extra time. I am training for a spring marathon and this past Saturday was my last long run. 21 miles finished…feeling great…and then I decided to fill the afternoon by playing catch with my boys. I mean, we runners don’t take to relaxin’ by nature, do we? We weren’t outside 10 minutes and I was tagged by a fast pitch by my oldest. Right above the ankle, BAM! Could it have hit on a leaner part of me? Heck no – all the padded areas available on this bod and I get hit there. So my first taper week has been spent icing, getting x-rays and no running at all. Thankfully no breaks, chips, or bone bruising. Doc gave go ahead for hitting the roads. Yay! Marathon is 26th so the rest of my taper is picking out race gear to match the purty bruising colors on my leg and foot. My new taper motto? Be grateful for the extra time and block any worrisome thoughts about the race. Trust me, having something happen that could keep you from getting to the start worry is way worse than worry about running the race. Love your column and just want to share that the miles you’ve ran only make the miles you’ll run more awesome!!!

  13. So glad to hear that spring is your reward at the end of your training – newt and all! Congrats on your 12 miles and enjoy your taper!

  14. YOGA!! It helps me stay calm during tapering. I also get to release some of my energy through yoga without over-exerting myself (like I do with running). Good luck at the Pittsburgh Half! I will be there running it as well.

  15. You are going to LOVE your SparkleTech skirt. I want pictures! I own five (yes 5 – so it’s an addiction…there are worse addictions) and love each one more than the last but all the same, too. Just like your children. But let’s be honest, the youngest is always the favorite.

    Another great post. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It helps me stay grounded in my own journey (to my 15th half marathon next weekend) that there are others out there going through many of the same struggles I am. We got this!

  16. Taper is tricky because it’s your mind that gets you to thinking you’re lazy. Your body is thinking, “Woohoo! Let’s go run 13.1!” because it IS ready. Believe in the mantra – trust your training.

  17. Love this article! I will do extra CrossFit so I don’t feel fat 🙂 I haven’t made it to 12, planning to give it a try on Easter Sunday 🙂 Rain today and tomorrow and nothing but sunshine on sunday.

  18. Adrienne, thanks for a laugh every Friday morning! I am too Type A to taper well so I can’t give you any helpful advice (I am convinced I am gaining weight and losing fitness) but I can tell you it will pass and it makes a difference on race day! Hang in there!

  19. Thanks for the morning laughs! Taper…it’s tough. I always feel lazy and don’t know what to do with my “spare” time. Then the second-guessing creeps in, but it’s all good and race day makes up for it all.

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