2016 – Year in Review Part 2

We landed in Berlin on July 1 and it took only four runs there before I started complaining about the hard surfaces in my training log. By July 8th, I was writing that I have some plantar fasciitis cropping up in my right foot. The whole first part of the month is filled with comments like “Still feeling a little beat up from running on hard surfaces.” Why the hell did I not go buy new shoes? Clearly, my idiocy has no limit. I remember thinking, shoes will cost more in Germany. The sizes are different. The brands are different. I stopped wearing the New Balance 860s, which were clearly dead, and ran full-time in my Mizunos. I hunted for routes with softer surfaces. But good grief, I am fluent in German and I could have figured this out. It might have been cool to have something to buy at a running store. Those could have been my German shoes. I will say, I stuck to it. I ran 110 miles in Berlin. In dead shoes. I did some sort of strength routine three times a week. I kept at this even though I had no one to run or train with. Later I found out there was a Cross Fit gym only a mile from our apartment where I could have bought a monthly membership. Such. An. Idiot.

I did have some fun running in Berlin. I liked the route around the Ploetzensee. I did a couple of group workouts with Aidan. I got to explore our neighborhood more thoroughly than I would have otherwise and I bought breakfast at the Turkish bakery almost every day at the end of my run. Other than the shoe dumbness, the Berlin trip was pretty spectacular.

Front door to our apartment building

Running the loop around the Ploetzensee

Reichstag in the background – Look at those cobblestones. Ouch!

I was able to find one race in Berlin, the Havellauf, an 8.5 mile course along the shores of the Havel, a lake in southwestern Berlin. It was exciting to get a peek into German race culture, though this is a really laid-back event.

I lined up with the “Könner” – the capable ones, ha ha! – who expected to be faster than 1 hour 20 minutes.

Official race pictures!

Post race carb re-loading, German style

The month in Berlin was amazing in so many ways, but from a running perspective, some of the best runs were on our side trips to visit friends. Our first trip was to see friends who live in a small town near Cologne.

Wiliarty’s near the cathedral!

I could definitely get used to running here.

A walk through town with dear friends

Kids finding their way across the language barrier

Completely gratuitous picture of Rose with a chicken at the open air museum – but this is one of my favorite pictures of the whole year.

Our second side trip was to visit my former roommates who live outside of Geneva near the French-Swiss border.

Those are NOT postcards! Those are actual pictures taken from a run!

I was either insane or devoted and did some kind of running or something pretty much every day on these trips. But, we also did an incredible outing to Castle Chillon.

Rose explores the castle

Of course being in Geneva with Rose (aka – Geneva) was something special. At first she was a bit overwhelmed and refused to have her picture taken, but a plethora of Geneva-themed souvenirs and some ice cream turned the day around. We had a tour of the United Nations, went to a water park, ate croissants, listened to our friends’ band play in a music festival at CERN. It made for one of the very best weekends of the entire summer.

Lest anyone get in the idea that the whole month was one glamorous event after another, there were many strength workouts that looked basically like this. Me and a towel and a water bottle in a random park, trying not to get too many bug bites. Work-wise, there was a ton of nervous sending-of-emails hoping to find someone to talk to me about my research. There was a good bit of things along the lines of trying and failing to get onto the university wifi. This is how fieldwork goes and most of it is not photogenic.

I knew during the month in Berlin that my partnership with Coach Cowboy was coming to an end and my heart was very deeply sad about that. The trip ended on an incredibly low note when I went into a-fib on our last full day in Berlin. I only fully realized this when I tried one last run. Yuck. At least my research went quite well. I had a bunch of good interviews and learned an enormous amount about the European refugee crisis, which was the point of the trip, after all.

Back in the US, I continued the search for a new coach and finally settled on Coach A. I learned a lot from her in a short amount of time. She got me doing running drills on a regular basis for the first time and she had an apparently endless stream of excellent core workouts. The running doldrums continued though. The training log has quite a few comments like: “So. Fucking. Hard. Felt a little PFish so need to get on top of that.” There are also plenty of comments about the absolute joy I felt to be back running with friends and returning to my home gym, Innovative Fitness and Wellness. I ran 14 miles while on a family vacation on Grand Island, marked by running through a triathlon, and sharing a few miles with my brother on a miserably hot day.

I ran the Old Wethersfield 10K in August, my only race with Coach A. Not at all her fault, but this race was wretched. It was yet another too hot race and I almost mentally collapsed. I have never come so close to walking off a course and I think I didn’t partly because it would have been too hard to explain to people what the hell I was doing. I actually PR’d this race but not by nearly as much as I should have. My 10K PR was very soft since the only other 10K I have ever run is the one at Runner’s World Festival, which is just half an hour after the 5K. Really, I’d like a much faster 10K time, but that sure wasn’t happening on this day. None of this was Coach A’s fault. This day just sucked. I did have a truly magnificent brunch with Ghana Girl though, so at least I salvaged that. Mimosas can fix a lot.

Teacher Runner, Ghana Girl, me and Early Bird with our lovely onion medals

Mimosas and ice coffee, always

I got a little relief from the running blahs over Labor Day weekend when I went to Philadelphia for the American Political Science Association meeting. APSA is everyone’s least favorite conference, because it tends to be so bad from an intellectual standpoint. However, I still adore Philadelphia and I had some great food and some reasonably good running. I met up with Munchkin Runner and BigAndyRunning from Sub30 for a quick bridge run AND I got to go to a November Project workout, something I’ve been wanting to try for ages.

I returned home and quickly received an email that Coach A had to withdraw from coaching duties for health reasons. This was kind of turning into my own private 2016 running dumpster fire. The coaching search was back on again. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches since July. By a lot, I mean, more than 10, maybe close to 20, and that is actual personal contact, not just reading somebody’s website. I’ve learned an incredible amount about running and about myself from this process. Every time I thought I knew what to ask, I was confronted with some kind of new issue that I hadn’t considered. I got better at introducing myself and figuring out what kinds of questions to ask.

After all that, it was a bit of a gut decision to go with the Celt of #McKirdyTrained. When he asked me why I decided on him I said 1) everything lines up from a running perspective 2) you’re willing to swear when we talk and 3) you post videos of yourself singing in your car on Facebook. Is that a great basis for a running partnership, or what?

That was September 10th and he asked what I had planned for the next day. Me: “Um, running a half marathon?” Yeah, that was one day before Surftown, a race I have done every year it’s been held and always PR’d. This year I felt undertrained and frustrated and the weather was once again unseasonably warm, now with a major wind as well. Lovely. The Celt asked me what my plan was for the race and I answered honestly that I had no clue. He popped out a race plan in about 5 seconds that had me treating this as a training run and foregoing a PR attempt. Lacking any better idea of my own, I went with that. I ran Surftown in 2:00:00, which I could not have done had I been aiming for that time. I achieved my primary goal, which was never to feel like walking off the course. I achieved my secondary goals as well: enjoying the beach and a having a delicious brunch with my family. With mimosas, of course.With Teacher Runner at the start

Wiliarty’s hit the waves!

Mimosas and brunch

Meeting up with RunningWhileMommy post-race

As fall progressed, the Celt had me run a lot of easy miles and a few very challenging but awesome speed workouts. I listened to the soundtrack from Hamilton incessantly, obsessively. I reached out to friends, new and old, to run with. And the plantar fasciitis, which had been sort of off and on, started to make its presence known more seriously. To be honest, I was tired, burned out, and feeling pretty lost and pretty dark, though the easy miles felt wonderful. Other parts of life started to head downhill. My mom had thyroid surgery that took a lot out of her. A couple of very close friends went through difficult times in their personal lives. I jumped into a battle about university policy on sexual harassment at work. The presidential campaign cranked along, by turns inspiring and horrifying, especially to my seminar on Women and Politics. It wasn’t pretty.

I went to San Diego for the German Studies Association meeting and got my first taste of being on the executive board. It was simultaneously weird and fun. San Diego is gorgeous and I learned how to use Uber so I went all over the city to run.

Running near the beach

Fancy new fast shoes, per the Celt’s instructions

Meeting up with a good friend of North Shore Strider’s for a waterfront run

On October 8, I ran the Hartford half marathon. I went into race week exhausted from the stress of work travel, my mom’s surgery, kid sickness, friends with heartaches. I was also pretty heartsick. I have rarely been closer to wanting to throw the towel in on this whole running business or at least on trying to run fast. I finally went to see the Maestro for the plantar fasciitis and as usual, he started trying to heal everything and managed to at least wake me up to how badly off I was. Tough Guy Trainer said just the right things to get me to re-focus a bit. The Incredible Mervus just listened and let me cry a bunch. But mostly, when I truly considered giving up, I discovered that I didn’t want to after all. On a very dark run in a very dark week, I found a little spark inside me that at first just said “NO!” No, you don’t give up. No, you don’t stop trying. This is still the path to your best self, the person you want to be, so you keep at it, even when things kind of suck. Even when everything actually seems to kind of suck. It was nothing more, but nothing less, than a big internal scream of “NO!” in the face of despair, but it turned out to be enough.

So on October 8, I ran the Hartford half marathon. I ran a PR of 1:52:44, three seconds faster than the Celt’s crazy vdot calculator predicted. Since his knee went bonkers on him the day before the race, he couldn’t run, but he was at the finish line, which was really cool. The Maestro was also there and treated me to an amazing post-race stretching session. I went to brunch with some of my best running girls and yes, of course we had mimosas.

The Maestro AND the Celt at the finish line? I’m a lucky lady.

Mimosas and brunch with Rooster and Ghana Girl!

Why Not ran her first half at Hartford and joined us for brunch when she finished! Congrats!

I wish I could say the rest of the fall turned around, but it didn’t. Things got worse, some things, a lot worse. My mother fell and I had to make an emergency trip home. The heartaches of my friends continued. The election broke a lot of people’s hearts: mine, my students’, worst of all, my children’s. There were many, many tears, in the classroom and out. The plantar fasciitis got also got worse and I had to stop running entirely and bail on my goal race, the Philadelphia marathon. I was so wrung out by life that I could hardly be upset about it. I’m not going to claim there was no more darkness because there was quite a lot. But I didn’t waste a lot more time on thoughts of giving up. Somehow that particular issue was mostly laid to rest, at least for now, in that black week before Hartford. Otherwise November was largely full of horribleness and fury and no marathon. I have a whole collection of pictures of me with ellipticals and quite a few of me heading to the pool. Those will not be making an appearance here.

There was a bit of this

And some of this

Despite the stupid wretched plantar fasciitis, I ran two races after I stopped running: the Manchester Road Race with Aidan and the Ugly Sweater Run with my running girls. Possibly not the best choices in terms of my foot, but excellent choices for my heart. Aidan and I ran into the Celt having breakfast before the race, which was pretty fun. Running with my son brings me a deep joy that is hard to describe. We took it easy and laughed at funny costumes and had a blast. Because he’s a kid, he still PR’d the race by over 10 minutes. 

The Ugly Sweater Run was also fabulous. Some of my running girls have not been doing an awful lot of running so we took our time and enjoyed the day and the goofy sweaters. I probably got a PR in pictures. We had brunch and despite the Kahlua sponsorship of the race, mimosas, of course.

Ugly Sweater Girls!

Snarky Girl and Ghana Girl


That was the end of my running stupidity and I spent the rest of the year in the pool, on the elliptical, on the bike and lifting lots and lots of heavy stuff. I started to settle into a routine with getting workouts from the Celt, who, thank goodness, turned out to be excellent at cross-training stuff. I had regular appointments with the Maestro.

Meanwhile, I went to lots of Brownie meetings. Rose had her Best Day Ever when she met the Queen at the Renaissance Faire. I gave a talk at Rutgers. We celebrated birthdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas. I got invited to a party to make a real dumpster fire ornament, see Year in Review Part 1. The semester FINALLY ended.

When the last of the plantar fasciitis held on stubbornly, I got a cortisone shot, which made dry needling feel like a pesky mosquito bite. I had another round of tears and fury when the cortisone shot wasn’t a perfect immediate fix. More. Time. Passed. Probably the best way to cure this damn problem. But, finally, slowly, my foot started to feel a little better and so did my heart, sometimes. I ran five minutes on 12/28 and four minutes on 12/30. It’s a start. The end is in sight and soon it will be time for new beginnings. Here’s to 2017.






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