Monday, October 29, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Marine Corps Marathon

After months and months of training, the big day finally came and went.  I spent most of last week doing everything that I could to prepare myself for the race.  I took off most of the week from work so that I could get some extra sleep and on Thursday I went out to the race expo.  I was shocked at how many people were there, especially since it was normal work hours and before most of the out-of-towners would arrive.  Still it was fun to check out a bunch of the booths and I even got a new bright orange running shirt.
My runs during this last week were significantly shorter, so I had plenty of time to cook up some delicious food and eat extra healthy all week.  A few favorites were the French Onion Soup I made in the hand-me-down Crock-Pot from Grandma Lois, (modified) Chocolate Pumpkin Banana Muffins, and a ton of roasted butternut squash.
Plus I got to go to a lovely Pre-Race Pasta Dinner hosted by Run For Burma, and found out that I was runner-up in fundraising totals!  Thanks to everyone who donated!  The dinner was delicious, and it was a nice chance to meet some of the other runners and talk race-day specifics.  
Saturday night I stayed with Mom and Dad.  I did my best to get to bed early and actually managed to get a decent night's sleep.  Mom took me to the metro station at 6:30 and I was at the Pentagon by 7am. There was a bit of walking and a bit of waiting in lines but I must say, the Marines really know how to organize a race.  I was able to drop off a bag with sweats for after the race with the Marines that were manning the UPS trucks and then I was off to the start line.  After a long wait at the PortaJon I found the "corral" for my expected finish time just before they started at 7:55.  
The energy at the start was something else.
I've been in other races, and before yesterday I had run one other marathon in Baltimore, but it was really amazing to run a race that I've been looking forward to for nearly a year now, through streets and neighborhoods that I'm actually familiar with.  Combine that with the huge crowds, the several bands that were playing along the way, and the volunteers - mostly Marines - that were so encouraging and you get a mix that is overwhelmingly motivating.  
At the start of the race it was a bit crowded.  They stagger the start using the "corrals" so that most of the faster runners are near the front, but it still took a while for the pack to thin out a bit.  After a mile or so I was able to settle into a steady pace, but the pace that I settled for turned out to be a bit too fast.  I was running about 8:30-8:40/mile for the first ten miles.  Way too fast for me.  My goal time required a 9:00/mile pace, so I was pretty far ahead of myself.  I felt good, and the pace felt comfortable, but it wasn't sustainable.  I knew better, but I couldn't help it.  I was having a blast.  The race opened up with a series of hills in the Spout Run/I-66 area, and at the start of the last big hill, the Marine Corps band was just starting up with "Halls of Montezuma."  It was a big hit.
Just before the 10-mile marker, I nearly blew by my support crew.
That's me in the gray top, pink sneakers.
Mom brought some big helium ballons so I could spot them,
Not obvious enough!
It was actually Mom that spotted me and hollered my name just in time.  I grabbed a pre-packed goodie bag with pretzels and my salt pill and kept moving.
I just love how happy Momma Bear looks in this picture.
For the next big chunk I found a rhythm that was still a bit fast but definitely more manageable.  I ran a steady 8:45-8:50/mile pace up until mile 17 or so when I passed my crew again.  By that point the hurt was just starting to creep in, and I could tell by the looks on Mom and particularly Dad's face that I didn't look quite as hot as I did at mile 10.
Waiting for me at mile 17...
The look on his face says "So much for that 8:40 pace..."
I feel great!  Really!
Still I brushed it off, and told myself that in 10 miles I'd be enjoying a beer at the finish festival, as long as I just kept moving.  The next three or four miles were slower, but I felt okay.  I went by the monuments, had my picture taken by the paparazzi - I mean race photographers - and passed by Mom and Becka again.  Dad missed me in his effort to get a "better" look.
Oh yeah.  I got lei'd by a random supporter somewhere around mile 18.
Becka was ready with the camera.  Mom was caught off guard and didn't really see me coming.
"Erin! Come back! I didn't get your picture!"  Seriously, Mom?  She actually said that.  
At that point I knew I only had about an hour of running to go, but I reminded myself of the saying that's used by a lot of running coaches that the first half of a marathon is 20 miles, and the second half is 6.2 miles.  Boy, was that saying true for me yesterday.
I was dog tired by mile 21.  I had slowed to about a 10:00/mile pace and was frantically checking my watch to make sure I didn't lose the gap between my actual time and my goal time.  I honestly can't remember much from the last 5 or 6 miles.  I went through just about every disassociating strategy that I know of, doing math problems to think about how much was left, thinking about the different people that had donated to my fundraising efforts, planning the feast that I would be enjoying for the rest of the afternoon, basically trying to think about anything except for the pain that was coursing through my legs.  (Luckily it really was just my legs.  My muscles were super sore, but other than that I felt great.)   I saw the hill just before the finish line and actually found some strength in forcing myself to power through it.  I picked up my pace a tiny bit on that hill and made my way through the finishers tunnel.
Almost there...
...annnnnd done.
I finished at 3:55:39.  (My goal was under four hours, or to beat Sarah Palin's time of 3:59:36.)  I saw Mom, Dad, and Becka in the crowd almost right away and the tears pricked.  By the time I had been funneled along to the gates where we were medaled by the Marines I was pretty emotional, and I was overcome by the hurt that I felt all over.  Somehow my mind was able to trick itself into believing that I was not really hurting at all until I had crossed the finish line and started walking.  And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I realized that I had hurt my foot pretty bad and I limped along as the Marines handed me all sorts of post-race goodies.  By the time I was past the gate that separated the crowd from the runners I had lost track of my crew and went to claim my bag so I could call them up.  
When I met up with my mom and Becka, mom was all worried because I "looked pale."  I felt like crap too, but couldn't bring myself to eat much of anything for another hour or so.  So much for that free beer.  We went to Chipotle's and I had about a bite of my burrito before I gave up and put my head down on the table.
Feeling great.  Looking great.
"Erin! Could you at least try to smile?!"
Then I asked if we could wait outside (while dad got the car) because I was worried I might get sick.  I didn't.
It was pretty windy by that point so I found a corner to cuddle up with my burrito.
Once we were home, mom did what she does best.  She babied me all afternoon.  She drew me a bath, gave me some clean, dry sweats to change into and fed me and fed me and fed me until I couldn't eat any more.  (Still I insisted that Becka and I stop at a Burger King on the way home.  Give me a break, I earned it!)  
In the end I couldn't be happier with how things turned out.  I met my mark.  I didn't sustain any (serious) injuries.  I ate a ton of food.  I set a reminder in my phone for 2013 registration.  

I want to thank everyone (again) who contributed to Run For Burma and helped me to meet my fundraising goal.  I couldn't have run this race without your support, and it really helped me to get through some of those tough miles towards the end.  This has been a truly incredible journey in so many ways.  I'm sure it wont be my last.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Two weeks until the big day!  Tomorrow I will start to taper, and this past week I did my last very long run before the race.
I made a first shot at it on Tuesday and literally got scared off the trails by a pack of deer.  Most close friends and family already know this unfortunate detail about me: I am absolutely terrified by deer.  Some people are scared of spiders or snakes or clowns.  I'm scared of deer.  When I see them while driving I usually have to stop and collect myself before I can continue, especially if they do that creepy thing where they stand there in the middle of the road staring for a few minutes before they finally decide to bounce away (and then just when you think it's safe to continue driving their friends that were lurking in the shadows bounce across your path as well.) 
You know what I'm talking about.
Anyways, I was six miles into my run on Tuesday and feeling good.  I was heading down a trail I frequent almost daily, totally in the zone, and all of a sudden I come up on a doe.  She was right in the middle of the trail staring right at me, maybe 15 to 20 yards away.  At first I couldn't breathe.  I found myself gasping for air.  The gasps turned into little whimpers and I  shrunk to the ground in kind of a squat, and started to cry.  She stood there staring at me for a minute or so before she bounced over some brush into the woods, and it wasn't until then that I realized there were 5 or 6 more deer in the brush on either side of the trail.  They all took off as soon as she jumped, and I stayed there for a few more minutes, nervous that another one would come galloping at me from out of nowhere.  Up until that point I was feeling strong, fast, and unstoppable, but when I finally got up from my pathetic crouch, I was still struggling to breathe normally, I was still crying, and I knew I was done for the day.  I walked the mile back to my house, still feeling rattled even when I got home.  According to a friend of mine, it's mating season, and I should expect to see them on the trails with some regularity.  Great.  The next day I made another attempt at the 20 miler.  I didn't see any beasts while I was out, and I did okay, but still the wheels sort of fell off at mile 19.  My legs just couldn't take any more.  I walked the last mile, not really feeling all that disappointed since I had run about 34 miles in 3 days.  Since I usually rest after my long runs, I had ended up doing an extra six miles the day I ran up on the deer.
Yesterday I decided to drive up to Baltimore for the Baltimore Running Festival. Before yesterday I had never been to a race as a spectator, and I really enjoyed the experience.  This race in particular was the first marathon I ran back in 2010, and this year my friend Laura was running in the half-marathon.  It was her first race at that distance, so I figured I'd go cheer her on and see the race from the other side of the tape.  It was exhilarating to relive the experience of finishing my first marathon, and to be there to support my friend as she finished her first half.  At the finish line I saw more than a few runners getting misty-eyed and I remembered how emotional I felt when I finished the race myself.  I had started crying as soon as I saw the tunnel at the finish line and when I finally found my dad after the race, he saw that I had been crying and got so worried.  Right away he started asking if I was hurt, what was wrong, why I was crying, and I couldn't find the words to explain.  I was overcome with so many different emotions that I hadn't really prepared myself to experience.  I was sad that it was over, proud that I had finished, thrilled to be done, and anxious to be able to go home and rest.  Plus my stomach was in knots from both the mental and physical aspects of the race.  This doesn't begin to sum up the sensational whirlwind that had consumed me that day.  At yesterday's race, I could see the bewilderment on the faces of some of the runners, especially the obvious first-timers, and it was a welcome reminder of the experience that I had two years ago.
The only disappointing from yesterday's race was that I was so in the moment that I forgot to take a single picture the entire time I was there.  Doh!  Luckily, Laura's dad was running with her and took this when I first spotted them by the lake:
Some comic relief for struggling runners.
I also had a less offensive message on the reverse side for when the kiddos were around:
Lots of runners smiled at me or proudly thanked me when I had it flipped to this side.
After I had my fill of post-race excitement I decided to head over to the Lexington Market to get a taste of what Baltimore does best.  
Tastes like Maryland.
I love love love any kind of open market atmosphere, and to put crabcakes and Natty Boh on top of that was the perfect end to a splendid trip.  Maybe next year I'll enjoy some crabcakes as a finisher, although I don't know if I could afford the amount of crabcakes it would take to fill me up after running 26 miles.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

If you don't succeed at first...

I was so pumped for my long run on Tuesday.  I had enough carbs on Sunday and Monday that I was actually getting tired of bread and pasta.  I routed a run starting at Union Station in the District, finishing at the Franconia-Springfield metro station near my home.  I even set everything out the night before.
Socks in the shoes, body glide at the ready!
Breakfast too.  I should add that there's more to "breakfast" before a long run than just the breakfast.  I set out everything that goes into my body before I make my way out the door, all in one place, so that I'm sure I wont forget anything.
Left: Dry oatmeal plus craisins, dried coconut, crushed pecans
Top Left: Glass with pre-measured scoop of chia seeds
Top Center: Vermont maple syrup for oatmeal
Top Right: Pre-measured water for oatmeal
Bottom row: Coffee mug (timer set to autobrew), ibuprofen, banana, oatmeal bowl
I got dressed as I ingested each of the things on my breakfast tray, and then drove over to Franconia-Springfield metro, leaving a towel in my car for the ride back.  Then I was off to Union Station.
Union Station, taken just before I started.
From Union Station I went straight to the Capitol, and then started west towards the Lincoln Memorial, taking a break for a few photo ops along the way:
This is that building where nothing gets done.
Taken from the front of the Capitol, in the background here you can see the crane at the future site of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Welcome to DC.  Please excuse our renovations.
That monument.
World War II Memorial
Right after I took this photo, I saw another runner sporting this year's Parkway Classic tee.   I ended up running the length of that race later on in the week.  
Lincoln is hiding in there somewhere.
Reflecting pool, again.  This one is prettier I think.
This is the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  I didn't know it existed until I nearly ran through it.  Oops.  
You should know if you ever decide to do a running tour of DC's monuments that you are not supposed to run through this memorial.  The (very polite) park service person will probably ask you to walk until you get to the other side.   My bad. 
I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it was about this sign that made it so encouraging.
Teddy Roosevelt Memorial Bridge!
Taken From the bridge, facing south.  DC on the left, Arlington on the right.
Ronald Reagan's rear end.  Alternatively, National Airport, taken from the Mr. Vernon Trail.
Shortly after National Airport, I passed a marina and made my way into Old Town Alexandria.  Just as I was getting to Founder's Park I realized that I hadn't eaten anything, or taken any salt pills.  I was about 10.5-11 miles into the run, and I typically try to eat something and take a salt pill every hour or so.  Oops.  I guess the excitement of my running monument tour caught up to me, because I was starting to feel pretty gross.  I slowed to a walk and ate my granola bar, along with a pepto chewable to try and settle my stomach.  Nope.  I tried to run a few steps and was met by a wave of nausea.  For the record, I did not puke.  Instead I ran into this lady and her matching dogs right outside the Torpedo Factory:
The dogs all had on the same kind of harness, each in a different color!  
I walked around for a bit until I felt better.  I still had nearly 10 miles to go to get home, so I considered my options.  I could try to tough it out, even if it meant feeling like hell for the rest of the day, and probably tomorrow too.  That would probably also mean that I would really struggle to finish and end up doing lots of walking, meaning any hope for maintaining a consistent pace was gone.  The other option was to take the metro back to Franconia-Springfield, and make a second attempt at the 20 miler later in the week.  Hmmm.  Tuesday is early enough in the week to make this plan work.  So I called my mom and said hi to her before walking up to King St. metro.  I also decided to hit up Five Guys on the way there.  I felt much better after walking a mile or so, and scarfed down this delicious burger, no problem.
I regret nothing.
So I did two easy 5 mile runs on Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday I set out to make my second attempt at the 20 mile run.  This time, I set out to run from my apartment to my parent's house, via Old Town and the other end of the Mt. Vernon Trail.  I figured that maybe it would help not having to worry about navigation, especially since I've found it to be a bit of a confidence booster to run on trails that I'm familiar with.  My ForeRunner ran out of juice mid-run, but luckily I was using my phone as well since I knew my watch battery was low.
Friday's route (via RunKeeper)
As you can see I hit the 10 mile mark in Old Town yet again on Friday, but I felt much better this time around.  It may have also helped that I wasn't goofing around taking pictures the whole first half of the run.  Something about momentum and inertia and science stuffs makes me think that I had a better time finding some rhythm without the distraction of pictures and monuments and navigation.  Still, running through DC was fun.  I plan on doing it again.

At the end of my run on Friday, my mom met me at the 0 mile marker of the Mt. Vernon trail.  The way I routed it, I would have ended up running 22 miles if I had gone all the way to her house, or an even 20 if I quit at Mt. Vernon.  I decided to pass on the extra credit this week.  Mom took me home for a minute and fed me before driving me back through Old Town again to pick up Becka on the way back to our apartment. (Wasn't that sweet of her?)  I realized on the way home that we sort of accidentally ended up retracing the run, which was the perfect way to end to a really fantastic run.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New shoes!

I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that my Brooks Pure Cadence shoes are starting to fall apart.  The heel is fraying, causing the fabric to bunch up, and it's starting to lose little pieces of the sole.  This is a bit disappointing since I've only put 293 miles on this pair (I can usually get 500-600 out of a pair of shoes) but according to the website, 250-300 is around average for this shoe.  Oh well.  I don't really have time to break in a completely new model, and I do love this shoe, so I went back to Pacers and asked for another pair.  The clerk went and got the last pair that they had in my size, and apologetically explained to me that they didn't have any left in the purple/black color scheme that I was wearing.  "Oh man,"  I thought to myself, "I hate white shoes, but I should stick with what I know works for me."  Then she opened the box:

This image does not do justice to the shade of pink.  They are blinding really. 
To say that I was thrilled is an understatement.  I love me some neon, and I love me some running gear, so any disappointment that I was feeling about buying another pair of running shoes that I knew wouldn't last too long was quickly forgotten.  

Thirteen miles later, they felt just as good as the old pair. Another perk is that my family will have an easier time picking me out in the crowd on race day.

My long run for this week was also exciting because I found a new trail near my house.

It was woodsy enough to feel secluded, but still well-maintained. 
There was a little stream to the right of the path here that opened up into a lake a bit further down the path. 
The lake, with power lines running along the opposite side.
It was a great run Tuesday, and it made me feel good about my new purchase.  This week I have my first of two 20 milers coming up, and these will be my longest runs until race day.  I'm hoping to get up early enough on Tuesday to take the metro into the district and run home from there, passing some of the landmarks that I'll see on the day of the race.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hal Higdon, I think you're onto something.

It's been a fantastic week for running.  The weather has been beautiful, and I have been feeling like a boss.

In preparation for the marathon, I've been following a training plan designed by Hal Higdon.  This week called for an 8 mile run at marathon pace on Monday and an 18 miler at a comfortable slow pace on Tuesday.  Hmm.  If I combine results from Monday's 8 and Tuesday's 18 I get a total distance of 26 miles covered in a total of four hours, ten minutes.  Not bad, especially considering I've got a month and a half to go until the big day, and a goal time of four hours.

My long runs have been rough these past few weeks.  For about a month or so, I've been struggling with nausea towards the last hour or so of these long runs.  Luckily for me, Tuesday was different.  I felt strong and light and swift, especially towards the end of the run.  Let's hope this continues as we get closer to the race.

My map for Tuesday was pretty boring, but for a good reason.  I really think it helped my mental stamina to run paths I was already familiar with, but the result is really just a series of figure-eights through the neighborhood:

Anyways, back to my man Hal.  I did a post recently about my summer reading list.  Well just a few days ago, Higdon's Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide has made it's way onto the list.  I'm only 15% through on my kindle, but I'm already wishing that I had started my exploration into running literature with this book.  It's a lot more technical than most of the others, but still very easy to read.  It's also my first running book that is specific to this distance.  I have to say, I'm a fan of his plan too.  I don't think Tuesday's 18 miler coming off an 8 mile "race pace" run the day before was a coincidence.  Next week I'll take a step back in mileage to recover a bit and get ready for a 20 mile run the following week.  These numbers keep getting bigger.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What goes with me for a long run...

When I gear up for my long runs every week it feels a bit like I'm getting ready for some kind of expedition.  When I was on vacation my family gave me a hard time for how long it took me every morning to actually get my foot out the door.  I'd get up to run at 7 (yes, even on vacation!) and I wouldn't start running until 9 or 10.  I'm not so bad about stalling when I'm at home, but at home I don't have my parents, my brothers, the beach or a cute pug to distract me.  So between all these distractions and getting my pack ready, it takes a while.  Here's what I pack before I leave:

On the left is my SpiBelt.  It's sort of a mini-fanny pack for running.  It holds some of the things I like to be able to grab quickly - My phone, Clif Bloks, Gu, and my apartment key.

In my backpack goes the rest of the stuff.  The pack is a Kelty Big Basin.  True to the amazon reviews, the reservoir that it came with leaked terribly, so I got a new one from Camelpak and now I can say that the combination meets my needs.  You might notice in the picture there I've got my handy sweat rag tied to the chest strap and the waist strap is tied up behind the pack.  It took me way too long to figure out that for me this is the only comfortable way to run with a pack.  

In the pack:
-Pepto Bismol Chewables (gotta be chewables!)
-Toilet Paper (just in case)
-Extra Socks
-Mini Body Glide stick
-Clif Crunch Bar
(I rarely eat both the crunch bar and the payday, but it makes me happy to have options to choose from when I need fuel.)

My long run at the beach was a little rocky.  I bonked at mile 12 out of 14, but I got to run through some new trails and nearly got the piss scared out of me by ... a butterfly.  Go ahead and laugh, but I had run through a few too many spiderwebs and was feeling VERY jumpy after not having seen any other humans for about an hour, and it startled me.  I shrieked like there was an axe murderer after me, and then laughed my way down the trail, relieved there was nobody around to see or hear my response to the very scary butterfly.

These are the only two pictures I took during that run.  The trail I was on opened up to a view of the beach.

Same part of the same trail, just a little closer.

Even though my long run that week was embarrassing and disappointing, the rest of the week went really well.  I managed to get all of my runs in, plus a trip to the gym to lift, and - AND! - (you may want to sit down for this part) - I beat my brother in a four mile race.  Gasp!  All three of my brothers are very athletic, and being the tomboy that I was when I was growing up, that meant losing a lot whenever we played sports together.  So this was big.  He might have beat me by one stroke the day before in mini golf, but I smoked him in our race and I couldn't have been happier about it.  Now that I think about it, we put a bet on that race.  That jerk still owes me ten dollars.

Stats from my long run at the beach:

Okay so the stats aren't working.  But I'm gonna go ahead and leave that there to show you I tried.  It's garmin's fault.  I think.  I'll repost later in the week to see if it's fixed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

As promised!

I love shopping for gear.  I can't say that I've tested a huge variety of brand names and styles when it comes to most of my running stuff, mostly because I just can't afford to buy stuff that I'm not sure I'll use on a regular basis.  This means I have a good bit of research to do when I decide to make running purchases, and so far, I'm happy to say that most of the junk I've bought gets used pretty regularly.

I'll start by contradicting myself with a purchase that I use much less frequently.  My FiveFingers.  I have the Ladies' Bikila LS in blue and gray.
Still a little embarrassed that I own these.
I should start by saying that I have probably run less than ten miles in these shoes and I've had them for nearly a year.  I've walked in them a bunch, and they feel great, but I'm just too worried about injury to put any significant miles on them.  Still, they're fun to run in if I have the patience to change my shoes after a run to cool down for another half-mile.  Most vendors will warn customers when trying on these shoes that if you run in them with little to no barefoot running experience, you're very likely to hurt your feet, legs back, etc.  Shod running has shaped our form over the years and to try and switch to a barefoot style takes a lot of time and patience.  I don't have that right now, so instead I have a pair of funny looking shoes that sit in my closet.  A waste?  Maybe.  I'll get over it.

My favorite running shoes that I have now or that I've ever had also happen to be my newest.  The Brooks PureCadence.  These shoes feel great.  They are super light, they keep my feet dry, and for me they are supportive enough while still feeling very lightweight.
I think they're pretty fly, too.

In my opinion, what's even more important than than the shoes is what goes in them.  I have about a million pairs of running socks but my favorite by far would definitely have to be my Injinji Lightweight Toesocks.
They even come in fun colors!
I have several pairs of these now and they're the only socks I'll wear for long runs.  I know toe socks might seem a little silly for distance running, but they are the best at keeping my toes happy and blister-free.

Speaking of blisters and skin irritation in general, let's talk about chafing.  It's an unfortunate reality.  I swear the folks at Body Glide are not paying me to tell you this: they've figured out how to make it stop.  I don't know how it works but this little deodorant-stick-style lubricant has kept me from developing sore spots since I trained for my first marathon in 2010.

Thank you, Body Glide!

Now this may be hard to believe, but my outfit when I run is the part I'm least picky about.  Running shorts are running shorts in my mind.  As long as they've got a liner and a pocket I'm a happy camper.  I use leggings in the winter, but it's not winter, so here you go.  Running shorts:

Bright colors are always a plus.

My only requirement is a pocket for my house key.

As far as tops go, any tech-shirt will do.  I try to stick with sleeveless during the summer to avoid the farmer's tan, but as long as it's not cotton I'm not really one to complain.  My favorite running shirts are the free ones that they give you with your bib at races.  If it's a bigger, more expensive race, then they usually even give out shirts that are made of synthetic moisture-wicking fabric instead of the hanes-style cotton tee.  These are my two favorites:

Left: 2012 GW Parkway Classic
Right: 2010 Baltimore Running Festival

So now that I've figured out what to wear, how will I monitor my run?  Two ways.  First is my Garmin ForeRunner 310XT.  This little gadget tells me the time of day, the time I've been running, how far I've gone, my current pace, average pace, distance and time ahead of/behind my goal pace, steps per minute, elevation, split times per mile, and about a million other things that I haven't yet figured out how to program.  Believe it or not, the features I just listed are features that I ACTUALLY USE on a somewhat regular basis.  The watch itself is a bit big.  Still, it tells me everything I could want to know.
Like a computer, only for my wrist.
My favorite part of the ForeRunner is that it automatically uploads all of my run data using a little wireless USB device and then logs it all for me on Garmin's website where I can track everything and set goals.  I hit a major benchmark yesterday, even though I have some catching up to do if I want to hit my goal of 1000 miles in 2012.
Woohoo!  500 miles!

I also use my iPhone from time to time if I forget to charge my watch.  I have the RunKeeper app which is a little underwhelming after being spoiled by all of Garmin's fun features, but it does the job.

This took a lot longer than expected.  I think I need to take a break and I will update with more goodies about fuel for long runs, and what I like to put into my pack.  Until then.