Saturday, October 24, 2009

My First 10K

The ends of my second toes feel like someone has scraped them away with an emery board, and the bunion on my right foot, generously passed down from Grandma Rop, pulsates. Did I mention the slight cramping that's manifesting in my left calf? But it's alright because these are my battle scars, earned proudly from my first 10K run.

The day began with positive vibe. As soon as my feet hit the floor I sprang into action.  Rob and I promptly got dressed in our windy weather gear, pinned our bibs to our shorts, and looped the orange timer tab through our shoelaces. Out the door at 8:40am, we headed to the car with water bottles, iPods, and peanut butter granola bars in tow. Zoom, zoom, zoom we drove, heading to the slightly far away town of Belding, a place I'd hardly been to except for occasional trips to Pando's and a rare dinner at Bostwick Lake Inn.  The Welcome to Belding sign appeared and a faint ripple of nervousness zipped through my body. The 10K was slotted to start at 9:45.

Once parked and out of the car I realized just how chilly it was. The wind whipped around from all sides and there was a nip in the air that bit through my windbreaker. I jumped around half-heartedly trying to warm-up while also wondering what the hell I'd signed up for. But looking around, I saw women wearing shorts and t-shirts (gasp!) and felt I fared better than regards to clothing anyway. Rob and I milled around killing time, alternating between sitting in the massive tent (so warm and toasty) and pacing the outer area (so cold and windy). It's ok, I thought, we'll be running soon. I'll warm-up in no time.

Well, "no time" became "more time" as we discovered that the 10K kickoff had been pushed back to 10:30. Something to do with only having one clock and needing to wait for the final finishers of the 5K walk. Still no problem. I happily thought, I'm here with my best friend and we'll kill time together. So we sat inside the warm tent, my legs tucked snugly between Rob's knees and waited it out.

Finally, 10:20 rolls around and Rob and I head to the start line, braving the biting wind. Once in line we perform more jumping jacks and squats in an effort to keep warm. My watch reads 10:30 and there seems to be no sign of starting. My motivation wanes with each passing minute. Unfortunately, I was stuck way the hell out in Belding and have no choice but to do this. My watch then reads 10:33, 10:34...
Finally the man in charge of the race starts talking. I can't hear because my iPod has been on for the last ten minutes, replaying Erasure's "A Little Respect", the song I chose for my warm-up. Too bad I've heard it five times now and am totally sick of it. The man keeps talking, something about waiting for the straggling 5k walkers. The 10K group looks to their left to view these turtles and some yell out for them to hurry up. I groan inwardly as I see no move on their parts to speed up their walk. 10:35.....

Suddenly people are moving; we're starting! Crap! I take off slow, reiterating to Rob that I have zero intentions of completing this in a certain time and if he needs to speed up and let me go, it's fine. Of course, I knew he'd stick by me, even at my snail's pace, because that's just the man he is. But nevertheless, I wanted him to have the option to leave me in his dust. With Erasure finally transitioning to some hyper country (thank you Sugarland!), we're off.

Completing miles 1 and 2 was fine, but right before finishing Mile 3,  I started to feel discouraged and really wanted to walk. "I'm walking at the Mile 3 marker", I loudly inform Rob (whose jogging so slowly it looks like he's in slow motion) but as soon as it approaches I change my mind. By now, my headband that warmed my ears has been ripped off (placed securely in Rob's pocket) and shortly after I remove my windbreaker, exposing my bare arms to the chilly elements. He holds my jacket, too, and I immediately flash back to the time last summer that he accompanied me to a used book sale at the library, chivalrously carrying all of my purchases, allowing me to pile books in his arms one on top of another. I smile in amazement. How did I get so lucky? But then the moment is gone and I'm right back on a country road in Belmont trying desperately to make it to the mile 4 marker. It's around here that I walk for the first time (not counting two brief slow-downs to drink water) and I'm proud of myself for not caring that I'm walking. There was no internal name-calling or badmouthing, just a little regrouping before picking up the jog again. I passed a pretty red tree and as I ran beneath it, following closely behind Rob who's breaking my wind, I took a quick second to appreciate the autumn tree, the handsome man in front of me, and the fact that my jelly-like legs were still moving. But, like my sweet reverie of the library book sale, the moment is gone in a flash as I glimpse an upcoming hill. Crap. Now, where the hell is Mile 5? 

It's up this hill that I experience a complete ebb and flow to my energy level. I pick up the pace and start passing people. It feels good until I realize my stupidity: why am I speeding up on a hill? Then I'm completely out of breath and have to walk; I watch the women I just passed now pass me. I feel like an idiot. Rob is up ahead, and I wave him on on in an attempt to say "Screw this. I'm done. You go and finish. I'm going to mosey on in." He shakes his head, telling me silently that is not an option. And the dichotomy I'm feeling kicks in again and I run. I catch up to Rob, all the while cursing under my breath that this is the last fucking time I'm doing this and where the fuck is Mile 6 and what is with this fucking wind? The cursing feels good, an outlet I need. I see Rob smirk at all my bitching because he knows  that fucking Mile 6 is right up the bend and then it's a short homestretch to the finish line.

Then I hear  those magic words, "We just passed Mile 6, baby, only .2 miles to go! Finish strong...keep it up!" and I am cursing and muttering under my breath while wanting so badly to collapse. Fuck, fuck, fuck! The swearing stampede continues, spurring me on to finish. Then Rob's voice: "Now there's only .1 to're doing great!" I am simultaneously moaning and sputtering my obscenities. Suddenly the Finish line is in sight. Before the race, Rob had made it very clear that I was to run in first. So I yell, "Stay back! I'm goin' in first!" and he smiles. I try my best to fly past him and then make one last effort to pass some chic that's about to get in before me. Oh no she doesn't!!! I see the clock at 1:06 and quickly pass underneath the banner. Rob is on my heels, reminding me to keep walking because he knows I just want to lay down and die.

Five minutes later we're standing in line, waiting for food. My breath is back to normal and Rob has his arms around me saying how proud he is. I again tell him I will never do this again. "Yes, you will", he says confidently.

And, like usual, he will probably be right.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For The Man Who Gives...

With winter weather approaching, I took stock today of my running gear: several wicking t-shirts and a pair of black Patagonia tights, my fuzzy, fleece headband and new pink windbreaker, my new water-resistant pants and 10K race shirt--just to name a few. All of this stuff (and more) I've collected during the last year or so of running. And today I added another piece: my brand-spankin' new Nike+ SportBand, a gift from my amazing boyfriend, Rob. It does all sorts of high-techy stuff like track calories, mileage, and pace. I can sync it to the computer and set goals for myself and track my runs. Totally cool! And as I hold this latest running gadget I look around my bedroom and realize just how much of my collection came from Rob.

Of course, working at Gazelle Sports helps, but everywhere I look I spot a little something from him: my green iPod Nano that was my first Valentine's gift, the grey Timex watch that I often misplace and fret, fret, fret over until it reveals itself in its latest hiding spot, my green Nalgene bottle that accompanies me everywhere, and now the newest addition, my pink SportBand watch.  All of these things were gifts to me at one time or another as a way of Rob showing me he's cheering me on. And as I look around the beautiful mess I've made in my bedroom of running gear and miscellaneous gadgets, I thank my boyfriend for supporting me, not only with material things, but with heart and soul every day for the last eighteen months.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The 10K Looms

This Saturday I'm slotted to run my first 10K. Once completed, I'll have three races under my belt. I must be determined because not only is it on a sacred Saturday morning (sleeping in has been penciled in on my to-do list since September), but it's way the hell out in Belding! Getting up AND driving a half hour to location? Crazy! But in honor of my last 5K I've decided to create a reminder list for myself on race day, a few things I learned last time around.

1. Drink coffee, yes, but allow adequate time for....release.
2. Switch up iPod to break routine.
3. Hills: pump knees and elbows higher on the way up; let gravity take me down.
4. Start slow. And stay that way if need be.
5. Don't be afraid to walk but try really hard not to.
6. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are my friend if eaten way ahead of time.
7. Four mile mantra: I will not crap my pants, I will not crap my pants. (This connects to #1)
9. Pass people toward the end. It feels good.
10. Check out the fall colors and stay in the moment. This is fun for crap's sake!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Teacher Runs

I've been an absent blogger. I know. Not because I haven't been running, but rather due to the new "baby" in my life: teaching. I'm finding it tricky to balance the things I know are good for me with the time I need to simply plan one day--let alone an entire week. Everything has been day-by-day and I am perpetually exhausted so running has taken a slight backseat. However, I did join a 10k running group and I'm running greater distances than I ever though I could do.

The group meets twice a week and it's HIGHLY challenging to make it both nights. I never thought teaching would take up so much of my free time. But, I have been making it to at least one session, if not both. I remind myself that the running group is a gift to myself, an insurance plan that will ensure I set aside some me-time, which is much needed after taking care of everyone else's needs all day.

The Tuesday group focuses on speed training, which is my least favorite thing in the world. The term "tempo runs" pretty much means "run harder than normal for a shorter distance and feel like a loser." But I did it. I picked up the speed after the half mile warm-up and maintained for 2.5 miles. I felt the difference compared to an easy run. I used to laugh at "easy run". What the hell is that? But now that I'm more in control of my breathing, the "easy" runs have become such...for the most part.

Rob has been a big help in that he semi-regularly drags my ass to Siedman Park for a 4 mile trail run. I've gone a few times now and credit those runs to increasing my lung capacity and endurance. Never mind that I broke down and cried around mile 2 a few weeks ago.

But the highlight of everything came last week when I ran my first 4 miler. I finally experienced that elusive runner's high, that thing that every "real" runner talks about, in which I always thought they were nuts. But this run was different. My breath was even, my arms, hands, and shoulders were loose, and I didn't even stop at the halfway point for water. Usually I look for any reason to stop. It was like an out-of-body experience. And last night, well, I was a rock star. I ran my first full 5 miler while suffering from a cold--slight fever, sniffles, etc. It was Day 3 of the cold and I was tired of it controlling my activities. So I ran. Unfortunately, I felt clammy and weak most of the run but the fact that I was doing something that often gets the best of me on a healthy day amazed me. Could I be turning a corner?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The short run that took forever

Today was hard.

I haven't run for nearly a week, not since last Tuesday's enjoyable outing, and I felt heavy, lethargic, and uninspired. What is the variable factor that allows one run to be so invigorating and another to be flat out miserable? I have two suggestions: fuel and heat.

The past week has been incredibly busy, what with my friend being in the hospital recovering from back surgery and my boyfriend's new nephew entering the world. My week was filled with errands, hospital visits, and waitressing. No time for anything but my to-do list. Early Saturday morning, Rob and I left for Indy to celebrate the 4th of July with friends so we certainly didn't work out that day. We intended to run Sunday morning but instead I sat around in my pj's, drinking coffee and eating smoothie samples. Run? Are you kidding me? Why ruin the morning?

So now it's Tuesday. I could delay this no longer. My 10k schedule called for a 2.5 mile run and I figured I'd take the same route as last week. But right from the beginning, I wasn't into it. First, the fuel I'd been putting in my body the past several days made me feel like dead weight. Burgers, brats, cookies, beer--if it was bad, I ate it. As if my own lethargy wasn't enough, the sun was out--that beautiful, glorious sun that we wait all winter to see. I just want it to hide behind a big, fat cloud for the hour I'm outside. It can come out after.

So I began today's run with two strikes already: low energy and heat. As I ran, I added another: my sore left ankle. It throbbed a bit but was more noticeable when I walked, which I did a few times. I just could not maintain the run. I was also missing my high that I felt last Tuesday. Was this really the same route I breezed through six days ago?

So yes, I struggled for the entire 2.5 and am simply glad it's over. My goal for the week is to get my energy back by refueling the body with better food. No more burgers, brats, chips, cookies (well...maybe cookies) for awhile. Bring on the grains and veggies! And maybe a sun visor while I'm at it....

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Enjoyment vs Speed

So I decided last night that I was going to run 2.5 miles today. But rather than run with any sort of pressure on myself, it was to be a "fun run" (as fun as I could make it anyway). What's no pressure? Well, for one, I didn't wear a watch. I have a nasty habit of checking time and groaning when it seems to move so slowly. I also repeated a route I'd already run with the group. If I ran it once, I could do it again, right? And finally, I wasn't running for any sort of time or speed; I wasn't trying to keep up with anyone. If it took me 45 minutes because I felt like walking up the big hills, so be it. This run was for me, not for my agenda. The result? The best run I've ever had, damn near enjoyable!

I started out relatively slow (no watch to tell me just how slow) and simply tried to be--a personal task that stumps me every day. I gave thanks for my two good legs and a healthy heart and patted myself on the back for even coming out. After feeling like a failure several times in the recent couple weeks it may have been easier to sit home and read. (I haven't yet touched on what happened to my fragile psyche when I flirted with the idea of training for a half marathon...) I gave myself landmarks to reach (a tip from the boyfriend) and told myself I could walk once I got there...if I wanted to. Turns out I never wanted to. I felt strong today, confident. It was the first time I've felt like this in two months of running.

Of course, being the teacher I am, I gave myself a couple goals to work on: one, watch my breathing. Try and keep it steady so at the end of the run, I wasn't wheezing like I was at the 5k finish line. Second, work on getting my heels higher. Without a mirror, it's entirely guesswork, but I aimed for it anyway. Third and final goal: enjoy myself. I'm happy to say I ended up running 3 miles and feeling relatively strong when I finished. My breathing was steady and, other than a slight discomfort in my left ankle, I felt great. Finally, I had a run that felt good, rather than something I got through.

Speed Training--Ouch!

In an effort to improve my lung capacity and endurance, I've researched the importance of speed training, a once-a-week workout that focuses on enhancing different running aspects (VO2 max, lactate threshold, basic speed). The prescribed workout yesterday seemed easy enough, as I read it from the comfort of my couch: go to a track, run an easy mile, then run 600 meters at a fast, uncomfortable speed, recover with a slow jog for 400 meters and repeat the 600 fast/400 recovery cycle five times. Then finish with a cool down jog of 1 mile. To me, it seemed easier that the 3.1 miles I'd run Saturday. Yeah right.

I got to the track and noticed it was muggier than I'd expected. Great. I've really come to dislike warm, sunny days in favor of cool, cloudy ones. Perhaps I should live in Seattle? Anyway, I began my warm up mile--four times around the track--and by lap two I was feeling tired and hot. I wasn't even into the speed workout part! So I ran/walked my lazy mile, eager to get to the real running. Never mind that the bunion on my right toe had been throbbing since breakfast. As I approached the end of my mile, I mentally prepared to really kick it for the next lap and a half, my first 600 meters at a fast pace. And so I ran...

I ran super fast! I pumped my arms and kicked up my heels; my quad muscles were working overtime; I RAN. About 200 meters. And then I just could not go anymore at that pace. 200 meters out of the prescribed 600?? I slowed down and jogged back to the starting line. My second try I'd get farther. And so I ran...

And again I only made it 200 meters. My disappointment was heavier than the humidity. I didn't get any farther. I jogged again to the starting line and did it again. And again. In the end I only did the uncomfortably fast pace for a max of 200 meters four times and said screw it to the cool down jog. I stretched half-heartedly and went home. So much for that being easier.