Friday, August 29, 2008

Breaking News!

OK. So it's not "breaking" as I am not the news.

However.

I have surpassed my goal of raising $600 for PAWS Chicago and currently have $622.40 because of all ya'lls generousity.

Thank you to everyone who has given!

A larger post will follow. I am sorry about the lapse in communication. MM and I did the big move this week, and I'm sans all things technology. More to come.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And Then There Were Two

Since I’m slow and fat, I am going to do what is expected of us slow and fat runners and bitch about the weather… but not that much and not right this second.

Man, I have a dozen and a half things to talk about today and being that my mind ain’t quite right just yet – 16 miles in heat and humidity will do that to a person – it's going to take a while. But I got nothing but time friends. Nothing but time.

Actually, I have around four hours or so before I actually have to motivate, but whatever. I suggest you settle in.

Comfortable?

Good.
So before I tell ya’ll about running 16 miles in direct sunlight when it’s 80 some odd degrees outside and the humidity is around 80 percent, I need to revisit the previous topic. A little rehashing if you will. A few days ago, Lindy showed me this. Then last night as I was eating my dinner of champions (a Red Baron frozen pizza – no wonder I’m slow and fat), I read Roison’s post, which makes note of some of the particularly harsh comments on the Tribune blog, which were made by “fast” and “in shape” runners about the “new,” the “slow,” and the “fat.” As Roisin correctly points out, there’s a lot of hate out there. A lot of hate.

It really got me thinking, which is not something I like to do.

I mean, let’s get real folks. Why do these runners believe that it’s not OK for “people like me” to be out running a marathon? Sure, I’m not new anymore – I have four half marathons under my belt, a triathlon, countless shorter races, and one big fat DNF (I’ll let you guess which one) – but I’ve been there. I get it. I don’t necessarily think that people should get off the couch and decide that a marathon is the best idea for their inaugural race, but who am I to judge? I went from one 8K – that nearly killed me – to a half marathon – that nearly killed me. I get that sometimes if you can’t run faster, you run farther.

So, I’m not new. I've left size, actual numbers if you will, out of my blog for years. The truth is, I am overweight, which is not something to that’s fun to admit when one is nearly 5’6” and size 10. In my world, that doesn’t sound “fat.” But by every measure, I am. I know some of you (hopefully) are going to be all like, “Lou you are not fat; you are fabulous.” And I am. But seriously, this is reality.

You know what else I am? Slow. I’m not the slowest, but I am planning to run this marathon at 13 minute mile pace, which will (God willing) get me to the finish line in under six hours. Yes, I would love to be faster. But Boston is nowhere in sight, and there’s a good chance it never will be for me. And right now, it’s not about that. I put in my time; I put in my miles; I do my long runs; I know my limits. Why am I any less deserving than a seven minute miler?

Wait. There’s more.

When the whole Chicago Marathon debacle when down last year, and Meg and I were stopped at mile 16 and forced to forfeit our race, I really focused in on my experience running that marathon. The lack of supplies, the hellacious conditions, the heartbreak in knowing that the medal I have from the Chicago Marathon 2007 really doesn’t mean what it should. Yes, they gave all of us medals. Finished or not. And while I can sit here and make an argument that every single person deserved one, I can’t seem to bring myself to hang that medal up with the eight others I proudly display on my bookcase. Newsflash, those of us who DNF are harder on ourselves about it than any of these “fast” runners ever could be. Just FYI.

Two days ago, I showed MM the Tribune blog, and I realized that never before had I heard about what he experienced during the 2007 Chicago Marathon. I mean, he finished, end of story. Period.

Not so.

He said to me, “Lou, the reason you did not have water is because of me.” What? Huh? How is that possible? MM, please elaborate.

“I went through every single water station and took six to seven cups of water and dumped half of them over my head because I was so hot.”

Well, of course he did. And so did everyone else at the front of the pack. I mean, that’s what the race organizers said the runners were doing. So, I suppose this isn’t “new” information. Not necessarily. But then it dawned on me. Clarity. MM was hoping to run the marathon 3:45:00 before all the “oh shit it’s going to be nine million degrees” stuff happened. He’s fast. And he continues to get faster. He solidly runs under an 8 minute pace. He went to one group run with me and ended up leading the “faster” runners from the 7:30 group under pace during the second half of their 10 mile run.

No one would look at MM and suggest that he shouldn't be out there. He’s not a slow runner. He’s not a new runner. He’s not an out-of-shape runner. And despite that, he reacted to the weather and the conditions of that race exactly as I did. Even though I was minutes, eventually hours, behind him, our bodies wanted the same thing – to be cooled off and appropriately hydrated. He slowed down. Way down. He ran nearly an hour off his intended time. Which is approximately two minutes slower per mile. And guess what, that’s about how off-pace I was too.

To the fast runners out there, I ask you... Seeing that my body reacts to severe weather conditions the same way a faster, fitter, more seasoned runner’s body reacts, how is there a case that I -- or other slower, fatter, newer runners -- was ill-prepared for the conditions? And, why on earth does it matter if I’m behind you? Just because it's going to take me longer to finish? Just because I could stand to drop 10 pounds? That, my friends, doesn’t make any fucking sense.

And seriously, if I’m not out there bringing up the rear, who are you – you bitter, hot shot, “fast,” runners who don’t think you should have to share the road – going to be better than? How else are you going to be in the top half or the top twenty percent or whatever number it is that makes you feel like you’re entitled to spout off about the rest of us who are out there just trying to reach our goals? No one. Why? Because you’re not a freaking elite athlete. You may be good, but you’re never going to be that good. In the scheme of Kenya, you’re actually pretty mediocre. So deal with it. Climb your mountains. PR under 3:00:00; qualify for Boston, whatever makes you tick. But let me climb mine in the meantime.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, Shut the Fuck Up.

That said, "those" runners are probably (I hope!) a small percentage of all runners, slow and fast and in between. They are also probably the same people who don't want to see slower, fatter people in the gym or certain bars or in their general line of sight or whatever. They are, if nothing else, losing the race to be a decent human being. MM is not one of those people. When MM found out that I was a runner he was thrilled to meet someone with the same desire and discipline to go out there and race. He wasn't all, "Wow. That's great you are trying to run at your size." He didn't see me as a "big" or "out of shape" runner, he just saw me as a fellow runner. If not a little slower...

Anyway.

Today the CARA 12 minutes or bust group led and populated solely by yours truly, had a 16 mile run at 6am. I gotta tell you, it was hot. It was humid. It got a little ugly out there, and everyone looked like they were suffering. There I go again, being all fat and slow and bitching about the weather.

But wait. I wasn’t alone. The woman I caught up with during last week’s run said she’d like to stick with me, if that’s all right.

Well sure it is. I mean, I had mentally prepared myself to run alone and on some level was almost looking forward to the solitude, but it’s hard to turn down company when you’re starring a four hour run square in the face.

It actually worked out pretty well. Her running experience, including getting stopped at mile 16 of last year’s ill-fated marathon, is eerily similar to my own. I was super chatty the first half of the run which made it go by quickly. We were stopping at every water station, we were keeping hydrated, but we knew, turning back, that getting home was going to tough.

You know what the tough did?

They walked a few extra minutes after every water station. They rationalized that they only needed to get to the next source of water and they never looked ahead further than that. They turned up their iPods. The “tough” created mantras like, “What would Lindy do?” and “What would RBR do?” and “What would Iron Misty do?” Those runners would keep going, so that’s what we did.

It was a hard run. But it was also a battle well fought, and honestly, I would in no way consider this a bad run. In fact, like last week’s run, I am amazed that I made it through, but unlike last week’s run, I still felt pretty strong toward the end. Tired, yes. Hot as hell, yes. But my legs were not as spent as they were the week prior. I guess the biggest “win” during this 16 miles was the feeling that my head is finally in the right space. With only six (HOLY HELL!) weeks of training left, I fee like I’ve finally wrapped my mind around all of this and I’ve grown and accepted truths and I’ve torn myself down and rebuilt and I’m stronger for it. I am ready to tackle 18 miles in two weeks. I’m all, “Bring it on,” and shit.

So yeah. It’s all good (do the kids today still say that?).

One anecdote from today's long run. Now, forgive me, I'm not trying to overdrive my point... but... as my companion and I were trucking along the path, a group of runner's passed us. You've seen them... a pack of runners, all male, practically sprinting, six across, not a shirt among them. Now, granted, they are often nice to look at, but on this particular day, I recognized one of them as they passed. Hey, I said to my companion, see the guy with the tattoos on his shoulder blades? She did. That guy, I continued, can't swim one lap of a 25 meter pool. That guy was in my beginner swim class, and he was totally nice and I'm not calling him out in any way. He was a veteran marathoner, a Boston-qualifier, etc., ad naseum. But he couldn't swim to save his life... uh... literally. And this guy, this incredibly athletic, lean dude was signed up for his first triathlon. Now people, do you think any of us slow, fat triathletes would look at him and say, "Hey buddy, if you can't swim, get out of the lake!"

Food for thought. Ummm... food...

One final note and then I’ll end this blog to end all other blogs… I am shocked and touched by the outpouring of generosity from my friends and family. I never expected one email asking for donations to help PAWS Chicago would get me so close to my goal, but I am only about $50 shy of $600. I am also thrilled that so many of you sent me photos of your adorable pets, many of whom are rescues. PAWS is a fantastic organization, and more deserving pets will find homes because of your gifts. In addition, I do believe people also give to support the runner, and I’m happy that there’s so many of you out there who believe in me and my ability to run ridiculously far.

I’ll be dedicating a post to all this business when I reach my goal, but I wanted to say a formal, preliminary HUGE THANK YOU to those who have given.

Because this blog is totally formal and shit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not a Drop to Drink...

Lindy brought this to my attention.

Yep. We're still talking about it.

Check out my comments on this Tribune blog and Lindy's post if you want to know how I feel about this. One comment features the phrase "balls out." We don't really use that around here enough. Or "balls to the wall." That's another good one.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sweet Redemption

I’ve probably never mentioned my weakness for mediocre frozen pizza (it’s not nearly as subversive as my weakness for Ben & Jerry). But, apparently this is the dinner of champions: Strawberry cupcakes and a Red Baron frozen four cheese pizza.

Seriously.

The strawberry cupcake was courtesy of @. I had two. Go ahead... judge me. I’ve had a rough week. I actually said to @ while sitting at her kitchen table inhaling my second helping of strawberry-cakey goodness, “If I have a good run tomorrow, you’re going to have to make these for the night before the marathon.”

From my mouth to God’s ears.

Seriously.

Geez, I feel nuts right now. It’s because I’m giddy. I’m overcome with the joy of running and the word of… well, myself. Sometimes I do smart stuff and think smart things and take the lessons I have learned and apply them in situations and everything works out. The end.

A reading from the book of Lou:
Thou runth, she says, but I will fall back. If any of ye too want to runth slower than an 11 minute pace know now that I will be there, behind you, maybe 100 yards back, runthing at my own pace. Ye who runth at her own pace shall reapth rewards.
OK. I’m going to stop acting crazy now. I hope I’m not offending… like… every single one of you. I worry a lot about offending people. But, that’s another story for another day.

So last weekend the half marathon was kind of shitty. Shitty in like a, “Hey MM, you might need to carry me down these here steps because my legs won't bend on command” way. I was hurting. But, moreover, I was scared to death that I was only halfway to a marathon. If I felt like that at 13.1 miles, how on earth was I going to go any further? So I moped. I told my story to anyone who would listen, including you guys. And then, I decided to take control.

The sad truth is that CARA’s training program does not cater to the AHEM speed-challenged runner. I’m not dissing (Does anyone still use the word "diss?" Should I replace it with “disrespecting?”) CARA or anything; it’s just a fact. Mid-week runs top out eight miles, and I’ve been stressing about how on earth I’m going to run 30-35 miles a week especially come fall when I am traveling for work constantly (that’s also another story).

I emailed Lindy and Meg on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday (it's all a blur) and asked if either of them still had the CES marathon training calendar from last year. Lindy forwarded it to me approximately four minutes later. Yay for Lindy! Then you know what I did? I took my Marathon Training tab in my Google Calendar and I changed every single mid-week run. The longest CES mid-week run is 50 minutes. Much more doable. Much less stressful. Much more conducive to actually cross training and lifting a few weights every now and again. And EVERYONE (unless they are a complete moron or running nutjob) will tell you that slightly under-training is far preferable to over-training.

Today I showed up at the CARA long run, ready to drop back to a 12 minute mile pace. Unfortunately for me, there’s no actual 12 minute mile pace group. So I started off with the 11:30 group. By mile two, I knew we weren’t actually running at an 11:30 pace. I knew this because the 11 minute group was only 50 yards or so in front of us, and our group was closing the gap.

I dropped behind the group and planned my escape. At the first water station, I caught the group and made an announcement:
I don’t know if you guys noticed, but uh... I dropped back. I’m going to run a 12 minute pace so if anyone ends up needing to slow down, you’ll know that I’m only a little bit behind and you can run with me if you want.
Or something to that effect.

I ran alone. I ran alone somewhere between a 12 and 13 minute pace for 11 miles. I felt fantastic. I listened to my music and took solace in having some time to myself after a particularly stressful work/home/life/everything week. I people watched. I picked out the “good” swimmers and the “bad” swimmers at Oak Street Beach. I love watching the swimmers.

I hit mile seven and a half, turned around, and headed home. I stopped at every single water station, but only drank water. No more Gatorade. I decided to try taking half a GU at a time instead of a whole GU and that seemed to be significantly more pleasing to my stomach. I stretched at a couple of the later water stations, but I ran every single step of 15 miles. I have never done that before.

At mile 12.5 or so, I caught up with a woman from the 11:30 group who was walking. She said she was hoping that she would see me and asked if she could run with me.

So we did. I’m not going to lie and make the end of the 15 mile run sound all sunshine and rainbows and puppies and kittens and shit; I fought hard for that last half mile. All told, it took me approximately 3:20:00 (several water stops included). I don’t know if 16 miles would have been possible today, but I suppose we’ll find out next weekend. Hell, I can still walk down stairs today. That's a victory. And I'm not going to worry about next Saturday until next Saturday.

I am so proud of myself. I feel like I finally get it now. This is not my marathon with CARA. This is just simply my marathon. It’s my training. It’s my pace. It's good or bad only for me. If their program does not fit with my life, then I need to switch gears. Today, I finally took ownership of all of it. I have consistently avoided training for long distance races by myself. And now, I know why. It’s because I didn’t trust myself to actually do it alone. But, I told myself, Lindy trains alone. RBR trains alone. MM often trains alone. Various other runners I know get out there and consistently put in the time, alone. Now I trust myself. I can do this alone.

So this is it. This is why we run. Because the growth, the lessons, the journey... it never ends. We learn and we get stronger and smarter. We keep going and we always come back. Hell yeah we do! We love this shit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crazy Is as Crazy Does

I blame Lindy for this madness. Immediately following the Chicago Distance Classic, I texted her this:
2:37ish… Ok until ab 8, then meh
The “meh” is describing my apathy for miles nine through 13. A few hours later I received a text from her that said this:
U still hit 12:00 so that’s fine. Wanna do another half either on 8/31 or 9/14?
When I received this message, I was asleep on my couch. After I woke up and hobbled like an old woman over to my phone, I laughed. Another half marathon? Sure Lindy, right after I regain the ability to bend my knees so I can sit down without having to fall backwards and hope that my rump hits the seat.

A few hours later, I looked up my weekly training and realized that, yes… another half marathon on either of those dates would fit nicely into my mileage schedule. It was something to consider. Another hour went by and I mentioned it to MM. How do you feel about doing another half marathon, MM?

OK. So, I was starting to come around. Then on Monday I read Lindy’s blog. I provided advice, “Play it by ear,” I said. “Don’t sign up for a half marathon just yet,” I said.

That evening, I emailed her:
Subject line: Alright.

I'm in. if you want to do Banco, I'm with you. I don't know what part of "I'm in intense pain due to my half marathon" is leading me to believe that I should do another one like... right now, but whatever. Let me know if you're going to sign up.
OK. So it's less Lindy’s fault, and more my fault. I believe her response began, “Damn you Lou,” and now we’re both signed up to run on September 14.

Oh and did I mention that I also signed up for the 2009 Indy Mini Marathon yesterday? It’s the biggest half marathon in the world and only a short three or so hour drive from Chicago. So, the first big race of 2009 has been determined.

Two half marathon registrations in one day. That’s a record for me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CDC Course Runs Long

Check it out. They are actually admitting that the course was incorrectly certified.

That wasn't so hard, was it?

Based on this new information, my actual pace per mile was 11:54.

Update: The viewing audience ought to know that Lindy and Roisin alerted me to this story as it was developing. Don't I sound all newsy and stuff? Anyway, Lindy pointed me to the Runner's World forums, which are a little intense, mind-boggling, and memorizing (I mean, I thought I was obsessed). Reading through the discussion thread about the CDC course and the comments that knowing John Bingham, he would come clean if something were amiss (unlike another race organizer), I decided to check the CDC Web site to see if it was official. And, low and behold, it was.

When I first read on Roisin's blog that her Garmin was showing a longer course, I realized that... hmmm... it did seem as though I slowed down significantly between mile six and seven. So there you have it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shit. Now What? The CDC Race Report

This morning, MM and I woke up a little after 4am and turned on the Olympics to watch the swimmers and gymnasts while we got dressed for our half marathon until I finally said, “OK, it’s time for our lil' ‘lympics.”

Limp is right, girlfriend. But more on that later. First, the good, the bad, and the "fuck this" moments from today's race, the Chicago Distance Classic.

The good: The weather was fan-freaking-tastic. It was an almost brisk 60 degrees at the start, a few clouds, and as far as I could tell, the humidity was nonexistent despite the fact weather.com told me otherwise. I mean, you don’t just get days like this in mid-August Chicago. We’re lucky if it’s not in the 90s. Sometimes, we’re lucky if it’s not in the 90s in October. Just saying. I’ll get over that someday, I swear.

Other than a little stomach pain, which I concluded was probably nerves, I felt pretty darn good at the start line. I was well-hydrated, well-nourished, and I started the race strong. Really strong. Like under 11 minute mile splits strong. Around mile four, I started to wonder how to weigh the need to slow down and conserve energy versus the opportunity to just go with it, and see if I can sustain. I don’t know that I ever actually came to a decision, but the internal debate kept me busy for another two miles, and by that time, I had dropped back to an 11 minute mile. Other than the lingering feeling that maybe I should stop to go to the bathroom, I was solid.

Then, the bad: Around mile six, I experienced a new pain. New pains in running are always mysterious, and in the middle of a race, it's difficult to determine the best course of action. If it’s an old pain, chances are you’ve researched it or even gone to a PT for treatment, stretched it, cared for it, and you know what you're capable of doing with it. With new pain, if you can still run, there's really not much else to do but keep going and hope it goes away... quickly. That’s what I did even though shooting pains gripped my left hamstring. I felt like it would let up, and after about two minutes it did.

For the most part, until mile eight or so, my legs were still moving. I saw a work friend at mile seven and told her I felt good. I had decidedly dropped back to “my pace,” an 11:30 mile, but I was moving. If I could hold out the last few miles, I could still manage a PR.

Not today friends.

By mile nine, both legs were tired, but my left quad hurt as though it had been going up and down mountains rather than running the flat-except-for-that-one-eight-foot-“climb” Chicago Distance Classic course. I slowed down. Way down. But I kept running because I figured if I stopped, my left leg would be so uncomfortable that I may not be able to start up again. I ran until mile 12. This is actually the longest I have ever run with walking once – not for a break, not for water, not for nothing.

At mile 12, I realized there was a woman walking in front of me, but I was running so slow, I could not catch her. That’s the moment I mentally said, “Fuck this,” and started walking – well, let’s be fair, it was less of a walk and more of a limp-walk. As suspected, my left thigh continued to be tight and intensely sore.

As I walked through the last aid station, I looked at my watch. The hope of a PR was long dead (10 minutes is long, right?), but I figured, “Lou, you are less than 10 minutes away from the finish line. You can still manage a race record if you rally... like right this second.” And so, with yet another, “fuck this,” I picked up my aching legs and valiantly headed to the end.

So there you have it, 2:38:00. Even. One minute and some change faster than last year’s CDC. I crossed the finish line, and did some perhaps melodramatic limping while holding on my left thigh. I found MM, laid down in the grass, and contemplated never getting up again.

My biggest concern right this second is that my not-so-stellar performance today was absolutely 100 percent about my legs. Yeah, the stomach was not great, but I have a few solid ideas as to why, and it didn’t hinder me. Had I been running the marathon, I would have stopped at a bathroom. But this is a half marathon. There isn’t time!

Which brings me to my next major concern. I’m all for believing in myself and that shit, but seriously, I have to question my ability to actually run a marathon when my legs are SCREAMING at me, and I’m only halfway there. This is what training is for, right? Of course, I have no idea how I am going to run 15 miles next week. It sure wouldn’t have happened today.

What do we attribute this to? Did I just go out of the gate too fast? And, if that’s the case, then why is every single long run I attempt a struggle? Am I experiencing training fatigue, or am I over-trained? Am I on a collision course headed straight for an injury? The pain I felt today caught me completely off-guard because, if nothing else, I’ve been lucky to be injury-free (and for the most part, pain-free) this season.

There are other bloggers (and granted this may be perception) who seem to have the ability to go from race to race to race. How do they (some of you) do that? How do you train seemingly all the time? I’m starting to wonder if I have it in me. I’ve been training since late-February for various events. I have two months to go. And that’s if I actually make it to the start line of this year's marathon.

I know. I’m such a baditude.

So… friends. Where do we go from here? I’m thinking ice bath. Bat shit crazy? Or crazy like a bat shit crazy fox?

P.S. Lest we not forget MM. He crossed the finish line at 1:42:16, good enough for a corralled start at this year's Chicago Marathon, which is exactly what he was trying to do.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

For Dinner: Aloo Phujia

Since MM and I returned from Ohio, I've made a concerted effort to take advantage of actually being at home by actually cooking dinner a few nights a week. Right now, I am all about Allrecipes.com. Granted, I'm a sucker for the whole online thing (obvi), but I love being able to choose recipes based on the 158 or so reviews. It gives you a much better idea of what you're going to end up with than just a list of ingredients and some instructions.

Tonight, I made Aloo Phujia, an Indian dish. My knowledge of Indian food pretty much begins and ends with Amy's microwaveable Palak Paneer, and -- in all honesty -- I don't believe I've ever actually eaten in an Indian restaurant. Sad, but true. However, after trying the Spinach Chickpea Curry and loving it, I've kept my eye out for other easy, low calorie Indian recipes.

Aloo Phujia

Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
Directions
  1. Lightly brown onion in oil in a medium size skillet.
  2. Stir in salt, cayenne, turmeric and cumin. Add potatoes and cook 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Add tomatoes, cover pan and cook until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.

I made a couple of adjustments:
  • Unfortunately, this recipe has massive amounts of oil. I decided to use three tablespoons instead of 1/4 cup (which is four tablespoons).
  • According to many of the people who rated this recipe, they doubled the amount of cumin used. I used a heaping 1/2 teaspoon. Yay for cumin, right?
Another note:
  • Once you add the tomatoes and put the lid on the pan, do not remove the lid until it has cooked for 10 minutes. The steam helps cook the potatoes, and they turned out perfect. So just... leave it. Don't touch!
Overall, this tasted fantastic, is completely idiot proof (and trust me, I'm an idiot when it comes to cooking), and is really fast and easy to prepare. MM went nuts on this dish despite the fact that it is super spicy and made the sides of my mouth water. Next time -- and there will be a nex time -- I may cut the amount of cayenne in half. But, if you can take some heat, try this recipe!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Thing About the Race

So. I complained about my latest long run I complained about the change in the Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon course. I am decidedly not ecstatic about racing this Sunday.

But, I think I’ve figured out what’s going on.

The last two races I specifically trained for – the Flying Pig Half Marathon and the Danskin Sprint Triathlon – were fantastic experiences. Other than the overplayed, if-only-I-were-faster-in-general woes, I couldn’t have asked for more from either of those races. The weather cooperated; I felt good; I got into my zone, and I stayed there.

But back to the thing about the CDC… this is my race. It's where I started. It’s my fourth half marathon. Starting in 2006, I have, in each subsequent half marathon, knocked approximately 10 minutes off my time: 2:50, 2:40, 2:30. Roughly. I never expected to do that in Cincinnati, but the stars aligned despite the hilly course.

But that’s the thing about running. You never can quite predict when it’s going to be good and when it’s going to be not so good.

To be frank, I’m afraid that this race is not going to be a fantastic experience. I’m afraid I’m not going to hit my goal time of 2:20:00, and that possibly due to heat or humidity or my stomach or my tired legs, I won’t set another PR. It’s bound to happen sometime, right?

That’s statistics for ya.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Easy Street

I love running. I really do. Right now we’re having a bit of a spat, and maybe the romance has hit a rough patch, but I know in my heart that I love to run. Moreover, I love endurance athletics. To a somewhat unhealthy level, I can eat, sleep, and breath this stuff particularly if I become slightly obsessed with another athlete’s life and training via their blog.

So whatever. I just outed myself to at least one unsuspecting blogger.

The thing is, I have a spiel. If you tell me that you just started running or training for your first race or you’re thinking about it, be prepared, I have some thoughts to share. Or, if you ask me why I subject myself to what is quite obviously torture, I am ready and willing to provide you with an answer.

It goes something like this:
The first year I trained for a half marathon, I was in pain every single day. After my long runs I felt sick. I would curl up in the fetal position and be a waste of space for the rest of the day. It totally sucked.

By this point people, be they running/endurance newbies or running skeptics, are slightly horrified. Why would anyone bother with that bullshit, right?

But I assure them:
It gets better! I promise. Sure, sometimes I wonder how I did it that first summer, but I stuck with it. After I stopped training for the race, I stopped running that’s when I realized that I couldn’t actually stop. So I started training again. Running has grounded me; it’s become part of my identity. It’s played a huge role in my life over the last two and a half years, and I expect that it will continue to do so well into the future.

So. Whatever. I’m weird. Deal with it.

Finally, there's one more key point I must impart onto these folks who oh-so-innocently stumbled on to my obsession and are now trapped:
People will tell you that running never gets easier, but it does.

Remember that part. It's pretty much the key to today's blog.

Let's revisit the recent past, shall we? This morning, I ran 13 miles with the training group. Despite everything being right – solid night’s sleep, decent dinner, good hydration, well-organized for the run – things started to go wrong. First, around six or seven miles, my legs got heavy. Second, after I ate a Gu, my stomach began acting unhappy. Third, I noticed the skin on the inside of my upper arm was starting to sting. Finally, after significantly slowing my pace and dropping behind the group, I gave in at mile 10 and walked the rest of the way back. Three miles.

It’s fine. It happens.

But I realized that running does continue to challenge – it’s not necessarily harder or easier two years later, but it’s different. Why? Well... it’s not always the whole moving your legs for a really really long time thing, which -- let's be honest -- can be a major pain in the ass. But truly, it’s more the unpredictability that inevitably comes with distance.

Sure, these days I don’t spend a ton of time curled up in the fetal position attempting to curtail stomach cramping. And generally, I'm not down for the count every Saturday post-run. My brain works, my legs work, and I can carry on like a normal human being – for the most part.

But, I am continually forced to tweak my nutrition, particularly when it comes to gels and Gatorade. Over the last several weeks, I’ve had two instances where stomach issues prevented (or played a role in preventing) me from finishing my entire run. Also (and this is new and fun and painful), in my third season training for distance races, my body has just now decided to chaff. Ok. That’s mostly true. I chaffed once last year on the inside of my thighs – I know. TMI. I bought the body glide after that incident. I remembered to use it once in awhile, and it never happened again. Until now. This year I have chaffed during every single freaking run. First it was my legs, then the skin under the elastic of my sports bra, and this week, it’s the inside of my arm. And it hurts like a bitch. And every week, I use the body glide thinking I’ve covered all my bases, so to speak, and yet, my body finds a new place to vigorously rub against my clothes or itself.

So I had a bad run. And I learned that maybe I need not be so cocky thinking that 13 miles is “no big deal” and “not that far.” It is far. It’s fucking far. I’ve also decided that I’m going to roll with it. This is the first week I have been able to fit in every single training run, and this is the first double digit run I’ve done since May. We have a long way to go from here, and it ain’t going to help anybody if I’m bitching and moaning about a sub-par 13 miler. Especially me. I will be OK. I will have good runs and not so good runs. And that’s just the way it is. It’s the way it’s been and the way it’s always going to be.

I'm feeling rather Zen about all of this now.

Shanti friends.