Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why are you running?

"Why are you running?" is spray painted in stringy black letters on the 8.5 mile loop that I often run my speed work on. And every time I run over it I think, "Why AREN'T you running??"

Here are some other "why's" that drive me absolutely up a wall.

"Why are you going to sleep at ten pm on a friday?" Have you ever tried to run fourteen miles on four hours of sleep? Better yet have you ever tried to run fourteen miles? Yea I didn't think so. If you've never done it, don't question what I do

"Why can't you drink? my friend Tina/Joe/Sara/etc. runs marathons and drinks all the time" Well yay for Tina Joe Sara and the rest of the alcoholic runners. they are a lucky bunch who's stomachs and bodies do not require adequate nutrition for optimum performance. But as for the rest of us, why do something we're only going to use as an excuse for poor performance later on? I didn't run well becuase i went out drinking the night before. alright well don't drink and you'll run better. Thats why I don't drink. I'm sorry you have nothing better to do with your life than waste money on nights you will never remember.

"Why don't you have an extra piece of cake, you're only going to run it off later?" Ok well this one is legit, at least in times of heavy training. and so yes I will have that extra piece of cake, and that extra burger, and that extra sandwich. And while you complain about how I can eat whatever I want and not gain any weight I will laugh at you on the inside because you have NO IDEA how hard I work to get to this point. You have no F***ING clue how much work it is.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

If you think it hurts bad now, just wait a few days.

Alright so here I am, one month away from my second marathon ever. The past two weeks have been nothing short of torture, I have come to love ice baths, and laying motionless on my hardwood floor for hours on end just becuase its not standing up. One week ago I completed a twenty mile long run, and I fear that everything has been rolling downhill since I failed to recover properly.

Here's what it was like to get up to the big 2-0. First of all I was on vacation so i had to improvise my route. I was excited that i had not let vacation break me out of my routine. I was gonig to stick to something so difficult, something that no one (except my mother) understands. I had to skip wine with dinner, skip staying up late at night to play cards with my cousins, at least i did not have to skip eating! I was in bed by ten thirty and then awake again to get in one last late night snack. To say i was not nervous I would be lying however I did what I always did and convinced myself I was going to be fine. A twenty mile run would take me no more than three and a half hours and after that I would be on vacation for the rest of the weekend.
I broke down the twenty miles into three intervals of a six mile out and back, and one two mile out and back to finish the job.
My twelve year old sister was going to do one six mile out and back with me, both to give her some company, and to get some miles under her belt. She was a future marathoner and she didn't even know it. She ended up doing eight miles that day with me, a middle six and the final two, but if you asked her how many miles she ran she would refuse to say she ran eight. "It doesn't count if you stop in the middle" she said.

Promptly at six am the next morning I rolled out of bed, grabbed my running gear that was piled in a corner and headed downstairs, waking Chelsea on my way so she could eat something and then go back to sleep. We ate Luna bars, something I am quickly becoming disgusted with, Gatorade, and she went back upstairs. I popped in my ear buds and began playing some upbeat music to get me going. the day was grey and cloudy and they were calling for rain. When I was all stretched out, I headed out the door for my first lap.

I was unfamiliar with the course I had picked, only having driven it the night before on my way in but found it to be somewhat decent. Going out it felt flat, a few uphills, and then it started to pour. I mean, poured so hard i had to ring out my shorts every so often to keep from weighing me down. And then I turned around and realized the seemingly flat course i had mapped was in fact a slight downward grade the entire out, and thus mostly uphill the way back. But I made the first six miles in under an hour. Not really a great feat if i was only doing six miles. At this point in the game i wasn't about to complain. I jogged a few circles around the cul-de-sac and waited for my sister to come trotting down the driveway with Gatorade and shot blocks.
I asked her who was awake in the house yet, knowing the answer would be grams and thats it. Everyone else would still be sleeping. We ran up a few hills, past some roadkill that has both of us refusing to look at the ground and holding our noses, past a tiny road side stand selling (overpriced) maple syrup and sunflowers. Chelsea laughed when i asked her if she would like some syrup. I said maybe on the way back? Luckily we made the whole six miles with out a drop of rain, the way back was tough on her, and tough on me, my second time up those hills but we kept pushing and when i dropped her off back at the driveway i had convinced her to come back in an hour and join me for my last two miles. I would really need it.
I know that if she wasn't there I still would have run the miles.
My last six was the longest of the three. My legs were lacking serious energy. I made it in just over an hour. I hated myself for running slow. how was I going to keep this up in a race if i couldn't do it in practice? My willingness to slack off killed me. And then my stomach attacked.
Finishing up mile 18 i seriously contemplated dashing in the house to use the bathroom before finishing out twenty but i somehow convinced myself that with only two miles to go I would be a wuss if I stopped for anything at all. When I met Chelsea for the second time at the end of the driveway I asked her how she was feeling, we had never run more than six miles and she was about to do two more so i wanted to make sure she was ok. she said she was feeling good, how was I feeling. Not so good I said with a groan, not good at all.
The last two miles started off painfully slow. and I mean painfully slow. but some how I made it through every last step, taking a final push towards the end, charging down the street and finished doubled over, every muscle in my body aching.
"Chelsea," I said, as we walked down the driveway gulping what Gatorade was left in the bottle, "I want you to remember this when you run your first marathon. Because that was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, but you know what, it's worth every second of it"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's going to get worse before it gets better

One month. Eighteen days.
The race of my life. I can't help but get excited this time. Last year I was terrified. I knew how hard it was going to be, and I was unsure of myself. 26 miles? .2? could I do it? Could i even finish the distance never mind race in a decent time? Could I do it by myself?
Self doubt is such a dangerous thing. you can't let in even one little negative thought. becuase one turns into two, two turns into ten, and when you don't believe in yourself who can? If my body has become stronger this year it is only becuase my mind has been determined every single step of the way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'll never tell

I'll admit it, my gut reaction when someone starts to complain about pain of any kind is to tell them to suck it up and deal. I am not really a mean person though, i just wish people would learn to suck it up and deal. Why? because I am a running, I suck it up and deal every single day.
Saturday morning I get up for a routine twelve miler. My inner thighs are on fire, my right eye is swollen half shut and I am tearing up before even leaving the house. And yet I leave the house. I push through the heat, through the fatigue, up the hills and under the sun, I push through until the whole thing is over. I mean it's not like I have the choice to stop, dust myself off and have a cup of tea along the way. I knew this wasn't going to be any kind of picnic. And the only other people who will ever understand are the ones who have been there themselves.
To all the people who are just climbing on a treadmill for the first or fourth time in your life, you do not have shin splints, to all the newfound runners who have microscopic blisters on their toes you have no idea what you are in for.
As difficult as it has been, I have learned the best skill of all for training. Keep your mouth shut, becuase these people will never understand what you put yourself through. They don't want to understand, not even close. And its all relative, the pain they are experiencing may be the worst pain that exists in their life. You have no idea what battles other people are fighting. I asked for this kind of pain. I brought it on myself, and I will take it with a smile on my face (most of the time)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Balls to the wall my friend, balls to the wall

As I shut down my computer and picked up my bags to go home for the day, my co-workers asked me what I was doing that evening.

"Meeting my coach for a hard run" I answered with a little bit of excitement in my voice "Whenever i feel like working really hard I tell him to make up a hard workout for me, and keep it a surprise until we start, so I never know what we'll be doing."

"Why would you do that?" Another co-worker asked

"I just like it that way" I said plainly, Knowing that they would never understand any explination I could give them. I liked that larry pushed me harder than anyone could, even myself. I loved the pain, and there was no way you could put that to words, you just had to experience it for yourself.

On the way back into the city I wound my car through the curves of West River Drive in an effort to avoid rush hour traffic. There were several runners coasting along the path next to the river and I watched them, in awe of their speed and strength. How did they do it? I wondered what their secret was, how did they move along so fast yet so fluidly. I watched, when I should have been concentrating on the road. And I thought about it the entire way to Larry's. They just moved their feet faster.

I parked my car on campus, a place that had always felt so familiar yet grew more alien with every visit. I realized this was the last time I would bound up these steps and reach my finger out for the bell to apartment B1. I could play a mental movie montage to the hundreds of times I had climbed up thoes front steps. All the way back to last May, when Larry and I had first embarked on the journey that was training me to be a runner. To all the times we had returned from runs with me gasping for breath, convinced it was yet another mediocre effort and larry trying to convince me to be easier on myself and I would walk back and forth up the block clutching my sides and spitting every which way reminiscent of a homeless person right down to the lack of clothing.

"L or F" Larry asked as we came down the stairs. My braid went to work immediately trying to decode what he had just said. F meant fartlek, which happened to be my least favorite of all workouts ever. I hated it more than hills. More than 800's (which I actually loved). But what about L? Sensing the wheels turning and noticing a pause in conversation larry stepped in with " you should know by now what F is"

" I do, I do, but what is L?" I questioned

"Ladder" And then he went into the the detailed explanation of 1600, 1200, 800, 400 and then back down with a 400 recovery between each at about eight mile pace.

"Eight mile pace lar? I don't know if I can still do that." I was questioning my capabilities, I know I shouldn't do that before a hard workout, you should always attack it with confidence but I hadn't done any true speed work in so long and I was just starting to heal after my hip decided to rebel against my body in late june. I was feeling good but I wasn't feeling one hundred percent, never mind eight mile pace.

"So I'll adjust after the first mile if things aren't going well but lets just see how that first mile goes."

"Alright let's go then"

And with that we started out at a warm up pace out over the spring garden bridge as Larry recounted to be meeting his cadaver and cadaver team. Oh the inside story on going to med school, I have to admit the whole ordeal sounded pretty exciting. And knowing how hard he had worked to get there I couldn't help but be ridiculously excited for him.

"Eight miles right?" I asked as i dodged sandbags and construction signs that cluttered the sidewalk along our route to the river.

"I thought we were doing seven"

"Eight, why do I open up my big mouth"

More med school chatter.

Before I know it we are approaching 7 1/2 miles. I am not ready. I am never ready. But it is only a mile so I just think of it as a mile and then rest. Balls to the wall I say inside my head, just gun it and go, don't think, it's all worth the pain, just push, I rattle off every motivational saying I can conjour up. 7 1/2 comes and I start the push. I up the pace until I feel like I have reached a place I can stay for a mile and no longer. I am aiming for 2 minute quarters but when I cross through that first quarter and larry yells out my split the first thing that comes out of his mouth is, 'too fast' 1:49 or something in that rhelm. I keep going, even though larry says I could slow up my pace and still make it in under 8 I keep going. I am afraid to slack too much and come out in over 8. We hit the half mile and I am still under four minutes. I don't recall my exact split but knowing that I am still under four I just keep on going. My feet move fast beneath me as if I were literally running for my life. I know this course like the back of my hand, I know where the mile will end and I just keep pushing knowing that the faster I push the faster I get a break. I force myself to stay calm in my head and not let my emotions get the best of me. Faster feet, faster feet, and then suddenly I recall the man I saw running on the river just a few minutes earlier. I had finally figured it out, fast feet. I blew through the 3/4 mark and again when larry called out my time I don't remember the exact numbers, just that I was still under 6 minutes, still under an 8 minute mile. The last quarter was a blurr, I just pushed until the end and when we crossed the 6 1/2 mile line all I could think of was I was going to throw up. It was very difficult for me to pull myself into a slow job from an all out run. I waved my hand in the motion that larry had come to figure out meant 'what's my time?'


"Mother fucker" I let out, half in rage, half in shock. After larry had finally coaxed me to slow down enough, he finally asked

"By the way, where did that come from? You just pr'd in the mile!"

"I'll tell you where" I answered, "Last week I ran 34 miles in five days, with no rest. Saturday I gave myself a break. granted it was moving things into a truck, but that's a break to me. Sunday I did my long run and it was great, but then I took another two days of rest and then I just kind of took off."

I was nervous now. I had just opened up with my fastest mile time ever. EVER. I now had ahead of me a 1200, 800, 400, and then back up the ladder ending with a mile. I knew I would have no problem going down. Every interval would be shorter than the rest and I would attack it with just as much strength as the one before. I would never fall beneath a 2 minute quarter even though that was the goal of the workout. I just wouldn't let myself fall beneath what I knew I was capable. And I could tell larry was quite proud.

"this is how you get to boston" he said to me during our next 400 recovery. "Not this year, but that's how you get there"

I was not disappointed that I was not ready for Boston, there was no time limit no deadline, (ok Boston before twenty five was a deadline but still)

"I know, next year though, next year" I trotted on, not ready for the next quarter mile mark to appear on the sidewalk at my feet. Maybe if i trotted slow enough it would get up and move an extra few feet in the opposite direction. I was already dead tired, I had given so much to the last two intervals and while I knew I could finish the first half I was not so sure about the second. I tried to talk myself out of it for a while but then I realized there was no way around it, it just had to be done, I just had to push through.
I made it all the way back to the last mile and I was still alive and in once piece. One mile, i kept telling myself. One mile is nothing, one mile is a piece of cake. Before I had even hit the quarter mile marker I felt a tight pull in my left hip. The one that had nagged me for months, forced me to sit out almost the entire month of july from running. I let out an involuntary "ow" but kept pushing. the pain was instant but not lasting.
"There is no benefit to running injured, if you're not ok we can stop. you've already gotten everything out of this workout that you were supposed to, this is just the final push"
I didn't even bother to answer larry with words, instead I just pushed on, there was no need to say anything it would only waste air that my body desperately needed.
We hit the half mile and I knew I could finish this thing. I forced my feet to move quicker, fast feet, fast feet. My thighs ached, my stomach tightened, my breathing was erratic, and yet i forced my mind to focus and remain calm. Quarter mile mark and though I was pushing as hard as i could I doubted I could go any faster. Larry upped the pace and pulled ahead of me, knowing that I would want to catch up. I struggled to find my next gear but when I did it was like gliding forward. Fast feet. Fast feet. I remember Larry's words of encouragement, but cannot recall exactly what they were, only that they were there. I just remember pushing, and then being done. Larry called out my time, 7:45. Under eight. As we jogged back to the apartment we talked about Larry's new apartment and what was to become of our training sessions when he was no longer on the campus we were both so used to.
There was no question that we would not continue running together. I began to realize that over our lifetimes so much would change between the two of us, but if I had it my way, we would always be runners together. We would always share this bond that no one else I knew would ever understand. That the thing we both loved more than anything required so much sacrifice for progress. It required long hard hours, high pain threshold, the ability to keep going when everything seemed like it was falling apart.
We would always have running.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Twenty six point two what now?

26.2 Miles. That's a Marathon. Every marathon. It doesn't ever change.

Everyone knows that a football game is played in four 15 min quarters (although let's be serious football time lasts FOREVER). Two halves, with a halftime show.
That a football field is 50 yards long, marked off every five yards
That a touchdown is 6 points that

Everyone knows that baseball has nine innings
Four balls is a walk
Three strikes and you're out
Three outs and your half of the inning is over
Seven vs seven

Everyone seems to know that hockey has three periods,
Five players on the ice (six including the goalie)

Everyone can pretty much figure out that basketball is five on five
Two points for a basket inside the 3 point arc
Three points from on or outside the arc (captain obvious with that one)
One point a foul shot
Dribble the ball while your running or its a travel

So now given that the general population can recall most if not all and sometimes MORE information than this. Why is it that so many people not understand that marathon does not mean race, and that it is a predetermined distance. No it is not ten miles. or twenty, or twenty two. It's twenty six point two. always. every day. on Tuesdays, on holidays, in other countries, in other time zones. No matter who runs it. Its always going to be 26.3 miles.
Yes granted once upon a time it was a nice simple 26 miles. None of this .2 crap, this 385 yards of pure torture when all you want to do is stop moving forward and yet when you reach that finish line you have been pushing your body forward so hard and so long that at first it doesn't even know how to stop. We have the wonderful royal family during the Olympics of 1908 to thank for that extra addition. Thanks royal family, for being too lazy to leave your balcony that you wanted to add some length on to our race so you could see the end. Oh no its no trouble at all, we'll just keep going, you comfortable up there? would you like some more pillows?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Do Christians go to church to complain about God?

No. They do not. They gather together to worship God, becuase of all God as done for them. Now I am not a remotely religious person so I cannot say what else they do there in church but i highly doubt that they ever gather around and complain about how early they have to go to church, about how inconvenient it is to be there on Sunday when they could be doing other things about how strict all the rules are, or about how uncomfortable it is to sit on a bench for so long.

So why is it that average people think that runners get together and complain about running? Running is my religion. I worship with every mile that I cover on every road, sidewalk, and dirt trail. Long runs are like my church. 2+ ours left alone with nothing but my thoughts able to appreciate everything that running has done for me. It is my meditation, my outlet, my sanity, it is my life. Yes I recognize that the things I do on a daily basis are somewhat uncomfortable. I am on my feet, it is hot, my muscles hurt, I am sweaty and uncomfortable and hungry and thirsty, I might have a blister, I might be straining a muscle in my shoulder, but I signed up for this journey. I decided that I wanted to be a runner. So I wake up at six am every Saturday morning, earlier than I wake up for work Monday through Friday. I wake myself up, spray on my sunscreen and stretch as it dries on my stiff body. In less than fifteen minutes I have my sneakers on and I am ready to be outside. I can just feel the energy building up from the bottoms of my feet.

In the early morning light I know that the rest of the runners (and there are not many) I encounter are the serious kind. The kind of people who give up their Friday nights of drinking to go to bed early. The kind of people who rise early and throw on their running shoes just as I have. No matter how far they are running, or how fast It does not matter to me. Because they take the sport seriously enough to give it the respect it deserves. It is not something you just do whenever you feel like it becuase it is convenient and becuase it feels good. If you do, you are not a runner, you just run.

That is the end of my thoughts for the day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What not to wear

Did you ever notice how 99% of girls at the gym wear yoga pants? Now granted I don't spend that much time at the gym these days, but i try to get there at least once a week and I tend to watch people while I'm there. I mean I can only stare at my reflection running in the window for about ten minutes before I either get dizzy or bored or both. So I happened to notice that In all the time I spend at the gym I have probably only ever seen three girls in shorts. And becuase I am guilty of the same crime, I have come to this conclusion. Girls wear yoga pants so they do not have to shave their legs. I mean sure there is like a five inch gap between our socks and the hem of our pants but how much time and effort does it take to shave that in the morning versus our entire legs?
Now when I go running on the street, I'm sorry but I do not care what I look like. Generally the less clothing the better becuase I do not want to be weighed down with fabric. And I do not run close to anyone for any point in time to care what they might think of my appearance. But If I am going to be treadmill buddies with anyone for more than twenty minutes. You better believe I am wearing yoga pants.
You might ask well then, why not actual pants. I don't have an answer for this. Mostly they just feel like overkill. I mean the gym is a sweat box as it is. You probably lose five pounds in sweat just being there even if you didn't engage in any activity. So wearing pants and a teeshirt is just asking for heat exhaustion.
The other thing I have notices is that guys rarely wear sweatpants and are most often in basketball shorts. If you ever see a guy in short shorts at the gym he is almost always a runner, and therefor almost always out of place.
You know what else I don't understand? people who can watch tv or read magazines and books even when they are working out. How hard can you possibly be working if you have enough thought left to read a novel? Don't mind me while I sit here on this stationary bike next to you dripping with sweat, I must be doing something wrong because my workout is actually making me, oh i don't know, work?

No one promised you universal justice you know

It never ceases to amaze me the tourtue that we as runners put ourselves through.
Furthermore, it never ceases to amaze my friends and family. What's funny is, there was a point in time where I too did not understand the complex and mysterious thoughts that went on in a runners brain that made them so blindly dedicated to the sport. I used to have conversations with Larry about running and walk away totally perplexed as to why anyone would want to put their bodies through such pain. And then I woke up one day and I didn't realize how the rest of the world couldn't see it our way.
I recently put myself back on an internet personal site, to see if there are any interesting single people in this city becuase let's face it everyone I know at work is married and who am I going to meet running? I made quite sure to include in my profile that I am a runner to see if there was anyone out there who shared my mindset. Much to my disappointment many people would email me telling me they were also runners, yet what they meant were they were short distance fair weather runners. When I brought the fact that I did an eight mile run on a sunday morning despite the fact that it was raining, and also that I had run the day before, they did not understand what could possibly prompt a human being to do such a thing.
What's funny is that after that same Sunday run I had possibly the worst bought of stomach discomfort and nausea I can remember having that did not come about as a result of either menstrual cramps or tequila. I spent the rest of the day on the couch curled in a ball eating nothing more than an English muffin. Aynyone who has ever run more than eight miles should know that one English muffin is not enough calories to make up for all that effort. But I have an unexplainable huge fear of throwing up, thus I was not going to chance it. However when I woke up later that night with unbelievable stomach pains could only guess it was becuase I was hungry. So at one in the morning I stumbled around my kitchen looking for something that would not potentially kill my stomach. toast. perfect. and not wanting to eat in bed I sat down to find there is not a single good thing on tv at one am on a Monday morning. except will and grace.
Now due to the fact that I had felt sick from the second I stopped running I had not even made the attempt at stretching out my over worked body. So when my alarm went off at six am I was not only tired, but more sore than I can remember being after a fifteen miler.
So I did what any sane person would do. I called in sick to work, slept until ten, and ate breakfast while watching daytime tv.
and then went out for a run.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Many the Miles

I often find myself in the middle of a run wondering how it was that I came to be a runner in the first place. I mean I have been a serious runner for almost a year now, and a semi serious runner for at least three years. I was a sometimes serious runner for two years before that. And just a sometimes runner before that. But as a child I dabbled in lots of activities I just wonder what it was that made me stick with running.

First of all, I have no hand eye coordination. Anything that requires me to watch an ball flying at me and either catch it or hit it with some kind of oblong object was always out of the question. This includes but is not limited to, baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse and golf.
I also lack the ability to pick up a routine quickly so while I do have a knack for rhythm I would pretty much fail as a dancer as It takes me hours and hours of practice to pick up a routine most dancers can watch once and simply repeat.
I probably would have been a good swimmer, I mean I swam for four years but I just had not grasped the concept that you have to work extremely hard to be extremely good. That and I did not like the girls on my team. When you're not that dedicated to the sport the people on the team kind of make it for you. In my case they just broke it.
Cheerleading was next however I still lacked that determination mindset. I just wanted to be good. I didn't want to have to WORK for it. And as that brought me up to senior year in high school I went off to college for the first time in my life with no sport to define myself by. Of course it only took about three months of college for me to realize I had to do something active and thus I started going to the gym.
I was not unfamiliar with the gym, I worked at one for my senior year, I just never spent much time working out there. I wasn't really sure what to do with all those machines. I know they had instructions on the sides of all of them, but seriously did I want to spend just as much time reading instructions as actually working out? Nope. So when I started going to the gym in college it was the treadmill for me. This was something I knew how to do. Put one foot in front of the other. Easiest sport in the world!
Wrong. well of course if you have no goals in mind and you just want to be fit than sure it is the easiest thing in the world. But my goals at the time had nothing to do with running. I was back in the gym in hopes to get back into shape to try out for the university's cheerleading squad in the spring. As fate would have it I didn't make it, but I was so proud of the progress I had made by making myself go to the gym I decided to detour my fitness plan down the road of running. The weather got nicer and I began running outside.
I never ran more than three or four miles at the most but it was a good consistent start.
Roadblock. Shin splints. At the end of freshman year I developed a horrible pain in my left shin and (stupid me) went to the doctor who (DUH!) told me to kill the running for a month or two.
So I spent that summer at the gym doing kick boxing and aerobics classes.
The uphill climb that took me from casual runner to serious runner was a slow progression over the next three years, jump started by my decision to join a training program that would ready me for a half marathon. Although they unintentionally brainwashed me into thinking you needed to have things like fuel belts, water every two miles, and walk breaks every ten minutes, the larger lesson they left me with was to accomplish something big you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to train. Sure it was hard but the feeling of finishing that first race is something I will never forget, just like the two other half marathons and one marathon I have done since. You cannot substitute that feeling of crossing the finish line after hours on your feet.

There is a loop that I often run around the river and some genius decided to graff it up with black letters saying "Why are you running?"
Better question. "Why AREN'T you running?"

Love don't watch me walk away

I love runners. More specifically I love serious, dedicated runners. I love people who are far beyond me in their talent and capabilities yet they are the only group of people who understand the sacrifice you make for running.

Don't get me wrong, I think its great whenever one of my friends decides to take up running. I love discussing with them the importance of getting good shoes or the right shorts. I could go on forever discussing different trails and routes areas and times to avoid. What to eat before a race, what to eat while your training, various blisters and treatments, the whole nine yards. I could go on forever. But whenever I mention the fact that I run in the rain, in the heat, in the snow, in the sleet (I had to make it rhyme, cheesy I know) these rookies simply wrinkle up their noses at even the thought of unpleasantness.

Of course I have years to go before I could ever match the level of fitness of the runners I idolize. The college track teams that glide by me on my Saturday long runs as I struggle to get my mileage up again. I watch them breeze by me as if I were out for a stroll and I smile becuase for the next minute I get to stare at their backs. Their perfectly sculpted backs naked of clothing but covered in sweat catching the light and enhancing the definition of their perfect muscles. I smile to myself and the runner approaching me from the other direction thinks this is directed at him and he shoots a smile back at me. Silly man. I do not idolize you. You are not a perfectly chiseled human sculpture.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to be that in shape. I mean does it actually feel diffrent? I would think you would hurt far more, becuase you would work far more. But do you become numb to the pain, much like I have grown numb to a lot of the pain. Things that would make me stop or turn around before finishing my milage a year ago only cause a nagging distraction. But I have come up with a new (probably unhealthy) motto. Run through it. to be more specific, run through it for two miles or so and see if it goes away. Nine times out of ten its gone, and there is something else wrong, to which I say the same thing, Run through it see if it goes away.

For me the hardest part of this whole end ever is in my head. My body is more than capable of running the miles. I know this. and most times when I start to feel tired I have to assess my body and think, ok do my legs really hurt that much or do I have some juice left in them. There is always plenty of juice its just a matter of convincing yourself to keep going. Keep pushing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm happier when I am hungry

Uh oh. Watch out for that one. She doesn't eat. She counts her calories, she must be in trouble. She might be depressed. Does she need to talk about it? What are the underlying issues at hand here? How do we get her to talk about her problem?
Hi. have you ever tried to run 800's after eating half a pizza? I sure as heck don't recommend it. And since my life revolves around running and performance you'd be happier when you were hungry too. If you wanted to run your fastest, and knew that meant being in the best shape ever you'd write down every single calorie you ate too. Ok maybe most people would have someone do it for you. I mean that's why they have nutritionists right? Well I am my own nutritionist. And since I probably know more of what I'm doing than YOU do, please leave me and my diet be.
Go ahead and sit there and eat your rice cakes, which p.s. by the way have all the nutritional benefit of eating paper. Paper probably has less preservatives in it. And far less sugar. You might want to start eating paper for breakfast instead.
Go ahead and think you are being healthy with your salad big enough it could feed a small African village. And its defiantly ok becuase you got the low fat dressing. don't worry that instead of fat you now have tons of sugar. Somethings got to replace the taste you know.
Don't get me started on this cookie diet. Sally is on the cookie diet. She lost ten pounds last week. Its the best thing ever. Lady, if i didn't eat all day I would loose ten pounds in a week too! There is a reason the won't even let you exercise, if you ate any fewer calories you'd probably die.
Yes. I am happier when I am hungry. Because I run better when I am hungry. And then I go home and eat...
And if you want something bad enough, it's worth everything you give up to get there.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Valley Forge

I can hands down say that Saturday night was the worst night of sleep I have had in a long time. The day had been sunny and beautiful and as a creature of habit I spent the day walking around Philly soaking in this wonderful spring day.
Truth was I was more nervous than ever for this race. I had not run in just about a week. With my sights set on the Hartford Marathon in the fall, there was no way I was going to push myself through the shin injury I had picked up while running the mammoth hills of middle Tennessee. Don't people usually pick up sicknesses or souvenirs while on vacation? Who picks up an injury? I do, the girl who finds out she's going on vacation and wonders where she can fit in her six miles a morning. The girl who worries about what a vacation of eating out and being lazy does to the overachiever runner. At home I have become the definition of the anti-social runner. Going home after work to get in my workouts, 30 minutes of stretching, a well balanced dinner, and sleep. On vacation there was time to sit around and think about giving in to my desires. Chocolate, ice cream, brownies, when I have nothing else on my mind my thoughts are filled with food and when I can eat next. I had to keep reminding myself this was only base training. I was not officially in training yet and so a few back slides were ok, as long as they were few and far between. So in the course of my vacation I picked up a minor shin ailment. I decided to take the rest of the week off completely, save for lifting at the gym two days a week and see where that got me.
Saturday night as I layed in bed it was as if the morning would never came. I woke ever two hours drenched in sweat, watching the clock go from three, to four, to five, and finally to six.
I was happy to get out of bed and finally start getting ready and i threw on my nike shorts and measured out one cup of cheerios and milk. I would later regret eating anything at all as my body was probably still digesting last nights cheese steak and homemake ice cream sandwiches. Even doing an easy one mile warm up make me want to throw up.
I had no idea where my fitness level was these days. Was I a ten minute miler? a nine? certainly not an eight in a half and I wont even mention considering 8mm. I decided to place myself at nine. It was decent enough a goal that I knew I could accomplish it, and would still be pleased with the results.
It was perfect running weather. The thing about perfect running weather, is it is horrible spectator weather. No runner wants to be out running in 60+ degree weather. And no spectator wants to be standing around for an hour in anything below 70. There was no sun and as I lined myself up behind the nine minute mile sign I gazed around at all the runners. What I actually enjoyed most, and I will sound really silly for saying this but I liked sitting on the ground amidst all the runners and look at everyone's legs. I love runners legs. I love fast runners legs. A contorted knot of strength, evidence of all the hard work, hours of training, all the pain they have gone through is evident by the muscles they have. I love everything about the shape, the definition, the curve. One day I aspire to have runners legs. Not just becuase of the way they look, but becuase to me they symbolize great strength and determination.
The actual race itself is not worth writing about. I started off way too fast and ended way too slow. This is typical for me and something I should probably work on. The thing about running is it takes so much trial and error, so many races and analyzing each performance figuring out what went well and what did not go well.

44:39. Sub nine. That'll do.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Quotes from my favorite

"My point is that this way of living that we once took for granted isn't nessesarily a "natural" process at all. It's not like water flowing to the sea, not like aging. It takes effort, determination, conviction. But mostly it takes will. It takes a concious decision to follow one difficult uphill path, and then the will to stay with it and not waver, to not give up"

" 'Thats just running,' Denton told him. 'It's not the same as training. Training takes discipline and consistancy and its not nearly as much fun. Also, it won't be easy' "

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrafice the gift"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rolling hills far as the eye can see.

I am awakened to what sounds like hail pounding on the picture window and it takes me a few minutes to remember I am not at home in my Philadelphia apartment. It does not however take me a few minutes to remember I have a run to get in this morning and the sound of inclimate weather outside does not excite me. I check my phone, only to realise it is 3am and i get at least another five hours of sleep before I have to get out of bed.
I am awakened again, this time to sounds of Tom getting ready for work in the kitchen. This must mean that it is around 5 am and again I still have hours to sleep before I have to be out of bed and on my feet.
A second time I hear rain on the window. Interupted only by the loud and prominant boom of thunder. 7am. I force myself to go back to sleep unable to tell if it is the time diffrence (one hour) or simply the anticipation of my goal of eight miles that is keeping me from sleeping soundly.
The fourth time I wake up it is becuase daylight is pouring into the bedroom. It's only 8am but I give up and get dressed. When I open the front door I am not prepared for the humid morning that awaits me. I am used to cold crisp mornings. It is only april and I am not ready for this. But still I take off down the road. I am not really left with many choices, left or right and then the road just goes on for miles so I decide to time my run instead of pick a distance. This way I can also pay more attention to the scenery.
The first mile felt great, the weather was warm enough, the sun was shining down in small rays onto the open green fields and in the air a scent of country. The hills were rolling and hard enough to feel like I was acomplishing something but not too hard so I thought I would die. How out of place I might have looked to anyone up and about looking out their windows as I ran by in my bright orange tshirt and black running shorts. I thought perhaps I was in for an easy eight miles, that was of course until I embarked on a short downhill and around a sharp left curve and was hit smack in the face by a hill, one that im sure was hiding many exactly like itself.
The next forty minutes were literally a roller coaster of up and downs, the road so slick with overnight rain I was sure if I took a leap and landed on my stomach I would slide clear across the state like a penguin on the ice.
So much for an easy eight. I had never been so discouraged by one straight road. Remembering that this was only base training, and that I was also on vacation, I stopped running after fifty minutes and decided to do high-knees up the last stretch of hill.
If I hadn't looked out of place before, I sure did now. And I imagine if there were a hell, it would pretty much be like this. Slowly clibming up an endless hill, knees lifting as high as they would go, quads screaming out in pain for me to stop and walk normally.
I couldn't help but notice however that the few cars, and many trucks that did drive by me, as akward as I might have looked, actually waved. And not in the 'hey baby how you doin" way that I was acustomed to seeing in the city. More like in the genuine 'how are you doing today' kind of way that you would only find in the south.
Id have to say it was quite the experience. But I also have to say that I'm a little afraid to go out there and try it again

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Don't attack the hill from the bottom. It's bigger than you are.

It's 5pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I'm ten minutes away from campus.
The sun is shinning. Its a perfect 59 degrees outside in the city of Philadelphia (or at least so says the billboard towering above rt 76). And I am meeting Larry for our regular tuesday six mile run, that turned into a seven mile run, that for the past four weeks has been an eight mile run.
This week will prove to be a peice of cake after last weeks 5x800's. But I had a hankering for putting myself through pain. I grab my gear and hurry to Larry's to change so we can be on our way. I must not have been thinking when I packed that morning becuase I had thrown in shorts and a long sleeve tech tee. I was not about to wear long sleeves on a day like today so it looks like it would be another shirtless tuesday run. I am in high spirits as we take off through campus running by students as we discuss the upcoming Boston Marathon. I mention how I would really like to see it.
For the first time in my life I actually want to be there, I want to feel the rush and the excitement, I just want to absorb it all. I want to be at that finish line, I want to feel the rush of the leaders. I havn't been in so long I can barely remember what it feels like. I want to see it from the side lines. I want to be in the presence of greatness.
But there is no way I could bring myself to miss yet another day at work after my upcoming vacation to Tennessee.
Larry mentions It would be better if i were to go up for the trials. And for a while we discuss why the trials have to be run on a six times loop course.
"Ok well here is my theory at least, Do you have any idea how much work it takes to close down a city for a race . I mean granted It is the olympic trials, its kind of a big deal and its not like it takes them forever to finish, but as a huge city already practically closing down for a an entire day for the actual marathon, don't you think its a lot easier for them to just close of a sixth of the distance and have them run around in circles?"
"makes sense I guess" he answers
"Oh I don't know" I say breathlessly "I just made that up off the top of my head" I say as we attempt to cross traffic and get behind the zoo.
Mid converstaion an amtrack passenger train goes by and we run in almost silence for about a minute.
We do the usual zoo loop, behind the zoo, up lansdowne through the war memoiral, onto belmont and up to belmont plateau. We make a slight detur at the top of the hill to get in about a mile/mile and a half of trail running which I have to admit i was starting to like.
"So i go into the work kitchen today" I start to say "And there is this mountain of chocolate cake just sitting there on a plate" I only mention this becuase I know of Larry's love for chocolate cake
"And did you have any of it?"
"We'll here's the thing, I didn't. I dont want to say im on a diet, I hate saying that. I'm just trying to be careful is all. I mean I want to get in the best shape I can be in"
"be careful you know, it can help you but it can also hurt you"
"I'm not stupid, i know i have to be eating enough, I've put a lot of thought into it"
We make our way back out of the woods and onto the dreaded grassy hill. I recall a downright awful day of training last summer when I just flat our refused to put an effort in on thoes hills. It was a pretty low day, larry happend to run into one of his old highschool teamates both of them looking spectacularly athletic and here I was some lolly gagging along girl with an Ipod a pracitcal joke in comparison.
So this time, as Larry recounted what it was like in his days of cross country to run a race up that hill, I pushed the whole way up. Right over the edge and was thrilled at the eased feeling of the decent.
The rest of the run was a blurr of rapid and chatty downhills and serious silent uphills.
As we coasted to the bottom of the 34th street bridge I ask him to tell me about his run at Boston. And for the the last mile I coast along picturing what it might feel like to one day run the epic course.
Just listening to it is enough to make the fatigue in my quads dissapear and I have one of my best finishes on this eight mile loop that I have had in a long time.
I embrace the pain and stretch my hands over my head as I soak in the fact that I am Finally getting back into shape.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lancaster County

Friday morning, as I packed up my things for my overnight trip out to Lancaster I was extra sure to throw in sneakers and running shorts. It was that little something that set us apart. Us Runners. The fact that no matter what you throw in your Asics and your vasaline becuase the next day at 8am you bet your ass you're going to wake up and hit the road. At the bar after two plates of "irish nachos" and a few glasses of wine Larry and I began discussing our plans.
"Eight at Eight" he said to me, and it became our mantra through out the night. Still early in the night the idea that we were going to be running in less that twelve hours was thrilling. It was exciting, it meant we were determined and dedicated. At least larry was, I'm not sure if I was. As the hours fell into early morning the idea that I would be able to even move at eight in the morning was sounding absolutly ludacris and at four am when I was holed up in the back of an all night greek eatery text messages reading "I feel like i'm going to die" and "Screw running" flew out of my phone. I wanted nothing more than to feel my body laying down in a bed. I passed out that night unsure of what would happen in the next few hours and before I knew it it was 7:30 by the hotel clock by my bed. This turned out to be 7:45 actual time and before I could change my mind I texted
"I'm awake, lets do this shit" followed by "should I a) start getting ready or b) go back to sleep" But i didn't have to wait for an answer. I was already out of bed, half dressed and brushing my teeth when i got back the answer
"Meet me in the hall in ten"
I had no idea if this was going to feel good or bad. If I would be able to get through eight miles or two. I had no idea where we were, or where we were going. I just knew that when it was all done I would feel strong and that was all that mattered. I waited by the elevators for what felt like hours, realising I didn't even know where in the hallway larry would be emerging from so I was surprised when he finally showed up.
"Take forever" I said dryly. Not surprised to find my voice barley a wisper, tired from the night before "Let's do this shit"
In the elevator and walking through the lobby I felt an odd sense of pride mixed in with my pure exaustion. It was a completly dreary Saturday morning and it was as if the whole city was sleeping as we circled blocks and finally made our way out of civilization. We ran along at a pretty steady pace for the night we had just woken up from. I had only had two glasses of wine and two beers, Larry saying he had lost count after eight. What amazed me the most was how I was capeable of running at all. Early in my training last summer I would have never attempted a Saturday run with out at least a decent dinner, ten hours of sleep, and some kind of breakfast. I was afraid I was slowly becoming Larry, my body adjusting to less and less food before embarking on a run. Being full made me feel ridiculously sluggish
The morning was encased in a calm fog. The farther out we ran, the more hills it seemed there were. I began cursing with every uphill step. And then at the top, knowing that the downhill that was currently bringing me a wave of reliefe would on the way back be yet another interval of torment, I would begin cursing again.
I have no bearings on distance and that was ok by me. I took each hill as it came at me, as if it was the last one I would run. I felt the burning pain in my thighs and forced them to push harder. Just push through the pain becuase its not like you have any other choice.

On the way back we come upon this folded up broken treadmill sitting on the edge of an empty field and suddenly I get this ridiculous idea in my head
"Wouldn't it be funny" I ask, " If you had a treadmill just in the middle of an open field, and you were essentially running in place in the middle of an empty field?" In my mind I pictured a morning much like this one. Grey. Not really see-your-breath-cold, but not weather you would want to stand outside in shorts in. For that blurred out the edges of the field, and in the middle a huge industrial treadmill and a lone runner pushing on for infinity.
"sounds like a good idea for instalment art" Larry said, commenting on my vision."Not really something you're going to make any money on, but perhaps something I might agree to be a part of"
And then, just as at so many other points in that morning's run, before he had finished his thoughts I was on to another topic.
"So could I take pictures of you" I ask out of what seems like nowhere, unless you understood the complex web that is the thoughts inside my head "I mean running pictures" And although I had been contelmplating such a thing for quite some time now as soon as I heard myself say the words they sounded ridiculous.
"...Up on belmont, or maybe up by the war memorial, you know by the wispering wall?" I pictured one of our late summer runs where the sun would just be setting as we crested to the top of lansdowne ave and made our way between the massive marble structures. The sun, I would have to go up and note the direction of the sun, I would have to do so much planning. Clearly larry had also given this a lot of thought.
"I was thinking action shots actually." Thinking about the track at Penn and the one day I had managed to knock out some sprints before calling it quits. The harsh sunlight, the pain of the heat comming up off the ground and into my shoes. The harsh contrast of the shadows. A little running oasis in the middle of the city surrounded by its massive stone walls and bleachers.
"Jenna did something like that once" Larry mentioned, and I realised I was stumbling across well covered territory. So what could I bring to the shot that no one else could. What could my experience and interpritaion of running and all that comes with it do for the art.
My thoughts were quickly interupted by the sole thought of making it to the top of yet another hill, this time thankfully it would be the last. When we hit the top of the hill I felt nothing short of increaible and when we came within sight of the hotel I felt even better. Of course that was followed by stopping and the overwhelming feeling of slamming on the breaks. My stomach churned and then settled.
I felt more pride walking into the hotel lobby than I had walking out. I was of course a disgusting ball of everything an eight mile run in the rain brings. Mud, sweat, wet with rain, grass, leaves, and city air. But for some reason pushing through something like a hungover saturday morning run makes you feel more clean, more pure than an hour long saturday morning shower. As if all that sweating was releasing my body of everything bad it had stored up the previous night. As the rest of our crew tumbled from their hotel rooms into the hallway to meet for breakfast later that morning I almost felt guilty for standing there in my shorts and sneakers, a tiny acomplished grin spreading over my face.
Yea, I'd say I was legit.