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.