Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Wonderland.

Now I love running. I love it so much that most of my friends and family think I'm crazy. But there is something about running in the months November through March that just send a chill up my spine. Perhaps it's the fact that the only daylight I come into contact with is through my office window. It could have a little bit to do with the snow, ice, and bitter cold wind. Sometimes I know it's because it means workouts on the treadmill. But whatever it may be, I know that more often than not I would rather be Christmas shopping, drinking hot chocolate, or engaging in my other favorite winter sports of ice skating and snowboarding.

Except for this year.

This year some crazy part of me decided to sign up for a spring half marathon. Really Sara, you want to do long runs in the freezing cold? You want to spend an hour on the treadmill two or three times a week?
Alright well lets review the logic behind this otherwise insane sounding plan.
Every year I do a fall race. I give up everything to train, get into the best shape of my life, inevitably get sick two weeks before the race, and when it comes to race day I am not feeling ready. When the race is over I dive right into the holidays and don't think about running again until Easter!

Well this year went even worse than all the years before. Work took over my life. I didn't make weekday workouts a priority. The Philadelphia Half Marathon was a big fail. FTL. And when you fail once race the only thing to do is to sign up for a new one. This year I made a promise to myself to get back into racing shape, to keep running through the winter, to not let myself get slow.

I moved all my running inspiration to the front wall of my cube so I could look at it every second of the day. I printed a fresh workout calendar and pinned it up as close to my face as I could get and I started planning out workouts for the month of December.

Week one of winter training : Ran 2.5 miles Tuesday night on the treadmill. Planned to run 3 on Thursday but got caught up with work. Planned to run 6 on Saturday but got de-railed by the first snow of the season. Happily enjoyed Christmas shopping, decorating, and singing. Moved 6 miler to Sunday, got up early and had toast and cream cheese for breakfast, got dressed and was looking for my sneakers when I realized, they were at work! foiled again. I cut my losses and just went food shopping instead. Mother nature and fate did not want me to run this weekend so fine. I would not run!

Week Two: Setting out to be WAY better than week one. Monday Ran Four miles - 4 x 1/2 mile repeats @ approx 10 mm. Wednesday Ran three miles 4 x 1/4 repeats at up to 7mm. Whoa! So now once again Saturday is going to be the best weather day for running outside. I MISS running outside. I miss looking at things other than myself in the mirror.
I packed up all my running gear b/c i'll be staying at the BF's house and running along Main Street to Kelly Drive in the AM. Long pants - check. Long sleeve Nike jacket with hood - check. Gloves, headband - check.
Motivation - well i'm working on that one....

xx Sara

Monday, November 23, 2009

Race report - Philadelphia Half Marathon

There isn't much in my life that I have given up on. I am a win or die trying type of girl. As much as I felt like I was going to die during the second half of the Hartford Marathon, I kept on going. I trodded along and after four hours and forty five odd minutes I crossed the finish line.

Sunday morning I woke up at 5:30 AM. I tiptoed out of the bedroom, already in my running shorts ( a race day tradition). Everything I could possibly need was packed into my race bag, and layed out on the table. I quickly got dressed, splashed water on my face and woke up the BF so he could quickly get ready. There is something magical about getting up before the sun. You act like it is mid morning, you go about your almost normal routine but there is something about being awake when no one else is that makes you feel just a little bit mischievous. I dressed in all my layers, including my ratty but lucky white sweatpants that I had made my sophomore year in college. BF and I made a quick stop at dunkin donuts so he could get some breakfast and coffee. I didn't feel so bad leaving him out in the cold knowing he had coffee in his system.
By the time we picked up H and D the car was toasty warm and there were some good tunes going on the radio. I was pretty excited. Even though I hadn't run a foot in almost two weeks. My last run had been an easy 8 miler on Saturday morning before boarding a plane to Sri Lanka. Ok that's not true. My last run had been just this Monday - I ran a mile on the treadmill.
We get to the city, and park a few blocks away from my first apartment. Check to make sure we have everything out of the car, and that we left anything not needed. We stopped at an apartment to pick up some friends of D's and then we made our way over the spring garden bridge to the start line. We weren't leaving much time to dally around, which was fine by me because the more I sit around the more nervous I get. I was wearing my favorite race day outfit. Black Nike shorts with the pink trim, green long sleeve tech tee, blue gloves, and of course my lucky pink bow. We shuffled our way into the corals and found a good spot not too far back and not to close up. I took off my layers, put them in my race bag and handed them off to BF, who is my official race photographer. Love him.
While we waited I tried to get us pumped up by telling H how ready for this race she was. I knew shew as really hoping to PR, especially because she had originally planned to run the full marathon and had to bring herself down to the half due to over scheduling. I wanted her to do so well, possibly because I knew I couldn't. This wasn't my race, it never was. It was always meant to be a race I would run to close out the year. something to do so I wouldn't feel like a complete failure. Funny, it kind of had the opposite effect. The hardest thing to deal with that morning in the corrals was trying to pump H full of positive energy only to have her turn to D and have him knock it down. Attitude means a lot to me at the beginning of a race. if there is anything I struggle with it is mental strength when running, so it crushed me to hear that D wasn't being as positive as he could.
And then it started. The wheelchairs were off, the elites started, the first wave of runners went, the second, the third, we were probably the fourth or so in line. When we crossed over the start mat I clicked my watch, and the race officially begun. The first mile is probably one of the loudest, most crowded, but most uplifting of the whole race. People fill the streets with signs, banners, and bells. They scream, clap, cheer and encourage. Part of me wonders why they come out in drove to cheer you on for your first mile when really you need it most at the end. I am very concerned with not starting too fast, so we stay to a conservative pace. I listen to people all around me talk, I watch as people start to loose layers. We ran by Mile 1 in just about 11 minutes. Ok for the first mile, but I knew H wanted to PR and her current PR was about 2:12. I started doing math in my head to pass the time and figured if we did 10mm the whole way we would cross the finish in 2:11. That would be cutting it awfully close so basically we'd have to run just under 10mm the whole way. and we were already a minute behind.
For the second mile I tried to pick up the pace slightly. I have to say I was feeling pretty good. We ran down Columbus and it was really nice to have the course open up a lot. Hit mile 2 at 10:30 pace. Felt Great.
Mile 3 we hit our first water stop. It was sticky and there were cups everywhere. I opted not to drink anything for at least mile six. Not sure if that was in my best interest or not.
I don't remember exactly where we passed mile 4, somewhere around South Street I suppose. We were finally on pace at 10mm and The miles were going by pretty fast, I still felt great and I was running slightly ahead of H and D. I don't know if it was just easier to pretend I was running on my own, but I also think that running behind them made me anxious. As long as I was in front I was in control, no matter how fast or slow I was going. But if I let them lead I would have to keep up and knowing I needed to keep up made me feel like I chasing instead of running. D had actually brought three dollars with him for a slice of Lorenzo's and he ran ahead of us for a minute or two but it was so early in the morning they weren't open yet.
As we made our way onto Chestnut Street I was starting to feel my breathing get tight. I scanned the crowds of people for any faces I might know as a distraction but the feeling wasn't getting any better. By somewhere around 22nd street I had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to be able to continue at this pace. I waved over to H&D and let them know I was ok but to let me go slow. The feeling that had taken over many of my long runs was haunting me through my race. I felt so out of breath and I had slowed down so much I was almost walking until the road started sloping uphill. If I was running slow now how was I going to run the 34th street hill? How would I run the hill at mile 9? How would I finish the race.
Without realizing it I had caught up to H&D, but we were reaching the top of a hill and I again slowed down to practically a walk. I knew that if I let my anxiety get the best of me I would be done for, but I also knew that right before mile 8 I would loop by Spring Garden Street and if I wanted to stop then would be the time. If I decided to keep going the only thing taking me home besides my feet would be the first aid car. I did NOT want that to be how I got to the finish to the race. But could I really give up? Did I have it in me to admit I was better off just stopping than to foolishly keep going and torture my body? My mind drifted off momentarily to the second half of the Hartford Marathon last fall. I had wanted to give up so many times due to shortness of breath but how would I ever get back? I thought maybe it didn't matter so I had kept going, every step and every second just wishing I could stop and rest and then maybe I could breathe.
By the time I got to 34th street I had pretty much made up my mind it was over at the top of this hill. I ran that hill with all the energy I could muster, and it helped a lot that there was a huge crowd lining both sides of the street. As I approached Spring Garden Street I had my eyes peeled for BF and when I found him I almost stopped right there on the spot. His face lit up with pride that I was doing a great job and as he snapped pictures of me and offered me words of encouragement it broke my heart to tell him I was done as I jogged in place. He urged me to continue, reminded me that I was already halfway done and I could do it, he knew I could do it. But I couldn't. My heart sank as the words fell out of my mouth and he started to notice how exhausted I looked. Realizing I wasn't giving in he let me stop. I immediately sat down on the sidewalk and started crying. I was so disappointed in myself, not for being slow, but for stopping. For giving up.
I searched my bag frantically for my phone. At times like these no matter how supportive BF was, I needed a mother's words of comfort. I dialed. It rang. And when she answered, and heard my voice on the other end she asked "Are you done? Did you finish?" The first thing I wanted to ask was "Are you crazy? It's only been about an hour and a half how fast do you think I am??" But I just said no, I didn't finish.
"That's ok," she answered. "I am sure you did great, I am proud of you for trying." Leave to my mom to always make me feel better. It was a temporary fix though, it would take the rest of the day and a little bit of the next week before I would stop feeling sorry for myself.

I guess part of my problem is that once I set myself to do something, and more importantly once I tell people I will do something, I feel like I owe it to myself and to them to follow through on my word. Otherwise I am just someone who talks a big talk. It was so hard to look at everyone the next day at work and explain to them why I did not finish my race. It had me pretty down. But as luck would have it I used my disappointment as motivation and that day picked a new race to sign up for. WIth a new goal ahead of me, there was no time to look back and dwell on the past. I had learned a new lesson. Sometimes you have to fall down, you have to fail, in order to make yourself get back up and fight twice as hard to go after what you want.

Keep moving forward friends.

xx Sara

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice The Gift"

Five on the dot. I grab my bags and head downstairs to the gym. Deadline time is behind me and I can finally head to the gym with out guilt for an easy four miler. I have been looking forward to this moment since probably, 10 am.

Two years ago when I started training - training was everything. I kept my schedual tacked to my cube wall, I read about running at lunch, an on a running day I was out the door no later than 5:15. I found peace and freedom in those runs. Nothing mattered once my feet were pounding the pavement. I had to work hard for every second of every minute that I was out there. There were no five minute coffee breaks, only recovery which kept throwing my body forward.

As I tied my sneakers, snug but not too tight, and fasted my pink watch around my wrist I glanced over at the dark empty gym. I was often the only one who worked out here, a hamster on a giant wheel running in place in front of a wall of mirrors. Forced to watch my reflection make the same moves over and over. I sighed at the thought of running four miles in such a monotonus environment. I had seen a clouded over sky on my way down to the dungeon of a gym, but somehow the thread of rain was not as menicing as the threat of boredom. I needed to finish this run and if I had to cut it short becuase I could not stand to be in the same spot for another minute I would not easily forgive myself.

I stood in the commons for a good minute, watching the clouds. I must have looked like a fish out of water in the middle of our giant pink palace. A girl in black running shorts and a black tee shirt, the only trace of pink being the trim on my shorts and my watch. Who was this athletic looking person standing in the middle of all our pink and green and prep? My mind was made up. Outside I would go, a quick dash inside the locker room to grab my access card, a quick hello to Ms. Pat, and I was out the door and heading up the hill. In all honesty I didn't even know where I was headed, I didn't know how many miles I was going to run, or the terrain I was going to encounter. I was just happy to be outside, to be moving at a pace that was entirely dictated by my body and not my a moving belt under my feet. Treadmills made me feel cheated, like I was being told i could run faster than I was able, the belted ground moving along under me and I just picking up my feet to keep up.

The seconds and minutes would tick away on my pink iron man watch as I slowly moved up the hill. I was only half aware that all the cars driving by me were my fellow employees leavnig for the day and I was just getting to the best part of mine. I kept on moving forward. I would go twenty minutes out, however many miles that would take me, and then turn around and head home. I would not set myself any more limits than that. I had a vauge idea of running to Valley Forge Park, or at least seeing how close to it I could get. This would mean turning right onto Allendale, right onto First Ave, and then right onto whatever came next. I ran down third on the side of the road rather than in the grass. There was a serious lack of sidewalk around this area. I opted to stay on the right side of the street as I turned onto Allendale, which was probably not my smartest decision being that the side walk was on the left side of the street. But I chose to avoid traffic lights and run right in the road again. For a minute I hopped up onto the curb and ran like a balance beam one foot straight infront of the other. I would occasionaly waver side to side but never once stumbled completly off. And then that too ended and I was left again to run in the road, and then the grass, and then the road. I just prayed that when this short stretch ended and I turned onto Frist ave there would again be sidewalk, and there was! A wonderfully flat, open, and short stretch of sidewalk. Ok so I probably should have seen this coming. First Ave was a coral reef of office complexes. Why would they ever want to sidewalk all of their streets? Who would ever want to run along this hilly industrialized stretch of road? Runners I say (even though I seem to be the only other one out here, everyone who is smart just drives the five minutes to Valley Forge park) next time I say. Next time I will just drive to the park.

My mind for a moment drifted to my saturday run with Heather. This past week we had tackled eleven full miles, trecking through various neighboorhoods in the city. We trecked up hills and rampms, past train tracks with box cars full of garbage, past the zoo which smelled of animal waste, and past a putrid stretch of west river drive that smelled like something too gross to even identify. We ran although she had a sinus infection at at times she said she wasn't going to make it to the end. But I kept telling her not to stop. I know what it's like to be in her shoes, I used to say the exact same thing. I used to say I would stop like it was a threat to Larry, when in all reality it didn't matter to him one way or another. I would keep going becuase I knew I had to, and becuase I knew I would feel guilty. I kept pushing Heather and she kept going. I knew when it came down to it, at the end, she would want to feel like she acomplished something and not that she failed. Of course there would be runs where you gave up, there were countless runs that I gave up, even with Larrys words of encouragement. But we would not give up that day. we pushed all the way up the top of the hill and finished at Falls Bridge. I wanted to tell Heather that she had taught herself one of the most important lessons in training for a marathon. There will always be times when you feel like you cannot keep going, but you will. You will feel like there is nothing in the world that could get you to take another ten steps, and while you are too busy contemplating to stop or not, you realise you have gone a quarter mile with out really thinking, so you keep going another quarter mile, and before you know it you have knocked one more mile off your run. And you do what all good runners do, you just keep going.

As I ran along the grassy terain sidewalk again appeared under my feet, as I approached the bottom of a large hill. I silently cursed myself for picking this route as i checked my watch. Almost nine minutes. Ok hill, let's go! As I made my climb I started to look around and I realised that in the two years I had worked here I had never really taken the time to find out what else was back here. And I never realized the amount of people that left the office before six. Cars were lined up at every exit, waiting their turn to enter into the massive fight that is the rush hour evening commute! For once, I felt anything but envy towards them. They were sitting in their cars, in their restrictive business casual attire, and would probably remain there for at least a half an hour getting angry at other cars and wanting to be home. While I was free, I was out on the road, I was moving, and for the first time in months I felt like I finally had a purouse.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The aftermath

My stomach churned, my legs cried out for ice.  I rolled over and checked the time on my phone.  Ten of seven in the morning.  Now here is a great debate if ever there was one.  At ten of seven in the morning on a sunday, who actually wants to get out of bed and eat something and take Ibuprofen? If I get up I'm going to end up stretching out my legs and god knows that once I've been out of bed for more than five minutes I'm not going back.  But who wants to lie in bed, legs begging to be loosened, and stomach just itching for something to eat.  I will never get any rest this way either.  Ten minutes later, stomach wins out, as stomach always does.  There are many things I can stay in bed through, leg pain, having to pee so bad I might explode, sleeping through everyone in the house awake and sometimes even fighting, bright sunlight.  The list goes on forever but stomach always wins.
I get myself out of bed suddenly aware that the burning in my calfs is from spending hours in three inch heels on the dance floor just hours before.  Weddings.  gotta love weddings.  But weddings cannot be an excuse for not running, and so my ten miler had to get squeezed in pre ceremony.  

The morning was dark, so much so I had a moment of confusion, wondering if it was maybe the middle of the night.  I picked up my phone to silence it's deafening beeps .  6 am on the dot.  I wish I could have rolled over to boyfriend and whispered "Five more minutes?" But he wasn't even in the house.  I wasn't even in my bed.  I was on the couch.  My plan of falling asleep on the couch had backfired, instead of being uncomfortable and being easier to get up in the morning, I was just as content to go back to sleep for another five years. Or five hours, which ever came first.  Five seconds was more like it.  I stood up, and stretched ready to begin my pre run routine.  Did I even remember how to get ready this early in the morning?  I knew the basics, shorts socks shoes, sports bra, tech t-shirt, windbreaker.  Gatorade, breakfast bar, ipod, headphones and then ... wait, where were my headphones?!?! While I rarely ran my long runs with music I counted on the upbeat tunes to wake me up and motivate myself to get out the door.  this morning they were nowhere to be found.  No matter though, I didn't have much time left, I had to be out the door to drop gatorade on the course so I simply plugged my ipod into my car and got revved up that way.  I drove my car around the slick twists and turns of Kelly drive, pulling over just before the art museum to stash two bottles of gatorade behind a tree.  After that I was on my way to pick up heather and we would begin our run.  
We started out crossing falls bridge onto west river drive and chatted mostly about weddings, registries, planning and the like.  Heather was recently engaged and as exited about planing the whole ordeal as ever, and although boyfriend and I were still only boyfriend and I, I never much minded talking about all the planning.  Plus I had a wedding to go to later that afternoon which is why we were running so early.  Just like last week the sky was over cast, and the weather cool, with only a slight threat of rain from the dark clouds hovering around the city.  I noticed we were going along at quite a decent pace for having so much trouble two weeks ago.  The weather had a lot to do with it, but slowly we were both feeling so much stronger and it felt great to cover the distance in a comfortable fashion instead of a struggling one.  This week I had mapped the course, so Heather followed me up hills and through Fairmount park as I explained to her the course that the Marathon would take you.  We did a semi backwards version in order to do most of our uphills in the first half of our run.  Running through the war memorial and down Lansdown drive memories of my training flooded back into my mind.  When ever I thought of those days I felt stronger, I felt like I could go farther, I felt my steps become more fluid.  Those where the days where I could race along doing ten miles at a nine minute pace.  But for now we just went along as best we could, just finishing the miles, enjoying the scenery, enjoying the company an the conversation.  We begin to approach the art museum and by now we have completed five miles at least.  Our thoughts are on gatorade.  The sweet taste of gatorade flowing over our lips, thrusting energy into our bodies, giving us the push we need to complete the run.  We round the corner onto kelly drive.  I start to look for the tree, I run off the path only to find that our gatorade is gone.  Are my eyes deceiving me? is our liquid energy, our running treasure really gone? We know it didn't just get up and run away, could someone have really stolen our gatorade? This fact would forever baffle me but it didn't stop us.  We quickly found a water fountain which would have to satisfy us for the next four miles.
Thankfully it was only four miles and that last stretch always went by fast.  There were always plenty of people to look at, and when falls bridge appeared in the distance out of nowhere came this surge of energy that pushed you up the hill to the finish.   Ten miles.  ten miles and it wasn't even 9 am yet.

As I lay stretched out on boyfriend's living room floor, stuffing my face with leftover pizza and Gatorade (finally!), stretching out my aching muscles, I remembered why I did what I did.  Why I ran.  Because for some reason I actually liked the pain.  I actually liked when my muscles felt hard and tough and toned.  I liked being a runner.
I would put up with the pain, the hunger, the early nights, and the even earlier mornings.  I loved what I did.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back on the horse

For the first time in a long time, I had a real summer vacation.  I planned my weekends around cookouts, family get together, trips to the beach, and days at the pool instead of long runs, and recovery days.  I stayed out late on friday nights laughing with friends, I drank beers, I went out on dates with boyfriend instead of staying in, eating a sensible dinner and getting up at six the next morning.  It was glorious and relaxing and well... downright normal.  And that last little thing was probably what bothered me the most. I ran to get away from normal, I ran to be exceptional.  I ran to push my body, my mind, to challenge myself in the hardest was I knew possible.
I had trained for months for my second marathon.  I had given up so much in order get better, and in the end I was displeased with the results of my race.  So much so that I began to wonder was it all really worth the time.  Was it worth giving up my social life for a subpar marathon performance. Forget about the fact that I PR'd by about twelve minutes.  That didn't matter to me.  I wanted to achieve big goals.  Perhaps I had just set my sights too high.  But with my coach moving on with his life in med school, with me newly dating boyfriend, I realized I had to give myself the time off to enjoy my early twenties.  If my life led me back to running than so be it,  if it did not, than perhaps it was not mean to be.
I am by no means out of shape compared to the average american.  I stayed active, snowboarding in the winter, running every now and again in the spring, going to the gym a few days a week.  I always ate pretty well most of the time but never failed to pass up an opportunity to eat ice cream.  But compared to a runner I knew I had lost so much speed compared to last year.  I kept telling myself this is what I wanted.  I wanted to take a year off, enjoy life, stay injury free.  But the more time that went by the more I realized I was becoming content with my semi active life.  I put in extra hours at work and my running or working out happened more rarely.  Weekends where I stayed with boyfriend or went on trips I never even tried to accommodate for running.  I just pushed it aside like some chore I didn't want to do.  Was running becoming a chore to me?  The thing I had loved to do and lived for for so long was becoming a nuisance in my life?
What scared me most was that boyfriend, who did not come from an active lifestyle, would get used to the way I had been for the past year.  He enjoyed nights in watching TV, or nights out having a few drinks.  He was not an early riser.  If I did not do something about this now, what would happen when I was finally ready to get back into training? Would he hold me back? would he be unhappy with the time I spent training? I needed to know now.  
After a few arguments, I realized the only thing keeping me from running was me.  I needed to be tougher with myself.  I needed to get out of bed in the morning no matter what.  I needed to run the miles and keep going until I was done.  No one else could do that for me.  I had to make the time.  
So for the first time all summer, I finally set aside a saturday morning and said, this is gong to be it.  I am going to go running.  And then I realized that while I had been taking time off, my friend Heather had been running more.  I had always been the one to train more, but it would seem now that we were finally in a place where we could train together.  I knew that nothing motivates me to get out the door more than knowing someone else is there to go with me.  Even more convenient was the fact that she had just started training for a half marathon.  Sunday morning I rose at seven am with that all too familiar feeling of knowing I would accomplish something great in the next few hours.  I had a quick breakfast, and drove to our meeting spot.  The air was chilly but not cold, perfect for late august.  As we ran that morning, we chatted and caught up with each other's lives and even in the times when I thought I couldn't keep going, I did.  The clouds cleared and the sun beat down on us and we slowed down a bit but we never stopped.  Seven miles later we arrived at the end of our run, my car where I would drive us back to our houses.  At home that morning I went about my normal weekend routine of making coffee, cleaning my house, and reading the paper.  But it felt different than it had in the past.  It felt strong.  I felt like it didn't matter what I did for the rest of the day because I had already done the most important thing.  The next day I signed up for the Philadelphia half marathon.  I was ready to get back into racing.
One weekend long run under my belt, the next step was to do another.  Being labor day weekend I knew I would be away from home, and took al my running gear with me in case I were to have the chance to run.  I did not, but we arrived home earlier than planned and so Sunday night I set my alarm for 7:30 am, made sure to eat something healthy, avoid drinking.  When my alarm went off the next day I momentarily contemplated snoozing and going back to sleep for another half an hour.  But all I could see in my mind was running, pushing myself, needing to get this run in in order to be able to run ten miles next weekend.  It was only a matter of minutes before I was out of bed changing into running gear and ready to go out.  I quickly kissed boyfriend goodbye, said I love you, but couldn't take the time to have a drawn out goodbye.  The hardest part about running was putting aside all pleasure and just going forward.  So I just took off.  As I started my run, I thought about how pleased I was with myself for getting out of bed.  I would run eight miles this morning.  I would run no matter what, no matter what hurt, no matter how hard it was, no matter how much I wanted to stop.  Main street was deserted and there was a light breeze, there was no sun out, perfect weather.  Before I had even covered one mile my ipod died and I was forced to spend the rest of the run lost in my own mind.  I remembered back when I was training I would make up stories in my head, or narrate my actions to myself to keep entertained.  Today I calculated how far I would have to go to run eight miles.  Two miles down main street to the 3 1/2 mile mark on Kelly Drive, add 1 1/2 more miles to make four and then back to make eight.  As I made my way onto Kelly I was joined by more runners.  It's always a good feeling to be joined by fellow runners.  I said good morning to most that passed me.  I tried to keep thoughts of hot coffee and egg sandwiches out of mind.  My mouth was dry, I scolded myself for not drinking enough water the night before.  I beat myself up in my own head, pushing to keep going.  Turning around at the halfway point it was like I had put myself on cruise control.  My feet were moving, I was moving forward, but it was as if my mind was separate from my body.  I was just along for the ride.  It was a smooth stride and in those moments my mind just wandered, I looked out at the scenery around me taking in the trees, the river, I even saw a fox on a hill in the distance.  Before I knew it I had pushed myself onto Main street.  I was cruising up the last hill, and then trotting down the other side,  I threw my body into a higher gear to push across the last cross street and as I moved my legs across the bridge to cross onto Venice island I was done.  
My legs hurt, my mouth was dry, I could feel the muscles in my stomach, legs, back aching to hold me up.  And yet I was happier than I had been in a long time.   Getting back on the horse would not be easy. There would be many more early mornings, there would be aching muscles, and I would love every single second of it.  

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Marathon Math

I heard on the radio the other day this random piece of trivia.
"Did you know that in four games, a professional soccer player will run the equivalent of one marathon?"
Average non-running American's everywhere are sitting in their cars on their way to work, in amazement. The DJ's on my regular morning show sure are in awe.
"wow" the one says "that's amazing"
Now being the skeptic that I am, and of course being a runner, I start doing the math in my head.
Four games = 26.2 miles.
That means in one game they run 6.55 miles.
Six and a half miles? In any given week of a regular marathon training season, six and a half miles is an easy day. Six and a half miles is a joke. Six and a half miles is also roughly a 10k.
Ok so let's say you're max distance is a 10k. You excel at the 10k. You can run the 10K at five minute pace. You would finish in about a half hour. Excellent!
Ok so back to soccer. One professional soccer game lasts approximately 90 minutes. Ninety minutes. That's an hour and a half! And you know that these players are not running their hardest non stop with no breaks for the entire ninety minutes. Sometimes you're team is on offense, and if you're playing defense you're not really playing that hard. Let's not forget subs. At what point during a marathon does a runner get to call in a sub and take a break until they catch their breath? Oh let me think, Never!
When does the guy running the 10K get to switch spots with someone more rested and ready to go to finish up the race for him? Nope.
Ok so basically, over the course of four games, which total six hours over as little as four days and as many as who even knows how spaced out soccer games are, some guy runs 26.2 miles and you want to compare that to the guy who runs the same distance straight through no breaks over the course of three hours or less? No way Jose.

Now don't get me wrong here, I am not knocking the skill it takes to play soccer. It certainly is not a gift I was blessed with. But honestly, comparing four soccer games to a marathon? Nope sorry, I am not impressed in the least.

Boyfriend the beginner

Boyfriend and I first met in the fall of 2006.

It was a wednesday night, One week before my 21st birthday and I was meeting up with some friends of mine at a local Irish pub for what would prove to be one of the best traditions of my senior year of college. Quizzo. A local phenomenon of random trivial knowledge played in three rounds in bars with half price appetizers. what could be better? There were about eight of us at the table, two of my good friends and guy friends of theirs from their freshman dorm. Somehow it had taken three years of school for us to all finally meet, and among them, boyfriend to be.
I was already a runner at this point, let's make that clear. I had returned from California just over a month ago having gone through my first summer of any kind of real training. I had completed my first half marathon in Disneyland and was now back to finish school. Since then I had toyed with the idea of running my first full marathon but with the pressures of school in the way I would settle for one more half. California had turned me into more of a health nut than I had ever been, and so in the weeks to follow as we showed up repeatedly on wednesday nights for quizzo, and then on thursday nights for $2 pint specials I was always the most conscious one of all the cheesey fries and endless beers and (at least most of the time) was able to keep myself in check. This did not go unnoticed by the non-athletes of the group and i was always teased relentlessly but I stuck by it knowing what I did was something a little bit bigger than drinking on a weeknight in college.
I completed that second half marathon in November, right before thanksgiving and then went into what would become my usual winter hiatus from running drinking and partying binge. It was as if the pressures and sacrifices I made for my running were worth it up until the point that i crossed that finish line. But with out fail after ever race I swore I would never run again. I would realism all the things I give up that no one else does. Social time with friends, friday nights out late, drinking, sleeping in on saturdays, spontaneous weekend trips in the summer. All of that took a toll on my body, on my mind, and come december I was ready for a break.
Through it all, boyfriend to be always caught my attention, and I tried my best to put out the "I'm into you" vibe but knowing me, that vibe goes out to anyone within a five foot radius and some people are just more perceptive to it than others. Needless to say nothing ever became of our flirtation except that. I found myself going from one boy to the next, not really investing any emotion into anything, it was safer that way really. I was drained enough by school, and training that I didn't need anything else taking a toll on me anymore.
A few months down the road he met a girl who was as into cars as he was, and as disappointed as I was I let him go knowing he was probably happier that way. That spring he moved back home to New Jersey for his co-op job and that June I graduated college. we had both just gone our separate ways and most of the time I barely realized it. Of course there was always the fall back of myspace and facebook and from time to time I would find myself browsing through his profile wondering how things were going.
I find it ironic that it was at that very same bar, at one of the very same back tables that I started to fall for my coach, started to fall for running even harder than I had been. After college I began the hardest training I had ever gone through. I dated my coach, broke up with my coach, dated his roommate, broke up with his roommate, ran my third half marathon, ran my first ever full marathon, and once again went back into winter drinking and partying mode. Through it all, we had always had a mutual friend L. L was the reason I went to the bar that first night in october. L had been the reason we had met. and Ironically enough L would be the thing that brought us back together.

It was the summer of 2008 that I heard about BTB again. L and I were single girls that summer, and somedays it felt like we were the only two single girls on the planet. So of course we were practically attached at the hip, getting into trouble, looking for men, having crazy nights that led to crazy stories and loving every second of it. One day she mentions BTB. Things aren't going well with the supposed car loving girlfriend. I can't say I was upset over it. I mean yes on the one hand, when things go bad with someone's relationship it's never something to throw a party over. But would this mean he would be back on the market? I was always shopping around and loved hearing when new things were available.
Of course I was training again. This time for my second full marathon set for mid October. Part of me felt like the last race I ran had gotten over shadowed by boy drama and I was dead set on not letting that happen again. I made myself promise that, at least for this race, running was number one top priority and boys would have to wait until after everything. Of course I still had coach with me through the whole thing. Sometimes I toyed with the possibility that we would work out. It seemed so fitting at times, we both loved to run, he pushed me to the point that I was so proud of myself. He could be very cold, that was for certain. He lacked emotion, and was convinced it was for the better because he wanted to be a doctor and that would make him a better doctor. But if we would ever be in a relationship, he would make for one terrible boyfriend. I reminded myself that every day.
2008 was of course an Olympic year, a summer olympic year, and L being the in entertainer that she is decided to have an olympic party. I'm pretty sure it was the same day I had run 18 miles. No biggie for me I guess but it sure did impress everyone in attendance. I was at the peak of my fitness. I had never been in better shape. I had never felt so good about myself and what I was accomplishing. and of course that night BTB would be there, finally single. I would be lying if I said we weren't shamelessly flirting all night long, and I was planning on staying over L's for the night so I had a little bit of a buzz going and I desperately wanted to make some kind of move. But I wouldn't let myself. I was done being that girl who couldn't keep to herself enough to not leave a party with out hooking up with someone. I would stay strong and If he wanted it, I would let him pursue me. And he did.
Everything happened so fast between my training and our dating and the whole time I made sure to stay strong and never loose my focus of running. My ultimate goal.
BTB was there through those last final weeks of my training as I suffered through sore legs, hunger pains, early mornings, and everything else that went along with training. He made the five hour drive home with me to Massachusetts to watch me run my race. He put up with my whole family for three days, because he knew how much it meant to me to have him there at that race. And when it was all over he watched me cry to myself in a bathtub full of ice. He pulled me out and wrapped me in a towel, he brought me water and Advil and held me while the pain of 26.2 miles took over my entire body.
He will never fully understand the hurdles I overcame to get to that point. The mental and physical strain I put on myself for no other reason than it just makes me happy to push myself. He will never understand like coach did. But I would trade the understanding for the love he shows me every single day. I can put up with the fact that he doesn't fully get it because he's learning to support it.
The day after that race he became boyfriend for definite.
I decided that I would take a break from marathons, at least full ones. In part because of all the injuries I suffered in my last year of training. In part because I wanted to enjoy more recreational things with Boyfriend.
We spend the winter snowboarding and I enjoyed being able to share something with him that we both loved to do. I loved watching him get better, and his confidence grow. When the weather started getting warmer we started walking around my house. I would sometimes get up early and do a long run and then we would walk more after. I never regretted giving up marathoning. Because I know I will never fully give them up.
Recently I decided to do once race this year. A half marathon, keep it a little easy, and in the mean time maybe Boyfriend and I would start jogging. Who knows, maybe one day he'll even be able to coach me from the perch of his bike as he rides along next to me. Cheering me on, motivating me to keep going.
Boyfriend may be a beginner runner. He may just be a walker.
But I wouldn't trade him for a million dollars, a million races, or even a Boston qualifier. Because with out him there to share it with, the race really doesn't mean anything anymore.

xx Sara