Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fear or Fly

The soft music of my cell phone alarm wakes me from such a wonderful sleep, it takes every once of willpower with in me to get out of bed. It's cold but force my eyes to open, find my running tights and tank top folded neatly on my chair and pull them on. It's 7am on a Saturday morning in mid January and although I am getting ready to head outside, I am NOT going running for once.

In years past, winter was not only my time off from running to enjoy my friends and a few happy hours here and there with out feeling too guilty, but it was also my time to enjoy winter sports. Born and raised in New England, I practically grew up on skis. In fact I am not sure what happened first, my first step or my first time on skis. I was also pretty in love with ice skating, figure skating in particular. I remember almost every school vacation going to the Forest Park Ice Rink and skating for hours. I was in love of the complete grace and beauty of the sport. One Christmas I even got lessons as a gift and so every Sunday night I would head off to the local rink in my little black leggings ready to be an ice princess.
Of course as much as I loved both these things, none could ever take priority over running. Once the weather got to be above 50 degrees I was ditching my board and skates for sneakers and logging the miles.

This year though, this year I was going to do something different, something a little crazy. I wasn't going to give up anything. I would keep on running, and I would keep on snowboarding and skating and pretty much see how much torture my body could take. So that is why on this Saturday morning, after logging 15 miles on the treadmill for the week I was getting dressed for the cold. Boyfriend and I layer up and head out to pick up coffee. We drive up to the mountain with some good friends, get dressed in more gear and head out. The snow is powdery and soft on top and hard packed beneath. Not to icy but not too soft. Goldilocks would be pleased.
As we start down the mountain I resist the urge to coast away as fast as I can, taking the switchbacks like a pro. A few people in our group are still beginners and as I watch them practice chaining turns and gain their confidence my mind wanders back to a conversation from the past weekend.
Driving back from Camelback last weekend, boyfriend asks me what I think about when I am boarding. Do I think about what to do next, the skill set I use as I make each turn?
"I don't think," I tell him, "I just feel it and I go"
Perhaps this comes from my comfort with the mountain, my years of experience in the snow or maybe my love for speed. I have always loved going fast. When I am running repeats there is no feeling in the world more amazing than my turnover being so fast I imagine it as a blur beneath my torso. That feeling of invincibility is the same thing that overcomes me as I fly down the hill.
Perhaps it is because after a few lessons many years ago I just started teaching myself. Some people can play music by ear, I ride down the mountain by feel. Sure I could choose to be scared, I could choose to get anxious about the height of the mountain or about the speed at which I sail to the bottom, but that only makes me shaky inside and I am bound to fall. Fear can be good but it can also set you up for failure.
In life you are faced with a choice. You can either dwell on something that is overwhelming you and let your worries eat away at your confidence like a kid with an ice cream cone in July or you can attach it head on. You have to have confidence, and if you don't you learn to fake it by telling yourself you can do it until you start to believe it is true. "I can't do this" turns into "I can do this" and later becomes "Hell yes I can take on anything". So what's the worse that can happen? You fail? I can think of worse things. If you fall down ten times, get up ten times and just keep on going.
More and more this is the attitude I have chosen to adopt for life. You can be scared of a million things or you can go through life and just feel every bit of every moment. Feel life, and enjoy being alive.

Later that day as we head home I can feel every muscle in my body thanking me for such an incredible workout. My legs, arms and core all worked together as one to balance and maneuver me down the mountain. I am feeling good, like parts of my body that would never get to work hard during a run finally got to be awake and feel. I may be crazy - but the soreness after a good workouts is something I enjoy. It means I did my best, it means I pushed myself, and it means i am alive.

Boyfriend and I on our first boarding trip of 2010!

xx Sara

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don't stop the beat

Nothing gets me motivated to go for a run, run faster, or run longer, more than a good running playlist. The beat does something to me, motivates me to move. It's like that moment in a movie when the main character decided to really go for whatever thing they are after, the thing that makes the finale of the movie. Like 'Eye of The Tiger' is to Rocky, stuff like "Party in the USA" is to me. I blame my love of pop music on my past life as a cheerleader. Ok it was not a past life, it was this life, just in the past. Sometimes it feels like another life because of how much I have grown since that time, but I digress.

Through most of my first year of training I was musicless, and this worked great for solo long runs on saturday mornings. I would spend the time reflecting on my week, or enjoying the scenery around me. Sometimes I would even narrate the run in my head and when I got back I would sit down and write it all down (after a long stretching session of course) to inspire me later on. Of course I did not always enjoy running sans tunes. I did it because for most races it is against course rules to run with headphones, among other things (Rollerblades, baby strollers, etc.). I am a big advocate for practicing all your long runs exactly as you would a race, so when the big day arrives there are no surprises, nothing new to get in the way of your plan, the only variable is the weather. So knowing there would be no headphones on race day, I made it a rule to make headphones very sparse during training. It helped that most of my runs were done with Larry and so I had someone to chat with, I didn't even mind the occasional gaps of silence.

But of course at the beginning of every running season, sometime in late March, I would need an extra push. As the snow began to melt, when the days grew longer and the air calling me outside to breath spring into my lungs, I would turn to my trusty IPod to help motivate me out the door when I was used to sitting on the couch.

My very first running mix was born from cheerleading. Senior year when our new coach had us running the mile once a week at practice I knew I would need to bring along my trusty discman and an energizing mix CD to keep me going! I was 17 at the time, but that does't really explain for my choice in songs. Quite honestly now that I go back and look at them, because YES I still have that CD, I am not sure what I was thinking.
- Diana Ross and the Supremes - 'Love Child'
- Bobby Darin - 'Dream Lover'
- The Chiffons - 'One Fine Day'
- The Angels - 'My Boyfriend's Back'
- Kenny Loggins - 'Footloose'
- Rick Springfield - 'Jessie's Girl'
I think I had a thing for the oldies? Apparently I found it motivating. Well it worked. By the end of our 2002 football season I had been able to complete a mile in just about 10 minutes. I was pretty proud of this at the time.

And can we just please for one moment review my musical choices for a Mix CD entitled "April '04 Running Mix" ( I think I may just break this out for my next workout...) This list right here is proof that all I require is a repetative beat to get me going. These in no way reflect my
- Hillary Duff - 'Come Clean'
- The Darkness - 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' (Really??)
- S Club 7 - 'S Club Party'
- Bon Jovi - 'Livin' on a Prayer'
- Beyonce - 'Naughty Boy'
- J Kwon - 'Tipsy'
- 'Final Fantasy X2 Theme' (where did I even FIND this song??)
- 'Heaven is a Place on Earth (Remixed)'
- Jay Z - 'Excuse me miss - Neptune's Remix'

My main problem with the discman was that I have MAJOR music ADD. For some reason no matter how catchy or how much I love a song or a playlist, after a week I want something new. I want to be caught by surprise. Same tracks in the same order day after day week after week and it's like running the same five mile workout at an even pace the whole time. Where was the challenge? The excitement? The stimulation!?

Enter into the days of the IPod and the Playlist - my saviors! Thankfully now I was able to mix and match my tunes as I pleased. My running playlist changes almost daily whether it be one or two new added songs, or a new compilation of older stuff. My music = anything from Brittany Spears to Coheed and Cambria, to Cascada, to 80's hits, oh the list can go on for days. It's my little bit of magic that makes the pain of ten miles seem to evaporate into the notes.

Recently Boyfriend has been running a few days a week, and I find it puzzling the tunes he chooses to run to. I guess I had never really thought that the upbeat music wouldn't pump up every one. I don't know why I didn't see this coming. Boyfriend and my musical tastes couldn't be at more opposite ends of the spectrum. There were places that we overlapped sure, but the majority of songs we did not share a common opinion on. Once he told me he liked running to Manson I about fainted on the spot. Say what? How does that motivate you at all? But of course I am not one to judge. And more so I am not one to judge what gets you on your feet as long as you get on your feet.

But now I just need to know - what is on YOUR running playlist that gets you pumped?

xx Sara

Friday, January 22, 2010

If the shoe fits... write on it?

My earliest memories of running sneakers center around my mother, which is fitting because all my earliest memories or running and road racing also center around my mother. I remember the line of sneakers in my mom's closet. There had to be around seven pairs all at varying levels of wear and tear, laid out like a timeline, the newbies at one end and the retirees at the other. The oldest pairs were so worn you could slip them on with out undoing the laces and were reserved for random things like gardening and running out to get the paper first thing in the morning. The newest pair apparently the only one worthy of getting some time on the road.
Every year at the end of winter my dad would pile my sisters and I in the car and we would take a trip to this tiny running store in the city. I don't remember much about it, other than piles of shoe boxes all around and it's dusty atmosphere but we would pick up the newest model of Saucony Grid running shoes and hurry them home to wrap for mom's birthday. At the time I never gave much thought to a yearly gift of sneakers. I didn't see the excitement or purpose in it, but I didn't spend enough time on the subject to think it was anything out of the ordinary. My mom's life as a runner was just a big mystery. At the time, I even thought it was easy.

It would not be until I began training for my first half marathon that the mystical world of running shoes would be explained to me. At our first Saturday meeting for training, the coaches explained we should go to a local running store and be fitted for sneakers that worked best for our feet. They talked about pronation and stability and other things that I didn't yet understand. Conveniently there was a Sports Basement right across the street from where I was working, so Monday evening I stopped in to get some new kicks. I was instantly overwhelmed by the amount of sneakers under one roof.
This was definitely not like any store I had set foot in. I wandered around a bit before getting up the courage to ask someone for help (what can I say I can be painfully shy sometimes!) I explained my situation - training for a half marathon, looking for my first pair of good running shoes, etc. The sales associate had me take of my shoes and walk across the store. I felt only semi awkward. After determining I was going to need a stability shoe he grabbed a pair from three different brands and had me try them all one. I was somewhat disappointed that this process had nothing to do with looks. I was instructed to try each shoe, and pick whatever felt the most comfortable. You mean I can't have that really cool pink and silver pair across the room? Or maybe the green and white ones? No, sorry Sara you have to have the ugly Navy and grey pair that feel really awesome on your feet. Ok just for the record they DID feel really great (my feet would thank me later) but i was nervous about making a final decision. Once I took them onto the pavement I wouldn't get to bring them back.
"Can I run around the store?" I asked the sales associate.
"Of course, people do it all the time." He said with a smile. But even with his approval I feel ridiculous running around the store with people watching. I did something that would resemble a half jog/trot for a few yards and then turned around and came back. What the heck, I guess they were the best so I took them.
They were Asics Gel Evolution 2's. Which pretty much means second generation of that model but I was just happy to have made a choice. Now runners, as I have mentioned before are creatures of habit, so it is no surprise that Asics Gel Evolutions are the ONLY model of shoe I have run in ever since. Not only that but when Asics stopped making 2's and started carrying the 3's I all but lost it thinking I would have to buy a *gasp* different shoe!.

Now you can imagine that after three half marathons and one full marathon, five or six pairs of shoes later I would start to get them all confused. Once I had been on one long run in the rain they were all the same amount of dirty, and after one injury prone summer which I blamed completely on old sneakers I was paranoid at the thought of running on overused kicks. One day sometime after my first marathon when Larry and I were stretch before a workout I noticed numbers written on the sole of his sneaker in black marker. When I asked him what it was he said it was his goal finish time for his upcoming marathon. Of course it was something crazy fast but it made me start to think what I could write on my shoes. Not just to tell them apart but also maybe it would give me an extra little bit of inspiration to lace up and get out the door.

And so it began...

"Philly 26.2" For the pair that carried me across my first marathon finish line :)

"Run Easy is an Oxymoron" not so visible anymore but that quote is one of my favorites


"Not done yet..." this quote was part of an ad in Runner's World which I loved

My newest pair of Asics have yet to be labeled. Any suggestions?

This year when my boyfriend gave me a new pair of sneakers for my birthday, (into the 5th generation and my now 9th pair) I was absolutely overjoyed. Not only that he can realize my love for the sport and support it by gifting me with sneakers. But also because I flat out needed new sneakers and was running (haha) short on money. I think I had finally come to understand why my Dad chose to always get my mom running shoes as a birthday gift. It was one of those gifts that was easy and practical but not looked to as unthoughtful as something like a vacuum or a blender. I don't think I have enjoyed a present so much in a very long time. And I hope he makes it a yearly tradition!

xx Sara

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Running Through Lilly Land

In the past, it was not often that my life at Lilly and my life as a runner converged. I love my job and I love my hobby but I treat them as two separate animals. By day I was a true Lilly girl, I love doing my hair and makeup and my collection of brightly colored Lilly printed clothes. But when the clock hits 5 (and sometimes when workload is overflowing than when the clock hits 6 or 7) It's like I transform into someone completely different. A la Clark Kent whirling around in a phone booth I throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and my inner athlete is freed. Of course one of the amazing benefits of my office is the little gym tucked away in a corner of the first floor.
On occasion some of my closer co-workers would ask me to help them in a workout. And there were about three or four regulars who would do their half hour on the treadmill or elliptical, a few dozen crunches and be on their way.
But with my decision to train through the winter, brought on the realization that I was about to get incredibly familiar with the Lilly Gym. On top of that the new year brought on another challenge and that was training Super Boss (SB) And so that is why today, I would be not only doing my own workout but playing the role of trainer too. I needed to make this work!

I was already ten minutes late as I rushed to pull together all my bags and gadgets from my desk and get downstairs to SB. I had a great workout planned and I was really excited but I took longer than expected wrapped up emails at the end of the day. Hands flew out grasping cell phone, camera, Bluetooth headset, coffee cup, handbag, jacket, lunch box and magazines. I raced into the gym to find SB diligently jogging along on the treadmill which made me happy and as soon as I was changed we would start working with the weights. Todays workout outfit made me feel like a real instructor, black cropped leggings, black sports bra and a turquoise (it is the hottest color right now!) ribbed tank and my trust Asics. Of course being the Lilly girl that I am I cannot go anywhere with out my pink Iron man sports watch and pink under amour headband. I grabbed my newest SHAPE magazine for our workout, my trusty resistance band and left the locker room. We went through a series of different moves working all parts of the body. I made sure to start out with light weights and check after each set to see if the moves were too easy, too hard, or just right. I must state right now, that as much as I adore working out, training other people makes me downright anxious. This is not to say I don't know what I am doing, but I am just not experienced enough with working with other people. Sometimes I wonder if they leave thinking I am too mean, or perhaps crazy for how much effort I expect people to put in.

Now done with workout #1 I get started on my own routine. Both treadmills are occupied so I opt for some hamstring strengthening moves because that is where I am the absolute weakest. I do one set each of side kicks to a back leg extension, squats with a side kick, and jump squats and by the time I am done there is a free treadmill! JOY! I hop on and start off at a 5.6 speed. I have no workout in mind just knowing that I need to run 3 miles total. This would be my first time running three times in a week and I didn't want to put my body into total shock, just semi shock! You may wonder what I do to keep entertained while on the treadmill for this much time. Well sometimes I wonder because I am starting to run out of ideas!
- First of all I have music ADD. I get sick of a song and/or playlist in a matter of days. This could end up being more expensive than my running shoes if I am not careful. Recently my 30g IPod classic was blessed with the adoption of a little sister, a 2g IPod Nano (donated by my youngest sister who luckily acquired an IPod touch). This has proved to be a wonderful 'running only' music storage device where I can compile only the most obnoxiously upbeat pop songs for my entertainment!
- Second our two wonderful treamils are placed facing a wall of mirror. This is fabulous for watching my stride and perfecting my form. oddly enough sometimes I look at myself and feel like I am watching two different people run at the same time. Much like the tv effect where they will show you two half screens with two halves of different people doing the same motion so they look like they are one? Well I guess you have to see it to understand. Well the main display conveniently cuts me off at the waist, and I can either focus on my legs or my arms, and sometimes I am in awe that they belong to the same body. My torso is lean and muscular with strong arms and shoulders from childhood years as a swimmer, where as my legs are a bit short and somewhat thick.
- And last but not least I spend a lot of time imagining myself running outside, be it on my favorite route along the river, finishing future race, or putting myself back into one of my old workouts where I really kicked butt and finished feeling like nothing could knock me down.

Treadmill runs aren't very fun to recount mile by mile - so I won't bother boring anyone with intervals of speed and incline. Hopefully the upcoming weeks will bring some mild and sunny weekend weather so I can finally test myself with a longer outdoor run.

xx Sara

Not done yet. Not done yet. Not done yet.

Welcome to what keeps me motivated
The first thing I did after signing up for the Rutgers UNITE 1/2 Marathon was

a. Print out a picture of the course map to hang on my wall - tradition will all my races
b. Move all my inspirational running quotes, pictures and training log to the front wall of my cube so I would have to stare at it all day five days a week. If that isn't enough of a reminder I don't know what is. Short of writing 13.1 on the back of my hands ever morning.

If I am not careful running is going to take over my work!!


(yay for my first photo in a post - watch out cause I'm getting good at this!)

Lost in the woods with out a compas.

Three years ago when I started this journey to become a runner, I cared a lot about impressing my then just recruited coach and
semi love interest, Larry. He was super fast (at least in my eyes) dedicated, determined, and the most hard core running I had
ever met in person and had the pleasure to train with. So dedicated in fact that training me ended up being more important than
dating me. Though at the time I agreed this was the best path for us to go down, and we ran side by side every week for two
years, I still was always in the quest for his approval. This meant I had to work my butt off. When I did something that was
normal or expected there was no praise, praise was not to be expected. But when I did something extraordinary there was
always a little bit of contratuations and I lived for those moments.
I started dating his roommate, not as a way to get him back but it just so happened he was the complete opposite of Larry.
Lazy, unmotivated, immature, and yet somewhere in there was a little bit of fun. In the end it clashed with my desire to
push myself and get the satisfaction from a hard workout that I craved and that ended. In the moments that I was single,
and even in some of the moments when I was not, my mind would wander back to the possibility that Larry and I were just
good for each other. He was the only person I had ever met who understood what I loved about running. No explaination was
needed, we didn't have to talk about it, we just went out and did it. And he taught me so much. How could I spend the rest of
my life with anyone that couldn't understand that.
But in the moments where I was smarter than that I realized he was an amazing coach - and little more. All the reasons that
made him such a strong runner were the same reasons that made him a bad boyfriend. He was emotionally distant, painfully
shy, and somewhat social awkward.
As we grew out of our college lives and into the real world, Larry moved onto Med School and I to a new boyfriend. This one
was the real deal, the nicest guy I had met in a very long time. But the more we met up for weekly runs, and the more Larry
talked about his life in med school the more I started to wonder if his drive and passion fell in all the wrong places. He loved
running, but he wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to be a doctor so badly he spend a whole summer studying but now that
he was there it didn't seem to be going to plan. After my second marathon I put a lot of focus into my relationship and not so
much into my running. Larry and I feel out of touch. Every now and again when I felt like I wanted to get back into running
I would text him and see how life was treating him. Out of the blue one day he told me he had moved out west to Idaho or
somewhere equally as rural and boring. I guess the med school dream was over, but he was still always there when I had
training questions for myself and others. He even wished me luck on the day of my most recent half marathon which was a
particulary large dissapointment.
Recently I found out he was joining the marines at the start of the new year. It seemed as though he was still searching
to find his place in life, as if running alone could not bring him the happiness he wanted. How funny that the one person I
used to look up to for motivation in life was now the one person I wanted to reach out and help. How did this happen?
How did the roles suddenly get reversed?
A week before christmas my phone died - leaving me recollecting phone numbers I needed and happily leaving out people
I had cleaned from my life. Larry's number was lost, and the only way to find it again (since he was always anti - things
like facebook) was to dig back into my past to his ex roommate and my ex boyfriend. A place I was SURE I never wanted to be
again. And search though I might I wasn't even able to find so much as an email. It looked like I had reached the point in my
life that I always knew would come but never really wanted to happen. I was left to fend for myself, plan on my own, run as my
heart told me. In a way I was a small bit relieved. I always knew that I had great potential somewhere inside me.
But I also knew I was not a natural. It took a lot of work to get where I have been. It meant giving up a lot of
things in my life. So maybe this was my blessing in disguise. My get out of jail free card to finally run on my own terms and not
have to worry anymore about that praise of a job well done. I knew when I needed to work hard, but I also knew when I needed
to take a time out and enjoy my friends and family.
Whatever it was - it wasn't like I would ever stop running.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Setbacks and baby steps.

I never thought I would find myself in this position. Trying to juggle work, personal life, and running all at once. Not wanting any of the three to be anything less than perfect. Jealous of friends of mine who were jumping on the half marathon bandwagon. How could I be jealous after all I had accomplished in the past three years? Mad that I hadn't finished my last race due in insufficient training. I just have to remember it doesn't matter what other people are doing or how far or fast they can run. What matters is where I am and that I am working towards achieving my goals.
I am doing more now that I did three months ago - I workout three days a week after work! That is HUGE since getting new job responsibilities over a year ago. What's funny is how you always miss what you don't have. When I am running and training I feel amazing. I feel strong and happy like I can conquor anything that comes at me. But I miss nights going out to happy hour with friends or careless weekend plans and not worrying about fitting in a long run.
And yet when I give up running, or cut back on my workouts I miss being fast and strong. I miss feeling great about my body. So really it's just a matter of balance. I am glad that I took some time off to figure myself out. Learn how to love my job, learn how to be in a relationship. But now I feel like I have those things under control and I want to go back to tackling the challenge of the half marathon. My goal was two in one year but who knows. Maybe if I stay in shape all winter I'll be able to tackle three in a year.
Any time I find myself getting jealous of other people I remind myself how happy I am with ALL the aspects of my life. Running does not equal my whole life - even though it may seem like it sometimes! There isn't a single thing I would give up if I had to trade something for being faster or more in shape. And remembering that is what makes it all ok.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

A breath of fresh air

Imagine yourself on a cool spring evening, running on your favorite tree lined route. It's about an eight mile day, and it's a day for 800's. The sun is setting as you launch into the last repeat, determined that it be the fastest not only of the night, ever. Your feet seem to move so fast they aren't even touching the ground. You feel like you are effortlessly gliding towards the end. Effortless - except for the fact that every muscle in your body hurts, your arms and legs pumping back and forth as if they might spontaneously fly off your body, and you are gasping for breath desperate to have enough air in your lungs. Now remember that feeling, the breathing part, as you finish the repeat and slow down to a jog. It is only a few moments before your breathing returns to normal. As you jog your cool down you take in nice full breaths and relish in the feeling of accomplishment. That's how running is supposed to feel, challenging at times but when it's all said and done you should walk away feeling amazing!
Now imagine yourself laying down - and someone is sitting on your chest. It is very difficult to get in a full breath and you feel like you spend so much energy just - breathing. Imagine this person sitting on your chest goes everywhere you go! Sometimes they wander away and can be lost for days but alas they always come back. That was my life and running for the past year.

I was running my second marathon the first time I remember it happening. It was a gorgeous October morning, the weather was unseasonably warm and I was having a great time running the back roads of suburban Hartford Conn. I was running just behind the 9:30 pace group and feeling surprisingly good most of the way despite having been struck with a nasty cold three weeks prior. And then right around the half way mark I started feeling like i was gasping for breath more than normal for my pace. I felt my body begging me to slow down, and maybe if I slowed down It would be able to breath. But I was pretty determined that this was going to be the race I would finish in 4 hours. So I pushed on for about another two miles, until I met up with Larry and I told him how terrible I was feeling. He let me slow down but looking back on it I don't know if that was a good or bad decision. In the end, at least I finished the race that day. I wasn't thrilled with a 4:45 finish time, even if it was 10 minutes of my PR. I had worked too hard for this race.
I would struggle with this fact on and off for the next year. I would see a handful of different doctors, I would be told I had asthma, I would be told I had anxiety, and I would pass all the breathing tests with flying colors leaving everyone including myself baffled as to what was wrong with me.
I hadn't given up running but I had definitely put marathons and long distances on the back burner. I was in a relationship now and spending time as a couple came to my mind more often than early Saturday morning runs. I began to feel as though I was loosing a part of myself and I used my breathing as an excuse. Sometime in the summer I decided I wasn't going to let myself get lazy for any longer. I had once been such a strong and fast person and I wanted that back. I gradually started doing four and sometimes six mile long runs. These felt pretty good most of the time but they were never very fast. 10mm at best.
One day, out of pretty much nowhere it had occurred to me that my old college roommate - whom I had run a few races with, the Broad Street 10 miler our senior year in college for one, and her first half marathon (my second) had been running a lot and increasing her mileage. Now that she had more experience under her belt, and I had let myself go a bit, we were probably very close in speed and ability. I texted her to ask if she would like to join me for a long run one weekend morning. As it turns out she was training for a fall half marathon and had just begun to work up her distance. It couldn't be more perfect. We ran seven miles that Sunday. It was hot and miserable but when it was over I felt amazing. I had the feeling back!
With that began a weekly long run ritual with us until well after her half. She had inspired me to sign up for the Philadelphia half, a race I was more than familiar with, and in turn I inspired her to sign up for the Philadelphia full. Our runs were a great change to catch up with each other, talk about our relationships, jobs, etc. and at the same time we logged more and more miles until we were into the double digits. I enjoyed it so much that I failed to notice how out of breath I seemed to get by the end of every run. We would start off at a pretty steady easy pace for both of us, feeling great and talking, but after nine or ten miles I constantly needed to slow down and catch my breath. After one particular run, which I needed to full on stop and walk the remaining two miles, I started to feel like things weren't ok.
Early in November, just weeks before the Philly Half, I was to take a last minute business trip out of the country. At first I was going to be tough and pack my sneakers, aiming to get in at least three days of running. But at the last minute they didn't fit in my suitcase and we ended up working such long hours, put that together with the near ten hour time difference and I was in no condition to run. The night I arrived back in the states I slept for nearly 13 hours figuring resting was better than dragging my body into the ground with a six mile run after 18 hours on two different planes.
The weekend of the race I was super pumped although very nervous. I reminded myself constantly that I was only doing this for the finish, and not to get upset when my time was slower than normal. I went with Heather (who by this time had gotten too busy to train for a full and had decided to stick with the half) to the Expo to pick up our numbers. A large group of us went out to dinner for pasta. And that night I laid out all my gear. Shorts, shoes, socks, top, warm ups, extra layers, gloves, my number, lucky hair bow. It all seemed so surreal. I usually took races so seriously and with such anxiety, the fact that I had not really prepared for this race and I was running it anyways was like I was breaking a rule. So how'd I end up doing? Let's just say it was not a success - and you can read about it in my separate post about the race.
So now I felt like my world was falling apart. I was ready to give up running all together, but just before that happened I was scheduled for one last lung test. Basically they would give me a chemical that in asthmatics, would cause an acute bought of symptoms measurable by lots of science stuff and computers. I had no idea what to expect when I walked in that morning. I knew I was not happy that I wasn't allowed to have coffee until this darn test was over. Unfortunaly it was not a quick one. There was lots of breathing through different tubes. Tubes that measured my breathing and tubes that administered the chemicals. Yum. What I hated more than the tests was the small talk. I was confined to a chair with the same lady who shared TMI about her life for an hour. And then on the fourth dose I hit the twentieth percentile. That means they stop testing me because I dropped too low. It's like failing out! It felt weird, like maybe I wasn't trying hard enough or something, maybe I had made myself fail. So she gave me one more shot. And I still failed.
So that was it. I had asthma. That meant nothing to me considering I spend months taking an inhaler, and taking preventative medications twice a day every day. What could they possibly do for me now?
I had to meet with Pulmonary to figure it all out. Ironically while I was sitting there I noticed the latest runners world laying on a table and began flipping through it. And when the doctor finally arrived and announced "well you have exercise induced asthma" I wanted to ask him what desperate measures he though I should try to get this fixed. To my great shock, he prescribed me almost the exact medicines I had been taken off of only ten months earlier. Ok crazy, so you think that just because I failed a test the meds are going to work now? And then he told me he wanted me to try taking the inhaler as a preventative measure. Take two puffs 1 minutes BEFORE running, because if I waited until I actually felt symptoms I was much less likely to feel relief. Well ok mister Doctor, I think maybe you are on to something.
The next time I entered the gym (because it's freezing in Philadelphia and I am too much of a wuss to run outside) I did as he said. I took two puffs of the inhaler - and did my workout. I felt the usual out of breath during faster intervals but the amazing difference came afterwards. Before, when I would do my runs, I felt as if it took days afterwards to catch my breath. I would spend the rest of the night or day feeling the same pangs of someone sitting on my chest refusing to move.
But now? now I felt like normal. I felt like a person. If it weren't for this freezing weather I would be jumping at the chance to try a run longer than four miles outside. But for now I will stick to my twice weekly four mile runs. This week will be my first week running three days a week. And in four months, a half marathon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Todays workout - 4 miles on treadmill. 1 mi warmup, then 4x800 repeats starting at 9mm pace and finishing at 8:30 pace. I remind myself that the pace is all relative. It's something to gauge my progress but It's 'treadmill' time and doesn't accuratly translate to my times had I been running outside.

Last night on the phone with my mother I shared with her how in shape I feel. And although I have been in much better shape at previous points in my life, this is the first winter since I started taking running seriously that I feel like I'm not letting myself go as the days slip by. Just waiting for the first night after work where there is enough daylight for a super fast four mile run. At a time when many people are trying to erase the damage done over the holidays, I feel like I am at a constant and only growing stronger.
In part I owe it to my love of a good routine. I eat the same things every day around the same time. I plan my workouts for the same days every week. I have a practically ritualistic schedule before a long run in order for it to be successful. To some people I may be crazy, or OCD, but hey if what I do works what's the harm?
A typical diet in the day of me =
- 7:30am - Starbucks venti travel tumbler filled with either water, juice, or 1/2 water 1/2 juice on my way to work (BO-RING commute!)
- 8:30 am - some type of bread product (bagel, toast, waffles, English muffin, ect.) toasted with one of the following (peanut butter, cream cheese, egg and cheese, omelet, or margerine) One cup of coffee with one tablespoon sugar (yes I measure it) and water
- 10am - NEED some sort of mid morning snack. Usually a Banana and a fat free yogurt. Sometimes I go through an almond phase but right now I am in a 'definatly don't want almond' phase.
- 11:30 (gym day) /12:30 (non gym day) - LUNCH!! Yay! Best time of day b/c my whole lunch box comes up to my desk and I pretty much eat for the rest of the day. What is in my lunch box you ask? Well I will tell you. My main lunch can be anything from last night's dinner leftovers, to a tuna sandwich, o maybe all the ingredients for a tossed salad. But mostly it's leftovers from dinner because it is super easy to make extra dinner and it means I will have a well balanced and filling lunch. Then I usually have some kind of fruit, apples usually, something with carbs like crackers or a granola bar, and then maybe a dessert like two fun sized candy bars or a few cookies. Sometimes I throw in extra fruit like grapes, and an extra veggie like a bag or baby carrots.
- 3pm - (gym day) stop eating. I know it's strange, and try explaining it to everyone in the office when you get together for the 3pm birthday cake, or the 3pm baby shower etc. But I do it because back when I was doing crazy training workouts with Larry I would run super hard and all that super hard running works your core to such an intensity I would feel nauseous sometimes. The emptier my stomach, the easier it was to run the fast intervals, the hills, and the long distances. I guess it just stuck with me. no eating after 3pm on a gym day. Just water.
- 5pm - GYM! Sometimes I will wait until 5:30 or 6 usually because I have work to finish up, but it I wait anylonger I start to get hungry and loose my engery and motivation.

Just another way my routine keeps me in check. the minute I start to deviate from it, I loose motivation. It's almost as if my routine is my autopilot, no thinking required. No thinking, no problem. That is why I love intervals so much, repetitive motions, make things seem easier because after you do it a few times your body gets used to it. When I start to stray from routine my body snaps out of autopilot and into shock. What? what are you doing to me? going to the gym at 7pm - NOPE! no way jose! I want to go home and drink a glass of wine and sit on the couch!

Apparently I don't have the strength to run my body on manual.