Monday, July 28, 2008

Here I go, it's my shot. Feet fail me not.

Katherine lies. Or rather, she lies by omission. In addition to running the Seacoast Half Marathon with me in November, she recently signed up to run the Boston Half in October. So on Saturday, we decided to meet up downtown for a long run. I got there a few minutes early and waited in the early morning sunshine for Kate. The only other people around were window washers.

"Welcome to your future," Kate said as she handed me sunscreen, "waking up before everyone else in the world to run."

"I don't sleep late anyway," I said. Which is true. But there's a difference between not sleeping late and getting up at 6am on a Saturday. By choice.

I told Kate I'd follow her lead since after training for the Nike Women's Marathon last year, she was familiar with the distances of the loops along the river. "We'll do the Museum of Science bridge to the Anderson Bridge and loop back around," she said. "That's eight miles."


So we started running. We talked about all the kinds of things you talk about when you're running including the new phenomenon of girls running in tube tops, (Why? A lack of tan lines is not worth boobs you can tie around your waist), recent doctor's appointments and the various relationships between our friends. I observed that runners talk louder than normal people because of the heavy breathing, etc. and as such, they always seem to be sharing something personal when someone, inevitably NOT wearing headphones runs by in the other direction.

"Yeah, runners are oversharers," Kate said. "It's part of the whole deal."

And so we kept running, stopping only once or twice to get water at one of the water fountains along the route and to soak my grungy, salt-stained camo Red Sox hat in cold water.

After a while, we reached the bridge and Kate made as if to turn.

"You said the Anderson Bridge," I said, "that one up there is the Anderson." I pointed to a bridge a quarter mile or so in the distance.

"Oh, okay," Kate said, and we kept running.

A few miles later, Kate checked her watch.

"So I have a confession to make," she said, "and you're too tired now to hurt me."

"What's that?" I asked.

"That bridge that we were gonna turn on? That's eight miles. The one we did turn on makes this route at least nine."

"Nine miles?" I said. "I'm running nine miles?"

"At least."

I'm not sure if she thought I was going to be upset, that I'd stop running, or that I'd collapse right there and die, but really, the opposite happened. I'm not sure if I said it, but I definitely thought, "awesome."

Because nine miles is a mile and a half longer than my previous long run. Or at least, that's what I thought until I got home and mapped our route on Gmap Pedometer.

I sent Kate a text message. "Gmap says we ran 9.7 miles. That is madness."

"Holy crap!" she said when she called me later, "no wonder we were tired."

Which, yes, we were, or I was. But it was the good kind of tired. The "I smell like a gym locker and I'm covered in enough salt to season a roast pig and my feet are sore and I have blisters and probably a sunburn but I kind of feel like Superwoman right now." That's the good kind of tired.

Because the thing is, six months ago, I couldn't run a mile. I huffed and I puffed and I sweated and I swore and I kept running. And on Saturday, I ran nearly ten miles. My goal a few months ago was to be able to run five miles without stopping. And now, I've nearly doubled that. And I'm not done yet.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rock bottom.

At this point, running-wise, I want a redo on the entire stupid month of July. I haven't had a good run since June. In four weeks of new and staggering running lows, I managed to hit a new one today: not even being able to make through a mile.

Objectively, I know there are reasons for this. I've drunk too much alcohol and not enough water lately. It was humid. I was running on a gravel trail for the first time and the soft impact didn't do much for my legs. But after awhile, all this just feels like excuses. Maybe it's time to own to the fact that I'm not all that good at this. Maybe 3 miles is my threshold and maybe that can only be attained on certain magical days of the year.

I'm not asking unreasonable things from my body, I don't think. I know I'm not ever going to run a 10 minute mile. I know I'm not ever going to run a marathon. But after a stretch of successful 3 mile runs, it doesn't seem too be so much to want to be able to go for 3.5. Apparently it is. At this rate, there's no way I'm going to be able to run a 10K in October.

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day and Kristen suggested that a run might make me feel better. But my body isn't responding in the way I need it to, and that's only making my mind worse. Failure doesn't release endorphins.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Know what's better than Prince and Michael Jackson for 10k?

Nothing. No. Thing.

Well, maybe Justin Timberlake.

That'd be a hell of a super group, no?

Friday, July 18, 2008

You have to keep going. Otherwise, you'll stop.

The sickness appears to finally (knock on wood) be lifting. My throat is back to normal and my head is clearing up. I no longer feel like I'm breathing through soup. I hadn't run since Monday and it was driving me crazy. So before lunch today I Googled "Can you run with a cold?" because in addition to being the world's biggest dork, I realize that I'm still a novice at this running thing and I want to be aware if there's some running endorphins/head snot connection that could kill me dead if I went past a mile or something. This time, the internet proved less than helpful since most of the hits referenced running IN the cold. Not the same thing.

But, I reasoned, I was only going to do two miles. Two miles isn't going to kill me. There was a time not that long ago when it probably would have, head full of snot or no. But that time has passed.

I am happy to report that I did not die. Which you've probably figured out unless you assumed that my hastily reanimated corpse was writing in my stead. Not so. I am alive and well. And the things they tell you about endorphins appear to be true. I feel about a thousand percent better than I have in a week. All good things.

Today while I was running along the river, I was thinking about the social aspects of running and how I've gotten to the point where I will schedule runs with friends. It still seems strange to me to schedule things like an 8-mile run in the same way you would plan to meet up for a 1pm matinee on a Sunday or at the bar at 9 for birthday drinks. I had never considered that running would be something that people would do together. But that's another thing I've learned about runners, they are always willing - and some of them are positively eager - for more people to join their ranks. For some of the best athletes and strongest people I know, runners are the most welcoming and encouraging. There seems to be a real dearth in judgment that you simply don't find in other pursuits.

As someone relatively new to the whole thing, it's really easy to get intimidated by the elite runners - those who have run marathons or have been running for years. Even if they're some of your closest friends. But the enthusiasm they show in bringing you into the fold makes the fear dissipate rather quickly. There are some people, though, who are always going to intimidate you. For me, there's someone at work who I often see running on the track or around campus. I'd heard that he ran the Boston Marathon and was, in general a long-distance marathoner. (Does one become a marathoner after their first or do you have to run several?). He's one of those bouncy runners who seem to be flying, as though they're not in pain, they're not sweating to death and there's nothing else they'd rather be doing. When I wasn't eating his dust, I was assuming that he was judging me as a slow-moving running poser.

But today I saw him outside. And when I passed him he didn't snarl or roll his eyes or do anything that would leave me to believe he didn't think I was just another runner. In fact, he waved and gave me a head nod of recognition. Likely all it meant was "right on." But that meant a lot. Because if I'm getting recognized and acknowledged by runners I consider to be "elite," maybe that means I'm not faking this any more.

It always takes me longer to realize things about myself than it does for people around me to realize them. But I believe you have to come to terms with things at your own pace. Which is hard, believe me, as I'm the world's most impatient person. But I think I have my pace now. It's about 10 minutes a mile. And that's just about right.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Timing is Everything

I ran an easy - or what should have been easy - 3.6 miles on Monday. Likely I knew I was getting sick as I'd spent the entire day with Seb, Kate and Ted on Saturday and Seb was just getting over a scratchy throat, cold-like, flu-ish type thing that wiped him out for a couple of days. And by Monday I was feeling like it was perhaps going to set it for me. So I worked through lunch, went home an hour early and decided I had to go for a run before I got actually sick since any impending illness would pretty much negate any running I'd planned on doing for the next few days. So I did a loop around the Reservoir and the back streets to my house. 3.6 miles. And the last .5 miles or so I kept thinking, "I can't do this anymore. Why do I do this to myself? Why did I tell Kate I'd run a half-marathon let alone a full one? Who do I think I am? I can't do this."

And then I checked my mail on my way upstairs and saw the Runner's Log and Supplement that comes as a free gift with every subscription to Runner's World. Only I hadn't subscribed to Runner's World. Kate had done it for me.

Suddenly, I wasn't in pain anymore.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Runner's Block

I think my runner's block has finally passed! Yesterday when I popped outside to grab lunch, the weather was beautiful and my first thought was, "Oh, I should run today." I didn't end up going yesterday because Kristen and our friend Colleen were coming over and given the way things had been going, I didn't want to rush.

So this morning I woke up with the entire day and road ahead of me. I made a pedicure appointment so I wouldn't wuss out -- you gotta have the carrot sometimes and nothing makes your feet shagnastier than running. I was even feeling good enough to try something new.

For the past two months, I've been running the same route except for the couple 5ks. I like my route. It's comfortable and familiar. There are hills, but not too many, and two side streets I can go up and down to extend my distance. It's shady and has far less foot traffic than running on Beacon. But after being in such a rut, I decided it was time to expand my horizons. The only problem with this is that I'd have no idea how far I was going. At this stage in the game though, I have a rough idea of my pacing, so I was less concerned that I'd think I'd run 3 miles and only have run 1.5.

It was a good run, aside from spending about 4 minutes stopped at lights. I'm getting faster, not drastically so, but I'm inching closer to 14 minutes a mile.

I got a whole different kind of carrot after logging my run and checking my mileage total: it seems that I've run my first 50 miles. And that's pretty good motivation to start the next 50.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When running feels like swimming

So much for best intentions. "I'll do 5K today," I thought. "No problem," I said, "A leisurely half-hour run" I told myself.

Cut to 15 minutes later after I'd done 2.5K and swore the air was so thick, I could chew it.

Should've stuck to the track today. A tan's probably not worth the resulting lung collapse from this insane humidity. Ugh.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Couch Potato on Foot

A week ago, I winged a 5k, as much as one can wing a 5K when one had run one the week prior. After two weekends of racing, despite the fact that I like going to races, and completely crap weather, I was feeling a little burned out. Today, I ran for the first time since the 5K on June 29. There was an air quality advisory, but I'd been making excuses for two weeks and it was time to lace up and sack up.

I could tell in the past week that the lack of running was catching up with me. My emotions were backing up; things that I'd normally run out or even run away from suddenly became too big. So today, I didn't want to think about anything. I was all thought out.

Every step was a challenge in the heat today and it was a challenge to keep my mind focused on the small things. Is Brett Favre coming back? Would the Red Sox still be in the bottom of the first by the time I got home? Is Sabathia's start tomorrow going to be like last Sunday when I kept telling myself that if I made it through the 5K, I'd get to go home and lay on the couch and watch Ben Sheets, only to have Benny kind of suck? Is that a Spanish guitar on "One in a Million"?

About 2/3 of the way through my run, it occurred to me that I am actually phenomenally lazy. I was running to make up for a week of being lazy. I was running so that tomorrow night I can eat pizza and drink beer and doodle love notes to CC Sabathia. If I wasn't lazy, I'd be having fun and it wouldn't have been such a battle to get out there and every step wouldn't be such a freaking chore. I'm really just a couch potato in motion.

My body actually felt fine and with a lower temperature and humidity that might not choke a horse, I could probably have gone farther. But now that the 10K training is starting in earnest, there will be plenty of chances to go farther. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some sitting on my ass to do.

Back on the horse.

Because I'm not a professional runner, there are going to be times when life gets in the way and there are things I'm going to have to do - and want to do - besides run. Spending the holiday weekend at my family's lake house in Maine was one of those things. I made a good faith effort, I did, and ran three miles on Friday morning. And I had every intention of running again on Saturday. But, you know, there were hot dogs to eat. And beer to drink. And a lake to float around in. I've been working really hard lately at various things so all of these activities seemed more inviting to me than running.

But, like all things that one commits to, eventually you have to return to running. That was today. Unfortunately, today was also 90 degrees out when I got home. But, never one to take the easy way out, I figured that a "hot, sweaty make-up run" (per the genius New Balance commercials), was exactly what I needed. I figured five miles would about do it. It'd be long enough to be difficult but short enough that I'd be able to walk tomorrow. And also that I wouldn't keel over and die due to the heat. I figured I'd get a good, solid run out of it.

Know what I didn't count on? The fact that I went tubing on Saturday for the first time in years and, in addition to my right side looking like it had an unfortunate run-in with a meat tenderizer, my pectoral muscles are really, really sore. Know what's attached to pectoral muscles? Boobs. Know what bounces when you run no matter how good your sports bra is? Yeah, boobs. So really, my five miles felt more like ten due to the aching in my pectorals and biceps. Which was super fun, I don't mind telling you.

But the thing is, I did it, despite the fact that I had several reasons not to. So I suppose that means that I'm really in this thing, sore boobs and all.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Part of running is sitting still.

Anger fuels me. I'm not sure why but I find I have the best runs when I'm angry about something or I need an outlet for my aggression. Katherine says that anger fuels her need to run but that she can't carry the anger with her into a run or she'll burn out too easily. So far, that hasn't been the case with me.

I come from such an organized, regimented background that sometimes I actually catalog the things I need to think about on my run. I make a mental list, "I have to figure out what I'm going to do about the GREs and then there's the issue of this weekend and also, how am I going to talk to so-and-so about this-and-that? That should take me about five miles." It's weird, I know. Amy looked at me like I had three heads when I told her that I do that. But I still do it.

Inevitably though, even someone as hyper-organized and detail-oriented as I am will find that my thoughts start to wander during the course of any given run. I'll realize when I'm done that I never did come up with an answer to that question and that one car with the dent in the fender made me think of another thing that I hadn't thought of for a while so I mentally set out in that direction for a few miles. And that's fine. I realize that you can't regiment thought like that. Nor would you want to.

But when I'm angry, I run fast. I run far. I run hard. For some reason, I'm capable of sustaining anger and aggression over the course of longer runs. Perhaps it's because I've never been the kind of person to make rash decisions. I think of things from all possible angles and consider all outcomes before making a choice and acting on it. Or not acting on it as the case may be. Those thoughts fuel my runs.

Today, for the first time in a while, I didn't run angry. True, it was hot and true, my legs are still feeling a bit like they're made out of cement after Sunday's 7.5 miler. But I stopped after two miles. I stopped and I just sat in the sun and listened to music and watched the river for a little while. I never do that. I never sit still. I'm beginning to realize that sometimes you need to. And I also realized I wasn't angry. Maybe I'd run all the anger out of me. Doesn't mean that it won't come back, I'm sure it will. But for the time being, I think I'll need to find something else to fuel me. I'm all angered out.