Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dealing with disappointment

Or, how to stress-eat and make a permanent ass-print on your couch.

Yes, I am double posting today, thank you for noticing.  It happens when my depressed ass puts it off all week long. This one picks up where the time trial post left off, with me fully rested and ready to take on 16 on Saturday morning.

Not surprisingly, I overslept. That meant that I rushed to get out of the house, ate breakfast in the car, and left several pieces of preferred gear at home. I made it to the marina in the knick of time but immediately noticed a small problem. My girls weren't there. In fact, everyone in the group who runs at my pace weren't there. I was a little unnerved but I didn't have time to really process that as we promptly took off.

A few weeks earlier I tanked on my 14 miler, turning it into 10 and letting Hains Point get the better of me. Last week I nailed my 12 and another 5 later in the day. Then came two days of solid short runs followed by the mile debacle. I couldn't have been more rested for this 16, and I wanted some Hains Point redemption. As it turned out, I would get nothing. I felt off from the first step.

The rest of the group quickly disappeared while I struggled to find a comfortable pace. This isn't unusual for the first mile or so, but the pace wasn't the problem. My calves were screaming. For reasons beyond my comprehension my calves completely seized up and I was walking by the time I reached Arlington Cemetery. I immediately started bargaining with myself, shortening the run faster and faster and thinking that perhaps I could gut out 6 and make it to the water stop before quitting. A handful of painful steps later, 6 miles was out of the question.

The shin that had plagued me earlier in the week was like new, but my calves were completely betraying me. I swallowed a sob, turned around, and started the walk back to my car.  It felt like the longest mile, as I got more upset with every step. I reached my car, texted Tuan to tell him I was done for the day, and went home. It was still incredibly early and I didn't see the point in staying awake. Several hours later I dragged my sorry ass to the couch and stayed there for the duration. It was there that many a snack met its unseemly end.

I don't feel that much better today, honestly. I know it was only one run and there is plenty of time before Richmond. I know what all the right thoughts and feelings are, I'm just not embracing them.  I'm frustrated that my body refused to cooperate. I can't get into a consistent routine and my base building is suffering for it. I briefly entertained the idea of running this morning just to check things out but I didn't have it in me. I'm also cancelling my regular Monday run with A until I can see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon. 

I'm glad that I have a health professional that is caring and committed to getting me on the road. I have no doubt that he'll provide relief, however temporary, tomorrow and we'll begin to game plan what next steps should be. Corrective exercises are number one on the list. I'm not the best at doing such things on my own, but I think I'm just pissed off enough to do them this time around.

I leave for vacation on Thursday morning and will be gone for a week. I don't have specific plans to run but will be packing the necessary gear regardless. If tomorrow goes well I plan to get in two runs before I go. Missing another long run does not thrill me, but it's only a 10 miler, not something more substantial. I can only hope that this week of yoga, sun, and sand will be the physical and mental break that I need. When I get back I want to feel focused and confident, two things which are currently alluding me.

I hope that your running experiences this past week have been more positive than mine. Tomorrow is another day, right?

One Mile Timed Trial

Or, what happens when you have no base and then run as fast as you can.

Running in the timed trial Wednesday morning was a last minute decision on Tuesday night.  I'd already had two really good runs during the week thus far and after a mild guilt trip from a running partner I decided to give the mile a shot the next morning. Lesson one, be the boss of your own training. Don't let the opinions of others sway you to do something your body isn't ready for. It never ends well.

My legs were not at all rested going into this mile.  I ran hard the night before and did not feel at all fresh when I warmed up the following morning. Two laps around the track, a few drills, and some strides were the precursor to this silly mile that had most of the group pysched out. The idea that it was only a mile didn't matter.  I don't think I've had to do a timed mile since high school, I kid you not. All my other track experiences have been repeats and tempos.

Everyone moaned and groaned their way to the start, and off we went. A and I were bringing up the rear. I wish I could say that I didn't have a goal for this but I'd be lying.  All I kept thinking about was my 5k PR from last November and how fast that first mile was. I know that I can't sustain that pace right now, but I thought there might be a small chance that I could eke out one mile around 8 minutes.  I'd also be lying if I said pride wasn't a factor in this as well. A and I have been doing weekly runs together but her base is solid and she's been leaving me behind on a regular basis.

There was a time when I was the stronger runner and I missed that. With lap one under way, I was ahead and aiming for something between 1:50 and 2:00, which I got. The second lap was similar and I continued to keep an eye on my watch. The third lap is where the wheels began to come off the wagon.  It was definitely my slowest lap and George told me it looked like I took a break or something. It was during this lap that A passed me and I was not a happy camper.

The final lap was my fastest, as it should be, but mostly because I was trying so hard to make up for the prior lap. I was somewhere past 6:00 when I started the lap so a fast 400 was the only way I'd get my 8:00 mark. My best 400 repeat is 1:37, but that was done independently and with adequate recovery. As I rounded the first turn and headed into the straightaway, I came up on A. We were side by side briefly, but I was able to find another gear and pull ahead. As soon as that happened an expletive came out of her mouth and I'm pretty sure it wasn't because she was struggling. It was because I passed her. That did not feel good.

I hit the final 200 and saw on the watch that 8:00 or close to it was a possibility if I turned and burned as hard as I could. I can honestly say that when I crossed the line, I had nothing left. I finished in 7:48, which should have made me happy, but it didn't.  I was tired, in pain, feeling emotionally hurt, and frustrated. A came in 10 seconds behind me, a really solid time for her and well beyond the goal she'd set for herself. We congratulated each other but separated to cool down and stretch.

I made it one lap around before the pain in my left shin became unbearable. I bagged the second lap and started stretching, but all I wanted to do was go home and apply ice so I grabbed my things and headed out. I got the result that I wanted but at what cost?  My ego and my tendency to be easily influenced by others won out over rational thought. As far as running went, I was useless for the rest of the week.  All I did was ice and rest, on repeat. I wanted to test things out on Friday but decided against it. I'd head into my 16 miler rested, but blind as to what my leg could handle.

That is the long-winded story of my timed trial. I have learned my lesson. Several lessons, in fact. I'm going to keep building my base and leave the track for another time. There are plenty of weeks left before the marathon and the speedwork will fit in there somewhere. I have an appointment with my favorite chiropractor tomorrow afternoon and that will provide both answers and relief.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Runs, races, and my first double

This past week has been quite the ride! I bumped up my mileage a bit, which was long overdue.  It was not an auspicious start, as the first couple runs of my week maxed out around 2 miles and sent me running to the chiropractor.  After cutting short last week's 14 I was hoping to break the bad luck. I hadn't gone for ART since May and my body was telling me that was a mistake. I had two sessions this week and I believe that it made all the difference.  This was especially the case on Saturday, where I was slated to run 12 miles in the morning for marathon training and another 5 at night at a race in Rockville.

I've never done a double before, and quite frankly been intimidated by the thought. Regardless, it was time to put on my big girl panties and give it a go. This is all part of the Ragnar experience and I don't want to look back on it and think I wasn't pulling my weight. Saturday morning didn't have the best start, as I was up at 4 to drive a friend to the airport and then over to the marina by 6 for the first run of the day. I was absolutely nervous but once the run began I had a pretty good feeling that it would go smoothly.

The ache that I usually experience in my calves and shins did not make its regular appearance. I even felt like we were moving at a pretty decent clip for a change, which I attribute to the new company I had. K was with the group last year but we didn't get to know each other much because she was coming off injury and therefore at a slower pace. I wasn't sure how we'd hit it off but it was good and made the miles pass nicely. I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to future runs with her.

When the run came to an end, I finally felt what I'd been wanting to feel for months. It was a combination of pride and relief. I was a runner again. I took that feeling with me to the 7 hour training I sat through for the rest of that morning and into the afternoon. It abated a bit as the evening approached and the second run of the day began.  I'd be lying if I didn't say I was nervous. I met up with a Ragnar teammate, Sue, and then had unexpected company for the warmup.  After quick introductions all around, we hit the pavement.

I have to admit, the warmup was more like race pace to me but there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Turns out that the two other runners Sue and I ran with were none other than Miss Zippy and Racingtales themselves! I didn't find out until after the fact, of course, but it was still really great to meet these ladies in person and see what incredible runners they are. Warmup over, we split up and headed to our respective places in the hoard of the start line.

I made the amateur mistake of lining up too close to the start but for some reason I didn't want to leave Sue and head back to where I should be. Once the race started, I was passed countless times for well over a mile until I settled into a comfortable pace with the runners I should have started with in the first place.  I don't feel like it effected my race, as I made it to the first mile at my planned time. The course was hilly but great and I would definitely run it again. I caught a break with the weather and aside from the humidity the racing conditions were great.

I'm not saying that this first double was easy by any means. Far from it. My mental strength was definitely tested during those five miles and my ego was taught another lesson in humility. My quads were very vocal after the first mile but I just tried to hold steady through to the end. I wasn't sure I'd have anything in me once I reached the final mile but I was able to pick it up quite a bit, making it the fastest mile of the race. The added bonus of chicking one last guy as we surged for the line helped too.

Again, that pride and relief. I couldn't wait to tell my friends that I'd done it. It gave me back some of the confidence that I'd lost and took away some of the nerves I have about my upcoming 16 miler on Saturday. I took Sunday off, aside from a 2.5 mile walk around the neighborhood.  I did a short recovery run yesterday and will be braving the heat and humidity very shortly for another few miles.

I've been experiencing a lot of stress lately and I'm glad that, at least for now, running can be a pleasant experience. Several of my CAR teammates raced in Rockville this weekend and totally killed it. Congrats to you all!  I'm not ready to show my face back at the track yet and resume the practice of being passed, but I will be soon. How has everyone else been doing? I confess to not being up to date on blogs so a comment here with an update would be lovely. I promise I'll be operating at full capacity again soon.

Time to stop avoiding a sweaty run and get my butt out there. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Compromise vs Quitting

In case the title of this post wasn't clear, I'm grappling with the concept of compromising versus quitting while running.  As luck would have it, I have an example of both from the past few days.

I set out on Saturday morning to do 14 with my group. A mile or two in, I just wasn't feeling it. I couldn't settle into a comfortable pace and old pains in my calves and shins were making their presence known again. I bargained with myself all the way to the water stop at mile 6, decided to do the next 1.5 miles out and back to the water stop and then I needed to make a decision. Was I going to call it a day and take the shameful ride back to homebase with the water station people? Or could I find a way to continue this run in a way that would accomplish my idea of a long run without risking injury by doing the full 14?

After some quick deliberating, I sucked up what pride I had left and decided to run back to homebase, cutting off the section around Hains Point and heading back over the 14th street bridge to the Mt Vernon trail. This is what I would consider a compromise. I managed to get in between 10 and 11 miles, and decided to be satisfied with that. My body is just not ready for 14 yet. I'm still only running 2-3 times a week, averaging 20 miles overall.

This morning, on the other hand, is when I quit. I woke up for my usual morning run, this time hitting the gym to get my $50 monthly treadmill workout. It was just too humid to try and slog through it outside. I hadn't been on the treadmill in a few months but I figured I could knock out 3-4 miles if I took it really easy. Turns out I could barely do one. I don't know if it was the change from road to treadmill, or the problems I was having treated with ART flaring up, but I had to quit. There was no bargaining or middle ground to be had. I was just done.

I left the gym close to tears and so frustrated with myself. Why can't my body just do what I'm asking it to do? Because I was out of commission for a month during May/June, I missed my regular ART sessions with my beloved chiropractor. I called the office as soon as I got home and as luck would have it, they could see me later that afternoon. While slightly painful, the treatment was definitely worth it and we agreed that with marathon training gearing up and me not having the usual base level of fitness that I would need to come in twice a week for a bit.

I'd be lying if I said that this bad set of runs didn't set off other issues in my head. But I'm trying to rationalize with them because they only make things worse. No, I'm not too fat to run. No, I'm not too slow to run. No, I do not need to quit CAR because I'm too scared to go. The reality is that I lost over a month of training time to unplanned illness and I'm starting over again at the beginning. I PRed my half in May, just before I got sick and once I'm stronger I'll PR the next one in September. I am capable and I have potential. I also have these nasty voices in my head that drown out the rest most of the time.

Knowing that other runners have been through and are going through similar rough patches with running does help. It is especially helpful to hear how you came out of that slump and were able to be inspired and motivated again. I still don't know what I want out of running, but I know that I'm not throwing in the towel on this. Nothing worth something comes easy. I just need to believe that. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Armed and dangerous?

If you have been following my blog, reading the local news here in VA, or reading Shut Up And Run, then you know that running alone can be a dangerous choice. Across the country and close to home, women continue to be harassed, abducted, assaulted, and even murdered while out for a run. Before I go any farther, let me make something clear. These cases, near and far, are not up for discussion. Running alone, at night, in the morning, in broad daylight, on trails, along roads, or any combination thereof does not mean that a person is at all responsible for anything bad that happens to them. One hundred percent of the blame rests on the person perpetrating the crime, and no where else.  As runners we do the best we can to protect ourselves and make decisions in our best interests while doing something that we love and have every right to pursue. With that in mind, I'll continue.

I live near two popular running trails, the W&OD and Four Mile Run.  While not well lit by any means, they are well traveled most hours of the day. I've run both at night, sometimes alone but mostly with a friend. These trails, while great for runners and cyclists, are also popular with the criminal element. More specifically, rapists. I have lost count of the number of reports of sexual assaults reported on these two trails in the six years that I've lived here. While I will not let that deter me from living my life and continuing to train there, it is always in the back of my mind. I pay close attention to everyone I pass and everyone who passes me. I remember trail markers as I pass them, should I ever need to report my location to emergency services. But is that enough?

When I read about the most recent attack in Arlington, I got pissed but I filed it away and moved on. In my anger, I mentioned it to a friend of mine who shared my rage. We discussed what I was and was not doing to protect myself and what else, if anything, could be done. I also emailed the story to my running partner, who wrote back to let me know that she is now packing real heat. Legally. While she hasn't brought it with her on our runs (yet), I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me think twice. Turns out I wasn't the only one with the brain wheels turning, as the UPS man just dropped this gem off at my apartment. Male friends, it seems, taken action.

I haven't opened it yet. I know I'd need a holster that clips onto my waistband or fuel belt. But those details aren't why I'm posting about this. I want to know if any of my readers carry something defensive with them on their runs now, have in the past, or are considering doing so in the future. What are your opinions on pepper spray, rape whistles, or even guns? Are the odds of being attacked small enough that carrying something seems excessive to you? Has my friend overreacted? Are there alternatives to weapons such as self-defense classes that I should be considering if I am that concerned about safety?

I am still mulling over yesterday's post, and appreciate the feedback that I have gotten so far. Especially from you, Cris. You've given me a lot to think about. In the mean time, please let me know how you feel about what I've posted today. I'm really curious to hear what everyone has to say. Run safe, friends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What do I want out of running?

I've been staring at this screen for a few hours now, this question repeating in my mind. What do I want out of running? I suppose this is a discussion I've needed to have with myself for some time now but have been avoiding it. Now that I'm starting my running journey over, again, it seems appropriate that I give this some thought. The question was posed to me earlier this evening by a friend and for some reason it has me spinning my wheels.

At first I wrote down whatever popped into my head:

A new body
Faster race times
Stress release

It wasn't an easy list to come up with, and it seems short and shallow. My brain does not seem interested in generating any other thoughts. The meaning of running in my life has been and continues to be foggy. I would like nothing more than to wake up tomorrow refreshed and fully committed to embracing running as part of who I am. Something that I can't live without. But that is not going to be the case. I'm going to snooze the alarm excessively, think about blowing off the measly three miles I had planned, blow off those planned miles, and then beat myself up about it the rest of the day.

I'm frustrated that I lost over a month of training time. I'm frustrated that getting back into a groove isn't coming easy. I'm frustrated that I'm too scared to try. So what do I do now? If those things I listed above are really what I want from running, why aren't I doing everything I can to get them? If that list just scratches the surface, what can I do to get to the real truth of the matter? I have the time but not the motivation. I have options but lack the resources to utilize them. I love to run. I really do. I just...I don't know. Something is missing. 

This question is going to stay unanswered for now. I'm not satisfied with the superficial things that I've come up with thus far. I need to clear my head and remember what is important to me. This is a really unique time in my life, so much has changed in the last few weeks and so many more changes are on the horizon. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have some sense of control in my life and am becoming an active participant in it. I just need to sort out what stays and what needs to go.

I don't think it has even taken me this long to compose a post this brief. It is way past my bedtime but I can't seem to shut my mind off. My words feel inadequate. Should I be giving something so small as running this much time and attention? I suppose it is an indication of what running means to me. But why? And how? Questions for another time. If you made it through this post, thank you. If you have any thoughts you'd like to share with me, I'd be most grateful. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Late to the party...

Hey there! Marathon training season is officially upon us! There were some unforeseen circumstances that have caused me to start training a month later than originally planned but I'm finally starting to log some slow miles.  I'm even remembering that running can be fun. The temperature has not been cooperating by any stretch of the imagination but that is par for the course.  The sooner I adjust to the VA summer, the better I'm going to be.  Suddenly waking up at 5 to run doesn't sound so bad.

I finished my longest run since May this past weekend, ten miles, and actually felt pretty good at the end of it. I didn't think I could finish but Vietnamese #1 told me to go big or go home, so I went big and it paid off. I'm really glad that I didn't give up and being able to finish ten miles makes me feel more confident about the rest of my training.  Right now I'm only getting out twice a week but this is going to change in short order.

Once I stop wandering around with my tail between my legs, I'll also return to the track. I'm missing crucial hill workouts right now but I know I'm in no condition to tackle them and I just need to accept it. If I get into a running groove in the next few weeks I will be brave and go back. I do miss getting my ass handed to me by the CAR kids...

Four sweaty miles this morning with another four planned for Wednesday.  As was the case at this time last summer, hydration is my nemesis.  I'm just not taking in enough fluids over the course of the day and the end results are really poor runs. I can imagine the lecture from George right now. He's really been harping on this and for good reason.  I should have this sorted out soon, but welcome any tips for how to get those crucial fluids in. I love water, but I don't always remember to consistently drink.  Nuun is a nice way to mix it up but again, I just don't remember or feel the urge to drink.

My race plan has been tweaked a bit to accommodate recent events but I'm mostly okay with it. I was forced to miss the Virginia Wine Country 1/2 and the $110 I spent on entry, but I made sure the bib didn't go to waste. Same goes for the Capital Hill Classic 10k. On the upside, Ragnar is still on! I'm in the lottery for the Virginia Happy Trails 1/2 in September and there are several other races in the fall that are a sure thing. I don't have anything set for July or August, but those are crucial marathon training months (aside from the fact that racing in those months is almost intolerable).

What is your favorite way to beat the heat?  I tend to resort to morning runs, although I have a perfectly good gym membership that has been going to waste lately. I've missed updating here and I'll be doing so much more often as I gear up for marathon number 2. All the love and support I received here last year while training for MCM was priceless, so thank you.  Stay cool, run safe, and we'll talk again soon!