Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wow...yesterday's group run... lots of things...

I did 6.4 miles.

I have trouble deciphering from my Garmin track this time, and because the idea of reporting my "distance covered" separately from my "running" is starting to give me anxiety over walking at all, I've decided to just lump it all together from now on. Hence, I ran/walked 6.4 miles. Another new PR for me!

I arrived at the start point a full 30 minutes ahead of schedule (blame this on my irrational fear of being late) and sat in my car listening to music for a while. The air was cold and dry, and I got to watch the sunrise. As I watched the sun come up and saw what a great day was ahead, I successfully calmed that terrible inner voice that so often plagues me (the one that says "An hour and 45 minutes? Are you crazy?"). I took my very first ever GU (tri-berry w/ caffeine, and the consistency is very similar to Hershey's Caramel Syrup that you pour on ice cream) which I very quickly chased with water, and I was ready to go.

We headed off on the Cheery Creek (a.k.a. Concrete Torture) Trail, walking at first, then speeding up (slightly) to a nice run. The course yesterday was entirely through city streets, so there was a lot of waiting at stop lights, etc. It interrupted my running hypnosis, and I found it hard to stay in a nice rhythm. On and on we went, though, past the Cherry Creek Mall and the Denver Country Club, all the way down to Washington Park. If I hadn't gotten lost at one point, this would have been 3 miles.

As I arrived at the park, I was happy to see that I'd reached the water station. On all my previous group runs, my slow pace has kept me from reaching the water station in the allotted time. So, I felt like I'd gained a small victory. Woohoo! I walked a minute, took another GU (Strawberry Banana w/o Caffeine) and washed it down with some water, and I was on my way back.

I think the GU really helps, people. I was in pretty serious need of a little boost, and about a quarter of a mile into the trip back, I found the extra energy I was needing. It kept me going for another mile and a half or so. As I approached the finish, I was spent, though. I had to run/walk the last mile.

Initially, I was slightly disappointed that I wasn't able to run the full 6, but all in all, it was a decent group run for me. No aches and pains to speak of, just general fatigue at the end that kept me from realizing the full 6. A day later, I'm pleased with how it went, actually.

Afterwards, I got sick. I've narrowed down the reasons to one of the following:

  1. I didn't sleep enough the night before,
  2. I pushed myself too hard,
  3. GU does not agree with me, or
  4. In my haste to be modest, I got too hot because I put on my sweatshirt immediately after finishing and then went into a small hot room to have breakfast with the team.
I am not blaming the GU at this point, because I'd like to try it again, and I wasn't in severe pain, which makes me think that I didn't push myself too hard. I probably didn't sleep enough before this run, and I probably should have sucked it up and let my bare arms show for a few minutes to properly cool down.

At the Team Hero breakfast following the run, we heard from Dr. B. (Dr. B is the man on my team who, if you remember, raised $8000 in the week after the kickoff meeting.) I assumed he was going to talk about fundraising, for obvious reasons, but instead he told a story of a family that he knew.

The 2-year old daughter had been sick for a while, and doctors had been unable to determine what was wrong with her. She kept getting worse; her eyes were swollen shut and her body weight had doubled due to all of the fluids she was retaining. So her family took her to see a pediatric specialist in Seattle. The doctors in Seattle didn't have any immediate answers either, so they brought their daughter back to Denver. Six hours after arriving home from the airport, the doctors in Seattle called and said that the girl had Leukemia, and her only chance would be to take part in a research study with a new drug that didn't even have a name yet. They said she may not make it through the night, and they needed to get her back to Seattle as soon as possible.

Of course, they caught the next flight back to Seattle and got their daughter started on this new unnamed drug. 100 hospital days later, she was cancer free. She had trouble for a few years (she had to be home-schooled for the first 2 years of school and her family had to be very careful not to introduce germs around her), but she's now a thriving 12-year old.

The research that developed the drug that saved this girl's life was funded by the LLS. The little girl was Dr. B's.

Seeing that grown man cry tears of gratitude made me feel proud of what I am doing. I'm lucky to be whole and able to run at all, and I'm proud to be using my strength to support an organization that helps people in the way that it helped Dr. B.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Laughter is the best medicine...

Well, it's the night before the scary group run, and I'm up late again. I'm more nervous than I probably should be, and when I'm nervous, I tend to either get really quiet and reserved or else I laugh. So, this time, I'm choosing to laugh. And I'm bringing you with me.

I post the following video of myself while sledding in the Blizzard of '06 because it has provided endless hours of entertainment for my dear friend NewMama. I think she's even considering entering it in America's Funniest Home Videos. I agree it's pretty funny, especially if you can hear the audio that goes along with it. At the time, I thought I'd completely broken my little neck, though. :(


video


OK. Now that I'm smiling, group runs don't seem nearly as intimidating. Best of luck to all of you out there going out on group runs tomorrow!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

No anxiousness here...

There were many reasons why today's run was going to be bad. I ate chocolate and drank a pop this morning before noon, for instance. (What was I thinking?) But, instead of beating myself up for all the bad decisions I made today, I'm just going to blame today's disaster of a 60 minute run on the fact that after yesterday's run, anything would have seemed bad.

I was too hot, my legs were tired (not hurting, but just tired), I was in a rush to get back to work for my 6PM meeting (I know, doesn't that seem silly for an engineer to return to work for a meeting at 6PM?), I couldn't get into a groove, I ran the first mile too fast... take your pick. I have a list of excuses a fast mile long.

The truth is, it's hard to run 5 days a week, dude! By the time Thursday rolls around, I've just run Tuesday and Wednesday... and I'm kindof pooped! The rest of my excuses are pretty lame.

So, now I have a rest day, and then it's on to the (*duh duh duhhhhhh....*) super scary 1:45 run. My insecurities flare. My legs tremble in fear. My brain tries to convince me that it's impossible. But I will not be convinced. Instead, I will address my problems as all good engineers do: as a list of problems to be solved.

1.) Hydration--> I need to figure out some way to hydrate along the way. I have bought two GU packets (Tri-berry and Strawberry Banana, any recommendations?), but I'm supposed to follow those with water. I need a way to carry water and GU. Ideas? This brings me to my other "carrying" issue...

2.) iPod--> Currently, I have been carrying my iPod in my hand. I don't own one of those nifty arm iPod carrier things. I have looked, but all the ones that I find anymore are for the teeny little nanos or the ginormous iPod Video. I am considering buying a generic one (a much cheaper option) at sports authority. It won't be a perfect fit, but who cares, right?

3.) Walking--> This is a big one. So far, when I run on my own, I walk 7 minutes, then I start timing my run from there. If I'm supposed to run 30, for instance, by the time I get back my Garmin says 37. On the group runs, because it's with a group, they want us to include all walking in our total (in fact, we're not even supposed to stop our watches to go to the bathroom or stretch!). This way, we all get to the finish point at the same time. Here's my problem: I don't like including the walking. I feel like I'm cheating if I insert a little walking into my running and then just let that count toward my overall time.

3a.) Walking, continued--> I feel like I've failed if I take a break from running and walk a bit. I know I didn't on my first group run. But I did last weekend during the group run, and I normally feel that way when I do my solo runs. This is a big problem heading into this weekend's run because I feel fairly certain that I won't be able to keep up a run, even a slow run, for an hour and 45 minutes.

4.) Paranoia --> I am allowing myself to become way way way too worried about this particular run. I am setting myself up for a hugely bad day. Obviously. Someone stop me now.

That pretty much covers it. Now that you're all aware of just exactly how insane a state of panic I'm living in these days...

On a side note, I met a cat today at the Talking Book who weighed 34lbs! And it wasn't like this was a huge cat (i.e. not a tall/long/big footed/otherwise abnormal), he was just really really fat. SoxFan's dogbeast Ini weighs in at 39lbs, and he's a fully grown border collie! That poor cat looked like a basketball with legs. When he laid on his side, his little legs just stuck straight out. Poor thing. But he sure was cute.

Oh, the places you'll go!

As it turns out, I can bust through that slow ceiling! (even if only just a little bit.) Last night, I ran 3 miles in 42 minutes. That’s a pace much closer to 14 min/mile than 15 min/mile (the cutoff pace for the R’N’R AZ ½ Marathon). I tried to purposefully take it slow on the first mile, then I tried to speed up. As it turns out, my splits were like this:

Mile 1---> 14:09
Mile 2---> 14:09
Mile 3---> 14:10
.18 miles at the end---> Doesn’t count because I slowed down on purpose…

Consistent? Uh, YEAH! Slow? Sure! Fast enough to complete the ½ marathon without being swept from the course? Definitely.

Usually when I start running, I’m afraid of going too fast. I feel like if I get started too fast, then I won’t be able to go as far as I’m supposed to. And it’s definitely a tricky thing, finding the balance between speed and distance.

But last night….
Last night…

I have never felt better during a run. My pace was still comfortable, my stride was perfect, the weather was glorious, the route I chose was the perfect length and difficulty… It could not have been better. Runs like this seem to come along just often enough for me to keep trying.

Afterwards, I was talking to SoxFan, and I mentioned how great the whole thing was. I also mentioned to him that “the first 1.25 miles are always the hardest…” and he stopped me. He repeated the words I’d just said out loud, without even thinking about what was coming out of my mouth. “The first 1.25 miles are always the hardest…”

I remember, two months ago, sitting at my desk at work and wondering if I should enter a 1 mile fun run. I was torn over whether or not I should enter: If I was able to run the whole way, it would be a huge confidence boost… if not, it would kill the confidence that I did have. Now, a mile is less than it takes me to warm up. And I don’t even remember how it was that I got here.

Maybe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I have to believe that you other runners out there know what I’m talking about. It’s the reason I started running: I wanted to do something that felt impossible. At first, a mile seemed like an impossible distance. At first, it was an impossible distance. Now, I run more than a mile on a regular basis, and I do so rather comfortably. I’m now routinely do something that, just a few months ago, was impossible for me. It feels amazing. And it gives me the energy I need to keep trying hard and keep pushing myself… I want to see what other impossibilities I can overcome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This one is worth checking out...

OK. I know I just made a long post today already. But during my lunch hour, I catch up on my blog reading. It's a nice little break, you know... i just sort of follow one link then another... and another... no real direction...

Anyway, today, I ran across this post by GeekGirl... it's great. Maybe it doesn't speak to everyone, but for those of us who struggle with doubt... it's great.

Smite thee, Under Armor!

Yesterday, it dawned on me: It’s about to be October, and I still have 3 months of training before race day. And then it dawned on me: I live in Colorado. Suddenly my adidas shorts and plain white t-shirt didn’t look like acceptable running gear anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. Even with all the talk of “cotton is rotten” on the trails, I’ve been pretty happy with my kit thus far. Sure I sweat. Sure my sweat drips from my face and onto the collar of said t-shirt. Sure it stays wet the entire rest of the time I’m running. It’s been HOT out there most of the time, and it hasn’t seemed to bother me.

But, as the days get shorter and the air gets cooler, and as I find myself shivering while running, I have to admit… it might be time for a little Under Armor. And my bank account shrieks: “No, no! Anything but that!” And the passers-by watching me shuffle along in all my Under Armor glory shriek: “No, no! Anything but that!”

::Coincidentally, and this is absolutely no joke… I have my iPod on shuffle right now, and the song “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story just came on… how ironic, considering I don’t think the words “figure flattering” exist at the Under Armor company!---but, the word WARM certainly does::

OK… Topic shift coming up…

Last night’s run was pretty good. I ran 2.67 miles with SoxFan and his Ini. After we returned, I plugged in my Garmin, and for the first time ever, I was a little bummed at how slow I am. I don’t feel like I’m running very very slowly. I feel comfortable! I have a short stride, admittedly, but I have a pretty quick turnover. But my splits are just terrible.

Then, I started thinking about it, and I am slow all the time! I mean, just walking around downtown with friends, everyone is always walking faster than me. I’m not walking in slow motion… I’m not meandering or strolling or dragging my feet… I’m just walking! And I’m slow! I don’t know the real reason behind this. I don’t know why I feel like there is a speed ceiling for me that I can’t seem to break through. I’m blaming it on my ridiculously short legs.

SoxFan says that he thinks I can run faster, because at the end of 2.67 miles last night, I felt great… hardly winded, and I could have kept going… he says that’s a sign that I’m not pushing hard enough. (I hate it when he’s right.) So, I’m going to try to push a bit more… running hasn’t been hurting lately, and apparently, it’s supposed to.

During tonight’s 45 minute run, my goal is to make it for a full 5K. Not very long ago, I had trouble running 5K. Now it’s a nice training distance. I’m planning on running the Komen Race for the Cure 5K in Denver coming up soon, and for the first time ever, I’m fairly certain I can run the whole 5K distance. Not only that, I’m have a time goal! Sigh… Wonders never cease…

Sunday, September 23, 2007

How quickly I forget...

Tonight, during my run, I finished "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey. I found it alright. I kept waiting for it to pick up, but I never felt very connected to the narrator. And in this type of the story, that seems to be the most important thing, really. Either way, I'm finished. If you'd like a more complete review, let me know. Next up is "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer.

The run tonight was alright. Slow and easy, but ok. I'm still having some pain in my right calf muscle, but it seems to go away after the first mile or so and it only returns 15 or so minutes after I'm done. I'm secretly worried about my ankle, as well, which I fear may have suffered a stress fracture. Wow. Saying that out loud makes it seem much more likely that its true. I take it back, I take it back!

As for the important stuff... Yesterday during our group run, ConiferGal, the girl I met at my first TNT Info session... the girl who was impressed that I could run a 5K.... the girl whose talk made it seem like we were starting out on the same level... she ran 6 miles.

Why does this make me feel inadequate? Just about a week ago, I was feeling great about my new philosophy of ignoring everyone around me. Now, I'm back to my old ways. I am disappointed in myself for not keeping up with someone else... I am disappointed in myself for being disappointed in myself. I feel bad about my brand new shiny PR just because someone else's PR was a bit more of an R than mine. Why do I sabotage my success by introducing competition into the mix? It is completely unnecessary.

OK. Enough of that.

This week the weeknight runs start to ramp up a bit: 40 minutes on Tues, 45 on Wed, and 60 on Thurs... then... an hour and 45 minutes on Saturday (cue the "scary music"). I don't know why, because it seems completely arbitrary, but ever since I saw it on the schedule, the 1:45 run has been my "scary distance". I guess I should cover about 7 miles in that amount of time, but it's a really huge psychological hurdle for me. Then again, all of my group runs so far have been big psychological hurdles, and yet I have managed, for the first 2 weeks at least, to overcome them. Maybe the next group run will be the same?

Also on the agenda this week: I have GOT to get some more fundraising done.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hooray for new PR's!

Well, as promised, I did the run. Perhaps not with as much grace and ease as I had promised, but I did it nonetheless. Actually, it was a new record for me, with my total distance being 4.87 miles and my total running distance being 4.11 miles!

Now for the details:

  • I walked the 1st 7 minutes because that's just what I do... Then I stretched and then I was on my way. I ran more than a 5K before stopping to walk a bit. I caught up to a really nice woman called CJ, and we chatted for about 4 minutes about fundraising. I thought, at that point, that I could run it in the rest of the way. But, I was wrong. After one more teensy short walk break, however, I made it back to the starting point.
  • I am proud of myself because this is the longest distance I've ever run. But at the same time, I'm disappointed in myself a little bit just now. I mean, did stopping to walk for 4 minutes really make that much of a difference? I can't remember. I would not have covered any additional distance overall, but I would have had more distance running rather than walking. (And we're all clear here that I use the term running rather loosely.) It may not look a lot different to you, but it is very different to me.
  • The Highline Canal, where we ran today, is a really great spot for running. It's a gravel-ish trail along a canal (go figure), that winds through residential areas and has great shade cover. It's very similar to the Boulder Creek Path, except gravel, rather than concrete (my knees say: 'thank goodness!'). Looking at the schedule, it seems like we do several runs at this location, so hopefully before too long, I will begin to recognize landmarks the way I do on my weeknight runs... that really helps keep me going sometimes.

Now for the bad news: I am hurting. I have not been stretching enough, and my right calf muscle (the soleus, I believe), which has been bothering me since June, is still bothering me and appears to be getting worse. On my way home, I went out and bought The Stick (not to be confused with the Foam Roller, which is a torture device that physical therapists love to recommend). If you haven't met The Stick yet and you are a runner,... let me introduce you. Stick, this is a runner. Runner, this is your new best friend. Seriously. It's like a really cheap massage.

OK. Enough rambling now. I'm off to shower and get on with the rest of my day. I'll write more later. I have some thoughts about today's run that I haven't shared yet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Commandment #1

1.) Thou shalt not eat a big meal (i.e. a dozen peel'n'eat shrimp w/ cocktail sauce) before you go for a run, even a short one.

But.... on the good side....

I made up the run that I promised that I would make up! Yay! I am back on schedule!

Tonight's run was only ok. I ran slowly, and I had to stop and walk for about 2 minutes right in the middle. I don't know what went wrong really, so I'm just going to blame this one on the "bad running day" goblins. Who knows, right? It seems like some days are great and others are not as great... with no correlation to anything I can figure out (with the exception of the aforementioned binge shrimp eating spell before I left the house).

Please notice, however, that it is only 8:11PM, and I have returned from my completed run... I am well on my way to going to bed at a reasonable hour in order to wake early and refreshed for my second long group run. That's progress.

In other good news, I got a few donations of items for our upcoming Halloween Costume Party fundraiser. It looks like I'll need to go back tomorrow and hit a few places again, but today was a decent start.

In still more good news, I got a hair color and cut done today, and I do love it! Whew. A trip to the salon causes me WAYYY more stress than it ought to.

Days like this only come along now and then, I guess, but they rarely get by me without being noticed. I am very glad that I'm one of those people who takes notice of how good things are when they're good. I have a great family and great friends. I am healthy and I have a job that pays well and gives me a chance to prove myself. I am strong enough to go out and run (almost) every day....I have so many reasons to be happy. I know, I know, I'm naive and overly optimistic and completely corny... and that's all fine with me.

Yay! What a good day. I'm going to have some watermelon and drink about 10 glasses of water, then I'm off to bed, folks. I'll write again tomorrow, with all the juicy details of the ease and grace with which I will have just run 5 miles. Yeahhhhh... Wish me luck! :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too many people, too close to home...

Alas, another glorious day for running in beautiful Colorado. Did I take advantage of the fabulous fall weather and fantastic sunset? Of course not. I started my run at 10PM! But, with the debacle that last night's non-run turned out to be, I was not to be deterred. Scary beasts of the night beware, I come armed with pepper spray!

Tonight's run was 45 minutes. I was a little worried at times, but I ended up running the whole way. That brings my weekly total so far up to 8.5 miles. Tomorrow night, as promised, I will make up another 2.5 miles, then Saturday's run is supposed to be an hour and 15 minutes (yikes, that sounds like a long way).

Shifting gears rather abruptly...

I have a brother, who I'll call MexiBoy. He's younger than me, and while he's married and has a stepson, I think I will always consider him my baby brother. Especially in times like this one. Last week, my brother's best friend was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He is 22. He works on a farm and has no health insurance, and is about to begin an 8 week round of chemotherapy. My brother is having a hard time with all of this: he wants to help but feels helpless, as most people do in this situation. But he's begun to organize some fundraising events near our very small hometown, and he's vowed to let his friend shave his (Mexiboy's) head once his friend starts losing his hair. I am very proud of my baby brother for being brave in the face of his friend's cancer, and for doing the things that he can do to help him overcome it. If you live in West TN, please get in touch with my parents or my brother for details on the BBQ on October 20th!

And while my brother's friend's cancer is testicular cancer and not a blood cancer, I am reminded that daily people all over the place get the same news: "you have cancer". No matter how many miles I run or don't run, or how fast or how slow, or how good or bad it makes me feel... the whole point of what I'm doing is to help make these words obsolete.

I am in trouble now...

I hang my head in shame and defeat. I skipped my 30 minute run last night. Please, let the beatings begin. I deserve them.

I'll give you my explanation, however. It was a gorgeous day out, so it would have been a perfect opportunity for me to get my run in before the sun actually went down. Normally I wait until 7:00 or so to run, and lately, it's been starting to get dark at that point. But yesterday would have been a perfect opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and the nice fall air... instead, i was starving. I had had a small lunch, so by the time i got home (~6:15ish) i was really hungry. And as I leaned into the refrigerator to grab a string cheese stick, I noticed hamburger meat... and pasta sauce.... and the thought occurred to me: "mmmmm, spaghetti sure does sound tasty..."

So, instead of being responsible and having a small snack to get me over my hunger hump long enough to complete my run that was going to be glorious and fantastic, I stayed home and ate pasta.

Afterwards, here is my thought process: "hmm, that was yummy, I think I'll watch a little TV.... it is starting to get dark.... my stomach is all full of pasta.... it's really dark in the neighborhood where i typically do my 30 minute runs.... man, my stomach is sort of hurting, I didn't eat that much, did I?...."

And, just like that, I'd talked myself out of doing my run last night. I thought: "I'll just get up before work and do it... then I can carry on with my regularly scheduled run tomorrow night, and no one will ever know!".... But, as you could have guessed... I did not get up and run this morning before work... And so now I am officially behind on my schedule and I feel terrible. I am so disappointed with myself for not even making it 2 full weeks before falling off the schedule bandwagon. (I wonder if I could try to remember how terrible I feel now the next time that I want to sit on the sofa and watch TV?)

BUT---I promise that I will make it up. I won't be able to do it today, because I'm already scheduled to run 45 minutes this evening. But Friday night... me and the famed missed 30 minute run. I promise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Will I always feel like a fraud?

A strange little thing happened yesterday at my office. I was having sort of a tough day, getting overwhelmed with responsibility and frustration.... all of this stress and frustration had been building all day... and I actually thought to myself, "It's a rest day today, but I want to run." Without a doubt, this is the first time that I have ever found myself craving physical activity as an outlet. I must be making progress now, no?

In the end, I did not go for a run. Instead, I went to see Damien Rice with some friends at the Fillmore. The show was AMAZING, and good times were had by all.

Tonight's training run was pretty good. I ran faster (i.e. farther in 30 minutes) than I had done previously, so that felt good... well, not so much at the time, but it sure feels great now that I'm sitting on my comfy sofa watching Family Guy. At the time, I was huffing and puffing pretty good. But, I was trying to run a bit faster tonight, so it was a mission accomplished. As I have probably mentioned, the smallest things tend to trip me up: location, weather, pace, music, etc.... So, in an effort to face these little hang-ups, I will run tomorrow's 30 minutes as I normally do and Thursday's 45 minutes in a new and exciting location. ... baby steps....

When I first moved to Colorado, I remember talking to my dad (who lives, tragically, very far away) on the phone. We were talking about skiing, and I mentioned how I was getting better on skis, and he said "So you're becoming a skier, rather than just a person who skis?" So lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about what makes a "runner", as opposed to just a "person who runs". I've been thinking about this because as I do my fundraising, I am faced with having to wear the "runner" label. I tell prospective donors: "I am training for a half-marathon"... and then I have to prepare myself for the blank stare (that is probably a little generous... more likely it is a look of disbelief and shock) that inevitably comes back. I almost feel like I have to apologize for what I'm doing (the training, not the fundraising).

So, I ask you: What qualifies a person as a "runner"? Do you have to have a certain number of miles under your belt? A certain number of months/years running? A certain 10K time? Do you have to have a specific physique? I have heard a wide variety of ideas, from "you can call yourself a runner when you run a sub-4hour marathon" to "you can call yourself a runner if you run, even just slowly and occasionally". ...SO...What are the official prerequisites to get you into this exclusive club? I am open to all ideas at this point....

Monday, September 17, 2007

First group run report

The time was 6:37AM; the place, Washington Park in Denver, Colorado. It was sunny but chilly and beautiful outside, and there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. As I pulled up, my nervousness began to grow exponentially, but I took it as a good omen when I laughed at the bumper sticker on the car parked in front of me: "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup." The resulting giggle helped me calm down and get out of the car... Step one, complete.

We all stood stretching in a circle. I felt intimidated because everyone else there appeared to be more fit than I. Then I saw ConiferGal, from the TNT info meeting. That helped me feel better because talking to her at the info meeting, it sounded like we were both starting out at the same place (ie not knowing how far we could actually go...). After a few minutes of stretching and giving out a few awards to some amazing fundraisers (one guy has raised $8000 since the kick-off meeting last week!), we were on our way. I intentionally let everyone head out ahead of me. I stuck in my earbuds, as well, to block out as much of everything as possible.

I decided to walk to the stretch point, about 10 minutes out, because that most closely replicates what I do at home. I figured I had enough newly introduced variables.... So, I walked for about 10, then I jogged the rest. I had one 2 minute walk break thrown in near the end as well.

I felt like I was going at a snail's pace, but as it turns out, my 5K time from yesterday was my quickest yet! YAY for PR's! And I smiled when I finished. I even told a joke or two to my teammates.

Afterwards, I felt great. I was tired, but not completely wiped out. I was able to head out to the dog park with the crazy beast Ini and his human SoxFan, then back to WashPark for some Ultimate Frisbee spectating, then off to Boulder to celebrate with KevBones who just finished his Master's Defense (Congratulations KevBones!). I was a little worried about the run today (30 minutes again on my own), but it turned out to be GREAT, even though my Garmin died right before I started running so I have no idea about my pace... It was a great run anyway.

I really wanted to run a full 60 minutes on Saturday, and I did not. I still count the group run as a huge success, though. All the fears that I wrote about on Friday night, I conquered on Saturday. I felt a slight twinge of jealousy/competitiveness as I saw ConiferGal's back getting farther and farther away from me, but I reminded myself that I needn't compare myself to anyone else in gauging my success or failure. From that point forward, I successfully blocked out everyone and everything else. I kept my focus on what I was doing, my pace, my distance, my breathing, my form.... And it worked. I very well may have been the last person to finish on Saturday, but I truly did not care.

And even though I walked to the stretch point, and even though I took a small walk break right before the end of the run, I do not feel like I let myself down. I walked those distances because I felt a need to, and I knew that I was making the best decision for myself. Just like picking out a good running shoe, all that really matters is what works for you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

left, right, left, right. repeat.

So, it's the night before my very first group run, and I am up WAY too late. My plan was to go with some friends to the Rockies game but still return home at a reasonable hour to get sufficient nutrition and sleep. I'm beginning to understand, however, that doing things on Friday nights may be out for me altogether for a while. I am supposed to be at Washington Park in about 7 hours. Yikes!

Aside from the fear of not sleeping enough tonight, and the fear of that vanilla dipped cone I just had to have at the game tonight making an encore appearance during the run tomorrow, I do have some very real fears that I feel like I could flesh out a bit here.

What is scary about running with other people? It's scary only because I know myself fairly well. I know that when I get there tomorrow morning, I will immediately begin comparing myself to the other runners/walkers. I will feel inadequate and nervous and bad. I know this because it's what I do in almost every situation. I struggle with the urge to keep up, to compete, and to compare... on a daily basis. That is one thing that I hope to learn during this whole process: to be alright with myself, just as I am, without comparison to anyone else.

Talking to my very awesome friend, NewMama, (who lives, tragically, very far away) a few nights ago, she reminded me that even if I walk a while during my "runs", I'm still out there doing something great! If my goal is to run 60 minutes (as is my goal tomorrow), and I only end up running 49 and walking 11, I've still done a whole lot better than 60 whole minutes sitting on the couch watching re-runs of America's Next Top Model (because, let's face it, that's the only thing on TV on the weekends... at least on my meager channel lineup).

She's completely right. This whole experience is about me pushing myself. It isn't about being fast or slow or how I finish in my age group. For me, it's about the journey to the finish, which sometimes runs tangent to other people. But my success is not at all defined by how my journey stacks up against anyone else's; rather it is defined by honestly answering this question: "Self, did you push as hard as you could have?"

With that, I put my fears (and my head) to bed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Confidence and Mental Toughness

Thirty minute training runs 2 & 3? Done and done. I think it may be too soon to declare that I own the 2 mile run, but it is probably sufficient to say that, on a regular basis, I rock the 2 mile run. (Is it safe to make such a bold statement after only running this distance maybe half a dozen times?) And before I leave this subject, can I just point out that, before the running began for me this summer, I had never once run 2 whole miles straight. Even in the sprint tri that I completed a few years ago, I ran/walked...

Training run #2 was yesterday, which I ran with SoxFan and his CRAZY dog Ini. I think I was a little bit sore because run#2 was more difficult than run #1. I had a few little aches and pains along the way, so all in all, it was slow, but alright. I got a later start than I wanted... by oh.... 14-15 hours, I guess.... I think some people just aren't geared to wake up and run before work. I do much better in the evenings anyway.

Training run #3 was tonight, which I ran alone. I ran a little faster tonight, which may have been why I felt like quitting toward the end. But, I did not quit. I had one moment where I had a shocking pain in my left knee (that's the bad knee, for future reference), but I kept on going and the pain seemed to subside. I am tough. Mentally and otherwise.

And you know, the more I think about it, the more I realize that mental toughness really just amounts to dealing with reality. For instance, try to think of actual pain, as opposed to imagined/anticipated pain. I have imagined/anticipated pain about going to the dentist. I tense up in the chair, I freak out, I sometimes run away and cry. But all of those reactions are reactions to things that I am worried will happen, rather than things that actually do happen. Also, if you have an idea of how far you should be able to run, your mind seems to trick you into thinking that after that point, you should start to not be able to continue. This is a really evil little trick that your brain plays on you, because if you can separate out the actual pain versus the imagined pain, you can probably keep pushing yourself a lot farther than you thought.

On that note, I have to give huge huge congrats to my friend CaliTri, who, on Sunday, personified mental toughness by completing her first ever Ironman in Wisconsin. I am so proud of her! Not only did she overcome all the obstacles of completing the Ironman (getting kicked in the head repeatedly during the swim, dealing with the subsequent headache during the bike, and banging out 26.2 long long miles to round it off), she also fought hard personal battles to get to that point, and she did it all with grace and humility. Congratulations, CaliTri! You're an IRONWOMAN!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Step one, complete

Before I began my run this evening, my first ever TNT officially scheduled run (on my own), I was very worried and nervous that I'd fail disastrously and wish I'd never signed up for anything that required any sort of running at all. I hadn't run in 2 whole weeks (eeek, I am so embarrassed), and my last 5K... well, you've heard that story already.... whatever. I was thinking that it was likely that I'd need to stop and walk a bit during my first 30 minute run.

But...

I didn't! I kept a decent pace (for me at least), and though I felt tired at one point and thought I couldn't continue, I kept on going and I made it the full 30 (which came in at slightly more than 2 miles). I'm nearly 1/6th of the way there!

A couple of notes I should make at this point:

1.) It really helps to have a friend running with you. I'm not referring to a "running buddy". I am referring to a true friend who seems to know when you can push a little farther and when you're spent. Mine shall be known as SoxFan, and you will probably be reading a lot about him, as he's one of my very best friends.

2.) Audiobooks are my key to running success. For the life of me, I cannot listen to music while running, because I want to run to the beat of the music, which is, inevitably, either too fast or too slow. Audiobooks, however, are the outdoor equivalent of running on a treadmill in front of a TV. You get so interested in what you're hearing/seeing, that you don't think about the running (how far have I gone, how far do I still have, whats my pace, is that dog rabid, etc.). My first selection is "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey. Fiction, non-fiction.... whatever. So far I'm entertained.

3.) I need to figure out a way to become "mentally tough"... or at least this is what SoxFan suggests. He's quite right, I think. At some point along this road, I am sure that my willpower and dedication will be tested. I won't want to continue, I will wish I'd never agreed to this running nonsense... but before all that, I think my dilemma is that I'll run into a day where I just don't really feel it. And, having run into those days before, I know that when I start my run with the idea "I don't really want to be running right now"... I have a really terrible run. SO.... mental toughness... Need to pick up some of that.

No running tomorrow, but I have some thoughts on the brew, so hopefully I'll get that all vetted out into something cohesive. Otherwise, I'm back on TUESDAY, when I will have just completed another fabulous 30 minute run.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bad funk, anyone?

What is it about exercising that seems to keep your whole world running smoothly? Lately, I have admitted to slacking off a bit in the exercise/health part of my life. And, no small coincidence, the rest of my life seems to be falling perfectly to pieces as well. My confidence and energy are plummeting, I'm having trouble waking up in the mornings, I eat crappy food which makes me feel even crappier an hour or so later. AND, to top it all off, I know that getting back on my regular exercise schedule would solve all my problems and make me feel tons better.

That seems to be the tricky part, though. If I KNOW exactly how to solve all my little dramas, then why don't I just do it?

I know I can't be the only one with this problem. I've heard other people talk about how it's "so hard to get going, but once I'm out there.... it's a breeze." Perhaps for me it's never actually a "breeze," but it seems like a similar concept in theory, no?

Other than this, I've got nothing. My general funk is slowly, gradually taking over all aspects of my life.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Vacationing

Because I'm not one to tiptoe around the truth, I will go ahead and admit freely that I have not run, so that's my reason for not posting. I've been entertaining my parents for a few days while they're visiting, and that hasn't left a lot of time (or energy) for any kind of running, slow or otherwise. In addition to this, I have been eating junk food like nobody's business, and I'm feeling incredibly guilty for my leave of absence from healthiness. In addition to this, I have been dealing with a couple of personal issues that leave me dabbling in self-sabotage lately. I hope to figure these things out without turning to "oh yeah? You want to do XYZ? Well, watch this... I will be completely unhealthy just to spite you!" (which is widely documented as the worst and most irresponsible and most immature reaction to any situation under the sun).

The good news is that the Team in Training kickoff meeting is coming up on Saturday. I may be putting too many eggs in the "KICKOFF MEETING" basket, but I'm really hoping that getting together in a big room with lots of other hopeful marathoners/half-marathoners will get me excited about running again. With any luck, I will leave the meeting feeling 20lbs lighter and 5 years younger (with lightness and youth come hope, nay?). I will shun my automobile in favor of running home, which I will do with minimal effort and the graceful speed of a gazelle. OK. That's probably a bit of a stretch. I will just hope to leave with a little jolt of hope that comes from seeing other folks who are like me, who are just as scared and nervous, but who are excited to get started and give it a good effort.