Friday, November 12, 2010

The Countdown...

Less than 48 hours to go!...

Yes! I'm nervous!

But mostly I'm really excited and full of positive energy (in between panic attacks... LOL). I know it will be hard. I know it will hurt (anything over 10 hurts, for now). But I also know I am able. I am confident in my training and conditioning. I actually believe I can do it.

It has not been easy but it has been an amazing journey.

No matter what happens on Sunday, I have already surpassed my wildest expectations.

Now to go over the checklist and pack my stuff.....


Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.
Belva Davis, broadcast journalist

Monday, November 8, 2010


Before your next marathon, think about a person who helped make your marathon possible. Then consider showing your appreciation by dedicating the race to that person.
Joe Henderson, American runner, running coach, and writer


Tapering... it's another psychological hurdle. Seems easy enough; do less and less for 3 weeks until the race. But it's not. I feel like I'm not doing enough. I worry that I am losing conditioning. I fret once again about the distance! The theory is that once you have built up the conditioning you need to give your body a break so that it can rebuild and heal. Because apparently fatigue accumulates. I will admit that around the 12 mile long runs I was feeling a little beaten up. Strong, but beaten up. Over the last two weeks I tapered my long runs down to 8 miles. Only 8 miles... haha! Never thought I'd say that!... This week prior to the race I am supposed to do very little, just two short, but speedy, runs and a walk... In a couple days I am supposed to start carb-loading! What can I say? Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moving Meditation

My perspective on running has changed so much. And the long run, it's a meditation. The pace,the focus, the thoughts, the breathing, ... it's really very interesting to me. I will not give up the long run after my big race. In fact, it doesn't look like I'll even give up on racing. I'm going to try to do a short trail race at least once a month next year. And a couple half marathons... and we'll see what I decide on the full. I'm really looking forward to combining the long run with the trails... I have a few mapped out already!

In the meantime, I am truly enjoying running like I never have before! It feels so good.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.
John Hanc, running writer

Splish Slash!

Before: Last chance to drive home and stay dry!

Our weather turned quite wet over the weekend and after an extra day off for my 12 miler it was time to get back on track on Sunday. Usually I hike but those plans got derailed because of the rain. Inspired by two of the other runners in our group that were out doing their long run in the rain, I decided to suit up, grab the dog and go to one of my favorite trail runs!...

As I began the 3.5 mile loop a guy came down the trail soaking wet. I sensed a different kind of acknowledgment between us, out there in the rain. We didn't come across too many more people or dogs, but there seemed to be a kind of kinship for those of out there braving the elements. It kinda made me feel like part of 'the club'... a 'real' runner...

Lola wasn't real thrilled about the weather but she did good. At times it was like running in a stream as the water washed down the trail. Lots of mud. The saving grace was that it wasn't too cold. Just wet, very wet. I'm sure we looked as drenched as the guy we first saw... As I returned to the car there was a guy at his car wringing out his shirt. Made me realize that although I had brought a towel and brushes for the dog, I hadn't prepared anything for myself! Ah... lesson learned!

After: Very muddy. Very wet. But an awesome trail run in the rain!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Milestones and Crazy Ideas

Half way and almost there!...

Today I ran my longest training run, 12 miles! I'm happy to report that it went much, much better than last week's 11 mile run. I decided not to push the speed too much, to avoid injury, but the splits are still negative so my last mile was the fastest. Hard to describe running through fatigue pain and saying 'I felt strong' in the end... That was my longest training run and now I taper down and hopefully come back strong for the big day!

It feels strange to say that I now actually believe I can make it through the 13.1 distance of a half marathon. Just a few months ago I never would have said that, or believed it possible. I have already run so much farther that I imagined possible, I have learned so much about running, health and nutrition. Recently I was talking with a friend that is in training for a full marathon and he was very impressed with my progress. When I tried to discount it (especially in comparison to his abilities) he reminded me that I have tripled my mileage in just a few weeks. Hearing it said like that was shocking. It sounds so impressive. It made me step back and realize that what I have already done is actually pretty impressive. I did my research, I made a training program, I was dedicated and have come this far without injury. Pretty cool!

Last week I was looking at the upcoming races on Coastal Trail Runs and ended up looking through one runner's photos of the recent Bizz Johnson Marathon up in Susanville. The photos really spoke to me... I want to be there... I want to run there... then the strangest thought came into my head... could I possibly train for a full marathon? There are a gazillion full marathons out there to choose from, but this race really made me feel that if I was going to attempt that distance it would be this one, ... Who are you and what have you done to my thoughts?!... Was that me pondering this crazy notion?!... sigh... I have decided that I should first see how the half marathon goes... then I have a few months to run some other short distance races (in trails! whoo hoo!)... I have a few months to make an actual decision... and I honestly can NOT believe that this thought has even been entertained ... The Bizz is follows an old rail trail in the mountains in October... Just sayin....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Stepping outside the comfort zone is the price I pay to find out how good I can be. If I planned on backing off every time running got difficult I would hang up my shoes and take up knitting.
Desiree Davila, marathoner and member of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project

Monday, October 18, 2010


Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.
George Sheehan

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Take a Hike!

Sunday is a 'cross-training' day, it's a good transition after the long run on Friday. I'm usually still pretty tired. Typically I go on a hike with a buddy in Briones Regional Park. I just LOVE the place! The vistas from the top are amazing! Today we hit a 360 degree vista. Makes it all worth while. I just loved these dramatic clouds... even though we got rained on for the last 20 minutes. Note to self: start bringing towels to clean of the dogs before they get back in the car!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wobbly Wagons and Flat Tires...

Metaphorically speaking, of course. Ugh. I really regret not writing about my 10 mile long run last Friday... I felt GREAT! I did negative splits and had my fastest mile ever (on mile ten even!)... But I didn't bask in the glory and now here I am a week later and all I can say is 11 long ass slow and painful miles later, I'm here to tell ya... it sucked, but I did it!

Yesterday I fell off the wagon... the food wagon that is. It may be one of my worst food days in history!
Well, not really I used to eat like this all the time. Yes, on a regular basis! Now, I'm horrified if it happens. Does this sound nutritious and healthy to you?: cereal, mac 'n cheese, ice-cream, more cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and more mac 'n cheese!!... OMG!!! No wonder my body was feeling it, the wrong fuel was in the tank!

The wagon wasn't the only problem or perhaps it was a symptom of the combination of elements. But today I felt like a deflated flat tire! I abandoned any notion of negative splits before even leaving the house. It was one of those days that I just knew it was all going to be miserable (do ya think there is any kind of self-fulfilling prophecy going on here?!). Just cover the miles, I don't care how slow. So off I went, before the sun had hit the trail. It was hard from the beginning. At the 5.5 mile turnaround mark I would have been happy to be done. I was already sore. On the way back it was hard not to stop and just walk. To be honest, I'm not even sure what kept me going. Everything hurt! But I kept going. The splits were still negative (except one, but it was close). I can't explain that.

At one point, I thought my run felt like a meditation gone bad. My thoughts felt so discouraging and were all over the place. I had to keep reeling them in. Re-focus. Engage in the run, don't shuffle (I have a personal theory that it's when I am lazy and shuffling that injury will occur. So I try to keep my body and mind engaged and run with intention).

I started slow. I ended slow. But I did it.

Are we done yet?! Nope, only half way!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.
Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am not a Morning Person but....

I've always said "I love being up early, but I hate getting up early!"... So it's hard to believe that it is early in the morning that I choose to go out on my adventures. Part of it has to do with the fact that I am a huge procrastinator! So if I don't just get it all overwith then the odds are stacked against me getting any exercise later in the day.

The sun is rising later and later each morning and soon we will be turning those clocks back. But mornings like today just make it all worthwhile. Wow. I've run around Lake Merritt several times in my training but today was something else...

I'm not alone...

No... I mean, I'm not the only one hearing the voices... I came upon this article after my last post! Go figure...

Can You Hear Me Now? - Alisha Cooper/Runner's World

and this one!....

Racing The Gremlin - By John Bingham/Runner's World


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who Said That?!...

One of the most fascinating discoveries on this adventure was found within. It's me! Or shall I say, my mind. I will admit that I did not fully realize the power of the mind - or at least the trickery. When I first broke through the "I can't" barrier I was aware that it was the mind in play, but I didn't know that it was just the beginning of a long friendship. Luckily early on in my initial research I came across some very interesting articles about this subject so when it started happening I was aware - and prepared.

Let's say that my first awareness was the belief that I could not run a half marathon. It was huge to break through that. Then what I noticed was the constant pop ups of apparent barriers, or "reasons" that I couldn't. When I would start a training run there would be all kinds of reasons that I should not go, should slow down or should stop.

The thought patterns have such clear personality that they have become a voice. I call it the mind-voice and it is so convincing...
You can't run that far.
You're too out of shape.
You run too slow.
You're too old.
Everyone can tell you're not really a runner because you're heavy. You should stop.
This is too hard, you should stop.
How will you ever run 13 miles when you're struggling with 2 miles.
You're hungry, you're going to get faint, you should stop.
Why do you even want to run a half marathon, it's stupid.
It's way to early to be awake, go back to bed.
It's hard to breath, you should stop.
This sucks.
That stitch could be the sign of a heart attack! You should stop.

That last one, by the way, is by far my favorite. It actually made me laugh out loud!

Luckily, I also have a coach-voice! Coach-voice is calm, quiet and steady. Not loud, not even pushy. Just a voice that says...
Maybe you can.
You can stop if it really is a heart attack, but keep going and see if the stitch goes away.
Just keep running for now.
It is hard, but it is possible.
You're doing the right thing.
Keep going, for now.
Of course it's hard, you've never gone this far before, good job.
It's okay to slow down, but don't stop, yet.
If you need to you can stop, but for now keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Run Strong.

One of the articles said that the mind will not let the body give an all out 100% effort. That's it's job, to protect. And that we must, on purpose, train into discomfort. Otherwise the power of the mind will be too strong on race day. Author Dawn Dais talks about how she listens to music (and even books on tape!) on her long runs just to keep the mind occupied. I do certain things in training to teach my body, but I now realize that I am also training my mind.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body.
Lynn Jennings, Nine-time champion of the USA Cross Country Championships

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Low sun in the hills on an early run makes for some cool shadows!

Training Programs

When I was first invited by my friend to run a half marathon - 13.1 long miles - I truly did not believe it was possible. Once I accepted that at the very least I could walk the distance I began to do research. What I found surprised me.

Me: "The longest I've ever run is 3.5 miles"
Research: "If you can run 30 minutes without stopping you can train to run a half marathon in 12 weeks"

In fact, they said that even if you can not run 30 minutes without stopping you can still successfully train for a half. It just takes more time. Well, those 3.5 miles took me a good 50 minutes so that must count. There were 13 weeks before the race. Perfect timing.

You know the internet, there are endless possibilities! I spent many obsessive hours looking at various sites with different training programs. There are sites that offer training programs for fees and there are sites that offer their training programs for free. There are hundreds of books on the subjects of not just training for a half marathon, but for 5k's, 10k's, marathon's and just plain ol' running. Endless. A bit overwhelming for a newbie!

I decided to go the free route and make up my own based on what I found. I delved into the quest for the common thread in all these training programs. What I learned is that there is a training program for just about any goal (time goals, weight loss goals, 'just finish' goals, etc). My personal goal has nothing to do with running a certain time or beating my PR (personal record, it took me a bit to figure out this runner's world lingo). No my goal would be simply to cover the entire 13.1 miles in one outing. I stumbled across what seemed to be the perfect site for me; - I mean, does the title not say it all?!

I want to emphasize that originally I honestly did not think I would ever actually be able to run 13.1 miles. It was the sensible and pragmatic approach of this training program that allowed me to even accept this challenge. My own naive intuition told me that if I was planning on running 13 miles, 9.5 more than I'd ever covered, then I needed to go out and run more. And more. And more. That felt daunting. In reality my intuition was wrong, it was exactly the opposite of what is true. My eyes were opened through thorough research. Here's some of what I first learned;

Recovery is key. Running (all exercise) breaks down muscle fibers. When the fibers rebuild they are slightly stronger than before. This is why rest days are not just important, but critical to success. In the two months prior to my research I was running 6 days a week and my body was hurting. Especially my knees. I didn't realize it but I was over-training. Since being in training, my knee issues are gone, even though I'm running farther than ever before.

Don't increase weekly mileage by more than 10%. The schedule I follow has one cross training day (I hike in the hills), two short runs and one long run. The short runs stay 3-4 miles during most of the 12 weeks of training. The long run increases by only one mile each week. I used to feel guilty on non-running days, like I was doing nothing. Now I say "I'm rebuilding to be stronger next week". This explains the last mile phenomenon that I talked about in post Number 9. The last mile is always hard, but the difficulty level is not increasing as the mileage increases. Because each week I push myself just a little extra through that last mile, and then I have a rest (rebuilding) day the day after. So when I come back to the next long run I am just a little bit stronger, and ready, for that next 'last mile'. As you get stronger in the training you're going to want to push it and run an extra mile, research says don't do it.

Don't run more than two consecutive days. Give it a rest. Rebuild.

Hydration! I'll address this one more fully in another post.

and finally, Nutrition. This also deserves a post all unto itself. Several posts actually!

The point here is that I am far enough into the training to see that it actually works! In the beginning I felt disbelief. The program said You can do it! I said Really? We'll see. But I put myself in the hands of those who know, and low and behold, I think they might actually be right!


Monday, October 4, 2010

My First Race... Ever!

I scheduled the 10k as training for my half marathon. I just found a local race that fit into my schedule and signed up. I wanted to go through a dry run. It may sound silly but I wasn't really sure how to put on the race number bib properly. Would I have jitters. Those kinds of little things.

Saturday I ran the YMCA Home Front Run 10k. The 6.2 mile course went along the Richmond Bay Trail shoreline, a lovely meandering path with views of the bay and San Francisco. As I waited in the crowd pre-race I realized that we were right next to Miller Knox Park in Pt. Richmond. It seems fitting that my first race would be adjacent to the park that got me inspired to get back into shape!

So how was it? That's what everyone wants to know. Well, it was hard. And it was great. And as I look back it seems like there were two separate experiences. As a race rookie I got there nice and early (even after getting a little lost on the way). I got my race bib and attached it with the safety pins. Seems simple enough. As I waited for 9am I scanned the crowd taking it all in. Sizing everyone up. The crowd of 250 runners consisted of all sorts of people, not just the obvious runners. Families, kids, couples. I realized that I was one of the few people there alone and I felt like the first day in a new school (having attended four high schools I'm familiar with being the new kid).

When they called for everyone to gather to start the adrenaline kicked in. Yup. Little nervous, gonna admit it. When the horn blew it was like a wave, everyone sped past me. The coach voice reminded me of the oft repeated advice I have come across; "run your own race, keep your own pace" and "don't start too fast" (a super common rookie mistake). It was a little embarrassing at first but I held to my own slow pace. Approximately a half mile out I started passing many of those same people as they walked. I felt a little better. But now I was in pace with some annoying people. A young boy running with his parents that kept flying past me in his noisy sweats and grabbing his mom and telling her to 'calm down' (this never made any sense to me but luckily we soon drifted apart. Then came the girl with the headphones super loud. You know the sound, annoying. Again, we drifted apart.

The first mile or two it seemed that everyone filtered to find their own pace. I passed walkers. I got passed by runners. Somewhere between miles two and four it really thinned out and as I approached those returning from the turnaround point I thought I might actually be the last person! But when I reached the turnaround point I got to see that there were actually plenty of people behind me. Then from miles four through six I thought I was running the race solo or perhaps had run off course. No one around. Very strange. But there they were, the volunteers "good job 230!"... should I admit that when the first person yelled that out I spent the next minute or so trying to figure out what it meant? Probably not. Once the second volunteer called out a similar support cheer I looked down and realized it was my race bib number! Ahh, to be a race rookie. My pace felt good. My splits were negative. My plan, as is in training runs, was to amp up the pace during the last mile. As I entered the last mile I could see the runners ahead of me, including the woman that I had told myself to keep up with, but she was just too far out of reach. "Just run your own race". So back to concentrating on my pace, amp it up but make sure to keep enough in the tank to make it across the finish line. As I rounded the corner of the Ford Building in the last quarter mile I saw my opportunity to overtake two runners. I had enough in the tank to push past them! That felt really good (we will not go into the details that one was a very large man and the other was a woman pushing a stroller. Nope. Let's just stay with the fact that I passed two people. The only two other runners I came across in the second half of the race). Okay, here it is; the home stretch! But just like in a dream it seemed so far! Way farther than I remembered! "Run Strong". Then I noticed my boyfriend right near the finish line! Yeay!... I could barely breath but I pushed to the finish line in 1:09.

That's the first experience. I am proud of that. I finished faster that I had anticipated. I ran an average of 11:11 minute miles. Way faster that I'd planned (I thought I would be around 12:30). I didn't walk and I didn't stop.

Then the second experience. We stuck around for the raffle and awards ceremony. The first three finishers from each age group (men and women) get a medal. Now I was very curious to see how I did in comparison to others. The guy who won the 'masters' medal doesn't count, I mean who can run 6.2 miles in 34 minutes besides him?! Okay, let's focus on the women 40-49. I don't know how many of my age group were in the race so I don't know where I place. But I can tell you that the medal winners in my age group were all a good 20 minutes faster than me! And, yes, even the winners of the 70+ age group were 10 minutes faster then me!...

This second experience was a little hard to swallow. At first. I thought about it and realized that the medal winners of all age groups are most likely serious, lifelong runners (their bodies reflect this!). In all reality I've only been in training for six weeks! And two months ago I didn't think I could run further than 3.5 miles! So I decide to take away motivation and inspiration from the awards ceremony! I ran my race. I exceeded my personal expectations. My boyfriend is proud of me and so am I. I done good!

Now, I want to do this race again next year and see how I improve! I'm inspired.

Here I come down the home stretch! (notice the crooked bib!)

I was happy to see the "high five" lady

Right after, still haven't caught my breath

Trying to blend in with all the other runners with my bag-o-schwag

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I think I get used to, even addicted to, the feelings associated with the end of a long training run. I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, starving, and sweat-purged. I love the good ache of muscles that have done me proud.
Kristin Armstrong, Author and runner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lafayette Moraga Trail

I am really loving this trail for my long runs! Not only is it a pleasant paved trail lined by trees going through quiet suburban neighborhoods... the mileage is marked every quarter mile. This is very helpful in setting and getting to know my pace as well as covering accurate mileage.

Number 9

Last Friday on my long run I had a realization. The 'last mile' of nine felt just like the last mile of eight... and the last mile of seven... and six.... Hmmnnn... this is very interesting to me because I never could have imagined that to be the case. I have put my fate into the hands of 'the training' program and, by golly, it seems to be working. I almost believe I will be able to run the whole half marathon. I think once I tackle ten miles I will believe it.... maybe ;-)

Half way there on an out and back run...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Take care of yourself. Eat well, rest, train hard and smart, make time to think and breathe. Be intentional with your time.

Kristin Armstrong, Author and runner

Thursday, September 23, 2010

.... and then there are days like this!

Yesterday was supposed to be a short run day but, in unison, like a two year old throwing a tantrum, both my mind and body said "no!". I didn't have the energy to fight them and make it happen. Granted, the day before I had run 6 instead of 3 miles, and then there are the effects of the female "cycle". But none of this made me feel any better about missing the run. Before the negative thoughts took over I decided to work a little 'trade'. Today is supposed to be a rest day (tomorrow is my long run) but instead I did a light 2 miler. Just enough to get me up and out the door early in the morning through Jack London Square and along the Alameda Estuary ... before the sun was even up.

Alameda-Oakland Estuary - Jack London Square

Sometimes things don't go according to the plan. But I suppose the lesson learned here is to just keep looking at the big picture and move ahead....
Keep moving.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Unexpected Lessons

I know it would seem obvious, but the importance nutrition plays in running has been a huge lesson for me. Understand that I have always had a topsy turvey relationship ship with food. I have been to the land of Eating Disorders. Great progress and healing has been made over the years but I think it's quite obvious by the slightly round and mushy state of my body that I have yet to overcome the battle completely. I guess my relationship with exercise has always been an on and off again one too. But I am learning. And my desire to be healthy and fit is genuine. Fit and healthy.

Just prior to the half marathon training I had taken over the cooking in my household. Somewhat based on the Tosca Reno Eat Clean philosophy. I am strongly anti-"diet". Yes, you can lose weight but I don't believe most of the fads are long term or truly healthy. When I first discovered the Eat Clean cookbooks I looked through them with the usual skeptical eye, but what I took away from the philosophy is the idea of getting proper nutrients through whole, unprocessed foods, eating small portions more often and exercising. It sounds simple. I know. But when I ventured into the local health food stores I felt like an imposter with my shopping list. Then it hit me; this is how I ate as a kid! I grew up on brown rice, honey, fruit, fresh vegetables and all these other healthy ingredients on my list! Where in my life had I gone astray? I don't know but I am glad to be finding my way back.

Once the half marathon came into the picture, in my panic, I began to do research about how to train. Which I thought would really only be about running. It turns out nutrition is a huge factor. And this makes sense to me now. It's fuel. Last year when I was running I would experience such fatigue and my legs felt like wet sand bags that I had to lug around. I read all kinds of self-criticism into this fatigue. Out of shape. Weak. Lazy. Fat. Will never be the athlete I had once hoped to be. Etc. So this time around, now that I am eating and hydrating consciously I am amazed at how much energy my body does have, and how far I am able to go. Yes, I push my body and it gets exhausted but that is a whole different feeling from the fuzzy fatigue that plagued me last year.

I'll be honest, I want to lose weight. At this time I am approximately 25lbs overweight. But my mindset has changed. I know that without a doubt I am getting fitter. As I get in better shape my metabolism will improve. I will learn to feed my body thoughtfully, consciously with the fuel it needs. In order to be successful in my goals of the half marathon, of being fit, and healthy, I have to treat my body right... It's all part of a greater purpose (that sounds hokey but to me, it's true).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Negative Splits!

Today, being Friday, was my long run. I always feel a little nervous the day before because at this point every long run is further than I have ever run before. My goal on the long runs is to just cover the distance. I don't concentrate on making good time. My typical long run pace is pretty slow, usually 14-15 min miles. Generally speaking I do try to pick up the pace on the last mile of a run. Just to use whatever is left in the tank, and also to train my body not to get sluggish when getting close to the finish. Especially since every long run until the half marathon will be longer than the last.

Today I blew past my wildest expectations. I started out with a warm up pace of near 16 minutes for my first mile. Despite an ever so slight incline on the four miles out on the Lafayette-Moraga trail my times got faster with each passing mile. One great thing about this particular trail is that the mileage is marked every quarter of a mile. The slight decline on the return was welcomed. Despite being tired my times continued to improve a little. On my seven mile run the week before I paid close attention to the progression of pain and fatigue. On this eight mile run the sensitive joints came; first the hips, then the knees and finally the ankles. But my thighs never felt like they had been pulverized by a meat tenderizer like on the seven mile run. As I neared the last couple miles I knew, as usual, that I wanted to pick up the pace on my last mile and when it came I gave it all I had. I thought I might blow a gasket at one point, but I slowed my pace just enough and kept telling myself to 'just keep going' and remembering a Lance Armstrong quote "Pain is temporary, quitting is forever"... I was shocked to see that I covered the eighth mile in 9:54! I never imagined I had that speed in me at all, let alone on the last mile of my longest run ever!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lake Merritt

I have lived in the Jack London district of Oakland for the last seven years (this is in and of itself is quite a feat as I have moved quite a bit in my lifetime!) but before my training I had never run (or even walked) around Lake Merritt. It's a 3.25 mile loop that I previously didn't think I could make. Now it's part of my longer runs, today 7 miles. I have found it to be a very pleasant place and it makes me feel a little closer to this city that I live in...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Before I accepted the invitation to run in the Big Sur Half Marathon, in those moments of "I can't" I had a conversation with a friend. She listened to all my reasons for why I did not want to and could not run that far. I didn't want to feel like a third wheel to the two friends running it that are current running partners. That changed once I found out that I have a whole bunch of friends entered in this race. Then I told her how I enjoyed my trail runs, how running was about fitness and a great 'escape' for me. Being out on the trail is kind of like a reset button. I didn't want it to become about competition, about checkpoints and tracking, training. Really, I didn't want to be compared to runners that are faster than me.

Then (for reasons explained in Phoenix Rising post) I accepted my friends invitation. I began research on how to train for a half marathon. I researched how to avoid injury. I studied training schedules and came up with one for myself. It is designed simply to get me across the finish line, with no concern for a race time (advised for first time racers). Because the race is flat I have to train on flat. I'm not a fan of concrete running (not because it's bad for the joints though, mostly because I find it boring and repetitive. Unlike the ups, downs, twists and turns of a hilly trail. And I loathe car exhaust fumes!).

But I realize that running has become something different for me now. I have always mapped out mileage and I am competitive enough to want to cover familiar ground with more ease or faster times. But my runs were never more than 3.5 miles. When I ventured out for 5+ miles it became a hike or bike ride. The truth is I am breaking boundaries now. It may not seem like much but now that I have run 7 flat miles I look at trail maps and look for longer loops that I want to explore. I find myself looking forward to the freedom I will have after the race is over. At that time I will have run 13 miles in one go. I don't know what that will feel like or how far will feel comfortable but I now like the idea that I have new possibilities!

I am training towards a specific goal. But the truth is I am changing what I believe I can do. It has nothing to do with being compared to faster runners. It's about challenging my body and my mind. A world of possibilities is opening for me. And I like that.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lola and Biella

Meet my favorite adventure partners, Biella and Lola!

Trail Races

Saying yes to the half marathon inspired a lot of 'research' of course... and in that research I discovered that there are LOTS of races... lots of TRAIL races.. one thing I know for sure is that I love trails!... the thought of running on flat bores me (even though it scares me too!!)... flat flat flat... the idea of trail running gets me excited... so I discovered this site (there are others too) in my Runner's World magazine... there are so many amazing trail runs/races that I had no idea about... partly because the only trails I normally even investigate allow dogs (especially off leash)... but if I'm going for a race, that's different, I'm up for that!... so now... I get this rush thinking that maybe i could keep myself psyched up about running if I enter the short races (3-10miles)... and check out all these great trails!

I just feel so excited to have discovered the races in the hills/trails... I hear the Big Sur Half Marathon is a beautiful run (even though it's actually in Monterey, NOT Big Sur!). One of my initial concerns was the flatness of the course. Trails make me happy. That's why discovering trail races is so exciting. I mean, I never even thought of doing ANY race but now it's a possibility... They are a way to explore new territories. The trail races feel closer to my 'heart'... that is why I won't give up the redwood loop, even though it's more 'mileage' than I'm supposed to do at this point in my training... it fuels me.. Last Tuesday when I ran it was the first time this whole summer that the sun was out during my morning runs!!... the fog/mist is nice and dramatic but OMG... the way the sun was hitting the trees and views and... ugh... I felt like I was in another world, far far away... in the mountains... I had such a 'high' after that run... I texted M and told him how 'lovely' it was and he wrote back 'you used the word lovely, who are you?!' ... it was funny.... even still just thinking about it makes me happy inside...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Inspirations - Redwood Park

One of the reasons that the trails fuel me is the scenery I come upon... I've been running this trail for seven years... but how awesome is THIS!?... It stopped me in my tracks... camera phones ROCK!...

Westridge Trail, Redwood Park

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising "A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration." - The Feng Shui Handbook

I can't believe I speak these words; I have registered and am training for a Half Marathon!!...Why the shock? Well, I am 43 years old. I am 30lbs overweight. My average run is 3.5miles and I have only run 6 miles, once!... On November 14th my goal is to cross the finish line after 13.1 miles.... I am trying to keep in mind that physiologically, fear and excitement are the same experience in the body.... I feel terrified! and this means I am excited!!! Everyone that hears that I am training for a half marathon exclaims "Good for you!" "You can do it!". Don't they understand? Don't they see all the reasons that I can NOT do this?! I swear these reasons are as real as the cup from which I sip my coffee! So real that I think I can physically touch them, see them. But no one else sees them. And in reality they are not physical, they are not "real".

When a friend initially asked me to join her at the Big Sur Half Marathon my initial reaction was "No, I can't". I was steadfast in my rejection (as I had been to all previous race invitations). Until the next day when I watched a video of the race on their web site. Among the fit and fast there were people that looked like me. A little round. There were people with a pace so slow they could have been walking. And then there were walkers. "Well, I could do that".... With that almost imperceptible lowering of the 'can't' barrier I became overwhelmingly emotional. Which made no sense to me. Why would watching a race bring me to the edge of myself? Because maybe, just maybe, I could. And at the very least I could try. I sent out feelers to family and some of my running friends to see if they thought it even possible for me to get through a half marathon. It seems I asked the wrong people; overwhelmingly they said 'YES you CAN!'.

I sat with this for a day and then I registered for the race. You see, as I sat with the idea of whether or not I could or couldn't run a race I realized that it was about more, much more. I realized that we mentally block ourselves in so many ways. I mentally block myself in so many ways. It's called a comfort zone right? But just because it's a comfort zone doesn't mean it's right, or healthy, or even comfortable for that matter. I started to fantasize about what it would feel like to lift the "can't' barrier from other areas of my life. That can get a little scary, it's true. I mean, we're talking about the possibility of living up to one's own potential. That's when I realized why I had gotten so emotional watching the video. How empowered would I feel if I did attain this seemingly impossible goal and cross that finish line. How good would that feel?! How might that feeling ripple across into other areas of my life. Areas that I have tucked into a comfort zone, but that I know have more potential.

The last two years have been challenging. I'm certainly not the only one who has felt the rumble and tumble of the economy. But along with that vague and dry notion of a 'bad economy' comes more subtle, real effects. I won't go into all the details but suffice it to say that while barely being aware of the downward spiral I ended up in a dark place. When I finally picked my head up I did not like where I had landed. Where was my self confidence? My spunk? My humor? My passion? My heart? Me. I remember one day laying on the couch looking at the ceiling fan and wondering if this was the view from rock bottom. I can't pinpoint the moment the shift happened but I am aware of the moment I first realized the change was in effect and I wanted more of it. I wanted to feel good again. Inside and out. I began exploring trails with my dog - one simple pleasure that has a great effect on me. It seems silly and it's hard to explain the amount of joy I get when I'm out on the trails. We are in our element, the dog and I. The trails inspired me to get fit again. The physical activity inspired me to eat healthier and after 4.5 years I took over the cooking responsibility in our household. You see, I don't enjoy cooking really. But in order to get a handle on my snack attacks and lazy lunches I had to take the reins of responsibility. All this fit and healthful craziness inspired a desire for some internal shifting. Off to the bookstore to browse the self-help aisle! Remember that downward spiral that I mentioned? The pendulum is swinging the other direction now.

I joined a local group that hikes with their dogs. On my first outing with them we trekked off into the same park I've been going to for the last seven years. Yawn, but I will be a good sport. Little did I know that I was about to find inspiration. Our group veered of onto a single track trail that, although it connects to my familiar route, I had never taken. Wow. The next day I decided to add it to my run. I just wanted to run until I couldn't any longer. And on this beautiful trail, inspired, I just kept going. I remember being aware that I was still running. I hadn't mapped out the mileage before so I really didn't know the distance. When I got back to the car I was exhausted but man it felt good! When I got home and mapped it out I was shocked to find out that I had run 6 miles. That's almost double what I thought my limit was!....

The run that morning was a factor in my decision to say yes. If you had asked me a week prior if I could run 6 miles I would have said with confidence "No. Absolutely no way". But I just had. The coincidence can not be denied. It was that very same night that my friend invited me to join the half marathon. "No. Absolutely no way".... Yea, I'm beginning to see a pattern here. The events in my life are leading to unexpected turns and twists. Outer and inner journeys. The shift is happening, light is shining through the opening.

It turns out that I know several women that will be running the Big Sur Half Marathon. I am the newbie. The race rookie. In my terrified/excited state I am bringing this group of women together. I have so many questions and they are a great source of information, experience and motivation. We may train on our own but we all aim to cross the same finish line. Our reasons for running vary. I am very clear that my reason for running this half marathon has very little to do with actually covering 13.1 miles. I have already taken one huge step, possibly the hardest, I said "yes". The next few months will be about training. It won't be easy. I know that I will learn so much more than how to run distance. I have decided to journal about this adventure I'm embarking on. And although it may represent many aspects of life the only way to make it happen, to cross that finish line, is to stay focused and work really hard. The road ahead will be full of challenges but I feel ready and I have a great support system.