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.