Post-Race Status Report

Because I never obsess about my running (ha!), here are just a few of my thoughts about the race yesterday.

My Time
I’m not unhappy with my time from yesterday’s race.  I think I did my best, under the circumstances.  But I have a couple of issues.  Let’s consider: there are circumstances both beyond and within my control.

It’s beyond my control that Itook bunch of rest weeks because my foot was injured.  Combine that with not having an overall good training winter to start with, and I’m just not at the same fitness level that I was a year ago.  Largely beyond my control, it helps to explain the additional 39 seconds it took me to run the course this year versus last year.

On the flip side, my effort was within my control.  Did I race as hard as I could?  After a race, it’s easy to think that I could have pushed a harder at different points along the course.  But I honestly think I gave it my best effort.  As I was running, I constantly weighed the effects of my effort on the remainder of the course.  Yes, I could have gone a little faster up that hill, but that may have forced a walk break later.  It’s a tricky thing to figure mid-race because you really never know what will happen until you try it.  In the final analysis, I effectively managed this within-my-control factor.

A second item within my control is my weight.  I’m carrying roughly 10 more pounds than I was a year ago.  I tried to look up information about how weight affects time/pace, but of course there are a lot of factors involved, including VO2 max and distance being run.  There is an estimate out there that you can potentially run 2-3 seconds per mile faster for each pound lost.  (Okay pause to consider all the exceptions, like someone who’s already at their ideal body weight, someone who is already super-fast.  There would be some diminishing returns – or some other economic or mathematical principles at work here.)  Regardless, that additional 10 pounds is logically slowing me down.  Not to mention the other 20-30 pounds I am overweight for my height on top of those 10 I put on over the stupid holidays.

Running improvement goal #1:  Lose the rest of the weight.  Stop eating garbage; Continue eating more plants; Keep up with workouts.

My Belly
I’m talking about my internal issues.  I’ve mentioned how I often get a severe belly ache after racing.  I had a “medium” case of this after my 5K two weeks ago.  Yesterday, immediately after the race, I felt a belly ache coming on, but I think I headed it off through some changes I made.

First, when I got up, I had a glass of water with about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (and a little Stevia to make it more tolerable – not bad, really).  I’d read this is a good thing to do first thing in the morning to “alkalinize” the body.  Much of what makes up our America diet is acidic – and an acidic body state is correlated with inflammation and disease (e.g., cancer is more likely to thrive in an acidic environment).  I also ate more than I normally do before a race.  I had a banana and natural peanut butter on a sandwich thin bun, whereas I typically only have a Luna bar (or similar).

My apple cider vinegar research indicated that it also helps with workout recovery, so I packed a water bottle with more of the h2o-vinegar-Stevia mix for after the race.  I further learned that apple cider vinegar can soothe intestinal spasms and indigestion, making it sound like a doubly-good idea.  In addition, I wanted to ensure I ate something appropriate right after the race, so I brought a second banana and a second peanut butter sandwich.  After eating my snacks, I felt the belly ache coming on.  Once I started sipping my vinegar water, it subsided.  Furthermore, I did not get a belly ache later in the day and I didn’t suffer from cravings (e.g., salty snacks) that I often get on a race day.

Running improvement goal #2:  Repeat routine of vinegar water and appropriate food before and after upcoming races.

My Daughter
Ohmigosh, not everything is about me!  I signed my girls up for the (FREE!  Best race ever.) kids race after the 5K.  Predictably, Cora wanted nothing to do with it, so she and her dad went to the playground swings.  Emily, also, didn’t want to do it.  But she did want to hang out with her buddy Peyton who was going to run.  Yet even that wasn’t enough.  I had to promise Emily that I would run with her, in the grass, alongside the track.  I was so proud of her because 1) she didn’t want to do it, but she did it, anyway; 2) she ran the whole way, without asking to stop or walk; 3) and she didn’t get upset that we were the last ones to finish.  I’m trying to teach her that effort – and the willingness not to give up – is often what’s most important, so I was glad that she was happy at the end of the race.  Here we are together beforehand.

EmAndI-SASMy Training
My training so far has been partly beyond my control, but it’s not beyond my control going forward.  I think I performed unexpectedly well last year (taking ~2 minutes off the PR I’d set just 2-3 weeks prior) because I had been following a training plan for a 10K the following month.  And I set another 5K PR last fall because that early October race occurred just a couple of weeks after I finished my half marathon – for which I’d logged many, many more miles than I ever had before.  Therefore, I’m going to stick to a training plan again – plus incorporate a few new elements (like working my the slant board described here, to strengthen my joints and legs).

Running improvement goal #3:  Go with what’s proven to work in the past.  Stick to training plans.  Log more miles.  Cross train accordingly.

My Final Note
Running improvement goal #4:  Relax a little.  Stop obsessing about race times and just enjoy the journey.

Owning It

I thought I might skip the Service Above Self/Memorial Day 5K  this year, even though I really liked it last year.  And I also got a PR.  Plus, I  received my first ever – and completely unexpected – age group award.  (“I’m #2!  I’m #2!”)

Because I’d lost training time with Alice and the injury, I figured I couldn’t be anything but disappointed by whatever my result would be this year.

But then I got to thinking….it’s right here in town.  No getting up super early.  No driving to Pittsburgh.  I could even walk over to the race start if I wanted to.  Plus, my friends direct the race and lot of my friends will be there.

Further, I decided I just needed to deal with whatever race time I’d get.  Kind of like getting on the scale, even though you don’t want to, and just owning up to where you are right now.  If I got a lousy time, I’d just have more information about what I’d need to do to improve.

So I registered a couple of weeks ago online.  I got to the question about whether or not the registeree (i.e., me) was Clydesdale or Athena.  I just skipped the question and hit submit, but the site forced me to answer Clydesdale, Athena, or ‘No.’  (I do NOT remember this option from last year!)  I don’t know what possessed me (aside from the fact that I’m actually over qualified for the heavyweight division), but I clicked the Athena and then the submit buttons.  Then immediately thought, “What did I just do?”

I went to the event website and saw the note that the awards would be (men & women) 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for overall, for age groups, and for “heavyweights,’ with a note that there were no duplicate awards.

Ah.  What I’d just done was eliminated myself from my age group division and placed myself in the heavyweight division.  I felt a little bit like I’d just cheated, given that I’d placed 2nd last year among “regular” runners.  Yet, I’m legit as a heavyweight.  Okay.  Whatever.  No big deal.

Again, I didn’t remember this from last year, so I looked up 2012 results to see if the division was new this year.  But lo and behold, there was a separate results list for heavyweights.  Huh!

I clicked the link.

Eight people on the list.

One woman.

Only one woman registered and ran the race as a heavyweight last year.

Then I thought, “Unless the Western Pennsylvania Big Girls Running Club decides that this is their race this year, I can dog it – and win!”

First, I had a good laugh about that.  And (of course) shared this amusing story with all of my friends.  Later, I realized that – counter-intuitively –  seeing last year’s results made me more motivated to work hard and to get the best possible time I could.  I figured, if I’m going to represent the big runner girls, I’d better bring it!   If I was likely to win, I really should do my best to earn it.

With  the couple weeks I had available, I got in as many runs as I could and included a hill repeat workout – to give me confidence for the race’s two hills.  And I showed up this morning hoping to run as close as I could to 27 minutes, but deciding I’d be happy with anything  faster than the 29:21 I ran two weeks ago.

Here’s the part where we use our imaginations, folks!  My time was 27:08, and I’m going to pretend that the course wasn’t short again (like last year), and therefore I was but 8 seconds off my goal.  Woo-hoo!

(Even adjusted, the pace is roughly a minute faster than my last race.  At least I know I am improving.)

No imagination required: 27:08 was more than enough to win the women’s heavyweight division.  Even though it feels a little bit like a dubious honor, I’m pleased to report that I received my first, 1st-place award this morning!

Queen of the Big Girls!

Queen of the Big Girls!   (Photo credit: Emily Lehman)

What’s a little less exciting is that there was only one other woman who registered as a heavyweight.  Yep.  I beat out one whole person to win that bad boy!  However, it makes me feel better that I would have placed second (again) in my age group.  Makes me feel like I did earn it this despite having such a small field.

I’m hoping next year that I won’t meet the criterion for Athena and I’ll be competing in my age group again – even though a few of my fast friends are about to turn 40 and will therefore be in my age group.  I won’t have a chance to place, but I think the trade-off of being a decidedly non-heavyweight runner will be worth it.

Fun awards aside, the best part of the race was that I saw SO many of my running friends – and even met some great friends of friends.  Sadly, I didn’t have time (or sense) enough to get pictures with all of them, but I got a couple, thanks to others’ cameras.

Here are Kim, Melanie, Letty and I, lined up at the start:

I swear I was invited into this picture & I'm not bombing it.

I swear I was invited into this picture & I’m not bombing it.

They all did super-great, finishing well ahead of me.  So proud of those girls!

And (last pic!), here are Letty, Jackie and I.  Letty wanted to get our picture because we all three got awards – they were 1st and 3rd in their age group.

I'm looking every ounce the Athena athlete in this one!  Holy cow, why am I not sucking in my gut?  Who gets their picture taken like that?

Holy belly button, Batman.

Notice that I’m looking every ounce the Athena athlete in that picture!  Who gets their picture taken like that?  Why am I not sucking in my gut?  (What if I was sucking in my gut?  Gasp!)

Ah well, I said I was owning it.  Here’s to being the best of the heavyweight girls today – Huzzah!

A Few of My Favorite Things

I do love running, even though sometimes I simply love to hate it (e.g., when the alarm clock goes off).  But here are a few of my favorite running-related things.

My Running Skirts!

When I started running, the skirt was the logical choice.  The tight, Lycra shorts underneath helped to contain some of my jiggliness and to keep my thighs from colliding with one another.  And the skirt itself covered my ample butt, which I figured no one needed to see on the run.

Now, my Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultras are just a comfortable part of my routine.  In addition to the coverage (which, many pounds lighter, I still appreciate), the shorts have pockets on either side that just work with the items I like to carry.

Plus, I just think they’re fun and sassy.  I have several solid-color skirts, plus one in black with a floral panel along the hip, and the purple, floral patterned one below.  I’m hoping to invest in some other funky patterned ones, but I’m going to have to save up first!

Purple, floral skirt at Race for the Cure 2012

I never run in anything besides a skirt! (And bibs always go on the skirt – you may have to change your shirt!)

My Garmin Forerunner 410
My Garmin has been a huge help to me since I got it a year ago.  I like being able to see exact numbers for pace and distance when the information (automatically!) uploads to my computer.  I know many of us use our watches to ensure that we’re going fast enough for a given workout.  But I rely on my watch to make sure I’m going slow enough to not flame out on a long run – I have a tendency to start out too fast.  The other thing I like about it is that I can program it to beep at me so I don’t have to think about time lapsed or distance run during interval workouts.

iPhone music / One headphone
When I started running, I absolutely needed music to distract and motivate me.  Even now that I’m fitter, music still beats the hell out of listening to my own heavy breathing.  I prefer the fun and distraction of running and chatting with a group of friends, but  if I’m on my own, you can bet I’m listening to music.  I love finding new songs for my running playlists, but I have a few “power” songs that I count on to really get me going (some of my favorite songs are here).  Also – very important – when I started running and was always alone, I got in the habit of wearing just one earbud so that I could still hear what was going on around me.  Even though I was typically on the sidewalks in my neighborhood, it felt much safer.  Now, even if I’m on a closed course at a safe time of day, two earbuds makes me feel too cut off from the world.

Running Blogs & Books
You can see a list of my favorite running blogs on the right navigation menu.  They’re great sources of motivation and humor, in addition to sound advice.  My favorite books include Run Like a Mother (I might have to credit this one for truly getting me hooked on running), Train Like a Mother (both by Dimity McDowell & Sarah Bowen Shea), Born to Run (Christopher McDougall), Eat and Run (Scott Jurek), and The Cool Impossible (Eric Orton).  I love reading about running and about other runners!

My Headlamp
Again, the early morning runs dictate just a couple of safety precautions.  My headlamp (a gift from my dad) clips onto my ball cap and helps me see where I’m going in the dark – and makes me more visible to drivers.  I picked out this hat (a gift from my husband) for winter because it included a brim for my light.

Safety first!

Safety first!

Island Boost
Learning to fuel on long runs is quite the adventure.  I found that I cannot chew  jelly beans or other gummy snacks and run.  Well, I can’t chew, run, and breathe, which is kind of essential.  And the only way I can down gels without gagging is to “sip” at them, which just takes too long.  Luckily, I discovered Island Boost when I received a sample with something else I’d ordered.  It’s in a packet like a gel, but it’s simply liquid.  Bonus points:  It’s made from good stuff like coconut water, it’s vegan, and it’s easy on the stomach.

My Running (and Other Workouts) Journal
Yes, the Garmin website keeps my data in handy form and creates nifty reports.  But I like to also write everything down in my super-fun journal.  I record when, where, & with whom I ran, plus how I felt & any accomplishments (e.g., “I finally made it to the top of that hill!).  I write down my overall mileage and time, plus my splits.  I also make note of the weather and what I wore – and if I was too hot or two cold. (Very helpful when the seasons change.)  Plus, I note my other workouts.  It’s fun to flip back through and see how fast (because it can seem so slow) you can make progress.  For example, last spring, I noticed that I was starting to get that ‘cut’ in my shoulder muscles.  I was surprised to see that I got those new, improved shoulders after just sixteen sessions at the early morning power pump class – Inspiring!

Journal It!

Journal It!

My Running Friends!
I cannot say this enough:  I love my running friends!  The running community creates such an upward spiral of inspiration, where newer/slower runners get all this encouragement from faster/more seasoned runners.  Later, you realize that those faster folks are equally inspired by the newbies.  It’s a giant love-fest.  My running buddies and the larger running community are probably my very favorite thing about becoming a runner!

And More
I also like my Amphipod hydration/fuel belt, a sports bra with padding, and getting a tech t-shirt as race swag.  Oh, and hardware certainly doesn’t suck, either.

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Note the handmade card from my husband: my head on Alyson Felix’s body! (He gave it to me with the medal display for Christmas!)

What are your favorite running things?

 

It’s Like Christmas – But Just for ME

I mentioned that I’ve been reading some books about running.  I looked up on Amazon one of the books I’d finished to see what the ‘also bought’ suggestions were.  I found The Cool Impossible, by Eric Orton, which just came out May 7th.  Orton is the coach from Jackson Hole, Wyoming who helped Christopher McDougall (author of Born to Run) go from being unable to run 3-4 miles without foot pain to being able to complete a 50-mile race in Mexico.  Given what I learned reading Born to Run, I was anxious to hear about this “Cool Impossible” and how Orton’s advice might help my form and strength.

First, “the cool impossible” is Orton’s name for your big dream that that may seem impossible, but may actually be very possible with the right commitment, training, and technique.  The Cool Impossible is filled with advice on:

  • Form (e.g., forefoot striking; keeping the body upright, without leaning at the waist)
  • Exercises and drills for improving strength and form (e.g., running in place; vertical jumps – both barefoot)
  • Training schedules (e.g., a transition phase, which reshapes your form)
  • Eating tips for athletes (e.g., imagine you live on a farm, then eat only what’s available there)
  • Tricks for mental prep (e.g., visualization; creating a three-word mantra)

Among the strength exercises is a sequence of movements (actually most involve balance – trying NOT to move) performed on one, bare (fore)foot, standing on a slant board, holding poles for balance.  The idea is that you train and work on your runner’s body from the ground up.  Which makes perfect sense.  You need your feet to run as much as you need your thighs and glutes, but you don’t typically hear about work that strengthens your feet and ankles.  However, Orton’s slant board (and other) exercises are designed to strengthen your feet themselves, as well as the rest of your legs.

Given that I just recovered from a foot injury – and I don’t really know exactly what it was or the specific cause of it – I definitely wanted to try this out!  Apparently, you can strengthen your arch to the point where you go down shoe sizes!  Crazy.  Don’t know if I’ll be lucky enough for that to happen to me, but it would definitely be welcome.  At 5-feet-zip and a size 9 running shoe, I’m like a flippin’ Weeble.  Just try and knock me down!

In the book and on his website, Orton shares links for where these slant boards can be purchased.  He offers a unique version of his own that is also built to wobble – to make the sequence even more challenging.  But the slant boards for sale online are kind of pricey ($50+).  And his slant boards can’t be purchased separately; they’re sold in a set with balance poles, a DVD, etc.  For $79.99.  I’m sure it’s all worth it, but for one, I don’t need all the other stuff – because I have the book to tell me what to do, already!   Two, I kind of have a very tight budget to work with.  But, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so I really, reeeally wanted his wobbly version.  Lucky for me, I have an uncle who does a little wood work….

I emailed pictures of Orton’s slant board to Uncle Bill, and – three hours later – my mom called me to say that he was at her house with this, sweet prototype:

My Custom Slant Board *with* Wobble!

My Custom Slant Board *with* Wobble!

It’s a little bigger than Orton’s version (his is only big enough to put your forefoot on it), but it functions just the same.  Absolutely freaking perfect!

While I was at Mom and Dad’s house testing this dealie out,  I explained that I was going to use broomsticks or old golf clubs as the poles for balance.  Then my dad said to hold everything; he’d be right back.  He returned from the basement a few minutes later with two walking sticks that are I-DEAL for this.  They’re nice and tall, and they have convenient rubber tips on the bottom.  (Which come off to reveal metal points.  So if I decide to pick up trash at the playground down the street, I’m all set.)

Here’s the whole setup in action (inaction?):

SlantBoardInAction

(Photo credit, Emily Lehman)

My family made fun of me for being so excited about something they perceived as just another way for me to torture myself.  But I was literally jumping up and down and clapping my hands like a little kid on Christmas morning!

I just did the beginner (two pole) sequence of just balancing* and (as my brother would say) SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP is it tough!  You feel it the whole way up to your hip and in your abs.  But I’m super psyched about the possibilities.  Gonna get me some uber-strong feet!  (*There are other exercises on the slant board – knee raises, etc.  Definitely need to build up!)

Anyway, I’ll report back on progress in the future, but I’d like to close with this:  I really liked The Cool Impossible, even though it’s a bit overwhelming.  It’s just a LOT of information and pieces to put together.  (Which days am I going to do the scheduled runs?  Which days for strength sequences?  Which days for form drills?  ACK!)  So I’m trying not to put it all together.  Baby steps, I say!

But what I liked best about the book was how Eric Orton’s passion for running and for helping other athletes shines through.  Not only do you get the sense that he really wants to help you become a better runner, he covers the whole gamut for you like he’s really your own, personal coach.  It would have been more than sufficient to just cover the mechanics and drills associated with running itself.  But the additional information (e.g., eating habits, mental tips) and the way he writes like he’s giving you a giant pep talk is what really pushes it over the top.   The Cool Impossible is not only informative, it’s tremendously motivating and inspiring. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about good running form and improving your own.

p.s.  Earlier today I read this blog post that includes how the author imagined that Steve Prefontaine was her personal coach.  Eric Orton is SO now going to be my imaginary friend/running coach!

My Dreams Are Bigger Than My VO2 Max

That’s supposed to be a take on “my eyes are bigger than my stomach.”  Is it working?  No, you say…?

I get these crazy ideas.  I heard about how USA Track & Field has these “master’s” meets where they do all the events you’d find at a high school, college, or pro track meet, only the athletes are ordinary people over 40.   (Strike that.  Ordinary people over 40 do not compete in track meets.)  So you’ve got these 40+-year-olds competing in everything from the 100m dash, to the javelin, to the triple jump, to the steeplechase.  Doesn’t that sound like tremendous fun?

I’d love to, say, run the 200m.  Even if I took twice as long as my competitors and came in dead (I’d hope not literally?) last.  I think it would make you feel like such a kid again to go compete with a field like that.  Besides, it sounds to me like a much healthier way to deal with a midlife crisis than the more popular alternatives that end in bankruptcy and/or divorce court.  I very much want to join USATF and participate in one of these events one day.  Sadly, I don’t think there are any of these meets held nearby.  Also, I’m not sure that I’m nearly ambitious or competitive enough to ever actually give it a try.  Finally, I have NO idea which event(s) I’d actually pick, but it’s fun to think about it.

On the flip side, I just finished reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  Most runners have a least heard of this book, but it chronicles the author’s quest to figure out why his foot always hurt when he ran and what he might do about it.  His inquiry lead to an adventure that took him to Mexico’s “deadly Copper Canyons” where he met and observed the Tarahumara Indians, who can literally run for days wearing nothing but handcrafted sandals.  The book also includes a cast of some rather colorful American ultra runners who joined him in a 50-mile race with the Tarahumara in Mexico.  It’s absolutely fascinating.

Tarahumara Sandals

Tarahumara Sandals

So I now also want to run – in addition to a full marathon – a 50+ mile trail race.  In minimalist shoes, no less.

Or at least I really, really did, until I ran four miles Wednesday- sucking wind the whole time – and that seemed, like, Really. Far. to run.

Finally, I go back and forth about whether or not I want to join some of my friends in training for a sprint triathlon.  Initially, I thought the running and swimming parts sounded great, but that I probably wouldn’t do it because I thought I hated biking.  Now that I know that I don’t totally loathe riding a bike (I just suck at it), the triathlon idea has gained some appeal to me.

Anyway, not to sound like a total wimp, but I probably will not attempt most of these feats.  Maybe the triathlon in the next couple of years.  And maybe (MAYBE) a full marathon (in a couple of years, when both of my kiddoes are in school?).  But that is likely my limit.  Then again, never say never, I guess.

At the same time, there are two things that I am at least semi-seriously considering after reading Born to Run: a plant-based diet and transitioning to minimalist shoes.

Let’s start with shoes.  I know there are very good arguments on both sides of this issue.  But something about the barefoot/minimalist shoe side passes a logic test to me.  I mean, Mother Nature isn’t an idiot, you know?  Personally, I have found that I sometimes experience foot pain (in my arches) when I do activities that “require” shoes.  In fact, I used to do aerobics videos in my living room in bare feet, despite the videos’ recommendations, because that didn’t hurt.  I had this pet hypothesis that because I was a gymnast as a kid that my feet were just used to being bare.  Now that I know more about the arguments for barefoot/minimalist shoe running, I’m not sure why shoes bothered me, but I do imagine that I must have had really strong feet.  I’m very much interested to find out how my feet would feel if I transitioned to wearing “less” shoe, especially after just recovering from a non-specific foot injury.  However, you do have to transition from running in regular running shoes to running in minimalist shoes.  I’d need help with that.  I found a place in West Virginia that fits the bill.  I have to see if there’s a resource closer to me.  This isn’t something I’m going to look into immediately, but maybe in the near future.

Okay, on to food!  One thing I know for sure:  Most of us are eating crap.  Guilty as charged!  We’re buying processed convenience foods at the store.  We don’t know where our food comes from anymore.  Even home-cooked meals are likely to be less wholesome than the ones are parents and grandparents cooked due to changes in farming techniques and GMO foods.  It scares the heck out of me.

I’ve actually be reading about the benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets since the mid-90s.  And, again, despite the arguments for animal protein in our diets, the vegan diet passes some logic tests for me.  Our teeth aren’t carnivore teeth.  Our ancestors ate mostly, if not exclusively, plants.  Societies where most nourishment comes from plants have little to no incidence of our “Western” diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  I even remember from anthropology class that, when people first learned to hunt, the typical scenario was a group of men occasionally brought down a single animal that the whole village would then share.  That is, they’d occasionally feast, but the bulk of their diet was still plant-based.

As I’ve studied this over the years, I’ve made several attempts at adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.  It just always seemed so complicated.  I mean, aside from people treating you like you’re totally whackadoo, it’s just so much easier to eat what everyone else is eating – i.e., what they’re serving you, what’s most easily found in the grocery stores, what they’re serving at restaurants.

But, I’m working harder at it this time.  I’m not prepared to say that I am giving up meant and dairy.  But I am working hard toward finding enough simple foods and recipes that I enjoy so that I can eat a plant-based diet most days of the week.  Now, getting my family on board with eating more plants is going to be a whole other issue to tackle.  (Fortunately, my girls do very much like their fruits and veggies – in addition to some junky snacks!)

Anyway, I guess it’s good to have dreams even if you don’t plan to make all of them come true.

You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Just a short observation today.

I know I’m not the only one who has conversations – arguments, really – about whether or not to go for a run or complete a workout.  I’ve heard it from my friends.  I’ve seen it on blogs.  My little chats typically don’t have to do with getting the workout in, per se, but are about getting out of bed in the morning, as that’s when I do about 99% of my workouts.  The hardest part is getting my feet to the floor.  Once I’m UP, I’m THERE.

Most days, I’m simply telling myself that I have enough time for just one more ‘snooze,’ and I eventually get up.  Occasionally, however, I have a “GET UP!” / “SLEEP IN!” shout down going on in my head.  You’d think the noise level (yes, inside my head) would be enough to get me up, but sometimes the ‘sleep in’ babe wins out.

So I argued with myself this morning about getting up to make it to 5:45 class at the Aerobic Center, first about one more snooze, then about getting up at all.  My legs are sore from racing, so I was trying to convince myself that I real rest day was legit – totally legit!  I went back and forth with myself a few times before I finally talked myself into just getting the hell up.  I’ve learned that the sentence, “You’ll hate yourself later,” is the one thing that works for me about nine times out of ten.

I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve been “this” close to staying in bed when some wiser voice busts out, “You’ll hate yourself later.”  I would punch that voice, but I know that that would only hurt the both of us, never mind the fact that she’s totally right.  I do hate myself – my whole self – when the ‘sleep in’ half of me wins out.

Anyway, what hit me this morning is how I am really talking to myself like I’m two (or more?) different people.  People within me yet oddly outside myself.  It’s never, “I will hate myself later.”  It’s always, “You will hate yourself later.”

Why is that?  Who are these women in my head?  And isn’t it amazing that I just simply agree with her and get up instead of being all, “WHAT?  WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?  WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY BEDROOM AT 5:00AM!?”?  Which would also, I suppose, get me out of bed.

More importantly, though, how can I evict – once and for all – that witch who tries to sabotage me with the promise of more sleep?  Is she ever going to be driven out of my head for good?  Or do I have to deal with her forever?

I don’t know the answers, so I’m just going to thank my lucky stars that babe who’s aware that we WILL hate ourselves later clawed her way to the top of my consciousness, after years of lying dormant in there.

Try Not to Suck

Two years ago, I ran my first 5K with my friend Nina with the goal of ‘not walking.’  I had a mild injury at the time, so Nina was a HUGE help, somehow managing to simultaneously keep me focused and distracted.  Because of her, I still hear, “Think about your TOES.  Your toes are pushing you up this hill,” when I run up hill.  I finished the race, without walking, with a time of 35:44.

Nina & I, Pre-Race for the Cure, 2011

Nina & I, Pre-Race for the Cure, 2011

Last year’s goal for the same race was to finish in under 30 minutes. (My best 5K time at that point was 31:11 – on a much flatter course.)  Once again with Nina’s help, I managed to meet my goal, finishing in 29 minutes flat.  For one, I hadn’t yet purchased my Garmin, so I needed someone to keep track of the pace for me.  But aside from the pace itself, I don’t think I would have managed it without Nina saying reassuring things like, “You can wait to throw up until we’re done!”  (I didn’t throw up, despite feeling like it was inevitable.)

Pre-Race2012

Pre-Race2012

This year, I didn’t even decide to register until two days ago.  Since I’d been injured, and I didn’t even have my follow-up appointment with the doctor until three days before the race, I just figured I wouldn’t go this year.  But then I wanted to.

Between this race being the one for me that started it all and missing last week’s half marathon, I think I was just itching to be in a race environment.  I could have run 3.1 miles here at home, but I couldn’t have raced them.  I also wanted to race so that I could get an idea of where my fitness level actually is right now – so then I can figure out what I need to do to improve and to meet my race goals for later in the year.

Since I wasn’t expected to run, Nina registered with her family.  Her almost-seven-year-old daughter Mia decided that she wanted to run it with her parents this year.  (And she did!  Ran the whole time!)  So although I met up with Nina before and after the race, I didn’t get to run with my secret weapon this year.  So I needed a goal, but I was on my own this time.

Hastily taken pre-race pic, 2013

Hastily taken pre-race pic, 2013

My goal became try not to suck.

"I'm going to try not to suck!"

At the starting corral: “I’m going to try not to suck!”

I told myself that as long as I felt like I was doing my best, that if I really didn’t wimp out in any way, I’d be happy with myself.  I also told myself that I’d be okay with it if it took me longer than 30 minutes, but that if I finished in under 30 minutes, that would convince me I was in pretty good shape for rebounding from injury.  Here is the break down of my race:

Mile 1 / Split = 9:50
We went to the start at the last minute, plus Nina and Todd were pushing Mia’s little sister Sophia in the jogging stroller, which was more than a little bit tricky to navigate through the crowd.  Therefore, we weren’t lined up as close to the starting line as last year, giving me quite a few more people to run around.

The race starts uphill.  Between that and dodging people, I noticed that my Garmin pace at one point was 10:30+.  Also, I didn’t have the opportunity to run a real warm up, so my lungs felt on the verge of collapse like they do at the start of a run.  My thoughts:

  • I’ll never make it.  Must go faster or I’ll never make up this minute later.
  • We should be allowed to knock the walkers who started with the runners out of our way.
  • Ditto for runners who appear to be 20 years younger than me.

Mile 2 / Split = 9:54
Just after the one mile mark, I walked about 20 yards, trying to rub out a tightness in my left thigh.  A short while later, I actually stopped behind a water station to give that kink another rub.  At this point, I was thinking that if I was stopping for breaks already, I was doomed to have a lousy time.

I took one more, tiny walk break after that.  I think it was during this second mile.  There’s a point in the race where you’re running up hill and the course zigs a little to the left and then quickly zags back to the right.  Before the zigzag, you are running uphill toward the steeper hill you have to zag up. It looks far worse than it is, which is exactly why it’s the most hideous point on the route.  I walked a smidgen of that zig before ramping up again to get up that zag.  I wanted to get up that zag as quickly as possible.

I was upset that my splits were so close to ten minutes, yet somewhat surprised they weren’t more than ten minutes.

Mile 3 / Split 8:34
Yay for being warmed up!  Yay for running downhill!  Well, it’s not that the last mile is all down hill, but the steepest parts are pretty much behind at this point.  I knew I needed to try to make up some time.  Plus, by the time you only have a mile left, you are fairly certain that you’re not, in fact, going to die.  I managed to push it some.  There was a lot of very audible groaning, not to mention cursing during this leg of the race.

Last .1 / Pace = 7:52
It’s funny how I can feel like I’m going to die – or at least collapse – in the middle of a race and then manage to pick it up to get across the finish.  I see that line and I’m all Let’s get this over with.  I could see on my watch that I wasn’t going to best last year’s time of 29:00, but that I somehow wasn’t going to be ridiculously far off and just ran in as fast as I could.   Or as fast as I could without running over the stupidheads who cross the finish mat and come to a dead stop.  I clocked myself at 29:21. (My online chip time confirmed that as accurate later).

So I was 21 seconds slower than I was on the same course last year.  And that’s at least two minutes off my best 5K times.  BUT….

  • It was the first time I ran three consecutive miles in over a month. (I’m not counting my walk breaks because they were so short.)
  • I finished only 21 seconds slower in spite of short walks and stop!
  • I DID feel like I was working hard, but I also felt pretty strong the whole time.  I didn’t hit a point in the race where I wanted to just flat stop and be done with it, like I often do.  In other words, while trying not to suck, I found that the experience didn’t suck.
  • I managed to do that all by my own-self, without Nina or anyone else to push me and hold me accountable.

I’m very glad I decided to go to that race today.  It gave me a shot of confidence that I think that I needed – I got confirmation that I can still do this, that I didn’t lose that much fitness while I was injured.

I have two weeks before my next 5K.  I’m hoping that, also like last year, I will be able to run that one a little faster.