Thursday, February 17, 2011

"The Joy that is Running"

Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.
Kara Goucher, American long-distance runner
I felt the joy Sunday at the Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, LA.  When I sat down to write about running the race "by feel", and saw this quote, I couldn't help but smile.

I was very nervous, as usual, before the race on Sunday.  I hadn't trained like I should have.  Seriously.  It seems everyone says that, but I had only done one 10 mile run, and that was over a month ago.  My weekly running miles have not been more than 20 (and usually more like 15), other than maybe two weeks, for the last several months.  Yes, I have been swimming, and have been on the bike a few times, but that is not the same as running miles.

When I planned out my training calendar, I set reasonable weekly mileage goals and planned out my workouts, but it seems I don't really adhere to a plan very well.  I had also set A, B and C goals.  (A-sub 2:15, B-2:20, C-2:30)  When Sunday morning rolled around I had decided, given my lack of sticking to my training schedule, I would also toss out the goals just to be fair to myself.  I decided to simply run by feel, make it an enjoyable experience, and see where that got me (even if that meant not finishing the race, or walking).

I pretty much stuck to that plan, if you can call not having a set plan "a plan".  Other than not having my usual running buddies with me, I have to say that was one of the most enjoyable runs of my life!!  I ran for a solid TWO HOURS AND NINETEEN MINUTES at a remarkably steady pace (until the last mile which I sped up a good 30 seconds!).   Every time I started to think about the run (What time will I finish? Can I speed up?  Do I need a Gu?  Is that a pain?  Will I be hurt tomorrow?) I made a decision to just keep running and stop thinking (except when it came to Gu--I made sure to take in fuel and drink water).

As the quote said, I felt my race run (I was NOT "racing").  It was a struggle because my mind has a hard time being quiet.  (If my husband is reading, he is now seriously laughing out loud.)


As I write this, I'm sitting in Starbucks watching a mother and her small son.  From the moment they walked in, he has been talking non-stop.  Excited, exuberant, demanding...loud.  She tried giving him something to eat; that didn't quiet him.  She tried giving him something to look at ("look at those big machines out the window"); that didn't work.  She tried distracting him with toys; that didn't work.  As I was writing, and blocking out the noise (albeit cute noise), I didn't even realize it had stopped.  She gave him her iPod and earphones.  Given the way he is intently looking at the screen, it's some kind of video.  She has relaxed and is reading her kindle, sipping her coffee.

...until five minutes have passed and we all hear, "MAKE IT TALK AGAIN MOMMA!!!"

The place is full of noise and activity and music and conversation.  The boy isn't bothering anyone and is incredibly cute, but he is keeping Momma from reading and sipping.  She calmly tells him it's time to go.  ((Not in an exasperated way, not in an annoyed way...just in a matter of fact way, as if she were planning to leave at this time all along... although I have the feeling if he'd continued to have been occupied, she'd have sipped and read much longer.))

She puts the earphone and iPod away.  She tosses the uneaten portion of his muffin in the bag and sweeps up the million fallen crumbs.  She wipes up the spilled milk.  She packs up the toys and leads him out the door...both of them smiling from ear to ear, holding hands.

That is a perfect illustration for my run on Sunday...I spent more time quieting the child that is my mind than I did reading and sipping my coffee.  But we both (my mind and my body) ended the run smiling and happy and knowing completely "the joy that is running".

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon....I should have a full recap written soon!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The "Action" of MIA

I can't believe I haven't posted on this blog in over a week.  I think that's the longest I've gone since I started it a year ago.  The thing is...I have been "in action", just not writing about it here!

Tri training is much harder than I expected it to be....either that or the fact my thyroid is shutting down really is causing me to be exhausted.  You know, I'm going to go with the later.  I've had a prescription for Synthroid for quite a while (I won't admit how long)...and I will get it filled as soon as I get back from...

I'm really pumped about this trip.  It's not so much the race, although I am looking forward to it, it's the fact that I'm going on a trip with my family (and a friend my daughter is bringing along) a city I LOVE.  (That's a whole other post-the race/trip.)

The main activity that has been consuming me lately is something I haven't talked about on here yet at all....

Hear Ye, Hear Ye.....Stop the presses....Now hear this.....

I'm on a Hood to Coast team!!!!!!  If you don't know about this's a 197 mile relay race that runs from Mt. Hood to Seaside Oregon.  It's divided up into 36 legs; the typical team is 12 people (elite teams have 6 members because they run so fast they needed more time to get to exchange points).  Our race isn't until August 2012.  (The race is so big, they have registration a year in advance and it's open for one day only.)  My team, The Dixie Daredevils, is raising money for the American Cancer Society in order to gain entry into the race.  We have to raise $15K by August 26th of this year in order to be entered. 

I'll be writing more about the race, the team, and our efforts during the next 18 months but for now, please pop over to our team blog Journey to the Hood to read more about my team mates and who we are running for.  While you're there, just go ahead and click on the "FOLLOW" button to keep up with our progress as we fund-race to the coast.  We (meaning I) don't have a "donate now" button set up yet on that site, but if you'd like to make a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation to the American Cancer Society, and get us closer to our fund-racing goal, please click on the link HERE and then again on the "DONATE" box on the right hand side of the screen, just under the Uncle Sam.  Every dollar helps fight this terrible disease.  (If you'd like to be a virtual "Dixie Daredevil", click on the Uncle Sam and join us in our fund-raising goal**.)

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Well...Hello There Gastroc

"I'll get you my and my little trapezius and gastroc friends!"  ((Yes, I know that's not a good take off of the quote...but it fit what I wanted to say better so I just went with it!))

Ever since I started swimming I've had some new day-after aches.  Today I have some especially loud muscles (deltoids, trapezius, and surprisingly enough my calf muscles).

I get why my deltoids, and even my trapezius, are sore-look at the picture above and you will too if it's not immediately apparent.  Yesterday I worked my arms harder than usual as I focused on PULLING my body through the water.  Let me just say that would be a lot easier if there were something more substantial than water to grab on to!  ((If you aren't a swimmer that might not make sense, but I learned yesterday how inefficient kicking really is and the secret to a strong swim is to put your hand in the water and PULL your body up to your hand, and then push it past your hand.  It's the same sort of motion you use when you put your hands on the side of the pool and pull your body up out of the water.))

The muscles that have given me the most fits are my calf muscles.  They have been particularly tired every day I swim, and then particularly sore the next day.  I just couldn't figure it out.  I watched a cool youtube video this morning as I was preparing this post that said the calf muscles are used as support (as opposed to primary) muscles.  But, let me just say the fatigue I'm having is telling me those puppies are pulling a little more weight than they should.  I couldn't figure out why until I started really thinking through how each muscle is being used.

Then it hit me.  Duh!  HELLO!!

I push off from the wall every. Single. Time.  Not "just" a flip turn (I don't know how to do that yet), but a strong, propel-me-as-far-as-I-can-go-so-I-can-use-my-arms-less kind of power push off.  I think the other factor is using the fins.  I LOVE using the fins.  They are my swimming bestie (maybe even more than my goggles!).  However, I think they cause my legs to "interact" with the water in a different way and force me to use my lower leg and ankle a bit more than I would without them.  (But the pay off of FLYING through the water is worth it!)

I had heard swimming is a total body work out...and after watching this video (the same one linked above), I believe it.  ((Yes, it took watching the video--NOT the aches and pains I've been fighting off like flying monkeys--to make me a believer.))  (Be sure to pause the music player before you press play on the video.)

Thanks for stopping in. Come again soon!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

Everyone loves their own sport.

I had heard some negative things about bikers and swimmers, mainly they are both hard "cliques" to break into.  However, I have found that to be incorrect. I think it's a matter of logistics. Think about it, when we run, we run together, side by side (well, if you run in a group). Swimmers might swim in the pool together, but it's not like you can really talk as you swim laps. That is a sport best suited for those people who are happy in their own world, because if you spend much time in the pool at all (unless you have a really great waterproof MP3 player), you are very alone with your thoughts. Like it or not.

Having said all that...everyone I've met while swimming has been just as friendly as all my running buds.  The guy who sits at the front "desk" of the pool who checks my pool pass always greets me with a smile and makes a point to bid me a cheery "have a great day" farewell as I'm leaving.  Any time I walk past the life guard (almost every time I'm at open swim), he/she smiles and asks how I'm doing. (I think they are probably just laughing at my less than fashionable swim shorts, but that's beside the point!)  Since I started swimming with the Master Swimmers (more on this in a bit), I've met two ladies in the locker room who were unbelievably kind in welcoming me to the sport they love. They made a point to introduce themselves and told me if I ever needed anything to let them know. (I don't think they can teach me how to be as comfortable in my own skin as they both obviously are, but maybe the act of sharing pool water with them will create some osmotic effect!!)

Biking is much better suited to friendly conversation (compared to swimming) as far as I've been able to tell....however, it's still more difficult than running (to chat that is). I have to qualify my comments because I've only been on one group ride so far. The only problem was that out of 10 or so people riding together, there were only a few of us with road bikes. The ones riding mountain bikes and Schwinns, and even the ones on road bikes equipped with platform pedals just didn't stand a chance to keep up with those of us who were clipped in.   It's not so much about fitness level as it is about equipment.  (Well, fitness level might have a little to do with how fast one can go, but I trust you know what I mean.)  So...on my "group ride" I spent a good bit of time alone.  ((This wasn't really a group ride for me, but training, otherwise I'd have slowed down to a more comfortable speed as opposed to pushing it.))

Having said all that, I have met several "bikers" who have graciously welcomed me to their sport of choice.  Although none of them have suggested we go on a ride together (probably because they are well aware I'm not up to the miles, or the speed, just yet) they have all been more than willing to share their opinions on everything from the best gruppos to shoes and even sometimes which finger to use to wave hello to the nice drivers who honk fond greetings as they whiz past.  (I choose to keep both hands, and all fingers, on the handle bars...but that's just me.)  While runners all have their favorite shoes, bikes and their components seem as personal to the user as a favorite meatloaf recipe. Sure, there are some widely recognized "favorites", but as soon as you think you know what the best of the best is, you'll find someone who has their own twist ("I use Dura Ace crankset, but prefer the Ultegra cassette..." much like "I use Ritz crackers in my meatloaf for that extra buttery flavor"...  My question is, could the average person really tell the difference??)

If you tell a biker they are crazy for spending $400 on pedals just to lose 8 measly grams of weight, you might not get a very good response. If you ask a swimmer how on earth they manage to spend hours in the water with nothing but their own thoughts to keep them going, you might not spark the warmest of conversations. What I've found, just like everything else in life....if you knock on a person's door with good intentions, he/she will generally roll out the welcome mat and invite you in.  I have been welcomed into the worlds of biking and swimming with all the enthusiasm I experienced from the running community.  I think I just might stay a while!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon.