Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More than a Feeling

My running blah is not just a running blah, I've decided. Actually, it's more the effect of a seismic shift going on in my life. I am coming out of crazy hyper-focused marathon training automaton mode and into happy newlywed lady with a professional job and a running hobby mode. One of the things that I adore about running is that it provides me something to dive into and swim around in almost to the exclusion of everything else. I can fully immerse myself in it day after day after day. I can run a lot, and stretch a lot, and strengthen a lot, and read about running a lot, and think about running a lot, and talk about running a lot. That's not to say that an escape is what I was after with running, but rather what attracted me to it was that it was something I could do intensely. And with intensity comes that focus that excludes everything else.

While this is all great for a while, it is absolutely unsustainable over the long term for someone like me (i.e. a mediocre hobby runner with a full time job, a great husband to hang out with, and interests in other stuff too). But I struggle with balance. Truly I do. As much as I know this is where it's at in life, I have a hard time. My tendency toward intensity often causes me to get out of balance and throw all my eggs into one of my many baskets.

In the past when this has happened to me I knee-jerked and dumped all the eggs out of the heavy basket and quit whatever it was that was sucking up all my time and energy in a burned out fury (i.e.#2 "I will NEVER get another degree--I am DONE with school forever!!!!") But this time, my hope is to keep some eggs in the running basket as I replenish the other baskets too. I need to remember that I don't have to be an automoton to be a runner. I can be the happy newlywed lady with a professional job and a running hobby and I can even be a half-way decent hobby runner too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

RELAX*

Yes. This lady did not race on Thanksgiving. In fact, she didn't even run at all! My Wednesday run was horrible. I was huffing and puffing and achey running slower than 9:00 pace. After that I absolutely decided there would be no trot for me. This was a great decision because I got to stay in my fluffy warm bed and cuddle with mrp and my cat while we listened to the wind howl and watched the cold rain turn to sleety snow. I have never enjoyed not racing so much! Not an ounce of guilt, either!

Like mainers, though, I couldn't not do something knowing full well I'd be stuffing my belly with all kinds of good stuff later in the day. So before we headed to Grandma's house, I did a solid session of strengthening focusing on my quads, calves, abs, and arms. I am still sore 4 days later! But most of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the company of family. Oh and teaching a toddler how to do an ally-oop and a 4 year old what body language means. An added bonus of marriage, a new niece and nephew to call my own! Being an aunt is fun!

I did get out and run the rest of the extended weekend and in doing so I got a nice tour of my favorite parks. I did a hilly 12+ miler around my neighborhood, running up and up and up to Chapin Forest about 4 miles from our house and then around the trails taking in the beautiful view of Lake Erie (which is pretty from 18 miles away, I swear!) from the top of the glacial ridge. The beauty of this route is that after all that climbing up it's pretty much downhill for 5 miles all the way home.

On Saturday I did an easy hour in North Chagrin, which is wonderful in its own right, but admittedly I take it for granted a bit since it's the park that hosted just about every one of my midweek runs over the past two summers. Then yesterday I met two of my buddies at CVNP for another 12+ miler. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up, being as I've been so sluggish lately, but I managed to hang with them and chat away no problem. I think one of the best things that has come out of the past few months of training is finding good running buddies. It really makes a world of difference to not only have company on a run sometimes, but to have friends who can relate to your runner neuroses, ocd tendancies, type a-ness, and all that stuff.

It's kind of funny. Somehow, after taking an easy week, sleeping in, relaxing and enjoying myself, I manage to catch a cold. How I managed to get one now rather than two months ago when I was running so much and sleeping such an inadequate amount that I was regularly falling asleep at the dinner table is beyond me! Luckily it's just a touch of a sore throat and the mildest of sniffles, so it won't interfere with this week's relaxing too much, don't you worry!

*tm Mindi

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Not a Pilgrim, but Progress

Oh, it's Thanksgiving isn't it! I better be a little more positive around here and articulate some bit of thankfulness instead of all this whining, shouldn't I? Ok, then. I am thankful I have the leisure to run for fun. Heh. Back in the Pilgrims' time I doubt there was much running other than away from something mean!

But seriously, I am feeling much more at peace with my predicament. I know it probably does seem like I'm a huge whiner. Things, afterall, could be much worse than the mere blah faze I am experiencing. But I've accepted the blah and since then I've been feeling much better about running, mentally anyway.

But really, what else can I do but accept it? I can force my way through it and run myself into the ground as meghan warns. I can whine about it more. I can quit. Or I can just suck it up like a big girl. Fine, this does seem like the best alternative, doesn't it.

So yeah, I have accepted the fact that I am not going to be pulling any post-Chicago Bridgets anytime soon. And, while part of me is dying for a new pr to call my own, I'm cool with this state of things. I am supposed to run a 5 miler tomorrow, but honestly I am going to wait until the last minute to decide whether to enter and then whether to even bother racing it. I have almost been enjoying my easy runs this week and I don't want to rock the boat and risk hurting my body or worsening the blahs with a sub-par performance. At the same time, maybe it would be good for me to go race and have fun and just do the best my body and mind can do for me now. Afterall, I'm supposed to be accepting this down-time.

In any event, it's mrp's and my first holiday as a mr. and mrs. and it should be a nice cozy day spent with our families and lots of pie! I hope you all have a well-earned happy Thanksgiving too!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cover Crop

Something just isn't right. My mileage is way down and I've been virtually crawling on my easy runs yet I am feeling less recovered as the days go on, not more. I am not injured, but my legs just feel generally tight, especially in my hips, butt, and hamstrings. I am still struggling most days to run what should be recovery pace. Somehow I've managed to have a couple of semi-decent workouts. Not blazing fast, mind you, but 6 2:59-3:03 800's seemed pretty easy one day.

Yesterday, my team put on a time trial as prep for club nationals. I have been seriously considering backing out of the whole thing, but then I think it's less than three weeks away now. I can suck it up and make it three weeks. It is an opportunity I likely won't have again, after all. But I'll tell you, this mental state does not play out well when running a time trial. Heh. Basically, I maintained a pace just fast enough not to come in last. In fact, I was hoping my teammate behind me would surge and motivate me to do something out there. Instead, I cruised to finish with an overall pace of 6:50 or so. Normally, that would be a mediocre tempo effort or even goal marathon pace. What's up with me?!

Shall I answer that? I know. I know. As mrp says, running, like corn-growing, goes in cycles. I am the field and my running is the corn crop. After growing a pretty decent crop this past summer, my field is depleted. It's time to plant the cover crop and replenish my soil to grow an even better crop next season. Even though when I was running 90 miles a week I felt pretty good, running 90 miles a week broke me down. I had the excitement of the marathon to distract me for a while. Then after that, I had the excitement of the wedding to distract me for a while. Now, all of a sudden I am beat. Shocking, truly! I have never trained that way before or more generally beaten my body down like that before. The extent of recovery my body and mind are demanding is not something I'm used to and it makes me feel wussy, weak, and kind of depressed.

I feel like I should put an * here and say that this is isolated to running. I am still over the moon about the wedding and my job is actually intellectually stimulating right now. Woohoo! I suppose that's the point of all this and the reason I share. Running is just part of my greater life. It's an important part, but just a part. I can't give 100% to all parts all the time. It's just not possible. And even when other parts of my life are great running might not be all sunshine and rainbows. I am learning to cope with this down-cycle thing and learning to adjust to the idea that I don't have what I'd like to give to this part of my life right now. So, doing the best with what I have to give is just going to have to be good enough for a while.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Married Runner Needs a Break

So...

The wedding was amazing! Seriously, it was even better than we hoped and dreamed it would be. After everything was said and done we just stood there together in amazement of it all. *Sigh*

I will write more about it and I will post pictures when I have some. I promise! But for now, let's go back to the topic at hand. Running. I don't know if it's the weather, the change of focus in my life, or just plain malaise, but I am feeling so uninspired as a runner right now. I have no desire to run, really at all. It's cold and windy and wet and dark out there. The treadmill does nothing for me. My downtown running buds are tapering or recovering or just generally unavailable. My butt and hips hurt after hard runs so my easy days have really sucked.

Luckily, my hard days have all been pretty good actually, but I get none of the enjoyment I used to get on my easy days and I miss a nice liesurely jog during which I am not wincing every time the pace goes below 9:00/mile. The only thing that is keeping me going is club nationals. I know it's an opportunity I probably will not have again. So, I will push on and then I swear I am taking a break after that. I swear I will not run one step for at least 7 straight days after the race and then will only run when I feel like it for three straight weeks after that. A solid one month break from training is in the cards this winter.

I absolutely love running, don't get me wrong. But to really give it what I want to give it I need a break from it and to give more attention to the other things I love!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Race Among Sheep

I raced yesterday. I woke up with a bit of a hangover from my bachelorette party-lite and the clock radio said 8:05. I logged onto my computer to start working on the wedding playlists and the little clock in the right hand corner said 7:14. Hmm. What the heck!

One of the most fun races around is a 5 mile cross country race that takes place right up the road from our house. Last year I ran it and it was the first race I ever came in first place (runner of the female persuasion--still have yet to run a race and be first overall). It has to be the hardest course of any race ever. Seriously. The course is relentless in its messed up terrain and hill after hill after hill after hill... It just toasts the legs, but it's so challenging that it's insanely fun. It's also insanely fun because it's run on a giant farm. So we run past sheep and cows and crops and through horse barns. It's one of a kind!

Last year I went on and on about it and this year when I realized we still had time to sleep in and still make it, mrp and I went for it. I dug through my running clothes and found another team uniform top and some shorts that kind of matched (I still haven't washed the other uniform since the marathon--ew, I know!) We hopped in the car and sped off to the park to register and warm-up and stuff.

I saw two of my teammates right off the bat. One was absolutely certain to beat me. She's a machine. An animal. A frighteningly fast freak of nature. She seems very sweet when she's not running, but crap--watch out when she is! Yikes! It must be kind of annoying to be a really fast local runner because other runners must treat you very strangely, like you're some sort of untouchable when really you're just a person working hard and having fun. I can only speculate.

The other was the woman that always just beats me. Every time we run a race together we finish close, with her always a little ahead and me always a little behind. It annoys me. Not because I don't want her to succeed, but because sometimes I feel like I psyche myself out of running faster for fear of having to compete with someone else. Sure, I'd like to finish ahead of her, but that's more to break the cycle than anything else. Normally, I would have thought, "oh man, here we go again," but this time I didn't really mind. I was running this race for fun. Even I know that there's no way I was going to be at 100% two weeks after an even a subpar marathon, not mention slightly hung over to boot. So, I was just happy to have the competition and a benchmark to see where I am as far as recovery and post-marathon fitness.

After about 2.5 miles warm-up with mrp and countless trips to the bathroom to pee, we lined up. I got to chat with my running bud Daisy for a minute which helped me remember I was there to have fun. The downhill start also reminded me to have fun, although I probably shouldn't have had as much fun as I did since I think I took it out a little too hard again, oopsy! I went out ahead of the woman that always just beats me and even mrp. Mrp passed me at about the half mile point and I was second woman at the first mile in 6:28, which is blazing for the course, believe me.

The first mile has the most pavement and normal surface of any mile too. Shortly after the mile marker the woman that always just beats me passed me. I stayed right behind her for a while. I'd catch up, she'd pull away a bit. My second mile was 6:54. Mile 3 is a bitch. There's no other way to describe it. I think the whole thing is uphill on the most gnarly bumpy soft grass terrain and the most sharp turns you can imagine. To illustrate, my mile 3 split was 7:40--yikes! After mile 3 there are a couple of trail and pavement breaks from the rough grassy surface, but it's still insanely hilly and they are short little breaks before we get thrown back on the grass. It's hard to pick the pace back up and take advantage of these smooth sections because your legs just are so happy for the break! Somewhere in mile four the woman who always beats me pulled away a bit. My mile 4 split was 7:19.

The last mile has quite a few paved sections. It's probably about 1/2 and 1/2 paved and that crazy grass. I worked really hard and focused to push those paved sections. I knew a sub 7:00 pace was going to be close so I hauled ass. The finish of course is up a 1/4 mile long hill--thanks race director! I flew into the shoot with a final mile of 6:44 and an overall time of 35:06 and an overwhelming urge to puke--thanks bachelorette party! The woman who always beat me came in about 20 seconds ahead. I am actually happy that my worn-out legs and my dehydrated everything else was able to keep it that close. It's kind of cool though. My other teammate came in either 1st or 3rd overall with a sub 31! That's so insane on that course. So, my team came in 1,2,3. I was almost 3 minutes ahead of 4th place too! Oh, and mrp was third dude, so we have matching plastic trophies. Awww.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Screw Band Aids

There's something about myself that I don't really like to talk about a lot. Some of you who have scoured the outer-recesses of my blog may have noticed a different tone to some of the earlier posts, so this will explain it to some extent. Anyway, enough wind-up. My dad died when I was 11. He committed suicide and it's always been one of those things that I don't want to talk about, not because I can't handle it, but because it seems other people can't and I hate the looks they give me and the feeling like I dropped a 9billion pound bomb in the room. Yeah, that's mostly in my head, but it does make people uncomfortable and I generally like to avoid being around uncomfortableness.

The reason I am telling you this is because I see a therapist about once a month to discuss my dad. Seeing therapists was not on the radar screen of my blue collar family in the 80's. Basically, they didn't know what the hell to do with me and my sister, so they pretended it never happened. So, I never really knew how to grieve for my dad and I can tell you that not grieving is not good. (When you lose something or someone you love, let yourself feel and go with it! Don't fight it.) But now 20+ years later, I see a therapist to teach me how to do that. It's counterintuitive, but with the wedding the timing couldn't be better. There are so many father/daughter roles in the script for the average wedding that the absence is more or less thrust upon me every five minutes. So, it forces me to deal with it honestly and openly and really feel and accept the absence. I wanted to give you the background so when I told you about my therapist you wouldn't think I was all soft and unable to cope, not that I think people who see therapists are soft and unable to cope necessarily. Plus, it's just part of who I am as a person generally and even shapes who I am as a runner.

Anyway, last night mrp and I were driving home from work and we started discussing running. We actually haven't talked about it all that much in the last few days, if you can believe it. Sometimes he just humors me as I prattle on about this or that thought I have about running (kind of like you guys :) and sometimes we actually get into a great conversation that results in some or another new meaningful insight about running and life (again, similar to our little blogosphere). Last night I was telling him about this notion of cheating the marathon running learning curve and he generally agreed with the idea. He added to the fray, "the one thing marathoning experience can teach us is what our weaknesses are as runners. Weaknesses are so particular to each of us that no amount of advice can reveal them. We need to discover them in our own experiences and then learn to work with them, fix them, etc."

So, this naturally led me to ask the question, "what do you think my weaknesses as a marathoner?"

Mrp thought for a minute and he said, "well stitches, obviously." "But more importantly, I think you are afraid to experience pain," he said.

"Hmm. I am? I guess I am. Interesting."

Later that night I had my October therapist appointment. We were discussing how I was feeling about walking down the aisle alone. I feel very strongly that for our wedding ceremony that where the script calls for a dad, I must leave a hole because that is the truth and I accept that and it's me. At the same time, I am afraid of getting to the wedding and being sad. I explained this all to my therapist and she said, "you know, when I first met you last year you seemed like someone who was afraid to experience pain. It was as if you thought that if you experienced pain you would never come out of it, like it was some sort of abyss that you would get lost in." Ding!Ding!Ding! Holy crap. It all makes sense.

My fear of experiencing pain is a weakness as a person and not just as a runner. It keeps me from completely committing to a race sometimes. It keeps me from being completely honest with myself sometimes. As I work and face the loss of my dad it's hard and I feel sad for a while but then the funniest thing happens. I start to feel much happier the rest of the time. When I ran the marathon a couple of weeks ago my goal was to feel pain at the end and to keep pushing through and I was so upset when that didn't happen because of the stitch. I wanted to face the pain and overcome it in running just like I'm doing in life. I wasn't aware at the time of the significance that this was overcoming a weakness and improving myself, but now that I am aware I am even more determined to get out there and attempt that confrontation in every race.

Pain is part of running. It's part of life. Overcoming it is what makes both things great.