Sunday, February 22, 2009

10 mile run, DONE

It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment. **Marcus Tullius Cicero**

I almost didn’t do my 10 mile long run. This week has been crazy and I haven’t been feeling well. I realized Friday morning that I had forgotten to give myself my Humira shot on Tuesday, so I was three days late with my medication, which explained why I didn’t feel good. I have also been having stomach issues from the very strong anti-inflammatories I take. Consequently, I haven’t been able to take them for over a week, and it has lead to some RA flaring, but mostly in my shoulders and wrists. I considered waiting to run until Sunday to give the Humira another day to kick in, but the forecast for Sunday was rain and with vacation coming up, I didn’t need to make myself sick to boot. On Friday I talked to my fast-fading running partner. She has strep throat and is on antibiotics, so no running this weekend, but she promises she will be back in the gym and catching up to me while I’m out of town.
I took my run really slow, keeping my heart rate below 65%. I figured if I wasn’t really up to running, my heart rate would let me know. It was definitely not my best run. I felt like lead the first 3 miles, then once I was warmed up, I felt like warm lead. To say I hurt all over would be a bit dramatic, I wasn’t in pain like an injury coming on, but every muscle in my body was rebelling. I felt too tired to run, but my heart rate was low and stayed low so I knew it was all in my head. By 7.5 miles I felt like I mentally couldn’t take another step, it just wasn’t in me, but for some reason I kept going. By this time I was pretty much numb, really fighting with my head to keep going. The street seemed to go on forever, each curve in the road seeming unfamiliar, like I had 100 miles more to get home. At 8 miles I finished off the last sip of my water and wished I had brought more. Apparently I hadn’t hydrated as well as I thought and I was still 2 miles from home. Fortunately, the Cliff Shot I brought had taken care of my rumbling tummy at the 5 mile mark, so I wasn’t hungry anymore, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth that lasted the rest of the run (so much for Mango flavor). By 9 miles my shoulders were killing me. Normally I have pretty pathetic posture. I slouch and don’t stand up straight, but when I run I hold my shoulders back and pump my arms front to back. I thought I was relaxing my shoulders enough, but apparently I was tensing them harder than I thought. I did some shoulder rolls and arm circles, which helped a little, and probably looked pretty odd to passing cars, and then just gave up and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
The last mile was the toughest I’ve ever run. My heart rate was still 65%, my pace was the same plodding 13.5 mpm, but each step seemed to take an eternity. I tried not to watch my Garmin too closely, telling myself not to look until the next mail box, corner, car, whatever land mark seemed far enough away to make me wait a bit longer. I gave up on that too and it is a wonder I didn’t fall flat on my face as I watched my Garmin make its slow count down, 9.97…9.98…9.99….10 miles!!!!! When I stopped running, my legs felt like jelly, but I kept walking around in front of my house to let my heart rate come down slowly. I actually think I could have kept going. I had felt the same for the last 7 miles; a few more probably wouldn’t have been much different. When I got inside, I left a trail of stripped-off accessories, gloves, hat, MP3, empty bottle, all the way to the kitchen where I immediately drank 3 tall glasses of water and a short glass of orange juice.
I did my stretches, still peeling off layers of clothing, and took off my shoes before padding to the kitchen to eat the best tasting bowl of Grape Nuts ever. I felt kind of strange. I was tired, but I’ve been much more exhausted after tempo runs or intervals. I wasn’t sore, but I kind of tingled all over like I had been electrified by the run.
I should have been asleep before my head hit the pillow, but although my body was spent, my mind was running 100 miles an hour. After finally falling asleep some time past midnight, I woke up feeling tired, but not sore or any the worse for wear. I hadn’t over done it, hurt myself, pushed too hard, or overstepped my physical bounds.
I simply did what I never really thought I would, and I think that was the problem. I seem to be a master of mental self-sabotage and I think it was just the idea of running 10 miles that nearly beat me. Doubt was whispering in my ear, buzzing like a droning mosquito in the repressive heat of summer that you can’t find to kill, and you can’t ignore. I really don’t know how I got past it; maybe I’m just bull headed, but I kept running. Not fast, but I ran, and ran, and ran, and now I’ve banished the mosquito for the moment and set my mental bar to a new height. Next challenge: The Nolan Trail X 2.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It is the Journey

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end." Ursula K. LeGuin

Of all the runs I’ve done so far, I think this was the hardest to get out the door for. I really, really didn’t want to run today. I had a wicked stomachache from stress over a decision I need to make and my running buddy, Amy, is still sick. She called and croaked an apology to me this morning. Fortunately, it was a pretty nice day. Temps were around 50 with a cloud cover and only a slight breeze, so I had no real excuse not to go and I knew the run would do a lot of good towards the stress.
I decided to run from the house instead of driving to the base to run alone. At least from home I could take the dog with me for the first 5 mile loop and then drop her off to finish. Granted, this meant I would be tempted to end my run early, but I decided to chance it and go. The first 5 miles went well. At the turn around, we paused for a moment to let Lucy play in the water. She is a big chicken and startles at the ripples as they roll up the sand, but she is getting more brave with each visit and is up to slapping the froth with her paws as the ripples collapse in miniature waves around her toes. I wonder if, by summer, she will be ready to plunge in with glee, getting in touch with her water retriever roots.
We stopped twice on the return trip to visit with neighbors, pausing my Garmin so I could keep track of my running pace, and made it back to the house in just over an hour. I had 4 miles left to go, so I made a pit stop, grabbed a Power-gel and some water, and headed back out. Running without the dog is definitely less complicated; I get to focus more on myself and don’t have to worry about tripping on her or reminding her not to pull on the leash. I started thinking that I really could do 10 miles, and spent a few minutes on one of those internal dialogues where good sense battles with ego about whether to do what is smart, or what would be fun to brag about. Fortunately, smart won out and I turned around at the appropriate place. I was glad for it as I started into mile #8.
We really need a good word for the feeling one gets in a joint or muscle that tells you it is working hard, and pushing its limits, but has not yet crossed the line into uncomfortable. That is how my knees were feeling. They didn’t hurt, but I knew they were nearing the end of their tolerance for the day. I frequently get these little twinges. It captures my focus for a while and makes me wary, but so far I have never crossed the line and pushed anything into painful. Often, the sensation goes away and I don’t think about it again. This was another one of those times. As I came into my last mile, on the final stretch home, all the twinges went away and I settled into a comfortable gait. I definitely could have run one more mile, but since home was where it should be, at the end of a 9 mile run, I stopped and cooled down.
Next week I will conquer the 10 mile beast.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Hard Work You Do...

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. **Newt Gingrich**

I didn’t feel much like running this weekend. I had taken a three day break early in the week so I had only run once for 5 miles, but it was a fall back week so I wasn’t too worried. This weekend was scheduled for a 10K, according to Mr. Higdon, but lacking a real 10Kin the area, we decided to just do a 6 mile run. Saturday was Amy’s daughter’s birthday so we spent the afternoon at the skating rink and put our run off until Sunday. Unfortunately, by Sunday afternoon, Amy was miserably sick with the same crud her kids had had all week so I was left to run on my own. I had planned to hit my favorite trail, but it was already so late in the day that I knew it would be packed with walkers and I didn’t’ feel like driving an hour round trip so I just ran around my neighborhood.
We have amazing weather this week and it was in the 70’s when I ran yesterday. I carried water, which I don’t usually do when I’m only running for about an hour, but I knew I wasn’t going to be prepared for the heat so I took water with me and left the puppy home. I passed many smiling faces on foot and on bikes, working in yards, and playing in the open fields. The classic cars that people have been tinkering with all winter in the garage were cruising the streets, warming up the engines, and keeping all the parts moving. This seems to be something that only happens in places that have a real winter. Where I grew up, you could cruise in classics year round, but when we moved to Wisconsin, it was very obvious when the first nice weekend day hit and every classic car for 100 miles was tooling around town.
My run was pretty uneventful until the last mile when I sucked a bug into my mouth. I’m sure it looked like quite the funny dance, if anyone saw me. I was sputtering, spitting, and gagging, with whatever it was hanging onto my tongue for dear life. I finally managed to spit it out, never seeing what it was ( not really wanting to know), and finished my 6 mile run with a 12 mpm pace, despite a few short walking breaks. I’m using my virtual partner on my Garmin a lot more and tend to run a little faster than my set pace, and then allow myself to walk until he catches up after each mile. This week I need to stick to my schedule, be consistent about my stretches, and start back into my ab work whether or not it irritates my abdomen. My back has hit the limit of what distances it will put up with unless I improve my stomach muscles and since an over tired back hurts, and a slightly swollen tummy does not, the back wins.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Some Fires We Choose

You choose to go voluntarily into the fire. The blaze might well destroy you. But if you survive, every blow of the hammer will serve to shape your being. Every drop of water wrung from you will temper and strengthen your soul. **Margaret Weis**

We completed week 8 of training with an 8 mile run, Woo-Hoo!! 8 Miles is the absolute farthest I've ever run so I am officially past where I left off in 2007! Even better, I felt less spent at the end of yesterday's run than I did at the end of my longest run in 2007.
My running buddy is named Amy (she knows she is in my blogs so I'll go ahead and use her name, Hi Amy!!) Amy has been working very hard to get in shape and her co-worker, a Para-rescue Jumper guy (I'll call him PJ for now) has been acting as her personal trainer. Amy invited PJ to run with us, but did warn him that we run really slowly and girl chat the whole time. I'm pretty sure he didn't take her warnings seriously enough and probably won't run with us again, poor guy. We ran so slow that he was in pain so he walked most of the time and easily kept our pace with his mile long legs. Although I'm not sure what was more painful to him, the slow pace or the time when our conversation deteriorated into stories of giving birth.
The run itself went very well. We decided to keep at least a 13 minute per mile pace, and not let things slide to the 14 mpm pace of last week, and actually came in closer to a 12.5. Unfortunately, we took off too fast following PJ's lead and I kept looking at my Garmin, which was saying things like 10 mpm, 10.5 mpm, thinking, "I'm going to die at this pace before we even get to the jogging trail!" We finally convinced PJ to slow down and continued at our snail pace. I had mapped out an 8.5 mile route on base, not realizing it would take us on and off the NASA base, which is all inside the same fence as Langley. As we wandered around the base, we passed horses, and a nature walk that none of us had ever known about, and eventually came to a car gate with a big red stop sign on it. I leaned over the gate to look at the sign on the other side and it read "KEEP OUT, DO NOT ENTER" since we were already on the wrong side of it, we figured what the heck and ducked under it. That was when we crossed onto the NASA research center property. It was a ghost town which made it perfect for running. The only cars we saw were the security cops roaming around and probably wondering what the heck we were doing. I'm pretty sure they were talking about us on their radios because each time we turned down another street there was a cop watching us. I guess they didn't think we were a real threat or they would have asked to see out I.D. cards, but I'm pretty sure they were happier after we passed the security gate back onto the Air Force base.
Shortly after our foray into NASA space, we hit the one hour mark and I broke out the power gels. Amy turned hers down, I think because she was feeling guilty about the doughnuts she at the day before, so I ate mine and pulled out my water bottle. In the process of washing down the last of the gel, I managed to inhale some water and went into a coughing fit that just about ended the run for me. Probably the only thing that kept me going was that I would have had to sit there, freezing, for almost an hour while they ran back to the cars and drove over to pick me up, by then I would have died of hypothermia so I figured I was better off to keep running. Needless to say I had a stitch the rest of the run and my ribs are still sore today.
Around mile 6, I was really beginning to question my ability to finish the run. My side hurt from coughing, my hips were complaining, and another 25 minutes of running seemed like an eternity. I started thinking that training for a marathon didn't sounds like so much fun since training for the HM was quickly losing its charm as it was. I kept going though. Amy got into some kind of Zen zone and left me behind as the focused on some spot on the horizon. PJ, finally able to run at a reasonable speed, caught up to her to tell her to reign it in before she hit a wall, figuratively and literally.
By the last half mile I was actually feeling really good. The boost from the power gel really hit the spot so I wasn't feeling so spent and I could see the end of the run. Amy was now beyond Zen. Her expression was blank, her face was pink, and she wasn't slowing down for anything. She had fallen behind me a bit so I slowed to let her catch up. With about 100 yards left, PJ was standing at the finish line (he had left us in his dust a while back) with his hands out to be tagged. Amy caught up to me and said those famous last words, "Race ya' to the finish!" I took off in a wild sprint that lasted about 10 seconds and then slowed down until I saw her shadow creeping up next to me and then did it again to the finish line. Amy mumbled something about me being cocky and I hollered back something about the power of Gel and we giggled as we tumbled past PJ, who I'm sure was really glad it was all over. As we walked our cool down back to the cars, I realized I had pushed a bit too hard. My knee was tender, a problem I haven't had before. It wasn't bad enough to cause a limp and the pain is gone today, but it was a good warning about doing silly things like racing at the end of a long/slow distance run.
I was wonderfully exhausted at bed time and not in as much pain as I deserved to be. My shoulders were sore because I kicked up my RA carrying 30 lb. dumbbells that I got my husband for his birthday this week, but the joints that take the pounding running felt good. I read an article this week in the new issue of Runner's World about a New York City fire fighter who ran the NYC Marathon after being torn up in a horrible accident. He has suffered so much, been so badly damaged, and been so depressed, that the feat of even walking makes what I battle seem trivial, and yet he hasn't quit and has choosen to face a marathon. So many people find strength in running. People that would otherwise be completely overwhelmed by their problems find the answers in miles spent on the road. Against the odds and against what often seems like common sense, they choose to enter a race and train; they chose to enter the fire. Running has saved me from RA, RA has saved me from myself. I too have chosen to enter the fire.

2009 running miles: 65