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I will be crossing off an unexpected item from my 36×36 list this week: do something that scares me.  As a last ditch fundraising effort (any overages will go to a teammate who is struggling), I have instituted what I feel should be an annual event: happy hour – the double dog dare you edition.

This Friday, you will find me at Engine No. 9 taking on numerous dares to fulfill my fundraising obligation & hopefully helping out another teammate reach her goal.  I can only imagine the things I will have to do for a good cause, with an option to turn down a dare if the money is not right.  The strangers I’ll have to talk to, the beer I may have to chug (am not a beer drinker nor have I ever chugged a beer), the songs I may have to sing, the spectacle I will make of myself.

So, I’m going to double dip and declare this happy hour event as “something that scares me.”  I have no problem making a fool of myself but I usually like to reserve that for storytelling and not having witnesses to any & all fumbling & bumbling that may occur.  I’ve already been told photos &/or video are required.  No end to the potential embarrassment.

So… if you’d like to get in on the fun, you can join us OR you may come up with your own dares to send my way with your donation amount and I will complete them.  Photo or video as proof.

Anything for a good cause, right?

Coming into September, my longest run had been eight miles.  My longest training runs were on the horizon and with a few weeks to taper, my half marathon was looming in the near future.  A few weeks ago, I pushed myself for 9.5 miles (walking the last mile) and walked away with a very sore left quad.

The doubts started to creep in.  If I couldn’t finish 9.5 miles, how was I ever going to make it to 13.1?  Three weeks between that run and the start of my taper where my miles would decrease significantly for three weeks until the big day.  Add in my 10k performance, I was doomed.

My goal Saturday was to make it through 11 miles.  At the very least, I could walk the last two miles come race day.  I considered running on my own across the Narrows Bridge to Point Defiance skipping my team’s practice; it would be much better to be on my own if I failed.

Instead, I headed to Orting early (one of my favorite running trails) to meet up with my coach.  My mind was ready to tackle this demon: started the first two miles running with my pal, CS, who turned back to catch the mission moment and then I was on my own for the next three miles.  Even though it was overcast, foggy and a bit muggy, it was perfect weather for a run.

mile 3.5

My left hamstring was tight (thanks to yoga) but instead of stopping, I decided to breathe through it (also thanks to yoga).  At mile 5, my coach came running towards me, ran the last .5 miles to the water stop and then turned around.  No choice but to make it the 5.5 miles back to my starting point.   Granted, running with someone can change your pace, running the next 1.5 miles with him, my average pace per mile was 13 minutes.  Passed by my cheering teammates and was on my own again.  I don’t have words to describe what its like to run surrounded by trees, bullfrogs, birds.  I am not sure there is ever a moment where I’m more present (even if my mind wanders).

mile 7.5

With only 3 miles to go, my resolve was starting to falter.  I would have made it back but I may have walked a portion of the those miles, if CS didn’t find me.  She ran with me, kept me distracted with stories and bolstered my determination.  Those last few miles, I felt incredibly slow but happy to report, my time was 3 minutes faster for my second 5.5 miles.

And there I was, standing at the corner of bomb-diggity & hell yah.  I completed the full 11 miles, stopping only for gatorade and two pictures.  I ran 11 miles.  It is still a bit unbelievable but I feel much more prepared for the half marathon in 20 days.  Twenty days: the culmination of all this training; the victory lap for the past five months of hard work and determination.

As I was running with my coach, my mind returned to the very first practice at Point Defiance where I could not run three miles without stopping to walk.  How my coach found me WALKING and gave me the science behind my fatigue (something about not getting enough oxygen in my blood).  And five months later, here I am, ready to take on the half marathon.

The You Go Girl 10k was my first race in over two months.  I had a big case of pre-race jitters on Saturday; it had been too long since I wore a race number.  (Note: do not wait 2.5 months between races.)

Race Eve
A burger for lunch left me a bit nauseous for the remainder of Saturday.  So…basically, I didn’t eat for the 18 hours prior to the race (minus the Larabar I ate for pre-race fuel).   Sometimes, I am more the clutzy girl who does everything wrong on race day.  In addition, I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep until after 3.  When my alarm went off a few hours later, I only wanted to hit the snooze button.

Race
Six point two miles.  The distance to cover before I could reach the promise land aka the finish line.  First two miles were a bit rough.  Mostly due to the over-thinking organ between my ears.  Mile three was more of the same, add some uphill griping.  It didn’t turn around until I started running around Wright Park.  Mile four into five was mostly downhill and my pace naturally picked up and the idea of reaching the finish line quickly was the only thought in my head.  Mile six was the longest mile in my life but finally met the turn of the home stretch and ran across the finish line.

I am fond of the round the corner into the finish line set-up.  Not fond of not being able to see the big bubble finish line in the distance (totally discouraging when you just want to stop & you think you have to go up some big hill to find the finish line).  But, the downhill curve to the finish line is pretty cool.

Post Race
All I wanted after the race was a sausage mcmuffin & a nap; of which I received neither.  C’est la vie.

Race Take-aways
I feel a bit bad about my post race attitude: I was not happy with my performance.  I can be impossibly hard on myself and when I don’t perform to my standard, I may be a bit like Debbie Downer.  Yes, I crossed the finish line.  But I didn’t meet my stretch goal or my race goal; both disappointing.  Not so much that I didn’t meet the goals but the effort I put forth wasn’t a valiant one.  In my mind alone.

A few weeks ago, someone was complaining about not meeting their race goals and I told her “but you crossed the finish line.  You accomplished this major feat.”  Taking my own advice is a bitter pill to swallow.

Although I was unhappy with my performance, the race was worthwhile.  For nothing else, I have to work on my mental game before San Francisco.  I love running on my own or with a small group; feeling like caged cattle is not my idea of fun.  Running out of the starting gate feels like being herded and I get frustrated easily having to zigzag around or through large groups of people that take up a big piece of the road.  (And don’t get me started on the run walkers who use me as their running gauge.  I hate this so much, I may have words with the next offender.)

Race Highlights
I loved everything about the race: organization, volunteers, course (ok, maybe not the hills), the finisher necklace; everything was catered to making runner girls feel special.  Plus, the race fee is super reasonable: register on opening day & you pay $20 for the 10k, $65 for the half marathon (prices for the 2011 race).

  • My first official 10k race is on Sunday.  And my first race in 2.5 months.  This girl has been jonesin’ for a starting line.  Training without a race on the more immediate horizon is a pretty daunting task.  And it’s easy to let some days slide.  Pick up my packet tomorrow & will have a new race to add to my collection.  Brings my total for the year to 8.  Cannot wait!
  • I have been tracking my miles but have not been paying attention to the total miles run since I started this journey.  Boy, I was shocked this morning when I added it up.  306 miles!!  Major booyah!
  • My longest run arrives next Saturday (nervous & excited at the same time).  Goal is to run 11-12 miles.  Hopefully, it will give me the confidence to run 13.1 miles in October.
  • Finally, there are 30 days until that BIG race day.  The one worth all the marbles.  My daily training this week has been out of this world.  I started a 30 day yoga challenge September 1st and my runs started to suffer.  I’m chalking it up to my body having to readjust because this week, my minutes/mile were phenomenal (11:10 min/mile on Wednesday; 12:30 min/mile yesterday).  I felt strong & fast.  A lil proof in the pudding – hard work does pay off.

I have relegated Thursdays to 36×36 writing days but since I settled on a work-able schedule, I have only missed every single self-imposed deadline.  (oops…)

Since I’m over due & out of order, I may as well write about stand up paddle boarding (aka SUP, if you’re a cool kid).  A friend of mine tried SUP about two weeks before my foray into the cold Puget Sound waters.  I believe there are certain things you shouldn’t know about before you do them.   For any new adventure, it may be best to feel like you are in uncharted waters.

What I remember from his recap: how hard it was to go from a kneeling position to a standing position & how much his legs shook (this eventually subsided).  Plus the thing about falling in.

photo courtesy of Surf Ballard

Needless to say, there was a lil bit of fear before I hit the water.  I didn’t make matters any better when I kept teasing Honey Badger about the 6-gilled shark found in Puget Sound waters.

personal rendering of a story people quote & the image going thru my head. minus the boat. add surfboard.

With visions of sharks in our heads, Honey Badger & I head up to Surf Ballard for a SUP lesson.  Minus the basics (how to hold a paddle, stand up on your board, etc.), we are told “If you don’t fall in the first 10 minutes, you’ll fall in the last 10.”

It kinda goes like this: wade into the water about knee deep.  Battle seaweed (because if we have anything in the Puget Sound, its an abundance of kelp).  Get up on your board.  The sway of the board as you try to center your balance.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear of falling in.  (Has it been 10 minutes yet?)  Breathe.  And start paddling.

I didn’t stand up.  Seemed too tenuous and I really didn’t want to fall in.  We paddle down to a little cove and as Honey Badger is trying to turn around – BAM, she hits the water.  I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard or tried not to laugh so hard.  Laughing isn’t good when you’re trying to balance on water.

We head back and cross a waterway with heavy boat activity.  If you don’t think you can paddle fast, put yourself in the midst of boat wakes on a long board.  The other thing, my dad used to say when sailing, if they’re eating trees, they have the right of way – but what happens when a lone lil SUP girl (ok, …a group) never eats trees?  And also not have stellar turning capabilities?

That lone girl paddles as fast & as hard as she can to make it to the safe lil cove where she started.  Grateful there was no meeting of sharks or jellyfish or water.  A bit over the top, perhaps…

Would I be willing to go again?  The very next day…

For half of my 5th grade year, my family lived in Phoenix, Arizona (really Tempe – but who knows where Tempe is… unless you’re a Sun Devil fan).  One very warm day, we decided to hang out at Saguaro Lake.  Until then, I didn’t know there was any water in Arizona.

There was a very large boulder that looked deceptively close to shore and I decided, as any kid who loves to swim does, to swim to the boulder.  Granted, Saguaro Lake is an actual landlocked lake, it didn’t stop my over-active imagination from creating horrific tales of underwater sea creatures (namely sharks) who were ready to pounce at any moment.  (It also didn’t help a few years before experiencing Jaws jump out of a very calm lake to eat a fisherman at Universal Studios.)

Besides the belief ravenous sea creatures were chomping at my toes, my competitive nature spurred me forward.  Getting onto the rock was more difficult: the bottom half was covered in algae.  I made it to the boulder (just in time!) and climbed up on my new perch.

I sat there for what I now imagine to be at least 30 minutes because of this: the rock was being circled by fish and sharks all waiting for that moment I had to swim back to shore.  I was ready to stake my claim & lead a Le Petit Prince existence on my boulder.

But as all adventures must come to an end, I had to brave the deadly, slippery algae and the hungry, predatory fish and swim back to shore.  I guess those Arizona sea creatures are lazy (all that hot weather); I made it back to shore without so much as a nibbled toe.

This story plays on repeat in my brain when I start a new adventure.  Even if that adventure isn’t on a grand jump-out-of-airplanes scale.  Fear is a funny (sea) creature; she is often much more menacing in our heads then in real life.

mary oliver

As it always happens, when one is bursting with stories to share, one also experiences a bit of a block.  Suffice it to say the weekend was a good one for running and epiphanies, all of which will be revealed… soon!

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on the road