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There are days when all you want to do is sleep in staying warm under the covers.  Maybe a leisurely breakfast, checking emails and facebook updates.  Even when you are scheduled to run.  Even though you are preparing to run a better next race.

What do you choose?  A relaxing morning being lazy or an eight mile run in the rain?

Already, I feel like I have slacked on my training runs – check out the stats & my mileage has decreased each month since June.  Some of these issues will be addressed on Tuesday when I publish my November goals.

Back to the issue at hand – to run or not to run…

Mile 3

Fog worse Mile 5

This morning, running won out.

The Challenge: Yoga every day for 30 days.  You can miss two non-consecutive days but you must double up on classes the following day.

The Venue: Expand Yoga at 1015 Pacific in Tacoma is awesome.  Matt & Liz are totally kick-ass.  I have no higher compliment to give them.  Check them out if you are interested in classes!

The Classes: 6o minute hot vinyasa class or a 90 minute original hot bikram class.

Hot Vinyasa “focuses on moving through postures mindfully, in connection with your breath.  Results include improved strength, flexibility and balance.”

Original Hot Bikram “is a class comprised of 26 held poses and two breathing exercises that systematically work to stretch and strengthen the body. Practiced in a heated room, circulation and flexibility are increased allowing one to better release tension and toxins.”

Background: There has been a pattern in my life lately: easing into something is out; jumping right in seems to be my new modus operandi.  My first yoga class was fall 2010.  Since that class, I took a dozen or so classes at the Y.  After I canceled my Y membership, there was six months of no yoga.  So, starting a 30 day challenge seemed like the most logical next step.

First Class: After a short 3 mile run, I headed to my first bikram yoga class.  Probably not the most sensible sequence of events.  With an apple as my only fuel between the run & the class, I was ready.  Bikram is hot – it is 105 degrees HOT.  Although I can handle high temperatures, I really like cool temperatures.  Especially when working out.  I have never sweat so much in my life.  I also experienced dizziness.  90 minutes of hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, bendy, stretchy-ness.  In way over my head.

Week One: First seven classes were the roughest.  Not only because I was doing strange things with body parts but yoga became paramount to all other things in my schedule.  I left family birthday celebrations early to make it to class, took PTO to fit in a yoga class and a run in order to watch my former players play volleyball.  Through all of this, there was a benefit to taking so many classes consecutively – improvement was more keenly recognized.

Week Two: Week two was more mentally challenging.  I loved the way I felt after yoga but my running suffered tremendously.  On one Saturday training run, I wanted to get in eight miles, but my legs felt like bricks.  Sometimes, the first mile seems really hard but I find I’m running faster than I feel.  That Saturday, I could barely move & my first mile was in the 17 minute/mile pace range.  Heartbreaking.  I ended up running six miles, walking two.  I went home and googled anything I could find on the benefits of running & yoga combined.  I was more disheartened because everything I read was positive.  (Note for google searches: if you want positive feedback – use words like benefit in the search bar.)  I was ready to drop the challenge.

Day 13 Breakthrough: Not a yoga breakthrough but a running one.  Running at Point Defiance on Tuesday, I netted a 55 minute five mile run.  I felt strong and it felt good.  The following day, running in Tacoma, I averaged 12:30 minute/miles.  Maybe yoga really was good for running.

End of the Challenge: I missed two days and made up for both of those days with back to back classes.  I cannot remember the first double class but the second one didn’t seem that bad.  Felt a bit invincible afterwards.  Instead of feeling a bit nervous as in the beginning of the challenge, I was starting to feel like I belonged in the yoga studio.  I was making yoga contacts via twitter.  Community seems to make everything easier to handle.  

The Reward: There is a list of rewards for completing the 30 day yoga challenge.  More outline fun…

  • 30 days of unlimited yoga free.
  • Body composition changes: stronger shoulders & quads.  I’m still waiting for my hamstrings to lengthen – those jokers are tight.
  • Increased flexibility.  I injured my left knee last year doing the 1st stage of the dancer pose (pulling left foot to tail) and I’m still nervous about pulling my left leg into this pose but I have been able to do other poses grabbing that foot.  I am able to sit in chair for 3o seconds and smile.  I have attained deeper warrior poses.
  • Breathing.  When my training runs become painful and hard, I have found focusing on my breath has been helpful.  I made it through an 11 mile training run with a tight hamstring and throbbing quad because of the focus on breath.
  • Miscellaneous benefits.  I feel more calm.  I have better posture; I am very much aware of my shoulder position.  Maybe it is an accumulation of several things and have no correlation with the yoga challenge, but people have mentioned how much I have changed.  I feel different too.  Better.
In chatting with buttahcup this morning (she is four days from completing her 30 day yoga challenge), I made this comment summing up the yoga challenge and running: Running allows you the time to process thoughts, issues, …life and yoga is about letting it all go.  And I’m looking forward to next fall when I go through this 30 day challenge again.  (methinks this is going to be an annual event.)

NaCl

NaCl, better known as salt, may have improved my race performance in San Francisco.  A cramp at mile seven defined a big portion of my half marathon experience.  I was later told I lacked salt in my system.  Also evident by my swelling fingers, so swollen by the finish line, it hurt to make a fist.  Running friends told tales of cramped legs made better with a dab of salt on the tongue.  If I had only known!

For a girl who eats little salt (except on fries – lightly salted),  the thought of downing straight salt is appalling.  I am willing to look past this disgust if it improves running function.  Praying, there are no photographers around when I take it.

H2O

Next race, I will place post-it notes everywhere to remind me to hydrate pre-race.  I was really good about hydrating days in advance but the morning of, I was wrapped up in remembering everything else & getting to the starting line.  Hydration was the furthest thing from my mind.

It did cross my mind as I reached the first water stop at mile two.  After that, my goal was to get through the next two miles to reach the next water stop.  And because I was so dehydrated, I drank too much (cup of gatorade, cup of water, refilled each once).  This was also problematic: I had an upset stomach full of jostling liquid.  It took almost half a mile before my stomach settled.  Around this time, I was in desperate need of more water.  Along with hydrating pre-race , I am experimenting with a water belt on my training runs.

I am crossing my fingers these two improvements will make the next half marathon in Seattle more pleasant.  If you can call running 13.1 miles pleasant…

I have struggled the past few days with how to share the half marathon experience with everyone.  There were highs & there were lows.  Also, I did not want the over arching theme to be my own malaise.  But how do you share every part and still have people understand it was what it was and that I don’t need a motivating pep talk?  As well as the morphing emotions the more removed I am from the event.

So, all the dirty details including my own mental tantrum…

PRE RACE
The week prior to the race everyone was curious about my anxiety / excitement level.  I was not thinking about the race; I felt the best option was to deny the race was even taking place.  The night before the race I was still practicing denial and was told I looked unnaturally calm.  The morning of the race waiting in the lobby of the hotel, I was still hanging out in denial.  Maybe less denial & more avoidance.  I am going to employ this for all future races because it prevented my brain from over thinking every minute detail.

RACE
Union Square was a mess of 20,000+ runners & walkers.  Baggage check was akin to crazy mob scenes.  Runners ready to race do not always think clearly: ten buses to drop off bags and everyone was crushing toward the first bus, ignoring the others.  Total mad house.  Finally clear of the mob, the race set to begin, music and gps ready, I head slowly toward the start line.

GOAL #1: Start slow and do not get wrapped up in racing someone else’s race.  My friend took off as soon as she crossed the start line and I let her go.  Fur Elise on my ipod, I began to run through downtown San Francisco.  The road full of runners was not a concern (it usually bothers me to be so crowded) and I followed my plan.  Gold star for moi.

GOAL #2: Don’t let your brain get ahead of your body.  Part of my issue is over thinking in a race.  Any small thing could be the disastrous straw that broke the camels back.  Too far in my head and I may as well pack up.

Mile 1-3: There are songs on my playlist I don’t remember hearing during the race.  These were my gold star moments where I was running in the moment.  Running through the Embarcadero, seeing Fisherman’s Wharf and not realizing it was a lot more Disneyland-esque and covered more ground then what I visited a few years ago.  Ran past the In & Out Burger and decided “that’s where I’m having lunch today.”  (Didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to walk anywhere after the race – plus the chafed body parts didn’t want to move either.)   Ran the first hill – baby hill.  The second hill – a bit bigger.  But here is where I made my first mental mistake and why I will never pay attention to the course elevation again: I thought I was done with the hills.  The rest of the race would be smooth sailing.  Little did I know, those hills were nothing.

Mile 4-6:  Still running strong.  Glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge to keep me company.  Dancers along the course – totally awesome.  This is the view when you turned around.  It was an overwhelming moment: I started running downtown and here I was looking on downtown in the distance.

Mile 7-9:  This is also where “the hill” starts.  I ran past a group of drummers and then walked the hill.  I can give no perspective because it felt like I was walking that hill for hours.  Team in Training mentors, captains & managers were waiting at the top of the hill and I received a hug from our region manager (so needed).  On the downhill portion, I started to run but ran into a cramp in the arch of my right foot.  It hurt to push off, so I continued to walk.  Enter mental tantrum.  With each step, there was a running tirade in my head: how does anyone decide to run more than one half marathon?  How do people run a full?  Why is running so fun during training but races royally suck?  I’m NEVER doing this again.

Mile 10-11:  Exiting the Presidio Park: still walking through San Francisco neighborhoods, still with a nagging cramp in my arch.  Each time I saw the first aid station, I considered stopping – for potential blisters and for the arch cramp.  But each time, I walked past the aid station thinking I could push through to the next one & if the pain worsened, I would stop.  This is also where I found the 2nd hill.  Although the grade seemed reasonable, it went on for blocks and blocks.  The mental tantrum grew louder.  Add in my nagging disappointment.

Mile 12-13.1:  Each time a TNT coach walked with me during the course, they asked how I was feeling.  Each time my response, “I just want this to be over.”  The mental tantrum was louder now and I have conveniently forgotten most of it.  From the beginning of the season, I knew I would cry at the finish line.  I was so mad, I didn’t even think about the miles I had run/walked.  I was grateful it was over.  I picked up my finisher necklace, checked in at the TNT tent, ran into my teammates (who were all ecstatic – do you know how frustrating it is to be in a foul mood when everyone is cheerleader happy?) and picked up my lunch.  As my teammates cheered people into the finish, I grabbed the shuttle back to the hotel.

POST RACE
Sunday “pity party”: I know I am hard on myself.  I didn’t accomplish the three goals I set up (not mentioned above) before the race.  I was mad with my time.  I was mad that I had run 11 miles three weeks prior to the race and I couldn’t get past 6-7 on this course.  I was mad I didn’t run after walking up the 1st big hill.  There was a lot of disappointment too.  *This is where people insert the pep talk.  Sometimes I need the pity party.  Because usually this happens…

Monday:  As other people’s stories were shared, I realized I wasn’t the only one who struggled.  One of our hardcore runners said this was the second hardest course he had ever run.  Another teammate was found sitting at mile 16, tears streaming down her face.   Another teammate ran/walked with her to get her to the finish line and in the process was turned around to head toward the finish line, but meant she wouldn’t complete the full marathon.  Another teammate was the last to cross the finish line, seconds later, she would have been swept up and driven to the end.  Not that other’s struggles made me feel better but I did feel like I was not alone in the struggle.

Tuesday:  After the pity party, I am usually in fix-it mode.  How do I make this better for the next race?  What did I learn?  I realized each first race at a new distance, I have had a similar experience: the anger followed by a steel resolve.  My first races have been awful; my performance not up to my standards/expectations.  But as I kept working on it, the subsequent race performances were much improved.  Lessons learned may follow later – this is already too long!

There you have it: the leave nothing out race recap.  Last but not least… the as-flattering-as-it-gets race photos.

running across the finish line...(there is a smile - b/c I was so happy to be FINISHED!!)

steps past the finish line...

Four days.  The highest number I remember on my white board countdown was 146.  It is overwhelming that I am down to four.  During that time, I have covered over 350 miles.  And thanks to you, raised $2600 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Incredible.  And I am truly grateful.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.  This weekend would not have been possible without YOU.

And now… I’d like to introduce yours & my superstars for Sunday’s race.

Because I love lists & I’m way behind on sharing certain things…

10.  Finished my 30 day yoga challenge September 30th.  30 days of vinyasa & bikram yoga.  First week was the hardest but may have been more about figuring out how to schedule my life around class.  (more on this later…)

9.  I am attributing every little creak, spasm, …weirdness in my legs as a sign my legs are broken, falling apart, etc.  I hope this is normal (the over reaction, not the legs falling apart).  Now, I move around gingerly to avoid any potential mishaps.  (I cannot say this for other mishaps – because I am two for two on that this week; patiently awaiting the third.)

8.  Unable to pinpoint the cause (no sugar for 2 months, yoga or running), I’ve slashed  a minute plus from my pace.  I am uber-focused on pace and trying to not get wrapped up in knots because of it on race day.

7.  Last Friday was the inaugural happy hour: double dog dare you edition and through various dares, I “earned” about $220 for Team in Training.  I only needed $25 to reach my goal; the remainder was donated to a teammate who had been struggling.  Happy to report, that teammate, unsure she was going to make it to San Francisco, also reached her goal.  Much love to the friends who dared me to do some crazy things!

6.  My fundraising is complete!  $2450 raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society thanks to ALL OF YOU.  My small team of maybe 15-20 people raised $35,000 total.  Totally awesome.

5.  Received my race day jersey on Tuesday.  It’s a tank top (which I ordered) because I was planning on wearing arm sleeves.  Except I’ve never tried on arm sleeves and am not sure where to buy them locally.  The few websites I looked at did not provide specifications: totally freaking out about having bare arms.  Plus honoring your honorees was based on those arm sleeves.  I have been playing around with other possibilities the past few days and I do have a back-up plan if the arm sleeves I ordered do not work.  I will reveal the arm sleeves next week (maybe Wednesday?).

4.  PACKING.  I must start packing.  To make it easy, I would check a bag but I really hate paying for stupid things like checked baggage fees.  I am considering taking a weekend bag but I have such a hard time packing.  As in, I pack too much.  Already on my list is three pairs of shoes for a four day, three night trip.  Goal for the next week: trim my packing list.

3.  I am a planner.  I will research, read, plan until I know the entire city like the back of my hand.  Minus certain things like a map as I am notorious for getting lost.  I have a few “must do” things on my list: walk or ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, attend a yoga class (preferrably an anti-gravity class) and visit City Light Books again.  As I learn more about the TNT events for this trip, I have decided to do something that scares me (again): I am going with no plan.  I will just see where the mood & the wind take me.  Keeping my fingers crossed it still includes a jaunt across the bridge.

2.  Opposite of no plans, I do plan on stuffing my face with gelato post race.  There is a little place in Union Square with 40 gelato flavors.  That is where you’ll find me Sunday afternoon.  I’ll pretend I’m sitting with my best friend Mel chowing down on Korean BBQ and testing gelato flavors.

1.  Finally: I have 10 days until race day.  It equally feels unreal and also very real, like it can’t get here fast enough.  Yesterday, I was caught off guard because I thought, in a few weeks, I will have a 13.1 sticker on the back of my car.  My second thought was “Really?  Already?”  This has been quite the journey: the girl who signed up for Team in Training is not the same girl who is going to run a half marathon race next week.  And that is totally mind blowing.

THE PLAYLIST: the most important piece of equipment for race day (or so I believe).

Who needs shoes?  Got tunes?  Will run.

The list started out with over seven hours of play time, narrowed it down to about five and then took on the daunting task of trying to match up songs for each mile post.  Final list has about three hours of music for my running pleasure.  I can neither confirm nor deny the use of a spreadsheet and formulas and such to make sure I was catching the important miles: the miles where a good song can make all the difference.

To prevent jumping out of the gate too fast, I’m starting with Fur Elise.  It is a favorite song since I saw this commercial as a kid:

Following up Fur Elise with

  • (Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay (a lil shout out to San Francisco)
  • Eblouie par la nuit (ZAZ)
  • Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight (Amos Lee)
  • Losing My Religion (Ryan Star)
  • Never Alone (Jim Brickman)
  • Glycerine (Bush)
  • Dreaming My Dreams (Cranberries)
  • Defying Gravity (Wicked Cast CD)
  • Let’s Get It Started (Black Eyed Peas)
  • What Goes Around/…/Comes Around (Justin Timberlake)
  • Gives You Hell (Glee)
  • Shut Up & Let Me Go (The Ting Tings)
  • You & I (Lady Gaga)
  • Let Her Cry (Darius Rucker)
  • Easy (Rascal Flatts & Natasha Bedingfield)
  • Far Behind (Candlebox)
  • Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing (Chris Isaak)
  • Conteo (Don Omar)
  • Up All Night (Alex Clare)
  • Someone Like You (Adele)
  • Dog Days Are Over (Florence & the Machine)
  • Folsom Prison Blues (Everlast)
  • Sinnerman (Nina Simone)
  • Fighter (Christina Aguilara)
  • In for the Kill (La Roux w/ Kanye West)
  • Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5)
  • Too Close (Alex Clare)
  • The Rockafeller Skank (Fatboy Slim)
  • Les passants (ZAZ)
  • Beggin’ (Madcon)
  • Give Me Everything (Pitbull + others)
  • Club Can’t Handle Me Now (Flo Rida)
  • Billionaire (Glee)
  • Skyscraper (Demi Lovato)
  • Feeling Good (Nina Simone)
  • Just Breathe (Pearl Jam)
  • Breathe (Sia)
  • In My Arms (Plumb)
  • Amen (Eden’s Edge)
  • Rolling in the Deep (Adele)
  • Little Lion Man (Mumford & Sons)
  • Just a Dream (Nelly)
  • Mr. Know It All (Kelly Clarkson)
  • Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z w/ Alicia Keys)
  • Fix You (Coldplay)
  • Lose Yourself (Eminem)
  • Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
  • Chariots of Fire

The last few songs may be a bit overkill.  And cheesy.  Writing this post, I discovered a theme: piano recitals.  From the McD’s commercial to Chariots of Fire, the song I played at my last piano recital.  And a tad bit proud I can still play the chorus today (right hand only).

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