Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The tulips were in bloom today.

Warning: This post will have no pictures.

For whatever reason, I am ten times more motivated to post after runs that are particularly difficult or days when I am particularly frustrated. There's something about writing that is therapeutic for me, which I think is why I began writing this blog in the first place.

My runs over the last week have been pretty solid, on the whole. I did a big 19-miler on Friday starting at my house, running to Shelby Bottoms, around the 8-mile loop at SB, and then back through the projects. I actually felt pretty fantastic for the first 15-16 miles. Toward the ends of these ultra-long runs (relatively speaking), my cardio is fine and my muscles are fine. I honestly am not sure I'm pushing myself enough because my heart rate returns to normal within 15 seconds of me finishing my run. Maybe this is why I have stopped dropping pounds, or maybe it's because I'm eating wrong. In any case, the sore parts at the ends of my runs are my joints.

After slapping pavement for over three hours, my ankles, knees, shins, and hips all get a dull throbbing in them to the point where it hurts equally as much to walk as it does to jog (To be fair, I can't really blame them, they are probably angry after over 350 miles since late December). After I complete a run, they'll stay sore for a couple of hours while I uncomfortably shift positions on the couch, waiting for that pain to subside and sipping my recovery chocolate milk.

That sounds dramatic, but the pain does subside. And I don't notice those joints the rest of the day or the day after. They feel fine for the next run also. Thus, I am led to believe that the pain is a temporary artefact of long runs and not something chronic.

I only have one more long run before the big day--20 miles. I'll attempt this a week from Friday and I'm hoping it will go well. Yesterday and today, I have done a five-miler and an eight-miler, respectively. I started both before the sun came up and accidentally timed both so well that I was running past a small lake while the sun rose and got to experience a moment of beauty before Nashville fully awoke.

I've been incredibly frustrated with other aspects of my life lately, and these runs largely serve to clear my head and let me focus on other things which need my attention. I let things get pent-up inside of me until they are ever-present, threatening to erupt at an inopportune time. And then today, at the end of my run, a man sitting at a bus stop looked at me, smiled, and said "You're doing a great job, and you're beautiful. Have a great day." I just looked at him, said "thanks," and smiled, and as I ran away, my eyes welled up and I almost lost it. Sometimes the weirdest things can set me off.

In any case, I finished this morning's run in a teary blur, running as hard as I could. At the end, I felt both refreshed and exhausted, and maybe a little bit better.

Race day is a month from tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Lone Pink Shirt in a Sea of Green

This past week was Vanderbilt's "spring break." (I put spring break in scare quotes because really it was an extended work week.) In any case, I did manage to fit a few vacation-like activities in--Dropkick Murphy's concert where I ended up onstage (!), a two-day adventure to Savannah, Georgia, and a long run at Shelby Bottoms today.

On Friday, I had been doing some solo exploration of the lovely Savannah:

When I started to walk back to the hotel, I randomly came across a booth for the March of Dimes which looked like it was registering people for something.

Me: "What is this event?"
Lady: "A Shamrock 5k, would you like to register?"
Me: "I hadn't planned on doing something like this but I do have my gear at the hotel..."
Lady: "Better go get your shoes on."

And so, I did. Unfortunately, I only had a bright pink shirt when the dress code was obviously green only. I am pretty sure I looked like the poster child for the Susan G. Komen foundation. It was kind of humid and rainy, and I had maybe had one-too-many Scorpion drinks the night before, but I still killed it! I think it was actually a PR, but I'll know for sure when I get the results back. The race was a lot of fun, and I'm really glad I did it, even though it was unplanned.

Fast forward to today's 18-miler at Shelby Bottoms. I had the same issue where I somehow missed dinner last night, so I ate some toast with peanut butter beforehand and actually felt a lot better. Plus, I just got a new running backpack which I LOVE. It makes me sweat a whole lot more, but having the option of drinking 2 liters of water instead of one small water bottle is priceless.

Shelby Bottoms is a MUCH better running venue. There are no cars, it's entirely flat, there's no wind, and there's plenty to look at! I did two 8-mile loops and then a quick 2-mile out-and-back. I think I need to start bringing more to eat during the runs if I'm going to eat sparsely before the runs. I had about 8 of these:

They are tasty, but under 100 calories, which really doesn't sustain me for burning over 2500 calories (according to my counter).

In any case, my run today was amazing. I had been doubting myself since my last couple of long runs had been so awful. Today's run was one of the most difficult mental challenges, and I'm proud to say that I destroyed it. The only downside is my very new, very prominent farmer's tan--maybe that will be "in" this year?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Life Lesson Number 429: Don't Try to Run in a Tornado.

I completed my longest run since my last marathon--17 miles--on Friday. It was not a good run. The weather outside was eerie, 80 degrees but dark skies and high winds. I thought I would have time to finish 17 miles in the rolling hills just outside of Nashville proper. While I did end up finishing, it wasn't pretty. I felt like death and my toes (one lacking a nail) were throbbing.

For much of this particular route, I run on a busy street where there are lots of cars and the shoulder is only about a food wide before a large ditch. When you combine this narrow margin with high-speed gusts of wind and Nashville drivers, the result is an awful pace which would only look like running if you watched it in fast forward. At one point, a nice old mailman pulled up alongside of me and said "you be careful now, little lady!" For some reason, this made me smile.

The first 5.5 miles or so are on busy streets, but then I turn onto a residential road and head to a beautiful reserve called Radnor Lake. This part of the run always makes me think "Yes, this is why I do this. So beautiful, and so exhilarating at the same time." Upon exiting the reserve, I ran out of water. With about 7 miles to go.

Now, as most people will tell you, I am not a good hidrator. I thank my Ragnar teammates for monitoring my own health as well as theirs. But, 7 miles in 80 degree weather when you have already completed 10 is very difficult. Add the rolling hills and the fact that I had not eaten in over 24 hours, and you get one very tired girl with a headache.

Which brings me to my next concern, I may be verging on disordered eating. Runner's World posted a nice little article on this: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/1,7120,s6-241-285--14203-0,00.html. I know it's terrible to skip meals, but part of me gets a weird sense of deluded triumph when I have maxxed out my burned calories for a day and had barely any caloric intake. Here is how my mind works:

8:00 am: get up, don't want to eat anything large before my run.
9:00 am: start long run, run for three hours.
12:10 pm: collapse on the couch, unable to move
12:30 pm: friend calls, no time to make lunch, assume I'll eat dinner
8:00 pm: I've been out all day, realize I haven't really eaten anything, grab a granola bar and head out for the night

It's a weird combination of not wanting to eat before or directly after my run, juxtaposed with opting to meet up with people when I could be cooking a meal. That all being said, on days where I work at school, I have been packing some spinach, a yogurt, a granola bar, and an apple, and I DO think I'm starting to see some weight loss results! I know it's important to eat, especially when I am running over 30 miles every week, but sometimes it's hard to find the time to eat healthy and on days when i'm faced with eating shitty or eating nothing, they tend to look like equal options.

I made it back to Belmont with about a mile left, and stopped into the Athlete's Store for some water. The man there asked me how far I had to go, and after I told him, he said "You better RUN, and you better go NOW. The storm's about to hit." Very exciting.

I fear this entry ends anti-climactically: made it home, collapsed with a water bottle, then proceeded to attempt an ill-fated trip in the car. Upon being pelted with golf-ball sized hail, returned to my house and put on storm tracker for several hours.

Here's the thing: even though this entry was a bit Debbie Downer, I was extremely proud of myself and inspired that I was able to finish 17 miles. Even on the worst runs, having the mental stamina to stick something out when my body is complaining, feels like an accomplishment. And perhaps that's why I love this sport so much--it makes me feel determined and satisfied.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I was not built to be a runner.

I love running. I do not have a runner's body. I'm built like an athlete, meant for wreaking havoc on some kind of sports field, rather than lithely striding for miles and miles. That being said, I'm obsessed.

When I graduated from UCLA, I suddenly found myself without a sports team to play on for the first time since I was about five. Largely to keep in shape, I began to run a few miles here and there, never predicting the obsession that developed. I suppose as far as addictions go, running is a pretty healthy one to have. But, I know it's annoying to hear about my training schedule, my runs, my legs, etc. This blog is a way for me to record my own thoughts and feelings about balancing training for various races and graduate school.

My goal right now is to run my second marathon in under five hours. My lovely friend Beccah will be flying to Nashville to run it with me, and I am extremely excited. I love that running has become a team sport for me--captaining a sports team again makes me happy and keeps me sane. Plus I get to wear ridiculous costumes, which is a huge plus.

I hope that this blog will be a source of inspiration for other people who love running and being active. Or, realistically, it will appeal to my close friends who will be the only ones who read it. I'm over 200 miles into this training regiment, with two months until marathon day. Thanks to all of you for your support. Here we go!