Monday, March 29, 2010

Farleking Shawty

Once a week, my training schedule demands that I do some sort of speed work. These might include a tempo run, interval run, track work or (brace yourself for this one) a fartlek. Isn't that a great word? It makes me smile every time I write it and chuckle every time I say it. Fartlek supposedly is Swedish for "speed play" but I have my own theories about the origins of the word. Very few people know this about me, but I tend to pass some loud and long (but surprisingly unsmelly) farts during my speed work. It's probably for the best that I do these workouts on my own. I can't help but wonder if fartlek really is Swedish for interjecting a normal run with sudden bursts of gas as as opposed to sudden bursts of speed like those Swedes claim.

I woke up this morning feeling rather unmotivated. It was pouring down rain and windy outside when my alarm clock went off at 5:20 AM the first day back from spring break. I was still beating myself up and feeling sorry for myself about my unplanned rest week as I suited up and headed out into the darkness. The first half mile I took inventory of how my body was feeling. I noticed every little ache and pain, the quickness and sound of my breath and the uneven feel of my gait. Noticing these things made me realize that I'm not as injured as I thought I was. A little visit to Dr. John to pop my hip back into place to make both legs the same length again and I should be good to go. If I wanted some extra assurance, I could ask him to bring out the metal hooks to rub along my inflamed lower leg muscles.

My attention quickly diverted to another topic like it so often does while running. This time it was about the music playing on my iPod. I have a bunch of hip hop songs and have found that many of them use the term "shawty". "Shawty fire burning on the dance floor..." "Shawty like a melody in my head..." "Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans..." I wonder if I could pass for a shawty. Next thing I knew I was envisioning running the marathon with "Shawty" printed on my race bib under my race number. Geez, that'd be a nightmare! I'm no shawty! In fact, I'm not even exactly sure if I know what it truly means. I recently had to look it up in the Urban Dictionary and it had many entries some of which I would NOT want to be.

My run-right-out-the-front-door-at-the-butt-crack-of-dawn entails running an out and back on the scenic and heavily trafficked (aka safe) River Road. I get to run by endless fast food restaurants who omit odors more offensive than the numerous gas stations that I pass. One thing that I either love or hate, depending on the type of run I'm having is that there are a number of stop lights that I have or get to stop at. I am not the type of runner who runs in place while waiting for the walk signal. I tend to stretch and/or pound on the button to trigger the walk signal. I have this reoccurring fantasy of pulling out some hip hop moves and dancing to my music while I wait. If you were a driver heading off to work, wouldn't that just make your day seeing some runner getting their groove on at a stop light? Especially if I gave my "big bootie a smack... and got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low." Y'all listen to Flo Rida, right? If not, there's a link to you tube at the bottom (pun intended) of this post.

For whatever reason, this silly thought while waiting for the light to change, turned as dark as the sky this morning. I was dressed from head to toe in Sporthill with a variety of other runner accessories waiting at a stop light when a non-friendly voice called me a poser. What? Who said that? Oh, it was me. The negative internal conversation went on for a minute or so before I realized what I was doing to myself. I had to knock this off. To rid my mind of these thoughts I did the first thing that came to my mind. I ran as fast as I could. Dang that felt good! I coasted along feeling better. Next thing I know, another negative self deflating doozie of a thought came to mind. I sounded the buzzer (similar to the one you hear in Family Feud when the survey didn't say what I contestant had hoped) and took off running as fast as I could until I hit the next telephone pole.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I had invented a new version of fartlek. It was brilliant! My life coach would be so freakin' proud of me. Anytime I had a negative thought, I'd make a mad dash for the next landmark a ways down the road. I got in a many good bursts of speed during this mere four mile run. I was out for blood this morning and feeling mighty guilty for being mean, inadequate, inattentive or what have you. Once I reached the desired landmark during my surge, I'd slow down feeling more energetic, stronger and would replace the negative thought with a positive affirmation. Am I on to something here? Perhaps I have a running-self-help book in my future?

My first run of the week turned out to be an interesting one that got me over the hump that I previously couldn't seem to get over. For that, along with many kind, encouraging words from my family and friends, I am grateful. I was able to go out for another run after work that same evening. It was a fantastic eight mile tempo run in which I acknowledged my strengths and observed how all the different parts of my body were working together. It was work, but it felt great. I found that when my mind was strong and my feelings were in check that the running came naturally. I was even brave enough to envision what I would look like come marathon day and what the clock would say as I ran joyfully through the finishing chute.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

8 Miles

I am torn... Should I put on my running clothes, lace up my shoes and head out into the pouring rain to try to catch up on my missed mileage? Should I pour myself a stiff Gin & Tonic, whine, complain, make excuses, beg for a massage and attempt to make an appointment with my overbooked chiropractor? I'm opting for stepping into my blogging confessional to share my sad tale of my embarrassingly dismal 8 mile week.

There is no hiding from the blank pages of my running log. 8 MILES?! During spring break?! I'm training for a fucking marathon here! C'mon! I can't even begin to remember when the last time I logged so few miles. My training has been uber-consistent. I have been following my carefully crafted training plan for months now. Until this week, not only had I not missed a single run or mile but have also managed to include speed work, long run, easy and recovery runs into my routine. I am wavering between self loathing and disbelief as I sit here trying to figure out what went wrong. Where has my mojo done?

I had 38 miles slated for the week. Seriously, that shouldn't have been any problem whatsoever. I was off for the week with my family for spring break. We were in beautiful Bend at a rustic 1,000 acre ranch with miles and miles of trails. I was surrounded by lots of family who would've gladly cared for my children while I ran. So what happened? I've had a rough joyless last two weeks of running. This is very rare for me. I LOVE to run! I usually look forward running and dread my rest days. As if that wasn't bad enough, my old injuries are resurfacing. Medial tibial stress syndrome, achilles tendonitis, along with some general knots in my glutes and hamstrings have made running less than fluid and sometimes downright painful. Would someone please remind me why I'm doing this to myself?

As if that weren't enough to keep a girl down, Bend has an elevation of 3,600-4,000 feet whereas Eugene has the elevation of 500 feet. Do you have any idea how that disparity might feel? Well, it feels like crap! I felt like a beginning runner again. My legs felt like lead. I couldn't get my breathing under control. I felt nauseous. I wanted to stop. My first run was a whopping 3 miler done at around 10:30 pace. My second run was a 5 miler done at a little over 10 min/mi. Scenary was gorgeous, weather was perfect but no matter how hard I tried to adjust my thinking, I just couldn't get into either run and was relieved when they were over. I had no desire to get out to torture myself at altitude. Not only had a freaked myself out the previous week of marathon training but this week freaked me out about my plans to run my first ultra, the Siskiyou Outback at an even greater elevation than Bend! Again, why I am I doing this to myself?

So there's no way around it. No way to make up for 30 miles of running that didn't happen. I'm going to put my faith in the what experts and fellow runners say about when they're feeling low, unmotivated or otherwise slacking in their training. What I am hoping that I just took my friends, is well-needed rest-week. I'm getting up early tomorrow morning, sporting my orange reflective vest and a miner headlamp and pulling myself up by my Asic's straps and getting back out there to run joyfully. In the meantime, I think I'll pour myself a GNT and think about all the fun things I did with my family that *gasp* didn't revolve around running during a fabulous spring break away together. Five more weeks of marathon training to go...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Normal? What's that?

I see myself as a typical working mom of a pair of adorable preschool kiddos. This means a whole lot of feeding, nurturing, educating, exercising and entertaining of busy little people while juggling my 32 hour a week job and a 30-40 mile-a-week running schedule. It wasn't until last night that it dawned on me that my family might be a little different. After tucking the girls into beds, my partner and I did an elaborate dance that involved each of us setting out clothes, Gu, water bottles, headlamps, Garmen and a sundry of other running paraphernalia. I was getting ready to hit the sack early for a 20 miler the following morning while Steve was getting ready to go for a six hour trail run at night. Hmmmm... Shouldn't we be snuggling on the couch in front of a DVD? Wouldn't that be more normal? Oh well, normal's overrated anyway, right?

Around 9:30 PM Steve took off for what looked like was going to be a very cold, wet and muddy trail run with a few friends. They planned on starting their run at 10 PM and running until 4 AM. I fell asleep right around the same time that he was leaving the house. My alarm was set for 5:30. I hoped to start my run at 6:00 AM and had a very specific plan for the speed at which I would run each of my 20 miles. An hour before my alarm was supposed to go off, my dog woke me up barking his fool head off at the front door. Steve was home and couldn't seem to get the key work in the lock. I helped him out, he apologized profusely and I went back to bed. Just as I started to drift off, Steve, bundled up in I don't know how many layers climbed into bed next to me. I guess I should have asked him how his run was but I was too concerned with the fact that he was now between our sheets without having taken a shower after his run. He assured me that he had enough clothes on to keep the dirt and sweat from transferring from his body to our bed. I can't say for sure, but I think I asked him how his run went. Turned out that it rained and snowed during his late night foray AND that raccoons tore apart the food that he left at a makeshift aid station. Despite the layers of clothes and heat pack that he had on, he shivered uncontrollably. This turned our bed into something comparable to the coin fed hotel beds with magic fingers, except without the massaging feature. Normal? I think not.

5:30 AM came all to quickly and off I went for my run leaving Steve to tend to our children who would likely be awake in one short hour. If you do the math, that gives Steve a whole three hours to sleep before having to turn into chef, activities director and life skills teacher for our daughters. I felt for him. I went out and did my thing. I will spare you the melodramatic details of running 20 miles with my only company being my iPod, a Garmen that kept revealing numbers that I didn't like and the friendly waves and smiles of a ton of other runners on the river path that morning.

I had a momma/kiddo lunch and theater date planned for 11:30, which would give me just enough time for a 15 minute ice bath, hot shower and quick breakfast. It turns out that my friend and her kids were sick and not able to attend. That gave me a little extra time before shoving off to provide my children with a culturally enriching weekend activity. Steve, who had hoped to catch a few more hours of sleep, offered to join the girls and I for the play. I think I found watching his heavy eyelids droop and seeing him nod off during the play more entertaining than the play itself. The girls enjoyed it though and each came home quite happy with a helium balloon and chocolate chip cookie. Steve and I were like total slugs while our daughters seemed to have a limitless supply of energy and kept demanding to be fed. They had already had two breakfasts, two snacks and one lunch. All Steve and I wanted to do was take a nap or at least peacefully lie horizontally on the couch or floor, we weren't picky. Our girls had other plans for us. Normal? Sure, kids regularly run their parents into the ground. I must say that having your husband gleefully dump 24 pounds of ice over your legs while you sit in a tepid shallow bathtub wearing a coat and hat probably isn't.

There would be no rest for the weary today or tonight. It was date night for my husband and me! Our big night out included a nice quiet romantic dinner followed by going to the theater to see CATS. From my kitchen table I write this and gaze out into my backyard at my happy active daughters playing in the backyard. I appreciate this quiet time off my feet as Steve naps with a vengeance in the room down the hall. Just who exactly defines normal anyway? Wherever my life lies along that continuum of normalcy, I'll take it. Wish me luck staying awake tonight!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

26.2+ 5=50K or What's Another Five Miles Anyway?

I had a plan. Determine how I felt about trail racing at Hagg Lake 25K. Do an 18-20 mile trail run at elevation with my husband during spring break. If I survived and felt good about that training run, I would register for Siskiyou Out Back 50 (ominously referred to S.O.B. Sumbitch? Sob, I'm so miserable I'm crying?). This seemed to be the next logical step but I wasn't yet ready to make the plunge. I needed that extra assurance that, yes, I could indeed do this. Registration opened March 1st. My trip to Bend was scheduled for March 20th-28th. I had plenty of time to warm up to this idea.

I was informed that there were already 100 runners who signed up for S.O.B on the first day of registration. There is a field limit of 225 runners. Last year the race filled by June 1st. Shall I closely monitor the number of entrants on ultrasignup and postpone registration as long as I could? Would I have time to stick with "my plan". God, I hate it when "my plan" is messed with! I kept thinking of training for my first marathon. One of my reoccurring thoughts was "This seemed like a good idea at the time." During my first marathon I saw my husband and daughters around mile 22, put on a brave face, accepted a fresh water bottle of Gu2O and firmly told them "NEVER AGAIN". At the time I figured that this distance running business was just a fluke. A small, random blip in my tendency to pick up bizarre time consuming, wallet-draining hobbies. Marathons were the gateway drug. From there I moved to trails and now to trail ultras or so I hoped. A 50K in July. A 50 miler in the fall. Next thing I know I'll be surgically removing my toenails! First things first, I needed to take the plunge into the unknown. Voices in my head kept telling me that if I wasn't convinced that it was a good plan now that it's likely that I wouldn't think it was at the peak of my training or worse yet at mile 27 of the actual race.

I didn't know what to do. I scoured the S.O.B website collecting as much data as I could. I grilled my husband about his experience with this race, his knowledge of me and my training and then I took a leap of faith, charged the paltry 44 dollar entry fee (are you kidding me? I'll eat at least that much worth at the aid stations alone!) to my debit card and registered for the event before it filled up or I chickened out, whichever came first. So much for the best laid plans. That John Lennon knew what he was talking about when he said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."