Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today a lesson in second guessing myself

Tonight's race was a prediction race. I'm sure the organizers heard it all at registration as they didn't even nod when I predicted that I'd get wet (it was misting) but not get lost.

The race was 3.65 miles long, one loop around a local river park. I've done the loop several times but never without walking. I figured that since I did 3.1 in 34 minutes, and I was sure to need to walk during this longer run, I'd be safe to tack on another 10 minutes and then added another for good measure for a prediction of 45 minutes.

Well the victory was bittersweet. I did not make my predicted time. In fact, I was off by nearly 4 minutes. Four minutes UNDER. I never took a walk break and I felt fabulous the entire time. Well, that's not true. The first 5 minutes are always tough and today were worse than ever. Everything hurt immediately and all at once. I think I may have started out a little too fast, or it could have been the lifting I did the day before but I was surprised at how badly my shoulders and lungs were screaming right off the bat. But in about 8 minutes, I felt terrific and that feeling didn't go away for the rest of the night.

So my pace was still no faster than Saturday's - I think I can cut myself a little bit of slack here - but my endurance increased and now I have a new bar for the next race. And I did manage to come in nearly 10 full minutes before the 60 year old who is recovering from open heart surgery she had LESS THAN A YEAR AGO!!!!! I was beaten shamelessly by a 6 year old and an 8 year old. I take comfort in the fact that they were running with their parents and likely were just running away from them.

And so what will be the next challenge? I don't know about that triathalon, Counselor. I did one lap at the pool on Sunday using my very best dog-paddle / frog stroke and that was tough. I think I'd make a better bouy than a racer for now. I'll have to look into swim lessons and a place to practice. That sure would be a hell of a fish to seize.....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quid Nunc?

What Next?

So I did it, did it well and had a great time and I'm pulling the memories out like a lovesick teenager replays a conversation from the lunch room (well OK, I'm still known to do that as well, but that's beside the point.).

The race was amazing and if you're at all thinking of getting into a fitness plan but shy away from competitive sports I highly recommend races. The most surprising part to me was the sense of community I found. My mother used to always scoff at me for being such a "joiner" but I always seek community, wherever I land, and the race did not disappoint. Everywhere I looked there were people running or walking with friends and family to encourage them along. I passed several pairs and groups of people with obvious experienced members running backwards or stopping and starting to keep their less-trained friends going. My own fan club sent a representative to the half-way point to cheer me on. I made it quite clear at the beginning that I did not want anyone to run along with me, this was my mountain to climb and I intended to do it on my own.

I suspected that I'd do better with people around but wasn't exactly sure. Having so many people to watch, to pace myself with made the run more interesting and the 2 mile point sneaked up on me. For the first time , I ran 34 minutes without stopping to walk once and I felt terrific at the end.

Perhaps only second to my own pride and sense of accomplishment was the thrill of having friends there to support me and my son to watch Mommy face something that was scary and do it anyway. That's a lesson I could never teach any other way.

I look at photos from the day and realize "I'm actually a runner. I'm in a race - with a number pinned to my chest." Unbelievable. More surprising are the other changes I am seeing. When I drive past runners or see them go by the house, I'm envious and want to jump up and go with them. In the past, they'd just be part of the scenery but now I feel like a part of what they're doing. I am also able to face other challenges, personal and athletic, with a little bit more patience. Everything has it's own endurance level, it's a matter of building up to it over time.

And so, what next? When I started this I thought it might be a lark. I'll do the race and add it to the list of challenges I've overcome, perhaps just under the skydiving and above the singing a solo to an audience. But now, I feel that this has become a part of my list of things I'll do for fun and I'm looking for the next chance to get out there and try to beat the 34. I found a local running club and tomorrow night I'll run 3.65 miles in a prediction race.

I'm predicting I'll love it.

(And finish in 44 minutes)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Closing in on the Prize

Sunday's training plan called for a 3.5 run which I am amazed to say I was actually looking forward to. I knew if I did that, then the 3.1 race would be shorter and more obtainable.

Funny how I've moved from having to trick myself to get out the door to actually craving a run. Yes, craving! Who knew?

I headed out into the full humidity that only South Jersey can deliver and brutal sun. I was starting much later than I like to for a run but didn't give myself a second to entertain postponing. The shuffle on my music list worked in my favor that morning and the first two songs had me feeling absolutely jubilant. Of course, I can't possibly remember what they are now but they made me feel accomplished and proud.

And so I finished the run. Yes, I had to walk a bit and yes, even make a pit stop (Note to self: Don't eat big plate of scrambled eggs on morning of race. Second note to self: Somebody else had damn well better be cooking for me that day.) but I finished the run. I did it. The race is almost secondary now. I never in my life thought I could really do this and I did.

And so I've begun to wonder how I will keep myself motivated without the carrot of a race and with the complication of the return to my full-time single parenting (Kid's dad lives out of the country and won't be back for at least 6 months). But I've made it this far and I'm just not going to let these things be excuses for me to slip back into my previous lazy state. OK, maybe not lazy, but certainly not as physically active.

Then today, at a pool party play date I actually found myself saying the most unbelievable thing out loud. "How many miles IS a 10 K anyway? That's like 6 miles, right? I could do that." And so it starts again. I found a local running club and joined up. I'm just going to assume that I'll figure out the childcare piece of it as I go along and I love being able, as a parent, to say to my son "What kind of exercise are we going to do today?".

By the way, my son tells me that when I finish the race I get my "Super Mom" cape and can enroll in his super hero training academy. Definitely sounds like a plan to me.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dear God, I'm becoming like a reformed smoker

First it's important to remember that 3 1/2 weeks ago I was nearly sedentary. Yes, I did yoga 3-5 times a week and some light aerobic workouts so I was no couch potato but pretty much really only enjoyed heavy breathing during one specific activity, and during that one I'm not usually the one doing the hardest work.

But it's been three weeks now since I started this campaign to make real cardio training a consistent part of my routine and I've had so many gradual and, what feel to me like monumental, successes that now I can't help but start to nag all of my friends to get up off the couch and give it a try.

Last Sunday I completed a 3 mile run in 38 minutes. I know it's no crazy racer's time but let's remember, I started week one running for 5 minutes and then walking for two. I know now that if I did nothing else for the remaining week and a half, I'd be able to finish the race. That felt like the hurdle I needed to reach. From here out it's about making it the best race I can do, not just trying not to die while trying a crazy stunt.

While I was running I passed a little girl in a stroller who called out to her mom "There goes a runner". I wanted to donate to her college fund except she forgot to say "There goes a single mom raising a kid on one income", so I settled for a smile and a wink.

This morning I did my run on a treadmill for the first time and I now understand my friend's comment about not "Half-assing" a workout. I was fiddling with the settings on the machine and plugging along (without tunes again, I think I might prefer this but I'm still holding on to them as a crutch for now) when I realized I'd been jogging at a steady pace for 30 minutes and never once needed to slow down or stop. While this is great, I also felt like I never really got my heart rate up there. Again, if you haven't been paying attention, 3 weeks ago a jog to the end of my street would have gotten me to my target heart rate.

I had to end my workout after the 30 mins to get to a meeting and I felt completely cheated and realized I had essentially wasted the half hour, the precious short time I had been able to set aside to do something entirely for myself and was going to spend the rest of the day wishing I could do more. See how annoying this must be to my non-exercising friends? I was always the one they could count on to say "Oh, we can work out tomorrow, let's just chill today". And now I'm trying to find more ways to sneak in more time to run???? Who is this nut?

I realize that pretty much I'm the only one who reads this blog, with the exception of some staunch supporters, but I want to go to every person who thinks that getting fit and strong is too hard, too much not like them, too silly a way to spend precious time and say c'mon, take my hand. We can do it together - even us. And it just might save our lives.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tunes or no tunes

I started taking music on my run because it helped me not focus so much on the messages my brain was trying to send to the rest of my body to stop. Tonight though, I wanted to see if I could run without it. I have been reading a lot by other runners who talk about experiencing some of their clearest ever thinking when they just let their mind wander on the course. I had a lot on my mind this evening. I knew that the physical exertion alone would leave me calmer but I wondered if I was cheating myself out of some of the other benefits of running by focusing on the music and not letting my mind go where it wanted. So out I went.

So I tuned in more to the conversations with myself that I have to have on every run. They go a lot like this:

Within first 5 minutes:
BRAIN: Oh, everything hurts! This is crazy, why are we doing this? You're not a runner and who's going to even care if you just go home? You're great at lots of other things, let's just leave this one alone.

ME: Oh, it's you again. Didn't you try this 3 times this week already? Chill out, in another 2 or 3 minutes the pain will go away and you'll be just fine. I don't want to hear another word out of you until we get to the end of the next bloc.

After about 10:
BRAIN: OK, I did what you asked, I kept quiet but have you noticed how heavy you're breathing? You should take a break and walk. You're getting pretty sweaty too and, if I may say so, pretty stinky.

ME: I know, I know. You told me you were going to die last time at this same point and I ran another 15 minutes so let's just keep going. Besides, once I slow down, you are absolutely no help in getting me to start up again.

BRAIN: heh heh, that's pretty true.

At about 12 minutes:
BRAIN: OK, how about a small break at 15 minutes? Just for one or two minutes. Really. I promise.

ME: You promise? We can walk and then start right back up again?

BRAIN: Scout's honor.

ME: OK, in 15.

At 17 minutes:

BRAIN: You know, there's really not a reason to run the rest of the way home. You've already done more than some people do all week. Let's just stroll home.

ME: You promised!

BRAIN: I know. Fine. Let's go. And I'll keep quiet until we get to the corner where our street is.

ME: Really?

BRAIN: Really. I'd rather work on a few of your other problems for a while, I've lost interest in this running thing, you seem to have it pretty well mastered and don't seem like you're going to give it up anytime soon. See you in a few.

At the corner:

BRAIN: Yoo-hoo, look where we are!!! And look at your watch. 27 minutes, that's 2 more than you set out to do. Can we stop now?

ME: OK, sure.

BRAIN: I think we deserve an ice cream cone.

ME: Brain!!!

BRAIN: Fine. Cold water it is. Can we be friends now?