Sunday, March 24, 2013

Did That

Yesterday was my half-marathon. I wish there was another word for that than "half" in it. There is nothing half about thirteen point one miles. I get that it's not a marathon distance, and I frankly think that marathon runners should not scoff at people who have "only" run half that distance. And they should not so easily dismiss half-marathoners as lesser people if they have not done an entire marathon. To them I say, "Shaddap."

To you I say, "If I can do it, you can do it." No, seriously. People have said that to me and I've scoffed because I wasn't READY to do that. But you're not ready until you actually do it. On Friday night I wasn't ready. On Sunday morning I am simply because on Saturday, I did it.

To everyone who's asking me when my next one is I say, "I don't think I need to do another one. I had a goal, I achieved the goal, and I feel good about that." As those people look at me a bit incredulously and/or disbelievingly, I remind them that my training focus is now switching to getting ready for a one hundred and forty mile bike ride in June. Who knows what will happen then? I for one don't. I don't have any fitness goals past that time, other than being able to do a pull-up by the end of the year. So I'm not saying "Never." I'm just saying, "Not now."

Yesterday was a success though. As you know, I did the trail version of the half-marathon. That means eight of the miles were on trails. The first three miles of the trails weren't horrible. It's in an equestrian area, so the trails were wide and well-packed. The race organizers had gotten lots of peppy young women (there were some young men also, but they weren't as cheerleader-y) along the trail to keep runners on the correct path and cheer for us as we went by. In the less commonly accessible areas there were mountain bikers and mounted patrol units to help keep us on track and, I imagine, check for fatigued racers as there was no cell phone service for those eight trail miles.

So the first three miles of trail weren't awful. The biggest concern I had was trying to keep my pants up. They only had an elastic band, no drawstring, at I realized at about mile two that I was losing my drawers. But I would rather worry about that than other things I can imagine going wrong during a long run.

My friend Doug was one of the people who helped talk me into doing this race. We ran the first three miles together, which I thought was very generous of him. I could tell he was holding himself back a bit. We had a nice time chatting and catching up for that bit of time.

At mile six there was a water break, which I was grateful for because my hands were sticky from an energy gel pack I had consumed about 20 minutes before that. I stopped for a couple of minutes to wash my hands and dispose of my other trash. While paused, one woman said, "This is where it gets rough. The next two miles are the toughest." As we were in such a scenic spot, it seemed hard to imagine, but I couldn't see past the Mile 6 marker, so figured she was probably right. Sure enough, the trail immediately dropped to a single-file line, steep and lots of ruts and ridges to negotiate. Sometimes the trail got so narrow that even if you wanted to pass someone, there just wasn't room to.

At one point I could hear cheering but couldn't see past the six-foot tall shrubbery. I looked up and saw a colorful line of runners snaking up a hillside and realized that there was another group of cheerleaders at the top of that ridge. The hill was pretty steep, and almost everyone was walking. At first I was lazily grateful for the break, but then realized it was no steeper than a hill I had trained on two weeks before. So I did what I had done then - ran for several yards, walked for a bit, then ran again.

I did more running uphill than I did downhill. We hit the downhill at about mile eight and a half. That's when my knee started chattering to me, and I knew I had to take it easy if I was going to finish. It also felt safer to carefully negotiate the loose dirt and rocks. I was pretty much keeping pace with the same pack of people. As some of them passed me on the way down, they commented on my shirt and said they appreciated the sentiment - that it had helped them keep going. They also remarked they were impressed that I had run up the hill. (They probably wondered why I was walking on the "easy" part.)

The miles passed by much more quickly than they did on my training runs. The scenery was different and more interesting than what I had seen in my own locale, and there is, of course, the adrenalin that comes with being in a race environment.

The downhill did take its toll on my knee and periformis muscle though. But keeping with the idea of just keep going, that's what I did. Pushed through the discomfort and just kept letting the miles tick away under my feet.

Mile 12 was exhilarating and emotional. All the training I had done was paying off and I knew I could finish. It wouldn't be pretty, but it was a clean finish, and one to be proud of.

My original goal was to finish in two hours thirty minutes. I didn't know how the trail would impact that time. My official finish time was 2:33:37, which averages out to a 11:44/minute per mile pace. I feel like it was lower than my training time, but again, I hadn't trained on trails, so I feel really good about that. Especially considering that today a woman told me that someone at the race had told her to expect an extra 15 minutes on for a trail version.

I didn't come in close to first or near the top of my age group, but I wasn't near the bottom either. There were 65 women in my age division, and I was 43rd. BUT - the majority of those times are all grouped right around my time.

I am a runner.

I am a half-marathoner.

I ran thirteen point one miles.

On trails.

Did that.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Whys of Thirteen Point One

I was thinking about the “why” of running a race. Why pay a registration fee? Why get up early to mill around with hundreds of people and then go for a long, sweaty run? After all, I can run in private on my own turf and for free. I wouldn’t get a t-shirt commemorating the event, but life can’t be all about the clothes. (Don’t quote me on that.)

But there is something to be said for the preparation of this. Of course I could do those things on my own and without the cost, but there wouldn’t be the same amount of motivation and determination that I’ve had. Ever since I decided to do this I have put time into training and preparing and grown stronger faster than I would have thought possible. Suddenly, I am a runner.
I decided back in November to sign up for a half-marathon. I knew I wasn’t ready, but my logic was that in committing myself to doing one I would have to get ready. My logic was right. Over the Christmas holidays I had some extra time so I used it to increase my distances. Whereas for years I had been a solid three-mile runner, all of a sudden I found that I was doing five, six and even seven miles at a stretch.

When I returned to teaching spin classes at the gym after a two week break, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to endure an hour-long class. But after two weeks of running and working on my endurance there, a one hour spin class seemed almost like…a joke.

Soon I could run the length of Burbank all the way into Glendale, the neighboring city. Coming back was another story, though. I started bonking. For a few weeks I started cramping and running out of energy at about mile eight. I talked to my nutritionist about it, and she confirmed the “bonking” diagnosis. I made some adjustments to the amount of food I ate the night before and morning of a long run. I carried more fluids with me and changed the type and amount of nutrition I took with me, and then I could do 10 miles without a lot of problems. For the last long training run I did two weeks ago, I ran essentially the circumference of Burbank – 12 miles.

People, experienced runners, have told me that I’m going to “love” running thirteen point one miles. I don’t think I am. I didn’t fall in love with doing twelve. I was pleased that I was able to accomplish it and have enjoyed growing stronger and building endurance, but I don’t LOVE it. I love four, find five to be enjoyable. Six is nice, seven is tolerable, and eight is still in my comfort zone but not fun. I tolerate nine and start to get bored at ten. Thirteen? I don’t know. I know I will be pleased when it’s done and that I have finished. And that’s my goal – to finish.

Speaking of finishing, there is one bit of training that I accidentally neglected. “Accidentally” because I didn’t know I was going to need to do it. This race has several different versions – there’s a family 5K, two 10Ks, and two half-marathons. I originally chose the flatter, takes-place-on-the-road version. Several people kept telling me I should do the trail version. I kept saying no because I haven’t done trail running. I’ve done lots of hills to get ready, but all on paved roads – none on trails.

Then someone said the thing that made me change my mind: “The last half is all downhill!” I immediately switched my registration to the trail version.

What I didn’t think of until a few days later was that if the last half is all downhill, that must mean the first half is all uphill. Uh oh. Apparently the middle eight miles are on trails, and it’s supposed to be beautiful. I don’t know how much of the beauty I’ll be able to appreciate as I’m focused on finishing this thing in the time I have set for myself, but there you have it.

So here it is – less than 24 hours before the race that I’ve been focused on for the better part of three months. People keep asking me if I’m ready, and my response is, “As ready as I can be.” I don’t mean that to be self-deprecatory or negative; I mean simply that I have prepared the best that I know how. I also don’t know how well prepared I am until the event actually happens, but that’s how it is with anything you work hard for, isn’t it? Studying and preparing only gets you so far until you have to actually take the test. You can’t spend your whole life preparing – you have to go and DO.

As Paul said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection...” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) (“Keep under” = rigorously discipline.)

Or as my running shirt says that I’ll be wearing, “It’s not about keeping up, it’s about keeping on.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where to Bike

It's still about three months away, but I'm excited about the Huntsman 140 that I will be participating in with two if my sisters while another sister and other family members serve as support members. (I'm very grateful in advance for those people.)

We sisters have been emailing back and forth about it, setting schedules and making plans for that weekend. We've also been sharing training progress and goals. My sister who did the ride last year bought top-of-the-line bike shorts for us other two. I know I'll be deeply appreciative of those too after 7+ hours in the saddle.

Yes, excitement is building. I received a donation yesterday that put me over the top of my $500 goal (but that doesn't mean I'll stop fundraising!) so I've earned the official H140 jersey for 2013.

But before I can fully concentrate on the necessary training for the ride, I have one more milestone- my half-marathon this Saturday. I'll be glad when its over so that I can focus on the thing that we're all buzzing about, but I am still very much focused on completing that in my goal pace time. Another entry soon about that when I'm not relegated to typing with my thumbs on my phone.

To prepare for the H140, I ordered this book which arrived yesterday. It will be an important part of my training toolkit as I start doing actual riding, not just spin classes.

Also, last night I went to an Imagine Dragons concert. Some of you first heard of them when I made a video of last year's H140 ride. When they started playing their big hit, I thought of that ride and my sister. Against the bouncer's will, I was able to snag a short little video of them performing one of the songs I used in that video.

I got an email from that sister yesterday which said, in part, "By the way, I keep hearing from people that they're expecting another video this year with cool music. I don't know how you're going to pull that off, but I thought you'd like to know."

I am already making plans to make that happen. No worries.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I think I mentioned in one of my Paris posts that my digital SLR camera died. At the very least, it's in intensive care. Unfortunately, I figured that out after lugging it overseas with the anticipation of taking some really great photos with it. I still got some nice photos, and am grateful for my little digital snapshot camera, but it really does just take snapshots. So I splurged and got a new DSLR. Today was the first day I've had a chance to take it out for a spin. We've had beautiful spring weather this week. Today was a perfect day - not too hot, the sun was shining. We went to Descanso Gardens and I am thrilled with the photo quality. I haven't even had to run one of these through Photoshop. From southern California to you - happy spring!

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Real Fictional Life

 Reading a good book, a good story that's well written transforms me from this real world into the more real, fictional world the book is set in. I was reading last night before my class, sitting in my car in a parking lot lit by harsh fluorescent lights. So transfixed was I that when I lifted my head, foggily, to do..what? I don't remember, but I looked up and out of my windshield, surprised that there was a world there that had nothing to do with the South Carolina I was reading about. Instead of a warm, humid summer day, I was startled to see a late-winter night, windows sprinkled with raindrops.

Being so engrossed in a book is good and bad. It's a wonderful escape. Too wonderful. And when I emerge, I am disoriented and confused, wondering where my friends are that I so recently left behind in black and white printed words on a page.

The real world, the one in which I am a three-dimensional character, seems flat and two dimensional and unreal in comparison.

Why is it easier to live inside of books than have a life outside of them? I want to be as three dimensional as the wonderful characters I befriend between the covers. I want to be as real and meaningful as they are. I want to matter.

“There is something wonderful about a book. We can pick it up. We can heft it. We can read it. We can set it down. We can think of what we have read. It does something for us. We can share great minds, great actions, and great undertakings in the pages of a book.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues that Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes.)