Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Along the journey...

Long ago I mentioned that this blog would document my journey to the marathon -- physically, mentally and spiritually. Not sure I've done well with those last two...

You may have noticed that a lot of this training season has been really difficult for me. And for a first marathon, I'm guessing that isn't particularly unusual. Training is pretty brutal. Aside from the physical hardships (which range from running way too stinkin' far to my shoe issues and black toenail syndrome), this has been a complete mental challenge. From the beginning, I've had doubts about my own ability to conquer the marathon distance. The half marathon was REALLY hard, could I really double it? Am I rushing -- after all, all the literature says you shouldn't even think about marathon training till you've been running about 2 years...? With all that is going on in your life, you should really just quit...

And somehow, I've continued on and am left with only one really long run before race day. What seemed impossible -- running anything beyond 10 miles without wanting to or actually dying -- has become a reality. 

As I look back on the last few months, I do seem to find a lot of faith parallels. While I don't want to force comparisons, running has always been a faith journey for me. In my experience, the two can't really be separated. 

Faith and marathon training both require work -- and working through pain. On my faith journey, I often have to take steps and trust that I am actually getting somewhere. Often, I'm not even sure I want to get where I'm going. The journey often seems pointless and too hard to continue. And sometimes it hurts. There is so much I don't understand and the frustration can easily pile up. At the points when everything is hard, I have to trust. 

On particularly tough runs, I often choose the farthest spot I can see and focus on simply getting there. "I just have to get to that tree/light/car..." And while concentrating on that object, it seems amazing just how quickly it is in reach. Paul talks about keeping one's eye on the prize -- and perhaps that is what he is talking about. When focusing on the goal in front of you, the pain, difficulty and distractions seem inconsequential. 

And while the prize is worth it, I must admit -- I miss having feet that didn't terrify small children!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crawling to the finish

If I can't get any comments to a post on nudist running, I may as well quit ;0)

Ran 18 miles on Saturday -- and while during the run and the hours following began to think running a marathon is the dumbest idea I've ever had, I am now insanely proud that my mental training allowed me to continue moving until hitting that 18-mile point. After two weeks of very little running, I really wasn't sure I'd make it. While I'm glad to have two weeks before the 20-miler, I'm convinced it has nothing on what I've already accomplished. 

In other news, I'm nursing my first (and hopefully last...) black toenail. It luckily is a mild case, only painful due to the blisters around it. But I imagine I will be losing at least part of a nail at some point... yay.

Bought new shoes in a larger size yesterday to solve the problem (and the problem of all my blistered toes!). While my shoe insert has helped my arches, it apparently helped crowd the front of my shoe... either that or my feet really have spread out after a year of running. Either way, it was the first pair of size 10 shoes I've ever purchased. And after 18 miles in dead shoes, having a brand new pair is REALLY nice. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baptists support nudist running??

Part of my job here at W&W is looking through the other state Baptist newspapers that are sent to the office. It helps me keep up with what is going on in other states and search for "quotables" for our editorial page. Today I stumbled across a headline that made me laugh:

"Strip down. Start running. Never quit!"

While the columnist intended the headline to be a reference to Hebrews 12 and encouraging folks to help with disaster relief efforts, you certainly wouldn't know it without reading the article!

And if this made YOU smile, show your appreciation by contributing to Team World Vision (how's that as a way to tie in my morning post?)

World Vision

Marathon day is creeping ever closer. Due to some scary health issues that have creeped up in my family in the last few weeks, my training has been interrupted. Ran for the first time in a week and a half yesterday. Luckily my legs seemed to remember what they were supposed to do. This weekend, we face an 18-miler training run. Since I missed the 16-miler, this will be FOUR miles further than I've run previously. And did I mention Saturday is my birthday?

I think Tiffany and I are both ready for Nov. 3, when the marathon will be over =0) I'd also settle for cooler weather. 

Since Saturday is my 26th birthday, I'll make another appeal for my Team World Vision cause. If any of you have any spare change needing to find a worthy home, I'd appreciate a contribution. World Vision is a fantastic organization that seeks to help children, families and communities in poverty settings. They also provide help for disaster relief -- including the recent hurricanes. I'm running this marathon on their behalf, and have set a rather lofty goal of $1,000. At this point, I am nowhere close. If you have 26 cents, 26 dollars or 26,000 dollars to contribute, you may do so either in person or via the widget to the right of this blog. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

But...it's COLD

I love ice baths. And yes, I realize that is a bizarre sentiment. But after running 10+ miles, there is absolutely NOTHING I'd rather do. I'll add to say that if I've done anything OTHER than run 10+ miles, an ice bath is the farthest thing from my mind.

And yes, this photo is of a birdbath, not a bathtub -- get over it.

Ah, but the ice bath. As much ice as you can possibly stand (or, in my case, as much ice as you have stored in the freezer or remember to buy the day before) + water as cold as you can get it from the tap = ice bath.

According to Runner's World, "Cryotherapy ('cold therapy') constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. 'Ice baths don't only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles,' says David Terry, M.D., an ultrarunner who has finished both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run 10 consecutive times."

But forget science and technicalities -- all I know is that by some sort of miracle, ice baths WORK. 

My recovery routine:
*remove shoes
*refuel using low fat chocolate milk / recoverite / etc.
*ice bath while reading something to remind me why I run (Runner's World, latest running book, etc). I tend to soak at least 20 minutes.
*lay on my bed with my legs at a right angle against the headboard (with the rest of my wrapped up, because I am now FREEZING!) for about 20-30 minutes. 
*I typically don't want to move at this point. Nap and/or lying on couch = GOOD.
*TaDa! Energy returns AND I can move WITHOUT hurting! Magic!!

Oh yeah, I also take a legitimate shower somewhere in there (after the legs at right angle step...) and clean the sweaty grossness away... prior to that, I am always laying on a towel, not directly on my bed!

Tips to make ice baths more tolerable (which you may need unless you are insane and actually learn to like them, like me!):
down jackets, hot beverages, hat! Runner's World Nikki Kimball even wears neoprene booties so that only her legs actually get the full-on cold. 

All I know -- anything that means I can get up and down the stairs to my apartment without grimacing is fantastic!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Skirt review

This morning, the 5 a.m. alarm was actually not an issue. The alarm went off, and I was amazingly awake. Or so I thought... on my drive to the trail, I was all prepared to continue to the office. At 5:20 a.m. Because I usually show up to work in running gear while it is still dark outside.... right. Luckily, I was following another one of our group and was reminded of my actual intent with enough time to turn into the trail head.

Sadly, my allergies were attacking today, forcing me to walk more than I had hoped. Coughing + drainage + running = gross. Luckily things evened out the last 15 minutes or so... 

Finally got around to using the skirt for actual running (after a weekend spent wearing it camping/canoeing). Turns out, the issues I thought I had (skirt being a bit big -- thought I may end up with chafing issues...) didn't cause any problems on the 3.5-miler this morning. Overall, I dig the skirt!

Things I don't understand:
What's with the upside-down pockets in running clothes? Are they really beneficial in any way? They are often hidden, so it can't just be a trendy thing. 

I guess that's only one thing... but if you can explain it, I will be thrilled! And may even dedicate my next blog post to you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A look back

I went back over some of my running logs from last year. Turns out my official running anniversary is Sept. 5.

It is fun to read back over the challenges I faced with those first running steps. How frustrating my first "bad" run days were. The joys of my first pair of running shoes.

Perhaps the most entertaining thing is that nothing really has changed. My distances are longer, but I still complain when a run doesn't turn out like I wanted. I still get nervous that I won't reach my goals in time. I still love putting on a pair of new running shoes for the first time. 

As the New Balance ads state, I continue to have a love/hate relationship with running. Every running day, I wake up trying to think of excuses not to run. Every cross training day, I wish I could be on the trail running. 

it is true that those first running weeks are the magical weeks of running -- every step is a new victory. Every distance is new and exciting. Although, I am finding the magic hasn't really ended. I'm still amazed at what my body is able to do. My body's fuel may even be cheaper than that of my car. Hrmmmmm... funny concept.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy anniversary to me

I started running after last year's labor day canoe trip. Today's 14 mile run (a record for me!) marks my 1 year anniversary, if not by date (as it isn't), then by holiday.

This morning's run caps the year's accomplishments. I went from running a quarter mile -- and struggling with it -- a year ago to running a challenging, but strong 14 miles today. That makes all the days that have seemed too hard, that I've felt I was progressing far too slowly all seem incredibly dim.

Yesterday I was reflecting that training is never ideal. Today's 14-miler came too early and too soon after a two day camping and canoeing trip. It would have been easy to call and cancel, to say that I needed to sleep in. But there is always an excuse. This year I've decided to say "no" to excuses. To train even when circumstances are not ideal. It's amazing how rewarding that is.

Here's to the first year of a lifetime of running.

Today I prove that ANYone can become a runner.