Archive for the '2013 Challenge' Category
Long distance running humbles you; it reminds you that you’re mortal. You wake up the morning of a marathon feeling prepared and excited about your race. But when you finally meet her, the one you’ve been waiting for for months and months, the marathon says to you, “Hey, you think you’re ready for me? Well take a look at this hill. And this one. And this big one here. Oh, sure, you’ve done your training, but don’t get too big for your spandex britches, my dear. I’ve got 26.2 miles to teach you a thing or two about endurance.”
And so it went for me yesterday. After training for all of 2013 to shave an hour off my marathon finishing time, I came in–as usual–right around 5:30. Don’t ask me my exact time. You can look it up if you’re inclined. I think it was 5:36ish. What’s most important is that I would like to register my sincere apologies to Texas–and to Austin in particular–for calling it “flat.” Even after we arrived in Austin on Friday, I continued to think, “Where are the hills everyone keeps telling me about?” Well, now I can tell you where they are. They are on miles six through fifteen of the marathon course. I bow in respect to them, ask forgiveness for scoffing at those who told me the Austin Marathon would be hilly, and commit to adding hill repeats to my training regimen. Amen.
Yesterday, I arrived at the starting line with the Fit School women, anxious to do my first marathon in over a year. The thrum of excitement vibrated in the air at the State Capital.
The air was warm and humid; we all glistened with moist anticipation. I positioned myself directly behind the 4:40 pacers, hoping I could hold with their 10:41 pace until the course flattened out at mile 18–where I would then surge forward and pick up my pace. Ha!
For the first six miles I was solid. Though the humidity in the air was more than I’m used to, I felt good. Even the plantar fasciitis I’ve been fighting with seemed to go into temporary remission. Right around mile seven, the hills started. As long as an UP was followed by a DOWN I didn’t lag too far behind the pacers, but once the UPs were followed up by other UPs, I began to watch my pacers drift farther and farther into the distance ahead of me. Eventually I lost sight of them.
The Austin Marathon, though tough, is also one of be most well-attended (by spectators) races I’ve ever done. So, while I was lagging behind my intended pace, I was loving the atmosphere. The course winds through several neighborhoods where people set up lawn chairs and signage and settle in for the whole morning. And Austin is a dog town! In fact, one of my fellow Bellinghamsters, Mayumi, told us later that she passed the time by counting black dogs. If you know me at all, you know that seeing dogs out on a race course gives me little bursts of oxytocin (which, sadly, doesn’t make me faster, but it does make me happier). It seemed like there was one dog for every two human spectators along the course. What’s not to love, even if you are struggling with a hill or two–or ten?
The fans at this race had the best energy I’ve ever seen. “Hit this spot for more power,” one sign said, with a big star outlined right in the middle. “Quitters get your margaritas here.” “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.” “Run like you stole something,” one little two-year-old boy’s sign read. And then there was the guy in the Michigan sweatshirt who met his runner (right behind me) at least seven times on the course and played the song “Eye of the Tiger” at every appearance he made.
But even love from a happy crowd couldn’t help me hold my pace beyond the half-way point. At mile 16 I had to stop to stretch and rub out a cramp in my left quad. At mile 18 I saw the 4:55 pacers pass me. When I couldn’t keep up with even them, I knew my last eight miles would be hard and slow. I could see that I wouldn’t be getting a PR, or even coming in under five hours.
Do you know that moment when you have to surrender to NOT achieving what you hoped you would? Not getting what you want? In those moments you have to give yourself a good think. Will you berate yourself, whisper hateful, angry self-recriminations? Or will you turn toward metaphor and try to listen for what the experience can teach you? I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent too many years of my life feeling sorry for myself and internally lashing out. So I don’t do that anymore. I listen for what I can learn. In a practical sense, what I learned is what I mentioned earlier: I need to add hill work to my training. But in a wider view, I understood that some things (in my case yesterday, it was the marathon) never get easier. I started thinking about areas of disagreement I have with loved ones or sadness I feel about losses I’ve experienced throughout my life. No, some things never do get easier. You just regroup, recover, start training again, and go back in when you’re ready. I knew this was what I’d have to do after missing my mark yesterday.
Determined to take what I could from the run, in spite of my disappointment, I presssed forward. Slowly. At mile 26, my friends Carol, Julie, and Leah cheered for me from the sidelines and gave me the boost I needed to get up the last 800 meter hill before dropping in for the finish line.
Thanks to all who followed the journey to improve my marathon time. I guess I’m not there yet–but we don’t always reach our goals on the first try, do we?
And thank you Austin Marathon! You kicked my ass, but I love you anyway.
Well, every day I get a little more excited about the Austin Marathon. Last week someone asked me when I was going to run my next marathon and she misheard me as saying “Boston” instead of “Austin.” I had to laugh. I WILL be at the Boston Marathon this year, but once again I’ll be there as a cheerleader for Bill instead of as a participant. No, Austin is my next race. I didn’t have to qualify to get in.
I’ve been training all of 2013 to improve my running and to get ready for Austin, as you know. I’ve changed my cadence, learned better posture, sped up my paces in the 10K and half marathon distances, and put in many miles of speed work–something I thought I’d never bother with. I’ve enjoyed changing up my routine. In the past, I’ve focused only on logging miles; this past year I’ve pushed myself in new ways.
As the race draws near, I’m anxious about meeting my goal: To shave an hour off of my average 5:30 marathon time.
But one thing I’ve always believed is that each day of the journey is as important as the destination. Whatever my finishing time in Austin turns out to be, I’ve grown as a runner and as a person, and I hold that growth as a high value.
So now that 2014 is here and I have new goals to reach for, I’m strategizing once again to meet benchmarks along the way. I promised I’d write a blog about each of the four strategies I consider crucial to the meeting of any goal. Remember, the four strategies for success are scheduling, accountability, evaluating/measuring progress, and overcoming roadblocks.
I believe that if something doesn’t end up on the calendar, there is little chance it will happen. Once something is on the agenda for a specific date and time, it’s likely to get done. For years, I kept long “to do” lists next to my desk and worked through them, crossing off tasks as I went. I still keep such lists, but what I’ve discovered is that I tend to work on the items that are easiest to complete and leave the difficult or labor-intensive tasks on the list indefinitely.
Some people (like my husband, Bill) have iron wills and can gut their way through difficult tasks. Such people can delay their fun and will put down their metaphorical plows only when their hard work is complete. I’ve never been like this. I am (like many, many people I know) a little lazy and undisciplined by nature. To overcome my tendency to avoid hard work, I’ve learned to put my work on my calendar. So, every time I HOPE to spend a couple of hours writing or HOPE to get in a long run, I write it on my agenda. From 2:00 to 4:00 today, for example, I’ll be working on my new book proposal. At 5:00 I have an important phone call to make. Other things I put on my calendar are: Run 4 miles. Edit client’s work. Write blog post. Send out newsletter. If I ever miss an appointment with you or forget to do something I said I would do, I guarantee it never made it onto my calendar.
The thing is, many of the big goals we have (training for a marathon, writing a book, or learning to play the violin, for example) cannot be done in one sitting; they cannot be checked off of a “to do” list because they are long term commitments. Big goals take a bit of inspiration and faith in ourselves. But inspiration and faith are fickle friends; they come and go unbidden. The calendar, on the other hand, is a faithful, insistent taskmaster–reliable and immutable.
So, what is your big goal this year? When are you putting in the hours? Tuesday from 8am to 10am? And what time are you working on your goal next week? And the week after that? If you don’t currently schedule time to work toward your goals in the same way you would schedule a doctor’s appointment, give it a try. Scheduling works.
I’m not gonna lie to you. I’ve been in a funk. Those of you who know me personally know that the beginning of winter is ALWAYS hard for me. Add to that the fact that Bill and I are recalibrating the energy in our house now that he’s retired and the fact that I’m now starting the peri-menopausal journey fair and square, and I’m just feeling a little discombobulated.
There was a time when I couldn’t have made myself run through a little life-cycle depression or through dark skies and rain. Thank heavens I made a commitment to running more than a decade ago. I don’t know about all of you, but when I’m in a funk I don’t feel motivated to do anything–including running. Fortunately, my habit removes the question. In the past 12 years, thanks to running, I’ve pushed through 12 winters and lots of life transitions without once giving in to the temptation to curl up under a blanket and sleep until June (not that there aren’t days when I don’t get out of my pajamas).
If you’re like me at all, you’ll know the feeling of dread that comes over you when you look outside and see nothing but endless drizzle (especially when the inside of you is drizzling too). Let me offer encouragement to anyone else who is looking at the gray world outside your window or perhaps a little internal gray and wondering how you’ll get through until the sun shines again. Let’s all depend on our good habits, shall we? We’ve developed them just exactly for the times when we don’t have enough will or desire to do what is good for us. Just put on your running clothes and walk out the door. If you’re new to running and you don’t have the habit well developed, here’s a trick: find a runner friend who does and ask her to drag you out a couple times a week. That’s what I’ll be doing even though I’ve been at this for a while–depending on my community when even the strength of my habits won’t carry me out the door. Don’t worry, we’ll get out of our funk.
This week in training:
Sunday: Long run. 15 miles (the last hour in the pouring rain). My last mile was my fastest (10 mins). Good training/nasty weather. This was my longest run in 2013! Since I’ve been working on my pace, I’ve been sticking to half marathons this year. It was good to get beyond that distance as I ramp up for some marathons. And I want to give a shout out to David Robb who was out running in the rain, too. Thanks for pushing me on that last mile!
Monday: I walked through Carol’s workout–probably put in three miles.
Tuesday: Hard walking (still feeling sore from my long run). 5 miles.
Wednesday: Nothing. I sat a lot and read a book.
Thursday: Pace work. Seven miles. Five of those were mile repeats at or faster than 10 minutes per mile.
Saturday: I’ll get out for my speed work at the track: Ins and outs (hard on the straight aways/recovery on the the turns for 25 minutes) after a warm up.
Keep up the good work, friends!
Notice the picture of me smiling like I’m having fun? This photo was taken by my awesome running coach Carol Frazey during Saturday’s Waterfront 15K in Belllingham–right around the halfway point, I think.
For months, I’ve been faithfully putting in my training as prescribed by Carol, making sure to get in at least the three critical workouts she recommends each week: one day of speed work, one day of pace work, and one long run on the weekends. And while I’ve managed to get PRs in both the 10K and half marathon distances this year, I’ve felt they were hard won and didn’t necessarily represent good race strategies. For my 10K PR, the last mile was a lovely, accommodating downhill (which I appreciated, but I do have to give gravity at least a little credit). For my half marathon PR (which was my best time by a handful of seconds, really), I’d gotten tired and slowed to an eleven minute pace for the final two miles–which means I’d run the first few miles too fast. (Let me quickly assure you that I’m not being hard on myself by noticing these things; I’m just looking at the big picture of becoming a more proficient and efficient runner. You won’t find me slipping into perfectionism, I promise!! I was content with both of those races.)
What I’ve been trying to do is what everyone says is optimal in a race: that I start at a reasonable and sustainable pace and hold it there so there’s something left in the tank at the end. I’m very excited to report that I achieved this in Saturday’s race.
I think because the course was super crowded at the beginning, I wasn’t able to start very quickly at all. On the narrow path available next to the traffic buzzing through Fairhaven, there simply wasn’t space to pass anyone, so I was lucky to have snuggled myself in the starting area among other runners who were also going for a 10 minute per mile pace. They kept me from using precious fresh energy too soon.
I knew the first half of the course would allow me to hold my 10 minute pace because there were no uphills to contend with, but mile seven and mile nine on the way back both had hills. I set my heart on holding 10 minute miles until I hit the hills on mile seven and then doing mile eight at 10 minutes or faster, if I could. And I could!! My final overall pace average was 10:03 and my finishing time was 1:34. That’s 10 minutes faster than the last time I ran the Waterfront 15K in 2011!!!
Friends, I’m here t tell you that if you keep up your training and don’t give in to discouragement, it will pay off. Although I’m an avid runner, I’m not a naturally athletic person. I’m also 46 years old, 135 pounds, and a lover of cheese and wine. My body is not built for Boston Qualifying, nor do I have the work ethic to push myself to the brink of common sense to get myself there. What I do have is what anyone can have: tenacity–in good-enough measures.
If you’ve been following me on this journey and working toward your own goals, I hope you’ll notice the small improvements you’re making and celebrate them. Sometimes movement is measured in time, sometimes in attitude. For me, more important even than the PR or the consistent strategy I employed during Saturday’s race was the fact that I had a good time. This is the first time I’ve come close to my time goal AND felt happy for the whole race. You might remember me saying at the beginning of this year that I was going to give one year to getting faster, but that if it made me unhappy to run harder, I’d go back to lallygagging my way through races. Looks like one can work hard and be happy at the same time. Who knew?
Clara and I were two of about nine half-marathon runners Saturday at the Journey for Healing Lummi Run/Walk against Domestic Violence. This little run is special and sort of a secret gem. I found out about it because Bill discovered it online by chance and ran it last year. He warned me that the course wasn’t marked well and that there weren’t many aid stations (there was one). But he also told me that it was a run with a lot of heart and good will and that it was a beautiful course. I should do it to get some miles in, he suggested.
This is the second race I’ve been to that starts on the Lummi Reservation. Both times, members of the tribe have been present to sing a prayer and give their blessing to the runners. Yesterday’s prayer was melodic and full of yearning. This little race was begun several years ago, one of the organizers told me, as a cleansing walk on behalf of those hurt by domestic violence. It organically became a run–and then a race with medals for finishers. Though this run is as low key as you can get, runners can expect appreciation from those whose homes you run past, barking dogs with wagging tails, and a roving support van. Runners can also expect the drummers and singers who start you off with a prayer to be stationed along the course to keep the beat of feet hitting the pavement. The musicians were my favorite part of the run–besides running with first-time half marathoner, Clara.
The first several miles follow the bay. I ran about an eighth of a mile behind Clara most of that first stretch. We hadn’t met yet, but I had a feeling we would be spending the better part of two and half hours together. Since there weren’t mile markers on the course, and since my Garmin was acting up and didn’t start measuring until I’d been running for about six minutes, I’m not sure exactly where we were when I passed Clara (maybe around mile five). All I know is that when I came to a fork in the road where I clearly needed to make a decision, she was an eighth of a mile behind me. I stopped, turned, and shouted to her, asking if she knew which way we should go. With absolute confidence she steered me to the left and followed shortly (I’m glad she’d looked carefully at the course map!).
In a few more miles Clara caught up to me and we chatted our way up a long, gradual hill as a Lummi police officer tracked with us, checking that we were feeling alright and handing us water. Clara had a blister and fell behind me with approximately four miles to go. Still, she finished only a few minutes after I did. She told me it had been her first half!
I just want to shout out to Clara and to the organizers. Thanks for a lovely day. Thank you for the beautiful sweatshirt, a warm welcome, and for the yummy sliced up fruit ready for us at the finish line! I know this event is a labor of love, and I promise that as I ran the circle of the course, I held your original intent in my heart: that everyone would be safe from harm in their own homes. Blessings.