Category Archives: Running, the bitch goddess

about those five miles

So I blah blah blah’ed yesterday about how participating in a marathon relay is just a really long and lonely way to run 5 miles.

And I stand by that assertion.  I fully intend to write some sternly worded letter to somebody who doesn’t care about just how clusterfucky that experience was.

But, truth be told there was something pretty awesome about my five miles.

Nina, my best friend from college is a Runner.  She lives in New York and will occasionally throw out suggestions for meeting up with her to do some sort of running thing.  Usually, I’m all full of the running-loathe and oh-hells-no, I’m not going to fly to Bamboozle just so I can loathe over there.  But when she’s turning up in my backyard to do it, I’ve got to, right?

Turns out her sister, Andrea, was the original source for this Big Sur marathon relay plan and she coerced Nina into creating her own team.  So in the end, there were two teams, loosely connected by the sisters.

This was Andrea’s first time racing ever, she hadn’t been working on running for very long, and was planning to run it at a 15 minute/mile pace.  Given the sketchiness of my own running endeavors as of late, I figured we’d be a pretty good running pair and agreed to do the first leg with her – me for my team and she for hers.

Which means that even though I had to leave my own team mates behind, I had a pal for the whole experience.

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sad and tired on the middle-of-the-night bus ride to the start

She reaped the benefits of my incessant questioning… “Where are we going?!” and “Why is it so dark out there?”
Probably also “Are we there yet?”
I couldn’t help it.  That bus ride was an HOUR.  In the dark.  And I pretty much had no idea what was going to happen when we got there.

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on your mark get set

We navigated the shanty town of runners huddled together and camped out on the ground everywhere at the start, like a third world country of privilege.  In our efforts to make it to a porta-potty, we picked our way through the sitting-on-the-ground people, following another woman, while a trail of people followed us, pressing ever forward.  Taking this path of least resistance, we were funneled to a wall of porta-potties, where we discovered that we had not actually gotten into a pre-existing line, but formed a new one.  A new line of 30 people, with no way to turn around and go back.  The line next to us, which was using two porta-potties, started throwing dagger death rays at us as they discovered the interloping on their turf.  The woman who we’d followed fled the scene.  Leaving us to try and make a case for sanity.  Lacking previous experience in what you do when other people get all aggro and decree that they are going to forbid us from using their porta-potty, we also left eventually, to seek out yet another line of epic slow going.  I really wish that I’d thought to just have a squat right then for those people, leaving them my special good-luck tidings of pee and pre-race poo.  Instead, we just left them with a long line of people behind us so that they could, presumably, have the same psychotic argument over and over again.

Bonded by confrontation and the need to pee, we joined the throngs at the starting mob and got ready to run.

And I discovered the best possible motivator:  running with someone who’s newer to it than you are.  It was not an easy 5 miles and it was hard for her.  Which isn’t to say that it was a yawn for me – it wasn’t – but helping Andrea to do it made me do it.  Made me keep going when I might have otherwise just gotten into a little grump and start walking.  Made me find a milestone to which we would walk to (on the few breaks we took) and deem that we would start to jog again at that point.  Made me sing, terribly and loudly, and with all the wrong words.  Made me point out the obvious, regularly… like “we’re almost to the top of this hill!”  and “look!  another nice long downhill again!”  Made me tell her stories of lunacy about how I birthed a child directly into the Indian ocean in Bora Bora in a house on stilts with a floor that opened to the water below.  It made me tell her that lots of people think that they can’t do this.  But that it’s not about can’t.  It’s just hard.
Trying to motivate someone else was the best possible motivator for me and those 5 miles just melted away.

AND.

This bonded and motivational running caper also resulted in fancy photos of me, the likes of which have never existed before.

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point a camera at me

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pretending to run sideways in front of a mile marker.

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what it means to run a marathon relay

I ran in the Big Sur International Marathon this weekend.  And before you get all zippy about that, I ran it as a relay with 4 other people.  Which really just means that I did a simple, short 5 mile run.

I’ve never done a relay before and I was full of questions about what it would be like

I knew that our team would be running our legs independently, so I logically knew that I would be alone, but still… the vision in my head looked mostly like this:

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TEAM!

The reality was a lot more like this:

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ALONE.

From my experience of one race, here’s what I now know and impart to you…
-Because it’s happening simultaneously with the actual marathoning, a relay marathon must suffer all the same hoopty and brouhaha. This means I had to wake up at the grotesque hour of 3:20 am.  For a race start of 6:45 am.  So that I could run 5 miles.

-Leaving The David and Vinny, the 2nd and 3rd legs, to get on the bus to take me to the start was a super strange feeling.  We’re all in this race boat together, and now it’s “so long chum!  see you in 8 hours!”

-As the runner of our first leg, I had to contend with the actual race start and thousands of marathoners.  I could write a whole other blog post (stay tuned, maybe I will) or possibly even a scathing treatise of hate just about this race start.  It took an hour to get through the porta-potty lines and bag check.  Just so I could run 5 miles.

-Finishing my leg, seeing the exchange point and sprinting up to The David to pass off our relay slap bracelet was fun and exciting.  That was a pretty cool 15 seconds of “Hooray!  I’m doing a relay!  I’m passing my baton!  Go team go!”   But then he ran away.  Another 5 miles away.  Leaving me alone with the other Leg 1ers.  So that he could go run 5 miles.

-Finishing leg 1 meant that I was 21 miles away from the finisher’s village and was currently just stuck on the side of the road.  A very beautiful road, granted.  There were bananas and gatorade, but other than a promise of a bus ride back in another 3 hours, that was all I got.  Possibly another sort of marathon, one that’s not taking place on such a scenic, yet inaccessible and remote course, wouldn’t have this problem.  But being stranded for hours and hours of forever is a big fat dislike.

-So I went ahead and walked the next leg, and found The David at the end of leg 2. On my team, I ran one leg and walked a second.  The 3rd legger went ahead and ran the 4th leg, as well, and then ran/walked to the end (for a total of 16 miles!).  The 4th leg runner also ran the 5th leg.  All the extra running wasn’t about wanting to do a longer run, it was about wanting to get to the finish, rather than be stranded somewhere along the course.  Except for me.  I travelled 10 miles and was still el stucko.

-We had to be at the shuttle pick-up point to be carted off to the start at 4 am. The bus dropped us off at the finisher’s village around noon.  Not counting the next shuttle ride we had to take to get back to the parking lot where we’d left the car that morning, that is 8 HOURS of time for the sake of running 5 MILES.  Which kind of means that I had a pace of 96 minute miles.

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running readiness

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I completed my third half marathon on Sunday.

And I wasn’t ready.

My last run was 11 miles, about a month ago.  It was a pretty crappy run, with a lot of walking.  The 10 miles before that was pretty poor, the 9 before that and the 8 before that.  I can’t even remember when the last good long run was and none of the week day training work was helping me to get it together.

The David was gone, far far away and I’d fallen into a pit of not giving a shit about anything good.

So I threw up my hands and blew off my training.  I knew I’d still do the half, but knowing that I had no hope of beating my best time – or even meeting it – took off the pressure to complete the scheduled workouts.

In my mind, it would be leisurely.  I would jog a little, walk a little.  Enjoy the festivity and the people.  I would stop and dance with the bands along the way.  I would smile and wave and high five.  It would be casual and fun.

I wasn’t nervous.  I was looking forward to it.  The start of the race was exciting.  Pressed into the throngs of people, listening to the national anthem, and then “Sexy and I Know It.”  Passing by the mayor cheering us on across the starting line.  It was awesome.

And then.

It was not awesome.

The first time I stopped jogging to walk was at the 2 mile mark.  And as much as I was willing to take this race easy, I wasn’t willing to just walk it.  So the stop and start continued.  After 5 miles, all the bits that might be hurting, were.  The hot spot I usually get on my right foot.  My feet, in general.  My hips, knees and ankles.  My legs felt like leaden lumps every plodding step.  My whole everything just felt like a squeezed out toothepaste tube.

I wished for over.

But time passes.  And it just gets done.

I didn’t have it in me to sprint, or even speed up, but I did jog through the last quarter mile and across the finish line, holding The David’s hand.

I got my medal, scarfed a quarter of a bagel, and gulped down two bottles of water.

And then we walked the mile to get home.  Srsly?  Yah.  Streets were closed all over the place for the race course, so public transportation was all weird and unfigure-out-able.

I’m definitely suffering today.  Far more than I have for the previous two races.  I have some serious aches and pains – not proper injuries, but swelling and tenderness and not ok.

One of my coworkers, who also kinda shirked his training, pulled or tweaked something in his calf at mile 7, where he was on pace for a pretty good time, then hobbled for 3 more miles and then bailed.  So I’m really grateful to have finished.

And I do really love this event.  There is just a ton of civic spirit.  People who live along the route hang out on their sidewalk and bang on drums.  A local church was outside on their front steps clapping and just calling “good morning!”  Some dudes from Raider Nation, who I will – for lack of a cleverer idea – believe were actual Oakland Raider professional football players, had a cheering station. They high fived and one of them said “You’re making Oakland proud.”

It was a huge motivator for making me think I could do this crazy thing and signing myself up for my first half marathon last year:  I wanted to be a part of this big thing in my community.

So while I’m glad that I did it, I did learn a big lesson.  13 miles is not nothing.  You can’t mess around with that business.  You can brush off your training, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to brush off the event.  Not that I would have wanted to go into it full of dread, knowing that it was going to be a heinous wretched.  But maybe I’ll remember this and won’t be so cavelier about the next one.

Because, obvi!  Who doesn’t want to do that again?!

Countdown to the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll on June 23….

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Running: Actually, yes you can

I’ve got that half marathon coming up in a few weeks, which means I’m running a grody number of miles more often than not. So, if you’re a person who has in person conversations with me, we might have one like this:  I tell you that I ran 11 miles on Saturday and you’re all “Crazy Town!”

And then you invariably say “I could never do that.  Not even if <scary animal/menacing chaser> was chasing me.”

And I will try to convince you that you could do it.  You deny and self-deprecate.

But seriously, you can.  It’s actually not really that special at all.

Or, ok… it is special.  I’d wager that fewer than 50% of adults can actually jog a mile.  But not because they’re missing legs or because they have a disordered phobia of moving quickly by foot.  It’s just because they haven’t properly tried.  With gusto.
So, it’s special.  By default.

But it doesn’t have to be.  If you have a functional body, you can run.  Maybe not fast, or far, at first.  But you can.

You can you can you can.

You can run 10 miles, if you want to.  It was unthinkable to me, once upon a time.  Turns out, I wasn’t being very imaginative.

You can you can you can.

You can run for 60 seconds.  They might be some highly uncomfortable seconds.  But uncomfortable doesn’t mean you can’t.

You can you can you can.

You can cross a finish line.  And cry because you did it.  I know you can, because I did it.  As clichéd as it is to say, I’m saying it anyway.  If I can do it, you can do it.

I couldn’t do it, and then I could.

I can.

You can you can you can.

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hate-running

I do a lot of running.  4 or 5 days out of the week.

As little as 30 minutes at a time.  Sometimes 2 hours or more.

In the dark.  On a sunny day.  On a treadmill.  Next to the bay.  Around and around the lake in my neighborhood.

Consistently for 2 years now and intermittently for 5.

And I hate it.

Every time.  The whole time.  I am filled with dread preparing to do it and I am not getting high when it’s over.

So why, then?  Why do something that I hate?

I have an uncanny ability to force myself to do things I’d rather not do.
Hate is not as much of an impediment for me as you’d expect

More importantly, I have a big dedication to exercise.  And not just that banal pleasantry of “keeping active,” I mean sweaty ass exertion, it doesn’t count if it doesn’t suck.
The fitness element is, of course, important, but exercise also keeps me in check across the board.  When I’m in a regular habit of exercising, my eating is more healthful.  If I take a week off, then my eating habits slide.  Into a bucket of cheesecake caramel swirl ice cream.

So, because I value not being in a constant state of inflation, I choose to subject myself to exercise.

And running?   Why does it have to be the absolutely most torturous form of exercise?  (Other than rowing.  Rowing can suck it.  Sorry.)

Primarily, it’s the calorie burn.  Weight loss is always foremost in my exercising mind.  And if it’s not loss, then for pete’s sake, it’s at least non-gain.  Pretty much nothing beats running when it comes to good old cardio.  Except cross country skiing.  Which blows in San Francisco.  I do not recommend.

That running easily sets you up for specific goals is a really close second reason, though.  Road races happen every weekend.  There is a 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon option to shoot for whenever you feel like shooting.  Committing to an event on the horizon means that you have to train in order to complete the event.  There’s a constant sense of plan and purpose.  And the races themselves are actually kinda fun.  A weird sort of fun that is over as soon as I start running (but comes back once I cross the finish line).  It’s the anticipation and the crowd and the ceremony of it all that’s compelling.

Sure, maybe there are a few other options that might meet these criteria, but those require owning a road bike and/or being a competent swimmer.  Even so, there wouldn’t be nearly as many opportunities for event participation in those sports.  (And then there’s the sunshine.  I shun it.  Those people on bicycles are always out there in the vampire killing sunlight.  It’s heinous.)

. . . . . . . . . . . .

I kept waiting to catch the running bug, like people said I would.  It didn’t happen, but I’m open to the idea that it still could.  Maybe as I get faster, fitter, stronger.

But it doesn’t matter.  I’m going to keep doing it.  And even if I hate it, every time, I do love that moment when I’ve finished and I can say to myself with grim certainty, “I fucking did it.”

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getting the groove back

It’s probably good that I’m not embarking on a new year’s resolution sort of fitness plan right now.  At least I already know that I’m capable of committing for big long stretches and that I will still be struggling with and whining about this in July. Instead of starting something all shiny and new, I’ve just got to get myself rolling back into the groove I had deeply ingrained before the Christmas sloth took over.

I’m not a fitness expert, so I don’t know exactly how to plan for a groove getting back.  Should I try to run a 5k in the same time that I did a few weeks ago?  Or how much slower?  Should I lift the same weights and potentially do fewer?  Or lower the weight?  Shorter intervals?  Slower intervals?  Or fewer intervals?  Oh, what to do… what to do….

The groove is not literally engraved in stone. I know the answer is to just give it a whirl and see how it goes, but I’m really neurotic, you see.  I like to know exactly what I’m doing at the gym before I go, so that I can flagellate myself afterwards as appropriate.  And if I go in there with a lackadaisical I’ll-just-do-what-I-feel-like attitude, chances are good I will feel like watching old reruns of Charmed while loafing on the recumbent bike, followed by some active sitting and staring.

So, here we are:  week 2 of being back to normal, trying to be in the groove, ordinary life again and I’m still kinda floundering.  The plan (in my head) for this morning was to do 4 5 minute intervals with 2 minutes in between on the treadmill.  How fast?  I dunno.  Fast.  But not sprinting.

But I had to stop and retie a shoe in the middle of the 3rd interval.  And then I just crapped out and walked the final 2 minutes of the last one.

Resulting in a sum total of about 2.7 miles in 31 minutes and some choice thoughts of criticism.  Not a great workout in terms of distance, duration, or feel-goodery.

The best thing I’ve done in the past 2 weeks was to get myself up and on a bike at my gym’s Monday 6 am spin class.  My spin attendance is a little sporadic most of the time, since I feel like if I’m gonna do cardio it should just be running.  But at least in the class, I know I’m getting in a solid hour of committed exercise.  Which suggests that maybe I should just start going to spin 3 mornings a week, but there is that half marathon on March 25 breathing down the back of my neck….

Sigh.

And then there’s the part of me that gains some perspective from trying to explain and write about all the deliberating and agonizing (which only represents about 2/7th of actual experienced agonizing).  That part takes a breath and says “Margaret.  You funny, yet tightly wound, little bundle of wack.  Settle yourself down.  There is a glut of half marathon training plans cavorting amongst the interwebs.  Look one up now and you will do whatever it tells you to do tomorrow.  Whatever other sorts of goals you have right now will have to be secondary.  13.1 miles of running is no joke and you are only 10 weeks away from it now, so stop with the pussyfooting around.”

The other parts agree.  There’s a coordinated effort, a training plan is printed out.  I’m only a week behind really.  A 3 mile tempo run is totally acceptable for tomorrow.  The 6 mile long run prescribed for this weekend is not *too* long.  I can do that.

And the groove… it stretches as far as the eye can see.

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the pursuit of capital r

Right.  So, I’m critical.

I don’t congratulate myself for simple acts of completion.  I don’t take compliments especially well.

I have ideas about what’s good and if that vision isn’t met, well… then, it’s non-good.

So I don’t call myself a Runner.  Just like I don’t call myself a Photographer.  Or a Writer.

I don’t have an exact definition for what it would take to be a Runner, but I feel like I’ll know it, if and when it happens.

Now, I know there are people out there who feel very empowered by calling themselves Runners.  And I get that.  I know there aren’t international standards for Running, except that it’s called “walking” if one foot is always touching the ground.  Which, technically, might mean that’s what I’m doing when I’m “running.”

Anyway.  Yeah.  Some people are all “I”m a Runner!” even though they’re trotting along at 15 minutes per mile.  Fine for you.
But I’ve just got a touch too much Asperger’s in my genetic code.  I can’t say it if I don’t fully believe it to be true.

The thing is, I really want to be a Runner.  In spite of how much I disenjoy the act, I just really want it.

I did two half marathons this year, a 10K and some 5Ks in the pursuit of this wanting.  I have had little improvements here and there, but not enough that I feel properly accomplished, and man alive, I’m just so frickin slow.

So I have a new plan.  In fact, it’s an old plan that I have already followed and completed, so I know that it is doable.

I’m redoing the Couch to 5K plan.  C25k, as the cool kids call it, is a training plan that involves little intervals of running with walking and is intended to take people from doing no exercise at all to being able to run or jog for 30 minutes straight.

But since I can definitely already keep up a steady state of gentle, harrowing plodding for well over an hour, this time I’m not just going to try to *survive* Couch to 5k.  I’m going to gnash it up into little bits of glitter and lightning.

I just finished Week 1 this morning, and did all of my one-minute intervals at sub 8 minute miling.  It wasn’t all out sprinting, but it felt pretty fast.  As the intervals get longer and longer, I expect I won’t be able to keep the pace up that high, but I’m hoping that the process will still have forced me into speeding up overall.  And then, I have secret magical beliefs that I will be able to complete a 5k in less than 30 minutes.

Who knows.  Maybe the snark monster will still be snarling if I finish in 29 minutes and 59 seconds.  But at the moment, I have having some very pleasing visions of gazelle-like glory…

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Faster

I ran a 5k race on the Fourth of July.  The same one as last year.

I feel a bit sorry for the lady who wrote that post.  She was so sad about doing that race.  And yeah, I’m still pretty hard on myself for being such a Slowbedon, but I definitely don’t feel quite as despondent as that post was anymore.

So the latest 5K?  It was still slow.  But you know what’s neat-o?  I completed the race in six minutes and 23 seconds faster than I did last year.  I finished this one in 32:04, which still hasn’t broken the magical 30 minute mark, but it’s a helluva lot closer than 38:33.

And you know what else?  In the year between that first 5k and this one, I have run 2 other 5ks, one 10k and a half marathon.

I still want to be faster, but with the perspective that a whole year can give, I can say that I have surely come a long way.

 

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Bay to Breakers

Because I’m still trying to catch up from my time of slackery, here is what happend on May 15.

Me, David, Vinny, and Nina

Here we are at the 100th annual Bay to Breakers foot race, a 7 mile course across San Francisco.   We’re dressed as the ballerinas from Black Swan, which was such an awesome idea, that lots of other people had the same one!  Also, some people just couldn’t decide, and so they were naked.

 

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Presidential fitness

I’ve been on this one-mile run kick.

It originated out of mope over my slow running times and not really knowing how to work on improving those.  So I thought I would just see if I could manage 10 minute miling, but just for 1 mile.  To my great satisfaction, I did it.

And then it became my Monday night ritual before Body Pump… the one mile treadmill test.

The first couple of times, I wasn’t really sure that I had truly given it my all; was that the absolute fastest that I could go?  But I didn’t know what sort of time I should be shooting before, so I just continued to shave ten or fifteen seconds off my time each week.

Until I got into the 8 minute range.  There was an 8:38.  Then 8:28 the next week.  And 8:21.  A two week break while I was in Hawaii, and then just last week I hit 8:10.

I’m not really sure what a good time for a mile is.  I know that KERF did a run the other day and the second mile in her 5K was 8:09.  Which felt a bit like the interwebs pulling a face at me and going “neener neener neener.”  So my single mile in 8 minutes and 10 seconds isn’t record breaking.  But it is really fast for me.  And it has gotten to the point that it is just really hard and I’m not sure that I can pull a better time just by seeing if I can.

I tried, though, last night.  And, well… it was not awesome.  I was about 3 minutes into an 8 minute even pace and it just started to suck.  Despite all the little voices convincing me that 5 minutes was nothing and that I could totally power through, I slugged out and slowed down to a walk.  I caught my breath a bit and then picked up the pace again, fluctuating all over the place trying to figure out how to just finish this one out.  Finished in 8:58.  So, a bit of a set back.

Maybe now I know that running a mile somewhere around 8:15 to 8:30 is a good challenging pace for me and I should just try to do that a couple of times without trying to shave off seconds every week.  Or maybe now I need to see what running 2 miles at 10 minutes per mile feels like.

Because I do really really want to break that 30 minute 5k mark one of these days!

Yeah, and meanwhile, 1/2 marathon training continues, for my second scheduled half of 2011 (or the second one of EVER), on July 31.  So my runs are mostly focused on easy paces over longer distances, which means that I’m sort of cheating with all of these little one mile tests for myself.

Does it sound like I’m obsessing much?  I feel a little ridiculous myself, I have to admit.  I sure spend an awful lot of time thinking about running and reviewing my training schedule and washing an unholy amount of workout clothing for someone who really isn’t very good at it.

So let’s just be grateful for blogs, where I can babble away to my hearts content, and for David’s, who are also interested in running (albeit much better at it than I am) and happy to discuss it all with me at length.

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