Wednesday, August 29, 2012

26.2 Reasons to Run

I distinctly remember finishing my first half marathon and resolving NEVER to run a marathon. While 13.1 miles has it's enjoyments, I was confident 26.2 miles would eliminate all such pleasures and break my body in the process.

I have never been so happy, relieved, proud, and grateful to eat my words.

My discovery: the greatest difficulty of a marathon lies not in the race itself, but in the preparation. And the majority of that preparation? Mental. Of course there's an element of physicality that requires conditioning...and quite a substantial element at that. But I firmly believe that the real battle waged in running, be it 1 mile or 26.2, is with your mind. We're our greatest allies and our worst enemies, and challenging our bodies will take your mind one of two ways. The first, and most obvious: negativity. Running is THE WORST! I'm winded...maybe even breathing daggers. My joints are stiff. My big toenail's probably falling off. That hill killed my quads, and why is my right hamstring weirdly sore? My shoe's tied funny. No way am I going to make this. MUST...W.A..L...K. Seriously. Some days it feels that dramatic.

The other obvious alternative: positivity. But here's the key. ***Positivity doesn't mean you don't have any of the negative thoughts!*** But as they come, and they WILL come, you train yourself to look beyond them. You can acknowledge them, give them a moment of validation...the complaints ARE real after all and ignoring them isn't going to get you anywhere. But then you let them go. For me, that requires more than just stopping the negative thought before it becomes a negative thought process. You need a positive replacement. Some days, those might seem hard to come by, but if that happens to be the case, I know I needed the run. And a healthy dose of life perspective. Might as well find it on my feet!

This is one of my major reasons for running without music (in addition to safety). I can't afford the distraction. I need to tune into my body and how it feels, so I can tune in more effectively to my mind...where the true training begins!

In the final weeks before the race, I had a friend pass along a fun piece of advice she'd heard somewhere along her marathon training. For each mile you run, dedicate it to someone. Or something. Let that be your motivation and mental focus for the mile, with the idea that then 26.2 will fly by. She actually suggested pulling out a slip of paper each mile of the activity, but I wanted to be sure to experience the race itself to the fullest, letting my mind be in the moment. So I opted for making a gratitude list the night before, not assigning specific mileage, but putting myself in a place mentally where I was focused outside of myself. And it's amazing how many of them came to mind during the race itself. I won't list all 26, but here are a few.

First, last and somewhere on the middle of the list is my FAMILY!

I've never run a race where I had so much support. My parents braved the early wakeup call and chilly mountain morning with me, family showed up cheering at various points along the route, and were waiting for me at the finish line. A few of them even ran along side briefly. And of anything that came to mind during or after the race, this is what overwhelmed me with gratitude the most. Not because of the moments they helped along the race, but because of the moments they've helped me through my life. I'm eternally grateful for their support, friendship, and strength.


While the course I ran was mountainous, hilly, and difficult (mile 18 was dubbed Hamburger Hill due to the steep incline), Park City is NOT a shabby place. Vision is something that I find easy to take for granted...I've always had it. But no experience would be quite as sweet without the beautiful, the ugly, the humorous, and the inspiring pictures we see along the way. A mountain sunrise for example.

Others: Change, Food, Pain, Childhood, Judgment (and the restraint thereof), Weakness, Death, Emotions, Hard Work...the list goes on. It's a brief list of gratitude. My positive powers for training thought. My mental mastery. And ultimately my 26 reasons to run.

The last 0.2? It was all mine.

Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.

~Steve Prefontaine

Friday, August 17, 2012

System Cleanse

No, this is not a post on my juicing fascination. Or about the blind date who refused to feed me as he was mid-watermelon cleanse. (I heard about his intestines in enough detail to determine a second date was not necessary). Rather, there are three experiences which I need out of my system before tomorrow am: My Three Worst Runs (Please don't associate the final word with the previous intestinal reference).


Courtenay, BC. We were on tour with our opera production. Fancy, right?! Oh, wait...we were touring to Courtenay. In November. A colleague of mine had never run more than 10 miles and wanted to do a half marathon, so we decided the next morning was the perfect time to do it. I have never been more mistaken. It was freezing cold and raining what felt like ice. Snow would have been SO much better. Neither of us were properly clothed for the climate...shorts, capris, light jackets. It. Was. MISERABLE. Within the first mile my feet were soaked through from the puddles which made it all the more freezing. Around mile 5, I started getting an awful headache which made my vision start to go a bit funny. 8 miles to go??? Not a chance. We turned that boat right back around (wish we'd actually had a boat), vanquished by the rain. I have never hated running more then at that moment.
Luckily, we tried again the next morning. Courtenay is actually a quaint little town, and when we left town and got into the more wooded areas it was breathtaking. Half marathon attempt #2 was successful and even pleasant. But not pleasant enough to erase the memory of #1.



Supposedly I was training for a marathon that was to occur in two weeks. The supposedly bit comes from the fact that I had hurt my back whilst in Tulsa and took about 5 weeks to get back to real running. I decided with a talented soprano friend and fellow runner to go out for a run around White Rock Lake. She would loop once for 9 miles and I could could go around a second time for 18. I attribute the beginnings of this failure to a Vietnamese food truck.
I had a fabulous pork sandwich and my fascination with food trucks made it all the more wonderful. Until that evening when my intestines revolted. (In the very way I encouraged you NOT to think of at the beginning of this post). I assumed I would be fine in the morning. Wasn't. Went running anyway, determined not to be bested by my body. MISTAKE!!! I felt slow and lethargic, which was worsened by the guilt I felt at slowing down my running mate. But that would have been fine. What wasn't fine was the desperate need I had for a bathroom around mile 6. Found one. And never wanted to leave it. But did and attempted running again. I think I must have been pretty dehydrated at this water intake couldn't keep up with the loss of all my insides. Which led to me hunched over the edge of the trail gagging and wishing I could throw up something besides spit. We walked the rest of the way. And I didn't run the marathon.
At least it was a scenic trail...CLEANSE.


Another attempt at 18 miles. Unfortunately in the sweltering heat and humidity of a Virginian summer. Smooth start. Ran from Reston to Vienna in relative comfort (I'd started early in the day) and after 10 miles was headed back home. Out of water, I decided to make a pit stop to rehydrate at the local Whole Foods.
Downed a water bottle and chocolate milk...yes I love it. And yes it is also endorsed as a fantastic recovery drink post run. Bonus. PROBLEM: I quit running and my body didn't know quite how to respond. So it chose stomach knotting, and a hangout in the grocery store restroom. Sensing a pattern with my overactive metabolism. Unfortunately, I still had to get home. Weak, nauseated, desperately wishing for a magic taxi or friend to surface and offer me a ride, I had to make it 8 more miles. By this time it was about 10:30 and the sun and humidity had combined in full force. What's a girl to do?!? I called my mom. She talked me through almost the rest of my run (coupled with occasional walking stretches) and gratefully helped the miserable time pass. With about 2 miles left she had to go. I may have cried. Farewell all mental and physical fortitude. For a brief stretch I honestly thought I would forever be stuck on a roadside in Reston. Home was not happening. Luckily, I have sisters and Lindsey successfully talked me through the rest of the distance.

I felt over-heated, dehydrated and basically awful for the rest of my day off.


Fortunately I now find each of these incidences entertaining. (Please note that not all of my running is quite this pathetic. I do actually enjoy it on occasion.) But it was time to clean house of all negativity as regards my running. I'll need every ounce of space available for positive thinking TOMORROW!!!

See you on the other side!

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