Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Tahoe looks like: still winter.

A view of the marina expansion, where Steve works only about 100 yards from the gym in Tahoe City.

Another, looking more southward.

Heavenly ski resort would be right smack-dab in the middle of the shot, but it's obscured by clouds. Very pretty ones, though, I must say.

DNC for the first time.

Here's the parking lot of the Verdi Elementary school, where the race was supposed to start. Looking at this scene, I made a difficult decision, but one I'm thankful I made. 

Last Sunday, Steve and I drove to Verdi. The day appeared sunny, if crisp with only a suggestion of clouds in the air. Perfect weather, in other words, for a road race. But as we descended the mountain to the valley below, the sky turned from blue to gray and then to white. The world appeared as one of those black and white photographs with only selected objects presented in color: the sky was white and the trees looked almost black in the flat light. The only color came from the highway signs which remained, alas, bright green.

I recall Steve saying, as we passed Hirshdale: "Well, at least it's not snowing." But a few miles later just outside our destination, the snow began to fall. Lightly-- whimsically one might even say-- at first, but then the flakes grew in size and frequency. The road became white. Old highway 40-- which was part of the race-- hadn't yet been plowed and so offered only four lines of refuge from the snow where other cars had braved the elements earlier that morning. Traction, even in Steve's Ford, was dubious. All I could wonder was: I'm really going to race, in this?

We continued on, however, turning onto the narrow country lane leading to the Verdi Elementary School where the race was set to begin. There was a finish line there, white like the rest of the road, and cars already in the parking lot. I spotted a friend of mine, Lynni, who was running even if she "only managed to remain on [her] feet." I got my number and even went so far as to gather safety pins, when Steve looked at me and asked: "Are you going to run?"

He vocalized what I'd been wondering but was too afraid to say. Was I actually going to run--forget about racing-- in these conditions? I could hardly walk across the parking lot without slipping-- could I run in this? As if on cue, a former boss of mine walked through the door to get her number as well. We'd never gotten along and this morning was certainly no exception. "Oh, hi," she said with a markedly false singsongy tone. It was a challenge, perhaps, a way of asking without really asking: "Are you going to run?"

Believe me when I say I wanted to. I wanted to beat her and I wanted to prove to myself that I'd gained fitness since my last race in Davis. I wanted to run an event with Lynni again (we'd run this race together 2 years before.) But my eyes turned to the snowy landscape outside, to to the unplowed road I'd have to race on, to conditions similar (or, to be more accurate) worse than those that had injured me in the first place. Was I going to race in 6-inches of snow?

Then-- call it maturity if you must-- I turned and said to Steve: "I'm not running in this."

He might have been surprised. "Really?"

Here's the explanation I offered him: "The purpose of running in this event was to get my legs to turn over quicker than they do when I run alone. To get my blood pumping, to see where I'm at, fitness-wise. I can't do any of that here, today. All I can do is hope not to fall and not to get injured. And that just doesn't seem worth it."

I really can't believe I said that, but I did. And though I walked away from a race, I didn't and don't feel like a coward. I made a smart decision, and I'm actually a little proud of myself.

I'm writing about this "unremarkable" event because the "me" one year ago would not have turned and walked away. I'd have let my ego guide me and I would have run despite (or to spite) the conditions and everyone else there. And, in doing so, I would have probably been injured.

But something inside of me has changed. I don't care so much what the people at that race thought of my actions, if they thought I was a coward, in other words. I don't care that my name will have the letters "DNC" next to them, if the results were posted online. Or rather, I do care, very much so, but I care more about the goal I've set for myself to run a 2:47 marathon. I can't do it injured (heaven knows) and so this is what I did that day instead: we drove back to Tahoe City and I ran a solid 7-mile tempo run on the treadmill and then I lifted weights and worked my core. I know it's not as exciting as reporting: "Gee golly, folks, I won," but I'm glad to report I'm still training and making progress toward a lofty goal that's becoming a little less lofty.

And so, maybe part of achieving a goal is to move away from it once in a while. Of course, I wish I'd had a chance to run another 10k this month, but more importantly, I'm not injured and I was still able to put in a quality workout once I returned home. Perhaps it is the same with writing: I might not publish anything this year, but I'll have had (I hope!) interesting experiences and thoughts that will help produce an amazing text in years to come. Or in building a house, sometimes you have to take a step back (to repair a broken line of plumbing or to level a floor) in order to produce a stable, workable and beautiful place in the end. And so, that's what I'm doing: preparing a solid foundation for a strong and beautiful marathon in October.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week 9 training and notes.

Monday, 2/15: 6 miles in the AM (a "tempo" gone bad) and 8 miles in the PM. The tempo went horribly: Had GI issues to the EXTREME-- even before running. 1 mile warm up followed by 5 miles @6:58 pace. I had a strange issue at work and got off early, so I drove down to Reno and ran on the ditch trail at twilight: 8 miles. The world was beautiful and I felt fantastic: 7:28 pace.

Tuesday, 2/16: 20 miles. Long run on Reno's ditch trail (I started, actually at the Starbucks on the corner of Arlington and Plumb and climbed Skyline Drive to the ditch trail.) Felt a bit more fatigued than last week's long run... but not bad for my first 20-miler in 2010.

Wednesday, 2/17: 6 miles easy @ 7.6-7.7 miles per hour (just under an 8-minute mile pace) on the treadmill in TC @ 1.5 % grade. PM: weights on back, chest, shoulders, legs and core.

Thursday, 2/18: Hills! 4.64 miles total, including the following hill workout: 8 x 20' hill sprints, then 1 x 60' hill sprint (which hurt SO BAD) and then 3 x 35' sprint efforts on the flats. Then I did a 7.79 mile loop in downtown Reno. My legs were uber tired from the hills, but psychologically, it was nice to be outside.

Friday, 2/19: 5 miles in the AM; 1.25 miles in the PM. Weights/core also in the evening. Legs felt surprisingly good-- perhaps I'm managing my fatigue better? Or my body's getting fitter (at last)?? Felt so strong-- did 3 sets of 15 reps of full pushups on a bosu ball. I ROCK!!

Saturday, 2/20: 5 miles easy plus strides on the treadmill. Felt good, but nervous for the race/tempo tomorrow.

Sunday, 2/21: DISASTER!! I woke up to sun in Tahoe City, only to find Verdi covered in 6" of snow and all the roads unplowed. I made a hard decision: I didn't "race" today. So, I returned home and did a 7-mile tempo workout on the treadmill with a mile warmup and then a mile cool-down. I would have been sooooo pissed at myself if I injured myself by running in crappy conditions for a race that, in the grand scheme of my goals, means nothing. Also did core work.

Weekly total: 72.63 miles-- and feeling great.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I've got to be crazy 10k: coming this Sunday. Redux and revised.

I've already written about the importance of friendship on this blog, but the topic came up again (and once again, unexpectedly) when I decided to improve my mood by the tried-and-true method of changing my hair's color and cut. My stylist, Kim, is such an amazing woman and I don't know how on earth I managed to find her. Not only is she able to transform me from blah to fabulous, she's also one of the most creative people I know: interested in art, music and literature, she took interest in my blog when I mentioned it, sitting in her chair.

And as she began to tell the other stylists in the room about it, her understanding shifted my perspective. In lieu of saying: "Rebecca wants to qualify for the Olympic Trials," she said: "Rebecca's writing a blog to record her attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials so she can write a memoir about it later." I don't know how I'd lost this notion, but hearing Kim's words, I realized that I had. I have become so focused on the athleticism of my ordeal, I'd forgotten the other half of my project: to write.

The Miles and Pages Project is my attempt to document the journey someone takes to become an elite athlete. I believe my account of this journey is unique because I'm not a gifted athlete, I didn't run in college; in other words, I'm nothing but a plain Jane who's got big dreams of becoming a notable marathoner. The project attracted me, originally, because I love running, or more specifically, training for an event that is, well, difficult. I do well with the long 16-week (or in this case, multi-month) training program leading up to an equally long race. It makes sense to me; and so I thought, nine weeks ago: "Gosh what if I actually tried to become an elite marathoner and write about the whole thing-- and tell the story of the journey. My perspective is unique: I might notice things about training or about racing events that others (who "grew up" in such environments) might otherwise take for granted.

I also want to believe doing this on my own (outside of any academic curriculum) will make me a better person. How, exactly, I can't say. In addition to better fitness (I better be fitter by the time Chicago rolls around, which is next October) I hope to increase the confidence I have in myself and reduce the negativity that I tend to draw upon when life becomes uncertain (see the posting previous to this for an example, if you must.) Perhaps egotistically, I hope that the Miles and Pages Project (or the memoir produced from it) is an inspiration to all sorts of people: runners, but also children who have athletic dreams or businessmen who've hit "rock bottom." Egoism is inherent in writing, I've been told (and everyone knows it's a necessary part of athletic success to a certain degree) so-- what if I argue it's a necessary part of every aspect of life?

Another topic I wish to explore in the months ahead is the mechanism that drives some of us to compete in things like running races or any athletic event. What is it about athletics that draws people, even if they have no hope of winning? It's definitely not a universal desire (not everyone wants to run a marathon and not everyone wants to be an Olympic skier)-- so what drives those of us who do to do so often at the expense of a successful career or relationship?

I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer all that, but I hope that my experience will speak to some, if not all, the subjects presented above.

And so, I want to extend my gratitude to Kim Smith of Transformations Salon in King's Beach for recalling to me the purpose of the project: it's not so much the end result of this blog-- if I qualify or don't qualify for the Olympic Trials at the Chicago 2010 Marathon-- but rather the steps I will take to progress to that elite level of fitness. It's the journey, in other words, that I have chosen to live and write about above all other things (perhaps I have that desire/drive for athletics I mentioned earlier? Time will tell.) It's the miles, what they feel like, who my body changes that I'm interested in. Will my thoughts evolve along with my fitness? Will people treat me differently because of who I appear to be between this moment and the one I'm working toward months from now?

Will my conclusion be that dreams are worth having and believing in? Or is it the appropriate response to be cynical to the world? I can only hope that, even if I fail, I'll believe in the power and importance of dreams.

And so, with all that in mind, I welcome the 10k race in Verdi, tomorrow, If people yell mean things at me, I will keep running. I will do my best, even if that means last place. I have my eyes set on the journey which rests before me, come what may.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I've got to be crazy 10k: coming this Sunday.

I have to say, I can't quite wrap my head around the fact I'm racing AGAIN this weekend. I know it's only a training run-- a "tempo with others" but I know myself well enough to know I'll get nervous and want to do my best, regardless of pace.

The thing is, I'm not as fit as I once was. I feel like my legs move in slow motion and my lungs are only working to half capacity. And so, what do I do with that (aside the obvious of "train more" which I fully plan on doing?) I'm so afraid there will be people there-- runners or spectators-- who will think I'm fat and slow and secretly hate me. It's an irrational fear (or is it?) but it's one that I live with every time I step outside this "training zone" into, well not quite a "public eye"-- but where others might notice me.

I know this is an issue I have to deal with in one way or another. But I really do doubt myself so much. I wonder how Steve could love me, how two graduate committees could have possibly awarded me an advanced degree in ANYTHING. To myself, I'm nothing but a fat girl who smells bad and who cannot use the English language correctly. I hate mirrors: I hate the image they give me. Can a runner have such thoughts, if they want to be good at what they do?

The nature of the sport is endurance, or rather, tolerance of a certain level of pain. But there must come a time when too much pain is just too much. When physical pain and emotional insecurity derails a person who might have had an otherwise successful career.

The other day, I was asked why I run and I couldn't answer. Is it to distance myself from the things that cause me pain or to induce other pain, in order to block out the emotional issues I live with? I don't know. I'm starting to worry, though, because I've poured myself into this life of running and writing. I train twice each day: I write each day. Unlike many of my friends, I don't have a family of my own and I don't have a great job. I've neglected all that for a pursuit I can't even define. Who does that?

I can only say I doubt every step I take and every emotion I feel-- every "me" that stares into my eyes above a bathroom sink basin. What if I do all this and I end up just as I see myself: a fat failure, alone with nothing?

I know, I have to believe. But-- I wonder if I will always have this nagging darkness, this inarticulate depth that makes me shy away from life. Can a person live with that-- to say nothing of running? Of writing?

My first 20 miler since 2008.

I can't believe I ran 20 miles on the 16th (two days ago.) The day: sunny and warm, not a suggestion of wind and the sky the bluest blue only Nevada can offer. I wish I could say I ran it in two hours, or that it felt amazing. Truthfully, I was so nervous I wouldn't make it the entire distance that I was a nervous wreck the first half and the second half I was exhausted from being so nervous for the first portion of the run! I opted out of the body glide, which was a bad choice (ouch!) -- yet, those final two miles, I picked up the pace and finished my run with tears in my eyes. Tears, not from pain, but from joy.

Dare I say I'm back? That I have potential? I want so badly to come back to competitive running, to the marathon. I want a life filled with miles. I want to win another race. Such goals seem farther away than the 20 miles I ran and yet-- dare I say: I believe.

It's a feeble belief right now, I admit. There is so much to do, and so much fitness to gain. And yet, I believe. Perhaps I'm crazy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Week 8 training and notes.

A full moon over the Lake. I caught this just as I was leaving the gym from one of my PM workouts. These are the moments I don't mind all the snow and ice.

This week's focus: to use what I learned about my fitness level at the Davis race as a point of departure. Specifically, use it to not get so down on myself about my crappy tempo pace in practice (grrr....). I must remember it will improve with practice, discipline and time spent training.

I also want to start making my longer runs longer. Though there's no reason for me at this point in time to attempt a 24-miler (such a thing would leave me broken, most likely) the usual 16.8 out-and-back route in Reno is getting, well, boring. And so, I made a hasty choice and purchased my first Garmin GPS device. I got the 205-- the simplest model I could (sans heart rate monitor because I figure, if I'm running, my heart is still beating and all's good in Rebecca-land.) What a difference! No more mid-long run anxiety about "am I far enough?" or "did I go too far?" One glance and I knew exactly where I was. I also knew my pace, which was an added perk. Plus, once at home, I could look at all the nifty charts and graphs to see what I ran, exactly. What I can't figure out is how to post that information here, so for the time being trust me: this is cool stuff. I resisted the Garmin for a long while and I'm sorry I did. I enjoy knowing where I am, both literally and metaphorically, when I'm on the road.

The earlier part of this week, I was also recovering from the race in Davis. I felt especially tired on Monday, the day after my 10k effort. So, without further ado, there is week 8, in all it's documented glory:

Monday, 2/8: 7.5 miles AM, 1.25 miles PM plus weights-- all on the treadmill in Tahoe City. I felt tired and SORE. I wanted to stop every step of that morning run, but forced myself to keep going. I tried a 2% grade but my legs said "f*** that" so I lowered it back down to 1.5%. But I refuse to go any lower than that. Period.

Tuesday, 2/9: 9 miles in the AM. 4 miles in the PM--treadmill on 1.5% grade and speeds between 7.6-7.9 getting progressively faster. Plus calf raises which helped my sore ankles/calf muscles tremendously. I felt so much better today, but I'm still a touch tired.

Wednesday, 2/10: 7 miles on the treadmill in the AM 7.6 with 1.5% grade. I felt AWFUL. Again, I had to force myself to stay on there (should treadmills have restraints to keep runners from jumping off them, I wonder?) Also did weights/abs. I love doing pull-ups, push ups and curl ups. I feel so strong even though my running is really horrible this week.

Thursday, 2/11: Finally a run outside: 18 miles in Reno in 2:23:06 (with an average pace of 7:57 x mile.) I felt oddly good-- like the run was effortless compared to the 7 miles I put in the day before. I didn't break any records, I know, but felt fantastic. I also loved the sun was out and let the beauty of the natural world carry me through the workout.

Friday, 2/12: 8.95 miles in Reno, which includes hill sprints. 8 x 20' hills with recovery being the return to the bottom of the hill followed by 2 x 35' on the flats. What a windy day!

Saturday, 2/13: 8 miles in the AM; 4 miles in the PM with weights and abs. All indoor. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Sunday, 2/14: Rest day-- I didn't want to go over my prescribed mileage especially since many of my runs felt so horrible.

Weekly total: 67.7 miles

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Week 7 training and notes

View of the lake from the gym (beyond the parking lot). This is what I get to look at when I run on the treadmill. Not bad, right?

Focus: to set myself up for a great 10k tempo. Sadly, however, I overtrained earlier in the week and screwed myself early in the race by going out too fast. :/ I haven't felt this sort of disappointment in a long time. I have to be positive, however: I've decided, with these two days of retrospection, that I have to use Davis as a learning experience, just like I have to use injuries, fatigue and whatever else goes wrong for a runner as opportunities to learn, so that I don't repeat what mistakes I've made before.

Monday, 2/1: 10 miles in the AM-- 1:17 roughly. 1.25 miles in the PM. Also, weights (focus on chest, back, arms. 3 sets of 12 reps.)

Tuesday, 2/2: Long run, 16.8 miles in 2:11. Felt fatigued... and my pectoral muscles HURT. I can't describe how sucky it was to have that sensation for 2 hours of running. Ugh.

Wednesday, 2/3: 8 miles total. 5.95 mile easy followed by hills: 6 x 20' efforts up a hill followed by 2 x 35' on flats.

Thursday, 2/4: Rest day. I woke up and felt like a truck hit me, ran me over, then backed up and did it again and again. I also felt mentally fatigued, bordering on depression.

Friday, 2/5: 7.6 miles on the treadmill in TC. 60' in duration and 1% grade.Felt "blah" at first but progressively better as the run continued. Did chest/back/abs for 30 minutes after-- 3 sets of 15 reps but abs until exhaustion.

Saturday, 2/6: 9 miles on the treadmill with 1% grade. Time: 1:11. Felt better than yesterday-- "the spring" has returned to my legs, it seems. F*** ing Nermal peed on my stuff, though.

Sunday, 2/7: 1.2 warm up, followed by 6.2 (10k) race/tempo and 1 mile cool down. Time: 40:20. 21st overall, 5th woman, 2nd in division. Disappointed over my pace while under pressure. I'll have to work on that.

Weekly total: 61.05 miles

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Davis Stampede, 10k

Me, before the race at about 7:30 am. I haven't even put on my racing flats yet.

This is where we went to get the race packets. I realized, looking at the crowd, that this was NOT a Reno running event. For the 10k alone, there were 973 participants. That doesn't include the numbers from the 5k and 1/2 marathon.

Here I am, doing strides, finally. After 1.2 miles of easy jogging, 4 bathroom breaks, I finally put on my "blue suede shoes" (my race flats). I had about 10 minutes until the start. I was so nervous I couldn't even look at the start line (which was in the direction I was running.)

At the starting line. I'm the girl with the pigtails in the blue. I was so nervous-- and disappointed there were so many people that I couldn't get any closer to the start line. 

The gun's gone off and I'm setting my Garmin. All those men around me proved a difficult challenge: they elbowed me in the chest and face, in addition to running uber slow. I had to move to the shoulder of the road to bypass the crowd. It's a lesson learned: no tempo workouts for races; or, no starting back with the masses.

And... we're off! I've disappeared in the crowd and from this moment until the finish line, I realized just how much I forgot about competitive running. 

Me at the finish line. I remember telling myself to maintain proper form, to continue breathing, and to ignore the blisters on my feet. Funny that one can start a race with so many other people and literally finish alone.

Results from Davis Stampede 10k event:

Time: 40:20
Place overall: 21/973 total participants
Place women: 5
Place age division: 2
Total blisters accumulated: 2 (but were so big I might venture to say that each counted three a piece for a grand total of six)

I've got the blues.

I’ve been remiss about posting, I know. My silence is due to several factors, most of which are excuses, but if you bear with me while I list them, I’ll get quickly into the primary subject of this blog: running. First, there’s the usual: I’ve been working every day and putting in double-days at the gym. Add that to the new trick my cat, Nermal, has come up with to let me know she’s peeved (her way of issuing grievance, I wonder?) My running apparel, travel bags and swimsuits have all become alternative latrines for her. Why she’s doing this now, I have no idea. I mean, how hard can life be when you have someone else feed and brush you, clean up all your shit, feed you skipjack tuna every day and catnip tea at night?

The worst part is finding another "Nermal special": the sinking-mad-dejected-repulsed reaction that starts in my stomach and spreads to my extremities. So, it’s been annoying, to say the very least.

I’m also down because the restaurant gods have definitely put me on their shit list. I mean, it’s hard enough to find healthy veg-fare out there without having every single kitchen do the equivalent to my food that Nermal does to my clothes. It started with Steve’s birthday dinner, a meal he traditionally has with his entire family at a restaurant in Nevada City called Cirino’s. Steve always gets the burger (this year was no exception)-- yes, the 100% beef-covered-in-gorgonzola-burger-- but I was assured many times the place had vegetarian pasta dishes. And though I’m not a fan of eating cheese (hence, the vegan diet), I decided I’d take one for the team and not make a fuss for an event that only comes once a year.

And so, there I was: the only one at a table for eleven ordering the “vegetarian” pasta while the rest all had burgers. Ok, fine so far, right? But when the entrées came out on white plates, well, things just went south. Burger, burger, burger and then, pasta (with no vegetables, oddly) and beneath a thick layer of cheese, bacon. Yes, bacon. Now, I don’t know in what universe one would consider bacon a vegetable, but I certainly don’t. And I thought to myself: “Well, the waitress looks like a decent person and is probably educated. I’ll point this out to her and she’ll admit the kitchen made a mistake and it'll be fine.” So, I called her over, and did exactly that.

Her response? “Oh, you’re a vegetarian? You didn’t know [insert word here that sounded Italian] means bacon?”

Me: “Um... no. But the menu said ‘vegetarian pasta.’”

Her: “Well, it’s not.”

Interior dialogue: ^$#(&^%!!!!

So what the hell am I supposed to do? (I didn’t say this, but perhaps I should have.) I ended up scraping the cheese and bacon to the side of the plate to eat the greasy pasta. Yuck.

Then there was the hummus-avocado sandwich sans hummus I ordered from our local café, the Dam Café (which is owned by the nicest couple ever but I have to say, they hired a not-so-great crew.) This was followed up a few days later at the same place with a bean-and-rice vegan-irto sans the beans and rice. Nice. Syd’s Bagelery (the place I met Patrick Stewart) is usually pretty good, but twice they have also decided to give me a hummus sandwich without the hummus. And then, once without the shredded carrots. (It was the best idea EVER to put carrots on a sandwich. I L-O-V-E whoever came up with that idea dearly.) And my personal favorite, today’s lunch courtesy of the Uncommon Kitchen (a little café tucked into the back corner of our only heath food store): a vegan noodle bowl with no noodles.

I suppose there could be worse things ( I could get both legs ripped off in a freak encounter with a snow-blower) but for some reason, the constant hungry-factor has got me down (there’s not much to a sandwich or a burrito when you leave out the main ingredient.) Perhaps, therefore, this is nothing more than a hunger-driven rant.

But then there’s more: the 10k I ran on Sunday. I was only running it for a workout--a tempo “with others.” But I realized as soon as the fog-horn went off that a race is a race no matter what. I wasn’t going to “slow” down so as to run sensibly. With all those moving bodies, the man next to me elbowing me in the boob and the other guy, smacking my face, well, I ran my first mile in something like 6:14 which is waaaay too fast for a steady pace for me right now. I was fine with this pace for the first mile, and part of the second, but when a woman whom I’d passed around mile 1.5 caught me at mile 2, I sort of realized what an idiot I’d been. By that time, we were running on a freeway overpass for pedestrians (so there was a slight incline, in other words) and that was about enough to make me want to throw in the towel.

I didn’t, however. I think the only thing that got me to the finish line was the mantra “Believe, believe, believe.” That and the fact that Davis is actually a pretty cool place. The race was only on surface streets for a brief period: nearly all of it was on bike paths (there were about a million of them.) Plus, there were actually things GROWING there, like flowers and grass. I guess the snow at Tahoe is kind of getting to me.

And though I’m not overly thrilled with my performance in Davis, I do think I finished strong despite it all. So, that’s something, I suppose. I’ll provide stats soon, as well as photos from the event, courtesy of my wonderful photographer, Steve.

In short, I don’t know what’s got me down. I just feel-- well, to be brutally honest-- “heavy”. Heavy as in “overweight” but also as over-worn. Heavy as in there’s too much going on and none of it seems to matter much. Heavy as in I wanted to run a sub-40 minute 10k, not a 40-minute 20-second one. Heavy as in I know I have to train harder but it snowed again today and it’s supposed to snow again tonight and I have to work this holiday weekend... so how do I manage that? Heavy as in I have this incredible sense of motivation to achieve these goals, but I don’t know anymore if I have that je ne sais quoi (talent? time? I’m not sure what it is) to make 2:47 a reality.

Plus, I really do just feel fat.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pre-race jitters for the first race of 2010.

Yup-- I'm nervous. Very much so. I haven't raced in-- well, almost a year. I don't know what to expect out of myself. Of course, I'm running this in lieu of another tempo workout (that I always have to run alone.) And even though I know I'm not supposed to have reat expectations for myself (this is a workout, after all) I'm not driving down to Davis and waking up early to run 10 kilometers for nothing.

I'm not going there to fail.

Or am I?

But what does it mean to "win?" I suppose I could tell myself to maintain a good, steady pace. But the problem with doing that is that, though my fitness has improved in the last six weeks, I have no clue what I ought to be able to do and what's unrealistic for me. Obviously, wanting to do a 5-minute per mile pace is not going to happen, but what about a 6:30? I don't know and with that uncertainty comes these stomach-butterflies.

Of course, I'll post my results as soon as I'm back in the mountains and at home.

However, I do know, regardless of the outcome, this race will change the way I train. All races tend to do that-- they motivate either by giving one positive feedback, or by showing it's time "step it up" so to speak. In the very least, I'll know what I can do, right now.

I have to accept the simple beauty in that knowledge and continue to train with the faith that this is a place to start, a moment from which to progress.

With that thought, I'll say not-so-timidly: "Bring it on." And I'll bring what I can, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On friendship.

It’s funny how certain topics present themselves. Here I am following a schedule that more or less goes like this: wake, eat, run, work, run, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. I don’t have a ton of extra time, in other words, for-- well, let’s be honest-- anything. When I train, family get-togethers, dates and long talks about literature over coffee are things I put aside. I’m not bragging-- it’s just the way I am. When running 60-70 miles a week (and doing the supplemental training that goes along with that) I have to stay focused and to do that I become a kind of runner-hermit-girl. I’m sure there are others who don’t resort to such extremes and I applaud them for being able to have a “normal” (or normative, anyway) existence while training. I’ve found that I cannot.

So how in the heck did I start thinking about friendship? Well, the subject kept appearing. A great friend of mine, Elaine, is a person I call a friend but whom I never see. We were undergraduate students-- English majors-- together at the University of Nevada, Reno. We both had dreams of becoming writers and of going to MFA programs in creative writing. We applied to many of the same programs and then, were both rejected by those programs. Sigh.

But why don’t we talk anymore; or, not in person, anyway? And how come we still call each other friends? I don’t know, really, but she started a foray into barefoot running, I wanted to follow her progress (and her blog, which you can find here.) And she, thank heavens, actually reads this thing now and again. So, we are friends.

But what is friendship, exactly? What are its parameters (or should I ask, who are in its parameters?) I can’t explain it, but the first thought which comes to mind is: Elaine’s with me, especially when I’m writing. She isn’t really-- but I can sometimes imagine her suggestions and encouragements when I’m drafting something new. A “what about this?” when I think the plot can only move in one direction or, “maybe that’s a bad idea” when I think of adding something odd, like say, a post-apocalyptic scene in which a walrus and a poodle engage in philosophical conversation about the existence of God. Or, “I totally think you should” when I’m wondering if I really ought to send another short story out for rejection. And then, because I think she’d say to try it (what harm can one more “Hell No!!” do, anyway?) I do.

The only think I can say about this is that I carry people with me. I’m not crazy or anything. I don’t actually think Elaine is hovering over my shoulder, or that past coaches are on the sides of the road, telling me I can do it and that I just have to believe I can when I’m having a difficult run. It’s all in my mind, I know. But somehow, that’s what friendship-- or the importance of it-- is to me.

When it’s mile 15.5 of a 17-miler and I’m all alone with no water, no goo and pain in my chest, it’s that memory-- or a modified one, anyway -- of Scott Young (whom I worked with prior to running Boston) or Kirk Elias (the UNR Coach who got me down to 2:54 and is, perhaps, the nicest and most tolerant coach I’ve ever met) saying “I believe-- do you?” that gets me to place one foot in front of the other over and over again.

It’s my mom, who I imagine waits for me at the finish line to tell me how proud she is that makes me push extra hard to get there.

It’s the protagonist of my novel, Jeanne Leroux (a person I made up!) who says: “hey, if I did it, you can definitely can, too.”

I suppose I’m posing an argument that runs contrary to what we, as a society, define friendship as. Michel de Montaigne in his essay on Friendship said that: “what we commonly call friends and friendships, are nothing but acquaintance and familiarities, either occasionally contracted, or upon some design, by means of which there happens some little intercourse betwixt our souls. But in the friendship I speak of, they mix and work themselves into one piece, with so universal a mixture, that there is no more sign of the seam by which they were first conjoined” which means, essentially, that friends are present beings that act as mirrors, complimenting us in ways more than skin-deep. And yet, here I propose something new: can a friend be an idea? Or, more precisely, the idea of a person?

I feel the shaking of my reader’s head from here. No, you say, no a friend is a flesh and blood person, one we admire, yes, but also one that inspires and that contradicts. One that challenges at times, and one that has a very real -- tangible -- shoulder upon which one could, if needed, cry upon. Yes, I acknowledge that, too. But what of the notion of “carrying people with you?” I mark my true friendships -- the relationships that have, in one way or another, changed me personally -- as the sort I feel daily regardless of whether I “see” or “touch” the other person. Regardless, even, if the other is still alive.

Perhaps that is why I value imagination so much as to attempt to make a living out of it. There are so many instances in life when one is alone; when one fights horrible “battles” (financial, romantic, athletic, what-have-you) and you often find yourself alone. Utterly and completely alone. And yet, the idea of a friend can sometimes-- or oftentimes-- be enough to get you through it supports my thesis: friendship is a thing contained within, not necessarily without.

Even Montaigne admitted so much: “There is no action or imagination of mine wherein I do not miss him; as I know that he would have missed me: for as he surpassed me by infinite degrees in virtue and all other accomplishments, so he also did in the duties of friendship...”. Though he does not directly say so, Montaigne imagines his friend missing him-- and that longing inspired him to write about friendship.

I’m not sure where this post is going, if anywhere. I only know, perhaps, as runners (us solitary beings on the shoulders of roads) need friends, just as any other human being does. And so, I would like to believe it is not wholly wrong to imagine a smiling face when you need one, or an encouraging word when the going gets tough. It might be smart to, actually.

And so, thank you, to all of you I carry with me. I love you dearly and am gracious to have known you, even if for words you never said.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Week 6 training and notes.

Goal for this week: to maintain mileage and intensity. Since this is the 6th week, my body SHOULD be adapting the stresses I've imposed on it. So, after this week, I'll have to tweak my routine in the following ways: add volume and intensity. But here's the thing: no more than 10% total change otherwise, I'll risk injury.

I should remark that I've just received two training manuals. I haven't read them completely yet, so I'll save that for a future blog. Let me just say that I wish I'd have read more about running before I "ran" blindly into injury. Though at times there is no rhyme or reason for why our bodies fail, there are many actions a runner can do to prevent injury. Not increasing mileage too much is one of them, as is lifting weights 2-3 times a week and keeping up a regular core-strengthening routine. I did none of those things before. Now, however, things have changed. I'll keep you posted. Without further ado, here's what I've been up to:

Monday 1/25: 8.8 miles easy in 60'.
Tuesday 1/26: 10.34 miles Easy on the treadmill. I wanted so badly to go outside and do a long run today, but the sky was cloudy and it was generally cold.
Wednesday 1/27: 16.83 miles, outside in Reno, NV. Time: 2:11 (which is about a 7:47 pace.) Not great, but not bad. It did feel awesome to be outside, even if it was more or less "gray" the entire time (save for the final minute of my run when the sun peeked through the clouds... but only for a second.)
Thursday 1/28: 7.78 miles on the treadmill.
Friday 1/29: AM :2-mile warm up, 7-mile tempo. Tempo done in 47:30 with the 1/2 way mark at 24:40ish. I ran along the Truckee River path in Reno, NV. I felt 100% better than the tempo I did two weeks before outside. Thank heavens there was no vomiting and no stray tampons!  PM: 4 miles easy plus weights and abs.
Saturday 1/30: 8.09 miles outside. I felt sore, slow and fatigued.
Sunday, 1/31: 5.75 miles (45 minutes) on treadmill.

Weekly total mileage: 70.59

Goal for next week: increase quality of running workouts, but reduce (slightly) quantity. Also, develop weights/core workouts to be completed 2-4 times each week to supplement running training.

PLUS: next week, (2/7) will be my first "race" (to run in lieu of tempo): a 10k in Davis, CA. Wish me luck, world.