Saturday, May 30, 2009

Current Inspiration: George Sheehan

Bits I'm loving right now:

The common man reaches excellence by making demands on himself.

My legend will not be your legend. We are about the business of making a unique self.

The battle is never over. The war is never won. Today's bare landscape is always and ever the arena where I contend with myself. I say my prayers and go to combat.
No one else may be aware of this struggle.

The only true fame, is the inner celebration of yourself. Nothing else lasts. Legends are perpetually dying. They must constantly be revived. We must always be searching for the grail, never ceasing in our labors, forever on trial for our gift of existence.

People are always asking me why I run. I think that is a common question for a lot of runners actually. I see lots of blog posts on it. I think George Sheehan's first quote I posted is a great answer to why some people train to run. It's an answer that puts the question back onto the asker about themselves - what are they doing to make themselves excellent? Endurance can do that... enduring a serious illness, enduring a life-threatening circumstance, enduring difficult situations in life... can all help you to find your answer. I like to think that the demands we ask in our running schedules and endurance races whittle us down to our very selves. And there we have the opportunity to see who we really are.

Link to full article: Our Highest Need


Today, not at 4.5 miles like the last "long run" but today, at 6.3 miles I felt like a runner again.

I think there are a few reasons why this small accomplishment felt good.

#1 I had planned for it. Today was my long run day. Just like when I used to run higher mileage, I always had a plan and up til now, I really never set any goals to improve on. And maybe since, I never improved!

#2 I used another trick from when I ran longer distances. I used to cut up the mileage mentally, telling myself, this is only "3 5ks" for a 9 mile run. Or, this is 2 8 mile runs for a 16 mile day. I did it in races too. Well, today I ran 3 2.1 mile loops and was able to mentally tell myself "I'm just running 2 miles."

#3 Walking the hills when needed and stopping for water between loops. When I grab a drink at my car quickly, I can start out again almost completely refreshed somehow. An old tactic that I'm using now on low mileage, but heck, it got me over my 3 mile stump!

#4 I woke up early, just like I used to, so that I could run in the coolest air of the day. Friday the sun just took me out of my run. It was miserable. I felt completely defeated. I was parched (hate carrying water). I prepared for my miles today by waking up and taking in some calories before getting dressed and leaving. Organized and on my game plan.

I'm taking Sunday off.. I had felt a few aches, my upper heal/back of the right foot and left hip/knee pain a little. I babied it with ice and Aleve. I'm taking no chances!

Monday I'll probably run 3 miles and then I need to also get back into cycle class so that I crosstrain and avoid overuse injuries. I used to love spinning but these days just don't want to be inside. I don't have my bike here in Alabama, so it's not an option. *sigh* Crosstraining needs to happen though. I know my body.

Anyway, pure joy. I smiled finishing. I felt that old feeling of accomplishment. Of salty sweat crusting. Of not feeling guilty when I eat (I didn't overeat, just felt like I was feeding my body). And.. lastly of feeding my soul. Cheesy it may sound but it was soul food. It WAS joy to have legs and be out there on them today. And everyday.

Current inspiration: Michelle Barton

Friday, May 29, 2009

Off Day

I tried to run today.

As soon as I woke up I knew I'd probably not be able to run the 5-6 miles I had planned. Well, I had a creeping feeling but didn't believe it. I woke up late for starters. And while that's not a huge deal, the weather here in the South is starting to get blazing hot by 9 a.m. Its in the 80s but humid and just the hottest freaking 80-something degrees I've ever felt. So it's about 9:30 as soon as I opened my eyes.

I got around and got dressed and trying to get out the door, I realized my car was blocked. I had to wait a good hour to drive away. All the while the weather just heating up.

Then, an argument with someone. The discussion stayed with me afterward, a seek-your-own-adventure story in my head where I tried out various endings and responses to try and work it out. I realized after replaying senarious the entire drive to my run, my energy had been zapped by all of it - the argument and my inability to shake it. Thinking about my lack of energy I realized I really hadn't drank any coffee that morning or really ate much food (too late now). Oddly, I had to pee for not taking in much liquid!

Argh. The negativity mounting, I was determined that running would actually be the very thing to clear me of all this. I headed to the "new" 2.5 mile route and started out.

It was hot. Whew, the run started with a hill. Past a pretty, but wide creek that gurgled and foamed and all along the way a lush, darkened forestry. The trees didn't seem too dense and I could see forest floor so I decided to divert into it to see if it was runable. No matter how spacious the trees were, there was so much debris (fallen branches and young trees, rutted, uneven dirt, vines) that it just wasn't runable. I would take more time and energy clearing a way than actually pressing on. I hoped back out into the beating sunshine and kept working my way up the hill. At the top was a strange looking fenced area. Buildings in the middle, wire fencing around them with guard towers on each corner. I felt..... watched. The sign nearby just said Forward Operating Base.

This section probably had 2 long hills but I felt like I was constantly going upwards until maybe the last 1/4 mile. And it was an out-and-back!? Anyhow, it was pretty bad. The sun was just too much less than a mile in and I walked ALOT. On the way back my legs felt like jello, I felt faintish, and all I tried to do was look for the side of the street with the most shade - which was neither. Apaches roared overhead loudly, interrupting my nimble focus.

Getting back into my car my first thought was, with a drink could I continue? Quickly, my response was NO, this was a disaster. My second thought, was okay, well that was two HARD hills. Really! And thirdly, I thought I'd keep my options open all day and maybe tonight after the sun goes down, come out and finish the other section for another 3 miles. I'm writing this at 9p.m. and can tell you the energy and drive never came today.

I'm going to try to get some sleep and wake up tomorrow to try again. Earlier this time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Run 'til the road is closed..strategy

Since we PCS'd here last year I've been wanting to find a new place to run. Last year I only ran a couple times a week but never-the-less the same paved trail gets boring. The old path is off-road & surrounded by tight woods but very limited in milage & you still usually run into people every few minutes.

To avoid sounding anti-social I'll note that I used to run in a running group regularly. Even after becoming a veteran runner & could make my own training decisions, I kept showing up for the o'dark thirty runs to see my friends. I loved the bonding and friendliness of runners. I loved meeting for coffee & breakfast after a run. BUT, I was also slow... and usually wound up running alone while everyone else jabbered and gosspiped and laughed miles ahead. I felt like I was missing out. A little mental blow threatening my willpower. However, running paired up I noticed a pattern of eventually wanting to concentrate in a zoned out way. A point where I'd plug into my ipod and harness energy within.

At some point in true long runs, it comes down to the solo anyway. Although your body is churning the output, the battle usually ends up in your head. In addition, I felt pressured to run at my partners' pace. Even when people offered to run "with" me, naturally being faster, they usually ended up always pushing the miles per minute. It can be good to do this when training to PR, but mostly I knew where I needed to be min per mile and my body wanted to be there. I could care less about time improvement and more consumed by time/energy management. Maybe somehow training alone was training me to be alone. When you run alone, you might also be training mentally to push past signals of tiredness, to endure some boredome, & to rely on self motivation. Maybe its a way to whittle down superficial reasonings for running and find out why you're truely there. If you're running for any reason other than what's personal, how many miles over how much time does it take to work that to the surface & become a reason to quit?

Driving me is the extra-ordinary, going beyond a self image that I can't because I'm slow or injury-prone or inheriantly lazy. Whittling down to my center puts me in touch with my center. Who I am and how I'm responding to my environment & hightening all my senses to where I know exactly how I feel physically. It's so easy to get caught up in life, ignoring how much our bodies speak to us.

I regress however...

Finally, using the Runners World Run Finder, someone had posted the idea of running off a road (no path) that rarely sees cars. YES, please! I got in my car the next day to check it out, driving the route first. Basically it starts behind the golf course on base and ends at "Road Closed to Unauthorized Personnel." Sweet. Military secrecy. I spent part of the run dreaming up what could be going on down that dirty road - until I ran into another sign: "Hand grenade qualifying." - Really glad I ignored the anti-authority teenager still residing in me & didn't take the path less (or never, unless authorized) traveled.

The road was pretty short but perfect for where I'm at milage-wise. It's 3 miles with 4 rolling hills. While I only had one car pass me, a sky highway happened to be right overhead and Apache helicopters ROARED past. They were loud and vertically close because the heliport was just over the trees and down another closed road.

I'll be able to almost double the milage using another 2.5 mile road that intersects with this run. My strategy is to do both for my "long" run towards the end of the week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Running without Motivational Drill Sergeants

Today I ran two of the three loops at Beaver Lake Trail on post. The "trail" is a mostly paved path (there are a few dirt roads) through the woods and loops around a lake. It has been rainy and humid lately in Southern Alabama but the rain had just stopped, so the start of my run was slightly cool. I felt really good the first loop (2.3 miles) with rolling hills and stopped to walk here and there as needed. The second loop (1.1 mile) was mostly uphill (counter-clockwise) and I sputtered out pretty good on each hill. I almost never look at the time anymore so I can't tell you how "fast" I ran it.

(Begin rant) On I started using their training log again and wanted to use their public trail finder where other runners post trails. I've always found their Web site to be sub-parr. From a usability stand point and also, their servers just seem to be always overloaded. I remember this from years ago trying to use the same service. Every time I try to look at public running routes or make my own, it times out and I get errors on the page. Each time, I still look at my own connection thinking, maybe it's me, but it's not. It's not my browser and not my computer, it's runners world who for a big operation, still can't create a professional Web site. argh. (End rant)

Anyway, I've seen runners weave out of the woods on post but it's kinda complicated finding places to run (besides the street) because a lot of dirt roads/paths are for Authorized Personnel or are training grounds for soliders. Once I was running on a dirt road off the usual trail and out of no where (mostly because I had headphones on) a HUGE troop of soldiers, carrying guns, appeared out of the woods and headed for me. The first thing I thought was "they look scary" the second thing was "dang, they have guns" the third was wondering how long they've been in the woods and lastly was, "this is going to be akward running by them (same path) while they are training." They were probably Warrant Officer Candidates and I was wondering if drill sargents yell at civillians too. In my head it's going something like this: (with the huge hat of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman hitting my head), "WHAT ARE YOU DOING NUMBSKULL RUNNER. DON'T YOU KNOW THESE ARE MY F'ING WOODS? CAN'T YOU READ SIGNS?! GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE YOU START LOOKING LIKE THE ENEMY!"

Whew! See? Scary. Especially the playout in my head. lol.

But, hopefully if I can get the RW appplication to work so I can figure out some new running locations. I think there is also a run finder on USATF and the Rails to Trails program site (none in my area though). Something to look forward to!

Monday, May 25, 2009


I've played sports my entire life but I have always sucked at running.
In April I ran every few days on the paved trails up to 2.5 miles. This month, I have finally built to 4.5 for a "long run." It's been slow and I wasn't prepared either. What I mean by prepared is that I have to baby everything about my runs: stretching consistantly for flexibility (overuse injuries plague me), eating just a little but not too much at the right time before a run, the right socks, new shoes fitted at Elite Feet about every 5-6 months worth of milage... My body is not forgiving and already, from running on old shoes, I've had twinges of knee soreness.
Running has always challeneged me in this way. Even when I was conditioned for a marathon, an 8 mile run could never be called "easy." I run slow, at a 12 min. pace that could creep up to 11min/mi if the stars align just right. This is just where I am. My passion far exceeds my natural ability as Alison Colavecchia says.
It's REALLY hard to start over in running. When you were running long distances, you feel like that's the runner you have become. You also develop a healthy fear of losing that conditioning. I had to take a year or more off from running as I got more tired and more consistantly suffering from my symptoms until I could find out what was plaguing me. I ran a couple short races and took a cycling class regularly but I really struggled to show up for work outs with how bad I felt. I was hard on myself too! I thought I was lazy, or getting older, or just never slept well enough, etc. So, now that I'm on a healing and healthy path, I've started to run again but I am basically a beginner in terms of my physical condition. In my mind I can still go out an run 8 miles any day I want. :)
My other challenge right now is what I eat. It affects me immediately and/or sometimes up to a day or more later. I can get really exhausted, body fatigue, body aches, itchy skin, headache, sinus trouble, asthma and wheezing, my fingers can swell & pop, I develop ezcema on my hands, arms and face, I have sleeping trouble although I feel so tired and sick I stay in bed.... Needless to say it affects my workouts when I eat an offending food. And I mess up ALOT. Sometimes due to temptation: living in a household with a doughnut, cookie, bread, pasta, etc eater. Sometimes it's due to cross contamination and I have no idea I'm eating it. But mostly, I don't have a lot of natural foods available in this small town Alabama so it's very easy to reach for a normal food item and try to get away with it.
The biggest hurdle however is our food laws and labeling lies. Even though I try to read down a list of chemical names, it is hard to know every single name for a derrivate of wheat/barley/oats, soy and corn. Companies can be very misleading and hide allergens under "natural flavoring" or "spices." Even more obscure, if it's not a top 8 allergy (such as corn) they don't have to specifiy it. And if they buy an ingredient pre-made and it contains the offending allergen, they don't have to specify it on the label because they didn't add it. Pointless! It boils down to a mess and almost every single packaged food in the store contains wheat, corn or soy.
It's very frustating to think about every single thing you eat.
I do believe though that eating whole foods is the healthiest path for everyone and I'm better for it I'm sure.

If you haven't seen the PBS documentary KING CORN, I highly recommend it to scare you into checking labels.

Current inspiration: Alison Colavecchia "On Being a Beginner"