Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Million Dollar Question

There is a mystery in the life of a runner that needs a solution.  And when I figure it out, I will market it in Runner's World magazine and enjoy a wealthy retirement.  The mystery is:  Why do I feel good on one run, and then feel like last week's leftovers on another run?  Yesterday I ran my sixth official 10K and I set a new PR.  My bucket list goal is to get in under 1 hour.  Yesterday I did it in 1 hour and 6 seconds.  (MY garmin said 1 hour and 2 seconds, but I'll "graciously" ...  >:-/ ... let that go ...)  Needless to say, it was a great run!  Part of the reason was that several friends were running also, which always makes anything more fun.  There were a couple of challenging hills, including one nasty hill towards the end that, IMO, was just downright rude and unnecessary.  Even at that, I got my best time to date and finished feeling good.

Two weeks ago I did that 10K at Champoeg Park and crossed the finish line gasping and frothing like an old horse needing to be put out of its misery.   (You've got to admit, it takes a certain degree of security in one's self-being to publicly post such an unflattering shot.)

That route in the above picture at Champoeg was f-l-a-t and yesterday's route was, as I said, anything but.  So WHY?  And what concerns me most is that I CAN'T SEEM TO CONTROL NOR PREDICT IT.  On a routine run, the old-horse syndrome doesn't really matter, other than it can be really irritating.  But there are runs when it DOES matter ...!

Anyway, here's a photo showing off a sampling of some Awesome Running Friends at yesterday's 10K.  (You will recognize FRP to my right.)  It was the first of the annual Newberg Camelia Festival runs, and I plan to boot Champoeg out of my routine and replace it with this!

Pay particular attention to Awesome Running Friends 2nd and 3rd from the right.  This was their debut 10K and THEY RAN THE WHOLE WAY!   You can now say you knew them when .... because I'm sure we haven't seen the last of these two in this dazzling world of pavement-pounding.  AND they, like me, used to HATE THE WHOLE IDEA OF RUNNING.  (Maybe they still do ....)  Another two of the Awesome Running Friends in the picture (Tall Guy in Back and White Hat Gal) are also somewhat new to 10Ks and are showing us all how it's done.  Finally, the Far Right Gal left burn marks on the street as she rocketed off into the lead.

So whatever that mystery component that creates a good run is, whether it's adequate rest, nutrition, warming-up, lucky socks - or if it's simply the stars aligning themselves correctly ....  I hope it kicks in when I really need it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What would you DO if you were not afraid?

Favorite Third Son Tyler posed that question in a talk he gave in church this week.  He credited it to Favorite 2nd Son Kendall, who credited it to a book about cheese.... and mice....  Anyway, it got me to thinking.  What would I DO if I was not afraid?  And, to ponder the point further -- what have I done, in spite of fear?  Hmmmmm.  

As I think about it, fear has its benefits.  It can keep us out of danger.  It promotes caution and prudence.  It can heighten the senses.  All of which can be extremely useful.

Yet, via the ancient prophet Isaiah, God teaches us, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." (41:10)  
......So "fear thou not" - is not just a mere suggestion.  It sounds more like a commandment.

Therefore, in situations when stupidity is not in the mix, and actual harm is not a possibility (except if you're Moses, stepping into the Red Sea), but rather ... failure, or embarrassment, or rejection, or discomfort, or exposure, or pride, or loss of something eternally unimportant, or sweat, or pain .... are among the possible consequences ... along with the possibility of something wonderful, THEN is a good time to ask yourself that question.

What would YOU do if you were not afraid?  And what HAVE you done?   For me, it was watching the Love of My Life leave for two years to serve as God's missionary -- and then, years later, watching each of our three sons fly away to foreign worlds to do the same.  It was standing by my man (and only breadwinner) as he quit his very secure job to start his own very un-secure business.  It was taking the exam for my (currently non-current) Real Estate license.  It was teaching my first adult religion class.  It was my first attempt down a ski slope.  It was walking into my first Weight Watchers meeting.  It was my first 10K.  It was accepting an invitation to run in the Hood to Coast relay.  It's agreeing to chaperone a re-enactment of a pioneer handcart trek involving no showers nor actual beds for 4 days.  And it's those 26.2 miles next June.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Random Road Thoughts

Can't WAIT to be DONE with the Marathon!  I miss the non-pressured days when a run of less than 6 miles didn't cause guilt or concern.

New running shoes are on their way!  I went back to Nike Air Max Motos after wearing Brooks for the past 6 months. The Brooks were good, but they didn't have the Aaaah Factor.

I LOVE my running friends, old and new.  Do people bond like this in other sports?  I seriously doubt it.  I mean, there just is SOMETHING about running.   

I'm trying to not get discouraged when others are able to run faster and farther than I can.  Especially when they seem to do it so easily.   When I am outrun by someone of my age, gender, and weight, THEN there's reason to let it get to me.  Which segues to my next thought ...

I need a shirt with THIS on the back:
 "Go ahead and pass me.  
How many grandkids 
do YOU have??"

Finally, I really MUST start carrying a camera on my runs.  The downtown Portland waterfront this morning, with the sun and the mist over the river, was a thrill.  And a picture inserted ...


would have been perfect.   ~Sigh~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Me, my Brain, and I

There's something I've learned in running that has been verified by other runners within my social circle.  Each time I set a new distance PR (personal record) -- I think, "That's IT!!  I can't go any farther!"  But then the next time I do indeed, set another PR, again with the same desperate thought at the end.  Each time seems like the limit of my endurance.  And each time I'm able to push that limit farther.

My discovery is that much of it is in my mind.  If I set out to run 8 miles, then 8 miles is the extent I can manage before Sudden Death.  If I plan to run 12 miles, then my brain seems to adjust to the new challenge and the rest of my body somehow struggles through with the plan.  Of course one can't just decide to run an exorbitant distance without building up to it, so yes, muscles and lungs are important too.   Regardless of what my brain agrees upon at the onset, there are no negotiations halfway into the game.  It's a rare day when I can talk myself into additional miles mid-run.  When my brain is DONE, the rest had better follow or else there is misery to be had by all.

This would explain, in a way, how experienced MARATHONERS describe their last three to five miles.  "It's a mental thing," they say.  Your body is done, but your mind pushes onward.

(Side thought:  This might also have something to do with the bothersome need to find a bathroom during a run.  We fondly call this the "runner's trots".  I can manage to "hold it" quite well until I get within about a half of a block from my house and then, somehow, the portion of my brain that's directly wired to my intestines, kicks into full gear because it KNOWS a bathroom is nearby.  By the time I hit my doorstep, I'm in a full gallup.  I fully believe that if my house had been yet another half mile away, I would have been fine until, again, I hit the doorstep.)

I find this lesson on brain power encouraging.   Although 3, 5, or 10 miles may be the limit of my endurance today, I don't need to fear my goal for tomorrow.  As long as I add miles gradually, I won't die on that last one.  And after successfully completing an 18 miler last week, for the first time 26.2 seems within sight.  This is why TRAINING, in addition to the obvious physical benefits, builds the confidence needed to convince my brain that together, WE can do this.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I am a Runner

The inspiration for my blog comes from this simple statement.   To explain, I'd like to introduce my friend, Rachael.  She was our group leader when I joined Weight Watchers.  Her background, which I feel free to share because she told it many times in WW meetings, was losing over 60 lbs on the WW program, and turning to running, as I did, to maintain her new size.

I remember Rachael telling about her first 5K.  She showed up nervous and feeling COMPLETELY out of place.  She saw people trotting around, stretching, warming up, and wondered, "Should I be doing that?!"  She questioned what she was wearing, if she was prepared, and generally fighting the urge to just go home.  In other words, she didn't feel like she belonged among these ACTUAL runners.  Long story short, she ran that 5K.  She eventually ran the Portland Marathon.  Last fall, she ran it again and qualified for the Boston Marathon.  Rachael is a runner.

I love her story because I can identify with it in so many ways.  I fought those same feelings of inadequacy at my first running event.  Everyone else there were Real Runners,  patiently tolerating us wannabes.   Adding to my insecurity -  I was older than most of them.
"I'm a grandma, for Heaven's sake!  What was I thinking??!"

Here's the point:   I knew I could run.  I had trained.  I had the shoes, the clothes, the proper "look".  But I didn't have the identity.  Yet.  Mentally, I had not yet accepted myself as a runner.  That identity shift came over several months, as I realized I really liked running, and that I was indeed, "one of them".

When you believe you are a runner, you act as a runner acts - by running.   As Rachael stressed in one of our WW meetings, when you lose your extra weight and start to believe you are a slim person, you will act as a slim person acts - by not overeating.   If you can't shake that fat-person identity inside your head, chances are you will revert back to fat-person behavior.  If you believe you are a couch potato, then you will act like one.  If I believe I am too old to run a marathon, then I am.

Your identity is everything.  And IMO, it happens by going through the motions.  ACT AS IF you are:  a runner, a slim person, a (fill in the blank), ..... or a valued and beloved child of God.  ACT AS IF YOU ARE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE.  Then, let that identity come.  If you run, you ARE a runner.  If you have lost that weight, you ARE slim.  If you exist, you are God's child.  You ARE one of them.   Stop the self-doubt and claim that identity which, by all rights, is yours.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Break out the Season! (Updated)

Two years ago, my first official race was at Champoeg Park.  It wasn't a positive experience as I've mentioned in a previous post.  But now that I've ran it three times, it has become my annual tradition, my own personal season opener and a standard I use to measure my progress.  Hence I'm feeling a little ownership.  Not that I have anything to do with putting it on, but still, somehow, I'm claiming it as mine.

For one thing, Champoeg Park, a place significant in Oregon's history, was a favorite haunt of my dad's.  I remember many afternoons as a child, driving from Portland with him, to wander and explore in this vast area along the Willamette River.

Now I live within a few miles and visit it frequently, often on a bike.  So to the hundreds who came from miles away to run in this beautiful setting I say, "Welcome to my backyard, and to My 10K."

Since Oregon Road Runners Club, the actual group that deserves the credit, generously posts the results online, I looked back over my progress:

2009   1:00:48   6th place (in age group)
2010   1:01:39   2nd place
2011   1:01:44   5th place (per my Garmin)

Hmmmm.  Not progressing in the right direction, am I.  And as you can see, placement depends on who shows up that year.   In 2009, as I recall, the route was cut slightly short due to a fallen tree blocking the path.  That probably accounts for my better time .....

Anyway, as I keep telling myself, at my age it's not about speed, it's simply about being able to do this!  In 2009, along with hundreds of unknowns, I ran it with Bryce and veteran-runner friend Ricky.  2010, I, AND the hundreds of unknowns,  ran it alone.  This year I ran it with Fellow Members of our Runner's Anonymous Facebook Group:

This group includes Favorite Running Partner, who finished just ahead of me.  It wasn't her best time by far, as she's been dealing with sick kids and lack of sleep all week.  Usually she leaves me in the dust!

Here we are, ready to start.  (A cute shot of FRP, and the side of my head with all the clips to keep hat and hair contained.)

 We're off!
Friend Sue nailed First Place in our age group!  She's amazing!  I'm happy with my 5th place, assuming there were more than five participants of same age and gender !  (Update:  There were nine.) 

So with my 3rd Annual Champoeg 10K "under the belt" as they say, AND with SPRING just around the corner ..... drumroll ...... LET THE SEASON BEGIN!!  Hoo-ah!

Coming up:  Runner's Anonymous

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just want to keep this for reference

This video has been posted on several of my favorite blogs as well as making the rounds on facebook and you've all probably seen it. But I'm not posting it for you, Dear Reader-Friends, but for myself, for easy reference. I keep having to dig back in fellow-blogging-friend Ellen's blog to find it, as I refer it over and over to people who need know that change is possible for anyone. Anyway, bear with me, as it is probably my favorite YouTube offering of all time.