Saturday, May 28, 2011

My favorite holiday for all the wrong reasons

It is Memorial Day weekend.  I love Memorial Day.  Last year I bequeathed it to be my favorite of all holidays because:
1. It is the morning of my summer and I am most definitely a morning person.
2. I start out with high expectations for the season.  Plenty of hopes, plans for some fun outings, and lots of activity - stressing the root word ACTIVE in activity.
3. Nothing is expected of me on this day, compared to other holidays.  I don't have to decorate anything, nor must I feed, entertain, nor change sheets and clean for anyone.

I have been known to visit the cemetery to honor our brave military who fought for our country.  Particularly that of my own father, who served in Europe in WWII.  And I appreciate and acknowledge our duty to never let their memory die, nor let their sacrifice be forgotten,
for this would be a different and scarier world without them.  I confess that this is an obligation that I've sometimes neglected.

So as I crouch on the season's starting line,
waiting for the signal to launch, I'm perusing some of what's ahead:

1. The Marathon, about which I won't talk THIS time, hence you can all collectively sigh with relief.
2. The Trek, a re-enactment of an 1800s pioneer handcart trek, honoring our religious forebears who literally walked a thousand miles across our country, to find a sanctuary where they could worship freely.  More on this later.
3. Favorite Third Son's college graduation and perhaps a little jaunt through Yellowstone afterwards.
4. "Run Run Ye Saints", a church-sponsored running/walking event that Favorite Daughter and I co-authored and of which I have been in charge since its inception last year.
5. The Hood to Coast, that rip-snortin' all-too-much-fun relay, that y'all will most certainly hear more about in this blog, as it draws closer.
6. Some, as of yet, loosely planned bike rides, hikes, visits with family.
7. A dozen other things that inevitably get thrown in along the way.
8. And, OF COURSE, lots of running!

Memorial Day is also when the calendar is suddenly jacked up in May, and we slide all-too-quickly and before-you-know-it into September.  The pressure is on to pick up the pace so as to not miss a moment.

Ready, set .....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My oasis before the poppies

I'm enjoying a lovely little oasis called "Tapering".  This is supposed to begin approximately two to three weeks before the marathon, so it might likened to the Calm Before the Storm.  Ironman Friend Mark offers this wise advice:
"From this point, no workouts will help you," he counsels.  "The training is done.  You need to go easy.  Stay loose (whatever THAT means); and get plenty of rest."

Really?  I don't have to cram in some last minute hill work?  No more head-to-head matches with Zimri?  No more long runs for added insurance?   I won't do any back-sliding or lose any ground?  (As if I HAD actual ground to lose ...!)
"Not in three weeks," Friend Mark mentors reassuringly.

I've read that some runners struggle with tapering.  They get antsy.  They have to restrain their urge to get out and sweat off some miles.  Not me!  I am the Queen of R&R!  I LOVE some well-deserved laziness.  Give me a barcalounger and a TV remote, and I am SO there!
The only problem with my oasis is that annoying storm cloud off in the distance.  A distance that is quickly shrinking.  It's the nagging reality that I've not quite reached Emerald City.  I still have that one last stretch across the poppy field.    
And that little jaunt .....  to the witch's castle ......  ("You're out of the woods, you're out of the dark, you're out of the niiiiiight" ......)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Love Messages ad nauseam

I've learned that during my LONG runs, (anything more than a half-marathon) my Jeff-Galloway-walking-breaks are vital.  If I neglect them during the first hour, then around miles 14-15 my calves start to cramp up.  When that happens it's like running on painful wooden stumps.  Till now, I've been using a stopwatch to remind me to stop and walk.  I could hear the beep of the watch because I wasn't plugged into my iPod.  And I wasn't plugged in because I was with FRP.

However, FRP and I have mutually decided that, during the marathon, we will not run together.  She is faster than I and doesn't espouse as many walking breaks as I do.  So no doubt she'll leave me behind early on.  And I hope she does.  She has agreed NOT to wait for me, and I have agreed NOT to stop if I find her dying on the side of the road.  "Just keep going!" she says.  I'll get there!!"

But here's the dilemma.  Since running without FRP means I will be plugged into my iPod on the Big Day, how will I hear the beeps?  (No, my music is not THAT loud.  The stopwatch is just really quiet.)  During the LAST half of the run, Sheer Exhaustion is also a helpful reminder, but Galloway stresses that it's in the early miles when the breaks are the most important.  Then Dear Husband came to the rescue with a solution.  Via something called "Garage Band" on our Mac, he recorded his voice telling me to stop and walk .... in an endearing just-between-him-and-me way.  Then I duplicated it a gazillion times and spliced it into my playlist.  How smart is that!?!

So by the end of the marathon, I will either be all the more in love with him for his thoughtful and blessed life-saving reminders to walk, or I'll be sick to DEATH of his voice/message repeating over and over and over and over .....  I'm kind of afraid it will be the latter.

But who cares?  Time heals all and by then the run will be DONE.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Slogging along in Paradise

Last November when I signed up for the marathon, I was clueless and naive.  I thought I could do it on my own.  I thought all I'd need was a little fortitude and a training schedule.  Wrong.

Fortunately, before I realized my foolishness and before I knew I'd need rescuing, FRP/BD (Favorite Runner Partner/Beloved Daughter) stepped up.  I have since learned that I COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT HER.

Not only has she provided me with hours of sanity-saving companionship and conversation on the long runs, she introduced me to Runner's Paradise, AKA Grand Island.  Since it's a few steps out her door, and since she's a professional photographer, I assigned her the job of taking some photos.  And she did.
Last Friday we barely completed our FINAL long training run.  It was too warm - a whopping 70 degrees.  (I know ... pathetic.)  We dragged ourselves through the last few miles.  Legs cramping.  Motivation gone.  But the scenery, (and her company) were flawless.
So I'm posting this in honor of all the miles, we logged there together.  I didn't love the pain nor the anticipation of more increasingly-long runs-to-come throughout the winter.  But I DO look forward to future non-mandatory-just-for-fun runs along the quiet roads of this picturesque bit of earth, with my FRP/BD ....

AND with mileage goals in the SINGLE digits.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Food (the sequel), and my stomach

If you've been following this blog, you should, by now, be educated on the definition of an ironman.  If not, then shame on you.  We'll all pause and wait patiently while you check the link.  That said however, this post is not about ironman events.  It's about my stomach.  Which is made of iron.  Yes, there's logic there .... somewhere.

I seem to be able to eat just about anything.  I've never experienced food poisoning as far as I know.  And almost everything sent down there, stays put nicely.  You might even compare my stomach to Lance Armstrong's lungs ... which is NOT helpful for dieting!  Because not only can I eat almost anything, I can eat a LOT of it.

A friend of mine has often remarked that she can't eat dinner if she's had a big lunch.  But, says I, dinner is still FIVE hours away!   Lunch is a distant memory by then.  (It's like those people who can actually sit and work next to a decorative dish of candy, like at a bank.  You might as well parade a marching band through the office to describe the level of distraction a dish of candy presents to me.)  

Often heard amongst runners, "I can't eat before a run".  Or they say they must eat very lightly to avoid the dreaded "lead-weight-in-the-stomach" syndrome.  Not me.  I can happily run on a double stack of whole wheat pancakes, with bacon and an extra tall glass of OJ.  

Not that I do!  But I could.  If I let myself.  Being a proud graduate and employee of Weight Watchers, I have learned that Nature is against me at every turn and each calorie I consume sticks like fly paper.  Chiseling it off via exercise is a constant uphill effort.  Temperance is required even on my 20 miler days.   Yes, my GPS SAYS I burned 2000 calories ... just tell that to my scales!

Anyway, ol' Iron Stomach and I do fairly well.  During a run, I don't have to worry about tolerating the Powerbars, the sport drinks, the Ensure, or even the GUs.  It all goes down and mingles happily with my breakfast.  The only types of food that DO cause some ruckus are the really healthy things, like broccoli.  I've learned NEVER to eat it before I .... um .....  let's just leave it at that.

Interestingly enough, my up-coming marathon of choice enjoys the unusual distinction of offering, (since it's at the coast) raw oysters.  

Seriously!  I MIGHT be willing to give them a sporty try on almost any other occasion.  But during a marathon ... I think I'd be pushing my luck a little too far.  So no thank you.  But bring on the rest!  The bagels and cream cheese.  The M&Ms.  The bananas and grapes.  And those shortbread cookies with the chocolate frosting-stripes across the tops ......

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do I carry the Krispy Kremes?

Time is winding down.  The marathon is just a few weeks away, and I'm in the fine-tuning stage.  Not with my actual running, but with the details.  What will I wear?  What should I bring?  What services will be provided along the route?  Water.  Check.  Gaterade.  (I'd rather have grape juice, but oh well.)  Check.  Porta-potties.  DOUBLE check!  Food ...... ?  No mention of food on the marathon website.  Okay then, I'll have to carry my own.  I turned to some friends for advice.  "Food?" they say.  "I don't eat until after."  Or "Breakfast usually carries me through".  Now I'm realizing I'm talking to people who can run 26.2 miles in under 4 hours, a class of runner in which I have no connection.  For me, I need food.  And I'd rather it be REAL.  Not the gooey, gummy 100-proof sugar stuff that you squirt into your mouth.  I mean, if I'm expected to eat sugar, why not something GOOD?  Like oreos, or donuts.  Or pie.  If you don't think one can eat while one runs, just watch me.

I've done enough ridiculously long runs to know that the ol' tank does better with regular refueling.  Our training runs have been 8 mile loops, with regular stops at FRP's house, where we have stocked a substantial pile of cookies and juice.  And string cheese.  And bananas.  And chocolate milk.  And adorable grandkids for hugs.  It has worked well.

However, the marathon will not rotate back to her house every now and then.  In fact her house will be nowhere near!  I will be on my own.  So, how do I carry it all?

I've been experimenting with big pockets, but anything heavier than a chapstick, produces a bothersome bounce.  I've tried a fuel belt, but since drinks are provided, I don't want to wear it the whole way.  And from what I've gathered online, fanny packs scream NERD.  Besides, they also bounce.

My iPod rides in an arm band, as does my cell phone.  No bouncing there, but no space for more arm bands.  A hat like Carmen Miranda's?  Or I could place spotters along the way, drawing on every favor owed to me from the past 50 years, who could dole out ham sandwiches as I trod by.  But I've read that spotters are a highly undependable, shady type of people who have been known to wander off and miss the rendezvous.

So I'm still working on the perfect solution.  Maybe Carmen would let me borrow her hat.  I could even sew on a few ruffles and add some lively salsa music on my iPod ....
The one problem with this festive option is that if I trip, fall, and/or DIE along the way (another item on my list of details), none of my family will voluntarily step up and claim any knowledge of who I am.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's not the event. It's the training.

Ironman-Friend Mark, who has done 10 of those mind-boggling events all over the world, said, (paraphrasing) "The amazing thing isn't that I DID 10 Ironmans, but that I TRAINED for 10 Ironmans."
A regimen building up to twenty-plus hours of training per week takes a kind of discipline that very few can muster up from his/her soul.
Fellow Ironman-Friend Ty, concurred.  (Again paraphrasing) "It isn't the race we are so concerned with, it's whether or not we have the time, energy, and perseverance needed for all those months of hard work, to prepare for it."  (I don't remember how he really said it, but you get the point.)  Add to that, the sacrifice of whatever else one should, or want to do with all those hours and days.

With less than a month until MY big day, I'm contemplating the past five months of my own training program.  Actually, as Patient Husband pointed out, it hasn't been very different from my pre-marathon-training days, other than the regular and increasingly long runs.  And a lot more hill running.  And more stress.  And fear.

Since I started running over 2.5 years ago, my weekly quota was 20 - 24 miles.  But now with the exception of the Long Run Weeks, I usually do less.  My chosen trainer advocates more rest days, a concept I happily latched onto, then hitting it hard on the running days, which I sometimes do ..... or at least TRY to do ... sometimes ....  Has it been enough?  I don't know.  I hope so.

This week is FRP/BD's (Favorite Running Partner/Beloved Daughter) and my last long training run.
"You've got this." wrote Comforting-Friend Rachael, who recently ran in the legendary Boston Marathon.  And you know, I think she's right.  I can do it.  That realization came after our 18 miler.  And after we did 20.  And after we did 22.   As Supportive Husband said, "The marathon is the graduation of all the months of hard work".

I'm not afraid of failure.  But I AM afraid of the pre-run-jitters.  I AM afraid of those last six miles and the gut-wrenching GRIT to get to the finish line.  I AM afraid of those things over which I have no control ... like the weather ...  or leg cramps ... or just circumstances ... you know, the glitches.

And I'm STILL afraid I'll sign up for another one.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My carbon fiber temptress

Just so you know that I am a multi-dimensional person (IOW, I do more than run), I thought I'd write a post about my bike.  Yes, I have one and she's a beaut!

For years Husband and I rode our tandem bike, AKA the "comfy-family-station-wagon-complete-with-useful-luggage-rack-and-squishy-gel-seat-cover", on many adventures with our hardy friends.  And not to abandon "Old Wagon", we have more adventures on the Wish List.  Some of those adventures will likely pop up in future posts.  (Note:  I'm the one who insists on a gel seat cover.   Husband gave up trying to convince me how NOT-cool it is.)

But with the tandem, I could never ride when Husband didn't.  So we went shopping.  We narrowed down our choices to three top contenders, with a certain Cannondale standing out above the others.  Since Husband had to work and couldn't devote yet another day to the decision process, I headed out alone on day two.  My plan was to take said Cannondale out for some serious road testing.  Which I did.  But alas, there was no spark between us.

Wondrously-patient-salesperson, Jason, suggested that the fit wasn't quite right and brought out another bike so that I could try a different size.  This size-testing bike was a luscious blue women's-specific Specialized Amira, and it was love at first sight.  No one else in the store seemed to notice the heavens opening nor hear the angelic choirs as he carried it down from the upper room.  I took that seductive piece of bicycle mastery outside and cautiously rode it up the hill.  We floated.  The gears were, as they say, like butter.  After circling the block, we went back inside and I gingerly asked, "How much does THIS one cost?"
"You don't want to know," said Patient Jason.
I went back to the Cannondale, but it was no use.  My heart was still floating in butter and my usual very-frugal-nature was abandoning ship.  I called Husband.  He and Google promptly launched into the research.  Good reviews.  Good components.  Carbon fiber.  Lots of technical stuff that didn't mean much to me.  If he liked it, I knew it was good.  He did.
"Go for it."  says he.
"It's expensive." says I.
"I don't care."  says he.
So I took Blue Temptress out for another, longer test ride and we explored a bit of SE Portland together.  All in all, some five hours AFTER I first entered the store, AFTER price negotiations, AFTER Patient Jason & I added each other to our Christmas card lists, ... I took my blue buttery-bike home.  That was 13 months ago, and I'm still dazzled by her sleek beauty.  She's my mid-life-crisis Ferrari.

The down side is that a new bike fails to come with a new motor, and Dazzling-Ferrari and I are forever hampered by my middle-aged legs, lungs, heart and utter lack of killer-bike-rider spirit.  I'm all for a vigorous ride but, oddly enough, I prefer some FUN in the process.  Competitive, blood-and-guts racing just isn't me.  Plus, as I quickly learned, strong bike-riding legs must come from ACTUAL BIKE-RIDING and don't necessarily come from running 10Ks.  (My ego took a big hit on that one.)  So Dazzling-Ferrari might also be called "Overkill" because with me, she'll never be able to really show off what she's made of.  But we can have fun together.

And one year, several hundred miles later (without the seat cover) .... we do!