Monday, August 27, 2012

My 8 Mile

Training for the half marathon is just like life; some days are good, some days are bad. This past Saturday, on mile 8 mile run (my furthest run to date), would probably fall in the latter category. Oddly enough, the running part was the least of my worries. Even though I struggled with other extenuating circumstances I was still able to run the entire 8 miles with the exception of the 2 minutes I walked while drinking my electrolyte drink. I could have run then too if I didn’t think I would have gotten more of the drink on me versus in me. The problem that morning was not my legs. Which is a good thing. It makes me happy that my legs seem to want to cooperate with my mind on these longer runs. Nope, the problem that day was my anxiety and my anal retentive personality that thrives only in regimented situations. 
To explain this story better I should probably start from the beginning.
On Saturday mornings Paul and I meet up with the marathon training group from his work. This group is made up of military and civilians that work, for the most part, in the unit Paul does. They train together during the week too but since I go in to work earlier than they do I can’t join them. I follow their training schedule on weekdays but I do it solo- which is probably a good thing. I am by far the slowest runner of the group. Of course I am also the newest runner in the group so I take solace in that fact when I am getting passed by the people training for the marathon who every week run about 50% further than I do. So even though I run with a training group I am never running with anyone. I am always at the back of the pack shuffling along to the beat of my own drum. But still. It’s fun to have people to talk with before and after and it makes me feel better knowing that on the long runs if anything were to happen to me someone would find me.
On Saturday’s we have a run start time of 630a which means Paul and I try to leave the house by 6a. This Saturday started off like they usually do. Alarm goes off at 5a and Paul and I start getting ready; brush teeth, get dressed, have breakfast, pack up our post run goodies (recovery drink, coconut water, protein bar, and fruit) and my osprey bag which is just like a camelback. Out the door by 6a.
This Saturday we were driving away from our house and Paul tells me that we were actually supposed to be there at 6a, not 630a. I freak out- “What? What? Why are you telling me this now? Why didn’t you say something about this yesterday? Or even this morning? Why didn’t you tell me to hurry up?” and on I go having a slight meltdown in the car. It was awesome. Sparing you most of the details this is what was resolved- Paul thought he told me but then realized he probably told someone else. And we did not in fact have to be there at 6a. One completely unnecessary freakout into the morning- I was starting to get a bad feeling.
On the way to the meet-up I drink my Vega Pre-Workout Energizer drink. I swear by Vega products. They are by far my favorite brand and the fact that they are completely plant-based and made from real ingredients instead of weird chemicals makes me love them even more. The pre-workout energizer is great- you can read about it here if you are interested. But that is beside the point. I drank it per the directions- 20 minutes prior to workout- as we were heading into the park in search of the pavilion we were supposed to meet our group at.
Here is what happened next:
Searched in the pitch dark for Pavilion 1 but without lights/signs we weren’t sure if we were in the right place.
Finally realized we weren’t and found someone who told us where to go
Made it to pavilion 1 only to see like a hundred or so runners milling around. What the what? This can’t be right
Find people from our group (which only has like 12 members) and continue searching for our leader.
I decide to head to the ladies room where there is a nice long line
Come out of ladies room and find Paul waiting for me. We are moving to a different pavilion. The other running group that was there was in the wrong location but wouldn’t move so we did
Find new pavilion and start setting up there
Safety brief, discussion about route and water points (which were now at incorrect mileage since we were now starting from a different point), and then a discussion about gels/beans/chews/bars and hydration.
Finally ready to start the run almost an hour later than anticipated
The group takes off and I am trailing behind walking
I’m already hungry and I just started. Blerg! Luckily I had some chews with me as well as the Vega gel I intended on consuming an hour in so I ate some of those. I had with me my osprey which I love for the longer runs because I have water and plenty of room to load up with food and incidentals. I even had a bottle of electrolyte drink inside my bag for later in the run because I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the water/Gatorade point. Thank goodness I am always prepared for the worst case scenario or this run could have gone a lot worse.
Although the rest of the group starts out running I always walk for 5 minutes before I run to help get me warmed up. I even skip sometimes too. I am a big believer in dynamic stretching before, static stretching after so I like to walk and skip to help loosen up the joints before I start. Paul walks with me too. This is the only time we are together because as soon as it’s been five minutes he leaves me in his dust. One day I hope I can run as fast as he does if for no other reason than to have some company.
So, I am finally running. I had some calorie intake. I’m warmed up. And I am trying to relax into a nice pace for the 8 miles I’ve set out to run. I know this trail, I’ve ran it before. I know, for the most part, what to expect.
I know that about a mile into the run there is construction and the trail is closed. The temporary trail set up is nasty. A mix of dirt and really big rocks. Why rocks? I don’t know what is up with that. It’s very uncomfortable to run on. I learned this the hard way the week before running in my Luna sandals and it wasn’t much better this week in my Merrell dash gloves.
Immediately after the crappy trail comes the big hill. I know that once I get up and then down this hill it will be smooth and flat for the most part. So I chug along at a pretty steady pace up the hill. No worries. So far so good and I am finally starting to relax and enjoy myself.
Unfortunately I knew what was coming up about a mile later and was very nervous about its condition. There is a .75 mile long board walk constructed out of fake, laminate/plastic wood type material. Last week when we ran it was very slippery due to the dew and humidity. Running on that boardwalk is nerve-wracking to say the least.  But this week it was even worse.  It was wetter and more slippery and I was trying with every fiber in my being to not fall down. It didn’t take too long before I was having a slight panic attack. It’s always fun trying to run when you can’t breathe. I was able to calm down but it wasn’t too much longer before I started to get cramps in my feet because I was gripping so tightly with my toes. Fun, fun.  I was beyond happy when I was off that boardwalk and was able to pick up my pace and run normally again but I did not look forward to having to cross it on the way back. What a mess.
I spent the next few miles trying to figure out if I kept running forward would I end up somewhere that Paul could pick me up or if I needed to turn around and head back. When I reached that 4 mile point I decided it would be best if I turned around and headed back instead of trekking off into the unknown. I am glad that I made that decision to tough it out (even though I was still freaking out on the way back on that damn boardwalk) I knew it was just another obstacle I needed to work through. I am sure there will be other runs, other days where I am faced with a similar situation so the more experience I get now the easier it will be the next time. I just made sure I took my time, stayed focused on the path, and tried to keep a good form while running.
I should probably add that although I was ‘running’ I was moving so slowly on the damn boardwalk that at one point when I ran into to Paul (heading back to the pavilion) he ended up walking beside me while I was running. I told him he had to leave me alone because I was working so hard to run without falling that to see I was moving as slowly as a he could walk was frustrating.
So what’s the point of all this- this crazy long story about my run? Well there are a few reasons I wanted to share all these details.
One; it’s best to understand that every run isn’t going to be a good one and if you accept that fact and don’t let a tough day defeat you, you will be fine.
Two; try for one positive take away from each run.  I feel that as a novice each run I go on so many great things seem to happen. Even though there were a lot of rough patches in this run I walked away from it super happy that I ran for 8 miles, regardless of how slow I ran.
Three; if you are like me and suffer from anxiety disorder or even if you are easily upset by changes in routine/schedule it is important to find a way to quickly calm yourself down. When I am running and I start to get anxious it makes it very difficult to breath. Oxygen is kind of important in this whole living equation so when this happens I focus on my attention on my feet and how they hit the ground and from there work my way up my body reviewing my form. This approach helps my mind focus on something else and helps me to calm down very quickly. Fortunately, I don’t have too many issues with my anxiety anymore but when it happens it is best to have a strategy to counteract it.
Four; be adaptable but also be safe. I ran that trail with the crappy temporary path and the crazy slippery boardwalk two weeks in a row. I am very glad that I did because it gave me some experience with new situations. I tried both weeks to make the best of it and learn from it and that is a good thing. That being said, if this is the meet-up spot for next week’s run I will not do it again. Experience is great but I’ve had enough, for now, so if the group decides to run there again I will go elsewhere. I just don’t want to risk an injury.
Five; be proud no matter what. It is easy to compare my performances against other runners but that is an ugly habit that is better not to pick up. I am new to this but even if I had been running for decades it shouldn’t matter. What matters is that I tried. Finishing is great, yes, but to me just getting up and making that choice to test my boundaries and try something unknown is the real battle. So whether you run a 6 minute mile or a 16 minute mile it doesn’t matter. We are all equal. We are all courageous warriors.
"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
-John Bingham