from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

coming back together

I had a massage. I took Ibuprofen. I did lots of stretching. I went to the chiropractor. And I skipped my "big run" on Sunday.

Since I was renouncing rigor and discipline anyhow, I decided not to do it half-heartedly and I spent half the day in bed with an engrossing novel, a most marvelous way to pass time. I read that 10% of the people who took a visual quiz on Imagini, when asked what they would do with an extra hour, chose the depiction of someone lounging around with two or three books. I feel 10% might be accurate, but also pitiful. Needless to say, I would not run if given an extra hour. I enjoy reading so much that indulgence renders me feeling guilty, as if it were somehow imoral or fattening.

Oh, and I also did laundry.

I am better. The chiropractor re-aligned me with something within myself the body had forgotten, and suggested not to run for another four days. This morning at 5 am I stood for a long time in the middle of the living room, ready to go, thinking it over. With mixed feelings, I stayed. I will run tomorrow. I will even take it easy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

falling apart

Three days after the system check confirmed full function capability, I woke up with a stiff back. It went downwhill from there. For more than a day my lower back hurt so badly I could not straighten myself out. I hobbled around at work literally bent out of shape. This has happened before, but not since I am running.

I went out to run yesterday, but a few steps out the door it struck me as stupid to impose four miles worth of pounding on a stressed spine, so I turned around and went back into the house. Just in time.

Today when I stepped on the treadmill I still felt fragile, as if I could break at the waist. I didn't.

Then... I have had this weakness in my right ankle forever, even before I was running, but it has not bothered me in the last six months or so. This morning I felt it again, like a hollow space in my joint, undermining structure. My mind hesitated each time before putting the foot down, but the treadmill wasn't waiting.

And then... the tendon in my left groin, the one I pulled last September, announced its presence too, just so I don't forget it exists, and is tender, and has feelings.

I feel as if I am walking a tightrope. No, I feel as if I am running a tightrope.

I ran four miles, wishing it were over. Wishing I had my marathon behind me. I am so tired. Perhaps I could accelerate my training so I run the Vancouver FULL marathon in June. That is a crazy thought, I know, on a day like this.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

system check

The week after the half-marathon I took it easy, double-cheking the state of the body. All parts were in place and functioning. I am finally over my cold. It had snowed again and it was as frigid as in Arizona during my outdoor run, but I was prepared. Most poignant was re-acquainting myself with the rarefied atmosphere of the desert. I am running on thin air again, an interaction as familiar and excruciating as some close relationships.

Browsing blogs at year-turn I noticed how many runners have advance plans as to what races they will run during the year. I cannot think too far ahead on a normal day, but my mind is playing now with the idea of running a half at sea level, to make up for the questionable PR in Arizona. Joe has suggested the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon race on June 24. It just so happened that I had looked it up exactly the same day, not because I am able to project as far, geographically or timewise, but because we might need to go to British Columbia in the summer, and it would be neat if I could combine two quests in one stroke. It would take coordinating everything and everybody, here and there, like the conductor of an orchestra. My summer symphony.

Friday, January 19, 2007

doubt and its remedy

I am gullible. I am impressionable. I am even susceptible to advertising to some extent. And I tend to doubt myself.

I submited a request for time correction and Elite Racing replied I did not start one hour after the first wave, no further explanation.

Now I am not sure anymore. What if I made a mistake? It's not as if in previous races I manifested insight, precision, and a clear head with splits and timing. According to my own admittance, I run mindlessly, and can't think straight when running.

So... I guess I will not know for sure what happened. There's a simple remedy. I can find myself a half-marathon at sea level and run it under two hours and settle this. In the end, it was a great race and that is all that matters. And now I have to focus on how I get to mile 15. It's time to move on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

rock'n'roll times

We left Phoenix yesterday at 4:45 am and arrived in Albuquerque after an uneventful ride of 8 hours door-to-door.

It was a good trip. It was a good race. It was a great race. Logistics aside.

We departed here on Friday, since I was anxious about being in time to register before 5 pm next day. That was an inspired move. On Saturday the weather turned nasty, and we had miserable driving conditions through the mountains, with snow and ice and useless windshield wipers unless one used a ton of washer fluid. Phoenix was clear, but half of downtown is one-way streets, and half of those were one-lane due to construction, so it took more than an hour to drive four blocks to the Phoenix convention center for race packet pick-up.

I was assigned to corral 27, based on estimated time of arrival. I don’t remember what I submitted – 2h or 2h 15 minutes. Is that so bad? 27 was the last corral, I was there among runner/walkers in street clothes. And not even among them did I feel like a runner.

The morning was frigid and bright, the coldest start in the history of the event (I heard people say). My contingent took off 57 minutes after gun time. No matter what I did in that hour to keep warm – jumping up and down, rocking back and forth, running in place, rubbing and shivering – by the time we had a GO I was numb with the freezing cold. The luckiest people were those who kept the layers on and didn’t use gear check-in.

For miles ahead, the streets were littered with discarded clothes. By mile two my toes were still burning with the cold. By mile three I still had pins and needles in my hands. But I ran.

I ran, free and carefree. One factor made a tremendous difference. I have only run in Albuquerque so far. Altitude over 5,000 feet. I thought it was me, puking my lungs out, as robtherunner once described the modus operandi for a 5K. It wasn’t me. It was the altitude. Thin air. I had not realized the handicap before. In Phoenix, Arizona, 1,100 feet over sea level, breathing is labor-free. You run, you breathe. It’s a given. It’s not hard at all. I cut steadily through the crowds ahead, thinking of nothing but the running alone.

Mindless, high on oxygen, along palm trees, to the beat of music, I ran. I did not walk once. Clock time read 2 h 52 minutes on the electronic display when I reached the finish line. With a near-to-an-hour-late start, I knew before I crossed it that I had finished in less than two hours. I had PR-ed.

It wasn’t all my merit. I was still not completely over my cold, being on the road did not improve my general state, and the hour-long expenditure of energy to keep alive before the start could not have helped. It was the altitude. I will not beat this record in Albuquerque. But it is still my record.

I spent the rest of the day giggling. My landsman Emil Ardelean ran the full marathon, and had a good race as well. My boyfriend drove us around, and generally acted as the only responsible adult. We had a fabulous late lunch, and behaved as if we had performed great deeds. It had been a great race. I had PR-ed. I know from the time I was target shooting: a personal record is a big, big deal, even if only for that one person.

We went on the internet that evening. The official website gave my chip time as 2h 08min 25sec, about a minute over my previous half-marathon.

I don’t understand.

I know I ran this race in less than two hours, although I cannot prove it. It was a great race. For the first time, I almost enjoyed running. The rest should not matter. But I still feel as if that incorrect chip time takes something away from me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

body snatcher

I am exhausted. The work, the illness, too little sleep, too tight a schedule. And yet - I get up in the morning before 5 am, I sleepwalk through teethbrushing, coffee, and dressing. The night is still dark, the snow still frozen, people are asleep. I am stepping out to run.

Who is this person?

I don't even like running. The best part is when it's over.

Anyhow. I have races ahead, miles to conquer. Arizona, here I come.

Monday, January 08, 2007

the race ahead (half-marathon #2)

I start to be stressed about the whole thing.

For one, I still have a cold. Somehow, last week, I managed to negotiate my way along the fine line between work, running, illness, and rest, so that I still got my training done and the cold did not get worse. Problem is it did not get better either.

Each day I came from work I went directly to bed to with hot teas and vitamin C (and my laptop). Each scheduled morning I woke up before 5 am to run. On the whole, status quo.

I have to somehow get well. I cannot run a good race sluggish and lightheaded, as I am now.

And then, I am stressed about the logistics. I am worried about getting to Arizona on time the day before, so I can pick up my race packet before they shut things down. I am worried about the highway getting closed, since they announced another storm for Saturday. I am worried about maps and timing and down-town driving and crowds and wave-starts. 20,000 to 30,000 participants. I have never been in a competition of such proportions. I am worried about finding my boyfriend after the finish.

They say 90% of what a person worries about never comes true. So be it. In the meantime I have to get well.

I am not worried about the race itself. I will run. What can happen?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

in tune with the body

I caught a cold. Running nose, cough, lightheadedness, shivers. It was 16 degreees this morning and dark when I walked across the complex to the exercise room. I did not feel like going. It seemed sounder to stay in bed, somehow enacting a crash course in getting better. I did not feel like going to work either. My body has its own ideas as to how we should spend the day.

In one of the books on running I borrowed from the library I read about this guy - from Kenya? - who ran countless marathons in a row and won most of them. The way he does it, the book said, he listens to his body. He's been known to get out of bed in the morning, run one mile, and return into the sheets if the running did not agree with him.

Sounds good, being in tune with one's body. I am not sure though I can distinguish the body's smart vibes from laziness, which I share with the body as well, after all. When I intend to run 12 miles and make the judicious decision to be content with 10, was it my body signaling exhaustion, or just self-indulgence? What is the difference between the pain by which you hurt yourself and the pain by which you grow?

The run this morning - four miles - was effortless, fluid, fast, smooth.