from mile to marathon

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

Friday, August 30, 2013

the fundraising page

Here it is, I set it up this morning.

Race for Leonard Peltier

I am new to this so I don't know what to expect.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

back in business

Six days after the fall I got up in the morning, mumbled a few four-letter words, and went out to run seven miles.

How much I was going to run I decided in advance. I figured out if I can run one mile, I can do more.

Yet the knee was swollen, red, and hot. I know these are classical signs of infection, but it didn't feel like an infection. More like a battle going on in the region. I thought it would be wise not to do sixteen or seventeen miles, as I had planned before the fall. It would just add more heat and stress. So I settled on seven.

The pain, again, was bearable. But the swelling must have skewed my stride a bit, forcing the foot to impact the ground awkwardly, since my whole right side, from hip to ankle, started hurting after less than a mile. I ran very focused on keeping myself symmetrical.

I know you are not supposed to sit down right after a run, but that's exactly what I did. I propped my leg up, put a bag with frozen vegetables on my knee, and just sat there, still trembling with the exertion. I felt a bit like crying, but didn't.

So it wasn't exactly a big run. Under the circumstances though, it was a good thing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

testing testing testing

Four days after the fall I did a tentative one mile.

The knee was still swollen, and the scab looked worse than ever, but since I could bend my knee enough to cross-train on the bike I thought I might try running too. I went a few times around the block, so I could stop and walk back anytime. I ended up doing the whole mile.

The pain was not that bad. What bothered me was the funny sensation something was bobbing up and down there, not that I identified anything that could be doing that. The swelling didn't go down the rest of the day, but it didn't go up either.

I guess the training for my grand 50-miler has resumed.

Friday, August 23, 2013

the fall

Once I got happy about my ultra, I started increasing the weekly mileage and making plans. It's always kind of fun, zooming in on a race, in a way more fun than the race itself. I also had to decide what marathon I wanted to do as a training run, besides Duke City in October, which is so close to my house I could almost jog to the start line.

One morning this week, when I went out for a normal run, on my usual route, my foot caught some irregularity in the pavement and I fell. If you run for years, sooner or later, it might happen, and it's no big deal, you just pull yourself up, pull yourself together, and keep going. I have fallen before - but not like this.

I slammed in the pavement with my right knee and with both my palms. Putting my hands out must have been a reflex; I didn't have time to think about it. Later I understood the particular eloquence of the expression "nose-diving" - I was coming down face first, and got lucky I didn't break my nose. My face was an inch away from the back of my hands. And it's the upper half of my knee that hit the ground - a big bleeding scrape. Then came the pain, the bruising, and the swelling, in that order.

The most worrying part was how would I train? I ran home that day, once I absorbed the shock, already concerned about mileage. But once the knee got big, running was out of the question, I couldn't bend it. I couldn't even cross-train properly. Swimming wouldn't work because the awkward scab wouldn't heal if I spent time in water. Biking was not easy either, because I couldn't hold on properly to the bike - my palms were bruised and swollen, and I couldn't extend them, nor could I make a fist.

My mind is circling back to that moment, the obstacle in the pavement, the flight through the air. There is not much I could have done differently. There is no sense in agonizing about it. It just happened. I fell. Here I am, with my knee as big as a honeydew melon and my hand like a goalie glove, hobbling around, planning for a 50-miler.

Okay, so I am exaggerating - my knee is not as big as a melon. More like an oversize peach.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

to do

What I decided is to do a 50-mile ultra to raise money and awareness for Leonard Peltier. The ultra has been on my mind for a long time, Leonard Peltier even longer. It made sense to combine the two.

The idea first crossed my mind when I watched a documentary on the Kona Ironman in Hawaii, where a participant raised money for autism. I had known of course that many people run, officially or not, for a cause - knowing that simply comes with running. Marathons push you beyond your limits, so they lend themselves easily to this kind of thing. Ironmans even more so.

I didn't know how the specifics worked, but a bit of research would help. Find an online fundraising platform, set up a profile, sign up for an ultra (November?), train (put in two marathons or so as training runs). That was the plan, in broad strokes.

I already knew what people would ask me: are you on Facebook? No. Yeah, I know, we are not talking 'socially enabled' here.

The most stringent problem: I didn't know how I would do it all, everything on my ridiculous schedule. But once I made up my mind, I became incongruously happy. That, I have been told, is what counts.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ambivalence again

For a day or so after the triathlon I didn't think of what was coming next - I was happy about what I had done. Then it seemed natural to do another one. There is this unfinished business of learning how to swim freestyle. I would get that out of the way and do another triathlon. There is one at the end of this month, same distance, same course, now I have "experience" and it would be easier to handle. There is a reverse mini-triathlon, practically in town, this coming week-end, this one with just a quarter mile swim in a pool, no big deal after I did a half mile in the lake. I would do them both.

Then, after another few days, I suddenly lost interest. Same distance, same course became more of a deterrent than an enticement. It didn't seem to make sense to do another race unless I really learned how to swim freestyle, and that didn't happen. I was still going to the pool, making some progress, but not enough by far to show up at the start line of another tri. Now I wonder how I had the guts to do a triathlon in the first place, knowing only breaststroke - it seems somehow I went there not knowing how to swim... Of course I can swim, but what was I thinking?

I am still going to the pool to learn freestyle, only once or twice a week, instead of three. I am still practicing the transition from bike to run, without much conviction. Not sure why, since triathlons are out of the picture for the foreseeable future.

Strangely, after the race I kind of lost interest in running too. It was difficult again to motivate myself. I didn't know anymore what I wanted to do. I felt, as I did during the triathlon, that I am too much of an amateur. Perhaps it would be smart to go back to other pursuits - after all, I am the indoor-type of girl. Give me art and books.

Then, one Sunday while running, not sure whether I would run five miles or ten, I made up my mind. I ended up running eleven.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

cut-off time

First, I made the cut-off time. I was supposed to reach the transition area, after the bike ride, by 9:30, and I actually left it, ready to run, at 9:28.

Secondly, there was no cut-off time. Yeah, I know, I am confused too. The website and the email with instructions said yes ("bike course closed"), answers to inquiries said no ("do not worry about that"), organizers at packet pick-up said yes again ("if you are not in the transition area by then we won't let you run"), and practically, on the spot, no one closed the course or mentioned cut-off times.

One thing I noticed is that the start was delayed and the first waves, more or less, started late, so it wouldn't have made sense to enforce a cut-off.

And it doesn't matter, since I made it anyhow.

But I am still puzzled. Going into a race, wouldn't you want to know?

Saturday, August 03, 2013

cochiti lake triathlon

We got to the transition area sometime during dawn, when daylight had not yet taken over. The sight of the lake, dark and frigid, sent a little shiver down my neck - it crossed my mind I was in over my head, a thought I banished quickly due to its unpleasant literal implications.

We were early enough for me to prepare without hurry and ask all my questions - how do I use all these bib numbers, where does the chip go, will I know which way to swim? I watched how other people set up their spots in the transition area, the biking shoes and running shoes and helmets and gloves and water bottles all carefully laid out on folded towels, and I felt like an amateur. I didn't have biking shoes, and had stowed everything in a plastic bag. It was windy and a tree-toppling storm had just roamed the area two days before - weren't they afraid all those little things will blow away? Obviously not. It was just me, being anxious.

I wasn't hungry, but I ate a honey stinger waffle (I really like them), and realized I had read nothing ever about fueling for a triathlon. An Ironman I talked to once at the balloon fiesta had mentioned something about eating while on the bike.

The swim beach was also the finish line for the run. Almost everyone started working on putting on their wetsuits, and I felt like an amateur again, watching the Greek gods oil their smooth bodies before battle. After a few minutes of fretting it occurred to me to check how bad things were going to be - I walked to the water and stuck my hand in it. Oh. It wasn't by far as cold as I expected. It wasn't warm, but I didn't see why anyone prepared to do the heroic swim/bike/run would need a wetsuit.

Someone told me a couple of days later wetsuits help you float and this is why everyone was wearing them. So now I know. At the time they seemed totally unnecessary.

The waves started, Olympic distance first. I watched them. They were all swimming freestyle, or so it seemed. After a while I spotted one or two people who were doing breaststroke, so I wouldn't be the only one. But maybe they only did so at the start, until the crowd thinned, so they would see where they were going.

Then my wave started too - the last one. Everyone swam freestyle and left me swiftly behind. I expected that, but it wasn't fun. I was the last one in the whole race, and I had just started. One of those rescue boats they keep around approached me and a nice man inquired, "are you all right?" Hell, yeah, I am just doing breaststroke. Instead of saying that I thanked him graciously for his concern. It didn't help morale that I couldn't discern where I was supposed to go - a big yellow buoy. It was somewhere, but we were swimming against the light, and all I could see was the glitter of the lake where the other swimmers parted water, and I wasn't getting any closer to that.

All of a sudden the big yellow buoy was right in front of me. I made a left, as instructed, and went for the big red buoy. This was the longest stretch in the water, but the easiest for me. I had gotten used to the whole thing, and the OLY swimmers, who were doing two loops, were everywhere, so being the last one wasn't obvious anymore and I almost forgot about it.

But then, from the big red buoy to the shore, it was a struggle. There must have been a current there, because I kept drifting left while I was aiming right, and I wasn't making any progress at all, the shore was as far as it had been, I was swimming and swimming and getting nowhere, and the lake, I could swear, was alive - turbid and threatening, with a will of its own that didn't care about mine.

When I finally made the landing I was shaking like a leaf and sobbing like a child. The racks were empty of bicycles so, hey, it was easy to find mine. I dried my feet off with my tiny towel and pulled on socks and shoes. I was so confused I didn't know which way the helmet went (I had bought it only the day before), but I found the bib number I had stuck on it earlier, and that, I remembered, was supposed to be the front.

The bike course started with a slope so steep I had to walk it. I got the idea from other people. By the time I got to the top I was calm and ready for a ride.

I expected the biking to be no big deal, but I am not sure anymore. It was hilly. The downhill parts offered a few glorious moments, but the uphill stretches (mile after mile, or so it felt) were nothing I had ever tried before and I struggled. Hard. I don't think the other people (OLY, doing two loops) had it easy either, but they still passed me, one after the other, going twice as fast as I. At the half-way point I had another honey stinger waffle, since it was indeed easier to eat on the bike than while running. After what seemed like hours (1h 11 min to be precise) I reached the transition area again, almost crashed at the bottom of the slope where I had to make a right, and didn't dismount where I was supposed to, since I had no idea.

The run course was hilly too, and by now I was tired and hot and didn't understand anymore why I had wanted to do a triathlon. But running while tired and hot I had done before, and there was nothing to stress about - I would finish this, I only had a 5K to put behind me, there was no time pressure, even if I walked the whole course my triathlon was done. I had done it. I didn't need to kill myself running uphill. All I had to do was keep moving.

I was on a flat stretch and running again, at leisure, when something, inside, clicked. I don't know what it was - the certainty that I was so close, the way my shoe bounced off the ground, the desire to break free, the habit of finishing strong perfected in so many marathons - something. I took off like an arrow. And I ran from there to the finish the way I would have run if aiming to win.

Yeah, I know. 2 h 26 minutes, not quite last - a few people still finished behind me. They must have had a flat tire or something. The swim was 31 min 14 seconds for a half a mile. Some of the OLY participants swam a whole mile in less than that. Nevertheless, for a day or so, I felt like a triathlete.

If I ever do one of these things again I have to master freestyle first.