Yesterday I bailed. I was tired and it was cold – what can I say?! Then I read a blogpost about how cancer patients don’t bail on their treatment no matter how cold, tired, sick etc they are feeling. I resolved to run long this morning. I decided it was a 9 mile kind of day (actually, I over-estimated…it was more like a 4 mile kind of day but I did 9 anyway! I over-estimate when I cook rice too – who doesn’t?) I’m not training for a race. I don’t have to work on either my distance or my speed at the moment so I decided to run free. Not in a Dean Karnazes or tarahumara way – my 9 mile run was a pitiful jog compared to their ultra long trail runs but, in an Anna way, the run was long and free. My distance was a rough guess, my pace was comfortable and un-monitored. There is something quite liberating about not being tied to my Garmin or measuring out the perfect 9 mile course. I just went, enjoyed the scenery, and ran. (I was tempted to take a different turn and run longer….listening to Underworld banging out Pearls Girl has that effect on me. I thought, for a second, I could just run forever. I resisted the temptation).
I even stopped (imagine!) to take a photo or two (and I didn’t have to pause my Garmin):
As many of you know, I’m not particularly good at just being still – in fact my brother, among others, would cite it as one of my biggest failings (I’m not going to ask him what he thinks the others are!). That being the case, I’m a total failure as a yogi. I have tried it on a couple of occasions but it’s just not for me….and it’s hard – some of those positions really hurt! However, I know it’s great for building core strength and is supposedly an excellent supplement to training for a runner. Still….I can’t get away with it. So, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been giving Pilates a trial run (FYI – that hurts too!). It does have similar core training benefits to yoga but doesn’t require holding poses for long stretches of time – much more suited to my restlessness (although I still feel the need to go for a little 3 mile run before class starts!). I’m told I need to work on my pronunciation of the word – my northern English accent can’t resist emphasizing the middle syllable and stretching out the final one – Pea-lar-teees (as pointed out by Barry!).
My instructor is brilliant and very patient with me - after telling me to adjust my pelvis, she had to call my name 3 times before I had finally performed the tiny movement I was supposed to do (I thought I had done it first time – apparently not! I really felt it after the third time!). Then, of course, I can’t breathe properly….who knew?! I mean I’ve been doing that all my life, you’d think I’d have it down pat by now! The tiny abdominal movements make my whole core shake (and cause excruciating pain on day 2) but I’m starting to see muscles that I hid many years ago.
I really think this Pilates thing might be on to something. I’ll be keeping it up for a while….but only if I can fit my run in before class!
(Local friends – if you’re interested, the class runs at Quantum Martial Arts in Mound from 9am every Monday. $10 per class with a special introductory offer if you’re new. So far, there have only been 2 of us in the class).
At last, the day has come when I can call myself a marathoner! There were times, during my training schedule, that I thought I’d never do it. There were times the night before when I felt I’d taken on the impossible. Even in the car, on my way to the start line as I (along with Curt and Wayne) was chauffeured by Mary, I doubted that I’d ever get the chance to wear the coveted aluminium cloak (once that bacofoil is on your shoulders, you feel like a true athlete!).
However, once I was surrounded by the other runners, and my feet started to pound along the pavement, I just knew I was going to get to the end of the 26.2 miles. I knew my time would not be exceptional but I was determined I would enjoy it and I think I smiled pretty much the entire length of the marathon!
What I didn’t realise was that I was not alone in my desire to get to my butt to the end – family and friends, overseas and in the US, watched the online tracker, supporting me virtually; friends waited to cheer me along the course; Michiel, ran alongside me, checking on my progress and enjoying the humourous signs along the way; Mary planned logistics to get me to and from the race, fueling me in advance and re-fueling me post-race; Barry, Craig and the boys turned up at mile 5 and surprised me with a second cheer at mile 10 (in between the boys’ soccer games); all these people had a hand in getting me to the end. What really amazed me was the number of people who didn’t know me cheering me on my way – volunteers and spectators. The atmosphere was incredible. All the runners supported each other, the spectators were amazing – singing, dancing, cheering. Many people had set up speaker systems on their lawns and were partying as they cheered us on. There were several live bands en route. One guy even cycled alongside us for a while with a boom box fixed to the back of his bike knocking out some great beats! There were drummers, funny signs, high fives even beer at one point (I declined!). Some people offered pickles to help with our salt consumption, some came out with oranges and bananas, there were people offering energy gels and vaseline. Incredible! All the races I’ve done have been fun but this was way beyond that! The route was beautiful too. We took in four lakes and a stretch of the Mississippi. The sky was blue and the fall colours are starting to turn so it was perfect. The weather was just right….10 degrees C (50F) at the start (8am) and 21 degrees (70F) at the end…the last hour was maybe a little hot but I felt cold for the first 3 hours so I welcomed a bit of sun on my face!
As many of you know, I ran wearing yellow for “LIVESTRONG wear yellow day” which, coincidentally, falls on October 2nd, the day of the marathon. So far I have raised $895 – thank you to all who have pledged to this great cause. A great success! (By the way, those iPod headphones stayed clipped to my t-shirt the entire way – there was so much energy and music on the course, I didn’t need them!)
It’s not too late if you would still like to pledge an amount:
My yellow LIVESTRONG shirt elicited some motivating “Go Livestrong” cheers from the crowd – especially when I passed the LIVESTRONG stand. Running in support of this non-profit was motivating in many ways. Thinking about the “chemo marathon” Barry has to get through one week out of every month, not to mention the radiation and surgery he has endured, certainly helped to put my few hours of runner’s pain into perspective! I know I can never take that pain away but it is mildly gratifying to think that raising funds might help people suffering from cancer in some way. I realised, as I ran, that everyone has their cause. There were people wearing shirts for Africa; there were many dedications to lost love ones; one guy ran carrying a sandwich board in support of nurses; another guy ran with a huge US flag in support of war veterans; I ran close to a group of “Team Purple” runners supporting Leukemia research….the list is endless but it makes me very proud to be able to call myself a runner.
I’m not saying it was easy….there were times when my hips ached so much I wondered if I should keep running! My stomach complained and cramped as it attempted to digest GU energy gels on the run. The mile and a half climb around mile 20 was most unwelcome but I was determined not to let all that training go to waste! However, there is some doubt about whether I really tried my hardest since I didn’t end up in the medical tent and I can still walk today – haha! I admit, I probably could have gone a little faster but I am a hundred percent certain it wouldn’t have been as much fun if I had – yep, I’m just a girl who knows how to have a good time!
A few weeks ago, when I was training in the July heat and humidity, I swore I would never run another marathon….we’ll see! For now, I have my sights set on completing the Monster Dash Half Marathon with my brother and Michiel in just under four weeks time….training begins just as soon as my legs forgive me for Sunday!
PS Here are my marathon stats if anyone is interested;
My official results (My favourite stat on this page is the 24 mile to finish info in the bottom right corner).
And the data recorded by my Garmin so you can see the route:
I made a last-minute decision to enter a race last Saturday. There were clearly reasons why I thought that wasn’t a good idea, otherwise I wouldn’t have waited until 10 minutes before registration closed. Where were those crucial reasons ‘against’ when I clicked the ‘submit registration’ button? They were most definitely there when I was on the course! Reasons ‘for’ included “it’s a nice, small race”….it’s a half-marathon in early August – nice? Really? What was I thinking? Humidity was 90% at the start of the race. Believe me, it was not pretty! I struggled but found little pockets of strength around me to keep me going. A regular boost came from some guys standing at the roadside (who reappeared at several spots) holding my name up in bright colours, cheering for me (well they were cheering for an ‘Anna’ they knew initially but, after I told them it was my name at mile 4, they smiled and cheered every time I approached. A good thing the real Anna was a little behind me….wait…..I am the real Anna). My final and most painful mile I endured with the help of some cheerful guy who took it upon himself to encourage me along. “Looking strong” he shouted, “let’s go!”. Hmmm…..I’m not convinced he really “saw” me….strong I was not! He picked up my accent and started to chat about his travels to The Cotswolds and the like….oh dear, as much as I appreciated the encouragement, I had already run 12 miles. I was not my most chatty. Without him though, my last mile would have been a walking one. He left me after about 5 minutes to head for the finish line – I clearly wasn’t sociable enough. I crossed the line running, albeit slowly, about 5 minutes behind my previous half-marathon time.
The race was a learning experience. I started out too fast and I thought I could rise above the humid conditions (I don’t know why I thought that – the humidity beats me every time I train in it!). Most importantly I learned how important it is to have cheers and positive guidance as I run or for any avenue I pursue in life. Without those people on the sidelines I can’t finish the race and without those people around me I can’t pursue those avenues.
I found myself pushed way out of my comfort zone with my latest writing project. It was an assignment I pulled from the board at Yahoo. The topic was a favourite album from 2011. There was no contest – Elbow – ‘build a rocket boys!’.
I have found that I can write on some topics quickly and freely, but this one took me quite a while. I love music and I love this album, but I am not a musician; so I really had to work hard at making certain I sounded like I knew what I was talking about! (I’m still not sure if I pulled it off). The whole process got me thinking about why I did that to myself. Then I thought about all the other occasions I push myself into that zone and realised that I spend quite some time out there. I think it probably stems from childhood. I was very lucky to have some exceptional experiences when I was young. I thought nothing of jumping on a plane at age 12 to go and spend a couple of weeks with a family I had never met before, in a language I was only beginning to comprehend. Experiences like that have facilitated “out of my comfort zone” to be my comfort zone! Without them I may never have agreed to live in Spain (before learning the language); perhaps I would have resisted a move stateside. Each experience has been a building block for the next.
I am preparing for my first marathon this October – that is most definitely out of my comfort zone! With all the training I am doing I can’t help but be pulled in to other people’s running challenges. I have been following a group (one of whom is our landlord) who have just run an ultra-marathon: 100 miles through the Black Hills of Dakota. Meanwhile they have raised a huge amount of money for a local charity. Their achievements have been phenomenal! It just shows that some people’s comfort zone extends way past the end of mine! Here’s a link to their facebook page – AD4AP
The most notable “out of comfort zone” experiences of late are most certainly those of my husband (and other cancer patients). Their endurance puts that of a marathon runner to shame. I run further to push myself – that’s my choice. I write more difficult articles to improve my skills – again, my choice. Barry begins a challenging regime of radiation and chemotherapy today. It will extend way beyond my marathon training. This is not a choice, this is for survival. We have had a few weeks of Barry just being Barry. Fit and able to do all the things he loves: family time, cycling, soccer coaching and he even managed a spin on the wakeboard last night. He left for work this morning like any other day despite the enormous challenge that lay in his path. Yes, I push myself out of my comfort zone but Barry is taking it to a whole new level.
100 degrees fahrenheit (38C) here in the Twin Cities today. Phew! I had planned a 7 mile run as part of my marathon training. At 9am, (already around 85 (29C) degrees), I checked the weather report and read this:
EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING - A PROLONGED PERIOD OF DANGEROUSLY HOT TEMPERATURES WILL OCCUR. THE COMBINATION OF HOT TEMPERATURES AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL COMBINE TO CREATE A DANGEROUS SITUATION IN WHICH HEAT ILLNESSES ARE LIKELY. DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS…STAY IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED ROOM…STAY OUT OF THE SUN… AND CHECK UP ON RELATIVES AND NEIGHBORS.
Oh….well snow, ice and extreme cold were tough to run in during the winter, recent storms have made it nearly impossible lately and now this! Well, if I let the weather stop me, I’d never run. I’m not sure where the dumb, blind bravado came from but I dug it up from somewhere and ventured out. I learned that it is possible (although a little stupid), to run 7 miles in this heat, I also learned that I run slower at 90 (32C) degrees than I do at 70 (21C) but faster than I do at 0 degrees (-17C). I discovered that having your car parked at a 4 mile loop, loaded with powerade, makes the last 3 miles a little more bearable. The promise of a beer and lunch with a friend, overlooking the lake is excellent motivation (and perfect reward!). Another new fact – emergency contact details written on a Livestrong band with a sharpie do not endure excessive sweat (a precaution I took considering the warning above).
It’s a good job nothing went wrong!
I may have to consider getting them tattooed on my leg. I predicted that it would be most sensible to leave the compression socks at home this time – that, I think, is about the only sensible decision I made!
That said, I still love running at this time of year. I love the tree-lined trails. You cannot beat the feeling when the trail opens up, the sun beats down on your face and the sound of the lake lapping at the shore resonates at your side. Yes, it’s hard work and yes, it takes a looong time for the pink cheeks to dissipate, but it’s perfect! It’s not always this hot. There will be plenty of comfortable running opportunities this summer (mostly at 6am or 9pm), – there has to be…I have a marathon to train for! It’s not really necessary for me to run this far in this heat, I won’t do it again…..well……
My official marathon training plan started today. I bounced out of bed and dressed for the run, in the dark incidentally, hence my compression socks were on the wrong feet….luckily I noticed before I put my running shoes on or else who knows what would’ve happened?! My run was short but nevertheless required a certain amount of endurance. I began in high heat and humidity, battling against strong winds, before the skies dumped a suitably cooling amount of rain on me. I take gratification in the fact that I can check the final two elements off my shirt….
(Snow and sleet I tackled in the exceptional Minnesota winter.)
Other than the night after I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon, I have not thought too much about the magnitude of the event (at least I’ve been trying not to!). I stayed awake most of the first night, tossing and turning thinking “What on earth have I done? What am I getting myself into?” Since then, I’ve been treating it as something I’ll just pop out and do on the morning of October 2nd in order to work up a suitable appetite to enjoy a barbecue with friends. However, I read a chapter of “Mile Markers” yesterday entitled “The Wall”. Hmmm….I think I had decided I was invincible and “the wall” won’t apply to me. Maybe it won’t. But, the more I read about this psychological running deterrent, the more I am convinced it is real. Needless to say, I will need many supporters around mile 18 – 22….please bring pick-axes! I have been fortunate (debatable) to read many other interesting titbits on marathon running/training. I have learned that it hurts….sometimes a lot! I have read that stairs can only be negotiated in reverse for the days following the 26.2 miles. I won’t even go into the effect on bodily functions! Now I am ready to be respectful. Today marked the start of my mental training for the race – I have 18 weeks to get both mind and body up to scratch!
My little run out also got me reflecting on my last blog post. I started to picture a coach yelling at me about my form “Pick those knees up, straighten your back….”, miraculously, my posture improved and my stride lengthened. Had anyone told me I was useless at that point, I am convinced I would have crumpled to the ground. I hope there is someone out there on October 2nd screaming “Good job Anna! You’re looking good!”.
These weren’t just any old socks, these were knee-high and white compression socks. Coupled with little, black running shorts, I swear I looked a treat! There is a fine line between “cute” and “geeky” – I’m pretty certain I crossed it! I avoided looking in the mirror before I left – there are some things I’d rather not know. These socks eased me into my post-injury return to running. Two months of sporadic, painful, rare runs have left me a little twitchy – to the point that I was prepared to sacrifice style in the interest of getting back out there. One sock has a little ‘r’ on it, the other an ‘l’ – if I put them on the wrong feet, would my compression be out of whack?
They didn’t help me to run any faster (maybe they will once I’m confident my injury has healed – but I guess that in itself will make me faster – we’ll never know!). But, they did seem to give some extra support – so much so that I put them back on to help with the post-run recovery. Yes, I did the housework in this stylish attire! The good news is that I don’t hurt today. I will try them again tomorrow….when I’m out for a run, not out for lunch. The most noticeable difference was how warm my feet were – I’m pretty certain I’ll have to give them up and return to my totally cute ankle socks for the hot, summer months (if the sun ever gets here!).
A link to some compression sock info in case you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about:
And a photo of my left sock! Taken by myself so you’re not treated to the impact of the overall effect:
News just in – 2 new subscribers to the blog – bringing my total to 3! My 3 best supporters – My husband, my mum and my dad – as it should be!