Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Mental Toughness

So, apparently, I have committed to signed up for a race in 2 weeks that involves ducks and loops and eight hours on my feet or some such?  I blame @twitter. Or the big-azz google document that a bunch of frunners have been collaborating on that includes pretty much every race in NTexas from now until May, so that we can better coordinate 1) training runs, 2) carpooling & lodging as needed, 3) meetups/post-run party and 4) showdowns. In any case, yes, I will be Running From the Ducks on September 25.
will there be real ducks? I'm not sure... quack quack!!
This race is set up on a looped course, and you start when they say go and stop 8 hours later.  You have a chip on your shoe and it tracks how many loops you cover. You can set up a campsite with your chair, cooler, drop bag essentials like extra shoes, socks, bandaids, tequila, whatever you might need to get you through 8 hours of running/walking/slogging/marathon death marching.

Why am I doing this? Besides the aforementioned twitter-pressure (yes, I blame Twitter generically but I blame @trigolfer specifically), I thought it would be an excellent way to get a true measure of my stamina and endurance at this point in time. The 5k tests I've done in August and again this past Saturday (2nd AG, thank you very much!!) are good to tell me what my max pain point will get me in miles per hour, but what does that tell me about where I am relative to running (and finishing) a 50K? or more importantly, a 50-miler? I know I need to make adjustments to the training plan, and when I saw this race I thought it would be an excellent marker of not only Where Am I? but How Far Do I Have to Go?

So, I'm in. And for someone who hates the monotony of a treadmill, I'm not sure that hours upon hours on a tiny loop like that is going to be fun. Sure, the race atmosphere is great, and coming back through camp every 10-12 minutes will be fun, but I get bored easily. It's a character flaw I'm working on (or at least I start to work on it, until... well, yeah... I get bored with it...PLEASE tell me this was not a surprise to you). This means that doing this race, and preparing for this race, is really less of a physical challenge for me (not that it won't be challenging physically, because I might want to die at the end) but more of a mental exercise.  I practiced for this race on Sunday morning with my long run of 12 miles, and let me tell you, mental exercise doesn't describe it as well as mental TORTURE!

This was my longest run since the surgery, not counting the Hottest Half in mid-August. I wasn't sure what my paces would be, and I knew I was going it alone. My iPod has been janky lately so I wasn't even going to count on using it.  I mapped out a .85 mile loop around my house - very coincidentally, it's the distance around my block and the block over - and got set up to run.  I took a bottle of water and a bottle of my patented gator-wator (Blue Powerade, even though BLUE IS NOT A FLAVOR!!) and set them on the fence that runs along the creek opposite my block. I set the stopwatch to zero, not so much to track time, but to just get an idea of what I was looking at pace-wise when it was done, and to track laps. I had to have SOME way to track laps or I knew I would lose count.  I had dilly-dallied a bit more than I should have, and I had a thing to get ready for, so when I started running at 7 AM, I knew I had just about 2 and a half hours to get it done.  With a half-marathon time of 2:50 a month ago, plus a two-week break in the interim, I didn't really know if I could hit the full 12 miles. I was just going to go until it was time to stop.

So, first loop. Ok, I can do this... 13 more times... Oy. Second loop. the mind starts to wander... "Are we there yet?"  Third loop, find something to focus on. Counting the number of parked cars got old on the first lap. Nobody is out walking dogs or jogging so nobody to talk to like when I go to the park.  I remember on Daily Mile reading something about nose breathing. So I decide I'm going to try it for a lap and see what happens. I can't at that moment remember what was supposed to be good about it, or why i should do it, but I thought, why not?  So I did. And my 3rd lap time was comparable to the first two, but with what felt like much less effort. If anything, I was gasping a little more than I should have been so early in a long run and the nose breathing put a stop to that. Hmmm. fluke? Let's try it again. So 4th lap was more nose breathing. Did I slow down? Nope, same results. Groovy!!

So that's what I did. I picked something different every lap after that to really hone in on.  Potato chip hands on one lap. Not stomping the hell out of the sidewalk when I land on another. Not doing that weird hand curl thing I do with my left hand on another lap. Before I knew it, it was time to rotate and change directions! Halfway through!! WOOT!

By now it was getting warm, as the sun had come up full, but I was doing really well with my hydration strategy of sipping water each lap for the first 5 loops, then alternating water & Gatorwater. Didn't feel tired, didn't feel muscle fatigue, or any tweaks or twinges.  In fact, I started to speed up. It was very exciting, but I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and the pace to fall. but it didn't. I was just feeling strong all the way through. And before I knew it, I was counting down and had only 3 laps to go. Well, pffft, that ain't nothing but a thing! Finally, two hours and 16 minutes after I started, i was DONE. 12 miles on a .85 mile loop. And I didn't lose my mind!

I did play with peeling off to my 10k loop when I hit the 6 mile mark, but talked myself out of it.  Then I thought about going to my park 5k loop when I hit 9 miles, thinking that if I did that, I'd be done when I got back. Each time, the Angry Voice in my head very rudely, yet convincingly, told the Impatient Voice to shut the hell up, we were going to do the loop, dammit.  So, we stuck to the plan and did the loop. Again. And again. And again. It wasn't necessarily fun, but it wasn't hideous. I didn't give myself the option to quit running the loop. Just like I'm not going to give myself the option to quit during the race. Just keep moving. One more lap. One more loop. Loopty-loop-me. Rinse, repeat.

It also helped that I was getting faster as I went along on Sunday morning. I ended up negative-splitting that training run by 3 minutes. That's stupid - I *NEVER* negative split. I am the one who always comes out of the gate too fast and then dies a slow painful brutal death slogging in at the end. But I'll take it - maybe it's a good sign of things to come, of how things will be now.  I just felt good and strong and capable. And let me tell you what. I needed that. Oh, I so very much needed that kind of a run, after the planned and unplanned breaks in training, and after the frustration of the tests that showed nothing, and after feeling like I was never going to feel like a runner again.   So I would have to say that I passed this test. With flying colors. Kinda like a duck would...

That's a good thing, because I get to do it again this Sunday. I have a 10-mile race Saturday morning and then on Sunday I'll be back in the 'hood, circling the block again, this time for 15 miles. Woot and Squee indeed!!

.85 lap splits, because I have them: 
Lap 1 10:17
Lap 2 9:52
Lap 3 10:00
Lap 4 9:53
Lap 5 9:57
Lap 6 9:42
Lap 7 9:38 - 1:09:22 at halfway point
Lap 8 9:20
Lap 9 9:28
Lap 10 9:22
Lap 11 9:31
Lap 12 9:46
Lap 13 9:45
Lap 14  8:54 - Last One, Fast One! 2:15:14

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Five: The "Not Really Scheduled Yet" Edition

for your Friday enjoyment, here are Five Ten Races that Are NOT on my 2012 calendar... if only because the 2012 calendar is not yet officially being planned. The company line is that we aren't looking past Wild Hare and NYD/NYE Double at this moment (lies!! all LIES!). But once I decide that I am ready to start planning 2012 races, these are IN, baby!

  1. Banderawesome. Because I loved the experience. 25k because I'm not stupid enough to do it again! 
  2. Texas Half. I did the hardest of the Mellew Four-Seasons Challenge, and once I do the Tyler Half next month I will be halfway there. This replaces Benbrook. I have no love lost for One Nice Hill at Benbrook and have no need/desire to run out there again.
  3. Rocky Raccoon 50 miler. This should be my second 50-miler, assuming all goes well at Wild Hare in November. It is supposed to be a great course, so I am excited for it. Plus, I hear there will be a few frunners out there going for their first 50 milers! 
  4. Hot Chocolate Run. There is a jacket in the goodie bag. There is chocolate at the end. 'nuf said. 
  5. Cowtown. I WILL have a good race on this course. Distance TBD. Might need to just have fun on the half course depending on how much my legs hate me after Rocky. But I need the stupid medal for the stupid star (and by "stupid" I mean awesome!). 
  6. Grasslands. People said "Never again!" People said "Hell no, I won't go." I don't think I ever really said I wouldn't... Maybe just the half? I really like the horseshoes!! 
  7. Texas Independence Relay. They changed the dates on us. They changed the start on us. I had said I was out... stay tuned... 
  8. Hells Yeah Hills. Who knows what the area around Bastrop will look like after all the devastating fires there the last few weeks. But I want to go back. This was such a great experience. I wouldn't miss it for the world. NINE MILES!
  9. Big D Half - This would be the last of the 4 Seasons. This was also one of my first half marathons back in the day, so I have a special place for it in my heart. Also, horseshoes!! 
  10. Oklahoma City Marathon. Like with Cowtown, I am determined to have a good showing at this race. It's a wonderful course (Gorilla Hill & that relay exchange at mile 8-9) notwithstanding, with great support and lots of local enthusiasm. But, me & my girls have some business to take care of at Mile 23

So.  there's what I would be planning on doing in 2012 if I were planning my 2012 calendar. Which I'm not. What's on your calendar?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

New Mantra, in Action

This came to me during my last run, inspired by a Facebook posting. It's simple, but it works. 

Shut up. 
Work hard. 
Be patient. 

All my test results from the endocrinologist came back normal. Good news: I"m perfectly healthy. For that, I truly am grateful, although it was hard to get back to that, because I was really hoping against hope that I'd have some kind of medical issue that would explain everything, and that could be fixed. But there's not. So... Bad News: There is no medical reason that would explain a 20 pound weight gain in 6 months. 

I gnashed my teeth and yelled and cried and screamed over this quite a bit, some of it publicly in the Twitter timeline, some of it at home (my poor husband absorbed the brunt of the anger and frustration, and knows me well enough to accept that it wasn't directed at him, but that rather he was just standing THERE when I needed to blow up), and some of it to close friends, without whom I would be totally adrift right now. But, really, I am over it. Or rather, I am over being angry about it. I'm not going to just sit back and accept it and use it as an excuse. It's time to just deal with it, keep working to fix it, but in the meanwhile, shut up about it. 

Is it harder to run at my current weight? Yes. Will I be slower than I was last summer? Yes. But there are a lot of things about my running, about my LIFE, that are different now than they were last summer. And, on balance, that is a good thing. So where I am is where I am and I can only get better from here. And even if I'm slower, I'm still going to do it. During the self-imposed break, all I could think about is when I would feel like running again. So I'm back at it now, and it's not easy, and it isn't always going to be fun, but I'm out there, and I enjoy it. Mostly. It's going to be hard work. And that's OK. I'm not afraid to work hard. 

And I made some decisions, or rather, one big one. I'm going for the 50-miler at Wild Hare. It will be a quick ramp up, but I won't be happy with myself if I don't. I don't have anything to prove to anyone but myself. So I am going for it. I will run as far as I can, then I will walk, then I will sit for a bit, and then keep walking. Until I am either finished or they drag me kicking and screaming from the course. I think I can do it. And I'm going to prepare as best I can in the next 10.5 weeks. I need to not focus on my pace, except to stay ahead of the cutoffs. And I need to relax some and accept that it will take time to get back to where I want to be. I'll have to be patient. 

So there. It felt amazing and right when that decision crystallized in my mind. And I've gotten nothing but support from my friends, from my frunners, when I shared it with them. So. Here we are. And there we go. 

If you'll excuse me, I have a few miles to run. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Not running related, unless you count this photo, from The Onion, in which Johnny Damon is chugging around the basepaths. He is running here, after all.

So, if not running, then what? Well, my second favoritest sport, BASEBALL!  Quite simply, I love baseball and baseball players. Swoon.

See, for as long as I can remember, I have loved baseball. I remember watching the Cardinals & Dodgers on Saturday morning baseball, after cartoons. I remember my parents going grocery shopping and my dad hurrying to get back before the game started.  We used to have a semi-pro team back in the day, the Whitewings, and we would spend summer evenings at the park, watching baseball. I remember going to see my brother play Little League, and playing with him and his friends in the back alley (yes, i was 2 years younger, no they didn't take any pity on me), and then later, in junior high, falling deeply in love with nearly all of his teammates. Okay, not all of them, just a notable few that I can still remember quite vividly, seen through the eyes of a 15 year-old girl of course.

Growing up in South Texas, I was an NL fan, because the Astros were closer than the Rangers, and my first major league game was at the Astrodome. I watched every game of the '86 Series, and could once upon a time tell you the entire Mets' lineup from that year. My favorite movies (besides Legends of the Fall, because, um, wow, Brad Pitt. On a horse. rawr) are The Sandlot (you're killing me, Smalls), The Bad News Bears (was anyone ever as cool as Kelly Leak? I thought not), The Natural (the best there ever was), Bull Durham ("Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once. The 21 greatest days of my life.") and of course, oh of course, Field of Dreams (if you need the quote from here, you can stop reading!!). Baseball brought me and my husband together, as he would wander the halls in our dorm and found me watching September baseball in my dorm room while everyone else was at the bar. And not only did I watch baseball and have an appreciation for the players, but I knew the rules and when something was an E or a hit. I knew rosters and pitching rotations and such.

My love of baseball and all things diamond-related really fueled our relationship early on. We would listen to Rangers' games in the parking lot because the car radio was the only one that could catch WBAP down in Austin. We could rarely agree on movies, but we always were up for watching the game, regardless of who was playing. We saw George Brett's last game before he retired, and we closed down the pit of a dump off the turnpike, Arlington Stadium. College baseball is a perennial favorite at our house - easy to do when you have the awesome history and tradition of Gusball and Augie Garrido at the helm. Even before we got married we shared season tickets at the new Ballpark in Arlington (he had by then converted me to a full-time AL girl and sigh, Rangers fan). For our wedding gift to each other, we chose a signed and framed print of the new ballpark and the players on the 1994 team, with bonus signatures of Juan Gonzales and Ivan Rodriguez. We had actually planned a Hall of Fame honeymoon, complete with stops at the new park in Baltimore, Fenway, Yankee Stadium and Cooperstown, but that didn't work out. We got married on August 13, 1994, the day after the strike cancelled the rest of the '94 season.

When life and work and kids intervened after that, we quit going to the games so much. It seemed like baseball post-strike wasn't quite as fun, and then you had the heavy 'roid years, where records fell left and right and players were called to court and the game seemed to lose its soul. Having year after year of futility in the Rangers didn't help either. Start off strong in April & May, hold steady in June, start to falter in July and totally fall to pieces in the heat of August. By September, baseball in North Texas was meaningless, unless you wanted to go to the park for dollar hot dog night or fan appreciation day and get random logo schtuff.  We still have every program from every game we've ever been to, stuffed inside the footlocker that also stores our baseball cards (yes, our baseball cards. We spent a lot of time in college at card shows. Yes, I know. It is no wonder or question how we ended up together.). Oh, there were glimmers of the old fascination that would pop up now and again. Hints of the love I'd cultivated all my life. For instance, I watched a long-haired Johnny Damon and the Red Sox break the curse and win the World Series, under a full moon on my birthday in 2004 (coincidence? I THINK NOT!).

And then last summer. Oh, last summer. What a whirlwind of chaos and confusion and roller coaster emotions you were to me. But the Rangers, for once, didn't suck. They were actually pretty damn good. And despite my heartbreak, I started to care again. I always swore I wouldn't care about the game or the standings or anything like I used to. But how do you ignore the Claw & Antlers? How?  You just can't. Especially not when they bring a freakin World Series to Arlington. So. The baseball love? I'm feeling it again. I am pretty sure I won't ever follow the game or the players as closely as I did back before we were married, back before we had kids and jobs and such. But it is fun to watch again. Mostly. It's always been fun for the eye candy, that is for sure. And this is where we find this post.  Have to reward you for getting this far, right?  So I give to you, in no particular order, my Top Favorite/Hottest/Most Intense/Awesome/Fun to Watch Baseball Players (heavy on mid-90s Rangers, well, because):

George Brett (1B) The last of the good guys, who played in the era where you were identified with a team and didn't jump from place to place. A franchise player if there ever was one. Known for the big chunk of chaw in his cheek (eeew) and the Pine Tar Incident. But still, one of the most fierce players out there.

Jose Canseco (DH, OF) Probably the most reviled man in baseball for his tell-all books about steroids. Admitted to using them. Still. Watching this man hit a ball was absolute f'ng magic. Just magic. Loved, loved, loved seeing  him in a Rangers uniform and swatting the hell outta the left field stands!! I may or may not have a large (think poster-sized) framed photo of him in my office. Unless you come visit me you'll never know...

Jeff Huson (SS) Another Ranger. Always hustling. Never showy or particularly outstanding, except that he was there, every day, every game, looking like he was happy to play and loving the game. I have a Jeff Huson jersey from the Red Shoe Rangers. I love it!

Johnny Damon (CF)  Jesus hair. Red Sox. What's not to love? Oh, the Yankees thing? I blame Scott Boras (I blame Scott Boras for a lot of stuff, actually). "Johnny Damon! You got the sweetest ass in the league!" 

Keith Hernandez (1B) Mets. '86. What more do you need to know? The Second Spitter episodes of Seinfeld only sealed the deal in this department. Coke use? Smoking in the dugout? Whatever. As he says, "I'm Keith Hernandez!" Added bonus: He has what the American Mustache Institute (did you know there was such a thing?) calls the Top Sports Mustache Ever. Enough said.

Don Mattingly (1B) Donnie Baseball. Yankees. Team captain. Perennial all-star. Mustache to rival Hernandez.

CJ Wilson (P) Really?  Look at the picture. Pitched in the only World Series the Rangers have ever played. Smart. Straight-edge. Drives fast, throws strikes. Read this. Swoon.

Joe Mauer (C) I've always liked him. Then I saw a Homecoming with Rick Reilly episode featuring him, and talking about his football prowess, and had him and his brothers playing baseball outside their old family home. He broke a window in the neighbors' garage and they all went running. Hilarious. He did go back and apologize. That episode pushed me to LOVE him!

Nolan Ryan (P) 5714 strikeouts. 324 wins. 7 no-hitters. 8-time Cy Young winner. Played for the Mets, Astros and the Rangers. How can I not love him?  Also, him beating the stuffing out of Robin Ventura is possibly the greatest moment on the pitching  mound in Arlington besides Kenny Rogers' perfect game in 1994.

Rafael Palmeiro (1B) Yes, I know. Freaking lying, perjuring piece of crap. But, damn. The sports mustache. The hits. The perfectly jet black hair & Keith Hernandez look. This entry may get me kicked out of my house because there may have been an incident in the mall in Austin in the late 80s after their winter caravan appearance in which said player refused my husband an autograph because, "I ain't got no pen, man." He had given me and my friends autographs and photo cards and chatted us up because the publicity on the caravan was awful and we only by chance ran into them but nobody else in the mall seemed to know who they were. So they packed up and went home early, and when Hub saw them on their way out, he was summarily (and according to Hubby, quite rudely) dismissed. So glad he doesn't hold a grudge or anything...

So there you go. My favorite Boys of Summer. And yes, I am fully aware that there is a plethora of both first-basemen and/or mustaches. Let's not dive too deep into that, mkay? thx...  And if you'll excuse me now, CJ is pitching tonight against the Rays, which means Johnny Damon. Woot and Squee indeed!!

Thursday Thirteen - The Nearly (but not Quite) Ready Edition

Some of these may have nothing to do with running. That's what happens when you're a runner and don't run much for a few weeks. Your life starts to fill with other stuff.  I now get to figure out how to keep some of that stuff in there while I add the running and other training back in.
  1.  I continue to be amazed at the responses on this blog. I've tried to reach out to everyone to express my thanks, but if I've missed you, please know that your comments and feedback and warmth are heard and recognized and appreciated. Much, much, much appreciated! 
  2. I'm still up in the air about the distances on the races I've already signed up for in the fall.  I will just have to see where I am when it comes time for them and make the choice that seems right for where I am physically and mentally. I do know I am still in for the double full on NY Eve and NY Day, but everything else is up for grabs. 
  3. I am nearly ready to come back to it. Nearly. I know I don't want to stop running, or cut back even, permanently. I just needed a break. Not physically, mentally.  Saying it again:  I am nearly ready to come back. Nearly. 
  4. When I do come back, I will not pay attention to pace. I will focus on getting the miles done, per the plan. I will not put pressure on myself. I will not put pressure on myself. I will not put pressure on myself. (Rinse and repeat until I believe it). 
  5. "Y'all go on ahead. I'll catch up." I need to practice this phrase until I can say and mean it without being angry at myself for not being able to keep up with my frunners. 
  6. Frunners, please hear it and heed it. I may never be able to keep up but please don't let me hold you back from your intended run. It's OK, I will catch up. Soon enough.
  7. Seems like many of my frunners are hot & heavy making plans for 2012. I can't do that right now. I will have to take my chances on sell-outs or other plans interfering with possibilities. I just can't commit to anything past 1/1/12 right now. If I do, I will instantly contradict #4 up there. I can't do that or I'll be right back where I am again, and I can't do that. I can't go through this upheaval again, not anytime soon. 
  8. Hockey season is upon us again. Elder Child is playing both select/travel and high school Junior Varsity. He is the only junior on the JV team. It's going to be a challenging year as far as the JV team being competitive because they are a very young and inexperienced team. We're spinning it as a way for him to show leadership and maturity and demonstrate what good sportmanship, hard work and a strive for improvement looks like. 
  9. Hockey season tends to put a kink in my running plans, as we have to divide & conquer and my time is not always my own. I have to elevate the level of communication and coordination with everyone in the family to get my runs in. I also get to rediscover my favorite routes around all the ice rinks!! 
  10. The technician at the doctor's lab made my day earlier this week when she asked my height and weight. When I told her, she did a double-take, looked me up and down and said, "You look much smaller." Soon enough, lady, soon enough. The samples she had in her hand hold the key to figuring it out, I hope. 
  11. Follow up with the endocrinologist is tomorrow. I have every expectation that she will have answers for me. Answers that will lead us to create a plan that will work for me. I'm not sure what I will do if everything tests normal, though. I prefer not to jump off that bridge until I come to it. 
  12. That said, I have a history of expectations. High expectations. We may have gone over this in this blog on occasion... So, I'm trying to temper my expectations about tomorrow's visit somewhat while still remaining hopeful.
  13. I've been listening to Foo Fighters on heavy repeat the last few weeks. Mostly this song, because it resonates with me. It's where I am right now.  "I believe I've waited long enough...Where do I begin?"
Also? This video cracks me up. Falling Down is one of our favorite movies because I always jokingly say Hubs is going to crack up like this one day.