Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week Ten: The Quality of the Miles

are often more important than the quantity. 

And sometimes the quality has nothing to do with pace or distance. 

After last week's tough long run and in preparation for Cowtown, I was glad to see I had scheduled a cutback week. I needed it and thanks to it, I felt strong and happy for today's miles, despite the heat. We ran slower than either of us planned, but we made the best of it, like we do. Some in our crew ran awesome PRs, others had a hard-fought day with results less ideal than hoped for, and others cheered and provided that key moral support. 

And at the end of the day, we had fried bacon. Yes, there is such a thing, and yes, it tastes as good as you think. 

Week 10: 18 miles, mostly walks and Cowtown. But I ran every step of that hill, so BOOM! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week Eleven: Mind over Matter

Some days, running is effortless and fun and rejuvenating. Like my Thursday night run this week. After a horrible couple of days of gloomy cold, fog and drizzle, the sun finally peeked through Wednesday afternoon, making for a great easy quick run around campus that evening. And the next day, I was nearly salivating by the time 5:00 PM rolled around on Thursday, with the anticipation of another run through Worth Hills, savoring the last of that day's bright sunshine. I had never been so excited about 8 miles during the week, not in recent memory at least. And it fulfilled its promise. I had a hilly course and a little stomach bubbling, but I felt strong and I ran happy. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy...

So many students enjoying the end of the day outside on campus. 
Last night, we went out to the Texas Motor Speedway and got chased by zombies.  The "zombies"  were scattered around the course and lurched toward you unexpectedly, but it was non-contact so it was just silly fun.  There was a decent post-run party, and while the course measured short of an official 5k, it was a fun run where we ran against the clock to see who would survive the Zombie Apocalypse and who would succumb to the horde. 

Pre-race waiting for the Zombies! 
We all survived! Take that, Zombies! 
One of the zombies lurching around on the course. 
My sister-I-choose and Fred came out to cheer and have dinner with us after, so we ended the night with lots of laughs. And we got to see some cars zooming around the track while we ran under the tunnels off and back onto the infield, so that part was cool.  I ran a lot faster than I intended to - I planned to take it somewhat easy, knowing I had a long run the next day, but I guess I got caught up in the fun and ended up averaging a lot faster than I have been running lately.

And that's where we pick up the story, this morning. It was nearly midnight by the time we got home after the race so I didn't set an alarm for my long run. I knew it would be warmer than it has been all week (THANKS TEXAS WEATHER, I HATE YOU!!) but I also knew I needed to sleep. Turns out I lingered in bed too long and hung out having breakfast with the Savant too long.  By the time I got out, it was already humid and sticky.  I overdressed, wearing a long-sleeved shirt that suddenly felt too tight and too suffocating after a couple of miles. I somehow ripped a hole in my shorts, so I could feel a hotspot starting to chafe on one thigh. I knew i needed to carry water, but the bottle was super heavy and clumsy and I nearly chucked it into the creek a couple of times. My mental state was dodgy from the beginning and went downhill really fast. Long story short, I salvaged 12 miles of my planned 15, but they were hard-fought, slow and very taxing mentally.  I just could never get in a groove where I felt comfortable, much less hit that effortless state that I had on Thursday night. It was a struggle, and it took all the tools I had at my disposal (my power songs on my playlist, dial-a-friend text messages, and a helpful ride to the gym and an encouraging kick in the azz from my sweet baboo) to get those 12 done. It wasn't the 15 I wanted, but it was about eight more than what my mind wanted me to do.

My mid-run selfies indicate my mindset. Yes, there was a full wardrobe change involved today... 

Classic case of FITYMI (Fake it til you make it): "YAY, RUNNING...." 
There's a lot of thoughts that run through your head when you are on a long run; you have lots of time to think. You have even more time to think when you are walking huge chunks of that long run. You think thoughts like "why am I doing this?" and "what am I trying to prove again?" and you risk spiraling down into a very Bad Place. And you think that even though you have run more than 10 marathons, and you remind yourself that you are treating this like it's your first one again, you really can't escape the knowledge that you have and the experience that you have from those marathons. You KNOW it's hard. You KNOW that 15 miles is a long way, and 20 is even longer, and 26 is even more, but it's that damn .2 that bites you hard. You KNOW that you can't control for certain things, like the weather... ahem. You know race day might be hot and humid, because the race gods don't care that hot and humid is your Kryptonite. Or it might be 30 degrees colder at mile 15 than at the start. Or it might even rain and hail and sleet on you. Anything can happen, and you can't control for some of those things.

But you also know that you CAN control for some things. You can control your nutrition and your hydration, especially in challenging conditions. You can control your attitude. You can choose to see the upside in the situation. I am not going to say I was 100 percent successful in all of this, but I salvaged more out of today than I would have before. I did question my sanity, and I can't lie, I questioned my decision to train for a full marathon again. But at the end of the hours it took me to cover 12 miles today, what wasn't up to question was my ability to fight back. I could have caved at four miles. But I didn't. Despite the overall pace, despite having to break up the run into 3 segments, I didn't cave. And I choose to see that upside in today's outing, instead of seeing the missing 3 miles. Because I know, after the races I've done and the marathons I've finished, and mostly the ones that I haven't, that the mental part of the training is just as critical as the physical part.

Week 11:  31 miles done. Included 2 hilly runs around campus after work, 1 extremely windy lunch run, the Zombie apocalypse and a 12-mile long "run."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

8 miles

Eight miles. On a weekday night. It's like I'm in marathon training or something...

I'm not getting faster, but the hills around campus are making me STRONGAH.  I can tell.

I can do this.  I've done it before. I can do it again.

#TBT Dallas White Rock 2004. The boys, they're so little!!! 
10 years later, and I'm better than ever. I may not be faster, but I'm stronger, smarter, and I know what to expect,  beginning to end.

I'm coming for you, OKC. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Week 12 DONE: Will Run for Chocolate

This week's training featured cold and wind, an equipment brain blip & a great 15k, wrapped up with a foggy hike & failed picnic. 

Tuesday night I had plans to conquer the hill near campus, despite chilly temps that lingered all day. By the time 5:00 pm rolled around, the sun had peeked out & although it was still cold, it was nearly perfect running weather. I changed clothes and reached into my bag for my shoes, only to realize I'd left them by the front door. Oh snap! I was frustrated at myself since I was missing out on the perfect weather. But I salvaged the day with a solid run once I got home. 

Wednesday was colder & windier, and only got worse as the day progressed. My buddy and I both had outdoor evening runs on our schedules and we spent the afternoon trading text messages commiserating about our fate. But when push came to shove, it ended up being a great run, and I was glad to have braved the elements. 

Thursday was even colder still (WHAT UP, TEXAS WEATHER!!) with snow flurries in the morning on my drive in. By the time I reached the office, the sidewalks were blanketed with beautiful puffy snow. SNOW! How exciting! Unless you had to drive in it... WHAT UP, TEXAS DRIVERS?!? But I made it to my volunteering gig in Dallas just fine, and picked up our packets for what's billed as "America's Sweetest Race," the Hot Chocolate 15k. 

This is the 3rd year I've done this race, and it's become a tradition for me and my Sister I Choose, Marci. She ended up missing the race due to unforeseen circumstances, but I had company anyway, courtesy of my Okie friend Jedi Jen and my Sweet Baboo! 

It was cold again, plus misty and just generally miserable if you were standing around pre-race. 

(Hey, Texas Weather: Go Home, you're drunk!!) 

Jen found us pre-race and stuck with me for the whole 15k, putting up with my interval schedules, lending me her earbuds when mine suddenly died (at mile 2 no less!). Even when I made possibly the worst call ever in a race and took a shot of whiskey at mile 6, causing so much distress that I had to walk for the better part of 2 miles, she stayed at my side. I'm so grateful because having great company really makes the miles fly by. I would've been on my own without my partner in crime. Plus, we had some great conversation and I feel like I really got to know her better. Such fun!! 

And of course, post-race we noshed on chocolate fondue and I was lucky enough to see both Elaine & DK, plus DK's daughter who had just run her longest race ever! I LOVE seeing friends at races! Makes a fun day even better. 

Did I mention the chocolate??? Mmmm. 

Sunday ended the week with a trail day, even though it wasn't as successful as our previous outings. The trail we chose was boring, with no view because of the fog. We tried another trail but it suddenly got really cold while we were having our picnic. It just wasn't as fun when we couldn't feel our fingers!! We got a few miles in though, so it wasn't a total bust. Plus we always have fun and laugh at wildly inappropriate things so it wasn't a bad day by any stretch. We ended up back at our friend's house with hot chocolate and the Olympics, too. Ended up being a nice little Sunday! 

Week 12: 24.5 miles, including 7 midweek freezy miles, 15k race and chilly foggy trails! 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Week 13 DONE: Back on Track

An awful lot of thoughts run through your head when it's 33 degrees out and rainy, like whether you are crazier than the people who paid to run a race in this weather, because you're doing it for free, or whether you really are smarter because you didn't have to pay for the privilege of stepping in puddles of cold rain.

You think about how if not for the commitment to run a full marathon in 13 weeks you would be snug in your house, warm and cozy, instead of breathing fog and hoping the rain and mist doesn't turn to sleet and snow, but, then again, how much does your bad-azz quotient increase if it does? And then you think of the 168 chairs in Oklahoma City, and how the people they represent would love to run outside in the rain just one more time, and there's snow there today, shrouding the chairs, large and small, in a blanket of cold whiteness, so it's really not that bad here, along the creek,with just a fluffy red cardinal here and there breaking up the grey of the leafless trees and the cloudy skies.

You think about how things are much better today in general than they were just a few days ago, and no, all the problems in front of you aren't solved, not quite, but you are better, and you're handling it somewhat more readily, and having to explain to someone how you eat an elephant makes you remember how to eat an elephant, and for once you listen to the words coming out of your own mouth and cut the meat from the bone, and dice it into small pieces and then you pick up a fork and you start eating. And you remember that it will take a while, and there are pieces of that damn elephant that you can't eat, and that's okay, you just set that aside and you deal with it later.

And you make it through 12 miles in near solitude and you don't break down in tears and angry sobs this time and that's a good thing. But it's also okay that sometimes you do break down in tears and angry sobs and it doesn't mean anything except that sometimes you just need to release all those feelings, and the birds and the squirrels along the path don't judge. They chatter and scold you, no doubt, especially on days like today when there was not one other human on the trail, but they don't judge.

And when the rain stops, and it's just you and the trail and the wind and a bird or two along the way, you realize that it was actually a pretty damn good day for a run.

And then you can go home and hang out in your cozy warm house. And have a piece of chocolate cake.

Week 13: 31 miles, including 12-mile long run, weekday routes with hellaciously hilly streets around campus, and more crazy Texas weather.

Saturday, February 01, 2014


Scene: Huntsville, Texas

Stalwart runners running, hiking, sleepwalking 100 miles through the piney woods of southeast Texas, all for a belt buckle and the honor of meeting a challenge few ever think to step up to and even fewer meet. A few of us gather to cheer, to clear mud from shoes, to ask when they last peed, to force them to drink warm broth (yes, we know you had some, have more), to make up games to try to stay warm and pass the time in the wee hours of the night while our runners were out there, running, running, running. Some of us pace, some give the shirt off their back, some hang around camp for hours waiting to jump into action for the five minutes our runners come in between loops. 

I say "our" runners, like they're our property, but it's more that they were our charges. We were not there to run the distance ourselves, but we each had a role, we each wanted a part of it, we wanted to feel connected to all the strength and determination and grit that it takes to travel 100 miles on your own power. 

FIGJAM was officially christened that night. We had been born previously, each of us arriving at our own level of awesomeness, on our own individual journeys, but that weekend was the debut of the bright yellow shirts and the nicknames and the crystallization of this motley band of amazing people that will go any distance to support and rally and encourage and love those who dare step up to a challenge and reach into and beyond themselves to be the best they can be. 

Congrats to those who have finished their 100 mile journey tonight, you fast bastards. To those of you still out there, into the night, keep moving, lift your feet & watch out for the gators and prisoners. Joe P is waiting at the finish with your buckle, and FIGJAM is sending you all our strength.